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Sawyer Kelmount’s destiny is at the head of the pack, but becoming Alpha was supposed to happen much later in his life. Grieving the loss of his father forces him to slowly accept his new responsibilities, but as he steps up to lead the others on Wolf Ranch, he’s haunted by his loneliness and the mistakes of his past. Surely this would all be easier to accept if his mate were still here.
Erika Morrison is happy with her life in L.A., but when she learns that Sawyer’s father has passed away, she dutifully makes the trip home to Wolf Ranch to attend the funeral. Expecting Sawyer to be as distant and aloof as always, Erika is surprised that the new pack Alpha wants her help with the ranch’s finances. And being near him again sparks the embers of an old flame that never really burned out.
As Erika sorts through the books for Sawyer to figure out what’s really going on, one phone call forces her to make a difficult decision: return to L.A. or stay on Wolf Ranch and work things out with Sawyer once and for all.
With that one word, she froze. She’d know that voice anywhere. Sawyer Kelmount.
Why was he here, and where was Knox?
She hesitated a moment too long because he said her name again. She turned to face him, knowing full well she didn’t have enough time to school her features and the shock would be evident on her face.
“Sawyer,” she greeted him, a little breathlessly. “Why are you here?”
A corner of his mouth lifted in a sardonic half smile she remembered from so long ago. “It’s nice to see you too, Erika.”
She flushed a little, shifting from foot to foot. “I’m sorry, Sawyer. I don’t mean to be rude. I was just expecting Knox.”
He reached down and hefted the suitcases she’d let go of. “It’s fine. Knox had an emergency with a couple of the mares going into labor and asked if I’d pick you up. I’ll take you to the house, and he’ll be over when he can.”
“Oh. Okay.” She fell into step beside him as they maneuvered around the mingling crowds and out into the blinding Montana sunlight. She squinted after the dimness of the terminal and followed him across the parking lot to a big, pewter colored truck. She couldn’t stop the smile.
“This is a long way from your first truck,” she commented.
Sawyer laughed as he loaded her suitcases into the back. “Yeah. But that 1982 Chevy Luv was everything to my sixteen-year-old heart.”
He opened my door for her, but before she could step up into the truck, she heard him mutter an oath before he grabbed her into a crushing hug.
“Goddamn, Erika, it’s good to see you,” he said, his arms banding around her back and his fingers caressing her ribs.
“Sawyer,” she murmured, hugging him back, basking in his scent. A scent uniquely his: man and earth and sandalwood. It felt good being held by him, and she stood for a minute reveling in it. She’d missed him so damn much.
“Sawyer,” she said again, tears springing to her eyes. “I’m so sorry about Alpha James. I’m so sorry you’ve lost him.”
His grip tightened, and she knew he was fighting back his own tears. They swayed together until they both regained their composure, then he stepped back and motioned for her to climb into the truck.
He slid behind the steering wheel and, after snapping his seat belt, drove toward Kelmount Ranch. The sun, so bright only minutes before, was beginning to set in a swirl of orange and pink. Her throat ached from looking at it. She always forgot the majesty of a Montana sunset.
She started when Sawyer spoke. “Knox says you’re planning on staying a while this time.”
Erika nodded. “The season ended last week, and I’ve got a nice long break. I thought it was time to come home for a while.”
“Your family will be glad you’re here. So will Bailey and Mom.”
She smiled. “How is Mama Wolf? Does she still make the best banana nut bread in the world?”
“Absolutely. She’s ok. Holding up well for the most part. I guess we all are.”
“That’s all you can do in a situation like this.” She wanted to reach over and touch him, to offer him whatever comfort she could, but she could sense he wouldn’t welcome it. She used words instead. “Alpha James was the cornerstone of your lives. It’ll take some time to adjust to him being gone and to cement your place as Alpha. I’ll help where I can with that.”
Sawyer cleared his throat. “I’m glad you’re willing to help. I was actually going to ask if you wanted a job while you were here.”
Erika glanced over at him in surprise. “A job? What kind of job?”
Sawyer’s hands tightened on the wheel. “A financial advisor kind of position. Bookkeeping, maybe. Something. I’m not exactly sure what to call it. Forensic accounting?”
She shook her head. “Sawyer, you’re not making any sense.”
He sighed. “Sorry. It’s been a rough, wild few days. Let me gather my thoughts and start at the beginning.”
Erika studied him as she waited for him to speak again. His black hair, still wonderfully thick, was shot through with flecks of silver, and his tanned skin showed laugh lines and signs of stress. His eyes, his glorious blue eyes the color of rare blue spinel, were the same and still caused my heart to flutter. He carried his weight well on a lean six-foot-two frame, and I knew he was ropey with muscle. Man and wolf twined together, and she wondered if he ever let his wolf roam the countryside like he used to.
Before she could ask, Sawyer spoke again, his voice gruff. His words shocked her to her core.
“My father was murdered.”