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Authors: Kelly Meade

White Knight

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Titles by Kelly Meade

Cornerstone Run Trilogy

Black Rook

Gray Bishop

White Knight

White Knight

Kelly Meade

InterMix Books, New York

INTERMIX
BOOKS

P
UBLISHED BY THE
P
ENGUIN
G
ROUP

P
ENGUIN
G
ROUP
(
USA
)
LLC

375
H
UDSON
S
TREET,
N
EW
Y
ORK,
N
EW
Y
ORK
10014,
USA

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

WHITE KNIGHT

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBL
ISHING HISTORY

InterMix eBook edition / January 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Kelly Meding.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Man
© Vita Khorzhevska/Shutterstock.

Wolf
© Elena Schweitzer/Shutterstock.

Cover design by Lesley Worrell.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-16549-6

INTERMIX

InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group

and New American Library, divisions of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

INTERMIX® and the “IM” design are registered trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Version_1

Contents

Titles by Kelly Meade

Title Page

Copyright

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Epilogue

About the Author

Eight Weeks Ago

Shay couldn’t identify the startling sound that woke her from a deep, dreamless sleep—the kind of perfect sleep she had lacked for many weeks. She stared at the shadow-striped ceiling of her bedroom, listening for that strange noise as her newly awakened mind filled with old worries. As the daughter of the run’s Alpha, Shay had no shortage of suitors. Her father, however, had picked through them and given her two choices—both strong Black Wolves who would step up and make an excellent Alpha one day. She needed a strong mate, because of her own inborn weaknesses.

An abbreviated scream sent her upright in bed, clutching the sheet to her breasts. Heart pounding, pulse racing, she listened. The scream had been close by, perhaps in the house next door. The Dennison’s lived next door. She’d invited their family over for supper last week because their eldest son, Edward, was one of her mate choices.

Shay climbed out of bed, her t-shirt and sleep shorts twisted and uncomfortable. She tried to right the clothing as she scrambled for the window. Her bedroom faced north, out over the main street of their small Connecticut town. Everything seemed quiet, in order, and yet a deep sense of foreboding pressed heavily into her chest, crushing her heart beneath its weight.

Something was wrong.

Her beast stirred, snarling its agreement—an instinctive response from her animal nature when her human half was threatened. The loup garou’s beast was fed by instinct, ruled by emotion. Shay soothed her beast as best she could, determined to remain in control and not shift until she knew what was going on.

She left her bedroom for the eerie silence of the upstairs hallway. Her father’s bedroom door was open, which meant he wasn’t there. He always slept with the door closed. “The Alpha is part of all his people, shared by many,” he’d told her once. “That room is my sanctuary, sweet one, my only chance to truly be alone.”

Downstairs, something thumped.

Shay opened her senses, listening, scenting the air. Her skin prickled with awareness—others were moving around in the house. Her father’s cedar and pine scent filled her nostrils, a stronger waft that told her he was home somewhere. Had he dropped something? Bumped into something? Unlikely, as loup garou had excellent night vision, even in their human forms.

A new scent, one of rot and decay filled her with dread. Her stomach curled up tight. Adrenaline surged through her blood, riling her beast. She had never smelled a vampire before, but Father described it to her once. Her nose told her that one of her people’s deadliest enemies was in her home, but that was improbable. Those creatures had been hunted to near extinction long before her father was born.

Another thump preceded a pained grunt. Fear froze her voice, preventing her from calling out to her father.

Outside, a man screamed loudly, painfully.

Shay’s beast snarled, urging her to set it free. Shifting would take too much time, at least a full minute if she pushed herself, and she may yet need her voice. Loup garou protected their own. They didn’t fight within the run. Internal attacks were dealt with swiftly and fiercely by the Alpha. Life was about solidarity and supporting your neighbor . . . so where were all of her neighbors? She couldn’t possibly be the only one to sense trouble. She didn’t dare wonder if she was the only one left alive.

She knew only one thing for certain: something was very, very wrong in Stonehill tonight.

The lingering stink of vampire grew stronger as she went downstairs, taking each step carefully, as swiftly as caution allowed. At the bottom of the stairs, Shay turned the corner to run for the front door. In the near darkness, she tripped over something warm and large. She hit the hardwood floors on her hands and knees, jarring her teeth and neck. The odor of fresh blood choked her, a living thing invading her nose and lungs. She twisted around.

Her father gaped at her through sightless eyes, cheek-down in a pool of his own blood. The flesh of his throat was torn out, ripped to pieces, exposing meat and tendons. Shay shrieked, horror and anger filling her in equal measure. Grief battered at her, wanting a hold, but she beat it back. Grief meant accepting her father was dead, and she couldn’t do that. Andrew Butler was indestructible.

Behind her, a woman laughed, and rage surged through Shay like an electrical current. Her beast roared, demanding vengeance, and Shay gave in to the instincts of her hidden predator. She had no time to shift now, but she could damned well fight.

Shay rolled onto her knees and launched herself at the source of the laughter. In the dim light cast by the half-moon outside, Shay saw a black-clothed shape seconds before she slammed into a small, feminine body. Her hit cut off the girl’s horrid laughing. Shay reached for the girl’s head, intending to slam it into the wood floor as hard as her loup garou strength would allow.

The girl blocked her arms. A forehead connected solidly with Shay’s chin. Shards of pain raced through her face and blurred her vision, her disorientation fed by the warring odors of loup and vampire that surrounded her. She couldn’t locate the vampire in the room, couldn’t get a good scent on her unknown attacker, who smelled strongly of loup. But the scent was muddled, the downstairs hall rife with warring odors, and Shay was too busy fighting for her life to puzzle it out.

All she knew was that the tiny woman below her had murdered her father, and Shay would kill her for that.

The girl gave her no quarter in the fight. She lunged upward, knocking Shay to the side. Shay screamed when the middle of her back slammed into a doorjamb, and white fire surged up her spine. Bladelike fingernails scored her chest and arm, each wound blazing with agony. Blood flowed, slicking her skin and the floor.

“You’re adorable when you fight back,” the girl said in a singsong tone, as though she was commenting on a nursery rhyme. “Fight more.”

“Bitch,” Shay said. “You killed my father.”

“Yes, I did. I’m going to kill you, too.”

The girl swiped out again. Shay rolled, catching a few deep cuts on her shoulder. She crashed into the girl’s legs, sending her tumbling to the floor with a surprised shout.

“This grows tiresome,” the girl snarled.

The girl moved faster than Shay imagined possible in a living creature, suddenly on top of her, and then all Shay knew was pain. Pain and blood and tearing flesh. Her beast roared in agony and anger, unable to take over and protect her, to fight this hellion taking her apart a piece at a time. She closed her eyes, strength draining out of her with each ounce of blood that oozed from a dozen wounds.

The attack stopped. Shay dragged in a ragged breath, positive it would be her last. She waited for the killing blow, the hand that would rip her throat out as it had her father’s. The stink of dead things turned her stomach.

Warm breath puffed over her face. The girl inhaled deeply, then exhaled hard. Her weight shifted.

The girl snarled, a guttural sound that terrified Shay right into her bones. And then Shay relaxed, no longer possessing the energy to fight death. She welcomed an end to her pain. The battle was over, and she accepted her defeat.

“Why?” Shay said, the single word barely audible to her own ears, even though she was screaming it in her head. “Why?”

“Don’t ask stupid questions,” her attacker said. “You may not like the answers you receive.”

Shay thought it a strange thing to say to someone you were about to murder—an even stranger thing to ponder seconds before you were about to die. She thought of her father instead. His strength and wisdom and iron rule of the people he protected. Who would protect the run now with the Alpha family dead?

Who would avenge their deaths?

Chapter One

Knight McQueen had anticipated the speed and fury with which his younger brother, Rook, would approach Dr. Mike’s house, and his guess was proven wholly right. Rook ran down the tree-lined street like his tail was on fire, intent on his target, nothing in the world standing between him and his mate.

There was really no tactful way to tell someone his wife had fainted at home while doing nothing more stressful than bending over to rescue a dropped napkin, and that Knight had carried her over to Dr. Mike’s for an exam. She’d woken up before he could cross the street to the other house, embarrassed, but also slightly out of breath. Knight adored his pint-sized, china doll of a sister-in-law, and he hated to think anything was wrong with her.

Knight had left Brynn McQueen in their town doctor’s capable hands and then gone out to the front porch to wait.

He put himself directly in Rook’s path, raising both palms to make Rook stop all forward motion. A waft of irritation and dread rolled off of Rook and tickled across Knight’s senses. He carefully took the edge off of Rook’s emotions, using his empathy to dial it back a bit for his slightly panicked younger brother—the gift of being a White Wolf, something he both loved and hated.

“She’s still with Dr. Mike,” Knight said, using his best
calm the hell down right now
voice. “Pull it together, pal.”

“People don’t faint for no reason.” Rook was stating the obvious, but in the two months since he’d first met Brynn, he’d fallen head over ass for her. He elevated worrying about her safety to an art form.

“No, but that’s why she’s getting checked out. I need you calm when you go inside. If Brynn sees you pissed off and panicked, it won’t help her. She’ll want to make
you
feel better.”

Rook grunted, but didn’t argue. “Yesterday morning she said she felt dizzy, but I thought it was because she’d overslept. She’s been tired lately. I should have made her see Dr. Mike then.”

“One thing could have absolutely nothing to do with the other.”

“Or it could be symptomatic of a larger problem. She’s the only one of her kind alive, Knight. We don’t know what this could be.”

Unlike the vast majority of the population of the small town of Cornerstone, Pennsylvania, Brynn was not a full-blooded loup garou. She was half Magus, raised by a Magus father to believe that loup garou were animals who deserved extinction. Falling in love with Rook and being taken in by his family had undone those lies, but Brynn was still an anomaly.

The only other known Magus-loup, Brynn’s twin sister, Fiona, had been killed more than a month ago.

“Look, don’t let your imagination make this worse than it is,” Knight said. “Maybe it’s low blood sugar.”

“Maybe it’s a brain tumor.”

“You’re impossible.”

Rook pulled a face. “She’s my wife, Knight.” The naked emotion in his voice said more than the four simple words. She was his entire world. His love, his beast’s chosen mate.

Knight understood how it felt to find your mate and then lose her. His had been missing for almost a month. “Brynn is a fighter. She’s proved that over and over. Whatever it is, she’ll be fine.”

“Saying that is your job.”

“I’m not saying it as the White Wolf, I’m telling you as your brother. She’ll be fine.”

Rook took a few deep breaths, visibly relaxing with each one to a less than nuclear level. Still a scary look. Taller and more muscular than Knight, Rook had the strength and speed of the Black Wolf lurking beneath his skin—the protectors of their people. A near fatal fight two months ago had left him missing his left earlobe and with enough scarring to give small children a good fright.

Knight was used to the new Rook, but sometimes his pissed face was epic.

“Thanks,” Rook said.

“You calm enough to go inside?”

“Yeah, I’m calm.”

“I don’t care what Dr. Mike tells you. If you look like you’re going to explode on him, I will tackle you.”

“Good luck.”

“Test me, little brother.”

Rook grinned. “Come on. Let’s go hear Dr. Mike say it’s blood sugar or something easy to fix.”

Knight followed Rook into the waiting room that made up the entry to Dr. Mike’s house. Three other doors led to exam rooms, and upstairs were recovery rooms. Dr. Mike himself lived on the third floor, a bachelor his entire life.

Only one of the exam room doors was shut. Rook knocked, three rough taps of his knuckles, and a distinctly feminine voice told them to come in.

Brynn sat cross-legged on the exam table, her dress swapped out for a cloth gown, straight black hair fallen forward to curtain her pale face. Her cheeks were rosier than normal, her blue eyes bright.

“How do you feel?” Rook asked. He tugged her into a hug. “You okay?”

“I feel fine.” Brynn pecked his cheek, then nudged him away a bit. She tossed a chagrined smile at Knight. “I’m sorry for scaring you earlier.”

Knight shrugged. “I’ve had worse scares. What did Dr. Mike say?”

“Blood pressure, pulse, and temperature are all normal for me. He’s downstairs checking some blood that he drew.”

“Did he say what he’s looking for?” Rook asked.

“No.” She sucked her lower lip into her mouth. Nervous. She had an idea, only she wasn’t saying. Knight didn’t have to open his empathy too far to sense her anxiety.

“Did he give you any sort of hint?”

“He asked me a few questions.”

“Such as?”

“Such as how she puts up with that nosy husband of hers,” Dr. Mike said, his big voice filling the room before his body did. He was smiling like Knight had never seen, and his joy soothed some of Knight’s own nerves.

“Is she all right?” Rook asked.

“So far so good, but Miss Brynn and I will be needing to make regular appointments for the next few months to make certain she stays that way.”

“Why?”

Knight saw the answer coming before Dr. Mike said it.

“Because she’s pregnant.”

“She’s what?” Rook blinked hard, one hand snaking out to grab his wife’s. Brynn’s wide eyes got impossibly wider, her mouth opening but only a sharp squeak coming out.

“She’s late and her blood test confirmed it,” Dr. Mike said. “You two are pregnant.”

“How’s that possible?” Brynn asked. “Half-breeds are always sterile.”

“Loup-human half-breeds, yes. History has long told us that, but as I said when you first came to us, you’re unusual. There was no way to know if you could have children with a full-blood loup.”

“I’m pregnant.” She spoke the words as though trying to convince herself of the reality. “Sweet Avesta, I’m pregnant. We’re having a baby.”

Rook still looked shell-shocked and slightly pale. Knight studied his brother, concerned by the reaction. He didn’t seem upset, exactly, but he also wasn’t shaking for joy over the news.

“How far along?” Knight asked.

“Six weeks,” Dr. Mike replied. “It’s still very early, and since we truly don’t know what to expect from the pregnancy, I’d advise against telling too many people right away.”

“You think something could go wrong?” Brynn asked.

“Every pregnancy comes with risks, especially during the first trimester, and I would hazard that yours comes with more risks than most. To be frank, I’ve birthed hundreds of loup, but I know nothing about the Magus gestation cycle.”

“Magi get pregnant the same way as loup and humans. Our cycles tend to be faster, thirty-two weeks rather than thirty-eight. Babies are smaller and weigh less, but they’re fully developed. How do loup go?”

“The child of two full-blood loup garou can develop for anywhere from forty to forty-two weeks.”

“Ten weeks is a big difference,” Knight said.

“Hence the extra caution we’re going to take.” Dr. Mike gently cuffed the side of Rook’s head. “You with us over there, lad?”

“Yeah, here.” Rook shook himself all over. “I can’t believe it. I mean, we weren’t even trying.”

“We weren’t exactly using protection, either,” Brynn whispered, even though all three men could hear her.

Something fierce and protective settled over Rook, and he tugged Brynn closer. Wrapped his arms around her waist. “Are you okay that this is happening?”

She tucked her head beneath his chin, making such a beautiful picture of two people in love that Knight’s gut hurt. “I’m scared. I can’t explain why, but I want this baby so badly now that I know it exists, and I’m scared of losing it.”

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Dr. Mike said. “Light activities, frequent checkups, a very healthy diet.”

“I can’t believe we’re having a baby,” Rook said. He laughed softly, his joy finally peeking through. “I’m going to be a father.”

Knight’s insides went cold. He shuffled to the corner of the room, giving his brother and sister-in-law space for their happiness, while his own world tilted into something gray. Something unsettled and marked with bad memories.

“Brynn?”

The concern in Rook’s voice snagged Knight’s attention. She’d gone ashen, leaning hard into Rook’s chest, her arms rigid.

“I didn’t know my mother,” she said. “I don’t know how to be a mother.”

“You’ll figure it out, love, I promise. I didn’t know my mother, either.”

“But you had your father to show you how to be a good parent.”

A soft pang of regret pressed against Knight’s heart. Their father had died a month ago defending his people from their enemies. Some days Knight woke up and it took him several minutes to remember his father was dead. He hadn’t been there to say good-bye like his brothers had, and he regretted that every single day.

Rook stroked his wife’s hair. “Sweetheart, you had my father, too.”

Brynn made a soft noise, not quite a sob. Grief hung heavily in the room. “If it’s a boy, I know what I want to name him.”

“You do?”

“Yes. Thomas Joseph.”

Knight swallowed hard against a knot in this throat. His father’s name had been Thomas, and Joseph the name of his other sister-in-law’s father. Both men had died heroically in battle.

“T.J. for short?” Rook asked.

“Yes.”

Rook was going to be a father, and he wanted to name his child after their father. The tribute was perfect. He and Brynn would make fantastic parents. Knight was going to be an uncle, and so was their eldest brother Bishop. Knight should have been over the moon, but all he felt was dark. Angry.

Hollow.

I wonder what Crazy Bitch would have named our child?

The unprompted thought made the darkness rise up, threatening to swallow him.

“What if it’s a girl?” Rook asked.

“Your mother’s name was Andrea, right?”

“You don’t have to use her name. What about your mother?”

“No, I’d rather not.”

“You young’uns have time to figure out names,” Dr. Mike said. “Right now we need to suss out the next step.”

“Of course.” Brynn kissed Rook’s chin, then gave the doctor her complete attention. “You mentioned limiting my activities.”

“Yes, staying close to the house, not overexerting yourself.”

“What about sex?”

Too Much Information alarm bells rang in Knight’s head, and the room was too damned small. “I’m going to step out,” he said, “and give you three the space you need to, um, talk about things.”

The happy couple was too distracted to pay much attention to him leaving the room. Knight didn’t mind in the least. He was more than happy to be invisible for a while. It was difficult to be alone or have any real privacy around a thousand other loup determined to keep him safe.

He stepped out onto Dr. Mike’s front porch and did a quick visual sweep of the yard and street. Spotted Luke in the front yard of the McQueen house, leaning against a small tree. Tanner had a position farther up the street toward Main, hands clasped behind his back at parade rest. The Westfeld brothers had made it their personal mission to bodyguard Knight at all times, day and night. The dedication was a pain in the ass, but Knight couldn’t fault them for it.

Knight’s father, Thomas McQueen, had been the Alpha of Cornerstone, and he hadn’t officially named Bishop as his successor before being killed. Bishop’s petition for the title had come with a ten-day challenge period, during which another loup from any other run could fight him for Alpha. Colin Corman had done just that, arriving in Cornerstone with Luke and Tanner as his sidekicks—no one knew at the time that the three of them had grown up together and were good friends. When Colin was killed protecting the McQueen house, Luke and Tanner received permission from their Nevada Alpha to stay until their enemies were found and Colin’s death avenged.

They’d come to an agreement with both Bishop and Knight to shadow Knight until their enemies were found and destroyed. Enemies that had slaughtered hundreds of loup garou in three other neighboring sanctuary towns. Four enemies had been reduced to two—a pair of loup-vampire hybrids that were fast, fierce, and brutal, and they hadn’t been heard from in weeks.

More than their unpredictable attacks, Knight found their silence these few weeks unnerving.

Shay.

His beast growled its rage over the loss of their mate.

No, not loss. She wasn’t lost to them, she’d been stolen. The two remaining hybrids had distracted the entire town with a fire, and then waltzed in and kidnapped Shay Butler, the beautiful and damaged young woman that Knight had finally come to recognize as his mate. A woman he would do anything to see returned to him.

He had no idea where she was, or if she was even still alive.

She’s going to be an aunt.

Through a strange twist of fate, Shay and Brynn shared a biological mother. But while Brynn was half Magus and raised as one of them, Shay was fully loup, and had been the daughter of an Alpha. A strong, determined Black Wolf who would have led her people one day had her town not been destroyed by the hybrids. And now she was gone.

He snarled at the sky, hating his inability to change it. To find her. To do anything other than get through each day as best he could, doing his duty as Cornerstone’s White Wolf. Soothing emotional upheaval, tending to the stressed, and keeping the large population of volatile men and women on an even keel.

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