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Early evening heat surrounded Gray Mason as he stepped out of his Ford truck where he had pulled over to the side of the road. The sign in front of him welcomed him to Coyote Bluff, Texas. Located in the panhandle of the large state, it was a place he had never visited before. But recent signs had narrowed down to a couple of possibilities for where to find the Prince of felinesâ€”one of them being the canyons surrounding the town.
After speaking to the Alpha Council and the Pack Alpha for the west Texas area, arrangements had been made for Gray to investigate there.
Heâ€™d been hearing rumours about the town that accepted any and all shifters since heâ€™d begun to investigate the kidnapping.
Excitement rippled through his body at the thought of the search finally going somewhere after three very long months. While the idea of an entire town full of shifters was a little unsettling to him, he would do everything in his power to finally end his journey and make his way home.
He surveyed the area directly around him, seeking any close being that might be a threat. Sensing he was alone, he pulled out his cell phone and called his Alpha.
"Hey, Gray, I was starting to wonder," Tyler greeted him.
Gray had to smile. Tyler would worry whether Gray called in or not, but Gray liked knowing that someone would at least notice if he was missing.
"Yeah, sorry about that, boss," Gray answered and he leaned against his tailgate. "Crappy reception down here."
"Just be careful. I contacted the sheriff there to let him know you would be stopping by in a day or so. He seems like an okay guy, but remember we donâ€™t have any ties there," Tyler warned.
"So heâ€™s not family?" Gray enquired, asking his Alpha if the man was a wolf shifter.
"I donâ€™t think so. The town is supposed to be full of other shifters but I just canâ€™t tell over the phone."
Gray grunted. It wasnâ€™t that he didnâ€™t like the othersâ€”he just hadnâ€™t met many. Most of his dealings were with the felines, and those experiences had not been good.
"Iâ€™ll check into the hotel tonight, get a run in, and see what I can nose out before I meet with him tomorrow," Gray informed the other man.
"Just be careful. There is no wolf Pack there, but that doesnâ€™t mean that there are no wolves. You donâ€™t want to trespass against them before you know who you are dealing with. Especially without back-up."
"No problem. Iâ€™ll stay away from any marked spots," he promised.
"Then call me tomorrow and get some rest," Tyler ordered.
"Will do." Gray hung up the phone, still grinning. He had been away from his Pack for so long he was starting to feel the loneliness more and more each day. While some wolf shifters had no problem going rogue, the true, deep comfort he found with his Pack mates was fading and it made him edgy. And an agitated wolf was never a good thing. He needed his family. He needed to get home soon.
Normally, he only shifted a few nights a month to let his animal out. The longer he was away from family, the more agitated both he and the wolf became. Running late at night seemed to be the only way he could calm himself, and even that was not working like it had.
"Coyote Bluff," he mumbled under his breath as he climbed back in his truck. "Out of all the animalsâ€¦"
Pulling back onto the main road, he followed directions on signs until he saw what heâ€™d been looking for. The hotel looked like an old cabin from the pioneer days. He parked in front of the door and got out, pleasantly surprised to see that, while it might look old, it was a sturdy building. The railing spreading from the entrance to both sides was composed of thick pieces of wood with delicate carvings.
A closer look revealed that the carvings were of several different animals. The detailâ€”each species practically came to lifeâ€”was amazing. There seemed to be more to this town than heâ€™d first thought. He hefted his bag over his shoulder and pushed open the large oak door.
What greeted him first was the scent of fresh, hot home cooking. Heâ€™d been living out of convenience stores and on fast food for so long that his mouth watered as he thought about a home-cooked meal. His stomach rumbled in agreement.
"I guess that means the first order of business will be getting you something to eat," a tall, slender woman said, coming to his side, laughing.