Author: Marina Maddix
Series: The Last Alphas of Thracos #3
Genre(s): BBW, Sci Fi, Shapeshifters
Released: August 15, 2017
Sometimes fate has other plans.
The two warring tribes of Thracos have finally reunited, bringing Hill and Valley Wargs together for the first time in generations. As alpha, it’s my job to ensure every tribe member is ready to fight the Terrans who are determined to eradicate us — even if that includes private training sessions with the worst of the bunch.
Peace-loving Arlynn hates violence almost as much as she hates me, but no matter how much I touch her during our lessons, I can’t seem to get her out of my system. All it would take is one mind-blowing encounter to quench my thirst for her luscious curves — not to mention rock her world — but she’s as stubborn as she is beautiful.
Her loss. I’ve got more important things to think about, such as the fact our species is on the brink of extinction.
So why can’t I stop thinking about her?
Thrane’s Fated is Book 3 in The Last Alphas of Thracos trilogy.
Also in this series:
Read the First Three Chapters
The Great Elders of the Warg would have howled in dismay if they were alive to witness the ridiculous scene I couldn’t escape. Standing on a platform in front of the entirety of our newly-united tribe, I couldn’t hold back a heavy sigh as Solan — once my blood enemy, now my co-alpha — yammered on and on, like a true orator. He recounted the history of the tribe and our historic guardianship of Thracos. He insisted we were a powerful force the alien interlopers — otherwise known as Terrans — couldn’t withstand. He explained how the discovery of the reet and helixgrass combination solved our reproductive issues. He rambled on about how the merger would ensure our survival as a species. So much inane blather, it made my head hurt.
“Blah, blah, blah,” I muttered irritably under my breath, bored out of my skull.
Markon, my brother and fellow co-alpha, jabbed an elbow into my ribs, never letting his frozen grin falter in front of the huge crowd of Wargs standing before their three — three! — alphas. I rolled my eyes, but held my tongue.
After the two tribes had united, Solan’s mate, Sienna, had lobbied heavily for a claiming, insisting the traditional mating event would tighten the bond between the tribes. And it made sense. The tribes had been enemies for so long we’d never intermingled — at least when we weren’t trying to kill each other. The more cross-tribe matings we had, the stronger we would become. And with the threat of the Terrans looming, we needed all the strength we could get. Of course, not everyone believed the alien interlopers would attack us again, but I felt it coming in my bones, like the way the air thickens and prickles in the stillness before a storm.
The sea of happy and hopeful faces gazing up at us reaffirmed my decision to play along with the silly festivities of a traditional claiming — games, dances, feasts and so on. If I learned anything from my co-alphas, it was that our people needed to have a little fun every once in a while. It gave them a sense of well-being — as false as I believed it to be — and hope. The happier they were in this moment, the harder they would fight together in the future when we’d need them to be fully united.
“And just as two Wargs come together at a claiming,” Solan shouted, fully engrossed in his own admittedly admirable speech-making abilities, “so do the Valley and Hill tribes, as they finally become one united tribe today!”
The crowd lapped it up like whelps at a bowl of milk. Perhaps if I’d been as talented at puking out inspirational drivel, my own tribe wouldn’t have rejected me as their sole alpha.
No, this was no time for self-pity. No time was right for that, in my book. This was my life now, and it was my job to ensure our warriors became a well-oiled machine.
“If this is your first claiming,” Solan continued, “remember…thunderstruck unions are rare. You are much more likely to find your fated mate through the trials and games we have planned. Everyone has a mate; you just need to find them!”
I ground my teeth in an effort to stifle another eye roll. Not everyone was owed a mate. There were far too man males for all of them to find mates. On top of that, some of us had far more important things to think about, such as the survival of our species, than to wonder who would bear our whelps.
Besides, I’d already been through most of the eligible females in the Hill tribe — and I’d at least met most of the ones in the Valley tribe — and there hadn’t been a single hint any of them were my fated. Naturally, they all wished they were, but I gave up on finding my own mate long ago. My fate, it seemed, was to be the best damn alpha possible, not live happily ever after…which we all knew was a lie anyway.
As Solan explained the events planned for the three-day claiming, I scanned the crowd. A small number from each tribe stood mixed together, but for the most part, the audience remained in segregated groups — Hill Wargs on one side, Valley on the other — and were all mostly male. Even if few matches were made — there were only a limited number of females to go around, after all — their hope was the games and interactions would bring them together as tribemates.
“Before we start,” Solan shouted, “Markon and Thrane would like to address you.”
He turned to face Markon, but before my little brother could so much as open his mouth, I stepped forward toward the crowd. “Who’s sick of all this damn talking and just wants to get on with it already?”
The crowd roared in agreement, as I grinned at my brother, who scowled for a moment, then shook his head and laughed. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Let the games begin!”
The Village commons turned into a madhouse, as male Wargs ran every which way in order to try to find a spot in any event, game or activity which still had space for them. With the men outnumbering the women by such a huge margin, competition would be fierce. Sienna and her Terran-born sisters, Natalie and Arlynn, along with a handful of other mated females, led several games simultaneously.
When the three Terrans had crash-landed several weeks ago on the Hill side of the river, which separated our territories, Solan had wasted no time snatching them from under my guards’ noses. Naturally, I’d sent forces to bring the women back to the Hill village where they belonged, but my men had returned with only two. This was before we’d united, of course, but the memory still tasted bitter on my tongue.
Saliva pooled in my mouth as I recalled the moment my guards had dragged the first captured Terran into my hut to be interrogated. Arlynn had looked like no other female I’d ever seen — small, in comparison to female Wargs, but with an abundance of curves to make up for it, and her almost-black hair, which flamed red and purple in two bright swaths. Strange coloring, indeed.
Watching her now, as she called out instructions to those playing her game, I spotted a dark streak at her part, proving the colors were not natural. Too bad. The sass of the colors paled in comparison to the sass of the woman though. Oh how she’d cursed me before my teeth sank into the soft flesh of her neck…
“Hey, big brother,” Markon said, nudging me out of my reverie. “You’re not mated. Why aren’t you out there?”
“Foolishness,” I said with a snort.
“Which? The claiming games, or the idea your fated might be out there waiting for you?”
Markon always did have the unnerving ability to look deeper into my soul than I preferred.
Solan sidled up on my other side and slapped my back just a little harder than necessary. “Go on, Thrane. What are you afraid of?”
I slid a hard look over at my former enemy. “You know, better than anyone, I’m not afraid of anything.”
Solan grinned and gave me a shove. “Then show our people you’re committed to this tribe by joining them. Give ‘em what they want, Thrane!”
“Fine,” I grumbled, as I leapt off the platform and strode across the commons.
Sienna was leading Catch-A-Mate, a common whelp game — only this time all the players were adults — where the female players chuck rings at sticks held by the male players. Subtle, I thought as I passed it by.
Natalie, my brother’s new mate, doled out some reet-helix concoction she’d whipped up to ensure any matings occurring during the claiming would yield much-needed female babies. I didn’t have as much hope for our future as the rest of the tribe. In fact, I personally never imagined myself making it this far in life. As a warrior, I’d always assumed I would die on the battlefield before I could reproduce, so I didn’t really feel as if I were missing out.
I only knew electricity. When Thrane threw me over his shoulder like a caveman from the Terran ancestral home, the world around me buzzed out of existence, leaving only my flesh rubbing against his. But the moment my feet touched the spongy purple earth of the forest, my senses snapped back into place.
“What the hell!” I shouted, slapping at his ridiculously bulging pecs.
As if they had a will of their own, my fingers traced the line of a wicked scar, and I couldn’t help wondering who — or, more likely, what — had caused it and how anyone could have survived such an injury. The mere thought of the pain it would have caused took my breath away. Only when Thrane’s enormous paw of a hand gently wrapped around my own did I drag my gaze from the scar to his flaming orange eyes. A lock of his beautiful black mane slipped out of place and fell across his brow.
I swear, every nerve in my entire body spasmed.
Then he moved my hand down to where his silk loin-covering tented out like a pyramid, but I yanked my hand away — although not before my brain registered the silky-steel thrumming under my fingers.
“Hey!” I shouted again, after swallowing the saliva that had suddenly pooled in my mouth.
Thrane grinned and reached for my hand once more, but I stepped back, away from his intoxicating effect.
“Don’t even think about it, nut bag! It ain’t gonna happen!”
Now that I’d put some space between us, my brain remembered how to work normally again. The scar, which had enthralled me a moment ago, now made me wonder how many living souls he’d hurt the same way…or worse. I abhorred the violence which seemed to be so much of an innate part of his identity. A part he was not only comfortable with, but quite proud of.
Thrane’s bushy black eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement. “Why not? You want me, I want you. Why fight it?”
I balked. “I don’t want it! And I certainly don’t want you!”
His eyes narrowed, then he took a step closer. I retreated, then bumped into a tree. My botany lessons with Natalie told me the smooth trunk pressed into my back meant it was a moarkwood tree.
Who cares, dummy!
“Every eligible female in our combined tribe would chew off her left arm to fuck me,” he growled, sending shivers of desire rippling through me.
I tried to shake it off, to convince myself it was simply a result of my forced celibacy at the Training Center coupled with the curse Thrane himself had put upon my head when he transformed me from Terran into Warg against my will.
“Go fuck them, then,” I sneered, seething with hate — both for the man who’d ruined any chance I had at a future, as well as for my traitorous body.
“Oh, I will, but first…you.”
I opened my mouth to tell him exactly what I thought of that plan, but then his lips were on mine and every nerve caught fire. My body responded to him instinctively, a strange thing since I’d never been kissed before in my life.
I’d been too young to have any kind of real experience when my parents were forced to surrender me to the Training Center, and my options there were minimal, at best. Only once my sisters and I had been rescued by the Wargs did I realize how many options were open to me. So many males had vied for my attention, I couldn’t choose just one. I’d flirted with them all, which took very little effort since they were all smoking hot. But I’d never reached the point of kissing anyone before Thrane’s thugs had snatched me away from the Valley and dragged me, kicking and screaming, up the Hill.
And that’s where Thrane had ruined me. I knew I should have been grateful he hadn’t killed me, as I’d been afraid he would do, but the knowledge I would never find a fated mate — something I yearned for with every ounce of my soul — seemed an even worse fate than death.
Of course, Solan, Markon and both shamans had insisted Thrane’s bite had no special powers preventing me from finding my own fated, but I knew, deep down, he’d somehow spoiled me. And I hated him for it.
So why did I like the way his body felt crushed up against mine so much? As much as my mind rebelled at rewarding his bad — so very bad — behavior, my body had other ideas. Instead of pushing him away, my hands buried themselves in his wild black hair. I still had enough clarity to clench hard enough to pull some strands free, but Thrane didn’t seem to notice. If anything, it only encouraged him.
His hands roamed my body freely, finally settling on my round rump. A Terran man’s hand would barely have covered a quarter of one cheek, but Thrane’s overgrown palms engulfed each cheek fully. With seemingly no effort at all, he lifted me until my legs had no choice but to wrap around his waist.
Yeah, no choice. Right.
I couldn’t stop the moan that was tickling the back of my throat as the hard heat pressed against me, insisting on access. Luckily, my own quadrapede silk wrap protected me. For now.
A feral part of me, a part I wouldn’t let have control, urged me to tear my wrap away and allow Thrane to do whatever he pleased. The thought was so very tempting, but fear tempered it. His girth terrified me, quite frankly. But I had to admit, the making out was pretty fun.
Thrane broke our kiss, his teeth bared like an animal. Reaching between us, he began tugging at my wrap, trying to find an opening. With a gasp, I grabbed his hand, and although my wimpy Terran strength probably felt like a fly on his skin, he stopped immediately and gazed into my anxious face.
His blazing eyes softened and cooled, then he dipped his head and kissed me more gently than I ever could have imagined such a brute capable of. I became lost in him and relaxed in his arms, reveling in every new sensation.
His lips left mine and kissed a burning trail from my neck to my ear. “So beautiful,” he whispered, sending my body into convulsions.
God, I wanted him! I hate to admit it, but there it was.
Propping me against the moarkwood freed one of Thrane’s hands, which he used with great skill. Cupping a breast, he skimmed his thumb over the protruding tip, bringing a gasp to my lips and an ache to my core. He glided along every curve and valley, as if he cherished every inch of me. I’d never felt so desirable — not even when a couple of Wargs had fought over me.
His tongue followed his fingers — hot wetness engulfed my already tight nipple through the sheer silk of my wrap — and my legs clenched around his waist. I felt his lips spread into a smile, and any semblance of awareness evaporated like steam.
Where he’d had trouble finding access earlier, his free hand discovered easily. My head dropped back helplessly as his fingers explored my folds before one slipped inside. So big! So thick! So good! I clenched around his finger and he moaned in response, seeking my mouth again.
Slowly and gently, he dipped in and out, allowing me to stretch gradually, without a smidgen of pain. When his finger became fully seated in me, I thought my brain would melt. Then his thumb decided to prove me wrong by finding my hypersensitive nub. At the slightest touch, I cried out and buried my face in his neck.
Our rhythm came naturally — me moving my hips as he tortured me with his fingers. Every trembling muscle in my body clenched to the point I thought I might collapse in on myself like a dying star. Then, like a supernova, I exploded.
A flock of green jays rose up from a nearby tree, squawking in protest at my cries of joy, but my brain barely registered them. Bright orange flashes merged with vibrant purple pulses behind my eyes as my whole world tipped upside down and inside out. I clung to Thrane, afraid I would spin off into the abyss if I didn’t hold on tight. Finally, the spasms subsided, leaving me cloaked in a cocoon of warmth I never wanted to escape.
“See?” Thrane’s voice was husky in my ear. “I knew you wanted me.”
He might as well have thrown me under an ice-cold waterfall.
“Let go of me, you jackass!”
I struggled to free myself, and he let me down gently, holding his hands up in surrender. Jamming my fists onto my hips, I glared up at the big doofus, no longer entranced by those flashing orange eyes of his.
Nope, not one bit.
He smirked down at me and leaned against the tree he’d just…we’d just… Shit! He leaned against the tree. And looked as cocky as ever.
I opened my mouth to chew him out, to tell him what a colossal jerk he was, to tell him to take a running leap off a tall cliff…but nothing came out. The best I could manage was a lame squeak. With one more glare, I huffed and stormed back to the village without looking back. And I didn’t want to look back either.
Nope, not one bit.
Lost in thought, I suddenly found myself standing on the edge of Arlynn’s group. I figured, if I had to endure the torture of one of these games, I might as well enjoy the view.
“Men line up on one side; women on the other, facing the men,” she called out with that sing-song way of hers. “This game is called Look-Away. You will look into the eyes of the Warg across from you for thirty seconds. When the bell rings, the men will move down one spot, and the thirty seconds will start again. We’ll lather, rinse, and repeat until you’ve all looked into each other’s eyes.”
I had no idea what “lather, rinse, and repeat” meant, but I got the gist. It seemed harmless enough, and would at least show my tribe I was just as committed as Solan and Markon, who conveniently had already found their mates.
As I snuck in at the end of an interminable line of males, Teema, one of the mated Hill females, pushed Arlynn into the front of the much-shorter line of females. “Don’t forget about yourself!”
Arlynn began to object but clamped her lips shut, and instead stood frozen in line, dutifully staring into each man’s eyes. Hard as I tried, each time I moved in front of a new female, my gaze inevitably drifted toward Arlynn. I could almost feel her frustration at being forced to join her own game. Sure, she’d smile at each man standing across from her, but then a wall would slam down to cover her eyes. None of them stood a chance, mainly because she wouldn’t give them a chance. It was almost as if she knew none of them could be her mate, and something which felt suspiciously like excitement tickled my chest.
Ridiculous! The Alpha of the Hill Warg, direct descendant of the Great Tribe of Thracos would never stoop so low as to mate with a Terran! I ignored the voice reminding me that Markon, who had proved to be a perfectly competent and devoted alpha of the Hill tribe had found his fated in Arlynn’s sister. I refused to give Solan and his Terran-born mate a second thought.
One more step to the left found me staring down into the richest brown eyes I’d ever seen. As they widened in surprise, warmth flooded me. The quadrapede silk wrap around my hips did little to hide my interest. But instead of being complimented by my very obvious arousal — as any of the other females in the line-up would have done — Arlynn appeared practically offended.
“You’re disgusting,” she hissed up at me.
“You’re delicious,” I replied, licking the drool off my lips.
Her eyes, which were supposed to have been locked on mine, focused on my mouth instead, and I could tell she’d let me take her if I wanted. And I wanted.
Ignoring propriety and ceremony, I draped Arlynn’s tiny frame over my shoulder, ignored her gasp of surprise, and strode toward the forest.
“So it’s gone?” Solan asked.
All three of us alphas were sitting on a raised platform in what they called a “meeting hall.” In my village, it had been known as a koshu, and all the females and whelps lived in it under heavy guard. But apparently, protecting women and children at all costs wasn’t something the Valley scum bothered with.
“Yessir,” replied one of the Valley scouts — I couldn’t recall which one. I probably needed to start learning their names. “The Terran military outpost is completely gone. Not a trace left, not even garbage.”
“Huh,” Solan said, “they must have decided to cut their losses. Two of the women they’d come back for had been turned already, and they must have known Natalie would be turned.”
Markon grinned at me. “See? I told you they wouldn’t be back, Thrane.”
The guard shrank under the glower I cast on him. “Do you think they’re gone for good?”
“I asked your opinion, soldier,” I growled at the young scout. “Do you think they’re gone for good?”
Markon leaned over. “Come on, Thrane, give the kid a break.”
“I-I…” The scout’s gaze snapped between his three alphas as he gamely tried to figure out what answer his superiors wanted from him. Finally, he visibly gave up and shrugged. “I don’t know, sir, but if I had to guess, I’d say no. I was in the Hill meadow when they attacked, and their leader didn’t seem the type to turn tail and run.”
“Ha!” I shouted and turned a triumphant snarl on Solan. “So there are intelligent Valley Wargs. I never woulda thunk it.”
“Hey!” One of the older Valley scouts stepped forward, fire in his eyes at my insult.
For the briefest moment, I wanted to lunge into the fray, rip out his throat at his insolence, and show the others exactly which of their alphas to fear the most. But Markon laid a calming hand on my arm, and I swallowed my warrior pride…this time.
“Stand down, soldier,” I said, leaning back and appraising his fight-ready stance. He looked skilled. I could work with that. “I was only proving a point to my co-alphas” — the word stuck in my throat like grumpus scat — “that not everyone thinks we’re about to live our very own happily ever after. Some of us think the Terrans are simply regrouping, assessing our strengths and weaknesses, and developing a plan of attack that will wipe us out once and for all.”
The angry scout didn’t seem convinced, but decided to accept my explanation anyway. Another smart Valley Warg. Well, knock me over with a green jay feather.
“What’s your name, soldier?” I asked the older man.
Ooh, and he had sass. I could beat that out of him, but I admired his bravery. It, along with his fierce loyalty, were exactly what we would need very soon.
“And you?” I turned to the younger scout.
“You two will meet me in the morning for training with my squad. We need more men like you.”
The shift in their attitudes was almost palpable. “Yessir!” they both practically shouted, snapping me a quick salute, then scurrying out of the meeting hall before I changed my mind.
“And what was that about?” Markon murmured as a mixed group of Hill and Valley females approached.
“What can I say? I liked them. Besides, you’re the one who’s always going on and on about how we need to work with the Valley scum.”
“Thrane!” Markon hissed a warning.
“Fine,” I said with a sigh. “I won’t call them that anymore. It’s just such a hard habit to break.”
“As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right. You and Solan can keep your heads in the ground about the Terrans, but I know this isn’t over. We must train our fighters together so they become brothers, and insulting them that way won’t instill loyalty. I intend to use those two scouts to recruit more warriors — real warriors.”
I shot a meaningful look at Solan, who was giving the women his typically inspirational welcome. Pompous jackass.
Markon’s eyebrow shot up in a way I didn’t care for in the slightest. “Don’t forget who bested you on your own home turf, big brother,” he said.
The shame and humiliation from my defeat still burned hot inside me — as did the scar on the side of my head where Solan had nearly ripped off my ear — but I’d vowed to leave that all behind, and I would die trying. If I was anything, I was true to my word.
Ignoring my brother, I turned my attention to the matter at hand — a group of very lovely females.
“We need more formal training, Solan,” said the Valley woman standing in front. “If Thrane is right and the Terrans aren’t done with us yet, we need to be able to protect ourselves.”
I couldn’t stop from snorting my disapproval. The woman narrowed her eyes at me.
“This isn’t the old days, Thrane. I know you had some warped idea that hiding your females away would keep them safe — all while trying to steal us away from our home — but things have changed.”
I admired her passion and eloquence, even though I didn’t agree. “If you haven’t noticed… Wait, what’s your name?”
“If you haven’t noticed, Yara, there are still far too few women to justify risking their lives in battle.” Yara tried to object, but I interrupted her. “I agree all Warg females must learn basic self-defense, and those classes have already started, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say there’s no way we’ll allow a woman to join us on the battlefield.”
“But what’s the point?” asked Teema, the mate of Markon’s second-in-command. “When it was the Hill and Valley tribes fighting each other, it made sense to hide us away, since the Valley scu— Sorry, I mean our Valley brothers were trying to kidnap us. But now we have a common enemy who wants to kill us all. How will we protect ourselves if the Terrans slaughter all the men who’ve left us utterly defenseless? Don’t we have just as much at stake, Thrane?”
Her eyes bore into mine, and the truth of her words sank in. The Terrans weren’t out to abduct our women. They were out to slaughter our entire species. Still…
“We simply can’t risk it,” I said, looking to Markon and Solan for support.
“I don’t agree,” Solan said. “And I’m surprised you’re against it, Thrane. After all, you’re the one who keeps pushing for more training, more warriors. Here’s an untapped supply of fresh soldiers, who are just as eager for our species to survive as the males.”
I could taste powder from my grinding teeth. How dare he contradict me! Thick bristles sprouted on the back of my neck and I snarled my irritation, until Markon yanked me from my chair and dragged me down a corridor where no one could see us.
“What is going on with you?” he demanded, his nostrils flaring in frustration.
I shifted my gaze to nothing in particular. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Even to my own ears, I sounded like a petulant whelp.
“You’ve been cranky since the first night of the claiming. At first, I thought it was because you weren’t one of the men who found their fated mates, but it’s been going on for a week now.”
He wasn’t wrong. Ever since blowing Arlynn’s mind using only my fingers — okay, maybe my lips helped a little — she hadn’t so much as looked at me. Every time I’d tried to approach her, she’d found the nearest eligible male — which was most of them — and flirted shamelessly. I certainly hadn’t expected a lifetime commitment from her, but I sure as hell had expected a little reciprocity. Would it have been so hard for her to give me a quick handie?
No woman had ever refused me before. If I so much as looked in the direction of an unmated female, she practically jumped in my lap and begged me to take her to the heights of ecstasy. It proved almost impossible to shake them afterward — all of them hoping to be the alpha’s mate.
But not Arlynn. Hate rolled off her in waves whenever she caught me watching her, which was why I’d been so pleasantly surprised when she’d responded to my kiss that night in the forest. I’d foolishly thought she’d warm to me, let me do the things I’d dreamed about ever since I’d administered the bite to her. Well, she’d let me do some of the things, but then had run off as soon as she’d been satisfied.
“It’s just the merge,” I said, shrugging off his keen observation. “And this entire co-alpha shit. Solan seems sincere enough, but sometimes I want to smash his perpetually positive head in, ya know?”
Markon chuckled. “Give it time, big brother. I swear he’ll grow on you.”
“Like creeper mold,” I groused.
“Exactly! Now why don’t you go walk off whatever’s irritating you. The women were the last group requesting an audience, and we won’t make a final decision without you. Sound good?”
I jerked up a shoulder in a petulant shrug. Apparently, I needed a good walk more than I wanted to admit. Sitting in one place for too long made my skin itch, but gods forbid I let Solan show me up in any aspect of being a good alpha. Without a word, I turned on my heel and strode toward the side door.
“May the Great Elders of the Warg help anyone who gets in your way,” Markon called after me.
No doubt he was joking, but his words held more truth than I cared to admit. The first moron who crossed me might find himself in the shaman’s hut for some healing sessions.
Naturally, the first person I saw when I stepped outside wasn’t some hapless moron I could justify chewing out. It was Arlynn.
Blood pounded in my ears as I watched her spar with Rikor, one of my best instructors and Markon’s right-hand-man, in a group self-defense class. As I watched her luscious body twist and writhe, I realized “spar” was being generous. Of all the ridiculously inept females flailing around, Arlynn was the worst.