Alaskan Tigers Book Fourteen
After the murder of his parents, Frost splits his attention between raising his sister and making the world a safer place for her. When the chance to join the Shifter Peace Keepers arises, he can’t pass up the opportunity. He never expected his first mission to bring his mate into his life.
When the lone wolf shifter Alicia Huntington has worked for is murdered and a group of dangerous shifters are suddenly after her, she’s left with no choice but to contact the Alaskan Tigers for help. Being a human surrounded by shifters, Alicia never expected to find the family connection she’s longed for.
Frost and Alicia each have something the other is missing. They balance each other out, but they both come with baggage.
Can they let go of the past in order to accept what is in front of them?
Blood splattered across the white walls of the conference room and the sickly metallic scent of death hung in the air, turning Alicia Huntington’s stomach. Air refused to expand her lungs as her world shattered. Her feet seemed cemented to the floor, leaving her unable to move away from Lou’s dead body. This can’t be happening. Lou!
She wanted to do something, but it was pointless. She couldn’t breathe life into him when his heart had been ripped from his chest. Ripped. How was it even possible?
When Lou told her he was meeting with another shifter, Omar, over a property dispute, she knew things could turn dangerous quickly. It wasn’t until that moment she truly understood the strength shifters possessed. Lou was the first—and until today the only—shifter she knew, and he had never been violent. He was a gentleman, one who would give away his last meal or the shirt off his back. He’d never kill someone, especially not over a piece of property.
“Pretty girl, don’t look so terrified.” Omar stood, watching her. Lou’s heart was still in his hand, as blood dripped down onto the floor in front of him.
The amber glow of the animal inside him flashed in his eyes as he brought the heart closer to his mouth and licked the blood. Run! The fog lifted. She needed to get out of there. If she didn’t run, she was going to join Lou, her heart in Omar’s other hand.
Without turning her back on Omar, she reached behind her, grabbed the door handle and flung it open. The cool air from the hallway gushed toward her, encouraging her to keep going.
There’s nothing to worry about. It will be a simple meeting, just like the ones we’ve done in the past. Lou’s words echoed through her mind as she ran.
Only from the moment she stepped into the room, coming face-to-face with Omar for the first time, she knew there was nothing simple about it. The tension had been high then, only growing as the minutes progressed until he pulled the gun from his waistband and pointed it at her. Things had turned dangerous quickly, yet she never expected it to end like this.
“You can run, but I will find you. When I do, I’ll make you pay for this chase.” Omar growled as he stepped into the hallway. “I will find you.” Gunshots rang out, echoing through the hallway as pain exploded in her leg, sending her stumbling forward.
Keep going. Don’t look back. Keep running.
She could hear Lou urging her on. Ignoring the searing pain, she forced herself forward. She grabbed the door to the stairwell and stepped inside before another bullet could be fired. Even with the sting, she forced herself to run down the stairs. Outside, her scent would mix with others, making it harder for him to locate in his human form. It wouldn’t last long, but it might give her a head start.
As a shifter, Omar was faster and stronger than her. Even Lou had stood no chance against him. If she fell into Omar’s clutches, she’d suffer the same fate or worse. She needed to keep moving. She wasn’t familiar with the area. Where could she go? The only place she knew was Lou’s cabin. That was the property he was supposed to turn over in the meeting, yet something told her she needed to go there. At least once she made it to the cabin, she’d have Lou’s gun. Anywhere else she’d end up defenseless, waiting for Omar to follow her scent.
Her hand brushed against something solid in her pocket, and she stumbled remembering what it was. Lou’s phone. If anything happens to me, send an email to the shifter forum. It’s already saved in the drafts. Tell them what happened, and they’ll come for you. Trust them, they’ll keep you safe.
By the time she pushed open the exit door and ran into the winter air, she had a rudimentary plan. She focused on getting far enough from Omar to send the email first.
I can do this. I won’t let you down Lou.
* * *
“Activated?” Frost’s first thoughts went to his thirteen-year-old sister, Evie. As her legal guardian, he was responsible for her. While his new position with the Shifter Peace Keepers would end up taking him away from her at times, he hadn’t expected the first mission to be only minutes after he accepted the position. They hadn’t even made it to Alaska yet.
How would she feel about going to Alaska alone and being surrounded by strangers? There were supposed to be weeks of training before they’d be sent out on a mission. It would give him time to get her settled, help her make friends and feel safe. He wanted her to be comfortable there before he left.
“There’s a female who sent an urgent message through the forum. She needs our help. It shouldn’t take long, but we could face hostile enemies.” Carran, his new boss’s mate, glanced over at Frost. “Evie is going to stay on the plane with Taber. She’ll be safe. Don’t worry about her.”
“What about you?” Brooklynn stepped closer to Carran, eyeing him with concern.
“I’m going with you. We’re not sure what you might encounter. Even though Styx is with us, you might need more help than what he and Frost can provide.” Carran slipped his arm around Brooklynn’s waist. “I know you can handle yourself, but let me do this. We didn’t come equipped for a mission, and the two of you haven’t worked together enough to anticipate each other’s moves.”
“He’s right,” Styx chimed in. “Today was a controlled test to see what Frost is capable of, but neither of us have an idea how he’ll react on a true mission.”
“How do you know how any of the team would react until we’re activated?” Frost kept his tone even as his beast pushed forward, annoyed at the implication he wasn’t up for whatever awaited them.
“We’ve put together mission for the team. Testing them to see how they reacted. It appeared to be real and only those in charge knew it was a training session.” Brooklynn didn’t bother to glance at him.
“Two weeks ago, the team was alerted in the middle of the night that we were needed in West Virginia to help our ally, the West Virginia Tigers. For the most part, the exercise went as expected. All except for one individual, which is how the position came available for you.” Styx stood next to Brooklynn and Carran, his gaze focused on Frost.
“I wanted the team to go through a mission early so I could see how they’d do,” Brooklynn explained. “Styx and Carran play a role in the team’s training, but when it comes down to it, this is my team. They’re under my command. Some have an issue taking orders from a female, let alone a human female. I won’t stand for that. More important, I need to know each member on the team trusts my judgment and will follow my command. Otherwise, it will cost us our lives.”
“My mate is very capable, but it doesn’t change the fact she’s my mate. If the actions of one of her team members results with her injured, there will be hell to pay.” Carran stared at Frost as if warning him.
“I have no problem following your lead,” Frost clarified, suddenly uneasy. To him it wasn’t about the leader’s sex, it was how they commanded themselves and those around them. Could they do the job? In Brooklynn’s case, he’d learned enough about her before he applied to know she was more than capable. He even went as far as to make a trip to see her as they recruited months ago. Then he hadn’t realized he’d missed his chance and the selection process was over. It was only by chance a spot had come open, giving him a second opportunity.
“I know.” Brooklynn’s lips curled into a smile as she nodded toward him.
“This is anything but a routine mission.” Carran’s gaze locked onto Styx. “The Washington D.C. Tigers are involved.”
“Fuck!” Styx dragged a hand through his shoulder length black hair. “We’re going to have to do something about them, sooner rather than later. They’re already gunning for us. This interaction is going to strengthen their desire for revenge.”
“Ty wants us to get in, get the woman, and get out without alerting them we’re in the area, screwing with their plans again.” Carran ran a hand down his mate’s arm. “Understand now why I’m coming with you.”
“For the record, I never said you weren’t welcome. I know you can handle this and welcome you on any mission.” She leaned back against his chest and tipped her head back to look up at him. “I know enough about them to be thankful you and Styx are with me. Thanks baby.”
“Always sugar.” Carran pressed his lips to the top of her head.
Frost watched the two, envious of the closeness and love they shared. His parents had the same thing, leaving him with a longing to find it as well. Having someone who understood him on a level no one person could ever was intriguing. To have a mate who he could spend his life with animated him. Raising Evie had excited his polar bear to the idea of having children of his own. For that to happen, he had to first find his mate.
“Carran, you mentioned a forum. What were you referring to?” Frost questioned.
“Turi and Trey created the shifter forum, and their mate Ivy helped expand it. It allows us to communicate with other clans, search for any news of humans having interactions with our kind and allows people to send messages for help. That’s how this woman contacted us.” Carran’s gaze returned to him. “Once we’re in Alaska, Brooklynn will familiarize you with it. You can help her keep an eye on anything unusual, though the Nerd Crew stays on it as well.”
“Ivy’s proposal to Tabitha and Ty was the reason Shifters Peace Keepers formed.” With a smile on her face, Brooklynn glanced up at her mate. “Because of the proposal and mating with you, I found a new purpose.”
“We need to get going.” Styx tipped his head toward Frost. “Change of plans. Let’s grab your bags, and you can change on the plane.”
Adrenaline for the upcoming mission already sparked within him, Frost grabbed his small duffle bag and nodded. Once they were on the plane, Frost would talk to Evie and let her know about the mission and lay down the rules. This was unexpected, but he knew his sister was able to roll with whatever happened. In a few hours, they’d be back on schedule.
* * *
As darkness fell, so did the temperatures, bringing brutally cold winds as Alicia made her way through the woods to the cabin. With the temperature nearing zero, she wouldn’t survive long outdoors, she needed shelter and soon. With only a thin sweater and dress slacks, her attire wasn’t suitable for hiking in the woods. As the wind picked up again, she shivered, wondering how long before it would start to snow again. Hadn’t she heard there was more snow in the forecast for upstate New York after sunset?
Needing a break, she leaned back against a thick tree and took a deep breath, allowing the cold winter air to fill her lungs. With her heartbeat pounding in her ears, she pulled the cell phone Lou had given her from the pocket of her slacks and glanced at the screen. Nothing. Would they reply, letting her know they were sending aid? Doubt crept into her gut. Had her message for help made it through? How long before someone read it? Hours? Days? She wasn’t sure, but she had to believe they’d already read it, and someone was coming for her. Once she reached Lou’s cabin, cell reception would be gone, leaving her stuck waiting without any way to communicate.
A twig snapped, and she bolted upright, pain shot through her leg, still she was ready to run if left with no other option. She glanced in every direction, terrified she’d see Omar standing there. Instead a fox scurried across the ground. Seeing the small fox gave her hope Omar wasn’t still on her trail, otherwise the woodland creatures would have already scattered. Keep moving. She could swear Lou urged her.
Even if Omar wasn’t currently stalking her through the woods, he’d find her. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind he would let her walk away after what she witnessed. The question was who’d find her first. With everything in her she prayed it would be the good guys. Otherwise the cold weather was the least of her worries.
“Damn you Lou, for getting me involved in this. You should have known better than to take me with you.” Anger heated her words, fueling her strength to continue.
How did this happen? You always said shifters were hard to kill. Damn it, you’re supposed to be here. She blinked away the welling tears. There’d be time to grieve later, or at least she hoped. Right now, if she was going to live, she had to stay focused.
Slipping her hands back into her pockets, she headed deeper into the woods. Every minute she was out here, the temperature dropped further. It wouldn’t be long now until it snowed. She needed to pick up her pace. From the distance she already covered she expected there was another two miles to go before she found the cabin. He hadn’t been there in more than a year, but she could build a fire to warm up. More important than a fire, there was a shotgun. She wasn’t sure it would give her an even playing field. If Omar could kill Lou, a shifter, she was easy prey.
“At least I can make him hurt before he kills me.” She glanced down at her own gunshot wound in her thigh. Even though the blood had coated the makeshift bandage, turning the cream material dark red, she had stopped it enough she wasn’t leaving a trail of blood in her wake. Two miles should have been nothing, she ran three every morning. Though not with a gunshot wound or her head spinning from blood loss, but she could do it. She had to do it.
I won’t die out here. I’m going to make it. I have to. I’m going to find a way to make sure Omar pays for Lou’s murder.
The cabin door swung open, sending a gust of cold air toward Alicia. Alert, she rose from the sofa bringing the rifle up until it was aimed at the intruder. Her heart raced, sending the blood rushing through her veins until it was all she could hear.
“Don’t come any closer. I’m armed, and I will shoot you.”
“Alicia,” a male voice called out to her as a figure stepped into the doorway. “We’re here to help.”
“How do I know you’re not with him?” Even as her muscles wanted to tense up, she forced herself to remain loose. She needed to be prepared for whatever recoil the gun might have when fired. Handguns she knew, rifles she was less familiar with. If the kickback was like a mule, she needed to be ready. If there were others like he implied she might have to continue to shoot until she was out of ammo.
Four rounds. That’s all she had before she had to reload. She had to make them count. Up against a shifter, she wouldn’t have time to reload.
“We received your email asking us for help.” The man held out his hand showing her he was unarmed. At least with a gun. Shifters were dangerous in other ways. “You’re bleeding. Why don’t you let me look at your injuries?”
“Maybe you intercepted the email.” Her voice wavered as once again the different scenarios from the last few hours ran through her thoughts.
“Could be a possibility, but if I did, why wouldn’t I just kill you? Instead, I came in the front door, no weapon in hand—even though you’re pointing a gun at my head—and I offer to look at your wound. Why do any of that if I want you dead?”
“No weapon in hand…but you’ve got one. Don’t you? Not that it matters, you’re a…” Her words trailed off. Was it possible the man before her wasn’t a shifter?
With the moonlight shining behind him, it was clear he barely fit in the doorway. His shoulders rubbed the sides and his head nearly hit the log holding up the archway. He was certainly well-built, but was he a shifter? How was she supposed to be sure? Until she knew Lou’s secret, she hadn’t suspected him, or anyone else for that matter, of being a shapeshifter. Shifters were supposed to be a thing of fantasies, not living, breathing creatures.
“Want me to shift for you?” Amusement lit his tone, and if she could see his face, she’d bet he was smiling.
“No!” Holding the rifle tighter, images of a giant wolf flashed before her eyes. “Shift and I’ll shoot.” She couldn’t take any chances. In his other form, there was no doubt she’d be dead if he meant her harm.
“After years working for a wolf, I’d think you’d be used to our furry side.”
“Furry side, that makes it sound like you guys are some cuddly animals. You’re nothing like a protective dog.” She might have believed Lou would never hurt her, still he was capable of doing terrible things if placed in the position. “I—” Her legs buckled, stealing her words from her.