Sarah has spent the last six years running from some pretty determined wolves. A born Alpha, and a fierce fighter, she has managed to thwart the best efforts of the neighboring packs in their attempts to force a mating with their current Alphas. She is determined to live her life the way she wants—free—and has fought her way to freedom more times than she should have had to. All she’s ever wanted was the chance to find her one true mate and settle down outside of the hierarchy bullshit of Pack life. If that means she has to do so by staying one step ahead of her pursuers, until she finds that man, then that’s just what she’ll do. The only problem now is that her years of running have forced her to trust no one… until she meets Erik.
Erik is a lone wolf himself, but offers his help when an injury befalls the lovely she-wolf he discovers on his property. Attraction sparks and he soon realizes—much to his own surprise—that she is his destined mate.
Shortly after deciding to give the whole thing a trial run, their mutual attraction overwhelms them, but danger is still stalking her, and Erik is determined to find a way to keep her safe.
Now, can Erik convince Sarah that they belong together and tame her wilder side enough to claim her as his own?
Sarah Gray awoke to a sadly familiar feeling. She was being stalked, which shouldn’t be happening. She’d been careful, covered her tracks so well this time that she should have had a longer reprieve. So why was something standing outside her very expensive hunting tent? This stupid thing was guaranteed to mask the scent of its occupant. There was no way the other packs should have found her.
Listening, she heard birds chirping, the light patter of raindrops on the tent, a distant roll of thunder…and the unmistakable snick of a gun being cocked.
“There’s no hunting on my land.” Well, whoever he was he had a nice voice. Deep and smooth with a light southern drawl. “Come on out, and pack up. I expect to not find you out here again.”
Oh, for crying out loud. “I’m not hunting,” she grumbled. “I was just camping.”
That was a lie. For the time being, she lived in this damn tent. There’d be no hotel or credit card trails for the others to follow if she could just handle roughing it until she could get to somewhere safe.
“All right then, ma’am, but this is still private property.” She could hear him put the gun back into its holster and decided to crawl out and face the man before he got angry.
“Listen, I’m sorry I trespassed, and it won’t happen again.” She opened the flap, and the scent of wolf hit her.
“I’ll fight you if you come at me,” she warned, coming to her feet in one smooth motion.
The man before her—well, technically the werewolf before her—merely cocked his head and stared. He was a very nice looking guy, she noted. His dark-brown hair was cut into a businessman-like style, and his muscular build was a sight to behold. And those eyes. They were a pale silvery-blue, outlined by long, dark lashes. Yum! So not fair, though. Why did the boys always get those?
“Why would I hurt you? And where is your pack?” He looked around as if he expected an ambush.
“I don’t have a pack, nor do I want one.” Sarah sensed no danger from him, just a wary curiosity. A pleasant change, for sure, but she kept herself at the ready nonetheless.
“But you’re an alpha-female,” he stated.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious! So that means I have to have a pack? Why?”
He was staring again. What was with this guy and the staring?
“Where’s your pack? Do I have to fight my way out of these woods?”
“What? No.” He eyed her tent then zeroed in on her again. She soon found herself fighting not to squirm under his intense scrutiny. “You’re not camping; you’re running.”
“Yeah, well, apparently, there are a few wolves who are hard-up for an alpha-bitch.” She quickly began to gather her things, collapsing her tent and rolling it up with a practiced ease. “I don’t like pack life. I want a normal life. I just want to eventually find my mate, have a few cubs, and then, once they are older, they can decide if they want to live with a pack or not.” She finished stuffing her tent into her bag and turned. “Is that too much to ask for?”
“Not at all,” he responded. “Usually, someone who’s seeking to live on their own has a job and a place to live other than a hunting tent.” He had a nice smile. Teasing and friendly. “If you’re interested, I could give you some work to do at my farm. There’s a small two-room cabin near the fields. You’re welcome to stay in it if you’d like.”
“Listen, that’s really nice of you, but—”
He cut her off and pointed to the darkening sky. “It’s about to be raining harder, and I have no urge to be standing out here when it lets loose.” He turned to walk away. “The offer’s good, if you decide to take me up on it.”
“I don’t even know your name.” She nervously chewed her bottom lip. She was so tired of sleeping outside, but did she dare trust this guy?
Sure, he was hot as hell and her inner wolf certainly took an interest in him, but it could be a trap. What would she do if he led her into his pack’s main living area? She was always ready and willing to fight. Hell, on some days, she went looking for one, but something felt different here. She wanted to follow this guy.
She was just about to tell him to lead the way when he turned and extended his hand. “I’m Erik Wolfe.”
She smirked, and he flashed her a crooked grin.
“No jokes about the name, sweetheart. I didn’t pick it.”
She nodded. “Fair enough. I’m Sarah Gray.” Taking his hand, she gave it a firm shake. “I guess I’ll take you up on that offer. I could use the money since I can’t use my credit cards anymore.”
“Maxed out, huh?”
“Nope. They track me when I use them. Right now I’m off the grid, so-to-speak.” She carefully kept a few feet between them, just in case.
“Then I’ll be sure to pay you in cash so that you won’t have to worry about hitting the bank to cash a check, either.” He reached for her, and she jumped back and into a fighting stance. “I was just going to carry your bag for you.” He looked insulted that she would assume the worst of him. If the man only knew the things she’d been through.
Sarah straightened, feeling like an ass nonetheless. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He started walking again, and she fell into step behind him. “There’s nothing stocked in the cabin, so I’ll have to bring you some things out. I’ll take you into town tomorrow, and you can choose some groceries for the place, along with anything else you may need.”
“You don’t have to do that. I’m perfectly capable of providing for myself,” she remarked, feeling a little defensive.
“You’re underweight,” he pointed out.
“So sue me. I live an overly active life, but I do manage to eat, drink and sleep. Those are three major factors to surviving,” she argued.
“But you probably get the bare minimum required to keep you alive.” He stopped and faced her. “I agree with everything you’ve said. No one should be forced to live in a way they don’t want. I’ll help you, Sarah, but you need to be in top shape. If they do come for you, it’s just us against them.”
“It’s not your fight. If I catch sight or scent of either one of those packs, I’ll leave. I won’t cause you any trouble if I can avoid it,” she promised.
Erik gave a shrug and began down the trail again at a slightly quicker pace. “I didn’t think that you would.”
“Well, okay. Just so that we’re clear.” What was this guy’s damage? Why did he want to involve himself in someone else’s mess? Did he enjoy being the knight in shining armor for damsels in distress? It was too bad for him that most of the knights she’d met ended up being douche-bags dressed up in tinfoil.
It was also a shame that he seemed to hold no interest in her because he was certainly a handsome wolf, and one of the few she might have welcomed an advance from. For a brief moment, Sarah considered the fact that he could be gay. It would account for why he hadn’t tried to come on to her as all of the other alphas had, unless he was already mated.
“Of course.” He gave her a small smile as if she were a child who’d amused him. And that irritated her. “We’re almost there.”
They were walking through an orchard now, the trees heavy with bright green and red apples. A few lay on the ground and appeared to have become a snack to birds or possibly rabbits.
“As you can see, it’s time for the apples to be harvested. Since Halloween is in a few weeks, I’ve got several orders to fill. There’s a harvest festival, the local grocery mart and several individuals,” he explained.
“All right, I can get started on that as soon as I put my things down.” Sarah looked around. There were about fifty trees, by her guess. That could take a while. “Do you want them in crates, boxes, buckets—?”
“Whoa! We’re not doing this in the rain. Just relax today, get a good night’s sleep and we’ll try for tomorrow. There’s no need to rush.” He pointed ahead. “There’s the cabin.”
The small wooden structure was adorable. Little, green shrubs lined a small porch, and she saw white curtains through the windows. He opened the door to allow her inside, and it creaked loudly as it swung in.
He winced, looking embarrassed. “I’ll fix that.”
“Don’t bother. It’s like a free security system.” She wouldn’t mind hearing every time the door opened. “Is that the only way in?” she asked, already mapping out potential escape routes.
“Yes, but you shouldn’t have any problem fitting through the windows if needed.” He studied her with such intensity she had to look away. “How bad have things been for you?”
Uncomfortable with the way this conversation was going, Sarah kept her answers short, not quite willing to share the unpleasant details her current situation had led her to endure. “Bad enough.”
“You need a break. You’re running yourself down. That’ll make you sloppy and unfocused.” He looked at her bag and frowned. “Is that all you have?”
“What can I say? I travel light. It means I have less to leave behind when I have to run again.” She shrugged and looked around. “This is really nice.”
The main room was cozy. Dark wood made up the walls and floors while warm-colored rugs in deep greens and blues had been placed before the fireplace, under the dining table and by a large, brown leather sofa. The small kitchen, off to the side, consisted of an older top-and-bottom fridge, a microwave and a short counter with a porcelain sink. The place was a little dusty, but judging by the lack of scent in the small space, there hadn’t been anyone inside for quite some time.
“The bedroom is through there.” Erik pointed to the only door besides the entrance. “I’ll be back shortly with some things for you. If you need anything before then, I’ll be at the house. It’s just beyond the fields.”
“Fields?” Sarah asked as she opened the door and peered into the bedroom.
“Yeah, I grow vegetables, too.” He peered inside the room, as well, before asking, “Will this be all right?”
A four-poster bed dominated one corner of the room. A single nightstand and a lamp served as the remaining furniture. “Thank you. It will be nice to sleep in a bed again.”
“How long has it been?” He shook his head and apologized, “I’m sorry, it’s none of my business.”
“Four months,” she whispered. “But I’m free. So all the sleeping on the ground has been worth it.” She placed her bag on the floor and nudged it under the bed.
“I’m glad you decided to accept my offer.” He shook his head again, and for a moment, Sarah thought she detected pity in his eyes. She wasn’t looking for anyone’s pity, but his next words stayed her tongue. “You’re a brave woman, that’s for sure. Most would have given up by now.”
“I’m not most women.”