Aurora Monroe has detailed plans for her life — and not one of them includes being barefoot, pregnant and under the thumbs of two decidedly alpha males. But what’s a girl to do when she has two sexy shifters both trying to claim mating rights?
When two paranormals on opposite sides of the war save an injured human, they unintentionally mark her as their wife. Bonded by blood, fire and passion, the gryphon and phoenix shifters do everything they can to keep their new human mate safe.
Getting her to go along with the plan is a different matter. She has no intention of following their orders. Found in defiance of both human laws and paranormal traditions, the battle for their rights turns into a fight for their lives.
Sex between a human and her two shifters can be spectacular, but is it worth risking everything for a chance at forever?
“Paranormals are just like us. They deserve equal rights, equal status under the law, and no less than our full understanding and cooperation!” I watch from the outskirts, close enough to hear, but not a part of the crowd. A smattering of applause greets the pretty redhead as she finishes her speech on the stairs in front of the white columned government building.
A heated, spicy tingle warms my body as she steps down, her nipples tight and visible in the oh-so-proper sweater she wears over a blouse against the chill wind. Staid, gray slacks demurely outline her curvy figure. Mmm. Definitely my kind of woman… proper on the outside, but all fiery and full of fight on the inside.
Only a few dozen people brave enough to show up for the rally now stand in the square. It’s mostly your typical malcontents and troublemakers, but there are a few who look like they might actually give a damn.
I can’t decide whether the woman has balls of steel or is dangerously naive. More than likely, a little of both. A tall, unkempt man makes his way to the front of the group, standing on the concrete base of a light pole like a monkey, spouting obscenities and tossing crap about how humans are better than paras. The crowd grows, becoming restless as the man yells, gaining the attention of the cops outside City Hall.
I stay in the shadows of the storefront across the street, where I can watch without being seen. Easier said than done most times, but I’ve gotten good at it. Most of us have. Coming out as a paranormal isn’t a fashionable, celebrity thing to do anymore. It’s a life sentence. The government took care of that. So much for equality.
I’m Varick Gerard. Used to be a paramedic, but now I’m labeled a criminal. Just because I’m a shifter, I was legally forced out of my profession, my home, and the comfortable life I once lived. Phoenix shifters aren’t inherently evil. Given the choice, I’d rather save lives than take them. I don’t like to fight. While some of the other paras here live for nothing else, it just isn’t my thing. I don’t steal, I don’t destroy things, and I don’t kill people unnecessarily. I may have lost everything else, but I still have my principles.
Me, I’m a loner. It’s a phoenix thing. Most of us are. I don’t mind being around people, I’m just not into long-term commitments. Sex? Yeah, I’m definitely into that. I can burn up a bed like nobody’s business. And that woman up there — she’d be right at the center of my pyre of passion on most days.
But not today. Something’s in the air, I can feel it. I’ve been chased out of more cities than I can remember, just because I choose to survive. What’s left of the local police force musters in front of the building. Riot shields and batons at the ready, the leader shouts into a megaphone for the crowd to disperse. Chaos has a strong following in this town.
The cops advance in a restless, unsteady line — a phalanx of toy human soldiers pitting themselves against the evil paranormals. Same shit, different location. That isn’t what’s bothering me, though. There’s something else, just on the edge… It’s like I can almost feel it, taste it, but it keeps slipping past me.
“Hey, phoenix-dude, come on! The goon-squad is coming out to play.” A short, pimply vampire pauses, motioning for me to join the unruly mob gathering in the shadows, waiting for their chance to pick someone off.
He’s annoying — hangs around all the time, always trying to get me to kill something with him. I think he just wants to see what a phoenix can do. Lucky for him, I’m not really a joiner. “No thanks, I’m heading out. Good luck with that.”
He shrugs and sprints off, his fangs standing at attention and ready to rumble. Idiot. Time to leave this burg. I don’t need the cops on my ass or any more problems than I already have. It’s not worth the trouble.
A woman’s annoyed yell yanks me to attention. “Leave me alone! I haven’t done anything wrong!” The redhead struggles against one of the officers, landing a solid whack on his neck where the protective gear doesn’t protect.
My smile fights to break free — the girl’s a fighter, all right.
“Submit willingly, Miss, and you’ll just be charged with disorderly conduct.”
The cop doesn’t look old enough to have graduated high school, let alone wear a badge. He can’t seem to decide between juggling his shield, going on to a more willing arrestee, or grabbing his cuffs and taking his chances against the wildcat.
My bet is on the girl.
About the Author
Cassidy lives in the beautiful state of Washington and is surrounded by mysterious rain forests, tempestuous oceans and enough gorgeous scenery to inspire stories for at least another two hundred years.
She’s been reading romances since she was thirteen, and writing them since she was fifteen. However, the serious writing bug didn’t bite until much later in life, inspired by her talented husband (who is also a writer!).
It’s finally launch week and we are so excited for Sarah Jaeger and the release of her debut novel, Smoke! Read on for more info!
Smoke (The Ardelean Bloodlines)
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2023
Genre: Shifter Romance/ Paranormal Romance
Apparently ignoring my parents’ politics wasn’t the right move. Shifters were outed to the public, and months later, I’m still unsure what the big deal is about.
Now my life is in danger and the only one who can protect me is the true king of the wolves.
Cade is nothing like what my mom and the press show shifters to be. He’s thoughtful, reserved… and have you seen his butt in those jeans?
Having abdicated the throne, I’ve vowed to stay out of shifter politics.
Now, my sole responsibility, for the next six weeks, is to make sure no idiots can completely derail the deal I’ve cut with the one woman holding all the cards.
The problem is… the threats against Thalia Clark are nothing compared to the danger of my wolf, now that he’s claimed this human as his.
I’ll kill to protect my mate, but is keeping up my end of the deal enough to save her?
Smoke is the first book in the Ardelean Bloodline series. While this story does contain an HEA for Cade and Thalia, there is an ongoing plot connecting each book in the series. Each book will need to be read in order. There are open door, explicit scenes as well as colorful language not intended for young readers.
What is she thinking about? Is it what we talked about with Ansel or something more? I step closer, testing her guarded nature. “Country life is dull. I don’t exactly work here, which means I’m pretty much stuck to whatever chores Ansel’s left around the house, and you’re left to whatever sanity-keeping activities you can find. I guess if you’re feeling adventurous . . .” I shrug. “Have you ever been to Arches?”
“No, I’ve heard it’s beautiful, but this is my first time in Utah.”
Thalia’s eyes light up, and I know the answer.
“Would you like to go today?” I ask slowly.
Thalia starts nodding. I smile, seeing her excitement. “Ansel’s right, it’s been too long since I’ve given The Leviathan a little bit of time to run. Plus, I think it would be beneficial for you to meet a wolf, in a positive environment, with someone who’s in control before someone else can further taint the experience. I know Sherman was a little upsetting for you. I can ask Ansel or Ezra, but their wolves are pretty scary looking if you’re not used to looking at wolves.” I pause and give her a smirk licking my bottom lip before sighing. “They’re also not really fucking fluffy.”
“Did you just ask me to take your wolf on a walk?” she returns with a sly smile, raising an eyebrow.
Her comment catches me off guard, and my face heats. There are so many different ways I could answer. But she started it. Thalia was comfortable enough with me to crack a joke. I shrug and release my bottom lip from between my teeth.
Tell our mate. The Leviathan encourages with the image of a ceremonial collar wrapping around Thalia’s neck. I feel him brush and know my eyes just went gold.
My version is dirtier. “Not quite. I’m not following any of the leash laws. And if anyone will be doing any collaring, it’ll be me clasping one around your neck. If there’s going to be any tying, it’ll be you to the bed, while I show you all the ways I can make you scream my name.”
A chill rips through Thalia’s body, and she shudders, her whole body standing taller. I step into her personal space. Thalia wobbles, looking up at me. I watch her wet her bottom lip with her tongue. Drawing a deep breath, I catch the scent of her arousal.
The Leviathan paces. Give mate wolf, we run together.
“Easy, Draga Mea.” I kiss her forehead. When I step back, I see her trying to figure out the cute nickname The Leviathan’s given her. Only having the briefest memory of Romanian spoken in the home growing up, even I had to look it up. My Darling. I could tell her, but I’m not sure she’s ready.
A backpack, snacks, water, and a trip to the restroom later, I walk Thalia out of the house and to the garage. The classic pickup truck Ansel loves so much is right where it always is. Thalia seems impressed when the old Ford roars to life. I just smile. Ansel’s love for this truck runs deep, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t turn over.
We’re somewhere farther onto Ansel’s property and close to the border with the national park. It’s a gamble that we may come across someone. It’s not common for tourists to make it out this far, but we’ll have to be in the national park to see some cool rock formations. It’s selfish and maybe a bit cocky to risk bringing her into public like this, but I want her to have a positive experience. I know The Leviathan is set on wanting to give her a wolf, but not so badly that he would sabotage all the progress we’re making in having her accept wolves and what this life looks like.
We find Ansel’s secret entrance to Arches National Park. It’s denoted by an old wooden trunk tucked off the side of the gravel trail behind some scrub brush.
Putting the old Ford in park, I turn in my seat to look at her. “Two rules.”
Thalia’s eyes go wide, and there’s the smallest hint of fear.
“Okay . . .” She draws out the last syllable.
“Don’t run. The Leviathan will chase. I’m worried he’ll push you down and you’ll get hurt. Humans are breakable compared to wolves, and even a friendly little shove could hurt you,” I caution.
Thalia nods. “The second one?”
“Breathe.” I lock eyes with her. “Enjoy this and know I’m here.”
Apparently, to be an author one must have a bio. Well, I’m human despite the fact that I wish to be a shifter. I have an issue with the way some words are shaped. And that means sometimes, they must be spelled incorrectly to be right. This is something I’m passionate about. So, we’ll get along fine! Oh, yeah: Midwest USA, married, all fur babies.
The Ardelean Bloodline is Sarah Jaeger’s debut series
Animal Instinct by AJ Graham Published by Changeling Press Cover Art by Bryan Keller Genres/Themes: Shifters, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual, Gay, Werewolves & Wolf Shifters
Sometimes the shape of desire isn’t human. While shifter desires are dark and intense, humans can be fragile, but adventurous.
Runaway: Werewolf lovers on the run, Keith and Taylor must fight for their lives and their freedom.
Eyes of the Wolf: Kaila would do anything to save her people, even give herself to the barbarian leader of the Wolf Clan…
Wolf’s Promise: Ashrin knows Shana is his mate, and he’ll do whatever it takes to be with the woman he loves.
Half-Blood: A half-human shifter can’t afford to trust anyone. Yet Haden must find a mate or die.
Dante Burning: Love between humans and shifters is complicated… and wild.
Publisher’s Note: Animal Instinct (Box Set) contains the previously published novellas Runaway, Eyes of the Wolf, Wolf’s Promise, Half-Blood, and Dante Burning.
Praise for Runaway
“This is a very good story to add to anyone’s werewolf collection.”–Lydia, Rainbow Reviews
Praise for Eyes of the Wolf
“Eyes of The Wolf was an amazing read…. Well done!”— Noelle, Night Owl Reviews
Praise for Wolf’s Promise
“I enjoyed every page of Wolf’s Promise… an intense and enjoyable voyage into a fantasy world of virgins and demons.”— Stephanie E., Fallen Angel Reviews
I had to be dreaming. If I were awake, Devin’s head wouldn’t be between my legs, his full lips stretched around my aching cock, my fingers clenched in his shaggy wheat-brown hair. If this was real, he wouldn’t be looking at me like that, gazing up through a veil of soft, dusky lashes, eyes smoky with lust.
I watched his smooth, flushed cheeks draw inward, sucking me deeper.
God, he was beautiful.
I didn’t want to wake up, but I could feel the cold fingers of reality prying their way into my head in the form of a monstrous, throbbing hangover. I tried to hang onto the dream, but the dull red pulse behind my eyes wouldn’t be ignored. It dragged me, kicking and struggling, back to wakefulness. The blood banged in my head.
“Te? Te, are you all right?”
Devin’s voice. He was the only one who ever called me Te. To the rest of the world, even my mom, I was Dante.
I’ve always loved the way Devin said my name — the tap of tongue against teeth, the soft exhalation of air. Though at the moment, I wasn’t in any condition to appreciate it.
I opened my eyes a crack, then slammed them shut as sunlight blinded me. It looked like the sun had just gone supernova outside our apartment. “Ugh. Daylight.”
“Hang on…” I heard a rustle as he pulled the curtains shut, and the room got marginally less bright. “How’s that?”
“Better.” It still felt like white-hot needles were stabbing my eyes, but the needles were a bit less sharp now. There are certain things that go along with being a cat-shifter. One of those things is enhanced senses. A nice perk, most of the time. Not so nice when you’ve got a hangover.
A cool, damp cloth draped over my brow, and I sighed with relief. “Thanks.” I pried my sleep-crusty eyelids open and found myself looking into a pair of big gray eyes. Same ones from my dream. But instead of being glassy with passion, they just looked worried.
“What did you do last night?” he asked.
I gave him a strained smile. “Better not to ask.”
Most of the night was a blur, but I knew I’d done a lot of Mezcal shots. Mezcal is like tequila’s tougher, dirtier big brother. It’s smoky and earthy and burns a molten trail down your throat. It’s that stuff on liquor store shelves that usually has a worm or a scorpion floating in the bottle.
Had I actually eaten that scorpion on a dare? I hoped that was just a dream.
Devin bit his lower lip. “Te… are you okay?”
I looked away, knowing he was asking about more than the hangover. And I couldn’t blame him for worrying. This was — what, the third time this week I’d come home shit-faced? The worst thing was, he didn’t know the half of what I did or why I did it. I drank to numb myself, to forget. To blunt other urges.
I thought about the dream, and the guilt came rising up to choke me. My gaze flicked to his lips; then I quickly looked away. Thank God there’d been a blanket over me when I woke, or he might have seen the evidence.
I might be a cat, but just then, I felt more like a pig.
“I’m okay,” I muttered. “I’ve got it under control.”
He lowered his gaze. The guilt twisted in my chest like a knife.
Devin. My roommate, my best friend since third grade, the only person in the world I trusted enough to let near me while I was feeling this shitty… and the man whose body I secretly craved more than anything in the world.
No, not just his body. That might be easier. I wanted him. His mind, his soul. I wanted everything. But it wasn’t going to happen. So I did what I always did: I bundled up those feelings and tucked them away in the deepest, darkest drawer of my brain. Captain Denial, that’s me.
“You should eat something,” Devin said.
I made a face. He was probably right, but at the moment, food sounded like the most disgusting thing in the world. “Don’t think I could.”
“Have some toast, at least. Please?”
That tone melted me every time. He could wind me around his little finger like a piece of taffy, and he didn’t even know it. “I’ll try. Not promising it’ll stay down, though.”
I started to sit up, but he pushed me gently back to the bed. At the pressure of his hands on my shoulders, my heart jumped.
“Don’t move. I’ll take care of it.”
I sank back to the bed, closed my eyes, and nodded, wondering for the thousandth time what I’d done to deserve someone as good as him.
He brought me buttered cinnamon toast and a big glass of milk, and he sat and waited as I munched and sipped. I was hungrier than I’d realized, and once I’d had a few bites, my stomach settled.
“Don’t you have class?” I asked through a mouthful of toast.
“Oh. Right.” I sank back to the bed and draped an arm over my face. I didn’t have work today either. Good thing too. If I stumbled into the pub in this condition, Rosaline would fire my fuzzy ass.
I moved my arm away from my face, enough to peer up at Devin through one bleary eye. I’d adjusted to the sunlight, and I could see the way it caught in his hair and highlighted the curve of his cheek, his neck. I knew from experience how soft that skin was. Over the years, we’d brushed against each other so many times — his hand grazing mine, our bare arms pressing lightly together as we sat side by side. I knew what he would feel like. And he was wearing a soft blue sweater, the sort of thing that would be easy to slide my hands beneath and —
I slammed the door shut on that thought, but it was too late. My hard-on was back, in spite of the raging inferno in my head.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AJ Graham has a passion for cold weather, unusual beers, and anything otherworldly. Dragons, demons, shapeshifters and psychics have always populated their imagination, but sometimes the real world can be just as fascinating and mysterious. And no matter the genre, AJ has always loved stories about soulmates connecting. Whether it’s instant, explosive passion or a slow burn, the power of two (or more) minds and bodies coming together to form a greater whole is always a story worth telling. AJ lives in the Chicago suburbs with their husband.
Mate for the Howlidays Jessica Coulter Smith
Published by: Changeling Press
Publication date: December 17th 2021
Genres: Adult, Holiday, Paranormal, Romance
Dex and Dane couldn’t be more different. One is motorcycle boots, leather, and all things wild. The other is a cowboy hat wearing sweetheart who owns the local bar. And Kizzie is the lucky lady who gets to keep them both!
When she moved back to Wolf Hollow, she only wanted a fresh start. Not once did she ever imagine she’d up being mated to two wolves, and just in time for the holidays!
She smiled wistfully. “That it must be great to have someone love you so much they want to spend the rest of their lives with you. I’ve never had a relationship last past a few weeks. I can’t imagine finding someone who would want me around forever.”
He watched her silently for a moment before hooking an arm around her waist and hauling her up against his body. “Angel, anyone would be lucky to have a woman like you. We might have just met, but I can tell you have class and style, and you seem sweet.”
The champagne glass in her hand fell to the ground as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Suddenly, she couldn’t think of anything she wanted more than to taste his lips on hers. When his head lowered, she went up on tiptoe to meet him halfway. Their lips met, pressing together, then his moved against hers in a gentle caress. Her tongue swept over his lower lip and he opened, deepening the kiss. Her fingers toyed with the ends of his hair as his tongue slid along the length of hers. Kizzie felt lightheaded and clung to him tighter. She heard the clink of a bottle hitting the ground, then his hands caressed her waist, stroking up her back until one hand cupped the back of her head. She’d never felt so on fire before.
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. If Jessica isn’t writing, then she’s like reading. Her favorite books are romances, but she also enjoys the occasional mystery or general fiction book. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.
The first time she’d met him, she’d known. Of course, he had made it pretty obvious when he tried to kill her stepfather…
* * *
“I tell you, I saw the little b — booger turn. I’m bleeding from where he attacked me. Damn it, he’s dangerous.” Rod’s red face turned even redder in the silence that met his words. He swung toward her. “You were there! Tell the cop! Go on, girl.”
She swallowed. She hated his sweaty face. Hated the piggish eyes that glared at her right now. They might be under the same roof, but that didn’t mean she had to like pretending he was kin. She didn’t have to enjoy living with him, listening to him… obeying him.
“Damn you, girl, if you don’t talk up, I swear –”
She took a half-step back. The policeman put his hand on her shoulder, and she tried not to flinch. The eyes under the police cap were all right. They were searching her up and down, but they were human eyes. They might even be kind. She took a deep breath.
“Tell me what you saw… Leila, is it? Don’t be afraid.”
“Yes, sir. That’s me. I-I didn’t see anything. I mean, I came in and I saw Rod — I mean, my stepdad — screaming and swearing and bleeding. I didn’t really look at anything else.”
“How the hell did you miss what was going on, you stupid sl — child?” Fascinated, Leila watched his red face slowly turn purple. She waited for her stepfather’s head to blow off. Instead he whirled and pointed at the one person left in the room who hadn’t said anything. “I tell you, he went for my throat. You think something human went for me like this?”
Leila stared at the bleeding wounds.
“He tried to jump me.” Dek’s voice was whisper-soft. “Rape me. I fought back. What else could I do?”
“You see any of that, Leila?” The policeman sounded safe. But he wasn’t. No one was safe. Leila knew that.
What should she do?
“I… No, sir.” Her voice firmed. “Nothing.”
“Your stepdad ever try to hurt you the way the boy here said?” The cop’s voice hardened.
Jesus. He was smarter than she’d expected. Or else Rod had what he was like written all over him. Written so clear that anyone could see. Except Mom. Mom always believed Rod.
Leila gazed down.
“No, sir.” But she let her voice get more Southern and liquid. Let her lips tremble as she said that final word. She knew what it sounded like with that little catch over the syllable.
The cop’s breath audibly hissed.
“I’m the one who is bleeding here!” Rod’s voice rose. “Arrest that mongrel bastard.”
“I’ll have the authorities take him back to the County. I’m taking you in for questioning.” The policeman didn’t take his eyes off Rod. “Step outside for a minute with me, Mr. Voss.”
“What the f — hell!”
His voice faded a little as he got outside. Leila shut her eyes, tried to pretend she was alone and everything was all right. She’d made a decision, and now she’d have to live with whatever happened next.
“I owe you.” Dek’s whispery voice cut through her self-protective shell, and she opened her eyes.
She stared at the slight teenager who was maybe a year or two older than her. Her stepdad had brought home a stray kid to abuse and bully, like he did now and then. But this time he’d brought home something that took him on. Who would have thought it?
“You don’t owe me anything, Big Bad Wolf.” Leila crossed her arms. “It was my pleasure. Wish you’d ripped his liver out.”
“I wish I had, too.” Dek smiled, all pointy, big teeth.
“But for now you’d better run out the back door while Rod is keeping the cop busy out there.”
“I already had that in mind.” He hesitated. “What about you?”
“What about me? You’re not concerned about me.”
“You’re wrong. I am.”
“Well, you can’t do anything for me, so you might as well do something for yourself. Go on.”
“Come with me.”
“What?” Leila blinked. She’d planned to escape the second she hit eighteen and no one could drag her back. Three months, one week, and four days from now.
“You heard me.”
Or she could go now. Even if he did get out of trouble with the police, Rod wouldn’t be chasing this particular stray.
“That’s a hell of a big decision to make. Why should I trust you?”
Dek flashed that big smile, looking as trustworthy as any wolf in sheep’s clothing. He didn’t look like just a kid. Why did that make the back of her neck tingle with nerves and… and something else? He was dangerous. But dangerous wasn’t all bad, was it? “You can find out why on the way out of here, kid.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Treva Harte has always been an overachiever. She also collects things. First it was degrees. First a B.A. in English, then she decided to go back for a Master’s degree. Not content with that, she added a J.D. Since then she’s added a husband, also an attorney, and two children to her collection. She’s continuing her ways as an overachiever, writing her wonderfully offbeat tales of passion and possibilities — in her spare time.
The holidays are giving Kizzie the gift of a lifetime
— she’s the mate of two wolf shifters!
Dex and Dane couldn’t be more different. One is motorcycle boots, leather, and all things wild. The other is a cowboy hat wearing sweetheart who owns the local bar. And Kizzie is the lucky lady who gets to keep them both!
When she moved back to Wolf Hollow, she only wanted a fresh start. Not once did she ever imagine she’d up being mated to two wolves, and just in time for the holidays!
When she approached, the man watched her with apprehension. Considering it was a wedding, he probably thought she was out to nab herself a husband. And while a husband did sound nice, she didn’t plan on just picking one up at random. If she could do that, she would have headed over to Wal-Mart and asked if husbands were in housewares. She might have had a better shot at getting what she wanted. Or getting one at all.
“Hi,” she said as she came to stand next to him.
“I’m sure you’re real nice and all, but if my brother is trying to set me up on a date –”
Kizzie held up her hand. “Stop right there. He just thought you might want someone to talk to, and since I’m new to town too, maybe we have something in common.”
His gaze skimmed over her from head to toe before he snorted and turned away.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, her hand going to her hip.
“You’re champagne and I’m cheap beer. What the hell could we possibly have to talk about? I bet you have some fancy job making lots of money. Probably live in some huge house, driving some fancy car.”
Kizzie tapped her toe while she waited for him to finish. If there was one thing she hated, it was people making assumptions. He didn’t know her, and yet he’d taken one look and already decided he didn’t like her. “Done?”
He shrugged. She narrowed her eyes and her fingers twitched as she fought the urge not to smack him. Insufferable. That was a good word for him.
“For your information, against Fiona’s wishes, I’m working at the diner right now. For a man who cannot possibly be human. I don’t even know shifters with manners as bad as his, and I’ve seen the way some of you fall on your food like rabid wolves. He’s a mountain troll, possibly, but definitely not human. I’d thought I had a job lined up at the tattoo shop, but it fell through. I live in a studio apartment in the questionable part of town, and my car? It’s the rusted heap out front with bald tires. My jewelry is fake, my dress came from a thrift store, and my shoes were on sale at a discount store. Are there any other assumptions you’d like to make about me just because I showered and attempted to look nice for the wedding?”
Inwardly, she winced. Kizzie couldn’t believe she’d just unleashed on him like that. It wasn’t like her. Well, not usually. He’d just rubbed her the wrong way.
He had the grace to look sheepish. “I’m sorry, I just… you look so well put together, with your hair up like that and nails all painted. I figured you had some cushy office job somewhere. You definitely look out of my league.”
In all fairness to him, she’d had a cushy office job. Until the boss and his nephew got into a pissing contest over her, not that she’d been interested in either of them, but they hadn’t taken that into consideration when they informed her she had to choose one of them. Apparently, laughing hadn’t been the right answer. She’d been given a half hour to clean out her things and leave the premises. Of course, that was after the harassment had started the previous two weeks. She’d had just enough cash in her savings to make the move to Wolf Hollow and rent a cheap place to get her started. Kizzie still hadn’t told Fiona where she was living. She knew her friend was going to blow a gasket.
“You don’t look like a waitress,” he said. “You belong behind a desk.”
Kizzie shrugged. “I used to work in an office. But Wolf Hollow is a fresh start for me, which means new job and new living arrangements.”
He held out his hand. “I’m Dex, by the way. Dex Rockford.”
“Kizzie Walker.” She placed her hand in his and felt tingles all the way up to her shoulder. She’d never quite felt anything like it before, and she was loathe to let his hand go, not wanting the sensation to stop.
Dex nodded toward the bar. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Not to play into your misconception of me, but I’d love a glass of champagne.”
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About the Author
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.
Jillian is ecstatic when she finds out she’s become more than a wolf shifter. The instinct she’s always had that she was meant for something different is validated when a gator-bite turns her into a hybrid shifter with two distinct animal forms.
Her parents are the opposite of thrilled, and plot to have her gator exorcised before it can fully emerge. She’s been promised to the Alpha’s son, and he won’t accept a hybrid.
She does the only thing she can. She runs. But someone’s following her, and his intent isn’t clear. Her awakening desire to find a true mate skews her senses and makes every shifter she comes across look like an appealing option.
Will she find the mates and the home she’s truly meant for, or will she be fooled by the trickster who only wants to destroy her?
Runaway Mate is a standalone new adult fated mates reverse harem romance with college-aged characters, serious steam and an HEA.
Jillian knows she’s meant for more than being mated to the future alpha. She just didn’t realize the path she took would make her a hybrid. When she meets wolf/gator hybrids Mace and Nix, she feels like she’s going up in flames. Too bad those two keep screwing things up.
Jillian is young, and it shows in a lot of her actions and words, but it doesn’t make her any less determined. She knows what she wants and goes after it. I loved her character! There were times I wanted to smack Mace, and later Danny, upside their heads for being clueless idiots. Nix was adorable and sweet.
The characters worked well together and balanced each other. The story line had drama, suspense, and of course romance. Runaway Mate was a delicious read I couldn’t put down.
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review. The review above is only my opinion.
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.
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A new city, a new job, a new home—things are definitely looking up for Oliver Foster. An aspiring young architect, embarking on a successful career in Baltimore, all he wants is to put the pain of a broken heart and broken trust behind him. The last thing he needs is another ill-advised romantic entanglement. But despite his best intentions, Oliver can’t help his growing fascination with Nym Brown, the mysterious owner of Lakeside Lodge.
When Oliver rents an apartment in an old Victorian house overlooking Baltimore’s Druid Lake, he expects it to be quaint and shabbily charming. But as Halloween draws near and all things spooky come out to play, Oliver becomes convinced there is more going on at Lakeside Lodge than meets the eye, aside from the faulty plumbing. His neighbors are a whole new definition of quirky, and his enigmatic, gruff landlord is both intimidating and dangerously attractive.
Dark and sinister secrets lurk behind the house on Druid Lake’s crumbling façade. Unearthing them might yet put Oliver’s future—and his heart—on the line.
Lakeside Lodge looked more like Dracula’s castle than a gingerbread house.
Oliver paused on the stone steps that cut across a long grass knoll and peered up at his new place of residence. It was difficult to get a proper look at the house from the road, obscured as it was by the tall chestnut oaks and red maples that surrounded it. But from this viewpoint, just outside the wrought-iron gate, the massive gable above the front porch was clearly visible, as was the turret on the right side of the roof.
Comparing the house to a castle was perhaps an exaggeration, at least where size was concerned. But it certainly possessed an old-world fairy-tale charm and an intangible aura of mystery. It had been evident even in the few photos that accompanied the online listing which had sold Oliver on it in the first place, making him contact the real estate agent and take it sight unseen. Well, that and the exceptionally low rent combined with the nice location right on Druid Lake and next to the park, just a few minutes’ drive away from Oliver’s new job in Central Baltimore.
Also, Jake would’ve hated it, and Oliver felt a particular satisfaction about no longer having to conform to Jake’s plans and wishes.
However, now that Oliver stood in front of the house in the failing light of an early October afternoon, a heavy duffel bag slung over his shoulder, he couldn’t deny there was something disquieting, even disturbing, about the jumble of architectural elements piled in a haphazard fashion. The building was three stories high, crowned with a shingled mansard roof with prominent dormer windows which must have commanded a stunning view of the lake across the road. A wide front porch boasted square tapered columns, and a fanciful pediment in the shape of a stylized owl with outspread wings adorned the gable. It was very Victorian, with touches of Gothic Revival and American Craftsman thrown into the mix. But the style skewed heavily to whimsical as if the architect (or maybe the owner) couldn’t stop themselves from adding all their favorite design elements to the project. Like a magpie decorating its nest with every manner of shiny, without sparing a thought to the harmony of it all. The end result, though imposing, was more reminiscent of a cheesy B-movie haunted mansion than an actual apartment building, old as it might be. The wilted lawn and unkempt tree garden that stretched into the backyard didn’t help the impression, though the grounds, as befitting a mansion, were much more expansive than those of any of the neighboring properties.
By the time Oliver climbed the stairs to the porch, he’d begun to suspect the reason for the low rent. Up close, everything exhibited signs of mild, to even prominent, disrepair. The wooden handrails were chipped, with some of the spindles broken or missing, and the shallow steps creaked dangerously under Oliver’s weight, whose physique had once been described by his best friend, Pam, as “waifish.” For the first time since he’d boarded the plane to Baltimore, equipped with a healthy supply of hopeful enthusiasm and a single bag containing his most prized belongings, doubt stirred at the back of his mind.
Oliver tried the handle, but the front door was locked. There also wasn’t any sign of an intercom, which left either the grimy doorbell button or the heavy brass knocker. Oliver chose to knock and then listened as the sound echoed dully within until everything was still again. He’d shielded his eyes and stood on his toes, trying to peek through the stained-glass transom window when the door was suddenly yanked open, and he came face-to-face with a wall of plaid.
“What do you want?” a gruff voice boomed.
Oliver risked lifting his gaze. The voice belonged to a tall, broad-shouldered man blocking the doorway. Oliver resisted the urge to take a step back under his annoyed glare.
“Hi,” he offered. “I’m Oliver Foster. I’m here about the apartment I rented.”
That last sentence came out more as a question than a statement, his voice rising in pitch, and Oliver winced internally.
He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose while the man regarded him in sullen silence. Finally, he opened the door wider and stepped back, granting Oliver access with a wave of his hand.
A single overhead light illuminated the hallway. A threadbare patterned rug spanned the length of it, leading toward a dark mahogany staircase at the back. Tiny brass plaques, tarnished with age, marked the apartment numbers on slotted mailboxes hanging on the wall to his right. Below them stood an empty black lacquered umbrella bucket. A faint smell of dust and mildew permeated the air, and Oliver’s earlier premonition about the state of his chosen accommodations intensified.
“What an unusual place,” he ventured, still determined not to give in to negativity. “Must have a lot of history.”
The man grunted, studying him from under drawn eyebrows. His eyes, the color of light amber, glinted in the low light. Together with his pale skin, overgrown dark hair, and menacing stance, they created an unnerving effect. Oliver shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny, wondering whether the scowl was directed at him, or if it was simply a part of the man’s natural disposition.
“Where’s your luggage?” the man asked.
“It’s only this.” He indicated his bag. “I’m having the rest of my stuff shipped over. I gathered the apartment came fully furnished?”
“Yeah.” The man turned and walked toward the staircase, forcing Oliver to trail after him. “My name’s Brown. I’m the landlord and building super. My apartment is across the hall from yours.”
They passed what appeared to be a large sitting parlor on one side of the hallway and a closed door on the other, but Brown stopped at neither. They climbed one flight of stairs to the first-floor landing, ancient floorboards groaning with their every step. Oliver clutched the banister, but Brown seemed unconcerned about the possibility of the staircase crumbling under his powerful frame.
“Why don’t you leave the front door open?” Oliver asked. “What about mail and delivery people?”
“They know to leave stuff on the porch,” Brown said without turning. “Usually whoever comes home first brings the mail in.”
This was…a curious arrangement. Oliver wasn’t sure he liked the idea of his landlord or his neighbors sifting through his mail.
“Aren’t you afraid someone might steal your packages?” he ventured. “It’s a rather busy street.”
Brown did turn to him then, pausing for a moment on the top stair and looking down at him.
“All the more reason to keep the door locked. Besides, no one is stupid enough to steal from here,” he said and continued on, leaving Oliver gaping at the inconsistency of those two statements.
There were only two apartment doors on the landing, facing each other across a narrow stretch of hall. Another small door, perhaps a utility closet, was tucked under the stairs. Brown produced a key from the front pocket of his flannel shirt, unlocked the door marked 1B, and gestured for Oliver to follow inside.
Oliver would be lying if he said he didn’t cross the threshold with some trepidation, given the overall shabbiness, but as Brown flicked on the lights, he could see nothing out of the ordinary. If anything, the apartment was much sparser than he’d imagined. The living room, with its high windows, ornate cornices, and a fireplace tucked in a corner, opened into a small kitchen outfitted with decades-old appliances and laminate flooring. A long couch faced the windows and the wall between them, but as far as Oliver could see, there was no TV.
This looked much closer to the pictures in the posting than the dilapidated exterior, at least. And everything was clean. Worn out, certainly, but not dirty. Someone must have put in the work of scrubbing the hardwood floors and giving the walls a fresh lick of paint as the whole place smelled of pine-scented cleaner rather than mildew. Oliver lowered his duffel bag onto the floor, next to the narrow side table by the entrance, and took a cautious step inside, taking in his surroundings.
“There are some towels and bedding in the linen closet next to the bathroom,” Brown said, pausing by the breakfast counter that separated the living room from the kitchen. “If you want hot water, I suggest showering in the mornings. It can run out quickly this time of year, especially in the evenings.”
An image of Brown standing in the shower, a stream of steaming water gliding over his skin and plastering his dark hair to his forehead popped unbidden into Oliver’s mind. It was as sudden as it was surprising, considering the man’s complete lack of geniality. Oliver cleared his throat and turned to the windows to conceal his blush, shivering with the draft that made the heavy curtains flutter. He was simply tired from his flight, letting his thoughts wander in silly directions.
“Okay. Is there anything else I should know, Mr. Brown?” It didn’t help matters that he could still see the man’s faint reflection in the windowpane, set against the gathering gloom outside.
“Rent is due on the first of every month. I’ll send you the link for the pay app for this month’s fee and deposit.”
“Or I can just slide the envelope with the cash under your door.”
Brown’s reflection frowned.
“You know,” Oliver said, “because it’s all so old-fashioned around here?” He paused for effect. There was only silence. “Forget it; it was a bad joke.”
“I don’t care either way, as long as you pay on time,” Brown said gruffly. “Takes a lot to keep this place up and running.”
Oliver supposed it was true. Old buildings were notorious money pits where maintenance was concerned, and from what he’d seen so far, the “up and running” part was a bit of a stretch. What the house needed was nothing short of a complete overhaul, but he judged it better not to say so to the landlord.
“Here are your keys.” They jingled as Brown put them on the entrance side table. “One for the apartment and one for the front door. I’m right across the hall if you need anything.”
He somehow managed to make it sound like a warning rather than an invitation.
“Um, sure,” Oliver said, turning back to him. He hoped he’d composed himself enough not to betray his earlier embarrassment. “Wait. Can you recommend a place where I can order takeout? After that airplane food, I’m kinda starving.”
He’d have to do some grocery shopping tomorrow after work, but he had absolutely nothing planned for dinner tonight. As if to emphasize his words, his stomach rumbled, too loud in the quiet of the room, and he flushed again, the heat creeping up to his hairline.
Brown’s gaze traveled from Oliver’s feet to his face as if taking his measure.
“There’s a decent pizza joint nearby,” he said. “I can get you their menu flier.”
“That’d be great!” Oliver said, sounding fake cheerful to his own ears. The conversation, mundane as it was, had made him more and more flustered. Or was it the other man’s looming presence? Either way, Oliver couldn’t wait to be alone and get settled, preferably after a nice, hot meal.
Brown nodded and turned to leave without sparing another word. The door closed softly behind him, leaving Oliver alone, with only the ticking of the mantle clock to fill the silence.
The House on Druid Lake has a slow build that feels slightly like a horror romance in the beginning until making an abrupt shift into a definite paranormal romance… but that’s part of what I loved. It kept me guessing, unsure what to expect or how it would turn out in the end.
The relationship between Nym and Oliver gets off to a rocky start, has a rough middle, but thankfully ends with a happy ever after — or at least a happy for now. I would seriously love to read more about the characters in The House on Druid Lake so my fingers are crossed there will be more books set in this world.
The House on Druid Lake has a bit of mystery, romance, and friendships with a paranormal spin. Perfect reading to get you in the mood for Halloween! Ms. Adler has a true gift and I’m eager to see what she’ll write next.
*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.
Meet the Author
A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
In his 200 years of life, Zayne Lyall has made his share of enemies. The most ruthless of all being Knox Channon, who seeks vengeance for a pack war that took place over a hundred years ago.
To gain information he can use to bring Zayne down, Knox reconnects with Amelie Graye, a past love who joined the Royal pack Zayne belongs to. Unfortunately, Amelie doesn’t know much about the royal arctic… despite a longing within her to be near him.
Amelie and Knox have a tumultuous past that ended after she and her family went rogue following an attack by the Sierra pack. While she has no details to offer about Zayne, Knox sniffing around her leaves his inner wolf snarling.
More than anything Zayne wants to charge in and protect the woman his heart aches for. But he has a secret… and it could cost him everything. Amelie is his fated mate. If Knox were to discover this, he would know hurting her would be the key to destroying Zayne. Torn between his desire to claim Amelie as his own and his ferocious passion to protect her, can Zayne find a way to bring down his malicious enemy? Or will an age old vendetta rob him of a blissful future with his bonded mate?
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author L. P. Dover is a southern belle living in North Carolina with her husband and two beautiful girls. Everything’s sweeter in the South has always been her mantra and she lives by it, whether it’s with her writing or in her everyday life. Maybe that’s why she’s seriously addicted to chocolate.
Dover has written countless novels in several different genres, including a children’s book with her daughter. Her favorite to write is romantic suspense, but she’s also found a passion in romantic comedy. She loves to make people laugh which is why you’ll never see her without a smile on her face.
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