Read Heart Mates Online

Authors: Mary Hughes

Heart Mates

Witch plus wolf? They’re allergic. Except no one told their hearts.

Pull of the Moon, Book 1

Shifters and witches? Forbidden on pain of death. Might as well stick a fork in a light socket. Yet those are the kind of sparks witch princess Sophia Blue feels when she meets wolf shifter Noah in her aunt’s bookstore.

But Sophia is stuck. Her aunt is missing and Noah, the last person to see her, is Sophia’s only hope. If not for that and her aunt’s new, cute little doggie, Sophia would run as far as she could from the sexy, hard-hewn alpha.

Noah’s stuck too. Before disappearing, the aunt hit him with a hex gone horribly wrong—he’s the doggie. By day he’s fifteen pounds of yippity-yip, and with five anti-alpha wolves nipping at his heels, that’s deadly dangerous. Only Sophia can help him, but she has lost her magic.

Then an evil mage from Sophia’s past shows up with murder on his mind, and all Noah’s instincts shout to protect the woman his misguided heart thinks is his mate.

Warning: Sinfully sexy alpha thrown together with a hot witch in a small town. Sass, sparkle, a meddling aunt, snafus, growling, fighting, and oh yeah, sex. Might want to get up to date on your shots.

Heart Mates

Mary Hughes

Dedication

To Gregg, for keeping me in tea and cheese curds during those long nights doing promotion. Best batch ever, honey.

To Christa Soule, who’s brilliant not just in flashes but all the damned time. How do you do it?

My thanks to awesome author and pet expert Renee Wildes for vetting (heh) King’s grooming. All mistakes are my own.

Chapter One

Heart thudding, Sophia Blue cracked open the broken door. She peered into the dark shadows of the bookstore. Shivered. She felt naked without her magic.

“Aunt Linda?” Her voice echoed in an empty way.

No bustling medicine ball of an auntie swooped down on her. No lecture on finding a husband. No bosom-suffocating hug.

Just darkness. Emptiness.

“Aunt Linda, where are you?” Stars and moon…er, damn. Sophia’s hand rose to clasp her pearl necklace, hard little knots under her fingers. Nothing looked out of place in the arcane bookshop, but with the jumble of shelves and showcases crammed with crystals, herbs, candles and books, it was hard to tell.

She stepped into the store. Glass crunched under her feet. Broken shards glittered warningly in the dying June sunlight—more than would fit the fist-sized hole in the door’s crosshatched pane.

Her spine iced. She released the necklace to jab a hand into the pocket of her banker-chic suit coat, reaching for her pepper spray. Her fingers landed on smooth metal. It reassured her. Anybody but Aunt Linda, and she’d have called the cops. But involving mundanes in magical business was a bad idea.

Besides, the Blue family still hadn’t gotten over the police brutality of the 1600s.

“Auntie, where are you?” Clutching the pepper spray, Sophia eased farther into the store, gaze searching. The old-fashioned register seemed undisturbed. Ditto the dust on the heavy bookshelves.

Her neck prickled. She turned.

The showcase next to the door, a confusion of dream catchers, incense boxes and heaped costume jewelry, was smashed. The hairs on her nape rose. “Break my broomstick…I mean, crap.”

A faint rattle from the back of the store spun her. “Who’s there?” Her voice shook. Auntie? Mr. Kibbles, Aunt Linda’s familiar?
A burglar?

No answer.

Fingers so tight around the pepper spray they nearly dented the can, Sophia forged deeper into the store. Past the bookshelves, past the reading area with its chairs and sofa and big Aladdin carpet… For a moment, sun-drenched memories of girlhood summers spent reading overlaid the shards of glass and empty echoes.

Another rattle snapped her back to dark reality. A burglar? A murderer? A
demon
?

Swinging beads caught her eye, strands which curtained the private kitchen exit of the old-fashioned storefront.
Someone had just stepped through that doorway.

She swallowed dry air. “Auntie? Mr. Kibbles?”

No answer, not even a meow.

She grabbed her cell phone. No mundane police, and Witches’ Council Enforcers only came out for big things like demigod infestations, but she could let her brother know there might be trouble. She texted,
Auntie’s door broken
. As she hit send, she looked up.

The curtain was now absolutely still.

Well,
damn.
She was here to find her aunt. Enough cowering. She took a deep breath of dusty air and strode forward to investigate.

A shaft of red sunlight stabbed through the store, a laser pointing at a back display case.

A portent.
Every hair on her body stood straight. She stopped as if she’d run into a shovel. She needed to check the kitchen, but no witch worth her salt ignored portents. Even ex-witches. She edged toward the showcase.

The red beam spotlighted two wands placed in an X.

Both had been hers.

Sophia frowned. Why were
her
wands the subject of a portent? They weren’t particularly special. Her learner’s wand was typical young witch, pink and sparkly. She let go of her pepper spray and picked up the wand to return it to its box, covered in peeled boy band stickers.

The moment she touched the shaft, she smiled. Even baby spells danced, wonderfully magical, with the pretty wand. Someday another young witch would find learning magic fun with it. She set it in its box on the bottom shelf.

Then she picked up the smooth, seductive length of the second wand. Here was a serious amplifier of magic. Carbon fiber, light, strong and precise. The handle fit her palm perfectly. She’d had it with her constantly.

Until the day she sealed off her magic, four years and another lifetime ago.

Her smile died. She shoved the wand into the first empty space she saw.

Stars and moon…
damn
it, what were these wands doing here anyway? She’d given them to Aunt Linda on consignment. The carbon fiber wand was professional, handmade and priced to move. It was suspicious she’d never managed to sell it.

Then again, Auntie was rather haphazard about her stock.

Sophia sighed and rolled her shoulders. Where was Aunt Linda? Was this simply another of her famous walkabouts, as when she’d wandered off in search of Bigfoot to complete her Magical Creatures of the World autograph set?

Plausible…except for that broken glass. And the X portent.

Oh, and the moving beads. Sophia resolutely headed for the kitchen doorway. She put a hand on the beads to part them.

They rattled. She froze.

A furred streak shot through the doorway—straight at her.

Sophia squeaked and jumped back. Her stomach dropped out her feet.
Demon—!


Yip yip yip.
” The cry was as piercing as a jet engine. A Siren? Death by sex wasn’t so bad, but she’d rather avoid the soul-stealing part.

Cold and wet touched her shin.
Zombie…?
She gasped and looked down.

A dog sniffed her legs.

Sophia huffed out huge amounts of relief. Given the jet-engine-level noise, she was surprised to see a small terrier, no bigger than a football. It was cute.

“Hello there, sweetie.” She bent to ruffle his or her head. Its little tail started wagging, like a ceiling fan set on whap. “Auntie finally got a pet, huh? How’s Mr. Kibbles taking it? Not well, I bet. Speaking of.”

She headed into the kitchen. The room, redolent of warm memories, sugar cookies baking and Auntie’s comforting-if-oxygen-depriving hugs, was fairly tidy. No burglar, but sulking on top of the refrigerator was a big fat yellow tabby. Mr. Kibbles wasn’t the stereotypical black, but Auntie wasn’t a typical witch.

The little poof dog trotted in behind her, yipping as if he or she was offering suggestions. Mr. Kibbles hissed.

Sophia expected the doggie to jump or yip or slobber. Instead it sat regally on its haunches and gave the cat the Look. Powerful magic, wielded unknowingly by mundanes, the Look was the sword-sharp “if you do this the world will end” eye-communiqué given by spouses the world over.

It was not given by rat dogs to fat orange cats.

Sophia laughed, ruffling the dog’s bangs. “I’m seeing things, doggie. Worried about Aunt Linda, I guess.”

The dog transferred its attention to her. He—or she—barked three times, with grave authority, like a bank president admonishing someone who’d tried to cash a bad check.

“What don’t you like, me calling you doggie?”

It nodded.

She blinked in surprise. The dog couldn’t understand her, could it?

Nope. Unless it was a shifter or familiar—but dogs never were. Too artless. Dogs—the ultimate WYSIWIG. What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get, complete with slobber and jumping on the couch. This dog couldn’t be a subtle shifter or wise familiar. The tension must be getting to her. “What should I call you? Curly?”

A single, sharp yap.

“No, huh? Mitzy? Sweetie?”

That got an actual growl.

She laughed again, surprised she could with glass on the floor and Auntie missing. But for some reason this little ball of fur made her happier. “Hey, if Auntie were here you’d get Oogywoogiesnookums. The fat one up on the fridge was Umpylumkins until I talked her down to Mr. Kibbles.”

The dog sneezed, stood and turned his-or-her back on Sophia—hmm, from behind that was definitely a
he
.

“Impressive package for a little guy. How about Prince?”

The dog cocked his head at her over his shoulder. Yipped doubtfully.

“Close, huh? What about King?”

An enthusiastic bark confirmed it.

“King it is.” She laughed again. “King of the Poof Dogs.”

The dog snipped a couple yips, then stuck his snout in the air, as if he did not approve of her jest.

She stopped laughing. That eerie intelligence—was it possible King was more than a dog?

Noo-ope, not unless Arcane Animal Husbandry 101 had been completely overturned in the last four years.

The orange lump on top of the fridge, on the other hand, was not only more, he was Aunt Linda’s more. “Mr. Kibbles, do you know where Auntie went? There’s a can of tuna in it for you.”

In answer, he leaped from refrigerator to countertop to floor and padded out the back. Familiars could take human form, but Sophia had never seen Mr. Kibbles as anything but a cat. She followed him to the hallway.

He sat by Aunt Linda’s slippers, washing his face.

Auntie’s
slippers
, instead of her shoes. Sophia’s spine ran cold.

Behind her, King yipped. She glanced at him. His little brow was furrowed, and she almost heard his, “What’s wrong?”

He couldn’t understand, but it was comforting to pretend he could. She bent to pat his head. “It’s nothing, sweetie. Aunt Linda’s walking shoes are usually here.” It meant Auntie had left under her own steam. But if she was okay, why wasn’t that glass swept up and the door repaired? Why wasn’t she answering her cell phone? “She’s gone outside.”

He barked at the word “outside”.

Right, dogs needed walkies. “Sorry, King. I have to find out where Auntie went. I’ll take you for a walk later.” As a stopgap, she laid papers on the floor. “Maybe she left a note by the register, or tacked to the community bulletin board.”

Sophia hacked through beads and had neared the front of the store when dying sunlight hit the shattered glass on the floor. The shards burned, searing her retinas.

Her nerves flared like live wires. Another omen, so soon? And here she was alone, hundreds of miles from home. She veered for the door to check her car. It had broken down on the way here, barely limping into town. Parked at the curb, it seemed fine—until the red sun hit her windshield and bathed it in blood.

Yikes. She jammed a hand in her pocket to grab her cell phone. Her brother Gabriel had set up the store’s ward-alarm. Together they could decide what to do.

A live bell clanged
right behind her
. She jumped. The cell phone dropped from her hand with a clatter.

“Yip?” King gave a small, concerned bark. He’d followed her into the store proper.

“It’s okay.” She put a hand to her breastbone, where her heart was trying to dent it from the inside. “It’s just the landline.”

Auntie’s store phone was a wall-mounted monstrosity with separate cones for ear and mouthpieces. Sophia scooped up and pocketed her cell, then went to answer, picking up the bell-shaped earpiece and speaking into the trumpet mouthpiece. “Uncommon Night Owl. How may I—”

“What the hell,” a bear-like voice growled, “did you do to Noah?”

Noah.
All fear evaporated in a rush of heat. The name sang along her spine like strong magic. Her belly did a little shimmy. “Who is this?”

“Who’s
this
? You aren’t Miz Blue.”

“I’m
a
Miz Blue.” Summers cashiering here kept her from chewing the rudeness out of Mr. Growl. “I repeat, who are you? And who’s Noah?” Her tummy shimmied again and the heat in her blood raised goose bumps on her arms.

Mr. Growl started swearing.

“Hey. I’m not even sure those are all real words. No answers until you give me some.”

“I’m Mason Blackwood,” he bit out. “Noah’s cousin. He’s the leader of our…group.”

“Group, huh?” Mentally, she substituted the word “pack”. Shifters couldn’t recognize witches, but witches could identify shifters. Aunt Linda had mentioned that the local wolf clan recently had a change of alpha. The Scauth pack was renamed Blackwood for the new alpha Noah Blackwood…her whole body shimmered.

She nearly dropped the phone. Stars and planets…damn it all. That was
lust
running delightedly up and down her body. Witch, wolf, lust?

Extremely, totally
forbidden
. Lightning coming down from the sky, gods hitting the smite key forbidden.

“Yeah.” Mason growled in her ear. “Tell me where he is.”

“I don’t—” She barely recognized her own throaty purr. She put a hand to her pearls and thought cool bankerly thoughts about compound interest and mortgages and the clink of the coin machine sorting dimes and quarters into slick paper sleeves, pounding hard cylinders into tight sheaths…double damn it. “Why would you think your cousin was here?”

“Miz Linda Blue had a problem there late last night—with a boy in our group. She called Noah in to handle it.”

“That’s not right. Auntie handles her own problems.”

“We police our own,” Mason growled.

And didn’t that just have the pawprint of secretive shifter all over it? “Okay, but if it happened last night, why are you first calling now?”

“I’m not. I’ve been trying since dawn. Noah went, but he never came back.”

“Well, I’m sorry. He’s not here.” About to hang up, she paused. The alarm had gone off late last night. Noah was at the store late last night. It was possible he was the last person to see Aunt Linda. She really ought to try to talk with him. “There’s an outside chance he’s upstairs. Tell you what. I’ll go check, and if I don’t find him, why don’t we talk again?”

“Blackwood Small Engine Repair, Third and Pine.” Mason hung up.

Sophia stared at the ear piece. Typical shifter, a man of few words—and most of those growled. She’d meant “talk” over the phone. She hung up with a shrug. Denizens of the magical communities did prefer face-to-face.

Okay, upstairs. Might find Noah
—shiver—
sleeping. She paused. Or she might find a burglar hiding. Lizard tongues on a trampoline…er, darn it, now she’d promised to look. She swallowed, scooped her cell phone out of her pocket and readied her thumb on Gabriel’s speed dial as she mounted the steps.

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