Book Blitz & Excerpt: Must Love Cats + Giveaway

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Must Love Cats, by Angela Addams

Word Count: 68,373
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 268

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
REVERSE HAREM
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

Four fiercely protective shifters. A curse and a ghost town. A bunch of wily cats and one woman who can save them all.

Lucki Collins has landed the job of a lifetime—Cat Keeper of Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.

Lucki discovers early on that Weeping Falls is cursed and that the cats she’s there to care for are the townspeople, who must abide by the cycle of the sun and moon—taking cat form during the day and human form at night. They are magical creatures known as ‘familiars’, who can enhance the powers of a witch considerably, the very thing that puts them in danger.

Lucki meets her protectors—Reuben, a bear shifter, Wren, a wolf shifter, Ben, a hawk shifter, and Julian, a lion shifter—who must not only keep her and the cats safe, but also somehow convince her to bond with them. Their magical bond is the only thing that will give Lucki control over her powers, which are necessary to defeat Angelica, a sorceress who wants to capture all the cats and use them for her evil goals. Lucki hasn’t had the best experience with love, but rather than leave the men hopeless, she offers to help them break the curse by another means.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Lucki is left with the challenge of overcoming her past and setting aside her fears. If she can believe in herself and put her faith in love once again, she might just be able to triumph over evil and save the people she has come to deeply care about in Weeping Falls.

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of public sex, references to emotionally/psychologically abusive sex, the death of a parent from cancer, graphic and gory violence, the death of a major character and murder of animals.

Excerpt

Cat Keeper of Weeping Falls. It sounds like a joke, right? Cat Keeper… What the hell kind of job is that?

“The best job in the mothereff”—burp—“ing world!” Lucki Collins raised her almost empty pint of beer and cheered the crowd of rowdy townspeople who were seated all around her. The burn of too much booze heated her cheeks, and the ache from so much laughing had her cradling her side. She was being treated like a queen and didn’t care if she was making an ass of herself.

“Cheers to our new Cat Keeper. May your time here be ever filled with joy.” Mr. Rose an elderly man with a bright red nose and long white whiskers, raised his glass, which was filled with…milk. It was the only thing he’d been drinking all night.

Lucki figured it had to be mixed with bourbon or something. The man was way too cheerful to be sober. They’re all way too cheerful. The entire town of Weeping Falls, a population of a hundred at most, had welcomed her with open arms the second she’d cleared the town line—and hadn’t stopped welcoming her.

“To our blessed Cat Keeper!” Everyone cheered, raising their glasses, thumping on the tables, laughing, singing.

They were in the tavern, a throwback to the old West, complete with its swinging doors and long curved bar, plank wood floors that were scuffed and dented and an old-time piano that one of the residents had been playing since Lucki had gotten there. Everyone was dressed in the fashion of the time too—from the cowboy hats to the heel spurs, corsets and billowing skirts. Lucki truly felt like she’d stepped into the olden days—and she loved it.

Weeping Falls had been an actual mining town back in the day. Now it was barely hanging on as a ghost town tourist attraction—the Wild West in Alaska. There wasn’t much in the way of bookings, from what she’d gathered. The only visitor was her, and she was soon to be a resident too. She’d be Lady Clover’s Cat Keeper, responsible for tending to a massive cat colony who’d been bequeathed a mansion and a trust fund and who called Weeping Falls home.

When she’d been offered the job, she’d thought she’d heard wrong.

“Cat keeper? What kind of job is that?”

Scout, the man who’d found her, had answered her simply and honestly. “We can’t afford a trained vet to come. You have almost all the requirements and a lot of experience working with animals. You’ll do.”

Lucki had been working at shelters her whole life. Always a tender heart around those injured or in need of love, she’d solely manned a cat sanctuary in her hometown until a fire had taken out the entire colony the past summer. It had nearly destroyed her heart to lose all those precious lives.

Scout had come knocking on her door one morning, claiming he’d heard about her compassion toward the felines and had wanted to offer her a new job as Cat Keeper for Lady Clover’s Cat House in Weeping Falls, Alaska.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time—a windfall, actually. Everyone knew she was destined to be a crazy cat lady anyway, and now she was going to be paid to fulfill that dream. It sounded pretty freakin’ perfect to her.

Besides, she had another reason to leave home—a big, six-foot-two, built-like-a-brick-house reason whom she wanted no reminder of ever again. He’d be in jail for another year at least, and by the time he got out, he’d find no trace of her. That gave her some measure of peace.

Her heart had been crushed, battered and beaten enough over the last ten years. She needed this escape, and Scout’s offer had come at the perfect moment. Time would heal all wounds—or so she’d heard—but cuddling with a bunch of cats would make that time sweeter.

And there hadn’t been a moment of regret—not one. She’d spent more than a day on the road with only a brief stop to rest, travelling all the way from her hometown in northern British Columbia.

It was a long way to come for a bunch of cats.

Best decision ever!

She downed what was left of her beer then snorted in the most unladylike way when another full pint slid in front of her.

“Oh boy, no way!” She laughed. “You people are going to get me totally wasted.”

“Aww, lass, no harm,” Andy Crawlie drawled. “We’re just happy yer finally here. We’ve been waitin’ on ya fer a vera long time.”

That had been what it had been like the entire night. They’d fed her delicious food until she was stuffed, then they’d started pouring the beer, keeping her glass full while they sang and laughed and told stories. There were enough people in the tavern that she lost track of all the names and keeping everyone straight. But she had plenty of time to learn them.

Lucki giggled but pushed the glass away. “Thank you for all your generosity, everyone.” She had to raise her voice to be heard over the music playing. “I think I should head back to Lady Clover’s, though. It’s late… Wait! How late is it?” Her phone had stopped working at some point during the night. She imagined that cell service was spotty at best around here anyway. She made a mental note to ask someone about it in the morning when her thoughts were clearer.

“Oh, it’s hardly after midnight, dear,” Sandy Evernight said as she picked up Lucki’s beer and took a sip for herself. “But if you must go, we’ll send you with an escort, to make sure you get back to the house in one piece.”

“An escort?” Lucki pushed her chair back. The wood feet thudded across the floor, giving Lucki a bit of a fight to stand.

“It’s always a good idea around here.” Sandy shrugged, her cheeks bright. She had a glint in her eyes that made Lucki question if there was a punchline coming. “‘Cause of the wild animals and such.”

“Wild animals?” Lucki frowned, her good mood taken down a notch. Not a joke, then. Right, because you’re in the middle of freakin’ Alaska! Spring is coming. Of course there are animals roaming around.

“Och, Sandy, quit scaring the girl. You want her to pick up and leave before she’s even settled in?” Mr. Rose said. “Rueben’s out there watchin’ for her. He’ll make sure she gets home safe.”

“Oh, Reuben’s around?” Sandy winked, aiming another sly smile at Lucki. “Didn’t know. Hadn’t seen him.”

“Don’t be daft, woman.” Andy tsked.

“You’ll be fine, Lucki,” Mr. Rose said with a reassuring pat on her arm. “Just be sure to put your coat on. The nights are still bitter cold around here.”

Someone handed Lucki her giant parka as she stood on wobbly legs, the beers rushing through her system worse than she’d first thought. “Thanks.” She slipped herself inside the warm down coat and instantly shivered as the heat embraced her. It would soon be too hot to be wearing inside the tavern. That was for sure. “I’ll see you all in the morning.”

Everyone mumbled something at her in response, but as she moved toward the door, she realized they just as soon returned to their drinking and joking, seeming to forget all about her. Looking over her shoulder at the group, she smiled once again. Such a fun bunch of folks. Unusual, sure, but also warm and embracing. Their unquestioning friendliness was like a comfort blanket around her heart. And that was something she really, really needed.

She pushed through the doors and blinked against the cold bite of the air. Icy wind shot up her nose and stung her brain. Sandy had said it was spring and she wasn’t wrong, calendar wise, but the weather up here was not any kind of spring that Lucki had ever experienced. Even in Canada, where the winters could get brutal, May usually came with milder temperatures, even at night.

But today was only May first, she reminded herself. Beltane. The familiar stir of longing rattled through her. In years past, Beltane was always a night she’d enjoyed with others. With him. Marking the coming of spring, Beltane was a celebration of new growth and fertility, and usually involved a night of ritual, song and dance, bonfires and, in her adult life, a lot of sexual exploration. This was the first time in many years that she would be alone.

But the past is the past, and it’s better to be alone and happy than with someone and miserable.

“Blessed be,” she said with a sigh.

She let her eyes adjust to the night then looked up at the impossibly bright stars overhead. She’d never seen so many in her life. She scanned the sky, hoping to see the Northern Lights, which she’d read about when she had been trying to research what to expect in Alaska, but the only light was from the stars and the moon, which was near full. Beautiful. She took in a deep breath, ignoring the burn of the cold air as it ripped up her nose again, freezing her nostrils. Refreshing, sure, but also painful. She chuckled to herself then took a few steps off the porch.

The gritty earth crunched under her feet. It was a strangely comforting sound that broke up the silence of the night and gave Lucki something to focus on other than the shadowed buildings.

The town consisted of a main strip with all the old ghost-town amenities—a barbershop with its candy-cane stripe, a hotel down the road, grocery store, shoemaker, blacksmith and even a church. There was a carriage without its horses and bundles of hay off to the side. It was so old-world and yet not. There were modern amenities as well—like the streetlamps, which were a little too far apart for Lucki’s liking, and a few cars parked here and there.

She flipped up her hood, suddenly feeling the cold worse as it whipped down the back of her neck, making her shiver right to her bones. Lady Clover’s Cat House was at the other end of the strip. The lights of the mansion shone from almost every window, a guiding beacon, so it would be impossible to not find her way there.

My new home. Hard to really fathom. It was three stories of old-world charm. Painted yellow like the sun, it had stained-glass multicolored windows with white shutters to frame them and a wraparound porch that could fit a hundred people with no problem. There was even a swinging chair there for her to lounge on in the warmer months, and she so looked forward to reading a few books out there with some cats on her lap. It was a house she could only dream of living in one day, and here she was walking down a dirt road, on her way to spending her first night in a castle of cats. Bliss.

Although this particular bliss included a pretty frosty walk. The cold bit at her cheeks and stung her eyes, so she walked faster. The noise from the partiers dimmed behind her. The silence of Alaska greeted her with each step she took toward her new home. She could fall in love with a place like this. It was so peaceful. So simple. She didn’t miss the buzzing white noise that she’d grown accustomed to back home or the constant urgency to check her phone for messages. She was unplugged. Calm. At peace.

“Meow.”

Lucki stopped in her tracks. Ohhhhhhh, one of the cats? She hadn’t met any of them yet, but she was eager to.

“Kitty?”

“Meeeeeow.”

She shifted her hood so she could look all around. “Here, kitty. Come here, kitty. Let me see you!” She felt no shame in her excitement over meeting the cats. She looked forward to bonding with each of them. She’d been warned it was quite a large colony, a hundred at least. “Here, kitty!”

“Meow!”

She felt a nudge against her boot and shifted her hood to look down. The coat was so bulky that she could hardly see her own feet.

“Mr. Whiskers?” she said, as she swooped down to pick up her own cat. “What are you doing out here all alone, baby?” The only cat to have survived the fire was one of her favorites, a mangy brown tabby she called Mr. Whiskers. She’d brought him with her to Alaska but had left him safe and sound in the house—or so she’d thought. “How’d you get out here?”

“Muuuuurrrrow!” He purred like an engine and nuzzled into her arms as she stroked him.

“Well, you silly boy, let’s get you back inside where it’s warm.”

She walked, the crunch of her feet on the gravelly dirt road a distraction again. She pulled her attention from the ground and scanned the buildings around her.

“It’s awfully dark.” In between the streetlights was pitch black, and unusual shadows had collected in those places, keeping just out of reach from the lights. In each of those in-between spaces were alleys that were so opaque that they were impenetrable without a flashlight.

Creepy. The sobering reality of being completely alone in the middle of a town where she didn’t really know anyone slithered down her spine. If she called out, would anyone hear her?

The faint sound of music from the tavern drifted toward her. Nope…probably not.

She also kind of felt like she was being watched. Paranoia? Maybe. The tickling at the back of her neck had her scrunching her shoulders, and she picked up her pace all the same.

“Where’s this Reuben guy everyone is talking about?” she whispered to Mr. Whiskers, but he didn’t say anything back. He just purred in his contented kitty way. No fucks given.

The cat house was only about thirty feet ahead, if that. The urge to bolt the rest of the way poked her from all sides, but she was scared that if she did that, she’d drop the cat or freak him out enough to make him claw his way over her face.

Just one more alley to cross. She moved a little to the center of the street, putting some distance between her and the black maw of nothing on her left.

As she crossed the alley, she heard a noise. Low and quiet at first, it was a rumble of sound that she didn’t know quite how to place. It froze her in her tracks, though. There was definitely a menacing tone to it, like a warning. A growl.

“Do you hear that, Mr. Whiskers?” She couldn’t keep the quiver out of her voice. Keep walking.

Mr. Whiskers stopped purring. In fact, he stopped moving and was frozen in her arms, his body rigid as he stared down the alley, a murmur of a hiss growing in his belly.

The growling from the alley came again. It was definitely not friendly. Oooooh nooooo…

Something dazzled, a blink of light, then twin orbs of blue appeared to be floating in the darkness. So pretty. The slow grind of gravel under foot, deliberate careful movements, didn’t bring Lucki any comfort. “What is that?”

She unlocked her knees then took a step back. Then another. The sound got louder. The growl grew in strength with each step toward her until it was a warning she couldn’t ignore. She moved back quickly, almost stumbling on her own feet. Out of the shadows came a giant dog, its teeth bared, eyes menacing.

No, not a dog.

A wolf!

“H-h-holy shit,” Lucki stammered.

The wolf crouched, ready to pounce.

I’m going to die.

Mr. Whiskers hissed a growl of his own then leaped from her arms and she, the stupid fool, chased after him—right up to the wolf, within feet of the menacing beast. Mr. Whiskers stood between them, his fur fluffed out and back arched. He gave a hiss of warning with a paw raised, ready to strike.

“Mr. Whiskers, are you nuts?” Her voice was barely loud enough for anyone to hear. It was a croak instead of a scream. No one would come to her rescue. “Help!” Her voice failed her once again, coming out as a half whisper, strangled by her fear. The wolf watched her, its eyes searing deep inside. It ignored the cat completely.

What is the right move? Why didn’t I research this?

What to do if a wolf stalks you…yeah…that.

The wolf took a menacing step in her direction, its predator glare never wavering. Lucki’s legs shook with an alarming sway. Her knees were literally knocking together. If she tried to run, she’d fall flat on her face for sure.

Running with a predator giving chase was probably not a great idea anyway.

The cat launched itself, jumping toward the wolf.

Her voice unlocked. “Mr. Whiskers, no!”

But it was too late. The cat struck a clawed paw against the wolf’s muzzle, causing it to growl and lower its head. Lucki thought for sure Mr. Whiskers was gonna lose all nine lives in one go, but Mr. Whiskers didn’t get the memo on that. He struck again, quick and determined, a claw swipe against the wolf’s nose.

Lucki quickly calculated the odds of snatching the cat up as she ran. It didn’t look good. She was not that coordinated.

She sucked in a deep breath, then opened her mouth to scream.

The wolf took a step back, its head bowed…in…submission?

What the…? Her scream died on her tongue.

Mr. Whiskers, still all puffed out, still defending his human, was no longer on the attack. He even seemed to have a smug grin as he tossed a glance in Lucki’s direction. The wolf stayed down, muzzle lowered to the ground, its eyes blinking rapidly.

“Get outta here if you aren’t going to be civilized,” a booming voice said from behind.

The wolf flicked its eyes up, looked behind Lucki for a moment, then it bolted away into the darkness of the alley.

“Sorry, hon. Got caught up in a conversation and didn’t realize you were leaving so soon.”

Lucki glanced behind her, then did a double take. A huge, burly man stomped toward her. He had to be at least six-five, six-six. He wasn’t wearing a coat, just a blue lumberjack shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, that showed some impressively muscled forearms. His brown hair was parted to the side and his soft eyes crinkled with what kind of looked like amusement. The lower half of his face was covered with a beard, close cropped and well kept. This guy was a bear—a huge, lumberjack bear. He had an easy smile and a dimple, and he was so disarming that Lucki smiled back, that and her panties melted right then and there.

“I’m Reuben.” His voice had the kind of husky depth that stroked her soul.

Her legs quivered.

She cleared her throat to get the lusty lump of drool out of the way. “There’s a wolf…” She turned her head to the alley, but the wolf was definitely gone. Mr. Whiskers nudged her to be picked up.

“Yeah, I saw.” Reuben radiated heat. It literally steamed off him. He came up next to her then placed a firm hand on her back, which instantly steadied her legs. “Let’s get you to the house before you freeze to death.”

“A wolf, though…” She turned her head from side to side, scanning the area as she bent down to pick up the cat.

“He’s gone now. Don’t worry about him.” Reuben’s voice was so sure, so confident, so soothing. “Happy to finally meet you,” he added.

“Was that real?” The adrenaline that had coursed through her body crashed out of her in a whoosh. She took a step but her legs crumbled out from under her.

“Whoa there!” Reuben swooped in and held her upright. “They been pouring drinks into you? Those beasts don’t ever learn.”

Her head was clear. Any buzz she’d had from the booze had burned through her. It had to be shock that was making her dizzy and disoriented now. She could have died. Mr. Whiskers had done his best, but really, that wolf could have eaten her in a few bites.

“I got ya.” Reuben picked her up then cradled her and the cat in his arms.

She gasped, more to herself, as she looked up at him. “You’re a big guy.” She was in the arms of a mountain.

He chuckled. “I am.” He hitched her up higher. “Let’s get you home, shall we? Then we can properly introduce ourselves. It’s Beltane, you know, a good night for introductions.” He smiled, his dimple popping and his eyes glistening.

His wink to follow undid her completely.

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About the Author

Angela Addams

Angela Addams is an author of many naughty things. She believes that the written word is an amazing tool for crafting the most erotic of scenarios and likes telling stories about normal people getting down and dirty and falling in love. Enthralled by the paranormal at an early age, Angela also spends a lot of her time thinking up new story ideas that involve supernatural creatures in everyday situations.

She is an avid tattoo collector, a total book hoarder, and loves anything covered in chocolate…except for bugs.

She lives in Ontario, Canada in an old, creaky house, with her husband, children and four moody cats.

Sign up to Angela’s newsletter and check out her blog and website. You can follow Angela on Instagram and Pinterest, and find her at Amazon, Bookbub and Books & Main.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Destined Predator + Giveaway

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Destined Predator, by Bailey Bradford

Book 2 in the Wild Ones series

Word Count: 46,821
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 189

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

Never in his wildest dreams.

Rhett Tucker, a rough, tough, meat-and-potatoes Wyoming rancher, has just about accepted that shifters exist. His little brother Jack is now mated to one, Ben, whose family are the only coywolf—wolf-coyote hybrids—shifters in existence.

Rhett’s also accepted the fact that he’s gay, even if he’s never been with a guy. What he can’t deal with is Ben’s big brother, the swaggering, dominating, permanently smirking Casey. The head of the Akers pack might be their alpha, but he’s not Rhett’s and never will be.

Casey has never met a challenge he didn’t leap at, and he sure wants to jump the handsome rancher’s bones. He sees that under all the bluster, Rhett yearns to submit, and Casey’s more than happy to fulfil Rhett’s needs…when the stubborn man’s ready to admit to them.

But when both humans and coywolves are under attack, there’s no time for Rhett and Casey to do anything but join forces to find out if the inter-shifter battles are starting up again, or if the pack and the Double T Ranch are facing a new and deadly enemy.

One thing’s for sure—any relationship between Rhett and Casey is gonna be wild.

Excerpt

Man.

Rhett Tucker, co-owner and boss of Wyoming’s Double T ranch, stared at his reflection in the shaving mirror.

He bobbed down to his right, so his face showed in the corner with the splintered crack. He blinked, then studied his altered image, seeing his strong jaw elongated to exaggerated proportions and, when he ducked lower still, how his hazel eyes fractured and his short dark hair looked long and bushy, like a pelt.

Monster.

No. That wasn’t right. Wasn’t fair.

Beast.

He closed his eyes, but it didn’t stop him seeing beasts, the coyote and wolf shifters who’d fought a turf war on Double T land, or the biggest beast of all of them, the one his foreman Ernesto had turned into. A terrifying, giant wolf-demon hybrid out of a nightmare who’d slayed and slaughtered—

Nope, not going there. Tucker bent from the mirror to the sink so he could scoop water onto his face, splashing at any leftover shaving foam then patting with a towel to remove the last traces. He even wiped behind his ears and wriggled the corner of the towel into them, first one, then the other.

Go with cologne? He did have a bottle, and it was a scent he liked, but it’d been a present from his ex-girlfriend, Olivia, and it felt plain wrong to wear it on a date with someone else.

Rhett straightened his shirt—he should have ironed it. “Bathroom steam never works,” he reminded himself, needing to fill the silence. The sound of his voice didn’t work to plug the gap, and he circled back to what had been consuming him since he’d found out…that shifters existed.

He prided himself on being a plain-thinking rancher like his father, one who believed in what he could see and touch, like his land, or his cattle. And now, that included people who turned into animals. Who were animals. Some were murderous, terrifying monsters, and some were, if not angels, then more on the side of good as they went about their lives. Oh, and his brother had fallen hard and fast for one.

And if I can’t handle that, I’ll lose my little brother.

The thought of losing Jack made Rhett’s hands tremble as he tossed the wet towels into the hamper. His chest seized, making him sit on the edge of the tub to catch his breath. He’d accept anything he had to if it meant keeping Jack in his life. They’d only just started growing closer as brothers recently, when Jack had come home after years of them barely staying in touch because he’d lived and worked in New York City. Rhett wasn’t going to mess up again and let Jack get hurt—not by him, and not by anyone else.

I won’t fail him this time, like I did before because I didn’t want to tell him the truth about myself. Because I didn’t want to accept it, either.

Before he could continue his silent castigation, laughter rang out in the hallway, and the bright, joyful sound went a long way to drowning Rhett’s fears.

Hearing Jack so happy was worth anything. Even the scariest monsters in the world couldn’t have kept Rhett from leaving the bathroom so he could see his brother smiling, eyes crinkled at the corners, his mouth in a wide grin, arms around his boyfriend, Ben. Ben the coywolf shifter.

It didn’t matter if Ben was a shifter, not when he was looking at Jack the same way Jack looked at him. Only thing I can do is plow through my fears—or bury ’em as deep as possible. Jack deserved that, and maybe, although Rhett didn’t know him well, Ben did, too. That was what he wanted to believe, anyhow.

“Hey, Rhett.” Ben gave him a nod before pulling a face at Jack. “Oh, what’s your brother gonna think, huh? Him all neat and tidy like that and look at you, with your JBF’d hair.” He knuckled into Jack’s messy head.

Jack snorted and wiggled his butt. “I’ve got a JBF’d something all right, and it isn’t my hair.”

“Jacky-boy, behave!” Ben pretended to fan himself. “You’ll have your big brother blushing.”

“Maybe you should be the one blushing,” Rhett replied, standing his ground as he always did, even in this new situation. “If it’s done right, ya can’t walk for days, and here’s Jack looking ready to go line dancing at Bard’s Saloon, so…” He looked Ben up and down, pursing his lips in concern as fake as Ben’s shock of a moment ago. “I’d hate to think you weren’t treating Jack right.”

Hey!” Ben’s indignation sounded more genuine now, and he pouted when Jack started chuckling, glared when Rhett sniggered too, then joined in.

Rhett didn’t know which of them laughed the loudest, but by the time he’d gotten his amusement under control, his sides ached, and he was shaking his head. “Aw, man. Y’all are something else.” He went to walk off.

“Rhett.”

Jack calling his name stopped him. “You doing okay there?” Jack asked. They might not have been close in recent years, but they’d grown up together and each was hard to fool.

“I…” Rhett chewed on his bottom lip a second. “Got some stuff spinning my gears up here.” He tapped his head.

Ben gave him a cool look from where he stood so close to Jack that Rhett couldn’t have swiped a credit card between them. “Stuff like wanting reality to go back to the way it used to be?”

As life should be for a solid, no-frills Wyoming son of the soil who didn’t believe in mumbo-jumbo. Well, that was the question he’d already answered for himself before he’d left the bathroom. Rhett hitched his thumbs through his belt loops and tipped his head back to look down at Ben, slow and easy. “I wouldn’t change anything about this world that makes my brother light up like he does around you.”

“Aww.” Jack’s eyes teared up and he hugged Rhett and, after a second, another pair of arms snaked around them—Ben joining in, too. It took a few seconds, but Rhett relaxed into the group huddle. Well now. How ’bout that.

Ben was the first to pull away. “I have to go. We got a pack run scheduled.”

“Can’t keep your alpha waiting,” Jack replied.

“Yeah, just like your big brother’s word is law too.” Ben wrapped a hand around Jack’s neck to bring him in for a smacking kiss. He slapped Jack’s ass then strolled down the short corridor to the front door, touching the first two fingers of his right hand to his forehead in salute as he went.

The lame joke barely registered with Rhett. His mind was busy thinking about Ben’s oldest brother and alpha of the Akers coywolf pack. Casey. That perma-smirking, cocky, swaggering— Taking in a deep breath, Rhett wrenched himself back to the here and now.

“Hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave,” Jack called after Ben, tilting his head to take in Ben’s rear view, then laughing when Ben slapped his own ass and made a sizzling noise.

Ben didn’t close the door properly after him—Rhett had been meaning to plane it a little smoother, to stop it sticking—so Rhett walked over, intending to close it. Instead, he pushed the door open wider to get some air, never mind that he’d been outdoors all day. Jack joined him, leaning against the other side of the jamb like they were bookends.

“You really okay?” he asked, side-eyeing Rhett. “’S’okay not to be, after all…that.”

“That,” Rhett echoed, looking out over Double T land. “’S’funny—when I run into something new to handle on the ranch, I ask myself, ‘What would Pa do?’ and I usually find the answer, the way forward, you know? Only for ‘that’, well, I got no idea what he would do.”

“I didn’t know him as well as you did,” Jack replied, his words coming slowly. “And I guess I’ve learned more about him since coming back, if not from you, then from people’s stories and memories, here or in town. But I don’t think he’d have known what to do if he discovered shifters existed and that his younger son is destined mate to one of ’em.”

“Y’all might jus’ have the right of it there, son,” said Rhett, his impersonation of Chauncey Tucker’s measured, guarded speech so accurate that it set them both laughing again.

Jack twisted around and took one of the framed photos off the hall table. “I swear, you hold this up in front of your face when you do that, we’d fool anyone he’s still around!”

“Ah reckon we abou’ might,” Rhett couldn’t resist saying, Chauncey-style, as he took the picture to return it to the table. He studied it. He looked like Chauncey—no-time-to-fuss short dark hair and a big and burly frame, although his eyes were a hazel blend of his pa’s brown and his mom’s green—and was like him, too, in his focus on the ranch and the land.

“I’m more like Mom.” Jack followed Rhett’s line of sight to where the portrait of Lorraine Channing Tucker gazed down at them from the wall.

True, he had her large, dark-lashed green eyes and more delicate bone structure. Lorraine had been a beauty, with her high cheekbones and wide, full mouth, and Jack shared those, too.

Jack had always liked the formal-looking painting of Mom, in a silk evening dress she rarely had occasion to wear. Remembering how as a kid, Jack had used to exclaim “Portrait pose!” whenever Mom happened to be half-turned away and looking back at him, the same position she’d been put into for her painting, made Rhett laugh.

Seeing the expression Jack wore now, as he gazed at one of the last photos of Chauncey and Lorraine together on their wedding anniversary, Rhett knew he was wishing he’d been able to tell them he was gay. Jack had spoken of it before.

“Hey.” He got his younger brother’s attention. “I reckon they’d be glad you found someone. I know I am. And I’ll say it one more time for the folks at the back—there’s always a place for you here at the Double T. Heck, you own half the Double T!”

“Even if I know more about ranch dressing than ranch work?”

“Thought you worked in an office in New York City, not a restaurant. Like, publishing, not fast food?” Rhett joked. “And you know, that’s something we could think about. I was wondering about getting the admin side of things more up to date here— Oh, sure, go ahead. Laugh it up, kid.”

“’S’hard not to, when I think what passes for a ‘system’ in that home office back there!” Jack wiped his eyes. “If it’s Monday, you move the pile of papers to the back of the desk. Tuesday, to the table beside the desk. Wednesday, the chair halfway between the table and the filing cabinet. And by Friday—”

“By Friday I’m kicking your ass.” Rhett grinned, too.

“Tryin’ to.” Jack folded his arms. “But yeah, the office processes need streamlining. And not just the office. I got interested in data management—well, data science, or even data technology, really—and I’ve been havin’ some ideas for using it for the cattle, too.”

“That so? Like what? Putting a jumbotron in the far pasture to show the herd movies? Or giving each cow a cell phone, get ’em to take selfies, maybe set ’em up with an Instagram account? You wanna solve our ‘social media problem’ that way?” Rhett bent to see in the mirror, to give a final brush to his hair, and raised an eyebrow at his brother’s reflection behind him.

“Hey, neat idea—pretty pictures of cows in costumes and us dressed as cowboys in chaps… Hmm…” Jack couldn’t keep up the joke. “No. Tagging each cow with an electronic ID that stores all their info, to make herd management more efficient. It’s just something I was reading about.” Jack looked from the carriage clock on the hall table to his watch. “Hey. You wouldn’t be stalling there, would you, big bro? Seeing as how tonight’s your first date…with a guy?”

“No.” Rhett tweaked his sheepskin jacket from the coat stand and put it on. “I’m ready, see?” Well, he was the ‘dressed clean and tidy’ part of ready, and hoping to meet a nice guy, even if he didn’t think he’d ever be ‘ready’ for it.

“It’s a big step.” Jack nodded. “You want some pointers, bro?”

“Jack, I never wanna see your pointer. Ev-er,” Rhett emphasized, quitting the house. He was glad Jack walked him to his truck, although he could have done without the “Make me proud!” and “Make it happen!” that his one-hundred-percent certified brat of a little brother hollered after him as he drove away.

Rhett fiddled with the radio, getting it to his favorite classic rock station in time to catch a group suggesting he “take it easy”. Good advice. That was followed by “one for the oldies,” a classic country song telling him to “be a man”. He was—if facing up to being gay and wanting to be with a man counted.

Well, even if it didn’t and it wasn’t what the singer or songwriter had in mind, Rhett was off to Bard’s Saloon for his first-ever date with a guy, and one who was more experienced than him, better-looking than him and more take-charge than him.

A smug, bossy alpha, all long legs, wide shoulders and overlong wavy hair, strutted into his mind’s eye, and Rhett turned up the music to wipe him out. Well, ready or not, here I come.

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About the Author

Bailey Bradford

A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Fang + Giveaway

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Fang, by Ellen Mint

Book 2 in the Coven of Desire series

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

 

How can Cal live when the monster remains in the mirror?

Cal is struggling. After his past unraveled into a torment that claimed nearly his whole family, how could he not be? The only good left in his life is Layla, even if she comes with a pain-in-the-haunches incubus. Dealing with Ink is one more problem he’s ignoring, until the werewolf issues he’s refused to face come for him.

A second pack is hunting him and they’re threatening his mother. Cal has no choice but to travel back to Santa Fe and confront them, or lose the last family he has left. While a road trip with Layla sounds nice, Ink has to come along, and the demon keeps driving a growing wedge between Cal and his tenuous grasp on humanity.

Cal, Ink and Layla come face to face with an enemy Cal once believed to be nothing but a myth, his claws and fangs useless against their firepower. What do they want with the witch, werewolf and demon? And, most of all, how can they be stopped?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, peril, near death, blood and gore. There are references to a cult, abusive and violent parents, and references to patricide.

Publisher’s Note: Everyone who buys a copy of Fang will receive the short story Snow Print free. Set between the events of Claw and Fang in the Coven of Desire series, Cal’s struggling to overcome the loss in his life is interrupted by a snowman army.

Excerpt

A crack shattered the silence, trying to pry my locked jaws apart. Shadows clipped across the single floodlight above the floorboards.

Diesel, gun oil, salted pork and…old leather. Every scent filled my sinuses and I whimpered.

“Cal…”

No! I spun in the tight space, clamping my filthy fingers onto my brother’s mouth. Even in the muddy crawlspace, I could see his eyes blazing above my palm. Eli’s entire body shivered, his shoulders rising to shield himself from every clip of the boot above our heads.

“We have to keep moving,” Mark spat in my ear. I cringed at the loogie sliding down my face while the eldest brother easily spun on his haunches. Even with his messed-up leg duct-taped to a fence post, he crawled quickly under the floor.

The boards above our heads stopped creaking and the light vanished. Had he gone to bed? This was it. Mom had put me in charge of getting Eli. All we had to do was…

Blinding white punctured the world. The ceiling above us shattered, splintering my heart. A massive hand slammed down right in front of my face. I reached my foot back, prepared to kick and break a finger, when the entire house collapsed over Eli.

Another crack. We all flinched as he took it. Three more lines added to the ones crisscrossing his back. Growls rumbled from Mark, pinned by his mother to stand and watch. I tried to twist away, but my head wouldn’t leave. If I didn’t watch, I could be next.

“Ah!”

A single cry escaped from Eli, and both Mark and I screamed, “No.” If he made a sound, it started all over.

The belt hung against the five-year-old’s back, Eli straining to reach over the apple crate he bent over. Crimson wicked up his burlap cassock. The blood would be left to dry for days as a reminder because the scars weren’t enough.

“This is what happens to disobedient boys,” boomed the voice through my ears, up my feet and into my blood. I tried to spit it out, the scent of him merging into a putrid taste boiling down my throat. Leaning over, I tried to retch it away—diesel, gun oil, salted pork, old leather, and blood. A spray of it erupted from my lips, staining the floorboards of the great room. No one turned to me, no one noticed I was vomiting in front of them.

Every eye gazed upon him. The father. Our great leader into the next stage of existence.

“Cal!”

“Eli…?”

His dirty, matted hair began to lift. As it did, crimson paint dribbled down the sides. “I don’t wanna be here, Cal!”

“I…” Damn it. My gaze plummeted to the floor, tears threatening to burst. Slamming my lids closed so no one could tattle on me for crying, I said, “I’ll get you out of here, Eli. When it’s done, I’ll get you.”

“Forget it.” It wasn’t the soft cry of a kid, but the dead acceptance of an adult. Even with my eyes shut tight, I saw Eli rise from the box. He trampled it down with his foot, shattering the crate we’d all been whipped on. Eli stood tall, stretching far above my head.

“Weak,” the voice of my unending nightmares thundered. “All of you.” His face burned hot like the sun and I could only stare at the black gun extending from his hand. He pointed it at the followers standing in a ring around us.

“The time of the Moon is nigh,” the rotten bastard said. “Destiny, child. Blood.” He aimed his gun at Eli. A flash turned my brother’s head into a wolf’s skull.

“Eli!” I screamed, running for him. But my feet couldn’t get any traction. Every step kept me pinned in place, unable to reach my brother slowly tumbling to the cement ground.

“You cannot escape it, Calvin.” The asshole’s hand clamped to my shoulder and he pressed me down to my knees. I tried to fight it, but my bones were matchsticks against his might. They buckled, my nose pressing into the dirt.

A wind howled through the trees, parting the stricken branches to reveal the yellow-blue light forever beaming down upon us. Itching rippled under my skin, one no amount of scratching would solve.

“Give in,” he chanted almost serenely.

I shook my head, feeling fur and not hair brush against my shoulder. “No,” I declared, the words warping as my gums receded. Pain clawed up the roots of my teeth sharpening to fangs.

“You cannot escape, Calvin.”

Squeezing my eyes tight, I willed the wolf back. My teeth flattened. I patted my head, finding only the shaved hair. Lashing my arm back, I burst from his grip and took two steps forward. “I’m never changing again!” I shouted.

A low chuckle caused me to freeze. My body betrayed me, terror beckoning me to turn. Lucien bent down, half of his skull exposed, the skin ripped like paper, the muscles rotted away. The eyeball in his fleshless socket was milky white. “Child.” A squishy, flapping sound followed his words. Red and purple tubes flapped out of a massive wound in his throat. I wanted to scream, but my mouth drowned with hot liquid.

“You cannot escape your blood.”

Fuck!

I shook awake, my whole body slamming forward to try to escape. Instead of hurling myself off the bed, I almost knocked my teeth into a soft shoulder. Layla’s hair provided cushioning to stop me, and I buried my face in it. I opened my mouth in a rictus and gave all the force of shrieking without letting a single sound escape.

My tongue tasted of copper and salt, of Lucien’s blood that I had ripped from his throat. My brain thundered with the scents of his body, his boots, his instruments of terror. Get out of it. He’s not here. He can never be here.

Burrowing my nose farther into her hair, I pulled in the deepest whiff imaginable. Cereal marshmallows. We’d gotten into a pointless food fight last night and I’d flicked them at her as she laughed. Amber. She’d used my soap to wash her hands and face. Me. The long night I held her safe in my arms. The air right before a thunderstorm struck. Layla.

My body tightened around her as it recognized the fullness of her. And she was stirring. Damn it.

“Cal…?” she croaked. Most of the time her voice was lush and lyrical, but in the morning it sounded more like a smoking frog.

I placed my lips to the nape of her neck, kissing over her curly hair to try to find the skin below. The taste of her replaced the lingering memory of blood. “Sorry to wake you,” I said.

The wolf inside me was restless. No, angry. It wanted vengeance even though we’d already gotten it. I winced and started to slide away. If I stayed in bed, no matter how tempting, it could rip through me. Take over my thoughts and push me to its side. I slid my hand up Layla’s stomach and over her hip, having to abandon her to calm down.

I was fairly certain she’d passed out and I slipped to my feet, when her fingers crested over mine. Through the shadows of the old house, I couldn’t see much, but the silhouette of her breasts tumbling together out from under my blanket almost drove me back in with her.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

No. But I’ve never been okay my whole life. “You stay sleeping.” I bent over and kissed her lips. I wished her taste and touch could chase away all the nightmare, but it clung to me like a filthy sack caked in blood. Rising to my feet, I stumbled out of my room. The wolf inside me howled.

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About the Author

Ellen Mint

Ellen Mint adores the adorkable heroes who charm with their shy smiles and heroines that pack a punch. She recently won the Top Ten Handmaid’s Challenge on Wattpad where hers was chosen by Margaret Atwood. Her books, Undercover Siren and Fever are available at Amazon as well as a short story in the Lucky Between The Sheets anthology. Married, she lives in Nebraska with her dog named after Granny Weatherwax. Her hobbies include gaming, painting, and halloween prop making. The basement is full of skeletons because they ran out of room in the closets.

You can find Ellen at her website here and also on Bookbub.

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