What happens in the wilderness stays in the wilderness. Until it doesn’t…
When his alpha invites a bunch of cougar-shifters to visit, wolf-shifter Karl Griffin is not happy. All he wants is a quiet life protecting his pack and forgetting his past. Instead, the big cats arrive and disrupt everything.
Leon Fitzroy has never found anywhere he can belong. The only panther in a cougar pride, he’s fought to be accepted, but he doesn’t really fit in. And now he’s expected to spend time with a wolf pack. Wolf-shifters are infuriating. Even worse, the most annoying wolf is also ridiculously hot.
When Leon ambushes a member of Karl’s pack to prove a point, tensions between them threaten to boil over. Sparks continue to fly as they’re forced to work together. But out in the wilderness, they find there are worse dangers than bossy wolves and smug cats. Survival depends on learning to trust one another—if they can.
As they ate up the miles, Leon realized that wolves might be slow but they were damned efficient in their gait. Karl looked as fresh as when they’d set off and was maintaining the same speed. It wasn’t a problem for Leon—no wolf could beat him at anything—but he didn’t usually run like this in cat form. He was more used to stalking before exploding into a burst of speed that no wolf could ever match, not this relentless running his prey to ground over many miles. The difference came from hunting solo rather than in a pack, he supposed.
Karl led them up a steep hillside and finally drew to a halt. Leon looked around and cursed when he saw the view. The ranch house looked tiny, but there was a clear line of sight to it. Give someone a magnified scope and—
Actually, no, he didn’t know of any rifle that could shoot that far accurately, so that wasn’t very likely. But give them high-power binoculars and they could have been observing all sorts of things, like when Luna came and went each day and when wolves left the house for their regular patrols. Shit.
He turned his attention to the area of flattened grass and put his nose to it, trying to identify the mixture of scents he found, only for a dark shape to loom in front of him. Karl blocked him, using the bulk of his body to push him away. What the actual fuck?
He had the opportunity to ask precisely that because Karl shifted, meaning Leon followed suit.
“What the fuck? You think I’m going to trample over clues? I’m not a damn wolf, nosing into everything before they so much as think.”
For a second, he thought Karl was going to punch him. Instead, with a suggestion of grinding teeth, Karl turned back to the camp they’d found. “You forget I don’t know you,” he said as he crouched down and observed the litter that had been left and the cigarette butts that were scattered on one side of the small depression. “You could be Jessica Fletcher and Sherlock Holmes rolled into one, but until I see proof of that, I’m not risking it.”
The worst thing was that, through his fury, Leon could see his point. If positions were reversed, if they were on Leon’s turf and examining somewhere for clues, no way would he let some stupid clumsy wolf go poking about wherever he wanted. It stung, though, that Karl didn’t respect him. No one got to be responsible for the queen’s safety lightly. It had taken him years of work and training to get to the point where he was recognized by everyone as having that responsibility. Karl probably thought his position was due to him and Luna being related, because wolves were that dim.
Karl looked back over his shoulder at Leon. “There were two of them,” he said. “Both non-shifters. Spent some time lying here, and there’s indents left by something. Could have been a tripod. My guess is binoculars being held steady, but it’s a guess.”
Surmising that he was finally permitted to approach, Leon crouched and inspected the small depressions in the dirt that Karl was looking at. “Could be,” he said. He then looked over toward the ranch house. “I don’t know of any rifle that could shoot that far, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”
“There isn’t,” Karl said. And goddamnit, Leon was going to smack him in the mouth if he kept being such a know-it-all. It was as if Karl realized that, for he offered an explanation, giving a slight one-shouldered shrug as he did so. “I served. Did some sniping in my time. We’re nearly three miles away in a straight line. Short of a missile, which would defeat the point by destroying everything it landed on, there isn’t anything that can reach that far. Yet.”
For the briefest instant as their gazes met, Leon felt they agreed, even if it was only on how fucked up the world was. It didn’t last, of course.
“You good for a long hunt?” Karl asked, standing up.
“No, I thought I’d come out for a stroll then go back home. What the hell do you think?”
Karl shrugged again. “I know jack shit about cats,” he said. “Wolves keep going, mile after mile. That’s all I meant.”
Leon shifted and with a bound was following the scent trail the two non-shifters had left, almost before Karl had finished speaking. He’d show that damned uppity wolf.
About the Author
Joy Lynn Fielding lives in a small English market town, where she indulges her passions for vintage aircraft, horse riding and gardening (though not all at the same time).
Joy tends to wax lyrical about the fascinating facts she discovers during her research for books. Thankfully, she has a very patient Labrador who has a gift for looking interested in what she’s saying while he waits for the food to arrive.