Her Christmas SEAL: Excerpt 3 !

•November 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment


AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton

“I got to tell you something,” he said, his thumb making another pass over my hipbone. I froze, trying not to pant. How could one little touch set me off? What was wrong with me?

“You belong with me,” he continued. “Or I belong with you. Both. You picked the wrong man before, and I want a shot.”

Rub. Stroke. Sweet, sweet pressure on that one small, not-enough spot where we were connected. Somehow, I found my voice while my synapses misfired and melted into a stupid puddle of goo. “What do you think I am, a piñata or a shooting range?”

“I think you’re my Christmas present,” he growled, shifting closer. “I think I’ve been waiting a damned long time to open you up.”

“I got to tell you something,” he said, his thumb making another pass over my hipbone. I froze, trying not to pant. How could one little touch set me off? What was wrong with me?

“You belong with me,” he continued. “Or I belong with you. Both. You picked the wrong man before, and I want a shot.”

Rub. Stroke. Sweet, sweet pressure on that one small, not-enough spot where we were connected. Somehow, I found my voice while my synapses misfired and melted into a stupid puddle of goo. “What do you think I am, a piñata or a shooting range?”

“I think you’re my Christmas present,” he growled, shifting closer. “I think I’ve been waiting a damned long time to open you up.”

AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton

Her Christmas SEAL: Excript 2!

•November 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment


AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton

Lucky Paws Christmas Tree Farm was located twenty miles outside of Strong. I hadn’t had much call to go out there in the two years I’d been living in Strong and working for Donovan Brothers as a smoke jumper, but local gossip claimed that Lucky, the owner, had gone into Christmas tree farming some twenty years ago, determined to make a quick buck growing trees. The Christmas business had turned out to be anything but quick since the trees took a good ten years to mature, but Lucky had hung in there. Somewhere along the line, the man had expanded. The billboard—sporting an animated reindeer head—announced sixty acres of cut-your-own trees, a Santa’s village, a sleigh ride, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, and ice skating. I’d rather have stormed an insurgent stronghold with my bare hands than gone Christmas shopping, but there you had it. My Holly was in there. A guy did what he had to do.

When I pulled my truck into the lot, the place was already bustling. Kids were running around, shrieking, and climbing on everything that didn’t blink, whir, or chime out Christmas carols. A fat guy in a red suit shoved a candy cane at me and pointed in the general direction of the trees. I fell in with the crowd, looking for Holly.

Finding her turned out to be surprisingly easy. She met me at the entrance of the tree lot, although I doubted it was on purpose. She kind of did a double take when she saw me, like only the Easter Bunny would have been less expected. She was just going to have to get used to having me around, I decided.

I liked today’s outfit way better than yesterday’s lumberjack look, but maybe that was because she was mostly naked. She was dressed as an elf in a short green skirt that barely skimmed the top of her thighs. A matching green jacket hugged her boobs, and even though her “fur” cuffs appeared to be mid molt, I was a happy man. As an added bonus, the red-and-white-striped stockings had me wondering if they went all the way up—or stopped just under her hem. And if she’d let me find out or kick me with her steel-toed boots. Those boots were the only practical thing about her employee uniform.

“Put your tongue back in your mouth,” she snapped. That’s my Holly. She’d always called me on my shit.

I grinned at her. “Just appreciating the view, babe.”

Fortunately for me, I was wearing steel toes too. Barely felt it when she took a shortcut across my foot.

She mumbled something that sure sounded like it would put her on Santa’s naughty list. “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t look like the kind of guy who gets his Christmas shopping done early?”

She snorted. “How long have we known each other?”

Twelve years and nowhere near long enough. “I want to pick out a tree.” I pointed to the pin fixed on her right boob. “According to that, you’re gonna bring the ax and help me find the tree of my dreams.”

“You don’t really want a tree.” She folded her arms over her chest as if that could erase the perky claim of her nametag.

“You telling a paying customer what he does or doesn’t want?” We’d had this conversation once back in high school, when she’d been working at the local Dairy Queen. Then we’d squabbled over ice cream, but I’d learned that I had an important ally in her boss. Money talked.

I had her, and we both knew it. Sure enough, she tossed a quick glance over her shoulder at Santa Lucky. The old guy was staring in our direction, clearly contemplating an intervention. He wasn’t letting any money walk off his lot, and we both knew it.

I leaned down and brushed my mouth over her ear. “You know what happens to naughty girls.”

She jumped, her elbow “accidentally” digging into my rib cage. “If you get me fired, I’ll kill you.”

Duly noted. I might be doing her a favor to get her out of here and the Christmas carols blasting over the PA system. “You really like working here?”

She shrugged and headed toward Ye Olde Christmas Tree Shacke. I followed. Her skirt wasn’t any longer in the back. It twitched with each irritated bounce. Fan-fucking-tastic. Up until now, I’d really just wanted to see her. I hadn’t thought further ahead than that, but it looked like I’d be buying a tree unless Holly was going Lizzie Borden on me with the chainsaw she snagged from a shelf in the Shacke.

“There aren’t many job options,” she said warily. “And I happen to like Christmas.”

I had no idea what to say, so I grabbed the chainsaw from her and struck out on the nearest path. I walked fast, and I had at least a foot on Holly. She’d always been a tiny thing. She hustled along behind me, babbling crap about liability and farm rules. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to handle the chainsaw. Since I wasn’t letting her cart heavy stuff around when I was right here, we were kinda at an impasse.

The path wasn’t bad the first few hundred yards, beaten down by the hordes hungry for one hundred percent genuine, fresh-cut Christmas trees. Even got a few flakes of snow falling from the sky, although I wouldn’t have put it past the Santa dude to have a snowmaker hidden somewhere. Probably good for business. After the first five minutes, the crowd thinned out, and after ten it disappeared altogether. It was just me, Holly, and about a thousand pine trees. A thought struck me.

“Why were you up on the mountain cutting branches when you have about a million trees here?”

She shot me a look. I couldn’t tell if she thought I was an idiot or just giving her grief. After a moment, she went ahead and answered. “I was tipping. It pays well.”

I’d never tipped, but I understood the principle. You went out in the forest, cut off the tips of pine branches, and then sold the green stuff to the good folks who made Christmas wreaths and that decorative garland stuff. It was kind of like making Popsicle sticks for the arts and crafts crowd. As far as pays well went, I was skeptical. Tree tips weren’t made out of gold, and Lucky had a reputation for being cheap.

I asked the obvious question. “You got money worries?”

Her hands shot to her hips. “You can’t ask me that!”

Where I came from, we didn’t see the point in pussyfooting around the issue. Unless she had a thing for pine trees and fresh air, there was only one reason to be hauling ass around the mountain, cutting branches. She needed the money.

“Can too,” I pointed out, thinking things through. “Mr. Dick not play fair in the divorce settlements?”

Because I’d be happy to fix that for her. Several possible solutions came to mind, and none of them involved me writing her a check. Not that she wasn’t welcome to raid my bank account, but I let myself fantasize for a moment about beating the crap out of her deadbeat ex-husband.

Her mouth opened. Closed like she’d bit back the words she’d intended to say. She made one cute, cranky elf. Fuck, but I wanted to kiss the frown right off her face. I also really, really liked the red-and-white-striped stockings. My eyes kept going back to those.

“You’re not freezing?”

Because if she was, I could think of a whole lotta ways to warm her up.

AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton

Her Christmas SEAL: Excerpt!

•November 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

AnneMarsh_HerChristmasSEAL_800AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton





The weatherman had promised snow for Christmas, but the guy had been wrong. Instead of snowflakes, the sky was raining men.

Okay. One man, but there was plenty of him to go around.

He was a big, burly, cursing presence tangled in a mess of parachute and pine branches halfway up a three-story ponderosa pine. Despite his position upside down, he seemed surprisingly okay. The audible cursing assured me his lungs were fine—and I couldn’t spot any visible wounds. Which was a good thing, because I had zero cell phone reception this far up the mountain.

I’d heard the rumble of a plane a few minutes ago, but I hadn’t made anything of it. Strong wasn’t all that far from San Francisco, and planes flew in and out of that particular airport all the time. Since I didn’t have tickets—first-class or otherwise—for a sunny and exotic beach vacation, I didn’t pay the sky any attention. Nothing for me there. Instead, I focused on the pine branches I could reach, because working on a California mountainside got downright chilly in December. Despite the state’s liberal supply of palm trees, the mountains came with a side of cold—and snow. Bikini weather it was not.

Snip a tip, drop it into my bag. That had been my routine all morning, and I could practically hear the tree breathe a thank-you—the stand of pines was more overcrowded than a San Francisco train at rush hour—and my bank account breathed a commensurate sigh of relief. Pine tree tips were as good as gold at Christmastime. I’d take these bad boys back to the tree farm and turn them into pine ropes and wreaths. The farm’s gift shop would complete the miraculous transformation of trees into cash, and I’d be able to go grocery shopping for the first time in two weeks. Seeing as how I was sick of granola bars and canned soup, grocery day currently trumped Christmas Day on my calendar. Even better, there would probably be leftover dollars to add to my college savings account. When I applied to CSU Sacramento in November, I’d be able to cover my tuition. For the first time in a year, I’d be back on track.

Another curse drifted toward me.

“You okay up there?” I had no idea what I could do, but asking the question seemed like a good first step.

My answer was a yell from the top of the ponderosa, followed by the clatter of something metallic tracing down the trunk. A utility knife with a four-inch blade landed by my feet. Apparently, I got a free souvenir of today’s encounter. Merry early Christmas to me.

“If you’re feeling helpful, how about you toss the knife up here?” Mr. It’s-Raining-Men’s voice was muffled by the helmet, the tree branches, and the guy’s unfortunate, still mostly-upside-down position. Still, the bright yellow jumpsuit was a dead giveaway. Either the local prison had experienced an unprecedented jailbreak—unlikely—or Donovan Brothers had sent their team of crack smoke jumpers out on a practice jump. The jumpers loved to tell hang-up stories about their buddies down at the bar—who’d gotten stuck in which tree and who’d taken the longest to cut himself free. Naturally, the storyteller had never suffered such an indignity. I’d also never heard of any fatalities, so maybe this was just all in a day’s work? I was certainly happier pine tipping.

“Hello?” The smoke jumper folded his arms over his chest. The helmet made it impossible to make out much of his face, but I was dead certain he was glaring at me. A firm pair of male lips tightened when I didn’t move. Yeah, buddy. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with masculine impatience, and the divorce decree currently stashed in my underwear drawer promised I didn’t have to. Hallelujah. Mr. Hung-up-in-a-Tree could take one for the entire male team as far as I was concerned.

“Maybe she doesn’t speak English.” A big pair of steel toes collided with the trunk, and the boots’ owner sighed. Loudly.

I was too distracted by the boots to pay attention to the words. If the correlation between foot size and dick size held true, this guy was hung like a horse. While I stared, enjoying the view despite my no-guys rule, the object of my attention pulled himself upright with an impressive show of abdominal strength. I just bet he had a six-pack hiding under all that fabric. Since I was officially sworn off men—divorce would do that to you—the state of the jumper’s six-pack wasn’t of interest to me.


I toed the knife. I’d never been particularly good at throwing sports, so odds were high I’d either miss my target—or I’d stick him by accident, and that could be awkward. Plenty of powdery snow drifted around the base of the tree, but we hadn’t had a good snowfall yet. The stuff wasn’t more than an inch or two deep, and it definitely wouldn’t break the smoke jumper’s fall. He was as shit out of luck as I was.

I really should be nice. The guy in the tree wasn’t my ex, and I didn’t need to vent five years of marital frustrations on him, convenient as he was. I was a grown-up, turning over a new leaf, blah blah blah. The smoke jumper pulled off his helmet, tossing it to the ground. I wasn’t sure why he did that—if I’d been in danger of falling out of a tree, I’d have wanted to protect my noggin and every other inch of my body—but then my eyes processed what I was seeing, and my brain kind of skittered to a stop.

Of all the guys to fall out of the sky and land—almost—at my feet, why this one?

Habit maybe. Or maybe my heart was more stubborn than even my head, because I myself fell for Jacks Benson the first time I saw him.

He’d been slamming a basketball against the wall of the Laundromat, rubber thwacking against the cinder blocks with deafening regularity. If my dad hadn’t been passed out inside our trailer twenty feet away, he’d have been hollering at me to make that fucking kid stop. Dad hadn’t done well with loud noises thanks to a stint in the military, and even I had had no problem substituting the thud of bombs falling for the ball.

I’d pointed this home truth out to Jacks. He’d blown me off, dismissing my concerns as if I’d suggested the possibility of rain on a cloudless day. He’d then double-dog dared me into following him down to the local creek and proceeded to share both an oversized Slurpee and the ball with me. During the course of the afternoon, he’d taught me his best basketball trick shots. After he tilted the straw in my direction and I put my mouth where his had been, I’d been halfway in love. When he pulled off his shirt and went for a swim, I was hooked. He looked like the bad boy drummer from the rock-band posters decorating my bedroom walls, and my ten-year-old self had found it all too easy to imagine a happily-ever-after. His unexpected “Wanna kiss me?” had almost had me agreeing too, but then I’d chickened out and scampered back to my trailer, his laughter chasing me the whole way.

Apparently, saying no to Jacks was like waving red in front of a bull, however, because he’d been off and running from then on, and it seemed like the entire focus of his existence was to make my life as complicated as possible. If I’d loved him at first sight, I’d flirted with hatred thereafter. He teased me. He played practical jokes on me. He generally dogged my footsteps throughout our middle school and high school days, and I could never quite relax because who knew what awkward, embarrassing thing he’d do to me next? When he’d enlisted in the Navy the day after his high school graduation, it had been good riddance on my part. Maybe Uncle Sam could make Jacks behave, because I definitely couldn’t.





Christ, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d hung up.

Spotted Dick, the jump-team pilot, had put the DC-3 up, nice and easy. Our spotter had laid down in the open bay and tossed the streamers out. We’d watched the fluttering descent like it was the coin toss at the Super Bowl. No surprises there either. I’d seen the smallest movement as the ribbons neared the ground, but nothing to worry about. Nothing to indicate I’d get within five hundred feet of the ground and find myself riding the windy equivalent of a bucking bronco. Mother Nature had decided to make me her own personal piñata today, and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Steering the chute to the LZ—or at least the edge of the landing zone since hitting dead center had been less likely than winning the lottery—had remained possible right up until the last second when yet another unexpected gust of wind had blown up out of nowhere. I’d spent the week doing practice runs with Donovan Brothers, and today’s fiasco had been a first. I’d never had a problem in all the years I’d been smoke jumping, but apparently I really could fly fucking sideways—straight into the biggest ponderosa pine I’d ever had the misfortune to meet. As I’d crashed through the branches, chute tearing, arms over my face because I might not be a pretty boy but I didn’t need a pine-branch piercing either, I’d caught a glimpse of the DC-3 banking hard and aborting. Nice. Too bad the spotter hadn’t made that call ten minutes ago before I’d jumped out of the bay and plunged feetfirst into my current predicament.

The only consolation was that I wouldn’t be landing to the mocking calls of the team. Nope. After I’d signaled that I was okay, they were on their way back to the hangar and the airstrip. I got to hike out the two miles to the access road and my pickup.

The branch from which I hung creaked, warning me that Mother Nature might have further, even more humiliating plans for my sorry ass. I wanted down. I also wanted a hot shower, a beer, and to get laid. Right now none of those things appeared to be on the agenda. Hell, unless I got my knife back—and my Jedi mental powers were nonexistent—my options were severely limited.

The woman on the ground started humming Christmas carols like she was Looney Tunes. In addition to the approximately two thousand branches blocking my view, she wore layer upon layer of flannel shirts and a puffy black vest, all topped off by a ridiculous pom-pom hat. She hadn’t answered me about the knife, which was probably a sign right there. I’d be getting down from this tree on my own.

Only question was whether I did it in one piece.

“A little help?” I called, although asking for help was the last thing I wanted to do. Still, better her than the jump team. If the guys had to come up here and cut me down, I’d never hear the end of it.

My mystery lady dropped her bag and then followed it to the ground. For a moment, I thought she’d grab the knife. How she was going to get it up to me I hadn’t figured out—maybe my woodcutter had unexpected mad tree-climbing skills or a monkey tucked inside her bag—but then she lowered herself flat onto the snow. Tilting her head back, she stared up at me as her arms and legs moved lazily, creating snow angels in the light dusting of snow.

She definitely wasn’t playing with a full deck. Or maybe I’d hit my head on the way down.

“It’s Christmas,” I suggested. Not like I celebrated the holiday, but that line usually worked on most people.

She shoved her hat back and grinned up at me and… my stranger was no stranger at all. I remembered every inch of her pretty face, probably because it had somehow ended up tattooed on my stupid heart. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she looked just as good lying there beneath me as she had when we’d both been younger, newer, and generally less beat up by life. Although she’d divided her brown hair into two braids and looped the lot beneath her hat, her hair still escaped everywhere in little wisps and curls that stuck to her cheeks and kissed her throat. Kind of made me want to take her apart. Do a little kissing. Lick her some like she was my favorite flavor.

And the two killer dimples that twinkled up at me made me think… things. Bad, filthy, never-to-be-admitted-to things. She was one of a kind, and I’d always stuck a little too close to her.

Shitfuckdamn. Holly was off-limits, and seeing her just reminded me of what I couldn’t have. I didn’t know what reasons had brought her to Strong and my mountain, but I knew one thing. I was in trouble.

“Jacks Benson,” she said, and I was pretty sure I’d never heard my name pronounced in quite that tone of disgust before. Today was definitely a day for firsts. Since I wasn’t currently going anywhere, I took my time answering.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know me,” she continued.

I couldn’t help but notice she wasn’t making any move toward the knife—or helping me down. Figured. Holly Clark never had liked me. Not one teeny, tiny, sweet little bit.

“You’re hard to forget, babe.” For instance, I had the memory of her accepting the marriage proposal of her dickwad boyfriend burned into my brain. While she’d let the guy stick his tongue down her throat and his hands up her shirt, I’d guaranteed the immediate end of my employment at the local drive-in theater by illuminating her R-rated kiss with the drive-in’s spotlights. Honestly, I wasn’t sure why I’d done it—except that she’d fascinated me and pissed me off from the first day we’d met as kids—but that kind of history probably explained the evil grin playing across her face. She’d spotted an opportunity for payback in my current stuck-in-a-tree predicament.

Still, I’d never put her in any danger. I’d looked out for her even. I’d kept an eye on her high school dates, made sure none of those boys went too far, too fast. She made another slow, leisurely snow angel, and my blood pressure—and my dick—shot up. Holly had always been pretty, and she’d only gotten more so since I’d last seen her eight years ago.

Even mummified in all that crazy flannel, she had gorgeous boobs. The edge of a baby-blue T-shirt peeked out from beneath the checks, and her faded jeans sported more tears than my chute. It was hard to miss the shadows under her eyes though, and her cheeks were all angles. Someone hadn’t done a good job of looking out for her, and kicking that someone’s ass was gonna be fun.

So it was too damned bad she was married.

“You gonna help?” I snapped. Being noble didn’t agree with me. Kind of made me pissy in fact. So what if I’d realized too late that her picking some other guy for her happily-ever-after was the last thing I’d been gunning for?

She stared at me, then leaned up on her elbows. Naturally, her fingers didn’t so much as twitch toward my knife. “Nope.”

Not the words I was expecting to hear come out of her mouth.

“That a categorical refusal to come near me, or can we negotiate?”

Her grin got wider, and she fished in her shirt pocket and came up with a phone. Bright pink flamingoes danced across the case, and the lens was cracked in a dozen places, but sure enough she pointed the thing at me.

“Say cheese.”

Guess that was my answer right there. I liked to think I was a good sport, but no way I handed her that kind of ammo.

“You take pics,” I warned her, “and I take them back.”

She shrugged, looking downright unconcerned. “You got to get down first, big guy.”

True enough.

My balls were halfway to frozen despite the heated incentive of staring at Holly. The wind had picked up, the clouds were moving in, and we’d have full-on dark in two hours.

“I need the knife,” I told her.

“Uh-huh.” She made another leisurely snow angel, like she had all the time in the world. “I can sure see that.”

“Would it kill you to help me out?” I twisted, trying to get a better look at how I’d hung up. At least one branch had torn through the back of my jumpsuit—I was probably lucky I wasn’t bleeding out on her. I had chute strings wrapped around one arm and—defying all laws of physics—part of the chute itself twisted around my ankles. I was like one enormous, messed-up Jenga puzzle.

She flashed me a grin. “Helping you out wouldn’t be as much fun.”

“Payback’s gonna be a bitch,” I warned.

Growing up, we’d always traded tricks. I did something. She answered with something a little bigger. And then I did something bigger and badder. Our whole relationship could be described in terms of an arms race and nuclear escalation, with detonation a regular occurrence. Not that I really minded the twinkle in her eyes, but it was the principle of the thing.

“Why is payback always female?”

I’d forgotten how Holly’s mind worked—or leaped and twirled from point to point like some kind of crack-smoking ballerina. I’m sure it all made sense inside her head, but most of the time she left me reeling. She wasn’t done dredging up my past sins either.

“You weren’t nice to me before,” she continued, like thoughts A and B were clearly connected. Maybe they were in her universe.

“We met when I was twelve. I enlisted when I was eighteen. You gonna hold six teenage years against me forever?” Staring down at her baby browns, that suddenly seemed like a lame excuse. I could have been nicer. Fuck. That was probably why she’d ended up wearing Mr. Dick’s wedding ring and there hadn’t been any room left for me.

“You pranked me every day,” she accused me and then proceeded to rattle off a list of my misdemeanors. She’d all but alphabetized my shit. Her tirade included multiple water-balloon attacks, lockers glued shut, and my replacing her hairspray with blue hair color. That last one had been pretty funny.

In my defense, she’d tied me in knots. Apparently I hadn’t realized just how much—or how tight—until now. The branch creaked again, reminding me that I was on a deadline here. An uncontrolled fall to the ground via about four thousand spiky ponderosa branches wouldn’t do me any favors. I needed to get down.

Time to go on the offensive. “We went to school in Concord.” And since Concord—and our trailer park—was miles away, Holly was the last person I’d expected to see in the middle of the forest. “What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “I work here.”

I made a production out of looking around. “I don’t see an art gallery.”

She’d been dead set on owning her own art gallery. She’d collected all the crap we drew in school and set it up when she was younger. I’d been roped into “viewings” on more than one occasion and had dutifully shuffled past the pictures. Since Holly was nothing if not determined, I figured she probably had at least a half dozen galleries by now. But as galleries were city material—rather than mountain material—her presence here remained a mystery.

She gave me a look I couldn’t interpret, but that was nothing new. “I work on a Christmas tree farm.”

Definitely not an art gallery, but maybe she enjoyed the work? I jumped out of planes for a living, so I wasn’t gonna judge her.

“So where’s Mr. Holly?” Wherever the fuck he was, he wasn’t glued to her side, and he damned certain wasn’t looking after her. I might be stuck halfway up a tree, but certain things were clear. She looked tired. She was alone. It was starting to get dark.

I couldn’t make out a ring beneath those ridiculous pink and green gloves she wore. She needed something tougher to go tipping.

She bit her lip, then glared up at me with the stubborn look I recognized. Usually it preceded her doing something particularly foul in the interests of evening the score or paying me back. Wasn’t like I had anywhere to be though. I was stranded in the ponderosa, facing a two-mile hike in the dusk. I’d far rather be here with her, so I could wait all night for her answer.

“I’m a failure,” she tossed off finally.

I didn’t believe that for a moment. Sure there was no such thing as insta-success, although I kinda would have liked that for her, but Holly didn’t know how to give up. She went after what she wanted, and I’d always liked that about her even if it had led her straight to Mr. Dick.

“There’s no more Mr. Holly,” she said, after the silence had stretched on for too long. “We got a divorce.”



I still had it bad for her, didn’t I? One of the last times I’d seen Holly, she’d been glued to the side of her new fiancé. She’d flashed a teeny-tiny rock at me and then demanded I congratulate her. The reality of the stone had sunk in as I’d taken in the guy’s arm wrapped around her waist. Yeah. Fucker knew he’d lucked into the best thing ever to happen to him. I’d realized—too little, too late—that I wanted to be her man. I’d never made a move on her, hadn’t said a word. She wasn’t a mind reader, and she’d gone guy shopping and picked out a happily-ever-after that didn’t include me. Truth was, that hurt worse than crash-landing in any ponderosa pine.

So if Holly had ditched her mister, I had a second chance.

But first I had to get down out of this goddamned tree. Reaching up, I started to unlace my boots.

“What are you doing?” I hadn’t known her eyes could get that wide—and she hadn’t even seen my best parts yet.

“I’m getting naked,” I told her. “Which means I’m gonna shuck my clothes so I can shimmy out of my current predicament. That’s step one in my plan. Step two involves me climbing down this tree, collecting my knife, climbing back up, and cutting my clothes free.”

I kept step three to myself, because that was the part where I either kissed her senseless or convinced her she wanted to go out on a date with a slightly banged-up smoke jumper and former SEAL.

A pink blush tinged her cheeks. It was kinda cute. “That’s a complicated plan.”

And she was a complicated woman, I was cold, and my branch was about to break and plant my sorry ass on the ground. “You got a better one?”

I set to work on the second boot. In another thirty seconds, I was going to be freezing my ass off, and she was going to get her own personal Chippendales show. If I was lucky, that would jumpstart step three of the plan. If I wasn’t lucky? She’d either run down the mountain screaming or whip out that camera of hers again. I’d deal with it when it happened.

“You could ask. Nicely.” She shrugged. “I’d bet the word please wouldn’t even kill you. And you can add a promise to that. I want to hear you say you’re going to behave yourself.”

I shook my head, frustrated but out of options. “Please.”

The word came out more growl than not, but her face lit up. Who knew six letters were the key to winning her over? I made a mental note to say the word a whole lot more around her. I’d be happy to please her in bed. For instance.

It took three tries for her to lob the blade high enough for me to catch it. I didn’t like her tossing knives around, but I also didn’t like her being alone on the mountain. She didn’t have the right boots, she wasn’t wearing enough clothing, and I was pretty sure she’d cut her fingers on those damned pine tips. She was supposed to be happy and safe—that was the principle behind why I’d joined the SEALs. Guys like me fought so girls like her could enjoy the right kind of life. No one got to her on my watch or tried to tell her how to be. She even got to marry Mr. Douche Bag. So why was she out in the woods by herself?

AmazonButton  iBooksButton   BarnesAndNobleButton  KoboButton  AREButton





Harlequin’s Biggest Ever eBook Sale!

•November 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Shareable for Facebook

Harlequin’s celebrating 10 YEARS of ebooks–and books on sale include all three books in my Wicked trilogy.

AnneMarsh_WickedSexy_small  WickedSecretsWickedNights

Bayou Wolves — Excerpt #5!

•October 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s release week for my new Bayou Wolves Boxed Set: Luc, Cruz and Gianna. I’m thrilled to share the trio’s complete story–and some sexy excerpts–with you!




Backing Gianna against the wall isn’t like me. Anyone could step into the stairwell and spot us, plus there are likely to be cameras too. It’s a fucking courthouse—and all I can think about is protecting her. Fucking her. My brain is on a one-track repeating loop, demanding my body get closer and start touching.

“I kinda thought we had a relationship, what with us getting together and the yes that came out of your mouth when I asked you to marry us.”

The words come out low and rough. Probably not the sweetest thing I could have said.

She opens her mouth and then hesitates. My mood has been pissy as hell this last month, but it’s better now that I’m close to her. That’s fucked up too, but it’s the truth. We had sex and then she ran from me. If I scared her, I’ll unscare her.


If she’s decided our night together was a mistake, I’ll fix that, too.

“We rushed into things,” she says quickly, her voice cool and calm. She gives me a tight smile, one that doesn’t reach her eyes. She makes a half-hearted attempt to slide away from me, but we both know I’m not letting her go that easily.

“Nuh-uh,” I say and press a finger against her mouth. “You got scared and ran, shug.”

She makes a face. Oui. She’s busted and we both know it. The problem with dating wolves is that we’re hard to shake. You run, and we chase. Christ, I’ve got no problem with hunting her, pinning her to the ground, and showing her just how bad I can be.

“You still seein’ Luc?” Fuck. Even I can hear the growl in my voice.

Her hand flies to her neck. She’s got her engagement ring on a chain around her neck. I reach down and hook the fragile links with my finger.

“Did you break up with him, too?”

I’m not sure if it’s better or worse if she and Luc are still together. She stares up at me—okay, she glares at me, clearly aware that I’m about to lose control—but I don’t step away.

Instead, I move even closer. My fingers rest against her throat where her pulse beats madly beneath the damned ring.

“No more werewolves,” she announces. “That’s my new motto. I can have T-shirts made if you prefer.”

“You told me you loved me.”

“And now I’m recanting,” she snaps. “Fangs and fur should not be part of a girl’s happily ever after.”

“Too late to change your mind,” I say, suddenly in a much better mood. She’s running scared, but all I have to do is figure out why. And how to fix it.

My thighs brush hers, my chest pressing against her breasts beneath the dress. We’ve been dancing around this moment for months now, me watching her every time our paths cross and planning ways to get closer still. Right up until our one night in the bayou when she cut loose with Luc and me. That memory’s one of my favorites, although I intend to make more memories, preferably of the two of us. Without our werewolf third wheel. In bed.

Or up against this wall. Apparently, that works for me too.

“Hello,” she snaps. “Back off, big boy.”

I can’t hold back my grin. “Hello to you too.”

She slaps a hand on my chest and pushes. I let her. She can’t move me, and we both know it. “Move,” she demands.

I rest my forehead against hers. “I’ve got something to say.”

Taking charge isn’t always the best approach with Gianna. This fight has had two different sets of rules—his and hers. Luc’s and Gianna’s. Even if Gianna believes she’s put a temporary hold on her engagement to us, Luc isn’t going to hold back and wait. That bastard Alpha will fight for what he wants. Gianna doesn’t understand the brutality of the shifter world or the primal drive to mate. She’s so fucking human, and I love that about her. But she’s also curious and sensual as a cat. She’s been pulled into my world, and it isn’t fair, but there’s a price to be paid. Luc’s pack mates human women, and their dating practices blur the lines more than a little. Those boys hunt their brides, run them down in the bayou, and carry them off to bed. I’ve kept an eye on the Breauxs and I haven’t seen any signs that their women mind when all is said and done, but… oui. I’d like my yes up front and clear before I’m touching and tasting. In their eyes, that’s a weakness.

I lean into her.

I’m not above exploiting weaknesses, either. Gianna promised to let me have a week alone with her since she’d given Luc a week. It’s the kind of crazy, sweet thing a woman says when you push her or she’s naked or she’s feeling guilty because she can’t choose between two guys. But I accepted.

And now I’m collecting.

“Give me my week,” I say roughly. “You promised me seven nights. I want them now, starting tonight. You give me that time, and then you still want to walk? Then I’ll believe you when you say our wedding’s off.”

Her eyes narrow and satisfaction roars through me. She’s not going to pretend she doesn’t know what I want. “Let me check my planner. Oh wait. I’m booked.”

She’s perfect. “I’ve got two words for you.”

She shoves her hand into my chest again, but I’m still not going anywhere. She’s got me for a lifetime, and I’m planning on that lifetime starting now. Her pissy mood is cute and sexy—and frustrating as hell. I want to protect her even more than I want to fuck her, but fortunately for me, I can do both.

“Protective custody,” I growl, watching the way her mouth tightens. “Seven nights. I can do both at the same time, but protective custody isn’t optional. You’re mine, one way or the other.”

She immediately goes on the offensive. “Do you really think the Breed is going to come after me?”

“They’re already here,” I say. “While you were wrapping things up inside the courtroom, I was outside.”

Her muttered curse says it all. Hell, I agree with her. There’s nothing fair about the way her life has been upended, changed completely by her run-in with wolves. The past doesn’t offer do-overs however, so all we can do is move forward. I’m just hoping it’s together.

“Let’s start over.” I watch her face cloud over at my words, the crease between her eyebrows deepening as she thinks. “Be friends.”

I don’t want her thinking, not right now. I want her feeling, turning liquid in my arms and against my mouth. These possessive urges aren’t part of my plan, but she’s so near me that I feel the heat coming off her body and I want to make her hotter, wetter, needier. I’m tied up in knots for her, and that’s not good. Still, I don’t stop myself from kissing her hello. It’s not a sweet, quick press-and-release either. I take her mouth deep and hard, my tongue straight past her lips, swallowing her gasp of surprise. I don’t know why she didn’t see me—us—coming, but I’m here now and I plan on being all she sees. It’s a fucking shame it took a werewolf attack and a court case to get us to this point, but Fate’s a bitch and I don’t have the blue moon card to play.

Gianna gives as good as she gets. Our kiss gets harder, wetter, noisier. I thread my fingers through her ponytail, angling her head back because she’s coming after me, desperate to take my mouth, and we’re going to end up banging in the stairwell if I can’t exert some degree of control.

“You do this with all your friends?” She breathes the words against my mouth when I finally let her go, all my blood flowing southward and making critical thinking difficult. Good thing I already cemented my plan.

“We’re friends.” I press my thigh between hers. “But we’re also something more.”

“We’re also in public.” She digs her fingers into my shoulders, her nails digging into my skin through the cotton of my shirt.

Oui. And from the pretty pink flush on her face, she doesn’t mind. Her dress rides up, she’s straddling me, and the heat of her pussy burns my thigh. My day is turning out pretty damned perfect.

“You promised me a week.” I watch her face, but she meets my gaze without flinching.

“That was before we got engaged,” she says in a husky whisper. “Back when you and Luc believed you were competing for me.”

We’re still competing. She just won’t admit it.

“And before you broke up with me by text message,” I push. “If we’re not gettin’ married, we’re datin’. I wan’ a week alone with you.” I press my thigh higher. Christ, but she feels good.

“Oh.” She gives a greedy whimper that sounds like no objection I’ve ever heard.

I have one goal for that week, one master plan. No matter what it takes, I’m making her love me. My other goal, the easier one, is to make things safe for her. Somehow, I’ll finish my takedown of the Breed. Safety outside the bedroom—and sexy dangerous times inside the bedroom. Simple. I know myself too well to think I can be anything but dominant once she lets me touch her. I don’t play the sweet Beta well. Hell. If I’m being honest, I’m gruff and awkward with traditional courting—so I’ll make up for it in our bedroom. And Gianna… she’s curious. She’s an independent woman in charge of her life, her career, her body. I aim to change that last one, to feed her curiosity about the way I can make her feel if she hands over control to me.

I play my trump card.

“Don’ you ever get tired of being the good girl, the law-abiding one? You don’ wan’ to break the rules just once and see what it feels like?”

“That would be a career liability, wouldn’t it?” Her eyes slowly focus on a point somewhere over my shoulder, as if she’s considering my suggestion. While she thinks, she runs a hand up my neck. I’m probably not supposed to get so horny from the simple touch—hell, I don’t even know if she’s really aware of how she’s trailing her fingertips over my skin—but I know one thing for certain. I want all her attention focused on me.

So I lean in and kiss her again. I’ve got her alone and she’s soft and sweet, driving me crazy. I cover her lips with mine, muffling her small sound of pleasure. Needing more of her, I cup her face in my hands, angling her head to deepen our kiss. She moans, and I push my fingers through her hair, fisting the sleek length. She feels so goddamn perfect in my arms that I could eat her right up. Kiss her mouth, her pretty breasts, her pussy. I’m a lost cause around Gianna. She opens right up too, letting me in, letting me take her mouth, and the way she tastes drives me crazy.

I reach down and fist the hem of her skirt.

She stiffens, like kissing in the stairwell is one thing, but naked is a whole world of off-limits. I should have warned her that I cheat.

“What are you doing?” She looks as if she has a pretty good idea though, so I wrap my palm around her thigh and slide my fingers higher.

“What’s it look like I’m doin’?” See? I can be reasonable. I can ask instead of tell.

She looks down. Looks back up as if she can’t quite believe I’m going to make her answer that question. She’s cute when she’s flustered and in unfamiliar territory. She’s always in control of the situation in those courtrooms of hers, and now here I am, borrowing that self-control from her.

“Hold this for me,” I wrap her fingers around the hem of her dress.

I’ve asked myself more than once what Luc would do. Not because I want to fixate on the other wolf but because clearly Gianna is drawn to him and I need to understand why so that I can give her the same thing. Luc is fierce, wild, and completely uncivilized—he’d never hold back from pleasuring his mate.

But right now I can smell her arousal. For me.

Right here in this stairwell, she’s all mine—and I’m not letting her leave until she recognizes that.



AmazonBarnesAndNobleButtonKoboButton iBooksButton AREButton

Bayou Wolves — Excerpt #4!

•October 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s release week for my new Bayou Wolves Boxed Set: Luc, Cruz and Gianna. I’m thrilled to share the trio’s complete story–and some sexy excerpts–with you!




It’s hard to look at the defendant and not see an animal. Literally. Maybe it’s something in his eyes, the flat look that says he’ll go through me if that’s the way he can exit my courtroom. He made it clear that night in the biker bar that he doesn’t play by the rulebook, which is why he’s here. He’s also really, truly an animal. I watched him shift, watched his human form disappear in a sea of fur and claws. Life was a whole lot saner before I learned that werewolves exist and that a werewolf Alpha had decided I was his fated mate.

But if the defendant had been assigned to me, I’d still have made him regret every broken rule. He made choices that he’ll pay for, but he’ll get his day in court and his chance to explain before the law comes down on him heavier than my stepdad’s belt. I love the law, with its safety and intricacies. The law is full of fight too, and that’s one more good thing to add to my mental list.

It doesn’t matter. The wolf who will be sitting in the defendant’s box has already won in many ways. I’ve just been sidelined from my job, told I’m not capable of doing it, and that I should let some man take over and protect me. I stand on my own two feet now, and that’s too important to give up for anyone—or any wolf.

“I know you’re not runnin’.”

A hand—a large, far-too-sexy hand—cups my elbow, halting my exit. Who knew a man’s hand could be so damned sexy? It pisses me off too because I have a new no-werewolves policy for my personal life. I study Cruz’s hand, and there’s no way to tell looking at him now that he’s a werewolf, too. He could shift, just like that, and there’d be nothing I could do to stop him.

“I don’t run,” I tell him and pull away. I know he knows this—and that it drives him crazy. What is it about wolves and protective instincts? Cruz and Luc would bubble wrap me and hide me in a tower if they could get away with it. Cruz’s fingers come right back to tease, the rough pads rubbing lightly against my skin through the silk of my dress and my jacket. All the clothes in the world aren’t armor enough against the way he makes me feel. I was an idiot to think he’d read my text message about needing space and back off.

I push open the door to the fire stairs and step out onto the landing. The courtroom is on the second floor, and I’ve got energy to burn. The stairs look good right now, plus I’m too impatient to wait for the elevator. That won’t hurt Cruz’s feelings any. Like all the wolves I’ve met, he doesn’t like being enclosed. Sure enough, he’s right on my heels.

“Gianna.” He says my name, the word low and rough. Sometimes—most of the time—he’s such a closed book that it drives me crazy. It’s hard to get a read on Cruz, on what he’s really thinking. He just stares out at the world, all calm and composed. He’s Mr. In Charge, and I really can’t afford to let him take charge of me.

Even if the sex would be amazing.

I turn around—see, no running—and gaze up at him. And up and up, because Cruz Jones is no small man. He’s pushing six foot four, with broad shoulders that fill out his sheriff’s uniform and fill up the space around me. His dark hair is cropped close to his head, his jaw already rough with stubble and begging for my fingertips. Touching him was such a pleasure, and our one night together was nowhere near enough to get him out of my system. He smells good too, like heat and male and an outdoorsy sunshine-and-pine scent that has my body sitting up and taking notice. Now that I’m this close to Cruz, mine is a steady drumbeat in my head and in my blood. I want him. I’ve always wanted him, and we both know it. The wanting complicates things though, and I’d planned on making my life simpler.

Hence the break-up text message.

While I look and drool, he’s already moving, his large body crowding mine backward. My back brushes the wall.

“What do you want?” I ask instead of telling him to move the hell away from me. It’s not a good negotiating tactic. Now he knows I’m willing to bargain. The problem is, my whole body comes alive around Cruz, because the man is a genius when it comes to knowing how to give me exactly what I’m craving. My girl parts are practically begging that he demand dirty, filthy, wonderful sex and that I put out on the spot. Except I’m still in the courthouse, where even the cameras have cameras, and nothing could be more unprofessional.

“You broke up with me by text,” he says calmly, despite the tension in his big body. “The morning after you agreed to marry me. And you want to know what I want?”

He braces a hand over my head and leans in.

That’s how I know that I’m not in charge here and probably never have been. It’s heaven. It’s hell.

Because Cruz has clearly decided what he wants—and it’s me.


AmazonBarnesAndNobleButtonKoboButton iBooksButton AREButton

Bayou Wolves — Excerpt #3!

•October 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s release week for my new Bayou Wolves Boxed Set: Luc, Cruz and Gianna. I’m thrilled to share the trio’s complete story–and some sexy excerpts–with you!



My woman is sex on a stick and hell on wheels. Sure, the words are a bunch of clichés, but nothing I can imagine even begins to do her justice. Gianna Lynn is smart, tough, and one of the best lawyers in Baton Rouge—and that’s not my dick talking. This isn’t the first time I’ve watched her work a courtroom, although it is the first time since I seized my chance to fuck her when she and Luc Breaux invited me into their bed that one screwed up, wonderful, fucked-me-for-the-rest-of-my-life night in the Louisiana bayou a month ago. We talked marriage. We were all about the happily ever after—and I meant the forever kind of ending. The next morning, however, she texted me and said she’d rushed into a decision and wanted to slow things down.

Slow things down apparently being code for I can’t believe I slept with two werewolves at the same time and I therefore plan to avoid you for the next four weeks. It’s possible she’s been busy, but I don’t buy that. She ran from me, and that makes my wolf want to chase her. Hunt her, hold her, and convince her that I’m her keeper guy. Since my responsibilities as sheriff also have me in court today, this is my best chance to get started on that plan without veering into stalker territory.

I lean against the wall, arms folded over my chest, and watch her move across the courtroom to the witness stand, her red heels eating up the floor. The white suit and jacket clinging to her figure has me mentally peeling off her clothes and taking down her zipper. The best I can do is not let my thoughts show on my face, because she’s earned her place in the courtroom and I’ll kick my own ass if I screw that up for her. She’s a woman and a lawyer, but too many of the guys crowding the courtroom can’t get past her having a pair of breasts. As if gorgeous tits somehow preclude her having the smarts to lawyer rings around them.

The bailiff is all business, holding out a Bible for her to lay her hand on. I can’t help but notice that her ring finger is bare. The last time I held that hand she wore Luc’s ring, her easy acceptance of that band telling me all I needed to know about her feelings for Luc. My rival slid the pretty diamond onto her finger right after the three of us had sex together for the first and last time. I was already playing second string, second best, and I’d watched the moment, my heart splitting open. I hadn’t asked to have a heart or for it to feel so much, but even then giving up hadn’t been an option.

So I’d said my piece. Told her I loved her too and wanted a future with her. With Luc, if that was what it took. Hell, even Luc agreed to give our threesome a shot, but I’m not convinced either of us really meant it, despite Gianna’s seeming acceptance of our strange new situation. Her text the next morning was a kick in the balls and the heart, and I’ve been waiting for my chance ever since. I want to take charge, to own her. Possess her.

Bad wolf.

“State your name for the record,” the bailiff says.

“Gianna Lynn.” Gianna speaks calmly, a smile playing over her face. A bring it on look, as if she’s looking forward to each and every minute of the hearing. She may not pick a fight, but she never backs down from one, either. That’s something we have in common, and that sets us apart from Luc, who’s never met a fight he didn’t join—and then win. Luc loves winning.

But he hasn’t won our fight for Gianna. Neither of us has. I don’t hear wedding bells ringing anytime soon. My brothers have teased me about my new penchant for ménage a trois, but they think I’m having kinky-ass sex and not a relationship. If they knew the truth, they’d have harsher words for me because the Louisiana wolf packs maintain an uneasy truce at the best of times, and two Alphas loving the same woman is a recipe for disaster. I don’t want to merge our packs and I don’t want Luc. The truth is that I only want one person and she’s Gianna. Accepting Luc was the only way to have her that night in the bayou, so accept I did. If I could cut Luc out of our happily ever after, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

I’m also traditional enough that I’d like to change that last name of hers along with putting my own ring on her finger to make it obvious to the entire human world that she belongs with me. Gianna Jones sounds perfect. Pigs will fly though before Gianna takes my name, and not because she isn’t thinking about keeping me. She’s fought too long and too hard for her place at the attorney’s table to give her coworkers an opportunity to little lady her. She’s more likely to tell me I need to take her name and become Cruz Lynn.

Honestly, if I weren’t pack Alpha and charged with protecting the Jones wolves, I’d do it too. I belong to her and we both know it, so wearing her name for the whole world is fine by me. Hell, I’d do it happily. I grin, and she stiffens on the witness stand as if she senses my presence here. I’ve picked my spot carefully, and I know she can’t see me. When I hunt out in the bayou, I force my prey into an ambush, and the theory’s the same here, even though I have no intention of hurting her.

I’m just going to catch her, once and for all.

And I’m woolgathering, lost in my thoughts while the courtroom proceedings barrel happily on ahead without me.

“I’m a lawyer with a firm in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana,” she says into the microphone in answer to a question I didn’t hear.

The preliminary hearing is the prosecution’s opportunity to prove to the judge that substantial reason exists to go to trial. It shouldn’t be difficult. Gianna was kidnapped by a Baton Rouge motorcycle gang and taken to their clubhouse. Luc and I busted her free, at which point my day job as sheriff came in handy. I’d arrested the wolf who had his hands all over my woman, and now said wolf is about to get his comeuppance in a human court of law. I can hardly wait.

As the attorney walks her through basic stats, including her date of birth, I discover one thing after another that I don’t know about Gianna. I have a collection of those things, filing each new piece of information away. As sheriff, I could look her up in a half dozen different state databases, but that would be unethical and I’ve chosen to play by the rules up until now.

Unfortunately, my competition doesn’t share a similar set of ethics. Luc, the Breaux Alpha, is not what anyone would call a nice guy. In addition to being a good-looking bastard, he’s a fierce, dirty fighter who protects his brothers and their women at any cost. He’s single-handedly held his pack of werewolves together for a good hundred years or more, and under other circumstances I’d raise a cold one to celebrate his finally finding a mate he can love.

Problem is, he not only found my woman, but he found her first. His pack believes that a blue moon rises in the sky to lead them to their fated mates, and Luc claims that’s what happened between him and Gianna. So now he’s got some kind of mystical claim on her that sounds far more romantic and compelling than my I fell in love with you from afar and let’s get to know each other story. I know Gianna’s right for me, but Luc has Fate on his side if you believe him.

Done with the basics, the lawyer deposing Gianna gets down to business. “On the morning in question, did you go to work?”

“I stopped by to meet a witness.” Easy as fishing, she teases the line out, giving it some play to see if she gets a bite.

“How did you get to work?”

“My car had been in the shop, so Luc Breaux gave me a ride to my office. He dropped me off at the back of the building.”

“Why not the front?”

She shoots the examining attorney a charmingly rueful smile. “Between the No Parking signs, the FedEx guys dropping off deliveries, and all the other people popping in and out of the building, that front entrance was Grand Central Station. Pulling into the parking lot behind the building was quicker.”

Luc and I must have gone over her entrance strategy a hundred times. She’d slip into the back of the building, swing by her office and discover her “witness” had cancelled, and then parade on out front with a big target painted on her. We knew the Breed would be watching and had bet that the other wolves would seize their opportunity. Luc’s pack members, Dre and Landry, had been tailing Gianna, and I’d watched too. No way I would let her face the danger alone, not when I could be close at hand, ready to defend her. Neither I nor Luc was happy about the plan, because using Gianna as bait wasn’t right. Unfortunately, it was the only workable option we’d had at the time.

“How long were you inside the building?”

“Approximately ten minutes.”

“And then what happened?”

“I left. I went out front to meet a friend who was dropping off my car from the shop.”

“I’m going to ask you to tell the judge about what happened that evening, after you stepped outside. Do you remember that evening?”

“Yes.” She gives her testimony, all cool and collected, and not being a nice guy, I keep my eyes on her face but remember the details of our last—and only—night together.

She’d asked, “Are you in?” and hell yeah, I was. I’d picked her up in my arms and carried her straight to bed. Never mind that Luc Breaux already had a place in that bed and I’d never had a desire to get naked around the other Alpha. For a chance to love on Gianna, I’d do whatever it took. And he’d agreed. “No pack business in the bedroom,” he’d said, and then we’d both started touching Gianna.

The lawyer nods, clearly ticking off his mental checklist. “Did you meet your friend and pick up your car that night, or did something else significant occur?”

“I moved toward the edge of the sidewalk, looking for my car. My friend had dropped it off, and it was parked on the street. I walked up to it, but before I could open the door and get in, two bikers drove up.”

“How close were they?”

“There was less than a foot of space between their bikes and me. I could feel the heat of their exhaust pipes on my legs.”

“Did you attempt to move away?”


“And then what happened?”

“The defendant struck me on the side of my head.”

“And what’s the next thing that you remember?”

Gianna hasn’t talked to me much about what happened that night. I don’t know if she just isn’t much of a talker or if it’s me specifically she doesn’t want to share with. She was hurt when that asshole struck her, even if she’d agreed it was part of the plan, and I hadn’t been okay with that. I didn’t ever want her hurt. She still had the bruises, faded yellow and purple, when Luc and I went after her and asked her to be ours. We’d been so busy asking her about her feelings for us that we hadn’t asked her if was still scared of the Breed or worried that this thing with them wasn’t over yet.

I fucked up right there.

“I woke up in what I later learned was the back room of the Lucky Ten.”

“Had you been there before?”

Gianna shakes her head. “No. I’d driven past it, and I recognized the name from multiple court proceedings over the past two years.”

Lucky Ten is a dive bar in one of Baton Rouge’s seediest neighborhoods. It stinks of wolf piss and worse. Rough and violent are the adjectives that best describe even the most casual drinkers there, and some really nasty arms- and sex-trafficking goes down in the back rooms. Luc had made the case that the Breed was also selling to the vampires on the down-low. Since vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies, that particular relationship doesn’t make either Luc or me happy. We both know trouble when we see it.

It’s not the kind of place a woman like Gianna belongs. Fuck me, but it’s not the kind of place any woman belongs. The Breed’s females are either pass-arounds the males share for sex, or they’re prostitutes the pack whores out as moneymakers. Maybe I should have put an end to their presence in my city years ago, even if it meant all-out war and the possibility of exposure. The risks of attacking had outweighed the benefits though, and I’m pretty sure Luc felt the same way. Neither of us would chance getting our brothers killed in an iffy cause.

While Gianna finishes answering questions, I go outside to recon the building and its exits. I gave my testimony earlier, so the judge doesn’t need me. Gianna does, however, even if she hasn’t admitted it yet. The proof lounges right there across the street from me in the form of two big, rough-looking males straddling Harleys. The leather kuttes they wear over their T-shirts proclaim their membership in a motorcycle club, and even without seeing the patches I know that MC is the Breed. The stink of their wolves is all too clear, and that’s before the wolf on the left flashes me the bird. Normally my response would be to cross the street and arrest their sorry asses. There are rules and laws that are meant to be obeyed in the human world, and these two live to cross lines. They’re the kind of males who perform a fucking touchdown dance as they cross said line before doubling back for a repeat violation just to make a point. Problem is, I have Gianna in that courtroom, and the best thing I can do to keep her safe is to act like the sheriff I am. As pack Alpha, I’m the voice of God in the werewolf world, but my sheriff’s badge gives me the right to act in the human world as well, which means added protection for Gianna.

So I just incline my head, letting the wolves know that I’m watching them, and then head back inside, because Gianna isn’t facing trouble down without me at her side. Or better yet, her front. If she’d let me, I’d stand between her and any shit life decides to throw at her.

Inside, the judge has wrapped up proceedings, and Gianna is already standing at the prosecuting attorney’s table, arguing in a low voice with the two older men in suits sitting there.

“Paid administrative leave,” the fat one in the dark suit announces loudly enough that I would hear him even without my wolf’s sensitive hearing. “You go on paid administrative leave, and we put you in protective custody.”

He isn’t asking, he’s telling, and Gianna stiffens very slightly, although the pleasant smile on her face doesn’t fade one bit. If she ever looks at me that way, I’m in trouble. She doesn’t like what she’s just heard, but she’s pushed her reaction down deep and is plotting next steps. She fights as hard as any wolf, but she does it with words and logic.

She’s sexy as hell when she’s kicking ass.

“You can’t prosecute cases while this trial is going on,” the smaller of the two men added. His gaze flicks to the larger man to double-check his words. He smells like drugstore cologne and the cheeseburger he had for lunch. Definitely the Beta.

“The case could last months,” Gianna points out.

“It’s a conflict of interest,” the fat man continues, as if she hadn’t spoken a word. “You think of it as a little vacation, honey. You enjoy the downtime.”

The idiot actually reaches out as if he intends to pat her arm. Fortunately for him, he stops short of actual contact. Gianna does her ice princess shield thing, the expression in her eyes cold, cold, cold. She doesn’t want a paycheck for doing nothing, and she definitely doesn’t welcome her boss’s patronizing words, but she nods her head after a long moment.

“The motorcycle club might come after you again, and we don’t want that.” The fat man shifts uneasily, as if he subconsciously recognizes Gianna as an Alpha.

“No. We don’t,” she says drily. Anger rolls off her in waves, but her boss just beams at her like they’re all on the same shitty page and isn’t life great?

“We’ll set something up with the sheriff,” he declares. “You don’t have to worry. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“I can take care of myself,” she snaps. “I don’t need a man in uniform to do it for me.”

Her boss dithers and flaps—the male wouldn’t last a day in a pack—but she walks away from him, the conversation over. Gianna doesn’t look my way when she exits the courtroom, but she knows I’m here. I’d bet on it. No part of me—man or wolf—likes her ignoring me. But I force myself to wait a beat. She’s pissed off. She’s just been told that she can’t do her job. Now is absolutely not a good time for her.

Deliberately, I catch the eye of the fat man and nod. I’ll protect her.

She’s mine.

I follow her out of the courtroom, already decided. This is the last time she takes the lead while I trail around after her like a Beta pup. Once upon a time when she was still talking to me, she offered to spend a week with me, getting to know me. I’m not entirely sure if she planned on me accepting said offer, but I am. If she doesn’t want to plan our wedding, I’ll take those seven nights starting now.

Feudal? Oui. My pack is long-lived, although we aren’t as old yet as Luc’s. Too fucking bad. I’ve done plenty of living and I won’t apologize for not having been born in the Middle Ages. Gianna has biker wolves following her, hunting her gorgeous ass, and I don’t like it. And although I have eyes on her, I’ll bet Luc does too. Keeping her safe when she’s on the move could start a territory war neither of us wants. If I don’t piss off the Breed, I risk encroaching on Luc’s territory.

But that’s the thing. Luc might own the bayou, but he doesn’t own Gianna. She isn’t territory, even though we’ve admittedly both done our best to mark her. She can’t be forced or taken—she has to want to come to one of us. To both of us. Fuck, but things are messed up. I pick up the pace because I’m not losing her now.

It’s time to hunt.


AmazonBarnesAndNobleButtonKoboButton iBooksButton AREButton


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers