Authors: V. Vaughn
© 2016 by V. Vaughn
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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Editing by Jodi Henley and Red Adept Publishing
an installment from V. Vaughn. Sign up for her
hen serious college
student Nessa Harrison agrees to sing in her sister’s band she had no intention of getting involved with Andre, the impossibly tall, blond bass player that takes broody to a whole new level. But with the very first song they discover their voices are magic and Nessa falls hard when she find’s Andre’s touch is too. There’s only one problem - he’s not human.
ndre Lindquist knew
Nessa was his true mate the first night they met. Reintroduced to the human world after years in the wild his communication skills are rusty, fortunately, his music is not. When Nessa helps him write the song of their hearts, they must decide if their love is more than beautiful music.
me more than waiting. This stupid night-escort rule Bowdoin College put into place after Thanksgiving means I can’t walk back to my dorm in the dark without a security guard by my side. I got through the first week avoiding it, but tonight I was so wrapped up in my studies, I lost track of time. I gaze at the glowing blue light of the security phone. Those popped up everywhere over break too.
Why isn’t that enough?
We’re in freaking nowhere, Maine.
I lower my shoulder and let my backpack fall to the concrete step with a loud thud. This semester is all about heavy books, and I rub my neck as I scan the area, looking for the guy who’s supposed to protect me. The night air is cool, and the light breeze blows loose strands of my hair in my face. I huff as I shove them out of the way. If he doesn’t get here soon, he’ll need someone to keep him safe.
My feet thump as I begin to pace.
I don’t have time for this.
I need to get a good night’s sleep before my science lab tomorrow. It’s not my subject, and I’ll need every brain cell I’ve got. When I turn, I notice a large man walking toward me. I mutter, “Finally.” My bag strap cuts into my forearm when I lift it up and descend the stairs. When the guy gets to me, I hold my backpack out for him to take and say, “I’m going to Parkinson.”
He doesn’t speak, and I glance up at his face.
White-blond hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and his eyes are the shade of faded denim. He stares down at me for a moment before he begins to walk. The uniform he’s wearing fits poorly, and I imagine he’s got a killer body under the jacket that has too much material around the middle while the shoulders and arms are straining at the seams. But I don’t care, because he didn’t take my bag.
I’m beyond annoyed and say, “A little help here.”
He stops and turns to me with a hint of a smile. I thrust my backpack toward him, and he hooks his finger under the strap to take it. You’d think it weighed nothing the way he dangles it from his hand as he begins to walk again.
And how is it he’s not cold without mittens and a hat?
It’s beyond frigid in Maine in the winter. I scramble to keep up, which is saying a lot since I’m six feet tall with the long legs that go with my height. But this guy’s got to be well over seven feet, and I have a new appreciation for what it must be like for my short friends to walk with me. I ask, “Could you slow down a little?”
He stops and waits for me to catch up. I can’t take his silence but am distracted for a moment by his plump lower lip before I ask, “Don’t you talk?”
A smile forms on his angular face, and he says, “When I need to.”
I shake my head. “Whatever.”
We continue on in silence, and I notice he’s matching my stride step for step, as if we’re synchronized. It’s oddly attractive to me. Holiday lights adorn the lampposts and trees on campus, and they twinkle. I steal glances at the man next to me. I’m not sure if it’s his size or his mere presence, but when we get to my dorm, I realize I’m no longer irritated. I smile at the Nordic god and say, “Thanks.” I wonder if I could request him the next time I need an escort, because he makes the guard thing something to look forward to.
He hands me my bag without a word, and disappointment makes my smile fall. I have my keycard in my mitten-clad hand, and the plastic is slippery against the wool as I fumble with swiping my ID through the reader. The guy waits for me to open the door, and when I turn to glance at him again, he nods at me as if he knows I couldn’t resist. I frown.
When I get inside, I notice a large guy leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He’s wearing a lacrosse team jacket. I take a moment to study him. His dark hair and facial features are similar to mine, as if he’s a distant relative. The electric-blue shade of his eyes is captivating, but the cold way he stares at me is borderline rude.
I scowl at him too before I jog up the flight of stairs to my room. I enter to the giggles of my two triplet sisters, Ginny and Tori. Ginny is my roommate, but Tori goes to school farther north at the University of Maine at Orono. They look over at me from Ginny’s bed, and I squeal. “Tori!”
She jumps up, and we embrace. Hard muscle on her back is under my hands when we do, and I say, “Wow, you’re getting ripped. What’s that about?”
She steps away from me, and I gaze at green eyes just like mine. A feature all three of us are proud of, since the color is an unusual emerald green.
Tori says, “That’s why I’m here. It has to do with something I need to tell you.”
I slide out of my jacket and hang it on a hook by the door. Ginny says, “I’m so glad you’re finally back, Nessa. She wouldn’t spill her news without you.”
Tori says to me, “Sit. I’m about to tell you something pretty huge.”
“Okay.” I lower myself to Ginny’s bed, and it squeaks under me when I sit.
Tori stands in front of us, and I inspect her new look. Her face is more angular, as if she lost weight, but her size doesn’t seem to be much different. The security guard’s sexy cheekbones flash in my mind for a brief second before Tori begins to speak. “Do you two still get the bear dreams?”
I shake my head. Almost two years ago, the three of us starting having sex dreams about hot guys and a bear. I convinced myself it was the stress of college applications and senior year. After all, it was the biggest decision any of us had ever made. My dreams reappeared last spring but have faded away again.
“Not really,” says Ginny.
Tori takes a breath and blows it out. “Those dreams mean we were called.”
I look at Ginny, and she shrugs. Tori might as well be speaking a lost language.
Tori shakes her head and says, “Right. I’ll try to get to the point.” She licks her lips and says, “Okay, so you know how we are in the dark about our biological father?”
Ginny leans forward. “Yeah.”
“Well, there’s a good reason for that.” She pauses to bite her lip before she continues. “You guys are going to find this really hard to believe.” Silky locks slip through her fingers as she rakes her hand through her hair. “Oh, boy. Fortunately, I have a way to prove this to you.”
I hate when Tori does this. I’m a spit-it-out kind of girl, and I glare at her as I speak. “You were going to get to the point.”
Tori glances up to the sky before she blurts out, “He was a werebear.”
I snort and grin as I ask, “What the hell’s a werebear?”
Tori’s cheeks flush pink in the way I know means she’s getting angry. “Part human, part bear.”
Ginny says, “Wait. Like a shapeshifter?”
I shake my head in disbelief. “Right,” I say. “Binge-watching Vampire Diaries, are we?” Tori always did like being unusual, but I’m questioning her sanity with this one.
Ginny’s jaw is hanging open, and I hit her arm. She snaps out of her shock and says, “She said she could prove it.”
We both turn to Tori. My sister has a flair for the dramatic, and while her stories can be entertaining, I’m all about the facts right now. I say, “Prove it.”
She sits on my bed, which is across from Ginny and me, and reaches her hand out to us as she says, “Watch this.”
A tiny sound that’s a bit like stretching rubber carries over to us as hair sprouts on the top of her hands and her fingers shrink back to reveal claws.
“Whoa,” says Ginny, and she gets up to go inspect them.
I yank her back to the bed in fear, and it bounces when she lands. “What the hell are you doing?” I yell. I glance back at Tori to say, “Oh my god. What
to you?” The comforter on the bed wads up in my hands as I grip it.
Ginny pulls away from me and reaches out again, as if she needs to know if what we’re seeing is real. When she touches Tori, she says, “You have soft fur, and your nails are like a dog’s, only a huge version.”
I whisper as bile rises to my throat, “Oh my god.”
She is a werebear.
Tori says, “This is just a partial shift. If I go all the way, I’m a full-sized black bear.” Her tone is serious, and my stomach churns.
If she’s like this, is it going to happen to me?
“You sound like you think this is a good thing,” I say.
I move further back on Ginny’s bed, and the concrete wall behind me is cold on my back. I ask, “How can it be good, Tori? You’re a freak.”
Ginny sits down next to me, and I slide over a bit to sit behind her, as if she can protect me.
Tori leans toward us, as if she’s begging us to understand, but I don’t. I can’t get past the idea that a beast lurks under my skin, and I flex my hand, imagining claws are hiding inside my fingers, as she says, “Come touch me. It’s really neat.”
“No!” I say. “Put it away.”
Tori’s face falls as she sighs and returns to a complete human form. “I know, it’s freaky. But it’s also amazing.” She grins and says, “Wait until you hear the story. Not only is our heritage cool, but I’ve found my true mate.” She puffs out her chest a little, and I frown. “And I’m alpha of a clan, like our biological father was.” She’s definitely got a cocky thing going on about that little tidbit.
Tori has always been the different triplet. Until we were teens, it was just my mom and us, and Tori took on the role of second parent, doing the maintenance-type stuff around the house, even after my adopted dad came along. She never cared much about clothes and shopping the way Ginny, my mother, and I did. I suppose it makes sense that of any of us, she’d be the most accepting of being part animal. I shudder and say, “Please tell me this genetic mutation is only you.”
Tori’s face falls as if she’s insulted, and she says, “Nessa, it’s our heritage.”
I’m part bear?
I shake my head. Our heritage is country clubs and twinset sweaters. We went to prep school, and while we’re not filthy rich, we never wanted for anything. Ginny whispers, “No.”
I’m with her, because I’d rather die than become a beast. I scream, “I’m not a freak!”
Tori says, “Just listen to my story, and then you can decide what to do.”
I gaze at my triplet and pretend I’m open to what she has to say. But I’ve already begun to sweep this under the rug like a skeleton in my closet. I scowl at her and say, “No. I didn’t understand when you chose Orono instead of Bowdoin for your education, and I don’t get this werebear thing either. No way am I going to embrace a weird twist of my genetics.”
y phone alarm
jolts me awake, and I tap it off quickly so I won’t disturb my sisters. I glance at Tori on the floor. Her long, straight hair is splayed out, and her dark lashes are soft on her pale skin. She looks so
. But she’s not. I shudder as I get out of bed and recall the vision of her partially morphed into a bear.
The bear that lurks in me too. Even after she explained everything,
not interested in embracing my inner animal. I shudder and wonder how she’s so calm about the whole thing.
As I pad my way over to my closet, her story plays in my head. Tori’s crazy adventure that led to her changing into a werebear sounds like fiction to me, but the fur and claws she displayed last night means some of it has to be true.
Tori moans softly as she rubs her eyes. Her voice is scratchy as she mumbles, “I’m leaving this morning. Love you, Nessa.”
“Love you too, Tori,” I say. “I hope I see you during Christmas break.” My flip-flops slap against my feet as I make my way to the showers. The one thing I can’t stop thinking about is the part where she told us four werebear brothers moved here recently, and that they’re very tall and very blond.
Just like the security guard who walked me home.
I shake my head, because while he was hot, he’s so not my type. I have aspirations for something more than a man in a uniform. What I’m worried about is that Ginny said one of the brothers is a bass player in her band. I don’t like the idea of her being so close to the freak.
Water spits out a powerful spray when I turn on the shower. Soft silk slides down my arms as I remove my robe, and I step under the nozzle that pummels me clean with or without soap. Ginny got the musician gene. When we were kids, she formed a small band with the three of us. I was the singer, Tori was drums, and Ginny played piano. We got a couple boys in the area to bring their guitars, and we had our own garage band. I’m sure the neighbors hated us.
I grin as I recall our dream of hitting it big. Unfortunately for us, the only one with talent is Ginny. Tori gave up the drums for boys, and my gravelly voice wasn’t exactly pop-tune material. My mother pushed Ginny to go the concert route, but Ginny was drawn by the lure of being in a rock band. So now she’s getting her expensive liberal arts education and playing keyboard with a local group. A song we used to play plays in my head, and I begin to sing. The water pressure is so strong, I figure only the other poor souls who are showering for their first class today can hear me, and I relive a childhood memory as the lyrics roll off my tongue.
An hour later, I’ve had a quick breakfast and am on my way to the science building. Vapor rushes out of my mouth as I walk quickly, and my boots squeak on the packed snow of the path that’s a shortcut. It’s got to be close to zero degrees, and the tip of my nose hurts by the time I get to the door. A guy ahead of me holds it open as he smiles at me.
I enter into the lobby and turn right to head toward my classroom. As an English major, science isn’t my thing, but I was told that anatomy would be a good choice for my required credits since it’s mostly memorization. We’re on trimesters at Bowdoin, and it’s the beginning of a new grading period. Today I get to meet my pig. Thrilled, I’m not. By the sullen faces I see when I enter the lab, I think I’m in good company. I sit next to a blond girl I recognize. “Hey, Diana.” I set my backpack down and lean over to pull out my notebook and pen.
She asks, “You ready for this?”
“Not even close.”
The conversation fades, and I guess the professor has entered the room. Diana speaks in a low tone meant for my ears only. “Holy hotness, I’m ready now.”
I sit up quickly and gaze at the man standing at the front of the class. He’s got dark and dreamy covered in a geeky way. Thick hair is standing on end, as if he’s been pulling at it, and below the wildness is a pair of chunky black glasses on a chiseled face that could grace magazine covers. The body’s not bad either. I whisper, “We might need extra help.”
“Um-hm.” Diana bites the end of her pen as she gives him her attention.
Eric tells us he’s Dr. Folsom’s teaching assistant, and that he’ll be running the labs. When he goes on to explain he’s pre-med, my interest grows. After he runs through the rules and procedures, we divide up into pairs to get our pig. Diana and I take a spot by the counter as a couple students assist Eric with delivering the preserved animals.
A metal tray slaps on the stainless-steel tabletop as Eric sets it down in front of us. “Ladies, you might as well name him. He’s going to be with you for a while.”
I gaze into Eric’s brown eyes, and he winks at me. I fight the heat that rises to my cheeks in a blush as he asks, “Vanessa, right?”
“Actually, everyone calls me Nessa.”
“Nessa it is.”
When he walks away, Diana elbows me. “Teacher’s pet.”
“That’s because he hasn’t seen me wield my mighty scalpel yet.” I reach down for the sharp blade in my dissection kit.
Diana grins at my joke. “Yeah, well, work it sister, because I have a feeling we’re going to need all the brownie points we can get.”
She slices into the pig, and I grimace at what’s revealed. The chemical odor makes me crinkle my nose as I say, “I thought this was just memorization.”
Diana says, “They lied. God, this is gross.”
I jump when Eric touches my shoulder and speaks behind us. “Pretend it’s not real, and breathe through your mouth. It helps.”
I turn to him. “Thanks.”
He offers me a smile full of straight white teeth. I wonder if my security guard could compete, but I quickly shake off that thought, because Eric is my type. His designer shirt and cologne I recognize as an expensive scent say old money, while his pre-med major says intellectual curiosity and strong work ethic. All the things I look for in a potential husband. His gaze lingers on me as he moves on to the next pair of students, and Diana whispers, “Sweet. We’re getting an A.”
At the end of class, Eric tells us his office hours. The way he stares at me when he speaks makes me feel as if he’s asking me to show up, and I’m tempted. Because I think I’m going to need a few private anatomy lessons with one sexy teaching assistant.