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Gentry (Wolves of Winter's Edge Book 1)

By:T. S. Joyce

Chapter One

Gentry Striker knelt down in the snow and narrowed his eyes at the chaos he found there. Overlapping paw prints made a mess of the white ground. Crimson was splattered here and there as if painted by an artist’s brush. Gentry huffed a frozen breath and lifted a handful of red snow to his nose, then sniffed it. So fresh.

The alpha of this pack was a pitch-black murder machine Gentry had deemed Tooth. Why? Because the wild wolf was missing one bottom canine. That didn’t seem to hinder his ability to hurt, though. Hurt other packs, hurt his own pack, hurt animals even after he’d had his fill.

Tooth reminded Gentry of his brothers, Roman and Asher. All three of them were grade-A, pain-in-the-ass, dominant-as-hell assholes.

Gentry had stalled on taking out Tooth, but shouldn’t have. Tooth had taken yet another unnecessary victim. The pack had just fed twelve hours ago, and now they’d killed another animal, at least one… No. Gentry scented the air again. Too much blood. Maybe the pack had killed two cattle this time. The ranchers in the area wouldn’t be put off anymore. Not after a month-long killing spree, and not when Tooth had grown such a fondness for the kill.

Fuck, he mouthed as he looked to the horizon, where the tree line met the deep navy sky adorned with stars. It was so beautiful here… A howl rose in the air—and so ugly all at once.

He’d memorized their voices. This one was the alpha female. He called her Eyelet because she was white with what looked like gray lace marbled into her coat. Her voice faded to nothing, then started up again. When the others in the pack didn’t join, Gentry huffed a dark laugh and stood. Tonight it was then. The alpha was onto him and didn’t like being hunted. Oh, the wolves knew what he was, even if the humans did not. Werewolf. They could probably smell him from a mile away. Tooth thought putting his precious Eyelet out as a lure would work on a creature like Gentry. He tossed the bloody snow to the side and strode over the crunching ground up a shallow incline. Wolf tracks were everywhere, and in the distance, the stressed bawling of cattle still sounded. They were probably against a fence on the edge of the property, eyes rolling and so wide the whites showed at the edges. A wave of protective instincts washed through him as he made his way over unmarred ground. A soft snarl rattled up his throat. Cattle shouldn’t have his instincts up like this. They were prey, and he was a predator. This town had made him soft. He’d been here too long, gotten to know the people, begun to feel.

Fuck that. He was here on a job to decide which wolves needed to be culled. He would paint the snow with Tooth’s blood, bring the pack under control. Wait for them to decide on a new alpha and then scare the ever-living-shit out of the wolves so they would stay far away from their new taste for beef.

Screw those whiney cattle. He wasn’t here for them. He was here to get paid and to keep as many of this pack alive as he was able. Another howl rose up louder than before. He hoped he could save Eyelet. Tooth was the problem wolf here, but Eyelet would go to war for her man.

The snow sparkled a soft blue color in the moonlight, and his boots sunk in up to his ankles. Above the crunching sound of his footsteps, his phone dinged softly. Seriously? Snarling under his breath, Gentry ripped his phone out of his back pocket and checked the caller ID. Some unknown number was calling him at three in the morning.

Gentry turned it to vibrate and shoved the phone back where it belonged. Unreasonably pissed to have a hunt interrupted, he unzipped his jacket, yanked it off, and then tossed it to the ground. Balls, it was cold.

His phone was vibrating again. “I swear to God…” he muttered, prepared to curse out whatever telemarketer thought this was a good time to call.

This time the caller ID read Roman. What the hell? Why would his brother be calling him? They didn’t talk. They weren’t okay. Something rustled in the woods, and he jerked his attention to the right, but saw nothing. Roman was going to get him killed. Asshole would probably dance on his grave.

Gentry ignored the call like a champ, but right as he was pulling his shirt off to Change, a text came through.

Answer the phone, Gentry. It’s dad’s lawyer.

Those last three words did something awful inside of him.

Not a good time. Send.

Chest heaving, frozen breath chugging in front of his face like steam from a train, Gentry stared at the unknown number flashing across the screen again.

ANSWER THE FUCKING PHONE, Roman texted.

Gentry’s fingers were already tingling with the Change, and Eyelet was still calling to him. She thought he was a real wolf and not a monster. Monsters didn’t get tricked as easily, but the ghosts from his past were keeping him distracted and vulnerable. Bad place to be out here.

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