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 perfect 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 wolf buts 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
The promise of the sun on the horizon followed him as Jake Danes navigated his van into a parking slip. Running his hand through his hair, he freed his ponytail before wrapping the band around the gearshift. Two years of roaming had left him with shoulder length hair and a scruffy appearance so far away from his family’s clean cut image, he couldn’t help but enjoy it. Shutting off the engine, he slid the key into a slot under the driver’s seat. The box gave a little click as it locked.
The last thing he needed was some numnuts taking his van for a joy ride. Outside the vehicle, he pushed his arms into the short sleeves of his wet suit. It only covered him from neck to knees, but even he found the Pacific Ocean a bit too chilly to spend in it wearing only swim trunks. Not that he hadn’t done it a few times, but he liked his balls to not shrivel to the size of grapes.
Ahead of him, the sound of the surf tumbling in sent his blood pulsing. The weather reports promised good winds, strong swells and perfect surfing conditions. His phone buzzed in the glove compartment and he leaned inside, flipped open the hatch and checked the number on the screen.
Nope. Sorry big brother. I don’t have time for the guilt trip today. Ignoring the buzzing, he put the phone into do not disturb, then shut the glove compartment again. Luc used to be his cool big brother, a wild roamer who didn’t let family or pack dictate to him. Then he went home, and now he’s a big ol’ turd waffle with a stick shoved up his ass. The calls started a few months before, suggestions to come home peppered with guilt and unwanted advice.
It wouldn’t be long before his brother made it an order. The last thing Jake wanted to deal with was fighting his wolf’s damn near compulsive need to please his eldest sibling. Luc’s approval meant the world to him, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. It had been Luc’s example Jake followed when the tension in Hudson River became such a downer all the time. After the murders and the grief, he’d gone to Brett and told him he needed to roam. His alpha hadn’t even blinked, just said goodbye.
Jake hadn’t looked back since. Wouldn’t even be thinking about it now if it weren’t for Luc’s sudden fascination with luring him home. Shaking his head, he shoved thoughts of Luc, Hudson River, and the dark times behind him where they belonged. He had a sweet wave to catch.
He gave himself a few minutes to kick off his shoes, stow them in the back then unstrap his surfboard and check it over with light fingers. The moment he was ready to carry the board down to the water, the sound of familiar engine rumbled into parking lot.
Right on cue.
Not waiting, he crossed the rocks and walked toward the sand. The motorcycle slid into the slip next to his vehicle. Upwind from the other, he didn’t catch the Enforcer’s scent, but he damn well knew who it was.
“Hey Mitch,” he said by way of greeting as he set his board into the sand. He wanted to go over it once more. The subtle shift in the wind had already begun. Another fifteen minutes and he would be slicing through the water, waiting for the perfect swell to ride. Life really didn’t get better than this.
“Morning, Jake.” The Enforcer dropped from the rocks, the sand crunching under his boots. “Knew I’d find you out here.”
“All you have to do is check for surfing conditions.” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to track him. He followed the surf these days, roaming through open territory as far south as Mexico when the mood struck him. He’d even taken a couple of jaunts to Hawaii when he saved up the money. South Africa was on his list, as was Australia, but he didn’t know what packs controlled those areas. Sometimes being a wolf sucked. Humans didn’t care whose territory they intruded upon, they just went with the waves.
“True enough, wanted to check in on you while I was in the neighborhood.” His casual tone rang with a note of deception.
“Since you talked to me three weeks ago, you’re here because Brett called or Luc did.”
Mitch’s teeth flashed in the dim light, an easy grin. “Damn, busted. And by a kid.” He mimed a faux punch, but Jake didn’t return the play to dodge the hit. One thing he’d liked about Mitch since meeting him during his arrival in California two years prior. “Yeah, your brother called. Said he hasn’t been able to get ahold of you and he was worried.”
“About what?” Jake sighed, then refocused his attention on the board. He’d waxed it the day before, but he wanted to be sure he hadn’t missed a spot. It also kept his temper in check. Luc. The man spent ten years doing whatever he wanted, roaming everywhere, sometimes dropping out of communication for months at a time. Since he’d returned home and taken his place as Brett’s second, Luc had become worse than their mother with his daily phone calls and text messages.
“About you, dumbass.” Mitch shrugged out of his leather jacket. Unlike Jake who was ready to surf, Mitch wore heavy denim jeans, motorcycle boots and a black t-shirt. With his dark hair and dark eyes, he was a walking advertisement for living on the harder side of life. “So call him and let him know you’re okay.”
“He talked to me yesterday.” And the day before that and the day before that…
“Give him a call, or at least answer the messages. That saves me a trip to find you and you the aggravation of having someone check on you. Win win.” Maybe it was the smooth delivery or the hint of tension in the other wolf’s scent, but Jake wasn’t buying the bullshit he seemed intent on selling.
With the salt air beckoning and the sweet crash of the waves tumbling toward the shore calling, the last thing he wanted involved prodding the Enforcer to spill the beans. But… “What’s wrong?”
“Just call your brother.”
“Mitch.” Jake straightened, facing the Enforcer. “You’ve been straight with me since I struck out on my own.” Though he’d met one or two other Enforcers, Mitch had been the one who’d greeted him on arrival in California. He’d given him his number, and the lay of the land. Upon occasion they’d shared a beer, if he weren’t in charge of policing Jake, they might even be friends. Though, the other man kept to himself for the most part. “Not really interested in playing games or dealing with pack drama. If there’s something going on that I need to know, tell me.”
Even though the waves called to him, Jake kept his attention on the older wolf. “Fuck it,” Mitch sighed, then rubbed the back of his neck as though working out a kink. “We’ve got some issues with foreign wolves pulling rogue crap.”
“Define rogue crap.”
“They’ve attacked several of the packs.” Despise the evenness of his tone, Mitch’s eyes seemed to grow cooler. “Including Hudson River.”
Why the fuck hadn’t Luc said anything? “How bad?”
“Not as bad as Sutter Butte or the Yukon. It was a straight on challenge. Brett won, no problem.” That wasn’t all of it, no matter how calm Mitch appeared. Jake would bet money on it.
“So, they’re all fine?”
“Okay, so pack drama averted.” Good. The last thing he wanted to deal with was more doom and gloom. “Let Luc know I’m good, I’ll send him a text regularly so he knows and avoid foreign wolves. Check.” He lifted his board. Time to hit the waves.
“Jake.” Command laced through the single syllable of his name, enough to have his back stiffening and his muscles going rigid. His wolf went on point. When it came to a straight on dominance fight, his wolf had zero interest in provoking Mitch. “Stay away from any foreigners you encounter, particularly Russian. If you hear them or scent them, run. Then call me.”
Run? He didn’t have any interest in fighting. But run? “I can take care of myself.”
“Not saying you can’t, but not giving you a choice. It’s an order. If I have to get your alpha on the phone to reinforce it, I will.” The tone, and the power behind it, left him no room for disagreement.
Spreading his free hand wide, Jake gave him a bland look. “I think you’re confusing me for someone who likes fighting, I’m all about the love and the fun. You want me to run, fine, I’ll run. You want me to call, I’ve got you on speed dial. Now, if you don’t mind, I left this pack drama crap when I came out here and I’d like to continue to avoid it at all costs by surfing my happy ass off. We cool?”
A faint smile cracked through Mitch’s intense expression, then he simply shook his head and chuckled. “Fine, we’re cool. Have fun. I have to track someone else down, but I’ll be in the region for the next week or so.”
“Great. Don’t call me, and I won’t call you.” Then he tacked on an amended, “Unless I run into someone foreign who smells of wolf. Promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“You’re such an ass.”
Jake grinned. “Thank you. I try.”
Free, he abandoned Mitch to the beach and raced down the sand to the water’s edge. All he wanted was to plunge in, and swim out to the breaks, and catch a few waves. The wind change delivered the promised swells, and three strokes out toward deeper water and leaving all thoughts of Mitch, new enemies and the past drama behind him.
The first wave rose up to meet him on his way through it and pure, unfettered joy burst through his system. Wolf and man were in sync.
This was what they lived for.