Authors: Bianca D'Arc
Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Three Cats, LLC. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Grayslake: More than Mated remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Three Cats, LLC, or their affiliates or licensors.
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The Right Spot
Patricia saw her boss coming down the hall and almost groaned aloud. One of the hunkiest and most powerful men in town, Van Abrams was happily mated, yet her inner bear couldn’t help but admire him. What would it be like to have a man like that?
Van wasn’t for her, of course. Both she and her hussy of a bear knew it. That didn’t mean they couldn’t drool a little when they saw him, right? She might look, but she would never—ever—touch. She was a one-man-woman. Too bad she hadn’t found that proverbial
The sneaky bastard was probably hiding on her. Patty puffed out a sigh, aiming the air upward to flutter in the long bangs that refused to stay where she put them.
“Need a female officer along on this one, Pat,” Van called to her as he approached. “Gear up.”
Van was her superior officer in the small-but-mighty Grayslake Police Department. They’d worked together now for a few years, and of course, he was a grizzly shifter, like her. In a man, the dominance was a turn-on for pretty much every female in a fifty-mile radius, shifter and human alike. Though the humans didn’t know about shifters, they were attracted to the strength of the males, like Van, who had it
, and those lucky boys could have their pick.
Females were a different story. The dominance of the bear was a definite turn-off for most human men, and a lot of shifter males didn’t like being challenged. Their inner beasts would come into conflict—especially when her dominance overrode the male in question. That happened a lot. Patty was too damn dominant for her own good sometimes, especially when it came to finding a little casual male company.
In fact, she’d given up on casual. Her bear was in hunting mode.
“What’s the situation?” she asked Van as she tightened the equipment belt she’d been about to remove in preparation for going off-shift.
The call-out had delayed her departure, but it didn’t really matter. The only one waiting for her at home was her somewhat indifferent house cat, Mrs. Snufflepuff.
“Domestic disturbance over on Waverly Place.” Van’s answer was clipped as they headed quickly out of the station toward his patrol vehicle.
“That’s at the edge of town. We don’t get a lot of calls from out that way.”
“Yeah, one of the neighbors called it in. He’s sitting on the husband while the wife is crying hysterically. Dispatch has him holding on the line until we get there, so let’s move.”
“Roger that.” She loaded into the vehicle and he drove them off at high speed toward the edge of town.
Something had drawn Mario Brandon toward the town of Grayslake, Georgia. He’d learned over the years to pay attention to the little tugs and intuitions that were part of his heritage. His grandmother was a priestess of the jaguar clan, after all. Not just the local clan either, but the clan as a whole, which covered most of the South American continent. She was high up in the jaguar hierarchy, and had been for a very long time.
She made no secret that it pained her to have a half-breed grandson with a hint of her gift. Jaguars were a proud people. Too proud, sometimes.
His grandmother’s pride and disapproval had sent Mario down a road few of his people would follow, into the human world and life as an elite soldier, and then as a soldier of fortune. He’d spent years in the military, easily qualifying for Special Forces teams that others would give their left nut to join. He was a shifter, after all—even if he was only a half-breed by his grandmother’s standards.
He could become a massive, dominant jaguar, and he had all the physical attributes of any other shifter, even if his father had been human. His dad had been another displaced soldier, a long way from home.
Blonde-haired blue-eyed Wilhelm Brandon had fallen hard for Mario’s mother, the non-magical daughter of the Jaguar High Priestess. Oh, mom could shift all right. She was a full-blooded jaguar. But she hadn’t inherited her mother’s other gifts that had earned her such a high rank in the clan.
Margarita Brandon was a lovely, dark-haired Argentinean beauty who had snared the German-born Wilhelm for herself. Theirs was a love match. They’d been fated mates. As a result, their offspring could shift into the jaguar that was his mother’s legacy. Wilhelm’s contribution had been Mario’s icy blue eyes and somewhat paler complexion than his fellow countrymen. That, and his mathematical and militaristic talents, though his father had been an unwilling pawn in a war he had really wanted no part of. Still, when everything had fallen apart in Germany, he found himself on the run with the other military engineers he’d worked with, and he’d ended up in Argentina.
Wilhelm had quickly separated himself from the others. He’d never liked their goose-stepping bravado, and had not supported the unforgivable actions taken by the regime. He’d been minding his own business, quietly doing futuristic research when the Reich had come calling and forced him to work for them.
But his revolutionary ideas would never work. He’d seen to it. Nobody would ever know the sacrifices he’d made just to stay alive and keep his breakthroughs from those maniacs. No one but his Argentinean-born son would ever know Wilhelm’s deepest secrets.
Much to his grandmother’s disappointment, Mario had studied engineering in school, and loved technology, shunning the shamanistic ways she favored. The old lady had scorned him on every count while he was growing up—until the day she realized that out of all her grandchildren, he was the one who had inherited some of her more useful magical gifts.
By that time, of course, she’d managed to alienate him so badly that he’d taken off and headed out to make his own way in the world. Cats often did that sort of thing. Alpha males more than most.
And thanks to his military training and strong Alpha presence, along with the problems back home in Argentina with his grandmother, Mario had been roaming the world for a long time. He’d been feeling the urge to settle down somewhere for a while now, and when chance brought him through Georgia, he somehow felt the pull towards Grayslake.
It was a bear town, though there were a few other kinds of shifters living there. He’d done his research. He’d checked the shifter grapevine and social media. He’d even found out what he could about the Itan and Itana—the leaders of the clan.
The Itan was a dominant Alpha named Ty Abrams and his Itana was a half-werebear. Her very presence in the town meant something important to Mario. It meant he wouldn’t be run off because of his human blood. It meant this place not only accepted half-breeds, but even those who couldn’t shift, which was something he hadn’t quite expected.
Mia, the Itana, was adorable in an annoying-little-sister sort of way and it was easy to see that the bears in the clan respected her. They also respected her mate, Ty, but most liked him as well. Mario had seen many cases where the leader of a shifter group led through fear and not love. Such arrangements had always left a bad taste in Mario’s mouth and he knew places ruled by asshole Alphas weren’t for him.
Which left Grayslake. It was a nice town. It had its rough spots and its highlights, like any other place. After talking with Ty and getting his blessing to stay for a while, Mario had found a rental on the outskirts of town with enough room to run. It backed up to the forest, which was perfect for him. Mario was adept at holding the jaguar in check, but every once in a while, the cat really did need to run.
He’d moved into the small rental house on Waverly Place, expecting it to be a quiet spot where he could spend a little time figuring out what had led him to this little corner of Georgia, of all places. He’d parked himself in the backyard with a bottle of beer, taking a break from setting things up when he heard the first raised voices coming from next door.
The houses weren’t all that close together, but as a werejaguar, Mario had extra sharp hearing. The shouts escalated to screams, then the unmistakable impact of fists with flesh sounded and Mario grew concerned. If it had been two males duking it out, he would have left them be, but one of the two raised voices had been female. Someone was hitting someone else over there, and Mario feared it was the woman who was taking the beating.
That wouldn’t do.
Mario put down his beer at the first sound of impact and headed for the fence that separated their two backyards. The hedge was overgrown, but that meant nothing to him. He simply sprang over the whole thing, his inner cat allowing him to clear the hedge and fence in a single bound.
What he saw when he came around the side of the house had him cursing. The woman was on the ground, whimpering, while the male was hovering over her, getting ready to deliver another punch. Mario inhaled and immediately realized he was dealing with two bear shifters.
But his inner jaguar started screeching at him. They were stronger than the male. The bear would fall to his claws and stop hurting the defenseless female. The jaguar didn’t seem to care that the woman was also a bear. She was obviously submissive, and therefore deserving of protection.
The man raised his hand, ready to hit her again and Mario leapt forward. Not on his watch.
“Stop.” Mario injected all the dominance of his jaguar into the single word, which made the male bear shifter look up, halting the hand that had been ready to hit the woman again.
“Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing in my yard?” The bear shifter was belligerent. Drunk—or perhaps stoned—too, Mario realized as he drew closer. Fan-fucking-tastic.
“Take it down a level, bear,” Mario growled, his cat getting the better of him, its dominance issuing forth from him in a wave that had the female cowering away from him, as well as the male bear.
Unfortunately the male was so out of it, he wasn’t reacting the way he should have. That angered the jaguar. Didn’t the imbecile bear recognize its superior when it prowled close? The male bear would feel the sting of the jaguar’s claws. It wanted his submission. And his blood. Not necessarily in that order.
Mario’s cat was a bloodthirsty thing, and he’d spent a lot of time trying to come to some understanding with his beast half. He’s tried to explain that they couldn’t just go around killing everyone that annoyed him. If they did that, there’d be few people left, and he’d be hunted, instead of the hunter.
The cat scoffed at him inside his own mind. It didn’t care for human rules. Human laws merely amused the cat, who saw such things as being made for lesser beings than himself. Mario had always felt the struggle between the natural superior attitude of his cat and his human side. The violence was something he’d had to learn how to channel too.
It was what had driven him into the military. At least in that atmosphere, violence—under controlled circumstances—was encouraged. Mario had excelled in the strict military environment. On the outside? Not so much. The jaguar fought him at every turn lately, it seemed.
Like right now. The cat wanted the other male dead, though Mario realized killing his next door neighbor on the first day in his new rental would probably be frowned upon.
“Step away from the woman.” Mario tried again, moving closer to the couple.
Now the man seemed to realize he was facing a real threat. He stepped around the woman and faced Mario as if he was going to try fighting him. Yeah, right. The drunken fool could barely stand on his own two feet. He was swaying even as Mario stepped closer.
Then he saw the glint of polished steel come between them. Stupid bear was faster than he looked. And he had a knife. That was cheating. The cat inside him sniffed in disdain.
A quick forward strike and the knife went skittering away, into the bushes. Another swipe with the blade of his hand and the man was off balance, falling forward. Mario caught him by the throat, cutting off his air, his inner cat lending him the strength to push the big bastard up against the side of the house, lifting him into the air by at least two feet. Mario was a tall man with powerful arms. The drunk bear shifter didn’t stand a chance.
Now his dominance came off him in waves and real fear entered the bear shifter’s eyes as he realized his position. The cat could—and wanted to—snap the weaker male’s neck. The cat disdained the weakness it saw in the drunken male’s behavior. The cat had class and it always treated the ladies with respect. It angered the jaguar to see the woman cowering on the grass, bruised, bloody, and black and blue from previous beatings.
That would not do.
Mario frowned at the man. “Is she your mate?”
The man couldn’t answer, of course. He was in the middle of choking, with Mario’s fingers wrapped tight around his throat. But Mario didn’t care. He waited until he saw the light dim in the male’s eyes as he lost consciousness from lack of air. Then he dropped the man to the ground, not really caring how he landed.
Mario turned to the woman, but she was absolutely hysterical at this point. She was showing every submissive sign known to shifters, baring her neck and showing her belly. It seemed like she didn’t know what to do to appease the big, bad kitty that had sprayed his dominance all over her backyard.
Well. There was nothing Mario could do about that now. He was who he was and if this female wasn’t strong enough to deal with his show of strength, then he’d get help for her. His protective instincts ran deep and he sighed as he reached for the cell phone on his belt.
He kept both bear shifters in sight as he dialed 911 and talked to the nice lady on the other end of the line. He described the situation and followed instructions, staying on the line while the dispatcher sent a police unit over.
He would rather have been relaxing in his rented backyard right about now, with the nearly full bottle of beer he’d left behind, but he couldn’t leave the woman to fend for herself with the drunken jackass. Mario had frightened her. He’d have to find someone who could help her calm down. Maybe that would let his fur settle.
He gave his information to the lady on the phone and settled down to wait.