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Coyote’s River

A Tulsa Immortals Novel

A.M. Halford


Copyright © 2017 by A.M. Halford
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

ISBN: 9781370103454

Tulsa Immortals™ is trademarked by Audra Hart.

Cover Artist: Harris Channing

Editor: Avril Stepowski





Acknowledgements
I just want to thank everyone that helped me get this book done. Harris Channing made an amazing cover. Avril, you are a godsend! Thank you for helping with making this manuscript presentable. Audra, as always, thank you for letting me join this amazing world you’ve created. Finally, thank you to Audra’s A-Team beta readers, and those that came forward on their own, for helping with the beta reads. You’re all awesome.

Tulsa Immortals is a multi-author universe created by Audra Hart. For more stories in this universe check out: https://www.amazon.com/Tulsa-Immortals/e/B01MYAK1R4





Prologue


22 Years Ago…

A woman panted heavily, pain racing through her as the contractions started coming more frequently. It was too soon, there was still another month before he was ready. Slumping against the shelves in the store, she tried to relax. Her water hadn’t broken yet, but these weren’t Braxton Hicks as they were increasing in intervals.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” The tall man was wearing a green apron, meaning he was an employee at the grocery store. “Ma’am?”

“I need an ambulance,” she whimpered as another contraction came upon her. “Labor.”

“What?” The man looked pale as he took a step back.

“I said,” she took a deep breath as a particularly painful contraction hit her, “I’m going into labor and need an ambulance.”

“Ah, right,” he nodded but didn’t move.

“Oh fuck,” she gasped as her water broke. “Now!” she shouted.

Finally, the man dashed away to hopefully make that phone call. She collapsed onto the wet floor, her arms wrapping around her stomach. “Too soon, River. It’s too soon.”

Of course, the baby in her stomach wasn’t listening. It only wanted out. People had started to gather around her, an older woman kneeling at her side. She was trying to talk the mother to be through the pain. Judging by her rounded hips and the gaggle of kids behind her she knew what she was saying, but it wasn’t helping. The only thing the mother could feel was pain.

“When are you due?” the older woman asked.

“Next month,” she answered.

She could hear water swishing all around her. It was like an undercurrent to the frantic voices surrounding her. A soft, soothing sound that reminded her of River’s father.

The cry of sirens started to blend with the mixture of sounds, but the water was still present. If anything, the gentle sounds of the water had started getting louder, turning into a roar. Where was the sound coming from?

“Move aside, please,” a man demanded, parting the people surrounding the woman. “Can you stand?” he asked gently.

She tried, but her knees buckled as another contraction rose up.

“Larry, we need the gurney,” the medic shouted above the whispers, though to her it was drowned out by the raing torrent in her ears.

“Has her water broken, Jayme?” Larry asked returning with the gurney.

“Yes,” Jayme reached beneath her arms and carefully lifted her up. “What’s your name?” he asked, laying her on the uncomfortable surface.

Neasa. Neasa Vann.”

“When’s your due date Neasa?” Larry hooked up a blood pressure cup to her arm.

“Next month, May second,” Neasa answered, trying to think clearly.

The fact the baby was coming on April first was the worst kind of luck she could imagine. Maybe she could hold out until tomorrow?

“We’re going to take you to the hospital,” Jayme said. “Do you have a doctor already set up?”

Neasa nodded. She could feel the gurney moving beneath her as the two medics rolled her out of the grocery store and into the ambulance. Once in, Larry moved to the driver’s seat in the front and Jayme stayed with her in the back.

“Doctor Stewart, at Hillcrest,” she gave him her doctor’s name.

“Larry, Hillcrest,” Jayme called up to the front.

After that Neasa couldn’t make out anything else said to her. The pain and the sound of water, now great waves crashing on rocks, was too much for her. How she wished her own mother and aunts were there to help her through this. Relying on mortals to deliver her child was not ideal. Unfortunately, she’d been unable to find anyone else from her birth coven to help her with this delivery. Probably her own fault. That’s what she got for rushing and becoming pregnant so young.

Neasa! Neasa!” Jayme’s voice finally pierced the waves and Neasa looked up to him. “How old are you?”

She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. The contractions were subsiding for now, giving her a break from the pain. “I’m nineteen.”

“Where are your parents?” Jayme sounded concerned.

“Dead,” Neasa tried to hide the remorse she still felt for their loss. “Ten years now.”

“Foster parents?” Jayme frowned.

Neasa shook her head. “State lets you go as soon as you turn eighteen.”

The medic didn’t look happy, but there was nothing she could do about that.

By the time they arrived at Hillcrest her contractions had started back up, these even more intense than the last set. She wasn’t sure, but it felt like she was getting really close to actually having this baby.

Neasa, hey,” Doctor Stewart came into the room she’d been delivered to and smiled at her. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

“It’s too early,” Neasa said, panic in her voice.

“We’re going to make sure you and the baby make it through this,” the doctor assured her before he turned to direct his staff.

Neasa looked up at the ceiling. The sounds of water were coming again, this time faster. She couldn’t help but hope it meant River’s father was close. She wasn’t a fool. She knew what this child’s birth meant for that … being.

“Okay Neasa, with the next contraction I want you to push,” Doctor Stewart instructed.

As she was told, when the next contraction came up she pushed and screamed. A nurse moved to hold her hand and helped coach her through the breathing as she pushed her son out.

“You’re doing great, Neasa,” the doctor assured her. “Just a bit more.”

Neasa continued to push, her vision flickering; or maybe that was the lights? The nurse was looking around with a worried expression in her eyes. The more Neasa pushed the more exhausted she became.

“Almost there,” he said. “One more push, Neasa.”

She wasn’t sure if she had another in her.

“Come on, Neasa, one last push,” her doctor encouraged.

Calling on a reserve strength she didn’t know she had, Neasa pushed one last time and suddenly it was like she was at the bottom of the ocean. The gentle sound of waves above her, and a cooling blue surrounding her, made her smile even as her vision went black.


* * * *


A baby’s cry filled the silent hospital room. Bodies laid all around the newborn, no one was moving. It wasn’t until a nurse came in looking to find Doctor Stewart that they were discovered.

A scream ripped from her mouth, drawing more attention to the scene of death and birth. One woman braved the room to collect the newborn boy, swaddling him in a blanket and rushing him from the room as another called the cops.

The official ruling was Neasa Vann died of blood loss caused by childbirth, while the doctor and nurses died of dehydration. It made no sense, but it was the only explanation given.

As for the baby boy, River Vann, he was given into the care of a boys’ home, and, for a time, River’s life wouldn’t be marked by any other odd occurrences.


* * * *


Four Months Ago…

Coyote revved the engine of his motorcycle a few times before he shut it off. Dismounting quickly, he followed behind Jenniene and Joker down a narrow alleyway. This certainly didn’t look like somewhere to find an all-powerful warlock. It did look like somewhere a person would come to conduct shady business. Coyote hadn’t met River, the elusive local information broker that Blood got a good deal of his intel from before, so this would be a first for him.

Jenniene, Joker’s mate, didn’t even bother with pleasantries as she swung the front door open and said, “We’re looking for someone named River!”

“Blood sent us,” Coyote tacked on, as a bonus. Hopefully, using the Twin Ravens head honcho’s name would do them some good.

“What does Blood want?” the bartender asked as he cleaned a glass without so much as a glance in their direction. He held the glass up to the dim light and then brought it back down to rub at a spot with the towel in his hand. “If it’s about that Nosferatu business, I already told him everything I know.”

“We were sent to fetch you,” Joker said, approaching the bar. “That is if you are River.”

The clearest dark green eyes Coyote had ever seen finally looked their way, and they were filled with irritation. “Do I look like some fucking ball for the kitty cat to send his dogs after?”

“Please, we need your help,” Jenniene stepped up to Joker and pleaded with the small red haired man. “My friend is going to die.”

“People die every day,” River shrugged. “That’s just a fact of life.”

Despite the man’s cruel words and callous actions, Coyote couldn’t pull his eyes away from him. He was stunning.

“You listen to me,” Joker growled reaching out for their target only to pull his hand back quickly when a large snake seemed to materialize on River’s shoulders and struck out at him.

“Hands off, dog,” the snake hissed.

“A familiar,” Jenniene gaped. “So, you are a warlock! Then you have to help us! One of your own is going to die tonight. Please!”

Whatever it was that Jenniene had said caught River’s attention. “One of my own?”

“Yes,” Coyote stepped forward. “What? Did you think you were a solidarity?”

When those green eyes pinned him, Coyote felt his inner beast whine. The fuck?

“As a matter of fact, yes,” River smiled and Coyote felt an odd tightening in his gut. What in the hell was wrong with him? “But, if what you say is true, then sure I’ll go with you. On one condition.”

“Name it,” Jenniene said, urgency in her voice.

“I get paid for my services,” he declared.

He wanted to be paid to save a man’s life? What kind of person had they been sent to collect?

“Fine,” Jenniene agreed. “Now, let’s go.”

River sighed and removed his apron, before coming around the bar and grabbing a coat off a rack by the door. The four of them left the shop, with River locking up behind them.

“You’ll ride with Coyote,” Joker instructed.

Coyote felt himself shiver as River gave him a cocky smirk. “Cute name.”

Coyote went to open his mouth and say something when the wind picked up and twisted around them, filling his nose with River’s unique scent. The smell of the ocean right after a rain storm wrapped around him and filled Coyote’s lungs. With it an arousal so potent that he nearly pinned River to the building right then and there encased him.

“Everything okay, puppy-dog?” River taunted as he climbed the steps out of the alleyway.

Everything was not okay. Not by a long shot. This little cocky shit was his mate. What in the hell had Coyote done to deserve this gorgeous, sarcastic, slip of a man as a mate?

Not saying anything, Coyote went to his bike, started her up, and waited for River to mount behind him. The press of the young warlock’s body close to his own was delicious and so unwanted right now. Speeding down the roads and out of Tulsa toward the Twin Ravens temporary clubhouse, Coyote tried not to think about the hot man behind him. The only thing he needed from River right now was his cooperation in saving his buddy’s mate’s life.

They arrived at the clubhouse, Jenniene showing River up the stairs and to the guest room where a man with flame red hair was lying on a bed, writhing in pain. Seemed Leo had gotten worse since they’d been sent to find River. Coyote took the man’s jacket as he stripped it off. The room was sweltering for some reason.

“So, this is my supposed cousin?” River said, looking at Leo lying on the bed beside Coyote’s friend, Agnar. He didn’t sound the least bit interested. Still, he sighed and looked at the people around the room. “What am I to do?”

A woman Coyote didn’t recognize instructed River to put his hands on Leo’s chest and pour power into him. Whatever the hell that meant. After a small amount of resistance from Agnar, River managed to straddle Leo’s waist and whispered, “Abre.” His entire visage changed and Coyote was left speechless at the sight of the man sitting above Leo.

River coaxed Leo back to them right before he smacked the other warlock across the face when he didn’t immediately wake up. Agnar growled and lunged toward River, Coyote instantly stepping forward to protect his mate.

“He strikes my mate again and I will not be silent,” Agnar warned Coyote. Coyote just growled in response.

River addressed Blood about the Nosferatu and his agreed upon payment. Apparently, he didn’t care who paid him, considering the agreement had been between him and Jenniene, as long as he got paid. Blood agreed to pay and River moved to leave.

Coyote couldn’t help it, he followed him, only for River to stop and look at him. Those emerald green eyes pinned Coyote in place.

As if he was commanding a dog, River pointed to the floor and said, “Stay.” Coyote found he was powerless to watch as his mate walked out of the room and into the night.

Away from him.


Chapter One


A bell rang as the door to the Water Wizard’s Café & Bar was thrown open. Five men, all in expensive tailored black suits, walked in single file until reaching the bar where they fanned out. One of the men sat down, the other four remained standing, one of each of their hands tucked close to their waists. The man sitting picked up a menu and glanced through the items, only showing half an interest in the drinks and food listed.

“I’ll have the Wizard Special,” he said, placing the menu down and grinning at the man behind the bar.

“And what would you like on that?” River asked, his voice the perfect tone of neutral indifference.

“Italian,” the seated man placed a brown envelope on the bar, his fingers tapping at it in that odd rhythmic way people did when they were bored.

River looked at the envelope and chuckled. “The price for that has recently gone up. You’ll have to do better.”

One of the four men standing gripped the gun his hand was resting on. River paid it little attention.

“Look, River,” the lead man smiled, “I know you have the information I need. So please, just make this easy on both of us and tell me where I can find the Dom?”

“Sure,” River returned the smile as he set a French roast coffee down in front of the man. “As soon as you produce proper payment.”

“And how much would that be?” he demanded.

River had to keep from laughing as he cleaned up dishes left over from a regular customer. “Considering the increase in demand, double.”

“What!” the man shouted, standing, and slamming his hands on the bar. His cup jumped and toppled over.

Shaking his head in exasperation of some people’s manners, River grabbed a towel and cleaned up the spilled coffee. These kinds of customers were always the most trying. Rude and pushy, thinking they could get their way by showing just a bit of aggression and firepower. River was never impressed.

Right on cue the man that reached for his gun earlier drew it, pointing the 9mm Beretta at River in a show of intimidation. “How about you just give us the information?”

Yawning, River threw the towel in a can labeled dirty towels. If this was any indication of the day, he was going to have to do laundry before lunch. Yay.

“Again, as soon as I receive the proper payment,” River drawled, pouring another cup of coffee and setting it down.

“Now you listen here, you little−” the chime of the bell interrupted the muscle from continuing.

River looked over his five customers’ shoulders and felt his heart skip a beat at the sight of the Native American man, clad in leather and biker patches, standing in his doorway. It didn’t take the new arrival long to take in the situation, and as soon as the pieces were put together he growled.

“What’s going on here, River?” Coyote, the man that just walked in, demanded.

“Just business as usual,” River answered, trying to not let on how much this man’s voice affected him. “What can I do for you today?”

“Blood sent me,” Coyote said, stalking up to the bar and glaring at the suited men. “He said you’ll know what I’m here for.”

“Right.” River went into the back and grabbed the package for the sabretooth shifter. Returning to the front of the shop he rolled his eyes at the sight of Coyote and the suited men staring each other down. “Here,” River handed over the envelope. “Payment?”

“Paid in full,” Coyote smiled, exchanging envelopes.

River couldn’t keep the excitement from his face as he slid the thick tan envelope under the bar. He loved customers that knew how to hold a proper transaction.

“I’ll also have the daily soup and salad special,” Coyote said, sitting down at the bar.

Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what River wanted to hear right now. He knew what Coyote was doing, and he didn’t need the help. Having him around wasn’t going to improve the situation. If anything it could make things go a lot worse. Still, he couldn’t find it in him to tell him no. So, River moved to get Coyote his lunch.

“River, what about our business?” the main suit slammed his fist on the bar, glaring between River and Coyote.

Resisting the urge to strangle the moron, River smiled at the man and said in a soft voice as if he was speaking to a slow child, “No money. No information.”

“I have money,” the man slid his previously offered amount to the edge of the bar.

“Just not the right amount,” River replied, sliding the money back. “When you provide the proper amount we’ll continue this conversation.”

“That’s enough,” trigger happy muscle growled, coming around the bar, and pressing the barrel of his gun to River’s temple. “Just tell us what we want to know.”

“River!” Coyote jumped up, his eyes shifting from human to canine.

Rolling his eyes, River whispered, “Abre.” He felt a cold wave wash over him and knew his physical appearance had changed from that of a normal Irish American with red hair and green eyes, to something … not human. His red hair was now blue, his ivory skin coral pink, and his emerald green eyes changed to more of a sea green.

“What the fuck?”

“Flute,” River called on his familiar.

The sea serpent appeared around his shoulders, moving to wrap around the main suit’s throat. With a wave of River’s hand, he wrapped the other four men, including the one that had a gun to his head, in orbs of water pulled from the pipes and the new large tank he’d just had installed. Wide, terrified eyes gazed at him as the humans struggled to hold their breath.

Even Coyote seemed a bit worried as he looked around the café. No doubt he was thinking of that stupid rule that said supernatural creatures couldn’t reveal themselves to humans. Typical shifter, following the rules laid out.

“Now,” River stepped out from behind the bar and sneered at the main suit. “Since you want to do this the hard way, let me enlighten you on a few things. Number one, payment up front before anything else.

“Number two,” Flute tightened her hold on the man making his eyes widen, “I reserve the right to change the price at any time, and the right to refuse business to anyone.


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