Red's Wolf - Piper J. Drake


"Really, it's fine," Carri stepped off the anti-gravity train and onto the platform as she wrapped up her call on her personal communicator. "I just got off the train. A few minutes of waiting won't hurt me, Grandpa Ben, truly. Bye."

The train doors slid shut once she cleared them, and the train rose to hover briefly before speeding along the track to its next destination, leaving her surrounded by wilderness. Trying to shoulder her unwieldy travel pack while disconnecting her comm, she over-balanced. Panic zinged a split second before she realized she teetered too close to the edge of the platform, and the drop to the ground more than a step down.

Damn. She flailed with her free arm, trying to grab for a railing or pole, but her fingers caught only air. Her stomach lurched.

"Watch yourself!" A strong hand grabbed her upper arm, roughly pulling her against a rock-hard surface, steadying her. Actually, the hard surface was a very muscular chest, under a soft flannel shirt.

The hood of her jacket framed the view of her rescuer’s chest and she abruptly wondered if the rest of him was as appealing. A wave of dizziness hit her and she clutched at the soft fabric beneath her hands. Her blood sugar was bottoming out after the long train ride.

"I'm so sorry." Carri unclenched her fingers, speaking carefully through the moment of weakness. "I'm really clumsy, and I guess I tried to do too many things at once. I'm fine now, really."

A deep chuckle rumbled around her, and she peeked out from under her hood. From the strong, stubble-covered chin to his wide smile full of straight, white teeth and eyes a startling steel grey rimmed in stark black, he embodied the rugged wilderness she’d come to visit. And he still held her up close and personal.

Heat rushed into her face as she stepped to one side, mentally congratulating herself for not stepping backward and wasting his timely save with a second fall off the platform.

"No apologies needed." His dark voice rolled over her in a slow wave, sending shivers through her despite the layers of clothing she wore. He paused for a heartbeat, his gaze roving over her face. "I will take a 'thank you' though."

Before she could say just that, he leaned in lightning quick, capturing her lips. Heat seared through her as his mouth sealed over hers, and a strong hand caught her jaw, tilting her head up to meet him. His tongue teased her, smothering any protest then darted into her mouth to taste her. A low moan worked its way up her throat, nothing like the protest she'd intended.

Releasing her, the stranger flashed a feral grin and hopped off the platform before she could take a swing at him. Sputtering, Carri watched him land the dozen feet below with ease, her heart pounding in her chest. Every part of her skin tingled as he turned back to look up at her.

"Let Ben know Jason decided to take the long way into Glacier Valley pack territory.” He grinned up at her. "See you around, Red."

He loped towards the forest line in the fading afternoon light, disappearing into the trees.

The first shapeshifter she'd ever met in person managed to stun her speechless. Carri touched her fingertips to the lingering heat he'd left on her lips. Abruptly, her mind cleared and anger flashed through her, burning away the unexpected sensuality he’d awakened. How dare he!

"Carri?" a voice called from the far end of the platform. She turned to see another man approaching slowly, giving her time to recognize him. After all, she’d only ever seen his image through the vid screen.

Taking a deep breath, she let go of her anger, remembering what her mother told her about shapeshifter male’s protective instinct. If she let her temper go, Grandpa Ben would ride her agitation into a rage of his own on her behalf. Not what she wanted. She smiled instead, giving him a quick hug before passing on the shifter’s message. "Grandpa Ben, 'Jason' is taking the long way into the territory."

"Just Ben'll do, Carri, you make a man feel old." He scratched his chin with an embarrassed expression.

She shook her head. “You and Grandma Jenna were like a second set of parents for mom when her family lived on pack territory. Besides, I’ve been calling you two Grandpa and Grandma all this time in our vid-calls. You never seemed to mind.”

“It sounded cute when you were little.” He pointed out, raising an eyebrow.