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The Wolf's Pursuit

By´╝ÜRachel Van Dyken

Prologue


She loved flowers — the pink frilly ones that made a man roll his eyes in disgust. Yet Hunter could not bring himself to deny her anything. She was his soul mate, his love. And after being married for a year, he could no longer manage being apart from her. The life of a spy was unapologetic. Hunter would be gone for weeks at a time, spending many sleepless nights tossing and turning, aching for Lucy, the Royal Duchess of Haverstone.

Knowing he lacked the maturity of romance, given his young age of one-and-twenty, he had poured countless hours into this meeting, into her surprise.

He crossed the street and smiled, thinking of the way she would throw her head back in laughter and leap into his arms. Never a conventional bride, she didn't care a whit about propriety and often kissed him in public, much to the ton's dismay.

He wanted one of her kisses now. Needed to taste her lips.

Hunter pulled out his pocketwatch and examined the numbers. A tad late. He had spent a ridiculous amount of time picking out her favorite flowers and daydreaming on the way to their meeting place.

As he crossed the final street to Gunther's, he watched as Lucy waved wildly in the other direction. She raised both hands high above her head, frantically aiming for someone's attention. He picked up his pace. Anticipation overtook him as he watched his tiny wife begin to jump up and down. Something must be truly exciting for her to be acting so rashly. Truthfully, her behavior was reminiscent of when she saw him for the first time after being away for weeks.

And then, she stomped her tiny foot and began marching across the street.

Alarmed, he began to run.

But it was too late.

The carriage was moving too fast. She looked to her left just in time to see the carriage jolting out of the way, but not enough.

She fell to the ground.

Hunter swore. His legs felt like lead as he screamed and ran to her side. Blood trickled from her mouth. Her petite body was bent in an unnatural angle. Tears streamed down his face into his mouth. The taste of salt was revolting, for it reeked of her death.

"Lucy, love, can you hear me? Everything is going to be fine, just fine." He grasped her lifeless hand. She tried to shake her head. "Don't move, just lie still. I love you. I love you so much."

A single tear ran down her face. "I l-love you." Voice hoarse and weak, her lips trembled as she tried again to speak. Breath came out in short gasps.

"No, stay with me, you can't leave me, Lucy! Do you understand? You can't! You just can't." Hunter's tears clouded his vision but not enough, for the last thing he saw was her blue eyes turn lifeless as her chest heaved its last breath.

"No, no!" Hunter wailed, not caring that he was still in the middle of the street. His body trembled. Surely this was a nightmare that he would wake up from! The flowers in his hand, the anniversary flowers, were never meant to cover her grave.

Strong hands grasped his chest, pulling him away from the street. He heard a voice barking orders and looked up into the eyes of his twin brother.

Eyes that held guilt, shame, and remorse. "She thought I was you. I didn't know, I didn't…" Ash's eyes held unshed tears. "I was too late. I didn't know. Oh, what have I done?" Ash's face was pale and haunted as he embraced his brother.

Hunter was unable to say anything. No words would come, nothing. He felt lifeless, an empty void. And he knew, without a doubt, that he would forever remember this day, not purely because the love of his life had died in his arms, but because in her death she had taken his very soul with her.

Never would he be the same.





Chapter One





Red—

The Office would like you to please hand over the information you obtained from Napoleon. Failure to do so will result in the end of your life. I would love nothing more than to wrap my claws around the neck of the one woman able to best me.

Yours truly,

—Wolf





Nine years later

February 1815, Belgium, 30 miles away from Waterloo

Hunter Wolfbane, Royal Duke of Haverstone, was in a foul mood. His horse had run off after yet another gunshot had narrowly missed Hunter's head, leaving him with no food, no drink, and worst of all, no whiskey.

How was he to make his way around the frigid countryside without his whiskey? It had taken him two days tramping through the melting snow to reach the village near Dominique Maksylov's estate, where he was staying.

As a spy for the Crown, Hunter had felt it his duty to notify Wellington that French soldiers were still in the vicinity and openly attacking civilians. His horse had done the job of getting him to Wellington's camp in record time and then promptly ran off the next morning when Hunter had stopped to stretch his legs. Blasted Russian horses.

Duty done. All he wanted was a hot bath, a supple wench, and new boots so his feet could get some respite. After all, without his horse he had resorted to trudging through the melting snow like some common criminal.

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