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Fighting back, p.1

Fighting Back, page 1

 part  #5.50 of  Shadow Falls Series

 

Fighting Back
 


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Fighting Back


  Cover

  Note to the Reader

  Hello Shadow Falls Fans,

  The journey of Shadow Falls was amazing. I hope you enjoyed the nine books and six novellas starring some of our favorite characters. The Shadow Falls series taught me so much. It’s where I dipped my toe into writing young adult. It’s where I took my own journey down memory lane and remembered the joys, pains, and regrets of my own teenage years.

  Thank you to everyone who emailed me to let me know how the books touched their lives. Thank you to those who left reviews and told others about the series.

  I hope you’ll take the time to check out what I’ve got in store for you next! At the end of the book, you’ll find an excerpt and special announcement about my brand-new books coming out soon.

  Keep reading. Keep falling in love with books.

  C.C.

  Title Page

  FIGHTING

  BACK

  a shadow falls novella

  c. c. hunter

  Copyright

  Fighting Back

  C. C. Hunter

  Copyright © 2016 by Christie Craig

  Material excerpted from The Mortician’s Daughter: One Foot in the Grave copyright © 2017 by Christie Craig

  Cover design and illustration by Dar Albert, Wicked Smart Designs

  ISBN: 978-0-991020-66-9

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of both the copyright holder and the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  Dedication

  To Faye Hughes,

  a sister writer, and southern gal, whose humor brightened up my life.

  I will miss you girl and I’ll see you on the southern side of heaven one day.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Excerpt from The Mortician’s Daughter: One Foot in the Grave

  Books by C. C. Hunter

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  Kylie? Kylie? Kylie?

  Kylie Galen heard her name being whispered, but the sweet, peaceful sensation of sleep hugged her a little tighter. If someone really wanted her at this gawd-awful-before-sunrise hour—be them dead or alive—they were gonna have to speak up.

  Kylie! The tone, the pitch, and the volume made her eardrums cringe.

  Definitely louder. Had someone heard her thoughts? Someone like a . . .

  She opened one eye, trying to clear the cobwebs of precious sleep from her mind. The voice, throaty and feminine, struck a familiar cord, but not too familiar. Where did Kylie know it from? Was this person standing on the other side of the door, or was she standing on the other side of life?

  Now opening both eyes, Kylie slipped one hand out from the covers. If a ghost were present, the room would be cold; a bone-and-blood-chilling kind of cold.

  Wiggling her fingers, she detected the air held a wintry feel, but considering it was December, wintry wasn’t alarming. A ghost in her room? That would be alarming. Never mind that she’d dealt with over twenty-five of those suckers before now. Dead people still gave Kylie the heebie-jeebies.

  “Hello?” Clinging to the covers, she sat up, brushed her blond strands off her face, and waited for the voice. Not one sound echoed behind her bedroom door.

  Shifting her eyes left, then right, she saw nothing but her slightly messy bedroom filled with rustic, light-grained furniture suitable for a cabin, and her personal items. Things like family pictures, Lucas-boyfriend pictures, and the latest teen pregnancy brochure her mom had sent her. Mom who still couldn’t say “sex,” but was always pamphlet-prepared.

  Right then the room’s temperature took a dive, but it still wasn’t quite ghost cold.

  Socks, her regal tuxedo cat who rested atop the dresser using Kylie’s bra and red top as a makeshift bed, lifted his head. His gold eyes stared at her as if saying, “Not again.”

  Socks wasn’t a fan of ghosts, either. He disliked them almost as much as Lucas did.

  Kylie’s focus went to the window. Only early Sunday morning darkness hung outside.

  Huddled under warm blankets, she felt the fuzziness of sleep fade, replaced by the realization of how inconvenient another ghost appearance could be.

  She and Lucas, her boyfriend, were going hiking first thing that morning. It would be a full day of no one but her and him. That meant no ghosts. Problem was, telling a ghost “no” was like telling a dog not to sniff other canines’ butts.

  Crappers! Today was special. Today would be the first full day she’d spent with Lucas in what felt like forever. Between his working for the Fallen Research Unit, (FRU,) a enforcement equivalent to FBI, but overseeing supernaturals, taking college courses, and being a part of the Werewolf Council—which was demanding more and more of him—he’d been short on time. Regretfully, time with her was always the first to go.

  In the last month he’d canceled more dates than he’d kept. And because of his schedule, he hadn’t made that many.

  Not that she was complaining.

  Okay, she was complaining. She missed him so much her bellybutton ached. Even her two roommates Miranda and Della had started feeling bad about going out on dates because she never did.

  Of course, Kylie understood the priorities of work and school. She attempted to accept his commitment to the Were Council—though that was the one she had the most difficulty understanding. Especially after what she’d seen on Lucas’s computer last week.

  How could she not resent a group of people who didn’t approve of them being together? The question that really gnawed at her was how could Lucas not resent them?

  That question led to another one. Where did she fall on Lucas’s priority list? At the butt-end bottom of the totem pole? Not that she really needed to worry over this. All of it was about to change. They’d have today and then the Christmas vacation.

  Save him. Save him.

  The words echoed from the walls and the ceiling and surrounded her like an invisible cloud.

  Kylie flinched inside and out. Desperation oozed from the spirit’s two words and sucked the air right out of Kylie’s throat and chest.

  “Save who?” She fed her deflated lungs freezer-cold oxygen. Yup, now the temperature had dropped to a deadly chill. Dropped fast.

  Kylie’s released breath sent swirling steam rising from her lips, floating slowly to the ceiling like a helium balloon losing oomph. A crinkly, crackly noise of ice forming added a layer of eeriness to the moment.

  She spotted the thin sheet of frost growing on the window panes, spreading like a fungus. Then the frigid air crawled unde
r the covers like thousands of ants. Ants that carried the feel of death and crept up on her feet, her legs, and higher.

  Her next breath brought in air so subzero that her lungs nearly got freezer burn.

  Crap!

  Socks let out a pissy howl.

  In the corner of the room, the dark corner, she saw an apparition fade in and out. She faced it, knowing any attempt to ignore a spirit was futile. If a ghost wanted her attention, they got it. Some of their methods were less pleasant than others.

  She watched and waited, ready to identify the person with the familiar voice. But what looked like a smear on glass forming midair evaporated to nothing. The black chill in the air died with it.

  The ice on her window turned to condensation and dripped down the cold glass, reminding her of blood oozing from a wound. The spirit’s murky words replayed in her head. Save him. Save him.

  Who needed saving? Who was asking? Who in hell had thought her being a ghost whisperer was a good idea?

  The dark silence of predawn clung to the ceiling as if forbidding noise. Not even an insect dared to sing. Then a loud crack on the window had her butt bouncing off the bed. A yelp sprang from her lips. Then she saw him.

  Lucas.

  He opened the window and lifted himself inside in one easy jump. Why use a door when a window worked just fine.

  She pushed off the covers, bolted off the mattress, and buried herself in his arms.

  His were heat, ten degrees warmer than a human, came against her. She loved his heat. She loved him. Loved how he made her feel safe. Secure. Sexy.

  “You’re early,” she said, her cheek still on his shoulder, her arms around his waist.

  “And you’re cold.” His words breathed into her hair, and his embrace tightened around her as if to protect her, to chase away the cold.

  “You have company?” Discontent added the tiniest edge to his three words.

  She lifted her face and met his not-so-happy gaze. His blue eyes, a shade darker than hers, still mesmerized her.

  “No, they’re gone.” Nudging away her concern for the ghost, she let herself be happy. Happy he was here. Happy she’d have all day with him. Happy that next week he would be out of school, and he had taken two weeks off work.

  Lifting up on her toes, she pressed her lips to his. He deepened the kiss. His taste, the feel of his tongue slipping between her lips, had her leaning in to him. The low vibration of a male were that told his mate he enjoyed her closeness hummed against Kylie’s skin, tingling, and stirring her own desire to get closer.

  Pulling back, his kiss still moist on her lips, she smiled.

  Then she saw his expression. Not a frown. Not anger. Not even disappointment. Pre-disappointment. This was an expression he got right before he had to let her down. The fact she recognized it said she had seen it way too often.

  “No,” she said, fearing she knew what had brought him here early.

  Now came his frown and undeniable discontent. He didn’t want to do it, but it didn’t stop him from doing it. Over and over again.

  Yup, at the butt-end bottom of the totem pole. Her hope that change was right around the corner melted into a glob of painful goo in her chest.

  She already knew who to blame. The almighty Council. The hold they had on Lucas seemed stronger than even her love.

  “They just called.” His apologetic tone hung heavy and bumped against her conscience for feeling like a demanding girlfriend.

  He glided a finger down her cheek. The soft sweep brought on a sigh of loneliness.

  “It’s some kind of emergency meeting,” he said, his touch sliding away. Her patience sliding with it.

  And how many of them had they had this month and last? “It’s our day,” she said. “You promised—”

  “I know. And it still will be ours. This meeting can’t last past noon. We’re still going. Just a little later.”

  Half a day later. The plan had been to leave at seven. “Can’t you just tell them ‘no’?”

  “Not if I want to retain their respect and my place on the Council. They’re harder on me because I’m young.”

  It wasn’t because he was young. It was because he was with her. That’s why he’d been writing the paper about the consequences of attempting to stop weres of today from living with and bonding with other species. Why was he forever trying to justify it? Why did he want to be a part of something where he needed to justify their relationship? How could retaining their respect matter?

  She dropped her forehead onto his chest, trying to smother the spark of anger that came when she thought about the Council. This was his quest. Being on that council meant changing things for future werewolves. But at what price?

  Couldn’t Lucas see that their expectations of him were too much? He was constantly at their mercy. If she didn’t know better, she’d think they were purposely trying to keep them apart.

  That’s when it hit. One of those long-due epiphanies that made people want to slap their foreheads and say “duh.”

  Why wouldn’t they attempt to keep them apart? After seeing the paper Lucas was writing on his laptop, maybe that was exactly what they were doing.

  She’d never told Lucas she’d seen his notes because he had purposely kept it from her and because she knew he’d be upset that she’d found it. She hadn’t meant to read it. It had been there, and . . . and before she realized what it was, she’d read most of it.

  Considering how much she longed to say something now, perhaps it had been wrong not to tell him. Even more so because she saw how hard it was for him to fight the Council. And the control they had over him infuriated her.

  She recalled Lucas saying almost the same thing about her ghost obligations. Not that any ghost had interfered on their time a tenth as much as the Council. And unlike his all-powerful board of weres, ghosts didn’t care who she loved.

  “I’m sorry.” He put a kiss on the top of her head. “I know this has been a hard couple of months. Next semester I’m only going to take one class. And next week I’ll be completely free. No work. No school. Two weeks of just us. Except when we go to New York with your mom.”

  She stared at his chest, her worry spiraling out of control. “What about when you start back at work, then school?” What about next year when I leave for college? That was her biggest concern.

  He cupped her chin and gently brought her face up to look at her. “Please don’t be mad at me.”

  “I’m not mad, I’m just . . . I miss you. I need . . . We need, more time. I was really looking forward to today.”

  “I won’t be long. And when I start back at work and school, we’ll find more time.” He twirled a strand of her hair around his finger and then tucked it behind her ear.

  “I just . . .”

  “I love you. You know that?”

  His words held a promise that she could hear, feel, almost touch.

  “I know.” What concerned her was where their love fell on his priority list. Was making the Council happy more important to Lucas than she was? For the last two months, it had kind of seemed that way.

  He kissed her and left. The clunk of the window closing somehow sounded sad.

  She plopped back onto the mattress and looked around the room, remembering the cold. She didn’t feel the ghost now, but she gave it a shot.

  “You have half a day. Tell me who needs saving.”

  Chapter Two

  Lucas Parker sat at a large wooden table that was nicked and grooved with time, surrounded by eleven other councilmen. The rock home sat on acreage in the Texas Hill country and had been built in the early nineteen hundreds, making it only barely older than some of the council members.

  Their bodies, some stooped with age, were mostly frail, yet their minds were sharp. Or Lucas had thought so until these last few months.

  His patience, like a used rubber band, had been stretched to the brink of snapping. The Council didn’t take kindly to snapping.

  Checking his phone, he saw it was
already noon. He kept seeing the disappointment in Kylie’s eyes, kept feeling his resentment growing toward the Council, kept hearing the sound of impending doom for his own people. And that—the impending doom—was what had him holding his temper.

  Until about two months before, Lucas had felt secure in his place on the Council. He’d seen progress. Then out of the blue the Council started reconsidering every small change he had implemented.

  How many times could the Council go over the same thing?

  Glancing around the table, he sensed Jeremiah Holmes and Sabastian Rozo were the culprits. The other nine councilmen were at least more open to change.

  What they refused to see was the lack of change was already crippling their community.

  Unable to remain silent, he leaned in. “Did you not just state your concern that the were people no longer respect the laws that govern us? How many more of our brothers and sisters will you lose by forcing them to choose between their wives and husbands or the were community? Why would they want to be a part of a society that would not accept their children? If we are to survive in this new time, we have to adapt.”

  Jeremiah slapped his gnarled hand on the scarred table. His eyes grew instantly orange, the color of frustration, anger, resentment. “They would not have to make a choice had they chosen their mate correctly. In my day—”

  “Which is exactly my point.” Lucas’s frustration bounced against the rock walls. “This is not your day. Our people do not live in your day. They live in today. Do we not fear the rumors of groups of weres breaking off from our union to create their own? Rules like this will not only encourage it, but guarantee it.”

 
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