Breaking the Ice, An Ariel Estates Story Book Three -- from Resplendence Publishing
Being the last male standing isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Mikah Malloy is living proof. His mother and father were both killed during their individual attempts to assassinate the pride leader of Ariel Estates, Silas Murdoch. Now after the dust has settled on his bloodstained family’s name, Mikah must face life alone among his fellow lion shifters. But Silas and his mate, Theo, have decided a vacation in Alaska is just what the doctor ordered to help Mikah come to terms with his grief and his plans for the future. The only snag with their plan is trouble always has a way of finding Mikah, no matter where he runs.
Gideon Haven, eldest son of the Haven pack's alpha, would give his soul for a way off the ice. But when a hunter is out to eradicate his pack one by one, skinning them alive for their wolf pelts, Gideon can’t just walk away.
The predators have now become the prey, but they're determined to hunt down the poacher out to slaughter Theo and Gideon's pack. As for Mikah, he’s more than ready for the job. Putting one's life on the line isn’t a hardship when you don’t care whether you live or die. The heat between Gideon and Mikah becomes nearly impossible to resist, yet Mikah is determined the tenacious wolf isn’t about to get close enough to break the ice around his heart.
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(intended for 18 years or older)
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An impressive literary adventure; five out of five stars! Reviewer, Carly—TRR
Whoever said “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”—as if it would fix everything—was lame as hell.
Mikah hated lemonade.
He shoved a pitcher of the sour beverage aside and palmed the beer at the back of the fridge. Staring down at the red and black label, he nodded. Alcohol worked a hell of a lot better. Giving a hard wrench to the bottle’s cap, he twisted it off and tossed it toward the trash. The metal top hit the side of the overflowing can with a ping and tumbled to the floor, joining the rest of the litter he’d ignored.
Tipping the brew up to his lips, he weaved toward the living room of his childhood home. The cool liquid flowed down his throat, the bitter flavor of hops and alcohol washing over his taste buds, racing toward his gut. Exactly what he needed to keep the buzz alive. Without warning, the image of his mother’s limp body, crimson blooming across her midsection, erupted in front of his mind’s eye. Mikah’s breath hitched as his footsteps faltered. He grabbed the wall, beer sloshing from the bottle over his fist.
Closing his eyes, he willed the flashback to retreat into the mental vault where he kept the memory. Mikah shook his head and sighed. The booze wasn’t enough. No matter how many beers he downed, the high was never enough to obliterate the memories of the last four months from his brain.
Mikah Malloy, son of the former head of Ariel Estates’ security and the attempted assassin of their leader, had killed his own mother. What a proud family tree from whose branch he hung. The clawing, choking reality of it wrapped its thorny vine around his chest and cinched tight. On a roar, Mikah reared his arm back then swung, releasing the bottle of Bud. It sailed across the room, and the glass exploded on the floral wallpaper with a loud crash. Harsh bellows heaved from his chest, and he watched as the wet trail of beer streamed toward the floor. His gaze moved to the disheveled room around him. Empty bottles and discarded clothes covered the tables and furniture. Like him, the place was a fucked-up mess. Yet the house only needed a good cleaning. There wasn’t a mop large enough to handle the ugly stain on his soul.
“Everything okay in here?”
The sound of their pride leader, Silas Murdock’s voice dragged Mikah back to the present. He looked up, and Silas’ six-foot-plus build filled the doorframe. Dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a crisp white dress shirt, his long, copper-colored hair bound at his nape, the large lion shifter surveyed the room.
“I heard a loud bang,” he added, his gaze finally settling on Mikah. “The door was unlocked.”
“Remind me to remedy that when you leave.”
“I’ll take that as a come on in.” Silas sauntered forward, his boots crunching in the busted glass. “I guess I found the origin of the noise.” He glanced down then gave the rest of the shards a wide berth.
Mikah plopped into his father’s well-worn recliner, wrenched on the lever and kicked back. “Yeah. A bottle slipped out of my hand.”
“I see.” Silas crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes on Mikah.
“Why don’t you have a seat and spit out what you came by to say. Because I know you didn’t come here for the view.”
Silas plucked one of the many empty bottles from the coffee table, and with his other hand, shoved some of Mikah’s clothes off the sofa's cushion and onto another before settling down on the seat.
Swinging the empty between two fingers, Silas pinned his gaze on Mikah. “I see your manners must have drowned in this crap—right along with your motivation to get your ass to work.”
“Security is sending out Ariel’s pride leader to investigate why I’ve missed a few days of work?” Mikah rolled his eyes. “Damn. Didn’t realize I was so fucking valuable.”
“You can put the flippant, sarcastic attitude on ice, or I’d be happy to do it for you,” Silas growled.
Digging his fingertips into the chair's upholstery, Mikah swallowed back the “fuck you” crawling up his throat then clamped down on his molars. Silas was pretty easygoing most of the time. But he knew what the alpha lion was capable of. Silas was their leader because he’d earned that right by blood and scars.
“Sorry, sir,” Mikah chewed out. “I needed a few mental health days.”
The red-headed shifter looked around the room. “Judging by the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed and the state of this house, it doesn’t appear they’ve done you any good.”
“I’m not quite finished yet,” Mikah scoffed.
“Finished doing what? Wallowing in self-condemnation inside your parents’ home?”
Mikah flinched. Silas’ words were dead on and hit like a punch to his gut. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“No?” Silas stood and pointed to the scattered glass and beer on the floor. “That wasn’t the result of any damn slippery fingers, and you know it,” he flatly stated.
Before Mikah could cough up another excuse, two hundred-plus pounds of shifter loomed over his chair, wide palms seizing the arms of the recliner.
“I’m not going to sit back and watch you self-destruct, Mikah. You’re not responsible for what happened to your mother!” The chair vibrated under Silas’ fierce delivery.
If only declaring his innocence made it true.
“I’ve tried,” Mikah whispered and closed his eyes. “Don’t you think I’ve tried to go back to the way things used to be?” He lifted his lids and stared into Silas’ green, unwavering eyes. “I’ve gotten up each day, dressed, and reported in for patrol, as if everything was okay. As long as I kept moving, I could pretend my life would suddenly morph into normal.”
Mikah levered the chair into its upright position, and Silas stepped back. “But the problem is…every time I close my eyes, the vile truth is still waiting for me.” He swallowed hard, forcing the lump in his throat to retreat, and looked away. “I killed her.”
“No,” Silas interjected.
“Yes!” Mikah surged to his feet. “I’m responsible! No matter how you spin it or how fucking bad I wish it wasn’t true, I caused her death.” Like an open wound, throbbing and raw, his chest ached. He didn’t deserve to still be breathing. If only he had the balls to end his own life.
“Mikah…” Silas grabbed his upper arms and gave him a firm shake. “If anyone is to blame, it’s me. You were protecting me when she attacked.”
“But I’m the one who knocked her into those busted crates! Not you.”
“You didn’t deliberately shove her in that direction. You deflected her off me.” Silas’ gaze narrowed on him. “It was an accident. Even Saundra knew that. Before she died, not once did I see blame in her eyes.”
Pulling out of Silas’ grip, Mikah turned away. A part of him heard what Silas was saying and logically knew it was true. Accepting it was a completely different thing. Murdock’s version of absolution was way too easy. Mikah wasn’t done punishing himself yet. Not for being responsible for his mother’s death, and not for being the embodiment of everything she and his father considered depraved.
“I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be you,” Mikah stated and glanced back over his shoulder.
Shaking his head, Mikah answered. “No. Just Silas Murdock. Theo’s mate. No hang-ups or guilt about who you love and what you are. That must be so damn freeing.”
“Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?” Silas’ brows lifted.
“I had no idea,” Silas stated.
“That was the point. No one, including my parents, knew. Well, except for Eli. He figured it out the day he came after me when Shayne was missing.” Mikah pivoted, ran his fingers through the tangled mass of his long hair and sucked in a deep breath through his nostrils. God, the place reeked—much like his existence.
“So Saundra and Durran never knew?” Silas scrubbed a palm over his chin.
“Hell no!” Mikah barked. “You think they would ever have accepted that in their own son?”
“Yeah. I totally see your point.”
“My father tried to kill you for what you stood for. I think his head would have imploded if he’d known his son was attracted to men.”
“You know what you need?”
“What? A time capsule?” Mikah chuckled, but there wasn’t a damn thing funny about his situation.
“A new perspective. New scenery. A vacation away from Ariel.”
What the hell was he talking about? Mikah glared at Silas. Just where did the big guy think he was supposed to go? Mikah rarely spent time off the Estates, and he could count the number of so-called friends he had on one hand. Friends didn’t come easy when you were the son of the man who tried to murder the pride’s leader.
“Don’t give me that look.” Silas waved a finger. “You need to get away from this place. I want you to come with me and Theo. We’re heading back to Alaska one more time before winter.”
Mikah’s head spun, but he wasn’t sure if the merry-go-round effect was a result of the alcohol or Silas' offering.
“You can’t be serious.” Mikah scoffed. “Me? With you and Theo? Stuck in a remote cabin in the Alaskan wilderness?”
He shook his head. Yeah. That wouldn’t be awkward at all. Murdock had lost his mind.
“I’m very serious.”
“Does Theo have any idea about this invitation?” Mikah couldn’t imagine Silas’ mate wanted him to tag along like some third wheel, cock-blocking the two.
“Not yet.” Silas shrugged like it wasn’t any big deal.
Even if Theo was all for the idea of Mikah joining them, it wasn’t as if hanging out in a cabin for days in a remote part of Alaska was Mikah’s idea of a fun getaway anyway. Mikah spun, grabbed a few of the empties from the coffee table and headed for the kitchen.
“I’ll pass,” he stated over his shoulder.
“Come on, Mikah.” The heavy thump of Silas’ footsteps followed him. “If you’re worried about my mate and what he’ll think about you coming along, don’t. I know Theo. He will be happy to have you with us. He’ll be excited about showing you around, introducing you to his pack.”
Bottles in hand, Mikah stalled beside the garbage bin and bit back a groan.
“Introducing you to his pack.” The words zipped around inside his skull like a damn stock car on race day. Loud and incessant. Fuck. Meeting a bunch of strangers was the last thing he wanted to do. Shaking off the dread, Mikah pushed the overflowing trash down then, with a clink, dropped the bottles on top.
“Like I said…” Mikah turned. “Thanks. But no thanks.” He brushed past his leader.
“Mikah. Think about it, will you? Fresh air. A new landscape thousands of miles away from here. The only other people you’ll run into will be ones who don’t know anything about your past—only the you they meet that day. Getting away is a good idea.”
The thousands of miles away with strangers did sound great. But calling it a “good idea”?He wouldn't go that far. The whole concept of sitting around in that cabin during the evenings with Silas and Theo, trying to avoid eye contact with the “happy couple”? His stomach roiled. No, no, no. He did not need that.
Silas’ heavy hand landed between Mikah’s shoulder blades as the large shifter came up beside him. “I’d really like for you to join us.” Lowering his arm, Silas headed for the door.
“Call me,” he added, crossing the threshold. “We leave Monday morning.”