Read The Protector Online

Authors: Sara Anderson

The Protector

 

 

 

 

Evernight
Publishing ®

 

www.evernightpublishing.com

 

 

 

Copyright© 2015 Sara Anderson

 

 

 
ISBN: 978-1-77233-435-7

 

Cover Artist: Jay
Aheer

 

Editor:
Karyn
White

 

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or
distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
 
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters,
and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

To Gayle, Michelle, Cynthia and Suzette—thank you!
We truly are Lascivious and our late night conversations are entertaining as
well as helpful. To
Kytyn
and Lee, thank you so much
for the friendship and encouragement.
 

To my loving husband, I love you to the moon and
back. You are so full of love and encouragement. I would not be here if it
weren't for you. You really are
my everything
.

 

THE
PROTECTOR

 

Wild Mountain Shifters, 2

 

Sara Anderson

 

Copyright © 2015

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

 
Five years ago

 

Cole
pushed his SUV as hard as he dared in the dark, blizzard conditions. The wolf
in him snarled viciously with impatience. “Come on, you piece of shit truck!
What the hell is four-wheel drive good for if it can’t tolerate a bit of snow?”

His
friends and teammates depended on him to get to the mountain hiking trail.
Hunting was illegal here, but a couple of humans had arrived with guns.

The
back end of his SUV slid out of control, spinning on the narrow, gravel, mountain
road. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop, as the headlights lit up a heart
pounding view of the drop-off. The forecast did not predict the blizzard
conditions to last long, but it made driving difficult.

“Son of a fucking bitch.”
 

Cole
took a deep breath to calm
himself
. The forecast had
not predicted the blizzard conditions to last long, but it made driving
difficult. He had to stop driving so recklessly. The mountain road was narrow
and slick with a cliff on one side of it, and he had just narrowly missed driving
over the edge and ending up in the canyon.

Brian
and Nathan were in danger from men who Cole believed had heard rumors of
shifters in the mountains, and they were now being shot at. They were only out
there helping search and rescue, so they had little ammunition with them. They
had been out looking for a couple of young teenagers who had not returned home
on time. The kids had been located an hour ago, just before the snow hit, and
had made it back home safely.

Human
hunters were one of their worst fears, the men who believed the stories of
animals that turned into humans. Most of the time the human hunters gave up
when they failed to find shifters, but this time Nathan had shifted, before he
realized the humans were close.

Nathan’s
youth and the blizzard had given him a false sense of security, and minutes
after Nathan shifted into his mountain lion form, the hunters had opened fire
on him. Brian heard the gunshots and ran over to investigate who was shooting.

Brian
was a
cholan
in the Colorado mountain territory. The
cholan
were the protectors of the shifter territory, much
like human law enforcement. They protected the area from anything that meant to
harm them. They dealt with the threat of humans, other shifters, and the
magical creatures that lived within their boundaries.

The
cholan
were also the sheriff’s department, so there
was never a question about their actions being legal in human courts. Shifter
justice was far different from human, but shifters did try to turn humans over
for human justice where possible. The less attention they attracted the better.

Brian’s
panicked voice came over the radio once more. “They are right on my ass. Nathan
and I were separated, and I shifted to draw their attention. I don’t know if he
made it out of here or not. I am out of ammo.” Brian’s voice had a slight
tremor to it.

Brian
was an experienced officer, usually so calm and controlled. Cole could hear the
fear in Brian’s voice.

Cole
pressed the talk key on his radio. “I am almost to you, and I have backup
ammunition.” Anger burned inside him, making his wolf want to rip apart the
fucking hunters.
How dare they come onto
our territory and hunt us like animals? We never go and hunt them. We leave
them in peace. Why must we live in fear of assholes like this? And they call us
animals!

Cole
resisted the urge to slam on his brakes, and forced himself to pump the brakes
on the icy mountain road. He slowed down enough to stop behind Brian’s search
and rescue pickup truck.
 
He reached over
to grab his 12 gauge shotgun, and he was out of his car, slamming the door shut
and running up the hill faster than he had thought possible, especially in the
snow.

He
heard five gunshots echoing through the snowy woods. His heart pounded
painfully in his chest with dread, but he pushed himself harder as Nathan was
not a full deputy yet. Brian, Aaron, Travis, Mark, and he were all more highly
trained to handle dangerous situations. Cole was dubious that Nathan would
cope
under the pressure.

Cole
felt the awful guilt crushing him. He should have gone with them, or sent more
cholan
. His uncle Warren was training him to take over the
cholan
as their
Kelach
. The
Kelach
led the
cholan
, and was
the sheriff. When Warren retired as the
Kelach
, Cole
would take his uncles place as leader of the
cholan
.

 
Learning to take command of the specialized
fighters was more than
a knowledge
of fighting. He needed
to know how to defuse dangerous situations, and how to deal with human as well
as shifter conflicts, also knowing both human and shifter laws inside out.

His
Uncle Warren had given Cole more responsibility than the other
cholan
, but now Warren would be disappointed in him. He
counted on Cole to be a leader, and he had failed not just his uncle, but his
two fellow
cholan
.

More
gunshots,
and Cole stopped dead. His enhanced shifter
hearing strained to find the direction the shots had come from. Cole changed
direction towards a hiking trail that had closed for the winter. He ran to the
clearing and heard another shot shatter the cold night. Cole burst through the
tree line just as he saw Brian collapse in a heap in the snow.

“No!”
Cole screamed, horrified at the sight.

There
were two hunters, and one, wearing green camo overalls and an orange ball cap,
pointed his gun and fired once again at Brian.
“Yeah,
motherfucker!
I got the bastard.” The two hunters high fived each other
and took a long drink from their cans of beer, oblivious to Cole's entrance
into the clearing.

“Get
your fucking hands up, now!” Cole yelled. Rage had his heartbeat pounding in
his ears. He pointed the shotgun at the asshole who’d shot Brian, willing the
hunter to give him a reason to shoot him. He was tempted to anyway, but his
honor would not allow it.

These
hunters were just drunk humans, and because Cole was not blood related to
Nathan or Brian, he had no right to claim vengeance. Human justice would have
to deal with the hunters, but Cole desperately wanted to hand down some shifter
justice to them. Human justice was far more lenient than shifter justice, which
was swift and brutal by human standards. Cole could kill the hunters only if he
had been related to either Brian or Nathan, by blood or mating, but, as he was
only their good friend, he could do nothing to these men.

If
he were a guardian, who had the hand of their Goddess
Ilithyia
,
he could hand down judgments. But the guardian position was Michael’s job, and
he was not here. Cole would have to hand them over to the human courts to deal
with, although he was thankful that there were harsh penalties for shooting law
enforcement officers, even in human courts.

His
radio crackled to life. “We found Nathan. I’m afraid he took a shot to the
heart. He was killed instantly.”

Cole
staggered under the weight of the shock. Nathan was his childhood friend. He
wanted to let out a long mournful howl, but Warren would be disappointed in him
if he collapsed here, in front of the humans, and let his grief take over. Cole
knew he had a job to do.

Cole
put his gun to the hunter’s head. “You like killing my friends? How about I
blow your worthless fucking brains out right here, asshole,” Cole said with a
cold and threatening tone to his voice.

 
“What the fuck, officer?
 
I just shot a wild kitty.” The man pointed
his gun at Brian and swayed drunkenly, turning towards his friend. “Unless the
deputy here thinks he's Dr.
Dolittle
and he talks to
the fucking animals.”

“Hunting
is strictly forbidden here. It’s posted everywhere, and I know damn well you
know this.” Cole was hoping Michael would decide this was a crime against
shifters and they could fry their asses.
Perhaps a quick
bullet to the fucker’s head?
That would avenge Nathan. His finger
pressed on the trigger. Yes, he could do it, right now, self-defense. Cole
suddenly heard the voices of his fellow
cholan
officers arriving, and he released the pressure on the trigger, breathing
through his anger.

Cole
looked around for someone to finish arresting the hunters as his colleagues
joined him in the clearing. He knew he needed to check on Brian. Aaron’s voice
came through the murmur of background voices, drawing Cole’s attention. “Aaron,
finish handcuffing them, please. Travis, help him.”

“Yes,
Cole.” Aaron ran over, knocked the hunter to the ground, and pinned him with
his knee, grabbing his handcuffs from their holder on his utility belt. Travis
cuffed the other with ease, despite their drunken yelling and resisting.

Cole
ran over to Brian’s body.
 
He had shifted
back to his human form. Blood ran from his mouth, and he was gasping for air,
his breath visible in the icy night air.

Fuck, this is bad, really
fucking bad.
“Come on, Brian, don’t do this.” Cole knelt in the snow and
pulled him into his lap. He could not leave him here, injured and without
clothing. He took off his coat and wrapped it around Brian. “Come on, fight,
damn
you. Think of Myra, and your boys. Don’t leave them.”
Cole looked around in the darkness for any sign of help. Brian could not die
out here in the cold and snow.

Brian
coughed, and blood sprayed out of his mouth from his lungs. “I can’t.”

“Don’t
you fucking give up,” Cole said in a pleading tone.

Aaron
joined him with several thick, wool blankets, and they carefully wrapped Brian
up in them. “We’ve got the perps cuffed, and Travis is guarding them.”

Cole
looked up from his position on the ground where he still held Brian in his
arms. “Thank you, Aaron, good job.”

Both
Cole and Aaron looked up as they heard Warren’s voice. The snow let up enough,
so they could see him questioning Travis. Travis pointed over to where Cole
knelt in the snow.

“We’re
over here, Warren,” Cole called out to him.

Cole
sensed Warren next to him. Warren stripped off his heavy coat, exposing his
shoulder holster and his gun.
 
Good, Warren and Brian have been best
friends for years. He will get Brian to hold on
. Warren fell to his knees in
the snow next to them and took Brian’s hand in his own. Brian looked over at
Warren, and another coughing spasm gripped him.

“Warren,”
he rasped, gasping for air. His eyes looked panicked, as if he was running out
of time and knew it.

“I’m
here.” Warren leaned in and took his other hand. Cole could see how much Warren
cared for Brian.

“Take
care of Myra, and our boys. I love her, and I know you do, too.” Brian gasped
for air, his breath coming in noisy rasps. “I know you worried about my parents’
opinion of our relationship, Warren, but we all love each other. I need you to
be the alpha of our triad now.”

“I
do, I love her, and you.”
 
Warren looked
into Brian’s eyes. “But don’t take that as an excuse to leave us.”

“Stay
with her,” Brian whispered. Then his hand went slack, and he stared sightlessly
up into the winter night sky.

Warren
checked for a pulse,
then
shook his head sadly.

“Son
of a mother fucking bitch,” Cole said staring down at his dead friend.

 
Warren leaned over Brian’s lifeless body, and his
shoulders shook as he cried. The woods around were still and silent, except for
the sound of Warren’s broken weeping.

Cole
knew his uncle would not want him to try to comfort him, so he let him grieve
alone. He made sure the rest of the
cholan
gave Warren
the time and space he needed to mourn Brian’s death.

Warren
raised his face to the sky, and Cole saw tears falling down his cheeks. When
Warren looked back down, he gently put Brian’s hands on his chest and carefully
closed Brian’s eyes. Slowly Warren got to his feet and stormed over to where
the hunters were kneeling in the snow. They knelt in the snow with their hands
cuffed behind their backs.
 

“These
are the fuckers shot my
cholan
?”

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