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Fall Fury

Jaci Burton

  Fall Fury

  Devlin Dynasty 2:

  Jaci Burton


  To my wonderful editor, Briana St. James, and to the publishers of Ellora's Cave, for letting me write the stories that live in my heart, no matter what. I am forever grateful that you allow my imagination to run free.

  To Mel, Patti, Missy and Ani...who loved Max and Shannon's story as much as I did. Thank you for telling me I wasn't crazy. Love and hugs to you all!

  And to Charlie, my alpha male. The one who makes my blood run hot, my pulse race and my heart soar with a magic I had never known existed until we met. I love you.


  Early September

  Boston, Massachusetts

  Max Devlin heaved a sigh and opened the doors to his father's library.

  They were all in the room, gathered together for another family meeting. He already knew the subject, knew what was going to be discussed, and how it would affect him.

  His parents smiled at him, and he smiled back, already feeling the strange sense of loss, even though it would be another few weeks before he left. Family was everything. The pack wasn't supposed to separate. But what James and Patricia Devlin ordered was law. As his parents and the prime leaders of their pack, no one would second guess their plans for the future. He knew it was as hard for them to let go as it was for all of them to leave. They hadn't made the decision lightly, but the future of their kind rested on the Devlins and other families like theirs.

  "Hey everyone," he said, forcing a smile that he didn't feel.

  Jason looked up and grinned, then put his arm around Kelsey, his fiancee. She smiled tentatively, still feeling her way around the Devlin brood. She wasn't shy, which was a good thing with this family. But he sensed a hesitance about her, almost as if she wasn't yet sure whether or not they'd all pounce on her at any given moment. Max smiled at the thought.

  "Hi Max," she said.

  He stopped and kissed her cheek. "Settling in okay?"

  She nodded. "Yes. Surprisingly. I thought it would be..."

  "Weirder?" he offered in response.

  Kelsey laughed, her face lighting up. It was easy to see why Jason had fallen in love with her. "Yes, that's a good enough word."

  "Let me tell you a secret. We are weird. Get used to it."

  "I'll keep that in mind." She turned and winked at Jason, who grinned like an idiot. Max shook his head. What was it about men after they fell in love? They became giddy morons. Thank God he'd managed to escape so far.

  But he knew his days were numbered. He just hoped when it happened he wouldn't look as stupid as Jason did right now. Lovesick puppy was an understatement.

  His younger brothers were there, too, currently shooting pool in the corner of the room. Conner and Noah nodded and resumed playing their game.

  "Where's Chantal?"

  "Upstairs on the phone," his mother said, rolling her eyes. "That girl is all business. She never seems to relax."

  Max laughed. "Chantal's just driven, like the rest of us."

  "More so than the rest of us," Jason added. "I'm always trying to get her to come to D.C. and visit, but she claims to be 'busy'."

  "Would you all knock off the 'we're worried about Chantal' song and dance? I'm fine."

  Max turned and grinned at his sister as she entered the room. "It's because you're the baby of the family, Chantal. You know how we like to protect you."

  Chantal rolled her eyes, her raven hair pulled back, not a hair out of place as always. Even in blue jeans and a T-shirt, she emitted class. She rolled her eyes at Max. "Puleez. I'm hardly a baby."

  A fact that wasn't lost on any of her older brothers, which is what kicked in their tendency to overprotect her. With Max nearly ready to depart for New Orleans, he'd worry even more.

  "Quit obsessing over your sister," his mother said. "She's perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She is, after all, a successful lawyer."

  "Shark is more like it," Conner mumbled as he bent over the pool table.

  "Screw you, Conner. I'm no more shark than you," Chantal replied, sticking her tongue out at her brother.

  "Welcome to the family, Kelsey," Max said as he walked by her on his way to the bar. "Are you sure you know what you've gotten yourself into?"

  Kelsey grinned and leaned her head against Jason's chest. "Yes, I think I do. You all love each other, you just show it by fighting."

  "Like a snarling pack of wolves?" he offered.

  Chantal snorted and Conner and Noah grinned.

  "Something along those lines, yes," Kelsey said, knowledge glimmering in her eyes. She knew, and she accepted. He wondered if he'd end up as lucky as Jason had.

  "Okay, let's get serious," his father said. "Jason obviously already has a stronghold in the nation's capitol. Max, how are plans going for your move to New Orleans?"

  With all their busy schedules, they hadn't had a full family meeting in a long time. Since Jason had brought Kelsey up for the weekend, his parents had called for one. "Plans are right on target. Just wrapping up some loose ends at the office. I'll be out of here by the end of the month, ready to meet with the Storm family about their public relations program."

  "Good. And you know what else needs to be done."

  Like it hadn't been drummed into his head for the past six months. "I've got it covered, Dad."

  "Good. Chantal, have you looked into the San Francisco connections yet?"

  "Yes, Dad. I'm working on it. So far it looks like I have a job lined up with one of the firms in the financial district there."

  "Excellent. Now it's just a matter of deciding on a location for Conner and Noah."

  Max watched his brothers' faces as they looked up from the pool table toward their father. Like all of them, they knew they'd go wherever their parents sent them. The hard part was not knowing where and when.

  Good thing they were all independent sorts, capable of managing out there on their own.

  Eventually they'd all be leaving, because that was their destiny. The Devlins had big plans. Plans that would take them nationwide and eventually worldwide. Max felt at least a little comfort in knowing they'd soon all be in the same boat.

  "I'll miss you, even though you're a huge pain," Chantal said, approaching him at the bar.

  He fixed a drink for her and handed it to her, then kissed her on the cheek. "I'll miss you too, little monster. Who will I pick on after I leave here?"

  She laughed and threw her arms around him for a hug. "You'll find someone. I'm sure of that."

  He already had, but it was too early to mention anything to his family. Later, after he confirmed whether his instincts were right or not, he'd let them know. Right now he needed to concentrate on getting his life in order for his move to the south.

  To the land of hell.

  Max downed his whiskey in one gulp, dreading the coming trip, but knowing his future was no longer in Boston.

  It was in Louisiana, with Shannon Storm.

  Chapter One

  Late September


  Max read the road sign looming ahead with a sense of finality.

  Welcome to Louisiana.

  Louisiana. Nothing like Boston. The pavement ahead shimmered, glowing with an unnatural wave of heat. It appeared as if he were driving right into another dimension.

  Pretty damn close to it, at least in his mind.

  Interstate Ten led all the way into New Orleans. He turned down the thermostat to cool things off as the heat pressed down on him. Maybe the shimmering waves of hell outside had found a way into his SUV. What was up with the weather here? It was late September, but felt like mid-July. The heat was stifling, making him wish he'd worn shorts and a tank top instead of jeans and tight-fitting polo shirt.
/>   And he had to move here. Permanently. Sometimes he wondered if the Devlin clan had a touch of insanity running through them.

  He shook his head, the voices of his parents lingering in his mind. Branch out into the southern territories. Find and locate packs already established in the area, if there are any. Take over. And while you're at it, find a mate and start a new business.

  Easy for them to say. They got to stay in Boston while they sent their children to strange places to start new.

  His older brother, Jason, had succeeded in Washington, D.C. Not only was he a successful politician, but he'd also just landed himself a mate. He'd brought Kelsey up to Boston to meet them not more than two weeks ago. She was beautiful and obviously head over heels in love with Jason. And despite being human, she'd readily accepted their family and their...idiosyncrasies.

  Now it was his turn, and he'd have to find his fate in New Orleans, of all places.

  What a bunch of bullshit. Why couldn't one of his brothers have come down here instead? Yeah, yeah, yeah. He already knew the answer. This was his destiny, or some other such bullshit spouted by his mother and father. Sometimes that just sucked as an explanation, especially when faced with having to move to hell.

  Max loved Boston. Everything about it. Not only were his people there, but all that was familiar. Friends, bars, places to hang out. Seasons, even. Snow. Leaves changing color in the fall. Damn, Louisiana was probably this hot in January. And they didn't even have a professional baseball team. Well, not a major league team, anyway. And anything lower than the majors just wasn't baseball, in his opinion. First thing he was going to do when he bought a house was have satellite installed. He'd die without his Red Sox.

  Before that happened, though, he'd have to get things set up at The Rising Storm, the hotel of the Storm family, his latest and greatest public relations venture. He'd had several conversations with Logan Storm about their new casino venture. His friend and fellow Bostonian, Melissa Cross, had fallen madly in love with one of the Storms and was in the process of making a permanent move.

  At least he'd know one person in this humid abyss.

  He cranked up the stereo, the driving beat helping to keep him awake after the long trip. He wanted a shower, preferably a cold one, and then a nice, soft bed to catch a few hours shuteye.

  Then he'd have to meet with the Storm family. He knew from conversations with Logan that he'd be working with their sister, Shannon, head of The Rising Storm's Public Relations Department. He'd heard of her, knew what kind of businesswoman she was. He'd even read articles about her PR style and what a go-getter she was.

  They called her a tiger in a business suit. From the pictures he'd seen of her in magazines, he wondered what else she growled over.

  The last article he'd read was in the Louisiana Business Magazine. All about how she single-handedly increased exposure for the Storm family holdings in New Orleans.

  He remembered the full-page picture of her in that article. She'd been dressed in a pale blue suit, her dark hair pulled tightly away from her face. And what a striking face it was.

  From the first moment he'd seen her picture, her image had remained burned in his mind. Turquoise eyes sparkled with intelligence. A cool exterior masked an elemental warmth underneath. Her hair picked up the light of the camera, reminding him of a wolf's coat. Was it long or short? It shined a luxurious sable in the glossy magazine picture. Would it be as soft to the touch?

  His cock stirred, the all-too familiar ache settling between his legs, making him yearn for someone to rule beside him.

  Too much time for business lately and not nearly enough time to play. He was thirty years old, well past the age to find a life mate. That anxious, nervous feeling seemed to permeate his being every full moon. He found himself wandering far too often lately, that sense of searching, but not finding, nearly overpowering him, leaving him unfulfilled for the first time in his life.

  He needed a woman. He might not like the idea, but there was no avoiding it. And he hadn't been able to find one, not "the" one. When an alpha found his mate, he damn well knew it. But out of all the women he'd been with, no one had given him that spark.

  One woman had, and what sparked him had been nothing more than a photograph. But why her instead of women he'd met in the flesh?

  There were plenty of women in Boston, all shapes and sizes. Some like him, others completely human. He'd had a lot of them, too. Many would have killed to become his life mate.

  The only thing he'd gotten from any of them had been a momentary relief from the lust that seemed to grow ever stronger inside him with each passing year. Once temporarily satiated, though, he always lost interest.

  His kind required a strong alpha female. He'd yet to find one, despite the primal urge that called to him

  He was tired of feeling empty, no matter how busy his days and nights. It was time for a mate.

  Time to meet Shannon Storm and see if she compelled him in person, as much as she had on the page of a magazine.

  That would happen soon enough, and if Max was anything, he was a patient man. Tonight he might want to prowl. A familiar restlessness settled over him, no doubt due to two days traveling in this box on wheels. He needed to stretch out and go for a run, acquaint himself with the sounds and scents of New Orleans. And maybe, just maybe, find out if other packs currently controlled southeast Louisiana.

  His agenda was full already. Time to prioritize. Job, pack search, and mate.

  Although how he was supposed to transform when it was ninety-eight goddamn degrees in September, was beyond him. Yeah, Boston summers were hot, but this was nothing like what he was used to. The air outside just sucked the oxygen right from his lungs.

  New Orleans--one helluva place to take up residence.


  Shannon Storm paced her office, her heels clicking on the smooth surface of the gleaming wood floors.

  "Would you stop that? You're making me dizzy."

  She halted mid-stride and turned to Melissa Cross, her soon-to-be sister-in-law. Shrugging, she said, "Sorry, Lissa. I'm thinking."

  Melissa crossed her legs and tugged at her navy skirt. "So I see. Thinking about what?"

  How could she explain that she couldn't describe her feelings? They made no sense to her. Trying to tell someone else what rolled through her mind would be impossible. She felt...restless. And excited. Like a child anticipating Christmas morning and what awaited her. But as hard as she tried to pinpoint some event, she had no clue what excited her.

  It was fall. Her season. Yet summer lingered on, as if trying to keep her at bay. Though she tried not to buy into the magic that was a part of her, she also was pragmatic enough to acknowledge it existed. The season of fall was when she was most comfortable with her power, almost as if it were an annual unleashing of all the pent-up anxieties she controlled throughout the year.

  But this year there was a delay in fall, and the humid stickiness just added to her irritation. That had to be the reason she felt the way she did. What else could there be?

  Work was normal, the hotel/casino project moving along, and the PR plan in place. She was going to meet Max Devlin, the hotshot PR guy Melissa had recommended, and he was going to work on the plan with her.

  "You're pissy about Max coming to help out, aren't you?" Melissa asked.

  Funny how Lissa could nearly read her mind after only knowing her a few months. "I'm not pissy. I'm irritated. I can run public relations just fine on my own. I don't need some Yankee coming down here and trying to tell me how to do my job."

  Lissa coughed and covered her mouth, but Shannon caught the smile she tried to hide. Feigning a serious expression, Lissa said, "I'm sure he won't do that. Granted, he's a shark in business, but I think you'll be impressed once you meet him."

  She didn't want to meet him. She didn't want to have to deal with any interference on this project. "I'll deal with him because Logan consulted him without my approval and invited him down here. Otherwise, I'd kic
k his ass all the way back to Boston."

  "I'd sell tickets to that event."

  She offered a mock glare. "Smartass. And I used to think you were so nice."

  "Oh, you love me and you know it."

  Shannon smiled, pushing her annoyance to the back of her mind. "Yes, I do. You and Aidan haven't even gotten married yet and you're already my sister. By the way, where is your fiance?"

  "Meeting with Logan and going over some budget numbers for the marketing and PR plan."

  Shannon scrunched her nose. "Ugh. I'm glad I'm not in on that meeting. I can only imagine how Mister-icy-calm-Logan will try to cram his budget numbers under Mister-hot-and-frenzied-Aidan. Although it would be fun to be a fly on the wall."

  The sounds of male voices raised in anger sailed down the hallway of the Storm corporate offices. "I don't think we need to be a fly on the wall. They're both coming through loud and clear," Lissa offered, a sly smile gracing her face.

  Shannon laughed. Her brothers were all voice, all talk, but deep down they had an abiding love and respect for each other that no one could tear down.

  Lissa stood and looked at her watch. "I need to go. Are we still meeting Max when he gets in?"

  "Yes. We're meeting in the conference room about six."

  "Okay, that leaves me an hour or so, then. I expect the explosion between Aidan and Logan will be over soon. I should go back to my office and prepare myself for Aidan's arrival, followed by his venting tirade about how unreasonable Logan is."

  "You poor baby. But you're the one who fell in love with the idiot. Now you have to deal with him."

  With a wink, Melissa opened the door and said, "I love dealing with him. Besides, how can I resist a man who makes my body thunder, my orgasms strike like lightning and brings on rain in our bedroom?"

  "TMI, sister," Shannon replied with a wink. Melissa laughed and closed the door behind her, leaving Shannon with the wild array of thoughts racing through her mind.

  During that hour before she had to meet Max Devlin, she planned her strategy on how to gain the upper hand with him right away. He may be the wizard of the northeast in public relations, but she was no slouch herself. And he was in her territory now. He'd learn very quickly that he'd be taking a supporting role in their PR launch. If he had suggestions, she might listen. Might. Then again, she might not. After all, it hadn't been her idea to bring him down here. And while she might have promised Logan she'd work with Devlin, she didn't promise that she'd work with him as an equal partner.