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Lion's Mate

Hell's Creek

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 55,988
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When Julian Montague rolls into a small mill town on the back side of nowhere, he isn’t looking for any trouble. He’s broke and fallen on hard times—but his idea to run from a license check on a main highway has backfired. He went off road on his motorcycle and now he’s hopelessly lost and almost out of gas. Stopping at the only station in town, he's confronted by bullies with a gun who insist he’s on the “wrong side of the line” and then proceed to attack him. Fighting them off, he heads for the dubious safety of the “other side” when he’s attacked by a wild animal and crashes, almost killing himself. Waking up tied to a bed, he's startled to find his injuries are being tended by a large, handsome man named Leo who bosses him around, showers him with affection and insists on calling him kitty. Something is going on in this strange town called Hell’s Creek, involving the large paper mill and the strange inhabitants who live in separate territories and answer only to the Company. Julian needs to find out what it is before he finds himself the “mate” of another man—and the main problem with that is that he’s beginning to like the idea way too much.

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Excerpt

A soft knock at the door nearly caused him to jump out of the chair. His heart was still pounding when Chloe stuck her head in the door and checked to make sure she could come in. “Hey, boss man. How are you holding up?” she asked as she crossed the floor and put a quick kiss on his forehead. Chloe was Mathias’s little sister and lived there in the pride house with the two of them. She had her own private room, of course, in Mathias’s wing of the house. Her brother had been raising her since their parents had been killed in an accident at the mill a few years before.
Leo had spotted her with the Canis just before the accident, and he planned to have a nice, long talk with her about it as soon as his mate was better. This time he’d lay down the law. It was true that she’d be living among them soon, once she mated with Marcus, but he didn’t approve of the ones she was hanging with. They were all lazy and shiftless troublemakers, and she’d been raised better than that. It was time she took her place at Marcus’s side as his mate and stopped all this running around.
Mathias had tried to calm her down, but she was quite a handful. She was a gorgeous girl with long dark hair and a beautiful face and figure, and she knew it all too well, but he couldn’t let her behavior go on any longer. Mathias had been happy about Marcus asking for her to be his mate, even if Chloe hated the idea and everyone else was horrified by it too. Marcus was too whipped be stern with her, but that was exactly what she needed. So, if her future mate wouldn’t, then Leo would.
They needed this conflict to be over in the worst possible way. The Company was tired of it and had told both foremen in no uncertain terms to get a handle on the conflict between the Canis and the Cat or they would take over and do it for them. That’s when Leo and Marcus had come up with this new treaty and so far it had been working. Marcus had decided to take a Cat as his mate to help broker their treaty, and he had asked for Chloe. It was an honor that couldn’t be refused. Marcus was an alpha and a foreman.
Leo had reluctantly agreed to take a Canis too, as his mate. Now, of course, his part of the bargain would be forgiven. True mates were too rare, and refusing one would be unthinkable. Everyone would understand. He hoped he could talk to Alexander, the one he’d chosen, soon, and tell him he was sorry. He hoped he wouldn’t be difficult about it. They boy was young and from all accounts, a little wild. But his last name was Todd, and he was the mill owner’s only son. He came from good and important stock, and turning him down would be a delicate matter.
Leo knew his entire pride was worried about him right now, and he wished he could reassure them that everything was going to be fine, but until he knew for certain his mate was going to be okay, he couldn’t really speak about it.
“I guess I’m holding up as well as can be expected, Chloe,” he finally answered truthfully. “How are things on the outside? Did Mathias get in touch with Marcus yet?”
“Everything is holding together just fine. Mathias has talked to Marcus. The pride is worried about you and sends their best wishes to you and your mate. They love you, Leo, and they’ll love your mate, too.” She folded her arms over her chest. “I had no idea he was yours, or I’d have tried to stop those boys from messing with him.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Would you, Chloe?”
“Of course!” Her face flamed red and she had the decency to look ashamed of herself. “None of us knew who he was, Leo. The boys were just playing with him. When he fought back, they overreacted a little, that’s all. They weren’t planning to really hurt him.”
“The boys know there’s a treaty in place, damn it, and so did you. Marcus is going to tear them a new asshole, and he should do the same for you.” She glanced up at him angrily, but lowered her head again when she couldn’t hold his gaze.
“I said I was sorry,” she said sullenly. “As for Marcus, I haven’t seen him all day. But then it’s not my day to keep up with him.”
Leo frowned at her and blew out a frustrated breath. Marcus might be a Canis, but he was a good guy and had worked hard to help Leo make this treaty. Chloe, on the other hand, made no pretense of liking him and made sure he knew it. It wasn’t so much Marcus himself, as the idea he was a Canis.
“It’s an honor to be chosen as the mate of a foreman.”
“Yeah, well, it’s an ‘honor’ I didn’t ask for.”
“Then refuse him, for God’s sake and give us all a rest! You’ve been acting like a spoiled brat, and it would serve you right if he refused to mate with you now.”
Chloe looked up in surprise and her face flamed red. She was too afraid of Leo to say anything, but he could see by the glitter in her eyes, she was angry. She took a deep breath though, and tried again. “Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. Mathias asked me to bring you this. He thought it might entertain you for a bit while you waited for him to wake up.” She handed him the wallet they’d pulled from the boy’s ripped jeans. “There isn’t a lot of information in there, but Mathias knew you had your computer with you so you can research and try to find out more about him.” Impulsively, she leaned in to give him a quick hug. “I’m sorry, Leo. Night, boss man.”
Leo fingered the wallet and loved how his mate’s scent danced all around it. He held it to his face for a moment before looking inside. He found a social security card, a driver’s license, insurance card, and some cash. No pictures or family information was to be found. So, his mate’s name was Julian Michael Montague. Hell, he even loved his sweet name.
“Julian.” The name spilled form his lips and a tiny smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. Just saying the name felt like a lover’s caress. He was twenty-one years old, seven years his junior. Light brown hair and green eyes. Bullshit. His hair was blond. Or at the very least he would have called it a dirty blond or light caramel, but he supposed they didn’t offer those suggestions at the DMV. He was six foot one inches tall, which made him only three inches shorter than Leo. They were a perfect match in every way imaginable.
He had just reached for his computer to see what else he might be able to dig up about his mate when a slight movement from the bed sent his heart pounding and him scurrying to sit nervously on the edge of the bed. Somewhere in the back of his mind, his manly voice was screaming for him to stop acting like a girl with her first prom date, but he completely ignored it and sat there, a dumbass grin on his face, and waited to see those eyes again.

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