He spotted her as soon as she stepped out of the house and walked around her daddy’s porch to stare out into the forest surrounding the home. His brothers had called her “cute” and “kind of pretty” while simultaneously ordering him to stay away because her big sisters wouldn’t have any of it. But his brothers had been wrong. She wasn’t cute or kind of pretty.
She was astounding.
Leaning back against his 1971 Plymouth GTX, Egbert Ray Smith—Eggie to his Pack and those of the United States Marine Corps that knew of his existence—watched the She-wolf softly sighing and rolling her eyes. Occasionally she shook her head. He knew why, too. It was all the arguing going on inside the house behind her. All that damn arguing. If he’d known he would be coming home to this, he wouldn’t have come.
As it was, Eggie hated when he was forced on what the full-humans called “a vacation,” or what his military brethren called “leave.” He didn’t need a vacation. He didn’t want a vacation.
He was lucky enough to be one of the few men in the world who enjoyed what he did for a living, and what he did was kill. Not just randomly, though. He wasn’t some murdering scumbag. No, Eggie killed with purpose, for the protection of his kind and the other breeds and species that he really didn’t like or care about, but figured deserved protection just as much as anyone else who could shift into a completely different being.
Eggie was good at killing. Some would probably say it was the only thing Eggie Ray Smith was good at. So then why should he be forced away from the only thing he was good at just because his fellow Marines insisted that “Eggie’s startin’ to make us nervous.” Eggie didn’t understand how he did that. He wasn’t doing anything different from what he did on any given day.
But because his entire platoon—the platoon with no name, no number, that was only known about by those who could grow fangs and claws whenever they wanted—suggested he needed “a break,” Eggie was now on break.
So with nothing else to do for the next month or two, depending on when his superiors would need him back, Eggie had come home.
And up to three minutes ago, he was positive it had been the most idiotic decision he’d made in a long time. What with his brothers trying so desperately to secure themselves some females. Of course, for most wolf shifters, securing females simply meant seducing them or enticing them with still-thrashing elk.
Too bad the Smith males weren’t like most wolf shifters.
None of Eggie’s brothers seemed to understand the words “entice” or “seduce.” Instead they argued with their She-wolves. Constantly. It had been bad enough with Eggie’s two older brothers, Benjamin Ray and Frankie Ray, and his youngest brother, Nicky Ray, especially since one of their little gals was a bit of a spitter when she got real angry.
Yet nothing could top Eggie’s younger brother, Bubba Ray, and his She-demon from hell, Janie Mae Lewis. Their daddy liked Janie Mae because she represented the kind of She-wolf he wanted all of them to take as a mate. Strong, confident—a natural Alpha. But because Daddy liked Janie Mae so much, Bubba had to be difficult. He had to play games. Even worse, Janie Mae played those games right back. Not even properly mated yet, the pair already had two boys, the She-wolf pregnant with Bubba’s third, and still they had yet to settle down. Instead they bounced between the Pack territories of Smithtown, Tennessee, and Smithville, North Carolina—arguing the entire way, it seemed.
Eggie didn’t understand all that arguing. Honestly, he didn’t argue with people. He never had to. He either stared until the ones arguing with him went away or he killed them. There was never an in-between, so what was the point of arguing? Unfortunately Bubba didn’t seem to have the same philosophy. All he did with Janie Mae was argue. In fact, Eggie had barely stepped into his parents’ Tennessee home before his brothers propelled him back to his car and he was suddenly on his way to North Carolina. And Lord knew that had been the last thing he’d wanted to do.
Until the moment he saw her.
Yeah, she was definitely the youngest Lewis sister. The one the Lewises had never talked about whenever Eggie was around. Although, in his estimation, this sister was much prettier than the other four. She had long, straight brown hair, parted right in the middle and framing just the sweetest little face with those big brown eyes and pretty full lips. Plus she had what he could only call the cutest cheeks. Although he wasn’t sure cheeks should be cute. Like the other Lewises, her nose was long and refined but she was smaller than her sisters. Barely five-eight or so. For a Lewis female, that was kind of short. For a Smith female, it would be considered downright tiny.
Eggie thought about going over there, introducing himself the way men do when they see a pretty woman they’d like to meet. But then he remembered who he was. He was Eggie Ray Smith, trained killer. What would a girl like her do with a wolf like him? Would she want him to be chatty? Buy her flowers? Kill a herd of elk? And her entire family already hated him on principle. What he did for a living wasn’t exactly respected among many of the shifters, although it was needed to keep them all safe.
Nah. It was best not to get all involved in ... anything. It was best to stay right where he was. Here. On his car. Waiting for the yelling to stop so he could find a hotel in town and get some sleep.
So continuing to stare at the woman on that porch was not a good idea and he decided to study his feet instead—until he heard someone breathing.
And it wasn’t him.
Of all the times for Darla Mae Smith’s boss to send her home for a “visit”—a visit he’d insisted on for some unknown reason—why did it have to be now?
Honestly, only a boss with his own Pack would insist on this sort of thing. Lord knew a full-human chef never would. If they had their way, they’d never give their lowly staff any kind of break. But Darla didn’t work for a full-human. No, she was an assistant pastry chef for a Van Holtz Steak House in San Francisco, and the Van Holtz wolves understood Pack life, so her boss—the executive chef and Alpha of the San Francisco Van Holtzes—had suddenly, out of the clear blue, insisted that Darla go home for a little “Pack time.” Something most She-wolves who were forced away from their kin for one reason or another enjoyed. Then again, none of them had to deal with the darn arguing!