Mate's Appeal(6)

By: Robbie Cox

“Really? We live in Bull Creek. Bane Kastner was the most excitement this place has seen in decades. That’s why this area was chosen for a sanctuary.”

Eve had to admit, it was definitely quiet around here. A week ago, Bane, a coyote shifter, brought his pack in and attempted to drive the humans out of Bull Creek. Bane was the leader of a mangy coyote pack, a group of bullies who thought humans didn’t belong in the forests. They believed the wooded areas of the world belonged to shifters who knew how to appreciate and take care of all that dwelt within the woods. Bane was a prejudiced bully who was afraid of anyone who wasn’t like him. However, Adira Brennan, a witch who just moved to Bull Creek, and Dimitri Everest, the alpha of the community, killed Bane and his second-in-command, driving out the rest of the coyotes. Bull Creek returned to its peaceful existence, the residents going about their routine of minding their own business. Eve glanced out of the corner of her eye at Alanna. Well, not everyone minds their own business. She shrugged “I may need to whittle or something.”

A car could be heard rumbling up behind them, almost pacing them. Eve fought the urge to look back, forced herself to ignore the vehicle behind them, to squelch the feeling of panic she had the other night at Everglades. Why am I so jumpy?

Alanna laughed. “You whittle? Really?”

“I can learn,” Eve said, a smile curling her lips upward. As Alanna laughed, Eve couldn’t help but join her, the ridiculousness of her excuse apparent even to her. As they rounded the bend leading to Eve’s cabin, she said, “Let’s just say it’s a security blanket for now.” She took a deep breath. “Let’s head to my place. I could use some tea.”

Alanna nodded. “Sounds good.” Yet, it was obvious she wasn’t ready to drop the subject of the knife. “So, have you even used that knife on anything besides poor defenseless trees? What did those trees ever do to you anyway, you big meanie?”

Eve swiped her sandy-blond bangs out of her eyes. “The noble trees around my cabin have sacrificed daily in order to help me with my proficiency with this knife. I’m sure they know the worthy cause for which they suffer.”

Alanna shook her head, her dark hair swishing across her back slightly as she did. “Trees are noble like that,” she said with a chuckle. “Of course, the fact that they have no choice…”

Eve shrugged. “What can I say? I’m not ready for a moving target yet.”

“So you have been practicing.” Alanna crossed her arms as they walked. “And just why are you practicing? Bane and his men are gone, the whole pack of mangy coyotes either dead or in hiding.”

Eve nodded, remembering quite well the battle her shifter friends fought just a week ago in order to protect the humans in Bull Creek. She knew she should feel safe again, but the coyotes weren’t what worried Eve. Her past, however, scared the hell out of her. Eve shrugged, “I like to stay ready. Who knows when something might pop up again?” Her reply was weak, she knew, but she wasn’t exactly ready to spill her guts. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Alanna nodded, her expression showing that, while she didn’t really believe Eve, she wasn’t going to press the subject any further. Alanna was one of the few who was around when Eve first arrived in Bull Creek and saw her battered condition. Yet, no one knew the reasons for her appearance, and Eve never offered an explanation. That was the great thing about their small community. It was a safe haven for anyone who needed to escape their reality. Bull Creek was full of misfits and vagabonds, each oppressed in one way or another. All kinds of shifters resided here as well as humans, and even a vampire or two stayed hidden on the outskirts of their community. While everyone knew that everyone else was there, hiding from something, no one asked what that something was. If people wanted to speak about it, there were shoulders to lean on, ears to listen. If they didn’t, then it remained their secret as long as that secret didn’t spill over onto anyone else in Bull Creek. Eve didn’t think her secret would ever harm anyone else, but she wouldn’t take that chance. Ever.

She also wouldn’t take the chance that her secret would return and hurt her again. Once was enough. More than enough. Only one other person knew she was even in Bull Creek, her mother. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, Eve Hartlow vanished from the face of the earth.

“So, you’re telling me no one is sniffing around your skirts worth talking about?” Alanna asked, apparently ready to change subjects.

Eve shook her head, not really liking the rehash of the dating topic. “I haven’t really made myself accessible. As I said, like you, I’m just not ready. Not yet.” She shrugged.