Savage Urges – Suzanne Wright

Finding an unconscious shifter on your doorstep was a definite buzzkill. Frowning in surprise, Makenna Wray double-blinked, half expecting him to disappear. Nope, he was still there, which just went to prove that Friday the thirteenth really was an unlucky day. She gently toed the male body, which smelled strongly of wolf. No response. She squatted beside him, only then realizing he was just a kid. He looked approximately sixteen, but his scent wasn’t ripe enough for that age. There was a small pool of blood by his head, but nothing that would indicate an injury he wouldn’t quickly heal from, given that he was a shifter. There was also some vomit on his clothes, but it would seem that he’d spewed up elsewhere. Given all the facts, she suspected that he’d tumbled down the steps that led to her basement apartment. She might have worried that he’d been pushed, but she could scent two other things. Beer and drugs. As such, it was likely that he’d fallen in his drunken, drugged-up state and knocked himself clean out. Idiot. Normally, she’d be unsure of what to do next.

Of course, she knew what society dictated she should do: check that the stranger was alive and call for help. Well, she could hear his heartbeat clearly enough, so she could cross the first off the list. As for calling for help . that part wasn’t so simple. Packs were insular and private. They understandably didn’t like outsiders knowing or involving themselves in their business—especially lone shifters like herself. And Makenna wasn’t fond of the idea of having strangers in her home; it was essentially her territory, and she was naturally protective of it. So yeah, she’d ordinarily be hesitant in getting involved in a shifter pack’s business. But as she took in the kid’s rumpled clothes, undernourished appearance, and the distinctive musty smell typical of a homeless shifter, Makenna wondered if, in fact, she was looking at another lone wolf. Of course she could be wrong.

In any case, she couldn’t leave him out here. This wasn’t a good area for unconscious people—hell, it wasn’t a good area for conscious people. And the truth was she was a sucker for a person in trouble. Once she’d unlocked her front door, Makenna slipped her arms under the kid’s armpits and dragged him through her small apartment to her bathroom, where she dumped him in the shower. Then she turned on the cold water. He sputtered to life, shaking his head and coughing. He tried to stand, but his legs buckled. Wild, stunned, bloodshot eyes settled on her. “Who the hell are you?” “I’m the person who found you unconscious on my doorstep,” she replied dryly. “Who the hell are you?” He squinted.

“You did?” The wildness faded from his eyes, revealing an inner turmoil that she could have related to at his age. Taking pity on him, she turned off the water. “How’s your head?” He touched the back of his head and then winced. “A little sore.” His nostrils flared. “You’re a shifter. A wolf.” “Yes. And you didn’t answer my question. Who are you?” He regarded her warily.

“Zac.” “I’m Makenna. Why did you come here tonight?” “I don’t remember how I got here.” He ran a jerky hand over his tangled hair. “I was at a party. A fight broke out there, so I left and . ” He trailed off, slanting her a suspicious glance. “I guess I took a wrong turn somewhere on my way home.” He struggled to his feet. “I have to get back.

My pack will be wondering where I am.” “You’re a loner, aren’t you?” Loners had a bad reputation among shifters and were generally distrusted. Some shifters chose the lone wolf lifestyle, but some had no choice. In any case, it wasn’t a pretty fate. They were thought to be on their own because they were banished from their packs for committing awful, heinous crimes. And without the safety of a pack, they became easy prey for other shifters, so a number of them became assassins for hire to earn money and protection. But being in a pack wasn’t always a good thing, and it didn’t necessarily make a person any safer from harm. Panic flashed across Zac’s face. “No, of course not.” “That party you went to .

Let me guess, it was Tariq’s party.” His mouth pressed into a thin line. “You know Tariq?” “I know Tariq.” He was a shithead who recruited loners to work for him. “You should stay away from him.” Zac bristled. “He’s my friend.” “Because he gave you alcohol, drugs, food, and somewhere to stay? That’s what Tariq does. He finds loners like yourself, he gives them all those things, makes them feel like part of a group . then suddenly he announces, ‘Hey, those things weren’t freebies.

Now you owe me.’ Trust me when I say the jobs he’d ask you to do wouldn’t be fun.” “How do you know?” “I’ve helped a lot of his recruits over the years.” His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why would you help loners?” “Because I’m a loner too. Someone helped me. And now I’m going to help you.” Earlier that day, she had helped a ten-year-old loner move to a pack consisting of his extended family—hence Makenna’s happy “buzz” that had disappeared on finding Zac on her doorstep. “How?” “I’m going to take you to a safe place.” Zac snickered.

“There’s no such thing.” “I won’t ask you to trust me. You have no reason to. All I ask is that you come with me somewhere.” He licked his chapped lips. “Yeah? Where?” “It’s a shelter for loners, you’ll be safe there. If you don’t want to stay, you don’t have to. But if you want food, fresh clothes, and a bed, you’ll find all those things there.” “What’s the catch?” “You at least take a shower, because you absolutely reek.” His mouth twitched into the smallest smile for a mere second.

He was a good-looking kid. “I don’t have to stay there?” She shook her head. “In fact, you could just stay long enough to eat, shower, and change into clean clothes. But if you go back to Tariq, your life will become worse than anything that ever came before. Believe that, if nothing else.” For a moment, he was silent. “I’ll go with you.” “Right decision.” S CHAPTER TWO talking people was so boring. At least the view was attractive.

Smoky black eyes, a strong jaw, broad shoulders, and impressive abs that she could see right through his dark-gray tee. The angles of his face were hard, rough, and dangerous, matching his menacing frown. He was incredibly hot, if you liked the broody, rugged type, which Makenna totally did. Especially when that male exuded strength and confidence with every step he took. Ryan Conner. Whenever she found potential guardians for loners, she researched them, scouting the Internet for information and asking questions of her many sources. The guy was a respected enforcer within a powerful pack and was well known for being a seriously talented tracker. All good things. He’d been described as stoic, dauntless, cold. But Makenna often had feelings about people—she was good at reading them, good at seeing past masks and shields—and she had a very good feeling about Ryan Conner.

Since she had a better chance of talking with him in a public place than being permitted on his territory, she’d followed his Chevy Suburban to a small line of stores in town. And now, parked at the far side of the lot, she watched impatiently as he stood by his car talking on his cell phone. Her plan was pretty simple: the moment he put away his cell, she’d approach him, introduce herself, explain the issue, and . and now he was walking away. She grimaced as he disappeared down an alley, out of sight. Crap. Could nothing be simple anymore? Hopping out of her Mustang, Makenna crossed the lot, traced the path he’d taken, walked into the alley, and— Where the fuck had he gone? She moved a little farther into the alley, stepping into the shadows. It was empty. Well, that was totally shit. Now she’d have to— A large, warm, calloused hand suddenly curled around her throat from behind as a solid body propelled her forward, caging her against the brick wall; the rough surface grazed her palms.

A hot mouth was then at her ear. “Why are you following me?” It was a menacing rumble. And just like that, at the feel of his breath against her ear and the sound of that gravelly voice, lust slammed into her. The reaction was instant, elemental, and totally unwanted. Sometimes being a naturally sexual creature was very inconvenient. “You know, there aren’t many people who can creep up on me. You’re good.” He hadn’t made a single sound. Makenna was good at stealth, but not that good. For a moment, he didn’t respond, and she had the feeling she’d surprised him.

He grunted, “Answer my question.” Did he think that gruff tone would scare her? It probably should. Especially since she had well over six feet of untamed power practically curled around her from behind. With her slim build fitting into the groove between his broad shoulders and her head resting just beneath his chin, she felt totally surrounded. Her wolf should have felt threatened. She didn’t though, as she was a little distracted by the dark animal energy that hummed beneath his skin and his delicious scent: rich hazelnut, smoky sandalwood, and a dark sexuality. Makenna could admit it was rather distracting. “Sure thing. But I’ll need you to release me first.” In truth, she could easily escape his hold.

But it would serve her best to let him believe she was helpless. “I’ll release you when you answer me.” “I just need to talk to you.” “So talk.” His thumb circled her throat in a movement that was surprisingly arousing. “Look, I’m on a bit of a schedule here—” “Who sent you? What pack are you from?” If she revealed she was a lone wolf this early in the conversation, she’d most likely be sent on her way. “Nobody sent me. I just need to speak with you.” A pause. “You have five minutes.

” “I’m gonna need at least ten.” “I mean you have five minutes to convince me not to snap this pretty little neck.” He punctuated that with a flex of his grip. She sensed that he wasn’t kidding. Well, of course he wasn’t. She was a perfect stranger, she’d been following him, and he had all the instincts of an enforcer. A threat to an enforcer was a threat to their pack. As such, they would never hesitate in eliminating one. “Hey, if you really want me to walk away, fine. But then you’ll never know what was so important to make me trail you like this.

” He grunted. It was a sound that said, “So?” “Damian Lewis was your cousin. Correct?” He didn’t respond, but she knew she was right. “As I’m sure you know, he died six years ago. His mate died shortly after, unable to survive the breaking of the mating bond, leaving their son to the care of their pack.” She licked her lips. “Zac left his pack six months ago, and he point-blank refuses to return. He’s been staying at a shelter for loners for the past four months.” Ryan still said nothing. “Are you going to let go of me now?” “No.

” He circled his thumb over her throat again, increasing the buzz of arousal beneath her skin. “What does this have to do with you? Are you from his pack?” “No, I’m a volunteer at the shelter.” He growled, “You’re a loner?” As his grip tightened—not enough to hurt but enough to reassert his dominance—Makenna sighed. “Okay, I get it. You’re a big, bad, scary wolf, and your proverbial dick is bigger than mine. I’m officially intimidated.” “Really?” “Yes.” His mouth moved even closer to her ear, until he was almost nibbling on her lobe. “That’s a lie. I don’t like it when people lie to me.

Don’t do it again.” As Ryan Conner released her and took a single step back, she turned to face him. Big black-flecked cognac eyes that held a hint of something wild met his steadily; they acted as a punch to his gut and heightened the oppressive, sexual need that struck him the moment he’d inhaled her scent. She was a pretty little thing. Shiny with all those bangles and dangly earrings. Her slender body was supple, sinuous, and fit just right against his own. He itched to fist his hands in her long, beach-layered waves—a mix of gold, copper, dark red, and a hint of plum purple, making him think of autumn leaves. While she stood there looking quirky and feminine in a vintage maroon dress that showcased smooth tanned legs he wanted wrapped around him, it would be easy to overlook her strength and keen eyes. But Ryan knew when he was looking at something dangerous. There was something almost .

untamed about the female in front of him. Officially intimidated by him? He almost snorted. She’d had a hand wrapped around her throat, an aggressive wolf at her back, and been trapped against a wall. Yet, she hadn’t bristled. Hell, her heart rate hadn’t even gone up. He doubted much fazed this female at all. He had the distinct feeling that if he were to attack her, she would go crazy on his ass—not come at him with combat moves but with street-fight moves. Scrappers fought dirty and wild. The fact that she was a lone shifter should have dulled his arousal. They weren’t to be trusted —it was a well-known fact.

His cock didn’t seem to care about that. Nor did the instinct to possess her that was whispering over Ryan like a sensual touch. The same need for her also rode his wolf. Once, Ryan could have also described his wolf as relatively placid. But after being held captive and tortured by a rival pack many years ago, his wolf had changed. He’d become harder, defensive, and more withdrawn than ever. One thing had never changed: when the wolf wanted something, he wanted it there and then. He demanded it. And at that moment, he was demanding this female. “Who are you?” “My name’s Makenna Wray.

” “Why didn’t you come to me sooner about the kid?” “Zac refused to tell me his surname until a month after I found him. It was a further two months before I could convince him to allow me to attempt to rehome him. I needed time to check out his family tree and research each of his relatives—there aren’t many. You seemed the most suitable guardian. The Phoenix wolves have a reputation for being dangerous and powerful but also loyal and very protective of their own. Zac needs to feel safe and wanted. Right now, he’s convinced that you won’t want him.” Of course Ryan would want him. He hadn’t been close to Damian and he’d never met the kid, but he was still family. “I’ll take him now.

” Prepared for an angry response, Makenna said, “Um, it’s not gonna work like that.” When he growled, she raised a hand. “Easy, White Fang. Hear me out.” He just stared at her, his watchful eyes giving away none of the anger radiating from him. It was an unsettling stare, yet it didn’t unnerve her. Nor did the menacing vibe he omitted. Instead, she had the sudden urge to poke at him and gain a reaction of some kind. Makenna had to admit she did have an almost pathological desire to antagonize dangerous predators. It was becoming a quest, of sorts.

She went on. “You have to appreciate that although Zac is your family, he doesn’t know you. He doesn’t trust you. And he has absolutely no reason to do so. You’re family, but you’re distant family. You and your pack mates are all strangers to him. His father didn’t even speak of you. If I hadn’t done a background search on Zac, he would never have known the two of you are related. You need to consider all of that.” Her coolness and formality pricked at Ryan’s patience.

There was an authority in her voice— the type that came from someone who didn’t lead others but who was strong enough to stop others from leading them. Ryan was an enforcer, she was a lone wolf . and she was speaking to him as if their statuses were reversed. No, she was speaking to him as though their statuses meant nothing. He inhaled deeply, seeking patience. And instead filled his lungs with her scent. God, that fucking scent . wildflowers, black cherries, and innate sensuality layered with a tint of arousal. He could almost taste it on his tongue. So she wasn’t quite as unaffected by him as she seemed.

“He’s worried that you’ll ask me to return him to his pack,” said Makenna. “You should know that I won’t allow that.” “What happened to him there?” “Zac won’t speak of it. But he shows all the signs of an abused child, which is why I will do whatever it takes to ensure he never comes in contact with that pack again.” Ryan liked her almost animalistic ferociousness. This was a female who was confident in her ability to protect herself and anyone she considered under her protection. “I ask that you meet with Zac a few times, get to know him. Then, when he’s comfortable enough to do so, he can visit you on your territory and meet all of your pack members. That could be all it takes to make him want to stay with you. However, it may take some overnight visits.

It’s all about building trust. If you rush this, if you try to take him against his will, he won’t feel safe with you. He’ll run again.” The same part of Ryan that balked at leaving his relative in a shelter also balked at causing the kid that kind of distress. Ryan wasn’t that much of a bastard. For the most part. “I’ll agree to take this at Zac’s pace.” Makenna had to smile at the way he’d said “Zac’s pace” not her pace. It was a message that she best not think she was in control here. “Good.

” “But I want to see him soon.” “Today won’t be possible, but tomorrow would be fine. You know Trevon Park, right?” “I know it.” “Zac and I will meet you there at noon tomorrow.” Ryan didn’t like being made to wait for anything. As a rule, he generally didn’t deny himself the things he wanted. But it would probably be best to take the time to speak to his pack before meeting Zac anyway. So he nodded. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Makenna.” Makenna almost shivered.

His words sounded more like a sensual threat than a good-bye, although that was most likely because his voice had that gravelly quality to it. As she walked away, she felt his gaze burning into her back. Her wolf was disappointed to leave him; she liked his quiet, confident, mysterious air. Makenna couldn’t deny his appeal. But she’d sure like to. As she slowly drove out of the lot, Makenna noticed Ryan standing by his Chevy, watching her leave with a deep frown. That natural snarl should have been off-putting, and she couldn’t work out why the hell it was far from it. Chocolate. She needed chocolate. Passing through the security gates of Phoenix Pack territory, Ryan nodded at Cam, who was manning the security shack.

He then drove into the wooded area, taking him onto the rocky trail that led to what his Alpha female called “Bedrock.” Most packs lived in cabins on a large stretch of land—some even lived in one single pack house. The home of the Phoenix wolves, however, was built into a cliff. Deep into the expansive wooded territory, the inconspicuous ancient cave dwelling had been increasingly modernized over time. Even when its arched balconies or windows were lit, they weren’t easy to see. As such, it was doubtful that anyone would recognize the dwelling for what it was unless they were looking for it. Having parked in the concealed parking lot at the base of the cliff, Ryan ascended several flights of steps that were carved into the mountain wall leading to the main entrance. He then walked through the maze of limestone tunnels, taking himself deeper into the mountain, as he headed for the living area. Only as he turned one corner . “Ryyyyyyyaaaaaaaaannnnnn!” A three-and-a-half-year-old came dashing toward him and scrambled up his body like a monkey, wrapping his little arms around Ryan’s neck.

Not good with kids, Ryan awkwardly put one arm around the son of his Alpha pair. It was then that he noticed the object in Kye’s hand. “Um, I don’t think that’s yours.” Kye’s new favorite game seemed to be “let’s see what I can steal today.” Tao, the Head Enforcer and Kye’s personal bodyguard, rounded the corner and sighed. “That kid is fast.” He held his hand out for the cell phone. “Give it back, pup.” Smiling impishly, Kye shook his head. Tao arched a brow.

“What did I say earlier?” “Don’t eat snot.” “What did I say before that?” “Don’t pick your nose.” Tao sighed. “Forget it.” Kye snapped his little teeth when Tao tried to detach him from Ryan. “No! I want to stay with Uncle Ryan!” Ryan cleared his throat as the little boy rubbed his cheek against his. Ryan wasn’t good at receiving or giving affection. Sensing his discomfort, Tao smirked. “Hey, this is what you wanted. When you first heard Taryn was pregnant, you told us you’d be the kid’s favorite uncle.

You are.” Ryan had said it to needle the other males. He knew little to nothing about kids. He was even worse at dealing with them than he was at dealing with adults. Fisting a handful of Kye’s shirt, he dangled the pup in front of him like he often did. As usual, Kye squealed in delight, kicking his legs. Grabbing the pup by the waist, Tao took him from Ryan. Giggling, Kye squirmed like a cat, stopping Tao from being able to keep a firm grip on him. Then Kye was once again scampering through the tunnels with Tao chasing him. Ryan continued to the living area, where he found his Alpha pair, Beta pair, and Rhett on the sectional sofa, watching TV.

“Rhett, I need you to do a background check on Makenna Wray—she’s a lone wolf.” Rhett was a talented hacker, and there was very little he couldn’t uncover. “And get whatever information you can on Damian Lewis and his pack.” Rhett blinked. “Um . sure. Can I ask why?” “I’ll explain soon. Just see what info you can find for me.” As the male left the room, his Alpha female, Taryn, looked up at Ryan. “Who’s Makenna Wray?” “Isn’t Damian Lewis your cousin?” asked Trey, her mate.

“I mean, wasn’t he your cousin?” Ryan nodded at Trey’s question before answering the first. “All I know about her is that she’s a lone wolf, she volunteers at a shelter for loners, and she’s hoping we’ll accept my younger cousin into our pack.” Taryn smiled gently. “Ryan, sweetie, I know you’re more of a grunter than a talker, but I need some more info here. How did you meet her? Why would the kid need you? What happened to him?” Settling into an armchair, Ryan gave them a bullet-point version of the morning’s events. As his Alpha female had rightly stated, he was a man of few words. Although he was detached and unsociable, he wasn’t completely without social skills. He simply didn’t care to be what others would define as “social.” He didn’t believe in fluff talk or that smiling should be his default expression. People sometimes assumed that he wished he were talkative.

That wasn’t the case at all. When he was quiet, it was because he simply didn’t have anything he wished to share at that moment. But his quiet nature often made people feel uncomfortable, even though not everyone who talked actually listened. They wanted to talk mostly to fill a silence. Having grown up in a house full of drama, he found something about silence very comforting. Words were overrated, in his opinion. They could be used to hurt and scar, and they could easily achieve it. “I didn’t know there was a shelter for loners,” said Jaime, the Beta female. “I suppose it’s not something they’d want to advertise, since loners don’t have protection from packs,” Taryn pointed out. “Did you know Damian well?” asked Dante, the Beta male, as he toyed with his mate’s long sable hair.

Ryan shook his head. “I only met him a few times when we were kids. He was my father’s first cousin, and my second cousin.” “How did he die?” asked Jaime. “He challenged his Alpha for the position, lost the duel, and refused to submit.” Shocked, Jaime leaned forward. “He chose to die rather than submit, even though he had a mate and son to take care of?” Her horror was understandable. Shifters often didn’t survive the breaking of a mating bond—a metaphysical connection that allowed mates to feel each other’s emotions and bolster each other’s energy. Damian would have known his death could lead to that of his mate and, consequently, leave his son without parents. “That’s what I heard,” said Ryan.

At that moment, Rhett returned. “What did you find out?” Returning to his spot on the sofa, Rhett replied, “Damian Lewis is your cousin, which I’m guessing you already knew.” At Ryan’s nod, Rhett continued. “He mated when he was in his twenties. His mate gave birth to twins, but one died within hours of being born. His son, Zac, was eight when his father died in a duel with his Alpha. Damian’s mate died days later. His pack—the York Pack—is small, extremely private, and resides about five miles from Lance’s pack.” Lance was Taryn’s father, who she didn’t have a great relationship with. “Apparently the Alpha, a guy named Brogan Creed, is a tough son of a bitch who runs his pack with an iron fist.

” “What about the loner?” Taryn asked. “What did you find out about her?” “Nothing.” Dante arched a brow. “Nothing?” “Either Makenna Wray doesn’t exist, or someone’s erased her proverbial paper trail. There’s absolutely no record of her anywhere.” Ryan stilled. He was assuming Makenna had been cast out of her pack, since it was rare for shifters to choose to be a loner. If she’d changed her name, she must have done something so bad that she was in hiding—maybe even had a bounty on her head. Volunteering at a shelter could mean that she regretted her actions and was seeking some form of redemption. Or maybe she was simply using it as a place to hide.

Trey looked at Ryan. “I don’t like this.” “Asking you to meet her could be some kind of trap—an attempt to get you someplace, alone and vulnerable,” Dante warned.

.

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