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Heart of the Wolf

Heart of the Wolf

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Red werewolf Bella flees her adoptive pack of gray werewolves when the alpha male Volan tries forcibly to claim her as his mate. Her real love, beta male Devlyn, has been out of her life for years, but comes after her when she finds herself accidentally captured by humans. Bella becomes convinced that Devlyn only wants to return her to Volan, but soon realizes that Devlyn loves her as much as she loves him, and is willing to fight Volan to the death to claim her. That problem pales, however, as a pack of red werewolves takes to killing human females in a crazed quest to claim Bella for their own. Bella and Devlyn must defeat the rogue wolves before Devlyn's final confrontation with Volan. The vulpine couple's chemistry crackles off the page, but the real strength of the book lies in Spear's depiction of pack power dynamics, as well as in the details of human-wolf interaction. His wolf world feels at once palpable and even plausible. Bella, a female red werewolf, was adopted by a pack of gray wolves as a pup. Now grown up, the alpha of the pack tries to make her his mate against her will―Bella knows she has no choice but to run away. She makes her way as a lone wolf until childhood friend, Devlyn, comes to bring her home. On their journey back, they get tangled in up in unimaginable danger and must apprehend a werewolf murderer while keeping their identity secret from humans. The chemistry between them sizzles like never before…but they both know if they mate, Devlyn will have to fight the pack's wicked alpha…and it's a fight to the death.

Chapter 1

Present Day

Portland, Oregon

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS LATER—AGING ONE YEAR for every thirty that passed once a lupus garou reached puberty—Bella was the equivalent of a human twenty-one-year-old. She longed more than ever to have Devlyn for her mate, wishing she hadn’t had to hide from the pack all these years. The burning desire for him flooded her veins whenever she came into the wolf’s heat. Her body craved his touch, but her mind had given up hoping to ever have him for her own. If she could find a strong, agreeable human mate, she could change him into a lupus garou, and he would keep her safe from Volan.

She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the image of the brutish fiend, and continued to pack her overnight bag. Any man would be better than he—a good mate who would help her establish her own pack.

She turned to look at Devlyn’s photo sitting on the bedside table, the most recent one that Argos, the old, retired pack leader, had sent her. Taking a deep breath, she threw another pair of jeans into her bag, determined to get her mind off Devlyn.

Knowing she couldn’t put off mating much longer, she realized that one’s second choice far outweighed living alone; even the sound of a dog’s howl on the night’s breeze triggered the gnawing craving to be with a pack.

She stalked into her office and left an email message for Argos, a routine she’d adopted because he insisted she keep him posted whenever she went into the woods. As a loner, she’d have no backup. Off to the cabin for the weekend again, Argos. Give the pack my love, in secret. Yours always, love, Bella

She didn’t have to tell him to keep her correspondence a secret; he knew what would happen if Volan learned where she was. . . .

Turning off her computer, she picked up her phone and called her next-door neighbor—a woman who had partially eased Bella’s loneliness after losing her twin sister in a fire so many years ago. “Chrissie, I’m going to my cabin for the weekend again. Can you keep an eye on my place?”

“Sure thing, Bella. Pick up your mail on Saturday, too, if you’d like. And I’ll water your greenhouse plants. Hey, I don’t want to hold you up, but did you hear about the latest killing?”

“Yeah, the police have got to catch the bastard soon.”

That was one of the reasons she was going to her cabin, to get away, to consider the facts of the murders, to search for clues in the woods. He had to be from Portland or the surrounding area, since it was there he’d killed all the women. And he had to take a jaunt in a forest from time to time. The call of the wild was too strong in them. She hadn’t expected to smell red lupus garou in the place where she ran, as far away as it was from the city. For three years she hadn’t smelled a hint of them. Not until last weekend. Was one of them the killer? She had to know.

Bella tossed a pink sweatshirt into the bag.

“You be careful, honey. The victims are all redheads in their twenties. And the last was killed not far from here.”

“Don’t worry, Chrissie. I’ve got a gun for protection.” Well, two: one at her cabin, and one at home, but who was counting? Silver bullets, too; Bella had them made for Volan. It wasn’t the lupus garou way, but she had no other way to fight him. She would never be his.

“A . . . a gun? Do you know how to shoot it?”

Yep, she’d learned how to shoot a gun a good century and a half ago, ever since the early days when she had lived in the wilderness, trying to survive in the lands west of Colorado.

“Yeah, don’t worry. Give your kids hugs for me, will you? Tell Mary I want to see the painting she did for art class, and tell Jimmy that I want to see his science project when I return.”

Chrissie sighed. “I’ll tell them. You be careful up there all by yourself. That is, if you’re going all by yourself.”

Always checking. Chrissie was looking for husband number two, and she assumed Bella rendezvoused with some mountain man every time she returned to her cabin.

“See you Monday.”

“Be careful, Bella. You never know where that maniac will end up.”

“I’ll be cautious. Got to go.”

Bella hung up the phone and zipped her suitcase. Before it turned dark she had every intention of searching the woods for further clues concerning the red lupus garou—not a wild dog, a mixed wolf-dog breed, or as some thought, a pit bull that some bastard had trained to kill his victims—that might be killing the women.

Why had she caught the scent of red lupus garou in the area near her cabin now, when the woods had been free of their kind for the last three years? She envisioned a lone female wouldn’t stand a chance at remaining that way. Her stomach curdled with the idea that she’d have to give up her cabin and find a new place to run. Just one more concern to add to her growing list of worries.

T t t

Later that day, when Bella arrived at her cabin, the waning moon called to her though it was still fairly light out. She tilted her nose up to the breeze, standing on the porch of her cedar home in the woods, the building now a faded gray. It served as her hideaway on the weekends when she lived on the wild side, away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Portland. She would be the right age to be Volan’s mate, if he ever found her. Smiling at how clever she had been to avoid him, the smile faded as a coyote howled. She wasn’t meant to be a rogue wolf, living alone without a pack. Some were naturally geared that way. Not her.

More than that, Devlyn still held her heart hostage, damn him. She could still feel the way his strong fingers had gripped her shoulders with possessiveness, smell his feral craving to have her, feel his heart thundering when he crushed her against him. Why couldn’t he have run with her?

She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts of the one who’d possessed her soul since the beginning.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care for the gray wolf pack, the lupus garou family who had taken her in. It was the unfathomable notion that she’d have been Volan’s mate that fired her soul to the depths of hell. Stronger than the rest, he wasn’t brighter, nor caring in the least bit. Just a bully, such as in ancient times when the strongest men ruled. Why couldn’t she find a mate who would treat her as . . . as . . . an equal?

Somewhere, such a male had to exist.

Taking a deep breath, she pulled off her sweater, turtleneck, denims, and hiking boots, and dropped them on a porch chair. Standing naked, she shivered, then breathed in the heavenly scent of pine needles, the smell once again triggering the memory of Devlyn kissing her. No man since had kissed her like he had.

She gritted her teeth and swallowed hard. He stirred primal longings in her too strong to quench. The desire to feel him deep inside her, filling her with his seed, producing their offspring, their family—sharing a lifetime commitment as mates forever—overwhelmed her. But he wasn’t the leader of the pack. Even if she wanted Devlyn for her mate, she didn’t think he’d ever be strong enough to have her. Yet, she couldn’t help but keep in touch with Argos, the old former leader of the pack. Knowing Devlyn was alive and well. . . .

She growled with exasperation. For now she had to hunt like a wolf, and in the interim, search for a different prey—the feral predator that stalked human redheaded females and murdered them like a rabid wolf.

Stretching again, her lean body began to take the form of the wolf. The painless transformation always occurred quickly and filled her with a sense of urgency—to hunt, to run wild among the other creatures of the forest.

A thick cinnamon-red pelt covered her skin as her nose elongated into a snout, and her teeth grew ready for the hunt. She straightened her back, howled with the change, then dropped to her paws. Her nails extended into sharp claws, itching to dig into the pine needlecushioned earth.

Though she preferred venison to rabbit, she hunted the latter. Killing deer out of season constituted a crime. If anyone found the leftovers of such a kill, an investigation would follow. Soon word would spread that a wolf was killing deer in the area. A wolf that might next go after ranchers’sheep or cattle, or household pets, or children. A wolf thought to be extinct in these parts.

Chapter 2

off the porch, her long legs carried her with graceful bounds through the wilderness. She traveled through several hundreds of acres before spying another cabin—quiet, vacated. Since it was winter and no longer hunting season, except for the end of dusky Canadian goose season, she shouldn’t glimpse another human being. She thought she caught a whiff of something familiar. Pausing, she sniffed the air, and recognized the distinctive smell of lupus garou—red lupus garou.

Loping toward the origin of the scent, she darted past pines and firs, ducked beneath low-hanging branches, jumped a moss-covered log in her path . . . then halted.

A patch of red fur clung to the bark of an oak. Definitely red wolf; and because none existed here, it had to be a red lupus garou’s.

She contemplated returning to her human form and taking the evidence back to her cabin, but she was miles from there, and as cold as it was, her human counterpart probably wouldn’t make it.

The breez


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