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Chapter 1 Preview of Honor of the Wolf Coming Jan 28 #paranormal #shifter #romance

by on January 6, 2020

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Coming January 28, the sixth book in The Gray Pack series.

Chapter 1:

“Ten more.”

“Are you kidding, man?”

“Just add ten more.”

“Don’t be stupid, Little Gray. I should have stopped you at four seventy-five. The last thing I want to do is explain to Dev why he’s short a Beta because you think you’re Superman.” Cash Gray peered down at Luke from his six-foot-four-inch height, and held the bench press bar in place on the rack. Although his fingers looked loose, Luke knew that if he pushed against it, the bar wouldn’t budge because Cash wouldn’t allow it.

“I’m ten shy of five hundred. Just add the weight, I’ll do two and we’ll bounce,” Luke argued, wiping sweat from his brow with his inner arm. He could feel the vinyl bench sticking to his back and smell the stench of his own sweat. It motivated him to push his body even harder.

“And next time you’ll be trying for five twenty. No dice, bro. On your feet, take a walk and find some water.” Cash nudged Luke’s head with his knee. “Besides, you’ve already done the test runs for the CPAT, you know you can beat the clock.”

“That doesn’t mean I should sit on my ass. I can do better than just beat the clock if I keep training.” Shoving himself to his feet Luke stormed across the small firehouse gym and snatched up a towel to pat dry. Raw energy burned in his tired muscles, and adrenaline zipped down his spine. Working out was the only time he could put all the inner rumblings to good use. He and his wolf were as much in accord when they were pumping iron as when they were running in the forest. It was a form of release for the temper he barely kept in check, and an outlet to focus his chaotic mind.

“All right, I get that, but to what purpose? If you hurt yourself you’ll just have to wait another year to take the test. I don’t know about you, but it would bother the fuck out of me if I faced the possibility of living off my older brother for a year while I waited around on a job,” Cash said from behind him.

“I don’t live off Noah, damn it. I have a job.” He snarled at his older cousin.

“Right, part-time. I’m sure that pays the bills plus some. I know you’re working toward something bigger, but you’ve gotta grow up, Luke. You can’t keep doing reckless shit and expect everything to still go your way.” Luke watched in the wall of mirrors as Cash collected his own gear and headed for the locker room without another word.

It was better that way, because if he continued to push, Luke would snap at him, and it was never smart to snap at a Beta wolf. Underneath the relaxed cowboy persona, Cash was a lethal weapon, and the same temper and drive for competition that Luke dealt with burned in his belly, too. That’s why Luke had latched onto him in the first place when he was a scrawny twelve-year-old just past his first shift. Unlike the rest of the prepubescent boys of the pack who idolized Devin Gray, Luke saw all his older cousins as superheroes. Then a few months ago Cash had gone above and beyond to both betray and protect his pack-mates. The decision could have had dire consequences for one of their newest pack members, instead it saved multiple lives.

The water was running in the shower as Luke stepped into the locker room, and the smell of chlorine cleaners left the tiny space smelling like a swimming pool. Better than any other locker room I’ve ever been in, Luke thought with a grunt as he shoved his shorts over his narrow hips to the floor.

His lean runner’s build and the bad luck of birth placement had earned him the nickname “Little Gray” back in junior high. It was inevitable that he would be treated differently as the youngest of the Gray cousins, but it rubbed him wrong just the same. There was nothing little about him, until you stood him next to the other Betas of the Gray Pack. Then he looked like the sickly one. Long wiry muscles instead of bulky ’roid-looking ones made him the butt of more than one Popeye and Olive Oyl joke. Growling his frustration over things he couldn’t control into the spraying water of the shower head, he washed with quick efficiency. He was just stepping out with a towel wrapped around his waist when he heard loud voices entering the locker room around the corner.

“Hey, Little Gray!” Ryley Whetstone yelled across the thirty-foot expanse of lockers when he stepped into view. “You done for the day already?”

Nodding, Luke replied, “Yeah, I came ten shy of five hundred on the bench today. Cash wouldn’t let me go any further than that.”

A loud whistle pierced the air, and Luke turned to face Cash’s older brother, Owen. “Five hundred, huh? You’re a long way from where you were three months ago. Cash was telling me you’re three seconds under the clock time on the CPAT test, too. Good work.”

Owen Gray was the only non-firefighter in the locker room besides Luke. He’d worked alongside the other guys at one time, but after a horrible accident that resulted in a friend dying, he’d turned in his helmet and gone back to school for his law degree. Now he was a practicing attorney, and he volunteered at the firehouse for community involvement. The way Luke had heard it, his older cousin had very clear rules about not fighting fires ever again.

“Thanks. I’m going to make it. I can feel it in my gut.”

Ryley slapped him hard on the bare skin of his back. “That’s the right attitude.”

“Hey, are we on for poker tonight?” Owen asked Ryley, as the big blond man changed into his workout clothes.

“Not at our place we’re not,” Rafe answered for Ryley, shooting his brother a look that spoke volumes. The two siblings were able to communicate telepathically between each other and their mate. It wasn’t unusual for true mates to have that particular skill, and Luke thought it was cool as hell. “Axel just started preschool on Monday, and Jordan is having a tough time adjusting to going all day long without him. Shandi is worn out by the time we get home for the day.”

“Sorry to hear that, man,” Owen said, nodding in understanding. “We can have poker night at our place then. Cash and the O’Brien brothers won’t care.”

“I’m still going to bow out, boys,” Rafe said with a guilty look. “Like I said, Shandi’s been wiped in the evenings. I’m not going to leave her on her own. Ry, you should go. We’ll switch off next week. I’ll go and you can stay home.”

Ryley nodded. “I’m good with that. I’ve been itching for a night out where I can smoke a cigar and have a cold beer. Our fridge is full of juice boxes, grapes, and string cheese lately. Little Gray, you’re bringing the beer.”

Luke shook his head, but he smiled. “I’ll just call Noah and tell him to get the beer. He’s got nothing better to do.”

“That’s cold, man. Your brother is working his ass off taking those online classes,” Owen said, frowning at him.

His eyes rolled automatically, and he regretted the childish reaction immediately when Rafe and Owen both glared at him. “What? Pecking away at that keyboard all day isn’t exactly hard work. Besides what’s he going to do with a degree in Music History and English Lit?”

“Write music, fucknut. If you’d ever had a conversation with him you’d already know that,” Cash said from behind him as he joined the group.

“Cash is right, you should really talk to Noah. He’s got big plans for the future,” Rafe said, shaking his head as though he was ashamed of Luke.

Luke kept his lips zipped so as not to antagonize one of the highest-ranking members of the Pack. Rafe could snap him in two without breaking a sweat, and there was no point in arguing over something that was really no one’s business. Of the two of them, Noah was probably the easiest to get along with. Luke was younger by a year, but he’d always been the quiet, serious one. Until just recently they’d neither one really had much of a bead on what their future would hold. A few months ago Luke took a part-time gig as an EMT with the goal of becoming a firefighter.

When Luke signed up for the training classes with the Kansas City Fire Department, Noah hadn’t said much one way or the other, so when he decided to go back to school for his degree, Luke had been ambivalent right back. Lately they’d been on two very different schedules, which worked out nicely. They were both able to live their lives without the other one interfering. Noah slept most of the day, because he played guitar in Cash’s band, Gray Skies, four out of seven nights a week, and then studied.

It wasn’t like Luke didn’t care about his brother, but they’d just grown apart. Noah hated that Luke was so focused on his rank in the pack, and his desire to protect his fellow wolves at all times. Luke believed in the strength of the pack, and he would do anything to keep it strong. Hell, anymore it seemed like Noah would pack his shit up and leave if their Alpha, Devin, gave him the nod of approval.

Cash agreed to the poker plan, and then left to finish the rest of his shift for the day, while the other three men made their way out of the locker room into the gym, leaving Luke sulking on the bench still wrapped in a towel. He refused to feel guilty about his relationship with his brother. If Noah wanted to talk to him, he knew where to find him. Dressing quickly he slammed the empty locker on his way out of the fire station. He’d get the beer his own damn self rather than asking Noah. Saved time, and hassle.

* * * *

Tavi Reid was elbow deep in a sink full of hot soapy suds when her current boss-of-the-month snapped at her to go help on the floor.

“That new bus boy didn’t show, so you’re going to have to bus your own tables tonight.” The carrot-topped man would have been cute if it weren’t for the meanness embedded deep in his dark brown eyes. Everything about him made her skin crawl. From the top of his five-foot-eleven-inch frame, to the soles of his too-shiny black combat boots. He didn’t fit the image of a manager in the least, but the little white name badge pinned to his chest gave him the authority of the position.

“Okay, give me a minute I’m almost finished with this load,” she said, blowing a lock of her own dyed red hair from her eyes.

Shane the demon manager huffed at her, but he moved on to pick on some other poor hapless employee, leaving her to finish washing the dishes in front of her. Ketchup colored the water red, and the fragrance of grease and onions made her eyes water. She hated this job, hated it with every fiber of her being, plus some. She never expected to still be washing dishes, waitressing and bussing tables at thirty years old, and it stung her pride how far from her childhood dreams she was.

Twelve years ago she’d left high school and started college with big ideas, and very little life experience. She just knew that in twelve years’ time she’d be the top doctor in the obstetrician and gynecology field, and well on her way to making a difference in some third-world country. Instead, less than two years later she’d dropped out of school to raise a baby of her own, and found herself homeless with nothing to her name. It was a hard fall, but she’d rolled with it, and worked hard to give herself and her daughter a stable life. So what if that meant dish pan hands and the smell of French fries embedded in her skin? It also meant her daughter had food on the table and a roof over her head, and that was what was important.

As it was, she and her daughter, Sonny, lived hand to mouth using every penny to cover the rent on their three-bedroom home and put gas in her beat-up Grand Am. Last week the electricity bill had been way low, because winter in Kansas City called for more gas consumption than electricity, so she was hoping that she could use that extra money along with her tips this week and take a night off over the weekend to spend with Sonny. It was so rare that they got to eat dinner together anymore, and she missed it.

“Tavi, are you still here? I told you to go bus tables,” Shane snapped from just inside the doorway. His lip curled up in a gesture that was somewhere between a smirk and a snarl, and she had to force herself to release the skillet she was washing back into the sudsy water rather than swinging it in his direction. The look in his eyes was a combination of lecherous pervert and disgust, and it made her stomach twist.

“Shane, I heard you. I have to finish one task before I can take on another. Despite the cape and mask I’m not quite the Superwoman you believe me to be,” she retorted in the same sweet voice she used on her daughter when she was having a tantrum. “Give me two more minutes and I’ll go out there.”

Mila Wiley picked that moment to walk through the swinging door behind Shane, carrying a plate full of food. “Hey Tavi, the lady at table six said she ordered the chicken sandwich with honey mustard not mayo.”

Before Tavi could formulate a response Shane was in her face, eyes blazing. “This is the third customer this week that’s sent food back to the kitchens because of your screw-up, Reid. I’ll be docking your check for their dinner. Mila, let table six know that dinner is on Tavi tonight.”

“You—you can’t do that!” Tavi sputtered.

“The hell I can’t. I’m the manager, Tavi, what I say goes. If you don’t like it, there’s the door. Fucking stupid women. I hate being surrounded by ignorance all day long,” Shane snarled.

Biting back a rude response, Tavi closed her eyes and counted to ten. It didn’t seem to matter how high she counted, all she could see was a red haze of pissed off. A gentle hand on her arm startled her and she dropped the pan she’d been holding into the water with a splash that left her and Mila covered in bubbles. Opening her eyes, she realized that Shane had stormed off leaving her and the other waitress alone again in the prep room.

“Are you okay, doll?” Mila asked, looking genuinely concerned. “Shane’s a douche. Don’t let him get to you.”

Drying herself with her now-damp apron, she nodded. “I’ll be all right, but he knows I can’t afford to cover food that’s sent back.”

“Don’t stress it, Tavi. I’ll chip in some tip money and help cover it. Thankfully it was just a chicken sandwich, so it’s only like eight bucks. Shane is just trying to prove he’s got a bigger cock than you do,” Mila said, making a graphic gesture with her hand over her groin.

Tavi laughed. “He might have a bigger cock, but I have bigger balls. That skinny peckerwood won’t last a month.”

“I’ll take that bet. I think he’ll make it two before Ray kicks him to the curb,” Mila teased back.

Ray Bunton was the owner of Between the Buns, and the worst business man Tavi had ever encountered. He spent ninety percent of his time on the golf course trying to look more important than he was, and the other ten percent hiring and firing managers at the restaurant.

“Nah, Shane will get too full of himself and leave for greener pastures. Ray doesn’t care what any of us does. Hell, Shane and Fawn have been using the storage room for extracurricular activities every afternoon,” Tavi said in a soft voice.

“Oh yeah? Damn, see what I miss having to go to class during the day? I knew Fawn had something on Shane to get that prime schedule. I hate having to cover all the evening shifts.”

The squeak of the door had the two women jumping apart as though they’d been caught doing something wrong, and once again they were face to face with the red-headed devil wearing the managers badge.

“I’m sorry, did I miss the invitation to play Gossip Girl? Get a move on, ladies, or you’ll both be hitting the want ads tomorrow.” Instead of leaving, Shane stood guard with his arms crossed over his chest and his arrogant nose tipped like there was a stench in the air.

Mila rolled her eyes and grabbed a pile of menus on her way out the door. Tavi turned her back on Shane and focused on washing the last couple of dishes as quickly as possible. Her hair stood on end just before she felt him press against her backside, and his hot breath against her ear.

“You know, if you want to make things easier on yourself, I can think of a few ways,” he whispered. The effort that he made to sound sensual and sexy was lost on her as her stomach revolted at the idea of him touching her.

“So can I. A sexual harassment lawsuit would set me up nicely while I hit the want ads…” she taunted.

With a sharp curse, Shane stepped backward so quickly that he nearly fell on his ass. Tavi was disappointed when he caught himself. The menacing look he gave her kept her temper in check when she might have kept going. It was hard to control her tongue when he was such a disgusting person.

“I’m taking you off wait staff for the week. You can bus tables until I think you’re ready to promote again. I can’t have my waitresses unable to take a simple order.” With that he spun on the heel of his boot and stomped out of the kitchen leaving her blissfully alone.

Her mouth had once again gotten her into trouble. She needed to be waiting tables in order to make tips. Without tips she didn’t even make enough each week to cover her bills. Fuck this was bad. Her hopes for an extra night off in the near future went up in smoke, and she fought back tears of frustrated fury. Grabbing an empty dish tub she headed for the front of the restaurant to clean up after the dozens of customers that had already been served this afternoon.

Grumbling her dissatisfaction with her current circumstances would help no one, so she got busy clearing tables. The quicker they were emptied, the quicker they would be filled again, and hopefully Shane would reconsider when he realized he needed more wait staff. Otherwise she’d be hitting up the local church food pantry for groceries this weekend.

Could her life get any more complicated?

 

 

Start reading the series from the beginning: https://lorikingbooks.wordpress.com/books/gray-pack/

GP Series 6

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