Monday, December 28, 2015

On the twenty-eighth day of December my true love gave to me...
The Ride a Cowboy Anthology

A few more whiskeys, a pizza, and many glasses of beer later found Conn pleasantly buzzed and heading out of the bar. Unfortunately with his stature and shifter blood, it wouldn’t last. At least his temper had cooled and he didn’t feel like ripping someone’s head off. Pausing, he took a moment to let the cool air of the clear night wash away the last of the day’s frustrations. At close to eight o’clock on a Tuesday night, the streets were mostly deserted. The residents of the small town were likely home watching television. Breathing in deeply, ready to head back to the ranch, Conn froze. Some small difference was caught up in the slight breeze.

Surveying the buildings around him, Conn searched for anything off. Turning his head slowly, he carefully observed the few people walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Once they were gone, everything became quiet again.

There had been times in the past when other shifters had come through town looking for trouble. Conn nipped those unacceptable ideas in the bud. Usually the shifters left or, if Conn was forced to, they were buried.

Still not moving, he looked up the street and regarded the only intersection in town with stoplights. There, passing under the corner streetlight, coming toward him, was a young man. His head was down, and he weaved wildly around the concrete sidewalk covering twice as much ground as he would have walking in a straight line. If Conn’s keen eyesight hadn’t spotted the blood staining the guy’s ripped shirt and jeans, he would have thought the man was drunk off his ass.

Conn studied the man, using his heightened senses. A husky voice reached Conn’s sensitive ears. Whether natural or created from the man’s injuries, the tenor-over-gravel quality was a melody straight to Conn’s heart.

“Keep going, Aisley. One step at a time. Soon you’ll find a place to hide and rest.”

Conn’s eye’s widened when something in his brain clicked and he saw a pure white aura surrounding the man. “Mate,” screamed through Conn’s mind.

In the middle of the sidewalk, the man stopped, lifted his curly dark head, and looked at Conn, swaying slightly. Rage coursed through Conn’s veins at the sight of the bloody, crescent-shaped gash on his mate’s left cheek. One corner of his swollen lips was encrusted with dried blood, and bruises marred the skin around each eye. Conn’s blood pressure rose several levels at the hint of bruising along the line of the man’s jaw and around his neck.

Conn’s mate was dirty, beat-to-hell, and way too skinny, and yet he was the most beautiful man Conn had ever seen. The man’s nostrils flared, telling Conn his mate most likely was a shifter whose sense of smell was dominant.

“Holy hell he’s big. I think he’s some sort of cat. I’ve only smelled the pack before, so how am I supposed to know what he is? It doesn’t matter. I can’t put him in danger. But it sure would be nice to slide up close and get naked next to him.”

Conn smiled at his mate’s musings. Seeing his smile, the man stiffened, and panic covered his battered face. His body tensed, and Conn could see he was ready to take off.

“Running won’t help, little wolf,” Conn called out. The man’s body jerked, and Conn knew he’d guessed his mate’s animal right. “We exchanged essences when you smelled me and I heard you. Our bodies are already changing, and tiny strings of the mate bond have already formed.”

“Shit. What am I going to do? I’m in no shape to outrun him.”

“You couldn’t outrun me on any day. Now come to me. Everything will be okay.” Conn tried to keep his tone soothing. He hadn’t had a lot of practice in his long life with that, but he would try for his mate.

“I was talking out loud, wasn’t I?” the man asked, clearly not wanting the answer Conn was going to give him.

“Yeah,” Conn answered.

Conn stood there waiting. He wouldn’t go after his mate unless he was forced to. Wolves didn’t like to be chased or trapped, and patience was second nature to his tiger. Hell, he had waited almost one hundred years for Tay to realize he sucked at ranching. This should be a piece of cake.

“It would be better if you walked away and forgot about me.” Misery covered his mate’s face.

“Not happening,” Conn responded.

“There’s a good chance I have trouble following me. I’m considered rogue. I need to keep moving.”

“Now you are my mate, not rogue. Any trouble we’ll handle together, and there isn’t going to be anymore running.” Satisfaction filled Conn when the small man took a few steps forward.

“I would love to believe you.” A shaky hand lifted and then dropped back down to his side.

“You will love me forever and a day,” Conn responded.

“You sure are confident.”

“That’s because I know,” Conn said.

“Why is everything starting to hurt even more than it did before? I’m so confused.”

“It’s the bond,” Conn replied. His own skin burned, and his tiger growled in agitation. “What is your name?”

“Aisley Matthews.”

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