QUOTE: I like my life how it is. I can do what I want, when I want. What more does a man need? ~ Gideon
HERO: Gideon Deckard
HEROINE: Ryder Sparks
A bet between Eros, the God of love & desire, and Chloe (Chlotho), the Fate of birth, leads to a year filled with match-making and passion.
Gideon Deckard is finally getting a little time away from the Keystone Predator Pack to go wolf. All he has planned is a week of running wild through the Grand Canyon before the hiking season starts back up. Once it does, he’ll go back to what he does best…being the Alpha he was born to be.
Ryder Sparks can barely contain her excitement. She’s taking a week off from work at the family store, Sparks Sporting & Outdoors, and going on her dream vacation. A four day hiking trip on a lesser traveled trek through the Grand Canyon. The season has opened early and she was the first to get the coveted pass. She’s looking forward to pushing herself on her first solo trip and discovering who she was really meant to be.
A run in with a massive grey wolf has Ryder stumbling and getting knocked out. When she wakes up, she’s back in her tent and there’s a hunky man there to help her get back on her feet. When she finds out he’s a wolf-shifter instead of freaking out, she decides to go on the adventure of a lifetime with him. Now all she has to do is convince Gideon to give her a chance to be his one and only Luna.
NOTE: Mystic Zodiac is a 12 book series. It is NOT a serial. Each book ends in a happily ever after for the main couple. However, the prologue and epilogue of each story follows the Gods that kick off the series, Eros and Chlotho (aka Chloe). At the end of the series the bet between the two will come to a conclusion.
March 9 ~ 8am
Ryder practically bounced out of her Jeep, as she pulled to a stop at the Backcountry Information Center. It was odd for them to ask someone to pick up their permit in person, but she didn’t mind. For months she’d planned this trip, making sure she did everything by the book to get the highly sought-after paper. The hardest part was waiting for the exact minute she could fax in her application. The backpacking permit she wanted was one of the hardest permits to get in the national park system, and she was determined to get one.
Four, possibly five, days of hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon on a solo trip, going from Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trail. It was the best present she’d ever given herself.
Not that her roommate would agree with that. Pansy thought she was crazy for wanting to spend time walking around a—as she put it—“super old bunch of rocks.” Pansy wasn’t an outdoors kind of girl, which was funny because she was a fox-shifter.
To Ryder it sounded like heaven. She’d grown up hiking and camping with her family. Her love of the outdoors inherently ingrained into her soul. Nothing would ever take its place.
A woman in a green ranger outfit appeared in front of the doors. She unlocked it and waved Ryder forward. Ryder made sure she got there precisely when they opened. Hopefully it wouldn’t take long, and she would get back in time for her shift at the store. She counted herself lucky that her boss was forgiving. It also didn’t hurt that he was her dad. He knew her plans for the trip, and she’d called to let him know she had to pick up her permit.
The rangers probably wanted to make sure she could handle the solo trip. A lot of people mistook her for being younger than her twenty-four years. She attributed it to her healthy lifestyle and lack of sitting behind a desk.
She breezed into the building, making a beeline for the brunette ranger from before. A golden-haired man stood near her, and there was a strange undercurrent between them. Like a sexual tension neither wanted to acknowledge.
Not my problem. She shrugged and approached the desk. “Hi, I’m Ryder Sparks. I got a call about picking up my backcountry permit. I was told I had to get it today.”
The female ranger looked at her and smiled. “Sure thing, hon.” The southern twang that came out of her mouth threw Ryder off. She didn’t looked like a Southerner. There was something almost ethereal about her. The blond fellow snickered, and the woman shot a glare his way.
“Okay,” Ryder said under breath, dragging the word out. There was definitely something going on between the pair. When the woman just stood there glaring at the man, Ryder decided to move things along. “So, the permit?”
“Oh.” The woman turned and blindly grabbed some paperwork. She slid it across the countertop, and Ryder was surprised to see it was actually hers. “If I can get you to sign here and here,” she pointed to two places without looking down, “I’ll get you on your way.”
“Thanks.” Ryder snatched up the pen and was about to sign; she stopped and looked up at the woman. “Don’t you need to see my ID or anything? Make sure I’m the person this paper says I am.”
“Now, honey, why would anyone come in claiming to be someone they aren’t for a four-day backcountry permit?” The southern drawl dripped from her lips, grating against Ryder’s ears. “Besides darlin’, you look like that picture you faxed in.”
Ryder’s brows furrowed. The woman hadn’t even looked at the paperwork…but whatever. “Okay then.” She signed quickly and pushed the paper back across the counter. The woman handed it to the man and picked up another slip of paper. She rubbed her fingers over it and cocked her head to the side. She nibbled on her lip, then cast a glance at the man, who drew up closer. “This is the right one, isn’t it Cup…uh, Cupert?”
Cupert (and what a shitty name that must have been growing up) snatched the paper from her hand. He ran his fingers over it just like she did, then handed it to Ryder. “Looks to be. Here ya’ go.”
“Uh, thanks.” Reaching out, she took it from the frowning man. The second her fingers touched it she felt a spark. Goosebumps rose on her flesh, and a shiver tripped down her spine.
“Make sure you don’t lose it, and remember to clip it to your tent when camping.” The man pushed over some brochures, which Ryder grabbed.
“Was there anything else?” Ryder looked between the rangers, fully expecting a lecture or something. There had to be a reason they wanted her to drive all the way from Flagstaff to pick the permit up.
“Nope,” the man said, he looked bored and ready to escape already.
“No reason why I needed to drive an hour to come in here to get this? It isn’t normal practice, or did something change?”
The woman shrugged and looked at Cupert.
He rolled his eyes, “Just doing what we’re told. We don’t make the rules, just enforce them.”
“Humph, okay then. Thanks.” Ryder spun on her heel and headed toward the door.
“Y’all come back and see us sometime now, ya’ hear.” The woman’s voice rang out and stopped Ryder in her tracks. She looked over her shoulder and saw the brunette’s big bubbly grin. Cupert snickered behind her back, earning a smack from the woman.
“Sure,” she said noncommittally, and slid through the doors as they swooshed open in front of her. “I think they’ve been out in the wild too long,” she murmured, as the doors closed behind her.
Hopping into her Jeep, she took a few seconds to look at her permit. The itinerary was printed on it; along with advisories for the area she would be in. The thing that thrilled her most—her name across the bottom: Sparks, Ryder.
She couldn’t stop the squeal that escaped her lips. Revving up the Jeep, she tore out of the parking lot. One more week and she would be on the trip of a lifetime.