Authors: Rose J. Allister
Lone Wolves of Shay Falls
When Aimee gets lost during a hike, she finds more than refuge in a dark cave—she finds a chained and naked cowboy who claims to know who she is. Dillon and his partner, Kyle, are werewolves determined to become her mates. Just one problem—she shows up for her appointment with fate while wearing another man’s engagement ring.
The wolves will shamelessly pursue her, using every seductive trick in a cowboy’s book to rope their mate. But even the combined desire of two insatiably virile werewolves may not be enough when Aimee’s boss-slash-fiancé and Kyle’s pack mates show up to challenge Dillon and Kyle’s right to claim the woman they have dreamed of.
Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Vampires/Werewolves, Western/Cowboys
Lone Wolves of Shay Falls
J. Rose Allister
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Amour
Copyright © 2011 by J. Rose Allister
E-book ISBN: 1-61034-794-3
First E-book Publication: September 2011
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
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Lone Wolves of Shay Falls
J. ROSE ALLISTER
Copyright © 2011
An engagement ring was the absolute last thing Aimee expected to see pulled from a backpack in the middle of a hike. Yet there it was, held between David’s long, tapered fingers while he sat beside her on a boulder at the pinnacle of the hiking trail. The princess diamond glittered as a final moment of sunlight fell, then dark clouds swept across the horizon and blocked the rays.
The roar of Shay Falls in the distance paled in comparison to the heartbeat thundering in Aimee’s ears. She knew her mouth was hanging open, but attempts to hinge her jaw closed were useless. Blinking rapidly failed to erase the bauble that surely must only be in her imagination, and when the pounding in her ears finally softened enough to hear again, she realized David was speaking to her.
“I know this seems unexpected,” he was saying, “but I want you to know I’ve given a lot of thought to this. I really believe this is the best solution for both of us.”
Tearing her gaze from the generous rock in his hand, she lifted her eyes to find his pale browns regarding her from under a fringe of auburn bangs. “You want me to marry you?”
“Marriage seems like the smartest way to ensure we both get what we want from our relationship.”
“But you’re my boss.”
“And I’ve been helping you with your family needs. That goes a bit beyond boss territory, wouldn’t you say?”
A twinge of guilt jabbed her stomach. “I have appreciated all the help you’ve given me, David. More than you know.”
“The money for your mother’s care wasn’t offered just to keep you working for me. I want to see that you’re happy and taken care of.” He lifted her chin with his free hand. “I’ve grown very fond of you, Aimee. I’ve been thinking more and more that I should share my life with someone. We make a good team, and we need each other to make our lives function smoothly. If we take the next step, I’ll be in a better position to help with what you need—and you’ll be able to help me.”
Marry David Anders? Aimee stared at him, trying to picture him as more than just her employer. He was fit and toned in his snug red T-shirt and tan hiking shorts, and his narrow face was decent looking enough. She just never thought of him that way. She never thought of anyone that way. “Working well together at the office doesn’t mean we’d be good together in other areas,” she said. “Don’t you want to be more than
of the woman you take for a wife?”
He glanced down at the ring, shifting it this way and that as if trying to catch a ray of nonexistent light. “You and I have talked about the whole ‘love at first sight’ thing, and neither of us believes in it. I’m thirty-five and you’re twenty-five, but we’ve never glanced across a crowded room and spotted that perfect someone. That sort of thing happens in movies, not real life.”
Caution thudded in her stomach. “I suppose.”
He fixed her with a weighted stare. “I’m a practical man. I know better than to wait around for a fairy tale. I know you, trust you, and care for you. I know the way you think and the things that you like. That’s why I brought you here to do this.” He gestured around them. “I know how much you love hiking, and the falls was the most romantic place I could think of to ask you to take our relationship to the next level.”
She glanced at their surroundings. Shay Falls was a picturesque setting, tucked away in the mountains with crisp air, towering pine trees, and one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The overlook spot he’d chosen was a perfect vantage point for the waterfall’s three-story drop, which was a breathtaking sight even at this distance. Still, she had to bite back the urge to ask how he figured she loved hiking. She’d only been a couple of times in her life. Not to mention how marriage was the obvious next level to working in the same office.
Before she could reply, he picked up her hand and tenderly slid the diamond on her ring finger. The fit was perfect. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for an answer right now,” he said. “But again, I’m a practical man. Think about it, Aimee. Think about
. Other marriages have started off with less. If you let me be part of your life, I can help you even better financially.”
“And what am I supposed to help you with? What do you get out of this?”
He lifted a hand to stroke her cheek. “I told you, I want someone in my life. Just wear my ring while you think about it.” He bent close to her, and she stiffened. “Try on the idea of being my wife. Here’s something to help you consider what we could mean to one another.”
His lips fastened onto hers, and she couldn’t help but wonder how he could go out and buy her an engagement ring without even having kissed her before. He did raise a couple good points, including the fact that she’d never find a fairy tale. Love at first sight happened to other people.
For that reason alone, she gave in to his kiss to see what it might stir inside of her.
His mouth felt foreign rubbing against hers, but the sensation wasn’t unpleasant. She didn’t have much experience with kissing, despite her age. Opportunities had presented themselves, sure. Many potential suitors had offered to show her what a kiss could be like, but she always held back. Stupid though it may sound, she often felt like the belle at a ball, waiting for Prince Charming to declare her the one true love he’d searched for. She would know him, and he would know her, and that would be that.
His lips pressed tighter, more insistent. Yes, a no-nonsense office assistant had a Cinderella fantasy. And yes, she was aware that the notion was ridiculous. Now, more than ever, the way David had just framed that for her proved how utterly insane it would be to hold out for that magical feeling of
. She’d barely been kissed and never done more. How would she even know what love was?
He drew back from the kiss, and she felt a stab of guilt for having let her mind wander during their big moment. His eyes seemed a bit glazed. “Wow,” he breathed. “I figured we’d be compatible, but I sure wasn’t expecting that.”
She blinked, wondering what he meant.
“Tell me you felt it, too.”
Part of her wished she could. She really, honestly did. David was nice looking, with soft eyes and neatly trimmed hair the same shade as hers. He wasn’t overly muscular but had the lean build of a man who spent time hiking and bicycling. She already depended on him for a job and the extra help for her mother’s care. Why not make it official and settle down?
She offered a smile. “It was nice.”
His slight frown made it evident that he was hoping for a better adjective. Aimee got up on slightly shaking knees and brushed dirt from the back of her snug cargo pants. “I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m racing out on the moment, but could I excuse myself for a minute? I need to use the little hiker’s room.” Open-air urination didn’t thrill her in the slightest, but at least it would give her a chance to get some distance.
“Sure.” He rose and stood beside her, eyeing her carefully. “Look, I’m sorry if I threw you for a loop with this. It wasn’t my intention.”
Her eyes fell to the foreign object on her hand. “It’s not that, really. I’m fine. I just need to, uh, commune with nature. Sorry for the crummy timing.”
He smiled. “No need to apologize. I’ll be right here. Watch out for the poison oak we passed around the bend.”
She gave a nod. “I won’t be long.”
Aimee turned and started back down the path, wondering just how far she would need to travel to find a private spot where he couldn’t hear her pee—or her screaming thoughts.
“Wait,” he called after her. She paused, and David caught up to her in a few long strides. “Here.” He held out her brown backpack.
“I won’t be gone that long.”
“Never go anywhere without your pack. Hiking 101.”
She took it from him and hefted it onto her back. “You’re right.” Especially since she’d packed toilet paper. “Back in a jiffy.”
The most she thought she’d have to worry about today would be blisters on her feet from the hiking boots that weren’t yet broken in. Now, as she headed down the path with her thumbs looped through the front straps of her pack, she was entertaining thoughts about marrying a man who thought he knew her better than he did. A man who probably had more flaws than he showed her at the office, though she figured she knew him fairly well.
What she did know would have many women squealing in delight to wear his ring. He owned a successful business, drove a nice car, and didn’t mess around, or at least hadn’t dated much from what she’d seen. He wasn’t the neatest housekeeper, but he knew his way around a kitchen and did his own laundry. His laugh came easy and turned up crow’s feet around his kind eyes, the way her father’s used to. He was a sharp dresser—not one for designer labels, but he knew a thing or two about quality clothing and how to accessorize.
Still, what did she know about being a wife? She’d never even been to bed with a man. What did David expect from her? He wanted someone in his life, but she was already there, and quite a lot. She kept him organized and on time and occasionally put in a penny or two’s worth of thought on how to improve his business. Sex couldn’t be all that he wanted because no one in their right mind married a woman just to get her in bed. This she knew because she’d been told by men who’d been frustrated by her outdated values. Maybe her virginity was a throwback to ancient times, but it wasn’t like she’d ever asked a guy to marry her because of it. She wasn’t holding out for a ring on her finger.
Why the hell was she holding out?
Was it really the thought that Prince Charming should come sweep her off her feet, or the fact that she was just too busy for a relationship? Her mother had gotten sick while Aimee was still in high school. While other girls worried about dates and prom dresses, she worried about finishing school while holding down two jobs. Guys asked her out, but few inspired her to tear herself away from the grind. A sad commentary, perhaps. But there was more to life than putting an end to virginity. That was why God invented the vibrator.
Aimee came to the bottom of the path, where it split off between the advanced trail and the way she’d come. Had she really come that far? Her thoughts had carried her for longer than she’d thought.
She looked both directions. There were plenty of thick bushes up on the advanced trail that looked promising, so she made the turn and headed up to a thicket of brush. Stepping off the narrow path a short ways ahead, she shrugged off her backpack to root for the Ziploc baggie of toilet tissue. A glance around didn’t reveal any poison oak or stinging nettle—the two undesirable forms of plant life she recognized on sight—though the clumps of scrub scattered among the bushes and pine could have been just about anything. With her luck, she’d wind up squatting over a butt-rash Betty or some such thing that she’d never heard of.
Peeing outdoors ranked right up there on her list of least favorite things, but it was forgotten when a roaring
exploded through the serene space. She spun around with a gasp, her eyes scanning the forest for the source of what could only have been a gunshot. Hunting wasn’t allowed in Shay Falls, so far as she knew. Or was it? Another little fact that might have made her better equipped to wander around the mountains alone. David’s reassuring knowledge of the area would have been a big help right about then. Why hadn’t she just gotten over herself and squatted in the bushes right behind him to do her business? Instead, she’d wandered off in half a daze and was now God knew how far away.
“David?” she called out. “David!”
Her bladder no longer in any hurry for relief, she stepped out from the bushes while clutching her backpack by a single strap. The wind picked up as she emerged onto the packed dirt path, tossing strands of her short curls over her face as she peered around what was fast becoming a dark, gray afternoon. Storm clouds were gathering overhead, which provided yet another reason not to have taken this little stroll. Should she try to backtrack until David could hear her? Or lay low in case more bullets were about to hit the skies?