Authors: Stephanie Julian
Copyright Â© 2011 by Stephanie Julian
Cover series design by Lesley Worrell
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
What a goddess wants / by Stephanie Julian.
1. GoddessesâFiction. I. Title.
âEtruscan elemental water spirits, always female
âMagical power inherent in the races of Etruscan descent
âShapeshifters who take on characteristics of bears
âWarriors from Cimmeria with legendary strength and bravery.
âHumans of magical Etruscan descent
âEtruscan for foreigner, used to describe regular humans
âElemental beings of magical Etruscan descent
âshape-changing Etruscan elemental beings with an affinity for animals
âFounding gods of the Etruscans, those from whom all other Etruscan deities were descended
Linchetto (pl. linchetti)
âEtruscan Fata, a night elf
âOne of the Etruscan elemental races
Strega/stregone (pl. streghe)
âLiterally “skin shifter;” shapeshifters including Etruscan Lucani (wolves), Norse Berserkir (bears), and French loup garou (wolves)
Some days it didn't pay to get out of bed.
Especially if you happened to be a once-powerful goddess and you'd just spent the last half hour on your hands and knees cleaning the clogged drain in your bar.
Lucy Aster, still known to an ever-decreasing circle of followers as Lusna, Etruscan Goddess of the Moon, had filthy hands, stains on her shirt, and at least one streak of grease on her face.
So, of course, the door to Howling Wolf opened and a young voice called to her.
“Lady Lucy, are you here?”
The girl knew she was. Catene Rossini Ferrante was
, an Etruscan wolf shifter whose sense of smell was ten times better than any human's. Catene had been able to scent her from outside.
But Catene was nothing if not polite and respectful. A beautiful young woman in every way.
Stifling a sigh that Catene would also detect because of her enhanced hearing, Lucy straightened from her crouch, pasting on a pleasant expression for the girl who had the brightest smile this side of Thesan, Etruscan Goddess of the Sun.
“Hello, Catene. How are you, sweetheart?”
The girl dropped into a curtsy when she caught sight of Lucy.
Catene's lustrous copper-colored hair dipped over her shoulders as her blue eyes lowered in deference. “I'm fine, Lady. I justâ¦ I was in the area so I thought I'd stop to say hello.”
The girl was an absolute doll. Too bad she couldn't lie worth a damn.
“It's nice to see you, sweetheart. It's been too long.”
Of course, Lucy could lie. She'd had
much more practice.
Lucy hated that she had to lie, but she wasn't happy to see her. She adored the girl but Catene represented Lucy's worst nightmare.
“I'm so sorry, Lady. I've been so busyâ”
“That wasn't a rebuke, dear.” Damn it, Lucy felt like she'd kicked a puppy. “Only an observation. Now, what can I do for you?”
Catene blinked and Lucy knew exactly why she was here. Sympathy made her stomach twist into knots. Young love really did suck.
“Tivr's not here.” Lucy said it as gently as she could. “And I don't know where he is.”
Catene tried to hide her disappointment, tried to keep her smile from faltering. She managed, for the most part. She might have fooled someone else.
But she couldn't fool Lucy. The
were hers. More than two thousand years ago, she'd given a small village of Etruscans the power to transform their bodies from human to wolf. And for that, they continued to worship her. Even if she no longer deserved it.
Life was too damn complicated.
“Oh.” Catene bit her lip and nodded. “I'm sorry, Lady. I didn't mean to bother you.”
At least in this she could respond honestly. “You're never a bother.”
The girl's smile rebounded and Lucy felt her black mood lift, even if it was only a little.
“Thank you, Lady. I justâ¦ Thanks.”
With a wave, the girl headed back out the door, bright hair flowing behind her.
Lucy stared at that door for several seconds, making sure she heard the girl start the bright yellow muscle car she and her father Kyle had rebuilt from the tires up, and peel out down the lane away from the bar.
Then, with a muffled screech, Lucy grabbed the first thing within reach.
The wooden bowl of peanuts on the bar didn't stand a chance. She flung the bowl across the room, where it hit the wall and shattered, peanuts and splinters falling to the floor in a pile of debris. She reached for a second bowl but forced herself to stop.
Great Mother Goddess, she needed to get a grip. She'd been losing control more often andâ
Well, damn. She was an idiot. The full moon approached. No wonder her mood swings were worse than a teenaged girl's.
She really needed to get laid. Sex would go a long way to soothing her mood. But like everything else in her life, sex would have to wait. At least for now. She had a business to run.
With a huff, she got the broom from behind the counter and cleaned up the mess she'd made.
Too bad she couldn't sweep her mistakes away as easily.
“Hey, Mom, everything okay?”
Tivr stuck his head out the door from the back room, sharp gray eyes narrowed in concern, short dark hair spiked in every direction.
Her child looked as though he'd just stepped off the stage of a metal concert in his sleeveless black T-shirt and ragged skintight jeans. With muscles any bodybuilder would be proud of, Ty appeared to be only twenty or so in human years.
In reality, he'd been born more than two millennia ago.
Which, yes, made her even older, but she'd stopped counting birthdays long ago.
“I'm fine.” She forced a smile. “Just dropped a bowl. And covered your ass with Catene.”
His lips quirked in a smart-ass grin she loved with every fiber of her being, but his eyesâ¦ oh, those eyes held their own secrets. “Yeah, uh, thanks. How's she look?”
“Beautiful, of course.” She let Ty drift in the breeze for a few minutes before she took pity on him and switched the subject. “Are you here to go to the game with me tonight?”
Thank the Blessed Mother, there was a Railers game tonight. The minor-league hockey team filled her winter nights with hot guy-on-guy action. She loved hockey. Loved the speed, the agility. The fights. The men.
Brawny, sweaty, messy. They let their hair grow, though no one would ever accuse them of being feminine, not with perpetual five o'clock shadow and bulging muscles. They skated with the grace of ballet dancers and fought at the drop of a glove.
Who didn't love hockey? Especially these past two seasonsâ
Ty shook his head. “Can't go tonight, sorry. Told Caeles I'd cover for him in here. The band has an early gig but he'll be here later for your set. I'm sure you'll find someone to take.”
As Ty ducked back into the kitchen, Lucy knew he was right. Every night, she surrounded herself with people. Men, women. Mostly her
. They brightened her nights and helped keep the loneliness at bay.
After so many millennia, the nights could become interminable. Yet, for the past two seasons, she'd looked forward to each game.
Because of him. Her chest tightened and she had to work to draw in a breath.
How ridiculous was it that just the thought of him could make her sex clench and her lungs tighten with desire.
Brandon Stevenson. Six foot two, two hundred. Born 6/10/76. She could recite his stats in her sleep, which was a pitiful thing to admit, she realized.
Brown eyes the color of dark chocolate. A crooked smile that could taunt another player into throwing down his gloves or make a woman's heart race. Dark blonde hair cut short enough to be conventional but long enough to run fingers through.
She entertained dreams of stripping his sweaty uniform from his body, piece by bulky piece, exposing broad shoulders, ripped abs and strong thighs, and every other piece of gorgeous flesh in between.
Railers Number seventeen ignited something inside her that she hadn't felt inâ¦ well, never.
It confused and confounded her.
, she'd never even met the man. Truth be told, she'd been reluctant to approach him. Didn't want to discover how truly deep her attraction to this
, this regular human, was.
Yes. With good reason.
Her powers had steadily declined over the centuries, as had all of the Forgotten Goddesses. They were still immortal. But now they were useless.
Case in point: five months ago, Charun, the Etruscan God of the Underworld, had begun to terrorize Sun Goddess Tessa in her dreams. Her sister goddesses had been unable to help her. Now bright, sweet Tessa had been missing for weeks. Lucy sincerely hoped Tessa and her Cimmerian bodyguard, Caligo, had holed up somewhere safe. With a bed. Tessa needed someone to take care of her.
Lucy had been taking care of herself for years. She wasn't frightened of Charun. Bullies tended to pick on weaker prey and Lucy had never been weak. But she was obsolete.
Her wolves no longer worshipped her, not as they once had. And both of her sons were of an age where they didn't need her. Ty hadn't for longer than she cared to remember. Caeles, adopted when he'd been only a few days old, hadn't truly needed her for almost two decades, the blink of an eye in an eternal lifetime. And even though her boys still paid lip service to her maternal instincts, she knew the truth.
She had become obsolete in more than one way. Sighing, she checked the clock. Only an hour until she could leave for the game. And watch the man who made her hot and wet between the thighs for the first time in a very long time.
“Hey, old man, you get that bump checked out last night? You got knocked into the boards pretty hard. Your old brittle bones can't take a beating like they used to.”
“Stevie, you need to take more care. We wouldn't want to lose you now, not when you're actually playing better than you have been in years.”
Brandon Stevenson tossed his bag in his locker and gave a finger to the twins. Jason and Thomas Fransechetti were barely twenty-one years old. Baby-faced bruisers who weighed more than two hundred pounds, stood six feet tall, and had blazing wrist shots from opposite wrists.
The Terrible Twosome, as they'd been dubbed by the Railers, were identical except for the length of their wavy brown hairâJase's cut short and Tommy's to his shoulders. The only other way to tell them apart was by their scars. But they had to be naked to see them.
The puck bunnies made a habit of cataloging those scars.
“Fuck off, children, and let the adults get ready for the game.” Brand swallowed a smile as the boys followed him anyway. “Or do you need me to tie your skates for you?”
“Fuck you.” Jase's fist shot out to Brand's shoulder. The kid didn't pull his punches but Brand shrugged off the hit like it was a fly. At thirty-five, twenty-five of those years spent on the ice, his body had sustained more damage than a professional boxer's. He knew how to control pain.
“Maybe Grandpa Stevenson needs his nap,” Tommy chimed in. “Or maybe you just need to get laid. Christ, how long has it been, anyway? Why don't you come out with us after the game? We'll hook you up good.”
Brand rolled his eyes and shoved his elbow in Tommy's chest. “The girls you pick up can barely spell their names. Why the fuckâ”
“They don't need to be able to spell. They only need toâ”
“Jesus fucking hell, don't you two ever get tired of fucking? You're like little fucking machines.” Goaltender Shane Conrad walked into the locker room and smacked Tommy on the back of his head. “Have some respect for your elders. At least get Stevenson a woman his own age. 'Course, that'd mean you'd need to hit the early bird specials.”
“Hey, who you calling little?”
Brand shook his head as the guys continued to ride each other with increasingly obscene gestures and suggestions as they geared up for warm-ups before the game.
But he couldn't hide his smile.
For the past two seasons, this locker room in the bowels of the Reading arena had been home. Unlike a lot of the younger guys who moved up and down from this league to the American Hockey League and, if they were really good, to the NHL, Brand had become a fixture here with the Railers.
Pulling his practice jersey over his head, he shoved away the depression that wanted to pick and poke at his brain. He couldn't allow it to fuck with him, not before a game.
At thirty-five, this was his last stop as a player. He'd been playing professional hockey since he was eighteen years old. He'd played for the ECHL, the AHL and, for one season, the NHL, first for the Washington Capitals then the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He'd had a good run, but he was getting too old to play. He didn't recover from injuries as fast as he had. Some mornings, his entire body ached for no reason.
But what the hell would he do? No wife, no kids. No skills beyond the ice, except those behind a bar. He could go home to Maine, take over the family business from his parents, butâ¦
Hell, you've never even met the woman.
Didn't mean he hadn't been fantasizing about her for months. From the first moment he'd seen her in her seat at the arena, he'd wanted her. And not just for some wimpy date where they had dinner and drinks and he kissed her good night before going home to jack off.
No, he was talking down-and-dirty, do-me-in-the-backseat, up-against-a-wall, inferno-hot sex. She looked like she could handle it. She wasn't some twenty-year-old puck bunny who hung out at the bars after the game, hoping to snag a player for the night. No, she looked to be thirty-something, at least. A real woman with a decent career, if her clothes and her bearing were any indication.
She wore jeans, sleek and sexy and perfectly fitted to her gorgeous female curves. The woman had a rack to die for and an ass he wanted to get his hands on, preferably while she was naked.
She always wore sweaters that were feminine and pretty, not bulky and concealing. Or slutty. She never slouched and her attention was always focused on the game.
The only part of her that hinted at a wild side was her midnight black hair that waved over her shoulders and down her back like a rough ocean. She never had it pulled back in a tail. He wanted to sink his hands into it, drape it over his naked body and feel it caress his thighs as sheâ He shook his head, trying to dislodge the image of her going down on him that he now had stuck in his head.