Authors: Vella Day
Tags: #Paranormal Erotica, #Paranormal Werewolf Romance, #Paranormal Menage (MFM)
Pack Wars (Book 5)
Copyright © 2015 Vella Day
Fighting for Their Mate
Copyright © 2015 by Vella Day
All Romance Ebooks Edition
Cover Art by Sloan Winters
Edited by Rebecca Cartee and Carol Adcock-Bezzo
Published in the United States of America
E-book ISBN: 978-1-941835-03-6
Print edition ISBN: 978-1-941835-04-3
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief questions embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
To my fabulous readers. Thank you!
ow much farther?” Bailey Nash had to work hard not to let each word take a whole breath. Her right heel had a blister, and the straps of her backpack were digging into her shoulders.
Two things made this expedition close to enjoyable. One was that she was able to spend time with her younger sister, Tatum, who’d just graduated from college. Secondly, as a photographer, Bailey had to admit the forest was amazing. Sunlight streamed through the trees turning the leaves rich greens and yellows, the rush of the water over the smooth rocks echoed in the wind, and the forest animals romped through the underbrush, adding to the harmony of the North Carolina woods.
“Maybe ten more minutes,” her sister answered. “It’s on the other side of the river. Remember, we looked at the map where it showed a bridge a little ways ahead?”
Tatum had said that twenty minutes ago. As much as Bailey loved the outdoors, she never should have agreed to a three-week hike on the Appalachian Trail, or AT for short. Five years ago, after running track all through high school, she’d been in shape. Now? Not so much.
. A rustling came from the bushes about fifty feet up the hill to their right. Bailey stopped, excited they might have finally found an animal worth photographing. “Hold up.”
Tatum looked back over her shoulder. “What is it?”
“Give me a sec,” she whispered. Not wanting to lose sight of the animal’s location, she kept her eyes on the spot.
Bailey unsnapped her chest strap then set her backpack down. With as little movement as possible, she undid the top, pulled on the drawstrings, and lifted her Canon EOS 7D from inside. Now she was pleased she’d already put on her 28mm-210mm zoom lens. Carefully, she lifted the camera, flipped open the view screen, and swept the landscape for the animal.
Loud footsteps sounded next to her.
Way to go, Tatum. Scare the poor creature away
Bailey aimed the lens in the direction of the scampering, waiting to catch a glimpse of the forest creature. As if by magic, golden eyes popped into view and she jumped back, the image bigger than life. Her heart slammed against her ribs. “Holy fuck.”
Tatum placed a hand on Bailey’s back. “Is that what I think it is?”
Bailey lowered the camera, her mouth dry and her arm limp by her side. If she hadn’t hooked the strap around her neck, her precious camera would be on the ground.
The huge wolf growled and stepped out from behind the bush. Tatum grabbed the back of Bailey’s shirt. “Ah, we need to get out of here. As in right now.”
Bailey had taken enough animal shots, both in zoos and in the plains of Africa, to understand that part of their nature was to chase things. If they took off, that animal would be on them in seconds. His mouth opened and his teeth glistened in the late afternoon sun. Was he trying to prove to them that he could have them at his mercy in seconds?
While alarms were sounding in her head, his beauty mesmerized her—that was until spittle dripped down his mouth and it began to foam. Then her stomach nearly revolted. Holy shit. Was this animal rabid? Did wolves even get rabies?
Show no fear.
Tell that to my heart.
Keeping her gaze on the ferocious animal, Bailey slowly bent at the waist, lifted the camera from around her neck, and dropped it in the pack. After much fumbling, she found the backpack straps and lifted her pack to her shoulder. “Tatum, back away real slow. Do not make any sudden moves, or we’re both dead.” Her nerves were so taut, Bailey was surprised the words even formed.
The creature headed down the hill and stopped, brazenly standing before them, his gaze aimed at them. The tan hair mixed with black and gold was quite stunning, but those eyes appeared crazy.
“Going now.” Tatum sidled down the path, moving effortlessly and quietly.
It wasn’t as easy for Bailey. With the pack only on one shoulder, she was off balance, but she managed to maneuver about twenty feet until her foot caught on a stick protruding from the earth. The wolf bared his teeth, causing Bailey to rush. She raised her foot, but it wasn’t high enough. Her toe caught on the obstacle, and she lost her balance and tumbled. As she rolled, her backpack slid off her shoulder. Oh, shit. Fear and panic clawed at her belly as the animal stalked toward her. Leaves crunched under its feet, and its growl carried across the span between them.
“Tatum! Run. Go.”
“I’m not leaving you.”
Her sister sprinted toward the river as Bailey scrambled to her feet. The wolf drew near. Slowly. Doggedly. With intense determination. He wanted her. Wanted her badly.
Heart in throat, she grabbed her pack by the strap, but it was too heavy to lift. It must have been caught on something. She tugged.
Come on. Come on.
Growls came from low in its throat, and she truly believed she had seconds to live. Throwing caution to the wind, she turned and ran, leaving her pack on the path.
A shot rang out and Bailey thought her heart had burst out of her chest.
A spider web nabbed her face, and her vision blurred from the liquid pooling in her eyes. Swiping at her face, she looked behind her and nearly lost her balance again. She blinked. A man with a rifle had fired in the direction of the wolf. The underbrush swished and swayed. Bailey froze, unable to make sense of what was happening. Then Tatum rushed back in her direction.
“Is it gone?” her sister asked.
Bailey strained to see the spot where she last remembered that evil creature’s location. “I think so. Maybe.”
The hunter was coming toward her. What was he doing on the AT Trail with a rifle? Hunters couldn’t just shoot animals in the open. A second man, taller than the first, emerged from the path behind him.
“You get him?” the new arrival asked the first man, jogging up to meet him.
The man with the gun faced his friend. “No, but I scared the shit out of him.” He turned toward them. “You ladies okay?” He reached down and grabbed Bailey’s backpack with little effort.
Her heart was still lodged in her throat, preventing her from moving. Tatum, however, seemed to have her wits about her. She stepped around Bailey and hiked toward the two men.
“Wow. Thank you. You saved our lives. I’m Tatum, and the one still in shock is my sister Bailey.”
“Brad Carson and my friend Tom Danvers.”
The adrenaline rush finally ebbed, but Bailey’s legs still refused to obey her command to stand. Dear Lord. She’d almost died. Almost been eaten and mauled by a wolf. To think she was occasionally afraid to live by herself in Richmond, Virginia. The city was looking safer by the moment. Sweat pooled under her arms and dirt clung to her skin. Bailey dropped her head in her hands and inhaled to calm her pulse that raced dangerously high.
A large hand touched her shoulder and she jerked. After taking a slow inhale, she looked up. Concern filled the hunter’s eyes.
She couldn’t even remember what he said his name was. “Not really. Just give me a sec.”
The hunter glanced around. “He’ll be back, you know.” He held out his hand to help her up. The stress in his voice implied if she didn’t move her ass, the next time she might not be so lucky.
She clasped his warm hand and rose. “Thanks.”
She dusted off her dirty palms. These men looked fresh. Without packs, they must be day hikers. But why the gun? Their dad had cautioned them about trusting strangers, but these two had saved them.
Brad held out her pack. “You dropped this.”
Relief washed through her. “It snagged on something. Thanks.”
She turned around and slipped her arms through the straps. With her pack securely on her back, she twisted around to face them. At least now, if the wolf returned, she could drop to her knees and assume the fetal position. The backpack would help protect her.
The hunter’s friend sucked in a breath. “How long have you ladies been out here?”
Bailey looked over at Tatum who answered for them. “Only four days. I couldn’t convince sis here to hike the whole Appalachian Trail, but she agreed to do the part in North Carolina. We’ve got a little more than two weeks to go.”
Bailey shook her head. “I’m not going any farther with that wild animal on the loose. No way. No how.”
Tatum pressed her lips together. “How about you guys? Aren’t you afraid to be out?”
What was she doing? There was no need to strike up a conversation. She and Tatum needed to get out of there—unless her sister was trying to give Bailey a few more minutes to compose herself. The near death experience had really shaken her.
Or was her sister just being polite because these men had saved them? Bailey was usually the politically correct one in the family, but she hated guns, which meant her friendly meter was out of order. It didn’t matter that his weapon had scared the wolf away.
“Brad and I are with the Wildlife Commission. There were sightings of rabid wolves around here and we’re trying to reach as many hikers as possible to warn them to get off the path. Two days ago, one of the wolves attacked a woman. She’d already crawled into her tent for the night when the wolf ripped through the nylon walls and got to her. She’s in intensive care now.”