Authors: Sondrae Bennett
Boomark:Back Cover Copy
Back Cover Copy
Will his love be enough to keep her safe?
Julie doesn’t know what to think when the man she’s had a crush on her entire life–a man she thinks is meant to be her sister's mate–starts flirting with her after she returns home from college. The harder she tries to distance herself, the harder he works to win her over. He cant’t want to mate with her...a freak born a full human among shifters. So why won’t he accept her rejection?
Brendan's waited years for Julie's return. Now that she’s finally home, there’s nothing to keep him from her...not even her three alpha wolf brothers. But he’s not the only one after Julie. Something is stalking her, and Brendan's protective instincts toward her kick in, but at what cost?
When the unthinkable happens, will Julie and Brendan's love give them the strength they need to persevere?
“Why did you kiss me today?”
“I thought that was pretty obvious.” Taking one hand off the wheel, he threaded his fingers through hers. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her staring at their linked hands.
“Brendan, you’re a great guy…”
“Oh please. Don’t tell me you’re giving me the ‘you’re a great guy’ break-up speech.” Throwing her one of his most charming smiles, he told her without words that he wasn’t going anywhere. Nothing she said would change his mind. Brendan found her huff of frustration utterly adorable. Then again, he found everything about her adorable.
“What break-up? We aren’t together, so there is nothing to break up. And it would never work between us.” Ignoring her words, Brendan picked up their linked hands and brought them to his lips. Julie was running scared. But he held enough patience and stamina to outrun her. He was a wolf, after all.
The Wolf Within
By Sondrae Bennett
The Wolf Within
Copyright © 2011, Sondrae Bennett
Edited by Allison Lee
Book design by Lyrical Press, Inc.
Cover Art by Renee Rocco
First Lyrical Press, Inc. electronic publication: November, 2011
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Published in the United States of America by Lyrical Press, Incorporated
For Carolyn, the sister of my heart. We may not be related by blood, but we are sisters in every way that counts.
Brendan stopped dead in his tracks, the rabbit he hunted no longer of interest to him. He lifted his head in the air and sniffed. A familiar scent floated on the breeze, wrapping around him. He knew that scent. Julie. Throwing back his head, his wolf howled in triumph. Finally, she was home, and now nothing would hold him back from claiming her.
Watching her go off to college, to leave him, had been one of the hardest things he’d ever done. But he’d been patient–not even confessing his intentions before she’d left, knowing how much her education meant to her. His tightly-strung control had almost snapped when she’d come home last Christmas, smelling of some frat boy. A growl rumbled low in his throat at the memory. It had to have been the worst Christmas in history as he worried whether or not he’d lose her. Somehow he’d mustered his iron control and stayed as far away from the Callahan family as possible.
In retrospect he was glad he had waited. Now Julie was back, her clean, strawberry scent drawing him to her like a moth to a flame.
He loped through the woods, his paws pounding the ground, crunching dried leaves and sticks beneath him in his haste. Her name formed a constant mantra in his head.
She wouldn’t recognize him in his wolf form. Being human, she wouldn’t be able to smell or sense the differences between the wolves in the town. Still, the need to see her drove him forward.
Breaking free of the woods, he caught sight of her mint green Escape turning into her parents’ driveway. He stared at Julie as she drove past, her backseat and trunk packed to the top, evidence that her life away from Alpine Woods was finished. This time, he planned to keep her close.
He hurried around the corner of the house, desperate for more than just a glimpse, but pulled up short as he saw Julie exiting the car. This wasn’t the carefree girl he remembered.
She was as beautiful as always, her long, wavy tresses tucked behind one ear as she stared at the house she’d grown up in. But defeat and resignation lined every angle of her posture. He watched as she closed her eyes, lifting them to the sky. A breeze rustled through her hair, sweeping the locks away from her face. A smile curled her lips as she lowered her head.
Brendan paused, taking a small step back as his mind grappled with the change. If he hadn’t seen the sadness surrounding her before, he never would’ve believed anything was wrong. Her eyes were bright, and she looked like someone without a care in the world.
Loping back into the woods, he cast one last glance at the woman destined to be his mate. He’d have to tread with care until he figured out what bothered her. He would find out. But first, he needed to integrate himself back into her life. And make sure other men stayed away. Julie was his.
* * * *
A movement out of the corner of her eye drew Julie’s gaze to a beautiful gray timber wolf running into the forest. Nothing new in Alpine Woods, considering the town was inhabited by a substantial wolf shifter pack. The wolf was too far away for her to make out any defining markings, but somehow she knew it was Brendan.
A small pang shot through her as she watched him run away, but she squashed it. There was no use longing for things that would never be hers.
Squaring her shoulders, Julie walked up the path to her parents’ front door. It had been a long drive, and a longer few months leading up to graduation. She hadn’t bothered staying for the ceremony, something her parents and siblings had pushed for. They hadn’t understood her rush to leave after her exams. They had wanted to watch her receive her diploma. Hell, she wanted that too and had worked hard to achieve it.
Julie had no desire to explain her reasons, which had resulted in some very tense phone calls. But watching George–the boyfriend she’d caught having sex with another woman–give a speech at graduation was more than Julie could take at the moment. So she’d gathered the tattered remains of her pride and put her foot down, insisting on coming home.
It was bad enough having to watch some of her siblings find their mates and pair off. They didn’t need to see how pathetic she was. How she couldn’t even keep her boyfriend from cheating.
Julie stopped a few paces from the front door and closed her eyes, chastising herself and trying to banish the resentment. She was happy for her brothers, thrilled they’d found women to spend their lives with. But it was difficult watching her siblings with their mates, knowing she would never have the same level of connection they shared. Knowing she was the
one in her family who would never feel that particular closeness, that ultimate love and complete trust with someone.
She took a breath, reminding herself she’d come to terms with being born human a long time ago. She’d been forced to face it every time her dad had uttered his favorite phrase,
Why would I want normal when I could have remarkable?
It was something he’d say whenever he’d recall how he and Julie’s mother had met, or rather, when she’d showed him her wolf form. Julie knew he’d meant it as a lesson for her brothers and sister. But the knowledge didn’t stop the pang from hitting her heart every time he’d told the story. As a human, she wasn’t remarkable.
Pasting a cheery smile on her face, Julie continued up the pathway. Just because she didn’t have a mate didn’t mean she would end up alone. One of the main reasons she had gone away to college had been to spread her wings. Julie blew out a breath on a laugh. Who was she kidding? She’d gone to college to meet men who didn’t know about life here in Alpine Woods. To meet someone who wouldn’t judge her for being full human.
Julie had realized at an early age that dating wouldn’t be a part of her life here. The boys in school had always stayed far away from the human girl with three alpha wolf brothers and one alpha wolf sister. Although, it had kept the bullies away as well, so it wasn’t without benefits.
“Hey guys, I’m home,” she called, setting her purse next to the door.
Julie glanced around the silent house. Where was everyone? Even her two family labs were missing. She’d told her parents she was coming home today. She figured everyone would be here to welcome her back. They had wanted to throw a party, but Julie had declined, knowing her brother, Jason, and his mate, Samantha, were busy planning their summer wedding.
“Hello, anybody home?” Julie tried once again, walking into the kitchen.
Her whole family was crammed into the room, her father struggling to hold back the wiggling dogs in their desire to reach her. Julie kneeled and opened her arms, inviting them to pounce. She knew they’d calm down once they got their pets and licks.
“We know you said you didn’t want a party, but we figured a small one with just the family didn’t count.” Her brother, Ethan, ambled over to help her rise and kissed her cheek. Julie smiled. She knew they couldn’t resist doing
“Thanks, guys. A family dinner sounds perfect.”
It was all the urging her mother needed. Judith swept her daughter in a fierce hug, her familiar scent surrounding Julie like a warm blanket.
Her arms circled her mother’s waist, clinging to her as she closed her eyes. She needed this more than she’d realized.
Judith pulled away but kept her arms around her daughter and looked down at her. Confusion and worry reflected in her eyes as she pushed a strand of hair behind Julie’s ear.
“You all right, sweetie?”
“Fine, Mom. Just tired from the drive,” Julie lied. “It’s good to be home.” That much was true. It was good to be home. She needed some time to get over her failed relationship. Once she licked her wounds, so to speak, she’d try dating again, even if she had to go online and travel a bit to meet someone. But for now, she just wanted to get her head on straight.
“Smells delicious,” Julie exclaimed as they moved outside where a veritable feast waited.
“Only the best for my college graduate. We’re so proud of you, honey,” her mother said, ushering her toward the table. Julie felt her face heat. She’d never been comfortable being the center of attention. “I cooked your favorites. And after dinner we have cake and presents.”
“Aw, guys, you didn’t have to do all this.”
“Of course we did. It’s a special day, so sit back and enjoy it,” Gwen, Ethan’s mate, said. A smile lit her face, and Julie answered with one of her own. She’d met her brothers’ mates only once when she’d visited home during spring break, but from everything she’d seen and heard, they were perfect matches for her brothers.
Julie sat next to Danny, her last unmated brother. Of all her siblings, she was closest to him. Being the two youngest and separated by a few years from their three older siblings, they’d always had a special connection.
“It’s good to have you back, squirt.” Danny bumped his shoulder against hers as Jetson, one of the black labs, pushed his nose against her leg under the table, begging for scraps. Julie reached down and scratched his ear as the conversation buzzed around her. Later she would worry about moving into her studio and catching up at work. Right now it was nice to feel a part of something again. For a while, she would pretend she wasn’t the odd one out. Pretend she was like everyone else.
* * * *
Julie laughed as she unwrapped Ethan’s gift of College-opoly and a “grow your own diploma” packet.
“Now whenever you miss college, you can play Monopoly and stick that little diploma in water. Just like the real thing.” Gwen socked her mate on the arm as the rest of the family laughed.
“Here, this is from Jason and me.” Samantha handed Julie a pink and purple wrapped gift.
Julie tore off the paper and gasped at the sight of the delicate silver chain with a diploma charm hanging from the end.