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An Excerpt from MOUNTED RELEASE
Copyright (c) AMY RUTTAN 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Sheridan tumbled out of the cruiser holding her head as if in pain and his heart skipped a beat. He hoped there wasn’t something seriously wrong with her internally, like a hemorrhage or concussion, that was causing her to be a bit clumsy.
“Are you all right, Miss Stevens?” He rushed to her side and held her steady. Even through the thick snow that clung to them he could smell the heady scent of lavender and sun-baked hay, it reminded him of summers down on Rice Lake. Summers he spent swimming and fishing, it seemed like ages ago. A pang of homesickness engulfed him. He hadn’t thought of home in so long.
Sheridan froze and pushed his hands away. “I’m fine.” She began to shiver and he slipped his parka over her shoulders. “Don’t you need this, Constable Thomas?”
“I can handle the cold, besides you were the one in the accident.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Gordon nodded and slung his rucksack and his rifle over his shoulder. “Come on, it’s this way.” He held out his hand and she took it, letting out a gasp of surprise when they touched.
“You’re hot, I mean…oh lord.” She blushed. “Forget what I mean.”
Gordon chuckled. “I understood what you meant. It’s okay. I’m used to the cold.”
She sent him an inscrutable look as she tried to keep up with his pace through the high drifts.
“No one is that used to this kind of cold.”
“It would be colder if it wasn’t snowing. If it were a clear night I would be setting up camp in the patrol car instead of hiking out to the cabin. However, I don’t see this storm ending any time soon.” He waited for her to catch up. He tried to make his steps even and deep so she wouldn’t have to break the snow, but where he stood at six foot three she was a hell of a lot shorter. If he had to guess she was about five foot six. Tiny compared to him.
She stumbled and he reached out, catching her before she went face first into a snowbank.
“Dammit I hate the snow,” she cursed.
“Then you’re living in the wrong place, Miss Stevens.”
“Just call me Sheridan, and I’m beginning to question my judgment on coming up here.”
“Where are you from?” He didn’t get an answer immediately.
“Don’t I have a right to remain silent?”
Gordon cocked an eyebrow. Now he really knew something was fishy. “You don’t have to tell me, I was just making conversation.”
“Thanks, but I’m not in a conversing mood. I just want to get to somewhere warm where I can defrost.”
Gordon laughed again. “Totally understandable.”
They continued on in silence. He stopped every once in a while to let her catch up, but all too soon he could see the exertion of walking through the snow was too much for her. Sheridan had been through a lot tonight and if they kept up at this rate it was going to take them hours to get to the cabin. He scooped her up, causing her to cry out.
“What are you doing?”
“Carrying you, you’re exhausted.”
“You can’t be that strong, to carry me.”
Gordon grinned at her and fought the urge to place a kiss at the end of her little pixie nose. “It’s nothing to me. We’re almost there.”
Sheridan shook her head. “You can see your way in the dark, you’re not affected by the cold and you’re as strong as a…” She trailed off, her body stiffened in his arms. “Don’t mind me. Just tired.”
“You’ll be able to rest soon.” Gordon was pretty sure she was going to say bear. How right she would be, but he also got the sense that she knew what he was but was denying it.
A shiver ran down his spine and it wasn’t from the cold. Was she Mukswa too? Females of the clan couldn’t shift, only the males could. If she was female, what the hell
was she doing out here alone? Female Mukswa were revered and protected by their clan. Especially during the years they were able to have children.
If she was a Mukswa it would explain the reason why he was reacting to her like an untried youth and it also probably meant she was in heat. Gordon inhaled deeply and recognized the cloying perfume smell. Yes, she was in heat.
Where was her mate?
The thought of an enraged male encroaching on his territory up here made him sick to his stomach.
Whether Sheridan Stevens liked it or not he was going to get some answers from her and he’d find the mate mark on her body. He didn’t want an angry male up here.
The last thing he needed was a fight on his hands.
The cabin was a welcome sight. He set her down and opened the door. She followed him inside cautiously, clinging tightly to the parka as if her life depended on it.
The cabin was adequate shelter. It was a large, square room with a small kitchen tucked into one corner, a fireplace against the wall and a wooden bunk in the other corner. He strode over to the opposite side of the cabin and opened the door to another small room, which had a stock of firewood, some canned goods and a composting toilet.
When he entered the main room Sheridan Stevens was still huddled by the front door, shaking in his oversized parka. He walked past her and locked the front door.
“I’ll get a fire started.” He dropped his rucksack on the rough hewn table but took the gun with him. Female Mukswa or not, he didn’t know her and he damn well couldn’t trust a female on the run. He knelt down by the fireplace, on alert now, waiting for a male to show up.
“What should I do?” Sheridan asked nervously.
He didn’t even look back at her. He was angry she was here. He had left Ontario to escape the clan. He didn’t want to be near another one. For ten years he had managed to bury that part of his life and yet here he was, locked in a cabin with a female. In heat. This was going to test his willpower, more than he cared to try.
“Constable Thomas, what should I do?”
“Once I get this fire started you can get undressed and show me your mate mark so I know who you belong to.”