A Taste of Haven, The Alexander book series #1

A Taste of Haven smashwords

Haven Smith is a shifter who has never shifted. Her mother warned her that if she gave into the animal part of herself she would turn into a beast capable of killing. Instead she’s able to push down the need to turn by spending her evenings protecting women and children from the men who would hurt them. She likes her solitary life just fine, until one night she meets a man who changes her world forever.
Haven discovers a family she didn’t know she had and that Adam’s been sent to bring her home. She’s been alone for so long and Adam is a temptation she’s ready to taste. All Adam wants is that there is more to the world then endless fighting in the streets. He wants her to experience the love of family and make her understand that she isn’t a freak or evil and that she deserves everyone’s love most of all, his love.
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Chapter One

Haven Smith stopped in front of a tall red brick tenement and peered around the corner, the barely audible mew of fear still echoing in her ears. There was a little light coming from a sickly yellow bulb near the top of the roof, but it didn’t extend to the lower part of the building. Her exceptional night vision allowed her to see what others might not, like the trash spilling over from large bins next to the Mexican restaurant opposite the low-income apartment building.
Her spine began to tingle as her wolf clamored for release.
Sorry girl, you don’t get to come out—ever.
She didn’t want to be here tonight, her body hadn’t quite healed from the last fight three days ago. But the scent of fear and blood hung in the air, calling to her and making it impossible to leave.
Another muffled cry sounded in the darkness. Keeping her back to the wall, she slipped around the corner and followed the pitiful noise on cat’s feet. She stepped in a puddle of unidentifiable nastiness she wouldn’t allow her nose to name and winced. She’d just bought the Rockports. Dammit!
Slipping behind the nearest dumpster allowed her to see what was going on while hiding her from anyone’s view. At the alleys dead-end a man had a woman pinned against the brick façade, her face smashed against the wall. He’d wrapped one beefy hand around her throat while his other ripped at her dress.
The woman’s cries were cut off by the fucker’s grip on her neck. Lightning-hot anger speared Haven’s stomach and she pulled her switchblade as if by instinct. With a quick flick of her wrist the six-inch blade came to life in her hand. The familiar weight of the weapon was always welcome. She crept from behind the dumpster and made her way to the would-be rapist and his victim. Her first instinct was to snap his neck, but that would be illegal. She might want to kill the bastard but she wouldn’t. This time!
Instead she threw her arm around his throat, catching him off guard. He was no match for her and even with his girth Haven was stronger… She scraped the blade along the side of his neck and he immediately let go of the female.
“Go get the police,” Haven snarled as the woman spun, clutching her throat.
Haven immediately recognized her platinum blonde hair and sunken blue eyes—it was Honey. She’d tried to get the woman out of the “trade” and into a shelter more than once—and failed. The woman pulled at her tor clothes and took off toward the front of the alley; there was no way Honey was going to flag down a cop.
Knowing that made her even angrier. Her mother had been steps away from the same kind of life until she died, rolling through man after man in a vain search for someone to take care of her and her daughter. Honey had just gone further down the rabbit hole, and Haven had made it her business to avenge these women from assholes like the one beneath her knife.
“You need to learn a lesson about trying to take what you haven’t paid for.” A low menacing rumble escaped her throat. Fuck!
“Fuck you, bitch. The only reason you’re still alive is because you got a knife to my throat.” Oh yeah, he wanted to hurt her; the stink of a madman dripped from his pores, but she really didn’t give a damn.
“You’re right. We can’t have a fair fight if I’m armed. So I’ll put my knife away and then I’m going to kick your ass.” She closed the knife on her hip, slipped it into her pocket and stepped back.
The asshole spun around. His fleshy face was covered in sweat, and he resembled a washed-out wrestler who’d taken too many steroids. His mouth curled up on one side and formed a snarl. He was Haven’s favorite type of jerk-off—big and burly, going around hurting any woman he pleased. She might have been too young to intercede for her mother but she was making up for it now.
He brought his fists up, readying himself for the fight.
She put her hands on her hips, like she had all the time in the world, and laughed. “Come on, fat boy, let’s see what you got.”
He cracked his knuckles. “You got it, bitch.”
He threw out one massive fist, putting all his weight behind the punch. Haven ducked and he sailed right past her. She turned, kicked and connected between his shoulder blades, but he didn’t go down. She frowned and ran at his back, kicking him in the side this time. She heard the crack of ribs through the padding of fat layering his middle. She wanted to end this quickly, but her inner beast was only getting started.
Her nostrils flared as the smell of real fear rent the air. He’d never expected her to kick so damn hard. She grabbed his thick wrist and spun him around to face her. He recovered more quickly from her kick than she expected and managed to clock her in the jaw. The left side of her face went numb from the blow and this time she let out a howl that caused the man’s eyes to widen and back away.
“What’s the matter, big boy? Scared of a little woman like me?” Haven knew questioning his manhood was the easiest way to antagonize him into continuing the fight. “I thought bad-assed men like you got off beating up a girl. God knows you couldn’t handle yourself with a real man.”
He grabbed his crotch. “Dumb bitch, I’m gonna show you what a real man is after I bust your ass.” Haven dropped into a crouch and beckoned him in a come-hither motion. “Bring it on, then. You hit like a girl.”
He moved fast for a fat slob, but not fast enough. He swung again. She stepped aside and he connected with nothing but air. She stuck her foot out as he lunged past and tripped him. Caught up by her foot, his body turned slightly.
The position gave him the advantage, and as he started to fall he grabbed her arm and hauled her down with him.
Haven’s back slammed into the rough pavement, knocking the air from her lungs. She was pissed beyond belief that she’d let him take her down. Asshole landed on top of her, taking what little breath she had left with him. He straddled her upper chest, pinning her arms at her sides, and smiled. “It’s your turn to bleed now, whore.”
She desperately tried to breathe; he was literally smothering her with his weight. He swung his hand and slapped her hard across the mouth.
“Someone needs to show you how to be more respectful.” Sweat dripped off his forehead, the disgusting droplets falling on her chin.
“Fuck you.” She spat, and blood mixed with saliva landed on his face. He raised his hand again and punched her in the nose. Blood squirted out, dribbling into her mouth and down the sides of her face.
A fire burned in her belly as she swallowed some of her own blood. The burning became more painful, spreading from her middle and out to her limbs. Her head started buzzing and the only thing running through it was kill, kill, kill.
With renewed strength, she bent her knees up and bucked him off. Rolling to her knees, she wiped the blood trickling from her nose across her sleeve.
“That’s all you got?” she snarled. “You’re a pussy.”
She watched him carefully, waiting for his muscles to tense. She held her closed hands to her chest. She never felt as alive as she did when she fought one of these bastards. Her senses were sharper, she could see better, her hearing was astonishingly acute. She inhaled when the breeze shifted slightly.
The asshole’s fear wrapped around him like a fur coat. He wanted to run, but his ego wouldn’t allow a woman kick his ass.
He lunged for her again, his heavy body moving a little slower this time. When he reached for her she threw out an arm, blocking his attack and smashed him in the nose with her free hand. He doubled over as blood spurted. Haven followed up with a quick jab to the chin. His head flew back a precious second before she kicked and connected with his balls.
He wasn’t going to get laid for a long time to come. Big boy went to his knees, cupping his crotch. He looked at her and spit. Haven kicked him in the throat in a coup de grace that kept him from crying out for help. He fell on his back with a hard thunk, little sobs coming rending the air as he cupped his balls.
Haven leaned over him and grabbed the shoulder of his dirty wife-beater tank top. “Don’t you ever fucking come back around here again-fat man. Next time you won’t be walking away from this alley.”
She let go of his shirt, and he fell back to the ground. Turning away from the heap he made on the ground, she jogged out of the alley and onto the empty street. Honey hadn’t called the cops, but she hadn’t expected the longtime hooker to go to the police. Honey’d been picked up so many times on prostitution charges she no longer trusted the police to help her. Haven would track her down later and try—once again—to get her away from her pimp and into Fatima’s shelter. She swiped at her bloody nose as she made her way back to her apartment.
Her face was already swelling. The blood flow from her nose trickled slowly but hadn’t stopped; she wasn’t healing as quickly as she used to. The beast inside rumbled its disapproval at her current state of pain.
She picked up the pace, not wanting to draw any attention. She needed to get the dirt, grime and stink from the asshole off her skin.
As she trotted down the sidewalk, the smell of pine and rain floated on the air. The scent was so out of place it brought her to a standstill. She inhaled deeply, enjoying the cleanliness of it. She turned around slowly, trying to find the source of the scent, but saw nothing on the empty streets. And as quickly as it had come, the smell was gone. Haven shook her head, sure she was imagining things.
* * * * *

She forced her sore, tired body back to her tiny apartment. The first-floor studio wasn’t much, but it was home. She unlocked the door and turned on the light, bathing the room in a soft, soothing light. She sat down in an overstuffed chair she’d picked up at a resale shop, her body sinking back against the worn fabric.
She was bone tired. It was getting harder to take a punch. She sighed. For a split second back in the alley she’d been afraid. The feeling had been fleeting, but for the first time since she’d begun her crusade she’d really been scared. The knotting sensation in her stomach wasn’t something she wanted to experience again.
Her nose had finally stopped bleeding so she peeled her t-shirt over her head, wiped her face and threw the shirt into the laundry basket placed squarely in the corner of the room.
She heaved her tired body out of the chair and walked grabbing a bottle of Labatt’s out of the fridge. Twisting the cap off the bottle, she took a long gulp. The cold liquid slid down and soothed her parched throat. She held the sweating bottle against her swelling eye.
Damn, she couldn’t believe the jerk-off had gotten in as many punches as he had. It was obvious her body was letting her know it needed to rest. That had to be it, didn’t it?
For some reason, the image of her mother was particularly vivid tonight, and with her at the worst possible moments. Like right now. The parade of men who’d traipsed through her life when she was growing up was never far from her mind. They were the reason she trolled for bad guys out to harm women.
In response to the memories, adrenaline pumped through her veins and her wolf demanded release.
She broke into a sweat as the beast scrambled to escape, howling in anger. Haven tried desperately to ignore her but failed as her mother’s dire warnings tolled in her head.
Shifting is evil. You’ll go crazy. Crazier than your father.
“Fuck. Why now?” She should have known better than let her mind wander through the past. Her wolf was a bitter bitch and it was getting harder and harder to control her. “You’re not getting out, so shut the hell up.”
Talking never worked, so she changed strategies and reached for her blade. The only way to keep the animal at bay was pain. The pain she felt now had come from the fight earlier. This called for a different kind of pain. Chills ran down her spine and her body started to shake as she battled for dominance. She snapped open the knife with a flick of her wrist, held her arm over the sink, placed the tip of the blade to the crook of her arm and made a one-inch slice. The pain served as a balm to the wolf at the door. She made a second and then a third cut. The pressure inside her eased. The last one finally slowed her heart rate and her breathing began to normalize. The anger slowly drained from her body and calm washed over her.
She hated doing this to herself, but it was the only way that didn’t involve drugs or a barrel full of alcohol. It was her one shameful weakness.
With the adrenaline rush gone, she grew even wearier. She moved to the only other room in her home, the bathroom, stripped off the rest of her clothing and turned on the shower.
She stepped beneath the spray, and the freezing temperature woke her enough to remind her that she was still covered in blood and alley grime. She focused on the bottom of the tub where blood and dirt circled the drain. When the last traces of grime disappeared in a swirl, she finally felt clean. She turned the hot water on and let the heat soak into her tired muscles.
After warming up under the heated water, she stepped out. Wrapping a soft white towel around her, she looked in the mirror. Her left eye already had a bruise and another was forming on her right. She opened the medicine cabinet and retrieved antiseptic and some pain pills. Dabbing at the cut across the bridge of her nose and another on her bottom lip, she winced at the slight sting. Hell, she could take a punch to the face and never make a sound, but wanted to cry as she cleaned the wound. The irony of it never ceased to amaze her. Patch job complete, she filled a glass with water then tossed back two pain pills. She needed to get horizontal since she’d be dead to the world in less than fifteen minutes.
Thank God for pharmaceuticals she thought, staggering to the bedroom. Dropping the towel on the floor, she peeled back the blanket and crept between it and the sheet. Grabbing the pillow next to her, she turned on her side, holding it to her stomach. It was the way she went to sleep most nights, and normally comforted her, but tonight was different.
Tonight, for the first time in a long time, Haven was lonely. It was the kind of lonely that left a knot in her stomach and an ache in her soul. Maybe it was because she was turning thirty and had no one to celebrate with. Maybe she just needed to get laid. Whatever the reasons, her melancholy would have to wait for another day.
Just as her lids began to droop and the magic little pills made a dent in her pain, the phone beside her bed rang. She blindly reached for the offensive thing and picked it up before it rang again.
“Hello.” Her voice cracked.
“Haven you sound like hell.” Fatima, the one person in the world she trusted. “Have you been out again?”
Fatima was the only one who knew about Haven’s nightly activities. The Lebanese-born woman understood her vigilante romps.
“Yeah, but I don’t have anyone for you this evening.”
Normally when she stepped into a situation where a woman was being abused, she would take the victim to Fatima’s shelter. Her friend’s sanctuary wasn’t known to social services. She was able to work outside the law when it came to housing battered women and children. Fatima was able help women disappear from the reach of their abusers.
“I understand. One of Donovan’s men brought in a woman and her three kids tonight.” Her friend sounded as tired as Haven felt.
Donovan was Fatima’s mysterious benefactor. He provided money and the building for her work. Haven never questioned Fatima about Donovan and her friend never offered any information. No skin off Haven’s nose. Whatever went on between the two allowed Fatima to save and care for hundreds of women and children who might otherwise be dead.
“Do you need anything?” She knew the answer before she even asked it. Another reason she loved Fatima.
“No thanks, I’ve got everything under control. Get some sleep. We’ll talk soon.” Fatima ended the call. They never said goodbye. Fatima thought it was bad luck.
She turned over to her other side, closed her eyes as the pain pills kicked in and allowed sleep to take over.

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