For about an hour, he chased the wolf through the underbrush of the misty forest, the birds diving for cover in the Douglas fir and western hemlocks as soon as they saw him coming. Vaughn wondered where the wolf was going. He’d been looping around as if trying to reach a location, but then moving in another direction, most likely fearing Vaughn would catch up to him.
Then somewhere in the deep forest ahead, the wolf suddenly howled. Calling for help? Out there?
That meant he’d stopped long enough to howl. Vaughn raced forward to close the gap, trying to reach him before he ran off again. Or before reinforcements arrived.
Why else would the wolf howl? Other members of his pack must be out there. Maybe he thought he could scare Vaughn off, making him think a wolf shifter pack was out there and would back him up any minute. Vaughn had even used that ploy himself a time or two. He wasn’t giving up on his prey no matter what. He had to learn the truth. Had the wolf standing next to the bloody mess on the cabin floor been the same wolf who had torn into Douglas? If the blood on the wolf’s muzzle was any indication, and the way he had run off, Vaughn would have to say he certainly could be.
Yet how had a she-wolf, Jillian Matthews, found Douglas, called Leidolf for help, and not been injured by this same wolf?
The chance this wolf would have left Douglas for dead, run off, then returned after Leidolf’s people had come for Douglas would be pretty slim. Unless the wolf had nearly killed Douglas in anger, then got his rage under control and came back to get rid of any evidence. Maybe he realized he hadn’t made sure Douglas was dead and went back to see. What if Jillian had actually witnessed the attack, and that’s how she knew a wolf had severely injured Douglas and needed Leidolf’s help?
Leidolf hadn’t said Jillian had seen the attack though. Not that Vaughn had given him a chance to respond much. Except for a quick mention that Leidolf would give him the cabin located closest to Douglas’s on the north side while he investigated the attempted murder, Vaughn hadn’t had time to do anything else but agree. He was certain Leidolf had as many questions for him as Vaughn had for Jillian. Like how had Vaughn happened to be at the cabin so soon after the incident when he lived in Colorado.
And Vaughn wanted to know just who Jillian was. Douglas’s girlfriend? He didn’t remember Douglas dating anyone by that name.
Right now, Vaughn was so busy tracking the wolf’s scent that when something hit a tree near him, and then a shot rang out, it took him a second to realize someone was shooting at him. He growled low, irritated anyone would be hunting out there. He continued his pursuit, another round slamming into a tree near his chest. No damn hunter was going to stop Vaughn in his mission. He had to take down the wolf and learn if he’d nearly killed Douglas. Vaughn dodged around a hemlock, hoping the hunter would think he’d taken off in another direction. But Vaughn couldn’t detour from his path for long or lose the wolf. As soon as he was in the clear again, a third round clipped the shrubs in front of him. Damn it! He would soon be out of the shooter’s range. Just a little bit further. Then he felt the kick of the fourth round impact with his right shoulder and the sound of the round firing right afterward.
Trying to dodge behind a tree to get out of the hunter’s sights, Vaughn stumbled over fallen branches. He didn’t have time to look for the shooter. The hunter fired another shot and the round whizzed past Vaughn’s head, sinking into the trunk of a massive maple tree with a thud. Hell. No matter how much he wanted to continue on the wolf’s trail, he couldn’t. Not with the shooter actively hunting him down.
Right before Vaughn sidetracked to the river a few feet below the rocky cliff there, he saw something golden moving so fast in the undergrowth, he could barely believe his eyes.
A big cat? Jaguar? Shifter? What in the world was going on? He’d never seen a jaguar shifter before.
Vaughn jumped into the river, the cold water enveloping him as he went under. He surfaced and let it carry him away, the whole time mentally cursing the shooter.
What of the cat he’d witnessed running through the woods? He hadn’t imagined seeing a jaguar. He wasn’t delirious. Yet seeing one of them in an Oregon forest was like finding a unicorn. Had one gotten free from the Oregon Zoo? Or a big cat reserve? Then again, his pack leaders had said jaguar shifters lived among them. Taking the wolf down had to be priority, yet he wished he’d been able to chase after the big cat too and learn what in the world it was doing there, in the same vicinity as the other trouble.
Hell, maybe the jaguar, and not a wolf, was responsible for Douglas’s wound.
Never be so foolish as to fall for the enemy…
Special wolf agent Jillian Matthews has joined the jaguar-run United Shifter Force to track down a deadly criminal. She’s even willing to work with PI Vaughn Greystroke—until the hot, growly SEAL wolf makes the mistake of getting in her way. Naturally, she shoots him. Who could blame her?
Vaughn Greystroke has always worked alone. But when a string of attempted murders puts him in the crosshairs, teaming up with the Shifter Force begins to sound like a good idea. Even if he has to work with alluring—and potentially treacherous—Jillian Matthews. Vaughn is a trained SEAL, after all. He can surely keep his distance from Jillian…no matter how much she’s getting under his skin.
About Terry Spear
USA Today bestselling author Terry Spear has written over 35 paranormal romances featuring werewolf and jaguar shapeshifters. In 2008, Heart of the Wolf was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry also creates award-winning teddy bears that have found homes all over the world and is raising two Havanese puppies. She lives in Spring, Texas.