An excerpt from WOLF’S PROPERTY, a werewolf biker romance releasing on May 15th!
Big Dog’s female stands in the middle of the living room when we push our way back inside. She looks ready to bolt, despite being barefoot and buck-ass naked except for my T-shirt and jacket. The bruises mottling her legs and arms make me want to drag Big Dog out of the bayou and resuscitate his ass just so I can kill him again. Slowly.
I don’t even know her name.
She squeaks when she spots us, but she also raises a two-by-four slat that must have come from the bed frame. I like her spirit, although the wolf she should be pounding on is now gator food.
“I’m leaving,” she whispers. Her eyes dart between us, through us, and I want to promise her that Big Dog is never, ever coming back. He’ll never hurt her again.
“We’ll give you a ride,” Jace says. “You can ride with Ware or with me. You pick.”
She hesitates, and I bite back another growl. Her hands shake, the two-by-four trembling as she fights to keep it up. She won’t meet Jace’s gaze, as if she instinctively recognizes the Pack Alpha. I don’t want her afraid, though. I want her to fight, to choose.
To choose me.
Fuck, but I need to get out of here.
“You got a name, honey?” I freeze by the wall, fisting my hands on my thighs. If she were wolf, she’d smell my anger and frustration.
“Marly.” Her voice gets stronger. That’s my girl.
“You got stuff you want to take with you, Marly?” Jace asks nice and casual as he reaches into his pocket and produces a lighter. Her eyes follow his hand, focusing on the lighter. She sucks in a breath and freezes, but doesn’t protest. Guess she’s on board with today’s arson plans. “If so, you might want to grab it.”
She nods and vanishes back into the bedroom as if she’s got a pack of wolves nipping at her ass. She doesn’t like us, and I can’t blame her for that.
“There another way out?” Jace asks, and I hear the unspoken question. If Marly runs, if she takes off in the bayou when she’s barefoot and mostly naked, she’ll end up hurt. And her hurting days are over.
So I shrug and think. “The windows in the bedroom are boarded up.”
It’s true. She’s not gonna find an exit in the bedroom. Also? I already checked that room for stuff—and it was empty. So what’s my girl doing in there?
“Not gonna fix that girl overnight,” Jace warns me like he’s fucking Doctor Phil. “If you’re serious about claiming her, you’re gonna have to wait. Some stuff takes time.”
Fuck him. “You figure this out with Keelie Sue? Did you give her the time she needed?”
Jace growls, prowling closer. He’s not gonna back down—or let me forget that he’s the Alpha here. Not sure why I’m pushing him or why keeping Marly matters so much. But it does. She’s something—someone—special. I don’t have to admit it out loud to Jace, but part of me kinda thinks she really is my one and only. My mate. I’d never take her without a yes from her, but keeping her safe? Yeah. That’s the only fucking option that’s on the table, and if I need to get Jace on board, I will.
Marly slips back out into the living room, her hands fisted in the pockets of my jacket. I guess she did the 4-1-1 of the bedroom and realized it hadn’t grown any exits since the last time she was there. She glances toward the door, then back at us. I can practically hear her weighing her chances of getting past us.
“You ready to ride?” Jace asks. “You pick which one of us you want to ride with, and we’ll get you somewhere safe.”
It’s not like she has choices, but her nod still makes my wolf want to howl with pleasure. She’s picked us. Picked me. Okay. That last is pure bullshit, but I still like thinking it. Jace holds out the lighter.
“You want to do the honors, honey?”
When I flick the Bic and that little orange flame shoots out, I feel powerful. I don’t know where Big Dog’s gone, but I know he’s not coming back. The scraped and bloody knuckles of my rescuers make that perfectly clear. I hope he’s dead. I hope it was long and painful and that he learned exactly what it feels like to be helpless and betrayed. To have your trust and your body turned against you until there’s nothing you can do but hang on and wait for someone else to fix things. Setting Big Dog’s house on fire is a felony, but it’s also an action I’m choosing to take.
Something else I don’t know and can add to my long, long list of WTF moments? I don’t know who my rescuers are and that’s actually not a point in their favor. If they were the boys in blue, their reasons for being here would be clear. They’re not social services here to bust me out, and they’re not friends or family. They’re strangers. Big, tattooed, leather-wearing, bike-riding strangers. The odds of my hitting the jackpot in a Vegas casino are higher than the odds that they came all the way into the bayou just to rescue me. Since Big Dog’s motorcycle club knew he was holding me, I suspect this visit is more payback than rescue mission anyhow. As soon as we’re outside, I take a closer look. The patch on their cuts announces their membership in the Breed MC—so it’s got to be club business that brought them here today. If I’m lucky, they won’t care when I head on my way. If I’m strong enough, however, I won’t care how they feel about my departure.
Remember that Vegas jackpot I mentioned? Yeah. I should totally hit that. I could be a multimillionaire by sunset.
I stroll closer to the porch. I’ve never set anything larger than a barbecue briquette on fire before, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I squat down by the sagging steps, pretending that I’m not barefoot. Not naked except for a stranger’s T-shirt and jacket.
My stranger is a whole lot more naked now that I’m wearing his clothes. His leather cut hangs open over his chest, giving me a good view of the dark ink swirling over his skin and up his neck. It’s like the universe branded him trouble. He’s muscled, and the ridges of his abdomen are drool-worthy. A pair of worn jeans hangs low on his hips, but I’m not looking further. Okay. I may sneak a peek or two. The man’s gorgeous and I’m not blind. Battle-scarred and sick to death of aggressive men, but not blind. He’s just a really nice piece of scenery that I’m appreciating.
I poke the lighter and its teeny-tiny flame at the steps. The fire licks at the wood, leaving a black mark, but then it flickers out. Story of my life. I huff and try again. Like relationships and having a satisfyingly kinky sex life, this looks so much easier and more satisfying in books. The library has entire shelves of survivalist manuals that, clearly, I should have read.
My rescuer crouches down beside me. Part of me wants to flinch away, but I stay put. So what if he’s big and reminds me way too much of Big Dog? I have to draw the line somewhere, have to get on with my life. He’ll be my practice man. Of course, he’s completely oblivious to my minor panic attack. He reaches out—toward the mess of sticks and leaves at the bottom of the step rather than toward my not-so-sexy self—and scrapes together a pile of crumbly, dry, brown bits.
“Gotta feed it,” he rumbles. His voice is low and harsh, like chains pulling through metal. I nod. It’s as good a day as any to learn the ins and outs of arson.
“Tinder.” I nod and file my new knowledge under F for fire. Probably could go under F for fun. Or F for failure.
“Ware Evans,” he grunts and pulls his own lighter out of his back pocket.
He’s not much for conversation. I mean, I’m a librarian (or was—bet I’ve been fired as a no show thanks to Big Dog’s forcible relocation of my person) and silence is supposed to be my thing, but I still like to have a conversation. Is Ware his name? It’s not quite as ridiculous as Big Dog—and that man was definitely compensating for his deficiencies in other departments—but it’s hardly normal.
“That’s really your name? Ware?” Shoot. I need to grow a filter.
He turns his head and stares at me. He’s a bad-ass biker. He outweighs me by two to one (okay, not quite, but I’m entitled to cheat on my weight after the month I’ve had). He’s felonious, murderous, and probably every inch of him is a lethal weapon, but I feel… safe?
He nods tersely. “That’s me.” He jerks a thumb toward his companion. “That’s Jace Jones.”
Okay. I have to wonder if Ware is the name on his birth certificate, or if it’s some kind of road name. As in: beware of danger? Good to know.
Again I try—and fail—to set the porch step on fire. At this rate, I’m going to be celebrating my centennial before the place burns. A thought occurs to me.
“What’s the date?” I blurt out the question, proving I truly am filter-less.
Behind us, the other big scary dude snorts. “Hot date?”
Not a chance. I hate Big Dog and right now I’m more than willing to extend that loathing to all penis-toting members of society, including present company. No more men, no more domination fantasies, no more sex. As if he can sense the hostility rolling off me, Ware fishes a phone out of his back pocket and turns it around so I can see the screen without touching it or him. He’s definitely not big on wasting words.
But he’s got ears, right? He can listen. “It’s my birthday.”
“Congratulations?” He growls the word like he can’t believe I’m talking about birthdays. And honestly? He’s not wrong. I can feel my brain shutting down, hanging onto the little, normal things.
“I’m Marly Silva.” I transfer the lighter to my left hand and automatically shove my right in his direction. Warm, hard fingers close around mine. He’s got tattoos on his knuckles, and I wonder if he’ll ink a reminder of Big Dog there. He has scars, too, like he’s lived hard in his body and hasn’t been afraid to wade into a fight. I’m probably not supposed to find that reassuring.
I look down at the fire we’re supposedly starting.
“Is this efficient?” Based on the small scorch marks I’ve succeeded in creating on the steps, Big Dog’s cabin is more likely to rot than to burn. I mean, I already know the answer—but I want to hear him admit the truth.
Ware grunts, shoves to his feet, and goes over to the bikes. When he comes back, he’s holding a gas can. Slowly I lift my gaze to his. “So that’s a no.”
He shrugs, clearly giving zero fucks. “Everything’s better with an accelerant.”
Good to know.
He starts dousing the place with gas, so I stand back. He soaks the perimeter with casual expertise, makes a trip inside the cabin to do some more splashing, and then comes back out. He’s satisfyingly thorough.
He nods at me. “Now try.”
Since I’m planning on keeping my eyebrows, I find a nice, leafy stick and light that up. Then I drop it on the gasoline-soaked strip. There’s a satisfying whoosh and then orange flames lick toward the cabin.
“Shoulda brought marshmallows,” Ware grunts.
That surprises a laugh out of me. I’m not sure if he’s just hungry, or if he’s actually trying to make a joke. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who delivers punch lines, though, so maybe I have my answer.
Holy smokes but the guy is hot. Nope. My brain (and my libido) can stop right there. See, I originally thought Big Dog was kinda hot, too. That didn’t work out so well for me. Instead of dating and a rocking sex life, I got six months of him grunting and taking and hurting. The first time he tied me up, I stupidly thought it was a game. I’m always willing to try new things, so I tried it. Turned out it was one game I didn’t like—but he backhanded me when I said so. Our relationship didn’t come with a safe word. That’s when I realized the only rules were his. I still didn’t know what I’d gotten myself into, though, until he shifted on me one night.
So I have to ask myself: if Jace and Ware knew Big Dog well enough to kill his ass in a highly personal and painful fashion, did they know about his furry side? Are they wolves? They ride, too. The bikes are parked outside the cabin. There’s got to be a way to ask, but nothing comes to mind. So for the next few minutes, I just stand there and stare. It’s satisfying, watching Big Dog’s shitty cabin go up in flames. It’s not like he cares— I’m 99 percent certain he’s floating somewhere in the bayou, hopefully being consumed alive by alligators—but I’ll take what I can get.
As the flames get bigger, the air around me grows hotter. While I stand there like I’m watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, Ware and Jace scratch a fire line into the dirt yard. Guess they draw the line at burning down the bayou. Safety first, and all that.
Big Dog has a propane tank around the side, which is probably why Jace steps toward me. Or maybe he just wants to ride, wants to put some road between him and this place. I wouldn’t care except clearly he intends for me to go with them. Although walking out of the bayou barefoot holds zero appeal, I’ve learned my lesson. No more strangers. No more men. Instinctively, I look around for Big Dog, preparing to dodge the fists. Followed by the belt.
I hate being afraid.
Jace stops, his eyes examining me. I’m certain he sees way more than I want, and I don’t mean my naked legs.
“Who you riding with?” he asks.
This is one of those between the devil and the deep blue sea choices. He didn’t ask if I was ready to ride. He didn’t toss me a set of keys. Clearly, in the Jace-verse, I’m supposed to hop on the back of a bike and wrap my bare legs around a total stranger. I’d like to tell him to fuck off, but I’m back to being scared. I hate it, but Jace is big. He’s take-charge, too, and today’s been another long, bad day in a string of nightmarish days. Worse, I doubt anyone other than my boss and my landlord even noticed I’d disappeared. Except thinking about that now won’t get me out of here—and I need to leave in the worst possible way.
“I’d rather leave on my own.” The words come out less authoritatively than I’d like, a suggestion rather than a statement of intent. I try again. “I’m leaving on my own.”
Jace grunts and I think he’s… amused? “Only got bikes. You know how to ride?”
The answer to that is a resounding no. I scan the yard, but no working car or truck magically appears. It’s the back of a bike or my feet.
My bare feet.
“Pick a bike,” Jace invites, although those three words are all command. He’s not asking what I want—but he is giving me a choice. He’s not leaving me stranded here (although he hasn’t indicated where he plans on taking me), and he hasn’t just tossed me on the back of his bike. He’d do it, too. I know that instinctively. So I need to make a choice because at least then I’m choosing rather than letting life and another man run me over.
“Ware,” I announce. Jace doesn’t look surprised—I don’t think he likes the idea of riding with me much, either.
Ware tosses me something. A pair of battered jeans and motorcycle boots. Since both he and Jace are still fully clothed…
“Big Dog’s,” he tells me.
I shouldn’t be such a baby about it, but did he pull these off Big Dog’s body? I’ve been tied up, naked, in a bedroom. I should be willing to wear anything, right? But I can’t. I just… can’t. These jeans might have been taken off a dead body. He’s probably asking me to wear a dead man’s boots, and I think I’d rather chance the road rash.
“They’re clean,” Jace says from behind us. “Enough.”
I didn’t realize Big Dog kept his spare shit in this cabin. It’s possible.
It’s also possible Jace is lying to make me feel better.
Honestly? I appreciate the effort.
“Get dressed,” Ware rumbles. He sounds impatient. The cabin is well on its way to being engulfed in flames. Maybe if I hang out here, I can hitch a ride back to civilization with the fire department.
I’m yanking the jeans up my legs before my brain even throws a flag on the play. Ware gave me an order. I followed it. Shit. That’s how I get myself in trouble. It doesn’t matter that he feels right. I have a bad habit of picking dominant men. Possessive men. They make me feel needed, wanted, valuable. I’m not happy with the kink in my head.
Maybe it’s because I’m newly divorced, fresh from five years of vanilla sex. Married Marly was boring, not new, the ball-and-chain. Becoming Marly 2.0 was therefore my plan when I hit Louisiana, and I’d promised myself I’d belong, be someone’s fantasy, be his first choice. Monty, my ex, and I sort of fell into marriage. We dated in high school. We attended the same college and dated there. Marriage was just the natural next step and we didn’t question it, tying the knot in a private ceremony at a local winery. The pictures were gorgeous. What came after, however, was less so. He was bored and nothing I tried seemed to spice up our married life, either in or out of bed.
Guys look at me and see librarian rather than sex kitten. I could tell them exactly where the erotica books are shelved under E for erotic romance (although I maintain they should live under F for Fantasy or D for Dreams, because nothing like that has ever happened to me in my life), or I could point them to the most-borrowed sex self-help books. I’ve got plenty of book knowledge—it’s just the real-life, hands-on stuff that I appear to suck at.
Big Dog is Exhibit A.
So I’m the quiet librarian who lives in her head or in a book, and most days I don’t mind. It turns out, though, that real life is way too exciting for me. Big Dog seemed exciting. Different. I had no idea. I’m not sure what to do about the wolf thing, to be honest. It really seems like I should tell someone, but what I want is a month-long bath and to crawl into bed. I want to feel safe.
Ware throws a leg over his bike and slaps a palm on the seat behind him. The sound is short and sharp, as authoritative as the man. Guess that’s my cue.
I shouldn’t go to him. I definitely shouldn’t cave, but I… do. I button the jeans and yank on the boots. And then, like the idiot of the century, I slog over to him and his bike. Somehow, he pulls me or lifts me, and I’m magically straddling the seat. He turns, zips up the jacket, and hands me a helmet.
Jace peels out of the yard, impatient to be gone. That leaves me and Ware.
“So,” I say. I tighten my grip, but that puts me closer to Ware and makes it very clear that the man is packing. I can feel his gun against my stomach.
He grunts (I’m shocked) and turns the bike on. The engine’s vibrations flood my body with sensation everywhere, but particularly between my legs. Or maybe that’s because I’m sandwiched against Ware, my pussy all but glued to his butt. My legs hug his hips.
He adjusts something on the bike. “Hold on.”
To what? The only option is him, so I carefully slide my arms around his waist. He’s hard, his body without an inch of give. My fingers brush the buckle of his belt and my stomach comes into close contact with what is unmistakably the handle of a gun. Guess he’s not worried about my shooting him in the back.
My heart slams into my chest, reminding me that my ride isn’t my safest option. Behind us, the flames crackle as they devour Big Dog’s cabin.
“Where are we going?” Honestly, I’m not sure I want to hear the answer. Going home tops my wish list, but I disappeared into the bayou five months ago. My landlord likely cleaned out my place and tossed or sold my stuff. I’m starting over and I’m all but naked.
“My place.” Ware guides the bike away from the cabin and onto the road. Or what passes for a road. The way to Big Dog’s is definitely off the beaten path—and it’s more dirt and rocks (a track?) than anything formalized in asphalt.
This is a bad idea. I know it, and I should put the brakes on his high-handed decision-making. But the thing is? I don’t know where else to go. I’m likely jobless, homeless, and pant-less—and that’s a trifecta of problems I’m not prepared to deal with right now.
Instead, the throb of the engine vibrating through my body makes me feel alive in a way I haven’t for months. There’s a beat and a rhythm to it, the roar of the pipes almost enough to drown out the panicked thoughts in my head. When Ware shifts to take a curve in the road, my body instinctively matches his, and I like the ease with which his body guides mine, too. I’ve always loved Harleys.
“What you’d do before?” He asks his question casually, as if he’s not also announcing that my life is over. Changed. Forcibly rerouted in a new direction. I try reminding myself that I like new experiences, but this isn’t so much new or an experience as it is flat-out catastrophe.
I rest my head against his shoulder, both hating and loving my weakness. No more bikers, I remind myself. He guides the bike down the road effortlessly, left, right, straight. Each decision is followed by a powerful flex of muscles. I’m wearing both his shirt and his jacket, so his shoulders are bare beneath the leather cut. His skin smells like that leather and something warmer, wilder, and more alive. I’d like to say I hate how out of control he makes me feel, but somehow this feels…right.
“I was a librarian,” I tell him. Because we’re on the bike and the noise of the pipes bounces off the trees and the bayou’s still, dark waters, I have to put my mouth almost on his ear. I’ve got my legs wrapped around his and my hands tucked against his stomach, but somehow that new proximity feels almost too intimate.
He nods. “Books.”
“And magazines and ebooks and DVDs. All sorts of stuff.” I have no idea why I’m discussing collection development with him. It’s not like he cares, and I have a hard time imagining that he’s much of a reader. This is a man who rides a Harley and who just beat the crap out of another man. Who most likely killed that other guy, since Big Dog wouldn’t have let me just walk away without some powerful persuasion. Plus, B.D. deserved to die. I’m just sorry he didn’t invite me to help the way he did with our arson.
I realize that I’m less concerned about his possible penchant for violence than I am about his knowing Big Dog. I mean, I doubt there’s a rule that says he has to be a wolf, too, but if he knew Big Dog and they rode together in the same MC… what are the odds?
“Are you a wolf?” Shit shit shit. I’ve blurted the question out. Apparently, I left my sense of self-preservation behind in the bayou.
“Fuck.” Ware doesn’t toss me off the bike, although I’m not sure how to interpret his four-letter response. Fuck, as in let’s stop and get it on by the side of the road (he’s hot, but I’ve officially sworn off men). Fuck, as in “you have outed a secret wolfish conspiracy and now I must take steps”? Or just fuck, he doesn’t know what to say to me because my question is so outlandish that now he fears for my sanity?
“Big Dog could change into a wolf.” I know I sound crazy, and I’m sure I look even crazier. I mean, Ware just untied me from the bed where I was spread-eagled and naked, so clearly my judgment is questionable. But I can’t help noticing that his body stays loose and relaxed. He doesn’t tense or edge away or give any sign of distress—which means one thing.
“Big Dog was a shifter,” he agrees. “You know about that?”
We’re out of the bayou now, driving through the outskirts of Baton Rouge. The surrounding area is rough, the buildings dilapidated and run-down. There’s also a singular dearth of people and escape routes, so I kind of wish I’d waited to ask my question until we were somewhere more civilized. Someplace with visible people.
“He liked to play show and tell,” I admit. The first time Big Dog shifted, I peed myself. I’m not ashamed to admit it. One minute he was holding me down, and then I blinked or closed my eyes, and a wolf was pinning me down. He scraped his teeth over my jaw and homed in on my shoulder. He bit me there, and I’ve woken up more than one night since then, screaming. “He bit.”
I can’t help but notice we’re talking about Big Dog in the past tense. And that Ware doesn’t seem to be actually headed back into the city. We’re still riding through the outskirts, where the bayou meets industrial wasteland and undervalued properties. There’s a strange kind of beauty to the way Mother Nature has reclaimed what the people had and left. It’s all warehouses and skeletons of abandoned buildings, their original purposes lost along with roofs and windows. Weeds grow up through the asphalt, emphasizing the wildness of the place.
“Am I going to turn into a werewolf?” I’m not sure why this hasn’t occurred to me before—probably because my shit list was already overflowing, and my brain was smart enough not to add anything else. But now that I’m away from Big Dog’s cabin and he’s gotten what he had coming to him (I should probably feel bad about his death, but I just can’t), I have a little more bandwidth.
The corner of Ware’s mouth tugs up. Apparently, this is his version of a smile. “No,” he says. “We’re not contagious.”
“Oh. Good.” Wait. I peel back from him. He said we.
He curses again and shoves a hard arm around my waist. He’s probably just making sure I don’t fall off the bike—road rash wouldn’t improve my day any—but suddenly I can’t quite catch my breath as I mentally try to fit Ware under “W.” W for wolf. He’s a wolf. Too. Wait wait wait.
“Don’t freak out,” he growls as if it’s that simple. He orders. I obey. Is giving commands a Ware thing—or a wolf thing? He’s good at it. My stupid clit apparently still thinks dominant men could be fun in bed—it perks up—but I ignore it. From now on, I’m filing sex under T for Trouble. Or Terminal.
Ware turns sharply off the road and heads for another run-down, beat-up structure. It’s a warehouse. I think. It’s kind of hard to tell, to be honest. The building is one of those non-descript two-story industrial boxes with a small parking lot, tons of chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire, and a general sense of fuck off, you don’t belong here. Or maybe it’s trespassers will be eaten. I know one thing: letting Ware take me inside an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere is even stupider than dating Big Dog. I make a point of learning from my mistakes.
So when Ware parks the bike outside the warehouse, I’m off and sprinting for the street.