Ryder Beck has let his mate, Carisma Yates, roam for over a year when desperation makes him seek her out. A skilled physician, he needs her help and it can’t come a moment too soon.
Carisma has done her best to avoid Ryder. She has no interest in mating now or ever, but when he claims he needs her assistance for his niece she can’t in good conscious not see for herself. She’s surprised to find it isn’t a dirty trick to get her into Ryder’s territory, but a real need of help for his niece.
But being so close to the doting uncle is bad for her determination to stay single. Not to mention Ryder’s secrets and hers. Does she dare take the risk? Or is it time to disappear for good?
ExcerptRyder was wolf enough to admit he was desperate and was taking a hell of a risk, but it wasn’t like he had a lot of options. Besides, Carisma was his mate. She couldn’t betray him. Could she? Shit, anything was possible and his mother’s warning rang in his ears, making him question his instincts and his heart. Not to mention his sanity. Never trust a hunter or a Yates. His mate was a Yates, and despite his wariness he hadn’t exactly let her go. True, he hadn’t seen her in a year and half, but he spoke to her often and his men watched over her in her travels. Three women had gone missing from her home pack shortly before they met, so he’d put his foot down about her travelling alone.
Apparently, he could only let go so much, and yeah, in the beginning he’d held out hope she would come to him. Hoped she’d come to him despite her reservations, which were all about her independence, because she didn’t know he was a member of the hidden Regis family. Being mated to an alpha had frightened her enough without him daring to reveal that secret. But now he needed her. His mate. Who was a Yates.
Adding insult to injury, he was standing in front of the door to hunter headquarters. His mother was probably rolling over in her grave. Anthony, the current leader of the hunters and the grandson of the hunter who’d led his men to revolt against Ryder’s uncle, the last king, was mated to Ryder’s cousin Gia, though she was unaware they were related. Hell, even Gage, another cousin and his king, didn’t know who Ryder really was.
He’d been a toddler when his father, his uncles, one of them the last Regis, were killed by hunters—who should have been trustworthy—and rogues, who never were. He didn’t remember that. He had hazy memories of his mother, perhaps a couple years later before she finally died of a broken heart. She’d taken him and his baby sister Suzanna to friends of hers, loners like the family she’d grown up in. Ralph and Kristy Beck had taken them in, taken care of their mother in her slow decline, and joined the Charleston pack after she died. Since the couple were loners no one ever asked if the kids were really theirs. His mother had done as she promised. Hidden them and kept them safe.
The Regis family had been hunted and murdered relentlessly through those early years, but as soon as he was old enough to understand and keep it secret, his foster parents had tried to teach him about who he was. What he was. The secret remained safe until a hunter wandered into their pack when Ryder was fourteen, a hunter who was a cousin, only a few years older than Ryder, who’d recognized him, saw his father in him, and taught him so much more. Declan showed him the true depth of his strength and taught him why he had to control it. He did much more than that though. He made sure there was nothing in the hunter databases that would betray Ryder and his sister. As far as the werewolf world was concerned, they’d died the same night as the Regis and their parents.
And now Ryder stood at the door of the lions’ den, so to speak, looking for his mate. Not to claim her, because as much as his wolf wanted her, he wasn’t taking an unwilling woman. Because his niece needed her. That need was fierce, but it was so ingrained in him not to trust hunters he still couldn’t make himself knock on the fucking door. The decision was taken out of his hands when it swung open and Anthony stood there scowling at him.
“Why am I suddenly overrun with alphas? What do you want?”
They were about the same age but hadn’t had much contact, and Anthony’s hostility was off the charts. Ryder felt a flash of amusement, knowing he could swat the man like a fly, but he tamped it down and stepped into the foyer.
“Why do hunter headquarters’ look like a crazed Christmas elf went on a rampage?” he countered.
Most alpha residences were big enough to house not just pack operations but the families of its beta and enforcer, plus guest accommodations. Hunter headquarters’ could have been any of those residences, which wasn’t odd since for all intents and purposes, Anthony was an alpha who didn’t hold the title. At the moment, lights were strung on the outside gutters, around the windows, and draped over the bushes. There was also a sleigh and reindeer and a giant inflatable snowman.
Ryder had been more interested in the large number of vehicles in the circular drive, so hadn’t paid too much attention to the holiday decor. The alpha comment must explain that. Inside there were two decorated trees in the foyer, lighted garland wrapping around the banister leading upstairs, and miniature Santas and reindeer on a long side table.
Anthony made a huffing sound that could have been a suppressed laugh. “I made the mistake of asking my mate if she wanted to decorate for the holidays, and she turned into a rampaging elf.”
“It’s not even December yet.”
It was only a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and despite knowing his sister and niece were probably gleefully doing the same to his home, he was amused to hear Gia had done this. He hadn’t met her, but Declan, who was Gia’s uncle had filled Ryder in on his cousin. By all accounts she was a bad ass hunter in her own right, and he’d had the impression typically over serious and not given to any kind of frivolity. Maybe Anthony was good for her, despite being a damned hunter.
“Why are you here?” Anthony asked again.
“Looking for my mate. You can’t block me from that.” Since he was an alpha, Anthony couldn’t deny him access to the house either. It didn’t technically belong to him. Ryder paused when he caught the scents in the house, however. They were too fucking familiar. Were they lingering or present? Fuck, he didn’t have time for this. “Who else is here?” Anthony did not look happy. Well, neither was Ryder. Declan stepped out into the hall and cocked an eyebrow at him. He nodded as Ryder strode forward. Anthony moved faster, slipping into the room before him.
Ryder felt the power when he walked into the room and saw Gia, Lilah, her mates and infant twins, Declan of course. And Gage.
“What the fuck is this? Are y’all having a family reunion?” He cut the without me off abruptly when Declan quirked an eyebrow at him but it was too late. The damage was done. Not only had he implied he was one of them but acknowledged he knew who they were. Stupid fucking mistake. If he weren’t so focused on Carisma helping his niece, he wouldn’t have made it.