Half-breed wolf and blacksmith, Bailey Smith’s life is complicated. She’s alpha of a small pack consisting of her teenage brother and three other kids. Her grandfather—a pure-blood wolf—wants her and her brother dead. And now a confrontation with two human males has brought Child Protective Services to her door. If that wasn’t enough, she’s caught the attention of an unknown, sexy-as-hell, male wolf.
Nicholas LaForge has found his mate and purpose. Being a full-blooded wolf is a strike against him, but she marries him to protect her kids. He’ll use whatever sneaky methods necessary—including sex—to convince her they belong together. First, he has to deal with the threats to his new pack. That’s the easy part. Winning her love and trust might be impossible.
Nicholas’s blood was running hot. His wolf was quivering for release, wanting to hunt down those two fuckers who’d come here to hurt this woman and her family. He yanked his wolf back under control, focusing on the woman before him.
Like a flaming-haired Valkyrie, she stood tall and proud, a substantial hammer grasped in her hand, ready to defend those inside the house.
He’d lectured himself a dozen times outside the bar but hadn’t been able to make himself leave. Not even the promise of his first real bed in weeks and a hot shower had been enough to pry him away.
His instincts had been spot on.
He’d tailed the two locals right to her door. Like all bullies, they’d retreated when faced with someone bigger and stronger. It had been easy enough to frighten them and send them running. Now he faced an even bigger challenge—the woman.
“I’m Nicholas LaForge.”
Her lips firmed and the hammer rose a bit higher.
“I saw what happened in the parking lot earlier today.” He nodded at the teenager standing behind her, recognizing him. “I couldn’t help but overhear.” He’d been too far away to hear much if he was human, but he was hoping she wouldn’t realize that.
“That doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.” She was a tough nut to crack. He liked that. “How do I know you’re not with them?” She tilted her head toward the woods.
His jaw tightened at the insult. “I don’t attack women or children.” A sense of satisfaction settled over him. “Only bullies.” They were at a standoff that wasn’t going to end anytime soon if he didn’t do something. She wasn’t giving an inch. He didn’t blame her. She was protecting kids, and there was nothing more dangerous than a female with her pups. It didn’t matter if the female was human or animal or a combination.
“I worried they’d cause problems, so I followed them. They went to a bar for a few hours. I stayed on them when they left. Having a few drinks drained what small amount of sense they possessed.”
The hammer lowered, resting against her thigh. He couldn’t help but notice how her biceps rippled, the short-sleeved T-shirt showing them off to perfection. A strong woman was sexy as hell.
“Why?” She dragged her free hand through her hair.
“Why would I follow them?”
“You don’t know us. What’s your angle?”
Anger blasted through him. “No angle. It was the right thing to do. If I’d walked away and heard something had happened to you, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”
Her eyes widened and she blinked several times. “Are you for real?”
Frustrated, he huffed out a breath. “Yes.”
She gave a decisive nod. “Thanks.” She waved at the dirt road behind him. “You can go now.”
He grinned in spite of his annoyance. His first impression of her being hard-headed and independent had been right on target. “You’re welcome. They might come back.” He doubted it, but there was no telling what they might do once they got away from here and started thinking. That kind acted on impulse, not intellect.
“If they come back, that’s my problem.” Her chin went up. Damned if he didn’t want to kiss her. She’d probably hit him in the side of the head with that hammer of hers. Might be worth the risk.
He rubbed his jaw and shifted his weight to one leg. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. I have a vested interest now.”
A low growl rolled across the yard. Nicholas slowly straightened and took several steps toward her. A light breeze whipped past them, blowing her scent toward him. The sweet and spicy scent of woman with a hint of lavender filled his senses, along with something wilder and more primal. It was faint, but it was there.
Stunned, all he could do was stare.
She backed up, pushing the teenager toward the door. The hammer in her hand shook. “Leave us alone.”
That wasn’t going to happen. Not now or anytime in the future. “You’re a wolf.” What was an unattached female doing on her own with a bunch of kids? His sensitive ears had picked up whispers from inside, and none of them were from an older male.
The familiar sound of a shotgun being pumped had her spinning around. The other teenager from the parking lot walked out of the house, the weapon held with familiar ease. “She told you to leave.”
Two more kids stumbled along behind him. The young girl’s face was pale, her features pinched with fear. The boy looked determined.
He could easily disarm the young teen, but he didn’t want to scare any of them. “Let’s all stay calm.” If that gun discharged, one of them might accidentally get hurt.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, mister.” She stepped in front of the kids.
He inhaled again, his heart pounding. They were all wolves. “How is this possible? How are you on your own?”
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” Her voice vibrated with anger.
“One of what?” What was she talking about? He was having a difficult time concentrating with this bombshell of a revelation exploding before him.
“A pure-blood.” She spat on the ground in front of him. There was a history there and it wasn’t pleasant.
“Are you a half-breed?” That would explain a lot. He looked past her to the kids and sniffed again. “Not all of you are?” The little girl’s whimper was a shot to the heart. “I won’t hurt you, sweetheart,” he told her. “I won’t let anyone harm you.”
Bitterness tinged the woman’s laugh. “Forgive me if I don’t believe you. You expect me to believe it’s nothing more than coincidence that you’re here? No one protects strangers out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Probably not in the world she lived in. “I do.” Best she understood he was different from the beginning. “Don’t shoot me,” he told the teenager. “It won’t kill me and will only piss me off.”
This was a huge risk. He was lying when he said the bullets wouldn’t kill him. A well-placed shot to the brain would do just that. He yanked off his shirt and tossed it onto the ground.
“What are you doing? Stop that!” the woman protested even as her eyes devoured his bare chest.
“I’m like you.” He removed his boots and socks, shucked his jeans, and threw himself into the shift. Eager to be among his own kind, the wolf burst forward. His head changed shape, his jaw elongating. He fell forward, hands and feet becoming paws. He shook, settling into his fur. A sense of freedom, of well-being, embraced him.
It took every ounce of control he possessed to stay where he was.