Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(24)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(24)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Stunned, Ash looked up to find Juno and Remi on the ground out of the way of the fire. Kamp and Rhett had knocked them clear into the woods.

It was the silverback charging through the dying flames that got her moving. Grim lurched up with her, and they ran for Torren. His massive fists punched the ground as he came for them, long canines exposed as he roared at Ash.

But something stopped Torren in his tracks, and he skidded through smoking ashes. He looked to the sky, nearly knocking into Ash. She looked up in time to see a blue dragon torpedo through the sky and slam into the Red Dragon.

Holy shit, Damon Daye was latched onto his son. They were both beating their wings, lifting higher and higher until they disappeared into the clouds. Bursts of flames spewed from the mouths of the beasts, illuminating the clouds and exposing their silhouettes as they warred.

Ash leaned heavily against Grim’s golden-eyed lion as they watched the battle in the sky. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or heartbroken that father and son were burning each other.

Up in the clouds, the fire stopped and the tips of their dragon wings sank down low enough to show through the clouds. They were flying east.

The clearing went still, other than the few burning blazes from Vyr. Dragon’s fire burned hot and snuffed out quick so they could eat the ashes without consuming the flames, but there were places here and there that still burned.

Torren looked like hell. He was battered and clawed, and when he took a few hesitant steps toward her, heartache in his bright green eyes, Grim charged and let off a challenging roar. His back was burned from protecting her, but he didn’t favor it. Tough mate.

Torren slammed his fists on the ground and said in a snarling voice, “I’m sorry.”

Grim slowed to a trot and watched him turn around and leave with Nox’s blond grizzly. They disappeared into the smoky woods, but still Grim stood sentry for her. His body was wrecked, but he stood straight with a proud lilt to his head, and when he let off a trio of short roars, Kamp and Rhett answered.

The Tarian Pride was across the clearing, loosely grouped and watching Grim.

He roared over and over, his frame tensing with the effort of each one until Ash couldn’t help it—her bear had to answer back.

Why? Because Grim was bonding them. Not just her, but the entire Crew. How did she know? Because Remi and Juno were answering his call, too.

Ash stood proudly and watched her mate take his place at the head of Rogue Pride.

His Crew had shown up, and the Reaper had done something he’d never done before. He cared enough to claim them.

Ash hadn’t killed him like the Reaper had predicted, and thank goodness for that. Instead, she’d softened him just enough to let people in. Good people. He’d compromised with The Good enough to give Grim balance. She could feel it now. She could sense it.

Grim would always hold more power than one man should, but he wasn’t so sick anymore.

His future wasn’t impossible. His journey wasn’t at the end of a road; it was at the beginning.

She’d always thought of Grim as this great book…

And now she could feel things turning around for him.

She knew it with such certainty…

His best chapter was starting now.

Chapter Twenty

Ash was having a moment. It was an old, familiar feeling of uncertainty as she looked at her reflection in the hotel bathroom mirror. Where did she go from here? Where was home?

While her bear had laid it all out there for Grim and bitten him, her skin was still unmarred by a claiming mark. And perhaps it would always be like that. The mission to extract Rose was over. Ash didn’t know if it was a failure or not, but Grim’s grandmother had decided to stay with the Tarian Pride and even seemed happy about that decision at the dinner they’d had together last night.

So now what?

“You look so pretty,” Grim murmured from the doorway behind her. He’d been sleeping on account of all the healing he needed to do. His back had been burned protecting her, but he acted like it didn’t hurt at all. Maybe he was just used to aching. His eyes were hollow and he looked exhausted, but that smile… It was genuine and easy and made her chest flutter.

She shuffled over to him and leaned into his open arms where he held her for a long time. There weren’t any words needed right now. The shock of the war still clung to them like a second skin.

She didn’t know what would happen between Vyr and Damon or between the Sons of Beasts and Rogue Pride. She couldn’t guess the future of the Tarian Pride. She didn’t even know where to call home. She was only certain of one thing—she really loved Grim.

“I don’t want to be apart,” she said suddenly.

“What?” Grim eased back and cupped her cheeks. “Why would we be apart?”

A loud banging at the door sounded, and Rhett yelled through the barrier, “I got us all food. This probably isn’t me kissing your ass because I want to be you Second.”

“Give us a second,” Grim called. “Ash, I don’t want to be apart either.”

Rhett called, “It’s just you gave a specific amount of time, and it’s been one second.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Grim murmured.

Giggling, Ash ran her hands down the curves of his strong shoulders. The man carried the weight of the world so well. “You won’t kill him because deep down you care about him. And Kamp, Remi, and Juno.”

“And?”

Confused, she asked, “And what?”

“And you. I care about you. More than anything. I would’ve never claimed this Crew if you didn’t come along and make me feel salvageable. You made me feel worth a damn, despite all of my faults, and there are many of those. No one could’ve turned my head around like you. No one could’ve got me living again, but you.”

Ash’s lip trembled, and she dropped her gaze to hide the stupid weak tears building in her eyes. “I never thought someone would see me that way,” she said in a very small voice.

“I do. You picked me when I wasn’t worth a single second of your time. You got devoted, you got tough, and you had my back from the moment I saw you. You are loyal, sweet, and submissive, but you aren’t weak. You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met. You have a place with me, Ash. And, hell, it won’t be easy. I’m no walk in the park, and I’ve never done this before. I feel like I’m going into this blind and with no tools. I know I’m gonna fuck up a thousand times before I start feeling like I’m getting the hang of taking care of you. But I want to learn. For you. For me. Because you changed the course of my entire life. You did that, Ash. You have that power.” He chuckled and shook his head. “I’m an Alpha because of you, and I’m not even scared of failing them because I know you. You’re a stubborn woman with her heart in the right place, and you won’t let me fail. You’re gonna make me work hard until I’m less shitty at this.”

“It’s been a minute,” Rhett said. “I counted to sixty. I got you extra onions on your burger because you are a monster, and monsters like extra raw onions.”

“I hate onions,” Grim growled over his shoulder.

“Okay, I’m picking them off. This is the kind of treatment you’ll get with me as your Second. Kamp doesn’t even love you. He would never even get you food— Ow! Seriously, Kamp? You threw a boot at me?”

“Pretty sure I’m going to kill them both.”

“I’ll stop you,” she promised.

“Mmmm,” he said, the sound rumbling in his throat. “Vyr is off his rocker, but he said something the other day that stuck. He said to take care of my people until they cared enough about me to stop me if I go off the rails. You would do that, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” she whispered without hesitation. That was part of keeping him safe. He deserved protection, even if someday it was against himself.

“I would stop you, too,” Remi called. “I would also be a good Second.”

“Oh, dear lord.” Grim rolled his eyes closed and sighed. He pulled Ash forward and pressed his lips against her forehead, then he leaned right against her ear and whispered, “I’m going to make a good Crew for you. If you’ll have me.”

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