Hello!! I can’t believe it’s a week from RELEASE DAY! Yep that’s SEVEN days. I am happy to share Keegan’s story with you. Here’s the first chapter.
Thirty-seven years ago
Keegan opened the door to his home and was met with silence, although it wasn’t unusual to come home from patrol to a quiet house or an empty one. Cate often visited with other Pack members and had her daily routines.
He stepped inside the foyer, taking in the scent of peaches and Cate. She hadn’t been gone long, he guessed. Entering the kitchen, he felt his lips lift in a small smile as he saw the note on the counter.
Hello, Lover. I went for my walk early so we could have the evening to ourselves. Be back soon.
Love you always,
A wicked thought entered his mind involving Cate naked and panting beneath him.
He moved to the refrigerator, opened it, and assessed its contents with a frowned. There was an empty milk jug, jar of jelly, and several “mystery” items that he wouldn’t open to save his mate’s life. He closed the door and wondered why she hadn’t gone shopping. It wasn’t like her to forget things like that, or at least it wasn’t until six months ago when they lost their third child.
Keegan shook his head, trying to ease the painful tightening in his chest and turned toward the living room.
A knock on the front door brought him up short. He wasn’t expecting anyone. When he crossed the foyer and opened the door, he was surprised to see Brock, one of his sentries, on the other side.
“Brock.” Keegan gave him a short nod and stepped aside so the male could enter.
The sentry came in and offered a wry smile. Keegan opened his telepathy to allow him to hear Brock’s thoughts. All Keegan heard was Brock reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb over and over. Gritting his teeth, Keegan turned to the living room.
“What is bothering you, Brock?”
The male peered at him as if confused for a brief moment, then shrugged and looked away. Yeah, something was definitely up.
“How is Beth?”
Brock looked back at Keegan and smiled. “My mate is good. A little annoyed that Dani had put her on bed rest until after she delivers the cubs.”
Keegan’s heart warmed at the thought of new life. Beth and Brock were excepting there first…well, first set of cubs. Beth was due to deliver the twins in a few weeks and Danica, the Pack Healer, had put the female on light to no duty. Keegan could just imagine how stir crazy the dominant female was going.
“Brock?” Keegan asked when the male seemed to lose himself in thought, still reciting the damned nursery rhyme in his head.
“Huh? Oh. I was wondering if it would be okay if I take some time off rotation.”
“Sure. Take as much time as you need. I have a few junior soldiers who need the experience.”
Brock relaxed, but only a little. By the way the male rocked on his feet and peered around the room, Keegan knew something else was bothering the sentry.
“Speak your mind, Brock.”
Brock swallowed, but met Keegan’s gaze. “Is Cate home?”
Keegan didn’t stop a low growl from escaping. “She is on her walk.”
“I mean no disrespect. Beth and I love your mate and would never want to…”
“Speak,” Keegan said through gritted teeth.
“Last week when Cate came to visit with Beth…well, my mate said Cate didn’t smell right. Beth said she had a scent on her that was not Pack. I thought that my mate was just having one of those pregnancy side effects or something and paid it no mind.” Brock fell silent.
Keegan counted slowly in his head before saying, “Continue.”
Brock took a deep breath. “I saw Cate the other day, coming in from her walk and wanted to thank her for stopping by to visit with Beth. I smelt it, too.”
Keegan was still counting, still trying to reign in his control and not hit the male standing in front of him for even suggesting what Keegan believed he was. Thoughts of that morning when he used his gift on Cate to ease a nightmare entered his mind. She was dreaming of the Alpha of the rogue Pack Onyx. That couldn’t be it. She was only having a dream, wasn’t she?
Keegan studied Brock, who looked as pale as bleached sand. Keegan didn’t blame the male for being nervous. After all, according to their laws, it was a crime to accuse the Alpha’s mate of betrayal, or anything for that matter.
“What did you smell?”
Brock peered at his feet. “The scent of a rogue.”
Keegan growled, making the male flinch slightly and reached out again to touch Brock’s mind. This time the male let him in to search for the memory. Search for any hint of a lie. What he found made his heart ache and confused the hell out of him.
Brock believed what he said and was also confused by it.
Why would Cate have an encounter with the rogues and not mention it to him or the enforcers or sentries?
Keegan withdrew from the male’s thoughts and turned toward the French doors that led to the backyard. “You are excused. Take all the time you need to be with your mate.”
“Sir, I only told you because I was concerned. If she’d been fighting them on her own…”
Keegan peered at him from over his shoulder. “Thank you, Brock.”
The male nodded and left Keegan alone with his thoughts. Over the past six months, and since they lost their third child after being attacked by a mutant—the half-human, half-animal pawns of the rogue Onyx Pack—Cate had fallen into a deep depression. She forgot things like buying food for the house, and her walks became a little longer each day. Most the time she’d return within an hour. Other times Keegan would have to go search for her only to find her swimming in the creek not far from the outer wards of Ashwood territory.
One thing he didn’t consider until now was the possible reason why she trained with the soldiers. At first he thought it was to keep her mind busy. After all she had trained to be an enforcer as a teen and up until she became an adult and Keegan made his intensions of mating her clear.
Keegan hoped Cate had been using her walks and “alone time” to hunt down the rogues that took their child from them instead of betraying the Pack like her dream suggested. Both scenarios sent a jolt of panic though him that quickly turned to anger.
He’d told her of the dangers of fighting alone. Hell she knew the dangers from her own training and from being the Alpha’s mate.
The front door opened making Keegan whirl around and cast a hard stare at his mate as she entered the living room. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and there was a hint of surprise in her grey eyes as she met his gaze.
“Oh, you’re home.” She smiled and moved to the hallway. “I’m going to shower and change then start dinner.”
He was in front of her before she took her next step, drawing a gasp from her. He inhaled deeply, taking in her scent and the scent of a rogue. But not just any rogue, no it was Felix, the Onyx Alpha. The same man that order the attack on Ashwood and many other Packs in the southeast region of the United States.
The one male Keegan wanted to bring down and make suffer for destroying his Pack about two hundred years ago. The male that was responsible for the suffering of the members of Ashwood and the loss of his and Cate’s little girl.
“What have you been up to, Cate?”
Fear entered her gaze and she swallowed, hard. Shaking her head, she backed away from him. “Nothing. I…”
He growled and stepped forward, his leopard rising to the surface. “Don’t lie to me. I can smell Felix on you.”
Tears sprang in her eyes and overflowed her lips to spill down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry,” she said on a hiccup before she launched forward and grabbed his gun from his holster. Shock froze him in place for a brief moment, but it was all the lead she needed.
Cate flung the back doors open and ran toward the forest. Keegan gave chase. A blanket of fog drifted in heavy and thick in the darkening forest, making it hard to track by sight alone. He scented the air and picked up on her sweet, peachy scent.
His fear fueled the possessive rage building inside. She’d been with Felix.
Keegan couldn’t shake the thought that she might have betrayed him. The thoughts he stole from her mind that morning fueled the panic that settled in his chest. His chest tightened and became hard to breathe through his own fear of what his mate might have planned to do with that gun. Shoving aside the sick feeling deep in his gut, he pushed his legs to run faster to catch her before she did something stupid.
A twig snapped in the distance to his right, followed by a soft cry, and he turned toward it, desperate to reach her. When he broke through the thick brush, he saw her pushing herself up from the ground. Her watery gaze locked with his, and she raised her shaky hand with the gun in it and pointed it right at him.
He skidded to a stop and held his hands up, palms facing her. “Cate, hon, we can talk about this. Whatever you’ve done, we’ll work it out.”
She shook her head, her long brown curls swaying around her shoulders. “I betrayed you and the Pack. I told Felix our secrets. I didn’t mean to. I mean, I don’t know why I did. I hate him. Oh, God, what have I done?” She broke out into sobs and looked away from him.
Keegan took a step forward. Cate snapped her gaze back to him and thrust the gun toward him in warning. “Stop. Don’t, please. I must die. It’s the law! I can’t let you do it. I love you, and I’m so sorry for being a disappointment to you and the boys.”
She moved the gun to her temple and Keegan screamed, “No,” as she fired. He rushed over, catching her limp body, and fell to his knees with his dead mate pressed into his chest. Tears ran down his face and his chest felt like it was being pried open as he cried, hard. He let out a painful roar as he felt her soul rip from his own, severing their mating bond, leaving him empty and alone inside.