Liam couldn’t watch the ceremony that would mate Corliss to someone else. He could’ve challenged for her, but that meant fighting his father—the ruling wolf, who was neither a tyrant nor senile. Both of them in their prime, a fight would have ended in one of their deaths, and he couldn’t justify the loss of life.
Not even for her. Unable to keep control of his wolf, Liam let the animal free to seek solace in the forest. Except every tree, every scent roused memories of her, and the wolf circled back towards the clearing, towards the woman who should be his.
Stark quiet alerted him to trouble as the wolf crept along the edge of the grass. People were missing and those who remained stood as if waiting for the ceremony to start. He circled around to the front to get a better view, hiding in the shadows so as not to alert anyone. Raymond was unaccounted for. Corliss stood stiff-backed, facing away from the audience.
Her caramel-colored hair was piled atop her head, darkened to walnut in the moonlight. Shadows hid her sea-green eyes and emphasized her high cheekbones. She appeared cold, harsh, and removed from events going on around her. Yet he knew her to be warm and caring, often too caring.
Giving to others more of her personal energy through her healing powers than she should. As her friend, he could offer support, but he couldn’t push too hard for her to rest, or she’d rip out his throat.
He chuffed. The dark blue specks in her eyes glowed when she was angry. That spark had been missing from her eyes for days. He repressed a growl as Corliss bit the inside of her cheek. Before the wind shifted, he backed away. She wouldn’t appreciate someone seeing her close to tears.
The wolf wanted to rip a hole in Raymond’s belly, but even the animals had rules for a challenge. He trotted to a cache of clothes. Only the man could help her now.
He stormed into the grove where Raymond and his attendants waited. “What is taking so long?” Corliss did not deserve to be left alone in front of everyone. Bad enough his parents forced her to marry a spoiled wolf like Raymond, but she didn’t deserve to be demeaned as well.
Searching the area, Liam stopped when he didn’t see Raymond. “Where is he?” he growled, causing everyone to move back, even his best friend and second, David. The crowd parted, leaving him a view of Richard, Raymond’s younger brother, sitting with his face buried in his hands.
David stepped between him and Richard, blocking his view. “Raymond skipped town. He left a note.”
Liam’s wolf stirred, a howl of anger echoed in his head. “Give it to me,” he demanded, his voice rough and deep. It was a sign his wolf was very close.
David eyed him warily, then turned to retrieve the note from the younger wolf’s hand. He paced, unable to contain his pent-up emotions, as David whispered to a dejected Richard, “It’ll be okay. Liam will fix things.”
Corliss had always affected him strongly, but he’d kept his distance, hid his desire, and his need to protect and care for her. He’d returned home from his pack tour—every future Alpha visited other packs for leadership training—intent on courting her, making her his.
Only to be presented with the announcement of her impending mating. Denied his heart’s desire, he snapped at everyone around him, ready to tear into someone at the least provocation.