A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing Page 1

Author: Terry Spear

Series: Heart of the Wolf #9

Genres: Fantasy , Romance

Chapter 1

Of all the damn times for his SEAL team leader, Hunter Greymere, to take a mate and fly off on a honeymoon to Hawaii, why did he have to do so now?

The problem wasn’t only with the assassin, should he arrive here and target Hunter’s sister, Meara, since Hunter was gone, but also with the fact that Meara was on the prowl for a mate. Finn Emerson had discovered that when he read the advertisement for cabin rentals that was lying on the white marble breakfast bar in Meara’s cabin.

He would have been wryly amused if the situation wasn’t creating even more difficulties for him. Glancing down at the counter, he reread the advertisement.

Cabin rentals with single occupancy located on Oregon coast. Great for rugged adventurers looking for a wilderness escape. No nearby shopping, theaters, or restaurants. Strictly a roughing-it getaway. For a special fee, management will provide a select menu. Cabin availability limited, so sign up now.

Meara Greymere, Owner and Manager

As he considered each point in the advertisement, Finn shook his head and slipped a bug into Meara’s phone.

Single occupancy? After searching the five unoccupied cabins, Finn had found that each had two bedrooms and a living area furnished with a fold-down couch for additional guests.

Rugged adventurers? From what Hunter had told Finn, Meara had been searching for a mate for some years now, and he assumed she wanted only alpha males to rent the cabins.

Cabin availability limited? Yep, limited to five alpha males, if she could ensure she only rented to alphas.

Meara Greymere, Owner and Manager? What had happened to Hunter in the equation? Finn knew Hunter wouldn’t have given Meara total control over the rentals.

As to the special fee for a select menu, he just wondered what—or more appropriately, who—she would be offering.

Finn spied a notebook sitting next to the phone and flipped it open. A woman’s handwriting listed guests due to arrive this week—with abbreviated notes beside their names.

Joe Matheson, investment broker—sounded sexy, first arrival.

Hugh Sutherland, thrill seeker—rugged voice.

Ted Greystalk, bank president—promising.

Caesar Silverman, dive-shop owner—sounded wet and wild.

Finn snorted. He didn’t think she liked Navy SEAL types much because he and Hunter were SEALs. So why would the owner of a dive shop be appealing? Maybe she covertly was impressed with SEALs but refused to admit it, and the diver reminded her of a SEAL.

Rocky Montana, independently wealthy—mysterious.

The guy sounded like he was a wrestler or something. But the “mysterious” bothered Finn most. A man with something to hide?

Five other names had been crossed out and had merited comments like “not rugged enough,” “sounded way too controlling,” “by own admission, strictly loner wolf,” “too old sounding,” “strictly human,” and “mated!”

She had another list of eligible and ineligible wolves for the following week.

Finn slapped the notebook closed and set up a hidden camera in the living room, wedging it between books in the bookcase. He would have a couple of his buddies run background checks on each of the men to see if they could turn up anything. Because lupus garous lived so long, they had to change their occupations and locations after a time to avoid suspicion, so the background checks might not turn up much.

That was fine. Finn would interrogate the men thoroughly in person anyway. He smiled a little. He’d prove to them that none had what it took to turn Meara’s head.

Still, Finn couldn’t believe Hunter had left a couple of sub-leaders in control of the pack and Meara in charge of the cabins. So who the hell was in charge of Meara?

The worst-case scenario was that Meara would get stuck with a wolf she wasn’t interested in mating due to a poor choice on her part. From what Hunter had told him, she’d always been headstrong and hard to heel, and Finn figured the years hadn’t changed her. Besides, she was always picking up the wrong kind of men.

Finn stalked down the plush ivory-carpeted hall to her bedroom—a nicely appointed room with a queen-sized bed covered in an olive-colored silk comforter and pillows, all trimmed in gold. The walls were a marbleized olive color, and all the wood was rosewood, making him feel as if he were in a cozy woodland den. On the walls hung pictures of redwoods from the California forests Meara and Hunter had called home for more than a century. Finn wondered if Meara ever got homesick, or if she’d adjusted to living on the Oregon coast. He still couldn’t believe they’d been forced to move because of some damned arsonist.

Used to living out of a duffel bag, Finn was surprised to feel an uncharacteristic pang of longing for an ocean-view cabin, comfortable, homey, and appealing for every season. He had a place of his own with an ocean view a couple hours south, having thought he might live there if he ever wanted to set down more permanent roots, but he rarely stayed there, renting it out to others for most of the year. Or using it as a safe house on occasion.

His home didn’t feel like his own place, having been decorated by an interior decorator. Nothing there was his personally. It was just a spot to drop in when it was vacant, once in a blue moon, and he wasn’t on a mission.

Meara’s cabin had a different ocean view, and it was warmer somehow, filled with her enticing scent and smaller, homier than his place. A rosewood-framed collection of pictures of her family—Hunter, her parents, and her uncle, who had owned the cabin resort before giving it to Hunter and Meara—sat on the dresser. A silver-plated hairbrush engraved with her grandmother’s name rested beside the pictures. A tube of lip gloss next to that made Finn think of Meara’s moistened lips—succulent, full and petulant, and damned ripe for kissing. He scowled at himself for even going there and glanced out the window.

He could imagine a summer day like today with a refreshing, cool ocean breeze blowing through the open windows, or a wintry landscape where the pines were dusted with snowflakes while he ran through them in his wolf coat, or spring wildflowers filling the woods, or the leaves turning crimson, burnt orange, and brilliant yellow on a fall day.

He shook his head at himself. When had he become an old man?

He stripped out of his clothes and dumped them next to his duffel bag. If any of these vacationing wolves thought they had half a chance of making a play for Meara without Hunter around, they’d soon learn that they’d have to deal with another alpha male.

The situation could be a lot more serious than that—not that selecting the wrong mate wasn’t serious enough, since lupus garous mated for life and lived long lives. Finn didn’t know if, in an effort to get to Hunter, the assassin would attempt to grab Meara.

Finn snatched his cell phone from his belt and tried to call Hunter one last time. According to one of Hunter’s sub-leaders, Chris Tarleton, Hunter would be flying out with his mate to Hawaii any minute now and he’d probably already turned off his cell phone. Hell, Finn had to warn Hunter to watch his back. If he’d only known sooner that Hunter had moved his lupus garou pack from Northern California to the Oregon coast, Finn might have caught Hunter before he left. A few months had passed since their last contracted mission, and Finn had just assumed that Hunter and his pack were still living in the same place they had for years.

The phone rang and rang. No answer. Finn would have to keep trying to reach him. For now, Finn needed to stake the territory as his own until Hunter returned. Finn extended his arms and summoned the quick and painless transformation into his wolf form, welcoming the stretching of muscles and tissue. The softer fur covered his skin close to his body, while the coarser outer coat added a protective layer. He dropped to stand on all four paws before loping down the hall to the kitchen where a wolf door was his ticket to the outside.

Once outside, he raced across the slate-gray patio, then dove into the woods surrounding the oceanfront cottage and ran along a trail already marked by Hunter and a female, probably his mate. By the time the two of them returned from Hawaii, their scent markings would be two weeks old, and another werewolf coming into the area might think it was unoccupied, allowing him to stake a claim to the territory.

Finn loped through the northern pine and Douglas fir forests, scent-marking the area surrounding each of the five rental cabins. Waves crashed below the cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean breeze shook the pine branches as the clean air filled his lungs. He paused briefly at the cliffside to take another heady breath and watch the foaming waves crest and fall against the beach. He could never get enough of the sea.

But instead of striking from the direction of the sea and returning there after accomplishing his clandestine mission, as he would have done while serving as one of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, Finn was sticking to the land this time. Nothing about this operation would be clandestine. Finn wanted the assassin to know he was here protecting his own, if whoever it was decided to make a hit on anyone else who had been with the team.

Hunter had been like a brother to Finn while they’d served as SEALs, and Finn owed it to Hunter to keep him safe—and Hunter’s sister also, knowing that she could be a target and Hunter wasn’t here to protect her. Not that Meara would see it that way once she learned why Finn was here, he suspected.

Finn leaped over a fallen tree on a pine-needle path farther away from the ocean, breathing in the scents of pine and fresh water trickling by in an ice-cold stream. Neither could mask the distinct smell of another predator. A cougar. And farther in the distance, its potential prey, an elk.

Finn paused, twisting his ears this way and that, listening to the sounds of the ocean, the water in the stream, and the birds twittering and singing to one another, but he could detect no other sound of animals, human or otherwise, traversing the land.

Despite this not being Finn’s territory, he was leaving fresh markings and making it his territory until Hunter returned home. Finn scratched the ground again with his paws to help ensure that any newcomer would know Meara had not been left alone without protection.

Finn loped back toward the house, satisfied he’d left enough of his scent to warn anyone who intended to get close to the territory to back off. He glanced at the drive in front of the wood-frame cabin. No vehicle there yet. From what Chris Tarleton had reluctantly told him, Meara should be returning from the airport in about an hour.