EXCERPTS: BLACK HILLS WOLVES
He reached out with his Wolf senses. The feedback froze his fingers on the doorknob. Female. Damn, she smelled good. Human. Wolf. Wait…both? The copper tang of blood hit his nose. And injured.
He flung open the door. His abrupt move caught his visitor off guard, one small, white fist raised to knock. The woman startled and fell forward. Catching her, he pulled her inside, kicking the door shut with his foot.
She sagged against him, a shivering bundle of wet woman. Underneath the dampness, her scent drop-kicked his gut. Apples and cinnamon. Roses and honey. His body perked up, taking extreme notice. He fought the growl of possession threatening to tear out of his throat. Holy hell, had his potential mate just walked into his home in the middle of a storm?
The scent of her blood jump-started his brain into action. He lowered her gently to the floor. “Jesus. You okay?”
His instincts urged him to check her for wounds, but he was a stranger and didn’t want to spook her. But goddamn, he wanted to touch her. Peel off her wet clothes. See all of her. With a jacket covering her torso, tight jeans hiding her legs, and her ball cap pulled low on her face, all he’d seen so far was her quivering pale chin, full red lips, and those delicate, trembling hands.
“S-s-sorry, d-dripping all ov-v-ver your f-f-floor,” she said, teeth chattering. Her snow white fingers curled on the hardwood, arms trembling with her effort to keep herself upright. Blood streaked the wood. A line of liquid crimson slid down her jaw and dripped from her chin onto her jacket.
To hell with propriety. “You’re injured. Let me help you.” He pulled off her cap and damn near swallowed his tongue.
Big green eyes blinked up at him from a face so pale it made him think of moonlight. Drenched, short black hair lay plastered to her head, the ends framing features reminiscent of the fairies his sister loved to draw for the hidden-object games she designed. Ethereal beauty. My beauty. He stroked a knuckle down her cheek then ran his thumb over her soft, full lower lip.
She flinched and batted his hand away, falling to her side in the process.
Ross snapped back to reality with a healthy hit of guilt. “Shit. Sorry.”
His gaze shot to her forehead where a two-inch cut sent blood trailing over her prominent cheekbone with its silky-smooth skin he’d so enjoyed caressing—
Shit. He gave himself a mental ass kicking for scaring her. “I’m Ross. You’re safe here. Promise.”
UNDER A MATING MOON
A billion butterflies battered Lexi’s stomach. She shifted her attention from Ross to the piano. Sure enough, the music had stopped, and Jake faced her from his seat on the bench. Man oh man, the heavy stare from those sky blue eyes sent shivers skittering down her spine. His gaze held the same intensity she remembered from him as a kid, as if he saw into the heart of people, exposing their deepest secrets. It had driven her crazy back then, and she’d spent much time teasing him, pulling his hair, trying to distract him from being so serious all of the damn time. They were teenagers—partying was supposed to be their sole focus.
With his ice-blue stare locked on her, Jake rose to his feet, all taut muscle and predatory power. His energy swept over her like a tsunami, forcing all of the moisture to abandon her mouth while parts much lower wept with want. Her inner Wolf howled, answering the call of this Alpha, the first Dominant male ever to make her sit up and take notice. Holy crap. Her muscles shook with the need to bound over to him, jump in his arms, wrap her legs around his torso and writhe against his hard, hot, tattooed body.
Jake said something to his uncle then stalked straight at her, cutting a path right through the middle of the tables and the many, too-curious patrons.
A whimper escaped her throat.
Surprise sparked in her brother’s brown eyes. “You’re kidding me. Him?” He burst out laughing. “Wow, sis, that’s some major, big-time irony right there.”
Darci’s expression conveyed her bewilderment. “Now what are you two talking about?”
Her annoying brother grinned. “See that angry Alpha headed our way? My sister here rejected him when they were teens and he’s apparently her—”
Lexi socked her brother in the ribs. “Shut it, Ross.”
“Ouch.” Ross rubbed his side and chuckled at her plight. The jerk. “Come on, Lexi, you have to admit the hilarity of the situation.”
No, she did not. Nor did she have to admit that J-Bird was right all those years ago. He was her mate. O to the M to the G…. They were mates.
Even so, he didn’t look happy to see her at all. In fact, he looked positively enraged. Shit, shit and triple shit. What a mess she’d made eight years ago. Well, she was woman enough to pull on her big-girl panties and fix it. She straightened her spine and lifted her chin in challenge, meeting Jake’s stormy stare. He halted before her.
I can do this. “Hey J-Bird. Nice to see you.” Lovely. Her voice sounded like she’d eaten the gravel from the lot in front of Gee’s bar. Embarrassment heated her cheeks.
One breath, two breaths, three…. J-Bird glared. Tension coiled between them in the silence. Lexi bit the inside of her cheek to avoid babbling at him. She’d said hello. It was his turn. Damn it, J-Bird, say something. He wasn’t making this easy.
“Alexina.” His arctic tone dismissed her and slapped her in the face at the same time, leaving her disappointed and confused. No one called her by her full name. No one except her parents when she’d done something wrong as a kid. He might as well have said, “Screw you,” while slamming a door in her face.
His focus shifted to her brother. “Hello, Ross. Been a while.” His hand shot out to grasp her brother’s in a cordial shake.
“Good to see you, Jake. Join us for lunch? My treat. We can catch up on old times.”
“No, thank you. I’m done. Nice to see you again, Ross.” Jake nodded at Darci. “Miss.” He brushed past them and out the door.
“What. Just. Happened?” The, “I’m done,” he uttered in his delicious British accent seemed aimed more at her than at her brother’s offer. And the fact he hadn’t even looked at her before stalking out all sexy in his gloom and doom? Yeah, that hurt.
“I think you know, sis.” The amusement left her brother’s face and sympathy glimmered in his gaze. “Question is, what are you going to do about it?”
She’d never run from a fight in her life. She wouldn’t start now. “Grab a table. I’ll be back in a second. Or not.” She ignored her brother’s knowing grin and hurried out the door.
Evan tipped his head and eyed the ceiling. Prompt replies, punctual people. Striking deals and hitting deadlines. These items made his world tick. Not loitering around a miniscule airport pulling a Waiting for Godot moment on infinite repeat for a no-show, flakey designer from California.
God grant him patience and balls of steel when he showed up without the designer and the all-important wedding dress, because his future sister-in-law Darci would certainly be unhappy. He’d have to beg a favor from his assistant, have her snag a couture dress, and fly it ASAP to the Rapid City airport. He could afford a gown from some famous designer in Chicago or New York, something likely superior to whatever his soon-to-be sister-in-law’s no-name friend had created. Right? Shit, he hoped women’s fashion proved so easy.
He took a deep fortifying breath and froze. Airport smells assailed his senses—the sharp tang of bleach and lemon-scented cleaners, the floral perfume from Rental Car Girl who eyed him like a piece of candy. Black coffee, donuts, fried fast food, and under it all, the distinct musk of wolf.
She smelled damn good. His wolf perked up, and his legs propelled him toward the empty baggage claim, where one bright-pink suitcase covered in Hello Kitty stickers sat, unclaimed, on the unmoving L-shaped conveyor belt. Her scent, stronger here, socked his gut, and his gaze shot to the corner.
The chaos around the woman stunned him silent. Large, paper coffee cup, half-eaten banana, and a quarter of a powdered doughnut perched on a brown paper bag next to her. Crumbs splattered the linoleum and the woman’s long-sleeved blue blouse in a thick layer of white, sugary dust. On her other side, two pink garment bags lay like corpses, along with a bubblegum-pink unzipped duffel as long as her outstretched, denim-clad legs. Some of the bag’s contents—pads of drawing paper and large swaths of fabric—protruded over the opening, the fabric splaying over her legs in a rainbow-colored blanket. Her feet peeked out of the mess, encased in sparkling pink UGGs. Good grief, sequins? She smacked her shiny boots together in a poor imitation of Dorothy and bobbed her head from side to side in time to some music only she seemed to hear. Her shoulder-length red hair, the color of ripe dark cherries—his favorite fruit—gleamed under the harsh airport lighting and curtained most her face from his view, save a pert nose and small chin, both speckled with a generous amount of freckles.
He’d always liked freckles.
Clearing his throat, he stepped closer, but she didn’t flinch in surprise or look up. Her attention remained on the tablet on her lap, the stylus between her pale, freckled fingers swiping without hesitation over her screen. Her extreme focus reminded him of his sister Lexi in one of her artistic frenzies. The resemblance ended there.
While his sister took after the rest of their tall, lean, and tan family, this woman seemed the polar opposite—pale, petite, curvy, and freckled. His preferred type. A flicker of interest stirred in his gut. Did she have those cute little spots on the rest of her? Speckled fur when in her wolf form? His wolf huffed his interest in finding out, but Jasmine the Oblivious Designer didn’t acknowledge his presence.
His fascination faded, replaced by renewed irritation. She damn well should have scented and noticed his wolf by now, and she should have waited at their agreed upon rendezvous point. She should not be sitting on the dirty linoleum of an airport, lost in her work. Didn’t she realize the dangers of ignoring her surroundings?
He positioned himself right in front of her wiggly, booted feet. “Excuse me, J—”
“Sh.” She raised her arm and flicked her hand in the universal get lost gesture.
He gaped at her. “Excuse me?”
Another wave of her hand while her stylus streaked across her tablet screen with the other. “Not interested.”
Nice voice. Low and husky. Her attitude, on the other hand…. “But—”
“Go away.” Her velvet voice carried a stubborn edge.
In other circumstances, he would’ve admired her strength. But he’d wasted copious amounts of time hunting for the clearly inconsiderate and irresponsible female. “Fine. Get your own damn ride to Los Lobos. Jasmine.”