Christina Monet’s dream of a relaxing life in the woods is interrupted with the constant, and seductive, presence of her werewolf neighbor, Adam. She escapes his claws only when she falls into the clutches of Clara Vandersnoot and her welcoming party filled with high-society and low morals. There she meets another newcomer to the area who has secrets of his own that he would do anything to keep, even if it means giving her a permanent reprieve from both Adam and life.
The next morning dawned as only an unwelcome morning could dawn: with the rays of the sun streaming through the window and forcing their way through my eyelids and into my eyes. I creaked open my useless eyelids and sat up. Morning already, and what a wild dream. First I’d been attacked by a bear and then I’d. . .been. . .why was there a bandage around my leg?
My eyes widened and my dream suddenly turned into reality. I wish it’d been a dream about winning a million dollars, but having werewolves be real was definitely an impressive feat. I flung aside my sheets and limped over to the closed bedroom door. All was quiet beyond the wood, but I pressed my ear against the entrance and listened. Nothing but the soft sound of air through something. I rolled my eyes at Adam’s snoring and flung open the door.
Adam stood on the other side with a tray of food in his hand. I yelped and in my hurried retreat I stumbled over my legs.
I crashed onto my rear and heard a noise behind Adam. It was a teakettle getting up to boil. That was the soft sound of air I’d heard before.
“You are rather clumsy,” Adam commented.
I whipped my head up and glared at him. I was getting good at glaring at him. “And you are rather rude. No knock?”
“You didn’t give me time.” He walked past me and set the tray on the foot of the bed. “I wasn’t sure how you were feeling, so I prepared some breakfast.”
I stood and limped up beside him to survey the tray. It had sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, and a tall glass of milk. “The werewolf diet?” I guessed.
He sheepishly smiled and shrugged. “Meat is all I really know how to cook,” he admitted.
“Well, I guess that’s a big food group.” I plopped myself on the bed beside the tray and slid it into my lap. Utensils were available, and I dug into the food like an earth mover into a hillside. The food quickly disappeared and I set the tray to the side. “Not bad,” I commented as I licked my lips.
Adam seated himself on the other side of the tray. “What would you say if I poisoned it?” I froze mid-finger licking and felt the color drain from my face. He laughed, took the tray in hand, and stood. “Just kidding.”
“You know, you could make a girl really paranoid,” I scolded him.
He paused at the door and turned. The humor was gone from his face and the sun shone off his autumn eyes. They were like the brown and yellow-colored leaves of fall. “I can’t stress enough how dangerous I can be.”
This time he wasn’t prepared for the pillow and it hit him in his cute face. The pillow slid to the floor as I wildly cackled my victory. “That’s for being melodramatic!” I scolded in glee.
Gone was the creepy colors in his eyes and back was the smile on his lips. “I don’t believe you’re taking any of this seriously.”
I wiped the tears from my eyes and shook my head. “Nope. I still have my silver fork up my sleeve and nothing you can say will make me afraid.”
He half-turned from me and a crooked, evil grin slid onto his lips. “Good, then you won’t be afraid when I take you in to the doctor.”
My face fell. “Um, I don’t think we need to do that. I feel just fine, see?” I waved my injured leg up and down, and winced when my leg told me I didn’t know the definition of the word ‘fine.’
He chuckled. “I can see.”
My face fell. “Isn’t there some small, defenseless animal you can harass?”
“You mean other than you?” he teased.
I snapped my arm up and pointed at the door. “Out.”
He stepped partially back inside. “I didn’t-”
“Out or I get the silver fork.”
“All right, but I’ll be back in a few minutes to take you to the doctor,” he warned me. He left, shutting the door behind himself.
I fell back on the bed and lay my uninjured leg carefully on the covers. “I’m not sure which one of us has the worst curse. His with being a werewolf or me with him,” I grumbled.
“Did I forget to mention I have very good hearing?” he called from the kitchen.
I sat up and stuck my tongue at the door. “Then stop listening!”
“Your thoughts are very loud,” he argued.
“Then plug your ears!” I jumped off the bed and threw on some clothes. It was a bit of a hassle considering one leg was partially mummified, but I got the job done just as there came a knock on the door.
“Are you ready?” he asked me. I limped to the entrance and swung open the door. He smiled at me and lifted the key chain for my car and gave it a little jingle. “Your steed awaits, and I, your knight in shining armor, will attend to you.”
I snorted and pushed past him. “You have no idea how annoying you are, do you?”
“Not often. I do try to avoid people,” he reminded me.
“Sometimes I wish you would have-” I paused when my eyes fell on a thick, whittled staff. It lay across the couch and was about five feet tall when standing on end. I limped over to it and picked it up. The wood was from a knotted branch. Swirls dotted the smooth, shimmering surface, and at the top was a fat, rounded knot. There were bits of gray glitter in the grains of the wood that glimmered in the sunlight. The staff would have made Gandalf proud. I glanced at Adam and held up the staff. “Is this yours?”
He smiled and shook his head. “No, it’s yours.”
I blinked at him. “I don’t own a stick.”
“I figured you would need a stick to lean against and last night I whittled that for you,” he explained.
I blushed and held it out to him. “I-I couldn’t accept this. It must have taken you all night to get it this beautiful.”
“Yes, but my curse gives me a sort of extra battery so I need very little sleep. Besides, I’m not the one who needs a crux, and if you won’t allow me to be your staff then I insist on your using that,” he told me.
I glanced down at the smooth, tan wood and brushed my hand over the surface. There wasn’t a sign of even a splinter. I set the tip on the ground, leaned on it, and limped forward. It was as sturdy as a rock, but almost as light as a feather. I turned to him and stuttered out a few words. “I. . .I don’t know how to thank you.”
A devilish smile slipped onto his lips and he moved to stand close beside me. “A kiss would be more than adequate.”
My eyes flickered around the room. Nobody to catch us smooching, not even a nosy squirrel. I turned to him, stood on my tiptoes, and pecked a kiss on his cheek. “There. That work?”
“I was thinking of something more like this.” He wrapped me in his arms, swooped down and pressed his lips against mine. His searing body heat pressed against me as his passion swept through my lips and traveled down to the tips of my toes and back up. He released my lips, and I would have stumbled back if he still hadn’t held me. “What do you say? A much better thank you?” he asked me.
“I say you’re very demanding,” I scolded him.
He chuckled. “I prefer the term ‘bold,’ but I will accept the change.”
I leaned away from him and looked him in the eyes. “Why are you bothering me?”
“Because you won’t believe my interactions with you are not bothersome,” he replied.
I rolled my eyes. “No, I meant why me? Why not some other poor, helpless human? Why aren’t you harassing some of the rich women around here? Just shave that beard and you’d be the most popular eligible bachelor on the mountain.”
Adam leaned down and his words brushed against the skin of my neck. “Because I like your smell.”
My mouth dropped open and I stuttered out my reply. “Smell? Is this what it’s all about? What’s my scent? Rotisserie chicken or lilacs?”
Adam chuckled. “Actually, it’s more like an autumn evening when a wind brushes through the leaves.”
I furrowed my brow and tilted my head to one side. “Really?”
“Really,” he laughed. His laugh was starting to sound nice to my ears, and that didn’t make me happy.
I pulled myself from his strong, warm, comfortable-I mean, hard, cold, uncomfortable grasp, and stepped away from him. “Listen, I appreciate your being my guardian werewolf, but I can take care of myself.” His eyes flickered to my leg, and I slid it behind myself as far as I could without losing balance. “Really.”
His eyes twinkled in mischief, but he shrugged and handed me the car keys. “All right, if you think you can tell Mrs. Vandersnoot that you have to cancel the welcome dinner then be my guest. However, I feel I must warn you that even if you were dying she wouldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer. Oh, and the doctor lives in one of the small glens at the bottom of the mountain. It’s not easy to find, but since you can take care of yourself I’m sure you’ll only miss the turn three or four times. If I were you, though, I’d take a couple of cans of gas just in case you drive into the next county which would be about twenty miles too far.”
I stuck out my jaw and narrowed my eyes. “I hate you, you know that?”
“I don’t believe you mean that,” he replied.
My shoulders drooped and I waved a hand toward the door. “Well, maybe I don’t, but lead on, tainted knight.”
He bowed and swept his hands toward the entrance. “After you, fair lady.”
I snorted and limped past him and out into the cool morning air. The birds were singing, the creek was bubbling, and the squirrels were planning the demise of my food. At least, that was the vibe I was getting from their incessant chattering. I shook my hand at the squirrelly squirrels as they hopped from branch to piny branch in front of my home. “Curse you and your plotting!”
Adam came to stand beside me, and he, too, glanced up into the trees. “You seem to have a hatred for your neighbors.”
I whipped my head to him and glared. “Only the furry kind,” I growled.
He sheepishly smiled and held up his hands in front of him. “I stand corrected.”
At that moment something hit the back of my head. I swung around and rubbed the bruised spot as I snarled at the creatures. I glanced down at my feet and saw that one of the possessed-by-the-devil squirrels had thrown a small pine cone at me. “Damn things. Isn’t there some sort of a squirrel-be-gone repellent?”
A howl echoed through the small meadow, and I turned to find Adam with his head tilted back and his lips puckered. His wolf call silenced all the woodland creatures and caused the squirrels to have somewhere else they needed to be, like in the next county. Adam stopped and smiled at me. “Better?”
I snorted and studied him with a new sense of admiration. “You seem to be multi-talented.”
“I also wash windows and can balance a checkbook,” he added.
“Well, let’s see if you can drive a car first.” I tossed him the car keys and he caught them in one hand. Show off.
“You won’t regret it,” he promised.
“Or I won’t live to regret it,” I countered.
We slid into our respective seats and Adam bumped us down the road.