Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(23)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(23)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Grim made a clicking sound behind his teeth and gave Ronin his back. He pulled Ash toward the car.

“Don’t walk away from me!” Ronin roared suddenly. “Who, Grim? Who do you think they’ll come for? Your precious Crew of fuck-ups. They’ll cut you off at the knees and starve you out. They’ll take everything from you just like they did to me because that’s what they do. If they want something, they take it, and they’ll get you back. And in two years, you’ll be standing right here remembering the chance I gave you to change everything!” Ronin strode toward them and yelled, “Reaper!”

And that was enough. A rattling growl in her throat, Ash spun on him just as Grim did the same. He had his hand in front of her hip protectively as the lions surged forward, but whatever Ronin saw in her face made him stop in his tracks. Fury boiled through her blood, but her voice didn’t shake when she said what she needed him to hear. To really hear and accept, because Ronin might have been a childhood friend of her mate, but he clearly didn’t know the man he was now.

He wasn’t anyone’s weapon.

“His name is Grim, and his Reaper don’t belong to no one but him.”

As the last word left her lips, something terrible happened. Behind her came a monstrous roar that shook the earth. Heat blasted against her back, and she knew with certainty what she would find when she turned around.

A dragon was blasting fire in a line across the mountains. Grim had been right. He’d been right not to trust Vyr because something was wrong. He had mountains to take care of already. Why would he be setting fire to these? Terrified, she clutched onto Grim’s hand and held tight.

“The Red Dragon,” Rose murmured in a frightened voice, eyes full of horror as the profile of the fire breather reflected in her terrified eyes. The snowy woods were glowing with fire. “What’s happening?”

Grim looked sick as he watched the monstrous creature dive and eat more ash. “He’s claiming these mountains.” He looked back at Ronin. “The council and Alpha war are the least of your worries now.”

Chapter Nineteen

“I can stop him,” Ash murmured, her heart pounding against her sternum.

“What?” Grim asked.

“I can stop him,” she said louder. “Are they worth it? The Tarian Pride. Ronin. Are they worth letting them govern their mountains?”

Grim looked from her to Ronin and back. His eyes were the color of the sun as his mouth formed the answer. “Yes.”

Adrenaline dumping into her system, Ash bent her head and texted Juno as fast as her flying fingers could type. Vyr is burning the mountains. Can you see him? We have to stop him! Send.

Head spinning, she kicked out of her shoes and stripped out of her clothes, then bolted for the woods. “Vyr knows me! I can fix this!” she yelled over her shoulder just as she hit the tree line.

It wasn’t just protecting the Tarian Pride from whatever revenge Vyr had planned. It was keeping Vyr accountable for his dragon. Because once upon a time, Vyr had been a part of Damon’s Mountains. He’d grown up with her, and she knew in her heart he was still good. But she also knew in her heart that if he didn’t quit claiming mountains, he would get addicted to the power and lose himself completely. It wasn’t the other dragons that the world should’ve been fearing all along. It wasn’t Dark Kane, Rowan, or Harper. It wasn’t Damon Daye, the ancient dragon himself. It was his son, Vyr.

She ducked a big branch and pushed her legs harder. This body was too slow, so she rushed her Change in desperation. She closed her eyes and pitched forward, landed on all clawed fours and kept running. Good bear, she was right there when Ash needed her. The grizzly was lightning fast when she wanted to be. Please, let this work.

Her breath chugged like steam in front of her face as she raced for the dragon. Her claws dug in the snowy earth and her muscles stretched and warmed with her long strides. Faster and faster she went. She heard him before she saw him. Felt him on her heels—the Reaper. She wasn’t scared. He wasn’t chasing her. She cast a glance to her left, and he was there. Racing in the glow of the fires right along with her. His body was pure grace and power and hunter. Of course, he wouldn’t leave her to do this alone. It wasn’t in him.

Up ahead, she could see the crackling of flames licking at the trees. She could hear the roars of animals, but they were hard to identify over the noise of her own growling and breathing. Movement caught her attention, and on her other side were the lions. They were barreling toward the blaze right along with her.

And then there was the drumming of fists against a rock-solid chest. When she heard the challenge of a silverback gorilla, it changed everything.

Oh, no, oh, no! Torren, the son of Kong, was here. Which meant Nox, the son of the Cursed Bear, was here, too. Vyr’s Crew was here to back him up.

Her biggest fear was realized as she and Grim burst into a clearing fringed with dragon’s fire. Torren’s massive silverback gorilla and Nox’s blond grizzly were charging two brown she-grizzlies. Juno and Remi were here, looking pissed as they aimed straight for Vyr’s Crew. The Sons of Beasts were at war with the Daughters of Beasts, and nothing was okay.

Fucking Vyr.

Two enormous lions charged from the woods just as Juno and Remi clashed with Nox and Torren. Rogue Pride Crew had followed through and come right after them to have Grim’s back just in case things went south with the Tarian Pride. Good Crew, but none of that mattered if they all died together tonight.

The sons and daughters of Damon’s Mountains were at war.

This would echo through the mountains she’d called home for always.

Her heart was in her chest as she torpedoed with Grim toward the Red Dragon, who was circling for another pass. Ash couldn’t tell if the white falling from the sky was snow or ashes.

All she knew was she had to appeal to Vyr’s heart before he burned a line in the earth, or he would be too far away for her to get into position again. She blasted right between Juno and Remi, then she looked back over her shoulder just in time to see Grim leap through the air and hit Nox like a cannonball. He freed up Remi, who bolted after Ash. Okay, good. Remi had guessed the plan then. Vyr was only going to pay attention to people he cared about. To people from Damon’s Mountains, who he considered friends to protect. The lions, he would burn to ashes and eat them without a second thought. But Ash, Juno, and Remi? They stood a chance at surviving him. She hoped.

Weaving in and out of trees, Ash kept her attention on the uneven ground in front of her and on the sky where Vyr was diving toward them. He had lined up and opened his massive jaw, exposing a row of razor-sharp teeth. Shit, they were too far off. Run, Remi!

Ash pushed her body until her muscles screamed. Until her legs were blurring under her and she risked falling hard, but she couldn’t slow down. She could hear Juno now, breathing heavy at her flank. All three of them were running as fast as they could, desperate to stop what was happening. To stop Vyr. To save him and save these people here.

Vyr’s Firestarter clicked and echoed through the mountains. Time slowed to a crawl as lava and fire spewed from his mouth across the ground, aiming right for Ash and the girls. The wind from Vyr’s wings was like a hurricane, and as she roared loud enough for the dragon to hear her, she uttered one name in her mind. Reaper!

The wall of fire came straight for her, Juno, and Remi. They were roaring, too, but the blistering heat was still coming. She saw the dragon’s eyes just as he realized they were there. He clamped his mouth closed and beat his powerful wings, aiming for the sky, rumbling the earth with the sheer power of him changing directions, but it was too late. The fire had already left his mouth, and he hadn’t pulled up in time.

Terror seized her in the last moments of her life, but just as she closed her eyes against the burning pain, something hit her like a battering ram from the back, and she pitched forward into a tree. Knives. That’s what pierced her thick hide…right? Something was wrapped around her, stabbing her, blocking her from the sky. She knew his smell. With every breath she took in this life, she would recognize it. Grim had wrapped his body around hers and had his claws sunk into her, holding on as a wave of heat rippled against her cheeks. His body twitched, and he grunted in pain.

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