Eastern Tennessee, 2011
Making love with Nolan Mitchell was everything she’d ever dreamed it would be – and she was a big dreamer.
Snuggling against him, Jordan Baxter gave a happy sigh. She stroked his damp chest hairs, listening to the fast beat of his heart even out to a steady rhythm.
Nolan kissed the top of her head. “You okay, pixie?”
Jordan wriggled. “I am now.”
She felt him smile as he rubbed his face against her neck. “Me too. But this wasn’t my first time.”
With a playful growl, she twisted his chest hairs, making him yelp. “Won’t be your last either, except if it’s with any other girl but me.”
“Nope. You’re my heart.” He sat up, regarded her solemnly. “I feel bad, Jordan. I shouldn’t have done that. Darn near lost my mind.”
Now was not the time to give him the talk she’d rehearsed. But he had to erase any guilt over the sweetness of consummating their feelings. Hay tickled her nose as she rolled over, sat up and took his strong, handsome face between her hands.
“Listen here, Mitchell. It takes two to have sex. You didn’t force me and I’m an adult…”
“You’re seventeen,” he corrected. “You’re not an adult for another three years, according to our traditional pack laws.”
Ignoring that rule, heck, she’d broken other traditions, she pressed on. “You’re the only male for me. I wanted this. I wanted you. No regrets.”
Then, because she had felt a little uncertain beneath her confident bluster, she added, “Do you have any regrets?”
Nolan shook his head, making the hank of damp, ash-brown hair hanging over his brow shake. “None. I love you, Jordan. You’re the only one for me.”
His mouth met hers with fierce urgency. As they kissed, an annoying buzz sounded on the ground. Nolan broke the kiss, sighed. He flipped open the phone. “Yes, dad?”
Hooking her arms around her knees, she watched him in admiration, shivering as his deep voice resonated in the still night air. Nolan Mitchell was the only Lupine for her. Yeah, he was twenty-two, and the alpha’s heir, but ever since she’d landed in the Mitchell pack in Tennessee as a five-year-old orphan wolf, they’d been almost inseparable. Nolan had wiped away her childish tears when she’d fallen, he’d joined her in exploring the hills and valleys and plucking sweet grapes off the vine.
He’d taught her everything about the pack’s wine-making business, praising her natural ability to scent when the grapes needed harvesting.
And now he was her lover. Hers.
Mine, all mine. Wait until I tell Shirl and Erica.
Her best friends had kept asking when she and Nolan would take their relationship to the next level. Well, this certainly sealed the deal.
She started to hum a happy tune, realized he was still on the phone, a frown denting his forehead. Jordan playfully touched his leg, rubbing it, working up to his half-erect penis.
He drew away. “All right dad. Right away.”
He snapped the phone shut. “Orders directly from the alpha. Have to polish the tack for tomorrow’s visitors. They booked a sunrise ride.”
Heaviness settled on her. Nolan might be her lover, but he was also the alpha’s son, and in this pack, the heir was the alpha’s beta wolf. Duty came first. Though the alpha had been fair and kind to her, would he approve of their relationship? She wanted no one else, but family and pack came first for Nolan’s father, Craig. She was still the outsider, the lone Lupine adopted by the pack, who wasn’t meek and mild and obedient as other females.
“I’d better git.” Jordan reached for her clothing. “Knowing your daddy, he’ll be down here to supervise and seeing you buck naked will make him wonder what in tarnation you really are polishing.”
“I know what I’d like you to polish,” he told her.
Laughing, he pulled her into his arms for another long kiss. When they broke apart, her breathing was ragged and desire rose all over again.
But Jordan knew they didn’t have time for more love play. Work came first with Craig, and he’d been riding his elder son hard these summer months.
As they dressed, she grumbled. “Why can’t he let Bryce do it? That laze gets away with everything.”
Nolan buckled his jeans. “Bryce was going to do it, but said he’s feeling poorly. Dad feels bad for him because…”
His voice drifted off. For a moment, both fell silent. Jordan could have finished his sentence. Because of the accident.
Bryce hadn’t been the same since.
The hunting accident that injured Bryce had been ten years ago. Personally Jordan thought their alpha had let him get away with far too much. Bryce was eighteen, and not that young Lupine left with a scarred leg.
Bryce disliked her. Jordan always suspected he was jealous of the special relationship she and Nolan shared.
“You’re always the one doing everything for him when he says he isn’t feeling well simply because he wants to get out of real work, Nolan. It’s unfair. He needs to grow up. Your momma and daddy won’t discipline him. He’ll never grow up if you keep covering for him.” Jordan stared into her lover’s caramel gaze, knowing his compassionate streak would overcome any resentment he harbored for his wayward brother.
“I’ll talk with dad tomorrow, after I return from the morning ride. Maybe they can send him to cousin Aiden’s for a spell. Aiden will set him straight.”
Nolan kissed her again. Then he frowned. “I don’t like you walking up to the lodge alone. Wait for me, and I’ll walk you back.”
“I’m not the waiting kind,” she said lightly. “Try to stop me.”
He grinned, and her heart kicked harder at his sexy, boyish smile. “Try not to break anything.”
The old saying he’d uttered to her from the time when she was six and had shattered a rare crystal vase as she’d reached for it on the shelf…
His father had spanked her with the leather belt for that one. Jordan refused to cry at the whipping, but when Nolan had tucked her into bed that night, she’d sobbed in his arms.
Jordan went to the loft’s edge, leapt down, landing on her feet. Her wolf kept her agile and strong, even though she wasn’t as quick as other Lupines in the pack. “I’ll walk back alone. Be fine. Done it dozens of times. I don’t want your daddy seeing me here. He’s too smart,” she called up to him.
Peering over the edge, he beckoned to her. “Jordan…”
But she blew him a kiss and was already headed out when his cell phone rang again.
“Stick to the path,” he yelled out.
“I will,” she called back.
A cool breeze brushed against her cheeks as she headed on the gravel path leading to the lodge on the hill. Night-blooming jasmine and freshly-mown grass scented the night mist. Stupid cell phone. Kept interrupting them. Nolan had shut it off while they made love, but it was never off for long. Always the dutiful alpha’s son, helping to run the winery and vineyard, making sure the pack business was profitable.
Lost in thought, she passed the fish pond and drifted into the thick forest edging the path. Moonlight dappled the overhead tree limbs, shadowed the thick elms and pines.
Although Lupines feared this section of forest where the local Fae lived, it never bothered Jordan. She loved walking through these woods, seeing the sprites fly amongst the treetops. The enchanting sight never failed to make her smile.
She loved Nolan, loved him with all her heart. Maybe they could marry…
“No good outsider,” a voice hissed in the darkness. “Bitch.”
She went still, looking around. That voice, filled with malevolence, she knew it.
And then her wolf senses picked up other scents. Jasmine. And oddly enough, grapes?
Liquor as well. Hard liquor, as if someone had been drinking a lot.
“You think you’re so special. We’ll show you. You’re not.”
Jordan hummed a loud tune to hide her fear. Dead leaves crunched beneath her boots. They wouldn’t try anything. Not here…
“Little bitch needs to learn a lesson,” the hoarse voice sounded closer.
Instinct kicked in, the human instinct to flee, overriding the wolf’s urgency to turn and fight.
Jordan raced, her heart banging against her chest, adrenalin loaning her speed. Her legs were too short. Theirs were longer, their bodies mature and stronger.
Their wolves more powerful.
She felt the hot breath of her pursuers on her heels, heard the growls and snarls. They had shifted to chase her.
Shift, shift! Her panicked mind couldn’t recall the magick.
Amber light from the lamp on the pathway cut through the darkness. The path was almost ahead. Get on the walkaway and they couldn’t touch her. It was well-traveled. No one would dare attack her …
With a burst of speed, she made it to the path, her feet touching the gravel. And then they were upon her, dragging her backwards into the dark forest, their rough hands bruising her, forcing her down. Laughing, oh, the mocking laughs as the hot burn sliced her skin…
No one heard her.