Wolf Song (Wolf Song Trilogy #1)

Wolf Song (Wolf Song Trilogy #1) by Taryn Kincaid


“Magnum?” Brick Northridge snorted and muttered into his beer. He stared bleary eyed at the hated alpha holding court in the center of the saloon. “More like a .22, if you ask me. Maybe a pea shooter.” He sat off by himself, as always, in a far corner of The Den, making deep inroads into his second foamy pitcher, his chair tilted back against the stone wall, its two front legs off the peanut shell-strewn floor. The brew gave him a heady buzz, but failed to still the roar in his head. Too many wolfy voices. Too many pictures of lupine death.

Like right now. A white flash went off, revealing a series of mental Kodachromes of Magnum Tao, the pack’s alpha, laid out all Rest in Fuckin’ Peace on a satin lining, a lily sticking up from his cold, crossed hands. The pack shedding a few crocodile tears. Then rejoicing.

Brick didn’t want the visions arriving unbidden in his head, all chopped up movie-trailer style, decibel level cranked, useless coming attractions when he never knew the where or when…only the how. He’d learned as a cub to keep his mouth shut and wait for the feature to begin. No one ever appreciated hearing how they’d die. Not when they couldn’t do much about it.

But the current video of Funeral Home Magnum deposited more funds into Brick’s mortgaged courage account than the liquid variety drained from a beer mug. His back went as rigid as if someone had shoved a titanium rod up his ass. He bolted out of his chair, upended wood splintering.

One of these days, he and Gee, the saloon-owning werebear, would have to settle his running bar tab and retire that long-distance marathoner. Gee risked his liquor license even letting his underage ass into the joint. But the gruff old walking throw rug took pity on him, apparently, and seemed to understand his need to still the unwanted cacophony of others’ thoughts, letting him self-medicate the clamor into a low hum the only way he knew how.

“Yeah? Well, no one asked you, punk.” Magnum whirled around and trained his belligerent gaze in Brick’s direction. He dropped his sinewy arms from the shoulders of the two stacked humans who Wonder Breaded him like a slab of bologna. A scent at once gamey and oily, the twin odors of decay and greed, wafted from the alpha’s hide. Brick twitched his nose as the stink, laced with evil, struck him full on and chiseled up his nose like a burrowing parasite. His stomach clenched but he tamped down the gag reflex.

“Who the hell let you in here, anyway?” Magnum demanded. “Gee?” He looked around for the proprietor but the massive werebear merely crossed his arms over his huge chest and said nothing. “You let this underage motherf*cker drink in your establishment?”

“Between you and me, asswipe,” Brick said. “Got nothing to do with Gee. Leave him out of it.”

“You and me?” The older wolf snorted. “And what f*ckin’ cavalry?” Magnum’s eyes glowed yellow as he waited for an answer. The greasy, unkempt hair on his nape rose. All conversation stopped, raucous laughter misting away. Even the band dropped their instruments to watch the confrontation, their eyes wary, gazes skittering across the room in an effort to meet no one else’s. The silence lengthened, pea souped into a dense fog, and swallowed the electric buzz rippling with the promise of a brawl. The scent of fear and horror, flavored with excitement, thickened the air.

Magnum’s shoulders bunched as he prepared to spring, but he did not shift.

Brick stood his ground, without looking down or tilting his head to offer his neck in a more submissive stance, as a good and respectful pack member should. He neither feared nor respected Magnum and felt no compulsion to bow before him. Maybe that made him crazy—along with the wolf voices and death visions alcohol couldn’t chase—but the alpha had grown crazier, maddened by his power, no longer the moral compass of the pack, no longer the protective leader of those less dominant, no longer interested in anything except his own greed—and violence for the sake of violence. Magnum had never bothered to pass on any wolfdom lore; he’d never had any interest in teaching the pack’s young what it meant to be a wolf. He’d entirely shirked his duties to the cubs. Instead, Magnum had become one sick twist. Too cozy by half with the encroaching clan of cat shifters on the other side of the mountain who lately seemed bent on nothing less than territory domination. Way past time for someone to take Magnum on…and take him out.

Should have been his son’s responsibility. Right? Protect the pack, issue the challenge, usurp and depose the father, take on the mantle of leadership. But Drew Tao had left the Black Hills…maybe for good. And no one else seemed ready or willing to step up. Except the stupid loner who had snatches of other wolves’ convos drumming commentary inside his head. Nearly drowning out his own audio loop. Not that he wanted to take over the pack or lead anyone anywhere. He just wanted Greasy Locks the hell gone.

Do it. It’s time. Either Magnum goes…or you do.

A growl rumbled up from Brick’s gut like the Union Pacific barreling over the tracks. Freight-training from his belly. His lungs expanded, inflated and squeezed oxygen like a blacksmith’s bellows. The roar burst from his mouth into the dead silence swamping The Den. His anguished howl swept through the town of Los Lobos, a dark wind vibrating out through the quiet South Dakota night, rattling across the empty prairie to the Black Hills, bouncing off the thick stands of ponderosa pine and aspen blanketing the granite mountains. Loud enough to be heard in the cat stronghold of Shady Heart. A war cry echoing from peak to peak.

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