Strong and successful wolf shifter Margaret Taylor hates to admit it, but she cannot deny the pull she has toward an unlikely mate–a man she met at her best friend’s wedding. The heat and magick between them is animalistic. But Margaret’s past keeps her from trusting his kind, even though Scott O’Hearn is the one person–or beast–who can save her from vicious and vengeful enemies. Reluctant to relinquish her restraint, Margaret does all she can to keep him at bay.
Scott O’Hearn is bound and determined to make sure Margaret’s safety is his number one priority–right after her steals her heart. Scott’s waited over a century for a love like this, he’s not going to wait any longer. Refusing to relent, Scott is set on proving to Margaret that what they feel is real, despite their differences. But will Margaret ever see that an forbidden love can be a forever love?
Glowing golden eyes met her gaze. A long forgotten soul stared back at her from the mirror above the four-drawer dresser. The cruel smile on her face sent shivers across Renata’s skin. Her hands were brushing her thick dark hair, but she wasn’t in control. It wasn’t her. The wolf had taken over.
“You won’t get away with this. Peter will make sure of it,” Renata screamed from the corner of her mind. “I won’t let you destroy my family.”
“You will lose this fight, Renata. Just give up,” the wolf spoke aloud, relishing the control she was gaining over her human host.
Renata had been fighting since the first night her wolf had attacked Samantha. It scared her to death. She’d been trapped in her mind, forced to watch the wolf that hated her, her family, and life itself attack everything around her.
Chase Michaels had almost been killed in front of her and her wolf had enjoyed it. When he emerged from the hunt with Samantha at his side, her wolf had taken over again and lunged at them both. If Peter hadn’t tranquilized her so quickly, she might have killed her own daughter.
“It’s too late. You’re weak. I’ve been waiting over a century for my revenge. I will make you lose everything. You will feel how I felt when Peter murdered our true mate,” the unfamiliar voice of her wolf spoke again and put the hairbrush on the dresser. “You will be the prisoner this time,” she gloated out loud.
“No!” Renata fought back and forced her consciousness over the wolf’s. Her body’s voice changed and suddenly she wasn’t the voice in the background of her mind. She had control, even if only for a moment. “Peter!”
She ran to the bedroom door and beat on it. He needed to know what her wolf was planning. He needed to protect himself and the girls. This house in Washington, a thousand miles from Vegas, wasn’t going to be enough.
Fiery pain sliced through her temples. She wouldn’t be able to hold her wolf at bay much longer. How had she gotten so strong? The hatred and anger bubbling to the surface was suffocating. Tears streamed down her face as she continued to pound on the locked door.
The door latch clicked and she backed away as it opened. Her husband stepped through, concern on his face, but wariness too.
More tears poured down her cheeks. Her wolf’s black hatred even now was clawing into her consciousness again, slowly shredding the woman she had once been. She’d suppressed the angry voice for so many years. Communication of any kind had ended when Peter Demakis had killed the man who should have been her mate. Henry Michaels had been a perfect match for them both and she’d loved him, but he’d not survived the hunt. Her wolf’s sanity hadn’t either.
“You have to stop me,” she pleaded.
His face touched hers before she inhaled again.
“You are my mate and my wife.” His fingers clamped around her shoulders like a vice. Not cruel, but strong and safe.
She trembled, her gaze caught by his glowing golden eyes, his wolf was hovering just below the surface. She’d forgiven Peter. He was kind and strong. Over the years she’d learned to love and care for him, but her wolf never did. She was cursed to live with a companion soul that refused to move on—a soul that had grown blacker with each passing year.
When Chase Michaels, Henry’s nephew, had shown up, claiming Samantha as his mate, her wolf had broken through the walls she’d built.
“This place isn’t enough to hold her. She’s going to hurt you. She’s going to hurt everyone. You have to stop me,” she cried, the salty taste of tears coated her lips.
“I won’t let the Council put you down. We can beat her.”
She shook her head, sobbing. “No, not this time.”
“I will find a way,” he replied, determination set in stone across his face.
She shivered. Slivers of cold and darkness curled around her heart. Control was slipping away like hot Vegas desert sand through her fingers. Magic rippled across her body. She was shifting. Her silk dress shredded and fell to the white carpet.
Peter released her and stepped back into the doorway.
An angry snarl tore from her lips. She lunged at her husband, helpless to stop the bloodlust in her wolf. A sharp pain coursed over her shoulder and she yelped when he knocked her roughly to the floor. She was just relieved she’d not injured him.
“I’m sorry, Renata. I’m so sorry.”
Renata whined, meeting her husband’s sorrowful gaze. She knew and she forgave him, but the wolf, now in charge of her body again, snarled through the whine and snapped at his hand.
The prick of a needle pinched the scruff of her neck. Then darkness came. Her wolf’s control receded as they both lost consciousness, but the fight was far from over.
She was genuinely glad for Chase and Sam. Their wedding had been beautiful, but her heart broke for the match she thought might have been. Her birthday had come and gone two weeks ago. But, even with all the time she’d spent around Chris Michaels, there was nothing. No spark. No connection. He wasn’t the one.
Margaret Taylor had been in love with the groom’s brother, Chris, since high school.
“We will find the right one, sweetie,” her wolf whispered.
I know. I just thought we had.
“What?” She looked up from the white satin tablecloth at Maggie Michaels. “Sorry, Mags, got lost there for a moment.”
“I saw that. I also saw who you were staring at a minute ago.”
Her cheeks warmed. She’d never been able to hide anything from her best friend.
She sighed and nodded. “It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”
“Margaret,” Maggie started, “you can’t pine away for something that isn’t yours. Now that you are twenty-five and you know for sure. It’s time to move on.”
“I know. I know. We should be celebrating Chase’s good fortune for stumbling across his mate before it was too late.”
Maggie laughed. “And Sam’s. Well…maybe we’ll check back with her after a couple of months crammed into a little apartment in North Carolina with my brother going stir-crazy. You know he got his discharge papers from the army.”
“Sam told me. They will be fine. She’s only got to finish this last semester of medical school and then find a three-year residency somewhere before she can apply for the DWB position.”
“Yeah, if they can get her dad to lay off of them,” Maggie whispered. “He’s been pressuring Chase about the Demakis Council seat, especially once Chase got discharged. He wants him to fly to Athens with him to accept the chair. Chase wouldn’t do it. Told Peter he didn’t want to have anything to do with the Council.”
Maggie nodded, slipped from her chair, and stood. “Come on, enough boring gossip, let’s go dance.”
She rolled her eyes and leaned back.“No, thanks.”
Maggie stuck out a finger and jabbed at her. “No more bemoaning that my brother is not your meant-to-be. Do I make myself clear?”
Margaret smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”
She watched Maggie scamper off. Her friend flitted about from table to table, smiling and laughing and making small talk with everyone. They had been “The Maggie’s” in high school, but now Maggie was Maggie and she was just Margaret, the quiet, studious, good-girl, trying to work her way up the corporate ladder in Las Vegas. Well…that’s at least what everyone thought.
Her gaze wandered across the room and settled on a nearly empty table. Peter Demakis and his three daughters sat quietly watching the festivities. No one walked near them. No one spoke to them. Nicole Demakis got up once to go refill her water glass and everyone vacated the area like she was a hellhound bent on killing them.
She couldn’t help but feel a little bit of pity for them, but she knew why the Michaels side of the family was so hostile. Peter Demakis had killed Chase’s Uncle Henry years ago. Sam had informed her, Chase’s uncle had participated in Sam’s mother’s mate hunt and that was the last anyone ever saw of him.
The pack couldn’t take retaliation on something that happened during a mate hunt, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any hard feelings between the families. When Sam’s mate turned out to be the nephew of her lost love, Mama Demakis had come apart at the seams. She’d attacked Sam and continued to threaten her happiness and the rest of the family.
According to Sam, the Renata Demakis was spending a permanent vacation somewhere undisclosed under heavy guard. Peter Demakis moved her after several more losing-control-of-her-wolf episodes. Very few people outside the Demakis family had witnessed Renata losing control, but Sam had used the term ‘rabid’ when describing her mother’s behavior. After coming home from one visit, all Sam would tell her was that she was ‘never going back.’ The mother she’d grown up with was gone.
There were recorded cases of royals losing their minds. They were the only ones really arrogant enough to try shutting off communication with their animal souls. If that was what was happening with Renata, the Council would judge her—harshly. Margaret shuddered. Appearing before the Council was likened to the Inquisition. People didn’t come back from it. They were killed or permanently locked up. It wasn’t like a castle in Transylvania type situation, but it might have well as been.
Peter Demakis was trying to protect his wife’s condition from being exposed to the Council. No one could fault him for that. The pack would protect him. No matter what. Her dad would be loyal to a fault and the pack would follow his lead. Trouble had been brewing for a while and this situation was going to escalate things, especially since Chase had refused the Council seat.
Glancing up from her glass of wine, she caught Hallie Demakis’s gaze. She waved and offered a smile. Hallie gave her a little wave back.
“Why don’t you get up and socialize?”
Hush. I’m happy right here.
“Watching everyone else?”
She sipped her wine and ignored her wolf. There was nothing wrong with watching. She caught lots of details others missed because she was good at it. She hadn’t become a VIP Hostess Manager at the Mirage Casino by luck. Sure she could gab and smooze with the best of them when her job needed her to, but that wasn’t how she preferred to be most of the time.
All her observing had afforded her this evening was heartache over Chris Michaels flirting with Nicole Demakis. Unfortunately for poor Chris, Nicole had as much interest in him as she did in eating sand.
“Margaret!” Sam called from the dance floor. “Get your fine butt up here and dance before Chase and I leave.”
Her cheeks burned. The whole room was looking at her now. Damn that sneaky girl. Even her wolf was snickering in the recesses of her mind.
Oh, shut it. I don’t need it from you, too.
“I didn’t say anything,” her wolf retorted.
The music changed to the lively Macarena and Sam flashed her an evil grin.
“You planned this!” Margaret whined.
Sam and Maggie dashed forward, each grabbing one of her hands and pulling her the rest of the way onto the dance floor. But, once the rhythm had loosened her up, and all the wine she’d had, she was laughing right along with them.
She tried to focus on the music and let it lift her spirit.
The song finally died away. She took a couple steps backward, trying to sneak back to her table, but they followed her.
“No way, hon. You stay right there,” Samantha ordered. “Chase, Margaret needs a dance partner.” Her husband nodded and began scanning the room.
“Sam, it’s a slow song and I don’t have a date. I’ll just sit this one out.”
“Chris is just standing against the wall over there. Let me go get him for—”
“No,” she cut him off. “Not Chris.”
“Oh.” He paused, “Sorry.” His gaze perused the room again and stopped on the entry. “Ah! Scott’s here.”
“Scott’s here? What do you mean, Scott’s here?” Sam coughed, her cheeks flaming red.
Margaret stared at her friend, who sounded like she was choking out the words. “Who’s Scott?” she asked, hesitantly.
“He’s an old army buddy of mine,” Chase cut off Sam, pressing a finger to his mate’s lips. “Scott will be very nice to your friend.”
An unfamiliar smell tickled her nose and she sniffed again. What is that?
Chase waved a hand and she followed his gesture, her gaze landing on one of the biggest men she’d ever seen. And growing up with werewolves, a lot of guys were bigger than the average human. This guy made them look small.
And he was HOT! God, was he hot! Not only did he dwarf everyone in the room, but he had the most beautiful chocolate brown eyes and adorable dimples that would make any woman swoon. His short dark hair had a few curls at the front.
He met her gaze and she snapped her mouth closed so her tongue wouldn’t hang out.
The strange smell distracted her again and alarms started going off in her head.
It’s a bear. I smell a bear.
“That’s because he’s walking straight toward us.” Her wolf laughed.
He stopped and hugged Chase’s parents before joining the small group at the side of the dance floor. Apparently no one else was fazed that a bear just walked into a room full of wolves. They all sat at their tables chatting away and eating their cake.
“Margaret, meet Scott.” Chase gestured to the nearly seven-foot tall man standing before her. “Scott, this is Margaret, a very good friend of my wife’s. Will you make sure she doesn’t spend the evening alone at the table, hiding from everyone.”
“I would be delighted. I would’ve been here sooner if I’d known you were saving this little bit of heaven for me.”
Sam opened her mouth to comment, but was quickly hushed and pulled away by Chase.
Margaret craned her neck and took another peek at the man before her. She was five-foot-eight, but this giant made her feel like an elementary school kid.
“Would you like to dance, darl’n?” His sexy drawl just oozed charm. Lady-killer for sure. She didn’t care though. His smoldering dark eyes made her want to do naughty things to this man —this bear.
“He asked you a question,” her wolf prodded.
“Oh! I…yes.” He can do whatever he wants. Oh, my, God! What is wrong with me?
His hand slipped around her waist and slid into the curve of her lower back. The tips of his fingers caressed the top of her ass. It took all her willpower not to rub up against him like a cat in heat. Her whole body tingled with excitement.
“Mate. He smells like a mate.”
“He’s a bear.”
“Sorry?” his voice rumbled.
“I…Didn’t—I’m.” Her words wouldn’t form. What the hell! She hadn’t meant to say that last bit out loud. She shushed her wolf and looked up. He was grinning at her. That beautiful melt-you-into-a-puddle smile was working. “I’m sorry, I’m just a little surprised.”
“That I’m a bear? Or that you’re my mate?”
He’d felt the magick, too. Damn. She gulped and ran her tongue along the inside of her teeth to make sure her mouth wasn’t hanging open. Mate? No, I don’t think so. How is he so calm? I feel like I’m about to come out of my skin.
“He’s our mate.”
No! He’s a bear.
“It doesn’t matter.”
It will matter to my parents…and bears are scary.
“Not all bears are jerks. Give him a chance.”
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Copyright (c) 2013 KS Publishing