Here is your first chapter of Winter’s book…
(Raw, Unedited, and Subject to Change)
A storm raged outside as Nova stomped down the hallway, taking a sharp left, heading for Liberty’s office at the back of the bar. Her temper was getting the best of her and she’d had enough. She didn’t even bother knocking as she pushed the door open wide, startling her sister who was sitting behind the desk, going over bills. Liberty gasped, but didn’t say anything, her face looking pale.
“I’ve had it!” Nova barked, throwing her hands in the air.
“What’s wrong?” Liberty demanded, her new ice blue eyes flickering amber. Her sister was now part of the pride…a shifter. She’d been changed into a panther when a group of werewolves had held her and one of the young girls from the pride in a cabin, torturing them until Talon had shown up to save the day. Liberty had been beaten almost to the point of death. Talon, her mate, had made the decision to turn her to save her life.
“Pride whores,” Nova snarled. “These women are in here every damn day, trying their best to get themselves one of the pride to mate them. I just had to kick three of them out of here for trying to get their claws into the Guardians.” She wouldn’t admit it but that blonde bitch that was all but humping Winter’s leg was lucky she didn’t get punched in the throat.
“I don’t know what the hell I have to do to get them to stop coming in here and chasing the Guardians,” Liberty cursed, resting her head in her hand. Nova frowned at her sister’s sudden exhaustion. She’d been working a lot lately, opening the bar and staying as late as possible.
“Are you okay?” Nova asked, taking a step toward the desk. When she moved closer, she noticed that not only was Liberty’s face pale, it looked a little green. “Liberty?”
“Oh, God. I’m going to be sick!” Liberty barked, jumping from her seat. She darted around the desk and barely made it to the office bathroom before retching up whatever she’d had for lunch.
“What the hell?” Nova gasped, rushing to her side. She immediately knelt beside her sister, pulling her long brown hair back from her face. “I didn’t think shifters got sick.”
“They don’t,” Liberty groaned, turning her head to expel into the toilet again.
“Then what’s wrong?” Nova worried, unsure of what she needed to do.
“I think I’m pregnant,” Liberty cried. “No. I know I’m pregnant!”
“Oh. My. God!” Nova gasped, scrambling from her spot on the floor. She grabbed a couple of paper towels, running them under the cold tap before ringing them out. She returned to her sister’s side and held them to the back of her neck. “I’m going to be an aunt!”
“Yeah,” Liberty moaned, leaning back against the wall. “I don’t even know how to explain it. The other females had told me that I would know when I was pregnant. Something about it being part of my nature. When I woke up this morning, I knew. I’m so confused. I don’t even know how far along I am. I just started feeling weird this morning and then I was so tired. This was the first time I threw up.”
“What did Talon say?” Nova asked, stroking a strand of hair back from her sister’s forehead. “I bet he’s beside himself with joy.”
“He doesn’t know,” Liberty admitted closing her eyes.
“Uh, don’t you think it would be a good idea to tell him?” Nova asked, raising a curious brow.
“The females said that he would know just from my scent, but he was already gone when I woke up this morning. He had meetings at City Hall again.” Liberty slowly climbed to her feet, holding the wall for a moment to steady herself. “I don’t want to bother him.”
“Go…lay on the couch,” Nova ordered, helping her out of the bathroom. “You need to tell him, because if he finds out you were working and sick, he’s not going to be happy.”
“Okay,” Liberty sighed, dropping down onto the old couch that sat against the wall in the bar’s office. Nova frowned. It wasn’t like her sister to not put up a fight about being told what to do. “I’ll call him later.”
Before Nova could call Talon herself, a swift knock sounded on the office door. She quickly hurried over, opening the door slightly. Winter and Dane, two of the pride’s Guardians stood there. Dane started to speak, but froze before his words sounded. Both men’s nostrils flared as they inhaled a breath, tilting their heads to the side.
Nova stepped back as both men stepped forward, their gazes narrowing on Liberty. Liberty gasped when both men dropped to their knees beside the couch, but neither one of the men touched her sister. They knew that it would cause her pain and Talon would have their heads if they did anything to cause his mate harm.
“Does he know?” Winter asked, his voice full of concern.
“What?” she asked, a confused look crossing her sister’s face.
“You’re with young,” Winter said in awe and ran his large hand over his short cropped blond hair. Nova’s brow raised when both men began to purr softly. They looked at Liberty as if she were the most beautiful thing in the world. Nova knew it was part of their panther nature, and had heard about some of their ways from other females of the pride when she’d been there visiting Liberty one afternoon, but it was really strange to see it first-hand. The panthers could scent a pregnancy and the men found the scent to be soothing. A female who was pregnant was the most cherished thing in their lives.
“You can tell, too?” she groaned.
“Your scent,” Winter paused, his brows pushed forward. “Does our alpha know?”
“No,” Liberty said, shaking her head. “Nova was just about to call him.”
“I’ll call,” Winter demanded, pulling his phone out, but paused when Liberty held her hand up for him to stop.
“Don’t tell him,” Liberty ordered.
“I would never take that right from you,” Winter frowned, turning toward the other Guardian who was standing at attention at the door. “Secure the hallway.”
“What?” Nova asked, suddenly confused. “What the hell, Winter? She’s pregnant, not in danger.”
“All females with young are protected,” Winter said, his eyes swinging back toward her sister lying on the couch. She’d covered up with a throw blanket that was kept over the back of the couch when the office became chilly on a cold day before lowering his voice. “An alpha’s mate is the most protected of all females, and any male would give their life to save that of the alpha’s mate and their young.”
“Okay,” Nova nodded.
She tried her best to ignore the man who’d taken up her every thought during the past few months. That was, until she’d accepted a date from one of the guys that frequented the bar. When Winter had found out about it, he’d raised hell, saying Perry was a loser and wasn’t worthy. Nova had yelled at him and refused to allow him to watch over the house she lived in alone. Dane had become her new bodyguard since the wolves, who’d almost killed Liberty, were still at large. Winter had been furious, but so had Nova.
Winter’s ice blue stare followed her as she crossed the room, kneeling beside her sister. Nova didn’t need to see his face to know that he watched her closely. He’d been doing it for months.
“Can I get you anything?” Nova asked, stroking the hair back from her sister’s face.
“Ginger ale?” she asked.
“I’ll get it,” Dane spoke up, his eyes never leaving Liberty. “You stay with your sister.” The moment Dane took off down the hall, Winter stepped to the door, blocking anyone from entering. Nova shook her head, thinking that they were being a little too protective, but didn’t say anything.
The Guardian returned quickly with a tall glass for Liberty, placing it on the ground so that Nova could pick it up without touching him. She’d become accustom to the no touching policy these men adhered to with any females.
“Oh, that’s good,” Liberty sighed, handing the glass back to Nova. She stood up to place it on the desk when she heard the sound of her sister’s mate and the alpha of the Shaw pride bark, “Where is she?”
The moment the office door opened, Talon Shaw stood there, his wide shoulders touching the door frame, his eyes sparking amber. Rain drops glistened in his dark hair. He inhaled deep and moved forward, dropping to his knees. His large hand pressed softly against Liberty’s stomach.
“Liberty?” he asked, his voice sounding thick like he was about to shed tears. One moment, Liberty was on the couch…the next, Talon had scooped her up into his arms and spun her around as he shouted out his happiness. “I’m going to be a father!”
“Put me down, Talon!” Liberty barked, turning green again. “Now!”
“Let her go, Talon,” Nova warned with a grin, thankful her sister didn’t lose her ginger ale on her mate. Talon saw the look on Liberty’s face and rushed her toward the bathroom. The sound of Liberty getting sick was cut off when Talon kicked the door closed with his booted foot.
Nova smiled at her sister’s mate and his obvious concern as she left the office, almost running into Winter as he leaned against the wall in the hallway just outside the door. The big blond jumped back almost three feet, his eyes wide.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, sliding past him so that she wouldn’t even get close to touching him. She didn’t have time to worry about the damn Guardian. Nova had somewhere she needed to be.
“Where are you going?” he asked, following her down the hallway and looming over her just outside of reach. She didn’t need him bothering her or asking questions, because if he knew where she was heading, Nova was sure he’d raise hell, again.
“Cole,” Nova called out, ignoring the panther at her back as she leaned against the bar. “I’m out of here. Liberty will be leaving soon, too. She isn’t feeling very well. Call me if you need anything.”
As she made her way out of the bar, Winter growled behind her when the door closed in his face. Nova cringed when she heard him push through with a curse.
“I asked you a question,” he barked. He used his long legs to move in front of Nova, trying to stop her from getting to her car, but she walked around him with a scowl on her face. “Are you going out with him again?”
“That’s none of your business,” Nova replied, gritting her teeth. She really didn’t want to talk to him about the fact that she was going home to get ready for another date with Perry. The last time that happened, Winter had lost his temper and Dane had to send him away. “Tell Dane I’m going home.”
“Nova,” he called out, cursing when she shut the door to her car and pulled out onto the two lane highway, heading south to her home. She didn’t even look in the rearview mirror as she sped away, wishing that she was going home to get ready for a date with the panther instead.
Winter pounded his fists into the punching bag in his garage, his mind strictly focused on the area he needed to hit to achieve the best satisfaction. The tightness to his muscles sent a burning fire through his arms that was more than welcomed. Sweat poured down the sides of his face, his back, and his legs. His frustrations were not leaving his mind as well has he’d hoped. His panther was pacing, upset over one tiny woman.
She was out on a fucking date. The little human female that had been eating up his every waking thought for the past two months was on another date with some low life jerk that she had no business hanging around in the first place. The human male was not man enough to handle that little spitfire.
“Fuck,” Winter snarled, feeling his canines thicken in his mouth. He wasn’t jealous. Punch! No, he wasn’t. Punch! He just couldn’t stop thinking about her. Punch! She wasn’t his. Punch! Punch!
Every time he closed his eyes, Winter could see her, laughing at something he’d said or done. He’d watched her from the corner of his eyes most days when he’d stayed in human form to work on putting new locks on the old farmhouse.
He remembered one time that she’d been sitting at the kitchen table, reading a book. It was one of those romance novels she loved so much. The sun had been shining through the kitchen window and caught the side of her face. She’d radiated beauty and he’d been so mesmerized by her that he’d dropped his screwdriver, causing a loud clattering against the tile floor. When she looked up from her book, those brown eyes of hers sparkled and the smile that lit her face had made his heart swell.
They’d been together for weeks while the wolves had caused havoc in their town. He’d thought that he and Nova had become friends, but it’d been Dane who’d been protecting with her at the bar for the past week and a half. The other Guardian had been requested ever since Winter found out that Nova had been seeing this douchebag, Perry. He’d definitely angered her by voicing his concern about the male. That pissed off the little woman, and she refused to talk to him for two days…wouldn’t even look at him.
It wasn’t his problem. Nova had her own free will and could date whoever she damn well pleased. She wasn’t his mate.
Or was she?
He wouldn’t even know, because he refused to touch her. He didn’t want to take that chance, just as his alpha did with Nova’s sister, Liberty. Granted, it was an accidental moment when his alpha touched the female, but he didn’t stop himself from having contact with Liberty’s skin.
He didn’t want to damn Nova to a life as a panther. Being a human once, Winter knew the pain of the transformation. Liberty had been lucky. She was already comatose when Talon had forced his blood down her throat and the healer had given her enough sedative to at least make her forget the hours she screamed in pain in the main house. No one ever told the alpha’s mate about those horrible three days, but everyone remembered it all too well.
Winter had never forgotten the pain…the begging for death as his body accepted the blood, making him change into something lethal. He was different now, bigger. He’d been an average sized human five years ago, barely six foot tall and less than two hundred pounds. Now, he towered over many of his pride. At six foot five and almost three hundred pound of muscle…Winter wasn’t one to cross.
There was something in the shifter’s blood that made him grow, and grow large he did. He had strength that no human male, no matter his size, would have even with the best training. A werepanther could run at speeds faster than any of his animal cousins. Yes, he was a paranormal creature only once thought to be a myth.
As a human, he’d lived in the worst parts of Memphis, trying to keep himself alive while caring for his mother and baby sister. They’d both died the night everything changed. Winter squinted his eyes, trying not to remember that night, but like always, when he let down his guard…the memories came back.
They’d been at home, the family gathered for a rare family meal. His mother was attempting to stay clean and had cooked a decent meal for them. He was twenty and his baby sister was only eleven. The conversation had strayed to her schoolwork and how he’d just gotten a job with Shaw Security Specialist, making enough money that he planned on moving them out of the slums within the next few months. That was…until the front windows shattered, bullets flying everywhere.
The kitchen was open to the front room and the first bullet hit his mother in the head, ending her life with no suffering. Winter lunged for Summer, his sweet baby sister, but he was too late. A bullet grazed his shoulder and buried itself into her chest. The next one got him in the leg, but at the time he didn’t care. His only worry was for Summer.
She died in his arms, gasping for every breath.
It wasn’t until two days later that he woke up in the hospital. He’d been hit more than just in the leg. He’d taken another bullet to his abdomen, barely missing vital organs. Winter had come alive that day, demanding to be released. He wanted vengeance and he would stop at nothing until he found the people responsible for killing the only family he had.
He checked himself out of the hospital, against doctor’s orders, and made it his life’s mission to find the killers. He checked into a motel for the first night, planning and preparing. When he arrived at work the next morning, everything changed.
As he stepped in the office, two pairs of icy blue eyes swung in his direction. Savage, his then boss, and the owner’s brother, Noah glared at him, their nostrils flaring in what he thought at the time was anger. He’d not had a chance to even explain what had happened before he collapsed on the floor from a fever he didn’t even realize he had…or the infection that almost took his life.
They’d smelled the infection with their super human senses. Of course, Winter didn’t know that at the time, but now he understood. It was either let him die…or change him. He remembered Savage telling him as much and apologizing for the next few days when the pain would subside enough for Winter to hold a coherent thought.
The day he opened his eyes, and he wasn’t in pain, Winter stumbled around the room on all fours and thought he was going insane. There was something taking up his brain…his thoughts. No, it wasn’t something…it was someone…
Savage had calmed him and had taken him under his wing for the next several months, teaching him how to live and thrive. They grew to be brothers in all ways, even blood. It’d been Savage who’d changed him on Noah’s urging, and in the end…he was thankful for everything they’d done.
The men who’d killed his mother and baby sister were found. The extent of their injuries were unexplainable and they died painfully. It was the right thing to do and Winter had no remorse for the actions of that night he and a few Guardians went hunting in the city.
His phone rang, interrupting his workout. Winter frowned when he saw it was the sheriff’s department phone number. He’d been working with them on a missing child case last week and he thought everything was taken care of when he and Savage found the kid hiding in the woods about a mile from the playground she’d walked away from only a few hours prior.
“Winter,” he answered.
“Winter, it’s Sheriff Lynch,” he announced. “I need to get in touch with Liberty, but she isn’t answering her phone.”
“What’s going on?” Winter asked, going on instant alert. “Is there something wrong at the bar?”
“I really need to speak with Liberty,” the sheriff replied, a heavy sigh sounded through the phone. Winter’s panther sat up straighter in his mind. Warning bells were going off in his head and he knew this had nothing to do with the bar.
“Is it Nova?” he growled, his panther prowled angrily.
“Do you know where Liberty is or not?” the other man asked. “I have to notify the next of kin before I can say anything.”
A deafening roar left Winter’s mouth as the words sank in…words he’d wished he’d never heard again. His knees hit the floor as a pain worse than this first shift struck him in the center of his chest.
“Wait!” the sheriff gasped. “Nova is alive, but she’s at the Methodist Hospital. I need you to find Liberty and bring her here.”
“What happened?” Winter snarled, his canines so thick in his mouth that he tasted blood on his lip where they’d nicked the tender skin.
“I really need you to get Liberty,” he replied. “Now, Winter. It’s urgent.”
“I’m on my way,” Winter snarled, disconnecting the call. His panther struggled for dominance, but Winter shoved him back. Now was not the time to go on a hunt to find the human and kill him. As soon as he knew that Nova was okay, he would let his panther out to play. It’d been a long time since Winter had gone on a good hunt.
Copyright 2016 Theresa Hissong
Look for Winter’s book, Coming August 2016!
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