Authors: Linda Howard
is dedicated to all the wonderful fans who
fell as much in love with the Mackenzies as I did
Wolf Mackenzie slipped out of bed and restlessly paced over to the window, where he
stood looking out at the stark, moonlit expanse of his land. A quick glance over his bare
shoulder reassured him that Mary slept on undisturbed, though he knew it wouldn't be long
before she sensed his absence and stirred, reaching out for him. When her hand didn't
encounter his warmth, she would wake, sitting up in bed and drowsily pushing her silky hair
out of her face. When she saw him by the window she would slide out of bed and come to
him, nestling against his naked body, sleepily resting her head on his chest.
A slight smile touched his hard mouth. Like as not, if he stayed out of bed long enough
for her to awaken, when they returned to the bed it wouldn't be to sleep but to make love.
As he remembered, Maris had been conceived on just such an occasion, when he had been
restless because Joe's fighter wing had just been deployed overseas during some flare-up. It
had been Joe's first action, and Wolf had been as tense as he'd been during his own days in
Luckily, he and Mary were past the days when spontaneous passion could result in a new
baby. Nowadays they had grandkids, not kids of their own. Ten at the last count, as a matter
But he was restless tonight, and he knew why.
The wolf always slept better when all of his cubs were accounted for.
Never mind that the cubs were adults, some of them with children of their own. Never
mind that they were, one and all, supremely capable of taking care of themselves. They were
and he was there if they needed him. He also liked to know, within reason, where they were
bedding down for the night. It wasn't necessary for him to be able to pinpoint their location
—some things a parent was better off not knowing—but if he knew what
they were in, that
was usually enough. Hell, sometimes he would have been glad just to know which
His concern wasn't for Joe, this time. He knew where Joe was—the Pentagon. Joe
wore four stars now, and sat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Joe would still rather strap on a metal bird and fly at twice the speed of sound, but those
days were behind him. If he had to fly a desk, then he would damn sure fly it the best it could
be flown. Besides, as he'd once said, being married to Caroline was more challenging than being
in a dogfight and outnumbered four to one.
Wolf grinned when he thought of his daughter-in-law. Genius IQ, doctorates in both
physics and computer sciences, a bit arrogant, a bit quirky. She'd gotten her pilot's license
just after the birth of their first son, on the basis that the wife of a fighter pilot should know
something about flying. She had received her certification on small jet aircraft around the
time the third son had made his appearance. After the birth of her fifth son, she had
grumpily told Joe that she was calling it quits with that one, because she'd given him five
chances and obviously he wasn't up to the job of fathering a daughter.
It had once been gently suggested to Joe that Caroline should quit her job. The
company that employed her was heavily engaged in government contract work, and the
appearance of any favoritism could hurt his career. Joe had turned his cool, blue laser gaze
on his superiors and said, "Gentlemen, if I have to choose between my wife and my career, I'll
give you my resignation immediately." That was
the answer that had been expected, and
nothing else was said about Caroline's work in research and development.
Wolf wasn't worried about Michael, either. Mike was the most settled of all his children,
though just as focused. He had decided at an early age that he wanted to be a rancher, and
that's exactly what he was. He owned a sizable spread down toward Laramie, and he and his
wife were happily raising cattle and two sons.
The only uproar Mike had ever caused was when he decided to marry Shea Colvin. Wolf
and Mary had given him their blessing, but the problem was that Shea's mother was Pam
Hearst Colvin, one of Joe's old girlfriends—and Pam's father, Ralph Hearst, was as adamantly opposed to his beloved granddaughter marrying Michael Mackenzie as he had been to
his daughter dating Joe Mackenzie.
Michael, with his typical tunnel vision, had ignored the whole tempest. His only concern
was marrying Shea, and to hell with the storm erupting in the Hearst family. Quiet, gentle
Shea had been torn, but she wanted Michael and refused to call off the wedding as her
grandfather demanded. Pam herself had finally put an end to it, standing nose to nose with her
father in the middle of his store.
marry Michael," she'd stormed, when Ralph had threatened to take Shea out of
his will if she married one of those damn breeds. "You didn't want me to date Joe, when he
was one of the most decent men I've ever met. Now Shea wants Michael, and she's going to
have him. Change your will, if you like. Hug your hate real close, because you won't be
hugging your granddaughter—or your great-grandchildren. Think about that!"
So Michael had married Shea, and despite his growling and grumping, old Hearst was nuts
about his two great-grandsons. Shea's second pregnancy had been difficult, and both she
and the baby had nearly died. The doctor had advised them not to have any more children, but
they had already decided to have only two, anyway. The two boys were growing up
immersed in cattle ranching and horses. Wolf was amused that Ralph Hearst's greatgrandchildren bore the Mackenzie name. Who in hell ever would have thought?
Josh, his third son, lived in Seattle with his wife, Loren, and their three sons. Josh was
as jet-mad as Joe, but he had opted for the Navy rather than the Air Force, perhaps because
he wanted to succeed on his own, not because his older brother was a general.
Josh was cheerful and openhearted, the most outgoing of the bunch, but he, too, had
that streak of iron determination. He'd barely survived the crash that left him with a
stiffened right knee and ended his naval career, but in typical Josh fashion, he had put that behind
him and concentrated on what was before him. At the time, that had been his doctor—Dr. Loren
Page. Never one to dither around, Josh had taken one look at tall, lovely Loren and begun his
courtship from his hospital bed. He'd still been on crutches when they married. Now, three
sons later, he worked for an aeronautics firm, developing new fighter aircraft, and Loren
practiced her orthopedic specialty at a Seattle hospital.
Wolf knew where Maris was, too. His only daughter was currently in Montana, working
as a trainer for a horse rancher. She was considering taking a job in Kentucky, working with
Thoroughbreds. From the time she'd been old enough to sit unaided on a horse, her
ambitions had all centered around the big, elegant animals. She had his touch with horses, able
to gentle even the most contrary or vicious beast. Privately Wolf thought that she probably
surpassed his skill. What she could do with a horse was pure magic.
Wolf's hard mouth softened as he thought of Maris. She had wrapped his heart around
her tiny finger the moment she had been placed in his arms, when she was mere minutes old, and
had looked up at him with sleepy dark eyes. Of all his children, she was the only one who had his
dark eyes. His sons all looked like him, except for their blue eyes, but Maris, who resembled
Mary in every other way, had her father's eyes. His daughter had light, silvery brown hair,
skin so fine it was almost translucent, and her mother's determination. She was all of five foot
three and weighed about a hundred pounds, but Maris never paid any attention to her slightness;
when she made up her mind to do something, she persisted with bulldog stubbornness until she
succeeded. She could more than hold her own with her older, much larger and domineering
Her chosen career hadn't been easy for her. People tended to think two things. One
was that she was merely trading on the Mackenzie name, and the other was that she was
too delicate for the job. They soon found out how wrong they were on both counts, but it was
a battle Maris had fought over and over. She kept at it, though, slowly winning respect for her
The mental rundown of his kids next brought him to Chance. Hell, he even knew where
Chance was, and that was saying something. Chance roamed the world, though he always came
back to Wyoming, to the mountain that was his only home. He had happened to call earlier that
day, from Belize. He'd told Mary that he was going to rest for a few days before moving on.
When Wolf had taken his turn on the phone, he had moved out of Mary's hearing and quietly
asked Chance how bad he was hurt.
"Not too bad," Chance had laconically replied. "A few stitches and a couple of cracked
ribs. This last job went a little sour on me."
Wolf didn't ask what the last job had entailed. His soldier-of-fortune son occasionally
did some delicate work for the government, so Chance seldom volunteered details. The two
men had an unspoken agreement to keep Mary in the dark about the danger Chance faced
on a regular basis. Not only did they not want her to worry, but if she knew he was wounded,
she was likely to hop on a plane and fetch him home.
When Wolf hung up the phone and turned, it was to find Mary's slate blue gaze pinned
on him. "How bad is he hurt?" she demanded fiercely, hands planted on her hips.
Wolf knew better than to try lying to her. Instead he crossed the room to her and pulled
her into his arms, stroking her silky hair and cradling her slight body against the solid
muscularity of his. Sometimes the force of his love for this woman almost drove him to his
knees. He couldn't protect her from worry, though, so he gave her the respect of honesty.
"Not too bad, to use his own words."
Her response was instant. "I want him here."
"I know, sweetheart. But he's okay. He doesn't lie to us. Besides, you know Chance."
She nodded, sighing, and turned her lips against his chest. Chance was like a sleek
panther, wild and intolerant of fetters. They had brought him into their home and made him
one of the family, binding him to them with love when no other restraint would have held