Authors: Terry Spear
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Also by Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf
Heart of the Wolf
To Tempt the Wolf
Legend of the White Wolf
Seduced by the Wolf
Silver Town Wolf
Destiny of the Wolf
Dreaming of the Wolf
Silence of the Wolf
A Silver Wolf Christmas
Heart of the Highland Wolf
A Howl for a Highlander
A Highland Werewolf Wedding
Hero of a Highland Wolf
A Highland Wolf Christmas
A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing
A SEAL Wolf Christmas
SEAL Wolf Hunting
Heart of the Jaguar
Copyright Â© 2016 by Terry Spear
Cover and internal design Â© 2016 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover art by Kris Keller
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systemsâexcept in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviewsâwithout permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Fax: (630) 961-2168
To Maria McIntyre, thanks for beta reading for me, and keep up the good fight, missy.
Feeling useless, Paul Cunningham propped his broken leg on a few more pillows as he and Lori, his wolf mate and she-wolf leader of the pack, watched from the deck of their lakeside cabin. Their best friend, Allan Rappaport, was heading down the dock to practice diving with his new police dive partner Debbie Renaud. Allan had been partnered with Paul, who was now sidelined with his leg casted all the way up to his hip after a freak accident on a dive rescue mission.
“I still think Allan should ask the sheriff to make new assignments,” Lori said. “You and Allan were raised as brothers, you're SEAL team members, although you've left the Navy, and you're used to working with other men, not women. And you're both wolves, not that anyone on the force knows that, but it makes it easier to work together. This business”âLori motioned to Allan and Debbie as they talked to each other on the dockâ“is bound to cause problems.”
“Allan respects her work too much. Switching partners would look like he's having trouble with her on a professional level. He won't do anything that might jeopardize her career.”
Looking cross, Lori folded her arms over her expanding belly. Paul reached over and she slipped her hand into his. “They'll be all right. Allan's smart enough to know the boundaries between
and humans,” Paul said.
“I couldn't believe it when the sheriff assigned Allan to work with her after the accident. Are you sure Allan didn't ask to be teamed up with her?” Lori sounded like a guarded wolf.
Paul knew Lori was simply being a concerned pack leader and friend. “No. Allan and Debbie just both needed partners and were available to work together at the same time.”
The ache in Paul's muscles and tendons kept reminding him how serious the compound fracture had been. The vehicle had rolled, pinning him on the bottom of a swiftly flowing river. He was fortunate to even be alive, due to Allan's heroic effort. Unfortunately, everyone thereârescue workers, ambulance crew, policeâhad witnessed the gruesome sight when Allan carried him out of the water.
With so many witnesses, Paul would have to pretend the knitting of the bones and the healing of the surrounding muscle and tissues took the same length of time as a human's injury, when their wolf kind actually recovered in half that time. Even so, because of the severity of his injuries, recovering was going to take three months as a
. It had been two weeks already and he still couldn't walk. Hell, Allan had to help him onto the chaise lounge. Paul hated being so incapacitated, though he had to be grateful he had survived. If it hadn't been for Allan, he would have drowned.
The problem was that Debbie's longtime dive partner had retired, the next one had moved to another state, and Allan had been without a dive partner because of the damnable accident. And the sheriff's department had needed Allan for some risky dive jobs.
“You needn't be concerned about them,” he said. “Allan understands what he is and what she is, and he knows not to get involved with her.” Paul hoped Lori was right. But where men and women were concerned, the waters became muddied.
Lori sat on the chair next to Paul's lounger and squeezed his hand. “Watch the way she looks up at him. They've been together for only two weeks and she is so enamored with him. All smiles and sweetness. She adores him. He's a SEAL, and women just fall all over themselves when they learn that.”
Paul raised his brows at Lori.
She shook her head at him. “I know the two of you too well. Your SEAL status doesn't affect me in the least.”
He chuckled. “Debbie is a smiley, sweet woman, Lori. You worry too much.”
Lori frowned and settled back in her chair. “You're making light of this, but it's dangerous. He hasn't dated any of the eligible women in our pack, and we have several. Sure, he's nice and polite, but he's not interested in any of them. Look at the way he helps Debbie with her dive checks. They look like they're lovers.”
Paul smiled. He knew Lori wanted Allan to care about a woman, but the woman
to be one of their kind, or the relationship would cause all kinds of complications they couldn't afford. “Come here.”
“Come on the other side.” She moved to his chaise lounge, and he snuggled with her. “He'll be okay. We're talking about Allan. In all our years of wolf longevity, how many times has he fallen for a human woman and not been able to let go of the notion?”
Lori relaxed then. “Never.”
“Right. Never. So they're just working together, doing practice dives as a team so when they have risky dives to make, they'll be working in sync with each other. And look, they didn't have to dive here in front of us, knowing we're observing every move they make. He could have taken her anywhere to practice with her.”
“True. But they won't always be here under our watchful supervision.”
Paul chuckled. “Lori, you are a worrywart.”
* * *
The day was nice and hot, perfect for practice dives, if that's all that was going on between Allan and Debbie. But Lori knew she wasn't just paranoid. She knew Debbie was interested in Allan and he returned the interest right back. What was not to like about Allan anyway? He was sexy and fit and loved to do what Debbie loved to doâdive. They had an easy way with each other, like they already knew each other intimately, not like people who had just started to work together. No formality between them. No getting to know each other.
Though Lori supposed he'd met Debbie on other occasions before she was partnered with him, like during monthly emergency rescue training.
There was just something about the two of them that seemed overly comfortable between new partners. Though Allan was careful not to be too friendly around Debbie when he was with Paul and Lori, she saw the way he cast Debbie looks. Intrigued looks. Not just on-the-job-training looks.
Paul was trying to calm her fears, but he was worried about Allan too. How could he not be?
Debbie was a lovely brunette and vivacious, something that totally appealed to Allan. She was definitely an alpha, ready for adventure. She loved the police work, loved saving people and animals, just like Allan. Worst of all, she was single.
Even if he hadn't been totally attracted to her at first, it would have been hard not to be when Debbie clearly admired him. She asked about his missionsâthat he could talk aboutâand wanted to know about his personal and family life. Any man would be flattered with the way she seemed to genuinely care about him, and Lori sensed that Debbie wasn't just intrigued with him because he was a hot SEAL.
As far as Lori was concerned, Debbie should be ultraprofessional and just get the job done.
“You need to talk to him,” Lori told Paul.
“He's a grown man and knows what he's doing.”
“He's human, well, and wolf, and both are going to get him into trouble.”
“I'll talk to him, but he's going to wonder what all the fuss is about.”
Lori was certain Allan would know just why they were concerned.
* * *
Allan was just as concerned about working with a human woman as Paul and Lori were, but he knew he could handle this. Going on dives with Debbie sure was a hell of a lot different than going with Paul.
He'd become so used to working with Paul over the years that they did everything in perfect syncâthe hand signals, the body movements, the awareness of their partner. Some signals were universal, but he and Paul, along with the other members of their SEAL wolf team, had developed some over the years that were distinctive to them.
Allan knew Paul and Lori were warily observing them. He had to admit watching Debbie swim was a hell of a lot more attention-grabbing than watching Paul. And when she smiled at him, she made him feel as though he was dating her and not just working a job. He had to remind himself to act professional and get the training done. On an assignment, they had to concentrate on the mission so they could get the results they neededâevidence from a crime scene, people or animals to safetyâwhile ensuring they came out unscathed.
If he'd been assigned to a human male dive partner, no problem. But working with a single female, one who fascinated him like she did, was different. He could see it would take a lot of diligence on his part to keep his mind on business and not on Debbie. If he could just become interested in one of the new single females in the pack, that would solve all his problems.
But when he swam next to Debbie in the clear blue lake, she fired his testosterone sky-high. That didn't happen when he was around the single women in his pack. He hoped he could deal with this without getting them both into dangerous waters.
Four months later
The tires of Allan's hatchback slid on a patch of ice on the bridge just as he spied tires sticking up out of a deluge of water in a culvert. A rush of adrenaline poured through his veins, readying him for the frigid conditions and a rescue mission. In the cold of winter in northern Montana, he and his dive partner were the first to arrive on the scene of the accident and had to act quickly.
Debbie was requesting emergency backup and an ambulance as she held on to the dashboard, looking just as alarmed when the tires lost traction on the ice. He worried that they'd end up down the embankment, crashing into the upside-down SUV.
Frantically, a woman jerked at the back door of the SUV without success.
As soon as Allan saw who it was, his heart took a dive. It was Franny White, wife of the new chef at their wolf-run Italian restaurant, Fame del Lupo. She didn't go anywhere without her daughter. But the baby wasn't in her arms and Franny was trying so hard to get into the backseat, he knew little Stacy had to be buckled into her car seat and submerged underwater.
“Cancel the call for the ambulance!” he said to Debbie, knowing that this was a risk he had to take. “Call this number!” He gave her the number for the medical clinic that catered to his kind, though Debbie would be clueless. “I know the womanâher baby is in the car. Justâ¦call it.” He didn't have time to make up a cover story.
Debbie hesitated, and he knew she had to be thinking his request was a dangerous mistake. That precious time could be wasted. But lots more was at stake if the human-run hospital's ambulance picked up Franny and Stacy and they shifted. Debbie quickly called for the other ambulance and canceled the one for the main hospital in Bigfork.
As soon as he could safely brake the car and stop, Allan and Debbie were out of the vehicle, dashing down the steep incline on the crunchy snow and ice. Debbie had grabbed the emergency medical kit on the way out.
Seeing Allan and Debbie, Franny screamed, “My baby's in there! She's in a car seat in back.” She was soaking wet, her tearful words were slurred, and she was stumbling around as if she were drunk. She was wearing just a sweater and jeans as she stood in the nearly waist-deep water. Allan was certain she was hypothermic. Confusion and the natural instinct to warm herself could cause her to shift. Between that and needing to rescue the baby, they were in a hell of a fix.
“She's only three months old!” Franny added, as if she didn't recognize Allanâanother sign she had hypothermia.
“Get the mom out of the water,” he said to Debbie as her boots crunched in the snow and ice behind him.
She slipped, her boot kicking the back of his. He swung around and grabbed her arm to keep her from falling.
“Thanks,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
“It's slippery.” He was having a difficult time staying on his own two feet, but with bigger boots and more weight than Debbie had, he was managing better.
When he reached the moving water, he waded right in. The icy cold sent a jolt of adrenaline straight through him, and he wished he were wearing a wet suit.
The driver's-side door was open where Franny had managed to get out. Allan pushed through the strong currents to the SUV, while Debbie went after Franny. When he reached the car, he tried to get the back door open but couldn't. He scrambled into the driver's seat and squeezed through the front seats to access the baby's carrier. Upside down and buckled firmly into her carrier, the baby was unconscious. The cold water covered her, and Allan feared the worst.
He shined his light inside the vehicle to give more illumination in the dark, though he could see well enough with his wolf night vision in most conditions. But this was so precarious, and with a life hanging in the balance, he didn't want to make any mistakes.
Praying he could revive the unconscious baby in time, he yanked out his knife. The icy water made his hands so stiff and numb, he feared he would drop it as he cut the straps to the car seat, careful not to injure Stacy. He yanked at the straps until they gave way. Pulling the baby free, he cradled her against his chest and backed out of the vehicle. He held the lifeless infant close as he waded through the icy water toward the snow-covered shore.
Debbie was still struggling to guide the mom out of the water. Franny was stumbling, shiveringâthough they all wereâand instead of moving briskly out of the water like Debbie and he were doing, Franny kept stopping and turning. Debbie kept reassuring her that she was taking her to her baby, holding the woman close to share body heat and trying to rush her out of the water as fast as she could.
If he could have, Allan would have given Debbie the unresponsive baby and carried Franny from the water. But he had to resuscitate the baby pronto. Every second counted.
“I'll get the blankets,” Debbie said as she left Franny on the shore and ran up the incline to the vehicle while Allan administered CPR on baby Stacy.
The infant suddenly coughed up water and let out a weak cry. Allan swore his stopped heart came back to life. She wasn't out of danger yet. She was lethargic, and her skin was bright red and cold.
Franny was trying to pull off her wet clothes in the frigid weather. Allan was afraid she was planning to turn into her wolf.
“Franny, hold on. We'll get you and Stacy to the clinic as soon as we can. The ambulance will be here any minute. Dr. Holt will take care of you both.” He pressed the baby against his wet chest with one arm, while holding Franny close to him with the other and trying to keep her from stripping out of her wet clothes. She needed to, but not as a prelude to shifting. He moved them up toward the hatchback to get them out of the stiff, cold wind, but Franny was struggling to get free.
Slipping a bit, Debbie hurried as fast as she could back down the hill to reach them with blankets and some dry clothes.
“Let's get them up to the vehicle. You can remove the baby's clothes inside the car, and I'll take care of Franny,” Allan said.
“Okay,” Debbie replied, and Allan gave her the baby, then lifted Franny's trembling body into his arms and trudged up the hill.
“Needâ¦toâ¦turn,” Franny bit out.
Yes, their double coat would help warm her, as would the shift itself, but then her baby would turn too. He could just see Debbie dropping the baby-turned-wolf-pup and screaming in fright.
“When you're in the ambulance, Franny. Just wait.” He spoke firmly, like the pack sub-leader he was, encouraging her but at the same time commanding her to do his bidding.
At the car, Debbie climbed into the backseat, pulled off the baby's soaking-wet pink fleece jumpsuit, and wrapped her in a dry blanket, while Allan struggled to remove Franny's wet clothes. She was shaking badly from the cold, which was better than if she wasn't shivering at all, but her skin was ice white, her breathing abnormally slow.
Sirens in the distance told them the cavalry was coming. Thank God. He just hoped it was
ambulance and not the regular one.
“What happened?” Allan asked Franny. He had to keep her talking and alert, keep her from shifting unexpectedly.
“Red carâno accident.”
Allan paused as he was trying to get a wool ski hat on her head, but she kept removing the blanket. She was either thoroughly confused or she really wanted to shift. Maybe a little of both.
Franny looked on the verge of collapse as he pulled the wool knit cap over her head and removed the rest of her wet clothes. Then he wrapped her tightly in the blanket, lifted her into his arms, and set her inside the hatchback. There she was at least protected from the bitter wind. Debbie was holding the baby close. Both he and Debbie were also suffering from hypothermia. He felt his speech slurring, and he was having a hard time concentrating on what
needed to do next. But he had enough presence of mind to know not to shift.
“Your daughter's breathing and her heartbeat's steady,” Allan reassured Franny, though he couldn't know for sure about the baby's overall condition until the EMTs took her to the clinic and had her checked out.
Debbie frowned a little at him, and he realized he'd made another mistake. The problem was that his wolf senses were enhanced enough that he could hear, smell, and see things that humans couldn't. Debbie probably figured he was just soothing the mother with a story. The truth was that he could hear the baby's heartbeat. It was steady, which gave him a modicum of relief.
The ambulance pulled up and the medics took over from there. Allan should have asked Franny more particulars about the accident, but he wasn't thinking as clearly as he normally did in an emergency. Not that Franny could have responded with any real mental clarity, but it was something he should have done in a case like this.
He and Debbie were shaking as hard as Franny from the cold, but the EMTs had already given them blankets too.
“Myâ¦purse,” Franny said, her teeth chattering.
“Anything else you need from the car?” Allan wished he could put on his wolf coat or his wet suit. He was afraid she had something damning in her purse with regard to being
, though he couldn't imagine what. He didn't want to jeopardize their situation if anyone else went to get the bag for her later. So he made the decision to go after it, despite how chilled he was.
“Justâ¦purse,” she managed to get out. “Frontâ¦seat.”
Then again, the hypothermia might be the reason she felt she had to have her purse. It might have nothing to do with keeping their secret safe. Just more of a concern about her money, credit cards, driver's license, and whatever else she might have in it. Hell, he knew of a case where a woman told her adult son to return to her burning house to retrieve her laptop. And then she was kicking herself for it afterward, wondering why she even had him do it. Irrational, sure, but people could do or say crazy things in a crisis.
Still, Allan felt it was safer if he went back for itâjust in case. “I'll get it for you,” he reassured Franny.
Debbie took hold of his arm. “You're already suffering from hypothermia. Let someone else do it.”
“I'll be fine. I'm already wet. We'll get warm and dry real soon.” Their wolf pack didn't have wolves working for the sheriff's department, except for Paul and Allan as contracted divers. So they had to take care of their own. Not that he could let on to Debbie why that was so.
At the edge of the culvert, he dropped the blanket on top of the snow.
Despite already being soaking wet and chilled to the marrow of his bones, he felt even colder when he entered the water. But his faster wolf healing abilities would help him overcome this more quickly than any human responder could.
He waded out, then dove into the submerged SUV, glad Debbie had returned to the hatchback to protect herself from the chilling wind. He pulled his flashlight out in case he needed it and to make sure no one would question how he found the purse in the dark. He was certain Debbie would be watching to ensure he would return safely.
He located the black leather bag resting on the roof of the upside-down SUV and pulled it out. Fearful he wouldn't be able to hold on to the purse in the fast-moving water, he clutched it to his chest and waded to the shore. Once there, he grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around himself, then trudged slowly up the slope to the waiting ambulance. He felt as if he were wearing wet cement shoes.
“Thank you,” Franny said, taking her sopping-wet bag and holding it tightly to her body, as if it were her baby too.
The EMTs shut the ambulance doors, but before the ambulance took off, a bark came from inside. Then with its lights flashing and siren blaring, the ambulance headed for the clinic as some of the sheriff's men arrived at the scene.
Debbie was staring at the ambulance as it drove away. “Did you hear a dog bark inside the ambulance?”
“No.” A wolf, yes. Dog? No.
“You should have let someone else get her bag, Allan. You're not invincible,” she said, shaking hard as they sat inside the vehicle with the heat blasting them, a cold north wind sweeping across the area as they waited to speak to the police officers who had just arrived.
“Well,” said Rowdy Sanderson, a homicide detective, his blue eyes considering the two of them, “why don't you get into something warm and dry before both of you need hospitalization too. I'll handle this until you can file a report.”
“What the hell are you doing here? No dead bodies,” Allan said. He knew Rowdy was here because Debbie was.
“Could have been,” Rowdy said, glancing at Debbie.
“Thanks. We're out of here,” Allan replied. They had to get into dry clothes pronto.
Allan and Debbie were always on call if something came up. They had been finishing up some paperwork on the Van Lake murder case. A car had been found in one of the area lakes, and the driver had contusions that were probably not due to the car accident. More likely, the victim had been beaten and the accident had been staged. Allan and Debbie had been on their way to get lunch at the pizzeria when they saw Franny's SUV upside down in the culvert.
He still couldn't believe it had been one of his wolf pack members. He would have contacted Paul and Lori with the news right away, but he knew the EMTs would let them know what had happened. He figured it was safer that way, rather than calling them in front of Debbie.
“Why did you want them to go there instead of to the big hospital?” Debbie asked.
“Franny's baby was born at the clinic. The doctor there is Franny's and the baby's doctor.”
“She doesn't have a pediatrician for the baby?”
“No. Dr. Holt is board certified in family medicine and pediatrics. Franny trusts her.”
“Okay, but I don't think we should have canceled the first ambulance. I want to drop by the clinic as soon as we can change and get warmed up.” Debbie leaned down to pull off a boot, and then the other. She slid off a wet sock, dropping it on the floor, then struggled to get the other off.