Wild Hunt - Kali Argent Page 0,1

the starry sky.

“Is that the best you’ve got?”

She didn’t know who she was asking—maybe the universe itself—and she didn’t expect an answer. Being angry was easier, especially when she remembered that she hadn’t paid extra at the dealership to include a spare tire in the package.

The wind picked up, the frigid air whipping a curtain of fire across her face. She’d meant to cut her waist-length locks before she’d left Fort Collins, but like a lot of other things lately, she hadn’t had the time nor the energy. Trying to hold her hair back with one hand, she kept the other on the side of the vehicle as she navigated back to the open driver’s door. She’d almost made it, too, when her booted foot slipped in the loose gravel, and she went down hard on one knee.

Yelling long and loud enough for even the goddess to hear, she flopped down in the rocks and leaned against the SUV while she examined her injured leg. Gray dust coated her jeans and the hem of her black knit sweater. The denim had split at the knee, and blood beaded to the surface of her skin, the crimson trickling down her shin. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she noticed the fall had also scuffed her new boots and frayed the purple stitching in a couple of places.

Although minor compared to the rest of her predicament, disappointment in the state of her footwear mingled with her other emotions, and her lower lids brimmed with angry tears. She really liked those boots. It wasn’t as if they were completely ruined, and she wasn’t usually one to get overly emotional about such things, but damn it. What else could possibly go wrong?

She allowed herself another few seconds to mope, then carefully—though none too gracefully—climbed to her feet. Sitting there and feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to change anything. It certainly wasn’t going to get her back on the road. Her pity party would have to wait.

So, she brushed off as much of the pale dust as she could, then went in search of the wetted wipes she kept in the console of the SUV. It wouldn’t have surprised her to find them missing, or that they’d gone dry, or any number of other unfavorable outcomes. Thankfully, they were exactly where she’d left them and completely functional.

Sitting sideways in the driver’s seat with her feet planted on the running board, she spent a few minutes picking pebbles out of her skin and cleaning the blood and dirt from her knee. By the time she’d finished, the gash had mostly healed, her skin tingling where it had begun knitting itself back together. Tossing the bloody wipes into the brown paper bag from her hurried dinner, she retrieved her cell phone from its stand and unlocked the screen.

The signal wasn’t great, but it was strong enough for her to perform a quick search for a nearby garage. Only one within city limits appeared, along with an address, telephone number, and not much else. She wasn’t overly hopeful that she’d get an answer at nearly one o’clock in the morning, but she had to start somewhere. To her surprise, however, a gruff male voice answered on the third ring.

“Oh, thank goodness.”

After briefly outlining her situation, she sighed and slumped back in her seat with relief when the man—Jacob, he’d said—told her to sit tight.

Ten minutes later, dingy, yellow headlights appeared over the top of the hill. As she watched, an ancient-looking, white tow truck with a rusted bumper and peeling paint slowed to a stop in front of her SUV.

Stepping out of her vehicle, Mackenna held her hand to her eyes to shield the glare of the headlights. “Hello?”

The hinges on the ancient truck squealed, followed soon after by the clang of the door closing. Footsteps crunched over the gravel, and a shadowy figure appeared in the glare of the lights from the tow truck.

“Evenin’, ma’am.”

The voice sounded familiar, even though it had been somewhat distorted over the phone. “Hi.” Mackenna stepped forward with her hand outstretched. “Thanks for coming so fast.”

“I was out on another job when you called,” Jacob explained as he took her hand, his face still hidden by the brightness of the headlights at his back. “Came straight here.” He released her hand and moved toward the other side of her SUV. “You said the passenger tire?”

Mackenna nodded, even though he had his back to her now. “Yeah, right rear.”

At the back