Previously published in the anthology The Big Alpha in Town, New York Times bestselling author Eve Langlais,
the paranormal queen of steam and sass, pulls out all the stops in this sexy, funny novella, Bearing His Name.
Meeting his mate should have been cause for celebration. There’s just one teeny tiny problem. Jade thinks Ark might have impregnated her sister. He didn’t, but convincing Jade is going to take a bit of honey.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|File size:||5 MB|
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Eve Langlais is a Canadian mom of three who loves to write hot romance. Her twisted imagination and sarcastic sense of humor tend to heavily influence her stories with giggle worthy results. As one of the authors in the Growl anthology, you can be treated to her version of romance featuring a shapeshifter, because she just loves heroes that growl--and make a woman purr. To find out more about Eve please visit her website or find her on Facebook where she loves to interact with readers.
Read an Excerpt
"I need you to find a woman for me," Ark said as he slid into the booth across from his cousin.
"Have you tried calling an escort agency?"
"Not that kind of a woman. A specific woman."
"Then perhaps you should look into online dating."
"I don't think I'll find her there because the woman I'm looking for is supposedly pregnant with my kid."
That caused a bit of choking on Stavros's part and smirking on Ark's.
"What the fuck is wrong with you announcing shit like that while a man is eating." Stavros set down his sandwich and took a swig of his iced tea. "How could you forget to cover your péos?" His cousin lapsed into some Greek slang. "What's the first thing we taught you if you're going to play with the ladies?"
And by "we" his cousin meant Ark's well-meaning brothers, cousins, and uncles. They all had advice to give a teenage boy — some of it made sense, like Watch for skin before you zip. Other stuff was a little more obscure such as Uncle Dimi's, Just don't do it. Don't do what was never exactly explained.
"I always cover it. But accidents happen." None that Ark recalled having, but he certainly had to wonder, given the card he'd received. "I got this in the mail." Ark slid over a sealed plastic bag to his cousin. As soon as he'd lifted himself off the floor and realized it contained no address or name, he'd preserved it.
The bag remained untouched as Stavros ignored it. Instead, he used both hands to bring the sandwich — a hefty beast layered with thin slices of roast beef, a thick slice of provolone, caramelized onions, a bit of salad dabbed with balsamic, a smear of mustard over a butter-toasted Panini bun — to his mouth. It looked delicious.
Want some. His mouth watered as Stavros took a bite and chewed slowly while holding half of that sandwich — which left another half.
So hungry. Ark grabbed it, avoiding the slap by his cousin as he made off with it like a bandit. He licked it and cast a sly eye at his cousin.
Stavros grimaced. "You didn't have to do that. I was going to offer it to you. I want to save room for the pie."
Ah yes, the famous sweet and salty honey pie that many a bear indulged in when in the neighborhood.
Drool. He debated ordering two pieces as he savored his bites of the sandwich. Some might wonder that he could think of food at a time like this. His bombshell still sat on the table. But he wasn't too worried. First off, he didn't quite believe the note, and second, his cousin would take care of it when he was ready. This was how Stavros worked. Slow and steady. Until he came after you. Then he struck with lightning speed.
I have the coolest family. Ark seriously did. Between his own brothers and his cousins, plus add in his uncles and his father, and family gatherings often devolved into wrestling matches. Outside of course. No one dared start something in the house since the incident with his yiayia's favorite vase. The glued and jagged pieces sat on the mantel, a reminder of the great wooden spoon incident of 1997.
They ate their sandwiches and demolished the fries before Stavros wiped his fingers on a napkin and said, "Now you may explain what is in the bag. And what you need me for."
"I got a card in the mail."
"The mail?" His cousin arched a brow.
"Yes, mail as in sent in an envelope with a stamp and an address."
"Yes, my fucking address. How else would I have gotten it?" Ark stabbed a finger at the baggie, pointing at his address, handwritten in block letters on the envelope.
"What's the letter say?"
"It's a card. Blue on the front and there's a picture of a stork carrying a baby wrapped in a blanket in its beak. Inside the card ..." Inside was the sucker punch.
His cousin arched a disbelieving brow. "An anonymous card arrives in the mail and you believe it?"
A frown pulled at his brow. "Not entirely, but then again, why would she lie?"
"Why indeed says the poor little rich bear who drives a Lexus."
"Because it's a very well equipped vehicle."
"So is a moderately priced Camry."
"But it's not as pretty." Nothing wrong with a man stroking his car lovingly every time he parked it in the garage.
"Neither is your mug, but apparently women still manage to find it attractive, hence why you manage to get pussy. And now that pussy is claiming you left a present behind."
"Claiming because I'd say there's a strong possibility I didn't." Because Ark was so very careful about these things.
"A DNA test will quickly determine the truth."
"And if she's not lying?"
"Then you do the right thing. Or I'll shoot you."
Better his cousin shoot him quickly before his mother stripped the hide from his body. "So here's the problem. She didn't leave a name or address."
"I know." His cousin turned the baggie over in his hands, checking out the postage marks on the envelope.
"What do you mean you know?"
"I know because you weren't the only one to get a card." His cousin reached into his coat and withdrew a handful of colored envelopes, tossing them onto the table. "Guess what's in these?"
Ark noted the same block lettering on the outside, and he could just imagine the card on the inside. "How many?"
"Seven now that I know of."
"Why us, though, and why that message?" Ark shook his head. "What was she think —"
"If it is a she. Could be a guy who sent this too. Chances are it's someone who wants to see if any of the boys will crack and then they'll hit with the blackmail."
"You think it's a hoax? If it is, then it's not a very funny one." His brow creased, and his bear grumbled, not happy at all. "I want to know who sent it." Because for one heart-attack moment he'd truly wondered if he'd impregnated a girl. If that happened, and word got out, he'd find himself tackled to the ground — by his mother — and forced into a wedding — by his grandmother and her sisters — to a stranger with a baby.
Except, according to Stavros, there was probably no baby. And that, for some reason, made him mad — because babies are cute. Really cute so long as they belonged to other people.
"What should we do now? We can't let them get away with this," Ark said with a crack of his knuckles. "Bruises, broken bones, castration —"
"You do realize I'm an officer of the law —"
"Currently serving a suspension."
"— and you're talking about assault."
"Aren't we protected by some family law?"
"That only works if we're married. Are you proposing? Do you want us to adopt the imaginary baby you and seven other cousins that we know of are having?"
"You are no fun since you joined the boys in blue." And to think that as children, Stavros had led them in wondrous mischief. Now he arrested them for the same things he used to do. Since when was watering weeds in an alley against the law? Indecent exposure his hairy ass.
Hairy as a bear, not a man.
"I might be an upstanding citizen now" — the statement so incongruous that Ark couldn't help but snicker — "but that doesn't mean I don't have any fun. And how many times has the family found having a cop in the family useful?"
"I haven't. You haven't cleared a single parking ticket yet."
"But I did stop giving them to you in order to meet my quota."
"Let's get back to the card. What should we do next Mr. By the Book?" Ark rolled his eyes. He also scratched himself. Obeying the law made him feel so dirty.
"We do nothing for the moment. Whoever sent this covered their tracks well. Mailed the cards via regular postal service in different states. No fingerprints. No address. No name. Nothing."
"So we sit on our paws and wait for a lucky break?"
We could wait in a sunny patch with a bowl of berries to snack on. His bear had definite ideas.
"We need a trail to hunt. I'm figuring the culprit will contact some of you soon and try to take this scam to the next level." Stavros tucked the baggie with his and the other cards inside his jacket. "The others were clean, but just in case, I'll have Johnson run it for prints and see if we get anything."
And if they did, then what?
Shake the hell out of the idiot who'd scared the honey out of him.
I need some golden remedy, stat!CHAPTER 2
"You did what?" her sister screeched as she paced the room. "I specifically told you I did not want you to get involved."
With her legs sprawled over the edge of the couch, Jade continued to file at her nails. "You only told me that because you're an idiot."
Ruby whirled and shook a finger at her. "No, what's idiotic is contacting a group of guys looking to find the one I had sex with once."
"Mind-blowing sex according to you."
"Yes, it was hot and sweaty and fun. But that's all I remember of him."
"Well, he certainly made sure you'd remember him. Or have you forgotten something?" She eyed her sister's protruding belly.
A hand dropped protectively on it. "He didn't do it on purpose. He used a condom. I remember that."
"And yet you can't remember his face."
"It was a Halloween party. It was dark. His costume was hot."
"You were drunk."
"Two drinks is not drunk, just happy. I was in the mood, so I found someone like-minded." Ruby shrugged. "Not all of us are prudes when it comes to sex."
Not a prude, just picky. Jade had issues with intimacy. "He could have at least called you. You gave him your number."
"I wrote it on his hand in lipstick. It probably got smudged."
"Or maybe he never meant to call." Jade knew men. They were fickle.
"Could be." Ruby shrugged. "A shame, though. He was really good at it."
"I can't believe you still lust after him."
"The man truly was a god. I gotta say, for a spur-of-the-moment encounter, he totally rocked my world."
A spur-of-the-moment encounter that left fruit. "What I'd like to understand is how you could not know you were pregnant. Didn't the missed periods clue you in?"
"You know I was never regular with those things. And I just thought I was getting fat because of that awesome pastry store I hit on the way to work every day."
"I can't believe I didn't notice at Christmas. Are you sure you're that far along?"
Ruby nodded. "Doctor says I got knocked up in either October or early November by the size of the baby. And I didn't hook up with anyone for over a month after that party on account of the move."
It still bothered Jade that her sister had kept secrets. They were always so close. "I should have never let you go out west by yourself."
"Not this again." Ruby rolled her eyes. "You can't keep me bubble wrapped forever. It's not that bad. I'm pregnant. Whoop-de-doo. Happens to women all the time."
"It's a lot of responsibility to handle on your own."
"And yet hundreds of thousands of women do it every day. So can I."
"What of the father, though?"
"You mean Zeus?" Ruby's grin widened. "Just think of it. A god impregnated me. And not just any god, the mightiest Greek god of all." Her sister's eyes brightened as something devious struck her. "Ooh, maybe we'll call the baby Hercules."
No. The horror. "You better be screwing with me. No way are we calling any nephew of mine Herc." Jade couldn't restrain a shudder.
"Okay, maybe we won't. But I can assure you we are definitely not calling him Theodore." The name of the father who'd skipped out on them when Pearl, their youngest sister, was still in diapers.
"We have plenty of time to figure out a name."
"Not really. And what if the sperm donor wants a say?"
"He'd have to man up first."
"What do you think they'll do when they get the card?" Ruby asked, one hand reaching down to rub against her belly.
"If he's got any kind of moral backbone, he'll take responsibility and help you out with the kid." Jade could have yanked back the words as soon as they left her lips.
Ruby's back straightened. "I don't need anyone's help, thank you very much. I can take care of my son myself."
"I never said you couldn't, but that will be a lot easier to do if Mr. Can't Keep It in His Pants coughs up some cash to help out."
"And what if I don't want his money?"
With a narrowed gaze at her sister, Jade said it softly. "You'll take it for the baby's sake so he doesn't have to watch his mother work herself to death like we did." A single mother of four kids — with a deadbeat of a father — meant Jade's mother had spent more time out of the home earning a few paychecks than giving them hugs and reading bedtime stories. As the oldest of them all, that task had fallen on Jade, which was why she felt compelled to meddle in her sister's life when she'd arrived on Jade's doorstep, her belly a ripe watermelon. Apparently during their weekly phone calls her sister had neglected to mention that important fact.
"You are so incredibly bossy," her sister grumbled.
"And don't forget I'm right. You know this is the proper thing to do." Jade just hoped the guy had the balls to face the results of his actions. Of course it would help if she'd sent the possible candidates an address. But Jade wanted the guys to sweat a bit first. To spend a few sleepless nights thinking on their actions.
She felt only a twinge of guilt at the thought she was stressing out seven men instead of one. How else was she to ferret out the right one? She'd managed to discover, and not easily — she spent a few hundred dollars bribing someone on the catering staff — who the guys wearing the Zeus outfits were at the fateful party. Brothers and cousins all from the same family as it turned out. Problem was the public profile pics Jade found didn't ring any bells with Ruby. Her sister didn't recognize any of them, but maybe they'd remember her.
"What if he wants nothing to do with the baby?"
"Then we'll take him to court and make him face his responsibilities."
"Seems rather harsh for a few minutes of bump and grind." Her sister flopped onto the couch, right on top of Jade's belly, drawing an oomph.
"Cow. You're going to squish me flat."
"Whiner." Ruby grinned, a dimple popping in the left cheek. "Thanks again for letting me crash here. With the baby getting close, I didn't want to be alone."
"You'll never be alone." Because Jade would always be there for Ruby and the baby.
Or so she hoped later that afternoon when she opened the door to find a big menacing dude with craggy features standing there. The dude, who looked straight out of a mobster movie in his pinstriped suit, loomed over her in the doorway.
"Yes, but you're not the UPS guy," she managed to say. She'd expected her package of shoes. Bought on sale and a decadently beautiful red.
However this guy didn't hold a package. He did, however, hold her gaze, locking his eyes to hers and causing her heart to race. Something fluttered in her.
Fear. Anticipation. Arousal ...
What the hell? "Who are you?" she whispered.
Oddly enough she could have sworn she heard someone growling, Mine.CHAPTER 3
I'm your mate. You're mine. All mine.
The realization hit Ark the moment the door opened. A vanilla-honey scent drifted out to him, the sweet fragrance wrapping around his limbs, stroking his skin. It even managed to ignite his taste buds.
Want the yummy thing.
Bear and man both wanted the same thing. The woman standing before him.
The certainty that she was his mate hit him much like that baseball bat had in third grade. It punched the air out of him with an almost audible whoosh.
Unlike many boys, Ark didn't mock the mating instinct. He knew, when it hit, a man was a goner. He didn't stand a chance.
And to think what took me down isn't even chin high. Then again, he was rather tall for a bear — and he wasn't even a Kodiak. Or so his grandmother claimed. Funny how none of her kids looked like their dad.
Jade eyed him, cute as could be with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, drawing attention to the high cheekbones, rounded cheeks, and full, pouty lips. Dark lashes blinked over darker eyes. The tip of her pink tongue wet her lips. Her skin was a creamy cocoa he wanted to lick.
Good enough to eat.
Reality bitch slapped him, and he realized her lips moved. "Can I help you?"
Well, yes, as a matter of fact she could. She could help him by letting him gather her into his arms, bend her back, and plunder those luscious lips and maybe nibble on that throat, have a little suck at the skin. Perhaps leave a little bite to mark the spot.
Now most men might have shied away from wanting to leave a permanent mark on a strange woman. But this woman was his. Earmarked by fate. Handed to him wrapped in track pants and a T-shirt that read, Mine. Okay so it actually featured a princess making a rude gesture. In his mind though, he could totally picture it.
He might have stared overlong without talking. His brothers weren't there to slap him and tell him to stop freaking out the pretty girl. It caused her brow to knit, adding to her cuteness.
"I said can I help you? On second thought, I don't care why you're here. What ever it is, I'm not interested." She went to slam the door, and he snapped out of his stupor long enough to insert a hand in the door.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Bearing His Name"
Copyright © 2018 Eve Langlais.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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