I found her so she’s mine.
They call me the Hunter;
A cold-hearted predator with the killer instinct.
A deadly threat to anyone who becomes my prey.
I’m pulled off of an existing job to watch a new target and her grandmother until I’m issued the order. I see her for the first time from the edge of the woods. Rose Adams. Silky red hair flowing down past her waist, soft curves, a sassy mouth, and that body that’s made for sin.
I tell myself shes just another target, but I’m dead wrong.
Little Red beats me at my own game.
She sets her sights on me and everything changes.
I shouldn’t feel a thing. Haven’t for years.
But I do.
When it’s time to finish the job, I take her and we run.
Forget the rules; I’m going to follow the only law that matters.
The law of the wild: Possess my prey.
*Author’s Note: Wolf is a Standalone Romance with a guaranteed HEA ending and no Cliffhanger. Each story in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous Series can be read in any order.
Epigraph – Rose
Once upon a time, my life was a fairytale. I had parents who adored me and everything I could ever dream of.
Then, at the age of seven, my world ended.
They murdered my parents in front of my eyes, and I learned that fairytales are only in storybooks.
What I witnessed hardened me. What I saw taught me that to survive in this world, I needed a different skill set from little girls who played with dolls, dated cute boys, and went to college to prepare for their white picket fence lives.
It also built an impenetrable wall of hatred around my heart that only my grandmother’s love could breach.
After I turn twenty, they send someone to keep tabs on me and my grandmother. Probably to finish the job because I was a loose end on their books. I sense him before I see him, and soon, while he’s spying on me, little does he know that I am looking right back at him.
From a distance, my big, bearded, beautiful predator is elusive and evasive. He’s utterly dark and dangerous. A heartless, violent yet gorgeous curiosity that I can’t stop thinking about.
Then, one day, we come face to face and everything changes.
Prologue – Rose
“How the fuck did you find me, little girl?” my tall, dark and dangerous stalker says from his spot at the large bay windows, his voice threatening.
I don’t answer him when he turns to face me. All I do is take him in. The setting sun creates a menacing silhouette of his body as light floods in with hues of gold, orange, and purple. He’s gigantic. He must be close to six feet five inches tall. His broad, muscular frame has a leanness to it. It’s not quite a runner’s build, but I can tell from the fit of his clothes that he has a rigid workout routine.
I scan his body from up in his thick, jet black hair, all the way down to his dark, polished military boots. On instinct, I know to assume that a man like him is packing hidden weapons, but a thorough visual inspection can’t hurt. I can’t help but appreciate what I see in front of me. From his spot at the bay window, the sunset hits his face at an angle, and the flecks of his eyes start to sparkle like diamonds.
Then I notice that he’s doing his own search of my body. His brows raise as he checks me out from top to bottom. Not that he needs to. That camera he’s been using to watch me has a telescopic lens that can probably pick up the finest freckles on my nose and cheekbones. I’m sure he’s seen a lot. Still, that predatory expression in his eyes makes me feel like he’s looking through me, beyond my clothes and possible weapons, beyond my hardened heart, straight to my soul. Heat washes over me under his gaze. My pulse jumps, and I glance away from his face briefly to catch my breath.
Continuing my appraisal, his dark gray muscle shirt and black casual pants show the sharp lines of his fit body. There are no tattoos visible on his body, but I find myself wondering whether he has some elsewhere. I have no reason to, other than the fact that he looks like the kind of man who’d have one or two. His chest perhaps, or maybe something that takes up his entire back. I’d kind of like to find out first hand… if he doesn’t try to kill me first. Or vice versa.
I take one step backward, and that’s all it takes for him to react. He storms over to me, taking surprisingly light, ground-eating steps from the window that served as his perch to spy on me for the last week or longer.
He’s ready to attack.
But I’m ready too.
When his large, callused hand grips my upper arm, my other hand is quickly up at his collarbone. I angle my wrist, and a wave of satisfaction washes over me when my Bowie knife is less than an inch from his throat. But he’s just as quick as I am. I feel the hard steel of a handgun pressing on my ribs. I’m not afraid, though. Everybody dies, eventually. Plus, my odds are promising. I can slice his jugular in about the same amount of time it’ll take for him to let off a round from his gun. Maybe less. Except, keeping a knife at this particular man’s throat will take a hell of a lot of extra effort for me. He’s way over six feet tall, eclipsing my five-foot-one height by a huge margin. I may be small, but I won’t be intimidated. Years of mixed martial arts training, daily practice, and this knife are on my side.
“Who are you and why have you been watching me?” I demand.
He moves forward slightly, ignoring my sharp blade when it touches his skin. “It’ll take a lot more than a tiny pigsticker to scare me, Little Red,” his voice rumbles at me.
I’m not too impressed that he assumes he can call me Little Red. It’s a pet name that I only let Grams call me. Everyone else is at arm’s length, acquaintances who wouldn’t dare get that comfortable with me. And he’s not even that. At best, he’s a complete stranger. Worst case scenario, he’s my enemy.
“Haven’t you heard it’s not the size that matters?” I warn. “And by the way, that’s a nice drawl you have. I take it you’re a southern boy. Let me guess. Houston? Austin? No, wait. You’re either a Baton Rouge or Lafayette native. Am I right?”
“Good ear,” he confirms and presses up closer to me. So close that our bodies touch. So damn close that I look up and see not only his steel gray eyes but the slight trickle of blood at the spot where my knife meets his neck.
“You’d be surprised how much I can figure out about you from just spending a few more minutes here.”
“Show me,” he says, daring me to prove what I can do.
“You lace up your boots like someone with Special Ops training, tight to just below your ankle, with a few rows of the laces undone, just in case you have to wake up and shove your feet into them to move from one place to another at a moment’s notice. You cut your own hair, and I can tell from the slight nick on that one spot on your hairline. You also finished a military op very recently. Somewhere sunny, from the tan line of the chain you hold your dog tags on. Shall I go on?”
“Yes, but let’s not get too distracted. I asked you a question.”
“It doesn’t matter who I am or why I’m here,” he growls. “What matters is how much longer I’ll play your little game, and how much time you’ll have left if you keep digging that knife into my neck. By my estimation, it isn’t a lot.”
“Why you’re here is all that I care about. Although I’m starting to think it’s better if you’re not here at all.” I add extra pressure to the knife to get my point across. If I press much more, it’ll cut into his jugular and then it’s bye-bye, Mr. Sexy Stalker. “Do you like your life? Do you like breathing air? It’s a lot easier than choking on your own blood. Tell me what I want to know.”
I’ve been involved in mixed martial arts for a long time. At least ten years. But clearly, I don’t know it all. In a split second, he somehow pivots and finds a way to push the blade away. He instantly lifts me off the floor and turns me around. With one goddamned hand. I’m so angry at myself for giving him the leeway he needed to have this advantage over me now. I try to fight him off as my knife falls, but he’s too fast. He gets behind me, his gun digging into my side, and his big body has me jammed up against the wall beside the door I came in.
He gurgles out a low chuckle. “The only answer you’ll get from me is advice. Do you want to hear it?”
“No, I want you to fuck off and leave me alone,” I shout.
“Well here’s the advice, anyway. Next time you try to confront your pursuer, be ready for anything.”
“Let me go right this instant!” I scream, struggling to break free. “Or just kill me right now, because if you don’t, I’ll be the one after you, you big bastard.”
“If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t need to watch you for days or weeks before I actually do it. You’d be six feet under a week ago, long before you had a chance to figure out that I’m watching you.”
He wedges me against the wall with the weight of his body, and his free hand runs slowly up my arm.
“Stop that right now!” I shout.
Ignoring me, his hand moves up from the curve of my hips and past my waist. “Fuck, all these curves in this tiny body are enough to make me want to do more than just this weapons pat-down,” he whispers at the whorl of my ear. He stops over my breasts, massaging the flesh for a moment before slipping his hand past my collarbone and across my neck.
“Please stop,” I say as his straying hand comes to rest with his fingers buried in my long hair. This time I’m begging, but I hear the weakness of my voice and can’t help but become angry at myself. His touch ignites my body, sending heat and need to places I’ve never known could feel this hot.
“Make me,” he dares, and tugs my hair back, immobilizing my head, probably so I don’t reverse head-butt him in the face. I feel his lips at my ear and his hard cock at my back, and when his hips rock forward, I know it’s intentional, to make me fear for what he’ll do next, to show me that I’m at his mercy.
Reaching back with my arms, I catch fistfuls of his shirt and try to move him away, but it only makes him lean more of his body weight into me. I use one foot to back-kick his shins, but it’s no use. I have zero leverage.
“If you’re not going to kill me, let me go,” I ask again. A faint whiff of his woodsy cologne hits my nostrils, and I swear my body reacts with a tremor. Then I feel his mouth at my earlobe. He tugs the flesh with his teeth, and his lips slide down to my neck, sucking one spot so hard I’m sure it’ll leave a mark. I curse myself as my hips push back into him, getting a firmer feel of his dick on me. I want to resist. I want to fight with everything in me, but I have to admit, I also want to stay and find out what else he’ll do to my body. I should be ashamed for feeling this way about the man who’s been shadowing me all week. I just can’t help it.
“I’ll let you go, Little Red,” he growls. “But just remember. You might’ve found me, but I’m the one who marked you. Be grateful that I don’t follow my urge to fuck the fight out of you. Right here against this wall.”
His words hit me like a Mack truck, sending unfamiliar need coursing through my veins, all the way to my pulsing core.
Losing my parents so early on made me mistrustful and at a distance from most everyone. I’ve never had a man or boy put his cock this close to me, and I never had the desire to. Survival and blending in were my only two goals. I think my life or death instinct kept the boys away too. They looked, but they never made a move on me all through high school. I probably intimidated them. But this man, he’s not in the least bit afraid of me. I’m intoxicated. It’s as though his words, his body, his mere presence is a key that unlocks my body and makes it come alive.
“I’m going to count to three,” he continues in a threatening groan and tugs my hair a little harder. “On three, I’ll let you go, and you’ll have five seconds to pick up your pigsticker and get the fuck out of here. Understood?”
“Dammit,” I answer, feeling my anger bubble up my chest for letting him have the upper hand this time. “Okay yes, but can I at least know the name of the man I plan to place at the top of my list of enemies? Just in case it isn’t clear, I mean you.”
“I can give you one of a dozen fake names. None of them will help you track me down. But as you asked nicely, it’s Thorne Pierce. You’ve been marked by The Hunter, Little Red.”
I gasp and wish I hadn’t made a sound the moment after I hear it. I know exactly who he is, though I shouldn’t have been so obvious about it. I’ve heard of him. He’s a tracker, a mercenary, a cold killer with no mercy. His name is uttered on lowered breaths in underground circles, in places I make it my business to stay connected to, if only to be aware of them, if and when I become the object of a hit. To the outside world, where most people have the mistaken belief that what they see is all there is, this man is no one. A ghost. But I know better. And now, I’ve seen his face.
“One. Two. Three.” On three, he does as he promises, taking one massive step back.
I’m sure that his gun must still be trained on me. He’s not that stupid. Reaching down, I grab my knife, and I run. I’ll live another day. The first thing I need to do is get my grandmother and best friends out of harm’s way. After that, The Hunter will become the hunted, and I won’t stop until one of us is dead.
Chapter 1 – Thorne
Three Weeks Earlier
This is it.
Six weeks of intense surveillance has led me to this moment. Scanning every visible room door along the penthouse hallway, I step off the elevator and straighten the electronic hotel manager ID and access badge at the breast pocket of my burgundy blazer. I briskly pass two entrances designed in frosted glass and chrome. Catching a glimpse of my reflection, I smile. The adrenaline pumping through my veins is normal. It makes me sharp, focused, on task, and I’ll put it to good use to ensure this assignment is completed with precision.
I’m a lone wolf by nature. As a former soldier, I much preferred being assigned jobs like the one I’m tasked with at the moment. I get a target, an objective, and I have some leeway and discretion as to how to complete it, holding the quality constant. That’s why I said yes when my employer came knocking.
In some ways, I guess they told me what I wanted to hear. That I’m independent, achievement-oriented, precise and loyal to a fault. Their staff psychologist had a different spin on my style, which wasn’t quite as nice. Something about misogyny and narcissism, mixed with a dose of borderline obsessive-compulsive behavior. But what the fuck do those academics really know? I get the job done.
It’s been close to two years since I’ve had a decent stretch of downtime. A reward will be in order after I’ve wrapped up this job with a neat little bow. Probably a fifteen-year-old bottle of single malt. Or two. It all depends on how much time my employer will keep me on the bench between jobs.
Before turning the final corner toward the presidential suite, I slide the letter-sized envelope out of the inner pocket of my blazer. I give it another look, patting the pen that’s clipped onto the pocket of my black slacks.
Everything is as planned.
Rounding the corner, I catch sight of the four muscle-bound Russian bodyguards, all wearing identical cheap navy-blue dress suits. Two of them turn their heads to me.
“I have an urgent letter for Mr. Mikhailov,” I say from a distance.
“We gave strict instructions to hotel management,” the first guard says in a thick accent. “No disruptions, period. That means no visitors, no letters, no packages, no housekeeping, and no room service, except at our request.”
“This is different,” I explain with a somewhat nervous stammer to maintain my cover. A regular Joe would be scared shitless standing face-to-face with these guards from just their larger than life, intimidating frames and less than polite dispositions. I turn the front of the letter toward them and take a few steps forward. “See? The note reads Urgent communication. Private and confidential. To be hand-delivered immediately and handled only by Mr. Ivan Mikhailov.”
The first guard turns to the one closest to the door, signaling him with a hand gesture for direction.
“Send it back,” says the one higher up the food chain.
I point at the letter again. “Are you sure you want your boss to find out that you’re the one who sent back something he might be expecting?”
Narrowing his eyes at me, he holds out his open palm. “Give it to me. I’ll take it in.”
“My apologies, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.” I show him the front of the letter again. “Our hotel prides itself on catering to the most discerning client request and on ensuring the utmost discretion. I absolutely must hand deliver it only to Mr. Mikhailov.”
Groaning out his impatience, he opens the door a crack and retrieves a state of the art hand scanner that detects metal, radioactive materials, and other undesirable substances.
“Step forward and hold out your letter toward me,” he orders.
I do as he says and he runs the wand over the letter, then scans my body from head to torso, groin to the floor.
“Enter,” he barks after scanning my back, and the next guard pushes the door open for me. “He’s in the sitting room. Boris will take you there.”
“Thank you, gentlemen,” I answer and follow the guard who enters ahead of me. Boris, I assume.
My initial thought as I follow him in is that they made this a bit too easy. All of our scenarios counted on one of them attempting to open and inspect the letter at the door, which would’ve been fine, as it contains a flashbang nanotube prototype we’ve been testing in the field for the last six months. Still, I’m in, and may need to use this weapon to neutralize the guards on my way out.
Boris knocks on the French double doors of the sitting room.
“Enter,” says the voice from inside.
Boris pushes the door half-way. He humbly explains the reason for the interruption, speaking in Russian.
“Fine,” the voice replies, and Boris motions for me to go in, warning me that he and four other men in the room have their eyes on me. None of that matters. I’m a few feet from my target. They led me right to him.
I reach for my pen and delivery pad, explaining that his signature is required. When Mikhailov extends his arm for the envelope, I place the letter it his hand and simultaneously stab him with the pen, which is a hypodermic needle filled with whatever deadly toxin my employer is issuing this month.
The sound of him gasping for air and struggling gets the guards’ attention. Two close in on me, while the other two and Boris go to Mikhailov’s aid. I quickly disarm one, but the other meathead grabs me around my neck from behind. It takes me a few moments, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. A swift elbow to the gut and backward head-butt does the trick to neutralize him. Scooping up the letter again, I slip out the side door that leads to a private elevator down to the service staff level.
Minutes later, I slip in my earpiece and drive away on my vehicle of choice, a Kawasaki Ninja H2 motorcycle. As I speed to the rendezvous point, my employer informs me that plans have changed. The mission to Karachi has been reassigned. They give me the order to restock my provisions at the resupply warehouse in Maryland, then I’ll head to my next stop. I’m being put on what sounds like a dull, three-week surveillance assignment in Midwest, USA.
The targets: An eighty-one-year-old Pearl Adams and twenty-year-old Rose Adams.
I glance back at the six-star luxury hotel, neatly tucked into the side of a low ridge in the Swiss Alps.
It looks like I’ll have my downtime after all.
About me: I’m a Wall Street Journal (Begging for Bad Boys, April, 2017) and USA Today (Begging for Bad Boys, Alpha for the Holidays, Shifters in the Snow: Bundle of Joy, Shifters in the Shadows) Bestselling Author.I love reading and writing steamy, high-action romance stories about firefighters, billionaires, and alpha males who know what they want and aren’t afraid of laying claim to the women who catch their interest. I love a happy ever after ending. I enjoy reading, hiking, the countryside, and traveling to destinations unspoiled by commercial tourism, like Las Vegas… 🙂
Like so many characters in my novels, I enjoy action, romance and unexpected love connections that take your breath away. For the next while, you’ll find me plotting and writing about my latest stories on my Macbook.