Orphaned at birth, Jesse is raised in the Louisiana swamp by powerful witch Lottie Broussard. Hated by her father and shunned by the pack that should be hers, she is forced to run for her life after Lottie’s death.
Searching for his life’s purpose, Aaron LaForge has left his pack and is living on a farm in West Virginia.
When their paths cross in a local bar, he sees it as fate. At first, he only wants to help but quickly realizes she’s his mate. Jesse isn’t ready or willing to trust anyone—let alone a male wolf. But Aaron is as stubborn as he is convincing. As their relationship heats up, the dangers around them mount. Can their love survive their fight to stay alive?
Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply and dropped her guard. Her wolf sprang forward. In a matter of a heartbeat, her jaw lengthened and her forehead flattened. Fur pushed out from under her skin. As she fell forward, her hands and feet morphed into large paws. When her eyes snapped open, they were the same pale blue. Everything else had changed.
Giving a good shake, she settled into her skin before twitching her ears. The sound of water caught her attention. She was off like a flash. The wolf’s delight became her own. Invigorated, she ran, splashing through the shallow stream, sending a spray of water over her fur. Shaking, she grinned and kept going. The scent of wild blackberries changed her course. She daintily nibbled them straight off the branches.
More alive than she’d been in months, she frolicked and played, ducking under branches, leaping over large rocks. Every now and then, the voice of reason raised its head and cautioned her to leave. She ignored it and kept running. The night and the forest were hers.
If she couldn’t embrace her whole self, what was the point of fighting to stay alive?
The moon had shifted position in the sky—a reminder that dawn was coming. It was time to go back. The air around her stilled and became charged. Jesse crouched low and froze. Her wolf was excited, sensing another of their kind nearby.
Adrenaline surged through her veins. Her heart began to gallop. Still, she didn’t move, forcing herself to stay still and silent. Had her sire and his flunkies found her? She didn’t see how they could have but didn’t discount the possibility. The other scenarios were it was a random wolf or the one from the bar.
I should have run when I had the chance.
Hindsight was always twenty/twenty. She’d let her guard down and was paying the price. The injustice, the unfairness of it, made her want to snarl and snap. She quivered but brought herself back under control.
Had he seen her? Had he sensed her? Could she sneak by him?
She’d spent a lifetime playing cat and mouse in the swamp around her home, avoiding wolves from the Louisiana Pack who ventured too close or when she’d had to go outside the boundaries of Lottie’s land for supplies. Drawing on all her skills, she twitched her ears, seeking.
There! Off to the left.
If she could sneak behind the low hill on her right, she might be able to avoid detection. Then she’d run like hell and not look back.
Her wolf protested, wanting to play with the other one. The beast was as lonely as Jesse, deprived of others of her kind all her life.
Not safe, she warned. Her wolf clearly didn’t agree but didn’t fight her decision.
Belly low to the ground, she inched toward her goal. She listened for movement, but heard none. Where is he? What’s he doing?
The silence was unnerving. Even the wind had ceased, as if sensing something more powerful than itself in its midst.
Stop being melodramatic.
She kept up a steady internal dialogue to keep herself from bolting. Fear led to mistakes, which led to death. Something she really wanted to avoid.
The hill was inches away.
I’m going to make it.
Resisting the urge to hurry, she kept her snail-like pace, not disturbing a leaf or rock to give away her presence. Nearly there. Just a little farther. She rounded the far end…
And ended up nose to nose with an enormous male wolf.
Startled, she jumped back and growled, showing her fangs. The male calmly sat and tilted his head to one side. She’d never seen a wolf this big before. It would take almost two of her paws to make one of his. His fur was a combination of rich browns with a hint of black. His eyes were sky blue.
She backed away slowly. He stood, walked a few steps toward her, and sat again.
What’s his game? Not about to wait to find out, she whirled around and took off. It was folly to think she could outrun him, but maybe she could lose him.
Taking a straight line back to her bike, she ran like the hounds of hell were after her, her paws barely hitting the ground before they were in the air again. She risked a glance behind her. No sign. Maybe her luck was changing.
Her lungs were close to bursting when she charged through the brush. Her bike was just ahead. She broke from between the trees and stopped so fast she tumbled, her back end flipping over her front. She twisted midair so she landed on all fours facing him.
He’d gotten around her.
The big bastard wasn’t even breathing hard while she was panting and sweating. The fury she’d suppressed for years surged to life, shoving aside all reason. The need to hurt, to punish someone for all she’d endured, roared to life.
Snarling, Jesse leaped at him.