Mallory's Bears [Werebears of Shatland, Texas 2] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 1
Werebears of Shatland, Texas 2
Mallory Quinn gets caught painting antiabuse slogans on cattle, then posting videos on the Internet denouncing the slaughter of cattle. Yet when she sees how sexy the accused ranchers are, she decides to do a more in-depth investigation. After all, a girl needs to be thorough, right?
Werebears, Gunner and Rick Northman, have their hands full convincing Mallory that they aren’t mistreating their cattle. Truth is, they’d rather whip her than hurt a cow. She’s the mate they’ve waited for, and no matter how irritating she is, they’re going to claim her. In the meantime, there’s a rogue werewolf killing livestock. Which should they do first? Track the werewolf or tame their mate?
When Mallory realizes that Gunner and Rick are innocent, she’s ready to admit she was wrong. But she can’t shake the feeling that they still haven’t told her the whole truth. Will she run when they show her that the real animals are inside them?
Genre: Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal, Shape-shifter
Length: 56,042 words
Werebears of Shatland, Texas 2
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
Copyright © 2014 by Jane Jamison
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62741-618-4
First E-book Publication: April 2014
Cover design by Les Byerley
All art and logo copyright © 2014 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Werebears of Shatland, Texas 2
Copyright © 2014
“Mal, are you sure this is a good idea?”
Mallory Quinn let out a hard sigh and shot her best friend Mike “Kid” Shorter a pointed look. “We’ve already been through this. My source—”
“How do we know we can trust him? Even you admit that you don’t know the guy. Don’t you think it’s kind of suspicious that he’s so willing to squeal on his neighbor?”
The thought had occurred to her, but she couldn’t simply discount the man’s claims. “My source is a rancher, too. Who better to know what’s going on? He said they’re raising the cattle and knowingly sending them off to a slaughterhouse that uses inhumane methods of putting them down. If we can’t get people to stop eating meat, the least we can do is to make sure that the companies providing the meat are doing so according to the government’s guidelines.”
Mallory loved all kinds of animals. She couldn’t think about hurting any living thing. However, she was also practical and realized that it was a fact of life that most people ate meat. If she couldn’t change an entire country’s attitude about feeding off other living creatures, then she’d at least make sure the killing of the food source was as humane as it could be. Her job as a bank teller was mind numbing. Her work as an animal activist excited and fulfilled her. She and Kid, who worked as a teller in the same bank, often took their vacation time to travel around the country and check out rumors of inhumane cattle treatment.
“I agree, but your source is the neighboring rancher. Don’t you think there might be a conflict of interest? That maybe he has something to gain from telling lies about these guys who run the Triple X Ranch? Maybe they’re competing for the same water source. Or hung up on the same woman. You never know what that guy’s motives might be for squealing.”
The Triple X Ranch. The name alone would’ve caught her attention, even without her source telling her about their shady practices. Why would anyone give their ranch that name? Unless, of course, they had other shady things going on. That, however, wasn’t any of her concern.
“The same woman? Kid, I think you’ve been reading too many romance novels.”
Yet she had to admit, even if only to herself, that Kid could be right. The man who’d contacted them through her website and had talked them into coming out to the middle of Nowhere, Texas, had seemed a little odd. He’d had amber-flecked eyes and overly large teeth. Teeth large enough to be called fangs. But she couldn’t judge her sources by their looks, could she?
Kid shook his head, sending his long, red ponytail flipping across his lowe
“I don’t think that’s the case. Most ranchers are friendly with their neighbors, so it’s telling that he told us about them.” She took a good, hard look at the herd grazing in the pasture. They didn’t appear mistreated, but then again, they weren’t only talking about mistreatment on the ranch, but at the slaughterhouse the ranch sent its cattle to. Granted, the cattlemen weren’t in control there, but didn’t they have a responsibility of knowing what methods were used? Unless, as she suspected, they didn’t care. That alone made them culpable.
“Look, Kid, if you don’t want to be a part of this, it’s fine. Head back to the van and I’ll get the job done without you.”
He frowned, turning his big, lovable mug into the face that reminded her of a bulldog. “I can’t let you do this alone. But let’s get going, okay? The sooner we get this done, the sooner we find a hotel with a hot shower.”
His beefy hands took hold of the barbed wire and spread the dangerous lines apart. After dropping the paint cans and brushes on the other side of the fence, Mal eased her body between the barbs and into the pasture. She turned, and with heavy gloves on, took the wire from him.
“Do you think you can get through without getting caught?”
Kid eyed the small space and shook his head. “Not a chance.” He held up his finger. “But I think I’ve got another way.”
She wasn’t sure what he had in mind until he’d picked up a tree stump that had been torn from the ground and set it next to the fence. He placed one of his size-seventeen feet on top of the log.
“Hold up. Are you planning to jump over the fence?” She wouldn’t put it past him. Even as big a man as he was, he was very agile and graceful.
“Okay, I can see that, but once you’re over here, how do you get back?”
“The stump’s close enough to the fence that I can roll it under then use it to jump back.” He pushed the camera bag under the lowest wire.
It made sense. People sometimes mistook Kid’s big, round face as a sign of lesser intelligence, but that was far from the truth. The man was smart as a whip. That and the fact that he reminded her of a big teddy bear made him the perfect friend for her.
“Hurry up.” She darted over to a heifer that was farther away from the main herd. “Easy, baby. I’m not going to hurt you. Not like the mean, old rancher that’s fattening you up just to kill you.” She was thankful that the animal didn’t understand what she was saying.
Kid made it over the fence with a resounding thud. He came to her side, moving gracefully and quietly, then grabbed hold of the heifer’s ear and wrapped his huge arm around its neck to keep it still. “Paint her, Mal, and let’s get out of here. I don’t want a butt load of buckshot in my ass.”
“Are you ready with the camera?”
“Naw. You’ll have to do the shooting. I don’t think she’s going to pose for you once I let go.”
“Okay, keep her still as long as you can.” She doubted anyone smaller than Kid could’ve managed to do that.
She petted the sweet, trusting bovine again, then took the paint can and brush, and started writing. Taking care not to spook her, she made bold strokes, moving the bright red lettering from an inch above the front leg, across her body, and onto the hind leg. Once she was finished, she stood back and admired her handiwork.
SENTENCED TO DEATH
“Yeah, that should send the message all right.”
“Get going, Mal. Even I can’t hold an antsy cow for long.”
She hurried to get the video camera, then returned as fast as she could without trying to startle the animal any more than it already was. The poor thing’s eyes were wild, the white of its eyes completely circling its pupils. “Okay, baby. Smile for Mamma.”
Her aim brought the heifer into focus as Kid ducked his head to keep his identity unknown. Later, they’d employ the old hidden-by-a-blur-of-pixels technique to further hide his face.
She cleared her throat, then started the video, speaking clearly and evenly as she’d practiced. “This is a heifer on a Texas ranch. Like so many others, she will have a very traumatic and painful death.”
She scanned the camera so that it picked up the rest of the herd, then centered the frame back on the painted letters. “From our investigations, utilizing both Internet sources and personal accounts from a neighbor near the ranch, these cattle, including our sweet little friend here, will soon wind up in a slaughterhouse. Terrified, the poor animal will be killed while she’s still conscious. Governmental guidelines, albeit still falling short of anything this reporter would call humane, call for the animal to be totally unconscious at the time of death. Supposedly,” she let the sarcasm layer her tone, “being unconscious will cause it less pain. I, for one, doubt it. And that’s assuming she’s really knocked out.”
She zeroed in on the pleading eyes. “Please, please, understand. This is unnecessary cruelty. Stop eating beef so that poor, defenseless animals like our peaceful friend need not die.”
She pivoted the camera, placing only her eyes in the frame, then gave her final lines. “Frightened, caged, and then killed without mercy. Would you like to die that way?”
She pressed the stop button and lowered the camera. “And we’re clear. Short and sweet, right? What’d you think?”
Kid let the nervous bovine go. It hurried toward the herd, mooing its displeasure. “It looked good to me. Are we doing another one or is one enough for the day?”
“Maybe one more with the slogan, ‘Cows have feelings, too. Do you?’ written in a different color. Red was great for this first one, but let’s use gold paint next. That color will stand out against the brown hide better. Plus, I’d like to get at least two videos done before we get out of here. It’s better to get as much done as we can now than to have to come back another day.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
She wasn’t Kid’s boss or anyone else’s. They didn’t make a dime from their efforts, but it was worth it if they could save one animal from horrendous torture.
“Grab that one over there.” She pointed at an even smaller heifer. Maybe it wasn’t totally fair, but using the scrawniest cows gave the video more impact than using a large, healthy brute of an animal. As far as she was concerned, she had to fight fire with fire, making the most of her videos to reach a consumer that, if given the choice, would choose their fast-food burger over the humane treatment of a cow any day.
Kid gave her a salute—a gesture he knew irritated her—and moved into the herd, his hand outstretched as he cooed at the animal.
* * * *
“Aw, hell, do you see that?” Rick Northman pushed his cowboy hat higher onto his forehead and stared at the scene below him. “Damn it all to hell.”
“Fuck.” Gunner followed the curse with several more. His brother was usually the easier going one, but after finding yet another mutilated cow, even his mood had shifted to the dark side.
Rick and Gunner owned the ranch their father had started. They’d spent their entire life running cattle and horses, but lately a problem had come up that wasn’t, unfortunately, all that uncommon. Someone or something had killed almost a half dozen of their herd along with one of their horses. They’d also lost several of their chickens one night, although they’d been locked in the coop. Other ranchers, werebear and werewolf alike, were having the same problem.
“Do you think they’re the ones?”
Rick squinted from the vantage point they’d taken
“Then what’s the girl holding?”
“It looks like a video camera.”
“What’s she doing with that?”
Rick scowled as he read what was painted on the cow’s side. “I think they’re filming that heifer. They painted something across its hide, but I can’t make out what it says.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope.” Rick handed the binoculars to his brothers. “Take a look for yourself. Can you read it?”
“No, but I’m willing to bet it’s not Sally Was Here. Maybe it’s Tip Me Over?”
“You’re just a regular laugh riot.”
Still, the joke was pretty funny even though it reminded him of the trouble they’d had last year when a group of college students had driven out to the ranch and had tried to tip a cow over onto its side. Cow tipping was a myth he wished he could wipe out of existence. Although cows sometimes dozed while standing up, they laid down to sleep. Even if the kids could’ve tipped the cow over, it would’ve been able to get back on its feet. Their prank, however, could’ve injured the cow.
All their prank had done was frighten the animal. One of the kids had gotten a well-deserved kick in the leg for his participation. They’d heard the boy’s wails and had come running. Yet instead of helping the injured student, they’d changed into their bear forms and had run the group off their land, insuring that they’d never come back.
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