Read an Excerpt
The Spirit Wild Series
By Kate Douglas
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013Kate Douglas
All rights reserved.
Crickets chirped. An owl hooted. A dusting of starlight shimmered faintly against granite peaks, but here at the forest's edge, all was dark. Shivering slightly in the cool night air, Sebastian Xenakis stood beneath the gnarled oak, just one more shadow among many. With great humility and as much confidence as he could muster while standing naked in the darkness, he raised his arms, drew on the magic coursing through his veins, and once more called on the spirit within the tree, one he affectionately thought of as the lady, humbly asking for her strength.
"Damn it all." He exhaled, accepting the rush of air for what it was—a huge blast of frustration at the serendipitous nature of his magic. He stared at the massive tree towering overhead and methodically emptied his mind of all thoughts, all distractions. He put aside anger and frustration, fears and hopes, leaving room for nothing but here and now. Focusing everything within, he opened his heart to possibilities, and waited.
A few long, frustrating minutes later, he felt her warmth envelop him. An unexpected frisson raced across his bare shoulders, along his arms. It caressed his naked buttocks and swirled over his belly, lifting the dark line of body hair that trailed from navel to groin. Then it slithered along his thighs, circled his calves, and tickled across his bare feet. His cock, flush with hot blood, swelled high and hard against his belly, giving homage to the gift of power.
Then, sliding away as soft as a whisper, the intimate sense of touch, of sentient communion, bled off into the damp loam and returned to its source through thickly tangled roots. Sebastian sighed, a shuddering acceptance of sensual pleasure, the gift of contact with such a powerful force.
The lady of the oak.
His erection remained, strong evidence of her touch, the visceral connection he'd made with a spirit ancient beyond recorded memory. His body thrummed with her life force, with her power, until Sebastian felt each and every one of her thick and twisted branches spreading far and wide, until he bowed beneath the age and innate wisdom of the ancient tree. This mother oak must have stood here, a silent sentinel of the forest since long before the dawn of modern history. A few heavy branches had fallen over time, but he knew her roots were strong, her branches healthy. As if challenging time itself, the graceful beauty and symmetry of the tree remained.
He remembered the first time he saw the oak, recalled the sense of life, the sure knowledge of the tree's spiritual power. It was on that day he'd learned his father wielded the kind of power Sebastian had quickly grown to crave.
Standing just beyond the reach of the great branches, unsure of his relationship with a man he barely knew, Sebastian had watched Aldo Xenakis call lightning out of a clear, star-filled sky—call it and control it with the deft hands of a master.
He'd been seduced so easily, so quickly by that flashy show of fire and magic. Of power. Immeasurable power. So thoroughly seduced he knew he might never break free of its siren call.
Might never break free of the man he'd consciously sought, despite his mother's warning. Now it was much too late. His die had been cast, commitments made, and he was almost glad his mother was dead.
Glad she couldn't see what he'd become.
Sebastian quickly shoved thoughts of his moral weakness, his failures—and his father—aside. There was no need to mar the beauty of this night. He took a deep breath and then, almost as an afterthought, cleared his mind of all obstructions and drew more power to him. Pulled it from the earth, from the sky, from the water of a nearby stream, from the mountain itself. The fire must come from within, but he called on that as well and felt the power build.
Then he buffered the swirling energy with the strength of the oak until it was entirely under his control. Until he was the one holding the power.
Unlike his father, unwilling to display or even acknowledge such arrogance, Sebastian turned and bowed his head toward the oak, giving the tree's spirit his grateful thanks for her help. Then, spreading his fingers wide, he consciously breathed deeply and opened himself to the energy flowing into him from all directions. A brilliant glow surrounded him, but it wasn't lightning that lit the dark night.
It was power. Raw power he'd pulled from the earth, from the air and water. From the spirit in the tree and the fire burning in his soul.
Within seconds, the light blinked out. Gone as if it had never existed at all.
As was the man. In his place, a wolf darker than night raised its head and sniffed the air. Then it turned away and raced into the forest.
* * *
"Lily? Have you seen this morning's news?"
Lily Cheval fumbled with the phone and squinted at the bedside clock in the early morning darkness. Blue numbers blurred into focus. Her best buddy looked at her out of the screen on her phone. "Alex, it's six fifteen in the morning. On a Sunday. What can possibly be important enough to ..."
"There's been another one, Lil. Just inside the entrance to the park this time."
Lily bit back a growl and sat up. The last body, discovered less than a week ago, had been found along the highway leading into Glacier National Park in Montana. Much too close to the Chanku pack's main residence. The one before that had been on the outskirts of Kalispell. "What have you got?"
Alex sighed and wiped a hand across his eyes. Poor Alex. How he'd ever ended up as the pack's liaison to the Flathead County sheriff's department was beyond understanding. He might be brilliant and charismatic—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous—but he was not cut out to deal with, much less deliver, bad news, especially early on a Sunday morning.
She wondered if he'd even made it to bed the night before. His eyes looked bloodshot, and Alex did love his social life on a Saturday night.
Even in Kalispell.
"Same as the last seven," he said, pulling her back into the conversation. "Young woman, beaten, brutally raped. Throat torn out. Just like the others, probably killed somewhere else and dumped. A park ranger found her body beside the road."
"Shit. I hope you've got an alibi." She hated having to ask, but with public sentiment the way it had been heading ...
"I was with Jennifer last night. I got the call on the way home this morning."
Jennifer. Poor choice of woman, but at least she could account for Alex's time when the attack occurred. Frustrated, Lily dug her fingers into her tangled hair and tugged. Anything to help focus her thoughts. "Let me know what you find out. Check with the pack. See if they've got any new leads. I'm stuck in San Francisco until after the reception, but I'll try and get up there by the weekend."
"Okay. Sorry to wake you, but I just wanted to warn you.
Be careful. Whoever's behind this, they've hit the Bay Area just as hard. I'll find out what I can. Thanks, Lil."
Quietly Lily set the phone back in the charger and leaned against the headboard. Another young woman dead. Another murder with all the signs of a wild animal attack—except for the rape.
Just like the other seven.
Eight young women, dead by a combination of man and beast. Five in or near Glacier National Park. Three in the San Francisco Bay Area.
And where were the largest populations of Chanku shapeshifters?
"Glacier National Park and the San Francisco Bay Area. Shit." A chilling sense of premonition shuddered along Lily's spine. If they didn'
Excerpted from Dark Wolf by Kate Douglas. Copyright © 2013 by Kate Douglas. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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