Can blood ties be stronger than the passions that rule the heart?
Skylar Donovan has come to her late father's Colorado cabin to find answers to explain his death. Instead she meets a handsome forest ranger with a dark side. A stranger who is willing to protect her from an unknown assailant. A stranger who also appears in her dreams as something other than a man. He's werewolf, and he satisfies Skylar Donovan like no mere man ever has.
Gavin Harris was bitten by a monster in the hills he has sworn to protect and now searches for that beast. But his deadly mission unites him with a beautiful blonde bent on a search of her own. Neither is safe from the evil they're stalkingbut the forbidden lust that burns between them might be the greatest danger of all.
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Skyl ar Donovan was being haunted by the same dream. Four nights in a row.
An erotic, half awake, half asleep nightmare from which she awoke in tangled sheets, body slick with sweat, with her hand between her thighs.
Looked like nothing had changed tonight, either.
The minute Skylar closed her eyes, the dream returned. Moonlight lit the mountains. Shadows edged that light. And through the dark came the echo of a man's voice: a mesmerizing wordless whisper that was the equivalent of a highly charged sexual invitation.
Her dream guy was there again. Hell, it was impossible to tune him out. The remote Colorado cabin she bunked in had no TV for white noise, and she'd left her headphones behind.
He called to her, and she responded to the raw sensuality in his voice. Though his words weren't clear, his provocative tone left her ready to do something about the effect he had on her, whether he was real or not.
These damn dreams would have topped the charts as the best wet dreams ever if it were an actual man she lusted for instead of a hallucination. Something her mind had created as a distraction from recent painful events. Everyone knew that fantasy was a notoriously viable way of coping with loss.
Problem was, this nighttime lustfest wouldn't stop. Neither would the questions she didn't dare acknowledge out loud.
Who was he?
What was he?
What would this creature's skin feel like against her? How about his mouth? With a voice so totally seductive, surely the rest of him would be sublime.
Although Skylar knew the difference between dreams and reality, there were no clear-cut definitions here. With her eyes closed, she fell under his spell. His image stuck to her with supernatural glue.
Wide shoulders above a broad muscular chest. Thick torso. Narrow waist and hips. Dark hair worn long. His stance was determined, his face sometimes raised to the star-filled sky. And over everything was an aura of wildness that catapulted things into nightmare territory. Because there wasn't the slightest chance of mistaking her nocturnal seducer for a normal human being. He was, in fact, anything but normal.
He was a magnetic combination of man and beast with a ridiculous twist on the DNA sequencing of two species that couldn't share the same physical space in reality. A unique being with its own name.
Hell. Yes. Werewolf.
With a presence powerful enough to sift through REM.
Of course these were just dreams. She got that. She wasn't an idiot.
Well, maybe she was. Because
She was so very hot for the creature that stood on that hilltop and looked like a man at times, though that outline was deceptive. She felt vulnerable when he was around, and slightly out of control. But maybe she was only an eavesdropper, and he waited for someone else. Something else.
Was the moon his mistress? Wasn't that how things worked for werewolves?
Why, then, was he yanking her chain?
A sudden spike in her heart rate, far beyond the usual range, jolted Skylar's eyes open. Anxious, she rolled over on the mattress and sat up, sweat trickling between her breasts, heart pounding too damn fast.
Tonight was different somehow. This time the voice had seemed closer and very, very real. It left an echo in the room.
Not dreaming now?
To prove that, Skylar slipped from the bed and padded to the window. She moved the curtain, expecting to catch sight of her velvety tormentor, wondering again why she allowed a figment of her imagination to continue to interrupt what should have been a good night's sleep.
She saw nothing out there, but God, had she actually expected to?
Resisting the urge to laugh at herself, Skylar rested her forehead on the cool window glass. Probably she had allowed her mind to supercharge some poor nocturnal creature's cry into something it wasn't. That's all those sounds were.
Not a voice.
She wasn't nuts, just tired, worn out and sleep deprived.
She also supposed that these nighttime escapades could be tied to the power of suggestion, caused by the discovery of her dad's cache of items in the attic. That old trunk and the things she found inside it.
Her dad, it seemed, kept dirty little secrets to himself here in Colorado, so far away from his family. And it had taken coming to this remote cabin to go through his things for Skylar to realize she hadn't really known David Donovan at all.
One more glance outside, at the night, and she turned back to the bed. Curling up on the mattress with her knees to her chest, she used her usual abundance of common sense to reason things out.
Maybe dreaming about a supernatural lover merely showcased a healthy need to get past the termination of her relationship with Danny, her ex-fiancé. She had left him a couple of months ago, before actually getting to the altar, and everybody needed time to adapt.
It wouldn't take a professional opinion to point out that the sexy dreams she seemed committed to having could be her mind's way of filling the void made by that kind of change, especially since it was followed fairly closely by her father's untimely death
The father who, as a famous psychiatrist dealing in other peoples' problems, had, it turned out, sometimes dabbled in his own world of make-believe.
Werewolves were his idea, after all.
Not only had her dad believed those creatures existed, he must have thought they roamed the mountains of Colorado, right outside this cabin's doorwhich was likely the reason he often retreated here under the premise of needing alone time.
Beasts, for God's sake.
Like the one in my dreams.
So maybe fantasies were contagious and could be inherited, and stumbling on her father's secrets had spawned her own nocturnal reveries.
Skylar pulled the blanket up to her neck. Seconds later, she flipped onto her back, staring at the ceiling of the small rustic bedroom.
"Screw the pity party," she murmured. Because truthfully one thing, at least, was clear. She felt liberated by the empty spot on her ring finger.
Seeking comfort in the lavender-scented feather pillow, Skylar vowed to stick to her plan: finish going through and packing up her father's things and then return to her apartment in Miami, where her wedding dress still hung on a hanger. The dress would have to be returned eventually. If she ran into Danny, she'd just have to deal.
She could do that.
In truth, her life sucked sometimes. No mother, no father and no fiance but what the heck? She had three loving sisters and the deed to this cabin.
"Bring it on, sexy nightmare!"
Plumping up the pillow, Skylar blew out a breath and dared to close her eyes. Refusing to behave, her heart spiked again.
Swear to God, she was sure the man in her dreams was out there now, waiting for her. Whispering to her. Compelling her to listen.
And why the hell shouldn't she?
Gavin Harris turned his face to the night wind, catching a whiff of a fragrance completely foreign to the rest of the forest smells surrounding him. It was a sudden sensory bombardment that didn't belong here and was, even as he breathed it in, a detour from his agenda.
Eyes shut, he wrapped his senses around the uniqueness of the rich, sweet scent, separating each component with his fine-tuned wolf senses.
Female, he concluded. Young, supple flesh. Musky pher-omones. Traces of soap and denim. Tantalizing feminine scents that weren't in any way related to the more monstrous odors he sought tonight, but were oh so compelling.
He shook his head hard to ward off the distraction, and muttered, "Forget it." Investigating the source of these new smells would mean detouring from his objective, which had to remain his greatest priority. He was on watch, hunting his own version of big game.
That objective was an important one. Vital.
The rosy feminine perfume floating to him from the cabin in the clearing below him caused a visceral physical reaction similar to being shocked by a cattle prod. All the little hairs on his arms stood up. Tingling nerves made his muscles twitch.
He smelled the woman in that cabin as easily as if she stood in front of him, in person.
And she was alone.
Stepping forward brought the cabin into view through a gap in the trees. Gavin leveled his gaze on the dark windows and inhaled deeply, concluding that the woman down there was the only human in the area at the moment. She occupied a cabin that had been originally been built by old Tom Jeevers, making it smell a whole hell of a lot better than its line of former occupants had.
The agitated, tinnier scent of anxiousness wafted to him, adding a second, spicier layer to the woman's floral bouquet. Either she was anticipating something, or was in some kind of trouble. A fight with a companion, lover or husband, maybe, that caused a ruffle in the atmosphere? The long-anticipated arrival of a lover who was late?
"Lucky bastard," Gavin muttered. If she had a husband, that guy would get to smell her every damn day.
With a quick glance up at the sky, Gavin widened his stance, knowing he shouldn't linger too long in the moonlight. Though the moon wasn't completely full tonight, that bugger was close enough to that phase to affect him in adverse ways. All the enhanced senses were just a start.
A quick glance down the length of his body found it not actually foreign, but increasingly unfamiliar as each lunar phase progressed. The extra muscle that he hadn't worked out in a gym to maintain helped to add bulk. His height had stretched a good inch or two above his normal six-one.
His jeans were tighter. Shirts now strained at the seams. The only measurements remaining the same were his feet, slammed into his boots.
Then there was his hair. The tangle of chin-length waves were darker and much longer than he was used to, tickling his ears, making him wonder how long he'd been patrolling this section of the mountain ignoring most of the perks of civilization.
Could it have been two years?
Damn if everything hadn't changed in the span of those years. Out of necessity, he'd pretty much become a loner. And though he patrolled this area of the Rockies regularly, during those past two years four people had died. One of them was the last man to occupy the cabin now emitting a woman's enticing pheromones.
Oh, yes. And within those two years he, Gavin Harris, Colorado Forest Ranger, had regrettably, unforgettably, become a beast tethered by a silver chain to the devilish disk in the sky. Moon. As absurd as that seemed.
He closed his eyes again, shook his head. Having a woman down there, so very close, and smelling like heaven, served to highlight his shitload of personal issues.
People who abused the cliched phrase no crying over spilt milk had never experienced their skin turning inside out or their muscles expanding to nearly twice their size in the span of sixty seconds. They'd never felt the pain of fingers splitting open to spring a full set of razor-sharp claws, and a jaw disconnecting bone by bone.
After taking another deep breath, Gavin dropped to a crouch. The sultry smells floating upward from the cabin were disturbing to him for so many reasons. One major problem was that they could easily mask the other, more feral odor he'd been out here searching for.
The woman's presence was trouble, any way he looked at it, and also a reminder he didn't need about the better times in his past. And the woman in that cabin might be in danger out here from bigger, badder things than him.
Who are you? he wondered. Hasn't anyone warned you about this place? Told you that four deaths in and around the area are four too many, and that a woman by herself might be asking for trouble?
Determined to let this go, Gavin straightened and half turned. That woman wasn't his problem. He had more serious things to worry about. There was a damn good possibility he wasn't the only monster nearby, and if that theory proved true, odds were less than good that he'd ever see another sunrise.
"Leave her alone. Get out of here. Let her be," Gavin warned himself.
Not so fast.
An additional beam of light drew his gaze. He turned back.
The cabin's door opened, throwing a narrow strip of yellow across the boards of the covered porch. A figure emerged to stand in that beam, and although the features were shadowy from this distance, Gavin's heart exploded in a flurry of racing beats.
The woman stood in the open doorway as if his thoughts had drawn her out. As if she knew he was there, watching her, and felt his presence.
Seeing her jolted the beast inside him.
He'd been right about this woman. Anxiousness rode the breeze. She was tense, uptight and high-strung, like an animal about to spring.
But she was also small, blonde, and only half-dressed.
Gavin stared at the half-dressed part, and the long, lean, very bare legs that melted into delicate ankles and shoeless feet.
His inner wolf gave a soft, muted whine that scattered when he cleared his throat. Christ, temptation was a bitch. So was being a goddamn werewolf. As for you, woman
His attention snapped to identify another smell.
The woman on the porch had a gun?
Gavin realized with a sudden flash of intuition that the icy chill now ripping through him wasn't due only to the alluring sight of the woman, or the scent of her weapon, but to the thing closing in on them from the mountain.
He must have gauged the strange lure of this area correctly if the prodigal beast he sought returned two days early. Forty-eight hours shy of that next full moon.
With renewed wariness, he glanced again at the cabin and the beauty on the porch whose white T-shirt highlighted her slender torso, and whose face was hidden by a cloud of fair hair. He already felt protective of her. Felt as though he knew her somehow.
She might have courage enough to try to protect herself, but no gun he knew of would save her if the thing he chased turned its attention her way. He whirled, his boots digging up clumps of dirt. No time to waste. If the visitor heading this way was what he hoped it might be, he needed to lead that abomination away from the cabin.
With a final look over his shoulder, Gavin took off at a jog because his gut told him he needed to stop this killer before it claimed another poor soul.