Wolf Called

A sexy werewolf romance

The Wolf Appeal series has been read by thousands who love werewolf romance. The shifters live all around the world without our knowing…they play hard and they love hard…and they’re looking for their mates.

In the last book, we took a trip to New Mexico, the start of a whole new pack. For Wolf Called, we’re back in Mountain View, to check in with the pack that started it all. (Reminder, these books can be read as stand alone)


Cover with title Wolf Called, series Wolf Appeal and Author KB Alan; Cover shows muscular man with no shirt, and jean, in the forest, with a wolf on the path behind him

Wolf Called
Paranormal Romance (Werewolves)
Series: Wolf Appeal
64k words (Novel)
January 27, 2023



When Ivy runs into the hard-bodied hottie with the gorgeous eyes and sexy forearms, she’s kind of in the middle of breaking the law. Technically. Maybe. And he’s almost certainly a cop. Or military? Hard to say, but he’s cagey and he makes her lady parts tingle so there’s only one thing to do. Run.

Mountain Pack security specialist Brad isn’t sure what’s happening with the human woman who catches his eye and then runs away. But he’s fairly certain she’s guilty of something. And he’s almost as certain she’s his mate. Maybe. What’s absolutely clear is that he’s going to find out. He just has to catch her first. And as a werewolf, that’ll be the easy part. Figuring out what to do with her when he finds her, that might be more difficult. But he’s absolutely up for the challenge.


Ivy glanced at her watch. She wasn’t concerned about the time, not really. She’d mostly needed an excuse to tear her attention away from the sexy guy working on the office building two doors down. Her table at the cafe had given her a perfect view of the man as he’d circled the building with someone she presumed was the owner or manager, taking notes on a tablet as the other man talked and gestured. She was betting on owner. He was more distraught than she’d imagine a manager would be, as he pointed out the broken windows and spray paint.

She wasn’t sure what her hottie’s role in this was. Insurance adjuster? Police officer? He’d rolled up in a black SUV just as she, her brother Ty, and his best friend Eddie had taken their seats. His scan of the area as he’d stepped out and made his way to the office had taken her in. Taken all of them in. But she’d felt like he’d paused just a little bit longer on her. Or maybe she was justifying to herself the casual staring she’d been doing since he’d come back outside to do the tour of the damages.

Their waiter had noticed her interest, though misinterpreting it, and told them there’d been a rash of petty vandalism in the area. Likely kids on summer break, the young man—who was almost certainly a kid on summer break—had said, before heading off to place their orders. They’d eaten their late breakfast and Ty and Eddie had decided to go check out the little hardware store, while she lingered over coffee. They had a six-hour drive to get back to their home just outside of Portland.

The guys had joined her on the road trip when they’d learned a comedian they liked was doing a show at the casino nearby. Since her trip was work related and her gas would be covered whether they came along or not, the guys only had to split the cost of a room and some food, so they’d jumped at the chance to join her. Of course, they’d tried to make it seem like they were doing her a favor, saving her from having to make the road trip on her own. She’d just rolled her eyes at that foolishness. Twelve hours on her own, to listen to an audio book while driving through the Pacific Northwest, would have been a treat. But she’d enjoyed giving them this chance. They were home for summer, but would be going back to college soon, and she’d miss Ty.

The owner seemed to run out of steam, hands on his hips, head bowed. The other guy—she would not think of him as her guy—put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and gestured with his tablet to the front door. They headed to the door and Ivy figured it was probably time to retrieve the boys and hit the road. 

As he held the door open for the business owner, the man she’d been watching lifted his head and stared directly at her.

She felt it. How could you feel a look? She didn’t know, but the weird flutter in her stomach told her she wasn’t imagining it. And it wasn’t the flutter of nerves, of caution. It could have been. Maybe even should have been. She was a Black woman at a small cafe in middle-of-nowhere Idaho, being watched by a white man. But her flutter didn’t feel like a warning. 

A small grin widened his lips. Shit, was that a dimple? No, she was too far away to see a dimple, surely. He dipped his chin, giving her a small nod, then headed inside.

She resumed breathing. Son of a bitch, apparently when she decided to wake up, she woke the hell up

Her last relationship had ended just over a year ago, and it had ended hard. She’d been closed up ever since. Six months ago, she’d bought a vibrator. Last month, it had shorted out and she’d started thinking it was time to open back up, introduce something a little warmer than silicone back into her life. Nothing serious, she had no interest in that. But a little fun, as long as communication was open and both parties were fully aware that she wasn’t in the market for serious.

Giving her whole body a little shake, she sent her brother a text to meet her at the car, and laid cash on the tray the waiter had brought. She took the receipt and used a pen from her purse to circle the items that had been hers and tucked it into her wallet so she could add it to her business expenses. Thinking on that, she took a slow glance around the area. She’d been too busy watching the proceedings next door to give it a proper look earlier. Could she live out here? If she got the offer?

This little town only had a few businesses. A couple of food places, a bar, post office, gas station. Some offices, like the title company with the vandalism trouble. A mom-and-pop market. But there was a real city about forty minutes away. Smaller than her own, but big enough to have real restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and the like. The nearby casino, too. And besides, she wouldn’t need to move out here permanently.

The idea was that she’d work closely with Arturo, who owned a small wealth management company, for six months, and slowly transition most of his clients over so he could retire. She’d been a certified financial planner on his team for three years now, along with two others filling the same role, so she already had clients of her own, had some dealings with his. But he’d picked her, potentially, to slide into the top slot when he was ready to move on, and they’d agreed that though most of the business was done either virtually or when they traveled to their clients a few times a year, for this big of a transition, it would be best if they were in the same office for a while.

She’d come out here to meet with him, interview for the promotion, make sure they were on the same page about how the business should be run, and what the future of the company looked like. And to make sure she’d be comfortable moving out to the remote area. She was pretty confident she’d nailed the interview. She and Arturo had always gotten on well together, and he’d recognized that she had more ambition than just being part of the team. As he’d acknowledged in their discussion, he knew if he didn’t pick her, he wouldn’t get to keep her at the firm for much longer, as she’d move on to bigger things for herself. But she hoped he’d pick her. She didn’t actually want bigger, she just wanted more.

This place was not bigger, that was for sure, but her role in the company could be. Would be, she decided. She’d aced the interview, damn it, and would be running Mountain View Wealth Management inside of a year. And living here, to get there, wouldn’t be a hardship. She was surrounded by farmland and forests, and the weather these last few days of June had been quite a bit warmer than she was used to in Oregon, but that didn’t suck. She scratched absently on her arm. She’d need to stock up on lotion, it was hella dry out here.

Feeling lighthearted that her decision was made and she only needed Arturo to make the offer, she headed to her car. Deciding she wanted the lip balm out of her makeup bag, she aimed for the trunk, where she’d put her small suitcase. She’d let the guys sleep in after their late-night show. They’d checked out of the motel just before the ten o’clock deadline, then headed here for breakfast. Even with their long drive, they’d be home before Nana Stevens’ Sunday dinner.


The shout had her turning towards her brother and Eddie as they jogged across the street. She narrowed her eyes as they paused to let a car pass by. Would it really have been so hard for them to walk the half block to the corner, like she had? She reminded herself that this was a small town with very little traffic, and likely no one cared. The fact that there wasn’t even a stop sign for the crosswalk meant she was probably worried for nothing. But really, the corner was right there.

She frowned, looking into the trunk, her nose wrinkling at the sour odor. What the hell was that? Reaching in, she pulled Eddie’s backpack toward her so she could check behind it, not seeing her bag. 

“Ivy!” Her brother was panting as he jogged up. “We moved your bag to the backseat.” He put his hand on the trunk and started to close it.

“Hey!” She jerked her hand back, still holding the pack. A sharp crack sounded as the lid hit the bag. She jerked it free and shot a glare at her brother, but only had a half second to wonder what his problem was when the smell hit her. What had been a subtle stink when she first opened the trunk was now an eye-watering reek that actually had her stomach churning.

“Holy shit, what the fuck?” she asked, dropping the bag and moving back.

Ty gagged, and he and Eddie both backpedaled away from the trunk.

“Ivy!” Ty shouted for the third time. “Damn it!”

She felt the wrath of the ancestors move through her as she fought the urge to dry heave. Backing up farther, she rounded on her brother. “Tyson Steven Carter, what did you do?”

He blinked at her, then looked around them to see who was listening. Now her stomach lurched for a different reason. What had he done?

Ty edged closer and motioned Eddie to the trunk. Eddie looked sick but headed towards the car. “Wait, I’ve got an idea.” He headed past them and she returned her glare to Ty.

“Talk. Now.”

“Okay, look, it’s not a big deal.” He gestured to the trunk, but then turned his face away again, blanching at the stink coming from the backpack she’d dropped. The smell had lessened with their distance, but only barely. She resisted the urge to take a deep breath.

“Eddie and I bought some fireworks last night, on the Indian reservation, when we went to the casino. And we brought some stuff to, you know, make dogs not smell them, if we had to cross a border or something.” He gestured vaguely towards Oregon.

“You…wait. Illegal fireworks. You bought illegal fireworks and put them in my car.” Hysteria might have tinged the last few words of that sentence as the implications of what he’d done hit her. Now was not the time to be transporting illegal fireworks across state lines. Okay, there was no time to be transporting illegal fireworks across state lines, but now was really, really not the time. She’d be under extra scrutiny until an offer was made, and then again until she’d proven herself in the new position. She wasn’t exactly sure where fireworks fell in the code of ethics of certified financial planners, but she was sure that she didn’t want to find out.

“You all need any help?” she heard, and snapped her head around.

It was him. Her sexy maybe-cop, maybe-insurance, maybe-whatever-the-hell guy. And he was heading her way. Her certainty that he’d been eyeing her purely as a woman fled, and now he really did look like a cop. 

Shit, shit, shit. No, no, no. Go, go, go!

“No, Ivy—” Ty started, but she was not in the mood.

“You, no talking.” She jabbed a finger into his chest. “We’re fine, thank you!” she called to the approaching man, seeing the exact second that the noxious stench reached him. His already white face turned an interesting shade of pasty gray and he jerked to a stop. He’d barely stepped into the road, on the other side of the street, which meant the smell was even worse than she’d realized. He took another step, then seemed to think better of it.

“All good!” She tried to find a smile that was enough to reassure him, but not strong enough to encourage him to come closer.

Eddie ran up, ripping open a box of heavy-duty black trash bags. He was wearing bright yellow rubber kitchen gloves. She glanced over at the man to see his reaction. He’d cocked his head and was still watching, but made no move to come closer.

“Shit, Ivy, I can’t believe you broke the whole bottle,” Eddie was saying as he scooped the backpack into a trash bag and tied it closed. He leaned over like he was going to vomit, but managed to hold it back. Then he used another trash bag to enclose the first. And then another. “This was concentrated, we only used one tiny drop on the box, now you busted the whole bottle.”

It was hard to look like she was about to breathe fire when taking such shallow breaths, but she was sure she’d accomplished it when Eddie turned to look up at her from his crouch on the ground and blanched at her expression. He went for a fourth trash bag.

Ty was holding a hand over his nose and looking down at the ground. “Uh, Ivy, do you have any other shoes with you?”

She looked down. There were was an oily spot the size of a dime on her sneaker. Fuck.

Glaring at him, she toed off the splattered shoe. “Grab my bag.”

By the time he came back with her suitcase, she had both shoes off, as well as the sock from the foot that had caught the oil. That foot was resting on her clean sneaker. She pulled flip-flops out of the outside zippered pocket on her suitcase, and tossed the stained shoe at Eddie, not minding in the least when it hit him in his ribs.

Ty picked up her other shoe and the socks and brought them to Eddie, before she could throw those as well. She marched to the driver’s seat and clenched the steering wheel for several moments. She would not drive upset. She could still smell the skunk scent, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been. Finally able to take a deep breath, she forced her body to relax. She had a six-hour drive ahead of her, she needed to be level-headed. She pulled out her phone and searched her playlists, while she ignored Eddie climbing in behind her and Ty dropping her suitcase next to him, then getting into the front passenger seat.

She found her angry playlist, set it to shuffle, and turned up the volume. Without a word, she headed towards Oregon.

An hour later, she turned the volume down to a level that was more normal when there were passengers in the car who might want to hear each other. The boys both visibly relaxed, though they waited before saying anything. She’d had time to think. Time to consider that fireworks were not illegal on the reservation, so buying them was not illegal. But that whole legal-on-a-reservation-but-not-in-the-state-the reservation-existed-in thing was confusing as hell. And certainly not something she’d ever taken the time to research.

Still, having them in her car was not illegal. She didn’t think. She’d been so busy running she hadn’t even thought to tell the guys to throw the damn things out. Driving them to another state…probably not illegal? She wasn’t totally sure. She didn’t think so, though, or she’d be pulling over and finding a dumpster now. Only setting them off, in Oregon, would be illegal. Probably. So, it was fine. Everything was fine.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” she finally said, the first words spoken since she’d started driving.

“They are not illegal,” Ty began. “I swear, we got them at the regular fireworks stand. The legal stand, we weren’t buying them in some back alley.”

“Not illegal in Idaho, you mean. Definitely illegal in Oregon. Actually, they’re probably not even legal in Idaho, off the reservation. And you obviously aren’t planning on setting them off on the reservation, unless you have another trip planned for next week?”

She hadn’t even considered the fact that the Fourth of July was next week when the boys had asked if they could come with her, to visit the casino. Obviously they’d thought about it, and made plans.

“Where did you get the smelly shit?”


Of course.

“And you put it on the box in case we happened to get pulled over by canine police? Without telling me you were putting me and my car at risk?”

“We were thinking of the inspection crossing.”

She blinked. “The inspection crossing. Between states? You thought there was a border crossing between Washington and Oregon?”

“Well, yeah,” Eddie mumbled.

“You didn’t notice that we didn’t go through any on our way into Washington? Or Idaho?”

“Yeah, but we figured better safe than sorry. Since we had the stuff anyway.”

“You thought it would be okay to make my car smell like skunk.”

“I only used a drop,” Ty reminded her. “And I was going to offer to wash your car when we got home. And we did move your suitcase out of the trunk.”

He said it like he was expecting her to thank him, and sighed when she shot him a glare.

Border stations and illegal fireworks. Idiots. Actually, she had a vague memory of going through an interstate inspection station once, on a road trip with her parents and Ty, to the Grand Canyon. Maybe when they drove into California from Nevada? She’d been a teenager, but she kind of remembered something like that. She had a vague idea that it had something to do with fruit.

Sighing, she rolled her shoulders and tried to release the remaining tension. This was fine. She was pretty sure they hadn’t done anything illegal. “You owe me a pair of sneakers.”


“I can’t believe you took advantage of my road trip like this. My work trip.”

“It’s not illegal,” Ty repeated.

“Then why the skunk spray?”

“Just a precaution,” Eddie assured her.

“Mm-hm. And what, you’re going to throw the fireworks away when we get home? You just thought it would be nice to donate that money to our Native American neighbors?”

“Uh, no?” Eddie was back to mumbling.

“Those kinds of fireworks are illegal for a reason,” she reminded them. “You want to start a fire? Be responsible for burning down trees, homes, maybe even killing some people?”

“We’re going to set them off at the beach,” Ty told her. “You know my buddy Jack is a firefighter. It’s his party, he’s got it all planned, perfectly safe. Everyone chipped in for the stuff.”

“Yeah, right. You convince Mom and Dad about that, and I won’t interfere.”

“Ivy, no, you can’t tell them. We’re all adults here and it’s none of their business.”


He sighed and turned to look out the side window.

Okay, she wasn’t going to tattle on her brother. But she was sure going to have a conversation with firefighter Jack. She just wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she was even tangentially responsible for a fire.

* * *

The forest clearing was suddenly lit with a colorful display, as one of the teenagers set off a mini-fountain of a firework. The pack didn’t do fireworks every year. The biggest factors were wind and dryness, but this year, the wind was calm and they’d enjoyed a late spring, so the fireworks were on, and the kids were delighted. The clearing had been prepared and several adults were in charge of keeping an eye on the fire hazard, but Brad wasn’t one of them, so he got to sit back and watch the fun.

They’d enjoyed a lazy afternoon picnic at the pack house, where he, Molly and Taylor had handled the burgers and brats while an energetic game of flag football, complete with Chester and Samuel as coaches, competed to drown out the teenagers having fun with the stereo system and some kind of dance challenge.

He saw that Ryder, who’d been asleep in his father’s lap not twenty minutes ago, had woken up and was staring wide-eyed at the fireworks, though he edged closer to his sister Alexis when one let off a piercing whistle. The little girl hugged him close, smiling in delight at the display, and something deep in Brad’s heart eased.

He’d worried when she’d first joined the pack, after they’d rescued her from the fuckers who had kidnapped her. Worried because she hadn’t acted like the little girl she was. Not that he was an expert, but even as she’d started to relax into their pack, talk more and interact, she always seemed older than her nine years. Not that he’d blamed her. Getting kidnapped by a sadistic fuck like Ken Cage would scar anyone, let alone a sweet girl who’d led a normal, innocent life until that point. 

But rescuing her—and he was damn thankful he’d been in on that takedown and seen the punishments meted out—had only been the start. Watching her open up and join the Jenner family, join the pack life, had been a blessing. Seeing her now, just over a year later, in such a carefree and happy moment, had him damn near choking up.

Theo dropped into the camp chair next to him, pulling him away from memories of last year’s action. Though they were in the security business, that kind of drama was rare for them to be involved in. Life had quieted down a lot since he’d left the Army, and he wasn’t one bit sorry about that. His life was mostly running security checks for businesses that hired their firm, though he and the other guys could be called in for bodyguard duty when the occasion called for it.

He’d liked that Mountain View Pack owned their own security company, so he could use the skills he’d learned as an Army Ranger, be a contributing member of the pack. Having come from Boston, he was used to snow and cold weather, but he hadn’t been prepared for the sheer beauty of the territory that encompassed parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana. He’d been here just over three years now, and had never regretted his choice to move here and join Mountain Pack.

“It was a good day,” Theo said, handing Brad a beer.

He opened the beer and took an appreciative pull. “It was. I worked the last two Fourth of Julys. Nice to get to hang with the pack this year.”

“It was hella hot last year, you timed it well my friend.”

He laughed. “All intentional, I assure you.”

It was full dark now, so he lifted his face to the light of the moon. It was waxing, only a crescent, but it was bright. He felt the faint tingle of magic that reminded him he was a werewolf. Not that he ever forgot. He’d been born a werewolf, part of a pack—but only just, as his parents preferred to live in the city. He’d gone to human schools, then joined the Army the day he’d graduated high school. He’d put in his years, but there was no way he could hide what he was for a full career. Figuring out a way to change into a wolf most months was hard enough. Hiding his extra strength, stamina, better healing, slower aging, that was too much of a challenge, so he’d gotten out at twenty-six.

It had taken the best part of a year to research packs and finally settle on this one. Going back to Boston wasn’t in the running. Nor was he interested in re-joining the pack despite the fact that most of them lived in a rural area, which was what he was looking for.

His brother Ian was down in Los Angeles, but no way was Brad going back to any city. He wanted to act like a wolf. Feel like a wolf. Live like a wolf. Okay, not really, but like a person who could, and did, change into a wolf, and wanted to run through the forests. His whole life he’d had to pretend to be something other than what he was. And sure, even here, he couldn’t exactly waltz into the nearby towns as a wolf, or show up at his clients’ businesses and howl at the moon. But there was plenty of time he could spend here, with the pack, being himself, and that was what he’d craved.

“So, you still refraining from being a creeper?” Theo asked.

Brad growled at him.

Hillary, carrying another camp chair, stopped next to them. “Why is Brad growling?”

Theo grinned and motioned for their alpha to take a seat. “You’ll like this. He met a girl.”

“Ooh, tell me everything.” She opened her chair, plopped down, and leaned towards Brad.

“I did not meet a girl,” he protested, smacking Theo’s shoulder while debating on if he was actually annoyed or not.

As his pack alpha, Hillary could force him to tell her everything. But she wouldn’t. Not unless something very serious was going on. She respected her wolves, respected their privacy, but also cared about them and wanted what was best for them. And, as someone who’d mated just over a year ago, to their other alpha, Zach, Larry believed that mating would make all of her wolves happier. Not a theory that Brad subscribed to, but he’d never tell that to Hillary.

“He saw a girl, and considered stalking her, but talked himself out of it,” Theo responded.

Brad dropped his head into his hands. It was either that or punch his friend, and that wouldn’t go over well at a family party. 

Hillary laughed, patting his knee, able to tell through their pack bonds that he was more exasperated than angry. “Now I really want to hear all about it. Her.”

“So last week, Mr. Smooth here was—”

“Dude. You weren’t even there.”

“Fine, you tell it.”

Sighing, Brad took a long pull from his beer and leaned back in his chair. “Last week when I was doing that security evaluation for the title company that was vandalized here in town, I saw a woman.” He shot a glare at Theo. “A woman, not a girl, and she caught my interest.” He ran a hand over the back of his neck, shot a glance at Hillary, who was watching him expectantly. He wasn’t exactly sure how to explain what he’d felt. “I guess she twigged something in me. My instincts,” he emphasized as Theo snorted. “Could be something about the security check. Maybe something seemed off and subconsciously I considered her a suspect. She was definitely worried about being caught, whatever she was doing.”

“Hm.” Hillary pursed her lips. “Seems to me like you have a pretty good handle on your security instincts, and you’d be able to identify if that was what was pinging you. Was she pretty?”

He slanted her a look. She wasn’t wrong. He hadn’t been thinking security issues.

“Gorgeous.” Theo looked smug.

“You saw her?” Hillary asked.

“No, but I can read my boy. Tell me I’m wrong.”

She was. Glowing brown skin, dark hair that fell past her shoulders, wide eyes that had seemed to see right into him. The clinical part of his brain had pegged her at five foot nine, one hundred seventy pounds. The male part of his brain had taken in the whole package and been very impressed. And very interested.

“Anyway,” Brad said. “I was hoping to get closer to her when my walk-through was over, see if I could get a better sense of why she was on my radar. But Bernard needed some reassurances, and by the time I made it back outside, she’d left the cafe. I heard shouting, and the two guys she’d been eating with were running to her. There was some kind of altercation at the trunk of her car.”

He finished his beer, set the can under his chair. “I started to head over there, and the look on her face…I know guilty and panicked when I see it, okay? There is no question that’s what she was. The guys were also acting sketchy. Nervous. I only made it a couple of steps, and…” He blinked at the memory of the overwhelming stench that had kept him from getting closer. He’d thought about that day several times now, wondered if he should have just kept going, despite the smell, but he was pretty sure he would have vomited, and what good could that have done?

He knew his sense of smell was better than a normal human’s, but he wasn’t sure how the three of them had managed to stand there amidst the extremely foul stench that had permeated the whole street.

“They must have had some of that skunk musk you can buy in a bottle. Or else they had an entire family of skunks in that trunk. One or the other. Add that to the guilty looks, the nervous mannerisms? Those three were hiding something, for sure. From me, specifically? I don’t think so. I think me being there was a coincidence. And I don’t think it had anything to do with the vandalism at the title company. Which is why,” he gave Theo a hard look, though the other man seemed entirely unconcerned, “I have not tracked her down.”

“Because you think if you do, you’ll be a creeper,” Theo said. “Showing up at her door, all ‘hey, didn’t I see you at that cafe three hundred miles from here? Have time for a chat?’”

Basically. “She’d think I was investigating her. And she wouldn’t be wrong, would she?”

“Could you find her?” Hillary asked.

Theo snorted again. “Of course he could.”

He met Hillary’s gaze. “Yeah. I got her license number. Oregon plates, which is why Theo knows she’d be several hundred miles away.”

“So, let me just make sure we’re all thinking the same thing here. You were drawn to her before she did anything suspicious. So, we’re wondering if it was just because she was attractive, because she was exhibiting suspicious behavior, but so subtly that only your instincts picked up on it, or…she’s your mate.”

It was his turn to snort. “There’s no reason to think that last part.”

“No? Is there any reason to think it’s not that last part?”

“Sure. Going purely by the percentages, the chances are negligible. First, just the chances I would randomly spot my mate sitting at a cafe in some Podunk town in Idaho, and not know it. Because I definitely wasn’t standing there thinking, oh, wow, there’s my mate. But more, she was human. I’m one hundred percent certain of it. And you know the chances of a mate being human are much smaller than finding your mate at all.”

“Not ‘some Podunk town in Idaho’. Your Podunk town in Idaho.” Theo looked like he’d just delivered a game-winning answer, as if that somehow made everything obvious.

A warm hand settled on Brad’s shoulder, and he felt a tension he hadn’t realized had been growing in him, seep away. Zach, Hillary’s mate, his alpha.

Hillary was studying him, and he could guess at the reason. Why was he getting worked up? Why was this something he was still thinking about, more than a week later? Why was he having to tell himself, multiple times a day, that he couldn’t go stalk this woman, that it would be inappropriate as hell? How had she gotten under his skin, when they’d never spoken beyond shouts across a street, barely made eye contact? Fuuuuck.

While he was ruminating on all of that, Hillary was giving Zach a quick summary of the situation. Brad scrubbed his suddenly tired eyes with the heels of his hands.

“Look, Brad,” she said, bringing him back into the conversation. “I agree with you that a random human spotting a pretty woman on the street and using her license plate to track her down would be creepy. Absolutely. But, the thing is, you’re not human. And while you can, and should, play by the human rules most of the time, I think mates are an exception to that. Because mating is magic. There’s no denying that. If what you were sensing was a mate bond, then it’s in both of your best interests to find her. You’re a great guy. I would be devastated to learn that a lovely woman had a chance to be your mate, and lost out on the magic of that because of, well, skunks.”

* * *

Brad thought about what Hillary had said as he lay in bed, trying to get to sleep. He had work in the morning. Plus, he honestly felt like an idiot, laying here thinking about a girl. Woman. Mooning like some lame-ass teenager ruled by his hormones. 

But see…that was the thing that wouldn’t let him get to sleep. First was the fact that he did have a good handle on his instincts when it came to danger. He’d been a fucking Ranger, for fuck’s sake, and been damn good at it. He’d been in security ever since. He trusted his instincts. Knew those danger-related instincts. And those had not been the instincts firing that day in town. Sure, at the end, when the boys had started yelling and the woman was darting frantic looks as he started to head over. But before that…no. Definitely not danger vibes.

And second was the fact that what had kept him looking over at her, had made him want to have a chat with her, was his gut. Not his cock. Not the churning of his gut that told him something was off, something was wrong. It had been a new feeling, one he’d never experienced before. 

Put those two facts together, and, well, he wasn’t sure Hillary was wrong. She was pretty smart, and she’d been through the mating process. The idea had been at the back of his mind for days, but he’d refused to give it focus. Now, though, he couldn’t shove the thought away again.

What it really came down to was, if the woman was his mate, did he want to find her? Most wolves he knew would never ask that question. They searched their whole lives for their mates. That special someone with whom they could forge a solid bond. Not just an emotional bond, like most lovers or partners. But an actual metaphysical bond, allowing the mates to feel each other, deep in their souls.

As Hillary had said, it was magic. He couldn’t claim to understand it, but then again, he didn’t really understand how he turned into a wolf every month. It made no fucking sense, honestly. And yet it happened. As did mates. Most wolves revered that connection, at least as far as he could tell. He’d not had deep conversations about it with his buddies or anything. But in his experience, that soul-deep bond wasn’t always a good thing.

Shit. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, braced his arms on his thighs. He was aware that his upbringing wasn’t particularly normal for werewolves. It wasn’t unheard of, but not usual. His parents had raised him and his brothers mostly outside of the pack. Sure, they’d had to trek into the forest a few times a year for pack events. The alphas had insisted, much to his mother’s annoyance. She preferred city living, surrounded by humans who had no idea what she was. What they all were—his parents, he and his two brothers. She hadn’t cared that he’d had to give up playing sports, because it was too hard to constantly regulate his speed and strength to that of the other kids. He’d managed it through middle school, but those puberty hormones had been a bitch.

She hadn’t cared that they’d only had each other to run with most full moons, as she and his father had gone off to do their own thing, leaving him to take care of Ian and Declan. In Paige Burke’s world, everyone existed to enhance and improve her life. And her mate, bonded soul to soul, wanted only to ensure that what she wanted was what she got.

Her sons hadn’t been mistreated. Hadn’t been abused. They’d just…existed only to give her happiness, something they all too often failed at.

But. But. He was a fucking adult now, and he knew for damn sure his parents’ relationship was not the norm. He suspected his mother was a narcissist. And that was not the fault of being a werewolf, or of the mate bond. But the fact that his father was unable to deny his wife anything was due to the mate bond. Maybe.

Shit. Surging to his feet, he stripped off his boxers and concentrated hard, remembering the bright moon from earlier in the evening. He focused on that, pulled the memory of that light deep within himself, and shifted. It was slower than normal, since it wasn’t the full moon and he wasn’t with pack. But it got the job done. He shook himself, resettling the fur on his now four-legged body. He used the doggy door in the living room and loped out of the house, off the deck, and into the surrounding forest. In this form, his instincts were closer to the surface. And things were simpler. 

Maybe the woman wasn’t his mate. But there was only one way to know.

Hiding from it would solve the problem, but not in a way that he was comfortable with. He needed to find her, needed to know. Then he could determine if she was someone he could be with. Someone he could risk his soul for. It was time to find out.