In a dark futuristic Earth, the Triad must take a mate. But their pet has other ideas…
Mating the Triad (The Outcasts 1): Exiled to the Outlands, Mia’s sheer viciousness in defending herself catches the notice of one of the most powerful triads in the Outlands. Not one to simply be taken care of, Mia refuses to be treated as anything other than an equal — even in times of battle. How can she prove to three powerful warriors she’s not only the one for them, but an asset in every aspect of their lives?
The Triad’s Pet (The Outcasts 2): The only reason Arryn’s allowed to continue to live in the village is because of her exceptional talents in both healing and engineering. When danger is deliberately brought into their midst, it’s up to Arryn to direct her men. But how can a pet convince three stubborn warriors to trust in her unique abilities?
Publisher’s Note: The Outcasts Duet contains the previously published novels Mating the Triad and The Triad’s Pet.
“Mia Cook. For the crime of theft from a noble house, your punishment is banishment to the Outlands.” The pious judge looked down at me from his throne. With a sneer, I spat in his general direction, expecting to get backhanded by one of several guards surrounding the dais. When nothing happened, I did it again for good measure. The judges always looked at us lowborns with contempt and superiority. I wanted to do some <em>real</em> lawbreaking. Like ripping off the guy’s nuts. With my teeth.
I didn’t resist when two guards dragged me to the center of the great room where court was held daily. Once an accused had been judged guilty, he or she stood in the ceremonial circle for all to see. Maybe it was me, but it seemed like they were just looking for reasons to banish any lowborns in the city. My crime? I’d stolen a bowl of bread. Granted, it wasn’t just any bowl of bread — it was spoonbread. A Kentucky Outback delight. At least it had been back in the day. Earth hadn’t always been so medieval. There had been a time when whole festivals were dedicated to Kentucky spoonbread. Now, a dish like that was a delicacy, available only to the wealthy. Nobles. It was also my very favorite thing in the whole goddamned city.
Spoonbread is a “wet” bread dish made of cornmeal. You bake it, serve it with real butter, and eat it with a spoon. Like a pudding or custard, only not hardly as moist. In my opinion, the punishment was worth getting to eat the entire bowl — which I had, fighting for the last spoonful after I’d been caught. Especially since it had been a couple of days since I’d had anything to eat. I knew when I stole it what my punishment would be if I were caught. But, honestly, you should try this shit. It’s worth the ordeal.
Which means the damned guards got to parade me through the whole of the middle- and low-born sections. Naked. After my little “spat” with the judge, I doubted I could conjure enough sympathy to get one of them to cover me with a cape until we got to the gate.
“You will be sent forth into the wildness beyond the walls of our hallowed city. Such is the way of all heathens. May the Heavenly Father in all his wisdom give you what you deserve in the Outland where He punishes all heathens.”
As the bastard spoke, the guards stripped the clothing from my body. When my outfit proved too difficult to remove easily, they simply cut the material, throwing everything into a great fire pit next to the circle. There was no way I could simply snag something on the way out to cover myself.
Just to be contrary, I stood proud, refusing to cover myself with my arms. Lifting my chin, I looked into the eyes of the man who’d passed judgment on me. He was old. Like <em>really</em> old. Thin hanks of long gray hair hung all over his head. His look was kind of comical since he was balding in places. If he’d been intelligent, he’d have cut it neatly, or simply shaved the shit off. What hair he had did little to cover the age-spotted skin. I knew my fucking with him was working when a most unbecoming blush splotched his already splotchy skin. Am I a bitch for loving the fact that he was old, ugly, and probably couldn’t get it up long enough to enjoy a woman? Probably a good thing. He was the kind of man to take advantage of his position.
As if he’d heard my thoughts, the judge leaned forward in his chair behind his desk. “The little bitch still has no respect for her betters. Why not show the little thief what she’s in for? Show her what happens to thieves who don’t learn their place.” An evil smile should have graced his less-than-perfect features, but, of course, the little bastard kept his pious expression firmly intact. How he managed that when he’d just ordered his guards to rape me was beyond my understanding.
“I will kill you,” I bit out.
He sat back, a small smile on his face. “I imagine you will. At least, in your dreams, between bouts of torture.”
One of the guards sneered, looking as if he’d been hoping for this development. A second guard muscled his way around the first one, growling a little. He was the clear Alpha there. No one challenged him as he took his place next to me, gripping my upper arm tightly. Obviously, he intended to be the one to carry out my extra punishment.
He was thickly muscled and stood over a head taller than me. His battle-scarred face seemed to match his body, if his heavily muscled arms were any indications. Scars crisscrossed his skin as if he had taken many blows. By not covering them as most men did, he signaled he was proud of his badges of honor. None in the guard challenged him. At present anyway.
As the guy pulled me closer to him, he whispered, “I’ll make this pleasurable for you if you’ll not fight. If you do, one of the others will challenge me. If they manage to take you, they won’t even try to be gentle, let alone give you pleasure.”
“So it’s either fight and get hurt or submit and not get hurt. Either way, I’m fucked. Literally.”
He fisted my hair, tilting my head back so I had to look up at him, then whispered for my ears alone even as he bared his teeth menacingly. His actions and expressions seemed more for the surrounding crowd — and the judge — than anything else. Despite the rough handling, he didn’t really hurt me. “You’re strong. You fought well when they took you. If I hadn’t been there, you might even have escaped.”
Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.
Bowen’s used to life as a lone wolf. He has the occasional hook-up, but rarely with the same man twice. Chiz is an exception to his rule, and one night’s adventure that neither of them expected forces Bowen to see Chiz as more than just a pretty sub he can scratch his itch for rough sex with.
Chiz has his own rules for getting off with guys. His secret crush on Bowen was supposed to remain just that—a secret—until the one night that changes everything, and hiding things is impossible.
Then there’s Dare, the big tough bar owner who has questions for Bowen and Chiz and whose attraction to them is too strong to resist…and is just as powerful as the feelings Bowen and Chiz have for him.
But giving in to the overpowering sexual pull makes Bowen lose control of his wolf—an act that changes not only his fate but Chiz’s and Dare’s too.
Can their relationship survive what they unleash?
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and death, references to non-nurturing parenting and a scene of turning into a shifter without prior discussion.
Publisher’s note: This book was originally published as Bowen’s Battle. It has been revised to become the first in a new shifter series for Pride Publishing.
Sex. The scent of it hung heavy in the air of the club’s restroom—which was probably a good thing. Bowen sighed as he leaned against one wall, nearly bumping elbows with the guy on the left of him.
Kneeling at Bowen’s feet was Chiz, one of his occasional hook-ups when neither man had someone else to fuck around with.
Bowen had been in a dry spell for a few months. Work on the ranch had taken up all his time, the birthing of the foals and caring for the horses more important than his own libido.
But tonight, he needed to get off with someone else rather than all alone, and Chiz obviously felt the same way.
Chiz opened his mouth and sucked the tip of Bowen’s cockhead in while looking up at Bowen through thick blond-tipped lashes. Chiz flicked his tongue, and Bowen bit back a moan. He wasn’t going to last long tonight, not after how long it had been for him, and now with Chiz’s very talented mouth working his dick.
Bowen braced one hand on Chiz’s shoulder, the other on the wall and began to thrust, knowing it was okay to do so. Chiz’s lashes fluttered, then he closed his eyes and sucked Bowen off with an enthusiasm that likely made every other man getting sucked off in the bathroom jealous.
Bowen clenched both hands, wishing he could just grab Chiz’s blond hair and use it to hold his head still. Bowen liked wielding control while having sex, but it wasn’t something he did often. Certainly not with one-night stands.
Though, he had messed around with Chiz a handful of times, at least.
Still, they weren’t friends, just two guys getting off together.
But would it hurt to—
Bowen shut off that stream of thought. Now was neither the time nor place for him to decide to get all…whatever. He hissed as pleasure raced throughout his body. His balls drew tight, and his groin burned with the beginnings of his climax.
Chiz deep-throated him again, and that was it. Bowen let go, let his orgasm burst free and shoot in hot jets down Chiz’s throat.
“I think we’re gonna have us a turn at that mouth and ass.”
Bowen’s eyes had almost closed when he heard that comment. He slipped his hand from Chiz’s shoulder to his nape, the automatic need to protect rising quickly and stomping out any lingering sexual bliss.
The bathroom had grown less crowded—except for the three men standing in a half-circle, blocking off the exit.
Bowen growled and didn’t give two shits about his own cock flopping free as he tightened his clasp on Chiz. “Whatever you dumb fucks are thinking, unthink it. You ain’t touching him.”
The biggest man, a grizzled, ugly guy who looked like he needed a shower or three, smirked at Bowen. “And who says we was talking about him?”
Well, Bowen would rather avoid a fight altogether, but if those three shitheels were going to be coming after either him or Chiz, Bowen would rather be the target.
“Aw, Earl! That guy can suck dick!”
“Shut up, Killer.” Earl didn’t look away from Bowen.
“Killer?” Chiz muttered against Bowen’s shaft. “Seriously?” He tried to turn his head.
Bowen’s fight instincts were engaging. He had a feeling there’d be no easy-outs tonight.
And his daddy had always told him to get in the first punch.
The scent of danger was in the air, and Bowen couldn’t ignore it, not that he would have tried. Instincts existed for a reason, or at least his did.
In a second, he had Chiz behind him and was lunging at Earl, the leader of the pack of idiots. Bowen managed to get his dick tucked into his underwear while swinging hard with his left hand.
He was fast, too fast for a burly, out-of-shape man like Earl to escape. His fist connecting with Earl’s jaw felt pretty damned good.
Sex and violence…the two were linked sometimes. Bowen wouldn’t examine that very closely, not if he could help it.
Earl’s head jerked to the side. Blood and spit flew from his mouth as all hell broke loose in the restroom.
And maybe Bowen should have thought out his attack a little better, because Earl didn’t go down, and his two buddies shot past Bowen.
He had to protect Chiz—Chiz was small-boned, almost delicately built, and all three men were…none of those things.
Bowen kicked Earl in the balls, and the big fool went down with a high-pitched screech. Bowen spun around and grabbed both men by the backs of their shirts. He pulled and ripped the material, then had to grab at them again.
One of them—Killer, he thought—went flying backward. The other, Bowen clutched at, spun around then punched in the gut.
Bowen caught a flash of Chiz shooting up and lunging away. At first, Bowen thought Chiz was running for the door.
But no. Killer was flung against the wall beside the man Bowen was trying to take down.
Chiz was there, moving so fast with punches and martial arts moves that Bowen couldn’t keep up with what he was doing.
Especially not when Bowen nearly got kneed in the balls.
He focused on the fight he was in, avoiding damage to his family jewels, taking a hard slug to the ribs, then elbowing his opponent in the gut before using an uppercut to finally take the fucker out.
By then, Chiz was standing, hands on his slender hips, tapping one foot.
Bowen looked at him head-on.
Chiz nodded. “Wasn’t sure if you’d need help.”
Bowen almost laughed at that. He’d held back a lot of his strength since he didn’t want to end up in prison for murder.
Chiz scowled at him. “I can take care of myself. I’m not some delicate flower, here.”
“Yeah, I get that, but maybe we should leave before these fuckwits regain consciousness?” Bowen suggested. His knuckles burned, the skin raw and abraded, but it’d be healed up in no time at all.
“Probably.” Chiz wrinkled his nose as he glanced at the men. “Ugh. I hope they aren’t thinking they’ll be regulars here.” Then he canted his head and grinned at Bowen. “And I didn’t get to come. I’m pretty sure you’re not a psycho-serial killer, so, um, if you want to go back to my place, we could do that.”
Bowen’s first impulse was to say no, but he checked it. First things first—he and Chiz needed to get out of there.
“Come on.” Bowen took Chiz by the elbow.
“Not a delicate flower,” Chiz muttered, but he didn’t pull away.
“Nah, you kicked ass. What were you doing?” Bowen asked as he led Chiz out of the restroom.
“Fighting,” Chiz replied. “Duh.”
Bowen cut him a narrow look. “Anyone ever spanked you?”
“I refuse to answer that,” Chiz drawled, “on account of I’d have to explain where the bodies were. Hypothetically, of course.”
That startled a laugh out of Bowen. “Is that so? ’Cause I think you’d like it.”
“Right. The younger, delicate little twink—”
“You got a hang-up over that delicate part,” Bowen observed, interrupting Chiz while opening the restroom door. “Don’t ya?”
Chiz sniffed and pulled his arm free. “Do not.”
Bowen laughed again. How was it he hadn’t known Chiz was so feisty?
’Cause all I’ve ever seen him as is a way to get off. Wow. I’m an asshole. Though, to be fair, I don’t think Chiz’s seen me any differently.
The club was still packed, but several people looked their way when Bowen and Chiz left the restroom. Bowen’s anger sparked. “Those fuckin’ assholes watching us knew we were gonna be jumped.”
“Probably,” Chiz agreed. “A pox on all of them. May their urethras be inflamed and burn with the stings of a thousand wasps.”
“Fuck.” That made Bowen’s dick ache.
Chiz grinned. “I could flip them off, if you want to fight some more?”
“Rather not.” Bowen’s pulse escalated, not at the idea of fighting, but at the mischievous way Chiz was acting. He was interesting, not just attractive.
Chiz shrugged. “Okay, your call. You wanna come back to mine? I’d like to get off a few times tonight.”
Oh damn! A few times? How stupid had Bowen been, not chatting with Chiz more until now?
“Yeah, let’s do that.” Bowen licked his suddenly dry lips. He’d just come not five minutes ago, and he was already close to getting hard again.
Chiz winked at him. “Cool. Maybe I’ll let you slap my ass a time or two.”
That was a gauntlet thrown down. Bowen ghosted a hand over Chiz’s ass. “Maybe I’ll let you beg me to.”
Chiz narrowed his eyes at Bowen. “Beg you to?”
But Chiz’s pulse sped up. Bowen could see it fluttering at the base of his neck and he noted the flare of Chiz’s nostrils and the beginning of an erection pressing against the fly of his pants.
“What the hell’s going on?” roared someone from the back of the club. Literally, Bowen thought, from the back, where there might be offices or something. He didn’t know. He just came there to get laid and wasn’t buddies with anyone.
“Seems like a good time to split,” Chiz said. He grasped Bowen’s hand. “Because that sounds like one pissed-off man, and I’ve heard stories about the guy who owns this place.”
“Oh?” Bowen was curious, but Chiz tugged, and Bowen followed.
“Yup, and you don’t want to fight any more tonight, right?”
“Right.” Bowen would much rather fuck, and Chiz was…interesting.
A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.
Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.
Enter for your chance to win a $50.00 First For Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group
It’s not all stockings and stuffing when Jane’s three lovers turn up at her door on Christmas Eve. Christmas is a stressful time for anybody, but this year it’s turning out to be especially difficult for Jane Carter.
Her son, Greg, has brought home a girlfriend for the very first time, one of her boyfriends, Rupert, has decided to go full PDA on her and her other two boyfriends are feeling completely left out. Add a terrible snowstorm, a power cut and a few secrets and lies into the mix and she’s got a recipe for disaster.
Can Jane survive Christmas without her son finding out about her polyamorous love life? Can she cope with three boyfriends all under one roof, especially when it seems that those relationships are hanging on by a single thread? Maybe all she really needs is the ghost from Christmas past to remind her that communication is the key to happiness.
Christmas Eve eve morning
A can of condensed chicken soup careened off the shelf and landed on Joe’s foot. “Fucking holy hell!”
“Shhhh… Jeez, Joe, suck it up.” The whole idea of doing it in the pantry was to be discreet.
“You’re lucky I love you,” he whispered as he hiked my skirt above my waist and sank his hand between my legs. “Now show me some of that love.”
He traced a line with his lips from behind my ear down to the top of my spine. There was something so deliciously naughty about hiding away, secretly making love in a room no bigger than four-foot square.
I clutched onto the herbs and spices shelf as he entered me from behind, crouching down and almost lifting me off my feet as he thrust into me.
He slid his hand gently over my mouth, reminding me to be silent. I sank my teeth into it, enough to make him gasp.
We’d promised to be good. He’d come over, be ‘the gardener’, sneak a quick kiss here or there when we wanted but there would be no sex for two weeks. Greg, my son, was home for Christmas and had brought a girl with him for the very first time. This was not the moment to suddenly announce my polyamorous lifestyle to the family. I mean ‘pass the potatoes, and oh, by the way, I’m dating three men’ wasn’t exactly what you’d call polite Christmas dinner conversation.
Unfortunately, Joe was horny, and I was weak. A touch on the arm had turned into a cuddle on a chair and before we knew it, he was pounding me among the pasta and other dry goods.
Sex with Joe was rampant, wild. He had one hand clamped firmly over my mouth and the other rubbing furiously at my clit, and I was begging him to make me come. He sped up the rhythm, knocking over a packet of rice and sending it cascading over us as we both came explosively and yet silently, rocking that little room like a miniature earthquake.
I sank down from my tiptoes—Joe was a tall man—and caught my breath. I might have to do a little last-minute shopping. The contents of the cupboard were splayed out at my feet, but it had been worth it.
“Shit, Jane, I needed that.”
“Right? I thought we could wait, but it’s like when you go on a diet. The minute you can’t eat sugar, all you can think about is frosted donuts.”
He pulled out his dick and swirled his finger around my core one last time. “Next time, I get to eat the frosted donut, right?”
“Not if we do it in here again, you don’t. I’m too old to try to balance four shelves up among the canned beans and peanut butter.” I opened the door and peeked outside. It was nine a.m. and Greg would be up any minute. We were cutting it fine.
“Is it all clear?”
“Yes.” I stepped out, pulling my skirt down to a presentable level. I’d have to start wearing yoga pants and old T-shirts around Joe. The man was a sucker for a bit of thigh, and I couldn’t risk getting carried away again.
“Here.” I grabbed a broom as I picked rice out of my hair. “Make yourself useful while I make coffee.” He held up the knotted, used condom, waved it at me, and I took it out of his hand.
Right on cue, Greg stepped into the kitchen. “Hey, Mom.”
“Morning, sweetie.” I shoved the condom down my bra as Greg wiped the sleep out of his eyes. “This is Joe, our gardener.”
“Why is he sweeping the pantry?”
“Raccoons,” said Joe. “They got in last night and went rampant.”
“Yes, raccoons,” I repeated. “Out of control.” Personal note, thank Joe later.
He finished sweeping and tidying then headed outside without even a kiss goodbye. My heart sank a little. It didn’t seem right to treat him like that, but he understood. Greg was still young, he wasn’t over his father’s death yet and he was in his final year of college. It wouldn’t be fair to spring this on him, too.
“So what have you and Laura got planned for today? There’s a Christmas market on in town. We could all go drink some mulled wine and pick up some treats for Christmas Eve.”
“If you like. I was planning to take her out for lunch then go for a walk along the beach this afternoon. Would you like to come too? Maybe you could bring Rupert.”
Rupert was my official boyfriend in my son’s eyes. Greg had fixed us up and was proud to have found the new man in my life. “No thank you, sweetie. Rupert’s coming over tomorrow for dinner. He’s been busy marking papers and wanted to get it all finished before we celebrated Christmas together.”
It would have been oh-so-lovely to have all my lovers at the Christmas table with us. It felt rude to only invite the one. They’d all been great about it, but it had broken my heart a little. At least I could invite Paul over this afternoon if he were free. I didn’t normally fit in two boyfriends in one day, but needs must, and right now I needed the sweet taste of Paul’s lips on mine.
Katherine E Hunt ran off with a Frenchman twenty years ago. She now lives on a French mountain with three children and two dogs. When she isn’t writing contemporary romance she can be found huddled up in front of a roaring fire, with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand and a book in the other.
You can find out more about Katherine on her website.
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.
A kinky interlude over the holidays brings three men closer as their unconventional relationship evolves from casual to serious.
Scott Vernier met Jericho Griffin and Pascal Olejatz at a Halloween party in October and soon became casually involved with the kinky, committed pair.
Over the course of the holidays, the men struggle to find time together outside their busy schedules and finally make space for each other over Christmas week. Scott finds himself craving more of a committed relationship with these wonderful men and tiptoes around the issue to find out if Jericho and Pascal feel the same.
Scott’s dreams of expertly delivered medical play already a vivid reality, the men introduce him to more deliciously subversive scenes including teacher-student role play and invite him to dabble with imaginary non-consent.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of enema play and imaginary non-consent.
The winter days might be frosty, but a new guy in town is sure to heat up Father Nicholas and Dr. Zach!
Reverend Nicholas Simmons has traveled a bumpy road before landing in the small town of Mindle with his doctor husband. So, when a new, very sexy, very enticing young man shows interest in them both, he’s reluctant to rock the boat.
Zach, however, can’t keep the flashes of desire from his eyes. He’d never cheat, of course not, but visions of hot threesomes dance in his mind. Will Nicholas ever agree? If so, what would it be like? How hard would they all come?
Brandon isn’t looking forward to his first Christmas in Mindle. He’s alone. Exhausted. Friendless. That is, until he meets the Reverend and Zach. From that first moment he’s equal parts fascinated and turned on by them. Sure, they’re older than he is, but that just heightens his lust and increases his need to get hot, sweaty and naked with them.
Will their romance have a backdrop of tinsel and holly? Can three strong, passionate men truly connect with absolute honesty? And on Christmas night, will they each get the ultimate present—one another—under the tree?
AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.
Award-winning, bestselling author Lily Harlem lives in the UK and is a complete floozy when it comes to genres and pairings, writing from male/female contemporary to gay paranormal and everything in between.
One thing you can be sure of when you pick up a Lily book is heat will rise from the pages and you’ll be reading late into the night! Enjoy!
Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card!
Haunted by her past, present, and future, Jericho only has one decision to make—all or none.
Jericho is in the prime of her life, but she can’t shake the feeling something is missing. She loves her current boyfriend with all her heart, but often dreams of her ex-boyfriend and a future guy she’s never met. She wants a family, one of her own choosing, one who loves her with everything they have.
Given the order to haunt, Linwood, Milo and Dominic take their case seriously. Haunting Jericho throughout the week before Christmas, they set out to convince her to focus on her present and give up her dreams. When the haunting goes wrong, the three ghosts sent by The Order and Jericho must decide—stick to tradition or follow their hearts.
Taking on her best friend’s identity brings three men into her life—but can she keep them for longer than Christmas?
Jess Morgan dreams of having the self-confidence and adventurous sex life her best friend, burlesque dancer Angel Golightly, enjoys.
When a freak accident lays Angel low over Christmas, Jess steps into her shoes and accepts an engagement to perform at an intimate gathering at the home of wealthy hotelier Daniel McAndrew. What she doesn’t know is that the only guests are Daniel’s closest friends, Ray Stockhill and Etienne Barbeau. The three men long to find the perfect woman who they can share in bed and out, but no one has come close to fulfilling their fantasy until they meet Jess.
Over the course of an unforgettable Christmas, Jess has sex with Daniel, Ray and Etienne, singly and together, and grows increasingly close to all three of them, but she’s aware that she’s playing a dangerous game. What will happen if her real identity is exposed, and can she really have the harem of lovers she craves?
Emma Penny is a millennial living in the US. She often moves and loves experiencing new adventures and letting her mind wander to new possibilities. She currently lives north of Denver, CO and has fallen in love with writing steamier romance. Emma started writing when she was a teenager and has never looked back from the creative side of her life. She particularly loves to explore worlds beyond the believable, worlds that stretch her imagination but still root her in the very real personalities of her characters and their relationships.
Elizabeth Coldwell is a multi-published author and editor whose stories have appeared in a number of best-selling anthologies. She has written novels in a variety of different genres, from paranormal to BDSM and contemporary romance. She is the former editor of the UK edition of Forum magazine and the proud winner of an International Leather Award. When she is not busy writing, she is an avid supporter of Rotherham United Football Club and can be regularly found on the terraces at weekends, cheering her boys to victory (hopefully!).
What do medical kink, pup play and Halloween have in common? Scott Vernier. A visit to the local leather bar offers an unexpected treat!
Scott Vernier is lonely and bored, but he’d rather sit at home and mope than go out. A promise to a friend forces him to attend the annual Halloween party at Sonny’s, his local leather bar. Amid the tacky costumes and seasonal desperation, Scott meets two people he never expected to encounter.
Can a man well-versed in medical kink and his leather-pup boyfriend introduce Scott to a whole new world of illicit pleasure?
When Dr. Jericho Griffin gets down to business, Scott finds himself responding in explosive ways.
Reader advisory: This book features discussion only of scat, enemas and needle play. There are scenes of pup play and a scene involving voyeurism.
The scariest thing about Halloween currently was how little I cared for it. As a younger gay man, I’d have planned my costume for months, figuring out the sexiest way to be a zombie, a vampire or any of the other popular standards, and I’d have attended at least three parties to try to get laid. Now I was too old and jaded to care about any of that.
But it was a week until Halloween, and I had no excuses. I’d told Duke I’d be at the local gay leather bar for the annual party. He was scheduled to bartend that night and I’d foolishly committed to being there, at least for part of the evening.
I hated Halloween.
I’d loved it as a child, and as a teen and young adult, it had been an excuse to get smashed and flirt with people I’d be too intimidated by otherwise. But now, as an adult? Halloween seemed like a waste of time. I definitely had better things to do.
Or did I?
It was true that I hadn’t socialized a lot recently, because my job was exhausting, even though it fulfilled me. As an anthropology professor at the local college, I had classes to teach most days and students to support during office hours. Then there was the prep time and marking… I’d managed to fit my life into an organized and workable routine, but I was a busy man.
I had promised Duke I’d try to have some fun, simply to get him off my back and stop him from calling me ‘old before my time’—although the annual Halloween Ball at Sonny’s wasn’t exactly my idea of a great time.
For one thing, I didn’t have a costume. For another thing, I didn’t want to wear one.
But costumes were compulsory for this event, so I had to make at least a minimal effort. I had a T-shirt, somewhere, with glow-in-the-dark bones on it. If I could find it, I’d wear that and say I was a skeleton. Yeah, that was pretty dumb, but the guys who worked the door knew me, and I was pretty sure they’d let me in. It paid to be friends with the bartender, even though he pressured me to be more social.
I liked Duke a lot. He was a bear of a man but the sweetest guy anyone would ever meet. I’d gotten to know him when he’d taken one of my anthropology courses. He’d invited me for dinner once the semester had ended, and he and his cute-as-hell boyfriend Julius had cooked me the most amazing spaghetti Bolognese I’d ever eaten. It was a fast friendship with them both after that. Julius worked in IT and made good money, so Duke could bartend a few nights a week and spend the rest of his time making small sculptures out of reclaimed ‘junk’ and taking occasional classes of interest to him.
I didn’t have many close friends, and I considered Duke and Julius to be an important part of my life, especially as I hadn’t been able to find a partner to join me on this questionable journey. I’d had the occasional boyfriend, but the long-term bond had never become anything significant before either I or the other guy decided things weren’t working. I wondered if I had the temperament for a permanent relationship.
Some people were meant to be single and maybe I was one of them.
I dug through three drawers before I found my skeleton shirt scrunched in the corner. Great, it will be wrinkled as well as dumb. Ah well, there was nothing to do about it. I wasn’t gonna fucking iron it. I didn’t even think I owned an iron. Ironing seemed like the most useless and annoying chore on this planet, and I wasn’t going to be a part of it.
I slid the shirt over my head and stepped in front of the mirror. It fit a little tight, but that was okay. That just showed off my slim build to my advantage and made some of the wrinkles disappear. The sleeves were plenty long and the fabric gathered slightly at my wrists. I pulled down on the bottom edge of the shirt. It wasn’t too bad but would probably show skin if I had to reach my arms up. I wasn’t planning to do that, so it should be fine.
The bones glowed in the dimness of the room, even though the shirt had been in my drawer. I’d wear it around the house so it could absorb more light. I’d have to be careful not to spill anything on it while doing the dishes, but the more I wore it, the quicker the rest of the wrinkles would come out.
Luckily, I was able to load the dishes and wipe the counter without incident, and when I checked myself again, I was pleased with my half-assed attempt at participation. It would have to do, and at least I looked sexy. I’d put on my brown faux-leather pants that hugged my hips and showed off my long, slim legs. I was of average height and my black hair had begun to streak with gray, but I was fit and strong and didn’t look half bad tonight, if I was honest. Maybe the visit to the popular club would be worth it and I’d be able to bring someone home for the evening. It had been a while since I’d seen any action. I didn’t want to contemplate how long.
I went to the bathroom and used some gel to muss my hair into an artfully untidy style. At the last minute, I applied some black eyeliner that I saved for special occasions when I was feeling it. Even though my enthusiasm for the Halloween party was negligible, my interest in seducing a warm body for a few hours began to rise.
AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.
There are rogue shifters on the loose in New York City, and these agents of the Bureau of Paranormal Affairs must bring their quarry to justice before the body count rises.
Grizzly Affair: It isn’t the best time for bear shifter Agent Roarke Hilliard to have his heat cycle. When his partner, Agent Spencer Malloy, places himself in Roarke’s path, the bear is worried he might break the human. Wolf shifter Grigore Gabor knows he’s found his mates. But there’s a killer on the loose…
A Shifter Concern: There’s a killer on the loose in New York City, and it’s up to agents Akoni Kekoa and Naoko Gima to solve the case. When they find their mate living out of a box in an alley, they can’t turn their backs on him. Slater is wary, but with some luck they’ll win their human mate’s heart and stop a rogue shifter before he kills again. They never dream Slater will lead the killer right to their door.
Their Grizzly Hero: Agent Holt Rainmaker thought he’d never find his mate, but when he’s captured he finds Bastian, the quiet shifter he knows belongs to him. Nothing could surprise him more than the blast of need that fills him when a pissed-off grizzly comes to their rescue. Little did Agent Decker Stauder realize when he tracked down The Collector he would end up finding not one mate but two. Not only is he claiming them — he’s going to bury the man who dared to cage his mates.
Special Agent Roarke Hilliard, Bureau of Paranormal Affairs, scented the air as he scanned the crime scene for clues. Darkness filled him, narrowing his world to this one moment. Blood soaked through his pants and coated his hands as he knelt beside the too still, mangled body. The copper tang of the teen’s blood teased his nostrils. His nose flared as he searched for other scents. Gunpowder residue and the stale smell of sweat hung heavy in the air.
A gun was clutched in the young man’s hand, his fingers gripping it even in death, and yet the weapon hadn’t been able to save him. Slashed across his sternum, the killer’s claws had dug deep, all the way to the bone. His clothes were torn in other areas. His belt had been partially torn from him. The clues were adding up to a terrifying, grisly picture.
This wasn’t the first victim, and if Roarke couldn’t catch the bastard responsible, it wouldn’t be the last. Up to this point, the killer had targeted male prostitutes. But this one was different. There were no indications of drug use, no condoms in the victim’s wallet. Was the killer branching out? Or were his tastes changing?
“This is definitely our guy,” Agent Spencer Malloy said as he surveyed the scene. “If we don’t catch him soon, we’ll be on every channel in the country. You know how much the Bureau hates bad publicity.”
Roarke stood. “There has to be a pattern. The first known victim was in Chicago. The second was in South Bend, Indiana. But now, victim number five is in Atlanta. Where is he going?”
“I still say they aren’t planned. I think our guy is picking up young men, then he gets frustrated when they won’t give him what he wants and he kills them.”
“They’re prostitutes living on the streets. There isn’t much they won’t do for the right amount,” Roarke reasoned.
“What’s that super sniffer of yours telling you?”
“I don’t smell semen. I don’t think he got very far before he killed this one. Maybe that was his motivation. Either he couldn’t get it up, or the victim resisted.” Although he could be wrong. Roarke wasn’t about to admit it to anyone, but during his heat cycle his nose was not the most reliable. It took every effort not to turn bear the closer the time got.
Spencer ran a hand through his short, blond hair. “I don’t like this. Rogue shifters are one thing, but one bent on murder?”
“The lab ran the sample three times,” Roarke reminded him. “No match was found in the system, but the DNA suggested a hybrid.”
“Which explains the instability,” Spencer muttered. “He obviously has impulse control issues. My gut says there are more murders. Unless some switch flipped in this guy’s head, there’s no way his first murder was last month. Not unless he was just turned, and what’s the likelihood of a just-turned hybrid?”
Roarke sighed. “I’m afraid I have to agree with you. We need to have records run a search on all unsolved shifter related homicides nationwide for the past five years, see if anything pops up that matches our guy’s MO.”
“I’ll call it in while you check out the rest of the scene. Maybe we missed something on the first walk through. Then you’re going to the hotel for a shower and a change of clothes.”
Roarke nodded and looked around again. He began a slow circuit of the space, sniffing for something he might have missed as his gaze touched on every square inch of the room. He knew from experience they wouldn’t find anything new. Fingerprints and DNA did them no good when the killer wasn’t in the system. According to the shifter laws of 2023, formed when shifters came out of hiding, all shapeshifters were required to have DNA and fingerprints on file with the government. Those who didn’t comply were termed “rogue” and would be put to death if they were found to have committed a heinous crime. If you weren’t registered, you didn’t have rights.
Spencer motioned to him from the doorway and Roarke stepped out into the sunshine. With the smell of death and decay surrounding him, he’d forgotten how beautiful it was outside. Spring was in the air, which spelled trouble for a bear on a never-ending job. The urge to mate would hit him hard and Roarke would be powerless to stop it. Last mating season, he’d damn near lost his job when he’d holed up in a motel room for three days with a willing male from a shifter run escort service… he might do well to keep their number handy.
“I passed on our thoughts about there being more murders and Rawlins said he would put a team on it.” Spencer began walking toward their SUV. “He asked why the hell we couldn’t have thought of that weeks ago. I told him we were too busy chasing a trail of mangled bodies. Pompous ass.”
“I say we go get you cleaned up and grab a bite to eat. We missed lunch and I know that beast inside of you has to be starving.” Spencer held out his hand. “Keys.”
Roarke pulled them from his pocket and handed them over. He climbed into the passenger’s seat and patiently waited for Spencer to get in and start the vehicle.
“Speaking of my beast, there’s something you should know,” Roarke said as they pulled out of the parking lot. “My mating heat is going to hit soon. Since I don’t have a mate, my bear is going to seek the first willing male available. It’s going to possibly put me out of commission for a few days.”
“So we take a break.”
Roarke shook his head. “The mating fever is going to hit our killer grizzly too. It means more murders if he can’t find someone willing and able to handle the frenzy. Think double or even triple the body count we have now.”
“Fuck. We have to catch this guy!” Spencer slammed his hand against the steering wheel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dulce Dennison is a pen name for gay and LGBTQA+ themed love stories from best selling MC romance author Harley Wylde, AKA award-winning science fiction/paranormal romance author Jessica Coulter Smith. From cowboys to shapeshifters, Dulce/Harley/Jess believes in love in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone deserves a happily-ever-after.
Join Dulce’s Newsletter to find out about new releases, sales, and more!
When Samael, an incubus-possessed witch, escapes Garen and Luke, leaving not just another victim but also one of their own injured in the process, Garen is determined to track down the demon.
Its trail vanishes when it leaves New Zealand, only to be eventually picked up again by a team working in the UK.
Invited to assist them, Garen and Luke travel to England to meet the other team of investigators—Emery, his husband Alex and their friend Kadin. They also meet an unusual and unofficial team member, Grim.
The incubus has gone to ground in the country home of Steven Huntleigh, rich playboy and president of the Hellfire Club.
Emery, Luke and Kadin infiltrate the club and Kadin risks flirting with the incubus.
When the time comes to battle the demon, will the team be able to resist its lure—or will they become additional victims of its insatiable appetite?
From his vantage point at the back of the room, Luke watched Garen as his husband paced back and forth, gesticulating sharply and trying to get the woman across the table to engage with him.
But, far from cooperating, she looked increasingly more irritated. Luke stifled his sigh, knowing that the sound would only annoy her further. It’s not like I’m surprised. Melani-Leigh Waru-Richards was a socialite—rich, attractive, at least superficially, and used to others doing what she wanted, not vice versa. Her reputation had preceded her—arrogant, spoiled, demanding and downright rude.
But she’s also one of our three prime candidates for dying at the hands of a demon or demonic entity on the night of the upcoming full moon.
With Thomas’ approval, Garen had brought her to their headquarters where he and Luke were hoping to persuade her of the danger and have her agree to protective care until the moon waned. The full moon is just two nights away. As much as she’s proving to be a stupid, stubborn fool, I still don’t want her to be another victim.
“We wouldn’t be wasting your time, our time or anyone else’s if we didn’t believe the threat was very real, Ms. Waru-Richards.” Garen stopped pacing, slammed his hands down on the table and leaned toward the woman. It was a tactic that had worked many times in the past, but not with Melani-Leigh, who pursed her lips tightly and glowered at him before rising slowly from her seat.
“The name is Warnock.” Garen growled the words and Luke quickly went to his husband’s side, laying a hand at the small of his back, wanting to defuse the situation. Now that he was closer to the woman, he could see why she’d been described as a ‘plastic princess’.
Although her face appeared wrinkle-free, her hands told another story. Luke already knew her hair owed more to extensions than natural tresses. False eyelashes, fake tan, synthetic nails, artificial hair and silicone breasts. But for someone who’s in her late forties, from a distance she could pass as still in her twenties.
“All we’re asking you to do is to allow us to put you somewhere safe for the duration of the full moon. It’s just for a couple of nights.” Luke turned on all his persuasive powers, but Melani-Leigh simply folded her arms, her posture ramrod straight.
“You don’t even know for sure that I’m even in any danger, do you? Well, do you?” She looked from Luke to Garen then back at Luke. “Exactly as I thought. No, you don’t. You don’t know anything.”
“We know two people have already died, and we’d like to prevent a third.” Garen drew himself to his full height and glared down at Melani-Leigh.
“If we could be more specific, we would be,” Luke added as he rubbed soothing circles on Garen’s back.
“I have two very important functions to attend.” Melani-Leigh flicked at imaginary dust on her designer jacket sleeve. “Both involve charities that I personally sponsor—and not only am I expected to be there, I shall be. There will be top celebrities in attendance. Look… I’m no fool. I have a hand-selected team of expert security personnel who will be with me at all times. I can assure you that I won’t dismiss your concerns, but they won’t stop my life, either. No one but those closest to me, or most trusted, are permitted anywhere near me. I take it that this…creature doesn’t attack in full view of hundreds of witnesses.”
“No, but—” Garen started, and Luke winced as Melani-Leigh held up a perfectly manicured hand.
“No. You said it yourself. I will invite no strangers into my home. I’ll even salt the doors and windows and burn sage.” She cocked an eyebrow at Luke. “See? I’m aware of protections.”
“There’s nothing we can say to persuade you otherwise?” Luke asked. We can hardly threaten to lock her up if she won’t accept our help, and it is possible that she isn’t the intended victim.
“No. And if I thought I was in danger I’d have already done something about it. In my position, I have to be mindful of stalkers, overzealous fans, potential thieves and would-be kidnappers. Tell you what…” Melani-Leigh reached into the Gucci purse that she’d set on the table and drew out two gold-embossed invitations. “I’ll have you added to the guest list, Inspector.” She scribbled quickly on each card. “There we are, Inspector Warnock and guest. You can keep an eye on things right through the evening.”
“Thank you.” Garen accepted the invitations, passing them straight to Luke without as much as a glance. “We won’t keep you. There’s nothing more to be said.”
“Look… I appreciate you have a job to do, but believe me, my security is second to none. I pay for them to be the best.” Melani-Leigh hooked the purse over her wrist and sauntered to the door. “See you on Friday night.” Without a backward glance, she left the room, the door closing softly behind her.
For a moment there was silence in the room and Luke finally allowed himself the heavy sigh he’d previously banked.
“Fucking arrogant idiot.” Garen snapped out the words, his expression a mix of irritation and concern. “‘I pay for them to be the best’.”
“I suppose we could have shown her the desiccated corpses we have.” Luke sat on the edge of the table. “But she’d have probably put in a complaint against us. At least we can be on hand.” Luke fanned the invites and Garen snorted.
“But we can’t have a protective circle or a backup team ready to support us.”
“No.” Luke ran his hand through his hair. “Or can we?”
“What?” Garen turned to face Luke. “How?”
“If Thomas will throw his weight behind us, I’m sure that we can arrange with the hotel manager to allow us to have a room where we can set up a protective circle…just as a precaution. She was right in one respect. Neither of the victims were attacked in the open. One was in bed, and the other was sprawled across a kitchen table.”
“And both were naked.” Garen cocked his head. “Which suggests to me that sex may be involved. We couldn’t tell anything useful from the bodies. They were far too desiccated.
“Which could point toward a succubus or an incubus.” Luke sighed. “One that doesn’t care whether its victims are male or female. So many ifs, buts and maybes. We need to narrow down the search for ‘what’. Then we may find the ‘who’.”
“No signs of forced entry. Nothing out of place or missing. In both instances the victim’s friends even described them as very happy.” Garen rubbed his chin. “No. There was another phrase.”
“A new lease on life.” Luke snapped his fingers.
“Yes.” Garen nodded slowly. “That’s it. Over the past few weeks, they’d had a new lease on life—almost identical in both cases.”
“Then I suggest we find a few close friends of Melani-Leigh’s and see if she’s having a new lease on life. If so, then she’s the one we’ll target, and I’ll organize teams for the others.”
“Perfect.” Luke pecked a kiss to Garen’s cheek. “And I’ll make sure we have protections and spells for dealing with an incubus or a succubus.”
“Take care out there. Keep in touch. I’ll see you later. Come back here when you’ve got what you need.” Garen pulled Luke into a tight hug, and Luke wrapped his arms around his husband’s waist.
“I will.” Luke tilted his head and Garen gave him the kiss he craved. For a moment Luke lost himself in the feel, taste and scent of his husband. Reluctantly he slowly eased back. “I won’t be too long.”
“Good. By the time you return, I’ll have the teams organized and get Thomas to deal with the hotel hosting our potential victim.”
“Get schematics. We can map the place out and ensure we have everything covered.” Luke grinned up at Garen. “If the demonic force strikes there, we’ll have enough protections in place to deal with it.”
“Will do.” Garen gave a curt nod, then spun Luke around, swatting his ass to make him move forward. “Let’s get this started. I’ll feel happier when you’re back here.’
“I won’t be long.” Luke set off at a trot. The sooner I get going, the sooner I’ll be back.
It only takes one rock star to crash the perfect honeymoon, but it might take two to save it.
Ian and Trent’s honeymoon is supposed to be perfect, but before they even make it to Miami, Mac—Ian’s manager and best friend—is already interfering. As soon as the plane lands, Ian starts to drift away from Trent, falling back into his closeted habits and disappearing for days to record a new album, leaving Trent alone in an unfamiliar country.
Trent is at his breaking point when Ian tries to disappear again after three days away. He can’t be the househusband Ian obviously needs. Trent is ready to collect his bags and head back to the airport when he overhears Mac’s secret, which threatens to turn his life upside down.
Reader advisory: This book contains a fistfight precipitated by sexual assault/forced kiss, MMM relationships, alcohol consumption/intoxication and mentions of past alcohol abuse. It is best read as the sequel to The Drumbeat of His Heart.
The roar of the twin turbofan engines burst against Trent’s ears like a koala calling for a mate. The sound was unexpected, coming from such a beautiful thing that seemed so innocent and sluggish. And while the plane was a lethargic beast on the ground, one that could hardly make a turn on its own without falling off the thick tarmac, it transformed into a serpent the moment the engines came to life.
Trent rocked back into the padded seat and clutched the armrest in a tight grip as his stomach dropped to the vicinity of his ankles. It was like the worst kind of roller coaster—one that he would ride fearlessly as a kid, only realizing later that its rusted parts were held together by bits of chewing gum.
He could hardly breathe as his ears pressurized, then popped, only to pressurize again. His mouth was dry, and his tongue was stiff with the need to hurl his light dinner all over the back of the seat that was tight against his knees. But the food couldn’t make it past his throat with his stomach so low to the floor.
He glanced at the view through the tiny oval window that looked much too flimsy to handle the same forces that were battering his ears. There were two panes, and one had an actual hole in the bottom as if it were already prepared for the doom that awaited the passengers, himself included.
It was beautiful, though. The blinking lights of the city looked so similar to the stars, and they had started to meld together into one sphere of never-ending sky. The buildings that had looked so tall while standing on the ground now looked no higher than a sheet of Bristol board. The lake was lost, as were the stream of cars along blurred highways.
The moon was barely a sliver of light, but it was so bright that he had to blink to clear the spots from his vision. The silver beams illuminated a white fluff of clouds as they fluttered over the gleaming wing.
“See? It’s not so bad,” said Ian from the seat next to him. He moved his hand, so warm and comforting, to soothe Trent’s. “That was a good take-off too. Nice and smooth.” His smile was completely at ease and his grip soft as the plane trembled around them.
“I think I’m gonna puke.” Trent gripped his stomach as the wing dipped again and they loomed sideways over the city of lights. How are we even in the air at this angle? He waited for gravity to grip them in a lasso and tear them back down to the earth.
“Smile,” said Ian urgently as he leaned forward to rifle through the seat pouch. There were a few magazines that had probably been touched by hundreds of hands, as well as the day’s newspaper, in the small elastic compartment. Ian found a slim white bag between the pages of one of the magazines.
“What?” Trent breathed deeply through his nose and forced his mouth shut as he slid his eyes closed. His mind whirled at the same speed as the plane as it continued to climb. Were they still sideways right now and slipping down to their doom? Maybe if they climbed high enough, he wouldn’t feel it when they hit the inevitable bottom.
“T, baby, take a deep breath for me and smile,” said Ian as he pressed his hand gently to Trent’s chest at the level of his heart. It was enough to ground Trent into taking another breath, even as he quivered beneath the touch.
“If you smile, you can’t gag, so you won’t puke. Here.” There was a shiver of sound as something slid beside him.
When he opened his eyes again with a forced grin on his face, the window shutter was thankfully closed. Without the dark blankness looking back at him, he could almost imagine being on a bus and not a massive plane that was soaring precariously in the sky. He could imagine that the tiny bumps were little potholes along the road, and the roar was a never-ending layer of slow strips carved into the asphalt.
Ian was right there, smiling and rubbing his chest until his warm palm rested over Trent’s stomach. Ian’s blue eyes were bright in the low light and his full lips were pulled back into a smile as he held the sick bag out to Trent. The ink carved into Ian’s skull was blocked by the black baseball cap that he had insisted on wearing to the airport. The sight of Ian, so beautiful and familiar, settled something deep within Trent.
Trent grabbed the sick bag and slipped it back into the pouch between the layers of magazines, leaving a corner out so it would still be in reach if his stomach started to turn. When he leaned back, it lined his lips up perfectly with his new husband’s, and he felt the steady tug that drew him in. Ian pulled back in surprise before their lips could meet, his gaze darting around the large compartment of passengers.
There was a child in the next row who was repeatedly kicking the seat ahead of him while playing with the touch screen that was built into the back of the headrest. It was a great idea to pass the time, but the way the child was hacking away at it was obviously driving the person in front insane. They looked back a few times, glancing at the father, who had his phone in his hand as he played what appeared to be a repetitive assassin game, while managing to stay completely oblivious to his son. There were others looking out of their windows or resting with their heads back with their eyes closed.
“Sorry.” Trent smiled, not sorry at all. “I know you don’t like PDA, but it’s our honeymoon.” Saying Ian didn’t like it was an understatement. The man was simultaneously terrified and repulsed with the idea of PDA. It blew Trent’s mind that this was the same man who had an exhibitionist streak that was larger than the aeroplane they were on.
“I love you. You know that,” said Ian as he stumbled over his quiet words. “But when I kiss you, I want to do it right. I can’t do it right with a kid staring at me.” Ian cut his focus over to the little boy, who had given up smacking the touch screen and had started pushing the armrest up and down, his feet never stopping once.
“It didn’t stop you in a public pool,” said Trent with a smirk. “Or in the back seat of your rental when we parked at the baseball diamond.” After renting a Hyundai on his first visit, Ian had learned his lesson and had stuck to large vehicles after that. It had taken a lot of convincing before Trent had found himself on his hands and knees in the back seat of a jeep.
“That was different.” Ian crossed his arms before he leaned back in his chair. His long legs bumped the seat, so he splayed them wide, with one knee spilling out into the aisle and the other taking up a third of Trent’s minimal space. “Why didn’t you let me treat you to first class again? The leg room back here is atrocious.”
Trent shifted in his seat and let Ian change the subject. His own knees were very firmly pressed into a cushioned backrest, while still being off to the side. It was a tight fit for him, and even worse for Ian, but there was no way that he could have allowed them to spend an extra two thousand dollars to get first-class tickets.
“If I really had my way, we would have driven. I may not own a car, but I can drive,” said Trent as he tried again to get comfortable.
“And if I had my way, we would’ve done this months ago…before we got married,” said Ian as he fiddled with the gold band on his finger. The metal was smooth and sleek, and it fit him perfectly. Trent had overestimated the size when he had bought it, and it had barely stayed on Ian’s thumb without falling off. When Trent had found out that Ian had resized it, he had pretended to be furious, telling Ian that it was supposed to be a cock ring, not one for his finger.
“Are you excited?” asked Ian, turning in his seat as much as he could. He bounced one leg in the aisle and had started a steady beat against his thigh. His ring flashed in the artificial light with every movement.
“Yes, of course,” said Trent as he swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “I’m super excited.” Luckily, he managed to keep most of the terror out of his voice. Miami was huge, hot, hip and expensive. It was also everything that Trent wasn’t.
He fiddled with his ring that matched Ian’s. The skin under the band was faded and pale from months of being shaded from the sun. It had stayed on his finger from the day before Christmas, when Ian had proposed, until the morning of their wedding on August eighteenth. By then, he’d had to soap up his finger to even get the band to budge.
The wedding had been a small affair, with only Trent’s closest family and his best friend, Candace. Ian had refused to invite anyone from his family, and Trent had wholeheartedly agreed to keep that rock buried as long as possible. It would have been next to impossible to get in touch with Ian’s mother anyway, as she lived entirely off the grid. He had been a little bit surprised when Ian had refused to invite his fellow band members, but he’d explained that he didn’t want them all to feel obligated to fly in for it. Trent’s tiny town probably wouldn’t have been able to handle them anyway.
The ceremony had been short and sweet, which had made it absolutely perfect in Trent’s eyes. There was nothing worse than sitting through a two-hour wedding service that included an actual communion. There had been no speeches, no fancy photographer and no dancing afterwards, just a simple dinner at home. Ian had still insisted on carrying Trent over the threshold like some kind of creamy-thighed bridezilla, though.
“What is your house like?” Trent asked as he trailed his fingers along the arm rest. He’d seen pictures on Ian’s phone of some of the different rooms, but it had compounded into a disarticulated checkerboard in his imagination.
Ian had talked about the house a lot, but his stories usually revolved around the infinity pool in the back yard, leading Trent to believe that the man spent most of his time in Miami swimming. Now that they were married, Ian was spending most of his time off work at Trent’s, but the moment Trent had secured some vacation time for his honeymoon, they’d booked the flight.
“You are going to love it,” said Ian, taking a deep breath before he dove in. “It’s about four thousand square feet, I think, with three bedrooms and five bathrooms. There is a drum room in the basement that’s pretty epic, and a theatre room for rainy days. I think you’ll like the pool the best, though, and maybe the hot tub.” A nostalgic look crossed Ian’s face as he spoke about the house.
“Three bedrooms sounds like two bedrooms too many—or do you pick a different one to sleep in every other night?” Trent asked. The seatbelt sign clicked off above their heads, but the no smoking sign stayed glowing red and orange. He kept his belt pulled tight, even as Ian undid his and adjusted his seat back a few scant centimetres.
“Nah,” said Ian as he looked up and down the aisle. “I hope they bring out drinks soon.” He looked back to Trent and settled his hand over Trent’s clenched one. “I’ve only slept in the one bedroom, actually, but I converted another into an office and the third into a library.”
“But you don’t read. I could hardly get you to sit still long enough to get through that magazine, and it was about cars.” Trent crossed his arms and played with his wedding ring, spinning it endlessly.
“Not books, T…records. I told you about my record collection.” Ian looked away as the hostess interrupted them, handing them two drinks after Ian’s quick request. Trent took the cold plastic cup gratefully and sipped at the ginger ale. The bubbles flowed over his tongue and down his throat, making his mouth momentarily numb. He glanced at Ian’s cup, hoping the same liquid was inside.
“Just cola, plain cola,” said Ian as he caught the look. He tilted the cup back and gulped it down in three swallows. “I’m so thirsty, though. I should’ve finished that water before customs, but I got distracted pointing everything out to you.” He placed the empty cup on the small plastic tray that folded down from the seat in front.
“I just couldn’t figure it out.” Trent shook his head. “Why would someone buy that many cigarettes and that much overpriced booze, just to take on a plane? Head to the closest box store and you’ll pay half the price, and you still won’t pay duty if you limit yourself.” Although, strangely enough, after looking at the same neatly organized cigarette cartons for three hours, they had started to look downright delicious.
“A lot can happen if you get stuck in the airport for eighteen hours,” said Ian as he waved down the stewardess for another drink, finishing that one too. “The first time I got stuck, there was a ten-hour layover. It was with the band, and I still drank back then. We just drank the entire time, and I got so wasted that I don’t even remember the flight at all. I just fell asleep in Arizona and woke up in Buffalo.” He slipped the newly emptied cup into the first one so that they were stacked neatly in the small circle on the tray.
“Then there was the England flight,” Ian continued. “We spent a whole day in the airport because the plane had to be repaired. Twenty-four hours of sitting in a plastic chair and getting hit on by this random chick was enough to make me want to turn straight, just so I could fuck her and get her to shut up.” He shuddered. “Man, I’m still thirsty. Maybe they can just give me a two-litre?”
Trent laughed, shaking his head as Ian caught the attention of the hostess for the third time. Her bright smile hadn’t dimmed and a shimmer of recognition had floated over her face. Trent had seen the look before when someone realized who Ian was. Their eyes would widen just a fraction, and he would see the gears turning in their heads before they decided that yep, that was somebody famous.
Ian slipped her an American twenty, and she passed him a few cans without a second thought. She was about to step away when she paused and leaned back in.
“There are a few spots in first class that are open if you are interested in moving up. I’ll see if there are two seats together.” Her smile widened as Ian nodded more times than was strictly necessary.
“Yes, please get me out of these tiny seats,” said Ian. “It’s his fault anyway. He insisted on economy to get the full experience.” He pointed an accusing thumb at Trent. Trent wilted in his chair as the stewardess chuckled.
“And how are you enjoying the experience?” Her smile lifted at one side, revealing her perfect white teeth. Trent took a second look at her, from her broad form to her strawberry hair that was pulled back into a perfect bun.
“It’s, um…cosy.” Trent tried to shrug, but his shoulders were pressed so close to Ian’s that the movement hardly registered. He shifted in the seat, but his knee came up and struck the small plastic tray, sending the cups to the floor.
She laughed, a high tittering sound that sent a shiver down Trent’s spine with how familiar it was. “I’ll be right back.” She disappeared up the aisle and ducked behind the grey curtain near the front of the plane.
A rumble of turbulence shook the plane with a burst of vibration and sound. Trent peered over Ian’s shoulder to the window at the other side of the plane as he tried to see what could cause such a terrible noise on such a large bird. Through the thin pane of glass, he watched the wing bow and flex in a way that couldn’t be natural for metal.
“Oh God,” said Trent as he gripped the armrest hard. Ian held Trent’s hand and pulled it to his chest. It was hard and hot and Trent could feel the slow and steady beat of Ian’s heart under his palm. Trent’s gaze snapped back to the magazines, where the corner of the bag was still visible. The bubbles from the ginger ale didn’t feel so great in the pit of his stomach anymore.
“You’re fine.” Ian’s low rumble was calm and soothing, but it did little to quench Trent’s terror. “Clouds aren’t as fluffy as they look, and the plane just has to work a little harder to get above them. Once we stop going up, it will be a lot smoother.”
“We’re still going up?” Trent looked around the cabin, but the rows looked totally flat to him. His stomach wasn’t dropping anymore, and his ears had stopped popping, leaving his head filled with a steady pressure like he had a mild cold.
“Not for much longer. It will smooth out in a bit, I promise. I’ve taken this flight loads of times, and I’m always fine. You will be too.” He brought Trent’s hand to his lips in an uncharacteristic display of public affection.
The stewardess reappeared at the curtain and bustled over to them with a smile before she leaned close again. “Here… Just follow me. I’ll grab your bags after we get you moved so no one will get jealous.” Her voice was quiet enough that only they could hear.
Ian slipped out of his seat with a slight stagger as he tried to release his pinned left leg that had probably gone numb sometime during the ascent. Trent tried to follow, his arms flailing, only to realize that he still had his seatbelt strapped around his waist. He flushed as Ian smirked and the hostess let out a small laugh hidden behind her palm.
He grabbed Ian’s soda cans that were between his legs, then pulled the buckle open and shimmied to his feet. His knees were completely numb and felt similar to the consistency of thick rice pudding that didn’t have the bonus cinnamon. He took a step and nearly tumbled into Ian, who caught him with a hand on his elbow.
“It’s like walking on a boat,” said Ian as he let his hand fall so he could follow the stewardess, who was waiting at the curtain.
The floor was moving under Trent’s feet in an alarming way. It wasn’t anything like the gentle rock of his uncle’s boat as the four-stroke engine cut through the waves of the Great Lakes on a calm day. This was more like walking in the back of a hay wagon as it tumbled along a weaving country road.
He braced his hand on the nearest seat and took a tentative step, pleasantly surprised when he didn’t fall flat on his face. He made it down the aisle and through the curtain, barely, to where the other two were waiting behind the grandest set of plane seats that Trent could have imagined. They must’ve landed and gotten on another plane, because as the curtain slid shut behind him, he seemingly entered a whole new world.
This area was so much better, with enough leg room for two people, and seats that had extra padding and slid completely flat for anyone who wanted a nap. The built-in screens were bigger, and there was a bottle of champagne waiting for them in a bucket of ice. There were pillows, actual pillows, and not the ones that went flat the moment his head hit them.
“Here.” Ian grabbed the bottle as he slid into his seat. He pulled a bill out of his pocket and presented it with the champagne to the stewardess. She took both with a slight nod of thanks.
“Just let me know if you need anything,” she said as Trent slid the soda cans into the now-empty bucket of ice. She smoothed a hair back that had managed to slip away from her bun and turned away.
“Wait!” Trent called out, probably louder than he should’ve by the glance that was directed his way from across the expansive aisle.
“Yes?” The hostess looked back at him with a shy smile and a slight blush on her cheeks.
“Um, can I have your number?” Trent asked in a low voice. Ian spluttered beside him, choking on another cup of pop, and Trent flushed even hotter than the stewardess.
“It’s not for me. It’s for my friend. I just thought, if you were available, you two would get along.” He sat back in his chair, suddenly wanting nothing more than to be right beside the flexing wing that might break off at any moment. Ian was still gasping and choking beside him, drawing every eye in first class.
The stewardess took a step back, and a bright flush passed over her cheeks as she chewed on her lower lip. She looked from Trent to Ian, then back to Trent.
“Oh, it’s not for him. He’s mine,” said Trent, shaking his head as he pointed to Ian. Ian spluttered again, losing a second mouthful of pop as he tried to clear his throat. “It’s for my friend Candace. Or I could give you her number and let her know that you might text her.”
“I could take her number,” said the stewardess as she nodded shyly and looked up and down the aisle, “if you show me a picture first.”
Trent whipped out his phone and brought up the first picture of Candace that he had saved. It was a selfie of the two of them at Trent’s wedding. She had been dressed beautifully, as always, in a strappy purple dress that left very little to the imagination, and her hair had been done up in a swirling up-do. She had smiled at the camera as if there had been no place in the world that she would’ve rather been.
At the stewardess’s nod, Trent ripped off a corner of the newspaper in the seat pouch and used the pen she passed him to write down his friend’s name and number. She slipped the paper into the pocket on her blouse before she nodded one last time and disappeared on the other side of the curtain.
“What the hell was that?” Ian hissed quietly. “I thought you were setting up a threesome—and don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered, but we’re gonna be tired after this flight.” Ian let out a little laugh. “I definitely wouldn’t mind. Not that I wouldn’t prefer your ass, but I haven’t been with a woman in so long—and it would be interesting to try with you.”
“Not happening. I just have to keep up my reputation.” Trent shook his head. He was still fascinatingly disgusted by breasts. “I have always been, and will always be, the best wingman ever.”
A ding broke Ian’s laughter, and the man fumbled with his pant pockets with a move that would not have been possible in the economy seats.
“Shit. I thought I’d turned this thing off. You can get in a lot of trouble for having your phone turned on in a plane.” Ian flicked the screen open with a quick press of his fingertip to the back. His smile died and his brows drew together as he read whatever was on the glowing screen.
“Who is it?” asked Trent as he fluffed the pillow behind his head and reclined the chair a few degrees farther. It wasn’t as good as his couch at home, but it was a definite improvement over the economy chairs.
“Mac wants to record the new tracks this week,” said Ian as he clicked his phone off and shoved it back into his pocket. The seams strained as he nearly pushed the phone straight through the fabric.
“But it’s our honeymoon,” said Trent, unable to keep the whine of disbelief from his voice. He would support Ian’s career in any way he could, but this crossed a few lines. He was so ready to get fucked through at least nine lives, and nothing was going to get in the way of that, not even Ian’s best friend and manager.
“I’ll take care of it, T,” said Ian with a forced smile on his face as he reached for Trent’s hand that had settled between them. “So, tell me again why we can’t have a threesome?”
Trent snorted and turned away, squeezing Ian’s hand once. This was going to be the best vacation of his life.
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.
Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.
She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.
Four fiercely protective shifters. A curse and a ghost town. A bunch of wily cats and one woman who can save them all.
Lucki Collins has landed the job of a lifetime—Cat Keeper of Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.
Lucki discovers early on that Weeping Falls is cursed and that the cats she’s there to care for are the townspeople, who must abide by the cycle of the sun and moon—taking cat form during the day and human form at night. They are magical creatures known as ‘familiars’, who can enhance the powers of a witch considerably, the very thing that puts them in danger.
Lucki meets her protectors—Reuben, a bear shifter, Wren, a wolf shifter, Ben, a hawk shifter, and Julian, a lion shifter—who must not only keep her and the cats safe, but also somehow convince her to bond with them. Their magical bond is the only thing that will give Lucki control over her powers, which are necessary to defeat Angelica, a sorceress who wants to capture all the cats and use them for her evil goals. Lucki hasn’t had the best experience with love, but rather than leave the men hopeless, she offers to help them break the curse by another means.
Things don’t go according to plan, and Lucki is left with the challenge of overcoming her past and setting aside her fears. If she can believe in herself and put her faith in love once again, she might just be able to triumph over evil and save the people she has come to deeply care about in Weeping Falls.
Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of public sex, references to emotionally/psychologically abusive sex, the death of a parent from cancer, graphic and gory violence, the death of a major character and murder of animals.
Cat Keeper of Weeping Falls. It sounds like a joke, right? Cat Keeper… What the hell kind of job is that?
“The best job in the mothereff”—burp—“ing world!” Lucki Collins raised her almost empty pint of beer and cheered the crowd of rowdy townspeople who were seated all around her. The burn of too much booze heated her cheeks, and the ache from so much laughing had her cradling her side. She was being treated like a queen and didn’t care if she was making an ass of herself.
“Cheers to our new Cat Keeper. May your time here be ever filled with joy.” Mr. Rose an elderly man with a bright red nose and long white whiskers, raised his glass, which was filled with…milk. It was the only thing he’d been drinking all night.
Lucki figured it had to be mixed with bourbon or something. The man was way too cheerful to be sober. They’re all way too cheerful. The entire town of Weeping Falls, a population of a hundred at most, had welcomed her with open arms the second she’d cleared the town line—and hadn’t stopped welcoming her.
“To our blessed Cat Keeper!” Everyone cheered, raising their glasses, thumping on the tables, laughing, singing.
They were in the tavern, a throwback to the old West, complete with its swinging doors and long curved bar, plank wood floors that were scuffed and dented and an old-time piano that one of the residents had been playing since Lucki had gotten there. Everyone was dressed in the fashion of the time too—from the cowboy hats to the heel spurs, corsets and billowing skirts. Lucki truly felt like she’d stepped into the olden days—and she loved it.
Weeping Falls had been an actual mining town back in the day. Now it was barely hanging on as a ghost town tourist attraction—the Wild West in Alaska. There wasn’t much in the way of bookings, from what she’d gathered. The only visitor was her, and she was soon to be a resident too. She’d be Lady Clover’s Cat Keeper, responsible for tending to a massive cat colony who’d been bequeathed a mansion and a trust fund and who called Weeping Falls home.
When she’d been offered the job, she’d thought she’d heard wrong.
“Cat keeper? What kind of job is that?”
Scout, the man who’d found her, had answered her simply and honestly. “We can’t afford a trained vet to come. You have almost all the requirements and a lot of experience working with animals. You’ll do.”
Lucki had been working at shelters her whole life. Always a tender heart around those injured or in need of love, she’d solely manned a cat sanctuary in her hometown until a fire had taken out the entire colony the past summer. It had nearly destroyed her heart to lose all those precious lives.
Scout had come knocking on her door one morning, claiming he’d heard about her compassion toward the felines and had wanted to offer her a new job as Cat Keeper for Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time—a windfall, actually. Everyone knew she was destined to be a crazy cat lady anyway, and now she was going to be paid to fulfill that dream. It sounded pretty freakin’ perfect to her.
Besides, she had another reason to leave home—a big, six-foot-two, built-like-a-brick-house reason whom she wanted no reminder of ever again. He’d be in jail for another year at least, and by the time he got out, he’d find no trace of her. That gave her some measure of peace.
Her heart had been crushed, battered and beaten enough over the last ten years. She needed this escape, and Scout’s offer had come at the perfect moment. Time would heal all wounds—or so she’d heard—but cuddling with a bunch of cats would make that time sweeter.
And there hadn’t been a moment of regret—not one. She’d spent more than a day on the road with only a brief stop to rest, travelling all the way from her hometown in northern British Columbia.
It was a long way to come for a bunch of cats.
Best decision ever!
She downed what was left of her beer then snorted in the most unladylike way when another full pint slid in front of her.
“Oh boy, no way!” She laughed. “You people are going to get me totally wasted.”
“Aww, lass, no harm,” Andy Crawlie drawled. “We’re just happy yer finally here. We’ve been waitin’ on ya fer a vera long time.”
That had been what it had been like the entire night. They’d fed her delicious food until she was stuffed, then they’d started pouring the beer, keeping her glass full while they sang and laughed and told stories. There were enough people in the tavern that she lost track of all the names and keeping everyone straight. But she had plenty of time to learn them.
Lucki giggled but pushed the glass away. “Thank you for all your generosity, everyone.” She had to raise her voice to be heard over the music playing. “I think I should head back to Lady Clover’s, though. It’s late… Wait! How late is it?” Her phone had stopped working at some point during the night. She imagined that cell service was spotty at best around here anyway. She made a mental note to ask someone about it in the morning when her thoughts were clearer.
“Oh, it’s hardly after midnight, dear,” Sandy Evernight said as she picked up Lucki’s beer and took a sip for herself. “But if you must go, we’ll send you with an escort, to make sure you get back to the house in one piece.”
“An escort?” Lucki pushed her chair back. The wood feet thudded across the floor, giving Lucki a bit of a fight to stand.
“It’s always a good idea around here.” Sandy shrugged, her cheeks bright. She had a glint in her eyes that made Lucki question if there was a punchline coming. “‘Cause of the wild animals and such.”
“Wild animals?” Lucki frowned, her good mood taken down a notch. Not a joke, then. Right, because you’re in the middle of freakin’ Alaska! Spring is coming. Of course there are animals roaming around.
“Och, Sandy, quit scaring the girl. You want her to pick up and leave before she’s even settled in?” Mr. Rose said. “Rueben’s out there watchin’ for her. He’ll make sure she gets home safe.”
“Oh, Reuben’s around?” Sandy winked, aiming another sly smile at Lucki. “Didn’t know. Hadn’t seen him.”
“Don’t be daft, woman.” Andy tsked.
“You’ll be fine, Lucki,” Mr. Rose said with a reassuring pat on her arm. “Just be sure to put your coat on. The nights are still bitter cold around here.”
Someone handed Lucki her giant parka as she stood on wobbly legs, the beers rushing through her system worse than she’d first thought. “Thanks.” She slipped herself inside the warm down coat and instantly shivered as the heat embraced her. It would soon be too hot to be wearing inside the tavern. That was for sure. “I’ll see you all in the morning.”
Everyone mumbled something at her in response, but as she moved toward the door, she realized they just as soon returned to their drinking and joking, seeming to forget all about her. Looking over her shoulder at the group, she smiled once again. Such a fun bunch of folks. Unusual, sure, but also warm and embracing. Their unquestioning friendliness was like a comfort blanket around her heart. And that was something she really, really needed.
She pushed through the doors and blinked against the cold bite of the air. Icy wind shot up her nose and stung her brain. Sandy had said it was spring and she wasn’t wrong, calendar wise, but the weather up here was not any kind of spring that Lucki had ever experienced. Even in Canada, where the winters could get brutal, May usually came with milder temperatures, even at night.
But today was only May first, she reminded herself. Beltane. The familiar stir of longing rattled through her. In years past, Beltane was always a night she’d enjoyed with others. With him. Marking the coming of spring, Beltane was a celebration of new growth and fertility, and usually involved a night of ritual, song and dance, bonfires and, in her adult life, a lot of sexual exploration. This was the first time in many years that she would be alone.
But the past is the past, and it’s better to be alone and happy than with someone and miserable.
“Blessed be,” she said with a sigh.
She let her eyes adjust to the night then looked up at the impossibly bright stars overhead. She’d never seen so many in her life. She scanned the sky, hoping to see the Northern Lights, which she’d read about when she had been trying to research what to expect in Alaska, but the only light was from the stars and the moon, which was near full. Beautiful. She took in a deep breath, ignoring the burn of the cold air as it ripped up her nose again, freezing her nostrils. Refreshing, sure, but also painful. She chuckled to herself then took a few steps off the porch.
The gritty earth crunched under her feet. It was a strangely comforting sound that broke up the silence of the night and gave Lucki something to focus on other than the shadowed buildings.
The town consisted of a main strip with all the old ghost-town amenities—a barbershop with its candy-cane stripe, a hotel down the road, grocery store, shoemaker, blacksmith and even a church. There was a carriage without its horses and bundles of hay off to the side. It was so old-world and yet not. There were modern amenities as well—like the streetlamps, which were a little too far apart for Lucki’s liking, and a few cars parked here and there.
She flipped up her hood, suddenly feeling the cold worse as it whipped down the back of her neck, making her shiver right to her bones. Lady Clover’s Cat House was at the other end of the strip. The lights of the mansion shone from almost every window, a guiding beacon, so it would be impossible to not find her way there.
My new home. Hard to really fathom. It was three stories of old-world charm. Painted yellow like the sun, it had stained-glass multicolored windows with white shutters to frame them and a wraparound porch that could fit a hundred people with no problem. There was even a swinging chair there for her to lounge on in the warmer months, and she so looked forward to reading a few books out there with some cats on her lap. It was a house she could only dream of living in one day, and here she was walking down a dirt road, on her way to spending her first night in a castle of cats. Bliss.
Although this particular bliss included a pretty frosty walk. The cold bit at her cheeks and stung her eyes, so she walked faster. The noise from the partiers dimmed behind her. The silence of Alaska greeted her with each step she took toward her new home. She could fall in love with a place like this. It was so peaceful. So simple. She didn’t miss the buzzing white noise that she’d grown accustomed to back home or the constant urgency to check her phone for messages. She was unplugged. Calm. At peace.
Lucki stopped in her tracks. Ohhhhhhh, one of the cats? She hadn’t met any of them yet, but she was eager to.
She shifted her hood so she could look all around. “Here, kitty. Come here, kitty. Let me see you!” She felt no shame in her excitement over meeting the cats. She looked forward to bonding with each of them. She’d been warned it was quite a large colony, a hundred at least. “Here, kitty!”
She felt a nudge against her boot and shifted her hood to look down. The coat was so bulky that she could hardly see her own feet.
“Mr. Whiskers?” she said, as she swooped down to pick up her own cat. “What are you doing out here all alone, baby?” The only cat to have survived the fire was one of her favorites, a mangy brown tabby she called Mr. Whiskers. She’d brought him with her to Alaska but had left him safe and sound in the house—or so she’d thought. “How’d you get out here?”
“Muuuuurrrrow!” He purred like an engine and nuzzled into her arms as she stroked him.
“Well, you silly boy, let’s get you back inside where it’s warm.”
She walked, the crunch of her feet on the gravelly dirt road a distraction again. She pulled her attention from the ground and scanned the buildings around her.
“It’s awfully dark.” In between the streetlights was pitch black, and unusual shadows had collected in those places, keeping just out of reach from the lights. In each of those in-between spaces were alleys that were so opaque that they were impenetrable without a flashlight.
Creepy. The sobering reality of being completely alone in the middle of a town where she didn’t really know anyone slithered down her spine. If she called out, would anyone hear her?
The faint sound of music from the tavern drifted toward her. Nope…probably not.
She also kind of felt like she was being watched. Paranoia? Maybe. The tickling at the back of her neck had her scrunching her shoulders, and she picked up her pace all the same.
“Where’s this Reuben guy everyone is talking about?” she whispered to Mr. Whiskers, but he didn’t say anything back. He just purred in his contented kitty way. No fucks given.
The cat house was only about thirty feet ahead, if that. The urge to bolt the rest of the way poked her from all sides, but she was scared that if she did that, she’d drop the cat or freak him out enough to make him claw his way over her face.
Just one more alley to cross. She moved a little to the center of the street, putting some distance between her and the black maw of nothing on her left.
As she crossed the alley, she heard a noise. Low and quiet at first, it was a rumble of sound that she didn’t know quite how to place. It froze her in her tracks, though. There was definitely a menacing tone to it, like a warning. A growl.
“Do you hear that, Mr. Whiskers?” She couldn’t keep the quiver out of her voice. Keep walking.
Mr. Whiskers stopped purring. In fact, he stopped moving and was frozen in her arms, his body rigid as he stared down the alley, a murmur of a hiss growing in his belly.
The growling from the alley came again. It was definitely not friendly. Oooooh nooooo…
Something dazzled, a blink of light, then twin orbs of blue appeared to be floating in the darkness. So pretty. The slow grind of gravel under foot, deliberate careful movements, didn’t bring Lucki any comfort. “What is that?”
She unlocked her knees then took a step back. Then another. The sound got louder. The growl grew in strength with each step toward her until it was a warning she couldn’t ignore. She moved back quickly, almost stumbling on her own feet. Out of the shadows came a giant dog, its teeth bared, eyes menacing.
No, not a dog.
“H-h-holy shit,” Lucki stammered.
The wolf crouched, ready to pounce.
I’m going to die.
Mr. Whiskers hissed a growl of his own then leaped from her arms and she, the stupid fool, chased after him—right up to the wolf, within feet of the menacing beast. Mr. Whiskers stood between them, his fur fluffed out and back arched. He gave a hiss of warning with a paw raised, ready to strike.
“Mr. Whiskers, are you nuts?” Her voice was barely loud enough for anyone to hear. It was a croak instead of a scream. No one would come to her rescue. “Help!” Her voice failed her once again, coming out as a half whisper, strangled by her fear. The wolf watched her, its eyes searing deep inside. It ignored the cat completely.
What is the right move? Why didn’t I research this?
What to do if a wolf stalks you…yeah…that.
The wolf took a menacing step in her direction, its predator glare never wavering. Lucki’s legs shook with an alarming sway. Her knees were literally knocking together. If she tried to run, she’d fall flat on her face for sure.
Running with a predator giving chase was probably not a great idea anyway.
The cat launched itself, jumping toward the wolf.
Her voice unlocked. “Mr. Whiskers, no!”
But it was too late. The cat struck a clawed paw against the wolf’s muzzle, causing it to growl and lower its head. Lucki thought for sure Mr. Whiskers was gonna lose all nine lives in one go, but Mr. Whiskers didn’t get the memo on that. He struck again, quick and determined, a claw swipe against the wolf’s nose.
Lucki quickly calculated the odds of snatching the cat up as she ran. It didn’t look good. She was not that coordinated.
She sucked in a deep breath, then opened her mouth to scream.
The wolf took a step back, its head bowed…in…submission?
What the…? Her scream died on her tongue.
Mr. Whiskers, still all puffed out, still defending his human, was no longer on the attack. He even seemed to have a smug grin as he tossed a glance in Lucki’s direction. The wolf stayed down, muzzle lowered to the ground, its eyes blinking rapidly.
“Get outta here if you aren’t going to be civilized,” a booming voice said from behind.
The wolf flicked its eyes up, looked behind Lucki for a moment, then it bolted away into the darkness of the alley.
“Sorry, hon. Got caught up in a conversation and didn’t realize you were leaving so soon.”
Lucki glanced behind her, then did a double take. A huge, burly man stomped toward her. He had to be at least six-five, six-six. He wasn’t wearing a coat, just a blue lumberjack shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, that showed some impressively muscled forearms. His brown hair was parted to the side and his soft eyes crinkled with what kind of looked like amusement. The lower half of his face was covered with a beard, close cropped and well kept. This guy was a bear—a huge, lumberjack bear. He had an easy smile and a dimple, and he was so disarming that Lucki smiled back, that and her panties melted right then and there.
“I’m Reuben.” His voice had the kind of husky depth that stroked her soul.
Her legs quivered.
She cleared her throat to get the lusty lump of drool out of the way. “There’s a wolf…” She turned her head to the alley, but the wolf was definitely gone. Mr. Whiskers nudged her to be picked up.
“Yeah, I saw.” Reuben radiated heat. It literally steamed off him. He came up next to her then placed a firm hand on her back, which instantly steadied her legs. “Let’s get you to the house before you freeze to death.”
“A wolf, though…” She turned her head from side to side, scanning the area as she bent down to pick up the cat.
“He’s gone now. Don’t worry about him.” Reuben’s voice was so sure, so confident, so soothing. “Happy to finally meet you,” he added.
“Was that real?” The adrenaline that had coursed through her body crashed out of her in a whoosh. She took a step but her legs crumbled out from under her.
“Whoa there!” Reuben swooped in and held her upright. “They been pouring drinks into you? Those beasts don’t ever learn.”
Her head was clear. Any buzz she’d had from the booze had burned through her. It had to be shock that was making her dizzy and disoriented now. She could have died. Mr. Whiskers had done his best, but really, that wolf could have eaten her in a few bites.
“I got ya.” Reuben picked her up then cradled her and the cat in his arms.
She gasped, more to herself, as she looked up at him. “You’re a big guy.” She was in the arms of a mountain.
He chuckled. “I am.” He hitched her up higher. “Let’s get you home, shall we? Then we can properly introduce ourselves. It’s Beltane, you know, a good night for introductions.” He smiled, his dimple popping and his eyes glistening.
Angela Addams is an author of many naughty things. She believes that the written word is an amazing tool for crafting the most erotic of scenarios and likes telling stories about normal people getting down and dirty and falling in love. Enthralled by the paranormal at an early age, Angela also spends a lot of her time thinking up new story ideas that involve supernatural creatures in everyday situations.
She is an avid tattoo collector, a total book hoarder, and loves anything covered in chocolate…except for bugs.
She lives in Ontario, Canada in an old, creaky house, with her husband, children and four moody cats.