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WOLF ON BOARD by Heather Long (Wolves of Willow Bend #9.5)
Meet Jake Danes of Hudson River, Lone Wolf, avid gamer, extreme sports enthusiast, and surfer. He’s spent the last two years roaming free, exploring the world and escaping the dark place his pack had become after betrayal and murder tore them apart. Sure life has changed at home, but Jake’s having way too much fun to return. Riding the waves in Monterrey, and living out of a van…it’s the prefect life, one he never wants to give up no matter how many calls he’s fielding from his big brother…then he catches her scent.
Mimi Chase wanted one perfect year. One year away from pack politics and her mother’s matchmaking efforts. Ever since her big brother settled into mating with a healer, Mimi’s mom seems to have gone into overtime in throwing her at every eligible male in the pack. Choosing to roam seemed the best option, and California an ideal location to get away from everything pack related. Her plans for art classes, yoga on the beach, maybe a cooking lesson or two while living a hippy dippy lifestyle are all she cares about…until another worlf butts into her every activity - doesn’t he know the rules?
Lone Wolves aren’t supposed to form relationships, so why doesn’t he catch a hint? Worse, why isn’t she working harder to make sure he does?
Read an Excerpt from WOLF ON BOARD
Mimi grabbed a blanket and her yoga mat from the back of her Mini Cooper. She loved the tiny little vehicle. No matter how often her brother scoffed at the minute size of the car, she didn’t care. It was perfect for her. Compact, like she was, and capable of great speeds—just like her. Locking it up, she glanced east at the rising sun and smiled. It was a little after six in the morning and she’d already had a bit of a run, a lovely cup of hot tea with lemon and ginger to cleanse her system, and she would enjoy the full sunrise and rolling surf with her yoga.
Pausing, she took a deep breath of the salt flavored air. She loved the way the beach smelled. Warm sand. Cool water. Brine. Fish. Birds. Even the coconut oil favored by some of the sunbathers and honest sweat from those running on the paths—they all combined to soothe her soul. Tucking the rolled blanket and yoga mat beneath her arm, she closed the hatch on the car and pivoted to walk toward the beach.
A hint of wolf on the breeze had her pausing to scan the area. Other than a handful of vehicles in the lot, and a couple of runners jogging farther away, she didn’t see anyone. Still, she tested the scent once more. It was faint, as though diluted by the breeze and time. She tracked it all the way to a dilapidated Volkswagen van. It reminded her of the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo without the paint job.
The scent of wolf grew stronger. The van had to belong to whomever the wolf was, but the lack of fresh markers told her while his scent lingered, he wasn’t present. Adjusting her grip on the rolled blanket and mat, she circled away from the van and continued toward the beach all the while reminding herself that other Lone Wolves may choose to wander California for the same reason she did. No one claimed the beautiful state…well at least not this far north. The closest pack to her location was Sutter Butte, but she’d never heard any word of them taking an interest in the beaches.
Then again, she didn’t talk to a lot of people about the political geography of packs. If it’s all the same, I’d prefer not to encounter any of them. They have a bad rap and I’m on a journey of serenity, and self-discovery…and totally avoiding Mother’s matchmaking. The little voice at the end sounded way too much like her brother Owen’s, and she giggled. Owen, at least, had been sympathetic to her cause when she’d told him and Mason why she wanted to take the time to study in the Golden State.
Her mother’s habit of making pro and con lists for all of the pack’s current eligible bachelors had been bad enough, but when she’d talked to Gillian about potential mates in Hudson River and began colluding with Claudia Buckley about Delta Crescent, Mimi wanted out.
It was so bad, she’d actually asked Owen to get Gillian pregnant just to distract their mother. The silence on his end of the phone had been priceless, followed by peals of laughter from Gillian. Fortunately, her desperation had communicated itself well enough and he’d endorsed her request. Mason made her promise to return at the end of one year, even if she was enjoying herself, and she would be free to return to her studies after, if that was her desire.
Mason is the bomb. She hopped over the rocks to land on the sand and began to stroll in search of a spot that would speak to her. Not only had her alpha understood her dilemma and sympathized with it, he didn’t chastise her for the need to stretch herself beyond the confines of pack and parental expectation. Mimi’s skills for tracking had earned her high marks growing up, and more than one offer from the Hunters to apprentice. It made sense—both her father and her brother were Hunters. Even her two younger brothers were well on the way toward Hunter apprenticeships. Felicity had zero interest in the Hunter parts of their DNA, she preferred her flowers and cultivation, working closely with Tiffany Huston. Still, Mimi didn’t share her sister’s interest in horticulture or her mother’s desire to educate their young or her father and brothers’ drive to protect the pack.
She was…not sure who I am, which is why I am doing this. The year away from her mother served two purposes; she could take some classes and test her areas of interest from art to acting to writing. She could study yoga and find some serenity. Maybe even figure out who she was, because wasn’t that the whole point of a roam? Most wolves took time to roam the country; some even went around the world.
Murphy had done that and came home with a mate. Mimi grimaced. She loved Murphy, but really, could she have not brought home some gorgeous Italian and mated him with all the requisite gossip? It had Mimi’s mother nudging her to consider a year abroad in…where else? Italy. Shaking her head, she paused on a perfectly smooth area of sand and spread her blanket before unrolling her yoga mat in the center.
Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths. Inhaling calm, and exhaling the stress. Her mother was in Willow Bend. Mimi was in California. No ridiculous blind dates or not-so-casual meetings with eligible bachelors. Thank God Dylan mated before her mother got it into her head to throw Mimi at every male who came along, she’d actually had a crush on Dylan and he definitely fell into the category of eligible before Chrystal.
Growling, she opened her eyes and glared at the water. She was hardly alone on the beach. Laughter drifted towards her from where the surfers made their way toward deeper water, or where some sat astride their boards waiting for the water to come in. She was supposed to be letting go of her anxiety and not stressing about her mother, mating, or any of a dozen other issues being so far away from the pack could rouse in her.
She’d been in California for three weeks. Three gloriously wonderful, and peaceful weeks. This morning marked a full forty-eight hours since her mother’s last phone call. As loathe, as she was to hurt her feelings, Mimi couldn’t help but be relieved that distance had finally done what she hadn’t been able to manage.
Her mother was quiet.
So hush… Telling herself repeatedly didn’t silence the nagging internal monologue. Mindful of her surroundings, she quieted her growl and concentrated on her breathing. Mountain pose let her stretch her hands toward the sky and raise her face to the breeze. It elongated her spine and let her stretch the muscles from her hamstrings to her deltoids. The wind caressed her face and tousled her hair and batted away the riot of thoughts invading her mind.
From mountain she went to tree pose and rested her right foot against the side of her left knee. Her muscles quivered at first, but gradually she relaxed into the sturdiness. Like the tree she emulated, she let the woes of her mother’s romantic aspirations blow past her. The steadiness bolstered her confidence.
Warrior pose drew away the last curtain and let her mind relax. Her wolf stretched within her, their hearing seeming to sharpen as they noticed the increase of traffic beyond, the crash of water against the shore, and the call of birds overhead. Wolf and woman catalogued the sounds as she pushed her body, identifying any potential threats or lack thereof and remaining mindful.
By the time she drifted into a graceful downward dog, she’d relaxed her breathing and banished her anxiety. Curling her toes, she concentrated on feeling the wholeness of the position, the hinging arch of her hips and the warmth of the sand beneath the mat and blanket.
From triangle pose to seated twists to bridges, she pushed her body to achieve perfect serenity while maintaining her sense of being in the present. The sun warmed her as it continued a steady rise, and she basked in the rays as they heated her skin. When she finally settled into a lotus pose, she let her mind drift, as though flotsam upon the waves before her.
The world withdrew, leaving her alone with the lapping water, humming cars, and screech of seagulls…then water dripped on her. The icy sensation of splashing drops was cold against her skin. Though there had been no call for rain in the forecast, she fought to hold onto her sense of inner peace and deepened her breathing…only to inhale a lungful of coconut and brine mingling with the green scent of dewy sea grass atop the sand dunes with slivers of mint and…
Mimi jerked her eyes open and stared into the blue eyes of the wolf squatting right in front of her. His long, straggly hair clung wetly to his face and shoulders. The wet suit left little of his physique to the imagination, and he canted his head as though trying to figure her out. This close, however, she couldn’t miss a single nuance of his expression or the drops of water sliding off of him to splash wetly against her legs.
How the hell had he approached her so stealthily that she hadn’t sensed or scented him before he dripped on her?
Worse…who was he and what did he want?
“Hey, gorgeous,” he said, as though aware of her racing her thoughts. “What brings a sexy little wolf like you to my stretch of beach?” A slow grin spread his mouth wide, and her stomach did a little flip flop. He was gorgeous and damn if he didn’t know it.
Just what she needed…a hot, sexy wolf who was most assuredly male and made her wolf stand up to take notice. Ignoring her animal’s very natural curiosity, she narrowed her eyes. “I was enjoying a quiet morning. Now go away.”
One thing about having Owen for a brother, she wasn’t helpless, even if she was tiny. Closing her eyes again, she forced her muscles to relax and prayed he’d take the direction well, even as she prepared for the worst.
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National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.