Authors: Rhian Cahill
Book three in the Coyote Hunger
“Doc” Gordie has tried to keep
Steve McKenna at arm’s length, but the sexy coyote shifter is under her skin,
in her blood and in her heart. No matter how much she fears what he makes her
feel, she can’t bear to stay away. After he rescues her from a vicious attack,
Gordie is helpless to deny the sizzling attraction burning between them.
There hasn’t been a day Steve has
not wanted Doc in his bed, but bruised and bloody is not what he had in mind.
The need for revenge is riding his coyote—almost as much as his aching desire
to finally claim Doc as his own. But that will have to wait. He must first
convince Doc the safest place for her is by his side. When a second attack
draws them together, suppressed needs explode, leaving no doubt where they both
belong. But danger is never far behind and Gordie is forced to make a fatal
decision that could destroy all they’ve worked so hard to discover.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Coyote Whispers Copyright © 2011 Rhian Cahill
Edited by Grace Bradley
Cover art by Syneca
Photography by Jeff Kinsey and suteracher (Shutterstock.com), and
Electronic book publication August 2011
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Alan, I know they’re not kangaroo shifters but this one’s
Billi and her invaluable snow info and the Heat Wave readers
for the drywall.
Fedora, thank you for keeping me in line.
Mr. C, I love you more with every day. Together Forever.
I’d like to give a special thank you to all the readers of
the Coyote Hunger series. Without you and your demands for more I wouldn’t have
written Doc and Steve’s story so soon. Thank you from the bottom of my heart
for loving the members of the Whispering Mountains coyote pack as much as I do.
Steve sat enclosed by darkness and listened to the sounds of
the forest as it settled into the coming night. The sun had gone down hours ago
thanks to the mountains he called home, but true sunset still had a few
minutes. He’d lived in Whispering Springs or the surrounding mountain range his
whole life. Never once had he felt the urge to leave it behind and explore the
world. He took the occasional trip down the mountainside to visit one of the
big cities, but there was no appeal in staying away longer than a day or two, a
week at most.
He breathed deep, pulling the chilled, late-spring air into
his lungs, the accompanying sting of cold meeting warm, a welcome twinge. His
house had been finished for two months, but he hadn’t moved everything in until
this past weekend. A grin curled his lips as he thought about why it had taken
so long. Having his two best friends somewhat occupied with Rowan’s return had
slowed down both the finishing of the house and the moving in. Not that he’d
complain. Steve was more than happy Rowan had finally come home and even
happier to see her reunited with her mate, Quinn.
The night around him grew still, quiet in a way that pricked
his instincts, caused his hair to stand on end, and drew his coyote’s
attention. Steve slowly sat forward, leaned over to put his beer bottle on the
deck beside his chair, before closing his eyes and honing his senses to
listen—to smell. The crush of undergrowth beneath running feet hit him first,
followed by a body-slamming gust of fear. He scented two shifters but he couldn’t
place them. Tried harder to separate them and connect either essence to the
memory of its owner.
A howl of agony echoed up the ridge, sliced into his gut and
pulled his coyote out with amazing speed. On his feet, Steve was glad he’d
forgone shirt and shoes after his shower as he removed his sweats. Free of the
restrictive garment, he shifted as he leapt over the deck railing to the ground
one story below. He landed with a jolt to every bone but ignored it as he ran
through the forest in the direction of the horrific screams of distress.
As he drew closer he could hear the struggles, smell the
The attacker, in coyote form if he wasn’t
mistaken, was thrilled with his catch. A catch Steve had every intention of
setting free. His muscles shuddered and it wasn’t just from the exertion of
running all out. He thought about stealth but a bloodcurdling cry and bark of
triumph changed his mind. Low branches and shrubs slapped into him, tangled
with his fur, as he powered his bulk toward the fight up ahead he glimpsed
through the trees.
The other animal’s head whipped up, yellow eyes and white
teeth glowed in the dusk as he turned in Steve’s direction. A frustrated howl
rent the air as the coyote turned from his prey and bolted in the opposite
direction. Torn between going after the retreating coyote and tending to the
victim, Steve stumbled enough to have the decision made for him. Whoever the
coyote was, he had too much head start and the metallic stench of blood told
Steve his first concern should be the wounded human crumpled on the ground.
Ripped, blood-splattered clothes covered the too-still body,
but there was no mistaking the feminine shape or perfume. He reached her side
and shifted back to human form. Uncaring of his naked state, he knelt beside
her head and felt for a pulse. The steady beat reassured him but how long would
it stay that way? The overpowering aroma of spilled blood masked her scent, but
he knew she was one of the pack, her scent was familiar. Too familiar.
His fingers brushed away hair to reveal her face and Steve’s heart stopped.
The hoarse whisper ached in his throat.
His heart kicked back in with a thud. Adrenaline pumped
through his veins and the urge to cradle her in his arms took hold but Steve knew
he couldn’t. Not yet. He had to check her injuries, stop the bleeding if he
could. He ran his hands down her limbs to check for broken bones. In his
limited knowledge he held back a howl of frustration. She was the one who
should be doing this. She was the doctor. The person who stitched the cuts, set
the broken bones and soothed the bruises.
Hands and fingers sticky with blood, Steve rolled her to her
back and breathed a sigh of relief when she moaned.
“Doc? Can you hear me?”
She trembled under his touch but didn’t answer as he tried
to find where she bled from the most. Her jeans and shirt were wet with blood
but he couldn’t find anything too deep or gushing enough to take the time to
stop the flow. He needed to get her to the house. There he could remove what
was left of her clothes and see how bad the damage was under light. He could
also clean her up and decide if she required medical attention better than he
They were about three hundred feet below his house but with
the slope and thick vegetation, that distance may as well be three miles. It
would take him longer to get up the hill than it had coming down with the
burden of carrying Doc, and Steve knew every second counted. He tried to be as
gentle as possible, but she whimpered when he worked his arms under her and
pulled her against his naked chest.
In all the fantasies he’d had of Doc cradled against his
naked body, this wasn’t one of them. The woman set his blood on fire but
carrying her now froze that same blood in his veins. Knowing someone had set
out to hurt her—
had hurt her
—made Steve’s coyote want to hunt down her
attacker and do some hurting of his own. He turned and headed for home, careful
not to let any branches scrape against her battered body. By the time he
reached halfway, shivers raked her from head to toe and he knew shock had set
He lengthened his stride. The urgency to get her home gave
him the strength to move over the ground quickly. When the large, dark shadow
of his house came into view he breathed a sigh of relief and went toward the
basement door. Once inside, Steve did something he’d never done before. He
closed the solid timber panel and threw the deadbolt home.
The house was dark—quiet, and he stopped to listen in case
they weren’t alone. There was nothing different from when he’d left. No new
scents and Steve’s instincts told him no one was inside—or had been. He took
the stairs to the second floor, Doc held tight in his embrace. It never entered
his mind to take her to the guest room. He headed straight for his bedroom,
laid her on the bed and switched the bedside light on to get his first good
look at her.
Steve sucked in a breath. Her delicate face was bruised and
bloody, one eye swollen and the shiner already showing. The split in her bottom
lip looked bad, it gaped open and blood flowed in a trickle down her chin. The
dark shadow along the right side of her jaw worried him. She’d obviously taken
one to the chin at some point, whether a direct strike or glancing blow he
couldn’t say. Doc reminded him of a prize fighter after ten rounds in the ring.
As gently as he could, he removed her clothes. He started at
her feet, tossing her boots to the floor behind him. Her jeans were torn in
places and the patches of blood, while concerning, didn’t seem to be life threatening.
Steve popped the button and tugged the zipper down. Lucky for him, Doc chose to
wear clothes too big for her petite frame and the pants slid down over her hips
with little resistance. With her legs bare he could see the scratches and knew
the heavy denim had saved her from worse harm.
When only her bra and panties covered her, Steve ducked into
his bathroom for the first-aid kit. He filled a small bowl with warm water and
grabbed a washcloth and towel. The dirt and blood needed to be cleaned away
before he could treat her wounds and assess the damage. She hadn’t moved or
made more than the occasional whimper since they came inside and the worry of
her lack of response played on Steve’s mind. Should he have taken her straight
Most of the lacerations were minor but one across her left
breast had him concerned. He had to remove her bra to see the entire wound. It
went from the top curve below her collarbone to just under her nipple and the
two scratches on either side of the deep cut told him a paw had caught the
tender flesh and sliced it. His back teeth would be ground to stumps by the
time he finished. The need to hunt down her attacker burned in his gut and his
coyote yanked to be let free but Steve couldn’t do anything yet. Doc needed him
and he wouldn’t go off and leave her. He couldn’t no matter how much his animal
side wanted to.
Doc whimpered and moaned while he cleaned the lesser scrapes
but jerked awake as he swiped the large gash on her breast. Her body stiffened
and he waited for the panic, for her to fight him but her instincts were good,
she just opened the eye that wasn’t swollen shut and watched him as he cleaned,
then treated the wound with disinfectant lotion.
“You’re safe now, Gordie, I won’t let anyone hurt you
again.” His words did little to soothe his agitated nerves but she relaxed into
Steve rolled her to the side, took care of the cuts on her
back before easing her over again. The marks on her face were the only ones
left to deal with and he wasn’t at all sure what to do about her lip, but first
he’d get her one of his shirts. He didn’t want her to get cold and he didn’t
think Doc would be too happy when she came to her senses a bit more and found
herself all but naked in his bed.
He’d been trying to get her there for years but no matter
what he did, Steve could never convince her that’s where she belonged. Having
her here now, like this, tore him up inside. He had what he’d always wanted but
at what cost?
Gordie watched Steve. The barest of tremors shook his hands
as he tended to her injuries. Her focus was off, one eye blurry and the other
refused to open. Dizziness made her nauseated and the churning of her stomach
warned of possible rebellion. Taking slow, deep breaths she catalogued the
damage. Nothing felt broken, but she was pretty sure she had a mild concussion.
She hadn’t seen it coming. One second she was walking
through the forest and the next she received a punch in the face. The blow
snapped her head back and slammed her into a tree. For a moment Gordie was
stunned, and her attacker managed a few more good hits before shock wore off
and she began to fight back. A kick to the balls had given her precious seconds
to run. She hadn’t counted on him shifting.
Fear sliced through Gordie as Steve stood.
“Don’t leave me.” The words came out garbled and the pain
that lanced her lip made her cry out.
“Easy. I’m not going anywhere.” He was back beside her,
brushing her cheek with his fingertips. “I’m just getting a shirt for you to
She squeezed her eye shut and breathed deep. Pain radiated
out through her chest, the side she’d landed on when the coyote had pounced on
her burned and Gordie knew the fact she was bruised and not broken was a
miracle. The sting of tears scalded her eyes and scratched the back of her
throat. She wouldn’t cry.
Gordie tried to swallow but her mouth was dry. Her tongue
slid out to lick her lip and she jerked on the bed, the pain excruciating, an
agonized shriek left her throat.
“Easy, baby.” Warm hands soothed her, skirting around the
numerous aches. “Let’s get you covered up so I can take a look at that mouth.”
Her body vibrated with the strain of holding the sobs at
bay. The bed lifted and Steve’s warmth disappeared. Suddenly cold, Gordie
shivered, the quaking built in intensity until her teeth chattered. When the
mattress dipped and heat brushed against her hip, Gordie shook so violently
every part of her screamed in pain. Groaning, she turned into him as he leaned
over to help her sit. With gentleness she’d never expected, Steve tugged a soft
flannel shirt up her arm and around her back.
It proved more difficult to get her second arm into the
sleeve. Whimpers and moans filled the air. Muscles tense with pain refused to
cooperate and Gordie could do little to help. With her arm in at last, Steve
lowered her to the bed. Her back spasmed, agony speared up her spine to throb
painfully at the base of her skull. Her head swam and her stomach churned. Bile
rose in her throat and she turned to the side.
Either Steve had worked out what was about to happen or the
man had lightning-fast reflexes. He had the wastepaper basket under her face as
she leaned over the edge of the mattress. Abdominal muscles contracted,
repelling everything in her stomach up her throat. Acid burned and the metallic
taste of blood filled her mouth, making her heave harder. Sweat popped out on
her skin, and goose bumps followed by uncontrollable shaking rode alongside the
piercing pain of her twisted belly.
He held her hair out of the way, his other hand holding the
bin while she emptied the contents of her stomach. Tears streamed down her face
and mucus ran from her nose. As the convulsions eased, Gordie slumped forward
in exhaustion. The pain receded, her body going numb, and the effort to stay
awake grew more difficult. Steve moved her back from the edge, used a pillow to
prop her up. Her head drooped and Gordie knew she would be out in seconds but
she needed to make something clear first.
“No hospital.” Her lip stung and hot fluid trickled down her
“Shit, Doc. I can’t stitch that lip and it needs a few. I
need to get you to someone who can take care of it.”
“No. Hospital.” Her words slurred as blackness closed in.
“Please.” The word came out a sob.
“Promise me.” She couldn’t leave Whispering Springs and she
was the only medical personnel on the mountain. She just needed to rest and
then she’d be okay to stitch the wound herself.