by Rebecca Royce
The Westervelt Wolves - Book 7
Available from Liquid Silver Books
Rex Kane has always known he was different than his brothers, down to the fact that when he shifts into his wolf form, his coat is completely black. Always in trouble, he is given one more chance by his brother Tristan, the alpha of the Westervelt pack, to bring back to their island a witch who can stop some of the magical assault that has plagued their war-torn home. Rex knows he has one last chance to set things right. Everything depends on him and he cannot fail.
Elizabeth Willow has been cursed to look so repulsive no human eyes can bear to view her. Raised in a gentle coven of witches, she is ill prepared for the realities of the harsh world she now lives in.
Raised to mistrust wolf-shifters as witch-killers, she cannot seem to help being drawn to Rex. Even if she doesn't believe she is his so-called mate. He can see her as she really is and is the first person to look her in the eyes in years. Although she is not naturally devious, she sees no choice but to use Rex to gain her own freedom and her family’s safety.
Together, Rex and Elizabeth will see just how evil the people around them can be. If they can trust their hearts, perhaps they will survive another night. If not, both of their battles will never be won.
Scroll down to read an excerpt.
The smells of human overindulgence wafted through his nose, making him want to turn on his heel and go out the way he’d gone in.
Rex Kane observed the scene before him with a strange amount of detachment, considering he was currently seeing his mate for the very first time. Two women—no, witches, he corrected—lay in strangely positioned forms frozen on the floor. Twins, he would guess them to be. Possibly even identical. He sniffed the air. Yep, they had matching scents. They were the very rare, but absolutely possible oddity, of identical twins. He would never be able to tell them apart, not by smell anyway.
His gaze moved slowly over the diner’s kitchen. At the moment, the twin witches offered no threat to him. They’d been frozen. He had no idea how long they’d stay immobile and, truth was, he didn’t particularly care. Witches didn’t frighten him. They annoyed the piss out of him—there was a difference.
The unconscious man, who, unless his nose was completely off, would wake up again shortly, also didn’t bother him. No, the elderly gentleman seemed to be temporarily stunned. He was also human. Not a threat.
But Rex did feel nervous and, considering how rarely anxiety bothered him, he was willing to acknowledge the sensation for a few brief seconds before he would deny it had ever happened completely. He raised an eyebrow and forced his attention to stay on the source of his temporary anxiety: his mate.
You’re sure she’s mine? He had to ask his wolf again. Maybe there’d been some kind of mistake. The universe couldn’t be this cruel to him.
Ours. His wolf bristled at the question. His canine half had never liked being questioned over anything.
She’s not even a wolf. Rex crossed his hands over his chest. She’s not even latent. She possesses no wolf blood whatsoever. Wouldn’t you like to make a different choice for us?
Fate has chosen and she is perfect. In another second his inner-canine might start growling at him. Rex couldn’t remember the last time he and his other half had been so at odds with one another. It had been decades at least.
He sighed. She’s a witch.
And therein lay the problem. Rex hated witches. As far as he was concerned, witches were the bane of humanity. All witches should be put to death before they were allowed to cause any more trouble. In fact, he’d been sent out by his brother to find a witch and bring her back—willing or not—to Westervelt in order to help them with a problem they faced because of other witches.
Hell, this sucks.
His wolf made a sound somewhere between a harrumph and a sigh, which seemed a little odd for a canine. Your opinion is noted.
“Witch.” Rex spoke to the woman who would be with him for eternity. “What exactly is going on in this room?”
The little woman glared at him. Her hair fell somewhere between the shades of brown and blonde, hanging low past her shoulders. He had no idea what to call the unusual color but he felt certain she would know how she wanted it referred. Women were particular when it came to their own presentation. She’d either think of herself as being blonde or brunette, and he better not make the mistake of calling it something else or she might turn him into a frog.
Her blue eyes flared with anger and another emotion he didn’t know how to define. She stood up, and even then she barely reached his midsection. His mate was also small.
Wonderful. She’s also breakable. How fantastic.
Sarcasm is beneath you, Randolph. Only his wolf ever used his full name. He hated it.
“Wolf,” she snapped back at him. “What does it look like? They’re frozen, he’s out cold, and I’m going to be dead, dead, dead before the day is over.”
“No you will not.” He scoffed at the idea. No one would harm her. Whatever this—situation—entailed, he would handle it like he did everything else: with just enough violence to ensure it never happened again.
“Oh yes? You’re some kind of prophet? You can read the future?” She fisted her hands, and he had to suppress the smile threatening to take charge of his face. Whoever this witch turned out to be, she had a spine of steel. Confidence seemed incredibly important as a quality for his mate. Things tended to go to hell quickly for his pack.
“Who are you anyway, and what are you doing here? I’ve had enough wolves today to last me a lifetime.”
“Oh yes? Been consorting with a lot of wolves lately?” He sniffed the air. Yes, the witch was correct. There had been wolves here. A female, if he wasn’t mistaken. He didn’t know her but she had a familiar scent to her like a distant memory he couldn’t make surface. The other wolf—male—he knew, and he almost gasped at the familiarity. Parker Lewis. He hadn’t seen or heard from him in almost forty years. He’d vanished right after the world had nearly ended for his pack. They’d thought he’d died with his parents.
What the hell had he been doing in this truck stop diner in New Jersey?
No matter. Both Parker and the she-wolf were gone now. He’d have to inform Tristan and move on. He had an agenda and it didn’t include finding Parker and the mysterious female wolf, at least, not yet.
The unknown human man on the floor groaned. Rex watched him silently for a second before growing bored. He extended his hand to the witch. “Come on. We need to leave.”
She looked at his outstretched offering as if he’d handed her the sharp end of a sword to hold. “You need to leave. I need to decide how the hell I’m getting out of trouble and I need to decide fast. Skedaddle. I can’t deal with you now. Go do whatever wolves do, whoever you are.”
“My name is Rex Kane.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Oh great. A Kane. Today just became more complete for me. Out on one of your witch-killing expeditions?”
“It is polite when someone gives you their name to give them one back.” He didn’t want to tell her his true mission wasn’t to kill a witch but to kidnap one. His stop at the diner had been fateful. He’d been filling his car up with gas when he’d scented them inside.
“You want to talk to me about manners?” She stomped forward. “I don’t deal with murderers. I certainly don’t give them my name.”
Nodding, he looked around the room. “As far as I can tell, you have two choices. You can stay here with this motley crew.” He pointed to the still frozen witch-sisters. “Or you can come with me and let me fix whatever problem you are having.” Why did no one ever see the simple solutions he did? Why did everyone have to make life so complicated? Things were never nearly as difficult as they first seemed to be.
“Simple, huh?” She shook her head. “Seems like it’s out of the frying pan and into the flame.”
He shook his head. “Are your words some kind of expression I should be familiar with?” Humans and their idiocy…
“You might know it if you ever left your strange island but you wolves don’t travel much, do you? You prefer to stay there and fester in between killing witches everywhere you go.”
Seems like she doesn’t like wolves.
Was his wolf just now paying attention? “Let me be clear.” He stepped toward her. Over the stink of grease and fatty foods he could smell her personal aroma. He’d always loved citrus. It made everything seem clean and pure. His mate—whoever she was—smelled like oranges right off the tree. His mouth watered. For the first time ever he had the inclination to grab another being and kiss them—hard—with or without their consent. I crave her.
His wolf sighed. I know. Restrain yourself, won’t you?
“You can come with me willingly or I will take you without your consent. Your choice. Make it, nameless-one.”
She threw her hands in the air. “Why are you even concerning yourself with this? I’m no one to you. Move on.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.” Since he’d found her, he’d have to deal with her regardless of predilection for the dark arts. Was it possible to stop being a witch or was it something where once you started you could never stop?
“Why, by the goddess, can you not?” She covered her mouth. “Now I’m sounding like you. Did anyone ever teach you how to speak so you’d sound more normal?”
“Yes.” He extended his hand again. “I would prefer to have this conversation elsewhere.”
“Why? What conversation are we having?”
He growled at her defiance. His mate defined stubbornness with her pert chin she held high in the air. “You are my mate, witch, and you will come with me wherever I go from now on.”
Silence filled the room. The sound of diners’ complaints from the main restaurant travelled through the double doors to make up the only sound in the area except for the occasional hiss of the fry grill, which he suspected needed to be fiddled with or turned off. The witch had yet to react to his announcement. She stared at him, openmouthed like a landed fish.
“Rex Kane.” Her voice sounded hoarse. “I am not your mate. I could never, would never be a mate to a creature like you. Go find one of your own abominations to play with.”
He’d had enough. With a growl he hadn’t planned and couldn’t control, he picked the tiny woman up over his shoulder. She shrieked and kicked her feet. “Put me down this very instant or I will make you sorry you ever touched me.”
“Try it and I will make you repent.” His sisters-in-law had temporarily warded him from witches. It wouldn’t last forever. Hence the reason why they needed a witch—they could never permanently protect themselves from the evil ministrations of his father’s pet coven.
He couldn’t take her out through the diner. In this day and age, humans had rules about abduction and, if she wanted to, the witch could make his life miserably harder than it need be. He would still get her out of there but he could do without the scene she would cause.
Instead, he carted her out the back door of the kitchen. The smell of restaurant garbage made him want to gag as he hurried with the screaming woman still perched over his shoulder toward his van. “Witch, you will listen.”
She snarled, an impressive sound considering she was not a canine. “Wolf, you will put me down.”
“I will.” He nodded. “Inside my van. I can either tie you up and stick you in the back, or you can behave like a well brought up woman and sit up front with me.”
“You have no idea how I was brought up.”
“I will have your choice.”
She cursed. “The back of the van.”
Fine. So far Rex’s mating was not going the way he might have hoped. None of his brothers had this much trouble with their soul mates. His brother Tristan had been trapped as a wolf, his brother Theo had accidentally managed to take part of the soul of a demon inside of him, Az’s mate had herself been stuck as a wolf, and Michael had mated a latent wolf-shifter who had been horribly abused. And, yet, none of them had found a mate as bad-tempered as his. Hell, he still didn’t know this witch’s name.
Thumping her down on the inside of the van, he grabbed some rope he kept stored there. Also collected were lots of tools and assorted weaponry he might need whenever he left the island. All of his equipment would have to be moved up front because even tied up he suspected his mate-slash-witch would find a way to wound him if she could.
She was going to have to go up front with him whether she liked it or not. He grabbed the rope and tied her wrists. “I really don’t want to do this to you. I have no interest in tying you up.”
Her eyes flared with anger. “I thought you wolves were into all kinds of kinky stuff.”
Rex rolled his eyes. The woman would say anything to get a rise out of him at the moment. “When I have your hands on me sexually, I won’t want you tied.” She gulped, the muscles on her neck stretching slightly. He wondered if he’d made her mouth go dry. “Nothing to say?”
With her wrists fully secured, he heaved her over his shoulder again. “Stop. Right now. I don’t like how you’re holding me. It makes me feel like you’re going to drop me on the ground.”
“Witch, if you weighed twice what you do, I wouldn’t drop you. I’m a wolf-shifter. I can carry three times my own body weight.”
“Good to know.” She kicked again, this time landing a blow on his chest. It stung but he wouldn’t rub it, not in front of her. In their power struggle, he would come up on top. This witch would not be allowed to see him weak, even if she were his mate.
He wanted to slam his wolf. Shut up. “I would think you would be pleased. You said they were going to kill you. I’ve removed you from the situation, witch.”
“Would you please stop calling me witch?” Her eyes flared as he placed her in the front passenger side of his blue van, bending over to buckle her in like she was a child who needed help.
“What else should I call you since you won’t tell me your name?” He closed the door and used his key remote to lock her in while he walked to the driver’s side. If she managed to escape and run away, he would catch her with no trouble. But the time he spent doing it could be better spent getting back to Maine. If he rushed, he would be there in seven hours.
In an irony not lost on him, this wasn’t his first time in New Jersey picking up a mate he needed to bring back to Maine. The only difference was the first time Tristan had been with him, stuck in wolf form, and Tristan’s mate Ashlee had at least accepted she was mated to Tristan.
Also, it hadn’t been his fate and soul on the line. Which seemed, he rapidly discovered, to make all the difference. Was he doomed to spar with this woman’s attitude for the rest of eternity?
Not the rest. You will start to age as soon as you take care of the sexual part of mating. Then you’ll live a normal and happy life like the rest of your family.
Only if I can avoid getting murdered by my father. His wolf had left the troubling part out of the happily-ever-after scenario.
Yes, if you can manage to not get killed.
He opened the car door and slipped inside, keys in hand. The witch stared at him through hooded eyes. He didn’t like her quietness, not one bit. Sniffing the air, he tried to get a sense of what her emotions were based on her smell. Most of his brothers couldn’t decipher as well as he could. It had been his gift—and burden—since childhood. Having a really sensitive nose made it impossible to do certain things. Before he’d learned to control it, the faintest aromas could make him physically ill. If something was about to go bad in the refrigerator, he might be sick for days.
The other side of his scent issues was he could easily discern things other wolf-shifters could not: like the moods of those around him. Right now, his orange-scented mate smelled … perturbed. She wasn’t really angry nor was she confused. The witch radiated a feeling somewhere in between.
“If I tell you my name, will you let me go?”
“No.” He didn’t like her feeling any anger at all. In her position, he might too be annoyed. Still, something inside of him he didn’t want to particularly examine churned at the thought she had displeasure with him.
“I didn’t think so.” She sank down in her seat. “I don’t know why I’m surprised I’m being kidnapped by a psychotic witch-killing wolf. These sorts of things happen to me all the time.”
Really? He started the car and pulled it into traffic, watching where he went to make sure he did so in a safe manner. He wouldn’t risk her by being careless. “It does?”
“Sure. I’m cursed, after all, which doesn’t happen if you have great luck.”
“You’re cursed?” He nearly stuttered on the word. Rex knew something about curses. They’d all lived with one for thirty years until Ashlee had come and the pack had thrown it out. Most of the pack had died because of the blasted thing. “But you’re a witch.”
She shook her head. “Look, Kane.”
He really wished she wouldn’t use his last name to address him. It reminded him too much of his father. But he had no desire to interrupt her when she talked. Her voice had a lyrical, soothing quality he wanted to listen to for a while.
“I wasn’t born this ugly. In my normal form I’m not gorgeous, but I’m not grotesque either. People can look at me without wincing. I appreciate you’ve chosen not to flinch or look away. You’re the second wolf today to do so, which is, actually, incredibly kind considering what you all are. But don’t you want to abduct a better-looking person? Surely, there can’t be much fun in this.”
Rex felt dumbfounded. He’d always prided himself on being a smart man. But he couldn’t make head or tails of what she’d just said to him. “Let me see if I can understand what you are saying.”
She shifted in her seat, and he wished he could trust her so he could untie her wrists. “Okay.”
“People can’t look at you without flinching?”
“Correct.” She motioned to her face. “Can you blame them?”
He ignored her question. “Why is this?”
“Because of the sores, the puss, the misshapen nose, the way my eyes are narrowed, my stringy hair and the other ways in which I now resemble a stereotypical crone.” She swung her head around to look out the window into the sunset. “And by the way, I take it back. You’re an asshole for making me list all the things wrong with me when you can see them perfectly for yourself.”
“Witch, I cannot see any of what you described. Do you need what the humans call a psychiatrist? Are you unwell?” He sniffed at the air. She didn’t smell of mental illness.
Her head turned around, the eyes he could now see had as much gray in them as they did blue stared back at him. “Are you serious or just playing some kind of a game? Because I know the wolf earlier could see how horrendous I looked.”
“You are of petite stature. Your breasts are round and look like they would fill up my hands.” She sucked in her breath as he said his words but he wasn’t done. “You have brownish-blondish hair. I will call it whatever color you would like me to call it. Your eyes are … beautiful. Blue, gray. Your nose is not askew. By contrast, I would call it pert. Your chin is stubborn. All in all, if you were not a witch, I would call you a pixie.”
She was silent for two seconds before tears slid down her face. Silent, she did not wipe them away. Neither did she slip into hysterics. “I used to look as you described me.”
“It’s how you look to me.”
“How?” She shook her head.
“I’m your mate. I see you as you are, witch.”
“My name is Liz. Stop calling me witch.”
He felt a smile twitch at his mouth. He’d gotten the name. Already, he’d made progress. If only it would be as easy to get her to save his pack.