Alpha instinct, p.33
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       Alpha Instinct, p.33

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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Page 33

 

  As he slid into the front seat of the truck, Ryan let out a low curse. “Damn, Liam. You look ready to kill someone. You all right?”

  “Fine. Let’s get this stuff back to the ranch. ” In the back of the truck they had boxes and boxes of bottled water to replace the ones they’d thrown away. Ana had wanted to pick it up herself but Connor had been pretty insistent that Liam take care of this, and Liam understood why. His brother wanted to show they were all taking an active role in helping solve the pack’s problems, and after the way Liam had disappeared last night he owed his brother that. The young she-wolf’s death had hit the men pretty hard. And he was embarrassed he hadn’t been there when it happened. He knew it was biology, but the knowledge that they must propagate their species was ingrained in them. Not through teaching but in their DNA. Losing a female—any female—was always difficult. It was why Liam couldn’t understand shifters like Taggart. According to Ana he disrespected the females of his pack, and Liam hadn’t forgotten the way he’d been ready to attack Ana that first night they’d arrived. Most male shifters didn’t act like that and wouldn’t stand to see others act that way.

  “What did the human say?” Ryan asked.

  “Her name is December … And she agreed to have dinner with me tonight. ” He could only hope for more than a shared meal.

  Ryan grinned. “I never thought I’d see the day you got all twisted up over a tiny woman. ”

  “So, how is Teresa doing anyway?” Liam knew his friend had a thing for her, but Ryan had yet to even see her since she’d been bedridden. It was out of character for the other wolf.

  The grin melted from Ryan’s face. “The same, I guess. ”

  Guilt jumped inside Liam. Just because he was in a dark mood didn’t mean he had to take it out on his friend. “I’m sorry, man. I—”

  “Forget about it. I get it. Women have that effect. ”

  He grunted in agreement. While he might not understand Ryan’s reluctance to see Teresa, he knew the other wolf well enough to realize that there was likely a good reason behind it.

  As he neared the turnoff toward the ranch, he frowned when he saw flashing blue and red lights in his rearview mirror. He checked the speedometer. Under the speed limit by a couple miles per hour. “What the hell?”

  Ryan turned around in his seat. “You think they know about Alicia?”

  Liam shook his head. “I don’t think so. ” He knew his brother better than anyone. Connor would alert the Council of the poisoning and subsequent death, but he wouldn’t be jumping on the phone to alert the locals. Didn’t matter what Ana wanted. His brother liked to keep his distance from humans. Not because he didn’t like humans; he just didn’t trust them. Pack business stayed pack business. No matter what.

  He rolled down his window as he put the truck in PARK. He gritted his teeth when he spotted December’s brother stalking toward him. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered.

  The sheriff stopped by the door but didn’t make an attempt to pull out his pad or write him a ticket. His eyes were narrow slits. “Stay the hell away from my sister. ”

  “What are you talking about?” Maybe this bastard really did have a GPS tracker on him.

  “I saw you leaving her store. Stay away from her,” he ground out.

  “She’s an adult. ” A very sexy one who’d gotten under his skin.

  “People in town are starting to talk. ”

  Liam shrugged. What is this guy’s deal? “So?”

  “I don’t want my sister labeled as some shifter …” He shook his head as he trailed off, but Liam knew what he’d been about to say.

  Shifter whore. The term wasn’t unique or even clever. But that’s what she’d be called by some. He didn’t give a shit what people thought but he also didn’t want December ostracized. “Is this harassment about a general dislike of shifters or is it just me you have a problem with?” Liam wanted to get right to the heart of the problem. The rage rolling off the sheriff was different from anything he’d ever scented before. The cop’s anger was personal.

  “Just stay away from December. If I catch you anywhere near her, I’ll arrest you. ”

  “For what?”

  “I’ll come up with something. ”

  “I’m taking her to dinner later, so you might want to check with her before you make plans to arrest her date. ” Liam couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

  The sheriff took a deep breath and stepped back from the car. “You hurt my sister, I’ll fucking kill you. ”

  Liam didn’t respond as the man stalked away. He didn’t care if her brother didn’t like him. He just needed to make sure December did. One step at a time.

  “Can I give Carmen and Teresa the balloons?” Vivian asked from the passenger’s seat of Ana’s truck.

  “Of course. ” Ana had taken Vivian with her to the feed store mainly to keep the little she-cat busy, but also because she’d wanted the company. Then they’d stopped at the drugstore because Vivian wanted to get something special. Ana had wanted to pick up the backup water supply but Connor had been insistent that his brother take care of it. She was a little annoyed by that but decided to let it go.

  “You really think Carmen will be okay?” she persisted.

  “Sweetie, she’s going to be fine. ” Carmen had passed out after imbibing a small amount of silver but she wasn’t bedridden like Teresa. For some reason her cousin wasn’t faring well, even though it should be out of her system by now. Some shifters just had stronger immune systems than others.

  “What about you?”

  “Me too. I promise. We’re going to figure this thing out. ” She hoped at least.

  “Connor says you’re tough. ” Vivian’s voice was matter-of-fact.

  Ana frowned as she pulled onto the two-lane highway. That was interesting. “He said that?”

  “Uh huh. Before we moved here. He told me you were the most beautiful she-wolf he’d ever met and that you were tough as nails. He said you’d be the perfect Alpha’s mate. ”

  Ana didn’t know about that, but she nodded at the young she-cat’s words. Connor wasn’t exactly known for being loquacious so it surprised her that he’d opened up to the little girl. Maybe he’d simply told Vivian that so she’d feel less nervous about moving to a new place. Yeah, that was probably it. “You’re pretty tough yourself, living with a bunch of wolves for so long. ”

  Vivian rolled her eyes with the typical flair of a ten-year-old. “My mommy always told me that males were the same no matter the species. ”

  Ana swallowed a laugh. “Your mom sounds like she was a smart woman. ”

  “She was. And she was pretty like you … I miss her. ”

  “I miss my mom too. ”

  “Do you still cry over her?” Vivian’s voice cracked slightly.

  “Yeah. ” She didn’t trust her voice to say any more.

  “Connor told me it gets easier with time but I don’t believe him. I hurt every day. Every day I wake up and there’s a big hole in my chest and sometimes my tummy aches so bad I can’t eat. I just want to see my mommy’s face again. ”

  Fighting the rush of emotions, Ana reached out and patted her head gently. “You’ll always miss her. It might not get easier exactly, but some of the sting will fade with time. ”

  Vivian mumbled something under her breath and turned to stare out the window, but Ana didn’t miss the few tears that spilled down her cheeks.

  Shifter or not, growing up without a mother was hard. Hell, maybe harder for this little one. She was already different from the majority of the population and now she was living with a bunch of wolves. Ana’s heart ached. She reached out for her again. “Vivian—”

  Her entire world jerked as someone slammed into the back of her truck. She flew forward but her seatbelt pulled her back. The action was jarring but not enough to give them whiplash. A dark green truck with tinted windows had hit them.
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  Grappling with the wheel, Ana struggled to straighten it. “Great,” she muttered. What kind of idiot couldn’t drive straight on a two-lane road?

  She turned on her blinker, ready to pull off on the side of the road, when the truck slammed into them again.

  This is not an accident. Her instincts went into overdrive. She gripped the wheel tightly and pressed harder on the gas.

  The needle shot up instantly. And the other truck followed.

  “Ana?” Vivian’s voice shook.

  “Sweetie, you need to stay strapped in and do as I say, okay?” She fought to keep her voice calm.

  “Okay. ”

  They weren’t that far from the turnoff to the ranch. Protect Vivian. That thought rang in her mind clearly. If she could just get home, they’d be safe. She would be able to keep this little one alive.

  As the needle rose higher, Ana tried to think. In the rearview mirror she could see the silhouettes of two men in the green pickup.

  Or they could be shifters. It was impossible to tell without smelling them. A hand reached out of the passenger’s-side window. Metal flashed in the sunlight.

  A gun.

  Ana yanked the wheel, swerving into the next lane. As she did, the back window exploded and Vivian screamed. A loud thud sounded as the radio burst apart.

  Her sweaty palms slid against the wheel and her heart raced out of control. How can this be happening?

  “Stay down!”

  When Ana looked at the little girl, Vivian was shifting to her animal form. Her clothes ripped and she cried out as she underwent the change. The little cub jumped down onto the floorboards and curled into a ball.

  Ana couldn’t blame her. The girl was only ten and her instincts were telling her to protect herself.

  Another loud set of pings ricocheted off the interior of the cabin. A sudden pain ripped through her shoulder.

  The searing sensation tore through her arm, sending shock waves to all her nerve endings. Blood ran down her arm to her elbow. She knew she’d been shot, and while it burned, it wasn’t fatal. Holding the wheel with her hurt arm, she ripped her sweater sleeve off with her free hand. The clenching action only intensified the pain and she cried out. She knew it would be so easy to panic right now but she had a little girl to protect and her animal instincts were taking over. Her inner wolf begged to take over completely and regulate the pain, but Ana focused on the road in front of her.
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