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Kodiak: A Rough Shifter Romance by Delta James – Sample

Chapter One

Two years previously

Alex Kingston hated his life at the moment. Two weeks ago, he’d drawn the short straw and had been forced to be the representative of their park ranger unit at the mandatory annual conference in Seattle.

“I swear I’ll pay anybody a thousand dollars to go instead of me,” he’d offered.

His fellow rangers had all laughed; Alex hadn’t been amused.

“Seriously, King, it won’t be that bad,” one of the others had offered. “You could have fun.”

“I’d rather have a root canal,” Alex had growled. “Two thousand.”

“No way, you dodged the bullet last time. It’s your turn.”

“Shit,” he snarled. “I hope a group of hippy protestors come up and stage a sit-in and the lot of you have to freeze your butts off babysitting them.”

He’d stalked out of the park ranger station, gone home, packed, and was now walking the rain-drenched sidewalks of Seattle. He hated the lower forty-eight in general, but it was mating season on Shuyak. The need to find a willing female to breed had only been inflamed by the allure of the beautiful women of the city who favored fashion over practicality. The conference had concluded today. He had separated off from the other rangers in order to take care of his need. Although he knew he wouldn’t find one of his kind to rut with, mounting a woman from behind and fucking her aggressively would at least assuage the profound instinct that was threatening to overwhelm him.

He could hear the loud and lively Irish band playing music as it blared out onto the city streets each time the door opened. He entered the pub and allowed his eyes to adjust to the muted darkness. Listening to the band playing, he recognized several songs from his twin brother’s collection of CDs.

King headed over to the bar and positioned himself where he could see both the band and the rest of the pub easily. The two bartenders were busy, efficient, and friendly. They were close by, mixing drinks and drawing drafts when a tall, curvaceous, mahogany-haired beauty walked in. She was wearing rust-colored riding breeches tucked into high, black riding boots with a billowy white silk shirt that hung loosely past her ass.

“Here comes trouble,” one of the bartenders said, chuckling lustily.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind getting a taste of that,” responded the other.

King smiled as he felt his dormant cock come to life and throb. If things went as he planned, the bartender would have to wait his turn; Trouble would be occupied for the night. If she didn’t live close by, he had spotted several spots in the alley and in the adjacent park that could suffice for what he had in mind… at least to start. After things had quieted down in the hotel, he could smuggle her in and use her hard until morning, before calling her a cab and returning home to Alaska. She sidled up to the bar, her ass grazing the front of his jeans.

“What’ll it be, Flynn?” asked the bartender who was going to be disappointed.

So, Trouble had a name. Flynn. Interesting that this woman—whose figure so screamed breedable female that even a loose-fitting shirt couldn’t hide it—had a strong, masculine name.

Smiling, she replied, “The usual.”

The man smiled and produced a bottle from underneath the bar—McCallan’s fifty-year-old single malt. The woman had expensive tastes. No matter, he had no intention of courting her with flowers or anything else. He watched as she took a long, slow sip of the liquor, giving the slightest shiver as it invaded and warmed her body. He sniffed the air discreetly and picked up the slightest whiff of her arousal. He had no doubt Flynn had come searching for someone to have sex with. Fortunately for her, he was more than willing and able to accommodate her.

King straightened to his full height, peering over her shoulder, and treating himself to a good look down the front of her shirt. His eyes grazed her body. She had long, powerful legs and a well-defined feminine figure—large breasts, a small waist, and hips that could accommodate a man between them. The silk shirt wafting just past her bottom cupped it almost like a lover’s caress. Had she been his woman, the way she was dressed to visit a bar on her own would have provoked not a loving touch, but a harsh spanking, followed by a rough fucking. King’s cock continued to throb while his hand itched to spank her hard.

He inhaled more deeply. Her scent was an intoxicating mixture of the perfume she wore, combined with the slightest whiff of horses, fresh hay, and good leather. He erased what little distance was left between them as they lounged against the bar railing in the crowded room. He pressed the front of his jeans against her backside, allowing her to feel his need. Whether by instinct or design, Flynn settled back against him. Glancing back over her shoulder, she smiled, seeming to like what she saw.

They stood without speaking, enjoying the music and their whiskey. King switched his drink to the hand that was furthest from the bar, placing the other on her hip where it would be next to impossible to see. She made no move to dislodge his hand or indicate its presence wasn’t welcome, saying nothing and not moving away. His hand slipped down to the back of her leg and returned to cup her ass as the rhythmic music played on. She snuggled back into him, shivering again, and giving a small sigh of pleasure. Slipping his hand around the front of her hip, he cupped her mons before dipping his hand between her legs and securing her body against his. Her head dropped back to rest against his muscular chest, allowing his hard staff to separate her butt cheeks even through their clothes. She slid her hand down to cover his.

From his greater height, King had an even better look down the front of her shirt, allowing him to see the swell of her breasts as they peeked out of what appeared to be a lilac lace corset. King’s erection continued to harden as he imaged all that the corset didn’t reveal, and the pleasure he would take in unlacing it, but not before he’d spanked the luxurious bottom that was pressed firmly against him and spread her legs to sink his length into her pussy.

Flynn said nothing but continued to sip her scotch slowly.

King slid his hand from where it had been resting at the apex of her legs up under her shirt, stopping at the waistband of her breeches. The band played on with the audience clapping and singing enthusiastically. When she didn’t move away, he unfastened the snap and lowered the zipper, slipping his hand inside and running it back down through the silky curls he found there. Flynn stifled a moan but parted her thighs, giving him greater access.

His finger found the swollen nub that lay just beyond, and he stroked it gently. Her reply to the unasked question was to rub against him sensually. Grinning, King’s caress grew bolder as his fingers parted her lower lips and delved for the entrance to her core. The feel of her buttocks nestled against his engorged member was the most exquisite torture. One finger and then a second, penetrated her wet heat. He leaned forward and growled low in her ear. She moaned and leaned harder against him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two bartenders and knew they were well aware of his actions.

Flynn’s breath quickened; the diamond shards of her nipples pressed against the corset and his arm that was wrapped over her shoulder. She chewed on her lip to try and silence the small whimpers that threatened to escape as her body raced towards an impending climax. Her pussy pulsed around his fingers and her muscles stiffened in anticipation. King plunged his fingers into her more rapidly and watched as she reached the apex of the climb to full release and then withdrew, not allowing her to achieve it.

Bringing his hand back into view he licked his fingers as her eyes widened and nostrils flared in both arousal and frustration. She tried to move away from him, but he caught her about the waist and pulled her back into the cradle of his pelvis, ensuring she could feel his need. When she tried to reach under her shirt to close the opening of her breeches, he growled again, but this time in warning and not desire.

“What I unfasten stays that way until I tell you otherwise,” he whispered in her ear.

“Says who?” she mocked him, trying to move away.

This time instead of locking her against him by the waist, he dropped his arm over her shoulder so that it lay between the valley of her breasts and once again cupped her mons possessively. The scent of her assailed him and the pounding of his cock intensified. Turning her around to face him, his head descended, his lips locking with hers in a kiss that promised both passion and strength.

Tossing a fifty-dollar bill on the bar, he asked, “Do you have a private office?”

The bartender who had first called her trouble nodded and pointed to an exit to the left of the bar. Wrapping his arm around her, King propelled Flynn out of the cacophony of sound that was the central bar, through the door, down the hall and into the small office that was filled mostly with a large desk. King smiled. It would do nicely.

“Hey, I don’t know what you think is going to happen…” she started.

King said nothing, spinning her around and forcing her over the edge of the desk. She was human and as his mate—the thought that she was his mate came unbidden—she would need to learn to submit to him and those lessons started now.

He spun the belief that Flynn was his mate around in his mind, like one would swirl a fine whiskey in a heavy, crystal glass before consuming it, and found the idea intoxicating and comforting at the same time. It seemed that the reason he’d been unable to find his mate before now was that she’d been in Seattle and not at home in Alaska.

He flipped her shirttail up, stripped her breeches down to her knees, exposing her perfect, ivory buttocks. The idea of being able to rut with this female was almost irresistible. The image of watching his cock thrusting in and out as his hips butted her punished backside caused it to become painfully hard. King knew in this position the firm texture of her buttocks would bounce nicely with every swat. Their beautiful pale color would pinken and then deepen to red as he punished her, taught her to yield, and that her place was either beneath him on her back or in front of him on her knees. He longed to suckle her tits, alternately nipping, sucking, and laving his tongue across their turgid peaks.

Before she could speak again, he brought his hand down on her left cheek hard enough for color to bloom and to leave a handprint. King landed another harsh blow to her other cheek, before beginning to rhythmically tattoo her entire backside with enough force that he heard her catch her breath. If she thought she would stoically endure his treatment, she had another thought coming. His kind did not mate quietly or gently, there was always a primal energy that drove it, often bordering on violence. When she tried to get up, he forced her back into place, pinning her down by the neck.

“That’s enough,” she hissed as he continued to deliver what he was sure was a long overdue spanking.

He made a sound that contained elements of both a growl and a roar. King rained hard slaps down on her buttocks. Flynn squirmed and tried to get away, but he held her fast and continued to punish her now blushing globes. She fought him in earnest, but she was no match for his size, strength, and determination. When she finally acquiesced to his control, chewing on her lower lip to keep from crying out, he ceased his torment and trailed his finger in the cleft of her bottom until he reached her dark rosebud. She struggled again and tried to rise, but he had her trapped. He removed his hand and delivered a series of stinging blows, causing her to yowl.

King placed his hand between her thighs, pinching the sensitive skin when she didn’t soften to his touch and open her legs. He scented the air, smiling as the perfume of her increased arousal swirled all around him. He slid his hand between her legs. The feel of her slickened outer lips caused the throbbing of his cock to increase. He meant to fuck her hard and leave her spent, sated, and chastised. Then he would take her home and finish the rut in his bed. He shoved two fingers up into her cunt, plunging them in and out causing her to writhe on the desk.

When he moved from her side to directly behind her and kicked her legs as far apart as they could go, she protested and was rewarded with another hard swat to what he was sure was a very painful bottom. He continued to grasp her neck to hold her in place. He used his other hand to unbutton his jeans, freeing his cock and preparing to mount her from behind. The hand from her neck moved to the top of her shoulder, as he grasped her hip with the other to keep her from moving out of position for his possession. He groaned as he sank to her depth and felt her velvety sheath for the first time. His thrusting was powerful and confident. The pulsing that ran from the tip of his cock to the base was the most sensual anguish he’d ever endured. Her body was ratcheting up to achieve orgasm and he increased his plunging to send her over the edge. Flynn cried out and her body shook with the intensity.

“There’s my good mate,” he leaned over and whispered as he continued to stroke her heated sheath.

Her body shuddered in acutely aroused response. King increased the rhythm and pace of his thrusting, allowing her little time to recover. Her body came alight in renewed answer to his call, surrendering herself to his need. Her breathing was heavy and ragged as she thrashed beneath him, trying to get away. He held her firmly in place as he continued to pound her pussy. His cock hammered her, scraping her vaginal walls with its roughened texture. He continued his sensual domination until she climaxed again. He gave one last, hard ferocious thrust deep inside her. Flynn screamed in ecstasy, her pussy convulsing and clamping down hard as she writhed in his hold. Her sheath contracted and spasmed rhythmically, greedily milking his cock for every last drop of his seed, savoring every bit of bliss that she could from the encounter.

King withdrew from her, watching his cum dribble out of her as her pussy gaped from his hard use. The rut had him within its thrall and all he wanted was to get her naked and on her back so he could start again. When he fucked her hard enough and long enough to take the edge off, he would take her home and teach her the ways of his clan.

He spanked her swollen labia, pussy, and clit and she cried out.

“I’m going to get a cab. You’ll stay here until I come for you and then we’ll head to your place.” He stroked her very red backside thoughtfully. “Before I’m done, your pussy will be far more sore than your ass. You will learn from the get-go to submit to me.” He fingered her bottom hole a second time and she squirmed, causing him to swat each cheek and between her legs again. “I’ll take that hole and your mouth in due time, but for now, your cunt will be well used.”

He hitched up his jeans, rebuttoned them, and headed into the alley, walking towards the street to hail a taxi.

Flynn lay there, stunned and spent. True, she had come into the bar looking to get laid, but what she had just experienced had not been on her agenda. It had gone far beyond casual sex. Her nipples were still painfully hard, pressing against the confines of her corset. His cum was dripping down the inside of her thigh and she knew her pussy and ass would be feeling the effects of his use for days if not a week or more.

She shook her head, trying to break whatever spell he had woven around her. How the hell had she allowed this to happen? She should have said no when his hand had rested on her hip, swatted his hand away when he’d cupped the juncture of her thighs the first time. She blushed remembering the way she had wantonly rubbed against him as he’d fingered her in the crowded bar and when lust had surged through her system as he’d pinned her down and spanked her before mounting her like a bitch in heat.

And now, he’d gone for a cab with the express intent of taking her back to her place and repeating the whole thing. There might be nothing she could do about what she had allowed to happen, with little more than a token protest, but she could damn well ensure it never happened again. She knew Randy and Lyle, the bartenders, would never give the guy any information about her. She wished he’d gone back through the bar, but he hadn’t.

She straightened her clothing, opened the door to the office and quickly exited the bar, pushing and shoving her way through the throng. She found her car and pulled out of the parking lot, spying the man who’d fucked her as he came out the front door and seemed to roar at the moon.

Flynn took a circuitous route home, ensuring she hadn’t been followed, until she reached the marina where she kept her houseboat. She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until she closed and locked the door behind her. Shaking herself, she headed to her cabin to take a shower and crawled into bed.

Chapter Two

Present day

The jarring notes of her phone interrupted her exhausted slumber.

“Flynn Montgomery. If this isn’t life or death, fuck off and die,” she growled into the phone.

“Jesus, Flynn good to talk to you too,” laughed her brother.

Flynn sighed, “Seriously, Ben. You’d better have a monumentally good reason to be waking me up at this hour. I just got back from New Zealand…” she glanced at her phone to see the time, “Arrgghh, three hours ago.”

“Good. Then you’ve had some sleep. Do you know who Henry Koto is?”

“Of Koto Development?”

Koto Development was one of the largest development firms in the world with services that included architectural, engineering, and construction. Having been founded in the Pacific Northwest by Julian Koto, the old man had achieved regional prominence before retiring and leaving the firm to his three sons. Henry was the oldest and had led the firm to global domination in their field with projects in Japan, Dubai, the UAE, and all across Europe.

“One and the same. He fancies himself something of an artistic photographer. One of the galleries in Pike Place Market is giving him a show…”

“I wonder how much that cost him?” Flynn said with a smile.

“Don’t know; don’t care. His proposed show is wildlife stills of the mammals unique to the Pacific Northwest. He’s already got wolves, otters, and several others. What he wants now are caribou and Kodiaks and he wants Daredevil Adventures to help him get them. He wants to photograph them in their natural environment.”

“Does he know how stupid that is? Especially at this time of year? The caribou are bad enough, but Kodiaks? Bad idea.”

“He knows and doesn’t care. I tried explaining that to him, but he’s willing to pay us a lot of money…and I do mean a lot. Like you could pay off your student loans a lot.”

“Why don’t you take him?” Flynn grumbled.

“Because,” he said in a mocking, upper-crust tone, “he wants the youngest professor ever to achieve tenure at U of W to take him.”

“Henry Koto knows who I am?”

“Yep. He quoted several of your articles. In particular, he liked the one you did on paleobiology regarding Kodiaks being the possible source of the Sasquatch legends. But you can talk to him when we meet with him.”

Flynn sighed. She loved her brother with all of her heart, and his business, Daredevil Adventures, was just starting to take off. He had garnered a reputation for providing exciting, sometimes high-risk, sojourns into remote places to do unconventional things. Ben was an all-around outdoorsman and an ex-SEAL who worked as a guide for anything oceanic. He often tapped Flynn as a guide between her obligations to the university. She had become highly sought after in both roles. Her work in paleobiology and arctic studies allowed her to combine legend, myth, and fact into a fascinating narrative.

“I suppose I could come in tomorrow,” she said reluctantly.

“Ah… yeah… well… he wants to meet with us this morning at ten. He’s sending his car for you at nine.”

“Ben!” she cried in exasperation. “I’m exhausted.”

“Did the Stevensons give you a rough time?”

“No, they were great. They always are. But trekking in the wilderness in New Zealand isn’t exactly a walk down First Avenue and the flight home was twenty-two and a half hours. I look like something the cat dragged in.”

“Use more make-up. Please, Flynn? I’m serious. This is really important to him. Kodiaks are hard to capture on film close up…”

“Because they’re territorial and aggressive. There are a lot of cautionary tales about trying.”

“Thus, why he wants to do it and to hire us. Who better than a renowned expert on Kodiaks with an unparalleled reputation as a back-country guide? Then you add in a bunch of doctorates behind her name and the notoriety of finding the fossilized baculum of a polar bear and selling it for twenty-five thousand dollars to a private collector?”

“I really do hate you,” Flynn grumbled, throwing back the covers and sitting up on the edge of the bed.

“I know, but I’m still your favorite brother…”

“You’re my only brother, butthead.”

“See you in the car. He’s picking me up after you. You have to admit it, a client that sends a limo for you…”

“So, he doesn’t have to be bothered fighting Seattle traffic…”

“Flynn, promise me you’ll play nice.”

“On three hours’ sleep? I’m not promising you anything. See you later.”

She ended the call, stared at the phone for a moment and shook her head. Even if he wasn’t her only brother, she was sure he’d be her favorite. They’d always been close, but when their parents were both killed trying to summit Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, Ben had left college and become a longshoreman in order to convince the authorities that he could be her guardian. He’d given up his dream of becoming a marine biologist. How could she not support him in making his company a success?

Flynn jumped in the bath and closed her eyes, allowing the rainfall showerhead to beat down on her. She could feel her desire awakening. It had been way too long since she’d found any sexual release—at her own hand, not to mention with a man. As usual when she was alone and tired and stressed, the unbidden memory from two years ago came calling. Why was it that it was always him? Always that incident at the bar she had never returned to. Why did that particular memory have such a hold on her? To this day, reliving that encounter had the power to completely enrapture her in the feelings and sensations she had experienced. She could still feel his hand crashing down on her rump repeatedly, still feel his fingers thrusting in and out of her before being replaced by his hard cock as it hammered her pussy.

I don’t have time for that, she thought adjusting the water from hot to cold. Her body retaliated by squelching any and all need for anything other than a warm towel.

Drawing back her dark, mahogany hair, she pulled on leggings, a hand-knit sweater from a trip to Peru the previous year, and cowboy boots. Native American earrings and necklace completed her outfit and grabbing her shearling jacket, she hopped off her houseboat before running up to the top of the locked gate. The liveried driver was waiting.

“Dr. Montgomery?”

“Yes, good morning.”

The poker-faced driver helped her into the car, closing the door behind her. Flynn had to admit she was impressed. It wasn’t the usual SUV turned limo; no, this was a vintage Rolls Royce. Ben should get a kick out of this, she thought as the driver negotiated the Seattle streets from the marina where she kept her floating home moored to Ben’s trendy loft on the waterfront. She smiled. The twenty-five grand she’d received for the sale of the fossilized penile bone had completed the amount Ben had needed for the down payment on his place. He had been worried he might lose it, but her gift ensured he was able to purchase his home.

The Rolls pulled up in front of Ben’s building. He came out in what was generally considered the uniform of entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest—designer jeans, designer sweater, leather bomber jacket, and expensive boots of some kind or another.

“Looking good, sister mine,” he said as he slid in next to her. “Isn’t this car gorgeous? I knew Henry Koto had one. I hoped he’d send it for us.”

She shook her head, “Boys and their toys…”

“Expensive toy.”

“When you’re the best, you get all the goodies and trappings that come with success.”

“I know, I’m working on it,” he said with a grin.

Ben was a hard worker. He had been busting his butt since their parents had died. First to make sure she was provided for and had a great education and then to make a success of what had once been their parents’ dream for a family-owned adventure business. Once Flynn had entered college, Ben had joined the Navy and become a SEAL. When he had ended his term of service, he’d gone to work as a marine salvage diver, while starting and making Daredevil Adventures the most sought-after adventure company in the world. They had started small, but each year, Ben garnered a bigger share of the market.

They pulled up in front of the Koto Building and Ben jumped out, extending his hand to Flynn, before the driver could get out.

“No sense in you getting wet,” he said holding his upturned hand to the sky to catch the rain in his palm.

He and Flynn headed into the building.

“Mister and Doctor Montgomery? I’m Cheri Atkins, Mr. Koto’s executive assistant. This way, if you please,” a cool, patrician blonde said, turning towards a bank of elevators.

They followed her into the glass elevator and Ben reached for her hand. He was probably the only person in the world who knew how terrified she was of the contraption. She could hang off a cliff, secured only by a piton at fifteen thousand feet as though she was climbing up the steps to her favorite restaurant, but glass elevators scared her to death.

The elevator was mercifully fast, and they reached their destination quickly, the doors opening with a smooth swoosh. Executive Assistant Atkins exited, turning towards what Flynn assumed was Henry Koto’s office without another word or so much as looking back over her shoulder.

Ben whispered, “It’s almost like we are well-trained Poodles and she told us to heel.”

Flynn laughed. “No, wrong hair. You look more like a Portuguese Water Dog and I look like a half-drowned Cocker Spaniel.”

They were ushered into an enormous corner conference room that was all glass on two sides. Despite the dreary Seattle day, it was overly warm. Naturally, the great man wasn’t there. This was all a part of the corporate culture; the lesser mortals were kept waiting for those of more importance. Both she and Ben went to the edge of the room to take advantage of the commanding view.

“Dr. Montgomery, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Henry Koto said in a cultured and surprisingly pleasant voice. There was something off-putting about the Koto brothers—not so much their physical looks, but in the way they moved and looked at you as if sizing up whether or not you were worthy of their notice. Most women did not measure up in their eyes and Flynn realized she was no exception when he ignored her proffered hand. “Ben?” he said extending his hand to her brother. “Good to see you again. My brother absolutely raved about the trip he took with you to the Great Barrier Reef.”

Ben smiled. “That was a great deal of fun. If I ever find the right girl and settle down, I hope I have a friend like Michael to throw me a destination bachelor party. All five of them seemed to enjoy themselves.”

“So much so that we are planning a staff retreat for our executive officers. Cheri is putting together the details. Would you mind terribly if I fobbed you off on her to start planning that? I’m sure your sister can handle any questions I might have.”

Knowing that landing Koto Development as a corporate client would be a huge feather in Daredevil Adventures’ cap, Flynn said, “What an excellent idea. Multi-tasking at its best.”

“You don’t mind?” Ben asked Flynn.

“Not at all,” she replied, spotting the executive assistant waiting just out of direct sight.

The blonde woman opened the conference room door and ushered Ben out.

“I do hope you don’t mind and won’t be uncomfortable meeting with me alone. I promise to be on my best behavior.”

Flynn turned away from the view and leaned back against the window. “I don’t mind at all. If I couldn’t handle a billionaire in a business suit, I’d have no business guiding anyone in the wilderness… much less said billionaire.”

“Touché and my apologies. In this day and age, I fear I have to be sensitive to anything that could be labeled harassment…”

“Let me assure you, Henry, if you harass me, you won’t end up talking to my lawyer. It’ll be the business end of my bowie knife,” Flynn answered in a lighthearted tone of voice, but they both knew she was deadly serious.

If she was going to take this guy up into the wilds of Alaska, best he learned from the get-go who was in charge… and that it wasn’t him. Henry Koto nodded his head in acknowledgement.

“I assume your brother told you about my upcoming show,” said Koto. “The pièce de résistance will be an up-close picture of a Kodiak, without the use of a telephoto lens.”

“I’m afraid the only kind of cameras I know anything about are point and shoot. What difference does it make which one you use?”

“There’s a difference in the quality of the end result and I would really like the exhibit to be more than just a vanity project.”

Flynn was impressed. Henry Koto seemed sincere in his desire to deliver a product worthy of exhibiting in a well-known Seattle art gallery.

“The problem is that this is mating season. Kodiaks on their best days are temperamental, but add in hormones and breeding drive and the situation gets a lot more complicated and dangerous.”

“You see? This is why I want you as my guide. Your in-depth knowledge of the species will be integral to my success.”

“Henry, anyone with an internet connection can tell you when mating season is. It may well be impossible to get a pass into any of the parks.”

“I don’t just want any of the parks, I want to go to Shuyak Island.”

“Shuyak? Why? It’s probably the remotest and because of its size and its Kodiak population the most dangerous.”

“I thought it had a small population of bears.”

Flynn nodded. “It does and they compete for everything as resources are more scarce. You’d need to use extreme caution and avoid any kind of surprise encounter. Kodiaks aren’t warm, cuddly teddy bears. They are the largest and arguably the most fierce.”

“Polar bears…”

“Aren’t sweet cartoon characters either. But pound for pound, I’d rather go up against a polar bear than a Kodiak. That being said, we can probably make it safe enough if we stick to Kodiak Island.”

“No, I have my heart set on Shuyak.”

“I’m afraid this may be a case of you not getting what you want.”

Henry Koto turned away and took two steps before turning back around. “Are you saying you will only agree to be my guide if I agree to go to Kodiak?”

“In essence, yes. But if you aren’t going to listen to my recommendations, then perhaps you should hire a different guide.”

“No, that won’t be necessary. I would prefer to avail myself of your expertise. Would it be possible for us to leave the day after tomorrow?”

Taking a deep breath, Flynn nodded. This was too easy. Men like Henry Koto didn’t easily accept no for an answer. “I assume you and my brother came to terms?”

He nodded in the affirmative.

“Then,” she continued, “we’ll make arrangements to fly us up to Kodiak. I’ll email you a list of what personal items you’ll need to bring. Will it just be you and me?”

“Yes, unless that would make you uncomfortable.”

“I find my bowie knife to be an excellent companion,” she said smiling. “Then we’ll make flight arrangements to get us to the island.”

“Let me. We have very experienced pilots and private planes are so much easier and nicer than commercial jets. I can have my driver pick you up at… say the same time day after tomorrow?”

“That will work, Henry,” she said, extending her hand. This time he took it.

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