MadMoon, page 1
High Plains Shifters, Book 6
Madden Moon knows what the woman is the second she walks into the old café. Shifter. Wolf. Trouble. Struck by her beauty and the air of exhaustion about her, the leader of the Texas Rogues wishes her straight out of town. But as the mating energy of their species sizzles between them and her enemies approach, Madden has no alternative but to bring the beautiful lycan under his protection and into his bed.
Runaway Lana Vronski is in big trouble. As she races through the woods, local wolves in hot pursuit, she believes all is lost until she’s rescued by oh-so-sexy Madden. When he offers her sanctuary and sex hot enough to singe them both, she accepts his proposal. But it isn’t until the mating heat between them burns wildly out of control that Lana learns her true salvation awaits in his arms. Lana’s enemies are relentless, however, and will stop at nothing to rip her from the arms of the man she loves.
A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
This book is lovingly dedicated to my readers and fans. Thanks for your encouragement, patience and support. Most especially I’d like to thank reader and friend extraordinaire Lana Hinton Galindo, who lifts me up and makes me laugh when I most need it. This one is for you, babe!
He scented her the moment she opened the door of the old café. He didn’t know who she was but what she was couldn’t have been clearer.
Madden Moon’s nostrils flared as the rich, spicy smell of the female curled through his brain, igniting base instincts that he promptly pushed aside to reexamine at another time. The she-wolf was an icy blonde, beautiful and wary. Though he’d never been a fan of short hair on a woman, the edgy pixie cut suited her delicate features. Her eyes, even from the distance, were a dark, exotically tilted midnight blue, thickly lashed and currently narrowed as she halted and stood skittishly in the doorway. The stranger shot him a quick glance and the single panicked look spoke volumes. She knew he was shifter too.
For a moment it seemed she’d bolt and head back out into the dark of night but that didn’t happen. His spectacular hearing registered the low growl of her belly. Then as her gaze shifted away, she squared her shoulders and hurried to a corner booth across the room from him.
As High Alpha of the Rogues, it was his responsibility to keep tabs on shifters who might pass through this area of East Texas. This poor, bedraggled little thing didn’t seem much of a threat to anyone. She looked stressed-out and exhausted. Still, he covertly watched her as she ordered something from the menu and gulped down a tall glass of ice water. By the time she’d finished that and started to drink her coffee, the waitress had set a plate containing two large burgers and a heaping mound of fries in front of her.
If he hadn’t known she was shifter by her scent, the woman’s enormous appetite would have given her away.
She glanced up at him and Mad had the good grace to look away. It was hard as hell to avoid staring at her, wondering about her and trying to figure out why she seemed so distressed. He might be a wolf but he was also a gentleman.
Most of the time.
Mad finished off the last of his coffee and leaned back against the faded faux leather of his favorite booth in Joe’s Hot Griddle. The remains of his fried ham, eggs and buttermilk pancakes littered the aged laminate table. The only twenty-four-hour-breakfast joint in Sweetridge, Texas, wasn’t even close to being hot tonight. No more than two or three customers filled a room that could easily accommodate eighty. That was fine. It suited his mood. Mad wasn’t in the mood for company nor was he feeling particularly chatty.
Joe Grubbs, the shifter elder who owned the place, wearing a dingy white apron over the girth of his belly, ambled up with a pot of coffee. Without asking, he poured Mad another cup. He tilted his head toward the she-wolf who was busily devouring her meal. “Wonder who she is.”
“No clue but I figure I’ll find out soon enough. Probably just passing through. If that’s the case, she can go in peace.” After grunting his thanks for the coffee, Mad motioned for the man to sit. “Why aren’t you out hunting with the others tonight, Joe?” Mad eyed the older man over the rim of his cup.
Joe shrugged. “Somebody’s gotta earn a buck or two around here. These days I’m feeling my age and those men get out of control with the bloodlust. Thirty years or so ago, I liked hanging with the rowdies, but now the thought of it just wears me out. I took a pass. But I could ask you the same. Figured you’d be out there ramrodding that mangy pack. Instead you’re here and looking morose as hell.”
“Just restless.” As High Alpha, it was his duty to tear up the woods and raise a little hell, all in the spirit of camaraderie and brotherhood, but he didn’t have the heart for it. He didn’t have to be psychic to know something was in the air.
Deep in his bones, he believed something was fixin’ to roll over him like high tide on the Gulf.
Off in the distance, he heard the howl of wolves. His men. His pack. They’d been hunting in the nearby woods for the better part of three hours now and, knowing some of them, their blood would be running high. It was a dangerous time for some of the younger wolves who were known to get into a shitload of trouble after a bloody hunt. When they were finished, they’d be looking for a balls-to-the-walls fight and a fast fuck, in no particular order. Gods help whoever got in their way.
Mad glanced at the woman. If she knew what was best for her, she’d get out of town while the getting was good. One or two of those young pups were downright dangerous and if they happened upon her after the hunt, she’d be in deep trouble. Exhaustion seemed to roll from her body, easy to pick up on, and he knew it would be hard for her to fight off trouble in her current physical state.
Yes, she’d best get the hell outta here pretty damn quick.
Finally he stood and tossed some cash on the littered table then glanced at the pretty lady shifter. He frowned and gave Joe a look. “With the hunt going down tonight, it might be a good idea to give the little blonde a heads-up. She needs to hit the road.”
When Joe nodded, Mad shrugged, determined to put some distance between himself and the sexy stranger. “Best take off and see what’s what, Joe. You take care now.”
He felt the woman’s eyes on him as he made his way to the door and stopped to return her stare.
A sound similar to white noise buzzed in his ears and fairly rattled his brain then stopped almost as soon as it started. Chills raced over his arms.
What the fuck?
It was almost impossible to tear his gaze away from her. Yeah, she’d think him rude as hell but he couldn’t help it.
She tilted her head quizzically and nervously licked her lips.
His libido went off with a series of internal bells and whistles but then she looked away. She was a woman in trouble. He felt it in his bones and he wasn’t in the mood for a whole lot of grief. The dead last thing he needed around here was to stomp out a bunch of fires. The best thing for both of them would be for her to jump in her car and head on out of Sweetridge, the sooner the better.
He gave her one final glance and headed out, silently wishing her well in dealing with whatever troubles plagued her.
Lana Vronski, daughter of Alpha Master to the Snow Wolf Clan of Colorado, watched the male wolf leave the quiet café, surprised by the lump in her throat. Normally she wasn’t much of a crier but darn if she didn’t need to curl up in a pair of strong arms and sob like a baby right about now. This guy looked like the kind of wolf who could easily protect a female in trouble. Everything about him called to her senses, reminding her of girlhood dreams of chivalrous knights and whi
Easily six-four, he filled out his black tee shirt and faded jeans as if they’d been sewn onto his long, lean frame. His sandy-colored hair was cut short and a smattering of stubble covered his hard jawline. But it was his eyes that had captivated her. They were a pale, icy blue that focused with a laser sharpness, missing little. Intense, oh yes. He looked like the kind of man who wouldn’t take no for an answer and fight to the death for someone under his protection. She could use a man like that right now.
A pang of regret filled her as she watched him leave. The glow of neon from the sign over the door of the café splashed across his tall body just seconds before he stepped into the cab of a black double-cab and drove away.
Her whole body trembled.
Was it simply exhaustion or her reaction to this man?
“Can I get you anything else, miss?” The waitress, whose nametag identified her as Lenore, watched her with knowing eyes. Lana knew from the woman’s scent that she was one of her kind but she felt no threat. Recognition was mutual between them and there was no need to acknowledge they belonged to the same species.
“No, thanks. The burgers were great.”
“You look pretty tired, honey.”
Lana mustered a smile at the endearment. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out that Texans, even Texas shifters, used such terms frequently, often with complete strangers. She kind of liked that. “I am.”
Lenore leaned closer. “Listen, you’re a stranger around here so you couldn’t know there’s a hunt going down tonight. As tired as you seem to be, I would normally recommend a couple of area motels where you could bed down but that’s not going to work tonight. You’d best get out of town while you can. Those men, some of the younger ones, are liable to have their blood up. You’re a pretty little thing but you could be as attractive as a heifer in that pasture out yonder and it honestly wouldn’t matter to some of those jerks. Seriously, hon, you need to hit the road.”
Lana blinked, taken aback by Lenore’s frankness, then tossed a couple of bills to the tabletop as she stood. She’d stopped using her credit cards when she’d realized how easy it would be for her father to track her. Cash was running low now. Pretty soon her car would be running on fumes and she’d be stranded somewhere. But that didn’t matter now. All that counted was that she get the hell out of Dodge and quick. Impulsively, she hugged the waitress. “Thanks.”
Racing out the door to the sound of wolf howls like those she’d heard earlier, she noted that this time the primal sounds were closer. Panicked, she stopped at the door of her small compact car and began to dig through her purse for keys. She glanced around the mainly abandoned parking lot. Where was the hot wolf in the badass pickup when she needed him?
Lana’s keys jangled in the bottom of her bag but her hands began to shake as she felt a presence behind her. She whirled around, backing up against the car, her eyes widening at the sight of nearly a half dozen huge beasts snarling at the edge of the parking lot. The café’s lot sat at the edge of a heavily forested area and she knew that shifting and heading deep into it might be her only salvation. Either that or she could retreat back inside. That option was removed when one of the wolves skulked forward and placed his body between her and the door. Another stalked closer.
Her heart started to race until all she could hear was the sound of it pulsing in her ears. The black leather handbag she held slipped from her fingers onto the hot pavement. The stalking wolf snarled and snapped as he advanced. Blood rimmed his muzzle and stained his sharp teeth. A blast of terror ripped through her body and on a burst of adrenaline, Lana called on every lesson learned at her mother’s knee and began to run, using the preternatural quickness of her kind. It was her only means of escape.
Lana sprinted off, yanking her top over her head as she ran. Somehow she managed to unzip her skirt, letting it fall to the ground, and kicked off her sandals. Wearing only her bra and panties, she dashed deeper into the heavy foliage of the woods, slowing only to whip off her underwear. In a flash, she visualized her white wolf and transformed into her beast. Her speed picked up but she feared it wouldn’t be enough. Howls went up as the pack gave chase.
Autumn leaves crunched under the pads of her paws and a brisk wind ruffled the fur of her coat as she raced across the forest floor. The leafy, night-shrouded world whizzed past as her she-wolf heart thudded in a primitive rhythm. Her panicked brain screamed at her to run fast, run harder. Her life depended upon it. She was a stranger to this area but, as a wolf herself, it was fairly clear this pack was in the throes of bloodlust and they were coming for her.
For sure, her future was uncertain.
Panting hard, she wondered how these past few days had gone from bad to worse in such a hurry. Maybe later she’d think about it all but there was simply no time for deep introspection on the status of her strange life. A low howl went up followed by yips and snarls, the sound all too familiar but creepy just the same. Fear rushed down her spine and rampaging terror seared her belly as the pack gained ground.
Suddenly time ran out as a hard wolven body smashed into her, pinning her to the base of a massive oak. Razor-sharp teeth snapped near her muzzle. Too close for comfort. Savage survival instincts honed by living among her own pack kicked in. Lana rolled from beneath the heavy weight, regained her feet and snarled, flashing fang despite knowing she was outnumbered big-time.
The show of bravado didn’t work.
Backing up, growling low, Lana narrowed her eyes as the pack wolves hunkered down and approached in a menacing manner. For the first time since she’d turned tail and run away from home, she wondered what had possessed her.
Oh yeah. That was it.
Looking back, watching her life flash through her brain as though it were an old-time movie, she figured a quick death at the hands of an unknown wolf-pack was preferable to what awaited her at home. She was outnumbered, tired and past caring at this point.
Two large gray beasts advanced, rushing toward her with preternatural speed and in her panic, Lana shifted from wolf to woman just as they knocked her to a bed of dead fall leaves. As a still-young wolf, her concentration shredded and all at once she was naked. Vulnerable. Soon-to-be dead.
She’d always been a fighter but suddenly all of that was gone, leaving only grim resignation behind.
“We can’t do this, man. Come on. Moon will have our hides for this.”
“Fuck him! Fuck him!”
Male laughter. “Nah, fuck her.”
The second she heard them speak, Lana opened her eyes to see the wolves had shifted into their human forms. It was dark and hard to see their faces but their lust was easy enough to smell.
“Not me, man. Rape isn’t for me.”
“Yeah, let’s get the hell out of here. C’mon, Randall, Jeff. You boys get on home now.”
Yes, listen to him, Randall and Jeff! Please, do what he says.
It must have been those two who were the object of conversation because they moved close enough that she could make out their features and smell the evilness of their intent. Both young lycan males leered at her.
Facing rape and gods knew what, Lana steeled herself, praying for all she was worth they’d come to their senses.
She’d almost given up hope when a huge, pale wolf leapt upon the younger men, knocking them to the ground. He wasted not a second on them but snarled as he straddled her body and moved his muzzle close to her face. Before she could manage even a squeak, he morphed into the image of the man she’d seen in Joe’s Hot Griddle. His warm breath bathed her face as she stared into those icy eyes.
Just like that knight she’d imagined. Silly.
“Don’t move.” His chest flattened her bare breasts just as his legs tangled with hers on the forest floor. “Not a muscle.”
With movements that were lightning quick, he stood over her. His gaze scanned her body, lingering only a moment on her breasts and thighs. His eyes narrowed and a muscle worked in his strong jaw. “Are you hurt?”
Before she could speak again, express her thanks, he turned toward the two men who’d threatened her and in one violent moment lunged forward to grab each by the throat. He made it look so easy. The speed with which he got to them was crazy. Even for one of their species, his strength was evident. Lana couldn’t help herself. Her gaze scanned the broad, muscular length of his back, his rock-hard butt and the thick, bronzed beauty of his thighs. Oh yeah. Strong.
“What the hell do you two think you’re doing? Have you no honor? Hell, don’t answer that. I already know.” He tossed first one and then the other man to the ground as if they were rag dolls then loomed over them. “Harley, Ted, get these two assholes out of here. Make sure they find a willing she-wolf to fuck. We don’t rape women. Get it?”
One of the hapless wolves still laid out on the ground nodded. “Uh. Yeah, High Alpha. We get it. Sorry. We just got carried away.”
Lana’s gaze remained locked on perhaps the only man who might actually give a rat’s behind whether she lived or died. When the two would-be attackers got to their feet, the High Alpha turned back to her and held out his hand. “Let me help you.”
His grip was firm and warm. A shot of heat blasted through her body. Surely that was just a reaction from her scare and had not a bit to do with how he was so handsome and had just saved her dumb life. Right.
Still riding the adrenaline rush, she let him help her up and faced him with as much bravado as she could muster considering the awkwardness of the situation. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Care to tell me your name?”
“Lana. Lana Vronski.”
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