After living apart from the world for over a century, the Eagle Clan must return in search of mates or face certain extinction. Athair leads them to another clan, but is betrayed and attacked, forcing him to accept help from a human veterinarian who he suddenly realizes is exactly the hope they so desperately need.
All that remains is escaping a murderous pack, protecting his adopted sons, and convincing Hope that she is strong enough to be his mate as well as a powerful member of the Valàfrn clans.
Warren, Pennsylvania August 26, 1980
If Life Bites, Bite Back
Obviously she, Hope Carter, was insane. She sighed and shifted her weight away from the rough brick wall. What else could one call a person hiding outside her place of work at three in the morning? The word coward might fit, too. She’d ducked out the door only minutes after calling her best friend to come pick her up. Steve, her pity chauffeur, would be here soon. Despite the brisk night, she was waiting outside. She was not going back into the veterinary clinic just to be shanghaied into another shift.
She limped to the corner of the building where a small bench sat hidden from the doorway. She sank to the bench and buttoned up her light jacket against the cool air.
Steve’s station wagon pulled around and parked illegally right in front of the bench. The car’s engine purred in the eerie quiet, until it too became silent.
“Hey, why are you lurking back here?” He swung from the car entirely too energetically for the time of night, and Hope felt even more worn out by comparison.
“Sandy wanted me to work another shift,” she explained.
“But you’ve already worked a double. She’s taking her title a little too seriously. That’s crazy!” Steve picked up her small bag.
“I thought the same thing.” His cologne swamped over her, making her sneeze. Steve needed to learn the word moderation. She sneezed again and fanned the air with her hand. “Joe never showed up, so they’re short handed again.”
“You could have told them no and waited inside.” He frowned at her and shifted his weight from heel to toe, then back again.
“I almost agreed to do the shift. If it weren’t for the weather being so crummy today, my legs might have held up for a while longer.”
“No way. You shouldn’t even have done the double and I’ll tell Sandy exactly that.”
“You don’t have to do that, Steve. I’m fine, really. Let’s just go.” What was with him tonight? He was wired and almost dancing in place.
“Is Julie on tonight?”
“Yeah.” So the receptionist was the cause of his excitement. He was more than a bit sweet on the new girl, and she wanted them to hit it off, but not while the romance kept her from reaching her much desired bed.
“Great! Go start the car. I’ll be right back.” He bolted for the front of the building.
“Steve—” Hope broke off. He paused in his fast escape, but she could see he was already mentally browsing through his stock pick-up lines. She could go with him and ask the girl for her phone number, but then she’d have to listen to Steve gripe the whole trip home. So instead, she frowned. “Please hurry. It’s late.”
“I know.” He halted and glanced longingly at the clinic. ”But this is my best chance to talk with her. She’s mostly on nights and I really want to ask her out.”
“Oh fine, just hurry. It’s been a long day.” To say the least.
“Thanks, Hope!” He tossed her the keys and jogged toward the front of the clinic. Soon he was out of sight. She juggled the keys and dropped them to the sidewalk.
Damn. She glared down at the keys, then over at the car, which surely glared back at her. She would be warmer in it than sitting outside in the cool night air, but she couldn’t force her legs to carry her toward the evil beast. She’d rather wait until Steve returned before getting in for the drive home. She choked back a laugh. Nothing like more evidence to support her insanity plea. She relied almost completely on him to drive her places.
She slouched on the bench and focused on stretching her cramping legs. Fifteen years ago, a car accident had left her a mangled mess. Her body had never properly healed, and she hadn’t yet recovered her trust in the everyday machine most people took for granted. As far as she was concerned, cars were her enemy and she only held a tentative treaty with the dangerous beasts.
She picked up the keys and debated the rudeness of shouting for Steve, when she saw movement in the alley across from the clinic. With only a glimpse, she had the impression of some large dark animal, a fast moving shadow, and a flash of dark fur.
Please, not tonight. All Hope wanted was her warm bed. Instead, she was about to chase off after a stray. The poor thing was probably someone’s house pet that wandered off. She had to try to catch it. No animal should be left loose to starve, reproduce, or be hit by a car.
Hope placed her weight on her aching legs and limped slowly across the street toward the alley. Here, alone in the dark, she had no reason to camouflage her uneven steps. She slipped Steve’s keys into her jacket pocket and pulled out a flimsy kennel lead designed to slip over the heads of small dogs. Big as the critter seemed, he’d better be gentle.
She peered into the alley, looking for the dog, or any sign of which way it went. Light from the full moon filtered through the clouds, doing little to cut the deep shadows caused by the crowding buildings.
There, about thirty feet away, another movement caught her eye. She made out several elusive shapes.
Not a stray. A pack.