Tired and agitated seemed to be the two words that best describe Kenneth right now. The weight of his entire pack rested on his shoulders and he knew that. It was not easy being alpha but he felt that he had done a good job so far. He had led his pack to financial independence, prosperity, and had created for them a slice of paradise that was all their own, and all done out of the eyes of the human world. Leo Hollow was as large as a small town where all of his pack lived and maintained. Under the guise of an exclusive club where only the most monied could live there weren’t many who ever saw inside of it. Money, in the human world, could buy anything, even complete secrecy.

The last remaining thing for him to do was to breed pups for his pack and bring a family line to his ownership. Had it been the pack that he had grown up in he would’ve had family members to take the mantle over when he was done. Fate had not seen it for him to take over his own pack however. No, her long arm had reached into his life and completely turned it around in ways that he had never imagined. He still remembered the night when his sister Lana was found in the woods beaten, bruised, and bleeding. He could still feel the helplessness that had been bone deep at seeing his sister abused in such a way.

Lana had been a bright, feisty, and strong up-start attorney. He’d been so proud of his older sister. It was like nothing could defeat her. She’d been comfortable being groomed to be an alpha bitch of the Rise pack when she took a mate and she was proud of the fact that she would bring more to the table than her body when she met her mate. She would bring with her wealth, prestige, and strength. If he was already an alpha then the two packs would be combined to make a much stronger one, or if he had been an alpha in the making like Kenneth then he would get a pack without having to make one of his own.

Either way it would have been a win-win situation and Kenneth would have been able to enjoy his life as second only to his father until he decided to leave to make his own pack once his sister had taken a mate. His wolf would not have let him be second to an outsider wolf. All of that had changed that one fateful night. They all had changed, Lana most of all. She remained withdrawn from the rest of the pack even to this day. He had been so very young. He hadn’t known how to deal with his emotions, or to allow his father to take vengeance out on the man who had harmed his daughter. All he had known was he had failed to keep his sister safe. That was the job of a brother, it didn’t matter that he was younger. He hadn’t been there when she’d needed him the most. Instead he’d decided to hang out with friends at a local bar, full of himself because they wouldn’t dare to turn away an alpha’s son. Instead of going to pick up his sister from work because she’d had her car in the shop and hadn’t been able to run home as the wolf because she was taking home case files he’d told her to call a cab. She’d called one but never made it to the curb from her darkened building. One look at her after a hectic search to find her when she hadn’t arrived home by the time he’d come back from the bar and anger had overrode any good sense and he had gone after the man who’d raped his sister.

That man had been the alpha of the Leo pack, a small pack of werewolves that resided in the Houston Texas area. His own pack had resided in northern Texas near to Waco. He had not cared about losing his people at that moment. All he could remember was seeing the silvery sheen of tears in his sister’s eyes and she cringed away from his touch when he tried to hug her to his chest. That was all that mattered as the anger had brewed inside of him, anger that still was inside of him today. Yes he had found the man who had hurt his sister and had loved every moment he’d inflicted pain on him. When he found Atkinson he tried his best to tear the man limb from limb. The rage at his sister’s abuse, his own place as potential alpha of his father’s pack, and sheer tenacity had allowed him to win the battle against the alpha. He supposed that seeing the man still sporting the scratches on his neck and shoulders from his sister’s fight had angered him all the more. When he’d won his father had told him that he now must control the Leo pack. In werewolf culture when an alpha was defeated the usurper had to take over his position and so Kenneth had left his own pack that day.

He had grown into a wondrous man over the ten years since that fateful night of his seventeenth birthday. Though he had been the younger sibling he had been the only male and had no regrets over avenging his sister but now he did not know of his anger had hurt her ask of helped her. He found that the members of his pack tended to coddle her as if they wanted to apologize for what their former alpha had done. At the time it had seemed to be as good idea as any. He had not wanted to lose Lana to depression. Lana may have been the potential alpha female of his pack as she had been older than him but she had been no match for the man would come after her. All that he had been able to do was to get her to help create the bylaws of their new pack and run the legal side of the operations since she had studied to be a lawyer. If he were honest with himself he still place a lion’s share of the blame on his own shoulders and maybe that was why he’d let his new pack handle her with kid gloves and why he hadn’t forced her to deal with what happened. He’d let her disappear into a safe place and it had allowed him to also not deal with the pain, regret, and guilt of his own actions that night. Fate, thought, wasn’t done with them. Now he was not so sure of what he would have to do with Lana and a change was on the horizon.

The Howling was coming and Lana was not prepared to take a mate. Because she was not he would have to take over bringing in pups to take his place once he stepped down, was defeated, or died. There was no way that Lana was prepared to accept another man inside of her. As a brother he did not want to think of his sister in that way but as alpha of his pack he had to. For now duty would supersede any familial ties that they may have, at least in so far that he would have to change his own ideals of what a mate would be for him. He could not force Lana so he would have to take ownership of that duty himself. Kenneth knew that he would have to use the Howling as his own chance to find a mate. It was time. He had reached the ripe age of twenty-seven and, for an alpha, that was late to mate. Most alphas, by the time they were twenty-three or twenty-four, would have already produced at least one litter. He was behind and as such any challengers would see that as a mark of weakness or a chance to remove his family as the leaders of the pack. There were many that loved his leadership. He led them with a strong but compassionate hand but there may be some still in Atkinson’s line that would prefer that the leadership was in their family. One fateful night and he was still dealing with the ripple effects. Kenneth scrubbed his face with a tense hand and sighed. He had no want of a mate.

As alpha he could not afford the luxury of such a weak emotion as love. To take a mate was place that mate above everything else be it duty, pack, or family. Kenneth could not afford to do that. His duty must always come first as an alpha. He’d learned that because of Lana as well. His best bet was to find a mate that would be satisfied with the prestige of being the alpha bitch of the pack, having his children, and the elevated status of his money could provide her. That was all that he was able to offer. He knew that many of the women of his pack would be happy to step into that place but none had interested his wolf. That was the damn problem. His will was anxious to procreate and mate but he was not willing to just pick any wolf, or any woman for that matter. IT would have been much easier if his wolf had followed tradition and found on of his own pack to mate, but Kenneth wasn’t in his birth pack and his wolf had changed as well.

So that brought him to his next frustration. After leaving yet another boring party that he had to attend as the face of his company he had yet to find a mate. Humans did not know that werewolves existed but there were enough of them to position themselves in the human business world for financial security as well a secrecy. At any given business meeting or social event humans were unaware of how many werewolves could be in their midst. Kenneth usually enjoyed that fact but now it was nothing more than a headache. Even at the event tonight there were other alphas from other packs that are trying to position themselves for alliances with the Leo pack. Alphas that, at one time, hadn’t wanted to deal with the new alpha who was young and ruled by his anger.

He knew that his efforts to create a safe haven for his sister, and any other wolf under his protection, had also made him the most stable eligible bachelor by wolf standards, despite his beginnings. Leo Hollow was a mecca for werewolves. Nowhere else was there a self-sustaining town expressively for werewolves in existence. Suddenly those same prideful alphas made it known that their daughters were so available to him or coming into the mating seasons themselves. Kenneth had no need for a woman barely out of pups stage that would have illusions of grandeur and what love would be between mates. What he wanted, and needed, was a seasoned woman who would take a deal of compromise over ideological thoughts of what could be. He may have been able to dodge the bullet this evening but that would not last for long. His wolf would have to choose his mate sooner than later or he’d have to make a decision that most wolves wouldn’t, find a bride of convenience that wouldn’t tell anyone the arrangement and no one would be the wiser but the two of them. It may make it much harder for pups, but an alpha could breed with females, mate or not, given enough exposure. Kenneth would prefer not to do it that way but he’d get it any way he could.

“Edgar just take me home,” he said to his driver. The sleek Mercedes-Benz had darkened windows so that no one will be able to see inside, and a darkened partition between him and his driver. Edgar had been in his family for as long as Kenneth could remember. Edgar knew how to be discreet, quiet, and best of all, quick and efficient. He would get them both home with little fanfare. As it stopped at a stoplight Kenneth rolled his shoulders to relieve some of the tension that was sitting there. One way or another he would find his way to the correct mate. If fate had made it so that he would take over his pack in the circumstances that he had then fate would also make sure that he was given the exactly that he needed to continue his duties. As the car turned left was the light was green and odd sound pulled Kenneth out of his own musings. He froze and listened intently. His nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply to see if he could send anything on the air. Lightly, as if from some distance, he could smell the acrid scent of fear.

“Drive faster,” he commanded. He felt the car pick up speed as he continued to listen for another sound. As they continued forward the scent of fear grew stronger. He felt his heart began to race and attributed it to adrenaline. Something was wrong and it was close. Just as he felt as if he was directly on top of the scent shots rang out. A study of cold nerves and even quicker driving skills Edgar did not swerve but slow the car down to a crawling stopped.

“In the alley,” Edgar growled.

“I see her,” Kenneth shouted as he exited the vehicle and jumped over it in one motion it seemed. All he could see now of the terrified woman was her dark leggings and kicking sneakered feet. He raced forward, using some of his preternatural speed, to get to her as quickly as possible. The stench of terror, drugs, lust, and anger filled Kenneth’s nose. He could feel his wolf stretching inside of him preparing for shift ad he fought the change. It would not be safe for him to change his wolf in the middle of the human city. If anyone would see him it would risk outing their secret and that was the first tenant of their kind. They must remain unseen. Kenneth would have to rely on his enormous strength that could best any human many times over, and his elevated senses to get them both out of this alive. The woman had fought for her survival. All the shots had sounded, even the Kenneth untrained ear in weapons, meant the man must have emptied his clip. That would at least remove deadly force from the woman. Unless that bullet was silver there was little harm the gun could do to Kenneth other than slow him down while his body healed enough to push the projectiles from his flesh.

“Big mistake,” he growled as he plowed into the darkness.

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