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Wolf Fur Hire

By:T. S. Joyce

Chapter One

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?

Fuck her.

“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.”

“Beer?”

“What? No, not beer. Cover-up. Make-up, so people won’t stare at me like you’re doing right now.”#p#分页标题#e#

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.”

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