Authors: Holley Trent
Tags: #shapeshifter, #shapeshifter romance, #cat shifter, #werecougar, #fated mates, #alpha hero, #strong heroine, #forbidden love
Before there was Mason, Hank, Sean, and Belle Foye, there was
In this Desert Guards prequel story, learn how the future alpha Were-cougar Floyd nabs gutsy neighbor Glenda Baxter as his mate.
This short story can be read on its own, but is meant to be a supplement to the series. It contains minor spoilers of Book 1.
Thirty-five Years Ago
Glenda Baxter could never hear her neighbor Floyd Foye creeping up on her. Every single time he stepped out of the shadows, her heart nearly exploded. That moment was no exception.
” She flicked the towel she was using to dry her horse Moonshine at Floyd, and seethed when he laughed.
“It’s not funny.” She stomped her foot and pouted in that way that always made him chuckle. She’d never been the petulant type. She didn’t have the energy for it.
“You get scared every time, Glen.” Barefooted and shirtless as always, he crouched in front of her, out of sight of her family going about their business on the Double B Ranch.
She didn’t know what Floyd had against proper clothes, but he rarely wore them. Not that she’d complain. He cut an admirable figure: tall, dark, handsome, and so damned taboo.
In spite of his family owning the neighboring slice of the arid New Mexican landscape, she wasn’t supposed to be consorting with him.
“Those Foyes are trouble,”
her father always said. Glen usually just nodded and moved along so he’d shut up.
The Foyes had been living in the county for even longer than the Baxters, and she thought the families were long overdue to forge a peace accord of some sort. She didn’t try to understand it. So much of what her parents did didn’t make good sense to her.
“Let’s go.” Floyd tucked his long hair behind his ears. He didn’t stand, though. He canted his head in the direction of some banging coming from the pasture.
Glen’s brother August was working on the old tractor again. The machine needed to be replaced, but there was no money for it. There was never any money.
“You know I can’t go anywhere,” she said. “I’ve got chores.”
“They’re not gonna miss you, Glen. They never do.”
“Floyd…” Her voice was scolding, but she knew Floyd was right. He was always right.
If she were gone, hers would be one less plate her mother would have to put on the table. There were too many mouths to feed, and her mother wasn’t shy about reminding her of that.
Glen was eighteen. She could have moved off the ranch like her brother Todd and tried to support herself elsewhere, but no one was hiring. She knew that because she put in applications every week when her father drove them all into town to pick up supplies.
At least she was pulling her weight at Double B. Her horse training brought in pretty reliable money, but it wasn’t enough to feed everyone. With the droughts and having to send so many calves to market early, the cattle income had been stagnant for years.
She draped the towel over a hook and shoved her hands into her jeans pockets. “Where’d you want to go?”
“I know a little place.”
“A place you’ve taken me before?”
He shook his head. “Different one.”
“How long am I going to be gone?”
“Long enough for someone to notice, if that’s what you want.”
She laughed. “Maybe I do. So, should I put some things in a backpack?”
He nodded. “A few things. Yeah.”
“Sleeping bag?” They camped a lot. Floyd liked it. Glen tolerated it because Floyd liked it. Sleeping out under the stars was one of the few ways they could steal a few hours together without having to spend money. The added perk was that they wouldn’t get caught. Their properties were vast, and even if anyone noticed she was missing, they’d need a long time to canvas the desert for her. If they cared.
“Yeah. Bring that.” He knelt up a bit and peered outside. It was safe for him to go, so he did.
“Floyd!” she called in a loud whisper. He had a tendency to leave conversations half done. She was used to it, though. His habit drove other folks nuts, but she’d learned to roll with it because she understood him. He was always on the go. She liked that he was so eager to keep himself occupied, unlike some men she knew.
“Where do you want me to meet you?” she asked.
Then he was gone.
She sighed. “One of these days, I’m gonna get sick of you leaving me, bub.”
Floyd’s “usual place” was at a trailhead about a mile from the Baxter family home—far enough back and down a slope enough that folks wouldn’t see his headlights. They met there at least once per week, sometimes more often depending on how badly Glen wanted to get away. He was always so willing to please her.
Glen tossed her backpack and sleeping bag through the open window in the back of Floyd’s truck bed topper, and then jogged around to the passenger side.
He took her hand as soon as she climbed in.
“Where are we going this time? Can you tell me now?” she asked.
“You’ll see.” He kissed the back of her hand then placed it on his lap. He had to shift gears.
“What’s with all the mystery?”
He pointed the truck toward the mountains—away from the trail. They hadn’t gone that way before. “There you go, honey. Not a mystery.”
“Tell me about it.”
“No reason to. You’ll see it soon enough. Why waste all the words?”
“It’s okay to talk sometimes, Floyd,” she said with a laugh. “That’s how people learn about each other.”
“What do you really have left to learn about me, huh? You’ve known me since you were a baby.”
It would have been more precise for him to say that she knew
him since she was young. They hadn’t been allowed to associate much, and she was certain that was as much his mother’s doing as her mother’s. For reasons Glen couldn’t ascertain, Margarita Foye
Glen. The woman wouldn’t even say “hi” when they passed each other on the sidewalk in town.
Furrowing her brow, she turned to Floyd. “Why does your mother hate me?”
He snorted, and then shifted the truck to third gear. They’d had so little rain that the terrain was dry and hard. It made for smooth-enough driving. “That’s random as hell.”
“No it’s not. Why does she?”
“She doesn’t hate you.”
“Could have fooled me. She practically hisses whenever she sees me.”
“Don’t take it personally. She does that to lots of folks.”
He shrugged. “Just the way she is. She can’t help it.”
Glen put her feet up on the dashboard and settled low in her seat. “My mother thinks she’s some kind of…
or spell caster. She thinks your mother is responsible for the lack of rain in the past three months.”
He scoffed. “A witch? Seriously, Glen?”
“There are witches in town. Did you know that?”
“Well, yeah, but Ma ain’t one of them. She’s just a little weird, is all.”
“You should hear some of the new rumors people are spreading about your family. They say your mother goes down to Mexico to learn new spells and brings them back to raise hell.”
“She goes to Mexico to visit her nieces and nephews. All she ever brings back are tamales.”
“I want tamales.”
He shrugged again. “Ask her for some. She won’t tell you no.”
“You really believe that?”
“Yeah, I do. Ma would never deny you food.”
“No, just a kind word and a smile on occasion.”
“You just gotta warm her up, Glen.”
Glen let her lips sputter and leaned to turn on the radio. Floyd only ever got one station in his truck, so it was a good thing she liked oldies.
B.B. King’s growly voice filled the cab and Glen settled even lower in her seat, eyes closed, to listen.
It’d been such a long day, and that was about all she had energy for—to listen and to ponder how to ingratiate herself with her boyfriend’s mother. And then rest, when the truck gently rocked her to sleep.
Since Glen was asleep, Floyd took the opportunity to check his secret place without her wigging out about the location. If any animals had taken up residence in the small cave since his last visit, he’d need to clear them out. For the most part, animals didn’t scare him. He was a Cougar shifter and could frighten away most things that had claws and fangs without too much effort. The problem was that Glen didn’t
he was a shifter. All she knew was that he was weird.
Her folks knew why he was weird. The Foyes had never tried to hide what they were from the time they’d settled onto the place all those generations ago. While Glen’s folks were well aware of what their neighbors were, their children seemed to be in the dark. He understood why Mrs. Foye might have been hostile. As a much younger woman, a Cougar had scorned her. He thought he’d been in love…and then he found his true mate.
Floyd had wanted to tell Glen what he was for years—since that day two years past when he’d been eighteen and she’d turned sixteen. She’d asked him in that sassy way of hers, “Will you kiss me now?”
He’d sure wanted to, so he had. Hadn’t stopped kissing her since, or doing…
things with her that would probably have her momma getting her daddy to point a shotgun in Floyd’s direction if she ever found out.
Floyd wanted to make sure that when Mrs. Baxter did find out, it’d be too late for her to do anything about it. Floyd didn’t want Glen to go home.
He switched on his flashlight and did a quick scan of the cavern. The opening was about six feet high, but the ceiling was lower the farther back into the cave he went. Ten feet inside—at the farthest point—there was only four feet of clearance. They wouldn’t be able to stand, but he didn’t have much standing planned.
He danced the light’s beam to the corners and checked that no animals had made out with the supplies he’d been stowing over the past couple of weeks. He’d been waiting for the perfect moment to take her away and, with things at the ranch being so quiet lately, he figured it was as good a time as any.
Everything in the cave seemed to be as he left it, so he went to fetch Glen.
Gently, he freed her seatbelt buckle and let the strap retract slowly. He scooped her up under the knees and around her back, and she opened her bright green eyes. “Floyd?”
“Shh. You can go back to sleep.”
“Where are we?”
“Not too far from home. Promise.”
She looked around, but she likely didn’t recognize the place. He’d never taken her there, and he’d only discovered it himself six weeks prior.
He ducked her into the cave, set her down, and started shaking out cushions for a pallet.
“Let me get the stuff out of the truck. I have a lantern.”
“What are we doing?”
He grabbed the lantern and Glen’s things, thinking that the sleeping bag would come in handy if the temperature dropped overnight. He had a few blankets, but knew Glen had a tendency to get cold. Cougars put off a lot of body heat, but she might not want to cuddle once she put two and two together and figured out what he was up to. He wanted to keep her from going home.
“How’d you find this place?” she asked as he lit the lantern.
“I was out prowlin’ with my brother. You know how it goes. You get to runnin’ your mouths and don’t realize how far you’ve walked.”
He and Jesse had actually discovered it while in their Cougar forms. They’d passed by while chasing a Coyote shifter off their land. The damned things had been getting into the cattle at the Double B, and the last thing the Foyes needed was for the Baxters blaming them for the butcher work the Coyotes were responsible for.
“You know, I haven’t seen Jesse in a while,” Glen said. “How’s he doing?”
“He took a—” Floyd shut his mouth at the last moment before the word “mate” could come out. “Uh. He…got a girl,” he said. “Got married last month.”
“Really?” Glen scrunched her nose. “I didn’t hear anything about it. I usually hear things. Anyone I know?”
“Nah. It was a girl Ma set him up with. A girl from Sonora.”
A good girl for Jesse. She was sweet, pretty, patient, and not particularly ambitious. She was a fine girl for an alpha’s son who probably would never be an alpha himself. Unfortunately, she spoke only Spanish, and Jesse’s grasp of the language was limited to reading restaurant menus. Floyd couldn’t do much better. He could understand Spanish when Ma yelled it at him, but he couldn’t speak back more than a few rude phrases.
“I hope she hasn’t been trying to set
up with anyone,” Glen said with a laugh.
“Yeah, she has.”
Glen’s smile fell away. “Oh.”
“No, no, baby, don’t worry about it. I told her to quit it.” Ma knew who he wanted—knew he didn’t want anyone else, and she understood what that meant for a Cougar. She’d been born one just like her husband, and no matter where a Cougar group—or glaring—was rooted, the traditions were more or less the same. A Central American goddess named
La Bella Dama
had created their race long before the conquistadors arrived in the New World. Over the course of several centuries, they’d migrated to the U.S. and Canada, and down into South America as well.
No matter where New World Cougars lived, they were more similar than different. Regardless of their divergent upbringings, both of Floyd’s parents understood that once a Cougar found his mate, there’d be no dissuading him from wanting her. Unfortunately, his mother thought Glen would turn her back on him as soon as she found out what he was…or that Mrs. Baxter would do all she could to keep Glen from him.
Floyd wasn’t going to let that happen.
Glen lounged on her side and rested her head against her fist, watching him undress. “You don’t waste time, do you?”
“Need you.” He draped his pants on top of a supply crate and crawled onto the pallet.
Glen had never been shy about looking at him, and he loved that about her. Loved everything about her, really, even if he hadn’t said as much just yet. He figured she could tell, anyway, even if he’d never spoken the words.
“Always raring to go, huh?” She laughed again.
He didn’t care that she laughed at his expense as long as she was laughing. It gutted him to see her sad.
He helped her sit up and tugged her shirt over her head. “Why are you always pickin’ on me, Glen?”
“Because you set yourself up for it so nicely.”
“You should be sweet to me.” He freed her of her pesky brassiere and laid her back down.
“Oh, I should?”
“Mm-hmm.” Straddling her hips, he pressed his hands to her flat belly and slowly up to her breasts. The nipples had already perked up for him to grab between his fingers and tug—pink bull’s-eyes telling him where to put his tongue and where to avoid scoring with his fangs. Most of the time he had good control over his fangs, but when he was with his mate, the wild animal in him wanted his piece, too.
Gripping her wrists together over her head with one hand, he drew one puckered nub into his mouth. He slid his free hand down to her waistband, seeking her warmth.
They had always been in such a hurry before, and he never got a chance to do what he wanted with her. Always quick fucks just in case they got caught or ran out of time, but he vowed to have his way for once. He wanted to taste all those soft, feminine places, and have her sample some of his hard ones.
He worked her button free and, reluctantly, lifted his head from her generous breast. “Take these off.” He gave her waistband a tug. “Take everything off.”
“I might get cold.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
“Yeah? What’d you have in mind?”
“Lots of exercise. Gotta get warmed up first, though.”
He needed to warm her up for so many things, and he knew some would be much harder than others.