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Alpha’s Prey (Bad Boy Alphas #11)
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BENDING HER TO THE BEAR’S WILL
The human thinks I’m stalking her. Maybe I am.
But I’m not the only one.
There’s something evil in these woods and it preys on single women. I’m not about to let the sexy scientist fall into its lair.
Even if that means holding her prisoner in my cabin. Keeping her where I can see her at all times. Bending her to my bear’s will.
Just until the storm passes. Until her research is finished. Then I’ll let her go.
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Snow crunches under my boots. I shake my head to clear the metallic scent of blood from my nose.
I’m going fucking nuts.
No. Something evil lurks in these woods. It drew me out of my cabin this afternoon, sent me hiking through the brush.
It’s a prickle at the back of my neck.
The imagined scent of evil in my nostrils. I know the scent isn’t real because no matter how hard I look, I find nothing.
No mauled bodies left torn at the river’s edge. No screams of my mate and cub.
It could just be a figment of my memory…the nightmare. From the trauma of their still unexplained death three years ago. From spending too much time in bear form since then. I’m more beast than man these days, and I know it shows.
I heard the wolves in Tucson mutter about me when I was there for a fight last month.
That bear should’ve been put down after he lost his mate. He’s going to hurt somebody one of these days.
Leaving my winter hibernation to go to Arizona and fight that grizzly was stupid. I should never have let the idiot wolf Trey talk me into it. I should be holed up in my cabin for the winter. But he knew just how to poke the bear. He insinuated something dark about the grizzly I was going to fight, and damn if it didn’t make me have to go sniff the asshole myself.
Just in case he’s the bear who killed my family.
He wasn’t. He was an ordinary grizzly shifter. Rough, like most bears, but not wrong. Not evil.
But at least I came home with the money from the fight. I was flat broke before it. I gave most of my earnings from summer construction to one of my co-workers whose little boy needed surgery, and the rest of it had dwindled. That’s the shit-can of taking winters off.
So I roused myself. Drove to the desert. Made enough money to keep me in blueberries and salmon for eight months.
But now I can’t settle back in. I’m out here letting my dick swing in the wind as I hike restlessly through the forest.
Another woman’s gone missing.
That’s part of why I can’t rest.
There’s a serial killer, or kidnapper, loose up here.
I reach the main road sooner than expected. I walked three miles across my land without noticing. A blue Subaru pulls around the bend. I don’t recognize it, which is strange. I know most all the cars that come and go over this road, at least during winter. I stare into the SUV as it passes me, and when I see who’s driving, give a low curse.
A single female. A curvy redhead with a don’t-fuck-with-me look on her face. Alone, with suitcases in her car.
The prickles on the back of my neck grow stronger.
I know where she’s going. She’s headed to the University of New Mexico research station. It’s a small cabin ten miles out on U.S. Forest road.
I wouldn’t give a shit except three single females have disappeared from this forest in the last eight months.
And I consider this to be my fucking forest. I’m the apex predator. No other creature—beast or human—should be bringing down humans.
I’m not charming or chivalrous, and I sure as hell have never been known as a gentleman, but protecting females is hard-wired into me.
I skirt along the ridge, watching her car. She pulls in and parks at the only convenience store in our tiny town.
Looks like I’ll be spending the next week playing bodyguard to the determined researcher. The one too stupid to know not to come here in March. Alone.
Especially when there’s a serial killer on the loose.
* * *
I pull in at the roadside market in Pecos to get supplies for the week.
I didn’t plan on coming up here again until late spring, but my tree ring research couldn’t wait. I have a paper to publish by June and to meet that deadline, I need the numbers now.
Dr. Alogore’s voice still rings in my head. “Another delay, and you lose funding. Get the numbers, now.”
When I argued that it was March, still winter in our Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southernmost tip of the Rockies, and—
“I don’t see your fellow researchers asking for the same type of special treatment for their projects.”
My cheeks heat as he smirks at me. Around the table my fellow researchers, all male, smirk with him. I don’t need to look around to know they’re all laughing internally at me. They mirror everything Dr. Alogore says or does. They even wear what he wears—right down to the fashion offensive plaid tie and brown Dockers.
“Fine,” I mutter, dropping my eyes to my yellow folder. It’s a bright spot of color in a drab room, and I chose it to give me a spark of joy in my otherwise weary day. But today it’s just yellow, the color of cowards.