Home > Spiral of Need (The Mercury Pack #1)(5)

Spiral of Need (The Mercury Pack #1)(5)
Author: Suzanne Wright

These extremists argued that shifters were too dangerous, violent, and animalistic to be around humans. Some of those laws might have come to pass—thus starting a war—if the extremists hadn’t been exposed for running a hunting preserve that allowed them to hunt, brutalize, and ultimately kill shifters, including their pups. The brutality had shocked the nation and, as such, discredited the extremists’ argument.

However, that hadn’t stopped the extremists from continuing to press for restrictive laws and committing random acts of violence, and so The Movement had been formed and was growing in power each day. It wasn’t what anyone would call “subtle;” they liked to make public statements to convey that prejudice and violence wouldn’t be tolerated.

In sum, shifters were doing exactly what all predators did when under attack: they were fighting back. If the extremists had expected shifters to be victims, that was their mistake.

The human law enforcement agencies thought they’d identified the key players within The Movement. In truth, they didn’t have a damn clue. Shifters like Cain acted as a front, a face for people to point at, which placed Cain and others like him under the constant watch of law enforcement . . . thus enabling the true key players to remain under the radar.

Although Cain and others acted as faces of The Movement, they never did anything that would enable the humans to pin serious charges on them. As such, the humans had arrested Cain and a few other shifters on minor charges, determined to have them serve some time in confinement. Derren honestly didn’t know how Cain was coping with being cooped up all over again. He had to give the guy credit where it was due.

As Cain took the seat behind the glass and put the telephone receiver to his ear, his guard backed away—fear shimmering in his eyes. Yeah, Cain’s reputation had a way of inspiring fear in people. Lifting his own receiver, Derren greeted him simply: “Cain.”

The wolf nodded. “Been a long time.” Although they had remained in contact over the last five years, they hadn’t spoken in person. “We can talk freely. My guard kindly removed the bug from this phone.”

Most likely out of blind terror, thought Derren.

Cain glanced around. “Brings back a lot of memories for you, doesn’t it?”

Too many.

“Heard you were made Beta of the Mercury Pack. I’d say congratulations, but I’m doubting you’re happy about it.”

Cain was right. Derren disliked responsibilities. Why? Because responsibilities meant being committed to something, and being committed to something meant losing freedom and choices. If there was one thing that Derren wasn’t good with—thanks to spending much of his youth in juvie—it was being trapped or hemmed in. And that was exactly how his position made him feel.

So many responsibilities came with being Beta, including advising his Alpha on important issues and acting as a negotiator when dealing with other packs. Derren’s average day involved patrolling the border of pack territory, helping to train and lead the enforcers, spending time in his office doing paperwork, and dealing with any grievances from the pack. In a nutshell, his job was to sustain the emotional and physical protection of each and every one of his twelve pack mates.

It was a lot to take on for someone who was particularly averse to responsibilities. He would have turned the job down if his Alpha, Nick Axton, hadn’t been one of the people who watched his back in juvie. Derren owed him. He supposed he should be thankful the pack was relatively small. Many of his pack mates had commented on how well he “fit” the role, given his personality and temperament.

“It takes a particular kind of wolf to be Beta,” his Alpha female, Shaya, had said. “Someone who’s observant, good at giving advice, and commands obedience; someone who’ll confront issues head-on, who’s extremely protective by nature, and who is perfectly in tune with the Alpha male. That’s you, sweetie.”

Yeah, but being “suited” to the role and being “content” in the role were two very different things. And how was a person supposed to deserve the trust of others when he couldn’t offer the same in return?

Derren had been stripped of the ability to trust a long time ago. But he didn’t lament it, didn’t view it as a weakness. Being wary of others, reminding himself that even the people closest to him could be capable of betrayal, would ensure he was never taken off guard again. Nick was the only person in whom he’d invested any real degree of trust, but the guy had earned it.

Still, confiding in people wasn’t Derren’s style, so he stuck to the subject at hand. “I got your message.” He’d received it via a mutual contact. Cain might be in jail, but he still had enough influence to pass on messages to the outside world.

“You always pay your debts, which is why I knew getting you here wouldn’t be a waste of my time.” Cain leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “You remember I told you my pack was slain when I was eight?” At Derren’s nod, he continued. “There were only two survivors—me and one pup; she was just six. I took her with me to stay with my uncles in the Brookwell Pack. You probably saw her when she visited me in juvie. Brown hair, huge eyes.”

Derren remembered a pair of mesmerizing emerald eyes. Remembered his wolf’s curiosity, how the animal had wanted to take a closer look.

“Anyway, my Ally likes pack-trotting. Doesn’t stay in one place for more than a few years. But we’ve always kept in touch. And even though I got my ass dumped in here, I’ve had people check on her. I got word that her pack’s giving her a hard time.”

“Hard time?”

“It turns out she was seeing some guy—the Beta.” Cain didn’t sound too happy about it. “Then, a few months ago—bam—he found his mate. The female’s been making things difficult for Ally. Two nights ago, she actually accused Ally of coming at her from behind and trying to kill her.”

“Did she try to kill her?” Derren was expecting Cain to bristle, but the guy smiled. It was strange what Cain would be offended by and what he’d find amusing.

“Look, my Ally’s a fierce little thing—I should know, I taught her every combat move she knows. But she wouldn’t attack from behind. That’s not who she is.”

“Did her Alpha cast her out?”

“No. Maybe he doesn’t believe the Beta female’s account, or maybe it’s something else. I don’t know.”

“Who is her Alpha?”

“Matt Ward. He leads the Collingwood Pack.”

Derren knew Matt well enough, since the guy’s land bordered the territory of Derren’s old pack, where Nick had once been Alpha before forming the Mercury Pack. Although Derren didn’t know the Beta as well as he knew Matt, Derren had judged Zeke to be good at his position. “If you’re right and Ally is innocent, then what’s happening is a shame. But I don’t see what it has to do with me, in any case.”

“It didn’t have anything to do with you before, but it does now.” Cain’s tone turned grave. “I want you to help her.”

“Why? Even though she left your pack, I’m pretty sure the Brookwell wolves would still be willing to help her.”

“Of course they would. My uncles raised Ally—they adore her, think of her as family. But my pack has been under the scrutiny of extremists and human law enforcement ever since I joined The Movement. I’ve kept my connection to Ally quiet. Otherwise, she could be used against me.”

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