(Naked Werewolf #3) I had gotten this book from the library for last month's Monthly Key Word but I did not get it in time. I really liked it! You just slip right into the story.
Anna is a woman on the run from her abusive husband. She spent some time in Grundy, Alaska doctoring a pack of werewolves. She is worried that her husband will find her and out the pack. So she runs off.
Anna gets a job as a cashier at a grocery store but one night when she leaves she overhears an argument between two men. One says to put the gun away. She is nosy and she one man shoots the other and knock him unconscious. Then the other guy crashes into her Pinto and it explodes. She saves the hurt man and they drive away. She fixes up his gun wound and realizes he is a werewolf. When he comes to, he tells her his name is Caleb and she is staying with him. She knows who he is. He belongs to the pack she just left. But he is going on her and is very sexy. Anna does not trust him and tries to get away but he catches her.
He is a bounty hunter/investigator. Is he after her? Can she get away? Does she want to get away? Will her abusive husband find her?
Caleb Graham is a werewolf by nature, a tracker by profession. He uses his “extra gifts” to find people, and not always in the most legal or ethical manner. He doesn’t care what they’ve done, or who wants them found, as long as his considerable fee is paid. He likes his life simple and uncomplicated.
Anna Moder, former physician to Caleb’s pack, happens across Caleb during a particularly violent “negotiation” that has left him bloodied and unconscious. She helps him, despite the fact that he’s cost her a car, so he insists that she stay with him on the road for a while. As they grow closer, Anna looks past the gruff exterior and and the questionable job to thoroughly decent werewolf underneath.
Anna – who is careful to edit her involvement with Caleb’s pack from their conversations – doesn’t talk about why a nice girl wants to live in the middle of frozen nowhere, but she’s obviously on the run from something. When Anna’s past collides with Caleb’s current assignment from one of his sleazier contacts, Caleb finally has to make a choice—protect his job…or his potential mate?
All the Pretty Pintos
If Gordie Fugate didn’t hurry the hell up and pick out a cereal, I was going to bludgeon him with a canned ham.
I didn’t mind working at Emerson’s Dry Goods, but I was wrapping up a sixteen-hour shift. My back ached. My stiff green canvas apron was chafing my neck. And one of the Glisson twins had dropped a gallon jar of mayo on my big toe earlier. I hadn’t been this exhausted since doing an emergency rotation during my medical residency. The only nice thing I could say about working at Emerson’s was that the owner hadn’t asked for photo identification when I applied, eliminating an awful lot of worry for my undocumented self. Also, I usually dealt with less blood.
Unless, of course, I did bludgeon Gordie with the ham, which would result in a serious amount of cleanup in aisle five.
I only had a few more weeks of checkout duty before I would be moving on, winding my way toward Anchorage. It was just easier that way. Now that I was living in what I called “the gray zone,” I knew there was a maximum amount of time people could spend around me before they resented unanswered personal questions. Of course, I’d also learned a few other things, like how to make an emergency bra or patch a pair of shoes with duct tape. And now I was trying to learn the zen art of not bashing an indecisive cornflake lover over the head with preserved pork products.
I glanced back to Gordie, who was now considering his oatmeal options.
I swore loudly enough to attract the attention of my peroxide-blond fellow retail service engineer Belinda. Middle-aged, pear-shaped, and possessing a smoker’s voice that put that Exorcist kid to shame, Belinda was the assistant manager at Emerson’s, the closest thing to a retail mecca in McClusky, a tiny ditchwater town on the easternmost border of Alaska. Because I was still a probationary employee, I wasn’t allowed to close up on my own. But Belinda was friendly and seemed eager to make me a “lifer” at Emerson’s like herself. I suspected she wasn’t allowed to retire until she found a replacement.
“I’ve known Gordie for almost forty years. He can make a simple decision feel like the end of Sophie’s Choice,” she said, putting a companionable arm around me as I slumped against my counter. It was an accomplishment that I was able to give her a little squeeze in return.
“You’re thinking about throwing one of those canned hams at him, aren’t you?”
I sighed. “I guess I’ve made that threat before, huh?”
Belinda snickered at my irritated tone. I glared at her. She assured me, “I’m laughing with you, Anna, not at you.”
I offered her a weak but genuine smile. “Feels the same either way.”
“Why don’t you go on home, hon?” Belinda suggested. “I know you worked a double when that twit Haley called in sick. For the third time this week, I might add. I’ll close up. You go get some food in you. You’re looking all pale and sickly again.”
I sighed again, smiling at her. When I’d first arrived at Emerson’s, Belinda had taken one look at my waxy cheeks and insisted on sending me home with a “signing-bonus box” of high-calorie, high-protein foods. I was sucking down protein shakes and Velveeta for a week. Every time I put a pound on my short, thin frame, she considered it a personal victory. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my pallor wasn’t from malnutrition but from stress and sleep deprivation. I gave her another squeeze. “I haven’t been sleeping well, that’s all. Thanks. I owe you.”
“Yeah, you do,” she said as I whipped my green Emerson’s apron over my head and stuffed it into my bag. As I made my way to the employee locker room, I heard her yell, “Damn it, Gordie, it’s just Cream of Wheat. It’s not like you’re pulling somebody’s plug!”
Chuckling, I slipped out the back through the employee exit, waiting for the slap of frigid September air to steal my breath. I snuggled deeper into my thick winter jacket, grateful for its insulating warmth. Years before, when I’d first arrived in Alaska, I’d brought only the barest essentials. I’d spent most of my cross-state drive shivering so hard I could barely steer. Eager to help me acclimate, my new neighbors had taken great pains to help me select the most sensible jacket, the most reasonably priced all-weather boots. I missed those neighbors with a bone-deep ache that I couldn’t blame on the cold. I missed the people who had become my family. I missed the valley I’d made home. The thought of trying to make a place for myself all over again tipped my exhaustion into full-on despair.
Fumbling with the keys to my powder-blue-and-rust Pinto, I heard someone say, “Just tell Jake I’ll get him the money in a week.”
A gruffer, calmer voice answered, “Marty, relax. Jake didn’t send me. I just stopped in for a burger. I’m not here for you.”
I closed my eyes, hoping to block out the shadowy forms in the far corner of the employee lot that Emerson’s shared with the Wishy-Washy Laundromat and Flapjack’s Saloon. I didn’t want to see any of this. I didn’t want the liability of witnessing some sort of criminal transaction. I just wanted to go home to my motel room and stand in the shower until I no longer felt the pain of sixteen hours and a jumbo jar of mayonnaise on my feet. I turned my back to the voices, struggling to work the sticky lock on my driver’s-side door.
“Don’t feed me that bullshit,” the reedier, slightly whiny voice countered. “He sent you after me when I owed him ten. You don’t think he’s going to do it again now that I owe him seventeen?”
“I’m telling you, I’m not here for you. But if you don’t put that gun away, I might change my mind.”
Gun? Did he say “gun”?
Who the hell has a gunfight in the parking lot behind a Laundromat?
I focused on keeping my hands from shaking as I jiggled the key in the lock. Stupid circa-1980s tumbler technology! I gave myself another five seconds to open the door before I would just run back to the Emerson’s employee entrance.
That was my plan, until the point when I heard the gunshot . . . and the screech of tires . . . and the roar of an engine coming way too close. I turned just in time to see the back end of a shiny black SUV barreling toward me and my car. I took three steps before throwing myself into the bed of a nearby pickup truck. Even before I peered over the lip of the bed, I knew the loud, tortured metallic squeal was the SUV pulverizing my Pinto.
“Seriously?” I cried, watching as my car disintegrated in front of my very eyes.
The SUV struggled to disengage its back end from the wreckage of my now-inoperable car. As the driver gunned the engine, I followed the beams of the headlights across the lot to a man curled in the fetal position on the ground.
My eyes darted back and forth between the injured man and the growling black vehicle. This was none of my business. I didn’t know this guy. I didn’t know what he’d done to make Mr. SUV want to run him down like a dog. And despite the fact that every instinct told me to stay put, stay down until this guy was a little man-pancake, I launched myself out of the truck bed and ran across the lot. I dashed toward the hunched form on the ground, sliding on the gravel when I bent to help him. I tamped down my instincts to keep him still while I assessed the damage, assuring myself that any wounds he had would definitely prove fatal if he was run over by a large vehicle.
“Get up!” I shouted as the SUV wrenched free of my erstwhile transportation and lurched toward us.
Mr. Pancake-to-Be struggled to his knees. I tucked my arms under his sleeves and pulled, my arms burning with the effort to lift him off the ground.
“Get your butt off the concrete, now!” I grunted, heaving him out of the path of the SUV. I felt a set of car keys dangling out of his jacket pocket. I clicked the fob button until I heard a beep and turned toward the noise.
Just as I got him on his feet, the headlights of the SUV flared. We stumbled forward, falling between his truck and Belinda’s hatchback. The hatchback shuddered with a tortured metallic shriek as the SUV sideswiped it. I jerked the passenger door of the truck open, slid across the seat, and dragged him inside. When I pulled it back, my hand was red and slick with blood. He groaned as he tried to fold his long legs into the cab. I reached over him to slam the door.
“Not smart,” I mumbled, slipping the key into the ignition. “Like ‘and she was never heard from again’ not smart.”