Ursula Hofwyn is a botanist more comfortable around plants than people. So nothing makes her happier than to be in the middle of the woods collecting samples. As a bonus, Ursula’s current assignment has taken her into the vicinity of the most intriguing man she has ever met. But all is not well on the mountain. Predators are stalking her — predators who want to discover just how different she is.
Royce Stockard is content hibernating on his mountain away from the stares and judgment of others. Never mind he’s alone and lonely. The only woman to truly pique his interest is the one woman who should be off-limits. Yet, when he finds her on his mountain within his territory, all bets are off. But others are hunting for her, and Royce will have to choose what’s more important — maintaining his lonely existence to keep a secret or saving the woman he loves.
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Copyright ©2021 M. A. Freeman
Dr. Reginald Gleason sat at the kitchen table with his cold hands wrapped around a mug of hot coffee. He didn’t want to be here. Not in this company and not dealing with this specific science project of The Aleka Group. Not again.
“Do you think she’ll squeal when we catch her?”
Ugh, these Neanderthals were obsessed with nothing but catching the female subject. The only interest they had in the male was if he would be a challenge or not. He had tried to warn them. The female would be the problem. Probably more so than the male. That was always the case with animals.
“Doc, what’s her deal again? She’s some type of egghead?”
Lord, the patience he was having to cultivate on this trip. Reginald turned to the three men standing around the kitchen butchering a deer they had killed earlier.
“Yes, she’s educated. She is a doctor but chooses to focus her talents on botany.”
“A doc like you? A shrink?” Lyle scratched his greasy hair and squinted at Reginald with watery blue eyes.
Reginald took a sip of the god-awful coffee before responding. “No, she is a medical doctor as well as holding a Ph.D. in botany.”
“An egghead.” Blood dripped from the skinning knife onto the floor as one of the other so-called hunters turned his attention to Reginald. “Easy prey.”
Gary was a true psychopath and Reginald was pretty sure he was one of The Aleka Group’s earlier projects. Back when they were doing their experiments on prisoners. He wasn’t sure what kind of psychic or animal Gary was — they had liberally mixed the two before he had come on board — but whatever it was enjoyed the hunt a bit too much. To Gary, they were all killable.
“Maybe, but Dr. Rainier wants her captured alive. His R&D has had a major setback, and he wants to revisit his successes. Your job is to hunt and capture her so we can see how she has progressed in her psychic abilities and how the animal DNA grafted into her when she was a child affected her.”
Gary’s head whipped around to their third member, and a light rumbling growl passed his lips. Phil flinched at the sound and lowered the knife he had been about to use to cut into the meat.
“The male who claims this territory?”
Phil moved away from the counter propped up against the wall, well out of Gary’s reach. Reginald got the impression Phil was going to meet an untimely end if he didn’t stop challenging what was obviously the alpha of the group.
“He is part of the Alpha Eight group, ursine species. The genetics are repressed and inaccessible. For all intents and purposes, neuter within the project.”
The tearing sound of flesh filled the kitchen, and Reginald once again wished he was anywhere but here. He didn’t want any further involvement with this generation of subjects, let alone their mates. Not after his previous encounter. But word had come down from above: if he wanted his funding back, his life back, he was to oversee this operation. In the wilds of nowhere.
Gary’s back was to him, but Reginald could see the empty eyes and the excited grin on his face in the mirror next to the arched kitchen entrance. He was looking forward to this. To the hunt. The kill. Reginald had no doubt Gary had been on death row when The Aleka Group had offered him a deal. Sadly, he doubted Ursula Hofwyn was going to make it out of these woods alive. No matter their orders. No matter the punishment that would befall all of them.
“Right. Tomorrow we will split into teams. The doc and I will begin tracking the female. Lyle and Phil will hunt for the male.” Gary’s meticulous slicing never varied an inch. Slow and steady. “In three days we will meet at the rockslide to plan our attack.”
“Um, I thought I would supervise from here. We have the walkie-talkies, and I have to stay in contact with my superiors.” Reginald took another sip of coffee and inwardly cursed his shaking hands. “I would only slow you down in the field.”
Gary just snorted while those scarred hands never missed a stroke with the knife. “Doc, we need to come to an understanding here. I am in charge. You will do as I tell you, or I’ll bury you in the woods behind this cabin. But before I do that I’ll make you wish you had obeyed like the nice little mouse you are. Tomorrow we will go get a look at this female, and you will tell me everything the boss told you to omit when they sent you out here. Are we clear?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
M. A. Freeman lives near Wilmington, NC and never makes it to the beach. Any free time is consumed with books, either reading or writing. An avid traveller and self proclaimed geek, trips abroad and to cons such as DragonCon in Atlanta are always on the agenda. Currently working full time in healthcare and attending school to obtain a Master of Library and Information Science degree to compliment the Bachelor’s of Arts in English and Creative Writing.