Authors: N. J. Walters
Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Werewolves, #Hot Romance, #shapeshifters, #Paranormal Romance
The deputy shook his head. “I’ve never seen a dog quite that big before.”
Taking a chance, Gray walked down the step toward the officer. Shadow trotted alongside, stopping when she did. The deputy glanced at her and she nodded. He held his hand out and Shadow leaned forward and sniffed. A second later, he licked the man’s fingers.
The deputy laughed and rubbed Shadow’s head. “That’s one mighty fine animal you got there, Miss Everson.”
“I’ve had him since he was only a few months old.” She patted Shadow’s flank. “He goes everywhere with me.” That was a subtle reminder to the hunters that she wasn’t alone out here.
Deputy Randall nodded at the men. “You two get on now. You’re too close to town to be shooting off those rifles. You want to target practice, you go farther afield. You hear me?”
Fergus nodded. “We hear you.” He turned to his buddy. “Come on.”
The two of them disappeared from sight, but Gray wasn’t convinced they were actually going anywhere, at least not for long. She had a feeling they were going to be watching her closely for the next few days.
The deputy gave Shadow one final pat and tipped his hat. “You take care now and call if you have any more problems.”
“I will,” she replied, even though she wondered what good it would do. “Thank you,” she added. After all, he had warned the men off, which she appreciated.
She stood and watched him drive away. She could sense the hunter’s eyes on her and so could Shadow. He was tense and alert. “Come on.” They made their way back to the porch and she grabbed her mug off the railing before they went inside.
Her hand was shaking so badly the remaining coffee threatened to slop over the rim of the mug. She set it on the table just inside the door and then slowly slid to the floor. The adrenaline that had been driving her since she’d first seen the wounded wolf had dissipated, leaving her shaky and exhausted.
“Oh my God. What am I going to do?” She buried her face in her hands. Shadow whined and nudged her face with his large muzzle.
Her phone rang and she managed to pull it out of her back pocket. “Did the sheriff send someone?” Mark asked as soon as she answered.
“Yes, he did. Thank you.” She needed more information. “Two hunters came out of the woods. The deputy called one of them Fergus.”
Mark sighed. “Yeah, that’s probably Fergus McLennan and his brother, Sean. He and his family do a lot of hunting. They’re a little wild but not bad people. You don’t have anything to be worried about.”
She wasn’t so sure about that, but it was her problem. “Thanks again. I appreciate you contacting the local authorities for me.”
“No problem. You need anything else just let me know.”
“I will.” Gray ended the call and huffed out a breath. She stood and tossed the phone onto the table. Her limbs were still trembling but not quite as badly as they’d been. “I should eat something,” she told Shadow. He was watching her intently with his deep brown eyes. She could sense his worry and rubbed under his chin to reassure him. “I’m okay. Really.”
Shadow’s head jerked around to face the short hallway. He gave a low
and left her.
Gray didn’t want to do this now, but it seemed she didn’t have much of a choice. She pushed herself to her feet and leaned against the wall for a moment until she was sure her knees wouldn’t give out.
She trudged toward the bedroom and stood in the doorway. Sure enough, the wolf was wide awake and more alert than he had a right to be, making the crazy notion in her head not quite as far out there as it seemed. Gray couldn’t shake the idea that the creature lying on her bed wasn’t a wolf. Well, he was a wolf, but she was getting a feeling deep in her gut that he was a whole lot more.
“You’re crazy,” she muttered, yet she couldn’t shake the outlandish belief nagging at her. Intelligence shone in his eyes, and when she studied him she noted that, as impossible as it seemed, his wounds were totally healed.
She knew his wounds had been deep. Knew they’d needed stitching after the bullets were removed. Yet, here he was, looking tired but healthy. If not for the blood on his fur, he’d look completely unscathed by his morning adventures.
She crossed her arms over her chest, studied the giant wolf sprawled across the bed and decided to take a chance. The worst thing that could happen was that she’d make an idiot of herself taking to an animal who couldn’t understand her or answer her back. No, she realized that wasn’t quite true. The worst thing that could happen would be if she was right, if the wolf in front of her was more than an ordinary wolf or hybrid dog.
Taking a deep breath, she blurted out her thoughts. “I know what you are. Are you going to kill me?”
Louis woke to the sound of men’s voices. His enhanced hearing made it easy for him to listen in on the conversation. The two men outside had shot at him, maybe even been the ones to injure him. He growled, low and deep.
The woman was holding her own against them. Satisfaction filled him when she confronted them. It was quickly followed by a jolt of fear. He knew the second the men caught a glimpse of Shadow.
He gathered his strength to move. He had to protect her. He didn’t question the need that drove him to crawl out of bed and down the short hallway. She was a woman and she’d risked her life for his. That was reason enough.
He gritted his teeth and shifted. Pain sucked his breath away but he got through it. His bones reshaped and reformed. Fur receded and his jaw and teeth shrank to become human again. Louis stealthily peered around the corner and studied the men, getting a good look at them. He recognized them from around town.
He picked up the sound of a vehicle approaching. More hunters? Rage filled him that they would dare to threaten
woman. He mentally put on the brakes. Yes, she’d rescued him, but she wasn’t his. Hell, he didn’t even know her name.
Inside him, his wolf howled his displeasure. Seems his wolf wanted her as much as he did. His body began to respond to her nearness in spite of his weakness. He glanced down at his cock in disbelief. Now was not the time to be aroused. Unfortunately, his little head wasn’t listening to his big one.
The vehicle came to a stop, and Louis listened as the new arrival introduced himself. Local law. Interesting. Then she told the deputy her name. Gray Everson. It was an usual name for a woman, but then again, Gray was turning out to be quite unique. Not many people would take a wounded wolf into their home to protect them from hunters.
As he continued to eavesdrop on the conversation, the deputy warned off the hunters, but there wasn’t much else the man could do. They were locals and Gray was simply passing through. She was the stranger in this situation.
He was tense until the hunters left and the deputy finally took his leave. Louis returned to the bedroom. It wouldn’t do for Gray to discover a naked man walking around her place.
Her phone rang and he listened to her half of the conversation as he sprawled onto the bed and shifted to his wolf form. He was nearly healed now. He was tired and needed sleep and food to build back his strength. Otherwise, he was perfectly fine. He was grateful for his werewolf genetics at times like these. Of course, if he hadn’t been running around in wolf form, the hunters would never have taken a shot at him.
Gray’s call was short, but it sounded as though she was talking to someone local. Maybe the agent who had rented her the place. Louis heard the dog give a quick
and then he heard footsteps. Gray appeared in the doorway and crossed her arms over her chest. Louis tried not to notice how the motion lifted her rather impressive breasts.
His breathing increased as he remembered how she’d looked hurrying out from the bathroom fresh from her shower. A few stray water droplets had clung to her skin. He’d been struck by sudden thirst, his mouth dry. Oh yeah, he’d have given almost anything to lick the liquid from her flesh.
She’d quickly dressed, but not before he’d gotten an eyeful of her entire body. She was a tall woman but she wasn’t lanky or skinny. No, she had the kind of curves that made a man forget his own name. Her curly hair was pulled back in a ponytail, but he could easily imagine what it looked like tumbling wildly around her shoulders. He wanted to fist the stuff in his hands while he fucked her.
, he needed to reverse that thinking. She was only visiting.
Maybe that was better
, a little voice in the back of his head pointed out. He could have hot sex with her and not worry about commitments. He could be a vacation fling.
Except that would be not only stupid, but also irresponsible. He had a price on his head and a pack to protect. He couldn’t afford to indulge his own whims.
“I know what you are. Are you going to kill me?”
With those few words, she shot all his good intentions straight to hell. What did she mean? No way could she know he was a werewolf. He gave a little grumbling growl and pawed at the bedclothes, trying to look more like a harmless hybrid than a big bad wolf.
She cocked one eyebrow at him like she wasn’t buying it for one second. She reached into her pocket and pulled something out. Louis tensed but didn’t move. He really should leave. The only problem with that idea was that the hunters were still close by, so that meant leaving in his wolf form was definitely out. And he couldn’t exactly shift and walk home naked. He doubted Gray had any male clothing lying around.
If he waited until after dark, he could slip out and run home, evading the hunters he knew were gunning for him. Or he could wait until Gray was asleep and call one of the others to come get him. Gator would laugh his ass off, but either he or Armand would jump in their truck and pick him up.
Louis could only imagine the ribbing Jacque and the others would give him after they assured themselves he wasn’t seriously hurt. Gwen would scold him before she assured herself he was fine. Anny might even bake him a cake.
See, the situation wasn’t all bad.
He tensed as Gray walked over to the bed. She lifted her hand out in front of her and tipped it over. Three small metal slugs fell onto the blanket beside him. “Bullets don’t just fall out of someone.”
Crap. He’d forgotten about the bullets. His body automatically ejected foreign objects. Since they weren’t silver, they hadn’t burned into him, needing to be surgically removed. His immune system had simply gotten rid of them so he could begin healing.
He glanced up at Gray as her words took on a whole new meaning. He wondered what she was going to do. She hadn’t turned him over to the hunters. Hell, she’d risked her life to save him. Curious as to what she would do next, he climbed off the bed, sat and waited.
She jerked back but stopped herself from going too far. “You’re bigger than any wolf I’ve ever seen or read about.”
Louis didn’t move as Gray took a step closer to him. He wanted to feel her hands on him again. He’d been in too much pain the first time to really enjoy it. He could smell her soap and sun-kissed skin. She was sweating slightly, but it wasn’t an unpleasant scent, rather earthy and natural.
The tank top she wore was the same blue as her eyes and clung to her like a second skin. His gaze narrowed as he caught the outline of her nipples through the fabric of her top and bra. He inhaled deeply but couldn’t tell if she was aroused. The acrid tinge of her fear was too prominent. Her skin was probably chilled due to shock. The inside of the house was much cooler than it was outside.
He didn’t like the idea of her being afraid of him.
She licked her lips and slowly put a hand out in front of her. “I’ve been drawn to wolves all my life. I’ve read all the myths and lore surrounding them, including the werewolf and shapeshifter legends, everything from popular fiction to ancient manuscripts from many different cultures. All the tales about men who can become wolves.”
He slowly leaned forward and nuzzled her hand before licking the center of her palm. Her skin was salty. He loved her scent. It was feminine and somehow familiar.
Louis nuzzled up her arm.
“Hey.” She tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t be denied. He went to sniff her stomach, but this time she succeeded in shoving his head aside.
Shadow growled, but Louis growled right back. The dog whimpered and lowered his head.
“Don’t you snarl at Shadow,” she ordered, “or I’ll toss your furry ass outside and you can deal with the hunters on your own.”
Instantly contrite, Louis backed off. She and the dog had saved his life. He owed them. But he couldn’t exactly admit who and what he was. That would put her in even more danger.
But what was it about her smell that attracted him so? He could scent her dog on her skin. It was obvious she petted the animal a lot. Fear and soap and woman were smells he could easily account for. But there was something else below it all.
Damn it all, he needed to know.
He lunged forward and buried his face against her stomach. She yelled and shoved him back, but not before he found what he was looking for. Shocked, he sat back on his ass.
“What is wrong with you?” She stood with her hands on her hips and glared at him. Louis thought her the most magnificent creature he’d ever seen.
She was a half-breed werewolf.
Louis was reeling at this new development. Half-breeds were nearly unheard of. It was obvious that her sire’s pack didn’t known of her existence. He was assuming her wolf heritage came from her father. Maybe he was wrong, but that was almost always the case in these situations.
Half-breeds were extremely rare. They were almost always hunted and killed to keep from diluting the bloodlines. Louis had always considered that practice barbaric. Why kill a child for something that wasn’t their fault. He figured they deserved to live as much as any werewolf did.
There was no mistaking the underlying scent of wolf. It was faint, but it was there. It probably explained why Shadow easily acquiesced to her as leader of their small pack. The animal recognized the wolf in her.
Louis didn’t know what to think. Half-breeds were so rare they were almost a fairy tale, a story told to wolf cubs around a campfire late at night. Yet there was no denying the truth of his senses.
Gray was part werewolf.
Who was she really and why was she here? And why now?
No way had his father sent her. Pierre LaForge would kill her if he ever got a whiff of her. Her scent wasn’t strong enough for her to be a full-blooded wolf. Having Shadow around might have protected her. It was easy to mistake the scent for that of her pet.
Louis made his decision and began to shift. Gray’s mouth fell open and she stumbled back until she hit the wall. Shadow was right beside her. The dog put his big body in front of her, ready to protect and defend her.
He’d never imagined he’d be jealous of a damn dog.
Gray wondered if she was asleep and dreaming. Maybe she’d fallen and hit her head and was hallucinating. But, no, she was wide awake and very alert. She grabbed Shadow’s collar and held him by her side in case he decided to lunge at the creature in front of them.
It was one thing to think she was right, quite another to see it in action. The large wolf was changing before her very eyes. The long, hard jaw receded and his head changed shape. Limbs cracked and reformed. Fur became skin. The entire process took only seconds.
The giant brown wolf was gone, and in his place was a very tall, very imposing man. Gray swallowed, her throat suddenly very dry. She tried not to notice how broad his shoulders were, or how the muscles in his rock-hard chest rippled when he stretched. His skin was tanned but stained with the blood from his injuries. His biceps were huge, like the rest of him. His hips were lean and his legs powerful.
He was also aroused.
His cock jutted out in front of him, long and proud. She’d never seen anything like him before. There was something primal and elemental about him.
Gray had always wondered how her mother could have had a one-night stand with a man who’d left her pregnant and alone. But seeing this stranger in front of her and feeling the full force of his primal power, she could easily understand how such a thing might have happened.
“Who—” She broke off as his dark gaze captured hers. She swallowed hard and tried again. “Who are you?”
She was proud of the fact that she could actually speak. The guy had just shifted from a wolf to a man and was standing in her bedroom. She started to laugh and slapped her hand over her mouth. She always laughed when she was nervous or uncomfortable. It was a habit she couldn’t break and one that often got her into trouble in social situations.
His eyes narrowed and he studied her intently. Time stretched out until she could barely breathe. She got the feeling he didn’t miss a single thing about her. She became very aware of her own body—the short breaths that expanded her lungs, the sheen of sweat on her arms, the quivering in her limbs.
He slowly held out his hand to her. “I’m Louis LaForge.” His deep voice made her heart skip a beat and her insides turn to liquid. There was no mistaking the Southern lilt to his voice.
She lowered the hand from her mouth and gulped in some much needed air. “Gray. Gray Everson.”
He kept his hand extended and she felt compelled to take it. Keeping one hand locked around Shadow’s collar, she took her first step toward him. “You’re real, aren’t you?”
She was having a difficult time wrapping her head around the reality of having a werewolf in her bedroom. It was one thing to read about them and wonder, but this was a little too real.
Again, his voice made her insides quiver. That wasn’t like her at all. She’d never gotten stupid over a guy before, and she’d run across her share of handsome men in her life. But Louis was different.
His hand was still midair, waiting for her to take it. He was tempting her, luring her closer. She knew that for a fact, but damned if it wasn’t working.
“You can let the dog go,” he told her. “Shadow won’t hurt me.”
Of course the dog wouldn’t hurt him. Shadow recognized him for what he was—the alpha of the group.
She dropped her hand from his collar and took another step closer. She stopped when there were still several feet between them. Her arm was shaking when she lifted it. Her hand trembled as she pressed her palm against his.
She was used to being independent. Feeling strong and in control of her life. This was outside anything she’d ever dealt with. How often did a woman meet an actual myth? Werewolves were part of ancient lore and the stuff of popular fiction. They weren’t real.
Or that’s what she’d truly believed until a few seconds ago when she’d watched the man before her shift from wolf to human.
His skin was warm and slightly rough. He slowly closed his fingers around hers, holding them for a brief second before releasing her. A sense of disappointment flooded her. She’d wanted the contact to last longer.