Authors: Thalia Eames
Tags: #Multicultural;Werewolves & Shifters;Paranormal;Romantic Comedy;Contemporary
Their second chance ignites with a bite.
Seven Brides for Seven Shifters, Book 1
Lennox Averdeen’s top three worst fears:
1. Anything remotely canine.
2. Finding out she has a secret baby.
3. Running into Garrett Anderson. Former best friend. Heartbreaker.
She pulls a trifecta when she realizes the stray canine and the tween kid hanging around her house are not only one and the same, he’s Garrett’s
When Garrett tracks down his runaway son and sees Lennox again, the widowed father’s heart begins to struggle against his self-imposed chains. Plus, just coming into town pits him against the local Alpha, and everything he hates about pack life. The death, the heartache.
Despite her fears, Lennox becomes the boy’s mother in all but DNA. But Garrett? He can hula-hoop with the nine rings of hell. Except the heat of attraction has never died, and there’s only one way to slake their sexual thirst. Make a smoking-hot deal, agree to part as friends…and try to ignore the sound of Fate howling with laughter.
Warning: This book will stop your heart with barks of laughter, breathless drama, dueling heroes, and sizzling sex. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, howl with ’em.
There’s Something About Werewolves
For Sue, Erika, Kelsey, Miranda, and Monique, because you believed in this book.
Thanks to Heather for suggesting Stan’s nature and for being a sounding board way back in 2012 when I created LuPines and wrote the first draft.
She could get used to not sleeping alone.
Lennox Averdeen rolled over and threw an arm over the big dog in her bed. He had the warmest fur.
Wait. What? Dog?
Unlike most nights, this couldn’t be a vision of
she’d been dreaming about since she dropped out of college thirteen years ago. First of all, hello fur. That bastard, Garrett Anderson, didn’t have fur. At least he hadn’t the last time she saw him—on his freaking wedding day, no less.
Lennox forced herself to breathe.
She’d been calling Garrett a son of a bitch since the day he married another woman, but he wasn’t actually a dog. And she didn’t own one either.
was in bed with her? Lennox peered out of one eye. Moonlight fell on a furry face, triangular ears, and a wolfish snout. She went still. She’d never seen such a huge dog. Lennox didn’t mess around with canines for good reason. If given a choice she’d rather tongue kiss a python than lie in bed with a monster mutt as big as this one.
Her heart didn’t so much stop as try to crawl its way up her throat. Lennox couldn’t blame her heart for its perfectly reasonable response. She wanted to climb the curtains and hurl herself out of her bedroom window. Hell, she didn’t care if she cracked her skull in the fall. Dogs scared the shit out of her. They had ever since one had hunted her down and scarred her for life.
She yelped then slapped a hand over her mouth before yelping again at the sting of smacking herself.
Lennox side-eyed the monster mutt to see if she’d woken him. She hadn’t. He started to snore. Or maybe someone had fired up a chainsaw. Either way, this mutt had some nerve. You’d think she’d sent a canine invasion force into his bedroom rather than vice versa.
Okay, time to vacate. Breathing as shallowly as possible Lennox forced herself to go boneless and slid onto the floor. She knew this old house well; she couldn’t tiptoe to the door because it’d be too noisy. The added pressure of walking on the balls of her feet would make the floorboards creak like crazy.
Leave it to the Averdeen family manor to tattle on her and make a quiet escape impossible. If Monster Mutt woke up, she’d lose it, go absolutely bananas. The police would have to pry her off the chandelier when they came to the rescue. Well, maybe not the chandelier. Lennox treasured every hanging crystal on the thing. No point in ruining the antique she’d found at an estate sale. Wait a minute. Who was she kidding? If it came down to saving her own ass or preserving the light fixture, she’d scramble up that thing faster than you could say, “Scooby-dooby-doo.”
Monster Mutt flipped over onto his back and flicked his paws into the air. His tongue lolled to one side. Lennox went into cardiac arrest. She shifted into overdrive and crawled at light speed.
C’mon, Leni, just a few more feet until you’re out the door.
The dog woofed in his sleep. Lennox yelped for the third time, scampered across the room, opened the door, flipped the lock to keep the dog inside, and sped out.
When she dove into her grandmother’s bed, the elder Averdeen woke up swinging. “Annie, get your gun!” she screamed, before bopping Lennox on the head five or six times with an umbrella.
Lennox didn’t spare the time to wonder why Gran slept with a red umbrella or who Annie was. She wrapped herself around the bony old broad and hoped Monster Mutt didn’t like bones as much as other dogs did. Otherwise Gran would make a good snack.
“Gran. Gran! It’s me,” she said. Her grandmother stopped flailing and switched the lamp on.
“What are you doing? You trying to give me one of those geriatric heart attacks?”
Rather than reply, Lennox buried her face in Gran’s neck.
“Get off me, would you?” Gran said. “I didn’t leave you anything in my will so you can stop trying to smother me in my sleep.”
After several tries, Gran finally freed herself from the boa constrictor tangle Lennox had made of their bodies. Gran’s slender cheeks flushed. “What happened?” she screeched.
Lennox remembered she needed to breathe in order to talk. She sucked in a couple gulps of air. “There’s a big-ass dog in my bed!”
Gran threw her hands up. “Whaddya want me to do about it? I’m as scared as you are.”
“But you’re old. Take one for the team. You’ve lived a good life.”
Gran glared at her. “I’m not that old. Your daddy spawned you at fifteen. I had him at twenty-three.” Gran folded her arms and pouted. “Life hasn’t been that great either. I’m not done with it yet.”
“You’ve got a lot of anger, lady.” Lennox blew a caramel-colored curl off her face and got out of bed. “Fine. I’m calling Stan.”
Gran stood up too. “What are you calling Stan for?”
Lennox straightened the hem of the men’s dress shirt she wore as a nightgown. The pinstripes were so crumpled they seemed to zigzag. “We’ve got a pest. Who else am I gonna call?”
Anderson G. Westlake padded into his trailer with lupine grace. His night vision immediately took over and guided him through the darkness. These bouts of sneaking around in the early morning quiet always made him feel like a cat burglar, but he’d built his mobile mansion with high ceilings to accommodate his six-foot-five frame—so he didn’t have to skulk. Unless he wanted to.
At the top of the stairs, to the second floor, he checked the screening lounge. No sign of his son. Odd, the twelve-year-old slept there more often than not when they spent the night on a movie set. Turning to the opposite side, he walked through his small office into the bedroom. No one there either. He went still, focusing his acute hearing, listening for the soft breathing that would assure him his son slept safely somewhere inside.
Nothing. Only the outside sounds of the crew as they moved around the set. Memories of losing most of his family to the gunshots of a crazed murderer spread over him in a fine layer of frost. His fingers curled unwittingly into fists. Where had his son gone? Was he safe?
His phone whirred, alerting him he’d gotten a text message. Yanking the device free of his pocket, he checked the screen and breathed out. He’d have laughed at the message if he weren’t mad enough to break shit.
One thing was for sure, when he got to the Peach Pit Diner in LuPines, North Carolina, and got a hold of his son, the boy would need a zombie resurrectionist in order to make it to his freshman year of high school.
Forty-five minutes after Lennox’s near-death experience, Stan the Exterminator sipped coffee from the Curious George mug Gran had brought out to him. He swallowed, shook his head in dismay, and took another sip. “I checked the entire shebang, from top to toes. There’s no canine. No way.”
Lennox gave him her best cold-hearted glare. If he didn’t do something to fix things, she’d make sure he felt guilty for the rest of the week. Stan took another drink of coffee and looked at Gran for help. Gran shrugged her thin shoulders. The exterminator sighed again. “’Course your bedroom window was open. Maybe he got out that way.”
“Stanley Hewett, if that dog chews up my shoe collection—”
“Shoes? I don’t care about your footwear. My name’s Stan,” he sputtered. “Not Detective Inspector Reebok. I ain’t sure what you wanted me to do with the dog if I found him anyway.”
“It’s a pest. You take care of pests.”
Stan’s eyes widened. He pointed to his truck. The giant cockroach on the roof swayed from side to side merrily, as though Stan the Exterminator were its closest friend and confidant. Lennox shook her head. She couldn’t imagine who thought a happy cockroach made a good mascot for someone who zapped bugs off the planet.
“Lennox Anjali Averdeen,” Stan said, slapping the back of one hand into the palm of the other to punctuate her full name. His potbelly heaved with the effort. If he didn’t calm down his belly would test the strength of his buttons. Lennox bet the buttons would lose that battle.
The exterminator continued. “I kill things that scurry. Dogs don’t scurry. They bound, and leap, and pounce. They don’t count as pests. No way, no how.”
Gran fanned her face. “Well, I’m feeling pestered. Maybe you ought to cart my granddaughter off so you and I can get some sleep.”
Lennox folded her arms. “It’s 6:00 a.m. The sun is coming up. You’ll both be fine.”
Stan shook his head and ambled off. “I’ll check the backyard. If I don’t find anything, I’m charging you double for early-morning shenanigans.”
He barely got out of sight before he called her name. Lennox looked at Gran, who pointed as if to say
have at it
. So she did.
When Lennox walked around the side of the house she found Stan standing under the peach tree. “What?” she asked, “Did you find the dog?”
“Nope,” Stan said. He walked toward her. “Have a look under that tree.” As he passed her, he grumbled, “Silly girl, I’m going to charge you double. I dare you to complain.” He whipped out a handkerchief and wiped the first trickle of sweat off his forehead. “I triple dog dare ya.”
Lennox made a face at Stan’s retreating rear. What had gotten into him? She could see from here there wasn’t anything under the tree. Anyway, he should be happy. He’d gotten Gran’s famous coffee for free. Down at the diner she’d charge him two dollars and change for it.
The scent of peaches greeted her as she moved closer. Her dad had planted the tree on the day her mother gave birth to her. She and this tree had grown up together; it stayed when her mother had gone. Lennox didn’t have a mom to watch over her but she and her peach tree took good care of one another. The peach butter she made from the fruit, paired with her brown butter biscuits, won awards every year at the Dixie Classic Fair.
Something flopped down from one of the branches and grinned at her while hanging there. Lennox nearly climbed the tree herself before she realized that’d be a dumb move. The boy who’d done the flopping laughed with a wide upside-down smile, which made her feel silly. He looked a lot less dangerous now.
What a cutie, with his warm olive skin and thick waves of dark hair. The front of his shirt had an embroidered Husky on it, a twin for the dog in her bed.
Did Stan really think she couldn’t tell the difference between a dog T-shirt and a real life—could easily eat your face off—canine? Really? Let him try charging her double. She’d call the bank and have them stop payment.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my peach tree?”
The boy’s eyes crinkled around the corners. Even cuter. Cognac-brown eyes bordering on amber…so familiar.
“I’m Nox,” he said.
“What kind of name is Nox?”
He shrugged. The gesture looked funny with him swinging from the tree branch. “It’s short for Lennox. What kind of name is that?” he asked.
Something about those eyes and the way they crinkled, combined with his hair, and the stubborn line of his chin, made her heart ache. Like a long-forgotten memory pushing its way to the surface.
“Lennox is your name too?” she said to the boy. “Interesting. For me, Lennox is the name my parents liked best.” Before she could stop herself she teasingly poked Nox in his Husky-embroidered chest. He laughed.
“Right,” he said, “and my parents liked you best.”
No way. He couldn’t be who she thought. But his nose did look a lot like Tina’s. Come to think of it he even had her laugh. Nah. It wasn’t possible. But his face, hair, and eyes were all—
“What’s your dad’s name?”
Lennox leaned on the tree and exhaled. For a minute there she thought Nox might be
son, as in Tina and Garrett’s. She sucked in a breath. A jolt of pain speared her chest. Garrett had been her best friend in college. The man she’d loved. The bastard who’d ripped her to pieces but hadn’t bothered to throw her away. No, instead he’d kept her around as long as he could and made her watch him fall in love with Tina—the woman who’d been her friend too.
Lennox shuddered in the memory. Nox called her name. She stared at him for a minute before she remembered the film production going on in Chapel Hill.
“Hold on. Anderson G. Westlake the owner of Zephyr Studios?”
“Your daddy stole my idea,” she said with a touch of vehemence.
“I believe it,” Nox said.
His acceptance put a quick end to the tirade she’d been working up to. “Okay, he didn’t technically steal it. I’ve never met your dad. But I came up with the idea to do a Space Viking movie in college. I wrote it in the school newspaper. ‘Forget about space pirates,’ I’d said, ‘I want Space Vikings.’” She shook her head in disgust. “I capitalized the S and the V and everything.”
“Did you copyright it?”
“Well, you pretty much put it out there for anyone to take.”
Lennox pursed her lips. So what if he was right? “Get out of that tree and call your parents to come get you.”
“You’ve got a lot of anger.” Nox rolled his eyes. Grabbing the branch with both hands, he did a back flip out of the tree. The kid looked young, maybe twelve or thirteen, but he stood nearly eye to eye with her.
“That’s my line,” she said. “Don’t start throwing my patented expressions at me.” Who in the hell was this tall, good-looking kid who reminded her of all the wrong people?
“I got that saying from my dad. And I don’t need to call him. I texted him already.”
A rumbling sound shook the air. Nox covered his stomach and blushed several shades of hot pink.
“Um, was that an earthquake or are you hungry?” she asked. He must be starving. Luckily enough she specialized in breakfast.
“Are you gonna feed me biscuits and peach butter?”
“I’m thinking about feeding you to that dog who’s roaming around here.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “Give me your phone.”
Nox dug through his pocket and pulled out a smartphone. He turned it over without arguing. Lennox scrolled through his texts. Sure enough the last two messages read:
I’ll be @ The Peach Pit Diner in LuPines. Kill me there.
Prepare to die, be resurrected as a zombie, locked up, and handcuffed to an iPad with nothing but Angry Birds. No WiFi. No G4.