The Dire Wolf's Mate

Free The Dire Wolf's Mate by Kay D. Smith

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Authors: Kay D. Smith
The Dire Wolf's Mate
    Rain had missed this: Appalachia.
    She had missed the slow twang of voices, the way the mountains went on for days. She'd missed the hazy mist that hung in the air of a distance; she'd missed the fresh, clean scent that swayed on the breeze and the feel of the forest under her feet. Not that she was doing much walking herself. Her saddlebags packed full, she'd been perched atop Hiram's back for the better part of three hours and she thought it might just be time for a little rest and some lunch.
    She'd been traveling for days. Well, for years, if she were honest. She'd left her family's home when she twelve, newly orphaned, come over the mountain to live with her Grammy. She'd left Grammy's home when she was eighteen, eager for adventure and the chance to see the world. She'd backpacked through Europe, waitressed through Idaho, and secretaried through Oregon. She'd had her picture taken in front of the Hollywood sign and lived with a band of nomads who careened at breakneck pace through the rodeo circuit.
    She'd won Hiram in a card game with one of the richest men she knew; she tried her own hand at rodeoin', but it wasn't so much her speed. She preferred the lazy pace of getting from Point A to Point B, with plenty of time for breaks and watching the scenery.
    So after a tearful goodbye with her good friend, Beth, she packed her bags and aimed Hiram's hooves towards home.
    She just still wasn't sure exactly where home was, only that it was somewhere in those mountains.
    She grimaced as she sat down on a felled tree stump and pulled out a bag of pemmican. The stump was damp. Probably it would seep through her pants if she sat down too long, but Hiram could use a chance to graze a little, get some water from the stream. She had an idea that she'd be coming into a town by evening; she'd seen the smoke from their houses from her campsite before she'd started off in the morning. Who knew? Maybe it would be just the town she was looking for.
    She felt a little guilty, not going directly home to her grandmother, but something was calling her away. She wasn't sure what it was - some niggling sensation in the back of her mind, calling "Not yet, not yet," and Grammy didn't seem to mind too much. She spoke with her as often as she could; cell reception wasn't great in some areas, but she always made certain to keep her phone and computer tucked safe in plastic and hidden away in the bags, just in case she got rained on before she could seek cover, and when she was able, she tapped into wireless that let her do video calls.
    Rain ate her pemmican and drank slowly from a bright green water bottle, sung a few verses of Wayfaring Stranger , and whistled for Hiram. She was hoping for a roof over her head this sundown.
    It was an ecovillage. At least, she presumed so, given the cob houses. There were timber frames, too, and one house dug into the side of a hill with a round door like a hobbit hole. There were fields just starting to be worked and some over winter crops with green sticking out of the earth like they promised a feast.
    She rode by several homes still shadowed by the trees grown tall around them before she reached what she assumed to be the village proper, and she drew stares as she picked her way through the town, hoping to find an eatery, if they had one.
    She was in luck. Miss May's General Store and Cafe had a nicely painted sign outside and there was even another horse tethered out front. Rain eyed her surroundings warily. She didn't usually like keeping her few valuables outside where anyone could happen by, but she also was used to places a bit larger than this one. Still, it would be a pain to disengage all of her straps and buckles and carry it all in, and she wasn't sure yet if she'd be staying more than a few moments - it didn't look like the store and cafe was an all inclusive bed and breakfast, too. At any rate, if she would have trouble

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