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Hunting Wolf: Black Mesa Wolves, #3

Hunting Wolf: Black Mesa Wolves, #3

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Hunting Wolf: Black Mesa Wolves, #3

Length:
243 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 31, 2014
ISBN:
9781501467783
Format:
Book

Description

 Book 3 in the Black Mesa Wolves series by USA Today bestselling author J.K. Harper


★★★★★ "I am glad I gave J.K. Harper a try! I love her shifter world! She's created a wonderful world and characters that captured my attention from the first chapter." -Night Owl Reviews, 4.5 Top Pick ★★★★★


Caleb Bardou has a quick answer for anything that comes at him: his fists. Barreling through life, damn the consequences, has always worked for him. With dangerous rogue wolves threatening his Pack, he must be a ruthless hunter. But when a delicate little she-wolf gets in his steamroller way, he has to find a different strategy to win the unexpected battle for her body and her heart.


Each time civilized Rielle Amoux thinks about caveman Caleb, she gets all tingly inside. Yet she refuses to be flustered by a hot-headed, chest-thumping, he-man of a wolf. Except Caleb is sexier than sin, and he arouses her on a primal level--the part of her she's always denied from fear she won't be able to control it. But if she doesn't free her wild side soon, she risks losing her wolf forever....


Between vicious rogues and sweetly seductive Rielle, Caleb has his hands full. Just when he thinks he has everything under control, his trigger temper erupts again. This time, the fallout could be disastrous for his Pack--as well as for any chance he has with the sexy little wolf who might be his destiny.

To the reader: This story is filled with hawt times, sexy romance, and the secret world of wolf shifters. If you love shifters, small towns, and the power of wild love to always triumph in the end, this box set is for you.

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 31, 2014
ISBN:
9781501467783
Format:
Book

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Hunting Wolf - J.K. Harper

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1

Caleb slammed the empty shot glass down on the table, threw his head back, and howled.

An answering chorus howled back in a cacophony of hoarse, shaking, eager, or just plain stupid-drunk voices. Hands slapped the table and at least one glass missed the surface, crashing onto the floor.

Caleb sat back to enjoy the burn as it slid down his throat, watching the entertainment of nice but dumb guys about to lose their asses in one of the best poker nights of the summer. Humans. They couldn't hold their liquor to save their lives. Lucky for them he was one of the good guys. All he wanted was their money, fair and square. If they chose to play while drinking a bit too much, well, that was their choice.

As a Guardian for the Black Mesa Wolf Pack, he was sworn to never hurt humans. That is, as long as they didn't hurt him first. Besides, it wasn't like he couldn't hurt them. He just couldn't—seriously damage them. Or kill them. That was against the rules for sure.

Take them in a friendly poker game? Not a problem.

Caleb. Mason, his favorite poker pal, the only one in the room sober enough to not wobble, jabbed him in the shoulder. What you got going on later tonight?

Caleb snorted as he scoped out his cards once more. What makes you think we aren't playing till the wee hours of the morning here?

Aw, come on, man. You've got this table of fools about to fold like a bunch of napping kindergartners. Why don't you just give them some juice and crackers while you take their money, too? Mason's laugh had a gleeful edge. He'd been watching and learning from Caleb since they started playing together. Okay, so maybe not the entire room was full of clueless drunk humans.

With another snort, Caleb tipped his chair back. Using his best card shark look, he regarded his poker buddy over his hand. Can't help it if I'm just lucky, now, can I?

Right, Mason drawled, giving Caleb one of those searching looks he sometimes got when he'd been on a winning streak. Some humans were a little more aware than others, though of course they'd never find out about the existence of shifters. Caleb didn't have any extra special powers, at least not in a poker game. His shifter genes just happened to ensure he had far superior senses than anyone else in the room, and he could use those to his advantage. Being able to smell the sweat of nervousness when a guy was holding all the wrong cards and the stakes were high had given him an edge many times. Not to mention the fact he'd always be able to hold his drink much better than anyone who lacked shifter DNA.

Hell. Caleb tucked his cards close in again and took a quick survey of the room filled with guys on their last legs. Poker night almost never ended up like this, but it was a midsummer holiday weekend in Durango. Everyone had cut loose to party earlier than usual, and the newbies were paying for it now. Easy money tonight. I just like to play. Blow off some steam and all.

Still no girl, huh? Mason's tone was grave, although a slight grin lifted his mouth. If you had a regular girl, you wouldn't be here every damn week. Dude, you've got to find another hobby. This one is costing me too much money.

Caleb laughed. I hear girls aren't exactly cheap. That's why I only keep them around for one night at a time. His words came out more callously than he meant, but he left them there. His once-a-week poker buddy could think Caleb was a bit of a heartless ladies' man.

Harsh.

I just like to keep it simple. Caleb raised his glass. Here's to a simple life. All I need to do is beat your ass at poker and know that women everywhere find me irresistible—and impossible to catch.

Still shaking his head but genuinely laughing now, Mason leaned down to pull one guy off the floor where he'd landed after trying to rescue his spilled liquor. The scent of whiskey mingled with nasty carpet hit Caleb's nose. Curling his lip up, he concentrated on filtering out the smells.

One of the many benefits of being a wolf shifter was the ability to willfully ignore a sometimes conflicting palette of aromas. Having a great nose usually made life easy. It also, however, invited in a host of scents sometimes better left to stink up the garbage can. This cramped back room, shoved behind a bar, an upscale restaurant, and some sort of new age-y store, held plenty of happy, blurry memories for an endless stream of poker players over the years.

It also held all their stinking smells.

Filtering out smells was almost as easy as the rest of the game. He cleaned up less than an hour later, thanks to his skills and the progressive drinking of the guys. Caleb chalked it up not only to the summer night but the full moon as well. Humans reacted to its pull in weird ways. Shifters, though, just liked the extra light at night. A full moon did little more to affect them than help make the nighttime scenery more distinct.

The downtown street was still lively when he headed out the door. With a fat wad of bills tucked deep in his jeans pocket, he had nothing more complicated on his mind than heading down to his favorite bar, finding a local girl easy on the eyes, and proceeding to charm the pants off her. A warm summer breeze whispered through the air, smoothing across his bare arms and sending another multitude of scents to him. Some of them promised a feast of the flesh, and he moved more quickly along the sidewalk, dodging the occasional giggling couple or drunk tourists.

Fight? his wolf asked in a wistful tone. An image of brawling wolves, all snapping teeth and snarling play, surged into Caleb's mind.

If one thing in this world was certain, it was that Caleb Bardou was always up for a fight. Always. Backing down from battle meant losing. Losing wasn't an option. Losing was what beaten-down wolves did. Wolves like the rogues who'd been spilling across Black Mesa land recently.

Rogues. His wolf's hackles raised. Laced with menace and disgust, the word smacked itself around Caleb's mind. His stride lengthened, feet pounding along, face dropping into a scowl. He was barely aware of the sudden wide berth a small group of weekend revelers gave him as he charged down the street.

He'd never stop fighting the rogues. They were definitely a menace, a blight on the shifter community, a plague of lawless jackals who deserved to die out on their lonesome, lacking pack and structure and basic respect for the world the way it was.

The rogues under the protection of the Black Mesa Wolf Pack are not to be harmed. Dammit. His father's edict, passed on with implacable firmness, echoed in his mind. In a somewhat sulky corner of his mind, his wolf growled with frustration and resigned acceptance. He would never defy the Alpha of the Black Mesa Wolves.

Barely under his breath, Caleb growled, too. If only he could be allowed to fight the rogue leader, just once. He could hardly bring himself to use the guy's name, Luke, in forced civil conversation. In the privacy of his own mind, there were more colorful names to assign. The guy seemed to be toeing the line, but after the attack on Caleb's brother, Rafe, and Rafe's mate, Sara, a few months ago, Caleb had been itching to wipe that cocky smile off that bastard's face. Luke knew something about the attack, no matter how many times he claimed he didn't. He was a rogue. Rogues lied. End of story.

A rogue with a pack, though. Caleb's own Alpha had made that decree, allowing Luke to form a new pack as a sort of satellite pack to Black Mesa. Luke, the rogue bastard, would be an alpha himself. Supported by Caleb's own Alpha and father. Allowed all the perks of having a sanctioned pack, rather than the miserable life he should have had as a rogue.

Rankled beyond belief like he was every time he thought about it, Caleb growled again, his boots storming along the sidewalk. His left fist curled as he imagined smashing it into the rogue's face, wiping away any hint of satisfaction. Yeah, he thought with the savage lurch inside that indicated his wolf paced his mind, filled with just as much aggression. That would do it just fine. He savored the image as he strode along, almost totally unaware of his surroundings.

Half a second later, he body slammed into something small, warm, and definitely not rogue-ish. A startled squeak filled his ears. Automatically reaching out, Caleb found himself holding handfuls of a soft female body.

I'm sorry! The words left his mouth as automatically as his hands had reached out to steady her. Sharp awareness of where he was abruptly returned. No rogues, no fight, no bloodshed imminent. Except perhaps his. An outraged female glare pinned him to the spot.

Sudden recognition flooded him as her scent reached him and he got a good look at her face. At the same moment, the small figure with narrowed eyes said, Could you please remove your hands from me?

Caleb's large hands still held her in places he normally didn't hold girls unless he was about to spend some up close, very personal time with them.

Right! Sorry. Hastily, he did as she asked. More tentatively, he added, Rielle.

A tight-lipped smile on the pretty face was all he got in return.

Inwardly, Caleb sighed. His wolf did, too, lying down with head on paws. Trust him to run—literally—into the one wolf in the entire pack who pretty much thought he was nothing more than a throwback to caveman times. Maybe the rest of the evening wasn't going to be as simple as he'd hoped.

Rielle's heart still thumped out of step as she tried to settle her pulse. All she'd wanted was a quiet night to herself, a simple walk home from her little store and a few hours settled in with her new book and a glass of wine.

But no. She had to get run over by the biggest, most bumbling wolf in the entire pack. Just when she thought downtown Durango was safe.

Caleb Bardou let go of her, stepping back a few paces from where he'd almost mowed her down just outside High Peaks Couture, the upscale store Rielle managed and loved with all her heart. Her sanctuary, her place outside the pack where she felt most at home, and he had to show up? Really?

Rielle, he said again. His voice graveled on her ear like a truck rumbling down the street, deep and growly and filled with very masculine power. Like those smash 'em up car shows on TV, the kind where guys roared into one another driving huge vehicles designed to get banged up and crashed and destroyed. Caleb Bardou so belonged on a show like that. All muscle and no mindfulness.

Honestly, she didn't understand any of it.

Ah, I'm really sorry. He did sound apologetic. Even a little sheepish. I wasn't looking where I was going.

Well, that had been clear enough. But he did sound sincerely abashed. She felt the tight muscles in her face relax just a smidge as she still glared at him. Despite herself, she had to admit Caleb was one good-looking guy, with that tousled gold-cinnamon hair flopping over his flat-out sexy face. Looking adorably chagrined as he did right now, she could imagine girls fawning all over him.

Staring up at him—way, way up at him, since he towered over her by at least a foot—Rielle also thought about where his hands had touched her. She sort of...tingled...in those places. Yes, she could understand the attraction.

Deep inside her, very faintly, her wolf whined. Rielle stiffened against the almost lonesome sound and pushed it away.

She forced herself to concentrate. Caleb had almost flattened her like the uncouth barbarian he was. Right. Typical. Clearly, you're sorry. She used her best snappish tone.

He narrowed his eyes at her.

I said I was sorry, didn't I? His voice sounded defensive. I had a lot on my mind. Besides, he suddenly changed tack, you stepped out like you owned the sidewalk. It's not really my fault I ran into you. You put yourself in the way.

Triumphantly, he crossed his arms over his broad chest and looked at her as if daring her to refute it. A street light haloed his hair around his face, giving him a celestial air.

Whatever! How was it possible he could make her feel like a tiny pixie, helplessly shouting up at him? He was so...big. I was minding my own business, just locking up for the night to go home, and I get plowed down by some wolf who can't control his own space. Her voice rose. She felt like stamping her foot, too, but had to admit she was a little too old for that.

His heavy eyebrows raised as well and his mouth dropped a bit. He was an open book for her to read. Right now, he was on the page of looming thunder. Seriously, every time she ever ran into Caleb Bardou, he sort of rumbled around her. Not to mention invaded her space. The big ox had some sort of conspiracy against her.

Leaning forward, Caleb spoke with precise inflection.

Look here, princess.

Princess! Now her own jaw fell open. But she barely had time for the indignant yelp before he charged on.

You heard me. Ree, you're my Packmate and I totally respect that, he said in that deep, grinding voice. Complete testosterone overload. His face belied his words, but she was too busy feeling offended to point it out.

But seriously, you're down here, playing around in your store—

No, he did not.

Playing around! This is my job! It's important!

Important! Important?

Rielle's nostrils flared just the slightest bit. Her primal side, rising closer to the surface and scenting the area for danger in reaction to her elevated emotions. There was no danger, though. Not unless she considered a six foot, four inch guy she'd seen casually naked a thousand times over her lifetime, one who could shift into a huge, strapping wolf in the flicker of an eye, filled to the brim with all his studly pheromones, all brawn and no brains, towering over her in some sort of ridiculous battle of wills as a threat. His own nostrils were flaring back at her in near comical fashion.

To her surprise, she almost giggled. Almost.

Caleb took a step closer. Considering he was still almost on top of her, that now put him about three inches away from her. If Rielle hadn't known him her entire life, she might have felt nervous about the big, pissed off guy practically yelling at her. Too bad for Caleb she was the Pack historian. She probably knew more about him than he knew about himself. He hardly scared her.

He could, though, the thought raced across her mind, accompanied by a sudden image of him sprawled naked on a bed, smooth skin rippling over his ripped physique, gazing at her with burning intensity in his eyes. Rielle's breathed hitched for half a second.

What is that about?

Of course, Caleb the barbarian didn't notice her strange reaction. He just plowed on. What's important is our Pack, Rielle!

Shh! She finally found the presence of mind to hiss at him. Glancing across the street, she noticed a small gaggle of college kids strolling along the sidewalk, openly watching their dramatic little outburst. People will hear you.

Keeping humans in the dark about the existence of shifters was a paramount mandate drummed into each wolf from birth. With obvious effort, Caleb caught himself up. He whipped his head around to pin a glare on their audience. Rielle could smell the sudden stink of fear as they quickened their pace away. Otherwise, their section of the street was deserted. She was trapped with an overbearing wolf who liked to steamroll through every situation just because he could.

Ree, he said more quietly, although his voice still held force, our Pack has way more important things to worry you right now. We've got rogues crawling out of the rocks, and you're thinking about dresses? Derision trimmed his voice, making her twitch. That's not very sensical, you know.

Rielle was the farthest thing from a cruel wolf one could get. But that comment about dresses cut deep. She let a short burst of not-very-nice laughter escape.

What? His voice sounded a bit aggrieved, yet it had dropped an octave lower. Clearly his wolf paced just below the surface.

Rielle's own small, dark wolf flashed through her mind, unhappy yet oddly intrigued, before Rielle dispelled it. The faintest edge of guilt made her voice whip out, sharp rather than sorry. There's no such word as 'sensical.' It's 'nonsensical,' she said. Or maybe you meant 'sensible.'

One look at his face as soon as she loosed those tiny, mean barbs, and she wanted to crawl into the deepest, darkest, nastiest pit on earth, where she obviously belonged.

2

Caleb knew every single thought in his brain ticked over his face in a nanosecond. He was a hell of a card player, but he'd never once been able to maintain a poker face around cute little Rielle Amoux. Something about her always made him feel sort of...exposed. It sure was a good thing he hardly ever saw her. She never came to the den. For a shifter, Ree didn't seem to want to hang out with her own kind all that much.

Right now, that suited him fine. From her widened eyes and paling face, he was pretty sure she wanted to stuff her own words back into her mouth. Whatever. They were just words. The only thing that could really hurt were claws, jaws, and lethal paws. His private mantra boosted him back to a level where he thought he could speak without something in his voice betraying him. Growling in assent, his wolf lashed an irate tail.

There was a note of confusion in there as well, though. Caleb thought he sensed searching. His wolf searching for Rielle's wolf? But she was right there. Ignoring his wolf's doubt, he plunged forward like he usually did. Keep it light, and slightly off point so as to confuse the enemy.

Rielle is not enemy, his wolf thought. She is Pack.

Caleb ignored that and shook himself. Smile, bluff, repeat. It always worked.

"No

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