Last week we announced that Gone With The Wolf (Entangled Covet) by Kristin Miller is our Romance of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the Romance category: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Romance excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded Gone With The Wolf (Entangled Covet), you’re in for a real treat:
Gone with the Wolf (Entangled Covet)
by Kristin Miller
When Drake’s twin brother senses that Drake has found his match—and now inherits their father’s billion dollar estate—he hatches a plan to take Emelia out. Drake vows to protect her at all costs, but he might have to pay with his own life.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Emelia Hudson knew she shouldn’t be snooping through her boss’s wine cellar, but his secret stash was down here and damn it, he owed her a bottle. Or a box.
Slipping off her heels, Emelia kicked them into the corner of the spacious cellar, and jumped from the touch of the frosty granite floor against her bare feet. The cellar was bigger than her Seattle apartment, with a nasty draft sweeping through the wrought iron French doors behind her. The space felt more like a high-class smoking room than a cellar, with large, stone pillars, leather-wrapped seats and a pungent musk floating in the air. Chandeliers hung on either end of the ceiling, shedding amber auras of light over two barrels topped with stone slabs. Not a single wine box cluttered the floor, and not a single pigeon hole was deprived of a bottle.
“There you are, beautiful,” Emelia said, swiping a corked bottle of 1996 Chateau Lafite off one of the barrels.
She re-filled her glass—for the fifth time this evening—and swirled the dark liquid round and round. The mint and black currant aroma hit her nose, causing her eyes to roll back in her head. Taking a sip, Emelia moaned as the bold flavor of succulent silk hit her tongue.
“You,” she said, pinching her eyes shut, savoring the changing flavors, “are simply divine.”
“I’ll say,” someone said from the doorway.
Emelia started. Droplets of wine hurdled down her throat, catching like stones in her windpipe. She choked hard and bowled over as she tried to the get the damn silky stuff out of her lungs.
“That good, huh?” The man was beside her before she knew what was happening, massaging small circles across her back.
Emelia backed against the barrel and away from the stranger’s touch. From the few seconds he’d massaged her, Emelia’s skin had warmed, tingling with strange, electrically charged sensations.
“I’m fine,” she choked out, gaining her bearings.
The stranger radiated intimidation. Six-foot tall. Broad, flexing shoulders. His white cotton dress shirt was pulled taut, stretching over layers of rippling muscle. A square, hard set jaw with a shadow of stubble, and pressed-white lips gave him a downright stony appearance. But despite his hardened expression and daunting stature, mesmerizing chocolate-brown eyes bore into Emelia’s, chilling her body to match her bare feet.
Did this guy work for Wilder Financial? Was he a bouncer sent to drag her back upstairs? The Halloween office party had been monster-mashing for the last two hours and the cellar had been deemed off-limits. Solitude was the reason Emelia sought out the cellar in the first place. Well, that and her boss’s stash of fine wine.
“No one’s supposed to be down here,” she said, nerves kicking up a notch.
“I could tell you the same thing.” Folding his arms across his barrel-of-a-chest, the stranger backed away and leaned against the door frame. A slow smile spread across his full lips. “I don’t recall Little Red Riding Hood packing wine on her trip to Grandmother’s.”
“Yeah, well…” Emelia flicked at the cape brushing her knees and laughed. “I hate costume parties and didn’t think I was coming until the last minute. When I finally decided I had to be here, the costume store had two choices: Little Red Riding Slut or Sexy Feather-Dusting Maid. I went with Little Red.”
Why’d she just tell him all that? She shouldn’t have gulped down that last glass of wine. It had loosened her lips, affecting her more than it should’ve.
“I think the costume was a good choice.” The stranger strode into the cellar, his gait confident and powerful, and swept a thick-stemmed wine glass off the nearest barrel. “May I? Or were you planning on downing that bottle yourself?”
“No, no, please, help yourself.” With a tipsy bow and a giggle, Emelia swept her arm aside. “Where’s your costume?”
He glanced down at his slacks as if he just realized he wasn’t dressed for the party. “Maybe I’m the big bad wolf hiding in business attire instead of old lady pajamas.”
“You don’t look like a wolf.”
Emelia leaned in close, squinting at his glinting white, and very human teeth, then laughed. “Nope. No fangs.”
He eyed her curiously, filled his glass and sipped on it like he’d never tasted anything like it before. He swished the wine in his cheeks before swallowing, all the while holding Emelia’s gaze. Intensity smoldered behind his eyes; Emelia swore someone kicked the thermostat up a few degrees.
“So,” he said, eyeing her wild mane of blonde hair that’d come loose from her hood, “why do you have to be here?”
Although Emelia knew the man wasn’t really a wolf—come on, those only existed in Paris-set horror movies, Twilight, and her wildest dreams—he gazed at her like he was insatiably hungry. Her body quivered beneath his gorgeous stare. Stunned by the man’s raw sexual appeal, Emelia shook cobwebs from her brain. “Excuse me?”
“You said you hate parties and that you have to be here. Did some crazed date make you come?”
“Oh, if you only knew.”
“Enlighten me.” He smiled slowly, twinging something in Emelia’s chest.
As much as she wanted to tell this stranger the truth, she couldn’t.
I’m here to seduce our boss. Chain him to his bed. Take some pictures. Instagram them to the Web. You know, the usual Halloween party antics.
Not only would the hot-to-trot stranger laugh in her face, he would probably run to her superiors, blab his brains out, and she would lose her secretarial temp job. She couldn’t let that happen. She needed the money, and she needed to figure out a way to talk to Mr. Wilder about the massive wrench he’d thrown in her gears. Two months ago, he claimed to have bought the building that her bar, The Knight Owl, resides in. If she hadn’t dumped her savings into the place, she would’ve hired a lawyer to figure out what was going on and fight back. But under the circumstances, Emelia could barely afford the gas in her car to get to work.
She’d spent weeks trying to get past Wilder Financial’s complaint department and kept ramming into a stone wall of indifference. No matter how many letters Emelia sent demanding to set up a meeting with Mr. Wilder, or how many times she called to talk about how it was impossible that they both had a deed to the same building, no one listened. No one cared. Even when she’d tried to bypass Mr. Wilder’s flunkies and communicate with him directly, she’d gotten the same response. Mr. Stuck-Up Wilder refused to acknowledge her presence. He always seemed too occupied at his East Coast offices, or unavailable to meet.
So she’d taken a job at his office, hoping to kill two birds with one stone—she’d make some money, and figure out what the hell was going on in the process.
Mr. Wilder wouldn’t be able to ignore her once he was good and tied to his bed.
Only that plan had gone down the toilet, along with her hopes and dreams of The Knight Owl becoming the most well known bar in Seattle. Mr. Wilder had been called away on business and wouldn’t be attending the Halloween party after all.
“Guess you could say I was dying to pay back Mr. Wilder for something.”
Her words seemed to intrigue the stranger. His dark brows quirked. His shoulders tensed—only a bit—but she noticed. He took a long, hard drink instead of responding and an uncomfortable silence fizzed between them.
Did she say something wrong? Did he have some vendetta against Mr. Wilder, too? Rumors of Mr. Wilder’s coldness preceded him. Maybe his harsh, careless demeanor had permeated through his business more than she’d originally thought. The possibility lessened Emelia’s guilt, taking weight off her shoulders—Mr. Wilder deserved what was coming to him.
“You never said what you were doing down here.” Emelia tapped her fingers against the stone-topped barrel, wondering if there was another bouncer on the way. And exactly what was the alcohol content of the wine she drank? Her insides were warm, and her brain was fuzzy. No wine had ever affected her this way before. “Are you on duty?”
“On duty?” The tension in his shoulders eased as a laugh escaped him. “No, I’m here for the party. I work for Wilder Financial Services like you do.”
“I’ve never seen you there before.” She would’ve remembered seeing a Greek god wandering the white washed halls. Damn, her teeth were beginning to chatter. She would be lucky to remember any of this night. What a disaster. “Which depot—I mean, department, are you in?”
“Administration.” He leaned against a stone pillar, and pushed his dark hair behind his ears. Why was he acting like he had nowhere to go? Didn’t he have to get back up to the party? He’d have a date waiting for him, wouldn’t he? Drop-dead gorgeous Channing Tatum look-a-likes never came to parties stag. “You?”
“I’m a temp. I started last month as a secretary, but they’ve already shuffled me ‘round to marketing, directory assistance, and main office…something.” She shooed her hand around her face as the words evaporated from her brain. “I’m more like an office rover than anything. Ha!” She snorted, then caught herself. “I’m Rover. Woof!”
The stranger laughed, and seemed to relax into the pillar. “Let me get this straight…you hate costume parties and you hate being here, but since Mr. Wilder isn’t coming tonight, you’ve decided to empty his stash of expensive wine?”
“Pretty much.” She nodded. As the thought of Mr. Wilder coming home to his mansion and finding an emptied wine cellar struck her, Emelia laughed, lurched forward, and slapped the stranger in the chest. The instant her hand struck a warm slate of stone, she drew it back and held it against her stomach. “Have you ever met him?”
His brown eyes burned with hints of desire. “Once or twice.”
“What’s he like?”
“He’s a bit of a prick, really. Cold. Controlled. Probably not your type.” He frowned at the last part, though he couldn’t have known how true he shot. “What’s your name?”
She teetered a bit, closer to his tantalizing masculine scent, then further away. “Emelia Hudson, but friends call me Emie. I’m not usually like this, I swear. I can usually hold my liquor, I’m a bartender for crying out loud. I think it’s because I haven’t eaten anything today.” She squinted, her vision going a bit blurry. What was happening? “I’m starving.”
“You’re a bartender? I thought you said you were a temp.”
“Potato potatoe. Ooh, I could really go for some fries right now.” The chandeliers began to tilt and spin as the floor rolled beneath Emelia’s feet. She closed the distance between them and stood up on teetering tip-toe to meet him eye to eye. Her skin flushed hot. If the temperature in the cellar hadn’t just skyrocketed, she was the first twenty-five year old on record to start menopause. “Am I as hot as you are? I mean, are you as hot as I am? No, that’s not right either.” She paused, slowing her thoughts to molasses. “Is the room spinning for you, too?”
She may have been seeing things, but could’ve sworn the stranger nodded. “You’re not what I was expecting to find when I came down here tonight. You’re not afraid to say what’s on your mind, are you?”
“Nope.” She put her hand to her head, steadying herself. “Never have been.”
A strange vibe shot between them as he put two fingers to her chin and lifted her gaze to his.
“There’s something about you,” he whispered. Emelia felt like a puppet on a string, held captive by the two fingers holding her chin. “You’re…different.”
“Is diff’rent good?” It had to be the wine. It had to be the hint of want sparking in the stranger’s dark, brooding eyes. It had to be the fact that she’d never see him again—Wilder Financial Services was a maze of offices and halls. The urge to taste the stranger’s lips overtook her. “What am I doing?” As the question escaped her lips, Emelia pressed forward, brushing her lips against his.
His mouth was soft and supple. Dreamier than it should’ve been. Maybe it was the excitement of kissing a stranger. Yup, had to be it. Excitement sizzled through Emelia’s body, curling her toes, crinkling the skin over her bones. No one had ever riled her up this much from doing so little. It was a kiss. A tiny little kiss that could’ve been forgotten.
There was no way she’d forget this. As Emelia parted her lips to draw the stranger’s tongue into her mouth, he pulled back.
“We probably shouldn’t,” he said, but the hunger in his eyes spoke otherwise.
How could he deny her? She’d already tasted the sweetness of his lips and wanted more. As she leaned forward to catch his mouth, she misjudged the distance between them and smashed against his chest. He caught her, roping an arm around her waist.
“Forget me tomorrow. Hell, forget me tonight.” Shivers danced over Emelia’s skin and she closed her eyes. “But kiss me now.”
He squeezed her tightly against him. Crushed his mouth to hers with more passion than she expected. She became drunk on his mouth, his kiss, the way he worked his tongue like a skilled lover. He tasted of wine and lust and intensity unlike anything she’d ever had. She lost herself in him. Felt her body pull to his. She molded against his sculpted chest. Moaned into his mouth and dug her fingers into his hair.
With a growl, he pulled back, keeping her at arm’s length, his fingers gouging into her shoulders. “This isn’t possible.” He breathed hard, chest heaving. “This can’t be happening. Not now.”
Oh, this was happening. Right here. Right now.
“Where’d you come from?”
God, she was so dizzy. Was she sitting? Lying down? She pinched her eyes shut, willing his mouth to cover hers again. “I come from The Knight Owl.”
“What? No, I mean which office are you from? Did someone send you?”
“It’s the name of my bar. The Knight Owl. That’s why I’m here.” She was saying too much. She should stop. She should kiss him again and shut him up, too.
She pushed forward, but he’d already pulled away, dropping his hands from her shoulders. “I’m sorry Emelia, but I have to go.”
Emelia’s eyes flashed open and she spun, landing against the massive wine rack with a thud. “I don’t even know your name.”
Not that she wanted to know. Nope. Didn’t want to look him up in the office directory for a night of fun. No way.
“Drake,” he said, turning back at the French doors that led out of the cellar. “My friends call me Drake. And I have to say, while you probably won’t remember this, you’re the sexiest Little Red Riding Hood I’ve ever seen.”
“Isn’t Drake the name of a plant from Harry Potter?” Heart thudding in her chest, Emelia closed her eyes and laid her head on the rack behind her. “What was it called again? Drake…miss…Mandrake! Yup, that’s it. The plant with all the crazy roots.”
When Emelia peeled her eyes open, Drake was gone, leaving her with a warm buzz in her belly, a brain as empty as her glass of Lafite, and the lingering taste of their kiss on her tongue.
As the sun reached its peak in the sky the next day, Drake stepped out of his limo and onto the busy curb in front of Wilder Financial. If he was the nervous type, his palms would’ve been sticky with sweat. He would’ve adjusted his tie a thousand times on the ride over. He would’ve phoned the office to make sure everything was in order. Instead, his body became rigid, wound tight with anticipation. Knots of tension pinballed around his stomach and his chest hardened with hot rods of adrenaline.
Struggling to keep his impulses in check, Drake strode through the glass doors of his office building and passed by a gawking secretary, who stood the instant he made eye contact.
“Good morning, Mr. Wilder,” she said, alarmed, pressing down the front of her dress suit.
“Good morning.” Drake didn’t mean to startle her, so he nodded politely and picked up his pace through the white-washed lobby.
Employees whispered and stared as he passed by, though he couldn’t blame them for their odd behavior. He was the leper CEO of Wilder Financial, the boss who rarely peeked his head out of his office. He hated this part of the building—the sterile and impersonal nature of it—which was probably why he never entered through the sweeping front doors. He preferred to show up via helicopter from the pad on the roof, then take the stairs down to his upper-level office. It was easier to keep snooping noses out of his private life that way, too. If anyone got too close and found out he was a three hundred year old werewolf, he was done for.
But today was different.
Today he hoped to see the blonde vixen who stole his wine and stopped his heart. He searched every passing face for some resemblance to the woman from the cellar, spotted beauties of all shapes and sizes, but none of them compared. None of them held a candle to Emelia Hudson.
Would he see her walking the lower hallways or would he meet her on the top floor near his office? He held his breath, impatiently waiting until the moment when he’d see her in the light of day.
He entered a packed elevator, and although he was sure the employees were all going up, they exited upon his entrance, leaving him staring at his own reflection when the doors hissed shut. His dark eyes appeared more strained than normal—probably from the insufficient two hours of shut-eye he’d gotten last night—and his hair was unusually messy, nearly flopping into his eyes. He scrubbed his hands over his face and tunneled his fingers through his hair.
When he hit the forty-second floor—the penthouse—and the doors yanked back, Drake clenched and unclenched his fists, shook out his arms and exhaled.
This was it. The moment when he would see Emelia again and know if the connection between them was caused by the wine or something…else.
Raul Bloomfield, his beta wolf, charged around the corner and welcomed Drake with a stiff hand shake.
“Good morning, boss,” he said, handing him a note with missed calls on it, listed by matter of importance. “I have to say, you threw quite the party last night.”
“Thank you, Raul. They say parties can be judged by the mess they leave in the morning. From the looks of my living room, I’d say it was a riot.” Drake skimmed the list and shoved it into his front pocket. He had more important matters to attend to at the moment. “Is Emelia Hudson here yet?”
“No sir, I’m afraid she’s running late.” Raul pressed down the front of a Brioni coat as straight and black as his hair. Even though his eyes were a muted shade of charcoal, they held an intensity that could strike fear in the heart of any one of their packmates. “But I’ve briefed Ms. Fox on the new state of affairs. She’ll run your business aspects, as usual, and Ms. Hudson will be your personal secretary until you feel she is ready to handle other matters of business.”
Drake checked his watch as he marched around the corner and down the long hall leading to his office. “I asked you to have her transferred here first thing this morning. It’s nearly noon.”
Raul Bloomfield had been Drake’s beta wolf for two hundred years. He’d never taken this long to obey an order. Figures he’d stall on the most important order Drake had ever given him: transfer Emelia Hudson to his private office staff ASAP.
“I contacted the temp agency as you requested,” Raul said, following on Drake’s heels. “I retrieved all of Ms. Hudson’s information from the county, and I’m searching the pack’s database for more comprehensive records. I had an extra desk moved outside your door, as requested, and she should be here any minute. I’m told she’s running late due to a nasty hangover, sir.”
Raul’s thoughts raced through Drake’s head as if they were his own. The ancient pack-speaking process was common to him—as ordinary as drinking his coffee black and his scotch blue—but this time, Raul’s silent words turned Drake’s feet to stone.
Why do I get the feeling she experienced more than a hangover, sir? Luminaries are reported to experience symptoms that resemble drunken stupor when they meet their fated mate.
“Don’t even think it, Raul. I wasted two hundred prime years of my life looking for my Luminary. She’s not going to appear as Little Red Riding Hood at one of my office parties a century after I’ve given up searching for her.”
“If you say so, sir.”
Despite Drake’s ramblings, he knew there was something off about his reaction to Emelia. The way she’d looked in that silly costume had captured his interest first—the crimson corset hour-glassed her figure and flaunted the plumpness of her breasts, making his mouth water and his hands ache to brush over her skin. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, hands down, oozing sex appeal without trying. But it was the sincerity behind her piercing stare that had held Drake prisoner in the cellar. Those midnight-blue eyes had spellbound him, rendering him speechless, pinching his heart in a vice. He’d never experienced anything like it before.
Could he really have found her? His Luminary? The idea struck him as ridiculous. He was an Alpha, rightful heir to the Seattle wolf pack throne. She was human. She wasn’t a born werewolf, and to be turned would mean she wouldn’t be strong enough to have children. Or, in the case that she became his mate, Alpha heirs. In three hundred years, he’d never heard of an Alpha finding a human as his Luminary.
Fate was a nasty bitch, with a twisted sense of humor.
After leaving the cellar last night, Drake had retreated to his room. He’d dived into old texts about the reaction an Alpha werewolf would have upon finding his one and only Luminary—the eternal light in his life, his soul mate. He’d studied the chemical reaction that sparked between fated lovers upon first touch. Everything was spot-on to how he’d felt down in that cellar…with her.
Still, Drake had to meet her again. Just to be certain. He had to touch her, just once, to see if the spark existed outside of the cellar.
As Drake reached his secretary’s desk, Trixie Fox stood and handed him a steaming mug of coffee. It was bold and out-of-the-pot hot, nearly scalding his tongue. The pain quieted Raul’s thoughts before they could continue further.
“Good morning, Mr. Wilder,” Trixie said with a kind smile.
“I hope the new arrangement’s all right.” Drake pointed to the second desk across from Trixie’s—the one he’d brought in especially for Emelia. The mahogany desks faced each other and flanked his door, creating an alleyway to his office. “I’m not sure if Ms. Hudson will pan out as my personal secretary, but I know how overworked you’ve been lately. I think it might be more accommodating to split the secretary position into admin and personal.”
It wasn’t a total lie. Trixie worked her ass off for Wilder Financial, and could absolutely use another set of hands to assist with business, only those hands wouldn’t be Emelia’s. Drake wasn’t sure how long it would take to rule out Emelia as his Luminary—a touch of her hand should be all he needed to test the spark—but he’d keep her close until he knew for certain. He made a mental note to find Trixie a real assistant as soon as he ruled Emelia out.
“It means so much knowing that you’ve noticed how hard I’ve been working.” Trixie tucked her tawny-brown hair behind her ears and smiled coyly. “I was starting to think you didn’t see me at all.”
Under normal circumstances, Drake would’ve been flattered by Trixie’s constant attention. He couldn’t deny she was classically beautiful—taller than average with a model-thin build, generous breasts and legs that wouldn’t quit. But there’d never been a spark between them. At least not from Drake’s side. In the five years Trixie had worked for the company, Drake had never gotten the urge to take advantage of the long nights they spent working in his office.
“I trust you’ll be able to instruct Ms. Hudson on how we run things around here?”
Trixie nodded. “I’ll have her in top form in no time.”
As far as Drake was concerned, Emelia’s form was already top notch. “I’m sure you will.”
Striding toward his office, Drake shot a quick glance at the desk that would soon be Emelia’s. Flat screen monitor. Keyboard. Pad of paper. Telephone. She already had the necessities, though she wouldn’t be using those things much. As Drake’s personal assistant, she’d refill his coffee, run errands, take orders, and handle things Trixie was too busy to handle herself.
He couldn’t wait to see Emelia again.
“Mr. Wilder?” Trixie’s voice pierced his thoughts.
He turned and stared into questioning hazel eyes. “Yes?”
“Pardon my saying so, but are you sure you want a temp to fill this position? I’m sure we could find a secretary from a lower department who is more qualified.”
“I appreciate your concern, Trixie, and perhaps in a day’s time we’ll get someone from another department. For now, I want Emelia Hudson and no other.”
With a wince, Drake entered his office and waited for the door to click shut behind him.
“You want Emelia Hudson and no other?” Raul’s voice taunted.
Drake stood in front of his floor-to-ceiling windows, zoned out on the misty cityscape, and scrubbed his head. Had he really just said that? “Damn, that came out wrong.”
“No,” Raul said, placing his hand on Drake’s shoulder. “There’s a chance it came out right.”
It’d been nothing more than surprise, Drake thought. Emelia had caught him off guard in the wine cellar last night. He hadn’t been with a woman in months. He’d been tense and on edge, tired from dealing with bundles of acquisitions in the city. He’d been all business, impersonal and cold, for so long, she’d been a welcomed surprise. She’d somehow soothed him.
She couldn’t be his Luminary, his one and only destined mate.
God help him if she was.