My Mate’s Embrace
Book Three of the Siberian Volkov Pack Series
Anton Volkov, Siberian lycanthrope, is following the scent of Laurel Harris, who is running away from her abusive stepfather. When Anton finds her, he is surprised to realize she is his mate, the one woman meant to be his. But the Russian mafia is also on her trail. In order to rescue Laurel, Anton must first get this troubled woman to trust him. Can love heal her wounded heart?
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Night Owl Reviews has reviewed
“My Mate’s Embrace” by Caryn Moya Block.
Title: My Mate’s Embrace Authors: Caryn Moya Block Score: 5.00 / 5 – Reviewer Top Pick Active Date: Nov 3, 2012
The first raindrop hit Laurel in the eye. Within moments, the cloud-filled sky opened up, and a deluge of water soaked through her T-shirt and jeans. She shivered as the sky darkened even more, turning the summer evening into twilight. Wiping her eyes, she continued up the mountain trail to the scenic river overlook. The trees and wildflowers became a blur as she concentrated on where to put her feet on the wet path. Laurel glanced down at the Lena River in the canyon below. It rushed along as the wind picked up, blowing until the water churned and flew up into the air. Lightening flashed from cloud to cloud, and there was a large boom. Laurel gasped in fear, feeling shock waves of thunder roll over her.
She had to continue with her plan. Her stepfather’s drunken beatings had been increasing, and she wasn’t able to tolerate staying with him a minute longer. Then, there were the frightening tattooed men who visited their motel room, asking to speak to her father. Her skin crawled when she saw them. Something felt terribly wrong. This was her chance to escape, and she was determined to be free.
Laurel tripped and fell to her knees. Rain quickly turned the dirt trail to mud. Her sneakers kept slipping as she tried to stand, so she grabbed a nearby boulder to steady herself. If only she hadn’t taken time to use her powers of healing. Broken ribs, however, would have slowed her down on this climb, and she could see better without a black eye. But the time she had used to heal her injuries placed her in this predicament. She needed to find shelter and soon. Her only hope was to keep going up.
Her backpack was getting heavier and heavier the longer it rained. The clothes inside were quickly getting soaked. Adjusting the backpack higher on her back, she kept climbing. Laurel reached out for a bush along the trail to pull herself farther up. Lightening flashed, and a loud crack of thunder made her jump.
Where was the protector her dead mother’s spirit promised would save her? Coming now would be a perfect time. Of course, no one would believe that her mother’s ghost had appeared to talk to her while she did her healings. Laurel wasn’t sure she believed it. Breathing more heavily the farther up the mountain she climbed, she forced herself to keep going.
“Just one foot in front of the other. You can do it,” Laurel said aloud, trying to gather her strength of will.
She had been planning her escape for a week, waiting for this moment, for this day. She had stuffed her few items of clothing and her mother’s silver hairbrush inside her backpack. Then, she had stolen her passport and a few rubles from the small black box her stepfather kept them in. As soon as he went out the door to go drinking, Laurel made good her escape. Luckily, a lot of strangers were in town for the Siberian Summer Sakha Festival. No one seemed to notice her as she walked past the various drinking tents and vendors. She kept her head down and made sure not to make eye contact with anyone. She couldn’t chance someone recognizing her. The summer sun wouldn’t go down until after eleven here in Siberia.
Laurel pushed her sodden auburn hair out of her eyes. Lightening flashed, and she saw the overlook ahead, a small half-moon shape cut into the side of the mountain. She put on a burst of speed and hurried the last few feet. Reaching the top, she stopped to catch her breath. She wrapped her arms around her middle and held on as she bent over and panted. Looking down at the river, she was surprised to see how high she had climbed. Wind created white caps on the river’s surface. Lightening flashed from cloud to cloud around her, and thunder rolled and cracked. The wind blew stronger on the ledge, and she shivered harder, her teeth chattering.
She glanced around her. Now what? The gloom from the storm made it hard to see. Laurel glimpsed a small path going higher into the mountains. Would that lead to the caves mentioned in the guidebook? She climbed over the rock wall that surrounded the overlook and started following the small dirt path. While the other route had been wide enough for several people, this trail was little more than a deer path. Cold and desperate, she kept climbing.
Twice Laurel tripped, going to her knees as she slipped in the mud. She grabbed shrubs and boulders near the path to stop her from plummeting back down the mountain. An abyss of despair overtook her. Her chest felt heavy, and tears welled up in her eyes. Should she just let go? The fall down the mountain would kill her before she landed in the river. Should she end her flight right now? If she did, at least it would be her choice.
Laurel shuddered and shook her head, water dripping off her sopping hair. Giving up wasn’t the answer. She didn’t want to die. Stopping now would lead to going home to be beaten again. This was her chance to be free, to start a new life. If she could just be strong enough. Worrying when her stepfather would get angry and hurt her again had made her so tired.
“Not anymore,” she promised herself. Reaching up for the next handhold, she kept climbing.
People of all shapes and sizes surrounded Anton Volkov, Siberian lycanthrope, as he sat at one of the long wooden tables under the food tent. Their boisterous conversations hurt his ears, but their overall good cheer was infectious. Such close proximity to humans brought his wolf closer to the surface. He could smell the soap they washed with, as well as the liquor they drank with abandon. Fur moved under his skin, and he gritted his teeth as he concentrated on controlling his wild nature and the instinct to fight or flee. He wondered again why he had let Alena, his twin sister, talk him into coming to the Summer Sakha Festival.
Anton looked down the table as Alena laughed at something her mate said. That sound, right there, was why he gave in to her. He shook his head, even as he smiled, knowing that he would do anything for his twin sister. The problem was she knew it too.
Alena had recently found out she was pregnant with her first pup. She glowed with happiness and good health. Her gray eyes sparkled with merriment. Soon, her protective husband, Kolya Tosyanov, would want to keep her safe at home. This was her last chance to have a mini vacation before her duties as Beta called her back to pack lands. Coming to the Summer Sakha Festival was a celebration of the new life growing inside her. A new member of the pack was coming.
Alena and Kolya had been mated for almost two years. Time passed so quickly and now they were expecting a child. Anton smiled; he was going to be an uncle, again. It wasn’t that long ago that Violet, the new Alpha’s mate, gave his older brother Dmitry twin girls. What would Alena have? A boy or a girl?
The position of Beta was a large responsibility, and now Kolya and Alena would have a pup to raise. But everyone in the pack pitched in to help with the little ones. Anton expected to be called on to babysit his new niece or nephew. He looked forward to it.
Alena had wandered through all the craft tents at the festival, fingering handmade baby clothes and little wooden toys while Kolya looked on indulgently. Anton knew she was excited to be starting a family of her own.
Being with his twin and her mate on this trip had become an unexpected burden. It seemed to make it glaringly obvious that he was the third man. They truly wanted to be with him. But like the lovers they were, they often got lost in each other. Even surrounded by all these people, Anton felt alone.
Putting his drink down, he looked around the crowded tent. People from all over Siberia had come to the festival. During the day, families wandered through the various craft and food tents. But after seven in the evening, the drinking began, and the party got more serious. Kolya and Alena chatted with another couple they had met that day, laughing at something one of them said. Anton caught their eye and waved at them.
I’m going for a walk, I’ll see you tomorrow, he sent to them along their family telepathic link.
You are well? Kolya asked.
Just tired of the crowds. Take care of my sister and stop worrying about me.
Taking care of my mate is my pleasure, and she would expect me to worry for you also, my friend, Kolya sent back.
I’m fine, really.
Okay, goodnight then, Kolya sent.
Working his way through the crowd, Anton grimaced. Kolya meant well, but he didn’t need a babysitter. Until Dmitry had a son of his own, Anton held the position of the Alpha’s heir. His position in the pack hierarchy was equal to Kolya’s. Thinking to enjoy a moment of quiet, he headed away from the festival.
When Dmitry mated with Violet, it was discovered that human females with psychic abilities could become mates to lycans—an important fact since there were twenty mature males who needed mates. In order for the pack to survive, more mates had to be found.
In addition to acting as leader, the Alpha was looked to for all the answers. Like a feudal prince, he solved all disputes and made laws for the good of the people. But Dmitry hadn’t been able to find out why the pack birthrates had changed, with babies coming few and far between. Currently, there were only five little boys, ranging in age from seven to four, four juveniles around seventeen, and Violet’s twin baby girls. Everyone hoped Alena would have a girl.
Anton looked up as the first raindrop hit his face. Wiping off the drop, he realized that in his musings, he had veered onto the scenic Lena River overlook trail and away from the overcrowded village. With a storm coming, he would be a fool to continue up the mountain. Stopping, he started to turn back, but something prevented him from doing so. He didn’t know why, but he needed to continue. He felt drawn up the path, pulled by a strange tug at his heart.
His wolf spirit pushed from inside, wanting out. He felt the wildness surge and looked around. What was causing this reaction? No one hiked up a mountain with a storm starting. Farther up the trail, the sky began to darken, and black clouds quickly blocked out the sun.
Off to the right sat an outcropping of boulders. Anton headed over to them and ducked behind. He quickly removed his clothes and boots and stashed them under a shelf in the rocks. They wouldn’t stay dry, but he could recover them later. Lifting his arms, Anton let the change come over him. His body grew warm, as sparks of light coalesced around him. He felt the first movement of energy, as his bones reformed and fur sprang up from his skin and rolled down his body. The transformation finished in an instant. Where a man once stood, a large silver-and-white wolf appeared.
He perked up his ears and listened. Then, he smelled the air before moving back to the trail. No one seemed to be near. But a human female had walked this way earlier. He could smell her, her underlying scent of sweetness and sunshine, overlain with the sour scent of fear. His protective instincts aroused, Anton growled low in his chest. There was something about her fragrance. It invaded his body, as he breathed it in, permeating each cell. He felt called to follow her. Anton didn’t know what this woman feared, but he intended to find out. He moved up the trail, keeping his nose to the ground to find her scent as he climbed higher.
The rain hit with a vengeance. He was still a few feet below the overlook. Expecting to find the woman on the ledge, he gave up following her trail and rushed up the mountain. The wind began to howl, and lightning flashed across the sky.
Arriving at the overlook, he was amazed to find it empty. The Lena River far below writhed around rocks as wind drove it into the air. Without his fur covering, he would freeze in the wind and rain. He repeatedly blinked his eyes to clear his vision, as the wind blew the rain into his face. But where had the woman gone? He looked over the ledge in dread, expecting to see a broken body below, but still saw no sign of her. He set his nose to the ground and tried to find her scent. The rain had washed all the markers away. He feared he had lost her trail completely, when he caught a hint of her.
A small path meandered higher into the mountains. But surely she wouldn’t be so foolish to keep going in this storm. What was she running from that would force her to go on? Jumping over the rock wall, Anton followed her. He would lose her scent and then catch it again farther on.
He found where she fell in the mud. The prints from her knees and the scrambling prints of her shoes and hands were easy to read. Anton shook with fear at how close she had come to falling off the mountain. What drove this woman to tempt death so easily?
Unable to give up until he discovered some answers, Anton continued to follow her. Twice his paws slipped in the mud, and he barely caught himself. Only his immense lycanthrope strength and agility saved him. How the woman endured he didn’t know. But he would catch her scent, or find where she broke her fall, and know she was still climbing.
The rain continued to lash at him, making it hard to see. Realizing that he was gaining on the woman kept him moving forward. She didn’t know it, but she had become his prey. His emotions swept over him: anger at her foolishness, pride in her courage, respect for her determination. She would be a good mate for him. Anton paused a moment in his ascent, wondering where that thought came from.
Finally, reaching the summit, Anton happily noticed that the rain and wind were starting to diminish. He shook himself, trying to release some of the water from his fur. Soon the storm would move over the mountains. Even with his wolf strength, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t fall up here. The narrow summit trail was almost completely washed away. He looked both ways along the mountaintop, searching for his elusive prey. The woman appeared out of the gloom. Though he had the power to see perfectly in the dark, he could barely make her out.
She seemed small and thin, her clothes plastered to her skin, her shirt nearly transparent from the rain. The small form worked its way along the top of the mountain trail. He wanted to call to her to stop. But in his wolf form, only a growl came out. Not even knowing why he tried, he sent his mind to her, reaching her with his telepathy.
Stop, Malyshka, little one. It is too dangerous. Let me help you.
The woman whipped around as if she heard him, then she teetered. Anton held his breath, hoping she would recover. Terror like he’d never known slammed into his gut. He was standing too far away to help her. There was no way he could reach her in time. With her arms waving like pinwheels, she slipped and disappeared over the edge. Anton’s breath caught as she screamed. Was he responsible for the death of the woman he tried to save? Before he could move, a blinding flash of yellow light struck him in the chest, almost knocking his paws out from under him. The golden cord of lightbound his heart to hers. It was the outward sign of a heartmate connection.
Anton ran to where the young woman had been standing. His only hope that she lived, was the heartmate bond now glowing between them. Would he see her broken body below? He knew what the golden bonding cord signified. The woman he was chasing was his mate. The one woman meant to be his. Could his mate recover from the fall? He looked over the edge.
She hung some ten feet below, her backpack caught on an old tree limb sticking out from the side of the mountain. But even as he watched, the limb started to give way beneath her weight.