The Hellhound’s UnChristmas Miracle, стр. 1

The Hellhound’s UnChristmas Miracle

Zoe Chant


1. Fleance

2. Sheena

3. Fleance

4. Sheena

5. Fleance

6. Sheena

7. Fleance

8. Sheena

9. Fleance

10. Sheena

11. Fleance

12. Sheena

13. Fleance


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Children were crying, and it was all Fleance’s fault.

Fleance’s pack alpha, Caine Guinness, rubbed his jaw. Caine’s eyes were shadowed with exhaustion, and bright with the hint of his inner hellhound’s careful gaze. “Tell me again what happened.”

What happened is that “careful” isn’t a word you could ever use to describe my hellhound. Fleance gritted his teeth and sat back. He was in the small staff room at the Puppy Express, a tourist retreat where he and the rest of the pack worked part-time to get them out of Caine and his mate Meaghan’s hair. Meaghan was expecting twins and had made it extremely clear that her pack’s instincts to wait on her hand and foot were not the way to make her happy.

Caine being called in to deal with Fleance’s hellhound like a parent being called to the principal’s office? Not part of the plan.

Now, more than ever, Fleance felt like a poor imitation of the alpha who had saved his life. With his powerful frame, dark red hair, and piercing blue eyes, Caine drew attention wherever he went. Fleance’s hair was a lighter red, his eyes a paler gray-blue, and even though Caine had been turned into a hellhound years after Fleance, he’d managed to do the one thing Fleance had always thought was impossible: break free of the alpha who turned him. A year and a half ago, Caine had wrestled control of the pack away from Angus Parker and broken the chains around Fleance and the other two members of the pack. And now…

The sound of the panic he’d caused outside would have been inaudible to a human, but it grated against Fleance’s enhanced shifter hearing. And his conscience.

Why are you angry? his hellhound asked from inside his head, smoke dripping from its words as it watched him suspiciously. We won!

You call that ‘winning’? Kids crying because you swamped them with your fear magic?

Yes! They will not hurt anyone again!

Fleance’s jaw went tight. He pushed his hellhound’s thoughts away and repeated what he’d already told Caine when he arrived. “One of the kids yanked on a dog’s tail.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all it took. My hellhound wanted to hunt it down. It—” Fleance frowned, trying to trace the logic under his hellhound’s rage.

The Puppy Express was one of the main tourist attractions in Pine Valley, the small mountain town where Fleance’s pack lived. The Express maintained a web of sled dog trails that wound through the forest at the edge of town and hired out teams of dogs to do what they loved best: run. There were jingle-bell-bedecked sleighs in winter, and Fleance and the other hellhounds had spent the slushy shoulder season repainting the summer sleds.

It was a sanctuary. The Express, Pine Valley, every goddamned pine needle and puddle of snowmelt in the place. Fleance didn’t like to think about his life before Pine Valley, but what he’d found here was nothing short of a miracle. Friends. Colleagues. A life he could be proud of.

Or so he’d thought. Dread clawed at his throat, following the lines of the thin scars he’d never be free of. He should have known it was too good to be true. Too good for him. His hellhound had spent the first years of its existence acting as an enforcer for the evil alpha who had turned him, and now whenever it sensed someone stepping out of line, it attacked. What sort of a monster turned on little kids for playing up?

“This isn’t the first time you’ve had this problem with your hellhound, but I thought you had it under control.” Caine rubbed his jaw, his fingers scraping on the stubble, and guilt shot through Fleance’s gut.

He schooled his face and his heart before anything could show. He was already causing his alpha enough problems; he didn’t want Caine to pick up on the true depth of his feelings via his pack-sense. The man had better things to do than deal with his problems.

“Rhys and I have been working on it,” he said. Rhys was another member of the pack. Where Fleance saw his hellhound as a curse, Rhys saw it as a puzzle—one he could break. “I haven’t had any outbursts for weeks and I—I thought I’d be safe working the till. I wouldn’t go out on the trails, there’s too much potential for things to go wrong, but I thought inside would be… safe.”

“And how’d that work out?” Caine muttered. He raised a hand and grimaced apologetically as Fleance started to answer. “That was a rhetorical question, Flea.”

Fleance shrugged away a momentary unease at the nickname. “My hellhound says it wants to stop people being hurt.” The words came out as an embarrassed half-growl. “But ever since Christmas it sees threats everywhere.”

“…Yes.” Caine gave him a searching look, which Flea accepted warily. He wasn’t sure how much Caine could feel of his thoughts, but he trusted he’d never pick into his brain for them.

Not like his first alpha.

Fleance shivered, and tried to pass it off as another shrug. When Caine still didn’t say anything, more words forced themselves past Fleance’s lips. “Something doesn’t make sense.”

He didn’t have Rhys’s talent for figuring things out, but something about this latest horror wasn’t right. His hellhound snarled softly, and he hushed it. Caine is our alpha. A good alpha. We can trust him. He went on, piecing his thoughts together word by word: “Rhys’s theory is that my hellhound wants to protect people. Last Christmas, it went crazy when that couple went off-trail in the snow, because they were putting themselves in danger. But a kid pulling a dog’s tail? What’s the worst that can happen, that scaring the hell out of some poor five-year-old is the better option? It doesn’t feel like I’m protecting anyone.”

“No.” Caine’s voice was calm,