Copyright © June 2013, Kassanna
Cover art by Mina Carter © June 2013
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Sugar and Spice Press
North Carolina, USA
A light breeze ruffled his hair like small fingers combing through his locks. The special silence found only very early in the morning comforted him. For the first time in weeks, he’d finally escaped the scent of coconut and the obnoxious juvenile pranks his brothers played on him. Just last night they’d left his bathtub filled with coconut slush. Myka vaulted over a dead tree, and his paws dug into the moss, throwing up soft chunks of vibrant green vegetation behind him. He drew in great drafts of air and exhaled, racing full out. He veered to his left and increased his speed, allowing his tongue to loll out from the corner of his muzzle, sprinting for the pure pleasure of running free.
The sun was just rising over the mountains, reflecting off the lake at the back of the Blaidd property. Myka plopped down and stared at the image revealed to him by the blazing orb. The mountains were a stunning backdrop to the water with its rocky shoreline. Trees climbed up the side of the hills. The picture was never the same no matter when he came to the area in search of seclusion. Some days he just needed peace, somewhere to gather his thoughts and regroup. Off the beaten trail and hidden behind dense foliage, he thought he was the only one who knew about this little inlet. That is until he found Boris and Nix going at it like bunnies behind a boulder. He closed his eyes and shuddered. Never again would he make the mistake of coming to the lake in the evening.
That was exactly why he couldn’t be mated. As ambassador for the pack, he didn’t have time for a wife and that’s what a mate was. It would be all well and good until the questions started. Where are you going? How long will you be gone? What do you mean no? If his brothers wanted women by their sides, more power to them. But he could already see the differences in the men closest to him. Scar wasn’t the bloodthirsty killer he once was and Kuma…hell, he missed his sneaky oldest brother. A long sigh escaped his maw. And now he was the one threatened. That coconut-tinged aroma wrapped its fragrant tendrils around him every time he entered the house. He knew what it meant, had watched Rhys and Boris traverse the slippery slope of a claiming. He wouldn’t go down like them, all sappy and in love. A wolf had his pride, dammit.
Myka rose. Sitting there wouldn’t get any work done and he was expecting a call from his dad. Foliage rustled behind him. It had him pulling back his lips in a snarl as he dropped down to his forelegs, preparing to lunge if necessary. His nose twitched and the scent of baby powder tickled it. He relaxed and waited. Keen tumbled out of the bushes, followed by Amelia, his assistant. They were laughing. Myka shifted and Amelia threw him a towel.
“What the hell are you two doing out here at this hour?” He wrapped the towel around his hips.
“Colin called. Said you need to call him back immediately. I didn’t think it was a message that should wait, and I found this little guy sniffing at our office door, so I brought him along.” Amelia looked down at Keen and ruffled his hair.
Myka narrowed his eyes. “What’s up, Keen? Why were you looking for me?”
“I couldn’t stay sleep.” The boy shrugged.
“Uh-huh.” He lifted her head to look at his assistant. “Amelia, did you bring the cell?”
“Of course.” She tugged the compact device from her jeans pocket and held it out for him.
“Thanks. You go on ahead. Me and my man here are just going to take our time heading home.”
“Oh, okay.” She glanced at them both and pressed her lips together. A strange expression of longing flitted across her face before she spun on her heel and walked away.
Myka waited until he was sure she was out of hearing range. “So what’s going on, Keen?”
“Everybody’s mad and it’s my fault.” He hung his head.
“No, it’s not. It’s the stupidity of some adults and their need for conflict.” Myka dropped to his haunches and pulled his nephew in front of him. “You have nothing to do with this mess. Ignorant people are simply using you as their excuse to be bad.”
“I don’t want them to take me.” Tears fell past his lids.
“No one is going to take you from us. These sanctions are just a game. That’s why Granddad went to see the Council. It’ll be all right.” He brushed the moisture from his nephew’s cheeks and held up his hand to wiggle his finger. “Pinkie promise.”
Keen wrapped his little finger around his and added. “I’m sorry I let them take me.”
“Again, not your fault. We adults will get it together eventually.” He rose and took Keen’s hand. “Come on, let’s head back. We can sneak into the kitchen and have ice-cream sundaes for breakfast.”
Keen’s face lit up, and he smiled, revealing the fact he’d lost another tooth.
“Did the tooth fairy bring you any money?”
A quick succession of nods was Myka’s answer.
“Two whole dollars.”
“Wow, and where do you plan to spend all that money?”
Keen was quiet for a moment. “I heard Aunt Nix tell Fre it was Tee’s birthday soon. Could you take me to buy her a present?”
“I could, maybe later. You know I’m proud of you.”
“Why?” The little boy angled his head up to look at Myka and a lock of pure white hair fell away from his face.
“You have a big heart, Keen, and that’s a good thing. But you’re going to have to stop eavesdropping on people’s conversations.”
“Eavesdropping means listening to other people talking. Some conversations are private.” He held up a branch so Keen could get by.
“That’s kinda hard cos people are always doing that.”
“Make the effort.” Myka sighed.
“Okay. Wanna race home?”
“Winner makes breakfast?”
“Cool, any flavor I want?” Keen pulled the shirt over his head and shed his jeans.
“Any one.” Myka picked up Keen’s clothes and draped them over a low-lying branch along with his towel. He made a mental note to come back to collect them. He stuffed the cell phone halfway in the pocket of Keen’s pants. He’d call Colin when he got home.
“Last one back is a rotten egg.” Keen whooped.
They shifted and Keen took off running. Myka watched the pup take off down the path, counting down in his head. He wanted to give the youngster a twenty-second head start. Rhys and Boris weren’t the only ones that would kill for this family. He lifted his muzzle to the wind and howled, listening to it carry on the breeze. It was a warning to anyone not of pack. Sentinels on guard answered his cry with one of their own reinforcing his threat.
Come at your own will and death will be your reward.
* * * *
Tee yawned as she walked her motorcycle to the back shed. Her muscles strained on the steep slope as she tried to keep the bike from rolling down the hill without her. She pulled at the handlebars to stop when Keen went streaking across her path. The pup bound up the porch stairs and through the doggie door Rhys had installed after one too many destroyed screens. Tee shook her head and looked around. Usually there was someone with the little guy. A howl rent the air, followed by several accompanying bellows that answered it. Moments later a huge black wolf came loping down the path. Instantly she knew who it was.
Unlike his brother, Myka was all black and if she wasn’t wrong, slightly larger than his twin. They had to be fraternal because they damn sure weren’t identical. She sniffed the air as he approached and swore she could smell the salt of fresh sea air. It was a scent she loved, ever since she was a child and played on the silt sandy beaches of the Texas coast. Tee closed her eyes and let the smell envelope her. She opened them as he was lifting his head. He held her gaze as he moved past her before turning away and trotting up the steps.
She watched as he shifted. The man was just as attractive as the wolf. Myka stood at least six five with broad shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waist. A fighter’s build, corded with muscles. He looked good in his clothes, especially the suits he wore and those square, frameless glasses he used when he was reading,
. She’d been having the most delicious fantasies about him lately and they always involved Myka wearing the sexy eyewear. The door hitting the doorjamb pulled her from her reverie and she redoubled her efforts to move her cycle down the hill slowly.
Parking her Boulevard, she rifled through the saddlebags for her tools. Preparation was a must with the rumors of a shifter war looming on the horizon. She didn’t want to have to make a quick getaway on a slow bike. Settling on her knees in the soft tufts of grass, she proceeded to give her ride a tune-up.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, a bead of sweat rolled from her hairline and she tugged off her jacket, which had protected her from the early morning chill. She lifted her face toward the sun basking in its warmth then wiped the moisture from her face with the back of her hand. Tee sighed and leaned back inspecting her handiwork. She wrapped her fingers around the wrench to tighten the last bolt. The spark plug spun around without catching.
“Come on you SOB.” She slumped back on her calves and rested her head on the pipe, mumbling. “Dammit, you can’t be stripped. I was careful.” Disgusted, she tossed the tool on the ground beside her. Her only option was to go to town with the hope the little automotive shop had the part she needed.
With a huff, she rose to her feet. She picked up a rag and wiped her hands as she headed into the house. The kitchen was dark compared to the brightness outside, and she blinked a few times to get acclimated. Nix and Fre stood around the island cradling their coffee mugs and murmuring to each other. They quieted and stared at Tee as she perused the various sets of keys on the hooks.
“What’s up, Tee?” Nix spoke first.
“Not a thing, but I need to make a quick trip to town. Mind if I take a car?” The set Tee chose jangled against her fingers.
Fre answered. “Not at all, but I thought I heard Myka say he was heading to town too. You might want to catch a ride with him. I’m not sure how much gas is in the cars.”
Tee shook her head. “He’s probably already left. I’ll just fill up whichever vehicle I take while I’m ou…”
Myka came strolling through the room and went to the refrigerator.
Nix giggled before commenting. “Well speak of the devil.”
“How right you are, Nix. I do believe this is a case of serendipity.” Fre chuckled.
Myka opened the fridge, reached in and pulled out a bottle of water, and turned around. He looked at each woman suspiciously, focusing on Fre and Nix before raising the bottle to take a healthy swallow of the liquid. He set the plastic container on the counter. “What are you two up to now?”
“Whatever do you mean, Myka? Tee needs a ride into town, and since you’re going that way… Well, Nix here volunteered your services as a chauffeur.” Fre’s voice was saccharine sweet.
He choked. The coughing spasm lasted a few seconds, and he cleared his throat several times. “Uh, yeah sure. I’m leaving in ten minutes.” He glanced in Tee’s direction, nodded confirmation, and backed out of the room.
Tee narrowed her eyes. “Oh my freaking God, could the two of you be any more obvious?”
“Whatever do you mean?” Nix batted her lashes at Tee.
“We are on the cusp of war and you two are trying to play cupid.” Tee huffed.
“News flash, Tee. I would kill for Rhys, and I know Nix would die for Boris. Shifters and their mates are more ferocious than a single beast. I’m just trying to stack the deck.” Fre placed her cup on the granite surface, and her jovial expression changed. The smile slipped from her face and she cocked a thin brow. “Plus, it’s apparent you and Myka have something going on. What I don’t get is why you avoid each other like you both have the plague?”
Tee shook her head and sighed before speaking. “Listen, I have much respect for you and Nix. I mean as human women, y’all kick shifter ass. But my love life is none of your concern and as for Myka, maybe you haven’t noticed but that wolf would kill or die for
of you. I daresay of the brothers, he’s probably the most dangerous.”
Nix sputtered. “No way!”
“Yes way. Think about it. We know Scar would cut your throat without blinking and Kuma is sneaky as hell, but really, can you predict what Myka would do in any given situation?”
Fre and Nix stared at her, disbelief etched onto their features.
Tee shrugged. “I’m just saying that man is your unknown factor. Therefore, he would be the one I’d worry about.” She pressed her lips together to keep the corners from inching up as she turned her back on the duo and sauntered out the room.