Mack (Black Mountain Pack Book 1), page 1
BLACK MOUNTAIN PACK
Copyright ©2016 Miranda Lynn
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention
No reproduction without permission
All Rights Reserved.
BLACK MOUNTAIN PACK
The right of Miranda Lynn to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead or events is entirely coincidental.
Wicked by Design Covers
Formatting & Book Design
Wicked Muse Productions
First, I want to thank you the readers and fans. Yes you, the ones who just picked up this book and settled in for a good story. Thank you for taking a chance on me and my characters.
Next, I want to thank my husband, without his support I wouldn’t continue doing what I love and that is write.
I want to thank my fellow authors, amazing editor, talented cover artist, and all the people I know I will forget who helped me put this book together. To those that push boundaries and inspire me to do the same.
I want to thank my cover model Daniel Hosse and my photographer Kat Bradshaw for helping create the images that were in my head for this book. It was a treat working with you both.
I thank the voices in my head for continuing to talk to me and bring me their stories to share with you. I thank my fur babies for keeping me warm during writing.
I thank my boys for being my biggest fans and best sales people around. They make sure everyone we meet knows that their mom is an author.
The Coming Out
Over half a century ago, a majority vote of the shifter council, which was made up of alphas from packs and prides all over the world, decided the fate of all shifters. They voted to reveal themselves to the human world. This was supposed to be a step towards a better future after living hundreds of years in the shadows and hiding their true nature.
This change created a level of fear in many humans that drove them to take the law into their own hands and hunt them down. Hunts began popping up all over the world, the rich paying for the chance to hunt a shifter. Many different species were hunted almost to extinction. Packs and prides were decimated. The few remaining Alphas met in secret to decide a course of action.
They decided for the safety and prosperity of all shifters to attempt integrating packs and prides. Allowing shifters to coexist in the same territories under one Alpha. The species of said Alpha would determine whether the group would be called a pack or a pride.
Jerome is a wolf, so he installed The Black Mountain Pack in his territory.
Each Alpha was given leeway on how they ran their pack, who they gave refuge to, and how they allowed new members in. Jerome was, and still is, by far one of the strongest Alphas and the most forward thinking. He is determined to see shifters of all species prosper and continue on. Many shifters apply to his back because of this one reason. His is also the first pack to work with witches in harmony, rather than hunt them or force them into indentured slavery.
This fact also made him a target for many who didn’t agree with him and wanted to live in the old ways. Over the years, things calmed and shifters of different species coexisted in the same packs and prides. Then Jerome once again, set another precedent within the shifter world by marrying a female panther and adopting her son as his own.
The street lamp went out as I turned the corner into the alley, the cold seeping through the thin layers of my jacket. It was Thursday night and my stomach kept twisting with hunger pains. I was looking forward to not having to scrounge through the dumpsters for food. Thursdays was the night Jake worked in the kitchen at the little Cajun diner. He always put aside a plate for me. I really hoped the special tonight was gumbo, my favorite.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention indicating someone was following me. I moved into the shadows next to a dumpster, thankful the street light had chosen that moment to go out. I crouched down reaching for the knife I kept hidden in my boot and peered around the edge of the dumpster. There were three of them standing at the opening of the alley. With the light illuminating them from behind, I couldn’t make out much detail other than height differences. My night vision was usually very clear except the angle of the street light hampered me tonight. I could smell them though, one smelled of rancid meat, another of motor oil and metal shavings, but the third smelled different. He smelled of leather, woods, and something dangerous, but his scent drew me closer.
My odd senses were what usually got me returned to the home. I never stayed in a foster home long after the adults realized I had this odd little gift. I have always had heightened senses ever since I could remember. I think the farthest I had smelled was a mile. I don’t know why, and the doctors could never figure it, they just called it an anomaly. Well, foster parents didn’t want kids with anomalies, they wanted kids that would shut up, stay out of the way, and bring them money.
While the three of them were deep in discussion, I crept around the dumpster, light on my feet, all senses on hi alert should they see me. Flattening myself against the brick of the building, I slowly moved towards them, curious as to who they were and what they were doing here. The street light still prohibited me from seeing their faces.
“She came down here I know it Mack, I can still smell her,” Rancid Meat said.
“We have to be careful with this one, she slipped through the system and has no clue who or what she is,” Motor Oil replied.
Leather stayed quite, sniffing the air as if searching for a scent. He turned his head and his eyes were illuminated for just a moment by the street lamp that flickered on at that exact moment.
Not only did I see him, he saw me.
I froze, my knife in my hand, my heart beat kicking up a notch, and my breathing became shallow in preparation of either a fight or fast get a way.
Leather sniffed again, tilted his head listening and grinned. The only acknowledgement I got was a slight bob of his head as he turned back to his crew. “Boys, we won’t find anything tonight, and as Steven said we don’t want to spook her.” Leather then crossed the street.
His crew followed and I rushed along the building to catch a glimpse of where they were going.
Leather unlocked a shiny black Tahoe.
“Mack, wait up dude,” Rancid Meat yelled.
Leather a.k.a. Mack looked over his shoulder “I don’t wait for anyone and it will do you good to learn that quickly.”
The street lamp came back to life shining on me like a spot light.
Leather’s eyes locked with mine and that smile was back. “Tomorrow” he mouthed.
They climbed in and drove away.
I waited a moment before moving, then I turned around.
Jake stood there with a big brown paper bag in his hands. “Who was that?” he asked.
My stomach grumbled loudly. “I have no clue. I thought they were following me, but when they got to the alley entrance they stopped and decided to leave” I grabbed the bag and delved into it with a vengeance. I hadn’t eaten in days.
“I don’t like it Casey, next time just come in the front. You know Moe doesn’t mind
“Jake, you know I can’t. I won’t go in the front when I am eating on hand outs. I’ll go in the front when I can pay for my own meal. It will happen soon, I can feel it.” I smiled through a mouth full of food.
“Okay, have you been staying at the shelter over on Jackson Street?”
I shook my head no, as I finished swallowing my bite. “No they got full and I gave up my bed for Marla, you remember her right, the old homeless gal from the park? Anyway, she needed the spot more than I did. But I’m good Jake, don’t worry about me.”
“How can I not worry about you Casey? The boys won’t be home tonight if you want to crash on my couch, I know it’s not much but no one will bother you, and at least I’ll know where you are for one night.”
“I won’t take no for an answer Casey, here take the key and head on up. Grab a shower, extra sweats are in the bottom drawer. I’ll see you when my shift is done.” Without waiting for a response, he dropped the key in my coat pocket and went in the back door of the kitchen.
All I could do was smile. Jake always acted like my protector even though we weren’t related. A nice hot shower did sound good, and since the kitchen doors lock when they closed, I couldn’t take Jake’s key back unless I went through the front door and he knew it. Sneaky little bastard.
Jake shared the apartment above Moe’s Diner with two of the other busboys, it was part of his salary. He worked for rent, food, and a small pay check. Moe helped keep them off the streets and out of trouble, it was a win-win situation for Jake and I am glad he was trying to better himself. He had started taking night classes, that’s why he was only in the kitchens on Thursday nights. The rest of the week, he worked the early shift, so he could go to class. It took him an hour and three bus exchanges to get to the campus, but he was on his way to earning his degree and hopefully, getting himself out of this hell we knew.
I unlocked the door next to Moe’s and went up the stairs, there was only one door at the top and that was too Jake’s apartment. I expected the normal bachelor pad, but when I opened the door, I was surprised. It was neat and clean and smelled fresh. No dirty dishes, empty beer bottles, or stinky clothes.
The apartment looked small, the main room was living room and kitchen combined. The kitchen had a small sink, stove and an apartment sized fridge. The living room had a worn couch, two recliners and a T.V. Nothing fancy, no flat screen or gaming systems, just a basic box T.V. Two windows faced the street, no curtains but there were clean blinds up so no one could see in. Straight back from the door was the hallway, two bedrooms and a small bathroom made up the rest of the apartment. Jake’s roommate shared the first bedroom on the left, as it was the largest and could hold two twin size beds, two dressers but had no windows. The door on the right was the bathroom and Jake’s room was at the end of the hall. His room had the only closet, but barely fit the full size bed he had squeezed into it.
His dresser was in his closet, I rummaged in the bottom drawer and found sweats and an old t-shirt to change into. I hung my jacket on the hook on the closet door and headed to the bathroom. It was small but functional, I had to step in the shower or on top of the toilet to close the door, but it had a strong lock on it, along with a chain which I secured before I shed the clothes I’d been wearing for the past week.
I looked at myself in the mirror. I was filthy. I didn’t even take a second glance. I turned the water on as hot as it would go and got in. It felt like heaven. Even though the pressure was horrible, it was hot. I picked up the first bottle of shampoo I could find and lathered my hair, all three tons of it. I had thought about cutting it many times, but Jake always talked me out of it. He loved my long hair, loved brushing it when we were in the home together, and always said it was my crowning glory. To me, it was just a hassle after two days of no washing, then after a week, it felt and smelled like a rat’s nest. I lathered the rest of my body with the bar of soap, Irish spring. The scent bothered my nose and made my eyes tear up, but when you don’t have a choice…you use what you have. I thought about shaving my legs, but saw no razor in the shower, so I decided to pass. No one cared whether I had hairy legs or not, and the red wood forest kept me warmer on cold nights when I found myself sleeping outside.
I rinsed off and just stood in the stream of hot water until it turned cold, soaking up and enjoying the warmth. I didn’t know when my next hot shower would be. I stepped out, wrapped in a towel and wiped the steam off the mirror, taking a better look at myself. My time on the streets was starting to catch up with me, dark circles under my eyes, hollow cheeks. I wasn’t plump and curvy…I was thin and angular. I had to do something to change my situation and soon, or I would end up like Ashley. Dead in the streets.
Ashley was my only other friend, besides Jake, in the home. We were tight and watched out for each other. Ashley was the first to age out of the system, then Jake last year, and finally me about two months ago. Turned out to the street with the clothes on my back and a hundred bucks in my pocket. No goodbye, no good luck, no help in any way. My bed was filled the moment I walked out the door. The system is so overloaded with kids that taking time to care about them wasn’t possible.
It used to hurt, then made me mad, and now I accept it. Jake was waiting for me when I left and he helped me as much as he could. He’s the one who told me Ashley didn’t make it. She was found in an alley, beaten, bruised and her throat slit. No one really knows what happens, they think drugs or some pimp war. Either way, Jake didn’t want me ending up with the same fate.
I dropped the towel and took a good look. Thin, that’s what I saw. A grown woman with a little girl’s body. I had no chest to speak of, I suppose the girls would be bigger if I had more weight on me. I turned around and noticed a large bruise on my lower back, probably from sleeping on the street or in a doorway. I made a mental note to not let Jake see that. It was hard enough to get him to let me live my own life and make my own choices. Add in bruises and malnutrition and he would keep me locked up here for good.
I threw on the sweats and t-shirt I scrounged from jakes dresser just as the front door opened. I emerged from the bathroom to find one of Jake’s roommates standing there.
“Hey Casey, didn’t know you were here”
“Hey, Aaron, Jake thought you guys were out for the night and offered to let me crash on the couch. But if he was wrong, I can grab my stuff and jet.”
“Nah, I was just stopping to grab a few discs that we forgot. Nick is DJ’ing at a rave tonight, so we’ll be gone till morning. You can crash in my bed if you need, we just put a new lock on the door.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it but the couch will be fine. You and Nick have fun and be careful. The cops are cracking down on the raves lately. Keep your ears open and your radios on.”
“Yup, you know you should come with us sometime. Not all of them are bad. We are booked for a clean party next week. Just a warehouse party, all legit, with permits and everything.” He smiled at me.
“I’ll think about it.”
“You do that. Laters.” He waved as he left.
I had a couple hours before Jake’s shift ended. I decided to veg out and see what channels the rabbit ears they had concocted would get me. Turns out it was all of three channels and two of those were so snowy, so I couldn’t make out what was on. The third had some type of documentary. Well, that should put me to sleep. Something in the narrator’s voice caught my attention. I sat forward and focused on what the documentary was about.
A well to do local family had lost a child fourteen years ago and were still searching for her. She had been taken from her room in the middle of the night and there had been no leads. When they showed a picture of the couple and my heart skipped a beat. I knew those eyes. They were the same as Leather’s. Another picture flashed on the screen, a large family picture with what looked like lots of kids. There he was again, Leather must be part of their family.
I fell asleep with that and many other questions rolling around in my head. If I weren’t so exhausted, I would have stayed up to run everything that had happened and what I’d learned past Jake to get his thoughts.
It’d been her. I know it, but I could sense her fear and readiness to flee. I needed to tread carefully with her. From what little I could tell, she had no clue who or what she was. I hated seeing her so thin and dirty. It took all I had not to scoop her up and bring her home. I could tell that she was living on the streets. Da wouldn’t be happy about that, but I wasn’t ready to tell him I had finally found her.
I needed to be careful. She seemed so skittish, and ready for a fight. Her instincts were there to protect her for now. Even though she had no clue, they wouldn’t lead her astray.
I think Moe’s will become a regular eating choice though, just to keep my eye on her and the one who brought food out to her. There was a connection between them and I made that my next step in getting closer to her.
“What are you thinking about?” Steven asked.
Steven, one of the lowest in our pack, and I had grown up together and formed a bond. Probably, the only reason Da put up with him being around as the whole pack basically ignored him, and truthfully, he wasn’t the brightest of our bunch. But he’d always been loyal to a fault, never questioned my motives for anything, and always had my back. That means more than any rank to me.