Cover Art by Jessica Coulter Smith
Cole Andrews has only wanted one thing — his destined mate. Family is everything to Cole and he can’t wait to start one of his own. Now that he’s in his thirties, he’s starting to wonder if Mrs. Right is really out there or if she slipped through his fingers. He’s seen every available woman in his small town of Ashton Grove and so far none of them are “the one.” When he discovers a crashed car in the woods near his home in his wolf form, he follows the tantalizing smell of the human driver. Marin Thomas has a troubled past, and one that could catch up to her at any moment, but with just one sniff Cole knows that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
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Copyright ©2009 Jessica Coulter Smith
It was a dark, cold, rainy night. The black and silver wolf ran through the woods, oblivious to the cold wind or the rain pelting his fur. The moon was full in the midnight sky, but there were just enough clouds to block out the stars. The wolf stopped and listened, hearing a faint noise. Cautiously, he approached.
Not far from the road, a car was over-turned. A woman was lying on the ground calling for help in a voice so soft human ears could not have heard it. Upon closer inspection, the wolf saw a gash on her head. The coppery smell of her blood was almost too much to bear. The scent was so strong that he knew there were other lacerations, ones he couldn’t see.
Lifting her head, Marin saw the wolf. She knew that she should be afraid, but she was cold and in pain. The wolf might be her only chance of getting help. It wouldn’t be long before Stefan returned to make sure she was dead or to drag her back to her prison. If she didn’t get away, there was no telling what he would do to her. The last time she had escaped, he had chained her to a wall for a few days and done unspeakable things to her. He hadn’t broken her spirit, but she knew her body couldn’t take much more.
Looking into the wolf’s eyes, Marin pleaded for help. “Please help me.” Before she could feel ridiculous for asking a wolf for help, the darkness overtook her. As her head slumped back to the ground, the wolf turned and headed back into the woods. Running as fast he could, he raced around trees, over fallen limbs, and headed for the clearing. As he broke through the last of the trees, he could see the old Victorian house standing on the hill. He bounded up the grassy slope and ran up the back steps, pushing open the door with his paw he rushed into the house.
“Cole? What’s wrong?” Gabriel asked as he stepped out of the living room, a concerned look on his face.
For his brother to come hurrying through the house in his wolf form meant that something was terribly wrong. The brothers typically kept clothes stashed nearby and changed before coming back to the house. Their nearest neighbor was a block away so they never had to worry about people crying wolf, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Their home was the only one on this side of the street and their auto repair shop was the only thing across from the house, which made their home the ideal place for three werewolves to live. The only thing better would have been a house in the country, but this was their family home and selling it was unthinkable.
The wolf turned in a circle and backed towards the door. Gabriel grabbed his leather jacket and followed. His brother led him through the woods for what seemed like an eternity before they came to the crash site. Gabriel noticed the unconscious woman on the ground and knelt beside her. He checked her pulse, which was weak but steady.
“She’s still alive. Why don’t you go put some clothes on and bring your truck? We can lay her in the backseat and take her to the hospital,” Gabriel said, looking at his furry brother.
The wolf nodded and once more bounded off through the woods, arriving at the house in record time. Pushing open the door, he ran up the stairs to the third floor. Entering the first bedroom he came to, he shifted back into human form. In his wolf form, Cole was larger than your typical wolf. His eyes remained the same as they were in his human form, which were steel gray. As a human, he was six-foot one, well muscled with six-pack abs, and relatively short black hair that barely curled over the collar of his shirt.
Cole threw on a t-shirt and jeans. He put on his boots, grabbed his wallet and his keys and headed back down the stairs. Jumping in his black Ford truck, he drove to the highway and headed in the direction of the crash site. It didn’t take him long to locate the place where the woman’s car had gone through the railing and down the embankment. There were two sets of skid marks side by side, one belonged to her car and stopped at the railing, but the second set continued down the highway. Cole parked on the side of the road and put on his hazard lights. Climbing out of the truck, he jogged down the hill toward his brother and the unconscious woman.
“Is she doing okay?” Cole asked, as he approached them.
“She woke up for a minute while you were gone, just long enough to tell me she doesn’t want to go to the hospital. I have a feeling she’s running from something, or someone,” Gabriel responded with a worried look on his face.
Cole nodded as if he had expected as much. “I saw some skid marks on the road. I don’t think she ran off the highway by herself.”
Cole looked down at the woman lying on the ground. What kind of trouble could she be in? Her face was covered in blood from the gash on her forehead, but he had a feeling she was beautiful when she was cleaned up. She had long dark hair and a clear pale complexion. She couldn’t be more than five-foot two, if even that, and looked like she was in her late teens or early twenties.
Something stirred inside of him as he looked at the helpless woman, making him feel fiercely protective of her. Cole was a little shocked at his response to her. He wasn’t only attracted to her in a human way, but his inner wolf recognized her. The primitive side of him wanted to lay claim to her before either of his brothers could. He had always thought that only the alpha could detect their mates, but apparently, he was able to sense his own when she was present. This was a rather startling realization and one he didn’t want to dwell on. Right now, his top priority was making sure the woman was taken to safety and cared for.
Gabriel carefully picked her up. “Let’s get her in the truck. We can take her to the house and figure out what to do from there.”