Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains Book 1)

By: T. S. Joyce

(KANE’S MOUNTAINS, BOOK 1)



Chapter One




Mornings here were unlike anything Winter Donovan had ever seen. She’d been born and raised a city shifter, but then everything had gone sideways and she’d landed in the middle of nowhere, in the Red Havoc Crew. Kind of. She wasn’t an official member, but she could be if she wanted.

It was minutes before dawn, the ones where the sky was still navy and dotted with stars. The moon was low and looked tired, and on the horizon the dark blue faded to gray where the sky kissed the earth.

Today would be the worst day of her life.

She smelled him before she saw him, and her body reacted, the traitor. A wave of excitement took her before she remembered, but that one second of hopefulness made the devastation even deeper.

Brody strode out of the shadows, his face somber. It didn’t suit him. He’d always been a happy man, or perhaps just with the others. With her, his lips thinned into a grim line, and his soft green eyes pooled with pity. She’d fallen in love with those eyes. There was something to that old saying about the eyes being the windows to the soul.

Brody used to have a beautiful soul.

He sank down beside her as she avoided the hell out of his gaze and tied her hiking boot.

“You going for a walk?” he asked, ripping up a blade of grass.

More like an all-day hike through the wilderness. “Yeah, I’m not exactly invited to the party today.” She wished she could help the bitterness in her voice, but she couldn’t.

“Probably best you aren’t around.”

She huffed a heartbroken breath at the pain his words caused. “Why are you here? You haven’t talked to me in a month, and now you’re here to what? Break more of me? Hurt me until I can’t climb out of the goddamned hole you put me in?”

“I’m here to say I’m sorry.”

She stared at him, utterly shocked. He looked like he wanted to retch, and she understood that feeling. She’d had it ever since he’d gotten Lynn pregnant.

“You don’t think this apology came way too late, Brody? I’ve waited for this for the last five months, and you denied me. You never admitted you were wrong, and here I’ve sat, pushed to the outer edge of the crew, pushed away from you, from the others. This was supposed to be my day, Brody. I was supposed to wear white and pledge to you, but you gave it to her behind my back.”

“Well, you’ll have to move on—”

“To who, Brody?” She hated him. She hated the pathetic woman he’d molded her into. “No one in Red Havoc calls to my bond like you, and now I have to watch you with her, day in, day out. Laughing, kissing, touching. I guess I’m supposed to be glad you’ve found happiness, but I thought you were happy with me.”

“I was, but it’s different with Lynn.” Brody shrugged, and his puppy-dog eyes begged her understanding. “It’s just…better.”

Pissed at the streaming tears that dampened her cheeks, Winter stomped her boot on the ground and slammed her back against the stair behind her. Better. Story of her life.

She was the best at being second place.

Brody buried his face in his hands and sniffed hard as if he actually had a heart. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to be,” he murmured in a cracking voice. “We were practically made for each other. You were supposed to be it, and then I…I don’t know…my animal just picked someone different… Fuck, Winter, I’m sorry.”

“Please leave,” she said, her face angled away to hide her pain. He didn’t deserve to see how hard this was on her.

He rested his fingertips on her shoulder, but she jerked out from under his touch. His comfort was for Lynn now.

Brody sniffed again and stood. As he walked away, Winter forced herself not to watch him go. She was better than that, but not quite good enough to wish him a happy wedding day. She could tell when he’d gone, though, because his scent was replaced by another. It was replaced by Benson Saber’s.

“Alpha,” she whispered in a shaky voice as she exposed her neck.

Ben sat down beside her. “No use calling me that, Winter Girl. You and I both know you won’t be pledging to my crew now.” He handed her a metal flask.

Winter frowned at his offering. “It’s six in the morning.”

When Ben arched his ruddy eyebrow, she gave in, took it from his hand, unscrewed the cap, and took a long, burning drag. The alpha of Red Havoc liked whiskey.

“Remember when you first came to me?” he asked, his attention on the woods.

“Yeah, you were so lucky to land me.”

Ben snorted. “You were such a little shit, and stubborn. Tough.” He cast her a gold-eyed glance. “Broken.”

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