“Are you sure she’ll go with me?” Argos asked Caleb again, worry evident in his voice as they climbed into the SUV.
“She only saw me at the zoo. She doesn’t know Ragnar still rules the pack and wants her.”
Argos shook his head. “I can’t believe she got herself locked up in a zoo.”
Caleb gave an evil smile, the notion he’d have to rescue her from a real wolf’s attentions amusing him. “The big red wolf they tried to mate her with sure looked disappointed, hungry, and dissatisfied.”
Caleb's cousins and Argos chuckled.
“I can just imagine how mad she is over that.” Argos stared out the window. “I’ve always wondered if we shouldn't have tried to find a red wolf pack for her to mix with. Maybe she would have found a mate with one of her own kind.”
Caleb started the ignition with a jerk. “We’re her family,” he said abruptly, not in the mood for hiding his feelings for her. “Besides, I doubt Ragnar would have stood for it.”
Intent on freeing her before she turned into her human form, Caleb sped down the road. With the temperature dropping to thirty degrees and wind chilled rain making it even worse, she’d be in real trouble soon.
He thought back to Ragnar and his desire to have Diana. Although Caleb had warred with him over her so many times in the past when he was an immature lupus garous, he’d never had a chance to beat him. Thinking she no longer lived, he had long ago ended his quarrel with Ragnar, concentrating instead on making his leather goods factory a success. But now, could he fight the leader and have the female he wanted most?
His hands fisted on the steering wheel, and he shook his head. The notion that she loved humans gnawed at him as much as he fought not wanting to care. There was no sense in wanting what he couldn’t have.
A police siren wailed behind him, shattering the other-wise quiet, and forced a shard of anger to rip through him. Everyone turned around to see what was wrong.
Frowning, Caleb pulled the vehicle to the shoulder, spitting gravel out of its path.
“Speeding a little, Caleb ?” Argos asked, his voice amused.
Speeding a lot. Caleb tightened his grip on the steering wheel, not wanting to leave Diana in the zoo's pen one more minute. He glanced at the rearview mirror to see a policeman approaching. If Caleb tore off now, he could probably lose the cop. The officer would never guess Caleb would hightail it to the zoo.
He slipped his foot off the brake.
Diana had been so intent on fleeing confinement that, when the night watchmen discovered her hiding in the moat, she didn’t realize how chilled she'd become. In her wolf form, the March temperature didn't bother her. But, as a naked human, she was frozen to the bone.
“Jesus, Randolph, she’s . . . she’s naked,” the younger male voice said, as he hung over the railing where zoo patrons normally observed the animals in the pen.
“Yeah, Mack. Call for backup. We don’t know yet how badly she’s hurt.” He tugged off his jacket and dropped it on top of her. “Miss, we’ll reach you as soon as we can. Are you injured?”
Her mind was fuzzy and disoriented. Hurt? Tired. Sleepy.
“She’s probably hypothermic.” He ran toward the entrance to the wolf’s pen.
His companion relayed the messages into a phone, his footsteps running behind the other. “We have a naked woman in Big Red’s pen, down in the moat. Yeah, yeah!” he hollered. “I’m serious. She’s naked. We don’t know if she's injured or not. Randolph says she’s got to be hypothermic as cold as it is. All right.” He snapped the phone shut. “The boss is making all of the calls. We're not to move her if she’s hurt, just try to keep her warm. But how in the hell did . . .” His voice faded; then the metal door squeaked open to the building housing the inside part of the wolves’ exhibit. They disappeared inside the building; then the door creaked open to the outer portion of the pen.
Numb and stiff, Diana couldn’t even move to put on the jacket that the man had tossed to her. Still, the fleece helped warm her.
The men ran across the pen to the moat from the shorter concrete wall on the opposite side. “Watch my back, Randolph, in case Big Red or Rosa get any ideas. If either injured the woman, they may still feel threatened.”
“Rosa must be sleeping in her den. Big Red’s sitting in the corner watching us.”
“Keep an eye on him. I’ll lift the woman to you.”
He sat at the edge of the moat, turned, and eased himself down. When his feet hit the ground, he whipped around and ran to her. “Are you hurt?”
Trembling so hard that her teeth chattered, she couldn't croak a word.
He ran his flashlight over her and then helped her into his jacket. “She doesn’t appear to be injured, but she's half-frozen.” He covered her lap with the other jacket. “She’s got hypothermia really bad.” Lifting her off through pavement, he carried her to the older man, who was leaning down with his arms outstretched.
With the two men’s heavy jackets covering her, her body warmed some while she lay on the rough concrete above the moat, yet she still shivered out of control, craved sleep, and could barely focus on much of anything.
Vaguely, she worried about being caught, about freeing herself from her current predicament, about hiding before Ragnar found her.
Suddenly, more shouts erupted, and running footsteps headed toward the patron’s safety railing across the moat.
“Is she injured?” Thompson hollered from the iron fence.
“It appears she’s just hypothermic,” Mack shouted back. “Her pulse is awfully slow. She has some scratches but doesn’t appear to have been bitten or to have broken any bones.”
Mack rubbed her hand while Randolph wrapped his coat around her legs. The door squeaked open, and she turned her head slightly when blond-bearded Thompson dashed into the pen, his blue eyes worried.
Yanking off his coat, he laid it over her. He touched her cheek with clinical concern. “Who are you, and how did you get in here?”
She stared at him, hearing the question and vaguely remembering that he’d shot her with a tranquilizer and incarcerated her here. That’s how she’d gotten in here. The men’s faces wavered in front of her, and she blinked her eyes slowly, trying to focus.
“What’s your name?” He turned to Mack. “Has she spoken at all?”
“We heard her screaming and yelling. By the time we located her, she was crouched against the wall of the moat and hasn’t said a word. She’s barely conscious.”
“The ambulance is on its way,” Thompson said. “What about the wolves?”
“Big Red’s sitting over there watching. Rosa must be sleeping in the den,” Randolph said.
Thompson crouched down in front of her and touched her wrist. “Miss, what’s your name? What happened?”
More flashlights wavered in the night. More men were shouting, issuing directions to the wolves’ pen. Diana blinked when two policemen in their blue uniforms hurried into the pen; then she closed her eyes, wondering how she was going to extract herself from this mess.
“What happened here, Mr. Thompson?” one of the policemen asked.
Thompson explained all he knew and then reached over and held Diana's hand. “She’s ice-cold.”
The men piled two more coats on top of her.
“Most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in the fifteen years I've been a night watchman,” Randolph said.
“Damn,” Mack said, tightening his grip on Diana's other hand. “Here come the media.”
Before Caleb could step on the gas and leave the cop behind in the dust, Argos grabbed his arm. “Wait.”
The policeman spoke into his radio. “You’ve got what?” Then he leaned into the open SUV window and said to Caleb, “Got another call. Slow it down, will you, bud?”
“Yes, sir,” Caleb said, as amicably as he could. His hands still clutched the steering wheel with a death grip. The policeman nodded and then hurried back to his
car, shouting to the other officer, “Problem at the zoo. You’re never going to believe this.”
Caleb glanced at Argos, whose tanned face had turned gray.
When Caleb finally reached the zoo’s main entrance, he shut off his headlights and drove into the zoo's lower parking lot. But the sight of the police cars and an ambulance’s flashing lights washing the area near the zoo’s entrance in a prism of color sent a splinter of ice into his heart. She would live. The cold or some animal's injury—if minor enough—wouldn’t kill her, but how in the hell was he to secret her away?
“When the ambulance leaves, follow them to the hospital,” Argos said as if reading Caleb's mind. “We can more easily slip her out of there than we could have here.”
Sitting in the dark, like when the pack went on a hunt, they waited quietly for their prey to appear. The thought of hunting Diana sent a surge of heat through his system, a longing he had no business feeling, a lustful desire for her he could never fulfill.
The paramedics rolled her out to the ambulance; her red hair spilled over the stretcher, the blankets burying her under the covers. Caleb could only imagine how close to death she’d come. His anger boiled deep inside. How could she be so foolish as to leave the pack as she did? This is the kind of trouble she’d get in for it. She needed a pack leader to keep her in line. No, not the pack leader . . . him.
Despite the knowledge that she didn’t want him, or any of his kind, she was tied to him—bound together not only by the fire that killed her family but by something deeper, more primal. He sought to rise above the darkness that filled him with wanting—with the soul-wrenching yearning for the little red wolf. But part of him wouldn’t submit.
Argos cleared his gravelly throat. “We’ll all go into the hospital and try to create some distraction so that we can remove her. Until then, I’ll let you find out where she is and how serious her injuries are. If she’s too bad, we may have to let her stay overnight and take her out sometime after that.”
Still brooding over the circumstances of her captivity, Caleb had every intention of moving her tonight. Their own healers could take care of her much better than the human doctors could because of the many years they'd practiced medicine. Caleb and his pack mates had to remove her before anyone discovered too much about her. But it was more than that. He wanted to hold her tightly in his grasp again, to reassure himself that she was safe in his care. He wouldn’t wait a second longer than necessary.
They followed the string of police cars escorting the ambulance to the hospital, their blue and red lights flashing against the blackness. The drive seemed interminable. But finally, the ambulance pulled into the brightly illuminated emergency entrance, and Caleb veered away from the circus of police cars following in the ambulance’s wake. Seeing the main entrance, he parked near the doors; the lot was fairly empty because of the lateness of the hour.
Before he could jerk his door open, Caleb spied Henry Thompson headed for the emergency room doors, his stride quick and determined.
“Damn it to hell,” Caleb swore under his breath.
He hated for any man or lupus garou to get close to Diana, but especially some idiot who was in love with wolves. Would Diana mistake Thompson’s wanting to help wolves for desiring to have her?
Caleb shook his head and fisted his hands, still unable to understand what she could see in human males. Yet he had every intention of making her realize how mealy a human male was, how lame and weak and fearful their kind was, and, worse, how dangerous they could be.
“What’s wrong?” Argos asked, his voice harsh with worry.
Caleb motioned with his head toward zoo man Thompson. “He’s the one I talked to about removing Rosa from the zoo. He’s going to wonder what the hell I'm doing here.”
Argos watched Thompson disappear inside the hospital and then let out his breath. “Then you can stay in the vehicle.”
Caleb jerked his door open. “Like hell I am.”
The smell of antiseptics wafted in the room, and the air conditioner poured out of the vents, intent on putting patients into a deep freeze, Diana was certain. Feigning sleep, she lay quietly in the hospital bed, the highly starched sheets scratchy against her exposed backside where the gown opened up. The white woolen blankets, piled four or five high fresh out of a blanket warmer, buried her, raising her internal temperature. But the knowledge that she wasn’t safe yet chilled her all over again. The room remained quiet, all except for the sound of hearts beating nearby. Once she was hooked up to the I.V., the medicine whooshing through her veins, heating her blood, the nurse left the room. But Thompson and the doctor stood silently watching her. “Does she have any injuries, Doctor?” Thompson finally asked. “Just hypothermia. As low as her temperature was, it’s a good thing your staff found her when they did. Another couple of degrees drop and she wouldn’t have survived. She hasn’t
He walked her back into the hall toward the center of the building, his stride long and indomitable, his arm wrapped tightly around her waist. His touch should have warmed her . . . well, hell, it did. But for all of the wrong reasons. She craved more of his touch, at the same time resenting the implication. He was her captor, her new zookeeper; her blood sizzled. When they walked past the nurses’ station, a woman wearing polka-dot scrubs spoke on the phone, her eyes wide. “The patient is missing?” His jaw tight, Caleb hurried Diana toward the door past the station. The woman said, “Wait! Sir! Miss!” He hit the door with his shoulder and yanked Diana outside into the crisp, cold air. Grabbing her up in his arms, he ran for the black SUV parked curbside. Gray-haired Argos tugged the door open. “Argos,” she said under her breath, the pleasure at seeing him overshadowed by the realization that the pack was returning her to Ragnar. She clenched her teeth. “
Diana stroked her bottom against Caleb's raging arousal, triggering an undeniable lust for the woman he'd coveted endlessly. “Damn it, Diana, stop it.” To still her actions, he tightened his hold on her waist, the insatiable urge to take her filling him with feral aggression. “I can’t help it. Your scent and your touch are driving me nuts,” she growled. “You only say that because you want me to let you go, but I don’t trust you.” Ignoring him, she pressed herself hard against him, challenging him to mate. No human or lupus garou bitch boasted the same alluring scent as Diana. Taking a deep breath, he drank in her wild fragrance, a heady aphrodisiac compelling him to mate with her against all common sense. He nuzzled his face in her silky red hair, making the attraction stronger, not controlling his behavior as he should. Caleb ran his hand over Diana's side, down the gentle curve of her hip, to her inner thigh. She parted her legs for him, and he groaned wi
“You’re not worried about them, are you? We left the zoo and then ended up at the hospital and now here. They won’t be able to follow me.” “The news will carry the story about your hospital stay and subsequent disappearance. The mystery woman found in the wolf’s pen, without clothes, the disappearance of the red wolf, and most likely my description, too. If the red who targeted you is a pack leader, no one would cross him. So he’d know I was from out of town,not a member of his pack.” “He was young, your age . . . early twenties, small. He wouldn’t be a leader.” “Reds are smaller.” He wasn’t dismissing the fact that they could have more trouble than they bargained for—first zoo man Thompson, then the cops, and now a pack of red wolves. “Besides, Caleb, I am selecting my mate.” “That’s what this is all about? You want to choose instead of a male choosing you?” His voice sounded as incredulous as he felt. “This is all about not wanting to be Ragnar's mate. Do
A roadblock. Two police cruisers sat dead ahead on the shoulder of the road. While one policeman spoke to the driver of a compact, another eyed Caleb and Diana's approaching SUV. Despite the car’s heater running on high, a chill ran down Diana's spine, and she involuntarily shuddered. “Maybe they’re just looking for drunk drivers.” Caleb shook his head. “We can’t risk that they aren't looking for us.” “They’ll recognize us, won’t they, if they get a good look at us?” “Yeah, I imagine so. Thompson probably gave them a rough description. That long, red hair of yours will be a dead giveaway." Caleb turned down a side street before they reached the checkpoint and switched off his headlights. “Hold on tight. Someone will probably check us out because we avoided the roadblock.” She swallowed hard, not liking the situation at all. “See the carport in front of those apartments? Pull into a vacant slot. A police helicopter searching from above won't see the SUV then
“He must have convinced her he loved her and then risked changing to turn her. Only she would have been terrified. Humans can’t deal with what we are, Diana. Can’t you understand that?” This wasn’t about the woman. She figured this was about Diana wanting a human male. “You see now why I didn’t want you involved?” he asked. “If he catches sight of you . . .” He shook his head. Rubbing her temple, she tried to figure out a way to alert the killer’s pack. “The two men at the zoo are probably related to the killer’s pack. We have to send word to them. Find them somehow.” “How do you propose to do that when we’re on the run?” “Take us to Tigard; it’s south of Portland. That’s where I live, and we can use it as our base for the time being.” He scowled at her. “The things I do for you.” “Yeah,” she said huskily, “like relieving my . . .tension.” He glanced at her, granting her a wicked, wolfish smile that said he wanted to eat her all up, and she wond
Diana reclined against her bed and sniffed, her tears undoing Caleb. “I just wanted to know about the family, that’s all, Caleb. That’s why I wrote to Argos.” Wanting to force the truth from her, he knew she loved him, even if she denied it. “We’re both tired.” He pulled her hair away from her face and kissed her wet,salty cheek. “Let’s sleep.” Having every intention of making her see his way once they were well rested, he gathered her against him and inhaled the essence of her. “I want you, Diana.” “You can’t,” she sniffed again. “Sorry, from the moment I rescued you from the wildfire, I’d claimed you. Now you just have to agree to be my mate.” Yet the question still nagging him slipped out again: “Why do you hate Ragnar so much?” *** Early the next morning, Caleb stretched out on the mattress, annoyed that Diana had tensed and turned away from him the night before, avoiding his question about Ragnar, even though he’d forced her to curl up with him anyway. No
“What would you have me say, Caleb? 'Red lupus garou female seeks mate. Horny right now. Only a red lupus garou male need apply’?” “You might have half of the lupus garou population in several states applying for the position. Lord knows how many are looking for a red.” Sitting down at the keyboard, he typed, Little Red Wolf seeks mate. Preferably big gray wolf terminally in lust with her. She hit his shoulder. “Be serious.” Grunting, he deleted the words. “I am serious.” He typed, Rufus lupus female seeks mate in Portland, Oregon, area only. “A red wolf seeks a mate? The humans will think she's a nut and—” “The lupus garou will know she’s one of them, a loner, looking for a red wolf pack to join.” “Okay, sign it as Rosa.” “But what if Thompson—” She combed her fingers through Caleb's shoulder length brown hair, highlighted by the sun, satiny-smooth to the touch, soft, where the rest of him was hard. "He probably wouldn’t be looking at the personal