Mated in Mist
Book 3 in the Talon Pack Series
The moment Ryder sees her, he knows she’s his—even if he has to walk away.
Ryder has a secret. One he can never tell a soul, not even his brothers.
Leah is a witch on the run with no one to turn to, but as soon as she meets Ryder, she knows her world has changed.
Her coven has rejected her and now the world knows magic exists. Together, Ryder and Leah must fight to save their friends, but their powers are keeping them apart.
If the Talon Pack is to survive, they must rely on magic that might break them all. And if Leah wants to keep Ryder, she must prove to him that he’s worth saving.
Even if he doesn’t believe it himself.
Mated in Mist is Book 3 in the Talon Pack series
- Book 1: Tattered Loyalties
- Book 2: An Alpha’s Choice
- Book 3: Mated in Mist
- Book 4: Wolf Betrayed
- Book 5: Fractured Silence
- Book 6: Destiny Disgraced
- Book 7: Eternal Mourning
- Book 8: Strength Enduring
- Book 9: Forever Broken
- Book 10: Mated in Darkness
- Book 11: Fated in Winter
- Boxed Set: Talon Pack Box Set 1
The full series reading order is as follows:
Mated in Mist
Death followed them, hunted them, craved them. It would not win. It couldn’t.
Leah Helm pushed her body to the limit, her chest heaving as she ran. She could hear the others following her, trying to catch her and Roland. Only the goddess knew why. She might not have the extrasensory abilities of the wolves that lived nearby, but the monsters that had her and her brother on the run weren’t even bothering to be quiet.
Apparently, their pursuers thought there was no need to be silent on their hunt. They thought they’d catch her and Roland easily. Catch or kill, she wasn’t sure. Either way, it wasn’t something Leah could deal with right then. Or deal with ever.
Her lungs burned and she desperately needed water. She was a reasonably strong water witch, but even she couldn’t suck the water from the air to drink or use. Her twin couldn’t either, though they each had their own strengths when it came to their powers. Leah didn’t want to have to find out if each of them had enough within themselves to defeat those following them.
She was too afraid it wouldn’t be enough.
Roland gripped her hand and tugged her toward a group of trees. The branches were full, creating a sort of cover with their leaves, though she knew it wouldn’t be enough. She followed him, her legs all but giving out from the exertion. When she spotted a cave, she could have wept. It was off the beaten path, and if they were careful covering their tracks, they could rest there for a few moments. At least, that’s what she hoped her twin was thinking. As they usually thought along the same lines, there was a good chance of that.
He pulled her toward the opening and ducked beneath the lower rocks. She followed, her heart beating erratically and her tongue so dry she knew she wouldn’t be able to spell a single thing until she got some water in her system. Roland turned and pushed her through before following and using what had to be the last of his magic to cover their tracks. He practically slumped over after the effort, yet he pushed her hands away when she tried to help him.
Her body shook and she took a good look at herself before continuing on, praying there was another way out of the cave. If not, they might be trapped.
Dirt and blood covered her jeans from where she’d fallen and scraped her knees. It hadn’t stung until she looked down and noticed. Now it throbbed, along with every other ache and pain in her body. She felt like she was an old woman with the joints to match, rather than the twenty-nine-year-old she was.
Of course, with the way she’d been forced to live her life thus far, she wasn’t sure she’d ever felt her age.
“Come on,” Roland whispered once they were far enough inside the cave that she couldn’t hear their pursuers anymore. That could be a good thing—or a very, very bad one. “I sense a pond or a decent body of water within the cave. Don’t you?”
She didn’t sense anything, but that was because she couldn’t see past the fear. And that was deadly. She was smarter than this—she’d had to be in order to survive this long.
Leah took a deep breath and her eyes widened as the scent of pure water touched her tongue. Her body almost shivered in pure delight. While most witches didn’t need their actual element around them to be able to practice, being cut off from it for so long made it almost impossible to spell or protect oneself. As a water witch, she needed water to feel whole. Earth witches didn’t like to be parted from nature for too long, and fire witches liked warmth. Though, with fire witches, their element was connected to their emotions a little more tightly, and they used their powers differently. Air witches had it a little easier when it came to finding their element, but they had their own issues when it came to their powers. And spirit witches…well, she wasn’t sure what they needed. And she honestly didn’t want to know. Most of them scared her.
Usually, Leah only needed to drink a glass of water a day to be fine spell-wise, and since most people drank more than that, it wasn’t a problem.
However, she and Roland had been running for days from those who wanted to hurt them, and it had been an oddly dry week in the Pacific Northwest. They’d lost their packs with their water bottles when one of the humans on their tail had gotten far too close, and it hadn’t rained more than that morning’s sprinkle in days.
Her body was starving for food, water, rest, and care.
They crawled through the narrow tunnel toward the scent of water and she almost fell to her chest at the sight of a clear pool surrounded by crystals and different rock formations. Stalactites and stalagmites jetted from the rock, and she wanted to weep at its beauty.
“Sweet goddess, it’s glorious,” Roland whispered then smiled over his shoulder at her.
It went straight to her heart. It wasn’t his old smile—the one that told her that everything would be okay. No, this one held the pain and strain of running for so long. First from those who should have opened their arms to them, then from those who would see them dead rather than find out who they truly were.
The humans who wanted her people dead.
Only, she couldn’t fight them to protect herself because not all humans knew witches were real. Instead, they thought witches were from movies or were a weird cult that spent the nights dancing naked in the moonlight and drawing pentagrams in dirt.
She rarely danced in the moonlight.
And she’d never done it naked.
But those who followed them with guns and traps knew Roland and Leah were witches. And that scared her. The wolves were the ones out of hiding—not her people. The Packs had been forced into the open, and now their very lives and way of life were on the line. Leah had never wanted that for the witches—even if the covens had never wanted her family to be part of their inner circles.
Her mind and her heart hurt from thinking about that so she pushed it aside for the moment and crawled the last few feet to the side of the pool. As soon as her hand touched the top of the water, her whole body shuddered in bliss. The pores of her skin opened, beckoning the sweet glory of her powers. She’d never been this dry before in her life, and she knew her brother hadn’t been either.
It had been dangerous for both of them.
With her senses alert in case the humans found them within the cave, she brought her cupped hand to her lips and drank. Her parched tongue lapped it up and she swallowed as much as she could without choking. It tasted of the heavens and the goddess’s blessings. She drank until she couldn’t fit any more in her stomach then finally wiped her face, her hands still shaking and her heart beating too fast. But she could breathe again.
That had to count for something.
“You’re bleeding, little sister,” Roland said, bringing her out of her thoughts.
She blinked up at him; aware he’d also washed the grime off his face. “I know,” she whispered, her voice still a bit hoarse from lack of use.
“Do you want me to heal you, or do you want to do it yourself?”
She shook her head and held out a hand. He gripped it firmly and her soul settled. They were twins, witches, and best friends. She didn’t know what she’d do without him.
“I can heal myself. Check yourself for wounds and heal, as well.” She pressed her lips together and searched around the small cave that was their refuge for the time being. “We can’t stay here for too much longer.”
Roland scowled. “I know. I hate this. We just need to get a bit closer and then we might be okay.”
She frowned. “Closer to what? Why won’t you tell me where we’re going?” She didn’t like this. They usually made plans together, but he, apparently, had an idea and refused to tell her. “What if we become separated and we need to meet up?”
“Then let’s not become separated. We’re almost there, little sister. Just believe.”
She wasn’t sure what to believe in right then. If he wasn’t telling her where they were going, then it must mean she wasn’t going to like the destination. But still, she should be told. Needed to be prepared. Anyplace had to be better than the middle of nowhere on the run from humans who wanted her head.
But once Roland set his mind on something, there was no way she could stop him.
Instead of asking again, though, she went about healing her wounds, gently placing her hands on her knees and chanting softly. The water in her system touched her soul and ignited the power the goddess had blessed her with. She wasn’t a true Healer like the wolves had, but she had enough power within her to heal at least somewhat. It was a maternal family trait within her witch line.
The sharp pain in her knees eased into a dull throb and she stopped, not wanting to use too much power in case they needed to use it again later. Not that she was sure she could use magic out in the open. There were always eyes on them.
Roland worked on his cuts and scrapes, his magic a warm pulse against her own. She looked up to ask about the next step in the plan, then found her face pressed against the rocks, her twin’s body covering hers, a cacophony filling the air.
Rock shattered around them as the humans kept shooting. Since there was a ridge of rocks between the humans and her brother and her, there was a slight chance they might make it out of this alive. Sharp rocks exploded in front of her as the enemy shot again and she had to duck to avoid flying shards. Thankfully, the angle between her and the one shooting at her wasn’t the greatest, so she and Roland had a small window of time where they could escape. At least, that’s what she hoped.
Her brother pulled her up, and they scooted to the side, using a lower rock formation for cover.
“When I say go, run, crawl, do anything to get out. You hear me?” Roland’s voice held an edge of fear she hadn’t heard from him before, and she gripped his arm.
“Don’t you dare play hero. We’ll get out of this together.”
He kissed her forehead and nodded. “I promise, little sister, I’m not leaving this world anytime soon.” He held out his hands, and she reached out to grip his arms.
“Roland! They might have cameras! They did before. You can’t use magic.”
He raised his chin and looked over his shoulder at her. “Maybe it’s time to fight for our lives, rather than protect a group of people who’ve never wanted us.”
Her heart ached, but she couldn’t stop him, not when he was like this. If the cameras and surveillance equipment were there and they caught Roland using magic, all might be lost. Or maybe these humans only had guns and bullets.
When had she started hoping for merely guns in the hands of the enemy?
What had her life become?
Magic washed over her as Roland pulled on the pool and a wave of water crashed into the humans just now crawling over the rise. They screamed, trying to fight for air, and she had to look away. With all she’d seen, all she’d been forced to do, she should have been able to deal with death or dying, but she couldn’t.
It was all too much.
Instead of focusing on what her brother was doing to save their lives, she did her part. She searched the edges of the pool for another tunnel or pathway, knowing going back the way they had come might be lost to them. Even if Roland dealt with those at the edge of the pool, there were most likely others at the entrance to the tunnel.
She narrowed her eyes, focusing as hard as she could.
Tendrils of sensation covered her skin and she fought off a shudder. She hated using magic for this. She’d prefer to heal or help the earth, rather than use it to save herself.
A darkened crevice that looked big enough for even Roland’s broad shoulders. She pushed out with her magic, letting it dance off the water molecules in the air. Humans wouldn’t be able to see this, thankfully, but she was draining what little powers she had. Fast. She did her best to settle her pulse so she could sense if the air in the tunnel was stale or not, but it was a lost cause with the screaming, the crash of water, and her brother by her side, doing what he could to save them. She couldn’t concentrate properly.
Finally, when she was able to center herself enough to focus on her intent, she realized that the air tasted fresh. She could have cried, but held herself in check. She could weep when they were safe. And since she didn’t know if that would ever be possible again, she would just have to hold in the tears. Forever.
“Roland!” she shouted over the din. “Come on!”
He turned to her, his eyes wide and dark, but he nodded. Hurting others hurt them. But there was no way around it; to save their lives, they had to do what they must.
She crawled around the edges of the pool as the humans who made it out of the water surge coughed and hacked. If she and Roland moved quickly enough, they could be through the crevasse and out of the cave before the humans gathered themselves.
With Roland behind her, they made it to the opening where they could stand fully. Then they ran.
“Find the fucking witches and burn them!”
She tripped over her own feet at the shout, but Roland caught her arm. She shook it off and pushed at him, trying to get him to move faster. As long as he was safe, she would be okay. She jumped over a fallen log, the bark digging into her hands as she tried not to fall flat on her face. Her feet ached and her muscles quaked and the last of her energy reserves were depleting far too quickly.
Leah ran behind her twin brother, her pulse racing in her throat. They were coming. They knew. Roland reached out behind him, and she pushed his hand away.
“Keep going. I can keep up. Don’t worry about me and end up tripping yourself.”
She wished she could pull on the water around them now that she had enough in her system thanks to the cave, but it was too dangerous. With those behind them and her body wearing down after running for far too long, using magic would be a death sentence.
“I’m not leaving you behind, Leah. So run your fucking ass off. There’s a safe house up the road.” He grinned over his shoulder, that lock of hair she loved falling over his forehead. “I’ll never lead you astray, little sister.”
She smiled at him despite the fact that they were both running for their lives. “You’re not that much older than me, Ro.”
“It’s enough. Now let’s go.”
He turned back, only to freeze in his tracks. It took a minute for the crack in the air to register. Roland fell to his knees, and Leah screamed.
She raised her hands, the water on the leaves of the trees from that morning’s rainfall rising into the air with her pain, her agony.
Another crack rent the air.
A gunshot. That’s what that was.
A sizzling pain seared her side, a fiery heat that wouldn’t be quenched by the water at her fingertips. She tried to breathe, only to cough, her legs going out from under her.
She fell beside her brother, her arms reaching for him, only to come up short.
Roland lay at an odd angle, his face toward her. His eyes wide, unseeing in death. While the second gunshot had hit her in the side, his had hit him directly in the chest.
Her brother, her twin, her fellow witch.
The darkness came, and she didn’t fight. She’d been running for so long, and now she had nothing left.
They had come for the witches…and they had won.
Leah couldn’t drown. She was a water witch. Drowning for her would be an insult to everything she was…or was it everything she once had been?
Was she dead?
She had to be dead. She couldn’t feel anything, yet could feel everything all at once. It didn’t make sense. If this were hell, she didn’t know how she would make it for eternity with this sense of unknowing.
Something brushed against her arm and she flinched.
Wait. She’d felt that. Felt her arm and felt herself flinch.
Maybe she was alive and merely had to open her eyes.
Never had the word merely been such a lie.
Her eyes wouldn’t work. How had she opened her eyes before? Why couldn’t she quite remember?
Murmurs of voices filtered in through the deafening silence and Leah froze. Or at least she thought she had. She didn’t know what was what anymore.
“I think she’s waking up.” A deep voice.
“Will she be dangerous?” Another deep voice.
“She was all but dead when we found her. Be thankful she’s alive at all.” This voice was just as deep, but it hit her like a sledgehammer. Her magic perked up, reaching out toward the man who had last spoken. She didn’t know why it was doing that, but just the sound of his voice let her body relax and her eyes feel lighter, not so heavy and weighed down.
“Did you see that?” The first voice asked. “Ryder, speak again. She stopped thrashing at the sound of your voice.”
His name was Ryder.
Why was that important?
And where was she? Where was Roland? What had happened? And had she truly been thrashing?
She pried her eyes open and promptly shut them at the bright light overhead.
“Turn down the lights, Walker,” Ryder ordered.
Someone touched her hand, and her eyes shot open again. Three bearded men stood over her, gruff looking and scary as hell. She did what any sane woman would do. She shot out her fist, knocked one of them on the chin, then rolled off the bed. They would not have her. They would not dissect her or study her. Use her. The humans chasing her might have called for her death, but if she was now with them, alive and captive, she didn’t want to know what “studies” they were planning. She’d heard the rumors, heard of the nightmares. She would not give in.
Her chest ached and her side burned something fierce, but she ignored it. Instead, she grabbed the scissors that lay on the counter beside the medical bed she’d woken up on.
One of the men blocked the door while the other rubbed his chin. The third moved toward her, hands out. She put her back to the wall, aware there wasn’t another way out of the room except her death.
But she wouldn’t kill herself.
Not if there was any fight left in her. As a water witch, she may not be inherently violent, but the will to live was stronger than she’d thought. After all that had happened…she still fought.
“It’s okay,” the one with his hands out said. “It’s going to be okay.”
She remembered that voice. This one was Ryder. Her inner witch pulsated at his voice, but she pushed that away, not understanding.
She licked her lips but didn’t lower the scissors. “You can’t have me. I won’t let you kill me.”
Ryder tilted his head, reminding her of a dog or cat. “Why would you think we would hurt you, little one?”
She narrowed her eyes at the term. “You took me to this…place, and now I’m in a medical room with three men I don’t know. I remember you following me, trying to kill me. I remember…” she trailed off. Her throat ached from speaking, but that was not why she’d stopped talking.
Flashes of memory came at her and she tried to make sense of it all. She’d been running from humans out to get her. She remembered that. But what else? What else had happened? Something sparked just out of reach within her mind, and she lost the fragment as quickly as it had appeared.
“We weren’t the ones chasing you,” the one rubbing his jaw said gruffly. “I’m Gideon, Alpha of the Talon Pack. We’re wolves. Not the humans who were out for you.”
Wait. Wolves? Would they try to rip her to shreds like the people who watched too many movies thought? Or were they like her, forced to live in secret for so long that no one truly understood? Unlike other witches, she hadn’t known wolves in person so she didn’t know how they worked. She only knew to keep hidden was to keep safe.
She frowned, her hand lowering somewhat. She’d just hit the Alpha of the Talon Pack. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but she hadn’t known at the time.
“If you’re wolves, then why do you have me here?” She let her eyes rest on the one they called Ryder, and her magic settled over her, wanting to know more.
“You don’t remember?” Ryder asked. “You were shot. What’s your name? We found you and another witch in the woods. What was he to you?” He blinked, as if he hadn’t meant to say that part, but Leah didn’t care.
Instead, she dropped the weapon from her hand and let out a keening wail.
“No, no, no, no, no.” She shook her head and let her hands come up to her mouth. “No, no, no.”
Ryder knelt in front of her and pushed the scissors across the floor to where Gideon stopped them with his boot. But she couldn’t care about that. She couldn’t care about anything.
“Roland…” she choked out a breath. “Roland.”
“Who is Roland?” Ryder asked, his hand outstretched. When he brushed her shoulder, she didn’t pull back. Instead, she leaned in to his touch. The move seemed to surprise both of them.
“My br-brother.” She hiccupped a sob. “I’m…I’m Leah. Roland is…was my brother.” Tears fell and she tried to suck in breath, but her lungs weren’t working. “They killed him. They shot him right in front of me.” Her hand went to her side and she winced.
Ryder scooted closer and let his hand cover hers along her side. “They shot you too, Leah.”
“He’s gone?” she asked, the blessed numbness not coming back. Instead, all she felt was the agony she couldn’t ignore.
At Ryder’s nod, she let herself fall apart. There wasn’t a reason to be strong anymore.
Roland was gone.
He was the best of them, the one that should have made it. She was just Leah, witch with no home, no family.
She was alone.
And with that thought, her soul shattered into a million pieces. She cried and let the tears wash over her, the magic within the water falling from her body, her entire being aching in sorrow. She barely noticed the strong arms wrapping around her, barely noticed the scent of wolf and man settling over her as she wept.
Wept for the injustice, wept for her brother.
Wept for herself.
Because now, she had no reason to keep running, no place to run to.
She was Leah Helm, water witch with no coven.
And nothing more.