Read Wolf Fur Hire (Bears Fur Hire 4) Online

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 4) (9 page)

“No,” she murmured, laying a kiss on his skin right above his heart. “You bit me, Lincoln McCall. Now we belong to each other.”

Chapter Eleven

 

Why was she so nervous? Nicole clung harder to Link’s waist so she wouldn’t go flying off the back of his snow machine.

Link had talked about the Silvers and their mates as if they were family, and now she would finally meet them. Sure, she felt like she already knew them from everything Link had told her, but it was different putting faces to people who had already grown so important to her. What if they didn’t like her? She was a city-slicker from the lower forty-eight who was playing catch-up on survival training, while the Silvers’ mates were all Alaskan bad-asses. What if they took one look at her, measured her, and deemed her unworthy of Link?

“You smell like terror,” Link called over the roar of the engine, patting her hands where she held onto his taut stomach. “Stop worrying. They won’t bite.”

“Bullcrap. The Silvers are freaking grizzly shifters who can definitely bite, and Vera bit you like a hundred times.”

Link barked out a laugh and took another turn on the snowy road, adjusting his weight so they didn’t flip. “That was when she went straight fox and was out of control of her animal. She doesn’t bite anymore.”

Link pulled through a grove of bare, winter trees and passed a small homesteader cabin. There was a pen of cattle near it, a barn in the distance, and in a corral, two horses munched hay and watched them as they passed. Taking a well-worn road where the snow was packed tight, Link drove them another mile before he pulled to a stop in front of Vera and Tobias’s sprawling cabin that looked new from its crisp cedar logs to the newly stained floorboards on the wraparound porch. The windows didn’t have curtains, and from here, in the darkening evening, the glow from inside looked inviting and warm. The sound of muted, feminine laughter came from inside and calmed Nicole’s nerves a little. These were regular women who were managing lives with shifter mates, just like she was attempting with Link. Still, just for an instant, she wished she was charming and outgoing like her half-siblings.

Link helped her off the snow machine and hooked her hand onto the crook of his elbow as they tromped through the deep snow to Vera and Tobias’s cabin. The porch stairs didn’t even make a creak as she make her way up. “Your work?”

“Not this one. The Silvers helped Tobias build this house for Vera. She deserved a good home after living on Perl Island for so long.”

“Is Perl Island rough to live on?”

Link looked down at her and dipped his chin. “Perl is a place of nightmares. We call it the Island of Misfit Shifters, and Vera was the only female there for three years.”

“What was she doing there?”

“Clayton forced her to search for the cure to the McCall curse, but all she managed was to suppress some shifter animals. He had her Turned into a fox shifter against her will.”

“Clayton. You mean the Silvers’ dad did that?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s fucked up.”

She thought her family was messed up, but now she was feeling like she was in similar company. No wonder these people had all banded together. They’d gone and created their own family, and now Link was a part of it, and if she was lucky and they accepted her, someday she hoped to fit into their little band of outsiders, too.

“It’s fucked up, but Vera says she wouldn’t change anything. The fox gave her Tobias. Her years on Perl made her strong.”

And that right there was why she already had so much respect for Vera and the other women in this family. Every one of them was strong. They had to be to maintain a relationship with mates who, until a month ago, hibernated the entire winter. Vera kept Ian, Jenner, and Tobias from sleeping now, but Elyse, Lena, and Vera had all gone into a pairing knowing they would need to protect their mates’ sleeping bodies six months out of the year.

If Vera could fix hibernation, perhaps she really could help Link.

Link lifted his hand to knock, but the door swung wide open, blasting Nicole in the face with deliciously warm air.

Vera’s eyes zeroed immediately on Link. “Lincoln Dingleburger McCall. You didn’t take the medicine,” she accused.

“My middle name is Asher, and I assure you, I did take the medicine, and it sucked.”

Vera canted her head, her strange, blue and gold-colored eyes narrowing on him. “Where is the growling and the bleeding and the head-slapping then?”

“If you mean the side effects, he did his bleeding all over the ice in front of my cabin,” Nicole said helpfully, scrunching up her nose at the memory. “It’ll probably draw all the predators within a two mile range.”

“Huh.” Vera pursed her lips and leaned forward, sniffing Link. “You still smell broken.”

Link made a clicking sound and pushed past her into the house. “Let us in, woman. We’re freezing.”

He tugged Nicole’s hand, but Vera stopped her just inside in a gentle game of tug-of-war. She hugged her close and murmured against her ear, “Is he okay?”

“It’s touch and go,” Nicole whispered as she hugged Vera snuggly. “Thanks for trying to help us.”

“We’re going to be friends.”

Nicole laughed and gave her another squeeze before she released her. “I’d like that.”

Link wore a tight-lipped smile, as though he’d heard every word of their whispered conversation. Of course he had—Wolf heard everything. He angled her shoulders toward the three giant mountain men gathering in the entryway, then introduced her to Ian, Jenner, and Tobias, one-by-one. And then she met Elyse with her honey-hued hair, green eyes, and long red scar down her cheekbone. Nicole did her best not to stare, because she knew what it was like to have a mark that drew people’s constant attention. Still, Link had told her how she’d gotten it. His brother, Miller, had marked Elyse with an ax blade because she’d fought like a demon to protect Ian while he was hibernating. Elyse had single-handedly waged a war with the McCalls, and when she’d called out to Link for help, he’d turned on his own pack to protect her. Nicole couldn’t imagine the pain Elyse had endured to have a mark like that.

Lena was next with her easy smile, dark hair dyed auburn at the tips. She wore a camera around her neck, as if at any moment, a picture opportunity would present itself.

“It’s so nice to meet you all,” Nicole said nervously as Link helped her out of her jacket. “Of course, I already feel like I know you from how much Link talks about you.”

“Well, Link has stayed quiet about you,” Ian said, clapping her gently on the back.

She gasped at the pain from her new bite and lurched forward. Link snarled and yanked her behind him as he placed himself between her and Ian. “Back the fuck off,
bear
.”

Ian looked face-slapped. “What did I do?”

“Ours. Touch her again, and I’ll rip your fucking throat out.”

“Wolf,” Nicole whispered, running her hands up the back of his sweater. “He accidentally touched the bite. I’m okay. Look.” She turned him slowly and waited until he ripped his furious gaze from Ian. “I’m really okay. He didn’t know.”

“Bite?” Elyse asked, hope infused in the word. She clasped her hands in front of her mouth as her eyes welled with emotion. “Did Link claim you?”

Link swallowed hard and tugged at the loose neck of her sweater until the bandage he’d doctored her with was exposed. “Ours,” he said in a softer tone.

Breaking the thick silence that followed, Jenner said, “Beer. This calls for beer because our little weird-ass pack just grew by one.” He disappeared into an open kitchen with gleaming granite countertops and wooden cabinets that matched the log walls.

Tobias gripped Link’s shoulder and shook him slowly, a big grin plastered across his face. “Are you serious man?”

Link snapped at him, clacking his teeth together mere millimeters away from Tobias’s hand before Tobias yanked it back with lightning quick reflexes.

Tobias’s grin didn’t falter. “Damn.” He swung his wide, green eyes to Nicole. “You must be something special.”

“She is,” Link agreed, relaxing under her palms.

Slowly, they all trickled into a dining room with a sprawling table under a pair of moose antler chandeliers.

“Wow,” she gasped out, holding Link’s hand as he led her into the space. The roof pitched high here, making the room with its dark log walls feel bigger.

Tobias turned and explained, “When we all worked to build this house together, it was nothing but a two-room shack that had nearly collapsed. We used that foundation for the living room, but we realized none of the other houses on the property had a place to gather in that would be big enough for all of us for dinners, holidays—”

“When we start breeding,” Elyse added, smiling up at Ian. “We wanted a space big enough to host all of us, even when we have cubs someday.”

Vera sauntered in with two giant iron pots of cooked ducks cooked with fragrant carrots and potatoes. A trio of bread loaves already sat on the table with butter, and Jenner was in the process of setting out mason jars of dark beer.

Dinner was one of those times in her life that Nicole would never forget. She didn’t have to be nervous around these people. They were easygoing and bantered constantly as Vera served heaping portions of duck, carrots, and potatoes onto metal plates for each of them. Laughter filled the room in a never-ending ebb and flow as they ate. She didn’t talk much, but she didn’t have to. Each conversation was funny and lifted her heart, and the others looked at her often to include her. Beside her, Link relaxed more and more. Under the table, he slid his palm over her leg, and when he looked at her, there was a lingering smile on his lips. His dark hair was windblown after the snow machine ride and had that sexy just-got-out-of-bed look. Dark, day-old scruff graced his sharp jaw and made his blazing eyes look even brighter. And any time she returned his smile, he leaned over and kissed the tip of her shoulder, which settled her further. The food was incredible, the beer flowed freely, and she was lulled into a tipsy, warm fog as her chest filled with joy at seeing Link joke with the people he’d talked about with such adoration.

She hadn’t fully understood until now what had made him pull away completely from his own pack and tether himself to the Silvers. But sitting here in the warm glow of the chandeliers, breaking bread with them and immersed in such a feeling of acceptance, she got it. Link’s pack had been poisonous, but these people were incredible. They were vibrant, easy, and their moral compasses were steady on due north.

Link’s first decision to help himself had been to bond to a better set of people than the ones he’d been born into.

Outside the windows, the snow had begun to fall again, blanketing the evergreen woods that surrounded Tobias and Vera’s cabin in white, but inside was filled with such warmth it banished the Alaskan chill completely.

Jenner grinned wickedly and poured Nicole a third beer the second she drank down the last of her mason jar.

Vera jerked her chin to her glass and beamed. “I made the beer.”

“Oh, she makes a mean moonshine, too,” Lena bragged proudly. “She’s teaching me and Elyse. One of the perks to having a mad scientist as a sister-in-law. Or…future sister-in-law.”

Link warmed Nicole from her middle out when he pushed his empty plate aside and draped his arm over her shoulders, then kissed her temple, right here, for everyone to see. Cheeks flushing with pleasure as the others smiled and gave each other knowing looks, she snuggled against Link’s side and asked Vera, “When is the wedding?”

“Oh,” Vera drawled out, lifting her shoulder to her ear in a half-shrug. “The wedding doesn’t feel so important right now.” She ghosted a quick glance to Link, then began spooning another portion of food onto her plate.

Link growled softly beside Nicole. “Vera, I don’t like you putting off your big day because of me.”

“You’re more important.”

“I’m not. And besides, I want to stand for Tobias when he says his vows to you. If this doesn’t work—”

“It will,” both Nicole and Vera said at the same time with the same amount of determination infused into two simple words.

Vera’s eyes locked on Nicole’s, and a challenge sparked there for just an instant before the fox shifter nodded and allowed a tiny smile. Vera swallowed hard and arched her gaze back to Link. “Nicole and I say you’ll be fine, so you will. The wedding can hold while I work on you.”

Link shook his head. “Vera, I know you. You’ll put off building a family to obsess over my cure—”

Vera slammed her palm against the table, and her eyes blazed a fiery gold. “You are my family, and I will be goddamned if I lose you. Tobias and I will marry when this is through, and I’ll wear that pink jeweled dress I always dreamed of, and it’ll be extravagant and fit for an Alaskan princess, and you will still be here, standing beside Tobias as we say our vows. And your eyes won’t look like a fucking demon’s anymore.” She slammed the spoon down in the pot and said, “Nicole, can I talk to you alone?”

“Of course,” Nicole whispered, pulling her napkin from her lap and setting it gently on the table. She leaned over and sipped at Link’s lips, smiled her adoration for him, then followed Vera down a hallway off the main room.

Vera was right. Link’s eyes were still that bright white color, and the snarl in his throat had been constant since they’d come into the house, which was unsettling, because he seemed more relaxed. It shouldn’t be like this. He shouldn’t feel so riled up around the people he loved more than anything.

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