by Vicki Crum
Kat is out of her element when she arrives in Wyoming to do a story on an adventure excursion outfit. Her wilderness skills are non-existent until the hotter-than-hell owner of Into the Wild takes her under his wing and opens up a whole new world for her—in more ways than one.
Austin isn’t looking to complicate his life, but when his volatile attraction to Kat ignites an inferno in his werewolf blood, he has no choice but to act on it. Austin falls hard for Kat and is determined to claim her for his own. But first he must eliminate the threat from an abusive ex-husband who’s stalking her every move. A sensual paranormal romance that will have you believing in true love.
Kat stopped and dropped into a crouch. She couldn’t wait another minute to loosen the laces on these blasted boots. They were starting to pinch something awful after traipsing all over Wyoming and Montana for two days. And having the time of her life, she thought with a secret smile.
Why was it that every thought of Austin seemed to be accompanied by the not-so-subtle sensation of the earth shifting?
And then she heard it. A roar that sounded like…thunder? How could that be? There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Kat realized suddenly that Austin was shouting her name. She could barely hear him over the odd roaring sound. She looked up to see him running toward her—and a second later she saw why.
A dozen of them, maybe more. Off to her left, careening down the hill, spilling out into the parking lot. Huge. Brown. Shaggy. Beasts. Beautiful, she thought, feeling oddly detached. They were coming straight at her.
Dear God. She was going to die.
She heard shouts…a few screams. They barely registered now. She was frozen, trapped, in a deadly tableau.
All the breath left her body as she was knocked from her feet, tackled like an unsuspecting quarterback in the final seconds of the game. Her teeth snapped together as she hit the ground. And then she was tumbling across the pavement, wrapped in a pair of strong arms, curled up against a rock-hard body that she recognized on a purely instinctual level.
And knew, somehow, that she was safe.
When Kat opened her eyes, it was to a sight she’d never thought to see. Austin’s deeply bronzed complexion was pale and drawn, as white as freshly fallen snow. His eyes were big and black and haunted in a way she would never have imagined possible. She lay sprawled across his chest, his arms clamped around her like bands of steel.
“Are you—my God, Kat, are you all right?” Even his voice sounded different, scratchy and tight and sort of…wobbly.
Kat nodded, or thought she did, unsure if she was fully in control of her body or if her response was only muscle reflex.
A crowd was gathering, forming a tighter and tighter circle around them. “Hey!” A man’s face appeared in her line of vision. “You two okay? That was a close one.”
As Kat recovered her breath, she tried to push up from Austin’s chest. He was having none of it. Burying his lips in her hair, he made an odd choking sound that she didn’t have time to interpret before he rolled to his side and eased them into a sitting position.
Another crowd was milling about near the small herd of bison that had come perilously close to flattening her. The huge shaggy beasts were standing still now, twenty, maybe twenty-five feet away, snorting, pawing the ground, and eying the humans with disdain.
Austin’s arm stayed firmly clamped around her waist as he glanced up at the concerned faces hovering over them. “We’re all right,” he said. “Could everyone please stand back and give us some room.” He cupped the back of Kat’s head, searching her face, then the front of her body for any visible signs of injury. “Are you hurt?”
“I..I don’t think so. What about you?” She fingered a patch of torn fabric that was sticking up on his shoulder. “Your shirt’s ripped. Are you okay?”
Before he could reply, a stern voice rang out over a bullhorn. “Get away from the bison. Stand back, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. You need to give those animals a wide berth. Sir! I’m not kidding! That bison can run thirty-five miles an hour. How fast can you run?”
Austin got to his feet, tugging Kat up with him. The ranger with the bullhorn strode over to them. “What’s going on here? You folks okay?” He was short and somewhat portly, with a full, reddish-brown beard covering most of his face.
“We were caught by surprise when that bunch came barreling down off the hill over there,” Austin said.
The small herd of bison had wandered down near the far end of the parking lot, seemingly unperturbed by whatever had them in full stampede mode only moments before. There were only eight or nine of them, Kat realized now that the danger was past, though a single one of them could have stomped her into dust.
The ranger nodded and scratched his beard. “Something must have spooked them. It happens sometimes. I’m just glad no one was seriously hurt.” He turned his head and jerked the bullhorn up to his mouth. “I said stay back.” He made a shooing motion at a trio of teenaged boys who had wandered too close to the bison pack again.
Austin tightened his hold on Kat’s arm. “Let’s go.” His dark gaze swept over her again, making sure she was all right. She was achy and sore and pretty shaken up, but she was more concerned about him. He had taken the brunt of their fall and subsequent tumble, protecting her from the worst of it. She had no idea how much damage he’d sustained to his back and arms as they rolled across the pavement.
Austin had saved her life. It was a sobering thought. An amazing truth. One she didn’t take lightly. Once the reality of his heroic deed had a chance to sink in, how in the world was she going to deal with it?
“My camera!” she cried. “I had the strap on my arm when I knelt down to loosen my boots. It must have gone flying when we tumbled across the pavement.”
“Does this belong to you?” It was the same guy who had come up to them immediately after the incident, asking if they were all right.
“Thank you so much,” she said, when he handed her the camera.
“Appreciate it,” Austin said, slipping his arm around her and ushering her toward the walkway. They were almost back to the Land Rover when a pick-up truck with an official Yellowstone logo pulled up and stopped right next to them.
“Well, well. What have we here?” The uniformed man inside the cab grinned at Austin through the window as he reached down and switched off the ignition. He pushed open the door and climbed out. “Everything okay?”
Even in her shaky condition Kat was struck by how much he and Austin looked alike. He was nearly as tall as Austin, with shoulders every bit as thick and wide. They had similar features, the same prominent cheekbones and ruddy complexion. Only the deep brown color of his eyes was different from the man standing next to her, keeping her clamped tightly to his side.
The ranger cuffed Austin on the back. “What’d you do, cuz? Tangle with a big ole’ brown bear up there on the trail?”
Austin’s only answer was a dark glower, which seemed to amuse the man even more. “Since you don’t appear to have sustained any real injuries,” the ranger said after observing him for a few more moments, “apart from a few rips in the back of your shirt, that is, aren’t you going to introduce me?”
Kat could have sworn she heard Austin growl. “Kat…this is my cousin, Dak.”
That explained a lot. “Nice to meet you,” she said. “Kat Ingersoll.” She would have offered him her hand, but Austin maintained a death grip on it.
Despite Austin’s glare, Dak brushed at some dried leaves and twigs clinging to the sleeve of her shirt. “Are you, okay?” His gaze met Austin’s again and he sobered a bit. “Seriously, you guys do look a little…scuffed up. This doesn’t have anything to do with that group of bison that wandered through here a short time ago does it? You know better than anyone, cuz, how important it is to steer clear of those critters.”
“Which is why I don’t need a lecture from you. Something got into a small herd of them, and they made a mad dash down the hill. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Luckily, they petered out pretty fast once they hit the pavement, and no one was injured.”
Dak blew out a sigh. “Well, that’s good then. I’m glad no one got hurt.” His lips parted in another grin. “But hey, dude…I don’t think that shirt’s ever going to be the same.”
Kat figured Austin must have shot him a particularly nasty hand gesture behind her back because Cousin Dak was laughing pretty hard as he reached for the door handle. “You staying here in the park tonight?”
“Up at the inn. Where I need to take Kat so she can get cleaned up and rest a bit. It’s been a long day.”
Dak nodded and tipped his ranger’s hat, another grin tugging at his lips. “Have a good night, you two.”
Austin muttered something blasphemous under his breath as they continued on to the Land Rover, which thankfully was close by. He unlocked the door and helped her into the passenger seat. To say that she was exhausted was an understatement of major proportions. Now that some time had passed since Austin had tackled her to the ground, she could feel her entire body starting to ache. A great deal of that could be attributed to her hours in the saddle, but still. She couldn’t imagine how Austin must be feeling after taking the brunt of their tumble across the asphalt, though she knew he would never admit it even if he was in howling pain.
After shutting her door, he walked to the back of the SUV and opened the tailgate. Kat watched him through the rearview mirror as he rifled through his bag and dug out another shirt, a navy blue tee he pulled on over his head after discarding his torn one. He slammed the tailgate shut and stood with his backside leaning against the bumper.
What was he thinking? Was he blaming himself for what happened? Taking the weight of the world on his shoulders the way he always seemed to do? He had this crazy macho-man notion that everything that went wrong was his fault. She really needed to disabuse him of that way of thinking.
Kat opened her door, biting back a groan as she climbed down out of her seat and walked to the back of the vehicle. “Austin? Are you sure you’re okay?”
His gaze snapped to hers, and she could see the tortured look in his eyes. The look he didn’t want her to see. “I’m fine, Kat. Get back in the car.”
He’d never used that acidic tone with her before, as if she was the one he was mad at. Her throat felt thick with unshed tears, yet she had the presence of mind to know that it was the stress of the last half hour, the adrenaline rush followed by the aftermath of…of jumbled feelings and emotions.
Kat got back in the car. She leaned her head against the headrest and closed her eyes, kept them closed as she heard Austin’s door open, felt the SUV dip slightly when he got in.
“I didn’t mean to snap at you. What happened—almost happened—it wasn’t your fault.”
“It wasn’t yours, either.” She opened her eyes and turned to him, pushing her face close to his. “And so help me, Austin, if you start trying to take some weird sort of blame for it, beating yourself up like you did when we got caught in the rain yesterday….”
He reached over, cupping her cheek so gently in his palm that she almost lost the battle with her tears. “What, little warrior? What are you going to do?”
“I’ll—I’ll think of something, don’t you worry. Now can we please get to our room? I’m running on empty here, and you aren’t doing much better.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He placed a tender kiss on her lips, then leaned forward and cranked up the engine. “A hot shower, a soft mattress, and dinner in bed…how does that sound? After the way our day ended, I think we damn well owe it to ourselves.”
Kat settled in for the drive, pulling the seatbelt down over her torso. “Sounds like heaven to me. Show me the way home.”
Austin shifted into reverse and was soon accelerating down the road with renewed enthusiasm. At the risk of putting a dent in his newly-improved mood, she treated him to what she hoped was her sassiest grin and said, “So…the hot park ranger with the dreamy brown eyes? Is he really your cousin?”
Other Books in the Eternal Moon Series:
Eternal Moon Series, Book 1
Casey Montgomery’s lifelong addiction to “bad boys” has brought her nothing but heartache. Just as she swears off alpha males forever, a brief, torrid encounter with one of the hottest, Harley-riding, leather-jacketed hunks she’s ever seen leaves her reeling—and worse, jeopardizes her carefully laid plans to meet and fall in love with a nice, dependable nerd.
Jake Benedict has been around the block enough times to recognize his mate when he meets her, a gorgeous werewolf with a case of latent genes who doesn’t have a clue about her true identity. Jake is just the were to teach Casey about her ancient heritage and coax her feral side into revealing itself. While Casey can’t resist the intense physical attraction she feels for Jake, she’s determined to freeze him out emotionally.
Can Jake break through Casey’s defenses and prove to her once and for all that he’s one bad boy who’s playing for keeps?
Eternal Moon Series, Book 2
Reed Montgomery’s life is perfect. With a flourishing business, a condo by the sea, and a social calendar any red-blooded bachelor would envy, he can’t imagine anything that could make him happier—until Marin Sawyer walks into his office in search of investment advice. He’s immediately smitten with the dark-haired beauty, and determined to have her at any cost.
A serious relationship isn’t on Marin’s radar right now, but a fling with a handsome man like Reed might be the perfect way to let off a little steam. The charming and oh-so-sexy human is impossible to resist, but when Marin settles down with a permanent mate it will be with a werewolf, like herself. Her father, the powerful Alpha of their pack, has decreed it should be so and Marin is nothing if not the dutiful daughter.
But things get complicated when Reed starts playing for keeps. Suddenly he’s making plans for the future, plans that include Marin—until he discovers the devastating secret she’s been hiding. Can Reed overcome what he sees as the ultimate betrayal? Will he fight to keep the gorgeous werewolf for himself—or forfeit the only woman to ever succeed in capturing his heart?
About the Author
Vicki Crum writes contemporary and paranormal romance, creating tales full of love and laughter and discovering one’s soul mate in the most unlikely places. Her published works include Loving Luc, Once in a Blue Moon, Moonspell, and Blood Moon (Eternal Moon Series).
Vicki resides with her husband in a charming seaside community in Southern California. She has two grown daughters and two adorable grandchildren who light up her world.