Asher is determined to never settle down—until he meets his mate.

Asher is a flirt and the fun-loving joker of the Pack. He’s determined to remain single forever, but that plan goes out the window when Valencia arrives.

A feisty human, she teases him at every turn. Makes him want something more. Especially after they spend a weekend as a pretend couple to avoid trouble with his old Pack.

Problem is he’s got a secret, a howling and hairy one. And she's mentioned more than once the fact that she’s not crazy about dogs.

Things come to a head when Valencia is threatened and he’s forced to show her his feral side. Will she run or stay to tame the beast?

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Publisher: Eve Langlais
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Chapter One

A mighty pounding at the door drew Asher’s attention. He debated answering, given the last time a stranger came knocking, his friend, Rok—short for Amarok—got mated. What if answering the door was the equivalent of catching the bouquet?

Instead, Asher helped himself to one of Poppy’s epic cupcakes. Waiting until later wasn’t an option. Even blinking wasn’t recommended, as Poppy’s baked confectionaries had been known to disappear.

“You gonna answer that?” Lochlan groused from his spot at the table.

“Why don’t you?”

“Because I don’t like people.”

An honest reply, and the opposite of Asher. “I do, usually.” Bang. Bang. “But that’s some angry knocking.”

“Yup.”

It also tickled his curiosity. Asher moved to the hall and stared nervously at the solid wood door. Which wasn’t like him.

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“Open this door before I call the cops!” hollered a woman. “Meadow! You in there? I’ve come to rescue you.”

His brows rose. Whoever it was appeared acquainted with their Alpha’s new mate. Who could it be? Because Meadow didn’t have a sister.

“Would you fucking answer it already?” Lochlan hollered from the kitchen.

Asher swung it open to see a tall brunette with flashing angry eyes.

“Where’s Meadow?” snapped the stranger without preamble.

“Around here somewhere,” was his cautious reply.

“Are you Amarok?”

“Who’s asking?”

“Her best friend, Val, asshole. What have you done with her?”

Asher perused Val up and down. Her heaving bosom. Her flushed cheeks. The shaking fist.

It hit him like lightning. A tightening of his groin. Tremor in his soul. A bolt of knowing that had his eyes widening.

Mine, oh, mine.

Uh-oh.

He now understood why Rok had slammed the door in Meadow’s face the first time they met. Panic filled him. This couldn’t be happening. This angry human couldn’t be his mate. He was supposed to live a lonely bachelor life.

Yet there she stood, maybe five nine-ish inches of bristling woman with a slim figure, olive complexion, and a firm shove as she pushed past him to step into the house.

And what did his dumb ass do to stop her?

Nothing.

A man never laid hands on a woman. Asher didn’t care if today’s world demanded he treat them as he would a guy. He just couldn’t. He held open doors for women. Let them in front of him in lines—which often times meant he waited twice as long. Stood until they were seated first. And always spoke respectfully—to a gal’s face, at least. With the guys, he tended to be a little loose with his language.

“Meadow!” Val bellowed, entering the living room.

“She’s not in the house,” Asher declared, sauntering in her stormy wake. The stories he’d heard of her from Meadow hadn’t mentioned her anger issues.

“Then where is she?” Val spat as she whirled.

“Probably playing with her beaver again, ma’am.” He said it with a straight face.

The woman gaped at him for a minute. It wasn’t the dimpled innuendo she reacted to but the last part. “I am too young to be a ma’am, asshole.”

The vulgar word lifted the corner of his lip. “Well then, what should I call you? Last I heard, darling, honey, sweetheart, and babe were off the list.”

“My name is Valencia Berlusconi, dickwad.”

“The famous Val,” he said with a nod of his head. “Meadow’s mentioned you.”

“Did she mention I’m a black belt? So don’t you try any cult business with me, or I will drop you,” she threatened.

“Cult business?’” He couldn’t help an inquiring lilt.

“How else to explain why my best friend went away for a few weeks and suddenly decided she wasn’t coming home because she’s marrying some backwoods mountain man.”

“Not hard to explain. She fell in love.”

Val snorted. “It’s lust, not love, which is why I’m here.”

“Oh, it’s love all right.” It might seem too fast and impossible to a human, and yet to the Were, of which Amarok and Asher belonged? They could love many in their lifetime, but there was only ever one true mate, and once they met, they couldn’t bear to be apart.

Please let me be wrong about her. Valencia didn’t seem the type to let a man enjoy alone-time with his game system, a headset, a case of beer, and pretzels.

Valencia’s lip curled. “Love. Ha!”

“I agree. Alas, they’re of a different opinion.”

“I’ll fix that,” she threatened.

“Planning to crash the wedding?” he asked.

“More like stop it before it happens.” The whirlwind went from the living room to the dining room, where she briefly halted at the sight of the massive table and the benches on either side. “Just how many people live in your commune?”

“Thirteen now that Meadow’s here. Soon to be fourteen once Astra pops out her baby.”

“Whose baby is it?” she asked rather accusingly.

“Bellamy’s—her husband—so you can get your panties out of their knot, princess.”

“Who says I wear panties?”

“Look at us with something in common,” he replied.

She glanced at him, then lower. He reacted because, hello, he was a fucking man. It helped she was hot, quite possibly his mate, and he was having more fun than expected. But at the same time, he remembered the last time he’d fallen quick and hard for a woman. It cost him his home and his family. He’d not seen the first since he’d left. As for the latter, talking over the phone and messaging just weren’t the same as being able to see his mom and sister in person.

Val’s lips curved in a wicked smile of warning before she said, “I hope you get it caught in your zipper.”

He winced. “That’s just plain cruel, princess.”

“Wash out your ears, dumbass. My name is Valencia,” was her retort as she entered the kitchen, empty of Lochlan and the cupcakes. Bastard!

Rather than flee, Asher followed. “Valencia. Sounds Italian.”

“Very. And before you ask, no, my family doesn’t belong to the mob. But”—she turned a wicked smile on him—“I do have connections, so don’t piss me off.”

“Wait, this isn’t pissed off?” he asked, genuinely curious given her rampage thus far.

Her smile was much too sweet as she said, “This is me showing loving concern for my friend.”

“A friend who’s down by the dam. I can show you the way if you’d like.”

“How far is it? I’m not really dressed to go traipsing in the dirt.” She glanced down at her trendy short boots with their two-inch heels, which led to him giving her long, lean legs in slim-fitting jeans a glance. The blouse, a crisp white linen, was tucked into her pants, and over it, she wore a Sherpa-lined vest. Very attractive and utterly impractical.

And possibly pantyless, which he found interesting given he could see the outline of a bra. Who wore a confining bra but no undies?

“Stop staring,” she demanded, stomping past him to return to the front porch.

Hard to deny given he’d done nothing but look at her since she arrived. He should escape now while he could.

He joined her outside.

Valencia stood with her hands on her hips and glared at the forest. If she could have, he’d bet she’d have mown it down for a clearer view.

“Relax, princess. Meadow should be back soon. Can I offer you a beverage?” he asked.

“As if I’m that dumb. Is that how you conned her? Did your friend drug her into thinking she was in love?”

He leaned against the wall of the house, arms crossed, to drawl, “Why are you convinced they’re not in love? I know you’ve spoken with her.”

“Because Meadow might be naïve, but she isn’t rash. This is the woman who spent a year price shopping her car before buying it.”

Since Asher couldn’t exactly tell this human about the mating bond, he had to rely on something she might believe. “It was love at first sight.”

She let out a snort. “Again, I’m not dumb. I am well aware this Amarok scam artist hated her the first time they met. I heard all about it.”

“You know what they say about love and hate.”

“Don’t give me that line of crap.”

“Fine, then it’s fate.”

“Like fuck it is.”

He arched a brow. “You don’t believe in fated mates?”

“No,” she huffed.

Funny, he would have sworn she was lying.

 

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