There’s no turning back for Neva Grant. To find a killer, she must seduce the boldest male in the Sinclair pack. Her twin sister lies in a hospital bed, fighting for her life, the fourth and only surviving victim of a vicious attacker. The werewolf rangers suspect the Sinclair pack, and the only way Neva can infiltrate their close-knit ranks is to unleash the wildness within and offer herself to Duncan Sinclair.
Duncan’s appetite for women is legendary on the reservation. But when this new woman stirs his hunger, he finds his desire for her goes deeper than anything he’s ever felt before. When he realizes that she’s playing a game and he’s taken the bait, he is determined to push her to the breaking point. As Duncan and Neva engage in a dangerous dance, they must somehow find a way to join forces—before a cornered killer bites back.
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THE MUSIC SWIRLED through the darkness, its beat rich and seductive. Night cloaked the ballroom—a mantle challenged only by the occasional flicker of a torch burning high on the rough-hewn stone walls. On the dance floor, couples swayed to the music, their bodies so close they almost seemed to be one. Heat and sweat mingled with the growing odor of lust and need—scents that stirred her senses, made her hunger.
Neva Grant looked uneasily over her shoulder. Though the moon was masked beneath the clouds that crowded the night sky, she could feel its presence. Feel its power.
The full moon was too close. She shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be doing this when the wildness within was so close to the surface.
But she’d made her promises, and she intended to see them through—no matter what the cost.
She let her gaze roam the dance floor again. Somewhere down there, a killer lurked. A man who was using this secluded, exotic retreat as his own private hunting ground.
A man she had every intention of finding. And slaying.
She raised her glass and finished the last of her wine. The alcohol slithered warmth through her body, and perspiration beaded her skin. Hunger rose, flashing white-hot through her veins. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Not tonight. Please, not tonight.
But the pulsing need suggested it was already too late for such prayers. The wildness had woken. It would not remain leashed for long.
Maybe she shouldn’t even bother trying. The killer seemed to be choosing the more adventurous of this wanton crowd. Unleashing the wildness might be the quickest way of attracting his attention.
Bile rose up her throat and she swallowed heavily. While she had no real choice about what she had to do tonight, she wasn’t about to give the wolf within free rein. She wasn’t like any of the hunters who danced on the floor below. Her world was one of sunshine and restraint, of trying to live normally.
These people rejoiced in the night and the power of the moon. They came to this mansion for the freedom and the safety it offered, seeking to sate the moon-spun lust surging through their veins. That was why most of the men were naked, and why most of the women wore little more than wisps of material that covered everything yet left nothing to the imagination. Only their faces were concealed. Once the moon’s spell had faded and daylight returned, they would return to their packs, picking up their lives where they’d left off, not knowing the faces of any of those they’d chosen to mate with.
Unlike her pack, these wolves were free spirits, exhilarated by the thrill of the chase, by the excitement of capture and possession. The belief in one mate, one life partner, had never touched these dark halls.
But for her promise, she would not be here tonight.
She put aside her glass, then adjusted her ornate mask and made her way down the stairs. The deeper shadows that lined the walls were filled with hunters in various stages of mating. She forced her gaze away even though the wildness within yearned to watch. Hungered to join them.
Her stomach turned again. God, she hated this place. Hated everything it represented. Given the choice, she’d rather burn the Sinclair estate to the ground than be walking its halls. She wasn’t a prude; far from it. She’d given in to the power of the moon more than once herself. But if it wasn’t for this place, if it wasn’t for the wanton and careless behavior of its guests, her twin sister would not now be lying in the hospital, so close to death.
Tears stung her eyes, and she took a deep breath. Don’t think. Just do.
She moved onto the dance floor, inching her way past the slowly dancing couples. Her pulse throbbed in time to the music’s heavy beat, and the deep-down ache grew stronger.
She clenched her fists and made her way toward the rear exit. She’d spent most of her adult life fighting the worst of her desires, and she would not give in now. Not even here in this place of dark freedom.
And yet, at the same time, she knew she’d do whatever she had to—even unleashing the wildness—if it led her to the man who had attacked her twin.
She’d studied the files in Savannah’s office before she’d come down here this evening. The killer had struck three times—each time near dawn and just beyond the boundaries of the Sinclair mansion. The victims were always alone, though forensics had, not surprisingly, found evidence to suggest each victim had taken more than half a dozen lovers the night of their deaths. Savannah and the other werewolf rangers who patrolled the Ripple Creek Reservation—which was the mountain homeland of the four Colorado wolf packs—believed that the killer was shadowing his victims as they left the mansion, and attacking once they were clear. But they had no proof of this—nothing more than scents and suspicions. And neither of those were admissible in court, be it human or werewolf.
Savannah had been following one such scent when she’d been attacked by a silver wolf. Only the fact that she’d been in wolf form herself had saved her. The winter coat of their tribe was thick, and the silver wolf had been unable to gain a true grip around her sister’s throat. But even so, her wounds were multiple and life threatening.
And Neva had shared the last, terrifying moments of her twin’s horror. While she never wanted to go through something like that again, in the end it was the link between them that had saved Savannah. Her sister had siphoned Neva’s stronger psychic abilities and used them to finally fend off her attacker.
Neva closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Even now, her sister’s pain edged Neva’s consciousness. When she’d left home this evening, the doctors still weren’t sure if Savannah would survive. Even she couldn’t say with any degree of certainty. Savannah was hanging on by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much to snatch that lifeline away.
Which was why Neva had touched her twin’s unresponsive mind and made a silent vow: she’d hunt down the killer and finish what her sister had started if Savannah found the strength to live.
It may have been foolish, but it was better than sitting at home, waiting for the worst.
But unlike Savannah, she was no ranger. Far from it. She had no idea how to load a weapon, let alone shoot, and she only had a wolf’s natural skills when it came to tracking. But she was still far from defenseless. Like most of the wolves of her tribe, she rated high in telepathy, but she was also almost off the scale empathically. The two abilities combined could be a deadly weapon if one knew how to use them properly—as the wolf who’d attacked Savannah had learned.
So far, Neva had kept her shields up tonight. Skimming the minds of hunters when the moon bloomed was far too dangerous and would attract the kind of sexual interest she was trying to avoid. Besides, she might just alert the killer she was here, seeking him.
The rangers believed it was probably one of the Sinclairs behind the killings, but they were a large and closemouthed pack and had yet to provide the rangers with any real help. And while the Sinclairs were all silver wolves, like the one who had attacked her sister, they did not have a monopoly on the color. Even in her own pack, which were primarily golden-coated, silver could be found.
No, she’d never find the killer roaming the outskirts of the Sinclair stronghold. It was doubtful if even the rangers could. It had to be done from within. And there was only one way she could achieve that. Goose bumps skated across her skin, and she sent a silent prayer to the moon for strength.
She’d spent a good part of the day studying the Sinclair lineage. The wolf she’d chosen to seduce was the pack leader’s third son. By all accounts, he was the wildest of them all, but he was the only one who’d been away from home when the first two murders had occurred. So he was safe—or as safe as any of the Sinclairs could be.
She’d also spent time studying the mansion’s floor plans before coming here, and she had talked to Betise, a regular customer at her family’s diner. Though barely thirty-six, Betise had been attending moon dances at the mansion for a good twenty years and knew the place almost as well as the Sinclairs themselves. It had been Betise who told her that Duncan Sinclair rarely joined the dance before midnight, and that before then he could usually be found close to his rooms on the west side of the mansion.
Of course, he’d been away for ten years, and anybody—even the wildest of the wild—could change in that amount of time. But for her sister’s sake she had to hope that wasn’t the case.
She hurried out the rear doors. The night breeze stirred her flimsy skirt. Its touch was cool against the fever-kissed skin of her thighs. She glanced skyward again, judging the time by the position of a moon she could feel, not see. Close to midnight. She had to hurry. She tugged the delicate material clear of her bare feet and ran to the back of the mansion.
A cherub-filled fountain came into sight. She slowed, scanning the windows until she found his. Her heart was beating so fast it felt as if it would tear free of her chest, and she knew the cause was fear, not exertion. She’d never done anything like this before. She didn’t know if she even had what it took to attract, let alone hold, a wolf with Duncan Sinclair’s experience.
But she had to try. It was the safest way to gain full access to the mansion.