Home > Sworn to the Wolf (Cherchez Wolf Pack #2)

Sworn to the Wolf (Cherchez Wolf Pack #2)
Author: Lauren Dane

Chapter One

Rain smiled as she bustled from the kitchen to the dining room holding several plates. It had been a good morning at The Black Cat Café and Coffee House. When she added the tips she’d earned to what she’d made over the last week she’d be able to buy those sable brushes she’d been drooling over.

She dropped off her plates at their designated tables, topped off coffee and water where it needed it, and looked up to catch one of her regulars come in and take a seat. She waved as she approached his table.

“Morning, Shane. How are you today?”

“Hey, Rain. I’m good. And what’s up in your neighborhood?”

“Not much, the usual breakfast crowd.” Looking down at him, she cocked her head. “Hmm. Let’s see, two slices of whole grain, three egg scramble, latte with honey and soy bacon?” It wasn’t like she was performing a great feat of precognition or anything, he ate the same exact thing every time he came in.

He laughed. “Sounds good! Hey, I wanted to tell you that The Holt Gallery down in Pioneer Square is looking for up-and-comers for a series of shows they want to do to highlight new artists. You should take your portfolio down there.”

Hope burst through her. “Seriously? Oh wow, thanks for the heads-up.”

“You’re really good. I’d hate to see you lose a chance like this. You’re exactly the kind of artist they’re looking for. This could be a great opportunity for you and for The Holt.”

She squeezed his shoulder. “Thanks, it means a lot. It really does.” Before she got teary she took a deep breath and focused on her job. “Let me go and get this started.” She held up the ticket. “Although I’m sure Alex saw you when you came in and is making your breakfast as we speak.” Winking, she tossed her braid back and headed toward the kitchen where, yes, Alex, the cook and owner, was already scrambling the eggs and the bread was toasting. She loved the small café, it was warm and friendly and her customers felt more like friends and family than clientele.

Rain Foster had landed in Seattle the year before having walked—run—away from a life of restrictions. A life where she was destined to be one thing and one thing only, a pretty accessory on a man’s arm.

Her father had already made the choice for her, the son of a “business associate” who was also destined to be in the family business. Of course while some had family businesses where they repaired watches, she’d known most of her life that her father was a major boss in a crime syndicate.

There was no way she would have been allowed to be an artist. Her father only let her go to college because that’s what the daughters of all of his cronies did. Before they got married off to each others’ sons, that is. Then they’d sit at the club all day and drink, oh and occasionally play golf or tennis—wouldn’t pay to let yourself get out of shape. In between they’d have children to continue the cycle. The boys to take over for their fathers and the girls to marry and continue to have more children.

Thank god her mother cared about her wishes and dreams. Thank god her mother had helped her by squirreling away money over the course of the last few years Rain, who used to be Julia, lived there. That money got Rain as far away from her father and that life as possible and she had her own life for the first time. Her mother’s love bought her that freedom.

Though dangerous, her mother still waited for Rain’s call at a pay phone near her regular beauty salon back home every third Wednesday. Still, Rain hadn’t told her where she was for both their sakes. She did know from her mother that her father had been livid, still was as a matter of fact, but apparently felt she’d come back when she got poor.

Her father was wrong because she wasn’t going back at all. Not ever. Poor was one thing—it did suck—but she still had some money from her mother squirreled away and knowing she had something to fall back on in an emergency helped.

She was determined to make her painting a success. For now she shared a large warehouse space in Queen Anne with two other people and she had lots of free time to paint and enough money from her waitressing job to buy canvas and paint and to pay the bills.

Shaking herself out of her reverie with a sigh, she grabbed Shane’s order and his latte to take to his table. The lively chimes over the door sounded right as she turned. Smiling, she looked to see who’d come in.

Instead of one of her usual customers, she found herself looking at two of the largest men she’d ever seen and my goodness weren’t they just the alpha male specimens? Her mouth dried up and her heart leaped into her throat.

Her eyes slowly made the circuit up one and down the other. They were a visual feast. One of them had shoulder-length hair the color of wheat, sleepy, sexy amber eyes and was, for want of a more eloquent term, a muscle-bound hunk.

The other though was the kind of man to make any woman melt into a puddle. Dark and mysterious. Brooding even. His nearly waist-length black hair was tied at the nape of his neck. And her fingers itched to touch it. Eyes so brown they looked obsidian took in the room warily. His skin was hard and smooth with an olive tone much like Rain’s own. His nose was just a bit crooked, as if it had been broken more than once, and a small scar bisected his left eyebrow. But those small imperfections only seemed to heighten his wild, dangerous beauty. He was tall, although not quite as tall as the blond, but he was muscular and his blue jeans hugged those long legs and tight butt like they were painted on. She wanted to lean against one of the tables and fan herself as she had a nice, long, naughty and possibly-illegal-in-a-few-states fantasy about him. Whoo boy.

Instead she took a deep breath and approached them before the other servers saw and jumped in. “Good morning. How are you two today? Would you like to sit in here or on the deck?” Her heart skipped a beat when they both gave her their complete attention. But when the dark one smiled slowly at her the hair on the back of her neck stood on end and goose bumps rose along her arms. Holy cow she wanted to lick him.

“The deck please,” the blond one said, his voice low and rumbling.

Trying not to gulp like a cartoon character, she grabbed two menus and led them outside to the deck. She motioned to a table in her section. Electric heat sparked up her arm as the dark one brushed his fingers against her arm when he took the piece of paper from her. “Uh?” She blinked until she remembered what the hell she’d been doing. “Can I start you off with juice or coffee or espresso?”

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