In case you haven't noticed while reading the sample chapters, the book hasn't been proofed yet. It will be before it's released.
Also, if you see the stats on your right, I blew past the 80K mark last week. That means Ravaged will be closer to 90K by the time editing is done.
* * *
By the time Alyson stalked back to the clinic, she realized she hadn’t confronted Polk about running in front of her Jeep last night. Roy immediately distracted her by insisting on taking her to lunch for making her wait. Or that Doctor Goldstein had made her wait, he’d muttered with a pointed dirty look aimed at the bemused physician, who mouthed, “Thank you,” to Alyson as she left with her landlord.
This time, he took her to a bar called the Next to the Last Buffalo. Once they were seated in a booth and the waiter had taken their orders, she asked him about the naming conventions for the town’s eateries.
He chuckled. “According to the story, Last Buffalo was a cavalryman who’d gone native after the Civil War—”
“You mean the War of Northern Aggression,” she said, reaching for her soda as their waiter set the drinks down.
“My story, my names, Missy.” Roy waggled a finger at her. “Anyway, after the Civil War…” He eyed her.
Alyson smiled and kept her mouth shut.
“Alfred Tuttle hired Last Buffalo to help negotiate the land for his town and keep the peace. Later, Last Buffalo married a Chinese woman. Well, no one in town could pronounce her name, so everyone called her Next to Last Buffalo.”
“And nobody gave them any grief over—” She cleared her throat.
One of his bushy eyebrows rose. “You mean the miscegenation laws at the time?”
“Naw.” Roy leaned back against the booth seat. “Like I said, people here pretty much leave you alone as long as you keep your nose clean.”
“As long as you’re not a favor to be traded,” she said bitterly.
Alyson relayed her conversation with the shirtless Logan to Roy, though she left out any mention of the shirtless part.
The old man shook his head. “Ain’t like him to be rude like that.” He leaned his elbows on the Formica tabletop. “Though honestly, him escorting you over to the Haight ranch would be even better than the doc. He’s a tough one.”
“After he failed to protect Sarah Goldstein?”
“I don’t think Logan was hired until after she’d been kidnapped.” Again, he waggled his index finger. “And you shouldn’t rely on an old man’s gossip.”
The waiter delivered their sandwiches, and Roy turned the conversation to her work. But the image of the shirtless Logan Polk teased her libido all the way home.
* * *
By the time they returned to Alyson’s cabin, most of the snow had melted. After Roy headed back up the mountain to his house, she spent a few hours looking through the books the librarian Marvin had pulled for her. She ended up pulling out a pad of sticky notes and jotted down questions to take with her.
Dinner with the Newlin brothers turned into a pleasant affair with productive interviews despite the odd décor of modern hunter and pink leopard print unnerving her. What little Marvin didn’t know, Mayor Tad filled in.
During a lull in the conversation while Marvin served dessert, Tad asked, “Is someone going with you out to the Haight ranch tomorrow?”
Alyson met his concerned gaze with a bold stare of her own. “Why is everyone so concerned about me going to the Haight ranch by myself? What aren’t y’all telling me?”
Tad’s expression turned grave. “It’s not so much him and his people. At least, the sheriff doesn’t think so.”
“A couple of weeks ago up at Last Buffalo Meadow, some hunters stumbled across an elk carcass ripped to shreds with all the meat left there. It’s between Old Man Cole’s property and the Haight Ranch.”
She shrugged. “The town is pretty close to Yellow Stone. You sure it’s not just a wolf pack or a cougar, and these hunters scared off the predator?”
Tad shook his head. “I’ve seen both types of kills. And I did a stint with the Marines. This looked more like someone took an automatic rifle to the elk and unloaded a full clip on it.”
“I’m telling you someone’s messing with people around here,” Marvin said as he set bowls of blueberry pie a la mode in front of Alyson and his brother. He set his fists on his hips. “Go on, tell her what the tracks looked like.”
Tad’s cheeks and ears turned bright red. “Doctor O’Connell was just offering an observation.”
Marvin turned to her. “Our resident retired paleontologist says the tracks around the carcass were caused by a velociraptor.”
Tad rolled his eyes. “And everyone knows the man grows his own weed.”
Marvin shrugged and marched back into the kitchen.
Tad coughed discretely. “I’ll clear my meetings tomorrow afternoon and take you up there, Miss Alyson.”
“That’s all right.” She gave the mayor a wry smile. “My landlord conned Logan Polk into acting as my escort.”
“Good.” Marvin slid into his chair. “That’s a nice long ride for you two to get to know each other.” He winked at Alyson before taking a bite of his dessert.
“Marvin, we have a guest,” Tad hissed.
“Not my fault that boy needs to get laid before he has a mental breakdown.”
His brother gasped. “Really?” He turned to Alyson. “God, I’m so sorry. Please don’t put that in your film.”
Marvin shook his spoon at his brother. “Well, according to Wade, she’s the first one to flick Logan’s Bic since he moved here.” The librarian leaned closer and laid a hand on her sweater sleeve. “I’ve been telling these idiots for three years and eight months he doesn’t swing my way. Believe me, if he did, I would have snapped him up in a heartbeat. And if you ever see him without a shirt, you’ll understand why.”
Heat flooded her face at the reminder of her second encounter with the mysterious Logan Polk.
“Oh, girlfriend already has!” Marvin laughed. “Tell me, is his ass as delectable without his jeans as it is with jeans?”
“I don’t know,” Alyson mumbled. She shoved a spoonful of blueberries and vanilla ice cream in her mouth.
Because part of her really wanted to find out what Logan’s naked ass felt like under her palms.
* * *
When Alyson returned to her cabin, the bright blue clock numbers on the kitchenette’s microwave reminded her about the time difference between Tuttle Creek and New Orleans. And that she’d forgotten to check in with Aunt Francine.
She ditched her coat before she unsnapped the side pocket on her backpack and pulled out her satellite phone. Papa had complained about her extravagance, but the device had been the best investment next to her digital video camera, the laptop and the software she used for editing.
It took a few seconds for the call to ring through. A wave of homesickness hit her at Aunt Francine’s dulcet, “Evening, cherie. What can I do you for?”
“Can you ship me a dozen beignets?” She crossed the rental cabin’s living room to the bedroom.
Laughter chimed through the receiver. “If you want sweets, ma petite, you need to come home. And you need to call your papa."
Alyson groaned as flung herself on the platform bed. “I called him last night as soon as I unloaded everything. I’m not a little girl. Why is he so overprotective of me?”
More laughter. “He’ll be like this until you find a good wolf to settle down with and raise a basket full of pups. Now, tell me what’s wrong.” Leave it to Francine to ferret out Alyson’s real feelings.
“This is an information call because you will tell me the truth and not blow this out of proportion.” Alyson sucked a deep breath and blew it out. “Do you know a wolf by the name of Logan Polk?”
Silence stretched until she thought she lost the signal. “Aunt Francine?”
“You have met this gentleman?”
“Yeah, this morning. My landlord introduced us.” She wasn’t about to add that Logan sat next to her at breakfast. And she saw him shirtless.
“Are you interested in him, cherie?”
Alyson closed her eyes to keep from making a nasty comment. Logan’s naked torso and incredible abs danced in her mind. “Why does every conversation with my family have to revolve around me finding a mate?”
“Forgive me. It’s just that…you know how your father feels about involving you in politics.”
“Yes, I do. He’s willing to sell me to the highest bidder.”
“That’s not true, child, and you know it.” Francine’s breath whistled across the signal. “He could not make your mama happy. He is simply trying to make sure he succeeds with you.”
The sadness in her aunt’s voice tore at Alyson’s heart, and threatened to throw her in the same depression abyss her mother fell into years ago. Somehow, Alyson dug up a bit of courage. “If he wants me to be happy, then he needs to let me live my life. Now will you please tell me what you know about this Logan person?”
Francine sighed. “All right. He’s the son of the San Antonio packmasters.”
That’s why the name sounded familiar, but she’d been doing her best to ignore any eligible males in the eastern half of the country. “So why didn’t Papa throw him at me?”
Her aunt chuckled. “Because your father and George Polk fought for the hand of Emily Shipley, and your father lost.”
Alyson couldn’t imagine her father losing at anything. She also couldn’t imagine him with anyone but Mama either. “But that had to have been decades ago! Papa still holds a grudge?”
“You father holds on to a lot of things he shouldn’t. You especially.”
Alyson stared at the caulk and plank ceiling. “So what do you know about this Logan? According to my landlord, he’s been living here with a witch family for the last four years.”
Another sigh filled the receiver. “Oh, ma petite, he may be too broken for you to pursue.”
“Who said anything about pursuing him?”
Francine chuckled. “I am not you father. Don’t think about trying to fool me.”
Alyson swallowed her irritation. Her aunt may be her mother’s twin, but she took the surrogate mother thing too far. Best to change the subject. “What do you mean ‘broken’? Has he gone rogue?”
“Not officially. It…he…the situation was very ugly.”
“He said something about his parents setting him up with Siobhan Lannigan, the Los Angeles pack’s beta. Did she fight him for the right to marry her Normal?”
Francine clicked her tongue against her teeth. “From what I heard, it was dislike from the start on both sides. There was no fight. It was a mutual decision. When Logan and Siobhan didn’t work out, he visited other packs to court but never found a bitch to his liking. He returned to Los Angeles after sufficient time had passed and asked the packmaster permission to court other girls there.”
Silence fell again which meant Francine was getting to the juicy part of the story. And that silence drove Alyson insane. “So what happened? Why is he living with a witch family?”
“A few years ago, Selene Antonius, the beta of the Augustine vampires went rogue and tried to usurp her brother. She failed miserably, but her brother was foolish and did not kill her.”
Francine sighed. “It would have saved so much heartache if he had. In her search for revenge, she sought a way to allow vampires to walk in daylight, no doubt thinking it would give her an edge over others of her kind. She kidnapped many supernaturals of all types, performed obscene experiments on them. Most didn’t live.”
Gorge rose at the back of Alyson’s throat. “Logan was one of them.”
“Yes. When Master Augustine discovered Selene’s actions, he had his people kill his sister and rescue the survivors. I heard rumors that Polk had traveled to the neutral lands and lived there. Few have had contact with him over the years, and most who claim to do so, like to tell tales.”
Alyson’s eyes stung. Mother Wolf help him. An alpha would be ashamed for allowing himself to be captured. It explained his reticence to talk with her. For him to trust the Goldsteins…
“Francine, were there any witches who survived the rogue’s experiments?”
“I heard one did. A child.”
Mother Wolf help her. Sarah.
Bits and pieces of Roy’s story made more sense now. Aaron and Esther Goldstein took Logan in because he was the reason their daughter survived. If he was ignoring the Normal women in town over the last four years, the trauma of his capture and torture had affected him. Sarah probably thought she was helping by setting him up with one of his own kind.
Which, once again, made her wonder about Roy Cole. He was just as guilty of pushing her and Logan together, but she trusted her nose. He was definitely a Normal.
“Anything else you can tell me about him?”
“No, cherie. Just…please be careful around Logan Polk. Avoid him if you can.”
For the first time in the conversation, Alyson laughed. “That may be hard to do. I’ve already been invited to dinner by the witches. And they finagled him into escorting me out to the Sunshine Believers’ ranch tomorrow afternoon.”
Francine was silent for a long moment before she said, “Frankie hung out with a witch, too.”
Oh, shit! Alyson wanted to sink into the floor. Papa may have rightly expelled Cousin Frankie from the pack, but that didn’t mean Francine didn’t care about her son. And to not be allowed to bury her only child nearly killed her.
“I-I think this is a different situation.”
“Hmmm, may be, Cherie,” Francine said. “Funny how they both include living sacrifices.”