Story Excerpt
Mari's Men

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The hike through the thick forest of the Cascade Mountains had been a long one. But they had finally reached their goal; a small encampment set in a clearing on the edge of the trees. Five battle-hardened warriors slowly inched their way towards the edge of the trees north of the small clearing. They made no sound, not even a rustle in the leaves. Theirs was a mission of secrecy.

"Well, would you look at that," Sam whispered to Cole, indicating the people standing around the firelight in the encampment. "I thought they only had the boy. Who’s the girl?"

Cole stared at the young woman who seemed to be talking to the largest man in the group around the fire. He felt his body harden in response to the vision before him.

He knew immediately deep down in the depths of his soul that she belonged to him, that she was made for him. The tightening of his body told him that she belonged to him as no other woman ever had. She was his mate, the other part of his soul.

"She’s a brave little thing," Sam stated as he watched the woman push the small boy behind her for protection.

"She’s magnificent!" Cole said, a small hitch in his voice. Cole shook himself free of his lust induced trance at Sam’s words and focused again on what was happening in the small clearing.

The woman seemed to be arguing with the leader of the group. The leader that Cole knew well. It was Yuri Nirov, one of the men on their crime watch list. The man was a thug. He belonged to no specific crime syndicate, except whoever paid the highest price. Yuri’s only cause was his own greed.

As he glanced around to the other two men surrounding the campfire he recognized the others as well, Yuri’s two brothers, Oni and Sten. They were all in this together. They had kidnapped the son of a high placed diplomat who was working in Seattle, Washington with the United States government on a highly secretive peace initiative. And, it would seem the woman also.

Cole concentrated on the conversation between Yuri and the woman but they were too far away to hear what was being said but Cole didn’t think it could be good. The dark haired leader seemed to be angry with whatever the woman was saying. His arms were motioning furiously as she spoke.

Cole felt a deadly rage race through his body as the man backhanded the woman, nearly throwing her to the ground. The woman turned her head back to the leader, wiping her lips by the back of her hand. She glanced down at the trail of blood on her hand and then to the leader. A smile began to form on her lips as she said something else to him.

"He dies!" Cole hissed out between clenched teeth.

"Well, duh!" Sam replied, a little confused as to why that was even an issue. Seeing the rigid posture of Cole’s body as he glanced over at him as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "What about the woman?" he asked.

"She’s mine." Cole growled.

"So, that’s the way it is, huh," Sam says thoughtfully, amusement clearly ringing in his voice.

Cole turned his head to scowl at Sam. "Do you have a problem with this?" Cole growled, beyond irritated.

"Hell no, take the woman. But have you discussed this with Bear?" Sam laughed. Cole looked at the smirk on Sam’s face.

"He knows." And Cole meant it. Bear knew exactly what was going on with his brother. He was in the same lust filled condition. Cole could feel it.

"There’s movement below," whispered a man laying flat to the ground beside Cole and Sam. Both swung their gaze back to the scene in the clearing.

"I don’t like this," stated Sam, "I don’t like this at all." They watched as the leader grabbed the young woman by her arm and began walking away from the campfire towards a small grouping of large rocks to the south of where they were hiding. The leader was quite a bit taller than the woman and was nearly dragging her behind him. Her ankle length skirt seemed to be tangling in her legs with every step she took.

Cole took in the situation in a glance. "Sam, Caleb, Nick, get the boy. Bear, come with me." Knowing his words would be followed precisely Cole and Bear began to slowly make their way to the south of the camp following the man and woman.

Cole could feel several emotions surge threw his body as he quietly made his way through the underbrush. There was rage at the man for hitting the woman and a sure knowledge that he would enjoy feeling the man’s last breath leave his body. There was fear that he would not be in time to save the woman destined to be his. And there was still on overwhelming sense of hunger for the woman.

Cole and Bear silently worked their way through the underbrush following the pair through the dense forest trees. As the crept forward they could see Yuri and the woman standing in a small clearing a few yards ahead. Yuri was holding a large knife in his hands, pointing it at the woman. The evil smirk on Yuri’s face sent a cold shiver down Cole’s back.

"Do you agree that she is ours?" Cole asked Bear.