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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
“What in the hell happened to you guys?” Ritch asked. He shut the car door and followed Christian over to where we were sitting near the tents.
“Did you guys pick up the ice like I asked?”
“Yeah.” Christian went back to the car and grabbed the bag out of the trunk. He opened the ice chest. “It couldn’t have melted that fast.”
“Nope.” I held up a strip of my shirt holding a handful of ice before putting it back over the split in my lip. “We needed it.”
“Seriously, what happened? Were you attacked?”
“Yes,” Beau said. The gator glared at me, holding another chunk of ice in another torn off piece of my shirt—it’d been damaged beyond repair anyway—against the back of his head. The only one not holding ice was the bear. He had a solid layer of fat over his firm muscles and a thick pelt of curly hair too.
He was watching me warily though. I might have taken a flying leap and drove my shoulder into his belly, knocking the wind right out of him.
“Training exercise,” I said.
“Seriously?” Ritch raised his voice. “So, you beat up your own guys right before you have a potential conflict with some seriously dangerous werekin and who knows how many humans and doctors?” His tone, the way he crossed his arms, and the expression on his face all screamed just how stupid he thought I was.
But the throbbing in my lip had masked the ache of his absence, and I’d discovered a few weaknesses we needed to fix. I pointed to the bear. “He’s slow.” The horse’s speed and strike power didn’t help when he was hampered by too many people around him. “Beau’s got a blind spot behind him.”
Ritch snorted. “We all do. Only moms have eyes in the back of their heads.”
“Ha, ha,” I fake laughed. “It was rough, but we’re all nursing minor injuries. I could’ve been hurt a lot worse if everyone knew how their strengths and weaknesses meshed. Now we have a fighting shot—pun intended.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “So having a busted lip and black eye is no big deal?”
“I’ll heal fast.”
Christian shook his head. “Why do you have to be such a dick?”
I snarled at him but didn’t get up. The bear might have gotten in a good punch on my ribs in return. Ritch gasped and stared wide-eyed at Christian.
“What?” Christian made a face. “You think he hasn’t done this before? He likes to sneak attack as a training tactic. If you’ve patrolled the border of our territory, you’d been on the receiving end of one of Park’s little games.”
“And you wouldn’t have been tricked when I took on everyone here, would you?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Maybe. You wanna hear about what I did learn while I was gone?”
Christian and Ritch both grabbed seats. “There’s an old hunting camp, usually packed with guys this time of year, that’s empty. Confusing the hell out of the game wardens, except there’s been talk of some weird animal attacks high up in the mountain. Folks are nervous. Usually they’d just track it down and kill whatever’s mauling animals, but there’s a group of government guys studying the specimen. They’re not naming it, and that’s got conspiracy theorists—dime a dozen in a small down—whispering pretty loud.
“Nothing about werekin, though.”
“Do you think these are real government guys?” Landon asked.
“No.” Ritch shook his head. “I recognized one of the descriptions as a guy who was once at the doctor’s.”
“So that’s it.” I leaned back and winced. “Confirmation. You call Deke?”
“We’ve got to wait until tomorrow. Get the go ahead from the full council.”
I sighed. “Of course.”
“Time to heal.”
The gator hissed. “Time to waste.”
“No. We need to be prepared. Fighting a feral is nothing like fighting me. Ferals don’t quit. They don’t give up. They don’t care about borders or dominance. They want food. Or blood.” I avoided looking at Ritch. “Sex.”
“So, what now?”
“When it’s dark, we leave, staggered timelines to avoid the cars standing out as we go through town. Move closer. Wait for the word to go.”
“I’m going to take a nap.” Beau lumbered over to his tent.
“Probably a good idea for everyone,” Landon said. The purple bruise on his cheekbone was already fading to green around the edges. The guy healed impressively fast. “I’ll take first watch,” he offered.
“Thanks.” I followed Ritch toward our tents. He was wearing a pair of jeans that draped nicely over his ass, and I felt my tiger rumble inside.
“Can we talk?” Ritch asked.
“Of course. Do we need to go for a walk?”
Ritch shook his head. “No. You can lie down.” With the doors open our tents, we were close enough and angled so I could see him if I kept my head toward the door.
I didn’t quite hide my groan as I crawled into the low tent.
“Serves you right, you know.” Ritch snorted. “Getting in a fight.”
“I needed to know how they all defended themselves and if they could work together,” I said again. “It wasn’t all just a single attack. We also went through some defense scenarios, attack options.”
“Oh.” Ritch fiddled with the zipper on his tent door. “And where do I come into play?”
“You and Christian stay with the cars, protect our retreat.”
Ritch’s shoulders slumped. “Okay.”
“These are bonded werekin, and human werekin who might be altered and feral. We’re going to try to capture as many as possible, but you’re going to have a gun to protect yourself and you shoot to kill, you hear me? They get to the cars, you kill if you have to, and get out if that’s not enough, even if it means leaving us behind.”
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
“You have to know how much I want you around,” I said. I snagged Ritch’s arm and turned him to face me. “Ritch….”
He looked at me with so much trust in his eyes. Maybe I had done something right. He didn’t look away, and there was no need to fight for dominance because he wasn’t a bonded werekin. My tiger had nothing but a need to curl around him and purr.
“I want to be clear.” I ran my hand up his shoulder and then cupped the back of his neck. Ritch’s eyes flared wide and his mouth dropped open. “I want nothing more than to take you home, and I mean our home. We’re taking this at your pace, but I don’t want you worrying about what’s going to happen after we take out these plotting human werekin and their scientists. I want you to stay with me.”
Ritch swallowed hard. “I don’t know how to do this.”
“It doesn’t have to be hard. Just go with your instincts.”
He made a face. “I don’t have instincts.”
I rubbed the side of his neck with my thumb, and he leaned into my touch. “Yes, you do.”
Snapping branches under someone’s heavy tread reminded me we weren’t alone, and camp, with a variety of bonded werekin with enhanced senses, was no place to take Ritch if I let myself get out of hand. The way he smelled was amazing, heat and want mixed with the tinge of uncertainty that helped keep me from pulling him close and devouring him.
“I think I hear a stream,” I said instead. “Let’s go check it out.”
The trees opened up just enough for a small stream to cut through the forest. The water was clear, but it was moving slow.
“Oh my God, that’s cold,” Ritch said.
“I think it feels good.” I loved being surrounded by nature. I could still hear the others, but the birds, bugs, and wind helped mute the sounds of their voices. If it was just me and Ritch, I might convince him to strip down and go wading. When I ran the borders of our territory, I spent a lot of time in the wilds, and a cold stream was the only option to clean up after a long, sweaty day of hiking. “Let’s dip our legs in.”
There was a wide rock on the edge of the water. It was a tight fit, but we sat down side by side and dangled our feet into the water. Well, Ritch dangled his and I rested mine against a few of the rounded rocks.
Ritch brushed against my side as he leaned back on his fists. I shivered. “Too cold?” he asked.
“Nah, I like cold water.” My toes were already numb to the chill.
“That seems strange, you being a tiger.” Ritch closed his eyes and tilted his face up to watch the thin, early spring sunlight.
“Tigers love the water. I am not a big fan of pools, since the chemicals mess with my sense of smell, but a river or a pond? I can spend all day in the water.”
I tilted my head. “Weren’t you ever curious about the kinds of animals the werekin around you shared souls with?”
Ritch sighed. “Sometimes. But I didn’t have a lot of access to learning. I was homeschooled, up to a point, so I could interact with humans and not appear like an idiot, but it was all basic stuff. And my room didn’t have a TV. Sometimes I could get books besides my lesson books, but that wasn’t very often, and I was never allowed on the computer unsupervised.”
It made me sick, to hear about how he grew up. By comparison, Kraig’s life was positively privileged. And I knew worse things had happened to Ritch after his herd traded him off, and sometimes human werekin were treated worse than animals. Kept in cages, or even killed at birth. Not all clans would accept one, in any role. My claws scraped on the stone, and I winced and sheathed them.
Ritch sat up, his shoulders hunched. “Don’t worry, I can learn,” he said. “If I’m giving access to a way to do it.”
He needed some reassurance, and I needed to touch him, to take away that slump to his spine. I put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed him. “You already have the phone. I have a spare laptop you can use, and we’ll get you hooked up with an email account so you can get online as soon as we get home. And, unless I’m watching a game, the TV is all yours.”
I patted his arm. “Anything you need,” I promised him.
Letting Ritch go with Christian was harder than I thought it would be. A low growl built up in my chest when I warned Christian that Ritch wouldn’t leave his site or I’d rip his guts open, but I suppressed it when Ritch came out of his tent. He looked tired.
“Make sure you guys pick up some coffee when you hit down. Might be a good place to get some gossip, and you’ll need the caffeine boost so you’re on your toes.”
I closed the door behind Ritch, then hit the top of the car. Cameron left the SUV in case the rest of us had to move for some reason. The rising panic inside me pissed me off, which fueled my aggression.
But I had a plan to handle it.
“Let’s see how you guys do with a sneak attack.” I was in motion even as I yelled my warning. I kicked the wood log out from under the gator, and he fell to the ground, hissing. The horse was up after I chucked my water bottle at his head. I ducked behind the bear when the horse tried to throw it back, and he roared.
Oh yeah, time for some fun.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
We lapsed into silence. I was scared I said too much, but Ritch was focused on driving. We left the freeway a few miles back the way we’d come, but now we were heading into hills. I folded up the map and tucked it between the seats.
I rolled down the window and leaned back in my seat. The air was scented with sunshine, warm dirt, and the scent of living things. It relaxed me. We turned off the main road and gravel crunched under the tires. Ritch dropped back so we could avoid the cloud of dust coming from Christian’s SUV.
“How much farther?” Ritch asked.
“Well, the elevation map showed this peak going up a few hundred feet. I’m not sure where we’re going to camp, but I’m sure there’s plenty of spots around here.”
“Good thing we brought camping gear.” Ritch maneuvered the car around a few deep potholes. “It’s been a while, but I used to camp all the time.”
“Me too. My usual campsites are basically bare bones, but we brought along more in terms of luxury than what I usually carry, since we have the cars. If we have to hike out, that might change.”
Ritch shrugged. “I can handle it, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I’m sure you know how to make do.” That didn’t mean I didn’t feel the urge to make sure he didn’t have to. After this was over, and I had all the determination in the world we were going to stop these bastards, I was going to make sure Ritch’s life was nothing but easy. “Looks like Christian might have found a spot.”
We followed him off the primitive road and onto something that could barely be called a track. Our car threatened to bottom out several times, but we were finally behind the screen of trees that lined the road.
Everyone got out and stretched. We’d had an early start, halfway through the night, and we’d been traveling long enough to be stiff and tired of being cooped up. “Let’s set up camp before we start making plans.”
My individual tent was quick to pop up, but Ritch wouldn’t let me do it. Ritch didn’t have any trouble putting his up either. Our sleeping bags and packs fit inside snugly. We had a few camp stools, which I put in the center of our clearing. Even without discussing it, the tents created a ring. A fire would be too risky, and the smoke would cling to us and our gear, but I’d packed a camp stove that I placed on some flat rocks I laid side-by-side.
“What are you setting up?” I asked Landon. The eagle had a small table filled with electronics.
“GPS. I have tags for everyone so I can track the teams. Coms.” He pointed at a small plastic container. “They send and receive. I’m also going to set up my laptop with a mobile hot spot so I can get to work hacking the DMV. We need to know more about that car.” His talons clacked against the keys of his laptop.
I put a hand on his shoulder, surprised as always by the bulk of his muscles since he looked so lean. “Good.”
The rest of the group centered around the camp stove. I straddled my stool. “We don’t have much to do today. I want everyone to get some rest after last night. I’m still healing. Landon is going to track down as much information as possible, and then Christian and Ritch will head back toward town and see what they can find out from the locals. Keep it subtle,” I warned them.
“The rest of us will make sure our gear is ready. Weapons, communications, an exit plan. It all needs to be ready. We’re either going to have to hike out from this area or, if we’re lucky, we might be able to drive closer to cut miles off our travel time.”
“What about me?” The wolf pointed at his nose. “This is what I’m here for.”
“You’ll get your chance. Once we have a general idea of the area, we’re going to have to pinpoint the exact location. That will require your tracking.” I gestured toward him and the panther. “Both of yours.”
“We’re going to need your strength and size,” I said to the bear and buffalo. “And their speed.” I gestured toward the gator and horse. “Everyone has a role, and we’re going to have to work together. Right now, I think we should rest. Take some time to yourself if you need some privacy, but don’t wander too far. Staying in pairs still applies, make sure you’re armed if you go outside of camp, and no fighting.” I spread a warning glare over everyone equally.
I could see the others giving Ritch some looks. I suppressed a growl. “Want to go for a walk?” I asked him.
The air was cool, and Ritch shivered. “Not used to the cold?”
He shook his head. “The herd stuck to the lowlands even if we had some decent hills on the southern edge of our territory, and the alpha’s streak didn’t travel outside their territory. I like it up here.” Birds chirped and something skittered up a tree. Somewhere close, a woodpecker pounded holes into the bark looking for food.
“Well, when we get back I’ll take you out on patrol with me.”
Ritch shoved his hands in his pockets. “Really?” He looked down at the ground. “I sorta thought, when all this was over… I’d just be given a menial job somewhere so I could find my own place, get out of your hair.”
I stopped him. “Have you been worrying about that?” I cursed. I’d tried to keep my feelings quiet to help reassure him, but he was still afraid of his future. He needed something solid.
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Friday, March 10, 2017
Today I'm featuring Louise Lyon's upcoming novella, Separation!
Release date: March 31, 2017
Length: 45,000 words
Cover design: Simon Searle
Matthew Langford is told on his twenty-first birthday that he has a twin. After the initial shock, he quickly realizes this is why he always felt part of him was missing. His search takes him 200 miles to Devon, UK, where he meets fraternal twin, Tremaine Wheal.
The pair discover many things in common, and quickly become as close as if they’d never been separated. But when they share a moment in a nightclub, each realizes there is more between them than having shared a womb. Panic sets in and they part. Once again their separation brings loneliness and pain.
Eventually, unable to stay away from each other, they tentatively move forward together as lovers. But secrets don’t stay secret for long, and discovery and questions threaten their happiness.
This is a taboo story featuring twins.
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy.
Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late twenties. Posting stories based on some of her favourite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing "hobby" more seriously.
Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad dog called Casper, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races home afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.
Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and job, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
“That was as much for me as it was for you.” I wanted to smack myself the second the words left my mouth.
Ritch frowned and glanced at me before focusing back on the road. “What do you mean?”
How could I save this? I was tired, injured, and clearly shooting my mouth off when I should just be quiet. “My senses are sharp. I’ve spent a lot of time alone for the last few years. Whenever I’m around other people, it’s hard to relax. Deke says I’m hypervigilant. If you’re unable to sleep, I’m unable to sleep, especially if we’re in the same room.”
Shit. I’d still said too much.
“Does that mean… at your house, you woke up every time I did?”
“Yes,” I said reluctantly.
Ritch pressed his lips together into a thin white line. “So, you heard….”
“Yes.” I’d heard every single nightmare that he cried out against. Every time he stumbled into his bathroom to retch over the toilet. Every sob he tried to smother.
It tore me up. At first, it made me think about how Kraig had suffered, brutalized for what he was, treated as less than a person. Then, as I got to know Ritch, it became about him. I wanted to give him a better life, but if I pushed his boundaries, he could decide to leave.
“Sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “Why didn’t you have me stay somewhere else?”
“It’s not a big deal.” I tried to dismiss his concerns.
“Obviously it is. You let me put you in handcuffs.”
“So you could sleep. It’s fine. No big deal. Can’t we just forget about it?” Ritch looked at me again, so I gave him my best pitiful face. It must have worked.
Silence descended, and my eyelids grew heavy. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. So tired. The hum of the tires blended with Ritch’s breathing, and I dozed off, never fully asleep. The miles drifted away in silence until the sun had fully risen, and Christian hit his turn signal, indicating we should pull off.
I straightened and looked at the gas tank. We had a quarter tank, but the SUV was probably getting closer to empty. This place looked tiny, barely a blip on the highway. Ritch and Christian got out and started pumping for all three vehicles, talking quietly for a minute. Ritch came back to our car, and Christian went inside.
“Deke’s been calling around to clans in this area. No one’s missing any human werekin, but apparently one alpha mentioned rumors of strangers just outside his territory.”
I leaned forward. “Really?” This is what we needed. Christian and Ritch could question the humans to get more information. I looked around at the single-story buildings and the broken light at the intersection. No way would strangers blend in here. “I wonder why Deke didn’t call me?”
“Didn’t you say Christian is the tracker for your clan? It’s his job to find these guys. It’s your job to figure out how to take them down.” Ritch stood up when the gas pump shut off.
A surge of embarrassment heated my cheeks. I hated feeling useless, but I was letting my frustration turn into whininess. Ritch had just casually put me in my place, reminding me that this was a team, but without negating my role within the mission.
I resolved to do better.
Christian came out of the tiny store with a couple of bags. He walked straight to the driver’s side of my car. Ritch was unhooking the gas nozzle from the car behind us. Christian leaned in the window, handing over a bag. “Snacks and drinks,” he said.
“What did you learn?”
“The cougar clan claims some territory in those mountain peaks to the south. Apparently just east of town there’s a gorge with a good-sized river running through it. One side is steep cliffs, the other side rises in a gentler incline, but it’s covered with thick woods. Because of the strong natural cougar presence, no one hikes out there, but there have been a lot of strange cars through here for gas, and they’re all headed that way.
“Not much else out there, I guess.”
I bared my fangs. “Sounds like the perfect place to set up a lab.”
He dropped a map into the car. “Guy at the counter said this had all the local roads, because GPS isn’t going to work out there.”
The map had topographic information. “Nice. Let’s head out of town, but backtrack. Don’t want anyone getting information on our movements. I’ll study this map and see if there’s any other way to get to that gorge.
Ritch glanced at the map before he put the car in gear and pulled out behind Christian. “All better now that you have something to do?”
I grimaced. “I know why Deke was so irritated that he had to send us, because I feel like I’m back home, for all the good I’ve been doing. I need action, results. I want these bastards under my claws, paying painfully for what they’ve done.” I stretched my claws out, then sheathed them. “It’s almost a need.” The thought of bathing in their blood pleased my tiger, but I didn’t say that.
Even without revealing that much, I thought I scared him, but then Ritch asked, “Do you want to know a secret?”
“Anything,” I said.
“My whole life has felt that way. But you’re… different. I don’t feel like I’m less with you. You believe I can do anything.” He swallowed. “Like I’m important. To you.”
“You are. Ritch, you are so important. I can’t even begin to explain the way you’ve awed me since we met, but you have.”
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
I wanted to take the time to stop Ritch, to reassure him none of this was his fault, but I didn’t want that fucker alone in the car thinking he could try something. We had the most room, so he was tied up prone in the backseat, and that meant personal conversations were out.
“We’ll talk later.” I went around to the passenger door. Pain stabbed through my wrists when I opened the door, but I hissed when I tried to buckle my seatbelt. Ritch took it from me. It clicked, and he settled the strap across my chest.
“Good?” he asked.
“Thanks.” I managed to flip down my visor and open the mirror so I could keep an eye on the backseat.
“What are we going to do with him?”
“Deke said to tie him up and gag him, then leave him somewhere his alpha can find him. I didn’t want to risk humans finding him at the hotel, so we’re going to drop him off in a real comfy area.” A faint snarl underscored my voice, and it was hard not to want to crush the life out of him.
But I’d obey Deke. “This will give Deke more leverage with the other alphas over Trien. Once we’ve tracked down these scientists and shut down their plans to annihilate the clans, things are going to change.” I’d be beside Deke every step of the way. I’d strip the skin, slowly, from any werekin who thought they could put that look of inferiority and terror on Ritch’s face ever again.
Damn. I thunked my head against the headrest. I was so far gone it wasn’t even funny, but, as far as I could tell, Ritch didn’t know I felt this way about him. He certainly didn’t show any feelings towards me, but it was hard to tell. It was rare for him to smile, and I could only remember hearing him laugh once.
How was I going to tell him how I felt without scaring him away? I knew a hunt wasn’t the time or the place, but deep in my soul, my tiger wanted him. The trick would be to convince him that I wanted a blooded bond with him, to entwine my spirt with his, and not just the cheap thrill of claiming his body.
Thoughts of claiming, of giving him my wrist as I took his neck in a mating bite, created a whole new problem. I groaned and shifted, my cock tight behind my zipper as it swelled.
“Are you okay? Are you hurting? We could stop for some painkillers. I know you’d probably have to take half the bottle, but it might help.”
“No, it’s fine. There”—I pointed at the receding taillights—“take that exit. I think Christian found us a place.”
“Bog Creek Preserve,” Ritch said as we drove past the closed entrance and down along a side road. “Sounds inviting.”
“No shit.” We pulled up and stopped behind Christian’s SUV. Ritch unbuckled himself and then my belt, then opened his door. “Oh, get a whiff of that.” I had to fight the urge to gag.
“Nice place you found, Christian.” Ritch made a face. “This place reeks, even for me.”
“Exactly. Should make it interesting for them to find him, and he certainly won’t enjoy his time waiting for Trien’s men either.” Christian looked satisfied with himself.
“All right. You guys drag him out. We’ll dump him somewhere moist and unpleasant and get going.”
“Won’t be too hard,” the bear grumbled. The gator stumped along beside him as they dragged the wriggling tiger out of the car. They let him drop to the ground. I stopped them before they could haul him away from the road.
“If Trien tries to send you after Ritch again, I’d suggest you find another alpha to follow. You think this beating was bad?” I bared my fangs. “I’ll teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.”
I had no qualms about leaving him behind. The location was remote enough, and the weather cold and rainy. Humans wouldn’t be wandering this area of the stinky park, and the conditions weren’t enough to really harm a werekin, so the bastard would be fine until Deke passed along the GPS coordinates I sent him.
“Why this way?” Ritch asked. “Do we have any strategy.”
“Apparently the wolf was restless earlier. He got a whiff on the outskirts of town on the south side. Whoever has the transformed werekin stopped at a gas station. We’ll head that direction and hope we get more information from Deke on the way. There’s a limited area they can go. There are too many cities around here.” That meant too many cameras. “Small towns will notice strangers, even if the bonded werekin don’t get out of the cars.”
“Christian is good at his job. He’s a tracker, and he knows how to utilize the human’s. If we can get a vehicle description, the eagle will be able hack the DMV, find the driver. That gives us a name, an address, history to check out.”
“So, this really is part guesswork, part tracking, and part investigation.” Ritch flexed his hands on the wheel. “I wish I could do more.”
“I told you, you do plenty. Look at me.” I held up my arms encased in white bandages, fingers curled to avoid using them. “I really can’t do anything.”
“You mean, more than saving me from being taken back to the alpha? While handcuffed, no less? And why, exactly, were you handcuffed in the first place? That’s right, you were making sure I was able to sleep, despite my fears, despite the fact that you have never given me a reason to fear you."