Alpha instinct, p.10
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       Alpha Instinct, p.10

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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Page 10


  December’s blue eyes widened.

  “I can smell your fear and it’s unfounded. ” He plucked the bag from her hand. “I’ll be there tomorrow at six whether you are or not. ” With that, he turned on his heel and left.

  Ever since vampires and shifters had announced themselves to the world, there had been an almost invisible dividing line drawn through some towns and cities. He didn’t understand why. Sure, vampires hadn’t wanted to come out to the world, but once all shifters had unified and made a decision, vampires hadn’t had much of a choice. Vamps might be a bit more hedonistic in nature than shifters, but they didn’t go out of their way to kill humans or incite violence. And shifters weren’t violent by nature either. No more than humans. Sure, they were more in touch with their animal side, but with the exception of a few bad apples they weren’t prone to senseless violence and they took care of their families. Maybe knowing other beings had the ability to turn into a wolf or a jaguar or even a bear would freak him out if he’d been human, but he didn’t understand the fear. Twenty years had passed since they’d come out and it wasn’t as if they were out in the world, starting wars. And they’d been around since forever. The only thing that had changed was that people knew about them. But friendships had ended over the revelation and some shifters still hadn’t “come out of the closet” because of it. He wasn’t embarrassed by what he was and he sure as hell wouldn’t apologize for it. Not to anyone.

  Sean Taggart stepped out the front door of the cigar shop across the street when Liam Armstrong drove away. Until last night he hadn’t seen that giant bastard in years. He couldn’t believe Ana knew the family, and from the look of things, she was going to mate with Connor. Stupid whore. Always looking down her nose at him and his pack yet she was ready to jump into bed with Connor.

  He still wasn’t sure what had happened to all the males of her pack but he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The fates had smiled down on him, and if the Armstrongs hadn’t come along he’d be in her bed and on her ranch right now. Where he belonged.

  Whistling to himself, he crossed the nearly deserted street and entered the bookstore. Sean rarely came into town—he had people to run errands for him—but he wanted to keep an eye on the Armstrong brothers at the moment. Liam had looked mighty pissed off when he’d left this store, and Sean planned to use anything he could against him or Connor.

  A bell jingled loudly and he was tempted to rip it off the hinges.

  “Hello. If you need help finding something, please let me know. ” A pretty human smiled at him from behind the cash register.

  Unlike the women of his pack she was softer, a little plumper. And she must be the source of Liam’s irritation. Perfect. “I just saw my brother leave. ”

  A wave of fear rolled off her. Good.


  “Yeah. Tall guy, dark hair. ” Looked like he should be wearing a kilt and swinging a fucking claymore on the battlefield.

  The scent of her fear was evident but she masked it with a bright smile. “If you like mysteries too, check the first aisle. ”

  “I’m not interested in your book collection. I just wanted to check out why Liam left all hot and bothered. Now that I’ve seen you, I understand. ”

  She frowned but didn’t respond.

  “Maybe when he’s through with you, he’ll pass you to me. ”

  “Get the hell out of my store. ” Her blue eyes flashed dangerously, but she still didn’t come around from behind the counter. Smart.

  “Your loss. ” Whistling, he left and had to fight back a laugh at the tension and anger emanating off the redheaded human.

  If his father had taught him one thing it was that small victories mattered. He was going to take down the Armstrong pack any way he could.

  Ana parked her dusty truck in the hospital parking lot and killed the engine, but didn’t make a move to get out. She didn’t know why this was so hard for her. Mingling with humans before they’d known what she was had never been a problem. Of course, her pack had never stayed in one place long enough to develop lasting relationships with humans anyway. Her father had drilled that into all of them from a young age. “Don’t mix with humans. They all turn on you eventually. ”

  When their Council had decided to announce their existence to the world, it was as if things had changed overnight. Decades later she still had problems assimilating. She hated the way people stared at her. Some of it was probably her imagination, but she couldn’t help but feel like she was under a microscope sometimes. If she didn’t live in such a small town people wouldn’t know she was a shifter, but the locals knew what her pack looked like. And they hadn’t aged much since they’d settled in Fontana, which she knew freaked out some people. Hence the curious stares. It wasn’t everyone and it didn’t happen everywhere she went, but it happened enough that she preferred to keep to herself and on the ranch. Her entire pack did. If it had been anyone else in the hospital, she’d have stayed away from town. But when she’d found out it was one of her few human friends who’d been injured the night before, she simply couldn’t.

  Hooking her purse over her shoulder, she steeled herself for hostility and headed toward the main sliding doors. As she stepped inside the sterile antiseptic smells nearly bowled her over. With her heightened senses, hospitals were one of the worst places for someone like her. The scent of death seeped into her pores without mercy.

  Approaching the front desk, she pasted on a smile for the dark haired woman standing behind it. “Hi. I called earlier and was told that Kaya Dunlauxe was well enough to see visitors. ”

  “Of course. Ms. Cordona, right?”

  She swallowed nervously and nodded. Maybe Kaya didn’t want to see her after all.

  “I told Kaya you called and she’d love to see you. Room 203. Head down that hallway and you’ll run right into the elevators. ” She pointed with her pen.

  Ana let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “Is there a gift shop here?”

  The nurse smiled and nodded. “Right on your way to the elevators. You can’t miss it. ”

  Once she’d purchased a bag of jelly beans and chocolates—Kaya would hate flowers—she made her way to the room. The door was already open so she half knocked and let herself in.

  Kaya’s wrinkled face lit up when she spotted her. At sixty, she was still a striking woman. Touches of gray peppered her otherwise long, dark braid. “I wasn’t sure if you’d come. ”

  Ana’s chest tightened at the sight of the bandage on the side of Kaya’s face and the purple-and-blue bruising along her frail arms. “I would have come sooner but the sheriff didn’t tell me it was you. I just found out. ”

  Her dark eyes narrowed. “Was he at your ranch bothering you about this?”

  “He was just doing his job,” she murmured. Ana walked farther into the room and pulled the plastic chair from the corner and closer to the bed.

  Kaya muttered something Ana couldn’t understand but she guessed it wasn’t nice. When the older woman got angry, she started speaking in Tuscarora, her native tongue.

  “Have you called your family, or do you need someone to do that for you?”

  “My son already called everyone even though I told him not to. I think my sister is on her way here as we speak. ”

  Ana knew Kaya’s clan lived in upstate New York, but for reasons she didn’t know Kaya and her son had settled in North Carolina nearly fifty years ago. And Ana had known them for thirty. It was a strange thing to see her friend age while she’d stayed relatively the same, but she’d long ago given up any feeling of guilt. She couldn’t help nature.

  “Good. You’ll need family. My pack is here for you, whatever you need. Do you know who did this to you?”

  She shook her head. “I was leaving the store and someone attacked me from behind. He roughed me up a bit and took the money I’d planned to deposit. But this”—s
he pointed to her face—“looks a lot worse than it really is. I’m an old woman and I bruise easily. ” Her soft chuckle filled the air, but Ana’s gut clenched nonetheless. It was obvious that the bruising on her face had to hurt like hell but Kaya was downplaying it for her benefit.

  “Was it a shifter?”

  Her small shoulders lifted. “I’m not sure. Whoever attacked me was strong, but nowadays, everyone is stronger than me. I screamed, and Mr. Ross, who runs the jewelry store next door, heard me. He rushed out and my attacker ran. ”

  “I’m so sorry this happened to you. ”

  “It’s not your fault, dear. ”

  For a brief moment Ana wondered if Taggart had attacked Kaya because of their relationship, and panic surged through her, but she quickly brushed it away. If Taggart had gone after Kaya it stood to reason that she’d be in a lot worse shape than this. Ana held out the plain brown gift bag. “I brought something for you. ”

  “Jelly beans?”

  Ana bit back a smile. When her pack had first moved to Fontana she’d been thirty, but that had been before the Council had come out to the world. Back then she’d been so curious about humans and had spent a lot of time at Kaya’s store. The older woman had a deep love for the little candies. “Open it and find out. ”

  Her eyes lit up as she peered into the bag. “I better hide this before those nurses get back. ”

  As Kaya pulled the candy out of the bag, Matt, Kaya’s son, stepped into the room. Ana steeled herself again for some sort of rejection, wondering if he thought a shifter had attacked his mother, but all he directed her way was genuine warmth.

  “Ana! We don’t see you in town enough. ”

  She stood as he strode toward her, and before she could react he pulled her into a giant hug. She’d forgotten how kind the Dunlauxes were. Guilt and shame filled her for avoiding them for so long, and unexpected, hot tears pricked her eyes. Not all humans were the same, just as not all shifters were the same. She needed to remind herself of that. Lord, she was a hot mess today. She rarely cried. Not even when her parents had died.
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