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Phantom Wolf

Phoenix Force 2

by

Bonnie Vanak

For my dear sister-in-law, Sissy Fischer. Love yah!

This one’s for you, you amazing Southern spitfire!

Dear Reader,

Can a pair of star-crossed lovers with enough magick between them to level a building find forgiveness and the trust needed to love again?

That’s the question I asked myself when writing Phantom Wolf. Samuel “Shay” Shaymore is a powerful shape-shifting Elemental Mage and navy SEAL on the elite Phoenix Force. But years before, he was a reckless young man deeply in love with Kelly Denning, a lowly Arcane Mage. Sam and Kelly cared nothing for class differences, but when her father stood accused of setting a fire that killed Sam’s entire family, the two lovers parted. Afterward, to release his pent-up emotions, Sam turned into a dangerous feral wolf. He’s since vowed never to lose control again.

Now Kelly is back in Shay’s life and desperately needs his help to find some missing children in Honduras before they’re claimed by evil forces. He knows the pretty Arcane who once claimed his heart can still cost him everything. But the problem is the sexy SEAL wants her more than ever before!

Happy reading!

Bonnie Vanak

Prologue

Kelly Denning was in love. She barely felt the cold of a Tennessee winter as she raced across the meadow and headed for the barn where Sam always waited for her.

He knew she’d never enter the secret passageway in the barn alone. If Colton Shaymore caught her, he’d be furious. Sam’s father had forbidden his Arcane Enchanter Mage servants from using the underground tunnels.

Arcane Enchanter Mages were forced to carry identification cards and worked as servants or in low-wage positions. Elemental Mages, especially blue bloods like Sam’s family, held the power and the wealth. The discrimination had happened because three hundred years ago an Arcane Enchanter had embraced evil and transformed into the most powerful Mage of all—a Dark Lord. The Dark Lord had slaughtered hundreds of Elementals and stolen their powers before being killed. Now the more powerful Elementals had burned all but their most rudimentary spell books to prevent another Dark Lord uprising.

A low growl rumbled from the corner as she entered the barn.

Kelly froze, fear curdling her blood. Opening all her Arcane senses, she inhaled the air. Smelled fresh sage, sharp leather and crisp autumn leaves.

Sam.

The black-and-white timber wolf stepped out from the corner. Kelly’s fear evaporated as she crouched down. The wolf playfully bumped into her as it rested its head upon her leg and rubbed against it.

Marking her with his scent, she thought with a secret rush of pleasure. Sam had already marked her two months ago by becoming her first lover.

The wolf sniffed the crisp night air. Baring its massive teeth in a growl, he loped over to the doorway to make sure no one had followed Kelly and then trotted over to her.

Fast as the beat of a hummingbird’s wing, the wolf shifted and became a human male—his naked body slick with sweat, his sleek, muscled flanks tensed. His sandy-brown hair was boyishly ruffled, and an impish mix of sexual promise and mischief gleamed in his hazel eyes. Samuel Jackson Shaymore was a privileged Elemental Phantom Mage who could shift into any life-form he chose to duplicate.

Kelly didn’t care if he shifted into a sea slug, as long as he turned back into her beloved Sam.

She extended her finger for him to touch. The ancient greeting among Mages was now used by Elementals to single out her people. Arcane auras sparked more crimson than the pure gold of an Elemental aura.

Sam flashed the infectious grin that had first stolen her heart, and they touched index fingers. A brilliant flare of crimson and gold colors leaped between their hands.

Breaking contact, she pointed to his muscled, bare chest. “Aren’t you going to conjure some clothing?”

“Why? You always liked the view before.”

The teasing remark made her cheeks heat. Sam laughed and waved his hands, clothing his body by using magick.

“Why did you shift into a wolf?”

“Couldn’t take any chances that my father watched me leave. It’s a good disguise.” Sam tilted his head back and gave a low, mock howl. “Besides, I love hunting through the woods as a wolf. Fires my blood.”

A shiver of anticipation snaked down her spine at the heated promise in his eyes. Sam stroked a single finger down her right cheek, just as he’d done the first time they’d kissed. Every time they met, he repeated the gesture. Once she’d asked what it meant.

“I’m reassuring myself that you’re really here,” he finally told her.

She stepped into his embrace, loving how his arms gathered her close, how he was just tall enough to make her feel sheltered but not overwhelmed. Heat smoldered in his hazel eyes as Sam looked down at her.

Taking her hand, Sam opened the trapdoor leading to the underground passageway and guided her down the stairs to his secret bunker. An enormous bed stood in the room’s middle, touched by the golden light of the lamp Sam switched on.

Kelly hesitated. “Your father is so strict about Christmas tradition. If he finds out you slipped away from the caroling to be with me...”

“The hell with him. I’d rather be with you,” he murmured, drawing her into his arms.

Sam kissed her hard and long, as if he’d die if he couldn’t have her. Kelly wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back.

“What I want to give you for Christmas can’t be wrapped in a box,” he murmured, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger. Sam pulled, drawing her close. “And you can thank me with those sweet little screams I love to hear in bed.”

Kelly placed her palms on his chest. She wanted this so badly. She knew their affair was all wrong, and lately the tension had gotten worse. Sam’s father kept scowling at her, as if he suspected. And sweet, innocent Petie, Sam’s little brother, almost caught them in the barn last week.

Even her own father, a widower since her birth eighteen years ago, wouldn’t approve. Cedric Denning wanted his only child to join his secret fight for equality for Arcanes.

She and Sam were on opposite sides of a great chasm. But chasms could be breeched, and love conquered all. She didn’t want Sam’s money, or his position. Just him.

“Your father would get his shotgun if he knew. He’d rather see you with a damn Yankee than an Arcane.” Kelly rested her head against Sam’s broad shoulder.

“I’d protect you. He can’t tell me what to do.” Sam nuzzled her neck, his warm breath tickling her ear.

“Sam, he suspects something. He’s trying to set you up with Lisa. That date...”

“It was just a date, Kel. Make the old man happy and get him off my back. Nothing happened. If you want, I’ll take you next time.” He dropped tiny, hot kisses on the juncture of her shoulder blade.

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