Dear Santa Anthology
An Angel’s Wings
Prequel, Sins of Wolves: The Safe Mountain Series
Written by Marc Alice & Destiny Blaine
Available now at all third party retail sites or by ordering through Dark Hollows Press
“It’s been at least two dozen years since I first heard about the black dog myth. Maybe I didn’t want to believe in tall tales, or perhaps I was afraid the blasted dog represented that perpetual doom others spoke about when they met their final fates or barely missed their own deaths.” Jack Hanson clenched his fists and watched a bear of a man drag his only daughter down the front steps of their modern two-story home. “Whatever my reasons for ignoring the underlying truths represented by some imaginary hound, I sure can’t deny what that damn dog represented now.”
“Don’t do this to yourself, Jack.” Martha, Jack’s wife of twenty years, squeezed his bicep. “You can’t survive this if you blame yourself.”
Jack remained stoic, remembering a recent night when his eighteen-wheeler went sideways on a curvy mountain road. “I’d heard countless stories, enough to know there had to be a little truth in there somewhere, but until I stared into the red, glowing eyes of a frightening beast that could’ve easily been called the devil’s dog, I didn’t know despair, but I knew heartache was coming.”
“We mean your daughter no harm, Mr. Hanson. We’re here to save her life.”
Jack slowly turned and glared at the motorcycle club’s president. The fellow didn’t necessarily look mean, but his physical attributes and the way he carried himself made Jack believe he could hold his own if trouble happened to look for him and find him.
“If I’d known somebody like you would show up on my door and take away my little girl, you can bet that last dollar in your pocket, I wouldn’t have come home. I would’ve thrown up my hands and just let the highway have me.”
“Jack, I know this is difficult for you, but we’re old friends. If I didn’t think these boys could keep our daughters safe, I wouldn’t have come here for yours after giving them mine.” Sheriff Wyatt Marshall nodded at the guys in leather and they exited the Hanson home without another word.
Jack narrowed his gaze on the cold glass once again, watching as four bikers met another eight more at the end of his driveway. “You gave ‘em one daughter. You plannin’ to give ‘em another?” When Sheriff Marshall didn’t answer, Jack wheeled around and faced him. “Answer me. Will you give ‘em Natasha when the time comes?”
Everyone in Sevier County knew Wyatt and his wife cherished their daughters, but the middle one had somehow managed to wrap the tough-talking Sheriff around her little finger. Jack could relate there. Romy Nichole had been his reason for staying on course and pushing his truck to the limits. Once he’d left the Midwestern snowstorm in his rearview mirror, he’d thrown the hammer down. “I was trying to get home in time for Christmas. In spite of the weather, I kept right on truckin’, just hopin’ the blizzard would stay at my back and enough sunshine would peer through those clouds to melt the ice off the highway.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Jack,” Wyatt said, putting his hat atop his head and turning to leave.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jack stalked him. “You’re sorry for my loss. What aren’t you tellin’ me? You sayin’ I’ll never see Romy again?”
Sheriff Marshall’s lips set in a grim line. He bowed his head as if he were about to pray.
“No.” Jack shook his head and backed away from the Sheriff as if he were the plague. “No, I won’t accept that.” He grabbed his coat off a nearby hook, slung it behind his back, and stuffed his arms in the sleeves. Before he exited the house, he pointed his finger at the only law and order left in Sevier County. “You can accept your daughter’s fate and whatever those hoodlums tell you, but I won’t let the MC have Romy for keeps. It just ain’t going to happen. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you, Jack,” the Sheriff said with far too much pity in his voice. “And I understand how you feel. You think I wanted to give up my first-born?” He followed Jack outside. “Do you?”
“I don’t know what you wanted, Wyatt, but I know what I don’t. I don’t want to lose my only child.”
“This world is changing, Jack. The morals we taught and coveted in our Southern families are the very principles that will cost our daughters their lives. We teach our young women to stand by their ethics and to hold their heads high and for what, Jack? Hmm? You tell me why mothers still teach their daughters to hold out for marriage when those ethical values will now have them kidnapped from their homes, forced into slavery, and transported across the sea to God only knows what?”
Angry as hell, Jack trod through a snowdrift before reaching his plowed driveway. His anger turned to pure rage as he became aware of the droning in the distance, the rumbling of snowmobiles as they roared across the mountain roads. He spun around, feeling hopeless as he acknowledged his failures as a father, the icy chill in the air slapping at his face with more force than a physical strike.
He fell to his knees. His spirit was broken, his heart forever wounded. The MC had taken his daughter and he not only stood by and let them have her, but he thrust her into the arms of a stranger, a man who promised she would be safe, loved, and protected.
In that moment, he noticed a peculiar pattern in the snow. For every pair of snowmobile tracks, a set of paws followed behind. Jack crawled forward a few feet, dragging his hands in the snow just to be sure he wasn’t hallucinating.
Well defined, each set of prints had a wide base shaped like a chocolate candy kiss. An inch or so above the sloping mound, four teardrops with unambiguous sharp points indented the ground.
Jack scoured the area as far as the eye could see. The solid white earth stretched before him with more tracks and prints. He slapped his hand next to what soon became his sample, using his fingers to predict measurements.
“Jack, what is it?” Martha called out to him from their porch, but he didn’t have the heart to tell her of his suspicions.
His vision blurred. His eyes throbbed. It was like a drummer boy stood over him, beating his head like a worn-out drum. The noise became louder instead of softer as the vehicles raced down the mountain, drowning out that dull beat now pulsing in his ears.
Jack ran his fingers around the embedded paw shape, about twice the size of his hand. He rose to his feet and followed the trail, expecting to see a clear path straight into the forest. Instead, he stared out over an open field of freshly fallen snow.
His uncertainties left him to wonder about his child’s bleak future. Had he protected his only daughter or had he thrown Romy to the wolves, to a pack of dogs just waiting to strip away her innocence, maybe even her life?
His daughter had slipped away with renegades, maybe even outright rogues. Now, she was out there somewhere, riding with bikers, with men who were considered dangerous. These men stood against the new laws and order of a country shaped by indecision and scandal. They were thought of as defectors and traitors, yet Jack had entrusted his daughter’s life with them because the alternative guaranteed death and destruction wrought with horror and unknowns.
Sure, Romy faced an undetermined destiny, but given the alternative, she at least had hope. Under the cover of a dark, black night, Romy was headed for Safe Mountain, a legendary protective haven for innocent young women.
As a father, Jack prayed the place would live up to its name.