Authors: Tessa Clarke
Tags: #Romance, #Multicultural, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Multicultural & Interracial, #Werewolves & Shifters
THE Wolf SHIFTERS OF Raven Ridge Book One
Copyright © 2015 Tessa Clarke
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events, locales or organizations are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are imaginary, and any resemblance to actual places, events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by: Derek Murphy
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Other Books by Tessa Clarke
***These are all standalone novellas with no cliffhangers***
The Cat Shifters of White Peaks
Book One Freefall: Alissa and Cade’s story – Out now.
Get it here.
Book Two Starfall: Jolene and Leif’s story – Out now.
Get it here.
Book Three Sweetfall: Zoey and Flynn’s story – Out now.
Get it here.
Book Four Nightfall: Astrid and Chance’s story – Out now.
Get it here.
White Peaks Books One to Four Boxed Set (including bonus Alissa and Cade short story) – Out now.
Get it here.
The Wolf Shifters of Raven Ridge
Book One Lone Wolf: Delany and Leif’s story – Out now.
Book Two: Sasha and Sam’s story – Coming soon.
Book Three: Bryn, Wyatt, Silas, James and Brett’s story – Coming in January.
Delany Nichols checked the GPS on her phone for the third time in fifteen minutes. Rolling prairies, sage grass, and endless sky surrounded her. The only landmarks, other than the jutting black rock of Raven Ridge off in the distance, were the tin postboxes at the end of each driveway. She had to be close.
Her phone suggested that she was right on top of White Raven Ranch. She was used to living in the mountains and knowing exactly where she was. These identical hills of grass turned her around and made her dizzy.
She studied the silver mailbox on the wooden post just outside her window. The black numbers were too faded to read, but this had to be it.
She turned resolutely down the drive in her little Impreza. The prospect of pulling into someone’s ranch where she wasn’t expected didn’t thrill her, but Delany supposed she’d better get accustomed to it if she was going to be a country vet. This was her first day of house calls. Barry, the vet whose practice she would eventually take over, got called away to an emergency at the last minute and suggested that she’d do just fine on her own.
, she thought, as the dust billowed behind her car in a cloud. As long as I don’t get completely lost, or trampled by cows. She hoped the animal at this stop was a dog or a cat. She’d already spent the past couple of hours climbing in and out of stables and pens with horses, goats, and a pig with foot rot.
Did ranchers even call vets when their dog or cat was sick? Probably not. No matter how many times she’d reminded Barry that she was a companion animal vet, he’d reassured her that she’d be fine. She was taking over the companion animal half of the practice and another vet, Sam, was coming in to take over the farm animal side of things, but Sam hadn’t arrived yet, and Barry had emphasized that it was important to be versatile in a small practice.
Easy for him to say
, she thought, imagining what she’d do if she had to stick her hand up a cow’s ass at this stop.
A slate-grey clapboard farmhouse came into view as she came over a rise. It was a stately old house with a broad veranda and dormer windows, the exact kind of house that Delany fantasized about owning some day. A bold red barn stood to the right of the house and what looked like bunkhouses sat tucked under some ponderosa pines.
Three white and black English Shepherds bounded out at the vehicle. Buddy, Delany’s three-legged Springer Spaniel, sprang to attention and pressed his face against the glass of the back window, wagging his stubbed tail.
Delany pulled to a stop and cracked open the door. The dogs swarmed her in a sea of swaying tails, and she extended her hands to pat each of their warm, furry heads, smiling at their enthusiasm and general dogginess.
A man stood shadowed in the large barn door. He was incredibly tall and broad, and Delany’s breath caught in her throat a bit. A black cowboy hat perched on a dark crop of hair and his jaw was square and chiseled. He strode out of the barn purposefully in her direction. Any hope she had of it being a cat with a broken paw evaporated. The dogs broke free of her and ran to mill around him obsequiously, their noses bobbing close to the ground in the way dogs do with a very dominant master. But their tails continued to wag exuberantly, so however much they respected him, they still loved him.
In the bright sunlight, his rangy, muscled physique in tight-fitting Levis and a plaid shirt unbuttoned to his sternum was even more breathtaking, and Delany found her mouth suddenly very dry. She had to stick her arm up a cow’s ass in front of Adonis? She could hope it was a pig with foot rot, she supposed.
She rolled down several of the windows for Buddy, grabbed her vet’s kit from the back of the car, and started making her way toward him. He extended his hand when they were within a few feet of each other. The dogs surrounded them in paroxysms of joy, their excited white flag tails drawing Delany and the man closer together.
“Leif Peirce,” the man said as his hand took hers, sending jolts of electricity up Delany’s arm. Up close, his brilliant green eyes and perfect features forced her to grasp for words. What was her name again? A man this hot could make her forget.
“Delany Nichols,” she managed to stammer. “Barry couldn’t make it. He sends his apologies. He had to go deliver a breech calf.”
Leif nodded and then eyed her curvy five-foot-two frame up and down with an assured, almost lazy, grace, no doubt questioning whether a woman of her stature had any place in stalls with horses that stood twice her height. Indeed.
“I am a vet,” she said, a bit defensively. “A companion animal vet. I won’t be taking over the farm animal portion of the practice” she stressed. “But Barry wants me to be able to fill in for the other new vet on the farm rounds, and get used to the lay of the land around here. I might need your help holding the animal if it’s a cow or a horse. If I can’t help you, we won’t charge for my time. I take it it’s not one of your doggie friends here who’s in need of assistance.”
A wolfish smile slipped over his face. “No, it’s not. But it’s not a cow or a horse either.”
Delany ran through the other options in her mind: Goat, sheep, pig, alpaca, chicken, buffalo, emu? She shifted her eyes away from his delectable features to glance around at the fields at what other animals he might keep.
She couldn’t help but notice that her panties had grown a little damp.
Keep your mind on the job,
, she thought,
not on hopping into bed with the client.
Although even thinking the word “bed” sent her mind down a path involving lots of nakedness and well… other things. He smelled of pine and wind, and his proximity was unnerving. She flicked her eyes surreptitiously down to his groin and found the suggestion of his shaft quite satisfying.
“It’s a bald eagle,” he said, jarring her back to her senses. “His wing is broken. Can you set it?”
She widened her eyes. She’d never worked on a raptor. She’d taken a few wildlife veterinary courses and been part of a few rescues in college, but it was definitely not her specialty.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to Barry. There are raptor centers that deal with that kind of thing, but the closest one is a long way away. What does the break look like? Is it just fractured, or is it displaced?”
Leif gestured into the barn. “Why don’t you come and take a look?”
Delany nodded. “Do you mind if I let my dog Buddy out? Are your dogs friendly with littler dogs? He’s only got three legs, so he’s a bit vulnerable, but he’d love to be able to stretch his legs, the three that are left anyway. He was a search and rescue dog. Someone left him at the clinic where I used to work in White Peaks after he lost his leg. I couldn’t bear to see him put in a shelter.” She was babbling a bit now, but she always felt she had to explain for Buddy.
Leif elevated one of his eyebrows and a faint smile creased his lips. “Of course. Ada, Lyle, and Wig will be fine. They’re mostly about running off coyotes and other predators. They might herd him a bit though.”
Delany wondered which of the dogs might be Wig, and settled on the one with a slightly thicker mane of fur around his ears.
She went back to her car and opened the door to free Buddy, who tottered up to the other dogs with a quivering tail. His joyous spirit even in the face of all the adversities he’d experienced never failed to lift hers. He seemed to have no issues with his three-legged status. The other dogs clamored around him, sniffing and prancing.
Delany turned back to find Leif staring at her ass, and a pang of desire shot through her lady parts.
, she ordered herself. She was on the job. Her second week on the job.
“All right,” she said, collecting herself. “Let’s see this eagle.”
Leif led her down a row of dimly lit stalls. Several stunning horses watched them placidly, and Delany stopped to pat a few of the big brown heads that were thrust in her direction. Even if she didn’t love practicing medicine on horses, mostly because they were just so big, she still loved riding them.
At the end of the barn in an empty stall, lay an enormous bald eagle in a nest of hay. His talons were bigger than her hands and his beak looked no less terrifying. But he wasn’t moving and was clearly in pain.
“What happened to him, do you know?” she breathed.
Leif shook his head. “The dogs found him in the field this way this morning. Maybe a conflict with another animal, or he got hit by a car.”
Delany placed her bag on the barn floor and withdrew a pair of long, thick rubber gloves and a small white blanket. “How did you get him here?”
“I wrapped him in a blanket and carried him in. He’s actually pretty calm.”
She donned the gloves and approached the eagle gingerly. He watched her with his intense yellow eyes, but made no move to attack.
“There’s another set of gloves and blanket in my bag,” she said. “Can you grab them and come and help me?”
Leif obediently opened her bag and withdrew the gloves and blanket, then he joined her in the stall with the gloves on, his limbs impossibly long and taut.
She lay the first blanket on the stall floor next to the eagle. “Okay. We need to flip him carefully on his back onto the blanket. They’re more docile that way. Then I want you to hold him under his neck and by the talons and I’ll check out the wing.”
They carefully turned the eagle so that he lay facing up on the blanket. Delany expected the sharp beak to lurch out and nab one of them at either second, but the eagle remained passive, as if almost in a thrall. This close to Leif, their heads bent together and knees almost touching, she felt like she too might almost be in a thrall. She’d checked out his ring finger while he put on the gloves and found it to be empty. Then again, these rancher types didn’t always wear wedding rings.
“I’ve named him Aquila,” Leif said.
A smile formed on her lips. “That’s a good name.”
She covered the eagle’s head with the blanket, and then steadily and carefully, she extended the wing that the eagle was clearly favoring.
Aquila flinched and struggled, and Delany almost leapt back, but Leif held the bird’s talons and neck firmly.
She quickly checked the wing for blood or protruding bones and finding nothing, folded the wing back against his body and drew the blanket around him. “Just hold him for a second. I’m going to wrap up his talons so we can move him more easily.”