Home > Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(2)

Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(2)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Love and Penises,

Air Ryder

Realization blasted through her, and she shot Ben a horrified glance. “You’re kicking me out of Red Havoc?”

“Winter, you were never Red Havoc, and you know it. I wanted you to be. I waited for you to tell me you were ready to pledge, but you never pulled the trigger. And I can see your future if you stay here. You’re so fuckin’ loyal. Your heart latches onto someone and doesn’t let them go. Brody’s moving on, but you won’t. You can’t when you’re this close to him. You’ll watch him with Lynn, watch him as a newlywed, watch them bring that little panther into the world, watch him parent, and wish it was all happening to you. You’ll regress to that little shit that came to me three years ago begging a place to stay for a night. Your story doesn’t end here, Winter. This was just a bump in the road.”

“But with the dragons?” she whispered. She’d seen the battle in the sky between Dark Kane and his mate, Rowan. They were monstrous and had burned the Smoky Mountains. Winter was just a panther shifter and no match for a crew of fire-breathers.

“Listen, Kane’s hard. He’s intimidating. He’s quiet and tough, but he was my friend once, and deep down, he’s one of the good ones. If Kane is setting up a crew, I want you in it. Do you understand? You’ll be safe under the dragon’s wing.”

“Like I was safe here?” she rasped, clutching the paper to her chest. She’d come here for sanctuary, but somehow Brody had made her trust even less.

“This ain’t me choosing Brody over you. I want to claw him a dozen times a day for what he and Lynn did to you. This is me saying it’s okay to move on and get back on the right path.” Benson ran his hand roughly over his cropped hair and stood. “Pack your shit, Winter. You’re gonna do big things someday. Just not here.”

Ben turned away fast and strode off, but she’d seen it. She’d seen the alpha’s eyes were rimmed with moisture. This hurt him, too. He’d been her friend. He’d invested a lot into pulling her from the brink. He’d refused to put her down when he probably should have, and now he was admitting he couldn’t do anything more for her. It hurt deep in her chest, but not because she was being pushed out.

It hurt most because Ben was the strongest man she’d ever known, and he was admitting defeat with her.

Just like everyone else did.

Chapter Two

Winter cast a quick glance at the surveillance camera camouflaged in the branches of a white pine. It was aimed right at the full mailbox and dirt-road entry to Dark Kane’s territory. Someone was paranoid.

Right now, the dragon was probably sitting in his big, fancy cliff mansion sipping his Bloody Mary or whatever the fuck fancy people drank and watching as she drove her junky old two-seater truck past the No Trespassing sign. She missed Red Havoc already. Not Brody, though. Brody could sit on a tack with his ball sack.

The road dropped steeply. The angle was so harsh she had a moment of panic when the road disappeared from under her, and she had to trust the truck to dive nose-first down the gravel lane. It wasn’t so bad once she got over that first drop-off, but the road curved this way and that. Dark Kane had picked one mountainous, treacherous territory. One last curve through the forest, and a small bridge appeared. She gasped and jerked her truck to a stop behind a green Mustang with black racing stripes. There were cars jammed all along the road as far as she could see and parked between trees in the woods.

“What the fuck?” she muttered, squinting at a pair of giant men making their way over the one-lane bridge. Up ahead, another trio of bright-eyed shifters cast her a calculating glance over their shoulders, then disappeared into the woods.

She fought the urge to throw her truck in reverse and escape this place. The dragons were bad, but being in a small territory with a bunch of other shifters when her panther wasn’t the most dominant creature on the planet would’ve normally been a hell no.

Get back on the right path. She could hear Ben’s voice so clearly, as if he sat in the seat next to her, telling her not to chicken out. Her options were limited. Go back to Red Havoc and accept the pain that would always sit on her heart, or cast her net for happiness a little wider.

Clearly, she wouldn’t be accepted in the Blackwing Crew if there were so many to choose from, so what could it hurt to spend the day seeing what was what? At least she wasn’t in Red Havoc, hiding in her cabin with her music blaring as Brody and Lynn honeymoon fucked—loudly—two doors down.

If nothing else, the Smoky Mountains were beautiful. She hadn’t even known a place this stunning existed just a six-hour drive away from Ben’s crew. The trees stretched up to the sky, and the ground alongside the road was covered in ivy, moss, and ferns. What sky she could see through the thick canopy was such a vibrant blue, it was breathtaking.

Mind made up, she shoved her door open and didn’t bother locking it because she was the only one who knew the tricks to get old Rusty started. It was burglar proof, and besides, if she locked it, she might not be able to get back in without climbing through the sliding rear window. The lock was touchy. She liked that old Rusty was such an asshole, though.

Winter caught a glimpse of herself in the window and froze. She looked sad. Somber. Her eyes were tired and empty, and her mouth was set in such a grim line she couldn’t even see a hint of the dimples that usually sat on her cheeks. Or used to sit there before Brody slowly sucked the light from her. Her black hair hung limply around her shoulders, the honey-colored highlights half grown out. No make-up, no expression, she was a ghost of her former self. Winter ripped her gaze away from the reflection and made her way to the bridge. She avoided mirrors, and this was why. The bottomless disappointment in herself was soul-wracking. She should’ve never given Brody power over her. Ben was right in that she was too damn loyal, and Brody, the cheating rat, hadn’t ever earned that kind of devotion.

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