Hunting Season

Title: Hunting Season
Contributors: Kate Rudolph
Series: Guarded by the Shifter #1
Genre:
Release Date: 4/5/2021


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This werewolf will protect his mate.

Owen has one job: keep Stasia from being abducted. Easier said than done when his fiercely independent client tries to fire him the moment they meet. His werewolf senses howl to life and he's certain of one thing: Stasia is his.

She's sick of cocky men.


When her wealthy father hires a bodyguard, Stasia says no. Not exactly a smart move after someone tried to nab her off the street. But she doesn't need a babysitter. Especially not a cheerfully overbearing bodyguard who makes her heart pound and her fantasies run wild.

When Stasia is yanked out of her glittering world and into Owen's she'll need to grapple with an impossible new reality that includes werewolves, silver bullets, and fated mates.

Is she ready to embrace her new world? Or will she run back to a universe of glittering high rises and leave her destiny behind?

Step into the world of Guarded by the Shifter where a team of ex-military bodyguards are also werewolves and fated mates are just one job away.


Also in this series: More by Kate Rudolph: Find more books

Chapter One

Stasia wanted to curse the strength of her cell signal. She hadn't spoken to her father in nearly a year and now he wouldn't stop talking. Where was a dropped call when she needed it?
"Are you there?" he asked for the second time.
She glanced at the nearby entrance to the subway and contemplated running down the stairs. She doubted even that would save her. "I'm here," she confirmed.
"Then speak when you're spoken to."
He couldn't be serious. "You asked me to come to Riley's birthday party." She had to repeat it to make sure she understood. "That would be your wife. Who's ten years younger than me." It didn't exactly grate at this point. His last wife had only been six years older than her. And then there were four others. She’d forgotten most of their names at this point.
"It's not Riley's birthday, it's Emmy's. She's turning three." She heard a sound in the background and wondered what work her father was ignoring for this inane invitation.
"I'm pretty sure Riley's kid is turning four." And she wasn't getting into the name issue. She wanted off this call, not to start a fight.
If only she was still working at the hospital. This would be the perfect moment for an emergency page.
"Emmy is your sister." Armand Selby was a stickler for the facts… when they suited him. And Emmy was Stasia's half-sister. One of her nine half-siblings.
But that didn't mean she wanted to drop everything for a toddler's birthday. "I'll have to look at my schedule. I don't know if I'll be in town." She'd known it was a mistake to move back to New York. She was way too close to family obligations that she'd rather ignore.
"You know you can arrange to use the jet if transportation is an issue." He mumbled something, and Stasia was pretty sure she was about to be handed off to an assistant to make plans. The assistants weren't nearly as easy to distract as her father. But at least she didn't feel conflicted about lying to them.
"Transportation isn't the issue." She wasn't going to use the family jet. Or one of the fleet of family cars. Or anything that came from her family's grotesque wealth if she could ignore it. She had an inheritance she already hated to touch, but at least that didn't come with strings.
Horns blared down the street and Stasia barely noticed them. Honking horns were just a part of everyday life. But the sound came towards her in a wave, as if warning of some impending doom. She looked down the road, wondering if it was an ambulance or an erratic driver. Another pedestrian bumped into her shoulder and cursed.
Stasia didn't apologize. This was New York.
But she should have kept walking.
She didn't see a car stop, but a hand clamped on her arm and started to pull her towards the road. She dropped her phone as she yelled out and spun around, ready to hit whoever was manhandling her. Her heart jumped into her throat when she saw a scarf around the man's face and dark sunglasses obscuring his eyes. A bit of dark hair peeked out from his navy blue baseball cap, but she could not have described him to save her life.
Neither could any of the thousands of witnesses around them.
They were about to see a woman abducted in broad daylight.
Like hell.
This wasn't Stasia's first rodeo. She reared back, aiming for his throat with the bony point of her elbow. She moved fast enough to jerk out of his grasp, but he flinched back and her strike didn't connect.
"Help! Call the cops!" Stasia called out as the man got a hold of her again. She used her best ER voice, the one she'd learned from the veteran nurses who could make anyone follow an order. And she didn't panic. Panic got a person killed.
The man got a good grip and started pulling her towards a dark car with tinted windows that had appeared at the side of the road. Distantly she wondered if that was who had caused all the cars to honk, but she wasn't about to dwell.
She went limp, dead weight against the man, refusing to be a participant in her abduction. That wasn't something she'd learned in an ER, but rather something one of her bodyguards had instructed her to do as a child.
Stasia looked around, trying to get a better idea of what was happening, who was witnessing it, and who was trying to abduct her. A blonde woman stood wide-eyed with her phone out, getting video of the whole thing.
Video wouldn't do Stasia much good if she got stuffed into the trunk of a car.
"You," she couldn't point, but she made eye contact with the woman, "Call the police! Now!" That was the last thing she could say before her abductor clamped a hand over her mouth.
Stasia tried to bite down on his palm but she didn't have the leverage. She went limp again and winced as her ankle twisted against the hard concrete, but it forced her captor to stumble.
"Let go of her!" a man in a Knicks jersey yelled, shoving his way forward. Stasia managed another glance around and saw they'd drawn another crowd, something not too hard to do on a busy New York street.
So why was someone snatching her here?
She'd worry about that later.
"Let her go!" A young woman with bright purple hair who was wearing a torn jean jacket joined the fray. It only took a minute for the scene to descend into a mob, and Stasia was yanked away from the man. Three or four people surrounded her would-be captor, but he drove his shoulder into the guy wearing the jersey and scuttled back until he was close to the car. A door opened and he dove in as the car drove away.
"Are you okay?" the woman with purple hair asked. She stooped down and held out Stasia's phone. "This yours?"
Stasia's arms were starting to shake and her teeth chattered. Shock. She knew it, but that did nothing to make it go away when she was right in the thick of it. "I'm fine," she managed to say around trembling lips.
"You don't look fine. What did that guy want with you? I've never seen something like that before." The girl shuddered.
Stasia laughed. She knew it wasn't the right response, just another case of neurons misfiring due to trauma. But laughing was better than crying. "I have." And she knew exactly what that guy wanted with her.
Ransom.
Her father's money.
It always came down to that.
For all the privilege that came with wealth, it wasn't always safe to be the daughter of a billionaire.
She looked down at her phone and was surprised to see the screen wasn't cracked. That was truly a miracle. There were a dozen notifications from her father, demanding to know what was going on. Stasia was tempted to leave him hanging. But someone in the crowd around her was bound to post video of the event to social media and the news would be better coming from her. She pulled up her texting app. She didn't think she could manage a conversation with Armand Selby right now.
Attempted kidnapping. Crowd fought attacker off. Bound to be video on social media. Must speak to police shortly. Will contact you for damage control.
There. That covered it. And her fingers were barely shaking anymore. A moment later her phone pinged with the response.
Sending lawyer to you. Remain quiet until you have counsel.
She didn't send anything back. She didn't need to. Another daughter might have chafed at the fact that her father hadn't checked to see if she was alright. Another woman might have been upset that her father instructed her to wait for a lawyer like she was a child. But she'd learned a long time ago that there was no use in getting angry.
The purple haired woman put a hand on Stasia's shoulder and she flinched away.
"Sorry," said the woman. "I'm Vi. I see a couple of cops coming our way. Do you want me to distract them?"
Stasia took a closer look at Vi. She was young, probably under twenty-five, but there was a hardness to her eyes that only came from being hurt by people you trusted. And here she was trying to help a stranger. She gave off a forbidding enough aura that most of the crowd was keeping back from the two of them. If Stasia was just a bit more jaded, she would think Vi was in on the attack. But her instincts were telling her to trust the girl. "No need. I've got backup incoming." She held up her phone and gave it a little shake.
Two uniformed officers were breaking up the crowd and Stasia braced herself.
"Ma'am," said the first cop. He and his partner looked basically the same and there was no way she was going to remember them. She glanced at the nametags and saw one was named Smith and the other Jones. Lovely. "We had a call come in."
"Someone attempted to kidnap me," she confirmed. Her voice was steadier now and her hands weren't shaking. Good. Cops didn't like crying women. "You're going to want to call your sergeant before the media circus starts."
"Media circus?" Officer Jones was skeptical. "This is New York, ma'am. Now we need to take your statement."
"My name is Stasia Nichols. My father is Armand Selby, the third richest man in New York. And I won't be saying anything else until my lawyer joins us. Now, shall we speak at the station? Or would you like to wait for the news vans to show up?"