#ThrowbackThursday – Moonlight Hero #PNR #werewolves #romance

Hero #3

Alpha werewolf Gabriel Andrews is content with his life, even if it’s a bit lonely. He wants what every wolf wants — his mate. When a stunning woman darts into his garage, panting for breath and looking more than a little frightened, his wolf sits up and takes notice. She smells enticing and a hunger grows inside of Gabriel, and he knows he must have her. But loving Kiera will not be an easy task with a ravenous vampire hot on her trail. It seems his little shifter mate is something a little more, and it will take him and an entire pack to keep her safe.

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Excerpt

Kiera ran on silent feet through the darkened alley.  It probably would have been easier to escape if she had shifted into her animal form, but then she would have been stuck without clothes later.  That would have been a little hard to explain to the average human.

Running for all she was worth, she could sense the vampire’s presence not far behind her.  Going into that bar was the dumbest thing she had ever done! Why had she allowed the girls to talk her into it?  Shaking her head, she continued to the end of the alley.  Hopefully, she would live to see another day.

When she reached the corner, she looked around.  There wasn’t much nearby except an old Victorian home and an auto repair shop.  Noticing the lights were on in the auto shop, she hurried across the street.  Reaching for the door, she glanced over her shoulder and gasped.  The vampire was standing on the corner under the street lamp.  To a passerby he would seem harmless, but Kiera knew better, knew him for the predator he was.  She was trembling as she watched the vampire; she knew he could smell her fear but was helpless to do anything about it.

Pushing the door open, Kiera rushed inside.  As soon as she closed the door, she turned the lock.  The logical part of her brain was calling her an idiot for thinking a lock would keep out a vampire, but her self-preservation skills were kicking in.  That small piece of metal made her feel a little bit safer, even if her safety was nothing more than an illusion.

Across the room, Gabriel heard the door close and lock.  As he slid out from under the Mustang he had been working on, he noticed the disheveled woman warily watching the street through the glass door.  He got up and walked slowly toward her. Taking in her creamy complexion, petite stature and long ebony hair, his body immediately responded to her.  She was definitely something to look at, curved in all the right places.

“May I help you?” he asked.

Kiera gasped and spun toward the deep voice.  Momentarily startled, she regained her composure, trying to keep her expression as neutral as possible.  “Is it alright if I stay here for a minute?”

Gabriel casually looked her over, appreciating the way her black dress clung to her curves. “Everything okay?”

Kiera glanced back outside.  The vampire was still on the corner, watching her every move.  She knew that he was waiting for her to leave.  It wasn’t fair to involve this stranger in her problems, but she didn’t have much of a choice if she wanted to live.  And she definitely wanted to live!

Looking back at Gabriel, she said, “That man across the street has been following me.  I’m a little nervous about going back outside.”

Gabriel looked through the glass door.  Sure enough, a tall blond man was standing on the corner, watching them.  An inner voice was screaming at him that the man was a vampire and to be wary.  Gabriel shook his head, clearing the ridiculous thought from his mind. Vampires?  He was starting to lose it. Granted, being an alpha werewolf made him believe in the impossible, but he had yet to see proof that vampires existed.

Gently taking her arm, he pulled her away from the door. “You’re safe here.  You can stay as long as you need to.”

Kiera gave him a shaky smile. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.”

“Since I’m offering sanctuary, mind telling me how that guy ended up following you?”  If he was getting pulled into a domestic dispute, now was the time to find out.  The last thing he needed was an angry husband coming after him.

Kiera sighed, realizing she could only tell him half of the truth.   If she said that a vampire was following her, she had no doubt she would be dragged off to the loony bin.  Granted, that would be the perfect ending to her not so perfect day, but she would prefer to not land herself in a padded cell.

“The short version is that he tried to pick me up in a bar.  I told him that I wasn’t interested, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  When I left, he followed me.  He kind of gave me the creeps so I ran.” 

Something seemed a little off with her story.  If she had been running, why wasn’t she winded?    Not that he wouldn’t have enjoyed watching her run in that skin tight dress and heels; it definitely would have been a sight to behold, especially with her being so top heavy. He almost grinned at the image his mind was creating.

Giving himself a mental shake, he asked, “How did you end up here at my garage?  There isn’t a bar for at least three or four miles.”

Kiera hoped the shock didn’t show on her face.  Had she really run that far? “I guess I got lost.  I was just trying to get away from him and didn’t really pay attention to where I was going.” 

She knew her excuse sounded feeble, but she couldn’t very well tell him she was a werefox, giving her more agility and stamina than your average human.  There were some things that humans just weren’t prepared to hear.  The fact that “make believe” creatures really existed ranked high on that list.

Gabriel looked skeptical. There had to be more to her story than that, but obviously she wasn’t going to share the full tale.  “What’s your name?”

“Kiera.”

“I’m Gabriel.”

Kiera smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.  I just wish it was under better circumstances.”

“Do you need to use the phone to call someone?  It doesn’t look like that guy is leaving anytime soon,” Gabriel said, glancing out the door.

“Oh.” Kiera followed his gaze. Sure enough, the vampire was still watching from across the street. “Um, I don’t really have anyone to call.”

Gabriel arched an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.  Just what kind of trouble was she in?  She didn’t look more than twenty-one or so.  A deep primal instinct arose, making him want to comfort her and protect her.  The wolf in him responded to her soft feminine scent while the man responded to her lush curves.  She didn’t even reach his shoulder, which told him that she was under five-foot two since he was a little over six-feet tall.  She wasn’t bone thin like a lot of woman he’d met, but she wasn’t fat either.  Her elfin shaped face held full rosy lips and beautiful green eyes that were almost almond shaped.  They reminded him of cat eyes. 

Kiera noticed the appraisal.  “I don’t want to keep you from your work.  Please don’t feel like you have to keep me company.”

Gabriel grunted, noting the obvious dismissal.  Evidently mechanics weren’t good enough for her. He should have known that a woman as pretty and as well dressed as this one was would have an attitude.  Paper pushers were probably more her style; wealthy paper pushers.

“Guess I can finish up this job while you wait to see if your admirer goes away.”

Walking away from her, he slowly climbed back under the Mustang.  It was difficult to concentrate on his work, but he managed.  There was something about her that wasn’t entirely human.  He knew she wasn’t a werewolf, but she was definitely something special.  His alpha instincts told him that she was a mate for his pack.  Since Cole was already married, that meant that she belonged to either him or Michael.  Just thinking of Michael being with her made him grind his teeth.

Kiera watched Gabriel effortlessly slide under the car.  She started feeling light headed and realized that she had been holding her breath.  He was the most gorgeous guy she had ever seen!  Easily over six-feet tall, he had medium length black hair, piercing blue eyes, and was well muscled.  It had been difficult to not throw herself into his arms. If he had stood by her much longer, she wouldn’t have been able to keep her hands to herself.  She hoped that he hadn’t noticed the effect he had on her.  Her animal instincts were going to get her into trouble one of these days.

As she glanced back out the door, she realized that the vampire was crossing the street.  Startled, she instinctively started backing toward Gabriel.  It wasn’t fair to ask for his protection, but she had never been so terrified in her life.  She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about the mechanic made her feel safe and protected.

Hearing her footsteps drawing near, Gabriel slid out from under the car and looked up at her. “What’s wrong Kiera?”

“He’s coming over. I know that I have no right to ask this, but please help me.”  As she looked down at him, her eyes were wide with fear.  Her heart had doubled its rhythm and felt as it would burst from her chest. 

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#NewRelease – A Shifter Concern by @AuthorDulce @changelingpress #GayRomance #LGBTQ #PNR

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There’s a killer on the loose in New York City, and it’s up to shifter agents Akoni Kekoa and Naoko Gima to solve the case. The body count is rising and the pressure is on as the Bureau of Paranormal Affairs demands resolution.

Now is definitely not the time for personal issues to arise, but when they find their mate living out of a box in an alley, they can’t turn their backs on him. Slater is wary, and they can’t blame him — but with some luck they’ll not only win their human mate’s heart, but stop a rogue shifter before he kills again.

Little do they realize their present and their mate’s past would collide so violently. When they take Slater into their home, they never dream it will lead the killer right to their door.

Available Today from Changeling Press

Pre-Order for 11/24 from Amazon, B&N, iTunes, or Kobo

Excerpt

“I don’t like this case,” Naoko said. “Something doesn’t feel right about it.”

“Yeah, it’s leaving an icy chill down my spine. We’ve solved plenty of murders, but this time it’s different. I don’t like that it’s a rogue. He could tear apart the country before he’s caught. This asshole is methodical. The way the crime is devoid of any evidence that could give us a lead suggests that he’s either cleaning up after himself or he’s careful not to leave any clues to begin with. You almost have to wonder if he plans the murders before the sex even happens.”

“Think we’ll have any better luck than the previous agents?” Naoko asked.

“At this point, I’m thinking no. Not unless the M.E. finds something new, or another murder happens and he leaves more evidence. Each crime scene is too damn clean except for his smell and DNA, neither of which do us much good. Can you imagine trying to track a scent in this city? Fuck, most days it smells so bad I wish my nose didn’t work.”

Naoko nodded. “Tokyo is much the same. Too many people.”

Akoni pulled into a parking space on the corner a block down from their favorite cafe — a minor miracle. If driving in New York was a nightmare, parking was usually even worse. If the city weren’t so damn big, he’d just walk everywhere. Being a shifter, it wasn’t like he couldn’t handle a bit of walking.

He locked the car and they pushed through the crowd on the sidewalk. It was impossible to walk in the city without being shoulder to shoulder with a stranger. He’d often questioned his sanity in moving to such a place, and sometimes thought about going back home. Then another case would land on his desk and he’d remember his skills were put to better use here.

The cafe was crowded when they stepped inside and they had to wait twenty minutes before a table was ready for them.

Akoni didn’t even look at the menu since he ordered the same thing every time they ate here. Naoko perused the selection before setting his menu aside.

“You’re getting the Reuben, aren’t you?” he asked Naoko.

“Of course.”

“Then why look at the menu?”

“They might have added something new,” Naoko said. “Besides, something else might have looked good today.”

Akoni snorted. “Face it. You’re like me and eat the same damn thing every time we come here. The regular wait staff even knows our order by heart.”

Naoko smiled. “Are you saying we’re getting too predictable? Maybe we should order something else, just to throw them off.”

Akoni chuckled. “No thanks. My stomach is settled on having a club on rye with broccoli cheese soup.”

Their favorite waitress made her way over to their table. “Morning, agents. Same as usual?”

“Morning, Bethany,” Akoni said. “Yeah, we want the usual. Can I get an extra pickle though?”

“You bet.” She smiled. “Just water for both of you, or can I tempt you with some soda or tea?”

“Water for me,” Akoni said.

“I think I’ll actually have a lemonade today,” Naoko said. “Something tart would hit the spot.”

Bethany scribbled down their order and headed for the kitchen.

Akoni yawned and cracked his neck.

“I told you last night to let me take care of that for you,” Naoko said.

“It’s just stress.”

Naoko snorted. “If it was just stress, you would be fine right now. We spent a good hour relieving stress as I recall.”

Akoni smiled.

“No arguments tonight. I’m rubbing your neck and putting some Icy Hot on it before bed. You probably need a chiropractor. I bet you’re out of alignment.”

“That shit stinks.”

Naoko growled softly at him. “You will take care of yourself or allow me to do it. The last thing we need is to have you out of commission because you were too damn stubborn to see a doctor or get a little TLC.”

“I had plenty of TLC last night.”

Naoko’s lips twitched. “I meant of a non-intimate nature. Although, I’m happy to offer that kind any time you’d like. There’s a perfectly good bathroom down the hall right now.”

Akoni’s eyebrows went up. “Are you suggesting that we play while on the job? Shame on you. First time we’re caught fooling around, while we’re on the clock, they’ll assign us different partners. It would be different if one of us was having a heat cycle, but last time I checked, it’s not the right time of year for either of us.”

Naoko sighed. “Fine. Take the fun out of my day.”

Their food arrived and Akoni attacked his with gusto. His stomach was growling so loudly he was surprised they hadn’t thought a bear was loose in the restaurant. Naoko regarded him with some humor as he took small bites of his sandwich in a more leisurely manner. Akoni swore his mate could be starving to death and his manners would still win out. It both fascinated and confounded him.

Naoko wiped his mouth with his napkin, but Akoni didn’t see the point. It wasn’t like food would dare leave his mate’s face a mess. He could even eat spaghetti without a speck of sauce landing on his chin or his clothes. Akoni, on the other hand, practically needed a drop cloth to eat the stuff. His mate had often compared his eating habits to that of a cub still learning to feed himself. Instead of being offended, he’d laughed it off. He was a messy eater and knew it.

They finished their meal and left enough money on the table to cover the bill and a tip. Pushing back from the table, Akoni made his way to the restroom to clean up. He splashed cool water on his face and washed his hands. A noise caught his attention and he pricked his ears. It sounded like shuffling on the other side of the wall, the wall that faced the back alley. Probably just a vagrant or a bunch of rats, but it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

Naoko was waiting for him by the front door, and as they stepped outside, he motioned for his mate to follow him around the corner. Despite the sun shining brightly, the alley was dim. The narrow strip of concrete between the cafÈ and the building next door smelled like rotten garbage and human refuse. His nose wrinkled as they advanced down the alley.

Movement caught his eye as someone ducked into a large cardboard box. It wasn’t uncommon to find homeless people living in alleys in New York, but there was something about the situation that felt different. The shuffling sound reached his ears again and he realized it was the person in the box. Stopping in front of it, he tapped on the top. “Bureau of Paranormal Affairs. Please step out of the box.”

There was more shuffling and then a head of auburn hair appeared. When the man stood, he was nearly as tall as Akoni, but not quite as broad. Blue eyes stared at him defiantly. The man had dirt smeared on his skin and his unwashed smell filled the air.

“You have no jurisdiction over me,” the man said.

Akoni sniffed at him. “Human.”

The auburn haired man nodded. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Akoni’s brow furrowed and he leaned in again, getting a better sniff, trying to go past the smell of unwashed body, trash, and urine. With a soft growl, he felt his wolf rise inside of him. Naoko placed a hand on his arm.

“Easy,” his mate said.

“Mate,” Akoni said, his voice a near growl.

Naoko looked at him in surprise, then leaned in to sniff the human. Surprise registered on his face and Akoni knew he smelled it too. Whoever this human was, he belonged with them. He just wasn’t sure how to get the human to come with them. It wasn’t safe for him to remain on the streets, not with a rogue shifter on the loose.

“What do you mean by mate?” the human asked. There was distrust and uncertainty in his eyes.

“What my not so eloquent partner and mate is trying to say is that you belong with us. You’re our mate,” Naoko said.

The human snorted. “Yeah, sure I am. Next thing you’ll tell me is that you’ll take care of me as long as I’m willing to perform sexual favors.”

Akoni rumbled again, his fangs lengthening. “Someone propositioned you?”

“At least once a day,” the human said.

The defiant stance told Akoni that he expected the same of them. The wolf didn’t know how to get the human to trust them, but if they could just get him home, then maybe he would see they only wanted to take care of him.

About the Author

With an overactive imagination and a penchant for making up stories, was it any wonder Dulce Dennison decided to be an author? From cowboys to shapeshifters, she has a story for them all, but her passion lies in writing m/m romances. Dulce believes in love in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone deserves a happily-ever-after.

Married since 2000 to a man she isn’t sure is quite human, her husband and children (which she fondly calls the demon spawn) keep her busy, but never too busy to write. Is there such a thing as too busy to write? Most mornings you can find Dulce set up with her laptop, a cat curled up next to her, and a steaming cup of coffee just an arm’s reach away.

Dulce loves to hear from her readers! You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter or visit her website at dulcedennisonauthor.weebly.com. You can also sign up for her Newsletter for information on sales and new releases!

Spotlight: A Slave’s Price by Shelby Morgan #DarkFantasy #kindleunlimited @changelingpress

SM_WayOfTheWolf1_289

$3.99 or FREE with Kindle Unlimited

Purchase at Amazon

The shape-shifting women of clan Wolf make the best lovers on earth – if they don’t kill you.

The Way Of The Wolf… In a world befraught with racial prejudices and dangerous lovers, Humans, Barbarians, Dwarfs, Elves, Fey, Orcs, Ogres, and Trolls vie for the same territories. Lady Evalayna buried her past and sacrificed her personal desires to raise House Lochinvar to High House over all the Wolf Clan. Will her own children find love? Or will Evalayna rule their lives as her mother sought to control hers?

Politics… Cassadara, youngest daughter of House Lochinvar, is to travel across the wastelands to the northernmost outpost of the Humans. Her mission: negotiate a truce with the House of Yarishet. Just the sort of assignment the young Shaman expects — pointless and boring. Until her party is attacked by marauding Orcs — Orcs? In the wastelands? — and she’s left without an escort. To make matters worse, now she must negotiate with the Dwarven Slave Trader Argolyn for a Warrior guide.

Legend… The shape-shifting women of Clan Wolf make the best lovers on Earth — if they don’t kill you. Mâkakao has dreamed of a Wolf woman for his own since he came of age. Yet as he’s soon to discover, every fantasy has its price!

Excerpt

The noise of the marketplace rose like the shrill whine of wildfire. The press of bodies around her became oppressive, sucking the air out of her lungs. Cassadara shifted her armor, automatically standing taller, straighter, as if her imperious stance could somehow remove her from the filth and squalor. Her nose wrinkled in distaste, but she refused to acknowledge the underling who groveled before her. The Dwarf was not worthy of her attention.

The trader’s voice droned on, extolling the virtues of yet another chunk of Human waste. The slaves all looked the same. The Dwarf dragged them out of their pen in a string, chained together like so many goats on a tether. Warriors, indeed. None of them would even raise their eyes to look at her. She terrified them. To a man, they would rather die here than travel with her.

Something inside her turned cold as the arctic spring. These Humans were nothing. Spineless bundles of flesh huddled together, trying to hang on to their miserable existence. They meant nothing to her. Let them stay here and earn their freedom in the pit if they could.

Cassadara crushed the courier’s message and tossed the paper into the fire. Unfortunately, she couldn’t rest until she had fulfilled Lady Evalayna’s directive. Irritated, perhaps unreasonably so, she thumped the small bag of gold coins against her leg. Even with the words burned to a crisp, Cassadara could hear Mother’s voice as if the Lady had just spoken aloud.

“Although I am pleased to ken ye survived the Orcs’ assault on thy escort, I fear for thy safety. I wouldna’ have ye travel alone. Go ye to the Dwarf called Argolyn in the City of Stone. This vile creature claims to have one of our own amongst his slaves. Such a thing canna’ be allowed. In freeing this Warrior, ye shall also secure a second sword arm to stand at thy back. May the gods be with ye.”

A second sword arm. A slave. Cassadara felt her frustration mount as she surveyed the expanse of Human degradation. She would find no Warriors here. She had sent to Mother asking for a company of Northland Soldiers — her own men, who would gladly follow her into battle if need be rather than cower in fear of her while the enemy hacked them to pieces. Instead Mother sent the Mage Shammall and a small bag of gold. Cassadara would rather have traveled alone than take on the added burden of another responsibility. But there was no defying Mother.

At least the errand boy had spirited himself away after delivering Mother’s instructions. She’d rather deal with the Dwarf than that damnable Mage.

“This one is a true Warrior, Lady. He is strong and well-endowed.”

Cassadara looked down, trying to focus on the matter at hand. Argolyn was attempting to call her attention to yet another of the objects huddled in the mud. His sales pitch, delivered in Dwarven, sounded like he was trying to clear phlegm from his throat.

“Stand up!” the flesh-monger hissed. The slave made no move to obey. The trader kicked the battered body at his feet. The Dwarf received as his reward a glare of defiance from deep green eyes glinting like ivy-etched steel. Her attention secured, Cassadara watched the scene unfold like a play. The trader yanked ferociously on the chain by which his property was bound, cutting off the slave’s air supply. Cassadara wondered why blood didn’t spurt from the Human’s neck.

The Dwarf kicked the slave yet again, ignoring the choking wheeze of the Human’s strangled breath. The lack of oxygen had the desired effect. Almost insolently, the man at Argolyn’s feet rose. Grabbing hold of the chain threaded through the torc around his neck, he hauled himself up hand over hand, using the sturdy Dwarf as anchorage. Up and up and up the Human rose, until he towered over the Dwarf, who reached barely to his crotch.

Undaunted, the trader fisted his hand in the fabric of the man’s tunic, yanking the thin covering from the battered body with one swift jerk. A grubby paw poked at the slave’s testicles, as if to make sure Cassadara had an unobstructed view. “You see, Mistress, there is enough here to satisfy even a member of the Wolf Clan!”

To his credit, the Human barely flinched as the Dwarf displayed him.

Cassadara’s focus lingered for a moment on a cock that hinted, even flaccid, at enough size and girth to be worth a second look, before she let her gaze wander back to the slave’s face. His attention still centered on the Dwarf, his eyes blazed with cold, bare defiance. This one could not have been a slave for long. Although his body had been damaged, his spirit had yet to be broken. Still, he had obviously learned better than to actually attempt to attack the Dwarf. One move of the slave’s hands, chained though they were, and the guards would beat the man to a bloody pulp.

What did his spirit matter? She wasn’t here to secure a personal slave for the night’s usage. She didn’t want a man who would fight her, and the Human would never travel willingly at her side. Besides, without the guards around, the Human might be hard to control. He was not the Clansman Mother had sent her to free. Cassadara didn’t bother to look back at Argolyn. She answered in the common tongue of merchants, refusing to expend the energy necessary to spit out the words in the Dwarf’s own language. “Thy merchandise is unacceptable.” She turned away, as if to move on.

“You need not fear me, Mistress. You would be safe with me.” The words were spoken in High Elven, a language that managed to capture the essence of poetry in its most common vocabulary. The voice caressed her, sliding over her skin like silk in the darkness, little more than a low rumble that might have come from Earth herself.

Who

Cassadara raised an eyebrow in surprise as she turned back, surveying the man again. The Human had dared to address her — and in a language almost unknown in these parts. He had taken great risk to speak to her privately. Why? ‘Twas a foolish risk that might well earn him yet another beating.

Cassadara’s curiosity trapped her. Did he not know who she was? Did he not know what she was?

Deep green eyes clashed with hers, anything but subservient. Surprisingly, she saw no trace of fear. Instead she saw wariness mixed with desperation. The Human knew his fate. Unless she purchased his contract, the man would undoubtedly die here.

So. This slave was willing to cross the lines of race and class to save his own life. Yet somewhere within his battered body the man retained enough pride to keep him from begging.

Intriguing.

She stepped closer — close enough to smell the foul odor coming from the pen where the men were kept. By the gods, this one was tall. He was almost as tall as her brother Tyrell — the slave was certainly the tallest Human she had ever seen. Taller by far than her own six-foot-four. At this distance she would actually have to tilt her head to meet the man’s eyes, so she didn’t. Instead she trailed her gaze over his body, surveying every inch of him, looking beneath the filth to see the long, lean muscles on a powerful frame, capable of grueling days of marching and hard hours of fighting.

The Human was too large and well built to have escaped the arena. The spectators would love to see this one fight. She let her gaze wander the length of him again, frankly curious about those other attributes the Dwarf had mentioned. This time his cock responded, jumping to life as if she had stroked him with her fingers instead of her eyes.

Fascinating.

He was indeed well endowed — far better equipped than she would have expected for a Human. As she watched, his cock grew harder, bobbing its deep crimson head as if straining to reach her.

She hadn’t even touched him yet and he was already hard for her?

Despite the chill of the arctic spring, a fine sheen of sweat stood out on the Human’s body now, trickling down his smooth, naked chest. She found herself imagining licking the sweat from his bronzed skin. Her nipples hardened at the thought of what he might be able to do with that equipment.

Did he want her? Or merely the freedom her money could purchase for him?

She’d heard tales of Human lovers. The Humans might not be good for aught else, but they were said to make incredible mates. She followed the line of sweat back up, gradually returning her attention to the man’s face. He let her look her fill without comment, though his cock jumped again as if she’d caressed him rather than merely admired from a few feet away. A single drop of moisture leaked from its tip. She wondered briefly what he might taste like. Just how different were Humans?

Cassadara hid her smile. She was fairly certain he was not what Mother had had in mind.

She answered in the common tongue, wanting to be sure the Dwarf understood every word she said. “Why should I trust ye, Human? I know what thy people think of my kind. Ye call my race Barbarians. Yet ye condone this.”

The sweep of her hand indicated not just the squalid pens huddled at the base of the cliffs, but the amphitheatre-like arena at the far edge of the camp, and indeed the whole system by which men were bought and sold like sled dogs.

“Why would I pay this Dwarf for thy services? As soon as we are away from this place, ye shall try to kill me. Then ye shall die, and I shall be out a great deal of gold. I have no time to worry over the likes of ye.”

“Then do not hold me as a slave,” he answered, once again in Elven. “Let the price of my freedom be my indenture. I will pledge myself to your service. Allow me to earn my freedom and I will prove my loyalty beyond the boundaries of race and class.”

The Dwarf looked perturbed by the banter, but if he did not understand, Cassadara surely would not translate. This time she answered the Human in Elven as well. “Ye would never live to see thy freedom, Human. No’ where I go.”

The man didn’t deny the truth of her words. Instead he stared back at her, holding her attention with the intensity of his gaze, his eyes asking for her faith. “I know where you are bound, M’Lady. I will gladly die beside you if that is the will of the gods.” He swayed unsteadily on his feet, righting himself before he toppled back into the mud. “Better to die in battle at your side than here in the pits for the entertainment of the Lords and Ladies. Death in the arena robs a Warrior of his honor.”

Cassadara examined the Human again, using her gift this time. A long half-healed gash ran the length of his shield arm from shoulder to elbow. Heat radiated from the wound, a sure sign the cut was infected. She looked deeper. Beneath the bruises his ribs were cracked, and his knuckles were swollen and bloody. He had undoubtedly survived several rounds in the arena already. His face, half-hidden under untrimmed fur, looked hollow and gaunt.

He’d take a great deal of healing to be of any use. If she bought this one she would be spending days in this hellhole of a town before the man was ready to travel. Worse yet, healing him would leave her exhausted and vulnerable — and at his mercy.

Cassadara let her gaze drift down to that thick, weeping cock again. “If I buy thy indenture, what will ye do for me?”

“Whatever you wish, M’Lady.” Deep green eyes warmed slightly, lending character to the face where she’d seen only anger and despair. “In my homeland, I am known as a man of my word. I pledge to serve you loyally.”

Cassadara touched the tip of her tongue to suddenly dry lips. At her frank perusal, the Human’s cock bobbed stiffly against his belly, looking painfully hard. Dampness stained the inside of her thighs. Yes. If he knew how to properly entertain a woman, he might be worth the time and trouble he would undoubtedly cause.

When her gaze traveled back up the length of him, his eyes met hers with a trace of something that might have been a grin. “I can cook.”

The man knew he had her attention. Cassadara fought to keep her expression distant as she turned back to the Dwarf, addressing him once more in the common tongue. “How much?”

Argolyn answered in his own tongue, disdaining the common vernacular. “For you, fifty gold pieces, Mistress.”

“He paid but fifteen,” the Human offered in that same guttural language.

The powerful Dwarf snapped the chain in a move that dumped the man back on his knees in the mud. “Silence! Your upkeep alone has near bankrupted me!”

“I have earned you ten times my purchase price,” the Human argued. “If your word meant anything, I would own my freedom by now!”

If she left the man here, the Dwarf would surely beat him for such audacity. Cassadara stepped between them, distracting the Dwarf. She moved her shoulders in a studied show of disinterest. “This Human is indeed well-endowed, but he is insolent. He is no’ worth the fifteen ye paid for him. Where is the Northland Warrior ye promised?”

The Dwarf allowed himself to be distracted. “This is the Warrior we spoke of, M’Lady. Truly he has done well in the pit, though he has not yet won the Grande Mêlée. That event does not come here until after the thaw.”

Cassadara tapped her foot impatiently. “Warrior or no’, he is no’ one of my people. Ye have lied to Mother. Lady Lochinvar will be much angered with ye.”

Argolyn spread his hands wide, his face a mask of innocence. “He is big. He is strong. He is well equipped. I sent word to Lady Lochinvar only that I had an acceptable candidate. Come back tomorrow. I will have broken him for you.”

Broken. Aye. That he would be. Cassadara felt a surge of pity well up. She suppressed her weaker emotions with the harshness of reality. “I have no time to waste with ye. If he is the best ye have, he will have to suffice. I will give ye thirty and leave with him now.”

“M’Lady, surely you jest. A big strong fighter like this will bring near to one hundred after the Mêlée.”

“Then wait for the Mêlée. Away with ye.” From down below in the mud, eyes flavored with desolation searched for hers. Did he understand nothing of trading? Cassadara intentionally looked away. She spun on her heel and headed toward the gates.

A filthy little hand tugged at her sleeve. “Please, Mistress, let us not haggle over money. I can see you desire this slave. Enjoy him. My gift to you at only forty gold pieces.”

A slight metallic ping sounded as her short sword leaped into her hand. Her voice hissed out low and flat. “Remove thy hand from my person while ye still possess a hand to remove.”

The Dwarf drew back stiffly, but swallowed his pride in the face of the threat in her eyes. “You drive a hard bargain, M’Lady. Thirty it is.”

Her upper lip curled in a sneer. “Twenty-five.”

Argolyn stared up at her for the space of two long, deeply drawn breaths. “Twenty-five.”

The sword slipped soundlessly back into its sheath. Cassadara withdrew the coins from her leather pouch and dropped them. Argolyn picked the coins deftly out of the air as they fell. Short stubby fingers extended a large iron ring toward her. “Your keys, M’Lady.”

She stepped back, refusing to touch the tainted metal. “Ye may keep thy chains.”

“M’Lady! Think what you say! Surely you cannot mean to –”

Her hand still rested on the pommel of her sword. “The purchase is made. The Human belongs to me. I do no’ wish him to serve me in bondage. Remove thy chains.”

The protest died on the Dwarf’s lips. Wordlessly he unlocked the wrist cuffs, yanking the chain through the rings on the torc that shackled the man’s neck. Ignoring both the Dwarf and the pain of the twisted torc, the Human kept his gaze fastened on Cassadara. He still clutched his tattered tunic. Cassadara watched in fascination as he tied the remains about his waist, concealing that rigid cock. Despite his privation, he retained some degree of modesty.

“You were not told to dress!” Argolyn barked, snaking out a grubby paw to yank the shredded tunic away from the man.

Cassadara caught the Dwarf’s wrist in a grip as strong as his own. “Ye shall no’ touch what is mine. No’ now. No’ ever. Neither ye nor any of thy men.”

Rage colored the trader’s face. With his free hand he grasped a talisman hung about his neck on an ancient leather cord. “Take him and be gone.”

Something sharp brushed against her mind. Cassadara dropped the Slaver’s arm, suddenly finding him far too filthy to touch.

“You shall regret your treatment of me,” the Dwarf hissed as he turned and stalked away, rubbing his injured wrist.

“Harm what is mine, and ye shall no’ live to ponder my fate,” Cassadara promised his retreating backside.

Truth be told, she already regretted having dealt with the little Slaver at all. She had no wish to own another, nor be responsible for anyone other than herself. Yet here she was.

She turned back to the Human. Eyes fixed on her feet in a traditional show of subservience, the man knelt before her in the mud, his ripped tunic clutched around him. Ice crystals were already forming in the man’s beard. Pity swayed Cassadara yet again. She unbuckled her cloak and settled the heavy wool over his shoulders. Green eyes raised up to meet hers, still wary, but there was something in them she hadn’t seen there before.

Hope.

The hope was tempered by uncertainty, but it was there.

The torc still marked the man as a slave. Cassadara saw no smith about whose forge she might use. She hated to touch iron. Still, she would have to touch the man if she was to heal him, probably more than once. Better to deal with the cursed iron now than endure its taint.

Sliding one hand under the twisted band to protect his neck, she closed her eyes and focused on the welded lock. She pictured the metal heating under her fingers until it was soft and malleable. Using all of the strength of her race and her magic, she twisted the welded hasp until the metal crumbled beneath her fingers. The lock sprung, allowing another few inches of space between the ends of the band. As gently as she could, she spread the worn collar apart and removed the hideous thing from about his bloodied neck. Venting her anger on the metal, she flung the filthy piece of iron out across the tundra.

The Human said nothing, only continued to stare up at her as he rubbed dirt stained fingers against the raw wound at his throat.

She extended her hand to him, but he made no move to accept her help. Her temper leapt to the surface again as she let her hand drop back to her side. This was a poor start to things.

No. She would not judge him on the basis of race alone. Perhaps he had simply misread her intent. She tried again, choosing her words with care as she addressed him in his own language. “Are ye fit enough to travel?”

Understanding flickered across his face. Still watching her intently, he rose cautiously to his feet. “Aye, M’Lady.” Even as he spoke, he swayed like a drunkard.

She sighed, knowing he was not fit to go anywhere but to bed. “Have ye a name?”

He blinked in surprise. “To my friends I am known as Mâkakao.”

Cassadara twisted her tongue around the foreign name. “Makâ…”

“Mâkakao,” he repeated.

She laughed at her own clumsiness with the name. “Mâk?”

His lips turned up slightly at one corner. “Mâk.”

“As much as I admire thy body, I would no’ have ye travel with me naked, Mâk. Ye will attract the wrong sort of attention. Get ye to yon merchants and see to thy clothing. Something sturdy, but light enough to travel in. Get ye outfitted. A warm tunic and light armor and a traveling cape. Whatever else ye shall have need of. And get ye a good sword.”

He stared at the bag of coins she pressed into his hand. His voice sounded odd when he finally spoke. “You would trust me in this, M’Lady?”

Cassadara looked up and down the one mud path that ran between the stone huts of the merchants. “Would ye rather remain here?”

A smile, a real one at last, stole through his reserve. The smile touched his face with the promise of beauty. “No. No, M’Lady, I would not.”

“Mâk?” She spoke softly as he started to turn away.

“M’Lady?” On his lips the word sounded like a caress.

“Find ye a bath and a barber.”

Green eyes turned stormy gray. A flush stole over his cheeks. “As you wish, M’Lady.”

He thought she meant him to prepare himself for her bed? The idea was not unpleasant, but he was in no condition to enjoy such exercise at the moment, and she had no wish to kill him. Cassadara smothered her laughter. “Have the barber see to thy arm. I would no’ have thy wound heal badly.”

He flinched as if she had hit him. “‘Tis nothing, M’Lady. A scratch of no importance.”

“Have the wound seen to,” she insisted. “And get ye something to eat. A good dinner may cure what ails ye.”

The Human inclined his head in a show of respect. “M’Lady.”

She liked the way the title sounded when he spoke. Almost as if his words caressed her. Still…”Cassadara. If we are to share this journey, ye might as well know my name.”

One corner of his mouth lifted up. “I know your name, M’Lady. In the language of the Fey, your name means Daughter of the Wind. I think all in these parts know your name by now.”

“Then ye shall have no trouble finding me when ye are outfitted and ready to depart. I shall be at yon tavern at the edge of what passes here for a town. I have paid for a room there for the night, but I would rather leave this place behind us.” She let her attention flick briefly toward the Slaver’s hut. “Have caution. I do no’ trust the Dwarf.”

His eyes warmed slightly. “I will return to you, M’Lady.”

If he did not, she would be out nothing but a small bag of Mother’s coin. She watched the tall Human turn and walk away, admiring the hard angles of his shoulders beneath the cape. Somehow she trusted he would be good to his word. Cassadara thought briefly of the Human’s other attributes and smiled to herself. Perhaps she would not regret this bargain after all.

Even as the thought occurred to her, the Human stumbled up the steps to the nearest merchant’s hut, clutching at the doorframe as he tried to right himself. Cassadara sighed. With a movement as swift as her name implied, she reached his side. Although she was shorter by a hand’s breadth than any of her clansmen, she had at least inherited the strength of her race. She gathered the man into her arms as she would have an injured child. Even through the wool of the cape, she could tell he was burning up with a fever that had not been there a few minutes ago.

Eyes the color of wintergreen sought hers as thick ebony lashes parted. “The Dwarf…”

She too remembered the Dwarf laying his hand on the talisman.

His voice trailed off and his eyes slipped closed, only to jerk suddenly open again. “Please, do not let me die in this place, M’Lady,” he implored. “Not here. The tundra…”

“Ye shall no’ die. No’ here. No’ today. I give ye my word.”

His eyes slid closed again. “Clan of the Wolf is known for keeping its word,” he whispered. As if the effort of speaking had been too much, his head lolled loosely to one side.

The door before her gave way at a kick from her fine steel-clad boot. A tiny merchant woman looked up at them in terror, reaching for a pitiful excuse for a knife.

“I have need of thy assistance,” Cassadara explained calmly. “I shall pay thee well.”

About Shelby

Shelby Morgen loves writing offbeat tales that defy as many rules as possible. She likes chocolate with her peanut butter, suspense with her romance, and kink with her sex. She’s always had a hard time keeping science fiction, fantasy and paranormal from mixing with her kink. Shelby shares her belief in electronic publishing with her longtime friend and partner, Bill, her husband of 35 plus years. Find more of Shelby’s titles at Changeling Press — http://www.changelingpress.com/author.php?uid=21.

#NewRelease – Waking Up Wolf @ErzabetBishop #PNR #shifter #romance

WUW 1

Waking Up Wolf

✿¸.•´¸✿*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.✿¨*.¸¸.•`✿

New from USA Today Bestselling Author Erzabet Bishop!

🐺 Waking Up Wolf (Shifting Hearts Dating Agency #2) 🐺

Joanie’s dream has always been to give something back. Shubert, the kitty cat love of her life was her first rescue, and she was bound and determined to make volunteering at the Saving Furry Lives Shelter part of her reality. Joanie rescues a wolf pup and it bites her, setting off a chain of events she doesn’t anticipate. Appearances can be deceiving and some bites are much worse than their bark.

Dr. Royce Buchanan is a doctor tired of the dating scene. While the women he’s met through Shifting Hearts Dating Agency are lovely, he wants a mate to settle down with. So far all he’s found are a lot of clingy women with doctor fixations. He’s been burned one too many times before and prefers to get his kink on at Ventures, a local BDSM club catering to shifters. But when an injured woman shows up in his emergency room and his wolf goes on high alert, his safe world is about to go up in flames. Someone is gunning for shifters and to keep this new wolf safe, Royce might have to break his own cardinal rule and get involved, even if it could cost him his heart.
 
#shifter #wolf #medicalromance #sexydoctor #witch #animalrescue #bite #hospital #change #magewar #romance #paranormalromance  #petrescue #nurse #vampire 

Links:

Amazon Smart URL: http://hyperurl.co/WuWAms
Nook: http://bit.ly/2tFOEId
iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/WuWibooks
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2tGcsM7
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2sJsj8a

Spotlight – Fangs and Fists 3: Victor @katehillromance @changelingpress #PNR #romance

Genres: Futuristic, Paranormal, Dark Fantasy
Themes: Vampires, Werewolves, Dark Desire
Length: Novella

Werewolf gladiator Victor vows to escape captivity by demons or die trying–which nearly happens when his latest opponent takes him by surprise.

Jolanda is a member of a secret pack of wolf witches who want to free their kin from the dreaded demon tower. Strengthened by the power of her pack, she defeats Victor in the arena and demands that he be given to her as a mate.

Alone, they surrender to their overwhelming lust for each other, but Jolanda needs him for more than sex. She’s been sent to rescue the captive wolves and Victor is the Alpha she needs to help her. Together he and Jolanda plan a mass escape from the tower, hoping to strike a blow the demon masters will never forget.

Purchase from Changeling Press

Excerpt

“Victor!” She jumped out of the shower and stepped in front of the door before he could open it.

“Get out of my way.”

“You have to listen to me.” She stood on tiptoe and whispered in his ear. “I came here to fight them.”

“Right.”

He grasped her upper arms to move her aside.

“I’m telling the truth,” she said. “I came here to help.”

He laughed humorlessly. “You’ve done a great job so far. It was a huge help when you kicked my ass in the arena, and then when you demanded to use me as your private cub maker, that was about all the help I ever wanted.”

Of course that was how he’d feel and what he’d think. She’d humiliated him in every possible way.

“You have no reason to believe me, but if you would just listen to me, you’ll see that I can’t do this without you.”

He held her gaze.

Leaning close to his ear, she whispered, “We can do this together. Apart, we’re both fucked. You know I’m right.”

“Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re telling the truth. What’s your plan to help us?”

“Right now, I don’t have one.”

About Kate Hill

What do trips around the world, endless nights of breathtaking sex, and a muscular, 6-foot 3-inch, brown-haired, blue-eyed significant other have to do with Kate Hill? Absolutely nothing, but she can dream, can’t she? In reality Kate is a vegetarian New Englander who loves writing romantic fantasies. Visit her online at http://www.kate-hill.com and groups.yahoo.com/group/katehill.

#NewRelease – Catching His Cat #PNR @SM_fiction @evernightpub

Catching His Cat

by Sarah Marsh

*AVAILABLE NOW*

Publisher: Evernight Publishing

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

 

Blurb

Sybella Gandry knows what it’s like to fight for something she wants. Her entire life has been a battle. But will one night of passion with a stranger threaten everything she’s worked so hard for?

She hoped her first meeting with the Alpha Council wouldn’t turn into a problem—but if it did, she was prepared to deal with it. The one thing she wasn’t anticipating was a wild night of passion with the male who was her fated mate the night before. She’d learned early on, that having a mate and her position within the pard just wasn’t possible.

Laird Connors is an Alpha’s Alpha and he’s very used to getting his way. So, true to his nature, when he meets his mate he wastes no time in showing her exactly who she belongs to—or so he thought. His little cat tries to run, but nothing will stop him from claiming what’s his.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/B071G54SQV
Evernight: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/catching-his-cat-by-sarah-marsh/

 

 

Excerpt:

“Fuck, you’re so wet,” he growled before rubbing the pad of one finger in circles around her aching clit.

Her hand was still stroking up and down his cock, and when his fingers dipped lower, finding her entrance, Bella groaned, biting down on his shoulder. Fuck, she needed his cock inside of her.

“Pants off,” she panted and released him.

In seconds, he had her jeans and panties stripped and his own thrown across the room as he knelt in front of her. The intensity in his eyes was enthralling as he growled again and then lunged at her. She wasn’t frightened, though. On the contrary, she knew she was about to get fucked and fucked good.

His arms scooped her up, and then they were both bouncing on the large king sized bed. Immediately he moved down her body, his hands pushing her legs wide open and up as he settled himself in between them. She didn’t even have a second to anticipate what he was about to do before his mouth descended upon her pussy, licking and nibbling over every single inch. Two thick fingers plunged into her core, thrusting in and out as he sucked her throbbing clit in between his lips. It was a full-on assault of sensations, and before she even knew it, her entire body was coiled in preparation to come, her hands tightening their grip in his hair as she pressed her hips harder into his mouth, and when he bit down on her clit she screamed as the orgasm echoed through her core. The waves of pleasure ebbed over and over again until his mouth finally released her.

“Holy fuck,” she whispered as her eyes closed and she struggled to catch her breath.

“Nah, we’re just getting to that part,” was his cheeky answer as she felt him kiss his way back up her torso until his weight settled in between her thighs.

Bella could feel the throbbing heat of his cock pressed against her pussy. She was so wet now that it easily slid through the swollen lower lips, causing small tremors to pulse through her womb in aftershocks. His arms were on each side of her waist, holding him above her, and she rested her hands at the top of his ass.

“Look at me, little cat.” His voice was still rough with his desire. “I want to see your golden eyes as I take you.”

She slowly opened her eyes, and her lips broke into a lazy smile, her hand coming up to rest against his cheek. She loved the thick stubble she felt there—it had felt even more amazing against the inside of her thighs. His deep green eyes seared her with their gaze, and it felt like he was looking right into her soul as he pulled his hips back and found her entrance. She sighed as he slid his thickness into her slowly as if he was savoring the feel of her around him. It seemed an oddly sentimental moment for such a sexually aggressive male, and not normally one she would appreciate from a bed partner—but something was different with this one.

Once he had pushed himself all the way inside of her, a low rumble had once again begun to come from deep inside his chest as he lifted her legs to slide his arms underneath them. Her breath caught as he pulled her closer, his balls nudging up against her ass, and then he began to move. He pulled all the way out of her snug heat, and then slammed back in, his gaze never leaving hers. Bella’s hands held onto his forearms, grasping at the only part of him she could reach as he began to thrust in and out of her, over and over again. She could feel her fangs dropping as her cougar snarled inside, encouraging the male to move faster, to fuck them harder. His own teeth were now visible as well, and sweat rolled down his face and chest as he worked her. His wide, thick cock didn’t miss a single nerve inside of her, and her body lit up with pleasure. Every stroke seemed to take her higher and the harder he took her, the more she needed.

“Harder, more…” she groaned out, her claws unsheathing from her fingertips to grab into the flesh of his arms.

Suddenly he growled and released her, slipping out of her sheath abruptly, but before she could complain, he had flipped her over onto her hands and knees. He pushed her legs apart and slid back inside, his hands now over her shoulders, using the leverage to pull her back onto his cock at a furious pace. Well, she’d asked for harder, and boy, did she get it.

The intensity of his fucking made her inner animal go crazy, wanting to claw at him, to mark this partner in her fury of lust. Over and over again, his shaft thrust inside of her, and she would have done anything to feel the release of his seed into her waiting center. When one of his talented hands finally moved back down, around her hip and pinched her swollen clit, her pussy spasmed around him, trying with everything it had to take him with her.

With a furious roar, he followed her into bliss, the hot jets of his seed coating her insides. At the same time, she felt his teeth bite deep into her shoulder, and her cat roared as well inside her head, telling her to sink her own teeth into this male—to bite him and mark him as theirs for the entire world to see.

Wait … what the hell did my inner cat just say? Mark him?

Fuck!

“Mine…” he moaned, his cock pushing deep inside of her once more. “You’re mine now, little cat. My mate.”

Double fuck!

 

About the Author:

Sarah Marsh was born in British Columbia where she still lives, she has only recently began her writing career finding it the perfect outlet for taking the edge off a nine to five office job. She’s been a science fiction and romance junkie for years and when her imagination started to take the characters she’d read about even further in their adventures she decided to try writing something of her own.

Sarah’s also a former pastry chef and spends a lot of time cooking and baking for friends and family as well as painting and knitting. Her biggest weaknesses are animals of any kind…she even loves the ones that wake you up at four in the morning because they can almost see the bottom of their food dish.

When it comes to life in general she’s a big believer that laughter is the best medicine and that there’s no such thing as too much love, which is why she’s such a sucker for a happy ending.

 

 

Author page links:

Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/sarah-marsh

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/sarahmarshfiction

Blog: http://sarahmarshfiction.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sarahmarshfiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SM_fiction

Facebook Street Team link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/955387561187276/

 

 

 

#NewRelease – Moonlight Rescuer #PNR #werewolves

MoonlightRescuerCover

Amazon / iTunes / Kobo / Bookstrand

Winnie loves her son and would do anything for him, even apply for demeaning jobs, if it means putting a roof over his head. Spending their days in her car, and their nights at a shelter, hasn’t been easy, but she does whatever she must to keep him safe, even if it means sleeping with one eye open. She’s never asked for a handout, and she’s never expected one. Hard work is all she’s ever known, but sometimes that isn’t enough. It’s been so long since she has believed in fairy tales that the last thing she expected was for Prince Charming to come along and save the day.

Braxton has no idea what it is about Winnie that draws him like a moth to a flame, but his wolf is intrigued by her, and that’s more reaction than he’s ever gotten from the beast where women are concerned. When he overhears her conversation with her son, he knows he can’t let them spend the night somewhere as unsafe as their car or a shelter. But getting Winnie to let him help is another matter. A woman like her isn’t going to trust easily.

Despite her hesitancy, Winnie allows the wolf to help for the sake of her son, even though she knows getting close would never be wise. But the more she gets to know the stubborn man, the more she realizes the kindness showing in his eyes isn’t a mask. Sawyer doesn’t want anything from her that she isn’t willing to give, which makes him all the more intriguing. Can Winnie put her past behind her and trust a man again? Sawyer makes her want to believe that fairy tales really do come true.

Excerpt

Sawyer Braxton sipped his beer as he looked out over the crowd at Lagoona’s. He’d been watching the woman at the bar, for the last fifteen minutes, as she filled out an application. There was something about her that drew his attention. Her clothes were worn in places, her hair unkempt, but her tiny stature and dainty features made his protective urges rise to the surface. Even from the span of the four tables that separated them, he could see a dirt smudge on her cheek, and he wondered where it had come from.

She handed the application over to the bartender and then turned to leave. She hadn’t taken three steps before the asshole behind the bar ripped her application in half and tossed it. Sawyer bit back a growl as he rose to his feet, intent on going after her. Something didn’t seem right, even if he couldn’t figure out what. She cleared the door before he could catch her and he raced into the parking lot. Scanning the bumper to bumper cars, he saw her slip into an older hatchback with more than its fair share of dings and scrapes. A small figure moved in the backseat.

Not wanting to scare her, he walked slowly toward her car, his keen sense of hearing picking up the conversation she had with what he assumed to be her child. He’d never been one to chase after a single mom before, assuming she was single, but for some reason, he wanted to get to know this woman better.

“I’m sorry, honey,” she told the child. “We missed curfew at the shelter. We’re going to have to sleep in the car again tonight.”

What the hell? Was she living out of her car, with a small child in tow? He didn’t know how she’d fallen so far, but Sawyer knew that he couldn’t leave them in this parking lot with their future so uncertain. If anything happened to them, he’d never forgive himself.

Sawyer approached the vehicle and hunkered down next to the door, in hopes he wouldn’t frighten them. The woman was turned toward the back, still talking to her child.

“Benjamin, I’m doing the best I can.” She sounded tearful. “We’ll get to the shelter on time tomorrow, okay?”

“I don’t like the shelter,” a small voice said. “Why can’t we have a house again?”

“Soon, baby. Mama just needs to get a job first.”

Sawyer tapped on the window, making the woman jump. It was cracked enough that he could talk to her, without her fearing for her safety.

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” he said, “but it seems you’re in a bit of a bind.”

Her lips thinned, and her eyes flashed. “And let me guess, in return for certain favors you’ll get us a motel room for the night.”

He sat back on his heels. “Um, not exactly.”

“Then what do you want in exchange for a place to stay?” she asked, distrust etched on her lovely features.

“Nothing. I just want peace of mind from knowing that your son and you are safe for the night. I heard you say something about sleeping in your car, and despite how small Ashton Grove is, that still isn’t the safest thing you could do.”

“You really just want to help us?” she asked, seeming uncertain.

“That’s all I want. I’m in the blue truck over there,” he said pointing to his new ride. “Why don’t you follow me? I’ll get you a room at the motel for the night, and then I’ll pick you up for breakfast in the morning, and we can figure out something more permanent for you.”

“Permanent?” The distrust was back in her voice.

“I work construction for the local wolf pack. My boss and alpha might know of a place where you could stay while you get back on your feet.”

Her eyes widened. “You’re a-a-a wolf?”

He nodded. He scented the air and didn’t smell fear. Curiosity and a hint of…arousal? Interesting. Maybe she was just as intrigued with him as he was with her. The boy in the backseat gazed at him with a bit of wonder in his eyes.

“I’ll wait to make sure your car starts, and then I’ll get my truck,” he said.

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