Staring Into the Eyes of Chance
LIIA – Lycan International Investigation Agency, Book 1
by Kay Dee Royal
eBook ISBN: 978-1-927361-99-3
Olivia swears off men until she meets Chance, a Lycan alpha. He ignites an undeniable hunger they can only sate together.
Olivia needed calm, not the stress of yet another five minute lecture from her sister, Lacey, who was hell-bent on finding her a man. She squeezed her eyes tight and started counting. One…two…Of course, it helped Olivia faced the opposite direction from her sister.
“Ray’s been gone for over two years. It’s time,” Lacey said. She sighed, sounding as exasperated as Olivia felt. “You’ll like this guy, trust me.”
Lacey refused acknowledging that Olivia lived a contented life. She incessantly set up ridiculous dates of handpicked men. Those chosen few, Lacey’s caliber of men, were deeply established in the corporate world and a little too much on the wild side. If Olivia ever climbed onto that branch of life again, she’d select less business-oriented men. At fifty-five years old, she found it a highly unlikely branch.
Ten…count over. Olivia opened her eyes and saw the farthest floodlight kick on. Her whole back area of barns and sheds was illuminated, but when the back light facing the woods came on, it looked like a hit of pure sunshine. She stared out the three-season porch window, interested in what tripped the motion detector. Once in a while a rehabilitated deer wandered in for a visit from her wooded preserve.
“Olivia, are you still here?” Lacey’s sarcasm shot Olivia back into the room.
“How many different ways have I told you? No. More. Men. Period,” Olivia snapped. Thank God Lacey was leaving in the morning. She’d only stayed the weekend with Olivia for a forester seminar, but it seemed like a month.
“Okay, just this one. If you see this guy, I’ll never fix you up again.” Lacey shuffled back into the kitchen, most likely fixing herself a cup of coffee. No one drank more coffee than her sister.
“Like that’s going to happen.” A movement from the trees drew Olivia’s attention and she watched for whatever was there.
“I promise, just this once,” Lacey’s voice carried through the open door between the kitchen and three season room.
“Oh my God,” Olivia gasped. A huge black wolf pranced out of the tree line and sniffed the air. Its head snapped around, staring at her. Their gazes connected and something tingled inside her. She’d never connected with a wolf before. It crouched low. All of her porch windows were open and a steady breeze wafted through toward the wolf. She knew it should run in the opposite direction after smelling human, not come closer. It was tough figuring the exact size of the beast, being a good one hundred plus yards away, but she knew it stood larger than anything she’d seen, even in its crouched position. How in the hell did it get over my eight-foot fence?
“H-e-l-l-o, am I talking to dead air? What do you mean by, ‘oh my God’…Olivia?”
“What?” Olivia focused on the wolf with its body slouched and moving in the direction of the barns.
Oh God, he’s after the animals there.
“Just meet this guy. His name is Chance.” Lacey started through the door into the porch. Olivia rushed over, stopping her.
“Okay, sure,” Olivia answered without caring what her sister just said. Olivia needed outside without panicking Lacey. “Go take that bath you talked about earlier while I check on my healing critters.”
Olivia stood trembling at the doorway. She watched the wolf move closer from her peripheral. Lacey would freak if she saw it.
“Okay, guess we got guy stuff covered. Jacuzzi here I come.” Lacey turned and walked through the kitchen toward the bathroom.
Olivia kept an eye on the wolf’s progress, grabbing her tranquilizer rifle on the way out of the porch. Once clear of the house, she lost sight of the wolf. It disappeared behind the barn. She bent low and ran until she reached the building. Olivia swallowed the knot of panic, followed the outer wall until she reached the corner, and peeked around it.
Where the hell is it?
Sharp prickles raced up her spine as the deepest, longest, eeriest wolf howl she ever heard echoed through the forest. Her body froze and her fingers clung white-knuckled around the tranq rifle. A longer ominous howl answered. It came from the backside of the barn. She took a deep breath, stood up with gun ready, rounded the corner, and ran the length of the barn. Olivia paused for another breath before dashing around to the backside of the structure.
She stepped away from the building, intent on walking her yard perimeter, head pivoting in all directions, scanning the short grass and fallen leaves. Movement to her right alerted her too late as she pivoted toward the motion.
“Oomph!” She took a hit, like a truck slammed into her front side. A flurry of black and silver fur, claws, and teeth. She fell flat on her back, her head bouncing off the ground. The rifle flew from her grasp. No footfalls, no heavy breathing, but a pungent scent of musty dog fur lingered in the air. Olivia lay there, afraid to move, afraid the wolf had just called in his pack.
She closed her eyes, calling up her animal sensitivity ability, while shoving down her own panic. After years of psychically working with animals, she knew they sensed panic and fear. Her breathing needed regulating.
Olivia relaxed as best she could and opened her mind. She sensed the wolf; masculine. He came across with an urgent need to protect, more like helping her feel safe. Another howl, with a deep and sinister timbre, shattered her concentration. A stab of electricity zipped through her, pumping adrenaline and tightening every muscle. This howl came from farther inside the forest than the first one. She sensed aggression in the wolves within the forest, ready for battle. Her heart drummed against her ribs in anticipation of an answering call, and she couldn’t stop the tremors running rampant in her belly.
Instead she saw the lights go out through her closed eyelids. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but blackness.
Nine o’clock on a September evening, what did she expect? Damn power company! Hopefully Lacey sat in the Jacuzzi and wouldn’t come running out.
She lay listening for any sound. Her own breath, the loudest panting she’d ever heard, came in at a close second to her heart banging against the walls of her chest. Slowly, she sat up. The back of her head throbbed, her spine hurt, and the front of her body ached, especially her breasts. She bent her legs to stand and in that same moment a jet of hot mist coated her face.
Olivia froze, tamping down the run-for-your-life urge. Her mind reached toward the beast beside her, searching his energy markers, his emotions, urges. She read him as curious, stimulated. Maybe a misread of…sexually stimulated? She sat back on her haunches, figuring if she stretched at least four feet of her five-foot ten frame, maybe she’d appear larger. His breath assailed her from above, she remained squatted.
Damn, this thing is huge!
He sniffed the top of her head, down by her ear, licked the length of her neck and up the side of her face. Another howl close by, echoing near the tree line, got the wolf’s attention. He raised his head from her and shoved her body back with his own. She went down on her butt, folding her legs sideways. Fur from his backside pressed into the front of her, including her face. Olivia turned her head away and took a breath. A shiver began in her belly and inched through her arms, legs, and up her neck. She sensed his urgency, he must move and his need…again, to keep her safe and again something else, another misread?
He moved back, his head next to hers. A growl vibrated, harsh and deep, beside her ear. Olivia jumped when he yipped instead of howled. He circled her, stopping behind her. A sudden scratch of claws and pebbles from rain washout near the barn pelted her. Air swirled around her as the wolf leaped over her head in the direction of the woods.
Olivia’s breath whooshed out like a balloon being released. Tears welled and trickled down her face. The wolf’s size was about as abnormal as it got. She’d never heard of any wolf being that large. She’d done plenty of research on the species, brushing up for the wolf pup she rehabilitated and released back into the wild years ago when Ray and she first opened the refuge, before they owned the preserve property.
Olivia pushed herself up onto wobbly legs, her stomach lurched, and before she could blink, vomit spewed. She retched hard, falling onto her hands and knees, weak and crying, something she hadn’t done since Ray’s funeral. As if on cue, all the lights popped on, illuminating her shadow against the barn wall.
Oh, that’s lovely. Damn power company.
A howl, and then another and another, echoed from different locations in the forest. Her forest, her wildlife preserve, not a place for a beast like her visitor, and most definitely not a place for the aggressive lot in the forest. She swiped her face with the bottom of her shirt and looked toward the woods.
About thirty yards away in the mowed meadow, her wolf circled with another, close-in-size, milky-eyed wolf with a deformed face, both spot-lighted in the yard light. They flashed razor sharp teeth and glowing eyes, with the exception of the one’s coated eye. Their vicious growls and snapping jaws filled the air. Olivia found her tranq gun on the ground and grabbed it. By the time she turned for a shot, she saw the tail end of both wolves leaping into the woods, her wolf chasing the other.
Olivia leaned against the barn, adjusting her position in accordance with her pain. She thought of the curious readings she sensed from her wolf, not sure of their meaning. She never questioned first impressions from readings anymore. Years of experiences proved first intuitive readings rang as authentic truth in almost every case.
She closed her eyes and pictured her wolf looking at her for the first time, the way his head snapped in her direction and how their gazes met and connected. She touched her neck, sliding fingertips up her cheek where his tongue touched her skin.
Her breath caught, heart raced, and her eyes opened wide. She laughed out loud, maybe in relief, maybe in a small fit of hysteria, or maybe because she consider that wolf as “her” wolf. Her “stimulation” readings from him threw her off, knowing it wasn’t a possibility. She would check with an area forester or park manager regarding the wolf pack.
On shaky legs she shoved away from the barn siding and walked toward the house. Olivia dropped the gun just inside the porch and then marched through the house, until she stood outside the bathroom door.
“I came in for a flashlight, still haven’t looked in on the animals. It will take me a while, Lace. Are you going to be alright?” Olivia spoke through the closed door.
“I’ll be in bed before you get back and won’t care if the lights go out again. Got to leave early, I’m needed back in the classroom by tomorrow evening.”
“Okay, I’ll have coffee ready.”
Olivia snatched the flashlight from on top of her refrigerator in case the lights went out again. She slung the tranq rifle over her shoulder by its leather gun strap and headed out to her mending critters. An owl hooted nearby and she jumped. She scanned the back tree line, listening for wolves. Nothing.
For the first time since, Rebel, her Australian Shepherd, died, she was thankful he hadn’t been there tonight. She knew Rebel would have attacked to protect and she also knew he wouldn’t have survived. Perhaps that was exactly what happened one week ago. Rebel protected and lost. Her heart cracked a little more for the loss of her friend.
She walked through the barn housing the cages of a broken-winged red-tailed hawk, a healing ground hog that got caught in a trap, and a young maimed raccoon, now healed and nearly ready for release. She gave them fresh water and checked bandages and bedding. All looked good for the evening. She’d brought her small goat herd inside earlier—they were all bedded down for the night as well.
After leaving the barn, Olivia inspected the back area one more time, noticing the motion light was off. She closed the porch door gently behind her, set the flashlight on a windowsill nearby, and slid the gun off her shoulder, leaning it against the doorframe.
“I called Chance and left a message on his phone,” Lacey said, startling Olivia and making her stumble. Olivia latched onto a wicker chair before she fell. Lacey continued, “Told him to stop here if he wanted a date, phone calls wouldn’t work for you.”
“What! Who’s Chance? What in the hell are you talking about, and why are you sitting out here in the dark?” Olivia grumbled.
“I wanted you to know I left a message on his phone in case I forget to tell you in the morning. He’s a wonderful, caring man, all into nature, just like you.”
“Didn’t we just have this conversation? God, Lacey, when will you stop? I don’t want a date with anyone, I’m happy alone.”
“You said you’d go out with him, before you went checking on your animals, before I got in the tub. Doesn’t matter, this will be the last man I want you to meet. Promise.”
Olivia’s eyes acclimated to the dark interior of her porch. She saw Lacey arch a well-groomed eyebrow, her movement accentuated by the outside light filtering through the branches of Olivia’s one oak tree between her house and barns. She rolled her eyes and sighed, her head, back, and chest aching.
“I’ll do this, only because by doing it, you’ll never—and I mean never, send another man my way again.”
“I won’t, because I won’t have to. You’ll fall for this guy. He’s a forester. One of the guest speakers at the college seminar I attended, only instead of talking about cultivating a healthy, healing forest, he was more into wolf sightings and their habitat. I met him personally at the professor’s meeting afterward. When he told me he resided in your neck of the woods, I asked him if he was single…and the rest is history.” Lacey giggled, which tensed Olivia’s jaw even more.
“God, Lacey, you never cease with your pushing. There are so many other great uses for that kind of energy, and yet you waste it on me. Wow.”
Olivia shuffled straight to her bathroom, snapping on the light. Her eyes automatically squinted when she saw her reflection in the mirror. “Oh my God,” popped out.
“It isn’t that bad. This guy’s a real gentleman, well, kind of a hot looking nice gentleman.” Lacey said from the hallway.
“See you in the morning, sis.” Olivia closed the door before Lacey saw her condition. Olivia’s shirt wore remnants of vomit. Her hair strayed in ratted disarray from its tie, and the filth on her face showed streamline moisture tracks from tears. Olivia learned long ago she couldn’t share stories of wildlife with her sister. Lacey would go on a rampage against the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She wanted Olivia to move back to Lower Michigan’s most southern area, especially after Ray died.
“Night, sis,” Lacey said from the other side of the bathroom door. “Tell me how it goes when you meet Chance. Don’t you just love his name? I’ll try not to call you every hour for a report.”
“Stop. Go find your own guy and leave me be.”
“That’s just it; I have lots of guys beating down my door. You have zippo. You’ll need to douche with Rustolium in order to get those feminine parts back in condition.”
“I have a battery charged way I keep my lady parts in working order.” Olivia chuckled.
“Olivia! I didn’t know you had it in you.” Lacey laughed.
“I don’t, yet, but it’s on my agenda for tonight, so close your bedroom door tight.” Olivia grinned at her little funny, and Lacey laughed even louder as she walked away.
Olivia turned on the water and filled her jetted sunken tub. One of the few selfish things she afforded herself when they built the house. She got a Jacuzzi, and Ray got a crazy huge shower with multiple showerheads and wall benches.
Her whole body ached, every cell, zapping any stamina left. She slipped out of her jeans and pulled off her T-shirt. Steam wafted, thickening the air, but not enough it masked the mirror. Olivia stood staring at herself, naked. Her muscle hadn’t lost much of its firm tone, but the tightness of her aged skin was another matter.
Then, she noticed something else, looked away from the mirror image and down at herself. “What?” She touched the tops of her breasts. Above each nipple, a huge red and purple paw print appeared, as if tattooed.
All Romance eBooks