Book 1 in The Night Breed Series
Released: Feb. 2010
In a world where the supernatural isn’t supposed to exist, one woman comes face to face with the monsters and fights to survive their call.
Investigative reporter Rayna Ford is sent to the small community of Wolf’s Creek to write an expose on a town supposedly over run with werewolves. Assuming the inhabitants to be under a mass delusion, she learns quickly that all isn’t as it seems. Their plans involve more than a newspaper article and her life hangs in the balance as their motive for luring her to them is revealed.
Garrett Kincaid knows a thing or two about werewolves. He is one. After leaving his pack, he’s spent the last twelve years pretending to be something he isn’t. His closely guarded secret threatens to destroy him when he meets Rayna Ford, the woman his wolf has claimed as his own. When he learns the pack has lured Rayna to them in order to get to him, he races to Wolf’s Creek to protect her from the very thing he fears the most. Himself.
The power struggle within the pack becomes clear once Garrett reaches his old home and learns of the pack’s plans for Rayna. The beast lurking beneath his skin is torn between protecting the woman he wants to call mate and keeping the balance within the pack on neutral ground. When choosing a side no longer matters, he does what he must to save his mate, even if that means making one of the most difficult decisions of his life.
When the stakes are high, and lives hang in the balance, can you ignore life as you know it to answer… The Calling.
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The stench from the alley caused Rayna’s stomach to heave. Rotting flesh, the coppery tang of blood, and the scent of human waste triggered her gag reflex. Holding her breath helped ward off some of the smell but the images of the girl would follow her into nightmares for weeks to come.
The blaring wail of rescue vehicles grew louder. Steeling her nerves to see everything she could before she was forced to leave, she took a step closer to the body to get a better look.
“You do realize you’re standing in a puddle of blood, right?”
Rayna jumped, startled by the voice, and glanced down, hissing a curse at the thick, black sludge under her feet before taking a step back. She frowned at the dark splotches that were now smeared on the edge of her sneakers. Something thick and meaty was stuck to the toe of her shoe and she scraped her foot across the ground, dislodging the chunk of lord knows what that was hanging there, and felt her stomach turn again.
“Why are you at my crime scene, Ms. Ford? You’re trampling on my evidence.”
She knew without looking who was behind her. The condescending tone of voice told her it was Garrett. Turning her head to look over her shoulder confirmed it. He didn’t look happy either.
Of course, it may have been the fact that he looked as if he’d just crawled out of bed. His white button-up shirt had more wrinkles than a Shar Pei pup, his tie was crooked and the suit jacket he wore was just as wrinkled as his shirt. His black trousers weren’t much better. He also suffered from one serious case of bed-head. His dark locks were tousled and thrown askew. A days worth of stubble marred his handsome face and she cringed when she saw fire in his tawny brown eyes.
She straightened her shoulders and turned to face him. “The same reason you are,” she said, using the same clipped tones he’d used with her. “To find out who’s behind the series of murders plaguing our fair city.”
“Bullshit,” Garrett laughed. “You’re after your story. You could care less who or what it is as long as your name gets put on the front page of the newspaper.”
“That’s harsh, Garrett.”
“It’s also the truth.” He crossed his arms over his chest, which made his shoulders look impossibly wide, and studied her for long minutes before a tiny smile lifted the corner of his mouth. “Tell me, Rayna, I’m curious, are all reporters vultures or is that just something you’ve mastered?”
Rayna felt the jab like a fist to the gut. She stared at him, seeing the contempt in his eyes and wondered why he hated her so much. Just because their little affair went sour wasn’t a reason for him to go out of his way to offend her every time she saw him. He was the one who decided it was over, not her, but that didn’t stop his prickly stabs every time she crossed his path, which meant she was getting insulted on a weekly basis.
She studied his face, wondering how they ever managed to carry on a half decent conversation. He was still the same egotistical asshole he always had been. Smug, cocky, irritating. And way too damn easy on the eyes. The fact she still enjoyed looking at him only made her ire at him more intense. No matter how big an asshole Garrett Kincaid was, her treacherous pulse raced just a little bit faster every time she saw him.
Ignoring his barbed comment, and how said pulse was beginning to race, she smiled and said, “Well, someone has to report what you guys fail to release to the public, Detective Kincaid.”
“So making yourself at home during a formal investigation is your way of what? Doing your civic duty? I should have you arrested for crossing the police line.”
“You could,” she said, “but you won’t.” She hoped like hell he wouldn’t. The last time she’d crossed the police barricade he’d hauled her all the way to the police station before letting her go. Hopefully tonight wouldn’t be a repeat of that bit of drama.
“And what makes you so sure I won’t?”
She smiled at him and tilted her head to one side. “Because if you arrest me, that means you’ll have to spend hours dealing with me and we both know the sight of me infuriates you for some unknown reason.”
He heaved a heavy sigh and glanced around the alley before facing her again. “What are you doing here, Rayna?”
“I’m a reporter, Garrett, and another dead body equals news,” she said smugly. Digging her voice recorder out of her bag, she turned it on before flashing him a saccharine smile. “Tell me Detective Kincaid, what do the residents of Bluff’s Point need to do to keep themselves safe from the Night Stalker?”
“The Night Stalker?” He gave her an appalled look. “Christ, Rayna. Don’t go printing that shit in the paper. If you give this creep a name it’ll only give him more reason to hunt.”
“He’s going to do that anyway. How many are dead now, Garrett?”
He stared at her. “Five.”
“Exactly. You have a serial killer on your hands, just like my last story indicated. It’s my job to tell anyone who will listen what this guy gets off on.” He didn’t look too pleased with that fact. She ignored his stare and extended her arm, holding the voice recorder out to him and asked, “Was the victim sexually assaulted?”
He ran a hand over his face and looked over his shoulder. The alley was starting to fill with officers, the choppy static of voices coming through walkie-talkies filling the air. He ran a hand through his hair before turning back to face her. “We’re not playing this game tonight, Rayna. You’ve got all the information you’re going to get. I’m tired, the chief has been all over my ass for weeks now because of you and your little investigations and you being here isn’t going to help my case any. I want you out of here.”
“Oh, come on, Garrett,” she said, resisting the urge to stomp her foot like a child. “Give me something to go on and I’ll leave.”
“Go home, Rayna.”
She watched him for long moments before turning to look back at the body. Her stomach tried to revolt again at the sight of it. The poor girl had been nearly torn apart. Luckily it was dark enough that the bits and pieces that looked like torn clothing would let her mind think it was, but deep down she knew better.
The girl’s chest was ripped open. The stench of blood and other things rolled her stomach and made her dinner sour and threaten to come back up. She’d been holding her breath before Garrett showed up. The verbal sparring with him hadn’t afforded her the luxury any longer and she could smell the death that clung to the girl and the rotten waste in the alley.
Resisting the urge to cover her nose with her hand, she sucked in a sharp breath through her mouth and said, “This looks like an animal attack. Is that something new or has the police department been keeping secrets again?” She turned away from the body, putting her back to it, and took a few steps closer to Garrett. “The public has a right to know these things. How many dead women will it take before the real story finally reaches them?”
Rayna knew she crossed the line the moment Garrett’s handsome face contorted. His jaw clenched, his eyes narrowing as anger washed over his features. She took a step back when he advanced on her and grabbed her arms.
“You just don’t know when to let go, do you? This isn’t a game, Rayna. People are dying. Women. Do you want to be next?”
“I won’t be if you’ll tell me what I need to look out for! Why all the secrets, Garrett? What is it the police don’t want us to know?”
He stared down at her, their noses almost touching. She could feel his breath on her face; smell the clean, fresh scent of his skin. The heat from his body scorched her flesh where he touched her and she realized too late she’d leaned into him, their bodies now flush. His gaze never faltered, the anger she saw on his face slowly sliding away and he tilted his head just enough to make her think he was going to kiss her. To her disappointment, he didn’t.
The anger returned a moment later but the fierce look in his eyes had changed, replaced with something she’d never seen within him before. Fear. He was scared. She could see it as he stared down at her, feel it in the way he held his body and in the small tremble in his voice. But scared of what and why? She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and tried to ignore how good it felt to have him so close. “Talk to me, Garrett.”
His gaze traveled her face, sweeping across her features before landing on her lips. “Go home, Rayna,” he said softly, letting go of her and taking a step back. She felt the loss immediately.
“When will the official police report be available?”
“You’ll be the first to know.” He turned and walked away without another word, leaving her to stand amongst the flashing lights of rescue vehicles and the stagnant smells only a dirty alley could produce.
Rayna studied his retreating form. Since when did Garrett not give her something to go on? He might hate her now since she wasn’t sharing his bed but he always threw her some tiny bit of information just to get rid of her. “I guess the honeymoon really is over,” she said to herself.
Sighing, she glanced at her watch. She had just enough time to type up her report, sketchy as it was, and get it to the newsroom for the morning edition. She turned the voice recorder off and stuffed it into her bag, looking around the alley one last time before turning and walking to her car. She had all the information she was going to get tonight. For whatever reason, Garrett didn’t want to play anymore.
Garrett stood at the end of the alley and watched Rayna’s car pull out onto the street. The taillights flashed, painting the night bright red before blinking out. When she rounded the corner and left his line of sight, he turned and walked back to the victim, staring down at her. The blood around the girl’s body spread across the pavement in a large black puddle. The sight of it caused his teeth to ache. He could taste it on the back of his tongue, smell its stench in the air. Tainted and stale.
He could also smell Rayna. Her scent hung heavy in the air and caused other parts of his body to ache. No matter what he did to chase her away, she was always there.
He’d been the biggest ass he knew how to be around her and still, she haunted him. Nothing he did got rid of her and he knew it would get her killed eventually, but staying away from her completely would only kill her faster. The body lying at his feet proved that fact. Thankfully Rayna hadn’t been able to link all the victims together yet like he had. They all shared the same characteristics. He didn’t even have to ask to know this woman was in her late twenties with brown hair halfway down her back, wore a size six, and had graduated from Hamilton College.
Just like Rayna. Just like all the victims.
The sound of footsteps caught his attention and he turned his head, watching his partner, Chad, approach him.
“Is she gone?”
“Yes. Less than three minutes,” Garrett said, looking back down at the body. “Reynolds still tailing her?”
“Good. Tell him not to let her leave his sight until I tell him otherwise.”
“And how long will that be?”
“Until we catch whoever is doing this,” he said, nodding his head toward the body.
“You know if the Chief finds out you’re having her followed he’ll have all our asses in a sling.”
“Then I suggest you cover your tracks so he doesn’t find out. She’s in danger whether anyone wants to believe it or not.”
“Is that the only reason you have her on twenty-four hour surveillance?”
Garrett looked up and frowned. Chad’s faced was alight with laughter and a twinkle of amusement shined in his eyes. “I broke it off with Rayna for a reason, Chad.”
“A reason you’ve yet to explain.”
“I don’t have to explain my actions to anyone.”
“No, you don’t, but any fool can see you’re in love with her, which begs the question, why in the hell did you break up with her.”
Garrett scowled and turned, walking away from the victim and from the truth Chad had so eloquently stated. Eight months of lying to every person he knew and not a one of them believed him. No matter how many times he denied it, his friends saw through his carefully constructed lies. Did Rayna? Did she know the very sight of her caused his chest to ache and his body to respond as if she’d touched him? That her scent stayed with him for days and he lost sleep as he watched her silent, dark apartment just to make sure she was safe?
No. She couldn’t know. He purposely treated her like dirt anytime he saw her. Why would she know he was in love with her? How could she know that leaving her tore his soul into a thousand pieces and caused the wolf residing within his flesh to try and claw its way free to claim her as his own.
“How do werewolves sound for our next big story?”
Rayna turned her head at the sound of Mitch’s voice. Her newsroom partner for the last two years apparently had the nose of a bloodhound. The fact he’d found her tonight proved it. As usual, his suit was crisply starched and his light brown hair was arranged perfectly. Of course, a few unruly wisps curled around his ears and made him look years younger than he actually was but it didn’t detract from his appeal. He was nice looking, in that boy next door kind of way. He slid onto the stool next to her and she raised an eyebrow at him. “Werewolves? I’m not writing for the trash mags, Mitch.”
He laughed. “Neither am I. I’m serious.”
“Oh, of course you are,” she said, waving her hand to dismiss his comment. “Werewolves are all the craze nowadays.” She smiled when the bartender slid her drink in front of her and she took a sip while Mitch ordered one of his own. “So, how did you find me?” she asked.
“It wasn’t that hard.” He stood when the bartender handed him his drink. He nodded at an empty table with his head before crossing the bar. Rayna followed him, pausing to let a group of giggling girls pass before sliding into the booth. “I had Daniels follow you when you left the office.”
Rayna grinned and turned her head, scanning the crowded bar. “I didn’t see him.”
“He ducked out after calling me.”
“Figures,” she said, taking a sip of her rum and coke. “So, what was so important that you had to track me down for it?”
“Your friend Malcolm St. John sent you a package.”
Rayna groaned. “Great. And here I thought my shitty day couldn’t get any worse.” Mitch pulled a yellow envelope out of his jacket pocket and she rolled her eyes before holding out her hand.
When he handed it to her, she saw her name scrawled across the front in elegant script and, in the top left hand corner, the name Malcolm St. John. Just the sight of his name left a bad taste in her mouth. Seven months of his harassing phone calls, a new telephone number and a restraining order later and he still insisted upon finding ways to contact her to tell his story. A story he’d yet to divulge. All she ever got from him was, “Come visit us and I’ll make you famous.”
Sighing, she shook her head and look down at the package. “I’m almost scared to look,” she said. “This man is starting to be a serious pain in my ass.” Knowing Mitch wouldn’t leave until he’d seen what Malcolm’s latest scheme was, she flipped the envelope over.
The tape was already ripped off. She raised her eyes and stared at Mitch.
“What?” he said, grinning. “I only had a peek.”
“At my personal mail!”
He snorted a laugh and nodded his head to the envelope. “Maybe, but that’s not important at the moment. Malcolm’s bizarre behavior just got interesting. Take a look.”
Rayna emptied the envelope, laying the contents on the table. There wasn’t much in it. A single sheet of paper and three photographs. Her eyes widened when she got a look at one of the photos. “Well, the man has a sense of humor at least,” she said, reaching for one. “That’s reassuring.”
The first photo showed a man in some sort of spasm. He was on the ground, his body contorted in pain. He was naked, his back to the camera, and Rayna could barely make out the rigid protrusions along his spine. Bony shards stuck out from under his skin. He looked ghastly white, one arm outstretched as if asking for help.
The next showed the same man only this time, his body was covered in a thin layer of dark hair. The side of his face was visible. The forehead looked wider, his nose and mouth elongated and protruding from his face. His teeth were bared, sharp and gleaming in the moonlight. A shiny substance covering his skin seemed to glow in the filtered light.
The last photo showed the man on all fours, his neck outstretched and pointing to the sky. His mouth was open. The sharp teeth bared and something dripped from lips that no longer looked human. His eyes glowed brilliant yellow-orange, the hair along his body had thickened, the torso broader. His body still looked somewhat human but Rayna could tell something was happening to him. It looked like a shape-shift from any good horror movie she’d ever seen.
Why the photos were sent to her, she had no clue.
“What is Malcolm up to?” she asked. “A handful of fake pictures isn’t going to lure me to him any quicker than his other attempts.”
“Why do you automatically assume it’s fake?” Mitch asked, reaching for the photos.
She laughed. “Uh, probably because werewolves don’t exist, boy genius.”
He threw her a look and sifted through the photos, examining each one carefully. She watched him for a few seconds before remembering the note that had accompanied the pictures and reached for it.
Dear Ms. Ford,
I’ve spent the last seven months trying to bring my community to your attention with no luck. I felt a little glimpse into what we have to offer was in order. I hope the photos will at least peek your interest enough to warrant a few minutes of your time. We are in desperate need of your help. Please reconsider my offer to visit us and let our story be known. I’ll leave the communication between us up to you as you’ve asked me not to call. My number is on the back of the first photo.
Malcolm St. John
“Well, what does it say?”
“What? You didn’t read it?”
He blushed and grinned at her. “No. Once I saw the photos the note didn’t even dawn on me. So, what does he want?”
“The same as always. The photos were just to peek my interest,” she said, reaching for the pictures. “I’m not sure how this is relative to what he wants though.”
“Well, he wanted your attention, Ford,” Mitch said. “And I do believe he has it.”
His laughter caused Rayna to roll her eyes. “I’m not that hard to impress, Mitch.”
“Not in general, you’re not,” he said. “But when it’s a story, you won’t take anything but the best.”
“You make that sound like a bad thing,” she said, grinning. “We haven’t won all those awards by taking on every piss-ass story that came along. Being selective is what’s gotten me—us, where we are.”
“True, but we haven’t produced anything other than the serial killer in months.”
“Oh, ye of little faith.”
“Come on, Ford,” Mitch said. “What’s it going to hurt? The worst that can happen is we’ll get a nice little vacation away from the city.”
Rayna sighed. He was like this every time she heard from Malcolm.
“It’s the perfect set-up,” Mitch said. “We get paid downtime. Malcolm has practically begged you to tell his story.”
“I don’t care. I’m not doing it. Malcolm is crazy. Anyone who would stalk a reporter, just to have his name in the paper, can’t be right in the head.” Mitch’s ears turned red then and Rayna narrowed her eyes at him. He wasn’t telling her something. “What did you do, Mitch?”
“What makes you think I’ve done something?”
“Because your ears are red. You’re lying to me about something. What is it?”
“My ears are red?” He lifted his hand, feeling his ear before looking at her.
“I can see it in your eyes, too. What did you do?”
He sighed and looked toward the bar. When she kicked him under the table, he yelled, “Ouch,” before he turned his attention back to her. “Fine,” he said. “I might have showed the pictures to a few people.”
“What?” she said, panicked. “To who?”
He ducked his head and mumbled, “Clive.”
Rayna’s eyes widened. “Mitch!”
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking up. “When I saw the envelope, I opened it. Clive walked by and saw the photos.”
“This can’t be happening.” Rayna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Please don’t tell me what I think you’re going to.” She opened her eyes when he didn’t answer her and his cheeks reddened. “Damn it, Mitch! He wants me to go, doesn’t he?”
“Yes. He said to tell you to take the case or else.”
“Or else?” She had a very bad feeling all of a sudden. The look on Mitch’s face only made it worse. “Or else what?”
He sighed and leaned across the table. “Come on, Ford, don’t be so pissed. We haven’t had anything worth reporting other than the Night Stalker in months. Harper’s sorry excuse for a newspaper is selling faster than they can print them. Clive wants something to sell our paper.”
Rayna laughed but there was nothing humorous about the situation. “Harper sells stories about alien’s and demon spawned babies! That’s not real news.”
“I know, but Clive said if that’s what it took to get people to buy our paper, he’d print it.”
Her head began to throb, a dull ache pounding between her eyes.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?”
She shook her head. “Tell me that when we’re surrounded by lunatics who think they can turn into werewolves.”
He laughed. “Come on, Ford. Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“This has nothing to do with adventure.”
“Sure it does. You can’t get more adventurous than werewolves.”
“Werewolves don’t exist, Mitch,” she said, glaring at him.
“How do you know?”
She snorted a laugh. “Have you ever seen any roaming the streets?”
“No,” he said. “And you won’t either. If you were a supernatural creature of myth, one who people would fear if they knew you existed, would you really go around shouting to the world that you were one of the monsters.”
“Mitch, there aren’t any monsters in the world. It’s make-believe crap they use to sell movies and books.”
“Yes, but most of that crap is based on legend.”
“It doesn’t make it true.”
“Maybe not, but this is still a great story.”
“An entire town that thinks they’re werewolves?” He laughed and tossed the picture down in front of her. “Think about it.”
She did. She thought about her career going up in flames. She thought about being the laughing stock of the entire newsroom. She thought about hanging Mitch up by his toes and feeding him to rats. Very large rats.
“Look, I’m not asking you to believe, Malcolm,” he said. “Just don’t discount his claim because you don’t believe him.”
She was screwed. She could feel it like something sour in the bottom of her stomach. Her boss, Clive, would give her no choice in this. Pleading with him like she’d done in the past would be useless. Her instincts were dead on most of the time and something told her he wouldn’t budge on this. She had no choice anymore. Crazy or not, Malcolm had sealed her fate with those damn pictures. “When does he want us to leave?” she asked.
“As soon as we can.”
Mitch picked up the pictures again and looked through them before tossing them back in front of her. “Look, I have to go. Don’t be pissed.”
“Oh, I’m more than pissed,” she said. “And you’re going to pay for this dearly.”
He laughed and stood up. “It’s a date then, Ford. Just don’t wait too long for my punishment.”
She glanced up at him. “You’re not going to enjoy it, Mitch.”
“Sure I will,” he said, grinning. “I get to go to work tomorrow and tell the entire office we’re going away together. No punishment under the sun can diminish my delight in that.”
His laughter rang out over the noise of the nearby tables and a few people turned their heads to look. She watched him walk away before leaning back in her seat and staring down at Malcolm’s letter again. “Malcolm, you clever old bastard, what the hell are you up to?”
She reached for the photos, examining each one in turn. They were taken in the woods from what she could tell. The man was sitting in a large dirt circle and trees surrounded him. She could see a few people in the background; eager looks on their faces.
Although she knew the pictures were a fake, she had to admit they looked pretty damn real. Movie stills, maybe? She flipped the pictures over. Kodak was printed on the back. “They could still have been printed off the computer,” she said to herself.
Turning the pictures back over, she looked at each one again, trying to see if anything looked out of place. A movie camera or a light, maybe… something. There wasn’t anything other than the man and the people in the background.
Looking at the people in the pictures, she focused her attention on each one. Did all these people think they were werewolves and if so, what would cause them to think it? Mass delusion? She sighed. Mitch was right about one thing. Werewolves or not, she had a story here. This many people thinking something so absurd was a reporters dream.
Glancing up when the sound of feminine giggles caught her attention, her heart nearly stopped when she saw Garrett and a group of his detective buddies make their way to the bar.
As always, his very presence made the room seem smaller. The air seemed to thicken and her pulse raced as she watched him. He was dressed in jeans and a long sleeve, light blue shirt, the material clinging to his muscled arms and chest. He looked damned fine in her opinion. That panty-melting smile of his flashed as he ordered a drink. She knew he’d asked for a beer without even hearing him. Bud Light in a long neck bottle, ice cold. That’s how he liked them.
She sighed and leaned back in her seat. Why the man still affected her like she was a teenager with a crush was beyond her. Just the sight of him made her want to throw herself at him and damn the consequences. The fact he’d thrown her away like yesterday’s garbage didn’t even diminish the effect he had on her. Sure it hurt like hell but she couldn’t get her fickle heart and her stubborn brain to agree on anything when it came to him. Asshole that he was, she couldn’t stop wanting him.
A young blonde slid into the seat next to him and he flashed her a smile that spoke of things she’d no longer have. It caused her stomach to cramp. Painfully. The girl said something to him and when he laughed and leaned down to whisper into her ear, Rayna turned away, staring down at the table. Eight months since he’d broken up with her and not a day went by that she didn’t think about him and even though he didn’t ever have a kind word for her, she searched him out just to see him. Being in this particular bar was proof of that. She was a glutton for punishment, apparently.
She took a long sip of her drink and tried not to look back over at him, staring at the pictures in her hand instead. Maybe Malcolm’s invitation wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Bluff’s Point was a small town and running into Garrett on a weekly basis was enough to cause even the sanest of people to go daft. Why she still wanted him after the way he treated her was a mystery she’d never figure out but watching him flirt with someone else tore her heart out.
Glancing back over at him, and watching him laugh with the unknown woman, sealed her fate. She had to get out of this town. Away from him. Her heart could only take so much.
Lifting Malcolm’s note, she read it again and looked on the back of the pictures until she found the phone number. Grabbing her cell phone, she slid out of her seat and started for the back of the bar, trying to find a quiet place to talk.
She didn’t see Garrett’s gaze follow her through the crowded bar.
“Please tell me you didn’t know she was going to be here?”
“Of course he did,” Chad said, laughing. “Why else would he be out on a Friday night?”
“Fuck off, both of you,” Garrett said, turning his head and staring down at the beer bottle in his hands. Like most Friday nights, he watched Rayna’s apartment himself and usually did so alone, but the minute he saw her leave, dressed in tight jeans and a shirt that barely covered her ample breasts, he’d followed her to the same bar he’d met her in the night he ended up back in her apartment. He immediately called Chad. He knew if he walked in there alone and found her with someone, he’d lose it. His buddies were just there for protection.
Protection for whatever asshole tried to make the moves on his girl.
He was relieved to see her alone but he wasn’t stupid enough to think she’d stay that way. Since the day he broke it off with her, he’d been waiting. Waiting for someone who wasn’t him to get close to her. Someone who didn’t insult her every chance they got like he did. Someone who could be with her and not get her killed, but much to his surprise, she hadn’t seemed interested in dating again, which was just as well. He was sure half the town would know his secret if that ever happened. Regardless of how much control he had over his beast, the wolf would show itself to stake its claim. A claim he’d wanted to make the first time he held her, the first time she came with his name on her lips and caused the wolf to demand more.
A claim he couldn’t make without running the risk of infecting her.
“Why don’t you just go kiss and make up?” Chad asked. “It’s obvious you want to.”
“Not that simple,” Garrett said. “Besides, what I want doesn’t necessarily mean I can have it.”
“And why is that? What’s stopping you? Are you that damn scared of commitment?”
Garrett barely kept from growling. He felt his vocal cords vibrate and cleared his throat before turning to look at his friend. “I’m not scared of anything.”
“Then why? I don’t get it. Explain it to me.”
“I don’t have to explain it,” Garrett said.
“Explain it anyway.”
He clenched his jaw and stared down at the bar. “It would never work, Chad. A year from now, maybe two, we’d be over, and all the shit in-between would have been for nothing. There’s no reason to prolong the inevitable.”
“So, you know it won’t last for years so you just ended it?”
Garrett picked up his beer and took a long swallow. “Something like that,” he said, staring at his reflection in the mirror above the bar.
Chad laughed. “That’s the craziest shit I’ve ever heard, man. While most men hit it until it does go bad you drop her before it does. What planet are you from?”
“The one where I don’t use people I care about.” He turned his head, searching the back of the bar for her. He spotted her moments later, near a darkened corner on the phone. She was smiling, her thick locks spilling over her shoulders and running down her back. His cock twitched just looking at her. The wolf still wanted her. He still wanted her. Wanted her to the point his bones ached and his teeth itched to sink into her flesh. To feel her blood coat his tongue as he swallowed her essence and marked her body and soul as his.
She hung up the phone and tucked it into her back pocket before weaving her way through the crowded bar. Garrett didn’t miss the looks she got as she passed by the men in her path. His chest rumbled as he watched them stare at her, saw them smile and whisper. Thankfully she was oblivious. As she neared him, he could tell she knew he was there. She was watching the floor as she walked, avoiding all eye contact with the bar. He ran an appreciative glance down her body, watching her hips sway as she walked before looking back up at her breasts. They swelled above the scooped neck of her blouse. He knew the weight of them, how they felt against his flesh, against his tongue, and he barely contained a growl of approval at the sight of her. When her scent hit him, he ground his teeth together, balling his hands into a fist to keep from reaching for her as she passed him.
“Hey, Rayna! Join us for a drink.”
Garrett turned and looked at Chad when he yelled out to her and wanted to kill him where he sat. What the fuck was he doing? He saw Rayna out of the corner of his eye and took a deep breath before turning his head to her.
She stopped, met his gaze once before turning her head and smiling at Chad. “Detective Burrows,” she said. “I’m not sure hanging out with Bluff’s Point’s finest would be such a good idea. It might give all the other reporters in town the wrong idea.”
“Let them talk,” Chad said, waving a hand to dismiss her comment. “What’s the worst they can say?”
“Oh, that’s an easy one,” Garrett said, turning in his seat to face her. “That she slept her way through the department just to get a front page headline. By the way, didn’t I see your name there today?” He felt like the lowest shit in the world the moment the words were out of his mouth, especially when she turned those big blue eyes on him. For whatever reason, today was the day she let his usual barbed comments affect her. He saw it shining in her eyes moments before her bottom lip trembled. She glanced at the blonde sitting next to him before looking back at Chad.
“Thanks for the invite, but I’ll have to pass. Excuse me, gentlemen.”
And without even a glance in his direction, she turned and walked away. When the door closed behind her, Garrett waited a full five minutes before getting up and following her.
To his surprise, she was still in the parking lot, just sitting in her car, staring out the windshield. As he neared her, he saw the tears falling down her cheeks.
“Fuck.” He sighed, his chest aching to the point of pain before weaving through the parked cars toward her. She saw him before he reached her and started the car, wiped her face dry and pulled out of the parking space, nearly running him over. The last thing he saw was her arm reach out the car window and her middle finger raise as she pulled out onto the road.
End of excerpt
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