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The Break of Promise by T. S. Joyce

The Break of Promise by T. S. Joyce PDF

Author: T. S. Joyce

Publisher: Independently published


Publish Date: September 19, 2022


Pages: 186

File Type: EPub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

The titan’s fist cracked across Trey Dougan’s jaw.

Launching backward, Trey landed against the line of cheering, jeering men that lined the makeshift ring. A burly man with whiskey on his breath shoved Trey back toward the three-hundred-pound bruiser. Trey grinned and circled him slowly, switched his stance. The surprise on the fighter’s face drew a bigger, bloodier grin from Trey. His right hand was broken, but he could jab just as good with his left.

Damn his split lip, with the drip, drip, drip soundtrack that accompanied his pounding heartbeat. He fuckin’ loved this.

Trey ducked in to the cheers of the crowd and unleashed a quick combo against the behemoth’s ribs. Crack.

Yep, there it was. The man winced and circled a little slower. Trey could see the pain in his eyes. Come on.

Let me out, his wolf pleaded.

“Shut up,” he growled. This was his moment to feel something. To feel anything. God, he’d needed this all week.

He got lost in the dance. That’s what it was to him, at least. The dance of brawling. The dance of fighting. Of bleeding. Of pain and recovery. For a few minutes a week, he could remind himself that he was still alive. Pain did that for a man like him.

The crowd was a blur in the background as they circled round and round each other, trading blows. Trey was going easy on him. He had to. The brawler was just a human, after all, and on top of that, Trey understood the importance of the show. He got paid more if he dragged it out and let the audience think other fighters had a chance. There were more bets, and more interest in his fights. He got invited back, week after week, to this underground fighting ring in the woods, as long as he seemed strong but defeatable.

Another crack against his jaw and he rocked backward, went to his knees. God, this brute had a powerhouse right hook. The giant man fell on top of him and started pummeling, but Trey had been ready for that. He maneuvered out from under him and, quick as he could, he took top position and blasted his fists against his face over and over, until his arms actually tired. Dude wouldn’t quit fighting back. God, he would’ve made a good bear shifter.

The man’s eyes rolled back in his head, and the referee yanked Trey’s flying arm from connecting again. He pulled Trey up to his feet and called his win.

Drip, drip, drip.

The crowd was always the same—bloodthirsty humans from small towns around Leadville that had nothing better to do than feed their dark need to witness violence.

This was a gathering of the underbelly. Every week. Same time. Same night. Same outcome.

Their hate for peace fueled Trey and left him satisfied for just a little while.

He spat blood onto the ground and gave the crowd a split-lip grin as he lifted his fists into the air in triumph. The cheering was deafening, but the approval didn’t mean anything to him.

Trey needed the fight. Always had. His old Alpha, Nathaniel Tellings, had created that monster inside of him.

A face came into focus in the crowd, and Trey stopped, dropped his fists at his sides.

Darren Callaghan, his Alpha, stood right on the edge of the ring, arms crossed over his chest, his eyes a reddish tone that said his wolf was at the surface.

He didn’t look pissed off. It was worse than that. Darren looked disappointed.

His Alpha twitched his head toward the exit of the old barn and gave Trey his back, then made his way through the crowd and disappeared into the chaos.


Clenching his sore jaw, Trey exhaled a growl and grabbed the wad of cash from the promoter on his way out. He ignored the claps on his back, and the boos, and the humans gripping his shoulders in excitement. The next fight was about to start and they would be distracted by fresh blood momentarily.

Outside, Darren and Bootlace stood leaned against Bootlace’s truck. Fuckin’ traitor tattled on him.

“What the hell are you doing?” Darren demanded.

Trey came to a stop a few yards away from his Alpha and tossed Bootlace a glare. “What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m winning fights.”

“Why?” Darren demanded.

Trey held up the wad of cash. It was probably a hundred and fifty bucks just for this one fight. “Money.”

“Lie,” Darren called out his bullshit.

Trey huffed a humorless sound and shook his head, shoved the cash into the back pocket of his bloodied jeans. “What are you even doing here?”

“Wondering why the hell one of my wolves is putting the entire Pack at risk.”

“What risk?”

“Exposing us. Have you looked in a fuckin’ mirror lately, Trey? Your eyes are straight wolf. You’re talking to us, to your friends, and listen to you. You’re growling. At us, at your Pack. Do you even notice you’re doing that?”

Trey swallowed the growl down and shook his head hard. Truth be told, no, he hadn’t noticed.

“This won’t bring him back,” Bootlace said softly.

Anger rippled through him. “Bring who back? Stryker? Why the hell would this have anything to do with him? It’s been months since we found out he’s alive, and where is he, Bootlace? He’s a ghost. This isn’t about Stryker, or Reaper, or whatever the hell he goes by now. It’s me. This is me.” He made a clicking sound behind his teeth and turned, sauntered back toward the barn.

“If you go back in there, I’m letting Bootlace do his plan B on this intervention,” Darren called.

“What plan B?” Trey asked, turning. “You could just order me off the fights, Alpha. That should be your plan A. That’s what Alphas do, right? Make orders for us to obey?”

Darren’s eyes softened. “Look, I know you got mistreated by Nathaniel. I’m trying to do this better, but you’re pushing me.”

“It’s what I do.” Trey did a little salute and made his way back to the barn. “I’m a pusher.” He was also unsalvageable, but Darren just didn’t want to admit that yet. Neither did Bootlace.

His next fight was coming up, and his Pack didn’t understand.

They didn’t understand anything.

They definitely didn’t understand him.

If Darren and Bootlace wanted to help settle the wolf, they would step in the ring and let Trey have a real fight.

Freya O’Connor was early. There was a first.

She hadn’t been on time for anything since probably 1997.

That was one of the hundred delightful/unfortunate character traits that had led her here, to this moment, in Leadville, Colorado, states away from her home, to meet an almost-stranger on the off chance that he would sign a mating contract at the end of the allotted two weeks.

How in the hell had she ended up here?

She blew out a sigh and leaned her head back on the driver’s side headrest of her car.

Her hands were already shaking and it wasn’t even time to go in yet. Freya leaned forward and connected the call that was coming in from her matchmaker.

“Hey, Isa,” she answered.

“Whooo, you sound nervous. Are you good?”

“Yep. Totally good. Totally ready.”

“Mmm, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear the lies in your voice.”

“I’m freaking out a little,” she admitted.

“That’s completely normal. I have this same conversation with everyone I match, right before they go in to meet their prospective mate.”

“Tell me the stats again. Maybe that will make me feel better.”

“One in four matches make it to contract. That’s a twenty-five percent success rate, and it’s at the highest it’s ever been in the history of shifter matchmaking.”

“That’s a seventy-five percent failure rate.”

“That’s not how you should be looking at this. We’ve gone over this. Manage your expectations. Remember that he hasn’t paired up for reasons too, and from the information he’s given me, those reasons match yours.”

“And there were no other matches that came up for me?”

“No,” Isa said softly.

“So I’m only a good match with someone in the Trader Pack.”

“It’s the Stryker Pack now, and no matter what they’ve done, you saw the video just the same as the rest of the werewolves. They seem to be at a better place to protect mates and be better matches.”

“I saw the video but Trey was barely in it and when he was, he was a blurry blob. He is a killer, isn’t he? And that’s my only match.”

“I don’t know for certain if he ever made kills in the wars.”

“But probably.” She wanted to know exactly what she was getting herself into.

Isa sighed. “Probably. Freya, you told me your needs. What did you list as the most important one?”

“I want to feel safe.”

“Trey is the only unpaired one in the Stryker Pack, and they are under a new Alpha named Darren Callaghan. He’s a police officer and seems to be pushing them to be better. They are allied with Stark Wulfson’s Pack, and both Packs are allied with the dragon. You want your past to stop haunting you? Go put down roots in the middle of a fucking volcano where no one can reach you.”

Chills rippled up her forearms. Isa had a point. This was diving straight into a volcano. Right now, half of her thought it was a great idea, and half of her felt terrified that it was the worst idea in existence.

“At the end of the two weeks, it’s just as much your choice to sign the mating contract as it is Trey’s. Remember that. You are not trapped. This is just a try-and-see situation. If you don’t connect with him, and your wolf locks her legs against pairing, you walk away. He was the one who put his name in the matchmaking hat, so he must be open. He’s been very forthcoming with information when I ask him anything. He’s ready. You’re ready.” Isa paused and then finished, “He’s inside waiting for you. I just got the message from him that he’s there.”

“Okay,” she whispered, confused, because she’d been parked in front of Weston’s Bar and Grill for half an hour and had watched everyone going in the front door. No one who looked even remotely like Trey’s picture had entered. “Are you sure I’m meeting him at Weston’s?”



“Call me with first impressions when you’re finished with this first date.”

“First date. Right.”

“Hey Freya?”

“Yeah?” she asked in a shaky voice.

“Be the wolf.”

Right. Be the wolf. Easy for her to say, because Isa’s wolf wasn’t submissive as hell. If Freya gave her body to the wolf right now, she would run away. That’s what she did. Her wolf was a runner.

And now she was going to put her in the path of a War Wolf.

This was a bad idea. A baaaaad, bad idea.

She hung up the call and shoved her phone into her purse, kicked open her door, and pulled her jacket hood over her head to protect her curly hair. It was springtime in the lodgepole pine mountains of Colorado. The snow had melted and been replaced by the rains. There was still a chill in the air, but it didn’t bother her much. The wolf was good at keeping her warm.

What was she even wearing? A wave of panic washed over her as she hesitated by the front door. She was wearing jeans that were too baggy with too many holes at the knees, a tight white tank top under a flannel, and a heavy winter jacket on top. Her shoes did not go with this outfit. She should’ve worn high heels and a sexy dress and tried harder to attract Trey. Shit.

“Hi,” a woman said softly beside her.

Freya startled hard. Some werewolf she was. Her wolf hadn’t even warned her that someone had walked up behind her.

“H-hi,” she said politely. She couldn’t do this. Couldn’t make herself go in there looking and feeling like this. She stepped aside and gestured to the woman to go in.

“Are you coming?” she asked. She was a pretty woman with highlighted brunette hair and sunglasses over her pixie nose.

“Oh, um, no. I’m…” Looking around the quaint main street for some inspiration, she locked her eyes on a Mexican restaurant across the street. “I think I’m feeling like tacos instead.”

“It’s going to be okay,” the woman said.

Confused, Freya frowned at her. “What do you mean?”

“Just…meet him, and then you can decide what you want to do.”

“You mean…you mean Trey? You know Trey?”

The woman held a hand out for a shake. “I’m Dani. I’m in his Pack.”

“Oh.” Well, this was weird—meeting a Pack member before she even met Trey. It was kind of nice to know another female in the Pack was friendly though. She shook Dani’s hand. “I’m Freya. Freya O’Connor.”

“We’ve been excited to meet you,” Dani assured her. She pushed open the swinging door and gestured for Freya to go in ahead of her.

“So, you and Trey are close?” she asked carefully.

“Sometimes. Trey is…a challenge to get close to.” Freya didn’t miss the carefulness in her tone.


“Um, do I look okay?” she asked suddenly.

Dani turned and looked her up and down. With a cheeky smile, she said, “You’ll do.”

A blush heated Freya’s cheeks and she ducked her gaze.

“Are you submissive?” Dani asked.

Freya swallowed hard and nodded her head. “Is that bad?”

Dani’s dark eyebrows were furrowed with a slight frown. “I’m not sure. I guess we will find out. Soon.”

Yeah, soon like right now. She followed Dani to a table in the back corner, but the man sitting there didn’t look anything like the grainy picture Isa had sent her. Trey had scars on his face, and dark eyes under a low-riding baseball cap. This man had stormy-blue eyes and unmarred skin. His hair was longer too, and a darker shade.

He stood and held out his hand. “I’m Bootlace.”

Baffled, Freya reached over the table and shook it. “I think there is some kind of mistake. I’m meeting Trey here, and I was told he’s already waiting for me.” She did a quick scan of the restaurant but Trey didn’t seem to be here. Maybe he was in the bathroom or something.

“He’s not here,” Bootlace told her.

Okay, now her red flags were flying. “But…my matchmaker assured me he had already messaged her that he was here.”

“I was the one messaging Isa,” Bootlace said.


She backed up a few steps. “W-what do you mean?”

“I was talking to Isa on Trey’s behalf. Please.” He gestured to the chair across from him. “Give Dani and I a few moments to explain.”

She shook her head, feeling utterly tricked. “What’s going on?”

“Please,” he said softer. “It’s just a conversation and then you can leave if you want.”

The whole restaurant smelled like wolf thanks to Bootlace and Dani, and her head was getting all foggy.

“You have three sentences to explain,” she whispered. Damn her voice as it shook!

“Trey needs a mate to anchor him. My Alpha gave me permission to set up a match for him. You are the one who was chosen.”

“So…the information Isa has from Trey…it’s not from him at all. It’s from you?”


“But with good intentions,” Dani explained in a rush.

“But…I have an entire packet of information about Trey. Is any of that true?”

“Some of it we wanted you to discover for yourself,” Dani said.

“Does he…” Shit, oh shit, oh shit. “Does Trey even know I’m here?”

Bootlace and Dani shook their heads in unison.

“Oh my gosh,” she murmured. “I traveled hours to get here. I put my life on pause to do this. I did it right, I gave all the information to find a good match for myself. And I’ve wasted my time?”

“No, no, no, you will still meet Trey.”

“Great, he just doesn’t know why I’m here or that he’s being paired with a freaking match,” she whisper-screamed.

Dani pushed one of the two margaritas that had been sitting in front of her toward Freya. “I hope you like mango.”

“That’s the plan? Spring this on me and give me a drink? So, what? So I’ll be okay with this?”

“No. I just thought the margarita would help with the anxiety.”

“How do you know I have anxiety?” she demanded.

“I don’t. I tried to imagine how I would feel if this was happening to me, and I would be having anxiety and wanting a mango margarita.”

“Well…fair enough.” She pulled the drink to her lips and slurped loudly, then sat down and tried to steady her panicked breathing. “Who all knows about me being here?”

“The entire Pack,” Bootlace said without missing a beat.

“Except for Trey,” Dani corrected.

“Faaaantastic.” Isa should’ve caught this. She felt let down. She’d been tricked and manipulated and she’d been the one to make the drive all the way down here, and she already knew Trey’s answer to being paired up with a stranger he hadn’t signed up for. No! His answer would be hell no.

“Just give him a chance,” Dani whispered.

“Me give him a chance? That’s why I’m here! Who says he will give me a chance?”

They gave each other a look she didn’t understand. “He needs something,” Bootlace said.

“He needs someone.”

“To anchor him. Why does he need an anchor?” Freya asked.

“That’s something I want him to tell you.”

“I want to know. Before I make any decisions, I want to know what I’m really getting into. Why does he need an anchor?”

Another look passed between them, and then Dani said softly, “We don’t know the answer to that. He’s a good wolf, but he’s withdrawn. He’s spinning out, and you’re the only thing we can think of to bring him back.”

“Spinning out how?”

Dani’s lips thinned into a straight line and stubbornly, she kept her answer inside.

Great. Freya’s eyes burned with tears of frustration and disappointment.

“This was supposed to be something important for me,” she whispered brokenly. “This was supposed to be good for me.”

“Maybe it still can be.”

“Why did you do this?” she asked.

It was Bootlace who answered. “Because Trey is important to us. The rest of us paired up, and are healing, but he stayed…empty.”

“I know you want to run. I can see it written all over your face,” Dani said. “But I’m begging you, give us one night. We called a Pack meeting, and the entire Stryker Pack will be there to meet you. Trey included. We don’t even have to tell him you’re here for a match if you don’t want us to. You can hang out with us tonight and get a feel for him and see if he’s someone you want to pursue.” She sighed, and desperation swam in her eyes. “Please.”

Freya stalled, sipped her drink and studied the woodgrain texture of the table. If she did this, it was opening herself up to someone who didn’t even know she existed. For someone who wasn’t open to a match after all. It felt like joining in on a plan to trick Trey, and this feeling of being manipulated was awful. But she was curious. If she left now, without having met him, she would always harbor a what-if in the back of her mind.

Dani must’ve seen the resolve washing through her, because she pounced. “We have an extra RV up at the property where we live, and you don’t have to stay with anyone. You can have your own space for as long as you want. Even if it’s only one night. You have my word you won’t have any pressure on you to stay. But it would be a shame to travel all this way and not even meet him.”

She blew air out of her cheeks with a sigh. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” Bootlace asked, his eyebrows arching up high in a hopeful expression.

“What else do I have to lose?” Freya’s shoulders sagged with defeat. “This entire experience is ruined. Might as well meet him before I go back home.”

“That’s the attitude,” Bootlace said.

“What time is the Pack meeting?” she asked.

Dani checked her cell phone. “In twenty minutes.”

She dashed her hand under her damp lashes to make sure none of those dumb tears had fallen, and then she stood. “I’ll follow in my car.”

“Shotgun!” Dani called, leading the way out of the restaurant.

“What? No,” Freya called after her. She needed time to call Isa and figure all of this out on the drive.

“Yes!” Dani said without turning around.

Crap, had she locked her car?

“She is very stubborn,” Bootlace said as he set a stack of cash on the table to pay the tab. “The girls in the Pack are important to her. She’s been waiting for you to get here for weeks.”

All of this was weird.

She made her way out of the restaurant and came to a stop just outside the door. Through the downpour of rain, Dani was sliding into the passenger’s seat of Freya’s car.

This day was not turning out anything like it was supposed to.

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