Nikki Morrissy is in beautiful Banksia Bay for a fresh start. Even renting half a cottage from the town's lone wolf, enigmatic Gabe Carver, cannot distract her from focusing on her new life!
And Gabe is determined that, despite having to share his home with the undeniably attractive Nikki, he will keep to himself....
Until a scared and lonely dog, howling into the night, has them literally bumping into each other! As the pooch gazes up at them, Gabe and Nikki realize they'll have to work together on this one. Suddenly their plans to avoid each other are crumbling around them....
A wolf was at her door.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite at her door, Nikki conceded, as she came back to earth. Or back to the sofa. The howl was close, though. Her hair felt as if it was spiking straight up, and for good reason.
It was the most appalling, desolate sound she could imagine--and she wasn't imagining it.
She set her china teacup onto the coffee table with care, absurdly pleased she hadn't spilled it. She was a country girl now. Country girls didn't get spooked by wolves.
Yes, they did.
She fought for logic. Wolves didn't exist in Banksia Bay. This was the north coast of New South Wales. Was it a dingo?
Her landlord hadn't mentioned dingoes.
He wouldn't, she thought bitterly. Gabe Carver was one of the most taciturn men she'd ever met. He spoke in monosyllabic grunts. 'Sign here. Rent first Tuesday of the month. Any problems, talk to Joe down at the wharf. He's the handyman. Welcome to Banksia Bay.'
Even his welcome had seemed grudging.
Was he at home?
She peered nervously out into the night and was absurdly comforted to see lights on next door. Actually, it wasn't even next door. This was a huge old house on the headland at the edge of town. Three rooms had been split from the rest of the house and a kitchen installed to make her lovely apartment.
Her landlord was thus right through the wall. They shared the entrance porch. Taciturn or not, the thought that he was at home was reassuring. The burly seaman seemed tough, capable, powerful--even vaguely scary. If the wolf came in...
This was crazy. Nothing was coming in. Her door was locked. And it couldn't be a wolf. It was...
The howl came again, long, low and filling the night with despair.
What would she know?
It was just a dog, howling at the moon.
It didn't sound like.. just a howl.
She peered out again, then tugged the curtains closed. Logical or not, this was scary. Barricade the door and go to bed. It was the only logical thing to do.
Did pain and desolation make any kind of sense?
Step away from the window, Nikkita, she told herself. This is nothing to do with you. This is weird country stuff.
'I'm a country girl.' She said it out loud.
'Um, no,' she corrected herself. 'You're not. You're a city girl who's lived in Banksia Bay for all of three weeks. You ran here because your low-life boss broke your heart. It was a dumb, irrational move. You know nothing about country living.'
But her landlord was right next door. Dogs? Wolves? Whatever it was, he'd be hearing it. He could deal with it himself or he could call Joe.
She was going to bed.
The howl filled the night, echoing round and round the big old house.
There was a dog out there, in trouble.
It was not Gabe's problem. Not.
The howl came again, mournful as death, filling his head with its misery. If Jem had been here she'd be off to investigate.
He missed Jem so much it was as if he'd lost a part of him.
He was settled in his armchair by the fire. Things were as they'd always been, but the place at his feet was empty.
He'd found Jem sixteen years ago, a scrappy, half grown collie, skin and bones. She was attacking a rotting fish on the beach.
He'd lifted her away, half expecting the starved pup to growl or snap, but she'd turned and licked his face with her disgusting tongue--and sealed a friendship for life.
She passed away in her sleep, three months back. He still put his hand down, expecting the warmth of her rough coat. Expecting her to...