Michael Barnes is a rare white were-tiger and is tired of roaming around the world--alone--after underhanded dealings stripped him of his rightful heritage as leader of his pride. Meeting his destined mate in Devon Falls is unexpected. Dixie Sinclair is fun, sexy, and everything he feels he doesn't deserve. The past has a way of coloring a person's life, and Michael has let down his guard to show Dixie he is the one to hold her heart.
Can a were-tiger convince one stubborn woman that she is his for all time and show her that falling in love is just as sinful as a chocolate kiss?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is an extensively rewritten and re-edited title. It was originally titled Moonlight and Magic, at another publishing house.
Dixie Sinclair had just about had it with happy people, especially those happy people in relationships. She shook her head as the coffeemaker decided to go on the fritz again and tried to keep her temper as the machine sputtered out a few drops for the customer waiting at the counter. It had been one of those days where anything that went wrong did, and not in tiny amounts but a really big "I should have crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over my head" amount.
"What the hell is going on in this town? Everyone need a coffee fix or something lately?" Dixie muttered as she tried to get the temperamental coffee machine to work. Short of beating it with a crow bar, which she didn't think the health department would approve of, this pain-in-the arse machine was going to be the death of her, she was sure of it. It had to be some kind of cosmic conspiracy among machines.
Finally, the damn thing started working again. Dixie got the last customer his decaf and slid down on the stool, glaring at the coffee machine. Every inch of her five-foot frame hurt, from her head to her toes. Who knew making coffee could be such a pain in the ass?
"Oh, Alicia owes me big time for this." Dixie glared at the empty kitchen at 2 pm on a Friday. It must be nice to go off for a "lunch break" at 11 am with Damien while they had some down time in the day but, in the meantime, while she was gone every piece of equipment in the place had it in for Dixie. She sighed in relief as her sneakers came off for a bit. If Alicia prances in here all smiles at 3 pm and with that satisfied sex glow, I'm going to murder her even if she is my cousin. If I'm on a dry spell and determined to not do the whole committed relationship thing, it stands to reason that all my friends should as well, just to solidify our friendship.
After she slid her feet in the flip-flops she kept under the counter for closing up, Dixie finished cleaning the Dew Drop Cafe and gleefully shut down the wretched machines that seemed to enjoy giving her hives. With a final glance around the place, she let herself out and locked up after she grabbed her sneakers and tossed them in her bag.
"Finally, freedom from those infernal machines. Now I can go home and relax," Dixie said as she started walking down the sidewalk toward home.
The air was crisp, turning the trees to shades of orange, red, and gold as fall seeped into the air. The leaves on the ground crunched under her feet as she meandered her way through Devon Falls. She smiled at some boys playing touch football and showing off to the girls as she crossed the street to her apartment by the park. Dixie snorted in laughter as one girl laughed at a boy's end-zone dance.
Opening her door, she grabbed her mail from the floor. "Honey, I'm home" she shouted. "Damn, no man in sight." Putting water on for tea, Dixie kicked off her flip-flops with a sigh of relief, tossed her bag aside by the coatrack, and went to go sit down on the couch. Looking at the mail, she tossed aside the junk and bills and rested her head on the back of the couch. "I need to kill Alicia tomorrow for leaving me like that. I swear whenever she or Jax is not around, all things go to hell. Right, Mr. Fish?" She tapped the fish bowl by the side of the couch. "Great. I'm talking to a fish. I must be mental now."
Disgusted with herself, Dixie got up and poured a bowl of cereal and made a cup of tea for dinner. "I need a hobby. Anything to break up this monotonous time as I give my no man rule a try, though heaven help me, a date would be nice with someone not interested in sex on the first date and who won't get offended if I say no. This dry spell of mine is making me go psychotic or something. First, I have every electric device at work go out to get me, and then I'm left with a horde of customers all wanting coffee. Is there a shortage of coffee in this town?"
After that thought, the phone rang and she groaned at the number popping up on her cell. It was Alicia--the last person Dixie wanted to talk to at that moment. "What do you want, you pain in the butt?" She heard a giggle on the other end.
"Dix, don't be mad. I swear, you need a man or something."
"A man? I need a man like I need a hole in the head. It's all nice when you date then bam! It's 'do the dishes, woman, go make me dinner' blah, blah, blah." Dixie replied, disgusted at the fantasy that having a man would fix everything in the world. "Besides, having you and Jaxon around getting laid is giving me a complex. Why is it when people around you are happy they want the whole world to be all roses and whatnot?"
"Come on, Dixie, get on down to the Dirty Diamond Bar. We're celebrating tonight." Dixie looked at the clock and saw it was around seven o'clock. "Celebrating what? The fact machines are out to get me and I have no man to take out my frustrations on?"
"Sarcasm doesn't do it for you, cousin. You need a drink and to let loose. We're celebrating something nice, so get your skinny ass down here now. Don't make me have wolf boy come get you."
"Wolf boy? You would send Rod down here to drag me there? Well, hell, can I get changed first or will that curtail the mysterious celebration?" Dixie growled into the phone as she walked into her bedroom, took one look in the mirror and sighed, knowing her quiet evening at home was blown to bits. "Fine, give me a half hour and don't bother sending Rodrick. I can walk on my own and you know he won't want to be far from Jaxon now that they are mated." Setting the phone down with a thump on the bed, she stripped her clothes off as she turned the water on in the shower. "Great, there goes my night of talking to a fish and feeling sorry for myself," Dixie muttered under her breath.
Driving into Devon Falls was an experience for Michael Barnes. The way to the town twisted along curves of mountains and winded into this valley that had Michael's tiger soothed by the time he hit the outer town line. After being thrown out of his pride by his uncle long ago on a trumped-up charge, Michael wandered the world, never settling down or finding his mate. He doubted he would have a family ever again. The fact that he wandered didn't help in the love department nor did the fact his uncle made sure other shifters knew Michael was pride-less and not to be welcomed. Whistling along with the radio, he reached down and patted Sadie, the one friend he had. Damien, who was one of Michael's oldest friends, had repeatedly invited him to come visit if he ever was in the neck of the woods. Michael was really hoping Damien was sincere with his invitation to stay here.
"Wow...look at this place," Michael said to the dog on the floor of the rental car as he got his first view of the town. Sadie looked up and yawned before going back to sleep with a snore.
Grinning, Michael took in the buildings and the people bustling around as Halloween decorations waved in the wind. He was charmed by the way the small town seemed to make him feel welcomed. If Damien told me the truth, then I think I finally found the one place that will ease this loneliness inside. Michael spied the Dragon Inn up ahead.