Read Desert Blood (The Wolves of Twin Moon Ranch Book 2) Online
Authors: Anna Lowe
The Wolves of Twin Moon Ranch
by Anna Lowe
Copyright 2015 by Anna Lowe
Cover art by Fiona Jayde Media
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental.
Other books in this series:
Desert Moon (
Desert Wolf (
a short story
Desert Blood (Book 2)
Desert Fate (
Desert Heart (
Desert Hunt (
She’s on the run…into the arms of forbidden love.
Heather Luth knows nothing about the paranormal world until one awful night changes everything. Now she’s on the run—straight into the arms of forbidden love. Her mind knows better than to fall for Cody Hawthorne’s sunny smile and mesmerizing voice, but her heart—and destiny—have other ideas.
On the surface, Cody is warm, witty, and fun, but beneath his carefree facade, Heather sees a real man struggling to break free. Day by day, Heather and Cody grow closer and closer, unable to resist their simmering passion—while day by day, a serial murderer closes in on his prey. Duty fights desire; fear wrestles trust as the human world clashes with the paranormal in a tale of forbidden love.
Fleeing wasn’t the hard part; knowing when to stop was. But how far was far enough? How fast?
Heather didn’t know. All she cared about was getting away. Red-eyed and bleary, stretched beyond exhaustion, she drove until the thick woods and hills of the East gave way to the infinite landscape of the West, with no plan but to get away from the beast who lusted after her blood.
She nearly rushed through this barren landscape entirely, a mere blip on a map she had long since given up on following. But from one mile to the next, the frantic urge to run was replaced by a warm, safe sensation, as if she’d flipped a shower tap from icy cold to blissfully hot. She let her dusty orange VW roll to a stop on the side of the road then got out and turned in a slow circle, scanning the scene. What was it about this place?
The sun rose boldly over the high altitude desert, highlighting a razorback horizon wrinkled by time. A pale crescent moon hung low over the hills, dripping pale pink light on the brush below. All of it was perfumed by sage and pine, beargrass and buttercup. The grandeur of the scene spoke of time—eons of it, whispering on a breath of wind.
This. This was the place. Even with her eyes closed, she could feel the rightness of it. This place would become her home.
A falcon wheeled overhead, and its sharp cry split the air. Heather blinked, snapping herself back to reality. Wait—there was no home. There was only escape. But for now, this would have to do. No use in running blindly any more. She needed to make a plan, to think things through.
She forced in a deep breath and tried to take stock. Cash was getting low, and she was afraid to use a card because that could be traced, right? And the man who’d attacked her—the monster who’d attacked her—was capable of anything.
She ran her hands over her arms, trying to still a shiver. She needed a plan. Soon.
No, she needed a plan right now. But what?
Work. A safe place. Those were the priorities. She needed to find work and lay low in a place as far off the beaten track as she could find.
A place like this.
She scanned the open, unfenced scrubland that no one seemed to claim as their own. What kind of teaching job would she ever find in the desert? Teaching was all she’d ever done, all she ever wanted to do.
But this wasn’t about wanting. This was about survival. She could wait tables, clean floors, whatever it took.
She took one more look around and nodded, making up her mind. If nothing else, this place was fitting. It was open, endless, and brutally honest. Death might be hovering out on the fringes, but at least it couldn’t sneak up on her here.
In her first decisive action since fleeing Pittsburgh, she slid back into the car, reached past the empty coffee cups on the passenger side floor, and dug out the map she hadn’t checked since Texas. Where was she, exactly? Somewhere in Arizona—that much she knew. But where?
She glanced up at the scenery, down at the map, and up again. There’d been a town a couple of miles back, and that was as good a place to start as any. She gunned the engine to life and turned the car around. Twenty miles later, she was there: a tiny no-name town on the fringes of a slightly bigger, no-name town.
Heather checked into a motel that was only marginally less dusty than her car, slept thirty-six hours straight, then pulled herself together, one frayed thread at a time. A friendly waitress at a diner got her started with a phone book and a few names. It took dozens of calls, but within a couple of days, she found a tiny bungalow to rent on the edge of town and a job—a teaching job, even. A one-room schoolhouse on a lonely outpost of a ranch had a last-minute opening. In the interview, Heather rattled off her qualifications then rushed through the reason she’d left her job in Pennsylvania so abruptly.
“A stalker,” she said. That was as close to the truth as she dared utter aloud.
It was enough—she got the job.
“It’s only for two months,” said Lana, the woman from the ranch. “Until our regular teacher comes back from emergency family leave.”
“Two months is perfect.” She’d catch her breath, earn a little cash, and then move on. Because sooner or later, the beast who hunted her would come looking. That much she knew.
The schoolhouse was a slanted old adobe, full of charm, if a little run-down, and the job was a bucking bronco, determined to pitch her off. But Heather was just as determined to hang on to this one scrap of sanity within her reach, even if it was the teaching challenge of her life. Eleven students, spread through all grades—from emerging readers to rowdy fifth graders. It took two bouncy weeks for her to convince that bronc to finally let her take the reins, but she did it. She found reserves of patience she didn’t know she had, spent hours prepping lessons, and fell into bed exhausted each night. But she did it.
Once the kids settled into a new routine, everything got easier. Mornings were quieter, afternoons smoother. Right now, the kids were at their learning stations in pairs, working quietly while Heather went over essay writing with two third-graders.
A shriek drew her attention to the back of the schoolhouse, and she looked up then ducked on instinct. Something swept straight over her head, brushing her hair. Becky was screaming; Timmy was pointing. The room erupted into noise as the other kids joined in with high-pitched squeals that resounded off the walls.
“A bat! A bat!”
It made another pass, and Heather swiped the air over her head.
“Miss Luth! Miss Luth! A bat!”
She followed the silky black form until it perched on a high shelf. A tiny, pink tongue darted out and lapped at the air between them. She could swear its beady eyes were studying her. Something about the bat seemed…evil. She held back a shudder and forced herself into action. “Timmy, get me a towel!”
For once, Timmy did as he was told. Heather approached the bat, towel in hand, kids cheering her on.
“Get it, Miss Luth! Get it!”
“Be careful, Miss Luth!”
Telling herself it was only a bat—one little bat—she lunged, but the bat was a step ahead, weaving and diving around the classroom. The noise level surged to a new peak, like a boxing arena at the first sight of blood.
“Everything okay?” A voice came from the doorway, completely unperturbed. It was soothing, like the sound of waves over a smooth, sandy shore. The voice warmed her from the inside even before she spun and spotted the newcomer.
“Cody! Cody!” the children cried.
Heather’s stomach did a flip. It was him. The one she’d noticed around the ranch. The one she couldn’t
The ranch seemed to be a breeding ground for gorgeous men, but this one was in a class of his own. Lean, blond, relaxed. Most of the others came in the strong-but-silent, earthy category, but this one should be bobbing on a surfboard, wiping salt water out of his eyes. He seemed in no hurry whatsoever, as if today was just another great day of many.
The kids whipped themselves into a new frenzy, pointing at the bat, high on another shelf.
“Cody! A bat! A bat!” Timmy jumped up and down on his desk, and a panicked Becky threw herself into the man’s arms. He scooped her up and patted her back while Timmy shouted. “I saw it first! I saw it first!”
“Timmy, sit down!” Heather shot him her best teacher look.
Cody whispered to Becky, bringing a smile back to her face. Then he pointed at Timmy, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Do I know you?”
That voice could soothe a thousand wailing babies. She wanted to wrap it around her like a blanket.
“Cody! It’s me, Timmy!”
He looked at the boy then right into Heather’s eyes. Her heart skipped a beat. “I swear I don’t know this child.”
“Cody!” Timmy protested.
The man tousled Timmy’s hair and lowered Becky back to her seat. Then he stepped up to Heather, eyes utterly, unfailingly devoted to hers. She caught a breath and held it. He’d never been this close before. Never done anything but wave a friendly hello from across the way. She’d had to force herself away every time because the urge to stop and talk—to look, to get closer, maybe even to touch—was damn near impossible to resist.
Now he was inches away. Big, broad—but not too much of either. Just right. The nick in one ear was the only part of him that wasn’t perfect. She caught his scent, and it was an ocean breeze gone walkabout in the desert.
She gave herself an inner slap. No, no, no! Men were not to be trusted. Not ever again.
Not even this one?
a small voice in her cried.
Especially not this one!
came the slamming reply.
“Cody, get the bat!” the kids urged. “Get it! Get it!” Pandemonium once again.
A second voice boomed into the doorway, deep and gravelly. “What the hell is going on here?”
Without thinking, Heather wheeled, slammed her hands onto her hips, and shot out a reply. “Watch your language! This is a school!” For a moment, she felt like her old self—in command, not only of the students but herself. The Heather from before the nightmare.
When the second man stepped in, the air pressure in the room immediately rose, as if a storm system were squeezing itself through the doorway. Scampering feet pounded the wooden floorboards as kids rushed back to their seats and stood stiffly at attention. She could swear everyone was holding their breath—including the bat.
The man’s piercing eyes glowed with anger. The old Heather might have stood her ground, but the Heather she’d become wavered and took a step back. She might have melted onto the floor, mortified, if Cody hadn’t stepped between them, practically growling.
Her shoulders slumped. Oh God, the second man was the ranch boss. She’d lose her job. She’d be thrown out. She’d—
“Don’t mind my brother,” Cody said softly.
That tenor was magic, sending a warm, secure rush her way. Heather straightened slightly and looked from Cody to the other one. Ty, that was his name. Were they really brothers? One was a thundercloud; the other, pure sunshine. As opposite as opposites can be.
Before she knew it, Ty whisked the towel out of her hands and stepped toward the bat. He must have fixed it with that laser of a gaze because the bat submitted without so much as lifting a wing. When Ty scooped it up and stepped outside, moving quickly down the flagstone path, the whole room exhaled.