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Gray Back Alpha Bear

By:T. S. Joyce

r tricking me into going to Saratoga. And if I would’ve known you were sticking up for me behind the scenes, I would’ve tried harder to hang out just you and me on that trip.”

“That would’ve been a helluva lot more fun that being with Kara and Brittney. We sat at the pool for the rest of the trip listening to Brittney plan ways to take Matt from you. I’m glad he chose you, though. Obviously that’s working out.”

“Yeah. Swear not to tell the bombshells?”

“Scout’s honor.” Wouldn’t be hard since the last text Brittney had sent her read I’m not picking up for a reason. Take the hint, slut. Stop calling me. Gia had pretty awesome taste in friends.

“I’m Matt’s mate. I’m still here because he’s mine, and I’m his.”

Gia gasped and clutched her sweater over her chest. “Willa, that’s so great. I wondered why he took down his social media pages, but I had no idea you were together. I mean, the chemistry between you two was molten hot, but I’d seen his posts before. That man was a playboy. I had no idea you’d settled him.” Gia swallowed hard and pulled Peanut Butter into her lap for a cuddle so Willa wouldn’t see how emotional she was. Gia had always wanted to find something like that, and now she had literally screwed herself out of finding a good man. Her voice dipped to a whisper. “I’m really happy for you, Willa.”

“Are you crying?”

“No, I just have pollen in both of my eyes.” Gia laughed thickly when Willa obviously didn’t believe her. “I screwed up so badly. Creed’s going to hate me.”

“No, he won’t. He’s strong and smart and level-headed, and we’ll figure this out, okay?” Willa patted her knee. “You’ll see.”

And for the first time since that damning first positive pregnancy test, Gia felt a little better.

Chapter Two

“Who even fights for fourth in a crew?” Creed Barnett yelled. “Huh?” He shook his head and glared at Easton and Jason as they covered their shredded, bloody bodies with the extra clothes Creed kept in the back of his truck because his crew apparently couldn’t stop fighting for one fucking shift.

Easton and Jason had a stupid fight about who was better trained on the processor. Seriously? “You’ve been brawling since Willa was declared second, and this shit has to stop. At least at work! Season started six days ago. Six! And we haven’t made it through a single shift without someone bleeding. Now, I’ve looked at the Ashe Crew, the Boarlander Crew… Hell, I’ve talked to Kong! No one is having this kind of problem with their animals.”

“Maybe you should bring Willa up here to kick Easton’s ass,” Clinton said with that obnoxious smile Creed wanted to bear-claw-slap off his face.

“Say another word right now,” Creed growled, jamming his finger at the joker, “and I’ll literally kill you.”

Jason, at least, had the good sense to avoid his eye contact as he buttoned up a blue flannel shirt. Easton was looking around at everyone as if he couldn’t understand what he’d done wrong, and Matt was taking a piss off the side of the landing as if he didn’t give two shits that Creed was on the verge of a Change to kick all their asses.

Most of the time, he liked being alpha, but lately, these problem bears he’d initiated into the Gray Backs were driving him insane.

Another day on the landing preparing timber to transport to the saw mill in Saratoga, another day of missing the already low numbers his boss, Damon Daye, had challenged them with.

“Get in the truck.” His disappointment in his crew was bottomless right now.

Jason, Easton, and Clinton climbed into the back of his gunmetal gray, jacked-up Ford while Matt zipped up his pants and climbed in the passenger’s seat.

The roar of the engine drowned out the snarl in Creed’s throat. They didn’t get it. He owed Damon. Owed him. But all he ever did was let the old dragon down. Damon owned these mountains and had hired the crews to help clear the dead, beetle-infested lumber off his land. But the fighting hurt their target numbers. Demolished them, really, and already the Gray Backs were working with a smaller crew. Ashe Crew had nine on their landing at any given time. The Boarlanders were a tree-cutting crew, but they had seven. And here he was trying to juggle four assholes who didn’t give a shit about lumber numbers.

Creed loved his crew, but right now, he wanted to wring their necks. Easton especially, who apparently couldn’t help but fight with anyone who even looked at him wrong.

When Creed slammed his palm against the wheel, Matt murmured, “Easy, boss bear. You smell like fur.” Matt rolled down the window and leaned as far away as he could, his eyes flashing silver. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t Change in your truck while I’m in here.”

Creed inhaled deeply and gritted his teeth so hard his jaw ached. Matt was right. Changing right now wouldn’t do anyone any good.

When he was calm enough to ease up on the strangle hold he had on the steering wheel, he sighed and asked, “But really, who fights for fourth rank in a crew?”

Matt chuckled and shook his head. “We knew it was going to be this way, Creed. Who else would take them into a crew and not kill them within the first year? Any other alpha would’ve put them down by now. Best you stop comparing us to the other crews. Up on that landing, we’ll always be C team.”

“Bullshit. We don’t have to be. You all work hard when you aren’t challenging each other.”

“Then put Easton up on the processor.”

“So he can use the power of a machine to chuck a log down the hill when he gets pissed off?”

“Mmm,” Matt grunted, looking disturbed. “That’s true. He could find a way to kill us with the skyline, too.”

“I can hear you, assholes,” Easton said from the bed of the truck.

“Do you think he’d feel guilty if he actually did manage to kill any of us?” Matt asked, ignoring Easton.

“Yes,” Easton answered. “I think.”

“Awesome,” Creed muttered, turning down a switchback toward the Grayland Mobile Park. At least he’d fe