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While their Alpha fights to survive, an elusive killer hunts among their pack, slaying humans and the wolves who mated them. The Enforcer’s rigid rule and terse attitude have everyone uneasy. On the hunt for madness, he may lose everything…
Ryker continues to hunt for the elusive murderer. The others have eliminated several suspects, but tensions in the Black Hills have never been higher. For all of his experience in hunting and dealing with the wolves, Ryker has never found himself torn between two loves before—to be the killer he is, means he has to turn off the softer side Saja awoke in him.
Saja’s life with the wolves is nothing she would ever have imagined. Being the center of Ryker’s attention is both a blessing and a curse, but her mate’s gentle, indulgent nature seems to be a thing of the past. While she understands his remoteness comes from a place where caring and fear collide, she doesn’t want to lose Ryker to the madness creeping through the pack.
Clashes with Colt and several other dominants heighten the danger, and Ryker refuses to allow her out of his sight unless she is with Gee. When the killer sets his sights on her, will the Enforcer drive his mate away rather than lose her?
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Seven dead, one mad. Five bodies found. Two missing. A head count hadn’t revealed who the latest victims were. All on my hands. The blood of every murdered wolf and their mates—human mates—covered him. It wasn’t the first time he’d failed his pack, or even Drew—Ryker had failed the boy he’d seen born when he’d been unable to prevent Magnum from banishing him.
Remove my son. Magnum’s twisted order whispered from his memory. Remove him permanently. So Ryker had obeyed, he’d had to obey. He and Gee sent Drew from Los Lobos, removing him.
He’d failed Drew once, but the murders were the first time he’d failed his mate. Anger crawled like a sickness through his blood. Images flashed through his mind. Sonya. Sarah. Sharon. All human mates.
Saja drummed her nails on the wooden arm of the chair while he stacked fresh wood into the fireplace. All of their names began with an S. As his mate’s name did. He’d all but caged her in their home, far from Los Lobos, away from the deaths haunting them. She hadn’t fought him on the order. Not yet. The cold air beyond his cabin held the promise of snow—snow which hadn’t barricaded them inside as it had the year before. Most of their Winter Solstice snow had cleared away with unseasonable warmth.
Ryker would have preferred a blizzard. Foul weather to foul the murderer who kept skating away before he could get a fix on the scent. One of the logs snapped in half, and the crack of wood jerked him to the present.
“What did the mean ol’ wood ever do to you?” The light tease in her voice smoothed over him as though she stroked his ruffled fur.
“Nothing.” He had no excuse for the lack of control. If not for making sure Saja was safe and warm, he would be out there hunting a murderer. Closing his eyes, he gripped the uncharitable thoughts to rip them out by the root. His wolf paced inside of him, a restless predator denied the kill too often. Denied even true pursuit. They wanted the scent of their quarry. They wanted to be out hunting him, so they could take him down….
Saja ran her hand over his shoulder then along his back. Both wolf and man shuddered. Turning away from the fire, he pulled his mate close and pressed his head to her chest. Not one to retreat from him even in his darkest moments, she enfolded him in her arms, cradling him. It wasn’t only killing their quarry they wanted. The bastard had hurt his wolves, killed them, and damn near killed Drew.
“He’s going to be okay,” she whispered, resting her cheek to the top of his head. “You heard Bastian. He said Drew would be okay. He got the bullet out. Now he can heal the way a wolf should.”
Yes. He’d heard the physician. He’d heard Betty, too. Her sister. Colt. They all held him accountable. As they should.
“You can be tall, dark, and silent around them all you want,” Saja continued, massaging his tense muscles. “You don’t get to shut me out. I’m in here, too. Remember?” The last she delivered with a light tap to his back directly above his heart.
“Yes.” A weakness. A true chink in his armor. His wolf snarled. “I can’t lose you.” The admission cost him nothing. His mate’s wild, warrior spirit more than matched his. Sunshine in the darkness.
“Not going to happen. I’m armed, remember?”
The reminder had him gliding his hands over her hips to her waistline. The handle of her gun peeked out above the denim. Tugging the weapon free, he leaned away to meet her gaze. Her head was above his, yet the dichotomy didn’t bother him. Not as it once had. “Keep it at hand when I am not here. Even the time it would take you to remove—a wolf could kill you.” His beast bucked at the charge but didn’t disagree.
Drawing a finger down the center of his face, she teased the tip of his nose. “You are here. My money is on you, so it’s not like I need to draw it at the moment.”
The killer had begun to take the wolves mated to humans as well. Ryker almost wished the bastard would come for him. It would end the hunt swiftly.
She needed a holster on her hip, like the Westerns of old. “I have something for you.” Releasing her, he rose. The weight of her gaze trailed him as he crossed the room. In the year since he’d found Saja in the midst of the snow, he’d made changes to his cabin to accommodate her presence, including the addition of a room for her office. She’d ordered books and supplies from all over the country. Of course, she’d used her keen intelligence, opening postal boxes at several different locations in Rapid City and as far away as Sioux City. The supplies were also ordered under a company name she’d made and filed with the city, ending the ability of anyone to track her electronically. Only she hadn’t given him that information to begin with. When she’d admitted needing to travel to Rapid City to pick up a shipment, they’d had their very first fight.
A smile kicked at the corners of his mouth. They’d also had their first round of make-up sex. For a week after, Saja picked several battles with him, trying to elicit a furious response. It had puzzled him, until he discovered she wanted another round of making amends. Happy to oblige, he’d skipped right past the battle and seduced his mate.
It worked for them.
Opening a trunk on the far side of their bedroom, he searched through the various items he’d collected. His aunt had hand tooled a gift he’d requested for Saja. He’d intended it for his mate’s birthday. Drew had actually planted the idea months before during one of their weekly beers. Gifts weren’t something he spent a great deal of time considering, but his mate gave him a lot to consider.
He’d aroused her curiosity. After lifting the belt and holster from the box at the bottom, he returned to her with his offering. Head tilted, his mate eyed the gift, wearing an incredulous expression. “You didn’t…?”
“I did,” he admitted. The tooling included a pattern of his aunt’s design, but she’d added paw prints in three places, each one carved specifically from Ryker’s actual paw print. He was possessive enough to admire the insignia marking her leather belt. Threading it through each loop, he fit it to her thigh then buckled it carefully before tying the jesses to secure it in place.
Then, after retrieving her gun, he slid it into the holster. “Always leave it unsnapped when you’re alone. You can snap it when I’m here or if you’re with Gee.” After the last few days, Gee was the only one he planned to leave his mate with. The old bear had been many things to him over the years, but he trusted him to protect Saja as Gee had trusted Ryker to keep Amelia safe.
They didn’t fail each other.
Laughter bubbled from his mate as she pulled the gun then twirled it once around her finger before holstering it once more. It needed oiling some, softening so it didn’t grip the gun too tightly, but Ryker approved her speed. “You like?”
“Yes, but you? You I love.” The declaration always had the power to take him to his knees, but she closed the distance between them and caught his face in her hands. “You’re going to find this crazy bastard. I can’t imagine everything going through your head at the moment, but never doubt my faith in you.” When she kissed him rather than let him answer, he pulled her tight and soaked in her passion. The easy access to her weapon satisfied him on a very basic level.
Even as he delved deep, tangling his tongue with hers, he kept his ears attuned to the world beyond his cabin and his nostrils flared. He couldn’t afford to relax his vigilance.
Not while a murderer roamed his lands.