The Moonshadow's Daughter – Excerpt

Jake sat with his elbows on his knees and rolled his head from side to side until his neck cracked. He looked at his watch. Almost five AM. It would be getting light soon. He wondered if there had been much sleet from the storm that seemed to have tapered off over the last hour. He wouldn't know. He'd been sitting up with Aimee half the night.

He looked over at her. She lay resting comfortably on the old four-poster bed, the white eyelet bedspread folded down to her waist. He'd put the IV in after giving her a bath in tepid water. Jim had politely excused himself at that point, leaving Jake to undress her and lower her into the tub.

The doctor in him hadn't wanted to notice her body—her full breasts and long, muscular legs. But the man in him had a hard time helping it. He'd tried to maintain as much of her modesty as he could, but without a nurse there to help, he'd had to make do. Which meant putting his hands where he normally wouldn't. And letting his gaze fall where it normally wouldn't.

Watching her now, he rubbed his neck. She reminded him of Daryl Hannah in The Clan of the Cave Bear. He could thank his mother for that one. It had been one of her favorite movies, so Jake had seen it more times than an adolescent boy would probably care to admit.

Aimee did look wild and raw though, like she'd been living on her own longer than Jim had let on. But there was also a vulnerability about her that wouldn't allow him to leave. She was his patient, regardless of whatever her troubles were.

"Mmm." She frowned in her sleep and turned toward him. Her eyes remained closed, her lashes dark smudges above her cheekbones.

She mumbled something else, and he scooted his chair closer.

"His paw."

Her hair was still damp from the bath, and he brushed the long bangs away from her forehead. "Aimee?"

"His paw." Her brows came together and she turned away. "See? There."

Jake checked the IV drip and felt her forehead again. Her dreams would be strange because of the fever. But it was coming down. Hopefully, she'd be sleeping normally soon.

"He's upright," she said.

"Who's upright?"

She turned toward him, her eyes still closed, her face crumpling as if she were crying in her dream. "The wolf."

Jake watched her, feeling an inexplicable urge to shrink away. The room was chilly, silent except for the unconscious murmurings of the woman beside him. The light on the bedside table was dim, mingling with long, black shadows that stretched across the ornately carved, vaulted ceiling. From somewhere downstairs he heard footsteps and wondered if they knew that Aimee Styles was sleeping above them.

Jake hesitated a second, then reached for her hand. When his fingers met hers, she held on tight, as if he'd be able to pull her from whatever tormented her in the dream.

Gently, he brought her hand to his chest, something he'd never done with a patient before. Something he wouldn't have done if she'd been awake. But instinctively, he felt like she needed to feel his warmth. His presence.

"Shhh," he whispered. "You're okay. Everything's going to be fine."

"The wolf," she repeated, but softer this time.

He rubbed the backs of her knuckles and watched as her face relaxed. Then she grew still again.

Jake looked down at her hand. Her nails were ragged, but her fingers were long and graceful. Just like the rest of her.

The wolf.

Despite his jacket, the cold and damp of the surrounding woods seemed to seep into his bones. How many times had he himself dreamed of a wolf? Too many to count. A wolf so huge, so vicious, that it had ripped away one of the most important things in his life in nothing more than a heartbeat.

Studying Aimee's face, he wondered what exactly she was running from.

And if it would eventually catch up to them both.