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Authors: Marilu Mann


BOOK: ChangingPaths
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Changing Paths



Book 4 of the Lusting Wild


Harmony, Moon-Denied, is unable to
shift to animal form. She swallows her pride to return to her Pack for her
daughter’s sake. The moody teenager might be Moon-Called—a true shapeshifter.
Now Harmony fights the instant heat she feels for a scarred, sexy shifter.
Gareth is all that’s good and bad about the Pack.

Gareth, second in the Pack, has
made peace with being a loner. No shifter female will have him because of his
scars—internal and external. He fights his attraction but he’s consumed by a
burning desire for this amazing woman. How can he convince Harmony that she’s
his mate?

Everything has to wait as the
Wisconsin winter closes in. When Moonlust takes control, need and desire
overcome everything else. As Harmony seeks her truth, her past encroaches,
threatening everything she holds close.


Inside Scoop:
Contains an
intense and violent confrontation that illustrates Harmony’s protectiveness
over her Pack.


A Romantica®
paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s


Changing Paths
Marilu Mann


Chapter One


Gareth glanced at the clock in the dash of his truck then
pressed a little harder on the accelerator. This was the first Gathering with
Micah and Olivia back. Gatherings happened even without the Alpha but it wasn’t
the same. Micah, Alpha of the Wild Haven Lodge Pack, a massive man with an even
bigger presence had definitely been missed.

Even though Olivia was a petite woman her presence usually
filled the lodge too. They were the perfect Alpha couple. Under their guidance
the Wisconsin wolves had flourished and grown. Hell, Micah had even named him
as one of his seconds, practically unheard of for a wolf scarred as he was to
rise up in a Pack.

The Gathering would be well attended. As the Pack’s main
social event, most wolves made an appearance. No one would miss it without a
solid reason—such as death or dismemberment. Word had spread quickly that the
Alpha couple were coming home. Besides, Gatherings were more than social get-togethers.
They were an opportunity to show off in front of the Alpha, to meet and greet
old friends, possibly making new ones, to find mates or even temporary bed
partners. Well, for some members of the Pack anyway.

As for him he’d just be happy to have Micah back—large and
in charge. Standing right at six and a half feet tall, Micah was definitely
large and
most definitely
in charge. His mate Olivia could hold her own
better than any other female he knew. He’d missed them but knew the trip to
meet Olivia’s family was important.

He remembered how hard it had been for Olivia to accept her
own abilities. Eventually though they had found real happiness as a family.
Then Micah had tracked down Olivia’s true family as a Christmas gift. They’d
gone to visit some of Olivia’s long-lost relatives then detoured to New Orleans
to pick up their daughter Talia who’d been spending time with the Compound
Pack. It still surprised him that Micah allowed her to go there, but since he
shared custody with that Pack’s Alpha it wasn’t really such a shocker. Micah
and Frank, the other Alpha, had an uneasy truce but they both cared for the

Still, the Alpha couple had missed three Moon Gatherings. As
one of the seconds to the Alpha, Gareth had attended the Gatherings but he had
to admit he’d relied on the other lieutenants for the social aspect. Just wasn’t
his thing to be the handshaking, back-slapping type. Still, he didn’t want to
be late. Not only would it be the height of Pack rudeness, he wasn’t going to
miss out on greeting his Alpha or his Alpha’s family, which now included an
infant son.

Luckily they had timed their arrival for this Full Moon
Gathering. Full Moons were the best, in his opinion. More running, less
yapping. Every wolf in the area who could attend would be there. Not that they
had to rely on the moon to call their wolves but everything was stronger under
the full moon. He was grateful for that.

He loved the crisp scent of fall but chose to leave the
windows up. He was anxious to see all of them again. After all, it had been
Olivia’s acceptance of his scarred face with and without his eye patch that had
eased him into his place in the Pack. She’d been the first female in a very
long time to treat him as if he wasn’t damaged goods. He knew he’d scared her a
bit when they’d first met but he’d grown used to that reaction from females.
Even Micah’s insistence on his acceptance in the Pack had only worked when he
backed it up with his massive presence. But Olivia’s place as the Alpha’s mate
held a lot of sway—no one wanted to piss her off.

Slowing to take the last hairpin turn before the entrance to
the lodge, he swore under his breath when the first deer jumped into the road.
Slamming on his brakes, he turned the wheel so that his truck slid to a
sideways stop in the middle of the road, and he watched the spindly legged doe
bound into the woods. Still he waited.

Sure enough, three more came bursting out, following the
white tail of the first. They moved gracefully across the road then disappeared
into the trees. Had he not already been late he’d have shifted to give chase.
Olivia had developed quite a taste for venison since moving to Wisconsin. Her
mate never objected to a gift.

Gareth grinned, thinking of the hunt as he put the truck
back in gear. Straightening out to finish his journey, he considered the time.
Instead of going to his own place he’d just park at the Wild Haven Lodge. He
could come back for the truck later.

Cresting the small hill, he realized his plans weren’t going
to go the way he wanted. Story of his life, really. Nothing ever went according
to plans if he made them. The dilapidated car leaned on the shoulder of the
road, looking for all the world like some injured animal. Slowing to stop
behind the car, he watched as the person struggling with the tire iron turned
toward his truck.

Yep, he was definitely going to be late. Plus he couldn’t
even send up a howl to notify the Pack. It might be rude to be late but it was
far worse to reveal your true nature to a stranger. That endangered the whole
Pack. He took his position as one of the seconds seriously.

He put the truck in park then turned off the ignition. He
stepped out of it just as the man…no…woman faced him. No man had features that
delicate or a mouth that immediately fed into his fantasies. She stood, bundled
up to her chin, holding the tire iron almost as if it were a weapon. Moving
slowly, he let his hair fall forward to cover as much of the patch over his eye
and the scars on his face as possible. He held up both hands to show he was
unarmed. “Need a hand?”

“Yes, please. I can’t get these lug nuts loose.” She stepped
back as he moved toward her, holding the tire iron out to him but keeping as
much distance between them as possible.

He saw the California plates on the car before he glanced up
at the woman again. No wonder she looked as though she was wrapped up for a
blizzard. Though the temperature was in the forties the wind had a definite

The door on the passenger side of the car opened as another
bundled-up figure got out. The hair peeking out from under the knit cap was a
bright pink, the facial features close enough to the other woman’s to let him
know these two were related. Had to be her daughter judging from the half-pint

“Heading to the lodge?” He took the tire iron then turned
his attention to the flat tire. He could have it changed in no time but he was
still going to be late. Setting himself to his task, he noticed that the woman
then the girl lifted their heads, nostrils flaring.
Damn, they’re shifters.
He did have the worst luck in the world.

They would probably consider him damaged goods as did most
other females. The scars on his face and his blind eye practically guaranteed
that. He bit back a very unsociable growl. The woman didn’t have a mated scent
on her, which meant the unattached males in the Pack would be swarming in no
time. She smelled good. Damn good. Gareth shoved his immediate male reaction to
her down—hard.

“No, the reservation. Are you from here?”

Nodding, he made quick work of loosening the lug nuts. He
angled away as he focused on a mental cold shower. His hard cock was just his
body’s way of betraying him. She might smell like the best summer afternoon but
no way would he go sniffing around her. He’d suffered enough rejection from the
shifter bitches in the area, he didn’t need it from an outsider too. His tone
was flat. “Yeah, I work at Wild Haven Lodge. This’ll be done in no time if you
want to wait in my truck. It’s still warm.”

Not looking at them or waiting for a response, he removed
the flat, set it against the rear bumper of the car. Pulling the spare out, he
groaned. He bounced it on the asphalt then shook his head. The damn thing was
just as flat as the tire he’d just taken off the car. Looking toward the cab of
his truck, he saw that the females had taken him up on his offer. He saw the
dismay cross the adult female’s face as she realized the spare wasn’t going to
help her.

He rolled it to the back of his truck, tossed it into the
bed then went back to grab the other tire as well. The woman got out of his
truck on the driver’s side.

“What are you doing?”

“Your tire and your spare are flat. I’ll take you to the
reservation then tomorrow I’ll take your tires into town. I’d do it tonight but
there won’t be a garage open.” He went to move around her but she stepped in
front of him again.

“That’s not necessary. If you’ll just take us to the res I
can take care of the rest.” There was something in her voice that set his fur
up. So cool and distant as if she were too good for him.

Figured she wouldn’t want his help with anything. Just like
the rest of the females around here. “It’s not a problem. I make regular runs
into town. I can get someone from the res to go with me to bring your car to

He took a deep breath then froze. Yeah, she smelled of
shifter but the delicious scent was more female, less shifter. Even Olivia had
scented shifter more strongly. This female barely had a trace of shifter in
her. He met her gaze. Her eyes widened as she stepped back from him. A flash of
something danced in her eyes. Was it fear? Anger? Disgust at his scar? He didn’t
know. He didn’t care either.

Damn females. Even the ones who weren’t full shifter
disdained him. Dropping his head again so that his hair swung forward, he
turned back toward her car abruptly. “Do you need your bags or anything?”

“I can—”

He cut her off. “I’ll get your stuff. No reason to leave it
here. Just get back in the truck. I don’t have time to argue about something
that’s a no-brainer.”

He knew he sounded curt but some things couldn’t be helped.
Just his luck to get stuck with the most beautiful female he’d seen in a long
time and have her scared shitless of his ugly mug. Not that it wasn’t a
reaction he hadn’t had before. Most females ignored him or shrank away from
him. After adjusting the patch over his sightless eye, he grabbed the suitcases
she’d indicated then slammed the trunk shut.

“Where on the res do you want me to take you?”

“Do you know Willow Johnson? Her house will be fine. Thank
you for stopping. I didn’t realize the spare was flat.”

“I know where Willow lives. No problem.” He noticed that the
girl hadn’t said anything, just sitting sullenly in the truck, letting the
woman talk. He’d heard some buzz about Willow’s niece coming back. Maybe this
was her. He wanted to talk to her, anything to break the current silence, but
wasn’t sure what to say. Instead he concentrated on driving, bypassing the
turnoff to the lodge, heading for the entrance to the reservation instead.

The silence in the cab wasn’t a comfortable one. He kept to
his side of the truck as much as possible. Having her so near was torture this
close to a Gathering. The urge to fight or fuck was strong due to Moonlust
caused by the full moon. Every time he went around a curve in the road her
scent wafted toward him. Honeysuckle and sunshine. She reminded him of a summer
day, warmth and being a kid again. The girl on the other side of her reminded
him of another flower, he couldn’t remember the name of it, but it was small
and white. The daughter’s scent was definitely flowery, deeper and richer than
her mother’s. It made him think of a run in the woods at night.

He couldn’t help but be glad they were headed to the
reservation rather than the lodge. Being around them made him edgy. He wanted
to ask if she was coming to the Gathering but figured she might think it was a
play for her.

His Wolf growled. He shoved the rising energy back. This
sudden lust wasn’t what he wanted but damn it, he was attracted to her. Since
there was no way a shifter from the res, officially part of the Pack or not,
would have anything to do with someone scarred and definitely not Native
American, he was just setting himself up for failure…again.


Harmony took another deep breath then closed her eyes. Rain
sat beside her, sullen and angry as was her normal routine lately. On the other
side the shifter male caused her heartbeat to increase while every hormone in
her body seemed to scream. Even her nipples tried to thrust forward. Luckily
they were held in by three layers of clothes, including her coat. She knew he
could be dangerous to one of her kind.

The man who’d been Alpha when she’d been growing up here had
told the young many stories about what happened to the Moon-Denied. Tales of
Packs who had driven the Denied out. Those who had even slaughtered their own
Denied out of shame. Having Packmates who failed to shift was a mark of
weakness in some Packs.

There had been rumors about groups of Denied banding
together for protection. Harmony realized some of the stories had been the type
to scare young shifters into paying attention during their shifting classes,
but still, there was always a kernel of truth in any boogeyman story.

At the very least he probably despised her for her inability
to actually shift. His kind always did. Big, strong, gorgeous shifter men who
could have any female they wanted? Those types never looked at a Denied except
to shun them, at least in her experience. Coming back to the reservation was
probably the dumbest thing she’d ever done.

No, leaving with Tom had been the dumbest thing she’d ever
done. Returning was supposed to rectify that first nearly fatal mistake.

When she’d received the phone call from Aunt Willow she’d
thought at first it was some cruel joke. They didn’t really want her back, did
they? She’d reached out to a distant cousin, trying to find someone to help
Rain through what she knew was coming. Going through your first shift was hard
enough. Having a mother who couldn’t shift with you, couldn’t show you what you
needed to know, that was damn near impossible. That cousin had contacted

Rain needed Pack. They’d just have to accept her mother as

BOOK: ChangingPaths
8.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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