Wolf Gone Wild: First 3 Chapters
Sneak Peek: Chapters 1-3
“Would you like another beer?”
If I thought it would do any damn good, I’d have a hundred more. But it was no use. Nothing helped. It was only getting worse.
That meathead at the bar is staring at us again.
Please just be quiet for five minutes. I need to think.
Yeah, keep lookin’, asshole. I’m going to bloody your face good.
Christ. He wouldn’t shut up tonight. The intensity of his urges were worse than ever. At least he leaned more toward violence than sex. His push for a fight was somehow easier to tolerate than his constant commands for me to get laid. Small blessings.
Look! He’s standing. He’s coming to challenge us. Good. Prepare for combat.
He’s leaving. Settle down.
“Sir?” The young waitress stared at me, wide-eyed with concern. I didn’t blame her.
“No.” My eye twitched. “Thank you.” I pulled out a twenty and set it on the table, then headed for the door.
That’s right. Time to wipe that sneer off that asshole’s face.
He wasn’t sneering. You’re imagining things. As always.
I’ve been imagining my fist knocking out his teeth. Now I want action.
Once outside, I took two seconds to scan the block, just in case Alpha was right and that guy was looking for a fight. He made me paranoid. Jittery.
My wolf might need to break someone’s bones, but I didn’t. I needed help. I couldn’t put it off any longer. The offending sneerer was talking to some chick and paying us zero attention, so I headed quickly up Magazine Street in the opposite direction.
You’re going the wrong damn way!
No, I’m not. We’ve got more important things to do than brawl on the street.
A growling snort sounded in my head. Oh, yeah? Like what?
We’re going to meet a witch.
You may be a coward, but you’re no fool. A woman is exactly what we need to take the edge off.
Aaaaand, here we go again.
Preferably a curvy one. Need something to hold onto when I’m—
A horn honked as I crossed Magazine, the nightlife still kicking even as some bars were closing down.
All supernaturals in New Orleans knew about the Savoie sisters though I’d never met them. They had individual talents to help supernaturals in need. And sometimes humans. Those who actually knew about our existence, that is. I’d pay anything right about now for their help. I’d take out a mortgage on my gallery and home if necessary. But I also had heard they were fair. One of them was a Hex-breaker. She’s the one I was looking for.
Coming up on Ruben’s Rare Books & Brew, I slowed my stride. The bookstore was closed this time of night, of course, but patrons of another variety veered around the corner and down the alley. Beautiful human women hung on the arms of inhumanly perfect men who escorted them to the back entrance of The Green Light. A throaty laugh belted from a pin-up gorgeous blonde in a pink latex dress. Vampire. She tugged her handsome catch for the night down the gas-lit alley to the back entrance.
Leaning against the corner of the building, seemingly disinterested in the comings and goings, was a tall, black-haired guy smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t just hanging on the corner. He was working for Ruben, the lord of the New Orleans vampire coven. I knew what he was within twenty yards of him. A wave of darker urges tugged on my psyche and my body.
Alpha rumbled a purring growl at the heady sensation the grim reaper stirred. We called them grims. Not because they escorted souls into the afterlife, but because they carried an aura of darkness, pulling on impulses and cravings that people liked to suppress, to keep in check.
Of the four supernatural creatures, grims and their powers were the most mysterious. My cousin Nico told me once that he’d seen six of them show up at an apartment complex fire when he lived in Houston. They slipped into the burning building without the firemen seeing them. Knowing lives had been lost, Nico thought maybe they did have something to do with transporting souls after death. Who knows? They never gave out information about themselves, but for some strange reason, they always seemed to know a hell of a lot about everyone else.
A grim was the perfect employee to hang on the corner of a vampire den. The supernatural law was that blood-hosts must go willingly to feed a vampire for the night. A grim standing near the entrance—arousing a human’s suppressed cravings for danger, lust, and vanity—would definitely tempt them into the vampire underworld.
Most humans were oblivious to the supernaturals living amongst them. Until they weren’t. Those in some inner circles knew about us. But they kept our secrets—out of fear or respect or both.
Though I didn’t like standing in the personal space of a grim, I figured if anyone had the information I needed, it would be him. I wasn’t sure who the Hex-breaker was, but I bet this guy did.
“Hey. You know the Savoie sisters?”
The grim—his features sharp and his intelligence sharper by the looks of his all-seeing brown-black eyes—sucked a deep drag of his cigarette before responding.
“No. I don’t know the Savoie sisters.” He measured me from head to toe, flicking a tip of ash onto the sidewalk. “But I know about them.”
Smartass. Break his nose.
“Do you know anything about the Hex-breaker?”
He regarded me with a nonchalance that rang false. This guy observed, calculated, and stored away everything with those dark eyes. He probably knew more about the people in the Bohemian, trendy district of Magazine Street than anyone else.
“The second sister, Eveleen. Redhead. Spunky personality. Expert level curse breaker. One hundred percent success rate according to the Witch’s Coven Guild database. Works four to five nights a week at the Cauldron, which the sisters co-own. Including tonight.” He glanced up and narrowed his eyes as if trying to recall something. “I don’t think she’s closing tonight.”
Whoa. “How do you have access to their database?”
He shrugged, refusing to answer as he scanned the street, watching passers-by with that hooded gaze. He was done feeding me information.
“Quite a gig you’ve got here.” I nodded to the alleyway.
He blew out a stream of smoke and stubbed his cigarette against the brick wall behind him. “Better than some other jobs grims are hired for.” His voice had dropped to a low, threatening level.
Alpha growled a warning.
“Is that so,” I said as a statement more than question. I could believe it. And I sure as hell didn’t want to know what jobs he referred to.
“Standing on a street corner, smoking cigarettes, and people-watching for $150/hour? Yeah. It’s a good gig.”
Damn. Ruben paid well. I’d never met him, but everyone knew of him. Good to know he appreciated his employees. I was fairly sure Ruben had access to the information database in this dude’s head for that kind of hourly rate.
“I guess I owe you a tip for the information.” I reached for my wallet in my back pocket.
“Nah.” He grinned, his wide mouth quirking up more on one side. “Knowing a wolf is about to walk into the Cauldron is payment enough.” Shaking his head and grinning, he looked down and pulled out his pack of cigarettes from his back jeans pocket.
He lit a cigarette, squinting as he inhaled. The tip turned orange, his brows creasing in sympathy. Suddenly, I had the urge to punch that look of pity off his face.
Go with this feeling.
His gaze sharpened on my own. He must’ve caught a flare of the wolf in my eyes. The longer I stood here, the more my insides fizzled with urgent agitation and the need to do violence. Hot blood hummed in my veins, pushing me harder. Shifting from one foot to the other, I kept my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t reach for him.
The grim stood straighter, but not to buck up on me. That would be stupid. He might be near my height, but he had no idea who he was really dealing with. Actually, he probably did. Perhaps, he was preparing to run, which told me he was far wiser than I’d suspected.
Bring it on, grim.
He spoke, his tone even and low and full of warning. “They don’t deal with wolves. Never have.”
I nodded, narrowing my gaze on the witch’s place down the street, needing to shift my attention to the goal at hand.
Mmmm. A redhead. I like.
If she’s going to help us, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut.
A dark chuckle rumbled in my mind.
Fine. I had no choice, one way or the other. With a parting nod to the grim, I strode with purpose toward the Cauldron.
This is the last thing I needed. After a ten-hour shift, a frat boy puking on my boots, and a drunk-ass chick singing an off-tune, super slutty rendition of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” on our bar-top, I now had a werewolf begging me to break a hex.
A fine werewolf at that. And, okay, maybe he wasn’t begging. I wasn’t sure a man like him knew how, but the thought sent a primal shiver from the top of my spine down to where it zinged between my legs.
“You’re Eveleen, right?”
While the never-break rule of No Werewolves kept pinging around in my head, his smoky baritone told my lady parts it was a silly, silly rule.
“It’s Evie. And yes. But I seriously doubt yours is a hex.”
Did he just growl at me?
“Whatever.” I hopped up on the bar-top, spun my legs over to the other side, and landed beside him. “I wish I could help. But we’ve got rules. No werewolves. Sorry.”
It didn’t matter how beautiful he was with those broody, soulful eyes and that unruly dark hair falling past his chiseled jaw. Jules would kill me. I tried to ignore the pained look hardening his expression as I passed behind him. Jules hadn’t laid down the laws for no reason. She was smart and cautious. All in an effort to keep us safe. Ever since our mom relinquished reign of New Orleans to Jules and hightailed it to the Alps with my dad for a well-deserved retirement, Jules had taken her job very seriously. That’s why I ignored the torturous tightening of his mouth and furrowed brow and kept on walking.
“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
He followed me as I upturned the stools onto the bar-top so the cleaning crew could do their job once we locked up. Behind the counter, JJ dried the tumbler glasses, glancing between us and eyeing the Wolfman appreciatively. He arched a perfect brow with a smirk. His smirks could mean a number of things. This one could have said either “Don’t let that fine ass out of your sight” or “Danger, don’t touch that.” I needed to get better at reading JJ’s hidden messages.
“Look. It’s not about money.” After I hefted the third stool upside down onto the bar, a giant hand wrapped entirely around my forearm.
Turning to him, my ponytail swished over my shoulder. I looked where he held me until he dropped my arm.
“Sorry,” he grumbled. “I’m just… I need help.”
Okay, maybe he wasn’t beyond begging. In the intensity of his eyes flaring hazel-gold then cool brown, I could see he definitely had some kind of supernatural twitch. It bothered me, I admit it. But rules were rules.
I propped a hand on my hip and stared out at the street, still buzzing with nightlife. We closed the Cauldron at midnight, but other bars and clubs on Magazine Street stayed open much longer. Biting my lip, I swiveled back to him. “Have you talked to your people?”
“Yeah, your werewolf club. Lycans. Your familia.”
His expression blanked. “I have none.”
“Am I making myself unclear somehow?” His scowl deepened, and his voice dropped a few decibels into a super growly range. I didn’t point out his dark mood swing was exactly why Jules enforced her no-werewolves rule.
I chewed on my bottom lip and debated. He had that preternatural stillness I’d seen vampires get when they were hyperaware of every move of every living thing in the room. It made me uneasy. I was about to tell him one more time that I couldn’t help him and he should seek out his own kind when the dude in the corner who’d had one too many of our Blood Orange Old Fashioneds stumbled into him from behind.
Wolfman had him by the throat and pinned to a tabletop with wicked-fast speed. The warning rumble building inside the werewolf’s chest raised the little hairs on my arms. Then I realized it wasn’t a warning. He was squeezing the life out of the drunk guy.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” I eased closer with slow movements, wrapping my hand around his forearm. A well-muscled and nicely veined forearm, I might add.
JJ leaped over the bar and strode toward us, coming way too fast. The werewolf’s growl deepened, but his eyes remained on the dude he was choking. I shook my head at JJ. He stopped midstride, keeping his distance but his eyes on the threat.
“Easy…easy,” I crooned to the dangerous man about to commit murder in our bar.
I maneuvered my body between him and the tabletop and put both my palms on his chest. I sucked in a breath at the furious vibration of his body. He was hot. And I don’t mean just fine-ass-hell hot. I mean volcano-rumbling-with-lava hot. Hissing between my teeth, I pumped a gentle surge of magic into him, like I would to move an object telekinetically. The pulse didn’t budge him, but it jarred his death stare from the drunk to me.
“Mateo,” I whispered gently. “Let him go. You don’t want to hurt him.”
With a flash of his fire-gold eyes and a sudden jolt, he jerked away and released the guy. Spinning around, he planted his hands against the wall behind him and sucked in great gulps of air, his head hanging low, his dark hair covering his face.
In the few seconds I made physical contact, I’d sensed a number of things. The hardest to swallow was the overwhelming wave of painful desperation ripping through the core of this man. I didn’t have the gift of reading emotions like my sister Clara, but there was no doubt this man was hurting. Badly. And what kind of witch was I to turn my back on him? When I might be the only one who could help him?
“JJ,” I said calmly, nodding toward the drunk guy. “Go help this guy into an Uber and get him home.”
“Whuz that ’bout?” slurred the drunk, rubbing his neck and trying to stand. He obviously didn’t realize he almost died a second ago.
“Are you sure I should leave you here?” asked JJ, fisting his hands, reminding me why he doubled as a bouncer.
“Yeah.” I stared at Mateo’s wide back as he heaved air in and out of his lungs, his six-and-a-half-foot frame bowed with what I could only describe as anguish. Regret. “We’re good now.”
JJ stalled for a few seconds while he got drunky on his wobbly feet and shuffled him out the door.
Violet had taken off early so that left me and JJ to close up, so I was now alone with the werewolf. I should’ve been scared as hell, but strangely, I wasn’t. Though he acted on his violent impulses, it all stemmed from a deep-seated pain. Exhaling a sigh, I knew what I had to do.
Slowly, he rolled his muscular shoulders back, the only sign he heard me. He shoved off the wall and cleared his throat before turning to face me, his arms loose at his sides, his eyes downcast.
“I’m sorry. That was…unacceptable.”
“Yeah,” I agreed in a soft voice. “That was a serious lapse in control.”
He nodded, finally lifting his gaze off the floor. Semi-calm brown eyes met mine. Though I expected to see the rage still riding him, I found sadness. It reflected what I’d sensed when I touched him.
“Does this happen often?” I asked with a sympathetic lilt.
“This never happens. That has never happened before. I need…help.” It seemed to pain him to admit how badly.
Something pinched in my chest. “Right.”
I offered a soft smile, but he didn’t return it, agony still tight in the set of his mouth and eyes. If I did this, it would likely get my ass chewed out, but I didn’t care. A memory of Mom popped into my head.
“A good witch sees the truth, absorbs its goodness, and honors her gift.”
“But how do I honor it?” I asked her.
She cupped my chin and gave me her all-knowing Mom smile. “By sharing it with those in need.”
I stared at the werewolf, my mind made up. “Okay. Come with me.”
I wound through the tables and behind the bar toward the exit to the alley. I didn’t need to look to see if he was following. I could feel him. This wolf carried a heavy aura. No, not heavy exactly. Potent was more accurate. Whatever it was that made him what he was, it felt like a lick of flame at my back. I led him through the now empty and darkened kitchen, past the storage room to the alley entrance. I unclipped the keys dangling from the short chain that stretched across my belt-loops and opened the door.
Holding it open, I gestured for him to walk through. He did, his hands now in his front jeans pockets. Figuring he was trying to look less threatening, I snickered and locked the door behind us. He couldn’t look harmless if he tried. Not after that display of crazy in the bar and not since there was an electric charge simmering around his body like a lightning rod that had just been zapped twenty times.
“Is something funny?” he asked. Scowly face was back.
“Care to share?”
He fell in step beside me as we followed the alleyway that separated the Cauldron from our corner shop next door, Mystic Maybelle’s. Our house was a short walk down the side street crisscrossing the intersection. The night was still hot but less humid as we crept into late October. Let me clarify. It felt less like swimming in soup and more like bathing in dogs’ breath. Any day now, we’d have our first cool front that would slowly shift the tide toward cooler weather, but that please-come-before-we-melt-in-Mordor moment hadn’t happened yet.
“Hmm. Let’s see.” The sidewalk buzzed with a few late-night partiers, the streetlights giving off a sense of security. A false one for anybody who rubbed the anxiety-riddled guy next to me wrong. His shifty gaze roamed the pedestrians talking and laughing among friends. “I had a rather shitty night at work, then a werewolf pops in right at closing time, claims he’s got a hex put on him—”
“Begs me to help him, but I politely tell him no, so then he nearly strangles one of our regulars to death.”
“I wouldn’t have killed him.”
“Are you sure about that?” I wasn’t being snarky. I was asking him seriously.
Silence. He looked away, his dark locks blocking my view of his eyes. Shame, that. When I stopped in front of the wrought-iron gate that opened to the walkway to our front door, he then finally faced me. Measuring me from head to toe, his gaze snagged on my chest. I wasn’t sure if he was staring at my perky boobs or my T-shirt with a black cat holding an arm bone that read I found this humerus.
I thought he might actually crack a smile, but then he looked at me like I was crazy—not an unusual occurrence—and did that shivery thing he’d done back in the bar, as if shaking off a bad dream. Not exactly the look a girl wanted when a hot guy checked out her goods.
“Are you okay?”
He clamped his mouth shut, his jaw tightening with a hard grind before he said, “You don’t understand what not being able to change is doing to me.”
I thought about him bending that guy over the table and choking him with one hand. “I think I have an idea.”
“I need to release the wolf.”
That agonizing expression was back. That pleading look. Though I didn’t tell him, he didn’t have to convince me of anything else. It was clear to me he wasn’t lying or exaggerating. He needed my help, and I planned to follow my instincts first. Not Jules’s rules.
With a stiff nod, I opened the gate and led a werewolf up the porch and into our house. I must be out of my damn mind.
As expected, soft music played from the back of the house where Jules was doing her nightly wind-down routine. He followed me down the entrance hall, past a small den and an arch leading to the left toward the large living room and our open kitchen. We continued down the hall toward the music. It appeared only Jules was in the main house.
Clara and Violet must be settled in bed in the carriage house over the garage since I didn’t hear either poking around in the kitchen. Isadora and Livvy were still out of town. So that left Jules alone in the study. Good. I didn’t want an audience to the shit-storm I was about to start.
Before we reached the open doorway, I stopped abruptly. The rhythmic tune of her favorite pagan folk band with its bagpipes, flutes, drums, and Celtic harp floated into the hall. A good sign. If it was that Mongolian metal band with their throat singing about crushing their enemies, then I’d have pushed him back out of the house and tried this tomorrow.
With a deep breath, I glanced over my shoulder at the man standing a head taller and awfully close. “Don’t speak until I tell you to. Or she does.”
He ground that perfect jaw again. “Why not?”
“Because my sister is the one who doesn’t like to work with your kind. And she’s a Siphon.”
He flinched at that. Yeah. Siphons, also called Enforcers, were more powerful than Nulls, witches who could freeze a supernatural’s powers. Jules could do far more than freeze powers. She could take them all away. Permanently. A Siphon was also the one kind of witch who was more powerful than a centuries-old vampire. Hence, the reason our witch coven reigned in New Orleans and not Ruben Dubois, the overlord of the vampires in this district.
Visibly shaking, Mateo glanced toward the open doorway. A werewolf was cursed in a way that he couldn’t lose the beast roaming inside his blood no matter what. But he could lose the magic that comes with the werewolf curse. The added strength and speed, the longer life, and the creative gift that every werewolf was born with alongside their wolfish beastly needs.
I walked into my oldest sister’s sanctuary with a bright smile on my face, faking my light-hearted mood as best I could. She was tucked into her loveseat by the window, her knees bent, a book open on her upturned lap, a glass of red wine on the side table. Her gaze swiveled to the door, skimming right past me to the werewolf at my back.
I raised my hands in surrender. “Okay. Before you say anything, there’s a very good explanation for this.”
She didn’t move at first. Her steel-blue gaze dragged from Mateo to me then back to him. With forced indifference, she closed and set her book aside, then stood and crossed her arms. Of the six of us sisters, she was the shortest and the tiniest in stature. Her short, blunt bob softened the sharper edges of her high cheekbones and pointed chin. But it did nothing to tamp down the you’re dead glare she was giving me.
“Jules, this is Mateo. He’s a—”
“I know what he is. Why is he in our house?”
She’d dialed her maternal tone up to Defcon three. But at least she hadn’t reached screechy levels.
“He claims there’s a hex put on him keeping him from shifting.” I turned to him, his attention fixed on my sister. “How long has it been since you last shifted?”
“This will be the third month.” Some of the anguish was gone from his voice, though I wasn’t sure what was putting him more at ease. It certainly wasn’t my sister’s bitch queen impersonation.
Jules just stared and said not a damn thing, but I could see her hamster wheel working hard. She was debating whether to show him the door or hear him out. By some miracle, she chose the latter.
“Why do you believe this is a hex? And not a normal dormancy?”
He chuffed out a sound between a cough and a laugh. “I’ve heard of wolves going dormant, but in those cases, their beast became distant and quiet. Mine most definitely is not.”
His eyes flared that fiery gold again, but he kept his posture non-threatening.
“How so?” she asked coolly.
“I have…primitive urges.”
I barely contained another shiver at his heated admission. And yes, he’d growled every word. He also seemed to be holding something back.
“Jules,” I started, turning serious. “He struggled to control his violence just now in the bar with a customer who bumped into him. More so than I’d say is normal for werewolves. Though I admittedly know none.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” he protested. “This feels like, I don’t know, like I have a block. Like my wolf wants to come out, but something is keeping him inside. It’s not natural. A hex is the only explanation.”
“He’s a danger to the public,” I added. “And if we don’t at least try to help him, then we’re as much at fault as he is. If something should happen.”
I let Jules infer whatever that something could be. He was totally staring at me, but I refused to look at him.
“And what do you sense?” she asked me.
This was where it got tricky. “I don’t know for sure.” When he grabbed me in the bar, I felt something, though I couldn’t place what it was.
“You probed him then?”
“Not very deep,” I answered softly, hardly able to admit that I’d actually been afraid of him in the bar. There was no way I was about to ask him to gaze into my eyes and let me step inside his mind while he was trying to strangle one of our patrons. Telling Jules the truth wouldn’t help me sway her to our side at the moment.
“Try again,” she commanded, nodding toward Mateo. “Here.”
Alrighty then. I stepped up to face Mateo and blew out a deep breath. Bending my arms at the elbows, I reached out. “Hold your arms like this and grip mine.”
He didn’t question why, but obeyed quickly. Smart werewolf. When we locked arms, the surge of heat emanating from his body rippled through my fingertips and palms.
Locking on his brown eyes, which flickered fiery gold, I pressed my magic forward. Gently. Very gently. Even so, a rumble stirred in his chest, a rough growl tingling along my senses. And while I knew it was a warning to be careful, I couldn’t prevent the delicious sensation it piqued on every nerve ending in my body. Like a lightning zap, it electrified my insides, spreading goosebumps along my skin.
“Easy,” I whispered like I would to an injured or scared animal. “I just want to take a look.”
That’s essentially what I did when I probed for hexes. With finger-light brushes, I slid my magic inside him, seeking out the foreign magic. Usually, I could identify what kind of hex and from what kind of witch a spell had been cast on another person.
Sometimes, it wasn’t even cast on the person who was hexed, but had ricocheted off someone near them. That was rare, but it did happen. In those instances, I couldn’t always pinpoint the spell, but I could still pull it out and evaporate the magic.
As I swept deeper inside him, I felt…resistance. It wasn’t just a block, a walled-up spell from another witch, but more like a push. I didn’t sense the telltale signs of a hex—the electric spray of foreign magic that didn’t belong. I sensed the presence of a powerful being—his wolf—and an invisible fence around him, but also another aura pushing me away.
It was so weird. Hexes didn’t typically work that way. They weren’t usually aggressive in nature. Just there. Like an object set on a table. Whoever had put this object on Mateo’s table had added something extra to the spell. I didn’t like the feel of it.
When Mateo’s growl rumbled deeper, I let go and took a step back. Not because I was afraid, but because I didn’t want to anger the beast.
For a second, all I could do was stare at Mateo. His gaze shimmering with gold slowly melted back to that cocoa brown. His chest rose and fell more quickly, but there was no sign of violence or anger. Just a look of wonder, actually.
“Well?” asked Jules.
Dragging my attention back to her, I said, “There’s definitely something there. But I can’t pinpoint what kind of hex it is or what kind of witch put it there, if even on purpose. It’s very…unusual.” I glanced from her to Mateo. “To be honest, I think it may be that I’m just not familiar with werewolves and their magic. It’s easy for me to do this with humans, other witches, and even vampires. I think maybe your inner…wolf is pushing me out for some reason.”
Mateo huffed out a laugh with zero humor attached to it. “I don’t think my wolf is pushing you out.” His intense gaze pierced me with what I could only surmise was the hard truth. That meant we were dealing with a hex I’d never encountered before.
Jules looked over at her bookshelves, filled with just about every damn book ever written on supernaturals—from historical origins, to the Spanish Inquisition witch-hunts, to craft, spells, and talismans. She didn’t walk over and pluck one off the shelf like I knew she wanted to, but stared hard for a full three minutes. Then she swiveled back to Mateo, and I knew she’d made her decision.
“Do you know of anyone who means you harm? Holding a grudge against you?”
He combed a hand through his hair in frustration, disheveling it even further. “No.”
“It’s not our custom to work with werewolves,” she said in her usual, matter-of-fact tone.
He flinched. Still calm, he sucked in a deep breath, then said, “Yes. Evie said as much.” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his hands curled at his sides. “But I’m only a danger if this hex isn’t broken.”