Prologue

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High on a jagged mountaintop, dewdrops form on bushy pines

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High on a jagged mountaintop, dewdrops form on bushy pines. They collect upon the needles and drip one at a time until they fill the wild yellow daffodils to the brim. When the flowery buckets are full, they lean over and spill their nectar onto the earth. Crickets unwind their long curly tongues and lap up the ambrosia. Drunk on nature's liquor, they rub their hairy legs together and play their fiddles.

A shadow stirs in the crooked darkness. Two golden halos catch the moon's rays and glow. They hover in the infinite abyss.

A hooting owl mercifully rattles its tongue against the roof of its beak, asking, "Who? Who?" in short bursts. When no one can answer, it persists with long, drawn-out inquiries: "Whooooo? Whooooo?" The wise ol' owl warns all that danger lurks near those glowing eyes.

Restless creatures hear the warning and shy away. Those resting are fatally caught in the jaws of surprise. Predator and prey lock claws, antlers, and fangs, dancing an exhaustive tango of survival. Run, fight, or die—these are the laws of nature.

I am powerful! the wolf proudly thinks, patiently scanning the valley beneath him. He searches for his next victim. Antelope and deer think they find safety in obscure resting places, but Kiowa can see some of them.

A symphony of crickets applaud his bravado.

Corner flaps of his nostrils flare in short heaves, detecting the familiar scent of his companion among the drowning aroma of pine trees and sagebrush. The quieting crickets sober up when they feel the earth shake. They rest their fiddles and alert him that she is closer than he thinks.

He scans the valley, searching the open places where he can easily spy her. His eyes pull at the shifting shadows below the creaking trees. To mortal eyes, the report would be nothing but darkness. To the wolf's eyes, squirrels, rabbits, and skunks run as though the forest were on fire, even though clearly it is not.

Patches of white flash between breaks in the trees. Sudden flickers of motion catch his attention.

With soft excited whimpers, he lets Anoki know that he longs to see her.

Her pace increases, causing his paws to pat at the hard ground. His claws curl and scratch the earth.

All at once, she explodes through the thick shrubs. Moonlight strikes her beautiful ivory coat, eerily illuminating it. Her ghostly appearance would easily be mistaken for an apparition, were it not for her sparkling blue eyes and pink nose.

Her topaz jewels fix on Kiowa's golden glowing halos and reciprocate his anticipation.

The massive black-and-white wolf stands erect. Warm tingling sensations crackle like blue lightning in his heart and ignite a fire in those massive chambers. It is a fire that was not felt in her absence. His heart must be empty or he cannot kill. When those flames ignite, love swells and pumps across his thudding chest. He feels it spread from the tip of his black nose to the end of his white-tipped, bushy gray tail.

"Come to me!" He beckons his wife.

Anoki prances with a feminine finesse. She trots over with a giddiness in her step. She gently presses her soft cheek against his firm chest. Kiowa inhales her spirit and instantly knows from her many scents that she has hid in the musky den with the cubs, traveled by the minty spring, rolled in the wild prairie flowers, and passed through the tall evergreen forest.

She presses herself along Kiowa's side, then pauses briefly, letting her soft bushy tale delicately rest beneath his snout. She thinks of all the victims who have fallen prey to his fierce jaws. It excites her to know that only her elegance and grace are permitted to dance past those treacherous gates.

She drags the rest of her fluffy tail beneath his jaw and across his back. She turns and smiles when she feels him shudder.

"Your soul is fused to mine," he whispers.

"As yours is to mine. Why else do you think I was brought here? I felt the stitches tug," she responds, circling him. She tilts her sleek nose down and presses her forehead to his. Their ears lower. Their tails wag. They remain staring deep into each other's eyes like this until the electric emotions overwhelm him. The chambers explode, causing Kiowa to tilt his head up, exposing his pale, broad chest. With a deep heave, he unleashes a high-pitched howl, which echoes miles away. The hooting owl spreads its wings and scatters loose feathers. The coyotes tuck their tails and run. Bears snuggle up against their cubs. Raccoons shiver and climb trees. Even the cougars seek shelter inside caves to protect their young. None are safe from the King of the Currumpaw. All are meat.

Anoki tilts her head back and howls just a few octaves higher than Kiowa. The two croon the beastly song of love as the moon goes down.

Amber sun flecks dance across the towering mountain peaks, gathering in the graceful grassy valleys below. Morning birds join the howling wolves and a new day for an old love is born.

Aaaaaaarrrrrreeeeewwwww!

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