Liberty Slater bent and retrieved the last sheet in the basket. She pinned it up neatly and brushed the pale lavender cotton smooth. Letting the sheets dry on the line always made them smell wonderful. When she laid her head down at night, the scent of the forest would tickle her nose, reminding her of bright sun-filled days and thick stands of pine. Placing her hands behind her back, she stretched. The slight pull of muscle felt delicious.
“Libby, he’s here again.” Rachael, her sister-in-law, spoke softly from behind her.
She shielded her eyes from the sun and looked toward the woods. At first, she saw nothing through the thick foliage. Turning her head a little to the west, she smiled as she caught sight of thick brown-and-blond fur peeking out from behind an oak. Wise blue eyes stared at her, an open invitation to join him.
“Rachael, could you check on Denny? I’ll be in later.” She started in the direction of the wolf.
“I always am.” She was in no danger from this particular wolf. He’d been lurking in the woods behind her home for months now. He wasn’t part of her shifter pack; hell, from what she could tell, he didn’t have an ounce of shifter in him. It was why she loved being around him. He called to her wild side, the beast within. He was pure and untainted by any human hierarchy and painful choices and joyous responsibility.
When she reached the edge of the tree line separating her yard from the forest, she stepped into another world.
She made it to the first ancient oak and sighed. Of course, the smart bugger was nowhere to be seen. She walked further into a dense group of pine. Small, dried branches crunched under her feet, announcing her presence. There was no reason to be quiet when her wolf came to visit.
She plopped down on a large stump, the same one she always sat on. She didn’t mind that he made her wait for his approach. No matter how many times she’d been in his presence, he was still wild and therefore cautious about his surroundings. He didn’t make her wait long. From her left, he moved slowly toward her, his nose almost hitting the forest floor, sniffing around for anything out of the ordinary.
She loved observing him. Wild wolves were sensual in nature, dangerous and unpredictable. His muscles moved with tight precision beneath his pelt. His legs were long and powerful and could run with the wind if he so chose. He raised his nose in the air before approaching her further. He searched for something on the breeze. Satisfied with what the air told him, he pushed his muzzle back to the ground.
As a shifter, she appreciated his innate traits, his caution and deliberation when he drew near her. He was always aware of his surroundings. His ears would prick up at the smallest noise; blue eyes would stare into the dense brush.
Most of all, she envied his freedom. He could run, hunt, and never be a prisoner to anyone or anything. His only threat was mankind. Her kind. While Liberty was a wolf shifter, true wild wolves weren’t necessarily any friendlier to her than they would be to a normal human.
It didn’t take long before he was standing in front her. He was a damn magnificent animal. Much larger than most male wolves, his eyes were brilliant blue with flecks of brown and green mixed in. They were wise, and she knew they held the mysteries of the universe in their depths. He didn’t give a damn about pack politics or behaving in a certain way to please an alpha.
“Hello, handsome.” She smiled as he circled her slowly before coming to rest at her feet. Reaching out, she stroked his soft fur. “You haven’t been around for almost a week.”
His cold nose pushed at her palm. She took his cue and scratched under his chin and behind his ears. He flipped over on his back, exposing his belly. The gesture stunned and moved her. Her eyes watered as the magnificent creature lay on his back, giving her his ultimate trust.
Kneeling down, she took the gift he offered and slowly rubbed his stomach. Goose bumps rose on her arms as she smoothed her hands back and forth slowly while he watched her, never breaking their gaze as she massaged his soft underbelly. People who imagined themselves experts of these beautiful creatures were sure wolves were nothing but instinct, following the imprints in their DNA and evolution, but she knew differently. This wolf knew her, knew her heartbeat, her touch. Sometimes she was sure he could see what was buried in her soul.
“Why can’t I find a man with your temperament?” she mused. “Of course Dale wouldn’t let me go, not with Denny being so little. He’s going to try and make my little boy into a man like him.” She was saddened thinking about what her father-in-law was capable of. Since the death of her husband, Dennis, Dale had gone off the deep end. He kept Liberty and her son prisoner, ensuring no harm could come to Denny. He wanted to groom her three-year-old to take his place as head of the pack one day.
Refusing to think any more about an old alpha who made his family’s life hell, she lost herself in the feel of the wolf’s coat. She leaned down and placed her head on the animal’s chest. Closing her eyes, she listened to the rhythm of his heartbeat. It was something she used to do with Dennis when they were both in wolf form. She reveled in the whoosh of blood running through his veins and the increasing beat of his heart—it gave her a sense of security in her lonely world.
Her heartbeat mimicked his, her breath matched his. Her blood rushed through her, exhilarating the part of her that was pure animal. Libby could’ve lain next to him all day. He provided her a level of comfort, she felt safe in his presence. Something she hadn’t had since Dennis passed.
Looking up through the massive trees, she caught part of the evening sky. It would be dark soon and she had to be in the house before Dale came home and started looking around. She missed stargazing at night, feeling the cool grass on her back as she tried to make out the constellations. She’d never been able to identify anything except the Big Dipper so she made up her own. She missed the stillness found in the dark, the chirp of crickets, the hoot of owls and the whistle of the wind through the trees. She sighed. No point in dwelling on things she couldn’t control. Her life revolved around Denny, and she was hell bent he would be raised to be a good man.
Reluctantly, she sat up. “It’s time for me to go, handsome. I can’t get caught out after dark.” He immediately rose from the ground, rubbing his muzzle against her arm. “I wish I could stay. I know it sucks, but you’ll just have to promise to come back and see me again soon.”
He gazed at her, and it was there again in his brilliant eyes. Knowledge of her and what she was saying. Her heart ached as she stood. She patted his head once more and turned away. The tears stinging her eyes made no sense; he wasn’t human. She may talk to him, but he didn’t really care about her troubles or dreams.
She turned back and cried out in surprise. Standing where she left her wolf stood a man. A very large, very naked man. A shifter.
She wanted to vomit, she wanted to cry. Her wolf was not just a wolf, but a shifter like herself.
The tiny amount of peace she’d felt over the past few weeks was dashed in an instant as she looked up into the same blue eyes that were now housed in a gorgeous human male.
“Who the hell are you?” She was glued to where she stood, unable to move even though she knew she should run.
“My name is Damon Hix, and I’m not here to hurt you.” Libby recognized the tone he was using. Soft and soothing, he was trying to keep her from running like a scared rabbit. But he’d read her wrong. She wasn’t about to run. She was too pissed to run.
“You’re not one of Dale’s men.” It wasn’t a question, she knew everyone in their small pack. Dale didn’t allow outsiders in often, and if this man had been brought in she would have known.
“Dale thinks I am. He sent me to keep an eye on you when he’s not here.”
Fury, red and raw, replaced her normally calm demeanor and she rushed him. Taking him by surprise, she tackled him to the forest floor, her hands flying in a flurry of punches and slaps.
“Stop, dammit. Let me explain.” He grabbed her wrists, his powerfully strong arms holding her still.
“What’s there to explain? You’re spying on me. Have you been going back and telling him everything I’ve said?” She refused to cry, refused to break down in front of this man. All the things she’d whispered to him. The hatred and fear of her father-in-law, her dreams for her son and most damning of all—her loneliness.
“I haven’t told him anything. I’m here for a completely different reason.”
Those eyes, those damn pale blue eyes begged her to listen. She relaxed a little but he didn’t let go. It was an unnecessary caution. She was dying to hear what he had to say. There was no way he could justify his actions, at least no way she could possibly think of.
“I was sent here by your brother.”
She blinked. Okay, now she felt like a fool. The man was off his rocker.
“You’re a liar. My parents died in a car crash when I was two. Dale’s sister took me in and raised me as her own before she died.”
“That was a lie told to your adoptive mother. You were kidnapped when you were a baby. You have a brother and two sisters.”
She scanned his face looking for evidence of a lie. She’d be able to sense it. Her instincts were sharp and there was nothing in his voice, in his scent that indicated he was full of shit. But then again, he’d fooled her for how many weeks? She couldn’t believe a word he said. But oh, how she wanted to!
“How the hell did you convince Dale to let you enter the pack?” She knew her father-in-law. The day Dennis died Dale lost it, basically putting their pack in emergency mode around strangers. He was determined to keep his grandson safe and allowing a new pack member in went against their new reality.
“My cousin Vince is part of this pack and head of Dale’s security.”
Vince Mathers—she knew him too well. He was typical pack security, big, bad and brutish with a serious attitude. He was also too stupid to realize her wolf was here for another reason.
“And is Vince aware of your real motives?”
“Hardly. We weren’t exactly close growing up, but I have an airtight story with the right credentials. Dale figured he could keep a close eye on you if I stayed in wolf form and you’d never be the wiser.”
Of course he’d think that. Dale had never respected her and only tolerated her because she’d married his son.
Her early adrenaline rush was gone and she became aware she was sitting on his naked torso. A hard-as-a-rock, muscle-bound torso. This was so not the time to get hot and bothered by the hunk under her.
“Your brother is Nolan Alexander. Go online and check him out. I have more proof but not on me.” His smile nearly knocked her on her ass as awareness coursed through her. She was attracted to this stranger, this man sent to spy on her. She needed to get a grip.
From the hardness near her ass, she knew he was attracted to her as well. She hopped up and immediately looked down at what had been poking her so firmly. The rest of his body was as perfect as his face. She closed her eyes and groaned. Why couldn’t anything in her world be easy? He sat up, not bothering to hide, nor be ashamed of, the erection he was sporting.
“So what happens now? I could go to Dale and tell him everything.”
“I know. Nolan wants you to come home to Michigan.”
Michigan? Away from Virginia and more importantly away from Dale and his pack. It was the answer to her deepest and most often whispered prayer. But…
“Why should I believe a word you say to me? You’re a complete stranger and this could all be a setup by Dale to see what I’d say.” She wished like hell her inner alarm was going off, screaming danger, danger. The only thing going on inside her was a strange little warmth starting in her belly and slowly spreading outward.
He stood, and she groaned inwardly as she scanned him from head to toe. Damn, but he was beautiful to look at. At least six-three, with wicked-broad shoulders and a tapered waist. Her gaze tripped over his still-hard cock and a little voice inside wondered what he would feel like inside her.
She shook her head to clear it and clenched her fists to keep from reaching out to touch his pale skin. Her palms were actually sweating as she fought the urge to taste him.
“Come back tomorrow. I’ll have more proof.”
“Fine, but if you’re screwing with me I’ll expose you.”
He laughed, a deep rich tone that skimmed across her flesh and tightened her nipples.
“I can’t promise to keep my hands off you, but I won’t do anything to harm you or your son.”
Libby made no response. Her wolf, the animal she’d trusted and the one creature she’d come to rely on, was a man. A man she was deeply attracted to and one she sure as hell couldn’t trust.
“Tomorrow, same time.” She quickly turned away from him. The longer she looked at him the hungrier she became and she was not about to give this man any ammunition to use against her until she could verify what he was telling her.
If he was the one person who could get her and Denny out of this place.
* * * *
Damon didn’t take his eyes off Liberty until she’d shut the door behind her.
He retrieved his clothes from behind a tree. Fuck, he was agitated, confused and so fucking turned on he wanted to howl. Shoving his hard cock into the front of his jeans, he winced.
Hiding in his wolf form had been too much for him to take tonight; he’d wanted—needed—to touch Liberty Slater as a human male. Her caresses had been gentle but firm as she massaged his coat, and the memory of her fingers sinking into his pelt clamored through him. Sadness and longing had emanated from her, cloaking her in an invisible shell. Her scent was filled with it and all he wanted to do was wrap her in his embrace and tell her everything was going to be all right.
Every time he visited, he fought the urge to shift and take her in his arms, enfold her in the warmth of his body. He wanted to bury his nose in her hair and breathe the scent of the delicate honeysuckle shampoo she used in deep.
She was a natural beauty, her long brown hair kept in a single braid. She always wore simple shift dresses that fell just below her knees. Her nose turned up slightly, and was sprinkled with freckles he longed to slide his finger down. He loved when she turned her large brown eyes and thick sooty lashes on him. He’d never seen her in makeup or high heels, but she didn’t need them. Liberty Slater was all woman, with lush curves and a creamy complexion and to him there were none more beautiful than her.
Damon went to bed every night hard and woke up every morning even harder. He could have relieved himself. There was more than one willing female in the small town where he was staying, but he wasn’t interested in them. He preferred one particular woman, and he was going to have her—after he freed her from Slater’s pack and got her the hell out of the state of Virginia.
He flipped his cell open and hit speed dial. His alpha wanted his sister home and Nolan expected updates on any progress Damon was making, even if it was just a voicemail message. “I made contact. We need to make a plan and fast. She’ll have to be moved soon.” Slipping the phone back into his pocket he raised his nose in the air. There was no hint of another shifter in the area. Dale Slater, asshole alpha extraordinaire, never left Liberty or her son unguarded, and he’d become the lucky one to keep watch over her.
Dale knew Liberty came into the woods whenever he was gone. In his mind it was only logical to send in a wolf she didn’t know. As long as he stayed in his animal form Damon was the perfect spy. He reported back to Dale faithfully. Always boring details about her walking through the forest doing nothing more. He never told the old man about her talking to him or what she’s said…
And now he had a personal stake—he hadn’t counted on his attraction to her. Each time she’d come searching the tree line for him, he became more excited, the attraction growing over days and weeks. He’d spent hours in the woods long after she returned home just watching, hoping to catch a glance of her through the windows.
In truth, he was scared at the depth of his need to feel her under him. He was solitary by nature, always on the move, never satisfied with one thing for long and that included females.
Always looking for some flaw, some reason to get rid of a lover, he ran from the possibility of ever falling in love.
The excuses he told himself were always the same. He was too picky. No woman would ever meet his expectations. He would take off for weeks at a time, always searching for something tangible to hold onto. He was well educated, constantly learning, pushing himself to the limits. It was all in a vain attempt to fill the emptiness residing in his soul.
He never found real peace, a lasting reprieve from his own insecurities, his own real needs.
Holding back a part of himself was easy, as was never truly being honest with anyone. Hell, he wasn’t honest with himself. He’d refused to confront who he was, or even question what it was he truly wanted. He’d become a pro at never acknowledging the good and second guessing everything. He was even careful what he said and how he said it, hiding behind a smile and a joke and all the while feeling numb inside. He longed for warmth, for something other than himself. He yearned to open up, to let his deepest fears and brightest hopes out. He was ready to lay himself bare, wounds and all. The good and bad.
He’d never wanted to think about his reasons for running. Meeting Liberty stirred up the painful childhood he thought he’d buried deep. Memories of his mother, who was forced to become the head of their pack when his weak-willed father took off in the night. Her new responsibilities had changed her; she was no longer the mother of a brood of seven. Instead she had to make life and death decisions, play pack politics, do things she’d never wanted to do in order to protect her status as alpha.
His mother had unwittingly taken her hurt over their father out on Damon and his brothers. Never in a physical sense, but she’d cut them off emotionally from the time he was eight years old.
He spent a good portion of the next ten years doing everything to please her but all she saw when she looked at him was his father’s lookalike. He struck out on his own the minute he turned eighteen and eventually found his way to Arlen Alexander. The man took him in like a son, gave him an education and a place where he belonged.
In the years since he’d come to understand the horrible position his own mother had been forced into. He realized she’d acted the way she did because she was trying to protect him and his siblings from others intent on taking over the pack. It left him scarred in some ways and angry at his father; he was so afraid that he might turn out the way his old man had, and in a sense it was true. He’d been running from love and intimacy for so long he’d become his father.
In Liberty, he could see the possibilities he’d always denied himself. Without ever touching her and with only hearing her voice, feeling it vibrate against his skin as she spoke, Damon understood himself for the first time. Despite his fear, he was not his father.
Whatever excuses he’d used in the past, he knew, deep within, that she would see through the bullshit, past his fears. Even now she’d influenced him in a profound way. She’d forced him to examine his problems, his excuses for not being in the present. She hadn’t wanted anything more from him than a few moments of rest from her prison and he’d been able to give it.
It was why he’d decided to reveal himself to her. The time had come to move this assignment along. He wanted Liberty and he wasn’t about to spend another six weeks looking for the right time to present itself. He wanted her and he wanted her away from this place.
Damon swore and pulled his head away from things better forgotten and back to the current situation. The fact Liberty lived with the Alpha and his daughter made it virtually impossible to get her out undetected, but he’d made some serious inroads in gaining Dale’s trust.
He needed to talk to Nolan. They had to lure Slater out of the state long enough to allow Damon to get Liberty and her son away. First he needed her trust and her belief that she indeed had a family elsewhere. Her brother wanted her out before he tried to negotiate with Slater. He needed to have the upper hand when it came time to face the old man. If Liberty was still in her father-in-law’s home, there would be no way for Nolan to get her back.
By the time Slater found Liberty, Nolan could offer payment, power, whatever the old man wanted in order to satisfy his need for revenge. Nolan didn’t want to go to war, but he would over his sister. Getting her and her son back to Michigan had been the only thing that mattered to Nolan—and now it was the only thing that mattered to Damon.
* * * *
When Libby made it into the house Denny was already asleep and Rachael had retired to her room. Dale was nowhere to be seen. She placed a kiss on Denny’s cheek then went straight to her room. Flipping on her laptop, she began running the name Nolan Alexander. After two hours of reading about her supposed brother and family she turned off the machine. The Alexander family was wealthy, massively wealthy. They supported a wolf sanctuary in Michigan as well as several other charities. She also discovered information about his father, wait, her father, Arlen. What caught her attention was an old photograph posted on one of the Alexander sites. She recognized herself as a baby in that photo. Damon was telling the truth. She wanted to know how she ended up here and why. There was very little personal information about the family other than the old photo.
She sat in the dark for a long time trying to process what she’d learned. Her thoughts kept returning to her wolf. He made her feel things she hadn’t dreamed possible. Instant animal attraction.
Making love with her husband had always been nice and sweet. Dennis had been her only lover. They’d married shortly after she graduated high school and they were both pretty inexperienced in the sex department.
She’d never felt the deep sensual lust bearing down on her before. Her nipples puckered as she recalled his naked body facing her. He was so tall, so broad, his long arms heavily muscled. She couldn’t help but wonder how they would feel wrapped around her, holding her.
Her hand traveled down her chest, brushing across her breasts as images of him, of his sensual lips sucking her, bombarded her. When she reached her jeans she slid her fingers inside. She was so wet and it had been so long since she’d even wanted to touch herself. Damon—his face wouldn’t leave her mind. Her hands touched soft wet skin and she rubbed her clit. She closed her eyes, lost in the fantasy of feeling him, of imagining him entering her. She sank into the spiral of orgasm, the energy rushing through her body lulling her into a restless sleep.
© Sierra Summers
For The Love Of Liberty
Alexander Wolves series Bk 11
Author: Sierra Summers
Publisher: Liquid Silver Publishing
Liberty Slater and her young son have been virtual prisoners of her father-in-law since her husband’s death. The only thing that has given her comfort is the wild wolf living in the woods behind her home. She can tell her wolf her hopes, dreams and fears. But her wolf isn’t what he appears; he’s actually Damon Hix--a shifter sent by the half-brother she never knew about to bring her home.
When Damon reveals himself things get complicated, and what was supposed to be a snatch and grab changes the second he touches Liberty. He knows she belongs to him and him alone, no matter what it takes he will free Liberty.