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MATING CALL
by Gale Stanley

Genre: E-book, Erotic Romance, Paranormal

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Summer 2009 Black Wolf Gorge, Pennsylvania Wilds

Jude maneuvered the ATV over the rocky trail, driving fast enough to jiggle the change in the dashboard ashtray. Cursing, he jammed on the brake, stomping so hard the tires screamed. He jumped out and trotted back a few yards.

Shit! Hot and hungry, he'd let his mind wander, and he almost drove over the wolf scat. He nudged the dark coils with the toe of his boot. Tapered at the ends and full of animal hair and bone shards, they looked to be fresh. Just to be sure, he got to his knees and smelled the dung. It had a distinct odor, one he recognized.

Wolves hadn't been seen in the gorge since they were taken off the endangered species list and hunted to extinction, but yesterday when he found that deer carcass, alarm bells went off. Some varmint had disemboweled the whitetail, torn it apart, and scattered the bones in a small radius. Every predator had its own style, and he'd bet the ranch on a wolf kill.

His neighbors, hell, even his own brother laughed at him and said they weren't about to waste their time chasing coyotes, but he knew better. Screw them! He didn't give a shit, he liked to be on his own.

The damp earth revealed almost-perfect tracks, four inches wide and five inches long and claw marks to boot. Too big to be coyote prints. Damn if he wasn't Sherlock fucking Holmes. Those assholes would eat their words when he brought a dead wolf back for his trophy room. And they'd all be kissing his ass and thanking him for protecting their livestock.

Tracking involved more than shit and footprints. He gave himself a spritz of eau de deer piss, grabbed his rifle, and left the vehicle behind. He evaluated everything around him—scratches on tree trunks, chewed vegetation, snagged hairs. Measuring the distance between prints told him the animal had walked rather than loped. The signs weren't obvious in the dense growth, but he'd been hunting since he could pick up a gun. Confident in his element, he tracked like a predatory animal.

Few ranchers understood the wolf like he did, but then few hated them as much either. Hell-bent on eradicating the species, he had good reason to study their habits. His parents died defending him and his siblings against a wolf attack, and for the last twenty years, he'd learned all he could about them for the sole purpose of getting rid of them. His ultimate goal might be a tad too ambitious, but he did succeed in ridding Black Wolf Gorge of the feral beasts. At least he thought he did. He believed all of the relocated pack had been dealt with after they were delisted. Evidently he'd been wrong.

The trail led him toward the river, a good sign. A familiar adrenaline rush pumped up his heart rate. This is what he lived for—the thrill of the hunt, and the wolf, an elusive predator, presented a real challenge.

Wolves were smart, and this one more than most. He almost missed the den, hidden in a dense conifer stand. It had been dug under a fallen spruce, providing a stable ceiling. Fresh scat and disturbed vegetation lay nearby, proving the animal hadn't abandoned it.

He checked for multiple openings and found one. His prey made sure it had an escape route. He ached to crawl inside, but he knew better. It appeared empty, and he smelled like a fucking deer, but he could scare it off for good. Worse, it might return through the back door and meet him head-to-head. He'd be wise to come back later, better prepared, and stake out the area.

The soft rush of water could be heard in the distance. His enemy had camped near the river. He decided to make a detour and cool off.

Jude moved like a silent ghost until he reached a stand of trees bordering a clearing. He peered through the dense growth at the river beyond. Holy shit! A woman, buck naked and half-submerged, splashed playfully in the water. She clearly enjoyed herself, and he enjoyed the view from his protected spot behind the trees.

She bent low to bathe her face. Intrigued, he watched her ample breasts bob on the water like two plump apples ripe for the picking. She dunked her head before wading out. A real beauty. Damn, if she didn't look like Venus coming out of the sea with her tan skin and curvy body. Dead sexy, she swung her full hips as if she knew someone watched her. She stood on the bank shaking water from her long, black hair and preening in the sun. He licked his lips and let his gaze travel over her body. Tempted beyond reason his cock twitched painfully inside jeans made suddenly too tight. His own personal sex goddess just waiting for him to make a move. If he didn't, it would be his loss, and she'd haunt his dreams tonight.

All thoughts of the wolf fled. How often did a man get a chance to score a fine piece of ass like this one?

Already unzipping his jeans, he took a step forward. One look at the womb tickler between his legs and a dose of the old Outlaw family charm and the little seductress would be putty in his hands. He hadn't had any complaints yet.

About to leave the shielding trees, he saw her drop to a crouch, and he hesitated. In that second, her form blurred. He wiped sweat from his eyes with a forearm, blinked, and shook his head to clear his vision. When he opened his eyes, he swore she looked right at him, but her eyes fixed on something he couldn't see. Her body bent forward and quivered like a twanged bowstring. Muscles bunched and strained. Short, black hair sprouted from her naked flesh and grew longer. He watched, frozen in place by shock. A noise like twigs cracking underfoot and her midsection contracted while her face expanded. In another instant, a wolf sat where the woman had once crouched.