THERE'S A NEW WOLF PACK IN SILVER TERRITORY
Wolf shifter and park ranger Eric Silver is committed to his job policing spectacular San Isabel National Forest, and he's hot on the scent of some mysterious wolves who are up to no good. When Eric's investigation leads him to cross paths with forester Pepper Grayling, he's fascinated to learn this she-wolf is her pack's leaderstrong, independent, and definitely not looking for a mate.
AND THIS TIME THE LEADER'S A SHE...
With unknown dangers on the prowl, Pepper is tempted to give in to her attraction to Eric and align her pack with his. But Pepper's been pursued by many an alpha male out to take over her pack and gain her hard-won territoryand Eric is a born leader. How does Eric earn the trust of a she-wolf who's been betrayed so often in the past?
Praise for Silence of the Wolf:
"The outstanding and gripping plot...will appeal to paranormal fans, and romance junkies will take delight in the red-hot love story embedded within." RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
"Nobody does werewolf romances like Terry Spear. The romance sizzles, the plot boils, the mystery intrigues, and the characters shine." The Royal Reviews
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The full sphere of the moon and a sprinkling of stars lit the sky as Eric Silver ran as a wolf through San Isabel National Forest where he served as a law enforcement park ranger when on duty. The forest was located two hours from Silver Town, Colorado, owned and run by the Silver wolf pack since the town's inception.
He used to don his wolf coat at night when he was off-duty just to enjoy the woods. He found the forest peaceful and rejuvenating as the cool, dry wind whipped the pinyon branches about. Until he'd found ten areas where pot was growingthe scent left by several unknown wolves in each of the areas was too much of a coincidence for him to conclude humans were growing the weed.
Now Eric's nightly wolf excursions had become a dangerous business that could turn deadly in a heartbeat. Pot growers had already murdered a couple of park rangers at other locations. The drug dealers had too much to lose if they got caught at this. But the wolves didn't know a wolf pack was trying to track them down.
Then Eric smelled a whiff of the scent of one of the wolves he was certain was involved in growing the illegal cannabis. His heart pounded as the thrill of the hunt raced through his blood. Finally!
The male wolf loped through the trees dead ahead, unaware that Eric had caught his scent.
Eric and his pack had to catch the bastards running this operation before humans did. This was the first time Eric had been close to one. He couldn't lose the wolf now.
Keeping lupus garous secret from humans was paramount.
Neither Eric, nor any of his pack members, had ever expected to be chasing down pot-growing wolves. Humans were no problem. He would just get hold of his human boss, who would contact various law enforcement agencies to take the criminals down.
But Eric couldn't let anyone other than his pack members know about thisnot when the lawbreakers were wolves. As a wolf, he had no way to call for backup at this point. He'd been out here for six weeks searching for the wolves and not once had he come across any of them. The way things were going with this investigation, it stood to reason tonight would be one of the few nights he hadn't bothered to call for backup because he hadn't needed anyone any of the other times. He'd figured he could manage on his own if he did run across one of the wolves.
The wolf's scent was the same as he'd found at the site of all ten plots of cannabis, and even the scent the wolf gave off now included the smell of cannabis as if he'd brushed up against the plants on a regular basis. Damn the wolf and his partners.
Eric needed to identify who he was. Yet he was in a real quandary.
If the wolf were in human form, Eric could have arrested and incarcerated him in the Silver Town jail. Since the town was wolf-run, they could keep him there safely. But the culprit was in his wolf coat and Eric assumed the wolf wouldn't allow himself to be captured. That was the difficulty. Darien, his cousin and the leader of their pack, would be furious that Eric had gone after the wolf without calling for backup this time, but what could he do now? He couldn't let the wolf get away.
All his senses on high alert, Eric concentrated on the wolf's scent as he continued to run ahead of him. The wolf was confident, not fearfulwhich meant he didn't yet suspect that anyone was trailing him. Eric glimpsed a tuft of black fur stuck to some of the underbrush, and it smelled like the wolf he was following.
They had reached a goatlike path that led to a secluded patch of marijuana. So far, so goodthe wolf still didn't suspect he was being followed. Thankfully, for Eric's well-being, no other wolves seemed to be in the area right now. He knew the only way to take this one in was to injure him in a wolf fight, though he would risk being injured too. And then if Eric wounded him, how would he transport the wolf? He'd have to wing it.
He moved in to take the wolf down but saw movement to his right. Another wolf. Damn. More beige than gray, the wolf had been hiding in the brush. Hell, one gray wolf against two big gray males? Darien would kill Eric for getting himself into this bindif he lived through it. He didn't have a choice now. Kill or be killed.
Eric whipped around before the wolf hiding in the bush had a chance to attack. He dove for the wolf's right foreleg, hoping to subdue this one before he had to deal with the other wolf. The wolf wasn't prepared for Eric's quick assault, and with two hard chomps in quick succession, Eric brought him down. The wolf yipped and growled, backing away from Eric on three legs, while favoring his injured one.
At that, Eric swung around to face the wolf he'd been following. The wolf had finally seen Eric and had tried to sneak up on him silently, like a wolf on a hunt. Eric was certain he couldn't attack this wolf in the same way and get away with it, so growling ferociously, he feinted going for his foreleg, then swung around and bit into the wolf's hind leg. With a snap, he broke it and the wolf yipped in pain.
Neither wolf was totally disabled, which was the problem with just breaking their legs. Eric knew of a wolfa real wolfthat had lost a leg in a trap. She continued to have pups, and when she lost her mate, she began attacking sheep to provide for her young. Luckily, the sheep owner humanely caught her and took her to a wolf sanctuary where she and her pups were cared for. But she proved that a wolf could survive on three legs. Which meant these wolves were still dangerous.
Both of the wolves eyed him, growling low, their heads lowered, their tails tucked between their legs, which made him suspect they were beta wolves. One lifted his chin to howl as if he finally realized he'd better do something or be in even worse trouble. Eric knew he was about to call his pack for help. And then Eric would really be a dead wolf. He leaped and tore into the wolf, biting him in the throat just as he felt the black wolf tackle his back. The wolf at his back couldn't get a good hold of Eric because of his broken leg, thank God.
Once Eric had taken out the first wolf, he twisted around to deal with the black wolf. The wolf snapped his jaws at him, lunging forward, yipping in pain. He tried to kill Eric with every ounce of strength he possessed. Eric fought him, biting and growling. Still, the wolf managed a lucky bite to Eric's flank and then lifted his snout to howl.
Hell. His heart racing, furious with the damn wolves for doing something illegal and putting all their kind at risk, Eric tore into the wolf. He only wanted to take him in. He didn't want to have to kill him. But when he heard another wolf coming, Eric finished the injured black wolf off and raced back down the mountain. The newcomer would have to deal with his dead pack members. Eric could have fought this wolf, but not a whole pack if even more of them were in the vicinity.
Even now, he was at risk of running into them. His heart drumming and his flank burning from the bite, he tried to ignore it and ran full out as if a whole pack of wolves was on his tail. With the enhanced healing abilities of the lupus garou, he would recover sooner than if he were just human, but the process could still take some time, depending on how bad his injury was.
Eric reached his truck and shifted, the transformation warming his muscles and bones, though his wound burned even more. The shift was instantaneous and he quickly unlocked his door using the code, grabbed his medical bag, and fumbled around inside it for the antiseptic. After wiping the wound down, he bandaged the injury. It wasn't too deep, thankfully. He was hurrying to pull on his clothes when he heard a wolf yip about a half a mile away, in a different direction than where he'd just been.
His need to protect kicked in, yet the new wolf could very well be from the same pack that was growing pot. What were the odds that members of two lupus garou packs besides his were here in the park?
He grabbed his medical pack and headed out at a run, calling CJ, his deputy sheriff brother, at the same time. "Killed two of the wolves involved in the drug operation. Left when a third was on its way. Now I'm investigating a wolf injury." He gave coordinates for the drug site.
"Wait for me to get there. I'm calling it in to Darien and the sheriff, but I'm on my way."
"Can't wait, little brother. I'll be cautious."
"All right. I'll let everyone know what's going on."
Ending the call, Eric approached the area, careful to stay downwind. When he was close enough to see what the problem was without the wolf seeing him, he witnessed five wolves hovering over an injured she-wolf. She was lying on her side near the base of a cliff where evidence of a recent rock slide littered the area. By the way the other wolves were reassuring the injured wolf, Eric assumed they were lupus garous, which surprised the hell out of him. He'd never seen any in the park before his run-in with the other wolves earlier today. But considering the size of the national park, that was understandable. Their scents assured him that none of these wolves had been near the cannabis plants he'd already located. Although they could still be members of the same pack and involved with the operation in other ways.
He slowly walked out of the cover of the trees toward the rocky cliff, hands raised to show he wasn't going to shoot them, wanting them to know he was there to help the injured wolf. "I'm a lupus garou like you." Since he was off-duty and no longer wearing his uniform, he filled them in on the rest. "I'm a law enforcement park ranger. My name is Eric Silver. I can take the she-wolf in my truck to the clinic in Silver Town, two hours south of here. The town is all wolf-run."
Two of the wolves snarled and growled at him, but they didn't draw closer. He assumed they were betas, trying to figure out what to do. They couldn't take care of the wolf themselves, not as wolves. And running around in the woods as naked humans carrying an injured wolf was going to require a lot of explaining if they ran into anyone else.
The injured wolf was still lying on her side. She tried to sit up and yipped, lying back down.
"Just lie still," Eric said, motioning for her to stay put, his voice gentle and reassuring.
He needed to get closer so he could examine her, but he was cautious about the wolves who were threatening him. Even beta wolves could tear a person apart, so he needed permission to draw closer. Though they probably wouldn't hurt him, he couldn't risk injury by ignoring the threat.
When they wouldn't back down, he tried again to convince them he only wanted to help. "I can carry her to my truck, only a mile from here. Some of you can come with me so you know I'm serious about getting help for her."
They continued to snarl at him, protecting her, but Eric wouldn't back off either. He wasn't leaving until someone took care of her.
Then one of the men shifted. He was maybe in his forties, with black hair and hard amber eyes. "We don't need your help." Even so, the man was obviously in a quandary.
Eric took the wolf's shifting as a good sign. Not of friendship, but the wolf would have remained a wolf if he had felt threatened, especially since he appeared to be in charge. He would have led the wolves to attack Eric then, if he was going to do it.
At that point, Eric slowly drew closer to the injured wolf. Then he crouched to examine her, hoping they would finally let him help.
When he touched her right hind leg, she yipped. "Okay, girl, I'll be gentle. I just need to check to see if it's broken or something else." He carefully ran his hand over her leg, and she pulled it away from his touch.
"Is it broken?" the man asked, sounding worried.
"I don't feel any break, but it's obviously tender. It could be a bruised tendon, torn ligament, or even a hairline fracture of the bone."
"She can't walk on it. We're parked about five miles out."
Eric said again, "I'm parked only a mile from here on one of the official-use-only trails. I can carry her to my"
"No. We don't need your help. We'll take care of it."
"I said we'd take care of her."
Eric raised his hands in a sign of truce, but he wasn't leaving until he saw that they could provide her with the care she needed. "How are you going to do it? I'm trained in first aid. I can call others from my pack to help get her out of here, or I'll carry her to your vehicle." As much as Eric hated offering, he'd carry her the five miles to their vehicle if that was the only way they'd go for it.
"All right. You can carry her to our campsite then."
Eric let out his breath in exasperation. Every mile he moved her would cause the poor wolf more pain.
The man in charge had already shifted back into his wolf form. He and the other males were watching for signs of anyone else approaching, while the one female stood by the injured she-wolf, looking concerned. Eric made a makeshift splint, and as soon as he bound the injured she-wolf's leg, she whimpered. He hated that she was in pain and wished he could give her something for it. As gently as he could, he lifted her in his arms. This was going to be the longest hike he'd ever made. He wished the wolf in charge had listened to reason.
As a wolf, this would have been no problem, even though he was feeling some pain of his own. But as a human carrying an injured wolf, the trek was all the more difficult. He stumbled over too many exposed roots to count because he couldn't see the path, making the she-wolf whimper or yip in pain. He fought groaning himself a time or two.
Eric loved the wide open spaces in the park, the seventy-degree temps during the day, and fifty-degree temps during the nighteven though in the summer things became rather hectic with all the visitors. He would never have expected to be dealing with this much wolf trouble in one night though, when he'd never seen any other packs in the area before.
When they drew closer to a creek, he heard feminine laughter. Despite how chilly it was, the women were splashing around, which intrigued him, although he was worried they might see him carrying a wolf, surrounded by other wolves. Then one of the wolves in the lead ran off. Eric blended in with the lodgepole pines, oaks, and shadows so the women wouldn't see him unless the wolf forced him to go to the rocky bank.
Which he did.
When Eric drew near enough, he saw five women in goddess-like semi-sheer dresses. He knew he had to be dreaming. Their silky pastel creationsin blues and pinks and mint greenfluttered about the women in the summer breeze. They were standing in the water up to their calves. Above them, the creek water was mostly gentle with a few small rapids. Down here, the rapids were much more common and significant, creating warmer pockets of water. The women were laughing and talking. A petite brunette with short, curly hair really caught his eye. She was wearing a robin's-egg-blue dress, the water sensuously plastering the bottom half of the gown to her calves and thighs.
Another woman with her back to him had long, brown hair and a mint-green dress. She moved deeper into the water, which effectively blocked his view of the woman in the blue dress.
The area was great for fishing, and he was mesmerized by the woman in blue, thinking what a delicious catch she'd make.
"You know, Pepper," a blonde said to the woman in the blue dress, her voice darkening, "he wants you for his mate."
Eric straightened a bit. No one used the term "mate" except lupus garous. He couldn't smell the women's scents from where he was, nor could they smell his. He would have to cross the creek upwind of them to learn if they were really wolves. But he suspected the woman he was carrying must be a member of the same wolf pack as these women. Why else would the wolf lead him in this direction?
The male wolf suddenly detoured, and Eric was taken away from the creek and back into the woods on a path that led straight to a small cabin. A few more people were there, warily watching him. So the pack was camping here, not just visiting for a few hours. As many of them as there werehe'd seen about fifteenthey must have rented a couple of cabins.
To reach these more isolated cabins, the pack would have had to hike in on foot. No parking was allowed next to the cabins, so no vehicles were in the area. That was another reason why he would have preferred to take her to his vehicle so he could drive her to see Dr. Weber in Silver Town.
The door opened for him, and a man stepped aside so Eric could carry the wolf inside. The wolf in charge ran into a room, then came out wearing a pair of jeans. "I'll take it from here," he said. "Just lay her down on the sofa."
"Is your pack from around here? Our town is only two hours south," Eric reminded the man, hoping he would listen to reason. If the pack didn't have its own doctor, Dr. Weber would welcome the chance to take care of the injured wolf.
"We'll take it from here," a woman added, and Eric swung around to see the brunette with the short, curly hair from the creekPepper, the other woman had called her. The other women were with her and some of the male wolves were at her side, as if guarding her. "Thank you for bringing Susan here."
She was even more enchanting up close, and his image of her as a goddess remained the same. He wanted to make an impression on the beautiful she-wolf standing before him, who was obviously in charge and not the least bit hesitant. She was an alpha, and he was in love. It was the first time since he'd lost his mate that he'd felt any interest in another she-wolf.
Eric bowed his head a little to her. "I'm Eric Silver, a park ranger, and I'm with the Silver Town pack. I was telling this gentleman we have a wolf doctor in town if you don't have one of your own who can see to her."
"We're fine, thank you. We'll take care of her."
Did that mean they had someone in the pack with some medical training, maybe a nurse or an emergency med tech? Most packs did, but not many that he knew had actual physicians.
Eric turned and said to the injured wolf, "Take care, young lady. I hope you heal up soon." Then he took one last, long look at the she-wolf in charge and inclined his head again before taking his leave.
The whole way back to his truck, he couldn't stop thinking about Pepper. Was she running the pack? Or was she just a sub-leader when the pack leader wasn't around? Either might be the case, since she had made the decisions once she arrived, rather than the male who had led Eric there. She didn't seem interested in mating the other male, who was clearly interested in her. Which would be good if Eric met up with her again.
Then his law enforcement training kicked in. What if the woman didn't want him to take care of her pack member because they were involved in the illegal activities in the park? Perhaps she didn't want anything to do with anyone in law enforcement, particularly when that someone was also a wolf and could smell things that humans couldn't.
Hell, he hated when his law enforcement training took control. He really wanted to listen to his wolfish side on this one. Damn it.
When he reached his truck, he tossed his medical pack inside, stripped off his clothes, and looked at the bloody bandage on his waist for a second before yanking it off. Stinging and a roaring ache accompanied every movement, but he bit back the pain. Then he locked up his truck and shifted.
If the wolves had been foraging for new places to take cannabis plants, he wouldn't smell anything in the camp. But he hadn't smelled all the wolves who were there either. He couldn't clear them for certain by checking out the campsite, but if the campsite was clean, the possibility of another pack's involvement in the illegal operations would seem more viable.
He raced back along the path, and when he finally reached the area near the cabin, he slipped around to where he could see it from a distance. They were packing up. Good. The campsite would be cleared out, so he could sniff around to his heart's content.
He remained silent. No one would be able to smell his scent unless they ventured in his direction. He watched the pack members as they all hoisted packs and began to move the injured lady. Their movements were quiet but complementary, as if they'd been together as a pack forever.
A few of them were taking off down a trail leading away from him when Eric saw a flash of gray and beige fur in the woods off to his right. Before he could react, the large, male gray wolf lunged from the trees and attacked him. Why would they need to post a guard?
"Ohmigod," one of the women said as the attacking wolf growled and snarled.
Adrenaline pouring through his veins, Eric shot around to defend himself against the male wolf's vicious attack.
Eric didn't know if the pack continued to move away or if they were monitoring the situation, but he couldn't understand why the male wolf would attack him. Unless they were doing something illegal. Or maybe this wolf didn't know Eric was the same man who had carried the injured wolf to the cabin. Unless he'd seen him before as a wolf or could smell he was the same man who had helped the pack, he could be anyone. Even a wild wolf.
The hostile wolf was aggressive, alpha, not like any of the beta wolves Eric had met in the pack. Eric snarled and bit at him, telling him to back off. Since Eric hadn't met this wolf, he wondered where the wolf had been all this time. If he was the pack leader, he should have been helping the injured wolf long before this.
Eric intended to take off, his stance firm as he eyed the snarling wolf, who now stood still, half listening to the people clearing out of the cabin, half concentrating on Eric. But Eric didn't dare turn his back on the wolf just yet.
He didn't take a step forward to dominate the space, instead waiting for the wolf to give up and take off with his pack mates. When the wolf didn't, which was real alpha posturing, Eric had a choice: run off and leave the wolf's territory, or wait until the pack was far enough away that the wolf felt the need to keep up with them to protect them. Without proof the wolf was involved in anything illegal, Eric didn't want to take him down. Protecting his pack would be a natural instinct for the wolf, one Eric could understand.
The wolf took a few steps back and turned as if to go, making Eric assume that the wolf wanted to rejoin his pack. Eric turned slightly to race off toward his truck, with every intention of returning when all the wolves were gone so he could conduct his investigation. But then the wolf swung around and lunged at him, biting Eric in the shoulder.
Hell and damnation!
Sharp pain racked his shoulder, and he could swear it raced straight down to set the nerves on fire in the wound to his flank. Eric pivoted and clashed with the wolf. Snarling and growling, he matched the alpha's anger, the pain of his wounds fading as their teeth clashed.
Eric didn't want to kill the wolf and upset the pack when he was damned interested in the she-wolf named Pepper. Even so, he wanted to prove he wasn't about to be bullied by another wolf. Any wolf. He'd had his fair share of wolf fights over the years, and he never backed down from a fight another wolf started.
Rather than tearing into the wolf and killing him for the unprovoked attack, Eric ran off, his tail straight out behind, not tucked between his legs. It was a wolf way of saying he wasn't afraid in the least, but he wasn't going to fight.
The wolf doggedly tracked him, despite Eric's lead of several hundred feet, until Eric heard another wolf growling and snarling at his attacker. Eric figured the other wolf was warning the alpha that the wolf he was chasing had just helped them out, and he didn't want him fighting Eric. Or maybe they were afraid Eric would get suspicious of their activities because one of them had attacked him.
Then the woods grew quiet. Eric assumed the guard wolf and the other wolf had caught up to their people.
His shoulder and flank still burning where the wolves had bitten him, Eric finally stopped and listened to the breeze rustling the tree limbs and the crickets chirping. He heard an owl hooting in a tree several hundred feet away.
Despite how much he hurt, the woman in the blue gownPepperfascinated him. He was dying to know more about the mystery wolf pack and this woman who had pinned him with a look that said she was in charge and he'd better mind. She could challenge him any day. He couldn't help but love it. Then he wondered if the wolf who had attacked him was the one who wanted to mate her.
Ah, hell, that would be his luck. He wasn't into stealing another wolf's potential mateat least not normally.
Still, he was dying to check out the wolf smells at the campsite. But he had to take care of his injuries first.
When he reached his truck, he shifted, got his clothes out, and quickly threw on his briefs, jeans, socks, and boots.
Tomorrow early, he'd go back to the campsite.
Then he pulled out his medical pack, reapplied a bandage to his waist, and did the best he could to bandage the shoulder wound. He pulled on his shirt just to keep blood off his seat, climbed into the truck, and drove to Silver Town to see Dr. Weber.
Eric would never have thought he'd be the one injured when he only meant to help a wolf in need. Now he would have to see Dr. Weber about his own injury instead. He was about to call CJ with an update when the truck's digital screen lit up with an incoming call. It was his brother Sarandon, and Eric knew he'd have to tell him what had happened, even though he'd rather not mention the second wolf fight to anyone. His own pack would be furious that he was attacked while helping another wolf pack.