Book #4 in the Fur, Fangs, and Felines series
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Werecats mating with humans was bad enough…. But an Alpha werewolf?
Aidric’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Alpha Carter Lovelock of the Dark Lake Pack—who is apparently his mate. Now Aidric must decide whether to accept the mate the goddess chose, or deny her gift because cats and dogs just don’t mix.
Carter is in a pickle. He always assumed his mate would be a female werewolf. How else is Carter supposed to carry on his line and retain Alphaship? When Aidric comes into his life, Carter’s ex, Sabrina, isn’t giving up easily. Her brother, Delaney, is a thorn in Carter’s side, and some of the other werewolves go out of their way to make Aidric feel unwelcome, including one of his deltas, Evan.
Unfortunately, what little headway they make is destroyed during a full moon hunt when enemy werewolves attack Aidric and threaten the pack house where the Dark Lake pups are kept—an ambush that could have devastating consequences on their future.
Werewolves are notoriously insular, and before Carter and Aidric can build the life they want with each other, they’ll face a fight for acceptance.
THERE WAS nothing better than being the butt of a cosmic joke.
My mate was a werewolf. A werewolf. Just what the hell was I supposed to do with that? The fact my cat wasn’t freaked out surprised me. It certainly freaked me out. What was my goddess thinking? My cat huffed, annoyed with me. Well, he was in good company—I was annoyed with myself.
I rested my forehead against the windowpane. In the week since I found out who my mate was, all I’d done was torture myself with the information. Enough already. Turning from the windowpane, I stripped and threw my clothes on the couch. There was just enough time to play outside before the sun set.
Squatting in front of the fire, I cleared my mind and let the change take me. I groaned loudly with the first crack of the bone. My body twisted in ways a regular human body was never intended to. Things tore and modified as I shrunk. Muscles realigned and bones reformed in a feline shape.
My spine tingled as my tail grew. Ears sprouted on top of my head, and my face pushed out to form a muzzle, complete with whiskers. Damn things caused my nose to twitch, and I pawed at it to stop the itch. Hair sprouted over my body, and then all four paws hit the ground. I stretched one leg out behind me—oh yeah, that felt good.
I took a step and stretched the other leg out, then swished my tail lazily behind me as I shook out my coat. All my human worries faded into the background as I strolled into the kitchen toward the patio door. One thing occupied my mind, and I pushed through the cat door I’d installed. I stood on the back porch and yowled loudly.
I plowed into the pristine landscape, joy spreading through my heart. Wet coldness surrounded me, and I pranced. I loved snow. Loved it. However, since my clowder lived so far south, it was rare we got the cool fluffy goodness.
Bouncing around in the snow, I reared up on my hind legs and… hey. Hey! What was that? My front paws hit the ground, and I crouched, darting my eyes to the left and right. Something dark and slender fluttered right outside of my line of vision. Quiet. Must be quiet. Quick as a flash, I turned and pounced. The long furry thing wiggled away, jumping back and forth.
Jumping in the air, I twisted and came down. Whap! Whap! Whap! Growling, I pursued the long slender thing hopping around, determined to get it. Round and round I went, turning in circles as I chased…. Suddenly I stopped, plopped my butt down, and nonchalantly licked my paw.
Jeez. That was my tail.
Damn thing was always distracting me. Satisfied no one had seen, I flopped down in the snow. Fortunately my coat was thick enough to keep me warm. I stuck a paw out and watched it sink down. My ears twitched. Okay, that was totally cool. I shot out my other paw from underneath me to lay it upon the snow, and it too sank. Fun! Fun!
I bulldozed my way through a gigantic snowdrift. Wheeee! Nothing could stand in my way. The snowdrift I battled through might be larger than Mount Everest, but I would persevere and take no prisoners. I’d slay my enemies. The cold wouldn’t stand in my way. As I tunneled forward, the cold embraced me in its chilly arms.
Damn. I paused in the snow tunnel I’d created. It was kind of cool in here, but a bit harder to breathe than expected. Ears twitching, I backed out and shook my head. Snow flew everywhere. My nose twitched. Oh. Oh dear. I pawed at it, but….
I sniffed, snorted, and twitched my nose. Sneezing as a cat was probably the most uncomfortable thing ever, and I pawed at my nose. Ugh. Not much I could do since I currently had paws and not fingers.
All of a sudden, I froze, and my ear swiveled. What was that? Casually, I turned. Several feet away from me there was movement, which caught my attention. I crouched, my itchy nose forgotten. Listening closely, I tracked the sound, but I wasn’t sure…. Yes!
Something moved, and it wasn’t my tail this time. On superlight paws, I tiptoed across the snowy whiteness, edging ever closer. My breathing leveled out as I prowled nearer… nearer. There it was again, and I paused. Ears twitching madly, I scanned the area, and even though nothing moved, I knew where the sound originated.
I focused on it, waiting… waiting. Holding my breath, my tail skittering behind me, I pounced… and whatever I’d heard burrowed madly through the snow, escaping. I debated chasing after it, but I wasn’t really hungry. Besides, playing was more fun than hunting. I fell backward, kicking my back legs. A shower of snow rained down. There was nothing better than being a cat.
I rolled onto my paws and shook out my coat. Too bad my mate wasn’t here. I’d love to see him rolling around in the snow. We could run, or he could chase me. Or I him. The human part of me snorted in derision. I ignored him. Humans made things much more complicated than they needed to be.
A red bird landed on a branch above me, and, unable to resist, I raced toward the tree. I sprang, claws extended, and climbed. Up the tree I flew until I found the branch where the bird sat. Carefully I edged out on the limb, my eyes glued on the prize and… with a squawk, the red bird flew off. Damn.
Annoyed, I sharpened my claws against the tree. Yeah, bird, that could’ve been you. Oh well, part of the fun was climbing the tree anyway. Trees were fun. So were balls of yarn. And boxes. Ohhhhh. I loved an empty box. An empty box sitting in the sun was even better. Oh! Oh! And a blanket in the box that was sitting in the sun where I could nap. Yeah. Kitty heaven.
My tail drooped. But lately even those things couldn’t cheer me up. Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I climbed down the tree and trudged across the snow toward the house. After I slipped inside through the cat door, I shifted into my human form.
Tired and aggravated, I dressed, then knelt in front of the fireplace, stirring the fire. The month of February promised to be a cold one, even down here in the South. The flames danced across the surface of the wood in an explosion of heat and energy, consuming it. The process would continue until there was nothing left but ash.
Morosely I stared into the fire, unable to stop the comparison between the wood and myself. Was this my fate too? To be consumed? Would there be anything left of me if I mated Carter—I refused to call my mate by his damn title inside my head.
I shuddered. Of all the mates out there, why him? I turned away from the fire. Questioning her will was pointless, but I couldn’t stop myself. Carter had plainly stated he thought his mate would be female since he had the burden of providing an heir for his pack.
Well, there was already one strike against me. There were many things I could do, including shifting into an animal, but providing children wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed.
The whiteness of the landscape caught my attention, and I stopped in front of a window. Sightlessly I stared out over the stream in front of my cabin. Alpha Carter Lovelock of the Dark Lake Pack—okay, that last name did bring a smile to my lips—was a big bull of a man with cold golden hazel-brown eyes. Whoever said such a color was warm never met Carter. He was tall, taller than Marshell. If I had to guess, I’d say he was at least six foot six inches or more… and stocky. Broad.
Our meeting was brief, but I walked away with the impression of a man who commanded the space around him. Intimidating. Powerful. Sexy. The diamond earring he wore was insanely sexy too. He was the things I yearned for. I placed my hand on the cold glass pane and shivered, unsure if the action came from my thoughts or the coldness of the day.
My cat grumbled loudly, letting me know it wasn’t the cold, even though there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. All this back-and-forth was giving me a headache. There was no denying I wanted Carter. His body—all that bulk, sharp planes, and muscles—appealed to me.
And he was bald. I clenched my fists and tapped them lightly against the windowpane. If there was one trait that drew me to a potential sex partner, it was that. I loved bald men, but it was so rare among shifters it was almost nonexistent.
Shifters simply were not bald—not on purpose, anyway. I was sure there was a story there. Sure, they could shave their heads, but once they shifted and then returned to their human forms, the hair regrew. Because of that, I didn’t get to indulge my little quirk often.
Through the years I’d noticed several humans who were bald, and I found them appealing but… well, human. Until recently we simply did not mix with them. But since Dolf’s half-human mate, Kirk, hit our clowder like a tornado, several firmly held beliefs had been destroyed.
Thanks to Kirk opening our eyes, I finally admitted I might’ve made a mistake in judging humans so harshly. I even hooked up for a one-night stand with some who, of course, happened to be bald. I found humans weren’t as bad as we always thought and was even considering asking a few out on a date when my life fell apart. Which was a nice way of saying I met my mate.
Speaking of my mate, my fingers itched to run across that hairless dome of his. My breathing spiked. Goddess, I was getting hard just thinking about all that smooth, shiny skin. My cat yowled in exasperation. He didn’t understand my human nonsense. Carter was my mate. As far as my cat was concerned, that was the end of that.
And this was just stupid.
There was no way a mating between a werewolf and a werecat could work. All I was doing was delaying the inevitable. Obviously Carter felt the same way since he hadn’t bothered to call me in the week since that meeting. He certainly wasn’t pursuing me.
Growling, I stomped to the bedroom. Well, screw him. I needed to be mated to a werewolf like I needed a hole in the head. I snatched up my cell phone and promptly dropped the thing on the bed when it rang. Startled, I hissed at it. Shit. The ringtone continued to blare as I snatched it up. If I’d cracked the stupid screen, I was going to…. I blinked in surprise.
Speak of the devil—or in this case—the werewolf. Running my finger across the screen, I unlocked my cell. My heart pounded. If I answered this, I’d have to stop avoiding the situation. Was I ready? There’d be no going back. Did I really want to take this step? Did I have a choice?
I answered the damn phone. “Hello?”
I closed my eyes for a second, took a deep breath, and then opened them. Why did his voice have to be so low and rumbly? I shivered. “Speaking.”
“This is Carter Lovelock.”
Right away I noticed he omitted his title, but that didn’t surprise me. He had no way of knowing how secure my phone line was.
“Are you there?”
“What?” Jeez, what was I doing? “Yes, I’m here. Sorry about that. I was….” Okay, no, I was not going to tell him I was perving on his voice. “Anyway. What can I do for you?”
There was silence on the line. The temptation to bang my head against the nearest wall was great, but I resisted. Had I actually asked him what could I do for him? Could I possibly sound stuffier?
“I can think of several ways to answer that question, but maybe it would be better not to.”
“I’m sorry?” I cringed. In my mind I saw my cat with his paw over his eyes. Well, guess that answered the question of whether I could sound stuffier. Apparently I could.
“Ah, is this a bad time?”
Is there ever a good time to make an idiot of myself? “No, no, it’s not a bad time.”
“I see. Cat got your tongue, perhaps?”
Whatever nerves were plaguing me suddenly ignited, and with a whoosh, went up in a screaming mass of indignant flames. Abruptly I wanted to use Alpha Lovelock as a scratching post.
“You know, your kind is proof evolution can go in reverse.”
Now I understood exactly what the term “dead air” meant. I couldn’t believe I’d said that, but by damned, he deserved it. Cat got my tongue—seriously?
Finally Carter chuckled. “I guess I did ask for that, didn’t I?”
“I would say so.” I collapsed on the bed, knees weak. Conversing with this werewolf was like pushing a boulder. Uphill. During a monsoon.
“Hey, it got you talking to me, at least—even if it was to insult me,” Carter said. Then his voice turned serious. “You and I need to meet.”
“Yes, I suppose we do.”
“I’ll give you directions to my house and—”
“No.” He couldn’t be serious.
How much arrogance could a person cram into two words? “I’m not coming on your pac… your, ah… your place. No way.”
“You have my word you won’t be harmed.”
Whoop-de-freaking-do. “That’s nice and all, but I’m still not coming there.”
“Well, I can’t come to you without permission from your… from Dolf.”
That was definitely a no too. “I agree. That’s not a good idea either.”
Dolf and the rest of the betas were already too interested in my life. The nosy bunch of felines would probably hide in the surrounding trees if Carter came here. It wouldn’t be curiosity killing the cat; it’d be me.
“Then what do you suggest, because we do need to meet. I’m afraid I really must insist.”
I almost told him he could insist until he turned blue in the face, but I was trying to be civil. “I think somewhere neutral would be better.”
I hesitated. Private meant isolated, and isolated meant… well, isolated. Although I understood why he’d request that—we didn’t have to watch what we said if humans were not about—I didn’t know this Alpha. He was my mate and wasn’t supposed to be able to hurt me, but did I really want to put that to the test?
“I… fine. I will tell Dolf where I’m going to be, though.”
“You should. Temple and Shea will know where I am too.”
I’d forgotten all about his betas. “You’re coming alone, correct?”
“I… no. I can’t. You know that. Would you allow Dolf to go somewhere unescorted?”
Damn. He had a point. Alphas never went anywhere without at least one beta with them. Now what? “So you’re going to have one of them with you?”
“I’m afraid so. That’s nonnegotiable, and you know why.”
This was turning into a massive headache, and we hadn’t even laid eyes on each other yet. I growled softly. “I am not discussing anything of a personal nature with you as long as you have an extra set of ears listening in.”
“Which is why I suggested you come here. It’s easier.”
Of course it was—for them. I didn’t find anything about going there easy. The idea of being the lone cat surrounded by nothing but wolves was intimidating. In shifted form they were bigger and heavier than my cat, which was the size of a large Savannah.
While we could be arrogant, we had nothing on werewolves. Ha! Arrogant. The word described them perfectly, along with sarcastic, bossy, and vain. They acted as if the rest of us shifters should bow down to them.
If Carter came here, one of his betas would be with him. Plus they’d have to spend several nights, considering Carter’s pack land was several hours away. I was uncomfortable offering Carter my guest room, but I might’ve done it. But his beta too? Not happening. That was one werewolf too many.
Having two strange males—who were werewolves—under the same roof with me was more than I could handle. Not to mention I only had the one spare guest room, and I couldn’t see Temple and Carter sharing a bed.
My cat immediately growled his opinion on that. I’d probably fillet that sucker if he tried to get into bed with my mate… oh no. Banging my head against the nearest wall was looking better and better. I was getting possessive of Carter, which was a bad sign. A very, very bad sign.
“What?” I snapped.
“I’ve already given you my word nothing bad will happen to you here.”
“That’s supposed to reassure me?”
The growl that came across the phone line lifted the hair on the back of my neck.
“You question my word? My word? That’s an insult in so many ways I don’t know where to begin.”
By the goddess’s right paw, what was I thinking? “Okay. That was uncalled for, and I apologize, but you have to understand how uncomfortable this makes me.”
“Apology accepted. I do understand, and I promise you if any of my wolves lays a hand on you, they will regret it.”
Well, hell. He meant it. I heard the conviction in his voice and pinched the bridge of my nose. A voice in the back of my head whispered this was a disaster waiting to happen, but I couldn’t see a way around it.
It’d be easier for me to go there, even though the thought left me trembling. On the other hand, what better way to see if I could tolerate living among the wolves? Better to find out now before we mated, than later when there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
“Fine. I’ll come there.” I clutched the phone as my stomach dropped to somewhere around my knees. “But understand this—the moment I feel threatened, I’m out of there.”
“Understood. If that happens, I want to know about it immediately, because you won’t feel that way for long, I promise you. Would you consent to staying for a couple of nights?”
Yep, the aforementioned headache just sank its claws into the base of my neck. “Might as well.”
“Thank you. I know this is difficult, but all I ask is that we sit down and discuss this like two rational adults.”
Then we were already screwed, because I’d never known a werewolf to be rational, but why throw that into the conversation? “Agreed. Send me your address so I can program it into the GPS.”
“I will. Is the snow awful down there?”
Oh yay. Small talk and the ever-safe topic of the weather. “No. Not really. The temperature is supposed to rise tomorrow. That’ll get it melting quickly.” Which sucked, but it was better for driving. “I need to talk with Dolf and square this with him so I can have the time off. I’ll probably leave tomorrow after lunch. Since it’ll be Sunday, the traffic shouldn’t be too bad.”
“Excellent. Send me a text so I know when you leave.”
Already with the demands. “How about you ask me to send you a text? I’m not Temple or Shea, even though I hold the same rank. And you’re not my Alp… well. You know. You might want to remember that.”
“But I do hold the same rank as Dolf. You might want to remember that.”
I gritted my teeth. We were already off to a rip-roaring start. “While I am perfectly willing to give you the respect your rank deserves, I kiss nobody’s ass. If you want me to do something, ask instead of demand. I’m your mate, not your beta.” I cursed softly for my slip of the tongue.
“You’re right. I….” Carter sighed. “Will you send me a text before you leave?”
That was better. A firm believer in starting out how I meant to go on, I answered him in the perkiest voice I could muster. “Sure. I can do that.”
“I’ll see you when you get here. Have a good evening. Good night.”
“You too. Good night.” On that cheerful note, I ended the call and slipped my cell back into my jeans pocket.
If we didn’t kill each other within the first hour, it’d be a miracle.
Author bio and links:
M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full-time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!
When not writing, she’s exploring the latest M/M novel to hit the market, watching her beloved Steelers, or watching HGTV. That’s if she’s not on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two children.
She is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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