Alpha Queen (Claimed by Wolves #4) - Callie Rose



I stand with my face turned toward the early morning sun as it shines over the forest bordering the northern edge of East Pack lands.

Somewhere nearby, perched in the trees, several chickadees whistle at each other and then flutter around like tiny wisps of light, while deeper in the forest, I can sense a herd of deer passing quietly—all of them aware that a couple hundred predators lie sleeping just beyond their woodland protection.

The scene should be idyllic. I should be floating on cloud nine right now—I’m in love with four beautiful men, with a home to call my own and this glorious morning all around me. The sky is on fire, an aurora of pinks and golds being chased away slowly as the light blue overtakes them. My sharpened shifter senses mean I can smell everything, hear everything, even feel the sun’s heat on my skin with more intensity, feel the cool breeze off the mountains like a lover’s caress. Maybe if I could stumble through life wearing rose-colored glasses, I’d be in a better place right now.

Instead, I’m a ball of nerves thinking over everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, and all the twists and turns I took to be standing here right now. I can’t stop thinking about where I could have done things differently. Where things went wrong. Where things went right.

There’s a twitch in my left eye from the effort it takes to keep Cleopatra, the sociopathic coven leader, out of my damn head. Black streaks ripple beneath the scars on my arms as my magic responds to my constant anxiety, and just seeing that crap sends my heart into palpitations.

A couple days ago, this area was a makeshift morgue stacked with bodies from both sides of the battle. Remnants of that day have stuck around, even through all the cleanup, which has been ongoing since the moment the witches retreated. The grass still shows blackened, broken patches where it was charred by magic. Many of the trees lining the clearing have been blasted, leaving deep gashes where their limbs should grow.

A giant circle nearby is rust-colored from where someone fell and soaked the ground in blood. I hate to even imagine whether it was a shifter or a witch, since every shifter death weighs heavily on me. Even though I know the shifter and witch animosity goes back much, much further than my arrival here, as someone who carries the blood of both in her veins, I feel perfectly placed for guilt.

The sun shining on the East Pack’s village can’t cleanse the ground of the devastation wrought by the witches.

It also can’t cleanse the witch blood from my body.

But dwelling on the destruction and my own insecurities isn’t going to help me get my head on straight. The most important thing right now is that I keep Cleo out of my mind, which means not letting myself get distracted or too worked up over things I have no control over.

I sense his presence drawing close long before he’s anywhere near me. It’s like salvation coming toward me, and I close my eyes to listen to the soft thunder of his footsteps with my shifter hearing. He moves with a sure-footed, slow, almost lazy grace, like a man comfortable in his own body. Then his mountain-pine scent washes over me, and his arms wrap around me from behind.


I sink back against his strong chest, relishing his touch and the strength he gives me just by being close. His arms snake all the way around my body, and he holds me tight.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

With my eyes still closed, I clasp his arms with both hands and let my fingers dance across his skin. “I’m okay.”

He lets out a low snort of laughter. “Liar.”

Warm breath gusts through my hair as he nuzzles me a little. Then he grabs a handful of my t-shirt and turns me around, readjusting his arms around me so that we’re chest to chest.

Opening my eyes, I gaze up at him, my heartbeat picking up a distinct rhythm. Faster, lighter, a kind of surprised beat that still says holy crap, this man is mine.

He’s so damn handsome, with his scruffy appearance and those odd but gorgeous honey-colored eyes. He looks like the same old Ridge, but there’s an air to him that seems to match how I feel right now. Maybe it’s the look of exhaustion in his eyes, or the worry creasing the skin between his brows. Either