Authors: Catherine Vale
Tags: #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Werewolves & Shifters
On The Edge
Jagged Lovers Book #3
BBW Paranormal Shifter Romance
Copyright © 2015, Wild Hearts Press
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, brands, incidents, and places are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction. The publication/use of these trademarks is not associated with or sponsored by the trademark owners.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Table of Contents
Griffin strode through the jungle, back to the clearing and the rest of his clan, mindless of the foliage that slapped at his face and body. Addison was gone. He’d failed at doing the one thing he’d promised: to protect her. She was gone, and it was his fault.
He burst into the clearing. The rest of the clan leaders and other clan members stood in hushed silence, all eyes focused on him. But the only person he was interested in now was Daphne.
She sat huddled on the ground, a pelt wrapped around her shaking shoulders. Ramos sat beside her, cradling her against his shoulder. Griffin heard her ragged sobs, saw blood on her face and bare legs. He hesitated for a moment. The girl was shaken, possibly hurt. She was carrying Ramos’ child.
He pushed ahead, his beast snarling inside, looking for answers, trying to cast aside the loss that threatened to consume him. He stopped just short of the couple. Daphne cringed at his feet.
“Tell me what you saw. Please. Was she hurt? Was she conscious when they took her?”
Daphne turned her tear-stained face to Griffin, Ramos’s arm tightening around her. Neither rose. For a moment Griffin thought she didn’t understand him, couldn’t understand him. Or she was blatantly disobeying him.
He reached down, pulling her to her feet, the pelt falling to the ground. Ramos was on his feet in an instant, and Griffin saw murder in his dark eyes.
“I said, tell me what you saw.” Despite the voice in his head that said she was Ramos’s mate, a clan member, all he saw was a human, an outsider, just like those who’d taken Addison away from him.
Ramos laid a hand on Griffin’s arm, fingers digging into his skin. “Griffin, she is my mate. She’s injured and scared. She is not the enemy. Let her go.”
Griffin snarled at Ramos before turning back to Daphne. With a supreme effort he released her arm, lowering his voice.
“I need to know how badly Addison was injured. I need you to tell me everything you remember. Can you do that?”
Daphne nodded, swiping a hand across her tear-stained face. “She was hit in the head with a rock, and she fell. I think she broke her leg, or her foot. She was limping badly when they carried her off. But she was awake. She told me…told me to run.” Daphne’s voice dissolved into tears, and Ramos wrapped an arm around her. She turned her face against him, sobbing again.
Ramos glared at Griffin. “She is scared and hurt. I understand your loss, but do not inflict any more pain.” He pulled Daphne away, and they walked across the clearing.
Griffin watched them. The rest of the clan members avoided looking at him, drifting away into the jungle, to their homes.
He didn’t care where they went. Nothing mattered except finding Addison. And right now that seemed impossible.
Standing alone in the clearing, he threw his head back, arms held wide, and howled his anguish to the sky. Birds took flight, screeching in protest. Each cry echoed through the emptiness in his heart, but did nothing to fill it. Finally, he had no more voice, and he dropped his arms to his side. The jungle was silent around him, birds gone, clan members gone. He was truly alone.
Gulping air he stood, head bowed. He drew his knife, looking at the blade. If he were a lesser man, he’d use it on himself and end his misery.
He smelled the raider before he heard him. Whirling, he plunged the blade into the man’s chest, hot blood flowing over his hand. The man fell away from Griffin and he pulled his blade free.
Griffin looked up and his blood went cold. The jungle was alive with movement, bodies boiling up from the foliage.
They were raiders, and they were all headed toward the clearing, and him.
The Jeep lurched to a halt on a narrow street in Cusco, throwing Addison against the man sitting to her, jarring her bruised shoulder, and reviving the dull headache she’d had since getting hit in the head with a rock. She peered past him at the white stucco buildings baking in the sun. Cars honked, and the driver maneuvered the Jeep to the curb, wedging it between a truck and a small white car.
“Where are we?”
The driver turned off the engine. “This is the Consulate. They’ll know if there’s a reward. And probably find ya a way to get home.”
“For the hundredth time, I
home. You’re taking me away from where I want to be.”
“And like I said, ya got some kind of mental issue. Not sure if they can help with that, but they’ll get ya home.”
The man to her right, who had yet to speak, opened the passenger door, blocking her from getting out until he stood on the sidewalk. The driver came around, holding out his hand.
“Come on, you’re safe. Nothing gonna hurt ya here.”
She ignored his hand, and climbed out of the Jeep, wincing as she put weight on her ankle. At least it wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. She thought about running away from them and took a tentative step. Her ankle held her weight, but it hurt. They’d be on her after only a few steps.
It could be worse; they could have dropped her off somewhere else, or at the airport. With no money and her backpack long gone, she’d have been stranded. At least at the Consulate she might be able to contact Daniel, have him wire her money for a vehicle to get her back to the jungle.
“Alright. Maybe you’re right.” She walked toward the building. “You said there’s a reward for me? If you bring me back?”
“Might be. Someone back home might be missin’ ya, you know? They might of put up some money.” The glint in his eyes told her he was more interested in any possible reward than he was in her safety.
He held the door, and she walked into the cool interior. The artificial smell of the air in the building struck her as noxious. She’d lost track of how long she’d been in the jungle, but it had been long enough that the smells of civilization made her gag.
“Here. Talk to this lady.” The man pulled her toward a woman sitting behind a small reception desk.
“Ma’am. This here’s that missing Museum lady. The one’s gone missing in the jungle. We brung her back.”
The woman looked at Addison in alarm, then at the two men on either side of her.
“Do you have an appointment?” Her eyes traveled over Addison, and she was suddenly aware of her torn and dirty clothes, her dirty hair, her sweat-streaked face.
“Obviously not. I’ve been…” Kidnapped? If she told them these men had kidnapped her from the shifters, she’d have to admit she was living with the clans. And to do that would put Griffin and his people in danger. No one would believe she would willingly live with shifters.
“I was working in the ruins in the jungle. These men abducted me, brought me here against my will.”
The man stiffened. “Here, that’s not what this is about. We rescued you from them savages. Tell this lady who you are, that you’re missing from your Museum.”
“I’m Dr. Addison James, with the New York Natural History Museum. I’m working a dig, an excavation.”
“You were alone in the jungle. There wasn’t no other folk at the ruins. How’s that?” The man scowled down at her, clearly unwilling to give up his rescue story.
“My partner, Dr. Daniel Parrish, returned to the Museum with a rare specimen. I stayed behind to continue working. Listen, if you could call him, he’ll tell you I’m not missing.”
“She is. There’s got to be some kind of reward.”
The woman behind the desk followed this exchange with wide eyes. Without a word, she rose and disappeared through a door behind her.
She returned a moment later, followed by a tall man in a dark suit. He looked over the group, wrinkling his nose as he drew closer.
“I’m Manuel Cervantes. And you are?” He inclined his head at Addison.
“Dr. Addison James, New York Museum of Natural History.” She extended her hand. Mr. Cervantes raised an elegant eyebrow before cautiously extending his hand. She received a brief, perfunctory shake before her hand was returned to her. Addison had the impression he wanted nothing more than to wipe his hand on his pant leg.
“I see. And these men…” He nodded at the other two, clearly not interested in shaking either of their hands.
“These men took me from the ruins outside the city. I’ve been working there for… several weeks.” Hopefully that was close enough to the truth. “As I explained, my colleague returned to the Museum with a specimen. If you could call him…”
“Ms. James, this is highly irregular…” He glanced at the men. The silent smelly one was already backing toward the door.
“These men took me against my will. I’m not missing, there is no reward, and I want to get back to my expedition.” She put as much authority behind each word.
“She’s missin’ though. Someone might be offerin’ money for her.” As he spoke though, he began backing away, following in the footsteps of his partner, who was already pushing through the door into the blinding sunlight outside.
“Even if there was a reward, we’d have nothing to do with that.” Mr. Cervantes frowned, speaking at their retreating backs. “Sir, I’d suggest you contact…”
But the door was swinging shut on the man’s retreating form. Addison sighed, relief making her knees weak.
“Mr. Cervantes. If you would be so kind as to call my colleague, I would be grateful. He can wire me money and I can rent a car and return to my dig.”
“Are you sure? Is there anything else you need? Do you wish to contact the authorities?” He gestured toward the door. “Although I doubt there’s much they can do.”
She shook her head. “No. All I want is to get back to work. Nothing more.”
“Very well.” He motioned to the woman, who had been standing silently behind him during the exchange. “Veronica will make the call. We can help you find a Western Union office where you can have money wired to you.” The look he gave her was a mixture of confusion and curiosity.
“This is highly unusual, Ms. James. You realize that.”
She nodded. “I understand. And I appreciate your help.”
“Do you have any identification? Do you still have your passport?”
She had no idea. She’d stopped thinking about her passport weeks ago. She’d always carried her passport in the back pocket of her work pants, and for the first time since she’d been in Peru, she reached for the snap on her back pocket. Her fingers slipped into the pocket and there was the reassuring feel of the passport cover. She withdrew it, handing it to Mr. Cervantes.
He flipped it open, looking at the photo to her face, eyes widening. The last time she’d looked in a mirror had been on the sun visor of the Jeep she and Daniel had rented. She’d lost weight, she was exhausted, and she probably looked like hell. But it was still her.
“Let me make some notes of this meeting and I’ll return this. Please, have a seat and Veronica will make your phone call.” He indicated a chair in front of the reception desk. Silently, Veronica passed a pen and paper to Addison.
She wrote down Daniel’s name, and cell phone number, pushing the paper back to the young woman. Daniel had been in her thoughts every day since he’d been taken out of the jungle. Griffin had told her Daniel had been taken to his Jeep, and he’d driven away. Now she held her breath, praying he’d made it back to New York, and to the Museum.
Veronica punched what seemed like hundreds of numbers into the phone. Finally, she spoke into the receiver. Addison sat forward, barely able to breathe, waiting. After what felt like an eternity, Veronica held the phone toward Addison. She quickly took it, placing it to her ear.
“Daniel?” Her voice was a rusty croak. “Daniel, are you there?”
“Addison! My God!” His voice was startlingly loud and clear. “You’re okay? Where are you? That woman… she said she’s calling from the Consulate in Cusco. What the hell happened to you?”
“I’m fine. I…it’s a long story. I need your help, need you to wire me money. But first, did you get the orchid back to Osbourne?”
There was a beat of silence, and Addison thought her heart would stop waiting for Daniel to speak.
“I did. He followed your notes, those of Merriam’s, and came up with something.”
“Something? What? What did he come up with? Did he give it to Grace?”
There was silence again. “The hospital refused to allow him to give it to her, something about responsibility, and malpractice, all legal talk for covering their asses.”
“And? What happened?”
“Just a minute.”
“Daniel? Are you there?” There was only silence, then muffled noises. “Daniel!”
For a moment Addison couldn’t speak. Her heart took off at a thundering pace, her hand shaking with each heartbeat.
“Grace? Is that you?”
Addison squeezed her eyes tightly shut, Grace’s face clear in her mind.
“It is. Addison. It’s Grace.”
Suddenly she wanted to be home, to be with Grace. She’d abandoned her sister, and for the first time since she’d started on this quest, she was torn between her love for her sister, and her love for Griffin.