North Jamenson a toujours été le plus silencieux, le plus discret de sa fratrie. Pourtant, c'est lui qui cache le plus terrible secret. Après avoir vu ses frères trouver l'amour les uns après les autres, il sait que Lexi et son jeune fils, récemment intégrés à la meute, pourraient être la réponse à sa solitude. Mais il n'est pas prêt à révéler les ténèbres qui hantent son âme, et Lexi elle-même détient des secrets si profondément ancrés en elle que la vérité semble parfois lui échapper...
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North Jamenson has always held his wolf closer to the surface then others. He’s the quiet one, the one no one really knows about yet he holds the darkest secret. He’s watched his brothers find their mates and start families, and now it was his turn. He knows Lexi could be his and her son could be part of his family, but he doesn’t know if he’s ready to share the darkness that’s entwined with his soul.
Lexi Anderson is a mother, a sister, a latent wolf, and a new member of the Redwood Pack. She’s also holding secrets so close to her heart she’s not even sure she knows the truth anymore. When North takes another step closer to wanting to cement their bond, Lexi must come to grips with her past and what it means for her future. The Centrals’ war isn’t over yet and Lexi’s life is on the line as the paths they’ve chosen takes a drastic turn.
Redwood, Tome 5 : North
Her wolf wanted to eat him up—one tasty morsel at a time.
Lexi Anderson sighed.
No, that wouldn’t be happening.
It didn’t matter that she wanted to lick the man at the party with many generous swipes of her tongue because it just wouldn’t happen.
It didn’t matter that she wanted to bury her hands in his hair while he pumped himself into her, their sweat-slicked bodies sliding against one another as they came together hard.
It still wouldn’t be happening.
She took a deep breath, the outside air filling her lungs and cooling her down—at least somewhat. As she tried to relax, she took in her surroundings, needing something far greater than her to function. The trees stood around them, tall, ancient, almost comforting. The sun warmed her skin in the cooling air, though just from looking at the man across from her, she was heated plenty already.
She took another breath, holding it in for as long as she could. The scent of forest and the coming rain would never be enough for her.
Lexi would never know the feeling of the land beneath her four paws, the brush of wind in her fur, nor the release of home and center when the moon’s pull finally took her wolf.
No, she would never have any of that, yet she should have been used to it by now.
She’d been a latent wolf—a wolf trapped within her body, unable to shift, but still part of her in a sense—for all fifty years of her life, and wishing for something different was only making things harder for her. Since latent wolves couldn’t shift into their wolf forms, they were forever bound to their human forms and cut off from the wolf part of their souls. They couldn’t even hear their other half’s thoughts. Oh, they could feel something, or at least feel the instincts and some of the urges that came with being a wolf, but they didn’t feel the same connection that others did.
It had been a miracle in itself that she’d survived into adulthood, as most latent wolves died from the added stress to their bodies because of their inability to shift.
She was one of the lucky ones.
If one could call it that.
There were more important things in her world than the fact she would never be able to shift into a wolf.
Namely, the little boy playing in the front yard of the Alpha’s home.
Parker, her eight-year-old son and love of her life, currently played in a pile of wolf babies. Well, only one baby was currently in wolf form, as the others were too young to change yet, but her Parker seemed to be in heaven.
Finn, the son of the Heir to the Redwood Pack, jumped on Parker’s stomach. Luckily the three-year-old had learned enough control in wolf form that he didn’t have his claws out. Wolf children didn’t shift until they were at least two or three years old when they would have at least a semblance of control over their little bodies.
Even though Lexi had grown up in the Talon Pack and knew that children play-fought in both forms, she still winced. It had been awhile since she’d been around other wolves for long periods of time, and she didn’t like the idea of her baby being hurt by Finn’s little claws.
It was, after all, only the third time the other little boy had shifted into this form. He had remarkable control though, considering his age. Lexi wasn’t sure if that had to do with the royal blood running through his veins, the fact that he would one day be the Heir and then eventually the Alpha, or that he was wise for his age. He’d already been through so much, almost being killed by the hands of their worst enemy. He’d been changed dramatically, even at a young age.
All of that together seemed to have made one strong little wolf.
The little fluff ball mock growled at Parker then rolled onto his back, leaving all four paws in the air. His cousins, Micah and Brie, who were both under two, gave up trying to tickle Parker and went to give Finn a belly rub.
Something oddly hollow echoed in Lexi’s chest at the sight.
These babies were part of a family. A family that, while they had opened their home to her, Parker, and her brother, Logan, wasn’t hers.
They would never be hers.
She thought she had a family before with the Talons, and then that had been shattered. The Alpha had exiled her, cutting her off from the Pack because of something out of her control. Logan came with her because he was her brother. God, she hated that she’d caused him to be a lone wolf, shunned because of what had happened to her.
They spent over eight years on the run until finally coming into contact with the Redwoods. For some reason, they had opened their wards and let them into their Pack—blood bond and all.
She knew not everyone within the Pack was happy about it, but the Jamensons, the ruling family, wanted them.
Lexi still wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
A man, Patrick, yes, that was his name, walked past her and glared. Not so odd considering most wolves who didn’t really know her seemed to do that, but she didn’t know this man or what his problem was.
She raised a brow, and he looked down on her as though she were five-day-old dog poo.
He walked away, and she looked off in the distance. It seemed making friends with people other than the Jamensons was going to be a lost cause. In Patrick’s case, it didn’t seem as though she was missing anything.
“Still on the outside looking in?” Cailin Jamenson, the Alpha’s only daughter, asked as she walked up to Lexi’s side.
Lexi gave the gorgeous woman a weak smile, feeling positively frumpy and old in her tattered jeans and shirt. It wasn’t as if Lexi had a closet full of clothes after being on the run for so long. In fact, most of what she was wearing and possessed was borrowed.
Damn, she’d have to change that soon. It didn’t sit well with her that she didn’t have much to her name. She left most of her belongings when she left the Talons and hadn’t been able to add to her wardrobe and personal things over time. That whole experience left Lexi feeling less than attractive.
Cailin, however, looked like God’s gift to man with her long blue-black hair flowing down her back and her piercing green eyes that seemed to see more than Lexi wanted. The woman would make fashion models feel inferior with her sharp cheekbones, curves like a goddess, painted-on jeans, and a tight tank that only emphasized the woman’s way-too-perky breasts.
Lexi had a decent body because of the healthy metabolism and genetics of being a wolf, but there must have been something special in the water the day Cailin Jamenson was conceived.
Logan didn’t stand a chance.
Lexi snorted at that thought, and Cailin raised her brow. It was plain to see that Logan and Cailin were potential mates. Because fate was a fickle bitch, each wolf had many—or sometimes not so many—potential mates that they could meet throughout their long lifetimes. Just because the mating urge rode hard and a connection could click into place at any moment didn’t mean that the two parties had to act on it.
From where Lexi stood, it seemed the lone Jamenson daughter wanted to be as far from Logan as possible.
There had to be a story there, but considering Lexi had even more secrets of her own, she wasn’t about to start prying.
She blinked as Cailin moved closer, her eyebrows lowered.
“Sorry. I’m just thinking.” Well, it was the truth, though Lexi wasn’t about to tell Cailin what she was actually thinking about.
“Do I want to know what about?” Cailin asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
It was May and summer was already starting its angry burn across the rest of the country, but in the Northwest, it was still a bit cool with the cloud cover. Plus, the Pack’s den was situated between two cliff faces and surrounded by tall trees. Though not actually Redwoods, they were close. It was a running joke—like a thousand years running—that the Pack was named after trees that didn’t actually exist in their chosen area.
Lexi didn’t quite get it, but it wasn’t a big deal. She was just happy this Pack seemed to have opened their arms to her and her family.
At least the Jamensons had.
The rest of the Pack…yeah, not so much. An image of Patrick filled her mind, and she blinked it away.
That was a thought for another time. Right now, she had a little boy’s birthday to celebrate, a certain wolf to avoid, and a pretense to show another wolf that everything was okay while she herself avoided that certain wolf.
It was confusing enough that Lexi didn’t need to add another set of worries to her already full plate.
“Lexi, hon? What the heck is going on in that head of yours?” Cailin moved to block Lexi’s view of the tangle of children and stared right at her face.
Lexi might have been a couple inches taller than the other woman, but Cailin had a presence that couldn’t be ignored. She only had to ask her brother.
She shook her head then smiled. At least she thought she smiled. It might as well have been a grimace considering the way Cailin’s eyebrow rose.
“I’m fine. Really. I think I’m just tired. That’s all.”
“Not sleeping?” Cailin asked.
“Not really.” That wasn’t a change though. Lexi rarely slept through the night. She never really had considering she was latent. Her body was a little more wired than most because she couldn’t expel energy the way the other wolves could. Not to mention the whole on-the-run thing didn’t exactly soothe one’s nerves.
“Do you need to talk to Hannah about getting something to help you sleep?” Hannah was the Pack Healer, the one person connected to the Pack through bonds that enabled her to use the overall energy and her own powers to Heal others. “If you don’t want to go to her, I can probably help. I used to grow the Pack herbs until Hannah took over.”
Wolves’ metabolisms were such that they couldn’t take the usual human drugs or even get drunk on alcohol. It was great for the wolves, considering their genetics helped with maintaining their bodies for centuries and sometimes even longer, but sucked for things like the common cold. Wolves didn’t actually die of old age like humans did. Those that reached a certain age became elders and usually shut themselves off from the world because of all their memories. Cailin had once grown the herbs and harvested other plants used as natural remedies to help the wolves. Now that Hannah had come into the Pack when she’d mated Cailin’s brother, Reed—as well as another man named Josh—and become the Healer, Cailin had been out of a job.
From the tone Cailin used just then, Lexi had a feeling the woman didn’t quite know what to do with herself now. Sure, Cailin babysat her numerous nieces and nephews—increasing in number daily it seemed—but the young woman didn’t really seem to have a place in the Pack beyond the blood in her veins.
Cailin was only in her early twenties though and over eighty years younger than her brothers, who were all within a year or two in age.
No wonder the woman looked lost.
Oh great. Now Lexi was worrying about another’s problems rather than her own. It made her forget the lingering doubts, fears, worries, and scariness in her own life at least a little while.
“I’m fine, Cailin, really,” Lexi finally answered. “I don’t need to take anything to sleep. Logan and I take turns freaking out around the house when we have long nights and can’t sleep.”
Cailin stiffened at the mention of Logan’s name, and Lexi inwardly cursed. Great going. It wasn’t as if Lexi didn’t know the other woman was pointedly avoiding Logan.
An unwritten rule existed between the two of them.
Lexi didn’t mention her brother.
Cailin didn’t mention hers.
“Thank you for offering though,” Lexi added lamely. “It’s nice that your family is still holding a birthday party, despite all that’s going on.”
Oh, holy hell. Her attempt at changing the subject had failed. This topic was just as bad as the original subject. Mentioning everything that was “going on”—war, death, and torture—wasn’t the best way to cool the tension rising between the two women. No, it was the exact opposite of what she’d hoped to do.
Though, really, there didn’t seem to be a safe topic. It wasn’t as if Lexi knew the Jamensons that well since she’d just become a Redwood, and with the war with the Centrals—the main focal point and reason why Lexi, Logan, and Parker were there in the first place—there wasn’t much else to talk about.
Cailin grinned, despite the mood. “We’re family. Finn’s the first grandbaby, the first of them to shift. It’s a big deal. Plus, he’ll be Alpha one day.”
“So he gets special treatment?”
Cailin shook her head. “Oh no. Not at all. Each of those babies, and the ones to come, will get parties, love, and everything else they need. If we didn’t do that, then what the hell are we fighting for?”
“I guess that makes sense.” It did. Though since she’d been shunned from her own Pack because of the actions of others, she still didn’t quite believe it. Oh, she desperately wanted to, but she couldn’t.
“It damn well should,” Cailin grumbled. “My Pack is in pain because of those assholes, and I’ll be fucking pissed if we win and lose ourselves. We’re Pack and family first, warriors second. That’s what we need to be in order to stay who we are. I was wrong once when I asked my dad if we could go dark to win. Fucking wrong. I’m not going to do that again. We’re going to beat those fucking bastards, and we’re going to do it all the while blowing out candles on birthday cakes and making babies.”
Lexi blinked at Cailin’s impassioned speech.
A blush crept over Cailin’s cheeks, and she ducked her head. The look suited her and made her look her age, rather than the image of the sex goddess she usually presented without trying.
“Sorry. I get a little worked up thinking about all the shit my family has been through.”
“And the fact that you haven’t been able to help,” Lexi whispered, knowing they had begun to attract the attention of the others. A few Jamensons glanced their way, but it was mostly the others not of the family that looked out of the corner of their eye or blatantly stared at them. Those had their normal sneer on their faces whenever they were near.
Cailin’s head shot up, and she blinked. “I hate it.” She looked over her shoulder at her family, who had no doubt quieted to hear her words. Werewolves, after all, had exceptional hearing. “We can talk about it later.”
Lexi nodded then watched the young woman, who looked so sure of herself but clearly wasn’t, walk toward the pile of pups and start to play.
“I’m glad she talks to you when she won’t talk to anyone else,” a voice said from behind her, and she froze.
Hell, he was freaking quiet when he wanted to be.
North slid to her side but didn’t look at her. Not that she was looking at him—oh no, she couldn’t do that and breathe nowadays—but she could see him out of the corner of her eye.
Lexi swallowed hard and tried to regain the cool, collected composure she used when she had no earthly idea what else to do.
“She doesn’t talk to the rest of you?” She found that hard to believe, considering Cailin had wonderful parents, six big brothers, a brother-in-law, and five sisters-in-law.
North shrugged. She felt the touch of his overheated skin against her arm, and she held back a shiver.
She would not show the man how he affected her.
“She’s so much younger than the rest of us. Yes, she’s the same age as a few of my brothers’ mates, but it’s different. They’re family now but still new. Cailin’s never felt comfortable about showing who she is to outsiders, and it’s even worse really within the family. She’s great with that façade of hers—the bitchy, twenty-something power attitude—but she doesn’t break down with us. Not since she was a little girl.”
Lexi’s heart ached for Cailin and even more so for the man she felt a connection to, despite all the reasons she shouldn’t. It wasn’t as though Cailin was any different than the rest of them, but she was so much younger than her brothers, and there were things the woman might not even want to share.
“I’ll do what I can. I like her.” Lexi had no idea why she’d said that first part. She couldn’t even take care of her own crap, let alone another person’s. Okay, she could take care of Parker and Logan, but they were…hers.
North moved so he blocked her view of the pups again, and she sucked in a breath.
Gods, he was beautiful. Tanned skin created by genetics and touched by the sun covered a hard body that she’d seen naked only because of his shifts, not for anything more. And damn, she wanted to have that be for something more. He had those Jamenson jade-green eyes, framed by light lashes, that Lexi knew she could fall into if she didn’t watch herself. Unlike most of his brothers, he and his twin Maddox had inherited their mother’s hair, a dark blond, unruly mass that looked damn good on him.
She really needed to stop looking at him that way.
“Thank you for taking care of my sister,” he whispered, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
She didn’t dare breathe. She knew once she caught a whiff of that spicy scent, latent or not, her wolf—or what she thought of as her wolf—would want to hunt.
That wouldn’t be happening.
His fingers lingered on her cheek, and her body shuddered.
She pulled back, the loss of his touch like a deep abyss she knew she’d never be able to cross.
“I need to go.”
She didn’t even bother to lie. Not this time. She turned tail and ran back to her home. No, not her home, the place where her family slept.
Her name carried across the wind as North called her back, but she ignored it.
She kicked the door closed, then turned, bracing her back against it. Her legs gave out, and she slid to the floor, the sobs wracking through her body as memories flooded and attacked her.
The darkness of his eyes tearing into her.
The feel of those callous fingers digging into her when she screamed.
She shut her eyes against the nightmares and banged her fists against her temples.
“Get out! Stop!” she screamed into the empty room, tears rolling down her cheeks.
She had to get it under control. The others couldn’t know what had happened, or her baby boy’s life would be forfeit.
It was a dangerous game living with the Redwoods as it was. It would be even more dangerous to get close to the one man who could break her.
Even though her body told her, just as his was no doubt doing to him, that they could be mates, she knew that would never happen.
The wolf in her dreams begged for the man—at least that was what she thought since she couldn’t actually hear her wolf—she could feel the man’s touch on her cheek and knew it was useless to dream.
There would be no future with North Jamenson.
She was already mated.
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