This sketch originally appeared as part of Nocturnal Book Reviews 2015 Christmas With... series.
Small-town Meiers Corners police detective Elena O’Rourke Strongwell and her master vampire husband, Viking Bo Strongwell, are celebrating this Christmas with a trip to Mexico to find her mother’s relatives. USA born and bred, this is her first trip to Mexico, but it won’t be her last!
Bo drove our shielded Maybach into Monterrey just as the sun was rising.
I watched the sky begin to lighten. “That was weird, driving from Illinois south.”
“What do you mean?” My big blond hubby, who’s built like a Viking warship cleaving the waves, cut a glance at me with his Nordic blue gaze.
“It was like a backward time warp. You know, we had winter in Meiers Corners, but it was fall in Texas, and it’s fricking summer here.” I gestured to the flowers adorning nearly every home we passed. “This riot of color. This heat. The really cool crèches.” I pointed to the nativity scene outside a church, traditional Mary and Joseph but in a manger built of what looked like bamboo, with her wearing a bright print dress and him a brilliant cape—or I guess they’re called serapes—instead of the bathrobes we’d used as kids at Good Shepherd Lutheran.
“Ah, Detective.” Caressed by his black satin voice, my title was an endearment. “You’re such a romantic.”
“Am not.” I felt my cheeks heat. “I’m a tough cop.”
“Dammit.” Times like this I wished for my Latina model mother’s cheeks instead of my Irish lawyer father’s.
“You still have a very pretty blush.”
“Sweet Bavarian cream-filled donuts, you’re still a smooth talker. Look, there’s our motel.”
Bo pulled into the lot and did most of the talking getting our room. Growing up in a town of German immigrants meant my Spanish was pathetic, but even I knew the clerk’s friendly “Feliz Navidad” meant Merry Christmas, and I smiled.
In the cool of our room, I kicked off my shoes and sat. “What do you want to do until sunset?”
He only arched one blond brow.
“Yeah, of course. You want to play Hide the Fang.” Vampires spell libido N-O-W. “Can we watch some tube after?”
He sighed. “Not another Buffy marathon? You were the one who wanted this vacation from staking vampires.”
“I don’t stake ’em, I use a bazooka. More efficient. C’mon, it’ll be fun.” Sure, I was mostly a practical by-the-book detective, but I secretly loved everything and anything paranormal. “We can play the drinking game.”
“Which one is that? Drink every time Buffy waves Mr. Pointy? Every time Giles spouts a variation of ‘Buffy, you must take being the Slayer more seriously?’ Every time Spike cuts someone with his cheekbones?”
“Nah, I have a new one. Every time a vamp plates up for battle. Which adds new meaning to ‘putting on your game face’.”
We’d just settled onto the bed for some kissing when a scream resonated through the wall.
Bo’s head came up, his eyes going blood red as his v-nature came online. “Rogue vampire,” he hissed. “Next room over. Spilling human blood.” Then his irises cooled to violet as hesitation crossed his face. “You wanted a vacation from staking.”
“We’ll have a busman’s holiday.” I leaped off the bed, my hand already on my knife in its secret holster, sewn into my jeans. “Can I be bad cop this time?”
“You can be anything you want.” Shooting me a fierce grin, Bo flickered and was at the door, prepared to throw it open to the now-bright day. As a thousand-year-old-plus vampire, he could stand maybe ten minutes of sunlight. But we wouldn’t be outside more than a few seconds. He said, “Ready—partner?”
I grinned. Even after five years of marriage, being Bo’s partner was still the best damned feeling in the world. “Oh, yeah! Let’s go.”
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Bonus Pull of the Moon sketch: Little Blue Riding Hood the Big Bad Wolf
This sketch originally appeared on Dark Faerie Tales as part of the 2015 Fantastic Fables series.
Little Blue Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf
Once upon a time, witch princess Sophia Blue skipped along a path through the big forest, her heavenly blue cloak floating like a cape. She carried a basket of goodies to her little old grandma who lived in a cottage deep in the woods.
Well, not quite. At twenty-six, Sophia didn’t skip so much as powerwalk. And her cloak was really a banker-chic navy pantsuit. And her little old relative was her Aunt Linda, herself a witch.
But those are simply details, interchangeable scarves and belts on the little black dress of our Fantastic Fable.
As Sophia powerwalked along the wooded path, she swung her basket, thinking of how her dear aunt would enjoy the gooey chocolate chip cookies inside, baked fresh that morning—in the bank where Sophia worked. As penance for a terrible mistake, Sophia had given up her magic and embraced the life of a mundane.
So Sophia didn’t see the dark shape filtering between trees, following her.
* * *
Alpha wolf shifter Noah glided after the beguiling female, following her exotic scent like a dog on the trail of kibbles. Or rather, as an alpha wolf scenting a possible mate. He didn’t know who the female was, but as he ran to get ahead of her, he was stunned motionless by the most amazing eyes. Star-shot blue, like the moon sparkling on a warm sea dazzled him over a strong nose, pure skin, kissable lips…she’d passed him again.
The woman lifted the basket and did a little spin. “I just know Aunt Linda will love these cookies.”
Noah had heard of Linda Blue—she was a witch. He didn’t trust witches. Witches had killed his mother and nearly killed him. But he was desperate to meet the beguiling young woman, so he shifted to wolf, an alpha’s easy morph with his clothes shifting inside with his human, and ran ahead to Blue’s little cottage in the woods.
Nestled deep in the forest was a snug bungalow. At the round little door, Noah shifted back and raised his hand to knock.
The door flung open in his face. A kindly apple-cheeked woman peered up at him. Blue eyes opened wide and the little old woman gasped.
Scared? Noah winced. His big black wolf must still be bleeding through his human form. He’d never scare a woman, so he scrunched his eyes in concentration, willing the powerful beast to fade…
“Oh, aren’t you a good-looking wolf?”
His eyes flew open.
Linda Blue wasn’t scared. She was grinning in delight.
A plump, beringed hand grabbed his arm. “Well, what are you waiting for. Come in, come in.”
She yanked him inside—by tooth and claw, the woman was strong—continuing to natter. “You’re the new alpha, aren’t you? Unmated to boot! And guess who’s coming here? My little niece Sophia, a princess and unmarried too. You should go on a date!”
“Ms. Blue, I’m not here for a blind date—although I do want to meet your niece.”
“Oh, yes of course. We can do that” She smiled cherubically as she dragged him into a smaller room. “Just climb into bed.”
“What?” He blinked from a raised old-fashioned four-poster back to Blue.
The little old witch’s cheeks pinked and she finally let go. “Well, how else can nature take its course?”
“Ms. Blue, that’s totally inappropriate.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair.
“Not if a mommy and a daddy love each other very much—”
“Hmm.” She tapped a plump finger against her lips, costume jewelry clacking. “You’ll apparently need a bit of ‘convincing’. Okay. One for the money, two for the show.”
“Aunt Linda?” Sophia called through the cottage front door in her lovely alto. “I have cookies!”
Noah closed his eyes and a smile drifted onto his lips. He could listen to that voice forever…
“Three to get ready—”
So he didn’t see the witch’s wind up, and only felt her wallop him with a spell.
“And four to go!”
Magic hit him like a blast of electricity, shocking him numb, then burrowing into every cell in his body. “What was that…?”
Something fluttered against his bare feet. His eyes snapped open, and he glanced down.
He was wearing a sack-like ruffled nightgown. His hand rose to his head…an equally ruffled dust cap was on his head.
Damn witches. Never trust a witch.
“Oops.” Linda tittered. “That wasn’t quite the spell I meant, but it’ll do. You’d better get under the covers.” She hooked a foot behind his knee and shoved him until he stumbled and fell onto the bed.
She shooped underneath.
“Auntie, where are you?” The beautiful Sophia came into the bedroom. Seeing Noah, her star-shot eyes widened.
They really are the most beguiling blue…
“Aunt Linda? Um, what big ears you have.”
“Huh?” was all Noah could think to say. His voice came out half growl, and he saw for the first time that the hands atop the nightgown were covered in a large amount of black hair.
By his fangs and claws. He was partially shifted.
A fist punched him from under the mattress.
“Um, all the better to hear you with?” He gazed at Sophia’s lovely skin and lips…he felt a stupid grin float onto his face.
She startled. Swallowed hard. “What big teeth you have.”
He snapped his snout shut. Damn, what part of half-shifted had he forgotten?
Another poke of the mattress made him growl. Enough was enough, accident prone spell caster or no. He rolled over the edge of the bed and snarled under it, “I am not saying ‘All the better to eat you with.’ That’s just spouting a line from a bad porno. Change me back.”
“I can’t.” In the dark under the bed, Blue twiddled her fingers and grinned innocently.
“Fine. I’ll have to do it the natural way.” He leaped to his hairy feet and tried to shift. He was an alpha and normally could do it almost instantly, but the spell had screwed something up. He couldn’t shift human so he tried wolf. He closed his eyes and rearranged, his black hair running down his body like rapidly laying overlapping roof shingles, his limbs flowing forward and down, his face extending, ears sliding up.
In less time than it took to think it, a huge black wolf stood in his place.
Sophia gasped, eyes wide in both fear and wonder.
He’d never scare a woman, much less one who might be his mate. He clamped eyes and practically forced his cells to shift human.
Again the spell interfered. Normally his clothes shifted out with his human form.
This time, when he opened his eyes, he’d shifted back naked.
Sophia’s jaw dropped. Then she swallowed hard and licked her luscious lips. “You’re…quite muscled.”
Shifters weren’t body conscious and he preened. “Thanks. You’re quite beautiful.”
“Oh. Um, thanks.”
“I’d like to get to know you better.”
“So would I.” She set the cookies down by the bed. A plump, beringed hand snaked out and snared them. “But you have to get dressed.”
“I can do that.”
After he dressed, they walked out, hand in hand, Linda beaming behind them.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Free Serial Contemporary Romance! Hot Chips and Sand was the first romance I wrote. I'm updating it and showing you how with Hot Chips and Sand with Edits. Note: I am updating it again for ebook release.
Vickie (renamed Skyler for the actual release), a redheaded programmer, has been kidnapped and carted off to the Middle East. She escapes, only to run into a cliff of a man...