“Maybe we can help you find your way.” The voice behind her suggested as the steel hard hands pulled her closer against his tall male body. “Maybe you’d like to party with us a little first, though.”

It wasn’t a question; it was a statement of intent. Merinus swallowed tightly as she fought to keep her sanity as the fear washed over her. She was in a shitload of trouble and she knew it. God. What did Kane tell her? What did he say to do?

As the man behind her tightened his grip, she released the muscles of her legs, lifting her feet from the ground. A startled sound from the man behind her was her only warning. As she began to fall, Merinus tucked her body and rolled away from the men then jumped to her feet to run. Her screams shattered the forest as she heard the first guy give a quick order to catch her. She ran, and she screamed. She didn’t try to conserve energy, because she knew she most likely wouldn’t make it to the jeep anyway, so she used it to pierce the lonely countryside with her terrified cries. She almost made it to the jeep. She was within feet of the protective shelter when she was tackled, her body slamming into the hard, gravel encrusted ground with enough force to knock the breath from her body and to still her cries.

“Bitch,” the man cursed as she cried out. He jerked her arms behind her and she was hauled roughly to her feet.

Fighting to breathe, the metallic taste of her own blood in her mouth, the sickening stench of her own terror wrapped around her as she was once again face to face with one of her attackers.

“I’m a journalist,” she gasped. “Merinus Tyler. The National Forum. There will be people looking for me.”

“And what’s a pretty little journalist like yourself doing around here?” If it were possible, his voice became colder, crueler. “Maybe we should teach you where not to stick your pretty little nose, Ms. Tyler.”

Merinus had no warning, she had nothing to prepare her for the hand that shot out and hit her face with enough force to snap her head around and send stars shooting across her vision. As the world seemed to darken around her, she could have sworn she heard deep-throated growls and a vicious feline snarl echo

through the forest.

Merinus fell to the ground, dazed as she was suddenly released, the sound of her attackers’ hard soled boots thudding quickly away from her as several gunshots were fired. Bracing her hand on the rough gravel of the road, she fought desperately to scramble to the SUV. She had to get in the truck. The cell phone was there. She would call the sheriff, surely he knew enough about the area to find her.


“Easy.” Male hands supported her carefully, even as she shrank from the touch with a ragged cry. “It’s okay, come on, let’s hurry and get you in the truck and get you the hell out of here.”

Merinus felt the soft seat, fought to pull herself onto it despite the hands that lifted her tenderly, if quickly into it.

“Get started now.” The rough order was given from whoever jumped in next to her and slammed the door closed.

“What the hell is she doing out here anyway?” a female voice demanded as the motor of the truck fired up and the quick lurch and rough jerking of the vehicle signaled the speed the driver had pulled out with. Breathing easier now, Merinus raised her head and stared into the most electrifying, golden colored eyes she had ever seen. A gasp escaped her lips, and then to her profound humiliation and distress, she felt darkness closing slowly over her.

“I’m gonna faint…” Darkness closed over her, soft and inviting as she slumped against Callan’s chest.

“Shit.” Callan cradled her close to his chest with one arm while he braced himself with the other. He was still fucking shaking. He couldn’t help but clutch her against him, his cheek pressed against her head as he thanked God over and over that he had gotten to her in time. What the hell was she doing up there? There was nothing but broken cliffs and wilderness for miles in every direction. He knew she was desperate to find the track into his driveway, but surely she had enough sense to know it wasn’t up there.

“Hey, look at this.” Sherra extended a piece of paper to him as she fought to move the vehicle quickly down the mountain. “Where are we taking her? Your place or her room?”

“Her room.” Callan took the paper from her hand, glancing at the scribbled directions written on it.

“Where the hell did she get this?”

He met Sherra’s gaze in the rear view mirror.

“Looks like the boys are wanting to play, Callan,” she said softly. “They’ve seen you with her, know she’s searching for you.”

A tool. That’s all she had been to them. A means of taunting him, of taking something they thought he wanted. He hadn’t been careful enough. Somehow, he had let the bastards see his interest in her. He lifted her into his lap, holding her closer, absorbing the shock of the jeep bouncing over the rutted road to protect her from it. She was so light in his arms, her body delicate and small against his taller, broader


He inhaled her scent, fighting to ignore the hard throb of his erection beneath his jeans, the desire to caress her skin with his lips. He contented himself with rubbing his cheek against the silk of her hair. A soft, peaches and cream scent lingered in it, as it did on her skin. Tempting him. He always had been partial to peaches in any form.

“Callan, what are you going to do?” Sherra pressed him.

Merinus was in danger now, they both knew it.

“Put Dayan on watch for her,” he told her. “She doesn’t know him. Tell him to stay as close as possible, just in case. Have him call me if trouble comes around her.”

“Trouble doesn’t have to find her, she finds it, evidently,” Sherra remarked. Callan smiled, his fingers rubbing over Merinus’ arm softly. She didn’t back down much, he had to give her that. She was stubborn as hell, but he didn’t consider that a good trait in this case.

“She still out of it?” Sherra asked worriedly.

“Yeah. So hurry and get to that damned motel before her nosy ass wakes up. We’ll be in for it good if you don’t.”

He could just imagine her pleasure, which wouldn’t be mutual, to find herself in his arms right now. Not to mention the damned questions that would come pouring out of her mouth. She was just waiting on the chance to lay into him, and he wasn’t too eager to give it to her. It was coming. He knew the only way to avoid her would be to leave the county again. Something he was going to do soon anyway to lure the damned soldiers away before they learned about the whole Pride. As far as the Council knew, the others had died in that damned explosion more than ten years ago. He wanted to keep it that way.

“Here we are.” Sherra pulled up to the motel room door swiftly. She grabbed Merinus’ purse, searched around then pulled the key from its depths.

Callan let her open the door before he quickly exited the vehicle, Merinus limp in his arms, and strode inside. He laid her on the bed, noticing the white robe that lay on the mattress, the remains of her dinner on the table. The television was on, the sound turned down, a low light burned beside the bed. He moved away from her, reluctant, regretting the need to leave before she awoke. He touched her cheek, a fleeting caress, then before he could stop himself, he leaned over, touching his lips to the corner of her mouth, his tongue barely glancing the soft curves. She was as soft and as sweet as he knew she would be.

“Callan, we need to hurry,” Sherra whispered from outside the door. “Before someone sees us.”

Merinus’ lips parted, a low groan vibrating in her throat as her head turned, unconsciously seeking more of the caress. Her tongue touched his, hesitant, unsure. He fought to keep the kiss light, to deny his need to stroke the heated depths of her mouth as he wanted to. He contented himself with a soft tangle with her tongue, then drew back quickly and forced himself to leave the room. He closed the door softly behind him as Tanner’s truck pulled in beside the jeep. Following Sherra he

jumped into the cab quickly, silently, watching the door as Tanner reversed. He stared straight ahead, ignoring Sherra’s worried look, ignoring his own needs pulsing hot and demanding through his blood stream. Son of a bitch, he wanted Merinus. He wanted to lay against her, stroke every sweet curve of that slender body before burying his cock so deep inside her that neither one of them would ever be free. As they pulled out of the parking lot, Callan watched as Dayan pulled into a small, secluded parking area within sight of Merinus’ door. She would be watched carefully until he could leave. He should have left sooner, before those damned mercenaries had somehow figured out his attraction for her. Before they decided to use her against him.

“Call Taber in when we get to the station,” he told Tanner, his voice cold as he made his decision. “We go after those bastards tonight.”

“Sure thing, Callan.” Tanner’s voice was edged with fury. He may not be personally involved, but Merinus was a female, she was supposed to be protected, no matter the cost. The younger man rarely came to violence until faced with the abuse of a female, young or old.

“Sherra, you go back to the motel, send Dayan back.” Callan knew Dayan would be pissed, his answer was to ignore the bastards. “You stick around and watch out for her, take Dawn if you want to.”

Sherra was more than capable of protecting herself, but Callan hated sending her alone anyway.

“Get a piece of them for me.” Memories and bitterness filled her voice.

“For all of us then.” Callan nodded as Tanner pulled into the Gass Up. “Let’s get things together and we’ll head out.”

They knew where the soldiers camped, though the men were unaware of it. Like the others before them, they thought their training and their precautions would hide them from the instincts ingrained in Callan’s DNA. They would find out otherwise.


Merinus woke up aching the next morning. Not the flu or summer cold kind of ache. The utterly female ache of needing a man. How a virgin was supposed to know what that ache meant, she wasn’t certain. But there was no doubt that was the cause of it. Her cunt was slick and creamy, her panties damp, too damned damp to suit her. Her breasts were swollen, her nipples distended and hard, and she could have swore she tasted cinnamon on her lips.

Her lips were sensitive. She ran her tongue over them. They weren’t swollen, just sensitive enough for her to be very aware of them. Then she remembered the night before. She frowned, her brows snapping together in instant ire. Damn him. He hadn’t even stuck around long enough to wake her up?

She jerked to an upright position, then groaned roughly as her sore muscles protested the effort. Oh hell, now that just hurt. There was no cause for those bastards to act that way. She groaned roughly as she reached for her cell phone. Kane was supposed to take care of this. She keyed his number in swiftly as she stood to her feet. Waiting on Kane to answer, she shed her clothes and pulled on a big, soft cotton T-shirt until she could get to a hot shower.

“Where the hell were you last night?” His voice came over the line with a stern, cranky tone.

“Watching soldiers,” she informed him tensely, knowing better than to tell him the truth. “There are two on the ridge above the Lyons’ house. I thought you had that taken care of.”

His contacts in the private and government sector put him in a place where he would have, or should have known those men were being sent out there. There was silence across the line.

“Damn,” he finally cursed quietly. “Pull out, Merinus. Someone’s gone to the trouble to hide these bastards from me. I’ll bring Dad and we’ll come in—”

“And I’ll head for another paper at the first offer,” she cut in. “You aren’t pulling me off this, Kane.”

“Dammit, Merinus, it’s not safe anymore.”

“So find out who they are and give them a call. Tell them you’ll rip their balls off and feed ‘em to your favorite dog or something,” she suggested. “Make them pull back until I can finish this. Don’t start making excuses, either. I know you can do it.”

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