When neither choice is acceptable, then what?
To save his jamboree from obliteration, Omega Cade Decker is forced into a match with the powerful but merciless Grady Williams. While he may be attracted to the big, bad Alpha, and Grady will protect him from a corrupt Alpha jaguar, Cade won’t settle for anything less than the love of his life.
As Alpha of one of the most powerful jaguar jamborees around, Grady’s reputation for bloodthirst is more of a help than a hindrance. When Alpha Decker approaches him with a proposal, Grady jumps at the chance to mate with Decker’s Omega brother. Grady doesn’t believe in love but craves having a beautiful, talented partner, so this arrangement is perfect.
When Cade is kidnapped, Grady realizes his love equals his fear that he’ll never get his mate back…
The door slammed open, the sound as loud as a gunshot. Cade stormed into his brother’s home office. “I won’t! You hear me, Wayne? I refuse!”
Bonnie yelped. She spun on the desk toward the door, claws unsheathed.
Wayne stood so fast his chair crashed into the wall behind him. “Dammit, Cade, the door was closed for a reason.”
“Really? And what reason was that?” Cade shot his sister-in-law a glance as he prowled into the office. He planted his hands on Wayne’s desk and glared at his brother. “Oh, oh, that’s right. It’s closed because you and Bonnie are in here talking about mating me off.”
Wayne swore again. “Dammit.”
“Don’t you think—oh, I don’t know—that maybe I should be included in that conversation? Me. The person who this conversation is about,” Cade demanded.
Wayne stormed out from behind the desk and hurried across his office. He eased the door shut and turned back to Cade. “It isn’t just about you.”
“I’m the one being traded for protection, so yeah, I’d have to say it’s all about me.”
“Would you lower your voice?” Wayne snapped.
“Why? Don’t want anyone else to know you’re offering up my ass? That you’re selling me? That I’m given no choice in what’s to become of me?” Cade waved his hands in the air. “This is my life. Mine. You have no right—”
“It’s not just about you.” Wayne stalked across the office until he was nose-to-nose with Cade. “Every time the White Peak jamboree attacks, we end up with damage to our homes and our lands. Hogan isn’t going to just go away, at least not until he either absorbs us or I form ties with another jamboree strong enough to protect us.”
“I understand that, but—”
“I don’t think you do. Most of my warriors are not at their best. They haven’t had time to heal fully from their wounds before another attack is launched. We simply do not have the manpower to keep fending off attacks from Hogan.”
“Then maybe we need more—”
“What? More members? Who wants to join a jamboree that’s constantly under attack?” Wayne collapsed at his desk, his shoulders slumped. “There are women and children here. They’re defenseless. In the last attack, a kit was hurt. A kit, Cade. This can’t continue.”
“No! No ‘buts.’” Wayne straightened. “Do you remember when you turned twenty-five and passed the last test proving you were an Omega? I had to register you and—”
Cade scowled at Wayne. “Of course I remember you registering me. I was there, remember?”
“Then you know that, by our laws, I had to register you with the Shifter Council. That information became public, and Hogan started sniffing around shortly thereafter.”
“You act like I don’t know this. Considering it was me he was sniffing around, again, I’m aware.”
“I’m aware you’re being a smartass, and I’m fixing to swat you. Fuck, Cade, things are only getting worse. I have to stop this before I end up being challenged.”
“No one would dare to—”
“The hell they won’t. If I lose my position as Alpha of the Red Rock jamboree, I’ll be cast out, along with you and Bonnie. Then I certainly won’t be able to protect you. If that happens, Hogan gets what he wants. My jamboree, our financial resources…and you.”
“And your brother could end up dead at the end of a challenge,” Bonnie added softly as she scooted off the desk. “Don’t ask me to try and live without my mate.”
“I wish we were big enough I could protect you against Hogan,” Wayne said. “But we aren’t. And I can’t. The best I can do is find someone who can protect you and give you the respect due to your position as an Omega.”
“Can’t you see?” Bonnie beseeched. “Wayne’s trying to keep the jamboree safe—which is his responsibility as an Alpha—and take care of you, too.”
“I-I never wanted this.” The hopelessness of the situation closed in on Cade. “Any of this. I don’t want anybody hurt because of me. I don’t want to be a problem.” He backed away from Wayne. “I don’t understand why Hogan…I just want to live my life in peace.”
“I’m sorry. I truly wish there was another way.”
“So that’s it.” Defeated, Cade slumped. “You’re just going to give me to this other Alpha. Can you at least tell me his name?”
“Grady Williams. He’s the Alpha of the Moon Valley jamboree.”
“Moon Valley? Why does that sound familiar? I’ve heard that name before, but I don’t know where.” Cade frowned, gazing into the distance, mumbling as he tried to place that name. “Moon Valley. Moon Valley. Why do I know that name?”
Then it hit him just exactly where he’d heard that name, and the blood drained from his head. He swayed on his feet. “You have got to be kidding me! Please tell me you didn’t. Please tell me he isn’t the one who challenged Alpha Saul Hendrix for his territory. Rumor says it was a slaughter, and that the Moon Valley Alpha killed every beta after he won.”
“You’re old enough to know better than to listen to rumors.” Wayne crossed his arms over his chest. “The details weren’t released, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t just go in there and randomly start killing members.”
“Pretty sure?” Cade gaped, horrified. “That’s the best you got to reassure me? Wow, that’s such comfort. I mean, you’re pretty sure. Whatever am I going on about, then? I mean—”
“Alpha Williams was brought before the Shifter Council.” Wayne uncrossed his arms and gave Cade his best Alpha glare.
Damn, he hated when Wayne did that. Cade tilted his head, showing his neck to his Alpha. But it did stop him mid-tirade. “He was?”
Wayne stuck his hands in his pockets. “Yes. He wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing.”
“Oh.” He hadn’t heard that. It did help calm him a little. Surely the Shifter Council wouldn’t have left Grady Williams in charge of a jamboree if he was a psychotic killer.
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M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!
When not writing, she’s on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two grown children.
She is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.