Has the Billionaire Shifter Met His Match?
Ryan Howard is a billionaire playboy and powerful shifter who, some say, is driven by carnal desire. Unable–or unwilling–to settle down, he stalks the nightclubs of Galveston in search of meaningless conquests. But after one unforgettable weekend aboard his yacht with the vibrantly sexy and irresistible Maria Miranda, Ryan finds himself in an unfamiliar position. For Maria is the one who just walks away. And Ryan is facing a barrage of feelings new to him.
As one of the last of a dying race of Drakkor dragons, Maria's sole duty is to get with child–even if it means surrendering her body to a sexy stranger, then moving on. She isn't ready for a man like Ryan. But when she's kidnapped by a merciless Drakkor, Maria must face her greatest fear to claim a future.
About the Author
Karen now lives in North Texas, where she shares her life with her very own hero of a husband and three doting dogs. Also an entrepreneur, she divides her time between the business she started and writing the contemporary romantic suspense and paranormal romances that readers enjoy, and that she now brings to Silhouette Intimate Moments books. You can email Karen at KWhiddon1@aol.com or write to her at P.O. Box 820807, Fort Worth, TX 76182
Read an Excerpt
Maria Miranda had always liked her namealmost as much as she loved the sea. The melodic sound of the six syllables always made her smile. Even now, trying to fulfill the destiny she'd been given, a walk along the waves did much to soothe her frustration at her repeated failure.
All her life, she'd taken great pains to hide her beauty. Until now. She'd just turned thirty, and her father and the Drakkor Council had grown impatient. The time had come to accomplish what she'd been born to do. Somehow. So far, nothing had been as easy as it should be.
Another Friday night. She'd decided to give this place one more shothow could she resist a bar called Sea Dragon? She took the same seat at the bar as she had the previous two Fridays and swiveled to face the crowded nightclub. Women shot her envious and sometimes downright hostile glares, while the men couldn't seem to tear their eyes from her. Not for the first time, she found herself aching to scoop her hair back into an unflattering bun and slip her oversize, tortoiseshell glass onto her nose.
Lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Despite the hip-hop music blasting on the nightclub's speakers, the old eighties song kept running through her head. As she got up and gyrated on the dance floor with yet another handsy, overly self-confident man, she wondered why on earth she'd ever thought coming here would be a good idea.
Because desperation fueled her, that's why. Some women talked of their biological clock ticking. Well, hers had gone into overdrive. Not just because she yearned for a baby, but because her entire race's survival depended on it. Unfortunately, for her, getting pregnant was a bit complicated.
Breathing a sigh of relief as the song ended, she gazed into her escort's eyes and tried to imagine letting his lips touch her. Nope. Not feeling it. So she thanked him and turned to go. When he grabbed her arm, she pulled free, gave him a don't-you-dare-try-that-again glare and headed back toward the bar.
Immediately, several other men jostled each other, clamoring for her attention. Ignoring them all, she raised her hand to signal the bartender, but someone stepped in front of her and ordered a drink for her, his treat.
"No thank you," she said, her voice clear and cool. And discouraging. Who knew men would think that if a reasonably attractive woman came to a bar alone, it was a signal to a bunch of hungry sharks to begin a feeding frenzy?
At the lame analogy, her inner Drakkor licked its chops. Of course, the fact that she actually had come here for that reason made the irony even more delicious. And painful.
Though she wished she could be outside strolling near the waves crashing up against the seawall, she finally ordered her own drink. The bartender brought it and three more. "From the gentlemen there, and there, and over there," he said, rolling his eyes.
"No, thanks," she said again, pushing them away. The pounding beat of the music had begun to make her head ache. Once again, she surveyed the room, feeling out of place and unsettled. More and more she had come to realize that trying to meet someone in a scene like this didn't work for her.
This was the third time in as many weeks that she'd come to this place. Maybe she should give up and move on. Though she'd danced with many, there hadn't been a single man who'd generated even the faintest flicker of interest, and she knew all too well the rules governing the task ahead of her.
One last look around the bar, and she'd knock back her drink and go home. Failure, again. Though, as a consolation prize, she felt quite sure she could find something interesting to watch on television.
And then, as her gaze swept through the packed room, she saw him. Everything elsethe music, the noise, the crowd, faded away.
Gorgeous, ruggedly handsome, devilishly sexya hundred superlatives couldn't even begin to do him justice.
Tall and athletic, with muscles rippling under his T-shirt, the sight of him quickened her pulse. He walked with a nonchalant kind of self-confidence that drew her like a magnet. She let her gaze roam hungrily over him. Hair so dark it almost seemed black. Shaggy, a bit longer than currently fashionable. His hawk-like features, for whatever reason, seemed vaguely familiar, though she knew she hadn't met him. A man like him would not easily be forgotten.
Just like in a romance novel or a sappy movie, their eyes met. Locked. And held. She sucked in her breath, her entire body tingling.
Then she noticed the bevy of women hanging on to his side. And more, lined up three deep behind him.
Popular, wasn't he? She couldn't say she blamed them.
Lips curling, she glanced to her left and her right, and at the unwanted drinks the bartender kept depositing in front of her. If she were to drink them all she wouldn't be able to walk.
They were an equal match. Fate. It had to be fate. A shiver snaked up her spine. Finally. The one she'd been searching for had finally appeared.
The mysterious stranger noted the drinks and her smile, and dipped his chin in agreement. Then he shook off his entourage and strode across the crowded room toward her.
Heart pounding faster than the bass beat, she stood, cutting through the men who vied for a chance to talk to her or dance with her, and smiled her welcome at him as he approached.
"Have we met?" he asked, the thick Texas drawl in his sexy voice curling her toes in her four-inch heels.
"No." Leaning away from him, she took a small sip of the drink she'd purchased. "I don't think so."
One of the men who'd tried to corner her earlier sauntered up, brazenly attempting to push himself between her and her new friend.
"She's with me," he growled, giving the newcomer a back-off glare. "Don't interrupt us again."
Muttering a curse, the intruder went away.
"Well done, sir," she said. "Maria Miranda."
Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome smiled at her, sending a swirl of guppies swimming in her stomach. He held out his hand.
She took it, noting the long, elegant fingers. Even the shape of his hand turned her on, though the noise made it difficult to hear.
"I can't believe it," he murmured, leaning in close, his breath tickling her ear. "Until I saw you, I was bored. I'd just decided to leave when I took one last look around. Packed dance floor, check. Bodies gyrating to music played at a decibel rivaling that of a jet taking off, check. And then you."
She laughed, a bit shaky, hoping he didn't realize that even the husky timbre of his voice turned her on. She also noticed he hadn't mentioned the bevy of beautiful women who even now intently watched his every move.
A slow song began to play. At least, without the loud thumping of the bass, hearing became slightly easier.
"This is my third time here," she said, resisting the urge to lean even closer. "And I have to say, probably my last. This place is all too familiar and rapidly growing old."
He nodded. "I wasn't exactly sure what drew me to this bar, especially since I could easily find a hundred just like it in any number of cities." He shrugged. "In fact, I'm not clear how what had started as an evening stroll on the beach led to this."
His gaze slid over her, as intimate as a caress. "But I'm glad it did. You're quite possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever met. Tall and graceful, curved in all the right places, and enticingly spicy."
Though her mouth had gone dry, she managed to smile back at him. "You're awfully good at flirting."
He laughed. "Only when I see something I want." Every time his gaze met hers, her heart did a flip-flop. "And I want you."
Her entire body burned. If he kept looking at her like that, she'd go up in smoke. Hello, Destiny.
"My head's beginning to hurt," she told him, lightly touching his arm. "Do you want to get out of here?"
Another slow song came on. "Let's dance instead," he said, leading her out onto the dance floor. The instant he took her in his arms, she knew. This man. Him. Relief warred with arousal. Finally, after years of searching. She'd found him. Or he'd found her. Fate had finally tossed her a bone.
Of course she said none of those things. Men, she'd learned, sometimes took longer to reach conclusions based on instinct or intuition. Right now, with her head spinning, relishing the way his muscular body fit against hers, she didn't really care. Life had a way of sorting things out, and being held in his arms, her curves tucked up against his hard contours, her body melting against his, pushed everything else from her mind.
He looked down at her and smiled once more. The intensity of his gaze and the beauty of his smile sent a shudder through her. Her knees went weak and she stumbled. Only his strong arms kept her on her feet. And then she felt the force of his arousal jutting against her belly as they swayed to the music. A hot ache grew inside her, nearly unbearable in its intensity.
"We need to get out of here," she managed, weak with need.
To her relief, he jerked his head toward the door. "Sure. Lead the way."
The instant the cooler air hit her overheated body, she shivered. With anyone else, the scent of salt in the breeze would have brought her back to reality. Always, the sea grounded her.
Yet with him, her body still throbbed. This was right. This was what had been foretold for her, meant to be.
She nearly pinched herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming.
"Are you all right?" He made no attempt to hide the fact that he wanted her. Desire echoed in his stance, the darkness of his eyes, in every shadow of his perfectly chiseled face.
In unspoken accord, they crossed the parking lot, finding the stone steps down the seawall, to walk along the beach. The instant they reached the sand, Maria slipped off her high heels and carried them, so she could walk barefoot in the sand.
"Are you sure that's safe?" he asked.
Tilting her head up at him, she smiled. "I love the way sand feels between my toes. You should try it."
To her amazement, he did exactly that, removing his boat shoes. "Nice."
When he took her hand, she couldn't suppress a tiny cry at the contact. A hot ache grew in the back of her throat, making her realize what they'd all said would happen was true. Desire, want and need had the potential to morph into so much more.
Away from the bar and the tourist areas, the beach was peaceful and quiet. Silver moonlight highlighted gentle waves, and even the ever-present screech of seagulls had disappeared for the night.
"Maria?" He turned to her, and swept her into his arms. She felt her body soften as her curves molded to his hard, muscular body. Her skin tingled from the touch of his hands, his long elegant fingers caressed her arms.
And then he kissed her. His mouth covered hers with a hunger rivaling her own. Spirals of ecstasy made her quiver, even as his mouth left hers to kiss the pulsing hollow at the base of her throat.
Again she prayed this wasn't yet another dream, that she wouldn't wake alone and unfulfilled in her empty bed. His lips recaptured hers, more demanding this time, and every cell of her being answered him, yes.
If he laid her down in the sand right now, she would welcome him inside her.
"Not here," he told her, making her wonder if he'd read her mind. He grinned at her expression, planting a swift kiss on the tip of her nose. "You deserve better."
She let him lead her down the beach, away from the restaurants and bars, toward the residential area. When they reached the first group of beach houses sitting high up on their stilts, he grinned at her again. She marveled at the beauty of that smile, wishing for a swift instant that he, too, was Drakkor and could change and fly up into the sky with a sweep of powerful wings.
Foolishness. She pushed the thought away as quickly as it had come. Another Drakkor would be of no use to her, and above all, she had her duty to her people to hold high.
She wanted him. And tonight she was going to give herself over to passion and quit worrying about a future over which she had little control.
"Here we are," he said, pointing toward a yellow beach house with white trim. Like all the others, the house sat up on what she'd always called stilts. High enough off the ground to protect it from a water surge. After Hurricane Ike, most of these houses had been damaged or destroyed and rebuilt to more exacting standards. She ought to know. She'd spent many hours volunteering, assisting in the rebuilding efforts.
This house appeared both well-built and huge.
"Lovely," she murmured. "I live on the other side of the island, closer to the ferry."
At the base of the steps, he turned to her and gave her a slow series of kisses. She shocked herself at her own eager response.
"Come with me," he said, and there was never a question. They hurried up the steps. He unlocked the door and they tumbled inside, laughing. Hands all over each other, they tore at each other's clothes, until they stood naked in the silver moonlight pouring through the windows.
She thought she'd never seen a more magnificent man.
"Let me look at you," he said, the reverence in his husky voice as sensual as any caress.
So she stood, unashamed and unembarrassed by her nudity, her entire body tingling and ready. Though she didn't even know his name, she didn't want to destroy the magic of the moment. There'd be time enough for that later.
He kissed her, pulling her even closer. There was nothing gentle about the way they came together. Like waves crashing upon the seawall in a storm, he possessed her and she felt herself drowning. They came together again and again, fierce and true and honest. She'd never known lovemaking could be like this, even as she shuddered, trying to hold back her second or third release and failing just as she had on all the others before.
Her inner dragon echoed her cry. At the sound, she saw a wolf rise up, a strong, shadowy image superimposed over him as he flung back his head and gave himself over to his own release. So he was Pack then. She'd known he was some kind of Shifter from his aura.
And then, and then, he pulled her close and held her, rocking her against him as if he found her infinitely precious.
Satisfied, sated, her body nevertheless stirred at his display of tenderness.
Lying there, knowing a satisfaction of a kind she'd never known, she finally slept.
Bright sunlight streaming through the windows woke her. For a second, discomfited, she realized she was still in bed with him, the wonderful, mystery man whose name she didn't even know.
Slowly, she turned her head, to find him sound asleep next to her.
Her heart felt full enough to burst. She'd never thought she could feel this way, despite being aware that she must, if she wanted to accomplish her life's purpose.
Determined to fulfill her destiny, she'd been actively searching for the right man for some time now. Until meeting this one, there hadn't been any to whom she felt attracted. Not one single solitary one.
She'd actually begun to wonder if she was too picky, if her proclivity to know what she wanted was hindering her achievement of the fate that had been thrust upon her. She couldn't count how many times she'd wanted out, wanted a different life, a different future. But then, all along, she'd known she really didn't have a choice.
The choice had been made for her long before her own birth.
Destiny. And fate.
Yet such things were more difficult to find than they should have been.
Earlier tonight, she'd been fed up and tired of searching, half convinced her apparently overly selective nature would ensure she'd die alone and childless, a disappointment to her father for bringing shame upon her people.
And then this man had come along. Right now, lying so still in bed next to him, with every nerve ending in her body ablaze, she felt alive. More alive than she had in weeks, months. And hopeful, too. As if her destiny might not be unobtainable after all.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: Billionaire Wolf - The Pack Book 17 Author: Karen Whiddon Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne Published: 11-1-2015 Pages: 304 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub-Genre: Paranormal; Shifters; Werewolves; Supernatural ISBN: 9781460387856 ASIN: B00WAOQYRM Reviewed For NetGalley and Harlequin Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.5 Stars Has the Billionaire Shifter Met His Match? Ryan Howard is a billionaire playboy and powerful shifter who, some say, is driven by carnal desire. Unable—or unwilling—to settle down, he stalks the nightclubs of Galveston in search of meaningless conquests. But after one unforgettable weekend aboard his yacht with the vibrantly sexy and irresistible Maria Miranda, Ryan finds himself in an unfamiliar position. For Maria is the one who just walks away. And Ryan is facing a barrage of feelings new to him. As one of the last of a dying race of Drakkor dragons, Maria's sole duty is to get with child—even if it means surrendering her body to a sexy stranger, then moving on. She isn't ready for a man like Ryan. But when she's kidnapped by a merciless Drakkor, Maria must face her greatest fear to claim a future. The two compelling leads get more than they bargained for when they hook up for a night of no holds passionate sex. A scene that practically scorches the reader's finger tips. Maria's secrets put her in danger and she runs. Whiddon leads the reader on a merry chase that has them wanting to peak ahead to find out what will happen next. Story moves quickly and seamlessly from scene to scene. as part of a series you can look for many others to devour, but this book can be read as a stand alone. My rating of "Billionaire Wolf" is 4.5 out of 5 stars. Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WAOQYRM/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0 B&N Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/billionaire-wolf-karen-whiddon/1121773949?ean=9781460387856 GoodReads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25672137-billionaire-wolf The Reading Room Link: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=956979984443493&id=165170576957775 Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/DelAnne531/status/883175374338760704
A short book about two people meeting and connecting in a bar only to learn they are both shifters. Ryan Howard isn't just your normal rich playboy, he is also a wolf shape shifter. Ryan has earned his reputation of being a playboy, he enjoys women but never sticks with one very long or let's one inside his private life. When he meets a beautiful woman at the local bar there is a instant sexual attraction between these two. What Ryan thinks will be a wonderful one nighter turns into so much more. Maria is on a mission to fulfill her destiny as one of the few remaining Drakkor women. She is to find her mate, fall in love and have children to ensure her race of shifters continue. When she meets Ryan in a local bar she is instantly attracted to him. After spending an incredible night in his bed Maria is hopeful that maybe Ryan could be the one. When Maria finds out that Ryan is a billionaire playboy she runs but Ryan is determined he is not letting this sexy woman get away that quickly. Secrets unfold and these two must decide if fate has actually brought them together and if they can have more than just an explosive sexual connection. I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher for my hones review and opinion. All ratings and opinions stated are my own.
Billionaire Wolf isn’t your everyday shifter story. There be dragons here. Shifter, Ryan Howard, is a successful and very public business man. Not wanting any attachments, he keeps his connections to one night stands. When he meets Maria in a night club. They have a connection he cannot get out of head. Maria is looking for her true mate. To continue the Drakkor race, it is Maria’s duty to get with child. For her safety, she must stay out of the spotlight, especially the kind Ryan Howard comes with. When Maria's encounter with Ryan becomes publicized, Maria want to stay as far away from Ryan as she can. With an unnatural pull, that happens to be harder than she anticipated. Billionaire Wolf has steamy romantic encounters but the story felt static, with me feeling little to no character connections. I’m a huge dragon shifter fangirl, so I really wanted to love this story but in the end it was just a like it. I received this ARC copy of Billionaire Wolf from Harlequin Nocturne in exchange for a honest review.