The wind blew so hard Adam White could feel it rustling his fur even as he stood still. He ignored the strong breeze to remain staring down on his territory. Adam felt the deep connection to the land and knew he’d do anything to bring his Pack back together.
The stress of an attack several months ago that had almost killed one of the female members had finally begun to ease. His father, the Alpha at the time, hadn’t recovered and Adam feared he never would. Christian had always been a wonderful father and leader, but Adam had had to step into the position.
Adam was terrified.
Since it wasn’t a full moon, Adam didn’t have anyone to currently watch over, but he still felt the pressure of knowing every member of the Pack was relying on him in one way or another. He’d barely turned twenty-eight and already he was responsible for so much.
There didn’t seem to be any break coming soon. He had some hard decisions to make, the first being a Pack Beta or Enforcer. Every Pack had a second in command. Whether they chose a Beta who would be the liaison between Pack member and Alpha, or an Enforcer who played a more hands-on role as protector remained up to each Alpha. Christian had led with a Beta, but as the man wanted to ready to retire, Adam would need to make up his own mind.
No one knew yet but Adam was leaning more toward having an Enforcer. His best friend, Cain, served as Enforcer for one of the largest Packs and Adam liked the confidence that Pack had in the inner circle. After the attack on Mindy, there had been no question that his Pack needed to feel safe again. Adam truly believed that an Enforcer would benefit them the most.
Adam wanted to have an open door to his Pack. They weren’t even a third of the size of Cain’s, but the protection of every member would be his top priority. It was going to be hard to tell his father, though. Christian barely came out of his room and only spoke to a few people.
Luckily Christian’s oldest friend, Logan, was visiting for a while. Logan currently served as the Beta for the largest Pack in Texas so it was pretty special that Logan and Gage, the Alpha, were giving Logan time to help Christian.
Hopefully there could be help for his father.
Every night when Adam laid down his head, he worried his father would decide to end his existence. It was that fear that kept him from turning to his dad when he needed him the most. He could call Cain, but his best friend was trying to sort out a new relationship and Adam didn’t want to bother him. That left him on his own to figure out things. The only other people he stayed close to were Pack. That wasn’t to say he wasn’t getting assistance from other Alphas or the Council. Adam spent more time on the phone than he’d ever thought he would. Most people had advice or recommendations, but the choice fell to him.
From high on a ridge, he could see the entire expanse of his territory and it filled him. Yes, becoming the Alphas was full of complications, but he wouldn’t want anyone else to take over.
The land, people and trouble belonged to him.
He threw back his head and howled. Calling out to his Pack that he stood there watching over them. They were safe.
A few of his Pack must have been in their wolf form as well, since he was greeted by answering cries.
Adam took a step and slowly started his way back home.
The ridge led him into the small forest that they sped through as a Pack on full-moon runs.
Contrary to popular beliefs, they weren’t werewolves. They also didn’t have to transform during the full moon. Shifters, they could call on the change whenever they wanted. But Adam still loved to run through the woods with the Pack. It was tradition, not a need. He felt the importance of keeping the familiar customs and rituals.
It was cooler under the canopy of the trees, but Adam didn’t mind. He’d raced through earlier, tiring himself out so he’d be able to sleep better when he went to bed. The late nights and early mornings were made more difficult because he couldn’t sleep.
As he trotted along, he made sure to keep his senses open. The guards were on duty, stationed all around, but Adam knew they couldn’t have too many out watching. Until Adam was sure that every member of his Pack was safe, he would continue to double the protection around his territory.
He didn’t come across anyone while making his way to the tree where he’d stashed his clothes.
In the old days, he would have walked naked through the house, up to his room, but as the Alpha, he was trying to learn that he wasn’t just another Pack member anymore.
His belongings were right where he’d left them and Adam quickly pulled on his faded jeans and T-shirt before picking up his phone. Four missed calls.
Jeez, he’d only been gone an hour.
Adam listened to the voicemails as he headed up the hill to the back door of the Alpha house. His house now.
When he’d turned twenty-one, Adam had moved into a cabin in the territory, but he now lived back in his old room. He loved the space, set up like a small apartment, but it also meant he was constantly surrounded by people.
Nothing too pressing in the calls. One of the members needed to speak to him, his sister was checking in and there were two calls from friends asking when they’d see him. Adam snorted. Not for a while. Since they were humans, he couldn’t actually tell them what was going on, so he’d used the excuse his dad was sick. Which wasn’t a total lie.
Opening the sliding glass door to enter the house, Adam took a deep breath. He smiled at the smell of cakes and cookies. His sister was getting a head-start on the baking for the next day. She always cooked enough food for an army, and his mouth watered in anticipation. If he didn’t have the self-control he did, Adam would weigh five hundred pounds. Laura was truly talented in the kitchen. She’d never left the main house, instead staying with their father and now him. Adam hoped she’d meet someone to mate with one day, but he enjoyed having her close.
He took another breath and found the man he was searching for. His father and former Pack Alpha was in his room. Adam wasn’t surprised. Hopefully Christian remained in his human form, because the amount of time his father stayed shifted was really worrying him. Adam had tried to talk to his dad, but Christian still carried around so much guilt. Mindy hadn’t been the only female hurt in the recent attacks. She had been just the only one from their Pack.
The only person who seemed to be able reach Christian at all was Logan. Adam selfishly hoped Logan wouldn’t have to hurry home to his own Alpha any time soon.
Adam thought about stopping by the kitchen to see Laura, but he knew someone was waiting to talk to him, so headed to his office instead.
Opening the door to the Alpha’s workplace, Adam then stepped inside and flipped on the light. He had taken his new position only two months before and hadn’t changed anything in the office or the house. He didn’t know if he even wanted to, though several friends had suggested it would help the transition if he properly claimed the space and made it his own.
Sometimes, Adam still felt as if he were playing dress-up and his father would walk back into the office and demand Adam stop messing around. Intellectually, he knew that wouldn’t happen, but he struggled with it daily. The Council, made up of former Alphas who policed the Packs, had given their blessing for him to take over. His Alpha position was official.
While Adam was growing up, his father had always been there for him and had made running the Pack look so easy. Adam had found out there was a lot that went on behind the scenes he’d never known about.
He needed help, and now that he’d decided on an Enforcer instead of a Beta, he needed to figure out who would be best for the role. There wasn’t anyone in the Pack he thought fit the bill for what he needed. He would have to bring someone in, which wouldn’t be easy. Of course, first he needed to find the man or woman.
Once he’d reached the desk, he turned on the computer and waited for it to boot up. As he did so, he fired off a text to the sentry on duty inside to send in the Pack member who needed to speak to him.
He called out for them to enter when the knock came, but it wasn’t until he saw the young woman peek around the male shifter that Adam cursed not having gone to his room and changing first. He was tired and had just wanted to find out how he could help. Of course, the minute he hadn’t follow proper procedure, Tasha Johnson would show up.
Adam had been lusting after Tasha for over a year now. The young woman didn’t seem to notice him, though. She was raising her teenage sister single-handedly, and as much as the Pack helped, Tasha seemed to prefer to do most things on her own. Which meant she worked a lot and didn’t hang around the same party crowd Adam did.
Things were changing, though, so maybe he’d be able to prove to her she could put her trust in him. Not only as an Alpha, but perhaps more. He adjusted his hard-on under the desk before he stood and smiled at her.
Tasha Johnson had followed the guard inside the Alpha house and down the hall. When they’d reached a large oak door, she’d run her sweaty palms over her jeans, as her escort had knocked. She hated to bring her family problems to the new Alpha, but she didn’t know where else to turn.
The low voice that had told them to enter sent a shiver down her spine. As the guard had opened the door, then moved out of the way, she’d peeked inside and gotten a good look at the new Pack leader. She’d stayed back at the entrance as Bryan had gone and spoke to the Alpha.
She’d known Adam for years, even though they’d never been close, and had admired him from a distance for a long time now. The fact that she was about to face him alone made her stomach flutter with nerves. He was just so good-looking and she did not want to make a fool of herself in front of him. Plus, she really did need his help.
He’d smiled and liquid arousal had pooled inside her panties. She’d shifted to relieve the pressure, certain if she didn’t calm her body, he would be able to tell. A shifter’s sense of smell was strong and, as the Alpha bonded more with the Pack, there would be no hiding anything from him.
Her attraction to the Alpha wasn’t something she should be worried about, but she couldn’t help it. In addition, she really needed to keep her mind off why she was even there. Even just for a minute. She was on the verge of freaking out.
Her entire life had been about showing her younger sister love and acceptance. Just when Tasha had begun to believe she’d done a good job raising the teen, Crystal had taken off. Now Tasha had to go to the one man she tried to avoid.
When Adam stood and motioned her in, she didn’t miss the large bulge trapped in his jeans. The sight of his package did nothing to tame her own desire. Oh, the man just oozed raw sexuality.
The guard left the office without another word and closed the door behind him. The Alpha’s scent surrounded her and Tasha struggled not to close her eyes and breathe deeply. She had serious business to discuss.
“Bryan told me that you had a family emergency and needed my help,” Adam said as he gestured for her to sit.
Weak-kneed, Tasha gladly took a seat on the worn brown leather couch and clasped her hands in her lap. She should be concentrating on getting her sister back instead of on her desire for a male. Maybe she was a terrible sister, like Crystal had accused her of being. Tears pooled in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Even if she were the worst parent figure, Crystal’s safety was her first priority. “Yes, Alpha. I need to talk you about my sister, Crystal.” Keep it formal, don’t think of him as the man I’ve been dreaming about. Should be easy enough.
He sat in the chair across from her and leaned forward. “I’m listening. Whatever you need, I’ll help. But call me Adam. There’s no need to be so formal.”
Well, there goes that plan. Crystal, think about Crystal. Where should I start? “I’m not sure if your father told you about my family when you took over the Pack.” She was so nervous she could feel sweat bead on her forehead. She hated talking about her family and sharing the pain of her past.
She saw the sympathy in his eyes when he spoke. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Tasha took a deep breath before starting, “Five years ago, my father left our family. I’m still not sure where he went, but my mother didn’t take it well. Six months after he left, she ended her existence and left Crystal with me. She was eleven.”
He nodded but didn’t comment. She appreciated him letting her get the story out quickly. The sooner she finished, the sooner she could once again bury her pain.
“I’ve tried to do the best I can, but I don’t always understand what she is going through. My sister Crystal is a…non-shifter.” Tasha waited for his reaction. Being a non-shifter was an embarrassment for her sister. Tasha only saw how wonderful her sibling was instead of whether she could shift or not, and even though she didn’t fully understand the issue, she always respected Crystal’s wishes. They hadn’t told many people, because a lot of Pack members considered non-shifters lower class.
“Go on,” he told her gently, and she didn’t hear or see anything negative from him.
“Crystal’s had a hard time lately with some of the kids from school. That’s why I think she ran away.” That and she claimed Tasha was trying to keep her away from humans but insisted the both of them attend Pack activities. But Tasha didn’t want to get into that right now. She’d only been trying to show Crystal that everyone accepted her, loved her.
“Do you have any idea where she could have gone?” he asked and Tasha just stared at him. Didn’t he want to ask questions about the non-shifter part of the story? He didn’t say anything more, instead simply waited for her reply.
“I do. I talked to her best friend and she told me that Crystal has been talking to a boy in the city over the Internet. She probably went there.” Tasha spoke quickly. “I have his name and number. I keep calling, but no one is answering. He is older and I’m worried about what he might do to her.”
Adam leaned over and placed his hand over hers. “Give me the details and I will find her. I promise you that.”
Tasha could feel tears threaten to fall in relief. “Thank you, Adam. Thank you.”
He squeezed her hand before releasing it. “That is what I am here for. Do you have the information with you?”
Tasha nodded and dug in her purse for her small notebook. Her hand still tingled from where Adam had touched her. “I wrote it all down.” She tore out a page and handed it to him, hoping he didn’t notice her hands shaking.
“I’ll work on this and keep you in the loop on what I find out,” he told her as he stood. “I know realize it’s useless to tell you not to worry, but I hope you know you can trust me.”
“I do,” she assured him. She wasn’t lying. Even if Adam hadn’t been the Alpha, there was a good chance Christian would have charged his son to handle this, anyway. She wasn’t sure who Adam would send, but she understood knew he would keep his word about finding Crystal.
“I’m glad,” Adam said. “Why don’t you head home in case she calls? Let me know if you hear from her.”
She nodded as he held out his hand and helped her to her feet.
An electric current ran between them and she gasped in surprise. Adam seemed stunned for an instant before he grinned at her. That wicked look on his face had Tasha longing to reach out and grab hold of him.
It wasn’t just the fact she found him attractive, making her want the strength of his arms around her. She was tired and heartbroken. It was hard raising a teenager, even with help from her friends and adopted family. That was what the Pack meant to her. Honorary aunts, uncles, cousins and more.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Adam said, pulling her close.
Tasha allowed him to comfort her and it felt so right. He wrapped his strong arms around her shoulders and she buried her face in his chest. This time, she couldn’t hold the tears at bay. She sobbed into his shirt and let go of all her worry.
He rubbed her back and murmured, “It’s okay. We’ll find her. I did some pretty shitty things when I was her age. You raised her well and she knows right from wrong.”
Oh, God! She had needed to hear the words.
Once she felt as though she had control again, she patted his chest before pulling away. The expression on his face was so soft and caring she almost started crying again. How had the two of them fought this connection that was so obvious?
“I’ll walk you out,” Adam told her as he stepped away.
“Okay,” she agreed.
He placed his hand on her lower back and she jolted. Yes, the attraction was there and strong. They didn’t speak as they left the office and strolled down the hall toward the front door. Tasha noticed that nothing had been changed inside the Alpha house and she was surprised. It was quite normal for a new Alpha to at least make small modifications so the Pack accepted the transition of power. It had only been a couple of months since Christian had stepped down, but Adam needed to take control.
Not that Tasha felt she should voice her thoughts just yet. There was always more than what appeared on the surface when it came to Alphas, and if the dark circles under Adam’s beautiful eyes were any indication, this new Alpha was struggled with something.
She hated to add to his stress, but some things couldn’t be helped. It did comfort her that even if he were going through his own troubles, he was willing to give his time and attention to her needs.
She had no doubt that Adam would make a wonderful Alpha.
He opened the front door for her and she paused to look up at him. “I know that you have other things to worry about—”
“No,” he interrupted. “You don’t need to concern yourself about that. We concentrate on your sister.”
Tasha reached down and gripped his hand. She didn’t need to say anything else. Her touch showed her appreciation and since she was barely hanging on to her emotions, it would be best to remain silent.
She released him before walking out of the door then jogging down the stairs. Her old car sat in front of the large Alpha house, standing out as a reminder that she didn’t fit in there. She wasn’t fancy or knock-out gorgeous. She was kind of plain and men didn’t usually pay her too much attention. But she felt his.
The entire time she moved away from him, she could sense his gaze on her. It felt good to hold the interest of such a gorgeous and powerful shifter. If she put a little more wiggle in her hips, who could blame her?
It wasn’t until she climbed behind the wheel that she glanced up toward the house. Adam was still there, leaning against the door frame, and his hot gaze bore into her. She shivered. Maybe she would have something to thank her sister for once she’d dragged her hormonal teenage butt back.
Tasha pushed the key in the ignition, then started her car. She’d given the information she had to the Alpha, but that didn’t mean that she was going to lay it all at his feet. If she didn’t hear from Crystal tonight, she would head into the city herself.
Adam waited until the brake lights on Tasha’s car were out of sight before he closed the front door. A missing teenager was not what the Pack needed. Not only was there a chance of the young girl getting really hurt but she belonged to his Pack and he’d vowed to keep them safe.
He turned toward his office to begin researching the name and number that Tasha had provided. She hadn’t told him how old the guy who Crystal had been talking to was and Adam wanted as much information as possible.
Halfway to his workspace, he spotted the figure leaning against the wall. Adam frowned and hurried his pace.
“Is my dad okay?” he asked Logan.
“He’s fine,” Logan assured him. He grinned before clasping Adam on the shoulder. “I did want to talk to you if you have a minute.”
“Sure.” Adam waved Logan toward his office.
“Everything okay?” Logan asked, walking in front of him.
Adam followed and closed the door behind them. He didn’t want anyone else to hear about Pack business. He trusted and respected Logan.
Logan and Christian had been friends Adam’s entire life, so even though they’d lived in different Packs, Logan had always been around. He was like an uncle to Adam.
“One of our teenagers took off to the city to meet up with an older boy,” Adam told him.
Logan chuckled. “Sometimes I don’t know how we make it from about fifteen to nineteen.”
Adam nodded his agreement as he headed toward the small bar in the corner of the room. “Drink?”
“Whatever you’re having is fine,” Logan said.
“Whiskey?” Adam offered.
“Yeah,” Logan answered. Instead of sitting, he prowled around while Adam fixed the drinks. Logan might seem fine, but it was obvious to Adam something was on the older shifter’s mind.
Adam finished pouring the liquor, then picked up both glasses. He handed one to Logan. “What’s up?” He couldn’t help but be worried about his dad.
“Let’s sit,” Logan suggested.
That couldn’t be good, but Adam walked toward the couch and sat. Logan joined him. As much as Adam wanted to press Logan, he waited. Finally, after Logan had taken a sip, he sighed before setting his drink on the table.
“I have to return home,” Logan informed him.
Damn, it wasn’t half an hour ago that Adam had been hoping Logan would be able to stay a while. “Right away?” Adam asked.
Logan rubbed his hands roughly over his face. “Yeah, my Alpha’s mate is pregnant and he’s given me as much time as he can, but he needs me back. Gage is worried about security while she’s expecting. I have to return to my job.”
“I know,” Adam said. It hurt, but Logan had already spent so much time with his dad. “I’m just worried about my father.”
“He’s doing much better,” Logan said.
“I don’t know,” Adam confessed. “He barely talks to me anymore.”
“Give him time,” Logan said. “He’s working through some issues and it’s taking him time to get his head on straight. He will, though. He loves you and your sister.”
Adam sighed. He appreciated Logan’s words, but that didn’t mean he could or would stop worrying. “I wish you didn’t have to leave.”
“That’s what I wanted to discuss,” Logan said.
Adam snapped his head over to look at him.
“I’d like to ask Christian to come back home with me. It will give him a chance to get away from everything and hopefully settle.”
He wanted to say no, scream it, even, but Adam knew Logan was probably right. His dad was going to waste away in his room if he didn’t get a change of scenery. Adam was hurt, but Logan was dead-on.
Adam rose and paced to the opposite side of the room. The blinds were open and he could see the backyard. The pool, barbecue and lawn chairs. They’d used to sit out there at night, he and his dad, never talking about much. Just enjoying each other’s company and the night coming alive around them. He missed those times. If he didn’t give his dad space to heal, he might not ever get back the most important man to him.
“Take him with you,” Adam said without turning around.
He didn’t hear Logan rise, but he wasn’t surprised when a hand clamped down on his shoulder.
“I’ll take good care of him,” Logan promised.
“Can I make another suggestion?” Logan asked quietly.
He turned, smiling. “Sure.”
“Maybe it would be a good idea for you to have a break of your own,” Logan said.
“I can’t just leave,” Adam said.
“Your dad left the territory. Went on vacation or visited other Alphas,” Logan pointed out.
“He had his inner circle in place,” Adam said.
“And until you choose your own, they’re still here,” Logan pointed out. “Let them help. Yes, most have been in the position so long they’re ready to retire, but no one is abandoning you.”
“I feel alone,” Adam confessed.
“I know,” Logan said. “It’s one of the things your dad and I argue about. He’s proud of you. Damn, boy, your father believes in you. He doesn’t see that you still need some guidance.”
“What should I do?” Adam asked. It was the first time he’d asked anyone that question.
“Go bring your teenage Pack member back,” Logan said. “That will help you see what you’re fighting for. Connect you to the Pack.”
It wasn’t a terrible idea. If he left early enough, he might only be gone a day or two. He could rely on his dad’s men. Plus, his sister was there, along with the guards. “I might just do that.”
“Good.” Logan pulled him into a quick hug, then slapped his back. “Good.”
As Logan let go of him to head for the exit, Adam was so damn grateful. “Hey, Logan,” he called.
Logan turned at the door.
“Of course.” Logan smiled. “You can call me anytime. I’m here for you, too.”
Adam let the older shifter go. It was time he made some calls so he could take care of Pack business. In addition, he’d be able to drop in and see Cain. Cain’s mate was finishing school and he was currently staying in an apartment not far from the campus.
With a plan forming, Adam headed to his desk to get the ball rolling.