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Fierce Cowboy Wolf
by Kait Ballenger
Publication Date: 7/27/2021
“What do you have to say for yourself, Packmaster?’ she growled.
And that alone sealed his decision.
He needed a wife of convenience, with no attachments or love—and who better than a she-wolf who hated him?
Maverick never backed down from a challenge.
His eyes flashed to his wolf as he met Sierra’s gaze head-on. ‘Marry me.”
Sierra Cavanaugh has triumphed to become the first female elite warrior in Grey Wolf history. All she needs is the pack council’s approval. But those stuffy, old wolves refuse to elect her unless she finds herself a mate.
Packmaster Maverick Grey was reconciled to spending the rest of his life alone. Now, all the Seven Range clans are working on a treaty, and he needs the elite warrior vacancy filled—and fast. If Sierra needs a mate, this is his chance to claim her. But Sierra has an agenda of her own for their union.
For these two rivals, the only thing more dangerous than fighting the enemy at their backs is resisting the attraction that’s building between them...
Kait Ballenger earned her B.A in English from Stetson University followed by an M.F.A in Writing from Spalding University. After stints in multiple careers, Kait finally decided that her eight-year-old self knew best: that she was meant to be a writer. Kait lives with her husband and young son in Florida.
Sierra Cavanaugh’s fist collided with her opponent’s cheekbone. A sting raked her knuckles despite the cloth sparring gear that padded her hands. Two more punches, a kick, and a sweep of her leg. Within seconds her opponent was laid flat, panting for breath in the mountain dirt beside Sierra’s cowgirl boots. Sierra smiled in satisfaction. Tonight was her night, and she intended to claim her victory.
Dakota raised up onto her elbows from where Sierra had annihilated her. “You’re unstoppable,” the other she-wolf slurred around her mouth guard. “You’ve got this.” Dakota ripped the guard from between her lips, sending an unladylike spray of spit into the dirt.
Sierra didn’t so much as blink. None of them did. Ladylike be damned. They didn’t owe a thing to anyone. Sierra extended a hand, helping Dakota to her feet. The other she-wolf let out a soft groan muffled by the thrum of feminine voices around them and the crackle of the roaring fire. The Grey Wolf female warriors had taken over the pack firepit tonight, driving out their male counterparts by sheer force of will, and okay…maybe a bit of friendly intimidation.
“You pack a hard wallop.” Dakota pawed at her jaw.
She was barely half Sierra’s size, but her stature made her formidably fast on her feet. Sierra had won by brute force.
“I’d say I’m sorry, but you know I’m not.” Sierra grinned.
Fierce and fiery, Dakota playfully punched her in the arm, muttering a few teasing, choice words.
They were all there with her, every one of the pack’s females. A swell of pride grew in Sierra’s chest. She couldn’t believe how lucky she was to call these strong women her sisters, not by blood but by choice.
“You’re so good the elders can’t ignore you.” The praise came from Naomi Calhoun, their second-in-command’s human mate, a former biologist turned rancher, as she pushed a cold bottle of Coors into Sierra’s hand. “Cheers.” She clinked the neck of her beer bottle with Sierra’s. “You’ll make an excellent elite warrior.”
Elite warrior. Sierra smiled. She intended to claim the title for herself tonight. It was confidential which of the current elite warriors had nominated her for the council’s consideration, but that failed to matter. She would be the first female of their kind to hold the title. Tonight, she was their fearless leader.
Sierra cast Naomi a teasing smile. “You’re only impressed because you’re a human.”
“Who you callin’ human?” Dakota’s eyes flashed to her wolf as she cast Sierra an impish grin. She tipped her Stetson back on her head to cover her mussed, dark hair. “Now when are you going to open the letter? I’m dying for you to open it.”
“Me too.” Cheyenne grabbed a Coors from the cooler, wiping the moisture that remained on the bottle across her track pants. Sierra shook her head. Cheyenne was always ready for a run. The other she-wolf’s endurance and drive were unstoppable.
Sierra wouldn’t have reached this moment without their support, without every time strong, fierce little Dakota reassured her, or every morning energetic Cheyenne woke her up at the ass crack of dawn and forced her to run all the way out past the stables. The other she-wolves raised their drinks as another round of howling ensued. Cowgirls didn’t take no for an answer.
“Okay, okay.” Sierra removed the letter from her back pocket. She’d been itching to open it, but she’d wanted to wait until they were all together.
The envelope had arrived in her ranch mailbox this morning, only two days after the Elder Council meeting, which meant their decision had been a quick one. Tentatively, she stared down at the cream-colored paper glowing orange in the firelight. Silence fell over the warriors as the air buzzed with quiet anticipation.
With a deep breath, Sierra ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter, her eyes scanning over the block of text. She’d known from the start she had to be stronger, faster, better than all of the males for the pack to even have her name put forth to the elders for consideration.
And she had been.
But still, it wasn’t enough.
Her stomach churned as the message sank in. Desperately, she fought to keep her hands from shaking as she forced herself to look up at her fellow females. Her eyes scanned over the crowd of women around her. She’d been their best chance, the leader upon which they’d hung their collective hopes.
And she’d failed them.
Shame built in her chest, a sinking feeling that pulled at her stomach as she felt hot tears catch in her throat, too large for her to swallow, but she would hold them in anyway. She refused to cry, because Sierra Cavanaugh did not cry. She hadn’t shed a single tear in years. Not since the last time she’d allowed her emotions, her fear and weakness, to get the best of her.
When she finally managed to speak she was distant, calm, measured, not showing any of the tumultuous feelings raging inside her. “They denied my application.”
A murmur of righteous outrage broke out among the women.
“For what reason?” Dakota snarled.
Sierra knew her next words would only spark their anger further because as far as she was concerned, as far as they all were concerned, there was no adequate explanation.
“Because I don’t have a mate.”
The silence was deafening.
The collective disappointment mixed with fury in her packmates’ expressions cut her worse than a thousand knives, worse than the words or decisions of any group of sexist elders ever could.
They’d all known the pack’s unspoken expectation of alpha females of pure bloodline: to mate with an alpha male and further the pack’s longevity. It was a narrative born of evolutionary necessity as old as the true wolves from which they’d descended, and yet, they’d thought they had moved beyond that. They thought if they played by every one of the pack’s ridiculous rules to prove themselves, and if they forced the elders to speak those archaic expectations aloud, the pack’s ancient ways would bend to the will of progress.
But they hadn’t.
Without another word, Sierra ripped the letter in two and threw the remnants into the firepit. The paper burned and blackened, quickly turning to ash. “Where is he?” She didn’t need to specify which he for her fellow warriors to instantly know who she meant.
“He was in his office when Wes—” Naomi answered.
Sierra didn’t pay attention to the rest of the statement. She was too focused on her goal to care. She was already striding toward the compound, the epicenter of the ranch.
“What are you going to do?” Dakota called after her.
For a moment, Sierra paused. Slowly, she inhaled a deep breath before she turned back toward them, looking from face to face of each woman around her who’d put their faith in her, trusted her with their dream. She’d never forget their righteous anger—and she would use it as fuel. “I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to fight, and I’m going to win.”
And she knew exactly the alpha upon which she planned to lay siege.
Excerpted from Fierce Cowboy Wolf by Kait Ballenger. © 2021 by Kait Ballenger. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.
(Malevolent) Freya Barker – USA Today Bestselling Author“A deliciously dark tug of war for control, combined with a nail-biter of a suspense plot weaving through the romantic struggles, makes for an edge-of-your-seat read. Malevolent will leave you eager to find out how Kylie and Alex’s story ends.”
(Revenge) Marie’s Tempting Reads - Blogger“The second book in this series is more intense and pulse pounding than the first one with a romance that really tugged on my heart.”
(Vindication) Sissy’s Romance Book Review - Blogger“This book and series has been nothing but a page turning reads. Will be looking for more book from this author.”
by Kathryn Le Veque
Publication Date: 7/27/2021
Gripping historical romance in the Scottish Highlands from USA Today bestselling author Kathryn Le Veque
Victory. Honor. Redemption.
Magnus Stewart, aka “The Eagle” is the bastard son of a duke, and his royal blood has never been anything but a curse. Among the mystique and riches of the legendary fight club Ludus Caledonia, Magnus battles his way to the top.
Lady Diantha de Mora in desperation seeks his help. When Magnus reluctantly comes to her aid, his fate is changed forever in one night. With enemies at every turn, it’ll take muscle and a miracle for them to make it to the Highlands alive. There Magnus can reclaim his destiny, as Diantha reclaims his heart.
With over one hundred published novels, Kathryn Le Veque is a critically acclaimed USA Today bestselling author, a charter Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Contemporary Romance. She lives in California.
“What did ye put in my drink?”
The question came from Lor.
It was evening, a hush having fallen over the land as the night birds chattered and brooks through the glens sang their gentle song. In the complex of the Ludus Caledonia, it was time for the evening meal and although each competitor had his own stone cottage where he ate and slept, there was a small communal hall where men could gather and socialize.
Friendly gatherings weren’t widely encouraged because friends tended to not want to fight, and defeat, other friends. Isolation when not in the arena was urged, but sometimes on the nights when the Ludus Caledonia had no fights, the doctores and the senior warriors would gather and share a meal.
Tonight was one of those times.
It had been a perfect opportunity for Magnus to slip his friends the wine that had been steeped all afternoon with the silver pellet, but Lor was already on to him. Therefore, he replied confidently to the man’s question.
“What makes ye think I put anything in it?” he asked.
Lor pointed to one of the doctores, an Englishman named Wendell Stanhope. Wendell was bent over near the exit of the hall, vomiting onto the dirt floor. Magnus looked at him, unconcerned.
“What is wrong with him?” he asked.
Lor lifted a blond eyebrow. “He took my wine by mistake. What did ye put in it?”
Across the table, Bane was about to take a drink of his wine, but when he saw Wendell doubled over, his eyes widened and he quickly set the cup down.
“Idiot,” he hissed at Magnus. “Ye almost caught me with whatever ye’ve poisoned Wendell with.”
Sitting next to Bane, Galan looked at his half-empty cup of wine, realizing he’d been made a victim in Magnus’ nasty game. “Great Bleeding Christ,” he hissed. “Did you just poison me, Chicken?”
The Chicken nickname was a running joke among them. It was actually an affectionate term, with Magnus’ moniker being The Eagle, and his friends would tease him by calling him The Chicken.
But this was no teasing matter.
Magnus smiled smugly.
“Do ye not have more faith in me than that?” he said. “Ye may be English, but I wouldna poison ye. Not much, anyway.”
Galan could already feel something going to work in his belly. “Damn you,” he muttered. “What did you do, you Scottish bastard?”
“Ye’ll soon find out.”
Galan was beginning to sweat. “I’ll get you for this, Chicken. You’ll be very sorry.”
Magnus snorted. “Not as sorry as ye’ll be in a little while,” he said. “But have no fear. Ye’ll be fine on the morrow. But it’s going tae be a long night.”
As Galan grunted and grasped his belly, horrified, Bane and Lor were looking at him as if waiting for him to explode in all directions. Realizing Magnus may have gotten the upper hand on them wasn’t acceptable so Bane, wanting to create trouble for his smug friend, lifted his cup and called out to one of the newer warriors at The Cal.
“Tay,” he shouted across the hall. “Tay MacNaughton! Attend me!”
At the far end of the hall, a mountain of a man stood up and headed in their direction. Tay MacNaughton was not new to the Ludus Caledonia, but he hadn’t fought there in quite some time. Like Magnus, he was a professional fighter, having been in the fight guild system for several years. He and Magnus were old friends. They’d fought with, and against, each other.
Tay was one of the most formidable men at the fight guild, purely from his size. His father was Scots but his mother was from Constantinople, and Tay had the dark eyes and hair from the land of the Turks and a fluid, almost poetic, manner about him, but his temper and size were purely Scots. When Magnus saw the man heading over, the smirk vanished from his face.
“Dunna give it tae him, Bane,” he said seriously. “A joke is a joke, but Tay will rip yer arms from their sockets if he’s angry enough.”
Bane wasn’t intimidated. “I’ll tell him the wine is from ye.”
“But ye’re the one giving it tae him. Do ye want tae take that chance?”
He had a point. Bane had a wife and child he would very much like to see grow up. With a sigh of resignation, he set the wine down and purposely tipped it over.
“Och,” he said as Tay drew near. “I was going tae offer ye a drink, but it looks like I’ve been clumsy. Sit with us, man. I’ll send for more food and drink.”
Galan picked that moment to bolt up from the bench and make his way from the hall, hunched over as he walked. Everyone, including Tay, watched him go.
“What is wrong with him?” Tay asked in his deep baritone.
Magnus started chuckling. “Wine with a purge in it,” he said. Then, he pointed to the spilled wine. “Bane has been giving it tae everyone. Now he wanted tae give it tae ye.”
Tay looked at Bane accusingly, who’s eyes widened at the fact that he had been implicated as the culprit in Magnus’ vile scheme. He sighed heavily.
“Magnus,” he said deliberately. “Tell the man ye’re only jesting. I want tae see my child live tae be a man and if Tay thinks I’m going around poisoning people, that mayna happen.”
Magnus was still laughing, but he waved Tay off. “’Tis true,” he said. “I lied. ’Tis what we do around here – play very bad jokes on one another. But I can tell ye that I would die for every man at this table because they are honorable and worthy. Playing tricks on each other is how we show our love and devotion.”
A smile tugged at Tay’s lips. “Ye always were a twisted lad, Magnus.”
“Some things never change.”
Tay’s grin bloomed as he sat down and Bane, convinced Tay wouldn’t try to throttle him, sat down next to him. They made Magnus give up the wine he’d been giving everyone, however, as he’d kept it tucked under his legs beneath the table. It was Axel, the Ludus Caledonia’s manager, who finally took the pitcher from him and tossed the contents out the door.
Once the wine was disposed of, it was forgotten, and they were back to laughing and jesting with one another, wondering how Galan and Wendell were faring. Both men had run into the privy and had yet to come out.
The apothecary’s purge was true to his word.
The meal that night was a stew with beef and lamb in it, rich with root vegetables. Men who fought as viciously as these men did required good food, and the food at the Ludus Caledonia was the best. In addition to the stew, they were copious amounts of bread and butter, stewed fruit, and a baked egg dish called a daryols. It was full of cheese and herbs, and was quite delicious.
Magnus was deep into his daryols when a sentry came through the entry. The sentries at the Ludus Caledonia were all highly trained men, mostly mercenaries, and they were extremely well paid. This man was the commander of the night watch. When he spied Magnus, he headed in his direction.
“M’lord,” he said. “We’ve captured a trespasser. She has asked for ye.”
Magnus’ mouth was full as he looked at the man. “She?” he repeated. He chewed a couple of times before swallowing what was in his mouth. “Who is it?”
The sentry shook his head. “She refuses tae give us her name.”
The other men at the table were listening. “It is probably one of yer past conquests,” Bane muttered. “She’s come back for more.”
Magnus cocked a dark eyebrow. “And why shouldna she?” he said. “Once a woman has a taste of me, I ruin all other men for them.”
The men snorted as Magnus returned his attention to the sentry. “No name?” he said. “Then I’m not interested.”
The sentry grinned. “Ye should be,” he said. “She’s beautiful. She fought like a banshee when we captured her and screamed at us in a language not English or Gaelic. One of my men said it was Spanish.”
A Spanish banshee…
Somewhere in the back of Magnus’ mind, the flame of recognition sparked. The first and only Spaniard who screamed like a banshee that he knew of was the very one he’d seen earlier in the day. Literally, the only one. He’d not seen the woman in over seven years and he never expected to see her again.
… did he?
His curiosity had the better of him. Puzzled, he set his spoon down and stood up.
Excerpted from Highland Legend by Kathryn Le Veque. © 2021 by Kathryn Le Veque. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.