The Kodiak's Mate (Shifters-Match.com Book 2)

BOOK: The Kodiak's Mate (Shifters-Match.com Book 2)
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E
VERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®

 

www.evernightpublishing.com

 

 

 

Copyright© 2016 April Zyon

 

 

ISBN: 978-1-77233-933-8

 

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

 

Editor: Jessica Ruth

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

THE KODIAK’S MATE

 

Shifters-Match.com, 2

 

April Zyon

 

Copyright © 2016

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Alaska was humming along to the beat of the music that blared in her earbuds while she made blueberry muffins for the first graders that were going to go on a field trip this morning. She wasn’t a mom, but she loved to help out the kids in the area when she could, and baking fresh muffins for their lunch bags was something she could do. That was simply the way it was in Shifter Falls; the townsfolk all cared for each other if they could.

Even though her shop was open, she knew there wouldn’t be anyone coming in at this crazy time of morning. Holding the spatula to her mouth, she started to belt out “Fight Song” along with Rachel Platten crooning in her ears. She was having a blast; cooking at this time of the morning was a passion for her. It was a time when the world was just waking and that seemed to give her even more energy. As a witch she drew her power from the earth and the energies of it, so mornings were always the best time to recharge. She finished with the muffins and put them all in little brown bags, then tucked them into the box. Once that was completed, she set them on one of the tables nearest the door. She walked back to the kitchen, eager to start on the latest batch of banana bread with chocolate chips and chocolate drizzle on it.

With her earbuds in she was almost deaf, especially when she turned up the music when “Pontoon”
by Little Big Town
came on. She laughed as she danced around the kitchen, singing into her spatula. She was reaching into the cabinets for another bowl when she was suddenly grabbed from behind. Alaska struggled as calloused fingers bit roughly into her upper arms. The man’s breath was hot against her cheek as he jerked her back against him. She couldn’t move. A cold sheen of sweat broke out over Alaska’s skin as she began to panic in earnest now. A second later, her attacker moved one hand down her arms, and Alaska felt something smooth and heavy lock into place around her wrists. She felt the slight drain to her system immediately. Iron shackles. A black silken sheath slid over her head and she was rendered blind as well. The iron was sapping her magical abilities, but she had the advantage of being a woman who was alone and single. She’d taken self-defense classes at the Y after someone had tried to enter Shifter Falls and attack women. Forcing herself to think past the dread that threatened to overtake her, she struggled to recall her instructor’s words.
Go limp.
She let herself fall, bolstered when her attacker slumped forward with a grunt. Since he couldn’t hold up her full weight, that meant he had to be either a mage or human.

That’s when she heard it, the mumbling of a spell. Mage. Shit. Alaska was a lot of things, but a coward wasn’t one of them. She was a fighter through and through.

Before he could complete the spell, she leaned her head forward as much as she could, then slammed backward with every ounce of strength she had. She heard a satisfying
crunch
and in the next instant she was free—sort of, she thought, clenching her fists against the shackles that bound her. The man’s facial hair had caught in the silk and tugged the hood off when she’d head-butted him, so she could at least see again.

Without looking back, she shouldered her way through the back door and fell out into the alleyway. Her gaze darted left, then right, and she began to run toward where she heard sounds coming from. If she were very lucky, it would be a group of shifters and they could get the scent of her attacker. She prayed.

At the end of the alley, she turned left and raced as fast as her legs would carry her toward the sheriff station. After all, the sheriff knew that Shifter Falls held far more than just humans. Hell, he wasn’t human himself, so he would easily be able to get the cuffs off of her as well. If he was in. It was just after the crack of dawn, so who the hell knew. Ali just had to get to people, because there was always safety in numbers.

****

There were a lot of things that Harley would have preferred to be doing at that ungodly hour of the day. Sleeping in was top of the list, followed closely by reading the paper while enjoying the first cup of coffee from a fresh pot. He would even have accepted a leisurely breakfast at the diner.

Standing outside the sheriff’s office waiting on the tardy fucker was not on the list. Despite the man’s strange and short call, Harley was tempted to blow it off. But his curiosity had been tweaked and that meant he was standing there at the ass crack of dawn twiddling his damn thumbs.

“I should’ve stopped for coffee,” he grumbled under his breath.

Across the way, watching him pace, was an old-timer. The older man was sweeping off his section of the sidewalk in preparation to roll the signs out advertising the barber shop. Jerking his chin up in greeting, Harley turned to pace back up the sidewalk he currently occupied. The old man gave him an odd look before continuing on. If he didn’t know better, Harley would think he had something on his face. Besides his neatly groomed beard, that was.

It was better to ignore the human element in town when they acted weird, much like they ignored the shifters when they got weird. Not that Harley was strange, or he didn’t believe he was. He was a Kodiak and pretty mellow, for the most part. He’d had his moments but really those were in the past and best left there.

He made another turn to stalk back toward and past the sheriff’s station, taking a look at his watch at the same time. Coming to a stop, he curled his lip up in a low snarl no one would hear. The sheriff had called him two hours ago and
still
wasn’t there. “Ten more minutes, Sheriff, and then I don’t give two fucks who you are. I’m going to go get some damn coffee.”

Many would worry about talking to themselves, but Harley didn’t have that problem. He firmly believed that one should always hold a conversation with the most intelligent individual around. Since that was usually him, he talked to himself. And everyone knew that until you started to answer yourself, you were still perfectly sane.

Pacing back and forth, Harley counted off the seconds. He glanced down at his watch, checked the doors and back lot once more to be sure he hadn’t missed the man, then headed for the diner. The place was open twenty-four hours a day, year round, except for Independence Day and Christmas. They also had the best damn coffee around. Some other items on their menu were less stellar, but the black gold was pure heaven.

Double checking the street was clear before stepping off the curb, he made his way quickly across. Not that he thought anyone would actually be out there to run him over. What he didn’t expect was to crash into someone when he turned to head down a side street to the diner.

Stumbling back, he barely caught himself from landing on his ass on the street. A quick shake of his head to clear his mind, and he found the barber smirking his way. Harley gave the man a scowl that did absolutely nothing except amuse him. Rolling his eyes while the old human laughed hysterically, Harley looked around for what, or rather
who
, he’d run into.

A woman, no less. Lush curves, a mouth like a sailor, and her hands bound behind her back. O-kay. That he hadn’t seen coming. He moved to help her up. And she fucking kicked him in the shins.

“For fuck’s sake, woman, be still. I’m only trying to help you up since you are currently doing a fantastic impression of a turtle stuck on his back. But you kick me again and I’ll damn well leave you here.”

When she stilled, he blew out a breath and moved around behind her to hook his hands under her armpits. He lifted her easily to her feet. Then he came back around to get her hair off her face, at which point he recognized her. Well, hell, if it wasn’t the bear-hating baker extraordinaire, Alaska Ceridwen. Like his fucking day could get any worse.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

“Thank God, a shifter. Sniff me, please?” She knew what an odd question that was. People typically didn’t ask a shifter to smell them, but she was hopeful that he would be able to tell who’d attacked her in her own shop. She had been running in fear for so long that she was sure she was going to have a heart attack and fall down dead at his feet. Her hair was still wild and hanging down in her face. She’d never felt such terror in all of her life, and her heart was pounding with her anxiety. When she looked up and saw who she was talking to, she nearly swallowed her own tongue. Harley Ogden. Holy hell. She knew who and what he was. He was a bear. Oh God.

“I was running for the sheriff’s office. Please, help me? Someone cuffed me in iron. If you can’t help me, then I need the sheriff,” she grumbled when he just stood there looking at her. “Look, someone seriously fucking wants me either dead or in their control, so a little help would be much freaking damn appreciated.” She typically didn’t curse like a sailor, but in this instance, Alaska felt that she deserved to say whatever she pleased.

His eyes had narrowed on her before he seemed to work through his internal debate. “The sheriff isn’t around, so you’re shit outta luck there, Alaska. And being snarky with the only person in a twelve-block radius that can help you isn’t too bright either. Turn around. I need to see the cuffs.”

She had no idea where her attacker was. She had thought she heard someone running after her but then there was a strange hissing sound and no more feet running, only hers. She turned around and heard him growling just a bit. She wondered what that was about but ignored it.

“I’m not trying to be snarky but goddammit someone just attacked me in my store. I don’t feel like standing here out in the open and ready to be taken again. The person who tried to take me knows exactly how to null a witch’s natural abilities,” she said, wiggling the iron cuffs on her wrists. She looked over her shoulder at him and blew her hair out of her face. “Thank you, by the way, for picking me up.” She felt his warm, rough fingers checking the cuffs before he grunted and her hands swung out freely. The cuffs themselves were still in place, but he’d snapped the chain. At last, she could roll her shoulders around and relieve that strain.

He took one hand in his and brought the cuff up to where he could lean in for a good look. “We’re going to need tools to break you outta these, Alaska. Someone knew enough to reinforce them to keep a shifter from breaking you loose, at least from the cuffs. Plus I want to get you someplace safe.”

She’d watched him as he’d worked on her cuffs. He was mesmerizing and she almost had to remind herself that she was terrified of bears. Turning once again, he headed off. His strides were longer than before, and she had to run to keep up with him.

When they reached a door, she bent over, hands on knees, and sucked in air. She’d worked out more today than she likely ever had before in her life. Hearing the lock turn, she forced herself upright and made her quivering legs move to follow him inside the auto repair shop. He led the way into the bay, pulled out a stool, and pointed at it before he moved to a tool case he unlocked and began digging through.

She sank onto the stool and looked at him. “You look a lot different than your picture,” she blurted, then ducked her head, feeling her cheeks burn. Why had she just said that? “You look good, I mean—not that your profile pic doesn’t look good, too,” she rushed to explain.

He glanced up at her, a question in his eyes.

“The Shifters-Match site? The dating site Phi runs?” she supplied, confused now.

“The what?” he bellowed. “Did you just say a dating site? For singles?” he asked in a tone that had her wanting to take a dozen steps back.

Alaska nodded. She was looking up at his dark eyes and licked her lips. Good Lord, this man affected her. She was aching for him, literally. She had to admit she’d lusted after him for years but she’d been too afraid to go near him because of the whole him being a bear thing. “But you can’t be mad at Phi, because she just had the baby and you know how overprotective Jagger is over the two of them. Besides, I’m on the site, too, but it seems no one wants a plus-sized baker whose only pastimes are catching up with reality television and cooking.”

His left eyelid began to twitch. He blew out a slow breath that seemed to calm him down.

“I think she might have maybe put all of the eligible bachelors on the site. Some of them wanted to be there. They are generally good guys but apparently not ones that get my motor running or vice versa otherwise they would have contacted me. I mean seriously no one has contacted me.” Alaska took a deep breath.
Shut. Up. Now.

Shaking his head, Harley dragged another stool over, sat down on it, and grabbed a rolling cart to dump the tools he had in hand on it. There was a wide assortment, and other than the screwdriver, she recognized absolutely none of them. “Jesus. I didn’t even know about this site until today. Although me being up there does explain a lot now that I think about it.” He lifted a hand, propped his foot on her stool, and rested her arm on his knee. “Hold the cuff so the lock is up at all times, and we’ll see if my misspent youth helps get you free from these damn things.”

“Well, if it helps me get free of them, then it wasn’t misspent, now was it?” she quipped with a grin and turned her hands so that the locks were up toward him. “And if you mean by the gaggle of women that are following you around, then yep, that would be it. Although I’m sure you have always had that issue. I mean seriously, you are tall, dark, handsome, and wear leather. I bet you even have a tattoo.” She gasped and suddenly brought the cuffs that covered her hands up to her mouth, not paying attention. Son of a bitch.

He caught her hands and tugged them away from her face. “Fucking hell, woman, now you have a fat lip to add to your troubles. I have several tattoos, if we want to get technical, and thank you for the compliment. I think.” The look he was giving her had Ali wondering what was going on yet again. Picking up a couple tools, he stuck a penlight between his teeth and bent to work on the lock.

She watched him work on her cuffs and kept licking her lips. “So, since your profile was pretty much blank what do you like to do?” She hated silence. She was always talking to herself, always moving and doing something. “I know you’re a bear.” Which was weird. She typically was one to shy away from all things bear but she didn’t with him. She instead leaned in to sniff him. “Oh for fuck’s sake,” she muttered to herself. She was sniffing him. What in the ever-loving name of all that was holy was freaking wrong with her?

“Kodiak,” he mumbled around the flashlight. “And the name’s Harley, Harley Ogden. Quit wiggling around, Alaska, this is hard enough to do without the extra movement. It’s been a damn long time since I last picked a lock. Ah, success!” The first cuff snapped open and fell to the floor.

She clenched and unclenched her hand and let out a gratified sigh. “Thank you so much,” she told him and pushed her hair back from her face. “Kodiak, that explains your size.” She reached out and put her hand to his cheek, then realized what she was doing, drawing her hand back quickly. “Sorry. Thank you for freeing, at least, one hand. Iron hurts, a lot.” Her power was starting to return and she was thankful for it. It wasn’t fully back, but it was at least not horrible and she didn’t feel as if she were missing her limbs.

“You’re welcome. Other hand, and sit still.” He leaned in when she propped her arm up on his knee but stopped when a phone rang. Groaning, he moved back and dug a cell from his pocket. “What? Well, isn’t that fucking fabulous for you. I was there for over two hours, freezing my ass off waiting for you. I don’t care. I was going for coffee and ran into someone, literally. Yes, they’re still alive, you jackass. Matter of fact, get over to the shop and take her statement. She had herself a run-in with someone who intended her harm. Well, the iron cuffs on her wrists were a damn good clue, actually, and I’m not even a trained law enforcement type like yourself. Bring coffee,” he ordered before hanging up.

She was snickering when he hung up. “Yeah, I swear I think sometimes the sheriff knows what’s going to happen before it happens and he’s either there to make it stop, or he steps away and lets it happen.” She saw his look and shrugged. “He’s got magic in him as well as being a shifter, you know. Could be he knew that you would be able to help me faster than he could?” Either that or the man was playing matchmaker, which wouldn’t work. Not that Alaska wasn’t game for it, but Harley had done nothing but grumble and growl at her since she’d run into him.

“If he’s playing matchmaker, I’ll kick his ass to the next county, one solid punt. He’ll never even see it coming. Hold the cuff.” Flashlight back between his teeth, he hunched forward to work the second lock. He cursed at one point and changed position slightly to go at it a little differently. It took a bit longer than the first cuff but soon enough it, too, fell to the floor and she was free. Free!

She felt a little sick to her stomach. If the sheriff was matchmaking, Harley was obviously having nothing of it. Then again, why would he? She was a big girl and had never been very sociable, so yeah. “Well, I’m sure that if that’s what he’s doing, he will apologize. He couldn’t have known that it would be me running into you, so cut him some slack.” She flexed her hands and sighed. “I need to wash them now to get all traces of iron off. Do you have a bathroom anywhere close that I can use?”

He gave her another look that confused her and stood. “Yeah, in the employee area. Come on,” he said, holding out a hand to her. Ali was torn between taking it and ignoring it. She couldn’t seem to get a solid read on Harley, and everything he did only made it worse.

She placed her hand in his and felt a shiver go up and down her body from her toes to her hair and back down again. Holy shit, this man was potent. She couldn’t speak. Heck, she couldn’t even move. For a moment, she just stood there looking at him.

Tugging on her hand, he led her through the offices and a door marked
employees only
. He pushed another door open and she saw a row of lockers. “Through there.” He waved to an open door. “I’m going to go unlock the door for the sheriff. Are you okay on your own for a couple minutes?”

“I am, thank you again.” She looked back at him, then turned back to the bathroom. “Go, I’ll be okay. I seriously doubt that anyone could get in here to get to me.” At least, she hoped not. Most businesses were warded against mages to keep them from popping in and out and stealing from them.

“Not without going through me,” he said quietly. “Even if they did, unless they know where they are going in here they’ll end up making one hell of a racket. You’d hear them coming from a mile off. When you’re done, meet us in the reception area. Hopefully, he didn’t think I was kidding about the coffee. Fucker dragged me outta bed and I haven’t even had any yet. I cannot function without coffee,” he mumbled, leaving her to clean up.

A few minutes later, when she walked into the reception area, she saw Harley from behind and the sheriff as well. She waved. “Hello, Sheriff.” Moving to Harley’s side, she accepted the coffee that the sheriff passed her. She took the only seat that was there between the sheriff and Harley. Alaska had to walk away from the Kodiak because he was affecting her on a cellular level and if she didn’t walk away now, she might not be able to walk away from him later, and that would be embarrassing. She didn’t beg. Even if it meant being alone, she refused to beg.

“Harley here says you’ve had some trouble. Care to expand on his apparently limited word selection this morning?”

She heard a growl from her other side but when she threw Harley a look he was nursing his coffee like it was a lifeline. He glanced up to catch her eye and winked while taking another sip.

“I had just finished baking the muffins for the kids’ class trip this morning and was in the kitchen, playing around with a new recipe.” She then felt herself blushing by how hot her cheeks got. “I was kind of dancing around singing into my spatula with my earbuds in, so I didn’t even hear them coming in. Next thing I know, there are iron cuffs on me and a black silk bag over my head. I couldn’t fight with magic, so instead I head-butted him since he was behind me. He had a scruffy beard, because it tugged the silk off. After that, I started to run as fast as I could to get away from there. Then I plowed into Harley here. Sorry again about that. I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

The sheriff coughed, dribbling coffee on himself.

“I think I can handle a little ball of fluff like yourself running into me. You’re the one that landed ass first on the pavement and without your hands able to break your fall. You definitely should get looked over.”

She snorted. “I have more than enough padding to be okay,” she told him. She took another sip of the coffee, then sighed. “I was hoping that I ran into a shifter so that I could get you to smell me and maybe catch a scent of whoever it was that grabbed me.”

“There was no scent but your own,” Harley told her. “Woman and baked goods, nothing else. Well, there was something else, but being an occasional gentleman I decided not to mention it. Took me a while to figure it out since the situation didn’t seem to call for that particular aroma.”

Alaska’s mouth dropped open, and she squirmed as the full impact of Harley’s words sank in. He could smell her arousal. Well, she figured, forcing herself to meet his gaze and refusing to feel embarrassed, he was a bear—of course he could scent her.

“I don’t even want to know what you two are babbling about,” the sheriff said. He was staring down at his phone. “Sorry to tell you this, Alaska. I had one of my deputies head over to your shop after Harley gave me his extremely short rundown. I just got word that the shop is in one hell of a mess. We’re going to need you to go through and give us an inventory of damages and cost to add to the file.”

BOOK: The Kodiak's Mate (Shifters-Match.com Book 2)
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