Authors: Melissa Jolley
Book One of
the Feral series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Wolf’s Heart: Feral Book One
Copyright© 2012 Melissa Jolley
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Jackie Moore
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in reviews.
Thank you to Faye, Jackie & Deadra for seeing the potential in me, and my story
Thank you to my huge family & many friends for their unanimous support
Especially thank you to my husband and children
There would be no love story for me without the three of you
Larissa Lovell stood in the center of the vast conference hall, wondering how she ever let Sarah talk her into this. Waiting in a very long queue in the middle of a science fiction and fantasy convention was not her idea of a good time.
Fantasy freak best friends with crushes on television stars, who’d have ‘em—me, apparently.
She frowned at her own inner musings as she took in the sights.
Larissa looked around at the labyrinth of booths impersonating forest scenes and distant planets. A multitude of wolf masks and scantily clad warrior women completed the effect. She felt conspicuous in her V-neck T-shirt and jeans, her sweater haphazardly tied around her waist.
Thank God I’m over my body image issues,
she thought wryly, just as a particularly slim, yet buxom blonde wearing a leather string bikini and not much else, walked past. The Xena wannabe looked bored and very haughty.
She’s so getting paid to be here
. Larissa smiled at the idea, happy she wasn’t the only person who’d been forced to attend.
She stared toward one of the forest stands, and her eyes focused on the back of a rotund, hairy man wearing a crisp white toga, and a laurel wreath wrapped neatly about his shiny, bald head. Suddenly, she had visions of the convention being a front for a Caligula-style orgy. A shiver rolled down her spine at the grossness of that idea. She quickly focused her thoughts on the many things she would prefer to be doing, like finding out what some hunky Scot wore under his kilt in Edinburgh. She was fairly certain that’s what Sarah was doing, when not at her work conference. While Larissa, as the dutiful bestie, got roped into getting the autograph of some lame-ass guy who pretended to be a werewolf for a living.
What was his name again?
She looked down at the paper in her hand.
Ah, that’s right, Zane Adamson
. She didn’t even know what he looked like. The convention program only had a picture of a wolf, and that was a real wolf, not even a guy in makeup.
Despite her misgivings, she could not deny the atmosphere had an exhilarating effect that seemed to permeate the air. Or was that the smell of frankincense mixed with leather and latex? Between the “Summer of Love” scent in the air and the Xena and Caligula rip-offs, she began to wonder whether it was really just a big fetish party. Larissa giggled quietly to herself. If that were the case, it might have been worth coming to.
No, it was definitely something more elusive than incense and rubber. She could even feel it affecting her. An irresistible sense of anticipation coursed through her and the hairs on the back of her neck seemed to be standing at attention, though she would never admit it aloud.
She gently tapped the locket that dangled ominously at the entrance of her cleavage, threatening to disappear from sight between her breasts. The movement was usually a stress indicator, but right now it was a deliberate reaction to the frankincense. Her grandmother, Mala, had burned it almost continuously her entire childhood. Just before she passed away, Mala had given Larissa the locket she now played with delicately. It was the one heirloom she’d allowed from her former life. The locket contained no pictures, only a tiny verse:
Mother, Sister, ancient friend, bring this magic to an end.
Magic. Larissa knew there was no such thing.
A loud laugh broke her reverie. Her wandering mind made an abrupt return to the present and she realized that hairy toga guy was leering at her. Trying to hide her distaste—she was not
desperate—she turned to face the back of the person queuing ahead of her. A blush warmed her cheeks when she realized they were about five feet away. “Damn,” she muttered, as she attempted to hurry forward. Instead, she tripped over a large lump of something at her feet.
Horror-struck, she watched the floor move swiftly toward her. She managed to get her arms up to protect her face before—
—landing on it. Larissa opened her eyes to find herself staring at a very dirty and soggy seventies-patterned carpet.
She groaned in embarrassment and spoke to the ground. “Wonderful! Who would have thought I’d come to a geek convention, and turn out to be the biggest loser of all!” She heard a stifled laugh and looked up at the noise, fixing her best don’t-mess-with-me scowl on her face, ready to berate the poor fool who dared to laugh. Instead, a pair of black eyes that reflected her unflattering predicament, muted her.
“I’m sorry, are you okay? I shouldn’t have put my bag there.” The crinkled corners of his eyes told her he was smiling. The stranger was kneeling beside her, his face so close she could feel his warm, minty breath on her cheek. Larissa started to breathe again, but was unable to look away from his hypnotic gaze, despite her embarrassment.
“Um, yeah, fine.” She shook her head slightly, blinking as if staring into a bright light. “Nothing broken, except my pride, but hey I’m at a geek festival, so I guess my pride left me when I walked through the door.” She impressed herself by her attempt at humor, hoping it succeeded in hiding the humiliation she really felt.
Another smile brightened his eyes, and she dragged her own gaze away unwillingly, realizing with an intense thrill that they were only the beginning of an exquisite face. She had to remind herself to breathe again as she took in a chiseled jaw softened by a dark five-o’clock shadow, and a deep, olive-toned complexion. His short black hair glistened with tiny water droplets, which explained the soggy carpet; it must be raining outside. As she started to stand, he took her arm in his callused hand, and her entire body erupted in goose bumps. He let go, too soon.
“Thanks,” she muttered awkwardly, still incapable of tearing her gaze away from his face. A harassed-looking steward tapped him on the shoulder, and he shrugged apologetically.
“Look, I’m really sorry. I’ve got to go, but I guess I’ll see you shortly.” His smile widened, showing off his gleaming white teeth.
“Sorry?” Larissa asked in confusion. As he picked up his well-worn rucksack from the floor and turned to follow the steward, he pointed toward the stage. Larissa stood in shock as the penny dropped.
Oh my God. I’ve just made a complete ass of myself in front of Zane Adamson.
The applause erupted, and Larissa joined in with the clapping crowd. Her enthusiasm for the convention had increased a lot in the past few minutes. The audience had swelled and the queue had grown about five times the original length since she’d joined it. The convention as a whole seemed to go from a handful of wolf masks to a gothic fairytale villain convention—the Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood would be screwed. Maybe this TV show,
, wasn’t as obscure as she thought it was.
As Zane stepped out waving, Larissa finally had the chance to fully admire the man that came with those piercing black eyes. His appearance brought to mind the phrase devil-may-care. A faded gray Jimi Hendrix T-shirt clung to his broad chest, loosening slightly over his flat stomach, and leading to a distressed-looking pair of dark blue jeans. He was easily over six foot tall and she could see the spiked edge of a tattoo peaking out from under his left sleeve, enhancing his large, toned biceps. This was not a gym-made body. She knew intuitively that this man loved the outdoors; his natural tan and rough hands were a testament to his lifestyle. She was sure she would find a few scars on that body from daredevil exploits, and she relished the idea of searching for them.
As she watched, Zane lifted his hand to grab the strap of his backpack that dangled on his shoulder. At the same time, he turned his head to speak to the steward. Larissa had to stop herself from laughing aloud as his pose reminded her of Michelangelo’s
. The body certainly seemed to match, but she had a suspicion that David would lose easily in the groin region. To confirm her thoughts, she scrutinized the sizeable bulge in his jeans. Tilting her head to the side, she moistened her lips with a flick of her tongue and bit her lower lip in longing. She shook her head and clenched her fist as she attempted to clear her head of her increasingly erotic thoughts.
Damn girl, slow down! You know where jumping into the arms of the nearest hot guy gets you, and it’s nowhere good.
The mental reprimand made her focus back on Zane’s face and she quickly dropped her gaze to the floor as she saw his mesmerizing eyes staring back at her. When she dared to look up again, he had sat down and started signing autographs.
He seemed kind, and was very responsive to whomever he was talking with. There was a gentleness and genuine affability in his smile which could not be faked. As she got nearer, she could hear the warmth in his voice that seemed at odds with his hulking appearance.
“Wow, look at you!”
A little girl lifted her homemade mask, a gleeful grin plastered on her face at her hero’s obvious appreciation of her hard work.
“May I?” He reached out, meeting her tiny hands halfway as she handed him the mask without saying a word, her grin relentless. “That’s way better than what I have to wear. I see a future in special effects for you, young lady.” If possible, her smile widened as he handed her back the mask. He asked her name, her reply was inaudible to Larissa, but Zane leaned in to hear her. “Pretty name for a pretty girl,” he said as he signed her photograph, and she walked away chattering to her mother in an obvious state of joy.
Larissa was suddenly, and quite forcibly reminded, of a boy from her childhood. How often had he said those very words to her? “Larissa, it’s a pretty name for a pretty girl.” Each summer they had set up camp outside a small Hampshire village, and every year the same little boy would come to meet them and play with her. Most of the other village children were told not to come near the gypsies. Aide had a tough home life; his parents argued a lot, so coming to visit Larissa and her grandmother was an escape. They’d sat together, petting her cat Princess, and listen to the wonderful tales Mala would weave about the legends of their tribe, the Zingari. She was so sad the summer they had arrived at the village to find Aide and his mother had moved without leaving a forwarding address.
As she reached Zane, he looked up and grinned cheekily.
“How’s the pride?” he asked playfully.
“Still outside waiting by the car.” She was pleased she managed to keep the mortification she really felt about their first meeting out of her voice.
His grin widened. “So,
, having fun?”
She stared at him bewildered and more than a little freaked out. “How the hell do you know my name?”