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Storms and Crones (Dragon Thief Book 5)

Millie and her handsome fiancé Ben Castle are finally achieving a long-sought goal: to reach the ancestral home of his mother’s people, Rookwood Manor.

Storms and Crones (Dragon Thief Book 5)

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Chuck’s promise is moved forward and the relationships are revealed to Stephanie. Now she must decide between the two paths given to her. Either to become fulfill her destiny and become part of the pack, or to follow her heart and remain with the man she loves.


It was a longer walk back to their hotel than Stephanie remembered, and about halfway she had to stop them in one of the less occupied parts of the commercial district. She took off one of her shoes and rubbed her sore arch. Being a small town girl she wasn’t used to pounding along pavement, at least not for so long.
“You all right?” Chuck asked, and she smiled at his concern.
“I’m fine, just some blisters trying to rear their ugly heads,” she replied, and winced when her fingers came into contact with a good one on her heel. “I guess I need better shoes the next time we go out like this.”
“Next time?” a voice asked.
Stephanie’s head snapped up and she saw a figure leaning against a building up ahead a few yards. She recognized the thin outline and that curt voice. It was Simon Ivanovich, Gregory’s companion and the man Chuck had knocked down. He didn


t look the worse for wear as he pushed off the wall and stepped out beneath a streetlight. She stepped back when she noticed the wide, ugly grin on his lips, and Chuck moved to half cover her with his body.
“What do you want, Simon?” Chuck asked the man, and Ivanovich’s grin turned to a frown.
“You know what I’m here to talk about, Charles,” Ivanovich countered. His beady eyes glanced over to Stephanie. “Since it’s almost the full moon, she’s got to make a choice now.”
“Your group doesn’t have any claim over her,” Chuck shot back, but Ivanovich shook his head.
“You ran with us once, you should remember the rules,” the other man replied in a curt, annoyed voice. “Once a new one’s made, they belong to us unless they want out. It’s going to have to be a different punishment for her if she wants out, though, considering banishing her won’t have the effect on others that your banishment caused.”
“You’re not touching her,” Chuck growled, and then he felt a tug on his shirt. He turned to find Stephanie clinging to him, but there were questions in her eyes.
“What’s going on? Why’s he here?” she asked. She looked over to the Ivanovich, and Chuck felt her hands shake from fear. “Does he…does he know about me being different?”
“Right now the thing that matters is us getting out of here,” her partner insisted. He kept one eye on their opponent, but the man appeared to be engrossed in their conversation. “You think you can find the way back to the hotel on your own?”
“I really wouldn’t recommend doing anything rash, Charles,” Ivanovich spoke up in a scolding tone. Stephanie wished the man would shut up and leave them the hell alone. “We always run in packs, remember? I know you can take me out without any problem, but who’s hiding in the shadows? Who will grab poor Stephanie here and drag her to Gregory?”
“What’s he got to do with this?” Chuck asked, and Stephanie was surprised he didn’t know what Gregory’s involvement was in this confusing mess. He seemed to have all the other answers which she longed to hear. “Did he bump off the boss?”
“Let’s just say he’s top dog now, and anyone who says otherwise finds their life very uncomfortable.” Ivanovich took a few steps toward them and held out his hand. Stephanie could feel Chuck stiffen. “Now this is all becoming a little tiresome. Let’s just go and see what we can make of her, all right?”
“No, not all right,” Chuck angrily answered. Stephanie yelped in surprise when he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against him. “We’re leaving here right now and won’t come back. Will that be enough for Gregory?”
“You know it won’t be,” Ivanovich replied as he shook his head. “There’s no going back until we’ve made our decision with her.”
“Like hell you guys are! I’m not going anywhere with you!” Stephanie surprised both men by shouting. She turned her fury on her partner. “What the hell is going on here? How the hell does he know about me being a werewolf?”
“You’re hard to miss, even in a crowded room,” Ivanovich explained. “And that’s meant to be a compliment. You have a most intoxicating effect on alpha and beta wolves.” Stephanie was repulsed when he then lifted his nose into the air and appeared to smell her scent. This man had changed since last they met from a stiff pencil-pusher to some sort of wild animal. “Yes, very clean and refreshing. Like a warm spring day. You’ve made a very good choice with this one, Charles.”
“I’m going to warn you one last time, Simon. Get the hell out of here or I’ll take you out,” Chuck warned, and his eyes narrowed. “You know I won’t hesitate to kill you if I need to.”
Stephanie stiffened and her eyes grew wide. Her partner had just threatened to kill a man. He had really just said he was willing to kill him if he didn’t get out of the way.
“You must be desperate if you’re making that threat in front of your mate,” Ivanovich replied, and his beady eyes turned to Stephanie’s scared, ashen face. “Gregory told me what the girl was saying. She doesn’t know what’s going on because you haven’t told her.”
“Damn it…” Chuck muttered, and he flinched when Stephanie tugged on his sleeve.
“What’s going on?” she pleaded to know. Her eyes were begging for him to explain to her what Ivanovich was talking about, and what Gregory had told her at the conference. She had no idea Chuck held so many answers to her questions, but she wanted to know them. “Please, Chuck, tell me what he’s talking about.” Chuck sighed and half turned to Stephanie. The other side of his face, specifically his eye, was kept on Ivanovich.
“I promised I would tell you everything tomorrow, and I still mean to keep that promise,” he reassured her. He smiled, and it was full of hope. “You have to trust me here, Boss. I’ll tell you everything later.”
“How about I tell her everything now?” Simon challenged. He stepped forward and Stephanie swore he seemed to get taller the closer he came to them. His voice had a gravely quality that wasn’t natural. “How your precious Charles here was the one who-”
Before Ivanovich could get out another word, Chuck had rushed forward and punched him hard in the stomach. The sound of Ivanovich’s air being pushed up his chest and out of his mouth caused Stephanie to recoil in horror. Then Chuck smashed a fist down on his head and he crashed into the pavement. The force was so hard that his body created an outline of itself in the sidewalk. Then Chuck reached out and grabbed Stephanie’s hand. He pulled her halfway down the street before she could get a hold of his arm and pull herself free.
Stephanie was out of breath from the sprint, and the fear and confusion inside herself. She couldn’t understand what was going on at all, or how it concerned Chuck. She’d made the promise with him not to ask, but he was just asking too much of her.
“What the hell is going on?” she almost shouted. Chuck, however, looked back to where they’d come, and suddenly he pulled her back behind him. Stephanie turned and gasped.
The hulking figure of Ivanovich was shambling toward them. He was half transformed into one of those werewolves, but it looked like something had gone wrong. His eyes were still human but his face was protruding into a snout. One half of his upper body was hairy and the arm was longer than the other. His shoes had split open and pink, clawed toes peeked out from the torn seals.
“You know you never mastered doing that without the full moon,” Chuck told the hideous monster, and those human eyes blazed with anger. “Don’t blame me for any side-effects that’s going to have on you.”
The creature only growled and tried to lunge at them. It tripped over its own mutated legs and fell onto the sidewalk. It would have been hilarious if the sight weren’t so pitiable. The thing clawed at the ground and attempted to climb back up on its shaky legs, but it only fell back to the ground. Stephanie turned away, unable to continue watching such a pathetic creature. Chuck shook his head, and also turned his back on the thing.
“I feel sorry for you, Simon, but you’re a fool. You’ve always been a fool,” Chuck told the creature. He gently put his hands on Stephanie’s shoulders, and the young woman glanced up into his face. She was crying, and the trail of wet tears glistened down her cheeks. “Let’s go, Boss, before someone comes by and sees us with that thing.”
Stephanie was too shocked to argue and struggle as he steered them back toward the hotel. They’d only gone a few feet when Chuck suddenly stopped. He looked straight ahead, but he appeared to be listening to a sound too quiet for her ears.
“So you’re here, too, Cary?” he called out to the darkness. Stephanie gasped and flinched away when Miss Seville came out of an alley close to their right. The young woman scowled at them both and folded her arms across her chest. She was as impeccably dressed as usual and looked very out of place in this grimy part of town. “Are you going to stop us?”
“Of course not, why would I want that girl around?” Seville commented. She glanced over to the mutated creature. The thing had given up trying to rise, and was merely watching the three of them with those human eyes. “You idiot. I told you not to do anything rash and now I have to stop the mission to get you out of here,” she snapped. The creature growled, and Stephanie backed up into Chuck’s firm chest. Seville turned her attention back to the other young woman. Her lips turned up in a sneer and she turned up her nose. “You’re hardly worthy of the honor you’ve been given, but like I said before, I don’t want you around. Now get out of here before I decide that idiot isn’t worth helping.” She jerked her head toward Ivanovich, and Chuck smiled.
“Thanks, Cary, I owe you one.”
“You owe me more than that, but get on,” she told him, and she waved her hand around them. “There are others out here, you know, and they might not be as nice as me.”


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Mac Flynn