Crimson Hollow Book Six
When Becky Lane was introduced to the world of shifters, she found it wasn’t as dark as she’d expected. Actually, there seemed to be more good in their world than in her own. So, she accepted them into her life with open arms, but never thought this would bring danger to her and her son, Billy. Without warning, the quiet life she had made for them ended, suddenly blown up. Literally.
After almost a year as Chief of the Crimson Hollow Tribe, Jase is ready for more. He wants his mate. He has so far stood aside as Becky dealt with the demons of her past and opened her heart to shifters—but when his bear alerts him to the peril she’s in, he knows it’s time to intervene. All the fluctuations in their lives can’t hold him back from his mate and the one thing he refuses to compromise on is her safety. He must claim her now or risk his bear going rogue to eliminate the threats to her and Billy.
As the world of shifters turns upside down, Crimson Hollow becomes a beacon of safety for its inhabitants and their allies. Will Jase and Becky’s union bring more death and destruction, or is this fated mating of human and shifter just what the tribe needs to beat the enemy once and for all?
The kitchen had never seemed this lonely, Becky Lane thought as she sat sipping her mug of coffee. The newspaper spread out before her on the table reported nothing but negativity. She was tired of the hatred and ignorance contained in nearly every article, especially those concerning shifters. It seemed as if the whole world was against them but it was just one group—The Saviors.
After more than a dozen of their members had been arrested weeks ago, some thought they would begin to crumble but as she read the morning paper, she was beginning to doubt it. There was too much hatred in the words she read for there not to be Savior supporters in the media. Too many articles highlighted shifters in a negative light. She suspected in many of these reports and incidents, the shifters involved had only been protecting themselves or their loved ones.
With each day that passed, she wondered if she shouldn’t have taken Jase’s invitation to stay in Crimson Hollow with his tribe. The tribe had quickly become family for her and her son, Billy. Now that her mother had passed away, they were all she had left. She had declined the invitation not because she didn’t want to be closer to them, but because she was unnerved by her developing feelings for Jase. Feelings she wasn’t sure were returned from him.
After saving Billy from his father, Liam and Ginger had been the ones to bring her into their world. Liam’s cousin was a lawyer and assisted her when it came to pressing kidnapping charges on her ex. Those kidnapping charges added years to the twenty-five-year sentence he had been serving before escaping and snatching Billy. After the escape, he’d been sent farther away to a maximum-security prison, which gave her more peace of mind thanks to the greater distance between them.
Even with everyone’s help getting through the last few months, it was Jase that stood out in her mind. He had been in the background a big chunk of the time, but always seemed to be there when she needed him the most—appearing out of nowhere with a comforting embrace or an encouraging remark. The day her mother died, he’d come to her. He’d never explained what he had been doing there in her area, or even at the hospital. One moment she’d been sitting alone in the waiting room, tears streaming down her face as the doctors rushed her mother in for open heart surgery, and the next he’d been there, comforting her.
“Mommy!” Billy called down to her from his room, where he was in timeout. “I’m sorry. Can I come down yet?”
“Not yet. I’ll be up in ten minutes to talk to you about what you said. In the meantime, clean up your room.” She leaned forward, placing her forearms on the table and cradling the coffee between her hands. “What am I going to do with him?”
At eight she hadn’t even considered swearing in front of her parents because she knew there would be hell to pay if she did. Did the fact that Billy just dropped the f-bomb in front of her mean she was too relaxed as a parent? Being both mother and father to him meant she couldn’t afford to screw anything up. If she wanted a well-behaved, respectful child then she needed to keep him in line. She couldn’t go soft on him because she was feeling sentimental over the loss of her own mother.
If she had taken Jase’s offer and moved to Crimson Hollow, maybe this wouldn’t be happening. With Jase, Liam, and the others, Billy would have had strong role models around him. But, she had to be independent and stay there. The trips to Crimson Hollow every other weekend were the highlight of her days, even if she wasn’t sure where things were going between her and Jase.
Her cell phone vibrated on the table, pulling her attention back to the present. Jase’s name appeared in bold letters across the screen. She should go upstairs and have the conversation she needed to have with Billy, but instead, she found herself sliding her finger across the screen and unlocking the phone. “Hello Jase, I was sitting at the table, thinking about you.”
“Get out of the house! Grab Billy and run! I’m on my way.”
His words chilled her to the bone, sending dread through her. She didn’t think of herself as someone who overreacted but the fear in his voice was something she had never heard before. “Jase?”
“Listen to me, Becky, you have to get out of there.”
The mug of coffee fell out of her grasp as she scooted the chair back from the table. “Billy!” With the phone still in her hand, she shot up from the chair and headed toward the stairs. Brushing past the china cabinet, she could see the foot of the stairs in front of her. The short distance seemed to take too long to cross as if she was moving in slow motion, which she knew she wasn’t. “Billy, come down—”
The first explosion rocked the house, sending her stumbling backward, away from the old windows that shattered, sending glass through the air. Tripping over something that had fallen, she slammed back into the wall, her head slamming on the china cabinet as she went down. “Billy!” She fought to get up and go to her son but it wasn’t over yet. Another explosion rocked the house, collapsing the wall behind her, and sending more debris down on her. Something crashed down on her head or maybe she fell into it, she wasn’t sure, but as the darkness closed in around her, she could only think of her son. Please let Billy be all right…
* * *
It was too late by the time Jase arrived; the damage was already done. In the distance, sirens blared but he wasn’t waiting for them. He wasn’t even waiting for his guards, Liam or Brett. Brett was the First Lieutenant to the tribe’s Deputy’s guards, but he was filling in as one of Jase’s guards for this rescue. The only thing filling his thoughts was getting to Becky and Billy.
He hopped out of the truck and took off for the house. The front porch had collapsed, blocking the entrance and forcing him to go around the side. His bear raged within him, demanding they find who attacked his mate. Later, he promised his beast. The person responsible would suffer immensely for what had happened. I’m coming, Becky…hold on.
“Damn it, Jase, wait.” Liam jogged after him with Brett directly behind him.
The side of the house didn’t look as bad as the front, but there was no telling if more bombs had been set to go off. He could have taken the time to smell the air in search for ammonium nitrate and other materials used in bomb-making, but that would take time he didn’t want to waste.
He turned the handle of the back door, expecting it to open, but it was locked. He cursed inwardly at that. But he knew Becky was smart; she wouldn’t leave her doors unlocked. He should have realized that and wouldn’t have wasted precious seconds trying the handle.
“Get out of the way. Let me get that,” Liam hollered as he came to the backdoor.
“Let me check the—”
Jase didn’t let Brett finish before he slammed his shoulder into the door. The wood splintered away from the lock, making it easy for him to push it out of the way. The broken door separated from the frame with ease and no explosions followed.
Liam pulled his gun from his holster and pushed Jase to the side. “Don’t even.”
Jase snarled but didn’t stop his guard from doing his job. As long as Liam moved quickly, so Jase could get to Becky, he wouldn’t fight him on this. Liam and Brett weren’t being led by their animals as he was, so they’d be able to sense any traps before he stumbled into one. The last thing they needed to do was set off any other bombs if they could help it.
Dust and smoke filled the inside of the house, making the air thick and hard to breathe. But that wasn’t all they had to worry about. Walls were beginning to collapse around them, and from the looks of things, it wouldn’t be long until the whole place was nothing but a pile of rubble. They had to get Becky and Billy out of there before the structure came down around them.
“Are you sure they’re here?” Brett took a deep breath, no doubt searching for her scent, but it was hidden by the thick smoke.
“She was screaming for Billy to come down when the first explosion happened. He must be upstairs.” Jase scanned his surroundings, searching for any sign of Becky or Billy. His senses weren’t able to focus on one thing, which would allow him to quickly single them out, so he took in the whole picture.
“I’ll check upstairs.” Brett climbed over the debris that littered the area, quickly making his way toward the stairs.
“She’s got to be around here somewhere. She’d have gone for him.”
“I’ll check this way.” Liam nodded toward the hall that would lead to the kitchen. “The fire is spreading rapidly. We need to hurry. Another explosion and this place is gone.”
“The call…” If Liam heard Jase, he didn’t take any notice as he headed the opposite way in search of Becky. If she still had her cell phone on her, they might be able to locate her quicker. Or it could have him searching in the opposite direction. Not seeing any option other than either calling the phone or digging through the already unstable debris, he grabbed his cell out of his pocket and dialed her number. Please let this work.
It took a moment for the call to connect and her soft ringtone to echo through the space. Narrowing in on where the noise was coming from, he ended the call and shoved his device into his pocket. Debris surrounded a collapsed wall, but what had him concerned was the support post, which was barely hanging on.
“What was that?” Liam hollered from the other room.
“Keep looking.” He wasn’t sure if she was under there and until he was certain, he didn’t want to pull Liam away from his own search. “Come on, baby.” He hopped over the end table that had been knocked over and made his way toward where he thought she might be. Part of him wanted to find her there, while the other part was concerned what shape she would be in if that wall had come down on top of her.
As he lifted a chunk of drywall from the top of the pile, his bear lunged forward, slamming off the internal walls of Jase’s body. Faster. Her scent drifted toward him, along with the stench of blood. “Fuck!”
“Did you find something?” The sound of Liam’s hard sole boots stopped, as he waited for Jase to answer.
“I need your help. Get in here, Liam.” Jase didn’t wait for Liam. He continued to shift the debris from around her until the beam started to shift, threatening to bring down the rest of the already unstable ceiling. “Hurry.”
“Of fuck, tell me she’s not under that.” Liam came toward him, the gun he held earlier now holstered. “If we don’t find something to support this beam, you’re going to bring the ceiling down on us.”
“No shit. Find something.” He shoved more drywall out of the way to reveal Becky’s arm. There in her hand she held the cell phone, his name displayed on the screen, alerting her to the missed call. Ignoring the phone, he pressed his fingers to her wrist, feeling for a pulse. Under his touch, her pulse was strong but the sight of the blood that stained her shirt and her limp body urged him to move quicker. He needed to get her uncovered and to safety before anything else could happen.
“I’ve got Billy!” Brett shouted down from upstairs. “He’s alive.”
“Get him out of here!” Jase hollered in reply. They might need Brett, but right now getting Billy out of there had to be his priority. “Liam, find something to brace that beam with.” Carefully, he continued to move rubble from on top of Becky. Piece by piece—until he found her slumped against the wall. Only a few things stood in the way of lifting her out but before he could move them, they had to brace the beam.
“Becky?” He touched the side of her face, careful to avoid the cut just above her eye. “Baby, can you hear me?”
“Mommy!” In the background, Jase could hear Billy screaming but his attention was on his mate.
“Get him out of here. Take him to the truck and stay with him. If there’s any sign of The Saviors, get in and drive. We’ll find another way,” Liam ordered.
“No, I want to stay with my mom!” Billy fought against Brett’s embrace but was no match for the bear.
Jase spun around to face the young boy, careful to keep his body in the way of his view so he couldn’t see how bad Becky was hurt. “Billy, the house is unstable and if I’m going to get your mom out of here quickly, I can’t worry about you being in danger. Now I need you to go with Brett and I’ll bring her out to you in a few minutes.”
“Is she going to be okay?” Tears swam in the boy’s eyes, making Jase want to go to him.
“Yes.” Hoping he wasn’t wrong, he tipped his head to Brett, letting him know to get moving.
“Promise?” Billy’s gaze stayed on Jase.
“I promise.” He waited until Brett and the boy disappeared around the corner before turning back to Becky. “Once I’m sure you’re going to be okay, I’m going to hunt down these fuckers and kill them myself.”
“Let’s get her out of here and keep your promise to that little boy before we worry about that.” While Jase was busy, Liam had braced the beam the best he could with the objects on hand. “We’re only going to have a few seconds to get this done.”
“Are you sure that’s going to hold?” Jase took in the brace and he wasn’t sure the couple of two-by-fours Liam had used would do more than give them an additional second or two. There was no way they’d hold back the second floor that threatened to come down on them.
“I’m going to hold onto the beam, while you grab her and get the hell out of here.” Liam held up his hand, stopping Jase before he could interrupt. “It’s the only chance we have. The fire is spreading and the smoke is thick. Wait too much longer and she’s not going to have a chance.”
“The fire department—” Before Jase could finish his thought, Liam cut him off.
“If we wait for them, the news of her surviving will be all over the place within the hour. This was a direct attack on her and Billy because of her association with us.”
“Mr. Mallory. Son of a bitch!” Jase exclaimed, everything seeming to fit now.
Karri Mallory had recently mated with Noah, the guard in charge of protecting Sin—the Deputy of Crimson Hollow Tribe. Only weeks earlier, with the arrival of her sister, they’d found out that not only her parents but most of the town she’d grown up in were tied in with The Saviors. They were working with the police, at least as much as they could, to bring down the terrorist group, but it wasn’t an easy task. Many of the members had been arrested and were currently in jail awaiting their trial. Until they could take down the leaders of The Saviors, they would be a threat to all shifters.
“If you were thinking clearly, you’d realize we need to keep their survival under wraps until we can deal with the issue.” Liam tipped his head toward Becky. “Waiting to claim her has been good for her, but your bear has been growing impatient. Now he’s angry because of the threat to her. She’d have been safe if she stayed in Crimson Hollow…”
“I’d have known where she was if I had mated with her,” Jase snapped, angrier with himself than with Liam. “I know all this.”
“Let’s do this before you lose your opportunity with her altogether.”
“Not going to happen.” He crouched down beside Becky, ready to pull her out of the last of the rubble and lift her into his arms. The moment his hand slid along her skin, he knew the injuries were minor compared to what they could have been. She had a concussion, broken arm, bruised ribs, but between the cut above her eye and the gash on her thigh, the worst of her injuries was the blood loss. There was nothing the tribe’s doctor couldn’t handle. He just had to get her out of there.
“I’m glad Sin sent the others along.” The doctor, Ari, and Kaden were waiting at a hotel a few towns over. After Jase and the guards had taken off, Sin called to tell him that she had sent others after him. She knew it was too long of a drive for them to make it back if Becky or Billy had been hurt. Having the doctor close by would give them additional options besides going to a hospital. At a human hospital, there’d be no way to keep The Saviors from finding out the Lanes had survived.
“You ready?” Liam stepped to the side of the beam, preparing himself to hold it up while Jase grabbed Becky. It was dangerous but with the shifter strength, it took some of the risks away.
“Let’s do this.” As Liam braced the weight, Jase kicked the last chuck of drywall out of the way and tugged her away from the rubble before quickly lifting her into his arms.
“Go!” Liam roared as a piece of the ceiling came tumbling down upon them.
Holding her closer to his body and doing the best he could to shield her from the falling debris, Jase dashed back toward the door they’d come through. The door was in sight when the ceiling gave way, bringing the front of the house down with it. The noise of the walls collapsing was almost deafening and when he glanced over his shoulder he was unable to see his guard through the smoke and dust. “Liam?”
“I’m here. Go!”
Liam’s footsteps sounded behind Jase as he jogged toward the truck. The fire department could be seen off in the distance and in moments, the fire engine turned onto her road, several blocks up, leaving their escape window to mere seconds. “We’ve got to go.”
Brett started the engine and unlike before, when Liam was driving, he stayed behind the wheel.
“Get in the back with Billy,” Jase ordered Liam as they climbed into the truck. He silently wished for the boy to remain calm.
“Mommy!” Billy hoisted himself up on the back of the seat, trying to swing his leg over so he could get up front.
“She’s fine, just sleeping.” Liam climbed into the truck, hooked his arm around Billy, and pulled him back into the seat. “Buckle up.”
Jase shifted in the seat, using his body as a shield so Billy couldn’t see the full extent of Becky’s injuries. He hadn’t had time to check her thoroughly before he’d moved her but thanks to the connection between them, he already knew there were no spinal cord or neck injuries he had to worry about. With a broken arm, dislocated knee, a couple of bruised ribs, and numerous other cuts, though, she was in bad shape. The loss of blood from her head wound and the deep gash on her thigh had him the most concerned.
The strong pulse that had beat against his fingers when he’d found her was lighter now. They didn’t have much time.
“Brett—” Jase hadn’t meant to snarl at him but his bear was too close to the surface.
“I’m hurrying.” Without braking, he turned the wheel sharply to the left, allowing them to make their turn onto the highway without missing a beat. “Put pressure on it.”
Applying pressure, he stared down at her pale face, cursing himself. If he had only claimed her as his mate when his bear wanted him to, none of this would be happening. “Stay with me, baby.”