Gus padded through the trees as silent as his paws would allow. Luke, also in shifted form, was already perched on a ledge several feet away. With Beck’s help and approaching from different directions, the two of them had tracked the Mayor.
While they’d thought he would head back to Bryson City, Beck had insisted that his father would retreat to a hunting cabin he kept deep in the Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee side. He’d told them of an abandoned mountain town and a campground nearby where they could take cover at night
The ledge Luke had settled on overlooked both the town and the campers and just beyond a small ridge, the green tin roof of the Mayor’s hunting cabin could be seen.
A small river ran through at the base of the mountain and a cave hidden behind a waterfall allowed them to come and go freely in shifted form without being out in the open.
Luke’s ears perked up and he turned his head slightly, then let out a low growl.
Gus huffed back. He would’ve rolled his eyes if he could’ve. As it was, he the intent would have to do.
Beck was on his way to see his father. Gus tried to talk him out of it, tried to talk him out of coming along at all, but he wouldn’t listen. He wanted to talk to the Mayor, his father, see if the older man could be reasoned with. Gus doubted it and he figured Beck probably did, too. There was no dissuading him, though.
In the end, it didn’t hurt to try.
At the same time, if anything happened to Beck, Gus would be a dead man. And not because of the Mayor. Nope, his pretty girl would kick his ass and rip him apart. Her bear was young, strong, and unpredictable. She hadn’t been unleashed in the heat of the moment, yet. He hoped he was around to help her when it happened and he knew it was only a matter of time before it did.
As it was, she was going to be pissed when she found out they didn’t go to Knoxville for supplies. Or rather, they didn’t just go to Knoxville for supplies. They didn’t go just so he and Beck could bond, either. No, this was purely a hunting trip. A recon mission. An expedition to see what they were up against.
So far, they weren’t sure. So far, there had been no word from Beck and that’s where their information would need to come from. So far, they were staying far enough away that they could make it out of the mountains and back to Dandridge in one piece, preferably still breathing.
Gus stood beside Luke and peered over the edge of the bluff. Water rushed far below, fed by the waterfall, which in turn was fed by the rain water collected higher up in the mountains.
Not too far south was the campground and resort area where Blake was from. Farther north and to the east in Virginia was where his mate Leah was from. Gus’s own family lived just a few miles west from where he and Luke presently stood. In the mountains around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
Vacation spots, all of them.
Theme parks and ski lifts.
Shifters lived and worked and existed, wholly unknown, to the humans who inhabited the Appalachians. Human populations were out of control and shifter populations, animal populations in general struggled to survive. Men like the Mayor were one of the threats, one of the biggest, quickest, most immediate threats, but not the only one. There were many.
Lack of environmental control.
Predators came in all shapes and sizes. And while on a normal, individual basis Gus could get along with humans, as a whole, they worried him. If things continued on, how would animals and hybrids and shifters survive? How would the planet survive?
Luke nudged him and Gus looked over, followed the wolf’s line of sight. Smoke rose from the direction of the cabin. Beck. He said he’d ask his father to light a fire when he arrived, claiming chill, something his father wouldn’t find suspect. Beck was always cold. Always feeble.
That worried Gus, too.
Beck didn’t have the ability to heal the way Gus and Luke and Bex did. He didn’t have the ability to ward off human infection the way shifters did. But Gus hoped that by father and daughter sharing a home and forming those familial bonds, that Beck’s life expectancy would increase. As it was, without the bubble the Mayor had provided for him, Beck was susceptible to so much illness and a weakened immune system.
Gus glanced at Luke, again, then shook his head as best he could.
They had limited communication in their animal states, but a little telepathy, a little energy could pass between them. Luke wanted to get closer, to get down to ground level and make his way closer to the cabin. He wanted to go alone. Gus wouldn’t hear of it.
Gus had no idea what Luke was thinking when he’d left Dandridge. They were all trying to figure out what the Mayor planned for them. The tipping point had been when Beck had to take sides. He chose to stand with Bex and the family of the bear who’d maimed him. A twinge of madness had lit the Mayor’s eyes and Gus wasn’t sure Bex had caught on or was frightened enough for herself as Gus was for her.
Her quiet life wasn’t so quiet anymore. It had been turned upside down and her hope of living a relatively small, quaint life was out of the question. Her bed and breakfast was now going to be a refuge for injured shifters and those looking for a place to fit in. The alliance of bears and wolves was new and tentative and more than a little uncertain in its ability to work and remain peaceful.
Luke had brought information to them months ago that had opened up a whole can of rotten worms, but it had also opened doors and chances and provided a lifetime of answers for Bex, even though she hadn’t really known what questions to ask.
The wolf backed up on silent feet and before Gus could react, Luke dove into the underbrush and made for the waterfall. Gus gruffed and loped after him, but knew that he wouldn’t be able to catch up. He could come close, but Luke was lean and fast and could slink under and jump over things that Gus’s bear couldn’t.
The dumbass wolf was going to do exactly what Gus hadn’t wanted him to.
Luke was going to get closer to the Mayor’s hunting cabin.
Gus hoped to hell Luke didn’t get killed. He might not like Luke all that much, but he didn’t want any harm to come to him, he didn’t want anything to happen to him. Not when Gus planned to beat the tar out of the shifter himself.
Despite what any of them said or did or thought, they needed Luke Blackwood to make it through all of this alive.
Available as an ebook:
Tracking Luke Blackwood, wolf shifter and all around pain in the ass, hadn’t been the toughest part of Gus’s current situation. No… Lying to his mate had been.
While Bex was home overseeing the renovations on her house, Gus and Luke were working to gather information on their enemies. But in their absence, danger has closed in on Bex and the ragtag band of werewolves and werebears left behind to watch out for her.
When the threat causes her to lose everything she owns, lines in the sand blur and choices have to be made. The safety of not only their immediate friends and family, but that of all the shifters in and around the Dragon and Deal’s Gap depends on it.
Author’s Note: This fast paced story is the final installment of my Black & White series within Eliza Gayle’s Southern Shifters Kindle World.
Author’s Additional Note: This cannot be read as a standalone. If you try, you will be very confused. Please start with book one, Ink To Bear.
Publisher: Lissa Matthews
Kindle Worlds: Eliza Gayle’s Southern Shifters
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black & White Series, Book 4
Length: 91 pages
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