Riley Morgan, the all-star ace pitcher of the world champion New York Kings, has long hidden his secret from his adoring fans and the clamoring metropolitan press. But when a long-distance mate call distracts Riley on the mound, he suffers a freak, career-ending injury that sends him back to his South Dakota wolf pack to heal.
Stolen from her family along with her twin sister years earlier, Amber Northridge has been held prisoner and abused by the crazed former alpha and his henchmen since she was a teen, managing to survive through her resourcefulness and wit. Now, at long last, the pack has located them and set them free.
Home in Los Lobos, Amber recognizes the hunky baseball player she's seen on TV as her mate, but she doubts she can be with any man after all she has suffered. Can the romantic machinations of Los Lobos' four renowned matchmakers unite the damaged pair?
Something sloshed into the creek from the nearby falls and briefly splashed about before emerging onto an island of rock—beaver or badger out to play and test the cold spring waters, most likely. Amber jerked her head up, gazing through the filmy curtain of spray, and sucked in a sharp breath.
Not “a man.” The man. The one she’d seen on the flickering TV screen seven months ago on the day of her rescue. The man who’d fallen to the ground in centerfield, writhing in agony. The man she could not forget. She rubbed her ring. The amber heated and seemed to glow. Everything inside her melted.
He seemed blissfully unaware of her, so she gaped her fill. Luna. Such a sinfully handsome naked man, droplets of water glistening like diamonds on his lickable, strokable, sun-kissed skin, his taut muscles bulging and rippling with every movement.
Tendrils of his rich, unique scent wafted across the water, curling around her, into her nose, into her brain, seeping into her body and setting a carnal fire between her legs. Goddess. He smelled delicious—as she’d known he would. She sniffed again. He smelled like summer, like hot sun and freshly mown grass, like the whisper of clean, soothing rain, bringing with it the barest hint of a dangerous thunderstorm. Like Cracker Jacks and cotton candy and roasted peanuts and salted caramel fudge at a state fair…or a baseball game. Not that she’d ever been to either. Still, she could taste him on her tongue, a feast for all her senses.
She wanted to devour him. A tremor ran through her, both excitement and fear. One thing to fantasize about the erotic delights she might share with an imaginary lover, another thing when confronted with a real, living, breathing, flesh-and-blood male. A big, clearly dominant male. When she could hardly bear to touch or be touched, when everything in her readied to flee, how had heated words like “lickable” and “strokable” entered her mind? How had she conjured images of her skimming her hungry lips in delight over his tanned skin, savoring the salty, masculine taste of him?
Amber dipped her hand in her pocket to run her fingers over the features of the small wolf Brick had given her, calling forth its protective powers. Instead, the little stone sculpture fairly buzzed, reflecting her own excitement. Warmth filled her palm. Something hummed and sang within her. She could not be imagining the sizzle of fiery energy coursing through her. Could not be imagining him. The amber ring on her finger lit with an inner fire, radiating light. Her hot blood scorched through her veins.
Her mind told her to run, to leap up and shift and bound away, to escape the solitary confines of the woods invaded by the threat of the strange man.
But her wolf struggled inside her, rebelling and whining at the notion of flight, claws abrading her skin, urging her instead to plunge into the crystal water and twine herself around the man. Amber shook her head and curled her fingers into the grass, willing the motion to ground her to solid earth.
Her wolf howled its displeasure, compelling her to at least remain where she was and watch the naked man—if she refused to run to him, to bask in his proximity and loll in his scrumptious scent. The beast scampered in a confusion of joy and frustration, sensing something nearby that would bring it endless delight and crying in hungry need when she deprived it of the satisfaction it craved.
Amber remained rooted to the spot, unable to tear her gaze from a masculine form as perfect as a sculpture, so beautiful and hunky she wanted to weep.
Well, except for the weird angles of his left hand, the fingers somewhat gnarled and twisted, and the muscles of his thinner left arm not quite as toned and bulging as those of his right.
Water slapped around the wide granite pedestal on which he stood. As she stared, he went into a windup like the one she’d seen him perform on the TV screen so long ago. He ceased his movement before the throwing action, though, bringing his left arm back to his side with a disgusted shake of his head. Instead, he bent, gathered up a few stones, and skipped them expertly across the creek with his right hand.
His sharp gaze followed the progress of the stones, the splashes they made as they traveled to the other side.
Then he looked up and their gazes met, his eyes locking with hers, his own wintry and dazzling, a mercurial quicksilver freezing her in place like a bee in amber.