Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Sixteen

Mine! Part Two Chapter Fifteen

“Sit down right now and let me look at you.” I grimaced, but I didn’t argue. Mom could pinch an ear and make you listen, if you didn’t the first time. One time my dad had told me a story about how the older werekin’s ears were so long because their moms had pulled on them so much as a kid, and I’d believed him.

The next time she’d grabbed me by the ear, I’d accused her of trying to make my ears longer than ole Mr. Constance’s. That earned me an extra yank when she asked what the heck I meant—and then she let go because she was laughing too hard to stay angry at whatever I’d done that day.

The happy memory, once that included both my parents, was bittersweet. I could tell the moment she got close enough to catch the scent on my skin. She faltered, and her face paled. “You found… him?”

I nodded. “Brought him back. Deke’s taken him and one of the others we managed to capture. The convocation will be tomorrow, the next day at the latest.”

“Ritch, will you go get my first aid kit from the front hallway closet? Big red bag.” Most werekin households had large kits, at least, all the predators did. Claws and hormones didn’t always make great combos.


“How’s he doing?” my mom asked quietly after Ritch stepped out of the kitchen.

I kept my voice equally low so he couldn’t hear us. “Good, but he needs more confidence. I want him, Mom; he’d already be mine if I wasn’t afraid of scaring him.”

She reached up and cupped my cheeks. “I’m so glad both my boys found someone to make them happy. It gives me peace of mine.”

I didn’t like the way that sounded, but I couldn’t say anything because Ritch was almost back. “I kissed him.”

Her eyes were sparkling and she was smiling when Ritch came back into the room. He hefted the bag up onto the table. “There you go, Lydia. I didn’t expect such a big bag.”

She shrugged. “Hazards of the species.” She opened it up and pulled out the disinfectant. I fought the urge to hiss and lost when she poured it over my wounds, but I had to admit everything felt better once she was done and had rebandaged them. The little bits of grit inside the wounds had been irritating me as my body tried to heal over them.

“Do you want to go over to Park’s house?” I asked her when she finished putting away the medical tape.

Mom paused and then started picking up the gauze wrappers and other mess. “I… I don’t think so.” She wrapped her arms around her chest, and I scented her distress.

I stood and pulled her close, squeezing her in a tight hug. “It’ll be okay, Mom.”

She sniffled and nodded. “I know.” She wiped the tears away with the side of her hand. “You boys head home to rest. I’ll make you some food and bring it over in the morning.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Come on, Ritch.” I was surprised she didn’t ask for more information, but maybe she was at her limit. I’d heal, but I was worried about the wounds to her mentally.

Ritch was still quiet when we walked in the front door to my place. I shut and locked it behind us. We’d only been gone a few days, but it felt like forever. “I need to clean up.” I was grimy and sweaty.

“Your mom just changed your bandages. You’ll get them wet.” Ritch made perfect sense, but I wanted the scent gone from my skin.

“I’ll clean up with a washcloth then.” Anything to be clean.

“Okay. I’m going to take a shower.” Ritch stopped at the door to his room. He put his hand on the knob and then stopped. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think I can go right to sleep. Want to watch a movie with me?” I was tired, but more than that, I wanted to see if Ritch would snuggle up on the couch with me. I could grab the comforter off my bed. He’d be cocooned in my scent.

The primitive side of me was very satisfied with that idea. I finished before Ritch did, so I threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave and then dumped it in a bowl. Two cups of milk topped off the snack. If that didn’t help us sleep, nothing would.

Ritch was just coming down the stairs when I pulled open the cupboard with the DVDs. “Do you want to see anything?” He came up close, and I inhaled. He was using my spare bottle of body wash and was wearing some of my old clothes from back when I was a teen. I stared down at him.

He plucked a movie off the shelves and looked up. He frowned. “What?”

“What what?”

“You’re looking at me funny.”

“Am I?” I shut the cupboard. “What did you pick?”

“The Matrix.”

“Oh, I like this one. The first one is the best, but I have all three.” I put it in. “I put popcorn and milk on the coffee table.” I put them on the center of the table, close together, and my blanket was over the back of the couch. Ritch sat down first, and I sat down next to him. Not so close that we were touching, but I could feel the heat of his body alongside mine. He smiled nervously.

I pulled the blanket over us and nestled the bowl between our thighs. The movie started the play and I let go of all the stress and worry and just enjoyed being with Ritch.

When he leaned sideways and rested his head against my shoulder, I knew he was enjoying it too.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Fifteen

Mine! Part Two Chapter Fifteen

“I’m sorry you got hurt, Caleb.” I pushed down a stab of guilt, but what was I supposed to do? Let the guy get away? Caleb had to stay to finish clearing the shack.

“The idiots inside the cabin fled right out the front doors anyway. One of them just got in a lucky shot.”

“Did anyone see any other human werekin with bonded werekin souls?" I asked. “The one I found has two distinct scents.”

“Does your brother have three scents, since he has two stolen souls?”

I growled. “Watch what you say about my brother.  He didn’t steal anything. He was kidnapped and experimented on against his will.”

“Okay, okay. I didn’t mean anything by it, sheesh.”

“Sure you didn’t.” The panther was a prick, and if he didn’t watch it, I was going to show him just how much more dangerous a Tiger could be. “Pick that human up and let’s go.” I turned and headed back the way I came. I didn’t like the idea of Ritch alone with that other guy.

Landon made his way through the group to walk beside me as we made our way through the dark woods. “How hurt are you?”

“It’s nothing. I’m fine.” I jumped over a log. Landon hopped on top and then down on the other side.

“Can you drive?”

That was a good question. “Ritch can drive. He has been for a while.”

“We’re going to have to drive back to your territory without stopping for more than gas. He’s not to be able to drive all that way.” Again, Landon made a good point, but I didn’t like it. “He can stay in my car until Ritch needs to swap out for a break, but I think Victor would get on your nerves the least.”

“As long as it’s not Silas.” I fought the urge to snarl. “If that jaguar doesn’t learn some manners, I’m going to kick his ass.

Ritch was in the driver’s seat when we made it back to the clearing. He had his visor down and was looking in the mirror, so he missed it when we stepped out of the woods. He jumped and cursed when I said his name. “Stop sneaking up on me,” he complained.

That might be a fun game for another day, but I was too tired to even tease him. “Sorry.”

He got out of the car. “Is everyone okay?”

“Not everyone, but no one was hurt too bad. We’ve got another captive, he’s going to ride with Christian. You’re going to have to keep driving,” I said. “I’m sorry I can’t do more, but when you need a break, Victor is going to take over for you.”

“The wolf?”


“Can you trust him?”

“As much as I trust anyone who isn’t from our streak. He’s here to do a job. We’ll be fine, and if he does try something, I’m still armed.”

“I think we should get going,” Christian said. He finished patching Caleb up with his big first-aid kit.

“Agreed. I’ll call Deke from the car. He’ll pass along the information to your alphas for a convocation. Hopefully it’ll all be worked out by the time we get back.”

We’d been driving for six hours, before Ritch finally asked for a break. I texted Landon in Christian, and they pulled over at the next exit. We decided to gas up all the vehicles at the same time.

When Ritch opened up the backseat passenger door, I went around the car and got in behind the driver’s seat. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“Yeah, what the hell are you doing? I don’t think I like you right there behind me," Victor complained.

“Too fucking bad." I really didn’t care what he liked or didn’t like. “Just drive.”

He kept grumbling, but I ignored him. “Just relax against me,” I told Ritch. “Scoot down, you can use my leg for a pillow.”

“I should probably wear my seatbelt. I’m just a human werekin, I wouldn’t survive a crash.”

“Neither will the wolf, if he gets us into an accident.”

The wolf snarled, and I hit the back of his seat. “Shut up.”

“It’s been a long night, on top of a long couple of days, that guy’s in the back, and there’s a wolf in the front seat. I think we both feel better if you just lie down.” The scent coming from the back was disturbing enough that I knew I wouldn’t sleep.

Rich studied me for a second, but then he let go of his seatbelt. He turned and slowly sank down on his side. I slowly lowered one hand onto his shoulder. Rich gradually relaxed, until he was sound asleep. My body ached, but I caught what rest I could earlier. I stared out the window and watched the miles pass.

“They knew we were hunting for these guys. What the hell is taking so long?”

 “Making arrangements for an alpha to leave their territory takes time, as you well know" Deke said. “I’ve assigned guards, and the prisoners will be kept isolated until the others can arrive tomorrow.”

I growled. “We need to find out what they know now.”

Deke narrowed his eyes, and his answering snarl sent a shiver down my spine. I lifted my chin, exposing my throat. “I’m sorry.” I was exhausted and angry, but that was no excuse.

“The convocation will take place as soon as possible. Your mom’s been asking about you, so why don’t you go see her and then go home and get some rest. As my beta and the leader of the hunt, you will be the first to know when the meeting happens.”

Rich was waiting outside Deke’s office. Dark circles clone under his eyes, and guilt swamped me. If nothing else, this delay would give him some time to rest. “Come on, let’s go.” I knew Mom was going to ask what we found.


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Monday, April 17, 2017

5 Stars for Rising Beauty, Book 3 in the Cubi series by Meraki P. Lyhne

Length: 250 Pages
Genre: Paranormal, Incubus, MMM
Find it at: Amazon 

My Review:
If you've read the first two books in the Cubi series, you will be thrilled with the story in Book Three! If you haven't bought this book yet, what are you waiting for? I see so much of the underpinning themes and ideas that I want to know how the plots from series books all fit together immediately, which colored my read from book one. Fortunately, Meraki P. Lyhne, is whipping out the Cubi series so now, while I am left with questions unanswered in each book, I know they are coming!

Finally, the hints from book one are coming back into the plot in Rising Beauty.  The title, "Rising Beauty" perfectly describes the storyline in this third installment that takes place right after Claimed Beauty leaves off. We've learned about the Cubi society and Daniel's place in it with Untouchable Beauty. We get to see a big shift in his place in that society and his relationship with Seldon in Claimed Beauty. In Rising Beauty, we get to see Daniel's evolution both as a Cubi and a leader, as well as a partner in his relationship with Seldon. But so much story goes into that evolution from book one to three that the author has truly sucked me in as a reader, creating a vivid world with compelling characters I can't help but cheer for, despite very complex feelings about them at the same time.

Rising Beauty brings back that pivotal element from book one that I just knew needed to be explored--the slave brought back the same time Daniel was taken--and he throws their whole system into chaos. Just like with any society, there are politics at work and conflicts arising from that, both personal and public, that kept me flipping pages long after I should've been asleep. The story ends with the characters thrust into a whole new world with struggles to face that seem almost unsurmountable. That might seem vague, but to tell you more might reveal too much, and I would never want to mar the enjoyment a reader has exploring the Cubi world in each book.

As always, once I read 'The End' I was left with a burning need to know what is going to happen next.... Will Daniel live up to his role in the Cubi society, even as it changes for the first time in an untold number of years? Will the Cubi survive? I can't wait to find out!

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Fourteen

A little late, but that's just me being busy. Lots of action in last week's installment, and this week there's even more!

Chapter Fourteen
Branches left stinging cuts on my skin, but I couldn’t slow down. I’d followed the bastard’s scent trail until I got close enough that I could hear his footsteps ahead of me, but I couldn’t catch up. He wasn’t going to get away from me.

I finally got a little luck when a stream created a deep ravine too wide for him to jump. The opposite side was muddy and steep, too steep to climb up easily. The sight of him spurred me on, and I snarled as I leapt into the water. The rounded rocks were slippery, and I stumbled, but I didn’t stop. He turned to face me, his hands up and claws out. I barreled out of the water and slammed my shoulder into his chest.

He fell backwards into the bank, and we rolled together, coming to a stop at the water’s edge. He was on top of me, his claws embedded in my shoulders, but he’d missed my neck. I growled, and shoved hard with my right leg, flipping us over. His claws ripped long tears as I reversed our position. What was it with these guys in my arms?

The pain spurred me on, and I used my greater height to lunge both of us forward a few feet so I could pin him against a large rock. I reared back and punched him once, and then a second time. He cried out, and tried to offend me off, but I was heavier and stronger.

He wasn’t much of a feral.

I shoved his arms out of the way and reached for his neck. I slid both hands around the vulnerable column and push down. My claws flexed and the tips buried in the flesh of his throat; it would be so easy to tear it out. But I couldn’t.

“You’re going to wish I killed you,” I hissed.

His eyes flared wide as he choked, he beat his hands against my arms, but he couldn’t get a grip with the blood trickling down my skin. His struggles weakened, and then he went limp, his eyes rolling back in his head.

I was panting hard, and my shoulders were fucking killing me, but I got to my feet. I dragged the werekin’s limp body over the rocks looking for an easier place to climb out of the trench. Once we were back on higher ground I secured his arms and legs, and then threw him over my shoulder. I grunted. “Heavy bastard.” He wasn’t all that big, but he was solid. If he had any idea of how to fight, or how to use his claws and fangs, I might’ve been in trouble.

The way my father’s familiar scent and the stranger stench combined together made my stomach roll. It was wrong, completely and wholly wrong. My skin crawled from having to touch him. Fortunately, we were closer to the cars them a compound. I made my way back to the vehicles. Hopefully the men would be coming back soon, with more prisoners or news that they cleansed the hunting camp.

Ritch had rolled the windows down in the car, and he was sitting in the driver’s seat. His head swiveled from side to side, and his mouth dropped open when he saw me. “Are you okay?” he cried out.

“I’m fine,” I said. “Open the back.”

He jumped out of the car and opened up the back hatch. I tilted, and let my captives body fall with the. He was still out cold. There was a metal ring embedded in either side of the storage area. I used a spare wrist cuff band to attach his wrists to the ring, and another one to secure his feet. The final precaution was a muzzle. His face didn’t jut out as far as a normal bonded werekin’s, but it still fit over securely so I could fasten the buckles in the back. Trussed up like he was, the fucker wasn’t going to go anywhere.

“Are you sure you’re okay?" Ritch opened up a passenger door and grabbed a towel. My shoulder wound had started to clot, the pressure of the body helping to slow the bleeding, but when I dropped him in the car two of the wounds had broken open on my left shoulder. He pushed the towel against the jagged cuts. “You aren’t even fully healed from the last attack.”

“I’m healed enough. Look, I need to go back to the hunter’s camp, since no one else has returned.”

“You should stay here,” Ritch argued.

“I can’t.” I let Ritch tie the towel around my shoulder, and then I threw a T-shirt over top the makeshift bandage. It stretched, but it held tight which would help keep pressure on the cuts. “I’ll be back just as soon as I can. Be careful, Ritch.”

“You better,” he said fiercely.

Exhaustion dragged at me, but I shook it off. The night is fading fast, and I needed to find the others. I headed back toward the camp in a straight line, and I was almost there when I heard footsteps. I stopped and hid behind a tree.

Landon’s voice carried, so he was making little effort to be quiet. Someone groaned, and he told him to suck it up. That didn’t sound like they’d been captured, so I took the chance to reveal myself. A quick look around the tree was all I needed.

They were all there, and everyone was on their feet, though Caleb was leaning heavily on one of the other werekin. One human werekin was standing with them his arms behind his back, and I gag in his mouth. Blood trickled from a cut in his forehead, and he swayed and stumbled. No one helped him up.

“There you are,” Christian said when I stepped out.

“Where the hell did you go?” Landon demanded. “You left Caleb.”

“The werekin bonded with my dad’s soul escaped. I tracked him down.”


I think Park might have felt a little let down in his fight with the werekin possessing his father's soul.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Release! Barbed Wire Cowboy by Renee Stevens

Today I'm featuring a new release by Renee Stevens. Who doesn't love cowboys? And look at that cover!

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After having been kicked off the family ranch by his father, Marc Poulson has made a new home for himself as the foreman of the Double R Ranch. His fellow ranch hands are his family, but he’s still not complete without Casey Morgan, his counterpart at the neighboring Del Rio Ranch. In the middle of a feud with his one-time best friend, Marc struggles to understand why Casey would rather take a swing at him than talk to him. He wants to put the past behind them and rebuild what they once had and make their relationship stronger than ever, but Casey is having none of it.
Casey has his own demons to deal with, and Marc serves as a reminder to things he’d rather forget. Casey can’t see beyond the past and continues to make mistakes that put both him and Marc in harms way. After one close call too many, Casey must decide whether his past is more important than his future, or if he can live with Marc walking out of his life—possibly forever.

“EARTH TO Marc, come in, Marc.” Rick made a show of waving his hand in front of Marc’s face. He waited until he had Marc’s attention. “Did you hear anything I said?”

“Sorry.” Marc glanced at him, but the lure of Casey Morgan was too strong to ignore. He returned his gaze to linger on the blond who had walked through the doors of the bar a moment earlier. “I was distracted.” Half of the bar separated them, but he knew from experience that the chances of avoiding a confrontation were slim to nil.

“Obviously.” Their companion, and coworker, Jason snickered.

“What is it with you and him?” Rick’s gaze danced between the two men. “You two can’t be in the same room together without going for the jugular.”

“It has nothing to do with you.” Marc didn’t want to get into it and was desperate to stop the barrage of questions before they could start. “You concentrate on yourself and let me handle my own problems.”

Marc tracked Casey’s progress through the bar until he sat at a table with two of the hired hands from the Del Rio Ranch. As the foreman for the Del Rio, Casey was the direct counterpart of Marc’s position at the Double R. The owners of the two ranches were close friends, and up until a few months earlier, so were Casey and Marc. It was amazing how one thing could cause friends to become bitter enemies, and it was nothing more than a misunderstanding.

“We lost him again.” Jason needed to wipe the smirk off his face.

“Knock it off.” Marc forced his attention away from Casey and back to Rick and Jason. “What were you asking?”

“Never mind.” Rick shook his head. “Since we have tomorrow off it can wait until Monday. No sense in talking ranch work if we don’t have to.”

“Sounds good to me.” Jason finished off the beer in front of him.

Marc swallowed the last of his own drink and headed toward the bar for the next round. Despite being the sole bar in town, it wasn’t busy, and within a couple of minutes he was turning to head back to his table with three fresh beers. As he turned, his shoulder brushed against a newcomer, and Marc turned to apologize, but the words stuck in his throat when he found himself face-to-face with Casey. If he’d realized Casey had the same idea, he would have stayed in his seat and let one of the other two go.

“Poulson.” Casey’s greeting dripped with hostility.

“Morgan.” Fuck the apology. Marc pushed past him but stopped when Casey mumbled something under his breath. His entire body went stiff, and he struggled to breathe through the anger. He should have ignored it and walked away, but it built inside him until he was seething with every breath he took. “What the hell did you say to me?”

“You heard me.” Casey leaned against the bar and tried to stare him down.

“That’s bullshit and you know it.” Marc took a determined step forward. He had a couple of inches on his former friend and wasn’t above trying to intimidate him. Not anymore.

“It’s not bullshit if it’s the truth.” Instead of backing down, Casey straightened up, anger flashing in his eyes.

“I’ve had it with this crap.” Marc clenched his jaw. He’d tried to keep his cool, but if Casey was itching for a fight that bad, Marc was ready and willing to oblige. He ignored the little voice in his head telling him it was a bad idea. Marc plunked the bottles he was holding onto the bar, flexed his hands at his side, and waited. He wouldn’t throw the first punch, but if Casey did, he wouldn’t walk away. “I wasn’t the only one there, and you damn well know it.”

“You may as well have been.” Casey sneered and grabbed the beer the bartender set down. He tried to shoulder his way past, but Marc refused to move.

Marc reached out and grabbed ahold of Casey’s arm to keep him there. “Oh, I don’t know about that. When are you going to admit you liked it?” 

With a wrench of his arm he whirled Casey back around. The bottle clutched in Casey’s grasp slipped free, shattering on the floor, and beer splashed up onto their boots. Their gazes collided, and Marc could see the fury simmering in Casey’s eyes. Determined to use his height advantage, he took a step forward until there were a mere couple of inches separating them, forcing Casey to look up to meet his eyes. When Marc didn’t release his hold on him, Casey knocked his hand away.

“Don’t.” As cliched as it sounded, if looks could kill, Marc would drop dead on the spot. “You have no fucking right to touch me.”

“Like this?” Marc reached out with one hand and shoved Casey’s shoulder.

“Bastard,” Casey replied.

“Point being?” Marc repeated his earlier action, this time putting enough force behind it to cause the infuriating man to stagger into the table behind him.

“Go to hell.” Casey growled and turned toward his table.

“I’ll meet you there.” Marc laughed and moved to grab the beers from the bar. He heard one of the Del Rio hands yell and turned a second too late. Casey’s fist connected with his jaw and sent him stumbling back into the bar.

“Fucker!” Marc launched himself toward Casey and placed a couple of well-aimed blows to Casey’s stomach and ribs. It didn’t bring near the satisfaction he’d expected. Instead, regret trickled through him and was enough to throw off his concentration. Casey didn’t hesitate to take advantage, but Marc managed to deflect the blow with his shoulder. He grunted in pain as the next one connected with his ribs. Thank god Casey hadn’t managed to land a shot to his liver. That would have had him writhing in agony.

Shelving his feelings of remorse to study later, Marc shoved Casey hard enough to send him careening into a nearby chair. Taking advantage of gaining the upper hand, he pressed on and within moments Marc was rolling on the floor with Casey as they each tried to gain domination over the other. Marc managed to land a few more punches, but then someone grabbed his arms and pulled him away. His entire body hurt, but he ignored the pain and struggled to get free.

“Fuckers. Let me go.” The more he fought, the tighter he was held. Despite his attempts, Marc was no match for the men intent on dragging him away. Through the haze of anger he saw two men pull Casey to his feet and resumed his struggles, but there was no freeing himself.

The adrenaline drained out of him, and, as his vision cleared, he recognized the two men holding Casey back as the two hired hands from the Del Rio Ranch. He turned his head to see who had him and met Rick’s gaze. A groan slithered from his throat as he looked on his other side and found Jason regarding him as if he was a snake about to strike.

“You can let me go now.” Marc tried to jerk his arms free.

“Sorry, boss man, can’t do that.” Rick’s grip tightened to the point Marc was sure he’d have bruises. On top of the ones he’d have from Casey.

“You’ll fucking pay for this.” Casey struggled against the two men holding him, blood flowing unimpeded from his nose.

Marc glanced at his hands and winced at the blood coating his split knuckles. With his quarry now out of his reach, he allowed Rick and Jason to lead him toward the exit. He couldn’t believe he’d been goaded into yet another fight. Though, if he was honest, he’d egged Casey on as well. Now he had to figure out how he was going to explain the night’s events to his boss, once word got around, and it would. That should be fun. Rick and Jason almost had him to the door when it opened and revealed the lean body of the sheriff blocking their escape.

Renee Stevens first started writing in her teens but didn’t get serious about being an author until her mid-twenties. Since then she’s written a number of contemporary stories, as well as delved into the paranormal. When not writing, or spending time in the outdoors, Renee can usually be found working on in her capacity of Admin, Blog Coordinator, and Anthology Coordinator.

Renee resides in Wyoming with her wonderfully supportive husband and a menagerie of four-legged critters. Making the most of the nearly constant negative temperatures and mounds of snow, Renee spends much of the winter months in hibernation with her laptop, the voices in her head keeping her company while her husband works.

When she needs a break from writing, Renee takes to the sewing machine to design, and make, beautiful quilts. When the snow finally disappears, usually around May or June, Renee can be found in the great-outdoors. She spends her time on the mountain, at the lake, and just anywhere that she can do some camping, take some photos, and ride the four-wheelers with her hubby. Once back at home, it’s back to writing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Thirteen

Hey! Time for some action... but what kind? Check out this week's installment inspired by the prompt: "It's now or never". Enjoy!

Chapter Thirteen

I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be the last time I got to see Ritch. Whatever they’d created… it was strong. Kraig was wasted, his body weak, but he’d been far stronger than he should’ve been when they sent him feral. And who knew how many they had?

Ritch was with our car. “Why aren’t Christian and Landon staying?”

“Remote start. They can get the rigs going if we have to come running. Christian might look mostly human, but he’s not. I need you safe.”

“But I should be doing something.” Ritch shook his head. “I hate this.”

“You are. I don’t have remote start. I come running, I know you’ll be on the ball. This is dangerous. They could have someone patrolling farther out than we thought.” I stepped closer to him. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Of being here alone? In the dark?” Ritch’s sarcasm was more than clear, but I ignored that.

“No.” I leaned in, slowly, watching every second to see if he was going to move back. That was all it would take, and I’d stop, but he didn’t move. Ritch froze, his eyes widening slightly. “Of this,” I whispered.

I took a long, slow breath in as I pressed my lips to his. His scent surrounded me as I caressed his lips, brushing back and forth slowly, never parting for more than a second. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and pull him close, but this was enough, for now. Reluctantly, I pulled back.

“Why…?” Ritch frowned. “Why did you do that?”

I stilled. My tiger was excited, my heart was pounding harshly in my chest, but Ritch looked upset. My stomach instantly began to churn. “I wanted to. I plan to come back, and we’re going to get to go home together. I thought you realized how I feel.”

“No. I don’t. I mean. I thought I was just going to stay in my room. You said….”

Well shit. “I thought I was clear. Our home. Yours and mine. Not just because I want you to stay with me, but because I want you to be with me. I can smell your arousal, I know you’re attracted to me, and I thought you knew I wanted you too, even if you can’t sense it the same way.”

Ritch’s eyes widened. “Together. You and me?”

“Park! Let’s go.”

Double shit. “Yes. But not before you’re ready. I would never do anything to hurt you.” I pressed the keys in his hand. “Stay alert. Be careful. We’ll talk more when I’m back.”

Walking off into the dark woods with Ritch staying behind made my skin crawl. I didn’t want to leave him alone, but this was what we had to do. The deeper in the woods we went, the darker it got. We walked in a staggered line. I watched to make sure I didn’t step on any twigs. All we needed was some damn fog to make this whole midnight march complete.

It must have been nearly an hour before the faint glimmer of lights stood out in the middle of the woods. Christian indicated we were close, which was unnecessary. Every step was taken with the utmost precaution, every movement taken with deliberate intent. The wind changed, and I caught the acrid stench, sickness and pain.

This was definitely the place. It was now or never.

Tactical strikes took planning. Good thing we’d done ours. We split up. I paired with the horse. Caleb’s speed and muscles paired well with my claws and stealth. I lead the way toward the back of the cabin on the left. The buildings were rickety, weathered, the wood silvery gray in the moonlight shining down in the clearing. We paused at edge of the woods, waiting until everyone would be in place.

I had my claws at the ready, the gun I disliked using at my back. A handful of werekin strength zip ties were in my front jacket pocket. “Ready?” I mouthed.

Caleb nodded once. I had no idea how he was so quiet wearing those shit kicker boots, but he didn’t make a sound as we crept closer. I was surprised we didn’t run into any guards, but once we were close to the rough cabin, I could hear voices.

The stench was strong. Fear and death hovered in the air like a dark miasma. I nearly gagged. Taking short breaths, my heart pounding, I held up three fingers, then two, then one. Caleb kicked in the door just as the sound of wood splintering came from the front of the cabin.

I roared as I rushed inside, tackling the first body that I saw. It was a human. His weak and frantic struggles were easy to subdue. I slapped zip ties on his wrists and attached him to an exposed metal pipe.

“Stay there, or you’ll have more than a few claw marks on you,” I warned.

There was a sound of a struggle in the living room, but I heard the crash of glass off to the left. I followed the short hall, kicking in each door I came to. The third door led to a bathroom. The window was shattered.

“Someone escaped,” I shouted. I sniffed. Whoever it was had cut themselves. I sniffed, catching the scent. “Bonded werekin.” But… more, and familiar. My stomach clenched. It had to be the one they used to capture my father’s soul. I winced as a shard of glass caught my shoulder as I followed, but I ignored the hot pain in my need to find the bastard.

Nothing was going to stop me from sinking my claws into him and dragging him back to Deke, Kraig, and my mother. I crashed through the woods, tracking the iron tang, no longer worried about stealth.

Hopefully the others could handle the rest of them.


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