Mountain wolf, p.1
Mountain Wolf, page 1part #6 of Aspen Valley Wolf Pack Series
Aspen Valley Wolf Pack
Amber Ella Monroe
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WOLF IN EXILE
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ASPEN VALLEY WOLF PACK
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MOUNTAIN WOLF (ASPEN VALLEY WOLF PACK)
Trouble in Aspen Valley and a threat to journalist Cassie Grey's life leaves her no choice but to seek refuge. At the advice of her brother, she agrees to lay low in a mountain-side cabin owned by his best friend Luke.
While staying with Luke, Cassie sees past his serious demeanor and becomes infatuated by his rogue grin and rugged good looks. She also senses something purely animalistic about him. His panty-melting stares are just as potent to her as his lingering caresses. She wants more than his promise of safety. It doesn't matter that he's ten years older than her. She knows a real man is what she needs. She can't fight the need to have him all to herself—she doesn't want to.
Wolf shifter Luke Lombardi is a man of his word, but Cassie's sexy curves and teasing touches are driving him to distraction. He's supposed to be looking out for her, not wishing she was his. By Luke's standards, she's barely legal and out of his league, but she doesn't seem to care. His control is fading…especially when all he wants to do is lay claim to the mate he's always desired. There's just one more obstacle: revealing his secret could mean losing her forever.
"Ma’am, have you got anyone you can stay with for a while? A friend or relative?"
"Um…" Cassie Grey exclaimed as she sat outside on the step leading to her townhouse.
The police officer continued to stand over her. He wrote something down on his notepad as he waited for her to answer. The portable radio hooked to his belt buzzed to life, requesting responses and giving out locations to other incidents.
She couldn't believe this was happening…
Even though it was in the middle of the night, some of her neighbors began to come outside to investigate. For the past two years, Cassie had been renting this townhome unit. Nothing like this had ever happened. But she was no stranger to the world of crimes and various scandals in Aspen Valley and other surrounding areas. Just yesterday she was helping a lead news anchor with the live reporting of a story just outside of a food mart that had been robbed. And today… she had just become the main victim of a similar crime. Cassie couldn't believe her luck.
"Do you at least have somewhere you can stay for the night?" the police asked, raising his voice a little louder this time.
"I think so," she replied.
The police officer looked at her with his eyebrows drawn tightly together and his lips set in a frown. "It's not safe for you to stay here alone right now, so is that a yes or no?"
"Yes. I have a relative here in town. My brother."
"Neil Grey," she said. "Look, I just need to collect some of my things before I leave."
The police officer nodded. "No problem. Get what you need, but please be careful. Our team is still collecting evidence. We should have the police report ready in a few days for you and your landlord. And for the threat you received, we'll likely need more time to gather and process leads. We'll find this guy. Don't worry."
She hoped so. Her life wasn't the only life at risk. And whoever had written the threatening note, affixed it to an eight-pound rock, and hurled it through her living room window had made it clear that he was serious.
Cassie walked over the threshold into her home, the detectives worked side by side as they looked for clues and took pictures. Maybe she was lucky to even be alive. The perpetrator could've done more than break through a window in the middle of the night.
She hurried down the hall and grabbed a large suitcase from her closet where she began picking out clothes and shoving them inside. As she packed what she needed, she pulled out her phone and dialed her brother's cell.
"What the hell, Cassie? Do you know what time it is?" he answered groggily.
Cassie also heard the voice of a woman in the background asking, "Who is that?" Probably his girlfriend. Every month he had a different one, but that was beside the point.
"Neil, I need a favor," she said. "Someone left a threatening note in my house. I'm wondering if I can crash at your place just for the night." She was under-reacting, but she didn't want to rile up her brother.
"I'm up now! What happened?"
Now that she had his full attention, she knew he'd never let her live this one down. There was a time when he
When their parents got on board a plane nearly nine years ago to vacation overseas only to meet an untimely demise in a crash, Neil had turned into the strict older brother who thought everyone—and everything—would strip his only living family member from him. It had taken him a while to realize that she was moving into adulthood and to loosen up a bit. Now that she was twenty-one and had her own place now, she'd just experienced what real freedom from an overbearing brother felt like. But after what just happened, she had no doubt that his overprotective ways would return.
After the call, Cassie's thoughts trailed back to the moment when she lifted and read the note from the rock.
-Your article about how these animals pretending to be humans shouldn't be treated "inhumanely" was rather interesting. But really? THEY'RE ANIMALS! If you don't like how we protest, GET OUT OF OUR TOWN! Or I have an even better idea. Meet me at the county zoo where I can gut you and then throw you in a cage of lions. I hope you've got life insurance-.
It took her almost no time to come to the conclusion that her stalker was mad that she was connecting telling clues on a case surrounding the shifter murders. Someone didn't want to be ousted or caught. The note had been very telling. Her stalker was the real animal here and he deserved to be locked up in prison.
Cassie was committed to this case. One threat wasn't going to stop her from finding the real truth. But now she had another goal: staying alive.
Three Days Later
Luke Lombardi dropped a bundle of mail on the counter in his kitchen, grabbed a glass, and filled it with tap water from the sink. As he guzzled down the beverage, he noticed the green light blinking on his answering machine. He'd just cleared the messages this morning before his run, yet the screen indicated that he'd gotten five new messages since then.
When the warmer months started rolling in, business for his mountain lodging company came pouring in too. He wasn't complaining since there was once a time when campers and vacationers stayed clear of the area. But with his niece and nephew now away at college, he was having a heck of a time keeping up with the day to day operations. He'd held off for the longest on hiring full-time employees. Other than himself, only a few contractors came through every once in a while to make sure the lodging cabins were safe for guests and passed the state standards.
Luke pushed a button on the machine, hoping that someone suitable had answered his help wanted ad for office help. He toggled through the recordings. A couple messages were from other businesses trying to sell their services and a few more inquiries come from campers looking for group rates and such. The last message was from Neil Grey, his old roommate from college. Actually, he considered Neil a very good friend.
"Hey Luke. It's Neil. I've been trying to reach you. I know you're busy up there with the seasons changing, but I really need a favor. Please call me ASAP."
Speaking of being busy, Luke was a little disappointed that no other job seekers had replied to the ad. The last three candidates he'd interviewed didn't quite make the cut. Then again, he had to admit that he was being a little picky. His niece had left detailed instructions on what she did on a daily basis, but he knew no one could replace her. Sending those twins off to school in another state had been difficult for Luke, but he knew in his heart that this was best for both of them. At least they had each other.
He picked up the handset and dialed Neil Grey's phone number. Neil picked up right after the first ring.
"Hey Luke. Thanks for calling back."
"You seem worried. What's up?"
"I need a huge favor," he said.
Who didn't need a huge favor these days?
"Why do I get the feeling that you're in trouble?" Luke asked.
Neil laughed nervously. "It's not me this time. It's Cassie. She ran into some issues at work and she needs to lay low for a while. You remember my sister, right?"
He'd never officially met Cassie, but he'd seen her for a brief moment eight years ago right after the college graduation ceremony. At the time, her most striking features were her thick mane of curly mahogany hair, a cute button nose, and an innocent, but devilish smile.
"Yes, I remember Cassie. What's going on?"
"She's a journalist for the Aspen Valley Times. She was working on a story with a work colleague and she caught a lot of heat behind it. We agreed that she needs to get out of town for a few days, maybe even a few weeks until things settle down and the cops can catch these guys. I have to travel on business and I can't reschedule this. I'd be devastated if anything happened to Cassie while I was gone. We don't have anybody else, you know?"
Neil and his sister Cassie had lived together without their parents for five years now. They'd died in a plane crash that had taken the lives of several other Aspen Valley residents too. Neil had become his sister's guardian, but if Luke's estimates were correct Cassie was no longer a child. But as a man who had adopted his niece and nephew, Luke understand the necessity to keep them safe would never leave—no matter how independent they had become.
"It's that bad, huh?" Luke pulled out a chair from under the kitchen table and sat down. He began sorting through the stack of mail. "You know, I've got family out in Aspen Valley. What kind of story was she working on?"
"It's the case involving the shifter murders. About how they're being led astray and then gunned down."
Luke's back stiffened. He swallowed down his rising suspicions, but no amount of force would chase down the lump in his throat. He knew about the murders. In fact, every wolf in the valley was trying to find the creep—or creeps—responsible for the murders. The murders had slowed down following the Pack being proactive in looking out for their fellow neighbors, but the sporadic killings had gone on so long that Dane Magnus, Alpha of the Pack, had set up his own protection crew within the Pack to keep the members safe.
"She says she actually requested the assignment," Neil continued. "Would you believe it? She just got the job and has barely finished training and they're already giving her these high-profile dangerous cases. She's been acting out lately like she doesn't give a shit about her safety or anything. I don't get it."
"Sounds like someone else I know. Someone like the highly-successful detective that solved every crime he was assigned to in Aspen Valley," Luke commented.
Neil snorted. "Yeah, I think she got the brunt of my dad's drive to succeed at nearly everything." Neil's dad had been a police detective in Aspen Valley before his death, pursuing most of the area's dangerous cases.
"What do you need? You know I've got your back."
"Her home address has already been compromised so she's going to be staying at that log cabin I bought three years ago. With me still living in a one bedroom apartment the mountain cabin was our only decent and quick option. It's close enough to you that I thought you'd be able to look out for her while she's there. It doesn't have to be every day, but if you could just check in on her while I'm up in Maine."
"I really appreciate it, man," Neil said. "And we've gotta get together again, just like old times. Maybe when I'm done with this trip and if you have time, we can catch up. Last time we ran into each other, you were grocery shopping with your niece and nephew."
"Yeah, they kept me pretty busy."
"Cassie's packing right now, so we'll be driving up there either tomorrow morning or the following day."
"I'll see both of you when you get here," Luke said.
"Thanks man, I'll owe you big time for this one."
"Don't even mention it."
"Unbelievable!” Neil pulled the cabin door close, turned around on the porch, and blew outward in frustration.
Cassie rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. Her nerves had been shot since the moment she and her brother left his apartment this morning. Not only was she homeless, she was also at the mercy of her spur-of-the-moment decision-making brother. For his sa
"I can't believe you didn't check this place out before you insisted on me staying here," Cassie exclaimed. "I like my alone time just as much as the next girl, but this is out in the middle of nowhere."
"It's not out in the middle of nowhere. It only looks that way. This area is safer than the city anyway."
"So what's up with the leak in the ceiling?" She gestured toward the small cabin that her brother claimed he had bought some time ago.
"The maintenance guy was out here two months ago. He didn't say anything about there being a leak," Neil said.
"Just in case you don't remember most of the area has been in a drought for over three weeks up until two days ago. Maybe it wasn't visible when he came by." Cassie sighed. "I should have stayed with Clara like I planned."
"Clara doesn't exactly have her shit together either. Do you know how many times I've seen that chick drunk out of her mind at parties?"
"What does it matter? She was offering me a place to stay until this all died down. Just because she goes out partying doesn't mean I will too."
"You don't know what I know."
"Oh? Let me guess…you've slept with her."
Neil said nothing. He just slipped past her.
"Oh my God," Cassie exclaimed in disbelief. "That's why you don't want me talking to her. You've had sex with her."
Cassie followed her brother down the steps and through the thick shrubbery leading to his truck.
"Now's not the time to discuss my sex life. That's my business. You're in a whole heap of trouble and I'm trying to find someplace safe for you to stay. You're not exactly in a position to have your location compromised. I don't trust Clara and her mouth runs like a water faucet."
"Well you trusted her enough to fuck her," Cassie noted. "Now what? I might as well just go back to Aspen Valley and wait it out. Do you honestly think someone's going to try to kill me? It was a threat, that's all. I'm off the case now."
by Amber Ella Monroe / Paranormal / Shapeshifters have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes