Authors: Heather Long
Tags: #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Fantasy
© 2015 by Heather Long
Edited by Virginia Nelson
Cover Art by Sccott Carppenter
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 *crane systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
college and spending a summer breaking the law, Shiloh Sullivan needs to make amends and accomplish something for Willow Bend. When she returns home, her best friend—the wolfish and playful Matt Montgomery—distracts her. In an effort to make his mother feel better, Matt cons Shiloh into telling his mother that she came home for him. The little fib, he promises, is all his mother needs to feel better about his sister’s recent mating and exodus across the ocean.
a relationship with a wolf is impossible and, while Shiloh might be human, she knows the rules...
-benefits arrangement suits Matt fine. It makes his mother happy, helps the pack forgive his best friend, and gives him a reason to pry into the secrets Shiloh’s been keeping. Still, the closer they get and the more rules they break, the more Matt’s wolf wants to change their con game into a mating game. Two problems stand in his way—Shiloh’s very human parents never wanted their children to take the bite, and a wolf from across the line has his eye on her, too.
Can Matt keep his best friend and mate her too?
Ryan & Tiffany
Mason & Alexis
A.J. & Vivian
Owen & Gillian
Tyler & Claire
Salvatore & Margo
Lincoln & Serafina
Dylan & Chrystal
Wolf with Benefits
Matt & Shiloh
Brett & Colby
Giovanni & Murphy
Cassius & Sovvan
—Alpha of Willow Bend, mate of Alexis, father of Melissa, son of Andrew and Melissa Clayborne (both deceased).
—Mate of Mason, mother of Melissa, daughter of Ryan and Tiffany Huston (adopted by Ryan), older sister to Kyle Huston. Turned wolf.
—Attorney for Willow Bend pack, father of Alexis (adopted) and Kyle, mate and husband to Tiffany. Counselor to Mason.
—Wife and mate of Ryan, mother to Alexis and Kyle. Turned wolf.
—Former Alpha of Willow Bend (Deceased)
—Widow Mate to the former Alpha of Willow Bend, counselor to Mason.
—Businessman, IT specialist, mate to Linda, father of Margo, Matt, and Robbie. Uncle to Mike.
—Mate to Will, mother of Margo, Matt and Robbie. Aunt to Mike.
—Electrical engineer, brother of Margo and Robbie, son of Will and Linda
—Volunteer firefighter. IT specialist. Brother of Margo and Matt, cousin of Mike. Son of Will and Linda.
—Architecture student, cousin to Margo, Robbie and Matt.
—Owner of Sexton’s Grocery
—Legal accountant, human member of Willow Bend, involved in formation of sixth pack
—Computer technician, information specialist. Human packmate. Participated in the formation of the sixth U.S. pack
—Turned wolf. Daughter of a human pack family.
—Human pack member, daughter of Delia and Hank. Assisted in formation of Sixth U.S. pack. Newly returned to Willow Bend
—Mother of Shiloh, Amelia, Donny. Wife of Hank. Runs a home cleaning business.
—Father of Shiloh, Amelia, Donny. Husband of Delia. Runs a home cleaning business.
—Mother of Hank, grandmother of Shiloh, Donny, Stephen and Amelia.
—Sister of Shiloh, Donny, and Stephen. . Works for her parents.
—Brother of Shiloh, Amelia and Stephen. Works for his parents.
– Brother of Shiloh, Amelia, and Donny.
—Senior Hunter, Willow Bend, counselor to Mason. Mate of Gillian
Gillian Whitford Chase
—Healer, Mate to Owen Chase, travels with Owen on his routes.
—The eldest of the Buckley triplets. Willow Bend Second, First Lieutenant and counselor to Mason Clayborne, mate of Vivian
Vivian Knox Buckley
—Software programmer, mate to A.J. Turned wolf.
—Youngest of the Buckley triplets, Tyler works with the juvenile boys for training and anger management
— Mate of Tyler, recently returned to Willow Bend and instructor for mid-year group youths.
—Mother of A.J., Linc, Tyler, and Ranae. Mate to Virgil.
—Father of A.J., Linc, Tyler, and Ranae, Mate to Claudia. Virgil works as a vehicle mechanic
—Youngest Buckley sibling, student
—Pack Healer, mate to Thomas
Thomas Halifax –
Mate to Emma, retired Army Medic, gardener
– Hunter, second to Owen Chase, taking lead in Owen’s absence
– Hunter, assigned to liaise within Three Rivers, monitor and report.
ormer Pack Members
Margo Montgomery Esposito
— Former Enforcer, southern region—now mate to Salvatore Esposito, Alpha of Seven Hills in Italy.
—Second eldest of the Buckley triplets. Mate to Serafina Andre of Delta Crescent, no longer living in Willow Bend.
Three Rivers Wolves
– Alpha, mate of Rayne. Sister to Salvatore Esposito, Seven Hills.
– Mate of Luciana. Former Hound Delta Crescent, former Lone Wolf.
– Former Lone Wolf, photographer and painter
– Chief Enforcer, most senior Enforcer for the U.S.
a glance across the spotless kitchen, Shiloh Sullivan sacked the trash with a tie, then a twist followed by knotting the plastic gathers at the top. Dragging the bag out of the can, she palmed the recycle-only can as well.
“Take those straight out, put them in the right cans—dark green for the trash and blue for the recycling.” Her mother didn’t look away from the stove or the fish she grilled.
“I have put trash out before, Mom.” Shiloh fisted the bag. “Twenty years of experience.”
“Don’t take that tone with me.” Her mother spun and pointed her spatula in her direction. “Take it out, put it in the right cans, then get back in here. Everyone has had quite enough of you lately, and they aren’t going to be particularly friendly at the moment.”
Blowing out a deep breath, Shiloh pursed her lips. She was twenty-four, not four. She had a college degree and plenty of options. Hell, she’d spent an entire half a year coordinating the most daring gamble of the century and been instrumental in forming a new pack—an unheard of sixth pack in the United States. And they were still going…none of those words passed her lips, however, not when her mother glared daggers at her. “Is there anything I can say that won’t piss you off right now?”
Delia paused as though considering her answer, before she shook her head. “No. Do what I told you to do.”
Not rolling her eyes, she hoisted the bag and can higher to show she had the task in hand then escaped from the hall of judgment known as the Sullivan kitchen. Being a human in a wolf pack had never been a picnic, but being a daughter in the Sullivan family made dominance battles look like a walk in the park.
When she jerked the door open with more force than she intended, she winced at the bang it made hitting the wall.
” Her mother could encompass so many sins within one yell of her name.
“Sorry, Mom,” had become her mantra from childhood onward. Why did she make everything so difficult? Battles with her parents were par for the course, and she never imagined, after she’d shipped out for school, that she would find herself back in Willow Bend. Worse yet, be back to living in her parents’ home.
Walking down to the curb, she deposited the trash in the cans. She’d put them out earlier, thinking she would be a step ahead of her mother’s judgmental tones. Too bad she’d forgotten her mother wanted every scrap of garbage out when the cans were picked up.
Down the street, the Drakes worked in their yard. They paused at her appearance and the weight of their regard struck her. Two houses down, the Yorks were trotting in their wolf forms toward the woods, but the two paused to glance at her. Disapproval gleamed in their gazes. Knowing better than to get in a stare off, she closed off the trash can, then emptied the recycling into the blue can.
Across the street, Mrs. Sexton walked out onto her porch and folded her arms. Disapproval radiated from her stance. The wolf owned the local grocer and made the best muffins and other sweets. Pissing her off took skill, so apparently Shiloh earned a gold medal. If looks could kill, she would be dead or at least on the ground writhing. The wolves wouldn’t lay a finger on her. She was human, and they were wolves. Mason gave her permission to return, but she was on thin ice with the Alpha. His orders wouldn’t be challenged, but it didn’t mean they planned to make her welcome.
The cold air coupled with the trash being taken care of meant she needed to go inside. “Shiloh!” her mother bellowed and Shiloh closed her eyes, tilted her head to face the sky and counted to twenty. The sooner she got her own place, the better. Living at home sucked.
Hands snaked around her waist and hit her ticklish spots even as she was lifted off the ground. A squeal of surprise burst out of her. “Matt!” She beat at his hands, but he had her, and the gentle squeezes sent laughter through her.
“Hey, gorgeous.” He pressed his cheek to hers and, thankfully, stopped setting off the racing sensation over her skin. “Long time no see?”
“Shiloh Maria Sullivan,” her mother snapped the words like fired bullets.
“Oh boy, you’re gonna get it.” The whispered chant from her best friend didn’t score her any points. Slapping his hands worked, however, and he pivoted both of them to face her mother. “Good evening, Mrs. Sullivan.” Matt’s butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth smile charmed more than one parent over the years. “Sorry about distracting Shiloh. I came over to invite her over for dinner.”
“She can’t.” Her mother’s lips compressed to a thin line. Though her hair had been pulled into a ponytail, gray wisps escaped. Gray hairs she attributed to Shiloh’s choices. “Shiloh, come inside, please.”
Matt didn’t release her. “Aww, Mrs. Sullivan. I know you’re upset, but my mom was really looking forward to seeing her.”
“I’ll call and apologize for her, then.” Delia Sullivan didn’t bend, not even for Matt’s charm. “Shiloh, go inside please.”
“Wow, Mommy Dearest is pissed.” His faint whisper had been meant for her ears.
Elbowing him, Shiloh pushed free and reclaimed the recycle bin. “You’re not helping,” she hissed.
“Call me.” He bumped her shoulder as she cut around him to jog up the path to her mom. When she didn’t respond, he raised his voice. “Call me, Shiloh. Call me. Call Me. Call me.”
Pausing, she swung around and stared at him. “I heard you the first time, Matt. I’m not deaf. I’ll call you after dinner.”
His face lit with a broad grin. “Can’t wait. I knew you missed me.”
Despite her irritation, she rolled her eyes and laughed. He was her best friend. Of course she’d missed him.
“Go away now, Matt.” Delia shooed him, then gave her a rather forceful nudge. “Get inside and stop embarrassing me.” The low-voiced utterance would carry. They’d lived around wolves long enough to respect their sharp hearing. Shiloh’s face heated. Half the street watched them…no, they watched her.
Door open, she slid inside, then held it for her mother. Her gaze collided with Matt’s and his cheerful face softened. He winked at her, then held his thumb and pinky toward his face. She nodded.
After pushing past her, Delia tugged her away and closed the door. “Look, I get that you don’t fully understand everything you did, Shiloh. You’re a grown woman, making passion-based decisions. Passion leads to foolish choices…like that sixth pack.”
“Don’t Mom me. You made the choice to go against your family and the pack that shelters us. You made a crazy call, risked your life, your future, and our position…you don’t just walk back from that.” Anger cooled every word and, for a brief second, tears glimmered in her eyes. She took the recycle can from her hands, then nodded to the stairs. “So, do as I ask you to do and go wash for dinner.”
Chewing the inside of her lip and maybe some of her pride, she nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” Taking the stairs two at a time, she headed for the bathroom where she washed then ducked inside her bedroom. From there, she stole a peek from her window. Sure enough, Matt leaned against his car across the street.
He straightened, and his gaze met hers as though he’d been expecting her. In fast strides, he crossed the yard, climbed the tree and alighted on the ledge outside her window before she could even get the locks undone. “You said to call you, dumbass. If my mother catches you up here…”
“She won’t,” he said with a grin, crouching to peer inside. “Damn, with the My Little Pony Shi. You still keep that crap?”
“Ignore the girly frills since I have photos proving you played with ponies, too.” Had in fact given her several over the years for her birthday.
“Stalking them is not the same as playing.” He winked, then settled his arm as if he planned to hang out. “So, how you doing?”
“I’m doing great. Everyone is so happy to see me they can only stare. My mother can barely look at me, and I’m on probation. How much better can it get?”
Scratching his chin as though to give the matter some thought, Matt scrunched his face. “Break any mirrors lately?” At her snort, he grinned again. “What? You asked me. How much better it could get?”
Her mother yelled from downstairs, and she sighed. “I gotta go. She’s freaking out and, until she accepts that I’m not going to go rob a bank or something, she’s going to keep freaking out.”
“Okay. I’ll be around. Call me later. After they go to sleep, I’ll stage a jail break, and we can get a beer.”
“Oh man.” A drink sounded like heaven. “I don’t want to make her any madder.”
The sharp, hard syllables of her name reverberated from downstairs.
“Yeah, not thinking that’s possible.” Matt winced, the rubbed his ear. “Beer. You. Me. Let’s say midnight to make sure she’s really asleep.”
A slamming pot jerked through her. A motor down the street caught her attention. Dad was home. “You got it. Go, before they see you.”
“Later, babe.” Matt didn’t leap to the ground. Instead, he climbed higher, then over the house. Damn, he could move. Weird as it seemed, he’d gotten taller, or at least she thought so. Maybe she’d forgotten how tall he was. Retreating from her room, she made it to the first floor as her father came in from the garage.
Damn, dinner would be fun. Maybe her brothers and sister would ignore her, too. She couldn’t wait.
ong after dinner
and his parents heading to bed, Matt played a video game on the big screen in the living room. He split his attention, half on the zombies he had to slaughter and the other half on the clock ticking above. Thirty minutes ‘til he could spring Shi from her parents’ place. The Sullivans were good people—way too strict and sometimes Mrs. Sullivan could be cold, but they loved their daughter even when they didn’t understand her.
From their first year in school through graduation, he and Shiloh had been inseparable. She was the best friend a wolf could have. Wild Thing could keep up with a hunt, knew how to tease him out of a bad mood. Hell, she knew how to put him into one, too, like when she took off after graduation without a word for a so-called road trip.
So many questions…
His character died on the screen and Matt dropped the controller on the table. Time to go, anyway. After grabbing a jacket and keys, he let himself out into the night. His parents breathing never altered. They slept soundly. The lack of young children in the house probably helped. Matt technically lived at home, though in a room over the garage. The big screen in the living room was better for games.
The jeep started with the first turn of the key and he pulled away without switching on his headlights. He didn’t need them, and they would draw attention. The last thing he needed was attention if he wanted to get Shi out of her place. It took him five minutes to navigate the side streets to Shi’s house. Hell, he could probably have—and had—run it faster, but to make the jailbreak complete, he wanted to take her to the lake.
They could hang out there and talk without worry of interruption or being ‘caught.’ While he could easily run the distance carrying her, she tended to bitch about the wolf and pony show. After parking at the end of her street, he killed the engine, then studied the quiet houses for any sign of movement. The lights were off in her bedroom window, but they would be. She wouldn’t forget he was coming.
Hardly our first illegal midnight stroll.
He’d broken her out plenty of times in high school, usually because she wanted to go to a party or had a date with some idiot who didn’t deserve her.
Well, only when they were wolves.
Her parents didn’t object to her human dating partners, though in Willow Bend she had slim pickings.
At two minutes to midnight, he crossed the street and jogged to her place. Nothing moved—the wolves out and about weren’t back and most in their houses slept. Their families shared one of the town’s original subdivisions, and most of the occupants didn’t have children under the age of eighteen. It made his job easier.
He climbed up the tree then, with a light leap, he landed on the porch roof. Another jump carried him to her open window, where she waited for him with a faint smile. “Oh my God, you could have been here earlier. I saw you pull up.”
She’d pulled her long brown hair pack into a braid, which only emphasized the strain in her hazel eyes. He loved her hair, streaked with red and hints of gold in it when the sun shone. She’d dyed one piece of it pure blond, probably to piss her mother off. Shi did a lot of things to annoy her mother.
With the practiced skill, she slid out the window. He caught her waist to support her as she swung around him and onto his back. Gently closing the window to block the cold as well as maintain their ruse, he waited for her to loop her arms around his neck. Shi knew how to balance her slender weight perfectly, right down to her thighs clamping against his hips. Nothing felt sweeter than her gripping him…except maybe if she rode his front, but they’d never taken that step.
He jumped and hit the ground. The force rippled through his calves and thighs as he absorbed the shock. Shi hopped off, and he took her hand to hurry her toward the car. It hadn’t snowed in a couple of days, so the sidewalks remained clear. At his jeep, they separated. He made it in the driver’s seat and reached across to open her door before she could reach the handle.
“Show off,” she snarked before climbing inside. Despite her sweatshirt, jacket and jeans, she already shivered. Starting the engine, he turned the heat to unpleasant for him. The temperature would be warm for her though. Satisfied she’d be comfortable, he backed out, lights off, and headed out of the subdivision. Three streets away, he turned on the lights.
“Oh, yeah.” She sighed and rested her head against the seat. All the stress in her scent dissipated. “Remember the night I spent in jail when we were seventeen?”
They’d gone drinking a couple of towns over—Shiloh’s idea—with her ‘borrowed’ I.D. She’d gotten busted and, rather than bail her out, her parents left her there overnight to teach her a lesson. His parents ordered him to stay out of it when he asked them to bail her out. Pack life in a nutshell—the Alpha ruled, but within families? The parents were alpha. “We’re not going to jail tonight,” he promised. “And if we do, I’ll bail you out.”