Authors: Jody Wallace
Pack and Coven
By Jody Wallace
Harry Smith is a lone wolf, and he likes it that way. When he's targeted to be co-alpha of the local pack, there is only one thing he can do to maintain his freedom: flee. But it'll take a miracle to stay a step ahead of shifters in their own territory.
June Travis has been in love with Harry for years, but he doesn't know her real identity. He sees her as the sweet owner of the local tearoomâthe facade June presents to humans and werewolves to keep them from finding out she's a witch. She may not be able to offer Harry a miracle, but she can help him escape.
Harry is drawn to this new side of June, and not just because he's grateful for her help. With her magic temporarily hiding Harry from his pursuers, the witch and the wolf explore their mutual attraction. But there are consequences for witches who bed down with wolvesâ¦
It's not that I love winter, but I love some of the things that come with winter. Here in the States, February brings some of the coldest temperatures of the winter, but it also brings the promise of spring right around the corner. So I don't mind hunkering down in my living room next to the fire with a blanket, a kid or a dog on my feet, and a mug of hot chocolate or hot tea (or even a hot toddy) beside me. And, of course, my digital reading device of choice in hand.
There's something permissive about cold weather that makes it easy to laze away hours at a time reading a great book without feeling guilty, which makes February one of my favorite months. I know I can always indulge in plenty of guilt-free reading time!
This month, Carina Press offers a new selection of releases across the genres to aid you in your own reading-time indulgence. Romantic suspense favorite Marie Force is back with a new installment in her Fatal series,
Newlyweds Sam and Nick discover that they won't get the normalcy they were looking for post-weddingâ¦because someone has other plans for them. Also look for author Dee J. Adams to follow up her adrenaline-packed romantic suspense debut with her sophomore book,
which delivers thrills and action.
Two steampunk titles will get your gears whirling in February. Look for
by Robert Appleton and
Under Her Brass Corset
by Brenda Williamson to take you back to a time altered by steam and clockwork. Also in the science fiction and fantasy realm, author Nico Rosso offers up
The Last Night,
a post-apocalyptic tale of romance, while Kim Knox takes us into the future with her futuristic science fiction romance,
And for those of you with a yen for the paranormal, we have several authors joining us for their Carina Press debuts.
Blood of the Pride
by Sheryl Nantus and
Pack and Coven
by Jody Wallace hit the virtual shelves in mid-February.
Portia Da Costa will heat up your day with
a sexy and intense look into the world of BDSM.
Rounding out our amazing and genre-packed February lineup are books from Claire Robyns, Charlie Cochrane, Debra Kayn, Shelley Munro, Amie Denman, Crista McHugh and Susan Edwards, with everything from historical and contemporary romance to m/m romance to a fun romantic caper. February offers a little something for everyone's reading pleasure.
We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.
Executive Editor, Carina Press
I'd like to thank Gina Bernal, Angela James and the rest of the staff at Carina Press for working with me on this novel. More thanks to Rae Ann Parker and Monica McCabe for the research trips to tea rooms, Cathy Pegau for the biology lessons and brainstorming/critiquing awesomeness, and West Virginia for being wild and wonderful. Lastly I'd like to thank my recliner for being my loyal companion and offering me such unfailing support on this writing journey. I'd never replace you with a treadmill writing desk, my dear. Never, ever.
“Sorry, sweetie, we're out of porterhouses.” Harry's gray-haired waitress slid a stemmed water glass onto the table in front of him and flipped her receipt book to the next page.
Out of porterhouses? How could Miss Sandie's Tea Room run out of steaks when he was the only customer who ordered them?
Harry stared at the frilly, blue-checkered menu as if another werewolf-friendly item were going to appear among the scones and scotch eggs. Miss Sandie's was his customary lunch spot, but he'd rather fire up the grill himself than settle for a fruit plate.
Which was saying a lot. Harry hadn't gotten a culinary gene, just a furry one.
“Are you sure, Annette? Did Sandie order T-bones?” He sniffed the air but couldn't detect much beyond the fresh flowers on his table and apple-pie odor that saturated the dining room. He didn't have the greatest nose in wolfdom, but it wasn't as dull as a human's.
“Your friends from earlier cleaned us out.” Annette slipped into the chair across from him, clearly intent on a chat. The cafÃ© wasn't busy at this hour. “Sandie doesn't mind keeping you in steaks, Harry, but this isn't a greasy spoon.”
“Which friends?” He peered around the pastry cabinet next to his chair, but a table of female diners blocked his view of the cafÃ©.
“Your lady friends.” Annette smoothed a wrinkle out of the tablecloth. “I use the term
loosely, you understand. No ladies I know behave like that.”
He didn't like the sound of that. Harry had a number of lady friends, and none would give Annette a sour face. Or order steak at a tea room. He liked his women sweet, talented in the kitchen and one hundred percent human. He also liked them roughly his own age, which left Miss Sandie and her staff out of the running. Too bad. Miss Sandie in particular had a great sense of humor, an open mind, a big heart, and was one of the best cooks he'd ever known.
The question was, why would Annette connect some random, steak-eating women to him? “My friends, huh. Did they mention me by name or something?”
Annette tapped her pen on her receipt book. “They said they knew you. They looked familiar, but I haven't met every single person in town.”
“Maybe they weren't from around here.” Millington, West Virginia, wasn't big, but it was close enough to Wheeling that they did get tourist traffic. It was possible some of the independent shifters he'd known in New York City were visiting.
“Could be.” She leaned toward him. “I certainly don't know anyone in Millington who thinks dog collars make good fashion accessories.”
“Not even pink ones?”
Annette rolled her eyes, so Harry changed the subject. He'd been in Wheeling all morning buying supplies for his garage, and he was starving. “What are the specials today?”
“Same as every Thursday, kiddo,” Annette teased, but she told him anyway.
While she talked, Harry cursed inwardly. These “friends” sounded like local pack members. He frequented the tea room and befriended humans as part of his strategy of pack avoidance. If the pack invaded his sanctuary, he'd be severely put out. It had taken years to cultivate Sandie and her staff, trading discounted automotive repairs for steaks cooked the way he liked them, friendly faces and the occasional heated bunco session.
This was his place. His. Why did they have to ruin it? Couldn't they just leave him alone?
He could just hear the alpha female, Bianca's, coaxing tonesâ
Bert agreed to accept you, Harry. Wolves aren't made to live by themselves, Harry. Join the pack, Harry.
The pack could kiss his hairy butt. Contrary to popular werewolf belief, shifters could be as human as the next human if they wanted. Pack life was a choice, not a necessity.
A choice Harry didn't plan to make.
“Earth to Harry.” Annette tapped his menu with her pen. “What do you want for lunch?”
“Ham-and-cheese croissantâheavy on the cheese, heavier on the hamâa side of scrambled eggs with that tomato sauce, a plate of scones, a selection of marmalades and a strawberry-and-walnut salad. Oh, and fruit tea.”
“Hungry boy.” Annette stuck her pen in her upswept hairdo. “You remind me of Junior.”
“He doing okay at school?”
“He was home at Christmas. He looked thin.”
“I'm sure you remedied that.” Harry handed over the menu and winked. Annette ran a close second to Sandie as his favorite person in Millington, and that was saying something, because Sandie was his favorite person outside Millington too. “If any of my so-called friends come back, tell them you're out of steak and save the porterhouse for me.”
The bell above the door tinkled a merry tune. She rose and slipped her receipt book in her apron pocket. “Why don't you tell them yourselves?”
“What do you mean?” He swiveled in his chair and watched local pack members Bianca, Violet and Susan stroll through the front door. Their spike-heeled boots and skintight clothes were as out of place in Miss Sandie's Tea Room as Annette and Sandie would have been in a biker bar.
Bianca's chin lifted as she scented the air, and her gaze fell unerringly on Harry. “There you are.”
He did his best to conceal his flinch and regretted the fact he'd already given Annette the menu because he couldn't duck behind it.
“I'll get your tea,” Annette said before she left. “If your friends order anything, let them know that around here we tip the wait staff.”
The three shifters swaggered through the tea room, attracting a good deal of attention. The ladies at the next table bent their heads together, whispering. Thanks to his sharper-than-human ears, Harry could hear them.
“Those are the ones I was telling you about,” the blonde said. Her name was Donna Manns, and Harry had gone out with her years ago. “They're dating that lowlife Bert Macabee whose gang got caught robbing the Webster place.”
Hold on, this was news. The pack alpha had gotten his ass arrested? Donna was married to a cop now. She'd know what she was talking about.
“All three were dating him at the same time?” one of the ladies gasped, horror and delight in her voice. “Did they know about each other?”
“Apparently,” Donna said with relish. “The one with black hair, Bianca Macabee, she's married to him. Those people down the river are like a cult. My husband says they're nudists or survivalists or something. I guess they do things different. Well, they can't break the law. Macabee's going to be sent to prison.”
Harry cleared his throat. When the ladies turned, he nodded politely. Bianca liked to pick fights. If the news were true, she'd be especially belligerent right now. The ladies realized Bianca had closed in, so they hushedâthe better to hear whatever she planned to say to Harry.
“Harry,” Bianca said, lingering over the
s. “We've been looking for you all day.”
Bianca might be a wolf, but when she talkedâat least when she was in a good moodâshe purred. She didn't sound belligerent. Donna must be wrong about Bert, or Bianca wouldn't be smiling. The pack had a good lawyer.
“I just got back from a purchasing trip,” he answered, relaxing a little. “I'm having lunch.”
“They have excellent steaks,” Bianca remarked. “I may have to bring my friends here.”
Harry didn't want the pack haunting Miss Sandie's. Moreover, he didn't want Sandie and the others associating him with the shifters. Not that humans knew about shifters, but the local pack had a bad reputation in these parts. They maintained a few lucrative businessesâbar, bike shop, convenience storeâbut they liked to bully the humans.
And, apparently, rob them.
“They don't usually have steaks,” Harry lied. “What can I do for you? Is your truck giving you trouble?”
“Now, Harry, there's no need to be all business. We've known each other for years.”
Yeah, years of him distancing himself from pack politics. He and the local group had coexisted in uneasy accord after Bert satisfied himself Harry wasn't going to make a play for the territory.
That didn't stop other pack membersâmostly womenâfrom imploring him to join. They'd get in big trouble if they slept with a wolf outside the pack, and for whatever reason women regarded Harry as desirable.
A burden he valiantly bore.
Bianca slid into the chair across from him while Violet and Susan hovered behind her. The lace-topped table only seated two. Over Bianca's shoulder, Harry saw Annette peek through the round window of the kitchen door. She probably wouldn't come back out while Bianca and company were here.
So much for his tasty beverage. Damn, he was thirsty too.
He did have water. He sighed and crunched ice, wishing it were Sandie's fruit tea. “Why are you looking for me?”
“You know what we want.” Under the table, Bianca's boot nudged his calf, inching upward. Her black hair was pulled into a sleek tail, and her dark eyes were made darker by makeup. “We want you to come to our party.”
Pack wolves hosted annual ceremonies to renew bonds. Their annual was next month, but he'd rather gnaw his own foot off than show up for a party like that. Snacks or no snacks.
“I sent my regrets.” Harry crossed his legs under the table, kicking her boot aside. “I have plans that night.”
“Doing what, playing bunco with the grannies?” Violet asked with a snide laugh.
Bianca chuckled a moment but then snapped her fingers, silencing the other female. “How many times have you missed our party? I won't take no for an answer.”
Independents frequently left the vicinity during annual ceremonies to avoid being sucked in. Harry was no exception.
“Sorry. I'll be out of town.” He kicked her foot away again, and his knee banged the underside of the table. Silverware rattled. The eavesdropping ladies at the next table jumped in their seats.
“Right, your yearly vacation. Since you're so predictable, we switched the date for you. The party's tonight.” Bianca smiled, her teeth straight, white and not at all canine.
“Tonight?” She had to be lying. Bonding ceremonies took weeks to plan. You couldn't just whip one up because you felt like it. “It's not the full moon.”
“Full enough.” She studied him. “I thought you didn't care about lunar cycles.”
“I don't, but I know you do.”
The Millington wolves were classic conservatives in the larger world of shifters. They lived in packs ruled by an alpha male and female and preferred a home base as close to the edge of civilization as possible. Ceremonies were tied to cycles of the moon. It had been proven by shifter scientists that werewolves were no more connected to the moon than any other primate, but conservatives regarded that factoid like certain human groups regarded evolution.
Shifters had some unique biological constraints. Moon madness wasn't one of them. The moon controlled the tides, yes, but howling at it was optional.
Bianca thunked her elbows on the table. “Harry,” she said, in a different voice, one that almost seemed rational. “You may have heard. Things have changed.”
Was she talking about Bert? Harry played dumb. “I haven't heard anything.”
“Don't lie to me.” She jerked her head toward the eavesdroppers. “What Blondie said is true. Bert and a few others are headed to the pen. There's no way our lawyer can get him off this time, and we already made the party plans. You know what that means.”
Packs required two alphas to function. With Bert out of the territory and in prison, he wouldn't be able to serve as a fulcrum. He'd also be cut off from his shifter nature unless there was a pack in the pen he could join.
Harry doubted it. Most shifters weren't stupid enough to get nabbed by human law enforcement.
But Bert's arrest meant the Millington pack was under the gun. With the pack bond ceremony initiated weeks ago, they had to go through with the rest or the bond would dissolve and leave them permanently toothless. And they couldn't have a pack ceremony without two alphas.
Harry had no idea what unlucky shifter was about to get a boost in pack hierarchy, but he could hardly be more of a sleaze than Bert.
“Sorry about Bert. I know you were married to him a long time.” In most packs, the male and female alphas were partners legally too.
“Gosh, thanks. We had no idea he was into that stuff.” Bianca smiled. “We're so upset.”
Why did he not believe her? “I'm sure you'll have enough people at the party without me.”
“That's just it.” She adjusted the silverware in front of her before continuing. “We can't have it without you. You're the guest of honor.”
Silence reigned as Harry stared at Bianca in horror. To his surprise, what with her being an actual pack alpha, she looked away first.
“You're joking,” he said flatly. Every wolf in Millington, hell, probably on the continent, knew Harry didn't want to follow a leaderâor be one.
“I'm not.” Bianca looked as serious as he'd ever seen her, and the woman had a microscopic sense of humor. “I'm begging. You know what we've got to choose from, and they haven't gotâ¦what you've got.”
“It's called brains.” Harry's voice was more of a growl than intended. “All sorts of people have them.”
When he'd moved to the area and discovered the pack was conservative, he'd considered returning to the city, but he was tired of concrete and skyscrapers. Even liberals liked to run free on occasion, and that was hard to do in New York.
“I'll ask you nicely,” she began, before he cut her off.
“I'm not coming.” If he had to, he'd drive to the closest airport after lunch and book a flight for Vegas. Without their alpha, pack wolves couldn't leave their territories for extended periods of time. Two days, max. They certainly couldn't stray long enough to track him as far as Nevada, and Millington was short on alphas at the moment.