The Mating Hunt (Warning: This excerpt contains rough language and explicit material.)
copyright 2013 by Bonnie Vanak
Two men at the bar pretended interest in their beer mugs, but she scented sweat oozing from their pores, heard the increased beating of their hearts beneath their sheepskin jackets.
They knew something.
Pushing back her chair, she headed for the jukebox near their table, her boot heels clicking on the scuffed wood floor. Kyle made these rugged cow hands look like Sunday school students. But he wasn’t here. Probably in some female Skin’s warm bed, driving into her in ecstatic oblivion. Mouth dry at the image, she ran a finger over the juke’s scratched glass.
The two men pulled money from their wallets, tossed it on the bar. She strained to see their faces, but they kept their backs to her, pushing their way through the crowded tables toward the door. Arianna started to follow, when a drunk staggered into her and grabbed her arm.
“Damn, honey, you smell good. C’mere. I’m in the mood for love.”
Practically drooling, the Skin looked woozy. Cursing the drunk’s lack of inhibition, she pulled away.
His mouth flattened. “With that fat ass, you’re lucky I’m interested. Should be honored, bitch.”
The insult stung, but she gave him a cool look. “With that fugly face, you’d be lucky to find a willing sheep.”
The drunk’s gaze darkened and narrowed. He grabbed her breast. “At least you have some tits.”
“Stop it,” she cried out.
Dark memories surged: greedy hands reaching for her, feeling her breasts as if she were steak. Claws emerged from her fingertips. Arianna lifted her hand. No one forced her.
As she drew back, a familiar scent made her nostrils flare. The sharpness of crushed pine and crisp, fallen snow. Then a quiet, deep voice spoke. “Leave the little lady alone. Or else.”
Drunk guy sneered as a tall cowboy slid out of the hallway shadows, zipping up his jeans. Kyle. Arianna stiffened as she recognized the musky smell of sex. Her guardian had been using one of the back rooms known for quick trysts.
In a plaid thermal shirt, faded jeans and scuffed boots, he looked like just another tall, muscular cow hand, except for the distinctive Z slashing his left cheek. Dark brown hair peeked beneath the brim of his black Stetson, hiding his mesmerizing green eyes. They could grow sharp with impatience one minute, hot with passion the next.
Or glacial, as they did now, as he tipped back the hat to study her would-be molester.
“Or else what?”
Words barely fled the drunk’s mouth when a fist smashed into it. The man staggered backward. He wiped the blood off his mouth. “That all you got?”
Great. She groaned as the drunk swung at Kyle. Other patrons crowded around the fighting men, cheering them on.
Yup. Good time to leave, before all the surging testosterone went turbo.
Arianna fled for the door as Kyle made dog food of her attacker, but found it barricaded.
By five tall, bulky cowboys with rapid pulses and lust-darkened gazes. “Hey darling,” one drawled. “You smell soooo good. Why don’t you come here and show us a good time?”
Breath fled out of her bellowing lungs. As they stalked toward her, a low growl ripped from her throat. Oh please, not now, I can control this. Stay in Skin. You can defend yourself.
This wasn’t the other time. Not chained and helpless, a scared 12-year-old who could barely defend herself.
Breathing heavily as they circled, she reached for the switchblade in her back pocket. One rubbed the increasing bulge in his crotch and stalked forward. And then someone seized her from behind, forcing her to drop the knife, pinning her arms.
Logic fled, replaced by a surge of terror, triggering Lupine instinct. With a low snarl, she flung off her attacker, sending him crashing into a nearby table. Fur rippled along her arms. Her bones popped and snapped. Go for the target.
The wolf loped toward the man’s groin as screams broke out.
Kyle threw the drunk against the bar and turned in time to see a large gray wolf growl at a cowboy. A large wet stain spread over the man’s crotch, triggering his own Lupine instinct to attack. Unlike Arianna, he had control.
As the man stumbled backward, tripped over a chair and fell, the wolf snarled. Someone pulled a pistol from his holster, and cocked the trigger. Double shit.
Vaulting over a table, he tackled the gray wolf as she loped toward the terrified cowboy. Kyle rolled, tussling with her, putting a hand over her nose.
Letting her scent him.
Instantly Arianna calmed, her body growing limp. He stood and rose off the now whimpering wolf, head between her paws, tail lowered submissively. Something deep inside him broke.
Bar patrons stared, jaws dropping. A few took photos on their phones, and his guts clenched as he imagined the ensuing photos on Facebook and Twitter.
His gaze shot to Dell, the bar’s owner and a fellow Lupine. Dell nodded and pressed a button, scrambling all electronic communication.
Holding open the door, Kyle gestured. The wolf rose and trotted outside. He slammed the door shut and leaned against it, fishing out his cell phone. Didn’t need to get a signal for this particular call.
He hated this, but had no choice. Not with that little display before half the town’s male Skins.
Kyle pressed the speed dial, the OtherWorld equivalent of 9-1-1.
A long minute later, a dark-eyed man materialized. Clad in black leather pants, a wrinkled black shirt and doeskin boots, he looked pissed, as if someone had interrupted his dinner. Or something much more intimate, Kyle thought, as he inhaled the musky fragrance of sex and realized the man’s shirt was half-tucked in.
Tristan, the Silver Wizard, a member of the Brehon, the four powerful wizard judges of Otherworlders. Few messed with him, and those who did ended up as a pile of gray ash.
“I need a mind cleanse. The Skins inside saw her Change.” Tensing, he watched the powerful sorcerer scowl. Wind lifted Tristan’s shoulder-length black hair, each strand tipped with silver, glinting like polished chrome beneath the moonlit night.
“Again. The second time in two months. This one, she’s become a real problem.”
“The Skins wanted to rape her.”
Tristan’s nostril’s flared. “She’s approaching her heat. Is she insane, walking into a Skin bar with enough pheromones to make a eunuch erect? Has no male claimed her yet? A mating will severely dilute her sexual allure.”
“She’s refused to mate.”
The wizard’s thoughtful gaze rested on Kyle. Not going there, buddy. His brand of sex was rough, hard and shattering. Love ‘em, give them enough orgasms to light up a city block, and leave ‘em. Arianna needed a gentle male to arouse her passion and stick around for the long term.
He didn’t do long-term. Ever.
“Sometimes female Lupines must be forced.”
Kyle bristled. “Force her and she’ll only turn more feral than she did tonight.”
“Then we have a little problem,” Tristan said softly.
The wizard’s dark eyes glowed ice blue. Kyle’s blood pressure plummeted as he sensed the gathering current of pure power. The wolf whimpered and lowered her head. Tristan wanted to fry Arianna right here, solving the problem that was her.
Squatting down, Kyle hooked his arms in a protective gesture around the wolf, fingers tunneling through her thick, warm fur. “It’s not her fault. She can’t help it.”
Suddenly he felt a warm, soft body replace fur and muscle and his hands cupped two generous breasts. His dick went instantly hard. Swearing under his breath, he pulled away, averting his gaze until Arianna clothed herself by magick. Kyle pulled her upward. Blond curls tumbled over his arm. He resisted the primal urge to lift one, inhale her delicate fragrance. Trembling, she faced the wizard, feet planted apart, defiance in her cornflower blue eyes.
It was like watching a spunky
challenge an angry grizzly. Chihuahua
Hollowness speared his chest. Kyle yanked her backward, slid his arms around her waist, and rested his chin atop her head.
“If you’re going to throw down, you’ll have to take us both,” he warned Tristan.