Title: Strength to Let Go
Series: Tales of the Werewolf Tribes, Book One
Author: Alina Popescu
Genre: gay romance, paranormal, werewolves, paranormal romance, supernatural
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
After being abandoned by his mates, Shiki Kirishima, beta of the Dragons of the Fang werewolf tribe, returns to his home in Tokyo.
Crippled by grief, Shiki decides to end it all by going into the territory of the Siberian Killers tribe and challenging them to a battle to the death.
Ganzorig, beta of the Siberian Killers, however, sees the potentially disastrous consequences of having Shiki die in battle.
Instead, he saves him.
Having suffered loss himself, Ganz takes it upon himself to help Shiki deal with his pain.
Blake, Shiki’s best friend since childhood, is as determined to show him there is life after a wolf’s ultimate loss.
Could there also be something ‘more’ for them after friendship?
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I followed Ganz through a right maze of hallways that took us through the run-down building where Blake was being held. They’d refused to let him step foot anywhere else, they’d bent their rules for me enough as it was. When we reached the large and dirty room they were in, I stopped and looked through the glass on the door. Blake had his back to me as he sat at a large table in the far right corner of the room.
His shoulders were so tense you’d think he’d explode, and I could see how the Killers guarding him flinched every time Blake turned to stare at them. If my heart hadn’t been squeezed so tight, it would have been funny. I pushed the door open just in time to hear him threaten the nice Mongolians guarding him with some old Native American curses that would affect them and three future generations. I shook my head, thinking he’d never change. He did not believe in the Powhatan curses his tribe thought of as infallible, but he’d always play them against wolves who were naturally afraid of everything spiritual. It came with having a long collective memory and us being part of what was considered the impossible.
“Chibi-tan, stop threatening the good men,” I said, stopping in the middle of the room and dropping my bag on the floor, sending a puff of dust up into the stale air. He stood up so fast the chair flew from under him. When he turned, his eyes glassy and his breath heavy, my smile faded, making room for what was really in my heart. Fear, reluctance, and the joy of seeing my childhood friend.
“God damn, winggapo, you have to stop calling me that! You’re older only by a few months.”
I had used that term with him since the day I’d met him. He was scrawny as a four-year-old and a little shorter than me. He’d been brought to train with me and I’d been ahead of him in training and strength. I’d insisted he called me senpai. What started as a tease soon became an endearment, and he knew it, yet still insisted I’d stop. It was when he’d figured that out that he’d started to call me winggapo. Weirdly enough, although he was half Brazilian, he’d never used any Portuguese with me, only Powhatan words. I believed deep down he identified more with the Native American tribe of Virginia that his father belonged to than with his mother’s Brazilian roots.
Chibi tried to smile as well, but his grin seemed as unnatural as mine did. He pushed his hands deep into his pockets and looked past me. As there were only a couple of inches between us, I noticed his avoidance technique. His hazel eyes glowed bright green, showing his turmoil, before he finally decided to look me in the eye.
“I’m sorry, Shi. I’m so sorry I did not pick up.” He frowned and looked at his feet, his shoulders slumping. “I was on a vision quest, I didn’t know.”
I gasped loudly, taking one step to close the distance between us and wrap him into a tight hug. Of all the things I’d expected Blake would say to me, how his guilt took me by surprise I’ll never know. It was such an obvious reaction considering who he was, I mentally slapped myself for not figuring out sooner just how much he’d kept beating himself up over it. I’d thought our talk on the phone had been enough, but I should have known better. It would take Blake quite a bit to forgive himself.
“You said that, chibi. And I told you not to blame yourself. When the hell will you listen to your nii-san?”
“You’re not my fucking big brother, you’re my best friend,” he growled, his voice muffled by how hard he was hugging me back, his face pressed into my shoulder. He pushed me back and looked at me carefully. It felt as if he could see through me, right through the thin walls I’d used to build my appearance of a normal person. It all crumbled under his scrutiny, and by the time he pulled me back into his arms, I was already coming undone.
“Get me out of here, Blakey,” I whispered. “No one needs to see me having a freaking meltdown. Please!”
He nodded against the side of my neck, grabbed my hand and my duffle, and pulled me toward the door. I had to forcefully stop him to be able to say goodbye to Ganz. We hugged without a word for a few minutes; then he made me promise I’ll keep in touch. I noticed a few curt nods between him and Blake and somehow knew chibi-tan would keep him in the loop if I didn’t.
Blake then rushed me through the maze of hallways. Wolfs usually have a great sense of direction, but all I could tell was we hadn’t come this way when we’d entered the building. When Blake pushed a large door open and I saw his jet waiting for us, I realized I had good reason not to know where we were going. We raced to the stairs and promptly got in. When the door closed behind us, my legs finally gave out, but chibi caught me.
“I’m here, Shi, let it out.” His encouragement was all I needed. I let the pain and renewed rage out, messy and erratic. I could, now that my best friend was there to steady me through it. His pilot came in and asked us to sit down, but Blake merely growled. As we were still hugging in the middle of the jet, it started moving.
I didn’t know when or how I’d gotten onto the onboard couch, but Blake was holding me and my sobs had calmed down.
“Gods, I’ve never cried so much in my entire life as I have in the past few months. What the hell is wrong with me, chibi?”
“You had your heart ripped out of your chest and handed back to you in pieces, I assume,” he said, as if he was presenting facts to his Board.
“So word got out,” I growled.
“Well, chibi, the kids got dropped at your brother’s and never picked up for weeks, you disappeared, and then we found out you were in Siberian Killers territory. I think everyone figured out you’d had a breakdown and that you did not want your marriage to end.”
“Do they….” My voice trailed off before I could form the question. In all honestly, I was afraid of the answer.
“No, no one but me knows. They believe what Ganz told them, that you were randomly flashing and ended up out there.”
“Good.” I nodded, wiping dried tears off and blowing my nose into the tissues Blake had handed to me.
“Winggapo, I get why you did it and how your mind works. I swear though, you try that again, I’ll fucking kick your ass.” He pushed his index finger toward me, a menacing frown reinforcing his words.
“I promised I won’t, chibi. Ganz gave me an out, provided I really tried for two months.”
“He did what?” His voice was so loud, the flight attendant jumped out of her chair. Blake smiled apologetically before turning to face me, arching a brow and pushing his upper body closer.
“Yup, two months of trying, and if I still wanted to end it in battle, he’d have arranged it for me. I think he knew I would not want that anymore.”
“Smart wolf,” Blake said with a chuckle. “Then again, if this had turned out differently, he’d be a dead wolf.”
I laughed and shook my head. Ganz had been right, my friends would have gone after them had I been killed by their tribe. Maybe Shishou would have tried to stop them, but between Blake and Vicks, he would have failed. Thinking more about it, I figured Shishou would have joined just to keep his wife happy.
“He is an incredibly smart wolf, actually. I was surprised by him, in a good way.”
“Mhm, yeah, I caught the squeeze of his ass before we left,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows.
I tilted my head and smirked. “Yeah, I noticed how worried your pilot was I’d steal his fun. That was before he figured I was in full-blown sob-fest mode,” I added and winked. Blake shrugged casually. We’d never hidden our conquests from each other, it was pointless, especially since we used to share them more often than not.
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About the author
Writer, traveler, and coffee addict, Alina Popescu has been in love with books all her life. She started writing when she was ten and she has always been drawn to sci-fi, fantasy, and the supernatural realm. Born and raised in Romania, she finds her inspiration in books of all genres, in movies, and the occasional manga comic book. She is a proud geek who needs her fast Internet and gadgets more than she needs air.
Site & Blog: http://alina-popescu.com