Shift of Fate
I am Willow’s protector. I am paid to give my life for hers.
As a member of the elite all-shifter Wolfguard Security Team, it’s the job.
One last assignment and I can write my own ticket. Start my own pack.
It should have been easy. Just a cross-country road trip. Get the girl home in one piece.
Then I saw her...
Her scent calls to the wolf inside of me.
Then I got too close...
A single touch and I knew we were fated.
A single kiss and I knew I would kill for her.
But Willow belongs to someone else…
In one week, I’m supposed to deliver her to him.
Except, it’s my name she calls out for in the night. My mark she craves.
If I take what’s mine, it could destroy the life I’ve built and call forth a darkness too big to contain.
If I claim her, it could ruin us both.
Release date: May 8, 2019
Publisher: Nokay Press LLC
Print pages: 266
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Shift of Fate
Copyright © 2019 by Kimber White/Nokay Press LLC
All Rights Reserved
The mountains drew me. Stark. Beautiful. Their snow-capped peaks disappearing into a mist-shrouded sky. They reminded me of home.
Home. It was odd that I still called it that. I left Russia nearly twenty years ago when I was just a teenager. But, I had been driven away. Forced into exile by a ruthless wolf pack leader who ordered every member of my family dead, one by one. My older brother Andre got me out in the middle of the night, but only just barely. I still bore the scars from where the dragonsteel bullet had pierced my shoulder.
But all that was behind us now. It took a generation, but Andre had found a way to claw back what had been taken from us. He returned to Russia and now led the most powerful pack across the Atlantic...arguably in the world.
I could have joined him. He offered. I could take my place alongside him. It was tempting. Every once in a while, I dreamed about going home.
But, there was something different for me. I felt it in my bones. It stirred inside me, calling to my wolf, only I hadn’t yet been able to find it.
Now, sitting in the company SUV with the darkly tinted windows concealing my eyes, I stared out at the Rocky Mountains and dreamed of my first homeland. And I wondered if I’d made the wrong decision after all.
“Val?” the voice cut through to me, snapping my thoughts to the present.
“You still there?”
I leaned over and turned up the speaker volume. “I’m here, Leo. Sorry about that.”
Leo was my nephew. One of four. I had a niece as well, Grace, but she wasn’t a shifter like we were. They had all stayed behind like I did when Andre went back to assume the mantle of Kalenkov pack leader. They stayed for themselves and for me. We found good work here. A purpose. Today though, I was having trouble remembering what that was.
“I asked you if you’ve seen her yet?” Leo asked.
I peered below the visor. I parked in a shaded spot across from a high-rise apartment building in downtown Denver. It was oddly quiet here at the moment. Clean. Rich. I had my eyes on the front lobby. A uniformed bellman stood sentry wearing crisp, white gloves. He dipped his chin and smiled as every pedestrian walked by. He was good. Jovial. But, I could sense him cataloging every face as they passed, just like I was.
“No,” I said. “She hasn’t come out yet.”
“How long are you going to wait?”
I tapped my phone screen. It was just past one in the afternoon. I should have been on the road an hour ago.
“I’m about done waiting,” I answered, trying to keep the anger out of my voice. But, Leo knew me too well.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have told Payne I’d take this one for you. I can’t figure why he didn’t send one of the newbies.”
“Because he said it was important,” I answered. It was the thing I’d been telling myself over and over, trying to keep the edge of rage out of my mind.
“Important,” Leo said. “It’s a glorified babysitting job, Val. It’s beneath you. It’s beneath all of us at this point.”
I held my tongue. Leo was saying all the things I thought. But, it wasn’t going to do me a damn bit of good whining.
“Boss asked for me specifically,” I said. “It means he had a reason.”
“What’s her name again?” Leo asked.
I kept my eyes glued to the lobby doors. I had already memorized the case file.
“Willow Rousseau,” I said to Leo.
“Rousseau,” Leo parroted. “Right. Did you check into her family? Because I did. Her dad’s a made guy. One of the New Jersey families.”
I knew all of that too. It was the first question I asked of Payne Fallon, my boss. For the past year, I’d moved up the ranks at Wolfguard Inc. We were an elite, private security firm. Payne’s clientele ranged from Fortune 500 companies, to A-list actors, to heads of state.
And he’d promised me a piece of it. A full partnership. I hadn’t yet told that to Leo or any of my other nephews. I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about me becoming one of their bosses. Considering my current circumstances, I was pretty sure Leo might think Payne was stringing me along.
A glorified babysitting gig. Leo wasn’t wrong.
“Rousseau’s not the client,” I said, almost as if I were trying to convince myself, not him. “The girl’s fiancé is. The Soren family. I don’t know what the bigger picture is, but it’s not my job to know it for right now. Payne wants me to get her to his place near the Chesapeake Bay in one piece.”
Leo sighed. “Long drive, man. Why can’t we just put her on a plane?”
“Because that’s the way Soren wants it,” I said.
“When will you be back in Chicago?” Leo asked.
“Three days, tops,” I said. “I have a meeting with Payne on the seventh.”
“Something you want to share with the rest of the class?”
I smiled. Leo was fishing. Of course I was a fool to think he hadn’t already figured out I was up to something. If this job went off without a hitch, I expected Payne to follow through on offering me a partnership. I hadn’t yet decided whether I would run it by the rest of my family before I accepted. For now, there was no point pondering. It wasn’t a done deal until it was a done deal. And I had this three-day babysitting gig to finish first.
“Well, if you need anything, just shoot me a text,” Leo said. “I’m in Vegas this week for the Lyndon job. Erik and Edward are down in Cabo and Milo is...hell...I don’t know where Milo is.”
“He’s tracking a rogue bear somewhere in Washington State,” I said “Bastard’s killed three or four people. Local cops are out of their depth.”
“Yeah,” Leo said. There was something wistful in his tone. Bounty hunting was his calling as much as Milo’s. I knew it irked him not to go along on this job. Come to think of it, Leo had been restless a lot lately, just like he was now.
“I’ll call you when I finish things up in Virginia,” I said. “You’re due for some R and R. I suggest you take it.”
Leo made a noise low in his throat. He knew better than to argue with me though. Instead, he said a terse goodbye and wished me good luck.
Luck. Skill. This job had nothing to do with any of that. My wolf was restless, and that’s the thing I wouldn’t say to Leo or any of the others. Business suits, earpieces, SUVs. They all had their place, but I itched to get out in the woods and just go feral for a while. My wolf had needs. I wanted to go somewhere I couldn’t hear the city sounds and where the stars dazzled by the millions, freed from all the light pollution.
The mountains. God. That’s where I wanted to go. But first, there was the job.
I checked the time again. We were now an hour and a half behind schedule. I had half a mind to storm into the building and throw this woman over my shoulder. I knew the type. Young socialite. Lived on her daddy’s dime from day one. She was probably standing in front of a closet full of shoes right now, intent on picking out something wholly inappropriate, impractical, and likely to break her ankles.
I picked the case file up from the passenger seat.
Willow Rousseau. I had her head shot clipped to the front of it. Pretty. Green eyes and brown hair with an auburn tinge to it. The photo was a studio glamor shot. In it, she wore too much damn makeup that made her look probably twenty years older than she really was. She had those silly pouty lips in it. I knew if I pulled up her social media profiles, I’d find an array of pretentious selfies. Willow on a yacht. Willow in some club wearing expensive clothes she didn’t earn money to pay for.
Oh, she had future trophy wife written all over her. Her fiancé Jason Soren came from huge, old money. I did my research. Soren’s father made it from oil and gas over a century ago. The Astors and Rockefeller club for sure.
But Willow, her family’s money was new and probably precarious. Her father Daniel Rousseau owned a construction company in New Jersey. Little Willow was most definitely marrying up.
The trouble was, Rousseau had made plenty of enemies along the way. So had Soren. I could almost feel sorry for Willow getting caught up in the middle of it. Almost.
Payne said the family had received a couple of death threats. Just last month, Wolfguard had unraveled a kidnapping plot. Apparently, Willow didn’t even know she was the target. My job, among other things, was to keep it that way. Rousseau and Soren didn’t want their precious jewel to worry her little head about the big bad world out there.
So, my job was simple. Get the girl from her apartment in Denver to Soren’s house near the Chesapeake Bay. Easy. Boring. But, important. Payne didn’t have to tell me that Soren was one of his most lucrative clients. It’s probably why I was sitting here instead of one of the newbies. Payne couldn’t afford any mistakes on this one.
Two thirty rolled around and I officially lost my patience.
“Son of a bitch,” I muttered. I tucked the case file under the seat, slid on my aviator sunglasses and slammed the car door behind me. I buttoned my suit jacket and crossed the street.
I got a friendly nod from the bellman. “Good afternoon, sir,” he said. “Visiting someone in the building? I can have the desk manager ring up for you.”
I pulled out a business card and handed it to him. The bellman’s eyes widened just a touch, but his smile didn’t falter.
“I’m here for Ms. Rousseau,” I said.
“You’re her driver?” he asked, his expression puzzled.
I let out a sigh that almost turned into a growl. “Something like that,” I said.
He handed the card back. “Does she know to expect you?”
“She knows,” I said.
He must have read something on my face. “I see,” he said. “I’m afraid Ms. Rousseau has a bit of a habit keeping people like you waiting.”
I resisted the urge to tell him Ms. Rousseau had likely never met anyone like me in her whole life.
“Anyway,” I said. “I need to go knock on her door, it appears.”
His brow went up. I watched the man work something out for himself. He gave me a knowing glance. In me, he probably thought he just saw another hired hand. A lackey. A kindred spirit in that, maybe. I had a distinct feeling Willow Rousseau had tried his patience a time or two as well.
“Look, mate,” he said. “I could let you up. But, it won’t do any good.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” I said, starting to brush past him. He put a hand on my arm. My muscles went rigid.
That poor bellman. He couldn’t know what I was. But, on some instinctive level, I know he sensed it. He dropped his hand from me.
“What I mean is,” he said. “Ms. Rousseau is already gone. She went that way about thirty seconds before you walked up here.”
He pointed down the sidewalk. This time, I couldn’t hold back the growl.
“How the hell…” I didn’t bother to finish the sentence. Dammit. My eyes never left that door. I’d only seen four people come out. None of them looked a thing like Willow Rousseau.
I palmed a twenty and shook the bellman’s hand. Then, I took off down the street moving as fast as I dared.
She might have gotten past me, but instinct was on my side. The moment I saw her, I knew.
She had on a pink knit beanie pulled low. No five-inch ridiculous heels. Instead, she had on ripped jeans, an oversized t-shirt and worn Chuck Taylors.
“Willow!” I shouted, my voice low. It was getting even harder to keep my growl and my wolf at bay.
She turned. She looked nothing like her picture at all. She had a fire behind her eyes that flipped my heart and stirred my wolf.
She snarled. She knew exactly who I was and what I was doing here.
“Well,” she said. She rolled her eyes and took a step toward me. “You planning on just standing there, or are you gonna throw me over your shoulder and give me a spanking?”
My mouth dropped. The air went out of me. Then, I really did growl.
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