Only one woman makes him want to howl.
“Someone pissed on the raspberries by the northern pasture fence.” Amarok had noticed it during a walk of the property.
“No. Not the raspberries.” Darian sounded most put out. Everyone on the ranch knew he’d been keeping an eye on the patch, waiting for them to ripen. They’d gotten a late start due to a delayed spring and summer. Now ticking into fall, the last time anyone checked they’d been a dark pink, almost ready for picking.
No one was missing out on Poppy’s raspberry upside-down cake. Or her saliva-inducing tarts. Good thing Amarok exercised a lot since she’d arrived and spoiled them with excellent cooking.
Hopping off the railing, Asher, the troublemaker with his easy grin, spread his hands. “Bah, it’s only piss. No big deal. Just rinse them off. Can’t be any worse than you licking your balls.”
The scowl Darian bestowed should have shriveled Asher on the spot. “Not all of us are pervs.”READ MORE
“It’s natural. All of the animals do it. At least the clean ones who enjoy getting laid. When was the last time for you?” Asher pretended to think for a second before exclaiming, “A long time. Now explained by your refusal to tongue your genitals.”
Before it could devolve into a fight, Amarok—current owner of said raspberry patch and the three hundred plus acres around it—frowned. “If you’re gonna fight, take it somewhere there’s no plants. Astra said she’d skin the next person who trampled any of them.”
A warning meted out while she sharpened her knife. Only an idiot would peeve the very pregnant and hormonal Astra.
“Is she watching?” Asher turned a fearful gaze behind him. Having had his hair shorn for trimming a bush because its branches were tickling his car, he knew better than to touch a single leaf on any of her plants.
“She’s always watching,” Amarok grumbled. But good-naturedly.
Astra was like a sister to them. As were Poppy and Nova, despite the fact they shared no blood. At the ranch, family was the people you trusted.
“Back to the piss. Any ideas who did it?” Amarok asked. Not one of them, and not only because they knew each other’s scent. No one living at White Wolf Ranch—the name his uncle gave it when Amarok moved in as a teen—would do such a dick thing.
“Odd spot for a hiker to get lost,” Asher remarked.
The ranch was so far off the beaten track that no one ever came out here. The rumors of wolves in these parts helped, too.
“Whatever pissed contaminated the scent with asparagus,” Amarok growled.
Asher gagged. “Oh, gross.” Everyone knew its pungent effect on urine.
It indicated planning, which raised Darian’s brows. “Are the bears testing our borders again?” They’d had a problem last year with a few wild ursine looking to expand their territory.
They learned their lesson quickly when the wolves that kept hikers away chased them well past their boundaries.
“Could be,” Amarok conceded. “Although the asparagus would indicate they’re raiding someone’s garden. I don’t know of any in the area other than ours, and we don’t grow that nasty shit.” Because none of them could stand the smell of their pee after.
“What about tracks?”
“It’s the weirdest fucking thing.” Darian shook his head. “Whoever pissed somehow covered their tracks into the patch and out.”
Which meant the marking was a message. A warning, perhaps, but from whom?
Standing by the bay window in the living room, Asher randomly remarked, “Did Big Betty give birth?” Big Betty being the name for their diesel Ford truck painted a bright cherry red with one fat white stripe slashed horizontally across its middle.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Amarok glanced out the window. A modern hybrid car was parked in his driveway. It was a small two-door, the same hue as his work truck, and so silent he had not heard it pulling up the road to the house.
“Who the fuck is crazy enough to drive one of those out here?” Darian gaped. With good reason. They didn’t live in a civilized area of Northern Alberta. “That thing meets a bison or a moose and it’s scrap metal.”
No shit. Then again, pretty much nothing could survive impact with any of the wild animals roaming this area.
“How many hamsters do you think it has running under the hood?” Asher never took shit seriously.
“Not many, considering the driver is tiny.”
Indeed, the woman exiting the car couldn’t have been more than five feet, maybe a few inches over. Shapely, though. Her jeans hugged rounded hips, and her T-shirt clung to her tits. Nice tits, Amarok should add. He’d know. At thirty-three, he’d stared at his fair share. Bitten and licked more than a few, too.
“Anyone know who she is?” Darian asked.
They didn’t get visitors often at the ranch. Lonely country road in the middle of fucking nowhere—just the way they liked it. Forty minutes from the nearest town, if you could call Fort Mackay a town. Since oil went bust in Alberta, shattering the economy in the north, there were more shuttered businesses than open.
“She’s cute.” Asher finger combed his hair.
“She’s a stranger,” grumbled Amarok.
She carried a binder, leading Darian to say, “Think she’s one of them Jehovah’s?”
“Oh, hell yeah. I’ll take care of her.” Asher’s expression brightened. He began tugging at his shirt. His idea of dealing with religious doorknockers was to strip naked and ask them if they wanted to commune with him in nature.
Amarok—who his friends called Rok—had thought them done with pushy evangelists and others. What part about no soliciting did they not grasp? He lived in the middle of nowhere. It was ridiculous.
“I’ll handle this,” he stated as the petite woman climbed the steps to the sprawling ranch house. Originally owned by his uncle, Rok had inherited the place as the only remaining family.
Rok flung open the door before she could knock and almost slammed it shut as her scent hit him like a slug to the gut.