Authors: Angela Knight
“A terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller that never slows downâ¦The action-packed story line moves at a fast clip.”
âMidwest Book Review
“Suspense and erotic romanceâ¦intense and compelling.”
âThe Romance Reader
“[A] paranormal with lots of imagination and plenty of sensual momentsâ¦one powerfully intriguing bookâ¦one of the hottest books out [there].”
âThe Romance Reader's Connection
“A powerful romantic suspense and sensuous tale all rolled into one alluring and explosive packageâ¦Twists and turns, fairies, vampires, and sex hot enough to burn,
Master of the Night
delivers them all.”
âRomance Reviews Today
Berkley Sensation books by Angela Knight
MASTER OF THE NIGHT
MASTER OF THE MOON
MASTER OF WOLVES
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
MASTER OF WOLVES
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2006 by Angela Knight.
Master of Swords
copyright Â© 2006 by Angela Knight.
Cover art by Franco Accornero.
Cover design by George Long.
All rights reserved.
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For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY SENSATION is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
This book is dedicated to the men and women of law enforcement. Day in and day out, they risk their lives for little money and less respect, retaining their integrity despite all the temptations and stresses the job has to offer.
I would like to thank two of those officers for consulting on this book. The first is K-9 Officer Susan Millard of the Dallas Police Department, who offered several helpful ideas I incorporated.
But my greatest thanks go to K-9 officer Doug Jones of the Woodruff Police Department in South Carolina, who took time from his busy schedule to talk to me at length about what it's like to work with police drug dogs. My interviews with Doug and fellow Woodruff K-9 cop Todd Hendrix inspired
Master of Wolves
and the previous book,
Master of the Moon.
Officers like Doug, Todd, and Susan share a special bond of love with their dogs, and they do fantastic work.
I'd also like to thank those who gave me so much help with
Master of Wolves.
My agent, Roberta Brown, helped me pinpoint a maddening problem with an earlier draft. My test readers Morgan Hawke, Virginia Ettel, Martha Punches, Linda Kusiolek, and Katherine Lazo helped me track down and kill many other goofs. Those that remain are my fault.
And as ever, I would like to thank my wonderful critique partner, Diane Whiteside, for much hand-holding, brainstorming, and patient reassurance that “No, this book does not suck.”
Last but certainly not least, I would like to express my deep gratitude to my editor, Cindy Hwang, who waited so patiently while I ripped it apart and started over. Twice.
I hope you, my reader, find that our efforts have been worth it.
Jim London walked
down the hospital corridor, Mary Shay's arm in his. Her thin hand gripped his forearm with a strength that was almost painful. Concerned, he looked at her. Her face was expressionless, but agony lay over her blue eyes like a layer of frost. She was only in her fifties, the age of his own mother, but she looked much older today, her normal trim prettiness withered by grief. She had dressed with an almost painful care in a gray jacket and skirt that contrasted with her perfectly styled blond hair. The modest neckline of her silk blouse framed a single strand of pearls. It was less an outfit than a silent demand for respect.
Don't lie to me.
A memory flashed through his mind, sharp and vivid.
The kids had sat together around the campfire, toasting marshmallows on green branches gathered from the surrounding woods. Jim was trying to burn his to gooey perfection when he heard his sister squeal.
On the other side of the campfire, Diana jumped to her feet, twisting and squirming as she tried to get at the frog his best friend had just dropped down her shirt. “Tony Shay, you rat!” Scooping the frog from under her hem, she dropped it on her nemesis.
Tony collapsed in giggles and caught the frog as it tumbled off his red-haired head.
Jim pulled his burning marshmallow from the campfire and blew out the tongue of flame. The treat was seared almost black, which in his experience meant creamy perfection inside. Popping the marshmallow into his mouth, he sighed at the gooey sweetness and licked his fingers. “Why do you keep picking on Di, Tony? You got a crush on her, or what?”
“Oooo!” Steve Carson hooted, his hazel eyes lighting with mischief. A short, thin boy, he loved nothing more than egging somebody else into a good fight. “Tony and Diana, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-Nâ”
“Oh, gross!” Diana wrinkled her pert nose. “What a disgusting concept.”
Hurt flashed across Tony's freckled face, only to instantly vanish into a tough-guy glower. “Like I'd want anything to do with you, you skinny, ugly littleâ”
“Hey!” Prodded, Jim sat up and glared at him. “Watch how you talk about my sister, jackass.”
Tony balled his fists and sneered. “And what are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing,” Mary Shay said firmly, stepping into the circle of firelight, slim and pretty in shorts and a pink knit shirt. She pointed a stern finger at her son. “No fighting, young man.”
“He started it!” Tony protested.
“You insulted Di!”
“I can take care of myself,” Diana snapped, glaring at her foe.
“Yeah, right,” he sneered. “You're just a girl.”
“I'll show you who's a girl!” Diana lunged for him. Jim jumped to his feet, ready to defend his sister even against his best buddy.
“Fight!” Steve crowed, jumping up and bouncing on his sneakered toes.
But as Tony tried to catch Diana's swinging fists and Jim barreled around the fire, magic rose in a hair-ruffling wave.
With a growl, Mary Shay Changed, her body growing, muscle and bone twisting and elongating into something much, much bigger. A wave of magic rolled over her body, replacing her knit outfit with a thick, lupine coat of blond fur.
A heartbeat later, she towered over the children, seven feet of fangs and lean muscle. Eyes cold with displeasure, she surveyed the scene above a long wolf muzzle before reaching down with huge clawed hands.
Diana and Tony yelped as she jerked them into the air by their collars and gave them a light shake. “I told you, no fighting,” Mary said, her voice a deep growl.
Hanging in his mother's grip like a puppy, Tony glowered at Diana with sullen longing. “I wasn't going to hurt herâmuch.”
“You weren't going to hurt me at all,” Diana retorted, but her attention was fixed on Mary with naked hero worship. She sighed. “Man, I can't wait until I can do that.”
The Dire Wolf's long muzzle curled into a smile that looked a little grim. “Give it time, child. It'll come.”
It had, Jim
remembered, listening to the measured click of Mary's heels at his side. Five years later, when they'd turned seventeen, he, Tony, and Steve had gone up to the mountains with his uncle Raymond to attempt their first Change.
It had been a pretty night, with the moon riding full over the wooded mountainside, serenaded by a chorus of frogs and crickets. Jim, Tony, and Steve were gathered around yet another campfire, breathing the cool mountain air for what might be the last time.
This was the night they'd all been dreading since they'd found out about Merlin's Curse. Not that they feared becoming werewolves. Over the years, they'd come to see their first transformation as a rite of adulthood that brought fantastic power.
No, it was the alternative to that transformation that had even Tony looking unusually pale.
Jim watched Steve pull another Bud from the six-pack from the cooler and down it in one desperate swallow. “You sure that's a good idea?” His head was already buzzing pleasantly from the one beer he'd had. Or maybe that was the approaching Change.
Steve shrugged. “Probably not, but what the fuck. Did I tell you I finally nailed Bonnie?”
“No kidding!” Tony grinned around his own bottle. He'd grown into a tall, lean kid, just beginning to bulk up. “You've only been chasing her since junior high.” He offered his hand for a high-five.
Steve slapped it. “Gotta love those pheromones.”
“Friend to werewolf boys everywhere.” Jim offered his own palm for a slap. Direkind teens produced such powerful sex hormones as they approached their first Change, even humans responded. A fact Jim had taken shameless advantage of over the past week.
“Look at that shit-eating grin,” Tony said, laughing. “London got lucky. Was it Allie, Jo, or Karla?”
He tried to conceal his smug smile. “A gentleman's not supposed to tell.”
“Oh, spill, already,” Steve said. “You may not get another chance.”
“'Fraid you boys have run out of time.” Ray Johnston stepped from out of the woods, silent as smoke, in jeans and a camouflage jacket. He was not a tall man, but he had a wiry strength and steely will that won respect from much larger weres. As Jim's uncle, he'd agreed to serve as Wolfmaster for the three boys, guiding them through their first transformation.
“I left your parents waiting down the mountain,” he said. “They're sweating bullets. Let's get this done so we can go back and tell 'em everybody's safe.”
Jim felt himself pale, swallowing hard as the beer he'd just drunk threatened to abandon ship.
“Hey, buck up,” Ray said kindly, no doubt scenting their collective fear. “There are three of you. The odds are in your favor.”
“One in five is just an average,” Steve pointed out, then managed a sickly grin. “And I've got a feeling being one of the twenty percent would really suck.”
“Think positive, kid.” The older were sighed. “I'll start.” His magic rose in a spill of tingling heat.
Jim had witnessed countless Direkind transformations over the years, but this time was different. Ray's magic surged into him, smelling of deep forests, tasting of endless nights running beneath the moon. Calling to him.
For the very first time, he felt the power jolt up from his guts, sizzling along his nervous system, jerking bone and muscle into new shapes with agonizing force.
Somebody began to scream.
For a moment of raw panic, Jim thought the voice was his own. His eyes popped open.
Steve glowed like a star beside him.
His friend writhed, screaming as magical fire licked across his skin, devouring him in shades of incandescent blue. Jim met Steve's pleading, horrified eyes through the unearthly flames, but there was nothing he could do except gag on the smell of magic and burning skin.
Until, mercifully, Steve winked out. Vanished. Gone as if he'd never been.
Ray began to swear in a roll of weary profanity, his big hands hanging helplessly at his sides.
“Steve,” Jim said, his eyes going hot. “Oh, manâ¦” Steve's motherâ¦God, they were going to have to tell Steve's mother. She was somewhere at the base of the mountain with the other parents, waiting in miserable suspense to learn if her son had survived his first transformation.
Unable to face the empty air any longer, Jim turned away, his gaze falling on the tall, thin, red-furred werewolf standing across the campfire. It took him a moment to recognize those blue eyes.
Mechanically, Jim looked down at himself, already knowing what he'd see. His own body was covered in thick black fur.
He dropped to his knees and puked, distantly aware Tony was doing the same.
The loss of
Steve had drawn Jim and Tony even closer together, their friendship solidifying as they moved into adulthood. As men, they'd continued to back one another up whenever either needed the other's help. Their last shared escapade had been only a few months ago.
It was the kind of neighborhood that frowned on strangers, particularly two big guys in body armor. The houses were run-down, with cracked and peeling paint and yards littered with broken malt liquor bottles. Here a car sat rusting on cinder blocks in a driveway; there a dog barked with feral hopelessness, straining at the end of a chain tied to a tree.
Cigars glowed from porches where old men sat, drinking beer and bitching about wives and girlfriends. Nobody looked twice at a German shepherd and a brawny red Doberman trotting down the middle of the street.
Which was why he and Tony had assumed dog form in the first place.
Jim had his long muzzle to the pavement, breathing in the scent of the bad guy they were trackingâan accused drug trafficker who'd skipped out on a fifty-thousand-dollar bond.
It seemed the tip from Tony's source was good. Billy Joe Arnold had strolled through the area just an hour before with several buddies. None of whom was nearly as fond of soap and water as he should be.
The scent trail led them to a shotgun shack even more ramshackle than its neighbors. Silent as a pair of wolves, Jim and Tony slipped into the overgrown bushes to change into something with hands.
Human again, Jim glanced at his friend. Tony was a tall man, broad-shouldered and muscular, and the bulletproof vest he wore made him look even bigger. The words “Bail Enforcement Agent” were printed across the front in big white letters. Jim's vest matched it.
“You know they're probably armed to the teeth,” Jim said in a voice too low for an ordinary human to hear. He looked up at the house's sagging porch. “I hate getting shot.”
His friend gave him a white, lunatic grin. “Oh, bullshit. You love a good adrenalin rush as much as I do. Besides, if they shoot you, you'll just heal.”
“Depends on where they shoot me.” But Jim found himself grinning back. His blood was singing hot in his veins, and he had to admit Tony was right. There was just something about kicking in some asshole's door and dragging him off to jail. As much as he loved painting, art just didn't carry the same hot, physical rush.
He straightened just long enough to steal a look in through the window. Five men sat in the living room, attention on the big-screen TV that was probably worth more than the house. Four of them were armed with pistols stashed in various places, and an automatic rifle lay on the floor next to the fifth.
“Pretty serious armament for watching a basketball game,” he observed, ducking back down. “This is going to be fun.”
Tony grinned at him and rose to stride toward the front door. “Always is, buddy.” Without breaking step, he kicked the door in with one crashing thrust of a big, booted foot. “Billy Joe Arnold, you're going back to Atlanta to stand trial!”
Jim charged in behind him just in time to see the men going for their guns. Tony grabbed one thug off the couch and body slammed him to the floor, while Jim drove his fist into another's jaw before he could fire. He followed that up with a roundhouse kick that put a third man down and out. Tony gave the fourth guy a casual cuff that, delivered with Dire Wolf strength, sent him flying like a swatted bug.
“I ain't going to jail!” Billy Joe sprinted for the door, but Jim grabbed him and rammed him into the wall. Dry-wall cracked around the dealer's body, plaster dust flying like snow.
“Now, Billy Joe, your mama put her house up as surety for that bail.” Whipping his captive around, Jim bared his teeth. “If you don't stand trial, she's gonna end up homeless.” A pile-driver punch smacked the dealer into the wall again. Billy Joe's eyes rolled back in his head, and he collapsed. Jim caught him. “A man just doesn't do that to his mama.”
With Tony's skillful help, Jim searched their unconscious prisoner, then cuffed him and tossed him across a shoulder in an effortless fireman's carry. As he turned to carry the man out, Jim met his friend's glittering eyes.
“Now,” Tony said, “wasn't that more fun than daubing paint on a canvas?”
“Wasn't bad.” Jim grinned, shaking one stinging hand. That last punch had split the skin over his knuckles. “Wasn't bad at all.”
That had only
been three months ago, Jim thought, escorting Tony's mother down the hospital corridor. Such a short amount of time for everything to go to hell.
Clarkston police chief George Ayers stepped out into the hallway to meet them, his expression solemn. “Mrs. Shay.” He moved to shake her hand. Jim didn't offer his. The chief looked nonplused a moment before returning his attention to Mary. “I'm afraid Mr. Jones was called away on a traffic accident. I told him I'd help you.”
Ayers was a good-looking man, with a tall, athletic build and artfully graying dark hair. He wore an American flag pin in the lapel of his charcoal gray suit and his chief's badge on his belt.
He also smelled, ever so slightly, of magic and rot. The scent made Jim ache to hit him.