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Chief (Skin Walkers Book 19) by Susan Bliler (1)

Chapter 1

Chief paced the length of his cabin in agitation.  Fisting and unfisting his hands, he waited.  Someone…some Sentry was supposed to come and get him to take him to some wedding that was being held here on the Estate.  Why Skin Walker Dominant, Monroe StoneCrow, insisted on including him in this type of shit, he had no idea.  Chief was only at StoneCrow Estates because he’d lost a battle to Skin Walker Sentry, Baymac Southon.  Even now, weeks later, he was still in shock over the loss.  He shouldn’t have been though.  At the time of the shifters battles held at the BlackBird Compound in Glacier, Montana, Chief had been so hopped up on testosterone at the prospect of winning a female that he hadn’t been thinking straight.  If he had been, he wouldn’t have agreed to Monroe’s wager.  Hell, he’d been so confident that he’d beat Baymac that he hadn’t even argued the fact that he didn’t need to bet on the outcome.  The winner was supposed to take the woman, period.  But, Monroe—that sneaky fuck—had slipped in a year’s worth of employ here at StoneCrow for the loser.  So, here he was.

Sighing, Chief rolled his head on his shoulders.  He was tense tonight.  Granted, he was always tense, but tonight he felt more volatile than usual.  Inside, his wolf was agitated, and he couldn’t figure out why.  Yeah, they were stuck at StoneCrow for a year, but it wasn’t all that bad.  StoneCrow Estates was located in the Highwood Mountains of Montana, and if he couldn’t be in his beloved British Columbia, then Montana was a more than do-able second home.  Still, he fisted his hands and loosed a menacing growl when he heard an approaching vehicle.

Stepping out onto the porch, he didn’t bother locking the door to the cabin he’d been assigned.  He’d only brought clothes and toiletries with him from his home territory.  Everything else he’d needed had been assigned so he wouldn’t mind losing it, though he noted his Skin Walker neighbors didn’t lock their cabins either.  It’s how it was supposed to be, it’s how it was among wolf shifters and their packs.  They were a community and were supposed to be able to trust and rely on each other.  Apparently, Skin Walkers were the same.

The crisp autumn night’s air felt good on his flushed skin.  Frowning hard at the blacked out Hummer the pulled to a stop in front of his cabin, Chief snorted.  Crossing thick arms across over an equally impressive chest, he shook his head at how pampered Skin Walkers were.  Monroe was too generous with his people, and Chief was certain it was going to make them soft.

A pale haired man that he didn’t know exited the vehicle and walked stoically around it.  “I’m Gauge.  You Chief?”

Chief dipped his chin in a nod.

“I’m here to take you to the ceremony.  You ready?”

Chief was already descending the porch steps, and his only answer was to jerk open the passenger side door before sliding in.  The vehicle rocked under his weight and when Gauge climbed in, he shot Chief a startled look.

“You’re a big motherfucker.”

Chief grunted and gave his attention to the window.  He wasn’t really sociable, never had been.  Yeah, he harbored a wolf inside of him, which was a pack animal by nature, but they were both more of the lone wolf type.

Gauge set the vehicle in motion, and watching StoneCrow Estates whiz by outside his window, Chief ignored all of Gauge’s attempts at small talk.  Well most of them.  Before they could get to the lit up area Chief could see in the distance, Gauge pulled the Hummer to a stop and turned in his seat to face him.

“Look, I don’t know you,” Gauge began.  “And judging by your attitude, I don’t wanna know you.”

Slowly turning his head, Chief gave the Sentry a bored look.

“But, today is a big day for Recker and Alex.  They’ve gone through some shit, and you’re not gonna fuck that up.”

Chief’s brows slowly rose.  “Me?”

“Yeah,” Gauge glared at him.  “You.  I can smell how riled up you are, and that shit’s contagious around here.  Whatever your fucking problem is, you need to rein it in, or you can just go back to your cabin.”

Another snort and Chief crossed his arms, declaring instantly, “Take me back to my cabin.”

Facing forward, Gauge gripped the steering wheel in a chokehold before growling, “Well, I fucking can’t!  Monroe wants you at the wedding for whatever reason.”   Shooting Chief a sidelong glance, Gauge gritted out, “Probably to keep an eye on you.  But I’m telling you, if you start shit at this reception, I will end it!”

That was amusing.  Hell, it even had Chief’s lips curling up at the corners as he turned to grin challengingly at Gauge.  “You and what army?”

Gauge turned and met his look challenge for challenge before loosening his hold on the steering wheel to lift a finger.  Pointing straight ahead, he answered in a voice that was low and calm, “That one.”

Chief followed Gauge’s finger and watched as a line of Sentries dressed in standard-issue head-to-toe black battle fatigues made their way around the outdoor area.  A covered pergola was lit up with string lights, and there were flickering candles in the center of each of the two-dozen or so tables.

Rolling his eyes, Chief uncrossed his arms and jerked his chin toward the windshield.  “Just fucking drive and quit being so dramatic.  If I wanted to start shit, I wouldn’t wait until some Walker’s dick-loss party to do it.”

“Dick-loss party?”

“Yeah,” he smirked.  “If he’s been mated, then he’s just been castrated.  She owns the cock n’ balls now.  He works for her!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Chief saw Gauge’s hands tighten so firmly on the steering wheel that his bones pressed all the blood from his knuckles.  He knew why too.  The jab had been intentional because Chief noted instantly that Gauge’s halo was absent, a raised scar in its place.  It meant that the Skin Walker Sentry sitting beside him was mated.

“Don’t start shit!  I fucking mean it!” 

Gauge started driving, and Chief ignored the Skin Walker’s threat.  Taking advantage of the silence, Chief assessed himself.  Something was definitely off.  His wolf was agitated and pacing just beneath the surface.  If Chief were with a pack, he’d send out a warning for everyone to be on guard.  He trusted his wolf implicitly, and the beast had never steered him wrong before, but here at StoneCrow, there was no need to sound an alarm.  Monroe had his Skin Walkers on alert twenty-four seven, and Chief suspected the Dominant most likely doubled-down his security measures during a Skin Walker wedding, or mating ceremony, or whatever in the hell they called what was going down today.

The vehicle slowed and then came to a halt.  Chief climbed out even as Gauge turned and was giving him one final warning.  He slammed the door, effectively silencing the Walker.

Goddamn Skin Walkers!  Thought they were the Creator’s gift to earth, and yeah, they were rare and badass, but Chief’s wolf wasn’t anything to sneeze at.  Hell, Beast was so goddamn strong and unpredictable that even though Chief was dominant, he’d never made Alpha.  Shifters refused to follow him because he was volatile.  Which was fine with him.  He didn’t need or want the responsibility of a pack under him.  He’d even refused Beta battles because he knew he couldn’t be relied on for that either.  His beast liked to battle but not for title or for hierarchy.  No, Beast fought for fun and that confused and scared other shifters.

Now, trying to calm his beast some, Chief locked his eyes on a small bar that was set up on one corner of the all-stone patio.  It was a chilly night, almost too cold to be outside, and the sun was just setting.  He supposed it looked romantic to the newlyweds and guests, but to him, it just looked like a good night to get drunk.

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