“Where the fuck is Syn?” I shouted, standing in the doorway to her bedroom in the middle of the night. Her bed was untouched, while the curtains billowed wildly from the open French doors leading onto the balcony.
“Hendrix,” one of my men called out from down the hallway behind me, running toward me frantically. Panic was scribbled over his face. What now? “River, he’s down by the beach. He’s been shot.”
“What! By who?” My insides tensed, anxiety and anger warring over the fact that my brother was hurt. I pivoted and raced down the corridor, pushing past the man. “Syn,” I growled. “Is she with him?”
“No,” was all he said, and I charged down the stairs like thunder, seeing nothing but red.
I launched myself out the front door, running like madness across the front yard and through the gates that were flanked open. My legs pumped, my boots smacking the ground.
We hadn’t had a direct attack on our island in years. No intruders in just as long.
My feet sunk into the sand as I swung my attention to the three guards huddled by the shore, crouching forward.
River. My gut tensed. I shoved them aside and found my brother lying on the ground, groaning. His bloody hands were clenched to his gut where more blood poured out of him.
Who the fuck would do this?
“River,” my voice croaked as I dropped to my knees near my brother just as a guard arrived with bandages. He started to clean him up there on the sand with the lapping of waves up and down the shore.
I helped wipe the wound to see how bad the damage was. Just a small hole, but it was impossible to tell if it hit anything major. It’d have to come out though, that’s for sure.
River stared at me with panic in his eyes.
“You’ll be alright,” I reassured him, then turned to the guard. “Bullet has to come out, then he needs stitching. Go wake up Liam. He needs to fix him up now.”
Liam was our sous chef and handy with butterfly stitches, but this bullet wound would need real stitches once we could get our doctor here from the mainland. River would heal soon enough, but we had to give his body a helping hand.
I turned my attention to my brother, his trembling hands pressing against the wound. “Hang in there, River,” I urged, ignoring my rolling stomach at seeing him this way. My chest tightened.
All I’d had for so long in this world were my brothers. For them, I’d destroy the universe to keep them safe. As much as they pissed me off, they were my family. Flashes of our upbringing pulsed in my mind. The times Father hurt them, when I did everything to take the beatings instead of my younger brothers. Even now, I’d take River’s position in a heartbeat.
He blinked up at me, his gaze hazed over. Blood streaked across his cheek and brow, but his face was losing color fast.
“Who attacked you?” I asked.
His parched lips opened, and on a hushed breath, he said, “They took Syn.” His eyes fluttered upward and he broke into a wince, his body tensing as more blood gushed out past the bandage and through our fingers.
Any human with this wound would have spelled their death. Thank God River was a wolf shifter. A damn powerful one at that. He’d survive. He had to.
“Hold on.” I grasped onto his arm. “Don’t you fucking let a bullet injury take you down. You hear me?”
Defiance flared behind his gaze. “I believe I’ve told you before,” he hissed between clenched teeth. “I’m only going down one way. In battle.” His attempt to smile morphed into a grimace as he fought the pain.
Fury burned through my veins, and I held onto his arm while my three guards lifted him off the ground and into their arms. “Take him inside now,” I roared. Then I turned to Mateo, my most loyal guard. “Scour the beach, searching every inch for any clues. I want those who did this hanging from a noose by dawn.”
The other guards hurriedly carried River back into the mansion, and I stayed close on their heels. My mind ran amok on what the fuck happened here. Who would dare to do something like this?
I sniffed the air, and a flare of saltiness tore through my nostrils. With it came the metallic smell of River’s blood, the heaviness of wolf perspiration from my guards. Beneath all that, the sweet nectar that drove me to obsession flooded my mind with images of Syn.
She’d definitely been out here on the beach with River when they got attacked.
The breeze had carried away the scent belonging to the attackers though, and I cursed under my breath.
Anger hummed in my bones, ready to ignite into flames, and I clenched my hands into fists. I was going to fucking murder them.
Syn’s gorgeous face spun in my mind. I hadn’t protected her. I had to get my little wolf back.
And the ones responsible for taking her were all going to die.
The motion of the guards carrying River drew my attention, and I swung toward them when a glint in the sand caught my eye.
I bent down to pick up a leather wristband embedded with an obsidian stone. I frowned, twisting it around between my fingers for any kind of symbol or name on it, but I found nothing.
Instead, I pressed it to my nose and sucked in a deep inhale. The thing about these leather bands was that the underside absorbed perspiration and the wearer’s scent.
My nostrils flared with a masculine smell, a perspiring staleness, and with a hint of wet dog fur. It triggered fury within me instantly.
I recognized the smell. “Fucking bastard,” I roared in the night. “I’m going to slaughter Brayden.”
He took her. That spineless weasel came back for my girl. I paced up and down the shore, sucking in the hard air, my chest pumping for oxygen. I trembled, my monster shoving forward for release.
The more I inhaled his smell, the more I squeezed the leather band in my fist, the more I knew exactly what I had to do.
Fury ripped through me, making me sprint after my brother River. I’d save him, and then I’d let my beast out to go hunting.
I tracked River down on the dining table, lying on his back. Caspian was there, holding down his shoulders as Liam poured vodka directly from a bottle onto River’s wound.
River growled through gritted teeth, thrashing, sending the whole table skidding across the room. I lunged toward them, grabbing hold of River’s legs, pinning him down.
“This is going to hurt,” Liam groaned, his hair messy as he’d literally been dragged from his bed. Using large stainless-steel tweezers, he went in to retrieve the bullet.
River hissed, and I pushed harder to hold him down.
“A bit of pain now, brother, for no infection later,” Caspian muttered reassuringly. Then he glanced at me with a quizzical stare.
But it was Liam who grabbed my attention. “Bullet hasn’t shattered. That’s good news.” He eventually plucked out the thing from inside River’s stomach, and a rush of blood followed.
Frantically, he worked on stopping the blood, pushing a towel down against the wound. “Hold this down tight,” he ordered one of the guards.
“What the fuck happened here? Who shot him?” Caspian asked, staring at River, then at me, clearly drawn into this blindly.
I relayed everything I knew, which was very little. Except for the leather wristband I found and who it belonged to.
“Brayden,” Caspian growled. “He’s so dead.” His face twisted into something hideous, something terrifying.
River hadn’t completely calmed down, and when I stared down at his thrashing body, I saw his eyes were fluttering. Was he going into shock? His hands gripped the edges of the table. Liam was stitching him up, threading the needle through his flesh, his wound tidy considering the amount of blood.
“We’ve had a break-in,” Caspian told me abruptly. “Someone’s gotten into our storage at the back of the island. Two guards were killed, and the majority of our arms stock was stolen.”
“What the fuck is going on?” I roared. We’d had arms stolen from us a couple of weeks ago by some of our men–who were now six feet under. I’d thought that problem was fixed.
He nodded. “I assume it’s the same assholes who shot River and took Syn?”
Coincidence? It left me deep in thought just as River cried out beneath my hold, and I focused on him for now. “You’ll get through this,” I reassured him once more, but on the inside I was livid. My heart was a ticking time bomb and I was about to go off.
I was planning a million ways I was going to torture Brayden. For him to sneak into my island, steal my merch, then attack us? He had a death wish. He had no idea what was coming for him.
“What’s the plan?” Caspian’s voice boomed in the room, drawing me out of my thoughts, and I lifted my gaze, my heart punching against my chest at the fury swallowing me.
“You and I are going to pay Brayden a visit. We’re getting Syn back, then I’m skinning the bastard alive.” And anyone who stood in my way would die.
* * *