The day after having her heart broken, Raine volunteers for an international member exchange with the infamous Blood Ridge Hollow pack—home to the Lycan Alpha who killed the Dark Witch. Nervous but determined, she gains the trust of an elite group of warriors, falls for a mysterious wolf who keeps to the shadows, and discovers the truth about her complicated past and prophesied future. But when the Dark Witch’s followers threaten her new life, will Raine be able to prevent her return and save the people she loves?
Kayden Ridge never feels as powerful as he does when he’s leading his pack. He can sense the respect and admiration of his warriors as they follow him into the darkest pits, and even the trees seem to whisper his name in awe.
But I watch from heaven worriedly as they venture deeper into an unknown part of the forest.
Kayden jerks his head left, feeling an ominous presence in the air—one that does not belong in the forest. He senses a powerful, malicious energy lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to strike.
The alpha holds up a hand to signal his pack to stop their approach. He motions for them to spread out around him, then steps forward. When he does, he sees the source of the energy: Mandora, the dark witch of the forest.
Mandora stands with her hands on her hips, scowling at the werewolf pack. Her slender frame is draped in a midnight-blue gown, her raven-black hair cascades down her back, and her long fingers grip a staff that pulses with a dark, foreboding energy. She would be stunning if not for her crimson eyes, which burn with hatred.
The dark witch watches the pack, eyes narrowed in anger, and then her lips curl into a snarl. “What is it you seek here?” Her voice is as cold and hard as a winter night.
Kayden steps forward again, his silver eyes blazing with determination. “We seek to pass through this forest,” he says firmly, clearly trying to remain calm in the face of her power.
“You dare trespass in my domain?” Mandora sneers. She steps closer as well, her staff raised.
If only I could intervene, I think.
Summoning all of his strength and agility, Kayden hurls himself at the dark witch. For all her power, he is faster than her, and he lands a punch that sends her flying back.
Mandora recovers quickly and raises her staff, unleashing a wave of burning magic. The next moment, Kayden howls in agony as flames sear his flesh, leaving deep, painful scars on his face and chest.
“In the name of the darkness that binds us,” Mandora begins to chant, “let these words be the witch bond that separates us. Let no power, no matter how strong, unbind the chains of our forbidden song. Let no heart ever come near that does not bear the strength of fear.”
The werewolf staggers back, his eyes blazing with fury. Then, with a snarl, he leaps forward, claws extended.
“Let no love ever touch our souls,” the dark witch continues, “unless it is written in ancient scrolls. Let no pain be felt between us forever unless it is written in the starlight never. By my dark power and will, let a witch bond be cast between us still.”
Mandora smiles as she finishes her curse. “I block the bond formed within your soul. Only true love will make it take hold.”
On the last word, Kayden rakes his claws across the dark witch’s chest, ripping out her heart. Her body then falls to the ground, lifeless.
As the werewolf pack gathers around their alpha, their howls of victory echo through the forest, but I say. Kayden may have won this first battle against the dark witch, but the scars of his sacrifice will forever remain.
“Raine,” Shelby’s high-pitched voice sounds over the intercom, “you are needed in the alpha’s office.”
I grab a towel to wipe my face, then head toward the office. When I arrive, I knock lightly on the door.
“Come in,” the alpha’s deep, gravelly voice calls out.
I open the door and enter. “You needed to see me, Alpha?”
He smiles, showing off his pearly whites. “Yes. How is training going?” he asks as he wraps his arms around me.
“Training has been going great, sir.”
The alpha begins to kiss my ear, then moves down to my jawbone.
“Not during business hours, Alpha,” I say, playfully smacking him away.
“Fine, Raine,” he says as he sits back down in his chair. “I will see you at dinner tonight.”
I smile and nod before leaving his office. On my way out, I catch his secretary glaring daggers at me.
Shelby is the only one who knows of our relationship. It’s only an innocent romance, but she hates it. Jealousy is not a good look on her.
I go back to the gym to finish my late afternoon workout. After, I take a hot shower and get ready for tonight’s pack dinner. The alpha makes sure to have the whole pack together for a big dinner at least twice a month.
Drake and I started flirting a few years back, before he became alpha, but things were never serious. In the beginning, he was a playboy, always sleeping around. And I could not hold it against him because we were only flirting.
Recently, though, Drake’s stopped having so many flings. He says he wants to prove how much I mean to him, so I’ve decided to give our relationship a real chance. We’re starting off slow, and if things feel right, we’ll officially become an item.
We have rules, though. The most important one is no one else—unless one of us meets our fated mate.
It’s not uncommon these days for wolves to have chosen mates. It’s harder than ever to find your fated mate, so if you do, you have to respect and cherish that bond. Having a fated mate is an honor and privilege, one no one takes lightly.
A little while later, dinner is running smoothly when the gamma asks, “Raine, can I talk to you for a bit after dinner? It is about some new defensive strategies.”
I glance at Drake, who is mingling with several other pack members—as an alpha should. “Of course. No problem.”
Once dinner is over, I follow the gamma to his office. He shows me his defensive strategy plans, as well as some offensive strategies.
“These are really good,” I say. “But it’s late, and I’m exhausted. We can meet in the morning to discuss how and when to introduce them into the training. We will probably start with the more experienced warriors first.”
I start to leave, but the gamma blocks my path.
“Wait, can we finish a few more things? It should not take long.”
I furrow my brows, confused and frustrated. “Gamma, with all due respect, I am going to my room. And if you touch me again, I will break your arm.”
He gulps in fear and moves out of my way.
I exit his office, knowing Drake will be waiting for me. But as I begin ascending the stairs, I hear a noise coming from the alpha’s office.
Thinking Drake is probably finishing up some paperwork, I head to his office and slowly open the door to see if he is busy. When I poke my head into the room, moans fill my ears. My heart stops at the sight before me.
Shelby is bent over the desk, and Drake is pounding into her from behind.
I quietly shut the door, trying not to startle them, but my heart is breaking. Barely holding it together, I run to my room, where I can cry in peace.
As I lie in bed, tears staining my cheeks, I hear my doorknob begin to jiggle. I can tell by the scent it is Drake, so I quickly pretend to be asleep. When he enters, he groans once in annoyance, apparently buying the charade, and then leaves.
I stare into the darkness. If only Drake knew that his father, the former alpha, had trained me to be a deadly killer.
The old me would not have just walked away. The old me would have torn Drake and Shelby both apart… But I had changed over the years. I will not go that route again.
Still, I will not play the victim either. I just need to figure out how to tell him that I know and that this is over without killing him.
I will never be his—or anyone else’s, for that matter. Love is a weakness. I should have never let him get so close.
I wake up late to Shelby’s rat voice on the intercom. “All high-ranked members, please make your way to the training grounds for a meeting with the alpha.”
As a trainer for all the warriors, that includes me. I roll my eyes and rise to my feet.
Realizing I hadn’t changed last night, I throw on some sweatpants and a tank top. I run to the bathroom, wash my face, brush my teeth, and wrap my hair in a tight bun. I put on a stoic expression and make my way out.
When I arrive on the field, the alpha, betas, delta, gamma, and lead warriors are all there. I wonder what is going on—why this meeting is taking place.
“Thank you all for gathering on such short notice today,” Drake begins. His voice is stern and professional, but it makes me want to hurl.
“I received a call this morning from a pack in Italy that wants to form an alliance. I need two volunteers to go to Italy for six months to teach our fighting techniques and strategies to them. Two of their high-ranking members will come here to do the same. So, any volunteers?”
True Campbell is the first to raise her hand. She’s a good one for the job. As her trainer, I know that she is very strategic and disciplined in everything she does on the field.
Everyone else is hesitant. Why would they want to leave their families for six months straight?
I raise my hand, and Drake’s eyes grow wide. He frowns, but I don’t care.
“True Campbell and Raine Hart, go pack your bags for your journey. You will be heading to the Blood Ridge Hollow pack immediately.”
The name sends chills down my spine. I’ve heard the stories of this pack. It is not only the strongest pack in Europe but in the entire world.
Supposedly, the alpha of Blood Ridge Hollow was cursed by the same dark witch he killed. People say he is now more beast than man.
But I find that I do not care. Beats dealing with Drake for the next six months.
As I head to the pack house, I hear the alpha calling me. “Raine, why did you volunteer?” I roll my eyes as I turn to face him. “Because, Alpha, I am the head trainer for our warriors. Who better to train than me? It is a part of my job.”
Staring at him blankly, I add, “Drake, you should go. I think Shelby is waiting on you.”
He coughs, realizing I found out. “Baby, it is not what you think. I had too much to drink, I was lonely, I needed a release, and she was there.”
I take a deep breath to remain calm. “Alpha, stop. Do not embarrass yourself. We are not children, so let’s not act like it. We will never be. Now, if you do not mind, I have to pack for a long-awaited trip.”
As I turn on my heel and walk quickly back to the pack house, I mind-link True, asking her to meet me out front in twenty minutes. I then hurriedly grab two large suitcases for my journey and throw several outfits in one and all my necessities in the other. Everything I can think of that I’ll need.
After a bit, I hear pounding on my door, but I ignore it, knowing it’s Drake. I grab a hoodie and throw it on, then grab my cellphone for the flight.
When I open my door, I see an enraged alpha in front of me. I push past him, heading for the front door, but he grabs my arm roughly and pulls me to the wall.
“Why?” he spits in my face. “Why are you acting like a spoiled brat? You are acting like a child, Raine.”
I pull his hand off my shoulder and twist his wrist until he falls to his knees. “If you ever touch me again, Alpha, I will cut your balls off and feed them to your whore.”
Before he can respond, I grab my suitcases and drag them outside. True is already there, standing by a cab. I throw my bags in the trunk and climb in the vehicle.
As we drive away, I feel relief, but the pain is still there. Fortunately, True is too hyped to notice.
“I am so excited for this,” she says. “I have always wanted to go to Italy.”
“I heard it is a beautiful place,” I respond lightly.
Apparently realizing I’m not in the mood for talking, True becomes silent. Thirty minutes later, we get through security at the airport and sit near some windows by our gate. We have another thirty minutes until our boarding time.
I look over.
“I guess something happened between you and the alpha?”
I stare at her, wondering how she knows.
“Raine, everyone could tell you two were flirting. And I saw the way you looked at him.”
I nod. Apparently, I’m not as mysterious as I thought.
“You trained us to be observant,” True continues. “We would be failing you if we didn’t notice. I will confess, though, I have always wanted to be like you.”
I furrow my brows. “Me? Why?”
True smiles. “Seriously? You’re a badass, Raine. Strong, powerful, graceful, and kind. Nothing ever gets you down, so don’t let this get to you. He may be our alpha, but as a man, he sucks.”
I laugh. She’s right.
As we board the plane, I become nervous. I hate flying, but I try to distract myself from my fear by focusing on True. I want to get to know her better—and her me.
After takeoff, I say, “Well, True, it’s a long flight. I’m going to get some sleep before we land.”
She smiles but just keeps staring out the window in fascination.
I put on my sleep mask to surround myself in darkness, then put in my headphones. With Machine Gun Kelly’s “F*CK YOU, GOODBYE” blaring, I drift off to sleep.