(The Weird & Wacky World of Shifters)
The dirt road I’d been traveling seemed to go on forever. Heat shimmered in the air, and the tiny amount blowing through the window I’d opened did nothing to stop me from sweating. Why did it have to be so damn hot nearly all year round? It was two months till Christmas, shouldn’t there be fucking snow or something? Maybe I should move to Alaska? Wasn’t there snow there?
I swiped my bangs off my forehead. They kept falling into my eyes after the hair attempted to glue itself to my forehead. I squinted at the never-ending dirt road I’d been on for what felt like forever, watching for a sign that would tell me I was nearly at the godforsaken town I was looking for.
“Why did I have to be a do-fucking-gooder?” I bitched aloud, knowing full well I wasn’t that at all. There was nothing but shimmering air, miles of empty dirt road, and fields on either side of the truck that appeared to stretch on forever.
I’d lost count of how long I’d been sitting in the truck, but my ass was numb and I’d long lost my patience. I mean, sure, I had hardly any patience to begin with. Many would attest I was a grumpy fucker who mostly preferred my own company. It’s why I’d initially been happy—sort of—to do this errand.
How’s that turned out for you, dickhead?
Right now, I could be in my cool cabin deep in the woods, scratching my balls, watching shit on the TV, and slugging back a cold one. My brother was going to fucking know what it was like to have a true fucking pain in his ear when I got back. His fucking bullshit about how this would be an easy trip, which could be done in a day, had faded about six hours ago.
I should have insisted he send one of the sniveling betas. They were always looking to suck up to the alpha. Not that the omegas were any better. They were forever crying to Olowin about the way I talked. Calling someone out for shit they did, what the fuck was wrong with that? Fuck it all in my estimation, which was why I’d chosen to build my cabin away from the pack. It also meant I wouldn’t be asked to get involved in any of the day-to-day shit that someone always wanted help with.
My omega papa had successfully birthed twin boys, both alphas. It was my bad luck to have popped out first. For eighteen years, I’d been joined at the hip with my twin brother while we trained together to lead and fight for the pack because that’s what my father had wanted. Born several minutes apart, there’d always been pressure and expectations about my future. Which I’d avoided talking about, expecting, like most, that my father would have a long lifespan, much like his ancestors. Only he’d died because he was a stubborn-ass fool who hadn’t listened to reason or the doctors until it was too late. He’d contracted wolf fever, a nasty thing that fucked up the heart and lungs. His death had devastated my omega dad while the rest of the pack had looked to me for leadership.
Selfishly, the ole man dying had not been part of my life plan, not that I had one. The pack council seemed to think that they could alter that by giving me a plan. Being the oldest alpha son, in pack law, they were always the one next in line to lead. I’d quickly set them straight. It wasn’t going to be me. My twin brother Olowin had a temperament much better suited to dealing with the pack. He at least could control his temper and his mouth.
The argument had continued for hours until they’d realized I wasn’t budging, and because I was the most powerful alpha in the pack, they’d finally relented. The one proviso was that I didn’t leave the territory, that I’d be there to support my brother. That part had been no problem as I hadn’t planned to go anywhere. I liked the little part of Texas we lived in, bar the heat, and that really didn’t bother me that much. Sort of.
The problem was shit like this, where I ended up forced to pick up the slack in our joint business when Olowin had to deal with pack issues, which there was always a mountain of. Days like today were becoming far more frequent, and I’d be the one having to drop what I was doing to go get the parts we needed when weird-ass places in the back of beyond didn’t have a pickup delivery service. I mean, in this day and age, who the fuck doesn’t have a system to send shit across the country?
Yeah, when I’d looked to find Potatoville on the map, I hadn’t been able to find it, so I suppose that could be difficult. It was weird that it wasn’t there, and for a while, I’d considered it might have been a prank someone was playing on me. But the person I’d been emailing had sent photos of the transmission for a nineteen-seventies AMC Rebel, which dispelled that idea. In the end, I caved and asked for directions.
As I stared out the dirty windscreen, I was starting to think that they’d sent me on a wild goose chase. One I’d be mightily pissed about. If that were the case, and I’d traveled hundreds of miles to buy a transmission that didn’t even exist, someone would pay.
Fur bristled through my skin, and I tampered back the anger that brought my wolf to the surface. I pressed my foot to the accelerator, shifting my ass on the leather seat, hoping against hope I’d see something soon. It had taken months of searching to find this part, so I wasn’t giving up just yet. I’d promised the customer, a wolf from another pack, I’d have his car ready by Christmas, and I planned on keeping my word.
Our auto motor shop specialized in fixing-up rare American muscle cars. The Rebel I was working on right now was a thing of beauty. I’d lovingly restored the body work and, even if I do say so, it looked as good as the day it rolled out of the factory. Now all that was left for me to do was fit the transmission, which I’d stupidly thought I’d be doing this evening. Only the place I was looking for was far harder to find than a bloody needle in a haystack.
I was in the middle of fuck-all-ville, never mind Potatoville.
Was it really called that?
The potato crops on either side of my truck showed why they might have named a town that, but it was still a stupid ass name. Who comes up with shit like that?
Distracted, the truck bumped over a large pothole, and I cursed long and loud as my ass left the seat, and I bounced up, striking the top of my head on the roof of the truck. My vision was obscured for a moment as my bangs fell in my eyes. The top of my head throbbed as I swiped at my hair, blinked, and slammed on the brakes.
Outside the truck, my tires screeched across the tarmac. The seatbelt dug into my large chest and my heart jammed itself up into my throat as I stared at the tiny…man—and he was tiny—standing at the side of the dirt road. I blinked several times to confirm I hadn’t lost my marbles from the strike to the head because the guy sure as hell hadn’t been there a second ago.
I glanced about.
Where the fuck had he come from? There was nothing for him to have appeared from behind. Had he been crouching down?
My gaze swept over him. On first impression, I’d have said he was young, maybe a teenager just because of his small size, but there were lines around his eyes that indicated he was older, maybe in his twenties. He had to only be around five feet, wearing ragged shorts and a T-shirt, both in brown, and his feet were bare. His legs and arms were a golden brown that matched his tangle of gold-threaded brown curls. Brown was my first impression. He blended with the dirt, somehow, with the exception of dirty, gold-streaked hair and eyes that were…the palest of blue. Crystal clear like the waterfall that was hidden on my land. There was an intensity to the stare that was unnerving, especially when he didn’t blink, not once.
A buzzing started in my ears as our gazes met and held, and I got an odd warming sensation in the center of my chest as my wolf yipped in excitement. My hands balled in my lap when I got the strangest urge to…fuck knows. Whatever it was, it was weirding me out.
There was nothing about him that stood out, yet for some unknown reason, I couldn’t look away. My wolf surged forward as if preparing itself for something. Was I missing a threat here?
Staying where I was, I tilted my head closer to the open window and sniffed the air. My wolf got all giddy while I couldn’t for the life of me identify what kind of shifter he was. Nonplussed and more than a little pissed that I was struggling to keep control of my wolf, I sniffed again. Still the same dirt and maybe…something sweet?
My gaze narrowed suspiciously.
He was too far away and standing barefoot in the dirt. Did that mask his scent in some way? There were so many diverse kinds of shifters, and most kept to their own kind. I’d considered that I’d be traveling to another wolf shifters territory, and I’d identified who I was before I’d come. Now that I thought about it, there’d been no mention of what kind of shifter was selling the transmission. Had I wrongly assumed it was a wolf?
I released the seatbelt, keeping my gaze on the man in front of me as I left the truck idling. Not that I was worried, I could defend myself in either form. The moment my boots hit the ground, a feeling of…peace and serenity rolled up through me. Used to always feeling pissed about something, the change was notable and set my pulse to skip several beats. Was there some fucked up shit in the dirt to make shifters defenseless?
That thought made the situation weirder. The guy didn’t appear to realize I was an alpha or drop his gaze, as was customary. “Yo. You know where Potatoville is?” I rasped in a growly voice.
His eyes never blinked, unnerving me as he pointed down the road I’d been traveling. Taking a deep breath didn’t seem to help the oddness of the feelings flowing through me with my wolf lying on his back, his belly exposed.
Jeez! I wasn’t in Potatoville, more like fucking weirdsville!
With more trepidation than I’d ever admit to, I walked to where the guy remained. The scent of dirt increased, but the other element I hadn’t been able to place inside the cab got stronger. Nah, I must have been baking my brains in the cab of the truck too long. How the fuck can he smell like my favorite fries covered in ketchup.
I barely had time to shake off the silly notion when my head was filled with whining, which quickly turned to howls when I stopped within a few feet of the guy. My wolf was not happy that I wasn’t getting closer.
What was this nuttiness? I must have entered an alternative universe because I was clueless as to what the fuck was happening or what was making my wolf act so damn crazy. My mouth filled with sharp fangs as my gaze swept the area, looking for what was causing my wolf to react. Heart pounding at no obvious threat, my gaze returned to the guy who remained where he was, acting unconcerned.
What was his game?
I was forced to close the distance reluctantly when my wolf wouldn’t quit, giving me a damn headache. Sweat slid down my spine in an effort to keep control over my animal. My hands balled into fists, readying to fight whatever was setting off my wolf even as the peaceful feelings pushed against the need to protect…but protect what?
“What are you?” I demanded when I was within touching distance.
A smile as bright as the fucking sun blinded me, and my wolf’s excitement increased.
“A Fingerling,” he sang in a strange voice.
My brows arched, and using my alpha power, I growled, “Seriously, I won’t ask again. What are you?”
The smile got bigger, and with it came a sense of knowing that got my stomach fluttering with…
Involuntarily, I stepped back.
No fucking way.
It can’t be.
No way in hell!
Another step back, and my wolf lost his shit as the guy’s smile disappeared and what appeared to be a look of devastation followed. But I didn’t get time to find out why when the guy vanished into thin air. I blinked owlishly, putting my hands on the sides of my head as my wolf howled inconsolably, deafening me.
Give the fuck up with that. I can’t concentrate.
My wolf growled, paced in my mind, but stopped the howling giving me a chance to acknowledge what the fuck had just happened. Or not, because there was no way that…disappearing thing was my mate!