Out Now from Amira Press
(Title previously released in anthology.)
In the humid nights of a Georgia summer, a wounded man stumbles onto Louisa’s front lawn. She stashes him in her root cellar and shoos the bounty hunter away. Tending to his wounds, something about him isn’t quite… human.
For months, Bowen’s been tracking the werewolf that killed his wife. After making Louisa breakfast, he swears to leave, but he can’t get her off his mind. Instead of departing, he secretly remains. Then, one day, the bounty hunter returns and threatens Louisa.
Will Louisa turn him over? Will Bowen ever find love again? Or will the bounty hunter destroy Bowen for good?
When Louisa opened her eyes, she noticed her houseguest was not at all where she had left him because the couch was empty. Her pulse quickened. Several scenarios ran through her mind—he had woken up and left, the bounty hunter had come and gotten him, he was somewhere in the house waiting for her to find him, or she had completely imagined it. She doubted the last because next to the couch was the sled she had brought him in on.
She got up slowly and swore under her breath at the stiffness in her neck. She tipped her head from side to side to crack it and smelled something cooking. She inhaled again to be sure nothing was burning. There had been a time when Geppetto tried lighting a few things on fire, but that was when she’d been renovating the house. He’d stopped when she explained that the upgrades were necessary or the house would be uninhabitable. She walked into the kitchen and heard someone whistling. There was her houseguest, standing next the stove, spatula in hand, and tending to a hot frying pan. Two place settings were laid out on the table.
“Ahh, hi!” Louisa stared at him and watched the muscles of his back ripple while he flipped an omelet onto a plate. He caught the eggs and set them down on the stove before he turned around.
“Hello. I hope you don’t mind, but I thought you might be hungry.”
“No, that’s fine. What’s your name? Why were those guys chasing you? Why did they shoot you? What the hell is going on here? You shouldn’t be up and walking around.” She noticed that the bandage was gone. Now, slightly puckered skin remained where the wound had been. She ran her hands over the flesh, and she noticed it was cooler than the rest of his body. She trailed her hand over his chest, felt his breathing and the vibration of his heart to make sure he was alive and not another spook. Louisa couldn’t help but smile at the defined muscles under her hand. This boy is rock solid. I wonder if other parts of him are as hard.
“So am I hale to you?”
She looked at him in question. He flashed her a beautiful smile, caught her hand, and brought it to his lips. He caressed her fingers with his tongue and nipped lightly on the tips. Her breath quickened, and she was transfixed by his actions. A shiver of ecstasy raced through her and settled at her core. She shouldn’t be letting him do this, but her body wasn’t hers to control. It was his.
Her eyes widened when he ran his long, wet tongue down her middle finger, over the center of her palm, and stopped at the inside of her wrist. He planted a kiss there and then peered up at her. It took her a moment to overcome his spell, but even when she did, her legs were still wobbly. When she was herself again, she noticed the slight pink tinge to his cheeks.
“Sorry, but you smelled so damn good I had to see if you tasted scrumptious, too.”
Her cheeks burned. “So, do I?”
He leaned closer. Louisa waited for him to kiss her. Her eyes half closed, but he brushed his cheek against hers. It took all her concentration not to fall into his arms. She was on edge from this stranger. She clenched her fists together to remind herself this was not a dream. She really had woken up to find a perfectly handsome man in her kitchen, and whatever magnetism he oozed had captured her in its spell.
“No, you taste so much better.” Wetness encompassed her earlobe. She let out a small pleasure sound. He chuckled and took her face between his hands. He looked deep into her eyes until his face blurred and she swayed, waiting for him to claim her lips. She leaned up expectantly on tiptoe, but before their mouths could touch, a loud pop exploded above them. Pinpricks of pain showered down her arm. She looked up and saw that the light bulb overhead had burst.
“Damn it. I just replaced that this week.”
“I’m sure it was an accident. We can switch it out later.” He trailed his fingers over her arms, smearing crimson over her caramel-colored flesh. A cold chill passed by her back at that moment and she knew the bulb shattering hadn’t been an accident. She sighed and backed away from the stranger.
“No, it was my roommate. He likes to play tricks on me. My bet, he’s jealous that he doesn’t have me all to himself.”
Her houseguest reached out to her, but she avoided him and went into the pantry to grab the dustpan. She swept up the remains of the bulb. What am I doing? I don’t know this guy, and I let him sweep me up and kiss me. I need to pull myself together and remember he was nearly dead on my couch last night, but now he’s up walking and talking like nothin’ ever happened. That is not humanly possible. So what does that make him? She got up and dumped the shards in the waste bin. When she turned, he was there with the omelets. Her stomach gurgled at the sight of them. “Why are you getting rid of those?”
“I don’t want you eating glass. Just to be sure.”
She moved aside and let him dump the fluffy eggs in the trash. Right at that moment, the bell rang on the oven, making her jump again, closer to him. The heat of his flesh radiated against her skin. Desire to let the man take her raged through her. I’m coming down with something. That has to be it. She took a deep breath and put some space between them. Him hovering only made her thoughts drift to throwing him down on the floor and riding him. She inhaled, smelled something delicious, and heard plates clattering. Her guest seemed to know his way around her kitchen pretty well. I have to get to the bottom of this.
“Is everything okay?” She felt a small tap on her shoulder.
“No! I dragged you in here on a plastic sled for Christ’s sake. Now you’re walking and talking and—”
His lips met hers, and she lost herself in his kiss. He tasted sweet like honey. His hand slipped around the back of her neck and settled on her nape. Her tongue touched his, and she explored his mouth. Louisa almost forgot her questions and let him overpower her with wanting until another chill skimmed over her arms. It roused her enough that she focused on the circumstances at hand. She pulled out of his arms and shook from the effort. Geppetto was either jealous or he was trying to warn her of something.
“What’s the matter?” She felt his heat radiating against her. Before he could encompass her, she put her hands up to stop him.
“Stop. You have to tell me what’s going on here, or I’m going to call those bounty hunters to haul your ass out of here.”
His brows furrowed, and his expression darkened, but after a moment, he took her shaking hand and licked the back of it. How does he do that, and what the hell is wrong with me? I should be running out of the door and calling the cops, but he’s so damn fine, and God, he makes me feel like . . . I don’t know what he makes me feel like. I just want more of it. She tried to hold it together because she didn’t want him to work her over again with his magnetism. But the way his pink tongue felt against her mocha skin made her hot. She clenched her thighs together to contain the wetness drenching her panties.
He met her gaze and gave her a half-crooked smile. “I know you enjoy having me here. I can smell and taste the desire on you. It’s sweet like caramel. I love the taste of caramel.