We're just a little under a week away from the release of DESTINY DISGRACED by Carrie Ann Ryan - are you ready to read the first chapter? Read it below!
About DESTINY DISGRACED
DESTINY DISGRACED releases September 12th, 2017 - preorder your copy now!
Read the first chapter of DESTINY DISGRACED:Death was but a whisper away, and yet Mitchell Brentwood couldn’t breathe. With a slow blink, he moved to the side as a fist came at him, his opponent struggling to keep up with Mitchell’s moves. As the youth was only a teenager and still learning while Mitchell was the Beta of the Talon Pack, he didn’t blame the pup for not being fast enough.
He’d just train the kid until he sweated and cursed Mitchell out and then maybe the teen would be ready for whatever came next.
That was how Packs worked— always ready for the next battle, the next fight.
An odd thought for a wolf without a war to face.
He’d spent his life preparing for conflict or fighting an unseen master he’d never thought to find his way out from under, and now here he was, training young wolves to help them control their beasts, yet… alone.
His cousin Kameron punched his shoulder and frowned at him. Well, if one could call it a frown considering the man rarely if ever showed any emotion— no anger, no disappointment, no sadness, and certainly not a smile. While some called Mitchell a hard-ass bastard, they called Kameron the cold-ass one.
“What?” Mitchell growled. The punch hadn’t hurt since Kameron hadn’t put any heat behind it, but he still wasn’t expecting it. And considering he and his brother, Max, had been raised with the rest of the cousins as if they were brothers, it was the principle of the thing.
“Your mind is wandering, and you’re not paying attention.” Kameron’s gaze was on the juveniles in front of them and their training and not on him, so he flipped his cousin off. “Saw that. I’m pretty sure the kids saw that, too. Good job, oh fearless leader.”
“Suck me,” Mitchell whispered so low that only Kameron could hear. Since the trainees in front of them were also wolves, they had exceptional hearing, so he had to be careful how loud he spoke when he didn’t want others to listen in.
“No, thanks, cousin. Why don’t you find yourself a woman to do that? Maybe if you finally get laid, you’ll wipe that perpetual scowl off your face.”
A familiar ache pulsated deep inside, and it took everything within him not to let the pain cascading through him show on his face. He’d spent years perfecting that ability, yet each time it seemed to grow, increasing in need and dread.
Mitchell lashed out, kicking Kameron on the back of his knee. And though Mitchell was one of the best fighters in the Pack, he wasn’t the best. That title belonged to their Enforcer— Kameron. While Mitchell was the Beta of the Talons and in charge of the day-to-day needs of the Pack, Kameron, as the Enforcer, was in charge of their defense. It only made sense that his cousin would be a slightly better fighter— it was genetic. So instead of his foot making contact, Kameron leapt out of the way so gracefully that he could have been a dancer in another life instead of a soldier.
Then, they fought.
Well, not really, as they weren’t landing their punches or kicks, but they’d spent decades learning each other’s moves and weaknesses. Even though neither of them was the Alpha or the strongest wolf in the Pack, they still fought like what they were— some of the best.
The younger wolves around them stopped what they were doing to watch the older wolves fight, and Mitchell didn’t fault them for that. There was a reason he and his family were the highest in the hierarchy of the Pack, and they were damn good at what they did to protect their people. After a few minutes, they were both sweaty, their shirts sticking to their skin. Kameron’s mouth twitched as if he were smiling. For his non-emotive cousin, that was big.
“Maybe you should think about your dick and get off mine,” Mitchell said with a sneer.
“Why does everything you’re saying today sound so dirty?” Kameron asked, wiping his face with the bottom of his shirt. A few sighs sounded from some of the women in their training group, and Mitchell held back a snort. There was always someone lusting after Kam, as if they wanted to be the one to melt his icy exterior.
Not too many panted after Mitchell, and he was just fine with that. He’d done his best to make his asshole persona permanent for a reason.
“You’re just a pervert,” Mitchell finally answered as he rolled his shoulders. “You can’t help it, though, you’re from that line of the Brentwoods.”
Kameron flipped him off and almost smiled again. Two times in one day, that had to be a record. “Like your line is any better.” He shook his head and turned to the others, watching them. “Okay, that’s a wrap for the day. Let’s cool down. Then you guys get to hear what your next assignment is.”
Mitchell nodded. “You guys did good. All of you are learning to not only use your bodies as tools, but you’re controlling your beasts more and more.” The same could not be said for some of the older wolves in the Pack. That was why tomorrow’s training sessions would be with some of the dominants, who were already on shifts around the den. Even though the Pack wasn’t at war, that didn’t mean they could slack off in their training.
It had been a year since the final battle with the rogue human factions that didn’t know if they wanted to control the wolves or wipe them from existence. The Talons and their allies, the Redwoods, had lost many and endured countless other horrors that left horrific memories that would never fade. But in the end, a great sacrifice had saved them all. Mitchell still wasn’t sure how he felt about the fact that he hadn’t been strong enough to protect his people. It was the sacrifice of the others— the pain of others, including his brother, Max— that had won the war. Mitchell had only been there to fight.
But there wasn’t a battle to be fought with claw and fang now. The humans came out on the good side in the end, and now they were in a time of peace. A calm where the wolves were no longer stuck within their wards inside the den, afraid to go out in public for fear that they’d be attacked by those anxious of what they didn’t know or understand. Now, his people could go out and do what they’d done for hundreds of years before the Unveiling, before the wolves were forced out into the open, revealing their secrets.
Almost all of his Packmates had jobs outside the den. Hell, most of them had lived on the outside before everything crumbled down around them. When they’d been at war, things were a little tight within the wards, but they’d made it work because there hadn’t been another option. So, while many of the wolves had shifts within the den depending on their strengths, they also had jobs and lives outside the Pack’s domain.
It was how it should have been all along, and his people were just now getting used to the fact that this was how it would be again. Only this time, many of them weren’t hiding in plain sight. There wasn’t a national register for the shifters, as Washington had nixed that idea after the asshole senator, McMaster, was killed, but there were still some non-government sanctioned websites out there that had lists of names and information on shifters. His cousin and Alpha, Gideon, growled daily about the mere existence of it, but there was nothing they could do about it. In this age of technology, even humans had all of that information since it was out in the public for anyone to see. The wolves could only control so much.
So, yes, Mitchell’s people could go out and have jobs like they had in the past, but now they had to deal with the added pressure of being a wolf in human’s clothing. At least, that’s what others called them. Mitchell knew he was more than that. He was both— a wolf and a human, not just one or the other. That was how all shifters were, and they struggled with that balance every day. Hence the training sessions for juveniles and young adults like they just had. Adding hormones to the mix usually just made keeping control of one’s wolf that much harder.
And yet, with all the talk of peace, Mitchell had a feeling there was something else coming. He’d spent most of his life either at war or fighting battles within his own Pack, yet he felt his sense of knowing wasn’t because he missed the tension and anxiety. He just knew there was no way that things could suddenly be perfect and harmonious after everything that happened.
Something was going to change their peace, and Mitchell would be ready for it.
No matter what it took.
“You headed over to Gideon’s?” Kameron asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “I have to go help one of the soldiers with a problem on the outer perimeter, but Gideon said he wanted to see us at some point.”
Mitchell nodded. “I planned to stop by.” Plus, it would give him a chance to see his new niece. Though Gideon and the others weren’t technically his brothers, making the newest additions to the Brentwoods second cousins or something like that, everyone had taken to calling Max and Mitchell uncles anyway.
Max didn’t have a mate, and after the attack that had scarred his brother in more ways than one, Mitchell wasn’t sure that Max wanted a mate. And as for Mitchell… well… he knew for a fact that he wouldn’t find his mate. Ever.
There were just some things set in stone, and Mitchell being alone for the rest of his unnaturally long life was one of them. “Let him and Brie know I’ll stop by before dinner,” Kameron said before lifting his chin and heading to wherever he needed to be.
Mitchell sighed and made his way over to Gideon’s since he didn’t have any other plans for a few hours. He figured he might as well see what his Alpha needed instead of sitting alone in his house, wondering what the hell to do. And, damn, he needed to stop sounding so depressing. It had been easier when he had battles and strategy to plan, or when the den was bursting at the seams with people. Since it was his job to ensure that every Pack member had a roof over their heads and was situated enough for their wolves to remain calm, he had plenty to do when everyone was forced within the den under their failing wards.
Now, the wards were rebuilt thanks to his cousin Brandon and his two mates, and people had started moving back into their homes outside the den. That meant there was less for Mitchell to do. And he hated it.
As he made his way to the front of Gideon’s house, he heard the giggle of a sweet one-year-old and pushed all those thoughts to the side. Gideon and Brie’s daughter, Fallon, toddled over to him, though she almost tripped a few times. He bent down to pick her up, brushing his lips over the top of her head when he pulled her close. She patted his mouth with her tiny hands and babbled incoherently. He was pretty sure a few of the things she said were actually words, but he couldn’t make sense of them.
Only Gideon and Brie could understand their daughter, the same as how his cousin Ryder and his wife Leah could understand their son, Bryson Roland. In the past year, there’d been three new Brentwoods born into the world— well, two Brentwoods and a Jamenson since his cousin Brynn mated a Redwood wolf named Finn. They’d had their daughter Mackenzie a couple of months ago, around the same time that Bryson was born. Still, the fact that there was three more was a whole hell of a lot, considering there hadn’t been an addition to their family in over a century. They were wolves after all, and lived ages longer than humans. They could spend lifetimes alone before eventually finding their mates, and some even waited longer to have children, preferring to spend time as a mated couple before adding to their family. The fact that the Brentwoods kept finding their mates in such quick succession would have worried Mitchell, but it wasn’t as if he would find his mate. Not with everything he’d been through in the past.
“I see,” Mitchell said solemnly, nodding his head as Fallon continued her conversation. He thought he heard something about a puppy, but that could have been any number of people in their wolf form, so he honestly didn’t know.
“You’re good with her,” Brie, his Alpha’s mate, said with a small smile. He hated the way she always seemed to see too much of him. She was a submissive wolf mated to the Alpha of their Pack. And while it might not make sense to outsiders, it made all the sense in the world to those inside the wards. She protected the Pack in her own way, her worth and contribution to the Pack’s needs something none of them even knew they were missing until she showed up and took care of them.
If he weren’t such a jerk, he might have been nicer to her, but he needed to keep her at a distance. He needed to keep everyone at arm’s length.
“She’s easy,” he said with a shrug before handing Fallon over to her mother. “Gideon said he wanted to talk to me,” he added instead of saying hello.
Brie ran her hand down Fallon’s back as the little girl started to doze off. It must have been near her naptime, or the little girl wouldn’t have started to fall asleep so easily. She was usually a burst of energy and babbles.
“He had to go meet with Kade, but he told me he texted you.” She rocked back and forth as Fallon fell fully asleep in her mother’s arms. The little girl would one day be Alpha— a first for the Talons, and maybe even all the Packs as Mitchell hadn’t heard of a female Alpha before. It wasn’t that they weren’t strong or capable because, hell, female dominants were tougher than most men he knew. No, it was because becoming the Alpha, Heir, Beta, Enforcer, Omega, or Healer wasn’t something someone could fight for or try to attain. Those titles were bestowed— he held back a mental cringe at that word— upon them by the moon goddess. The goddess had made the first wolf, the first shifter, and also determined the hierarchies needed for a Pack. Mitchell hadn’t learned until recently that those first goddess-touched were Talons. In fact, the first wolves who made the Pack were actually reincarnated as the triplets— Kameron, Walker, and Brandon.
Mitchell still wasn’t sure he quite believed that and, hell, didn’t know if he wanted to, but it wasn’t his business, so he chose not to think about it.
He shook himself out of those thoughts and held back a curse as he pulled out his phone and saw that he had indeed missed a text from Gideon. “I didn’t feel it vibrate and didn’t have the ringer on since we were training. Sorry to bother you at naptime.”
Brie just smiled and shook her head. “You’re never a bother. Do you want to come in for something to drink? I’m headed to the maternal council meeting in a bit, but I have an hour or so.”
Mitchell was shaking his head before she’d finished her sentence. He preferred being alone to having Brie so close where she saw too much of him. And it always hurt him when he remembered exactly who she reminded him of.
He quickly pushed those thoughts from his brain and did his best not to rub at the three jagged scars on his chest. He’d been too in his head today and needed to do something different, or he’d end up drowning himself in a bottle of tequila later and be of no use to anyone.
“I need to pick up a few things from town. I should get on that. Do you need anything?” The den was pretty self-sufficient and had enough land to remain that way for years, but they’d been trying to do more outside the den walls since the end of the war. Mitchell was only doing his part, he reminded himself. He wasn’t running away. Not again.
“Can you pick up a bag of coffee beans from that shop down on First?” she asked with a bright smile. “I know I can get beans in bulk online or even at another store, but now that I’m allowed caffeine again, I seemed to have found myself a new craving. If it’s out of your way, though, I can pick some up later.”
Mitchell nodded even as he went through his memory to see if he’d ever actually been inside that shop. He knew that Brynn loved that place and still went there with her mate, but he didn’t venture into coffee shops much. Too many people, and way too many scents for his wolf nose.
“Just tell me what kind you want and how much, and I’ll pick them up.” He made a note in his phone when she told him the name then gave her a nod and walked away.
His wolf had begun prowling inside him, and he wasn’t sure if it was about Brie or what she represented. Either way, he needed to get far enough away that he could calm his wolf and forget about the pain that he lived with every day.
Because the one thing they didn’t talk about when it came to mating was that if a bond broke, a wolf could still feel it. Mitchell felt the echo of what had been, the life he’d been promised, with every breath.
But he’d lost all that, and had learned to live like he was now. His mate was dead.
And wolves like him didn’t get second chances.