Authors: T. E. Ridener
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Werewolves & Shifters
one of The Kadenburg Shifters Series
©T.E. Ridener, 2014
stories are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are
either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This book contains material protected under
International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint
or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced
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without express written permission from the author.
There are so many people I wish to thank for
their generosity, inspiration, and kind words during the making of this book.
To my double J’s, thank you for being my favorite
muses in the world. Thank you for believing in me and keeping my imagination
alive. I love you.
To Barb, thank you for always pushing me to do my
best and for never letting me give up.
To James, thank you for your help in figuring out
the geographical location of Kadenburg, your endless knowledge on search &
rescue tactics, and for being such a vehicle enthusiast. Oh, and for being an
awesome big brother!
To Steve, thank you for reading each chapter as
it was written, and for being such a fan of my shifters.
To Daisy, Sam, Megan, Pam, Shellie, Lindsay, Sarah,
CL, Ashley, Lauren, and every beta reader that took the time to read my story.
To Justin, Dave, Courtney, and Annie for your
contributions on GoFundMe. I appreciate it more than you can ever know. Thank
you so much.
To my fans and readers, I do what I do for you.
Your excitement makes me excited. Your curiosity for the next story keeps me
going. I don’t know where I would be without your encouragement and support.
You are the best fans in the world. Thank you! Xx
there was nothing sweet about Kadenburg, Tennessee. Presley had learned
that within the first four years of moving to the tiny town that tried so
desperately to be as significant as other cities like Gatlinburg and Knoxville. It
just wasn’t going to happen. God, she hated it. She hated that
she even had to come back, but then again, she wasn’t left with any other
When Presley left three years prior, she had been confident she’d never have
to look back. Her days of living in a small country bumpkin town
were over and she was moving on to bigger and better things. What a
joke. Her boyfriend Tim had tossed a wrench into her long term plans and
now she had to get back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, that drawing
board resided in her uncle’s house, and as she pulled into the driveway, she
had to take a minute to gather her composure.
“Okay,” she spoke softly as she glanced at her reflection through the rearview
mirror. “This isn’t a big deal. Lots of young adults move back home
from time to time and that’s okay. It’s not your fault Tim was an
asshole. You won’t be here for long, so just smile and make the best of
She tried to force a small smile as her bottom lip began to quiver and she let
out a frustrated sigh. She was done crying. It wasn’t worth crying
What’s done is done,
she thought to
herself. She couldn’t change the past even if she wanted to.
Presley’s grip tightened around the handle of her suitcase as she made her way
up the old, unstable steps of the front porch and then let her luggage hit the
floor with a heavy thud. She lifted her hand to knock and was surprised
when the door swung open before her fist could make contact.
“I’ll be damned. You actually made it,” the tall, lanky man grinned as he
crossed his arms over his chest. He had green eyes that were a shade
darker than Presley’s, and the family resemblance was noticeable, too.
They both had the same button-like nose.
“Hi, Uncle Arnold,” Presley said, stepping back as the screen door was pushed
open and familiar arms squeezed around her body. It felt nice to be
Arnold Goult was the only family Presley really had. Her mom had sent her
to stay with Arnold when she was two, seemingly deciding it was more fun to act
like a teenager for the rest of her life and forfeit all responsibilities as a
parent. Uncle Arnold had done his best to raise her right and sometimes
Presley regretted being such a little hellion during her youth.
“Yeah, traffic wasn’t too bad,” Presley replied as she gave him an awkward pat
on the back. How could he be so happy to see her after the things she’d
said on that night? She had been so stupid and she said a lot of things
she knew she couldn’t take back. She was surprised he even agreed to let
her come back. If she was in his shoes, she wouldn’t have.
“I don’t reckon traffic’s ever bad once you make it past Knoxville,” Arnold
leaned down to grab her suitcase, bringing it inside for her as he continued
talking. “I washed the sheets and put them back on your bed for you.”
He kept her bed? She had been pretty positive that he would
have sold everything in her room once she left.
She followed him down the short hallway of the single story house, stopping
right behind him as he swung the door open to her old bedroom. She could
see the faded pink ‘P’ that was still stuck to her door. Upon further
investigation, Presley discovered her room was exactly as she had left
it. Every boy band poster was still in place and the books on her shelf
were still alphabetized.
“I’ll let you get settled in,” Arnold nodded as he patted her shoulder, giving
a gentle squeeze. “Welcome home, Presley.”
Presley watched him leave before turning her attention back to her room.
So this was it. At twenty six years of age, she was back in her old room
in her uncle’s house. She was unemployed, newly single, and teetering on
the edge of a mental breakdown. Would she survive it?
A hot shower and two hours later, Presley found herself in the familiar setting
of Nana Hettie’s Diner. It was the closest thing to a McDonald’s Kadenburg
would ever have. They hadn’t even moved up enough in the real world to
receive a Wal-Mart, and Presley doubted they ever would.
“So what happened with that guy?” Arnold asked as he dipped a French fry into
his small tub of ketchup. He glanced up at her as he bit into it, chewing
slowly as he waited for her answer.
Presley sighed, dropping her gaze to her plate as she wondered briefly if her
uncle had ever heard of avoiding certain topics such as a break up. She
rested her hands in her lap as she shrugged her shoulders. “It’s
Arnold let out a low breath as he frowned. He shook his head as he picked
up his cheeseburger with both hands, biting into it and chewing as he gazed at
her thoughtfully. “Well, I’m a pretty smart guy,” he managed to say
despite the fact his cheeks were puffing out from the amount of food in
them. “I’m sure I can keep up with the twists and turns.”
Presley’s lips were curving into a frown as she lowered her gaze to the burger
on the plate before her. She hadn’t exactly gone into detail about
broke up with her, but the situation was pretty messed up. She could
barely make herself believe it, let alone anyone else.
“He was just a jerk,” she finally murmured as she picked up her burger and
stared at it.
“Lots of guys are jerks, Pretzel,” he commented. “I wasn’t exactly
Casanova growing up.”
Presley’s eyes moved to his when he used the childhood nickname and it made her
smile her first genuine smile in weeks. She nodded in agreement but
decided not to encourage the current conversation. She preferred to move
on. It was the only choice she had.
After an awkward silence had enveloped the pair, Uncle Arnold excused himself
to go to the restroom and Presley was left alone to mull over her
thoughts. It was the worst thing that could happen. She didn’t trust
her mind at the moment. She wasn’t sure she could handle the conclusions
her brain would come up with.
wasn’t your fault,
she reminded herself.
It happens to a
lot of people and none of them had done anything to deserve it.
was growing increasingly frustrated with herself as she reached over to
straighten the salt and pepper shaker, anything to keep from thinking too
much. And just as if the keepers of fate were listening, the small chime
above the door signaled a new customer, causing her to look up.
There were a lot of delicious looking male specimens produced from the hills of
Tennessee, but they hardly compared to the Bamey Boys. Presley had gone
to school with both of them. Lorcan was two years ahead of her, and Liam
was two years ahead of him, but they had all ridden the same bus to and
from school. Presley always thought that they both deserved to be in high
school because they’d always been so much bigger than the rest of the kids
during grade school.
Lorcan was extremely tall. He had to lower down a bit to get through the
doorway in order to keep from hitting his head. He had broad shoulders
and his shirt strained across his chest, the material tight against his
frame. His biceps were probably bigger than her head, but Presley
imagined she’d have to be close enough to him to test that theory. He was
massive in every way, just like his brother and their father.
The Bamey men all shared the same dark, shaggy hair and chocolate eyes.
Mr. Bamey’s was more grey than black, but Presley imagined when he was younger
he probably looked a lot like Lorcan and Liam. They were
exceptionally attractive and could have easily landed jobs as models.
Presley couldn’t wrap her head around why they lingered in this place. It
didn’t make any sense. She’d only been able to escape because of Tim, but
when he found out that her body didn’t function as a woman’s should, he sent
her straight back to her one horse town.
think about it,
she warned herself as she curled her fingers around
the wad of napkins in her hand.
You’re only going to cause
yourself more pain.
Her emerald eyes stayed on Lorcan in hopes for a distraction, watching as he
leaned over the counter to talk to Nana Hettie. The old woman was blushing
and giggling up a storm and Presley had to wonder if she even realized Lorcan
was young enough to be her grandchild. It was a pretty disturbing
thing to witness.
“Are you done eating?” Uncle Arnold asked as he approached the
table. He was tugging his wallet from his back pocket to retrieve some
money in order to pay for their meal, but his eyes were on her as she gazed up
“Oh,” Presley blinked. She glanced back at her plate and frowned at how
little she’d actually eaten. She normally had a very healthy appetite but
that all changed the week before. No one could really expect her to eat
after what had happened anyway.
“I’ve got some deer jerky at home you’re welcome to snack on if you get hungry
later,” Uncle Arnold offered as he tossed a few dollar bills onto the
table. He waited for her to get up and then they approached the register
together, which meant she was standing right behind Lorcan.
did Lorcan grow into the jolly Green Giant?
Presley pondered as she tilted
her head back to look up at him. He was still engaged in his conversation
with Hettie. Were they really talking about her crocheting techniques?
As they waited their turn, Presley’s eyes roamed over his broad shoulders,
slowly lowering to the back of his shirt. The material was so tight at
that moment she could make out the muscles moving beneath it as he
shifted. It was only when her eyes decided to drop to his rear that she
had to force herself to look somewhere else;
Uncle Arnold’s chuckle caught her off guard and Presley glanced at him in
horrified realization that his laughter had caused Lorcan to look their way.
“Presley? Is that you?”
The rumble of his rich baritone made the blood in Presley’s veins heat
up like liquid lava. She could feel the scorch searing through her as she
turned her head to look at him. “Oh, Lorcan,” she smiled. “I didn’t see
Liar. You can’t miss him.
Lorcan’s handsome face
lit up as he gave her a smile and she could see the perfect white teeth he
possessed. He hadn’t changed very much since the last time she’d seen
him. Well, no. That was a lie. He’d grown significantly
And hot. When did he get hot?
“I didn’t know you were back,” Lorcan stated excitedly as he turned his
attention away from Nana Hettie to gaze at Presley. “I heard you moved
off and got married to some fancy pants banker in Jacksonville.”
“You heard that?” Presley asked quizzically. She gave a small roll of her
eyes as she shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “He actually
worked at a Shell station and we weren’t married. He was just my
“Oh,” Lorcan laughed lightly as he licked his lips. “Well, you know how
fast the truth gets twisted when going from mouth to mouth in this town.”
“Yeah,” Presley nodded in agreement. “I remember all too well.” Her
eyes immediately moved to Nana Hettie and the old woman quickly averted her
gaze elsewhere. “So where’s Liam?”
The grin that had previously lingered on Lorcan’s face faded almost
instantly and Presley felt dread pooling in the pit of her stomach.
She’d said something wrong, hadn’t she?
“Liam passed away a few weeks ago,” Lorcan nodded as he shifted his weight from
one foot to the other.
“Oh my god, Lorcan,” Presley gasped as her eyes widened. One hand flew up
to cover her mouth as her cheeks began to grow hot. “I-I didn’t know.”
“No, no,” Lorcan shook his head. “It’s okay, Presley. How could you have
known? You haven’t been here.”
Presley bit at her lower lip to keep from bursting into tears. Liam had
been one of the nicer guys at school. He never bullied anybody else or
made them feel inferior. He was just kind, and always leant a
helping hand to those in need. It felt so surreal that he was gone.
“Hey, Lorcan,” Uncle Arnold said as he moved his hand out towards the taller
male. “How’s your mom doing?”
“She’s still taking it pretty hard,” Lorcan replied as his fingers wrapped
around Arnold’s in a firm shake. “She has her moments, but I think it
will get a little easier with time.”
“You know what they say; time heals all wounds.” Arnold offered as
he glanced towards Presley. “Are you ready to go?”