This detective is bringing the handcuffs—and the bite.
When Brandy finds herself accidentally mated to a werewolf, she's totally cool with it. If only Detective Gruff felt the same way. The man is so darned scared he runs away to a remote cabin in the woods.
Lucky for him, Brandy isn't about to give up.
Billy never wanted to get hitched. He'd seen firsthand with his parents how ugly it could get. He never counted on meeting Brandy, a feisty nurse with a bubbly outlook on life who looks past his grumpy facade.
It isn't just danger that brings them together. She is temptation itself.
“It’s so unfair,” Brandy muttered as yet one more internet search on how to become a werewolf let her down. Why was it only boys could become hairy on the full moon? Like seriously, anyone who’d seen Brandy’s legs and pits during shark week would have totally pegged her for being some kind of hairy shapeshifter. But no, she was just plain ol’ Brandy Herman, a nurse in her thirties, whose only exciting claims to fame were that she could belch the alphabet and make a mean meatloaf.
“How many more appointments left for the day?” Maeve asked, leaning against her desk. She gave a slight cough into her hand. Not the first one that day. Brandy’s best friend had begun looking unwell mid-afternoon.
Brandy’s lips pursed. “None because you’re going home.”
“I can’t. Mrs. Johnson is due for a refill.”READ MORE
Brandy slid the requisition sheet to her. “Which I already printed, so just sign here.” She pointed. “Now, no more excuses. Get your ass to bed. We can’t have you sick for your own wedding.” Which was in less than a week and Brandy still didn’t have a date. Good thing there’d be a few single guys attending the reception. If only she hadn’t already placed most of them in the friend zone.
“I don’t know what’s wrong. It hit me so suddenly.” Maeve slumped.
“Probably some new corona mutation. I’ll reschedule tomorrow. That, along with the weekend, should give you time to recover.”
Maeve hesitated. “I don’t want to leave you alone.” Their receptionist, Marco, had gone on a vacation with his husband.
“I’ll be out of here before dinnertime. Just a few things to take care of. I’ll be fine.”
Maeve chewed her lower lip. “Are you sure?”
“Git before I call Griffin.”
“Don’t do that. He’ll try and carry me home.”
Brandy grinned. “Try? We both know the moment he finds out you’re sick he’s going to coddle the heck out of you.”
“He will.” Maeve reached for her coat with a smile.
About time she’d found herself a guy who melted her inside and out. Now, if only Brandy could have the same luck. Unfortunately for her, the guy who melted her panties had been staying far, far away.
“Text me when you get home,” Brandy demanded.
Maeve lived only a few blocks away, but since they’d both been kidnapped a few months ago by some douchebags who wanted some family heirloom, they’d gotten a little more safety conscious. Avoiding being abducted by psychos in the future seemed a good idea.
“I will text you and see if Ulric can head over so you’re not alone.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll be fine. He’ll just mess up my desk again with those massive feet.” For a time after meeting him, Brandy had thought about dating Ulric. He provided security for Maeve’s fiancé, Griffin, aka head honcho alpha of the pack and owner of a pot shop.
I have the coolest friends.
Platonic friends at that. Ulric was good looking, a werewolf, and nice, too. Only problem? She saw him more as a brother than a lover.
“Lock the door.”
“I will, and you text me the moment you walk in the door.”
“Yes, Mom,” Maeve promised with a roll of her eyes before she left.
Brandy flicked the thumb-lock and made quick work of rescheduling. Only one person complained. She mentioned the phrase “possible coronavirus infection” and suddenly Mr. Lambskin didn’t need his appointment so urgently anymore. It wasn’t as if he were actually sick. He just liked to come in at least once a month and demand Maeve run tests because he’d convinced himself he had a new ailment. Someone needed to take his internet away.
A package arrived that required a signature for the receipt. She juggled the box into the storage room. On the way back to her desk, her phone went off.
A few emails popped in, mostly junk trying to convince their new medical office to try some products. A few inquiries as to how to become a patient and one that had definite creep vibes, given all it said was, I’ll see you soon. Instant block and delete. This made about a dozen now she’d received in the last month, ranging from I’m watching to We belong together.
Discomfiting, and yet she’d not told Maeve. Her best friend had enough to deal with. After all, she was engaged to a werewolf.
As Brandy grabbed her purse and jacket, getting ready to leave, the door opened. Had she locked it after the package? Obviously not.
She whirled. “We’re closed—” A shove sent her stumbling into the reception desk then flailing as she fought off the hands grabbing at her.
“Let go!” she screeched, managing to wrench free. She whirled to see her attacker.
A face, drawn and hollow, the eyes bright with addiction, stared at her. The mouth was putrid as he asked through rotted teeth, “Where is it?”
Having worked the emergency room for years, Brandy knew what he wanted. “We don’t keep drugs here.”
“Liar. This is a doctor’s office. Where is it? I need something.” He lunged at her.
Brandy considered herself somewhat fit, and she’d taken defense classes. Those didn’t help much against someone desperate for a fix, exhibiting super strength and a lack of empathy. She slapped at his hands while ducking and weaving, caught against the desk. She had to avoid him getting a grip.
He moved fast and managed to grab her neck with one hand. Before she could yank free, he had the second one squeezing. She grabbed at him, gasping, eyes wide.
I’m going to die.
He shoved her backwards, bending her over the desk, pressing against her.
Panic hit her as she clawed at his grip.
His spittle flew as he rasped out, “Give it. Give it.”
She couldn’t even reply, but even if she could have, she had nothing to give.
He slammed her head off the desk.
She saw spots. Wham.
He wanted it? Then let him have it. Her knee finally got its knobby end together and rose to strike.
The blow would have put most men on the floor, but the addict simply offered a putrid gasp. She almost puked and rolled to avoid it, which was when she saw the stapler by the printouts she’d been filing.
She grabbed it and swung. Missed, but the way the addict swayed allowed her to slip away and gain some separation, enough that she could find a weapon. The only thing she could actually grab and swing? Her computer monitor.
He staggered and shook his head. The guy was too strung out to realize he might be in trouble. “Bitch. Give me the shit.”
“I said there’s nothing here.” She compounded her statement with another swing of the monitor, losing her grip on the impact as it collided. It proved to be enough.
The violent junkie dropped in a heap, and she stood over him, glaring. “No means no.”
It was only as she saw the glint of a knife in his pocket that it hit her. She’d been lucky. He could have chosen to slash and stab instead of trying to cave in her skull.
Her fingers went to her throbbing temple, and she swallowed through a tender throat. She set the broken monitor back on the desk then grabbed her phone. She dialed nine then hesitated, finger poised over the one.
Calling the emergency line would bring cops and questioning, probably a few hours of it, as well as paperwork, when she could be curling up on her couch with her new kitten, sucking back leftover Chinese food while watching Warrior Nun on Netflix. Not to mention, it would be a lot of hassle for nothing. The police tended to do catch-and-release on what they considered petty crime. The fact she’d fought off the assault worked against her. The more she debated, the less she wanted to deal with law enforcement. The problem being she couldn’t exactly leave the unconscious wannabe robber on the office floor, nor just toss him into the street.
If she called Maeve, she’d rush back, sick or not. Actually, just about everyone she knew that wouldn’t blink at moving a body would most likely tell Maeve. Snitches.
It left her only one option. If he answered his phone. Which he didn’t. So Brandy fired off a text. Attacked in office. Need help.
Within seconds, there was a reply. On my way.
Just in case the druggie woke up before the cavalry arrived, she snared some medical tape and took care of his wrists then the ankles for good measure.
Then she sat down and waited for the sexy and oh-so-standoffish Detective Billy Gruff. And yes, she’d had a good internal giggle at his expense the first time she heard his name. Who did that to their kid?
That mockery never slipped past her lips, mostly because she was too busy flirting with the sexy man in the ill-fitting suit jacket. They’d first met because Griffin Lanark, Maeve’s fiancé, ended up in the emergency room with bullet holes. They weren’t engaged at the time, of course. A love story of a patient and his doctor.
When a handsome detective came around asking questions, Brandy had batted her lashes and made her interest clear.
Detective Gruff ignored all of her flirting and acted completely uninterested, even as he’d given her his cell number written on the back of a card in case she ever needed to contact him. A few nights she was almost tempted to try sexting him to see if he’d play along.
Instead, she ended up asking him for help when some thugs kidnapped Maeve and her, after some family cookbook that was worth a fortune. He came to the rescue, along with some friends, which was how she discovered that sexy Billy Gruff wasn’t a goat but a Lycan. As in a furry, four-legged werewolf. It only made him sexier. Pity it wasn’t mutual.
Brandy had known the guy for a few months, not that she saw him often because even she drew the line at committing a crime to end up in an interrogation room for alone-time. But now she had a legitimate reason to put out a cry for help. While keeping an eye on the body on the floor, she dug in her purse, freshening her gloss, brushing her hair. She also popped a piece of gum into her mouth. After all, didn’t werewolves have a super sense of smell?
Quicker than expected, a knock sounded at the door, which her dumb ass had forgotten to lock. Again. Good thing no one walked in. The guy that she’d taken the precaution of tying up with medical tape might have been hard to explain.
Brandy headed for the door and opened it to see a harried detective. He eyed her up and down. “Are you okay?”
She almost said, “I am now that you’re here,” but she wanted his help, not to send him fleeing.
“I’m fine. Get inside, quick.” Once he entered, she locked the door. No more surprises.
The detective glared down at the trussed tweaker. “Not sure why you texted.” He waved a hand. “Looks like you’ve already got things handled.”
“I need help getting rid of him.”
“Oh please, hours of paperwork for him to be released in the morning? You’re part of the wolf mob in Ottawa. Shouldn’t you do something about him?”
His lips pinched. “He’s an addict. He needs rehab.”
“He’s a criminal with no moral compass who tried to choke me and bash in my skull for drugs, even after I told him we had none.” Brandy huffed, peeved at his blatant dismissal of the danger.
The detective finally glanced at her, his gaze lingering on her throat, which throbbed almost as badly as her head. By tomorrow, she’d have some lovely bruises.
Billy’s jaw tensed. “I thought you said you were okay.”
“I am. Mostly. Nothing a few Tylenols won’t fix.”
“He hurt you.” A grim statement.
She shrugged. “Yeah, but in good news, I’m not bleeding or dying.”
A low sound emerged from the man, and Billy turned from her to eye the body on the floor. “I’ll handle this. Go home.”
“But I can help you.”
His gaze narrowed on her. “Now, Brandy.” Despite his obvious annoyance, she wanted to brush the lock of dark hair that had flopped onto his forehead. Probably not the right time. He might just bite off her hand.
“Was just offering some help. No need to be snappy,” she grumbled, putting on her coat and grabbing her purse.
“Where’s your car?” he asked.
“I don’t currently have one.” Stupid motor blew up on her last one, and she’d been hemming on getting a replacement since she could now walk to work.
He frowned. “How are you getting home?”
“My two feet. It’s what keeps my ass so tight.” She tossed him a sassy wink, and his nostrils flared.
“I’ll drive you.”
“No need.” She tossed her head. “It’s not far.”
“Get in my car, Brandy.”
“What about…” She gestured to the druggie.
“I’m giving you a ride, and that’s final. I’m parked out front.” He handed her a set of keys. “Pop the trunk once you get in.”
“Are you seriously going to toss him into your trunk?”
“How else am I getting rid of him?”
“We can’t bring him out the front. It’s barely dark. People will notice. I’ll drive your car around back. Meet me at the exit in the rear.”
His lips flattened. “We’ll both go.”
She put a hand on his arm. “Don’t be silly. I’ll be out of sight like thirty seconds.”
“Hmmph.” His grunted reply. He walked her to the door and then stood in the doorway, watching as she got behind the wheel. By the time she’d gone to the edge of the building and crawled down the alley to the loading door at the back, he was there waiting.
He leaned down, and she cycled the window a crack. “Hey, good-looking, need a ride?” she teased.
With not even a hint of a smile, he grumbled, “Pop the trunk.”
It took a second to locate the button. She pressed it and then got out of the car, doing her best to eyeball any cameras in the alley. Just the one above their door, which she knew Griffin’s tech guy had access to.
Billy emerged with a bulging fabric bag, which he lugged into the trunk. Then another, which made her frown. He then clearly asked, “Is that all the laundry?”
She caught on quick. “Yeah, thanks for giving me a hand. Stupid me forgot to schedule a pickup.”
He closed the door to the clinic, ensuring it latched and locked before getting into the driver’s seat. She’d already slid over to the passenger side. Truth be told, she wasn’t feeling too hot. Her head and throat throbbed as the adrenaline of panic wore off and a chill hit her.
“You cold?” he asked as if he could sense her shiver.
Before she could reply, he’d turned on the heated seat and cranked the blower inside the car.
He pulled out of the alley and turned right without asking. Forget telling him where she lived. Apparently, the detective already knew. Stalking her or more likely as part of his duties in providing security for Griffin and the pack.
“You’re being too quiet,” he remarked. “Is your throat tight? Can you breathe?”
“I’m fine.” Barely raspy. And to prove she was coherent, she added, “Feel free to give me mouth-to-mouth if you’re worried.”
The sudden screech of brakes jolted Brandy as he stopped in front of the converted house where she’d scored the second floor as her new digs.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Lock the door when you get inside.”
“Yes, sir.” Offered with a sassy salute. “Thanks for coming to the rescue.”
“Next time call the cops.” His terse reply.
That caused a cheeky dimpled smile. “I did. I called you.”
He gave her a stare.
“Thanks again, Detective Gruff.”
“Call me Billy.” He appeared to regret it just as quickly as he said it, given he scowled.
“Thanks, Billy.” She pushed on the passenger door to open it, and before she could step out, Billy stood there, offering her a hand. Holy fast. He hauled her to her feet and didn’t let go right away.
She glanced up at him. “Thank you again. I don’t know the last time a gentleman helped me out of a car.” Those kinds of old-school manners had been disappearing in the last decade. Great, given it showed women being treated more equally. Boo, because there was something to be said about those tiny gestures.
“Second floor, right?” he asked, glancing at the stairs.
“Yup.” She headed for the steps and wasn’t entirely surprised he followed close behind.
The small balcony outside her door barely had room for the two of them. She pulled her keys from her handbag, but her hand shook. Not because of the attack. Having Billy close did strange things to her. He unlocked the door and cracked it open before handing back her keys.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked. “Maybe we should call Maeve and have her check you out.”
She snorted. “You do realize I’m capable of diagnosing myself. I don’t have a concussion.”
“You can’t be sure,” he replied.
“No nausea. No double vision. No confusion. Or any other symptoms other than an achy head.”
“Do you want me to stick around?” he offered.
She really, really wanted to say yes… “Probably not a good idea given what’s in your trunk.”
Billy glanced down, and his lips flattened. “Guess I’ll be going then.”
As he took the first step away, she blurted out, “Hey, I don’t suppose you want to be my plus-one for the wedding?”
His brows shot up. “What?”
“You know, Maeve and Griffin’s wedding. I’m allowed to bring a guest.”
“And? It’s not like I wasn’t invited. Given my job, I’m not supposed to associate with them.” A detective shouldn’t hang with a pot store owner, never mind the fact Griffin ran it legally.
“But see, if you go as my date, it’s plausible deniability,” she countered.
“It’s a bad idea,” he replied before he bounded down the rest of the steps and jumped into his car. He practically left rubber on the asphalt he peeled away so fast.
When am I going to accept the fact he’s just not interested?
Yet for a guy who supposedly didn’t care, he’d come running twice when she called for help. Then again, he was a cop. Probably the heroic type that would save anyone in need.
As Brandy entered her apartment, she wondered what he’d do with the guy in the trunk. Decided it was probably best she didn’t know so she couldn’t testify against him if something happened.
Given the shit day she’d had, she found solace in her new kitten and the tub of chocolate brownie chunk ice cream.
So what if Billy didn’t find her attractive. Plenty of guys did.
“Screw you, Detective Gruff,” she muttered around a mouthful of cold sugary goodness.
She did screw him. That was if dreams counted. Just like she had almost every night since meeting him.
Stuck at a red light, a block away from Brandy’s place, Billy slapped the steering wheel. Once. Twice. Fuck it, three times for frustration.
Damn Brandy for dragging him into her presence. He’d been doing his best to avoid her since they’d met. Doing his best to not fantasize about the perky nurse with the sweet curves, even as his own dreams betrayed him and left him sticky when he woke.
He’d been determined to not get involved because he didn’t do committed relationships and he could tell she was the type who wanted to settle down.
No way. No how. Not Billy Gruff. He figured out of sight, out of mind. Only it didn’t appear to be working.
What did it say about him that she called him for help and he dropped everything to go to her rescue? Only to arrive and find out she had things under control.
He’d been torn with pride and rage that she’d handled the druggie on her own. Brandy wasn’t some wilting damsel in distress. She had the courage to stand up for herself. But it infuriated him that she’d had to defend herself.
When he found out the fucker had dared to hurt her… If she’d not been present, Billy might have lost the famous cool composure he was known for. Might have done the unthinkable, given how hard he’d pulsed with a feeling not usually experienced outside of a full moon.
Blame Brandy. Something about her turned him into a mess. When around her, he couldn’t think straight. Felt as if his own body betrayed him, given how it reacted to her scent.
And she’d been harmed.
It took everything in him not to drive to the woods and let loose. Instead, he remained within the city, heading for a neighborhood where nobody ever snitched, especially to cops.
He parked in an alley, the kind with rank dumpsters. No homeless in there currently, as its most recent resident, a fellow simply known as Gray Beard, had died. Liver failure from a lifetime of drinking. Billy slid on some gloves before getting out of his car and popping the trunk. The moment it opened, Billy found himself face to face with the druggie, eyes bloodshot, opening his mouth to yell.
Billy grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him out of the trunk, growling, “Go ahead and scream. No one cares.”
“Who are you? Da fuck you want, you perv?” the druggie asked as Billy set him on his feet. The addict had already removed the tape from his wrists and ankles.
“I want you to leave good people alone.”
“I’m good people,” the fucker insisted.
“You choked a dear friend of mine.”
“You talking about that sweet piece of ass?” The man licked his lips. “She’s feisty. I’ll remember that for next time.”
“There won’t be a next time,” Billy warned. So much for just letting the fucker go. Brandy was right. Even if arrested, he’d be out within a day, two at most, harassing people again. Hurting defenseless women.
Billy ignored the guy to reach for something kept tucked under the driver seat of his car. He put the emergency kit on the hood.
The druggie wavered on his feet, and then, because he’d obviously fried too many brain cells, boasted, “Oh hell yeah there’ll be a next time. I know where she works, mother fucker. I’ll bring friends, and we’ll have ourselves a good time.”
Billy pulled a syringe and bottle from the kit.
“What you got there?” The druggie practically drooled.
“Something that will get you higher than you ever imagined.” Billy held the items in his gloved hands. They were already clean of prints given they were part of his emergency stash.
“Gimme!” The druggie lunged, and Billy side-stepped.
“In a second. First, you’re going to promise to not share.”
“As if.” The guy snorted, his hands outstretched, fingers grasping. “Give.” The addict’s eyes had a crazed light as he agreed to anything for his next fix.
Billy handed it over. He didn’t watch as the druggie pulled from the vial and, without any preamble, shot himself in the arm. Immediately, the addict’s body relaxed. He slumped to the ground, the needle still sticking out of his flesh, a dumb smirk on his face.
Billy closed the trunk and stowed his emergency kit, which would need a replacement of the insulin he’d just handed off.
The druggie complained as he pulled the needle saying, “This stuff is shit. I’m barely feeling a high.”
“Then take some more,” Billy encouraged.
As he left, the guy was jabbing himself again. Given the full vial, he had a few shots he could still administer, not that it would take that many. Insulin taken by someone who didn’t need it was usually fatal.
There were those that would be appalled at his callousness. In his mind, those willing to hurt others to get high didn’t get his sympathy. Not when Brandy’s safety was at risk.
Thoughts of her led to him picturing her. How her lips always seemed to curve in happiness. How the corners of her eyes crinkled when she smiled. How she smelled. How she’d almost been killed.
Once more, he worried about her having a concussion. Sure, she’d claimed to be fine, the only reason he’d dropped at home instead of a hospital to check on her. Still, she might not be the best judge of her own condition.
The smart thing would have been to call Griffin and have him send someone over to make sure Brandy was okay. Billy instead found himself outside her place, eyeing the windows to her apartment. One remained lit.
His unease was probably misplaced. He should go home. The hour drew late, and he’d not eaten yet. He got out of his car and headed to the door to her place, jogging up the single flight of stairs and pausing outside for a listen. He didn’t press his ear. Nor did he knock. He cussed himself inwardly for being so weak and turned around. One foot hovered over the stairs to leave.
What if she’s in distress and no one knows?
He whirled and knocked before he could change his mind.
Perhaps she was in the bathroom.
Or on the floor with a brain bleed.
Kicking in the door seemed a little drastic, yet turning the knob showed the door locked. He eyed it and then reached into his pocket for his picks. A cop wasn’t supposed to carry around those kinds of tools. Then again, most cops weren’t also werewolves with an order from their Pack Alpha to keep Lycans from being discovered.
Click. Click. It didn’t take long to turn the tumblers of the cheap lock—which he made a mental note to have replaced. A beautiful woman like Brandy should have something more secure. Look at how easily he opened the door and stepped inside.
Wham. The frying pan came out of nowhere.COLLAPSE