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On Thin Ice (MM)

Ariel Estates Series, Book One

Resplendence Publishing, LLC

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 27,000
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Silas Murdock, lion Pride leader of Ariel Estates, is on the trip of a lifetime, big game hunting with his entourage in Alaska. Everything had been perfect right up until a freak storm barreled into the area ruining their plans followed by an assassin’s bullet plummeting them into the frozen tundra.

Enter wolf shifter and former pack physician, Theodor Lucas. Returning from a trip to a nearby village, he witnesses the crash and finds the wreckage along with an unconscious and barely alive Silas. Theo’s ethical sense won’t allow him to walk away, leaving the male to suffer and freeze to death when there’s a chance he could be saved. Despite the personal risk and his vow to never be responsible for another soul, Theo takes the lone survivor back to his cabin to care for his injuries.

The stranger's unusual scent has Theo stumped. The gorgeous male is definitely not human, but exactly what is a mystery. But Theo’s unexpected guest is the only one with any answers as to who he is, and why their pilot ended up with a bullet to the back.

There’s just one problem: now that the male is awake, he doesn't have a clue. In fact, who, what, and where he is, is a total blank. But for Silas, there is one thing he does know for sure: when it comes to Theo, his hot-as-hell rescuer, a lifesaver has never looked more delicious.

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“Not one damn thing to show for ten thousand dollars and three thousand miles.” Silas repositioned the dark lenses of his Oakleys and stared up into the arctic sky at the approaching Cessna.

“Fucking storm,” grumbled Jonas, standing beside him, his gaze aimed at the growing, oncoming image of their ride home.

The plane descended, going straight for a flat section of frozen tundra. Its large wheels bounced off the snow then contacted once again, this time settling and rolling forward toward Silas’ waiting entourage. The spin of the propellers whipped the already steady snowfall into an icy blizzard around the men.

Silas rubbed his gloved palm across his face, his skin, half-frozen from the freak drop in temperature over the last twenty-four hours, barely sensing the contact. Even if he shifted into his lion form—which he’d give his right nut to be in right now—a below freezing enviro would be a bitch to handle. Well that, and he’d scare the hell out of his approaching human pilot and their resident guide.

The small charter halted twenty feet away and cut its engine.

“Our chariot awaits, men,” Silas called out, grabbed his rifle and part of his gear before heading toward the passenger section of the plane. Each step sent his boots ankle deep in fresh powder, making his trek a workout. Damn, he didn’t realize how much he appreciated the mountains of North Carolina. Yes, winters there were cold with inches of snowfall each year, but nothing as fierce as the Alaskan tundra. Fun place to visit, but hell if he’d want to call it home.

The pilot, Murray, with his white blond hair billowing around his pale face, met him at the cabin entrance. “Any kills we need to store for the trip back, Mr. Murdock?” He grabbed the handle and popped the door.

“Hell, no,” Jonas, coming up from behind, answered for him. “Fucking storm.” He shook his head, sending a spray of white flakes from dark locks as if the man possessed a serious case of dandruff. Jonas lifted the barrel of his weapon. “Never even got a damn shot off.”

Silas leaned in as the pilot turned to stow their gear. “Liar,” he whispered. “You can’t say you never got a shot off.” He topped off the statement with a quick swipe of his tongue against the other man’s earlobe. Silas didn’t miss the shiver that rocked Jonas. He was pleased that Jonas had wanted to join him on the trip. The raven-haired shifter had made the trek into the Tundra a lot more…interesting. He only hoped when they got back home the other male hadn’t mistaken the invite as an indication he wanted something more permanent. Because he neither wanted nor needed that kind of distraction in his life. He thoroughly enjoyed the men and women he took to his bed and did his best to make sure they were well satisfied.

But his Pride came first.

Jonas jerked his head, turned, and captured Silas’ gaze, his dark eyes smoldering. “Bastard. You knew what I meant.”

Silas quirked a smile.

Yesterday, the five members of his Pride had been hot on the trail of a large bull moose. But it was as if the wild game had sensed the early impending storm because their scents had suddenly gone haywire. Then the weather had quickly followed, growing colder by the hour. They’d had no choice but to end the hunt after checking in with their charter company and learning of the forecast: large front moving into the area. High winds, blizzard conditions for at least the next seventy-two hours. The news had blown the hunting expedition all to hell. Fall had barely arrived. Too early in the season for a storm of this magnitude. Silas didn’t know what he’d done to piss off Mother Nature, but she was apparently mad as hell and doling out some payback in his direction. Nothing they could do but suck it up and head back to Anchorage for the next flight east.

After loading the rest of his gear, Silas and his team climbed into their seats with their guide choosing the lone spot at the rear of the plane. The pilot took his position up front, and within seconds, the engine sputtered, then roared to life.

“God, I still can’t believe our rotten ass luck,” Reid spouted from the row facing Silas. “An entire year of planning and waiting…” Reid was twelve years Silas’ junior and his father’s best friend’s grandson. He’d been driving Silas crazy for months about going with them to Alaska.

“Yeah, but I’m still glad I got to come with you,” Travis added from the center seat, squeezed in between Reid and Mac, Silas’ personal guard.

Reid glanced Travis’ way with a coy smile. “Yeah. It didn’t all suck.” He turned his attention quickly to Silas, but not so fast that Silas hadn’t pick up on the fact that Travis was more than a friend to Reid.

“Thanks again,” Reid added, “for giving the last minute go ahead for him to come along with us. I’m sure it ain’t easy to make quick changes like that, being in your position.”

A loud contemptuous humph burst from Mac’s throat. He, as well as the Pride’s head of security, Durran, had nearly burst a blood vessel when Silas had told them they could all kiss his ass over who could and couldn’t come on the expedition. Assassination threats be damned. He wasn’t about to break a promise to anyone and cancel the trip due to the fact he would be with minimal security and out of contact for a week. Nor would he disappoint Reid because someone on his staff didn’t have sufficient time to clear a family friend. Silas hadn’t made it to Pride leader at thirty-two by being weak, stupid, or a chicken shit. Travis had no motive to come after him that he knew of, and it had meant a lot to Reid to have him along. Well, for as long as the trip had lasted.

“Don’t worry about it, Reid,” Silas said, arrowing a kiss-my-furry-ass glare in Mac’s direction. “I’m glad you both joined us.”

“Buckle up, guys,” the pilot shouted out over the roar of the engine. “It’s going to get rough.”

The snap and click of metal against metal signaled everyone was secure and ready. The Cessna’s motor revved, the plane did a one-eighty, and they picked up speed. The uneven earth beneath the wheels made for a bone-jarring run before the nose lifted. Back and forth, up and down, the plane tossed, fighting the crosswinds.

“Shit,” Jonas tossed his head back against the seat’s cushion. “I’m so glad I passed on breakfast.”

Moments later and thanks to their talented pilot, the plane had gained enough altitude and leveled out. Jonas released a sigh and popped a stick of gum in his mouth before closing his eyes. But not everyone on board had settled down. Judging by the cold sweat popping like a hard rain on Travis’ forehead, the young shifter seemed seconds from losing it.

“Hey, Travis,” Silas called out. Travis looked up. His fair complexion, already a stark contrast against his short raven buzz cut, appeared a shade whiter than minutes before. “You okay, man?”

Travis gave a curt and less-than-convincing nod. Reid’s gaze darted between Silas and Travis.

“Dude…” Reid ran a palm up and down his friend’s back. “Shit, you don’t look so good.”

“Thanks,” he scoffed and rolled his eyes. His Adam’s apple worked up and down as if the effort to speak had cost him.

“Sorry.” Reid cringed. He scrambled, looking in the side pocket of his seat and came back holding up a white airsickness bag. “Here.” He shrugged. “You know…just in case.”

Jonas opened his eyes and sat forward. “Why don’t you unzip your coat, man? Maybe it’ll help you relax and breathe a little better.”

“Yeah,” Mac added, beside Travis. “That might help.” He reached over to the younger guy with the heavy down.

Travis swatted his hand. “No,” he cried out. “I’m fine.”

“Come on, Trav,” Reid chimed in. “You might feel better.” He leaned in and tugged on the zipper.

Travis grabbed Reid’s hand, halting his progress halfway down. “I said…I’m fine.” He didn’t look up as he delivered the message, each word perfectly articulated.

What the hell is up with that? Silas stilled in his seat. He didn’t have to look around to know that every head in the passenger cabin was turned toward the pair.

“Fine,” Reid tossed back in return and pulled his hand free from the other man’s grip.

“Hey, I know you don’t feel good,” Mac began. “But Reid was only trying to help you out. Just take off your coat, man.”

Travis looked up and tilted his head in the guard’s direction. His hands twitched, and the thin column of his neck did little to hide his bounding pulse. He reached up with shaky fingers, all the while his gaze fixed on the larger shifter, and pulled the zipper until the material fell free.

“Fuck you,” Travis uttered.

Silas flicked his gaze at Jonas who looked about as stunned as he felt, then back to Travis and Mac.

“What did you just say?” It may have been Silas’ imagination, but Mac suddenly appeared a bit larger in his seat.

“You heard me,” Travis replied, then as if in slow motion, his head rotated toward Jonas and Silas. He snarled, baring elongated canines. “Fuck all of you! The storm may have ruined my timetable. But no way in fucking hell I’ll go back a failure.”

“Travis!” It was Reid’s voice, but Silas didn’t have time to glance in his direction because he was too busy focusing on the pistol now sitting in Travis’ hand.


Silas whipped his head in the direction of Jonas’ curse. There was no time to blink. To think. It all went down way too fast.

Mac lunged for Travis’ arm.

Silas slammed forward, head to knees, knocked by the weight of Jonas’ arm at his back.

Reid screamed.

A loud bang rang out in the cabin, the sound like a knife in Silas’ eardrums.

The plane banked hard to the left, sending his stomach to the back of his throat. A heavy thud sounded, and the gun slid across the cabin floor.

“Oh, fuck,” groaned Jonas.

Silas pulled himself upright, fighting the G-forces from the plane’s free fall.

Mac had knocked Travis unconscious. Silas glanced over at Jonas, but that was the least of their worries at the moment based on his friend’s grim expression.

“Murray…” Jonas added, his face pale.

Silas jerked his head over his shoulder. Their pilot’s slumped form laid forward, half over the yoke, his head pressed against the small side window. The bullet meant for Silas had ended up in Murray. His gut twisted. This was all his fault. If he hadn’t been so fucking arrogant… Now, not just him, but people he cared about were about to pay for it with their lives.

“Oh, my God,” Reid cried out. Silas swung back around. Reid’s eyes were wide with horror, his gaze darting between the fast approaching tundra and him. “We’re going to die.”

“Not if I can help it,” Silas swore through clenched teeth. After unbuckling his seat belt and shoving the strap aside, Silas surged to his feet, fighting the pull of the out of control aircraft. The space was narrow, but somehow he managed to squeeze his six foot six frame between the front seats and plop into the co-pilot’s seat.

They were in free fall, careening wildly to his left. Oh fuck… He grabbed the yoke, and risked a glance at the pilot’s unconscious form.

“What the hell do I do?” Silas whispered and pulled hard on the controls. The plane rocked, then leveled out. But they still had one problem: altitude.

“Shit.” They were too low, and judging by how quickly the Earth was approaching, going way too fucking fast. “Hold on!”

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