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Want a teaser? Read on!
Cherry Newman hasn’t been home in years. Her successful career with Keystone has kept her away from her family, but a panicked phone call from her mother has her rushing home to help in any way she can. Little does she know that what she thought would be a simple investigation turns into much more. Her brothers mysteriously disappear, and she can’t help but suspect the worse. She recruits the devilishly handsome Jericho Trewes to help with her mission.
Jericho Trewes has been looking for a pack to call his own ever since the tragic death of his parents. He thought he’d found it with the Moores, but his whole world comes crashing down once again when the enticing Cherry Newman saunters into his life. Her questions leave him doubting everything he’s been told. She makes him believe he could have a family of his own, but at what cost?
“You’re going to live to regret that, Boo Boo!” Cherry ground out through clenched teeth as she lay flat on her back. The result of being tossed across the room by a three-hundred-pound grizzly shifter who was currently lumbering toward her. Cherry placed her hands on the ground above her head and brought her knees to her chest and kicked out, bringing herself to her feet into a low crouch. He hadn’t slowed, continuing to barrel toward her with the force of a locomotive. Cherry threw her leg out and swept the shifter to the mat, where he crashed to the floor, successfully knocking the wind from him.
“Je-sus!” The bear wheezed, clutching his chest. “I’ll never frickin’ learn!”
Tucker Peters was one of her best friends, but he was also her colleague. Keystone was a shifter-run government organization that ensured that their community not only thrived, but remained protected, be it from humans or fellow shifters. Just like their last assignment; shifters were showing up dead in prominent human communities, and the evidence led them to Blackford. Caleb Marsh, also one of her best friends, had been able to gain information using local shifters, but not before a young female was taken. Turns out she was Caleb’s mate’s sister, bringing the wrath of not only her family, but the whole Blackford shifter community down on the kidnappers’ head. The ring had been destroyed and the guilty parties dealt with accordingly. No fuss no muss. Quick and lethal was the way Cherry preferred it.
“You really gotta stop projecting your planned attack.” Offering her hand, he grasped it and she pulled him to his feet. “Granted, that toss took me by surprise.” She absently rubbed the back of her neck, finally feeling the aftereffects of their sparing, and judging by the cringes Tucker expressed, she’d gave him a fair share of bumps and bruises.
Tucker dragged his hand across his face, wiping the sweat from his eyes. “How ‘bout we call it a day. We gotta meet up with Caleb and Jess in forty-five minutes at The Pint.” Lifting his arm, he gave himself a quick sniff. “I’m gonna grab a quick shower, I’d prefer not to smell like death. Kelsey’s going to be there, and I don’t want my stench to chase her away.” He turned and started toward the men’s locker room, tugging his shirt over his head in the process.
“Dude, your stench is the least of your worries when it comes to that girl.” Laughing, she turned on her heel and bolted for the women’s change room just as she felt Tucker’s bundled up T-shirt hit her square in the back of the head.
“Smartass,” he hollered.
Still smirking, Cherry grabbed a towel and headed to the showers, determined to ease the kinks in her back and shoulders. She set the temperature, stepped under the spray, and sighed in pleasure as the hot water worked on her newest aches and pains. Resting her forehead against the cool tile wall, she let the water wash over her.
The sound of her cell phone ringing snapped her out of her stupor. “Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne happened to be the ringtone she’d set for her father, John Newman. The joke wasn’t lost on her father. He may be a stern Alpha to the Newman pack, but when it came to Cherry he was wrapped around her little finger. He always had a smile and a warm hug waiting for her whenever she came home.
Quickly, Cherry shut the water off and wrapped the towel around herself. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” she said to no one in particular. Just as she reached her locker, the phone stopped ringing. “Dammit!” Picking the phone up, she couldn’t believe she’d missed five calls, and two voicemails. Cherry’s stomach dropped, her family didn’t have a habit of phoning that many times unless there was a family emergency. She dialed her voicemail, holding her breath, and listened to the first message.
“Shit!” her mother, Jane Newman, cursed. “She’s not answering. Should I leave a message?” A deep murmur echoed through the speaker as someone replied in the background, but she couldn’t make out what they’d said. “I haven’t heard the bloody beep … wait … shit, hey honey it’s Ma,” her mother continued, “I need you to call me back when you get this. It’s about your brothers. The little turds are in trouble.” The mumbling in the background sounded again, “What? Am I supposed to lie to her? She’ll find out soon enough.” With a sigh, her mother returned to the phone. “Sorry, I’m back. What was I saying? Oh yeah, if you could call…” The message timed out and cut off her mother mid-sentence. It wasn’t like Cherry had the rest of to understand what her mother wanted her to do.
Deciding to ignore the second voicemail, Cherry punched in her father’s cell phone number and waited for someone to answer. After three rings, her mother finally answered, “Hello?”
“Cherry! I’m so glad you called,” she exclaimed. “How are you?” The false happiness in her mother’s voice made Cherry’s hackles rise. She’d always been able to tell when someone was lying, and her mother was definitely putting on a façade about the whole situation. Aware she was trying to make things sound less dire then they actually were really pissed her off. Her mother always tried to protect her even though Cherry was more than capable to handle anything.
Cherry scrubbed her free hand over her face, trying to calm herself. “I’m fine Ma,” talking a breath, she continued, “You didn’t call me to catch up on my personal life, so what has Tweedledee, Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber gotten themselves into to now” Her mother’s subtle growl on the other end of the receiver gave Cherry a slight pause. She didn’t tolerate lip on the best of days, and Cherry chose a terrible time to snipe about her brothers. Her mother must be going insane with worry, and she was being inconsiderate to her feelings. “I’m sorry Ma, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s okay.” Her mother sighed again, the obvious weight taking its toll on her. “Sometimes it’s hard to understand what goes through their vacant heads. What you don’t understand is that it’s hard not to worry about you kids. It’s not like I can shut it off.”
“I know.” Cherry now felt thoroughly guilty. “Tell me what’s happened.” Taking a quick glance around the locker room to ensure she was alone and out of earshot, she put her phone on speaker. Grabbing another towel, she began to dry off.
“Okay, so last week Isaiah met this female wolf at The Den.” The shifter run bar in her hometown of New Haven vaguely rang a bell. “And you remember how the boys were always saying they wanted to venture out on their own.” Cherry absently nodded, even though her mother couldn’t see her. “Well, this female obviously peaked Isaiah’s interest because the next thing I know, he’s gone.”
Isaiah’s sudden departure could definitely be described as out of character, he wasn’t reckless, nor heartless. He’d be fully aware of how much this would kill their mother. Disappearing without a phone call or even a note went against everything Cherry believed about her brother. It just wouldn’t happen.
“I didn’t think anything of it, knowing that, one day, my boys would leave me, but two days ago Joesph and Ren left without a word. When I went to The Den and asked Davey if he’d seen any of them lately, he started to act cagey and scared. Told me to leave it alone and come to terms that the boys had left the pack.” Her mother cleared her throat and continued, “The thing is I can come to terms with that, but what I don’t understand is why they haven’t contacted me or your father. It’s not like them to leave without saying a word.” The worry evident in her mother’s voice.
“So, you’ve tried calling their cells?”
“That’s the other weird thing, I found all but one of their cell phones. Isaiah’s isn’t here.” Her brothers were notorious for keeping their cell phones within reach at all times. Isaiah was the worst by far. She’d be hard pressed to remember a time where he didn’t have it with him. Which at the moment would be a godsend. If he still had it on him she would be able to track his whereabouts easily enough.
“So how long have they been gone?” Cherry was all business and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen from her gym bag.
“Isaiah’s been gone for almost two weeks, and Joesph and Ren have been gone a week.”
“Is there anything else missing from their rooms? Anything else seeming out of place?” Cherry asked. Jotting down everything not wanting to miss a single detail.
“They took some clothes, but I checked their ‘secret’ cash stashes and they’re still there. Oh, and their trucks are gone too.” Cherry could hear her mother rummaging through a room as they spoke.
“Are you in one of their rooms now?”
“You have to get out of there now.” Keystone Cherry was on the job, and she needed to gain control of the situation as soon as possible. “I’ll be there tomorrow, and their rooms have to be the way you found them. I might be able to spot something you missed. I’m going to talk with Tucker and Caleb tonight, and I’ll get a track on Isaiah’s phone. I’ll head out as soon as I can and I’ll try to be there no later than tomorrow evening.” Her mother sighed in relief. “And Ma, don’t worry. I’ll find them.”
“I know, baby girl. You’ve always been the best tracker.”
“I love you. See you soon.”
“Love you too.” With that, Cherry hung up the phone and finished dressing. She was on a mission, and God forbid anyone who tried to stand in her way.