Home > Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(3)

Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(3)
Author: T.S. Joyce

She shouldered her purse and made tracks in the gravel to put space between her and the ghost reflection.

There was arguing up ahead in the woods. In the center of a loose circle of muscled-up shifters, there were two men pummeling each other’s faces. And they were smiling, the psychopaths. Typical dominant shifter shit. Winter rolled her eyes and kept trekking. The river flowing under the bridge made a pretty sound that combatted the noises of grunts and snarls. She made her way up the winding gravel road, but as she hit a steep incline, her boots slipped on the loose rocks.

She trailed the pair of shifters she’d seen earlier. They seemed to know where they were going, and really, there was only one road. The interviews were probably being held in the lair of the dragons. Just the thought blasted chills across her arms. Winter had watched the news footage of their battle a dozen times at least. Kane had a suppressed dragon, and when his mate Rowan had set it free, they’d gone to war and leveled the surrounding mountains with fire. It had been a few months, but still, she could smell the lingering smoke that had saturated the Smoky Mountains.

They were enormous beasts, and Kane’s black dragon looked like some ancient scarred-up monster with gargoyle wings. Rowan Barnett’s gray dragon was much smaller. She was sleek and beautiful, but a ripper, apparent from the way she’d dragged Kane’s dragon into the clouds, slashing and biting and spraying him with fire and lava. When they’d crashed back down to earth, the tourist who had been videoing the battle was rocketed backward against a tree with the force, and the footage had cut out.

And here was Winter, waltzing into the territory of the deadliest beasts that inhabited the earth. Maybe she had a death wish. Or maybe dying by dragon’s fire would still be better than ripping her own goddamn heart out every time she saw Brody lean in to kiss Lynn. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t even have nervous flutters as she made her way into a clearing. She just felt numb, like she wasn’t really here, and this was all a dream. Her life had been planned in Red Havoc. Marriage, cubs, happily ever after, yet here she stood in the shadow of a towering yellow buckeye tree, hoping for the chance to change her stars, while forty shifters milled about the yard in front of a small cabin, hoping for the same.

Meandering on the parameter wouldn’t get her close to the dragons, so she picked her way through the crowd. Her senses were overwhelmed with the smells and snarls of animals as she passed. Fur and dominance mingled to make the air thick like water in her lungs. Holding her breath, she dipped her gaze to the ground and put one foot in front of the other until she reached a circle of logs that surrounded a fire pit to the left of the cabin.

“Girl,” said a lithe looking man with sandy-blond, shoulder-length hair from his seat on a log. “Pay up asshole, there are three now. Told you this wasn’t going to be a boy’s club.”

A stocky man with piercings all down one ear and blazing blue eyes slapped a ten-dollar bill in the man’s hand and spat on the dirt near Winter’s feet. He stood and brushed by her, bumping her hard in the shoulder as though it was her fault he made a bad bet. He smelled like a bear shifter.

She hissed before she could stop herself.

“Whoa, down kitty,” Long Hair said.

When she dragged her pissed-off attention back to him, she froze. His eyes were bi-colored, one blue and one seafoam green, both glowing. Despite his smile, whatever animal he harbored was just as worked up as hers. “You’re in luck, kitty cat. A seat just happened to open up. It’s all warmed up for you and everything.” He twitched his head toward the bear’s empty spot then offered her a bright smile. “He was a farter.”

When some of the others chuckled, Winter looked around the circle. There were, in fact, two other females, one in all black with smeared mascara and a foundation three shades too light. Her dyed black hair was up in pigtails, and her lipstick matched the dark hue of her messy tresses. Winter would’ve assumed her a vampire if it wasn’t broad daylight. Next to her was a honey-haired beauty who looked frail as a mouse and wore hearing aids. She was scribbling something into a journal and ignored the scuffle that was happening right behind her. Sitting on her other side was a giant the size of a Viking ship with broad shoulders, a buzzed head, and tattoos down his arms. His profile was to her, but as if he felt her studying him, he turned and locked gazes with her. A tiny gasp left her lips before she hurried across the fire pit next to Long Hair. The beastly giant was still staring at her. He had a neatly trimmed blond beard, pretty blue eyes, and a straight nose. Perfect, full lips, too, but someone, or something, had ruined his symmetrical features by raking its claws down the side of his face and scarring him to hell. The man’s eyes tightened at the corners, and then he turned on his log and gave her his massive back.

She scented the air, but they all smelled terrifying. No way in hell could she differentiate between their smells now. The fine hairs on the back of her neck were standing straight up, and when she settled onto the log, it only got worse. She’d sandwiched herself between Long Hair and a man she hadn’t even noticed before. He was a huge shadow in her senses. The kind that screamed for her not to turn and look him directly in the eye. Oh, he was a bear, of that she was sure. A grizzly likely, and she’d accepted the wrong damn seat.

“Breathe,” the man murmured, the sound of his voice gravel and silk.

Winter gripped her jeans at the knees and sat there panting, wishing she could stand and leave without giving any of these psychos her back.

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