Excerpt from Upcoming Shifter Romance by Flora Dare and Lynn Red!
Enjoy this little taste of Flora Dare’s and Lynn Red’s killer new paranormal shifter serial about a mongoose bounty hunter stalking her prey – a bear on the run!
“Son of a bitch,” Lola hissed, ducking as a hawk zoomed by overhead, returning after a night hunt to its roost above.
She had no idea what this bear was wanted for, or why the bounty was so large, but this had already been the longest job of her life. Usually, she hunted down whatever philandering idiot, or absconded parolee she was given a file on in a few days and had him back in Reno in a week. Maybe two, tops.
But this one? By the time she got a lead on which patch of Wyoming woods he called home, she’d been into it for a month.
She came to another stream, and bounced across it, only just brushing the surface with her toes, splashing a bit of frigid water up her tied-off cargo pant leg. A chill crept up her back, along her thin neck, and up the sides of her face.
Everything was ready. She had her tazer, her stun gun, and a can of wasp spray in case things got bad. The second she had him, she was to radio Jacque’s pilot – a helicopter flying gator who started flying because of a fear of heights – and he’d swoop down and scoop ‘em up.
Of course, she had to find this bear, first.
From the pictures she knew he was huge. He was a massive Kodiak with tribal markings up one side of his face and down his shoulder. The only photo of him that anyone could find was an out-of-focus shot from a Whataburger security camera that didn’t look much better than the old Patterson Bigfoot film.
As Lola hopped over another fallen branch, she thought back about that picture. She’d studied that picture long and hard, and not just because she needed to know him when she found him. There was something about his eyes, and the scar running down the middle of his face, that captivated Lola’s imagination. The thickly muscled, tattooed bear had shoulder-length, dark brown hair that hung in loose waves, and stormy, almost glowing, green eyes.
“Gotta keep going,” she told herself. “And gotta stop with the weird fantasies about the marks. No time for a mate, especially not one dangerous enough to get me a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar bounty.”
But, she still had no idea what he’d done. She didn’t ask questions. She’d learned a long time ago not to bother with that sort of thing. It usually only got her a stomach full of self-doubt and a whole lot of second guesses.
As she crept under a half-fallen tree trunk, two things happened at once: she brushed against a mushroom and shuddered at the slimy, soft-and-squishy texture and she also caught a scent.
Freezing in place, on the other side of the log, Lola closed her eyes and lifted her nose to the sky. She tried to listen for her mark, but the forest was too alive with insects and frogs and night birds and tittering squirrels to separate the sounds. Smell though? Smell never failed.
The new scent in her nose was of leather, gravel, sweat and earth. Whoever this bear was, she knew she had him, or at least had his trail.
The good thing about bears hunkering down in the woods is that unless they had a mate, there was only ever one of them in any given stretch of forest. That means he’s alone, Lola thought. That was a relief for two reasons, one of which was safety, and the other of which was…
She shook her head. No time for that. Forget the loneliness and how bad you need a big bear’s waist to wrap your legs around. A hot flush crept down her neck, underneath her shirt, and warmed her down to her toes. She rolled her eyes at herself so hard they might’ve clacked against the back of her skull.
With her nose tilted upward, Lola opened her eyes and watched the full moon flicker between the overhanging branches. All the time the smell was getting stronger, fuller, closer. She’d either found him, or come across his den. Either one of those two options was a good one – just so long as he wasn’t sitting there waiting for her.
She checked the wind again to make sure she was still downwind. She really didn’t need to give him any clues he didn’t already have. But then again, why would he suspect anything? All the people she’d asked about this nameless bear had been either terrified, clueless to his presence, or eager for him to be removed; none of them were the type to tattle.
Then again, maybe this bear was her match for paranoia.
Or, there was another, far worse option: he could be completely insane.
Crouching so low she was almost commado-crawling, Lola continued her approach. In the distance lay a mound of some sort, which could be nothing, or it could be the entrance to a dug-out den.
Sometimes shifters are more human than animal, sometimes – like in Lola’s case – they shift back and forth with ease, and then sometimes their animal nature took them over completely. Those are the most dangerous, the most unpredictable.
And Lola had no idea which of the three she was dealing with.
And she hated surprises.