First Look at Ranger!
**Raw, Unedited, and Subject to Change**
Coming this Summer!
Copyright 2017 Theresa Hissong
I am hunted by the one who promised to keep me safe.
I will fight for my freedom, and if the time comes that I am found,
I will gladly take my place in the afterlife.
For I am not afraid to die to find peace.
Hope Alexander drove her old, baby blue Camaro across the state line into Mississippi with the windows rolled down, her jet black hair tickling the side of her neck as the ponytail flailed around in the breeze. The weakness in her body, from not being close to an alpha, was taking a toll on her, but she was determined to make it to the Shaw pride.
Leaving her home was necessary when the old alpha had died and a new alpha had taken over. Her brother, Kraven, contacted the Shaw pride in hopes that they would take her in. She’d heard of the pride through her brother and the news outlets who’d interviewed Talon Shaw when the secret of their kind had been exposed to the humans.
Thankfully, there had been minimal panic and chaos around the announcement, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t discriminated against when out in the human world. She’d been denied food twice on her trip when she’d stopped at diners in two different cities. By the time she reached Birmingham, Alabama, her stomach was rumbling with the need for protein. Gas station snacks just weren’t helping keep her panther satisfied.
The state run rest stop was the only place she felt comfortable stopping to stretch her legs and to make the call to the local alpha.
“Hope?” the alpha answered on the first ring.
“Yes, sir,” she sighed, her eyes scanning her surroundings.
“I’ve been worried about you,” he said, his deep voice booming through the line. She knew that his alpha powers wouldn’t affect her, but just hearing the voice of the leader put her at ease. “You should’ve been here by now.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she replied, her voice cracking on the end. God, she hated feeling scared and weak, but she knew she was on the verge of dying without an alpha. All of her toughness was gone…completely nonexistent. “I stopped for several hours in middle Alabama.”
“What happened, Hope?” Talon asked, his voice dropping an octave as the concern bled through the line.
“Um, well…I had to let my panther free.”
“You shifted?” he snarled. “Alone?”
“Well, sir…” she paused, feeling tears well up in her eyes. Her throat tightened, and for once since she left her old home, she admitted to herself that she was afraid. She hated…absolutely hated feeling out of control.
“Hope?” he called out. The worry in the alpha’s voice was that of a father. Hearing someone say her name with care brought the tears over her lashes, and she hiccupped when the emotions got the better of her. Kraven was the only one she had left, and now, she was without her brother. “Hope? Talk to me?”
“I’m…I’m sorry, alpha,” she cried, bending over at the waist. Thankfully, she’d parked at the furthest end of the rest stop and close to the ramp that led back onto the highway. There was no one around to see her have a breakdown. “I’m hungry and tired. I’m weak.”
“Have you not eaten?” Talon Shaw asked.
“Not really, sir,” she admitted, pushing her fist into her stomach. God, it felt like her stomach was gnawing on her backbone. “The diners I stopped at wouldn’t serve me because they knew I was a shifter. So, I pulled off at dusk last night and spent several hours in the woods. I didn’t find much to eat.” In fact, all her panther caught was a small rabbit. It helped with her energy, but that burned off within a few hours.
“Where exactly are you?” he snarled.
Hope told the alpha where she was and he assured her that she was only a couple of hours away from the pride’s land. “You come straight here and do not stop for any reason. If you do, you are to call me right away. There is a gate at the road, and my Guardian, Ranger, will be there waiting for you.”
“Thank you, sir,” she breathed, wiping the last of her tears away.
“Be strong, Hope,” Talon whispered. “Kraven is counting on you to get here.”
Her brother had hidden her for the past several weeks in a cabin far away from her old pride. When Kraven came to tell her it was time to flee, he’d grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, begging her to get to the Shaw pride as quickly as possible. It’d been too damn long since she’d been around the new alpha, and she had already started to feel the weakness creeping into her body.
“I’ll be there before dark,” she promised, squaring her shoulders and dropping into the driver’s seat. She had to get there before it was too late, and her old alpha came looking for her. When he did find her, and she knew that he would at some point, Hope was sure that her life would never be the same again.
“Evie,” Ranger huffed. “You need to focus.”
Ranger Coleman watched as the female ripped at her gloves with her teeth, slinging them to the ground. Her canines were showing and her eyes were completely amber. Her panther was pissed and from the look of it, Evie was letting her frustrations get the better of her.
“Fuck off, Ranger,” she snarled, flopping down on the bench. She wiped a hand over her sweaty face and closed her eyes. “I was doing so well yesterday.”
Ranger walked up and took his knee in front of her. The female was growing in so many ways. The muscles in her arms were filing out and her gait was confident. Occasionally, she’d have bad days when everything would filter through her hard work and she would crash.
“Hey,” he whispered, taking her chin. Ranger swallowed hard when her eyes leveled out and her panther recessed, leaving her natural icy blue eyes focused on his.
“What?” Evie reached up to wrap her hand around his wrist. Ranger froze from her touch, closing his eyes. The female had been looking at him differently the past few weeks. He needed to nip her interest in the bud immediately.
“Evie,” he sighed, reaching up with his other hand to remove hers. As soon as she released him, he dropped his hold of her chin and watched as her hand fell haphazardly onto the tops of her thighs. “We are not mates.”
“I…I know,” she blushed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Emotions, Evie,” he said, dropping to his ass and bringing his knees up to wrap his arms around them. “You are on a rollercoaster. Not as much as you were weeks ago, but it’s still there.”
“God.” Evie gave out a short laugh and stood from her seat. “I feel like an idiot.”
“Nah,” Ranger shrugged. “I’m just hot.”
“Whatever,” she chuckled, rolling her eyes as she picked up her gloves. “I need to go.”
“Me, too,” he said, climbing to his feet. “I have gate duty.”
“I’m going home,” she replied. “Have a good night at work.”
They left to go their separate ways, Ranger looking over his shoulder at the female. She was stunning, but not his. His beast had no interest in her. Kye was her destined mate. There was no doubt about it.
He left his truck at the dorm and walked down to the gate at the road. On the way there, the young cub, Duke, was in his little panther form, running circles around his mother and a few of the children she watched over during the day. It was getting close to time for them to be picked up by their families.
“It’s about time you got here,” Noah, the alpha’s middle brother, grumbled.
“What crawled up your ass?” Ranger dropped his bag behind the chair and his eyes scanned the monitors.
“Nothing,” Noah replied, scooping up his phone. “I’ll see you later.”
“Okay,” Ranger drawled. Whatever was wrong with Noah, he was sure would come out eventually. That boy wasn’t quite right in the head anyway.
An incoming text had Ranger frowning at his phone. Talon said to be on the lookout for Kraven’s sister. The female would be arriving any moment.
Call me as soon as she arrives.
Ranger stepped out of the small building at the entrance to the pride’s land. He wasn’t sure what type of car she would be driving, but he would know if she was one of them when she arrived. Unlike the wolves who masked their stench with oils, shifters knew each other by scent.
He squinted his eyes against the setting sun as an older Camaro turned into the gravel drive and stopped. He blinked twice when he saw the female behind the wheel. She was stunning. Her hair was jet black and pulled away from her face, her ice blue eyes were large, but what made him frown was the dark circles under her them.
“I’m Hope Alexander. Kraven’s sister,” she announced, her pouty lips looked dry and cracked. “The alpha is expecting me.”
Ranger’s panther snarled in his head when the scent of something sweet drifted out of the car. His beast pushed forward, whining in his head to provide for the female…to demand that she tell him why she looked so weak. Hadn’t Kraven just called a few days ago about his sister’s arrival? How long had she been away from an alpha?
“I’m Ranger,” he announced, swallowing down the lump of dread that lodged in his throat. His chest ached and his mind swirled with worry over the new arrival. What the fuck was wrong with him? “Are you okay?”
“No,” she sighed, her shoulders slumping. “I need to see the alpha.”
Ranger grabbed his cell phone and stepped back into the small building by the gate, placing the call to Talon. The moment his alpha answered, he barked orders for Hope to be brought up to the main house.
“Talon, she’s weak,” Ranger snarled into the phone.
“Drive her up here,” Talon ordered. “I have food waiting, and Harold is already in place.”
“Yes, sir,” Ranger replied, dropping the call. He took four steps and was at the driver’s side door, pulling it open wide. The female’s eyes widened, but she didn’t speak.
“Scoot over,” Ranger ordered, pulling open the door. “Talon wants me to drive you up to the main house.”
“I’m not going to complain,” she grinned, but it was forced. “I’m so tired.” He watched as she unbuckled slowly, her movements sluggish. She huffed as she lifted her small body over to the passenger side. She rested her head against the window and closed her eyes.
“I know,” Ranger replied, putting the car into drive. He wanted to slam his foot down on the gas as his panther snarled at him to help the female.
As soon as they reached the alpha’s home, the door was pulled open and Liberty came rushing out. She immediately reached for the handle and wrenched the door open wide as Ranger told Hope to sit up. “My name is Liberty Shaw, and I am the mate to the alpha. May I give you aide into the house?”
“Please, ma’am,” Hope said, her head rolled back on her shoulders against the back rest of the seat. “I just can’t do it myself.”
Liberty pulled the woman from the car, looping an arm over her shoulders. Ranger’s body vibrated with the need to help, but he didn’t want to scare the female by touching her. His panther relaxed when Harold appeared at the door wearing his special gloves to be able to touch the female. As far as he knew, Hope wasn’t mated, but Ranger was certain the doctor didn’t want to take any chances.
“Hope,” Talon spoke as Liberty sat her on the couch in the living room. The alpha knelt at the new arrival’s feet, his brow pushed forward as he took in her appearance. “My name is Talon Shaw.”
“Hello,” she mumbled, her pouty lips trying to form another smile.
“She needs you, alpha,” Harold barked, his eyes scanning the room. “Now.”
Thankfully, most of the pride had left the main house when word had reached them that Hope had arrived in bad shape. Ranger was sure that Talon had ordered them to leave. Booth and Noah left out the back door quietly. Ranger could see their silhouettes through the curtains as they stood like sentries on the back porch.
Talon reached out and lifted her chin, knowing that his touch would never hurt a female, mated or not, because he was the alpha. Ranger’s panther paced in his mind, whining and snarling at the obvious weakness in the female. His chest ached as he watched Talon work his magic over her.
“Take the blood of my pride and you will be one of us. Refuse and you will die. I will honor your place in my pride and protect you as you will be one of my blood,” Talon said before biting into his wrist. The scent of the alpha’s blood drifted through the air, and it didn’t take but a second for Hope to reach out for his offering.
Ranger touched the center of his chest as he felt his own panther push forward when Hope growled low in her throat. The dark haired female bucked as the alpha’s blood reached her system. She groaned and slid off the couch, falling to her knees. Liberty pushed past her mate as the female began to shift.
“Males, out!” Liberty began pulling at Hope’s clothes, speaking soft words to Hope as the change came over her. “Easy, now. Don’t fight the shift.”
Ranger immediately stepped outside the front door and waited for Hope’s panther to make an appearance. It wasn’t that he was worried about her being seen naked. Hell, they all had no problems with nudity, but a panther being accepted into a new pride was usually surrounded with nervous energy. The last thing the Shaw pride wanted to do was to make the new member feel uncomfortable on their first shift.
“She’s going to be fine now,” Talon said, pulling his phone from his pocket. “I need to call her brother. Would you mind running with her?”
“No, not at all,” Ranger said, pulling at his shirt. Liberty appeared at the front door and peeked outside, a worried look flashed across her face when she made eye contact with Ranger. Talon spoke to his mate quickly and put the phone to his ear.
“Ranger will run with you,” Liberty spoke to the panther who was standing behind the alpha’s mate as if she was using Liberty as protection. “Go on. He will keep you safe on our land.”
As soon as the panther came into sight, Ranger dropped his pants and let his beast free. The change was instant, and his human side relaxed when the ache in his damaged leg eased. His animal swung its head to the side to look for the female, and his eyes narrowed when she came into view. Ranger started to move toward her, but what stopped him in his tracks was the massive white scar on the panther’s right side. It started on top of her shoulder and ran all the way down to her hind leg. His panther screamed from the anger at her being hurt, sending Hope’s beast fleeing for the cover of the forest.