Their second chance generates a dangerous kind of heatâ€¦
AÂ Cascadia WolvesÂ Story
As a cop, Michelle Slattery is familiar with the dark side of human behavior, but this case is way above her skill level. Mages have been scouring the country kidnapping witches, draining their energy, and leaving their broken bodies behind.
With Michelleâ€™s best friend among the missing, she appeals to the Owen witches, who send her to the last place sheâ€™d thought sheâ€™d see a familiar face. The werewolves.
When a witch seeking help shows up at the Pacific Pack headquarters, Josh Neelan gets the shock of his life. Sheâ€™s none other than his high school sweetheart, the one he left behind when he was bitten and turned. Their intense sexual chemistry still sizzles for a reasonâ€”sheâ€™s his mate.
As they begin to work through their issues, their rekindled romance quickly flames red hot. But the closer they get, the more dangerous the outside world becomes. And they realize magick-thieving mages are just the tip of the iceberg.
Cascadia Wolves: UNCONDITIONAL
Releasing in digital formats August 6, 2013, Trade paper February 2014
She double-checked the address before heading inside the building in downtown Portland. Allie had been missing for twenty-four hours now. Each minute that passed, the chances of finding her alive were lower and lower.
The contact at Clan Owen had sent out a call for help. They were feverishly working on several fronts on these disappearances and something else the witch sheâ€™d spoken to had only hinted at, but sounded pretty bad. Heâ€™d been sorry not to have been able to rush down and assist on the case, but heâ€™d done what he could, which was to hook her up with Others who could help.
Which had worked out because sheâ€™d followed a few leads of her ownâ€”a blue SUV that had been sighted at the apartment complex with Washington plates had also been seen at two rest stops on I-5 heading north, and when Michelle had gone to them sheâ€™d found that same mage energy signature sheâ€™d caught at Allieâ€™s apartment.
Michelle was on the right track, but the track itself was pretty narrow and faint and she was terrified of fucking up and missing something.
So there she was going through the revolving doors of the Pacific Werewolf Pack headquarters to seek their help with tracking. They had some sort of relationship with the clans now and heaven knew they had better noses than she did and there was the added plus that they knew the area.
She walked through one set of doors where two very large men stopped her. One raised a brow at her. â€śYouâ€™re armed.â€ť His voice was a rumble she felt over the surface of her skin.
â€śIâ€™m Michelle Slattery. Roseburg PD. Gage Garrity from Clan Owen sent me here to request some assistance in an investigation. My credentials are in my pocket if youâ€™ll allow me to retrieve them?â€ť
Eyebrow appeared to relax a little. â€śFirst things first. The weapon needs to be put in the bin. We donâ€™t allow anyone in the building armed.â€ť
She reached, slowly and totally within view, to remove her weapon from her under-arm holster. She popped the magazine out and made sure the chamber was empty before placing it all in the bin theyâ€™d indicated.
â€śThank you. Credentials?â€ť
Slowly, so he knew exactly what she was about, she pulled out her badge, handing it to him. He looked it over and turned his gaze and attention back to her, apparently satisfied with her documentation. â€śI havenâ€™t been told about anyone coming in, but I only just started my shift a few minutes ago. Whatâ€™s your business here?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m investigating the disappearance of a young woman.â€ť She looked around and lowered her voice. Wolves were out to the humans, but witches were still debating the whys, whens and hows of revealing their existence. â€śA witch. I believe she was taken by the mages.â€ť
He stood up straighter.
â€śIâ€™m here to appeal for some help in tracking them. Gage said you had some sort of cooperative agreement thing with them.â€ť
â€śYou smell like magick.â€ť Eyebrow gave her a once-over, clearly interested in more than the way she smelled. It was more admiring than leering. Novel and, well, nice. She wasnâ€™t used to being found attractive in connection with being a witch.
She smiled, blushing. She didnâ€™t know a whole lot about shifters, but she did know they had an affinity with witches. It wasnâ€™t a blow to her ego, or her libido, to be standing in a lobby bursting with all that earthy magick wolves carried. They were sexy and that they found her sexy? Well that was sexy too.
And interesting. â€śWhat does my magick smell like?â€ť
â€śAlways a little vanilla. Like from yellow cake.â€ť He paused and then nodded. â€śYes, you smell like yellow cake.â€ť
â€śI really like yellow cake.â€ť
â€śWho doesnâ€™t?â€ť He grinned. â€śIf you want to hang on a sec, I can call up to see who is available to meet with you.â€ť
â€śThank you. I appreciate that very much.â€ť
She moved to the mini-reception area heâ€™d indicated and checked her messages while he did whatever it was he needed to do.
â€śDo we have a problem here?â€ť
She froze before turning slowly to face none other than Josh Neelan.
Josh tried not to gape at the witch whose ass heâ€™d just been admiring. But it wasnâ€™t her ass that stunned him into long silence as he took her in from the tips of her sensible work boots, up shapely legs, the nip at her waist, the swell of her titsâ€”he remembered those quite wellâ€”and into her face.
She blinked and he scented her blush. His wolf pushed at the human in charge. Heâ€™d wanted her back then. More than he should have. Apparently his wolf agreed about wanting her now.
Well now. A hundred yearsâ€™ worth of memories fell down all around him at the sound of his name on her lips.
He sucked in a breath and it was filled with her. And with her magick. Fuck. She was a witch?
â€śI take it you two know each other?â€ť Shaun, one of his wolves who had the door shift that afternoon, spoke, his brow rising.
â€śYes. Michelle and I are both from Roseburg. She used to be a cheerleader.â€ť He smiled at that memory. Her in tight sweaters and short skirts. Christ.
Shaun looked her over. â€śYeah, I can see that.â€ť
Josh did not like it one bit that Shaun looked at his Michelle that way. He gave the other wolf a look, but Shaun wasnâ€™t cowed.
But the amusement heâ€™d expected to see in her features wasnâ€™t there. Just hurt and devastation and most likely heâ€™d put it there.
â€śYouâ€™re here because you need our help?â€ť He took her upper arm and moved her toward the elevators, keying in his code.
She nodded and disentangled herself from his hold.
â€śLetâ€™s go up to my office to talk.â€ť He led her into the elevator and punched his floor number and his code before turning back to her. â€śDamn, itâ€™s really good to see you.â€ť
He pulled her into a hug, burying his face in her neck. His entire system went wild at her scent as he dragged it in. Her body felt good against his. Heâ€™d thought heâ€™d forgotten her, what it was to have her in his arms. But heâ€™d been so, so wrong.
He pulled back as they arrived on his floor, his wolf displeased that she hadnâ€™t relaxed into the embrace.
â€śThis way.â€ť He led her through the halls, finding himself having to stop from touching her. His wolf was agitated, pressing against his human skin, fighting for supremacy because it wanted contact with her.
He was better than this. He shoved the wolf back as he indicated a couch near the windows. â€śSit. Do you want something to drink? Are you hungry?â€ť
â€śGage Garrity from Clan Owen sent me to ask for your assistance. My best friend was taken from her apartment by mages yesterday. There were signs of a struggle. I followed what little bit of a trail I could find up here. You guys are great trackers. I need your help.â€ť
Mages. Great. He poked his head out of his office, speaking to his assistant. â€śCan you get us some coffee and sandwiches?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t need to eat. I need to find Allie.â€ť
He sat next to her on the couch she perched upon, and she edged away a little, pressing against the arm to keep her distance.
â€śThis is dangerous. More dangerous than you probably know. Of course Iâ€™ll help. I need the facts first so we can figure out whatâ€™s happening. Youâ€™re a witch. You never told me?â€ť
â€śYou werenâ€™t around to tell. And I know itâ€™s dangerous. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m so worried.â€ť
â€śI need to explain. About leaving Roseburg, and you.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t bother. Thatâ€™s long past. Very ancient history and all that jazz. You moved on. Looks like to a far better life. Iâ€™m not here for that anyway.â€ť
He didnâ€™t want her to think it was about her. He hated that part. Heâ€™d left for his sanity, for the safety and security of those around him. Heâ€™d left to step into a new life and he didnâ€™t regret that part. Still, it agitated him that she was upset in any way. And she was. She could say all the right words, but he could feel it in the tension of her body, hear it in the tone of her voice. Could scent the acrid burn of her emotions.
â€śI was bitten my first semester of school. Itâ€™sâ€¦difficult to be changed when youâ€™re a nineteen-year-old. I didnâ€™t know how to handle it. The wolf who changed me was out of control and his Alpha came to find me. They brought me back to their pack house. It took a year to learn how to handle the wolf. I couldnâ€™t go back to Roseburg. That part of my life was done. We werenâ€™t out then. What was I going to tell you? You were still in high school.â€ť Heâ€™d had to leave everything and everyone behind. And in the end, it had been the right choice.
She let out a long sigh and he had to force himself not to push.
He changed the subject. â€śTell me about your friend. Were the police called? Why are you here instead of the local coven people? Why isnâ€™t Gage here? Youâ€™re part of their territory. This is big deal, big bad stuff. You could get hurt. Or worse.â€ť
â€śI am the police. Iâ€™ve been a cop for seven years now. And from what I understand, Owen is doing all it can with all the disappearances. Gage sent me here but said to remain in touch and that theyâ€™d send help when they could.â€ť
The food arrived, and he found himself sort of shocked at the bone-deep need to be sure she ate it.
â€śHow did you know it was mages?â€ť He indicated the food. â€śYou should eat. If weâ€™re going out tracking, youâ€™ll need the energy.â€ť
She frowned slightly, but took a bite and then several more.
â€śI knew it was mages because Owen did these classes, taught the people in our coven how to detect their energy. Once you see it, the mage energy, you canâ€™t mistake it for anything else.â€ť She shuddered. â€śAllieâ€”you might remember herâ€”Allison Packer? Sheâ€™s been my best friend since third grade. Her mother got a call from a neighbor. She went over to Allieâ€™s place, saw the mess and called me.â€ť
â€śTell me about what you found at the scene.â€ť
â€śTell me why youâ€™re so bossy about it.â€ť
He wasnâ€™t the only one whoâ€™d changed over the years. This Michelle was firmly in charge of herself. So sexy. He shouldnâ€™t be thinking about that. But he couldnâ€™t stop.
â€śIâ€™m the Enforcer here. Iâ€™m a sort of cop too. These mages are a way bigger issue than you know.â€ť He scrubbed his hands over his face, trying to work out how to send her away from the danger.
â€śYou are so not going to convince me to go home like a good little girl.â€ť
â€śYou always could read my mind.â€ť
She could mainly because he wore his emotions on his face so clearly. Not so much now, but she knew, given the way he was talking, that he figured he could take over and send her away and that was not going to happen. He was obviously used to being obeyed. Ha. Heâ€™d better buckle up because she wasnâ€™t the blind-obedience type.
â€śSo stop dicking me around and tell me what is going on.â€ť
â€śThis is bad, Michelle.â€ť
â€śGive me details. Help me. Help me find her, damn it.â€ť
He blew out a breath.
Josh had been a big guy in school. Broad shouldered. His honey blond hair had been very short then. But not now. It reached his shoulders and matched the neat goatee he wore. He was sun-kissed. Which only highlighted the pale green eyes. He was still big, but now he was a man.
Ha. A man. He was a freaking werewolf. God.
He smelled good. Wore some seriously well-fitting and expensive clothes. Given the size of his office and the view it came with, Josh was someone within Pacific. That and the respect sheâ€™d seen him given.
Gone was the genial, laid-back football player sheâ€™d loved so hard when she was young. He was bossy now. Way bossier than he had been then. She was around bossy men all day, most cops tended to be alpha personalities. She dealt with it, knew how to handle them, how to push back when it was necessary. She was an alpha too after all.
But Josh? He emanated that energy that only his kind of alpha male had. Charismatic. Powerful. He commanded attention simply with his presence.
Josh the man made her tingly in ways she couldnâ€™t have even begun to dream about when she was sixteen. Still, she wasnâ€™t going to be managed or handled, even by a man as searingly sexy as the one next to her was.
â€śI can scent it, you know.â€ť His voice had gone low, stroking over her senses like a caress.
â€śHuh?â€ť She knew she blushed.
â€śArousal.â€ť He leaned in very close, and she told herselfâ€”quite sternlyâ€”to get up and move out of his reach. And sat right where she was, fascinated by the way his nostrils flared a little and his eyes had gone an otherworldly shade of green. â€śI can scent the rush of blood to your skin in your blush. The way you just got all wet.â€ť He paused, breathing deep again, and she nearly moaned. She should be horrified, but that was not what was happening at all.
She swallowed the moan back. â€śIâ€™m in charge of my parts. Tell me about whatâ€™s going on.â€ť Her voice was breathy, so not authoritative.
He smiled. A slight tip upward at the corner of his mouth where his dimple showed. She wanted to lick it. The moment stretched between them in a way she couldnâ€™t find the energy to disentangle herself from.
She sat back, getting some distance, and his hand shot out, far quicker than sheâ€™d anticipated, latching on to her knee. She gulped, her heart thundering as she licked her lips.
â€śAllie,â€ť she said out loud, and he nodded, but kept his hand on her knee.
â€śThe mages have been working with turned witches. In an increasingly organized fashion. All across the countryâ€”hell, Canada tooâ€”witches have gone missing, only to be found a few days later.â€ť He shut up and she shook her head.
â€śI need to know the details. Iâ€™m a cop, Josh. I canâ€™t find herâ€¦I canâ€™t protect my people if I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on.â€ť
â€śTheyâ€™re found dead. Totally drained. The numbers have been increasing and theyâ€™ve recently begun kidnapping Weres too.â€ť
She knew sheâ€™d paled, could feel the blood rush away from her face as shock smacked her. â€śGood God.â€ť
â€śYes. Since youâ€™ve spoken with Gage, you know weâ€™ve got some contacts with them and Clan Gennessee to the south. The witches are aware and working on a unified defense. Back east where this all first started, weâ€™ve created a coordinated effort with the de La Vega Jamboree. Jaguar shifters,â€ť he added when she looked confused. â€śAnd of course with National. Thatâ€™s the sort of united governing pack for all wolves in the United States. Anyway, Cascadia, thatâ€™s the big pack in Seattle, theyâ€™ve recently lost two of their wolves. The cats have had similar losses in the major cities. Weâ€™ve had some stalking, but so far our people have been safe. We think they might be working with human anti-Other hate groups.â€ť
â€śAre you fucking kidding me?â€ť
He started and then laughed. â€śGrown-up, gorgeous woman and sheâ€™s got a potty mouth? Be still my heart.â€ť
She sniffed in his direction. â€śIf anything deserved all the big bad cuss words, Josh, itâ€™s this. How long? I mean, I know the longer we donâ€™t find her, the lower our chances are that sheâ€™s alive. But tell me what the odds are.â€ť
He swallowed hard and she knew he did not want to say anything.
â€śThe longest case that I know of was five days. And when they found her, she was in very bad shape and spent two weeks in the hospital.â€ť
She stood and began to pace. â€śWell then, we need to get going.â€ť
â€śThereâ€™s no way I can convince you to stay at your hotel while we track, is there?â€ť
â€śNo. Which would be dumb anyway. I can see the mage energy and you canâ€™t. The last place I saw it was at a rest stop in Aurora, Baldock, northbound.â€ť
â€śAre the state police looking for the vehicle?â€ť
She nodded. â€śI sent out an alert yesterday afternoon. Though I had to do some fancy footwork with just why I knew that particular car was of interest. Canâ€™t very well say I followed my othersight up the freeway.â€ť
â€śWitches really need to come out. Itâ€™s awfully hard to hide what you are in the modern world.â€ť
She shrugged. â€śIâ€™m not in charge of any of that. I only know ten other witches. Well, eleven if you count Gage, and I only know him from one phone call. All those decisions are made far above my pay grade.â€ť
He sighed. â€śYeah. I get that too. With these disappearances, well I canâ€™t see how it can go on much longer. Itâ€™s come out on your own or get outed.â€ť
â€śEasy for you to say. I guess youâ€™re part of that pay grade Iâ€™m not in. So? We gonna get on this or what?â€ť
â€śStep one is to go to that rest stop. You said you saw their energy at two stops?â€ť
â€śI pulled off at every single one between Roseburg and here. There may be more north of Portland but I wanted to come here first.â€ť
â€śGood idea. Letâ€™s go to the first one so I can get a good scent, and weâ€™ll head to the second one so I can compare. I just need to stop by my apartment so I can get changed, and weâ€™ll get moving.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t you have minions to do this sort of thing?â€ť
He snorted. â€śYes. But I donâ€™t want to assign this to anyone else.â€ť
â€śJosh, itâ€™s just a job.â€ť She needed him to know there was nothing beyond this. Heâ€™d wrecked her heart already, she wasnâ€™t about to give him another shot.
He paused, going very still, the pupils of his eyes nearly swallowing all the green. She sucked in a breath and got pine and loam. â€śOh my God, I just smelled your wolf, didnâ€™t I? Thatâ€™s so cool.â€ť
The flash in his gaze sent a shiver through her, and she had to ball her fists to keep from touching him. Damn it, she had to not be fascinated. No. She needed to remember two things. One, he left her life without even a word, and two, her best friend was missing and in grave danger.
â€śIâ€™ll help you, but I have a price.â€ť
She rolled her eyes at him. â€śAre you serious? Never mind.â€ť She grabbed her bag. He took her hand and turned her to face him.
â€śYou donâ€™t even want to hear my offer?â€ť
Sighing, she gave him the get on with it hand sign.
â€śDinner. After we go to the rest stops. Let me take you to dinner. Let me get to know you again. Catch up. Itâ€™s beenâ€¦â€ť
â€śTwelve years. Itâ€™s been twelve years. And thereâ€™s no catching up. Thatâ€™s over.â€ť
She knew him well enough to understand the set of his shoulders meant the discussion was not closed. But whatever.
â€śWeâ€™ll see. Come on. Iâ€™m going to have one of my people come along with us so more than one of us has the scent. Then I can send them north.â€ť He began to gather his things with one hand while he shoved another sandwich into his face. On most men it would have made her cringe a little. But this one managed to make it look sexy.
Why couldnâ€™t he have lost all his hair or gotten a huge beer belly? Why did he have to look so damned good?
He escorted her out, his hand at the small of her back. She quickened her pace but he did as well, keeping contact. â€śHold up a moment. I need to speak to my people.â€ť
She could have suggested she meet him downstairs, but in truth she wanted to see how his operation worked. It wasnâ€™t as if she had regular dealings with the werewolf pack structure. Or werewolves at all.
They had a sort of magick too, she noticed as they entered a large room with several desks occupied by large men. Lots of large when it came to werewolves, apparently. They all came to attention when Josh entered the space, gazes straight to him, waiting.
â€śWho has some open time to help me with a tracking project?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve got some.â€ť Tall, dark and gorgeous stood, tipping his chin in Joshâ€™s direction.
â€śGreat. Damon, this is Michelle Slattery, sheâ€™s an old friend and a cop from Roseburg. Sheâ€™s here tracking a missing woman, a witch we think has been taken by mages.â€ť
He took her hand, engulfing it in his, and she wasnâ€™t a tiny woman by any means. â€śIâ€™m happy to help however I can.â€ť
â€śBring GiGi with you. I want everyone working with a partner until weâ€™re clear of this mage business.â€ť
A tall blonde approached, smiling at Michelle as she thrust a hand in her direction. â€śNice to meet you.â€ť
â€śMeet me at my place in forty-five minutes. Weâ€™ll leave from there.â€ť
He spoke quietly with another guy for a bit and then turned back. â€śReady?â€ť
Once they got to the elevator she spoke again. â€śI have a car.â€ť
â€śWhy donâ€™t I follow you to your hotel and you can drop it off and we can drive together?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t have a hotel yet. I came straight here. I might go north after we go to those rest stops today. I need to keep moving.â€ť
â€śHow long has it been since youâ€™ve slept?â€ť
â€śSo anyway, why donâ€™t I drive and then I can drop you back here when we finish up?â€ť
â€śWhy do you have to resist so hard?â€ť
â€śWhat does it matter? My best friend is missing and she could be dead. I canâ€™t just fucking sleep and I donâ€™t understand why it matters to you anyway.â€ť
God. Her voice nearly cracked and he totally heard it. Truth was, she hadnâ€™t slept more than those four hours before sheâ€™d gone over to Allieâ€™s place the day before. She was freaked and exhausted and on edge, and it was all bad business for a cop to get that way.
But what else could she do?
The guys back in Roseburg were on it. Her boss had given her some time to come up and look for Allie, but heâ€™d made it clear there was an official investigation and she was too close to the missing person to be effectively on it.
â€śIâ€™m driving. You can stay in my guest room. And I care because I care about you. I never stopped caring about you. I left Roseburg behind but it didnâ€™t have a thing to do with you.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not staying in your guest room.â€ť
â€śWhere are you parked?â€ť
â€śI found a street spot about two blocks up.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll drive you to it, and you can follow me to my place and park there.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re very bossy,â€ť she muttered. It was a good plan, but he was so pushy about it.
â€śYeah, Iâ€™ve heard that a few times.â€ť
His car was waiting at the curb because someone had brought it out for him. â€śMust be nice.â€ť
He grinned as he opened her door and she slid in. â€śIt is.â€ť
And so of course he lived in some swanky, cool loft-type building a few minutes away from the office. Heâ€™d told her to go inside the gate when it opened and to park in spot fourteen so she did. She sat there in the silence for a while.
She needed to hold herself together. To keep her eyes open and not miss anything. It didnâ€™t matter that she was tired. That sheâ€™d been slapped in the face with one of the worst memories of her life. What mattered was finding Allie.
When all this was over, when Allie was back at home, Michelle could break down. Until then, there simply wasnâ€™t time.
He rapped on her window, concern on his features, and she did her best to put her cop face back on as she got out.