Red Fire by Christy Poff by Christy Poff - Read Online

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Summary

Valeria thought she knew about wolves - after all, she was considered an expert until strange things began happening around her. After a life-altering event in her life, she finds out she had been mistaken about everything she believed in.Gabriel needed to leave his home, heading for the peace of North Carolina. He wanted to settle down and not have to worry about alpha politics. That changed within moments of his arrival.When their paths cross and they learn their destinies, will they be strong enough to survive a red fire and the ones who plot to destroy everything they believe in? Genre: Erotic Paranormal / Romance Rating: Erotica - Controversial (Contains adult content, language, and graphic sex) Read the incredible Paranormal Erotic Romance EYES OF DARKNESS series from Christy Poff! DANTE'S FLAME [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 1] SPARK OF THE WOLF [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 2] LOVE HURTS [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 3] RED FIRE [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 4] WHITE ICE [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 5] NIGHT WISH [EYES OF DARKNESS BOOK 6]
Published: Torrid Books on
ISBN: 9781593747718
List price: $3.99
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Red Fire - Christy Poff

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artwork.

Prologue

Welcome home.

Thanks, it’s good to be back.

We have so much to tell you, Elizabeth Hawthorne said.

What did we miss? Sean McMurray asked.

Hunter traced the lab in Chicago after he and Gabriel opened the safe in that madman’s house. Once the fire department put out the blaze leveling the rented mansion to the ground, they found a lot of evidence, along with the name and address of the doctor and the lab.

What happened? Sean asked.

Since they couldn’t come out and state the reason why they wanted the operation closed down, I persuaded Lockwood to let us take care of it. All the packs throughout North America have searched for that place for years. Gabriel and Damon went to Chicago, where they met several members from… Julian Hawthorne explained.

Julian, what happened? Sean asked impatiently.

The lab mysteriously went up in flames. The fire burned so hot, there was no evidence left. Those involved will never hurt us again.

Sean breathed a sigh of relief, but the Holts’ involvement concerned him. The pack’s mission had been to peacefully exist in the human world. At least, Julian had originally explained it as such.

I want to talk to Gabriel and Damon.

We figured you would, plus they have information for you and Lockwood, also.

Good, I’ll take care of everything when I go back to the office.

* * * *

Gabriel Holt waited impatiently to see the new prince of the pack. Although Gabriel respected him and had come to like him, Sean McMurray intimidated him. Of course, one reason could be McMurray almost ripped his neck out when they fought over McMurray’s wife, Rhiannon.

He went over everything he needed to tell Sean about their mission in Chicago to make sure he wouldn’t forget anything. He looked at his younger brother, Damon and hoped he’d make it through this in one piece. Gabriel knew he could handle his future but his brother worried him. Gabriel smiled knowing his brother would, more than likely, remain in Colorado while Gabriel himself could not and would head east.

Gabriel, how are you feeling?

Fine, Julian, no worse for wear. How did the prince take the news?

How else would you expect? He’s pleased the threats are gone but worries about the notoriety.

We did what we had to do. No one…

I know, but if it were me, I’d have the same reservations.

Gabriel had to agree with Julian—Doctor Julian Hawthorne—the pack’s former leader, though after stepping down, he remained as their physician. A wise man, Gabriel respected him.

Gabriel, Sean’s ready to see us, Damon announced.

Here goes nothing.

Gabe…

I know, he said, I’ve already come up with a solution to all this.

Don’t do anything foolish.

It’s not, honestly, Gabe assured Hawthorne. For once in my life, I’ve made a good decision.

* * * *

Gabriel, Damon, good to see you both.

We’re glad to be home, Damon said, smiling.

Tell me what happened, Sean McMurray, prince of the Aspen Pack, wanted to know. Thanks to his investigative training, Sean treated this session as that—an investigation on an informal level.

Damon, Ryman and I followed the information Lockwood and I found in the safe at the estate. It led us to the lab outside Chicago where Gliickman threatened to send your wife. Several members of other packs helped us take care of it, and the doctors—thanks to Julian’s network.

How? Sean asked. An Aspen detective and former Special Ops in the military, he had to make sure Gabriel Holt’s actions would not come back on the pack he now led.

Trust me, Prince. We made it look like a lab accident. Once the guys from a Canadian pack set the high temperature fires…

Will any evidence lead back to the pack or Lockwood? Sean asked, needing reassurance. Hunter Lockwood partnered with him in the police department while being Sean’s closest friend and ally. Lockwood knew their secrets, the only human outside the pack with that kind of explosive knowledge.

No, we’re all safe. The fire burned extremely hot leaving no evidence except the point of origin. The heat obliterated everything.

Good, Sean said quietly.

Sean?

Yes?

I’m leaving here.

Why?

Too many memories and you don’t need me competing with you for her, or as Alpha…

But what about…

No, Damon will be fine here with the pack. I learned my lesson when you damn near ripped my throat out over your mate.

You have everything here though.

But the one thing I want, and she’s with you.

Gabe, I…

No, I should have known better than to fight our laws. You are the one Rhiannon was meant for—not me. Besides, I need time to get myself together.

I didn’t want this to happen.

I know and I appreciate it. I can’t keep challenging and losing. It’s not fair to you, her, or the rest of the pack. We’ve had our run-ins and you’ve taught me a great deal, which I appreciate, but I can’t keep pressing my luck. It’s the only solution—at least for now. You are prince and pack leader—I bow to your alpha.

You’re always welcome here.

I know. It’s the only reason I can leave with a clear conscience.

If you need anything…

Thanks.

Where can we…

I’ll be in North Carolina. I bought some property there several years ago. Lots of land and it’s secluded, so I won’t be outed.

Good luck, man.

Good luck to you, Prince. You’ve got a good wife, a growing family, two important jobs and a lot to make sure never gets out.

The two men shook hands. Gabriel Holt turned to leave, then stopped.

Tell Rhi good-bye for me?

Sure, Sean said, agreeing it would be best. Gabriel knew the man’s jealousy when it came to his wife—Gabe had the scars to prove it.

Thanks, Gabe said, then left.

* * * *

Gabriel Holt returned to the hunting lodge he owned on the edge of The Sanctuary. His brother had agreed to look after it until he returned—if ever.

Looking around, he knew he would miss it but times had changed and he needed a new place to settle down to live his life. Though Sean wanted him to stay, Gabriel could not bear looking at the one woman he nearly died for when he challenged her mate—Sean McMurray. They’d been destined soulmates and Gabe had to live with it. Julian and Elizabeth Hawthorne both told him the same thing—his mate waited for him. Yeah, right…

And I’ll see a red wolf, he muttered. Gabe doubted he’d ever find his destined soulmate, resigning himself to a fact he’d have to live with for a long time. Tall, dark-haired with killer blue eyes—the description did him no good when it came to women, especially around Aspen. One night stands satisfied his cravings but not the sexual hunger he lived with on a daily basis—a curse of his lupine heritage.

Gabe went through each room winding up back in the living room of his spacious home, committing it to memory. A knock on the door brought him back to reality.

Am I disturbing you?

Julian, never. You’re always welcome in my home.

I see you’re almost ready.

A few last minute details and I’m gone.

You’ll need this, Gabriel.

What is it? Gabe asked, taking the envelope.

It’s an introduction to the pack leader in Northeastern North Carolina. His name is Deacon.

Deacon what?

Just Deacon. His territory covers area from Richmond, Virginia to the South Carolina state line.

Impressive.

Their pack is more spread out than the ones out here. The members fit in where they can.

My place overlooks the water at Albemarle Sound. How close are we?

"A few miles apart. He owns a huge estate like ours, only they call it The Plantation. I’ve already advised him of your arrival."

So I don’t rock the boat, so to speak?

Something like that. If you need help, it’s a good thing to have him in your corner. Not only that, we need the alliance between the packs intact.

I knew there were underlying reasons.

Julian snickered.

As long as you keep your rebellious tendencies in cheque…

I know. I learned my lesson with Sean.

Good and remember—call me if you need anything. Anything at all.

Thanks, Julian.

The two men shook hands, then Julian left Gabriel to finish what he needed to do before he left Aspen, Colorado behind for Albemarle Sound, North Carolina.

A few minutes later, he locked the door of his lodge, put his bags in the rear of his Hummer 2 pickup and closed the tailgate. He drove away, never looking back.

Chapter 1

Valeria Dunn woke to sunshine filling her bedroom. She’d slept most of the morning after a long night of partying. Her colleague at the wolf sanctuary had left for another position at a wolf haven in Wyoming and the entire staff spent the night sending her off in style.

Her head hurt from too much Jack Daniels and she silently prayed for guidance to survive it. She’d never been able to drink a lot, but then again, she usually didn’t party hard like the night before either. If she remembered correctly, the last time she had was the night she graduated from college a decade before.

Val pulled the sheet over her head, easing the glare from the bright sunlight. Why?

She closed her eyes, the headache easing some, though not much. She groaned when the phone rang deciding to let the answering machine pick up the call.

Val, it’s Stacy, call me when you’re up to it.

Val heard the click when the machine shut off, relieved she could talk to her girlfriend later. She felt worse, wondering how she could get a cup of tea to ease her stomach. She peeked out from under the covers, saw her robe on the chair near the wall and willed herself to move. She crawled across the bed, her headache worse. For some reason, her eyes felt more sensitive to light than usual.

Smelling the familiar aroma of properly steeped tea, she looked over the footboard of her four-poster bed and found a tray sitting on the bench in front of it. It hit her how the smell filled her nostrils so completely, another new sensation. Has this all been a result of getting drunk last night?

Well, at least Mary’s on the ball, she said to herself, grateful for her British housekeeper, Mary Fritch.

Cautiously, she leaned over the footboard of her bed, suddenly realizing she wore nothing at all. Very unusual for her, her nudity felt extremely comfortable to her. Shrugging her new discoveries off as resulting from her drunken binge, she carefully poured a cup of tea.

You are in danger…

What? she asked, looking around but finding no one in the room with her. For several days, those same four words came to her—a warning of some kind only… Wait a minute, who’s talking in my mind?

Trust no one but your mate…

My mate? What mate? she scoffed.

He will find you. Until then, be careful…

Of what? You never tell me what, she said, frustrated.

You are unique. Be careful…

Why won’t you tell me more? Answer my questions, damn it! she screamed, grabbing her head.

Miss Valeria, are you all right? Mary asked, running in worried about her mistress’ distress.

I’m fine. It must be from the hangover.

Do you want your robe or a gown?

Valeria looked at herself, then Mary. For some reason, she ignored her nudity, unaffected by it as she once had been.

No, I’m all right, really.

Do you need anything?

No, thank you, Valeria answered. Mary left her and, after she finished her tea, Val stretched out. Startled, she moved a little, unsure of her feelings. It felt like every nerve end touched the soft satin of the sheet. What the…

Valeria slid off the bed, padding into the bathroom. She stopped and gazed at herself in her full-length mirror, shocked. Never before had she noticed anything like what she saw reflected back right now. Her legs and arms appeared slightly muscular but not disgusting, like women who constantly worked out. She gasped when she noticed the subtle fullness of her breasts. After closer examination, she liked what she saw but couldn’t believe her eyes. It has to be the hangover.

No, it’s not the hangover.

What?

Look closer…

Val looked at her eyes and froze. Around her emerald green eyes, she saw a faint yellow ring. She closed her eyes, attributing this to her imagination and the night before. Quickly, she turned and stepped into the shower, hoping it would help but it didn’t. Things only got worse—no, more intense. She felt every drop of water hitting her overly sensitive body.

What the hell is going on?

* * * *

Gabriel pulled into the drive leading up to his North Carolina home. He’d had it built as a getaway from the cold of Aspen, never realizing it would become home to him. He parked the H2 pickup, then unloaded his bags and walked up to the front door. Unlocking it, he walked inside, dropping his bags and looking around.

At his feet, he found a hand-addressed envelope. Picking it up, he opened it and pulled out a single sheet of paper.

Call me as soon as you arrive. We need to talk ASAP!

Signed Deacon, Gabriel felt the pack leader’s intimidating power rise from the paper. Does anyone ever turn you down?

To keep peace, Gabriel called Deacon, then took a deep breath.

Deacon, a soft voice answered.

Sir, it’s Gabriel Holt. I just got in and found your message.

How was your trip?

Long but enjoyable.

Good. I need to talk to you as soon as you feel up to it. It’s important, Deacon said, getting straight to the point.

When, sir?

"How about dinner tonight here at The Plantation?"

Sounds good. I’ll need directions.

You’ve been on the road long enough. How about I send my car for you?

Sounds like a plan. Thank you.

See you at seven.

Yes, sir.

Gabriel ended the call, suddenly feeling very small in a large, unfamiliar world. Was my coming here a mistake?

The grandfather clock to his right chimed one. He decided to go for a run, then take a shower and get some sleep. He wanted to be on his game when he met with Deacon.

He went downstairs to the rec room. Its huge windows overlooked the sound, though it remained secluded from any nosy onlookers. He went outside on the small terrace and breathed in the fresh air of Albemarle Sound. Shedding his clothes, he relaxed, letting his body change from human to gray wolf.

Once he changed, Gabriel bounded off, the breezes blowing through his thick pelt. He followed a path to a small cove at the edge of the property. The beauty and hidden wonders of it had been a huge factor when he purchased the property. He took a quick drink from the cool water, then padded over to the waterfall.

On a previous jaunt, he’d discovered a cave hidden behind it. When he ran, he always wound up here feeling safe. He had been able to find the same thing Sean and Rhiannon had found in Alberta at the prince’s cabin. He smiled to himself, his life good.

In the cave, he laid down on a small rug. After finding this place, he’d laid out the mat and set up a cot for the times he needed to be alone. This coziness sometimes did more for him than his huge house with its cathedral ceilings did.

Gabriel relaxed, getting some much-needed rest. An hour later, his internal clock woke him. He stretched, then returned to his house, changed back and went inside. On his way upstairs, he grabbed his bags and headed to the master bedroom, where he dropped them in front of the dresser. He stripped again, headed into the shower and let the heat of it relax his aching body more.

Toweling dry afterwards, he hung the towel on the rack and slipped his naked body into bed. Quickly, Gabriel fell back to sleep, just not as soundly as when he slept in the cave. In his dream, he saw a beautiful woman—red-haired and feisty. Who are you?

Gabriel saw her image, wanting her. His body reacted for her in ways he wished it could have for Rhiannon. His aching cock woke him, needing freedom from where it throbbed between his hard body and the mattress. He rolled to his back, catching sight of his hard-on for a woman he didn’t even know. Damn it!

Gabriel got up and took another shower—a cold one this time.

He still could not get her out of his mind.

* * * *

At six-thirty, Deacon’s driver knocked on the front door. A few minutes later, Gabriel settled into the back of the limo heading to The Plantation. Located near Windsor and more inland from the coastline, the drive took about half an hour.

Gabriel checked his pocket making sure he hadn’t forgotten Julian’s letter of introduction. He intended to give Deacon the letter, even though Deacon had initiated their meeting, already calling the shots. Knowing how important peace between the packs was, Gabriel refused to be the one to bring on tension. He’d done some stupid things in his life and had no intentions of adding to the list.

The limo pulled to a stop and he stepped out of the safe haven and prepared himself to meet Deacon. The front door sat open waiting for him to enter. He walked inside the antebellum mansion, feeling strangely comfortable and at home—sort of like he did at The Sanctuary.

Gabriel, welcome, the soft voice said. Gabriel looked toward the direction it came from coming face-to-face with a man who reminded him of Deion Sanders. He stood six foot one and, Gabriel