Heart of the Wolf (The Wild Hunt Legacy Book 6) - Cherise Sinclair

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Growing up, I thought an author would write “The End” and poof, the book would be published. That’s not…exactly…how it works.

Much like a child, a book needs a community to become all it should be (and I’m so very lucky to have a fabulous community).

From the very beginning, I have my amazing crit partners, Fiona Archer and Monette Michaels, who get the first crack at the manuscript, and then content editor Bianca Sommerland jumps in.

After that, there’s a back and forth between me, my wonderful Red Quill editors (Ekatarina Sayanova, Rebecca Cartee, and Tracy Damron-Roelle) and my incredible beta readers (Barb Jack, Marian Shulman, Lisa White, and JJ Foster). They’re the reason you’re not tripping over typos and wondering why the hero’s brown eyes somehow turned blue.

When, the baby…uh, book…is ready to leave the nest, it still needs support.

And there you all are, my awesome readers. You have my deepest appreciation for sending happy emails, for writing reviews, for giving shout-outs for the book. For your enthusiasm that keeps me returning to the keyboard.

Hugs and kisses go to my marvelous Facebook Shadowkittens who stay with me from book conception to after the release date—and the next book. From begging for stories for different characters (no, the Murphy brothers will not get a book) to answering polls and having the most intriguing book discussions. And keeping me laughing.

I love you all.

PROLOGUE

A terror-filled chittering came from the rocky creek below.

Pulled out of her grieving, Heather rose from her tree-shaded niche and wiped her tear-dampened cheeks. As she worked her way down the steep bank to the edge of the water, silence fell.

“Where are you, sprite?” She looked around, not seeing any movement. “Let me help.”

After a long pause, squeaks came from a few feet away.

A young pixie not even the size of Heather’s hand was caught between two rocks at the water’s edge. She’d probably fallen from the tree overhanging the creek. “There you are.”

“Whatcha doing, sis?” Daniel called from farther up the creek. Her brother was a tall, hefty male, muscular from working his ranch in Rainier Territory. Shaggy brown hair hung over his ears because he was “too busy” to get it cut.

Or he doesn’t give a damn, which is more likely.

“Sprite saving.” Heather knelt.

“What a surprise.” Shoving his long black hair out of his face, Tanner, her other littermate, shot her a quick grin. “Face it, sis, you’ll rescue anything, from females to OtherFolk.”

Daniel smirked at Tanner. “Or brothers, like the time you and Gretchen—”

“Shut it, gnome-brain.” Tanner tackled Daniel, dumping them both into the water.

Brothers. Honestly. Heather snorted. Yet their playing lightened her heart. A little.

“Hang on, pixie.” Carefully, she moved a rock to free the tiny OtherFolk’s leg and then held her hand out.

To her surprise, the pixie accepted the invitation and climbed on.

Slowly, Heather lifted her hand to under the lowest branch.

The sprite leaped and disappeared into the foliage with a happy chitter.

Turning, Heather saw her brothers had abandoned their tussling in favor of trying to catch a fish. It was many miles from the North Cascade’s Elder Village to where they’d left their vehicles at a turnout. Since they’d been traveling in their animal forms, they’d stopped at one of the territory’s clothing caches near here to shift to human and take a break.

Undoubtedly her brothers were getting hungry, and bears adored fish.

She was a wolf, not a bear. And right now, her heart was too sore to join them.

Mama is gone.

It felt just so…wrong. There simply couldn’t be a world without her mother in it.

Shoulders sagging, she sat on the creek bank and put her bare feet in the cold water. The August sun was hot on her shoulders. The air held the resinous tang of the forest and the slightly fishy scent of water flowing over sun-warmed rocks.

Daniel made a snatch for a trout, missed, and grumbled.

Two silvery undines flashed around his legs, then went to tease Tanner. Water elementals had a wicked sense of humor.

Heather smiled slightly. It was nice to be with her brothers again. Her cabin wasn’t far from their place—they were all in Rainier Territory, after all—but she was busy with her company, and they stayed busy on the ranch that’d been in their family for generations.

Pulling up her legs, she rested her head on her knees. This summer had been so filled with heartbreak. In June, Scythe mercenaries had attacked their summer festival. Shifters had died, and she had killed a human for the first time.

Then yesterday, word had