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Gone with the Wolf
By Kristin Miller, Liz Pelletier, Kaleen Harding
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Kristin Miller
All rights reserved.
Emelia Hudson knew she shouldn't be snooping through her boss's wine cellar, but his secret stash was down here and damn it, he owed her a bottle. Or a case.
Slipping off her heels, Emelia kicked them into the corner of the spacious cellar, and jumped from the feel of the frosty granite floor against her bare feet. The cellar was bigger than her Seattle apartment, with a nasty draft sweeping through the wrought iron French doors behind her. The space felt more like a high-class smoking room than a cellar, with large stone pillars, leather-wrapped seats, and a pungent musk floating in the air. Chandeliers hung on either end of the ceiling, shedding amber auras of light over two barrels topped with stone slabs. Not a single wine case cluttered the floor, and not a single pigeonhole was deprived of a bottle.
"There you are, beautiful," Emelia said, swiping a corked bottle of 1996 Château Lafite off one of the barrels.
She refilled her glass — for the fifth time this evening — and swirled the dark liquid round and round. The mint and black currant aroma hit her nose, causing her eyes to roll back in her head. Taking a sip, Emelia moaned as the bold flavor of succulent silk hit her tongue.
"You," she said, pinching her eyes shut, savoring the changing flavors, "are simply divine."
"I'll say," someone said from the doorway.
Emelia started. Droplets of wine hurtled down her throat, catching like stones in her windpipe. She choked hard and bowled over as she tried to the get the damn silky stuff out of her lungs.
"That good, huh?" The man was beside her before she knew what was happening, massaging small circles across her back.
Emelia backed against the barrel and away from the stranger's touch. From the few seconds he'd massaged her, Emelia's skin had warmed, tingling with strange, electrically charged sensations.
"I'm fine," she choked out, gaining her bearings.
The stranger radiated intimidation. Six feet tall. Broad, flexing shoulders. His white cotton dress shirt was pulled taut, stretching over layers of rippling muscle. A square, hard-set jaw with a shadow of stubble, and pressed-white lips gave him a downright stony appearance. But despite his hardened expression and daunting stature, mesmerizing chocolate-brown eyes bore into Emelia's, chilling her body to match her bare feet.
Did this guy work for Wilder Financial? Was he a bouncer sent to drag her back upstairs? The Halloween office party had been monster-mashing for the last two hours and the cellar had been deemed off-limits. Solitude was the reason Emelia sought out the cellar in the first place. Well, that and her boss's stash of fine wine.
"No one's supposed to be down here," she said, nerves kicking up a notch.
"I could tell you the same thing." Folding his arms across his barrel of a chest, the stranger backed away and leaned against the doorframe. A slow smile spread across his full lips. "I don't recall Little Red Riding Hood packing wine on her trip to Grandmother's."
"Yeah, well ..." Emelia flicked at the cape brushing her knees and laughed. "I hate costume parties and didn't think I was coming until the last minute. When I finally decided I had to be here, the costume store had two choices: Little Red Riding Slut or Sexy Feather-Dusting Maid. I went with Little Red."
Why'd she just tell him all that? She shouldn't have gulped down that last glass of wine. It had loosened her lips, affecting her more than it should've.
"I think the costume was a good choice." The stranger strode into the cellar, his gait confident and powerful, and swept a thick-stemmed wineglass off the nearest barrel. "May I? Or were you planning on downing that bottle yourself?"
"No, no, please, help yourself." With a tipsy bow and a giggle, Emelia swept her arm aside. "Where's your costume?"
He glanced down at his slacks as if he just realized he wasn't dressed for the party. "Maybe I'm the Big Bad Wolf hiding in business attire instead of old lady pajamas."
"You don't look like a wolf."
Emelia leaned in close, squinting at his glinting white — and very human — teeth, then laughed. "Nope. No fangs."
He eyed her curiously, filled his glass, and sipped on it as though he'd never tasted anything like it before. He swished the wine in his cheeks before swallowing, all the while holding Emelia's gaze. Intensity smoldered behind his eyes; Emelia swore someone kicked the thermostat up a few degrees.
"So," he said, eyeing her wild mane of blond hair that'd come loose from her hood, "why do you have to be here?"
Although Emelia knew the man wasn't really a wolf — come on, those only existed in Paris-set horror movies, Twilight, and her wildest dreams — he gazed at her like he was insatiably hungry. Her body quivered beneath his gorgeous stare. Stunned by the man's raw sexual appeal, Emelia shook cobwebs from her brain. "Excuse me?"
"You said you hate parties and that you have to be here. Did some crazed date make you come?"
"Oh, if you only knew."
"Enlighten me." He smiled slowly, twinging something in Emelia's chest.
As much as she wanted to tell this stranger the truth, she couldn't.
I'm here to seduce our boss. Chain him to his bed. Take some pictures. Instagram them to the web. You know, the usual Halloween party antics.
Not only would the hot-to-trot stranger laugh in her face, he would probably run to her superiors and blab his brains out, and she would lose her secretarial temp job. She couldn't let that happen. She needed the money, and she needed to figure out a way to talk to Mr. Wilder about the massive wrench he'd thrown in her gears. Two months ago, he claimed to have bought the building that her bar, the Knight Owl, resides in. If she hadn't dumped her savings into the place, she would've hired a lawyer to figure out what was going on and fight back. But under the circumstances, Emelia could barely afford the gas in her car to get to work.
She'd spent weeks trying to get past Wilder Financial's complaint department and kept ramming into a stone wall of indifference. No matter how many letters Emelia sent demanding to set up a meeting with Mr. Wilder, or how many times she called to talk about how it was impossible that they both had a deed to the same building, no one listened. No one cared. Even when she'd tried to bypass Mr. Wilder's flunkies and communicate with him directly, she'd gotten the same response. Mr. Stuck-Up Wilder refused to acknowledge her presence. He always seemed too occupied at his East Coast offices, or unavailable to meet.
So she'd taken a job at his office, hoping to kill two birds with one stone — she'd make some money, and figure out what the hell was going on in the process.
Mr. Wilder wouldn't be able to ignore her once he was good and tied to his bed.
Only that plan had gone down the toilet, along with her hopes and dreams of the Knight Owl becoming the most well-known bar in Seattle. Mr. Wilder had been called away on business and wouldn't be attending the Halloween party after all.
"Guess you could say I was dying to pay back Mr. Wilder for something."
Her words seemed to intrigue the stranger. His dark brows quirked. His shoulders tensed — only a bit — but she noticed. He took a long, hard drink instead of responding, and an uncomfortable silence fizzed between them.
Did she say something wrong? Did he have some vendetta against Mr. Wilder, too? Rumors of Mr. Wilder's coldness preceded him. Maybe his harsh, careless demeanor had permeated through his business more than she'd originally thought. The possibility lessened Emelia's guilt, taking weight off her shoulders — Mr. Wilder deserved what was coming to him.
"You never said what you were doing down here." Emelia tapped her fingers against the stone-topped barrel, wondering if there was another bouncer on the way. And exactly what was the alcohol content of the wine she drank? Her insides were warm and her brain was fuzzy. No wine had ever affected her this way before. "Are you on duty?"
"On duty?" The tension in his shoulders eased as a laugh escaped him. "No, I'm here for the party. I work for Wilder Financial Services like you do."
"I've never seen you there before." She would've remembered seeing a Greek god wandering the whitewashed halls. Damn, her teeth were beginning to chatter. She would be lucky to remember any of this night. What a disaster. "Which depot — I mean, department, are you in?"
"Administration." He leaned against a stone pillar and pushed his dark hair behind his ears. Why was he acting like he had nowhere to go? Didn't he have to get back up to the party? He'd have a date waiting for him, wouldn't he? Drop-dead gorgeous Channing Tatum look-alikes never came to parties stag. "You?"
"I'm a temp. I started last month as a secretary, but they've already shuffled me 'round to marketing, directory assistance, and main office ... something." She shooed her hand around her face as the words evaporated from her brain. "I'm more like an office rover than anything. Ha!" She snorted, then caught herself. "I'm Rover. Woof!"
The stranger laughed and seemed to relax into the pillar. "Let me get this straight ... you hate costume parties and you hate being here, but since Mr. Wilder isn't coming tonight, you've decided to empty his stash of expensive wine?"
"Pretty much." She nodded. As the thought of Mr. Wilder coming home to his mansion and finding an emptied wine cellar struck her, Emelia laughed, lurched forward, and slapped the stranger in the chest. The instant her hand struck a warm slate of stone, she drew it back and held it against her stomach. "Have you ever met him?"
His brown eyes burned with hints of desire. "Once or twice."
"What's he like?"
"He's a bit of a prick, really. Cold. Controlled. Probably not your type." He frowned at the last part, though he couldn't have known how true he shot. "What's your name?"
She teetered a bit, closer to his tantalizing masculine scent, then farther away. "Emelia Hudson, but friends call me Emie. I'm not usually like this, I swear. I can usually hold my liquor; I'm a bartender for crying out loud. I think it's because I haven't eaten anything today." She squinted, her vision going a bit blurry. What was happening? "I'm starving."
"You're a bartender? I thought you said you were a temp."
"Potato, potahto. Ooh, I could really go for some fries right now." The chandeliers began to tilt and spin as the floor rolled beneath Emelia's feet. She closed the distance between them and stood up on teetering tiptoe to meet him eye to eye. Her skin flushed hot. If the temperature in the cellar hadn't just skyrocketed, she was the first twenty-five-year-old on record to start menopause. "Am I as hot as you are? I mean, are you as hot as I am? No, that's not right either." She paused, slowing her thoughts to molasses. "Is the room spinning for you, too?"
She may have been seeing things, but could've sworn the stranger nodded. "You're not what I was expecting to find when I came down here tonight. You're not afraid to say what's on your mind, are you?"
"Nope." She put her hand to her head, steadying herself. "Never have been."
A strange vibe shot between them as he put two fingers to her chin and lifted her gaze to his.
"There's something about you," he whispered. Emelia felt like a puppet on a string, held captive by the two fingers holding her chin. "You're ... different."
"Is diff'rent good?" It had to be the wine. It had to be the hint of want sparking in the stranger's dark, brooding eyes. It had to be the fact that she'd never see him again — Wilder Financial Services was a maze of offices and halls. The urge to taste the stranger's lips overtook her. "What am I doing?" As the question escaped her lips, Emelia pressed forward, brushing her lips against his.
His mouth was soft and supple. Dreamier than it should've been. Maybe it was the excitement of kissing a stranger. Yup, had to be it. Excitement sizzled through Emelia's body, curling her toes, crinkling the skin over her bones. No one had ever riled her up this much from doing so little. It was a kiss. A tiny little kiss that could've been forgotten.
There was no way she'd forget this. As Emelia parted her lips to draw the stranger's tongue into her mouth, he pulled back.
"We probably shouldn't," he said, but the hunger in his eyes spoke otherwise.
How could he deny her? She'd already tasted the sweetness of his lips and wanted more. As she leaned forward to catch his mouth, she misjudged the distance between them and smashed against his chest. He caught her, roping an arm around her waist.
"Forget me tomorrow. Hell, forget me tonight." Shivers danced over Emelia's skin and she closed her eyes. "But kiss me now."
He squeezed her tightly against him. Crushed his mouth to hers with more passion than she expected. She became drunk on his mouth, his kiss, the way he worked his tongue like a skilled lover. He tasted of wine and lust and intensity unlike anything she'd ever had. She lost herself in him. Felt her body pull to his. She molded against his sculpted chest. Moaned into his mouth and dug her fingers into his hair.
With a growl, he pulled back, keeping her at arm's length, his fingers gouging into her shoulders. "This isn't possible." He breathed hard, chest heaving. "This can't be happening. Not now."
Oh, this was happening. Right here. Right now.
"Where'd you come from?"
God, she was so dizzy. Was she sitting? Lying down? She pinched her eyes shut, willing his mouth to cover hers again. "I come from the Knight Owl."
"What? No, I mean which office are you from? Did someone send you?"
"It's the name of my bar. The Knight Owl. That's why I'm here." She was saying too much. She should stop. She should kiss him again and shut him up, too.
She pushed forward, but he'd already pulled away, dropping his hands from her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Emelia, but I have to go."
Emelia's eyes flashed open and she spun, landing against the massive wine rack with a thud. "I don't even know your name."
Not that she wanted to know. Nope. Didn't want to look him up in the office directory for a night of fun. No way.
"Drake," he said, turning back at the French doors that led out of the cellar. "My friends call me Drake. And I have to say, while you probably won't remember this, you're the sexiest Little Red Riding Hood I've ever seen."
"Isn't Drake the name of a plant from Harry Potter?" Heart thudding in her chest, Emelia closed her eyes and laid her head on the rack behind her. "What was it called again? Drake ... miss ... mandrake! Yup, that's it. The plant with all the crazy roots."
When Emelia peeled her eyes open, Drake was gone, leaving her with a warm buzz in her belly, a brain as empty as her glass of Lafite, and the lingering taste of their kiss on her tongue.CHAPTER 2
As the sun reached its peak in the sky the next day, Drake stepped out of his limo and onto the busy curb in front of Wilder Financial. If he were the nervous type, his palms would've been sticky with sweat. He would've adjusted his tie a thousand times on the ride over. He would've phoned the office to make sure everything was in order. Instead, his body became rigid, wound tight with anticipation. Knots of tension pinballed around his stomach, and his chest hardened with hot rods of adrenaline.
Struggling to keep his impulses in check, Drake strode through the glass doors of his office building and passed by a gawking secretary, who stood the instant he made eye contact.
"Good morning, Mr. Wilder," she said, alarmed, pressing down the front of her dress suit.
"Good morning." Drake didn't mean to startle her, so he nodded politely and picked up his pace through the whitewashed lobby.
Employees whispered and stared as he passed by, though he couldn't blame them for their odd behavior. He was the leper CEO of Wilder Financial, the boss who rarely peeked his head out of his office. He hated this part of the building — the sterile and impersonal nature of it — which was probably why he never entered through the sweeping front doors. He preferred to show up via helicopter from the pad on the roof, then take the stairs down to his upper-level office. It was easier to keep snooping noses out of his private life that way, too. If anyone got too close and found out he was a three-hundred-year-old werewolf, he was done for.
Excerpted from Gone with the Wolf by Kristin Miller, Liz Pelletier, Kaleen Harding. Copyright © 2013 Kristin Miller. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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