Someone was snoring like a freight train. The racket threatened to shatter Jess’ skull. She was burning up thanks to the blazing hot furnace pinning her down. One eye opened to find a sheet of auburn hair draped over her face.
Oh shit. She was dreaming. Right? Surely she wasn’t stupid enough to sleep with her goddamned Alpha.
Gregory ripped a nasty fart and she just about died from the stench.
Fuck. It wasn’t a dream. She barely managed to scoot out from under him while holding her breath.
Thanking every deity she could think of, she gathered up her scattered clothes and snuck out without waking the dumbshit up. After she pulled her outfit on, she crept out the door and into her truck.
The night before was a blank. She couldn’t remember how she managed to get there. Hopefully she wouldn’t remember. Maybe she’d be lucky and he wouldn’t either.
Sure… and hell might freeze over.
Years of turning Gregory down because of this exact vision, and there she was living it. He had always been a misogynistic sleazeball, but had respected her hands-off policy. Now that he had a piece, he was going to be after more.
Jess gagged and tried to force back the repulsion.
At least she had a backup plan. It seemed like the perfect time to put it into effect. She turned toward Painted On You. Her best friend Fallon would be there, but Jess hoped to God she was busy. The last thing she wanted to do was start World War III over moving.
Fallon’s boss was the one Jess needed to see. She just needed to get Gabriel alone. A week ago he told her about an Alpha with a vacant bar to sell.
Flashbacks of the previous night plagued her drive. It all started with Bill’s Moonshine. Now she knew why she hadn’t bothered with it before. Her head was still pounding like a bass drum. The last time she had been buzzed was before becoming a wolf fourteen years before.
Jess attempted to tell Fallon why Isaac was late to the party. Fallon wasn’t hearing it, she was sick to death from all of Jess’ visions regarding the man in question.
It killed Jess to know that the bastard was cheating after less than a month in a relationship. There was no proof, so Fallon refused to listen.
Instead of arguing, Fallon brought Jess a plastic cup full of something that smelled like strawberry flavored rubbing alcohol. Fallon raised her glass and said, “To new beginnings.”
Jess tapped her cup against Fallon’s and then gulped down the sweet yet potent concoction without a second thought.
It quickly turned into a drinking competition as Fallon handed her another and downed her own.
Everyone was yelling, “Chug, chug, chug.” And Jess was always up for a challenge.
By the fifth cup she was well on her way to drunk. So she didn’t protest when Gregory came up behind her to kiss along her bare shoulders as his hands grazed along the waist of her skirt. In no time, he was all over her, and she was horny as hell. Toys only got you so far, and he had agile fingers and a talented tongue.
Jess shuddered, there was a reason she didn’t play naked with other wolves. She didn’t want to be permanently bound to an overbearing dipshit. Mating sounded like a pain in the ass to her. Thankfully, she never saw anything to suggest that would be a problem with her pack. However, she didn’t choose her visions, and she rarely got enough from them to actually be useful.
She parked behind the shop and snuck in the back.
Gabriel was right there and caught her shoulders to hold her back. One brow arched as he took in her appearance. “You look like hell.”
Jess whispered, “Can I talk to you?”
He nodded and stepped into his office. She followed and shut the door.
Now, he looked concerned. “Jess, is everything all right?”
Shoving her hands in her pockets, she looked up at him through her lashes. “Seal in the sound?” It was a simple spell for most casters. Gabriel could do it in seconds.
He nodded, but frowned as he worked the magic.
She dropped into a chair and fidgeted with her leather bracelets as she looked at all photos on the walls. He didn’t have a computer on his desk. Just everything he needed to draw his art, an old phone, an ancient ledger and an old fashioned rolodex.
He turned to her. “Spill it, Jess.”
The words poured out of her mouth in a rush. “I don’t want to tell Fallon, but I need that Alpha’s number, the one in Washington with the empty bar. I need a fresh start, and to get far away from Gregory before his sleaze factor becomes unbearable.”
Humor lit his eyes. “Oh Jess, I tried to tell you to slow down on Bill’s Moonshine.” He moved around his desk and flipped through his contacts. At a hundred years and some change, the man was opposed to most technology unless it had to do with tattoo guns. “You sure you want to move without telling Fallon? You know that’s going to hurt her worse than you just telling her what’s up.”
“I don’t know about that, Gabe. She doesn’t want to hear shit, and if Fallon doesn’t know about me and Greg, then maybe I can forget it.”
“Can you ever forget anything?”
“You know you aren’t helping, right?” She glowered at him, and snapped the card out of his hand. “Please don’t tell her. I will in time.”
“Good luck with that.” Gabe snorted. He already knew how the conversation with Fallon would play out because she had told him about it a week ago.
It was futile to avoid the subject, but maybe just once it would work. She didn’t want to hurt her best friend, and she knew this would. It was a damned mess.
“Thank you.” She gave Gabriel a squeeze, and then let herself out before Fallon could catch her.
* * * *
Clara screamed, and Slater ran through the forest, back toward their cabin. He flew past the trees with his heart thundering in his chest. The love of his life was in trouble, and he had to get to her. He heard the roar of a bear, and she screamed again, this time in pain.
He ran past their home, through the stream, and into the clearing. A giant grizzly tore into Clara, ripping into her stomach and ribs. She didn’t fight, didn’t even scream this time. A wet gurgle escaped her lips as the light faded from her eyes.
Slater yelled, and charged at the bear, shifting into his half man form as he went. He threw the bear across the clearing, and dove on him. Driving his knees into the beast’s chest, he grabbed it by the head and wrenched it around with a series of sickening pops. His claws slammed into the carcass and tore, shredding the hide as he ripped apart its entrails, and crushed the bones.
The ringing cell phone brought him out of the nightmare. He bolted upright, and the deadweight of a cold arm fell from his chest and landed on the bed with a thump. His heart pounded in his chest, but he shook off the chill as he looked down at Victoria who was dead to the world until dark.
While the vampire was among his closest friends, she was the only one he released his sexual tension with. He still hated waking up next to her cold corpse in the morning, and the always present scent of blood in her lovely home.
The second ring snapped him back to his surroundings. He took a deep breath and answered. “This is Slater.”
“Hi. I’m Jess Abrams and I’m looking to become a part of your pack.” Her voice was warm and melodic, but colored with attitude. “I’m not really sure how this works since I’m sort of avoiding my Alpha at the moment.”
That caught his attention and he scrubbed his hand over his face. “Who is your Alpha?”
She let out a heavy sigh, “Gregory Harper.”
So she was from San Francisco. “Is there a particular reason you’re avoiding your Alpha?”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
His mouth curled into an amused grin. “Try me.”
“I happen to be psychic,” she told him. “I saw this morning a hundred times, and I still made a stupid mistake last night. Gregory was always slimy, but now he’s going to amp up the sleaze factor and treat me even shittier, even though I’m the only reason his damned bar is successful. I honestly don’t think I can take his begging and pleading to get back into my pants.”
Slater’s jaw clenched and he nearly crunched the phone.
Her groan was full of self-disgust. “I’ll never be an Alpha’s little toy because I respect myself too much to repeat that mistake. Plus, I’ll take great pleasure when he realizes his bar will fail without me. He’s going to beg me to come back and I’m just going to laugh.”
It sounded as if she flopped back on her bed. “See? It sounds ridiculous. I get that. You can feel free to laugh and call me crazy, but you did ask.”
He didn’t laugh. Instead, he fought back the anger that twisted through his gut, and repressed a growl.
One, he never disrespected women, but Gregory was notorious for treating women like second class citizens. Two, the thought of this unknown woman with Gregory did not sit well with him at all.
“Well, I do believe you.” He told her. Gabriel had called the week before. That’s when he mentioned a feisty werewolf who was interested in joining Slater’s pack. He also mentioned that she was psychic and close to her breaking point where her Alpha was concerned.
“You do?” Her surprise made him smile.
“I do, and I can talk to Gregory for you. We’ll work it out if you give me a time frame.”
“Two, three weeks at most. Otherwise you may have to send someone to put me down for conspiring to murder Gregory. He was a pain in the ass before, but he’s going to be about a million times worse.” She half-laughed but regret laced her humor.
He doubted she would attack her Alpha without good cause, but he refused to leave her in that situation either. “Don’t worry, Jess. I’ll be happy to get things moving quickly.” He meant that more than he should. Slater refused to consider about what that could mean.
She hesitated before saying, “Gabriel Sharpclaw mentioned that you have a bar you’re looking to sell. I’m looking to buy one. Trust me, I have the experience. I do everything now even though Gregory doesn’t trust me to own it myself.” Slater didn’t miss the hope and doubt warring in that statement.
He smiled, and was truly pleased that he could give her something she wanted. “Well, the bar is currently empty and I am happy to sell it to you. I should warn you now, you’ll likely want to redecorate, and I can help with the funds for that. Rhonda was a wild card. It doesn’t look much like a bar at the moment. Feel free to decorate as you please.”
Jess interrupted, “I can cover the costs, and I don’t mind revamping the place.”
“Good, and I kept all the licenses, so until you can get that paper work squared away, you can run it under my name. I’ll have the contracts drawn up and sent immediately.”
They continued their conversation a bit longer. When he finally hung up, he looked down at Victoria’s dark hair and pale skin. For the first time in a long time he felt guilty, but he didn’t have a damned clue why.
* * * *
Liam flopped down in the middle of a clearing some miles from his home. He ran himself out of breath which wasn’t easy for a werewolf to do, but he wanted to outrun the voices. He knew better, but he had to try.
Reality seemed to slip a little further every day that Brody kept Slater’s favor. Once, a long time ago, he was Slater’s confidante. That was why he was Slater’s second. He still held the title, but the old man no longer trusted him.
Take the pack.
“Stop,” he screamed at the top of his lungs, pulling at his hair. Brody, it was all Brody’s fault. If he hadn’t stepped in and saved that damned human, Liam would still be the golden boy who could do no wrong.
What was one measly human compared to the wolves. Slater let Hayden shoot Raj through the head with a silver bullet in a bar full of Others. As the Alpha, Slater should have sided with the wolves and allowed Raj to tear the human and Brody to shreds.
No. Instead Slater promoted that goody-two-shoes to enforcer to fill Raj’s place. The one man who understood why Liam was the only one fit to rule the pack. Slater never even tried to stop that bastard fae from putting Raj down like a crippled horse.
Liam still felt as if Slater had betrayed the pack when he rewarded Brody for saving a filthy human. The voices constantly reminded him of that fact.
The shrill ring of his phone jolted him out of his head and into the middle of the mountain forest. He took a moment to slow his breathing before he answered Slater’s call. “Hello.”
“Hi Liam. How are you?” Slater sounded hurried.
“Good. What’s up?”
“We have a new wolf moving up. I just wanted to fill you in.”
Liam listened to Slater drone on about the new female. There was something in Slater’s voice that was different than any other time he spoke of a new wolf—or anything really. He always had a hollow tone before.
Liam’s mind spun through the possibilities. He found himself sitting there in the clearing long after Slater hung up.
* * * *
Jess sat behind her desk at Greg’s Pub. The office was horrendous with its whore red walls, chairs and shag rug. The desk was black, as well as the shelves and filing cabinet. It was so trashy it was sad, and that fucktard wouldn’t let her change the decor.
The books were done, and now she was dreaming about her own bar. She had big plans on how she wanted to decorate. Edenton was an out of the way small town. She could see a rustic hunting lodge, complete with pool tables and dartboards.
Slater had already impressed her with his efficiency. He faxed the contract an hour after she called.
The man had a super sexy voice. All low and smooth like silk sliding over skin. She could listen to him all day and night, as long as she remembered her new motto. No screwing the Alpha.
The phone rang and Jess cringed. She knew this conversation was coming sooner or later. After a deep breath, she picked up. “Hello, Gregory.”
“What? You aren’t going to ask, what can I do for you?” he purred.
She shuddered and not in a good way. “We will never speak of last night again. Ever,” Jess insisted, squeezing her eyes shut. She really hoped Slater had already called him. “Besides, I won’t be around much longer.”
“I heard, though I don’t believe it. Why ever would you want to leave me, my pack and your bar?”
“My bar? It’s your bar, as you keep reminding me. You can have it. I have my own up in Washington now.”
“You do everything in the bar, so it’s yours. You really want to leave your bar behind?” He said, but it wasn’t true and even if it were, it was a little too late. His voice went colder. “Slater will never sell you the bar. He’s older than I am which means he shares the same views.”
“Funny, I already have the contract. It is official.” She tapped her fingers on the table.
“Would you like to see it? And remember, if you do, you aren’t touching me again. Period.”
“But you loved everything about last night.”
“Oh, no I didn’t.”
“Yes you did.”
“See, I figured my leaving without a word this morning would be a good indicator that last night was clearly a mistake.”
“That’s not what you were thinking when you sat on my face and swallowed my cock.”
She gagged, she couldn’t help it. That memory came back with sudden clarity. “Trust me, it’s never happening again.” Then she ended the call before he could say another word.
Jamie slipped through the door and plopped down in the chair opposite Jess with a sassy little smirk. Her twin’s pale blond hair was up in a ponytail, instead of down like Jess’s. She wore almost the same clothes. Her big blue eyes danced with humor. “So Gregory, huh?”
Jess groaned. “I want to forget.”
“Was he that bad? I mean, I walked in on you two in the bathroom. He seemed to know what to do with his tongue.” Jamie snickered. “He had you bent over the counter, your skirt hiked up and his face in your pussy, going to town. You, my dear, were screaming his praises like you were at a Southern Baptist revival.”
“Well, that was good,” Jess grinned. She might have been desperate for a little of the real thing after one long-ass dry spell. “Still, he’s already trying to get more, and it’s not happening.”
“You could do worse.” Jamie shrugged, and she would know from past experiences. “It would be just sex.”
“He’s the Alpha, and expects me to be his new playmate and be fine with sharing. You know me better than that. It will never happen. Besides, you know I wouldn’t have gone there if I weren’t drunk off my ass for the first time in fourteen years.”
“I still can’t believe you were letting Fallon hand you cup after cup of the moonshine.”
Jess shrugged. “I didn’t think I could get drunk anymore. I remember hearing rumors, but that shit hit me hard.”
“Yeah, well I tried to warn you, but you were slurring by then, and I let it go.” Jamie sat back in her chair. “So, what’s your plan of action?”
Jess settled in and told her about her new bar, the cabin she would be renting and everything up in Edenton.
Jamie listened intently and a frown pulled her lips down. When Jess finally finished, Jamie nodded. “Okay. Just promise you’re not going to forget about me down here.”
“Of course I won’t. You could come.”
“Maybe in time. I’m just not ready to leave yet.”
“Yeah, didn’t figure that.” Jess reached over to squeeze her sister’s hand. “I’ll come to visit, and vice versa. When you’re ready, you should move up.”
“Agreed.” Jamie finally smiled back. “Now, just promise me you’ll let me know if you find my mate up there.”
“Done.” She truly hoped Jamie would move up because she was always getting into trouble.