Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Heart Mates 2nd Edition up for preorder

I'm so excited to share this with you all, I couldn't wait another week. Not only do I have an amazing new cover from Scott Carpenter, not only did I get an expert blurb from the Blurb Queen, I've rewritten this book for the reissue and included the new first chapter here. Check it out! (Look for April's 3T Writing Tidbit next week.)

To survive, they’ll have to find the missing pieces—starting with their own.

Sophia Blue wishes the cute little doggie she’s found in her aunt’s abandoned magic shop could talk. Maybe he’d tell her if the old woman has wandered off on a walkabout, or if there’s foul magic afoot. Odd how the scruffy little fur ball seems to understand Sophia’s every word.

Just a few years ago, she might have cast a spell to translate the dog’s ear-piercing yaps. But her magic is out of her reach, locked away in penance for mistakenly helping an evil wizard.

Noah Blackwood was the last person to see Sophia’s aunt before she hit him with a spell gone sideways. By night he’s two-hundred pounds of authority, a respected local pack leader. By day? He’s twelve pounds of poof dog. A tasty morsel for the five anti-alpha wolves gunning for him.

The instant the sun goes down and Sophia’s eyes meet Noah’s, fire ignites between them in an incendiary kiss. But when the evil wizard reappears intent on murder, Sophia must break through killing layers of pain to find her magic. And Noah must reclaim all that he is—even defy the law—to claim the woman his heart knows is his mate.

Warning: Contains a sassy ex-witch princess who hasn’t picked up a wand in four years, and a rare alpha wolf who proves attitude knows no boundaries. A little drooling, a lot of panting, and a few nips in all the right places. Flea collar not included. Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Apple | Kindle UK

Chapter One


Noah Blackwood opened the door to the Uncommon Night Owl Bookstore, knowing full well he was walking into trouble.
     He’d only been alpha a few days, but he already had a sense for when members of his pack were in trouble—and when they were causing trouble. Sure enough, as he glided soundlessly across the threshold of the bookshop, his foot struck broken glass. He scanned the store with a narrowed gaze.
     Seventeen-year-old Marlowe stood to his left, beside a front display case. His dirty fingers were wrapped tightly around something, caught in the act of stealing it.
     Marlowe was a bully in training and a young man with too much time on his hands.
     By bloody tooth and claw, Noah would give the pup something better to do.
     As he closed the door and strode toward Marlowe, Noah realized the pack youth was frozen in place, fingers squeezing the thing as if he couldn’t let go.
     And that the thing was a foot-long psychedelic capped tower that looked uncomfortably like an erect penis.
     Noah scowled. He wasn’t sure what was more unnatural, that frozen boy or the flower-power dildo.
     A rattle of beads from the back of the store caught his attention.
     “Mr. Blackwood.” The store’s proprietor—Linda Blue, who styled herself as some sort of seer—swept apart a back curtain of beads and trundled out. “You need to keep better control of your people. You’re better than the old alpha Scauth, of course—”
     “Alpha? You know about shifters?” Noah stared at the small, round woman. The magical communities were secretive and small. A mundane human, even a seer, shouldn’t know about the pack. “How?”
     “That’s beside the point…oh my.” As she neared, her hand fluttered in front of her ample bosom. Magic flared in his sight, nearly blinding him. She’d cast a spell.
     Damn it, she was a witch.
     Noah’s palm pressed automatically to his chest, shielding his wolf medallion. Well, that explained how she knew he was pack. Witches were trouble. Big trouble. The sooner Noah got Marlowe out from under her feet, the better.
     “This won’t happen again, ma’am.” He half-growled it, his inner wolf close to the surface.
     “And how do I know that, Mr. Blackwood?” She looked down her long nose at him, a difficult feat considering Noah was almost a foot taller.
     Angry Marlowe had put him in this situation, Noah wanted nothing more than to take the boy and leave. But witches took careful handling. He controlled himself and said mildly, “Let me talk with the boy. You’ll see.”
     She waved a hand, and Marlowe staggered as if released. Noah’s hackles rose. A witch who could freeze a wolf was no mere dabbler.
     Marlowe dared to snarl at him. The idiot.
     Noah seized the pup by the scruff of the neck—and Marlowe swung at him with the pink rod.
Noah saw red. The rod was a doodad in a magical store full of doodads that did who-knew-what—and the pup was swinging it like a bat? He wasn’t an idiot, he was an imbecile. Snatching the rod from Marlowe’s hand, Noah hoisted the pup until his legs batted air.
     Snarls changed abruptly to thin whines.
     Letting the pup meditate midair on his errors, Noah set the rod gently on the display case. Barking dogs, he didn’t know how close he’d skated to disaster. Noah gave the pup a good scold, letting his roiling anger and alarm bleed into his tone. When he set him down, he rapped his nose for good measure.
     The boy slouched, as if his tail were tucked between his legs.
     Noah turned to the witch. “I’m sorry for the boy’s behavior, Ms. Blue. Naturally, I’ll pay for any damages.”
     “Well…” She rocked on her toes and Noah could see her mind working. He waited for the worst, but her plump cheeks turned rosy. “If it can make us friends…apology accepted.”
     “Thank you.” Friends? With a witch? He’d rather pal around with a rabid badger. “I’m glad to have this settled.”
     He grabbed Marlowe by the shoulders and marched the pup toward the door. The witch hustled past them to open it.
     She misjudged the distance and plowed into them both. Noah twisted to catch her from falling.
She blinked up into his eyes, beaming. “Oh, thank you!”
     Her girlish batting disoriented him just long enough for Marlowe to twist and duck away.
     The pup, laughing, ran to grab the dildo then dashed toward the back of the store. His running fist pumped the tower in the air like a bizarre personal barbell.
     “My vibrating skyscraper mushroom!” the witch cried.
     “Mushroom?” Marlowe, as if trying to aggravate the damned witch, turned and crowed. “It’s a psycho dildo ’shroom!”
     The witch flitted after the pup, spinning her fingers like a thousand itsy bitsy spiders, her jewelry clacking like an antique train. “One for the money, two for the show.”
     Noah launched himself after her. Twist his tail, she was casting a spell. She looked sweet but if she had real power, well, he’d seen the destruction of mages’ battles. “Don’t—”
     “Three to get ready and four—”
     “No!” Dread kicked Noah to leap for the boy.
     “—to go!”
     He cut eyes back. Air warped toward him, wavering like a hot day. Before it hit, Noah tackled the boy, taking him to the floor. The impact took the rod from his hands, flying in an arc through the beaded curtain of the back doorway.
     Noah raised his head.
     The warped air rippled past them, sailing into a free-standing Snow White oval mirror near the doorway.
     The spell rebounded off the mirror. No, the mirror didn’t just bounce it. It augmented it.
     Noah shoved to his hands and knees as a glittering tsunami of magic whooshed out of the mirror, heading off to his left. Damn it, this was why he hated magic. Unpredictable, uncontrollable. The spell shot into a glass curio cabinet full of pictures, hit one, and ricocheted—
     Straight into his face.
     It punched him like a fist. He spun on his knees and fell onto his back, magic shivering into his skin like a thousand tiny barbs. The spell spiraled down into him, condensing in the middle of his chest…and then nothing.
     While Noah lay there panting, Marlowe leaped to his feet and disappeared through the beads.
     Barking dogs. The pup had probably scooped up that damned mushroom on the way.
     Noah wrestled to his elbows. His nose hurt like he’d taken a real fist. The witch packed quite a wallop for looking like a sweet Mrs. Santa.
     Weaving fingers fluttered suddenly in his face.
     Acid splashed through him. “Lady, don’t—”
     “Reveal.” She stared down at him in plate-eyed horror, her face draining of all color.
     “What in blazes is going on?” His words were more growl than voice. Normally, he had excellent control of his wolf. But this, on top of being forced into the alpha fight and the challenges to his new leadership, would make even the calmest wolf howl. He shoved himself to his feet. “What did you hit me with?”
     The witch’s fingers covered her mouth. “You felt that? Oh my. Oh dear. This is not good. This is very not good.”
     “If you don’t tell me what—”
     “Nothing. Everything.” The plump woman flitted to the mirror. She traced its dark wood frame with fluttering fingers, her eyes surprisingly intent.
     “Lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about. But that was some serious magic.”
     She whirled, skirts flying. “How do you know that?”
     “Same way I know you’re a witch.” He tapped his nose.
     “That’s impossible. No one can sense a witch.”
     He shrugged. “I can. I’m pack alpha.” The truth, in so far as it went.
     She whirled back to the mirror, studying it so intensely Noah was surprised it didn’t blush. She was muttering to herself. “Impossible. Magic is paradox. Witches sense the paradox but shifters are the paradox. A shifter sensing magic would be like…like a color sensing itself.”
     Typical witch. No real answer. “Just tell me what you hit me with, Ms. Blue.”
     The witch’s cheeks pinked. “Call me Linda.”
     He tapped his dwindling reserves of patience. “Nice to meet you, Linda. I’m Noah—stop that!”
     She wagged fingers at him, muttering.
     Noah stepped sharply back, too late. The spell hit him with a brief glitter. “Damn it, I hate sparkles.”
     “You saw that?” Her eyes widened like hobbit doors. She spun, trotted to the curio cabinet, opened it, picked one of the pictures, and carried it back to him. “It hit Sophia’s photo before it struck you. Do you know her?”
     Sophia. The name rang like the purest bell in his mind.
     Then she pushed the picture into his nose, and the woman’s face hit him harder than the spell.
Smooth, elegant, so beautiful he wanted to howl. Sophia. Glossy bronze curls, elegant nose, and eyes that punched him in the gut. Big, intelligent eyes, yet something in her gaze hinted that if a man got her someplace private, they’d do some amazing things—
     Noah backed away. He’d never heated up that fast. Damn it, what had the witch done to him? He tried to speak, but nothing came out. He swallowed and tried again. Still nothing.
     Desperate to hang onto his control, he closed his eyes and used his three-two-one descent to his quiet place, one of the few things he’d kept from his childhood. After dipping a toe in the cool, calm waters of rationality, he opened his eyes again on the witch. “No. Never met her.”
     She tapped the frame against her lip. “Interesting.”
     “Linda, enough. What hit me?
     “The tiniest of hexes.” She bustled to put the picture back then trundled to an armoire to lift a folded white sheet from the shelves. “A simple bur.”
     He shook his head. “That didn’t hit like a bur.”
     “Yes, well, it took a few detours first.” She closed the cupboard, trotted to the mirror and threw the sheet over it. The cloth slithered into place like silk. She twitched a few places to cover the mirror completely just as a bell tinkled from the front of the store. The sound of the door opening was followed by a beam of dawn sunlight lancing across the floor. “There, that’s taken care of. I—oh dear.”
     She spun and stared at the front door.
     “What’s the matter…yip?” Suddenly dizzy, he pressed a hand to his head. Or tried to. A paw wavered in front of his face.
     “We’re closed.” Linda’s tone was strained.
     Noah shook his head to clear it. He felt so strange. He finally managed to focus on the front door where an older woman stood, hands over her mouth, staring at him.
     The woman stuttered, “The door was open and I… D-did that man just turn into an animal—?”
     Noah froze. Had he shifted without meaning to? That hadn’t happened since he was in diapers. He reached for his human…and nothing happened. What was going on?
     “No, no. That’s an illusion.” Linda bustled to the woman and turned her away. “All mirrors and such. Come back tomorrow.” She hustled the woman out, closed the door, and collapsed back against the jamb, hand against her forehead.
     “Mr. Blackwood. Noah.” Heaving a breath, she straightened and trotted toward the back of the store. “You stay here. I have to go check out a few things.”
     “Yip?” He couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
     “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Then, in a flurry of hairpins and a rattle of beaded curtain, she was gone.
     “Yip yip…? Yip!” He ground his teeth. Witches. Couldn’t trust the lot of them. Always secretive, and not in the necessary, protecting-the-pack way. He started after her, using the long-legged lope that was his wolf’s stride…and upended, landing on his back, little furry legs batting above him.
     That was when he found out he was a fifteen-inch dog.

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