Home > Wild Wolf (Shifters Unbound #6)

Wild Wolf (Shifters Unbound #6)
Jennifer Ashley


Graham McNeil slammed his massive fist into the jaw of the attacking wolf just as his cell phone rang.

He got the wolf into a headlock and tried to reach for the phone, but the wolf fought and clawed, drawing blood, its breath like sour acid. Graham’s Collar sparked heavy pain into his throat, while the Collar on the wolf he fought was dormant.

Was this where things were going with the stupid-ass idea that all Shifters should have their pain-shocking Collars replaced with inert ones? Shifters at the bottom of the food chain would use their fake Collars as an excuse to try to claw their way up, like this Lupine was. The shithead was from the family of one of Graham’s trackers and was supposed to be loyal to Graham, but today the wolf had decided to wait in Graham’s house until Graham walked in alone, and jump him.

Idiot. Graham had territory advantage, even if he still wore his true Collar, which blasted pain into him with every heartbeat. Time to show the attacking wolf who was truly alpha.

Graham’s phone kept ringing against his belt. Because Shifters were only allowed to carry “dumb” phones, he didn’t have a fancy ringtone to tell him who was calling. The damn thing just rang.

Graham grabbed the Lupine by the throat and threw it against the wall. The wolf howled, but did it stay down? Not for long.

As the wolf prepared another attack, Graham yanked the phone off his belt and flipped it open. “What?”

“Graham,” came the breathless voice of his more-or-less girlfriend, a human called Misty.

Everything slowed. Graham saw in his mind the curvy young woman with light brown hair she wore in a ponytail, her soft face, and her sweet brown eyes. Every thought of her was like a breath of air, snaking into his messed-up brain and trying to soothe him. Graham wished he was with her now, teasing her, kissing her, instead of trying to beat an insubordinate wolf into submission.

“I’m a little busy right now, sweetheart,” Graham said loudly as the wolf landed on him. A wooden chair smashed under them as they both slammed to the floor—damn, he liked that chair. “You break my TV, you’re dead,” Graham snarled.


“Not you, sweetie. I’ll have to call you back.”

“You can’t. Graham, listen, I need you. They’re . . . Oh, crap.”

“What?” Graham bellowed. “Slow down. What are you saying?”

“I have to go. I don’t know when I can call you again.”

Graham’s shift was coming. In a few seconds, he wouldn’t be able to hold the phone, let alone talk. “Wait!” he yelled at her.

“I can’t. I’ve got to go. Graham, I lo—”

The phone clicked, and Graham was shouting at a dead line. “What? Wait! Misty! Fuck.”

He threw the phone across the room and lifted the attacking wolf by the scruff of the neck. “Would you stop, you as**ole?”

The wolf snarled, teeth snapping at Graham’s throat. The wolf in Graham responded. He felt his body change, muscles becoming harder and leaner, face elongating to accommodate teeth, claws jutting from fingers that quickly became paws.

With an ear-splitting snarl, Graham went for the other wolf’s throat, snapping teeth around fur.

At the last minute, the alpha in him told him not to kill. Graham was this wolf’s protector, not its enemy. The wolf needed to be taught its place, not destroyed.

Not that Graham wouldn’t rough it up a bit. But quickly. He needed to find out what was wrong with Misty. The fear in her voice had been clear, the desperation palpable. They’re . . . What? Here? Coming? Killing me?

Graham’s Collar kept snapping arcs into his neck. He held on to the throat of the fighting wolf, not letting the Collar stop him.

Dominance didn’t have anything to do with Collars, or pain, or fighting. Dominance was about putting full-of-themselves, arrogant Lupine Shifters in their place. Graham got the wolf on the floor and stepped on it, and then shifted to human again, breathing hard, his clothes in tatters.

“Stay down.” The words were hard, final.

The wolf snarled again, then became human—lanky, dark-haired, gray-eyed—typical Lupine. Except this one was female.

She looked up at him, rage in her eyes. “This isn’t over, McNeil.”

“Famous last words. Your dad sent you, didn’t he? Thought maybe I’d mate-claim you if you couldn’t best me, right?”

The way she looked quickly away told Graham he’d hit upon the truth. She was naked, and not bad, but Graham hadn’t been able to think about any other female since he’d met Misty.

He hadn’t mate-claimed Misty, or even had sex with her. Graham had never had sex with a human before, and he feared he’d not be able to gentle himself enough for Misty. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her.

Also, his position as leader of the Lupines in this Shiftertown was precarious. His wolves expected him to mate with a Lupine, to provide a cub who would be their next leader. If he went into mating frenzy with a human, the more old-fashioned of his wolves might try to solve the problem by killing Misty.

But Misty’s phone call had his gut churning. Graham climbed to his feet. “I’ve got to go,” he said to the woman. “I want you out of here by the time I get back. No more ambushes. If you want a mate, go chase some bears. They’re always horny.”

Graham turned around and walked away. The best way to show submissives they were submissive was to indicate you didn’t fear them jumping you the minute your back was turned. Making them know that if they did jump you, you’d stop them. Again.

His heart hammered with worry, the wolf forgotten, as he detoured to his bedroom to grab clothes to replace the ones he’d shredded with his shift.

Graham left through the back door, mounted his motorcycle, started it, and rode noisily away from his house and Shiftertown.

 • • •

"I’m asking you one more time, where is he?”

“I said, I don’t know.”

The gang leader who held Misty against the wall by the throat didn’t believe her. He’d caught her running out of the back of the shop, and he’d taken her cell phone, thrown it to the ground, and smashed it with his boot heel. She’d never seen the man before, but she guessed who he was—a guy called Sam Flores who’d been in prison with her brother—and why he’d come.

“You do know.” Flores’s breath was foul with cigarettes and beer. “That him you had on your phone?”

“No—” Misty broke off with a grunt as her head smacked into the wall. “I don’t know where Paul is. He took off.”

“Lying bitch.” Flores had blue eyes in a sun-darkened face, and dark hair streaked by strong desert sunlight. “I’m going to beat you until you tell me where that as**ole is. Then my boys and me will make you understand why you don’t mess with us.”

Misty was so cold with fear, she couldn’t feel anything anymore. She struggled, though she knew she’d never get away. Paul had been out making deliveries, and Misty really didn’t know where he was. She’d called him before she’d called Graham, but she’d had to leave a voice mail, telling Paul to lie low. Paul had hiding places, but Misty didn’t know where all of them were.

Flores held her in place, the prison tatts on his fingers up close and personal. Behind him, his friends were smashing up her flower shop. Baseball bats smacked into the clear glass refrigerator doors that held her stock; pots filled with arrangements were thrown against the counter. Glass splintered and flew; the flowers, innocent, scattered everywhere. Broken stems and a river of petals littered the floor.

The gang boys got into the refrigerators and smashed the vases there to the floor. Water gushed across the cement and tile along with all the flowers. Cool, dank air, scented with roses, carnations, calendulas, daisies, and baby’s breath wafted across the shop.

“You know you aren’t walking out of here,” Flores said. “You might as well tell me where he is.”

Misty didn’t bother to answer. If she would die here, the last thing she’d do would be to keep her little brother, Paul, safe. She’d taken care of him all her life, and she wasn’t about to stop now.

“I don’t think you understand,” Flores said. “It won’t be easy. You’ll be in so much pain by the time we’re done with you, you’ll be begging to die.”

Fine, then Misty would beg to die. At least she’d been able to hear Graham’s gruff, take-no-shit Shifter voice one last time. She thought about his strength, the tatts of fire on his arms, his hard face, and buzzed dark hair. Everyone thought Graham too tough, too mean, and too wild to tame, but Misty had seen what was in his eyes when he was around the two orphaned wolf cubs in his pack.

She’d started to tell Graham the secret inside her heart when the man with the callused fingers had snatched away her phone.

They were going to do whatever they wanted with her, and Misty would die. She was scared, but at least Paul had gotten away, and Graham’s voice had given her strength to face what she had to.

Not that she’d give up without a fight. Go down swinging, her dad had liked to say. He should know; he’d had to fight for everything his entire life.

The men in her store—five of them—were armed, carrying pieces stuffed into back holsters, knives in boots and on belts. Misty had nothing but her fists and her flowers.

“Cops’re coming,” one of the men by the door said.

Misty heard sirens. Probably Pedro at the convenience store across the lot had seen the break-in and called the police. But Misty knew better than to relax and be thankful the police were on their way. There would be a standoff, probably a gun battle, and someone would be shot. Most likely Misty.

She struggled to get away. Flores punched her twice in the face. Misty’s head snapped back, and blood flowed from her mouth.

Flores clamped his hand over her throat, cutting off her breath. He squeezed, not enough to choke her, but blocking off enough air to make Misty dizzy and sick.

He dragged her with him out the back door to the alley, the other four following. Two of the guys had motorcycles; the other two and the man who held Misty went for a pickup—a Ford 250, all shiny and new. Big enough to shove Misty down into the backsect, tossing a cigarette-smoke-infested tarp on top of her.

The truck rumbled under her as it started. Then the pickup jerked, tires squealing, as it headed down the alley that ran behind the strip mall. Another turn onto the street, and they were off, carrying Misty who-knew-where.

 • • •

Misty’s pickup wasn’t in her carport. Graham killed the engine on his Harley, stepped away from the engine’s smell, and inhaled.

Every hackle he had went up, the wolf in him starting to snarl. Misty was gone—Graham could scent how she’d left the house through the back door not long ago, gotten into her truck, and driven away. All as normal. She’d have gone to her store, as early as it was, to do whatever it was she did before opening for the day.

Why hadn’t the woman told him where she was calling from? Graham’s cell phone had indicated what number had called him, but Misty had been on her cell, which meant she could be anywhere.

Graham scented no struggle here, no fear or worry. Just Misty’s fresh scent, overlaid with the flowers she worked with all the time. Graham couldn’t catch a whiff of roses these days or the strong odor of what she said were Asiatic lilies without thinking of Misty.

No, thinking of her wasn’t the right way to put it. The scents conjured up her sultry voice, her uninhibited laughter, her soft face, and brown eyes that went shiny when she looked at him sometimes.

The images, sounds, and scents of her woke up Graham’s needs too. He hadn’t touched the woman, but he dreamed almost every night about running his hand up the loose skirts she liked to wear, freeing her hair from the ponytail, licking between her br**sts . . .

Misty had sounded terrified. Someone had been coming for her, and she was scared out of her mind.

Graham swung back onto his bike, started it, and roared down the street again. He saw the people who’d come out of houses to watch him, wondering what the hell a Shifter was doing in their nice corner of the city, but Graham didn’t care right now what they thought.

He turned out of the neighborhood and joined traffic on the 215 before he raced off on Flamingo, heading to the flower shop in this middle-class side of town. Shifters didn’t come here much, confining themselves to the north side of Las Vegas and the desert not far beyond. The big hotels on the Strip and downtown didn’t want Shifters scaring away tourists, so Shifters mostly stayed away, even though some Shifter women danced at nightclubs as the entertainment. Pissed Graham off, how Eric Warden, the Shiftertown leader, was all right with Shifter females doing exotic dancing for humans. One of the many reasons Eric was a dickhead.

Misty’s flower shop—Flamingo Flowers—was in a strip mall with other small retailers, which should have been quiet this early on a Saturday morning. Graham knew something was seriously wrong, even before he saw the smashed glass in Misty’s doorway and the cop cars all over the lot.

A couple of cops saw him, and Graham hesitated. He should get the hell out of there and have nothing to do with the city police, but if he left, he’d not be able to help Misty. She might be in there, and if she wasn’t, he needed to get inside and sniff around to figure out where she’d gone.

He decided to approach as though he had every right to be there. Shifters weren’t banned from every store in town, just most of them. But not this one. Misty had sense enough to know that Shifters were good customers.

Graham pulled his motorcycle next to one of the cop cars and dismounted. Next thing he knew, he was surrounded by five cops, who’d all pulled their weapons on him. One cop backed those up with a Taser.

Graham’s wolf fought to get out, wanting to go into a frenzy that would land the cops on the ground, their weapons broken. He clenched his fists, fighting the aggression he always had a hell of a time taming. When he’d lived in middle-of-nowhere Nevada, in a Shiftertown where his word had been law, Graham had never bothered damping down his wolf instincts. Now he was expected to live in a city of humans who treated him like he was some big scary animal that had escaped from the zoo.

He wanted to grab the guns from the cops and break them, just to scare them, but Graham dialed it back. He needed to find Misty.

He lifted his hands to show they were empty. “Hey, this is my friend’s store. I need to make sure she’s all right.”

“A human owns this store,” the cop closest to Graham said.

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