Unmasking the Wolf, page 1
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Published By: Taliesin Publishing, LLC, PO Box 155, Sanford, MI 48657
Unmasking the Wolf
Copyright © 2013 by Christy Gissendaner
Digital Release: December 2013
Cover Artist: Georgia Woods
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Table Of Contents
Unmasking the Wolf by Christy Gissendaner
Gina Moretti is determined to escape her rural home of Clinton, Indiana, a place where wolves have met, married, and mated for generations. As the only daughter of the alpha, she’s lived her entire life under her father’s rule. No way is she ready to find a mate until she’s experienced more of the world. Against her family’s wishes, she goes to Boston where her scientist cousin, Dominic, has offered to give her a place to stay. She stumbles, quite literally, into her cousin’s gorgeous boss.
Lucas Mason, a Southern boy turned self-made millionaire, rose above his poverty stricken childhood and now enjoys a life of luxury in Boston. To honor his murdered sister, he hires her lab partner to continue their research. His employee, Dominic Moretti, is on the brink of creating a method to combat the scent of a wolf when his country cousin breezes in. Luke knows in an instant that Gina is his mate. The only problem is…she doesn’t even realize he’s a wolf.
As Luke and Dominic get closer to medical trials, an unknown enemy becomes determined to stop them…at any cost. Can Luke discover his foe in time to protect his research…and his mate? And what will happen when Gina finds out he’s not quite as human as he’s led her to believe?
For William, who likes my scientist brain even though I don’t get to use it much.
First off, I would like to thank Georgia Woods for always believing in me even when I doubt myself. So happy to be working with you again! You bring out the best in your authors, and I’m proud to have worked with you throughout the years.
And no work is complete with an awesome set of editors. A great hurray to Lisa Dugan and Sharon Pickrel. Thanks for being my second set of eyeballs and helping me put out the best work possible.
Wind rushed across the fallow corn field, whipping long red strands of hair away from Gina Moretti’s face. The scent of freshly tilled dirt and the chill of the night air were ignored. She gazed into the distance as if she could find the answers to all her problems there. Tonight, on the eve of her twenty-fourth birthday, her father sprang the news on her. She was obligated to obey him, the alpha. As his daughter, she rebelled.
It wasn’t fair. Why, out of all the single wolves in Clinton, Indiana, did she have to be the one chosen to continue the bloodline? She supposed she knew why. As the only child of the powerful alpha, Tony Moretti, she was the obvious choice. The only choice according to her father.
It didn’t make the news any easier to swallow. She was young, a few years out of college, and not ready to settle down. She’d had steady boyfriends, none serious enough to bring home. Suddenly, she regretted not having a wilder time at school. Thoughts of all she’d missed out on crowded her mind.
It had been drilled into her ever since she could remember she was marked for another, a wolf who would one day come to claim her. Her romantic nature shied away from human lovers, secretly fantasizing of the day her mate would appear. Now the time had come, but nerves struck her. Was it fair to save herself for a man who’d probably had lovers by the dozens?
She wasn’t naïve. She knew not all wolves saved themselves for marriage. Her best friend, Kayla, was proof. Feeling like a bride on the morning of her wedding, Gina wondered if she had made a mistake. How could she swear off other men for the rest of her life when she’d never met the one man meant for her?
What if he weren’t attractive? Or worse, he had zero personality?
Doubts assailed her. She couldn’t do it. She wasn’t ready. All of her life she’d been stuck under her father’s roof, and rule. She refused to change one controlling male for another, at least not until she’d had a chance to experience life outside the narrow confines of Clinton.
Mind made up, she turned to face her home. The clapboard house was small, but well-kept, due to the diligence of her mother. Bright lanterns hung for her birthday festivities lit the front yard.
A glow of light fell upon the house’s façade. A fresh coat of white paint covered the walls, with bright green trim adding a splash of color. All her life, she’d called the small house home, a place where she and her cousins ran wild through the woods encircling the corn fields her father nurtured with a loving hand. Clinton was a rural area, the sort of place where everyone knew everyone.
But their neighbors didn’t know everything. They didn’t know the Morettis were descendants of an ancient Italian werewolf or the howls they heard in the woods at night came from the mouths of those they passed on the street every day.
Boisterous laughter spilled out of the open doorway of the house. Dozens of her relatives were gathered inside to celebrate her birthday, yet Gina felt no joy at the thought of a party.
Gina loved her family, truly she did, but she wanted more from life than to stay in Clinton and raise wolf babies. She’d seen nothing of the world and it was about time she did.
Bracing herself for the argument to come, she headed inside the brightly lit house where everyone waited to hear her decision.
The conclusion she had come to was to leave Clinton before her entire future was mapped out for her by her well-meaning, yet interfering, family.
An innocent-looking white pill lay in Luke Mason’s open palm. He studied the discreet blue markings for several moments before he popped the pill into his mouth. He chased it with a swig from his bottle of water. It had been a week since he started taking L-12. Other than dry mouth, he’d noticed no effects, good, bad, or otherwise.
It would be the dozenth formula he and whiz kid, Dominic Moretti, had tried over the past two years. Luke hoped this batch would prove to be successful. A lot of time and money had been tied up in L-12’s research. Money he had. But time? Not so much.
As if he’d conjured him, Dominic suddenly appeared in the open doorway to Luke’s office. Knuckles tapped on the door to herald his arrival. “Got a minut
Luke motioned him inside. “Sure. Close the door behind you.”
The funding for L-12 was top secret. Only a few knew of its existence and if Luke had his choice, it would stay that way until the correct formula was created.
Dominic dropped his tall, lanky frame into the black and chrome chair in front of Luke’s desk. He leisurely crossed his ankles.
Luke ignored the chalky taste in his mouth from the pill and lifted his gaze to his visitor. “What’s up?”
The younger man appeared bored, as if the news he was about to impart didn’t have any impact on their lives. “I’ve ran L-12 through a battery of tests. It’s passed all of them with flying colors so far. The wolves have shown no ill effects from the drug. Male One’s urine shows no detectable presence of pheromones. Male Two’s level has decreased as well, but is still detectable in trace amounts.”
Luke rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Male Two is larger. An increase in the dosage is probably needed.”
Dominic lifted his brow as in amusement at Luke for thinking he needed the dosage of the larger wolf pointed out. “I increased it yesterday and have already seen a marked decrease.”
Luke’s lips curved into a satisfied smile. “Good news. How long until it can go to trial?”
“If you give me the go ahead to apply to the FDA, it should take ten months or so.” Dominic’s youthful face finally shone with eagerness.
Despite the young scientist’s nonchalant attitude, Luke knew he was completely enraptured by their joint project.
“I think we really have it this time.”
Luke hoped so. Being able to mask the smell of a wolf would be a boon to the scientific community. Not many people were aware of the presence of shifters. Only those in the know, a high-ranking FDA executive, Luke, and Dominic were privy to the testing being done by Mason Enterprises. The approval to go to trial would be pushed through the proper channels with maximum-security access. If L-12 did what they wanted it to, it would be a major breakthrough. Wolves could walk among others, undetected by their scent.
“I’ll call Meredith and let her know that L-12 is ready.”
“Excellent.” Dominic’s pleased expression suddenly changed to one of bewilderment. He lifted his chin and sniffed the air. “What the hell? Please tell me you didn’t.”
Luke met his gaze with an implacable stare. “What do you mean?”
Intelligent blue eyes narrowed to tiny slivers. Dominic leaned forward and slammed his hand on the mahogany desk. “L-12 has to be tested before it can be used in human trials.”
Luke leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “Human being the operative word.”
Dominic, who was a shifter as well, didn’t appear willing to let the topic drop. “It’s not ready to be consumed by humans yet, shifter or not.”
A wayward thought struck Luke, and he sat straight up in his chair. He pinned Dominic with a hard look. “How did you know?”
Dominic’s eyes lowered as a faint blush tinged his cheeks. “A lucky guess.”
Luke got to his feet. “You can’t smell my wolf, can you?” Excitement gripped him. All he’d worked for was finally coming to fruition.
He came around the desk and stood near Dominic. “Tell me the truth. Can you smell me?”
Dominic gave a halfhearted sniff of the air. “I smell your cologne, but that’s it.”
“Holy shit,” Luke breathed. In all his twenty nine years, he’d never experienced this sort of happiness. “By God, we’ve done it.”
Dominic stretched out a placating hand. “No, we haven’t. Not until L-12 is put through extensive testing. Jesus, Luke! We don’t even know the side effects yet. What were you thinking?”
“Apparently I was thinking this is the one.” Luke imagined the good that could come out of L-12. All the helpless wolves he could save. “And I was right.”
Dominic got to his feet. At six feet, even he was no match for Luke’s height. Nearly half a head shorter, the younger wolf knew he wouldn’t be able to dissuade Luke from his chosen course. “At least let me run some blood work on you.”
Luke gave a short nod. “Fine. You can prick me with all the needles you want, but I’m going to keep taking it. I need to know if it works.”
Dominic’s irate expression slipped away. “You know it won’t bring Laura back.”
A growl emanated from Luke’s throat. Though Dominic had to know he wouldn’t hurt him, the younger man took a step backward. “I loved Laura too, but you have to let her go. It’s not your fault she died.”
Luke strode away from the desk and stood at the large window overlooking the city of Boston. In the distance, he could see twinkling lights down near the Harbor. Nearly a year and a half ago, his sister’s body had been found abandoned in the park. The police investigation claimed it a homicide, but Luke knew the truth. Her throat had been ripped out, not cut like the official paperwork said. A lone female jogger attacked by another vicious wolf. He’d recognized the signs of a wolf attack when he’d gone to identify her body at the morgue.
Luke’s hands clenched at his sides. They’d left their pack in Mississippi and came to Boston so Laura could get the best education possible. He’d vowed to protect her. Instead, he’d been so caught up in work he’d forgotten his oath. Now all he had left were memories and the extensive research notes she’d left behind.
She and Dominic worked on L-1 by themselves in the MIT science labs as partners. Going through her apartment after her murder, Luke had found her notes. At the funeral, he’d approached Dominic and offered him a research position within his company.
He hadn’t been able to save Laura, but he could continue the research she’d been so passionate about.
An imposing concrete and metal structure stood before Gina. She had to tip her head way back to see the top of the building. White fluffy clouds dotted the blue sky, and the bright sun forced her eyes to squint behind a pair of dark silver sunglasses. It was massive, quite easily the largest building she’d ever seen.
Gina clutched the handle of her overstuffed suitcase and tamped down the urge to duck back into the taxi and return to the airport. Now that she was here, she wasn’t about to let nerves get the better of her. She’d finally stood up to her father. She refused to return home to hear I told you so.
It hadn’t been a pretty scene. Her mother had softly cried and retreated into the bedroom. Her father railed at her for hours, but she’d refused to give in. Her decision to come to Boston remained steadfast.
Streams of people passed by her, brushing her on either side, as she lingered on the sidewalk. Looking straight ahead, with a bravado she’d never possessed, she strode toward the glass entrance of the Mason Building where her cousin Dominic worked. She’d gotten the address from the corporate website of his employer.
After draining her savings account, purchasing a one-way ticket to Boston, and packing her bags, she’d left Clinton. Her parents had refused to see her off. Their refusal had hurt, but she was resolved to make a life for herself before she settled down and found her mate.
The wind carried the scent of car exhaust and something else. She sniffed the air and caught a whiff of wolf. It was faint, but lingered in the air. Dominic.
Gripping her suitcase even tighter, she passed through the doorway and entered a marble lined hallway. Skylights high above her head reflected the sun’s rays on the cool gray stone. The rubber soles of her sneakers squeaked as she moved toward the desk marked INFORMATION, where a beautiful blonde sat.
“May I help you?” The blonde didn’t lift her gaze. Her tone was cool, her expression painfully neutral.
Gina, used to boisterous greetings back home in Indiana, shuffled nervously. “Umm . . . I’m looking for Dominic Moretti.”
The blonde finally looked up at her. Green eyes, reminiscent of a snake’s, focused on her face. “And you are?”
Straightening her shoulders, Gina st
“Right.” The blonde tapped several keys on the keyboard in front of her, and then gave a tight smile. “You’re not on his approved list of visitors.”
Gina opened her mouth to give the hateful woman a piece of her mind, but the sound of her name being called halted her vicious spiel. She turned and caught sight of her cousin. “Dominic!”
She dropped the handle of her suitcase and hurried forward. She hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, but the lanky form and overly long brown hair was still the same. He had a perpetually unkempt look about him. Artfully ripped jeans, paired with a wrinkled lab coat, perfected his science nerd look though it was difficult to consider Dominic a geek. His extensive dating history proved girls considered him attractive.
Dominic reached her and gathered her into a fierce hug. “I’ve missed you, cousin.”
Despite herself, tears pricked Gina’s eyes. Homesickness struck her like a blow to the stomach. Thank goodness she wouldn’t be alone in the city. She sniffed back the tears and raised her head to give him a watery smile. “Did you hear?”
A crooked grin marked his face. “Aunt Rosa called me. You caused quite the scene, I hear.”
“A birthday blowout,” Gina said with a giggle that had a slightly hysterical edge to it.
“Rumor has it that Uncle Tony was ready to blow a gasket.”
The memory of her father’s righteous indignation quickly sobered her. “He’s upset with me.”
“No doubt. It’s not every day that his beloved, obedient daughter decides to leave the pack.” Dominic’s voice softened, and he hugged her tighter. “It’s just the alpha talking, Gina. He’ll calm down soon.”
“I hope so.” Gina stepped out of Dominic’s embrace and went back to fetch her abandoned luggage. She tried to be good, really she did, but she couldn’t help smirking at the rude receptionist. “Apparently I don’t have to be on the list.”