Authors: Terry Spear
Copyright Â© 2014 by Terry Spear
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To a writer I had never met, Bonnie Gill, who asked if I'd share a room with her at RWA's Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal's first conference, and of course I said, “Sure!” We spent long hours talking about writing, chasing down crazy clues all over New Orleans for a gameâmissed seeing the man wearing the nun's habitâand still won! And witnessed the bouncing truck. That was the highlight of our vampire and ghost tour.
Believe me, you don't want to know about the bouncing truck.
Keep looking forward and moving forward, and follow your dreams!
With a snowstorm threatening, Tom Silver examined the tracks of the second wolf reported this week by a disgruntled farmer. The tracks circled the sheep pen and then loped off toward the woods. The farm was in the Silver Town werewolf territoryânot that the human farmers had a clue they lived in an area claimed by a pack of gray werewolves.
Wearing an old jacket, hip-high rubber boots, and dungarees, farmer Bill Todd scowled at Tom. “Your brother said he'd take care of these wolves. Three weeks of threats to our sheep, and nothin's been done about it.”
“We're looking for them,” Tom assured him, standing to his full height.
“Sheep and calves are being threatened at different farms and ranches,” Bill railed. “Five. We can't be up all night patrolling for wolves all the timeâand your brother said we wouldn't have to. I swear, if I see a wolf, I'm going to shoot it dead before it gets to my livestock.”
“We'll get the wolves that are doing this,” Tom reassured him. They had to before a farmer or rancher shot an innocent werewolf or a wolf that was all wolf. He glanced at the tracks the wolves had left.
“The three of them arrived before sunrise. I heard a noise, came running out here with my rifle and a camp light, and shined it right into their glowing green eyes. When I set the lantern down and aimed the rifle, they raced off. I took a shot, but the damned weapon jammed.”
“We'll take care of them. Do you mind if I leave my pickup truck here for a while?” Tom didn't wait for an answer. He immediately stalked through the snow, tracking the wolves.
Bill called after him, “Hey, a snowstorm's headed this way. You can't hunt them now.”
Tom kept going. He appreciated the farmers' and ranchers' frustrations, even though Tom's oldest brother, Darien Silver, took responsibility for their losses as the owner of the land the farmers leased. The pack couldn't afford to have humans accidentally shooting werewolves or harmless wolves. Some pack members were too newly turned to have a lot of control over their shifting, particularly with the full moon approaching in another week.
Tom followed the trail, which seemed to indicate only one wolf had run this way. Tom knew better. One would precede the others, leaving what looked like one set of tracks to disguise how many were in the “pack.” The trail the lead wolf left would also make it easier for the others to follow.
Flurries whipped into a thicker curtain of snow. Tom wanted desperately to shift and run the wolves down. But his brother had ordered that none of the pack shift within five miles of farms and ranches until they resolved the matter.
Tom had only managed to cover a mile and a half from Bill Todd's spread when his cell jingled. He didn't have to look at the ID to know Darien was calling him and would order him home. “Yeah, Darien?” Tom continued to watch the trees as he followed the wolf tracks.
“Bill Todd called me. Said that fool youngest brother of mine tore off, looking for wolf tracksâ
âand the snow's coming down hard, so there's barely any visibility. He said, and I quote, âNo damn sheep is worth the life of a good man.'”
Amused that Bill would say that, as much as he loved his sheep and wanted the wolves dead, Tom paused. The snowflakes grew fatter, nearly obliterating any open space between them. The snow quickly filled up each of the paw prints left behind.
Breathing heavily, Tom picked up his pace, not wanting to stop.
“Tom, we'll get them. Some other time. I want you home. The snow's coming down hard enough that you'll lose track of them soon. Visibility is worsening.”
“We have to stop this, Darien.”
“I know. We will. Come home.” Darien sounded like he was asking, but Tom knew better. His brother was the pack leader and his word was law.
Tom stopped and smelled the air, hating that he couldn't catch any whiff of which wolves were causing the trouble. He surveyed the Colorado blue spruce trees for any movement. He felt in his bones that the wolves were watching him, waiting to see if he'd keep searching.
Wolves didn't normally attack people. But Tom and the rest of their wolf pack suspected these were not wolves but rogue werewolvesâand that meant all bets were off.
“Next time, I'm not stopping for anything,” Tom warned both Darien and the wolves that might be observing him.
He saw movement. A gray wolf's tail rose for a second as the wolf turned and bounded through the woods.
Tom took off running, forgetting he hadn't ended the call with his brother. Darien could hear Tom's heavy breathing and his quickened pace as he stomped over the frozen ground.
“Tom, if I have toâ”
“I saw one of them, damn it.”
“Who was it? Did you recognizeâ”
“Just the flash of a gray tail. I don't know who it was.”
“You can't run him down. Not as a human. It could be a trap.”
Tom stopped running, swore under his breath, and again watched the woods.
“If three of them are responsible, you won't be any match for them even if you shift.”
“Damn it, Tom.”
“All right. Tomorrow, if we have fresh tracks, I'm hunting them down once and for all.”
Elizabeth Wildwood had barely arrived in Silver Town before the snowstorm hit. Surprised the owner of Hastings Bed and Breakfast was a gray werewolf, Elizabeth was thankful the sweet woman didn't seem to mind what Elizabeth wasâor wasn't. She had four more days' leave from her job at the
in Texas to write an article on skiing at a Colorado resort. But that wasn't the only reason why she was here.
She quickly retired to her room and called North Redding, a red wolf from Bruin's former pack, which was now led by another red wolf Elizabeth didn't know. Technically, her father had also belonged to the pack, but she had never been part of it. North had been the only one from the red pack to treat her without scorn. Elizabeth hoped to connect with him despite the storm, but she wouldn't go to his place to meet him. His home was too close to where her uncle lived.
“North, I just got in. We can meet tomorrow. I'll give you the time and place in the morning.”
“You said you would arrive tomorrow. You were supposed to stay with me. You agreed I'd pick you up at the airport and bring you to my house.”
“I never agreed to that, North. I said I'd decide when I arrived in Colorado.” She didn't want to say she didn't trust him. Truth was, she didn't trust her uncle. If North let it slip that she was in the area, Uncle Quinton or her half brother, Sefton, might try to finish what they had started last time. Especially considering
she was here.
“You're afraid I'll tell your Uncle Quinton that you're here? Is that it? If he knew what I planned to share with you, he'd kill
!” North was angry that Elizabeth didn't believe in him, but she couldn't. He might not be working with her uncle and half brother, but he
still in their pack. It was just safer this way.
“I flew in early ahead of the snowstorm. Why won't you at least tell me what the evidence is?” she said to placate him.
“Fine. Talk to you tomorrow.” She had hoped never to return to that part of the country. After her parents were murdered, it hadn't been home for her. It never would be. Killing her uncle wouldn't make things right, but it had to be doneâfor her parents, for her, and for the pack she had never belonged to.
The next morning, with eight inches of new snowfall, Tom Silver knew he wouldn't be able to track the wolves who were stalking farmers' calves and sheep. Not when the culprits left no scent.
Tom's middle triplet brother, Jake, was dealing with problems at their leather goods factory. Their eldest brother and pack leader, Darien, joined Tom at the floor-to-ceiling sunroom window as he stared out at the beauty of the snow decorating the boughs of the pine trees, making them dip to the snow-covered ground. A fire roared in the fireplace, the room as cozy as a wolf's den with its soft, wraparound brown velour chairs set around a marble coffee table. The views of the outdoors made the room feel as though it was open to the wilderness.
Tom cast a nod in his brother's direction. “Morning, Darien.”
Humans often mistook them for each other because they were so similar in build and appearance. Wolves smelled the difference. None of
made that mistake. Darien had the darkest hair and eyes of the three, and Tom was the fairestâ“of them all,” Jake liked to joke.
“Hey, Tom. I know you wanted to go after the wolves again today. I doubt you'd find much of anything.” Darien wore Lelandi's pink apron over a brown wool sweater and had a few splatters of oatmeal on his blue jeans. This was his usual attire, oatmeal mush and all, when he fed his triplet babiesâtwo boys and a girl. A couple of gobs of cereal clung to strands of his dark brown hair.
He often took care of the kids in the morning so that his mate, Lelandi, the smartest, most effective psychologist in the area, could see clients. Not to mention that she was the only
Tom swore he would buy his brother a manlier apron when he had the time. He glanced down at a splotch of oatmeal on his brother's sheepskin slipper boot. “I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who looks that messy after feeding your brood.”
Darien gave him an elusive smile, warning him that when Tom found a mate,
was in for the same trouble. “Two of the ski patrol are out sick today with the flu, and the resort could use you up there.”
That got Tom's attention and he stiffened, alert and wary. Every time one of them got sick with flu-like symptoms, they worried about the wolf getting a virus that would prevent their shifting from wolf to human form.
“Don't worry. It's not anything like the cases of âwolf fever' we had before,” Darien said quickly. “Jake will relieve you at noon. And a couple of other thingsâ¦” He cleared his throat.
Tom couldn't read his brother's expression. Wolves paid attention to slight shifts in body language, and he could usually tell what his brother was thinking. But not this time. Which meant something was up and Tom wouldn't like it.
“First, Anthony and Cody Woodcroft are on the slopes today. Their dad said that he wanted the ski patrol to kinda watch out for 'em. If they get into
trouble at all, he wants their passes pulled and them off the slopes. He also wants to be notified at once.”
“Okay, can do.” The boys had gotten into trouble before, mainly for participating in high-risk adventures, but Tom had never heard of them doing anything unsafe or against the rules on the slopes. Since it was the first item on the list Darien wanted to talk about, Tom figured it was the least problematic. “The other thing?”
“Bertha Hastings said she has a guest at the B and B doing a story on our ski resort. She missed the ski shuttle and Bertha wanted to know if you could run her up to the slopes, since you were going that way.”
Tom narrowed his eyes a little. “Is she a wolf?” Bertha wasn't beyond matchmaking. He could imagine Bertha had delayed the woman on purpose so she missed the shuttle.
“She is and she isn't.”
,” Tom countered.
Darien looked serious now. “Let's just say she's part wolf. We can't put the town off-limits to visitors, but a woman like that could cause trouble for the pack.”
“Part wolf?” Tom echoed, frowning.
“I'm sure you can resist this woman's charms. She's up here doing a story on a ski resort. I don't trust the other bachelor wolves in the pack to leave her alone unless one of us takes her in hand to signal the others to keep their paws to themselves.”
Tom understood why Darien wouldn't take care of the matter himself. Running a pack and the town and raising three toddlers kept him busy. Still, he didn't like it. “Why couldn'tâ”
“Jake's busy and he's mated. That leaves the situation up to you to handle. They'll listen to you and back off.”
Tom had thought he would be tracking the mysterious wolves who had been sneaking around their territoryâa much more suitable task for a pack sub-leader. Now he had to babysit a couple of male teen wolves and a woman who wasn't quite a wolf?
He took a deep breath. Still, he knew his brother's reasoning was sound. Wolf-shifter females were rarer than males in any packâand jealously guarded, too. The Silver pack had been through some trouble of that sort with female shifters from the neighboring red pack. The men in the red wolf pack felt that the gray wolves should have had no claim to the red she-wolves. Tom knew Darien would like to avoid that sort of situation again with this newcomer.
“All right. But I'll be patrolling this morning, so I won't be able to watch the teens
the woman all that much.”
“Alert the ski patrol to watch the boys and let you know if they do anything that's unsafe. The others can be your eyes and ears. When our bachelor males see that the woman's
youâso to speakâthe word will spread and hopefully no one will hassle her. Learn when she's leaving the area and work yourself into her schedule. If she doesn't leave the slopes until later this afternoon when you're free, you can be her ski buddy.”
Tom raised a brow.
“You know what I mean. Make sure you're with her until she leaves. I don't mean you have to stay with her overnight.”
“Not happening.” Although one-night stands with humans were acceptable for wolf shifters, Tom didn't dare show any interest in a human around here. In this town, every wolf would hear of it. Too much of a problem with rumor control. And a part wolf? What the hell did that mean anyway? “I'm off.”