Hale, a fox shifter, hates everyone and everything—especially himself. He’s an angry, bitter, mentally unstable drunk who blames himself for his mate’s death. Not being able to tolerate being in the presence of female fox shifters, uncontrollable rage erupts when he meets Hope, and he’s torn between killing her and kissing her.
Hope knows she has to have Hale the second he steps inside her shop. The fox inside her comes to life and demands to be claimed. Even though Hale is vulgar, volatile, and threatens her at every turn, she wants to ease his pain, bring joy back into his life, and make him hers.
Can Hope break through Hale’s walls and awaken the alpha within, or will Hale finally scare her away for good?
He gulped, his gut clenching, his entire body going rigid as he spotted a female on tiptoes, reaching up to place a candle on the top tier of the display. Her long, red hair cascaded to the small of her back. She wore light green cropped pants that hugged the most luscious ass he’d ever seen. He grunted when his dick twitched and he realized he was semi-hard. He hadn’t been hard for a female since…
“Oh!” She spun around. “I didn’t know anyone had walked in.”
Her face. Oh fuck, her perfect face. Her eyes were the color of a golden sunrise, her lips a perfect, pink cupid’s bow.
When he only stared, she smiled uncertainly. “Um, we’re not officially open for business yet, but if you smell something you like—”
He normally didn’t worry about what anyone thought of him, but standing in front of her, like an idiot unable to find words, was somehow unacceptable. He pointed to the candle burning on the counter, the fragrance that had drawn him in.
Her gaze followed his finger. “Oh, that’s my favorite. It’s a combination of jasmine, lavender, and rose. It’s my special blend. Great for relieving stress, grief, anger, depression, and even if you don’t believe in any of that stuff, it just plain smells wonderful.”
No, he’d have never believed it until now. He should turn around and leave. Why did he keep standing there? He didn’t deserve any relief, no matter how small. And he wasn’t exactly a fancy candle guy.
She walked behind the counter and pulled out a small gold-colored bag. “Tell you what. Since you’re my first walk-in,” she said and hurried over to the wall of candles, bent over at the waist, and he thought he’d die from the delectable sight. “Take this. Sample size.”
She dropped the small candle into the bag and walked it over to him. “Oh. You’re hurt,” she said and gently grasped his bloodied hand.
His skin prickled, hair standing on end. Her scent. The candle fragrance had overpowered it, but with her standing so close, touching him, it was unmistakable. She was a fucking female fox. A snarl escaped him as he jerked away from her. In her obvious surprise, she dropped the bag and the glass container crashed on the hardwood floor.
“What happened?” His sister, Sylvie, popped out from the back room. “Hale? What the hell are you doing here?”
His body shook, rage at being in the presence of a female fox filling his head with violent thoughts. Why should she live when his Grace couldn’t? Couldn’t save her.
“Oh shit,” his sister said as she ran up and punched him hard in the gut.
Air whooshed out of his lungs. He leaned over, hands on knees, trying to pull in some air. When he straightened up, he glowered at Sylvie, but he knew why she’d done it.
“Come on,” she said as she locked her arm with his and pulled him out the door and to his truck. “I was going to warn you about her. Didn’t think there was a rush considering you hardly ever show your face around here.”
He scrubbed a hand through his still damp hair. “Fuck me.”
“Uh, no thanks, bro.”
He felt a hint of a smile tugging at his lips. His sister was the only female fox he could tolerate being around, and she was the only one who’d pulled so much as a half smirk out of him in eight years.
“And what the hell were you doing in there anyway?” she asked. “Not really your kind of store.”
“That smell.” He felt stupid saying it out loud. “It— I liked it.”
She smirked. “How manly of you.”