Going to the chapel, and her sister is going to get married…no matter what.
Josie Cole might be unlucky in love, but she's a pro at matching other couples. When her sister gets married to the man of her dreams, it'll be Cole Matchmaking Services one-hundredth match, and secure Josie a television special that would boost business.
Private investigator–and werewolf–Ryder McManus doesn't believe in marriage. Catching cheating spouses has taught him there is no such thing as happily ever after. But then he never expected to find his fated mate, Josie, at his best friend's wedding festivities.
When Josie and Ryder are together, the chemistry heats up. While he's trying to stop the wedding, she'll do whatever it takes to give the couple a dream day. But the secret he's trying to expose might just ruin everything…
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Read an Excerpt
What a Werewolf Wants
A San Francisco Wolf Pack Novel
By Kristin Miller, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Kristen Miller
All rights reserved.
"Cameras there ... and there. Got it." Josie Cole scanned the dark corners of Blackbird Bar for the crews who would catch the details of her hundredth successful love match. "I can do this."
Yanking up the top elastic band of her Spanx, she checked her black strapless top — to make sure the girls were in place — and fluffed her hair over her shoulder. Her chocolate-brown curls were already reduced to waves, but she couldn't do anything about that now.
Other than her hair, everything else looked perfect.
Her sister Carrie really had chosen the right place for tonight's event. Blackbird's served the best cocktails in the Castro. The place beckoned patrons to sit back and stay awhile, with dim mood lighting, comfy bar seats, and dark wood accents. Carrie and her fiancé, Mitch, who were so wonderful together, rented the place for the evening and had spared no expense. Champagne circled the room, and the bar remained open.
Everything was perfect, which made Josie so happy. She wanted this for her sister, and it was just a bonus that this was Cole Matchmaking's one hundredth successful match.
This was it. Her little sister was getting married.
Since Carrie chose to have only two people in the wedding party — a maid of honor and a best man, Mitch's best friend from childhood — the rest of her college friends huddled into a booth in the corner whispering about everyone who strolled in. She didn't know any of them. Well, she didn't know anyone, actually. A group in their fifties or sixties — Mitch's parents, maybe — situated themselves in the corner of the bar. Smiles lit their faces, and even from across the room Josie could feel their joy.
Jealousy stung hard, wiping away whatever traces of happiness she'd just picked up. She and Carrie had lost their parents five years ago, and their grandparents thirteen before that. They only had each other now, and that'd always been okay. Until nights like tonight when sentimental reminders like Mitch's loving parents stared her in the face.
Taking a deep breath, Josie glanced toward the two cameras setting up in the corners of the room. Liza, the reporter who wanted to do the story about the milestone match, peered from behind a camera and gave a quick thumbs-up before diving back into her glass of champagne.
Her sister didn't have any problems with cameras following her wedding festivities. In exchange for catching a few highlights of the week's events, Channel 10 News was donating a five-night Hawaiian honeymoon for the happy couple.
Carrie really couldn't say no to that.
As long as everything went smoothly, and the happy couple said their vows in six days, they'd get a relaxing honeymoon, and she'd get more exposure for her business than she'd ever dreamed possible.
Anxiety rippled through her as she approached the bar and slid onto the nearest stool. The place was full, except for the seat next to her.
"Three-Eyed Raven," she called out to the bartender. He nodded and then started mixing bourbon, dark ale, and coffee. Absolute perfection, as far as she was concerned. "That'll loosen my nerves," she mumbled.
But then a strange scent hit her, and her entire body went on high alert. Her neck and shoulders stiffened. Blood rushed like molten lava through her veins. The aroma — spicy, yet fresh, and deliciously male — tingled her nose and awakened her senses. She searched the bar. From one face to another. Trying to pinpoint where the scent came from.
The door to the bar had just opened, bringing in a rush of cool air, and the aroma filled her nose.
Someone had come in. He weaved through the crowd. The scent increased until she couldn't smell anything else. She spun on the stool, slowly turning his direction, the breath frozen in her lungs.
As he broke through the crowd, her heart jolted to a stop.
The stranger wore black slacks and a blue dress shirt that emphasized his mesmerizing sapphire eyes. His hair was slick and black. Long on top, tapered down the sides. Full, plush lips were set on a ruggedly square jaw. Broad shoulders gave way to strong arms and large hands — ones she wouldn't mind having all over her body later.
And then his gaze flickered to hers. She averted her eyes with a shudder, her skin chilling with gooseflesh. As he strode closer, she heated through with a combination of anxiety, hope, and dirty thoughts.
Straddling the stool next to her, he caught the bartender's eye and said, "Red Wedding."
It was a mixed drink with gin, and the only one on the menu she hadn't been tempted to try. Sampling this guy was a whole other story. He looked confident. Smooth, even. As if he owned the bar and could take all the women who were in it to bed. A shadow of stubble covered his jaw, only adding to his undeniable sex appeal.
"On second thought, what are you having?" he asked, leaning toward her.
Those stupid little things called words needed to come right about now. But they didn't. She stared. Grinned. Swallowed down a laugh. And silently begged the bartender to hurry with her drink. Where'd he go for the coffee? Colombia?
The bartender slid over a small glass moments before her throat caught fire. She tipped it back, gulping the bold liquid as if she were dying of thirst.
"Scratch my first order. I think I'll have one of those," he said to the bartender, and then set his sights back on her. "Must be delicious."
She was thinking the same thing looking at those lips.
Nerves pinballed through her, fuzzing with the bourbon in her tummy. Swallowing hard, she said, "Are you here for the bride or the groom?"
"The groom." He stared straight through her, his gaze burning deep. "Mitch has been a friend of mine since childhood. What about you?"
God, he smelled divine. She couldn't stop breathing him in.
"I'm here for the bride."
It was all she could spit out before the bartender slid over a second Three-Eyed Raven. The stranger tasted, sampling, licking droplets of moisture from his bottom lip.
His tongue lingered in the corner of his mouth. "Damn, this is sinful."
The erotic thoughts she was having about a total stranger? The feelings swirling inside her, tightening her belly?
Hell yes it was.
She went damp between the legs, quivering with want. She'd never had this type of reaction to a stranger. Not ever.
"Where are you from?" His voice was dark and raspy, calling to her on a crazy-primal level.
"San Rafael originally, but I live in an apartment in Sausalito now." She gulped down another drink. For bravery. And then another, for luck. "You?"
"I live in the city," he said, eyeing her carefully, undressing her with his eyes. "Right near my work."
Her body heated to uncomfortable levels. Was she sweating? Could he tell? "What do you do?"
"I'm a private investigator."
"I specialize in infidelity," he went on. "Cheating spouses, divorce investigations, that kind of thing. I get a sick joy out of exposing liars for what they are."
Total hottie with a moral compass?
"I'm sorry to keep staring," he said, narrowing his eyes as he moved in closer, "but I have this strange feeling that we've met before. I don't think that's possible, but I can't help it."
He felt their connection, too.
How could he not? It was palpable, sparking between them like lightning, leaving behind traces of hot electricity shooting through her middle.
"I've never met you before," she said as everyone in the bar disappeared. "I would've remembered."
She never forgot a handsome face.
He scooted closer, leaving his drink behind him on the bar. "What's your name?"
"It's beautiful." He extended his hand. "And it's pleasure to meet you."
She took his hand and shook. From the moment they touched, currents of white-hot heat snaked between them, jump-starting her heart. Electricity pulsed through her hand, warming her to the core.
"Whoa," she whispered, taking back her still-buzzing hand. "Did you feel that? It was like static electricity or something."
* * *
Oh, I feel it all right.
To the average non-shifter like Josephine, the jolt could've easily been confused with static electricity. But to him, a werewolf without a mate, it was most definitely the Luminary spark.
He hadn't been a werewolf long — the attack by a rogue wolf that turned him had happened three years ago — but he'd heard that the connection with his fated mate would be undeniable. That he'd know his Luminary from their first touch.
Before tonight, he'd accepted the fact that he wouldn't bond with his Luminary, even if he found her. Especially if she was a non-shifter. He'd gone down that road before — dated a woman who knew nothing of werewolves or the wolf pack — and it had ended in disaster. During the first full moon of his transition, he'd walked in on her cheating and shifted in his rage. He hadn't attacked her, or her lover, but that didn't mean his thoughts were pure — truth be told, they were anything but.
The horrified expression on his girlfriend's face had been enough to spook him out of wanting any kind of lasting relationship. He'd do anything to never be looked at that way again, as if he were a raging beast.
"Are you all right?" she asked, genuine concern lacing her tone.
Still, despite everything, the urge to claim Josephine as his own hit him like a sledgehammer to the gut. Fighting against the need, he winced, bowing over the bar.
"You're mine — I'm fine," he corrected quickly. "I'll be fine."
It didn't matter that the Luminary bonding process would extend his life to a thousand years, along with his fated mate. He didn't care if it'd make him stronger and faster than before.
He'd live alone rather than bond with a non-shifter who'd view him as nothing more than a monster.
He couldn't deny it, though: from the moment he sat down at the bar, Josephine had captured his attention. She was the perfect combination of sweetness and sin. Wispy brown hair layered around her face dropped to her shoulders in a soft, silky fall. Her heart-shaped face was angelic and smooth, her skin white as porcelain against the contrast of dark hair. Almond-shaped eyes stared at him innocently, yet those lips — pink and luscious, with a slight curve at the corners — gave him fantasies he shouldn't have in the first place. Fantasies that included her lips traveling over his body and circling around his cock.
Had she asked something?
"Josephine," he said finally, testing the way her name sounded on his lips.
"Yes." She looked to be pained, or biting back a whimper. "That's my name."
Grinning slowly, he turned toward her completely, until their legs were touching between the barstools. Her thigh was between his.
He couldn't help himself.
He had to get closer.
To capture her there, he brushed his hands along her knees and waited for her to tell him to move them. It was forward, even for him. And he was rewarded with the sexiest grin he'd ever seen.
"What do you do?" he asked. "Wait, let me guess ... You're either a model or a reality television star."
She snorted and then covered her mouth with her hand. She was so damn cute.
"I'm so far from a model it's not even funny," she said.
"I disagree wholeheartedly. You look like one from where I'm sitting."
Even if he refused to bond with Josephine, that didn't mean they couldn't sleep together. He wouldn't let her get too close. In the last few years, he'd become an expert at building and keeping boundaries. But there'd be nothing wrong with exploring their connection in a physical way. She was voluptuous, and curvy in all the right places. One of the most gorgeous women he'd ever seen in his life. As images of her naked and writhing beneath him flashed through his head, the air between them charged with something intense.
Her laugh died off as if she felt it, too. "What would make you guess reality star?"
"Those cameras, for one." He pointed over her shoulder, where a camera seemed to be zoomed in on the two of them. "They've been focused over here from the moment I sat down."
"Oh, those." Spinning around, she eyed the camera and then turned back to him. "They're here for me — well, for my work, actually. A few camera crews are going to follow my sister and Mitch around this week and then video their wedding."
He felt his eyebrows frown. "What does their wedding have to do with your work?"
"I'm the one who set up Carrie and Mitch eight weeks ago." She beamed. "They're my hundredth successful match. Martha Silverstone is interested in doing a piece on —"
She continued on, but he didn't hear a word of it. The temptress sitting in front of him was the matchmaker? She had no idea who she was setting up, or whether or not they'd be a perfect match. He'd planned to come here tonight and tell her so. If other people wanted to get married and then divorced, that was fine. Only gave him more business. But she had no idea what she was doing when she set Carrie up with Mitch.
Although his friend should've revealed the truth about being a werewolf to Carrie long before he proposed, the matchmaker should've known better than to set people up who didn't know a thing about each other.
"You said Josephine, so I didn't pick it up at first," he admitted, "but you're Josie Cole."
He stated it simply. Hoping she'd correct him. Instead, she nodded, grinning.
"Did you catch the show last month?" she asked. "Maybe that's where you think you know me from?"
"No, I don't think that's it." Going dizzy, he shook his head. "What made you decide to go into matchmaking?"
"I'm a hopeless romantic." She shrugged dainty shoulders. "I believe there's one true person out there for everyone."
He coughed and buried his response in the longest drink of the night.
"You don't think so?"
For non-shifters, hell no. Years of catching cheating spouses in the act had taught him otherwise. As for werewolves, the jury was still out. Maybe the whole "fated mate" thing was blown out of proportion. He hadn't been part of the San Francisco Wolf Pack long enough to know many couples, but why wouldn't it be the same as every other relationship?
"I think if we're honest," he said, "we should acknowledge the fact that the only people we can truly make happy are ourselves."
"That's incredibly self-centered." She frowned. "Look at my sister and Mitch. They're great together and seem to make each other happy."
"Yeah," he said, coming up for air. "If you only look at the surface."
She flinched as if he'd struck her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"How can you possibly match two people together based on an application? It doesn't make any sense. Sure, you know what kind of music the other person likes, or how many kids they want to have, but you can't possibly expect to really know the people you're setting up from a piece of paper."
She stared, her brown eyes going wide. "Apparently I have my methods. Not a single one of my couples has broken up."
"I don't think Mitch and Carrie will make it down the aisle."
She fumed, nostrils flaring, lips tightening. "What on earth would make you say something like that?"
"Cynicism, I suppose."
"No doubt stemming from your job." She nodded as if she understood. "At first I thought you might've been someone who cherished marriage and monogamy, after seeing so many couples split, but I was way off the mark. You're one of those people who think everyone is destined for divorce."
"See, already you've pegged me wrong," he whispered, closing the distance between them. "I may not think monogamy is for everyone, but I don't have a problem with it, if that's what floats your boat. I simply don't think signing your name to the bottom of a marriage certificate eight weeks after you've met someone is a good idea, no matter how strong the 'match' looks on paper."
She stood, leaving her drink half empty on the bar. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. ..."
"McManus." He extended his hand, but she didn't take it. "Ryder McManus, best man in your sister's wedding."
She paled right in front of his eyes. He dropped his hand as her jaw fell open.
"You're Mitch's best friend."
He nodded. "The one and only."
Excerpted from What a Werewolf Wants by Kristin Miller, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Kristen Miller. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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