Authors: Jordan Summers
“Celina is my best friend. We have a lot in common,” Mindy said, though it wasn’t true. Celina was Izzy’s best friend. They’d become friends by extension. She and Celina were close because of their common love for Izzy, but they had very little in common outside of work.
Marco’s expression turned calculating.
“I think you’d better leave.” Mindy made her way to the front door, leaving Marco no choice but to follow.
She opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Marco stopped in front of her.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot,” he said.
“No, I’m pretty sure my first impression of you is correct,” Mindy said.
* * * * *
Nic was driving along the backside of Main Street, attempting to avoid the tourists in town for a fishing tournament, when he saw the woman from last night come out of a light blue building on his left. His pulse jumped and his palms began to sweat.
She was even more beautiful in the daylight than she’d been under the moonlight. Her light blonde hair was tied back with a red scrunchie and she wore pink scrubs.
The clothes should’ve looked shapeless, but somehow managed to accentuate her lush curves. Elation quickly turned to confusion when he spotted the pup he’d fought coming out behind her.
The pup grabbed her hand and tried to bring it to his lips. Something dangerous and predatory rose inside Nic. He swerved his truck into the other lane and drove up onto the sidewalk. People scattered to get out of the way.
Nic barely noticed. He was too focused on the woman and the Were standing next to her. He threw the truck into park and jumped out. Nic strode down the sidewalk toward them before he’d formulated what he’d say or do.
The woman was looking at the pup, so she hadn’t noticed him yet. She pulled her hand away and told him to leave. It was all the incentive Nic needed. He came up behind the Were and grabbed him by the neck.
“You heard the lady,” he said.
The pup swung around. His eyes widened when he saw who had a hold of him. “You again? I thought we settled this last night?” He inhaled. His nostrils flared, and at the same time, his eyes narrowed.
Nic smiled, showing more teeth than was necessary. The pup had picked up the woman’s honeyed scent on his skin. “I believe
it’s settled,” he said.
The pup muttered something crude under his breath, then took off down the sidewalk.
Nic watched him go, then turned to the woman. Suddenly alone with her, he was unsure of what to say or do. How do you ask the person you slept with their name without it sounding crass?
She broke the tension building between them by making a weak joke. “Seems like saving me is becoming a habit.” She laughed.
Nic rubbed the back of his neck.
Say something. Say anything. Try not to stick your paw in it again.
“Glad to see that your face is okay.” She reached out to touch him, then seemed to think better of it and dropped her arm.
“It was just a scratch.” Nic couldn’t exactly tell her that he healed almost instantly.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I wasn’t following you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he said, and winced.
Her gaze lowered and she twisted her fingers. “I didn’t,” she stuttered. “I mean, I wasn’t thinking that.”
Her pained expression sliced him. Why was he acting like such a jerk? Nic never had trouble speaking to women. Ever!
“I came into town to pick up some parts. I’m a mechanic.” He watched to see what her reaction would be to his announcement. He expected her nose to wrinkle or her eyelid to flicker. He expected to see some sign indicating that she preferred suits. She didn’t have one, so he continued. “I was driving by and happened to see the pu—guy from last night hassling you.”
She glanced up. “I don’t know how he found out where I worked,” she said. “I didn’t tell him.”
Nic could tell her exactly how the pup had found her. He’d followed her sweet scent right to the doorstep. The same scent that was filling his lungs and making him dizzy with desire.
“I’m Nic La Croix.” He held out his hand. “I don’t believe I had a chance to introduce myself last night.”
She gave him a small smile. “Me either.” She shook his hand. “Mindy MacDougal.”
Her touched singed him. Nic’s fingers itched to pull her into his arms. He wanted to taste those full lips again. They couldn’t possibly be as drugging as he recalled. Before he could act upon the impulse, the door to the clinic flew open and a dark-haired beauty stepped out.
“Is he gone?” She looked up and her breath caught.
Mindy’s brow furrowed and she nudged the woman. “Celina, this is Nic. He’s the one I told you about earlier.”
She’d been talking about him. The thought left Nic unduly pleased, but the feeling faded fast when he thought about what she could’ve been saying. He hadn’t exactly treated her with respect. If anything, he’d behaved just as abominably as the pups. He had to do something. Say something to make the situation right.
Words tangled in his throat, refusing to come out.
“Nice to meet you.” Celina eyed him with open curiosity—and undisguised interest.
“You too,” Nic said.
Now that he’d taken a better look at her, Nic recognized the dark-haired woman. She was a regular at Sticks. She was also a known groupie who went out of her way to hook up with Weres. Which meant she knew what he was. Apprehension filled him.
Nic didn’t think she’d out him in front of Mindy, but he couldn’t be sure. His wolf protested inside his head as he made his excuses and left. Nic didn’t get far before he turned around and walked back.
He pulled out his wallet. “Here’s my number.” He handed his business card to Mindy. “I’d be more than happy to take care of that ping in your car for you.” He hesitated. “If you want, I could look at it tonight. Won’t take long. Just call and leave your address.”
Mindy looked at the card, not bothering to hide her stunned expression. “Okay.”
Nic nodded and left again. Once more, he stopped short and looked back. “Call me if he comes back.”
“I will,” she said.
He smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” Nic said. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t bother you anymore.”
* * * * *
Mindy was too stunned to reply. Her mystery man finally had a name. In her mind, she’d convinced herself that he couldn’t possibly look as good as she’d remembered. She’d been wrong. If anything, he was more handsome.
She could get lost in those blue eyes. And no man should have shoulders like that or that tight of a butt.
The moment Nic was out of sight, Celina yanked her around. “I think you left something out of your story,” she said. “Want to explain what just happened?”
“I’m not sure,” Mindy said. All he’d done was speak to her. Yet her body continued to thrum.
Celina crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s going on between you two?”
“Nothing, nothing’s going on.” The lie slipped from Mindy’s lips. How could she explain when she didn’t understand?
“Nothing?” Celina snorted. “Honey, that was the definition of something. I could’ve cut the tension between you two and used it to butter my bread. It was that thick. What do you know about him?”
The warmth on her face had to be coming from the surface of the sun.
“Whoa!” Celina said. “You didn’t?” She studied her. “Oh my goodness, you did.”
Mindy was pretty sure her heart was going to explode from the sudden rise in her blood pressure.
“I can’t believe it,” Celina said. “You of all people.”
“I told you that I knew how to have a good time. You didn’t believe me,” Mindy said.
“Oh, honey, is that why you...?” Celina looked in the direction Nic had gone. “I didn’t mean it. I’m such an idiot. Your sister asked me to take care of you.”
Mindy snorted. “Izzy asked you to take care of
? Out of the two of us, she’s the one that needs a keeper.”
Celina hugged her. “Please tell me that you didn’t sleep with him to prove a point.”
Mindy bit her lip. Had that been the only reason? Maybe at first, but it had quickly morphed into something else. Something more incendiary. “That wasn’t the only reason.” She gave Celina a sly grin.
Her friend laughed. “Well, that’s a relief,” she said, then sobered. “You need to stay away from Marco. He’s bad news. Serious bad news.”
“You don’t have to convince me of that,” Mindy said. “What about Nic?” She held her breath as she waited for Celina’s response. If her friend told her that she’d gone out with him, Mindy would be heartbroken, but she’d cut all ties with him.
Celina tilted her head, sending her long brown hair into her face. She absently brushed it back. “I don’t really know him,” she said. “I’ve seen him around town and at Sticks a few times, but I don’t know anything about him. He keeps to himself.” Her gaze fell away.
Mindy’s heart slammed against her ribs. What wasn’t Celina telling her?
“But?” Mindy asked, because she could clearly hear a “but” coming.
“Just be careful,” Celina said. “Nic isn’t like other guys.”
“What do you mean?” Mindy asked.
Before Celina could respond, the phone inside the clinic rang and she hurried in to answer it.
Saved by the bell.
Mindy looked at the card in her hand. She should throw it away. Forget about last night. Forget all about Nic. That would be the smart thing to do. Too bad her idiot heart had other ideas. She took out her cell phone and punched in the number.
Nic picked up on the first ring.
* * * * *
Celina could barely hear the woman on the other end of the line over the pounding of her heart. She stayed on the phone only long enough for Mindy to walk into the office and see that she was still on a call. Mindy waved, then continued on into recovery area. The second the door closed; Celina took down the woman’s number and disconnected.
Pressure squeezed her lungs until Celina couldn’t breathe, while the sour acid of jealousy burned her stomach, leaving her hollow inside. Why Mindy? Why were so many werewolves circling around her friend?
Mindy had never been to Sticks until last night and yet two Weres had already shown up looking for her. She could chalk it up to coincidence, but Marco had all but admitted that he’d tracked Mindy’s scent to the front door.
What happened last night? What had Mindy done to garner so much attention? Celina was tempted to ask, so that she could try it next time.
You have Slade, remember?
Hopefully there wouldn’t be a next time. As the thought filtered through her mind, Celina knew it wasn’t true. She could feel him slipping away.
Celina had spent more weekends than she could count at Sticks. She’d spread her legs for every wolf who’d asked or shown any interest in her. She’d given them exactly what they wanted, in every way they’d wanted it, and her personal sacrifice had gotten her nowhere.
That was until Slade came along.
Bitter jealousy returned. He may claim he had no interest in Mindy, but Celina had seen the look on his face. She’d watched desire shimmer in his amber eyes. He’d had the same hungry look on his face as those other two Weres had when they looked at Mindy.
Tears filled her eyes.
Why her? Why not me?
It wasn’t fair.
Mindy was cute and she had curves for days, but Celina was a true beauty. She’d been told so her whole life. Men were attracted to her and she was attracted to men. Bad boys were her fatal weakness.
When Celina had discovered that werewolves existed, she’d been cautiously intrigued. After sleeping with a couple of them, her curiosity morphed into obsession. Werewolves were the ultimate bad boys—thanks to their animal natures, which were never too far from the surface.
They had unbelievable stamina, incredible mouths, and were generous lovers. Best of all, they were overly possessive once they found and claimed their mate.
Celina’s preoccupation with Weres had grown so much that being marked by a Were was all she could think about. And now, it looked like Mindy would achieve the goal before she did. The thought seared her insides, leaving her raw with anguish.
She loved Mindy like a sister, but it irritated Celina that she’d been able to garner so much attention without any real effort. The salt in the wound was that Mindy didn’t know that werewolves existed.
Why would they be interested in someone so clueless? They were never quick to expose their secrets, but they had to know they’d have to eventually if they continued to pursue her. Unless of course they were just after sex.
Sex she could live with. It was an emotional attachment that would be unbearable.
Cold settled around Celina’s heart. Maybe it was time she told Mindy that her sister wasn’t crazy. That the monsters Izzy warned her about were real. If she did that, Celina wouldn’t have to worry about losing Slade or the other wolves coming around. Mindy wouldn’t want anything to do with any of them.
* * * * *
Mindy made a quick trip to the grocery store after work before rushing home to get ready for Nic’s arrival. She fed all her animals and talked to each one about their day, then put the cooked roast and potatoes she’d picked up into the oven to warm.
She threw together a salad and set the bowl inside the refrigerator. Mindy didn’t know if Nic would want to stay for dinner, but she wanted to be ready just in case. She walked into her bedroom and found a dead mouse on her pillow.
Her one-eyed orange tabby came strolling into the room. He rubbed against her leg, arching his back and purring with pride. Mindy rolled her eyes and scratched him behind the ears.
“You have to stop bringing me presents, or in your case, displaying your kills.” She stroked him again, then picked up her pillow and carried it to the back door.
Mindy unlocked the door and tossed the dead mouse outside, then stripped the pillowcase off and threw it in the laundry hamper. She retrieved a clean pillowcase from the dresser drawer in Izzy’s old bedroom and grabbed one of her sister’s sweaters while she was at it.