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Gentry (Wolves of Winter's Edge Book 1)

By:T. S. Joyce

Gentry (Wolves of Winter's Edge Book 1)
T. S. Joyce

       Chapter One




Gentry Striker knelt down in the snow and narrowed his eyes at the chaos  he found there. Overlapping paw prints made a mess of the white ground.  Crimson was splattered here and there as if painted by an artist's  brush. Gentry huffed a frozen breath and lifted a handful of red snow to  his nose, then sniffed it. So fresh.

The alpha of this pack was a pitch-black murder machine Gentry had  deemed Tooth. Why? Because the wild wolf was missing one bottom canine.  That didn't seem to hinder his ability to hurt, though. Hurt other  packs, hurt his own pack, hurt animals even after he'd had his fill.

Tooth reminded Gentry of his brothers, Roman and Asher. All three of  them were grade-A, pain-in-the-ass, dominant-as-hell assholes.

Gentry had stalled on taking out Tooth, but shouldn't have. Tooth had  taken yet another unnecessary victim. The pack had just fed twelve hours  ago, and now they'd killed another animal, at least one …  No. Gentry  scented the air again. Too much blood. Maybe the pack had killed two  cattle this time. The ranchers in the area wouldn't be put off anymore.  Not after a month-long killing spree, and not when Tooth had grown such a  fondness for the kill.

Fuck, he mouthed as he looked to the horizon, where the tree line met  the deep navy sky adorned with stars. It was so beautiful here …  A howl  rose in the air-and so ugly all at once.

He'd memorized their voices. This one was the alpha female. He called  her Eyelet because she was white with what looked like gray lace marbled  into her coat. Her voice faded to nothing, then started up again. When  the others in the pack didn't join, Gentry huffed a dark laugh and  stood. Tonight it was then. The alpha was onto him and didn't like being  hunted. Oh, the wolves knew what he was, even if the humans did not.  Werewolf. They could probably smell him from a mile away. Tooth thought  putting his precious Eyelet out as a lure would work on a creature like  Gentry. He tossed the bloody snow to the side and strode over the  crunching ground up a shallow incline. Wolf tracks were everywhere, and  in the distance, the stressed bawling of cattle still sounded. They were  probably against a fence on the edge of the property, eyes rolling and  so wide the whites showed at the edges. A wave of protective instincts  washed through him as he made his way over unmarred ground. A soft snarl  rattled up his throat. Cattle shouldn't have his instincts up like  this. They were prey, and he was a predator. This town had made him  soft. He'd been here too long, gotten to know the people, begun to feel.

Fuck that. He was here on a job to decide which wolves needed to be  culled. He would paint the snow with Tooth's blood, bring the pack under  control. Wait for them to decide on a new alpha and then scare the  ever-living-shit out of the wolves so they would stay far away from  their new taste for beef.

Screw those whiney cattle. He wasn't here for them. He was here to get  paid and to keep as many of this pack alive as he was able. Another howl  rose up louder than before. He hoped he could save Eyelet. Tooth was  the problem wolf here, but Eyelet would go to war for her man.

The snow sparkled a soft blue color in the moonlight, and his boots sunk  in up to his ankles. Above the crunching sound of his footsteps, his  phone dinged softly. Seriously? Snarling under his breath, Gentry ripped  his phone out of his back pocket and checked the caller ID. Some  unknown number was calling him at three in the morning.

Gentry turned it to vibrate and shoved the phone back where it belonged.  Unreasonably pissed to have a hunt interrupted, he unzipped his jacket,  yanked it off, and then tossed it to the ground. Balls, it was cold.

His phone was vibrating again. "I swear to God … " he muttered, prepared  to curse out whatever telemarketer thought this was a good time to call.

This time the caller ID read Roman. What the hell? Why would his brother  be calling him? They didn't talk. They weren't okay. Something rustled  in the woods, and he jerked his attention to the right, but saw nothing.  Roman was going to get him killed. Asshole would probably dance on his  grave.

Gentry ignored the call like a champ, but right as he was pulling his shirt off to Change, a text came through.

Answer the phone, Gentry. It's dad's lawyer.

Those last three words did something awful inside of him.

Not a good time. Send.

Chest heaving, frozen breath chugging in front of his face like steam  from a train, Gentry stared at the unknown number flashing across the  screen again.

ANSWER THE FUCKING PHONE, Roman texted.

Gentry's fingers were already tingling with the Change, and Eyelet was  still calling to him. She thought he was a real wolf and not a monster.  Monsters didn't get tricked as easily, but the ghosts from his past were  keeping him distracted and vulnerable. Bad place to be out here.                       
       
           



       

His phone vibrated again.

With a growl, Gentry connected the call. "What?" he murmured low.

"Gentry?" Terry Grant, Dad's long-term lawyer asked. Gentry hadn't heard  his voice in years. Not since he was a kid. "I have your brothers on  the phone with us."

Gentry shook his head over and over in disbelief as he scanned the  woods. "Asher, too?" he asked, trying desperately to keep the hate from  his voice.

"Yeah," Asher growled. "Dad's dead. Time for the prodigal son to return home."

"More tact," Terry ground out.

"Sorry," Asher said in a completely unapologetic tone. "Dad got his  throat ripped out. Bled out in an alpha fight. Alone, fuck you very  much. Where were you, Favorite?"

Dad was dead. Gentry couldn't breathe. It felt like a Mack truck was  sitting on his chest, slowly crushing him, slowly suffocating him. He  held his breath so they wouldn't hear it shaking and squatted down in  the snow. Eyelet was still singing. She thought she was a siren. His  heart was pounding too loud in his ears.

"You boys need to come home."

"That ain't home," Roman growled.

In a careful voice, Terry murmured, "It was once. You have a duty to your father. There are things that need to be settled."

"Like the pack?" Gentry asked. "Hell no."

"It's not the Striker Pack anymore, Gentry," Terry said. "There's a new alpha."

"Who?" Asher asked.

"Rhett."

"Fuck!" Roman said too loud into the phone.

Gentry winced away. His ears were too sensitive this close to a Change.

Rhett was going to drive that pack into the ground. Probably expose them  to the humans in a year or less. He was about as careful as a wild  wolf. Worse even than Tooth. And Rhett had killed Dad.

A vision of Dad's charcoal gray wolf bleeding out on the sticky floor of  that old Winter's Edge tavern back home made Gentry buckle in on  himself. That's where the alpha fight would've been. Maybe Asher was  right. Maybe he should've been there. He'd bet everything he owned Dad  was only still fighting alpha wars to protect his people from Rhett. Why  hadn't he told Gentry? Why had he kept quiet about it? Gentry hadn't  even gotten to say goodbye.

"Stop with the snarling, Favorite," Asher gritted out. "You'll force us  all to Change, and I'm in a public place. This is on you. You go home,  you fix it. Roman and I are good with where we are."

"Which is where?" Gentry asked.

"Kicked out!" Roman yelled. "That's where. The destination doesn't  matter, does it? When you get kicked out of your own fucking pack by  your own fucking father, it doesn't matter where you are. It's all Hell.  I'll be at the funeral, Terry. Whatever he left us, I don't want it.  Gentry can have it all. I'll be on the first flight out of there." The  line clicked.

"Same," Asher said blandly before the line clicked again.

And then there were two.

Terry sighed into the phone. "It sounds windy where you are. Your dad  told me you hunt the wild wolves now. Are you hunting tonight?"

Gentry felt numb. It felt like he'd buried himself in the snow and  fallen asleep, only to wake to a frostbitten body. Dad. Eyelet's howl  lifted again, and this time it was close. Too close.

"I was hunting." Gentry swallowed hard. "Now I'm being hunted."

Gentry hung up the phone and barely resisted chucking it into the woods  at the lanky black wolf with the missing tooth that stepped from the  shadows.

Gentry was being hunted by wild wolves, yeah, but that's not what he'd meant.

He was being hunted by his destiny, too.

His head wasn't in the right place for a fight right now. He was too  sluggish, too slow. His inner wolf was in shock, and his insides were a  tornado. Tooth, sensing weakness, bolted for him before he could even  stand up. Gentry braced for impact and rolled with him, kicking up as he  did and shoving Tooth behind him. Hurry Wolf!

His back broke. Ribs rippled and cracked like gunfire. Fingers, neck,  legs, muscle, sinew, cells, everything reshaped with excruciating pain  in a matter of seconds as the wolf ripped out of his skin. Tooth was  already back on him, teeth clamped on his neck. That missing tooth was  saving his jugular right now. No help for it, Gentry ripped away from  his jaws, the pain blinding for a moment before he spun toward the alpha  and engaged.

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