Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(11)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(11)
Author: T.S. Joyce

“You’re a terrible Alpha!” Rhett called.

“Agreed,” Grim said without turning around. “And yet you keep calling me your Alpha.” He arched his eyebrows like they were all dumb and turned just in time to shove the exit door open and disappear outside.

Well, Ash didn’t want to say goodbye yet, so she bolted around the counter and right out the front door after him. He turned in the parking lot, his eyes bright gold, a grim set to his lips.

“I know we are friends, and friends aren’t supposed to just up and kiss other friends,” she blurted out breathlessly. She ran the last few steps that separated them and threw her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. She meant to do a peck-and-release move on him, but his arms went right to her hips, gripping her hard, and his lips moved against hers. The cold wind kicked up, and between the power of the oncoming storm and the power of the man who was wrapping his arms around her, she was overwhelmed.

When he slipped his tongue past her lips, she was shocked to stillness. Her skin was tingling with the wave of dominance pulsing through her. He snarled deep in his throat as he gripped the back of her neck and whooooaaah, no one had ever kissed her like this before. Over and over, he stroked his tongue inside of her mouth until she was a panting, melting mess splayed against him.

With a soft smack, he ended the kiss but held her in place with his strong hands. Good thing, too, because her legs totally buckled and she would’ve hit the pavement if he wasn’t holding her upright.

“I ain’t a good friend,” he growled through a devil-may-care smile. And then he leaned forward until his lips were right by her ear and whispered, “I fucking love the way you taste. Those are the code words.” For sex? He clamped his teeth onto her earlobe until she moaned and then released her to bare her own weight on two legs that didn’t want to work properly. He strode away like he knew he was king here.

And he was.

Holy balls, Ash was in trouble with that one. She grinned and swayed. Ash couldn’t even remember the last time her life was this exciting. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt like this about a boy. In fact, right now, watching him walk away, she couldn’t quite remember anything except how to breathe, and even that was questionable because she was huffing and puffing like a winded racehorse.

Maybe Juno and Remi were right. Maybe Ash was a little innocent. But with a teacher like Grim, she was pretty sure she wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Chapter Nine

The breeze was frigid and lifted chills on Grim’s forearms as he pulled on his pants.

He’d barely made it deep enough into the woods before he had to steer the SUV off the road and give the Reaper his body. The rental car was skidded sideways off the edge of some old logging road. He couldn’t remember exactly how to get back down the mountain. He’d taken so many turns, desperate to find wilderness big enough for the Reaper to hunt. His clothes were scattered on the ground where he’d haphazardly thrown them in his desperation to Change.

The Reaper snarled in his throat, and Grim seized suddenly. He staggered forward, almost went to his knees, but kept upright. Fuck. The demon in him was agitated, but hell if he knew what was wrong with him.

“You are a disaster.”

Grim looked up to find a tall red-haired man leaning against the rental Ford Expedition. Vyr.

Grim didn’t even try to stifle the snarl in his throat. The Reaper didn’t like other dominant monsters this close. Grim balled his fists, ready.

Vyr’s eyes were bright blue and had long reptilian pupils. Dragons were fuckin’ creepy. The Red Dragon’s attention went to Grim’s fists and then to his neck. “Your burns healed well.”

“Fuck you for burning me.”

Vyr’s lip curled up, and for a split second, his calm and collected façade slipped into something monstrous. His face twisted with rage, but then—snap—he looked stoic again.

“What do you want, Vyr?”

“That’s a complicated question with a complicated answer. What do I want? For my people to be happy. What does my dragon want?” Vyr gave him an empty smile. “Everything.”

Grim sized him up. In a fist fight, he could take him, but that damn dragon pulsing waves of power off of Vyr was a big fuckin’ problem. Grim knelt by his discarded black T-shirt and pulled it over his head. Taking his eyes off the dragon for the split second the shirt covered his face dragged another snarl from the Reaper.

“The mountains my Crew lives in?” Vyr said softly. “Those are Vyr’s Mountains. The mountains you and Rogue Pride live in? Those are Vyr’s Mountains. Those aren’t the only two. My dragon is claiming territory, and he isn’t stopping like my father was able to do with his mountain range. Or Harper, or Kane, or Rowan. The Red Dragon wants it all. He wants the world.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I only choose mountains where I can put a Last Chance crew with a Last Chance Alpha, so I can do good in this world, too. That’s the compromise the man in me has made with the monster in me. I’m telling you so you know you aren’t alone.”

“I’m better off alone—”

“I remember when I thought that, too. I was full of bullshit back then. You want your inner monsters to steady out? You surround yourself with a small circle of good people. And you take care of them so you can earn their loyalty. You create a team of people who will care enough to stop you when you go off the rails. You let them bond to you, and you actually become their Alpha, not just the word. You accept the throne.” Vyr lifted his chin and looked down his straight nose at Grim. “Most importantly, you let a girl in. You pick her and give your monsters something sweet to take care of. You let her inside of you, Grim. And then she can feed your demons light without them even knowing they’re being poisoned.” Vyr swallowed hard. “Do you know why I gave you the mountains, the trailer park, and the job?”

“No,” Grim said, his voice breaking on the word. “I didn’t even know you owned the mountains until a few months ago. I don’t know why you would trust someone like me with something like that.”

“Because I know your story. I made it my business to dig into the Tarian Pride after they went after Beast. You didn’t show up for that battle against Kane’s Crew. Why? I think I know the answer, but I want to hear it from you.”

“Because it wasn’t a good fight. It was stretching our Pride too thin on a battle that didn’t mean anything. Plus, fuck Justin. He deserved to die.”

“Try again.”

Grim swallowed hard. Fuckin’ shifters and their ability to sense lies. He sighed, but it tapered into a snarl. He didn’t like answering to anyone. “Because the female who ran from Justin was a girl I grew up with, and I watched him treat her like shit. She deserved a Crew like Kane’s. She deserved to have a mate like Beast. I wasn’t going to be the enforcer for something I didn’t believe in. So while Justin and the council were going to war with Beast, I was packing up my shit and leaving the Tarian Pride. I never wanted to be a killer.”

Vyr’s smile was slow and unsettling. “There it is. The Reaper doesn’t have as much power as you think he does. You just have to learn how to compromise with the monster.”

“Yeah? And how do I do that?”

Vyr shrugged. “Ash’ll do.” He turned to leave, but stopped and turned back. “Oh, and Grim?”

“What?”

“You might want to give me a list of any Tarian Pride members who are worth keeping around.”

Grim’s heart clawed its way into his throat. “Why?”

Vyr’s cold smile lifted the fine hairs on Grim’s body. “Because they went after people I consider friends. I’ll be claiming their mountains next.”

Chapter Ten

“Do you need anything?” Juno asked as Ash removed her apron.

“Like what?”

Juno looked all frowny and worried. And behind her Remi was still hanging out at the table, too. They’d been done with their food hours ago, and Kamp and Rhett had left for the recording studio right after they finished lunch.

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