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.
I put all my strength into my next forehand. The ball torpedoed over the net, not even bothering to bounce within the court. Nope, that sucker was headed for the fences. If this was baseball, it’d be time to break out the peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Too bad this wasn’t baseball.
A figure in the distance went down, knees to the court. A crowd of students suddenly appeared, gasping and rushing over.
“You hit him!” someone shrieked.
My breath lodged in my throat. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I jogged over, terrified to breathe until I knew my accidental victim was okay.
Caleb directed a dirty scowl at me. “You really are the worst, Maxwell.”
I angled to see the fallen student. “I’m so sorry!”
“Oh, Maisie.” Nia mumbled, now beside me.
“I’m okay,” the guy on the ground said, attempting to stand despite the crowd. His head emerged, sun-bleached brown hair unkempt and curling over a tanned forehead. That perfectly shaggy hair some guys could get away with. He wasn’t a returning student. The face turning toward me could easily belong on a clothing website, the kind with ninety-dollar T-shirts with holes in them for a distressed look. Basically, he was very attractive.
A swath of blood streaked across that very attractive face.
That part was definitely my fault.
Sorry floated across my tongue, but my lips couldn’t form the word under the pressure of so many glaring classmates. Any hope of being an admired senior this year shriveled and burned like a tissue set aflame.
He accepted a clean towel and pressed it to his nose. “I expected I might not be welcome here, but your forehand really confirmed it.”
“Way to go, Maxwell,” Caleb said with a sneer. “You just nailed Shane Wagner in the face.”
Oh. Wait, what? “You’re … you’re—”
“Shane Wagner,” the bloody-faced model boy said through the towel.
Shane Wagner. The Shane Wagner. I just nailed the face of the number one-seeded player in junior boys’ tennis.
“Who in hell …?” Ginger got up and opened the door.
Annie Fannie stood there in all her hoity-toity glory.
Ginger glared up at the tall, svelte woman, her shock evident. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Dressed in a designer outfit that no doubt cost more than Ginger’s entire wardrobe, hell, probably her entire apartment, the uninvited guest pressed the back of her hand to Ginger’s shoulder to nudge her aside. “Let me in. The heat out here is insufferable.” She came to an abrupt halt just inside the door, leaving Ginger stuck in the open threshold to deal with the heat. “Well, well, well. Look … at … this,” Annie snarled as she sauntered into the room and stood like a queen looking down her nose at her peons. “The whole gang is here. Hello, girls. It’s been a long time.”
Dolly huffed. “Not long enough.”
“Aren’t you going to invite me to sit down?”
“No, Annie, we’re not,” Ginger stated flatly.
“I haven’t gone by Annie since I quit performing. It’s Anastasia now.” She patted her dyed blond hair, making certain they noticed she had a chichi coif.
“I’m guessing you’ve never quit performing, one way or another.” Dolly stood up to face the interloper mano a mano.
Merry hopped up to join the line of defense.
“My, my. What hostility. What did I ever do to make you all so rudely hostile toward me?”
“Gee, Annie, I’m surprised you ask, because we know you don’t give a rat’s ass what we think.” Dolly balled up her fists and ground them into her hips, at the ready.
“As for the hostility,” Ginger seethed, thirty years of hot anger boiling up unexpectedly, “how about the fact that you lied to my boyfriend about me and stole him away? Huh? How about that?”
“Pfft. Please. He wasn’t worth having. I only dated him a few times. You could have had him back. Oh wait. I remember now. He went on to Pussy Willow after me. I guess he liked her … willow.” She smirked, amused at her supposed wit.
“You treated us like shit,” Dolly growled. “You insulted our costumes and our acts and even our bodies. Like you thought you were so much better than us.”
“Well …” Annie made the mistake of throwing her arms out wide and looking around the room. “I’ve certainly never lived in a hovel like this.”
That did it. Ginger flung herself at their tormenter, clawing at the viper’s haute couture dress and tearing it down to her waist.
“You little bitch!” Annie Fannie, once the most elegant of exotic dancers, turned out to be a formidable foe. She grabbed a handful of Ginger’s hair and with that they hit the floor, rolling around and throwing punches as best they could. Arms and legs flailed about at random, like a game of Whack-a-mole gone bad.
Dolly and Merry jumped into action, each snatching a brawler and yanking her away. Everybody got roughed up in the process. The Women’s Wrestling Association had nothing on them.
“Girls! Girls!” Dolly hollered. “This isn’t going to change anything.”
“Stop! Stop!” Merry yelled at the same time. “You’re both acting like Neanderthals.”
Once separated and on opposite sides of the room, the brutal enemies tried to kill each other with laser stares.
“Look at what you did to my dress. It’s ruined.” Annie slung the comment across the room. Her pink, embroidered, lacy, padded, underwire bra poked out at them.
“Yeah. Well, that’s nothing compared to what you did to my life. I loved Harold!” Ginger’s lower lip quivered as she shook a quaking finger at her nemesis.
Annie frowned, paused, then said, “His name was Howard.”
“No, it wasn’t! He was my Harold.”
“Ah, Ginger, honey.” Dolly’s gentle tone caused Ginger to look at her friend. “I remember him.”
They watched as awareness clicked in on Ginger’s face.
“As much as I hate to admit that Annie is right, his name was Howard,” Dolly reminded her.
Ginger looked to Merry for support, but all Merry could offer was a helpless shrug.
“Oh. Oh. Well. Yeah, sure. Now I remember.” Ginger straightened herself, patted her mussed up hair, casually sat down at the table, and calmly clasped her hands. “I knew that.”
“Now that we’ve done a brawling bump and grind down memory lane,” Annie chided, stuffing the torn edge of her dress up into her bra straps, “I’d like to get to the reason for my visit and then get out of this dump as quickly as possible.”
“Do tell,” Dolly said. “Why in hell are you here?”
“I didn’t go all out with dessert,” Gian said, jarring him back to the present. “I’ll do that next time.”
Next time. He could get used to this. To all of this.
“I just made a chocolate cake and I’ve got some ice cream to go with it.”
There was that word again. Just. Gian had no idea how much all this meant to him.
Gian stood and took their plates to the sink, rinsed them off, and then placed them into the dishwasher. A few seconds later, he brought out a glass cake stand and raised the glass dome top.
Warren closed his eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the mix of sweetness and chocolate filling the air. Something foreign inside him swelled and had him standing. He walked over to Gian and took the knife from his hand and set it aside.
“What’s going on?” Gian asked.
He slid his arms around Gian’s waist and held him close.
It was the million little things this man did that threw Warren off-balance. How he knew giving Warren a code for entrance to the community would put him more at ease than handing over his ID to a guard. How he never pushed. The way he paid attention to every minute detail. How he listened for the sake of understanding, not for the purpose of waiting for that precise second to interrupt. He cared about others, what they thought, and how his actions affected them. He was a good man. With good intentions. And a kind heart.
The opposite of what he had grown accustomed to expecting from others.
“If I had known I’d get a hug out of this, I would have made you two cakes.”
He couldn’t forget adding Gian’s use-of-humor-to-ease-the-tension-in-the-air to the list.
He rested his head against Gian’s shoulder when strong arms wrapped around him. This…this was where he wanted to be. A place where he felt welcomed and happy.
There, less than a hundred yards away waited the reason for his heart rate to suddenly increase.
There she was.
Lying near the water’s edge, her sparkling reddish-orange tail rested in the water. His eyes traveled upwards to her flat belly and then to her full, lush breasts. His mouth involuntarily started to water a bit as he stared at the chocolate-tipped mounds. She was breathtaking. With dark, wavy hair spread out around her on the sand, and the sound coming from her rosebud-shaped mouth, Jason seemed lost. Not a song, but a soulful sweet hum came from her lips drawing him in closer. Sad, but beautiful.
Jason inched forward again, and then the sound stopped.
Abruptly she sat up, her ebony hair whipping around as her attention focused on him. Her wide amethyst eyes pinned him in place as if the weight of the world held him there. They were at a standstill, of sorts. Him watching her, marveling at the wonder she was and her watching him as if he were the wonder between them. As if she were seeing him for the first time. Jason took a step towards her, but she moved faster. Crawling back into the water and away from him.
She was trying to get away from him.
Barely a whisper, but if she heard it, she didn’t slow her escape. Using her upper body, she propelled herself into the water, becoming one with the sea. If she left now, he was certain that he’d never see her again.
And that he wasn’t ready for.
Without another thought, Jason ran towards the water and dove in after her. His vision wasn’t the best without his glasses, but it didn’t matter. He had to go after her, or at least try. The waters enveloped him, as he prepared to dive down after her like he, too, was a creature of the sea. She was ahead of him, almost out of his eyesight if not for the shimmering of her tail that, like a beacon, drew him to her. He swam as fast and as hard as he could, but it didn’t matter. She was too fast for him to catch up.
And then an ocean current had him, pulling him out deeper to sea.
Motherfucker. What was this horseshit?
Aleah bounced over to me and flung her arms around my neck. “You’re early! Good, this gives you and Emma time to catch up before your photoshoot. I knew she’d be perfect for the job. You two have always been comfortable with each other.”
Clenching my teeth, I watched as Emma posed with her cunt of an ex. He had his hands all over her as they posed for the pictures; I wanted to rip his arms off. “You failed to mention any of this to me,” I huffed.
“Hey,” Aleah said, squeezing my wrist. I tore my gaze away from Emma and focused on her. Aleah’s smile faded as she glanced back and forth between the three of us. “Am I missing something? Why are you mad? I thought you’d like working with Emma.”
My attention went back to Emma, and I couldn’t tear my eyes off her. Her bare skin shimmered in the sun, and her dark hair now had caramel wisps that weren’t there before. I could almost remember how it felt to touch her and have her nails rake down my back as she screamed out my name. I have always wanted her, and now she was right in front of me in another man’s arms, the arms of someone I knew had been with her the way I had. And now, I had to watch him touch her as if she was his.
“Carter, talk to me,” Aleah demanded, her voice low. “I’ve never seen you this angry. What’s going on?”
The photographer directed Ryan and Emma to change positions, and Ryan moved even closer to her. I had to force myself to look away before I lost my shit.
“I wasn’t expecting Emma to be here, much less with that prick,” I hissed.
Aleah stepped in front of me. “Ryan’s not that bad. He wants Emma back and thought this would work.”
“He’s a fucking tool. He doesn’t deserve her,” I fired back.
Aleah pinned me with her honey-toned stare, crossing her arms over her chest. “And who does? You?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” I spat out quickly.
A slow, wry smile spread across her face. “It’s not what you’re saying but how you’re acting.” She peered over at Ryan and Emma again. “I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re seriously giving off the jealousy vibes right now.” When I didn’t respond, her eyes widened in understanding. “Oh my God, you have a thing for Emma. I had my suspicions years ago but never saw anything happen.”
My jaw muscles hurt from clenching my teeth so hard. “That’s because we didn’t let anyone see it.”
Aleah sucked back a gasp. “Have you two like …” She waved her hands in front of her as if she was trying to find the right words. “Gotten close?” she finished. Again, my silence was her answer. Her mouth gaped, and she grabbed her chest. “Holy shit, you have. And here I am flaunting her in front of you with another guy. I’m so sorry.”
She couldn’t be blamed for this.
I shrugged. “Emma left for New York, and I went my own way. It’s fine. We haven’t spoken in a long time.”
Groaning, Aleah shook her head incredulously. “First off, I’m going to kill you for not telling me any of this. And second,” she griped, holding up her hands, “I got this. I’m team Carter all the way.”
“What are you going to do?” I wondered.
Aleah winked. “Getting you what you want. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what that is.”