Prey for the Wolf
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by Kari Thomas
Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
Description: Bethany Garrett's brother is kidnapped by a group known as The Hunters who make it their life mission to track down and kill shapeshifters. The Hunters offer Bethany a deal for her brother's life: Infiltrate the most dangerous group of wolf shifters known and help destroy them. She's not prepared for the instant attraction she feels for the alpha of the pack, Kane Steele. Now, not only is her life in danger but also her heart and soul. Because once Kane finds out the truth of why she's there, she doesn't stand a chance of living very long. And Kane has her sited as his prey now. Bethany knows the time for turning back was lost the minute she and Kane met. And she's about to find out what it means when a wolf shifter tells her she's his, no matter what happens in the following days of peril...
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Eternal Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
55 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [129 KB]
Reading time: 79-111 min.
Chapter One * * * *
Hunters. Murderers. The ominous words echoed in his thoughts, tormenting him, taunting him. He growled under his breath low and rough. Sitting back on his haunches, he surveyed the scene before him. His prey showed bravery, exposing their selves this early in the game. They knew his Pack was more than one hundred strong. And they knew their presence would be discovered and the alert sounded. Yet, here they were, twenty of them, unpacking and preparing for a Hunt.
Ten Shifters accompanied him. It would be a quick, easy slaughter if they attacked the Hunters now before they were fully prepared.
Kane Steele, Wolf Shifter and Alpha of the Montana Pack, turned to his cousin beside him. Using the mental link between Pack members, he said, "We'll spread out and circle them. Attack on my signal."
He stood on all four legs and lifted his head to cautiously sniff the air. Even from this distance he could smell the foul stench of the Hunters. Some of them--if not all twenty--had murdered recently. The scent of Shifter blood wafted on the wind, screaming in silent rage. Kane shook his furry head in a vain attempt to clear the sickening odor from his nostrils, but it didn't work. He stretched tense muscles, ready to spring forward and attack. Waiting wasn't something he did well, but it was a necessity when it came to striking at just the right moment.
The Pack ominously circled the small area where the cabins sat and spread out, some blending into the shadows of the surrounding forest, others moving forward into open ground. The Wolf Shifters were of various sizes, shapes and colors, but as a team they worked in perfect unison and became one strong force. Kane's wolf form was unusually large, even for a Shifter, and he noticeably towered above the other wolves. His thick coarse fur was dark brown, his eyes smoky blue; like most Shifters his wolf form retained the same coloring of hair and eyes he had while in human form.
Kane nodded his head, motioning his Shifter warriors to move into a tighter position. The Hunters were still unpacking, completely unaware of the danger of the approaching Pack. They thought they were safe; probably assumed their hideout was unknown as of yet. They had chosen a remote set of cabins in the mountains outside city limits for their camp, but would most likely move into homes in town later. It was their pattern, no matter where they hunted.
No one knew they were there. Good, Kane thought. No one would miss them.
Once they were disposed of, life for the Shifters would continue the same as before. It was his duty as Alpha to take care of the Pack and Kane made sure their lives were as normal as could be. Kane and the others of his Pack were prominent citizens in Kalispell, yet no one knew about their secret heritage. They lived and worked among the humans, blending in. Because of the Pack's anonymity and normal human forms, the Hunters were unable to single them out. It took a very skilled Hunter to ferret out a Shifter from among humans. But it didn't take much for a Shifter pack to destroy the Hunters once they were exposed.
Suddenly the wind changed direction and Kane immediately caught the scent of new arrivals before he heard them. "Hold." He ordered the mental command for his men to stop their advance and wait for this new development to show. When he saw the newcomers, Kane mentally cussed a bluestreak.
Women and children! Damn! Two large vans pulled up to the cabins and sixteen women and children climbed out. What the hell is going on? Hunters usually didn't bring their families along for a Hunt; it was too dangerous, always a matter of life and death. We'll have to wait. Hell. He had to think this through before he ordered the attack; there were no other options.
Despite the women and children being family of the enemy they were still innocents. Or at least, most of them were. Kane knew there were instances when a woman would join the Hunt and turn out to be just as deadly as her male kin. And he knew each child was trained in Hunter skills when they were old enough to carry and use a weapon.
Still, he couldn't justify harming a woman or a child. It wasn't in his nature. His kind didn't kill unnecessarily.
Kane bit back the angry expletives he wanted to spit out. He shook his furry head, disgusted. He didn't have a choice. They would have to abandon the kill for now and plan a new strategy. They would wait and catch the Hunter males alone.
Reluctantly, Kane ordered his team to back off. "We'll regroup and plan for another time." As one, the wolves silently blended into the surrounding woods, and then returned to the Steele headquarters in town. The Hunters never realized just how close they had been to certain death. * * * *
Steele Construction sat in downtown Kalispell, a three story building with over fifty Wolf-Shifter employees. Kane owned the company in partnership with his younger brother, Ethan. Their family was well known in the state, although their Wolf-Shifter heritage was not. It was the main reason Kane employed only Shifters; it kept them all safe and anonymous.
That is, until Hunters found them. It was a rare occurrence and when it happened, Kane and his Pack dealt with them, keeping the event as quiet as possible from human awareness. They'd been lucky so far. Very few Shifters from Kane's Pack were lost to a Hunter. They prided themselves on surviving against such a relentless enemy and it gave them the reputation of being the strongest Pack in the States.
An hour later, Kane surveyed the group of now-in-man-form Shifters in front of him. He couldn't shake the bad feeling that something was about to change, and not for the better. His gut instinct told him their prey was going to prove more dangerous an adversary than any Hunters before them. A storm is coming. This prey is stronger.
"Why do you think they brought their families with them?" Seth, Kane's younger cousin, broke into his straying thoughts.
Kane frowned. On the return trek back into town, he'd tried to reason out the explanation, but couldn't come up with a logical answer. Hunters moving into a Wolf-Shifter area were never a coincidence, yet bringing their families with them was completely out of character.
"They chose Kalispell for a reason," he answered. And whatever that reason was, they must have planned for it to take awhile. "We have to find out more before we strike." We can't let them have the advantage. Too many lives were at stake.
"What if they strike first?" another asked.
Kane shook his head. "My guess is that it won't be soon. I have the feeling the twenty we saw are only a few of the full group. There are three cabins there and not enough to house all the women and children we saw. So that means they will be settling in town and most likely using the place for meetings and storing weapons. We need to find out who they are and where they live."
Unfortunately, that task wouldn't be easy. Hunters were all human and blended inconspicuously well with the populace in any town they moved into. Unless they wore their specific hunting clothes, Shifters were unsure they were Hunters. And they never wore those clothes until they were on the hunt, ready to attack.
"The advantage is they can't recognize us either," Seth stated encouragingly. The other men nodded.
Kane's gaze roamed over every man's face and he made eye contact in the Alpha-way. His Pack were warriors--they didn't allow defeat. They protected what was theirs, no matter the cost. He knew every one of them would face death if necessary, without backing down.
"We're about to begin a very dangerous game of cat and mouse," he told them, his tone hard. A few snickered at the cat reference and he smiled for a moment before continuing soberly, "Make sure your families are on constant guard. Keep an eye out for the newcomers in town, find out where they settle, what they do. And most importantly, keep your pups under closer protection at all times."
He straightened his shoulders, standing taller. "We've lived this long here and survived. I'm not about to let a group of damn Hunters come in and destroy our lives. They may think they've got the advantage. I intend to prove otherwise."
I'll do whatever it takes to protect the Pack. Even if it meant he had to kill innocents to do it. * * * *
Chapter Two * * * *
If I can't pull this off, Drew is dead. Bethany Garett wrapped her arms around her waist and shivered despite the warm sun beating down on her as she sat in her parked rental car. The implications of her failure were all too real and she felt as though she was in some kind of waking nightmare. For months now she'd tried to convince herself there was some way out of this. But, Drew's life was at stake and there was no other way to save him.
She drew in a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. "Be calm." It was time to do this. Ethan would be waiting and the sooner this was over, the better. She got out of the car and straightened her clothes. Her tight dark green mini dress clung to her curves in all the right places. She'd chosen this dress because not only did Ethan really love to see her wear it, she knew how well it sensually emphasized her petite curvy figure. Determined to use every weapon at her disposal to successfully carry out her mission, this dress was the first step. The thin shoulder straps crisscrossed over her upper chest, allowing the top of the dress to pull off a perfect vee-cleavage and leave a hint of bare breasts below. The dark green color was a perfect background for her milky white skin and red hair.
She'd always hated her coloring. She burned too easily instead of tanning. And her cameo skin tone always made her deep red hair even more noticeable. She wore the long length in a tight bun atop her head, allowing a few stray curls to curve near her cheeks and ears. Since she was a petite five-three, she reasoned the look gave her a more mature air. At twenty-four, she needed all the help she could get if she wanted to succeed.
Especially now. I'll do whatever it takes.
Her high-heels clicked loudly on the concrete pavement as she crossed the parking lot. She couldn't shake the disturbing feeling that someone was staring at her. She carefully perused the area, her head barely turning in each direction, enabling her to covertly see if someone was watching her. But she couldn't see anyone, despite the persistent feeling. The tall building had many windows, all of them security shaded, so she couldn't be certain someone wasn't staring out at her even now, watching her every step as she slowly moved to a destination she had no wish to go to. It's just my overactive imagination. I've got to stop this. The last thing she needed was a case of out-of-control nerves. It wouldn't save Drew.
She opened the large door to the Steele Construction office and, head held high, stepped inside. She stopped just inside the door to let her eyes adjust from the outside glare and took a fortifying breath of courage. She resolutely ignored the little voice in her head screaming the warning to forget all this and just run.
The receptionist sitting behind the large desk in the foyer immediately greeted her with a question. "Are you Miss Garett? Ethan is waiting for you in his office."
Bethany blocked out the insistent mental warning still shouting in her head and followed the directions the woman gave to Ethan's fourth floor office. Her steps slowed as she approached the door with Ethan's name on it. It was ajar and she could hear voices inside. Angry voices. She stopped. Should she just walk in, or should she wait for whomever it was Ethan was arguing with to leave? She inhaled a deep calming breath into her lungs and then slowly exhaled. It didn't help. Her nerve endings tingled with fearful apprehension.
She hated being afraid. And she'd been in a constant state of fear since that day when she'd first discovered Drew's predicament. It was only sheer willpower that had her here now. How could you do this, Drew? She frowned. The why didn't matter as much now, she thought, and shook her head. Only the how to make it right and manage to save his life mattered. All our lives. She had to do this. She and Tess shouldn't have to pay for Drew's mistake. She squared her shoulders, checked to make sure her dress was at a perfect thigh-length and stepped forward pushing the door open. The first thing she noticed was that both men inside suddenly stopped arguing. A stark, anger-tinged silence filled the room.
Her breath caught in her throat. Her gaze was instantly snared as she stared into the icy blue eyes of the tall man standing next to the window. A shiver--oddly rough--shook her from head to toes. She couldn't think straight, almost forgot to breathe.
She'd been told that Kane Steele was a force to be reckoned with. But no one had warned her this enigmatic man would have such a startling impact on her. Instantly. Mind. Body. And Soul. She felt the stark, engulfing power of him waft over her like an invisible wave, oddly sensual, oddly...primal. Her body reacted instantly, her nipples hardening, her breath becoming catchy. Sudden panic welled from deep inside her and she clenched her hands together. What have I gotten myself into? I can't do this. I have to get out of here. Now. Before it's too late.
Some inner voice inside her whispered tauntingly, It's already too late.
Kane Steele was the very embodiment of everything male. She couldn't tear her gaze away from his overpowering form and she was acutely aware of her own erratic breathing as she stared. She hoped he didn't notice her sudden unease. That wouldn't bode well. She'd never encountered a man like this before and she wasn't sure she liked this unwanted reaction from simply looking at him. How in the world was she going to control this situation if she couldn't keep her body from reacting this way?
He towered over his brother's six-foot frame by several inches. His body was lethal-lean, toned, tanned. His long legs were encased in tight blue jeans that emphasized the muscles in his calves and the slenderness of his hips and waist. His thick, dark brown hair was highlighted with strands of amber-gold and his eyes were a dark smoky blue. His features were handsome in a rough, rugged way. She'd heard that his features matched his personality--steel-edged and hard. The information wasn't wrong, she thought. She could feel his hardness.
Her gaze remained trapped in his hard stare and her heartbeat increased. His glowering expression made it perfectly clear she was an intrusion he resented. She could almost sense his determination to deal with her now without giving her a chance. She'd expected that reaction. After all, she was a threat to him in more ways than one. But she wasn't sure she'd fully realized just how strong his resentment would be. This is going to be harder than I first thought.