Christine Jarrods wants to be a writer of paranormal young adult fiction, so she’s pursuing a degree in English. By day she tackles Chaucer and by night she stalks the streets looking for something magical to inspire her muse. Finding a thread that suggests one of her profs might be some flavor of shifter—and getting cyberbullied for asking the wrong questions—she decides to dig, even though she’s been warned to let it go.
Oliver Standish has a secret. Like a lot of guys his age, he’s scraping by, delivering pizzas, trying to pay off loans from a failed attempt at school, and crushing on Chrissy, the one that got away in high school. Only his family knows he’s also trying to deal with being a shifter, and he sure can’t tell Chrissy. She has a fascination with magic, and he knows she’d want to know more about it. But how do you tell a girl who wants to find a monster that you change into a skunk?
She always smelled like spicy cotton candy, although that wasn’t a thing. Like all that was good about cinnamon chewing gum—a little bite and a little sweet all in one gulp. Made him want to taste her, not that he’d ever had the opportunity. “Sounds like stalking to me.”
“Where the hell have you been lately, anyway? You’re super smart and I haven’t seen you in classes—did you graduate early?” She leaned closer to him, bringing the scent of fiery candy into sharp focus. He pulled alongside the road, a dirt road that wasn’t regularly used and even less so late at night, and put the car into Park. He’d get shit from his boss for not coming right back to the shop, but he wanted a moment with her, consequences be damned.
Besides, what was the fun of being an irresponsible twenty-something if he never actually behaved irresponsibly?
“No. I dropped out. Now I’m paying back a ton of loans for the degree I won’t ever get.”
He waited for her harsh judgment, for her to tell him he was an idiot. She wouldn’t understand—hard to explain severe anxiety and inability to deal with crowded classrooms. If he did, she’d probably tell him to go see a shrink and get on some meds. Sadly, there wasn’t any medication he knew of that would make him less his beast, and the beast was the root of the problem.
“Are you okay?” Her soft-spoken question had him snapping his head up in shock to stare at her. Instead of a plethora of questions, she simply waited for him to answer.
“Not thrilled about it, no, but sometimes you make the choice that feels right. This sucks—isn’t what I planned for my life—but it feels right, if that makes sense. So, well, I’m working a lot and paying back what I can.” He shrugged. “Do ya have a violin you can play to go with my sob story?”
Instead of laughing or otherwise lightening the mood, she reached out and brushed his hair back from his forehead. “You’re a smart guy. You’ll figure out where you belong. So it wasn’t school, big deal. Something great is waiting for you, I just know it.”
Capturing her wrist for a moment, he sucked in a deep breath, the zesty scent of her spiking at his movement. If he didn’t know better, he’d think the scent meant attraction… “Maybe.” He conceded.
Tension snapped in the car, zinging up his spine with awareness. Instead of pulling back from him, she leaned closer. “So, are you seeing anyone?”