Chapter One: Street Hockey
(DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ BOOKS ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE & SIX) -Her Shifter Bodyguard / Shifter On Ice / The Shifter Bar / Bearing the Shifter / Dreaming of the Shifter / Shifting the Shifter-
Mara Cunningham watched her cousin with his mate and their cubs. They’re supposed to be playing street hockey today, but as usual, Raj’s friend and old teammate, Alec Pearson, is late. So, everyone is playing with the five cubs. Her little cousins, Seth, Andrew, Brady, and Sharlene—who was named after Lyvia’s best friend, Sharissa Kraftman.
Then, of course, there’s Shar and Dustin’s cub, Joy. Such a sweet baby she is.
Five Fated Mate’s cubs are already here, and six more are on their way. The twins, Josie and Maddy, who’d been separated at three, are both pregnant with twins, and the white witch Pearl is pregnant with her and Dylan’s first. And then, there’s Gerald and his mate, Josiah.
Who’d have thought a man could get pregnant? Certainly not her. But, then again, not surprising since no one knows everything about shifters, not even a shifter.
“Mara!” Raj called as he waved at her.
Mara smiled as she waved back. “Are we going to start the game or not?!”
“When Alec gets here. He’s running late.”
Mara snorted. Of course, he is. It wouldn’t be the first time he was late to one of their street hockey games. And as always, we have to wait for his sorry ass. Not only is he a cheater, but he also has no concept of being on time.
“There he is!” someone shouted
Everyone but Mara turned in the direction Alec was coming in. She snorted as she pulled her goalie mask on, then walked over to her spot to wait for the game to start. Unlike the others, she had no interest in small talk with the jerk.
“Hey, Alec.” Raj smiled as he shook his friend’s hand.
“Hey Raj, how’s fatherhood treating you?” Alec asked with a smile.
“Tiring, but awesome.” Raj grinned.
Alec nodded. He didn’t envy Raj and his mate. One kid is a big enough hassle, but four at once? No, thank you.
‘Having a mate sure looks nice, though.’ Alec thought as he watched his friend cuddle with Lyvia.
Too bad he’s not one of the chosen ones. He looked out into the street and smiled when he saw the other team’s goalie. He’ll never understand why she’s never on his and her cousin’s team.
“Ready?” Raj asked as he walked up to Alec.
“Why is your cousin always on the other team?” Alec asked as they walked over to the bench, where they always sat, to pull on their skates.
Raj shrugged. “No clue. But you know you like it this way, so you can fuck with her….” Raj stopped for a moment and sniffed the air.
Alec sniffed the air and felt his heart jump a beat.
“Unclaimed mate,” Raj mumbled, then turned to his friends.
Alec turned to the others as well and noticed that they, too, were sniffing the air.
A woman with orange-red hair moved away from the others and walked over to Raj.
“What’s going on?” Raj asked once she was close enough.
“She has been activated,” the woman said, stopping in front of Raj.
“Who is she?” Raj asked, looking around them. “Too many people here.”
The woman nodded. “You know her mate has to find her; we can’t just say, ‘Hey, here she is!’”
Raj chuckled as Alec snorted.
The woman looked at Alec and smiled. “Hello, I’m Pearl,” she said, holding her hand out to him. “You must be Alec.”
Alec smiled. She sure was beautiful, especially those green eyes of hers.
He shook her hand with a nod. “That’s me.”
“Down, boy.” Raj chuckled. “She’s Dylan Kraftman’s mate.”
Alec sighed. “To it were so.”
Pearl’s eyebrow raised. “For seen in sight of the unknown.”
Alec grinned. “You know your poetry.”
She shrugged. “You learn a lot when you’ve been alive for as long as I have. Even the unknown is known to me.”
Alec nodded. “You’re the white witch, am I correct?”
She nodded. “That I am. And you are the cheetah. Very rare.” She smiled.
He sighed. “My family is one of the last.”
“I know.” She turned to look back at the others who were watching them.
“So, the next Fated Mate set has been activated?” Alec asked.
Pearl turned to him with a nod. “Yes. But since she’s here with us, we shouldn’t have to worry about her being compromised. She doesn’t even know she’s in heat.”
“So that’s what that smell is,” Alec asked, sniffing the air again. His heart raced in his chest, and his cock came to attention. He shifted and looked away from Raj and the witch. No way was he going to get accused of cockblocking.
“Should we cancel the game?” Raj asked.
Pearl shook her head. “No, play. She’ll be discovered soon enough.” She smiled, then walked back over to her mate and the others.
“She’s beautiful,” Alec said as he watched the witch with her mate.
Raj laughed. “She is, and her mate is very protective of her. All the Alpha Fated Mates are protective.”
“Alpha Fated Mates?” Alec asked, turning to Raj.
Raj nodded. “That’s what the male mates are called.”
“What about them?” Alec asked, pointing toward the gay couple.
Raj laughed. “Don’t let Josiah fool you. He may be the carrier of their child, but he’s tough. He’s a cage fighter; that’s how we found him. And Gerald, well, you really don’t want to fuck with him.”
Alec nodded. “Never planned to. I wish I’d been able to get away when you all needed me. Things have not been good with the team since you left to live your life with your mate and cubs.”
Raj nodded. “Sorry, you’re stuck in the middle of it.”
Alec shrugged. “I’m about to retire, myself. For about fifty years, until there’s fresh meat….”
They looked at each other, then burst into laughter.
“I don’t see you retiring,” Raj said as they sat on the bench.
Alec shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not.” He looked across from them at the other end of the street, where Mara Cunningham waited for the game to start. As always, the mask hid her face from him, but for some reason, that never stopped his heart from pounding in his head every time he looked her way.
“Alec?” Raj asked.
Alec looked at Raj and smiled. “Just wondering what will make your cousin scream at me this time.”
Mara glared at Raj’s old teammate and friend—Alec Pearson. She knows he’s plotting. He always has that look on his face. Not that she can fully see his face through this damn mask. She mostly knows him by his light brown hair and broad shoulders.
And his speed? Damn, that man can move fast. What did you expect of a cheetah shifter, though?
She watched him move toward her, his stick easily pushing the puck toward her and the goal. If he cheats today, she’s going to kick his fucking ass.
She has held herself back for too many years. This is why she has never met the man. Every time her cousin has invited her out with them, she has denied the invitation. Why would she want to meet him after what he did to her every game for over ten years…?
Yep, she has avoided this asshole for more than ten years, and she won’t give him the satisfaction of rubbing in their wins by his cheating. Nope, never…
“Mara!” one of her teammates hollered, snapping her back to the game.
She was ready for him this time. She’d felt hot since before the game started—like she was running a fever. But she didn’t feel sick, so she’s been ignoring it.
Until now—the closer Alec got to her, the hotter she felt. She started sweating, and everything felt wrong.
“Go, Alec!” someone hollered from the sidelines.
Probably a puck bunny. Damn those bitches.
Mara saw the smirk on Alec’s lips and knew he was going to cheat. Damn him.
She watched him swerve right, then left, his stick in complete control of the puck.
“Holy fucking shit!” Alec hollered as he skidded to a stop.
“Not falling for it this time,” Mara whispered, though she knew every shifter and Fated Mate in the area heard her, even Alec.
Alec stared at Raj’s cousin. Though he could not see her face, he could hear the annoyance in her voice. He hadn’t been trying to fool her, not this time. His outburst was because he’d finally figured out who the unclaimed mate was. And he needs to tell Raj before someone else figures it out and attacks her.
“What the hell are you staring at?” Mara growled at him.
Alec smirked at her. “Nothing much, catch this,” he said, then pushed the puck toward the goal.
Mara blocked the puck from making the goal and slid it toward one of her teammates. She smirked at Alec. Not that he could see her smirk, but it made her feel better.
She watched him skate away and stop beside her cousin. He leaned over and whispered something in Raj’s ear. Raj looked at her, and she heard him curse, then shake his head and wave his hands in the air toward her.
‘What was going on?’
She shook her head and got back into the game. The game continued, and Raj’s team was ahead, as always.
The next time Alec came close to her goal, he wasn’t alone. Raj was with him, and he had the strangest look on his face. What had Alec said to him? Whatever it was, she had a feeling it was about her because both men were staring at her as if she’d grown a second head.
“We need to get her out of here,” Raj growled.
Mara stared at her cousin. ’What the fuck?’
“Agreed,” Alec said, then he did something she should have expected.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Alec chanted as he held his stick up over his head. “I do believe that is the end of the game!”
“You fucking cheater!” Mara screeched as she threw her gloves onto the street. ’He’s not getting away with it this time.’ “Why can’t you ever play fair!?”
“Calm down, Mara,” Raj whispered.
She glared at him, though he could barely see her through the mask. “I am tired of you standing up for this piece of shit!”
“Whoa,” Alec said, holding his hands up.
He knows how much she hates when he fucks with her, but this time it was to save her, not annoy her. Even though he loves how hot she gets when she’s angry with him. Usually, she screams, then storms off after kicking her skates off at his head. But today, she was coming at him, and everyone was watching. Soon, the male shifters will smell her, and there will be a war.
“Mara, stay calm,” Raj said as he moved toward them.
“I will not stay calm!” she practically screamed.
Alec watched her as she threw her protection pads off, revealing her body to him for the first time. She was sexy as fuck. His mouth started to water. All those curves in the right places, and her tits, fuck… Too bad she belonged to someone else.
He has never seen her, even though they’ve known each other for more than ten years. He’s never even asked Raj to see a picture of her. What was the use to pant after her when she hated him? Didn’t help that he purposely cheated, but fuck, her reactions turned him on.
She pulled the goalie mask off and tossed it to the ground. Alec’s heart stopped beating, then it started so fast and hard that he couldn’t breathe. She was gorgeous. Her long red hair fell down her back, and her silver eyes gleamed with hatred.
He felt the jolt to his body when their eyes locked. “Fuck, me,” he whispered.
“Not on your life!” she screamed at him—her eyes glued to his.
He saw her heart skip a beat in her throat, and his cock jumped.
“Mine,” he found himself growling.
“Ah, shit,” Raj said from somewhere beside him, but Alec paid him little attention as he moved quickly.
No one is taking her from him, not even his best friend.
“Don’t touch me,” Mara hissed when he stood directly in front of her.
“You’re beautiful,” he said out of breath as he placed a hand against her cheek.
“I said, don’t touch me,” she growled.
But he could see in her eyes that she didn’t mean it, or she meant it, but her body was fighting it.
“Get her out of here!” someone hollered.
Alec ignored the command and pulled Mara into his arms.
“You’re mine,” he said, then claimed her lips.