Taming his Mate (Black Hills Wolves, #8)(11)

Stephen sighed, the sound resembling a lower-bellied rumble.

When he found Kate, he planned to haul her back to his house for a long chat. If she argued, then he’d simply turn her over his knee and spank her gorgeous ass into submission.

The thought of Kate all bare-assed and pink prompted his tail to sway back and forth. Not a bad idea at all.

The two of them could have their talk. He’d reassure her he was in it for the long haul with her. Perhaps he could explain how dormant Wolf genes worked while he made her breakfast. Then maybe—

Stephen’s hackles rose. He lifted his head and surveyed the surrounding woods. Not a single sound pricked his ears. An eerie silence blanketed the area, which unnerved him.

Something wasn’t right.

Animal intuition screamed at him to retreat and evade. He sank his claws into the sandy rock bottom beneath the water while his leg muscles tensed, preparing to spring from the creek. A faint whistle drew his notice, and he tracked the noise, a mistake that cost him as he lowered into a pouncing stance. A dart slammed into his hindquarter, the force dropping his lower half into the water, and he released a high-pitched yip.

Stephen rose on his four paws, but his limbs grew lax. He glanced at his hind leg and the shiny metal protruding from his hip. All at once, everything shifted out of focus. His heartbeat slowed to a sluggish thump. On shaky legs, he dragged himself to the edge of the creek and sprawled on his belly.

Footsteps vibrated the ground. Droplets of water sprayed his muzzle as the motion drew closer. Stephen’s gaze flew upward and centered on one of the men from the night before. Standing over him, the bastard aimed a rifle at Stephen’s head.

An ominous grin spread across the hunter’s face. “I had a feeling you and I’d be seeing each other again.”

Then he squeezed the trigger.

A second dart punctured Stephen’s shoulder, and his head dropped like a stone on the gravel bank. His bleary gaze landed on Kate’s terrified face hidden in the bushes before he passed out.

Chapter Seven

Kate bit her fist to keep from shouting. Concealed from sight, she sat in absolute silence and looked on as the human grabbed a walkie-talkie from his belt and held it to his mouth.

“Meet me along the stream we found yesterday. I’ve got one thing we came for.”

“Be there in ten.” The static reply ratcheted Kate’s fear to a whole new level.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Once she’d spotted Stephen approaching the stream, she’d ducked behind a tree, delaying the inevitable. He would’ve located her. How could he not? He could easily sniff out her scent. But the last thing she’d expected was the human men they’d encountered the night before to show up.

Kate focused on Stephen, willing his eyes to open. Indecision waged war in her head. If she ran for help, God knows where they’d take him. Even worse, what if they killed him? She couldn’t risk leaving him alone, especially since he’d ventured here to find her. And she damn sure couldn’t shift to attack the ass who’d drugged him. So what the crap was she supposed to do?

A tremor raced through her limbs as panic threatened to overwhelm her. She wrapped her arms around her knees. Any second, her shaky composure would splinter in two, and she’d wind up doing something stupid that would get them both killed.

For God’s sake, get a damned hold of yourself, Kate.

Closing her eyes, she sucked in a deep, grounding breath to clear her head.

Come on, Kate. You can do this. Stephen needs you. Don’t let him down.

He did need her. She may have failed him before, but she refused to fail him when he needed her most. So what if she couldn’t shift? That didn’t mean she couldn’t take the human bastard down. Her eyes snapped open, and she glanced at Stephen’s furry head. He was out cold, so she wouldn’t get any help from him anytime soon. It was up to her to make this work.

Resolve whipped through her veins. She could do this.

No, she would do this.

Kate examined the ground around her for anything she could use as a weapon. She settled on a sturdy, broken tree branch. She held the thick stick in her hand, testing its weight and grip. It would have to do. It wasn’t as if she had a lot of options.

Easing into position, she waited for her enemy to present an opportunity, any point of vulnerability she could use to her advantage. Thankfully, the dickhead didn’t make her wait too long.

He moved to Stephen’s side and squatted to retrieve the darts embedded in his fur. With his gun lowered and his attention focused elsewhere, the man presented the opening she sought.

Gathering her nerve, Kate held the tree limb in a death grip and launched herself out of the bush. Caught off guard, the idiot reared around just as she swung the branch, connecting with the side of his head.

The man fell back on his ass and clutched his bloody temple. “You bitch.”

Kate wasted no time, snatching the rifle that fell from his grasp onto the ground and aiming it at his chest. “Want to say that again?”

“You think this will stop us? This town and you people. You’re freaks.” He nodded at Stephen. “You and his kind need to be exterminated from this world.”

She raised the weapon and took aim.

“Wait.” He lifted his hand in front of him.

But Kate didn’t. With a squeeze of the trigger, a dart flew into his shoulder. She ran to Stephen and knelt beside him. Laying a hand over his furry chest, she was relieved to feel the slow thump of his heart beneath her palm. Of course, she had no idea how long the drugs would keep him under.

M. Limoges's Books