Authors: T. S. Joyce
Tags: #Paranormal, #Shifter, #Erotic, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Supernatural, #Suspense, #Romantic Suspense, #Danger, #Adult, #Forever Love, #Action, #Adventure, #Wolf, #Mate, #Dark Secrets, #Series, #Insanity, #McCall Madness, #Deceased Father, #McCall Pack, #Galena, #Alaska, #Wilderness Living, #Dangerous, #Saved Soul, #Retreat, #Fight, #Safety
WOLF FUR HIRE
(BEARS FUR HIRE, BOOK 4)
By T. S. JOYCE
This book was not written as a standalone.
The author recommends to read these stories in order for optimal reader enjoyment.
Husband Fur Hire (
Bear Fur Hire (
Mate Fur Hire (
Copyright © 2015 by T. S. Joyce
Copyright © 2015, T. S. Joyce
First electronic publication: December 2015
T. S. Joyce
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the author’s permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Published in the United States of America
One last time, Lincoln McCall checked the strap over the lumber that hung out the back window of his Bronco. He should go see Vera. Tell her he wasn’t angry with her or any of the other Silvers. A long snarl rattled his throat as Wolf disagreed. The half-mad beast inside him got riled up over everything, though, so he didn’t take his constant snarling seriously.
Vera had done exactly what she’d promised and suppressed the bears so they didn’t have to hibernate. It was good. Really good. Their mates wouldn’t have to wait for them anymore, and he was happy for them. When he went crazy, and Ian had to put him down, he could go knowing Elyse, Lena, and Vera would be safe through the long winters with their mates around to protect them.
Why then did he have this roiling, gut-wrenching feeling?
Because they’re better than you. More deserving. You’re just a McCall. Expendable. No one will miss you when you’re gone.
“Shut up,” Link muttered to the wolf inside of him.
He shook his head hard and jogged across the street to pick up more nails from Galena’s only hardware store. He nodded politely when a leather-faced lady with a gap-toothed grin driving an old Ford pickup waved him in front of her. Across the icy street, he stepped over the piled-high snow that lined the curb and stomped off his boots on the slick sidewalk, then strode toward the hardware store.
You tethered yourself to a pack that can’t save you.
“I said shut up.” Link closed his eyes and jerked his head, trying to rid himself of the mutterings of his shittier half.
He slammed into something and lurched forward, clutching onto the shoulders of the woman he’d collided with. She felt fragile in his grip, and smelled of an enticing combination of cherry lip balm and peach scented shampoo.
The woman let off a helpless yelp as they careened toward the sidewalk, coated in black ice. Shit. Link spun them and cradled the woman to his chest just before his back slammed against the ground.
The wind rushed out of him as pain zinged up his hip. His thick winter jacket had shielded him from most of the unforgiving surface, but he’d only worn jeans today since he wouldn’t be outside for long as he picked up his supplies for the construction job he’d landed.
“I’m so sorry,” the woman whispered from atop his chest. She was clutching his jacket like a lifeline, and her eyes were big as she stared at him from inches away. A strange brown, the color of whiskey, her eyes should’ve held him captivated, but Link’s attention was drawn to the bright red mark that covered half her face. She wore a green scarf that slipped farther down her face by the moment, exposing more of a scar. Or burn?
“What?” Link asked, horrified.
I said fuck her. Spread your seed. Make more McCalls. McCall, McCall. Make more McCalls before Ian kills us.
The woman shoved off him, tried to stand, then fell on him again. “I said I’m so sorry. I wasn’t looking at where I was going.”
“Your face,” he murmured, unable to pull his eyes away from the dark discoloration that covered her cheek. “Who did that to your face?”
“Shit! I mean ship. I said ship.” The woman fumbled to maneuver the scarf back over the bottom half of her face with one hand as she scrambled on the ice to stand. Upright at last, with legs splayed and hands out, she murmured, “No one did it to me. Genetics did it. It’s a birthmark. I’m here to get more”—she waved her hand around her face—“you know.”
“What? No, not beer. Cover-up. Make-up, so people won’t stare at me like you’re doing right now.”
Link pushed up on his elbows. She was tall for a woman, five-eight maybe with a short torso and long, spindly legs she’d covered in thin tights. One look at her worthless boots and pink mittens, and it all started to make sense.
“Are you a tourist?”
When the lady crossed her arms over her chest, she nearly lost her balance again. Lifting her chin like a prim little princess, she glared down at him. “No.” Her boots lost grip and spread out a few inches more. If she kept losing ground, she would be doing the splits here shortly.
“This isn’t tourist season. This is survival season, lady, and your clothes will get you killed out here. You don’t need cover-up, or whatever you call it. You need warm boots with traction, better pants, a better jacket, actual gloves, and why the fuck aren’t you wearing a hat? Or do you not care about keeping your ears?”
She opened her mouth to speak, then clacked her teeth together. Narrowing her eyes, she held out her hand. “Let me help you.”
Link huffed a humorless laugh and stood in one smooth motion. “Lady, you can’t help me.” A jarring sadness washed over him as he turned away from her and made his way toward the hardware store a few shops down. “No one can.”
With a soft growl, Link turned around.
“I’m Nicole Brand.”
Her eyes looked unafraid as she stared at him directly. She would be more scared if he took off his sunglasses and showed his own eye color. About now, it probably matched the snow around them. The woman—Nicole—kicked up something unsettling in him. The vision of him bucking into her in the backseat of his Bronco while she screamed his name flashed across his mind. He shook his head again and swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the imaginings of his wolf. This was it. Another sign of the madness. McCalls started looking for breeders when they were slipping into insanity. Both his brothers had done the same before they lost it.
“What’s your name?” The woman was looking at him with her dark eyebrows arched impatiently.
“Link.” Not all wolf yet. Still a man. Yeah. “Link.”
“Okay, Link Link.”
“No…I’m Lincoln McCall. People call me Link.”
Link gritted his teeth. Nicole felt dangerous to talk to. Dangerous to be around.
I want her.
“Stop,” he gritted out low to his inner wolf.
“Stop what?” she asked, cocking her head and giving him the cutest frown he’d ever seen on a female.
Swallowing another snarl, Link turned and made his way toward the hardware store, desperate to put some distance between him and Nicole.
“I’m new in town! Link?” she called. “Aaah!”
The pitch of Nicole’s scream battered his oversensitive eardrums. Link spun just in time to see her bust her ass on the ice again. Clenching his hands in anger, he jogged over to help her up. “Lady, stop falling! You’re making me all…”
She looked up at him with those wide, pretty brown eyes of hers as he lifted her by the arm. “Making you what?”
Link clenched his teeth against his answer. She was making him protective. “You can’t be weak out here. If you’re not a tourist, get your shit together. Get some better boots, better gear. You’re shivering. You don’t fuck with Mother Nature out here. This is her home, you understand?”
“Yes,” she whispered, clutching onto the arms of his jacket, “I know. That’s why I’m in town, and that’s why I was trying to ask you if you know a place I can get better clothes. I just moved here—”
“Don’t tell me your story, woman.” Link couldn’t afford to get attached to anyone for any reason. He jerked his chin toward the winter outfitter store at the end of the street. “Down there.”
Link scanned the massive birthmark on the exposed part of her face once more, nodded, and then watched her slip and slide her way down the sidewalk.
Good hips. She’ll give us a pup easy.
Ignoring his inner monster, Link ripped his gaze away from the curve of Nicole’s perfect ass in those sexy tights and strode into the hardware store. Inside, he closed his eyes at the relief he felt as Wolf quieted.
“You met the newest member of Galena,” Jack Lawson—also known as Hardware Jack—said from behind the counter where he was reading an outdoor magazine and chewing on a toothpick. His long, coarse gray hair was pulled back today. “Watch out now. Mayor may be hiring you to add a number to our population sign,” he said with a wink.
Link chuckled and stomped the snow from his boots on the mat by the door. “I think we’re safe. She won’t last two weeks out here.”
“Agreed, but she ain’t here to settle. She’s fixing up old Buck Lund’s place to sell. God rest his soul.”
Link froze. Buck Lund, one of his brother, Cole’s, victims. He wasn’t walking this earth because of the McCall curse. Link knew the exact cabin Jack was talking about because the land ran adjacent to his own property and he’d been out there fixing the roof on the old abandoned house in a pathetic attempt to make amends for his brother’s mistakes. Buck Lund, the trapper, had died at the teeth of a wolf. A werewolf.
Link dragged his gaze to the window. “Why is she fixing up the Lund place?”
“Because that city slicker, believe it or not, is Buck’s only daughter.”
Link sat on the bench beside the door and ran his hands roughly through his hair. Well, fuck. That was just perfect.
“Did you see that hideous mark on her face? Same as Buck’s. Must be genetic to be marked up that way.”
“I never met Buck. And don’t say that,” Link said, glaring. “She’s not hideous.”
“Oh, she’s got a body to be sure. But that face. You’d have to be drunk, desperate, or in the dark to bone her.”
Link stopped breathing and swallowed hard to soften the snarl in his throat. Choking each word out, he said, “I need nails. Six boxes.” And then he needed to get the hell out of here because Wolf was plotting ways to bleed Jack slowly for talking about Nicole like that.
Back outside, supplies hanging heavy in a bag at his side, Link stared at the winter outfitter store and sighed, his breath freezing in front of him. He already knew what he was going to do for Nicole. He owed her.
Ian would have to put him down soon, but the last thing Link would do is repay her for the father who had been stolen from her.
His brother was the reason Nicole was here in an unforgiving stretch of Alaska that would eat her up and spit her out, but Link was going to be the reason she made it out of here alive.
Nicole Brand stepped carefully onto the icy walkway, but her new boots held, and she didn’t slide. “Okay,” she murmured, pleasantly surprised as she held her plethora of bags out for balance.
Rubbing her cheek against the sleeve of her new jacket, she inched the scarf up higher to cover her face from the passersby. She’d run out of the double-thick make-up she used to look normal, and neither the grocery store nor pharmacy near the medical clinic carried anything that would work. She would have to slather on regular foundation and deal with the discoloration until she got Buck’s cabin sold and went back to Kansas.
The thought of facing everything back there settled a cold, curdled feeling in her gut. She didn’t belong there. She didn’t belong anywhere.
Inhaling the frigid air, she looked discreetly around for the handsome man who’d rescued her from smashing her head onto the concrete earlier. She couldn’t help herself. Never in her life had she met someone like him. He was a strange sort, who said things that didn’t belong, and he’d seemed reluctant to share even his name. She supposed any person who lived out here in the unforgiving wilderness would have to be a little strange, though. What had triggered him to settle at the end of the world?
He’d smelled good, like masculine body wash or perhaps a subtle cologne, and when he’d helped her, he’d been so solid, so strong. Capable. Lincoln McCall was probably married. She’d checked for a ring, but his heavy winter gloves had covered any chance of figuring out if he was available. Available? She was not here to meet someone. She was here to explore the place she came from, and discover who she really was.
There were townies talking in twos and threes, and several of them shot a curious glance her way, so she ducked her head, angled the birthmark away from the staring public, and crunched across the ice toward the truck she’d found abandoned in front of Buck’s dilapidated cabin. She’d got it working, barely, but it was better than her little two-wheel drive car that sat in Mom’s driveway in Mission, Kansas. That little gas-efficient speedster wouldn’t handle the snowy conditions here at all.
Slamming metal drew her attention, and she frowned at the tall figure that stood with his back to her, right beside her truck. Link was holding a half-empty jug of blue wiper fluid, and there were chains lying on the snowy ground behind each wheel of her truck.
“What are you doing?”
Link startled, his shoulders tensing upward, and he turned slowly. When she stopped in front of him and looked up into his stoic face, her fingers itched to remove his sunglasses just to see how beautiful his face really was underneath. From what she could see, he belonged on a billboard. Strong jaw dusted with short stubble, as if he hadn’t shaved this morning. Dark hair the color of raven feathers peeked out from under his charcoal gray winter hat, and he had sharp cheekbones that would’ve had her friends in Mission falling all over themselves. His Adam’s apple bobbed down into the neck of his jacket, and a muscle jumped in his jaw. “Consider it a welcome-to-Galena gift. Back your truck onto the chains, and I’ll hook them up.”
“How did you know this was my truck?”
“It smells like you.” He jerked his head and a soft, strange sound came from him. “Just kidding.”
“Okaaay,” she drawled out.
“Small town. Everyone knows everyone. I guessed on the truck. Don’t recognize it.”
“Oh.” That made sense.
“Back it up. Please.”
Stunned, Nicole nodded and made her way over the high strip of snow that lined the street to the passenger seat of the truck. She startled hard when Link suddenly appeared at her side and opened the door. He hadn’t even made a sound, which was inconceivable since she’d crunched across the snow like a moose on tequila. Alaskans were probably just better at snow than she was. Sure, Kansas had snowy winters, but not like this, and the streets were plowed and salted immediately. She’d thought she was prepared for the weather here. She’d been so ridiculously wrong.
Link hoisted the bags into the passenger’s seat, then stepped back, far away from her with his arms behind his back.
“Thank you,” she said. Her words came out breathless, but whether that was from how surprised she was at him being so gentlemanly or from the frigid air freezing her lung tissue, she didn’t know.
Link twitched his head. “Hurry.”
“Oh! Okay.” She had definitely been staring. Ripping her gaze away from him, she made her way around the back of her navy Ford and pulled herself behind the wheel. The engine roared to life under the turn of her key, and she manually rolled down the window. “Tell me when to stop,” she said to Link, who had made his way to her side.
When she threw it into reverse, the truck lurched backward, skidded for a second, caught, and then rolled.
“There,” he said.
She slammed on the brake, which was harder to manage than any vehicle she’d ever driven, and glided to a stop. She needed to get used to driving a big old clunker truck in these icy conditions, and fast. According to a book she’d read on the plane, the snow wasn’t going to disappear until April.
Link bent down at her front left tire, and just to ogle him, Nicole leaned out the window. His long, lean legs were folded under him, and in a few seconds, he had the chains on her oversize tire. His jacket covered his torso, but he looked like he had a fit body tucked under there. And when he stood with that sexy, smooth grace of his, she was awed again by how adept he was to the uneven footing here. By the time he made his way to the fourth and last tire, her heart was drumming against her breastbone. She should ask him out to dinner. To thank him. Yep, just to thank him. That would be the polite thing to do.
Reaching over, she rolled down the other window. “Hey, Link?”
The jingle of the chains met her ears, but nothing more. When she opened her mouth to call out again, he popped up in her window.
“Aaah!” Nicole clutched her chest in an effort to make sure her heart didn’t eject itself outward. Good God, he was as fast as a snake strike.
Link stood there frozen, hands resting on the open window, and for the tenth time since she’d met him, she wished she could see his eyes. Right now, all she could see was her startled expression reflected in his sunglasses.
“Have a nice life Nicole Brand,” he murmured softly.
. He used her last name, distancing her like a pro.
“Do you live around here?” she asked, desperate not to say goodbye to the first person who had actually been nice to her since she’d come to town.
Link angled his face away from her and stared in the direction of the hardware store. He clenched his jaw and let off a quiet sigh as if debating whether to stay or bolt. She was waiting on bated breath, scarf fallen completely to her neck, lips parted with the question she wanted to ask.
Will you go out to dinner with me? Say it
. But when he dragged his attention back to her, his sunglasses were aimed down, as if he was staring at her birthmark.
Swallowing hard, she pulled up her scarf. “They don’t have the make-up I need here.”
“To hide your face?”
She nodded, cheeks flushing hot with embarrassment. Hardly anyone had seen her like this—bare. Mom had trained her from an early age to hide this part of her, and today, she’d had to go out in public without make-up, and exposed. Of course she would meet this sex-pot man today of all days.
Slowly, Link reached in the window and hooked his finger on the scarf. Pulling gently, he slid the soft shield from her face. He let the scarf drop, his face still an unreadable mask behind those damned sunglasses. “You don’t need to cover your face. Alaska—she don’t care. Those boots are more important than vanity.”
“Let them.” But he’d said it more like “Fuck them.”
“You’re staring.” Which hurt in ways she didn’t understand.
Link shrugged one shoulder. “So?”
“Says the man hiding behind the glasses.”
His mouth curved up into a sly, breathtaking smile. “Goodbye, Nicole.”
“Thank you for the chains and for…whatever else you did to my truck.”
Link clapped his hand once on the window frame and nodded, then turned and waved over his shoulder without looking back.
Nicole scrunched up her face as he got into a green Bronco with lumber hanging out the back window. When he’d disappeared in a plume of exhaust down the main drag of town, she rested her cheek onto the cold steering wheel and sighed.
It had been a long time since she’d gotten butterflies in her stomach over a man, and it was clear and obvious that he didn’t find her as compelling. He wouldn’t have been able to walk away so easily if he did.
The entire slippery, stressful drive back to Buck’s cabin, she replayed in her mind everything they’d said. And the more she thought, the more she regretted not asking him out. She tried to convince herself it was most likely he was in a relationship and not her unbecoming birthmark that had chased him off, but her stupid insecurities had the best of her by the time she pulled to a stop in front of the dilapidated cabin her biological father had called home before he died.
More regret washed through her as she stared out the frosty front window of his old truck at the splintered door and sagging front porch. The chore of discovering who the man was after his death seemed mountainous. Going into Galena had been a fantastic distraction, but now she had to gather her courage and go back into the cabin, into a stranger’s home to try to pick up clues to who he was.
He’d died one year before she’d known about him, and there was deep tragedy in that. Biting her lip, she cut the engine and took her time gathering all the bags of winter clothes on her forearms before she made her way up the rotted porch stairs. She’d made a snap judgment that Buck was a careless man when she’d first seen this place a few days ago, but now she wasn’t so sure. It had been empty since he’d died last winter, and from what she had read about this place before bed last night, Alaska could demolish an abandoned building in little time and with little effort.
At least the roof looked new. It had new shingles and didn’t leak despite the obvious water damage on the wooden floorboards inside.
Nicole set the bags down in the entryway and looked around. She’d cleaned, scrubbed, and swept until this place was as sparkling as it would get, but it needed more improvements than she had the skill set for. When she’d learned of this place, and of Buck, she’d bought the cabin sight unseen in desperation not to lose his belongings to another buyer. It had been in foreclosure and cheap. This old, ratty cabin was the first house she’d ever bought, and she’d made a bad purchase. Who would want to live way out here in the beyond?
Lincoln McCall would.
The thought brushed her mind for no good reason. She didn’t know him, wouldn’t ever see him again, but there was certainty in that thought. A man like him was built to withstand a place like Galena.
Her breath was crystallizing in front of her face, and she looked forlornly at the wood burning stove with the last two small logs sitting ready beside it and the matchbook on top. She needed to cut wood again, but as she pulled her new gloves carefully off her hands, she winced at the pain. Open blisters covered the pads of her hands from swinging the ax, and her stomach turned just thinking about holding that old handle again. She didn’t have a choice, though, and maybe the thicker gloves would help. She hoped.
Because like it or not, she was here for a little while, and she needed wood to survive the harsh cold.
Link had been right.
Alaska didn’t care about her vanity.
Alaska harbored sympathy for no one.