Gone with the Wolf - By Kristin Miller

Chapter One

Emelia Hudson knew she shouldn’t be snooping through her boss’s wine cellar, but his secret stash was down here and damn it, he owed her a bottle. Or a case.

Slipping off her heels, Emelia kicked them into the corner of the spacious cellar, and jumped from the feel of the frosty granite floor against her bare feet. The cellar was bigger than her Seattle apartment, with a nasty draft sweeping through the wrought iron French doors behind her. The space felt more like a high-class smoking room than a cellar, with large stone pillars, leather-wrapped seats, and a pungent musk floating in the air. Chandeliers hung on either end of the ceiling, shedding amber auras of light over two barrels topped with stone slabs. Not a single wine case cluttered the floor, and not a single pigeonhole was deprived of a bottle.

“There you are, beautiful,” Emelia said, swiping a corked bottle of 1996 Château Lafite off one of the barrels.

She refilled her glass—for the fifth time this evening—and swirled the dark liquid round and round. The mint and black currant aroma hit her nose, causing her eyes to roll back in her head. Taking a sip, Emelia moaned as the bold flavor of succulent silk hit her tongue.

“You,” she said, pinching her eyes shut, savoring the changing flavors, “are simply divine.”

“I’ll say,” someone said from the doorway.

Emelia started. Droplets of wine hurtled down her throat, catching like stones in her windpipe. She choked hard and bowled over as she tried to the get the damn silky stuff out of her lungs.

“That good, huh?” The man was beside her before she knew what was happening, massaging small circles across her back.

Emelia backed against the barrel and away from the stranger’s touch. From the few seconds he’d massaged her, Emelia’s skin had warmed, tingling with strange, electrically charged sensations.

“I’m fine,” she choked out, gaining her bearings.

The stranger radiated intimidation. Six feet tall. Broad, flexing shoulders. His white cotton dress shirt was pulled taut, stretching over layers of rippling muscle. A square, hard-set jaw with a shadow of stubble, and pressed-white lips gave him a downright stony appearance. But despite his hardened expression and daunting stature, mesmerizing chocolate-brown eyes bore into Emelia’s, chilling her body to match her bare feet.

Did this guy work for Wilder Financial? Was he a bouncer sent to drag her back upstairs? The Halloween office party had been monster-mashing for the last two hours and the cellar had been deemed off-limits. Solitude was the reason Emelia sought out the cellar in the first place. Well, that and her boss’s stash of fine wine.

“No one’s supposed to be down here,” she said, nerves kicking up a notch.

“I could tell you the same thing.” Folding his arms across his barrel of a chest, the stranger backed away and leaned against the doorframe. A slow smile spread across his full lips. “I don’t recall Little Red Riding Hood packing wine on her trip to Grandmother’s.”

“Yeah, well…” Emelia flicked at the cape brushing her knees and laughed. “I hate costume parties and didn’t think I was coming until the last minute. When I finally decided I had to be here, the costume store had two choices: Little Red Riding Slut or Sexy Feather-Dusting Maid. I went with Little Red.”

Why’d she just tell him all that? She shouldn’t have gulped down that last glass of wine. It had loosened her lips, affecting her more than it should’ve.

“I think the costume was a good choice.” The stranger strode into the cellar, his gait confident and powerful, and swept a thick-stemmed wineglass off the nearest barrel. “May I? Or were you planning on downing that bottle yourself?”

“No, no, please, help yourself.” With a tipsy bow and a giggle, Emelia swept her arm aside. “Where’s your costume?”

He glanced down at his slacks as if he just realized he wasn’t dressed for the party. “Maybe I’m the Big Bad Wolf hiding in business attire instead of old lady pajamas.”

“You don’t look like a wolf.”

“No?”

Emelia leaned in close, squinting at his glinting white—and very human—teeth, then laughed. “Nope. No fangs.”

He eyed her curiously, filled his glass, and sipped on it as though he’d never tasted anything like it before. He swished the wine in his cheeks before swallowing, all the while holding Emelia’s gaze. Intensity smoldered behind his eyes; Emelia swore someone kicked the thermostat up a few degrees.

“So,” he said, eyeing her wild mane of blond hair that’d come loose from her hood, “why do you have to