The Darkest Hour
Series: Alaskan Hearts, Book 7

Between law and love, where does justice truly lie?

Sofia Stepanov believes in right and wrong, but she doesn't necessarily believe in following the rules. When she finds a wolf hybrid being illegally kept and abused by its captors, she vows to come back and free him herself.

Soon the exhilaration of one successful mission leads to many more, leading Sofia to set her sights on the most ambitious rescue yet. It also leads her straight into the path of a handsome police officer who has been tasked with bringing Anchorage’s serial dognapper to justice.

Will Sofia complete her vigilante rescue without a hitch, or will Hunter catch her before she can?

Join Sophia and Liz with their rehabilitated sled dogs in this unforgettable tale of resourcefulness, repercussions, and finding where you belong from a New York Times bestselling author.

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Sofia Stepanov’s journey toward happily ever after started the way so many do—with a beautiful, tortured pair of eyes staring straight into her soul.

She gulped before taking a closer look. These eyes didn’t belong to a charming prince, but rather a mottled gray dog chained to a stake in somebody’s front yard.

Help me, those striking amber orbs begged, but Sofia rolled past the stop sign and continued toward her destination. It’s not that she was heartless, though sometimes her friends teased that stodgy Sofia kept her heart locked up tight in a tiny box hidden deep within her chest.

She wanted to help the poor, neglected mutt, but what could she do? She was already late for work. She didn’t have a lick of experience owning a pet, and stealing was just a touch against the law.

Regardless, Sofia thought about that poor, scraggly creature the whole day, ultimately making a deal with herself. If I drive past there tonight and he’s still out there, then I’ll break him free.

And, sure enough, the dog she’d taken to calling “Wolfie” in her mind remained chained in place when she drove back through the dilapidated Mountain View neighborhood more than eight hours later.

She’d “borrowed” a leash from the mall’s pet store on her way home from work, reasoning that she didn’t have to pay if it was only meant to be a loan. Besides, she was doing the Lord’s work, protecting his creatures and all that.

Yeah, it definitely would have been far worse to do nothing. The universe wanted her to free this poor sap of a dog, and so she would.

She drove by the yard a few times just to make sure that no one was home, then parked down the block and began her rescue mission.

Wolfie let out a low whine as she approached. He kept his head and body on the ground, but slowly, hopefully, began to thump his tail in the dirt beneath him.

No bared teeth—a good sign if ever there was one.

Sofia had never kept a pet growing up, then hadn’t wanted the added responsibility once she’d finally struck out on her own. Even so, she’d always had a way with animals, especially the downtrodden ones. They seemed to somehow sense a kindred spirit in her which, she had to admit, was accurate.

Nobody had ever chained Sofia to a stake, but they’d done plenty of awful things to her growing up. Gossip, rumors, pranks, all the usual mean girl fodder had all been directed squarely at Sofia.

In seventh grade, she’d gone through an adolescent revolution and finally found out exactly who she was meant to be, which unfortunately also meant finding herself as the official Bartlett High outcast. Previously a blonde, pink-cheeked clone of her mother, Sofia had dyed her hair black and never looked back. She’d begun avoiding the sun as if she really were a vampire, like one of the less imaginative rumors about her had claimed.

And now here she was, creeping around at night, getting ready to steal somebody’s dog.

Not steal—rescue.

She had to remind herself of that over and over again until she was sure she believed it. Sofia was the good guy here. Had always been.

Reaching into her bag, she wrapped her fingers around the food court hotdog she’d picked up for just this purpose.

Wolfie’s whining intensified when he saw the snack.

“You want this, boy? Yeah?” Sofia tiptoed up to the dog and handed him the hotdog while she switched the chain for the leash.

Quick, quick. There. Atta boy.

Checking that the clasp was secure, she removed a second hotdog from her bag and flashed it before the dog. “We have to hurry, okay? Just follow me, and I’ll give you another one of these. Got it?”

Wolfie barked, his tail swinging at a frenzied pace.

“Shhhh,” Sofia warned, slowly letting herself back out through the gate with Wolfie in tow. “Let’s go.”

If anyone saw the dognapping in action, they did nothing to stop it. It was almost too easy. Sofia kept waiting for an angry, gun-waving homeowner or the whir of sirens, but nothing happened. It felt like mere seconds. One moment, she was just passing by, and the next she’d somehow become a dog owner.

Did easy mean right? Well, she guessed time would tell on that one.

So now what?