Alpha Draike Weatherby has enjoyed many years of peace in his districts. He’s made agreements with the various shifter races as well as the Vampire Lord of London to keep crime down and their existence safe from human knowledge. Until now. A loyal gang of nonhuman runaways are systematically losing members. Rat shifters have grown bold, increasing crime in his area and risking their secret. Then there’s Olivia. Naked, bleeding, and fleeing a trio of unsavory characters, she runs straight into his arms…and stirs his most protective instincts.
As he digs deeper, he discovers an interconnecting web with a single common thread: Olivia. To uncover the truth, he must gain the trust of the terrified woman who entices his fox. But she guards a secret that could destroy or save her.
Title: The Fox's Mate
Author: Elaina M. Roberts
Genre: Urban Paranormal-Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing
Organized by: The Muses Circle
Release Date: 5th June 2014
“Not since the cook from The Phoenix turned out to be a dead end. Literally. Max and I remained at the club after it closed for the night and found him, or rather, what was left of him. He lay in a pool of his own bile and blood behind a garbage bin. Deep bruises on his upper arms. Hamstrings and Achilles tendons sliced through. Disemboweled. Nearly beheaded. The stench of river rat was all over him. We suspect it was Clay and his buddies, but it could have easily been random and unrelated. He was also missing his wallet and his genitals.”
Franklin winced and covered his groin with his hand. “Fuck me sideways! Leave a bloke some dignity. Surely you don’t believe it was some nutter collecting fuzzy bollocks? There were too many rats in The Phoenix for it to be unrelated.”
“Correct, I don’t. I believe the rats are a key part of this, whatever this is. They saw us in the club and tipped off Clay. That had to be how he knew to come back for the cook. He then eliminated a potential liability. What I don’t know is what they hope to gain from all this.”
“What does the Den Master say? He stands to take a financial hit to his businesses should your agreement turn sour.”
“He claims ignorance of their encroachment, and his fear encourages me to believe him. We could be dealing with a splinter group, though I don’t know what purpose they’d have.”
“I’ll see if anyone knows of a bruiser going by that name, though it’ll be hard without a description. Are we assuming he’s a shifter?”
Franklin nodded. “I’ll do what I can. The rats are a harder thing to question them about. I’ll ask about new gangs coming in from the river. They seem the type to fight over turf and make it bloody. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“Just be careful. The rats know you and know you work for me. If they’re striking at me, they may choose to go through you. I’d rather you get a choice about turning, son.”
“I’ll watch my arse, sir. Being a rat ain’t my idea of a good time. Don’t care for cheese. Anything else?”
“In her delirium, Miss Olivia mentioned two names: Percival, whom she called uncle, and someone she simply called Loomis. I assume it is a surname.”
“I can ask around. If she’s American, it’s unlikely anyone here’ll know her or her uncle.”
“Perhaps, but it can’t hurt to ask. I’m running out of options. Until she’s willing to provide me with details, I’m operating under the assumption she was being held somewhere in the neighborhood. She couldn’t have been able to run very far in her condition.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a money clip, and tossed it to the young man. “A little something to help your friends’ memories. No.” Draike shook his head when Franklin tried to return it. “I’d rather they earn some money for a bit of talking than thieving. Safer for them, better for me.”
“Not everyone’ll want to take it, but I’ve still got the lightest fingers in the district. It’ll end up in their pockets one way or another.” Franklin closed his right hand around the money clip, tapped his fist with his left, and then opened them both to show they were empty.
“Whatever works, lad. I need you to get on this as soon as you can. Barring a downturn in Miss Olivia’s recovery, I’m going out tonight to see if Marko and the lads have any further information.”
“I’ll see what I can get during the day, but most of the guys won’t hit the pavement until later tonight. I’ll let you know what I find out, if anything.”
“Thank you, Franklin.”
Draike watched the boy leave the study then returned to his chair and his silent study of the Commons. No one disappeared without a trace, yet there had been no sign of any of the boys since they went missing. Two days after he discovered The Phoenix’s murdered cook and gained a guest, he paid a visit to the rat’s Den Master. Under a threat of expulsion from the fox’s protection, he was quick to cooperate in the investigation. They spent most of the night searching questionable cargo containers and interrogating shady barge captains. Nothing had surfaced as of yet. Though it was impossible, the boys had vanished.
Meanwhile, Maximus looked into the influx of the vermin gangs into his section of Draike’s territory. Since they squatted in the vampire’s buildings, it was a legitimate concern. He barely tolerated it when his own kind chose to squat instead of going through proper channels. Few would find it surprising if he aggressively pursued a nest of rats doing the same.
Lastly, there was the enigma of his current houseguest, Olivia. She was mysterious, lovely, and entirely too appealing. There was something about her unique scent, a spiciness interwoven with the earthy scent of female human, which intrigued and enticed his vulpine form unlike any other. It was more than mere pity for her circumstances, or even physical attraction for her understated beauty. There was just something about her that drew him.
Her injuries infuriated him to a surprising degree. He had seen others, mostly females but some males, treated poorly during his lifetime. After years on the streets as a child, and later as an adult once he’d joined the Hunters, he had seen the many and inventive ways humans and nonhumans alike could hurt one another. He had been moved to anger by the unfortunates’ plights and torn apart the perpetrators with his fangs and claws, glad to watch their blood flow into the gutter.
This level of pure, raging fury was different. The wounds inflicted upon Olivia brought out his most protective instincts. Protective and predatory. It had been too long since he’d had a proper hunt, and this was unlike any other. His prey would suffer for laying a hand on his mate.
Draike bypassed the cooling cup of coffee and grabbed the decanter of brandy and an empty glass. Pouring a generous measure, he tossed back half of the smooth, amber spirits.
Mate? He paced the small room. His claws tapped the crystal glass. A low growl rumbled in his chest.
Mate? He stared across the park as he turned the word over in his head. Her scent tempted and intrigued him, but he didn’t know her. Their interests and personalities could clash. They were from different countries. There was a good chance she would return to the United States once she healed. He drained the glass and suppressed a bark of protest. His fox wanted her stay. If he was honest, so did he...
Elaina Roberts grew up in the wilds of Alabama, wearing garments sewn of squirrel hides. She saw her first motorized vehicle at age ten and was amazed and terrified at the giant, iron behemoth that ate and spat out people with impunity. She also makes up a lot of stuff, which propelled her to become an author.
Truthfully, though, Elaina did grow up in a rural area just outside the city limits of a small Alabama town. She spent many long afternoons running through untamed woodlands, even if she doesn’t care for squirrel regardless of how you cook it. As the youngest of four, there were few luxuries purchased by her textile factory parents, but they provided her with something even better: an intense love of reading. Her early loves were the mysteries of Earle Stanley Gardner, the fantastic worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the action-packed adventures of Don Pendleton. When she discovered romance, she sought books that combined the genres she already loved with this new promise of happily ever after. Not long afterwards, she began her own tentative steps into writing.
Today, she writes Urban Fantasy with a romantic flair, the genre guaranteed to offer her the greatest opportunity of creating fantastic words of action, adventure, and mystery, coupled with romance’s heart-lifting happily ever after.
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