Taming Taelyn (Northern Rockies Pack 3)
Taelyn: Abandoned by her parents and raised in the uncaring foster system, Taelyn finds out she isn’t truly human when fear triggers her first shift. She finds a temporary home with a pack of gray wolves, but she knows she isn’t truly one of them, either. When she feels the pull of the mate-bond, her world changes forever.
Dylan: Dylan is more at home in the woods than the city. Working for the Forestry Services, he sets out to catalog the endangered grizzly bear population in the Interior of British Columbia. What he didn’t expect was to find his bond-mate running wild with a pack of gray wolves.
Taming Taelyn is a challenge Dylan is determined to win.
Taelyn skidded to a halt, lifting her nose high in the air. A strange scent drifted on the breeze, teased her brain, calling to her in a way she’d never experienced before. Not danger. Not food. Human, but not. Something different.
The thought lingered, strange and unfathomable. What did it mean?
The rest of the pack raced on, heading to the caribou grazing grounds in the high range.
There it was again. An irresistible temptation.
The Alpha gave her a cursory glance as she veered off to investigate. The pack was used to her strange methods of doing things. Even the Alpha ignored her peculiar ways, letting her roam at will. As long as she didn’t endanger the pack, he was willing to indulge her for the sake of his mate who had all but adopted her.
She was a wolf, but not. The pack accepted that. They were so much more direct than humans. Their way of life was brutal but fair, and they would fight to the death to protect any one of their packmates no matter what their position was in the pack hierarchy.
Taelyn bounded through the thin undergrowth, sifted the information brought to her on the wind. It was spring and the scent of newly budding flowers and greenery floated on the breeze, nature emerging from its long sleep. But to her keen nose, there was something else as well.
And yet she felt no sense of danger, no urge to run and hide. Every wolf in the pack knew about humans. They were destroyers of the forest, dangerous two-legged creatures who killed from afar using death sticks that spit out fire and metal. They were cruel beings who set traps to capture and torture the creatures of the woods. They were to be feared and avoided. And her childhood in the foster system had given her no reason to dispute that.
And yet the scent said mine.
She slowed her pace, approaching the origin of the scent carefully. Lifting her nose high, Taelyn searched the wind for information. Yes, it was a human. Human male. A sharp tang of metal mixed with his scent. A sure sign of danger. She should leave before he detected her.
Dropping to her belly, she crawled closer. Thick brush at the edge of the clearing marred her view, only allowing glimpses of the human male. Big. Strong.
Something coiled deep inside her, an unsettling desire that she’d never felt before for any of the wolves who’d come sniffing around when she’d entered her first heat cycle. After that, she’d learned to avoid the pack at those times.
She crept closer, belly tight to the ground, ears swiveling in a constant search for any danger. Humans often came in packs as well, although Taelyn could detect no others in the vicinity.
The sharp tang of metal was stronger now, a foreign scent in the forest. Metal never heralded anything good for the wolves. Strong jaws that broke legs. Death sticks. Caves with no exit. Metal was a tool the humans used against the creatures of the forest.
And yet that scent was stronger now.
She felt a slow heat ignite deep inside her, the pull of something ancient and strong.
Uncertainty flickered through Taelyn. A mating bond? Surely not. This was a human male. She was a wolf, albeit one who could become human.
She liked to think there had been a time when life in the human world had been good, when she’d had parents, a family, a home. But she wasn’t sure if it was true or just wishful thinking on her part. Now, Taelyn existed with the pack, or in the little cabin she’d restored for herself deep in the forest. She raised herbs and vegetables that she could sell at the farmer’s market in the small town closest to her home for those things she couldn’t get from nature.
She didn’t want to be human. To be human was to be heartless. To be human was to be cruel and brutal. To be human was to hurt the Mother Earth and the creatures who lived in harmony with her. To be human was to hurt those of your pack who were weaker than you.
Long ago she had lived exclusively in that world and it had not been kind to an orphaned child with no family of her own to protect her. She’d learned to fight out of necessity, and to protect herself at all costs. When she’d discovered the duality of her nature, she’d embraced it fully. Taelyn had started to sneak out at night to run with the wolves. On those nights she found liberty she’d never had, a sheer joy in living. Although she still functioned in the human world, she had the freedom of her wolf to escape to whenever things got too tough. She’d sworn then that she’d never let any human control her destiny ever again.
And yet still the man’s scent called to her.
She crouched behind the bushes, watching him as he loaded a strange-shaped bullet into his death stick.
Taelyn knew the names the humans used to identify the weapon, but to her wolf, it would always be a death stick.
The man propped the death stick up against a tree and proceeded to assemble a strange looking contraption, covering most of it with sticks and leaves from the ground. When he was done, she could barely discern the outline of the odd-shaped thing. It was unlike anything she’d ever laid eyes on. A trap?
Was he a hunter? Was the strange scent a deliberate attempt to draw her close so he could capture her? Why had it not attracted any of the other wolves in the pack? So many questions and yet all she could get from his scent was that strange sense of belonging, of ownership.
A faint rustling in the bushes behind the human drew her attention, and a pungent odor overlaid the one that had drawn her here.
Bear. Grizzly bear.
A moment later, the massive animal lumbered into view. Yup. That was a grizzly bear, all right. And it did not look friendly, not that grizzlies ever really looked friendly. This one looked as grumpy as a wolf with a thorn in its paw.
The human whipped his head around with a speed that startled her, his attention locked onto the bear. Interesting. Taelyn could have sworn human senses were too dull to detect even a grizzly bear at that distance. And yet, there was no doubt that he had.
The man stepped over to the death stick, his movements slow and steady. She gave him credit for that. Any sudden moves might entice the bear to attack.
Grasping the death stick with one hand, he slowly sunk to the ground, seeming to melt into the surrounding foliage. Even his scent seemed to get smaller. He remained still, his image blurring into the background.
The bear reared up on its hind legs, the big head swiveling back and forth as it searched the area. After a long, tense minute, the animal dropped back down onto all fours.
For a moment, Taelyn thought a confrontation had been avoided. Perhaps the human’s ploy had worked and the bear had not detected him or had decided he wasn’t a threat.
The bear snuffled the ground, pawing with its powerful front claws. But just as Taelyn let out a quiet sigh of relief, the huge mammal let out an angry bellow and charged straight at the human male.
The male came to his feet in a single fluid movement, lifting the death stick to his shoulder and firing. The weapon spat out one of the odd-looking bullets, which impacted the bear but did nothing to slow it down. Two more shots, and the only results were a couple of silly-looking tags hanging from the bear’s meaty hindquarters. If anything, they angered the already aggressive animal even more.
It was not her fault the human was about to die, and she had no good reason to interfere. Life in the wild was brutal, and death could be swift and violent. Kill or be killed was not just a cute saying. The human had chosen to use the death stick and it had failed to thwart the grizzly’s charge. In about five seconds, the bear would be on him and his chances of survival were less than nil.
Taelyn launched herself from the thicket, racing directly toward the bear. Some tiny part of her brain screamed “no,” but she ignored it as she snarled loudly in an effort to distract the bear from its target.
The powerful animal skidded to a halt, once again raising itself on its hind legs as it swiveled to meet the new threat.
This was not Taelyn’s first encounter with one of these majestic beasts, and she knew enough to stay out of reach of its formidable front legs. Having distracted the grizzly from its initial target, she settled in to harass it into leaving the area. She knew better than to think she could kill it. An entire pack of wolves wouldn’t stand a chance of taking down a grizzly in its prime. Her sole aim was to keep it from killing the human male and give him time to escape.
The bear let out a long-annoyed huff, looking at the wolf that had dared to interfere with its attack. Razor-sharp claws slashed through the air as the grizzly swiped at her.
Taelyn easily avoided the danger, but she had no illusions about her abilities when it came to dealing with the bear. One miscalculation, one slip on a leaf would be all it took for the bear to send her flying through the air. She needed to be careful. Incredibly careful.
Keeping a respectful distance, she darted back and forth, alternately snapping and snarling to keep the grizzly’s attention on herself. Dancing on her four paws, Taelyn darted in and out of range, anticipating each move of the powerful mammal.
In a few moments, she noticed a distinct difference in the bear’s performance. The massive animal seemed to be getting slower, its moves less coordinated. Before long, it dropped to all fours and took a few lumbering steps away from the clearing.
Taelyn stopped her attack, cocked her head to the side, not sure what to make of this new situation. Grizzlies were not known for running away but that did seem to be what this one was doing. She paced back and forth, glancing back at the human.
He seemed to be unconcerned, standing in a loose stance with the death stick in one hand. He glanced at the grizzly, then back to her. The look on his face was unreadable. Confused? Surprised? Shocked?
If she were smart, she’d turn tail and head on back to her pack. But she didn’t. She just stood there, a few yards away from the grizzly, which sank awkwardly to the ground. Its eyes closed, and within minutes it appeared to have fallen asleep. Very strange.
She looked over at the human, who hadn’t taken advantage of her distraction to run for safety. Not a very smart human. Or maybe he’d known the bear would fall asleep. He might be smarter than she’d given him credit for.
She stared at him, wondering what it was about this human male that she found so alluring. He was tall and muscular, with an unruly shock of dark hair. His eyes were an unusually dark green, and right now they seemed to see right through her. Taelyn took a step backward, feeling suddenly skittish.
The human male hunkered down on his heels to study her intently. “Hello, sweetheart. Where did you come from? There’s nothing around here for miles. You’re beautiful.” And you’re mine.
The last three words floated soundlessly into her head. Taelyn blinked. What the hell? She must have imagined them. Unless she was hallucinating, it made no sense.
“You can feel it. Our connection. I know you can.” The human held out his hand, palm up. “Shift and we can talk.”
There was a note of command in his voice that set the hairs on her back standing straight up. No one, not a human or a wolf, had the right to tell her what to do. Not now. Not ever again.
And yet, she felt an almost unbearable urge to obey, to shift to human form so she could talk to this man. That fact alone terrified her. Taelyn pivoted and started to run.
The words echoed through her mind, lending speed to her paws as she raced back the way she came. Back to the safety of the pack.
She must have eaten something bad, to give her hallucinations like this. Wolves were not telepathic. Hell, they didn’t even speak. Not really. They communicated ideas and feelings through a series of bark, whines, and body language. The Alpha could communicate with the rest of the pack, but not in words. More like images and vague outlines.
We belong together. I will find you.
Fainter now, but still in her head. Putting on a burst of speed, she located two of her packmates, flanking a herd of caribou as the others closed in from the sides.
This was familiar. She knew her place in the hunt.
The echo refused to leave her alone.
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