Shifters of Silver Peak: Mate Marked

By: Georgette St. Clair

Chapter One

The morning of May 15th started out like any other in Silver Peak, Montana, a shifter-only town made up of a scattering of houses and a cluster of shops hugging either side of the town’s main road.

A group of pack members were gathered at their usual table at the Chatterbox Diner, squabbling and worrying about their future, since their so-called Alpha had run out on them like a scared little pussy.

Erika Schmalz, aged twenty-three, was being chastised by her aunt Louise for slurping her soup and not sitting like a lady.

Barbara Tudor, owner, reporter, photographer, blogger, advertising manager and gossip columnist of the Silver Peak Signal, was glumly typing up the crop reports on her laptop and wishing for some real news.

The handsome wanted poster of Roman Kincaid, tacked up on the wall of the Chatterbox, glared down on them all, as he had for the last eighty-two days. Roman Kincaid was a hard man to arrest. He was also hard all over, if the rumors from his many female admirers were to be believed.

He had long, thick, dark hair that swung past his shoulders and cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass. In the picture, he wore a black leather jacket and a rakish expression.

“That is one good-looking outlaw,” Erika said, glancing at the poster. “If I wasn’t practically engaged, I’d be all over that.”

“See, there you go, not being ladylike,” her aunt Louise scolded her, shaking her head. “What if Terrence hears you talking like that? You’re lucky he overlooks your terrible manners and your completely unfeminine behavior. Keep this up, and you’ll never get Mate-Marked.”

Louise glanced across the room at Sissy Castleberry, who had a big, giant Mate Mark on her neck from where big, dumb Roger had bitten her last week. Sissy kept simpering and tossing her hair to the side, to display the Mate Mark, which drew admiring squeals from all the girls at her table. Louise glanced over at Erika, made a clucking noise, and shook her head sadly.

Sissy had been a year behind Erika in high school, and she was now mated for life, as was everybody from Erika’s class – except, of course, Erika.

Erika winced. “First of all, I may be practically engaged, but I’m not dead. I can look. And secondly, it’s not my fault that Terrence doesn’t know how to change a tire and I do. If I’d waited for him to figure it out, we’d have been stuck by the side of the road in the hot sun for hours.”

Her aunt shot her a reproving look that said it would have been a better option.

“I only want what’s best for you,” she said, with a drawn-out sigh that would have been heart-rending if Erika hadn’t heard it so many times before. “Me and Herbert, God rest his soul”—pause for a quick heavenward glance—“had fifty happy years together. And I can tell you, in all that time, I never once used foul language, made”—delicate shudder— “bodily noises, or—”

A yell from the other side of the room made Erika jump. “We can’t go on like this!” shouted Lorena, the head healer for the Silver Peak pack, slamming her hand on the table. She also owned a gift shop. “The teenagers are running wild and we’ve got nobody to rein them in! My store’s been vandalized for the third time this week! Everything’s in chaos! We need to find an Alpha!”

Erika glanced up at the wanted poster on the wall. Yeah, as long as Roman Kincaid and his gang were hanging around the outskirts of town, that was gonna be a problem. Word had gotten out. No aspiring pack leader wanted to come to town just to get their ass handed to them.

And there she went, thinking unladylike thoughts again. Thoughts with swear words in them.

Anyway, with the town’s paper mill gone out of business after the earthquake and most of the pack having moved on, Silver Peak was hardly an attractive prospect for potential sheriff candidates these days.

Erika sighed, took a big swig of her coffee and let out a small burp, earning her a look of disgust from Sissy all the way across the room, so maybe it hadn’t been so small after all.

And then it happened.

They all felt it, even before she arrived. They were wolves, after all; they had that sixth sense.

It was a subtle change in the atmosphere, a lightening, as if a fresh spring breeze had blown into town carrying the scent of wildflowers with it.

They watched in astonishment seconds later as the car drove by. It was a VW Bug, it had big fluttery eyelashes on the headlights, and it was pink. And somebody had painted adorable purple cartoony flowers on it. The car was being driven by a woman with a big mop of red curls. Human or shifter? She almost certainly had to be a shifter; humans rarely visited shifter towns.

They all stared through the big picture window as she drove past.

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