Ryan is stubborn, he always has been. Patience has never been Thomas’s best trait. It’s been nine lonely years. Ryan thought Thomas was dead. Some secrets can’t be told. There are rules and laws that can’t be broken and often unreasonable Gods enforcing them. It’s going to be an uphill climb to fight for Ryan’s forgiveness. All Thomas wants is to spend the rest of his life with his soulmate (even if he is a fugitive), for them to have the picture-perfect life they always dreamed of together. They’ve finally got their chance to have it all, but…
The Bellum Pack is coming, and that can only mean one thing.
Thomas doesn’t have time to plan a war, win back his soulmate, and worry about his best friend, Penn, and whatever he’s got going on with the worst Pillar of all. How does the sweetest guy fall for their most feared God?
Thomas has to figure out how to keep Ryan safe and protect his entire pack from the encroaching war-hungry Wolves. As if that weren’t enough, having Tristan Steele, a human, as his Alpha might be what pushes Thomas over the edge, not to mention keeping Penn’s heart from getting broken. And somehow, he has to manage it all without burning down their world.
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GiGi DeGraham © 2023
All Rights Reserved
His eyes were fixed on the classic red and gleaming chrome Peterbilt emblem in the center of the hood. That oval was all he could see as 80,000 pounds of semitruck and trailer barreled out of control across the median towards them. An unharnessed scream ripped from Thomas as he yanked furiously on the steel handcuffs and chains bolting him to the van floor.
Seconds—he only had seconds.
Time stalled as Death lifted its fist to pound on the front door.
“Oh my God,” the driver yelled and jerked the wheel of the transport van hard to the right. The collective fear was as abrupt as the jolt of the vehicle. Men screamed for their lives.
The unavoidable impact was a bomb exploding, in slow motion, frame-by-frame—a force as powerful as the fist of Muhammad Ali. The collision knocked all the air out of the world around Thomas, out of him. Oxygen ripped from him in a terrifying vacuum, creating a breathless panicking void, where all he heard was the internal lack of gasping in the eighth round. Sucking desperately for denied air, Thomas was Foreman when he finally went down. Glass flew through the interior, suspended, as bodies hurled into the side of the van.
The guard in the front passenger seat was instantly ejected. There and then gone. Blood from the dying driver, who sat at the point of impact, rained, blowing back through the cargo area as the passenger van careened to the right as if propelled by a hurricane. They left the roadway, momentarily airborne, and crashed hard before flipping through the woods, tires over hood. Once, twice, and again in a blur, with the impacts breaking out the remaining windows and slamming the unbelted but chained passengers against the walls, then the ceiling, and finally the floor.
And oh, God—the screaming.
It broke the unbreathing silence—that deafened ringing in his ears as Thomas’s head struck the left side metal window frame. The inmate behind him, unnaturally twisted and flipped over, landed between Thomas and the window. His seatmate, a big guy, tatted with a heavy hand, lay over him on his right side. He had to be at least 250 on the hoof. Hot blood spat rhythmically from an artery onto Thomas’s body. For a moment, the air smelled like old patina-greened plumbing pipes. Or the smell of sweaty palms after clutching pennies to throw at your buddy’s bike wheel. Copper and mechanical mixed.
Somehow, in the chaos of the accident, Thomas had been sandwiched between a back passenger and his seatmate, now dead after bleeding out in only hot, pumping seconds. Even the big guy bled out fast in what seemed like gallons. Neither had their seatbelts on. Thomas opened one eye, and it was a meaty crimson bath inside the Econoline.
Thomas sucked in a second, at last, ragged full breath. It burned and now tasted and smelled like machine smoke and hot metal. If a nightmare could have a scent, this was it. Thomas’s heart pounded; his nose stung as more fumes mixed together. It was hard to breathe—toxic, heavy, and overwhelming. Bits of glass tinkled and clinked around him as they dropped from the now open window frames, releasing from their rubber seals just as the tumble cycle ended.
With tremoring hands, he lifted his chains against their attachment. The floor bolts and hasp jingled and clanked—his manacled hands now freed from their installation. A broken tree branch had pierced the van’s steel floor. Thomas traced the path of the limb where it kabobbed through tatt-man and the back of their shared bench seat. His head pounded with pain, and blood covered his left eye as he tried to blink it away. Gore soaked Thomas, and he wasn’t sure if it was even his own. And something was on fire, searing in his left arm.
“Is anyone okay?” Thomas cried out.
The real panic set in when there was no response. Nothing. No one screamed anymore. For a moment, he heard a gurgle behind him, a wet exhale, and then nothing. Just that heavy dripping and another steady sound. The smoke thickened, and the engine ticked even louder. Like a timed device warning Thomas with its steady tick, tick…before the boom. The message was clear.
Thomas twisted, worked his hands back beneath the behemoth slumped over him, and frantically felt for the seatbelt latch at his right side. He’d been the only one they belted. The first one picked up and the only transport from juvie. A juvenile transport liability rule had just saved his life. Jesus Christ, he had to get out of here right now.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Thomas yelled over his wet, fumbling fingers. His fine motor skills were forgotten until finally, the clasp released its deadly hold on the buckle.
Frantic, he worked to maneuver the belt off and then wiggled and slid his way out from under the impaled passenger. Thomas turned back to him to check for a pulse, but he was dead. Thomas didn’t have time to feel bad for him, but he still did. No one deserved to go out like that. He looked to the guy pretzeled half in and half out of the side window. His leg was gone from the knee down, his skin already ghostly white. His eyes were wide open, mouth frozen in a dying scream. The other three inmates were a fresh Jackson Pollock on white metal.
Thomas swallowed hard, trying to thrust down the emotions that wanted to well, and assessed himself, wiping his eye with his shoulder. He couldn’t see out of one but looked around wildly with the other. Everyone was dead, and Thomas screamed. He scared-shitless screamed. Thomas dumbly shook his seatmate with his cuffed hands, unwilling to be in this nightmare alone.
Something popped towards the front of the van, and there was a crack. A splitting of wood, and the van jerked forward in a hard punch. Thomas looked through the opening, where the windshield should have been, to where the van clung precariously at the edge of a drop-off. He was the front car fool approaching the high pause of a rollercoaster, only hearing the clicking countdown before the shit-your-pants plummet.
“Help!” Thomas tried to yell through the smoke.
Get out now, then run…from one of the voices inside his head. Thomas had heard this voice so many times before and didn’t question it now. He scrambled over the passenger hanging from the window, clinging to his body like a ladder, then slid over him and dropped to the ground. He looked around—frantic for his bag of personal property—his letters.
Meet the Author
GiGi DeGraham lives, plays, and learns in New Orleans. She is a proud southerner and enjoys fixing up old houses and writing. Most of her story and character ideas develop while sanding and painting. She loves to roller skate and has a favorite author-named cat called Irving, after Washington Irving. You’ll always find her with an audiobook in her ear and listening to everything narrated by Kirt Graves.
GiGi prefers the outdoors when the weather permits, going on rock and fossil hunts or visiting local rock shops. Otherwise, she’s clacking away at her keyboard until the wee hours. GiGi firmly believes downtime should be spent on a porch swing. GiGi is a life-long supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.