Seal Wolf Hunting (9781402293832)

BOOK: Seal Wolf Hunting (9781402293832)
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Also by Terry Spear

Heart of the Wolf

Heart of the Wolf

Destiny of the Wolf

To Tempt the Wolf

Legend of the White Wolf

Seduced by the Wolf

Wolf Fever

Heart of the Highland Wolf

Dreaming of the Wolf

A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing

A Howl for a Highlander

A Highland Werewolf Wedding

A SEAL Wolf Christmas

Silence of the Wolf

Hero of a Highland Wolf

A Highland Wolf Christmas

Heart of the Jaguar

Savage Hunger

Jaguar Fever

Jaguar Hunt

Jaguar Pride

Copyright © 2015 by Terry Spear

Cover and internal design © 2015 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover art by Craig White

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

To my good friend Loretta Melvin, who fell in love with the SEALs and claimed Paul Cunningham for her own. He is yours, pink palm trees and green flamingos and all, as long as you promise to share him a little. But he will always be yours. Thanks for being a good friend

Chapter 1

“Damn it, Paul. You couldn't help what happened,” Allan Rappaport said as they unloaded their bags from the SUV. The two men had taken a red-eye and arrived at Allan's family's mountain cabin in northern Montana in the predawn darkness.

Paul Cunningham and Allan, his U.S. Navy SEAL buddy, had just returned from one hell of a mission in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where they'd tracked down four college students on a field trip who'd been taken hostage for ransom. Paul and Allan had managed to rescue the three young men. But not the woman.

Paul couldn't quit envisioning the woman pleading with him to hold on to her as she dangled in a harness off the cliff the rest of them had just climbed. The humidity and stress had made her hand sweaty, but he wouldn't let go of her for anything. Then the gunfire had erupted. Paul knew before it happened that he was going to lose her.

From across the stream that Paul and the others had so recently forded, the kidnappers had shot her three times in the back. A fourth round had slammed into Paul's arm. Yet he still hadn't let her go. Not even after he felt her hand release his.

“Thanks for helping with the woman,” Paul said to Allan, looking around the cabin's familiar, rustic living room and trying to shake the images that haunted him. He'd been so wrapped up in chastising himself that he had never even thanked Allan for taking out the men who had been shooting at them.

“Hell, I owe you for all the times you've saved my ass. I was only too glad to shoot the two bastards who killed the girl. Besides, you think I could have gotten the others to safety without you?”

Yeah, Paul knew Allan would have. He was good at his job. All of their SEAL wolf team were. But he also knew that Allan would never have left him behind.

Because of their high success rate on extractions and other jobs like this, they were often hired to do special contract work—though only the wolves on Hunter Greymere's team knew their wolf senses gave them the edge. They no longer served with the U.S. Navy because they didn't want to raise suspicions due to their longevity because of slower-than-human aging. Even so, they still considered themselves a SEAL team. They had met and operated that way for years, usually under Hunter's leadership.

In this case, no one else had been free to conduct the mission. When an undercover operative called Hunter with the job of extracting the students, he'd relayed the information to Paul and Allan. They had been the students' only real hope of being rescued without suffering for months in the hostage-takers' care—or dying at their hands.

With his added wolf's strength, Allan had carried the dead woman at a grueling run through the steamy jungle, insisting that Paul lead the way, as he always did when they were on a mission without Hunter. But Paul suspected Allan also knew he would have had a rougher time carrying the woman, wounded as he was. The burning pain in his arm, combined with the heat of the jungle, made him woozy, and he'd had a hell of a time keeping a clear head for some of the trek. His driving concern had been to save the rest of the students as quickly as possible and ensure he didn't lose his partner. And to take the woman's body home to her family.

“You did everything you could to save her life. We got the others out. We saved their lives. Sometimes we have losses. You know that.”

Paul knew how hard it had been on Allan also. The two men just dealt with losing a hostage in different ways.

Thanks to their wolf's fast-healing genetics, Paul had only needed a short stay with Hunter and his pack to recover from his injury. He was glad he hadn't returned here first. Allan's mother would have fawned over him and his injury ten times worse than Hunter's pack mates had. That was also why he wasn't about to tell Catherine Rappaport what had gone down.

“Better call your mother. You know she'll have a fit if she learns we didn't contact her as soon as we got here. I swear she has spies in the area watching for our arrival,” Paul said, trying to get off the subject of the mission.

“Old Man Stokes at the gas station. I bet you anything he's the one who calls her. We always stop there and fill up the tank before we come out here for our vacations. And he knows we're usually here for the last two weeks in July, unless we're held up for some reason.”

Northern Montana was the perfect place for hiking, fishing in the streams, and running through the woods as wolves. But as Paul sorted out his gear, he still couldn't sort out his feelings about this last mission.
He
was on vacation. And the third-year botany student, Mary Ellen Wister, was
dead
.

Paul let out his breath in exasperation, recalling the way the woman's parents had dissolved into tears when he and Allan gave them the news. He'd tried to give up the ghost and quit rethinking the Ecuador mission. But he couldn't hide his feelings from Allan, who had been like a brother to him since Allan's mother had raised the pair of them.

“I'm fine. I'm not thinking about it.”

Allan grunted and headed into the kitchen. “If you're not thinking about it, why are you mentioning it again?” He opened the refrigerator door. “No food in the fridge. We need to go into town and get some things.”

“I'm not thinking about it. Okay?” And yet Paul was. He had nightmares every time he drifted off to sleep. In those dreams, he was staring down into the woman's frantic gray-green eyes, hearing the barrage of gunfire popping, feeling her jerk with the bullets' impact against her back, and seeing her mouth open and her eyes widen.

The last words she gritted out were “Thank you”—not for saving her, because she knew in that instant he couldn't, but for trying. Then she had closed her eyes and released his hand. He wouldn't leave her in the jungle. He'd had to get her home—to her family.

“We did the best we could,” Allan said, returning to the living room, his dark hair tousled, his green eyes stern. “Her family was grateful we brought her home. Can you imagine what a nightmare that would have been for them? Envisioning her left behind in the jungle? You have to accept it and move on.”

“Right.” Paul still wondered if they shouldn't have taken a different path. One that would have ensured they all had made it out alive. Which was the problem with being the leader. Any mistake was his responsibility. He couldn't be like some men, who considered casualties a part of doing a mission. No one was ever expendable as far as he was concerned, and he was having a hard time letting go of the tragedy. She hadn't been just a casualty. She had been a flesh-and-blood woman with a boyfriend back home, parents and a sister, and tons of friends. He would have done anything to change the outcome and bring her home alive.

“I know what you're thinking. And no. They were coming at us from all directions. The only way out of there was to climb the cliffs. If she'd been stronger, like the men, she would have made it. But we had no other choice. You made the right decision. For all of us. Listen, feel free to talk about this anytime, but we've also got to take the time to let it go and enjoy our time off, to decompress. All right?”

“Yeah. Right.”

“Did you get hold of Emma and check about her cabin?” Allan asked, stowing his scuba gear.

“Yeah, she said we can use it any time we want. I told her we'd stay there near the end of our two weeks here. I don't know why we've never done it before.”

The Greypaws' lakeside cabin was on the opposite side of Flathead Lake from the Rappaports' property. The Cunningham family originally bought the cabin for the Greypaws to live in, since the Greypaws were Native Americans and not permitted to purchase the land at the time. Later, when the Cunninghams could gift it to the Greypaws, they did. Allan's family's place was on the mountain and didn't have ready access to Flathead Lake, so his family was really looking forward to the change of pace. Being right on the water would be great for fishing, boating, and diving.

Paul started to haul the bags down the hall to the bedroom he always used. “I agree that we need the time to move forward and not constantly rehash what went down in the Amazon jungle.”

“Good. Let me call Mom and—” Allan's phone rang.

Paul paused in the hallway. There was only a short list of people who might be calling this early. If Hunter, their SEAL team leader, had a job for them…

Allan put the phone on speaker, and Paul figured that meant business until he heard Allan's mother's worried voice. “I didn't know you were arriving this early. I just heard that you're at the cabin.
Don't
come by the house yet. Later. I'll call you and let you know when you can drop by.”

Allan wore a worried frown as big as the Grand Canyon.

A chill crawled up Paul's spine.

He'd never known Catherine to be that flustered when they arrived home. Usually she gushed over her son and Paul's visit—and wanted to see them the minute they arrived. He thought of her fondly as a second mother, his own mother having died along with his father when Paul was eleven.

Allan said casually, “We'll have to run into town to get some groceries. I thought we'd drop by and say hi. Just for a minute.”

“No, we're busy. I've got to go. Talk to you later.”

She would never turn down the opportunity to see them right away, no matter how early it was. They'd been on missions for the last five months and hadn't had any time to return and visit with her. And every mission could have been the death of them. Right before she hung up on him, they heard a woman shriek and then another woman yell out, sounding just as frightened.

Paul and Allan only needed a second to grab their emergency mission gear and head out the door, hauling ass.

For a few minutes, they didn't speak as they jumped into Paul's SUV and roared down the dirt road.

“Probably nothing,” Paul finally reasoned, hoping that was so, but he couldn't help worrying that the women were in real trouble.

“Right.” Allan was wired tightly, clenching his hands and grinding his teeth. He was ready to spring into action as a wolf. They both were.

“Hostage situation?”

The vision of the half-starved college men and woman crouching near a swamp in the jungle—grungy and so grateful to be rescued—flashed through Paul's mind right before he imagined Catherine and Allan's sister, Rose, and her best friend, Lori Greypaw, at gunpoint in Catherine's home.

“Could be. Mom must have known we would realize something was wrong. She was trying to warn us not to come, which meant she wanted us to come.”

Paul wondered why anyone in their right mind would want to take Catherine Rappaport hostage in vintage Cottage Grove. All that existed there were a small community of humans and the remnants of the Cunningham wolf pack. Those left in the pack—Lori, her grandma, Allan, his mother and sister, and Paul—still referred to the pack that way. Though Paul had often said they should rename it the Rappaport pack, because there were more of that family left. Still, his mother and father had been the leaders until their untimely demise, and in memory of their leadership, those left behind still faithfully called it the Cunningham pack.

Thankfully, it was early enough in the morning that he and Allan had the cover of darkness on their side. He couldn't believe they'd risked their necks in the jungle only to return to their hometown—where everything was usually so quiet—and run into real trouble. He'd never known Cottage Grove to have problems more serious than the usual small-town drama—a drunk standing in the road, not sure where he was; minor thefts, usually by out-of-towners; and once, a newly married woman who claimed her husband had fallen off the mountain cliffs “accidentally.” But now he and Allan sensed a new kind of danger in their hometown.

Any rescue operation involved a huge risk—for
everyone
. But this time, it was personal and hit way too close to home.

“Rose.” Paul thought that one of the screams had come from Allan's twin sister, Rose, who had been like a sister to Paul as well. She'd been a pain-in-the-butt tagalong when he and Allan had wanted to do guy things or spend time with girlfriends. And yet they were close, and Paul would do anything for her—or take care of anyone who had any intention of hurting her.

“Yeah.” Allan's expression was hard and worried, but he looked ready to kick ass.

“And the other? Lori Greypaw?” It was hard to tell. Paul had recognized Rose's shriek because he'd heard it often enough—like when Allan had dumped a cooler filled with crushed ice in the lake where she had been swimming. Or the time they caught her kissing a guy in the woods when she was fifteen. Allan had sworn he was going to kill the human male and taken off after him. But Paul didn't recall ever having heard Lori scream or shriek in all the years he'd known her while growing up.

Allan glanced at Paul. “I'm sure of it.”

They reached the area where Catherine lived, with sparsely scattered homes surrounded by harvested alfalfa crops with rolled bales of hay scattered about, and cows grazing in some fields and horses in others. Most of the houses had lights on inside. Bordering the edge of Catherine's lawn, balsam fir trees reached a hundred and fifty feet into the sky and provided perfect cover for Paul and Allan. Paul pulled onto a dirt parking spot where farm equipment was off-loaded to sow and harvest the fields.

He and Allan quickly stripped out of their blue jeans and shirts and yanked on black pants and T-shirts to blend in with the darkness. They applied face paint, armed themselves with guns and knives, and headed through the dry fields to reach the fir trees, then crossed the grassy lawn to the part of Catherine's house that was dark.

They had done this kind of mission so many times that they didn't have to think twice about what they would do. Lights were on in the living room and kitchen only. Lori's bright red Pinto was sitting in the gravel driveway. Rose's pickup truck was parked next to the Pinto, and a black sedan neither Paul nor Allan recognized was behind that.

BOOK: Seal Wolf Hunting (9781402293832)
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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