Newsletter exclusive! Please don’t share the link.
This unedited pre-release excerpt contains spoilers for Grave Origins (Grant Wolves #5) and may be confusing since it addresses fallout from said story. Read at your own risk!
Chris stood outside the Snohomish County Courthouse, his hands in the pockets of his suit coat while he waited for his brother to finish up and join him outside. The summer sun almost made him regret waiting outside. It was sunny and clear, with the high pushing eighty-five. It reminded him of Southern California, but his spirits were too high for homesickness to get him down.
Jon had done the impossible. Okay, not impossible. But it had sure seemed impossible a week ago. He’d gotten Colt’s confession thrown out. The prosecutor’s face had been so red when the judge made her ruling that Chris half expected his eyes to pop out. Jon hadn’t even batted so much as an eyelash, as if the fact that the confession should be thrown out were so obvious he hadn’t expected any other response.
It all hinged on small town cops bungling procedure in an extremely unusual circumstance. Colt had walked in their front door to confess to killing his girlfriend, Kate Jackson, and no one specifically asked him if he was refusing counsel before taking his statement. They’d violated their own department policy. It was a coup. Chris smiled just thinking about it.
His smile turned into a grin as Jon stepped out of the courthouse and began walking down the steps toward him. “There he is! The man of the hour. Drinks are on me.”
Jon eyed him, his features stern. “It’s a little early for that.”
Chris rolled his eyes. “It’s five o’clock somewhere. Come on, man. It’s after noon. Have a beer with me or something.” He wasn’t eager to rush home, not after the surprise he’d gotten that morning from Joey. Though he doubted she’d expect an answer out of him so quickly, he hated to leave her hanging. It was in his nature to give her anything her heart desired, but this new scheme of hers was sudden and extreme.
“A beer sounds good. Do you want to have lunch? What I meant was celebrating might be premature.”
“You think so?” Chris started walking toward the parking garage. Jon fell in beside him.
“There’s still a lot of evidence against him even without the confession. He told them where her body was buried, for pete’s sake. I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to spin that one.”
Chris sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. “Jeez, man. You sure know how to kill a buzz.”
“Sorry. I do have another idea, though. Buy me a basket of hot wings and I’ll tell you all about it.”
The notion of his highbrow attorney brother eating hot wings in a two thousand dollar suit was compelling enough on its own. Chris quickly agreed, and they ended up at a chain restaurant that happened to be on the way out of town.
“Okay, spill,” Chris said once their order was in.
Jon had already shed his jacket and was in the process of unfastening his cufflinks and rolling up his sleeves in preparation for the feast. “I think I can get the whole case thrown out.”
Chris straightened in his seat. “What? How?”
The mention of Kate’s estranged daughter—who’d gotten Colt in this mess to start with by giving the cops an “anonymous tip”—brought a grimace to Chris’s face. “I can’t foresee any circumstance where Leta would lift a finger to help any of us.”
“Not willingly, no. But that doesn’t matter. I can subpoena her. Put her on the stand.”
“To what end?”
“She’s a cop.”
“Tribal police,” Chris corrected.
“Doesn’t matter. Still a cop. She directly involved herself in a case she was personally involved in, which is an ethics violation. She didn’t identify herself as a cop, gathered evidence under false pretenses, and on top of that, all of it was outside her jurisdiction. I can get all that evidence thrown out. Fruit of the poisonous tree. There’d be so much egg all over the Sherriff’s and DA’s faces that they probably wouldn’t even get re-elected.”
Chris stared at him, mouth agape and blinking. “Why haven’t we done that?”
Jon sighed and sat back on his side of the booth. “Colt won’t agree to it.”
“Why the hell not?”
“It would burn Leta, hard. She’d get fired, wouldn’t be able to work in law enforcement again, and any cases that she has open would be vulnerable to being thrown out too. Colt says not to touch her, that she’s been through too much already.” Jon snorted, making his opinion on that sentiment clear.
“He doesn’t owe that bitch a goddamn thing.” Chris shook his head vehemently.
“I’ll drink to that.” Jon clinked his long-necked bottle to Chris’s.
They both drank, and silence settled between them. Chris’s gaze wandered to the bar, where the bartender was hamming it up for a pretty girl, tossing bottles around while he mixed drinks like a boozy jester.
“You could overrule him, you know.”
Chris’s eyes snapped back to Jon. “I’m not that kind of Alpha.”
“Is Joey?” Jon sipped his beer placidly, draping an arm along the back of the booth.
Chris hesitated, and that was answer enough. Joey would urge him to do whatever needed to be done to get Colt out of jail. The moon madness that came over a wolf that went too long between shifts wasn’t something they’d wish on their worst enemy. But it wasn’t just Colt’s sanity at stake; if he gave in and shifted in a cell one night during the full moon, the jig was up for all of them. Countless generations had managed to keep lycanthropy a secret from human authorities. Joey’d die before she let that end on her watch. Hell, she’d floated the idea of breaking Colt out of jail if the trial looked like it was heading for a conviction. The thought of that caper alone made his skin itch.
Jon smirked. “Relax. I’m not gonna go over your head, man.”
“That’s not a thing with us.”
“If you say so.” Jon set his beer aside and tucked his tie into his shirt as the waiter appeared with their wings.
“Can I get you gentlemen anything else? Refills?” the waiter asked.
“Yes, please.” Jon grabbed a wing and bit into it, making an appreciative noise. He quickly stripped the bone of meat and skin and licked his sauce-smeared lips with a feral grin. “Damn this is good. I haven’t had wings since Sam left. Sara says I have to watch my cholesterol if I want to see two hundred.”
Chris chuckled. “You haven’t even seen one hundred yet, bro. But I get it. I miss your ‘wingman’ too. Have you heard from him lately?”
Jon shook his head, his expression sobering as he plucked another morsel of deep-fried poultry from the basket. “You?”
“Not since last week. We didn’t expect him to be gone this long. Hell, it’s been almost a month since he left. Do you think there’s more to this than him wanting to make amends with Jessica?” Jon and Sam were pretty tight, despite being decades apart in age and as different as night and day. If anyone would know, it’d be Jon.
“I think he wants to make more than amends with Jessica.” Jon’s easy smile returned.
Chris groaned and rubbed his eyes, glad he hadn’t dirtied his fingers with buffalo sauce yet. “Jesus, man, I did not need that image.”
“What? I could’ve been talking about papier-mâché.”
“You were not talking about papier-mâché. I don’t think Sam even knows what papier-mâché is. I doubt there’s a sports team for it.”
Jon snorted. “Everyone knows what papier-mâché is. But you’re right. I was talking about the midnight train to pound town. And puppies. Gorgeous, raven-haired, puppies.”
“You’re disgusting. How would you feel if I called your kid a puppy?”
“If the adorable fluffy ears fit…”
Chris scanned the table for something benign to throw at his brother, but came up empty. There was no way he was throwing a salt shaker, much less hot wings. “But seriously. You think he’s got a thing for Jess? Really?”
Jon shrugged. “He’s never said anything to me about it, but I hope so. It’s about damn time he settled down. Never thought you and Joey would beat him to it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jon waved a half-eaten wing in a dismissive gesture. “Nothing personal. Just that he’s pushing ninety, and it’s been decades since—you know, we’re getting off track here. We’re supposed to be talking about Colt’s martyr complex.”
Chris wasn’t so easily distracted. “Since what?”
“Not my story to tell. Forget I said anything. Or ask him when he gets back. So, about Colt… I’m doing my best, but I’m not a miracle worker. We won the battle today, but the war is far from over. And it’s not looking good. Putting Leta on the stand is our best option. Maybe our only option, if you want to keep him from doing serious time.”
Sighing, Chris fell into his thoughts while Jon continued to devour wings, only stopping to thank the waiter when fresh beers were dropped off. He didn’t like the idea of overruling Colt. As he’d said, he wasn’t that kind of Alpha. But there was a lot riding on this case. A lot more than Colt’s freedom. And as he’d also said… they didn’t owe Leta squat. She’d started this, and she had no one to blame but herself if it came crashing down on her. Maybe it was worth Colt’s agency being taken away to serve the greater good. But he also couldn’t forget that the whole reason Colt was in this mess was that he’d fallen on his sword to protect Chris. That knowledge weighed on him, heavy and dense like a lead ball in his stomach.
“I’ll talk to Colt and see if I can change his mind. Court’s in recess for the weekend anyway. But I’m not going to overrule him. For now. Keep doing what you do. We’ll see how it goes.”
Jon shook his head, his disappointment clear. But he held his tongue while he finished his wings and drank half of his fresh beer. Then he motioned at Chris’s untouched basket. “You gonna finish that?”
Chris pushed it toward him without a word. Was it the right decision? He didn’t know. No one ever said being Alpha would be easy. But it was the decision he could live with, for now.
Grave Rites (Grant Wolves #6) will be out this summer (2020)! Keep an eye on your inbox for updates.