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The wolf twitched his ears to the side and back, then forward once again. He strained to catch the shuffle of movement within the sounds of cricket chirrs, barred owl hoots, and the rattle of leaves in a light spring breeze. Deep in the forest and on a mountain slope, he belly-crawled through the brush. His curious sniffs took in tree, grass, and moss odors; animal and fowl scents; and the musk of nearby humans.
In the nighttime chill, his wet nose quivered.

The woman he stalked smelled of an unlikely, confusing mix of deer, fox, falcon, and even the scent of wild wolves.

From a natural born pack. Not his kind.

Sometimes, being a lone wolf shifter tended toward a lonely existence. Today, that wide-divide between himself, human nature, and true creatures of the wild spanned like a huge abyss in his chest.

Eyes narrowed, he licked his jowls and snout. Tasted the air. Around him, darkness thrummed with unexpected excitement that flavored sharp, like huckleberries fresh from the vine. His whiskers twitched, and the hair raised on his back between his shoulder blades and along his rear haunches because the East Tennessee woods held another threat.

Even as Gideon Saint-Valeri tracked his potential mate, someone else stalked him. In wolf form, the Dark Knight and shifter homed in on the human who trailed him.
Not one of the local coven, but another. Female, as well. Since the woman, one not magic born from her scent, sought him, perhaps that meant his fated mate was not a witch or sorceress after all.

The idea appealed to the baser part of Gideon. After fifteen hundred years, the idea of being with a human, perhaps even as a mortal once more, pleased him. His yearning to connect with mankind again had little to do with his protective wolf nature nor his long-dormant sexual urges.

Or the lack thereof.

A whine rode Wolf’s breath.

So long with Gideon going without made Wolf a grouchy, restless pup. A muscle twitched in his front shoulder where his fur bunched and rippled. Maybe the sans sex thing had more to do with his restless edginess than he cared to believe.

As the stranger who tracked him neared, he growled low. More of a warning to himself to not let his guard down, but not loud enough for the human ear to perceive from a distance.

Upon the waxing crescent moon, Gideon must find the fist-sized ruby that had once adorned the tip of Merlin’s staff and get on the road. With the full of the Mage’s Moon, in two weeks hence, his tenure as a Dark Knight ended.

What awaited him? Might he regain his humanity? His lungs inflated with the hope of normalcy after far too long. But that might mean—

Wolf’s tail drooped, and he lowered his head.

If his time, fifteen hundred odd years, of being a shifter drew to a close, he would lose the wolf part of himself. He exhaled the once uplifting breath until a vacant heaviness weighed in his chest. Before he set out on his new life, whatever course that might take, even if it meant he wore a tie and used his legal degree in a courtroom to put human scum behind bars and to weed out the chaff of demons hidden among mankind, then so be it.

After centuries upon centuries of extraordinary, Gideon welcomed and looked forward to low-key and mundane.

Even Wolf coveted a life of free runs in the woods, one of the pluses of coming to the East Tennessee area. And after their final gathering a couple of nights ago, he and his fellow knights had planned to head to Nashville to celebrate the end of their celibacy.

In the meantime, the thought of being yoked to someone caged him in a way that even his inner wolf resisted. A muscle twitched in Wolf’s neck and he lifted his snout toward the sky against a phantom weight. Before the turning, he’d been as randy as they come, but to be able to have sex again, and to be chained or on a leash, so to speak—

Movement shifted, and down below, the woman lifted an arm and set a falcon to flight.
Dark hair chopped short, she held herself with an agile grace of a warrior. The baggy, masculine clothing failed to hide the full curves of her breasts, hips, and shapely arse.
Not one lick of interest, even in Wolf’s guardian make up, stirred. Which meant that the animal whisperer was not his chosen.


Wolf rested his chin on moss and whined once again.

The woman, gifted with the ability to communicate and commune with creatures of all kinds, frigging had to be the one. Especially if he were cursed with a connection to a sorceress, the most despicable of entities of the supernatural realm, at least one that could relate to his animal nature might be a boon.

But no.

Triple fuck and damnation to the nth degree.

Betrayed by the so-called great sorcerer and then cursed by a spell that caused him great agony right after his turning, Gideon wanted nothing to do with a wielder of magic.
But now, just as Merlin had turned on him and his fellow knights long ago, fate twisted the dagger of reality in its cruel hand.

The possibility of courting a sorceress or a witch. Not fucking cool at all.

The animal whisperer squinted through the darkness and tilted her face upward as she tracked the falcon’s flight to the top branches of a towering nearby red oak. No need to go to her rose within his chest as the camouflage-clad human failed to lure his protective instincts. Instead, Wolf keyed on the flutter of wings in the tree top.

After a millennium and a half of the supernatural, was it too much to ask that a soon-to-be former knight live a normal a life as possible, despite the wild leaning of his nature?

Gideon sure as hell didn’t think so.

Wolf didn’t care as long as he found his life mate to share a good run with or raise her voice with his in a chorus of howling at the moon. Gideon resisted even being matched to a shifter. Over the centuries, he’d met a few that were not part of the knighthood, but—

Ah, to live out is life in normalcy.

And, the greatest boon of the end of knighthood might be if he were to return to human form himself.

As for Wolf, lip curled against Gideon’s will and goal. Within the cover of brush among a briar thicket, he lifted his nose and tugged in mountain air.

Before him, the woman with short, dark sprouts of hair fanning about her head, held up her bent arm and tapped her forearm with the other hand.

With a shrill call, the bird of prey swooped from the tree, flew across the face of the half moon, and landed on her offered perch.

The outdoors clung to her, in her smell, in her manner of dress in camo pants and shirt, and within her confident stance. Before him, the kind of woman that might provide as normal a life as possible, even considering her ability. After all, if he remained a shifter, she would no doubt be the less high maintenance of the group and might understand his wild, animal nature.

But no frigging response from Wolf. Lifting his nose to catch the falcon’s scent, he panted and lolled his tongue.

Yes, in medieval times, Gideon and twelve others had gained knighthood, but, basically, lost their manhood.

But because Ryder, the captain of the Dark Knights, discovered a mate who ended up being a sorceress, by the Kingdom, that didn’t mean Gideon’s was. But his innate need to stay in the area confirmed that fate likely drew down on the shifter in a stab of destiny straight to his reluctant heart.

Even the unknown tracker who searched for him, as bumbling as she was, might serve better.

But, with her veering off on the false trail of tracks he laid earlier, Wolf lowered his head and crept along until he left the place where the animal whisperer trained her falcon in a small clearing. He loped toward the next likely option for his one true mate.

A heaviness sat like stone in his lower chest and upper gut.

What should have been, was not.

A light gust urged him on and stirred the fur of his face. In a weave through the trees, he ran through overhangs of shadows beneath the half-moon.

The tips of his whiskers trembled. Not since the times of King Arthur and before the fall of Camelot had he sensed a rise of magic such as this. In a world void of such mystic supernatural, the ground beneath his paw pads practically pulsed and vibrated with a spike of paranormal power.

At his second destination, he edged close to a tree and sat, so that his dark brown fur blended with tree bark and shadow. Anticipation quivered in the tip of his tail.

Within the caress of moon glow, to the side of a one-story log cabin, a blonde woman worked in the lushest garden Gideon ever beheld. And she, a lovely lady, dressed in a loose flowing dress or perhaps even a nightgown, knelt in the dirt and tended what looked like an abundance of either cucumber or watermelon vines.

The plant whisperer.

Might she hold the key to calming his savage beast? She worked with the earth, practically merged with the outdoors, and tended all sorts of living sprouts and shoots and vines. Some of the samples of her handiwork grew and bloomed around the foundation of her small quaint log home.

Plants, flowers, shrubs, some so unique that they grew nowhere else, adorned the property set in a clearing near the top of a mountain ridge.
Yet, as he eyed the sway of her pert breasts beneath the thin, off-white material of the garment’s bodice—

The Gideon part of his shifter form experienced the unexpected. Once again, nothing.
For all his manly perception, not a single stir of unbridled passion. As it had for the last 1,500 years, his sexual response remained traitorously dormant, because long ago, the so-called great Merlin had cursed them.

In the time of Arthur, the sorcerer turned them into creatures of the night to battle the evil that sought to destroy Camelot. In return, he granted them eternal life. But, as part of that curse, the worst any knight or man might suffer, rendered all thirteen of them celibate.

With their duty to knighthood ending, the possibility of being mere mortal men again, and the promise—or curse, depending on each of the knight’s particular view—of a true mate, their ability to have sex would soon return.

Wolf yawned and raised his snout toward the shift of the pine and cedar nettles nearby. His nostrils flared. In a forward stretch of his neck, he breathed in long, deep.
An interesting scent carried on the breeze, then grew stronger still.

Since he’d left the tracker behind, he detected another woman, one who smelled of an exotic jasmine perfume. Adding a modern-day twist to the already heavy sweet smell, the stench of printer ink and perhaps the stink of white board markers clung to the visitor.

A tickle rimmed his inner nose, then a sharp prickle gouged his nostrils. Gideon sneezed. Spray dotted the moss and the bark of the birch tree, but he lifted his ears to listen.

The second woman he laid eyes on today—he had not seen the female tracker yet—a brunette tromped toward the garden. With chestnut brown hair pulled back at the nape of her neck, a long braid trailed over her shoulder and along the slope of a full breast. As she strode, a headlamp on her forehead and her steps awkward in hiking boots, the end of the thick strand brushed the flat of her lower belly.

Her manner of dress, creased khaki pants and a light-colored top, more like that of someone in the city, than here in the mountains, featured boots that might cost as much as a car payment or even a mortgage payment to those that struggled in the working world grind. And her tan sweater, with pulls of yarn from the grab of branches and briars, remained best suited for indoors, not out in the wilderness.

The ill-dressed woman didn’t belong in the outside in nature.

Wolf’s nose caught another smell.

Extending his head, his ears straining forward to hear their conversation, Gideon, in wolf form, breathed deep. He captured the man-made smells in his lungs, but then caught the true, full essence of the brunette.

Her feminine smell, the musk that set her apart from all others, filled his nose. He tugged the aroma deep into his lungs.

In that moment, her scent melded with him, somehow became a part of him.

Could it be?

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