Story Excerpt
Stalking My Mate

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I stayed to the shadows created by the setting sun on the trees. Soon, it would be dark, but right now there was enough light left in the night sky that I knew I'd be spotted if someone looked hard enough. Avoiding detection at the moment was second on my list of things to do.

Observing my prey was at the very top.

I knew I wouldn't have long to wait. I'd watched long enough to know that my target always came out to play for an hour every morning and then again every evening, right before sunset. I knew if I waited long enough, I'd see him.

And seeing him was what I needed to do. It was the only thing keeping me grounded to the planet. Without these small glimpses in time, I'd simply cease to exist.

My breath caught when the door opened. Man and child spilled out, followed quickly by two armed guards. I leaned forward, watching every move, ever gesture as they tossed a ball back and forth. 

My heartbeat quickened when I heard the child's laughter and the man smiled. I doubted there was a more joyful sound in all the world, or a more beautiful sight than the man's smile. Both made my heart ache.

I watched until one of the guards stepped forward and said something. The man jolted, fear flashing across his face for just a moment before it was gone, replaced by a mask of indifference as he gathered up the child and headed inside.

I growled low in the back of my throat. Razor sharp claws shot from the tips of my fingers. The need to attack and tear the guard apart rode me hard. Only knowing that making my presence known was the worst possible thing I could do kept me to the shadows.

I watched for a few more minutes before backing farther into the shadows then turning and making my way back to my car. I hated to leave, but I had no other choice. Soon, the night patrols would start and I couldn't be caught.

I had stayed in human form simply because I was in foreign territory, forbidden territory. If I was scented in my panther form, it would bring attention down on my head I didn't need.

Once in my car, which was far enough away and hidden deep enough in the forest, that it was doubtful I'd be spotted by anyone, I headed for panther headquarters. I wouldn't be able to come back for another week. As much as that saddened me, I knew it was for the best. If I came too many times, I'd eventually be spotted, and I couldn't allow that. The danger was ever present, both to myself and to my obsession.

I was lucky in the fact that the fox skulk was located only a couple of hours from panther headquarters. I easily made the drive home, having driven it many times before. I could probably make the trip in my sleep.

Things looked pretty quiet when I pulled up in front of the mansion that doubled as panther headquarters and home for the panther assassins. I had chosen not to become one of their pride when they formed it. I wasn't ready for others to know my secret. I wasn't sure I ever would be either.

I parked my car then headed inside. It wasn't so late that everyone would be in bed, but dinner was definitely over. Hopefully, Henry had left me a plate in the fridge like he normally did. He didn't know where I went each week. Just that I was always home late every Sunday.

I paused when I got inside and stared at the others congregated in the living room. It was bittersweet to see the mated couples sitting around the room. I was happy for my friends. They deserved to find their mates.

I was envious as hell.

"Hey, Stalk," Stryker called out. "Just getting in?"

Stalker nodded.

"Come join us."

"Naw, man, I need food." I pushed away from the doorframe and headed down the hallway toward the kitchen.

"There's a plate in the fridge for you," Henry called out after me.

I smiled even though Henry couldn't see it. Henry and his amazing cooking skills had been a great boon to our household. The man could make a five course meal out of a can of spam and a wish.

I found the dish Henry had placed in the fridge for me and quickly heated it up. For a moment, I considered taking it into the living room and joining everyone else, but I knew I would hate myself if I did.

 I didn't begrudge my friends and their mates from spending time together. It was actually good for them and a way for them to make the bonds between them even stronger. It was just hard to watch when I was all alone, and would most likely remain that way.

A mate was not in my future.

I took my plate upstairs to the suite of rooms I'd been assigned when I became an assassin.

An assassin.

That was pretty much the culmination of my life. I was a hired a gun, a killer. I was given assignments by my handler and sent out to eliminate my targets. Granted, there was an aspect of the job that I enjoyed.

The hunt.