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COMING SOON
WOLF DESTINED

 

Willowbrook Wolves Book 2

In a world where wolf shifters turn feral without their fated mates, one cursed pack is running out of time...

Deputy Zane Matthews, beta of the Longtooth Pack, has always put duty first. But when artist Aria stumbles into Willowbrook on her way to a retreat, his inner wolf instantly recognizes her as their fated mate.

Aria knows nothing of the supernatural world, and with the pressure of an upcoming gallery show weighing on her, the last thing she needs is a mysterious, sexy distraction.

As the attraction between them ignites, Aria finds herself drawn into a dangerous world of magic and shifters. But with feral wolves on the prowl and her father's financial future at stake, falling for Zane could cost her everything.

Zane must keep his wolf in check long enough to ease Aria into his world, even as his animal instincts grow more unstable by the day. But when the feral threat targets Aria directly, Zane will risk everything to protect his mate - even if it means unleashing the beast within.

Fated mates, instant attraction, and a dangerous paranormal world collide in this steamy, action-packed tale of wolf shifter romance.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Aria


The darkness of night envelops me like a suffocating blanket. The only illumination comes from the dim glow of my headlights and the eerie brilliance of the moon and stars outside my car windscreen. I try my best to ignore the growing ball of barbed wire in my gut, but it’s impossible not to feel the mess it’s making of my insides.

It’s my fault I’m driving in the pitch black with no hell of an idea where I am. I should never have made that right turn at that T-intersection when I didn’t have a GPS signal. That was my first stupid mistake.

My second was to keep going up the steep incline solely based on an insistent tug in my gut. I should have stopped and turned around when I had the chance. When I wasn’t so lost. When the asphalt ended and I hit gravel. When the mountain dropped away on my right in an endless black ravine and the rocks and tree branches brushed my car on my left.

There’s nowhere to turn around and drive back down the mountain. Nowhere to go but as far as the narrow, winding road will take me. I strain my eyes, searching for a sign to tell me where I am, but all I see are endless trees and shadowy mountain peaks.

I’m absolutely nowhere near the remote mountain retreat I should have found before sunset. By now, I should be working. Losing myself in my art and creating paintings that will hopefully make and not break my reputation as a young and upcoming artist.

I begged Julian for weeks for a time slot. An exhibition at his prestigious Hudson Heights Gallery in New York City attracts collectors and art enthusiasts from around the state. The works he displays are always a sellout, and exactly what I need.

When he rang me with an offer for space after a cancellation, I would have been stupid not to take it. He’s booked two years in advance. I didn’t have to think twice when I screamed an emphatic yes. However, the change of date means I have a scant month to create works that will do his gallery and my reputation justice.

The problem is, I have nothing.

No paintings. No inspiration. Nothing.

The place in my soul where there was once an endless pool of creativity is as empty as my bank account.

Dad told me he mortgaged our family home to finance this artist’s retreat I’m supposed to be at. He’s always supported me, even if he doesn’t understand me. As a dry–wall tradesperson, he comes from a vastly different world than mine, but he has never questioned my choices or tried to dissuade me from my dreams.

He told me when he’d already gone through with the financial arrangement by remortgaging his house, otherwise I’d have told him not to. He’s put in too much effort to lose everything he’s earned, but he told me he’ll do anything to help me achieve my dreams.

I love him so much, but if I don’t get creative fast, we’ll lose everything. I wish I was normal. I wish I could be satisfied working a normal job, whatever that is. I wish I could extinguish the all–consuming fire that drives me to create.

A hollow ache blossoms in my chest at the memory of a friend’s well–meaning words before I left for this retreat, when she told me I should get a real job.

It would be easier to rip out my own heart than sacrifice the essence of who I am.

This last–ditch effort may mean I’m only delaying the inevitable. Not many artists make it in this world. So many people before me have succumbed to the pressure of bills and the cost of living.

Now I'm down to my last few hundred dollars, reality is crashing down around me. Perhaps I should have taken her advice and put aside my passion for the stability of a regular paycheck, but even as I think that, the barbed wire ball inside me begins to churn.

I don’t know why I can’t let it go. All I know is that I can’t.

Not when I do have a chance to make things work. My paintings were selling before my inspiration dried up. I had orders well in advance of a year. I earned money. Good money, and I don’t understand why or how my inspiration evaporated the way it did.

One moment it was there. I was punching out paintings. Supplying online orders off my website. A never–ending stream of ideas crashed through me before…nothing.

I woke up one day to find a tiny piece of my soul had disappeared. What was there one day was simply gone the next.

Months have crawled by since then. I’ve tried everything to rekindle that spark. To breathe life into my stilted, lifeless attempts at art. Nothing has worked.

This retreat is my last hope.

And even that will disappear if I never get there.

I check coverage on my phone again, but there’s still no signal. I look for a space to turn around but the narrow, winding gravel trail is hemmed in on both sides. I'm trapped, the road offering no opportunity to safely execute a turn in the pitch blackness. Thick shadows press in from all sides outside the car. The trees loom, guarding the secrets of the forest. I flick the heater on higher when cold seeps up through the floor.

I round a corner and my headlights illuminate a bright red sign, welcoming me to the town of Willowbrook in white old–fashioned brush script. A glimmer of hope sparks in my chest. Finally, a town—maybe I can find my bearings and get directions to the retreat from someone here.

As I pass the sign, a strange electric tingle races over my skin, raising the fine hairs at the nape of my neck. I brush my face, half expecting spider webs to be there, but there’s nothing but a fine sheen of nervous perspiration. My nerves are running away with me.

Nerves. It has to be that.

The road continues to wind and the forest continues to loom. Surely there has to be a town around here somewhere now I’ve passed a sign. I lean forward, straining my eyes for any sign of lights in the distance, but all I can make out are the silent silhouettes of the mountains and the impenetrable wall of trees.

An enormous black shape explodes from the forest, hurtling across the road directly in my path. My breath catches in my throat as I register the muscular body and loping gait of a massive wolf. On pure instinct, I wrench the steering wheel to the side, my foot slamming down on the brake pedal as I fight to avoid the beast.

But the tires lose traction on the loose gravel, the rear end of the car fishtailing as I careen sideways toward the precipice. Time splinters into fragments as the world tilts in slow motion. My car flies over the edge of the road and freefalls down into the infinite blackness of the ravine. 

The violent descent is mercifully short–lived. With a bone–jarring impact, the front half of the car slams into the gnarled trunk of an ancient tree, the twisted branches miraculously catching me. My body is thrust forward by the force of the collision, the impact causing the airbag to deploy with a blinding supernova of pain exploding behind my eyes.

I slump back against the seat, dazed and gasping, as a warm wetness trickles down the side of my face. Black spots dance across my vision, the edges of my sight wavering and dimming as I slip toward unconsciousness. A chilling howl cuts through the ringing in my ears, the haunting sound sending a blade of ice through my core.

A thunderous bang drags me back to awareness. I manage to lift my throbbing head and turn toward the source of the sound. What I see makes my breath lock in my lungs with visceral terror.  

Perched atop the crumpled remains of the hood looms a massive wolf. The beast is easily five times larger than a normal wolf. Thick cords of muscle ripple beneath its glossy, smoky gray pelt as it leans forward, its lips peeling back to reveal long white dagger–like fangs.

"N–nice wolfie," I stammer weakly, my voice little more than a tremulous whisper as I stare into those amber eyes. The wolf's nostrils flare as it catches the scent of my blood. A bone–rattling growl rumbles from its chest.

Paralyzed by raw fear, I can do nothing but watch in helpless horror as the monstrous creature leans closer to sniff at me through the shattered windshield. Its jaws part and the growl becomes a loud snarl that raises the hairs on my nape.

Then, with an explosive burst of movement, those terrible jaws launch toward me, shattering what little remains of the windshield into a million glittering shards as the wolf places those teeth around my shoulder. The last thing I see is the wolf's eyes boring straight into my soul before everything snaps to black.

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