Winter of the Wolf
by Cherise Sinclair
||Erotic Paranormal Romance
||VanScoy Publishing Group
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Winter of the Wolf
Paranormal erotic menage
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.
~ Excerpt for Winter of the Wolf ~
She signed the rental papers and handed over a check. God, three weeks sounded like such a long, long time to be away. After taking an ibuprofen—she’d really hit that wall hard—she showered and had to force herself to stop scrubbing. Would there ever come a time she didn’t smell that creature’s stench on her skin? Didn’t feel soiled?
After unpacking, she lay on the bed, trying to relax and failing miserably. This wasn’t her place. It was all wrong. She wanted to go home. Not happening, so get over it, Bree.
Then again, she’d never had a home as a kid, so maybe she’d skipped the homesick stage and needed to go through it now. Her lips curved in a wry smile. Naptime would be good right about now, too.
But she couldn’t keep from staring at the metal bars on the window. They looked easy to open from inside, so could someone—something—open one from outside?
Unable to shake the thought, she raised the window, then went outside. Stretching her arm past the window and bars, she tried to reach the clasp that would let her push the bars open. Couldn’t. She put her face against the glass to check how far her fingers fell short.
“If you’re breaking in, try the door. It’s open.” The man’s voice sounded like gravel.
She spun and bumped into the cabin wall. Pain ripped through her shoulder. Darn it. Bracing her feet, she raised her fists and got a look at the person.
Her spine chilled as if gripped in an icy hand. Willing her lungs to work again, she stared at him. The man was even taller than her landlord, and one cheek had the same knife-like blue mark. Sinister white scars marked his neck. His forearms. His powerful hands. His eyes were so dark a brown they were almost black with a terrifying coldness—like there was no human home in there.
The guy looked like he killed puppies for fun.
“I’m not breaking in,” she said, trying not to act like a petrified rabbit. Slowly, she eased away from the wall and lowered her fists. “This is my cabin.”
Straight black hair reached past his shoulders, and he had the dusky complexion of someone of mixed Native American descent. His brows lifted. “We have a renter?”
We? Please say this cruel-looking character wasn’t her landlord. He wasn’t anything like Shay. Well, other than being seriously huge. Shay’d been pretty nice, all in all; this guy looked like he could rip apart a bear. With his bare hands. “Shay rented me this cabin.” Not you.
“I’m Zeb Damron. Shay and I run this place together.” He loomed over her—far too much like her nightmares—and held out his hand. “You got a name?”
“Breanne Gallagher.” She gritted her teeth. I am fine. I am. I can touch him. She’d been through this fear as a teen after Mr. Harvey tried to force her. She just had to gut it out again. So when his scarred-up, callused hand engulfed hers, she squeezed hard, trying to crush his bones and show him what a tough bitch she was.
His expression didn’t change. “I make you nervous.” There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt in his voice, but no triumph either. Just a flat statement.
She jerked her hand away. “Well—”
“Don’t lie.” His nostrils flared. “Or would terrified be a better word?”
Definitely. Her teeth gritted together. “Maybe I just don’t like pushy guys.” Oh yeah, Bree, piss off the huge landlord.
The corner of his mouth turned up slightly. “Sorry.”
“I—” How had he gone from scaring her to making her feel rude? “You… There’s no one around—” Good going, dummy, point out how isolated this is. “You’re big. And a guy.”
“No male would harm a female,” he said, his wording uncannily like Shay’s. His dark brows drew together, his eyes intent. “You don’t believe that.”
“I know it’s not true.” The weight on her, pinning her down. A shudder ran through her.
He folded his arms over his chest and studied her. The rolled-up sleeves of his flannel shirt displayed wrists as thick as her upper arms. “Little female, if you are bothered by a male, tell me. I’ll take care of him for you.” His cheek creased. “Part of the Wildwood service.”
He was serious. He was really serious. How could a man scare her spitless and make her feel safe at the same time? But he smelled of clean pine forests and nothing like the monster. She managed almost a smile. “Um. Right. Thank you.”
He nodded and moved back into the forest. Silently.
* * * * *
Zeb walked into the lodge and sniffed. The scent of beef and onion filling the air was enough to make a hungry wolf howl. He found Shay in the kitchen, stirring something in a Crockpot. Every counter was covered with vegetable peelings, meat, and dirty dishes.
Zeb tried not to wince. “Supper?”
“Aye. I found the grocery store. Tiny place in the center of town. And you’re cooking tomorrow, a mhac.”
Zeb growled. Shay’d grown up in one of the more isolated Daonain villages that still clung to the older ways and languages. Over the last two years, Zeb had learned a few words. “I’m not your fucking son.”
Son, my ass. Typical dominant wolf, going all paternalistic. He needed a pack to babysit, not a partner. “You’re not even ten years older than me.”
Shay snorted. “I feel older. By the way, I rented out the next-door cabin.”
“Met her. Pretty little human. Scared though.” She’d triggered every protective instinct in his body—only it had been him she was afraid of. Zeb checked the fridge. Shay had bought dark and light beer. Good male. He grabbed one of each and took a chair at the kitchen table, pushing away the scattered newspapers. Beer or not, having a person in his living space was weird. And this messy mongrel? Fuck.
“Definitely scared.” After putting the lid on the pot, Shay sat down and rested his injured leg on an adjacent chair. “She acted like a trapped mouse when I blocked a door in the cabin.”
The dark malty beer was cold with a smooth bite. “Huh. Figured it was me. I told her that.”
“Zeb, you have all the tact of a dwarf.”
Now that hurt. Dwarves were the rudest of all the OtherFolk, even worse than gnomes. “She said I was big and that the cabin was isolated. At least she didn’t run away screaming.” Zeb sipped his beer. Yeah, he’d seen terror in those big blue eyes, but she’d stood her ground. She’d even raised those little fists. Admirable.
Shay’s brows drew together. “Isolated? Could she be afraid of males?”
“Maybe. She moved as if she was damaged, smelled of fresh blood, and not the moon cycle type. Then again, she’s female—they’re not designed to be understood.” He never spent time with females outside of Gathering night.
“Aye. And human. Their mating patterns are strange.” Shay rubbed his chin. “We should find out if she has a reason to worry. Wouldn’t want some asshole coming here and bothering our first renter.”
“You do the finding out. I’ll instruct the male on manners.”
“I’ll talk, and we both beat the shit out of him.”
Zeb scowled. Shrugged. Whatever. As long as he didn’t have to try to quiz her. Tact wasn’t on his short list of talents.
Shay set his drink down. “Supper’s still got a while to cook. Let’s do some scouting.”
Be good to know what to expect before the next new moon. Most of the snow was gone, but tracks might remain in the wet dirt. Hellhounds were heavy. “Your leg up for it?”
“By Herne’s hooves, do I look like I need a momma?”
They stripped and went out the side door into an area concealed by trees and bushes. The previous owner had been a careful Daonain.
The first quarter moon was high in the black sky. Carrying the chill of snow-capped peaks, the wind swirled the brush and made the bare tree limbs clatter. Zeb trawsfurred to his animal form, feeling the gift of the Mother’s love run through him, hearing the siren song of the wild. He flicked his ears forward to catch the rustling of tiny animals in the dead grass, the slow flapping of an owl overhead. Shay’s scent mingled with the fainter ones of deer and cougar drifting down from the mountain.
Shay shifted as well, turning into a big-boned, heavy wolf with light silver-gray fur.
Zeb glimpsed yellow light through the bushes, showing the little human was still awake. Good thing he’d barred her cabin windows. She’d be safe. Then again, hellhounds preferred shifters to humans, so she’d be ignored as long as it caught a shifter scent first.
Shay barked, getting his attention, and loped into the forest. Zeb followed.
Winter of the Wolf has plenty of emotional elements, tenderness, rage, heart wrenching events and hot sex. Make no mistake Cherise Sinclair is a talented writer who brings multiple dimensions to all of her novels and it is also reflected in this narrative.
Just Erotic Romance Reviews
This book brings us the story of two strong men who are always on the outside looking in and the little woman who is thrown into their world and finds her way into their hearts as well.
Chef Breanne Gallagher loves her independence. One night a monster —half man, half something else—broke into the home she shared with her former foster sister, who was killed, and Bree was viciously assaulted. Warrior shapeshifters Zeb and Shay are assigned to protect her from the monster that still hunts her. And they'll do whatever it takes to accomplish their assignment.
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