The Patient Wolf
Wicked Urban Fantasy
Karen Hodges Miller
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: Can’t Put it Down Books
Date of Publication: May 2, 2016
Number of pages: 160
Word Count: 42,225
Cover Artist: Genevieve Cosdon
The small town of Rivelou is hiding secrets, and they are about to claw their way to the surface.
Ana Dugan used to enjoy her nighttime walks through her quaint college town, but all of that changes when a handsome stranger rescues her from an attack. She’s not sure who she should be more afraid of the four legged beast who attacked her or the two legged one who saved her. She narrowly escapes, but soon learns that others weren’t so lucky.
When another man enters her life claiming he’s there to protect her she’s not sure who she should trust, the wolf or the hunter.
The Patient Wolf Chapter 1
Ana breathed in the early autumn air as she headed away from the university and onto the darker streets of the neighboring suburb. It was an older neighborhood, built in the 1920’s when the town of Rivelou had begun to spread from its central location on the river across the railroad tracks to the north. This particular section of the town had been built for the railroad workers, with tiny shotgun houses lined up on even tinier lawns.
As Ana crossed Roosevelt Avenue and headed into her own neighborhood, the streetlights ended and the sidewalk became lighted only by an occasional porch light or walk light. She loved walking home from her night classes at this time of the year. The air, while it could not yet be called crisp, had lost its summer sultriness, a welcome change from the blistering heat of a Midwest summer.
And these walks home after her night classes were one of the few times during her week when she could be truly alone. No bosses, no teachers, not even Sophie chattering away in her ear. She’d been a mom long enough not to feel guilty at enjoying a a little time alone without her child. Her thirteen-year-old daughter was the light of her life, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy a little time by herself, too.
As she headed down Harlan Street, farther from the more heavily trafficked avenue, the street became even darker. It was too soon for most of the leaves to have fallen, they were just beginning to turn red on this last week in September and they were so thick on the trees that they hid the full moon. Part of the charm of the old neighborhood was the beautiful, large old maples and oaks, but their roots also tore up the sidewalks. Ana tripped on one of those cracks, and shook her head in disgust. How could she always trip in the same spot, night after night? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t memorized the bad spots in the sidewalk after years of walking this way.
She smiled; only one more year of classes and, with luck, she wouldn’t be taking this same walk anymore. She would have her teaching degree, be able to quit her job as an admin at the university, and start a new life with her daughter, maybe somewhere else. She would enjoy teaching, preferably high school, but she’d take whatever grade she could get to start. Sophie would miss her friends; they would both miss their family. They’d come back a lot to visit. She was sure of that—her family, particularly her grandfather, would certainly insist on it. But it would be nice to start over. Of course, Jonathan, her ex, would probably object if she moved even to the next county. The one good thing she could say for the man was he always fulfilled his obligations to their daughter, even if it was only because he thought about running for political office someday and didn’t want to ruin his reputation with the other lawyers and judges in Rivelou.
She shook her head as if to change the direction her daydreams had taken her and sidestepped another large crack in the sidewalk. She wasn’t going to let thoughts of Jonathan ruin a lovely evening. Maybe after Sophie was in bed she’d have a chance to get outside again and enjoy the full moon and beautiful weather. She wouldn’t indulge herself in a run; she couldn’t leave Sophie alone, but some time out in her backyard to appreciate the full moon would be good.
She stopped and looked around, working to regain her pleasure in the evening, when she heard a low growl nearby.
A dog? No one on this block had a dog big enough to make that sort of sound. That growl had definitely come from something larger than Mrs. Ahearn’s yappy little Pomeranian. She began to walk more quickly. Only a half block until she turned onto Sycamore, then another half block until she arrived at her own home.
The growl came again. She tucked her purse more securely on her left shoulder, her computer bag on her right, and doubled her pace. There were no lights on at any of the houses on that part of the block, and of course, the moon took that moment to hide behind a cloud. She took a deep breath and tried to walk at a steady pace. She wouldn’t run, even though she could hear the animal behind her as she rounded the corner. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her own porch light on, as well as that of her neighbors, Joe and Lindsey, who kept Sophie evenings when Ana had class. Only a few more steps to safety.
She was almost in front of her own door when she heard the rush of paws with nails clicking on the sidewalk. With a howl, the animal knocked her down.
She held her computer case in front of her face, “Take a bite of that, you nasty beast,” she said, pushing the case at its huge, dark head. It was all teeth and glowing eyes as it stood over her, growling. “What do you want?” she shouted.
Though it had her on the ground, it didn’t make a move, just stood gazing at her. Somehow she sensed if she did move, it would strike. She had to do something. She drew a deep breath and prepared to scream when she heard someone running up behind her.
“Hey, you, get back! Get back!” She turned her head and saw a man come running toward her and the slobbering animal. The man grabbed a stick from the ground and waved it at the animal as he rushed forward. “Back! Get back, you ugly beast!” he shouted again, striking the creature who turned, snarling at him. They stared intently at each other for a moment when the dog finally dodged the stick and lunged to take a bite out of the man.
The man got in a couple of good blows before the dog suddenly grabbed the stick, tugged at it, and knocked the man to the ground. Ana decided it was time to take action. She fumbled through her purse as the dog leaned back on its haunches preparing to strike. Just before he lunged on the fallen man Ana found her can of mace and hit the dog in the face with the noxious spray. With howl of pain, it ran into the darkness.
Several more porch lights suddenly popped on to light the night, and the street was filled with neighbors coming to check on the unusual commotion.
“Are you all right?” her rescuer, still gasping and out of breath, asked. “It didn’t bite you, did it?” He made his way to his feet and held his hand out to her.
“No, no. I’m fine,” Ana replied as she was suddenly bowled over by an armful of an anxious thirteen-year-old. “Mom, mom, are you okay?” Sophie asked.
“What happened?” her neighbor, Joe, questioned her at the same moment.
“It was a dog. A huge one. I’ve never seen it before. This man chased it away,” she said, turning to the man who was wiping his face with a handkerchief and coughing.
“I think you were the one who chased it away. Wish you’d had a little better aim with the mace, but under the circumstances I don’t think I can complain,” he said between coughs.
“Hey, are you okay?” Joe asked, looking the man over. “You’d better come in and let us take a look at you. My wife’s a nurse. She can check you out. Just a whiff of that stuff can be torture on the eyes.”
“No, I’m fine, I’ll …” he protested, but Ana cut him off.
“I insist. If it wasn’t for you, I’d have been bitten by that animal.”
“I think we’d better make a police report,” Joe said as they headed for his house. “Joe Lessing,” he added, holding out his hand to the stranger. “And this is our neighbor, Ana Dugan, and her daughter, Sophie.”
“Good to meet you. Chris Spier,” the man said, shaking hands with Joe as they reached the porch. At the top of the steps he turned to Ana, where, under the porch light, she got her first real look at her rescuer.
He was just shy of six feet, with the build of teddy bear, the kind you’d like to give a big hug and take to bed with you, Ana thought, then inwardly blushed. Where had that thought come from? She didn’t have time for men. It wasn’t that he was soft, or fat, she added, mentally adjusting her initial teddy bear image. He was muscular, and he had a kind face, soft brown eyes, shaggy light brown hair and beard, both of which needed a trim. There was something about his worn khakis and wrinkled plaid flannel shirt that said he wasn’t used to being cared for.
“I’m so sorry if I hurt you,” Ana said, taking his hand. Chris held onto it until Joe said, “Come on in. You need to wash off that mace.”
He guided Chris into a small, warm living room and back to a kitchen where Sophie was animatedly, if with little accuracy, describing the incident to Joe’s wife and daughter.
About the Author:
Karen Hodges Miller’s fascination with werewolves, vampires, witches, ghosts, and all things supernatural began with the childhood classics. She gobbled up everything from The Haunting of Hill House to the Narnia series, from Dracula to Rebecca. As a writer, however, she stuck to non-fiction; working as a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and in 2004 opening her own publishing company.
She has written several books for authors on the subject of writing and publishing. The Patient Wolf is her first fiction novel and of course, it features a very sexy werewolf.