To Tame a Wolf
Harlequin (May 2005)
ISBN-13: 9780373770472 ♦ ISBN-10: 0373770472
Her innocence destroyed, young widow Tally Bernard swore that she would never trust a man again. But when her brother disappears, she has little choice but to make a pact with the devil.
Though he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life on a ranch of his own, Simeon Kavanaugh can’t escape the legacy of his werewolf father. The animal instincts that keep him from being fully human also make him a brilliant tracker, forced to survive on the desperation of people in need.
The attraction between these two wounded souls is immediate, primal—and dangerous. And if Simeon has any hope of saving Tally, he must do what he has always resisted and merge both man and beast within him. But if she cannot accept what he becomes, his choice may cost Simeon the only thing worth having—Tally’s love….
Read an Excerpt
Cochise County, Arizona Territory, 1881
Tally hated Tombstone. She hated its dusty streets lined with saloons and brothels, its crowds of miners and gamblers and cowboys out for a little “fun,” its almost frantic attempts at respectability.
Tombstone reminded Tally of herself. She was as dusty as its streets, as false as the bright facades that lured the naive and reckless into the gambling hells, where fortunes were lost and won every hour of the day and night. She blended right in with the more ordinary class of men, and that was exactly the way she wanted it. No one looked twice at a figure clad in baggy wool trousers and loose flannel shirt or a face smudged with dirt under a sweat-stained hat.
Miriam, with her dark skin and simple cotton dress, attracted scarcely more attention, and neither did Federico. People of all races came to the mines or passed through the deserts and mountains of southern Arizona. Tombstone was no longer the mining camp of a few years past but a fully incorporated city of seven thousand souls, with five newspapers, its own railroad depot and a telegraph. There was a whole new world to be won here, a new life to be made by those willing to work–or risk everything for luck.
Tally was willing to work, but luck was definitely not going in her favor. She dodged a heavy wagon loaded with lumber for some new construction at the corner of Second and Fremont Streets. The smell of cheap perfume drifted from the nearest cathouse, temporarily overwhelming the stench of horse droppings, whiskey and unwashed clothing.
If André was here, it might take her days to find him. But Tally didn’t know where else to look. Her brother had made arrangements to buy fifty yearlings and two-year-old heifers from a rancher in northern Sulphur Spring Valley, but he should have been back at Cold Creek a week ago. She’d sent Elijah after him at the end of the first week, and now her foreman was missing as well.
God knew the ranch couldn’t afford the loss of four workers in the middle of calving season, even if rustlers had run off with half their stock last winter. Bart and Pablito would make do as best they could, but an old man and a ten-year-old boy didn’t have the time or strength to handle all that needed to be done.
There was a chance that André had met with some mishap. Apache renegades raided American settlements from time to time, and Arizona was an outlaw’s haven. But Tally didn’t believe André had run into that kind of trouble. Far more likely that he’d become distracted by the gambling halls and carnal temptations of Tombstone.
Tally sighed and surreptitiously pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, wiping the dust from her mouth. Miriam, whom Tally wouldn’t think of sending into the saloons, was off buying supplies in the dry goods store, while Federico investigated the establishments that catered to the Mexican traders and miners. That left Tally with dozens of saloons and bordellos to visit. She dreaded the brothels most of all.
For that reason as much as any other she chose Hafford’s Saloon, known for the hundreds of exotic birds painted on its walls rather than for its soiled doves. She walked up to the polished bar and leaned against it like any one of the men.
“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked.
Tally considered her limited supply of coins and ordered the smallest drink she could get away with. “Maybe you can help me,” she said as the barman slapped the shot of whiskey on the counter before her. “I’m looking for my brother–André Bernard, blond hair, brown eyes, a few inches taller than me. Have you seen him?”
The bartender looked askance under his bushy gray browns. “You just described ’bout a hundred men who passed through here the past couple of days. I can’t remember all of ’em.” He scratched his unkempt beard. “Might want to ask the faro dealer. He always remembers a face.”
Tally hid her disgust and downed the whiskey. It would affect her a little, but not too much. She’d learned to hold her liquor those first years in New Orleans.
“Listen, boy,” the bartender said with a confidential air of one doing a great good service, “I’d hold off that stuff if I was you. Wait until you’re a mite older. And stay out of Big Nose Kate’s!” He laughed uproariously at his “joke” and slapped the counter so hard that Tally’s empty glass bounced.
A shadow fell over Tally and the bartender. The newcomer seemed very tall in comparison to the stout barkeep–lean and taut with muscle, dressed in the wool pants and coat of a cowman rather than the duds of a miner. His black hat shaded his face, but something in his manner, the way he cocked a hip against the bar and dominated the space around him, alerted Tally’s instinct for danger. She paid for her drink and turned to go.
“Hey,” the bartender said, grabbing her shirtsleeve. “What name should I give if your brother comes looking for you?”
“Tal,” she said, keeping her voice low. “Tal Bernard.”
Tally tipped her hat, but he was already serving the tall newcomer. The skin between Tally’s shoulder blades quivered. She walked quickly to the gambling tables and searched out the faro dealer. He looked like a panther about to pounce as she approached, but he was pleasant enough when she explained her mission. A few of the gamblers took pity on the boy and speculated among themselves as the dealer laid the cards on the table.
“I think I seen him,” a miner offered. “About so high, curly yeller hair? Saw him at the roulette wheel over at the Crystal Palace oh, near ten days ago. You say he’s your brother?”
Tally nodded, her heart sinking to the soles of her boots.
“Don’t think he did too good. Lost a heap o’ money. Heard him talk about buying gear and heading into the Chiricahuas to make his fortune.” The miner chuckled. “Poor feller. Looked like he might know something about beeves, but mining–” He shook his head. “I’d ask over at the harness shops and livery stables. He’d o’ needed a couple good mules at the very least.”
Tally thanked the miner and trudged out of the saloon. André must have gone crazy. He knew that money had to go for cattle, or the ranch could fail. And he knew less about mining than she did. If he really had gone to the mountains, it was probably because he was too ashamed to face her and had thought up some cockeyed scheme to recoup his losses.
No, André wasn’t crazy, just rash and sometimes thoughtless. She had hoped this time he’d prove responsible. She had needed to trust him with the money she’d saved from her marriage, needed him to show that he cared as much about Cold Creek as she did.
She’d expected too much. Reckless or not, André was her brother. He knew what she’d been, and he hadn’t turned his back. He was the only family she had left. Even if all the money was gone, she had to find him and bring him home.
Tally began the wearisome rounds of Tombstones numerous corrals, stables and supply stores. By late afternoon she knew that André had, indeed, bought a pair of mules and all the appropriate gear, and had set off from Tombstone over a week ago. His likely path would take him east, toward the Chiricahuas, but well north of Cold Creek’s little side valley.
Tally muttered a curse she saved for only the worst situations and returned to the stable where she had left the wagon and horses. Miriam and Federico were waiting for her in the shade of the building. Federico looked as though he’d eaten a sour lemon and Miriam was furiously knitting the shawl she’d begun on the ride to Tombstone. She stopped when she saw Tally.
“Bad news?” she asked softly.
“Bad enough. André gambled the money before he bought any cattle and went back to the mountains with mining gear.”
“Madre de Dios,” Federico muttered.
“Elijah?” Miriam said.
The worry in her voice revealed far more than her dispassionate face. Tally knew how much she cared for Elijah, and he for her. God help the man if he ever made Miriam cry.
“I can’t find evidence that Elijah was in Tombstone,” Tally said.
“He’s been gone a week,” Miriam said, crumpling the shawl between her graceful hands.
“He may be looking for André in the Valley. It’s a big area to cover.” Tally pushed her hat back and blotted the perspiration from her forehead. “We can’t afford a hotel tonight. We’ll sleep in the wagon and decide what to do in the morning–if you don’t mind bedding with the horses, Rico.”
The Mexican shrugged. “What will we do tomorrow, Señorita?”
“I can find him for you.”
Tally whirled to face the man from Hafford’s–the one who had made the uncharacteristic shiver race down her spine. His back was to the sun, so that she still couldn’t make out his features. But his height was a dead giveaway, and his voice, deep and rough, made her think of dark alleys and smoking guns. He was what the girls at La Belle Hélène used to call a ‘long, tall drink of water.’ Tally’s mouth had suddenly gone very dry indeed.
She held her ground, staring up into the shadows of his eyes under the black hat’s brim. “Who are you?”
“Someone who has what you need.” He angled his head so that she could see that the slitted eyes were the palest gray tinted with green, nestled in a web of wrinkles carved by sun and wind. His hair was a brown so dark as to be almost black. No single element of his face could be called handsome, yet the overall effect was one of compelling strength and inner power. Few women would fail to look at him twice.
“You followed me here,” Tally said.
“I heard you was looking for your brother,” he said, glancing over her shoulder at her companions. Federico took a step forward, compelled against his mild nature to assume the role of gallant protector. “Call your man off. I mean you no harm.”
“It’s all right, Rico,” she said, never taking her gaze from the stranger’s. “Why do you think you can help us?”
The man drew closer, crowding Tally to the wall of the livery. She dodged neatly, keeping her distance. He smelled of perspiration, as everyone did in the desert, but it was not an unpleasant odor. In fact, he smelled different from any man she’d met. He moved easily, smoothly, like a puma or a fox. But he didn’t offer a threat, and if he wore a gun it was well hidden under his coat.
“My name’s Sim Kavanagh,” the man said. “I heard your brother ran off to the mountains after losing big at the Crystal Palace. They say he’s a tenderfoot who wouldn’t know a pickaxe from a shovel, so I figured–”
“André’s no tenderfoot. We have a ranch on the other side of Sulphur Spring Valley. He–” She wasn’t about to confess André’s irresponsibility to this man. “He has dreams, sometimes,” she finished awkwardly.
Kavanagh narrowed his eyes. “He’s your older brother? Sounds like you look after him. He gamble away all your money?”
Tally bristled. “What is your interest in my brother, Mr. Kavanagh?”
“I was a scout for the army. I know all the ranges–the Dragoons, Chiricahuas, the Mules. Tracking’s what I do. And right now I need a job.”
Read the Reviews
“Krinard spins a haunting tale with paranormal elements that add to an already darkly intense story. With an understanding of the human struggle between the search for love and the instinct for survival, Krinard carefully crafts a story that makes you think and feel long after you’ve finished.”