Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries


Magic for the Highland Wolf


Chapter One          Chapter Two


Chapter One

Angus Shaw climbed the front steps of Ben Alder Lodge, wishing he didn’t need to be there. The March day was as fine as it could be in this part of the Scottish Highlands, and the old grey stone castle that sprawled on the bank of Loch Ericht looked welcoming. Ben Alder, the mountain from which the bear-shifter clan took its name, still had some snow on its peak and looked pretty in the spring sun.

But his heart was heavy.

He had nothing against the bear-shifters. They were the closest neighbours of his Sithech Clan—Shaw Clan to the sassenach—and while the distance between the clans was only fifty miles by road, slightly less through the wilderness, though infinitely more difficult to pass, the two clans had maintained good relations for centuries.

He’d been looking forward to his first visit with the bears as the newly-minted alpha of his wolf-shifter clan. It should’ve been a joyous occasion, a feast in his honour, like his clan had arranged for Artair MacAslan when he had become the alpha of the Ben Alder bear-shifter clan.

Instead, he was here on an official clan business. And it wasn’t a happy one.

He hesitated briefly, collecting himself before reaching for the huge knocker and pounding it twice against the oak door. He didn’t have to wait. Bear sentinels had informed their alpha that he was on his way, and Artair opened the door himself, letting him into the foyer, resplendent in its oaken wainscotting and stone floor, the grand staircase taking most of the space.

“Welcome, Alpha Shaw,” Artair said in his gravelly voice. He was a bear of a man, bigger even than Angus, an impressive sight in his clan tartan. Angus had opted for a kilt too, feeling that the official visit merited it.

“What brings you here so unexpectedly, and without giving us a chance to prepare a feast in your honour?”

The echo of his musings made Angus smile despite his errand. “Clan business. Is there anywhere we can talk?”

“There’s a fire in the library.”

The damp chill of the castle didn’t really affect either of them, but fire was fire. It was nice to warm their bones without using Might energy for it, even if, as alphas, they had good reserves of the energy that powered the two-natured people.

They settled down on two wingback chairs by the fireplace and Angus leaned his elbows on his knees, staring at the fire. “Fergus hasn’t come home,” he said without preamble.

Angus’s uncle had disappeared into the mountains around their clan home in January to mourn the death of his mate, Màiri, and hadn’t been seen since.

The bear alpha regarded him solemnly. “There’s no saying how long it takes to recover from the loss of one’s bonded mate. I’m not sure I have, and my Ùna has been gone for decades.” He sighed. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for my part in it.”

The whole nasty business still made bile rise to Angus’s throat, but he shook his head. “No need. We’re utterly grateful for your help. Death was the only outcome for what Màiri did, and you helped everyone to accept it.”

Màiri had betrayed the clan by inviting renegade vampires to attack them. Their previous alpha, Angus’s grandfather, Angus, died in the battle. It hadn’t been Màiri’s only betrayal, and when her actions had been uncovered, everyone had known she had to die.

It was the alpha’s duty to execute her, but the clan hadn’t had a proper alpha at the time. Fergus had held the position because he was the eldest son of old Angus, but the clan hadn’t truly accepted him. And no matter what Màiri had done, the clan wouldn’t have forced him to condemn his mate to death. So they had asked Artair to stand as the judge.

When the time came to hand out the punishment, Angus had declared himself alpha, mostly because he’d been called to it though Might, but also to save his aunt Isla from sacrificing her newly found love, Jamie, by taking over the clan as its alpha. Much to his surprise, the clan had instantly accepted him.

As his first act as alpha, he’d had to execute Màiri.

He still had nightmares about it: her bewilderment, defiance, fear; his cold determination to see justice served. They had both been in wolf form, and at his command she had bared her throat, her second nature accepting the inevitable even if her human side hadn’t. He’d sunk his fangs into her throat, crushing, tasting blood and her fear, and held until she died.

At the moment of her death, Fergus had disappeared into the mountains in wolf form, and he hadn’t come back.

“I wish I could give Fergus more time,” Angus said to Artair. “But my connection to him is weakening. I don’t know why. Is he ill? Dying? I need him to come home so we can take care of him.”

The older alpha nodded. “What do you want my clan to do?”

“I can sense Fergus somewhere between our territories, but every time I go to look I can’t find him. I want to organise a proper search and comb the area with as many people as we can spare. My clan will approach the area from our side, and I was hoping your clan would do the same from this side.”

Artair nodded without needing to consider. “Absolutely. When?”

“Tomorrow, first light.”

They went through the details, and then Angus took his leave, declining an invitation to stay for dinner. “I expect there to be a proper feast when I visit the next time,” he said with a grin as he exited the castle. Artair’s laughter echoed behind him as the doors closed.

He was heading to his car, his heart lighter than on his way in, when the steady sound of wood-chopping reached his ears from somewhere near. The rhythm was good, each log halving with one strike.

Curious to see who was skilful and strong enough for the feat—though probably even the cubs were, being bears—Angus followed his ears down the path that ran along the lake shore. The pace was punishing, and it gave him a notion that the wielder of the axe was angry. Furious.

An angry bear wasn’t somebody to trifle with, but their clans were on good terms. He had nothing to fear.

He hoped.

It wasn’t a long walk, but the chopper had cut half a dozen logs before he detected a large woodshed through the shrubbery.

He rounded the last bend and emerged from the winter-bare foliage into a small clearing. He paused when he saw who the woodsman was. The woodswoman, rather.

A slow, appreciative smile spread on his face.

Seonag MacAslan, the finest full-back in the women’s national rugby team—for Scotland, naturally—and the player of the year of the Women’s Rugby League three times in a row for the sassenach team she had played for these past ten years.

Angus watched the woman raise a large axe above her head and bring it down with the full force of her six-foot-two frame, all of it muscle, as he could easily see. She was wearing only a black sports bra with her running leggings, her skin glistening with sweat even though the Highland weather in March was brutally cold.

His body was warming up too, watching her muscles play under the golden skin.

He forced his mind hastily back to rugby before he embarrassed himself, or her. With her size, she would’ve been an excellent prop too, either position, but she was a brilliant sweeper who could launch swift attacks and tackle with brutal efficiency. Being a full-back suited her the best.

Come to think of it, most shifters would excel at rugby. Pity they weren’t allowed to play in human leagues—no one except Seonag—and they didn’t have a league for their own kind.

The large log cleaved in two, the pieces joining a heap of their brethren that had already met their fate. She bent over to pick a new log without a pause, and his breathing caught.

Tilting his head, he admired her fine backside, emphasised by the form-hugging technical material of her leggings.

She straightened and placed the log on the cleaving block. “If you’ve done ogling, maybe you could tell what the hell you’re doing here, wolf.”

Her voice was deep, and the tone was harsh, but he smiled. “I had to come and see who was punishing the logs.”


The axe came down again, and the log was no match for it. She turned to look at him for the first time, and the full strength of her black eyes hit him. She was a strong shifter, no matter the truth. Her mouth, wide and lush-lipped, twisted with disgust.

“It’s myself I’m punishing.”

Of course she was.

He cleared his throat, not quite having the words to console her, but needing to do it anyway. She might not be a member of his clan, but he was an alpha. He hadn’t been one for long, but he had noticed these past couple of months that he had a great need to make sure people around him were feeling well.

“It was only one test match. It wasn’t that bad.”

She snorted. “We lost sixty-four to nothing. To England.” She practically spat the word.

“There will be other matches.”

Her hold around the axe handle tightened. “Not against them. Not during this Six Nations anyway.”

It hadn’t been a good Six Nations Championship Tournament for the Scottish women’s rugby team. They’d only won one test and lost four.

“There’s Italy still, and you can face them on home turf.” He smiled, hoping it looked encouraging. “We’ll all be there to support you.”

He had wanted to be there for the England match too, but it hadn’t been practical to travel to London at the time.

She rested the axe on the block. Sun glinted through the leafless branches, hitting her white hair. She’d always had pure white hair, even as a child, thick and almost coarse.

He remembered tugging her long braids more than once as a youth when the clans had come together. He was near a decade older than her, a hundred and forty-three to her hundred and thirty-four, but a young maiden’s hair had been irresistible to a young man.

The heavy braids were gone now, her hair cropped close to the skull. It was practical for rugby, and the fierce style became her. Combined with her strong features and proud, straight nose, she was a striking sight.

“Why are you here, alpha?”

“Failing at comforting you?” he quipped, but she wasn’t amused. He sighed. “Your father and I are organising a search to look for Fergus.”

Seonag studied him for a moment, then shook herself. She picked up the axe and carried it to the woodshed. When she emerged, she gave him a level look, less angry than earlier.


“For what?”

“I guess I needed to hear that in the grand scheme of things, losing one match isn’t that big a deal.”

She plucked her hoodie from a nail on the wall of the shed and pulled it on. Angus rued the loss of skin, but she needed to stay warm so that she didn’t catch cold before the last test.

Because Seonag was a unique shifter. If she fell ill, she couldn’t heal herself like others of their kind. She wasn’t properly connected with Might, and she couldn’t project her second nature as a translucent aura on her chest like other shifters. And worst of all, she couldn’t shift.


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Chapter Two

It had been too long since Seonag had been around a man as impressive as Angus Shaw. His mere presence, the impact of him, arrested her breath, but she forced herself to be calm.

She wasn’t usually shy about letting a man know she was interested in him. But an alpha wolf would never choose a defective shifter like her, so it was best to discourage the attraction from the start.

It wasn’t his size that turned her on, though his six-foot-six, wide-shouldered and muscled frame was impressive. Bears of her clan were big and she was used to large human men on rugby fields. His body looked perfect in a kilt, with woollen socks in hiking boots reaching to his knees, and a long-sleeved T-shirt hugging his sculpted torso, as if the weather didn’t merit anything warmer.

Wee Angus… She smiled to herself remembering his nickname that was in the past now that old Angus was no more. He had never been small.

It wasn’t his handsome face either that made an impact, though she was taken anew by his stark, strong features and smiling green eyes, as if she’d forgotten what he looked like since November when she saw him last. Not even the messy raven hair that looked like it was shorn with sheep shears diminished his good looks.

But this was the first time she’d met him since he became the alpha of his clan.

She had sensed him approach from afar, like a brush against her skin or a tug inside her, before she had smelled or heard him. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve said she’d sensed him in Might.

But that wasn’t possible. She wasn’t connected with it well enough. She couldn’t sense her own clan members, not even her father, the alpha. And that had nothing to do with the fact that she was adopted, not born to the clan. Plenty of shifter children were adopted to clans, mostly because they were born to human parents who didn’t know what to do with them. They all became full members of their clans, bound by invisible bonds formed in Might, able to sense each other and speak mind to mind.

She had none of that, and she was a child of two bear-shifters. Not until now.

Unsettled, she headed down the path. “Come, wolf, I’ll walk you to your car.”

She didn’t wait to see if Angus followed her, and walked towards the lodge in long strides. He was a long-legged man. He could keep up.

The anger that had kept her in its grip ever since the humiliating loss against England had left her. There truly were more important things in the world than losing a rugby match. A loss of one’s mate was one of those.

Not that she had experienced it—or ever would. The mating bond required a connection with Might and hers barely existed. There had been a time in her youth, over a century ago, when she had cried at nights, knowing she wasn’t ever going to find a mate. But modern times had brought different priorities and she was satisfied with her life. There were plenty of men in the world. She didn’t need to bond with one for the rest of her long life.

But her anger hadn’t been replaced with anything useful. She was empty and … despondent. It wasn’t a conducive mood for winning the next test. She needed to distract herself or she’d make the team lose that one too.

“When’s the search?”

The tall wolf was walking by her side without hastening his steps, and she was taken anew by his height. It was nice to be able to walk tall next to a man. His mouth tightened, the warm smile gone with worry for his kinsman.

“Tomorrow morning. Your father and I divided the area between our clans into grids. Your clansmen will start from this edge and mine from ours. Hopefully we’ve found Fergus by the time we meet in middle.”

She paused, making him pause too, and shot him an incredulous look. “It’s over seventy thousand acres, not including the climbs, in partly impassable terrain thanks to thaw and spring floods.”

He shrugged. “So it’ll take a couple of days. Besides, I know roughly the area where he is.”

Of course he did. He was connected to all his wolves by a bond that only an alpha had.

“At this time of year, the weather can change unexpectedly.”

A corner of his mouth tugged up. “I’m a hundred and forty-three years old. I’ve experienced quite a few Highland springs. We’ll pack enough food and warm clothes to survive a week.”

She growled, the bear inside her responding to his amusement with typical aggression. She might not be connected with Might, but she was a bear. She had a second nature, an entity inside her, even if her connection with it was weak and it was never able to come out like a normal shifter’s.

She wasn’t bitter that she couldn’t shift. Not anymore. She’d had over a century to get used to it, ever since she hit puberty, when shifters first shifted. All the other markings had come, breasts and hips and such. The bear inside her she’d shared her body with since birth had been eager to come out too. But no matter how they’d tried, it never happened.

The bear wasn’t bitter either. It was … diminished. There was no other word for it. They weren’t communicating anymore. It wasn’t completely dead, indicating that her Might reserves filled somehow, but she feared that it might be gone one day. She had no idea what would happen then. She would probably die too, centuries before her time.

But she wouldn’t think of that now. Angry as she was for the test match defeat, it would only make her morose.

“I’m only nine years younger than you and have seen enough springs too. What I’m saying is, this isn’t the best time to launch a search.”

His handsome, hewn features tightened with worry. “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have to. My bond with him is weakening. I fear we’ll lose him.”

She startled. “I’m … sorry to hear that. And I’m sorry, I haven’t even congratulated you for becoming alpha.”

He grinned; the worry temporarily wiped away. “I’ve been promised a feast by your father. You can congratulate me properly then.”

They paused by his car, a beat-up Land Cruiser. Clans here in the north weren’t as affluent as their southern brethren, but centuries of accumulated wealth, well-invested, made most of them very well off. The car was old by choice.

He leaned his tall, powerful frame against the door and crossed arms over his chest, stretching the fabric covering his biceps. In his kilt, hair mussed with wind, he looked like the Highland alpha he was.

Impressive. Powerful.

“How does it feel?” she found herself asking. “Being alpha, being connected with all your wolves, all the time.”

It had to be her gloomy mood that made her concentrate on what she was lacking, the connection with her clan.

He shrugged, thick muscles rolling under his shirt. “Like an electric buzz at the nape of my neck, and full-body warmth. A pressure in my chest, a tug in my heart.”

Like she’d sensed when he approached.

“Can you turn it off?”

“I guess. But it would distress my wolves, and I’m not willing to do that.”

She considered him, as if seeing him for the first time. And maybe she was. She’d regarded him through the lens of their shared past, but he was a different person now. “You’ll make a good alpha.”

His smile was warm. “Thank you. I’m trying. But if I don’t find Fergus soon, it might be a loss too many for my clan.”

She made a snap decision. “I’ll come to search too.”

She assumed he’d welcome the help—they really didn’t have the numbers to search the vast area—but his strong face turned forbidding.

“Absolutely not.”

Her bear surged forward inside her, and if she’d been a normal shifter her aura would’ve come out, aggressively baring its translucent teeth. Her very human lips twisted into a snarl.

“I’m perfectly capable of tracking lost people! There’s nothing wrong with my sense of smell.”

He regarded her calmly, not trying to mollify her like people so often did, even her own father. Keep the cripple happy. Her life is hard enough as it is. Not that her father had ever called her cripple or any other derogatory names. She was merely projecting.

“You said it yourself: the conditions are hazardous at this time of year in the wilderness. Anything can happen out there. What if you break your leg? It’s only three days to the match.”

And she couldn’t heal.

But his reasonable argument only made her angrier for being true. Being allowed to play rugby on human teams was the only good thing that had come of her handicap. An injury that took long to heal would compromise her entire season, not just the upcoming Six Nations match.

A growl made her chest reverberate, but Angus’s green gaze was unwavering on her. They hadn’t made him alpha for nothing.

“How about you take a snowmobile? There’s snow still in places.”

His willingness to suggest a compromise pleased her, but her bear was still growly. “Not on our side of the area.”

He scratched the back of his neck, looking around as if noticing the lack of snow only now. “There is on our side. Why don’t you come over with me. You can join our team in the morning. We start off before sunrise while the snow is still frozen hard.”

It was a good suggestion, but she hesitated. Spending a night among wolves when she was in a volatile mood wasn’t a good idea.

He grinned. “We’ve got plenty of firewood in need of chopping…”

She huffed, stifling a grin. “Fine. I’ll need to pack first.”

“Don’t forget warm clothes.”

She barely refrained from growling again as she headed indoors. Fricking wolves.

Her father and Callum MacEricht, her cousin and the clan beta, were in the foyer, deep in discussion. Probably about the search. Her father paused to give her a curious look as she hurried across the foyer.

“What’s got your nose in a twist?”

“The wolf,” she growled, heading up the stairs two steps at a time.

“Do I have to teach him some manners?”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself.”

“That you are…”

Her father’s dry tone made her grin.

In her room, she quickly cleaned up and dressed in jeans and a clean hoodie. Then she went through her closets for proper clothes for the search. She didn’t live here anymore, hadn’t lived for a couple of decades, ever since she’d decided to go to university for a business degree. Most of her clothes were in Bristol, where she lived now, but she didn’t need sturdy technical winter clothes in the south and all of those were here. She packed the essentials, with a couple of changes, into a backpack.

The men were still in the foyer when she returned with the bag. Her father took a double take as she walked past. “Are you leaving already?”

There was a tiny brush against her skin, a sense of concern that wasn’t her own. Had he always reached her through Might like this? And why was she able to detect it all of a sudden?

Unsettled by the change, she went to hug him. “No. I’m taking part in the search from the Ben Nevis side. I’ll stay over there tonight to be able to start first thing in the morning.”

“Is it wise?” Callum asked. He was her father’s age, and one of those clansmen who seemed to think she would break with the slightest push. That she was six-foot-two, tightly muscled, and played rugby on an international level didn’t seem to change the notion in the least.

Come to think of it, that attitude was probably one of the reasons she’d been drawn to rugby in the first place. She had wanted her clansmen to see that she wasn’t so easy to break.

“Much wiser than driving there in the morning,” she said, heading to the door. She knew that wasn’t what he’d meant, but her anger was still too close to the surface, and she might snap if she took the words as they were intended. Callum was a nice man and didn’t deserve her wrath.

“I’ll be back before I need to join my team.”

With a wave of her hand, she disappeared out of the door, leaving her bad mood behind with a deliberate push.


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