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!
Mate for the Howlidays by @jessica_coulter_smith is a new MFM Paranormal Holiday Romance (Menage) and it’s coming on December 17th!
EXCERPT – First Kiss
“What are you thinking?” Dex asked.
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.
A pair of guards opened the giant doors, bowing at Thomas as he guided me through. It was an actual struggle not to freeze at the entrance and stare. But man, did I want to. This place—while definitely what I would consider on-brand for a vamp nest—was one of the most magnificent buildings I’d ever been in. I wasn’t particularly interested in other churches, but this cathedral was just a beauty. A gallery of pews sat to the left and right of a wide aisle that led to a raised dais. Vampires filled the seats, dressed similarly to Thomas and me, their voices a low buzz of conversation. More people were sitting in the upper gallery, their opulent gowns and sharp tuxedos a happy reminder that Thomas had my back. Had I walked in here with leather pants and a whip on my hip, I had a feeling I would have been just a touch out of place.
Thomas continued his leading, guiding me down the aisle toward a stunningly severe woman sitting on what appeared to be a throne. Skin paler than death, eyes vamped out in a way that seemed permanent, and painted lips the color of blood, she was the most beautiful and yet most frightening woman I’d ever seen. Dark hair was piled on her head in purposefully haphazard curls, a few tendrils snaking out of the complicated up-do to artfully caress her neck. She wore a brilliant green gown that was so simple, and yet so achingly complex, it had to have cost a fortune.
We reached the end of the aisle, and Thomas bowed his head slightly. I copied him, wishing I would have received an etiquette lesson on the hour-long drive here. All I’d gotten was Thomas’ clenched jaw and silence.
“You have some nerve,” a woman growled, drawing my gaze from what had to be the queen of this nest to her right.
I quickly realized that the voice did not belong to a woman at all but a child. Pale-blonde hair and blue eyes were set in an elfin face of a vampire who had likely been no more than ten when she was turned. And that had to have been centuries ago. This little whisp of a “girl”—and I use that word lightly—had the look of a being older than dirt. Dressed in a black lace confection appropriate for a child beauty queen, she stood from her chair.
She then launched herself at Thomas.
I couldn’t exactly say why I did it. I mean, she had me by centuries, and Thomas could take care of himself. But as soon as her feet left the dais, I had the knife Clem had given me yanked from its sheath and was in front of the man in an instant.
Thomas owed me, not the other way around, but he’d been kind to me when I’d needed it, and I wouldn’t let him get attacked. No way, no how.
It was as if everyone froze. Conversations halted, guards stood stock-still, and even this slip of a thing stood arrested at the end of my blade, which was poised at her throat.
To this tiny—but by no means less deadly—vampire at the point of my knife, I said, “Settle down there, Blondie, or we’re going to have a problem.”
I had a feeling we probably already had one.
“Haunting rooftops again, I see,” Bastian called from behind me, startling me out of my intense stare-down of an inanimate object, namely, a door.
The only thing special about this door was that behind it lay a raging arcane club. The music radiated up from the ground, through the building, rattling my bones even from across the street, but that door was nothing more than a metal barrier to the world beyond. I’d always wondered what went on in clubs like those. Would it be sex and alcohol and dancing bodies—which wasn’t much different from a human club in that scenario—or would it be darker? Blood and death and all the dark things about the arcane world that I hated? I was smart enough to know that the human world had its darkness, too, but it seemed the more I lived in this world, the more I realized that what I thought was evil didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
“It’s a hobby,” I muttered, shaking my head to clear the dark thoughts as I stretched from my crouch, my joints protesting loudly. One thing about this life that was the same were the aches and pains. I’d sat in one spot too long, staring at that stupid metal door to that stupid arcane club that wouldn’t provide any more answers than the last one had.
My search so far had given me one dead end after the other, and after two straight months of nothing, I was starting to get annoyed. It was bad enough that I had the habit of haunting rooftops before the man who’d killed my parents left a note on my pillow.
Now, it was an obsession.
In the last two months—in between bounties and training—I’d been scouring every nook and cranny of Ascension. And my questioning methods hadn’t exactly been in line with what I would call pleasant.
Bloody would be a better descriptor.
Hopping off the ledge, I knocked the dark hood from my white hair, letting the spring air cool me down. Sweltering under my lightweight jacket, I yanked it off, trying not to rip the fabric. Clem would be pissed if I ripped another one, and as the house’s weapons keeper and person in charge of my solid food intake, pissing her off would not be a smart move on my part. Plus, if Bastian found me, there would be no more sleuthing tonight, and the need to hide my beacon of a hair color was no longer necessary.
I’d need to pick harder to find locations if I wanted him off my ass. Well… I kind of wanted him on my ass, just not while I was in the middle of my special project. I stared down at the skull don’t-find-me ring I’d conned Simon into making for me. Leave it to Bastian to find a way to work around Simon’s magic.
Bastian stood in the darkness, the faint light barely kissing the high points of his face and leaving the rest in shadow. To everyone else, he was a bruiser with his heavy dark brow and bulking frame. To me, he seemed akin to a big teddy bear—a giant, angry teddy bear, but one, nonetheless.
Even if he was spoiling my stakeout.
“Some hobby,” he groused, snagging my hand and reeling me in. “You know, instead of skulking around, you could actually go inside one of those clubs. Take a night off from your ‘creature of the dark’ persona and actually have fun.”
Fun. It was a struggle not to audibly scoff and even harder not to show the derision on my face. I hadn’t had fun in ages. Hell, I didn’t even know what that word meant anymore. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a night off—definitely pre-orphanhood, for sure.
“‘Creature of the dark?’ What am I, a Batman villain? Do I get a cool costume? Is there a car in this deal?”
Bastian’s smile gave me legit butterflies, the wide, white pull of his full lips making me all giddy.
Annie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she’ll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life… interesting.
What’s a witch to do when her magic’s been hacked and her tongue wickedly cursed! No matter how hard Eloise Redd concentrates on keeping her thoughts to herself, she blurts them. The only option is to lie low and wait for the hacker’s ransom note —and hope the demands aren’t too steep. In the meantime, she hides out in a haunted town as a palm reader. What could possibly go wrong reading palms?
Jeffrey Bales, Chief Operating Officer of Think Tank Innovations, is excellent at peopling. What he’s not good at is fending off a multitude of women convinced he’s their souls’ missing puzzle piece. This thanks to the town’s magical palm reader. A woman whose mouth should come with a hazard warning. He has no choice but to turn his charms on her to silence those wayward words. Just a tiny, fake relationship should work…
Unless it takes place under the roof of a bewitched house. One determined to bind them together eternally. That ransom demand can’t arrive soon enough.
What if this is forever?
“Welcome to Hand Picked.” Eloise struck a pose at the top of her stairs and spoke to the gentleman who stood in her doorway, looking very much like a shabby prince with his stiff stance and sexy-as-hell five o’clock shadow. Was he her three o’clock?
If so, she now wished she’d reapplied her Rouge Louboutin Velvet Matte lipstick after her cup of tea. Perhaps living in Knotty would be more than bores and snores after all. A little hot weekend sex would make the months go by faster.
“Thank you,” he said.
About to take a step forward, she paused, left foot dangling above the stair. Hmmm.What do we have here? His voice sounded familiar. She tilted her head to the left and tried to get a look at his profile. Nope. His face, what she could see of it in the shadows, didn’t ring any bells. Perhaps she’d overheard him talking while she’d explored the town last weekend. “Have you come to have your palm read?”
Not waiting for his response, she lifted her floral, floor-length, multi-ruffled skirt and glided down the stairs, aiming to appear like a royal subject entering a magical ball being held in her honor. Not to impress the man. Not much anyway. But mostly because presentation mattered when one read palms for a living. With her skirt, she wore a black long sleeve bodysuit and a headscarf that had beads that dangled over her forehead.
She’d been just as meticulous regarding her appearance when she had practiced law. Only then, instead of every aspect of her projecting flamboyant exuberance, she’d projected the appropriate image of strength and intelligence and the ability to cut your throat in a courtroom without leaving any traces of blood on her Louboutin heels.
At the bottom of the stairs, she got her first shadow-free view of her latest customer. A view that caused her world to tumble and land ass up. Balls. Balls. Balls.
Eloise stood outside Jeff’s house and waited for the lovely old Victorian to welcome her and her cat inside. Charm, the moodiest cat ever, had been MIA ever since she’d been forced to move to Knotty with Eloise.
“Who are you?” the house barked in a voice gruff with age. Not even a hint of the English accent Eloise had expected.
“Eloise Redd, of the Salem Redds. And you are?” Eloise stood straight and unafraid. This was not her first conversation with a house.
“Gwinifer. You may call me Ms. Gwinifer. And the feline?”
Eloise held her cage out in front of her so Gwinifer could get a good look. “Charm. Of the Salem Charms.”
“I’m not particularly fond of cats,” Gwinifer said.
Charm’s back arched. “Hiiiiissssss.”
“Neither am I.” Eloise gave Charm a behave-yourself look and sat the cage on the ground. “But I’m a witch. They’re required. Along with a cauldron, but I left that in the trunk of the car.”
A nose appeared on the front of the house and it sniffed the air around Eloise. “I can’t say I’m fond of witches either.”
“Neither am I. But, as they say, one doesn’t get to pick their birth family.” Was Jeff inside watching her talk to his house? If so, why hadn’t he come outside and made proper introductions, instead of forcing Eloise to announce herself like a commoner? Surely, if the house was talking to her, it had also spoken to Jeff on his move-in day. Who was she kidding? If the guy was skeptical about palm readers, there’s no way he had ever admitted to himself he heard a house talking. He had probably blamed whatever he had heard from Gwinifer on the wind whistling through tree branches and playing tricks on his ears.
She glanced away from the nose and admired the house. She didn’t want Gwinifer to feel rushed into making a decision. A house that felt forced into welcoming a guest could be quite abusive to said guest. Cold showers. Creaking floorboards. Drafty rooms. Dead mouse smells.
On the outside, Gwinifer was a sassy lady. Her colorful eclecticism and intricate excess so fit the town itself. Her facade had an elaborately decorated gable and off to one side, a round tower. Her steeply pitched and complex roof perched like a jaunty hat, giving her further style. It was in the window of her dormer that Eloise got a nod of approval. A wink.
“You’ll do,” Gwinifer said in a haughty tone.
Eloise could practically here the house’s eyes rolling. She smiled and gave a curtsy. “Thank you.”
“Don’t make me regret allowing a witch inside my sanctuary,” Gwinifer snapped. “I have a temper. The last time I got mad at a witch, a tornado took out the town.”
Lisa Wells writes romantic comedy with enough steam to fog your eyeglasses, your brain, and sometimes your Kindle screen. On the other hands, her eighty-year-old mother-in-law has read Lisa’s steamiest book and lived to offer her commentary. Which went something like this: You used words I’ve never heard of…
She lives in Missouri with her husband and slightly-chunky rescue dog. Lisa loves dark chocolate, red wine, and those rare mornings when her skinny jeans fit. Which isn’t often, considering the first two entries on her love-it list.
Before I even turn around, I know.
I can smell him. Earth, citrus, a hint of espresso, and overpowering alpha male.
“You just can’t sit still, huh? You had to take over the flight attendant’s job?” His voice is a low rumble, a purr that plucks at my nerves.
The attendant rounds the corner and gasps. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir! I offered to do it, but she said she wanted the experience. I didn’t see the harm…”
“Guilty,” I say without looking at him. “I couldn’t pass up a chance to join the coffee mile-high club.”
His eyes flash with a wicked gleam when I realize my mistake.
“Are you done bothering me, Mr. Lancaster?”
He smirks at the flight attendant. “It’s fine. I know how Eliza gets.”
What? He doesn’t even know me.
Why is he acting so familiar?
First the flirting, and now this?
Did he really bring me on this trip for the sake of coffee science? What do I know about Kona beans, anyway? I’ve never picked them by hand.
The sudden crisis of confidence hits like a Mack truck.
“Why don’t you sit down? I’ve got this. I think we’re the only people left without coffee,” I say, ignoring how he squeezes into the tight space next to me.
Lancaster doesn’t move. If anything, he inches closer, watching how I tremble every time he brushes me and—oh, God. He’s enjoying this, isn’t he?
When I grab the new carafe, I almost elbow him in the gut on my way out.
“Do you mind? Like I said, I’ve got this.”
His look reminds me how very little I’ve got anything when it comes to self-control. I almost drop the coffee container on the floor.
When his hand darts around my wrist, I almost hit the ceiling.
I’m barely breathing as he moves his fingers slowly up my hand, gently lifting the carafe away from me.
“You’re shaking like a leaf with a container of hot liquid. Are you sure you don’t need a hand? Serving coffee isn’t below my pay grade, sweetheart,” he whispers.
I shake my head fiercely, until he gives up the carafe again when I reach for it, touching his fingers.
For the faintest second, my hip brushes his.
“I can handle my coffee, Mr. Lancaster, but…but thanks.” And because I can still feel his breath when he’s so achingly close, I add, “It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
He clears his throat loudly.
At first, my mangled words don’t register.
Shocked that this self-possessed man seems so flustered, I replay the last two lines in my head.
It hits me what that must have sounded like.
Double entendre? More like death warrant.
I slam my fist into my bedroom wall, furious and suffocating with the urge to kill someone. Bloody knuckles mix with the black soot from the fire I just spent hours fighting. Black and red. Fury and death.
“Where. The. Fuck. Is. She?” My voice pops through the air like bullets being fired from a gun.
I want answers even though the way my security look at me—wide-eyed, fear visible in their stance—I know they don’t have them to give. “Did you search the entire house?”
It’s a stupid question. If she’s not here in my room where I left her, or at the very least in her own room down the hall, then she’s not in the house. I know this. I don’t even know why I’m bothering asking the question other than to try to damper the raging madness inside of me by asking mundane questions.
“We did, sir.”
“How is it that my security team has no idea where Lyriope is? What the fuck do I pay you for? And why the fuck haven’t I just shot you both through the eyes because of your carelessness?” The question burns my tongue, and I have visions of cutting out someone else’s tongue in retaliation.
“We were all extinguishing the fire,” Harrison defends, stepping in with confidence. He’s the only one in this room with the balls to actually speak the truth to me. “Everyone was at the dock.” His eyes lock with mine, silently telling me to calm the fuck down. “Our focus was on putting out the fire before authorities came.”
I take a deep breath, knowing he’s right. We were all there. The entirety of my available staff.
We left Lyriope alone. Vulnerable. A flashing beacon just begging to be stolen.
“Get out,” he barked, crossing his beefy arms over his substantial belly. “Ain’t no way I’m gonna let a Bannister tromp all over my shop. Who knows what you’ll break?”
Not that half the shit in this hovel wasn’t broken already, but still, tears prickled at my eyes. Gritting my teeth against the sting, I managed to stand my ground. This wasn’t the first time I’d been kicked out of a witch shop, and given my history, it wouldn’t be the last.
“Please,” I begged, reaching inside my bag for the wad of cash. Ellie and I had planned on moving in together after college, but here we were two years post-graduation, with no apartment in sight. Unearthing the fistful of bills, I held them in front of me to ward off my ousting. “I can pay.”
His gaze snagged on the money in my hand, and he licked his chops. By the looks of this place, Mr. Jones hadn’t seen a paying customer in longer than I’d been alive. “What? You stub your toe or somethin’? I ain’t wasting my time on no silly girl with a hangnail.”
Don’t back talk the healer, Wren. Don’t do it.
An old pickup, with new shiny green paint, slowed down beside her until it crawled along at her pace. A quick glance sideways revealed black-hat-cowboy-guy grinning down at her.
A jolt of awareness cleared some of the fog from her head. He was more good-looking than she’d remembered, and also incredibly large above her in the truck.
“Good morning, darlin’,” he called down.
“Drive on,” she called out.
“Headed into town? We’ve got room.”
“I’m going to walk.” She wouldn’t get into a car with a single person from that party. She walked forward, not looking at him.
“Hold up, you dropped something,” he said, stopping the truck.
Randi whirled around, scanning the empty ground behind her. Her fingers lost their grip and her bags crashed down, things spilling out onto the gravel road. Her eyes burned.
Buck turned off the truck engine and leaned out the window.
“That’s a lot of gear to haul all the way into town,” he said, cheerfully.
“That was a dirty trick.”
“I just want to talk to you for a minute.”
“Leave me alone please!”
“Listen. Hugh, in the passenger seat, and I are headed in for some breakfast. If you ride with me, this gas guzzler will have a full cab. Darlin’, that’s a load off my conscience.”
Randi’s belly shuddered and her lips quivered. The dam burst. Her hands flew up to cover her eyes and a hiccupped sob exploded out.
“I can’t jump in some stranger’s pickup,” she mumbled through her fingers.
“Hey now,” he said, the amused condescension in his voice making her glare up at him. “You hold on to that pepper spray if it makes you feel better. Land’s sake, girl, we hauled around passed-out-Sarah last night. You’re practically part of the family. And Hugh here has about twenty sisters, so he’s well-trained.”
The door of the truck opened. She took a step back, pulling up the inside collar of her dress to dab at her face.
Buck’s eyes crinkled at her, a lopsided half-grin on his face. It was probably the way he looked at cows right before he lassoed a rope around their necks, or whatever. But he had helped Sarah. And her.
Her shoulders slumped. Defeated, she was beyond resistance. If they murdered her, at least she might be sitting down.
“All right?” he asked.
She exhaled. “All right, I’ll take a ride to the closest bus stop. Thanks.”
Buck picked up her bags and put them in the back of the truck. She hauled her heavy backpack off her aching shoulders and turned to sling it up, but Buck was already gripping the top and lifting it out of her hands.
“Hi,” said a burly man sitting on the passenger side of the bench seat, a gentle smile on his face. Like she was a crazy person. Which she was. With a deep breath, she hoisted herself up into the cab next to him.
“Sorry about Buck,” the big guy said, glaring at the culprit with one eye squinted. “He’s devious about getting what he wants.”
Buck landed on the seat beside her. “Hugh keeps the standards up. Probably why he’s so grumpy all the time.”
Hugh crossed his arms, leaning into the passenger door. His buzzed blond head and muscular frame brought to mind a late-twenties version of Mr. Clean, minus the jewelry.
“I ain’t grumpy. Just tired of your ugly face.”
I see Craig and Tinea across the room, sitting close to each other, whispering and giggling with flirty smiles in their eyes. I admire their love, but at times I can’t stand being around them. Always touching, petting, and kissing each other.
Like what the fuck.
You’re just jealous.
I’m anything but; I get to bang the girl on the cover of this month’s American Vogue.
Upon my approach, Craig leans over and kisses Tinea.
“You two are corny as hell,” I greet them, then place a kiss on Tinea’s cheeks before sitting.
“Don’t be kissing my wife.”
“She isn’t your wife yet,” I point out. “She could come to her senses and run away.” I laugh.
“Wishful thinking, Mulligan.” Craig laughs. “When you put it down like I do, you never worry about your woman leaving.” He winks at Tinea.
Is that a dig? Simone didn’t leave because I couldn’t fuck her brains out. She left because she’s a conceited bitch. She thinks only of herself. Only Simone has feelings, no one else. Men don’t feel. We do fucking feel, but we can’t show it the way women do cause were expected to be strong.