Wolf's Vengeance (After the Crash)

BOOK: Wolf's Vengeance (After the Crash)
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 Wolf’s Vengeance

After the Crash, Book 6

Maddy Barone

Published 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62210-108-5

Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2014, Maddy Barone. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

 

Manufactured in the United States of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://LSbooks.com

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Blurb

In a future world where modern technology is unknown and women are rare, werewolf Snake Wolfe claimed Melissa Dirk as his mate the moment he laid eyes on her. All he wants is her love for him to match his for her. Mel will do anything to save her stolen mother, even marry the fierce werewolf who promises to help with the rescue. Love? Well…maybe she’ll love him someday.

When trouble from Mel’s past threatens her very life, Snake swears anyone who wants to hurt her will have to go through him, and he will avenge every insult dealt her. Can love be born in blood? Or will Snake have to settle for merely his wife’s gratitude?

Dedication

I dedicate this book to Melissa Fosse Dirk and her husband Rob Dirk. Mel, please tell Rob I apologize for making him into such a bad guy in the story. I know he’s actually a sweetheart!

Acknowledgements

I’m very lucky to have such a great group of beta readers. Shelley Chastagner, Tamara Tongatule, and Suzanna Medeiros, thank you!

Chapter 1

Mel dropped the last cube of dried beef into the oil sizzling in the bottom of the stew pot. Making stew was a chore she’d done a thousand times in her life, but not one she ever expected to do again in this kitchen. Everything here was worn out, from the countertops scarred by decades of use to the tile on the floor made nearly colorless by the years of feet walking on it. All of it was infinitely familiar and precious to her.

“Hey!” Sara said. “The meat’s burning!”

“Damn!” Mel hurried to stir the beef in the pot.

Sara went back to kneading bread dough at the counter a few feet away, but she slid a sideways glance at Mel. “You okay?”

“Yeah.”

She was. Really. Ten days ago she didn’t know what would happen to her, but here she was, safe in her own kitchen.

“Mel!” said Sara.

Damn it!
The scent of scorched meat jerked Mel from her thoughts. She used the spoon to pry the meat from the bottom of the pot before going to the sink to pump water for the stew broth.

“What’s up with you?”

Mel added the water to the pot. “Just thinking.”

“About what?”

“The Bride Fights.”

Sara’s gaze met hers with understanding. Yeah, Sara knew how she felt. She was offered as a prize for the Bride Fights too. That’s how they met. Ellie Overdahl had been the third of the prizes for the fights in Ellsworth City. It was because of her Mel was standing in her own kitchen right now instead of lying in some shallow grave after being raped and murdered by the man who won her for his bride. Well, indirectly because of her, at least. A wicked man sold Ellie to be a prize, and when Taye Wolfe, Ellie’s rich and powerful cousin from Kearney, Nebraska, found out about it, he sent some of his kin to rescue Ellie and bring her home. They rescued all three women.

Mel took the carrots she pulled this morning and began slicing them for the stew. Even in the heat of the kitchen, cold scraped down her spine at the memory of watching five men fight with brutal, vicious determination for the right to marry her.

“Bride Fight,” Sara muttered with a disgusted scowl. She kneaded the dough with far more force than necessary. “Bride Fights should be outlawed. Men think it’s exciting to be able to pound each other to a pulp to see who will win a woman to marry. As if a woman is a heifer they can own! I mean, the Terrible Times have been over for more than forty years. There’s no need for Bride Fights anymore.”

After the Terrible Times when foreign terrorists destroyed the world with bombs and poisoned the water supply with diseases, there were so few women left, men fought over them. Fifty-odd years ago in 2014, men died trying to get a woman, and even if he did get one, there were other men who would kill him to take her away. A Bride Fight was a more civilized version of that. Arranged by a city’s mayor, it was a legal fight with referees and rules. A man needed to qualify according to whatever criteria the city laid out, and he paid an entrance fee. If he didn’t follow the rules, he would be disqualified.

Mel sighed. “I guess a Bride Fight is one way to be sure a husband is strong enough to protect his wife.”

Sara’s eyes sprang wide. “
You
are saying a woman needs a man to protect her?”

That made Mel choke on a laugh. “Oh, hell, no! I have my gun.” She patted it fondly where it sat in its holster on her hip.

“And you’re not afraid to use it.” Sara sounded congratulatory. “You shot your husband last winter. What was his name again? Rick Fosse? Roger?”

Mel felt her face go stiff. “Rob. Rob Fosse.”

“And then his brothers won you in the Bride Fight. I can’t believe they were going to rape you! Good thing Snake killed them. Serves them right.”

Mel’s mind veered from the troubling thought of Rob, and the equally disturbing thoughts of his brothers, to her new husband. Snake Wolfe, one of the men Taye sent to rescue Ellie, saved her. “I guess things worked out okay. All things considered.”

Sara sniffed. “You call this okay? You volunteered to be a prize, but me and Ellie didn’t! We were sold like cattle by men who had no claim on us.”

Sara had a point. Women shouldn’t be bought and sold like livestock. When Ellsworth City announced they would be holding a Bride Fight, Mel offered to be a prize. Her brothers argued back and forth about it but finally agreed it would be a way for them to get the money they needed and allow Mel to get away from home. She could have ended up married to someone horrible. Hell, she
did
end up married to someone terrible. You couldn’t get much more dreadful than Jim Fosse and his brothers. Even in the heat of the kitchen, Mel shuddered at the memory of Jim’s evil smile as he swaggered past her into the fighters’ ring. Her thumb dipped down to stroke the butt of her .45 belted around her waist, needing the familiar comfort of the satiny wood of the grip.

Sara pinched a bit of dough to test its elasticity and sent Mel a glance with brows raised. “How come you shot your husband?”

Mel narrowly missed slicing a finger off. “What the—Where did that come from?”

The girl stared at her with interest. “Ever since you mentioned it when we first met, I’ve been wondering about it.”

No one could call Sara shy. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She spent six miserable weeks as Rob Fosse’s wife before she shot him and ran back home to her brothers. The remaining Fosses, all six of the brothers, hungered for her blood ever since. Three of them followed her to Ellsworth, where Jim Fosse won his fight and made her his wife. She knew what he and his brothers planned for her. Jim, Randy, and Dave dragged her out of the school where the fights took place and hauled her to the hotel. They beat her and tore her clothes. There was no doubt in her mind they would rape and kill her. Her stomach shivered even now when she remembered Snake Wolfe breaking into the hotel room and saving her from the Fosses.

“It all ended up okay,” Mel said in a firm tone to chase the memory away. “None of us was raped or beat up by our husbands. We were pretty lucky.”

“Hmph,” grunted Sara.

Quill Wolfe, one of Taye’s men, won Ellie, and she seemed happy with him. On the other hand, Sara, won by Stone Wolfe, the youngest of the Wolfe men,
wasn’t
happy.

If Sara could ask rude questions out of the blue, so could Mel. “What do you have against Stone?”

“I don’t want to be married to some guy who bosses me around.” Sara flipped the bread dough with expert ease and went back to kneading. “He’s a jerk.”

Mel didn’t think Stone was a jerk. He was young, maybe not even twenty, but he seemed competent and strong. Mel finished cutting the carrots, feeling again the happy glow of being home and safe. “It’s good to be home again.”

“For now.” Sara shook her chin-length waves of golden-brown hair back. “You know we’ll be going north to Kearney soon. Ellie and Quill are already on their way up there with Paint and Snow and the rest of the pack to guard them. I want to go to Omaha, to live with my uncle. It’s not fair!”

“Life isn’t fair, Sara. You married Stone. I bet he would take you to visit your uncle.”

“You married Snake,” Sara shot back. “You didn’t have to. He didn’t even win you in the Bride Fight. Do you love him?”

Mel didn’t respond right away. Being married to Snake was a hell of a lot better than being married to any Fosse. She dumped the carrots into the stew and stirred. “I barely know him, but I think he’s a good man.”

“Man? Ha!” Sara pulled the big ceramic bowl close to dump the dough in it. “It’s hard to get to know a werewolf. Yeah, yeah.” She waved a flour-covered hand. “I know, they say they aren’t werewolves, but what do you call a man who turns into a big furry wolf?”

A big furry wolf with teeth
, Mel amended in her head. Ten days ago, she’d never heard of a werewolf, much less seen one. Now she was married to one. She swallowed, remembering Snake in that hotel room tearing into the Fosses. She never wanted to see something like that again.

“Incoming!”

The distant shout jerked Mel’s head up from the big pot of stew. She tucked a hank of her dark blonde hair behind her ear to listen. When it fell free to brush over her shoulder, she shoved it back again in an impatient gesture.

Sara punched the bread dough down. “What was that?” the teenager asked, laying a damp towel over the bowl and pushing it to the back of the counter.

“Strangers are coming.” Mel put the lid on the stew pot and grabbed a rifle from the rack by the kitchen door to hand to Sara. “You know how to use this?”

Sara grabbed the towel to wipe her hands clean of bread dough before taking the rifle. “Of course.”

The teenager checked the chamber to see if the rifle was loaded. Mel approved the easy familiarity she showed as she handled the weapon. Sara might be barely sixteen, but she knew how to use a rifle. “Come on, Sara. We need to close the doors and windows and head upstairs.”

Even as she spoke, Mel slammed the iron-reinforced shutters closed over the kitchen window. Sara hurried to the back door off the mudroom and closed it. The lock fell into place with a loud metallic click, relieving a tiny bit of Mel’s anxiety. Mel took the other rifle from the rack and ran into the hall that led past the living room to the front door. Before she reached the entryway, two large gray-furred wolves barreled into her, hackles raised, toenails clicking and scraping over the worn tile.

Mel, scrambling for balance, tried to determine which of these wolves was her husband. Snake was a bit bulkier than his cousin Stone, his fur slightly darker, but she couldn’t tell who was who until the wolves morphed into naked men. She should be used to their casual nudity by now, but she felt blood rise to her cheeks, and she kept her stare on their faces instead of their bare brown bodies. Snake, the man she married only twenty-four hours ago, gripped her shoulders with urgency.

“Michael and Mordecai are out with the cattle in the south pasture, too far out to get here in time,” he said in a rapid voice. “Marc will be here in a minute. He’ll bar the front door. Stone and I will get the windows before we go to the bunkhouse. You and Sara cover the yard from upstairs. Don’t show yourselves, though.”

Mel was holding a rifle, but she slipped her free hand down to touch the butt of her pistol for reassurance. “Okay. Who’s coming? How many?”

Snake’s face, never as soft and pretty as Stone’s, hardened. “Fosses,” he spat. “I saw ‘em. Spitting image of the skunks I killed in Ellsworth.”

Horror hit her with such icy force she swayed. If Snake hadn’t been holding her shoulders, she might have fallen. “Oh, God.” She fought her rebelling stomach to keep her voice steady. “Already? How can they know about what you did to Jim and…?”

“Maybe they don’t know yet. Maybe they don’t know you’re here. You and Sara keep out of sight.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly over hers. “Get upstairs now.”

Mel refused to touch her fingers to her lips. It was only the second time he’d ever kissed her. The first time was at the wedding yesterday afternoon. She turned to the stairs and saw Sara jerk her arm out of Stone’s hand. Did Stone realize his wife was holding a weapon? Mel mentally shook her head. This was no time for joking.

BOOK: Wolf's Vengeance (After the Crash)
5.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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