Wolf Tales V
Wolf Tales V took FIRST PLACE for Best Paranormal Erotic Romance
from Night Owl Romance
Rating: Gold Star
Heat Level: O
"...Ms. Douglas has an amazing ability to draw her readers into her books and I felt a part of Wolf Tales V in my heart and soul. I laughed and I cried and as soon as I finished the book, I had to read it again! For all these reasons, I believe that Wolf Tales V deserves a Gold Star Award."
"It's a red-hot read full of all the decadent pleasures and breathtaking emotions that the Wolf Tales series has ensnared me with. Kate Douglas also has more Chanku stories coming out with Sexy Beast IV and in Wolf Tales VI which I can't wait to add to my Wolf Tales collection. Enjoy!"
"This latest Wolf Tales installment is sure to please fans....the sex scenes are steamy and full of variety; and the conclusion perfectly ties the parallel tales together. It's refreshing to have primary characters who are middle-aged and still sexy! Readers who like a lot of plot with their hot reads will be totally satisfied. "
"...Everything about WOLF TALES V, from the characters, to the plot, to the romance is amazing and I'd recommend this series to everyone who loves paranormal with an erotic twist. Ms. Douglas' stories just get better and better with each installment."
Reviewed by Amanda Haffery
"...Wolf Tales V has all the hot passion, compassionate understanding and sexy couples that have come to be expected with the Chanku, and it has an ending that is superb. If you have been following the story of the Chanku, then Wolf Tales V is not to be missed."
© Kate Douglas 2007
Wolf Tales V
Manda stood motionless beside the window but she didn't dare part the shades. Not even for a peek. No, that was much too risky, but she listened. Listened and flinched at the double backfire that always reminded her of gunshot, listened to the slow, steady tread of heavy boots climbing the twelve steps to her front door.
Still, when the loud knock broke the silence, she jumped. Then she caught her breath and moved away from the window and shuffled closer to the door. Leaned the side of her head against the solid wood. “Is that you, Harry?”
Damn. She so wished her voice sounded normal. The scratchy, rasping growl wrapped around her words only added to the rumors.
“Yes, Ms. Smith. I have your order. Do you want me to bring it in?”
Bring it in. It would be so simple to show herself and be done with it. Manda sighed. “No, that's okay, Harry. The check for the groceries is under the mat. Your tip, too. Thank you.”
She listened for the scrape of the rubber mat as it was pulled aside. Heard the crinkle of paper and knew he'd probably shoved the check into a pocket and one of the last of her crisp five dollar bills into his wallet.
“Thank you, ma'am. I'll be going now.”
“Thank you, Harry.” Manda leaned her back against the door and listened for the solid clump of Harry's boots as he walked down the stairs. She sensed the long pause he made at the bottom and imagined him looking up toward her closed door.
Pictured him standing there, scratching his bald head and wondering what kind of freak she was. Manda waited until the unmistakable double retort of backfire told her Harry's truck was well and truly gone. Still she waited. A full ten minutes longer, her senses open to any disturbance, any suggestion Harry, or even someone else, might yet linger on the stoop.
Finally, stomach rumbling in hungry protest at the long but necessary delay, she cracked opened the door and peered down the empty staircase. Then, hooking her long, black nails into the sides of the cardboard box, Manda slowly dragged the goods inside and closed the door.
The aroma of fresh, raw meat brought a rush of saliva to her mouth and made her throat convulse. She tried to stay in control, but the blood scent found a deeper level. She caved to her needs, the visceral reaction to fresh blood, to meat. Snarling deep in her throat, Manda ripped open the box with teeth and claws and used her sharp canines to tear into the first package on top. Raw sirloin steak. Almost two pounds of bloody meat.
She shoved the plastic covering aside with one curved nail, then fell on the steak, tearing at it as if it were prey, alive and struggling to escape. Growling, snapping at the bloody flesh, she devoured the slab of meat in seconds.
Hunger assuaged, Manda sat back on her haunches, breathing heavily. She glanced at the torn wrapping, the bloodstains on the floor, then at her hands. At least, what had once been hands. They were paws. Okay, so she had rudimentary opposing thumbs, but still, they were nothing but paws and she was cursed. Cursed for whatever sin she might have committed, cursed to live as a beast. She stared at the fur covered paws, the extended black claws, the bits of meat caught on the sharp nails. Stared at them until the form wavered and her eyes watered, though no tears fell.
Damn Papa B and damn the people who followed him. Damn Mother and Father, the rebels and their guns, the hill people and God and His ugly curse. Damn them all.
Then she bowed her head, whimpering like a lost puppy, and curled into a shivering, shaking ball of fur and bone and flesh.
* * *
Baylor Quinn stepped out of the elevator and stood patiently in the doorway to San Francisco's elegant Top of the Mark restaurant. He tucked his motorcycle gloves inside his helmet and stuck the helmet under his arm, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible in his full-body black leather riding suit and heavy black motorcycle boots. While he waited for the maitre de to seat him, Bay studied the large, laughing group sitting together on the far side of the restaurant and wondered once again why he should presume to feel a part of such an illustrious assembly of individuals.
Each one of them, perfect in every way possible.
All of them mated to someone...loved by someone. Even his sisters had found mates. Sisters from the same dysfunctional beginnings as his own, yet they laughed and loved as if they had every right to so much happiness.
The maitre de grabbed a menu and gestured for Bay to follow. Baylor looked beyond the small, neatly attired man and glanced through the large windows. The skyline of San Francisco was almost lost in the low-lying fog below the top floor of the hotel, but the misty view out the windows created a perfect backdrop for such a gathering of the obviously rich and beautiful.
If only the other patrons seated nearby had a clue. Bay bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from grinning like a fool. Shapeshifters all, from the handsome older man with white hair to the young African American mother gently cradling her newborn daughter.
Chanku. Creatures with the ability to leave their human bodies-if not their humanity-behind, and run as wolves. They might hunt and kill without remorse, yet they were just as comfortable sharing a linen-covered table set with the finest crystal and silver, conversing quietly over coffee in an elegant dining room.
It looked as if everyone had made it to brunch this morning. Considering the amount of alcohol consumed at the wedding reception the night before, Baylor'd had his doubts. He nodded to Anton Cheval, the obvious occupant for the space at the head of the table, shook Ulrich Mason's hand at the other end, and pulled out the vacant chair between his two sisters, across from Stefan Aragat, who sat beside his lovely mate, Alexandria.
She looked about ready to pop. Bay wasn't sure, but her baby had to be due any time...like maybe now? He gave each of his sisters a quick kiss. Then, for some obscure and probably foolish reason, he leaned across the table and kissed Xandi's cheek.
He sensed more than heard the low snarl coming from her mate. Bay sat, and at the same time flashed a quick grin when Xandi rolled her eyes at Stefan's purely wolven response.
“How're you feeling this morning, Xandi? You've got to be getting close.” Spreading his napkin over his lap, Bay nodded to the waiter who poured his coffee.
Xandi laughed. “Definitely close. I feel like a beached whale about to burst.” She glared at Stefan. “And it's all your fault!”
Stefan raised both hands in surrender. “Not completely,” he said. “You did have the choice.”
Xandi merely snorted and laughed, but Bay noticed the white lines around her mouth and the strain in her eyes. It was true-all Chanku females had a choice to breed or not. Pregnancy required the conscious release of an egg for fertilization. As miserable as she looked right now, Bay wondered if Xandi regretted choosing motherhood.
Stefan certainly seemed excited about the impending birth. What would it be like, knowing the woman who loved you carried your child? Bay sighed. It was doubtful he'd ever find out. There were so few of them, so very few Chanku of either sex.
Bay's odds of meeting the perfect mate seemed beyond insurmountable. He sat back and listened as the others teased Stefan and Xandi about her impending delivery, but as he sipped his coffee, Bay felt once more that sense of being apart from the whole. Even with a newly rediscovered sister on either side of him, he remained the one lone wolf among the group.
Bay glanced up and caught Stefan watching him, smiling broadly. “Take a look at this,” Stefan said. “I may have found you a woman.” He handed a folded newspaper across the table, a cheap tabloid from the looks of it. The headline screamed across the front, “Wolf Girl Terrifies Rural NY Neighborhood!”
Below was a grainy photo, obviously retouched, of a snarling wolf with just enough human features, including long, blonde hair, to look truly hideous. Anger shot through Bay. Did everyone find it humorous that he among them was alone and hating it? It took him a minute to find his voice. He tossed the paper back on the table and snarled, “Not funny, Aragat.”
Still smiling, Stefan shook his head. “You don't get it, do you? I'm not kidding and this is not a joke. Xandi, tell Bay how you found me.”
Xandi reached across the table and covered Bay's clenched fist with her soft hand. “It wasn't that long ago, Bay, that Stefan looked almost exactly like the woman in that photo.” She flashed her mate a wry grin. “Other than the hair. He was already going gray.”
“Watch it, woman.” Stefan smiled at Xandi, obviously urging her to continue.
“He'd been stuck like that, part wolf, part human, in mid-shift, for over five years. That picture's probably not real, but there's often a kernel of truth to tabloid stories. We found Keisha through an article in that same publication. It was just as lurid, but there was enough truth to send us searching for her. Point being, don't discount the possibility of this woman being real, and very much in need of help.”
Bay felt as if someone had tilted his reality. He looked carefully at Stefan and tried to imagine the horror of being caught between shifts. “What happened?”
Stefan shook his head. “It's a long story and too intense for a `breakfast after the wedding' conversation, but the point is, it can happen. There just might be a young woman in upstate New York, living the same horror I lived. And you, my friend, might be able to find her and save her.”
Bay picked the paper up and looked at the article with a new sense of purpose. It named a small town in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. He read the entire piece and then glanced at his packmates, Jake and Shannon. Shannon smiled, Jake gave him a thumbs up.
Suddenly breakfast with the group didn't seem nearly as important. Nor did the day ahead loom so bleak. Bay stood up, chugged the last of his tepid coffee and grabbed his helmet and gloves. Already his mind spun with plans and possibilities. “It's been wonderful to see all of you, to meet you,” he said, nodding to the members of the Montana pack. “It's been especially wonderful to see you two rats.” He leaned down and gave both Lisa and Tala another kiss on the cheek. “But it looks like I'm going to take a little trip east. I'll be in touch.”
Xandi felt a catch in her breath, remembering Stefan, remembering the night she'd found and learned to love the man hidden within the body of a wolf. She watched as Bay tucked Stefan's tabloid into a side pocket on his leather suit, saluted all of them at the table and strolled out of the restaurant with the black helmet under one arm.
Damn, but the man was hot. She glanced at Stefan and smiled. Her mate was thinking exactly the same thing as he watched the tall, dark-haired Chanku leave the restaurant. He wasn't even trying to hide his thoughts.
Another twinge crossed Xandi's middle. She realized this had nothing whatsoever to do with Baylor Quinn or her mate.
Oblivious as only a man could be, Stefan leaned back in his chair, slipped an arm around Keisha on one side and Xandi on the other. “Well, folks. My work here is done,” he said, grinning broadly.
“No, Stefan. It's not.” Xandi gasped as another contraction stole her breath away. She rubbed her palm along one side of her taut belly “I think it's just beginning.”
* * *
Ulrich Mason waited outside the delivery room with Anton Cheval. Stefan and the women had gone into the birthing room with Xandi, while Jake, Tinker, Mik and AJ, cowardly males all, went off in search of lunch. Anton's gaze hardly left the closed door, but he'd declined Stefan and Alexandria's invitation to join them for their child's birth.
Instead, he sat beside Ulrich, holding his own newborn daughter while Keisha and the other women used their Chanku skills to ease Xandi's pain.
Ulrich brushed his fingertip over the baby's satiny cheek. “It's frightening, isn't it, the responsibility you feel holding one that tiny? I remember when Camille delivered Tianna. The doctor handed that tiny bundle to me and all I could do was stare and worry about her future.”
Anton sighed, but it was a contented sound. “I know. I can already feel the changes fatherhood has made in my perceptions, the sense I have of myself and those around me. It's good, though, my friend. All good. These little ones won't grow up wondering why they're different, wondering what drives them to be so unlike their friends. They'll know their heritage, their potential.”
Ulrich nodded, lost in memories and old regrets. He'd not been so open with Tia. His daughter hadn't known a thing about the Chanku, beyond the fairytales her mother had told her as a youngster. Thank goodness all had turned out so well.
“I have a favor to ask of you, but I'll not be unhappy should you refuse.”
“A favor? Of me?” Ulrich sat back in his chair and looked closely at Anton, the acknowledged leader of the Chanku. He was a shapeshifter as well as a powerful wizard adept at many arcane skills and it was difficult imagining Anton needing anything from anyone.
He smiled at Ulrich, obviously aware of his thoughts. “The High Mountain wolf sanctuary in Colorado has an interesting director. Her name's Millie West. She's lived in the area all her life.” Anton glanced away from Ulrich's direct gaze and brushed his daughter's fuzzy head. “I met her briefly, a few weeks ago. She's Chanku. I'd almost swear it, though obviously I have no proof. I want you to meet her, see if my suspicions are correct. If she is, I want you to help her, to bring her over. She's got to be at least fifty...to my knowledge, she's never married.”
Anton turned his attention back to Ulrich. “I know how you feel about Camille, but your wife's been gone for a long time. Chanku mate for life, but once a mate's life ends, I believe we can still find love.”
It might have been merely his imagination, but Ulrich was almost sure his heart skipped a beat, skittered a little and then settled back into rhythm. He'd never imagined another woman and love in the same thought, never allowed himself to consider loving anyone but Camille.
He raised his head. When he stared into Anton's amber eyes Ulrich saw both compassion and encouragement. “Was this your goal,” he asked, “when you brought Camille's spirit back for me? To free Keisha from her presence, or was it to free me?”
Anton's smile was bittersweet. “Couldn't it do both things? Camille needed to move on, Keisha needed peace and you, my friend, needed to remember that, while your wife is no longer alive, you are. What are you? Fifty-nine? Sixty?”
“I'm sixty-four, and on days like this I feel every one of my years and then some.” Ulrich chuckled, but there was little humor in his heart. Damn Camille. He'd hoped that one magical night he'd spent with his long-dead wife's spirit would help him move beyond the grief, but he still missed her. At least the anger was gone. For that, Ulrich would be forever grateful to Anton Cheval.
“Do you realize you're only a dozen years older than me, and I'm holding a newborn?” Anton leaned down and kissed the sleeping baby in his arms. “You have a life to live, Ulrich. A future ahead of you. Think about it. I need someone to bring Millie over, if she truly is Chanku. You're the one to do it.”
Anton watched Ulrich where the older man stood by the window, staring out across the city. His thoughts were as clear to Anton as the written page. Anton debated whether or not to intrude. It was so easy, this slipping in and out of the minds of others, but he honored privacy whenever possible. From this distance, it would be almost as easy to tell by Ulrich's body language what the man thought.
The door to the birthing room opened and Stefan slipped outside. Anton bit back a grin. His packmate, usually so carefree and lighthearted, looked rumpled and exhausted. Stefan rubbed his injured shoulder, still healing after their plane crash just a few weeks earlier.
“How's she doing?”
“Better than me.” Stefan flopped down on the chair beside Anton and ran his finger over baby Lily Milina's silky cheek. “But, if this is the reward, I imagine I'll be able to cope.” He chuckled quietly. “The women are amazing. They sit beside Xandi while she labors, touch her body gently and take her pain. All of them are showing the strain of her efforts, yet she looks wonderful, still rested and strong.”
“How's Keisha?” Anton caught a flicker of regret in Stefan's eyes and immediately frowned. “Is she okay?”
“She's tired. She wants me to bring Lily in so she can nurse. Said her breasts hurt.”
“Ah. I'm surprised she didn't contact me directly.” Anton had thought of going into the room, but Keisha had asked him to keep Lily away.
“She's afraid to link.” Stefan reached for the baby. “She doesn't want Xandi's pain to spill over onto the baby. She's blocking now, but you know women. No way is she going to leave the room and maybe miss something. She said she'd be careful to block while she's got Lily with her. Xandi said you're more than welcome to...”
Anton shook his head and nodded in Ulrich's direction. “Later. Before your son arrives.” He kissed his daughter's satiny cheek and handed her over to Stefan. Then he kissed his packmate, sensing Stefan's fear for his wife and his need to return to her side. Conflicted by his strong desire to be with Keisha and his equally powerful need to talk to Ulrich, Anton stayed behind. He watched his tall, handsome lover carry his only daughter to her mother and felt an ache in his heart when the door closed behind them.
Without the baby in his arms, Anton had only Ulrich to keep him busy. He studied the older man, reading his body language without trespassing on his thoughts. Ulrich had stepped outside. He sat alone in the small garden area easily visible through heavy glass doors, apparently lost in thought as he stared in the general direction of Golden Gate Park. Anton concentrated on Ulrich for a moment, and then settled back in the overstuffed chair in the waiting room and closed his eyes. To an observer, he would appear to sleep, but while Anton's body seemed to slumber, his searching mind silently, surreptitiously wound its way deep inside Ulrich's thoughts.
It was something he doubted he'd ever get used to, this sharing of minds without the other's notice. Bits and pieces of Ulrich's memories whirled in senseless disarray, slowly but surely falling into order as Anton's searching mind made sense of what he observed.
Within moments, he became Ulrich Mason, the Ulrich of memory. A younger Ulrich, walking hand in hand along a shaded path in Golden Gate Park with his beautiful African American wife. Her skin was as smooth and dark as bittersweet chocolate. When Camille turned and laughed, looking up at him with sparkling eyes and flashing teeth, his heart melted.
“I love you, Ric. I will always love you, but last night was truly spectacular.”
They stopped and Ulrich pulled her into his arms. He breathed deeply of her scent, and Anton recognized the perfume of the ghostly specter that had so upset Keisha less than a year ago. It was hard to believe Camille, this beautiful, vibrant woman of memory, had been dead for over twenty years.
“I hate to admit it,” Ulrich whispered, “but I enjoyed seeing you with another man. Watching his cock slip deep inside that sweet pussy of yours, then your ass...his hands on your breasts...”
Camille laughed. It was a sexy, throaty sound that caused an immediate reaction in Ulrich. Anton sensed his cock swelling with the memory, felt the rush of blood to another's loins. So intimate, to be this closely linked, to sense arousal through another.
“What about when his wife went down on you, and then sucked me off as well?” Camille raised her head, only this time her look was serious. “I've never been with a woman before, but that was so cool. I get hot just thinking about it. Especially when I think of all four of us together.”
Ulrich chuckled and brushed his lips through her silky hair. His mind filled with images of the night before, images spilling softly, surreptitiously, into Anton's questing brain.
This had occurred before Tianna was born. They'd been traveling, on their way home from a trip north to their cabin near Mt.Lassen. They'd stopped for the night at a hotel along the highway. There was another couple, both young and attractive, traveling in the opposite direction. The man had broad shoulders and long hair tumbling almost to his waist. The woman was tiny and very fair, her blonde hair short and curly.
Ulrich settled deeper into memory. Anton silently followed along. The two couples had started out with drinks in the hotel bar, but now the man lay back against the headboard of a large bed with Camille in his lap, her back to him. The man's legs were spread wide, his cock shoved deep inside Camille's ass.
The woman knelt between Camille's legs and feasted on her glistening pussy, moaning aloud with her pleasure, occasionally dipping her head lower to lick her mate's balls as he thrust slowly, rhythmically, in and out of Camille.
In his memories, Ulrich drew closer to the kneeling blonde. He knelt behind her, spread her thighs so he could fit his long legs between hers, and studied her hairless pussy. He'd never been with a woman who shaved herself before, and the smooth skin and visible contours of her swollen, flushed sex fascinated him. Her slit beckoned. Dark and inviting between thick lips, it glistened with pale cream. Her clit poked out of its protective hood, smooth and unusually distended. An invitation to taste.
Ulrich leaned down and ran his tongue along her sleek, wet opening. He felt her nether lips flutter when he circled the hard little bud of her clitoris. He sucked it for a moment, his nose buried in her damp folds, loving the way she squirmed against his face. Ulrich slowed and eased back. He didn't want her to come. Not yet.
He parted her swollen labia with his fingers and dipped two of them deep inside, buried all the way to his knuckles. She was slippery and wet and so very hot. Her muscles clamped around his fingers even as he pressed deeper. She arched her back as he slowly fucked her with his hand, dragging her juices out along her passage with each slow sweep of his fingers. When she was truly wet, her swollen lips dripping and glistening, Ulrich straightened up.
He wrapped his fist around the base of his erection and felt his abdominal muscles clench in response. Slowly he pressed his hard cock against her creamy sex, dragging the smooth crown back and forth over her slick opening. He was big, the head of his cock swollen with blood, round and dark as a ripe plum. He didn't want to hurt her. They'd never had sex before tonight-hell, he hadn't known her before tonight-and he wasn't sure how pliable she was, how much of him she could take.
Her mate was average, his erect cock not all that big- around six or seven inches in length. Camille had taken him with ease, merely sitting back on his erection until he'd slipped beyond her tight sphincter muscle and arrowed deep inside her dark passage.
Concerned for his unfamiliar partner's pleasure, Ulrich pressed forward, carefully forcing his cock's broad crown against hot, wet flesh. The woman continued feasting on Camille's snatch and he pushed harder, until she raised her hips and shoved back against him.
His cock slid part way in and he felt her sex enfold him like a warm glove. Her slick tissues parted, then tightened around his length in undulating waves of pressure. Ulrich wrapped his big hands around her slim hips, grabbed hold to anchor himself and thrust harder, pressing forward until his balls slapped against her smooth lips. She grunted, raised her head, and turned to look at Ulrich with an expression of surprised pleasure. “You're a big one, aren't you? I like that.” She arched her back and practically growled. “Give it to me. Do it hard.”
Then she turned back to Camille, licking and sucking with such total abandon that Ulrich heard the wet, slurping sounds she made, the low hum of pleasure that seemed to vibrate out of her throat. Her mate continued slowly fucking Camille's ass with a look of utter bliss on his face.
Ulrich caught the man's rhythm and fucked his partner, slamming his hips against her smooth buttocks, rotating his pelvis against her for even more penetration. The pace sped up until they'd become a virtual fucking machine, the four of them there on the bed in a cheap hotel where'd they'd met purely by accident.
A chance encounter in a bar, one they'd never had the opportunity to repeat. But Ulrich recalled the feel of the stranger's smooth, tight pussy clenching his cock. He still heard the sounds they'd all made-grunts and moans and breaths catching, the smells of clean bodies and hot sex. Most of all, he remembered watching Camille climax, sharing the rippling spasms of her clenching pussy, the woman's busy tongue licking and twirling through slick folds of flesh and, through their mindlink, feeling Camille's orgasm all the way to his toes.
The man had come next. Ulrich could still see the way his mouth twisted in a silent rictus, a soundless cry of release, remember how he'd worried the stranger's fingers might have gripped Camille's breasts too tight, that she'd be left with bruises.
The woman's climax had surprised him. She'd suddenly arched her back and screamed, then thrashed wildly against his cock as if trying to break free. Some sixth sense had made him hold her, made him ramp up his speed until he was slamming into her spasming pussy with everything he had. His long fingers dug into her slender hips, his balls hit her clit on every downward stroke, the head of his cock rammed solidly against her womb.
He'd raised his eyes just as his own climax began and looked directly into Camille's beaming smile. I love you, she'd said, the thoughts whirling in his mind while the hot coil of orgasm tightened his balls and blasted out the end of his cock.
Later, they'd bathed and, with hugs and kisses, parted ways, all of them sexually satisfied but realizing there was nothing more to hold them together. He didn't even remember their names. It was the seventies, after all, the height of the sexual revolution. Swinging probably wasn't the smartest activity for a young police lieutenant or his wife, but the memories were precious to him, even now.
He'd held that night in his fantasies for years, pulling it out when the time was right. But here and now, in these memories Anton secretly shared, Ulrich missed only Camille. Missed her scent, her taste, her touch and smile, her sass and her brass.
His memories slipped back to that walk in the park, the day after. “I wish they'd been Chanku.” Ulrich's soft words carried a lifetime of pain. “I wish we knew of others like us, others we could share this amazing world with. As good as the sex was, it can never be anything more.”
“If we find someone, I hope it's a woman with a tongue like hers. I'd be willing to share our bed with someone like that.”
Laughing, Ulrich had grabbed Camille's hand and they'd walked on through the park. A private, very personal memory between a man and his beloved wife.
Feeling much like the voyeur he was, Anton slipped free of Ulrich's memories, arched his spine and stretched as if coming awake from a brief nap.
When he opened his eyes, Ulrich was walking back inside the hospital. There was a smile on his face and a bounce to his step. Anton reached for his wallet and the card with Millie West's phone number. It looked as if he was going to need it.
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