Kensey Deaton comes from an elite werewolf lineage, but just because her family is royalty, doesn't mean she'll fall in line like some perfect little princess. She has plans and they don't include an arranged marriage!
Slade McAlister has his own family drama. His Alpha father happens to be the most reviled wolf on the eastern seaboard, and it's a stigma he can't escape. So when his neighbor Kensey--the girl of his dreams and his nightmares--proposes a solution to solve *both* of their problems, he sees an opportunity he can
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|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
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Every once in a while, a loud crash came from inside the house. Glass shattering, wooden furniture splintering. Hell. I was willing to bet six of my toes — and maybe my tail — that even the Monet wasn't safe from my father's wrath today. Then again, when your father was a Fire Wolf, a werewolf with an infinity for the fire element, a nasty temper was to be expected. One might even say it was part of his charm.
Probably not me, but, yanno, someone ...
It'd started out like any other Sunday morning. Four-course breakfast, decadent rose-scented bubble bath, followed by warmed, sinfully fluffy towels — and me hiding out in the kitchen scarfing down a microwaved breakfast burrito while trying to paint my toenails orchid — apparently the it color of the season.
My father had stormed in as I'd stuffed the last oversized piece into my mouth, a clump of cheese making its way down my chin in a very unladylike manner, and proceeded to give me the lecture. I'd heard it a thousand times before. Grow up, straighten out — take more responsibility. Except this time, there was a nasty little add-on to the speech I'd memorized. A single sentence that, when uttered, had turned my entire body to ice and begged that breakfast burrito to make an unwanted reappearance.
"Your days as an unclaimed wolf are at an end, Kensey."
There was more to it, of course, but it all kind of faded to black after that sentence. His words freaked me out so badly that I'd run — pretty much literally — from the house and didn't stop until I'd climbed to the top story of my childhood treehouse in the back yard.
Run up a tree like a cat.
By my own father.
This was a personal low for me.
So here I sat. Trapped in my own treehouse, waiting for my father to leave for the day. Scuffle off and do whatever alpha wolves did with their Sundays. At least it hadn't been boring. Someone in the house next door to us, the McAlisters, was having as crappy a day as I was.
The side door burst open, and a familiar figure stormed from the house. I hadn't seen him in a while, but Slade McAlister looked exactly the same as I remembered. Strong frame, shoulder-length, dirty blond hair, and a bad attitude hovering in the air above him like a black cloud. He got to the middle of the yard before the door banged open again. Gavin McAlister, Slade's leather-clad, motorcycle kingpin father, stomped outside after him.
"We're not finished," he barked. Gavin was the leader of the pack whose territory bordered ours.
"No," Slade replied without looking back. He kept walking, making his way toward the back of the yard. Our property, and theirs, was bordered by the Falcon State Nature Preserve. It was technically our territory, but we allowed the other members in the coalition — a collection of six semi-local werewolf packs — to run on it. "Pretty sure we are."
"I command you to stop," Gavin said with deceptive calm. The underlying tone was menacing but, more than that, held the air of authority more befitting of a dictator rather than a father.
Slade had no choice. He froze mid-stride and turned slowly to meet his father's gaze.
Gavin stalked forward and stopped a few feet away. "You are my only son, so you will do this for our family."
"No," Slade replied. "I won't. And I think we both know that I'm not your only son, so don't try to sell me that bullshit."
It was technically true. Slade was Gavin's only legitimate son, but everyone knew there were a few other siblings floating around.
Gavin growled and grabbed the front of Slade's shirt then hauled him off the ground like he was tossing an empty cup into the air. "You will. That is a command from your alpha." They stayed like that for a moment, and I had to give Slade props. Even I would have looked away before he did. When Gavin was sure his son was properly cowed, he set him down and took a step back. "You have two months."
Slade made a show of smoothing out the front of his worn leather jacket and rolling his shoulders then lifted his head to meet his father's gaze. "Two months? To do the impossible?" He laughed. "Clearly your age is getting to you."
"You're a strong wolf. An outstanding specimen and prime example of our species. You are pleasing to the female eye — I've seen the way they look at you. This shouldn't be that hard a task."
An outstanding specimen. Gavin sounded just like my father. We weren't their children. We were brood stock used to improve the herd. Poor Slade was getting the same ultimatum I'd just gotten. I might have felt sorry for him if I didn't hate him so much.
"You're forgetting about the blood that runs through my veins, sir. Blood the other packs in the coalition view as unclean. Unworthy."
"It's about time that changed. It is time to show them how worthy we can be."
"And how do you suggest doing that? There are exactly five girls of claiming age — none of which would consent to be in the same room as me, much less be claimed."
"You are your mother's son," Gavin said. My hearing was superhuman even in human form, but my eyesight was another matter entirely. It was a running joke among my family. The only near-sighted wolf in history. But, even though I couldn't see the exact details of Gavin's face, I'd bet the bastard was wearing a big fat grin. "Be as charming as she could be — on the rare occasion she wanted to."
Slade's heartbeat quickened, and he held his breath as Gavin turned and strolled back into the house. After his father was gone, he let out an enraged howl and slammed his fist into the tree behind him.
Once. Twice. Three times, and I could smell the blood.
I rolled my eyes. "Seriously?" I called out. "What did that tree ever do to you?"
His head snapped up. He knew exactly where to look.
We'd spent endless hours up in this tree when we were younger.
Until he turned into a dick like his father, anyway.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" He stalked across his yard and propelled himself over the wooden fence between our two properties.
You had to admire his bravery. Technically, he was stomping around uninvited on another pack's territory. Then again, stupid little details like that had never bothered Slade McAlister.
"Duh," I said as he reached the bottom of the tree. I settled on the edge of the small porch and dangled my legs over the side. Swinging them back and forth, I added, "I'm sitting in a tree."
"You were spying on me?" He glared up at me, tightening his fists, and I couldn't help noticing that his nose still twitched when he was angry. It'd been years since we'd spoken. I saw him in school once in a while, saw him coming and going at home from afar, but we hadn't had a conversation since the start of seventh grade.
"Get over yourself, McAlister. You're not that interesting."
"Careful, Princess. We're dangerous. You should probably watch yourself."
I snorted. "Watch myself? Why? Are you gonna come up here and get me?"
"What's the matt — Oh, that's right. You've got a thing about heights nowadays, don't you?"
It was mean, and a part of me felt bad about ribbing him. I didn't know exactly what had done it, but the rumor was that it involved his father and happened a few weeks after we'd stopped talking. Ever since then, it'd been kind of a joke in the wolf community. The badass son of the even bigger badass alpha. Afraid of heights. It'd eaten up some of his street cred, and he'd done double time trying to make up for it. Slade was bad news wrapped in a flashing neon warning sign and dipped in dangerous.
He glowered up at me, shoulder-length, disheveled dirty blond hair blowing in the wind. "What do you want?"
"Just commiserating." I pushed off the edge and plummeted to the ground, landing in a half crouch. "Sounds like we have the same problem."
"The same problem?" he repeated with a snort as I straightened and took a step back. He ran a hand through his messy hair and nodded toward my house. "Which one would that be, exactly? The being waited on hand and foot? The never ending supply of gourmet food? Or the undeserved adoration and respect?"
Respect? Seriously? That pissed me off.
I gave him a good, hard shove. "I think you know better than that, asshole. Girls don't get respect freely in our world. They earn it. And you better believe any I've got, I earned." Not that I got much respect. Pretty much the opposite. They all either treated me like a breakable porcelain doll — there to accumulate value as I aged like a fine wine — or as a leaper. Those who didn't fall all over themselves to gain my attention or approval avoided me like the plague. Like my rebelliousness might be catching or something.
He didn't miss a beat. He shoved me back — not as hard as I'd pushed him — and scowled. "Oh, I'll bet. Bat your big brown eyes and flip your wild red hair around while they all fall in line. Hard work, I'm sure."
I blinked. Once. Twice. Three times ... He'd pushed me!
I opened my mouth but couldn't force the words out. Unheard of. The daughters of an alpha were treated with kid gloves. Wined and dined and showered with excessive amounts of adoration and love. You wanted an eighty thousand dollar car to cruise around town in? Done. In the mood for an authentic croissant? Hop aboard the private plane and take a quick trip to France. Needed a peek at your favorite author's unreleased book? Don't worry. Daddy knows someone who can make that happen for you.
"Jackass." I shoved him again, this time harder. Of course, it barely registered. Guys like Slade didn't go down easily. If he'd been a normal human, I would have sent him flying. But seeing as how there was a wolf under all that great hair and deceptively charming smile ...
"Spoiled brat," he fired back. Then he did it again. He pushed me. Only this time, he didn't hold back — much. He knocked me on my ass. I landed on the ground with a thud and was left staring up at him in shock. He gave me one final, nostril-flared glare before turning on his heel and starting back toward his own house.
As I watched him go, my brain kicked into overdrive. Slade wasn't afraid to break the rules. He didn't care about formalities and our society's stone-aged patriarchal bullshit and had a reputation for causing a stir — his whole pack did. It's what had them teetering on the edge of being dissolved.
An idea took shape. A plan that, if successful, might just spare me from being pimped out to the bluest bloodline.
Pack daughters were married off to strengthen the bloodlines. It happened all the time, the daughters of alphas being forced into arranged marriages to wolves their fathers thought would improve the family.
Every several generations, a different high-profile family in the wolf community forced one of its daughters to tie herself to the son of another alpha. It merged our supernatural gifts, creating stronger wolves, and brought new blood into the fold — especially for a pack like ours that hadn't added a new member in almost a century.
But my life was worth more than the blood that flowed through my veins. I refused to allow my future to be dictated by my pedigree. If there was even the smallest chance I could do something to save myself ...
My father wanted me to start looking for a mate? "Choose one or I'll choose for you," he'd said.
Fine. Then I'd do as I was told. That's what women in our society did, after all. Obeyed.
I wondered how he'd feel about the Big Bad Wolf next door ...
I smashed my fist against the dashboard and cursed again. Piece of shit van had been giving me trouble for the last three weeks. Now the engine wouldn't turn over. Sure, I could have bought a new one. Could have bought an entire fleet if I wanted to.
But I'd have to use his money — and I wanted no part of it.
I turned the key one last time then let my head fall back. I could walk. The school was only about six miles away. For a wolf, that was equal to jogging out to the mailbox and back, but I didn't feel like it. Maybe it was best to skip it altogether. After the day I'd had yesterday, and the scuffle Gavin and I had gotten into this morning resulting from it, I wasn't in the mood to be around anyone. My wolf was more restless than usual and was looking for any excuse to cause trouble. I unfastened my seatbelt and had moved to open the door when a blast of cool air blew through the car.
The passenger's door slammed closed with a whine, but I didn't turn. I could smell her the second it opened. Honey and apples. Same as when we were kids.
"I can't believe you still have this thing."
I gripped the wheel and pulled in a deep breath. "What. Are. You. Doing. In. My. Van?"
"Obviously, I'm looking for a ride to school."
This time, I picked my head up. "A ride to school?" She was insane. Why the hell else would she crawl into my ride? After I'd caught her spying on me? "And gracing me with conversation two times in two days? I'm sure I'm not worthy of the honor, Princess." I reached across her and pushed open the door. "Now get out."
"First, stop calling me princess. It's annoying." She pulled the door closed again. "And second, could you act like less of a dick for just a minute? I have something to talk to you about."
I grabbed my travel mug and took a long pull. The coffee was ice cold already, but I didn't care. One of my pack brothers made it, and it tasted like crap hot or cold. No one in that damn house could make a decent cup of coffee.
"What could you possibly have to talk to me about?"
"I think we should date."
I'd just started to lift the cup again and froze mid-tip. The liquid missed my mouth and splashed into my lap. "You think we should what?"
She rolled her eyes and proceeded to fasten her seatbelt. "I don't mean for real."
"So you wanna fake date me?" I mopped up the spilled liquid with the end of my sleeve. Either someone had slipped her something this morning at breakfast, or she'd lost her damn mind. "How would that work, exactly? And why? Also, you're not my type. You've got no tits."
Her expression darkened. "Pretty sure you don't have the opportunity to be picky." She glanced down at her chest then up at me. "And my tits are perfectly fine, thank you very much."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
She scowled at me and pulled her shirt tighter. "There is nothing wrong with my — "
"Not that. Picky?"
She slouched back in the seat, making herself comfortable, and flashed me a knowing grin. "I heard Gavin yesterday. He's pressuring you to find that special someone."
Pressuring wasn't the right word. It was too ... tame. Gavin McAlister didn't pressure. He demanded. You did. End of story. If not, well, the repercussions were one of the many things that had given our pack a bad rep over the years.
"What's that got to do with you?" I tried to start the van again. Nothing happened.
"I got the same speech."
I snorted. "Highly doubt you got the same speech I did." Mine had included several blows to the face and a choke hold. Hers probably happened over tea and fucking biscuits.
"Whatever." She shrugged. "The gist was the same."
I gestured between us with a snicker. "And you think this is the solution?"
"Got a better idea?" She folded her arms. "Because I doubt any of the other eligible pack daughters will see your ... potential."
"And you do?"
"Course not." She waved a hand in front of her face and scrunched up her nose. "You smell like cigarettes and ..." She leaned a little closer, breathed in a little deeper, and her eyes widened just a bit. There were flecks of gold in them. I'd never noticed before. "Is that — is that beer I smell?"
I pressed my finger to her forehead and pushed her back. "How does pretending to date you help me?"
"It's a mutually beneficial arrangement."
"Pretending to date is mutually beneficial?"
"It solves both our problems. Your father won't be pressuring you, and mine won't be pressuring me. Win-win."
"Oh. Yeah. Sure. It's a solid plan." I tapped the side of my head and gave the keys another violent twist. Nothing happened. "Oh! Shit! But what about the obvious?"
She blinked. "Obvious?"
"You know — when they want us to actually claim each other?"
"Obviously we won't let it get that far. And really, how could it? I think it's fair to say, with no particular prejudice to either family, that no one will be thrilled to see us together."
Excerpted from "The Big Bad Wolf"
Copyright © 2018 Jus Accardo.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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