Tattered Loyalties - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Tattered Loyalties

Book 1 in the Talon Pack Series

When the great war between the Redwoods and the Centrals occurred three decades ago, the Talon Pack risked their lives for the side of good. After tragedy struck, Gideon Brentwood became the Alpha of the Talons. But the Pack’s stability is threatened, and he’s forced to take a mate—only the one fate puts in his path is the woman he shouldn’t want.

Though the daughter of the Redwood Pack’s Beta, Brie Jamenson has known peace for most of her life. When she finds the man who could be her mate, she’s shocked to discover Gideon is the Alpha wolf of the Talon Pack. As a submissive, her strength lies in her heart, not her claws. But if her new Pack disagrees or disapproves, the consequences could be fatal.

As the worlds Brie and Gideon have always known begin to shift, they must face their challenges together in order to help their Pack and seal their bond. But when the Pack is threatened from the inside, Gideon doesn’t know who he can trust and Brie’s life could be forfeit in the crossfire. It will take the strength of an Alpha and the courage of his mate to realize where true loyalties lie.

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Tattered Loyalties is Book 1 in the Talon Pack series

Tattered Loyalties Characters Profiles

Tattered Loyalties

Chapter 1

He really needed to kill this bastard.

Gideon Brentwood rolled his neck, enjoying the slight crack that came when he stretched it just right. He had enough tension in his shoulders to make him feel as though the world rested on his shoulders. He didn’t feel like killing today, although the prospect of the fight slid through his veins and pumped adrenaline into his system.

His wolf craved the fight, the dominance.

The man just wanted this to end so he could get on with his day.

He was so freaking tired of doing this over and over again. They never seemed to learn.

The lone wolf in front of him had tried to lay claim to the Talon land and had challenged Gideon’s role as Alpha.

Stupid wolf.

The moon goddess gave him his title, but he had been fighting to keep it every day since.

The slice on his chest burned, but he shrugged it off. He was the Alpha, and this lone wolf couldn’t hurt him if Gideon put his head in the game. The fact that his head wasn’t in the game told him how tired he was of all the challenges.

He smelled the rotten odor coming from his opponent and heard his labored breathing. The wolf had been rangy and dying before he’d set his first paw on Talon land, and Gideon would be forced to end his life if the intruder didn’t back down. Goddess, he hated his duty, hated this role he’d been forced to take, but if he didn’t do it, who else would?

His cousin Mitchell and his brother Ryder stood back, their gazes on the fight. They wouldn’t be jumping in and helping unless the lone wolf pulled a trick or dark magic out of the air. He didn’t need them there and this wasn’t their fight, but his wolf appreciated their presence anyway.

The taste of blood was seconds away, and he knew, without a doubt, that he could either kill or maim the intruder—challenge or no, this wolf was a coward—in front of him.

The first possibility weighed heavily on his mind.

The second would be par for the course.

“Yield,” Gideon growled, low, deadly.

The wolf yipped at him but didn’t lower his head fully, nor did he meet Gideon’s eyes or challenge him in that respect. Gideon wasn’t sure the wolf had enough energy to do so in the first place.

He let out a breath. “If you don’t yield, I’m going to have to kill you. You get that, right? You’re not strong enough to beat me, and I can’t let a wolf who challenges me go without punishment. You know our ways. If you yield, I won’t have to kill you.” It was a technicality, but one he’d greedily use if he needed to.

He was tired of the death, the pain, and the loss of the little parts of his soul that were stripped away with each kill, eachjustified death. He’d killed the one man who should have protected him, and now he had to deal with the day-to-day responsibilities and consequences that came from that one decision.

It haunted him with each breath, each step he took, even though thirty years had passed since he killed the wolf who’d tried to kill them all.

Now Gideon was once again faced with a decision that might ultimately take the last piece of his soul away. It wasn’t as if he truly needed it. He was Alpha. He could function and rule without those facets of his psyche he’d once relied on and had thought were the most important parts of him.

Through absolute necessity, he had become a man who would not hesitate to kill and would make any sacrifice in order to keep his people safe.

The wolf in front of him growled again, and Gideon sighed.

There would be no retribution this day. No healing and forgiveness. He would do what he had to do in order to protect his family and his Pack.

He’d deal with the consequences later.

He always did.

The lone wolf leaped at him, and Gideon rolled out of the way, coming to his feet in a swift movement. He didn’t need to shift fully into his wolf form. One: That would take too long. He might be the Alpha and able to shift faster than any of his other wolves, but that didn’t mean he had the time to spare right then. Two: He was dominant enough that he could partially shift his hands into claws and keep them there without losing control like so many other wolves did.

He let his wolf come to the surface, fully aware it was begging for a fight. In the twilight hour, he could see the glow from the rim of gold around his irises, reflected on the fur of his opponent. Gideon’s eyes only lit up when he was ready to fight or fuck. And since it had been way too fucking long since he’d had a woman, he knew the fighting was the reason. He needed this to end soon though, or his pent up aggression from the lack of the former would roll over and he’d be screwed. He couldn’t waste any more time on this lone wolf, sad as it was.

The wolf struck again, this time swiping along Gideon’s side. Two lucky shots from the bastard. He was going to win—that was never in doubt. The question was how much he’d get hurt in the process. Now he just had to see how long he’d need to draw the process out. At this point, he was merely tiring out the bastard. Yeah, the lone wolf was getting a few hits in, but that was because Gideon was off his game.

Though that would be one way to do it, he didn’t want to prolong the fight. It wasn’t fair to the wolf to make him suffer any more than he had already. He didn’t know this wolf, didn’t know why he was without a Pack and trying to fight the Talons. It didn’t matter. Gideon would protect what was his no matter what.

He growled softly then bent at the knees, letting the wolf think he had the advantage. The lone wolf pounced again, his large, menacing teeth bared. Gideon struck the other wolf with his claws around the neck, piercing its flesh. It let out a small whine then went limp when Gideon twisted.

The wolf had been as good as dead before he stepped on Talon land.

Gideon knew this.

It didn’t make the kill any easier.

“That was the second lone wolf in as many months,” Mitchell, his cousin and Beta, remarked casually as he made his way to Gideon’s side. Mitchell and his brother, Max, had been raised with Gideon and his brothers, so he was practically a brother.

“I don’t like how close he got to hurting you,” Ryder, his Heir and brother, said softly. Ryder always spoke softly, unless there was something that needed to be growled, though Gideon wasn’t sure why. It was just the way his brother worked.

Gideon looked down at the two gashes on his side and chest and shrugged. “They’ll heal well enough. He didn’t get too deep.”

“I don’t know why you let him get that close to begin with,” Mitchell snapped. His brother squatted down near the lone wolf’s body and let out a sigh. “Why the hell did he challenge you? It makes no sense. From the smell of him, he clearly wasn’t healthy or strong enough to fight even our weaker dominants. Why fight our Alpha?”

Gideon raised his hand to run it over his face then paused. Shit, he still had blood on his hands—literally and figuratively. He needed to go home and shower to try to wash away some of this piss-poor day.

Piss-poor decade it seemed like.

“I don’t know, Mitchell,” Gideon finally answered. “Could be lots of things. Maybe he wanted to go out fighting an Alpha. Maybe his wolf took over and had to challenge. Maybe someone made him do it. I just don’t fucking know anymore.”

Ryder knelt down by the body and let out a breath. “I’ll bury him. I don’t like the fact that we don’t know who he is or if he has family somewhere. He might be lone, but that doesn’t mean he’s alone.”

That made a twisted sort of sense. Just because a wolf didn’t have a Pack didn’t mean he didn’t live with a family. Packs were there to protect, nourish, and comfort. The bonds made between members, as well as the Alpha and the other members of the hierarchy, helped not only control the wolf inside but also formed a unit that spoke of something more than friendship and family.

Sometimes wolves were born outside of the den or left over the years for one reason or another—banished or not—and ended up Packless. Gideon wasn’t too fond of the numbers being so vague, but the world was shifting faster than he could blink. It wouldn’t be long before they couldn’t hide their existence anymore, and the fact that there were wolves out there not under the protection and rule of an Alpha worried him.

A lot worried him these days.

“I’ll help you bury him,” Gideon finally said to Ryder. “I took his life. I’ll help lay him to rest.”

Mitchell and Ryder gave him long looks then nodded. It didn’t matter if they said he couldn’t help. He was Alpha, and this was his responsibility in more ways than one.

They dug the hole deep enough that no critters could find the body and said a prayer to the moon goddess. The wolf might have challenged Gideon, but that didn’t mean he deserved eternal damnation. Gideon wasn’t conceited enough to think he had the right to judge.

“I’m going to go get cleaned up,” he said once they finished their work.

Mitchell pulled out his phone. “I’ll make sure Walker is there for you when you show up.”

Gideon closed his eyes and let out a curse. “I don’t need the Healer. I’m fine. Don’t make him waste his powers and energy on these superficial cuts.”

Ryder raised a brow. “Walker’s your brother, our brother, so yeah, he’s going want to make sure you’re okay. Plus, the Redwoods are coming to the den for our meeting. You forget that? You don’t want to smell of blood and weakness in front of another Alpha and his Pack. It doesn’t matter that Kade and the rest of them are our friends. They aren’t Talons.”

Gideon looked up at the sky and prayed for just a moment’s rest. Was that really too much to ask for?

“Did you forget about the meeting?” Mitchell asked from behind him.

Gideon sighed. “No.” Yes. “Let’s get this over with so I can go make nice with the others,” he growled.

“I thought Kade was your friend,” Ryder added as they made their way through the forest to the center of the den. His brother kept looking over his shoulder, as if he was afraid Gideon was going to keel over any minute. He might be the eldest brother, but he wasn’t weak. Ryder, though, tended to worry about those close to him more than he cared about himself. Luckily, his brother was also a wolf and turned away from Gideon in time to make sure he didn’t trip on their way through the den.

The Talon Pack den was located in central Oregon with their territory reaching into northern California. Most of the Packs across the United States were far older than the country itself, so their boundaries had to do with landmarks rather than arbitrary lines. They shared a neutral territory with the Redwoods, who lived in western Oregon. Thanks to the humans’ national initiatives, the wolves’ forests had been untouched and safe from human eyes for centuries. The den might have been surrounded by wards infused with wolf and witch magic so humans were repelled from the area, but without the trees and the ability to hide from prying eyes, they wouldn’t be as safe as they were.

Or at least as safe as they used to be.

That was one reason they were meeting with Kade and the other Redwoods in their den today. It used to be that only the right people knew about the fact that shifters existed. Now, though, far too many people knew and some were…searching. Human patrols were getting too close to their den as well as the Redwoods’ den, and no amount of magic would save them if technology found them. The majority of the population might not know about shifters, but those who did and weren’t on the wolves’ side, were on a hunt. Those military and even civilian patrols hid themselves as well, so normal humans remained unaware of a potential war on and within their borders.

As it was, too many of the wrong people knew about the existence of wolves. The military had long since known about them and had even used them as soldiers when they could. Some higher-ups in the government knew about them, but not everyone. If certain factions ever found out…well, Gideon didn’t want to think about that. He knew he would be forced to face it eventually—sooner rather than later if the feeling in his gut was any indication—but he wasn’t sure how his people were going to remain safe once the secret was out.

In the thirty years since the Central war had ended and the Redwoods and Talons had formed a treaty, they had been forced to learn to rely on each other through thick or thin. The fact that they were running out of land and methods to conceal their existence meant they would have to rely on each other once again.

Gideon wasn’t sure if they would ever be ready to come out to the humans, but at some point, they might not have a choice in the matter.

Cameras and satellites were far too precise and could track them with the click of a button. Magic went only so far, and he was afraid they’d strained their powers enough as it was.

If they were going to come out to human society, they were going to have to do it their way.

That is, if they could decide on what that way was.

After all, there were more than just the two Packs in the United States and far more than that all over the world. In the past fifteen years since they’d formed the Northwest Council, they’d done their best to open the lines of communication in ways that no one had ever thought possible, and with their Voice of the Wolves, Parker Jamenson, they were at least trying to maintain peace within their own dens.

For some reason, Gideon didn’t think the next battle he fought would be claw against claw. No, the next would be far worse.

He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He didn’t have time to think about the end of the world, his world, right then. He pressed his hand against the keypad to unlock his home then walked through the door. He needed to wash off the blood of decisions that were beyond his control. He was in the middle of a world that didn’t make sense—one where rites and rituals of the past warred with the technology and unknowns of his present.

He was almost afraid to see what his future would be.

“Took you long enough to get here,” Walker remarked from his spot in Gideon’s kitchen.

Gideon snorted then peeled off his shirt, ignoring the aches and pains. The fabric stuck to his cuts and dried blood, but he was healing well.

Walker clucked his tongue like a mother hen then rubbed his hands together. “I will Heal these wounds so you’re in top form when there are other wolves about. I don’t want to hear any lip from you.”

Gideon raised a brow. “You’re the one being lippy. Remember, I’m the Alpha. And, hello, I’m the eldest brother. You’re the baby.”

Walker snorted then pressed his hands to Gideon’s wounds. At the sharp warmth, he sucked in a breath then released it slowly.

“We’re over a hundred years old, Gideon. At some point, being younger or older shouldn’t matter. And, I’ll have you know, Brandon is younger than me. So there.”

Gideon smiled at the familiar remark. “You’re like five minutes older than Brandon, and Kameron is another five minutes older than you.”

Walker rolled his eyes then narrowed them as he examined Gideon’s skin. “You’re Healed but don’t go getting sliced up for a couple of days. There’s only so much skin I can knit together at a time.”

Gideon nodded his thanks then headed back to his shower. He was starting to itch from the blood and mud coating his body, and that wasn’t a pleasant feeling. He probably should have been used to it considering how many times he’d been covered in it over his life, but he also hoped he never did.

“Any idea what we’re going to talk about?” Walker asked as he leaned against the bathroom door.

Gideon shrugged out of his clothes then stepped into his shower letting the hot water pound down his back. His muscles ached from the fight and the tension of the unknown.

He closed his eyes and spoke loudly over the hum of the water. Walker probably would have been able to hear him with his sensitive hearing, but he didn’t want his brother to have to strain. “We’re going to talk about plans to come out to the public. Or, at least, plans to make plans. Then we’re going to make sure our underground tunnels are in shape since the connection between the two packs is relatively new.”

No one knew what would happen once the humans found out about the existence of shifters and demons. They’d been planning for years, though, on the eventual outcome of protecting themselves from people who didn’t understand and feared what they didn’t know. It wasn’t like underground tunnels were the perfect way to save his people, but it was only one of their many steps. They needed to be able to hide their most precious and those unable to protect themselves quickly in case the wards went down. They also had other procedures in place, but he needed to talk to Kade to ensure that as much as they could do was being done.

He let out a breath and quickly soaped up, knowing he was running late. Between the lone wolves trying to find a way to stay alive, his Pack watching him more than usual for some reason, and this meeting, he needed a damned weekend off.

He was the Alpha, however, so he knew that would never happen. Alphas didn’t get weekends. Or vacations. Or sleep apparently.

He shut off the water and got out so he could get ready for the meeting. Walker had left him alone, thankfully, and he quickly pulled on a long-sleeved cotton shirt and jeans. With any other Alpha, he’d put on something a little more formal, but this was Kade and his family—Gideon could go with a little comfort and be okay.

When he walked out to his living room to pull on his boots, he sighed. He knew they were there, of course, but his wolf wasn’t in the mood to deal with his entire family in one room.

“I suppose just meeting me at chambers would have been too much for all of you?”

“You love us, brother dearest,” Brynn, his sister and the lone Brentwood female, teased from her perch on the edge of the couch.

Gideon pinched the bridge of his nose. “No, seriously. Why are you all here?”

“Because you need us,” Brandon, his youngest brother and the Talon Omega, said from the couch.

“Do I really need you here?” he asked, knowing he was fighting a lost cause.

“Of course,” Max, his cousin, answered. “We’re all going to the meeting anyway. Why not go together?”

“We’re one big happy family,” Mitchell said dryly.

“What they aren’t saying is that we’re worried about you,” Kameron, his brother and Enforcer, added in.

Gideon growled while Ryder closed his eyes and cursed.

“Really, Kameron?” Ryder put in. “I thought we had a plan.”

Gideon stiffened. “A plan? Why the hell would you need a plan to deal with me? Why are you here?”

Brynn stood up and walked toward him. She brushed her long, dark brown hair—the same color as the rest of the Brentwoods—behind her shoulders and blinked up at him with the Brentwood blue eyes.

“You’re our brother, and you’re hurting,” she whispered. They were all wolves so they could hear her clearly. “You had to kill a lone wolf who threatened the border and wouldn’t back down. Now you’re having to make decisions that, as we see it, won’t have an easy outcome. So, Gideon, brother mine, brother ours, we’re here for you. Even if we annoy you to no end. We’re here.”

Gideon narrowed his eyes, even as his heart warmed at her words. Yeah, his siblings and cousins were there for him, but some things were meant for only the Alpha. If he had a mate, he’d be able to lean on her just a little, but since the goddess hadn’t blessed him, he didn’t have that option.

At this point, he wasn’t sure he ever would.

On that depressing thought, he led his family out of his home and headed toward the meeting room. He wanted to get this over with. It wasn’t as though they were going to get anything done anyway. They couldn’t. Not with the rest of the Packs in the US keeping silent. Parker, the Voice of the Wolves, was on a mission at the moment searching for the other Packs and trying to convince them to talk to Gideon and Kade, but Gideon didn’t hold out high hopes. Parker was a Redwood, and though he’d been adopted into the Redwood family, he was the biological son of a mass murderer. Corbin had been the Alpha of the Centrals and had almost destroyed their world.

Some wolves just couldn’t see past that, and Gideon was worried that might hurt their chances of finding a way to make all of the Packs work together. However, he could work on only one problem at a time—even if it felt like he was working on a hundred at once most days.

They made their way as a group to the other side of the den where the Redwoods would be entering the woods. They had to go past the sentries at the wards to be let through, but most of them had done it before. Actually, on second thought, Gideon wasn’t sure who Kade was bringing.

The Redwoods were in the middle of a shift in hierarchy. The younger Jamensons were taking over for their parents slowly but surely. That meant that Kade could be bringing any number of his powerhouse to the table. It didn’t really matter since Gideon had met most of them and liked those he’d met. Not that he’d tell them that. No, he was still the grumpy, badass Alpha to the outside world.

It worked for him.

Kade came up first, a small smile on his face. With so many people and coming into a different den, the ceremony of walking to a meeting was a little ridiculous, and both of them knew it. It had to be done though.

Kade had brought his mate, Melanie, as well as both sets of Betas, Omegas, and Healers with him. He’d left the Enforcers at home to protect the den with countless other wolves apparently. Interesting, but it made sense. As the younger generation came into their powers, they were learning from the older generation. It would be interesting to see how the whole lot of them reacted in the future when the older generation, Kade’s brothers, had to step down fully.

He’d also brought his Heir, his son Finn, with him, which made sense, as well as another wolf. A younger woman who, from the look of her, was a Jamenson, but Gideon wasn’t sure he’d ever met her. Her long chestnut brown hair flowed over her shoulders, blowing slightly in the wind. She wasn’t small. No, she was at least of average height, but where most of the wolves in front of her were all muscle and strength, her body held curves and a softness he didn’t see in most wolves.

Odd, he thought he’d met most, if not all, of the Jamensons. He wondered how this one had slipped by him.

Her cheekbones angled high, and her plump lips thinned into a line when she looked at him. She tilted her head and blinked up at him with bright green eyes, and he froze, his wolf howling.

Shocked, he almost took a step back, and it was only because of his strength as Alpha that he didn’t.

Mate.

That scent, that pull on his wolf.

Mate.

“Gideon, Brentwoods,” Kade said, his voice deep, “I think you’ve met most of us before. Probably not Brie, though. Brie, these are the Brentwoods. Brentwoods, this is Jasper and Willow’s daughter, my niece, Brie.”

She smiled softly, but her eyes were on only him, not on the rest of the Pack or her family. In fact, he was looking only at her, not at Kade or the others.

Holy shit.

He’d just found his mate, and she was a fucking Redwood.

And from the way her wolf reached out to his seeking protection yet wanting to comfort as well, she was a submissive as well.

A Talon Alpha and a Redwood submissive?

Yeah, fate royally sucked.

end of excerpt
Tattered Loyalties