Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another taste of my latest wip?

Publicity photo courtesy Rick Mora

Copyright 2013 by Fran Lee

Zeke had lived alone out here for a damn long time. It felt unreal to see a woman standing here. His cock wanted to reach out and taste her. He clenched his teeth to keep from groaning at the pain it gave him. His old worn jeans suddenly seemed way too fucking tight.

He swallowed the thickness in his throat but his voice still seemed to be someone else’s when he spoke. She jerked upright and whirled so quickly, those long coltish legs got all tangled up and she nearly tumbled onto his bed. The mental image of her sprawled across his bed left him even harder.

His dream.

Definitely not Anglo. He noted those wide, chocolate brown eyes and the delicious blush that suffused her sun-kissed cheeks, coming up from the neckline of her sweat-damp shirt. Native American. Not Navajo or Zuni. Certainly not Apache. More likely Northern Plains. Maybe Cheyenne. Maybe Sioux. But it didn’t matter. She was so far out of his league, it seriously sucked. Just his luck to find a woman in his place, and know she wasn’t one he could ever hope to have.


His mouth watered for a taste of that soft, perfect skin. He slowly eased his body away from the door frame and watched her hands lift to her cheeks as if to cool them. But it wasn’t fear that lit her eyes. It was something else entirely. And those eyes lit a fire deep in his belly.

“Oh, God. You—live here?” Her voice was a rich contralto with a refined accent. He nodded, taking a slow step inside the open door before easing it closed, leaving the interior of his cabin in semi-darkness.  He could sense the hectic emotions rising in her. The heat of her racing pulse. The warm scent of her hair. The heady, sweet musk of her woman’s body. He inhaled deeply. Panic and arousal warred inside her for supremacy. Arousal. Something he had never before scented on a woman who had looked at him.

Surprisingly she seemed to like what she saw, but she was afraid, as well. Now, that was his normal effect on women. Usually the fear won. And when that happened, he wouldn’t stand a chance. He wasn’t good with women. He wanted to ask why she had come. He couldn’t make his words come out right as those beautiful eyes moved rapidly down his body and back to his face. He calmed his instincts, because they didn’t make sense. His instincts told him she was here for him.

That she was his.

His body felt hot and it seemed like he was about to bust open into a million pieces. Joe must have sent her to him. The old medicine man had been bugging the shit out of him for years to open his mind and heart and seek his other half.

He almost laughed at that idea. There was no other half for him. He’d never once been with a woman. Women were scared shitless of him. He’d learned his place in the world long ago. He’d learned that there was no woman who would accept him…could accept him…or what he was. He had figured that he was destined to use his hand and his desperate imagination for eternity.

Zeke went into town rarely. He saw many women, but the sight of his ravaged face combined with his massive, menacing body was often enough to terrify them into running in the opposite direction. He had learned to accept the feeling of rejection long ago.

And those of his tribe avoided him like the plague.

He closed his eyes and listened to the swift beat of her heart. Arousal. His body responded to the sound. Arousal was good. Arousal he could handle…he saw her spread before him in his mind…

Her delicious, warm voice interrupted his lustful thoughts.

“I—I’m sure there’s just been some silly mistake.” Her slim hands were in front of her, palms out as she spoke. As if that would prevent him from reaching out and dragging her into his arms. Obviously she sensed his preoccupation with those gorgeous tits…

No copying or reprinting without express permission of the author.  


Fran Lee

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Man Of Steel!

This past Sunday we fought the crowds along with hordes of other people and gave-in and saw the new Superman Man Of Steel in a packed theater.

The movie was good. Better than I was expecting. My son and enjoyed it but my husband who is much harder to please was disappointed that too much of Kanas got blow to bits and Metropolis was relentlessly pummeled in an alien battle for the Earth’s magnetic core that simply would not end.

I’ll admit I did get numb to the wanton destruction of rural and urban America BUT I was distracted by those minor flaws by Henry Cavil’s hotness and enjoyed the show.

Saying Henry Cavil is hot is a shallow thing to do. Henry seems to have a real sweetness to him at least there’s a very sweet quality that comes through in this movie. Going into this I wasn’t sure I could accept him as Superman. First Henry is British and Superman is as American as apple pie from a Kanas farm. Second, I’m a pretty big Superman fan. How big? I always loved the comics and loved sketching Superman as art practice. I used to be a physical trainer and many of the people I worked with or saw in physical therapy at the gym were in wheelchairs and had injuries or disabilities they were working with.

The most common tattoo I saw in those days on men and women, young and old alike was the iconic Superman shield. I love the fact that in this movie we are told the “S” stands for “Hope” because that’s exactly what it means to so many people.

I wanted to name our son after a real life hero who inspired people so my husband and I both agreed that we admired Christopher Reeves. Because of Christopher Reeves’ courage and determination he and Superman will always be one in my mind.

The look of this Superman is stunning. Planet Krypton was beautifully realized. The machinery has an organic quality. Superman’s father Jor-El  played by a slightly scruffy Russell Crowe, swoops through the skies on a dragon (who knew?) Krypton is exposed here for what it was—a troubled and doomed place populated by beings no better or worse than us.

I thought the best moments in The Man Of Steel were the quiet ones. The subtle interaction between young Clark and his Earthly parents played beautifully by Kevin Costner and Diana Lane, are a treat. Honestly I loved Clark on a fishing boat, or Clark the drifter better than Superman because the scenes were quieter (Nothing was blowing up) and Henry was acting and he is a very good actor. Overall I think the Superman franchise has been successfully rebooted and now we can move onto the other thing I love—Superman as Clark Kent struggling to fit in. I’m a total sucker for Clark Kent…

Also Hans Zimmer has written an Oscar worthy score for this movie. I loved it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Special Guest - Natalie Gayle

An Interview with Brayden James

Hi everyone, Natalie Gayle here.  Today I’m interviewing Brayden James, who you’re all getting to know as the very sexy lead from Finding Trust.  (Yes he just blushed I think,  and gave me that half smile wink thing he normally saves for Rihanna).  

I was so happy when they asked me to write their story a while back and I couldn’t believe it when he agreed to an interview for all of you out there in reader land.

Oh and I should add, where we’re doing this interview.  We’re sitting on Brayden and Rihanna’s back veranda over looking the Gold Coast, Australia – you know the one I mean!  I have to say I was surprised when Brayden asked me to do the interview here.  I know how much he cherishes his privacy.  (Must be Rihanna’s influence!).

NG:      Brayden thanks for taking the time out today to talk to me and answer all those sticky questions you know I’m going to ask.

BJ:       He grins
Do you’re worst Nat

At this I smile and I rub my hands together in glee. 

NG:      Anything off limits today?

BJ:       No  (he kind of cringes when he answers). 

NG:      I decide to go easy on him and work into it gently. 
So how’s Rihanna settling into life around here?

BJ:       Really well.  She loves it here just as much as I do.  She really seemed to fit in from her first night here.  She hasn’t even rearranged any of the furniture!  So I must have got something right when I decorated the place!

NG:      At this I laugh.  I do a quick scan around and I can report the house is GORGEOUS.   The whole place is to die for but the kitchen is a chef’s dream. 

So what Rihanna like as a cook?

BJ:       Not bad – in fact really good to be honest.  She’s still just getting the portion sizes right.  I’ve told her to cook for about eight people and that should do it.  I’ll eat whatever’s left tomorrow anyway. 
NG:      Horrified at this I ask the obvious questions.
What’s your grocery bill every month?

BJ:       Thousands – It’s why the Centre pays so well.  We couldn’t survive otherwise.  Remember an army marches on its stomach.  But don’t tell Rory I made a military reference – you know how touchy he gets about lumping us in the same basket as military.

NG:      Ah Brayden you don’t exactly seem to be hurting.  I smile and gesture at the whole surrounds. 

BJ:       I’ve got nothing to complain about in that department.  Steel certainly helps keep the coffers topped up.  The last tour and album went gangbusters.  Rihanna’s hardly a pauper either.  She only told me recently of her “Investments”.  Seems she’s squirrelled away just about everything she’s earned in the last ten yearsThat girl is sure full of surprises.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the end of it.  And I have to say I love every new one she throws at me.

NG:      Wow – still waters run deep!  Not that surprising when you know Rihanna I guess. 

So are you working with the Centre or on music at the moment?

BJ:       I’m working a case with Rory and Quade at the moment, but you know I can’t talk about that so please don’t ask me.   (I nod my understanding).

As for Steel, well I’ve written three new songs for them over the last month.  I need to pull together another five or so plus the work Jace has done and we’ll have the new album sorted

NG:      Wow you’ve really been busy with your music! 

BJ:       I love it!  And let’s just say I’ve had lots of inspiration. 

He shoots me “the smile”.  Rihanna is soooo lucky. 

NG:      Gee, let me guess Rihanna

BJ:       Yeah, hard to believe a woman could make such a change to your life, hey?

NG:      I just shake my head at this (he is a man after all). 
So are we going to hear a change up from the heavy rock anthems you guys are so well known for?

BJ:       Mmmm, maybe a slight mellowing.    But our roots are our roots, and we only know one way.  Rock!

We both laugh at that. 

NG:      So what’s the best thing about being together with Rihanna? 

He looks away for a bit and I start to get a big feeling of uh-oh in my stomach.  Whoops think I just asked the wrong question!

BJ:       There is no one best thing.  The whole thing is amazing, awesome, better than I could ever have imagined.  I feel whole for the first time in my life. 

Oh wow! I can tell how much that just cost him to admit that to me.  I’m so privileged. 

NG:      That’s great.  I’m really pleased that everything is working out well for you guys.  How are things with Rory and Quade?

BJ:       At this he laughs. 

            Ah you know Quade – He’s as moody as ever with Jazz being brought in by the boss.  Rihanna keeps telling me that watching those two together is better than watching “The young and the restless,” and “Sex in the City” all rolled into one.  Rory is having a field day with all the material they’re giving him.  The boy’s in gag heaven.  So to answer your question life is not dull with Quade and Jazz around. 

            As for Rory, well he’s a bit busy at the moment.  He’s full on with an assignment involving a trucking company.  Between you and me I think he’s full on with the owner of the trucking company as well if you get my drift. 

I nod knowingly – It’ll be our little secret. 

NG:      Okay now to the serious, important stuff! 

A look of dread crosses his face. 

Oh come on Brayden you did say I could ask

He nods resignedly.

How’s Rihanna coping with you being so much more than a man?

He smiles and laughs. 

BJ:       Umm she’s getting use to it.  Some things she thinks are very cool.  I don’t think I need to go into them – I think you get my drift.  She does like my endurance!

I giggle – wouldn’t we all girls!!

She does get pissy when I over hear conversations with Jazz, though.

NG:      So what’s Rihanna’s most annoying habit?

He thinks for a second.

BJ:       Well annoying is probably not the right word.  More like frustrating.  I get so frustrated when she really wants to know something about how I feel.  The emotional shit you know, not the do you like this colour for a new bed quilt type of stuff.   She’ll half ask, then change her mind.  Not really change her mind.  More like loose her nerve.  Then I have to drag it out of her.

It’s kind of satisfying to pull another layer off her but it can be a bit frustrating at the same time.  In fairness though she is getting much better. 

He paused for a moment, as if deciding whether he wanted to tell me what he was thinking. 

She’s a lot more relaxed around me and I don’t seem to make her blush anywhere near as much if you get my meaning.

NG:      I get your meaning Brayden – I wrote your book remember! 

BJ:       Oh yeah – I forget sometimes that people know so much about us. You know how I am about my privacy.   We’re just a couple from Oz.  I can’t believe she talked me into letting you write it.

NG:      Seriously Brayden you have got to be kidding me.  You guys are so much more.  There’s thousands of people out there right now hoping their happy ever after is going to happen.  Your story gives them hope. 

BJ:       Okay if you say so.  I think that’s a topic you’re better off discussing with Rihanna. 

He shifts in his chair uncomfortably. 

NG:      Okay big fella, I’ll let you off the hook on that one

BJ:       Thanks Nat.  Rory and Quade would never quit if I bought into that one. 

NG:      Can’t have that.  So can you give some of our readers hope out there?  What is the current relationship status with the guys from the Centre and Steel?

BG:      Do women really want to know that?

BG:      Ah derr Brayden – yes they really do.

BJ:       Well I have a feeling Rory’s off the market and Quade would say he’s very happily single but I don’t think that’s the case at all.  Angelo, Dylan and Aaron aren’t dating anyone that I know of.  As for the guys from Steel well Jace is footloose and fancy free, Cody is lusting after Jazz, Reece is happily married, Matt and Dean are playing the field so I guess there’s hope. 

NG:      So there you go ladies – there is hope of landing your own Centre or Steel hottie.

Thanks Brayden – Mind if I check back in soon.

BJ:       Wouldn’t matter if I did, would it?. 

NG:      Short answer – no.  See you soon Brayden, look after Rihanna for me. 
BJ:       Always


 Brayden and Rihanna He’s hot, sexy, and leads a double life. Sometimes in the limelight, mostly in the shadows. Brayden James holds fast to a secret that’s more than his to share. She’s a singularly focused veterinarian out for a rare night of fun with friends, at a New Year’s Eve rock concert. Going home with the lead guitarist was furthest thing from Rihanna Mason’s mind when the night began. When Rihanna inadvertently becomes the target of a deadly terrorist plot using the Hendra virus as a biological weapon, Brayden is forced to reveal his other life. His job is to keep her safe and together they must stop the terrorists before it’s too late. But what happens when she becomes more to him than just the assignment? Will the secret he cannot disclose ultimately prove too much for Rihanna’s fragile trust in relationships? Or will he finally break through the double brick walls around her heart, where every other man has failed?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The libido is up and running...Whoot!

Almost finished the wip I started, and I'm ready to submit...

Trouble is, I keep changing little things and have to go back to adjust earlier parts to make sure it all work out.  It's terribly important for an erotic author to find her libido...if it's missing, nothing works!

I think my biggest problem in getting revved up again was that I thought I was making it TOO hot for readers.  But then I remembered that I write for Ellora's Cave...and nothing is too hot for them. At that point, I just let go and wrote.

I've even been dusting off other wips that I started, then stopped, running out of steam.  Now my steam is up, and I think i won't have a problem finishing them.  It feels SOOO good to be back in the saddle again.  Wish me luck...I don't want to fall off again.


Fran Lee

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Submission and an Upcoming Release!

Last week was a busy week. I edited and turned around two novel length books and I still had the energy and enthusiasm to jump right into a new Sci-fi WIP. I don't know where it's coming from but my muse is happy and ready to work this summer. I'm not going to complain.

One of the books I finished last week was something completely new for me. It's more sensual than erotic and very romantic in an old-fashioned way. I submitted it to a new publisher who handles sweeter romance. It's a contemporary story and a post World War II era romance rolled into one. Two separate but strongly overlapping stories are told from two different perspectives. Part of the book takes place in the present with a granddaughter and is told third person. The other part of the story is the grandmother's POV told first person through her diary. The locations are the same but separated by nearly seven decades. Fate takes both women for a passionate ride but only one will get the happy ending she hoped for.

Fingers crossed the new publisher will be interested...

The other book is "Lord Griffin's Prize" which is part of Ellora's Cave upcoming book series Emerald Isle Fantasies. There are a lot of great books in this series, steamy adventures with otherworldly men, so please keep your eyes open.

Jennifer LaRose's "Phantom Mischief" releases next week June 26th! Yep he's a hot ghost.

(I love this cover!)

Lord Griffin’s Prize Available July 10th! 
Katalina Leon

Part of the Emerald Isles Fantasies series
Tullamore Castle Ireland is an enchanted place where the unexpected happens. Phantom lovers materialize in haunted beds and a lonely griffin patrols the ramparts waiting to reclaim its mate. And that’s just the beginning.

For the adventure of a lifetime Maeve de’Burgo visits Tullamore to study genealogy. Through a magical act and time travel she becomes embroiled in a dangerous medieval romance and the unfinished life of her ancestor. Maeve gets thrown back in time to be captured, ravished and cherished as a war chief’s prize.

Ronan O’Griofa is a griffin-shifter, the most loyal of creatures. He’s been trapped in limbo as the avenging guardian of Tullamore since 1332 AD and longs to be free. When the soul of his wife returns to the castle he’s granted the privilege of becoming a man for one day to be her lover, win her heart and remind Maeve of a bond strong enough to last an eternity.

(I love this cover too!)
Coming Soon Page:

I wish everyone a lovely Summer Solstice this Friday!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Judging books by their covers? I am! 50 Shades of dull, drab and...boring!

Fifty Shades of Confusion now abound in the book marketplace!
Many erotica and near erotica covers are now Concept again, thanks to the crazy-mad success of 50 Shades, et al. Now we have more "object" covers. A bed frame, a pillow, a seashell. Oh, for godssakes, let me cry.
Why do I moan?
Because we have been here! Done this! In the mid-90s, major trad houses decided that flowers and ribbons, jewelry and swords were the way to expand the readership marketplace...and romance sales for those authors unfortunate enough to get those covers PLUMMETED.
Well, my dears, those covers may have picked up a few NEW readers for those particular authors, but they also destroyed the readership of THOUSANDS of loyal followers of those authors.
Now we have the New-New Wave of Concepts for those erotica books emulating the plot formula of 50 Shades, i.e. a trilogy about one couple.
And wow, do I hope the trend for these covers does not spread.
These covers look meh to me.
Done in, yes, 50 shades of dull brown, grey, black and white, these babies convey dark emotions. Gothic, almost. Forbidden and quite ugly.
Bottom line?
I am not a fan.
Are you?
Have you bought these books—and if so, did you buy them because they were knocks off of the story concept of 50 Shades of Grey, or did you buy them because the covers in and of themselves appealed to you?
This Curious Mind wants to know!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Writing again...

Another hot NA hero coming up...

Oops...that sounded dirty...but then, my mind is definitely dirty again...thank God!  Yes, I adore NA heroes...and I hope you do, too.  This one is Apache.  Not only Apache, but a skin walker, to boot.  Steeped in Southwestern lore, I hope this one will get me back into writing mode.

My last few NA heroes have been Lakota Sioux.  I have been playing with this hero for three years now (I wish!) in my head. I just needed to get past that pesky writer's block that had me in its clutches for so long.

Nothing like going through pictures of hot guys to get the old juices up and running.  Next Saturday I will give you a small sample of the story to see what you think.

Fran Lee   

Friday, June 14, 2013

Special Guest Lisa Eugene


There've been a lot of romance books recently that have a subgenre of mystery/suspense. I think it's because the combination is so enticing. Who doesn't love a good mystery? Who doesn't love a good romance? Put the two together!! It's like combining peanut butter and chocolate...who would have thought? Or in my, tripple sec, and cranberry juice...a cosmo! Who would have thought? Delicious--- like reading a romantic suspense.

I like the two genres because they add another layer to the romantic plot. The mixture usually adds a faster pace to the story. Frequently, you can't wait to get to the next page in order to find out what happens. It transcends the story to not just be about the hero and heroine, but about some mystery that has brought the two together. It also demonstrates how they interact with each other under the most adverse circumstances, how they come to depend on and trust each other. How they use logic, brains and often brawn to overcome certain obstacles.

This combination also gives the writer a chance to depict the heroine as a strong, smart, capable individual. The heroine can be as physically strong as the story needs her to be or be just as demure. Combining these two genres gives the author more diversity. The hero is not necessarily always the 'hero'. In fact, in Strictly Business although Wade, my hero, has appointed himself Nina’s protector, she defies him at every turn. She’s a strong willed, intelligent woman who uses her analytical reasoning and the passion for her career to help Wade figure out the mystery of the story. That is what ultimately brings them together.

I’ve always liked the heightened tension of a good suspense story and combining that with a hot steamy combustible couple is just icing on the cake!

Blurb: Conservative Emergency Room Physician, Nina Henley has always followed the rules. Her life has been dictated by her unwavering commitment to medicine. Wade Connolly, renowned medical malpractice attorney and 'New York’s sexiest bachelor' enters her life and challenges her with his bold sexuality and intense passion. One look into his gorgeous blue eyes and Nina is forced to acknowledge needs that have long been repressed. When she becomes involved in Wade’s perilous malpractice case she realizes that she is at risk for not only heartbreak, but betrayal as everything she's worked so hard for is threatened. Will Wade's passion and love be enough to save her or will she lose everything…including her life?


      Professional, she kept repeating to herself. Gorgeous and huge! Another voice kept insinuating itself into her overheated brain. The air in the room was thick and the only sound that echoed off the walls was the steady rhythm of their mingled breaths. Nina moaned as he lifted her top, exposing her black lace bra. Cool air teased her hot skin, making her shiver. A finger tormented her nipple and she was sure she whispered “please” before he groaned huskily and closed his mouth over her breast.

Caught in a cloud that was all sensation and need, she trailed her fingers down to the waistband of his pants.

 “God…I want you. Where can we go? Is it safe in here?” His husky breath floated against the shell of her ear, sending a hazy buzz along her skin.

The loud jingle of the beeper hanging precariously from her scrub bottoms sliced through the moment like a sledgehammer. They both stared at each other, stunned, wide eyed, and wanting.. She exhaled an unsteady breath as she skimmed a hand over her hair, ignoring the jab of several pens. She quickly checked the state of her scrubs. She couldn’t believe that she’d acted so impetuously—like a sex starved lunatic!  Remorse stabbed at her. Thoughts of her promising career and the life she'd built all twirled around in her head like a frenzied tornado, threatening to disappear into the fuzzy distance...


Find Lisa:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rebecca Royce Wraps Up The Westervelt Wolves Series With "Lone Wolf"

Rebecca Royce is my guest today! Rebecca is a multi-published, very talented author of contemporary, paranormal and YA romance. Her latest book "Lone Wolf" is the eighth and final book in the very popular "Westervelt Wolves" series and I have a sample of it here today!

Blurb: Gabriel sacrificed everything for the woman he loved—even his wolf. But the time has come for endings, and only he can bring down the evil that has plagued Westervelt for too long. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll fall in love all over again in the thrilling conclusion of Rebecca Royce’s The Westervelt Wolves series!

All bad things must be destroyed…

Gabriel Kane has been betraying his family for forty years. To save a mate only he remembers, he made a deal with his father, Kendrick Kane, that would keep her alive. The price? Gabriel’s cooperation. Little by little his lies have eaten him alive until there is nothing left of him but a shell of the shifter he used to be.

He’s at the end of his rope. Only Kendrick’s death will end the pain. Even if it kills Gabriel in the process.

Taken from her family and forced to live with a man she despises, Carrie has grown stronger than she ever thought possible. And she will need to be, for only she can save Gabriel now. If she doesn’t, all is lost forever—not just for her, but for their entire pack. Winning is a long shot, but what other choice do they have?

Content Notes: Paranormal, Shifters, Wolves, Other Weres, Suspense, Magic, Witches, Spicy.

Ready for an excerpt?
Lone Wolf
The Westervelt Wolves Book 8
Rebecca Royce

Chapter 1
Forty years ago
Westervelt Island
Before the destruction
“He never notices me.” Carrie White threw the piece of grass she’d picked back onto the ground. “It’s like I don’t even exist. We grew up on this island together. The least he could do is look my way.”
Victoria rolled her eyes before she stood up. Completely naked, her best friend raised her arms toward the sun. Carrie had never cared whether her fellow shifters covered themselves after the changes. Some of the older pack members preferred everyone to hurry and clothe themselves after every shift, but she’d grown up so used to the nudity, she hardly noticed it. Besides, in the world outside Westervelt, lots of people seemed to go around half-dressed or actually nude. She didn’t care. Except for the fact that at the moment she coveted Victoria Trope’s breasts.
“Who cares if they notice you or not? They’re all Kanes. They’re royalty and they know it. Attitude comes straight through their pores into the constant sneer on their faces. I wouldn’t want to end up with one of them, and I wouldn’t want anyone I loved to mate with them either.”
“I bet if I had your breasts Tristan Kane would notice me.”
He seemed the nicest out of all of them. Michael spent his life with his head tucked in a book, Az had gone off to study with the humans at some university and come back speaking about medical terms she didn’t understand, Rex always seemed on edge. Theo saw a threat everywhere they went, which left Tristan. He’d probably make a great mate.
“Why do you want Tristan? He’d bore you to death in two minutes with all of his talk about building structures. If I had to pick a Kane, and I never would, I’d want Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” Carrie stood up to stretch as Victoria had. Her bones had finally relaxed after the fast run they’d given their wolf bodies. “He never speaks to anyone.”
“You’re right. That’s what I’d like about him.”
Carrie grinned. Victoria had always been a sourpuss. Nothing changed for them, not ever. Some of the pack railed against that, but Carrie loved the consistency. She knew her place in the world, in the pack, in the universe. Someday she’d mate. Even if it didn’t happen to be with Tristan Kane. And when she died, her mate would follow her into the next world and hold her there forever, their eternal bond a gift bestowed upon them by the gods who loved and cared for shifters.
“You keep talking like that, Victoria, and you’re going to end up mated to some human.”
Her best friend grinned. “I hope I’m that lucky. And we’ll have beautiful half-bred shifter children. Girls. You know I can’t stand male shifters.”
“By the gods, you have your whole life mapped out for you.” Carrie couldn’t imagine that.
“Yes. And we’ll name them Ashlee and Summer. I read those names in a book I picked up the last time I went off island for supplies. Not names we use here. They’ll be mine, and they’ll be spectacular for having been raised in my presence.”
Gabriel’s scent drifted over her just seconds before he spoke. “Watch out, human males everywhere. Victoria is on a mating hunt.”
Carrie spun around to stare at him. How had he done that? She should have had lots of warning of his arrival. He stared at Victoria, who promptly rolled his eyes at him. Then his gaze shifted, taking Carrie in. While she hadn’t cared before, now she felt acutely aware of her naked body. Her cheeks heated up and she covered her breasts.
“Did you do that on purpose? Hide your scent? Stay in the woods downwind so you could, what, spy on us?”
He shook his head, once again regarding Victoria. Two little lines formed between his dark eyebrows. Victoria did that to a lot of people. His brown, almost black eyes narrowed as he inspected Carrie’s friend and Carrie noted his fully dressed state. His jeans and burgundy T-shirt brought out the tan of his skin. “It’s not my problem, wolf, if you don’t guard yourself. You were trained. You were all trained. By me, as a matter of a fact. Stay on alert. Don’t assume we’re fine because we’re home. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need to learn to fight at all.”
“We’re wolves. We fight.” Carrie didn’t know why she spoke out the way she did. Whenever Gabriel had actually uttered words in the past, she’d stayed silent. He was royal and the captain of his father’s guard, and pack members ran when he approached. She didn’t scurry away, just most of the time she couldn’t find her voice.
“That’s true.” He smiled at her and her heart did an extra thump. “Victoria, go find something to do. I want to speak to Carrie.”
Her friend looked at her for a moment before she changed shape and left, running on four legs for the woods. No one argued with Kendrick’s sons, not when it really counted. If Gabriel wanted to speak to Carrie, he’d speak to her. Only she had no idea what she might have done to have earned Gabriel’s attention. Had she been slack in some kind of duty? Had Kendrick sent him?
Her wolf’s interruption startled her. Finally what?
We’re alone.
You want to be alone with him?
Her wolf didn’t answer and Gabriel started talking, bringing her attention back to the world outside of her own mind.
“I’ve been waiting to talk to you. Now seemed like a good time. Well, it seemed pivotal to speak now, I suppose.”
She swallowed. “I’m not sure what I’ve done.”
“What you’ve done?” He shook his head, a strand of his brown hair falling into his eyes. “No. Nothing like that. Please, Carrie. Don’t ever be nervous around me. Not you. Ever.”
The wind picked up, bringing his scent to her again. It was wild and spicy like ginger, and yet his scent still carried the smell of springtime in their woods. Goose bumps broke out on her arms. She wanted to shift and rub up against him until she carried the uniqueness of Gabriel on her skin.
Oh my gods. If she craved a marking, needed to have his essence inside of her, then…
Ah, so the dense one finally caught on. Her wolf smiled, settling down. It’s about time.
“I had hoped that by now you would have felt something I’ve known to be true since you were a young girl.” He swallowed and she saw his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “I haven’t been exactly proud of that, the idea that I knew when you were still so young, but I’ve left you alone so you could have a life without me bothering you all the time.”
“You watch me.” Her mouth had gone dry. “Without speaking to me. Ever.” His silence unnerved her, made her head hurt. She tried not to think about it too often. Contemplating Gabriel made her skin feel too tight.
There are good reasons for that.
Why didn’t you tell me? Her heart rate sped up.
You have to find your mate. I couldn’t thrust you right into it.
“I’ve spoken to you. Nearly confessed myself to you about a half a dozen times during your training five years ago.”
“That’s not what I meant—”
“Of course, I know what you mean. As I said, I’ve been leaving you be. Hoping you’d come to me when you knew. Only just now, you were talking about Tristan, and I can’t have that. I’m not a perfect man or wolf. I’m probably the least … good … out of all of my brothers, and I cannot handle hearing you express interest in Tristan. Not that kind of interest.”
She reached out and touched his arm, rubbing her hand along the side of the softness of his shirt. “Do you think I could get dressed? I mean, you are. I’d kind of like to be that way too. The kind of conversation we’re having deserves equal footing.”
His eyes got wide. “I’m rather torn on that question. I like you naked. I more than like you that way. I don’t want you to cover up. Yet I can appreciate your situation. My wolf says I’m being dense. Please, let’s get you some clothes. There’s a dressing box over there.”
He took her hand in his and they walked silently to the hidden clothes box.
I’m mated to Gabriel?
He’s pretty cute, isn’t he? Her wolf strutted.
Cute wouldn’t be the word she’d use. Striking, intoxicating, intimidating … male.
She grabbed the clothes from the box. The gray generic sweatpants and T-shirt were the same in every hidden box. They were huge on her as she fell into the smaller half of wolf shifters. The same clothes that would fit Gabriel well hung loosely on her five-foot-eight frame. Once she was dressed, she looked up at him.
He stood back a bit, looking at her. “Just tell me that you aren’t in love with my brother.”
“I’m not in love with your brother.”
He scratched his head. “Then why were you trying to get his attention?”
“Well, I wanted someone’s attention. I’m young. I had no idea until just now that we were … mates. Tristan is kind. And also because you make me nervous. You’re very … scary.”
She didn’t anticipate his laugh. In fact, in her fifty years of life, she’d never heard him do so before. Not in pack meetings or social events. Gabriel Kane remained his father’s stoic right-hand man at all times. The constant silhouette, Gabriel on the right, Kendrick in the middle, and Cullen on his left. The strength that kept their pack together kept them strong and aligned. Or so she had heard a million times.
“You think you’re scared of me?” He sniffed the air and grinned. With a swagger in his step she hadn’t seen earlier he moved toward her. “You’re not afraid of me. You never have been. Trust me, I’ve been observing you for years. I, by contrast, am terrified of you.”
“What?” She laughed, covering her mouth to stop the sound from echoing through the woods. Someone might come to find out what she laughed so loudly about. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“It’s true.” He took a strand of her hair and placed it behind her ear. “You’re a tough lady.”
He had to be making fun of her. “There is nothing even remotely nerve-racking about me.”
Gabriel’s dark eyes bore into hers, no hint of amusement radiating in his gaze. “You’re an Alpha female and you know it. Right off the bat, half the men of this pack fall to their knees whenever you walk by.”
“I never talk about that. I know a lot of Alphas love to have that discussion, but I’ve never really cared if someone happened to be dominant or not.” A fact that drove some of her friends crazy. Alphas loved to be Alpha.
“I’m aware. You move with class and determination. In a fight, you could take on just about any wolf that went for you. Everyone loves you even though your family routinely drives my father crazy, opposing him whenever he steps out of line. There’s even talk that your brother could challenge for Alpha when my father is finished. His mate certainly wants that.”
Her heart sped up. “We didn’t know the Kanes knew that.”
“With very few exceptions, we know everything, sweet lady. Just like I know we belong to each other. So tell me, do I have to kill my brother Tristan? Or will you never look at him again?”
He leaned close as he spoke. His warm breath caressed her face and she shuddered. Gabriel had spoken the truth. She’d never been afraid of him, not even when everyone told her she should be. “You don’t scare me, but you do make me nervous.”
“I make you hot.” He ran a finger down the side of her cheek. “You still haven’t answered me. Does Tristan need to die?”
She shook her head. “Please don’t kill your brother.” She leaned forward until their mouths almost touched. “I’m your mate. I know it now. I don’t know why I didn’t earlier.”
“Everything in its proper time. Today’s a good day to fulfill destiny.”
His mouth fused to hers and her knees buckled. Gabriel grabbed her arms, holding her up. Carrie didn’t know if the earth actually shifted beneath her feet, but it certainly felt like it did.
* * * *
Something tickled Carrie’s nose. She sneezed and opened her eyes. Gabriel sat next to her holding a rose against her face.
Her cheeks immediately heated. Had he been watching her sleep? Did she snore? “Were you tickling me with that flower?”
He nodded, once again rubbing her with the petals, this time over her chest. She took the rose from his hand. “What are you doing here?”
“I missed you.” He breathed out his words on a sigh.
“You saw me.” She looked up at the sun streaming through her window. “Two hours ago. We were up all night together. You have to let me rest, or I’m going to look like hell for you.”
He looks so cute. Her wolf crooned.
“I know.” He stood. “And I’m not exactly proud of needing to see you this much, but I do.”
“It’s not like I don’t think about you too.” Should she tell him? “I could hardly go to sleep for thinking of you.”
He raised a dark eyebrow. “Really? Tell me more about this trouble sleeping.”
She reached out to stroke his face. He had a small amount of stubble on his chin and she loved how it felt against her hand. “I guess I was thinking about this, about what a strange miracle it is that I can touch you whenever I want to.”
“You think it’s a miracle?” He tugged her up against him. “I’ve waited for you so long. Spent an infinite amount of time thinking of you, imagining you, wishing I could be with you when you wake up in the morning.”
“Gabriel Kane.” His words made her insides tighten up and a warmth pooled between her thighs. “You make me want to break pack tradition and let you into my bed right now.”
“Would you?” His eyebrows rose so high she thought they might fly right off his face. “Because you know no one has to know. It can be just between the two of us.”
He kissed her and she moaned against his mouth. From their first kiss to every stolen one after the heat between them had expanded exponentially. She couldn’t get enough of him and doubted she ever would. Her body ached for completion that only Gabe could give her.
“Easy, baby.” He stroked her breast through her shirt. “I’ve got you and I want it too.”
It would be so easy to tell him yes, to lie down with him and do what her body begged her to do.
She swallowed. “We can’t. Generations of our people have done it the way we will. It’s important. It’s tradition.”
He sighed loudly before sitting back and taking his hands from her body. She immediately missed his warmth. “If you think there aren’t some of our ancestors—hell, some of the people living around us right now—who didn’t have their mating before their ceremony, then you are really adorably naive.” He scooted to her left. “But we will wait because you want to.” Pulling her against his chest, he kissed the top of her head. “Go back to sleep. I want to hold you while you do.”
“If my father catches you here, Gabriel, you’ll be killed before we ever can.” Some of the fathers were old-fashioned, but not Carrie’s. He only had old-fashioned ideas.
“Your dad will never catch me. I’m fast. I’ll go out the window. Did you forget who you’re mating?”
She snuggled against him. “I’m never going to be able to sleep now. You’ve gotten me all worked up.”
“Sleep, sweet lady. Listen to my heart. It beats only for you.”
Carrie did as he asked, concentrating on the way his heart sounded. Eventually she drifted to sleep with the thought that she’d truly been honored by the gods to spend eternity with the best shifter she’d ever known. He smelled like the woods. Nothing could ever be better.
* * * *
Gabriel couldn’t believe he’d finally gotten to his mating ceremony. The weeks of planning, of knowing Carrie wanted him above all others, that she agreed they should be together for eternity, had filled him up in places that had been cold for so long.
“Are you doing okay, son?”
He turned his gaze on his father. At some point while Gabriel had been distracted, his father, the Alpha, must have donned the traditional mating ritual attire. In his hundred-some-odd years of life—he’d stopped counting when he’d reached one hundred; it seemed futile after that—he’d watched his father bring together so many couples. Somehow he’d never really believed he would be among them.
“I’m fine, my Alpha. Thank you for your inquiry.”
Other wolves got to pal around with their dads, to joke in preparation for the event. Not Gabe. No one joked with Kendrick. Gabriel would stand in front of the pack and swear his unending devotion to Carrie. Then they’d go off and be together for the first time. His groin leaped at the thought. The last weeks of anticipation had been horrific. Years of wanting her from afar had been nothing in comparison to knowing it would actually happen … and soon.
“You are the first of my boys to be gifted with a mate. You know what that means, don’t you?”
“No, sir.” He turned his full attention to Kendrick. “I’m afraid I don’t.”
“Always so dense.” The Alpha shook his head. “Thank the gods you’re as talented a soldier as you are.”
His words burned Gabe’s soul, pushing away the sweet anticipation he’d had since he’d risen earlier in the day. His father always did that, forever reminding him how stupid he was in comparison to his brothers. How seemingly worthless in all but battle.
Don’t let it get to you. His wolf hushed his fury. Today isn’t about him.
“If you want me to know what it means, sir, you’re going to have to tell me.” His words didn’t express his anger. Years ago, he’d learned how to hide it, how to make his face a mask of nothingness. No one could hurt him on the outside and what went on beneath the surface of his walls was no one else’s business.
Except Carrie’s. His wolf reminded him.
Except her. In about twenty minutes from now.
“It means the gods think you’re the best.”
Gabriel highly doubted that.
His father continued. “It means you truly were born to be my heir.”
“Michael’s your heir, the next Alpha.” Had Kendrick lost his ability to count? Michael, the firstborn, would be presumptive heir to Westervelt. And if not Michael, it would not be Gabe. He didn’t want to be Alpha any more than he wanted to drown in the lake surrounding Westervelt Island. Tristan would be a fantastic Alpha, if he could get his head out of his books to acknowledge it. Besides, none of them would challenge Michael.
“He’s a fool.” His father bent over close to his ear. “And you know it.”
Come. Go get mated. Get out of here. Something has gone wrong with our Alpha. I don’t even want to lower my eyes. He smells wrong.
Gabriel moved away from his father to head out into the clearing. He’d had enough of that kind of talk. Lately, Kendrick only wanted to discuss succession. Why bother talking about it when it had been decided by birth?
He shook his head. Kendrick’s smell followed him and he stopped moving. If the Alpha wanted to follow him, then he had to stop and speak with him.
“Good luck tonight.”
Okay. “Thanks.”
“Things have to change. You realize that, don’t you? We can’t stay like this forever.”
“Sir?” Gabriel didn’t know where this conversation had come from.
His father spoke off into the distance. Gabriel might be the person Kendrick technically spoke with, but the way he looked out in the early night air told him anyone would do.
“I made a decision a very long time ago to do what had to be done to keep this pack strong. I have to do it again. She’s right.”
“I’m not sure what…”
Kendrick’s eyes turned back on him. “Never mind, son. Enjoy your mating ceremony. We only get one, you know. One. For all of eternity.”
His wolf huffed. When you come back from your mating time with Carrie in a few weeks, I think you should talk to Michael. Talk to Tristan. Talk to anyone about what happened here.
He swallowed, his mouth dry. To do so would be treason. We don’t talk about the Alpha behind his back.
Even when you think the Alpha may have lost his mind?
All thoughts of his father’s mental state were pushed aside as Carrie walked into the clearing. She wore a light lavender dress, the same one her mother had worn fifty years earlier. He’d watched her mother wed and never dreamed he’d see his own bride wearing the same clothes. On Carrie they were ethereal. He took a deep breath. It was the nature of his life to watch generations go by with no change in his own life and then suddenly be overwhelmed by how fast everything moved.
She walked toward him. He loved the way the air shifted around her when she moved. Birds singing their last songs for the night ceased to make a sound when she passed. Carrie didn’t even know these things happened in her presence.
Watching her for so long had given him so much knowledge about her, things he thought she didn’t even realize about herself. She twisted her hair when she tried to work out a problem. No one would ever be a more loyal friend than Carrie. Her fighting skills left something to be desired when she tried it on two legs. Four legs? She radiated strength and ability. Her wolf could handle anything thrown at her.
Carrie took his hand. “Woolgathering again?”
“Maybe.” He sighed. “Nothing overly important. I’m not solving the world’s ills tonight.”
She scrunched her nose and he wanted to bend over and kiss it. The pack had started forming around them so he resisted the urge. There would be time for kissing—and lots of it—later.
“Tonight is our mating. You can contemplate deep problems some other time.” She shrugged. “Unless, you know, it requires your attention this instant?”
“No. It’s probably nothing.”
He ignored his wolf. “Let’s go be mated.”
Her grin spoke volumes. The woman wanted this as much as he did.

Thank you Rebecca!