by Rebecca Royce
The Westervelt Wolves - Book 3
Available from Liquid Silver Books
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In print at Amazon
A lone wolf is a dangerous creature, until he meets his mate. Then he’ll become lethal to protect her.
Faith Anderson never asked to be a wolf shifter, but one strange encounter with the Westervelt Wolves and she suddenly has a past she knows nothing about and a future wrought with danger. No one is more disappointed than she to discover that the island does not hold a mate for her…that is, until she collides with Theo Kane, the missing prince of the Westervelt Wolves who has chosen isolation to save his pack from what he believes are his insane tendencies.
Theo couldn’t imagine anything worse than the near death experience that left him scarred and forever changed. Until some of the same things start happening to Faith. Now he has no choice but to face what he has avoided for over a year if he doesn’t want the past to repeat itself, this time taking Faith along for the ride. Together they will battle demons, invisible wolves, and worst of all his father to find their eternal love.
But if the price is eternity, are they willing to risk it all?
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Someone was leaving the island by canoe. It was the third time this week. Theo Kane narrowed his eyes and tried to figure out the mystery but from his vantage point it was next to impossible. Whoever it was certainly was sneaky. The canoe had left from three different ports on all three nights, making it impossible for Theo to lay in wait for the culprit.
But he would catch him eventually.
It would do no good to stare out into the rough water and watch the person row away. Theo swung around and sniffed the air one more time. Nothing. This was getting worse and worse. Whoever this was had scent-disguising herbs in his or her possession. Even finding the canoe would provide no help with the problem of identity.
Not my problem. He forced the canoe from his mind. But out of habit he found himself drawn into the problem, looking for a solution, mapping out a game plan. Couldn’t help it really—he was part human. Shaking his head he closed eyes to the darkness that surrounded him. Nothing mattered. Not when the night called.
The ground felt cool beneath his paws as he ran through the woods listening to the wind. Theo wasn’t even sure what drove him forward. Something, the endless unnamed thing that haunted his dreams and made his waking life a constant nightmare, pushed him towards the cliffs on the other side of the island.
When he’d been a child, before his father had betrayed them and his world had crumbled, he’d loved running with his brothers through these woods. Each of them would shift back and forth from their wolf to their human form until they collapsed with exhaustion. They would challenge each other to see which one of them could hold out the longest. Tristan always won. They should have realized then Tristan was destined to be their future Alpha.
But Theo had often been a close second. He shook his head to push away the thoughts. There was no point in remembering his human life now. A year ago, he’d made the decision to give up that aspect of himself. The only time he ever regretted it was when this recurring feeling called to him and drove him to near insanity.
He let his senses travel outwards into the night. There was plenty of prey for him to hunt. Going hungry was not something he needed to worry about on Westervelt Island. His brothers made sure of that by importing enough prey to keep the island stocked and their wolf-half occupied. Tonight, a new scent hung in the air. The scent of the anonymous entity lingered within him and he couldn’t identify it. The nameless being that drove him crazy.
He skidded to a halt, and little sprays of dust spurted from beneath his feet. It had been months since his wolf side had spoken to his human side. Who could have guessed the wolf half of him wouldn’t want him to live permanently in its natural form?
What? His voice sounded strained to his own ears. It had been a long time since he’d spoken, even telepathically.
You are feeling your mate. Her scent calls to us and drives us to find her.
Theo really hoped his wolf was wrong. He couldn’t have a mate. It would be the cruelest thing in the world to both of them. In his human form, he was a monstrosity—both in body and soul. The demon that had attacked and wounded him had done more than permanently mutilate his face. No one really understood it. But somehow the acid that burned through his skin had a separate, more sinister effect than anyone had anticipated.
It had brought him to the brink of insanity and the only cure was to remain in his wolf form where he could harm no one and he was protected from the onslaught of destructive behavior he couldn’t seem to stop or control. Ashlee, Tristan’s mate and the healer for their pack, searched for a way to free him from the madness, but so far none had been found. He suspected they all preferred that he limited his visits to the Institute to the brief hour he telepathically communicated with Tristan once a month. Theo had made it a point not even to run with the pack when they all shifted together. For all intents and purposes, it was better that he be a lone wolf. Forever.
He certainly preferred it.
You’re not listening to me and you’re doing it on purpose. His wolf snorted in disgust and Theo looked down at the grey and brown fur that covered his paws for a moment to hide his shame. It really shouldn’t surprise him that his canine was so perceptive.
I have a mate and I’m being driven to find her?
Not to find her. She’s obviously here which is why you can smell her. She must have arrived six months ago when this urge to find a missing part of you started.
Even in his wolf form, Theo felt his eyes widen in surprise. So why didn’t you say something then?
A beat of silence met his query and Theo suspected he wasn’t going to like what he heard.
Because I’m angry at you.
You’re what? He’d never heard of anyone’s wolf getting angry at them before. He almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it.
Theo would swear he heard a sigh. I’m mad at you.
How is that even possible? We’re two halves of the same person. Theo’s mind whirled.
I’m a wolf and you’re a jackass.
Theo wished he could laugh. Instead, he turned and howled at the darkening sky. This was his favorite time of year. Spring pushed into Winter’s territory, demanding it be given its due. Each day was a mystery; would it be warm, cold, or sunny? Might it even still snow? He loved Maine and he adored their little island. Or at least he used to. Love of one location over another was a human interest. Wolves were only concerned with how they would survive, what they would eat, who they would...
Damn it. His wolf was really not going to let this go. He closed his eyes for a second and took off running towards the cliffs again. At least this time he knew he wasn’t crazy, that the acid’s insanity hadn’t found a way to harm him while he was in this form.
He ran harder. He could beat this urge. Where was it written that he had to take a mate? So what that she existed in the world? He would do them both a favor and spare them the pain of ever meeting because he knew the truth.
If the acid hadn’t caused his mental and physical degradation, then it was something else much worse. Ashlee had made hints that she didn’t believe this was the case, but had never uttered the fully formed thought. However, deep in his heart Theo knew it meant he truly was Kendrick Kane’s son. The one member of his family who inherited his father’s insanity—the insanity that had led their patriarch to destroy the pack and betray their mother. Theo knew he would do nothing but bring shame and harm to his people if he was allowed to roam around as a human.
But don’t you want to know what she looks like? Just so you know.
Just so I know what? Actually, it would be better if he never saw her. That way he wouldn’t spend the rest of eternity obsessing.
So you know who it is the universe picked out to be our perfect other half. It might be interesting to find out what she’s like, how she’s different from us, how she’s the same.
You aren’t going to let this go, are you?
No. Besides there is still the matter of the shifter in the boat who may or may not be the traitor no one has unearthed because you and I haven’t been around to find them.
The first bullet grazed his ear and caught him by surprise. He hit the ground hard before lunging into the bushes for cover. This was not good. How had he been so careless?
It wasn’t like him to be taken by surprise. He sniffed the air around him. Still nothing. So either there was something wrong with his sensory perception or the person out there held no distinctive scent. That was a very frightening concept. He almost preferred the idea of there being something wrong with him.
Sorry, nothing wrong on my end. It’s not our senses.
So much for his wolf letting him live in delusions. He heard the second shot as it struck a rock formation right behind him. His eyes widened and a growl formed in his throat. Maybe he should be grateful that whoever did this had such lousy aim.
Shift. We’ll go after him. As a human you can use weapons.
I can’t smell him or see him. I’m not shifting. I’ll be more exposed like that.
But he did need to get away if only to alert the others of the threat on the island. He’d seen the man he’d assumed was the traitor leave in a canoe. That meant this perpetrator was someone else.
Tristan needed to know—now. Theo took off running. His paws pounded into the cold ground beneath him. He’d be lucky if he lived to see Spring come into its full glory this year. His last night on earth and he’d spent it arguing with his wolf about whether or not he should meet his mate.
He tore through the bushes staying low, unable to control the snarl from his mouth. His mind tore. Part of him wanted to hunt, to find who attacked him, and tear out their throat. The other, more sane and rational side—which was losing ground steadily—knew he needed to get back to the Institute and tell them of the man on the canoe and the one wielding a gun.
There was no sound behind him, not even a rustle in the bushes to signal a pursuit. Up ahead, he could see the riverbank he needed to follow to the main area of the island. The sloshing of the water as it peaked over the edge of the sharp rocks on both banks told him the river was running high. Not surprising. Two weeks ago, something close to twenty-seven inches of snow had started to melt. All of that excess water had to find some way to run off the island into the Atlantic.
And he could use all of it to his advantage.
As if on cue, another bullet whizzed by his head and exploded into the right side of the riverbank in front of him. The rock broke into small pieces and cut the good side of Theo’s face. He barely flinched. After the demon attack, pain was a fleeting annoyance to him. Nothing would ever hurt as much as that had.
He took a deep breath and dove into the river.
Are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?
Theo might have snickered if the situation were not so dire. You were the one who wanted me to shift.
His wolf sighed. You’re going to take us right over the waterfall, aren’t you?
As a rule, shifters never talked about their canine personalities. It was private and just not done, so Theo had no idea if other people had wolf-halves that were so bright. But his furry self was correct. Half a mile south of where they were, the river turned into a raging waterfall that would eventually dump its contents in a lake they called Red Lagoon. Its name came from the strange algae that grew on its bank that turned the edges of the body of water a strange crimson red.
If he was lucky, maybe this time he could pull off the impossible—he could disappear into the water beneath the falls. He would stay as long as he could in his four-legged form before he shifted to make the dive over the water. In his human shape, he would be more agile.
But luck hadn’t exactly been on his side of late.
The water felt cold as it pushed against his fur, which meant it was really freezing and he wouldn’t be able to handle it for very long in his human form. At least he wouldn’t die by a bullet fired by an unknown assassin. There was honor in robbing his pursuer of his kill.
He heard the falls up ahead and called the shift upon himself. Six months had passed but his wolf must have been desperate for the shift because it happened faster than he could ever remember it happening before. A white light engulfed him, bringing for a moment, peace in his soul. He wished he could float in it but before he could blink the sensation passed and he was naked in frothy rushing water.
He closed his eyes and took some deep breaths. They might be the last he’d get to take until he hit the lake and swam a distance under the falls where his pursuer would be unable to see him. Even doing as simple as breathing pulled at the knotted together skin that covered the left side of his face and caused him to grimace. He’d almost forgotten how scarred he actually was.
Hey Mr. Vanity, I hope you can still swim.
Two bullets whizzed by his shoulder, the first one grazed his right arm. Hell, this bastard really didn’t know how to use the site on his gun. Nonetheless, he laughed out loud. His wolf was right. Could he still swim? When was the last time he’d tried it?
One last breath and he was over the edge of the falls. It felt like he stayed still and the water and rocks below him moved upwards. He had a moment to think how strange that was before he plunged into the cold water beneath him. There was at least a five degree temperature difference between the water he’d been in and what he was engulfed in now. His body froze from the shock. It wouldn’t matter if he could swim. Unless he could get his limbs moving, he would drown.
He’d read somewhere drowning was supposed to be peaceful. But his was not going that way. He fought against his limbs that refused to obey and tried to keep himself from the instinct to breathe in the water. He’d just about given up hope when he heard a splash above him.
Damn, his pursuer was coming after him. He hadn’t thought that could happen because he hadn’t anticipated getting stuck this way. He blinked as a face approached his and as it became clearer he sucked in a gallon of water. The person trying to kill him owned the most exquisite features he’d ever seen. In a split second, he memorized her visage.
Even under the water and near death, he could see she had chestnut brown hair, streaked with blonde. Her face had a smattering of freckles crossing her perky nose and high cheekbones, barely visible over her creamy white, porcelain skin. Her huge brown eyes held specks of gold in them and did nothing to mask the fury he saw in them at that moment. She tugged hard at him as she tried to pull him to the top.
Why didn’t she just let him drown? Wasn’t that her objective? His death?
She closed her eyes and he was shocked to see the white light engulf her as she shifted to a wolf form. Brown and gold, she was tiny, even for a wolf.
My would-be assassin is a wolf-shifter. He shouted internally at his wolf.
She bit down hard on his shoulder and dragged him to the top of the water. As he scrabbled along with her, he tried to take a breath and remembered he had inhaled all of that lake water. He choked and the brown and gold wolf goddess who still bit down on his shoulder pulled him into a sitting position as she banged on his back with her tail.
Wicked, hard coughs shook his body and he wished he could just pass out as what he assumed must be half the contents of the lake came out of his mouth. When they finally subsided, he collapsed and covered his head with his hands. The skin under his right hand felt rough and he groaned as he remembered what had driven him into the waterfall to begin with. This shifter woman had dragged him to the surface just to murder him herself.
Through his hands he could see the white light that precipitated a shift fill the air around them and he assumed Brown-and-Goldy was now back in her human form. He moved his hands from his eyes. If he was going to die, at least he’d get a good look at her naked. You had to love the rules of shifting: no matter who did it, they always ended up nude as the day they were born.
She stood over him, her hair a shade darker and dripping wet. Goosebumps covered her body, with her hands on her hips. She breathed hard and he couldn’t help but openly admire the way her breasts, small and perfectly sculpted, moved with each inhalation. He wanted to reach up and grab them. Just the imagining of the act caused him to grow hard. What the hell was the matter with him?
Take a sniff. She’s our mate.
Oh hell. Now not only was the most stunning shifter he’d ever seen an assassin sent to kill him, but she was his mate, too. Why was he surprised? His whole life was weird.
“What the hell were you doing?” Her voice was high pitched and slightly scratchy. “Were you trying to kill yourself? Who jumps over that cliff?” She pointed upwards to the top of the falls. He didn’t need to follow her motion. He knew exactly where he’d jumped from.
“I was trying to escape. But if I’d know it was you, sweetheart, perhaps I would have let you catch me.”
She shook her head. “Escape me? I was sitting down here minding my own damn business when I saw you shift and come over the cliff.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You weren’t the one chasing me?”
She looked up at the top of the cliffs again, her eyes wide, startled. “Someone is chasing you? Who the hell are you anyway? I know all the shifters here but I’ve never seen you before.”
She took two steps backwards and he was suddenly amused by her new found self-preservation instincts.
He put out a hand and hoped to stop her retreat. “I’m naked, unarmed, and two minutes ago I was near death. I’m no threat to you, sweetheart.”
Her eyes flared and he suspected it was at the reuse of the nickname. “I’ll ask again and then I’ll howl so loud I’ll have the entire Westervelt wolf pack down here to descend on your worthless head.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Before I tell you my name, do me a favor and just confirm something for me. You were not chasing me, shooting at me, and miss-hitting me for the last twenty minutes?”
She sniffed the air in front of her. “No and there is no one out here but you and me.”
“He’s masking his scent.” He looked down on the ground and rubbed his burnt cheek as it started to throb. “My name is Theo Kane and please do call the pack. I need to tell my brother Tristan about some strange occurrences on his island.”
She laughed out loud. “I know the entire Kane family and there is no Theo Kane. Try again.”
“One year ago, I asked them to forget me. You must have shown up after that.”
“I met the pack a year ago but I didn’t make it here until six months ago. I’m going to check all this before I believe you. I run security here.”
“You do?” He lifted his eyebrows. “Then you took over my old job. You’ve got a man leaving the island from a different port every night in a canoe. He has no smell. The same goes for whoever was chasing me moments earlier. Thank you for saving my life.” He pulled her to him and she let out a shocked squeal. Unable to stop himself, he pulled her to his lips and kissed her gently. “As I’m sure your wolf has been telling you for the last few minutes, I am your mate—every gruesome ounce of the monstrosity you see belongs to you.”
He closed his eyes, shocked when she didn’t struggle in his arms. “I don’t even know your name.” She opened her mouth to speak and he covered it with his hand. “It’s better if I don’t. I’m like a nightmare come to life. Save yourself. Stay away from me.”
Not sure where he found the energy, he shifted into his wolf form and ran. When he’d reached a safe distance, he allowed himself to acknowledge that he didn’t run from whoever tried to kill him but rather from the freckled young woman who had dragged him from the water, felt soft beneath his lips, tasted of marshmallows, and smelled so close to the coming spring she could have been Mother Nature herself.