Wanted: One wild man. Domesticated males need not apply.
Cannon Pack, Book 2
Veterinarian Tala Wilde has always had a fascination for wolves--and a secret longing for a wild man. Her fantasies are so powerful she finds herself howling at the moon and dancing in its light.
Still, when she catches just such a man breaking into her clinic to free the canines, she wonders if finding the man of her dreams is a little too much reality for comfort. Is he half animal...or just half crazy? Should she howl along with him? Or howl for help?
Devlin Cannon never wanted a mate--until he answers Tala's innocent call. Even when he wakes up trapped in one of her dog runs with a rump full of buckshot, he knows the shapely vet is destined to be his. Trouble is, not only is she not a shifter, she doesn't even know they exist. Luckily, the sexual sparks they strike together soon lure her into his arms--and entice her inner animal out to play.
But before he can claim her for his own, they'll have to survive the hunters already hot on his trail, who are ready to skin them both alive...
This book has been previously published under the title Dancin' in the Moonlight and has been revised from its original release.
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October 08, 2009
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Excerpt from Dance on the Wilde Side by Beverly Rae
"No way. He's not even a four."
"Okay. So how about that guy?"
Carly rolled her eyes at Tala. "The lean, mean-looking one by the bar. The one staring at you."
Tala darted her eyes toward the bar then whipped her gaze back to her Cosmopolitan. "Figures."
"Just because he looks mean, doesn't mean he is mean, Tala. Besides..." Carly licked sugar off the rim of her glass. "I like 'em a bit rough around the edges."
Tala took another sip--and another peek at the man in question. "Rough is one thing, but ragged is another."
Carly, Tala's friend since childhood, leaned against the back of her stool and regarded her with cool eyes almost the same blue as her own. "Just how long can you last, girl? Four months and counting without any sex? How the hell do you keep from going insane?"
"I spend a lot of money on batteries." Tala chuckled at Carly's expression. "Hey, don't knock it. I can have a different fantasy every night. One night I can savage Brad and the next night I'm licking up and down Orlando's body." She laughed again even though her joke hadn't had the desired effect on her friend. "Besides, four months isn't very long. I mean, for most of us. Lighten up."
"I'd rather die than go four long, lonely months without male companionship. Much less without the Big O. Still--"
"Still, no man is better than an asshole, right?" Tala flicked a loose strand of hair away from her eye. "It's a sad fact, but the guys I've met lately aren't worth the time of day."
"Honey, I've been there. There is definitely a lack of quality fish swimming in our dating pond."
Tala nodded vigorously. "Exactly. Besides, I'm good to go, at least until my vibrator dies." Her friend snorted. "But hey, don't mind me. If you want to search for your perfect man--" she added finger quotes to the description, "--then, by all means, don't let my self-imposed celibacy stop you."
"Uh-oh, Tala. Don't look now, but Mr. Lean-and-Mean is headed your way." Carly's warning barely made it out of her mouth before the man appeared at Tala's side.
The stench of alcohol and smoke smothered the atmosphere and Tala had to shift her head to the side to gasp in semi-clean air. His hand slid behind her, stopping to rest on the top of her stool. "Hey, beautiful. You're Tala Wilde, right? Name's Fred. How about you join me for a nice, private drink?"
Oh, shit. A fan. He must have recognized her from the zoo's public service and promotional spots, Tala Wilde's Animal Facts. Although she loved being a vet and owning her own veterinary clinic, consulting at the zoo gave her the chance to work on more than dogs, cats and the occasional ferret. But how she'd let the zoo's administrators talk her into going on television, she would never know.
She tilted her head up and batted her eyes at him. "Wow, Fred, I haven't had such an enticing invitation in a really long time. How can I possibly refuse?"
His stained, toothy leer didn't do anything for his bloodshot eyes. "You can't." He snaked his hand around her arm and tugged her closer. "Come on, babe, let's go back to my place and you can show me what you've learned from all those wild animals. In fact, I bet you're the wild animal. You know. In bed. With Fred?"
Tala slipped her thumb under his fingers and ran her fingers over the top of his hand. "Let me give you a little tip, Fred. Unless you want a broken hand, back off. Now."
Carly shot him a look of warning. "She's been taking karate."
Fred scoffed and feigned an air of indifference. "Aw, but she wouldn't hurt me." Yet he carefully withdrew his hand before adding, "Would you, babe?"
Damn, how she hated anyone calling her "babe". But before she could open her mouth, Carly twisted on her stool, tipping over her drink. The cool liquid splashed onto Fred's bright orange shirt and green pants, a dark stain spreading over his crotch.
"Oh, I'm so, so sorry!" Carly feigned a contrite expression and winked at Tala.
Although they tried to hide their amusement, Fred's curse only added to their enjoyment. With a groan of disgust, he flicked drops off his hands. "You bitches are crazy." Adding a few more choice expletives, he slinked back to his hole at the bar.
"Thanks, girlfriend." Tala high-fived Carly. "Fred doesn't realize he got off easy."
Carly grabbed a rag from the waitress who arrived to clean up the spill. "I'll take care of this." She gestured toward Tala. "You can get the drink my friend here is buying me."
Tala sipped her Cosmopolitan. "You bet. You deserve it for saving the man's life. Or at least his hand." She shook her head, refusing the waitress's offer to get her another drink. "I think I'm going to call it a night."
"Already?" Carly pointed an accusing finger at her. "Come on, Tala. You need to let yourself go. Free your inner goddess. Run naked through the woods. Live a little."
Tala sputtered into her drink. "Oh, sure, I can see it now. Me, bare-assed, frolicking with the wildlife." Although she had to admit, if she could find the wild man of her dreams, she'd shed her inhibitions and her clothes in a sec. Until then, however, she'd keep her clothes on.
Carly sat up straighter, thrusting out her generous chest. "You can't go until at least one of us finds our perfect man." She copied Tala's earlier use of finger quotes. "After all, this is the hottest club in Denver. If we can't score here, we may as well become nuns."
Tala's sarcastic laugh turned heads in her direction again. Lowering her voice, she explained. "For Pete's sake, there's no such thing as the perfect man. It's an oxymoron, not to mention an impossibility."
But Carly picked up where they'd left off. "Stop with all the negativity and start hunting. The night's getting old."
"Okay. But only for a little while longer. And first, I'm getting some fresh air. I'm still choking from Fragrant Fred." She slid off the stool and snatched up her bag.
"You'd better not take off and leave me here alone." Carly pulled Tala's drink closer. "I'm holding your Cosmo hostage until you return."
Leave it to Carly to turn a simple night out into a hostage situation. "Fine. But don't you dare do any unapproved sipping." She pointed at her friend and strode toward the side door of the club.
Thank goodness for fresh air. Outside, Tala took another deep breath and leaned against the wall of the club. Although she was fairly certain she could get back in, she kept her foot wedged between the door and frame. The alley was dark, too dark, but she'd needed the break from the smoke and other aromas inside. A break from all that, as well as a moment to herself. A moment to reflect again, as she'd done so many times, about the dream.
She hadn't been able to shake it. At first, the dream had come sporadically and she'd written it off as her imagination added to something bad she'd eaten, or a distorted memory of a television show. But during the past two weeks the same dream had started coming every night, growing clearer, more familiar, more urgent in its intensity. What had been an oddity had turned into a daily event.
Her mind drifted off again, letting the image form in her mind's eye. Within seconds, the form appeared, drawing her deeper into her trance.
His long, toned body, sleek and glistening in the moonlight, slowly rose from a crouched position. Muscles rippled across his chest, highlighting the broad expanse while large brown nipples accented his hardened pecs. A sprinkling of silky black hair running from his six-pack abs led to the full curly patch below, and Tala wetted her mouth at the sight of his richly endowed shaft. Yet even more magnificent than his body, his face drew her attention away from his torso. Straight black hair teased the tips of his shoulders and flowed around his angular face, while his strong square jaw beckoned for a woman's touch.
And then she saw his eyes.
Amber eyes. Golden, compelling, magnetic eyes drawing her to him. Commanding her to be his, promising to be hers. Eyes she recognized from pleasurable nights of lustful dreams.
Her breaths shortened with the ache, the need clutching at her heart. Did he exist? Even as she wondered, he bent, inching back into a crouch. His image morphed, blurring the lines of his physique while outlining another. She blinked, trying to see him better but, instead, lost the vision for a moment. She whimpered a small, tortured sound.
Blinking again, Tala saw the new image. The eyes were the same. Amber eyes. Golden, compelling, magnetic eyes. She blinked again and stared into the eyes of a black wolf.
"Tala? Hel-lo? Tala? Are you okay?"
She jerked to awareness to find Carly gawking at her. Then she noticed why. She was down on the pavement, on all fours, gravel digging into her knees and palms. She must've fallen over after having too much to drink. Funny. I don't remember drinking a lot. "What's going on?"
Carly reached over and helped her to her feet. "Well, for one thing, you're sweating like a pig. Gross!" Releasing Tala's hand, she wiped her palm on her jeans. "Having hot flashes already?"
Tala shook her head to both answer the question and to clear the remnants of the dream lingering inside. She noticed the clamminess of her hands and copied Carly's gesture. "I, uh, guess I'm a little hot. Probably just the alcohol."
"Yeah. Sure." Carly's tone left no doubt of her disbelief.
Tala glanced around her, clarity forming again, and tried to make a joke. "What's the big deal? I zoned out for a minute and fell over. Too much drink, I guess. No biggie."
Carly patted Tala's arm, bringing her into a hug in the process. "You haven't been ill lately, have you?" She shot her a nervous grin. "Or are you just drunk off your butt? Literally."
Tala broke free and stepped away. "I'm fine."
"Uh-huh." Carly flipped open her cell phone.
"What is the matter with you?" Her nerves strung tighter, Tala gritted her teeth. "You're acting like I've gone over the edge."
Several tense moments passed until Carly broke the silence. "I'm not the one acting strangely, Tala. You are."
"Damn it all to hell and back, all I did was fall down."
Carly held her cell phone out. "Just look at the picture."
"Ugh." Tala pushed the phone away. "Just tell me." For some unexplainable reason, she didn't want to look.
Taking a deep breath, Carly answered. "You howled."
Tala's mouth dropped. "I did what? You're kidding."
From the expression on her friend's face, joking was the last thing on her mind. "I swear to God, Tala. You lifted your head, stared at the full moon, and howled."
"I did not." No way could she believe such an outlandish accusation. She'd had a daydream, sure. But howled?
Carly lifted an eyebrow at her. "Take a look at the picture, honey. Head laid back, baying at the moon in full color. Pictures don't lie."
Tala shook her head, still holding out hope for a better explanation. "No, but--"
Carly dipped her chin and raised both eyebrows. "Girl, I'm dying if I'm lying. And I am not lying to you. You stood there and let loose with an actual throw-your-head-back, no-holds-barred, canine-loving howl. Hell, I thought we'd have a wolf pack on us before the sound died out."
"I did?" Had she really howled? If she had, she needed to come up with a good explanation and quick. "Hey, I was just kidding around." She forced out a laugh. "And you fell for it."
Carly glanced at the image on her phone before arching a skeptical eyebrow at her. "Looked real enough to me. Too real."
Devlin scanned the valley below him, enjoying the twinkling of the city's lights. But the smell from the city offended him so he rubbed his nose in the dirt to get rid of the stench. Soon he'd change back into human form, but he traveled faster on four paws than on two feet.
She was his destiny and she'd called to him. He knew the truth in his heart, in his very soul. Her call had drawn him to the city and, like his father before him, he would find his mate among the humans.
Some of the pack never ventured into town, preferring the wild--and their wolf forms--to the city. He, too, preferred to conduct as much of his business as he could through associates, leaving the interaction with humans to others. Running his business from a distance had proven surprisingly easy, allowing him to stay in the mountains and have as little contact with the city and its noises as possible. Fortunately, his childhood friend Conrad handled the day-to-day operations, allowing Devlin to oversee the company from their mountain home.
But now he'd return to claim his mate, the one destined for him. The one he'd trust with his life. The one he'd trust with his heart. Unlike before, he let the vision of her play in his head. Her sparkling eyes now held a welcoming glow and she waved at him, beckoning him to come to her. She swayed, her hair floating over her shoulders, making him long to reach out and touch the silky strands. Lifting her head, she howled.
The sound no longer jarred him and he grinned with anticipation. She was beautiful and strong. And soon she would be his.
He loped toward the train yard spreading out below the hills. The satchel he carried on his back held what few supplies he needed. Stretching out his long legs, he lengthened his gait, anxious to reach the city.
Devlin reached the first track at the same moment the moon reached its zenith in the starlit sky. Ducking behind an empty boxcar, he checked to make sure he'd arrived unnoticed, then let the transformation start. Within seconds his human form materialized and he stood naked, the night breeze spreading goose bumps over his skin.
After pulling on jeans, a denim shirt, and well-worn boots, Devlin discarded the empty pack and ran a hand through his hair, checking his reflection in the metal of the car. Would his mate consider him handsome? Did it matter? They were soul mates. Their lives were already connected.
Rotating, he tried to determine which direction to go. He sniffed the air and caught her scent, slight and almost nonexistent, but there. Somewhere in this city of brick and steel, she waited for him.
Her aroma drew his attention to the left and he sniffed once more. Although he didn't know her name, her age or her exact location, he knew her smell. No other female could have called to him. Determined to answer her, he sped up, his feet pounding on the concrete surface below.
Office buildings grew fewer and farther between, while neighborhoods and subdivisions sprang up around him. The barking of a dog protecting his turf slammed him to a dead stop until he realized the dog couldn't escape from behind his six-foot fence. Uttering a low growl, he met the canine's gaze and snarled a dare. The dog whined, tucked his tail between his legs, and scampered into his doghouse.
"Don't start what you can't finish, pooch." Devlin cocked his head and again moved toward his mate's scent.
Her heady fragrance, filling his nostrils more with every step he took, drew him forward, bringing him to her as no compass or lighthouse beacon could. The nearer he got to her, the longer his strides became, until he broke into a comfortable run, his panted breaths matching the rhythm of his footfalls.
He was almost there. Along with her scent came a tug at his heart, an excitement, a thrill of the future with her. Rounding a corner, he jogged up the sidewalk, past the open gates and into an apartment complex.
Sounds of humans playing, arguing, living in the small dwellings stacked one on top of the other drifted to his ears. Devlin lifted his nose to the air and sniffed. Her spicy fragrance led him along the narrow pathway to the rear of the apartment building.
The last row of apartments backed up to a wooded lot, keeping the area more secluded than the rest of the complex. One lamppost lit the area behind the apartments, casting a yellow glow over the ground. Another light shone from a second-story window, highlighting a shadow on the blinds. He inhaled, caught wind of her, and smiled.
The dark form playing across the curtains glided back and forth, arms outstretched, almost as if in flight. Her shape, enticing in silhouette, dipped and weaved, dancing in time with the sensual music coming from inside the apartment. She twirled, sending her hair flowing away from her body, a flag waving an invitation to his heart. Her movements entreated him, sending a primal urge to dance with her flaring within his soul.
Where once those words had irritated, even angered him, now he welcomed them. How he had changed once he'd accepted his destiny, their destiny to be together.
After scanning the area for any onlookers, he crouched and jumped, hurling his body onto the side of the balcony rails, and pulled himself up for a good look. Secured with both hands, he paused when she stopped moving, holding his breath as he waited. Had she seen him?
"What 'cha doing?"