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Authors: Kimber White

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Chapter Three

If I had any intentions of heeding Iris’s warning, they were shattered
the next morning when Dale sat on my desk. Day two and he’d already started
making a habit of it. He cleared a space and plopped his wide rear end on the
edge of it then leaned down to talk to me.

“Field trip today,” he said, plastering a smile on his face.

“Okay?” Just yesterday he’d warned me this job would involve hours of
staring at my computer screen. Which it had. I wondered why the sudden change.

Dale pulled a thick brown envelope wrapped with a rubber band from
beneath his arm. “The congressman is working on the draft of a new wetlands
conservation bill. He’s had some input from some of the local landowners around
here. Which he values, of course. But, some hold more sway than others, and
that’s just a fact. One in particular requires special handling. That’s where
you come in today?”

“Special handling?” I did
not
like the near smirk on Dale’s face
when he said it. Smarmy seemed to be his default mood.

“In person,” Dale offered by way of explanation. “We’ve got some
reports and the congressman’s notes on some of the language. We need them hand
delivered.”

My mouth went dry. In person delivery. I hoped this VIP constituent
could be found within walking distance. He never asked, and I’d never found the
occasion to tell Dale Thorp I rode the bus.

“Wild Lake Corporate Headquarters off of Exit 19. You know where that
is? At the base of the water tower. You can’t miss it. Look for the giant
bronze wolf statutes.”

“I, uh. I’d be happy to do it. It’s just, I don’t have a car today.”

Dale gave me a quizzical look then reached into his jacket and pulled
out a single key. “You do have a valid driver’s license though?”

“Of course.”

Dale lobbed the key at me and I caught it one-handed. “Silver Town Car
on the first floor. My parking spot is marked. Try not to take more than an
hour. When you get back, I need you to sink your teeth into an eminent domain
memo we need by early next week. Grace has all the particulars.”

I grabbed my messenger bag and slid Dale’s file into it. It strained
the straps to close it, but I managed.

“Who do I ask for when I get there?”

Dale gave me that shit-eating grin again. “You’re seeing Lanier.”

My fingers froze on the buckle of my bag. I pasted on a bright smile
and tried to keep moving so Dale wouldn’t notice my reaction. Sebastian Lanier.
It seemed quite literally, Dale intended to feed me to the wolf.

“Is Mr. Lanier expecting me?” I asked, though my tongue felt like
sandpaper. My heart thudded in my breast. God, what was wrong with me?

Dale’s eyes raked over me and I swear they settled on the pulse beating
near my temple. I wondered how much his werewolf senses told him about my inner
turmoil.

“Relax,” he said, reaching out to grasp a strand of my hair. I’d worn
it down today, holding the thick mass of it back with a black headband. He
rolled it between his fingers, and for a second, I expected him to lean down
and sniff it. If he had, I’d already done the mental calculations about how
hard I could smash him with my bag. Something bad was brewing with Dale Thorp.
I just prayed this wouldn’t go down the path I feared. He had creep vibe oozing
out of every pore. I needed this internship, but not that badly.

I slung the strap over my shoulder, pulling my hair out of Dale’s
grasp. He straightened his tie but didn’t leave his perch on my desk.

“Do I just ask at the front desk or is there some special entrance I
need to know about?” I asked, keeping my voice toneless and flat.

“What? Oh. Right. Just ask at the front desk. Bas knows I’m sending
someone over.”

“Is there anything else? I mean, am I just handing him these files, or
was there some message I’m supposed to convey or take back?”

Dale finally stood and shrugged. “Just the files. I’m sure Mr. Lanier
will let you know if he wants to send any message back.”

Great. After what I saw yesterday, I couldn’t imagine Lanier had
anything kind and gentle to say about Dale or the congressman. I also had a
strong feeling that whatever was in that file, it wasn’t something Lanier would
be happy to see. I just hoped he wasn’t a kill the messenger type.

I gave Dale a curt nod and headed for the elevators. He called out to
me as I pressed the down button.

“Like I said, relax. I’m pretty sure Bas won’t bite.”

 

Chapter Four

Wild Lake Outfitters World Headquarters sat on a hill off the exit. The
bronze wolf sculptures stood twenty feet high and overlooked a churning water
fountain. On any given day, you’d see a dozen or more tourists lined up to take
their picture in front of the massive sculpture. The store sat behind it, constructed
to look like a hunting lodge with blond timber and a high arch with custom
floor to ceiling glass.

I’d been in the place exactly once, though most of the people I knew in
Wild Lake had worked here at some point or another if they didn’t currently.
More than just a hunting and sporting goods retailer, the place had a nature
center, a giant freshwater aquarium featuring fish from the Great Lakes, and a
petting zoo with rare albino deer in an adjacent paddock.

I straightened my skirt and headed for the corporate offices sign
toward the back of the building. I took a glass elevator up to the third floor.
I couldn’t stop myself from chewing on my thumbnail as I waited for the doors
to open.

Sebastian Lanier. I never expected to see him again so soon after
yesterday’s tirade. What kind of mood would he be in? Would his eyes still hold
that contained fury? And if they did, would he blame me for the simple fact
that Dale and Congressman Foster sent me here?

Cowards. That’s the best thing I could think to call them at the
moment. Dale in particular. I didn’t know what bad blood flowed between those two,
but he obviously sent me here today because he didn’t want to carry out this
job himself. Well, there was nothing to do but take a deep breath and do my job.
Internships were about grunt work. I wasn’t afraid to do it. It wasn’t just
Dale’s and the congressman’s recommendation I could earn. I wouldn’t mind
making a good impression on Lanier either. I just couldn’t help thinking about
the impression he’d already left on me. One that had me positively panting as I
stepped off the elevators and met the receptionist at the end of the hall.

I brushed a hair behind my ear and took a deep breath. “I’m from
Congressman Foster’s office, Abby Winslow. I’m here to see Mr. Lanier.”

The receptionist shuffled papers on his desk and gave me a pleasant
smile. He was long, lean, with manicured nails and jet black hair sculpted into
a side part. He tapped an ear piece and looked back down the long hallway
toward the inner offices. “He’s just getting back from lunch. Why don’t I set
you up in Mr. Lanier’s office and he’ll be in shortly? Can I get you anything
to drink? I’m Curtis, by the way.”

“Oh. I’m all right. Thanks.”

Curtis rose from behind his U-shaped desk and led me down the hallway,
moving with the telltale preternatural grace of a wolf. So, it appeared I’d be
surrounded by them this year.

Lanier’s offices couldn’t be more different than the congressman’s.
There were no cubicles here. Just wide open spaces behind glass and long rows
of brightly lit tables. Lanier had the corner office. Curtis opened the door
and gestured for me to follow him in.

The view from the wall-to-wall windows took my breath away. The room
faced away from the highway towards the park grounds. A pristine man-made pond
sat at the edge of a wooded valley with a long wooden dock extending nearly to
the center of it. Two mute swans dipped their heads beneath the water below
then chased away a pair of mallard ducks. I imagined Lanier could sit at his
desk and stare at that scene all day if he liked.

Lanier’s simple desk and flat screen monitors were tucked against the
only non-glass wall in the office. The rest of the space flowed toward that
gorgeous view with two white leather couches facing out with a small table in
between.

“Have a seat,” Curtis said, pointing to the couches. “Mr. Lanier’s
already on his way up. Make yourself comfortable. He won’t keep you waiting
long.”

Curtis smiled and left me alone. I rubbed my palms against the soft
leather of the couch as I sat down and crossed my legs. Then, I uncrossed them
and moved to the other end of the couch so my back wouldn’t be turned when
Lanier walked in. Or, perhaps I should stand? Would sitting on the couch seem too
familiar, even though Curtis had told me to make myself comfortable? I shook
off my nerves and blew out a breath. What I wanted to do was get a better view
of the rolling, wooded hills outside. So, I rose from the couch and walked over
to the glass, careful not to touch it. I couldn’t see a single smudge on it.

As I watched, another pair of mallards landed next to the swans and
joined their brethren fighting for some unseen delicacy beneath the placid
water’s surface. One of the swans arched his neck and then swung it low,
snapping at the smaller ducks, who scurried away. But, then they grew brave
again and paddled back. The second swan gained speed across the water then
unfurled its massive white wings and took flight. What he lacked in altitude,
he made up for with each flap of his powerful wings. They came down with the
force of a baseball swing as he glided above the water then settled on the
opposite shore. His mate clacked at the mallards again then swam over to join
him.

“They’re beautiful, but they make a damn mess.”

I jumped and laid my palm flat against the glass as his rich tenor
vibrated across my skin and his breath tickled near my ear. I put a hand to my
breast and turned to face Mr. Lanier.

“Sorry,” he said, his smile genuine as he leaned with his shoulder
against the glass, one hand resting casually in his pocket. He wore a crisp
white dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves revealing tanned, ruddy skin with
fine reddish hair that dusted across his forearms. My eyes traveled to his blue
tie and where the clinging fabric of his shirt outlined his powerful chest.
When I looked him straight on, his blue eyes twinkled with mischief as his
smile widened. “I didn’t mean to startle you. It was Miss Winslow?”

He extended his hand to shake mine. I hesitated for a fraction of a
second, my heart fluttering like hummingbird’s wings just before our skin made
contact. When it did, a zing of electricity seemed to spark through my veins,
warming my blood. Just a tiny flickering movement in the corner of his eyes
told me he felt something too.

This was bad. Terrible. I didn’t want to give off anything less than a
professional vibe. But, I couldn’t ignore the fact that Sebastian Lanier was
simply the most virile, attractive man I’d ever stood this close to.

“Abby,” I said, wishing I’d taken Curtis up on that glass of water.
Actually, I wanted something even stronger. This man unsettled me in a way I
didn’t understand. He seemed able to see straight through to my heated core
with just the tilt of his head. That same gesture seemed to ignite me even
more.

“Nice to meet you again, Abby. Call me Bas.”

God. Bas. The name was perfect for him. Strong. Solid. A vision flashed
through my head of me calling it out in the heat of passion. I pulled my hand
away perhaps a little quicker than I should have. But, my body sensed danger
and desire all at once, like a moth to light. Bas trained those keen blue eyes
on me and worked the muscles of his knife blade-sharp jaw.

I took a breath and turned away from him, heading for my messenger bag
near the couch. “Mr. Thorp sent me with some paperwork on the new bill the congressman’s
drafting. He wanted your notes on it.”

Bas didn’t move from his spot by the window. He just stood there,
leaning against it as he watched every move I made. But, at the mention of Dale
Thorp, tension came into his shoulders and his eyes flashed dark. I sat on the
edge of the couch as I opened my bag and hauled Dale’s fat file out of it. As I
moved to hold it out to him, the frayed rubber band snapped and half the papers
spilled out of the envelope and onto the floor.

I bit my lip to stop the F-bomb from flying out as I leaned down to try
and reassemble them. Bas was there, kneeling next to me. He moved in a blur of
motion with speed that startled me and took my breath away. He put a hand on my
shoulder and I swear, just that simple touch turned me molten from the inside
out.

“I-I’m sorry,” I said, sliding awkwardly back on the couch.

Bas’s eyes were kind as he scooped the papers into a pile and set them
on the table in front of us.

“How do you like working for Dale so far?” Bas asked.

“Oh. Mr. Thorp? It’s only my second day. I’m still kind of getting the
lay of the land.”

Bas’s shoulders shook with a silent laugh and he shook his head. “That
was your first day? Sorry about yesterday. I suppose you don’t have a great
first impression of me. Honestly, I didn’t see you standing there when I barged
in. That was . . . rude of me. And that was about something that goes way back
between Congressman Foster and me. Nothing you need to worry about.”

I took the papers from the table and reassembled them with the others.
“Was anyone hurt? In the traps I mean? Your people?”

For the second time, the space around me seemed to slow to a freeze
frame as Bas’s eyes met mine. He moved closer to me, leaving no more than a few
inches between us. He filled my vision and all my senses as if the world beyond
the two of us receded to nothing. He didn’t touch me. Didn’t say anything, but
as he held my gaze, he seemed to lay me bare and know what I was thinking. Even
if he couldn’t, my skin flamed hot from another traitorous blush. I’d asked too
much.

“My people?” he said, his tone sharp, but not unkind.

God. What had I been thinking? His
people
? Was it a secret? What
was the politically correct way to refer to someone like him? I swear, the room
fell so quiet I could actually hear myself blink.

Then, a slow smile played at the corners of Bas’s mouth and his eyes sparked
with mirth. “What do you know about my people, Abby?”

I couldn’t help it, I smiled back and let out a small laugh. “Well, I
suppose I shouldn’t have assumed, but if you’re trying to be stealthy about it,
you’re failing.”

He ran his hand across his jaw and arched one ruddy brow. My eyes
followed the line of it, traveling to his thick, golden red hair that he wore
slicked back today except for an errant strand that hung down, cutting across
his forehead and hanging just over his right eye. My fingers twitched with the
urge to reach up and smooth it back. He leaned forward, sliding one hand on the
back of the couch behind my shoulders, the other almost touching my thigh. He
cocked his head to the side and spoke, dropping his voice low enough it came
out more growl than words. But, oh, I understood him perfectly.

“Just what is it you think you know about me?”

I should have been afraid, I suppose. Maybe another woman would have
been. But, there was something about the way he looked at me with his head
tilted to the side, his body close enough I felt the heat coming off of him in
waves. Bas Lanier was issuing a challenge. Would I rise to it, or would I shirk
away?

I faced him straight on and smiled, my blood nearly coming to a boil as
I drank in the curve of his broad shoulders and the way his collar strained
against the muscles of his neck.

“Well, no offense, but I’m more of a cat person.” Then, I fixed my
smile in place and gave him a wink before sliding away from him on the couch
and rising to my feet.

For a moment, Bas sat frozen, his body leaning toward the space I’d
just vacated. Then, he looked up at me and his face split into a wide grin. He
threw his head back and let out a laugh that made the floor vibrate. He rose to
his full height. Standing as close to me as he was, I had to strain my neck to
keep eye contact. He really was huge. Six foot four. Maybe a little taller
even. Even in my heels, he towered over me.

“Have a seat, Abby,” he said as he took the stack of papers from me and
moved around me toward his desk. “Why don’t you sit tight while I look over
what Foster’s done this time.”

“Oh. I mean, I can come back. Dale didn’t say anything about a
deadline.”

I smoothed my skirt and sat back on the couch as Bas ran a hand through
his hair and started thumbing through the papers. He was sexy when he laughed.
He was devastating when he was deep in thought. His brows knit together, auburn
like the rest of his hair, but blond at the tips. He tugged at his tie,
loosening his collar as he slammed paper after paper against the desk. Whatever
changes the congressman made to this bill weren’t ones Bas welcomed. Page after
page, his scowl deepened, and I had the urge to run my fingers across his cheek
to smooth away the deep lines forming around his perfect mouth.

God. I wanted this man. Pure and simple. There was no logic to it. No
rhyme or reason. Just utter carnal lust. He stirred something deep inside of
me. All danger and sex appeal. What’s worse, he was abundantly aware of the
effect he had on everyone around him, I guessed. But now, while he was lost in
troubled thought over Foster’s paperwork, I could watch him with abandon. His
focus diverted.

Then, it wasn’t.

Bas slammed down the last page and sat back in his chair, hooking his
hands behind his head, and he let out a sigh as he looked toward the ceiling.
Again, he let out that low, rumbling growl and another thought slammed into my
brain unbidden.

I wanted to see his wolf. What would it be like when he shifted? Would
it be gory and brutal like you saw in the movies? Or would it happen so fast my
eyes wouldn’t register it? Would he be Bas Lanier one second, then a fierce
wolf the next?

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