Dual Guardian

Ryan and Gregory—one does not exist without the other. After rising quickly through the ranks as the youngest elite scouts, they are tasked with their toughest mission— finding the hybrid shifter/witch.

Natalia has hidden among the coyote shifters for centuries. Left by her adoptive mother to fend for herself, she takes care of any orphaned pups. Now, her powers have drawn the attention of the alpha, and she's on the run with five of her charges. 

With a mad alpha and an evil witch on their trail, Ryan, Gregory, and Natalia will have to work together to stay alive and keep the five pups safe.

Chapter One

Gregory turned over and tried to find a cool spot on his pillow. After a while he put it over his head hoping to drown out the snores coming from the room next door. How two males could sleep making all that noise was beyond his understanding. They may have their own room, now, but it was still a struggle living in such proximity with other warriors.

"Gregory, can't sleep again?" Ryan's sleepy voice reached his ears out of the dark.

"It’s the damn snoring," Gregory complained. "Go back to sleep. I'll stop moving."

"The snoring is one thing," Ryan pushed at his shoulder. "Move over. We both know you are worried about having another nightmare."

"I don't want to talk about it." Gregory scooted to the side and felt the bed dip as Ryan climbed in. Needing the comfort of his friend he laid his head on his shoulder. "I got a few hours of sleep and will be good in the morning."

"This is not working anymore." Ryan turned until he could wrap Gregory in his arms. As hatchlings they had comforted each other this way and it had carried over into adulthood. "Ask the healer for a sleeping tonic."

"I will tomorrow. Now go back to sleep."

"I will sleep when you do," Ryan said.

"That will be a long wait," Gregory tried to joke.

"No. I'm here to help you dream. Listen to my heart," Ryan pulled Gregory's head to his chest until his ear rested over his heart. Gregory struggled to keep his eyes open but soon his heart matched Ryan's and he felt himself slipping into sleep.

"Gregory, get up."

"Go away," Gregory cracked one eye open, surprised to see the sun shining through the small window. "What time is it?"

"Time for breakfast," Ryan stood in the doorway already dressed for the day. "I'll wait for you to bathe and dress, but hurry. We don't want the general thinking we have become lax in our duties."

Gregory nodded and sat up, rubbing his eyes with his fist. "I guess I needed sleep." He climbed out of bed and ten minutes later he joined Ryan. "I'm sorry about last night," he tried to smile as they headed to the dining hall.

"You need to talk to someone," Ryan said.

"I am—you."

"No, someone like a healer. You could talk to our mothers, they have insight into things."

"I can't," Gregory shook his head as they entered the dining hall. "If people find out I'm not sleeping, they will take us off patrol."

"If they remove you, they remove me. They know this."

"Yes, but I fear with no sleep I will put you and our battalion in danger. In the end I don't think we will have a choice."

Gregory followed Ryan to the table and started filling his plate. There wasn't much more they could talk about on the subject and he hoped Ryan would drop it, for now. Gregory was only on his second plate when he noticed most of the warriors had left and decided against a third. As they left the dining hall and walked across the lawn toward the training yard Gregory knew he had a smile on his face. He loved the training yard because it was the only place his demons wouldn't follow him. He checked to make sure he had his practice daggers and grinned. Today was going to be a good day.

"That smile doesn't bode well for anyone." Ryan gripped his shoulder. "You go ahead. I want to talk to the general."

Gregory's heart stopped before speeding up. "You are not going to say anything about me not being able to sleep, are you?"

"No, that is your tale to tell but you need to tell someone besides me. I am just going to ask him about the coyote pack. I know we have been keeping tabs on them, but I am not sure if it's worth it anymore. You go work off some steam so we can actually get work done later." Ryan watched Gregory continue to the training yard and sighed. Over the centuries, since they had watched their fellow warriors turned to stone, Gregory hadn't been right. Nightmares, sleepless nights and anger issues, and others were starting to notice. When he heard the roar of his fellow warriors he knew Gregory had found an opponent. He turned and went in search of Jarod and found him standing with two of his captains, Michael and Richard on the steps leading into the courtroom. Ryan stood to the side waiting for them to finish talking before he walked up.

"General."

"Scout." Jarod turned from watching his captains leave. "What can I do for you?"

Ryan shaded his eyes and looked up. He was a good three feet shorter than Jarod. "I thought you would like to know how our search is going."

"Yes, I would. Walk with me." Jarod turned and headed toward the healing houses. "I want to check on my mate. She is forever causing trouble." He chuckled. "Can't help but love her. So what's on your mind?"

He fell into step and folded his hands behind his back. As they passed the cornerstone fountain he said a quick prayer for his best friend. "The pack hasn't moved in centuries," he answered Jarod's question. "And it has been easy to keep tabs on them. For some reason a week after your return they packed up and left in a hurry. They have fractured. One part headed to the city, where we cannot follow, and the other headed deeper into the desert. The smaller pack was moving fast."

Jarod didn't speak until they had reached the healing houses. "Follow the smaller pack. I want to know why they broke away," Jarod turned to him. "The Alpha is healing but has expressed his desire to reunite with his pack. One of his pups should be Alpha now."

"We will follow the smaller pack as soon as practice is over." Ryan turned to go.

"How is Gregory doing?"

Ryan stopped and turned back to Jarod, hoping his face wouldn’t give anything away. "He is fine."

"He seemed quiet last I saw him, tired too. Is there anything I can do?"

"No, sir. He is at that stage where all he thinks about is a mate." Ryan smiled. "We both do."

Jarod stood staring at him, and Ryan forced himself not to fidget. Finally Jarod looked away. "Go with the goddess.'

"You also." Ryan turned and took a deep breath. He hated lying to his general, but his friendship would always come first.

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© 2019 by PAULINA WOODS.