Saoirse McColl, a research biologist, keeps getting fired from labs for refusing to produce results the clients want. Her best friend suggests she look for a new line of work. She applies to an ad for a high school biology teaching job at an academy in northwestern Maine that promised living quarters plus salary.
Diego Vargas, a werewolf, is the principal of the academy, despite having no background in education. He has proven to the pack leader that he is dependable and detail-oriented, but he hates hiring new teachers, not knowing what to ask them.
Once Saoirse is in his office, Diego can’t concentrate because his wolf loves her smell. When it turns out that she is the best-qualified candidate, Diego and his wolf rejoice, because both are convinced she’s their mate. But she’s not a shifter, so they need to bide their time, waiting for the right moment to inform her that she’s living in a compound of mostly wolf shifters.
Can these two find happiness together, once the scientist discovers that myth is reality?
"How old do you think I am?" Diego asked.
"About twenty-five? I know you're younger than me."
"Not by as much as you think. I'm thirty-one."
"I can only hope moving here is as healthy for me, as it obviously is for all of you."
They were both quiet, for a few minutes, drinking more from their water bottles. Diego asked another question.
"How do you feel, personally, about living here? Are you adapting okay to the silence and the isolation?"
She grinned, "I don't get much silence when I'm in class with the kids. They're noisy all of the time. I wish I could bottle their energy...I could make a fortune selling it! So when I do get time off, I enjoy not having to interact with anyone, unless I want to. I mean the meals are communal, but I usually enjoy that."
"You can always ask for something to be sent up to your room, if you don't feel like talking to anyone. That's why you have a dining area in your suite."
"Thanks. That's good to know, if I ever feel like eating by myself. I have a lot of solo hobbies, like reading, and I like to do yoga in my room. Plus now that I have access to some art supplies, I've been doing some painting again, which I haven't been able to do for years. So yeah, I've been enjoying living here."
"I know we don't have much in the way of night life. There aren't any clubs for attractive young women like you to go partying the night away. The closest town is Bingham, and they roll their sidewalks up after dinner and turn out the lights."
"I never did get much into clubbing. I mean I went with Freddie and Jorge when I was living with them, since their friends were all into that. But it's not really my scene. Don't get me wrong, I do like to dance and party, but not as much as I did when I was in my younger, more rebellious days. Ten years ago, I'd have thought this place was too remote. Now I like the peace and quiet."
He was sitting right in front of her, and she saw a quick upward curve of his lips as he heard her answer. He looked away for a moment, and she sensed a hesitation on his part.
"Is there anything else you want to ask me?"
He was silent for just a heartbeat, then he turned to her and looked into her eyes.
"Would it be alright with you if I kiss you?"
She returned his gaze, "I wish you would."
He leaned closer and she closed her eyes as their lips met.
She was surprised by the tingle that she felt from that tiny connection with him. It was like an electric jolt that traveled down her throat and made her nipples tighten with excitement. It traveled lower, warming her abdomen, to zero in on her clit, newly alive and throbbing. With a low moan, she leaned forward into the kiss, wanting more.
Diego was fighting a battle for control, with his wolf. It was fully awake and making demands in a language that only he understood.
Take her now! She belongs to us!
No! She's not pack. She doesn't know what that would mean.
No matter. She will learn. She will be pack.
Hear her? Smell her? She wants. Take her!
They were startled by the sudden noise of branches being trampled nearby, and a growling sound.
Diego pulled back from the kiss to turn his head in the direction of the sound and inhale deeply. Instantly he reached out and covered her mouth with his hand. He shook his head, silently asking her to not make a sound.
A mama Black Bear with two cubs emerged from the brush only a few feet away from them. The family lumbered by them, heading for the stream. Once she was downwind from them, she turned and saw them. She regarded them gravely, growling a warning to her cubs as she took a step nearer to the invaders.
Diego made a low growling sound in his throat, and the bear stopped. She turned back to the cubs and headed up the stream, herding them along with her, to quickly put distance between them and the humans.
When Diego was satisfied that the danger was over, he took his hand off Saoirse's mouth.
"Are you okay?"
She nodded weakly.
"I've never seen a bear up close before. I've never even seen a bear not in a zoo before. That was terrifying, and exciting, all at the same time!"
He stood up and offered her a hand to pull her up.
"The danger is over, for now. Just the same, it's getting late, and we want to be back in time for some dinner."
"How did you do that growling thing that convinced her to leave?"
He shrugged, "You live around here long enough, you learn ways to convince the locals to leave you alone. We were intruding on her home territory. I tried to let her know we were leaving. So we need to make good on that promise. Are you ready?"
"Wow. Just, wow. Maybe you can teach me that someday?"
But he had already turned back to the path they had come on and was walking quickly towards the woods.
Saoirse glanced back at the stream the bears were in, then followed the man who knew how to get them back to the area of this wilderness that humans had claimed for themselves.