Embracing the Wolf (Anna Avery #2) by Stephanie Nelson

Chapter One

I leaned against the banister at the back of the deck. Adam stood at the front, our pack in the middle, listening to his every word. An easy smile fell across my lips as I stared at my Chante. His shaggy blonde hair brushed his jaw as he moved his head with his speech. Strong arms cut through the air as he gestured with his hands. Our pack hung on his every word, and so did I. He captivated me, and not just with his announcement about a scheduled summit. Adam was my other half, my soul mate—my Chante. Every fiber of my being had been designed just for him, as well as he had been for me. As a girl who never kept a boyfriend longer than two weeks, all of this was new to me. I had been thrust into not just a relationship, but also a union. Our bonding tied us together and left me highly aware of his presence. The odd thing was, I wasn’t afraid of it. When I looked at Adam, I felt three things: pride, lust, and love—not necessarily in that order.

“… to train Anna …” His words cut through my mind like a blade, severing all thoughts of love and lust. I snapped to attention and listened to what he was saying.

“As my Chante, people will use us against each other. All of you will participate in helping me train your alpha female.”

Alpha female. I couldn’t forget how I earned that title. After Adam killed his previous mate while defending me, I took her place. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I am not a home wrecker by any means. Eve was a psychotic bitch who had a taste for human flesh and blood. She tried, and failed, to pin the murders on me. When that didn’t pan out, she and Adam’s brother, Anthony, kidnapped me. Long story short, Eve was dead, and because Adam and I are bonded, I am the new alpha female. The ceremony is scheduled to take place in two days. Each one of my pack members respected me, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I was not a purebred like alphas are supposed to be, and I didn’t earn the title. As a werewolf for only five months, I didn’t feel like I put in my dues to be at the top of the pecking order. The most I could do was work at earning my place every day. I wanted my pack to respect me because I had earned it and not because of whom I was bonded to. Adam is purebred and alpha material through and through. Me? Not so much.

“Meeting adjourned,” Adam said. A tingle burst through my veins and his eyes found mine. My wolf quivered, a low growl vibrating through my bones. I watched Adam cut through the pack and stalk toward me. His azure eyes pinned me in my place and promised naughty things. I hoped my brown ones were conveying the same message.

When he reached me, he rested his hands on either side of the deck’s railing and leaned forward, trapping my body. I watched his mouth slowly come closer, but he did not kiss me.

“You know,” he said, his breath hot against my lips. “As my mate, your place is by my side, not hiding back here.”

Adam had asked me multiple times to stand up front with him when he had meetings. And each time I opted for watching from afar.

“But you handle them so eloquently,” I told him with a small smile. “I would only distract from that.”

“The only thing you’re distracting is my concentration. All my eyes wanted to focus on were the curves of your body.”

I laughed. “Is that so?”

“Hmm,” Adam agreed. “It’s a constant battle: give the pack my undivided attention or imagine the swell of your br**sts. If you stood beside me, you would be out of my line of sight and make things a lot easier on me.”

“I had no idea how difficult this was on you,” I said with mock sincerity. “It’s only fair, as your Chante, that I put you out of your misery. Next meeting I will take my place up front.”

Adam grinned. “That’s all I’m asking.” He pressed a quick kiss to my lips before Joe called his name, and he headed off to take care of whatever business had popped up.

I was learning that the life as an alpha wasn’t easy. Adam was busy seventy percent of the time with pack business. But I had found stuff to fill my time. I had turned Elle into my sparring partner. After fighting with Eve—and learning Adam and I were each other’s weaknesses—I knew I had to learn to fight. I wanted Adam to be confident in my ability to take care of myself. Should another uprising occur, I would be an asset instead of a liability. Aside from learning to fight, I was also training with Wade. He thought I could be a seer, and I was starting to agree with him. While dealing with Eve, I’d had visions of the past. At the time, we thought it was because she was the one who turned me, and our connection linked us. It was farfetched, but not impossible. However, even after Eve’s death, the visions happened three other times.

“You ready?” Elle asked. Her long copper hair was pulled up in a high ponytail. The sprinkle of freckles over her nose darkened with her tan, and her wide green eyes caught the sunlight and sparkled like emeralds.

“I’m always ready to have my ass handed to me,” I half joked. Elle was a skilled fighter, and it was the reason I chose her for my teacher. The other wolves would help me out, but they were too afraid to hurt me so they held back. Either Adam had warned them to take it easy, or it was their wolves recognizing me as their alpha female, and they didn’t want to hurt me. I needed someone who wasn’t afraid to give me everything they had, and that someone was Elle.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Elle said. “You’re better than you think.”

“It’s your fabulous teaching skills, sensei.”

Elle laughed. “Come on, young grasshopper.”

We headed down the steps of the back deck. There was a large clearing lined by tall pine and birch trees. Our normal spot was a meadow through the forest, but Adam was gone, so he couldn’t stop us. He was a little over protective of me. It was understandable, but also annoying.

When I stopped walking Elle smiled and quirked an eyebrow. Though she respected Adam as her alpha, she also liked breaking the rules. She knew he may come down hard on her, but she would leave with her throat intact.

She began undressing, and I did the same. I could change fully clothed, but I was fond of the capris I was wearing, and if I changed in them, they would be shredded. Though I didn’t care for the lingering looks of my pack mates, I was losing my shyness at the prospect of nudity. That didn’t mean I would traipse around in my birthday suit on a daily basis, but for moments like these, it was okay. Besides, I was the alpha’s mate. If any wolf came sniffing in my direction it would be the last thing he ever did.

My wolf came to the forefront of my mind. She was anxious and excited to be released. Her power rushed through my veins like a tidal wave, giving me a boost of energy. My skin stretched as my bones contorted and rearranged themselves. White fur began to grow on my arms as my nails lengthened and sharpened like daggers. I fell to my knees, my hands spaced in front of me as the beast overtook my body. Within seconds, my wolf emerged, and she was ready to spar with the ruddy wolf in front of her.

Whoops and hollers sounded from the deck, causing me to take my focus off Elle. She chose that moment to pounce. She hit my ribs, and I went sailing across the hard ground. I shot up in a fury, a growl ripping through my throat. Elle’s eyes glistened liquid copper as she waited for me to make my move. I circled her, looking for a clear opening. The first to get their teeth around the jugular was the winner. So far, the scoreboard read: Elle-5, Anna-3. I lunged forward, taking Elle’s tail in my teeth and shaking my head back and forth. She snarled and whipped around just how I wanted her to. I used the movement to my advantage and ran for her other side. By the time she realized I wasn’t behind her anymore, it was too late. I tackled her onto her back, and together we rolled down the small incline of the yard in a ball of snarls, teeth, and claws. Her tooth scraped against my muzzle, causing a searing burn in its wake. I snapped my jaws at her as I tried to reach her throat, but her paw connected with my gut and knocked the wind out of my lungs. Elle sprang up, and I did the same. We regarded each other as we circled one another. My wolf was giddy with the excitement of the fight. She dug her claws into the hard earth as she charged toward Elle. Elle went down without so much as a fight. She didn’t move or even snarl, even after I began biting her ear to prod her. My wolf didn’t care, she struck for the throat, applying enough pressure to subdue, but not hurt. When Elle began to whimper I began to worry I had really hurt her. I shifted back in a snap. My wolf disintegrated back within me and left me my old nude self.

“Elle, are you all right?” I pet her fur, searching for an injury that would explain her lethargic state. A throat cleared behind me. I shot up, whirled around, and came face to face with Adam and an older couple. The man had salt and pepper hair with deep-set green eyes and a roadmap of wrinkles across his face. His thin lips were set in a hard, disapproving line. The woman standing next to him watched me as though I were nothing more than a stain discoloring her favorite Chanel blouse. Her blonde hair was twisted up, and not a single piece dared escape its hold. Her right eyebrow crawled up her forehead as her steely blue eyes observed me with distasteful scrutiny. Both of them exuded power. Their presence demanded respect and caused my wolf to whimper in response. The excitement from the fight dissipated and left her nervous. Her instincts to bare her stomach soaked through me and had me on the verge of rolling onto the ground. Something told me that if I did that, it would only lower their impression of me—if that was possible. I knew who this pair was before Adam even spoke.

“Anna, I would like to introduce you to Maggie and Donald—my parents.”

Chapter Two

I walked into the living room to meet Adam’s parents … after getting dressed, of course. You’d never be able to tell that a fight broke out in here just a couple weeks ago. Adam had his construction crew on the job non-stop and their efforts had paid off. When I returned home from fighting with Eve, the house had been in near shambles. The drywall was busted and crumbling on the floor, and the television had been thrown through the window and broken to pieces on the front lawn. Now, though, everything looked as pristine as Maggie Everwood’s cream dress and coiffed hair.

Adam stood up when I entered the room, coming to me to place a hand on the small of my back. We shared a look before he turned me toward his parents and introduced me.

“Mom and Dad, this is Anna Avery,” Adam said. “My Chante.”

Maggie and Donald shared their own look, one that would make a cobra cower in the corner. Internally, my wolf twisted with anxiety, causing my palms to sweat and my heart to race. Like the fictitious cobra, she too wanted to cower. I made brief eye contact with the pair before looking at the ground. I didn’t think these two would appreciate my ability to withstand their alpha gazes. And something told me Mrs. Everwood would take it as a challenge and gladly put me in my place.

“And what of Eve?” Maggie questioned, ignoring me completely.

“Eve was sent to her father in Montana for burial,” Adam replied. He squeezed my hand and gave me an apologetic smile. “It is only out of my respect for him that I returned her to her home. She didn’t deserve an honorable burial.”

Maggie gasped as though Adam had just punched her in the stomach, and Donald’s jaw tightened. His power rolled off him and slapped me in face. I could feel my wolf whimpering inside me. Taking a deep breath, I shrugged off the effects of his influence. I hadn’t let Adam’s alpha status intimidate me, and I wouldn’t allow his parents to either.

“We need to speak to you alone,” Donald said. His eyes graced my face before he stared hard at his son.

“Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of Anna.”

“I do not wish to include her in our affairs,” Donald said.

Adam was about to respond when I spoke up. “It’s okay,” I said. “I need to speak with Wade any way.” I squeezed his hand one last time before turning and leaving the room. Truth was, I was just as happy to leave as Mr. and Mrs. Everwood were to get rid of me. I leaned against the interior wall of the kitchen and took a deep breath. Regardless of meeting my boyfriend’s parents in the nude, they wouldn’t have liked me had I been dressed to the nines.

“I find it insulting that you’re parading that mutt around and treating her as your equal.”

Maggie’s voice filtered through the kitchen and stung my ears. I cringed, but couldn’t move from my vantage point. I needed to hear what they had to say about me. Call me a glutton for punishment, if you will. I knew whatever came out of their mouths would hurt, but that didn’t stop me from leaning in closer to capture the tiniest of whispers.

“Mother, I advise you not to come into my home and insult my mate. She is more of my equal than Eve ever was.”

“Adam, do not speak to your mother in that tone,” Donald said. “Anna is a made wolf, and therefore not acceptable to be an alpha’s mate. Do you have any idea how much money I had to pay Eve’s father for your betrayal?”

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