All bear shifter Magnus wanted was to be left alone. He never wanted to find his mate and had engineered his entire life to make his wish a reality. But fate had other ideas when Nari came crashing into his life.
Nari was only trying to survive after she’d been torn from her world and had escaped from her captors. All she knew was that the solitary man in his cabin was her mate and would protect her. Even if he didn’t know it.
He wanted solitude and she wanted love. But it didn’t matter what they wanted. Not if the pack of beasts after her got their way.
Magnus dropped the stack of wood onto the mossy ground with a dull thud and stared at the spot where his axe should have been. The good thing about living alone was that he always knew where his shit was. Or at least it was supposed to be. So where was his axe? He’d left it embedded in the stump he’d used just a few hours ago.
It was just the latest of his things that decided to just up and disappear and it was pissing him off.
There was a reason he’d moved away from civilization. He liked the quiet. He liked the isolation. He liked being left alone and that extended to his shit. It was his and no one else should have been touching it let alone running off with it.
Clearly there was a thief around. Unless there was a raccoon that had to chop wood for the upcoming winter. First, he’d noticed some wood missing off his pile. Then it was clothes off the washing line. Now they were going after his fucking tools?
He lifted his nose to sniff the air but got nothing but the comforting scent of the woods. Magnus kicked the wood into some semblance of a pile as he stalked past toward his shed in search of his spare. Only to find that, and a bunch of his other stuff, was gone as well. At a quick glance he noted the tarp and several lengths of rope were missing. No doubt, if he looked deeper there would be more gone.
“What the fuck?”
Scrubbing his beard, he kicked the door shut and stomped back to the cabin. It was too late to make the trek into town to the hardware store. Hunting through the woods for the culprit held even less appeal. He glowered at the wood. It would just have to wait.
Magnus yanked the heavy door open and was greeted by a low moan and a big, brown, furry body slamming into his knees.
“And you. What kind of dog are you, Ulf? Huh?” To this day he had no idea what mix of breeds he was, but that was beside the point. He sighed at the adoring look. “You useless mutt.” Despite his grumbling, he gave the old dog a scrub on the head and a pat on the back. He was getting too old to be trekking through the woods all day and preferred to warm his bones by the fire these days. Still, with all the things going missing at all hours of the say he would have thought the old dog would have at least alerted him to one of the instances.
He kicked off his boots and headed to the kitchen. Nothing there should have disappeared.
As he entered he gave it a cursory glance, almost half expecting to find it ransacked. But everything was as it should be.
Making dinner was a simple, relaxing, affair. Grilled fish that he’d caught that afternoon. Veggies that he’d grown or foraged, sauteed. It was plain and simple but it was good. Ulf sure thought so.
With his hunger sated, all that was left to contemplate was the matter of the thief. He wouldn’t stand for his things getting taken. Whatever asshole was stealing it was asking for a beating. If they couldn’t survive on their own skills and tools then they had no business out here. Especially this late in the year.
The bite in the air told him that snow wasn’t that far away and that moron thought he could make it out there with a tarp, axes, and a few clothes?
At least he wouldn’t have to worry about him for too long if that was the case.
Still, it bothered him that someone was intruding on his land and helping themselves to his things.
Magnus was going to do something about it.
He smiled at “I think this is going to take some stealth, Ulf. Up for a stake out, boy?”
The dog barked and licked his hand.
Chuckling at the dog’s enthusiasm, Magnus smiled. “All right then. Let’s get to work.”
Magnus had set up a few trip wires around the property since he couldn’t be sure where the thief was coming from. Meanwhile, he and Ulf were upstairs where he had a good view of the shed and the washing line where he’d left a load of clothing pinned up. Both served as a lure that he figured would be irresistible to the lowlife.
Now it was just a matter of waiting.
Ulf huffed a gusty breath and laid his head down on his lap.
“You’re at least going to pretend that you’ll let me know if someone is out there, right?”
He received a snorting breath in reply as his head grew heavier.
So much for his early warning system.
Magnus stroked his head and silky ears as he let the sigh aching in his chest out. It was as though he was deflating his entire being by doing so. It hurt to think that Ulf, who he’d had since he’d found him alone as a pup in the woods, wouldn’t be with him much longer. He’d been a constant friend and companion for so long…
He forced his thoughts away to stare out into the darkness. And just in time to hear the tell-tale clanking of cans as one of his wires was tripped. The one by the washing line.
Easing Ulf off his lap, Magnus wasted no time in pushing open the window and climbing onto the roof to jump down to the ground below.
Cautious as he crept closer, Magnus stuck to the shadows. He held all the advantages here and he wasn’t going to give any up to the intruder. He was going to find out who was taking his shit and then he was going to make sure they never forgot the ass kicking they were going to get.
Sure enough, he found almost all the clothes missing from the line. It was only a matter of following the wire to where it was wrapped around a boot covered foot peeking out from the quivering pile of clothing. It looked almost comical.
“Hey, asshole. You’re caught. Now stand up so I can kick your ass.”
When the figure refused to move, he growled and reached into the tangle of fabric to extract him, himself. Only when he’d tunnelled to the centre of the pile, his hands closed around a frame that was shivering and…thin?
Was he dealing with a runaway kid?
Magnus hauled the figure out of the clothes and almost dropped them when he realized he was dealing with a girl. One who looked like she’d definitely seen better days.
The clothes forgotten, he untangled the wire from her leg so he could gather her up in his arms. She weighed next to nothing and he was pretty sure that if he squeezed any harder than he would an egg she’d break. How the hell long had she been out in the woods?
He held her close, hoping that his body warmth would do her some good as he made his way back to the house. With her practically wrapped around him, his sensitive nose caught her scent and his pace faltered. She smelled like honey and summer and wildflowers under the grime and fading stench of…wolves. His beast took instant notice.
She’s our mate. Wolves have hurt our mate!
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