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Dire Moon

Copyright © 2016 by Eliza March

ISBN: 978-1-68361-170-7

Cover Art by Ravenborn Covers

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

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Dire Moon

Her aura has never reacted to any man this way.

After the female dire wolf under her protection goes missing, Laurel Finnegan’s new assignment, vetting the brother, proves even more challenging. He’s everything Laurel isn’t. And everything she wants. Before the full moon rises, she’ll have to test their mutual attraction, find his sister, and keep him away from the other females who will stop at nothing to be the dire wolf’s mate.

He refuses to accept the significance of their mingled auras.

Lucas MacDugal’s family is the last of the purebred dire wolves, and times have changed. So when his sister fought tradition and fled Scotland for Sarasota, he agreed. Now, he has to deal with her female security guard. Laurel has extraordinary elemental assets and is instrumental in deciphering evidence, but she’s also the first female to destroy his self-control. He has until the full moon rises to figure out why. After that, his unusual attraction to Laurel may prove deadly for her.

All the evidence indicates Grace set herself up.

Laurel’s worst fears prove true. Rogues from the south have infiltrated the outlying pack land. When she discovers Grace’s location and telecommunications fail, she decides to rely on the elemental connection she formed with Lucas.

He’s in denial…

But there’s no denying how much she hungers for him, and his lust rises with the waning moon. The innocent female haunts his thoughts night and day. He has to respond. Too many lives are at stake for him to ignore the appeal he can’t resist.

The full moon calls his wolf to action.

Lucas will give up everything to claim Laurel as his, but he won’t risk her life. The fear of losing her drives him to discover the mystery surrounding their irresistible connection.

Dear Reader,

Dear Reader,

This was great fun to write. Who can deny the appeal of a Highland shifter with a love of family and sense of honor? He may have started off a bit stuffy, but Laurel pops right through Lucas’s defenses with her innocent ways and her freckled nose. Who knew the big bad dire wolf would have a soft spot for naïve females who know how to handle a variety of weapons and begs for kissing lessons.

Practically situated in my back yard, the setting was perfect. (When I first moved to Florida my backyard bordered an orange grove.) The male antagonist is beautifully evil and the female antagonist is that girl who flirted with every guy you were ever interested in. Enjoy reading about them and remember karma always wins.

Enjoy this story? Please leave me a review. And I love getting email at: elizamarch@gmail.com

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Dire Moon

Hot Moon Rising Book 9


Eliza March

Moonlight Wolf Pack

Charlie Aquino (human) – Detective for the sheriff’s gang task force for Palmetto County Sheriff’s Department. His partner is Jesse Farrell.

- Mate: Liana Cosa

Liana Cosa Aquino – Refugee from a different pack. She works part-time as a waitress at Moonlight Diner.

- Mate: Charlie Aquino

Alexa Martin Farrell – Left her pack over a disagreement with her alpha. She moved to Florida and helped the pack find a small community of cottages in Moonlight, Florida. She works as an Internet researcher and gets jobs through her online website. She also does research for The Defenders.

- Mate: Jesse Farrell

Jesse Farrell (human) – Detective for the sheriff’s gang task force for Palmetto County Sheriff’s Department. His partner is Charlie Aquino.

- Mate: Alexa Martin (who saved him when on assignment he was attacked by a gang)

Riesa Marlowe (human) – A psychic who helped locate Hannah Raines.

- Mate: Derek Sawyer

Hannah Raines Molina – She was kidnapped and saved by Jesse and Charlie with the help of Riesa Marlowe, a psychic. Works as Alexa Martin’s research assistant.

- Mate: Rand Molina

Rand Molina - Derek’s second-in-command in the Moonlight pack. Partners with Derek Sawyer at The Defenders, a private security agency.

- Mate: Hannah Raines

Derek Sawyer – Alpha of a small pack. Most of their original clan was destroyed when developers took the land they were living on and many of their pack were killed by hunters. They hid in an abandoned orange grove until Alexa offered them the bungalows in exchange for their help. He and the others have embraced Jesse and Alexa and Charlie and Liana and given the female shifters a new sense of belonging.

- Partners with Rand Molina at The Defenders Agency, a private security and bodyguard agency.

- Mate: Riesa Marlowe

The Defenders Agency - A private security and bodyguard agency formed by Rand and Derek once they were established in the little enclave of cottages. It provides good income for the pack. A majority of the pack is involved in the cases they take.

Jesse and Charlie are their contacts with the sheriff’s department and also refer many cases to them.

Chapter One


Moonlight, Florida, Friday 8:00 p.m.

The darkening skies were even murkier beyond the lights from town and the highway. The eastern section of the abandoned grove provided a perfect location for the pack’s evening run. Several scouts had gone ahead to check the area for humans as the sun set. The wolves would be able to see in the dark when humans couldn’t, but there were always hunters with mag lights and guns, scopes and night-vision glasses these days. Wild boar hunting was popular with man and beast.

As Moonlight’s invited guest, Grace looked forward to visiting the pack, especially since her handsome security guard set her insides aching and heat burning in her soul.

Ty accompanied the scouts who would signal when the area had been sanctioned for the run. They’d been gone almost an hour.

A dry breeze blew through the October air. The distinct scent of citrus still hung as if it were embedded in the soil and remaining bare limbs of the orange trees. It was almost time to work her way to a more private section before shifting.

Yet, when the howls rose to announce the all clear, Grace’s mind fought back as every fiber of her being reacted to Ty’s distinct guttural howl calling to her in the distance. Tonight, there was no mistaking the big wolf’s needs or his intentions as his powerful voice rose above the others. Torn between her inner wolf’s desire and her personal goals, Grace resisted her wolf’s urges and the shiver of arousal running down her spine. Heat pooled in her inner core, but she shook it off, hoping Laurel hadn’t noticed.

The minute she risked a glance at her female security guard, Laurel’s pixie eyes widened and the corners of her lips turned up slightly.

“Wasn’t that Ty?” she asked, as if she didn’t recognize her partner’s howl. She and Ty had worked together over a year with the agency.

Another impatient howl reverberated through the trees, and Grace held her ground while her guard stood by waiting. She glanced aside not wanting Laurel to see the effect Ty had on her. But Laurel was not only a rare beauty; the female guard was too damned sharp at her job to miss the attraction growing between Grace and Ty.

Thinking to change the unspoken subject, Grace inspected her and asked, “Why do you work for The Defenders Agency when international designers would pay a king’s ransom for you to model?”

“I’m too short for runway modeling. I tried back in Atlanta before my family sent me out to Colorado. But when things went bad and the pack was attacked, I returned.”

She stopped talking. No one in Moonlight liked talking about the decimation of their old pack in Atlanta. Grace had heard some of the details. Laurel had lost her whole immediate family. If Grace had been in Laurel’s place, what would she have done? The same thing. She understood the mentality of taking control of your life. Laurel was doing just that.

“Not too short for your present job?” Grace teased.

“I compensate.” She frowned and exposed her additional weapons. “The males hassle me about overcompensating. But in case I can’t shift, I’m prepared with backup.”

“You’re a wolf. You’ll heal and then survive. When would you feel the need?”

“I can’t shift around humans. As a wolf, there aren’t any human men I can’t overpower, but although I’m stronger than human women, I still need to handle myself in tough situations. There are fewer questions if I resort to conventional means.”

“Good for you. You’re double trouble, and, to look at you, no one would ever expect it.”

“I like action…and more challenge in life than changing outfits in thirty seconds.” Laurel’s training and fitness program kept her in shape to perform her job as a security guard and agent with the Defenders.

“Your coloring is so unusual.” Grace’s artificial highlights were nothing compared to the multiple shades of red in Laurel’s hair, from the lightest copper to the deepest auburn, the natural balayage effect framed the shifter’s faintly freckled face.

Ty’s howls grew louder and more demanding.

“Are you stalling?” Laurel asked.

“Maybe. Okay, a little.”

“He’s very hot. A little too grumpy for me but….” Laurel put her hand on her cocked hip and sighed.

“Grumpy? You’ve not met my brothers. Scotland breeds grumpy. Must be the weather.” Grace stood straight, emphasizing her classic Amazonian size. “I’m a perfect match for him in many ways.” Since she’d met him, his ginormous size made her feel petite and feminine.

Several wolves howled, complementing the night sounds, but all she heard was Ty’s call.

“It’s only a moonlight run. Right?” Laurel asked. “Not even a date….”

“Aye, ’tis only a run.” She attempted casual disinterest because she wasn’t ready to accept the truth yet, let alone divulge it.

“I’m curious. Are you ever going to shift and meet him?”

“I-I can’t here,” Grace whispered. Except for her security guards, no one had seen her shifted form. Dire wolves weren’t like other shifters, and she dare not divulge her secret to just anyone. She lowered her voice and whispered, “I should not shift with all these strangers in the area.”

“True, this isn’t the best spot. Anyone could come up on us,” Laurel agreed. “The fewer who know, the safer your secret will be. We’ll find a private spot.”

Besides caution, independence fought with instinct as Grace held back. She desired Ty with all that was in her, but she had opposed the female wolf’s traditional role her whole life. That was one of the reasons she and Laurel got on so well. The woman was an excellent role model for future female agents. The world was changing, and the role of the females in the pack should change, too.

Ty howled again, Grace moaned, and Laurel grinned.

“Bloody hell. Won’t he please stop?”

“He’s not making it easy on you.”

Why this one male made her want to run him down and rub herself all over him, marking him with her scent, and more, baffled her. What next? Should she give up every modern thought and goal? Roll on her back and expose her throat in submission? Never! She’d already defied her family in Scotland. Still, they expected her to eventually choose a male with at least some dire wolf blood and mate; then pick up breeding where her mother left off. But she had no intention to fulfill old expectations.

Someone should tell my inner wolf!

Until now, she’d never met a male who affected her the way Ty did.

Suddenly, Laurel whipped Grace to the side and positioned herself protectively between her and the sound of approaching footsteps. The newest guest runner, Slater Hall, a male from farther south, emerged from the woods with a few members of his visiting pack. Grace had run into him at the New College President’s Luncheon in Sarasota last week, after applying for an internship with his company, Slater Hall Bio-Tech. He’d been infatuated with her ever since. He interested her on a whole different level. She wanted the internship. The company research might be helpful to the wolf population. Or it might be a threat to the existing packs. She planned to investigate the process.

Meeting out here made her uncomfortable. He and his group hadn’t been out running, yet, so they hadn’t shifted. Had the group been following them all along? How much of the conversation had they heard?

Last week, Laurel confided how the whole idea of males requesting a run with the Moonlight pack to improve relations in the area made her uncomfortable. Grace agreed. But Slater’s pack was small with few females, and several Moonlight females expressed interest in some new blood. It had been Julie, another adopted member of the pack, who invited them tonight. Well, good for her. To each her own.

Julie’s aggression had been a sore spot with the females ever since she arrived, and lately she stuck to Slater like a bee on honey.

The other members of the Fort Myers pack made Grace’s skin crawl, and Slater himself, though a good-looking man, unnerved her. He made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end from the instant she’d first shaken his hand. Except for Slater, the rest of the men were undersized, and once they shifted, their wolf forms were malformed and grotesque—part human, part wolf—incomplete transformations. She would have been more compassionate, but they reeked of evil intensions. From the look of these guys, she didn’t think they’d be getting the Moonlight females interested in a full-moon run anytime soon. Slater escaped the others’ bad luck with genes, but although he might be considered average size here, he’d be considered a runt back in Scotland. Grace had to admit, in any circle, his looks as a man were movie star material. Slater turned Grace off on an elemental level. Good looks wouldn’t affect her feelings.

Slater entered Grace’s personal space, coming too close, and nudged her. She stepped away putting space between them.

Laurel interceded. “Please,” she said, and stepped between them, bristling with all her superior security agent authority. “Grace is Derek’s special guest,” she gruffly reminded him.

Julie stalked up to Laurel and got right in her face. “I can’t believe you’re being so rude.”

“I’m just doing my job.”

Slater looked amused. “Sorry. Perhaps I was out of line. I only intended to show a little interest.” Slater shrugged when Laurel didn’t budge, and he finally stepped back. “I didn’t mean to offend.”

Laurel held her ground. Grace sniffed the air and picked up something in his scent. Lying. He wasn’t the type to care who he offended, and, from the pheromones she caught rising off him, his primary interest was sex. Laurel read auras, and the stern expression on her face said not only did his scent say one thing, but his aura told her something else.

Time to make nice. “No offense taken.” Grace made an effort to lighten the situation. Besides, she wanted that internship with his company. Her advanced degree studies depended on it. The genetic research strides Slater Hall Bio-Tech made in recent years was impressive. Grace didn’t believe the results were all based on scrupulous research, and the further she looked into the company, the more certain she was the CEO, Slater Hall, was up to his eyeballs in criminal activity.

No sense in stirring the pot too soon.

“Sorry about all of this, Mr. Hall. My parents are a bit overprotective. They believe Florida is still filled with savages.” Her brothers in Scotland would hate this guy. She was a female in her prime, and her family still expected the perfunctory weekly call home.

“Pfft,” Julie said, holding on to Slater’s arm, making it clear she had intentions.

“No need for formality. Call me Slater.” He regained his usual amiable composure, while Julie pouted.

The man had a great smile and oozed charm, but Grace was certain he wasn’t all that genuine. And he confirmed her misgivings when he glanced at Laurel with dark, narrowed eyes.

“Are you two ready to shift and run with the pack?” he asked.

The CEO of the large research company continued to put Grace off. He’d been self-serving at their first meeting and too forward, yet, compared to his earlier behavior, this seemed like little more than a harmless flirtation. Her responsive scent to Ty’s call must have triggered his male interest. She shivered at the thought.

“Sorry, I run alone.” Grace shook her head and, as politely as possible, excused herself from the group Slater Hall brought with him. She needed to end this.

Would he take no for an answer? Hall seemed like the sort to take what he wanted. As much as she wanted the internship to gather information about his company, she was having none of him. Besides, there were only a few members who knew what she was, and they had agreed to keep her secret. Except for the security team members, Grace never ran with other pack members or, as in this case, visiting wolves.

She left Slater and the pack behind, escaping into the woods with Laurel before she shifted unseen. Concealed by the thick underbrush, she flipped around on all fours and snarled a warning to Laurel for her to watch her back then she turned and bolted into the night, sniffing the evening air for Ty’s scent. If she was going to indulge in a little moonlight fucking, it would be with a man who sparked every cell in her body to life, a man who focused on pleasing her, not a man like Slater who was only interested in what she was worth and how she would please him.

Chapter Two

Just tonight

Moonlight, Florida, Friday 8:20 p.m.

Ty’s haunting howl filled the quiet night, and the others picked up the cry. His spicy scent on the dirt path up ahead would be easy to follow. The former Army Ranger usually ran alone, unless he was guarding her. Tonight, he wasn’t on duty, but Grace couldn’t resist responding to the pain in his poignant howl. She’d slip away from Slater and the others. They’d never catch up to her; Laurel would see to that.

The pungent wolf scent on the path disappeared, and Grace paused. For a moment, she thought she lost Ty’s trail. Then, deep in the grove, under draping Spanish moss, she saw the man standing naked by a small fresh-water stream. As a wolf, his size reminded her of her brothers. As a man, Ty was equally impressive. Broad shouldered, muscular, and ruggedly handsome, he waded into the water, cupped his hand, and drank.

As he turned toward Grace, a lump formed in her throat. He was fully aroused. The wolf in her wanted him to take her and claim her under the moonlight, but her rational side was afraid of the consequences. She wasn’t ready to give up her independence—but she sensed Slater Hall had devious plans for the local wolf pack, and she was on his radar. If anyone could stop him, she could, but she’d need Ty’s protection.

There was one way to insure it.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come.” His deep voice, raspy with desire, made her heart beat erratically.

Not certain what she should do, Grace hesitated before shifting. Once she gave up her advantage, she needed to be sure of what she wanted—and that this was right for them both. If this was going to be a lifetime commitment, she had to be sure he wanted it, too. Was she ready for additional ties? And how would Ty handle it? He was still in therapy after multiple stints in Afghanistan. She didn’t want to jeopardize his progress. But perhaps this was what they both needed.

“Just tonight, Grace.” He held out his hand, palm up. “If we want more, we can worry about what that means, later.”

How did the man know what she was thinking? It had to be their connection, but it still rattled her. He had no self-esteem issues. She trusted him to recognize her as an equal. Did she or didn’t she want this?

She shook and carefully stepped toward the stream. Imaging what Slater had in mind for her, she decided time could run out, and Ty was everything she wanted. She hoped the former Ranger was okay with tonight going beyond a one-night stand.

The female wolf appeared like a ghost in moonlight among the stand of trees beside the fresh-water creek. The approaching full moon gave off plenty of light to enhance his sharp wolf sight, and as long as Laurel guarded the trail, he and Grace would be safe from prying eyes.

Ty waited. But he held his breath while Grace fought with the decision to shift and surrender to the inexplicable attraction she’d been denying since they met.

At first, he’d been stunned to discover a shifter in his science lab at New College, and then, after he realized which student it was, he was staggered by Grace’s beauty…and the instant reaction his body had to her. Later that night, he arrived back in Moonlight, but before he had the chance to tell Derek, the pack alpha, about her, Ty discovered he’d been assigned to guard her. Surprised, and even more pleased, he took the job seriously.

One revelation after another made him rethink everything he’d ever believed in. She was a dire wolf—descended from the ancient prehistoric wolves rumored to be as extinct as the saber-toothed tiger. Before she arrived in Sarasota, her parents hired The Defenders, Derek Sawyer’s security agency, to look after her. Moonlight’s alpha put Ty in charge of protecting her. Derek claimed there were still other dire wolves—Grace’s pack in Scotland and another—but the packs were dwindling. Her family and the others had to keep their existence a secret for their own protection.

He wanted a permanent relationship with Grace, but he could be patient—give her the space she needed and time to see they were right for each other. He kept his hand outstretched. “I can shift back.” Was he what she wanted? The female wolf smelled aroused, but would the woman want him, too? Either way was okay by him. “And we can run if you’re not interested—”

She knocked him over and pounced on him, straddling him playfully and growling in an unthreatening way. He chuckled while she made up her mind. For this, he could be patient. For Grace, he could wait. She would be worth it…she would be worth anything.

The female wolf shifted seamlessly, and Grace, the voluptuous, naked woman, with hair the color of wavy moonlight, dropped provocatively into Ty’s arms. As the woman and the wolf, to him, she was beautiful beyond belief. Her perfect pink-tipped breasts rose and fell rapidly…. Was it with desire for him? Or did she still battle her feelings and her attraction to him? A furrow between her brows formed when she stared into his eyes.

He ran a hand back and forth over the short stubble on his head, uncomfortable with her questioning look. “Grace, if you want, consider it only for tonight. Nothing permanent. Okay?”

Perspiration broke out on her upper lip. She wiped it away but not her concern. Her azure-blue eyes remained strikingly brilliant even after her shift, a trait common among dires.

“Y-you won’t try to claim me or mark me—”

“Or anything,” he assured her. “Not until you’re ready, and if that day doesn’t come…I’ll be disappointed, but I promise it’s your call. Just great sex.” He wiggled his eyebrows playfully at her, hoping to put her at ease. And it wasn’t easy. She was skittish.

Damn, he was hard and needy with the head of his dick tucked between her creamy-white thighs. Every time he took a breath, the sensitive tip nuzzled her hot, wet entrance. He should move before he lost control and didn’t keep his “great sex” promise.

Then to his surprise, Grace rose above him and took control before he repositioned himself.

He grasped her thin, athletic upper arms to steady her but focused on the soft angles of her face as she slowly impaled herself on his rock-hard shaft. Her tight grip strangled his self-control, and then she stopped. He stared at the place where their bodies joined, where her pale curls finally met his dark ones.

He squeezed his eyes shut, held his breath, and didn’t dare move.

“Ty, are you okay?”

“Okay? I’m fucking great. Don’t move. I need to get myself together.”

He ground his teeth and took a few deep breaths while his dick begged to thrust. He stared at her lips, imagining them sucking him. Do not imagine that.

“Give me a second.” He was going to kiss her full rosebud mouth and do so much more…once he could safely move.

Later, he would imagine all the things they’d get around to doing. For now, the wildness called. He withdrew from her hot, wet channel, flipped her over to her knees in the soft grass, and slowly, agonizing with each passing moment, he entered her from behind. Pushing aside her long blonde hair so it draped over one shoulder, he exposed her slender neck and fought back the wolf within him. Her heart raced like a trapped bird’s, beating within the palm of his hand holding her full breast.

“I promise, Grace. No mark.” The wolf struggled to be freed.

But she relaxed beneath his hold and moved her sweet round ass against him as he thrust, and made the battle for control worth it. Damn, she felt good in his arms, in fact perfect, and, for the first time since Afghanistan, he experienced a sense of harmony buried inside her…deep, deeper, pumping harder and faster. Her heavy breast filled his one hand, and she gasped when he lightly squeezed her pointed nipple.

Good. She liked it a little rough. Her eager acceptance electrified him. The lovely wolf instincts inside her had finally surfaced. He could accommodate those needs.

He clutched her hip with his other hand so he could keep her steady and off the ground as he assumed control. But then she slipped one of her hands between her legs and stroked his balls, and lightning need ripped through him. Fuck…this deal was all but over. He’d make it up to her later.

“Sorry, sweetheart. I can’t hold back.” Ty dragged his hand from her breast to her clit and increased the pressure until she screamed. Hot liquid drenched his hand and his dick then spasms signaling her release began, and he joined her, rolling her to the side and collapsing beside her.

“I promise I’ll do better next time,” he gasped in her ear, and sucked at her earlobe to keep away from the tempting spot at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. The pressure he’d been holding back for months finally became a satisfied fullness in his heart. The attachment between them grew deeper, and he hoped they’d come to terms with her refusal to commit. Until now, he hadn’t been certain his bloodline contained enough dire wolf blood to sustain a true mating.

He scooped her up and carried her to the stream.

Being in his arms like this, with her head against his darkly, furred chest, listening to his thundering heart, went beyond intimate. Everything changed as soon as he’d flipped her over and thrust inside her. As he carefully lowered her into the water and washed her off, she realized the intimacy grew with each of the man’s thoughtful caresses.

“It’s okay, Ty. I can clean up.”

“I know.” He almost smiled as his eyes surveyed her body. “But I want to do it. To touch you.”

He leaned in and, for the first time, kissed her gently. She melted into the soulful kiss, returning his sweet passion, and then things changed. He practically devoured her. Their tongues dueled and danced. His hands explored, touching every opening, tweaking her nipples, and stimulating every sensitive spot on her body.

“Again,” she whispered, “take me again, please. Now.”

He growled deep and low in her ear. “Not so fast this time, babe. We’re going to do this my way, and you’re going to love every minute of it.”

Why did his threat feel so right? She’d always resented men who tried to take control. What was it about Ty and his promise that had her squealing inside like a little girl unwrapping gifts at yuletide, and yet worried still that she wouldn’t be prepared for it.

“I’ve not much experience—”

“I’ve had plenty,” he responded, and went about proving it—touch after mind-blowing touch.

She imagined this wounded hero with other women, and her blood boiled, but before she could react, his mouth latched onto her breast, and his fingers tangled in her nether curls. As his woodsy scent washed over her, all she could manage was to tighten her grip on his massive shoulders and hold on. Breathing, letting go of her fear, Grace allowed herself to drown in the sensations of pleasure, while he suckled and played her clit like a fiddle. The promise of an orgasm approached, and she lost all sense of composure.

Grace began begging, “Now, Ty, now. Take me now.”

He ignored her plea and carried her to the blanket he must have brought by earlier. Once he’d positioned her to his satisfaction, her legs were too weak to move. His heavy-lidded eyes narrowed, and perspiration rolled in rivulets down his chest.

Grace studied the way his thick chest pumped violently with each breath he took as he stared at her intimate parts spread open to his view. Instead of being self-conscious, she heated with desire. His erection grew, but he didn’t penetrate her. He spread her legs still wider apart. Lifting her knees, he nuzzled her mound, and, as if memorizing every nook and cranny, he slowly kissed his way to her nub before he explored inside her folds and thoroughly tongue fucked her.

By the time he lifted his head, she was soaking wet, thrashing about, and more than ready for him. He stared, appearing stunned. “Delicious. You’re more than I ever imagined.”

She squirmed beneath him and nipped him, silently demanding more.

He gripped her wrists in one hand and raised them above her head then grinned mercilessly at her. With his thumb pressing on the one place sure to set her on fire, he kissed his way to her entrance. She arched as he nibbled the swollen nub into his mouth again and sucked until she gasped, begging for more.

He stopped right before she came.

“Finish me.” Grace’s thunderous growl exploded, directed at him. Would her wolf attack him if he didn’t fill her…?

Before she objected again, he placed a finger at her rear entrance and touched the tight bud. She stilled, stopped breathing, didn’t say a word, and waited.

His voice, raspy and low, whispered, “When you’re mine—completely, truly mine—I’m going to pleasure every single inch of you. Here…I’m going to fuck you here”—he smiled—“and something tells me you’re going to love it.”

Oh, she wanted to try everything he suggested, but was she willing to give up so much of herself to belong to anyone? There was the Moonlight pack to think of and the future of the dire wolves.

At the moment, none of that mattered. Her wolf controlled her senses, and damn it, Grace wanted this.

“Aye, ye could be right about my wicked inclinations.” What she needed was Ty’s thick dick filling her and more of the pleasure he’d promised. “Fer now, do you think ye could take that club between yer legs and pleasure me?”

He threw his head back and released a deep guttural laugh as he climbed up her body. “That, I can, sweet lassie-wolf. That, I can,” he said, doing a poor imitation of her Scottish brogue.

She gave into the moment…and planned to take everything he offered. Yes, she even ached for his bite. She craved this man as none before. And as he filled her, driving like a force of nature, her instincts took over and the earth shifted beneath them.

She struggled to restrain her desire, but this wolf belonged to her…and she belonged to him.

She hoped what she was about to do wasn’t a mistake.

The minute she sank her teeth into his neck, everything settled into place. He paused for a second before looking at her for consent to complete the ritual. His lids lowered erotically before his pale hazel eyes turned silver. He was so breathtakingly perfect in all his rugged beauty. Just the right amount of dark, masculine, body hair to interest her, and a broad, square jaw that screamed stubborn. His canines extended behind his wolf grin right as he ordered her with one word to shift.

He clamped down on her breast, and she gasped. To her immense surprise, pleasure filled every cell in her body when he marked her, and then they both began their shift.

After mating in both forms, they would be bound for life—as wolf and human. His life hinged on her instincts being correct about his dire blood, or their joining could be his death warrant. What had she done?

Chapter Three


Ayre, Scotland, Monday 8:00 a.m.

Lucas braked in the driveway, kicked down the stand, and turned off the T12 Massimo. His family’s estate, in the Isle of Ayre, boasted ten-foot double doors of ancient, blackened hardwood, carved with familiar Celtic signs. Unconvinced this was the family emergency he’d been led to believe, he still grabbed his bag and rushed up the front steps. The door knocker, the MacDugal family crest, a snarling head of an alpha dire wolf, glared as he put out a hand. But before he touched the forged-steel handles, the doors burst open and his father, William MacDugal, wrapped his arm around his shoulder and drew him inside.

The burly Scot patriarch, the pack alpha, paused, gripped Lucas by the shoulders, and, raising his chin, met his son’s eyes. “I’m relieved you’ve arrived so quickly, lad. Yer mother’s beside herself with worry.”

Lucas hadn’t been gone long when his father called him to return. He’d panicked. The brief explanation jolted him into action. Ever the dutiful daughter, his sister never called for their mother’s birthday. Miles from home in Florida, tracking her down before harm came to her would be a challenge.

“The plane is fueled and the flight plan is approved to go. The helicopter is waiting for you.” William didn’t glance back as he led Lucas to the helo-pad where his mother and his brothers waited.

“I’ve made all the arrangements,” his father assured him as they walked. “When your sister didn’t check in, I called the local pack leader, Derek Sawyer. He said she’d made a few friends and had been out with the Moonlight pack running on Friday night. The last person to see her was one of her security guards, a wolf named Ty Daniels.” William drew up his shoulders. “I don’t know what to think. He’s reported to be the upstanding type…a former US Army Ranger in Afghanistan.”

“Grace wouldn’t miss calling Mum on her birthday unless something was amiss. We’re fortunate Derek and his second-in-command run a detective agency.” Lucas ran his fingers through his hair.

“This Daniels fellow also works there. The alpha vouches for him.” Lucas’s mother hugged him. “While you’re on your way, Derek’s group is going to begin researching Grace’s disappearance.”

“He’ll at least start organizing the investigation for you,” said Jared, the oldest littermate and the one who would follow in their father’s footsteps.

Thank the stars. Lucas had no interest in running the pack.

“No worries here. I’ll handle your duties while you’re away,” Lucas’s younger brother James added, and handed him a sheet of paper with a name and phone number. He continued spewing information and shrugged self-consciously, a bit like his father. “I took it upon myself to call Grace’s suitemate. Stephanie knew nothing of her whereabouts. But, she said she’d ask around.”

Lucas put the paper in his pocket and noted how red his mother’s eyes were from crying, and her brow seemed more deeply furrowed with worry than usual. He pressed his lips to her forehead, trying to erase the lines. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I can.”

Jared stood beside his father, both men grim with concern. All he could manage was a nod in their direction as they stepped away from the pad. Time was of the essence. As the pack enforcer, it was Lucas’s responsibility to care for the few of them who remained. James would manage for a while, but it was the second son’s ultimate responsibility.

The dire wolves were a dwindling breed. He and his brothers were from his mother’s first litter, and, years later, his mother bred again. His sister was the only survivor from the second litter, the last his mother would ever have. They were the only remaining pure-bred dire wolves. Because the births had been dangerous, almost deadly, his father refused to risk his mate again. The three brothers, their only sister, and a few cousins were all that remained of the ancient breed, and, as a result, they were a close family unit within the small mixed werewolf pack on Ayre.

“I’ll find her and bring her home safely,” Lucas said, barely containing his apprehension. He patted his mother’s hand and James’s shoulder before he turned his back on them and ran low beneath the twirling blades then climbed into the two-seat helicopter. A private jet and a tense night awaited him.

Chapter Four

The Plan

The Defenders Agency, Moonlight, Florida, Monday 8:00 a.m.

“Derek, you want a refill on that cup?”

He grunted and Laurel assumed he meant yes. She picked up his cup on the way to the coffee machine, made two cups of coffee from the Keurig, and returned to her desk, dropping off his fresh-brewed refill on the way.

“Mind if I ask why you sent Rand after Ty?” She didn’t want to be disrespectful to the alpha, but sending the pack enforcer after Ty didn’t bode well for her partner.

The pack alpha stared her down as if he could read her mind and see her misgivings.

She’d been the one assigned to guard Grace on Friday, the night she allegedly disappeared, but Ty had been with the missing woman later that night. Laurel’s new job with the agency and her life in Moonlight were working out for her. She didn’t want to screw up. If she’d misread her partner’s intensions, Derek would never trust her again. Then what would she do with her life?

“After the MacDugal called to check on his daughter, I had Ty come over. He admitted he was the last one with Grace Friday night. We called her from here and confirmed she was gone, but then he went wild and took off. He’s holding something back. Something he isn’t sharing.”

“Like what? They were totally into each other, and he’s pretty macho, the heroic type.” Laurel figured everyone knew it, so she wasn’t giving away any secrets.

“When I say he lost it, I mean he lost it big time. He shifted before we finished talking, went totally out of control. I thought if you got a chance to question him, you could tell me.”

“The boyfriend’s always the prime suspect….”

“But?” Derek frowned as soon as she paused. “You think they had a fight?”

“No, not a fight,” Laurel said. “Besides, if she shifted, she could take care of herself with any of the locals.”

If Derek knew, what was his real motive for sending his enforcer after her partner? “You think Ty should know Grace’s big bad wolf brother is on his way, don’t you?”

“That’s not the only reason I sent Rand after him. Ty’s not a flight risk, but his reaction…? I don’t want anything to happen to him. If we work together, we stand a better chance of finding Grace before something goes wrong.”

“What are you worried about?”

“If someone discovers what she is…well, with the way the genetic lines in the packs are weakening, I can think of plenty of ways a female of her line would be useful.”

Forced blooding—the act of biting—and cold genetic labs, even vivisection images popped into Laurel’s mind. The distasteful visions unnerved Laurel, sending an icy shiver up her spine. She crossed her arms and ran her hands over them to ward off the chill. Now she was frightened for Grace. Because no way in hell was Ty involved in the woman’s disappearance, and if he even imagined what Derek suspected, god help the wolves who had taken her. It was no wonder he’d flipped out. Laurel knew how it felt to lose the people who mattered most.

After the Homeland pack in Georgia had been destroyed, she took a while searching for her old pack members. Fortunately, her parents had sent her to stay with an aunt before the tragedy. Later, she found nothing as she searched for survivors. It took months to locate Alexis online. The remaining pack members needed Laurel and her intuitive gifts. So she found her way to Moonlight, and Derek hired her for the security position with The Defenders Agency. The new pack accepted her as if she’d never been away, and The Defenders treated her with respect as a valued member of their team.

Ty had suffered a fate similar to Laurel’s. The former Ranger’s pack near Jacksonville was decimated while he’d been in Afghanistan, and after he returned, he searched for packs with other orphaned wolf shifters like him. Later, like Laurel, he became one of the agency’s trusted security guards and investigators. Derek convinced him to take advantage of his GI Bill benefits and finish his masters. That was where he met Grace…at New College in Sarasota.

“What can you tell me about Friday night?” Derek’s impatience grew as he waited for Ty to report to the office. “After the call from Grace’s father, I was doubly concerned about the young woman.”

“The two of them, Ty and Grace, go out running together whenever they get a chance. Friday, I was her guard on duty, but they planned to meet, later. Grace and I encountered the Fort Myers group you invited to the pack meeting. She’d investigated an internship with Slater Hall’s company. I got the feeling he expected her to earn it. If you get what I mean. She blew him off, and I stepped in to back up her decision if I had to.”

“What’s up with Grace and Daniels?” Derek asked.

“They’ve been running out in the acreage beyond the lake to avoid detection. I didn’t leave the area until she shifted and ran off to join him. In her wolf form, she claimed it would take something other than Slater Hall and his band of misfits to take her down. I know she met with Ty because his howling stopped. But Hall’s group made me uncomfortable so I stayed and scouted the area where Ty and Grace have been running.”

“Should I be concerned about what Ty could do?”

“No. Ty cares for her. A lot.” She wiggled her eyebrows to make her point. “Besides, he’s one of the good guys. Like I said, real hero material. His aura is troubled, but it’s free of evil.”

Derek usually trusted her opinions. Laurel hoped this was one of those times. She had inherited her grandmother’s talent for reading people. Some claimed she was part witch, but Alexis and Derek understood Laurel and her mother were sensitives, a rare breed of shifters in touch with the earth and all things organic. If something was elemental, Laurel could read it.

“Some of the Fort Myers pack members’ auras are questionable.” When she’d touched Slater in order to keep him away from Grace, she’d felt…dirty.

“Really? Others besides that asshole, Hall? Give me a list.” Derek tapped a pen on his desk. He ran a hand down his face and rubbed his thumb across his chin.

“Mostly Hall. He was the only one I touched, and believe me, that was enough.” Laurel shuddered in disgust then went back to her list while Derek leaned back in his chair and focused on the ceiling. He did that a lot when he was frustrated.

“You don’t think Daniels’s tour of duty in Afghanistan had anything to do with him…being a little off?” His question surprised her.

She paused mid-thought and stopped studying the maps on her computer screen. “Off? If you’re worried about anyone being a little off, you’d have to reevaluate everybody in the pack. We’re all damaged to some extent.”

“Point taken.” Derek almost chuckled and cracked a little smile.

The door slammed open, and Rand Molina, co-owner and partner in The Defenders Agency, entered in front of Ty. Rand took a seat at his desk, and Ty pulled up a chair next to Derek.

Derek jumped right to the point. “Listen up, Daniels, Grace’s brother is on his way.” He checked the time on the wall clock and added, “I promised her father we’ll help with the investigation.”

“No problem.” He sat straighter. “I won’t be left out. I’m going to be involved one way or another.”

Rand raised an eyebrow and cleared his throat. “No one talks to the alpha that way.”

But Derek let it go. Ty was visibly upset, and Laurel understood why. Hell, she was furious it happened on her watch, but he had to feel even worse. He’d been with her and let her go. As an Army Ranger, he would take Grace’s disappearance personally, no matter what, but since he’d been the last one to see Grace…. Well, even he knew the implications of that.

“Talk to us,” Laurel pleaded.

“I drove her back to Sarasota and offered to walk her to her apartment. She refused. I haven’t seen or heard from her since I dropped her off. When she didn’t respond to my calls yesterday, I thought she was just mad…. Today I called her phone at 0700 hours, but again it went to voice mail. I contacted her roommate and asked her to check on her. She’s missing.”

Laurel didn’t buy his story. “What really happened?”

“Nothing.” He squirmed under her scrutiny. “Everything. You know.”

“Actually, we don’t know.” Rand interrupted Laurel’s interrogation. “Humor us.”

“After, after we had a”—he glanced around then looked uncomfortable saying anything further—“great evening, we argued on the way back to her apartment.” He dropped his head in his hands and slumped, looking like a broken man.

“About?” Rand asked.

“D’ya know why she’s here? She’s independent. Won’t conform to the old ways. And because of her family heritage, which she declared off-limits for discussion, she refuses to consider marriage.”

“There’s something else you’re not telling us,” Laurel said.

“Yeah, that dude from down in South Florida, the CEO of that company. She told me what happened earlier. He’s always all over her, but even after we…she insisted she was going to take the research internship if she got it—”

“So you were jealous?” Derek asked.

“No. Hell, yeah, okay. And worried. I have the right to be—” He snapped his mouth shut and raked his fingers through the stubble on his head. “I was jealous. But actually, I was more worried about her. I warned her last week that Hall was a sleaze.” He pointed at Laurel then Derek. “Laurel, tell him. The guy is up to something.”

“I agree, he’s some kind of conman.” Laurel watched Ty’s aura as his emotions fluctuated. “But what happened between you and Grace?”

“We…. Things got out of hand before I took her home. Then, afterward, she told me to back off…. Like I could.” He muttered the last words under his breath. “We argued. She said she had three brothers, she didn’t need another one. I was pissed. Told her no way was I thinking of being her brother—”

“So you backed off, right?” Laurel asked, brotherly argument aside. Grace and Ty were life mates whether they accepted it or not. She had seen the way their auras reached for one another’s.

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