Dark Wolf Unbound

By: Stephanie Rowe

 (Heart of the Shifter #2)

A Heart of the Shifter Novel


Chapter 1





Jace Donovan didn't hesitate.

The moment his SUV pulled up in front of the old ranch house buried in the woods on the banks of the Hood Canal in Washington, Jace kicked open the door and stepped out onto the damp ground. The winter rains had created a muddy mess, but it mattered little to him. Nothing mattered to him right now. The pain from his shattered ankle was excruciating, but he kept his weight evenly distributed on both feet, out of habit. No wolf shifter showed weakness and lived long enough to regret it.

His two pack mates, Cash Burns and Drake London, got out of the vehicle and walked up so they were flanking him, both of them close enough to grab him if all hell broke loose.

Jace grimly studied the decrepit house. The paint was peeling, the shutters were broken, and the lawn was an overgrown swamp of moss, mud, and weeds. His black mood became even darker at the sight of the squalor. The Stevens family had so little, and yet he'd still managed to find something to steal from them. Not just something. He'd stolen the only thing that mattered.

"You have the guns?" he asked his escorts, keeping his gaze on the run-down house.

"We're not going to shoot you," Cash said evenly.

"Do you have the guns?" he asked again, making it clear that he wasn't going to even acknowledge that mutinous statement.

"Shit, Jace, you're not going to lose control and murder them," Drake said. "Grigori is gone. He doesn't control you anymore."

Jace said nothing. He just stood there, watching the house, waiting. He wasn't going to explain it again. It was their job to do as he instructed, and if he showed weakness, he knew they would never do it. Yeah, he was their alpha, but he was more than that. These two men were his deepest friends and his greatest allies. If Jace gave them any leeway at all, he knew they would never put a bullet into him when the moment came.

So, he waited, not looking at them, not lowering himself to respond. He used the blistering pain in his ankle to distract himself, adjusting his stance to put even more weight on the ankle that had been crushed in a recent fight with the psychopath Grigori and Jace's deputy, Damien, who Grigori had co-opted.

Finally, Cash and Drake exchanged glances, and Cash shrugged. "Fine, yeah, we have the guns. If you go after anyone, we'll stop you."

Tension wrapped tighter around Jace's spine. "No matter what it takes."

Cash sighed. "No matter what it takes."

Satisfaction pulsed through Jace. He wasn't going to pretend he was happy to die. The last thing he fucking wanted was to get a silver bullet between his eyes, but he wasn't going to let one more innocent die by his hands. If killing him was necessary to protect others, then killing him was what needed to happen.

"Then we go in." He strode forward without hesitation, heading right for the front door. With each step on his injured leg, his body shook in agony, but he welcomed the pain. Each shard of pain was a reminder of what he'd done, for letting his wolf control him. He deserved a shattered ankle, and a part of him was still pissed that the doctors had worked so hard to save it.

As Jace neared the house, Cash and Drake stayed so close that their trench coats brushed his legs. He hadn't gone anywhere without Cash and Drake since he'd been released from prison. They were his bodyguards now, but their job wasn't to protect him. It was to protect others from him. He knew he was a ticking time bomb, but he didn't know what trigger would make him finally explode.

He slammed his fist on the door and then stepped back.

Waiting.

There was no sound from inside.

Swearing under his breath, he hit the door with his fist again. "Hello!" he shouted. "Is anyone home?"

This time, he heard the faint shuffle of footsteps inside. Tension shot through him, and he jumped back, moving slightly behind Cash and Drake. Sweat broke out over his palms as the footsteps neared the front door. Someone was walking toward the door, toward him. Someone who once could have trusted him, could now become his victim in a split second.

The song, that fucking song, began to play in his head again, and he swore, slamming his fists to his forehead. Shut the fuck up. Sweat trickled down his back as he fought to silence that song, but he could still hear it, faintly, drifting through the edges of his mind.

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