Authors: Ellie Ferguson
Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #paranormal, #romance, #Suspense, #Urban Fantasy, #shapeshifters, #stalking
Book 1 of the Hunter’s Moon Series
Naked Reader Press
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright© 2013 by Ellie Ferguson
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
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Table of Contents
They were here.
I knew it the moment I stepped outside. Despite all the precautions I’d taken, despite all the times I’d moved and left no forwarding address, they’d found me--again. It didn’t matter that I’d done everything possible to live off the grid. All it took was one small mistake and there they were.
Damn it. I really liked it here and now I had to move and move fast.
Assuming I lived long enough to do so.
Just moments before I’d been thinking about the upcoming weekend. A couple of days off sounded good. I didn’t even mind the fact Dana had set me up on a blind date with her cousin. Not that I expected anything to come of it. Nothing ever did. Either my demons interfered or Michael’s trackers did--like now. Damn it, what’s a girl got to do to have a nice dinner and maybe some good sex?
Without breaking stride, I melted into the early afternoon foot traffic. A quick glance right and then left didn’t reveal my pursuers. But I knew there were there. I could feel their eyes on me. The back of my neck prickled. There was that
between my shoulder blades. Instinct had kept me alive this long. Would it be enough now?
God, I was an idiot. I’d actually started believing Michael had forgotten about me or had decided it just wasn’t worth the effort to keep looking for. I’d known better. I’d embarrassed him when I refused his advances in front of the others. But that hadn’t been the end of it. He hadn’t let it go.
Bile rose in my throat at the memory of that long ago night. I’d learned what it meant to fight for your life then. I could still feel his hands on me. If I closed my eyes, I could smell the scent of him as he’d pulled me close. I’d fought then. That’s the one thing he hadn’t expected. It was over almost as quickly as it had started. I’d fled the only home I’d ever known that night, leaving him bleeding on the floor.
I’d run. I might not have looked back but I had kept a look out. I’d known Michael wouldn’t just let me go. But I’d never expected him to keep up the chase this long. God, would I never get my life back?
I’d arrived in Dallas almost a year ago, hoping to lose myself here. After fifteen years on the run, I was tired. I wanted nothing more than to settle down, find a mate and have a life. The thought of moving again, of having to establish yet another identity was almost more than I could bear.
Had I gotten careless because I was tired of running?
It didn’t matter what happened. The damage was done. If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself once more facing Michael. This time there’d be no escape. What happened so long ago could be seen as a direct insult to him, the clan’s Alpha. Michael had to bring me back. Otherwise the others would think he wasn’t strong enough to control a mere female. If he wasn’t strong enough to control a female, they’d doubt his ability to control the clan.
It didn’t matter that I had never been a “mere” anything where the clan was concerned.
None of that mattered. I had to get away. The next person to bump into me could be the one I was running from. I’d never been one to act like a lamb awaiting the slaughter and this was no time to start. I might not be the Marine my father had been but he’d taught me well. He and my mother, God rest their souls, had taught me how to act under fire, real or metaphorical.
It was time to remember exactly who and what I was. I was the daughter of the former Alpha of our clan and his mate, who was an alpha in her own right. Let the fools Michael Jennings sent for me learn just what that meant.
If they wanted to play, I was more than happy to oblige.
I paused before the main display window for Neiman Marcus and glanced around, careful not to be too obvious about it. Yes, someone was definitely there. Again. As much as I’d like to believe whoever was watching me was more interested in my good looks--hah!--or even in stealing my backpack, I knew better. Despite all my attempts to tell myself differently, I’d felt their presence for a week now. Never at the same place and never at the same time--and never this close.
Damn it, I had gotten careless.
Fortunately, so had they. They were close enough I could scent them. Yes, them. There were at least three trackers close by. I probably ought to be flattered Michael had decided a single tracker wasn’t enough to bring me in. Hopefully, three wouldn’t be enough either.
I didn’t have time to wonder why Michael had suddenly changed tactics. Had something happened within the clan to force his hand? Or was he, like me, growing tired of the hunt
God, why couldn’t this be over? I like a good hunt as much as the next person. But only when I’m the hunter. This being the hunted didn’t sit well. One way or another, I had to end this game of cat and mouse. But I had to bide my time. Downtown Dallas wasn’t the place for a confrontation, at least not the sort I usually found myself involved in. So, unless I wanted our secret made public, I had to find some place secluded and I needed to find it quickly.
A hint of worry licked at my confidence. These hunters were better than the others Michael had sent for me in the past. They’d been able to track me no matter what I did to throw them off. That meant they were at least as good as I was, perhaps even better. So I had to be careful. No unnecessary risks. Well, at least no outrageously unnecessary ones. My whole life was one of risk. The fact that someone was stalking me--again--only proved it.
Fortunately Dallas, even downtown Dallas, wasn’t without out-of-the-way areas where I could put my plan into action. All I had to do was get to one before my unseen trackers decided to make their move.
I started down the block. Attorneys and their clients hurried down the street in the direction of the courthouse, briefcases swinging like weapons to part the crowd before them. Men and women in business suits strolled only slightly more leisurely back to their offices from lunch. One or two may have staggered, a bit worse for wear after one too many margaritas at lunch.
As the crowd pressed on down the street, I paused near the entrance to Renaissance Tower. I carefully shifted my backpack, settling it more comfortably over my left shoulder, leaving my right hand free. I wanted to be able to drop it without hesitation, or use it as a weapon, when the time came--and something told me that time would be soon.
I had to get off the streets.
A man bumped against me and I stiffened, relaxing only as he mumbled a quick, “’Scuse me” before moving on. One thing about Dallas, it’s a polite town. Even though I looked like the average college--okay, post-grad--student wandering the streets, people still greeted me and begged for forgiveness for whatever minor breech they thought they might have committed. Strange town this.
A slight smile touched my lips as I ducked inside the building. I knew it was a risk. There were any number of security cameras here, cameras that would capture my image. But they’d also capture the image of whoever followed me. It might not help me, but in the long run, it might help any who looked into my disappearance. That really was the best I could hope for.
The glass doors closed. For one moment I relished the cool air that greeted me. But I couldn’t stand there enjoying it. Too many others wanted inside, politely but insistently pushing past me. Then there were the trackers. I could feel them even if I couldn’t see them.
“May I help you, ma’am?” the uniformed security guard asked as I approached his desk. He looked up and grinned. This was the third delivery I’d made there this week. “Hi.”
He really did have a nice smile.
“Hi, Gil. I’ve got a delivery for George and Chandler from the Jessup Firm. They’re expecting it.”
I waited as he called upstairs to confirm my story. I hadn’t realized when I took the temporary job as runner for a local law firm that it would come in handy as a way to keep alive. I’d been surprised enough when it led to some very
dates. Now it seemed I had another reason to be thankful for those bottom feeders called lawyers.
“Twenty-fifth floor, Finn. Sign in and put this on.”
He pushed a clipboard across the desk in my direction with one hand and handed me a guest badge with the other. He glanced at the page as I scrawled my name on the first available line. I handed him back the clipboard and then attached the badge to the right front pocket of my jeans. There, I was official.
“When you going to finally agree to go have a drink with me, Finn?”
“When you don’t have a family to go home to, Gil.” That was one of my only rules. No married men, and especially no married men with kids.
I gave a little wave and moved toward the elevator bank. I needed to be smart now. More than my own future depended on it. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for letting the world-at-large know that shape-changers really do exist and that we walk among them. Michael might be willing to risk it but I wasn’t.
Ten minutes later, my delivery made, I stepped into the corridor and glanced around. No one else was visible. But that didn’t mean anything. My pursuers could very easily be waiting for me in the lobby. It would be easy enough to flank me as I stepped off the elevator. They’d rely on the fact I wouldn’t want to create a scene. By the time we were away from the crowds, it would be too late--at least for me.
They could be closer, hiding in the restrooms down the hall or in one of the stairwells. I doubted they had given up, but I could no longer feel them bearing down on me. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or not. All I knew for sure was I had to get out of the building without being forced to either surrender or reveal much more to the public than any of our kind wanted to.
The elevator doors slid open and I tensed. Instead of the demons from my past appearing, a couple of well dressed women stepped out instead. From their whispered conversation, I knew they were talking about a different kind of assignation than the one I’d been expecting. No, they were comparing notes on their love lives, oblivious to all around them.
Inspiration hit. I reached out and stopped the door before it could close. I punched the buttons to make the elevator car stop on the twenty first, nineteenth and tenth floors before coming to a stop in the lobby. Unless I missed my guess, the car would stop on at least one other floor along the way which was all to the good. The more stops it made, and the more people who got on and off, the more difficult it became for my pursuers to realize where I had actually gone
Now, to get out of the building. Then I could make sure that any confrontation happened on my terms and not theirs.