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Carnal Secrets (The Phoenix Pack #3)
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A pack Alpha and his estranged, true mate wrestle with painful secrets, ruthless enemies, and their own irresistible attraction, in the sexy third book of the Phoenix Pack series.
Half-shifter Shaya Critchley may hold a submissive role in her pack, but she’s done taking orders. After her Alpha wolf mate refused to claim her—but committed to interfering in her life—she took off. Now she hides from him, posing as a human in a town full of anti-shifter extremist groups. She thinks he’ll never find her again, and that suits her just fine. But she’s wrong.
Nick Axton can barely control his feelings for Shaya, but he could never claim her—not if he truly cares for her. The degenerative brain condition he keeps secret would ultimately leave her with a burden rather than a mate. But when Shaya runs away, Nick can’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. After tracking her down, he discovers Shaya’s feisty and passionate side in the process…a side he’d never seen before.
Under the menacing gazes of territorial local packs and violent human extremists, Nick vows to finally claim the spirited Shaya…and despite her initial resistance, Shaya just might find his fiery determination to be the ultimate aphrodisiac.
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He was going to get bad news today. Nick knew it in his bones. The “knowing” wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. He’d often know things. Sometimes it was just as it was right now—no more than a feeling, an itch at the back of his neck that warned him something was wrong but gave him no clue as to what. Other times it was more specific yet very mundane; he would know exactly where a missing object was, like the TV remote or the car keys. But then there were times when the knowing was a heavy weight in his gut, a warning that rang through his body…like that time when he was in the woods with his sister and he had known that if they didn’t turn back, something awful would happen, something that would change everything.
Call it intuition, call it instincts, call it a gift—whatever. The point was that he knew that bad news was coming, and it was becoming harder and harder for the Alpha to keep his anxiety from leaking out into the pack link.
He was pretty sure that the two wolves in the vehicle with him had felt his edginess, but that was only to be expected considering that—as his brother and bodyguard—they were closely attuned to him. His wolf also sensed Nick’s tension and was now pacing within him, as edgy and restless as he was. Well at least he and his wolf were on the same page, for a change—he’d missed that feeling. Nick Axton had always prided himself on the fact that he and his wolf were very much in sync with each other. There had only ever been one thing that they had been in total disagreement on—claiming Shaya Critchley, their mate.
His wolf’s stance on the matter was simple: she was their true mate, therefore Nick should claim her and bond with her and make her their Alpha female of the Ryland Pack. But it wasn’t as clear-cut as that. No, there was a host of issues surrounding this situation.
For one thing, making a submissive wolf an Alpha female was next to impossible. It wasn’t that submissive wolves were weak or passive. Hell no. Despite their aura of calm, submissive wolves could be feisty, hotheaded, and mentally stronger than any dominant wolf, just as dominant wolves could be weak-minded or emotionally vulnerable despite their aura of intensity. But these differences in aura were partly why dominant wolves were always high in rank; a dominant’s intense vibes could suppress and, thus, force the submission of any wolf they were more powerful than, thereby leaving submissive wolves vulnerable to them.
The other essential difference between dominants and submissives lay in physical strength—a submissive, no matter their inner strength, could never be physically stronger than a dominant wolf. As such, submissives were vulnerable to dominant wolves on two scores, but they were vital to every pack in that without the natural calming influence of submissive wolves running through the pack link, the dominants’ natural intensity would leave the pack unstable.
As such, though Shaya was vital to a pack and had the inner strength to match any dominant wolf, she would be vulnerable in other ways. If she was Alpha female, she would therefore be challenged repeatedly by the dominant females in the pack for her position. Of course Nick could keep her safe by ordering that no one challenge her¸ but then she would never be respected or followed or acknowledged as Alpha female. That would leave her feeling on the outside looking in, which was absolutely unacceptable to Nick, as was the very idea of her in danger.
That left him only one option if he still wished to claim her: he would have to step down from his position as Alpha. Hell, Nick would happily give it up if it meant he could have his mate. The problem was that no one in his pack wanted the position, and no one wanted the responsibility of keeping the pack stable. The old Alpha had been like a cancer, and he’d corrupted the entire pack until he’d blackened the heart of it. Although Nick had challenged and killed him long ago, past events still haunted the pack, and old wounds still tormented it.
His wolf wasn’t concerned with these details surrounding the matter. It was all very black-and-white for him—Shaya was his, so she must be claimed. As such, he was particularly angry with Nick. Not that it was unusual for his wolf to be in a somber mood. He had somewhat of a dark disposition, in fact. Well of course he did. Not only had he surfaced prematurely, but he had been born in rage and fear.
As a rule, shifters changed for the first time during puberty. Nick had been just five when, in one very bizarre moment, his wolf had surfaced to protect him. Having such a strong, powerful wolf was something Nick was extremely proud of, but it hurt to know that his wolf had been born that way, leaving scars on his soul—scars that had been deepened by the event that had later led to Nick spending time in a juvenile prison. Despite his wolf’s anger, the animal wasn’t wild or challenging. No, his wolf was still as controlled and composed as Nick, but he also viewed the world as a bleak, dark, harsh place. Shaya had been the only thing to ever stir strong emotions in his wolf.