Heart of a Warrior

an excerpt

Chapter One

USMC Camp Fallujah
Fallujah, Al Anbar Province, Iraq
September 2005

When the chopper set down on the LZ, Terrell didn't wait for the crew to finish securing the bird. They were quick and efficient, but Terrell had three VIPs and their mission in his care. With this much to fucking deal with, he had to keep shit moving forward, and keep his VIPs focused, so they could all get the hell out and get the hell home ASAP.

Stepping onto the hot sands of Iraq, Terrell stretched stiff muscles as he turned in a circle, observing his surroundings. His wolf-senses got stronger and sharper inside a war zone. They blended with his human-senses so it was easy for his brain to process all the extra shit. He kept a small part of his attention on his team members as they jumped down from the chopper. The heat was fucking stifling, like always, and the smell of shit overpowered every other nasty odor carried on the dry, hot wind. He secured his cover lower down over his close-cropped, but thick, dark hair and adjusted his shades.

The whole fucking base hummed with the combined power and individual energies of every damn kind of shifter, but werewolves outnumbered them all. A mood of general calm settled over Terrell, but a wary watchfulness--a readiness--hummed just underneath. It was what he expected to feel on a Marine Corps base in the middle of a hostile fucking combat zone.

The chopper crew wasted no time unloading his team's gear so they could prep for the dicey flight back to BIA. Dawson and Terrell each moved in to take their large sea bags from the crew. They were both physically powerful--werewolf strength enhancing their human talents--but Terrell was even larger and stronger than Dawson. He couldn't grow any fucking taller than his natural six-foot-two, but he sure as hell could pack on thick muscle. Now his body matched the dominant temperament he'd been born with. Terrell threw his own gear over his shoulder, hefted Noah's next, then reached for the major's.

"Negative, Sergeant," Madison said forcefully. Reaching out to take his own gear, the major surprised the hell out of Terrell. "That's a no go. I'm here to support the True Alpha and Dominant in werewolf business. They're the ones who need your support and assistance. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, despite the double curse of being both human and an officer." One corner of his mouth was curled in his usual smartass smirk.

Terrell tightened his grip on the sea bag, but he was pretty damn sure it was a lost cause. Major Tim Madison was strong willed, with or without Marine Corps OCS. Who the hell was Terrell kidding? Madison was fucking stubborn. "You're the True Alpha's CO, and you're the one who persuades the Corps to actually implement changes the True Alpha knows we need. Hammond considers you vital to our pack, so I take very, very good care of you, Major."

With a hard pull, Madison abruptly snatched his bag away from Terrell and swung it over his shoulder. "You can make sure my sorry ass doesn't get shot, Hubbard. I can carry my own shit." Flashing his ubiquitous cocky grin, Madison turned sharply on his heel and strode away. Why the hell the major wasn't chronically NJP'd remained a mystery to Terrell.

A quick glance told him that Dawson had managed to get Lucas's sea bag away from him and the team was ready to step off. Terrell fell in to the rear so he could be sure his team stayed oscar-mike, and to watch for any threats on their sixes. He kept his head on a fucking swivel, tightening the focus of his wolf-senses and cherry-picking the added intel. Now, if he just knew where the hell the fucking pack leader was. Noah wasn't big on formality, but it was just plain disrespectful for a pack leader to skip the arrival of his True Alpha.

Movement in the distance caught Terrell's attention. A Marine appeared from between two small out buildings on the edge of the LZ and was inbound at a quick jog. The wind was from the right direction to carry the Marine's scent. His smell was of a werewolf, his energy had the vibrancy of a strong wolf, and he packed a healthy amount of wolf pack power.

"Pretty sure that's the pack leader, Kai Thayer," Terrell shouted over the racket of the helicopter landing zone. He didn't need to elaborate; Noah was perfectly fucking aware of the late arrival.

The staff sergeant came to an abrupt stop directly in front of the team. "I apologize for missing your arrival, Major, sir," he shouted toward Tim. "I'm Staff Sergeant Kai Thayer, pack leader of the Camp Fallujah sippe of the U.S. Armed Forces Werewolf Pack."

Madison stepped smoothly into the role of the team's liaison. Terrell was so fucking grateful he didn't have to think or talk, 'cause one close-up look at Kai Thayer had locked his jaw shut, good and tight. The neurons in his brain were firing in their own private fucking July 4th celebration. It didn't matter that the sight of Kai's full lips left him tongue tied, Terrell couldn't think of a single damn word to tie up.

As usual, the major handled all the social shit without missing a beat. "As you were, Staff Sergeant. I'm Major Timothy Madison. May I introduce--"

"The True Alpha, Noah Hammond, and his Dominant, Lucas Young." Kai smiled broadly, displaying the same mix of awe and excitement Lucas and Noah always inspired. He was tall--within a couple of inches of Terrell's height--with a powerful, well-muscled build. Kai's features were strong; a perfect-looking, nearly straight nose, square jaw, and prominent chin sporting a hint of a cleft. His smile curved his sensual mouth, revealing perfect teeth. "Begging the major's pardon, this is a great honor for me. Not to mention, Staff Sergeant Hammond and I have met previously."

Shit. Terrell didn't have time, during this mission, for his dick to take such a powerful interest in anyone, let alone someone acquainted with Noah. He struggled to keep from doubling over when Kai's brilliant smile slammed into his core like a fucking fist.

"Jesus Christ, Thayer!" Noah's grin put his stamp of approval on Kai, Terrell just wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. "You make it sound like I don't remember having to talk your ass out of a drunk-in-public arrest."

Kai laughed and Terrell stopped breathing. Shifting his weight, he adjusted his half-hard cock. His decision to free-ball it during this mission was shaping up to be a huge mistake. His cover and his sunglasses hid the rest of Kai's features, spiking Terrell's curiosity. His fingers itched as he imagined removing all of Kai's uniform, sending a dangerous rush of blood straight to his dick. Christ, he needed to lock this shit down before Dawson and Noah-- or even worse, Kai--smelled his interest