THE FIRE INSIDE by Virginia Cavanaugh
Werewolves be damned. Tyra Smith chose to leave behind her nature to protect her heart after the wrenching loss of her pack. She wants nothing to do with another wolf. Never again wants to feel the deep pain of loss. At least until a sexy-as-sin wolf named Konrad shows up, saving her from the roaming paws of another.
The sparks of lust ignite a desire that burns with hellish intensity, making Tyra crave something she’d vowed to forsake. The ability to resist wanes. Is it a true mate bond that pulls her to Konrad or just the heat cycle she’s entering? Only time can tell.
When a real threat from another pack presents itself, Tyra must move into Konrad’s den for her physical protection. But as things heat up between them, who will protect her heart?
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An Excerpt From: THE FIRE INSIDE
Copyright © VIRGINIA CAVANAUGH, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Tyra Smith flipped the switch on the back wall, extinguishing the lights in the parking lot of Harry’s Bar. She stepped outside and the warm humid air surrounded her, causing a fine sheen of moisture to cling to her skin. Missouri summer nights weren’t for everyone, but she’d grown accustomed to them over the years.
She closed the door behind her and quickly used her keys to lock the deadbolt. With a relieved sigh, she turned and started toward her car. The night had been rough and filled with way too many bad drunks for her taste. Usually it didn’t bother her, but tonight she seemed to be more on edge; little things that she normally would’ve ignored had caused her to grind her teeth and snap at the unruly patrons. But the shift had ended, and all she could think about now was the hot bath that waited at home. With purpose, she rounded the corner of the bar and headed for the east side parking lot. The darkness surrounding her posed no problem in finding her way. Thanks to genetics, she could see everything just fine, including the strange man sniffing around her car.
Her pace slowed as she took in his scent. Musk mixed with various scents from the earth along with the unmistakable smell of wolf. The muscles in her neck and shoulders stiffened as her irritation level kicked up a notch. She knew what he was selling, and she damn sure wasn’t buying. She’d made the choice long ago to stay away from other wolves and packs. Nightmares from the invasion of her father’s pack still plagued her at times. The attack had left her an orphan at a young age, forcing her to spend most of her childhood in wolf form in order to survive. No. She didn’t want anything to do with that life that had only brought her loss and pain. She much preferred being a lone wolf. Her stride lengthened as she marched toward him, her black high-heeled boots tapping a staccato rhythm against the asphalt.
She watched as he turned toward her, an eerie smile lifting the corners of his thin lips. His blond hair spilled over his shoulders. Well-muscled arms were crossed in front of his T-shirt-clad chest. His ice-blue gaze raked over her, leaving her chilled despite the muggy night air. Tall, light and creepy. The vibe he gave off had her inner alarms chiming. The sooner she could get rid of him, the better. “Go away.”
“Bad night? I bet I could make it better.”
She snorted. “My money’s on you making it worse. Oh look, I won.” She pushed past him and inserted her key into the door lock of her POS car. She’d learned to speak smartass well after dealing with drunken humans for the last few years, and after a night like tonight, her temper had a hair trigger. Before she could retract her key, he touched her shoulder, which had her spinning back in his direction, ready to attack, her purse hitting the pavement with a thud.
He held his hands up and took a step back. “Relax. I wasn’t going to harm you.”
The fine hairs on the back of her neck rose, sending a tingling sensation down her spine. “I’ll rip your hand off if you touch me again.” He could keep his reassurances, because she could scent them for the lies they were. But she had no choice. She had to appear confident in her abilities to protect herself or this meeting could go really bad. She bared her teeth in his direction and he smiled back at her.
“Feisty. I like that in a female. It makes certain aspects of the relationship more…exciting.”
Bile rose in her throat. “Go the hell away. I don’t want anything to do with you.” Something told her this asshole was going to make her go wolf. Her pulse jumped, beating with hard thuds inside her head. She hated going wolf. After all those years in the wild, she only shifted at the full moon, and only then because she didn’t have a choice. She wasn’t even sure she’d be able to handle a shift. Why the hell did this asshole have to be here? This neighborhood was mostly inhabited and frequented by humans.
He smiled again. “My name’s Xabier.”
A low growl rumbled her chest. “I don’t give a shit what your name is. Go away.” Her nervousness increased as a chilly sensation coursed through her flesh.
“You’re not even going to give me a chance?”
“How do you know I’m not your mate?”
She didn’t know much about how the whole mate thing worked. She’d been too young, but she knew her parents were mates. And the way they were around each other had been a beautiful thing. She didn’t feel anything remotely beautiful about the wolf in front of her. In fact, something seemed weirdly familiar about him, but her mind wouldn’t nail it down. “You’re not my mate.”
He took a step toward her. “You can’t be certain about that. You know, sometimes it takes a few rounds of being together before the mate bond snaps into place.”
No, she didn’t know that. Nor would she sleep with this creep to find out. “We’ll never know then.”
“Oh come on. I can scent you. You’re about to go into heat.” He sucked in a breath through his nose. “Your smell is intoxicating.”
“I am not! And even if I was, I wouldn’t sleep with you.” She kept her gaze on him, not trusting him for a second not to turn hostile. A feral growl came from him a fraction of a second before he pounced, snatching her arm with enough force to rip the sleeve of her shirt. She half shifted, claws erupting from her hand as she swiped at his face and pushed him back.
His hand came up, covering the slashes that oozed crimson on his cheek. “You little bitch. I guess I’m going to have to teach you some manners.”
Brushing aside the panic that rose inside, she crouched, ready to defend herself as he made a move to come at her again. But he stopped short as a deep rumbling growl came from behind her. The scent of another male wolf entered her nose. His scent different, more spice than musk. But there was something else. Something she couldn’t put a name to, but it smelled wonderful.
“I don’t believe the lady wants your dirty paws on her, Xabier,” the deep voice called out.
Xabier stood tall and defiant. “Mind your own business, Konrad. There isn’t any mark on her. This bitch doesn’t belong to you.”
“I’m not a bitch, asshole,” she ground out between clenched teeth.
“Whether or not she belongs to me isn’t in question. She told you to back off. And if you don’t, then you’ll be dealing with me,” Konrad said.
She wanted to turn and look at the newcomer, but at present she decided Xabier was the greater threat.
Xabier gave an evil laugh. “Is this where I’m supposed to run away scared?”
Booted feet thumped against the parking lot, the sound echoing loudly in the still air before coming to a stop beside her. Out of the corner of her eye she could see black jeans and black boots from her crouched position. A slight turn of her head and she would be able to look at him, but she didn’t dare take her eyes off Xabier.
“I know you think you’re protected because I’ve entered into negotiations with your alpha, but I assure you, I mean exactly what I say,” Konrad said.
Xabier cast a look of revulsion at her before turning his gaze back to the man who stood a few paces away from her. “There’s no need for us to fight. You can have the nasty bitch.”
A growl erupted from her throat as well as from the wolf beside her. Xabier locked his gaze on her once again and continued to stare at her as he walked backward toward the other side of the parking lot. His gaze felt like a cold caress that turned her stomach and had her swallowing to suppress her gag reflex. When he arrived at the edge, he turned and ran off into the night. A sigh escaped her lips before she rose to her full height and turned to look at her saving grace.
“Are you injured?”
Somehow she kept her jaw from dropping as she stared up at him. His dark hair was cut short, a slight wave to it. A lock had fallen across his forehead, making her want to reach up and push it back into place. Dark brows arched over amber-colored eyes that were surrounded by long, dark lashes. His bottom lip was slightly fuller than his top. She took in a breath to answer his question and that wonderful smell filled her nose again. “No. I…don’t think I’m hurt.”
She tore her gaze away from him to look down at her arm. “Damn it,” she mumbled as she surveyed the tattered remains of her green sleeve. “I really liked this shirt.” She had only bought it a week ago. Her jaw tightened as she ground her teeth. The budget she lived on wouldn’t allow her to replace it until next month. Her gaze went to the tree line where Xabier had disappeared. She wished she could mar the other side of his face.
“What’s your name?”
That deep voice rolled over her and she turned her head to stare at him. “Tyra.”
“Hmm. Tyra is a very nice name. I’m Konrad.”
“Konrad.” She watched as the corners of his lips tipped up. His smile didn’t hold the coldness Xabier’s had. Instead, it seemed to chase away the chill she’d felt earlier. “Thanks for helping me out. I don’t usually encounter many wolves in this area.”
“No, I don’t suppose you do. This area is mostly inhabited by humans. But we had a meeting not even a mile away from here, because it was neutral territory. Xabier left the meeting first. He must have scented you.”
“Oh.” Her gaze dropped to his chest. The black T-shirt he wore hugged his large pecs and biceps, ending at his lean waist. She found herself wondering what it would feel like to touch him—to push her hands under the fabric of his shirt and caress all that hardness. Desire coiled low in her belly. She heard his quick intake of breath. Her head snapped up as she heard the half growl, half moan he released. Her gaze locked with his, the amber of his eyes glowing with a rich intensity. That wondrous smell hung thick in the air around her. She wanted to bathe in it. Lust unlike anything she’d ever experienced gripped her. She stared at his mouth, wondering what his lips would feel like against her own.
He inhaled another breath and released it with a possessive rumbling voice. “Mate.”
The word washed over her like a bucket of ice water and had her blinking rapidly before taking a step back. “Oh, no. No. We aren’t starting this again.” She bent and picked up her purse from the ground where she’d dropped it earlier, trying hard to shake off the needy feeling he’d created in her. She sucked in a deep breath. Never in her life had she had such a lust-filled reaction to someone. He stepped toward her and she found herself staring at his pelvis. It wasn’t hard to miss the thick, hard ridge beneath the material of his pants. Her eyelids slammed shut as she rose quickly and turned, gripping the keys that still protruded from the door lock.
“Who’s your alpha?”
She ignored his question as she twisted the key and then pulled it out. Eyes open, she watched his reflection on the window. Sexy as hell was an understatement. She could feel his gaze move over her like a light caress, warming her body degree by degree. Her fingers curled under the door handle and pulled, opening the car door. A tan arm, dusted with dark hair, barred the entrance. She turned around and met his gaze, her frustration level rising. “Do you mind?”
“I need to speak to your alpha.”
“No. You don’t. You need to move your arm so I can leave.” The sooner she got away from him the better. His heated gaze roamed over her face and she found herself breathing shallowly.
“What have I done to anger you, mate?”
“That. That’s what you did. I’m not your mate.”
He leaned in close and ran his nose up her neck, inhaling a deep breath. “Yes, you are,” he whispered next to her ear.
Her eyelids lowered to half mast as her body trembled. The warm, rich texture of his voice did things to her insides. Her core pulsed as she noticed wetness gathering at her lower lips. No. She couldn’t let him get to her. She inched back, creating a small space between them. “Get out of my way.” This couldn’t be happening. She didn’t want this. She wanted a human life, damn it. Or at least as close as she could get to one.
“I know you feel it too. I can scent your desire the same as you can scent mine.”
“No, that’s not it.” Denial blasted through her.
He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Then what do you think it is?”
“I’m fixing to go into heat.” Her cheeks burned. She couldn’t believe those words just came out of her mouth. At twenty-four she’d never been in heat before, and really didn’t have any clue if she was about to be or not. But at this point she would take whatever excuse said this feeling he created inside her would only be temporary.
He smiled, revealing straight white teeth, his canines slightly longer and pointier than normal human teeth. “I know.”
The fact that he seemed to think he knew more about her own body than she did irked her. “See. So you admit it. I’m just horny. So…yeah. Now I’ll be on my way.” She stepped past him and got into the car. Her hand closed around the handle on the door panel, but when she pulled on it, the door didn’t budge.
“Who’s your alpha?”
She ground her teeth, staring out the windshield at the rolling hills and trees. Stubborn wolf. “He’s unavailable.” Which wasn’t entirely untrue, considering her father was dead. But she wasn’t about to let this overbearing man know she was a lone wolf without protection. When he didn’t make a move to release her door or speak, she looked up at him. His eyes moved over her, as if he were studying her. “What?”
The muscles in his face relaxed and he released the door.
She pulled it shut, not taking any time to think about what had him changing his mind. It took only a second to have the key in the ignition and turned over. The engine roared to life. She backed out of her parking spot and moved the gear shift into drive. Before releasing the brake, she glanced out her window at Konrad. He stared back at her with a hungry look. The desire she’d felt earlier began to return. She tore her gaze from him, took her foot off the brake and hit the gas.
There couldn’t be any regrets. She’d chosen to live a normal life, and he didn’t fit into it.
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