Authors: Celia Kyle
Published by Summerhouse Publishing. Copyright, Celia Kyle. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
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The minute… No, the very second… Hell, the nanosecond she got away from this guy, Lyla was running straight to Gold’s Gym and buying a membership. Maybe even two. More memberships had to mean more weight loss, right? Shit, she hoped so.
Lyla chanced a glance behind her and gasped at what she saw. Carl had almost gone full wolf as he chased her. His arms and face were covered in a mottled mix of grey and brown fur. His mouth had contorted and reshaped into a half-formed muzzle, and his hands her his hands had lengthened and were now tipped with fierce, razor-sharp claws. No way would she survive if he caught her. Damn. As pissed as he was at her for running, he’d slice and dice her instead mating. She picked up the pace, cursing herself for wearing three-inch heels instead of comfortable flats.
As she ran, the fat on her arms wiggled, her ass jiggled, and her thighs rubbed together. She mentally moved Gold’s Gym to the very top of her list, above her next waxing appointment.
Now, running for her life from a freak of paranature, she finally understood why her mother used to harp on her about taking care of her human body.
“Just because your wolf is fast doesn’t mean you won’t be caught human one of these days, baby doll,”
her mom used to say.
Today’s the day, Mom.
Lyla skidded around a corner, breaking the heel of her left shoe in the process.
She stumbled, but caught herself before eating the pavement, and managed to only scrape her knee along the concrete. Now the pain in her side from running was accompanied by the searing, throbbing ache in her knee.
So not good.
Her wolf clawed and scratched within, but she’d be damned if she went wolf in this area. Besides, letting the beast free was exactly what the sniveling omega, Carl, wanted.
Lyla kept running. She pushed Carl’s behavior from her mind. Mutt or not, her Alpha had no right to enforce his power over her.
So what if she’d reached the ripe old age of thirty without mating. So what if she was a bit pudgy—okay, a lot pudgy. And so what if she worked a near dead-end job with no hopes of advancement, which Mr. Alpha-man felt was beneath a member of his pack, albeit a mutt. Just … So what!
Her breath came in billowing pants now. The pain from the stitch in her side warred and fought with the almost debilitating ache in her knee. And through it all, her wolf howled and paced within her. It, in its infinite wisdom, felt it could take down the lowly Carl. Good thing Lyla knew better.
A growl sounded from behind her, and she didn’t dare look back. His shifted hand sliced through the back of her shirt, taking skin and flesh with it, and still she ran, cursing herself with every pounding step.
Why hadn’t she demanded to be taken home, Alpha’s wrath be damned?
She shoved the thoughts aside. Rehashing her mistakes during a run for her life wouldn’t solve anything.
The houses and shops lining the street were dark at this hour. No help would come from within. Not that she expected any. She realized, almost too late, that Carl had driven her to the center of the inner-city wolf territory.
Wait, that’s right, that’s what got her into this mess. The fact that she
… Lyla rounded another corner and slammed into a brick fucking wall.
Where had that come from?
The momentum of the recoil would have dropped her on her ass if it wasn’t for the large, warm hands encircling her biceps.
“Whoa. You okay there?” Whiskey rough and ocean deep; if she hadn’t been running for her life for the last twenty minutes, she probably would have fallen at his feet and begged for a fuck.
As it was, she didn’t.
Lyla didn’t wait to see if the man would listen, she simply tried to tug her arms free and took half a step to bolt around the man. The very big man. The very big man with a death grip on her arms, who wouldn’t let go. Didn’t he realize she was running for her life?
“Hey, slow down.” She tugged, trying to get free, but his grip held fast. “What’s going on?”
Damn, the man couldn’t be from the city, and he didn’t smell like a wolf, which meant he had no idea what shit he’d stepped into.
A low growl sounded behind her. It was low enough for Lyla to hear and feel through her body, but too low for Mr. Friendly to pick up. He must have seen Carl, though, because next thing she knew, she was staring at the man’s back instead of his chest.
Now, not only was she going to be forced to mate with the pack’s omega, she’d be the reason for an innocent man’s death as well. Fuck, could the night get any worse?
Voice still rough and deep, now it was hard as steel while he spoke. “We got a problem?”
Lyla tried to shift around him and catch a glimpse of Carl. She’d watched the wolf spar enough and hoped she could sense when he would attack. Maybe she could still save the human, and the night wouldn’t be a total disaster. The man’s fingers wrapped around her wrist and held firm, a silent message to keep her ass still.
She willed her heart to calm and breathing to slow while she had the chance. Fighting Carl would take all of her energy.
The man took a step forward, voice low, but even she couldn’t mistake the threat it held. “I said, ‘Do we have a problem?’”
Each word was enunciated clearly and slowly, and the stranger seemed to grow with every syllable. The idiot even went so far as to take a step toward Carl.
Lyla grabbed the back of the stranger’s shirt, tugging and pulling at the material with the hope that he’d quit advancing on Carl. The wolf had already been denied a mating and was probably spoiling for a fight. Any second now, and probably without much more pushing, he’d pounce on the well-meaning stranger.
Carl took a deep, audible breath, and Lyla prepared herself for the impact. She braced her feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart and pressed her front to the stranger’s back. A wolf pounced on its prey. Using momentum, it flung its meal to the ground and landed on top, effectively leaving it helpless. Staying vertical was a big part of staying alive. Of course, it was all for naught.
“No.” Carl’s voice was low, almost a whisper. “There’s no problem.”
Soft, shuffling sounds signaling his retreat echoed on the quiet street, and not until even
couldn’t hear the footsteps did she relax.
“Ho. Ly. Shit.”
Lyla hadn’t even realized she’d spoken the words until the stranger responded. “You got that right, sugar.”
The stranger definitely had a limited vocabulary. After making sure
was okay (which was really weird for Lyla, since no one ever checked on her), he grabbed her hand and tugged her down the street. He glanced back every now and again, probably to make sure Carl wasn’t following.
Of course, she knew Carl wasn’t anywhere
them now. Carl, the snake in omega wolf’s clothing, had scampered away. And Lyla thought she’d caught the scent of his urine on the wind. Had Carl pissed himself? Over a human? She hoped so.
Lyla tried, unsuccessfully, to tug her wrist free of the stranger’s grip. “I’m fine, I’ll just head home.” He grunted. She was undeterred and tried again. “Thanks for the help. I’ll just flag a cab…” He snorted. She wasn’t about to give up. “Thank you for stepping in…” “I’m taking you back to my hotel, sugar, unless you want to go to the police?” He stopped, and she careened into his back. She put a bit of distance between them and looked up at his face. His mocking look with its arched eyebrow and the “Aren’t you just a little idiot?” expression.
“Thank you, but no.” He started walking again, ignoring her protest. “I said no.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. The lights on a nearby SUV blinked, and the horn chirped. “Do you not understand the word ‘no,’ by chance?” He wrenched open the passenger door, and before she could protest further, plopped her onto the leather seat. Wow. The man had to be some sort of shifter to have lifted her like she weighed next to nothing. No one, not even Carl, and he was a wolf, could have lifted her with such ease.
Lyla was a realist in all things, and her size was one of them. Regardless of her wolf’s abilities, her human form lacked, or didn’t, in certain areas. She had big thighs, big hips (which also meant a big ass), big breasts—which added up to big everywhere. She was just … big. And he’d lifted her as if she were a scrap of paper he found on the ground.
Yup, definitely a
of some sort. No wonder he hadn’t been freaked by Carl’s half shift. The man had to be one of the big cats for a wolf to back down when he was that far gone. Funny, she didn’t smell cat litter on him.
“Sugar.” His attention was drawn down the street, and she followed his gaze. Carl stood in the lamplight, two respectful steps behind her Alpha.
… “I don’t imagine you’d like to hop out of the truck and go see what those two want?”
She tore her attention from the two men down the street and locked eyes with the stranger. “No.”
“Like I said, we’ll be going to my hotel.” She opened her mouth to protest, and he just kept on talking with his deep, lazy drawl. “Let me ask you something. Do either one of those men happen to know where you live?”
Of course, they did. Every member of the pack knew where other pack members lived. What an asinine question. Then the gravity of the situation and the meaning behind his question sank in. She nodded to answer his question.
“Well, since you don’t want to go to the police, I guess your objection to coming with me has vanished?”
She nodded again, slow and easy, as fear churned in her belly and coursed through her veins. Carl had gone and gotten the Alpha. Life with Carl paled in comparison to the punishment she’d suffer at Jacob’s hands.
Finally, she found her voice. “Your hotel sounds perfect.”
It wouldn’t take them long to find her, but being surrounded by so many other bodies and the continual supply of cleaning products would help mask her scent.
Lyla slid back into the seat and clicked the seat belt into place while he closed the door. Her attention shifted to the two
at the end of the street. Jacob stood almost a foot taller than Carl, with shoulders almost double in width than those of the omega. He was a man no one messed with. Ever. And now, she’d earned his wrath.
Just fucking great.