Southern Shifters: Bearing the Ink (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Black & White Book 3)

BOOK: Southern Shifters: Bearing the Ink (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Black & White Book 3)
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Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Eliza Gayle. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Southern Shifters remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Eliza Gayle, or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

 

 

 

 

To those who’ve been waiting for this book, thank you. Some of you have been patient. Some of you haven’t. This is a project that became larger in scope than I had thought it would be when I wrote the first book, Ink To Bear. I thought that would be it. It wasn’t. And with the completion of Bearing The Ink, it’s still not going to be it. There’s more to come. Both in the Southern Shifters world through Kindle Worlds, and through my own titles and worlds outside it. I have enjoyed this journey even as I’ve wanted to pull my hair out and abandon the book to the far reaches of the Universe. I appreciate Eliza Gayle and I appreciate all of you who’ve stuck with me, who’ve cheered me on, who’ve kicked me in the ass to get me to finish this part of the tale.

This is for you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

The trip back to Bryson City seemed to take forever, and yet, it didn’t take long enough. Was she ready for this? The easy answer was no. The hard answer was definitely yes. She was ready to meet the father of the man her mother had named her after.

He was also the man they suspected was behind numerous senseless killings of shifters.

She sure as hell was not ready for this, not ready to meet the Mayor.

Standing on his doorstep, the nerves in her belly threatened to upend its contents all over the shrubs.

Gus was out there, somewhere, watching, waiting, ready to charge in at a moment’s notice. By her side was her cousin, Michael.

Her. Cousin.

She had a family. More family than she knew what to do with. She was supposed to hate them, wasn't she? They were the people who spawned the man who attacked her mother, raped her mother. She was supposed to hate them. Loathe them. Wish hellfire and brimstone to rain down on them. But she couldn’t. Her mother had never hated the man who’d impregnated her with Bex, so, how could Bex hate his family? They hadn’t known what he was going to do.

Does any family ever really know when something like that is going to happen? Are there signs like the so called experts say there are? This was also something Bex had no idea about. She only knew that her mother had felt more pity than anger at the shifter who’d raped her. Pity and confusion at his obsession with her and the child she carried.

“You want to stand on the porch all day or you want to knock and get this over with?”

“Honestly? I want to go back to my house in Dandridge with Gus and pretend none of this was happening at all.”

“I hear ya. But it is happening and the best thing to do is get on with it and get what information we can.”

Bex slid Michael a sidelong glance. “It’s not as if the man is going to tell us anything. Not like he’s going to confess to killing shifters for sport or being the head of a big time poaching ring.”

Michael shrugged. “You never know.”

“What if Luke is wrong? What if none of it is connected? What if —”

“What if he’s not wrong?” He countered.

“But what if he is? We could be accusing people who are innocent of a horrible thing.”

“Which do you want more?”

“None of it.”

“Afraid that won’t cut it. Knock on the door, Bex.” Michael shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Let’s get this over with.”

Bex nodded and lifted her hand. The door opened before she could connect. She’d have run had Michael not held her steady with a hand on her back.

“You sound just like her,” the man said. “I thought I was hearing things. But I wasn’t. You’re her daughter.”

Bex nodded. Slowly. “And…” She swallowed and tried to speak, but the first few times, she couldn’t get anything to come out. Finally, she asked, needing confirmation. “You’re Beck, aren’t you?”

He had scarring across half his face and down his neck, and the side of his throat, disappearing beneath the collar of his shirt. One arm was painfully thin and pale compared to the other. His hair parted in ways that appeared unnatural and the function of one eye, his right one, seemed to be all but gone. A blank stare was all that came from it.

She wanted to look away, but she didn’t. Couldn’t. “We… I… My mother thought you were… I…” She didn’t know what to say and it was clear she couldn’t even finish a thought.

“Dead. You can say it. Death would’ve been easy compared to this. Looking at you…” His features hardened. “Why are you here?”

“She didn’t know, did she?” Bex’s tone held notes of accusation, her fear and revulsion gone. “My mother. She didn’t know you were alive.”

“No. Come in. You and… Your friend.” Beck looked closely at Michael. “You have his eyes. So do you,” he told Bex. “The one who attacked me, the one who did this. The both of you have his eyes. I guess it really was true. You were his.” He paused and leaned in close. Bex didn’t take a step back, allowed the nearness, allowed the perusal. “And yet not entirely.” The words were barely audible, but Bex heard them loud and clear.

Beck turned away and Bex and Michael followed him inside the house. Bear skin rugs covered the floors. Wolf pelts hung like art on the walls. There was a black fur resting on the back of a couch. Maybe a cat? She wasn’t sure, but beside her, Michael stiffened and paled as though he was going to be sick, but then, he became angry. Bex could feel it coming off him in waves. She took his hand, doing her best to offer him comfort. She couldn’t imagine it would do any good. What she saw made her uneasy, made her stomach churn.

“Why didn’t you ever contact her?”

“Why would I? This…? What I look like now is an improvement over what I looked like right after. They saved as much of my face as they could. They couldn’t save the sight in my eye, and the stitching on my head was the best they could do to keep my skull from showing.” Beck swallowed hard and his lips tightened, before he turned his back on them and went to stand at the wall of windows looking out toward the mountains. “He ripped through the tendons and muscles in my arm. Nearly tore my heart from my chest. Crushed my ribs. There are scars all down my right leg, and I… I would’ve never been able to have sex again for the damage done. He practically castrated me. So, tell me, Rebecca, why would I have ever tried to contact your mother? So she could recoil in horror at the freak show I’d become? I loved her. I still love her. I mourned her death and wish every day to join her in it.”

“Then why don’t you?” Michael spat the words so coldly and it earned him her elbow in his ribs.

“Every day I wake up and I ask myself the same question. I don’t have a good answer. I don’t have an answer at all.”

The horror of his story, the things done to him… Bex couldn’t fathom them, but she was standing in a room, looking at what a shifter had done to a human.

“I am so sorry,” Bex whispered. The words were inadequate, but she had nothing else that could express what she was feeling. The man who helped give her life had destroyed another man, the one her mother had loved. Bex felt sick. Physically and emotionally sick. She wanted to vomit and she wanted to scream. She wanted to run away and forget everything that had transpired. She wanted to step off a cliff and drift back in time when her mother had been alive and life didn’t seem quite so fucked up.

What started out as a small adventurous motorcycle ride with a gorgeous tattooed shifter that took her from Bryson City, North Carolina to Dandridge, Tennessee, had become a surreal turn of events almost as soon as Gus got her home.

What happened to the small, quiet, innocuous she had planned? The calm life of not so calm bed and breakfast life? It’s what she knew, what she wanted. Not this other worldly, unexpected, unplanned life of chaos and secrets and violence and possession.

Had getting involved with Gus been what brought it all about? If she’d stayed in her own car and not taken him up on the ride, none of this would’ve happened, would it?
Of course it would have happened.
It would be so easy to blame Gus, but the truth was, she couldn’t. It wasn’t his fault, or hers. Gus hadn’t known, couldn’t have known the wolf would latch on to them.

“She would have loved you, no matter what, you know?”

“But I would have hated the pity and the sympathy in her eyes, and I couldn’t have loved you, seeing you every day for the rest of her life. Seeing you and knowing it was because of you that I was no longer the man she deserved. In the end she would’ve seen it. She’d have seen it and hated me. I couldn’t do that to her and I couldn’t do it to myself. I suffered enough.”

Bitterness clouded Beck’s words and beside her, Michael tensed again. She didn’t know how to offer Beck support this time. Not when she felt as though she was crumbling on the inside. Instead, she asked, “Who found you?”

“My father and his friends. I begged him to leave me, to shoot me, to let me die, but he wouldn’t.”

“Did he kill the man who did that?” Bex realized at once the error of her words.

“It wasn’t a man,” Beck said softly. “A man wouldn’t do this. A man
couldn’t
do this.”

“So, what are you saying?” Michael was on his feet, his hands clenching into fists. He was angry and who could blame him? Bex had no idea what to do. She was out of her depths. Nothing in her small life had prepared her for a confrontation with a man everyone had thought dead.

“All right,” she said, trying to soothe the tension that had once again risen in the room, but neither man looked as if he wanted to be soothed. They looked like they wanted to fight. Beck, like he wanted to provoke, and Michael like he was all too willing to oblige. If she didn’t know better, she’d have thought Beck was still looking for that way out of life and into death. For all she did know, he was. “We’re only here…” Maybe she should go the direct route and kept things in the present tense. “Where’s your father?”

Beck shifted his gaze to her. “My father? What do you want to see my father about?” His one good eye roved back and forth between her and Michael. She didn’t say anything. Neither did Michael. She didn’t know how to accuse someone of killing another person, even if that person was half animal. They didn’t have to wait long for Beck to come to the reason they were asking. “He’s out hunting. It’s what he does. All the time. He’s been obsessed ever since…”

“What’s he looking for?”

“More creatures like you.” The words were spat at Michael’s feet.

“So, he’s a murderer. Nice.” Michael spat back.

“Who are you to accuse anyone of anything? Who was he to you? The one who did this to me? Father?”

“Uncle. Is he here?”

“You mean his head? Is it a trophy? No. I wouldn’t let my father bring it in the house. I didn’t need to see it for the rest of my life. I see the claws and the teeth every time I close my eyes. Are you hunting my father?”

“Yes.” Michael threw the words out, daring Beck to challenge him, to defy him, to deny him the right to find and hunt down the man who’d killed his blood. But Beck said nothing, only nodded and limped closer to Bex.

“You really do look exactly like her,” he said again. He lifted his hand, and Bex thought he was going to touch her. She didn’t shrink back, but Michael growled from beside her, and Beck dropped his hand back to his side.

“She never stopped missing you.” Bex felt the need to bridge the gap, the tension. To make Beck see that she wasn’t a monster who wished him harm. To make him see that things hadn’t ever had to be the way they were. “She never had a shortage of stories to tell me about you.”

“It never mattered that she’d been attacked. Not to me.”

“It mattered to your father. He visited her constantly. Even when she told him all she knew, he came, he questioned her, he badgered her for answers she didn’t have.”

“Yes. It mattered to him. He had plans. Political aspirations. They’d have never been realized if it got out about a rape and a child being born from it.”

“Those aspirations weren’t reached anyway.”

“No. He developed a different plan for his life after…

“Revenge.”

“He sees it differently. Justice. Preventing it from happening again.”

“Nothing can change what happened,” Bex said softly.

“No. But it eases the feeling of helplessness he feels.”

“He’s a murderer.”

“And your uncle was a rapist. She,” Beck yelled, “She should’ve been my child. A human. Not… Not something like you.”

“H-how do you know I’m not human?” Something was off. Something wasn’t making sense. Only Bex didn’t know what it was.

“You have his eyes.”

“So? I look just like my mother, too. She was human.”

“And now you’re with him.” Beck inclined his head in Michael’s direction. “What other conclusion am I supposed to come to other than you’re one of them? You’re here for my father. I’m not going to hand him over. Not for killing a creature who, for all intents and purposes, stole my life.”

“But earlier you said “and yet.” What did you mean? What did you see when you looked at me?”

“I thought I saw something that wasn’t there.” He wouldn’t look at her again and she heard the lie in his voice.

“Let’s go, Bex,” Michael insisted. “He’s right. He’s not going to hand his father over. We’ll find him on our own.”

“This is bigger than you know,” Beck warned, his tone grave. “You won’t be able to stop him and even if you do, there are dozens more men and women across the country who do what he does, who hunts what he does.”

“You’re sick.”

“You’re standing up for a rapist and you say I’m sick?”

Michael stepped up to Beck, got in the man’s face, rage pouring from him. “I’m standing up for everyone like me and even those not like me. What he did to Bex’s mother and to you was wrong and maybe he did deserve to die, but I don’t. Bex doesn’t. One shapeshifter fucked up bad, but killing others who’ve done nothing to you? That’s murder.”

Bex took hold of Michael’s arm and tugged him toward the door. She didn’t want to stay any longer. She hadn’t wanted to be there to begin with, even if it had been her bright idea to confront the devil in his den. Only the devil hadn’t been there.

BOOK: Southern Shifters: Bearing the Ink (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Black & White Book 3)
5.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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