the swat series, book 10
She let him get away
SWAT werewolf Rachel Bennett is hounded by nightmares after a vicious attack left her with PTSD. Not knowing who or what she can trust anymore, she's relieved to be assigned to a high-profile protective detail. Diving into work might be the distraction she needs, until she notices the mysterious hunk who seems to follow her wherever she goes—and recognizes him.
Now he needs her help...
After he's badly injured, former Navy SEAL Knox Lawson seeks out Rachel when he realizes he's turning into a werewolf. He'd once been part of the group hunting her kind, but he knew he had to quit when he found Rachel in his crosshairs. Now he desperately needs her help.
Rachel isn't sure she trusts Knox, but having him around keeps the nightmares—and the monster creating them—away. Knox might not know much about being a werewolf, but there's no doubt he'll do everything in his power to win her trust and keep her safe.
She leaned against the balcony railing to do a little stargazing from the second-floor deck when two scents that were becoming overwhelmingly familiar hit her. It was the same combination of scents she’d picked up this morning at the compound.
But this time it wasn’t some slight trace carried on the breeze. Instead, it was thick and heavy, like whoever the scents belonged to had been standing on the balcony mere seconds ago. It struck her then that this was the first time she’d attributed the smell to a person. Before now, she hadn’t been quite sure.
Hand tightening on her mug, she swept the street below her apartment with her gaze, taking in every car parked on the curb and row of buildings on the other side of the street, following the smell with her nose. It was strongest in that direction and she inhaled deeply. The scents were richer and fuller than she’d sensed before. And they definitely belonged to a man. Of that she was sure. The scents possessed a subtle hint of something so tantalizing that Rachel found her eyes going slightly unfocused as she fixated on it. She’d never smelled anything so…perfect.
Suddenly, she caught sight of movement across the street, buried in the shadows of the alley that ran alongside the organic food store. She turned all her attention in that direction, her eyes shifting so she could see better. That’s when she saw a man’s silhouette in the darkness.
As if sensing her gaze on him, the man retreated farther into the alley, and while she couldn’t see him, she could tell he was still there somewhere.
Setting her cup on the small table in between the two chairs, Rachel gripped the balcony railing and vaulted over it to the ground below. Her bare feet hit the sidewalk hard, but she ignored the discomfort and took off running across the street, chasing after the shadow.
The rocks and stray pieces of glass in the alley dug into her feet, but she refused to let that slow her as she ran as hard as she could. For a werewolf like her, that was pretty damn fast. But the man ahead of her was fast, too—too fast to be a normal human.
Crap, she was chasing another werewolf. She almost stumbled to a halt at the realization, shocked she hadn’t recognized the unique scent until now. How was it possible she hadn’t known it for what it was? Maybe because it had changed since she’d first smelled it all those weeks ago. The werewolf part of the scent seemed new.
Growling, she picked up speed, her body partially shifting as she ran faster, refusing to let the man ahead of her get away. It took a while to corner him, but when her prey turned down a dead-end alley, she knew she had him.
He didn’t stop running until he reached the brick wall at the end of the alley. Then he stood there and stared at it as if trying to figure out how to go through it. Dark-haired, he was tall with broad shoulders and sleek muscles filling out the T-shirt he wore. He looked left and right, breathing hard as he searched for an escape route.
“You’re not getting out of this alley,” Rachel told him, not even trying to disguise the anger in her voice. This guy had been stalking her for weeks. He was lucky she didn’t rip him to shreds first and ask questions later. “Not until you tell me who the hell you are and what you want with me.”
Squaring his shoulders as if resigned to his fate, he slowly turned to face her. His hair was short on the sides and longer on the top, and his face carried a few days’ worth of scruff that emphasized his square jaw, making him look dangerous and even more attractive than he probably had a right to. His eyes were a deep, rich chocolate brown, piercing but somehow soft at the same time.
She was well on her way to getting lost in those eyes when she suddenly realized she recognized him. He was the hunter she’d let get away. A hunter who was a werewolf.
She would have made a crack about how insane this entire situation was, but the expression on his face stopped her. For a guy who had an obvious confidence about him, he looked completely and utterly lost.
He lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry I’ve been following you, but something’s happening to me and I think you’re the only one who can help.” When she didn’t say anything, he took a deep breath and continued. “This is going to sound crazy, but I think I’m turning into a werewolf.”
Rachel couldn’t help it. She laughed. It was either that or start crying at the poetic irony that would make poor William Shakespeare choke on his writing quill.
“You’re a werewolf?” she said. “Well, all I can say to that is, no shit, Sherlock.”
* * * * *
Knox had envisioned his first face-to-face meeting with Rachel hundreds of times. But in absolutely none of those visions had he imagined the woman laughing at him. Yet that was what she was doing, as if his confession that he thought he was turning into a werewolf was the funniest thing in the world.
He had to admit she was even more beautiful up close—in a wild, almost feral way—and he couldn’t stop himself from staring. Her long, blond hair was in disarray from chasing him at light speed through the streets, and her fair skin was glistening with a light sheen of sweat. Which was crazy, considering she wasn’t wearing much in the way of clothes, and the temperature had to be thirty degrees tonight.
He tried not to gawk at her long, toned legs, but he couldn’t help it. They were as perfect as the rest of her, right down to her bare feet.
Knox didn’t realize how hard he’d been staring at her body until he lifted his head to find her light-brown eyes locked on him, brow arched in an expression that might have been amusement. Or anger. He wasn’t entirely sure which.
“What? You have a problem with being a werewolf?” she demanded, her southern drawl sexy as hell. “Oh, that’s right. You’re a hunter. You kill werewolves for fun and now you are one. Ain’t that a bitch?”
Knox really wasn’t sure what to say to that. This really wasn’t the way he’d expected this conversation to go.
“So, are you going to help me, or what?” he asked.
For the first time, it occurred to him that he might have wasted his time chasing her all over the country. To her, he was one of the people who’d tried to kill werewolves like her—attacked her and her friends at a wedding reception no less. Why the hell would she ever want to do anything to help him? Damn, he’d been so stupid. But from the moment he’d seen her at that wedding reception at the SWAT compound, he’d felt like there was something there.
“What kind of help do you think I can give you?”
Her tone had softened, giving him hope. At least for a moment.
“I’m hoping you can tell me how this happened. Because I know I never got bitten by a werewolf. More importantly, how do I make it go away?”
Rachel regarded him thoughtfully, as if deciding whether she wanted to help him or not. Finally, she jerked her chin toward the mouth of the alley. “Come on. This conversation is going to take a while, and there’s a pot of coffee in my apartment with my name on it.”
Without waiting for an answer, she turned and headed toward the street. Knox stared after her for a moment, then hurried to catch up. She didn’t say anything on the way to her place and he didn’t want to press his luck by trying to engage her in conversation. When they got there, Rachel had to climb up to the balcony since she didn’t have her key while she insisted he take the traditional way through the apartment building’s front door then went up to the second floor and waited for her to let him in.
Rachel’s place was small but appeared bigger thanks to the light-colored paint on the walls and open floor plan. The earthy tones she’d used to decorate gave the apartment a warm, homey feel, as did the landscape paintings and framed photos of what he assumed were family and friends on the built-in bookcase along one wall of the living room.
“Make yourself comfortable,” she said, gesturing to the tan-colored couch and matching love seat.
Knox did as she suggested, opting for the love seat. He expected her to head into the kitchen for that coffee she mentioned, but instead, she walked down the hall and into what he presumed was the bathroom. A moment later, he heard the water running and what sounded like a soft grunt of pain.
“You okay in there?” he called.
“Just picking out pieces of glass I got stuck in my feet running after you. I’m fine.”
That sounded painful. And made him feel guilty for making her chase him. He hadn’t intended for that to happen. No, the original plan had been simple. Stop by Rachel’s apartment and knock on her door. Instead, he’d hung around across the street from her building like the stalker he’d become until she went to bed. Or at least he thought she’d gone to bed. He wasn’t quite sure because she hadn’t shut off any of the lights.
He’d just been about to leave when he’d heard her scream. The terror in it had cut right through him and he’d lost it.
The next thing he knew, he was on her second-floor balcony. He’d been this close to busting through the sliding glass door when Rachel had wandered out of her bedroom, slick with sweat and looking like death warmed over. Despite how crappy she’d looked, Knox was relieved she was safe and unharmed. While he knew it wasn’t possible, for a moment, it almost seemed like he could actually hear her heart pounding. The idea that something could scare a werewolf like her shocked him. He’d been so busy trying to wrap his mind around that he hadn’t even realized she was walking toward the balcony.
He’d hurdled the railing, hitting the street below like a bag of bricks thrown from a moving car. The pain was intense but, oddly, not as bad as it probably should have been. Nothing broke, so it was definitely a small price to pay to avoid getting caught.
Not that his clumsy escape had done much good. Somehow, Rachel had seen him and leaped off the balcony like a graceful gazelle. She’d chased him down like a barefoot bloodhound on crack, catching him with ridiculous ease.
But on the bright side, it had broken the ice on the introductions.
Knox glanced up as Rachel walked into the living room still wearing the same tank top and shorts. While he didn’t mind getting another look at those legs, he was more concerned about her injured feet.
“You sure you don’t need to go to the hospital and get checked out?” he asked. “With the trash and crap in those alleys, you could get a serious infection.”
“We don’t get infections, as long as you get any foreign debris out of the wounds. Your body will take care of everything else. It’s a werewolf thing.”
She lifted one foot, showing him that the bloody lacerations were now replaced with scars that looked three or four days old, then continued into the kitchen. Taking two mugs out of the cabinet, she grabbed a package of popcorn from another, then stuck it in the microwave. She was making popcorn…at 0300 in the morning. Coffee and popcorn. Different but okay. Within moments, the smell of butter and the sounds of popping kernels filled the apartment, making his mouth water.
When the microwave beeped a minute later, Rachel dumped the popcorn in a bowl, then poured coffee into the mugs.
She glanced at him over the peninsula separating the kitchen from the living room. “Cream and sweetener?”
He nodded. “Please.”
Rachel added cream and two packs of sweetener to each mug, then set the bowl of popcorn on a wooden tray along with them and carried everything into the living room. Placing the tray on the table, she handed Knox a mug, taking the one with the Tennessee Volunteers logo for herself. Then she curled up on the other couch, gracefully tucking her long legs under her.
Knox tried to keep from staring at all that exposed skin, but it was damn tough. He hadn’t seen skin that smooth and perfect in a long time. Well, ever, actually. He attempted to focus on the aroma of the hot, buttered popcorn instead, but then he picked up another scent even more mouthwatering—cinnamon with a hint of licorice jelly beans. He’d never smelled those two scents together before, but they completely worked. Probably because they were two of his favorite things. Maybe she had a candle or some of that potpourri stuff in her apartment.
Wonder why I didn’t smell it before.
He swigged his coffee. “So, it’s true then. I’m a werewolf?”
Rachel arched a brow as she leaned forward to grab a handful of popcorn. While Knox was focused on her face, he didn’t miss the fact she wasn’t wearing a bra under that Captain America tank top. He had superb vision and the low sides of the tank showed off a teasing amount of skin.
“Yeah, you’re a werewolf,” she said. “But you knew that already or you wouldn’t be here.”
Knox nodded. “I guess. I think I knew it when I survived that gunshot wound. I mean, I should have bled to death within a few hours. The fangs and claws were a dead giveaway, too. Not to mention the anger management issues I’ve been having lately.”
She frowned. “How many times have you lost control?”
“Enough,” he said noncommittally.
He supposed losing control was simply part of turning into a monster. He lost count of how many times he’d snarled at people for no reason in the past week. He’d even come close to putting a few guys at Theo’s security firm through a wall when an episode of roughhousing had gotten out of hand. Fortunately, Theo hadn’t gotten upset and fired his ass. In fact, he’d approved, saying he liked the way Knox had put them in their place. Apparently, the boss thought some of his employees had been getting soft lately.
As far as Knox was concerned, the random outbursts were one more in a long string of reasons he needed to get this problem fixed. But before he got into that, he needed to understand how the hell he’d ended up in this situation to begin with.
“How can I be a werewolf?” he asked. “I didn’t get bitten.”
He reached out with his free hand to snag some popcorn so she wouldn’t see how tense he was now that they’d come down to the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. It was buttery and perfectly salted.
“It doesn’t work like that.” She sipped her coffee. “Werewolves aren’t created from a bite. That’s myth and Hollywood make-believe. We’re born this way.”
He snorted. “Like hell. I wasn’t like this before I got shot at that wedding reception.”
She scooped up some more popcorn, then leveled her gaze at him. “Actually you were. Getting shot merely brought the werewolf out in you.”
Okay, now he was really confused. “Maybe you better start from the beginning.”
Rachel nibbled on a piece of popcorn, and he stared at her mouth, transfixed as she chewed. He was so distracted he almost missed what she was saying.
“The werewolf trait is in our DNA,” she explained. “It remains dormant until something traumatic—usually painful and, a lot of the time, violent—happens and triggers it.” She popped another piece of popcorn in her mouth with a shrug. “And poof, you’re a werewolf.”
And poof, you’re a werewolf.
Well, damn. Could it be anymore underwhelming? At least if another werewolf had attacked and bitten him, he’d have a cool story to tell. The most he could admit to was getting shot in the leg due to an overdeveloped sense of morality.
“So, getting shot was all it took?” he said.
“Apparently,” she replied. “If it was bad enough.”
He grabbed another handful of popcorn. “The bullet went straight through my leg, but I’m pretty sure it cracked my femur on the way out. Which is something I wouldn’t recommend, by the way, especially when you have to drive nonstop across the country.”
Her mouth curved. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“How about you?” he asked. “What happened to turn you into a werewolf?”
Rachel hesitated for a moment before answering. “I was a cop in Chattanooga, and I responded to a suspicious activity call in a graveyard. Long story short, I got attacked by a psychopathic clown with a big knife trying to kill a teenage girl. He stabbed me a couple times and I almost died.”
Knox stared at her, wondering for half a second if she was joking. But from the haunted look in her eyes, it was obvious she wasn’t. “Okay, you win.”
“Were we competing for something?”
“No.” He shrugged. “But if we were talking about most-badass origin story, you’d win, hands down.”
She snorted and ate more popcorn.
“You know,” he said. “When I thought about having this conversation with you, I had dozens of questions, but now, I find myself coming back to one question over and over.”
She regarded him, her light-brown eyes thoughtful. “What’s that?”
“Can you help me learn to control this thing inside me?”
Rachel paused, her mug of coffee halfway to her mouth, her expression hardening. “You and your hunter friends spent the past two years trying to eradicate my kind from existence. Why should I help you with anything?”
The disdain and hatred in the words stung way more than they should have. He was tempted to defend himself, but he wasn’t sure she’d even believe him. “Because I’m a werewolf like you now. Doesn’t that automatically get me into the club—or whatever you call it?”
“That would be the Pack, and no, it doesn’t automatically get you in. Not by a long shot.”
Knox cursed silently, resisting the urge to give in to his gut and say the hell with it and get up and walk out. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t. He’d spent his whole life depending on those instincts. They’d sure as hell kept him alive on more deployments than he could count. But lately, he hadn’t made the best decisions, so instead of running, he stayed where he was.
“So being a werewolf doesn’t get me anything. How about saving your life?” he countered. “What does that earn me?”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about? I don’t remember you saving my life.”
“How do you think I got shot?” He reached for more popcorn, tossing some in his mouth. Now that he’d gotten used to the idea of eating popcorn at 0300 hours, he had to admit it was pretty good. “I was running across that damn compound, doing everything I could to get the hell out of there without spilling any blood when I saw you. Unfortunately, another hunter saw you at the same time and decided to pop a cap in you. I got shot because I stepped in front of a bullet with your name on it.”
He waited for her to throw the bullshit flag, but instead, understanding dawned on her face, like she’d just remembered something.
“You shot the hunter who tried to kill me,” she breathed. “Why would you do something like that when you were one of them?”
Knox opened his mouth and closed it again. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a simple answer to the question. “It’s a long and complicated story.”
She shrugged. “So talk. It’s not like I plan on getting any more sleep tonight.”
“This might come as a shock, but while you can obviously go without your beauty rest and still look good, I can’t. I need to go home and crash for a few hours before I drag my sweet southern ass into work. If you’re willing to meet up again tomorrow night, I’ll tell you why I took that bullet for you. In exchange, you can teach me how to control the werewolf I’ve turned into.”
There was no sane reason for her to agree, which was why Knox was sure she was about to tell him to pound sand. He couldn’t let that happen.
“You could have killed me that night. You had me in your sights with your finger on the trigger, but you didn’t take me out,” he reminded her. “Something tells me you had your reasons, and now, I’m hoping they’re enough to make you agree to see me again.”
Her eyes pierced him. “How many werewolves did you kill when you were a hunter?”
“None,” he said without hesitation. “I won’t try telling you I didn’t see what those assholes did to your kind. To my kind, I guess. I never took part in any of it and I hate myself for standing by and letting it happen, but after I realized what I’d gotten myself into, I did everything I could to get out.”
She seemed to consider that, then slowly nodded. “Okay. Come by tomorrow night at eight. I’ll talk to you again and give you a chance to explain. But I’m not making any promises. If I don’t like what you have to say, I’ll tell the rest of my pack you’re here and let them decide what to do with you.”
He shuddered at that but refused to let his trepidation show. “Fair enough. Tomorrow night then.”
Downing the rest of his coffee, Knox scooped up one more handful of popcorn, then stood and headed for the door. Once there, he paused with his hand on the knob to glance over his shoulder at Rachel. She looked exhausted, and he wanted to tell her to get some sleep, but he was pretty sure the concern would be wasted on her.
OMG! This book has the creepiest bad guy I’ve read in a long time turning this romantic suspense into a psychological thriller. This book is a non-stop thrill ride from the first page to the last!"
“Exceptional worldbuilding and a thriller atmosphere will appeal to paranormal readers of Jennifer Ashley and Stephanie Tyler. Romantic suspense fans will be drawn to the ardent relationship between the reformed werewolf hunter and SWAT officer fighting the demons of her past.”
“High-impact action and tender romance…Series readers will delight in returning to the SWAT universe.”
Absolutely Spectacular! The story is intense. The characters are outstanding. A Five-Star Read!"
I freaking loved this story! Plenty of action and mystery. A little loving and romance. I do believe this is my favorite in this series. I cannot wait to see what happens next!"
The stuff that goes down as the book reaches its climax is bananapants amazing!
Tyler really outdid herself this time. She’s a freaking Rockstar! I really couldn’t get enough of this book and I highly recommend the whole series to anyone looking for great characters, fast-paced action, and an author with a great sense of humor.
What a well-written paranormal romantic suspense book! You won’t be disappointed!"
Paige Tyler does it again with another intense, intriguing, exciting and sexy story. An author you need to be reading!"
At 10 books and counting, this Special Wolf Alpha Team series still has plenty left to offer. I have yet to be disappointed and continue to be impressed by Paige’s storytelling."
I flew through this book in nearly one sitting and was left well satisfied. I can’t wait to see what comes next for SWAT or the new spin-off series."
A brilliant read!"
If you love werewolves, sexy heroes, heroines who can handle them, action, drama, fears and tears, a sweet yet steamy romance, then you have to read WOLF REBEL!""
Another great read with some unexpected twists and turns!"
Readers of Stephen Kings "IT" will love the Clown aspect of this story!"
This book has it all!"
If you're looking for a really good read this is it!"
SIGN UP & GET A FREE BOOK!