Winter of the Wolf (Hunt 2) by Cherise Sinclair




  What reviewers are saying about Cherise Sinclair…

  There's a reason why Cherise Sinclair is on my auto-buy list: she writes fantastic erotic romances with great stories and wonderful characters. ~ Rho The Romance Reviews

  I can’t get enough of Cherise Sinclair’s books! Each and every story Ms. Sinclair writes is an erotic feast for the senses ~ Shayna Joyfully Reviewed

  This author should be at the top of every reader's favorite list! ~ Shannon The Romance Studio

  If you haven't read a Cherise Sinclair book, you should certainly pick one up. Apparently, no matter the genre, you just can't go wrong. ~ Jae Dark Diva Reviews

  Winter of the Wolf

  Erotic paranormal ménage romance

  After years in foster care, Breanne Gallagher has the stable life she’s always wanted, living with her foster-sister, working as a chef, enjoying her comfortable routines. Then one devastating night, a hellish creature invades her apartment and shatters her fragile existence. Shifting between monster and man, it slaughters her foster sister and assaults Bree. Alone, wounded, her beloved home tainted by gruesome memories, Bree flees to a tiny wilderness town, following her only clue to her past.

  Shapeshifting warriors, Zeb and Shay move from one pack to another, hunting the hellhounds which prey on their kind. Assigned to Cold Creek, they take over management of a decrepit fishing lodge for their "human" cover. Their first renter is a pretty human female who trembles at the sight of them—yet stands her ground. Furious at the hurt they see in her eyes, the protective nomads are drawn into helping her. Although no shapeshifter is ever attracted to a human, her scent is oddly compelling, and her ferocious determination to conquer her fears ignites longings neither loner ever expected to face.

  Bree is healing, learning to shoot the biggest pistol she can find, and overcoming her fears, especially of the two deadly, disconcertingly attractive hunters. Her life is getting back on track…until she tries to save a little girl from a hellhound and discovers that everything she knows about herself is false.

  The Wild Hunt Legacy 2:

  WINTER OF THE WOLF

  By

  Cherise Sinclair

  VanScoy Publishing Group

  Kindle Edition

  Copyright March 2012 by Cherise Sinclair

  ISBN: 978-0-9837063-1-1

  Published by VanScoy Publishing Group

  Editor: Jacy Mackin

  Cover Artist: For The Muse Design

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, business establishments, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this eBook only. No part of this eBook may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. This book is for sale to adults only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase.

  Disclaimer: Please do not try any new sexual practice, without the guidance of an experienced practitioner. Neither the publisher nor the author will be responsible for any loss, harm, injury, or death resulting from use of the information contained in this book.

  Acknowledgements

  I want to extend my profound appreciation to the following people:

  To my wonderful editor Jacy Mackin for her keen eye.

  To my lovely crit group, Erotic Romance Authors. You never fail to kick-start the opening chapters and will keep me rewriting until something makes sense. And my gratitude for the cheering during good times and handholding during the bad.

  A special shoutout goes to Bianca Sommerland and Cari Silverwood for the first read-through of this baby and for helping the plot to stand up on its little legs.

  To my beta readers who went above and beyond the call of critiquing duty: Monette Michaels, mistress of the phrase “tighten this”; Fiona Campbell for your help with language inconsistencies, and Rosie Moewe for your help with blurbs.

  To the fantastic readers and writers who keep me company on my Facebook page. Your cheerful (and occasionally perverted) humor makes life so much more fun.

  To those of you who demanded that a certain rough cahir get his happy ending, Zeb said to tell y’all: thank you! (Well, he included a four-letter word or two for emphasis, but that’s what he meant.)

  To my patient and loving family. You tolerate my snarls during deadlines, lure me out of my cave with popcorn and movies, and make Diet Coke runs to keep me alive. I love you all so, so much.

  Chapter One

  Seattle ~ Dark of the Moon

  I won, I won, I won! As Breanne Gallagher drove into the parking lot of her apartment complex, excitement fizzed in her veins like champagne. Her five tiered, chocolate praline cake had taken first place at the competition for Northwest pastry chefs. She bounced up and down, grinning like an idiot.

  Even more incredible—two of the finest downtown Seattle restaurants had indicated their interest in hiring her. Not that she’d accept, because, hey, she had everything she needed right here. The restaurant where she’d worked for years was in the top ratings and close to where she and her foster-sister, Ashley, lived. She finally had the stable life she’s always wanted and planned to keep it that way.

  But she could certainly hit her boss up for a raise.

  After parking near the end of the lot, she opened her car door. Industrial tech music hammered down from one of the three buildings in the complex, overwhelming the traffic noise from the nearby I-5 freeway. Her mood dimmed as she stood, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. With a couple of lights out and no moon in the sky, the far end of the parking lot was creepy as heck. Pulling her coat closed against the moist winter air, she hurried toward her apartment building.

  Nearing the better-lighted area, Bree slowed and glanced around, but didn’t see Ashley’s bright yellow car. But she should be home soon, and then they could celebrate. Because I won! Spirits rising again, she did a victory dance down the center. I rule! As she twirled around, a car entered the lot, the headlights painfully bright. With a squeak of alarm, she jumped out of the way and tripped on a parked motorcycle. She landed hard, scraping her hands and knees on the rough pavement.

  Face flaming with embarrassment, she knelt and tried to catch her breath. Blood trickled down her burning palms. Wow, way to crash off the victory pedestal.

  “You okay?” Someone took her hand and lifted her to her feet.

  “Fine.” Bree looked up. Wow, the man was huge, well over six feet tall, and he smelled like a garbage can filled with rotting oranges and chicken carcasses. Ew. Pulling her bleeding hand out of his, she backed away hastily. “Well. Thanks for the help.”

  The doublewide door to the building opened, spilling out a wash of light and a handful of teenaged girls, Bree hastily pushed past them, glancing back as she stepped inside.

  He was staring at her, his eyes a brownish-red—the color of dried blood. A chill ran up her spine as he lifted his hand to his face and licked his palm. As she headed down the hallway, she heard his voice, as greasy as cold bacon. “Well, well, well.”

  * * *

  She made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, the best cure for unsettled emotions. Since Ashley still wasn’t home, Bree pulled out her memento box for company. She smiled at the pictures of the Edwards and Petersons, her favorite foster families, then scowled
at one of Mr. Harvey, the pervert. A shame she hadn’t had a black belt then or she’d have snapped his thing off. Turning the picture face down, she moved on to the ribbons from cooking contests.

  With a sigh of sadness, she stroked the photo of a short, wiry man at a karate tournament. Sensei had been the closest person she’d ever had to a father. He’d have been proud of her today. I miss you.

  Realizing her trip down memory lane wasn’t helping, she gathered up a handful of shelled nuts from a bag in the kitchen. The apartment door was on the left side of the living room. She went the other direction, through the sliding glass door and out to the landscaped grounds. The cold chilled her bare feet as she ran across the grass to a big maple tree illuminated by decorative solar lights. Standing on her tiptoes, she scattered the food along a low branch. “Here you go, Tinkerbelle.”

  Chittering happily, the little thing she called a tree fairy scampered down the trunk. Bree had to laugh. It—she—was the size of a Barbie doll, almost ethereally pale, with intense green eyes. No wings though, so it wasn’t really a fairy.

  Close enough. Bree laughed as Tinkerbelle tried to pick up an almond bigger than her hands.

  “Hey, Bree, are you there?” Her roommate, Ashley Carrigan, stood in the door, the wind whipping her red hair back over her shoulders.

  “Over here.”

  “Woohoo, girl. I saw on the news. You won!” With her long-legged stride, Ash crossed the yard and gave Bree a jubilant hug. “Congratulations!”

  Bree basked in the glow. Nothing was better than having someone to share the good and the bad. “Thanks, sis.”

  Ash stepped back and glanced at the tree, obviously seeing the nuts. “Are you feeding that nonexistent thing again?”

  “Sure. Imaginary creatures get hungry in the winter.” Bree grinned as her roommate squinted up at the tree. In all the years since they’d met in a foster home, Ash had never seen any of the beings—but she always tried.

  “You know, with your imagination, you should write children’s books.”

  “Uh-huh. With your blindness, maybe you should get glasses.” Unfortunately, that was a poor defense since no one except Bree ever saw the fairy things that lived in trees and flowers. Or the tiny trolls in the gutters. Or the shimmering beings in Puget Sound that looked like fish with faces. Why, darn it? Why was she the only one to see them?

  But it didn’t matter. The little creatures added light and wonder to her world, and had since before she could remember. “So, why don’t— ”

  Tinkerbelle sniffed the air, dropped the almond, and leaped into the darkness of the higher branches.

  Had something spooked her? Bree glanced around but saw nothing. The small grassy area wasn’t a popular place on a damp winter night. “Let’s head back. My feet are going numb.”

  As they walked toward the open glass door, Ashley frowned. “How much time did you spend creating that winning masterpiece anyway? You look pooped.”

  “Not that long. I’m fine.” Only she wasn’t, and it wasn’t because of the time spent cooking. No matter how much or how little she did, she was always tired. Her doctor thought she had chronic fatigue syndrome, although he admitted that her symptoms didn’t quite fit. “Probably a lack of chocolate. I made cookies, so it’s all good.”

  The apartment enfolded Bree in warmth, and she wiggled her chilled toes in the carpet. The room felt cozy, decorated in sunny colors with cheerful flowering plants to offset the Seattle gloom. Tired or not, she had a good life—a wonderful foster-sister, a good job, and a happy place to live.

  “I stopped and got a bottle of wine and a couple of movies to help celebrate.” Ash shook her head. “I figured you’d be too tired to want to go out…and what’s the point in taking you out to eat after you spend all day in a restaurant?”

  “Sounds perfect. What did you get?”

  “For me, Runaway Bride. For you, Lethal Weapon 4.” Ashley narrowed her gray eyes. “But if you start critiquing the karate stuff, I’m turning it off.”

  “I’ll be good.” Besides, most of the fun of pointing out the mistakes had disappeared when Sensei had died. The ache of grief squeezed her chest again. After pulling her off the streets, he’d set her on her path to independence. Why couldn’t he have lived long enough to see her flourish? Bree pushed the sadness away. Tonight was about celebration, not mourning.

  “Get those cookies, and I’ll put in the movie,” Ash said. “Which one first?”

  “Let’s start with the interesting one—the one with action. And I don’t mean sex, okay?”

  She fetched the cookies from the kitchen, inhaling the sweet fragrance.

  Shriek! Screams and gunshots split the air, and Bree jumped, almost dropping the plate. “Darn that kid! He must have volume at max.” The young man in the adjacent apartment was addicted to slasher movies.

  “Men and their loud toys.” Ash snorted. She slid Bree’s mementos to one side to clear space for the food, then nodded at a silver-disked bracelet and a crumpled photo of a couple holding a very young Breanne. “You still got those, huh?”

  “Hey, they’re my heritage, right?” Other people got antique china and photo albums and precious furniture, but the picture and bracelet were all she’d possessed when a ranger had found her lost in a forest at the age of three.

  Ash tapped the photo. “You know, if you blew this up, you might be able to get an ID on your parents. The Internet has all sorts of customizable search engines now.”

  As the noise from next door diminished slightly, Bree sat on the couch and poured wine. “Nah. Either they’re dead or didn’t want me. Why bother?”

  “Maybe you just got lost, and they’ve been looking for you. Wanting to take you home.” Ashley’s father was in jail, her mother OD’d, so she’d set her heart on Bree’s parents being wonderful and rich and loving, like out of some Disney movie.

  Ash didn’t get it that Disney created fantasies as fake as the idea that Bree’s parents had given a darn about her. “Couldn’t have searched that hard. It’s been over twenty years.” Bree shook her head. “Besides, who needs them? You’re my family. And I have the perfect home right here.”

  “Well…I wanted to talk to you about that.” Ashley picked up the glass of wine, spinning it around and around in her hands.

  The last time Ash had looked that flustered, she’d confessed to slamming the oven door, causing Bree’s dessert soufflé to collapse. Bree set the remote down. “What’s wrong?”

  “My boss talked to me today. They’re opening a division in San Diego.” Ash’s face lit with pride and excitement. “He asked me to head the software section.”

  “San Diego? B-but you live here.” I live here.

  The glow in Ashley’s face faded slightly. “You’ll come with me, right? We’ll get an apartment and—”

  “No.” Move away? Bree rose, wrapping her arms around herself. “This is home. Here.” This apartment. This city. My job.

  “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we’ve lived in this building forever. You’ve worked at that restaurant for even longer. You could be a chef anywhere. Don’t you ever want to see or do something else?”

  “No.” Bree opened the sliding glass door, breathing in the chill air. “I moved enough when I was little.” Foster home to foster home, new families, new neighborhoods, new schools. Different foods, strange routines, unfamiliar beds. Nothing had ever stayed the same.

  “But…” Ashley bit her lip. “I’m tired of the rain. I want to live somewhere sunny. I want you to come too.”

  Bree shook her head. The very thought of leaving made her sick. This was her home. “I-I can’t. Moving is your dream.” But how could she survive the loneliness if her foster-sister left?

  “Dammit, Bree, you—” Ash’s words were drowned out by a cinematic explosion from the adjoining apartment.

  Bree closed the sliding door and paused. Something moved across the landscaped grounds. Four-legged and bigger than a dog. A bear? In Seattle? The tiny hairs on the b
ack of her neck rose.

  “What’s wrong?” Ashley joined her.

  “I think there’s a—”

  The huge black form headed for the apartment, picking up speed.

  “Get back!” Bree backpedaled, pulling Ash with her.

  To her shock, the animal charged straight at the patio door. It wouldn’t; it did. Glass shattered with a horrendous crash as the beast burst through.

  Ash screamed, high and shrill, frozen directly in the bear’s path.

  “No!” Bree shoved a chair in front of the bear and darted behind the couch, yanking Ash along. Heart pounding, she turned toward the… That’s no bear.

  Oh, God, what is that thing?

  Evil red-brown eyes stared at her. The size of a grizzly, but armored like a dinosaur with bony spiked plates. A shark-like head displayed massive pointed teeth. The stench of it was like raw meat left in the garbage for days. Worse.

  She stood petrified for a moment, cold chills running down her spine.

  It took a step forward.

  Her mind screamed: run away, run away. But she wouldn’t—couldn’t—turn her back on it. She took a slow step back. Keeping her gaze on the creature, she slid her hand up the wall and yanked the bokken from the rack. The familiar grip of the wooden practice sword felt comforting in her hands.

  Ash had no weapon, no training. “Go get help,” Bree ordered under her breath. “Hurry!”

  “But—”

  “Go.”

  As Ash moved away, Bree jumped forward, waving her sword as a diversion. “Beat it! Get out of here.” Keeping eye contact, she inched backwards. Come after me, beast. Follow me.

  The sound of the unlocking deadbolt snicked loud in the room. The creature’s head turned, and it charged toward Ash.

 
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