Samantha Demakis wrinkled her nose at the barrage of scents coming from the Christmas hordes invading McCarran International Airport. She swallowed a growl of frustration and tightened the leash on her inner wolf. Everybody and their brother traveled for Christmas, and she didn’t like being one of them. She should have stayed at Duke. Her gut told her it was a mistake to come home.
Duke Medical School was her haven away from all this crazy.
People jostled her from all angles. Her rolling suitcase flipped over, and she leaned back to right it. In the process, someone snatched her blue leather jacket from the carpeted floor and dashed away.
She straightened and scanned the crowd in the direction the thief had run.
Sam turned and looked to her left. Holy mother of hotness! Six and a half feet of beautiful man dressed in a muscle-hugging beige thermal shirt and army camo pants, stood holding her royal-blue leather jacket. She curled her lips into a smile. His scent was magnetic, and she hurried toward him.
“Thank you so much.” She reached for the jacket, brushing her fingers along his hand on purpose. “I thought it was gone for good.” His blue eyes widened just for a moment. A charge had passed between them. She’d never felt anything like it before. Her wolf howled and slammed against her consciousness. It took every scrap of willpower she possessed not to launch herself at him. The canine soul within her wanted him right now and so did she. The mate connection between them was strong. No, no, no. I don’t want a mate right now.
“No problem, Miss…”
“Demakis, Sam Demakis, ummm… Samantha. Sorry.” She stumbled over her name like a love-struck sixteen-year-old instead of the perfectly capable twenty-five-year-old she was.
“Ask his name,” her wolf urged.
He gave her a gentle grin. “It’s fine, Sam. Nice to meet you. I’m Chase Michaels.”
“I’m surprised I didn’t notice you on the plane.” It was strange that she hadn’t caught his scent earlier. But it was probably because she tried for the most part to avoid other wolves.
Chase chuckled. “I don’t tend to fly first class.”
Sam’s cheeks warmed. He’d known she was there. Maybe being away from the pack really was making her lazy, but she loved not having to deal with the stress of the politics.
“Thank you again,” she said and found herself lost in his sparkling, bright blue eyes. No, focus. Medical school, not a man.
“Samantha.” Her dad’s deep voice called her name from across the bustling lobby. Most of her family trailed after him.
“Well.” Sam turned back to Chase. “I have to go.”
He smiled and nodded.
She grabbed the handle on her luggage and scurried off, pulling the big, magenta suitcase behind her. Her wolf whined in frustration. We will discuss him later. Right now we have to play nice and pray for mercy.
Her mom enveloped her in a huge hug. “Honey, you look beautiful. It’s so good to have you back home where you belong.”
“What’s up with the hottie, sis?”
“Nicole.” Her mother scolded her sister and frowned. Nicole gave her mom the I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about look and shrugged. She pushed around her mother and gave Sam a big hug.
“It’s good to see you too, Nicole.”
Nicole laughed and stepped back.
“Aren’t you going to give your old man a hug too?” Sam smiled up at her dad. He moved forward and gave her a hug, briefly lifting her from the ground. “We’ve missed you Samantha. You haven’t been home all year.”
And I’m hoping coming home now was not a mistake.
“Missed you too, Dad.” He released her and she smoothed out her blouse from all the hugging. “Where’s Hallie and Tess?”
“They are circling in the car with Brendan,” Nicole piped up. “There wasn’t anywhere to park.”
“Well, let’s get going.” Her dad grabbed her suitcase, and she linked arms with Nicole.
Her sister leaned toward her ear. “So…do tell. What’s up with the soldier-boy hottie back there? You know he stood staring at you for a full minute or so before he left.”
Really? Sam felt her wolf perk at the information, too. Her wolf hadn’t been interested in any guy, ever, that she could remember. Now, out of the blue, her furry companion was flipping out. Not to mention her own hormones seemed to be revving up.
“He could be a good match for us.” The wolf’s voice urged.
Sam shook her head. She didn’t want a match. She wanted to finish medical school. “I just bumped into him when we got off the plane. He picked up my coat for me. It was nothing, Nicole.”
“I don’t think he thought it was nothing.” She laughed. “I know Mom didn’t. You should have heard her. She started going on and on about the Michaels pack and how they weren’t worthy of even being in the same room with one of her daughters. Blah, blah, blah.”
“I dropped my coat, and he picked it up for me, end of story,” she whispered back to her sister. No need to mention that the coat had been stolen first and that Chase had recovered it for her. There was also that strange connection I felt. Maybe that wasn’t the end of the story for “soldier-boy hottie”. Her wolf agreed wholeheartedly. Michaels pack or not, she was going to have to talk to the hottie again.
Wait a minute. How did mom know he was a Michaels?
* * *
Chase tossed his bag into the bed of his brother’s black F-150 pickup truck. He pulled open the passenger door and slid into the passenger seat.
“Hey, bro. Good to see you’re back in one piece. Mom will be glad.” His brother sniffed the air before turning the key in the ignition. “Who’s the girl?”
“Nobody,” he grumbled and crossed his arms. He could still smell her scent, too. It clung to him like a sweet cloud. Even his wolf was fidgeting, irritated that she had slipped away so quickly at the airport.
His brother grinned. “Nobody, huh? She sure has you all sullen and broody.”
“Shut it, Chris,” he snarled. “Sorry,” Chase apologized immediately. His wolf was practically screaming in his head, but he didn’t want to hear it. He shouldn’t take out his frustration on his brother. “She’s a Demakis.”
That explained it all.
Chris sighed and pulled out into the busy airport traffic. “You didn’t know?”
“No, I just bumped into her getting off the plane.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I can’t explain it, but there was just something about her, Chris.”
“Well, keep it to yourself. That family will come after you in a heartbeat if you mess with one of theirs.”
“I know.” Chase flexed his hands. “My wolf disagrees though.”
“Chase,” Chris growled in warning.
“She was just so… God, I can’t stop thinking about her. In seventy-five years I’ve hardly dated. Now I brush against a woman, barely speak to her, and my wolf is going crazy.”
He stared out the windshield at the colorful neon lights as Chris drove through the main strip of Vegas. The huge Glass House Hotel and Casino sparkled as they passed. The gleaming reminder of their exorbitant wealth and prestige was the pride and joy of the Vegas branch of the Demakis family. Originally from Greece, Demakis werewolves were considered one of the first noble families. The Michaels…weren’t.
“Which one did you run into?”
Chase flashed Chris a confused look.
“Dude, you’ve been gone a long time, haven’t you?”
“Kinda enrolled in the army, remember?”
Chris laughed. “Yeah, you need to stop doing that. It really freaks Mama out. Anyway, the Demakis sisters are like Vegas royalty. Always plastered all over the tabloids, especially the younger twins. Now, the oldest sister is off studying at Duke to be some kind of doctor. I forget exactly what the article said, but man, she is gorgeous. She’s not usually in town though.”
“Her name is Samantha,” Chase murmured.
“Yes! That’s her. That’s the oldest one.” He shoved Chase’s shoulder playfully. “You met the oldest one. Sweet. She’s probably the only normal one in the bunch.”
Chase looked at Chris. “Why the hell do you know all of this?” He grinned when Chris turned three different shades of pink.
“It’s Maggie. Geez, Dad’s had me working with her up at the accounting firm, and it’s all she ever talks about. I guess more of it rubbed off than I realized.”
“No kidding. You actually sounded like Maggie there for a minute.”
Chase laughed again and ran his hands through his hair. It was good to laugh, to be home—at least for a while.
“If she is our match we can stop running off to fight in wars and settle down with a family.”
He sighed. Keep dreaming. A Michaels would never have a shot with a Demakis.
* * *
Chris pulled the pickup into their parents’ driveway and parked. Before Chase could even get his bag, the door of the house opened wide and people flowed out.
“Chase!” His mother’s voice carried above the noise of the group.
He dropped his bag back into the bed of the truck and bent down to embrace his mother, completely enveloping her petite five-foot-two-inch frame. He was her oldest son and the largest of the Michaels boys. “Mama, it’s good to see you.”
“How long are you on leave?”
“Three weeks before I have to report back to Arizona.”
“Good,” his father interjected. “It’s been too long since we’ve seen you, son.”
Chase shook his father’s hand and then gave him a hug. “It’s good to be home, Dad.”
“Your unit doing well? Everyone make it back safe with you?” his dad asked.
He nodded. Chase hadn’t lost a man yet in the three tours he and his unit had been through in Afghanistan. It was the record he was most proud of—getting his men home to their families. He’d lost so many friends over the years. Vietnam had been hell. Tracking people was much easier in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Desert air carried scent well.
He got hugs from all his cousins and his Aunts and Uncles before his mother announced that everyone needed to head back inside the house for dinner. Just the idea of food made his stomach grumble. He turned to grab his bag, but Chris already had it halfway to the front door.
They walked in together and flowed with the crowd to the back porch. The smoky aroma of beef, pork, and lamb on the barbecue assaulted his empty stomach. The scent was divine. His mom’s special sauce was his favorite. It was good to be home. He was tired of being away.