Charmed Wolf sneak peak

Charmed WolfCharmed Wolf is book two in the Samhain Shifters series, but unlike most of my series you can dive into any installment you want as your introduction. Keep reading for a special snippet to tempt your taste buds before next week’s launch.

Chapter 1

There are few things more amusing than growly, dominant werewolves coated in glitter. No wonder my friend Ash raised a hand to cover his grin as Willa stormed into my office without knocking.

“Alpha,” she addressed me, ignoring Ash as irrelevant, “you have an appointment in half an hour.”

And she had a streak of glitter that started below her right eyebrow and arched up wildly toward her buzz-cut hairline. As if she’d tried to apply mascara and had her elbow jiggled at just the wrong moment.

Which, knowing the fifty-something, ramrod-spine Beta that I’d inherited from my father, was nowhere near the origin of that smear of cornstarch-based metal-mimic marring her forehead. When you run a glitter factory, sometimes sparkles end up in the wrong place.

Should we tell her?” My words were silent, sent down the pack bond that connected me to the closest thing I had to a brother, the guy who just so happened to be the bringer of the snacks scattered across my desk.

Yes, I’d worked through lunch again. Yes, Ash had fixed my error. No wonder I let him make the call.

Not quite yet, Tara,” Ash replied. “It’s always good to have an escape hatch when dealing with Willa.” His tone was mischievous and I got the impression that he enjoyed being the devil on my shoulder.

If he was the devil, Willa was the angel. The one always reining me in to the reality of my new responsibilities. “Alpha,” she repeated, eyebrows drawing together.

“I have a name,” I told her mildly.

“I know you do, Alpha. Just like your father did and his father before him.” Her smile turned grim. “The pack doesn’t need to know that name, however. You were Heir. Now you’re Alpha. And if you don’t get a move on, you’re going to be late.”

I reached around a baggie of baby carrots—Ash sometimes arrived with strangely healthy food for a shoulder devil—and clicked over to the screen with my calendar on it. “I don’t recall any meeting. Did you find contact info for Greenpeace’s purchase agent?”

Willa scowled. Since Father died and I inherited both my role and her help as interim second-in-command, she was perpetually scowling. But the lines in her forehead deepened now in response to my question. “They are prey. We are predators.”

“I’ll take that as a no.” I slammed the laptop shut. Straightened and let my inner wolf growl at her. “Biodegradable glitter would make glitter bombs more sustainable. Greenpeace is in the business of sustainability and protest. They’re an obvious partner. You’ll call them tomorrow.”

The words reverberated with Alpha power I hadn’t possessed until six months ago. No wonder Willa fought against my compulsion.

First she tried to wrest her gaze away from mine. Then, when that failed, she called up her own inner wolf to snarl behind her eyeballs. A glint of fangs, the scent of fur, a warning that she had a strong beast just waiting to get out.

The attempt at intimidation didn’t work though. I was Alpha. She was only Beta. Inch by inch, Willa’s head bowed downward until her eyes latched onto the sustainable bamboo flooring I’d installed to attract the right sort of client. The flooring she’d argued wouldn’t stand up under lupine claws.

Her words now came out more like ground glass than glitter. “Yes, Alpha.”

Teeth sharp, I nodded. Willa would call Greenpeace and we’d make a sale.

I hoped. Because this factory—this crazy, unwolflike glitter factory I’d let my best friend talk me into building—was all that stood between the Whelan clan and insolvency. I refused to be the Alpha responsible for the decline and fall of our pack.


We told Willa about the glitter smear after that, which sent her scurrying home to shower off the offending particles. What we didn’t tell her was that I’d received a heads-up from the glitter-bomb-testing committee that they were waiting at the second-floor window just above the entrance in preparation for a stealth attack.

“I mean, she’s going to shower anyway,” Ash observed as he pushed a platter of chocolate-cranberry cookies in my general direction. “Might as well….”

Willa’s roar cut through his words and I couldn’t resist. I swiveled my chair around and pushed open the window so I could see the aftermath.

The air was so full of swirling sparkles that I couldn’t even make out Willa for a moment. I could see the glitter bombers, though, their entire torsos hanging out the window beneath me. The scientists’ eyes were wide, their mouths opening to form words I couldn’t hear but which I suspected were: “Oh shit.”

Willa was the very last werewolf they would have chosen to test their glitter bomb on.

They were frozen, but I ran through scenarios at the speed of Alpha. Could Willa shift to wolf form and make it all the way up the stairs before the glitter-bombers fled the premises? Just in case, I dropped another alpha command on her: “You will not tear anyone’s throat out.”

Amidst the subsiding sparkles, one glittery fist curled tighter. The other opened out to reveal a single finger. But Willa didn’t make a move to retaliate against the throwers of glitter.

They, in contrast, had curled in on themselves as the shockwave of my command rolled downward. The stronger of the two coughed out an apology. “Alpha, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see who was coming….”

My lips twitched, but I firmed them back up. “Perhaps next time you’ll confirm your test subject’s identity before launching.”

“Yes, Alpha. Of course, Alpha. It’s just that no one is willing to be glitter bombed….”

“I wouldn’t mind it.” I let a smile break out across my face. Five minutes of glorious sparkle followed by thirty minutes of relentless scrubbing? Sounded like a much-needed break from the spreadsheets, letters, and bills on my desk.

The silence below was deafening. The glitter bombers’ eyes grew so wide I might as well have suggested tap-dancing naked in Times Square.

Willa’s response was more understated but also more powerful. She met my gaze and shook her head. Once. Hard.

The gesture dislodged a cloud of sparkles, which should have been hilarious. Instead, it struck me like a punch to the gut.

No, my Beta was saying, that was inappropriate behavior for an Alpha. Especially one who’d only held her position for six months.

Behind me, Ash hummed commiseration. But I didn’t need to be patted on the back, literally or verbally. I was Alpha.

So I straightened my spine until I resembled Willa, only significantly less sparkly. “Just kidding,” I told the glitter bombers.

Then I closed the window more quietly than I wanted to before retreating to my desk.


Ash left after that. He always knew when to make himself scarce. And the factory gradually emptied out as the work day ended.

Which didn’t mean I was off the hook. As long as a single wolf remained in my vicinity, I remained on call.

For example: “Do you need anything else, Alpha?” asked the ten-thousandth shifter to intrude upon my day.

I didn’t glance up this time because the speaker happened to be the lowest wolf on our totem pole. Perpetually terrified, he tended to pee his pants every time I made eye contact. “No, thank you,” I answered. “You can go home.”

Another two minutes of typing, then another voice: “Alpha, it’s quitting time and the pups are antsy.”

The spreadsheet in front of me contained far too many red cells. Negative income since we’d yet to find any buyers for our product, the product I’d dreamed up to replace my father’s outdated but fiscally responsible tobacco-growing enterprise. I wanted to tear my hair out and scream.

Instead, I graced this pack mate with a smile. He could handle eye contact. Craved it, actually. My attention proved there was an Alpha in charge even though my father’s body had been reduced to ash then returned to the forest.

“Take the pups for a run then,” I suggested, although I shouldn’t have had to state the obvious. “No one will see you. The humans left an hour ago.”

The pup minder backed away bowing, as if I was a medieval ruler. “Thank you, Alpha. I’m sorry, Alpha.”

Drat. Must have let a little annoyance seep into my voice.

I tamped down stray emotion, or seemed to. Because the next two pack mates didn’t prostrate themselves on the floor with their bellies exposed. They left, instead, with bounces in their steps and the smiles of wolves content in their pack.

For my part, I fell deeper into my spreadsheet as the litany of “Alpha”s faded. Such relief to have half an hour of solitude before I needed to prepare for an evening of challenges.

But, no. Challenges weren’t the only item remaining on my to-do list. An email from Willa dinged in my inbox. Inside was the information we’d both forgotten while I was letting the devil on my shoulder guide my actions.

My industrious Beta had set up an appointment with a potential Consort. A mandatory part of my transition to leadership. One I didn’t relish.

And, yes, I was going to be late.


Chapter 2

He’s beautiful. My wolf and I cocked our shared human head as we stared in the plate-glass window of Fluff Enough Bakery. The other potential Consorts I’d considered over the last six months had been powerful wolves with excellent heredity, but they’d lacked this male’s chiseled cheekbones and lanky vitality.

They’d also watched me with greedy eyes. Their wolves had been alert, ready to fight or fuck. Maybe fight and fuck in the same moment.

Not this male. He sat cross-legged on the bench seat of a half-booth, eyes closed and back straight. His hands rested on his knees, thumbs touching middle fingers. But even though he appeared to be meditating, his nostrils twitched ever so slightly when another diner rose to drop off a dirty plate at the counter. He was 100% alert.

And he matched the scanty description Willa had left for me. Biracial with some African component to his heritage. Six foot four inches of lean, muscular beauty. Close-cropped, jet-black hair.

So I opened the door, letting myself in. Watched out of the corner of my eye to see how he’d respond to my heady chocolate aroma.

This was the first test…and also one of the reasons I met potential Consorts in a human-run bakery. Usually, my signature scent was lost amid fumes from brownies, dark chocolate tarts, and homemade truffles. In the midst of all that created sweetness, even shifters didn’t tend to notice that I smelled like a pack princess—a cossetted alpha’s daughter—rather than a gritty pack leader. I wouldn’t have to take no-longer-wanted interviewees out back and break their arms before they’d take no for an answer.

Only, the venue didn’t work this time. The potential Consort’s eyes remained closed but his head turned toward me. He’d smelled something, although I couldn’t quite discern his reaction at our current distance.

“The regular?” Megan asked from behind the counter, reminding me that I’d made other advances in my interview technique since the arm-breaking fiasco.

I nodded. “Every bit of it.”

“Are you sure?” Megan leaned in closer and lowered her voice to a whisper. The volume wasn’t, of course, low enough to keep shifters in the dark. Megan was totally human and unaware that her shop currently hosted not one but two werewolves. “This one’s pretty.”

She waggled her eyebrows. The male’s lips twitched ever so slightly.

“Certain,” I growled.

And Megan shrugged, ringing up two meals and paying for them—plus a 100% tip—out of the credit card I’d left on file. The tip was sufficient to ensure we’d receive her undivided attention…and that she wouldn’t balk at the required cleanup.

Because we had a deal. The moment I crossed my fork and knife on my plate, Megan would dump something foul and liquid all over me. Here amid humans, the potential Consort would have no choice but to bow to social standards when I stormed out to change my clothing. Willa would deal with the unenviable task of letting failed applicants down over the phone the following day.

After thirty-five times through this process, I already knew how today’s “date” would end. Still, I straightened my spine and pasted on a human smile.

After all, I might as well try to enjoy the process. This was the closest I’d ever come to bonding with a mate.


The thirty-sixth potential Consort, though, continued to act differently than expected. His eyes didn’t open until I set the tray down on the table between us. Even then, there was no leering, no foul language. Just a restrained nod.

Time for his second test, then. Would he accept food a woman had picked out for him? To get a good gauge of the applicant’s personality, I’d gone full-on girly with the menu. Quiche, a skim latte, and a bright pink cupcake with piped yellow rosettes on top.

The potential Consort didn’t even glance at the food. Instead he spoke my name in a voice so deep and liquid I wanted to swim in it. Not Alpha but: “Tara Whelan.” His eyes smiled if not his lips.

Meanwhile, he rose, opening up both seating options—the bench he’d been meditating atop and the two normal chairs on the table’s other side. Sidling out of the way, he made space for me with the elegance of a wolf hunting. Each foot was placed so carefully it made no sound against the tiles.

“What a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he continued. “Please choose a seat.”

I frowned. I should have been the one speaking. Guiding the conversation. I couldn’t afford to let a Consort wannabe gain the upper hand.

So I pulled upon the arrogance of Alpha. “What does it matter where I sit? We have business to attend to.” Then I dropped my gaze to his file on my phone as an additional power play.

The gesture had only been meant to prove my wolf’s ability to rip out our enemy’s throat without watching him every second. But I found myself frowning as I skimmed over the scanty data.

Why had Willa arranged this meeting when the potential Consort had filled in so few of the application questions? He hadn’t bothered to submit a DNA sample. Hadn’t listed his ancestors. Hadn’t even put down a surname. Just his first name….

“Butch?” I looked from the phone to the stunning specimen of masculine beauty before me. “What kind of name is that?”

The applicant’s eyes were closed. As if he’d decided to take advantage of my pause to finish up his meditation. But long lashes fluttered back open as I addressed him. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

Then he waited. For what? For me to choose a seat? Perhaps this was Butch’s return power play. Whatever. I sank into the closest chair, expecting Butch to slide back onto the bench on the other side of the table.

Instead, he pulled out the other standalone seat, folding his long body into it. Now he was so close that his presence warmed me like summer sunshine. My entire face heated. I knew from experience that my cheeks had turned a brilliant red.

And…Butch scooted his chair back a precious four inches. Murmured an apology. Picked up his latte, took the tiniest sip, then set it back down in its saucer with a gentle clink.

“I understand you’re looking for a mate.” His words were a quiet rumble, almost gentle. I found myself leaning forward, then caught myself and shook my head.

“No, Whelan Alphas don’t bond with mates,” I corrected. “We hire Consorts, a temporary, paid position. Please allow me to explain the logistics before you speak.” It was easier, I’d found, if I just spat it all out in one go.

Well, easier for me. Most male werewolves took offense halfway through and interrupted. If they did, the fork and knife crossed and the interview ended. Thinking ahead, I dropped my left hand to the butter knife. Then I returned my attention, to the phone in my right hand.

“I’ll just run through the entire checklist,” I told him, before proceeding to do so.

The once-a-generation job was simple, especially when the Alpha—me—was female. The Consort would be on call until I hit peak fertility. During the subsequent twenty-four hours, he’d do everything in his power to ensure conception, after which he’d receive his first stipend. If necessary, both job and payment would be repeated for up to six months.

“Then you’ll receive a smaller weekly retainer to make yourself available,” I informed him. I should have been gauging his reaction, but just saying the words made me slightly queasy so I kept my eyes on my phone as if I needed a cheat sheet. “First pregnancies have a 25% chance of miscarriage, so we might be forced to circle back around to the beginning. That will be determined at the discretion of both parties, using the same structure of recompense. At the time of birth, your job will be complete.”

I paused, expecting him to say something. But he didn’t. Shrugging, I continued on to the legal side of the equation. Butch would be expected to sign papers asserting his total lack of rights to the child. “They’ll hold up in human court,” I informed him. “But that’s unlikely to be necessary. If you attempt to use the child to gain a foothold into our pack, I will personally rip out your throat.”

His chair leg scraped against the floor. That had gotten a reaction.

Meanwhile, air currents promised Megan was passing close to check on the state of my silverware. Her human ears couldn’t overhear my murmured threat, but body language must have clued her in to the intensity of the conversation. No wonder she thought our meeting was going badly.

Only…she and I both thought wrong. When I looked up, I saw that I’d misread the chair scrape. Rather than preparing to leave, Butch had worked his way through the quiche while I was speaking. He hadn’t touched his latte after that first sip, but he now consumed the entire cupcake—rosettes and all—in two voracious bites.

When my pause lengthened into a third second, his mouth quirked. There was the tiniest dot of yellow frosting on his upper lip and I had the oddest inclination to reach out and touch it. “May I speak?” he murmured, gaze lowered.

I closed my eyes for half a second, disappointed. Butch’s wolf must be very weak to so easily accede when I insisted upon laying out the ground rules. I hadn’t put a hint of alpha compulsion behind the demand. He shouldn’t have obeyed.

Which made our interview easier, but also meant Butch was an instant reject. A weak father would mean a weak child. Even with my familial ace in the hole, the secret boost that promised Whelan Alphas were always able to bark down anyone within their territory, neither Heir nor Alpha could afford to start out weak.

I set down my phone and picked up my fork, preparing to stop wasting our time. But before I could cross the silverware, my wolf rose up through me. She’s smelled something. Or seen something. Whatever the reason, she was there, glaring through my eyes at someone I thought was weak but she thought was a threat to us.

And Butch’s wolf responded. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. Smell it. The energy, the wildness of fur seeping out of his human body….

His wolf wasn’t cowering the way I’d assumed it would in the face of my dominance. Nor did Butch’s beast fight then submit the way Willa’s had.

Instead, the intensity of his inner animal set chills running through my entire body. I was the one struggling, chiding my wolf when she would have retreated. I was the one who gritted my jaw and ignored the sweat beading at my hairline.

Never since my father died had I met a wolf so powerful. In six months, no one had given my wolf any reason to stretch her muscles, let alone cave before them.

And yet, here I was unwillingly lowering my eyes.


Chapter 3

Guardian, I begged, wriggling my toes in shoes that sat atop a concrete floor and had no way of contacting the soil. Was that why the unthinkable had happened? Our pack’s secret weapon couldn’t reach me through the veneer of human civilization?

Whatever the reason, Butch’s dominance was so great that my fingers refused to cross silverware over my untouched plate of quiche and cupcake. Couldn’t change their trajectory and reach for one of the half dozen razor-sharp knives I had secreted about my person either.

I could, however, speak.

“If you’re refusing my offer, you may go,” I ground out. “You don’t have to prove your point by overpowering me.”

“Your offer,” Butch countered, “although intriguing, is not why I’m here.”

I shouldn’t have felt disappointed. After all, the role of Consort was a business transaction. One of the less appealing ones involved in the transition of power…or it had been unappealing until I’d set eyes on this unexpected specimen of a wolf.

“Then why did you let me make a fool of myself by telling you all the details?” My cheeks were hot again, which made me furious. Almost furious enough to break Butch’s hold over me…but not quite.

His dominance really was greater than mine. Also his patience. He waited until my wolf stopped struggling then shrugged. “You asked me to let you speak. I let you speak.”

And now he’d challenge me. Why else would another dominant werewolf jump through such extreme hoops to get me alone? Within my clan, politeness dictated that challenges wait until moonrise. But there was no politeness when dealing with dangers from outside the pack.

I tried again to beat back Butch’s hold over me. As before, there wasn’t even a ripple of strain on his features. Instead, he spoke as easily as I had when laying down the Consort ground rules.

“Your pack refuses admittance to outsiders,” he continued, telling me what I already knew. “There is no publicly available contact information for any of you besides this one application.”

There was one other available contact number, but to argue that point would be hairsplitting. Butch was right—the Consort application was the primary chink in our armor.

One I should have paid more attention to. After all, while few outside the Whelan clan understood our centuries-old bargain with the fae, those who did could have read the signs and known we were presently at our weakest moment in a generation. I hadn’t allowed any of our wolves to attend mate-seeking Solstice gatherings last December. Had put out the call for a Consort even before that.

I might as well have ordered a billboard stating that we were unprotected by our hereditary fae Guardian until I had the Heir issue sorted. It had been naive of me to think I could drag my heels until the last possible minute just because I found the task distasteful.

Well, I was Alpha. I would fix this.

“The honorable way to challenge is to meet away from humans. Away from coffee shops,” I growled.

Or, well, I tried to growl. To my disgust, the words came out closer to a whine.

No wonder. My inner wolf had given up, rolling over and showing her belly to the stronger shifter. I clenched my eyes shut, hoping Butch hadn’t noticed the transition from threat to submission in my pupils. But the warmth of his proximity heightened. He’d leaned in closer until his breath slid across my skin.

This wasn’t even going to be a challenge. He’d leave me frozen while he vanquished me. Killed me perhaps.

I couldn’t allow that. My pack needed me alive. Even if I was no longer Alpha, I could find a way to help them survive Butch’s coup.

So I did it. Hating myself, knowing Father’s ashes would be rising up out of the forest floor at this disgrace to his bloodline, I tilted my chin upward to reveal my neck.

Then I waited, teeth clenched and lungs frozen. Most wolves wouldn’t bite a submissive. Most wolves. Not all.

“I’m not challenging you.” The whisper of his breath flitted across my unprotected jugular. “You have nothing to fear from me.”

I opened my eyes. I couldn’t help it. Butch’s face was so close I could see that his irises were brown rather than the black they’d appeared from a distance. The color of fallen leaves soaked for half a week in pooled rainwater.

There was no longer wolf visible in them either. Instead, his pupils appeared to have turned human and kind.

“Nice trick,” I told him. My fingers still refused to budge, but Butch’s compulsion appeared to be fading. I was now able to shift my torso the tiniest bit.

As I flexed the only muscles that would move at the moment, the knife at my hip slid a quarter of an inch out of its sheathe. If Butch lost the rest of his hold over my will for even a second, I could grab the weapon, stab him, and run.

Then what? Would Megan call the human cops? Would Butch tail me as I fled to pack central? Attack wasn’t much of a solution. My chin dipped downward as I gave up on the plan.

“Tara.” My name on his tongue pulled my face forward. “You’re not listening.”

Of course I wasn’t listening. The dominance behind his eyes had said everything, even if he’d hidden it afterwards. My pack was in imminent danger. I needed to think of something unbelievably clever so I could overpower a much stronger wolf.

Too bad the only thoughts in my brain related to Butch’s scent—a deep, woodsy baseline sweetened by persimmon. The focus I required slipped through my fingers every time I tried to grab for it. My inner wolf refused to even consider a fight.

While my brain whirred, Butch humphed deep in his throat, a lupine sound of put-upon annoyance. But when he spoke, there was no overbearing beast in his voice. Instead, his words were bell-like, musical.

“I swear that I mean no harm to you or your pack, Tara. As proof, I give you my true name—Rune Pelletier.”


A true name meant…. “You can’t be fae,” I countered. “You have a wolf inside you.”

His lips pursed, somehow managing to remain beautiful in the process. This time his eyes were the ones averted. “Half fae. Half wolf,” he murmured, as if he didn’t want to share the information. “Now will you listen?”

A true name wasn’t given lightly. With that knowledge, I could do more than freeze his muscles. I could force him to obey.

I cleared my throat. “May I test it?”

His muscles tensed but he nodded. “Of course.”

“Rune Pelletier”—I whispered the words, not wanting them overheard—“leave me.”

It was the obvious use of his true name. The one thing he clearly didn’t want to do.

But he rose to his feet. Half-bowed. Turned toward the exit.

If Rune was pretending, he was doing a fine job of it. His scent had dropped from dominant to disappointed. Plus, an Alpha learned when it was worth going out on a rickety but useful limb.

That, I told myself, not Rune’s beauty, was why I let him off the hook. “I release you.”

The traditional words were almost musical. Not as melodic as Rune’s had been, but still redolent with something more than humanity.

Rune turned, one eyebrow raised. “You realize your inability to move will fade within minutes if you send me out of here.”

I nodded. “If what you have to say is important enough to trade a true name for, I’ll listen.”

He half-bowed again. Then he subsided into his seat.

I expected him to release me from his compulsion now that I’d agreed to stay, but he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t trust me not to run, or maybe he was too intent upon his own goals. Either way, he leaned in until my wolf whimpered then backed up a millimeter. Finally, he breathed out a story about beings I’d seldom heard mentioned outside my pack.

“Last October, fae came through a node two hundred miles from here.” His voice was as seductive as the trail of a buck scented when my stomach was empty. “Many of them crossed over, but only three made it past our swords. Three is a powerful number for fae. If all three survive until next Samhain, the devastation could be….” He closed his eyes, his voice trailing off.

I cocked my head, detecting something personal in his reaction. But the momentary lapse disappeared so quickly I almost thought I’d imagined it. Rune’s voice hardened as he returned to the point.

“I’m one of the Samhain Shifters tasked with finding those fae and expelling them back to Faery before they can wreak further havoc. We suspect one has settled within your territory.”

I’d been nodding along until the final sentence, but now I cut him off. “Not possible.”

“No?” He raised one perfectly formed eyebrow.

I didn’t answer the unasked question. The Whelan Bargain wasn’t spoken of outside our pack. Instead, I just nodded. “Thanks for checking, but we’re good.”

It was a dismissal, but Butch ignored it. “You don’t understand. You may think hungry fae are just stories, but they’re not. I’ve seen what they can do. How they invade, feed on pack bonds, break strong clans apart like kindling.”

He leaned in closer, and this time my body didn’t respond to his proximity either with fear or attraction. He cared about this story, but it was irrelevant to me. Still, I gave him the same courtesy he’d provided and heard him out.

“I formally request the opportunity to walk through your territory seeking fae, Tara,” Rune continued. “It won’t take long. A few hours. If there’s an issue, I’ll inform you. As I said, I will take every precaution to prevent harm to your pack.”

“Are you finished?”

He nodded once, a slow dip of his chin.

“Then it’s your turn to listen to me now.” I enunciated slowly to make sure he got the message. “There are no fae here.”

None but the one my grandfather had made a deal with. The Guardian, who slept…mostly.

Rune didn’t lean in closer, yet his persimmon scent consumed me. “You sound certain, but you had no idea I bore fae blood until I revealed that fact.”

Even when I’d used his true name, Rune hadn’t released me from his alpha compulsion. But now his agitation did what the true name hadn’t. Tingles of feelings shot back into my fingertips. My hands continued their earlier aborted trajectory before I could freeze them into stillness.

Fork crossed over knife atop my plate. And Megan must have been hovering right behind me, waiting for the signal.

Because something cold and gloppy poured over my back, my front, my head. I was drenched in milkshake, rich and sweet and full of chocolate. Curls flattened, clinging to my jawline. I swiped one hand across my face to clear it of the dripping mess.

I hadn’t heard him move, but Rune was standing by the time I pried my eyes back open. The kindness was gone from his face now. Instead his features had frozen into a mask, pure beauty so perfect it was horrible.

This time, he didn’t use my name. Just my title. “There was no need for evasive action, Alpha. I get the picture. I’ll take that as a no.”


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