Chapter 4

    Caleb stared at the inky sky from the balcony of his hotel room, his heart pounding furiously as he considered how Diana had been locked up in the zoo. He never thought he’d see her again, but she was even more beautiful than before, if that was possible. He recognized the longing in her whisky-colored eyes. 'Save me', they pleaded. And the smell of her—wild and ripe for the picking.

    God, how he wanted to claim her heart and body for his own.

    He gritted his teeth and fisted his hands. How many times did he have to rescue the woman before she recognized how. . . .

    He shook his head. It didn’t matter how he felt. She could never be his. Even if Ragnar didn’t lead the pack, it wouldn't matter—Diana was so hell-bent on having a human for a mate. His neck muscles grew taut.

    The door adjoining his room squeaked open. He turned.

    Gray-haired, wiry Argos nodded. Once the leader of the pack, he had stepped down when he’d grown too old. “Are you sure she’ll come to me?”

    “She trusts you.”

    Argos winced. The old leader didn’t like the idea of returning her to Ragnar any more than Caleb did, but she wouldn't be safe on her own. Worse, she threatened the secrecy of their kind with her rash decisions. She belonged to their pack for safekeeping, period.

    “You were like a father to her. She was happy with us until Ragnar took over,” Caleb continued. “She’ll come to you.”

    “I know what you want, but you can’t have her.”

    “Nobody can have her. Not while she’s got this insane notion of finding a human to love. Why does Ragnar want her so badly? She’ll make a lousy alpha female mate when she despises him so. He can’t lock her up or force her to mate with him.”

    Argos raised his brows but remained silent.

    Caleb rubbed his temple, trying to massage away the tension that collected there. “He wouldn’t, would he?”

    “He’s the pack leader. Once he gets hold of her, she'll obey him or pay the consequences. He’s driven to have her as much as she’s driven to avoid him and find the perfect human mate. So what drives you, Caleb?”

    Hatred of male humans. Procreation of his kind, if he could ever find a suitable mate. But none of the other females in their pack were an acceptable age that he wanted. Only Diana. And searching for another of his kind—well, of the red wolf variety, as that’s what he had his heart set on—proved unachievable.

    It was like looking for red wolves in the wild in the States. Nearly impossible to find. And no other kind of wolf would do. The red wolf in her had to be what drew him to her.

    “I’ve heard rumors he killed his own brother,” Caleb said, avoiding Argos’s question.

    “Which one?”

    In disbelief, Caleb stared at him. “There was more than one?”

    “Two, both died before you joined the pack. But no, they were accidents. A mountain lion killed his youngest triplet when he was a juvenile. He’d roamed away from the pack on a hunt and the others couldn't reach him in time. His eldest brother died in a raging flood. Tree was uprooted, smashed into his skull. The healers said he was dead before the river pulled him under. But Ragnar learned his bullying from that brother, the meanest, most crotchety wolf known to lupus garou. Just surviving his brow-beating made Ragnar as strong as he is today.”

    Caleb made a disgruntled throaty sound. He'd always wondered why Ragnar was so aggressive and controlling, but as far as he was concerned, it didn't excuse his behavior. “Are the others ready?”


    “Ragnar's not coming for her later, is he?” Caleb jerked his leather jacket on.

    “No. He’s the leader, not stupid.”

    “Some of us would argue that point.”

    Ragnar sent Caleb to retrieve Diana because he wanted to emphasize the point that Caleb would reclaim her, but she belonged to Ragnar. The thought curdled Caleb's supper, a couple of hastily eaten half-raw burgers, resting like a greasy lump in the pit of his stomach.

    Once they’d seen the newsflash concerning her, they had to be sure it was her, though. Finding a red wolf in the Cascades was unheard of, and to top that off, she was larger than normal. The pack knew the red wolf could only be a lupus garou, and Argos knew it had to be Diana or she would have been with a pack.

    But Caleb had to make sure. She could have been any one of several lone red lupus garou females all across the States. Or not. Because such a shortage existed, he sure as hell hoped Argos was right—that she was their stubborn Diana.

    When Caleb saw her in the pen at the zoo, he knew. He couldn’t be angry with her for having run away—but for her to risk proving to the world that lupus garous existed? That was irresponsible and unforgivable. At least that's what he told himself, though his heart ached to hold her close again, only this time to claim her for his own.

    Caleb stalked toward the door of his hotel suite. Alright. Let’s break our little red wolf out of jail.” The notion that she was theirs, though, struck a chord. She wasn't theirs. She belonged to Ragnar. Fire burned in Caleb's veins with the thought. Ever since Caleb had rescued her near the river, the wildfire in hot pursuit of her, Ragnar had wanted her, too.

    For years Caleb had pinned her to the ground in their wolf states, avoiding her retaliatory bites, playing with her as young wolves frolicked. He still wanted to tackle her to the ground, to force her reaction, to have her pay attention to him. But the burning desire to have her for his mate drove away any notion of having another female.

    He hurried his four younger male cousins out to the SUV with Argos at his side in the freezing drizzle. The black-haired, amber-eyed quadruplets, twenty-two years of age, all itched for a fight as they clenched their fists and steeled their square jaws.

    Caleb slammed his door. “If we wait much longer, she’ll have changed and been half-frozen in this weather. ”He’d rescue her again. He had to. Not for Ragnar, but for his own greedy desires. But what to do with her afterward? He knew what he wanted to do with her. Make her his . . . forever . . . his mate for life.

    But with Ragnar still living, how could Caleb hope to take her for his own? That question had plagued him every minute of the day since he’d learned she still lived.


    Backed into the confines of the wolf den, Diana spread her arms out, slowly, in her crouched position, to make herself appear larger. “Back off, Big Red.”

    He continued to snarl. She took a step forward and shivered, but it wasn’t the chill in the air that made her tremble. The notion that the zoo staff would catch her in the wolves’ den in human form forced concern to worm its way into every pore.

    Big Red held his ground.

    She took another step in his direction. Her eyes remained locked onto his. He didn’t back down.

    Wrinkling her nose, she bared her not-very-scary human teeth. Anything to show him she wasn’t intimidated by his posturing.

    After what seemed like an eternity of an old western gunfight showdown, he turned, and trotted out of the den. She took a deep breath, then quickly followed him out. The icy drizzle coated her skin. Hoping to make her escape easily, she crossed the pen to the keeper's door.


    Her stomach muscles tightened with irritation. Heading for the water trough, she thought to use it as a step in the moat. But it was filled to the brim with water, and she couldn’t budge it. Her frustration level mounted, but her body temperature dropped rapidly with the chilly wet breeze swirling about her.

    What she wouldn’t have given for her wolf’s thick undercoat—the dense second coat of fur virtually waterproof, a thermal insulator so effective even snow falling on her back wouldn’t melt.

    She hurried to the edge of the moat and considered the height of the wall across from the pen. Big Red watched her from a corner of the pen but never made a menacing move toward her. She’d probably confused the hell out of him. She smelled like a wolf in heat, the same one he wanted to mate, but she didn’t look like one in the least bit now. Poor fellow.

    She sat on the edge of the concrete, the substance icy and rough on her bare bottom. After twisting around, she clung to the edge with frigid fingers, then dropped into the moat. It was about a six-and-a-half-foot drop and, with her five-four height, easy to make. But when she turned to consider the other side her heart filled with alarm.

    Whether the wall rose eight feet or ten . . . didn’t matter. She didn’t see any way to climb the rough concrete without foot or handholds. She turned back to the other side. Her heart fell. She wouldn’t be able to climb out that way, either. 

    The cold had already affected her mind, slowing her ability to think. The shock at turning into her human form earlier than she’d planned had compelled her to panic.

    Great. Just great. The next morning, the zookeepers would find a half-frozen, naked woman in the moat. She jumped at the shorter side, but couldn’t reach the top edge.

    After several tries, she did what went against every instinct for survival—she gave up and yelled for help.

    For an hour she screamed and hollered. Some night watchman. She imagined her lips were blue from the cold. Her fingers and toes grew numb. And her voice was reduced to a croak.

    Attempting to conserve her body heat, she crouched against the wall, her arms around her knees, her long hair dripping, with icicles dangling about her.

    Boots running on pavement in her direction barely registered in her mind.

    “The woman’s screams came from this direction, Randolph,” a deep male voice shouted, nearly out of breath.

    She shivered so hard her knees knocked together and her teeth chattered. “Here,” she attempted to shout, but her word barely reached her own ears.

    “Miss, where are you?” another male voice shouted, older and rustier. Their footsteps stopped at the pen next door. “She sounded desperate, Mack.”

    The only thought she could focus on was that the news media would have a field day when they learned a crazy, naked woman slipped into the wolves’ pen.

    She attempted to stand, but the bitter cold froze her joints, locking them in place.

    “I know we weren’t hearing things. She had to be close to here,” Randolph said.

    “Maybe she’s injured or unconscious.”

    “Here,” she said, the word merely an angry whisper. Furious with herself for being so needy, furious that her voice gave out on her when she needed it most, she had lived for many years as a lone lupus garou. Self-sufficient. She didn’t need anyone. Only the image of Caleb kissing her overran that thought. Damn him for making it impossible to find someone else for her to love.

    “One of the predators in these pens could have torn her up,” Randolph said.

    They flashed their lights into the pen beside hers where two lions prowled.

    “Call in some more of the staff.”

    The flashlight’s beam poked into the darkness of her pen, angled toward Big Red. “What are you doing out here, big fellow? Little lady won’t let you snuggle yet?”

    “Hey, Randolph, what’s that?”

    The iron fence rattled as they leaned over it and poured their beams of light into the moat.

    Diana closed her eyes as the light touched her face. Her long red hair covered her naked body like Lady Godiva on her famous ride. She stopped breathing while her heart nearly leaped out of her chest to know they'd found her, and would take her someplace warm.

    “There!” the older man said. “What the hell?”


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