Desire Is Now
They're primed and primal, untamed and unstoppable, always ready to go further, harder, longer to bring pleasure that's wild, fiery, and out of this world. . . They are the Chanku--an ancient race of shapeshifters, gifted with extraordinary sexual appetites. Now the pack-mates, plus new arrivals AJ, Mik, and Tala, are preparing for Oliver and his beloved Mei Chen to finally bond in a mating ritual that will take each to the peak of ecstasy, and prove as erotic as it is dangerous.
Praise for Kate Douglas's erotic romance:
"Sexy, tense, and complex." --Romantic Times, 4 Stars on WOLF TALES 12
"The story is so thrilling and the sex is so hot." --Romantic Times, 4 Stars on WOLF TALES 11
"Kate Douglas is definitely NOT for the timid reader." --Anne McCaffrey, New York Times bestselling author
This book contains adult content.
Previously published in Sexy Beast V
About the Author
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Wolf Tales 6.5Chanku Wild
By Kate Douglas
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 2008 Kate Douglas
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTala Quinn buried her face in her hands and cried. Blood streamed down her left forearm from a shallow slash that ran from the base of her thumb to her elbow. The wolf beside her whined and butted her thigh with his nose. The wolf standing beside the body of the man he'd just killed growled, but his tail was tucked tightly between his legs, and his ears lay flat against his head.
The coroner ignored the bloody body of the dead man and carefully wrapped a tiny, lifeless bundle for transport. He shook his head in obvious dismay. "You and your team did everything you could, Ms. Quinn. This little one's been dead for hours. He probably killed her right after he snatched her." The man glanced at the body, then nodded toward the wolf. Blood spatters marred the animal's thick coat and matted the fur on his chest. "Those animals of yours seem amazingly calm, considering what they just did to that bastard."
Tala shuddered and tangled her fingers in Mik's thick coat. "I'm a professional. We do search and rescue. We don't kill. I shouldn't have lost control of them like that." She swept her one intact sleeve across her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. "Damn, I hate custody fights. Children should be protected, not used as weapons or pawns. Why ...?"
"Because they're selfish scum."
Tala glanced up as the sheriff stepped out from behind his car, carrying a first-aid kit in his meaty fist. He was a huge man, powerful, but even he looked shaken. He stared at the bloody gash on Tala's arm. "You okay, Ms. Quinn?"
Tala nodded. "It's very shallow." She looked at her arm, stared at the blood. She hadn't felt the blade when it sliced into her. He'd attacked so fast that he'd even caught the wolves off guard. At least her blood was congealing, the wound closing. "That's when AJ, my wolf, killed him. When the guy attacked me. It happened so fast...." She was babbling. She knew it, but she couldn't seem to stop.
The sheriff opened his kit and pulled out some antiseptic cleanser and a roll of gauze. "Paramedic units all got called out on a big wreck over on the highway. Let me clean this up for you. It should be okay until you see a doctor."
Tala shut her mouth and held out her arm. The wolf near the body snarled. The one beside Tala leaned close to her side, watching intently. The sheriff glanced in his direction, then carefully cleansed Tala's wound and wrapped her arm with the sterile gauze.
He nodded toward a thick clump of trees. "His ex-wife's body's over there. I got a call from one of my deputies a few minutes ago. They found the new husband's body. It appears this prick murdered him one, maybe two days ago. That's when he took the woman and her baby. Killed 'em both. They probably died sometime last night. She fought him. Fought him really hard."
He stared for a long time at the tiny bundle in the coroner's arms, but he spoke to Tala. "Thank you, ma'am. For losing control. For turning these magnificent animals loose the way you did. Theirs was an honest justice. Better than this scum deserved." He turned and looked at Tala, at the fresh bandage he'd just applied to her wounded arm, and the grief poured off him in waves. Then he shook his head and sighed. "Sometimes I hate my job."
There were days when Tala hated her job as well. This was one of them. It was full dark by the time the sheriff got her statement and said she could leave. Numb and exhausted, she loaded her wolves into the SUV. They made it as far as the first decent body of water, a cold, clear river flowing not far from the site of the murders. She wondered what the guys in the back were thinking. Their silence was unusual, the lack of communication unnerving. Neither of them had shifted.
Generally, after a job, they'd shift back to their human form as soon as they were away from curious eyes. They'd talk about the job—what went wrong, what they'd done right.
Tonight, not a damned thing had gone right. Tala pulled off the road and found a secluded spot to park the SUV. She sensed the wolves' impatience, their guilt over her injury. Tonight had been a devastating experience for all of them. AJ was not a killer, but he'd ripped out the murderer's throat without hesitation. Mik had no problem with killing, but he'd done his best to protect Tala while AJ brought the bastard down.
It hadn't been enough.
Lunging at Tala Quinn with a knife was the last mistake the killer would ever make. As the sheriff had said, his death was better than he deserved.
Tala took a deep breath and swallowed back her tears. When a victim was killed or badly hurt, she felt as if they'd failed. When an innocent child died, there was no way to ignore the grief. Tala shivered. She couldn't let it go.
She reached for Mik and AJ, but their thoughts remained blocked. She stared at them a moment, unnerved when she realized neither set of amber eyes met hers. Did they blame her for the night's devastating conclusion?
The moment she opened the door, both huge animals jumped out and headed for the water. Moving on autopilot, Tala stripped out of her clothes and, naked and shivering, waded into the icy river.
She held her arm overhead to keep the bandage dry.
The water was so cold it stung, but she needed the numbing pain. Needed to feel clean again after such a terrible day and night. They'd tracked the killer and his kidnapped family from a small town east of Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, where he'd headed into the forest.
When Tala and her Pack Dynamics team were called in, they knew from the beginning it might be a hopeless case, but she'd never been one to give up hope. AJ and Mik were realists, more pragmatic by nature, but they'd learned to trust her instincts.
Trust she obviously hadn't deserved on this job.
Right now, she needed to forget. Needed to cry. She loved her wolves, but she desperately desired the warmth of two strong men. Her men. The ones who loved her no matter what.
AJ Temple shifted first. Tall and lean, with the rangy body of a working man, his chin-length hair tangled wet and dark about his beautiful face, he lunged through the water toward her, determination and anger written in his glittering eyes. The night's ugliness still wrapped him in its steel grip, and she sensed his need to erase the pain, to expunge his own sense of guilt.
Grabbing Tala in his arms, he lifted her high, just above him, and held her there for a moment. "I am so sorry," he whispered. "So sorry." Then he plunged his cock into her, parting her sex with the pure force of his thrust. He was big and hard and it hurt—and it was exactly what she wanted. What he needed. Hot and angry at herself, furious with her failure, with the feeling that her mistakes had forced this man to kill, she wrapped her legs around his waist and sobbed her regret as he fucked her.
Even as she cried, her body responded. With each powerful thrust of his hips, AJ took her higher into pleasure, further from the ugliness of the past twenty-four hours.
His thoughts were blocked, but his love poured through Tala even as he ravaged her body. His cock plunged deep, banging against her womb hard enough to hurt. She welcomed the pain. Rolled with it, gloried in it. Her body tensed and her legs tightened around AJ's waist, and his thoughts flowered in her mind as her climax slammed through her.
She felt his anguish, his utter sense of failure. Not for killing. No, it was for failing to protect Tala. Her bandage was a sharp and ugly flag of dishonor, and the deaths of their targets left a stain on his soul. He had failed Tala, failed Mik, failed the young mother and her child. But most of all, he'd failed the team.
She understood. The same inadequacy defiled her own soul. AJ's big body shuddered. He filled her with the hot wash of his seed, and Tala's body responded. His guilt swirled around them both, shared and painful, growing instead of waning.
Suddenly the pain of failure was pushed aside. Mik Fuentes stood behind Tala and wrapped his arms around her, around AJ. The cold river swirled about their thighs; the night air had grown cold, but Tala was sandwiched between two fiery bodies, wrapped in heat and love.
Mik's voice soothed them. His steady heartbeat throbbed against her back, and the solid length of his cock pressed into the tight cleft between her buttocks. His words held power, carried a message that slowly swept away the guilt.
"AJ, you did more than anyone else. You destroyed a killer who needed to die. Tala, sweetie, you did not fail. We all did the best we could. They called us in too late. The baby and her mother were already dead by the time we got on the trail. You can't right every wrong, but you can learn and move on. Put this behind you."
Tala nodded and rested her head wearily against AJ's chest. His heart thudded beneath her ear, and he shivered, as much from the power of their orgasm as from the icy river. He listened intently to Mik's words, and Tala knew he took comfort in what their lover had to say.
She wished she could do the same. Even though she knew Mik was right, it didn't make the ugliness go away.
Mik's thoughts poured into her mind. Shift. We need to run. You'll feel better when you're the wolf. This will all make more sense to you then.
Tala shook her head. She unwrapped her legs from AJ's waist. His cock slid out of her tight channel. She lowered her legs into the icy water and gasped. It might only hit the guys at the middle of their thighs, but Tala was better than waist-deep. The shock to her body cleared her mind. She knew what she needed, and for once it had nothing to do with running through the forest or making love with her men. Her teeth chattered, but she refused to shift.
She tilted her head and looked over her shoulder at Mik. His dark amber eyes glowed almost green in the light of the waxing moon. His unusually long hair hung wet and straight, plastered to his chest and belly, blacker than black in the pale light. "I need something more, and for once you two can't give it to me. I need life. I'll feel better when I hold a healthy, living baby. One who is loved by both parents."
Suddenly it was all too much. Tala felt the tears flow in scalding trails down her cheeks. She wrapped her fingers around Mik's arm. "We're not far from Anton Cheval's home in Montana. Keisha and Xandi should be there. Please, Mik? AJ? I need to see their babies. I want to hold Lily and Alex. Please? I have to hold healthy, happy babies."
* * *
Padding on broad paws along the narrow trail, the snow leopard paused at a small creek, crouched low, and drank deeply. Her tail swished in a slow, hypnotic rhythm, and her whiskers sparkled with tiny droplets of water. Her pale coat, dappled with dark rosettes, provided perfect camouflage beneath the filtered moonlight.
She gazed skyward at the bulbous disk shimmering between the treetops, and her thoughts were anything but those of a wildcat. She was remembering a conversation held earlier in the evening, when she'd stood on two human legs on the back deck of Anton Cheval's lovely Montana home.
Oliver, the man she loved, had been on her left. Anton, her newest lover, on her right. The three of them had been watching the moon rise slowly above the tree line when Mei commented on its fat, imperfect shape.
Anton had laughed. Then he'd explained that the phase it was in now was called a waxing gibbous moon—almost, but not quite, full. She loved the way the words sounded, and she'd giggled like a silly kid when she repeated the phrase. Waxing gibbous. Even now it made her smile. She loved learning, and Anton was always willing to teach. He amazed her. There was very little Anton Cheval didn't know.
She only hoped he could help her fix what appeared, at this moment in time, totally unfixable.
A rabbit fed alongside the creek, unaware that a leopard crouched nearby. Mei raised her head and snarled. The rabbit stopped, nose twitching. Long ears swiveled, searching desperately for the source of the unfamiliar sound.
Mei chuffed and the rabbit scampered into the brush. She'd already fed, or he would not have been so lucky. It was time to go back. The others would want to run. Mei lifted her head, sniffed the night air, turned away from the creek, and padded quickly down the trail. Unlike the wolf, a snow leopard did not run for the sake of pleasure.
She'd merely needed to hunt. As always, she hunted alone, and her belly was full.
"There she is." Oliver Cheval spotted the leopard gliding out of the dark forest. Thank the goddess, she was safe, but he'd not been sure. He hated the fact that they couldn't communicate when she shifted, but their wolf and leopard brains had proved incapable of linking telepathically. If Oliver remained human, when she was in leopard form, Mei understood his verbal speech but not his mental words. He worried every time Mei hunted alone. Unfortunately, they'd discovered very quickly that wolf and leopard were not, by nature, compatible hunting partners.
At least they were entirely compatible in their human form.... but it wasn't enough. Not nearly enough. Oliver turned to the man next to him—his mentor, the one whose name he had taken with gratitude so many years ago. "Will it work? Will we ever be able to bond?"
"In theory ..." Anton shrugged, a somewhat incongruous gesture, considering his patrician bearing and darkly handsome, aristocratic looks. "I've never tried this, transferring consciousness from one body to another. Other than my own, of course. The fact that Mei is a leopard and Eve a wolf begs the question, Will their basic nature prevent the switch? I don't know, Oliver. We can only try and hope for the best."
The big cat paused below them. Her powerful hindquarters bunched, and she exploded into the air. A lovely young Asian woman landed gracefully on the deck, her dark hair flowing about her nude body, her green eyes sparkling with the joy of the hunt and the sensual need throbbing in her veins.
Oliver responded, his body incapable of ignoring the woman he loved. Mei threw her arms around him. She was ripe with desire, and the thick wash of her pheromones was impossible to ignore. Oliver lifted her against his bare chest and glanced over his shoulder at Anton. "Go ahead and run. I'll catch up to you later."
Anton saluted Oliver with his glass of wine. "We'll wait. Keisha's trying to get Lily to sleep and Xandi's feeding Alex. Mei offered to babysit both the kids."
Oliver kissed Mei, a quick teasing taste of her lips. "We won't be long."
She pouted and rolled her eyes. "There are some things you rush, others you don't. This is one of those others."
Laughing, Oliver carried her into the house. "Yes, dear. As you say, dear." It was fun to tease her, but his heart was heavy even as desire raged through his body. One more week before Anton attempted the impossible—temporarily switching Mei's consciousness into Eve's wolven body.
Until then, they couldn't mate. Could not experience the truly deep bond that occurred only when Chanku mated as wolves. He'd already accepted the fact that they could never have children. Once a woman became Chanku, she could only be impregnated in her animal form. Most of the time this was not a problem. Not when both partners were both wolves.
But Mei Chen was unique among them. Perfect in every way. Beautiful, powerful, she was an unusual shapeshifter whose basic nature was far removed from the rest of the pack.
Far removed from Oliver, the man who loved her in spite of their differences.
When he and the others shifted, they became wolves. She alone became the cat, a snow leopard, descendant of those born in the same inhospitable slice of the world at the base of the Himalayas as the other Chanku ancestors.
One a wolf, the other a leopard.
Oliver carried Mei through the house, out the front door, and across the driveway to his private cottage. Once inside, he headed straight to their room. He gazed into Mei's eyes and recognized the feverish light in them, the overwhelming need for sexual release that was so much a part of their kind.
In that respect, they were entirely similar—creatures ruled by a powerful libido, made even more demanding after running in their animal form. After shifting, desire pulsed hot and deep through Mei's veins. Oliver smelled her arousal. His cock lengthened and swelled, pressing fiercely against his denim jeans. He needed her, every bit as desperately as Mei needed him.
In this, they were the perfect match.
His skin was dark chocolate to her creamy caramel, a perfect blend when Oliver lowered her to the bed. She arched into his touch, and he caught the small, breathy mewling deep in her throat. He kicked off his shoes, stripped off his pants, and knelt beside her on the bed.
She reached for him, but he moved quickly and settled himself between her legs. When he leaned close and touched his tongue to her swollen sex, she lifted her hips to his mouth and cried out.
Excerpted from Wolf Tales 6.5 by Kate Douglas Copyright © 2008 by Kate Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Kensington Publishing Corp.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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