Midnight Kisses Page 2

My father gave a curt nod, eyeing the guards with disdain. "Lona is packing your things and will be out shortly."

Damn. Damn. Damn.

They should’ve given us a day at least. How was I going to say goodbye to Callie and Mack? They were out hunting and wouldn't hear the news until I was long gone.

I huffed. “Fine.”

"Remember, your cousin is there,” Dad whispered. “He'll be looking to expose your weaknesses."

I grunted and shook my head at the unnecessary reminder. Nolan had always looked out for Nolan, except when he was chasing some female around like it was breeding season. His mother and my father didn’t speak after a falling out, but she still carried alpha blood, so she could technically take over the pack and so could her son.

“It’ll be fine,” I said, not wanting my dad to worry.

Lona came out the door with my worn duffle; the faded green bag was almost as big as her body. Tears tracked down her wrinkled face as she crossed the porch and descended the stairs.

"Lon." I ran to my childhood nanny, a surge of protective instinct for the petite woman welling within. "We all knew this was coming. I'll be fine."

Apparently, “fine” was the word of the day.

She nodded, sniffling as she handed me my things. "They used to give notice—at least a couple weeks. I could've made a nice dinner…"

Lona displayed her love through food, and no one, including my father, complained about that. She was an amazing cook.

She pulled me in for a long hug, forcing me to drop the huge duffle I'd just taken. With her affection, the mixture of fear and sadness swelled within my chest, bubbling up into my throat. If I didn't leave ASAP, I was one hundred percent going to bawl—in front of everyone. Through the bond, I could feel the clan approaching, and sure enough, when I spun toward the SUV, a Land Rover no less, the entire pack stood there, crowded in the grassy clearing among the old pickups and dirt bikes. As one, Crescent Clan all dropped to one knee, holding their right fists over their chests.

Something they'd only done for my father, in times of great respect.

I was totally going to lose my cool.

Swallowing hard, I bowed to my people. "It’ll be my honor to serve you."

My father was the alpha link for our people’s magic; his fire magic could keep them alive in the bitter Montana cold. When he died, Crescent Pack’s link would transfer to me—if I graduated Alpha Island. I wasn't ready for the responsibility or respect that came with being alpha, not yet. It was something that had to be earned.

My father leaned in and whispered into my ear. "Beware the alpha king and his heirs. All they want is to retain power, and they’ll stoop to anything to get it."

As if I needed those reminders. Midnight Clan was the reason my pack was cast out from the magic realm into the mortal world. They were dirty, high mage suck-ups. I would never get involved with them. I gritted my teeth and nodded as fierce determination filled me.

I was the only child of the alpha of Crescent Clan. I'd go to the island and fight for my place, fight for my people, fight to keep our magic strong.

I hefted the canvas bag over my shoulder and marched toward the guards waiting to take me away. As I approached, I studied them. They looked identical. Legit. The four dudes were practically carbon copies of each other… quads, or whatever four people who looked exactly alike were called. Brothers? Obviously. Same height, build, even the same pinched expression of disgust, which their matchy-match sunglasses didn't hide. What was their deal? They glowered as if I were the offensive one.

Yeah, I hate you too.

Their outfits designated them as royal guards to the king, and anything related to the Midnight Pack I hated with passion just out of principle.

Dark hair peeked out from beneath their caps as my gaze ran over their chiseled jaws and then to their muscled arms. Of course, they were beautiful. The assholes always were.

The closer I got, the more my ire rose until irritation prickled my skin, and I had to grit my teeth to keep from snapping at them. Who did they think they were? Sending four guards to collect me like a criminal! Nolan only had one. This was disrespect through and through.

Obviously, they weren’t too high on the food chain or they wouldn't be here in the mortal realm escorting me. But why four? That wasn’t normal. Did they think I was a flight risk? I inhaled through my nose and growled when I smelled their dominance—all four of them. This close, their earthy musk blended, and the scent both burned the inside of my nose and lured me. At least one of them smelled really good, but I pressed that thought down and tried to ignore it.

One of them cocked his head to the side, the side of his mouth curled in what might be a conspiratorial smirk. He peeled away from his clone brothers and circled to the driver's side. The one standing next to Driver Dude’s vacated space looked ready to explode with anger; his muscles were so taut. His nostrils flared, and he dropped his sunglasses just long enough to level me with a green-eyed vitriolic glower.

What the hell? How dare he challenge me on my land?

Punch him in the face? Or let it slide?

“Rage, stop,” the driver snapped and chucked a half-empty water bottle, hitting the one who glared at me square in the chest.

Dude didn’t move, just kept his evil glare fixed on me.

Hah! His actual name was Rage? How fitting.

The guard on his right bumped him with an elbow and then climbed into the passenger seat. After he closed the door, Rage stepped to the side and opened the rear passenger door while keeping his head turned toward my clan. Never look away from a threat … it was like he didn’t trust us.

He stood there, a silent sentinel, waiting for me to get into the car, and I growled. The final clone brother limped around the back before getting inside, favoring his right leg.

I took one last look at my father and Lon and the rest of my pack and nodded. There would be no big goodbye; it just wasn’t the way.

See you guys in four years … if I survive.

"I need to put my bag in the back," I growled at Rage. "Especially if you expect me to sit between two of you brutes." I circled my hand to encompass the big dudes already in the car. Why did I have to smash in with four giants?

One of them grunted, and the hatch rose, probably activated by Shotgun Dude.

I tossed my bag into the cargo area and then climbed in, sliding into the center of the leather bench seat, and then got smooshed into Clone #3 as Rage got in on the other side. He closed the door with a shoulder-check to my side that forced me to bump the mute dude on my left.

“Excuse you,” I growled at Rage, glaring at him from the corner of my eye.

Someone needed anger management.

He raised his eyebrows over his mirrored shades and said, “Oops.”

His deep voice was gravelly and did something weird to my insides. Not butterflies, definitely not butterflies. More like murder hornets.

As soon as the giant douche on my right settled into his seat, I popped him in the ribs with my elbow. “Oops,” I shot back.

“That’s enough,” Shotgun said.

The scent of leather and car freshener swirled in the vehicle, but the smell was quickly overwhelmed by eau de male wolf. The worst thing you could do to a dominant wolf like me was to trap her in a vehicle with a bunch of other dominants. I'd be lucky to get through this drive without ripping off someone’s head.

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