Continued from Part 2
The town of Millington sprawled in a narrow valley between two of West Virginia’s ubiquitous mountain peaks. Coal mining country, after the coal played out. Townies had used every available square foot of space before the mountains on either side grew too steep, and some buildings perched on the slopes like goats--goats on stilts, with driveways to match.
Miss Sandie’s Tea Room was uptown, on the high side of the valley, with all the old brick buildings along Main Street. The new developments like the Wal-Mart and small hospital were downtown on River Street, which tended to flood in the spring. There were only two automotive bridges across the Beacon River for twenty miles in either direction, and they were both in Millington.
Harry slipped out the back of Miss Sandie’s on the off-chance Bianca and her friends were in front. He’d driven to town today, but his truck wasn’t going anywhere. He shifted, clothes and all, when he reached a private area a couple hundred yards up the mountain. With easy, animalistic grace, he loped back to his shop, which was eight or so miles up the highway that led in and out of the valley.
What was he going to do about Bianca and the pack? She wouldn’t accept he just wasn’t interested--in her or in being the pack’s leader. He might have a lot of what werewolves considered traditional alpha qualities--strong, smart, business-minded and tended to attract good, loyal friends--but he had zero traditional alpha desires. Most especially, the thought of binding himself to a bunch of quarrelsome, uncivilized, xenophobic wolf shifters gave him shudders of horror that caused his thick, grey pelt to twitch and his ears to lay back against his skull.
No, not even in wolf form, when he was at his most natural, did he have any interest in leading a pack of his kind.
Harry sniffed when he got close to home and could tell Bianca had been around but wasn’t here currently. He could scent his cats, some small wild game, the metallic whinge of his garage, and something, someone...else. He wasn’t sure who, but it was a two-legs. Might be a human.
Might be a shifter in human form.
Either way, the scent wasn’t immediately familiar, and he knew everybody in Millington. The unknown person wasn’t confined to the public area--his driveway and garage. In fact, he could detect traces of the individual back here in the forested area of his property, where his game trail to town began.
Intruder! The thick hair along his spine ruffled as he growled deep in his chest.
With some difficulty, he resisted the urge to mark the perimeter and sneak up on whoever was on his property. If it was a two legs, he could handle this situation better in human form. A tourist with car trouble could conceivably have been searching for the mechanic. All the way near the edge of the woods on what was obviously private property, marked by multiple No Trespassing signs.
Or maybe the intruder was looking for things to steal.
He should have posted Beware of Wolf signs instead.
Harry slunk into a thick stand of pine and shifted. He didn’t enjoy wriggling out of the pine thicket in his two-leg form, but it beat shocking the hell out of any prying eyes. Not to mention violating the rule all shifters bided--no clues for the humans. Not even thieves.
Slipping his pocket knife into his hand, Harry broke through the forest cover and approached the back of his house and shop. His home, a two story mountain cottage, nestled back from the main road far enough that passers by couldn’t see it. The garage was closer to the highway.
A lot closer. There was no reason in the world some passerby had any business poking around this far from the garage. As for people he did know, their presence here was questionable.
He didn’t like this one bit--not when the local pack was in disarray. Not when Bianca had been threatening to force him into a pack bond.
Harry peered all around the property warily, listening, scenting. Nothing out of the ordinary. In human form, he’d lost the hint of the trespasser. He rounded the side of his house and noticed a tiny, stubbed off car in the gravel parking lot of his garage.
The prowler drove a smart car? Not the vehicle he’d pick for cross-country tourism, not even to save on gas. And using one as a getaway vehicle would be stupider than stupid because they wouldn’t pull thirty miles an hour up some of the mountain roads around here.
He caught sight of a flash of pink near the main road, a glint of sunlight on pale hair.
As quietly as possible, Harry unlocked the side entrance of the garage and peeked through the front windows of the office.
The flash of pink turned out to be the pretty, summer dress of someone Harry knew quite well. Somebody whose scent Harry should have recognized instantly. Somebody who had an important place to be at this time of day, and it wasn’t his garage.
Harry rolled up the bay door closest to the smart car, and his guest started at the sudden noise. She held her hands over her heart, and in them was a large, patent leather pocket book.
“Miss Sandie?” Harry called out. “What are you doing here?”
So what's Miss Sandie doing there? Your guesses? Cuz I have no idea!
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing