Authors: Mel Favreaux
Paranormal Romance Mel Favreaux
Being the only were-tiger in a predominantly werewolf sanctuary wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but Amber Vaughn was glad to be able to rest easy. Emotionally and physically scarred from a traumatic childhood, her close relationship with the Alpha male and the incomparable bond she shares with his new mate, Casey, were unique.
In five years, she’d gone from beat-down oppression to Braedyn Walker’s second in command. While not ruthless, her strength and speed had served their community well.
Coming to terms with years of emotional turmoil, she found love, something she’d never considered possible, in the arms of a Guardian, Dean Maynard, Casey’s brother. An officer who polices supernatural, paranormal, and preternatural beings, his job was to protect the world from beings like her.
A relationship between a human and a Were could work, even when not designed by the fates. Dean is attacked by a werewolf, and ready or not, Amber’s newfound love is yanked from her grasp. There is no way the fates would condone a union between a tiger and a wolf.
Conflicted between her love, honor, and duty, does Amber have what it takes to handle the emotional turmoil or will she shut down again?
A Sanctuary Novel
Walker’s Run: Book 1
Shadow Walker: Book 2
Pinching her eyes shut tight, she heard the door thud open. Maybe, if she pretended to be asleep they would leave her alone for tonight…just
night? Her body ached and throbbed from the abuse of the evening before. She struggled to keep her nerves at bay—they would be able to hear her accelerated heartbeat, making her even more of a target.
She shared the room with two of her female cousins, both of whom had reached Were maturity long before her. Uncle Zane didn’t like using her often because she didn’t heal from the horrendous rapes and beatings fast, like the other girls. Unable to draw on her gifts, he disliked having to handle her with kid gloves.
No one wanted to fuck a whore who was beat up by a previous John.
“Leave that one, she’s still mending,” One said, his tone laced with disdain. He was the first of Zane’s sons and helped run their businesses that ranged from pickpockets, to prostitution, and of course, drugs.
The soft whimper across the room tore at her heart, knowing one of her cousins had been chosen in her place. When the door closed, Amber Vaughn let slip the sob she’d been holding in.
“She doesn’t hate you, you know,” came Lexi’s soft reply. “Willa and I will try and protect you as long as we can.”
Hot tears coursed down her cheeks. She was twenty-two years old and still hadn’t reached the Were version of puberty. “It isn’t fair that you two have to take the brunt—”
The bed dipped, and she tried not to cringe. Even knowing it was her cousin crawling into the bed to try and console her, violent memories crashed behind her closed lids.
“P-please…d-don’t touch m-me,” Amber gasped when her cousin gently stroked hair away from her face.
Both of her cousins were a few years older and had become more accustomed to the lifestyle their uncle had forced upon them. Zane Vaughn had created a near mob-like environment for the Pride of White Siberian Were-tigers in Las Vegas.
“You know, the Tigress isn’t supposed to be treated the way he treats us, Amber,” Lexi whispered. “We’re supposed to be vicious predators, more so than the males. There’s a place we could go. It’s a sanctuary out in the mountains of Montana. If we could make it there, we’d be safe. It’s run by wolves, but I hear their Alpha is just and caring, protecting all who ask for asylum.”
“We would ask a
for help?” Amber was incredulous. Uncle Zane had always said the canines were beneath them.
prejudices fill your head with nonsense. All Weres should stick together. We could learn a lot from one another.” Lexi took a deep breath. “Promise me Amber…if something happens to Willa or me, you’ll get away. Go to Walker’s Run, find Braedyn Walker.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
Her cousin was quiet a moment. “Do it for us, Amber.”
Amber flexed her hands. Pain had begun in her joints over the course of the last few days. She had kept her silence, knowing what it meant. Tomorrow night the moon would be full, and with it, she would reach maturity and shift for the first time. “You know, don’t you?”
“We’ve talked with one of the truckers who is leaving out of Vegas tomorrow headed out west. He said he’d give you a lift as far as Butte, Montana. It’s not close to the sanctuary, but we’re sure you can get creative enough to find your way there. He will have a brown knapsack. Inside will be money, a couple changes of clothes, and a map.”
“Hush now and rest, you’ll need it. Tomorrow Willa and I will tell Zane you’re sick and we’ll bring your meals. Rest all day because I don’t know when you’ll get a chance to again.”
Her heart pounded in her ears. She reached out and took her cousins hand. “I’ll try to come back for you.”
“We’ll understand if you don’t. At least one of us will be free.”
* * * *
Pretending to be ill the next morning wasn’t difficult. Her body felt like it was on fire, and she was running a fever.
Willa pulled the blackout shades and lit a single candle to illuminate the room. “Hey honey,” she whispered, sitting on the edge of the bed.
Amber looked up at the cousin who had taken her place the night before. The bruises on her face had already healed from the abuse she’d endured. “I’m scared…”
“I know, but it will be okay. You’re stronger than we are, Amber.” Tears swelled in Willa’s eyes.
“He’ll kill you both—”
“Probably. But if you can get away, that’s all that matters. Your shift will happen around midnight because you are a natural Were. The next two nights it will be at sundown. We just have to keep Zane away from you until midnight.”
“Why are you doing this for me?”
“Your mother made sure to kill every litter she had because of Zane. To try and save you all from this life.
survived, Amber. There has to be a reason why.”
Tracing the scars that ran along her belly and side from her mother’s claws, she frowned. No one had ever explained to her why or what had happened to her mother…or how her uncle had retained custody of her.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. “I should have died, too.”
Willa sniffed and shook her head. “No…I…Lexi and I…if it hadn’t been for you these last few years. We wouldn’t have had anything to fight for. Tonight is what we have waited for all this time. Please, don’t let us down. Find safety.”
A cool cloth was brushed over her cheeks and laid across her forehead.
Amber tried to hold back her sob. “He’ll torture you both until he gets all the information he needs to find me.”
“Then you’ll just have to be faster.”
The hot flashes rent her body, and Amber couldn’t understand how she would have the energy necessary to shift and run the way her cousins were begging her. Forcing food into her, they kept washing her down with cool cloths to battle the high temperatures while her body began to make some of the internal changes needed.
Near midnight, both Willa and Lexi drew close. Amber could not feel their excitement, all she felt, was sick to her stomach. The fever had let up, but she felt worn out.
“We need to get you out of here so you can run. Your driver left town a little while ago, he’s going to wait for you at daybreak on the edge of Henderson. His rig is blue with a gold cross on the driver’s door. He used to be a minister, and we told him we were trying to help you escape an abusive relationship,” Lexi whispered while helping Amber into a sitting position.
“How do you know he wasn’t lying?”
Willa gave her a small smile. “You’ll know in the morning. The Tigress won’t let you fall for a lie. Trust your instincts. They will never let you down.”
Amber heard footsteps coming down the hall toward their room, and her stomach knotted. The door to their room was kicked in.
“Get out here now!” Zane stood in the doorway. His dark hair was greased back to perfection and his black eyes roamed over them.
“Amber’s sick, Zane—” Lexi said, standing and motioning to her.
“I’ll take you tonight,” he sneered, grabbing a handful Lexi’s her hair and dragging her out of the room.
“No!” Lexi wailed and swung at his face, gouging his cheek, trying to pull away.
“You bitch!” With a snarl, he extended his right hand and a sword appeared. He let Lexi go and at the same time swung, taking her head neatly from her shoulders. Turning, he looked at Willa. “You. Come here now.”
“Please Zane…” Raising her hands, Willa tried to plead.
He narrowed his eyes with a smirk. “Or I will do to you what I just did to your sister.”
Fire burned through Amber. She ground her teeth and fought the internal battle in silence. It was so close.
Willa turned to her, and with a sad smile, mouthed the word, “Go.” Then turned, and shifting into the Tigress, lunged at Zane.
Amber watched her cousin shred their uncle’s face, knocking him back to give her room. She fled. As quickly as her feet could carry her, she ran. It wasn’t until freedom was almost within her grasp that pain doubled her over, sending her skidding face first into the doorframe. The first sharp crack of her spine and hips snapped, making her see stars. Grinding her teeth, she bore it in silence. There’d been worse discomfort than this. She managed her pain much like any other time by closing her eyes, counting the measured breaths, and channeling the pain away from her body.
Her stomach roiled and fire seared through her. After what felt like an eternity, the pain ebbed away. She could hear her racing heart slow to a more normal rhythm, and she opened her eyes. There was a commotion in the rear of the house, and she knew it was Willa fighting to give her a chance to get away.
Staggering to her feet, Amber looked down and saw the massive paws. There was no way she could open the door with those. For a moment, panic set in. But then her gaze fell on the window. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and plunged through. Her step faltered when she struck the ground, but she kept running. A few gunshots rang out, and she watched them skitter off the sidewalk nearby.
Having spent most of her life trying to be invisible, she used everything she’d learned to her advantage. Unfortunately the form of her Tigress was far larger than her human form and made hiding in tight quarters dicey. She just had to be a little more inventive.
Come dawn, she’d hidden in a small copse of trees near the filling station where she was to meet the former preacher for her ride to freedom. She had picked out a spot near one of the clothes drive boxes. Making sure no one was around, Amber scrounged through and picked out an outfit and a pair of boots that were two sizes too large, but they would have to do.
Spotting the rig her cousin had described, she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
An old man with a shock of white hair and bright blue eyes opened the door and looked down at her. He looked her over for a solid minute in silence. His jaw set, his eyes blazing.
Growing increasingly uncomfortable, she began to back away. “I’m sorry…wrong one…” Panic beat away at the edge of her mind, and she chewed the corner of her bottom lip.
“Amber. I’m sorry honey. I know those girls said you’d had it hard, but I didn’t think it would be so bad.” The old man’s eyes were full of kindness. “C’mon, girl, before you’re spotted. Let’s get you away from here.” He passed the brown knapsack Lexi had spoken of and walked around, opening the passenger door.
Having never experienced communication with the Tigress before, Amber was shocked when she expressed her approval of the old man. Dropping her gaze from his, she hurried around and climbed into the rig. When he popped into the driver seat a moment later, he informed her the cab was a sleeper, and she was more than welcome to rest.