Authors: Ellis Leigh
Text copyright ©2015 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Eliza Gayle. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Southern Shifters remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Eliza Gayle, or their affiliates or licensors.
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Polar bear shifter Kian Prescott hasn’t slept a wink. Not because of the stress of his life in northern Alaska but because of a nightly visitor he can’t get off his mind. A woman has been infiltrating his dreams, silent, sexy, and downright infuriating since he can’t put his finger—or his paw—on why he and his bear have become obsessed with her.
Nyla MacDonald knows her place in her psychic clan. She’s the weak link, the broken member of the powerful community outside Deals Gap. But when her mating call begins, when delusions tear apart what she thinks of as reality, Nyla must push herself to the limits of her ability to find her true mate, the one man who can save her sanity and her life.
As one world crosses a continent to reach out to another, two kindred souls must find the means to communicate, entrust their deepest secrets in one another, and defy clan law if they are to have a shot at a future. If Nyla can risk trusting the heart of a stranger and Kian can put faith in his visions, they just might have their dreams come true—or die trying.
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The wind whipped across the bay, the breeze crisp but not cold enough yet. I liked the freezing arctic gales of deep winter better. The way my lungs would burn when I first started out in the morning, the crunch of snow under my feet, the feel of the sea ice under my paws. I was made for sub-zero temperatures, which is why the warmer weather wasn’t as comfortable for my kind.
I sat on a slight hill overlooking the water, wallowing in my melancholy the season change seemed to exacerbate. The ice was gone, melted as the warmer days of summer hung over us. With no ice, there were no seals to eat. With no seals to eat, our little town grew crowded with the return of the polar bears who spent months on the ice. We’d have to wait for the ice to return, for the chance to walk back out over the temporary hunting grounds Mother Nature provided.
The sound of splashing called my attention to the rocky water’s edge. A polar bear, giant and cream-colored against the gray water, walked out of the surf and onto the shore. I didn’t move, didn’t need to. I sat as still as before, waiting and watching while the animal lumbered up the hill, shaking off the excess water as he headed directly for me. A mere ten feet away, the bear dissolved, quickly morphing into the human form of my brother.
“Man, that water is empty,” Whit said, reaching for the blanket he’d left in a pile next to me before his swim. “What I wouldn’t do for the sea ice to come back for another week.”
“Eh, season’s over.” I sniffed the air, missing the smell of seals on the breeze. Eating fish and other game just wasn’t the same. “Back to inland living for us. Or me at least. I’m pretty sure you spent half the hunting season on land with your mate.”
“Hell yeah, I did. Gotta keep her satisfied.” Whit grinned as I scowled, wrapping his blanket around his naked body and plopping beside me with a grunt. “What’s got you all broody?”
“I’m not broody.”
“Please. You’ve been staring out to sea with that puss-face for the last hour. What’s up?”
up? Everything…and nothing.
I shrugged. “Not really sure.”
Which wasn’t a lie. Not quite. I didn’t know how to explain what was bothering me. I wasn’t even sure if I should try.
“Maybe you need to get out of here,” Whit said, leaning back on his arms. “Have Boomer take you down to Fairbanks for a couple of days.”
I shook my head, catching my mistake too late to stop myself. Ever since we’d become adults, we’d enjoyed the few times of the year when the men of our small shifter community would head down to Fairbanks. A few nights in a big city with fun stuff to do, things to buy, and women to take back to the hotel combatted the long, cold months spent in the wild and reenergized all the shifters. But suddenly, the idea of being wrapped up in the soft, smooth warmth of some random woman didn’t sit well with me, and my bear absolutely refused to consider the invitation. Even if it did feel as if I’d been hard for weeks.
Now if it were her…
I shoved that thought aside, trying to look casual as my brother frowned with his brow drawn and eyes slightly squinted. Thinking…investigating…looking for the truth.
“Let the younger ones go this time,” I replied, dodging his inquiry.
Whit stared, his face serious. “That’s it. What’s going on?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you turning down a chance to get laid.”
I scoffed, shrugging a single shoulder for good measure. “It’s not like I’ve never turned down a trip to Fairbanks before.”
“True. But usually there’s a solid reason behind the refusal.” He leaned forward, forcing me to look at him. “So?”
He rolled his eyes, looking much like he had when he was fifteen and trying to get me to do something I didn’t want to. His methods hadn’t changed, though his age certainly had.
“What’s the reason?”
I looked away again, uncomfortable admitting my secret. But I was beginning to think I’d lost my mind, which meant I needed help. And there was no one in the world I trusted more than my brothers, especially Whit.
“I keep having these dreams,” I said, keeping my voice on the quiet side even though we were alone.
Yeah, that earned a glare for my little brother. “Fuck, no, man. I’m not twelve.”
“Too bad. Last time I had one, Audrey was—”
“Can I finish?” I interrupted, waiting for Whit to nod before sighing. “Every night for the past week, this…woman…appears in my dreams.”
“Is she hot?”
“Whit,” I said, growling the word. His unbridled enthusiasm was something I both hated and envied. As the youngest of my brothers, he tended to joke and laugh the most. The rest of us grew up with responsibilities; Whit grew up playing the clown and getting away with it because he was the last cub of the family. But at that moment, with my mood soured by the seasons and the mystery of the woman who’d been haunting my dreams, youthful zest was definitely not what I needed.
Whit didn’t seem to agree. He punched my shoulder and laughed. “Oh, quit being a whiner. Is she
Sighing, I gave in as I always did where Whit was concerned. I thought back over the last few dreams, pulling up every detail I could remember. Her long, dark hair reflecting the light from the fireplace, practically glowing in the night. Her soft, green eyes meeting mine. The way her lips called to me, begged me to kiss them. The delicious curve of her hips throwing shadows across the cabin floor.
“Yeah,” I said. “She’s really fucking hot. She’s also a dream.”
“If you believe she’s just a dream, then what’s the problem?”
“It doesn’t always feel like a dream.” I stood up, pacing, my inner bear itching to come out. Clawing at the edges of my mind to show his frustration. “There’s something about her. I go to bed early every night hoping she comes to me right away, and I’m pissed as hell when I wake up, because she’s gone. She never says anything, just stands there and smiles or follows my movements with her eyes. I try to talk to her, to touch her, but nothing. She’s just…there. And she’s driving me mad. I can’t stop thinking about her.”
Whit sat quietly for a moment, uncharacteristically so. But then…
“You’re longing for her.”
I froze, letting his words sink in, thinking about the possibility, but then I shook my head, refusing the idea. “No, that’s not it. How can I be longing for her if she’s not real? I know the mating legends as well as you do, and the longing comes on once we’ve actually
our mates. Not because of some strange woman interrupting our dreams.”
He stood, shrugging. “Maybe she’s your mate.”
“Oh, wonderful,” I spat. “I finally get my dream girl…literally.”
My frustration boiled over, my growl loud and long, but I held on to my temper as hard as I could. He didn’t get it. Whit had found his mate two years ago on a trip to Fairbanks. One day was all it took for him to meet Audrey, mate with her, claim her, and convince her not to kill him as he dragged her back to his den. And he did convince her because she came quite willingly. He was the luckiest bastard of us all. The shifters who knew the story joked about the golden horseshoe up his ass. And though I was happy for him, thrilled that the claiming of his mate had gone well for him, that happiness was tinged with jealousy. Two years was a long time to watch a couple much younger than you be blissfully happy while I sat and waited. And though it didn’t bother me most of the time, lately, that happiness grated.
first appeared in my bedroom.
Whit didn’t comment, just stood and looked out over the bay, a contemplative look on his face.
“You know,” he finally said. “When I met Audrey, I wished on every star I could see that you would find your mate as well. I wanted you to feel the peace the mating bond brings our bears.” He turned, spearing me with a look as he dropped his blanket to the ground. “I’ve been wishing for you to find your mate every night for the past two years. Dream or no dream, maybe my wishes for you are finally coming true. You’re just too fucking stubborn to even consider it.”
Without another word, he shifted to his bear. I stared after him as he grabbed his blanket in his teeth and walked away, back toward town. My emotions a mess, I gave his words the respect of my full attention, working through them to look for truth. Shit, I wanted them to be true. Wanted it so badly, I could practically taste the honesty on the wind. If wishes were dreams…
“If only it were that easy,” I whispered to nothing and no one. Knowing an answer would never come, I surrendered to the beast within. His clawing at my mind had gotten annoying anyway. Without thought to my clothes, I shifted to my bear, letting out a roar as soon as I was on four feet. Whit growled back, the sound carrying across the marshy ground. The scents of the area filled my sensitive nose, making the world come alive in a single breath. But nothing held my attention, nothing called to me in the vast land around us. Only
, the siren in my dreams, the one I couldn’t stop seeing. The one I knew nothing about.
The one I couldn’t wait to fall asleep for.
White. The entire world had gone white, filled with a visual static that left me partially blind. I pushed harder on my senses, stretching myself thin, my ability straining at the edges. Too far…too, too far. For a moment, even the white faded, disappeared, leaving nothing. No light, no color. Just an endless sea of black that made my mouth go dry. A mental tomb of sorts, cutting me off from the outside world. But the fear couldn’t stop me. Not tonight. Not when I was so close.
I pushed on, struggling through the dark. Motivated by a fear bigger than the nothing around me. The tilted reality brewing in my head had become an immediate danger, something I couldn’t put off any longer. This had to work. My mother had encouraged me, told me to let the power flow through me as I went to sleep. To call for it. She knew what was coming, and she dreaded it as much as I did.
No one wanted to see their daughter murdered before them or handed off as a prize to a man she didn’t love.
But that’s what would happen if I failed, if I didn’t try hard enough. If I couldn’t get through. Once the Council discovered my mating call had begun, they’d be all over me to choose someone from inside the clan to join with. But that’s not what I wanted. Never had been. I wanted my mate, my
soul mate, and the power surge my Tallan received from starting my slow decline into insanity was going to help me find him.
I pushed my abilities harder, searching him out through the nothingness. Looking for darkness within the darkness as I had for days. Every night, I gained a bit on him. It’d taken me a week simply to feel a ping, a general kind of
hey, over here
. I spent another few days homing in on that ping, spreading myself further, working the edges until I’d done it. I’d found him. The relief had been so strong, I’d nearly cried in joy. But then reality had hit me upside the head.
I’d found him, but getting inside his head was going to be another uphill fight.
Still, I kept going. Kept working the psychic power of the Tallan. Kept searching for a way to communicate with him. And I had. The past week, I’d breached his walls, entered his psyche, and done my best to learn about him from his thoughts and memories, as vague as they were. If my Tallan were stronger, if I’d had more skill as a MacDonald psychic, I’d have been able to see more. But my power had never been that strong, and my options were limited.