The Lost Slipper Page 21

They don’t say anything, but I can see a little sadness in their eyes as they turn to leave.

“I’m here if you need anything.”

I watch them both leave, locking the front door behind them. I stand there, feeling like the weight that was sitting on my chest has been lifted. That felt good.

With a smile, I go to the kitchen and do a final wipe down of the counters and pull out the trash bags. I take one last look around to make sure I’ve gotten everything taken care of. When Stone gets back, I want to be able to just go. I’ve been making a mental list of all the things I want to do to him when we get home. I once read a dirty book were the girl got tied up. I wonder if Stone would do that to me, or could I do that to him. I bite my lip at all the possibilities and imagine the face Stone might make when I tell him these ideas.

I push open the back door and drag the bags with me over to the dumpster, throwing them in before returning to the back door.

As I pull on the handle, a giant hand lands against the door, stopping me from yanking it open.

A familiar smell fills my lungs and wraps around me as my heartbeat picks up.

Slowly, I turn around and look all the way up, past a broad chest and up to big brown eyes.

“Koda.” The word leaves my lips, and I feel my legs give way, my knees buckling.

Koda catches me, pulling me into his big arms.

“It’s time to come home, little bear.”

14 Stone

Xavier and I have been in the woods for hours. It’s like the rogue shifter knew we were after it and kept slipping away. It must have a damn good reason for being in Gray Ridge, and that has me on even higher alert.

It’s like the shifter is leading us around and trying to confuse us. It must be an excellent tracker, because X and I are the best within our pack and the surrounding ones, too. As we reach Xavier and Gwen's house, we come up to the back porch and shift.

I pull on my clothes I left behind, needing to talk to X before I head back to the bakery to pick up Winnie. It’s been a couple of hours since I left her, but I’m sure everything is okay. The last scent we caught was miles from here, in the direction of the protected lands.

Once we’re dressed, I look at X and try to think through what’s happening. “I don’t get it. The scent was so strong here, and then it was gone. Then we find it just beyond the protected lands. I can’t figure out what it’s doing.”

“The pattern is wrong,” X says as he walks up on the porch. Gwen walks out at the same time, and he hugs her close. It makes me long for my mate, and I know I need to get to her soon.

“What do you mean by pattern?” Gwen asks, looking at the two of us.

“When hunting an animal, you find they usually stick to a certain path or pattern. They dodge one way and then another to where it’s somewhat predictable, and the predator can move around them until they make the kill,” Xavier explains as he looks at me.

I feel a chill go down my spine, and something clicks. “Xavier, what if we’re looking at this the wrong way? What if we aren’t the ones hunting? What if the rogue shifter is the one doing the hunting? What if we are the prey?”

“Why would it come to my home? No one is a threat to me.”

I look at X and shake my head. “Maybe they didn’t intend to challenge you. Maybe this was all a plan to lure us away.”

“Away from what?” Gwen and X ask in unison.

“Winnie.” No sooner does the word come out of my mouth than I’m running towards the bakery and shifting as I go.

That’s what this has been about the whole time. The scent around Winnie’s house, the reason for tracking all the way out to beyond the protected lands. The shifter was trying to pull us away from town and away from her. X is the best tracker besides me, and one way to get us together would be to threaten X’s mate.

I had always thought that something horrific had to have happened to Winnie for her to block out all her memories for years. Something traumatic must have happened in order for her to not be able to remember anything, and I’ve wondered about where she came from. What kind of pack would lose a female bear and not look for her?

My heart nearly bursts out of my chest with the need to get to her. My lungs burn, and my muscles ache, but I push harder with each stride, my wolf in complete control. We’re hunting to protect the life of our mate, and nothing is as fierce as that.

I feel a whine start to rise in my throat, but I hold it back, focusing on getting to Winnie. I can’t think about what might happen to her. Deep down inside of me, I had thought this day would come. One day, someone would come for her and threaten to take her from me. Or worse, try to harm her.

But she’s mated now, and even a rogue shifter would know not to mess with a mated female. My scent is all over her, and my bite mark is visible. This rogue shifter is smart, so they should have already smelled me on her if they were near her house a few days ago.

I’m nearly to the bakery when I catch the scent. I’m close to getting to Winnie, but so is person trying to take her from me. The question is, who will get to her first.

Nearing the trees that line the back of the bakery, I break through, leaping into the air and landing on my paws just in time to see Winnie faint in the arms of a male.

My growl echoes through the woods, and it makes the male turn around to face me as he holds my Winnie in his arms.

“It’s not what you think—” the stranger starts to say, but I cut him off with another growl, prowling slowly to the side.

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