Logan Hunter would do anything to protect the Silverbacks-but his devotion comes with a price. For years he has been fighting his alpha instincts and the need for his own pack. But all that changes when Logan is sent on a mission to find out whether the new White Paw alpha really has what it takes to carry on her father's legacy. Powerful, spirited, and downright gorgeous Honor exceeds his expectations . . . and leaves him howling for more. Could it be that he's finally found his alpha mate? Or will old enemies, dueling loyalties, and an appetite for destruction stop him dead in his tracks?
About the Author
Kate Reading is an Audie Award-winning narrator who has recorded hundreds of titles in many genres. She has received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, in addition to being named Narrator of the Year and Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
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Hungry Like a Wolf
By Christine Warren
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Christine Warren
All rights reserved.
Logan Hunter and Rafael De Santos strode up the wide granite steps to the front door of Vircolac's, braced to plunge headfirst into the heart of the enemy camp. Well, Logan was braced. Rafe's step had a suspiciously eager spring to it, and his expression looked more lazily amused than wary. He'd recently defected.
Few people had been more surprised than Logan when Rafe decided to take a mate, especially a human witch. Actually, Rafe might have been slightly more astonished, considering he'd spent most of his adolescent and adult life demonstrating where the expression "tomcatting around" came from. But he had taken a mate, and apparently it didn't matter to Rafe that he was supposed to be one of Logan's closest friends. In matters of marriage and mating, not even friends could be trusted.
"Last week they somehow managed to rig the door of Graham's office to lock from the outside." Logan held open the door for his companion and checked the hallway to be sure none of the perpetrators he was currently griping about lay in ambush. "Then they sent me in there to wait for him. As soon as I stepped inside, the door slammed shut and trapped me in there with Annie. Annie, of all people!"
Rafe grinned at Logan's obvious dismay. "I thought you liked Annie. She is a very attractive woman, after all. And intelligent. I would think she'd make some lucky Lupine a fine mate."
Logan growled. "I grew up with her, man. It would be like sniffing my sister."
"You and your pack mores. It's not like she's actually any blood relation to you."
"That's not the point."
"Right. Because the point is that you probably humiliated a beautiful and sensitive young woman by tearing down the office door just to get away from her. How do you think that made her feel, you insensitive clod?"
Logan scowled. "I didn't tear it down. I just kicked it in. But Annie knew it wasn't about her. She's cool with it. She's not interested in me, either."
"Right, puppy. She just smiled and thanked you for opening the door and told you to have a wonderful day."
Logan paused and remembered. "She told me to shove the door up my ass and shit splinters."
"Precisely. Logan, you need to learn that whether she's a werewolf, a shapeshifter, a witch, or a human, women are women. They all need to be flattered and coddled and made to feel special." Tipping the attendant who took their coats, Rafe led the way down the main hall and toward the club library. "It is a wonder to me that you've ever managed to get a woman to stand still long enough to take her clothes off."
"And that's such a sophisticated observation," the Lupine scoffed. "Don't bother to pretend with me, De Santos. Under that pampered, nancy-boy Casanova image you like to project, you're just as much an animal as I am."
"I might be an animal, my friend, but I am not a dog."
"Very funny. And it's wolf, Garfield. Not dog."
Rafe smiled a feline smile.
"You can't tell me all those single females didn't drive you crazy." Logan sniffed the air in the hall outside the library. His keen senses caught the faint but unmistakable odors of breast milk, perfume, and female skin, and his body went on high alert. Well, part of it went on high alert, the rest just went tense and frustrated.
Bracing himself, he clenched his jaw involuntarily as he reached out to open the door. "They were after you almost worse than me."
"They meant well."
"I don't care what they mean. I want them to leave me alone."
"Aren't you supposed to be happy about the idea of finding a mate and settling down with one single female forever and ever and ever? You canines usually seem so taken with the idea."
Rafe slipped ahead of Logan and entered the room. The fire crackling in the hearth at the far wall cast a very becoming glow on the skin of the two women standing beside it. Logan shook his head as he saw his friend's gaze shift and fix on the one who looked like a curly-headed urchin. He was still getting used to that possessive gleam that sparked in Rafe's eyes every time they turned toward Tess Menzies De Santos.
"And you took to it just fine, Morris. But that doesn't mean I don't want to do my own finding, damn it." Logan had lowered his voice, and he looked carefully away from the women at the hearth. "Missy's friends just don't seem to understand that mating is a whole different ball game from just getting married. Maybe if they weren't all so ... human."
Rafe shrugged. "Regina is not human. And Tess might technically qualify, but she is a cut above the average, you must admit."
"Regina has been Other for less time than it takes me to mark a fire hydrant. And Tess doesn't count. She's a witch. And she's taken."
Logan heard the possessive note in Rafe's voice and watched the Felix stalk toward his wife. The Lupine fought the simultaneous urges to snicker and roll his eyes. A couple of months ago, Logan would have bet his left canine tooth that Rafe would never settle down with one woman, let alone one who wasn't a shapeshifter. Good thing for him no one had taken him up on that bet, because the marital bliss that followed Rafe and Tess around like a cloud would have meant some seriously tough hunting for Logan.
He still really didn't get it. Not that he had anything against taking a mate — he was Lupine, for God's sake — but he liked for there to be a certain sense of order to his world. And in his world, a Felix did not settle down with one woman and look happy about it. Of course, in the ideal version of his world, the only woman he'd wanted for himself in longer than he cared to think about didn't up and marry his best friend — who was also the pack alpha — either.
Tearing his gaze away from the sweet, smiling face on the other side of the room and plugging his nose to the warm, milky scent of new motherhood that wafted from the same direction, Logan turned on his heel without bothering to say hello to the ladies. Damn Graham for getting to Missy first, and damn himself for caring. Graham Winters was like a brother to Logan. For all intents and purposes, the men were brothers, and Logan did not poach on his brother's territory. Even if the concept didn't go against every fiber of his loyal body, it also meant risking a fight to the death with an outcome that he honestly couldn't predict.
He swore once more and then again, quietly, because in this house, you never knew who might pick up on it. Some of the folks who frequented this club had sharper ears than he did, and that was kind of a scary thought. He took a firmer hold of his self- control and tried to beat back the restlessness that seemed to roil constantly inside him these days. He had been called to a meeting with his alpha about pack business, and he'd present a businesslike demeanor if it killed him. Graham did not need to know that his beta had the hots for his mate.
* * *
Graham kept an office on the first floor of Vircolac in the heart of the action. He said it helped him keep an eye on the happenings at the club, and when your clientele consisted mostly of werefolk, vampires, and other assorted creatures of the night, keeping an eye on things made a heck of a lot of sense. Technically, it should have been Logan's job as head of security, but Graham was the owner and the alpha, and that made him the boss. Logan suppressed the instinct to growl and stuffed back the newly ferocious tide of resentment. He could not let himself go there.
Puppy, you have got to get ahold of yourself. You are not the alpha here, and your best friend is. So quit trying to sniff on his wife and do your damned job.
He let himself into the outer office then paused outside the door of Graham's inner sanctum to take a deep breath. He repeated his new mantra a time or twelve. Not mine. Not the woman, not the pack. Not mine.
He took another breath and waited for the hair on his neck to settle back into place before he raised his hand to knock. He ignored the voice in the back of his head that pointed out how the settling was taking longer and longer to happen these days.
"Come on in."
Logan pushed open the door with his game face on. His brown eyes took in the office, empty except for Graham, and he met the other Lupine's gaze for a second before he shifted his own to stare politely over his alpha's shoulder. "Sorry I didn't come earlier today. I was at the gym until after two, and I didn't get your message until I got back."
"Don't worry about it." Graham pushed back in his chair and closed the folder he'd been working on. He waved Logan to a seat. "It was your day off. I didn't expect you to be on call."
Logan settled himself in the leather armchair that faced Graham's desk, but he didn't relax. Oh, he sprawled and stretched out just the way he always had, but relaxation was out of the question. On the inside, he remained coiled and tense, the way he always did these days, and he felt Graham's gaze on him. The sensation made his hackles rise, and he fought back the growl that wanted to rumble low in his chest.
Damn it, this is not happening. You are not challenging your alpha in his own damned home, moron, so shut up and play nice doggie. Now.
He clenched his teeth so hard, he thought he heard the grinding sound echo in the quiet office.
"All right. That's it." Graham leaned back until his chair threatened to tip over. He crossed his arms over his chest. "What the hell is your problem lately?"
"I don't have a problem."
"Right." Graham's eyes narrowed, and Logan looked at the alpha long enough to guess his own were probably sparking with an eerie amber light. "That's why in the past month you've been in four fights, broken three pieces of gym equipment, driven six waitresses to tears, and destroyed the door to my office. Because you don't have a problem."
The nasty little voice inside Logan's head was telling him to go ahead, pick a fight. Let him and Graham have it out and finally see who deserved to be alpha over this pack. To hell with the Winters line, to hell with Silverback tradition. To hell with loyalty. Alpha was about strength and ruthlessness and power, and Logan had more than enough of it to make the pack his own.
Logan had to fight the urge to curl his lip and meet the alpha's gaze head-on, no more turning aside, no more avoiding the fight his wolf wanted so desperately to pick. His wolf wanted more, wanted a pack of its own, wanted to lead and rule and run at the front. His wolf knew it had the strength to be alpha on its own, and the role of second-in-command had started to feel more like a muzzle than a medal of honor.
The man in Logan hated that his wolf had begun to erode his relationship with the man he'd always called brother. That side of him, that voice was the one that screamed a denial every time the wolf began to growl and pace and look for a weak spot. Damn it, Graham was his best friend, the closest thing he had to family, closer than any other member of the pack. Logan would die for that man.
But damn it if he didn't really want to kill him right now.
"You know this can't go on forever." The alpha's voice rumbled deep, raising hackles. "Sooner or later, you won't be able to ignore it anymore. What happens then?"
Logan's lip curled, and he wrestled it back into place. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't be an asshole. Don't lie to me, and don't act like I'm not supposed to figure it out. It's not like it's a surprise. I knew it would happen one day, because I know you."
Graham leaned forward and willed his friend to meet his gaze. Their gazes crashed together like two bighorn sheep on the top of a mountain. Logan could almost hear the echo.
"I know you, Logan, and I know what you're going through. We can find a way around it —"
"There's. No. Problem."
Silence descended, stretched thin, and finally snapped with a backlash that stung.
"Fine." Graham's voice indicated things were anything but. He sat back again and picked up a piece of paper, which he tossed across the desk to Logan. "You say you don't have a problem, that's terrific. Because I do."
Logan caught the letter in one hand, but didn't bother to glance at it. He snarled in satisfaction. "Perfect. Who do I get to kill?"
"No one. It's not that kind of problem."
Well, shit. Just when he could have used a little judicious bloodshed.
Suppressing another growl, Logan got up to pace around the office. The restlessness inside made it impossible for him to sit still for long. "Fine. Then what do you want me to do?"
"If you'd read the damned letter, you might have a clue. There's been a death in Connecticut. The White Paw Clan has lost its alpha."
That bit of news actually managed to get Logan's attention. He turned toward Graham with interest. "Ethan Tate is dead?" He paused, letting it sink in. "Challenge?"
Graham shook his head. "Cancer. And apparently he managed to hide it from the pack until the end."
Logan let out a low whistle. That was old-school wolf, and a hell of an accomplishment. In the old days, any sort of illness that might compromise an alpha's ability to lead would have been punished by a swift challenge and the likely death of the sick or wounded Lupine. Knowing that, the toughest alphas of the past would hide any sign of weakness, using whatever means necessary to camouflage their vulnerability and maintain control of their pack. But with an illness like cancer, it was damned difficult. Most Lupines could smell the taint of the disease and would have known immediately. He wondered how the old alpha had done it? Tate had been a tough old bird, but hiding cancer ...? That took balls.
"So no one guessed at all? Not even his beta?"
"That's probably one of the things that helped him fool everyone." Graham nodded to the letter in Logan's hand. "The e-mail I got is from his beta, who was also his daughter. She probably didn't want to think her father was ill, so she denied it, and that made it even easier for him to deceive everyone else."
A female beta? Female alphas and betas weren't unheard-of in the Lupine world, but they were few and far between, more like myths and legends than actual people. Boadicea had been a pack alpha, but Logan couldn't think of one more recent than that. The fact was, even if a female Lupine was ten times stronger than the average human male, a male Lupine was twice as strong as that. Females rarely managed to battle their way to the top of the pack structure, and when they did, they even more rarely managed to stay there. A male would always challenge, and males generally won. The old Lupine adage said, "A female alpha is a dead alpha."
Female betas occurred only marginally more often. Usually they won the position not through challenges, but by appointment, and they kept their places with cunning more often than with strength. Tate had obviously installed his daughter as his beta, either before or after learning of his illness. A wolf strong enough to hide cancer would sure as hell be strong enough to ensure no one protested his decision on that front, but with Tate gone, his daughter would now be fair game. Given the traditional Lupine pack structure and its basis in rule through strength, when a pack alpha died, the logical choice to take his place was usually his beta, the next strongest wolf in the pack, but when that wolf was a female ... Well, all of a sudden the old rules didn't apply anymore.
Again, Logan felt a stirring of genuine interest, interest in something other than another man's mate or a violent coup d'état even he didn't really want to see happen.
"Do you think she can hold the pack together?" he asked.
Graham shrugged. "I have no idea. I haven't visited the White Paw since I first took the reins from my dad. Because they're one of the clans under the Silverback protection, I paid a courtesy visit. But she couldn't have been more than nine or ten at the time. I'm sure she was introduced, since she was Tate's daughter, but I didn't pay her much mind. She could have grown up to be Queen of the Amazons, but even if she did, all it would take is a strong male to bring her down."
Excerpted from Hungry Like a Wolf by Christine Warren. Copyright © 2013 Christine Warren. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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