The music swirled through the darkness, its beat rich,
seductive. Night cloaked the ballroom, a mantle challenged
only by the occasional flicker of a torch burning high on
the rough-hewn stone walls. On the dance floor, couples
swayed to the music, their bodies so close they almost
seemed one. Heat and sweat mingled with the growing odor
of lust and longing. Scents that stirred her senses, made
Neva Grant looked uneasily over her shoulder. Though the
moon was lost to the clouds that crowded the night sky,
she could feel its presence. Feel its power.
The full moon was too close. She shouldnâ€™t be here.
Shouldnâ€™t be doing this when the wildness within was so
close to the surface.
But sheâ€™d made her promises. She intended to see them
through, no matter what the cost.
She let her gaze roam the dance floor again. Somewhere
down there, a killer lurked. A man who was using this
secluded, exotic retreat as his own private hunting ground.
A man she had every intention of finding. And slaying.
She raised her glass and finished the last of her wine.
The alcohol slithered warmth through her body, and
perspiration beaded her skin. Hunger rose, flashing white-
hot through her veins. She closed her eyes, took a deep
Not tonight. Please, not tonight.
But the pulsing need suggested it was already too late for
such prayers. The wildness had woken. It would not remain
leashed for long.
Maybe she shouldnâ€™t bother even trying. The killer seemed
to be choosing the more adventurous of this wanton crowd.
Unleashing the wildness might be the quickest way of
attracting his attention.
Bile rose up her throat, and she swallowed heavily. While
she had no real choice about what she had to do tonight,
she wasnâ€™t about to give the wolf within free rein. She
wasnâ€™t like any of the hunters who danced on the floor
below. Her world was one of sunshine and restraint, of
trying to live normally.
These people rejoiced in the night and the power of the
moon. They came to this mansion for the freedom and the
safety it offered, seeking to sate the moon-spun lust
surging through their veins. That was why most of the men
were naked. Why most of the women wore little more than
wisps of material that covered everything and yet left
nothing to the imagination. Only their faces were
concealed. Once the moonâ€™s spell had faded and daylight
returned, they would fade back to their packs, picking up
their lives where theyâ€™d left off, not knowing the face of
any of those theyâ€™d chosen to mate with the previous night.
Unlike her pack, these wolves were free spirits,
exhilarated by the thrill of the chase, by the excitement
of capture and possession. The belief of one mate, one
life partner, had never touched these dark halls.
But for her promise, she would not be here tonight.
She put aside her glass, then adjusted her ornate mask and
made her way down the stairs. The deeper shadows that
lined the walls were filled with hunters in various stages
of mating. She forced her gaze away, even though the
wildness within yearned to watch. Hungered to join them.
Her stomach turned again. God, she hated this place. Hated
everything it represented. Given the choice, sheâ€™d rather
burn the Sinclair estate to the ground than be walking its
halls. She wasnâ€™t a prude, far from itâ€”sheâ€™d given in to
the power of the moon more than once herself. But if it
wasnâ€™t for this place, if it wasnâ€™t for the wanton and
careless behavior of its guests, her twin sister would not
now be lying in the hospital close to death.
Tears stung her eyes, and she took a deep breath. Donâ€™t
think. Just do.
She moved onto the dance floor, inching her way past the
slowly dancing couples. Her pulse throbbed in time to the
musicâ€™s heavy beat, and the deep down ache got stronger.
She clenched her fists and made her way towards the rear
exit. Sheâ€™d spent most of her adult life fighting the
worst of her desires, and she would not give in now. Not
fully, even here in this place of dark freedom.
And yet at the same time she knew sheâ€™d do whatever she
had toâ€”even unleashing the wildnessâ€”if in the end it led
her to the man whoâ€™d attacked her twin.
Sheâ€™d studied the files in Savannahâ€™s office before sheâ€™d
come down here this evening. The killer had struck three
times, each time near dawn and just beyond the boundaries
of the Sinclair mansion. The victims were always alone,
though forensics had, not surprisingly, found evidence to
suggest each victim had taken more than half a dozen
lovers the night of their deaths. Savannah and the other
werewolf rangers who patrolled the Ripple Creek
Reservationâ€”which was the mountain homeland of the four
Colorado wolf packsâ€”believed the killer was shadowing his
victims as they left the mansion, attacking once they were
well clear of any help. But they had no proof of this,
nothing more than scents and suspicionsâ€”neither of which
were admissible in courtâ€”human or werewolf.
Savannah had been following one such scent when sheâ€™d been
attacked by a silver wolf. Only the fact that sheâ€™d been
in wolf form herself had saved her. The winter coat of
their tribe was thick, and the silver wolf had been unable
to gain any true grip around her sisterâ€™s throat. But even
so, her wounds were multiple and life threatening.
Neva had shared the last, terrifying moments of her twinâ€™s
horror. And while sheâ€™d never wanted to go through
something like that again, it was the link between them
that had in the end saved her sister. Savannah had
syphoned Nevaâ€™s stronger psychic abilities and used them
to finally fend off the wolf.
Neva closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Even now, her
sisterâ€™s pain edged Nevaâ€™s consciousness. When sheâ€™d left
home this evening, the doctors still werenâ€™t sure if
Savannah would survive. Even she couldnâ€™t say with any
degree of certainty. Savannah was hanging on to life by
the slenderest of margins, and it wouldnâ€™t take much to
snatch the lifeline away.
Which is why Neva had touched her twinâ€™s unresponsive mind
and made a silent vow: Sheâ€™d hunt down the killer and
finish what her sister had started, if Savannah found the
strength to live.
It may have been foolish, but it was better than sitting
at home waiting for the worst.
Of course, she was no ranger. Far from it. She had no idea
how to load a weapon let alone shoot, and she only had a
wolfâ€™s natural skills when it came to tracking. But she
was far from defenseless. Like most of the wolves of her
tribe, she rated high in telepathy, but she was also
almost off the scale when it came to empathy. The two
abilities combined could be a deadly weapon if one knew
how to use them properlyâ€”as the wolf whoâ€™d attacked
Savanna had found out.
So far tonight, Neva had kept her shields well up.
Skimming the minds of hunters when the moon bloomed was
far too dangerous and would attract the kind of sexual
interest she was trying to avoid. Besides, she might just
alert the killer she was here, seeking him.
The rangers believed it was probably one of the Sinclairs
behind the killings, but they were a large and closed-
mouthed pack and had yet to provide the rangers with any
real help. And while the Sinclairs were all silver wolves,
they did not have a monopoly on the coat. Even in her
pack, which were primarily golden-coated, silver could be
Sheâ€™d never find the killer roaming the outskirts. It was
doubtful if even the rangers could. It had to be done from
within the Sinclair stronghold. And there was only way she
could achieve that. Goosebumps skated across her skin, and
she sent a silent prayer to the moon for strength.
Sheâ€™d spent a good part of the day studying the Sinclair
lineage. The wolf sheâ€™d chosen to seduce was the pack
leaderâ€™s third son. By all accounts he was the wildest of
them all, but he was the only one whoâ€™d been away when the
first two murders were committed. Safeâ€”or as safe as any
of the Sinclairs could be.
Sheâ€™d also spent time studying the mansionâ€™s floor plans
before coming here, and she had talked to Betise, a
regular customer at her familyâ€™s diner. Though barely
thirty-six, Betise had been attending moon dances at the
mansion for a good twenty years and knew the place almost
as well as the Sinclairs themselves. It had been Betise
who told her that Duncan Sinclair rarely joined the dance
before midnight, and that before then he could usually be
found close to his rooms on the west side of the mansion.
She hurried out the rear doors. The night breeze stirred
her flimsy skirt. Its touch was cool against the fever-
kissed skin of her thighs. She glanced skyward again,
judging the time by the position of the moon she could
feel, not see. Close to midnight. She had to hurry. She
tugged the delicate material clear of her bare feet and
ran to the back of the mansion.
A cherub-filled fountain came into sight. She slowed,
scanning the windows until she found his. Her heart was
beating so fast it felt as if it would tear free of her
chest, and she knew its cause was fear, not exertion.
Sheâ€™d never done anything like this before. Didnâ€™t know if
she even had what it took to attract, and hold, a wolf
with Duncan Sinclairâ€™s experience.
But she had to try. It was the safest way to gain full
access into the mansion.
She could only smell one wolf in the rooms above, and
there were no others in the immediate area. Betiseâ€™s
information had certainly been accurate. If she pulled
this off, she was going to keep the woman supplied with
free coffee for the next year.
She walked over to the fountain and stripped off the
flimsy excuse for a gown. Then she stepped into the icy
water, avoiding the worst of the water-tossing cherubs as
she turned her attention to his window.
Everything sheâ€™d learned about him suggested he liked a
chase and preferred his mates to be sexually adventurous.
While she could never claim to be that, she was a wolf and
the moon was high. And Betise had offered more than a few
But she couldnâ€™t exactly send out a blatant invitation to
the man. The rules of the moon dance said no names, so she
had to be a little more devious. The Sinclairs were the
only other wolf pack who were strong telepaths, so she
just had to make it seem he was catching her thoughts.
Lord, I ache tonight.
She kept her mindvoice breathy, wistful. For several tense
seconds, nothing happened, then his presence stirred and
walked across to the windows. She dipped her fingers into
the water and wet her neck, letting the cool droplets
dribble between her breasts.
Hunger surged through the night, a force so strong it
almost knocked her over. His need for the dance was high.
Very high. The thought churned her stomach, but she was
here now and would not back away.
She let her gaze roam the windows until she saw him. If
his shadow was to be believed, he was big. Bigger than
sheâ€™d expected. She cupped another handful of water,
sipping it quickly to ease the dryness in her throat.
Why do you ache? The moon is high and the night free.
His mind voice was rich, husky, and stirred her senses
with longing. She clenched her fists. She had to remain in
control. She couldnâ€™t let the wildness free.
Perhaps I am choosy.
You can be choosy as many times as you like on a night
such as this. Amusement swam across her senses, warm and
Perhaps I long for a more careful seduction once the
initial fire has passed.
His silhouette stirred. She caught the brief glimpse of a
muscular arm before the shadows closed in again. A
difficult request when the moon rides high.
So it would seem. She arched her back, stretching her arms
skywards. The emotive swirl of his thoughts became a wall
of heat. He wanted her, of that she was certain. Whether
he would take her was unclear. He hadnâ€™t yet moved from
his dark hideaway.
Perhaps I should go home. The moon, it seems, offers me no
He hesitated. Perhaps we should talk on the matter.
The bait had been taken. Now to snare him fully. But the
elation that ran through her was tempered by the knowledge
that true victory would mean spending the rest of the week
in this manâ€™s bed. But it was a small price to pay when
her sisterâ€™s life hung in the balance.
She considered him a moment longer, not wanting to seem
too eager. You are little more than a shadow to me. I
cannot discuss possibilities with someone I cannot see.
The French window opened, and he stepped out onto the
balcony. Her heart slammed into the wall of her chest,
then it seemed to drop somewhere in the vicinity of her
He was tall, close to six foot, if not over, his build
quietly powerful, but lean like an athleteâ€™s. His hair was
dark and long, full of unruly waves that brushed his
shoulders. His face was that of a dark angelâ€™sâ€”beautiful,
and yet somehow sinister. And while it may have been true
that the eyes were the mirror of the soul, this manâ€™s were
shuttered and painted black. There was nothing to be read
in his expressionâ€”or the lack of it. If not for the
sensation of hunger that burned between them, she would
have thought him uninterested.
Do you like what you see?
She gave a disinterested shrug. Looks are not the measure
of the man. Even though this manâ€™s looks were stirring her
in ways no man ever had before.
A wise statement for one so young.
She raised her eyebrows, a smile teasing her lips. And
that is a very condescending statement from one so young.
Amusement touched his sensual mouth. He crossed his arms
and continued to regard her in that disinterested yet
oddly disturbing manner of his.
I have squeezed many years of living into this young body,
So his reputation had suggested. Had she any other choice,
she would have stayed far away from this particular wolf
and his wild, hungry ways. But he was the only Sinclair
the rangers did not have under suspicion and, therefore,
her safest route into the Sinclair stronghold.
Ah. Then perhaps you have little interest in one less well
travelled. She picked up her gown and pulled it on. The
sheer material clung to her damp breasts and caressed her
aching nipples. Again his need swam around her, a blanket
that smothered, leaving her breathless.
I did not say that.
No. She hesitated and stepped free of the water, then
raised her gaze challengingly to his. I intend to leave.
But if you can find me before I depart these grounds, we
shall...talk...more on this matter.
She turned around and walked away, not looking back. Yet
his gaze burned into her back as surely as his hunger sent
a fever blistering across her skin. He would come for her,
she was sure of that.
Now all she had to do was pray she could hold his
attention for more than just this night.
Duncan Sinclair moved through the crowd, silent as a
shadow. Unnoticed, unseen. The music pounded through his
veins, a heavy, throbbing beat that matched the need in
Heâ€™d had no intention of joining the dance tonight. Heâ€™d
wanted nothing more than to complete his task here and
leave as quickly as possible. But his intentions had flown
out the window the minute he heard the wanton, wistful
thoughts of the female.
He let his gaze roam the darkness. There was still a
wealth of unclaimed women ready for the taking, but most
of them were long-time participants of the dance, as jaded
as the night itself.
Not so the wolf whoâ€™d played in the fountain outside his
rooms. There was a freshness about her, a vibrancy, which
suggested she was very new to the mansion and the dance.
She was here somewhere. He could sense her. She was a
teasing hint of sunshine in the darkness, a caress of warm
shyness that taunted the outer edges of his mind.
He wanted her. God, how he wanted her.
He continued on through the crowd and made his way out the
rear doors. The night breeze rifled cool fingers through
his hair, but it failed to ease the fever pulsing through
She was close. The musky scent of femininity stirred the
air, mixed with the gentle tang of jasmine. He walked
through the strand of Aspens that divided this section of
the house from the main gardens, his strides long, eating
the ground. If she was indeed leaving, she would have do
so through one of three gates. The closest gate to his
room lay behind the summer house. He made his way past the
grand old pavilion, but her scent didnâ€™t linger near the
gates. She hadnâ€™t come this far yet.
He backtracked to the summer house and there he found her.
Stopping in the shadow-filled pavilion, he once again
drank in the sight of her. She was small and delicately
builtâ€”not what he usually chased, that was for sure. Her
hair was a silky wave that brushed her hips, and deep gold
in color. She still wore the mansionâ€™s gown, and the
gossamer fine material hid little. He hungrily surveyed
the lean length of her, from the proud thrust of her
breasts to the dark gold triangle of hair between her
thighs, then down the long length of her legs to her toes
and back up again.
Her mask was heavily ornate and hid most of her features.
But even from where he stood, he could see her eyes. They
were the green of a new-born leaf, rich and exotic.
The heat in his loins became an ache that almost consumed
him. He had to have her. Now.
He moved out of the shadows. Uncertainty flickered in her
beautiful eyes, then she came towards him. Her gaze boldly
traveled the length of his body, seeming to linger on the
hard evidence of his excitement before finally rising
again to his face. Her nipples were puckered, straining
against the gossamer restraints of her gown, evidence of
the desire he could clearly smell.
She entered the pavilion and stopped in front of him. The
musky scent of her desire grew stronger, fueling the
already raging need in him. But he wasnâ€™t the only one
aching with the needs of the night and the moon.
"So you found me."
Her voice was huskier than before, but still as smooth as
silk, as rich as velvet. Despite the heat that surged
between them, her gaze was cool. Wary.
He touched her cheek, running his fingers down to the warm
fullness of her lips. She trembled under his caress, but
didnâ€™t back away.
"So you wish to discuss the matter further?" she asked.
"No. What I wish is to dance with you."
The words were little more than a formality. Sheâ€™d
basically consented to his advances back there in the
Panic flitted through her eyes, making him wonder just how
new she was to the mansion and its ways. Certainly heâ€™d
never seen her here before, but heâ€™d been away for nearly
She swallowed convulsively. "Indeed?"
He moved his hand down the long line of her neck. Her
pulse was a wild flutter under his fingertips. "Indeed."
"And what of my desire for a more lingering seduction once
the initial fire had gone?"
He let his hand drift down to her breasts and gently
rubbed one firm nub through the film of her dress. She
shivered, her lips parting a little, as if she couldnâ€™t
suck in enough air.
"I think that could be arranged."
She closed her eyes briefly. "One night holds no interest
for me this phase."
"But you have not yet tried the goods and cannot say
whether one night or more will be enough." He leaned
close, his mouth capturing hers, gently demanding.
For the briefest of moments, she froze, her lips hard and
unyielding under his. Then she sighed and seemed to melt
toward him, deepening the kiss, opening her mouth, letting
him explore more fully.
Heat shivered through his soul, and the urgency increased
tenfold. He wanted her as heâ€™d wanted no other in his
life, and the effort of holding back, of not taking her
right then and there, had every muscle trembling.
But she had yet to say yes. Until she did, he couldnâ€™t
fully take her. There were rules, even here in this
mansion some called a den of debauchery.
He slid his hand down her waist and found the slit in her
skirt. Touched the silk of her thigh and worked upwards.
He cupped the triangle of her curls then gently delved her
Her moan shuddered through him, testing his strength, his
will. He delved deeper, sliding through her slickness,
until her muscles pulsed around one finger, then two. She
pressed against him, riding his hand with increasing
urgency. Her skin was feverish, flushed with desire and
A need he understood only too well.
She grabbed his shoulders, fingers trembling, nails
"By the moon." Her voice was little more than a fractured
Her plea raged across his senses, almost destroying his
control. Yet at the same time, an oddly primeval sense of
power surged through him. She was his for the taking,
whether sheâ€™d admitted it yet or not.
He stroked harder, faster. Her body shuddered against his,
her skin glossy with perspiration. He kissed her ear, ran
his tongue down the long line of her neck. She tasted of
honey, desire and sunshineâ€”and he knew then she was a wolf
who played in the daylight more often than moonlight. They
lived in two different worlds, but right then, he didnâ€™t
care. Sheâ€™d stepped into his realm, and he intended to
take every advantage of it.
He took a nipple into his mouth, sucking hard through the
gossamer material. Her shuddering reached a crescendo, and
her cry of pleasure sang through the night. A wave of
primitive power surged through him, yet he knew he could
take her higher, deeper, than what sheâ€™d yet tasted.
He slid his fingers free of her and began undoing the ties
of her gown. Her eyes, darkened by a mix of pleasure and
surprise, flew open.
"Dance with me." The ancient yet formal words of binding
slipped hastily off his tongue, his voice little more than
a hoarse whisper. "Let your body join with mine and
rejoice in the power of the divine light."
He slid the gown from her shoulders and let it fall to the
ground. Her skin was pale gold silk and glowed softly in
the darkness. Her breathing was quick, sharp, every intake
seeming to shudder through her entire body.
He pushed her back until she was trapped between the wall
of the pavilion and him. The heat of her washed across his
senses, and the wild beat of her heart was a sirenâ€™s song
that fueled his urgency to greater heights. It was all he
could do to simply stand there, his body pressed hard
against hers, seeking and yet not entering.
"This night," he continued raggedly. "And the remaining
nights of this phase."
An odd mix of apprehension and elation ran through her
eyes. She took a deep breath, then released it in a
shudder. "This night," she whispered. "And the remaining
Mine. With savage exaltation he surged into her. Groaned
in bliss as her muscles contracted against him. God, was
there a sweeter sensation on this earth? He slid his hands
down her hips and cupped her buttocks. "Wrap your legs
His demand was little more than a growl, but she seemed to
understand him. Her legs wrapped around his waist, and her
arms slipped around his neck. His movements became hard,
fast. Hot flesh slapped against hot flesh. There was
nothing gentle about this mating. Couldnâ€™t be, with the
heat of the moon riding them both so fiercely. Gentleness
would come later, once the initial urgency had gone.
He claimed her mouth, kissing her ferociously.
Passionately. Their tongues dueled, explored, the rhythm
echoing the thrusting of his hips.
The red tide rose, becoming a wall of pleasure he could
not deny. His movements quickened. Deepened. Her gasps
reached a second crescendo, and her cries echoed across
the silence as her body bucked against his. He cameâ€”a hot,
torrential release whose force tore a shout from his lips
and sent his body rigid.
He couldnâ€™t say how long they stood there like that,
bodies locked together, the night air gradually cooling
their fever-kissed skin. It could have been minutes, or it
could have been hours.
It could have lasted an eternity, and he wouldnâ€™t have
He breathed in the scent of herâ€”the sweet flowery tang of
jasmine mingled with the more evocative musk of femininity
and sex. He couldnâ€™t remember a time when heâ€™d felt more
satisfied, more fulfilled. And yet there was so much more
to come. This delicate beauty had agreed to be his, not
only tonight, but for the remainder of the week. They had
the time to explore each other more fully. It was a
thought that sent a jolt of primitive pleasure coursing
through his veins.
He kissed the pulse point in her neck. Felt the still
erratic flutter under his lips.
"Do you have a name?"
It was a question he had no right to ask. No names, no
faces. Those were the rules set by his ancestors long ago,
rules heâ€™d abided by up until now. But if she was new to
this place, she might not be aware of them. There was
something about this woman that intrigued him in a way no
other had, and he had no intention of simply letting her
walk away in the morning without some means of finding her
should she decide not to return. Not after heâ€™d sampled
the delights she had to offer.
Tension crept through her limbs. She was still trembling,
but he couldnâ€™t say whether its cause was his closeness or
"Neva." Her breath whispered past his ear, a heated touch
that stirred barely sated embers. "Yours?"
She unwrapped her legs from his waist, and he carefully
lowered her to the ground. Though her gaze met his without
qualms, the rush of color through her pale cheeks
suggested she was not as bold as she was making out.
She tucked silken wisps of gold behind her ears. "Do you
come here often?"
"Not recently. You?"
"My first time." Reluctance filled her voice, and the red
bloom in her cheeks grew. "I wasnâ€™t sure if I was doing
the right thing or not."
He was glad sheâ€™d taken the chance. Glad it was he whoâ€™d
heard her wistful thoughts. He touched a hand to her
cheek. "And now?"
A smile teased her lips. "Iâ€™m more uncertain than ever."
"Then I shall endeavor to prove your decision to come here
was no mistake." He leaned forward, needing to taste her
Her eyes widened slightly, and her uncertainty surged,
crowding his mind. Despite her promises, she still wasnâ€™t
sure about him. Not that it really mattered now. While it
was a femaleâ€™s right to pick and choose as she pleased,
once she had said yes to mating, the male had the right to
enforce it. And he would do so, if thatâ€™s what it took to
keep her by his side these next few nights.
Her mouth was warm and sweet under his, and as the kiss
deepened, the moonâ€™s heat began to burn through his veins
again. But this time, he would take his time, pleasure her
A howl sang through the night, the cry of a wolf in
trouble. But not just any wolf. His brother.
What? He broke off the kiss and stepped back. The night
was silent for several seconds, then the howl came again.
A long, demanding note.
RenĂ© was either out of range, or simply too angry to hear
any mind contact.
"Trouble?" She rubbed her arms, her eyes haunted, sad.
He touched a hand to her cheek and wondered what she
sensed. Even though he could feel only anger, the golden
wolves were powerful telepaths. She was probably picking
up a whole lot more than heâ€”but she wasnâ€™t from his tribe.
He had no right, no desire, to involve her in any way.
Even when it came to something as simple as a question.
"Iâ€™m afraid so. Will you wait here, or would you prefer to
go to my rooms?"
She hesitated, and her reluctance washed around him. She
didnâ€™t want to face the moon-hungry pack again, and of
that he was fiercely glad. He wasnâ€™t in the mood to fight
tonight, though he would if another tried to usurp his
claim on her.
He touched her lips, outlining their kiss-swollen
sweetness. "I wonâ€™t be long."
She nodded, her gaze searching his, green depths filled
with uncertain wariness. "Be careful."
He raised an eyebrow, but again restrained the urge to ask
what she sensed and called instead to the wildness within
him. His body became liquid, flowing from one shape to
another, then he was on all fours and running through the
He found RenĂ© just outside the main gates. At his
brotherâ€™s feet lay the mangled, bloody remains of what
once had been a woman.