by Heather Long
Series: Wolves of River Bend, #9
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Ranae is the youngest of the Buckleys, and the only girl amongst three powerful male siblings. Her restlessness and dominant nature has affected every relationship within Willow Bend, not to mention testing the patience of her Alpha. Apprenticeship to the Hunters fed her desire for a purpose. When her Alpha and eldest brother ask her to undertake a mission to the Yukon territory, she’s thrilled at the opportunity for a real chance to be useful. Clashing with the Alpha was the last thing she expected on the dangerous assignment.
The oldest Alpha in the U.S. packs, lives a gray existence. The loss of his mate so many decades before wears away at him, until he doesn’t give a damn about anything. The problems of the other packs are not his, and he prefers to be left to his isolation. The arrival of the Chief Enforcer annoys him, but it is the wolf traveling with him who wakes the predator in Diesel. The scent of mate clings to her, but she rejects his overtures and challenges him on every level.
Riding the high of her nearness, Diesel leaned into the force of her hand on his chest. “I know my mate’s scent. I searched for you all over Willow Bend. Why else would Mason send you?” The moment the words left his lips, he reconsidered the phrasing. Her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared.
“I’m a Hunter of Willow Bend. I am here to deliver a message from my Alpha—and I don’t care what century you were born in old man, but we don’t arrange matings. You don’t just get to walk in here, thump your chest and say mine.” The ferocious light in her eyes sent a quiet thrill through his bloodstream. His wolf roused to the hunt, every color and nuance sharpening under their study.
“No?” He didn’t want to miss a moment of her reaction. Her dilated pupils constricted even as her mouth tightened. Anger soured her scent and her nails bit into his muscle as he pressed into the contact. Despite a faint tremble, she didn’t shift her grip or attack him. Would she? If he provoked her enough? The idea intrigued the hell out of him. No Alpha wanted a weak mate.
“No.” She withdrew the contact then retreated one step. Crowding closer, he refused to let her abandon him. “Dude…get a grip. I came here to do a job.” A muscle in her jaw twitched. “Or maybe you are trying to prove you don’t hold the Yukon?”
Challenge wound through every syllable. Canting his head to the side, he raised one eyebrow and waited.
“What? Playing crazy, eccentric keeps the other packs at bay and allows you to dictate the terms of your interactions. You don’t want to talk; you walk away or slam a door. You want to shut me down; you declare I’m yours.” Folding her arms, Ranae raised her chin and, although the gold circle on around her gray-green irises faded, it didn’t diminish completely. “It won’t work and I’m really not interested in the games. We have serious issues to discuss with you, Alpha. You can get on board or be left behind to cope on your own should the Russian packs turn their gaze on your territory and your pack.”
Amusement curved through him. Passionate determination etched into her expression. “Our pack will be fine.”
“My pack will be, absolutely. Your pack is debatable.” The aggravation in her scent muted beneath the sting of frustration. “Now you’re baiting me.” Sidestepping him, she tried to put some distance between them. He allowed her three steps before intercepting her again. He wanted her gaze on him, nowhere else. “Seriously, you have a problem.”
“No, I have a mate, but continue telling me why our pack is in danger.”
Pausing, her lips tightened and her eyes narrowed. The curl of her fingers into a fist telegraphed her next move. Would she do it? He pressed into her space, and she rewarded his effort with fresh contact in the form of a blow. It caught him square above his heart, and the second with her elbow connected with his jaw. He accepted both blows, but refused to retreat.
“Your training is incomplete.” Whatever response she’d been expecting, his comment surprised her. “Otherwise you’d understand that two hits will not take down an enraged male, if you want to escape you have to incapacitate or kill.”
“I don’t want to fight you.”
“Wonderful. I have no desire to fight you, but if you need to beat on me to make yourself feel better, go right ahead. I’m very sturdy.”
The corner of her mouth kicked into an involuntary smile, and his breath lodged in his throat, the single glimpse of sweetness a better reward than he could have imagined. “Are you insane?”
“Depends on your definition of sanity.” The tangle of her hair contrasted with the wool of her pullover. How soft would the strands be? When she failed to respond, he reached out to test his theory. She slapped his hand away, and the sting intrigued him.
“Stop.” Command reverberated through the single syllable. “I came here as a messenger, nothing else. Keep your teeth and your hands to yourself. Am I clear?”
In all things, an Alpha could command. He could take a life. He could grant it. Wolves who pledged to an Alpha could be sent into the heart of danger and forfeit all that they owned. The heart, however, could not be commanded nor could he take what she would not willingly give.
His wolf bucked at the rejection, but Diesel withdrew three steps to give her space. Clasping his hands behind his back, he studied the beautiful Hunter before him. She would not tumble easily, nor would she accept his direct pledge. Very well, if he had to learn to court, then he would find what enticed her. “Dress,” he ordered. “Several layers. We will be leaving the guest quarters.”
Expecting obedience, he turned to the entrance and pressed the code to allow Julian entry.
“Are you staying with her or leaving?” Her presence was non-negotiable.
“Since you asked so nicely…” The Chief Enforcer’s expression barely shifted, yet a smirk echoed beneath his words. “I’d be happy to stay.”
Uninterested in the old wolf’s games, Diesel spared his mate another studying look. Ranae gaped at him, and she hadn’t moved a muscle.
“Trust me when I say it will be more comfortable if you get dressed, but if you insist on testing my patience, I’ll happily take care of stripping you first then dressing you.”
The taunt did what the order would not. She moved.
His wolf rose, stretching and raking his claws. Yes, they had the scent of this hunt.
Another fantastic book from Heather Long! I just love her Wolves of Willow Bend series and Snow Wolf had everything I expected and then some. One of my favorite things about Heather Long’s writing is she immediately pulls you into the world she has created and makes you feel like you really know the characters. Each pack that she writes about definitely has their own personality and it doesn’t take long to see what is below the surface of the Yukon pack – a pack that is filled with care and concern for one another and takes care of their own.
I absolutely loved Diesel. He may be the oldest alpha in the US packs, but that has only made him wiser when it comes to taking care of his pack and learning that being patient can bring you great rewards. The loss of his mate many years ago has left him scarred and a bit aloof, and he really just wants to be left alone by the other US packs. When Julian, the Chief Enforcer, arrives in his territory carrying not only news of a potential threat to Diesel’s pack, but also carrying the scent of a potential mate, Diesel is intrigued. And once he meets Ranae he knows that it’s going to take more than just telling her “Mine” to accept him as her mate – and is more than looking forward to that challenge and all the fun that promises to bring!
I wasn’t too certain about Ranae at first. She has some definite anger issues and is more likely to act out rather than think things through – all things that her training as a Hunter is helping her work on. She definitely feels like this mission into the Yukon has given her a chance to prove herself to her family and more importantly her Alpha. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a man who she can’t decide if she wants to punch or climb like a tree…and he has her doing both! She is not amused by Diesel’s claiming and wants no part of being mated to a stodgy, set in his ways, aloof Alpha who lives in the middle of the tundra, but she has a job to do and Diesel is more than willing to take advantage of that fact to keep her with him while he tries to change her mind. Ranae also isn’t prepared for the man she finds beneath the surface, one who encourage her and appreciates her skills and abilities, one who doesn’t try to be over-protective but rather allows her to take care of him as much as he takes care of her…and it’s all these things that has her finding it hard to resist her attraction to him.
Diesel and Ranae together were so perfectly suited to one another. As an alpha, Diesel needs a strong, dominant mate to help him lead his pack. Once he recognizes that Ranae offers just that, he also recognizes that she has to accept him and cannot be forced into anything. I loved that Diesel was always open and honest with Ranae, and when he finally gets her to trust him enough to be the same, you can just feel how right they are together. I loved watching him surprise her time after time with his acceptance of her skills and her ability to take care of herself. He trusts her to watch his back and even though he still feels the need to protect, he also quickly recognizes that she is capable of holding her own and truly can be his other half, from the bedroom to the battlefield. When trouble finds its way into Diesel’s territory and his instinct is to play lone wolf to solve the problem and protect not just Ranae, his mate, but his entire pack, I just love how Ranae takes a page out of Diesel’s playbook to ensure that his plan has the best chance of success – I think that’s when I totally fell in love with Ranae!
I loved getting to spend some time with some characters from previous books and learning more about the threat from the Russian wolves. There are so many characters between the different packs, and I love watching the packs become more intertwined as matings occur between packs and they have to stand together to face the threat that has touched all of them.
Individually each of the books in this series are fabulous and can be read as stand-alones, but there is an over-arching story arc that is just so wonderfully woven together throughout the series that it would be a shame not to start this series from the beginning. I highly recommend this book and series to anyone.
Also in the Series
Series Reading Order:
Wolf at Law (Prequel)
Book 1: Wolf Bite
Book 2: Caged Wolf
Book 3: Wolf Claim
Book 3.5: Wolf Next Door
Book 4: Rogue Wolf
Book 5: Bayou Wolf
Book 6: Untamed Wolf
Book 6.5: Wolf with Benefits
Book 7: River Wolf
Book 7.5: Single, Wicked Wolf
Book 8: Desert Wolf