The Shadow Wolf
Gabriel is perhaps the most dangerous of all Draicon werewolves and hides a dark secret. He meets his match in Megan, a Draicon werewolf who turns invisible.
On the run from authorities, gutsy Megan Moraine knows shadow wolves like herself have no place in this world. But she's still prepared to do anything to protect her young charges. That resolve is tested when the trio is captured by Gabriel Robichaux. Everyone knows that Gabriel is a ruthless bounty hunter, a member of an elite group called the Enforcers. Why then is Megan so attracted to her enemy—a wolf who hunts his own people? A wolf whose languid, sexy drawl makes her dream the impossible?
"Unexpected love is found in THE SHADOW WOLF, but it can vanish in an instant unless trust is formed."
"Two spirited yet lonely beings are featured in the latest Draicon werewolf book, and this couple has numerous obstacles to overcome before their happiness can become lifelong. Bonnie Vanak has created a suspenseful plus emotional story for her destined couple in THE SHADOW WOLF, where secrets are harbored and dreams are too often fleeting.
Most Draicon werewolves look down on shadow wolves like Megan Moraine and her two young cousins, so they were held prisoners and scorned because of their ability to become invisible. The three were able to escape and are now fleeing to New Orleans where they believe there is a Draicon who will help them. Unfortunately, they do not get far before Gabriel Robichaux manages to find them.
Since Gabriel is an Enforcer, a group where its members hunt their own kind, he is supposed to turn them in for the bounty and Megan at first fears the worst for herself plus her cousins. She has always had hopes of shadow werewolves being seen as equals to any other shape-shifting wolf, but she thinks the one holding her destiny in his hands is just like those who kept her a prisoner for many years. However, Megan gradually comes to comprehend there is much about Gabriel she does not know and what she has heard about the merciless werewolf may not be factual either.
There is originality in every Draicon werewolf story by Bonnie Vanak. The plots are cleverly creative with diverse characters whose traits are unique to them and have not been seen in other beings like them. Ms. Vanak has a talent for having her werewolves possess abilities like none before them, thus making her tales innovative and always engrossing. Both Gabriel and Megan have their own distinctive skills, and the story definitely became more interesting when these previously unknown capabilities are used. These two have loads of secrets they want to keep unexposed, and these issues of not trusting others with this concealed information lead to more than a few emotional entanglements between them. When they confront one another, the scenes are packed with various sentiments where their feelings are repeatedly conveyed with much honesty and directness. Still, it is difficult for them to be completely open to anyone, and this vulnerability causes heartache time and again. Ms. Vanak certainly made this couple delve deep within themselves for answers, and any revelations are depicted with sincere reactions. Gabriel and Megan have so much love to give yet have not let anyone close until now, and they express the longing they feel with immense caring fueled by explosive heat. There are several scenes where physical threats are very real, and how these two escape is often inventive. The two young girls are engaging, and they only add to the story without ever being a distraction. While most of the characters have already had their own books come out, there are still a few who need to tell readers more about themselves and I look forward to them getting a chance in the future. THE SHADOW WOLF is an imaginative paranormal tale where the characters emotionally affect you and the suspense is intriguing." —Amelia Richard for CATAROMANCE
Excerpt from THE SHADOW WOLF, from Harlequin Nocturne. Copyright 2011 by Bonnie Vanak
Please, don’t throw us to the wolves.
Icy air blasted her as Megan Moraine pulled open Casa del Sole’s etched glass door. The hotel’s sprawling lobby gleamed with polished wood and mirrored columns. Beneath the cracked soles of her secondhand tennis shoes, the marble floor sparkled.
Motioning the twins to remain outside in the sticky Florida heat, she scanned for threats. The restaurant here was a safe house, but so was the oceanfront Naples mansion they’d visited last night. When Megan had exposed the silver crescent moon birthmark, the homeowner’s expression turned ice cold.
“I don’t like Shadows, but I’m generous. I’ll give you 60 seconds to leave before I call an Enforcer or send my mate after you,” the Draicon werewolf had warned.
Sixty seconds didn’t allow enough time to reach the car’s hiding spot. Chased by a brutish male waving a meat cleaver, she and the girls raced down the beach. Megan spent the night guarding the twins, two seven-year-old girls who should have been tucked into soft beds instead of curling up on wet sand. As dawn streaked the gray skies, they’d snuck back to fetch the car.
More hostile Draicon could be inside. But she had no choice. Her jeans pocket held a few crumbled dollars. The aging Ford she’d hot-fired was running on fumes. She needed help to reach New Orleans and Alexandre Robixchaux. The kindly Draicon secretly gave escaped Shadow Wolves new identities. He wasn’t a soulless creature like his legendary Enforcer brother, Gabriel, who liked to make his captures bleed.
The girls’ blue eyes widened as they scurried past the hotel lobby into the arched hallway. Megan felt more conspicuous when she saw the restaurant’s linen-draped tables and polished silverware. The trick to blending was all in the act. Act like you belong, and people treated you that way. In a voice as impervious as a Palm Beach matron, she asked for seating on the terrace.
Their granite-topped table was half-hidden by a terra cotta planter. The terrace overlooked a lush garden of palms, ferns, and tropical flowers. Best, she had a good view of the hotel entrance to eye new arrivals.
A smiling waitress in black trousers and starched white shirt sailed over, pen and pad in hand. Her gaze fell to Megan’s right hand.
Damn. Megan clapped her left hand over the birthmark she’d forgotten to cover with cosmetics. She couldn’t risk exposing her identity until they knew this was a safe house. But the waitress only smiled.
Megan glanced down at the heavy leather menu and cringed at the dollar signs. “One small glass of milk for them, and water for me, please.”
“Cousin Megan, can’t we have sausage and eggs?” Jenny pleaded.
“We can share,” piped in Jillian.
The girls stared at the tabletop. Her heart broke at their crestfallen expressions. I’m doing the best I can, I’m sorry I can’t do better.
The waitress hesitated. Megan lifted her chin. “That’s all, thanks.”
A lump clogged her throat as she studied her young cousins. Hair dye had turned their soft white-blonde curls coarse and dull. Their shoulders were thin, their blue eyes glazed with sleeplessness. The matching strawberry shorts and flowered shirts she’d bought at a thrift shop were faded and ragged. Ever since they’d escaped the island prison, they’d been too quiet, forced to act far too old.
Soon Sausage and eggs and heaps of whatever you want to eat. If we can just make it until our escort shows up.
Searching for hostiles, Megan scanned her surroundings. Only one customer had looked up at their arrival. The silver-haired man seemed more absorbed in his newspaper. Resentment and old hurt surfaced as she scented Draicon werewolves. Clustered together at a large table, they laughed as they dug into a big plate of sausage. They were her people, yet not.
Why do you hate us so much? We’re not so different.
Not different, but feared, taunted and shunned by ordinary Draicon. Tired of treated as inferior, Shadow Wolves had retreated to a small Caribbean island to raise their young. Six years ago, rogue Shadows hoping to force their Draicon brethren into acknowledging them as equals nearly exposed their race to humans. Worse, they sold their story to a popular American talk show. The program was stopped before it aired and a Draicon with the ability of mind control convinced network executives the story was fake.
After, the influential council of Draicon feared all Shadow Wolves wished to embrace sedition and establish a new order. To contain Shadows, they raised a force field around the island. A steep bounty was placed on the heads of any escaped Shadow.
A grating whine caught her attention. Horrified, she saw a plate filled with food slide across the next table toward them.
“Jenny, stop it!”
Her little cousin lowered her arms. Thankfully, the table was empty. The man returned, frowned at his moved breakfast.
“Remember what I told you? Never, ever do that without permission. You’ll put the bad men on our trail,” Megan whispered.
“I’m sorry. But I’m so hungry and so is Jilly!”
“I know, sweetheart, I promise, I’ll get you food later.”
“Are you going to punish me for disobeying you?” Jenny’s lower lip trembled.
“Not this time, but if you do it again, I’ll have to,” Megan told her.
The waitress returned with a tray on her outstretched palms. She set down two large glasses of milk, a mug of steaming coffee, and three plates piled with sausage and eggs. Megan protested. The woman held up a hand.
“Someone cancelled an order. Can’t let good food go to waste. It’s on the house.” She winked.
The girls beamed and a chorus of “thank you’s” followed. Megan swallowed past a sudden lump in her throat at the woman’s compassion.
“Thanks,” she managed.
Caution returned as the waitress scribbled on her pad, then handed the check to Megan. “Enjoy. My name’s Mitzi.”
When the waitress walked off, Megan read the note. “You’re among friends. Remain here and someone will be along to help you get out of shadow.”
Even though the code phrase was correct, Megan hedged. There was a fat reward for capturing an escaped Shadow Wolf. Enforcers didn’t care if the escapees were beaten and raped first before being turned over.
Hot coffee burned her mouth as she took a deep swallow. Megan took a bite of the food. It was delicious, but she had no appetite.
The roar of a powerful motorcycle drew her attention to the hotel entrance. A man parked the Harley, drew off a black helmet and swung a muscled leg over the saddle. Megan’s heart raced. The rider’s face was permanently stamped into memory from the photos circulated among Shadows of their worst enemies.
Black liquid sloshed as she slammed down her coffee cup. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish gasping for oxygen.
Oh God. She’d walked straight into a trap. Immobilized, she searched for an exit as he entered the garden’s stone pathway leading to the terrace.
Megan looked around, desperate to escape, but it was too late. If they left now, surely he’d see them. She slid down her seat.
The power and raw charisma he exuded felt like a tornado as he ambled onto the terrace. Tight black leather pants hugged each inch of his rock hard thighs and taut buttocks. A Harley Davidson T-shirt and steel-toed scuffed boots gave him a dangerous air. Stubble shadowing his angular jaw contrasted with his classical good looks, like a biker with the face of an angel. Dark brown hair curled down to his wide shoulders. His mouth was sultry and mobile. Four women sitting at a nearby table gave him the twice-over.
If they only knew what exactly he was, they’d run away screaming. Draicon, like her. Only not like her. Not Shadow, outcast and shunned. He was an Enforcer, who returned escaped Shadow Wolves to their island prison.
No Shadow ever escaped the powerful Gabriel. He could track through a hurricane. She was definitely toast. Burnt toast.
He ignored the women’s suggestive looks and headed for a table against the wall. Megan glanced at the girls.
“Jenny, Jilly, remember how I told you Enforcers are the bad ones? How they hunt down our people and return them to the island prison?” When they nodded, she made small hand signals.
Megan riveted her gaze to Gabriel. I hate you, bastard, she thought with fury. You’ve made life miserable for my people.
Mitzi walked over to Gabriel. He flashed a charming smile. Megan’s pulse beat faster. She didn’t expect him to be so handsome.
She whispered to the girls. They nodded. Plan all set.
Megan sauntered toward the restroom inside the restaurant. She had to pass him. Her palms went clammy as she felt him glance in her direction. Peripheral vision caught Mitzi nudging Gabriel.
Palms sweating, she raced into the women’s room. Megan drew in a trembling breath. At least he couldn’t follow her in here.
Bracing her palms on the counter, she studied her reflection. The face in the mirror was strained and framed by dull black hair that hid her natural honey blonde. Shadows edged eyes the color of deep lake water. The secondhand clothing was streaked with sand, but at least it wasn’t the hated purple tunic Shadows were required to wear.
Megan summoned her magick. Unlike the twins, she was a Hafling and required energy to shift. Her body screamed, the starved cells needing nourishment from rare meat. Burning pain scraped across her raw flesh, but she focused. For the girls, had to do this, had to become…
As if in slow motion, her hands and arms vanished. Megan squeezed her eyes shut. When she opened them, nothing showed in the spotless mirror.
She was invisible.
Until someone else came to use the restroom, she was stuck. A door opening by itself would raise suspicion.
By now the twins, shadows themselves, would be waiting by the car. Even though they were young, their powers were far more advanced.
The door creaked open and she started forward, then stopped. Her knees felt like cooked spaghetti. Megan trembled wildly.
Hardened with ruthless intent, the face of male Draicon poked inside. Gabriel.
He entered, looking beneath the stall doors. Stunned, she inched backward until hitting the wall. His nostrils flared as he straightened.
Oh dear heavens, he’d caught her scent.
Panic flared as he strode in her direction with smooth grace and stealth. Gabriel’s dark brown eyes widened. They flashed amber, signaling the emergence of his wolf. Her gaze traveled from the chiseled jaw and hollowed cheeks, down to the T-shirt stretched over his broad chest, to his long, muscled legs.
Tight leather snugly cupped his bulging sex. Megan acknowledged her sudden flare of sexual interest. Sheer biology. He was the enemy, the one she feared most, but striking in his innate masculinity. The air sizzled between them, the chemistry so intense she couldn’t ignore it.
Biting back a hiss, she bunched her fists.
“I know you’re there, Megan,” he said quietly. “You can’t hide from me.”
Impossible. She was invisible. But he advanced, boot heels clicking on the tile floor.
“Just come with me now, and don’t make a fuss.”
Like hell I will. Hugging the wall, she inched toward the door. Almost there, almost, she could make it, open the door and be gone…
Gabriel pounced. Steel-like arms encircled her waist. She twisted, snarled with all her might, but he held pinned against his hard body.
Depleted of energy, she could not maintain shadow. But she’d be damned if she went down without a good fight.
Terror squeezed her heart as body materialized. She writhed in his powerful grip, but he held tight. Then he freed one hand. Megan shrank back. Here it comes. He was going to hit her. That’s what Enforcers always did. Just for laughs. SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1
Instead she felt him caress her cheek. The gesture felt soothing and erotic. Gabriel bent his head and brushed aside her hair. He was inhaling her scent. Surprised, she stopped struggling. Enforcers didn’t care about their captives. She’d heard they only punished and bruised. Alarmed at the rising tide of desire, she wondered if Gabriel’s methods were even crueler than other Enforcers. Lower her defenses and then strike like a snake.
A tantalizing scent of leather, pine and spicy male filled her senses with erotic awareness. The space between her legs felt open and wet, wanting. Well aware of the distraction, Megan resumed her struggles to get free. But she was too exhausted.
Warm breath feathered over her cheek as he bent his head. “Shhh,” he murmured. “It’s all right. Everything will be all right. Sleep now.”
This was the true danger… his deep, hypnotic voice lulling her into doing as he wished. Gabriel, who held the power of mind influence. Megan felt her eyes closing.
He pushed a hand through her hair, the gesture almost tender. Just before she passed out, she felt a sensual brush of his mouth across her neck as if Gabriel marked her.
Then the grayness turned black, and everything else faded into shadow.