Authors: Susan Bliler
Copyright © 2013 by Susan A. Bliler
Cover fonts, spine, and back cover done by:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
thanks to my Beta, Cindy.
I couldn’t do this without you.
Thanks for believing in me
when no one else did.
This story is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidences are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Susan A.
Robert and Janelle
Thanks for being there for my Cinda!
I’ll never forget all
that you did for her when she needed family the most.
StoneCrow stepped out of his chauffeured Humvee and stared in displeasure at the lack of progress on his most recent endeavor. Steely blue eyes sparked in impatience as the cold Montana wind ruffled what had moments before been perfectly styled, short, black, hair.
Currently, the sprawl
ing seven hundred acres of Montana forestland he’d recently purchased from an aging rancher were a snow covered construction nightmare. His eyes narrowed on an excavator as it chugged black smoke into the crisp, pink, sky. The operator swung the bucket around to offer a nudge to the small skid steer that was lodged deep in the thick mud.
Monroe’s eyes slid to the foreman as he approached, and he knew be
fore Donald could even offer an excuse that the equipment being used was insufficient.
StoneCrow,” Donald extended his hand, and rather than shake it, Monroe looked from it to the man in agitation.
pulled his hand back to scratch the scruff on his jaw line. “She’s not coming along as quickly as I’d hoped but…”
Monroe’s eyes narrowed on the much shorter man, “She’s not coming along at all.”
Donald turned to point at the work site, “Well you can see that we’ve…”
Again Monroe interrupted. “Why are you using this equipment?”
Donald eyed the few pieces of large equipment that chugged around the area billowing clouds of black smoke. “Well, they’re not doing a
Monroe’s brows shot up in incredulity, “They’re not doing a good job either.”
Donald shifted uncomfortably, “Well, a dozer and front-end loader would help considerably, but it’d cost an arm and a leg to get ‘em up here.”
Monroe didn’t b
link. “Get it done. I want the equipment we need out here by tomorrow. This job needs to be done by spring.”
whistled, shaking his head. “Top of the line equipment or not it’s gonna be tight. It’s already January…”
’s eyes flashed dangerously. “If you can’t get it done, tell me now.”
Donald held up his hands, “We’ll get ‘
“Good.” Monroe nodded curtly and turned to head back to the
Donald followed quickly behind, “Mr.
StoneCrow, there’s been one other small problem.”
Monroe exhaled audibly, “What?”
Donald pulled off his hard hat and scratched his sweat dampened forehead. “Would you mind talking to the property owner south of the site? We’ve had issues getting our equipment across that particular piece of property.”
” Monroe’s jaw tightened in annoyance. “What issues?”
“Seems our heavy equipment is hacking up the road, and the property owner has been making it more and more difficult to get through.”
“We have an easement,” Monroe explained curtly. “We don’t need permission. Just do it.”
Donald replaced his hard hat, “Well, easement or not,
the gates have been locked. I spend a great deal of time fighting to get the gates open, and by then it’s damn near lunch time. Seems the only time I don’t have to argue is when we leave on Friday. Funny how the end of the work week seems to be our only free-pass.”
Monroe leveled his eyes on the contractor. “So you
’re permitted out, but not in?”
Donald nodded, “Seems to be the case.”
“Fine. I’ll speak to the landowner personally. In the mean time, you’ve got one week to get my foundation laid.”
“Christ! One week. There’s damn near a foot of snow on the ground.”
Monroe ignored Donald’s obvious exasperation. “If you’d have done it three weeks ago before the storm hit, you wouldn’t be worrying about it now. Regardless, get it done.” Monroe stopped halfway in the Humvee as his driver, a large menacing form, stood holding his door open. “The stone mason’s will be here in four weeks to get started. If they don’t have walls, you don’t have a job.”
Donald’s face flushed visibly as Monroe eased himself into the back seat of the
Inside the vehicle,
he pulled out his smart phone and touched the icon of his personal secretary. The phone trilled once before she picked up.
StoneCrow Industries. This is Lilly.”
t’s me. Who owns the property south of my work site?” Monroe listened to the faint clicking of keyboard keys before Lilly responded.
“The parcel directly s
outh of the property is owned by Eddie StCloud.”
“Eddie?” Monroe scoffed. “Tell me about our easement
on that property.”
Lilly cleared her throat.
She’d been hired by Monroe not simply because she was a highly efficient secretary but a highly trained and efficient Paralegal. “It’s an easement by necessity meaning…”
Monroe didn’t wait for her to continue, he simply cut in to inform
her exactly what it was he was after. “The land owner has been creating some difficulties. I need to know what my legal remedies are.”
undeterred by Monroe’s intrusion. “It’s understandable that the landowner is a little…sour. It was necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain this particular type of easement.”
“So we sued him for the right?”
“Were there other options?”
“Yes. We could have sought an easement of access.”
hy didn’t we?”
“The land owner showed signs of resist
ance, and you didn’t want to wait, sir. We argued that our property was landlocked. The Court agreed.”
“We aren’t landlocked.”
Monroe heard the irritation in Lilly’s tone, “The Court
Monroe exhaled, knowing now that his name and wealth had played a role in imposing the burden of the eas
ement on the non-compliant landowner to the south. He shook his head. His little Paralegal was becoming quite adept at getting him what he asked for, no matter the cost. While hers weren’t his preferred methods of handling business, this particular venture had to be up and running by spring, no questions asked. “What are my remedies?”
a smile in Lilly’s voice then. “The easement is Court ordered Mr. StoneCrow. Failure to abide by the Court order or efforts to inhibit the easement are grounds for contempt, which is punishable by fines in most cases.”
Monroe rubbed a hand over his rugged features.
“And in other cases?”
He didn’t want to make enemies with his neighbor, not this soon in the game. “Have we offered compensation for use of the road?”
“We have. You
currently paying for use.”
The revelation angered the CEO. It was one thing
to have used his name and wealth to have garnered what he wanted from the Court, but to be paying for the use of the road while not being granted access was highly unacceptable. “What do we know about Mr. StCloud?”
Lilly was silent while the sound of her keyboard typing
played over the line for several seconds before she responded. “Nothing. Mr. StCloud appeared in Court through his Counsel. I’ve attempted to create a profile, but all we know about him is that he’s single, Native American, and works as a Game Warden for the State’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.”
“It should be noted that, in Montana, Game Wardens are commissioned Peace Officers. The position is considered law enforcement.”
didn’t miss the sarcasm in his tone. “Would you like me to contact Mr. StCloud’s Attorney?”
“No. I’m already up here.
I may as well handle this personally.” He ended the call abruptly and stared at his driver who, aside from being his Chief of Security, was also mated to Monroe’s Paralegal, Lilly. “King, we’ll be making an unscheduled stop.”
StoneCrow had fought hard to get where he was. Joining the Marine Corp straight out of high school, he’d quickly been recruited as a Military Police Officer before transferring to Logistics where he was promoted to Humans Resource Intelligence Officer. His expertise in the field of lie detection was renowned. The military bought his lie that he’d studied body language and human speech patterns. The truth that he was a Skin Walker and could scent a lie could never be known.
Post military, he’d been hired privately by some of the
wealthiest and most dangerous factions in the world. Needless to say, he had friends in very high places. For a time, he’d even been employed as a private assassin. He’d done the job well and had enjoyed it for a time, at least up until the day he’d been hired to execute the Platoon Commander assigned to the field of counterintelligence for an American based division. It’s how he’d met King Mulholland and realized he wasn’t the sole Skin Walker. His parents had said as much, but he hadn’t believed it until he’d encountered King.
He’d used his accrued wealth and contacts to
begin seeking out his fellow Walkers, and once he’d amassed an army, he built a strong hold for his kind…his Skin Walkers.
His parents had raised him on the legends. He’d heard of ancient North American tribes who were rumored to be able to shift into an animal’s form by wearing that animal’s skin. It wasn’t until he’d hit puberty that he’d realized he was different
. It was then that his mother and father had introduced him to his Skin Walker abilities. He’d hated it at first. It was hard enough to be a kid without adding in the highly ludicrous fact that he was able to shape-shift.
, he loved it. He loved that he was a Skin Walker and he was proud of the fact that he’d been able to build a sanctuary for his fellow Walkers. At first he’d thought he and his family were the only ones of their kind, but his father had quickly informed him that Walkers were many in number. He’d even taught his son to calm his inner beasts enough to be able to sense another Walker when they were in close proximity, but even with all his teachings he’d never encountered a Skin Walker outside his family until he’d met King.
His parents, who
had originally assisted him in his recruitment of Skin Walkers, now resided full-time in Ireland. They’d encountered a species there similar to Walkers and were staying to learn as much as they could before returning to the States. The Irish shifter species called themselves Silkies but unlike Walkers they were only able to shift to water creatures.
Skin Walkers weren’t so restricted.
They existed in five differing stages; each more skilled and powerful than the next. Like their ancestors, all Walkers had the ability to shape-shift, but in varying degrees.
Stage one typically referred to the extremely young Walkers, those not yet versed in their heritage and abilities. Stage two Walkers were slightly more advanced, and were able to shift to the form of one animal, but only for a limited amount of time, while stage three Walkers could shift freely to a few animal forms.
Stage four Walkers, like Monroe and King, were much more advanced. They possessed the ability to shift to any form of animal for any length of time. Many believed that Stage four Walkers were psychic; however, it was simply their keen sense of smell that allowed them to detect other’s emotions.
Finally, there were Indigenous Walke
rs. These Walkers were descendants of the most ancient Walkers, purportedly Anasazi. They too could shift to any animal form for any length of time and possessed the keenest senses of all Walkers; however, unlike the others, it was rumored that Indigenous Walkers possessed the ability to control the elements.
Monroe had been more than delighted
when King had contacted him from a recruitment mission he’d been assigned in Phoenix. Two weeks later, King had come back to Montana with RedKnife KillsPrettyEnemy, the only known Indigenous Skin Walker in existence.
had taught him to be proud of who and what he was. Their teachings had inspired his dream of not just building a sanctuary, but a school as well so that Walker children could learn what they needed to learn while also being taught to hone their Walker abilities and skill by their own kind. While they hid their gifts from the public eye, StoneCrow estates gave them the opportunity to live as free beings, unashamed, and in a community of their peers. It was home.
Word had spread
, and Skin Walkers had poured into the state, which was the reason he was now purchasing more land on the northern edge of the Highwood Mountains. StoneCrow estates needed to expand to accommodate the growing number of Skin Walkers that were flooding the community he’d built specifically for them. His dream was now a reality and had become more successful than he’d ever hoped. His Walker brethren no longer needed to live in secrecy or to hide from the world. Here, they could be themselves and not be judged or ostracized. To his delight, some Walkers had even begun finding their angels and procreating. It was his main goal. The survival of his kind meant more to him than anything else in the world. He’d stop at nothing to force his Walkers to claim the one true source of what would be their greatest contentment and would guarantee their existence. A mate!