Bewitching the Wolf

As the Beta of his werewolf pack, Leo has been doing what his Alpha says, even when he doesn’t want to, for years now. When he’s told to attend a government meeting one night, he thinks it will just be one of those things, until he catches the scent of the witch holding the meeting. Suddenly, he can’t get her out of his head, he’s desperately attracted to her, even knowing that his Alpha doesn’t like members of the pack bonding with anyone but other werewolves.

Della has been working in government for years now, and from experience, she doesn’t expect the meeting to go according to plan. What she also doesn’t expect is the hot-as-hell werewolf approaching her at its conclusion, lighting her body up in a way she’s never experienced before. When he asks her out, of course, she says yes. But their relationship was always going to be more complicated than just witch-meets-werewolf.

For one, Leo’s pretty sure his attraction to Della is proof that what he thought was a myth of werewolves having one perfect mate might actually be true. Also, his Alpha doesn’t want his pack members mating with anyone but other werewolves. And Della has a traumatic history of her own that makes it difficult to even imagine getting close to anyone after what happened before. But when the witch whose life is dedicated to making those of others better realises her werewolf is basically a mob enforcer, everything goes to hell. Can Leo clean up his act and get Della back? Or will he spend the rest of his life wondering what could have been?

Publisher’s Note: This contemporary paranormal romance contains graphic action scenes.

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Sample Chapter

Leo Tyler could think of a lot of things he would rather do than represent his pack of werewolves at this government meeting as his Alpha had ordered him to do. Walking on nails. Being kicked in the nuts. Swallowing wolfsbane. He disagreed with his Alpha, James, about a lot of things, and had been relatively vocal about that since becoming Beta after the death of his father some three years previously. But the Local Government Area was apparently insisting that their pack, as the largest group of werewolves in the city, send a representative to their meeting about council activities—something to do with afterschool programs, interspecies integration and helping children stay the course in educational pathways—and James had been insistent that as Beta, Leo go to represent the pack, as he himself was busy. As far as Leo was concerned, it was more than likely that the Alpha just didn’t want to go himself and was fabricating some prior commitment to avoid sitting through several hours of government finagling. It sure wouldn’t be the first time that James had taken advantage of Leo’s obligation to follow his Alpha’s instructions to avoid doing something he didn’t want to do himself.

James had been Alpha for roughly fifteen years—more than half of Leo’s life—and the older wolf, in Leo’s opinion, had stopped proving himself worthy of the role some five to ten years prior—around the time Leo, a freshly minted eighteen-year-old, had taken off to see some of the world before the requirement upon him as heir to the role of Beta trapped him in Mystic City. He’d returned when his father became seriously ill, but Daniel Tyler had held on far longer than anyone had expected, leaving Leo in limbo as the almost-Beta of the pack for more than nine months.

Some of their packmates had had doubts about obeying the instructions of a Beta who had spent so many years away, which was ironic, considering they seemed to have no issue following the leadership of James, who in the time Leo had been out of Mystic City had seemed to completely abandon any effort to deserve the mantle of Alpha. He no longer trained to keep up with the strongest wolves in the pack, no longer joined them in their fight practice or the teaching sessions for the younger wolves about controlling their transformations or avoiding substances like silver and wolfsbane. Leo would hesitate to say out loud that James had gone soft, but it was hard not to think it in the privacy of his own mind. A Beta was supposed to be the second-best in the pack, not the enforcer for a wolf who had allowed his body and resolve both to sink into disuse. James commanded respect by virtue of leading the largest pack in the city, if not the state, but as Leo had settled into the role of Beta, as time went on and James began asking more of him, Leo was coming to believe the older wolf deeply unworthy of his own position. For starters, he should have had the balls to come to this stupid meeting himself, instead of making Leo do it.

Leo took a deep breath to steady his temper and climbed out of his car. The sun was just starting to go down, the intense heat of the day finally beginning to fade. Warmth radiated up from the asphalt of the parking garage, and the city-centre smells along with that of hot tar were ripe in his nose. Underscored by… something. Something else.

He paused for a minute on his walk to the building where the meeting was being held, breathing deeply. Most werewolves had an excellent sense of smell, but Leo’s was even better than most. He tried to separate out the scents of the city… cooking meat from the kebab store down the block, sweat from the gym on the upper level of the building where the meeting was being held, the overriding odour of hot tarmac. And that mysterious something, just on the edge of what he could detect. It smelled like… Christmas. Like cinnamon and nutmeg and warmth, and at the same time, like heat and seduction and a kind of frantic physical need he’d never felt before. He felt his wolf stirring beneath his skin, his body readying itself to fight, or maybe to fuck as though even his physical response to the something couldn’t make up its mind what it was supposed to be.

Part of him was desperate to track down the source of this scent, but a glance at his watch told him he had three minutes to get into the LGA meeting or he’d be neglecting his duties as Beta.

Afterwards, he promised the wolf stirring beneath his skin. Afterwards, we’ll track it down. Just sit through a few hours of political posturing, and we can work out what the hell this is.

The wolf was unsatisfied with this response, but Leo ignored it and made his way into the multistorey building where the local council representatives were gathering, forcing himself to stop paying attention to the information his nose was feeding him, which was specifically telling him that the scent was growing stronger. Stronger.

He wasn’t the only supernatural representative at the meeting, he realised when he entered the room. It was set up with rows of chairs facing a lectern with an aisle down the centre, the windows open to the dense city air. Even though they were facing away from him, he could recognise the scent of the two vampires sitting in the third row, the representatives of several covens of witches in the fifth, and the one other werewolf present, who was sitting on the other side of the aisle in the row front of the almost-empty back row where Leo slid into a seat. The other wolf seemed to sense his arrival at the same time and turned around to greet him with a friendly smile. Petra, if he was remembering her name correctly from the one or two times they’d met before, wasn’t someone he knew well, but he made a note to say hello properly once the meeting was over. It couldn’t hurt to foster some other werewolf connections, especially when their territories abutted that of his own pack, as Petra’s pack’s did.

The full room quieted suddenly, and Leo realised someone had stepped up to the lectern. And with the incredible scent dragging his attention forwards, he focused closely on the something, fixing on its source, on the path it took to reach him. And somehow, somehow, he had no doubt in his mind that it was coming from… her.

It would fit. She was… something. She was a witch; even in his altered state he could appreciate that. Magic hummed over her skin like static electricity. It wound through the gentle curls at the ends of her thick black hair, sparked in her eyes. To his frustration, at this distance, he couldn’t tell if they were blue or green, and that lack of knowledge ground at his nerves. He wanted to know everything about her. Wanted to know what those perfect bow lips looked like when they curved into a real smile, not the practiced one she was maintaining as she spoke to the crowd. Wanted to know how they looked opened in a gasp of pleasure. In a scream. Wanted to know how her face changed when he made her call out his name.

“Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming.” She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands. “As most of you know, my name is Delphinia Greenbranch, and it really means a lot to us that you’ve all made the effort to attend. You may be aware that our coven, in partnership with the Department of Youth and Community, has been putting a lot of effort into the programs we’re here tonight to discuss, and it is very satisfying for us to see that some of you are interested in what we’ve put together. I’d like to say a special thank you to the representatives of the supernatural communities who have made the effort to attend tonight. Valerie and Beau,” she sent a smile to the vampires, “Lisa, Rupert, Alex, and Simone,” another to the witches. “And in particular, our werewolf guests. It means a lot to us that you would consider being involved in something so far from your packs’ usual methods.” She made eye contact with the wolf in the row in front of Leo, sent her a grateful look, and then suddenly her eyes were on his, and the foundations of his world fucking crumbled.

He saw her eyes widen, was vaguely aware of the way her lips parted on an intake of breath, but he couldn’t look away, couldn’t take his eyes off the witch at the front of the room. Need swelled in his body, sudden as a lightning strike and potent as if he’d been starving for weeks and had just had a buffet of all his favourite dishes displayed in front of him. In his jeans, his flesh swelled irresistibly. Need her. Need her. He felt his canines elongating into fangs in his mouth as the wolf in him made its presence known. It was as focused on the witch behind the lectern as if he’d waved a blood-dripping steak in front of it. The look that Delphinia Greenbranch gave him—initially a kind of practiced appreciation that quickly morphed into what looked like dazed confusion—drew him in like a magnet. He wanted to fix anything that made her look uncertain—especially if it were related to him—wanted to change anything that made her even the least bit unsure of anything. Wanted to fix her entire life so it not only included nothing that ever made her worry even the tiniest bit, but also so that a large fucking chunk of it included him.

He suddenly wanted—needed—access to her. He wanted to touch every inch of her body, to take in the unbelievably perfect scent that was growing stronger the longer they spent in the same room, to weave his fingers into her thick black hair, to trace his hands over the curves that were all too visible under the dress she wore. Surely, she couldn’t have thought that was appropriate attire for a meeting covering local government issues. Sure, it had a high neckline, but his position at the side of the room meant he could see past the lectern to register that it only reached partway down legs that her sensible high heels made look positively endless. Would those heels put her at eye height to him? She was clearly already tall, which was fantastic because it provided more skin for him to memorise with his touch, with his tongue. Werewolves were usually tall, but Leo had always been at the upper end of the spectrum, which had been frustrating with many of the women he’d been with before, who had been too small, too fragile, to match him in any way, even those who were werewolves themselves. He shoved the thought of them out of his mind; for some reason, he suddenly didn’t want to think about anyone he’d been with before. He didn’t want to think about the very idea of letting any woman close to his body other than the one whose gaze had finally broken away from his own.

“As you may be aware,” Delphinia was saying, continuing as though she hadn’t just paused for several silent seconds, “there are a number of local government districts within Mystic City. However, ours, consisting of the territories of two werewolf packs, the vampire coven and those of three witch covens, and the human territories, have the lowest level of continuing education of young people, both human and supernatural, of the entire city. So, one of the things that our program aims to address is the issue of keeping our youths in school. Obviously, there are various issues specific to individual races, such as the sunshine issue for vampires, but what we aim to do is to support young people to complete high school and potentially encourage them to consider further education.”

She continued talking about the ways the programs were planning on keeping young people in school, but Leo barely heard her. His eyes kept fixing on tiny parts of her, like the prominence of her collarbone against her skin, or the curve where her ribs became her waist. The way she spoke with her hands made him imagine her touch on his skin. She was animated, clearly intensely passionate about the afterschool projects she was outlining, talking about ways to incorporate young vampires, who obviously couldn’t be out in daylight, as well as witches, the supernatural race most historically integrated with the humans, and the werewolves, who were the least. Typically, the werewolves kept to themselves, keeping separate from many of the “normal” human ways of life. His own pack, Blue Crescent, existed as an entity in and of itself, taking care of its members as they worked to maintain it and provide for one another. Just the fact that James had sent him to this meeting was strange, given the way that the pack normally functioned as a purposely separate entity, uninvolved in the way the rest of the city ran. Was there something James was considering that he hadn’t shared with Leo? Was he working towards integrating the pack into the wider society of Mystic City without even thinking to run the concept past Leo?

“The other part of this project that’s important to discuss,” Delphinia was saying from the front of the room, “is the fact that we’re not talking about having separate programs for each of our different races. We’re working to include not only humans but also all the supernatural races in all our plans. Obviously, everyone has their own specific challenges when it comes to being included in these programs,” she gestured specifically to the vampires with a sweet smile that sent heat shooting through Leo’s body, concentrating in his groin. “But we think it’s important to try to raise our young people more inclusively than we were brought up. The separations between our various races are important to our identities, we don’t deny that, but we think it would be a positive move if we started bringing young humans, witches, vampires, and werewolves together to learn and grow together. We all live together here in Mystic City. We might as well start learning to exist collectively in a way that brings us all closer together.”

There was a muffled hum in the room as people began speaking to one another, and he wanted to introduce his fist to the face of anyone who dared to interrupt Delphinia. She seemed prepared for it, though, smiling indulgently from behind the lectern.

“I know this is a fairly contentious suggestion,” she said, and thankfully the room fell silent once more to listen to her, or else Leo might have had to do something drastic. “And for that reason, later tonight, we’re going to open the floor to anyone who has any particular issues they want the opportunity for us to address as a group. In the meantime, we have a couple more people we’re planning to have speak this evening, but after that, if anyone else wants to get up and have their say, we look forward to hearing your opinions. For now, I’d like to welcome Marcus Heath to the stage.”

She stepped back from the lectern and someone else stepped forwards, some human with too much gel in his hair. Leo hardly even registered that he was present; his eyes were fixed on Delphinia, taking her seat at the back of the room behind the lectern. The man sitting next to her put a hand on hers and, when she looked his way, gave her an encouraging smile, and Leo almost blew up. Another man, touching the exposed skin of this woman? He’d never been a jealous man before, had always been content to fill a minor role in the lives of the women with whom he had… well, maybe you could call them relationships, at a stretch. When they found men who could give them more than he was able, he had never minded stepping back from that role. But suddenly, there was nothing minor about the role Leo wanted to fill in Delphinia’s life. He wanted to leave his mark all over her skin until any other man in her life thought twice about laying a fucking hand on her.

Maybe the problem was partly the absolute tease of a dress she was wearing. It was almost as black as her hair, high-necked, but tight enough that it clung to her perfectly curvaceous body, ending at her knees in a way that meant when she sat down, it rode up enough that he could see the skin of her legs almost to mid-thigh.

Leo wanted to be the only person who touched her bare skin. He wanted to see and touch and cherish every single facet of her body and memorise them with his lips and tongue. He wanted to learn her so intimately that nothing about her was unfamiliar to him. He wanted to leave his scent all over her so no one else ever got close to Delphinia Greenbranch without knowing that Leo had been there first.

It was this thought that took Leo aback. He was thinking about having her around other wolves, wolves who judged people partly on scent before they’d even met them. She was a witch, for heaven’s sake. Why would she be around enough wolves that it mattered that he’d put his scent all over her?

Unless…

Unless some part of him was considering introducing her to the pack.

Unless he was planning on bringing her into it.

At the very thought of bringing the witch now sitting at the back of the stage into the pack as his partner, something in Leo that he had never known was tense immediately relaxed. Something in him… eased. As though it had always been waiting for Delphinia Greenbranch, been waiting for the concept of bringing her into his life as the kind of a partner the pack’s pseudo-marital system recognised as absolute, been waiting for the option of making her his in the most unquestionable of ways.

Her scent filled his consciousness, even though she was no longer at the lectern, Christmas spices and sex and heat and woman. How had he lived this long without taking in this utterly addictive scent? How had he lived so long without having her?

Before he knew what was happening, the meeting was drawing to a close, having cycled through everyone from humans to vampires discussing the options that would make Delphinia’s afterschool program plan feasible, and the room was emptying. Leo found himself rising to his feet, ignoring the friendly smile of the wolf in the row in front of him as he strode forwards to make the acquaintance of the woman who, in his head, he had already claimed as his own.

***

He was… big. That was the first thing Della thought when the werewolf representative stood in front of her. He was so tall. Broad. His shoulders seemed to be bunching and unbunching as he stood before her, hands making fists and relaxing over and over. She cast her eyes over him slowly, taking in every inch of the man who had looked so disapproving during her meeting. His scowls from the back row, the constant drawing down of his eyebrows, had had her biting her lips with unexpected nerves every time she paused in speaking.

He was bigger than any human—or inhuman—had the right to be. His shoulders were so broad, she had to stop herself from imagining running her hands over the breadth of them. His hair was the colour of melting chocolate, and his eyes were a strange silvery green that, once she looked into them, seemed to almost trap her own gaze, like falling into a mountainside lake. Deep and warm and all-encompassing and somehow both safe and… exciting?

“Who are you?”

The words were out of her mouth before her brain had a chance to catch up. Her voice came out deeper than usual, husky, like she had just finished an extended session of screaming. I’d let him make me scream, a voice in her head said, tone as salacious as the content of the thought.

“Leo,” he growled, then cleared his throat and tried again. “Leo Tyler.” He still sounded angry, the frustration in his voice and face at odds with the anxious tension in his stance.

The name rang a bell, and Della took an involuntary step backwards. “The Beta from the Blue Crescent pack?”

“I… yes.” She seemed to have taken him off guard by knowing who he was.

“We’d kind of hoped your Alpha might join us tonight,” she managed, trying not to get lost again in the silver-green of his eyes. Had they become more silver? Her tone still sounded strangled. What was it about this man that had her so off-balance?

Her statement seemed to startle a laugh out of the man. He ran a hand over his short beard and her fingers tingled at the imagined sensation of hair scratching over her skin. His laugh was like glass mixing with gravel, but somehow… pleasant? Something in her got the sense that he didn’t laugh often and immediately wanted to make him make that deep gravel-glass laugh whenever she could.

“You’d be lucky to get our Alpha off pack territory on a full moon night in midsummer, let alone for an evening of governmental discussion.” He bit his lip, as though he’d said more than he intended. “It’s Delphinia, isn’t it?”

“Just Della is fine,” she managed, trying not to let her perusal of his brick-shithouse body be too obvious. For once in her life, she felt… small. Petite. Her, who had been the tallest woman in her coven since she was fourteen. She let her hair slide out from behind her ear, appreciating the sense of distance, of protection, that the slight barrier gave her.

His hand rose as though he had no control over it, pausing before the sheet of her hair partly covering her eyes. Was that… a growl that came from him? In a move almost swifter than she could follow, he tucked her hair back behind her ear, then dropped his hand back to cross his arms across his impossibly broad chest. Della had to fight to regain her voice. For some reason, she was suddenly breathless, her eyes feeling as wide as silver dollars.

“Leo.” His name slipped from her lips, then she bit her tongue, searching for something they could talk about. Some way to break this silence between them, when it grew more heated with every second that passed. “Um. What did you think of our proposals tonight? The idea of integrating the humans and the supernaturals? I know the humans in Blue Crescent territory tend to keep to themselves.”

He blinked at her as though this was the first he’d heard of the idea, as if she and two other program advisors, as well as one of the other witches, and both the vampires, hadn’t all weighed in on the topic for a good hour and a half.

“The way you were scowling the whole meeting, I presumed you didn’t approve of the suggestion.” She bit her lip suddenly when she realised the statement made it clear just how much attention she’d been paying to him when she should have been completely focused on the meeting she was supposed to be running. His quirked eyebrow seemed to say the same thing.

“Much as I appreciate that you noticed,” he said, and was it just her imagination, or was his voice suddenly a degree more flirtatious? “It wasn’t about your proposal. I was… thinking of something else.”

“What’s so important you couldn’t pay attention to the meeting?” Della demanded and immediately regretted the question, because his deep-set eyes were suddenly fixed on hers with a kind of intensity she’d never seen before, and it was… hot. Surface-of-the-sun kind of hot. A soft throb in the pit of her stomach that was quickly migrating to the juncture of her thighs kind of hot.

What the hell was this? Della had never, as in never, responded this way, to anyone. Even the few men, both warlock and human, she’d allowed to take her on dates, even those with whom the date had gone further than the original drinks or dinner or whatever, had failed to elicit even a fraction of this kind of immediate response in her.

“I’m not sure you really want to know,” Leo muttered, dragging her focus away from her suddenly tightening nipples.

If he’d known her, he would have known that that was exactly the wrong thing to say. Della had been known for her never-ending curiosity within her coven for years, and it had gotten her in trouble more than once.

Why did something in her tell her this was going to be another one of those times?

Why did the throb that had taken up residence between her thighs insist that it would be worth it?

“I think I do,” she heard herself say, her voice again taking on that just-been-screaming husky timbre. She tilted her head sideways and her hair again slid free from behind her ear, but before she could tuck it away again, Leo had stepped close to where she stood behind the lectern—impossibly close, indecently close—and done it for her. Only this time, his hand didn’t disappear after that briefest of touches. This time, his hand sunk into the thickness of her hair and his grip tightened until he’d tugged her head upright again, leaving his mouth so close to her exposed ear that she felt the rush of his hot breath on her skin when he spoke.

“All right, little witch, you want to know what I was thinking about? What was distracting me so I couldn’t pay attention to your meeting?”

With the microscopic amount of movement permitted by his grip in her hair, Della managed a semblance of a nod. Her own breath was loud in her ears.

“I wasn’t thinking about afterschool programs, that’s for goddamn sure,” Leo growled, “because you smell like pure sex, and I can’t get my damn mind off what you taste like underneath this tease of a dress. How long it’s been since you were properly satisfied. How long it’ll be before you let me get my mouth between your thighs and redefine whatever you used to think ‘satisfied’ meant.”

“Delphinia?”

In a flash, Leo’s grip had left her hair and Della was left reeling in something of an aroused fugue state as he stepped back from her, to stand to one side of the lectern as though he’d been leaning on it all along, moving so quickly it was like he was trying to hide that they’d been doing something wrong.

Had they? Was it wrong, the filth he’d just growled in her ear? Was it wrong that the words were humming through her body and, gods above all help her, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever in her life been so aroused?

She didn’t have time to consider it. Valerie, one of the two vampires they’d managed, with some effort, to convince to attend, rounded the corner into the meeting room, a smile stretching over her pale face when she spotted Della.

“There you are! Oh, and Leo, is it? You’re from the Blue Crescent pack, aren’t you? I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Not at all,” Della said, hoping she didn’t sound as off-balance as she felt. She smoothed her dress down her legs, suddenly hyperaware of where the hem sat just above her knees. It had felt perfectly suitable when she’d been wearing it in the office, but now she was aware of every inch of exposed skin. I can’t get my damn mind off what you taste like underneath this tease of a dress. “We were just talking about how to go about integrating afterschool programs in Blue Crescent territory,” she invented on the fly.

“Oh, you’re keen to join with the programs, are you, Leo?” Valerie asked, the hyper-friendly vampire not seeming to find it odd that the werewolf had yet to move out from his position behind the lectern. Was he trying to hide that he was as aroused as she was?

“Very much looking forward to joining,” Leo said, his voice as rough as sandpaper and deeper than the ocean. His eyes flitted over her just once more, but Della felt it down to her bones.

“Isn’t that interesting?” Valerie said conversationally, leaning on the other side of the lectern. “I was under the impression most of the werewolf packs preferred to keep things very insular, very isolated from the rest of the supernaturals.”

“Blue Crescent prides itself on becoming more open to new ideas,” Leo replied, not missing a beat. “I’d love to hear more about Della’s… ideas.”

“Well, if you don’t mind doing that another time, might I steal her for a moment? Beau and I need to be back at the nest shortly, and I wanted to have a quick chat about the logistics of including young vampires in programs during times when the sunlight hours are long.”

“Sure,” Della said, her breathing finally steadying. She darted back behind the lectern long enough to collect her notes, carefully not making eye contact with the massive werewolf still standing there and tried not to gulp audibly as she moved past him. When she heard his own harsh intake of breath when the skirt of her dress brushed his legs, she risked a glance up at his face and almost swallowed her tongue. His eyes were fixed on her like she was the finest work of art he’d ever seen, his irises flashing to a far deeper silver that told her the wolf in him was fighting not to make itself known.

“We’re having another meeting,” she managed, just barely. “In two weeks. Same place, same time. Maybe I’ll see you there?”

“Count on it,” Leo said, that sandpaper tone back in his voice, the intensity in his eyes enough to set her absurdly aroused body aflame all over again.

“That’s… good,” she managed weakly, before Valerie was slipping a stone-cold arm through hers and leading her from the room.

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