It’s 1936. Thirty-year-old Alice has given up on finding a husband. Between civil engineering and mountain climbing, her interests are so masculine, she scares men away. A poor route choice strands her—lost, hungry, and scared—next to Lon Chaney’s cabin deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Jed senses a woman stumbling down the steep, inhospitable mountain behind his borrowed cabin. Her scent tantalizes and excites him. Mates are scarce these days, and if his nose is right, she’s his fated one. His and his two pack mates, that is, who are mercifully gone at the moment. Jed crafts a careful strategy, knowing the mate bond might not be enough to convince her to stay once she finds out it will link her to all three of them—forever.
Alice adds Jed to her list of problems when he melts out of the shadowed darkness. At first she declines his offer of help, but he keeps talking until she ends up inside the cozy log cabin in front of a roaring fire. His skilled hands and a shot of whiskey heat her blood to molten, and her carefully tended world explodes into desperate hunger to make love with the man rubbing her weary feet.
As caught up in lust as Alice, Jed takes a chance. A big one. Will mating with her before disclosing everything turn out to be a huge mistake?
Excerpt from Alice’s Alphas:
Her breath whistled loud in her ears. Brent had told her to hightail it for the car, but she had a feeling something bad had happened to him. No matter how she felt about him running off, it wasn’t right to just leave him. It had been dark for hours, and she wondered how late it was. Even if she stumbled the few miles to her car waiting next to Glacier Lodge, she was too tired to drive anywhere. The lodge wasn’t any help. It wouldn’t open for the season for another couple of months. There might be a phone inside, but she’d have to break in.
Alice considered her options. If she made the lodge, she’d crawl into her car and fall on her face from exhaustion. It would easily be mid-morning before she got back up here to even begin searching for Brent. Survival in the mountains often hung by a thread. She was the only one who knew where he was.
He may have abandoned her, but she couldn’t do the same and desert him. Not and live with herself afterward.
Alice moved toward where she thought the trail was, intent on setting up a fireless camp to wait out the night. She had enough food and a full water bottle. No tent or sleeping bag, but she’d survived worse conditions. A fire would’ve been welcome, but she couldn’t risk—
“Hey there. You. Show yourself, man,” a deep voice called from behind her. Light flared, illuminating the forest. Footsteps crunched over rocks and twigs as the person approached.
Alice stiffened. People looked at her build and assumed she was male. It had happened to her before—and more than once. She considered running, but burdened with her heavy boots, climbing hardware, and the moonless night, she didn’t want to chance a headlong flight. Besides, the man might have a gun.
“Why should I?” She spun to face him, ready for almost anything.
“What? You’re a woman?”
Alice grasped her ice axe in both hands. “Leave me alone,” she grunted through clenched teeth. “I’m tired and my friend is…lost.”
“Whoa.” The man held up both hands, one of which gripped a flashlight. “Put your axe down, sweetheart. I’m not going to hurt you.” He was tall, maybe six-feet-four, with straight, red-blonde hair. Despite his height, he had a slender build. A well-defined jaw and sharp cheekbones suggested Nordic blood. It was tough to tell in the reflected light, but his eyes looked blue.
“Go back inside. You can see I’m not any kind of threat. I’d head down, but I need to be moving at first light to hunt for my friend.”
The man cocked his head to one side. “Big guy with red hair?”
Terror gripped her. Her throat narrowed. Breathing became a struggle. Since she couldn’t manage words, she nodded and steeled herself to hear the words, he’s dead. Alice bit her lower lip and gazed mutely at the stranger.
“Look, I think he’ll be okay. We were out hunting and heard something big falling. Thought it was the deer we’d shot at. Turned out to be your friend—”
“Awk! You shot Brent!”
The man waved his hands in front of him. “Calm down, woman. Christ, you’re strung tighter than a fiddle. Take a couple of deep breaths. No, we didn’t shoot him. Your friend was unconscious because he hit his head on a rock, so we carried him back here. My two buddies took the horses and hauled him down to the lodge. We only had three horses which is why I’m still here. Anyway, they were planning to drive him to the hospital in Bishop. I don’t expect they’ll be back much before the middle of tomorrow.”
At least that explains why there’re no horses here.
Alice shook her head, digesting the information. “I need to get moving, then. I can drive to the hospital and meet them.”
The man held out a hand. “I’m Jed. Jed Starnes. You look beat. There’re mountain cats on the prowl. Shot one a few hours ago. They get worse at night. More aggressive. You got a gun?”
She shook her head and ignored his outstretched hand. He looked chagrined and dropped it to his side. “Well, then, handshake or no, you need to come with me. Got a nice warm fire going inside. You look wet clear through. Nothing you can do tonight, anyway. Get a few shots of Irish whiskey in you, a little soup, and some sleep. Come morning, you can go after your friend.”
It sounded good. Too good. She kept her ice axe poised. “How’d you get access to Lon Chaney’s cabin?”
Jed threw back his head and laughed. “That’s easy. Ever since Chaney senior died in nineteen-thirty, his son’s been letting some of us who work with him have the keys. All we have to do is ask. Damn shame the old man died right after he got this place built. It’s a beauty. You really should take a look inside.”
She blew out a breath. “What is it you do?”
“I’m a production manager for Paramount.”
“I thought they were in receivership.”
He laughed again. “We are. But we’re still making movies.”
Something about Jed put her at ease. Or maybe she was just too weary to think straight. She slowly dropped her hands. Tethered to her wrist, the ice axe dangled, not quite hitting the ground.
“That’s better, sweetheart,” he crooned. “Follow me. I promise I don’t bite.”
She trailed after him and climbed the broad steps leading to the cabin’s heavy wooden door. He unlatched it, took the lantern from its hook, and motioned her through ahead of him. Alice scanned the large room. One end was an enormous stone fireplace. The other held a kitchen of sorts with a pump mounted next to a sink. A curtained alcove probably contained a bedroom. The lower walls were the same large, flat fieldstones mortared together she’d seen on the outside. The upper walls were wooden planks. Alice sighed. It was warm. Truly warm. She didn’t realize how chilled she was. Her face stung from the sudden temperature shift.
She took off her headlamp and set it on a table. Next she unbuckled her waist belt and dropped her pack in a corner, followed by her axe. The click of a deadbolt falling into its metal hole snapped her to attention. She made a grab for her axe, but Jed beat her to it. “Don’t know about you,” he said, hefting the axe over a shoulder, “but I’m not fond of weapons inside.”
She’d been right about his eyes. They were a rich midnight blue. Something about them made her tingle deep inside. Alice pushed the thought away. She was still a virgin at nearly thirty, and likely to stay that way at the rate things were going in her life. Almost as if they’d been listening in on her thoughts, her nipples pebbled into points of awareness.
What am I doing?
She shook herself back to reality. A stranger she’d just met had locked her into this cabin and taken her only means of defense. Trepidation trumped lust. “Why’d you lock us in?” Because she tried hard, her voice only shook a little.
He flashed the key in front of her and dropped it into his pants pocket. “Never know who might wander by. I wanted to make certain we’re safe is all.” He made a huffing sound. “Most women appreciate that sort of thing.”
“No one would come up this trail in the middle of the night.”
“Hey, I’m sort of a city boy. We believe in locking the bad guys out.” He shrugged. “If you want to hang your jacket, there’re hooks by the fire. It looks pretty wet to me.”
Alice crossed her arms over her chest and stared at Jed. He stared back. Tension sizzled in the air between them. She held out a hand. “My axe.” She gestured to guns on racks along the walls. “Looks as if there are plenty of weapons in here. Besides, my ice axe isn’t a weapon, it’s a climbing aid.”
“Let’s just say I’m not enamored of watching my back. Look—” he balanced her ice axe against a wall, stepped away from it, and spread his hands in front of him “—you’re apprehensive because you don’t know me. How about if I’m feeling the same way?”
She sidled past him and tucked her axe behind her pack where it had been before. “I have no idea how I’m feeling,” she muttered, “other than tired.”
Jed moved past her to the sink and pumped water into a glass. Crossing the cabin, he handed it to her. “Drink this,” he suggested. “Once you’re done, let me hang your jacket near the fire where it can dry a little. It’s so wet, steam’s rising from it.”…
Wolf Clan Shifters
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 4/18/16
Genre: Shifter Ménage Romance
One virgin + two wolf shifters = e-reader ecstasy.
Calgary, Alberta 1936
After witnessing what might’ve been a murder, Megan is frantic to escape the Garden of Eden cult, so she catches the night train north out of town. Her lifetime commitment to the cult may well be her death sentence, but she’s not sticking around to let them frame her.
Wolf shifters, Les and Karl, eke out a primitive existence on the flanks of the Canadian Rockies. Between Hunters who want to kill them and a wildfire raging out of control, they’re glad when Jed, their clan leader, shows up. And even more delighted when they see who’s in his car.
Jed’s mate, Alice, spied Megan by the side of the road looking lost and desperate and offered her a ride. Before Jed’s car even stops rolling, Les and Karl know she’s their mate. So skittish she’s barely willing to exit the car, Megan busies herself helping Jed and his pack mates unload supplies. Can Les and Karl convince her to join her life to theirs? If she does, will the risks she faced as a cult member pale in comparison to being mated to shifters?
Excerpt from Megan’s Mates:
The phone jangled again. Loud and strident, it made Les’ sensitive lupine hearing ache. It took him a moment to realize he needed his human form to make the noise go away. He’d tried to ignore the damned thing, but whoever was calling wouldn’t give up. Every time he ventured near the house, it was ringing. With an aggravated growl, he commanded his body to shift.
As soon as he had feet rather than paws, he strode through the door of his cabin deep in the woods, jaw tight with annoyance. The remote location a few miles outside Rocky Mountain House often lost phone service for long periods of time.
“Yes and too bad this isn’t one of them,” he muttered, snatched up the receiver, and barked, “Yes, I’m here.”
“It’s about damned time. I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days.”
Les’ eyes widened. “Jed?”
“Who the hell else?”
Les brayed laughter. “Good point. It’s not as if very many people have this number. What’s up, boss? I thought you were coming my way months ago. The boys and I wondered what happened.”
“Now that I have your attention, hang up.” Jed’s voice held a sharp edge that Les remembered all too well. “We’ll do this a more private way.”
“You got it.” Les dropped the black receiver back into place. He kicked the door shut to keep the cold breeze out. It didn’t bother him as a wolf, but he was naked, and the air had a chill edge to it. He trotted into the bedroom and had begun to dress when Jed’s voice sounded in his mind.
“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you for a week.”
Les sank onto the bed and pulled a quilt over his still-bare legs as he considered where to start. Jed was clan leader for wolf shifters. He needed all the information Les could provide. “First off, we’re all still okay.”
“That’s a relief. When I couldn’t raise you, I was afraid Hunters had killed everyone. Made me half-crazy not to know anything. Anyway, we pulled into Calgary last night, so I’m finally close enough to use telepathy.”
“Is your new mate with you?”
“Affirmative. Bron, Terin, and Alice are with me.” Jed blew out a breath. “You may have heard through the grapevine, we’d originally decided to come north as part of our wedding trip, but Hunters nabbed half a dozen of us in northern California. It took a major offensive to free our people. Even so, we lost a couple.”
Les nodded, and then realized Jed couldn’t see him. “Yes, I know. We’ve had problems of our own. Hunters almost got your cousins, Ron and Chris. We killed them, and I’m still waiting for the fallout on that one since we also killed the whole posse that came afterward, hunting for their fallen companions. All five of them.”
“How many total? Was there any choice?” Jed’s voice was stern as he peppered Les with questions.
“Seven. No, no choice.” Anger tightened Les’ muscles. He’d like to kill every goddamned Hunter in the universe, but he wasn’t about to tell Jed that. And there hadn’t been any choice, not really. They’d been surrounded. The only thing that saved them was taking a firm offensive position.
Jed broke into Les’ thoughts. “What’d you do with the bodies?”
“Don’t worry, boss. No one will ever find them. We dragged them to the very bottom of a cave system where there’s a vent to an upper cave and burned them.”
“How long ago?”
Les thought about it. He’d spent much of the last month as a wolf, which skewed his time sense. “Maybe a week.”
“You still haven’t told me why you weren’t answering your phone.”
“We’ve all been in our wolf forms. There’s a fire burning out of control between our pack and the crest of the Rockies. A couple of the cabins farther west incinerated—”
“Humph,” Jed interrupted, obviously not concerned about an out-of-control wildfire. “Any of you find mates yet?”
“What do you think? It’s not as if the odds are in our favor.”
“Maybe Alice can change that. Women trust her. She’s actually scared up three mates since she joined Bron, Terin, and me.” A hesitation. “How close did you say that fire was?”
“My cabin’s not in any immediate danger. It’s fall and I’m expecting it to rain soon.” Les scratched at month-old beard growth on his chin. “It’s pretty primitive here, boss. Nothing like your digs in Hollywood.”
A different voice sounded in his head, rich, vibrant, and definitely female. “I’ve been listening in. Shameless of me not to have said something earlier. Don’t worry about me. My life was a whole lot simpler before I met up with Jed and my other two mates. Besides, I’m looking forward to meeting the clan members here in Alberta.”
Les’ mouth twitched into half a smile. “You must be Alice. We’ve heard a lot about you. Are you really six feet tall?”
Alice snorted, making Les wish he’d kept his mouth shut. After all, Alice was mated to his clan leader. “How about if we leave the details open, and you can see for yourself when we get there? Jed says it’s a four or five hour drive, and we should arrive sometime tomorrow. Is there anything we need to bring from the big city?”
Les gazed around his one-bedroom cabin as if he expected a grocery list to materialize. He cleared his throat before remembering he didn’t need his actual voice. “Um, we’ve been pretty much living off the land this past month, so anything you bring would be welcome.”
“I get the picture.” Jed broke in with a laugh. “We’ll fill up the trunk and the rest of the back seat.”
Les couldn’t help himself. “Who gets to sit next to Alice?”
Female chuckling made his heart lighter than it had been in a long time.
“Oh, they fuss and snarl a bit, but they sort of take turns. It’s nice actually, to have three doting mates.”
“I’m sure it is.” Les brushed a wave of sadness aside. He’d love to have a woman to fuss over, alongside Karl, his pack mate. They’d hunted for years for a female to grace their lives without success after their first mate died in childbirth in the 1600s. A few promising candidates crossed their path when they’d lived in Edmonton, but Hunters had driven them out of the city fifty years before.
“We’ll be there by tomorrow afternoon.” Jed’s voice was gruff, and Les figured his clan leader could read his mind.
“I’ll alert the troops, boss. Everyone will be really glad to see all of you. And to meet your mate.”
Les waited, but a certain emptiness told him Jed had signed off. He shoved the quilt aside, finished dressing, and called Karl through their telepathic link. It didn’t take long before paws scrabbled against the door, and Les remembered he’d shut it. By the time he crossed the small space and pulled the door open, Karl had found his human form and stood shivering, arms wrapped around his tall, spare frame. Black hair hung to his waist in tangles.
“Thanks. Damned cold out here.” The wolf shifter bounded into the room, giving the door a shove as he passed through it. “What’s up?”
“Jed’s here.” Les spread his arms wide and rolled his eyes. “Along with his lieutenants and their new mate. We’ve got to clean this place up.”
“Why? It’s always been good enough for us.”
Les slugged him in the arm. “You weren’t listening. Jed’s mate will be here.”
“Oh, I get it.” Karl chortled, his dark eyes gleaming with glee. “Maybe if we didn’t do anything, she’d take pity on us and—”
“Right. Find some clothes, and we’ll get to work. I don’t think Jed, Terin, or Bron will want their new mate waiting on the likes of us.”
Karl sprinted for his sleeping alcove toward the rear of the log cabin’s main room. Drawers banged open. “Fire’s getting closer,” he called over one shoulder. “Maybe it would be better for all of us to get together in Red Deer.”
Les considered it. “Nope. Too soon since we axed those Hunters. That’s where they were from—there and Edmonton. I don’t want any friendly sheriff asking questions if they discover we live out here. Are you sure the fire’s closer? Maybe the wind just shifted direction.”
“It’s definitely closer. The smoke’s thicker, and I can actually hear it burning from the rise a couple miles west of here. At least my wolf can.” Karl slid his legs into trousers and pulled a sweater over his head before shoving his feet into an ancient pair of sheepskin slippers. He turned to Les. “Where do you think we should start? Come to think of it, when do you want to alert the rest of the clan, or should I do that?”
“We can take care of that later tonight. How about if you work on the dishes? I’ll sweep and get the kettle going for laundry.”
Karl strode to the sink and pumped the handle for water. “Eww.” He wrinkled his nose. “How long have these plates been here?”
“Does it matter?” Les lugged a large, cast iron kettle in through the back door and hefted it onto a wood-burning stove. He opened the firebox door, levered a pocket knife out of his pants, and started shaving tinder. “Let’s warm some water. That should help.” As he worked, Les dialed in his lupine senses and scented fresh air coming through the back door. It was indeed tinged with smoke. What bad timing for a major fire. If it drove them into one of the nearby towns, they’d risk discovery because Hunters could scent them.
He looked up from his half-built fire. “Um-hum.”
“Maybe it’s time to move on.”
“No!” Les banged a fist down on his thigh. “I’m sick of running. If the fire gets this far, we’ll come back when it’s over and rebuild.”
“But we’ll never find a mate out here.”
“Just do the damned dishes. We’ve got enough problems without adding to them.”…
Wolf Clan Shifters
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 5/2/16
Genre: Shifter Ménage Romance
One spirited woman + three coyote shifters = e-reader ecstasy.
Late 1930s, California.
The winds of change are blowing hard as shifters gather deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a war powwow. Tempers run high as they argue their next move.
An unexpected attack from more Hunters than they’ve ever seen forces their hand, and Blake, alpha for the coyote clan, fights alongside his brothers. He’s grimly pleased when every single one of their enemies is finally dead, the bodies chucked into glacial crevasses.
Sophie Laughing Wolf tracked her hated brother into the mountains. Gifted with foreseeing, she wants to make certain he ends up just as dead as he was in her vision. When the large group of men he’s with are set upon by shifters, mythical dual-natured beings who can take animal forms, she hides, calling on earth power to shield her.
It doesn’t work. Two shifters, back in their men’s bodies, haul her from her hiding place once the battle ends and drag her before their chief. He spares her life—for now—but she senses the animosity the others have for her. They see her as a threat, a witness to multiple murders.
When the mate bond strikes, she fights its pull. So does Blake. He can’t believe the gods would be so cruel as to bind him and his lieutenants to a woman with blood ties to Hunters—their ancient enemy. She runs from her fate. So does he, but the bond burns bright, transcending everything.
Excerpt from Sophie’s Shifters:
Jed slipped and slid down the glacier, grateful his mate Alice wasn’t there to read him the riot act. An accomplished mountaineer, she’d have laughed herself sick after the second time he fell on his ass and slid twenty feet.
“Goddammit!” Terin screeched from behind him and went flying past on his stomach. He shifted mid-slide and dug his claws into the icy surface to stop his suicidal descent. Once he’d stopped on the uphill side of a boulder, he shifted back.
Jed drew to a halt next to him. “Good thing you didn’t bother getting dressed. Your clothes would be strewn over the last fifty feet of ice in shreds.”
“Yes and no,” Terin muttered, glancing pointedly at Jed’s shoes. “My boot soles would have helped—a lot. Jesus but I’m glad Alice isn’t here to see this.”
“Keir’s doing okay in bare feet,” Bron noted, catching them up. “And I’m not doing that bad, but the soles of my feet hurt like hell—and I miss my claws.”
Jed eyed the edge of the glacier. Patches of rocks and dirt, interspersed with ice, began a couple hundred feet below them. Walking would get much easier then. He grabbed one of Terin’s arms. Bron seized the other one, and together they lurched over the remaining rock-studded ice.
“We have a problem,” he said without preamble.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Bron muttered.
“We have to get home and make sure Alice is okay,” Terin added.
Jed winced. He’d wanted to leave someone home with the women, but neither Alice, nor Megan—Les and Karl’s mate—would have any part of that. He reached for Alice through the mate bond, but she was too far away for him to sense anything.
“Which particular problem were you alluding to?” Bron asked. “Somehow it seems like more than getting out of these mountains with our hides intact.”
“It is,” Jed said tersely. “Les and Karl found a woman. They’re holding her back in the cave.”
Terin stopped dead. “What? Is she a climber like Alice, who got stranded up here?”
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s it,” Jed muttered.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Bron broke in. “Shit! If she came with the Hunters, we’ll have to kill her.”
“That already occurred to me.” Jed shot a pointed look at his lieutenant. “Keir said the same. He was standing close enough to hear when Les gave me the bad news.”
“Damned shame.” Terin shook loose from them. “I’m good. I don’t need you two to nursemaid me anymore.”
They covered the remaining half mile to the cave in silence. Terin and Bron went to collect their clothes, and Jed strode briskly to a back corner where he sensed Les and Karl. Crouched behind them in a quivering mass was a woman with her head buried in her crossed arms. Long black hair shot with thick silver streaks spilled around her onto the dirt floor. She was swathed in dark colored wool and flinched away when Jed hunkered next to her.
He probed her mind and found terror so gripping, it obliterated everything else. He started to tell her not to be afraid, but the words died on his tongue. He couldn’t give her any guarantees, and he wouldn’t lie to her.
“Who are you?” he asked, keeping his voice gentle.
“We tried that, boss,” Les said.
“At first, all she did was moan,” Karl added. “She got quieter after a while, but she hasn’t answered any of our questions.”
“Where’d you find her?” Jed asked.
“After we lifted the last of the bodies in our sector out of the moraine, so others could move them up the mountain, Les and I sensed something living. It wasn’t a Hunter, but it was human, so we dug a little.”
“Didn’t have to go far,” Les cut in, “before we found her hiding between a huge piece of deadfall and a big rock.” He shrugged. “Without our wolf senses, we’d never have discovered her.”
A low whimper escaped from the woman, and Jed laid a hand on her arm. “What’s your name?” he repeated.
“Just get it over with.” Her low, musical voice was strained. Hysteria trod near the surface.
“Get what over with?” Jed probed. Maybe if he could get her talking, he could learn something.
The woman lifted her head from her crossed arms and Jed’s eyes widened. She was absolutely stunning with huge midnight blue eyes. Pronounced bone structure and copper skin suggested Native American blood flowed through her veins. Sharp cheekbones, a hawk-bridged nose, and a squared-off chin lent her an exotic cast.
She tilted her chin at a defiant angle. “You have to kill me. I know too much. Get it over with. The others—” she cast a spurious glance Les and Karl’s way “—they were waiting for you to make the decision.” Her mouth worked as if she’d tasted something bitter. “Anyway, get it over with. I took my chances when I tracked my brother today. If he’d known, he’d have forbidden me to come.”
Jed frowned. “One of the Hunters was your brother?”
The woman nodded mutely. “Yeah, that’s what I just said, isn’t it? Get it over with, white man. If you’re going to kill me, do it. If not, let me go.”
Bron and Terin had joined them once they’d dressed. Bron passed a hand over the woman’s head, and Jed felt him probing with shifter magic. “You have white man’s blood too,” Bron murmured.
The woman shot him a scathing look. “Not much. What of it?”
“Where we come from in Canada,” Les said, “Indians are friends to those like us.”
She curled her upper lip in withering scorn. “We have enough problems without associating with shifters. You’re nothing but trouble. Bad enough we got stuffed onto reservations, land no one else wanted.”
Jed tried a different tack. “Why’d you track your brother today?”
She buried her head in her arms again, refusing to look at him.
“Please.” He gentled his voice. “Give us something to work with. Les and Karl, my brothers who found you, didn’t harm you.”
“Only because they were waiting for you, their chief.” Her voice was muffled.
“Goddammit!” Les squatted in front of her and yanked her head upward. “Karl and I could’ve killed you. We didn’t. We were not waiting for Jed to make that call. Tell us why you were tracking your brother.”
Jed heard compulsion flow beneath the other shifter’s words.
The woman drew back. She tried to combat Les’ spell, but the contest was laughable. “To stop him,” she said. The words were clearly dredged from her, but they held the ring of truth.
“Good. He needed to be stopped,” Les said. “Why’d you think he’d listen to you?”
The woman’s face crumpled and she started to cry, big noisy gulping sobs that ripped through her. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t try to make him listen to me,” she managed between ragged breaths. “I have the gift of prophecy—farseeing—and I knew things would go to hell for all of them today.”
“Do your visions always come true?” Jed probed. Despite the problems the woman presented, her story fascinated him.
She nodded, but didn’t say anything further.
“Did your brother know you followed the Hunter group?” Jed asked.
She shook her head. “No. He doesn’t share my gift. His magic came mostly from the goddamned white man’s Church.”
“Odd none of the rest of them sensed you behind them,” Karl muttered.
“Not odd at all,” she shot back, choking a little on snot running down her face. “I can blend my energy into the rocks, the dirt.”
“We found you,” Karl pointed out.
“Because you were in your natural form, and wolves sense such things far more acutely than men.”
Jed waved Karl to silence. This was going nowhere fast. Returning his attention to the woman, he said, “So you came along, but didn’t talk with him. Didn’t try to warn him. Help me understand why.” Jed hoped things might get clearer, but so far they were just becoming more confusing.
“Let me get this straight.” Bron hunkered next to Les and caught the woman’s gaze with his dark one. “You saw in a vision that your brother would die, and you came along anyway but didn’t try to warn him. Did you want to make certain he was dead?”
Jed silently offered his lieutenant credit for shrewdness. If the woman knew today would end in a bloodbath because she’d seen it—and she made no attempt to warn her brother—what other reason would she have had for trailing after him.
The woman’s sobbing escalated. She tried to jerk her chin out of Les’ grip, but he held fast. “Yes,” she gasped out. “Yes. I hated that bastard. He…used me, hurt me the way men hurt women, when I was only ten years old and never stopped until I ran away when I was sixteen. No one believed me. No one c-cared.” Her last words were almost obliterated by sobs.
Suddenly her phrase to stop him took on a whole new meaning. Jed just stared at her. “So it’s not that you didn’t say anything today. You never told him anything.”
She did yank her chin away then and spat on the dirt floor. “Hell no. I haven’t spoken to him in ten years, but he’s blood and he shows up in my visions.”
Running on instincts that had rarely failed him, Jed glanced at the four wolf shifters ranged around him. They didn’t need to talk. After hundreds of years of working together, they understood one another.
“Stand up.” Jed told the woman.
“Did you see your own death in your vision?”
An odd look washed over her face before she shook her head and pushed herself upright. Standing she was of a height with Jed, and her hair reached past her ass. She squared slender shoulders. “Is that a backhanded way of saying I can leave?”
Jed shook his head and hurried to add words before she sank into a puddle of terror again. “You’re right that we can’t allow you to return to your life. We have no idea who you are, who you’d tell. We could wipe your memory of us, but you’d still recall the death that happened in this canyon.”
“What are you going to do with me?” Her voice shrilled and she jerked her chin upward. “If you think you’re going to abuse me like my brother, think again, white man. I’d rather be dead.”
“We don’t do that to women.” Terin pushed into her line of vision so she had to look at him.
“Not what I’ve heard,” she retorted. “My brother said he learned it from you.”
“Bull crap!” Jed said succinctly. “I’ve never known a shifter to take a woman against her will. Not on my watch, and not in my clan.”
“You planning to bring her home with us?” Bron quirked a dark brow.
Jed nodded. “The only question—” he focused on the woman “—is whether you come willingly, or we knock you out and carry you down the mountain.”
“Home as in staying under the same roof with five men?” Her face twisted into a grimace. “No. Not happening. Just kill me here and get it over with.”
“We’re mated,” Karl informed her. “Les and I have a mate. Her name is Megan. And Jed, Bron, and Terin are mated to Alice.”
The woman tossed her head. “Fine. Just because you located some sluts who—”
Jed snaked out a hand and slapped her hard across the face. He grabbed her head between his hands and forced her to look at him. “Never say one bad word about my mate. I love her. So do Bron and Terin. Don’t disparage what you don’t understand.”
A shocked look blossomed on her face and she muttered, “Sorry,” before looking at her feet.
“Let go of her, boss.” Bron pulled Jed’s hands away. “She only understands what she’s lived. And it hasn’t been pretty.”…
About the Author:
I’m basically a mountaineer at heart. I remember many hours at my desk where my body may have been stuck inside four walls, but my soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry.
Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since.
In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food — and everything else too.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)