Fox Hunt

Cobblestone Press LLC

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 51,000
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Living a nomadic lifestyle, Dilly is accustomed to being on the move, but the Federal Witch Hunters are after more than broken wands. Now they’re hunting for wolf pelts, and Dilly and her family are in their sights. Dilly must choose to charge to her family’s rescue or rely on a man she just met.

Leader of his werewolf bloodline, Mike travels across the country in search of a family traveling through the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Finding his mate in the headstrong Dilly, Mike is faced with the possibility of war with not only the burners but his own mate.

Fox Hunt
0 Ratings (0.0)

Fox Hunt

Cobblestone Press LLC

Heat Rating: Scorching
Word Count: 51,000
0 Ratings (0.0)
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The dark night was quiet. Even the crickets and frogs that normally shattered the peaceful silence seemed to know something dangerous lurked in the shadows. The small house tucked back in the trees was still and anyone inside would be unaware of the stealthy danger that slowly crept through the woods. A squad of men began their approach and, as they circled the house, peeking into windows, a tension began to build up in the air. Once the combat-ready men had done a final circle around the home, one man lifted his fist into the air and silently gave the order to enter.

A floodlight suddenly lit up the front of the house. The men rushed forward, surging into the place. Inside they found dark rooms lit only with the blinding bands flooding through the half-covered windows. The neat way things were packed away and the furniture shrouded with sheets told them the house had gone through an orderly abandonment. Each room was searched, then, quietly, the squad filed out and several well-dressed people entered the lively home.

With a flip of a switch, light filled the living room. Three men in suits and one woman in a dress suit stood staring at the now disheveled room. “They've moved on,” said the youngest of the men. His blond hair was combed back, and his fierce blue eyes never stopped their search of the room.

Behind him, the woman made a hmm sound and an older man with silver streaking his hair gruffly said, “We figured they would be. Foxes never stay in the same den for long.”

The young man turned to look at his elder and asked, “Why do we call 'em foxes, Horace? I mean they're werewolves, right? Not werefoxes.”

Glaring at the younger man, Horace straightened his shirt cuffs. “Bruce, they act more like sneaky foxes than wolves. They blend in with humans and leave fake trails to lead us on a wild goose chase.”

The woman smirked as Horace started rambling on about code names for targets. Quietly, she moved across the living room towards the kitchen area to where their superior stood. She made out the faint sound of mumbling. “Detective Creek, did you find something?”

The tall imposing figure did not even turn around to look at the woman as he said, “Our fox hunt continues. They've moved for the winter.” Pointing at several pairs of sandals stacked haphazardly by the fridge, the man turned towards what she assumed to be a bedroom door.

Julia watched as he pushed the door open. The detective looked around the room, and said, “No winter clothes. They've gone somewhere they can find seasonal work. Maybe a ski resort.”

Pulling a phone from her pocket, Julia started a quick online search. It didn't take long to find several ski resorts in the North Carolina Mountains. “Looks like we have a dozen or so locations. I’ll start digging up information on them.”

“Then let's get intelligence out there. Look for other seasonal jobs, too. In this area and elsewhere. Looks like there were only three staying here. A fourth and fifth are in the wind,” the detective said, walking out of the bedroom and back into the living room, where Horace and Bruce were still debating the code name of their targets.

Clearing his throat to get their attention, Detective Creek said, “We're going to send out the hounds. You two go over this place with a fine-tooth comb and find me the two lost foxes.” Without further explanation, the detective walked out of the house, Julia on his heels. She flashed the two men a small smirk as she passed, leaving them to their work.

Outside the house, the combat squad had retrieved their truck and were loading up. Only a handful stood in front, watching for enemies who were unlikely to appear. The lead detective stalked to the truck, his phone in hand, already calling in a report.

High above, the sky silently witnessed it all. The indifferent stars and trees were the only ones to see the sympathetic look Julia tossed back at the house before going to work hunting down the family that had temporarily evaded the hunters.

Chapter One

The rain had been pounding down on the highway for over an hour when Mike took yet another exit to yet another little known town in the North Carolina Mountains. For nearly a month he had been traveling down the southern Appalachian Mountain Range in search of a very elusive family where he hoped to find his mate.

Mike had been searching for her for over a decade. His mate, the only woman who would be able to have his children, had proven difficult to find. He’d begun to think he’d never find her.

Then a year ago, a new pack shaman had appeared in Montana. Rei was a young witch who took the place of their old shaman, and she had spent much of her life running from the burners, a Federal Witch Hunting agency. She had also turned out to be mated to his friend Aidan, one of the other alphas.

With her she brought information that set Mike into action, telling him of a family of werewolves traveling in the southern Appalachian Mountains, containing a bloodline unknown to him. The story she told him reminded him of the traditional family movements. Before the burners had appeared, packs would travel around in their own territory, meeting other families only for minor trading and finding a mate, but once the burners had shown up all of that changed.

The different bloodlines had been forced to settle down into smaller areas, and many were burned out. Some of the families, like his own, had joined with others to form larger packs. The burners were unable to wipe out the larger packs without attracting the attention of the populace, an action the burners wanted to avoid.

After the new shaman had settled herself in with the pack, Mike had loaded his bike onto his truck and taken off for the east coast. Driving down the winding main street of the backwoods town, Mike wondered again if this would be where he found his future. The town didn’t look like much, just a few storefronts lining a road that ran along an old set of railroad tracks, but those types of towns were perfect hiding spots for people who did not want to be found.

Turning back onto a twisty mountain road, Mike looked for the road signs that would lead him to his rental place. Apparently these small towns were so used to drive-through visitors that they often had small homes, apartments, and even cabins available as weekly rentals. Before his uncle had been taken out by the Federal Witch Hunters, Mike had spent a great deal of time traveling between the known packs looking for his mate.

Then suddenly, with the death of his uncle, Mike had found himself leading his entire family, and his search for a mate was postponed.

Mike’s truck gave a groan in protest as he turned up a steep hill leading to the small house he had rented mostly because the older woman he’d spoken to on the phone, had mentioned that it was nicely hidden from the road. Add in the steep roads and sharp turns leading to the house, and he knew he had chosen the perfect refuge. As he rounded another turn, the house came into view. A gravel patch behind it served as a single car parking spot.

Rain was still pouring down as Mike hurried out of the truck and over to a lock box near the back door. After punching in a three number code, Mike retrieved a key that opened the sliding door. Dropping his duffle bag onto the floral print couch, he did a round through the house trying to familiarize himself with the new place, a trail of rain marring the floor behind him. As Mike toured the house, his mind once again ran over what the young shaman had told him.

The idea of a family of wolves hiding in the mountains, moving from area to area trying to stay a few steps ahead of the burners, had never occurred to him. Even though he knew the smaller bloodlines had traveled like that many years before, Mike found it hard to picture a family doing it now. The burners had the benefit of technology and the world had become so much smaller, the hiding places fewer and farther between.

Draping a towel over his head, Mike began to wonder if the family followed other older traditions. Turning the question over in his mind, he concluded that he would have to find the elder first. Whether the family followed the older traditions or not, the elder would be the best to approach. He would be able to speak with Mike about approaching the rest of the family.

As these thoughts cycled through his mind, Mike watched as the rain started to slack off. Having dried his hair, he tossed the towel to the floor, and started to dry the trail of water he had made through the house. A small tingle of restlessness spread through him. Outside the house was a new forest and his furry half wanted to explore it. Running through trees would be easier to do in secret if the rain kept up. The water would help dull down his scent and give him time to search out the elder without being found by any other members of the family. Though, after looking for the family for so long, he would be happy to find any one of them.

A quick night run then, Mike thought. Kicking the used towel into a corner, he tugged his t-shirt off. Mike took a second to scan outside the back door before removing his jeans, leaving his clothes next to it, and stepping outside. Pulling the door closed behind him, Mike felt the change start to take over. The feeling of his jaw reshaping as his human teeth receded and were replaced with long sharp canines was joined by the sharp pull of his bones lengthening here and shortening there.

Fur blossomed over his tanned skin and, in seconds, he had hunched down to complete the transformation. In his wolf form, Mike felt the rain falling lightly from the heavens. He lifted his snout towards the sky as he took in the new scents surrounding him. The smell of deer, raccoons, bobcats, and other local wildlife almost overpowered the weaker scent of one of his kind. The rain had washed away most of it, making it impossible for him to tell gender or even how long ago the wolf had passed by, but he was pretty sure it had been within the last week. Any longer and the rain would have washed away the last traces of the visitor.

Triumph filled Mike.

In over a month of searching he had found nothing more than the last lingering scents of wolves long gone. The thrill of being so close to the end of the hunt pushed him forward into the forest but instead of racing past the trees and following the small trail the other wolf had left behind, Mike zigzagged across it, exploring the new area and searching out any newer trace that might have been left behind.

Erring on the side of caution, Mike avoided the roads the best he could. Even under the cover of a dark cloudy night, he didn’t want to stumble across any humans. In unknown territory he had to take his time exploring, taking long moments to scan each new area that he stepped into. Here and there he would wander close enough to random houses to just make out the soft glow of lights through the trees. Mike would stay only long enough to search for any trace of a wolf having trekked through and then quickly head away from the home.

Sometime after the start of his run, Mike found the scent of wolf growing stronger, and could not hold back the instinct to track it more closely. As he followed the trail, the scent became more defined and less watered down. He knew a wolf had passed by those trees only the night before, and he was starting to pick up the telltale signs that told him the wolf he tracked was female. The softer hint of feminine musk tweaked his interest and Mike suddenly found himself within hearing range of an argument.

Crouching low to the ground, Mike moved slowly through the undergrowth. Ahead of him, he saw the soft light of a flashlight or lamp.

“You two know you can’t be here,” a female voice proclaimed.

Mike heard anger lacing through the woman’s voice. Peeking through a shrub, he saw a woman, flashlight in hand, standing in front of two teens. She was berating them for sneaking in somewhere. Watching her run off the kids made Mike want to laugh, and if his wolf form was able to, he would have been chuckling at the sight. The woman was young, no more than mid-twenties. Her small form was covered in a baggy overshirt and watching her chastise the teens reminded him of a sister getting onto her siblings.

A shift in the wind brought a new scent. Although it was new, Mike had been following it all night. This was the scent of the wolf he had been trying to find. Realization hit him as Mike stared at the woman.

The small-framed woman was a werewolf.

Just before the teens darted away, Mike stepped out of the undergrowth, just away from the tree line. He sat down and watched the teenagers race off. The woman pointed the bright light towards what he assumed was an exit from the property. He took a moment to scan the area. There were several cabins with open style frames that reminded him of summer camp movies. A little gravel path left each door to lead to a large cleared circle in the middle of the campground.

Once the teens were gone, the woman lowered her flashlight and let out a low groan. She was walking away when she turned her attention towards him. For a second her eyes flashed angrily, and Mike felt himself a little worried. Remaining where he sat, he simply stared back at her. Even though she looked mad, he could make out the line of soft pouty lips, and delicate high cheekbones. When she abruptly swung away, Mike saw that she had her light brown hair pulled up into a tight pony tail.

Mike was tempted to follow after her, but waited for her to either give him the invitation or run him off. He listened as she made her way away from the main cabins and to a smaller, better built cabin tucked away behind the rest. It was only chance that he could still see her from across the camp ground. Just before she entered the cabin Mike heard her say, “Go sniffing at someone else’s door. I’m not looking.” The woman then disappeared inside the cabin, leaving Mike to wonder.

Standing back on all fours, Mike turned and trotted away from the camp ground. I wonder what she’s doing at a campground in off season? It was odd for just one person to be staying at such a large campground. Making his way back to his temporary home, he planned out the next day. He would start by going around town and checking out the locals. Maybe he could find out something about the campground and the cute wolf who lived there.

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