It takes one strong alpha with a tight grip to keep a mountain full of shifters under control. Sawyer Ballantine’s contending with an uppity wolf leader and a herd of shifter elk bound and determined to take over. He might be the lone bear on the mountain, but he’s not going to allow another four shifters to just move in, especially not when they whiff of power. They’ll either be his in all ways, or they’ll be gone.
Dillon, Jerry, Kevin, and Brad have no one but each other since their groups kicked them out. The young bear, wolves, and fox make a merry ménage, pooling their meager skills and serving beer. They’ve stumbled into more than they understand, caught in the dispute between the Urso of Ballantine Mountain and the elk. But winter’s setting in, and they don’t know how to keep Dillon safe for hibernation.
And then a bear walks into their bar.
Excerpt: A Bear Walks Into A Bar
Sawyer grabbed his leather jacket and strode out of his office, down the hall, and into the elevator. He didn’t wait to see if Rudy followed. The scent of wolf gave the man away. Wasn’t a shifter born that Sawyer couldn’t sniff out, though he’d learned to hide his own nature—especially when one of his biggest projects involved a herd of Rocky Mountain sheep shifters who’d contracted for a new condo complex west of Denver.
Business was good, and for business to stay good, Sawyer pretended to be human, and kept the wolves and other local shifters out of sight, except for Rudy—who never got near the sheep.
Which was why Sawyer planned to make this trip alone. No telling what, or who, he’d find.
The parking garage housed a variety of vehicles, but the reserved section held only two: a late model Bentley and a Harley Davidson.
“Rudy, you’re not going and that’s that.” Sawyer tightened the saddlebags on his Harley Road King. “Besides, how am I gonna hook up with some hot young stud if he keeps sniffing around for the wet fur coat?”
“Hardy-har! But I still think you shouldn’t ride into an unknown situation without a proper honor guard. Give me an hour and I’ll round up Ricky, Jordan, Clancy—”
Werewolf Bikers. Sounded like a bad B-movie.
“If you have to announce your position, then you don’t deserve your position,” Grandpa used to say.
But even now the trees beckoned. If Sawyer strained, he could hear the rivers miles away, imagine silver trout flashing in the dappled sunlight peeking through the trees, smell the rich scent of loam and decaying leaves. Soon he’d reach that tranquil haven, leaving behind exhaust fumes and the beep, beep, beep, hurry, hurry, hurry of the city.
A man of both worlds.
“What if something happens to you?” Rudy whined.
“All the more reason for you not to go. Say something does happen”—fat fucking chance—“I need you to keep things together. Do you have any idea how fast an idiot like Brian would destroy the pack?” Rudy needed a better second-in-command, and a fresh infusion of new blood to shore up an aging pack.
Of course, Sawyer being the last bear within a hundred miles didn’t help his own situation. Rudy’s age would soon tell on him, though at the moment he’d still whip any challengers—except for Sawyer. Brian became a bigger threat with each passing day.
The Lobo sighed. “I worry. What if you run into trouble? For you and for the pack. We can’t take another war.”
No, not with the fragile peace between the predators and elk, who’d slowly begun to encroach on Sawyer’s territory since their last eviction. Elk, tasty things. Eat one, the rest fell into line—for a time. And leave it to Rudy to worry about his precious wolves only, and not the many others depending on Sawyer’s generosity.
“Do you honestly think I’d let anything better me? I’m going to take care of four shifters who haven’t asked permission to cross into my domain.” Besides, the elk might have sent them, and the message he’d gotten only said four shifters, not what kind. They must be desperate or stupid.
“I still don’t like you traveling alone.”
No, you don’t like not knowing what I’m up to. Sawyer’s fist and Rudy’s face were seconds away from meeting again. Sawyer cracked his knuckles.
Rudy winced, but persisted. “You’re the last bear on the mountain. As you said, maybe I can lead the wolves, but do you think for a moment that the deer, beavers, otters, coyotes, and foxes will accept my lead if you don’t come back?” The Lobo folded his arms across his designer-shirt-clad chest. “The possums are stubborn, you know.”
“So growl at them, and when they fall over and play dead, make any decisions before they come to.” Sawyer so did not need this shit right now.
Rudy tapped his foot. In alternate form he’d have his ears laid back, snarling.
“I’m just going to take the long way home. You and the guys go on ahead.” Sawyer added the sinister smile known to get him his way—and make the rabbits shit their pants. “Leave the lights on for me.” What he really wanted was to get laid—repeatedly, to tide him over while he stayed close to his den and spent most of his time sleeping, and waking up with the hard on from hell with only his own paw to solve the problem. Damned hibernation.
“No buts, Rudy.” Sawyer turned up the heat, physically driving Rudy back with shifter energy. “You’re the leader of the largest predator group under my protection, and my employee. You keep the business going when I can’t be too visible. I need you. But at the end of the day, my word is law, got it?” If not for the weight of responsibility, they might have been friends.
Sawyer couldn’t afford friends. Rudy hadn’t been party to the extermination of Sawyer’s clan, but he was still a wolf.
Rudy nodded, eyes downcast. Asswipe needed to alpha up before some upstart kicked his butt and seized power—like Brian.
Of course, that might prove interesting. This close to winter, Sawyer’s animal instincts were spoiling for either a good fight or a good fuck, and he wasn’t too particular of which.
“Where exactly are you going? Would you at least tell me that?”
“A town nobody’s heard of about thirty-five miles from home.” If Sawyer needed to hide, he’d find a similar out of the way spot. Too bad this particular spot sat on the border between elk and predator. Just because they lived off vegetation didn’t mean his rivals weren’t a threat—an expert marksman had joined the herd a few years ago. He’d been tough and stringy, but ceased being a problem.
Conversation grew impossible when Sawyer fired up his bike. Mother Moon, but he loved the rumble of the big Harley between his thighs, the wind on his face, tempting his sensitive nose with a million different scents: moss, pines, rabbit, clover, chicken barbecuing on a grill at a campsite downhill, all awaiting him once he reached his mountain.
Fluffy clouds overhead cast shadows over the scenery, and the crisp scent of snow drifted over the highest mountaintops. Colorado. No greater place existed on earth.
Occasionally he caught a whiff of human emotions: anger, fear, sorrow, lust. Especially lust.
Damn, he needed to get laid.