The Alpha’s Daughter
There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the wounded soul…
Jazz Phillips is on the run, fleeing from a fate most females in her pack accept as their lot in life; an arranged mating, something Jazz thought wasn’t in her future as the Alpha’s daughter and only child. She doesn’t want to be the next Alpha’s Mate. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s mate. She likes her life just the way it is until she finds herself stranded in the Ozark mountain town of Gilead, home to a small and close knit pack of wolvers. Once there, she begins to question her life as it was and begins to wonder what it could be, especially in the arms of the wolver the people call Doc.
Doc Goodman claims to have settled in Gilead because he saw a need for his services, but in fact, he’s a runaway, too. He’s rejected his wolver heritage and the warring politics that stripped him of everything he thought he wanted. He’s biding his time, waiting to die, until he meets the blue haired, foul mouthed beauty who shows him there are still things worth living for and the most important of them are worth fighting for.
“…Country Roads, take me home. To the place I belong…” Jazz Phillips sang into the face shield of her helmet. John Denver wasn’t the kind of music she normally listened to and she sure as hell didn’t normally sing out loud. This wasn’t fucking West Virginia, but the song was one of her mother’s favorites and her mother had been on her mind a lot lately. Her mother was a baby when the song was a hit, yet she sang it all the time. She said it made her remember where she came from and forget the cruel brown desert that surrounded them.
Cruising down the highway, Jazz thought it suited the scenery to either side of the road which was green, green, and more green. What wasn’t green was rock; high, sheer walls of it and huge outcroppings like monster fists reaching out over the treetops ready to pound the valleys below.
It was getting dark. She would have to find a place to spend the night soon. She couldn’t keep riding much longer. She’d travelled over a thousand miles and her ass was sore and her leathers chafed and the damn helmet felt like it gained another pound for every ten miles she covered. She was well beyond familiar territory and she was tired.
The Victory beneath her purred. It was a good motorcycle, a few years old and it handled well, but it was bigger and heavier than she was used to and she didn’t trust herself or the bike on these back roads. She chose it because she could sneak her clothes, a piece at a time, into the rear compartments while it was in the shop. It was an eye-catching bike for a woman to drive, but she’d been careful and changed the plates twice along the way. She’d eaten at shopping malls so she could park it in an inconspicuous corner of the lot.
At five-ten, in her leathers and helmet, she hoped from a distance she’d be mistaken for a man. Up close, she was shit out of luck. The leathers were too form-fitting to be mistaken for anything but what she was.
She was far enough away now. No one here would recognize her and no one from home would be looking for her here. No one from home knew this place existed. These mountains were the perfect place to lay low and rest up before she headed east to the places Eugene Begley said would take her in.
The funny little man seemed to know what was in the wind. He turned up out of the blue and showed no fear of her father or any of the others. In his natty blue suit and sailboat dotted tie, he’d walked through the clubhouse completely at ease, his wing-tip shoes tap-tapping across the floor, nodding and smiling at the leather and denim clad gathering. He was closeted with her father for over an hour and came out smiling, but the smile was gone when he found her in the local hangout that night.
In spite of the crowd, he seemed to have no trouble finding her at her usual stool at Benny’s Bar where she usually held court. He was as out of place there as he was at the clubhouse, but he was the only one who didn’t seem to notice. He smiled and nodded to everyone he passed as if he’d known them all personally.
“Miss Phillips, might I buy you a drink and a moment of your time?” he’d asked politely, ignoring the wave of snickers that rippled through the watching crowd.
They were waiting for her to cut him off at the knees, to laugh at him and tell him to take his fucking cutesy tie and cologne smelling ass back to wherever they allowed little fellas like him to live. Jazz almost did, but there was something in his eyes that made her change her mind and not only accept his offer of a drink, but lead him over to a corner table where they could talk in private.
“Miss Phillips,” he said again when they were seated with their drinks. The table was sticky, but he ignored that, too, and stared at Jazz with an intensity she found… well, fucking creepy.
Jazz laughed and the sound echoed inside the dome covering her head. Yah, creepy, and it only got creepier.
Mr. Begley had nodded as if something had been agreed and said, “Your father is planning to sell you off to the highest bidder or should I say the most powerful one.”
“You’re shittin’ me,” Jazz had sputtered. She was her father’s daughter and since her mother’s passing Jazz was queen bee. Even when her father brought Margie home, it was Jazz who ruled. Nobody was selling her off to nobody. She’d have the pick of the litter when she was damn well ready to pick which wasn’t going to be any time soon, and if and when she chose a mate, it wouldn’t be to give the pack a new Alpha.
“No, Missy, I ain’t shittin’ you,” Mr. Begley said, his voice reverting to a down home drawl. “Your Daddy has made his plans and he expects you’ll take what’s offered. He says it’s time you settled down and did your duty, him havin’ no son and all.”
Jazz had stared at the man. He was crazy, certifiable, and yet tiny tendrils of impending doom spread up along her spine. Margie had tried to warn her, too. Her father never hid his disappointment that she was a girl, but she couldn’t believe he would take it this far.
Mr. Begley had his pen out and was busy jotting notes on a napkin he’d pulled from an inside pocket. He stopped, looked to the ceiling, nodded and continued writing. With a final flourish, he finished his notes and returned the pen to the pocket from which he extracted the napkin. He pushed the napkin across the table.
“When you figure out I ain’t lying to you, child, you’re going to need that. That’s the route you take. I marked where it’ll be safe for you to hole up and rest. They ain’t fancy, but they’ll give you what you need.”
Leave this place where her father ruled supreme and she lived as she chose? Jazz almost threw that napkin away. Thank God she didn’t because a week later, dear Daddy broke the news and he said exactly what Mr. Begley said he would.
“I’m tired of waiting for you to get your fucking head outta your ass, girl.” Her father always called her girl and Jazz was never sure if it was a term of affection or an accusation. “It’s time to grow up and do your duty. I don’t got time to find another woman to bear me a son and I won’t be giving everything I’ve built to some no-account you fell in love with.” He’d sneered the word love as if it was some stupid idea like the time she’d painted her room orange.
It wasn’t her fault her stepmother couldn’t get pregnant and sometimes Jazz thought, but never said, that it was the old man who was the problem. He was no kid when she was born and drugs, booze and sticking it to anything in a skirt from the time her mother died to the time he found Margie had probably finished off what little he once had.
She’d argued, but her father wouldn’t listen. He was bound and determined to have his way.
“You’re a grown woman and it’s time you settled down and did what woman was meant to do. My mind’s made up. If I have to, I’ll make you.”
And that was when Jazz made her mistake. “You can’t make me do anything!” she’d snarled.
Jazz had seen what her father’s temper could do, but she had never been its victim. His rages were legend, but she had thought she was immune. She wasn’t.
“You’ll do as you’re told,” the Alpha had finished on a snarl.
Her life changed that night. She went from princess to prisoner. He locked up her bike and had her watched to make sure she didn’t try to run. Her money was gone, even the money her mother put away for her when she was a child.
She’d crawled away, no argument left, but three days later when the worst was over and she could move somewhat normally again, she came to a terrifying decision. She wouldn’t run away this time knowing someone would bring her back and let her have her way. This time, she would leave for good.
Do as she was told? The hell she would. Eugene Begley had given her the route to take. All she had to do was find the means to take it. The cash drawer in the repair shop and the big old Victory between her legs provided that means.
She’d stayed in a rundown motel the night before. It was old and worn, but it was clean and the old lady in charge seemed relieved when she paid cash. Gilead was her next stop and she hoped like hell it wasn’t too far. She needed to make a pit stop and hadn’t seen a likely place in miles. If there was one thing she would not and could not do, it was take a pee in the great outdoors.
Faint light in the distance and a sign declared this to be the place she was looking for: Gilead; population 236 which was crossed out and replaced with various numbers as new residents were born and old ones died. It looked to Jazz like dying was winning. She didn’t care. All she needed was gas and a Ladies’ room, and directions to the nearest motel.
She rounded the curve and was immediately confronted with what was obviously the center of this mountain metropolis; four weathered clapboard buildings set close together on the left hand side of the road. Only one seemed to be doing any business. The others were dark and as she slowed and entered the gravel parking lot, Jazz saw why.
The grocery was closed. The gas pumps were dark, same with ‘Mountain Gifts’ next door. The third storefront had no name, but the door had a fresh coat of paint and a faint light showed through the uncurtained window, not much more than a nightlight. The side wall of the fourth faced the road. The entry was around the corner of the building. It was definitely open for business and by the vehicles parked off to the side, business was good. It was your friendly neighborhood tavern.
It was also a hangout for bikers by the look of the eight custom rides parked along this side of the building away from the trucks across the lot. They were backed into evenly spaced slots along the edge of the grass that separated the lot from the road, ready and waiting for a quick and unobstructed getaway. Some habits were universal.
Jazz considered moving on. Bikers talked to other bikers, particularly if there was money involved and Jazz had no doubt her father would pay big to get his only child back. Hell, the Victory alone would raise some eyebrows.
Her full bladder argued back and won. She was a thousand miles away from her father and by the time word got back, there’d be another two thousand added to that. Anyway, she was supposed to contact some guy named Goodman. In a place this small, someone inside was bound to know him. She could use the Ladies, ask for directions at the bar and be out of there in five minutes.
She parked the Victory up close to the building, grateful once more that her size and strength made it possible for her to handle the weight of the big bike, grabbed her slouch bag from the rear compartment and slung it over her shoulder. She walked with confidence and purpose and her long strides stretched tired muscles. She was thinking how good it felt to be off the bike as she rounded the corner and ran smack into the chest of someone walking the other way.
She hit him hard enough to send him staggering back and his friends laughed.
They were all a little high and they were definitely the owners of the bikes parked out front. The one she’d run into had his jacket open to reveal a broad chest encased in a tight black tee. He had a broad face and a strong jaw that on any other night might have drawn her attention.
“There ya go, Cho,” the tall thin one behind him joked, dashing her faint hope that this might be Goodman. “You said you were lookin’ for something hot tonight.” He wore a gray hoodie under his leather vest, and baggy jeans, another TV hero wannabe with his hair slicked back and over greased. It was a hard look to pull off and this guy didn’t do it well.
‘Cho’ wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist, looked her up and down and grinned. “Hey, baby,” he said in a low voice Jazz supposed he thought was sexy.
She eyed him up and down, too, and the look she gave him told him she wasn’t impressed. “Excuse me,” she said as she went to move past him. They both knew she didn’t mean it.
“Hey now,” Cho said and grabbed her upper arm. “Don’t be like that. Why don’t we go back inside and I’ll buy you a drink.”
Jazz glanced down at the fingers wrapped around her arm and up into the man’s eyes. Who the hell did he think he was, touching her like that? “Drink? I wouldn’t let my dog drink with you,” she told him, forgetting that a moment ago, she thought he might be interesting. “Now get your fucking hand off me.”
Again, his friends laughed. They made woofing and barking noises and laughed again at their own perception of their cleverness. This teasing did nothing to lighten Cho’s mood and he gripped her arm more tightly.
“I don’t think you know who you’re talking to, bitch.” He wasn’t smiling now.
“Yeah,” she sneered, “I think I do. Some crack-assed wolf who thinks he’s got something goin’ on.” Jazz looked at his buddies. “He don’t got shit.”
The smiles left their faces and it was then she realized how much younger they were than the man who held her arm. That man now tightened his grip as he push-pulled her back to the corner of the building.
Jazz dug in her heels and yanked her arm back. “Let go!”
“I intend to and you’re going to enjoy it.” His hand switched to her breast.
“Goddamned, motherfucking dog!”
Her hands went to the collar of his jacket and her knee came up. He slid his hips back to avoid the blow to his crotch, but that wasn’t where she was aiming and his forward bent torso was just what she was hoping for. Her knee caught him right below the point of his sternum and drove up into the diaphragm. It didn’t reach the solar plexus, but it was enough to drive the breath from his lungs.
He managed to gasp “Bitch” as he went to his knees. He reached for her and she turned, letting go of the collar with one hand only to use it to grasp the outside fingers of his hand and rip them back.
“You bet your hairy ass,” she said beneath his shout of pain. Jazz let the collar slide from her other fingers and her bag slip to the ground. In one continuous move without the slightest hesitation, she brought her hands out to either side of his head, and then sharply slammed the palms of her hands against his ears.
He screamed as the air pressure knifed through his eardrums, but Jazz had no time to take pleasure in the sound. She felt someone move behind her and moved out from the building. Step, raise leg, turn, extend leg with heavy boot attached. Thank you Uncle Moose for teaching a little girl all she needed to know. Her boot slammed into someone’s chest.
Someone grabbed her arm and she swung with her free fist. It connected with a cheekbone hard enough to hurt her hand, but not hard enough to stop the back hand that caught her cheek with enough force to make her see stars. One of them grabbed her from behind and she lashed back with her elbow aimed at where she hoped his neck would be. Goddamned mother…
An explosion of ear shattering sound filled the parking lot and the mighty blast tore one of her opponents from her and tossed him into the parking lot. The one who hung on and took her to the ground with him was lifted by two massive hands and tossed after his friend.
“Enough!” the avenging storm bellowed as he grabbed a third party and shoved him hard enough to send the biker to his knees. He lifted the still wheezing Cho to his feet, spun him around and gave him a shove toward the road. “Go home, Cho, and don’t forget to tell your father what a big, bad boy you are picking on defenseless little girls.”
“Hey! I’m not a defenseless little girl,” Jazz protested. She pushed away from the newcomer as Cho turned his head and spit. It caught her on the cheek, the one that had been hit and she lunged at him, hands clawed and ready to damage the biker’s smug face. “Oooph.”
An iron band wrapped around her middle, forcing the breath from her lungs when she was lifted from her feet and drawn back into a chest that felt as hard as granite.
“Bastard,” Cho muttered, but he kept moving in the direction he’d been pushed.
“Yep, and ya’ll best not forget it. Now git,” said the deep and growling voice behind her. She felt the rumble of it through his chest.
“Keep the bitch. Have your fun,” Cho called back from around the corner. “You’ll be sorry!”
“Already am,” the whirlwind muttered as he wrapped his other arm around her waist.
She’d gotten her wind back and was ready to fight. She wiggled and squirmed and finally swatted at the unyielding arms that held her. “Put me down!”
“You promise to behave?”
Her answer was to kick his shin with the heel of her boot. “Get off me.”
“I’m not on you, but they would have been if I hadn’t come along.”
“I didn’t ask for your help. I didn’t need your help.” She tried to kick him again, but he was ready for it and she caught nothing but air.
“Not going to settle down, are you?”
“That’s what I thought.”
Jazz was lifted, turned, and tossed over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and it wasn’t gentle. Before she caught her breath he turned and started walking toward the door of the bar.
“Hey! Where do you think you’re going?” She pounded his back with her fists.
“I need a beer and you need some ice for that lip and cheek and if you hit me one more time, you’re going to need some for that rear end of yours because I’m going to wallop it.” He said it the way he’d said everything else since that first shout, calmly, almost indifferently, as a matter of fact and not opinion.
“You can’t take me in there like this!”
“Don’t see anyone to stop me.”
Jazz knew he wasn’t making empty threats. He’d do it. “Okay! Okay, you can put me down. I’m calm.”
The giant who held her stopped, but he didn’t relax his grip on her legs. “That all you have to say?”
Jazz rolled her eyes and blew out her breath. “Fine,” she huffed. “Thank you for helping me and I promise I’ll behave.”
His big hand patted her rear end as if he was patting the head of an obedient pup instead of her ass.
“There,” he said and set her down on her feet. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”