Authors: Marissa Dobson
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Martinsburg, West Virginia
Copyright ©2015, Marissa Dobson
Edited by Rosa Sophia
Proofed by Brynna Curry & Teresa Riley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to actual person—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Sunshine Press. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Alaskan Tigers: Book Nine
To my readers, who have loved the Alaskan Tigers series as much as I do. Styx has always been one of my favorites. He’s still coming to terms with his past and his future has many twists and turns. There’s still so much more to his story than just this book.
To my husband, who took Pup Cameron out of my office and played with him when I needed to work. For Pup Cameron who eventually realized Mommy couldn’t play all the time.
To my amazing team. Teresa Riley, Rosa Sophia, Brynna Curry, and Allyson Brann. Each of you are amazing. Thank you for all your hard work.
Finally to my street team, Marissa’s Dreamweavers, you are all marvelous. I hope you enjoy Styx and Mira’s story.
Styx has a mission. He’s chasing after a woman who’s on the run from a vindictive Alpha. His skills as an assassin will aid him in finding her, and then he can get her somewhere safe.
Mira’s intentions have been exposed: she’s a secret supporter of the Alaskan Tigers. Now she has to run for her life. She never thought wanting a better future for shifters would cost her so much. She has lost her clan and her family, but her decisions have brought her someone she wasn’t expecting—
Styx believes he’s undeserving of a mate, and is having difficulty coming to terms with his former life as an assassin. No matter how much he’s done for the Alaskan Tigers, he doesn’t believe his mate would be able to overlook his past. Choices. Life is full of them, and those choices are what bring two mates together. It could also be what tears them apart.
At thirty-thousand feet in the air, Styx rose to his feet and searched the maps of Washington D.C., doing his best to get a firm idea of the city before they landed. Somehow, in a city of over a half a million residents and countless others who traveled into the city for work, he was supposed to find one tigress who was on the run with a bounty on her head. Easy, right? He doubted it.
They weren’t even sure if she was still there. One lone transmission to the shifter forum was all they had to go on. Trey, one of the Kodiak Bears, had traced the origin of the message, so that was their starting point. He hoped that even in the midst of all the people here, he’d be able to catch the scent of the tigress. If not, it was going to make his job even harder.
Turbulence bounced the plane, sending him sidestepping until he grabbed hold of a table to keep himself upright. His stomach rolled and he swore if he looked in a mirror, he’d have a green tinge to his skin. “Damn it, Theodore, keep this damn plane still.”
“Is the big tiger scared of a little turbulence?” The youngest of the Brown brothers, Theodore, called out from the cockpit with a chuckle.
“You’re the one who put me back here surrounded by this furniture. The idea of turbulence shaking this stuff loose and falling on me isn’t my idea of a fun night.” He tried to hide the fact he hated to fly. Being shoved in a tin box with wings as they flew thousands of miles in the air had never given him comfort. If the ride was smooth, he was able to keep it out of his mind, but add in some bumps and there was no way he’d forget they could fall out of the sky with little warning.
“We’ll do what we have to in D.C.,” Theodore said. “Then we’ll take this to Jinx and Summer in West Virginia. After that, you’ll have the rest of the plane to yourself. Well, unless we find that tigress ourselves.”
. We’ll find her and get her somewhere safe.” More turbulence rocked the plane, sending Styx two steps to the right before he was able to gain control. “Less chit-chat and more flying,” he bitched through gritted teeth.
He tried to turn his attention back to the maps before him, but it was no use. There was nothing new on them, no clue as to where the tigress would have gone. Maps didn’t tell him where he’d go if he were in her shoes. Only being there, getting into her mindset, would do that. He had spent many years tracking down shifters, years he’d rather not remember. He’d do it again, but this time for a good cause. There would be no blood or death, at least he hoped not, and if there were, then it wouldn’t be him causing it.
He knew what others thought of him—a ruthless assassin—but he had only done what he was ordered to do. He wasn’t proud of it, but he had made the world a little safer by eliminating those who were a danger to others. Now, as the second in command of the guards for Bethany—the mate of the Alaskan Tigers’ Lieutenant—he was making up for the nasty things he did in his past.
Working with Shadow—the Captain of Bethany’s Guards—and Bethany had brought out a better part of him. He wanted to do more than just kill to keep their world safe. He wanted to find the same kind of love Bethany and Raja shared.
All the years he had been traveling on missions, he had never found the
, and some days he wondered if he ever would. Maybe due to his crimes against others in his past, he would be punished. Maybe he would never find his mate.
Turbulence once again rocked the plane from side to side, sending him toward the row of seats. “I’m going to end up with two broken legs if you keep this up.”
“Take a seat, it’s going to get rough,” Theodore hollered, but Styx had already plopped down on the only row of seats in the plane and begun to buckle himself in.
With an unsupportive tiger clan in D.C., there was a good chance they’d run into some enemies as he searched for the tigress, so he needed to be in top form. That meant no broken bones from Theodore’s flying. He let his head fall back against the stiff seat and tried to get into the tigress’s mind. He wanted to keep the trip to the capitol as short as possible. Less time equaled less of a chance to run into any of the clan members who had been sent out to hunt the tigress.
The Washington D.C. Tigers might be one of the smallest clans to hold out on committing to Tabitha as Queen of the Tigers, but that didn’t make them any less of a threat. The Washington D.C. Tigers were made up of mostly men. Some would consider them a group of tigers no other clan wanted. For a moment, he wondered if he would’ve joined them if the Alaskan Tigers hadn’t taken him in. Most of the Washington D.C. Tigers had an extensive history of causing problems with other clans and even humans. It made sense to Styx that he might’ve gotten stuck with them. He considered himself lucky.
Tabitha’s rule over all tigers would put a stop to this sort of thing. They might hold out now, but eventually they’d be seen as too big of a threat to be left alone. The only reason they hadn’t been considered a high risk yet was because of Randolph and his gang of rogue shifters. One day, it would be safe for all tigers under Tabitha’s rule, and eventually all shifters. They’d see to it.
No matter the danger, he was proud to be a part of it. It not only gave him a chance to make up for his past, but it would make their world a safer place once Tabitha had completed the prophecies. Future shifter generations would grow up in a world that accepted their species. They’d no longer have to worry about being hunted down, or having to keep their secret hidden. One day, shifters and humans would live side by side in harmony. At least, they could hope.
He longed to see that day. Though, knowing he played a part in it made all the difference to him. It didn’t matter that his part was small. It only mattered he was making up for his sins by changing the world into a more positive place for future generations of tigers. The future was what mattered, and Tabitha still had a lot left to do before the prophecies were complete.
He glanced out the window just as the first specks of lights from D.C. were beginning to shine through the clouds. They were like diamonds in the dark, reminding him just how big the city was. This was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. One tigress in a herd of people was going to be nearly impossible.
Find her scent. It will lead you right to her,
he reminded himself. It wasn’t like he hadn’t done this before. He had been chosen for this mission because of his past. If anyone could find her, it was him. He wasn’t just known among his kind for being an assassin, but also for being the best tracker. It had been a while since he’d done this type of work, but one never forgets. It was like shifting. The knowledge was still there.
“We’ll be landing in a few, and there’s an SUV standing by for us, so figure out where you want to head,” Theodore called back to him as the plane started its decent.
“We’ll go to the transmission location and start there.” One question remained unanswered. What was she doing in Foggy Bottom? Was it special to her? Or was she sticking close to the tourists, trying to blend in? The metro area would have been busy, and there’d have been plenty of places to hide there, even at the time of night she’d sent her cry for help.
She must have figured it would be harder to find her and kill her in D.C. because of all the people, but by going there, she was also putting civilians as risk. It made the situation that much more urgent. If the hit man from her clan found her, others could get caught in the middle. It was a mess they’d have a hard time cleaning up, especially if any of them shifted. The government didn’t know their species existed, and that’s how they wanted to keep it.
When the plane came to a stop on the runway, he shot up, and gathered the maps and papers that he had laid out on one of the tables. Desperate to get out of this tin box, he shoved everything in his bag.
“Stop lumbering around back there and give me a minute to shut her down. I want to fill her up with gas as well before we leave, in case we have to leave in a hurry.”
Styx stifled a growl. He was anxious to begin the search. Waiting a few extra minutes while the plane was prepared for their return flight wouldn’t make much of a difference now, especially if it could save their lives if things went downhill later.
“I’ve got to check my phone, and I’ll warm up the SUV,” he replied.
Anything to get off this damn thing.
He slung the bag over his shoulder and headed for the exit, just as the engines shut down. He tugged the handle and the door opened, giving him a small set of stairs to descend.
At the foot of the steps he paused and let the cool winter air wash over him. Even the freezing temperatures didn’t stop him from enjoying the fresh, crisp air. He slipped his phone from his pocket and powered it up. The minute the screen lit up, the phone vibrated in his hand announcing a text message from Ty.
The text at the bottom was a location. Translating now. May take some time.
A location? He pulled up the transmission that the forum had received from the woman but he still couldn’t make heads or tails of the last line. According to Ty’s message, it was some kind of code that would lead them to her location. He stared at the text, but it wasn’t any code that he was aware of. Nevertheless, if his Alpha said it was a location, then there was no doubt about it. Hopefully, it would lead them to her, because other than tracking a scent, he had no way to locate her. No description or name. He was truly on a wild goose chase—or maybe that should be
wild tigress chase
. The only thing that might make her scent stand out was fear. If she controlled herself enough to mask that, then he was in dire straits.
Along with the Washington D.C. Tigers, there might be other shifters who had traveled there for vacation, tourism, or just work. Any tigress scent he caught from the location of the transmission might be hers, or it might not be. He could spend the next several hours running down false leads, instead of actually tracking the woman he was after.
He tossed his things into the back and climbed into the driver’s seat. His mind worked through the codes that he’d learned as an assassin, but none of them fit with that last line. It just didn’t make sense. He’d studied every code that was out there. He might not know them all, but he knew enough about the different ones to recognize something. This was total gibberish. Where did Ty come up with it? It was just another question that was going to have to wait until his Alpha called him. He’d do his job, and when the Elders had information that would help him, they’d contact him.
He glanced at his watch and noticed it was later than he’d thought. The tourists were already tucked in bed at their hotels for the night, or exploring the nightlife the city had to offer, not down in Foggy Bottom helping her stay hidden.
I hope you found somewhere to hide. Stay safe. Help is on the way.
* * *
Darkness had fallen hours before, leaving behind a completely different D.C. than the one Mira remembered from her visit here years ago. It seemed like every bump in the night held danger, and every passerby seemed more sinister now than hours before. Exhaustion had settled into her muscles long ago, but she forced herself to keep going. Someone would come to help her. If she could just hang on a little longer, she’d get out of this nightmare.
The message she’d sent to the forum would lead them to her. Well, not actually to her, but to a location that would hold another message on how to meet her. She needed to get higher, somewhere that would allow her to observe the bench where she’d left the message. If only she knew when they’d arrive. Her visions couldn’t give her useful information like that. All she could see was that help would arrive at that bench sometime when only stars were scattered through the black of the sky. It might be tonight, or tomorrow, or maybe it wouldn’t be for days, but all she could do was wait. There was nowhere she could go. If help didn’t arrive, she was on her own, and she wouldn’t live long alone.
A man with a tuneless whistle was heading in her direction. He didn’t smell like a shifter, but he could be part of a trap. She slinked farther into the alley, hoping to keep her presence a secret. Then she could move on. She fingered the hilt of the knife she’d shoved into the waistband of her jeans. It wouldn’t be enough to stop a shifter, but it might give her a chance to escape.
“Hey, darling.” The guy was heading directly for her now, his words slurred. He reeked of booze. “Whatya doing…in a place like this? You come home with me. I’ve got somewhere warm you can stay. I’ll give you some of this, and you’ll never want to leave.” He wiggled his hips, trying to interest her.
He was harmless. Drunk son of a bitch was just looking to get laid, but he was barking up the wrong tree. Even if he didn’t reek of booze, and Heaven only knows what else, she didn’t have time to get her groove on with some asshole.
“Thanks for the offer, man, but you go on home. I’m waiting for someone.”
“He won’t be as…good as I am.” But the man staggered farther down the alley, leaving her in peace. “You’ll miss out on something amazing.”
“I’ve no doubt.” To her surprise, she was able to keep the sarcastic tone from her voice. To put distance between her and the drunk, she forced herself from the safety of the alley. She needed to find somewhere else, preferably somewhere where the neighborhood drunks and homeless wouldn’t stumble on her and proposition her again. She didn’t have the energy to waste on whooping their asses.