Wolf nip: granite lake wolves, book 6

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Dedication

For Lauren Dane, who wrote the first wolves I fell in love with. I blame her for my wolfie addiction, as well as my genre-hopping tendencies as an author.

“You like this face better?” He cocked one eye shut and grimaced. “Arghh, I’ve been given me walking papers. Off the plank and into the brig with me, matey.”

“Oh, Mark. I’m sorry. I thought you were enjoying yourself at the factory.” Missy leaned back in her chair, sympathy on her face.

“Low season approaches. You know how it goes. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ll find a new job soon enough.”

She nodded slowly. “You always do. That’s not a problem. But…”

Mark took another bite of his brownie and waited. There was obviously something she wanted to share. He stared out the window and calculated the most difficult bike route he could attempt after this little discussion was done. Death-drop highway? His thighs would be screaming.

Screaming would be good.

A soft touch to his knee brought his attention back to Missy who watched him carefully.

He forced himself to focus. “What?”

“I asked if you’d ever thought about going into business for yourself?”

A jolt of adrenaline shot through him. Of all the things she could have said, that was on the least expected list. “Umm. No.”

“Because you don’t…what? Think you can do it? Don’t want the responsibilities?”

“Of course not. I mean, I just had never thought of it.” She’d managed to jerk all thoughts of gloom and doom from his mind and instead fill it with confusion. “Why would you suggest that?”

She shrugged. “Well, for as long as I’ve been around the pack, I’ve seen you handle many kinds of jobs. For different lengths of times, yes, but they all seem to have a common ‘handy man’ theme to them. So I was wondering why you’ve never set up a personal business and offered those same services under your own name.”

Mark felt something hard hit his jaw and figured it had to be the floor.

Missy went on. “While you might have slow periods, you’d be able to make more money during the prime season than working for someone else.”

His mouth went dry.

“You’d have to deal with the legal and financial aspects, of course, but—”

Whatever else she was going to say was smothered under his arm as he leapt up, bounded over to her chair and enveloped her in a huge bear hug. “You’re a genius.”

When he released her, she patted his cheek. “So I’ve heard. I take it this means I helped?”

“Darn tooting you did.” Ideas flashed into his brain. Probably not the same ones she would have figured on triggering, but that was fine. He was no longer looking for a way to burn off his pissy mood. Now he needed to get home and make some plans. “You mind if I run?”

She grinned. “Go. I’d never stand in the way of a man’s progress.”

He stopped beside his bike and rummaged through his pockets. He could have sworn he’d shoved the letter in there after he’d read it that morning.

His letter of recommendation. His firing papers. An old grocery list. Finally, the one he was looking for.

A very expensive envelope containing the letter that had made him laugh out loud over breakfast. The out-of-the-blue offer to buy his house. The potential buyer hadn’t known about the clauses that made their plans impossible.

But if he made a few adjustments to the offer, maybe there would be a middle ground where they could meet. He couldn’t sell out, but he could see his place as an awesome B&B location.

Mark Weaver, the habitually unemployed was ready to become Mark Weaver, chief resort-maintenance coordinator. And he wouldn’t even have to leave his own home to do it.

Chapter Two

A loose strand of hair flapped in front of her face until Tessa tucked it behind one ear. She stared at the approaching shoreline. She’d chosen to arrive via the ocean from Skagway over to Haines instead of driving the six hours from Whitehorse. Not only did it make the trip shorter, it gave her another glimpse of the spectacular house.

Even though the slow rise and fall of the water was muted on the ferry, she was hanging on to her stomach control by a thin thread. Motion sickness made it tough to linger on deck, but she wanted one more confirmation her idea was more than a wild fantasy.

She shoved a piece of gum into her mouth and chewed rapidly to distract herself. Nothing had been finalized, but she’d made a decision. She was determined to establish a B&B in Haines, somewhere. Her first choice of location was still first on the list. Hopefully dealing with this Mark Weaver fellow in person would help smooth the roadblocks she’d hit.

His email response to her offer to buy his house had been unexpected. It wasn’t an outrightno, which was positive, but she hadn’t expected amaybetype answer. She knew better than to dismiss his counterproposal out of hand. The best business ideas usually went through a couple modifications before resolving into a working solution, so she’d packed her bags, taken the bulls by the horns,yada yada yada, and arranged a trip to settle the details one way or another.

The ferry rounded the point and the vista changed. Tessa grabbed the railing with both hands and leaned forward, eager to spot her target.

Here the northern portion of the Pacific Inside Passage opened into a wide bay, with the town of Haines spread over the center left section. The harbour sat as the base, houses and buildings rising in neat layers up the gentle mountainside. Traces of civilization poked through the trees lining the road as it meandered up the valley to the distant mountain pass. Drivers taking that route would eventually hit Haines Junction and the intersection that led back to Whitehorse or into the bulk of the Alaskan landmass.

Her goal sat farther to the east. The town continued to spread in a thin line along the narrow highway up to Chilkoot Lake, one of the destinations each fall for thousands of spawning salmon. The pretty river descending from the lake sparkled in the sunshine like a beacon. She glanced to the right of it, sighing as her target came into sight.

The enormous paddle wheeler sat crosswise to the waters of the bay. It should have looked out of place tucked into the trees, but it was as if the boat continued its journey up a river, the dense northern forest on either side passing slowly as the ship carried cargo and passengers toward various remote destinations.

Tessa rested her chin in her hands and grinned. There was a full deck circling the second story, just like she’d remembered. It would be perfect for making individual sitting areas for the cabins she would turn into high-class staterooms. The third story had a raised back section that would be her private living quarters, while the front contained the spectacular window-filled area that would be the feature room of the entire B&B.

She could picture it now—a long communal dining table on the right side, and easy chairs and cozy private seats gathered around the massive fireplace she would have built at the far end of the room.

There would be dorm and entertainment rooms on the lower levels, along with storage for all the outdoor play equipment people could want. Tessa caught herself bouncing on her heels as ideas flooded her brain.

This was going to be so awesome, she could hardly wait.

The paddle wheeler disappeared behind a bend in the coastline, and Tessa returned to her vehicle. Time to move forward with her plans, full steam ahead, and all that. She clicked her phone back on and flipped through messages as she waited for the ferry to dock and start unloading.Tony, Tony, parents, old boyfriend, another guy. Another. Her brother. Another recent date.

She erased all but the family messages without blinking. Guy friends were fun, but there was little use in keeping touch with any males back home. Haines was going to be her new hunting grounds, although she’d be careful not to use that terminology with anyone who didn’t know, and love, cat-shifter wit.

Keil Lynus. There was a name she’d been hoping to see. She put through a return call and waited, tapping her manicured fingers on the wheel as the tone sounded.

“Keil here.”

“Tessa Williams. We met back in July, I’m Keri Smith’s friend?”

He chuckled. “I remember. How have things been since you dry-docked yourself?”

Nice. The Alpha of the Granite Lake pack had a sense of humour. “Sold the private sailboat and abandoned my bucket-list plans to sail around the world solo.”

“Sounds like a good idea. What can I help you with?”

Tessa started her engine and followed the line of cars exiting the ferry. “Two things. One, you’re a wolf and all, and I’m a cat, but I thought it would be polite to let you know I’m moving into town.”

There was a short pause before he responded. “Not a problem. Granite Lake is fairly progressive. I’m pretty sure you won’t have any issues with pack bothering you. If anyone gives you grief, call me and I’ll deal with it.”

The low rumbly sound of his voice made shivers run up and down her spine. Gad, too bad the man was taken already. He was like this huge mass of sexy shifter, but she knew better than to mess with a mated wolf. She drew a solid black line through his name with her mental marker and got back to business. “I knew I could trust you. I told my brother that.”

“Is he moving here as well?”

Was that concern she heard? More than one feline entering the picture changed things? “Oh, no. Tony just thought me being the only cat around might cause concerns…or am I wrong? Is there a pride in Haines I don’t know about?”

Keil laughed. “I think Haines is too transient a community for a pride to settle in. We get the occasional puma, lynx or cougar staying for the summer season, but if you consider that many part-time jobs in the area involve water…”

“Ick.” He was right, that would be an issue for most cats. She turned down the road leading to the paddle wheeler and took her car up to just over the limit. “Okay, no pride. That’s fine, I make friends easily.”

“I’m sure you do.” Yes, he was amused now. Tessa ignored it. Wolves took themselves far too seriously at times. “Was there something else?”

On to the more important topics. “You run Maximum Exposure, right? Adventure trips, hikes, stuff like that?”

“I do. We don’t have anything lined up in the next couple weeks except a glacier trip, but if you’re interested—”

Tessa laughed and cut in as quickly as possible. “Wait, not for me. At least, not right now. I’m asking because I have a business proposition. I’m planning on setting up a B&B and want to offer excursions to the visitors. Instead of hiring my own guide and stealing bookings from you, is there a way for us to work together?”

He didn’t answer immediately, but when he did the touch of an adult humouring a child had vanished. “That’s very thoughtful of you to offer. I’d need to sit down with you in a more formal setting to find out what you’re considering, but it could be a great help for both of us.”

Gotcha. One of her biggest concerns and she could already see it being settled. “My father always says not to reinvent the wheel. Maximum Exposure has a sterling reputation. I would love to meet with you at your convenience.”

“I’ll check my calendar. Is there an address I can email you at? I’ll send along a list of information I’ll need to know.”

She gave him her contacts, slowing to stare at the house that was now across the road from her. “I doubt I’ll be ready until the spring, so there’s no huge rush, but I look forward to hearing from you.”

Keil hung up and Tessa concentrated on finding a place to park her car. Another item to add to her to-do list. Parking for the B&B—because right now there was only space for two cars, and she was really,reallyclose to the bumper of the vehicle in front of her.

She slipped out and eagerly looked over her surroundings.

 

Mark jotted down a few more numbers, the table he’d commandeered littered with notes. When the eco-developer showed up tomorrow, he’d be prepared to wow them with the plan. So ready, they couldn’t ignore the beauty of the proposal.

Oh Lordy, let them see how brilliant this idea could be. While the alternative was setting up a handyman service, working at home would be better for so many reasons.

A long, low whistle sounded from the front of the room. Mark glanced up to see his grandfather staring out the window, both hands pressed against the glass as he peered intently.

“What’s up, Gramps?”

“There’s someone on your bumper. Another lost tourist, I bet. I’ll go give them directions.” Grandpa Josiah dragged his hands through his hair before patting down his shirt. He shuffled toward the stairwell.

That was too weird. Mark rose from his chair and paced across to the old man’s side. “What do you mean you’ll go give directions? Isn’t this when you suggest I go downstairs and… Holy cow.”

Okay, now he knew why his grampa was willing to tackle the stairs. The most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen stood beside his car, her long blonde hair waving in the slight breeze. She wore a brilliant blue sweater that emphasized every curve, fitted pants that highlighted the swells of her hips when she turned toward the water.

He would have pressed his face against the glass for a better look, but his grampa was there. Instead, Mark pretended nonchalance. “You’re right, must be a lost tourist. I’ll take care of her.”

“See if she wants to stay until supper. I like company.” Gramps had returned to the window.