Emma -- I’m a coward. I know it. Being with Josh is nothing but one long nightmare, and I need to leave him, but I can’t escape. He’ll hunt me down, and I’ll pay. I’ve survived for the sake of our son, Cody, but for how much longer can I hold out? I’m not afraid to admit I need help, but do I dare reach out to someone? Moving to a new town might give me the opportunity. I just need to find the courage to run.
Axe -- As an alpha wolf shifter, I’ve lived a long time. I have my brothers in the Devoted Guardians MC, and the townspeople of Wolf Creek. What I don’t have is a mate and family of my own. So I give back where I can. I accept an assignment to mentor a kid who needed a Big Wolf. Instead I find the family I’ve always wanted. Emma is my mate. My wolf knows it. But she’s in trouble. Before I can claim her, I need to get her away from the abusive human she’s with. Then I’ll tackle the biggest issue of all -- Emma has no idea shifters exist.
WARNING: This is a Devoted Guardians MC novella and contains adult scenes that may trigger some readers. Guaranteed happily-ever-after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger. For audiences 18+.
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Copyright ©2022 Harley Wylde & Jessica Coulter Smith
I stared at the message on my phone and scanned the area again. I’d agreed to meet my new Little Wolf at the park. The agency said the mom seemed nervous, and I could understand. Having a strange man meet with you and your kid had to be frightening. Even though the agency vetted everyone, I admired the woman for being cautious.
Just to be safe, I messaged the program director. She could send the mom a picture of me and let her know I was nearby. I’d had more than one mom freak out when I got close to their kid. Didn’t matter I was an alpha wolf. Our special town didn’t have one pack. It had many. Only certain wolves, like me and a few others, could handle being around other alphas without feeling the need to fight for dominance. Which was why not just any shifter would be permitted to move here. Each alpha had to pass a series of tests and interviews.
I finally spotted a kid who matched the picture the agency sent. Cody Carter. He looked small for his age. Most eight-year-old shifters were much bigger. Even if it looked like he wouldn’t officially be eight for another week, he still shouldn’t look so scrawny. Even rabbit shifters and deer weren’t as fragile in appearance as this kid.
Approaching the swings, I stopped a few feet away. From the corner of my eye, I saw a pretty blonde pop up from a nearby bench, her tense posture alerting me to the fact this had to be her son. She hadn’t so much as twitched until I approached the boy.
“You Cody?” I asked.
I smiled, liking how polite he was. His mother must have raised him right. “My name is Alexander, but everyone calls me Axe. I’m with the Big Wolf Little Wolf program.”
Cody’s eyes went wide. “Really?”
I nodded. “Yep. I thought we could get to know each other a bit today, and maybe set up our next visit.”
The swing stopped, and Cody shifted on the seat. He cast a furtive glance at his mother before focusing on me again. I wondered about that quick look but maintained eye contact with the kid. Until the breeze shifted. Every muscle in my body locked up tight, and my eyes shifted to that of my wolf. I felt a rumbling growl build inside me as the sweetest scent filled my nose. My mouth watered and my fangs ached. What the fuck? I’d never had such a reaction to a simple scent before.
The sound of dry grass crunching drew my attention to Cody’s mom. And that’s when I realized how truly fucked I was -- because the tantalizing smell was coming from Emma Carter. I breathed in deeper and realized something was seriously wrong. These two didn’t have a drop of shifter blood in them. In fact, they were one hundred percent human. What the hell were they doing in Wolf Creek?
She tugged at her sleeves and crossed her arms, then dropped them to her sides again. The way she shifted from foot to foot told me her fight-or-flight response was kicking in. She might not realize I was a predator, but something inside her could feel it. Didn’t matter, I wouldn’t hurt her. I’d sooner cut off my paw.
The woman jolted and pulled her phone from her pocket. The way her face relaxed told me it was likely the text from the program director. Better later than never, but the timing sucked. I should have held back and not approached for another minute or two, given them time to reach out to her. Perhaps she wouldn’t have been as frightened.
She turned her face away, and it felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Even though she’d done her best to hide it, I could see the bruising under her makeup. Some asshole had dared put their hands on her? I’d slaughter them!
The intensity of my feelings startled me, and I nearly took a step back. Sure, I hated the thought of anyone abusing a woman or kid, but not once had I reacted like this. Something seemed different about these two, and I wasn’t entirely certain what it was. If this were a fairy tale, I’d say I’d just found my mate. Except fated mates didn’t really exist. This town was proof enough. Shifters paired up much the same as humans did, with the caveat that it would be forever. We didn’t believe in divorce, which meant we entered relationships with a shit ton of caution. And yet… every breath I took pulled in more of her scent, and the longer I looked at the bruising on her skin, the angrier I became. No, anger didn’t encompass the emotion. Rage. Pure hatred for whoever had touched her.
My gums ached and saliva pooled in my mouth. My beast wanted to sink his teeth into the person responsible and rend him limb from limb. I decided it had to be a “he.” Even our most volatile female wouldn’t have done this, and a human woman wouldn’t have done so much damage. Otherwise, I felt certain Emma would have been able to dodge the blow or run away.
I took a deep breath. Then another. Slowly, I calmed the wolf inside me before he decided to come all the way out. The last thing I needed to do was scare either of them. Something told me neither of these two knew about shifters. I forced myself to smile and wave at Emma.
“I’m Axe Tremaine. You must be Cody’s mom, Emma. It’s nice to meet the both of you. I was just telling Cody that I’m with Big Wolf Little Wolf.”
Her eyes widened, and her lips parted. “You’re the one they sent? I thought…”
Part of me wanted to be offended, but compared to her tiny stature, I probably seemed like a huge beast. Pretty accurate. Despite the wolf lurking under my skin, I still wouldn’t have done something like beat on someone weaker than me. Whoever had hurt her needed to be taught a lesson. Or possibly buried in the woods after being torn apart. I was leaning toward option two at the moment.
“Guess I’m not what you imagined.”
ABOUT HARLEY WYLDE
Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil's Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series. When Harley's writing, her motto is the hotter the better -- off-the-charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can't deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you've come to the right place. She doesn't shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve.
ABOUT JESSICA COULTER SMITH
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she's a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.