by Vella Munn
with Totally Bound Publishing
When her mentor disappears, Winter follows his trail to the Pacific Northwest, where the untamed wilderness is beautiful…and hides deadly secrets.
Anthropologist Winter Barstow knows nothing of her past or ethnic heritage and tells herself it doesn’t matter. Everything changes when Doc, her mentor, sends her an authentic ceremonial wolf mask from Olympic National Forest. The mask calls to her in ways she can’t understand or explain.
Then Doc disappears. Determined to find him and discover the mask’s origin, she travels to the mysterious, awe-inspiring forest where she’s confronted by Native American ranger Jay Raven, who has no love for Doc.
The deeper Winter digs into her mentor’s disappearance, the more alarming things become. She begins to hear a mysterious wolf’s howl…even when no one else does.
Jay warns Winter to leave, but she owes Doc and herself the truth.
And even though it goes against everything he has promised his tribe’s elders, Jay can’t walk away from Winter. Not only has a spirit wolf reached out to her, but he also suspects she’s in terrible danger…and his growing feelings for her are too strong to ignore.
I really enjoy this author's Native American books. She obviously always does her homework, because her descriptions of the location (in this case Olympic National Park in Washington State) and the tribe (the Hoh) are rich and vivid. The main plot involves a woman anthropologist struggling to find herself and her place in the world, while she discovers her own true nature and the reality of the spirit realm. The concurrent love story between the seeker and the Native park ranger sizzles with intensity and just the right amount of spice. The spiritual elements were my favorite parts. If you enjoy Native adventures and transformational romance tales, blended with a little supernatural, you'll love Vella Munn's books. Recommended read.
Turning from the mask, she dug through the wrapping for a note, but she found nothing. Suddenly weary, she pulled her cell phone out of the backpack that served as her purse and sank into her recliner. Cell phones were frowned on at the California university where she worked as an administrative support assistant, despite her newly-minted master’s in anthropology. She turned it on then realized she had a message.
It had better be from the man who’d given her equal parts encouragement and lectures about doing something with her life. According to the automated voice, he’d called this morning.
“Where are you?” Doc started. “Winter, this has to be between the two of us. You’re the only one I can trust.”
Trust? What was this about? She shivered.
“I need you up here as soon as possible. There’s—I can hardly bring myself to speak the words. I’m onto something beyond incredible. Something I believe is worth the risk I took. The danger.”
“What are you saying?” she barely got out.
“It’ll change our lives. Place our stamp on everything anthropology stands for. Make Wilheim doubly sorry I got the grant instead of him. Call me. But first take a good long look at it. The mask dates back to early fur trading days.”
She gasped. No, it couldn’t. The elements would have destroyed it.
“Wilheim’s going to give you hell when you tell him you’re bailing on him, but I can’t do this alone. I shouldn’t say you owe me but, if that’s what it takes, I’ll play the card.”
Praying he’d continue, she strained to listen, but all she heard was dead air. Feeling cold, she sat straighter and replayed the message. This time, she concentrated more on his emotion and less on the words. Fought to ignore the electrical charge racing through her. In the nearly ten years she’d known him, he’d never sounded anywhere near this agitated. Doc was a tenured university professor, not some kid opening Christmas presents.
No, he wasn’t Christmas morning excited. More like overwhelmed. Scared. Out of his element.
Scared? Damn it, she didn’t want that for him.
Doc was right. She owed him a great deal. Alone in the world, yearning to belong, to understand, she’d snuck into his lecture hall. Instead of kicking her out, he’d seen through her emotional shields to the hungry-for-knowledge teen she’d been. Once he’d won her trust—no easy task—he’d helped her get several scholarships, a part-time job on campus, a roof over her head. A reason for existing.
She called him, but the phone went right to voice mail. Swayed by his cautions, she didn’t leave a message.
When Doc had been preparing to leave, he’d made sure she had several ways of getting in touch with him, including the number for Potlatch, the employee-only park camp where he had his field office. She punched in the Potlatch number. As she waited for someone to answer, she debated how to best frame her reason for calling. Doc and she worked for the same California university system, albeit far from the same place in the pecking order. She could—
“Potlatch. Ranger Jay Raven speaking.”
She couldn’t remember Doc mentioning anyone named Raven. “I’m trying to reach Dr. Anthony Gilsdorf.”
Silence. That was odd. Had they been disconnected? “Can you hear me?” she asked. “I’m trying—”
“I heard you.”
Thrown off balance by what might be the man’s hostility, she struggled to concentrate. Jay Raven hadn’t said whether or not he knew Doc, but what if he did and the relationship wasn’t friendly? Doc had been disappointed by the local Native Americans’ refusal to help him. Much as she wanted to tell the man about everything Doc had done for her, now wasn’t the time. It never would be.
ABOUT Vella Munn
Vella Munn www.vella-munn.com writes contemporary and historical romances to satisfy the insistent voices in her head of which there are many.
She's had more than 60 (or is it 70?) books published and is particularly excited about several recent series that are either out or in the process of being released.
Vella lives in rural Oregon, is married, has two sons, and four grandchildren. She's owned by two bossy rescue dogs and is working on her master's degree as a certified hermit.
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