Atla's Forbidden Wolf, Book 7
Mystic Wolves Series
Joni and Atlas are two shifters from different worlds…but when they find each other and realize they’re truemates, nothing short of an apocalypse will stop them from claiming each other.
Joni’s…wolf has been beaten out of her. Her friends have all found truemates. Mystic no longer feels like home, and to top it off, the shifter she knows is her mate has turned tail and ran from her. She’s tired of being the one left behind, this time, she’s going to be the one to leave and find her own destiny even if that means being alone for the rest of her life. However, she finds a crew who not only takes her in, they show her just what it means to stand and fight for herself.
Atlas…has always known his destiny was to become the alpha of the White Bear Clan. At the age of seven he’d not only lost his father; his bear became a beast that his entire family feared. For years, he searched for his truemate, finding her in a tiny package that was sure to set his clan on its ears. By the time he returned to claim her, she was gone.
When Atlas finds Joni with a menagerie of shifters, he’s ready to battle them all, until he realizes they’ve taken her in as one of hers. As his troubles follow him, her new pack fight alongside Atlas and Joni. But when the last shifter falls, will they still have the bond that brought them together?
Atlas tried to act innocent, but a smile split his lips. “No clue what you’re talking about. So, you ready?” He pulled his keys out, tossing them in the air, catching them before she could, knowing he was teasing her, something he’d missed doing.
“Oh, I see how it is. You three going to stick together then? Fine, but remember, I always get even, and when I do, you’ll be begging me for mercy.” She turned and flipped her hair over her shoulder with a huff, heading toward the huge entryway door.
“Ah shit, you two done pissed baby bear off,” Atika joked.
Their sister raised her right hand in the air, middle finger extended. “Sit and spin, asswipes, but just remember this when you need me to intervene on your behalf.”
Abyle shrugged. “Guess we’ll just have to be more—inventive ourselves.”
“You mean you’ll have to stop inviting every bitch in heat at the local bars to come back to your place, then when they want to stay the night, you call up sis here to come and tell them party is over in a sweet way?”
“Yep, now I’ll just tell them they can come back with me for a good time, but when we’re done, they gotta go. If they ain’t on board with it, then bye Felicia.” Abyle waved his hand at the end.
Atlas looked to the ceiling, then at his twin brothers. “Does he really get laid with that attitude?”
Atika lifted his right shoulder. “I think it’s ‘cause he looks like me.”
“Oh my gawd, you two are too much. Please, take me home before their heads inflate so much they won’t be able to fit in a vehicle. Oh wait, that might be good, then they’d have to shift and run home,” she said with glee.
In that very moment, he remembered why he’d die for the three people in the room with him. They were his family. Until Joni, they were the only people on Earth who mattered more than his own life. “Alright you three, party’s over, let’s get you home before you turn into mice or some shit.”
“Pretty sure that’s not how the fairytale goes.” Shauny linked her arm through his as they walked out the door. “You gonna lock that?”
He thought of all who could get in whether it was locked or not. “Nah, if someone wants in that badly, they’ll get in.”
His brothers stopped walking, turning back toward him. With the moon overhead, they were illuminated, looking almost as if they were in a spotlight. “We’ll be back after we grab a few things. You’ll need to call a clan meeting tomorrow and begin putting those you trust in places of power. You don’t have to put either of us in any certain place, but we will make sure you’re protected.” Abyle turned after his announcement, climbed into the back passenger seat, and slammed the door like he’d just told them the weather report.
“I second what he said,” Atika agreed, his eyes fierce. “Anyone tries to hurt you; they’ll have to go through the both of us first.”
Shauny sniffed. “They love you. They really love you,” she deadpanned.
“Did you just misquote Sally Fields?” Atlas asked as he held open the door for Shauny.
“I believe it was she who was misquoted in the first place, so whatevs. Home, James,” she laughed, buckling into the seat while Atlas stared down at her.
“You really are a strange female.” He was still smiling when he got behind the steering wheel. “Is Sonya going to give you a hard time?”
His question brought silence inside the SUV.
The lane to where his family lived loomed and still nobody spoke. His bear stirred, sensing danger. He pushed down on the brakes. “Anyone else feel something’s off?”
Atika rolled his window down, the smell of fire hitting them all. “Fuck! Go, Atlas,” he roared.
He’d already began driving, the SUV eating up the distance down the bumpy drive, smoke billowing up from the main house. Shauny cried out, her hand flying to the door handle. “Mama,” she cried.
Atlas had cut off his connection to the woman, severed the familial tie, so whatever Shauny and his brothers felt didn’t affect him, but their pain hit him like a fist to the heart.
He’d pulled to a rocking stop seconds before his three siblings leapt out their doors, shifting into their bears, running for the burning house. Atlas realizing what they’d planned, quickly followed, his white grizzly twice as big as any of their animals, and three times as powerful, landed with a thud in front of theirs, roaring a warning, his alpha power halting their movements.
“Stop. I sense no heartbeat inside there. She’s gone. I order you three to stand down, now,”he ordered through their link.
Atika shifted first, sweat, anger, and sadness poured off his naked form. “Motherfucker, don’t alpha order me from saving my mother,” he roared almost as loudly as Atlas, but he didn’t disobey.
Abyle staggered to his knees after shifting. “What the hell?” He shook his head.
Shauny was the last to shift, sobs making her words incoherent. “Why? Why did you stop us? I know you hate her, but she’s our mother. I’ll never forgive you, Atlas,” she cried.
Atlas roared, her words making his white bear angrier than he’d ever been. The mantle of alpha being forced on him, the power he’d been given, his first duty to save his brothers and sister, appearing like a…like a fucking betrayal. Fuck that.
Shifting faster than he’d ever done, he let them see what he looked like beneath the clothes, allowed them to see the scars he possessed. They thought he got off easy, since he was younger than them. They were fucking wrong. The day he’d killed their father was because the bastard had decided he’d kill Atlas after overhearing the Goddess speak to him. Only Atticus wasn’t content to do it the easy way. Oh no, he’d tried to eviscerate him first, offering up his entrails to the gods in exchange for power.
Shauny gasped. “What happened to you?” Her shaking hand reached for Atlas’s chest, the thick scar bisecting his abs hard to miss. He couldn’t count the number of white scars that striped across his chest, stomach, and lower. There literally wasn’t an inch of his front or back that hadn’t been laid open by a switch thanks to his father, many times while his mother watched, and even cheered. There had been something wrong with the both of them. They’d hated him yet loved all three of his siblings. He’d had to hide his injuries growing up, pretend all was fine, or else they’d do worse the next time. They’d even threatened to harm his siblings if he’d told anyone else, so he’d taken the beatings, the lashings without telling anyone.
“You want to know what happened to me? First of all, I saved all three of you just now. Open your senses. Do you hear her heart, or sense her? She’s not in there. Hell, she’s nowhere around here. Now, if you really want to know what happened to me, you better make for damn sure you really want the truth, because once you know, there’s no going back.” Atlas paced back and forth like a caged bear. His bear hadn’t been out long enough, the need to roam, to reclaim their land, ate at them both.
Abyle moved in closer yet stayed far enough away he wouldn’t be in danger of getting swiped with Atlas’s claws. “Tell us,” he said softly.
Atlas smiled, his alpha powers flowing through him. He knew his eyes were turning the light blue of his white bear, could see the fear in his siblings’ eyes. “No, I think I’ll show you instead.” He opened his mind, linking with the three of them, taking them back to the last day he’d been with their dad.
Her hand shook as she uncapped the ibuprophen bottle, taking six gel caps out even though that was probably too much for someone of her size. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, she sang in her head, swallowing the green pills without any liquid. Her throat burned as they got stuck in her dry throat. She looked around the small space, finding a half empty bottle of Gatorade. “No, the bottle is half full.”
She chugged the contents, then went to lay down, hoping the little pills would dull the pain. Jeez, what the hell had Taryn gone through this time, she wondered. Her insides felt on fire, every single rib felt as if they’d been broken, and Joni was sure one of her lungs had been punctured, but thanks to her shifter ability, it had already begun healing by the time she’d gotten home. Fucking Keith was such a sadistic prick. He didn’t even have to be in the same room as her to inflict the pain and injuries anymore. Now, all he had to do was connect through their ‘private link’ and bam, she was writhing on the floor, wishing for death.
A howl brought her back to the present, shaking her out of the painful past and things she couldn’t change. “I can’t change the past, and I can’t seem to change into my wolf. I’m such a fucked up little whiner. No wonder Atlas left me.” She wiped a tear from beneath her right eye.
Deciding she wasn’t going to get anymore sleep, she headed toward the shower, stopping in the middle of the room. “Why shower if I’m going to go for a run?
Oh, my gawd, I’m becoming one of those people. I need to get a cat. Surely, I can get one of those since I’m not really a wolf.” She slapped a hand over her mouth, trying to stifle her giggle without any luck. Finally, she gave up and amid laughter, she dressed in a pair of leggings and a T-shirt, putting on her running shoes that had seen lots of ground in both Mystic and Sturgis. After she made sure she had her phone and earbuds with music ready to play, she headed out, going the opposite way from before, not wanting to run into Oaklyn again. This time, she headed toward the road, feeling it was the safest area to travel on. The gravel was damp, which kept the dirt from flying up. She paced herself, watching for markers so she didn’t get lost. At the end of the blacktop, she turned left, following the cornfield, assuming is was a mile marker.
Just as the sun was coming up, the yellow corn stocks to the right of her seemed to be swaying as if something big was moving through it since there wasn’t a breeze. Joni was sure she heard a deep growl, but with her earbuds in, she couldn’t be for sure. With one hand, she took the earbud closest to the moving stocks out, but kept running, her body poised to dart into the other field. Fucking fight or flight mode was her bestie for the restie.
Silence descended around her, even the air seemed to still. She knew all too well what that meant. A predator was in her vicinity, and she was most definitely the prey. Instead of stopping or yelling like a stupid scream queen in a movie, Joni picked up her speed and dodged into the field she was sure was owned by Hollis. Her finger was on the phone, dialing Annie before she’d realized what she was doing.
“Joni, you ready for breakfast?” Annie asked.
A growl rent the air.
“Annie, I need help,” she screamed.
She could hear Annie hollering for Hollis but didn’t think the other woman, or her husband were going to be able to help her, before whatever huge beast that was barreling toward her, got to her first. Still, she pumped her arms and legs, swatted at the dry leaves that smacked her in the face and arms, and ran for her life. “I didn’t survive the fucking sadistic Keith to die in Wolfs Run, Texas by a…whatever is chasing me, dammit,” she screamed, tripping over a root in the ground.
Before she could get up, warm breath fanned over her back as whatever had been chasing her landed with a thud on the other side, facing her with a loud snarl.
“If I click my heels three times, will it take me home?” Joni muttered not wanting to look up and see what it was that was going to eat her.
A huge paw landing an inch from her face, making Joni flinch. She peeked one eye open, finding a huge black and tan lion staring down at her. The big thing sat back, lifted his paw, then began to…oh good lord, was he? “Are you grooming yourself?”
The lion stood up and shook his huge mane, then sat back down like that made it better. “Are you someones pet?” Shit, now she was talking to lions in fields. “Am I already in the looney bin?” Hadn’t she just said she could become a crazy cat lady earlier? Did owning a lion make her one?
The sound of feet, or paws, several if she wasn’t mistaken, could be heard.
The lion tilted his head but didn’t move. The corn stocks swayed, and then she was surrounded by—her mind couldn’t quite process what she was seeing. She blinked several times, then opened her mouth. “Is this some kind of animal rescue?”
The air shimmered, and where once stood a coyote the size of a small grizzly bear, now stood Hollis with his arms crossed. “Thadd, I told you to come to the house for breakfast. What’re you doing out here, scaring my guest?”
Joni looked at the lion, then at Hollis, then at the menagerie of animals. “I think I’m going to faint.”
The lion shifted into one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever seen in her life, besides Atlas of course. He squatted down, his dick…right in her face. “Dude, dick in face is so not cool.”
“Well, if you were going to pass out, you’d be fine, since you’re already on the ground, and hey, if the last thing you saw was my cock, that’s a bonus.” He winked before he was shoved aside by Hollis, who was now wearing jeans.
“Here, let me help you up. I’m sure this is a lot to take in, and this was not how I wanted to do it,” Hollis growled.
Thadd shrugged. “I was out for a run when she ran by. It’s not my fault my cat wanted to play chase the mouse.”
“Thaddaeus, come here.” Annie wiggled her finger toward herself.
The big man, or rather lion groaned, but went over to Annie. She grabbed him by the ear as he got closer. “Don’t you ever do that again, young man.”
“Yes, ma’am. Do you know what she is though?”
All eyes turned to Joni, who stood there with wide eyes.
She bit her lip, waiting for them to ask.
Hollis crossed his arms.
“I can’t shift. I mean, I used to be able to, but I can’t anymore,” she stammered, looking away so she didn’t see the pity in their eyes.
“Well, I guess you need to get some training in then, don’t cha?” Annie had released Thadd and come to her side. “You see, here in Wolfs Run, we are a crew. The Wilde Crew to be exact. We’ve got a little bit of everything. So, you’re a wolf who can’t shift…for the time being, maybe forever. Well then, you’ll come to the gym after work and you’ll learn how to defend yourself just like the cubs, kits, and other young. That’s what being part of our crew means. We’re family, and we protect our own, Vanessa.” Annie clapped her hands together.
Joni looked around the gathering of people, no shifters, and realized these people were ready to accept her, a liar who couldn’t shift. “My name is Joni,” she whispered.
“Are there people who’re gonna come looking for you that’s gonna bring trouble here?” Hollis asked, his alpha aura flared.
Joni shook her head. “No. Nobody will miss me.” The truth of her words made her chest ache, but she knew the other shifters around her could smell the honesty ringing in every word she said.
Thadd put his arm around her shoulders. “Well, you’ve now found several of us who would care. Of course, now that you’re not gonna pass out…care to talk about my cock?”
“Thaddeus,” Annie warned.
The lion laughed and jumped away as Annie snarled. “But, mama, I just wanna play,” he whined.
“You keep your privates away from my girl, or I’ll go online and buy one of those things that make it impossible for you to get an…erection.” Annie shook her finger at him.
Several others had gathered by the barn, Joni noticed as they exited the field, and with their reactions, had to have overheard Annie’s last words.
“Holy shit, did Annie just threaten Thadd?”
“Did Annie just say erection?”
“Somebody, get the smelling salts, Annie has said erection.”
“That’s enough. If I hear one more of you fools talk about my mate, and the word or anything to do with dick, cock, erection, or the likes, I’ll personally cock block all your asses,” Hollis growled.
Joni laughed as the huge men all put their hands over their dicks and walked away, backward.
“He wouldn’t really, but isn’t he sexy when he gets all alphalike?” Annie whispered.
Hollis bent to Annie’s ear. “I’ll show you just how alphalike I can be, tonight.”
Joni laughed at the blush that covered Annie’s cheeks, wishing she had a love like theirs.
“It’ll have to be after I take Joni to the gym. I’ll be all hot and sweaty, too.” Annie batted her lashes, making Hollis groan.
“Woman, get your fine ass in the house before I…” Hollis cut off as Annie pulled Joni into the back door.
“That was so fun,” Annie giggled.
“Um, he won’t hurt you will he?” Joni looked out the window, watching Hollis speak with several men. Goodness, she went and landed herself not only amongst a group of shifters, but a group of mixed shifters. Maybe this was just where she needed to be. A misfit amongst misfits.