Coyote Savage [Phases]
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by Kris Norris
Category: Erotica/Menage Erotica/Dark Fantasy
Description: February's full moon is rising, only this year, it's bringing a new brand of hunger... For coyote shifters Caden and Talon Brady, the upcoming hunger moon has ignited a different kind of appetite. They've been waiting several years for a chance to court their intended mate, and now that she's finally in their sights, they'll stop at nothing to win her over. But when local livestock start disappearing, their coyote refuge is put in the hot seat, and more than just their way of life is suddenly in jeopardy. Sheriff Rebecca Savage never planned on returning to Beckit Falls, or for falling for two handsome men. But fate seems to have different plans for her. Unfortunately not all of them are sexy and look fantastic in jeans. The local mayor is trying to run the Brady boys and their coyote refuge out of town. Nothing seems to make sense, but when she starts digging deeper, a new danger rises with the full moon--one that just might get them all killed.
eBook Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, LLC, 2011 February
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [121 KB]
Reading time: 76-106 min.
"Are you completely inept, or are your breasts just blocking your vision?" Darrin Carson crossed his arms over his chest, looking down at her with a contemptuous grin on his face. "There are coyote tracks all over the place, not to mention a bloody trail leading into the forest. That's more than enough evidence--even for you, Rebecca."
Sheriff Rebecca Savage glanced down at the paw prints in the snow, clenching her jaw as she took a deep breath. As much as she wanted to smack the spoiled brat up the side of his head, losing her cool with the mayor's son wasn't going to help her position any. The guy was an ass at the best of times, and down right nasty when he got worked up, but he'd also crossed a line she wasn't going to simply ignore.
Rebecca rose, tugging on her jacket as she met his glare. A hint of smoke clung to his clothes, and she wished he'd take a step back. "I realize you're distressed over the loss of two of your sheep, and I know you're used to getting your way...but if you ever speak that way to me again, I'll make sure those balls you're so proud of are hanging from my rear-view mirror."
Darrin glared at her and took a step closer when a hand closed around his shoulder.
Mayor Richard Carson nodded. "Now, now, son. I'm sure the good Sheriff is doing all
she can. There are certain protocols that must be followed before she can issue special hunting permits." He gave her a nauseating smile. "Or before she can lay charges against that mockery of a ranch those Brady boys are running. About time someone closed down that disease-infested refuge."
"I know this situation is upsetting, Mayor, but--"
Crunching snow drowned out the rest of her words, and she turned as a red truck rumbled up the driveway, skidding to a halt in a billow of white powder. Both doors opened in sync as two men jumped out of the vehicle and stalked up the driveway, their feet barely making a sound on the soft snow. Though she knew it was far from professional, she couldn't help but watch the ease of their movements. The way their long strides ate up the distance or how, even beneath jackets, their firm bodies bunched the fabric, accentuating the muscular frames she imagined hid beneath the smooth leather.
A tingle raced down her spine, but she knew it had nothing to do with the cold. The men stopped at the edge of the scene, hands shoved in their pockets, mouths pulled into tight lines.
Rebecca stepped forward, bracing for the argument about to start. "Caden. Talon. Thanks for getting here so quickly." She blocked their way when they tried to move past her. "Easy, gentlemen. I asked you here so we could dispel any doubt, not so you two could start a family feud."
Caden glared at the two men standing behind her, pulling back slightly as he looked down at her. A tremble of need fluttered through her stomach as she stared into his amber eyes. She'd never seen eyes quite the color of his and Talon's. They reminded her of the sky as the sun rose above the horizon, burning the gray into a brilliant gold.
He reached forward, looking as if he was going to touch her shoulder, before dropping his hand and sliding his gaze quickly toward his brother. Talon gave her a hint of a smile before returning his focus to the men standing behind her.
Their expressions hardened again, and Caden motioned toward the men. "We aren't planning on starting anything, Sheriff. And I believe they started the feud."
Rebecca shook her head and turned back to the mayor. "Now that we're all here, let's look at the facts."
"The facts are simple." Darrin sneered at Caden and Talon. "One of their coyotes killed our sheep and dragged their carcasses away, just like the bloody cowards they are."
A low growl drifted on the winter air, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She glanced at the brothers, positive she saw a flash of red amidst the amber, before the illusion faded. She furrowed her brow, not sure where the growl had come from, when the mayor stepped forward, regaining her attention.
"What my son means is...there is more than enough evidence that coyotes are to blame for the incident."
Caden and Talon moved as a unified front, matching the mayor's step and taking two more. They fisted their hands at their sides, a tremble of what Rebecca guessed was rage rolling through them.
Talon crossed his arms on his broad chest, looking every inch the hunter in the gathering. "This isn't the work of coyotes, and you both know that. You're simply trying to turn the rest of the town against us, and our refuge."
Rebecca stepped between the men again. "Now, Talon, no one is--"
"Still hell-bent on defending those worthless creatures, I see." The mayor motioned to the bloody patch of snow. "If your animals are innocent, then perhaps you can explain how their tracks got all over my property or why I'm missing two sheep!"
She raised her hands, trying to calm the men down, but they didn't seem to notice she was there.
"Coyote tracks?" Talon huffed and stuffed his hands in his pockets again. "And to think you call yourself a hunter--"
"Are you insulting my father?" Darrin scowled and pushed at Talon's chest, but only succeeded in knocking himself backwards slightly. "The two of you are no better than those cur you call pets--"
"Enough!" Rebecca pushed her way forward, shoving Darrin back when he made a move toward her. She glared at him, one hand palming the hilt of her pistol while the other connected with his chest. "I said, enough."
The dark edge to her voice halted the man in his tracks, and his gaze slid to the hand on her gun before meeting her eyes again. He grumbled something under his breath but took a step back.
She clenched her jaw, meeting all of the men's eyes before releasing a long sigh and shaking her head. "When I said we were going to talk about the facts, gentlemen, I meant that I was going to tell you what I thought and how I'm going to proceed." She speared the mayor with her gaze, waiting until his attention shifted to the snow before continuing. "Better." She took a deep breath. "Okay, let's start with the obvious." She pointed at the blood splattered across the crisp snow, noting how bright the dark red patches were back-dropped by the pristine white. "It's obvious that something took your sheep." She held up her hand when both the mayor and Darrin opened their mouths. "I said I was going to talk."
They snorted in protest, glaring at the other two men before nodding and turning the edges of their mouths down into the beginnings of a frown.
"As I was saying, something took your sheep, but quite honestly, this doesn't look like a coyote kill to me."
"What?" Darrin threw up his hands then waved at the snow. "What the hell do you call all these tracks, not to mention the blood? It has coyote written all over it!"
Rebecca continued, ignoring his outburst. "I agree that it would be easy to mistake this for the work of a coyote, but if you look a bit deeper--"
"Deeper!" It was the mayor's turn to look at her as if she'd lost her mind. "This is a simple case of grab and go by a natural predator, not a murder investigation, Rebecca."
She hardened her expression. While she didn't mind people calling her Rebecca, in this instance, it only served as a reminder that some of the older men still didn't accept her as their sheriff.
The mayor matched her grim look for a few moments before begrudgingly nodding. "Sheriff."
"Perhaps not, but seeing as you want to escalate this to involve the Bradys' ranch, it's also not as black and white as you imagine. For example, the tracks--"
"Coyote," said Darrin.
"Possibly." She knelt beside one in the snow. "But the ones on the packed surface are too distorted to identify and the ones in the deep stuff are too hidden to make a positive match." She glanced up at the men. "These tracks could be anything from a Labrador retriever to a Timber wolf."
"Or more likely, a coyote," finished the mayor.
"Yes, it is possible, but that's not the only aspect that seems out of line. Take the kill, for instance...or should I say the lack there of. Why isn't there a carcass for us to analyze?"
"Because they dragged the poor animal away, where they most likely buried it for later," said Darrin.
"They? I only see one set of tracks. Are you suggesting a single coyote came in here, killed one sheep, took it away and buried it then returned to repeat the process?" She shook her head before anyone could answer. "One coyote wouldn't cache food like that. A pack, maybe, but not a lone male, and it would have to be a male as all of the females are in the midst of breeding right now. Which brings up another point. Why only a single male?"
"They often hunt alone." Darrin shrugged it off. "I've seen lone coyotes lots of time."
"In the summer, yeah, but this time of year?" She stood up, still keeping herself between the two sets of men. "February is a lean month for animals--a time when most of the loners pair up with either a mate or another small group to increase the chance of a successful kill." She nodded where the full moon had just dipped below the horizon. "They don't call this the hunger moon for nothing."
"Alone, not alone, I don't really care." The mayor crossed his arms and looked at her. "All I care about is what you're going to do about the current situation? I'm down two sheep, and it's very likely that the cur that did this will come back for more."
"I'd like to start by eliminating some venues." She turned to the brothers. "Caden. Talon. Is there any way one of your residents escaped the compound and did this?"
Talon glanced at Caden first then motioned to the evidence. "Ignoring the fact that, as I said before, this isn't a coyote kill, I can assure you that all of our animals are present and accounted for." He looked over at Darrin and his father. "We have a number of security measures in place to prevent such an incident from happening. Our coyotes didn't do this."
Rebecca nodded. "Thanks for your honesty, Talon. I hope you and Caden understand that I had to ask."
"Honesty?" Darrin practically jumped into her personal space as he waved his hands in the air. "Are you serious? As if they're going to stand here and admit one of their bloodthirsty vermin is responsible. What the hell kind of question is that?"
Rebecca moved to answer, but Talon beat her to it.
"It's called mutual respect. The Sheriff knows we wouldn't lie. Besides, we keep a detailed inventory of all the animals under our care. You're welcome to come out to the ranch and see it for yourself." Talon raised an eyebrow at Darrin. "Do you and your father do the same? Can you tell us exactly which sheep are missing?"
"Of course." Darrin flashed him a smug smile. "The two your coyote stole."
Rebecca shook her head. She'd have better luck slamming her head against the hood of her Jeep than getting these four men to be civil. She looked up and found herself staring into Talon's eyes. He squinted slightly, as if trying to read her thoughts, then glanced over at his brother. She noticed something pass unspoken between the two before Talon backed up, giving her some room to move in front of Darrin.
She took the opportunity, stopping only an arm's length away from the man. "We're not here to call each other names. We're here to fix a possibly dangerous situation." She diverted her attention to the mayor. "If I'm going to find a solution, there are a few things that need to be done." She glanced back at Talon and Caden. "If you boys don't mind, I'd like to take you up on your offer and visit the ranch. That should satisfy everyone's curiosity." She turned back to the mayor. "While I'm at the ranch, I'll have Deputy Bobby Blake come out here and scour the woods bordering your land. If a predator did take your sheep, the remains should be somewhere close by. I'll also head into the park and survey some of the noted ranges of the local coyote population--see if I can find any evidence that they're traveling off their normal routes and venturing into town." She paused, knowing the Carson men wouldn't like her next comment. "But either way, you're going to have to open yourselves up to the possibility that this is the work of another kind of poacher."
"Oh it's poachers all right," said Darrin. "Coyotes."
Rebecca bit back the insult practically jumping off her tongue and glared at him. This kind of behavior was the very reason she'd refused the man's advances just after her father had moved here to take the sheriff's position. Though she'd told Darrin it was because she was heading off to university in a few months, the real reason had been her inability to enjoy being in the same room as him. How the hell did women actually make it to his bed? The mayor grunted and she glanced over at him.
"That's all well and good, but while you're off...investigating...my livestock is still at risk. I assume you'll understand why I feel the need to take certain measures to protect my investment." The man gave her a stiff grin and turned toward the house.
Rebecca cursed under her breath and took a step forward. "I understand your concern, Mayor, but need I remind you that hunting, even on your own property, requires a permit."
She met his scowl when he looked back at her across his shoulder.
"I know for a fact that Bobby hasn't issued a single one this year," she added.
The man shrugged. "Then I'll head into town and get one."
She cleared her throat when he turned again, drawing his attention back to her. "I'm sorry, but under the circumstances, I can't authorize any additional hunting permits until I get this situation cleared up...for safety purposes, of course."
"What!" Darrin didn't wait for his father to trudge back through the snow before stomping his feet and stepping into her personal space, again. "Two of our sheep are dead and more are likely to follow, but you're not going to allow us the right to defend our way of life?" He snorted in disgust. "I never thought you'd let your personal feelings about hunting interfere with your job, Rebecca."
"It's Sheriff, Darrin, and this has nothing to do with my views on hunting, or coyotes for that matter. But it has everything to do with the safety of my officers. How the hell am I supposed to send Bobby, or my other officers, into the woods if I know half the town is running around, shooting at anything that moves because you've worked them all up into a frenzy?" She brushed him back. "I will not put my men at risk so you can justify killing every coyote from here to the Alaskan border." She paused and took a deep breath. "Trust me. If a coyote is responsible for this, I'll see that the animal is humanely dealt with, but I won't sanction a blood bath just to ease your pride."
Darrin looked as if he was going to argue when his father tugged on his sleeve.
"Easy, son. The Sheriff is right." He flashed her another sickening smile. "We wouldn't want to lose another lawman to a terrible accident, now would we?"
The man's cold, casual tone made her stomach heave, swirling the snow-covered landscape as the blood drained from her head. She felt a moment of dizziness before two, strong hands closed around her shoulders, effectively moving her aside as a wall of male flesh moved in front of her. It was quickly followed by another silhouette until all she could see was the brown tinge of their leather jackets and the deep blue of their jeans.
Another growl lit the air, making her jump. It seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time, making the air vibrate with its intensity. The gravelly sound was quickly followed by a softer one, then Caden's voice.
"Are you threatening the Sheriff? Because that sounded like a threat to me."
The low timbre of his voice flowed across the short distance, soothing her taut nerves and changing the nauseating feeling to one of anticipation. She snagged her bottom lip, hoping to regain her senses while she still had time to save her dignity. She pushed between the two men, but that was as far as she got before Talon wedged her against Caden.
Caden glanced at her, the red tinge back in his eyes, or was it just the reflection of the rising sun? She looked over at the mayor, and for the first time since she'd returned to Beckit Falls, she saw uncertainty glaze his eyes.
The emotion passed, and he drew himself up, grabbing Darrin by the jacket. "This meeting is over." He tugged at the younger man as he marched up the walkway to the porch.
Caden gave the men what looked like a snarl before turning back to her. "I don't care if he's been the mayor for twenty years, I don't trust him." He brushed some flakes of snow off her shoulder. "Perhaps you should take some extra precautions for a while...make sure you're not alone."
The image of her sandwiched between the men, only minus the jeans and jackets, swam through her mind and she had to look away before they read her intentions. She nodded, clearing her throat a bit. "I'll be careful."
Caden sighed, glancing over at his brother.
Talon brushed a finger down her side. "I'm sorry for moving you so roughly. I didn't hurt you, did I?"
She laughed. "Hurt me? Please. Surely you two don't think I'm so fragile that a simple lift and spin would damage me?" She shook her head in feigned exasperation. "And here I thought you two saw me as a tough, bad-ass cop."
Talon winked at her, sweeping his gaze down her body until he landed on the side of her hip. "I don't know about tough, or bad, but I've certainly been looking at the ass side of you."
Rebecca stifled a giggle as a hot feeling crept up her cheeks.
Caden grinned and trailed a finger down her jaw line. "Why look...I do believe the Sheriff is blushing...I don't think I've ever seen you blush."
"You two are impossible, you know that?" She motioned to the vehicles parked in the snow, wondering why she could still feel the warmth of his touch grazing against her skin. "Let's get out of here. You can laugh at my facial oddities once we're at your ranch." She headed for her Jeep, all too aware of the extra sway of her hips.