Liam (Mammoth Forest Wolves Book 1)

By: Kimber White



It’s gotten easier to keep to the shadows. I seem to do it now without even thinking. It’s not the light that bothers me. I thrive in it. We all do. On a day like this, with a full, bright sun softening the tar beneath my feet, it’s so much harder to stay invisible. The shadows are the safest place to keep curious eyes from landing on me. And, they always do. I’d love to walk among you. Normal people, drawn by the blue skies and fresh air. It’s the perfect day to walk downtown to shop, to eat, just to feel the sun on your face after such a bitter winter. Because, a cold Kentucky winter will come again soon enough, and there will be nothing but bleak shadows left.

I took a careful step into the sunlight. Downtown Shadow Springs consisted of four streetlights and ten city blocks. But, the population seemed to have doubled today. Two streets over, the local police began to block off three of those city blocks for the local street fair coming into town on the weekend. It’s the kind of thing that draws people out of their office buildings just to come and watch. That made things perfect for me. Anything that could draw attention away from curious eyes as I strolled through town helped. The more I’m seen, the riskier it becomes for me to disappear.

I wouldn’t have come out at all today except there really was no other choice. Jagger and the others warned me not to go, but there was no one else. Besides, what’s one lone wolf strolling through town? As long as I didn’t talk to anyone and I kept those curious eyes on me to a minimum, I could get away with one, maybe two hours topside before it got seriously dangerous.

Sure enough, most of the people downtown were headed east of me toward the town square. Booths and tents were being set up by the street vendors. It was the same fare every year, local artists, rib trucks, a mini-carnival. Still, it was unique enough to keep anyone from giving me a second look. I headed one more street over. The building I wanted was tucked between a barber shop and a payday loan center.

Shadow Springs Veterinary Clinic

The small C at the end of the sign was smashed out. The windows were dark. The office didn’t open for another hour. I picked a spot across the street where I could watch the back entrance off the alley. This is where the employees would come in. Making myself as small as I could, I wedged myself in a corner between a giant blue dumpster and the brick wall on the south side of the Shadow Springs Laundromat. From there, no one could enter the back door of the vet clinic without me seeing them.

The walkie in my back pocket beeped. I reached quickly back and clicked off the volume. It would just be Jagger or Mac bitching at me to get back to the caves. I’d been gone over an hour already. Every minute I drew air up here put me at risk. Though I didn’t sense any other shifters nearby, they could be getting better at masking, just like I was. It would only take one of them to sense me, and it would put all of us in grave danger. It was easier when the Chief Pack had orders just to kill us on sight. Now, we’d heard rumblings that their Alpha wanted us alive. That was one of the reasons this little recon mission was so important. Though none of us would give voice to it yet, we needed a doomsday option. I’d die before I let them take me. Any of us would.

I pressed my back further against the wall as a car drove up with a man behind the wheel. I sniffed the air, but he was human, not shifter. As soon as he parked, a woman got out of the passenger seat. She was tall, with straight hair dyed a shade of red that looked maroon in the sunlight. She wore it tied back and as she emerged, she twirled a lab coat and stabbed her arms through it.

As she shut the car door, her companion rolled down the passenger side window and leaned across the front seat.

“Don’t shut your phone off today, Bess,” he warned. I didn’t like his tone. It was low, threatening, aggressive. But, more than that, Bess’s back stiffened and she leaned in, gripping the window frame. She was scared. I could sense it rolling off of her, and a growl rumbled through me.

“Zeke, I’ve got two surgeries scheduled today. I can’t keep my phone on me the whole time. But, I promise I’ll call you before and after each one. Just relax, baby.”

Zeke didn’t relax. He got out of the car. Sweat started to trickle down the back of my neck, and my whole body started to vibrate. I curled my lips back and dug my fingers into the brick wall behind me.

Not now, wolf. Not now.

Zeke came around the car. Bess took two steps back. She had a nervous smile plastered on her face and when Zeke got close to her, she flinched. He hadn’t even raised a hand yet, but still...she flinched.

I narrowed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing. The hairs on top of my hand started to burn. Burn and grow coarser, pricking my skin.

Zeke put his hand on Bess. He gripped her upper arm and jerked her toward him. “Don’t you tell me to relax. Who the fuck do you think you are?”

“Zeke, please. You’re hurting my arm. I promise. I’ll call you before and after both surgeries. The first one’s at ten. It should take maybe two hours. The second is at two. That one’s gonna last at least three hours. Baby, I’m not going anywhere else today.”