USA Today Bestselling Author
She doesn’t seem to be anyone’s favorite wolf…
Luciana Esposito Barrows never imagined her dream of uniting the Lone Wolves and giving them a home could go so terribly awry. First, her brother rejected her, repudiating her from Seven Hills and leaving her without a powerful ally. Then the U.S. packs put her on notice, monitoring their movements, keeping them contained…then the Russians came. The last person in the world she expected to turn on her, was her own mate.
She was everything to him…
Rayne Barrows never thought of himself as much of a romantic. In his heart, he was a soldier and had always risen to the task where he was needed. Born in the heart of the Delta Crescent pack, he’d grown up alongside a future Alpha and willingly served her father as a faithful Hound. When the battles for ascension began, he couldn’t face those he loved in combat. He chose a solitary path instead. Journeying around the world, he found himself in Italy…and discovered a wolf he could love. Luciana Esposito captured his heart and he followed her—even when he didn’t believe in her cause. Now with a pack in tatters around them and their enemies closing in, Rayne faces his most brutal challenge.
To save the woman he loves and the pack they formed, he challenged her and took her position as alpha. Can their mate bond survive such a betrayal?
I’ve waited a long time for this story, and it was totally worth the wait.
This book opens with a visit from Julian and Dallas, the goal to have Three Rivers operate as the other packs do, through trade. Rayne is skeptical at first but has to agree with the benefits.
Now Luciana has done some pretty dumb things but she did it for love. Unfortunately Rayne took the reins from her in Alpha Challenge. Took the pack from her in what she considers the ultimate betrayal.
What she doesn’t realize or even understand for that matter, is the fact that American packs are far different from the one she was raised in. So she keeps failing at least in her own eyes.
Rayne did what he had to do and has been giving her the space she says she needs. It is putting a strain on the pack and their mate bond. He loves her and now he has to win her back.
However the appearance of a Seven Hills Centurion, Rodrigo complicates matters.
This is a favorite scene.
More dry wall flaked away and his claws dug into the wall itself, leaving deep grooves. That would need to be repaired. “Fucking hell, Luciana. I want to talk to you—we need to talk.”
“No,” she said, and left it there. If he didn’t let her go soon, she would have to fight her way to freedom and as he’d already proven, she couldn’t beat him. Not when the last thing she’d wanted to do was harm him. The desire handicapped her severely.
Too bad he couldn’t say the same.
Though in truth, the desire to protect him waned in the face of his continued to push at her.
A portion of the frame tore away and then Rayne dropped his arm, effectively opening the cage. She strode past him and then descended the steps maintaining an air of absolute calm even if her agitated wolf wanted to either flee or fight. Her beast didn’t understand the strain she put them both through, or the conflicting emotions tearing them apart.
Her respite proved brief as he continued his pursuit down the stairs and into the kitchen. She’d planned to make coffee, but perhaps she’d just head out and let him trail her across their territory. Eventually, he had to get bored and leave her be, right?
Then in a fit of pique, she turned to the coffee maker. The previous evening’s stew sat on the stove, untouched. The rich meaty scent of it, despite having cooled, tempted her but her stomach rolled at the thought of eating anything.
She took her time, grinding the coffee beans. A triple shot of espresso would be delicious. Rayne settled against the counter, his arms folded as he regarded her. As long as she kept him out of her periphery, she could ignore him, but not the tremors his stare left eddying across her.
Unfortunately, he remained too near the espresso machine itself so she couldn’t miss the traces of earth, bacon, coffee, and grease from the diner and sawdust—likely from one of the construction projects—underscoring a particular note of juniper and berries.
Resentment tangled with the barbed wire of jealousy, sinking deeper under her skin where the bloody marks wouldn’t be visible.
Giving a hard twist to the handle, she started the hot water flowing through the grounds to make her espresso. The dark, rich scent did little to blot out the scent of the female on his skin. Had he spent the night with her after sending Luciana home like some errant child? And if he wanted the little bitch, why couldn’t he simply let her go?
Why couldn’t she dismiss him?
Once she’d pulled the three shots, she lifted the cup and stepped away from him. She needed to drown out the nauseating ideas conjured by the wolf on him. She scented others, many others, but only Dani’s scent came through clear and distinct. Closing her eyes, Luciana took a deep drink of the espresso.
“You can pretend and ignore me all you want,” Rayne said, his tone softening from the earlier harsh rasp. “We can’t stay at this impasse. It’s not good for the pack. It’s not good for us. It’s not good for you.”
“The pack?” Her upper lip curled. “Really? I thought you wanted to be alpha for the good of the pack.” Wasn’t that his whole damn excuse for the challenge in the first place?
“And I wasn’t wrong.” He matched her tone for tone. “We were losing ground and if you continued to consort with those damn Russians, the other packs would have destroyed us…destroyed you.”
The snort escaped her before she could give it a second thought. “No they wouldn’t have. They were too busy chasing shadows and fighting for a reason to not destroy us. They had multiple opportunities and the only two alphas among them powerful enough to issue such an order were outvoted by the softer, younger ones.”
“Serafina is neither soft nor young and she was on the fence, she was gauging our success. If she caught even a whiff of what you were doing, she would have sided with Diesel and Cassius.”
There had never been any question about which alphas were the most dangerous to their cause. If Julian and his Enforcers had been a pack then, the danger to them would have increased.
“And it doesn’t matter, what I did had nothing to do with them and everything to do with protecting the pack, not that you would know.” She sucked in a breath, trying to stamp out the furious anger roiling through her. “Whatever…enough. I will not debate this with you. The Volchitsa are gone. You are alpha. The damn pack is secure, you have your wish.” She punctuated the sentence by slamming her empty cup down before she pivoted to stride to the door.
She made it two steps before Rayne grabbed her arm and dragged her backwards. Instinct warred with preservation, and she drove her elbow into his gut and her boot onto his bare foot. The distinctive sound of bones snapping preceded his fingers releasing their bite against her arm, and then she faced him and they both glared.
If she’d realized he wasn’t wearing shoes, she probably wouldn’t have stomped so hard. Probably.
Then again, he should learn to his privilege of touching her had been revoked.
“You have your position, you have your pack—but never forget, you do not have me or any rights where I am concerned.” It physically pained her to say the words, a sharp, jagged thrust to the gut.
His eyes flashed and his wolf glowed in his eyes. He narrowed the space between them until his heat rolled over her, but he laid not one finger upon her. “I have every right where you are concerned. You are still mine.”
“A hollow claim for an even emptier promise. You can put whatever name on it you wish, but I will never belong to you again.” No matter how much it ripped at her heart or left her wolf wounded to hear it. Still her other half roused to brush against the inside of her skin, incensed and ready to snap.
They both bit when wounded.
Pain flickered across Rayne’s face, too swiftly to be tracked and then a granite mask settled in place. “Be that as it may, you can dismiss whatever you want, but you are mine and you will allow no other near you. Nor will you leave, do you understand?”
The demand for obedience struck her, his dominance over hers. They were too evenly matched in some ways for her to acquiesce to his control. It crashed against her like a heavy wave upon rocks. She might be permanently stuck, but the water would not dislodge her.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.” She’d heard the phrase often enough in the past months, and she’d never found a use for it until now. The barb struck, striking like flint against his stony exterior. His jaw flexed and the grinding of his teeth echoed in the harsh space separating them.
They stood there, bound in the vicious jaws of their mated trap. Neither looked away, and neither gave in. His wolf all but snarled at hers, and hers bristled, hackles raised. They hadn’t wanted to hurt him before.
He might not be so lucky a second time.
Finally, Rayne’s eyes bled back to green and he exhaled a long breath. “Do not leave our territory.” It was as good as a by your leave as far as she was concerned and she strode for the door. She needed air, any kind of air…and to clear her nose of the scent of the wolf clinging to him.
But she also needed to rid herself of his scent, all dark, musky and powerful. Alpha suited him, though she would be loathe to admit it aloud. It was the same power that attracted her in the first place. Power tempered by gentleness and warmth.
One foot out the door and his last words slammed into her. “Stay the fuck away from that Rodrigo bastard, Luciana. Trust me, I will know and I’m already planning to kill him. Keep going near him and I’ll make sure I skin him first.”
The words jolted her, and when she spun to retaliate, she found herself alone. He’d left the kitchen before she’d made her escape and he’d had the last word.
She had no damn interest in Rodrigo even as a possible tie to her former home. The wolf took too many liberties and she hadn’t forgotten his spying the night before.
Pain ripped through her middle, and she forced herself away from the house, away from Rayne and farther, away from the town. She bypassed the main street and headed out into the fields, blindly walking as fast as her legs would carry her and she refused to lose it there. No one would see her weakness, or her loss.
She made it a full mile before the first tear fell.
And a second before the sobs broke from her throat.
Heather Long. Outlaw Wolves (Kindle Locations 843-913). Heather Long. Kindle Edition.
A rather horrible twist of fate lands Luciana severely injured and near death. It’s Rayne and the pack that keep her alive until the healer can arrive.
The healer was a pleasant surprise, as was all the visitors that come to aid the pack that needs help in a unique way. You’ll love who shows up as much as I did.
All I can tell you folks, is have your tissues handy, and keep hydrated.
Plenty of tension, revelations, heart-breaking scenes, and the simmer to sizzle is worth every page. Yes, Luciana and Rayne win me over, eventually.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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USA Today bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.
When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.