Pride Unleashed – Cathryn Fox
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Pride Unleashed

Book Cover: Pride Unleashed
Part of the Wolf’s Pride series:

Wolf's Pride Series, Book 2
(March 19, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0987855948
ISBN-13: 978-0987855947

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She might finally be free…but revenge will bring her back.

After fighting for her escape, Pride will stop at nothing to release the enslaved shifters still caged in the estate's underground prison. With only one way back inside the fortified mansion, Pride allows herself to be captured.

She might be back inside her cage but this time, she knows she has Logan and Stone on her side-powerful alphas who will both fight to the death for her. But the compound has many secrets…

When bonds are tested and bloodlines are revealed, she'll be heading into a world where no one, least of all Pride, is safe.

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Excerpt:

The night is thick, dark, and ominous—much like my current disposition.  All around me the vineyard’s nightlife falls mute, the cacophony of familiar sounds muffled beneath the heavy, menacing mood.  Tension hovers overhead like a threatening rain cloud and my flesh tightens, waiting for the sky to crack open and fracture the silent night.  Even the crickets stand down, their chorus hushed as they sit watching, waiting, listening for the hammer to fall, or in this case, the silver to pierce.

It unnerves me to think that the nocturnal creatures surrounding the estate—a mansion where I’d once been imprisoned—instinctively know that I, along with the pack of wolves at my back, are walking head first into danger and chances of survival are slim at best.

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Not unless I can deceive him.  The master.  A coldblooded human who kept me under  his strict control for seventeen long years.  The same man who taught me to trick, to  lure, to embrace my primal side in an effort to hunt the ruthless drug dealers who dared to cross him.  But I’ll have to put on my best performance yet if I want to fool the soulless predator who uses both silver and abuse to domimate his wolves.

And they call me the monster.

The second I surrender and he slaps a collar around my throat, I know what I’ll have to do—convince him that I hadn’t run away from the compound and had only been following his orders to hunt down a rogue wolf.

But showing no emotion in the face of an enemy who is as cunning as he is powerful might not be as easy as it once was.  Not after everything I’ve been through.  The fact that I’ve changed while running in Olympic National Park with the rogue wolf in question, however, is a point in my favor.  The master no longer knows all my weaknesses.

Or any of my strengths.

I angle my head to see Logan, the boy/wolf who wound himself around my heart and helped me learn so much about the world, and about the girl inside me.  When my eyes lock on his, my stomach punches into my throat and I swallow a cry of anguish.

Emotions crowd me because I realize Logan’s fate is in my hands and I know what will happen to him once I turn him over to the master.  I must abandon him like he’s nothing more than a tick on my ruff, like what happened between us in that cave two weeks ago during the full moon was nothing more than a diversionary tactic.  Despite our bond, I understand it’s the only way we can get inside the fortified compound, the only option we have.  But it still doesn’t make feeding him to the wolves, so to speak, any easier.

I smile at my new mate but my expression slips when I turn away.  The truth is I’m frightened.  Frightened for Logan.  Frightened for the pack of wolves at our backs, for the pack still trapped inside—what will happen if I can’t get them out?  And I’m frightened for Stone, the alpha who pretended to be my enemy but who risked his very life to save mine.

I can only hope that the boy I’ve known since childhood was able to use his wit and resourcefulness to stay alive.  But what if I’m wrong?  What if the master kills him because of me?

I draw in a sharp breath and work to desensitize.  I can’t let panic get the better of me.  Not now.  Not after I’ve come so far.

Keeping to the shadows and camouflaging ourselves in the hostile night, my footsteps slow as we reach the long winding driveway leading up to my former master’s estate.  With my sight unhindered by the darkness, I glance past the thick iron gate defending the perimeter and take in the sprawling mansion nestled at the foot of Mount Sirren.

On the south ridge of the mountain, overlooking the estate, fields of grapevines provide a gorgeous backdrop to the majestic manor.  As I inhale the familiar scents, I struggle to tame the wolf pacing restlessly inside me, but I can’t seem to marshal the unease seeping from my every pore.

Even though our aim is to get in and out as quickly as possible—no one wants to be inside the compound any longer than necessary—it’s still a risky plan, dangerous, and the scars marring my body are a constant reminder that disobedience comes with a price.  If I make one wrong move, one small mistake under the master’s watchful eye, not even the capable alpha beside me or the pack of werewolves who make up our small army will be able to step in and stop him.

Something I long ago vowed to do.

My ears perk for sound, and I note that the propane-fired cannons, a device used to scare birds from the vineyard, are quiet tonight.  But come tomorrow they’ll blast  again.  At least they’d better blast, because my plan to get the others out alive hinges upon it.

Floodlights sweep the area, splashing monstrous shadows over the manicured lawns and towering marble sculptures.  As I take in the array of statues fringing the walkway I can’t help but think they resemble an armed band of soldiers ready to defend the empire, prepared to kill all those who threaten their leader.  I look beyond them, and in the distance I spot the front door with its ornate, silver doorknocker.

As I glare at it, my heart thunders and my blood pumps faster.  The majestic entranceway might look welcoming to most, but I know it’s not.  I know the cruelties that await us on the other side.  But instead of heeding common sense and running in the opposite direction, we’re walking straight back in, simply because it’s the only way I can follow through with the vow I once made to myself.

Logan moves closer, sensing my discomfort.  Unwilling to give in to my fears, I breathe in his comforting scents, pulling them deep into my lungs.  The heady bouquet of clean earth—a fragrance that reminds me of cool, summer days—mingles with the fresh aroma of pine needles.  The aroma seeps under my skin and as it travels through my veins I suddenly can’t help but wish I was facing the master alone.  I hate the risk Logan is about to take.  Hate that he’s so sure of me that he’s willing to put his life in my hands.

Aware of the security cameras panning the area, I take a tentative step closer to the intercom outside the gate.  But fear for Logan’s safety has my stomach rebelling as the bulging black button taunts me.  I want to reach for it, but I can’t seem to move, my mind and body no longer functioning on the same wavelength.

Logan curls his hand around my waist, and I jump at his touch.  He slides me a look as those perceptive blue eyes of his slowly move over my face, a careful assessment that makes me uncomfortable.

His voice is low, reassuring and I try not to fidget when he whispers, “It’s going to be okay, Pride.”

I force a smile and my wolf bristles, but I no longer let her take comfort in his touch, or the warm strength of his body.  Right now I need to draw on my anger, because it’s that anger that’s going to keep my wolf sharp and keep us alive.

“Pride,” he says again in that soft tone that always gets to me, then he pauses to add depth to his words when he states, “We’ve all got your back.  Nothing is going to go wrong.”

“I know,” I respond and study his family as I work to keep my voice from sounding uncertain.  Although Logan is smart, strong and skilled, we’re no longer playing in his territory.  While his world might have dangerous black bears, birds of prey, and wild, feral animals, the king of my jungle is far more deadly.

And we’d be wise to remember that.

With life and death hanging in the balance, a dark shiver pulses in my blood.  Ignoring the warning sign, I reach out and stab the security button.  My mind takes that time to run through various scenarios.  As I wonder how the master will receive us, knowing that the next few minutes will determine our fate, I pull a gun from my back pocket and aim it at Logan’s head.

I turn to look at Logan’s uncle, Malcolm, the powerful leader of the handpicked group of wolves who make up our motley crew.  Since I know very little about each wolf, their strengths and weaknesses, I had zero input into who came and who stayed back to oversee their small Canadian community near the border.

But I do know that those who are with us now have risked their lives to help me free the others and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Malcolm gives me a curt nod, bringing my attention back to the crisis at hand, and then his brown eyes take on a serious edge when he looks past my shoulders.

I don’t need to turn to know what he’s looking at.  I can hear the gears grinding on the security camera as it slowly pivots my way.  Returning Malcolm’s signal with a stiff nod of my own, and summoning every ounce of courage I possess, I watch the team  of eight retreat, losing themselves in the inky darkness surrounding the estate.

Once they’ve disappeared, I draw a fueling breath to clear my thoughts and remember what my father taught me when I was just a pup, before he blew out of my life like a leaf caught in an updraft.  Never let them see your fear.

But thoughts of my father have my head spinning and fill me with a million questions.  Mainly, could he still be alive?

I square my shoulder and begin to turn, to face the firing squad about to descend upon us, but moments before the camera lands on me, Logan’s cousin, Gem steps from the darkness to give me a brisk hug.

“Grasshopper,” she whispers into my ear.  I instantly remember Logan once calling  me grasshopper, but before I can ask what she means, she’s gone, disappearing as quickly as she’d appeared, a bright shiny jewel dimmed by the ebony blackness owning the night.

I shift my focus to Logan and I’m about to question him.  I want to ask what Gem means, but I also want to know why Malcolm would bring a spirited, energetic girl like her along—one who would surely collapse in the heat of battle.  But he squeezes my arm in a silent message, letting me know it’s time to focus.

A look passes between us, and then he lowers his head like a broken puppy—one who was just brutally kicked.  My heart misses a beat as I watch him put on his game face and execute our plan to perfection.  This strong yet gentle alpha never fails to amaze me and everything about him touches me in places I never knew existed until we met.

But I can’t think about that right now, can’t think about how he makes me feel so warm and secure when I’m with him.  Right now I have to get my head in the game and focus on the task at hand, because once that gate opens we’ll be anything but safe.

When I tear my gaze away from the boy who taught me how to trust, I remove all emotion from my face and look pointedly at the metal gate.  Once again I remind myself that this risky plan needs to go down without a hitch, otherwise I might not ever  feel Logan’s warm touch again.

Shivers skitter down my spine at the sound of the oxidized hinges yawning open, yet I keep my face blank, my eyes vacant.  Less than a split second later the sound of squealing tires reaches our ears.  I brace myself for battle and blink against the glaring headlights aimed our way.

It appears the firing squad has arrived.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Fictional Candy wrote:

Wow, I am really loving this trilogy.

Rabid Reads wrote:

The second installment in the A Wolf’s Pride series continues to build upon the raw animal instincts and amazing characters from the first book while adding new elements that really take this story to the next level.