Read The Keeping Online

Authors: Nicky Charles

Tags: #romance, #suspense, #paranormal, #supernatural, #werewolves, #sequel

The Keeping

BOOK: The Keeping
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THE KEEPING
By
Nicky Charles

SMASHWORDS EDITION

* * * * *

PUBLISHED BY:

Nicky Charles on
Smashwords

The Keeping

Copyright © 2010 by
Nicky Charles

Other works by this
author:

Forever In Time

The Mating

Smashwords Edition,
License Notes

Thank you for
downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it
remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be
reproduced, scanned, or distributed for any commercial or
non-commercial use without permission from the author. Quotes used
in reviews are the exception. No alteration of content is allowed.
If you enjoyed this book, then encourage your friends to download
their own free copy.

Your support and
respect for the property of this author is appreciated.

This book is a work of
fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places,
events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are
productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Adult Reading
Material

*****

Many thanks to Jan
Gordon who acted as my editor and tirelessly read, reread, advised,
poked, and prodded until this project was complete. Also, thank you
to Ermintrude for her invaluable advice on locations and
journalism. Finally, thanks to all of the ‘Gutter Girls and my
readers at FictionPress who have offered their feedback,
encouragement and allowed me to practise my writing skills on
them.

This book is a sequel
to The Mating, my first werewolf story. Many people became
enamoured with the characters in that book and kept asking what
happened to them. Ryne especially seemed to capture readers’
imaginations and so, in response to those many requests, this tale
was written. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed
writing it.

*****

THE KEEPING

*****

Prologue

Chicago,
Illinois, U.S.A.

The room was
silent, except for the ticking of the grandfather clock that stood
majestically near the doorway and the faint sounds of the old man’s
breathing. To look at him, one might wonder if he was alive or only
a wax figure; his eyes were unblinking and the rise and fall of his
chest were barely perceptible. His gnarled hands rested lightly on
the arms of the chair in which he sat, their occasional tightening
the only real sign of the emotion he was feeling.

Pale winter
sunlight, so typical of early January, was valiantly trying to
brighten the large, cluttered room. Its weak rays crept past the
heavy velvet curtains and cast a beam across the floor, creating a
bright swatch in the otherwise gloomy interior. Small specks of
dust drifted lazily on the faint air currents before settling on
the laden surfaces of the tables and shelves.

Sculptures,
figurines, and books, covered every flat inch of the room.
Similarly, artwork filled the dark panelled walls, yet the
gentleman in the chair still deemed his collection to be paltry and
inadequate. Or, at least he’d felt that way until now. Years of
searching and gathering everything related to his favourite theme
had finally paid off.

The faintest
movement near the corners of his mouth would let an astute observer
know he was pleased. Over the fireplace mantel hung his latest
acquisition. Studying it with care, his gaze traced over the
subject matter, analyzing and assessing. A quiet grunt and a slight
movement of his head was the only acknowledgement he gave that here
was what he had spent his whole life looking for.

“That will be all,
Franklin.” His voice was deep and strong despite his years,
instantly commanding respect and obedience.

A man, dressed in
the formal garb of a butler, stepped out of the shadows that clung
to the edges of the room and bowed at the waist. “Yes, Mr. Greyson.
If you need anything else, just ring.” Silently, the servant picked
up the step ladder he had used to hang the picture and left the
room, quietly shutting the heavy mahogany door behind him.

As Franklin’s
footsteps faded into the distance, the older man stood and advanced
towards the fireplace. His steps were sure, his stride long—no
decrepit shuffling for him, despite his years and the aching of his
joints. Clasping his hands behind his ramrod straight back, he
stood in front of the framed photo.

Excitement was
bubbling inside him, though his calm countenance gave no sign. This
was what he’d been searching for. Everything else in the room was
now worthless; his priceless statues, the expensive glossy books,
paintings by renowned artists; they all paled in comparison to this
one piece.

“Proof.” He
whispered to himself, his eyes alight with a fire that had been
missing for years. “After all this time, I finally have proof.”
Reaching out his hand, he traced the name scrawled in the corner of
the picture matte. “Whoever you are, Ryne Taylor, you’ve made me a
very happy man.”

After those few
words, he fell silent again, contemplating the subject matter of
the picture. He’d acquired it two months ago and had spent the
intervening time examining it, studying angles, looking for
shadows, measuring length and distance, pouring over minute details
with a magnifying glass. There was no refuting what he’d found. Now
the amber eyes in the photo glared at him, challenging and
arrogant, almost as if they knew his plan and were daring him to
try and execute it.

Eventually the man
looked away, staring at the thick carpeting beneath his feet. A dry
chuckle rumbled in his chest. “I can’t hold your gaze. You’re not
even here, and still you manage to be dominant.” Shaking his head,
he made his way back to his chair and sat down heavily. Picking up
the phone, he dialled a familiar number, and then waited
impatiently for someone to answer, drumming his fingers on the arm
of the chair. When the call was finally answered, he wasted no time
on pleasantries.

“Greyson here. I
need to talk to you, Aldrich ... What about?” He gave a short bark
of laughter while looking up at the picture again. “A wolf, of
course.”

*****

Stump River,
Ontario, Canada — 700 miles Northeast of Chicago

Ryne wiped his
hands on a greasy rag and pulled down on the hood of the aging
pick-up truck. He sauntered to the far side of the garage and
pitched the filthy rag in the garbage. “Filter’s changed, Ben.
Anything else?”

Ben Miller looked
up from the service desk, where he was totalling the work orders.
“Nope. That’s it for the day. Thanks for coming in to help.”

“No problem. I can
use the extra cash. That money pit I bought wants new
plumbing.”

Ben rubbed the
back of his neck as he contemplated the man before him. Not for the
first time, did he wonder why a young fellow like Ryne Taylor would
choose to live in a god-forsaken place like Stump River. Not that
Ben didn’t like his hometown, but he was aware of its limitations.
No night life except for the local bar and Wednesday night bingo at
the church. A two-hour drive to the next largest community. Young
people
left
Stump River, they didn’t move here.

Mind you, George
and Mary Nelson were mighty happy that Taylor was bucking the
trend. He had bought their crumbling house and the large parcel of
land it sat on. There hadn’t even been any quibbling over the cost;
he’d paid the asking price without batting an eye. The sale had
provided the town with a nice bit of gossip to help pass the
winter, as well as allowing the elderly Nelsons to retire to
Timmins, a larger urban centre, in relative luxury. Ben looked
around his small business and smirked. Maybe Taylor would buy his
place, too, should he ever decide to retire.

Watching Ryne get
cleaned up at the nearby sink, Ben couldn’t help but feel a touch
of envy. All the local ladies positively drooled when Ryne was in
town. Even his own wife wasn’t immune. Ben had unwillingly
eavesdropped on her conversation with a friend just last night and
had almost felt a tad inadequate after listening to them go on
about his black hair, blue eyes and ‘devilishly sexy smile’—their
words, not his, of course. When they’d started to enumerate his
physical attributes—broad shoulders, long legs, lean hips, and a
muscular body—he’d turned the TV on real loud to drown them
out.

Ben shook his
head. All he saw, when he looked at Ryne, was a hard-working,
confident man who knew his way around an engine. That was enough in
his books. Ryne helped him out at the garage a few days each week
and Ben was grateful for the assistance.

“Got any plans for
the weekend?” Ryne had dried off and walked over to where Ben was
working. He leaned against the counter and chugged down a bottle of
water.

“The wife and
daughter want me to take them into Timmins shopping. We might go to
a show while we’re there, too.”

“Sounds like fun.”
Ryne wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and threw the bottle
into the recycling bin. “I’m going to be working on the house as
usual.”

“It was a big
project you undertook, when you bought the place.”

“I know, but I
like the area, and it came with a lot of land. My friends and I
like our privacy.”

“To each their
own.” Ben shrugged and handed Ryne a check. “Here’s your pay. Don’t
spend it all in one place.”

Ryne laughed while
stuffing the cheque in his pocket. “Nah. I’ll spread it around.
Some at the hardware store and some at the bar.”

“Lucy will be
happy to see you, I’m sure.” Ben mocked him good-naturedly as he
walked out the door. Ryne merely waved and continued on his way.
Lucy worked at the local bar and had been real friendly with Ryne
ever since he and his friends had moved to the area a few months
back.

Watching Ryne
cross the street, Ben wondered about the man and the two other
fellows, Bryan and Daniel, who lived with him. They weren’t
related, looking nothing alike, but something bound them together.
At first, there’d been rumours that they were gay, but their
behaviour at the bar on Friday nights soon dispelled that rumour.
The local lovelies swarmed around them and they did little to
discourage the attention, especially the younger two.

Ryne was a bit
more discriminating. Oh, he’d been involved with a few of the local
girls, before settling on just Lucy, but for the most part, he held
his liquor and was usually the one dragging the other two home at
closing time, provided they hadn’t hooked up with some female
beforehand. Ben chuckled. Business at the bar was a lot brisker
since the three had moved into the community.

A few residents
thought the newcomers were a bit strange, but except for the fact
that they all lived together in the middle of nowhere, no one had
any real complaints against them. The men were polite and didn’t
bother anyone. Most likely, it was as Ryne said; they’d moved here
for privacy and because they liked the area. Nothing strange or
mysterious about that.

Chapter 1

Oregon,
U.S.A.

Damn! There was a
certain sick feeling in Mel’s stomach as she lost control of the
vehicle and it began to slide across the snow-slicked roads into
the oncoming lane. A horn blared as she narrowly missed a pick-up
truck but that relief was short lived as a telephone post loomed
ahead. She clenched the steering wheel tighter, trying to steer
into the skid; muscles tensed as she braced herself against the
impact that was sure to come. When it didn’t, she sent up a brief
prayer of thanks.

“Stupid, snow
covered roads.” Muttering to herself, she felt the car straighten
out of the skid, wincing as the vehicle narrowly missed a farmer’s
mailbox. Moving back into her own lane, she blew a puff of air up
over her face causing her bangs to float up and then settle on her
forehead again. Annoyingly, her long lashes kept catching in the
too-long fringe of hair—she really needed to make time for a cut,
she reminded herself—but she didn’t dare take her hands off the
wheel to push her hair out of the way. Blinking rapidly, she
managed to free her lashes and clear her vision.

The forecast had
called for light snow, but the weatherman was obviously an idiot
and didn’t know a high pressure zone from a low. Heavy white flakes
were falling on her windshield and the wipers were having a hard
time keeping up. Twice now, she’d stopped and wiped the accumulated
white stuff from the blades. She shouldn’t have trusted the fellow
at the rental agency when he said the car was fine, but at ten
o'clock at night, after a long flight squished between a large man
and a frazzled mother with a crying baby, all she had wanted to do
was get a car, escape the confines of the airport and find a room
at the nearby motel. Now, she wished she’d been a bit more
particular.

A road sign
proclaimed that her destination, Smythston, Oregon, was rapidly
approaching and she allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief.
She’d had a late start, being up half the night listening to planes
land and take off and now her two hour trip had turned into four
hours of white knuckle driving. She couldn’t wait to get to the bed
and breakfast where she’d booked a room. A hot shower and dinner,
followed by a nap were going to be her reward for surviving this
trip.

BOOK: The Keeping
10.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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