Life for curvy, witty, just-fine-by-herself-thank-you-very-much Delilah Coltrane has fallen into a slightly boring, but comfortable routine. She runs stadium stairs, she drinks a little too much and is a karaoke master. But for Dilly, a reluctant ice sculptor, the routine is starting to turn into a rut.
Jake Somerset is a man caught between two worlds. When his father died, he inherited both his spot as head of a massively successful tech company... and as the alpha of a pack of rowdy, half-crazed werewolves. Jake figures the best way to say “I’m The Boss” is to get a giant statue made of himself. He walks into Delilah’s studio, and straight into her heart.
The big, growly, adorably cocky billionaire is exactly what Dilly never knew she wanted, until he walked through her door with his dark curls, steely silver eyes, and shoulders broad enough to stop her dead in her tracks. And yeah, his voice is growly enough to get her tingling in all the right places.
While the two indulge in a whirlwind romance, a threat brews on the fringes. Jake’s brother – the exiled alpha-wannabe Dane – wants to take back the pack. Once he finds out about Delilah, Dane won’t stop with controlling the pack... he’s gunning for his brother’s mate.
Will the unlikely pair survive a war with the brutal and murderous rogue wolf? Or will their match made in heaven turn into a match made in hell?
Usually when I finished something, I’d look at it and frown some more. It’s always a thing I’ve done – I’m way, way, way too self-critical. Everything I do, I think is complete garbage. I learned about halfway through my twenties that no one else seemed to think that, and when I hit the big three-oh, I realized how much time I was wasting with the self-doubt. That didn’t stop me from feeling it though, like a slow, driving, punch in the gut. You know when you watch boxing, and one guy gets a knockout, so they show the punch in super slow motion? The waves that go through the, er, punchee? Ripples that you’d never see if you weren’t watching in super slow-motion?
Yeah, that’s more or less what it’s like when I finish a sculpture and have to look at it before whoever wanted it picks it up. That’s why I tend not to keep a showcase around, if I can help it. But, staring at the Scotty, I knew we’d be good friends for a while. It isn’t every day that someone wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, “holy shit! I need a statue of a Scotty!”
Except, of course, when that’s exactly what happens.
“I’ll give you ten grand for that thing,” a voice from behind me, said. When I didn’t answer immediately, he upped the ante. “Twenty?”
“Huh? Why?” I turned around, stunned and slightly slack-jawed. It wasn’t my most dignified moment, but what the hell? Someone had just offered me twenty-thousand dollars for a foot-and-a-half high statue of a dog. And I’ll be damned if his voice wasn’t every bit as growly as advertised.
Taller than me by at least six inches – check.
Shaggy, dark hair – check.
My heart still beating – check.
It was embarrassingly hard to deal with myself just then. The flush from my stadium fantasy was back, except this time, I was staring at my fantasy. And he was offering me twenty grand for a statue of a damn dog.
“Why?” I croaked. “It’s just a dog.”
He took a step closer, and reached out. I’m pretty sure he was trying to shake my hand, but it turned into more of a “grab her before she hits the deck” sort of handshake. Meaning, not much of a handshake at all. He took my hand and my knees went weak from the heat coming out of his palm.
From the second our skin touched, I knew this wasn’t any regular guy. I’ve met plenty of hot men before, dated a few of them, but this was different somehow. I’m not talking about a “oh and I knew right then he was Mister Right” sort of thing – that’s a load of shit. I’m saying that no person has skin as warm and comforting as his.
With smoothness rivaled only by things in movies from a time when people wore fedoras and didn’t look ridiculous, he held my hand with both of his and let my wobbles even out. He just smiled at me, his mouth quirked up on the left side, a dimple in his cheek prominently on display. His eyes were the color of storm clouds just before rain – dark, silvery hazel – and nothing I could do was going to let me tear my gaze from his.
“What are you, a Dracula or something?” I scoffed, trying to make myself relax with a joke.
“No,” he said with another smile. “Also, wasn’t there just one Dracula?”
Witty, at least a little bit – check.
My heart still mostly beating – check. I think.
“Were you serious?” I croaked again, my throat felt like I’d swapped bodies with a bullfrog.
“About not being Dracula? Yeah,” he said, squeezing my hand a little tighter. That’s when I noticed that one of his hands was on my wrist, and that his grip was making me feel something akin to what Jeanette told me earlier, with the tingling. “I’m absolutely sure I’m not Dracula.”
I stared at him, drinking in the dark stubble, his fierce eyes and carelessly perfect hair. “Nice suit,” I said, although I think only about half of the words were actually audible. “It’s, uh, soft.”
I realized that I had grabbed his lapel, and pulled my hand away quickly. Then I smoothed the lapel back down where I’d apparently pinched it. The heat from his chest – his muscular, hard chest – was even more thrilling than that from his hand.
How can anyone be this hot? Like physically this warm of a temperature?
“Do you feel okay?” I asked. “You’re kinda hot.”
“Warm natured,” he said in a growly whisper. “Runs in the family. Twenty-five thousand? For the dog?”
I was nodding. “I woulda taken five hundred bucks.”
“Call the rest a tip. I’ll be back next week.” His thumb brushed my wrist, leaving a hot trail that seemed to stretch all the way to my ladyparts which, indeed, tingled. “You’re brilliant. You’ll do my statue and I’ll pay you plenty. Who do I make the check out to for the dog?”
“Dill—Delilah Coltrane,” I said, not quite believing what I was saying. “And are you sure?”
He whipped out one of those longer-than-normal checkbooks that usually only businesses use, and filled it out quickly.
“About which part?” he asked, capping the pen. A second later, he took my arm again, circled his thumb against my wrist and I thought I was going to explode. Wouldn’t that be a sight? “The dog? Or the statue?”
“Both,” I said.
“Well, I just wrote a check for the dog. And as far as the other bit, yeah, I’ve never been more sure of anything in my entire life.”
The finality with which he spoke; the gravity, the intensity, it was all just so... perfect?
He lifted my hand to his lips, pressed them to the back of it. His eyes never left mine. It felt like they were boring into my soul, and making parts of me surge and tingle that had not done either of those things in quite some time.
“Ne-next week?” I asked, more to move my mouth and keep myself from either drooling or jumping on him and humping tis poor guy’s leg like a Chihuahua in heat.
He kissed my hand again and slid his fingers in a dance along my inner arm, finally inserting the check between my fingers in the instant before he dropped my hand, which fell limply to my side. “Next week,” he said again, never once freeing me from that burning, wonderful gaze. “Wednesday afternoon. I’m not much for mornings.”
I curled my fingers, for some reason expecting to feel the heat from his skin one last time, but all I got was a fistful of my cotton blend skirt. He turned back from the doorway, smiled once more, and then closed the door behind him. Jeanette was standing in the studio. In all the, uh, whatever it was that just happened, I hadn’t even noticed her.
“Growly, huh?” she said, watching him out the window.
His perfectly firm butt moving just the right way underneath his beautifully tailored slacks made me think about my definitely less-than-perfect butt. It didn’t seem to matter how many flights of stadium stairs I ran, it never got the way I wanted it. I didn’t have time to worry about that though, too much to do. Too many dog statues to finish.
“He bought the Scotty,” I said in a hollow, confused sort of voice that turned upward at the end.
Jeanette sucked in so much air when I handed her the check that she could possibly have inhaled said Scotty statue, if it were still here, anyway. “Twenty... twenty-five thousand dollars?”
I nodded. “He must’ve liked it,” I said. “Wait, twenty five? He said he’d give me twenty.”
“I like him,” Jeanette responded. “I like you Jake Somerset. That’s his name, it’s on the check.”
“God,” I whispered. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. I like you too, Jake Somerset.”
His name on my lips tasted manly, musky, and before I knew it another of those tingling sensations shot through me.
As I sat there, still watching him through the window, Jake Somerset ran a hand through his hair in a completely non-pretentious way, and climbed on the back of a long, black motorcycle. It wasn’t a Harley – Jake Somerset wasn’t the kind of guy who needed to make a lot of noise. He just was the noise. He didn’t have to try to be in charge, he just was.
“I got a dog to do,” I said as he sped off. I reached over to the table where the Scotty had been, and picked up my coffee. Black, one sugar, tepid. The way I always seemed to drink it.
“I think that’s illegal,” Jeanette offered, helpfully.
Snorting, the tingling in my ladyparts became a much different kind of sensation – the burning of coffee in the nasal cavity. “Thanks,” I said, sniffing and coughing. “I’ll remember that.”
“Just tryin’ to help.”
“Thanks,” I said again. “I’ll do my best.”