Authors: S. K. Yule
Copyright © May 2013, S. K. Yule
Cover art by Mina Carter © May 2013
Formatting by Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Charlotte, NC 28227
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Did they actually think they could catch him? At this point, he hoped they did. He was tired of running. He was an ancient who chose to live his own life. He never went against the lycan laws, but he refused to answer to anyone. He was his own man. Always had been. Always would be.
Sanctuary was a place run by his kind, mostly ancients and their mates, a place where rogues who were thought fit enough to reform were taken. Six months ago, he had been labeled a rogue and had been relentlessly chased ever since. The few times he’d tried to talk some sense into his pursuers, they hadn’t been particularly open to discussion. That put him in a difficult situation: continue to run from or fight his own kind. If he chose the latter, things wouldn’t turn out well for them.
He had no desire to kill any of his species. He’d done enough killing in his lifetime, but he’d had enough of this chase-the-rabbit bullshit. If they’d give him a damned second to explain, they’d see he was probably older then all of them put together and wasn’t the monster they thought him to be. He’d been around a long time. A. Damned. Long. Time.
“Whenever I find that little punk-ass motherfucker, I’m going to rip his fucking head off,” he muttered. When he found Terrance, he’d make an exception to not killing his own kind.
Terrance. The whiny bitch he’d had a run-in with nearly a year ago was the reason he’d spent the last several months in hell. He’d had plenty of time to figure out who had labeled him a rogue, who had set Sanctuary on his ass, and every path led back to Terrance. Terrance was the only connection he had with Sanctuary. Galen had sent the rogue there eight months ago and didn’t believe it to be a coincidence that all of his problems started shortly thereafter.
From little bits of rumors he caught here and there, he’d put enough pieces together to figure out that Terrance had taken revenge against him by telling the ancients at Sanctuary that he, Galen Soloman, had been his leader. That he was a ruthless rogue. One who had committed atrocious acts against his own kind and their potential mates, which had resulted in the amped-up man—wolf—hunt.
He’d lost his last pursuers over a week ago and had covered his tracks well. It would take a while for them to find him again, but they would. Eventually. For now, he was tired, pissed off, and hungry. Looking around the thick forest darkening with the quickly sinking sun, he’d resigned himself to another night of sleeping on the cold ground and nibbling on what little berries and bugs he could find. But seconds later, he came to a clearing.
He stood at the tree line staring at the quaint cedar-shingled farmhouse, surprised to find it neatly tucked into the middle of nowhere. He sniffed the air, trying to detect any present danger, when every muscle in his body tensed. His wolf frantically clawed at the surface for release, and a deep rumble emanated from his chest.
“Fuck no. Why now?” He clenched his teeth hard to fight back the urge to immediately claim what was his.
His mate. He’d longed for her, yearned to meet the one woman who was fated for him, who he was fated for, for more years than he could count. He’d come to the conclusion long ago that he would never find her, whether that meant she simply didn’t exist or someone else had gotten to her first. But she was here.
His stomach clenched in a ball of knots. The thought of another laying one finger on her sent murderous urges through his head, sent bony fingers of jealousy slithering through every cell of his being. Why had fate led him to her now when he was in the mess he was in?
Because fate is a bitch, and life enjoys kicking you in the teeth when you’re already down.
Over the last few years, he’d become hard and bitter. He wasn’t gentle, and his mate deserved a man with a big heart, a man who would show her romance and tenderness. He was not that man. At one time? Maybe. Now? No. Nonetheless, every single fiber of him answered to her call, a call she had no idea she was silently, but potently emitting.
Not even his ironclad willpower gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of resisting. Every cell, every molecule that made him who he was needed to see her face, hear her voice. A force pulled him by invisible strings, like a puppet, in her direction. He stepped into the clearing and approached the farmhouse with cautious determination. He promised himself he’d get a glimpse and move on, but when he laid eyes upon her for the first time . . .
Inky black hair swept off her head in a messy, knotted ponytail gleamed in the waning sunlight. Smooth and flawless skin turned golden from the sun made his fingers itch to caress every inch of her. And when she turned toward him and found him watching her, the breath whooshed from his lungs. Her blue-violet eyes widened, and her full lips formed an
. He was a lost cause. She was his. The other half of his soul. A glimpse would never be enough.
Yep. I’m fucked.
* * * *
Myka sighed as she shoveled the last scoop of sawdust into the stall. She was tired, grumpy, and sweaty. Running a farm, however small it may be, was difficult—even more so since her last farmhand left without notice three months ago. She’d placed an ad in the local paper for help, but hadn’t expected much to come of it.
Living on the outskirts of a tiny rural town in Montana close to Saskatchewan, surrounded by hundreds of acres of open woodland, wasn’t exactly conducive to luring job seekers. Her life had been simple until six months ago, when her brother had been killed in a freak accident at work. She’d suddenly found that simple life turned upside down after losing the next-to-only family she had and gaining sole custody of Travis’s five-year-old son, Patrick. She loved Patrick, but had no idea how to be a mother to him.
She, on the other hand, had been determined to figure it out. She’d never abandon him like his mother had. Patrick didn’t remember his mother, Lauren, as she had left Travis when Patrick was barely a year old. She’d simply walked out of their lives and never glanced back, never been heard from again. Myka couldn’t count the times she’d wondered how a mother could cut her own child out of her life as if he was nothing more than a once-adored goldfish she’d grown tired of and flushed down the toilet. Travis had never fully recovered from Lauren’s abandonment.
That didn’t alter the fact that although Patrick didn’t remember his mother, he’d been more than aware that he was different because he didn’t have one. While she could stand back and see how fortunate Patrick was to have a stable life with a father who adored him, Patrick was a little boy who simply didn’t understand what had happened to his mommy. To make things worse, Travis’s refusal to talk about Lauren only confused Patrick more. Myka wasn’t sure how to handle that particular subject herself—because she was sure one day, probably sooner than later, Patrick would ask about his mother. How did one explain to a little boy that his mother no longer wanted him or his father?
Since Travis’s death, things had gradually worked themselves out, and she and Patrick had fallen into a routine of sorts. Unfortunately, the work around the farm had nearly doubled since she’d become responsible for Patrick. She’d gotten by fine on her own, but she had to support Patrick now as well. The additional produce needed to be grown, chickens for more eggs, and horses to board to make ends meet were taking a toll on her.
By the end of each day of taking care of the animals and attempting to check as many things off her to-do list as possible, she was barely able to get dinner cooked and spend some time with Patrick before falling into bed in an exhausted heap. He helped her as much as a little boy could, but he was not a man, and she was determined that he spend as much of his childhood as possible being a kid instead of being weighted down with adult responsibilities. They needed help in a bad way, but she was no quitter. She’d make the best of the situation.
She stretched her arms above her head as she walked out of the barn toward the house. Damn, she was stiff and sore. Halfway to the house, she came to an abrupt halt. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and a strange feeling that she was being watched slid through her. It wasn’t uncommon for her to get that feeling. Being out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by thick woods had a way of occasionally playing with one’s mind. When it wasn’t her mind playing tricks on her, she figured she was probably being watched by some kind of animal. This time the feeling was different. It wasn’t a fleeting moment of sudden awareness that she could brush off. The way her skin tingled told her this was more than a random unexplainable feeling.
She carefully searched the perimeter of the old cedar farmhouse, but couldn’t find anything amiss. It wasn’t until she turned her gaze to the tree line bordering the pasture that she noticed a man standing in the clearing watching her. She slid her gaze back to the house, relieved that Patrick was safely ensconced inside. She didn’t have a reason to think the man was a threat, but she had no reason to believe otherwise either. She tensed as he started in her direction.
She was relieved that he walked slowly and kept his hands in plain sight by his sides as if trying to silently communicate that he was no threat. She didn’t get any bad vibes from him, didn’t instantly feel the need to flee, but she couldn’t overlook that she and Patrick were alone and miles from civilization. She was her nephew’s only protection, and she didn’t take that duty lightly.
The man stopped about twenty feet from her, and her pulse amped up when she got a better look at him. He was huge. His hair was dark and a bit long and uneven, as if it had been a while since he’d had a haircut. He wore dark jeans, black hiking boots, and a dark green T-shirt. His deeply tanned skin told her he probably spent several hours a day in the sun. His scruff gave him a somewhat haggard look, and although he appeared to be in his mid-to-late thirties, his lean, muscular body was in prime condition.
“Who are you?” she asked.
A shiver that had nothing to do with the crisp fall breeze on her sweat-dampened skin ran up her spine as the sound of his quiet, gravelly voice warmed her like the late summer sun. She was startled that the voice of a stranger should affect her in such a way, but quickly forgot that conundrum when he took another step closer and she stared into his light hazel eyes. They reminded her of clear pools of liquid silver, and she barely kept a sigh from escaping her lips at the sheer beauty of them.
Snap out of it, Myka. You’re drooling over a man that just appeared out of nowhere on your property.
Then it hit her. He was here for the job. She’d gotten riled up over nothing.
Jump to conclusions much?
“Are you here for the job?”
He hesitated for only a moment before nodding. “Yes, ma’am.”
Ma’am. Damn, how she hated to be called ma’am. Made her feel older than dirt, and she was only twenty-five.
“Have you had any experience with animals?”
“I’ve had plenty of experience with animals.” A slight smile tugged at the corner of his full lips.
She eyed him again. He was in tip-top form for physical work. He’d have no problem handling the things she needed help with.
“Are you good at fixing things?”
“Please stop calling me ma’am. My name is Myka Dougan. Call me Myka.”
The way he said her name, as if tasting every letter on his tongue, made goose bumps of awareness raise on her skin. His voice was like a smooth shot of whiskey. He was too good-looking, and she was too damned attracted to him. She’d be better off sending him away, but she needed the help too much to risk losing the only person who’d shown any interest in the position. She’d do what was right. She’d smack her hormones into submission and give Galen the job so she could spend more time with Patrick.