Shea Valtor nervously stepped into the dingy pool hall. The heavy smog of smoke clung in the air, the smell of booze, sweat, and cigarettes caused her to scowl. She cased the crowd of people over, scanning the faces for an easy mark. The lighting in here was dim and the canned music filtering through the speakers was old country tunes. The place was fairly packed, and with only a couple of hours before closing time, she knew most of the people here were most likely half in the bag. Several of them she watched stagger toward the washrooms. The patrons looked like a rough crowd, and she had second thoughts of hitting this place.
Her tummy growled again, and she forced the uneasy feeling away. Shea needed money; she hadn’t eaten in two days, and this was the only place in this small town with a pool table. Taking a deep breath, she headed to the back, her cue case slung over her shoulder, this isn’t how she envisioned spending her nineteenth birthday nor was it the way she had seen herself living.
Several of the young men at the table looked up to her and smiled as she walked towards them. They had that look about them that told her they were full of themselves and as the oldest one stood and cast an appraising eye over her as she sashayed closer he smiled.
“Well hello there.” He said.
“Hi, you boys using the table?” she asked motioning to the pool table they were dominating.
“Yeah, would you like to join in?” he asked her as he looked around to see if anyone was with her.
“Sure, what are you playing for?” she eyed the money on the edge of the table.
“The usual stakes, can I buy you a beer?” he smiled, as his friends hovered in closer.
“Yeah, I’ll take a draft.” She cooed out with a smile dancing on her lips.
They had taken the innocent and coyness act in and now as she walked out of the place she would have enough money to last her a day or two. Walking over to her beat-up old car, she got in and drove for over an hour before she found an old side road and pulled over to sleep for the rest of the night. A motel was too expensive, and she found out early on it ate away her meager funds too quickly.
With thoughts of Ryder playing in her mind, she curled up with her blanket and pillow in the back seat. The anger filled her again; she had left her pack when her father told her she was to Mate Derrick Mires, that he had given the guy his permission. He was a nice guy, but she had been in love with Ryder. Now she knew that she had been stupid to believe he had been the one. After she had left her father a rather heated letter, she headed for Ryder’s. Shea had shown up at his door without calling first and when the other woman had opened the door wearing Ryder’s over-sized t-shirt and nothing else, Shea was crushed.
That was nearly seven months ago, it still angered her, and now it was just her against the world. Having left her family and the pack, her spirit totem had abandoned her, she was cut off from the powers of the spirit world, and she had nearly found out how dangerous this world could be on more than one occasion. Running from angry marks was not easy, but she had been lucky so far not to have gotten mugged or beat up in her con games.
Living out of her car, she made barely enough money to put gas in the old clunker and food in her belly. Earning cash with the only real thing she was extremely good at, playing pool. It was lonely but there was no way in hell she would go back, no way she would tell her father that Ryder had cheated on her, that he may have been right in his choice of her Mate.
Trying to force those thoughts from her mind she tried to concentrate on her route tomorrow, she was headed for Florida, and although she had a map, she had gotten lost already once and didn’t want to waste any of her precision gas money on back road expeditions. As it were, she would need to stop again and make some money. The next town would be a stay-over, and she didn’t like that idea. Humans made her nervous as it was, even though she was a human too, she had grown up in the Lycan’s dominated community. The outside world was not the same; it didn’t hold the same ideals, rules, or hierarchy as pack life had.
Trying to get comfortable on the small back seat had become almost a circus act in itself. Half twisted with her long legs up in the back window; she shoved the seat belt buckle under the cushion as it yet again managed to snake free and poked her in the ribs. A clap of thunder told her it would be one of those wet stormy nights and with heavy eyes, she listened to the rain start, it lulled her off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
The heavy banging on her car window awoke her with a start, and she fought with her blankets to get unraveled from the tangled cocoon she had managed to get into. With bleary eyes, she stared out the window into the attractive older face of a man in a policeman’s uniform.
“Morning ma’am, can you please step out of the vehicle.” He asked with his deep Georgia drawl.
“Yeah, just give me a second.” She told him. Her heart was trying to race out of her chest like a scared rabbit. Shea tried to think of why he would wake her up and ask her to get out of the car.
Sure the old clunker wasn’t really road worthy, and yeah she had a few outstanding parking tickets from here to Seattle but that shouldn’t warrant him wanting to talk to her, at least she didn’t think so anyway. Carefully getting out and fighting to keep her blanket and pillow from falling onto the wet ground, Shea managed an almost graceful exit from the car.
“Can I see your driver’s license and registration?” he asked as she gave him a quick once over. The cop was tall and wiry looking in his pressed uniform; a splash of silver adorned the sideburns of his closely cropped brown hair. His name tag said, Sheriff Calhoun.
“Um yeah, I’ll get it for you,” She told him and opened the passenger side door and retrieved the documents from the glove compartment.
“Your car doesn’t seem to be up to code, and your inspection sticker will run out tomorrow.” He said as she was fishing in the glove box. Turning to look up at him with her license in hand, Shea saw him eye the windshield’s orange sticker.
Shea watched his nostrils flare ever so slightly, and she saw him shiver a little. Just great a werewolf, she thought to herself.
“Can I ask why you are here?” he inquired as he eyed her messy car interior briefly before turning his attention fully back to her.
“I’m on my way to Miami and needed to rest for the night.” She explained now even more nervous.
A werewolf wouldn’t be able to tell she was kinfolk, unless she or someone else told them. However, by the way he seemed more interested in her than the condition of her car now; she could tell there had been something he liked when he scented the air.
“So are you just passing through then?” he asked as his eyes inspected the sides of her neck. She knew he was looking for a mate’s mark or a tribal mark.
“More or less.”
Looking at her photo ID and registration, he then gave her a more appraising look.
“You’re a Valtor from California? Who are your folks?” his eyes locked onto hers. Great now what do I do; she thought. Not very many wolves didn’t know who the Valtor pack were, let alone who her father was.
Not prepared for the question she blurted out a lie.
“My adoptive parents are Dean and Sue Valtor.”
“You’re adopted?” he asked watching her very intently.
“Yeah, now am I free to go?”
“No,” He said and stepped closer forcing her to step back up against the car. The thick smell of musk started to permeate the air and Shea swallowed hard.
Trying not to inhale the intoxicating scent Shea knew she could be in trouble as she took a quick look around the side road. Lined with tall trees and only her old car and his cruiser pulled over to the side, they were utterly alone. The main road she could easily hear but because of the sharp bend to the side road, they were hidden from any passing cars.
“You are going to have to follow me into Cedar Banks and get your car looked at,” He said as he towered over her.
“I don’t understand, my inspections good until tomorrow,” She muttered
“But your cars not, now you can either follow me in, or I can have it towed,” He told her with a smile.
“Alright,” Shea knew she had no choice; she needed her car, and running from the cops was just a stupid idea.
Driving into the small town she had a sense of this place being a pack held territory, having spotted several people with mate’s marks, it didn’t sit well with her at all. She followed the cruiser to the only garage she had seen, Bim’s Auto repair shop. Pulling in alongside the cruiser the sheriff got out and motioned for her to go with him.
“Hey Dean!” he yelled out as they both stepped inside the smelly garage, there were two other older cars in there and a motorcycle. Like any garage, it had an assortment of tools, tires, oil cans, and parts. The smell of gas, oil, and grease was overwhelming.
From under a car rolled a set of denim blue coveralls smeared in grease stains, and as his head finally peeked out she could see he looked a lot like the older officer. The ruggedly handsome looking young man was close to her own age, and he stared at her long and hard as he stood and walked over to them.
“Yeah dad?” he said.
“This young lady needs her car inspected, how long before you can get to it?” he asked.
“Tomorrow maybe the next day, Vicky needs a transmission in her car, and Old Hank is supposed to be bringing in his pick up to have his brake lines done.”
“Can’t you just look at my car first?” Shea asked not wanting to be stuck here for a day or two. Shea felt more than a little embarrassed by her ragged appearance. Not having showered or brushed her hair, she knew she looked like something the cat dragged home.
Dean smiled at her and then looked to his father a twinkle playing in his eyes.
“Might be three days, I have to do an alignment on the little hatchback too.” He explained ignoring her question.
“Well then Miss Valtor, I guess you’ll be staying a few days then after all,” Officer Calhoun said.
“Is there no other garage around?” Shea asked, the sound of panic in her voice causing both men to smile.
“The closest other is in Valley ridge and that’s a four-hour drive from here,” Dean said, now apparently he could answer her questions.
“Sorry ma’am but around here it's first come first serve, and you’re at the bottom of the list.” He added.
“Just great.” She grumbled.
“Well is there at least a motel or something?”
“Yes ma’am, just on the outskirts of town. It has a restaurant and bar there too. You should be able to get a room; we don’t get many people coming here.” Sheriff Calhoun said.
“How far of a walk is it?”
“Oh no worries I’ll drive you over,” Dean piped out, “I’m headed that way for lunch anyhow.”
Looking from the father to his son Shea had her doubts, but she was stuck and knew if she tried to take her car and go, she would end up in trouble.
“Yeah alright just let me get my stuff from my car,” She grumbled and pulled out her duffle bag and pool cue case.
“You play pool?” Dean asked after she was in his car, and they were driving away from the garage.
“Yeah.” She said.
“Well then you’ll have something to kill your time with until I can take a look at your car. The bar at the motel has a couple of tables.” He told her.
“Great,” Shea said almost exasperated.
“What’s your name?” he asked after they had driven in silence for five minutes.
“That’s pretty, never heard it before. So where you from?”
“West Coast,” Shea was far from being in the mood for light chit chat.
“You’re not a very talkative girl are yah?”“Nope,” she stated and turned to watch the tree line fly past as he drove