Coming on June 28th, 2016
*This excerpt has been spit-shined only. It's currently in the shop getting its real deal edits.
Maggie reared back, knocking her head on the passenger window. “Ouch! What?”
Porter chuckled ruefully. He was one of the lucky ones to find his mate so early. At only fifty-four, he was quite young in shifter years. Maggie sat next to him, proof that going feral from a lack of the mating bond wasn’t in his future. He wasn’t going to turn into Seamus, calculated cruelty.
“Mate?” she sputtered, shaking her head like he was insane.
“You felt it. If I did, you did.”
“And then what? I’m supposed to rush off and marry you because you said we belong together?”
Fuuuck. The urge to shake Armana was unrelenting. She was Maggie’s only connection to their world and she’d failed to school Maggie on any of it.
“Yes,” he said, evenly. “Shifters don’t marry. Mating is so much deeper.”
He stopped at Maggie’s snigger. “I’ll bet. Deeper.”
His pupils must’ve flared at the image she conjured for him because she fell silent.
“Shifters can go crazy and die if they don’t meet their mates. We call is going feral. Our mates are our world, without them we cannot live.” He let his words sink in.
“I’m not in the mating mood.”
He leisurely inhaled and cocked a brow. Her face flushed red.
“You know what I mean. I’m not thinking about mating, or anything else,” she shot him a pointed glare, “until I’m not be being hunted.”
Fine. If she wanted to avoid the mating topic, he’d let it drop. Porter studied his mate. “I have no idea what Armana was thinking when she took off with you, when she failed to teach you our ways.”
If Maggie had been in her wolf form, her hackles would’ve raised. “She was thinking of keeping her surviving son and daughter alive.”
“Ignorance does not protect.”
“Says the male here asking for my help, the girl who was raised human.”
Touché. He pulled back into traffic, heading nowhere, but a moving target was harder to hit. “Did Armana at least teach you that females respect their males, obeying them explicitly?”
“Now I know you’re full of shit. There’s no way Ma was a good little housewife.” Her voice held more than a touch of fondness.
He couldn’t help but smile, something he seemed to do frequently around her. “I’m joking, but only about that. To answer your question, packs are like families that make up clans; clans form a colony. It was basically whoever could get along together built their houses around each other, forming a town. Lobo Springs has six clans. A small town among human standards, but a sizeable congregation of shifters.”
Maggie nodded as if she’d think about it later and switched topics. “Where are we going?”
“To find a place to catch some sleep.” The adrenaline rush from discovering Dugger to Maggie’s attempted abduction had faded. The previous day had been long and tiring: his profession and friend threatened, fixing his tire, tracking down Maggie. She was in his truck, safe for now, and he wanted only to curl up with her. Not that she’d allow it judging from her reaction to the news she belonged to him.
Maggie gasped, looking around. “My purse! Do you have a phone? I need to call Ma. I’ll give you the address, you need to head there.”
“Sorry, Maggie. If they found you, they know where she is and could be waiting for us.” He tossed her his phone. “Call and warn her, but we can’t go over there.”
Maggie stared blankly at the phone. He sensed her worry. She keyed in her mom’s number, and waited tensely.
“Ma,” her relief was palpable. “Listen, some shifters tried to kidnap me. You need to find somewhere else to stay for a while.”
Porter picked up her mom’s calm words. “Tell me everything.”
Had she been expecting it, thought it was inevitable Maggie would get dragged back into their world? Or was she a cool duck under pressure, like her daughter?
“Three huge shifters were waiting for me at home after work.” Interesting. Did Armana not know about Maggie’s extracurricular vigilante activities? “No we didn’t kill them.”
“We?” Armana picked up on that right away.
“Denlan. Porter Denlan helped me fight them off, says they’re from Lobo Springs.”
There was silence on the other end before her mom acquiesced. “The Denlan’s were a good pack, came from a good clan.”
“Ma?” Maggie glanced at him, then tilted her head down, like it would keep him from hearing her next words. “He says he’s my mate.”
More silence. Served Armana right for keeping her daughter in the dark.
“Go with your gut, Maggie.”
Go with your gut? She keeps Maggie’s biology and birthright from her and then says that? What the fuck?
“Be safe, Ma.”
“I got away once, I’ll get away again. Maggie… stay away from Lobo Springs. Only death waits for you there.”
“Armana,” Porter raised his voice so she heard him clearly, “Jace is with the West Creek Guardians. Go find him and start talking.” Especially about why she fled. Her ominous warning to Maggie suggested it was more than from losing her mate and child and being in mourning.
“Jace is a Guardian?” Armana sounded stunned—and proud.
“West Creek is just across the river.” Maggie held the phone out so they could have a shifter conference call. “Even if they follow you, these Guardians won’t allow them to hurt you, would they?”
No, but if Porter was Jace, he might let them.
“I will go. Denlan,” Armana barked, her voice full of authority. “You will take my daughter there.”
“Lobo Springs needs her Armana. Your sudden departure left the colony open to a hostile takeover.”
“Um, she is here, and is an adult.” Irritation from Maggie filled the cab. “I’ll make my own decisions from now on, do you both understand?”
“Maggie,” Armana pleaded, “please find the Guardians. They will protect you.”
“I’ve been overprotected my whole life,” Maggie muttered. “I’ll call when I make my decision, Ma. Now run. Please.”