By S. Peters-Davis
I stood fifteen feet away from where the oversized wolf and bear fought, slashing and biting. The steady wind through the trees hid my scent. With any luck, they would kill each other. I readied my crossbow for just in case and adjusted my stance for a shot, until the wolf flew into the air, knocking me flat on my backside. My vision blurred, and my brain buzzed into dizzy-mode. My eyes closed on automatic as I concentrated on not losing consciousness.
“Are you all right, Miss?” asked a deep, rugged voice. Warm fingers grasped my hands in an electrifying grip. “Let me help you.”
I opened my eyes to his shocking browns.
He pulled me into a sitting position and settled on his knees in front of me, dressed in skin-tight jeans and a black T-shirt. His brows drew together. “What the hells are you doing in the middle of a forest with a crossbow?”
Speaking of my weapon, I noted its absence, even while rendered speechless and in a trance-like condition. What the hell is right? I didn’t know if this dude was wolf or bear, no matter, his magyck had allowed him to shift entirely clothed. Only legends tote that kind of power.
“Can you hear me?” He snapped his fingers in front of my eyes. “Tell me you’re not a poacher.” His voice went gruff as his fingers gripped and lifted my chin. “Well?”
I jerked and freed myself, scanning for my weapon. The wolf lay a short distance away, his throat gone, and a dead shifter should change into human form. Why didn’t it? I turned toward the hunk, narrowing my eyes. “Why isn’t it shifting?”
His brow arched as he assessed me, and then he nodded as if in recognition. “We, dear Katherine Brady, a.k.a. Kat, have something in common.”
I dove for the loaded crossbow, kneeled, and targeted his heart. “So, how do you know who I am?”
He smiled, leaving me stunned, and my insides cooking from his pheromones. “We are both hunters and want justice. Are you affiliated with law enforcement or another established agency or organization?” He stood, his thigh muscles bulging when he crossed his ankles and relaxed his body against a large oak tree.
And why would I notice his thigh muscles? I made it a point to know and remember hunters, and no doubt in my mind, I would’ve remembered him. “I don’t know you.” My weapon still pointed at his chest, but the bear inside me fought against my urge to shoot.
“Risk Kodak,” he leaned forward, suavely fanning an arm in front of himself, then rose to lean back on the tree, “at your service. In the human world, I’d be considered a secret agent. In the shifter world, I run clean-up on the changelings involved in drug-running and human-trafficking, what you’d categorize as cartel activities.” He nodded toward the dead wolf. “I also capture or, in this case, destroy serial killers. We have our way of dealing with those hell-bound monsters. We don’t like it when our kind gets tainted as evil in the human world. You know,” he air-quotes with his fingers, “because a shifter kills, runs drugs, or traffics humans.”
I’d heard of him from my studies, a historical legend. “You’d have to be over one-hundred-years-old.”
“One hundred-thirty-one to be exact.” He grinned. His brilliant white teeth gleamed in contrast to his dark skin.
My insides quaked with a rush of flutters. I took a deep breath to steady my hands and lowered the crossbow. “How? You died in Alaska from an avalanche ninety-some years ago.”
“Yea, but doesn’t that make the perfect cover for me to keep doing my job?” He stepped past me to the dead wolf, fished out something from his pocket, and dropped it on the wolf. Its body instantly turned to ash, and bit-by-bit blew away on the breeze. “I don’t know about you, but I’m famished.” He walked to me and stopped inches away, the heat of his body bombarding mine and creating havoc with my bear. “Would you care to join me for a little respite, something to eat?”
“We’re miles from any businesses, and it would take us hours to travel.” I unloaded the bolt from my crossbow. “I have jerky in my backpack.” Risk’s calm demeanor had a bizarre way of comforting me, even though I realized his bear pheromones might be responsible for my feeling safe with him.
He expressed that dazzling grin again and pulled me into his body. His ancient whispered words gave me pause, and then everything went dark. “You can open your eyes now.”
I did, sucking in a deep breath to settle my oozy belly. We walked out of an alleyway to the front of a place called Mama’s Eatery. Nothing looked familiar, mostly rough built cabins and dirt roads. A couple of buildings on each side of the restaurant advertised groceries or supplies. “How the crap did we get here from where we were?”
He chuckled. “That’s one of my secret abilities, and I’ll have to kill you if I reveal it to you.” He smiled, and I widened my eyes as a challenge. “I’m kidding. I’ll answer your questions inside. Let’s eat.” His gaze traveled over me, eyes narrowing. “You might want to tuck that crossbow, so it’s a bit more discreet.”
“No. I’ve been caught with my pants down before. That won’t happen again.” A child had gotten maimed because of my hidden weapon.
We walked into the crowded place, and all eyes turned toward us as the bell on the door jingled. Their casual gazes converted to assessing glares. My inner sensitivities heightened, and goosebumps scattered across my skin. Only one empty table for two in the back corner and I didn’t like the odds of no easy escape route. “I’m not hungry. We should go.”
Prickles turned into stabbing slivers down my arms as everyone in the restaurant stood. Risk grabbed my shoulders and shoved me behind him. I couldn’t see around his muscular body.
Thunderous cheers attacked my ears, tankards clicking, and whistles filled the air, and then Risk turned toward me. A wide smile spread crossed his face, leaving my body electrified and brazenly wanton.
What the hell just happened?
“Oh, the day finally comes when our alpha finds his mate.” A rugged-looking man strode to Risk and slapped his shoulder. “We’re all proud of you.” The guy studied me, then added, “She’s a dandy.”
Risk’s gaze captured me in a mind-boggling grip of wills as he pushed the guy away.
I fought against it, even though the bear inside me insisted that I take his bear for a ride he would never forget.
Risk lifted me into his arms and carried me out of the restaurant, running down the dirt road as if his pants had lit a fire.
Then I blacked out like before, only to awaken in his arms. I glanced around the inside of a rustic cabin. “Where are we?” I reached behind for my crossbow but found nothing. My heart stuttered in a rhythm never thrummed before, and I moaned beneath his lips as they swept over mine, stimulating certain body parts into melting pots of desire. My bear urged me to respond, her fur rippling beneath my skin.
“Don’t fight me, little one. I’ve waited for you too long to hold back. You’re mine, and I’m yours.”
Our bodies melded together and made it so…
Excerpt #1 (word count 501)
“He-e-e Ha-a-a.” Max cackled like a wild man as the boat veered off, rooster-tailing water spray and slamming turbulent waves into the raft.
Trembles shook my hands and body. What the hell is wrong with him?
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths to relax. Warm tingles thrummed against my sternum from the quartz on my necklace, giving me a heads-up that my ghost friends were near.
“He’s gone, little missy,” Martin said. “Off to the other side of the lake.”
Gloria’s fingers clasped the stone through her blouse. “Is your stone vibrating like mine? I touched it, thought of you, and here we are.” She stared at me.
I climbed the ladder and sat across from them, stretching my legs in front of me for the warm sunshine. “I’ll have to try touching my stone and thinking of you. See if I can call you to me.”
She nodded then turned to Martin. “When’s the last time we sat by water?” Gloria slid her body closer to him.
“Now, girl, don’t you be gettin’ any crazy ideas.” He chuckled and wrapped his arm around Gloria’s shoulder then turned his attention to me. “We want answers about what happened. Neither of us remembers it, nothing other than a truck rammed into the back of the Olds. It scared the heck out of us, so we turned off the main road and drove down a dirt path into the woods, hoping to hide. Then we saw lights coming fast behind us.”
“It’s a constant loop we live over and over, ending with the truck following us and crashing into the back of the car. The sound is like a grand clap of thunder.” Gloria sniffled, but there were no tears. Ghosts didn’t cry real tears. Martin rubbed her back.
“We blackout or something.” Martin looked across the water but seemed unfocused. “I wake up outside the car, and a few minutes after, Gloria is beside me. We got stuck next to the Olds, doing the same thing over and over.”
Apparitions didn’t usually possess recall of being stuck in a loop. They simply lived it over and over as if for the first time, every time. What was different for these two? Maybe our crystal connection brought the change in their loop and opened their acknowledgment to it?
“I’ve got a friend coming to stay with me. He’s got mad internet skills. I think he can help research, figure out a few things. Maybe find out who followed you and why.”
A boat motor revved behind me, I folded my legs to my chest, preparing for impact.
“Kyle, wanna ski?” Max hollered. He zipped past and stopped next to Kyle’s dock.
Kyle stared in my direction and waved, and I waved back. Max sneered.
How long was Kyle out there? All he saw was my backside while I chatted with Martin and Gloria. When I turned around to pick up where we left off, Martin and Gloria had disappeared.