Hello! Lori Foster’s Annual Reader & Author Get Together (RAGT15) is only a month away!! I am so excited! This will be my fifth year attending. I look forward to this event every year. I would like to go to other reader/author events, but with moving, surgery, cat vet bills, etc, my budget is sadly empty. Eve Langlais’s Romancing the Capital looked like soooo much fun! Maybe in a year or two I’ll be able to go. Is anyone going to RAGT? I just ordered my swag for this year, and I’m involved in a couple of “Find the Author” games that I think will be a lot of fun.
I’ve been working a little bit more on Olivia and Kit’s story. This is the end of chapter 4. Enjoy!
Tami was on the porch, arms folded tight around herself. Their older son, Taylor, along with his cousins Colby, Matt, and Red Horn, ran in their wolf forms from around the back of the house. Tracker slid off his horse before it stopped.
His mate was controlled, but he could smell her worry. “Tracker. Olivia’s horse came in a few minutes ago. Olivia didn’t.”
For one second Tracker stopped breathing. During that single moment, Taylor, Colby, Matt, and Red Horn shifted to human.
“Don’t worry, Aunt Tami.” Colby’s face was almost identical to his father Taye’s at age twenty-three, down to the dimple which wasn’t in evidence right now. “She’s fine. I bet she got thrown and she’s walking back right now.”
Taye’s son was doing what the Clan always did to sooth a worried mother. Tracker didn’t bother to tell Colby that Tami didn’t need empty words to comfort her. His mate was strong enough to take anything life dished out. “Where’s the horse?”
Tami pointed toward the barn. “The rifle’s still on the saddle. So is her canteen.”
It took Tracker only a minute to thoroughly sniff the horse. The sweat of terror lingered on the anima’s neck, raising sweat on his own neck. He jerked his head at his kin.
“Colby and Taylor, let your wolves out. Matt and Red Horn, stay at the house in case Olivia comes back. Tami and Parker, saddle up.”
Seventeen year old Red Horn fidgeted. “Don’t you think Aunt Tami should stay here?”
Tracker fixed a stern eye on his cousin Stag’s youngest boy. “She’s coming with us.”
As Parker and Tami hurried to saddle horses, check their rifles, and fill canteens, Tracker suppressed a smile when Matt cuffed his little cousin’s head. “You oughta know better than to try to keep a momma from her one ewe lamb.”
But the urge to smile died. His one ewe lamb was missing, and that was no reason for smiling. His wolf, usually a timid critter content to sleep, was silently howling inside him. That wolf loved Olivia almost as much as he loved their mate. Tracker gave Tami a long steady look, wordlessly promising her they would find their girl, and mounted up.
The horse’s trail was plain enough. Even someone with no trail experience could have followed the animal’s flight up the path. From behind, Tracker heard his son Parker mutter, “What were you doing so far from the house, Livvy?”
With every step his horse took along the rocky path, Tracker’s heart tightened. If Olivia had been thrown, they would have seen her walking home by now. Either she was hurt or … He swallowed, keeping his face impassive out of habit. He’d seen no sign of strangers. There was nothing to indicate Olivia had been stolen. He glanced at his mate and knew she was already thinking the same thing. Tami knew firsthand the evil men could visit upon a woman. His wolf forced a whine past his throat.
Taylor and Colby had run ahead, but loped back now. Colby turned human to talk. “We found where Olivia’s horse bucked her off. She started walking home.” He swallowed, not quite hiding cold fury. “You better come look.”
Tracker heard his mate suck in a quick breath, but she pressed her mouth into a flat line and rode beside him to the place Colby indicated. He handed his reins to Tami, meeting her eyes for a moment of silent communication. Her face was calm, but he scented her fear and it almost killed him.
He moved carefully around the tracks on the sandy path, reading the story they told like a man might read a book. He looked up at the top of the cliff lining one side of the path, measuring how far a man would fall if he jumped off. On the side of the cliff he smelled something that made his heart pound with sick dread and icy rage. His daughter’s terror and pain lingered here. He followed the tracks going northwest for about a quarter-mile before returning to stand at Tami’s stirrup. Even from her saddle she must have read some of the tracks for herself. She met his eyes, but he could see her composure was a front. He waved his sons and Colby over.
“The way I read it, Olivia was bucked off and started for home. Right here, she was ambushed by two men. One of them picked her up and ran off with her that way.” He pointed to the northwest with his chin. “The other one followed behind.”
“Are you sure it’s a man, Uncle? Both of them, I mean?” Colby asked respectfully. “He —or it— doesn’t have regular feet. They look more like mountain cat paws.”
“Doesn’t smell like a man either,” said Parker.
No, it didn’t. The boys were right. “It walks upright. We’ll call it a man until we know different. He’s moving almighty fast. We’re hours behind him so we need to cover ground quick. Parker, shuck your clothes and let your wolf out.”
Parker obeyed, stuffing his clothes in the saddlebag behind Tami’s saddle. Tracker did the same. Tami’s hands were clenched on the reins so hard her knuckles showed white even through her suntanned skin. “You’ll move faster without me.”
“Yeah.” Tracker looked up at the woman his wolf had chosen for their mate with something like gratitude. He’d fallen in love with her before he’d ever met her, and every minute he’d spent with her for the past twenty-five years had made his love stronger. Her light brown hair had begun to turn to silver, and sun, weather, and age had put lines on her beloved face. She was so beautiful to him, and so brave. It must be like a knife digging around in her guts to let her men go alone to rescue their daughter, but she smiled at him. No wonder he loved her. “We’ll bring her home to you, Tami.”
She gathered the reins of her horse, and the horses Tracker and Parker had ridden. “I’ll be waiting at the ranch.”
Before she could turn her horse, he gripped her knee. “Come here.”
He reached an arm up to draw her face down to his. The kiss was light but heartfelt, telling her he loved her, and he trusted her, and he would bring their little girl back to her. One tear slid down her cheek to touch his lips. She fisted her eyes and smiled at him while she straightened in the saddle. She nodded at all of them, and rode back down the path toward the ranch, her shoulders back and her head high.
There was no time to waste. The trail was hours old. He refused to think of what might be happening to Olivia. He would find her. He would bring her home to her mother. He would kill whoever had taken her.
Tracker let his wolf out and led his kin along the trail of his daughter’s kidnappers.