Strange, hot, metallic
fumes surround me until I choke. I know what’s coming. I try to scream, but no
sound leaves my mouth.
“You are so sweet.”
My skin crawls at the sound
of his dark voice. I struggle to move.
“You are mine, Simone.”
Fire touches my breast. It
spreads throughout my body, throughout my soul.
I scream and scream and
“Simone! Simone! It’s okay.
The howling in my ears
wouldn’t stop. So many scents—of the past and the present—bombarded my senses.
All familiar. However, one particular scent overpowered all the others: smoky
and rich, like a cozy, warm fire, and leather cloak, with an undertone of lemon
A deep rumble filled the
quiet room as a powerful energy touched my skin, making me shiver.
I opened my eyes and came
face to face with an enormous wolf. Bright green eyes, framed by a dark brown
mask above a fully silver muzzle, stared back at me. The wolf’s shoulders were
immense. And there was something about this wolf—something comforting and
electrifying all at once. Nothing would ever happen to me as long as this wolf
watched over me. I felt it in my blood, in my body and in my soul. This wolf
would fight to his last heartbeat to protect me.
A deep, masculine voice
spoke from across the room. “Simone, everything’s gonna be fine.”
The last thing I wanted was
some male telling me everything would be fine.
I snarled and snapped at
the stranger, who had stayed in the doorway. Though…he wasn’t a total stranger,
he was…Jessy’s mate.
Ashamed, I looked away and
caught sight of a black wolf in the mirror across the room.
I had shifted.
“Simone?” I lifted my head
toward the sound of Jessy’s soft voice.
In the doorway, Maygan and
Kern stood behind Jessy and Dain.
Jessy stepped forward, past
the huge wolf that stood between me and the rest of the room. She tossed a
blanket over my body and sat down on the bed next to me as she gently stroked
“Simone, hey, I think you
had a nightmare. You’re safe here with us. No one is gonna hurt you.”
I gazed into the green eyes
of the wolf that stood only a foot from my bed. His anxious features smoothed
out, his stiff shoulders relaxing as his big, fluffy tail began to swing back
and forth in a long, swooping arc.
I sucked in a breath and
let the shift back to human flow through me. Jessy readjusted the blanket,
making sure to cover my suddenly naked body.
“I’m so sorry.” Shame and
embarrassment heated my face as I bunched the thick blanket up beneath my chin.
The last thing I wanted was
to relive those three horrific days over and over in my dreams.
“I can give you a sedative
that will help, if you’d like,” Kern offered.
The big wolf in front of me
nodded his agreement. A week ago, I would’ve totally taken up that offer, but
now, my dreams were another reminder of why I had run, why I needed to start a
“No. Thank you.” I choked
back a sob. “I need to remember.”
I looked down at my
blanket-covered breasts. The branding wasn’t something I would ever forget, but
reliving it in my mind every night reminded me that I would never allow anyone
to hurt me again.
Or stand by while others
were hurt. Or killed.
“Well, you need your rest,
too. If you change your mind and want one night of good sleep, say the word and
I’ll make it happen.”
I nodded. “Thank you. I’ll
think about it.”
Jessy stood up from the
bed. I grabbed her hand.
“Could you stay? Stay with
me…for just a bit, please?”
“Sure.” She sat back down
as the others quietly slipped from the doorway. The massive wolf didn’t leave
his spot. He sat down as if he belonged there—belonged by my side.
Now. Always. Forever.
And having thoughts like
that were crazy. I had no idea where they came from, especially since I didn’t
even know this male.
The wolf raised his huge
paw and laid it gently on the bed next to my thigh as he cocked his head to the
left in question.
“Gunner.” Jessy raised her
eyebrows at him. “Girl talk.”
He stood and slowly inched
toward me, his head low in submission as he nudged his nose under my hand.
“I’ve never touched another
wolf before,” I whispered, as I stroked my fingers between his large ears and
down his back. The top layer of his fur was stiff and bristly. I dug my fingers
deeper into the thick, warm underlayer of his coat. “You are so…soft.”
His luscious scent eased my
anxiety and quickened my pulse at the same time. I smiled as I slid my fingers
over his silky, silver muzzle. He leaned into my touch, pressed his forehead
against mine, and let off a low-pitched whine: a question.
“Yes, I’m…better now.” And
I was. Calmer. In control.
He pulled away a few
inches. His intense green gaze held me in place as if he could see all the way
down into my soul. I placed my hands on the bed, gripped the blanket in my
fingers, and held his stare. I wanted him to look, wanted him to see who I was,
what I’d been through and that I was no threat to him or his pack.
The next second, warm, wet
wolf kisses bathed my face.
His tongue laved over me,
from my chin to my nose, in quick, friendly swipes. He flashed his long canines
in a strange, wolfy grin, then retreated to the doorway. He glanced back over
his shoulder. His brows arched as if he were asking me if I might change my
He turned away and
disappeared from the room, his claws clicking on the hardwood floor.
My face tingled where he’d
licked me. I swept my tongue along my lips and tasted him there.
Stunned, I looked at Jessy.
“Gunner?” His name came out as a sigh. His flavor was still in my mouth and I
“Yep.” She crossed the room
and closed the door. “He stuck around to make sure you were recovering. He
rarely throws his Alpha status up, but when he does, we don’t argue.”
“Alpha status? He’s your
“Couldn’t you tell?” She
waved her arms around as she spoke. “He’s got that whole Alpha-power thing
going on. He can’t help it, not that he would. It just kind of broadcasts his
aura all over the place.”
Gunner. He was their Alpha
male. He’d stayed. No wonder I was drawn to him. When I’d run into
him, earlier in the hall, his scent seemed to engulf me. I had wanted to sink
into his arms. But now, his scent seemed different—changed from before—deeper,
more complex and…complete.
One thing I did understand:
I didn’t fear Gunner as I feared Rule.