Read Snow Wolf: Wolves of Willow Bend (Book 9) Online
Authors: Heather Long
© 2016 by Heather Long
Cover by Scott Carpenter
Edited by Virginia Nelson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
the youngest of the Buckleys and the only girl amongst three powerful male siblings. Her restlessness and dominant nature affected her every relationship within Willow Bend, not to mention testing the patience of her Alpha. Apprenticeship to the Hunters fed her desire for a purpose. When her Alpha and eldest brother ask her to undertake a mission to the Yukon territory, she’s thrilled at the opportunity to be useful. Clashing with the Alpha was the last thing she expected on the dangerous assignment.
he oldest Alpha
in the U.S. packs lives a gray existence. The loss of his mate so many decades before wears away at him until he doesn’t give a damn about anything. The problems of the other packs are not his, and he prefers to be left to his isolation. The arrival of the Chief Enforcer annoys him, but it is the wolf traveling with him who wakes the predator in Diesel. The scent of mate clings to her, but she rejects his overtures and challenges him on every level.
ar may be coming
for the Yukon, but Diesel’s battle is very personal…
Ryan & Tiffany
Mason & Alexis
A.J. & Vivian
Owen & Gillian
Tyler & Claire
Salvatore & Margo
Lincoln & Serafina
Dylan & Chrystal
Matt & Shiloh
Brett & Colby
Giovanni & Murphy
Cassius & Sovvan
of the Yukon pack.
Cheryl “Fluff” Carter
- Sentry, Yukon
Benjamin “Chowder” Strieb
– Healer, Yukon – Brother to Grinder
Gerald “Grinder” Strieb
– Sentry, Yukon – Brother to Chowder
- Second to the Alpha of the Yukon pack, she looks after most administrative tasks.
- Elder of the Yukon pack, mother of Amara.
- Yukon youth.
Sentry of the Yukon
- Sentry of the Yukon
Wolves of Willow Bend
- Hunter to Willow Bend
, sister to A.J., Linc, and Tyler. Daughter of Virgil and Claudia.
- Mechanic, brother to A.J., Linc and Ranae. Mated to Claire.
—Alpha of Willow Bend, mate of Alexis, father of Melissa.
– Second of Willow Bend, brother to Tyler, Linc and Ranae. Mated to Vivian.
– Chief Enforcer
, most senior Enforcer for the U.S.
Sutter Butte Wolves
– Hunter of Sutter Butte
friend to Brett Dalton, and second to the Alpha of Hudson River.
Delta Crescent Wolves
– Alpha of Delta Crescent. Mated to Linc Buckley
– Formerly of Willow Bend, the Alpha’s mate acts as both her sounding board and best friend.
– Lieutenant, Delta Crescent – Serafina’s brother and her second in command.
eonid Petrov -
Alpha of Lebeninsk
her stillness and refused to tap her foot, no matter how long it took her suitcase to appear on the luggage carousel. Her flight had been delayed, and she’d spent the past three hours squeezed into a plane with several hostile passengers, all of whom radiated the desire to be at their destination. The stench of their fury polluted the baggage claim air. Several snapped comments on their phones about the delay, others scrambled to make arrangements for rental vehicles, passenger pickup and more.
Focusing on her breathing, Ranae kept her pulse steady. Frankly, one more bitchy remark from the over-coifed, heavily made-up woman to her left and she might give in to the urge to punch her. No one on the flight had been happy, but the eddies of negativity swirling around them didn’t help anyone. Over half the luggage had been unloaded, yet still no sign of her powder blue suitcase. The atrocious color had been her mother’s idea—it made spotting her case easy and hopefully discouraged anyone from grabbing her luggage by mistake.
A buzzing in her back pocket provided a distraction from counting her breaths. Easing the phone out, she checked the screen. A.J.’s face stared up at her, with his eyes crossed. He hated the photo. It was why she used it for his contact information
Hitting answer, she put the phone to her ear. “Yes, big brother mine, I’m here. I texted you as soon as we taxied to the gate.”
“Peachy.” She lied through her gritted teeth. “Great passengers. Calm skies. Timely landing.” The last was at least partially true. If she’d been sandwiched in there much longer, she might have had to hurt someone.
A.J. laughed. “Good to know. Change of plans. Rent a car and head about an hour away to Paine Airfield. Hanger four. Julian will meet you there.”
“Roger that.” Relief flowed through her veins. She would have time to herself before having to deal with the Chief Enforcer. The assignment to go to the Yukon thrilled and terrified her in equal parts. Having to work with the biggest, baddest of the Enforcers? Not her idea of a walk in the park. The faith in her demonstrated by Mason’s request buoyed her. “Something wrong?”
Her brother could have texted the information.
“Nope. Just wanted to make sure you were really doing okay.” After spending several years isolated from pack and family during his internment in prison, A.J. had come home changed, stronger, yet he was still her brother.
Scanning the carousel, she released a chuckle as much to soothe him as to ease her own nerves. “I’m okay. A little stressed, but I think the drive sounds like a good idea.”
“Excellent. If you have any questions or concerns, you call me, right?”
“Of course.” Though rumor had it the Yukon didn’t have a lot in the way of cellular signal. “It’ll be fine, big brother. I’m a glorified messenger.”
“Yes, and no.” Trust A.J. not to sugarcoat it. “Diesel isn’t the most stable or friendly. You’re going to have to decide whether you need to charm him or piss him off to get a response.”
Did he seriously just tell her to piss an Alpha off? “I’m sorry, who are you and what did you do with my brother?” Linc would have told her to be sweet or leave him alone. Ty would have insisted on going with her. A.J.? He didn’t seem to have any reservations about her capabilities or encouraging her strengths.
Masculine warmth flooded A.J.’s laughter. “I’m right here, trouble. I know you’re not a child anymore. You shouldn’t have grown up so fast on me, but since you did—I have faith in you. It’s been a hard couple of years, no one knows that better than me. I also watched you get a grip on your temper, throw yourself into your studies, and your mentor has nothing but positive things to say about you. You can do this…but you’re the woman on the ground. We have to trust your judgment.”
The assignment was important. Russian wolves had attacked two North American packs, either through direct interdiction via a Russian pack member or through insurgents seeking new territory. Based on the briefing A.J. gave her, they didn’t know whether they were dealing with rogues, a pack, or something else. In the meanwhile, her other brothers were in the middle of the issue—one in Sutter Butte with his mate and the other in Delta Crescent with his. She was the Buckley on point.
“I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t. You got this. Just call in and let me know how it’s going so that Mom doesn’t move in and smack me every time the phone rings and it isn’t you.”
Humor welled up, displacing more of her anxiety. “Tell her to call Ty and bug him about coming home.” She hated that he was in Sutter Butte. The pack’s bad reputation preceded it…not to mention Claire’s history with them.
Don’t think about Claire.
She and her sister-in-law had made a sort of peace after Ranae’s attack earned her severe punishment from Mason.
“Oh, I like that idea.” A door closed in the background, despite the constant hum of humanity around her she even caught A.J.’s soft sigh. “Say hello to Ranae, Vivian.”
“Hello, little sister.” Game designer and turned wolf, Vivian made A.J. happy. Ranae loved how ridiculously adorable they were.
“How is my niece or nephew to be?” Vivian was in the last trimester of her pregnancy—all big belly and glowing with happiness.
“Active.” The nearness of her voice suggested she’d either leaned into A.J. or perhaps her brother had settled in next to her. “I can barely keep up with the one in these developing stages, I can’t imagine how your mom handled three.”
Ranae snorted. “It was more about corralling them and working them until they had to sleep.”
“Be nice,” A.J. said with a soft chuckle, before a kiss echoed over the phone line. “Get the job done, trouble. Call if you need me.”
“I promise.” No way in hell she’d pull A.J. from his pregnant mate. Thankfully her blue suitcase chose that exact moment to appear. “I gotta go so I can rent that car. Talk to you soon.”
“Soon.” The vaguest hint of command reinforced the word, but Ranae smiled as she disconnected the call. Her brothers were overprotective as hell, but A.J. gave her the job in the first place. Grabbing her suitcase, she side-stepped the bitch scowling at the carousel looking for her own bags and followed the signs for car rentals.
A hint of wolf drifted on the air, and she scanned the other passengers. Too many bodies in the close confines made it hard to pinpoint the scent. Another waft of wolf brushed her nostrils, and she pivoted with her phone in hand.
. So, not the Chief Enforcer she’d been scheduled to meet. If another Enforcer had been dispatched to greet her, A.J. would have given her a heads up.
Seattle was outside of claimed territory. Considered neutral, it could be anyone…but with worry about Russians still on her mind, she’d be more comfortable identifying the source. Resuming her path toward the rental car desks, she maintained her watchful awareness. The last thing she wanted was a fight in the middle of a crowded airport, but she couldn’t afford an ambush either.
Adjusting her grip on the suitcase, she studied every person who passed her. No other hints of wolf pursued her as she discussed renting the vehicle, handed over her credit card, and then signed the contract and received the keys. Outside the airport, smokers occluded the air, but she didn’t detect the other wolf.
I’ll mention it to the Julian. They know where all the Lone Wolves are.
Better to be certain, especially when she had a job to do.
Look out Yukon, here I come.
-long drive took closer to two, but she arrived at Paine Field after devouring a hot sandwich and draining an even hotter cup of coffee. Eating didn’t solve problems, but it sure went along way to soothing her ruffled fur after the flight. Her phone remained silent even after she sent a text message to Julian to let him know of the delay. Well, it wasn’t like he had to answer her. Theoretically, he wouldn’t leave without her either.
At the gate, she presented her identification to the security guard and the information about her flight. After he verified it, he gave her directions to the hangar and noted her license plate and information. It took her five minutes to arrive at hangar six and find a parking spot. Each hangar had a half-dozen dedicated spaces for vehicles. Parked, she stepped out into the sunshine, the air was damp and cool despite the brightness of the day.
Oil, concrete, and mechanical scents perfumed the breeze. Acrid and a little harsh, but a breeze stirred the smells and carried a hint of salt water. She unloaded her suitcase, then slid the strap of her purse crosswise over her torso before cleaning her trash out of the vehicle and locking her keys under the frame in the key coded box.
She paused outside the hangar door and deposited her trash in the bin before entering. Inside, she paused to let her eyes acclimate to the dimness. The scent of wolf flooded her nostrils.
Male. Powerful. Definitely present.
Searching the space, she focused on the platinum blond male standing next to a small plane.
Small? It’s a fucking toy.
Her gut clenched. She’d seen commuter planes before, but this one seemed ready for amphibious landing and the body would put her practically in the Enforcer’s lap.
“Good afternoon, Ranae Buckley. I don’t bite.” The wolf said by way of greeting.
Yeah, sure he didn’t.
Stiffening her spine, she walked across the hangar toward him. Dominance rolled off him in waves, but she kept her chin high. He wasn’t her Alpha, and she was there under orders. Still, when his gaze collided with hers as she narrowed the space between them, she couldn’t resist darting a glance down.
Thankfully, he didn’t smile. Instead, he looked her over. “You should change before we board. We’re taking off in fifteen minutes.”
What was wrong with what she had on? She glanced down at her jeans, cable knit sweater and boots.
“Layers, little girl. Where we’re going it’s below freezing more often than it is above. Once we land, we need to hustle to make it to their base camp.” He pointed across the hangar. “Bathrooms are that way. Get moving.”
Resisting the order, she canted her head. “Good afternoon to you, Julian.” Proud of her resolve, she raised her eyebrows. “I’m about to spend several hours inside that tin can, I don’t want to get cooked with heat exhaustion. Thanks.” She had thermals included in her packing, her mother wouldn’t let her leave Willow Bend without going over every single item she packed.
“As you wish.” The sardonic note wasn’t lost on her. A second wolf strode across the hanger toward them. The male winked at her as he halted before Julian.
“We’ve got everyone in place around Three Rivers, and Calitri and Sphinx are on their way toward Yukon territory in case you need them. Any other orders?” The newcomer seemed younger than Julian. His words were a sober reminder that the clock ticked down on the upstart pack. Would they kill them all? Chrystal had come from that pack and despite all the bad feelings about Omegas, Ranae actually liked the little wolf. She was so—different from the rest of them.
Though he addressed the Chief Enforcer, he kept glancing at her with a half-smile—
a good looking wolf and he damn well knew it.
She fought to keep a bland expression on her face.
“Yes, stop flirting with Willow Bend’s representative.” Julian thumped him and the wolf laughed.
“You’re no fun.”
“No,” Julian said flatly. “I’m not.”
The younger wolf sighed dramatically and spread his hands wide. “Of course,
.” Without missing a beat, he turned and strode toward her with his hand held out. “I’m…”
“Leaving.” Julian’s order punched between the syllables and the wolf retracted his hand. He gave her an apologetic smile before he cut left and strode out the same door she’d entered.
“Well, aren’t you a bundle of cheer.” She meant it sarcastically, but the taciturn look on his face had her instantly regretting the choice.
“I’m a busy man, Miss Buckley. We have no idea what we’re going into. After we determine the situation, if you still feel the need to play, we’ll find someone to entertain you.”
She’d dealt with her grumpy and very dominant brothers before. While Julian didn’t give her any kind of fraternal vibe, she decided to go with her gut and defer to him while not kissing his ass. “Thanks for the offer. It means a lot.” Then she eyed the plane. “Where do I stow my gear?”
“Behind the co-pilot seat. It’ll be cramped. You can sit in the back, if you want, but you’ll be more comfortable up front.”
Yeah, whatever helped him sleep at night. A good stiff wind could throw that plane out of the sky. Keeping the comment to herself, she nodded and carried her bag straight to the plane.
Unlike most of the wolves she knew, he didn’t offer to take her bag or give her any assistance. The inside of the plane was even smaller than she imagined. It took a little wiggling to get the case locked into place. Sliding back out, she glanced around the hanger. Save for the other Enforcer, they appeared alone.
“No ground crew?”
“My plane. I am crew.” Julian said as he circled the back of the plane. “Mitch filed the flight plan, and I can open the main bay door to taxi out. Need to hit the head before we leave?”
Considering the coffee she’d drunk earlier, not a bad idea. “Sounds good…” Three steps away, she paused. “Julian, are there any other Lone Wolves or Enforcers in the area?”
“No, Seattle’s not popular, at least not currently. Most of the Lone Wolves are farther south. Why?” He pinned her with a look.
“I thought I scented a woman at Seatac when I was leaving.” It wasn’t a lot to offer. “Didn’t actually see who it was, and I didn’t recognize the scent.”
Julian pulled a phone from his pocket and dialed a number. “Mitch, head to Seatac and run through security cameras for arrivals and departures…” He looked at her.
“I got in a little over two hours ago.”
“From four to two hours ago.”
“Sure thing, boss…anyone I am looking for in particular?”
“Female wolf. We didn’t have anyone scheduled, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a layover. Check it out.”