Chapter 3

She had to make her escape before that happened–before she became a human with no chance to remain a wolf, not until the return of the moon. It would be seven days until the new moon from the beginning of the waning crescent. But three days had passed and when she took her fatal run she’d already observed the waning crescent for...she couldn’t remember. Two days? Three?


“There’s been some unusual recent interest in her,” Thompson said.

She stopped pacing and turned to listen.

Thompson placed his hands on his hips. “Now isn’t it interesting how she listens to our conversation?”

“She seems to sometimes. She’s really gentle.”

You should see me on a bad day.

Thompson shook his head. “A wolf is a wolf, still wild at heart. Anyway, a man was interested in transferring her to another zoo. But...” He looked at his feet. “I don't know. I didn’t trust him. He seemed to have something else in mind.”

When he looked up, his blue eyes widened, and he straightened his back. He motioned with his head toward the railing. “In fact, there’s the man, right there.”

She turned to look at the railing, and her heart nearly stopped.

“See what I mean? It’s like she understands everything we say.”

Staring at Caleb, she couldn’t unlock her gaze from him. So many lonely years, dreaming of his hard embrace, and now he stood across the moat from her in the flesh. Her heart beat so hard it was sure to bruise her ribs. Adrenaline coursed through her body at breakneck speeds, the thought that he’d come to free her giving her hope. What she wouldn’t give to nip him in the neck, to tackle him and force him to the ground. To have his heated kisses, his firm touch embracing her with wanton desire.

She took a steadying breath. She couldn’t deny he still held her heart captive.

Like before, a strap tied his shoulder-length dark brown hair back. A black leather jacket fitted over his broad shoulders, and denim stretched comfortably down his long, muscular legs to his well-worn western boots. He was every bit as handsome as she remembered him, only much taller and more imposing and real than the photos Argos had sent her.

She focused on Caleb's mouth. How many women had he kissed since he’d kissed her? Her veins turned to ice as a fit of uncontrollable jealousy washed over her.

Was he already mated? Her gut tightened with the idea. She shifted her gaze back to his eyes. His dark brown eyes turned into black quartz, angry with a hint of concern.

Did he recognize her? Sure he did. If she caught him in his wolf suit, she’d know him any day. But how had he found her?

Unless... unless... somehow the fact that a red wolf was living in the Cascades, when none should, got big-time media. Great. That’s how he’d found her. He must realize the predicament she faced and the danger to all of them. That’s why he’d tried to move her from the zoo. If she turned into a human by the new moon, she could be used to prove legendary werewolves truly exist.

Did he have a plan? He moved his hands over the black wrought iron posts, up and down. His actions hypnotized her. What was his plan?

“What’s he doing?” Thompson asked.

“I don’t know, but he sure has her attention. You think maybe she belonged to him once?”

“Hmm, now that sounds like a distinct possibility. And he wants her back so he can release her to the wild again. I want him checked out and watched. He’sprobablyy one of those crazy animal rights activists. Doesn't he realize she’s safer here, with a good diet, and no one to hunt her down? Besides, where can she find a male red to mate? She’d be stuck with scrawny coyotes.”

Joe laughed. “Guess it wouldn’t matter to her, as long as the deed is done.”

She emitted a low growl.

“Don’t think she likes your suggestion,” Thompson joked.

She turned her attention back to Caleb. He looked kissable. He’d filled out into a man-sized hunk, but his eyes remained dark and foreboding—even more so now.

Caleb tilted his chin up as if taunting her to tell him what she thought of him, but he continued to stroke the bars. She realized then he smelled she was in heat. The urge to mate with her would be as natural to him as breathing the air or blinking an eye.

Her gaze met his, the depths of his eyes smoldering with lust. Then he scowled and turned away. He strode off, his long gait taking him away from her within seconds. She wanted to scream at him to set her free. But in the worst way she wanted him to mate with her, to fulfill the unquenchable craving that the sight of him sparked, to take her for his own, his mate forever.

“She knows him, all right, don’t you think, Joe?”

“Yeah, like a dog knows his owner.”

She whipped her head around too fast in anger, a growl rumbling in her throat.

Both Thompson’s and Joe’s mouths dropped open.

Thompson said, “My God, I swear she thought you'd insulted her.”

She loped back to her den, a cement home, hidden from everyone’s view. Insult was right. A dog. And Caleb her master? She growled again.

Then she thought what if she changed and, damn . . .as a woman, albeit naked, she could open the door to the wolf's den. Unless they locked it. Why would they lock it? The wolves couldn’t just leave.

Big Red crept closer to the entrance of the den. She growled so ferociously, that he immediately backed off.

The two men laughed. Thompson studied the den.“ You can see who wears the pants in the family.”

Settled down on the floor, she rested her head on her paws. But wouldn’t they lock the doors to keep others out? Sure. To protect idiot visitors who wanted to pet the nice wolves.

Diana lifted her snout and howled. She howled for the loss of freedom, for the loss of her red wolf family, for missing the affection of the grays who had taken her in, and for the love, she felt for Caleb—a hopeless, pitiful fondness for a lupus garou she could never have as a mate.

“She’s howling for him, don’t you think?” Joe asked.

“If I didn’t know better, yeah, I’d think so.” Thompson folded his arms, his blue eyes studying her with sympathy.

“Hey, Thompson,” a new male voice said, there's some guy named Ragnar Smith on the phone who says he's got transfer papers to take our new little lady out of here.”

Diana's ears perked up. Her heartbeat increased so rapidly that she feared she was having an early heart attack. Ragnar had arranged for Caleb to come for her. Damn the both of them. She growled low with hatred.

Thompson shook his head. “Rosa’s not leaving here without some verification that this man has legitimate papers to move her. I’ve heard nothing about this.”

To Diana's profound relief, the men left the pen, and she closed her eyes. When the zoo shut for the night and all of the personnel had gone home, she’d change into her human form and escape across the moat, hopefully, before anyone could turn her over to Ragnar.

She couldn’t believe after all these years that she'd been safe from him, one mistake in the woods could cost her much more than her freedom. Life as Ragnar's mate would be a living hell.

She suspected Caleb would return to her under the cover of night. She had to flee before then.

For some time, she slept quietly, allowing thedarknesss to come. But in that darkness, nightmares that had plagued her forever returned—the searing heat, the white-hot flames, the choking smoke, the fire that killed her entire red lupus garou family. Then Caleb, a lanky immature youngster of a gray werewolf pack, nearly twice her size, arrived at the stony river’s edge. Without hesitation, he grabbed her by the scuff of the neck and swam across the river to save her.

For a moment, she felt a sense of peace.

Then, instinctively, something awakened her in the wolve's pen. A low, menacing growl? A padded footstep creeping toward her?

She opened her eyes as Big Red took a step toward her. She’d been so keyed up, so tired, and now still so groggy, that she hadn’t realized what had happened right away. She stared at her changed form. No longer did she have the warm pelt of a red wolf, nor four legs, or an elongated snout. Now lying on the icy cement floor, she was a woman, cold, naked, and facing a snarling Big Red.

Hell, she hadn’t correctly calculated the days of the waning crescent of the moon. The new moon had arrived and, except for a sprinkling of stars across the black satin night, no sphere lighted the way.

This time Big Red growled at her, exposing his canines and a few front teeth. His tail stood erect, and so did the hair on the nape of his neck and back. She rose slowly from her prone position, but could only crouch because of the low ceiling in the den.

She needed to stand, to spread her arms, to make him think she was bigger and more powerful. But it was too cramped. She stared him down, intimidating him like he attempted to do to her now.

In her present form, she hated to advance on him. She had to move slowly so as not to frighten him more. He couldn't kill her, but what a mess.

How could she explain how a woman entered the wolves' den and survived a vicious attack if he decided to bite? How could she explain why she was naked? And how could she explain how Rosa had vanished into thin air? Further, how quickly could she heal if he injured her?

Would the legendary werewolf come to mind?

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