Read Wolf Nip: Granite Lake Wolves, Book 6 Online
Authors: Vivian Arend
For Lauren Dane, who wrote the first wolves I fell in love with. I blame her for my wolfie addiction, as well as my genre-hopping tendencies as an author. <3
Tessa’s tail twitched.
She concentrated harder, crouching lower to the ground. Muscles steady, but ready to move in an instant. One deep breath followed after another as she attempted to calm her nerves. Every instinct screamed for her to squirm, to peek around. To check if all her parts were tucked out of sight.
But then it had been proven that some of her cat instincts were a trifle on the broken side.
In her cougar form, his scent wasn’t strong enough to hit before his paw pads sounded, and by the time she heard him, there was no way to escape. A warm body slammed into her, and together they rolled from behind the barrier she’d chosen as a hiding spot. Before he could pin her in place, she wiggled free and took off.
Fine, maybe he’d found her, but he hadn’t won yet. She used her strong cat muscles to dash away through the maze of the gymnasium area.
No matter how fast she ran, though, her pursuer remained right on her tail. Literally on her tail, and when he playfully patted her hindquarters for the third time, Tessa gave up. She leapt for the narrow ledge along the wall where she’d shifted in the first place. Changing back to human and dressing only took a moment before she rejoined her big brother on the gym floor.
Tony had also shifted and pulled on nearly identical jeans and T-shirt to hers. His relaxed grin teased her from under his mop of blond hair. “I’d say you did better that time, but I’d be lying.”
Tessa stuck out her tongue. “Someday I’ll win.”
“In your dreams. I am the king of the cats, and no one will take my crown.”
She rolled her eyes and made gagging sounds.
Tony tweaked her nose. “Face it, brat, your skills lie in areas other than cat-and-mouse games.”
And there was the opening she’d been waiting for. “Right. So in terms of my skills, did you remember I need your signature on that form at the bank?”
“Did you remember I said you were nuts?”
Tessa pulled back her hair into a ponytail and resisted sticking out her tongue again. “You’ve said it so many times over the years, I figured it was code for
Hey, Sis, you rock
. You didn’t see the place, Tony. It’s incredible. Exactly the kind of establishment I want to manage. The setting is exquisite, and the area just screams eco-tourism, which you know as well as I do—”
“Stop. Not the eco-business thing.” Tony covered his ears and groaned in mock pain.
Tessa pounced, grabbing hold of his forearms and dragging his hands free. “Eco-eco-eco-eco…”
They laughed together, and she knew everything would be okay. She’d been trying since graduation to find a job that fit her skills. Seasickness had nixed the possibility of working for the family shifter-only cruise line, but her trip to the north had one side benefit.
When she’d spotted the unique building tucked up against the trees, she’d nearly bounced into the ocean with excitement. She needed a little more cash to set her ideas in motion, and her brother had the credit rating to help her get established.
If he was willing to take the chance on her.
Tony guided them down the hallway toward the cafeteria. “I signed, sealed. Promised my firstborn kit. All those things. And yes, I’ll admit the eco-tourism part was the selling feature. I’ll back you on this one, Tessa, but please, if you need help, ask? You don’t have to go it solo.”
“I’m capable. Got the training, the experience. Heck, I graduated with higher marks than you did.”
He shrugged. “You’re a smart cookie, I’ll give you that. But, girl, this is Alaska you’re talking about. We’ve had a base in the area harbour for years with the cruise ships, but there aren’t a lot of prides around. You’re going to be the only cat in town.”
She stopped dead in her tracks. “I don’t know if I should give you a hug for being concerned or smack you across the head. Are you prejudiced, Tony? I would never have known, not with the way you’ve got friends in all the local wolf packs and—”
“That’s not what I meant.” Tony tugged her forward, and she went willingly enough, although confused how he would talk his way out of this one. “Shifters are cool, and I don’t care what kind. But the reality is we go about things differently. You know that.”
“Yeah. I shift into a cougar. My best friend Keri shifts and, hey look, a wolf! Different, right? Next bit of kindergarten information you want to share with me, big bro? ’Cause this is so educational.”
“Don’t be a pain in the ass.”
“Don’t be a pain, period. What are you trying to say?”
Tony plopped into one of the plastic cafeteria chairs, and it groaned under his muscular weight. “Fine. Wolves. Pack. Alaska is filled with wolves who could be very territorial about a cat coming into their midst. You’re good with people, Tessa, but wolves can be a tricky lot. Especially when they are
game in town.”
She fluttered her fingers. “Pshaw. I met their chief pooh-bah. He’s super nice. And Keri is mated to one of the Granite Lake pack, so I’m like already a kissing cousin. There’s not going to be trouble. Really. I promise not to go on any wild rampages and stir up trouble, no matter how tempting.”
Tony raised a brow. “A town full of dogs, and you don’t feel the slightest urge to cause mischief?”
All the crazy ideas that flashed to mind could be blamed on that faulty instinct she was working on fixing. “Of course not. I’m a grown woman. This is my career, and I’m capable of suppressing a few urges.”
This crazy expression crossed his face, and Tessa slammed up a hand. Oh no, they were not going there.
“Don’t. Don’t even think about giving me advice regarding any other kinds of urges. I will not listen. I will not hear. You cease to exist…blah, blah, blah.”
Tony sighed. “You’re a cat.”
“You’re so annoying.”
Tessa wadded up her napkin and threw it in his face. “So, what have you got planned for the next year? Working three cruises? Going to take some time off in the fall and go exploring?”
Her brother stared at her so hard she swore she heard the gears in his brain grinding, but he was smart enough to drop the subject and switch to chatting about his future plans.
Because no matter how comfortable shifters were with sex, talking with her brother about mattress mamboing was on the list of things she really didn’t want to do.
Besides, the point he’d planned on raising she’d already thought through. The place she wanted to buy was on the outskirts of Haines, and wolves were a well-established part of the northern community. Wolves, like all shifters, enjoyed their sexual escapades, but they were more territorial and possessive than the average cat, in bed and out of it.
Cats and bears and other shifters picked mates when the time was right. Wolves followed some mystical mumbo jumbo and fell in
when their animal sides sniffed the right person. Which—ick. Just ick.
Well, maybe not
—she’d seen it work for her friend, but there was no way she wanted to settle down yet. She’d make sure any urges of the naughty sort were satisfied during playtime with humans. Or visitors to the area. Or battery-operated boyfriends—the list of possibilities was endless.
This stage of the adventure was about establishing a top-notch resort in the north. And sex, while always enjoyable, was a low priority. Tessa nodded to herself, pleased she’d gotten that straightened out.
She turned her attention back to her brother and tried not to allow her fanciful daydreams about the new resort distract her.
Mark Weaver stared in dismay across the table at his boss. “But—”
“I’ve only been here for two months.”
The older man sighed. “Which means, according to the rules, now that the season is slowing down and I have to let staff go, you’re the first on the release list.”
. “I enjoyed this job. And I worked hard. And—”
“Mark, please don’t make this any tougher than it already is.” Mr. Remy pushed his pink slip closer. “You are a good worker, but I can only afford to keep two full-time staff over the winter.”
Double dammit. Mark nodded. “I understand.”
“If you need work in the spring, I’d be happy to hire you back on. And I wrote you up a letter of recommendation.” A slim envelope joined his release papers on the tabletop. “If I can help you get a job, let me know.”
Mark shook the man’s hand and grabbed his things, escaping into the crisp fall sunshine of late August. Well, that was an unexpected and bitter twist. He hopped on his mountain bike and considered where he wanted to waste the rest of the gorgeous, yet annoying day.
Some tough, all-out physically draining exercise would help. If nothing else, it would make his body match the crappy mental state he was now in. Of all the blasted luck.
Instead of going home, he headed toward the opposite side of town and the Granite Lake pack house. Maybe there would be a few other members hanging around he could convince to join him for a backcountry jaunt. Something to distract him from the fact he was once again unemployed, unattached and unhappy.
Life sucked. It really did.
It wasn’t as if he wanted to point fingers and attach blame to make himself happier. He just had shitty luck. His education had never gotten him a job. The jobs he did find vanished from the work pool right under his feet. Okay, to be honest he had mucked up a couple times, but overall he was credited as a hard worker, a great guy…and still shown the door.
He wasn’t going to be forced to sleep in the streets—the family legacy covered that one. Nope, a roof over his head wasn’t an issue, although the house had become a bit of a trap. He couldn’t leave Haines without losing his rent-free home. He couldn’t sell it to use the funds to set up a place elsewhere. The red tape was frustrating as all get-out, and even that morning he’d gotten a reminder of the chaotic state of his housing affairs. The nicely written proposal for him to sell his unique home to some eco-adventure B&B developer. An awesome idea if it weren’t illegal, and thus impossible.
Not to mention, there was his Gramps to consider.
He had food on the table—he wasn’t lazy, or too proud to work any kind of temporary job to keep the money coming in, but a real job? Something he could do for a career? Elusive as the northern lights on a summer day.
He propped his bike against the wall of the house and shuffled into the common room, the scent of fresh-baked brownies making his mouth water. Less than a dozen pack were gathered in the room, chilling out in easy chairs as they read, a couple of older members facing each other down over a chess board.
Missy, the pack Omega, swung into the room, her hands full of baking, and he rushed forward to help. “Not that I’m going to complain, but why are you cooking?”
She smiled and shook her blonde curls as he took the tray. “I promised Tad I’d stay at the pack house today, and if I’m here, I may as well be productive.”
Mark carried the goodies around the room as he considered her words. That was one of the coolest parts of the Granite Lake pack—even the top levels of leadership were right there and involved. Missy and her mate Tad were occupied with their young family, busy with personal jobs and caring for pack in their weird and wonderful all-knowing-emotional-touchy-feely Omega wolf-shifter way, but they never stopped doing what needed to be done.
Of course, by the time he’d made the rounds and deposited the remaining goodies on the table, Missy was seated in a chair at the side of the room waiting for him.
Drat. He should have known he couldn’t avoid a little heart-to-heart. He lowered himself into the chair beside her and wondered how long he could distract her from her lecture, or interrogation, or whatever it was she had planned. “Where are your kids?”
Missy shook a finger in his face. “Don’t even try it, buster.”
Mark snorted. So. That’s how long. “Seriously, I’m curious.”
“Forget my kids. Why are you at the pack house at this time of day, wearing that kind of face, young man?”