Bride of the Wolf

Bride of the Wolf
Western/Victorian Werewolf Series  —  Book 6
Harlequin (March 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780373774777  ♦ ISBN-10: 037377477X

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Riding off into the sunset… can be deadly.

Rachel Lyndon yearns to escape her scandalous past, but her dreams for a better life seem ruined after she buries her fiancé on the Texas plains.

Heath Renier has been evading the law by the skin of his teeth for years. Now he’s found a new identiy as Holden Renshaw, foreman of Dog Creek Ranch. But the arrival of his boss’s mail-order bride, now a widow, upsets his fragile peace and threatens to expose his deadly secrets.

Rachel knows that the mysterious and savagely handsome Holden is the last man she should trust – especially once she’s seen glimpses of his true nature. Whe he’s suspected of killing his employer, she has a terrible choice to make. But the heat of his gaze ignites something seductive and irresistible within her. No matter how dangerous the road ahead, she’s determined to give him the one thing he’s never truly believed he deserves: her undying love.

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Bride of the Wolf

Jed’s wife.

At first Heath didn’t think he’d heard right. He’d read Jed’s unsigned will, and the letter from the woman. It had been clear that Jed hadn’t married yet, that he planned to do it soon after his “bride” arrived.

Someone was lying.

Heath didn’t have the chance to call Sean out. The female was taking Sweet’s arm and climbing down from the buckboard, almost stumbling as she stared at the house.

Sean dismounted, tossed Ulysses’s reins over the hitching post and went to meet her. Heath gave her a closer look. Her eyes were brown, a few shades lighter than her dark hair. She wasn’t pretty, but she wasn’t ugly either. She was somewhere around thirty years, not old, but there was a tightness around her mouth, a kind of tension that told him she wasn’t easy in her mind.

This was the woman who’d written the letter that Jed had carried like something precious. The woman he’d cared enough about to woo and win and bring all the way to Texas.

She looked in his direction. Her shoulders lifted, and she started toward him, her plain brown skirts swishing with each firm step. He could feel her hostility through his skin and in his bones. She didn’t even glance at the bundle in his arms.

“Mrs. Rachel McCarrick,” Sean said, gliding up beside her. “Holden Renshaw, foreman of Dog Creek.”

At first Heath thought the woman was going to back away. The hostility covered something else: fear. He could smell it sure as he could smell the skunk at ten paces.

“Ma’am,” he said coldly, briefly touching the brim of his hat. “Welcome to Dog Creek,”

She studied his face. “Am I welcome, Mr. Renshaw?” she asked.

He didn’t understand the question, and he didn’t much care. She wasn’t denying that she was Jed’s wife, and that meant she was lying. He hated that she was here, hated that she’d invaded this place and claimed it for herself, that a stranger held Jed’s loyalty just because she was human.

But she couldn’t know Jed was dead, and neither did Sean.

“You’re Jed’s wife, ain’t you?” he said, making her feel a little of what he was.

She flinched, so slightly that he knew no human would have caught it. “I understand that Mr. McCarrick is away,” she said.

“He’s been in Kansas, selling cattle,” he said. “Surprised you didn’t know that, Mrs. McCarrick.”

Her upper teeth, white and straight, grazed her lower lip. “Of course I knew he had been elsewhere on business, but he was to have returned by the time I arrived.”

Maybe she was telling the truth about that part, maybe not. Heath smiled, not trying too hard to make it friendly. “I don’t know what you’re used to back East, ma’am, but out here things don’t run by clockwork.”

“You expected me, did you not?”

He knew a challenge when he heard it. Jed had surely planned to meet her when she arrived. Maybe she wondered why his foreman hadn’t known to fetch her in Javelina.

Bride of the Wolf

“Jed didn’t say when you was comin'” he said.

“He told me,” Sean said.

More lies. “You know when he’ll be back, too?” Heath asked with a curl of his lip. Sean hesitated, and little worry lines appeared between the woman’s straight, dark brows. Heath came within a mile of feeling sorry for her.

A mile could be a long way if you wanted it to be.

Sean cleared his throat. “Mrs. McCarrick is weary from her long journey,” he said. “I’ll escort her into the house.”

One long stare shut Sean up again. Heath looked down at the baby, so covered up that it looked like a pile of rags. It chose that moment to stir in its blanket and whimper. Sean jumped. So did the woman. They both stared in disbelief at the lump curled against Heath’s chest.

“You know anything about kids, Mrs. McCarrick?” Heath asked roughly.

She blinked at him. “I… I beg your–”

He showed her the baby’s pale face. “It’s ailin’. Can you make it well?”

Her gaze moved from the baby’s face to his, astonishment wiping every other emotion from her features. “Where… whose baby is this?”

“Someone left it, and I found it. Can you fix it?”

Surprised as she was, she landed on her feet just like a cat. “How long has it been since it has eaten?”

“It won’t eat at all.”

Accusing eyes met his, and she took the baby from his arms, taking care not to touch Heath more than she had to. “What have you been giving it?” she demanded.

His hackles rose again. “Some cow’s milk and stuff in a can. That’s all I had.”

“It must have milk.” She looked around. “Have you any cows?”

Relief burned through his body like strong whiskey. She knew what to do. She could keep the baby alive.

“I’ll get it,” he said. “Take it inside.”

But she stayed right where she was, holding the kid and humming softly. Just like a real mother.

Heath cut the thought before it could get any further. He might have to get her help, but he’d be gone with the baby as soon as it could travel. “Go on in,” he said.

Bride of the Wolf

She met his gaze with a flash of defiance and walked toward the house.

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