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Authors: Lauren Dane

Reluctant

BOOK: Reluctant
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An
Ellora’s
Cave
Romantica
Publication

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

Reluctant

 

ISBN # 1-4199-0712-3

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Reluctant Copyright© 2006 Lauren Dane

Edited by Ann Leveille.

Cover art by Syneca.

 

Electronic book Publication: September 2006

 

 

This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc

1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.

 

Content Advisory:

 

The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers.
This story
has been rated E–
roti
c by a minimum of three independent reviewers.

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of
Romantica
™ reading entertainment: S (S-
ensuous
), E (E-
rotic
), and X (X-
treme
).

 

S-
e
nsuous
love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.

 

E-
rotic
love scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. In addition, some E-rated titles might contain fantasy material that some readers find objectionable, such as bondage, submission, same sex encounters, forced seductions, and so forth. E-rated
titles are the most graphic titles we carry; it is common, for instance, for an author to use words such as “fucking”, “cock”, “pussy”, and such within their work of literature.

 

X-
treme
titles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storyline
execution. Unlike E-rated titles, stories designated with the letter X tend to contain controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart.

Reluctant

Lauren Dane

Acknowledgments

 

I have this dude, he makes me coffee every morning and works hard to help me live this dream. He’s pretty hot too and I suppose there’s more than a bit of him in every hero I write. He’s not a werewolf but he’s pretty
alpha
. And he makes a mean latte. Thanks for being
my everything
.

Ann, thank you for making me a better writer with each book we work on together. I’m a lucky little writer to have you in my corner.

Oh! And to Mr. Kelly, I hope you never read this book (‘cause boy would I ever blush!), but I’d like you to know that you nurtured the writer in me and made me believe I could do it. Teachers like you make the world a better place. You gave me my very first copy of
Writers Digest
.

Kids, parents, beta readers—y’all rock my world but some of you would make me a lot happier if you slept more. You know who you are.

 

 

 

Trademarks Acknowledgment

 

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following
wordmarks
mentioned in this work of fiction:

BMW:
Bayerische
Motoren
Werke
Aktiengesellschaft
CORPORATION

Brooks Brothers: Brooks Brothers, Inc.

Author’s Note

 

Many of you asked me about Sid and
Layla
after you read
Enforcer
. I hadn’t really planned on writing their story. Not at first. And then I began to think on it and my wonderful editor brought up the Autumn
Animalia
quickie series and I realized I had the perfect idea for it—a prequel giving you the story of when Sid and
Layla
meet.

While
Reluctant
is a stand-alone story,
Layla
is part of a family, the
Cascadia
Wolf Pack, and you see as it ends, she’s in the backyard of now grown-up and mated sister Tracy’s house.

You get to meet Tracy and her two mates (yes, I said two!) in
Tri Mates
, the next
Cascadia
Wolves book.

 

Chapter One

Seattle, Washington, 1996

 

Layla
Warden pulled her brand new BMW into her spot in the parking garage. She’d just gotten the parking spot and the big raise that paid for the flashy new car at the financial firm that’d hired her straight out of college three years before.

Getting out, she headed to the bank of elevators and smoothed down the skirt of the suit she’d picked up from Brooks Brothers the weekend prior. Her hair was perfectly cut every six weeks, without fail, and her manicure was flawless.
Layla
Warden had a ten-year plan and things were going quite well.

No one she worked with had the slightest idea that she turned furry and ran through the woods hunting rabbits every few weekends, and she planned to keep it that way. Humans tended to get a bit
shirty
when confronted with the existence of werewolves. Most werewolves she knew weren’t very out about it. It kept them all safer.

Her human life was kept separate from her life as a member of the ruling Pack family. Most of her social life was with her Pack and family while her work life was absent that altogether. Her family was not incredibly pleased with the distance she kept her professional life from the Pack. They wanted her to hook up with a male from the Pack and settle down. They felt she could do that better if she worked for one of the Pack businesses. And she could understand their wishes. Who knew what her other sisters would end up doing? Tracy was a wild child at just fourteen and the twins, Megan and
Tegan
, had decided at eighteen to become part of their older brother
Lex’s
Enforcer guards. Clearly their parents looked to her to continue their line. But they’d have to wait.

The last thing
Layla
wanted right then was a mate. Ugh. She didn’t want that intense connection to anyone just yet. Werewolves didn’t just marry each other, they mated. They had an intense chemical and metaphysical bond to their spouse. At some point in the future that would be what she wanted but right then,
Layla
had plans! Those plans did not include bossy werewolf males meddling in her day-to-day life. She had two domineering, control-freak brothers and enough other male relatives to know that life mated to a werewolf male would not be easy.

She loved her freedom and she liked dating around. Because she may be button-down on the outside, but
Layla
did love sex, and the thought of getting from just one guy forever? That didn’t appeal at all.

Still, she appreciated her roots and her upbringing and she wasn’t ashamed of being a werewolf, she just didn’t make it her entire life like her oldest brother
Cade
, the Pack Alpha, did.

“Good morning, Ms. Warden.”

Layla
smiled at her secretary and took her mail into her office.
Her new, bigger, corner office.
That hadn’t even been due to happen until year five of the ten-year plan and here she was at year three. Booting up her computer with a satisfied sigh, she checked voicemail, looked through her mail and then began to go through her emails.

It was ten-thirty by the time she finished playing catch-up and could launch into her work for the day.

She worked through lunch, as she often did, and left the office at six. She was supposed to meet her best friend for dinner and drinks but she was tired. Still, she had a feeling
Tia
wouldn’t let it go, and she was right.

When
Layla
got to the front doors of her building,
Tia
was waiting there, already dressed up and looking amazing, as always.

The petite blonde narrowed her eyes at
Layla
and put a hand on her hip. “I knew you’d try to get out of tonight. I can see it in your face right now! But we both need the distraction so I’m here to bug you mercilessly until you give in.”

Sighing,
Layla
rolled her eyes and waved
Tia
through the doors after she’d unlocked them. “How much can I pay you to go away?”


Shaddup
.
You’re coming out with me tonight. You work ten hours a day! You need to play a little. You’re too uptight as it is. So let’s see what you have in your closet. I’ll pick out an outfit for you while you shower.”
Tia
shoved her into the direction of her bathroom and then headed off to root through her closet to find what
Layla
was sure would be the most revealing outfit she owned.

Even as she thought it she laughed.
Tia
Mathers
had been her best friend since third grade. They’d gone to college and roomed together and basically shared just about everything. It helped that
Tia
and her family were part of
Cascadia
Pack too.

The best thing about
Tia
was that she knew a side of
Layla
most people didn’t. People thought of
Tia
as the fun-loving one while
Layla
was the serious one—they didn’t know that
Layla
had a fun side too. It just got a little lost sometimes, especially since she’d gotten promoted at work.

Going into her bedroom after the shower,
Layla
saw that on her bed lay a pair of leather pants and a tank top.

“Are you kidding me? That’s a Halloween costume!”
Layla
had gone to a party as
Catwoman
two years before and probably hadn’t worn the pants since. “I’m sure I
will not
be able to get my ass into them now.”

“Oh stop crying and try them on. They looked good on you then and hell, woman, I’d be surprised if you even ate today. You’re getting skinny since you work all the damned time.”

Giving in,
Layla
tried the pants on and
Tia
was right. They fit quite well and
Layla
had to admit she looked pretty sexy in them.

“Okay, okay. But no tank top. I can’t wear a bra with one. You know how I hate when straps show and goodness knows me without a bra is a challenge to gravity.”

“Fine.
Wear this one.”
Tia
tossed her a bright red,
shimmery
, short-sleeved blouse that was tight across the bodice but loose around the waist.

By the time they’d left the condo,
Layla’s
hair was tousled in a sexy style and she wore red lipstick to match the blouse and teetered on spiky heels.

“Before you complain, we’re going to
Nautica
. I made reservations for us.”

Nautica
was a werewolf hot spot.
Members only.
Tia
loved it,
Layla
tolerated it for
Tia
.

“I thought you said I was supposed to play tonight? Now I’ll be hounded by power-hungry males who want to fuck their way into my family.”

“Oh my god!
Lay! Have you
looked
at yourself lately? You’re fucking gorgeous. They want to fuck
you
. Some of them are hot to be married into the Warden family but most of them want to bed you because you’re beautiful, sexy and have a good job.”

It was an old argument and on most days
Layla
could believe
Tia
, but it was hard being from an influential family. People assumed things. They assumed she got her job through her connections instead of the fact she’d graduated at the top of her class, interned and then worked part-time at her company for three years. They assumed her money was family money. There was money there but it was all tied up in trusts. What she and her siblings had they’d all earned.

“Okay.
Fine.”
She knew she was being selfish and she gave in.
Tia
didn’t date too many humans. She didn’t think it was fair to have to hide such a large part of herself from them. Werewolf-only clubs like
Nautica
were the few places she could meet wolf males their age.

“Good. Life would be so much better if you just agreed with me from the start and I didn’t have to argue with you. Because you know I’m right.”

Layla
rolled her eyes when they pulled into valet and flashed their membership cards. “It’s 1996! What is up with the mullets?”
Layla
whispered this quietly to
Tia
before they got to the top of the stairs leading into the restaurant and lounge area.

Tia
looked back over her shoulder at the group of male wolves clustered near the front doors, several with the short on the top, long in the back hairdo that puzzled both women.
“Werewolves and their mullets!
I don’t know, but I’m sure glad
Cade
got rid of his. Your brother is hot stuff but man did he look stupid.”

The two of them dissolved into laughter and the hostess just smiled at them as if they were a bit soft in the head as she led them to their table.

One thing
Layla
did like about the place was that due to the sheer number of wolves on site, they piped a neutralizer for pheromones through the air circulation system. So there wasn’t a whole lot of sniffing going on. She thought it was tacky when some guy she’d just met started sniffing on her.

 

Across the room, Sid Rosario watched the tall, very busty redhead enter the room and sit down. Her hair was tousled around her shoulders like she’d just rolled out of bed and very big china-blue eyes took in the room around them. And damn, but the woman did leather pants well enough to make him want to lick her like a giant ice-cream cone.

“Who is that?” Sid asked his cousin Adam.

Adam peered around Sid’s shoulder and smiled. “The tall one with the red hair is
Layla
Warden. The petite one is
Tia
Mathers
.
Layla
is Pack royalty. She’s the oldest daughter.
Tia’s
just smoking hot.”

“I’m not interested in her pedigree. But I’d sure like to get to know her better. You know either one of them?” Sid could not take his eyes from
Layla
Warden’s mouth with that shiny red lipstick painting it. His cock throbbed in anticipation as a picture of red lipstick marks at the base of it flashed through his mind. Lipstick kisses on his cock, yeah, that worked.

“Ah, it’s like that, is it? Well, many have tried and failed. She’s a bit cool. But yeah,
Tia
and I dated a few times. Let’s go. I’ll introduce you.” Adam stood up and Sid followed.

 

“Ah, so soon?”
Tia
murmured to
Layla
. “Adam Rosario. I have very fond naked memories of him. And who is that with him?”

Layla
looked up from the menu and locked gazes with tall, dark and dangerous. The man just oozed rebellion.
Short black hair, a row of earrings in his right ear.
Nautica
had a strict dress code but despite the black jeans and the button-down shirt, she was sure the guy lived in ripped jeans and Clash T-shirts.

So utterly not her type.
This thought seemed to escape her as she looked into those big hazel eyes.


Tia
, gorgeous.
Long time no see.”

Tia
smiled up at Adam and batted her lashes a bit.
“Hi, Adam.”

“Hey,
Layla
.
You look great too. Can we join you?”

Tia
accepted before
Layla
could speak. But she wouldn’t have refused anyway. Mr. Rebel made her all tingly. And it had been a while. Four months to be exact.

“This is my cousin, Sid. He’s visiting here for a few weeks. Sid, this is
Tia
Mathers
and
Layla
Warden.”

Sid shook hands with
Tia
and smiled at her, but it was fleeting compared to the full-on, deep, soul-shaking look he gave
Layla
. Taking her hand, he kissed the knuckles and the warmth of his lips shot straight to her pussy.

“It’s very nice to meet you,
Layla
. I like that name. Is it…”

“Yes. My parents were big Eric Clapton fans when I was conceived. Let’s speak of it no more.”

Her smile was flirtatious and Sid smiled back.

“So what are you doing while you visit? Where do you call home?”
Layla
felt like she couldn’t get enough of looking at him.

The server came and took their orders and Sid watched as she sipped her drink.

He cleared his throat. “I’m doing a mural—I’m an artist. I live in Tucson. And what do you do?”

“I’m in financial services. I do portfolio planning.”

His eyebrows rose.

“What?
Too Yuppie for you?”

He laughed.
“No, not at all.
I love smart women. I’m impressed.”

She relaxed.

All through dinner she felt herself pulled under his spell. Each time he reached out to grab the salt or his beer, he’d touch her in some small way. His total attention was on her at every moment. His voice was low and seductive, an aural caress. When she spoke, he listened intently, clearly interested in what she had to say.

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