Wolf's Wind by Vonna Harper
erotic romance with paranormal elements
novella (approx 22K)
Despite the nightmarish accident that took her brother Skye’s life here, Carlan Nashel is drawn back to the raging mountain river. She needs understanding and closure. Instead, a ghostly human presence and a spirit wolf pack send her running terrified into Brett Schneider’s strong, capable arms.
Brett hasn’t yet made his peace with the forest that nearly killed him. He wants one thing, hot passion with Carlan, a night full of sex and no memories.
But Skye’s ghost and the yellow-eyed wolves want more.
Not paying any attention to what she was doing, Carlan ran. No matter how much she needed to, she couldn't bring herself to look behind her. She had to get to her car and lock herself inside it, nothing else mattered! She'd heard Skye's voice; she'd be locked up if she told anyone. Her boots made slapping sounds on the wet cement as she ran, calming her—at least she could hear something concrete—and bringing her closer to panic.
I'm running from a ghost. How did she run away from a ghost, when she couldn't see it? And the wolves… She shivered. How freaky was that?
She hadn't seen wolves, because the predators that once roamed Oregon and most of the United States had been exterminated long ago. Granted, wolves had been reintroduced to places like Yellowstone National Park and the state of Idaho, and a handful had even crossed the state line into eastern Oregon, but it would be years before the always-moving predators made their way this far west.
Wild dogs, then?
“Stop it!” she screamed at the voice that positively, absolutely couldn't be her brother's. “Leave me alone.”
I told you, I can't.
Even though she fought the pull with every fiber in her, Carlan slowed and looked to her right where the voice had come from. She blinked. It couldn't be. Yet the wolves with their compelling eyes were right there, only a few feet away, and not back where she'd left them, standing at the base of a massive pine. There were four of them, one slightly larger than the others. His eyes bore into her, carving even deeper holes in her sanity.
Carlan? I didn't mean to hurt you or our folks.
Jamming her fist against her mouth, she started to back away from the predators. Yet if she continued moving in the direction she was headed, she'd only put more distance between herself and her vehicle. Everything in her shrank down to a simple and primitive fact: she had to get past the pack. One step became another followed by yet another. She walked without looking where she was going, because she didn't dare take her eyes off the magnificent and deadly creatures some fifty feet away. Rain sheeted off them, and the wind tossed their coats, but they seemed oblivious to the weather. Their muzzles were open, revealing killing fangs, and their ears pricked forward, as if determined to hear every sound she made. Their black noses twitched.
“Oh God, God!” she exclaimed as she drew even with them. Her heart pounding wildly, so fast, she was afraid it would explode from the fear itself, she took two more trembling steps, and then she was past them. She muttered another “Oh God” before she broke into a run. Her boots, although rainproof, hadn't been designed for hard use. Twice, she nearly lost her footing, but she continued her panicked charge.
Nearing a fallen limb, she slowed. She noticed movement ahead of her on the trail. Dear Lord, not more of them. For an instant, she thought she was going to lose it, but the entire mountain couldn't have conspired against her. It just couldn't be another wolf or her brother in ghost form, it just couldn't.
She squinted. Thank you, God, for small favors.
It was a human.
“Help me!” she cried. Ignoring the beginning of a cramp in her cold thighs, she jumped over the limb and sprinted toward the stranger. “Help me, please!”
To her relief, he held out his arms. She threw herself into them, whimpering but determined not to scream.
“Thank you.” Feeling safe, finally, she suddenly started. “Are you armed?”
“Armed? No. What's going on?”
Something about the man's voice nudged a memory, as did his hard embrace. Unable to concentrate on that, Carlan wrapped her arms around his middle and looked back over her shoulder. No wolves stood at the base of the large tree. No voice shattered her thoughts. Gathering her courage, she pushed herself out of the man's arms and backed up a step. She looked behind her again for reassurance. The spot where the pack had been was deserted.
Had she imagined everything?
“Are you all right?” the stranger asked.
Another prick of recognition captured her attention. There was something about the man that was not simply familiar but seemed somehow…vital. Like her, he'd buried himself under layers of all-weather clothing, so she could only guess at his body's contours. She guessed he stood maybe two or three inches over six feet, and he sported no-nonsense shoulders, a straight back, and a slightly unnatural cant to his stance, as if he put more weight on one leg than the other when he walked. His hands were in his pockets, as if to reassure her that she was safe around him. Instead of hunching forward against the storm, he faced it squarely.
“Are you all right?” he repeated.
“I don't know.” His voice took her another step toward recognition. “I, ah, I didn't expect to have company.” Lame.
“I take it that's your car in the parking lot?”
The wind threw its weight against her right shoulder and threatened to tear off her coat, but she barely noticed. “Brett?” she managed. “Brett Schneider?”
“Yes.” His eyes narrowed on her face. “Oh my. Carlan.”
“Yes,” she whispered.