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Kalkin Raferty, Alpha of the Raferty pack and Sheriff of Window Rock, Arizona, never believed he’d find his mate. He’s spent years protecting his family from outside forces. When two women show up in town, Kalkin’s world is flipped upside down.



Keeley Blueriver is trying to hide but not doing a very good job of it. After being viciously attacked, along with her sister Danielle, they move across the country to Window Rock, Arizona to escape their tormenter. If Simon finds them they’re as good as dead.



After a chance meeting, Kalkin can’t get the blonde-haired, hazel-eyed woman out of his mind. His wolf is poised to claim her, but with danger lurking in every corner, is he willing to risk everything to have her?









Kalkin

Apache County Shifters, Book One





by

TL Reeve & Michele Ryan







MF, EROTIC ROMANCE, PARANORMAL, SHIFTERS



Twisted E Publishing, LLC

www.twistedepublishing.com





A TWISTED E-PUBLISHING BOOK





Kalkin

Apache County Shifters, Book One

Copyright © 2018 by TL Reeve & Michele Ryan



Edited by Marie Medina



Second E-book Publication: June 2018, SMASHWORDS EDITION



Cover design by Cover by K Designs

All cover art and logo copyright © 2018, Twisted Erotica Publishing, LLC.



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.



All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.



All characters depicted in sexual acts in this work of fiction are 18 years of age or older.



Publisher’s Note:



This story was originally released with another publisher.



It has been edited by Twisted E-Publishing before being republished.



Original titles in this series are coming soon!

Table of Contents



Glossary of Characters



Chapter One



Chapter Two



Chapter Three



Chapter Four



Chapter Five



Chapter Six



Chapter Seven



Chapter Eight



Chapter Nine



Chapter Ten



Chapter Eleven



Chapter Twelve



Chapter Thirteen



Chapter Fourteen



Chapter Fifteen



Chapter Sixteen



Chapter Seventeen



Chapter Eighteen



Chapter Nineteen



Chapter Twenty



Epilogue



Coming Soon



About the Authors



Glossary of Characters



Kalkin Raferty: Wolf shifter. Alpha. Identical twin to Caden. Older by a minute. Slightly bigger than his twin. Black hair, ice blue eyes. Mated to Keeley.



Keeley Blueriver: Human with abilities. Mated to Kalkin. Hazel eyes, blonde hair and curvy.



Caden Raferty: Wolf Shifter. Identical twin to Kalkin. Younger. Black hair, ice blue eyes.



Danielle Blueriver: Human with abilities. Tall, willowy blonde with blue eyes. Keeley's older sister.



Jace Raferty: Bodhi’s biological father. Black hair, blue eyes. Youngest Raferty brother. Goes off pack lands during the full moon. No one questions where he goes. Deputy.



Loraine Jacobs: Human. Chocolate-brown hair, brown eyes. Very old-fashioned. Doesn’t like technology. Dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department.



Logan Wagner: Wolf shifter. Former detective for Phoenix PD. Comes home in Kalkin and Keeley’s book.



Mrs. Pauline Martin: Guardian to the orphan shifters. Elder of the pack and all-around gossip. Will help when needed and is still a strong pack female. Mated to Russell Martin (deceased.)

Chapter One



Kalkin Raferty stood sentinel on his front porch, the mug of coffee in his hand long forgotten. Across the creek from him, a moving truck pulled into the driveway of an old two-story farmhouse. As sheriff of Apache County, he knew the comings and goings of all the small communities around the area. However, the house across the creek being for sale, or the fact that two cute little blondes were in the truck, had been news to him. As the Alpha of the small but active wolf pack that made their home in the town of Window Rock, Arizona, it was his job to protect the pack and the people in his community.

The town, for him, held nothing spectacular about it. It happened to be a disgustingly sweet place sometimes, especially when the older women of the pack got together to do bake sales and craft fairs. During the winter, the town usually shut down, and it could get lonely, quickly.

As the doors of the truck opened, footsteps echoed behind him. The broad palm of his twin’s hand gripped his shoulder before Caden came into view. “New neighbors?”

“Suppose so.” He grunted as a petite blonde stepped down out of the cab and walked to the back.

“I didn’t know we were getting new pack mates.” Caden crossed his arms. “Maybe it was an oversight on their part.”

“Yeah, could be.”

When the small blonde turned her face up to the moonlight, he noticed, even in the darkness, the bruise still hued in purples and blues marring her right cheek. Subtract the bruise and she was pretty. Elf-like, and curvy, she was quite honestly perfect for him. Her screen-printed T-shirt molded to her round breasts and hugged her midsection, causing his mouth to water and his dick to harden exponentially. She wore a pair of cut-off jeans that framed her ass just right, making him want to reach out and palm her silky flesh. Though only catching her profile, he could see she had bow-shaped lips and a button nose, framed by ringlets of wheat-colored blonde hair. A small growl of need passed his lips, and his brother laughed.

He cleared his throat and focused his attention on the taller of the two. Her right arm sported a black brace and a matching bruise covered her face. “I’m going over there.”

The doors to the back of the truck opened up, and the shorter woman pulled out a ramp attached to the back. After a little manipulation on both of their parts, they slid it up into the back of the truck. Pretty soon, one by one, they exited it carrying a couple of boxes each. There is no way they are doing this on their own.

“I’ll grab the guys and we’ll be there in a moment.”

Kalkin nodded while heading for the small bridge separating their properties. The sheriff part of his brain said to be wary of their arrival. They came at night. No one did so without reason. However, the fiercely protective part of him demanded he wait to cast judgment. Something about these women called to him. His wolf urged him forward to gather the answers he sought.

Packs or lone wolves didn’t move onto pack territory without first coming to meet him, but these two, he’d never seen them before nor heard word of their arrival. They could be human. Which made more sense, instead of figuring they were wolves.

“Danielle, did you want me to take that? Your arm is still healing. The doctor said you shouldn’t overdo it.” The shorter of the two tried to take the box out of the other woman’s hands.

“I’m fine, Keeley. Really.” The one called Danielle stepped off the truck and walked into the house.

“Welcome to the neighborhood,” he called out, raising his hand. Keeley stilled and turned her attention to Kalkin. He caught a whiff of her nervousness, but no scent of being a wolf. What the hell happened to you? “We’re your neighbor across the creek. Would you like some help?” Behind him he could hear his brothers crossing the bridge. “We don’t mind.”

“Oh, uh—”

“Keeley, what’s going on? Who’s—” The other woman, Danielle, came back out of the house. “Hi.” She eyed him warily. He couldn’t blame her. From the look of both of them, they’d been through hell.

“Hi, my name is Kalkin Raferty. These are my brothers and nephew.” He pointed to the guys. “That’s Caden, Jace, and Royce. We saw you pull up. We wanted to help you guys out.” Both women looked at each other and if Kalkin didn’t know any better, he would swear they were carrying on a silent conversation. Something he and Caden did from time to time.

“If it’s not a problem,” Danielle said, stepping forward.

“Dani,” Keeley muttered.

Danielle threw a look at her sister and shook her head. “We’d appreciate the help.” She held out her good hand. “It’s nice to meet you. All of you.”

Caden stepped forward, pushing Kalkin out of the way. “Pleasure. How about you and your friend—”

“Sister,” she corrected him.

He smiled indulgently at Danielle. “Sister, tell us where to put everything.”

She gave Caden a little grin. “Okay.”

“Great,” his brother answered. “Come on, guys.”

After several cups of coffee and the sun cresting the horizon, all of the boxes were off the truck and the girls were moved in—in theory anyway. “Are you sure you don’t have another load we can help you with?” Kalkin didn’t want to leave them just yet. Keeley seemed oddly nervous around him, while her sister Danielle was relaxed. So much so, she opened boxes with Jace and Caden while Royce brought the empties outside.

“N-n-no, we’re f-fine.” Keeley wrapped her arms around her midsection.

“I’d beg to differ,” he murmured. “Can I ask what happened to you and your sister?”

Close up, he could see the bruises were still fresh. The blood vessels around her iris were blown, and blood marred the sclera. She also had a bruise the size and shape of a man’s hand wrapped around her wrist.

“You can ask all day. Doesn’t mean you’ll get an answer.” Keeley lifted her chin. “We don’t even know you.”

“You’re right. I only told you my name. We’ve been so busy getting you girls settled, we didn’t get to talk about what we do or anything. I’ll start. I am the sheriff for Apache County. My brothers and my nephew are my deputies. We’re safe.”

“Hey.” Caden stuck his head in the room, breaking the ever-mounting tension. “Sorry to cut this short, ma’am, but we’ve got a call.”

“Shit.” He glanced at Keeley. “This isn’t over. We’re neighbors, you and me. I’ll be seeing you around.”

“Yeah, sure.” She followed them out. “Next time, call or text before you come over.”

Kalkin spun around, almost knocking Keeley on her ass. “I would love to, sweet cheeks. But I’d need your number first.” He tilted his head. “You going to give the sheriff your number?” An indignant expression crossed her face, and he laughed. “Have a good afternoon, Keeley.” He nodded at Danielle. “Danielle. If you ladies need anything, feel free to come across the bridge. Someone is always at the house.”

“Thank you, Sheriff Raferty.” Danielle stepped out of the kitchen as they filled the foyer. “You saved us hours of work.” Though her answers were easy and polite, they hid something. It didn’t mean a damn thing in the long run, especially if they were getting away from whoever beat the shit out of them.

“It was no problem.” Caden put his hand into hers and murmured something to make her blush. The horndog. Now was not the time to try to hook up with the new neighbors. It became quite obvious after being around them for a few hours, they weren’t wolves. But, there’d been something special about them, besides the fact Danielle was a veterinarian, who liked to work from home. They all felt it. Later, he told himself. Later he would get with his family and figure it out.

“We’ll be seeing you,” Jace said with a smile. “Danielle, I’ll let people know about your clinic. We could always use a good vet around here.”

“Sounds great. My equipment will be here in a few days.” She waved at them with her good hand as they left the house.

“Dani, what the hell were you thinking of telling them—”

Kalkin listened in on the last bits of their conversation as he stepped out the door. It seemed their new neighbors had a few secrets of their own.

“So, what’s this case you got for us, Caden?” Kalkin’s question brought his brother out of his thoughts as they made their way back across the creek.

Caden slid into the passenger seat of their county vehicle. “There was another break-in at the consignment shop. Mrs. Martin said this time she saw who did it.”

Kalkin climbed in behind the wheel then started the Jeep. “Shit. The elder is going to get herself hurt if she’s not careful.” He put the vehicle into gear before backing out. “What the hell do you have going on with Danielle already? You don’t know anything about her.” He could say the same about him and Keeley, yet the woman’s scent grabbed him by the groin and wouldn’t let him go.

“She’s hurting, bro. How could you not feel something for both of those women? They’re both fragile and scared.” Caden rolled his shoulders and checked his side mirror as Kalkin pulled out away from their house. “Besides, it sounded like you were getting along splendidly with Keeley.”

He laughed. He didn’t know if getting along would be what he would call it. The moment he crossed the creek and went onto their property, the connection seemingly slipped into place for him. As if an invisible magnet pulled him to her, no matter how much venom she spewed at him. With each challenge she threw down at his feet, his dick grew harder. Never had he met someone so confounding, yet so beautiful and entrancing. “I don’t think you and I were looking at the same woman.”

“The full moon festivities are coming soon,” Caden stated matter-of-factly.

“And your point?” Kalkin made a right turn onto Main Street. Though they lived in the valley of the mountains, their home wasn’t but a few miles from town, making it a prime location to live. Mrs. Martin’s store sat just beyond the sheriff’s station, and next to the little park they’d made for the pack pups to play in.

Sunday afternoon meant most of the shops were closed and wouldn’t be open until Tuesday. A tradition he didn’t change when he adopted the lands and became Alpha of the pack.

“You’re not getting any younger, and the rest of the pack is beginning to talk.”

“We’re the same age, asshole. I could be saying that to you since you’re the pack beta.” Kalkin pulled his Jeep into a parking spot and shut it off. “Look, I don’t want to discuss the full moon or the festivities. Let’s go talk to Mrs. Martin.”

“You should give Keeley a chance,” Caden muttered while getting out.

“Drop it.” While he liked to think about finding a mate and having pups of his own, the time had passed, or at least he’d thought it had passed. Seeing the woman climb out of the truck, the way her long, blonde wavy hair bounced with each step she took, called to the baser side of him. The wolf had been more than a little intrigued.

His brother held his hands up. Before he could grab the handle on the door, Mrs. Martin filled the entryway with two plates of food and a smile. The elder of the pack seemed close to eighty years old, but in reality, much older. “Boys,” she said cheerfully. “I have some breakfast for you.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Kalkin took one of the plates from her, while Caden took the other. “You called and said the shop got broken into?” From the outside, it looked fine. There were no outward signs of a break-in or vandalism.

“Oh yes.” She signaled for them to follow. “It’s back here.” They wound their way through the shop and walked out back. There, spray-painted on walls, were crude pictures of dogs and humans. “This was what I found this morning when I came downstairs.”

“When I talked to you on the phone, Mrs. Martin, you said you had some proof of who did this?” Caden snagged a piece of her famous bread out from under the napkin and popped it into his mouth. “Mmm, so good, Mrs. Martin.”

“Oh you.” She blushed, patting Caden’s arm. “Yes, I do. He’s back here.”

“He?” Kalkin hurried after her. “Ma’am, you didn’t say you had the person. You said you had proof.”

“The person is proof, Kalkin.” She pulled a key out of the front of her apron. “He’s in there.” She pointed to the small room after unlocking the door.

With a shrug from his brother, Kalkin and Caden walked into the room and found the Collins kid sitting on the floor. “Well, I guess she was right.”

“Hello, Jeremy. You want to tell us how you ended up in here?” Kalkin lifted the kid up and walked him out of the room.

“Man.” He smacked his lips together, making a disgruntled noise.

“Nothing a little community service won’t cure.” Caden grabbed the kid’s other arm.

“I believe you’re right,” Kalkin agreed. “It’ll start bright and early tomorrow morning, after you’ve seen the judge.” Together with his brother, Kalkin walked Jeremy out to his Jeep and shoved him into the backseat. Mrs. Martin handed him the plate of food. “Thank you, ma’am. You have a good day. We’ll see you in the morning.”

“Kalkin. Caden!” The excited chirp of their nephew surprised both of them.

“Bodhi,” Kalkin answered. “What are you doing down here? Shouldn’t you be upstairs helping Mrs. Martin with the other children?”

The boy belonged at home with them, but after the pain and degradation Jace took because of his natural abilities along with him being a shifter, he couldn’t bear the sight of his son. No one really knew what happened, but when their brother stumbled back into town, broken and battered, carrying a small bundle in his arms, Kalkin didn’t question his brother’s decisions. Ten years later they were still waiting for Jace to open up and tell them of his time with the PBH—Paranormal Bounty Hunters.

So, for the most part, they avoided the subject and visited Bodhi every chance they had. He knew Kalkin and Caden as what they were, the sheriff and a deputy, like the rest of his family. The black-haired, blue-eyed replicate of his father stared up at Kalkin with such wide-eyed wonder.

“I should,” he answered with a sigh. “When I grow up, I want to be like you and Caden.”

“Nah, think bigger, kid,” Caden said, ruffling his hair. “Much bigger.”

“You coming to the festivities?” Bodhi’s eyes lit up, silently hoping they’d say yes while changing the subject.

The county began calling it the Strawberry Moon Festival about fifty years ago. It occurred during the first full moon of the summer solstice, as a celebration of “harvest” and “new life.” The truth was, they used the name to cover for what really happened. It had been a hell of a lot easier to explain to humans who happened to stumble upon or those who came for the activities—mating. For three days, shifters felt the pull the strongest to find their mate and consummate their newfound relationships.

“You know it, squirt,” Kalkin answered.

“Awesome. I’ll see you then!” He gave a wave then scurried up the stairs to the second level of Mrs. Martin’s shop.

“Dumb kid,” Jeremy popped off.

Kalkin growled. “What did you say?” Anger coursed through him. No one spoke about his nephew like that.

“If he thinks he’ll become a sheriff or deputy when he gets older, he’s wrong. No one wants an orphan.” The kid smirked.

The urge to wring his scrawny neck had been tempting. Way too fucking tempting. “That’s where you’re wrong. He’ll be anything and everything he wants to be when he grows up.” Kalkin started the vehicle. “Let’s go.”

Caden handed Mrs. Martin some money to take care of whatever the orphans might need for a few days while he belted Jeremy into the backseat. Once his brother slid into the passenger side, they drove back to the station.

Jeremy wasn’t a bad kid. He hung out with the wrong group of boys. A faction of the young pups from the old Quincy pack in Rio Rancho, New Mexico were beginning to show back up in town and were trying to recruit. Kalkin caught them a few times and sent them home. A few times, it had nearly come to blows, but he didn’t beat children already abused by their parents. “You know, Jeremy, you keep going down this path and it’ll only cause you problems you don’t want to be involved in.”

“The Quincy pack is making a comeback. They’ve got the lowdown. They’re our future,” Jeremy shot back. “The time of Raferty rule is at an end.”

“The Quincy pack is nothing but trouble.” Kalkin gripped the wheel tight. “They—”

Caden pressed his hand firmly against his brother’s chest. “Kid, you got another think coming if you think Quincy is the right move for you.”

“You just watch.”

Kalkin pulled up to the front of the station and got out. He didn’t want to hear about the Quincy pack. If it wasn’t for them, Mackenzie, their older brother, and Royce’s father, would still be with them. As it stood, he’d been missing for over fifteen years and no matter how many leads they followed, it always ended up at a dead end.

Damn it, Mac. Why the hell did you have to go after her?

Mackenzie followed his “mate,” Marjorie, on the night of the full moon festivities. The eyewitness reports had their brother heading north, out of pack lands and into Quincy territory. When he didn’t return three days later, they found out that the girl Mackenzie believed to be his had mated the Alpha of the Quincy pack. No one had seen hide or hair of him since. All the hiding spots, the dens they made on the property, and beyond into the little bluffs were empty. It had been as if he’d completely disappeared off the face of the planet.

“Come on, kid.” Kalkin grabbed the boy by the arm and dragged him into the station. Loraine sat at the front desk, while two other deputies milled around. The sheriff’s department encompassed not only Window Rock, but all of Apache County, like his pack. He hadn’t always planned on being the sheriff and the pack Alpha; it just sort of happened.

“Look alive, people.” He stopped in front of Loraine. “We’re taking Jeremy back to a cell. Call Judge Roderick Benedict. We want him arraigned by tomorrow morning so he can begin cleaning up Mrs. Martin’s shop.”

“On it, Sheriff.” Loraine’s chocolate-brown hair swayed as she grabbed the phone, while also picking up the booking clipboard. “Cell three is open for you, Kalkin. Hal over there brought in a drunk driver last night.” She flipped through her rolodex—the only woman he knew of who didn’t like having a cell phone, nor did she have any kind of digital device to make her job a thousand times easier. She was completely old school. She didn’t even own a computer. All their reports were typed out with an old IBM Wheelwriter.

Kalkin nodded. “Let me know when you get in touch with the judge.”

After Jeremy had been processed and put in the cell next to the DUI suspect, they walked back out to the front. Loraine informed him Judge Benedict would be in chambers by eight a.m. and Jeremy would be the first case on the docket. She then placed a few reports in front of him, which required his signature. Part of Kalkin wanted to run out of the building and race home just so he could get a glimpse of Keeley, and make sure both women were safe, of course. The other part of him told him he was a foolish idiot who had no claims on either of the women. Yet, even though he had been focused on his job the whole time they were with Mrs. Martin and while booking the kid, his mind had drifted back to the woman who remained a mystery to him. Tuesday, he promised himself. Tuesday he would go talk to the only realtor in the area. Hopefully the older man would tell him a little bit about Danielle and her sister, Keeley. “It’ll be nice having a vet in the area again,” Caden said, breaking Kalkin from his thoughts while driving home. “Especially if something happens to one of us while we’re shifted.”

“Do you even hear yourself right now?” Kalkin shook his head. “How do you plan on explaining what we are to Danielle, if one of our wolves shifts back to their human form while she’s treating them?”

“Well, we both know there is something different about Danielle and Keeley, so maybe it won’t seem weird for them.”

“Yes, because humans have been supportive of shifters after we came out. You’re completely nuts, brother.” Kalkin pulled back up to their home and threw the Jeep into park. “Look, for now we watch them, and figure out what the hell they’re doing here.”

“They’re not the enemy, Kal.” Caden opened his door and got out, before heading toward the house.

“No?” Kalkin questioned, getting out on the driver’s side. “Does Mackenzie ring a bell?”

“Don’t, bro. We both know something more happened and we may never really know the whole truth.” Caden stepped onto the porch. “Don’t talk about it in front of Royce either.”

They had one strict rule when talking about Mac. Never say a word about him in front of Royce. Any time they’d brought up his father in front of him when he’d been younger, he lost it. The boy missed his father immensely. There’d been only so much the brothers could do for Royce. A boy needed his father. Something not even their parents provided for them.

They never wanted them, in fact. There were always ways to prevent pregnancy for wolves. Don’t fuck during the full moon or use protection outside of the full moon. But, somehow the drugged-out hicks, i.e. their parents, didn’t get the memo. A ten-year-old Mackenzie, five-year-old twins and a two-year-old Jace were dropped off at a local shelter as pups for adoption. It would be nearly two years later before they were brought back to pack lands and shifted from their wolf form. Thank fuck Mrs. Martin and her husband Russell found them and brought them home. Had anyone else, he was sure they would have died. Maybe it’d been what their parents hoped for—their death.

“Yeah, you don’t have to worry,” Kalkin snapped. “Tuesday, I’m going to do a little digging on the girls. I’ll start with the realtor.”

“You attract more bees with honey.” Jace came around the corner at them from the kitchen. “Danielle is definitely the talker of the two. I bet if a certain someone”—he looked to Caden—“got her to talk. You’d find out everything.”

“Who asked you anyway?” Kalkin stomped into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He grabbed a beer for himself, then tossed one to his brother. They’d earned them.

“Oh and I have an interview with a new deputy applicant.” Jace gave his brother a quizzical look. “Are you sure we need more officers on the force?”

“Right about now, the more the merrier.” He sighed. “Looks like Quincy might be back up to their old shit. We just arrested Jeremy for vandalism. He’s adamant they’re growing stronger and coming back.” He had a couple people he could question, but he’d have to be sneaky about it. He couldn’t risk Everett’s life trying to get the information he needed on Raymond nor could he blow the guy’s cover.

“Shit.” Jace leaned against the door jamb. “Did he say anything else?”

“Nope. He shut up the minute he sat down inside the cell. The boy thought he’d talked back to us and been a bad ass, but the minute I locked him in, he reverted to being a baby.”

“I thought he’d start crying.” Caden shrugged. “I expected it.”

“Anyway, we need all the help we can get, just in case.”

“On it. This guy’s name is Logan Wagner. He’s from Arizona. He’s been a detective for Phoenix PD for five years, and he needs a change of scenery,” Jace supplied.

“Human or wolf?” Not that it mattered. Knowing from the get go made it easier on them.

“Wolf. He specifically said he knew about our pack, and he’d been with us as a teen, ten years ago.”

Wagner…Wagner, it would drive Kalkin crazy until he could remember the kid. “Well if you think he has what it takes, sign him up. I’ll approve it.”

“Thanks.” Jace nodded. “I’m heading out in a little bit. I’ll be back tomorrow night late. I have some stuff I need to take care of.”

“Yeah, man. I understand. Just be careful.” Kalkin knew exactly where Jace needed to go. They didn’t question him. If he wanted to talk about it, they’d be there, waiting for him.

Kalkin walked back into the living room and looked out the bay window toward Keeley’s place. It would seem he, too, had some work to do. “What is it about you, Keeley, that calls to me?” He took a sip from his beer. “What are you hiding from us?”

His wolf paced below the surface, waking from his almost dormant state. Mate. The word shocked him to his very foundation. Raferty men didn’t have mates. They were destined to be alone. His wolf harrumphed him. Mate. Well shit. Now what?

Chapter Two



The infernal beeping of her alarm woke Keeley from a very erotic dream of a certain dark-haired, blue-eyed, sexy-as-sin sheriff. Damn it. She reached over and turned it off before rolling on her back with a groan and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling of her new bedroom. Although the dreams were amazing and left her aching for more, they nonetheless interrupted her blissfully/ignorantly normal existence.

Or, at least it’s what she told herself, anyway.

Keeley pushed the covers off her as she sat up. She had a lot to do this morning and lazing around while thinking about the oh so tall and devastatingly good-looking sheriff wasn’t one of them. Yet, sitting there, she took a moment to indulge in the erotic haze clinging to her. If she were back home, none of this would be happening to her.

However, leaving had been the right thing to do. It had been for their own protection. After she and Danielle settled in for the night, she’d spent several hours covering their trail from Colorado to Arizona. It had been relatively easy for her to erase their electronic footprint from certain computer systems, especially since she’d gone to school to become a forensic computer analyst, something that boosted her already epic hacking skills.

Perfecting her skills, however, had taken a while. Her signatures in the computer coding had grown craftier after the first attack and by the third, her digital footprint had become almost nonexistent. Yet, no matter how many times she erased Dani and herself, Simon showed back up into their lives, forcing them to start all over again in another city, or in a completely new state—like they were now.

Keeley shuffled into the bathroom, trying to work out some of the aches and pains tightening her muscles. She stared at her reflection in the mirror and her gaze landed directly on the bruise to her right cheek. It stood out in stark contrast to her pale skin. Thankfully only a small ring of dark purple marred the healing shades of yellow and green. A few more days and it would be completely gone, taking with it the last remnants of Simon and his crap. Finally, maybe she and Danielle could live in peace.

The black and blue mark Simon left behind on her wrist ached. The angry wound shone brightly against her pale flesh. It probably would for a couple more weeks. Had Danielle not knitted the broken bone when she did, Keeley would have lost the use of her arm. She ran her fingertip across the section of her wrist where Simon had cut her open with the six-inch blade and frowned. How had their lives gotten so far out of control? How had she let someone like her rat-bastard ex into her life?

It hadn’t always been this way. At one point, she’d been happy with Simon. They had a good life together, and her sister had a fantastic animal clinic. They’d fit in to society perfectly, and then one day, poof. It’d all been gone. She supposed she should have seen it coming, being a telepath and all, but she’d figured out after the fact that he had some of the strongest mental shields she’d ever come up against.

Keeley pulled off her shirt and checked out the discoloration of her ribcage. Simon’s men hadn’t broken anything, but it didn’t negate the way her breath hitched every time she tried to move or bend. Keeley turned to the side. Little rings of her healed skin dotted the area of the bruising. Seeing those areas went a long way to making her feel better. Nevertheless, she had to stay on her toes.

Safety was the word of the day.

If her sister found out how much work she’d been doing, Dani would have yelled at her, but between the drive and covering their tracks, she had to keep going. She would rest when they were hidden, protected from those who wanted to hurt her and her sister.

The state-of-the-art security system she bought while cutting a swath through New Mexico into Arizona needed to be installed. She preferred to have it in place before their nosy neighbors across the creek woke up. She noticed yesterday the sheriff took his coffee out on the deck in the morning and a beer later in the evening after she assumed he was off duty. Habit, she figured. Still, she wanted to be finished before Kalkin stepped out onto his deck.

No matter how irrational her anger had been, because they arbitrarily helped them move in, she couldn’t let it go. No one asked them to cross the stupid bridge separating them. They didn’t need their help. Keeley and Danielle had been on their own for a long time now. They were big girls.

Deep down, however, she knew she shouldn’t be an ungrateful bitch. They took time out of their day to unload their massive moving truck when they didn’t have to. She supposed she should have breathed a sigh of relief. If she’d been honest with herself, they were in no shape to do it on their own. The truck would still be sitting in the driveway, and it would have taken them at least a week to empty it. Damn it.

Frustration rushed through her as she pulled on a pair of sweats and a lightweight t-shirt. While she’d been trying to figure out every way to forget about her neighbors, Danielle chatted away with Caden, like they were long lost best friends. Hadn’t Danielle been hurt enough? Hadn’t her sister learned never to trust anyone in law enforcement? She supposed the attraction for her sister was the badge, the safety and security it represented, but if that were the case, what happened to Simon? Keeley threw on a pair of socks and her hikers then headed downstairs. She snagged her backpack, which she’d packed last night, then quickly scrawled out a note on the whiteboard for her sister, letting her know she’d be back, before leaving.

When she stepped outside, the morning sky was still tinged in purples and blues. The deep orange light of the coming morning touched the horizon, slowly claiming the day for its own. She shivered. The heavy mist of the cool air floated over the creek and dappled the grass in a glassy hue. Keeley glanced over at the house across the creek, unable to help herself. Of course, she told herself she’d been checking to make sure no one saw her early morning hike, but a part of her hoped he did.

Confident that no one was watching her, she took off for the farthest part of their two-acre plot. There she’d begin the arduous task of placing infrared sensors around the perimeter.

Danielle had told her she was a little off her rocker when they had stopped in Yah Te-Hey, New Mexico and she had purchased the last few components she would need for the system. She loved living in Colorado, and it had been their home for the longest since everything went south. Before then it was Kansas, then Nebraska. Everywhere they’d been was one step farther from home in North Dakota, but it was worth it to keep Danielle safe.

Of the both of them, her sister had been sought out most. In the psychic realm, finding someone who’d not only been an empath, but also had psychometric capabilities, made her a rare commodity. In her sister’s case, a bounty had been put on her at a young age. Though they’d spent most of their lives in obscurity, never reaching their true potential, the day had come when they realized running had been their only option. Falling in love with Simon along the way shouldn’t have happened. She understood why now. However, Keeley still couldn’t believe he’d been the bounty hunter sent for them. Now, it was up to her to protect them. Simon would never get them again if she had any say-so in the matter.



Hours later and covered in mud, Keeley walked up the front steps of her new home with an empty bag. Another job had been ticked off her ever-growing list. She kicked off her boots before stepping into the house so as not to track mud onto their tile floors. From the foyer, she could see Danielle sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, reading while she ate her breakfast. The kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Dishes were piled high, needing to be washed before they went into the cupboards. Coffee mugs from her late-night session and Dani’s morning routine sat next to the sink instead of in it. Then there were the boxes of cereal and other snacks they’d failed to put away strewn about. Any other day, she’d say they were being lazy; however, since their last mad dash out of town, neither of them felt much like cleaning.

“I hope you at least left something for me to eat?” Keeley asked as she walked into the kitchen and over to the fridge. She opened the door and allowed the cold air to cool her overheated skin as she grabbed a bottle of water from the shelf. Placing the sensors hadn't been as easy as she’d first thought it would be. At one point, she’d crashed and burned, taking a nose dive straight into a rotten pile of leaves, and who knew what else was in there. Yet, instead of letting herself wallow in pity, she picked herself up and got back to work.

“A yogurt?” Dani quipped, standing up to take her plate into the kitchen. Her face paled and she stopped. “Eww, what’s that smell?” She pinched at her nose and made a face. “It smells like ass and…and, what the fuck is that?”

“Me,” Keeley snapped. “I fell into some rotting leaves, but I think it had other things in it. I didn’t stick around to find out.”

Her sister laughed as she continued to the sink.

“Don't say it, Dani, just don't!”

“I can't stand it, Keeley, it's making my eyes water. You need to get out of those clothes right now.” Her sister leaned closer. “Yuck. You have shit in your hair!”

“Really?! Like, fucking really? Thanks for stating the obvious, because I didn't know,” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

A small smile played on her lips, then turned into full-on laughing with her sister. It felt good to laugh; it was something neither of them had done in a long time. “This sucks! I am starving and I stink!” she moaned as her belly growled.

“Go shower.” Dani shooed Keeley from the kitchen “I’ll make you something to eat.”

She blinked at her sister and stood there for a moment.

“Go on, get. Because if you stay here any longer, I am going to lose my breakfast!”

“Okay!” Keeley scurried out of the kitchen and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She stripped out of her clothes and headed straight to the shower, knowing there was no way her clothes could be salvaged.

She had to fight back her gag reflex while washing her hair twice to make sure she got all the gunk and grime out of it. Keeley then reached for her body wash, squeezing a healthy amount into the washcloth. The scent of peaches infused with honey made her sigh. About the only luxury they had since going on the run had been their bath products. Keeley had been born with sensitive skin, so no matter what she used, it always left her red and itchy. The minute she found soap that didn’t irritate her, she’d learned to buy it in bulk and stash it away, so when they had to make a run for it, she could take it with her.

While she worked the cloth over her flesh, removing the mud and muck from her body, she gasped as a tingle of something…she supposed awareness…ran down her spine. It was more than that, though. Her breasts had grown sensitive to the touch, and her sex also seemed a bit achy—as though aroused by her contact.

“Whoa. What the hell?” Keeley placed a hand on the wall for support, then closed her eyes as she tried to catch her breath. An image of Kalkin flashed through her mind. His ice-blue eyes staring back at her, almost as though he saw directly into her soul.

Her sex clenched in anticipation. Her heart pounded. What the hell was going on with her? Why the hell couldn’t she stop thinking about the asshole next door?

“Talk about odd,” she murmured, rinsing off. “I’ve got no time for feelings. Might as well forget about him.”

When she felt human again, Keeley reached over to turn off the water. She stepped from the shower then wrapped herself in one of their oversized towels to dry off. A basket of clean clothes waited for her in her room. Thank you, Dani. Once she’d dressed and fixed her hair into a ponytail, she grabbed the offending clothes and carried them downstairs.

Danielle, bless her, had cleaned the kitchen and left her breakfast at the table. Beside her yogurt and fresh cut fruit sat a steaming cup of hot tea, made exactly how she liked it.

“Thank you. This makes up for telling me I smelled.” Keeley threw her destroyed garments into the trash bin outside then washed her hands before she sat down at the table. “I got all of the sensors set up. I just need to program them to the security system and make sure they’re set to text our phone in case of a break-in.” She dug into her yogurt first. “Any issues while I was gone?”

Dani shook her head but wouldn't look her in the eye.

“Dani?” Her appetite forgotten, she got up from her seat and went to her older sister. They had been through a lot together. They depended on each other for almost everything. When one was weak, the other one stepped in and was strong.

“Tell me,” Keeley's voice softened.

“The sheriff, he stopped by,” her sister answered. “I told him you were out exploring our new home. He said he would stop by later to see how we were both settling in.”

“We need to be careful,” Keeley said, firming her tone. “We agreed when we left Colorado, we couldn’t keep running. We decided that this time, it was going to be just us. We weren't going to let anyone in, and we were going to control it better.” Keeley reached out to touch her sister's hair. “Remember?”

Of the two of them, she was the more introverted one. Dani, the more extroverted one. She loved her job and her life, even though it’d been chaotic sometimes, but Keeley shied away from it all. Unlike her, Dani had never been accused of killing anyone—by their mother no less. It happened again in Colorado—this time it’d been true. How else were she and Danielle going to get away?

In the long run, it caused her to build walls around herself, to keep others out. Although both girls had a lot of the same abilities, Keeley was stronger and more proficient at telepathy and telekinesis.

Her biggest fear was being captured and used as a weapon, which almost happened in Colorado.

“He likes you,” Dani mumbled. “I can sense it.”

“Yeah, well, too damn bad. The Blueriver sisters are out of the relationship game for the rest of their lives.” She narrowed her eyes, trying to get a read from her older sister. However, the shields her sister had in place were formidable and kept her out. “My one relationship ended with a guy beating us up and trying to rape you and sell you off to one of the psychic labs for testing, all in the name of science and to see what would happen.”

She should have stopped when Dani looked up at her with pain-filled eyes, but she couldn’t. She was making a point. So what if she was acting like a bitch? All she cared about was them alive. “Then our house was descended upon by bounty hunters from all over the place and we were forced to run.” They’d also gone from pack to pride hoping some group of shifters would take them in and hide them while they healed. None would. Kee and Dani were damaged and they’d bring too much scrutiny to any shifter lands.

Danielle nodded. “I understand. You don’t have to remind me of my inadequacies.”

“You sure? Because it seems as if you have forgotten in just a short amount of time why we’re really here.” She cringed at her tone with her sister.

Danielle wiped away a few tears which rolled down her cheeks. The possibility of them having anything normal again was slim to none. She blamed the men across the creek for even giving her sister a glimmer of hope. They didn’t have time for it right now.

“Promise me, Dani. Stay away from them. Don't encourage any kind of friendship with Caden.”

“Or with Kalkin either?” Danielle snapped. “You talk a good game, Keeley, but I see you. I know.” She pointed to her temple. “You think this is easy for me? That I get up every morning and decide: today I am going to find a way to get caught? Don’t make me promise something we both know one of us will end up breaking.”

Keeley couldn’t believe what her sister said. She hadn't been friendly to Kalkin. As a matter of fact, she went out of her way to be snappish and downright bitchy to him. Of course, she wouldn't admit to Dani that she couldn't stop thinking about the tall, sexy sheriff.

He had crept into her dreams since the moment they moved in. Hell, he crept into her thoughts during the day, too. If she took a moment to admit to herself that she really did care about tall, dark and handsome, it’d ruin her ability to run once more if they were found. She hoped and prayed Danielle wasn't picking up anything from her.

“Promise me,” she demanded.

“Yeah, I promise,” Danielle answered softly.

“I have to finish setting up the security around the house.” She realized how much she’d hurt her sister. The pain radiating off Danielle made Keeley sick. She tried to use the link they’d established as young children but got a brick wall. Dani had closed her off.

“We can go into town after I am done. Do some food shopping, maybe take a look around? I also checked the delivery of your shipment for your equipment; it's due tomorrow. So, today really is our only option.” She picked up her spoon again to start eating. “Thursday, we should run you to the clinic to have your arm checked out.” She looked at the brace her sister wore on her right arm. Danielle used her abilities to slowly heal her own arm a little bit each night. They had figured a week and it would be as good as new, but her sister agreed to have it checked just to be sure.

“Thursday is fine,” Danielle said. “Do you need help inside?”

“Well, since I am a klutz, I am going to say yes. I honestly don't feel like falling in shit again!” Keeley replied, joking with her sister.

“So, what am I? The shit spotter?”

“Pretty much.” Keeley licked the last bit of yogurt off her spoon.



* * * *



Danielle sat on the back porch staring out over the creek. It was peaceful there. Small birds and squirrels foraged for food while little air bubbles lurked on top of the still waters. Above her, big white puffy clouds passed lazily across the sky. She really did like it there, even though she missed their home. Keeley’s stern words rang true in her mind as she pushed a stray blonde lock behind her ear.

Everything had been so messed up. How could either of them have trusted Simon? He seemed so nice in the very beginning. He showered Keeley with attention. Called her pet names. He made her sister feel wanted and loved. It was something she and Keeley were missing from their lives. Their parents hadn’t been the most loving. They’d spent so much time trying to hide their children that they forgot to show any kind of affection. But, she didn’t blame them. It had to be hard raising two children with special abilities. The first time she eased her mother’s pain, the woman freaked out. She smacked Danielle and told her never to do it again.

She’d been five.

When she brought a wolf shifter boy home as a friend, her father forbade her from seeing him again or playing with his kind.

So, when Simon encouraged both of them to step from the shadows, they’d finally lived. Never in a million years would she have believed the man would turn on them. The first time Keeley came home with a bruise, her sister had pulled the klutz card, and she’d been so stupid. She believed her sister. She supposed neither one of them wanted to believe those who claimed to love them wanted to hurt them. Boy, were you wrong. Several times over. She guessed her sister had a point. No sense in being used or abused again, they’d dealt with enough of it to last them three lifetimes.

Of course, Keeley was right about them not being friendly to their new neighbors. Maybe it was still the part of her that needed to feel accepted. Maybe it was part of her healing process. Whatever it’d been, she’d sensed the connection to them when she met the brothers and their nephew. She felt safe around them. Yes, they were big and intimidating; however, they weren’t filled with malice. They were different than anyone she’d met in her life, including their parents.

There’d been something mesmerizing about Caden Raferty. At almost six and a half feet tall, and muscular, he was a force to be reckoned with. He had a square jaw and lips meant for sin. And he was completely out of her league. Oh well, it was for the best anyway.

“Danielle.” Caden’s soft voice had her head popping up. “I need your help.”

When she finally focused on him, she noticed he cradled something really close to his body. The way he held the object had her jumping up and running to his side. There, cuddled in his hands, lay a small puppy. Its back legs were at a weird angle, and there were bite marks on his neck and side. “Bring him inside,” she said, hurrying toward the back sliding door. “I’ll get my kit.”

The puppy couldn’t be more than two weeks old, if that much. He was small, too, more than likely the runt of the litter. From his markings, he appeared to be a husky. Who would hurt a puppy? Why would they do it, was a more appropriate question. Coming out of her bedroom, she walked back into the kitchen where Caden sat hunched over the counter whispering to the pup. She wasn’t quite sure what he said, but the puppy cried and a wave of the puppy’s pain hit her full force. “You can leave him here. I can take care of him.” She came over to the counter and laid her hand over the little husky. “It’s okay.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay.” Caden stared down at her, concern marring his features.

Danielle bit her lip. If he stayed, he would figure out what she could do. If she told him to leave, he would probably get angry. Her gaze darted to the door and back to him. She only had twenty minutes before Keeley would be back from town. “Okay, but I can’t have you hovering over me. I won’t hurt him. Does he have a name?”

Caden shook his head. “No, he was born last week.”

“What?”

“It’s a long story. Look, can you fix him?” Anger swirled in his blue eyes. He was not the man to mess with.

“Yeah, I can.”

He moved out of her way as she grabbed the things she’d need out of her bag. “If you could get some milk from the mom, it would help me a lot. He needs it. My supply won’t be here ‘til tomorrow.”

“No can do,” he growled. “The mom would have killed him had I not arrived in time.” He ran his fingers through his wavy black hair. “I can get you milk though.”

There was more to what he was saying, but she pushed it aside; right now, she had to concentrate. “I have to put him under. Not much, just long enough so that I can set his legs.” Caden nodded and then raised his brow when she didn’t grab for anything. “You can’t talk about what you see here, Caden. Please.”

“Danielle—”

She put her hand up, cutting him off. “Please.”

He stood there for a moment before nodding. “Okay.”

Danielle closed her eyes and held her hand over the puppy. Warmth spread down her arm and flowed over the little body. Next to her, Caden grunted and she realized he felt it, too, but she didn’t say anything. She continued to work on the little pup, putting him into a deep sleep. She would wake him up when it was time for him to eat. While she was working, she checked out his internal organs. She stilled. His physiology was different. It was as though she were inside a baby, not a puppy. Shifters? Are we close to pack lands here? Crap. Keeley would flip her shit if she found out. Not because they didn’t like shifters, on the contrary, they’d gone to a few packs for help, but they turned Danielle and Keeley away. Having Psychic Bounty Hunters on their ass, made for some rough, lonely nights...and days.

When she was sure the pup slept, she moved her hand away and glanced over at Caden. The expression on his face said it all. “Can you help me hold him so I can finish, please?” He nodded and walked back over to her, gently holding the little baby for her.

“Is that why your sister doesn’t want us around?” His question startled her as she grabbed a small splint.

“Yes,” she answered, laying it down next to the puppy’s leg. “Hold him, this is going to hurt.” She waited for Caden’s grip to tighten then realigned the bones in his leg. The puppy yelped and she laid her free hand over him, soothing him. “Okay, one more and then we’ll clean the bite marks. I don’t think they’re too deep.”

By the time they were finished, the little guy had purple casting tape on his back legs and a mini diaper on his butt. She walked out of the room to grab a blanket for him and when she returned, the puppy was waking up and suckling Caden’s finger. “He’s hungry. I’ll be back soon with his milk.” He crossed the room and placed the wiggling puppy in her arms.

“We’ll be here,” she whispered, offering her pinky to the little guy. “We’ll need to name him. Can’t keep calling him ‘puppy’.”


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