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Jared (River Pack Wolves 3)(3)

By:Alisa Woods

A flicker of movement outside the house caught his attention. The guards were private security—Garrison Allied, one of Riverwise’s competitors; Jared had checked out the company ahead of time, of course—but their patrols were all on the front side of the house where the winding driveway climbed the mountain to reach the estate. The back of the house opened up to the national forest, and that’s where the movement was.

Jared swung his scope and scanned the darkened tree line—he caught sight of her just as she disappeared into the forest. Fully clothed. Running like the devil was on her tail. The Senator’s daughter just… ran away.

What the hell?

The rest of the house was quiet. Her father was slamming back a second drink.

No one had noticed.

Jared gritted his teeth and tried to concentrate… but even before he lined up his scope again, he knew it was no use. His wolf was whining his ass off—Jared would have to go after her to make sure she was okay.

And then come back to kill her father.

Jesus, he was so fucked up.

He abandoned his rifle, leaving it set up under the tree, and shifted to his wolf form. The ravine between him and the house was long and deep. It would take forever to get through the underbrush as a man, but his wolf was strong and had four times the leap. He charged down the slope, using all his senses to navigate the complicated, dark terrain.

What the hell he was doing?

This wasn’t the first time he’d had that kind of thought—sometimes he wondered if the frontal lobes of his brain were actually functioning anymore. He seemed to move on instinct more and more often. There were whole days he lost in the Olympic forest when he let his wolf take control, just as he was now. It was freeing—as if being wolf was a more innocent state. The sins he had committed were done by human hands. His wolf’s paws hadn’t pulled the trigger, again and again.

There were days when he thought he might go lone wolf. Never turn human again. Forget all the things that had happened, the mate he’d lost, the people he’d killed. But he knew that was just a fantasy. He could only be free of the nightmares in brief snatches when he was absorbed in work or exhausted by training. Or when he let his wolf run free like he was now, chasing after this girl.

This wolf daughter of the shifter-hating Senator.

It was hilarious and so fucked up. And it had derailed him completely. He shouldn’t care about her—he should focus on the mission—but his wolf had latched onto her like she was suddenly everything that mattered in the world. Even the man in him couldn’t just let her run off and get lost in the woods. Or hurt. He frowned with that thought and put more power into his stride up the far side of the ravine. He gave wide berth to the glass house and caught her scent not far into the forest bordering the Senator’s house.

Then he stumbled upon her clothes.

She had shifted again, leaving her jeans and t-shirt just inside the edge of the forest, where they wouldn’t be visible from the house. This girl had done this before, running off into the woods to be a wolf. Maybe. Her shift before had seemed… accidental. Maybe she had barely made it to the trees before losing control.

He scooped up her clothes in his mouth, which made it difficult to pick up her scent. He was overwhelmed by the blueberries-and-cream mixed with angry-sweat smell that permeated them. He dropped her clothes again, padded away, found her scent-trail, retrieved the jeans and t-shirt, and charged off through the forest. He had to repeat that little routine a couple more times, but eventually, he broke out into a meadow in the moonlight. It was really just a small clearing, crowded at the edges by overgrowth from the forest, but it was open enough to easily see her prancing in the tall grass—not least because her wolf’s brilliant white fur shone like a small moon had dropped down to play in the meadow. A light, growling sort of sound accompanied her dance. He couldn’t decide if she was angry or just frustrated. Or maybe she was singing. It had a lyrical quality to it, almost like she was talking to herself. In wolf.

It was kind of adorable. Deep in his chest, a humming sound started, matching hers—like a growl but not quite—and his open mouth panted as he watched. His wolf was reacting to her in a way he didn’t understand. He didn’t reach out to her mentally, although that should’ve been possible—they were both in wolf form. Instead, he picked up her clothes, which had tumbled from his open mouth to the grass, and trotted toward her across the small field.

He could see the exact moment when she caught sight of him—her small wolf body jumped three feet in the air. When she landed, that white fur of hers puffed out and turned her into an extremely fuzzy version of the beautiful singing-and-dancing wolf from before. He slowed his pace. He was sure her growl was meant to be menacing, but it was about as threatening as a very small, very angry kitten.