Dead of Winter (Battle of the Bulls #2) - T. S. Joyce

Chapter One

“Are you sure you belong here?”

Raven stopped shifting her weight from foot to foot and twisted around. “Me?” she asked the woman standing behind her in line for the beer truck.

The pretty woman was dressed in bootcut jeans, muddy boots, and a flannel shirt that she’d tied just below her perky boobs. Her tight midriff was exposed. She had platinum locks cascading down her shoulders from under her white felt cowboy hat.

Blondie was the complete opposite of Raven.

“You sure have a lot of tattoos.” The woman scrunched up her face. “You would be so cute if you hadn’t done that to your skin.”

Stunned, Raven glanced down at herself. Black ripped-up shorts, black motorcycle boots, black tank top, and a red and black Harley Davidson flannel tied around her waist. And yep, she had tattoos—a sleeve of them down her right arm and all down her left leg.

Raven’s cheeks were burning. Shyness was a beast she still hadn’t figured out how to deal with. She didn’t know how to respond, so she said awkwardly, “Umm, I just like tattoos and how they look.”

“Huh,” the girl said. “Are you here to see the riders or the bulls?”

Okay, friendly conversation. The woman wasn’t going to make her feel like an outsider anymore, so this was good. She parted her lips to answer, but the girl’s eyes went wide and she took a step back.

“Your eyes. They just went from light green to brown. I know what that means.” She looked around as if checking to see if any of the rodeo-goers around them were paying attention to her discovery. Louder, she called out, “I know what changing eye colors mean!”

“Okay,” Raven murmured, stepping forward in line to put in her order. “Think I need two beers,” she told the cashier of the little booze truck parked outside the rodeo arena.

“Are you with one of the bulls? Are you a girlfriend? You’re a cow shifter, right?” the girl asked from way too close behind her.

Inside of Raven, her animal stirred. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. Cow shifter sounded lame, but her animal was a monster. Purebred Texas Longhorn shifter and full of fury when she took the skin, so… “Can you give me a little space?” Raven whispered. “Please?”

“Right, right,” Blondie said, throwing her hands up and backing away a maximum of three inches. Freakin’ humans.

“Are you with one of the bulls? I’m a huge fan of Quickdraw Slow Burn. I came here to cheer for him. I follow him on social media. He has an eight-pack.” Blondie was staring down at her phone.

“Here you go,” the cashier said with a friendly smile as he set two plastic cups of frothy light beer on the counter. “That’ll be ten bucks even.”

Raven pulled a ten-dollar bill out and then two more dollars to put into the tip jar beside the register. “Hey, thanks mister.”

“It’s so weird to hear a country drawl on a goth chick,” Blondie said. “Okay, here.” She shoved her phone at Raven just as Raven was turning around with both beers in hand. She jerked to a stop and spilled a little. Blondie was showing her a picture from Quickdraw’s Instagram page. A picture Raven had already seen because she’d stalked all the bulls being represented by Cheyenne Walker.

“This is who you’re with, right? He is covered in tattoos, too. Y’all would match.”

“I don’t know him,” Raven murmured, staring at the background of the picture. The background was more important than the giant, muscled-up, black-haired behemoth cheering behind the chutes at the second event of the Battle of the Bulls circuit. Behind him was the man she’d come to see. The one who had caught her attention from the moment the news broke that he had a human mother.

Dead of Winter was standing behind Quickdraw, screaming, gripping the top of a gate behind the chutes. He’d been cheering on Two Shots Down, who was bucking during the taking of this picture.

“Damn, I totally thought I had you pegged.”

“Nope. Just here as a fan. Like you,” Raven assured her and walked around the nosy human.

Are you sure you belong here?

She looked around at the cowboy boots, the hats, the Wranglers, the belt buckles, and gripped her beers a little tighter as she stepped around a giant pile of horse crap in the middle of the walkway.

Hell no, she didn’t belong here, at some rodeo in Boise, Idaho.

She didn’t belong anywhere.

Chapter Two

“You don’t belong here.”

Dead of Winter charged First Time Train Wreck and