I’ve lived in the Black Hills all my life. Never left, even when the Alpha went insane and tried to carry the pack down with him, I remained. I’m a boogeyman, a monster, the one face in the pack you don’t want to see coming for you—but I will give my heart’s blood to keep them safe.
I know all the secrets. I know why every Wolf left. More, I know why they come home. When Magnum wanted his son gone, I took him at his word—the literal word, and I sent Drew away. When Magnum wanted no one to ‘heal’ one of his injured, I took her in and made sure her wounds were treated, after all I’m not a healer.
Any order can be twisted, and interpreted in such a way as to accomplish my goal. The only goal I’ve ever had was protect the pack, while a blood oath kept me from slaying the monster who led us, it didn’t stop me from protecting everyone else.
Saja has insisted I chronicle the time, if for no other reason, than to have an accurate history. I disagree. The dark years Drew spent in exile nearly shattered what remained of the pack. My self-imposed exile only served to distance them from me further, until I used their fear of me to send them away.
I was born in the Black Hills. I will die in the Black Hills.
“Ryker,” my impetuous mate says in her attempt at a stern voice. “That wasn’t what I asked you to write. I wanted you to talk about the changes since Drew’s return. A list of the positives, you know—you were here, you saw it all. We’re going to celebrate a year since his return at the Solstice.”
Vivacious and talkative, Saja fills every space she inhabits. My world is brighter for knowing her. She wants me to write what is different…everything is. No one can fully comprehend the emptiness of those years. The loneliness on a pack run—a time when loneliness should be the furthest thing from our minds.
To run with the pack is to be surrounded by family and more. It is to know you are connected to every other pack mate. Yet, we were fractured, isolated, and like shattered pieces of glass we were scattered across the landscape. Some disappeared, some broke forever, while others waited patiently to be reunited.
Isolation. Silence. Fear. These were the reality of those years. Since Drew returned…isolation has been replaced by camaraderie. Fear usurped by simple joys, loving returns, and connections or re-connections. As for isolation? We are not alone. The pack may still have some fissures, but even those are healing and like the broken bone, we will be stronger for it.
Resting her hip on the edge of my chair, my mate leans into my shoulder to read the words I have written. She will take these words later and transfer them to her computer. Once, she offered to teach me to use it, but the humming it makes annoys my ears and when it is off the words are no longer available. I much prefer to write it out by hand if I have to write it at all.
“Hmmm,” she hums, and I can scent the questions she has before she asks. Yet, my mate always tells me it’s rude to press her on the little things. Even if I know she wants to ask, I should wait until she does. As long as it doesn’t trouble her, I am content to let her work through her process as she calls it.
“That’s good, I think Drew will like hearing you think the pack is healing.”
“But he might like to hear it, you know some of us want to know when we’re doing a good job.” She rested a hand against his shoulder, and squeezed.
“I do not need to tell him to have hope, he has more than enough for all of us.” Drew remained an optimist. Somehow, despite his separation from the pack and his mate, an injury that never healed properly and left him with a limp, he projected his faith and hope to everyone from the hard-headed Colt to the silent, half-broken mute Paul to so many of the wolves returning and the wolves adopted into the pack along with our humans.
“Everyone needs to be told they are doing a good job, even if they would do it regardless of praise. Maybe he has all the hope in the world, but he respects you and you have been here. You and Betty and so many of the others…you say he is filling in the cracks and helping the pack to heal, but sometimes even a doctor or physician needs to hear what they are doing is working.” She ran her hand across my shoulder to massage my neck. No one else was allowed so close to my throat, the intimacy hers alone… The contact, her nearness, it was all a gift. One I treasured.
The gift Drew returned to our pack is more than hope; it’s also faith. Faith a future exists where we can pursue happiness, chase dreams, and build a foundation for better things. Without Drew, there would be no Saja. No Colt and Tasha. No Max and Jasper for Kole. No Brick and Summer. No Jace and Michelle. No Isabelle and Wyatt. No Ravage and Adrie. No Stephen and Kate. No Ross and Darci. No Kinsey and Drace. No Patch and Kennedy.
Without Drew, so many we now take for granted would not be with us. We would have sent them on their way or driven them off for worry of earning Magnum’s ire in their direction. Perhaps the best description of Drew’s return is the Black Hills are no longer filled with the mournful cries of the isolated wolf, but with the joyful sounds of mating…
Saja’s husky laughter wrapped around me like a caress, then she slid from the arm of the chair into my lap. Gladly done with the writing, I cradled her. “You approve?”
The gleam in her eyes filled my heart. “More than approve…only promise me you’ll read that aloud to Drew where I can watch?”
“No.” He pressed a kiss to her impudent nose, then another to her smiling mouth. So much perfection. All mine.
I did not answer immediately, instead I watched her trying to understand me. She worked so hard at it, but one thing I knew to be absolutely true. When she wanted to persuade him to her way of thinking, she was as fierce and passionate to her cause as she was a lover.
“Because Drew learned to read when he was four. I’m sure he can manage.”
Her laughter was its own reward. The Black Hills were alive with more than the sound of mating. They were filled with an even more joyful noise…happiness.
Ryker is one of my favorite characters and I love getting a chance to climb inside his head again. We've got some awesome things coming up in the Black Hills over the next few months. Stay tuned as we will also be celebrating our one year anniversary in January.
I want to thank you all for joining us on the Black Hills Blog Hunt for the last couple of weeks. One of my great privileges is to work on this series that Rebecca Royce and I created. I spend a lot of hours answering questions, working on continuity and doing my best to see that the shared world remains consistent. It also affords me an excellent opportunity to work with so many great writers. Be sure to head over to the Black Hills Wolves Blog, follow it, keep up with it and join me here, too.
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