Female Alpha wolf shifter Tempest McGraw was destined to be tamed and claimed by a rival pack. When she shuns fate to search for her missing brother in the ruins of Chicago she becomes fair game to every rogue shifter still searching for a mate. Can she resist her primal nature long enough to forge her own path?
Release date: October 31, 2022
Publisher: Nokay Press LLC
Print pages: 200
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Mark of the Wolf: Part I
Copyright © 2022 by Kimber White/Nokay Press LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Club - The Ruins of Chicago 25 years from now…
Would it be my eyes that gave me away? Just the faintest glint of silver that I couldn’t hide. If he looked hard enough. If he got close enough. I kept my gaze on the floor, praying my lashes were long enough to cover my secret.
He pulled me to him. “Look at me,” he commanded.
Slowly, I raised my eyes. Slow, Steady. Careful not to let my pulse race. I’d prepared for this. Weeks on end, I meditated, focused on my breathing, staying present. Not letting that jolt of fear and adrenaline betray me. I felt the tiniest beads of sweat forming between my breasts.
Maybe that would give me away. He held my head up, his finger crooked beneath my chin. He was big. Brawny. A bear shifter. His scent turned my stomach. But I knew how lucky I was he’d been the one to pluck me out of the crowd. We stood on the catwalk as a thrumming disco beat drowned out every other voice but his. He was all hands. I kept my back stiff as he touched me, as he inhaled me.
He wrinkled his nose. My scent. Would that betray me now? Had that little witch from Michigan lied to me? I paid her top dollar for the potion to mask my natural smell. This bear shifter didn’t seem to like it. But that was the point.
“Take your shirt off,” he said.
“My what?” I asked.
He grunted. “Your shirt. Take it off.”
I knew this was the deal. Had planned for that too. I feigned fear as I slowly unbuttoned each button, letting the bear rake his eyes over me. He licked his lips as I slipped out of my black blouse and let it pool at my feet.
“Nice,” he said, admiring the way my breasts filled out my black lace bra.
“Now those,” he said, pointing to my jeans.
I kept my eyes locked with his as I slipped my stiletto boots off and kicked off my jeans. I had on a matching black lace thong, selected just for this.
“Turn around,” he said. I did. To his credit, he didn’t touch me. But I knew he was on strict orders not to. I also knew what I could do if he tried. In less than a second, I could let my claws come out and open his throat. He’d be dead before he hit the ground.
But then everyone in the club would know exactly what I was.
“Very nice,” he said. “They’ll love you. Put the boots back on, they’re a nice touch.”
I picked up my shirt and my jeans.
“No,” he said. “Not those. You won’t need those again where you’re going, honey.”
“You signed up for this,” he said. “You want to change your mind, revoke your consent, do it now.”
“No,” I said, taking a breath. “No. I consent. This is what I want.”
Quicker than I thought a bear could move, he grabbed my top and jeans. He let his own claws out, shredding them to pieces. Then he threw them over the catwalk. The remains of my clothes disappeared into the throng of partygoers below us.
“Just the boots, the bra, and the thong. That’s all you’ll need sweetheart. For now.”
I turned toward him and pulled my boots back on. His lips curled with lust as he watched me bend over.
“Yeah,” he said. “You’re too skinny for my tastes, but you’ll fetch a nice price down there. They’ll call you when it’s your turn. What’s your name again?”
“Tempest,” I said. That’s the one truth I had told. Tempest. Tem. The nickname my father had given me before I’d even turned one year old. It stuck. Now only my family knew my birth name, Camilla McGraw. If this bear or anyone else in the club even suspected, God help me.
“Tempest,” he repeated. Then, he reached for me, grabbing a lock of my dark blonde hair, twirling it between his fingers. “Put this up,” he said. “You won’t want anything covering up the goods. Plus, they like to make you take it down after, in private.”
He came prepared, handing me a black rubber band. This must be something he told all the “merchandise” as he’d called me the first time he laid eyes on me. I gathered my hair, piling it high, I twisted it into a bun and secured it with the band.
“Nice,” he said. “You’re ready. Just head down those stairs and wait. You’re next after the redhead.”
With that, he gave me an unceremonious shove toward the stairs. I felt my claws come out as I dug them into my palms.
No, I thought. Not now. Not after I’d come all this way. I was so close. I could feel the body heat coming off the crowd below. The energy rose to a fever pitch as they called the next girl down the catwalk.
The bidding for her was about to start.
I stayed in the shadows, waiting for my turn. The redhead was far younger than me. Nineteen, twenty at the most. She was different too. Curvier. She wore a tight, gold dress that barely covered her boobs. She played that up as the Auctioneer brought her under the spotlight. So she got a whole dress. I got my bra and panties.
“Here she is, folks,” the Auctioneer hollered. “Like a strawberry tart. Fresh and delicious. She’s tested too, take a look.”
He gave the girl a look. Clearly they’d rehearsed this part. The girl turned her back to the crowd. Like me, she had her hair piled high on her head. She bent down, kneeling so the crowd could get a good look at the back of her neck. A second spotlight hit her, illuminating the faint, crescent-shaped scar she bore at the base of her neck.
An Alpha’s Mark.
“She’s a free agent now,” the Auctioneer said. “Her mate took off during the raids last year. She’s been all alone for months. You know what that means!”
To prove his point, the girl turned back toward the crowd. I could sense the heat coming off of her. Her nipples peaked beneath her shiny dress.
“A mark with no mate,” the Auctioneer said. “This one’s as ripe as they come.” He put his finger to her lips. Still on her knees, she sucked it. The oohs and ahs of the crowd reached a deafening pitch. The Auctioneer was very good at his job.
By the time the bidding started, there was near pandemonium. Two wolf shifters in the front row fought it out. To their left, a tiger shifter came forward offering a hundred grand. Another wolf rose, his eyes glinting gold. He upped the ante to a quarter of a million. I knew the record bid price at the Club was half a million. I would fetch that. And more. They wouldn’t know what I was. Not for sure. But they would sense something different about me. Something delicious. Something they couldn’t resist.
The girl played her part. She got on all fours, quivering, shaking her bottom.
I scanned the crowd. The bids went up and up. But the prize I wanted stayed in the shadows. If it were anyone else but me, you wouldn’t be able to see him from this vantage point. He was there though. Holding court in the back of the room, his pack of beta wolves and sycophants surrounding him.
Rumor was, he’d taken over one of the strongest Montana packs two years ago at the end of the war.
Twenty-eight years ago, on the day I was born, my father’s pack lived in peace in northern Michigan. The forests of Wild Lake were home. But then the world turned upside down. War broke out. Shifters were forced into hiding, servitude, or worse. That was over now. We’d fought our way to freedom, if not peace.
“Sold!” the Auctioneer called out. It was the tiger shifter who’d won the prize. It cost him three hundred thousand, all in gold. His stripes flashed across his chest as he held a hand out, helping the girl to climb down. She threw her arms around his neck and let him carry her through the crowd.
“You’re up!” The Auctioneer made eye contact with me. The spotlight shone directly on me as I stood on the stairs. I straightened my back, stuck out my breasts, found a sheepish smile as I came to join him on the stage.
“She’s a live one!” The Auctioneer called. As he took my hand, I felt his magic crackle along my skin. A wizard, then. At least he wasn’t fae. Everyone hates the fae. They’d started the last war. A bid to pitch shifters and other magic users against each other. They gambled that we’d wipe each other out leaving numbers small enough to manage.
They were wrong. Now, we were left to rebuild. Places like Chicago had been burned out years ago. Left in ruins. Lawless. Slowly, we were starting to take them back.
“Show ‘em what you got, honey,” the Auctioneer said.
I played coy, wrapping my arms around myself. The music started. The Auctioneer shoved me to the edge of the stage. What seemed like a thousand pairs of eyes feasted on me. There were the wolf shifters who’d lost out on the redhead. They saw something different in me. I looked stronger, more toned. There was nothing I could do about that.
“Come on, honey,” the Auctioneer whispered to me. “Give them a show! You’ll end up with some beta. You want that?”
I let the driving beat of the music take over. Straightening my back, I sauntered over to the side of the stage. I saw the pole. The music was ancient. Prince. Popular during my grandparent’s day. But I let it carry me away.
Swinging one leg around the pole, I turned and twirled for them, throwing my hair back. That got the crowd going as Prince crooned about cream, and getting on top.
I executed a perfect turn around the pole, then righted myself. Careful, I thought. I couldn’t let my eyes glint. I couldn’t let them see what I really was. If I did, they’d pay a million. Ten million. But I’d catch the wrong prize.
I did what she did. The red head. I dropped down to all fours, crawling toward the front of the stage.
There was another wolf shifter watching me. One I hadn’t spotted before. Tall. Broad. An Alpha for sure. He leaned against the wall, his lips curled into a smirk.
Who are you? I thought. I hadn’t clocked him when I came in. How had he slipped through my senses? He had pale blue eyes. When he let them glint silver, it sent an echoing charge through me.
No, I thought. Not him. He’s not the one. I tore my eyes away from him.
There, I thought. He’s the one. He’d risen from his chair in the back of the room. He gripped the railing separating his party from the throngs below.
I licked my lips and started to rise. Moving my hips in time to the music, I tried to focus all my energy on him. I knew what he wanted. What he needed to feel from me.
You’re good at this, the voice in my head called out. I felt the echo of his touch. Rough fingers. Strong hands. Lips that kissed a trail down the planes of my stomach. Even now, after all this time, I still ached for him. My body would always betray me when I thought of him. And he knew it. He was still with me, even though he was long dead.
And that was my curse.
I opened my eyes and locked them with the man at the railing.
“For you,” I thought. “This could all be for you. I know it’s what you want.”
He couldn’t hear my thoughts, but I hoped everything else I’d done was enough.
I pointed a finger at him, beckoning him. Too much? Had I overplayed my hand?
Only I know what you like, Tem, the voice in my head grew louder. Do you want me to remind you?
“Yes,” I heard myself whisper. “Oh yes!”
“Do I hear four seventy-five?” The Auctioneer’s frenzied call reached me. I hadn’t even been aware of the bids coming in. The two shifters at the front of the stage nearly came to blows. I looked to my left. The other Alpha with the pale eyes still watched, but he hadn’t lifted his paddle.
Focus! Licking my lips, I angled my body toward the Alpha in back. The King. Everyone here knew this was his court. He had the power. The answers I so desperately needed. If I was strong enough to handle him.
“Going once, going twice…”
“I’ll have her,” the man said, making my pulse race. Not now. Don’t give yourself away now.
“Your bid…S-sir?” the Auctioneer said, his voice breaking, his eyes wide with fear.
The man leapt from the railing with deadly, powerful grace. He practically flew through the air, landing on the main floor. The crowd instantly dispersed, cutting a path for him as he made his way to the edge of the stage. Then another single, fluid leap had him standing right beside me.
“One million,” he said, letting his wolf fangs drop, his eyes glinting gold. He grabbed me, letting his claws sink into my upper arm. I gasped with real fear this time.
“Sold!” the auctioneer shouted.
The man jerked me toward him. “You'd better be worth it,” he said, his voice pure menace as he whispered into my ear.
I turned, instinct taking over, I searched the crowd, looking desperately for the Alpha with the pale blue eyes. He was there still, staring at me. Only this time, his expression was one of pure rage, his wolf eyes flashing.
It was my father’s voice I heard as my new captor pulled me off the stage and into the crowd.
Be careful what you wish for, Tem. Oh God. Every instinct in me signaled the evil running through this man’s veins as he tightened his hold on my arm.
And now I was well and truly fucked.
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