Book 2 in the Fae Touched Series
Wolf shifter James Reed was a devoted mate, proud sire, fierce warrior, and valued member of the Walker Pack until an order from the region’s vampire prince branded him a traitor. Forbidden to reveal the reason behind his apparent betrayal, he abandons his truemate, Sarah, and his Clan to infiltrate a group of outcast shifters hellbent on destroying the fragile peace between the Fae Touched and their human neighbors.
James knows the covert mission is vital to the future of the magical community, but truemates aren’t meant to live apart. Unlike the males of their species, a female’s health deteriorates rapidly during a separation, and a prolonged estrangement could ultimately lead to death.
Can James allow his mate to suffer to save his people? Will Sarah forgive him if he does?
Book 2 in the Fae Touched Series
Read an Excerpt
“I won’t do it.”
“It wasn’t a request, Mr. Reed.”
Wolf shifter James Reed turned his back on the Dádhe prince, striding to the chapel’s wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. He propped his shoulder on the engraved wooden frame and watched the sun begin its ascent over the cobblestone streets of Mud Island’s Queenstown. Curling his fingers into fists to prevent the stinging tips from converting into claws, he smiled without humor as the morning light spread, chasing the dark shadows away and guaranteeing the vampire heir would have a painful trek home.
The pre-dawn, clandestine meeting was arranged without informing James of the reasons beforehand and what had been revealed so far didn’t jell with the enormous sacrifice the prince of the East South Central Region was asking him to make.
“You don’t need my help unearthing a few witches who are in bed with the knights,” James said, grinding his teeth to keep them from lengthening. He was holding onto his human form by a thin thread.
The Knights of Humanity, or the KoH, was an influential human-run organization with a radical agenda to repeal the Fae Accord. Abolishment of the almost ninety-year-old treaty between the Fae Touched community of magic-users and their human neighbors would ultimately threaten the sovereignty of all nonhumans in the US, and the prince insisted, lead to war.
“If incendiary magic was used in the latest rash of off-island vandalism against Fae Touched businesses as we suspect,” James continued, “the traitorous Anwyll will be found and brought to the queen’s justice.” The swift punishments were far harsher than any carried out in a human court of law.
“Disloyal witches might not be all we have to worry about.” Prince Myles sidled up to James with his hands buried deep inside the pockets of crisply pressed trousers. The vampire didn’t flinch as the first diffused rays of daylight streaked across his face. “It appears the rumors that shifter outcasts have taken up with the knights in the ongoing attempt to disrupt the peace between humanity and the Fae Touched are more than rumors. We have to find out how Ferwyn males are remaining sane without an Alpha’s binding.”
“It’s not possible,” James said. “An exiled shifter wouldn’t be able to function long without an intact bond with an Alpha. He’d turn feral within twelve months of breaking ties with his Ferwyn pack.”
“Which is why your cooperation is vital. I need you to infiltrate these rebel Ferwyns. Discover whether another monarch has sent an Alpha into our region to control these Clanless shifters and why they’ve chosen to join with the knights. Or if it turns out an outcast from our region is right-minded enough to hold together a surrogate pack…dispose of him.”
“When Noah was whelped, I promised Sarah that I was done with dangerous undercover work.”
“You can’t tell your mate or Príoh Walker about this assignment. No one can know.”
James grabbed the lapels of the Dádhe prince’s suit and got up in Myles’ impassive face. “You want my truemate to think I left her willingly? Lie to my pack’s Alpha?”
“It’s necessary for the success of the mission.” His voice was calm, his body lax. “Príoh Walker would never approve the abandonment of his sister. Even though there is no one better suited for this job than you.”
“It won’t work.” James shook his head, unable to hold in a growl. “Sarah will never believe it. None of my clanmates will.”
Though not born into the Memphis-based wolf shifter pack, James had claimed the previous Alpha’s daughter as his truemate—his Ca’anam—over three decades prior and raised a pup within its fold. He was a trusted warrior and brother-in-law by marriage to the present Clan Príoh, local pack Alpha, and Commander of the Guard, Samuel Walker. No one would ever buy James betraying his family. His pack. His commander.
“Be convincing,” Prince Myles said, his incisors remained hidden, his scent unworried. “You were a spy in two world wars, which proves you are a talented liar and with the right setup…a credible traitor. I’m counting on you being persuasive enough to cast doubt on your loyalty. Your apparent defection will do the rest.”
“No.” He lost the battle for control, claws emerging and tearing the expensive fabric of the vampire’s jacket. “I won’t let Sarah think I’ve deserted her.”
“Can Mrs. Reed convincingly fake the despair of a truemate’s betrayal?”
“No female could,” James snarled, gums swelling and canines aching for release.
“Exactly, and as I said earlier, this isn’t a request.” Myles’ piercing green gaze met James’ glowing wolf-yellow without fear or sympathy. “A strong alpha male can survive a prolonged separation from his Ca’anam.”
“But our claimed females cannot. Mentally or physically. Her body will start deteriorating in a matter of weeks. And if I’m captured or forcibly kept away from Sarah too long…” He lifted the prince onto his toes, a low growl vibrating in his chest. “She. Could. Die.”
“Then don’t get caught,” he said, hands finally leaving his pockets to wrap around James’ wrists like cold, steel bands. “I’m not exaggerating when I say our treaty with the US government is at risk.”
Vampires, shifters, and witches had lived alongside the Untouched, or nonmagical population, for centuries. Though there would always be prejudice on both sides, there hadn’t been a species war in over two hundred years. And never one on American soil.
“I doubt a few treasonous witches and a makeshift pack of Ferwyn outcasts will incite a retraction of the Accords.”
“Then you haven’t been paying attention. The Untouched fear us. They always have, and they always will.”
“The magical races account for less than one percent of the world’s population. The Fae Touched are not a threat to humans despite our enhanced physical and magical abilities.”
“And their increasing boldness proves they are aware of that fact. Technology, along with humanity’s sheer numbers, negates every magical advantage we once held. The Dádhe barely survived the European Blood Wars, and none of the Fae Touched would last long in a modern-day battle.”
“How do you expect me to pull this off? Do you even have a plan?” James asked. Was he going to do this? Did he have a choice?
“Hostilities between humans and nonhumans have escalated without recourse; the culprits responsible for the recent destruction of Fae Touched property in the region remain unchecked. You’re tired of the ongoing harassment of our people, and upset Commander Walker has not pressed the issue with our vampire queen.” Prince Myles quirked a dark eyebrow, and James pried his nails free, releasing his suitcoat. “Shouldn’t be hard to fake.”
“Samuel won’t be fooled easily.” A strong-minded Ferwyn might be able to block his emotions from his Alpha for a short period, but it would be almost impossible for James to hide his true feelings from an Alpha as strong as his wife’s brother for long.
“Force a confrontation with the commander in front of pack members.” Prince Myles straightened his tie, tugged at the cuffs of his dress shirt and calmly said, “Challenge him for the position of Alpha in Memphis.”
James took a step back, but couldn’t hold in another snarl. “He is the leader of Clan Walker, the most dominant Alpha in the entire region. I wouldn’t have a shot at defeating him.”
How far would he have to take the deception for everyone to believe it? Far enough to fight his brother-in-law. Far enough that Sarah would suffer. Far enough to make the Knights of Humanity trust him. How far was he willing to go to save the Fae Touched?
“Losing is the point,” Myles said, gaze cutting to the UVA treated windows and the sunlight streaming through the colored glass. The vampire’s dark hair was kept short, and he popped his jacket’s collar to cover the bare skin on his nape. “We need a legitimate excuse for you to leave the Walker Pack. And as a bonus, I can use your disappearance and apparent faithlessness as a diversion while I investigate my Dádhe House.”
“You think there are traitors in Standish House, among the queen’s blood-bound?” James asked, brow furrowed. “How is that even possible with the Calling?”
All Dádhe within a region were irrevocably bonded by a magical blood oath, the Calling making it physically impossible for any blood-bound to act against the leader of their vampire family. Rose Standish was the matriarch of the territory’s ruling Dádhe House. She was also the East South Central’s Fae Touched queen and Prince Myles’ biological aunt.
“The old Fae magic used to seal the covenant is strong, but not infallible. There are ways to circumvent the blood vow, if only indirectly.” He gave a slight shrug of his shoulder, as though the shocking admission wouldn’t have catastrophic consequences if revealed to the general Untouched populace.
The Dádhe ingested blood to survive. Human blood. In addition to forced loyalty, the Calling allowed the strongest vampires in every region’s House to temper the predatory instincts of the weakest. Without that leash, the youngest members could fall into bloodlust.
“And then there’s still the problem of the back-stabbing Anwyll.” Prince Myles pulled designer sunglasses from the silk-lined interior of his pinstriped suit. “Either the witches involved are being shielded by the American government, or the Guard’s failure to apprehend them is due to gross incompetence.”
“Fuck you,” James replied through gritted teeth. He was a proud member of the region’s well-trained police force.
“Remember to whom you’re speaking, wolf.”
“Fuck you…milord.” The scent of damp earth and a hint of lengthened incisors warned James he was pushing the prince’s patience. He didn’t give a shit. “And I’m speaking to someone who wants my child to believe his father is a traitor.”
“Noah’s reached his majority. He’s hardly a pup.”
“Desert my pack.”
“Betray my Alpha and my queen.”
“They’ll be told the truth.” Prince Myles waved his manicured fingers. “Eventually.”
“Abandon my Ca’anam.” James’ voice broke. “Knowingly cause Sarah pain.”
“She’ll forgive you.” Myles slipped the mirrored aviators on and turned to leave the small vestibule.
James opened the mating bond; the connection with Sarah strummed with warmth and love. The pull of their tie told him she was west of the chapel. Still asleep in their bed. He’d left a note, explaining he had to run an errand for the Guard. The first of many lies to come if he accepted the assignment.
He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t hurt Sarah.
“Milord, I can’t…”
“Mr. Reed,” Prince Myles interrupted without turning around. He opened the exit door, and sunlight spilled into the room, washed over the vampire’s exposed skin. “I wouldn’t ask for this sacrifice if it wasn’t necessary. My gut tells me the freedom of our people…your family…could be at stake if we do nothing.”
The vampire dug his hands into his pockets again and stepped into the blazing sunshine.
James stared at the closed door, clutching the back of a pew so tightly the wood creaked. “Your gut better be right.”
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