Home > Haven (Relentless #5)

Haven (Relentless #5)
Author: Karen Lynch

Chapter 1

Roland

“She’s finished?”

I smiled broadly at Pete as I cut the engine and got out of my newly restored sixty-eight Mustang GT. “What do you think?”

He whistled and walked around the car. “She’s beautiful, but I thought you were going to paint her red.”

“I changed my mind.” I ran my hand along the Acapulco blue paint job. “Every Mustang in town is red. I wanted mine to stand out.”

I’d bought the car from Dell Madden’s uncle back in January for fifteen hundred dollars. He’d kept her in a shed all these years. What a crime. I’d spent the last six months working on her in my cousin Paul’s garage in my spare time. The car had needed a ton of work, and I’d used up my share of the money Sara had given me in California, but man, this car was worth it.

Pete nodded appreciatively. “Well, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about blending in. I take it you’re driving us to Justin’s?”

“Yeah, unless you want to take your car.”

“My car?” His eyes widened when I pulled a set of keys from my pocket and tossed them to him.

“The Escort is all yours, as promised. I even gave her a tune-up for you.”

Technically, the car Jordan had given me before we left California in January had belonged to both of us, but Pete had agreed to let me keep it until the Mustang was ready. It wasn’t like we’d had a lot of places to go since we got home anyway. Between school, training, patrols, and working at the lumberyard, there hadn’t been a lot of time for anything else.

“Sweet!” He grinned and twirled the keys. “But I’d rather take your car this time.”

I laughed. “I thought you’d say that.”

“Nice ride, man,” called a new voice.

I turned to see Kyle and Shawn Walsh walking up the driveway toward us. The two men were cousins, but they looked enough alike to be brothers. Both of them had straight black hair and matching smiles – or scowls, depending on their moods.

“Dude, who’d you steal this baby from?” Shawn joked as he checked out my ride. “Hey, is that the original interior?”

“Looks good, huh?”

Kyle patted the hood. “What do you have under here?”

The front door to the house opened, and my cousin Francis stuck his head out to scowl at us. “You guys going to play with Roland’s new toy or join us for the meeting?”

Pete and I exchanged a look and followed Kyle and Shawn into the house. It wasn’t Francis’s sour mood that got us all moving; it was the knowledge that Maxwell was waiting for us inside. Our Alpha didn’t like to be kept waiting, and the last thing I wanted was to piss him off today. I’d been on the receiving end of his temper enough this year to last me a lifetime.

Maxwell – Uncle Max – was sitting in his usual chair by the fireplace when we filed into the large living room. Uncle Brendan, his Beta, sat on the other side of the fireplace next to Pete’s mother, the Alpha female. Every other seat in the room was occupied and so were most of the places to stand. Pete and I leaned against the archway where we could still see and hear everything.

“Now that everyone is finally here, let’s get started,” Maxwell said in his deep, rumbling voice. He stood and pinned me with a hard stare before his gaze swept across the room. Tall and broad, and built like a grizzly with reddish-brown hair to match, he was the toughest and most intimidating man I’d ever met. But then, it took a strong man to be the Alpha of a werewolf pack, especially a pack as big as ours. I didn’t envy him that job one bit.

“First order of business is the pack gathering. We’re going to have more wolves than usual visiting this year, and we need to make sure there is room for everyone. Anne?”

Aunt Anne stood. She was short next to Maxwell, but she could be as fierce as her mate when she wanted to be.

“The guesthouses have been cleaned and aired out, and we have enough beds in them for forty people, with air mattresses for the children. Plus, we have a dozen RVs they can use, and some people are bringing their own. It’ll be a tight fit, but we should be able to accommodate everyone who shows up.”

I tried to ignore the pit that opened in my gut every time someone brought up the annual gathering. Pack members from all over Maine came for the month-long gathering to discuss pack business and socialize. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that every unmated female in the state would be here, hoping to find a mate.

The last few years, I’d hidden out at Sara’s place during the gatherings, but that was out of the question this year. Pack meetings were mandatory for all wolves eighteen and older. Not to mention the Knolls would be very crowded for the next few weeks, making it impossible to avoid every female. All it took was for one of them to get my wolf’s attention, and it was game over.

Maybe I should ask Sara if I could rent her place for the summer. I needed my own space, and I could afford it with my job at the yard. The pack provided homes for its members, and we had half a dozen new houses under construction now. I could ask for one of those since I was an adult now, but that wouldn’t help me with my current dilemma. Living at Sara’s place couldn’t get me out of every pack activity, but at least I’d be able to escape from the Knolls when I wasn’t required to be here.

“…and we’ll spread out the patrol rotations with all the extra wolves on hand.”

Maxwell’s voice jerked my attention back to the meeting, and I glanced around, wondering what I’d missed. My eyes met Pete’s, and he gave me a warning look before he turned his head toward his father again.

“Now that business is taken care of, I have an announcement to make.” Maxwell crossed his arms, looking even more imposing, if that was possible. “We haven’t had much trouble in Maine, at least until last fall.”

A murmur went through the room at his words, along with a few low growls. No one would soon forget the vampires invading our territory last year, or the crocotta attack less than a mile from the Knolls. Things had been quiet since Sara left, but the pack had been on edge since last fall.

“If recent events have taught me anything, it’s that we’ve become complacent in the last few years. We must always be ready to defend our territory and the humans who live here.”

“Damn right,” muttered Francis, who was a few feet from me. If my cousin had his way, the pack would probably be living off the grid in some remote part of Maine and killing anything that crossed our borders.

“Over the winter, I’ve thought a lot about this and how to ensure we are never caught off guard again,” Maxwell said. “The last Alpha, my uncle Thomas, ruled the pack with an iron fist, but he and his enforcers kept our territory safe.”

Whispers spread through the room again, and I got a sinking feeling in my gut. He couldn’t possibly be thinking about bringing back the old ways. Enforcers were the strongest fighters in a pack, and next to the Alpha and Beta, their word was law. A lot of packs still had them, but we’d all heard the rumors of brutality and abuse. It was one of the reasons Maxwell had abolished the role when he became Alpha. He was a tough leader, but a fair one, and he abhorred unnecessary violence.

He held up a hand, and the room went quiet again.

“Let me put an end to the rumors before they start. There will be no enforcers in my pack, not as long as I am Alpha.”

I let out the breath I was holding.

Maxwell continued. “I’m going to reinstate an older tradition used before there were enforcers, something the European packs still do. Instead of a single Beta, we will have as many as I deem necessary. This will spread the responsibilities around, especially for the groups that live separately from the main pack. The new Betas will have the same authority Brendan has now.”

Pete and I stared at each other. More than one Beta? I wondered how Brendan felt about this. I looked over at him to find him nodding, seemingly happy about the whole thing.

“Who will the new Betas be?”

I wasn’t surprised that Francis was the first to speak up. If there was one thing he wanted in life, it was more authority in the pack.

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