Alex Cavanaugh is used to fielding odd requests at her waitressing job. She would have never predicted, though, that she’d get brazenly propositioned for a one-night stand with a needy werewolf—or that she’d be lonely enough to tell him yes.
Ben Swain’s inner wolf has been howling for him to take a permanent mate, but he’s terrified of change. He’s clawed his way to status and respect from his pack and doesn’t want to sacrifice that for anything. A short tryst while he’s visiting Maria, New Mexico, before the holidays is supposed to be a stopgap measure to keep his wolf hormones in check, but Ben’s animal side wants more of Alex.
Although she’s a human, quirky Alex’s go-with-the-flow, practical personality perfectly complements Ben’s wild intensity. But after being burned by men before, her budding horticulture career has become her number one priority. Sure, she wants love, but she’d rather be alone than with someone who isn’t fully committed. So why can’t she seem to resist Ben?
If the two can’t figure out a way to balance the two most important things in their lives, all they’ll be getting for Christmas is regret.
by Holley Trent
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Holley Trent is a Carolina girl gone west. She writes paranormal romances that have both humor and heat. Find Holley Trent at www.holleytrent.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @holleytrent.
An excerpt from The Wolf’s Joy:
Ben Swain watched his cousin Scott flip the pages in his little notebook and paced in front of the bench between the diner and the boot store. As long as he kept moving, the less pull his inner wolf had on him. He’d be more comfortable in his wolf form—less squirrelly, less confused of his surroundings—but if he took that shape, getting back into his human one was going to hurt like a son of a bitch . . . if he could get out of it at all.
“I think this one’ll work.” Scott tapped the end of his little golf pencil against the pad and nodded conclusively. “She’s got some snap to her. Plus, she already knows what you are. Not gonna get all wigged out if you start howling and shit.”
Ben cracked his knuckles. Grunted.
Howling sounded nice. Being on four legs sounded like a good time. He wouldn’t have to worry about things like putting the toilet seat down and using utensils when he ate. Those things hadn’t seemed so difficult before the hormones that kept his wilder impulses in check had bottomed out. He’d known that would happen eventually. The wildness eventually crept up on every unmated Wolf, and he wasn’t exempt. For some stupid reason, he’d made the mistake of thinking he had a little more time to find a mate. His cousin Sweetie had started going downhill fast and early, and was full-on feral before her mate yanked her back. Sweetie’s brother Calvin—their pack alpha—had been wilding out on random folks in the Asheville Starbucks for daring to sit at “his” corner table. Calvin hadn’t really wanted a mate, but taking one had been vital for his two-legged well-being. Fortunately, he loved that lady. Things had worked out.
Like his cousins, Ben wasn’t looking for love. He didn’t have time for it. His life was perfect the way it was. He was finally making good money, but more important, he’d finally scratched out a place for himself. Working for Clarissa meant folks respected him, and respect was hard to come by for a Wolf. He wasn’t just one Wolf in the pack anymore. He was someone important—someone with value.
He wasn’t ready to give that up for anything. Not yet.
He didn’t need a mate as long as he got physical contact, and his urges were becoming more and more frequent as months wore on. He was trying to stretch out the time between interactions, and the part of him that was wolf was agitated increasingly by the day.
Ben was coming down to two choices, really. Take a mate or let the beast inside him steer the ship.
A night or two with a lady while he was in Maria could scare his hormones back in the other direction and give him a little more time to figure things out.
“Damn shame about that last one,” Scott said, scratching furiously on the pad. “She didn’t want any permanent attachments, and she had that big wooded lot you coulda run around on when you go wolfy.”
Ben grunted. She’d moved overseas. Too bad.
For the most part, he’d given up on formulating sensible responses. Dysphasia was a common symptom of Wolf decline. Assuming he took a mate in time, his brain-to-mouth pipeline would start functioning as intended again, and instantly, if his cousins were any proof.
“She was kind of a prissy-pants, though,” Scott said. “Got all mad about me keeping my shoes on atop her fancy rug.”
Twenty-three, the waitress, stepped outside the diner stuffing a wad of currency into the pocket of her khaki skirt. She eyed them warily.
Ben and Scott stood at attention. Ben’s manners were still as good as they were only due to reflexes.
Looking from one Wolf to the other, she cocked up an eyebrow.
Ben had probably crossed her path countless times before, but he hadn’t paid more attention to her than was necessary to order food. He’d been on the lookout for trysts who were Wolves, and if not a Wolf, some other kind of shifter or at least a witch, but the well had run dry on those. He hadn’t considered a human until Scott told him he didn’t have a damn choice.
“Okay. I see it now,” she said.
Her voice was husky in a walked-through-smoke kind of way. Didn’t match her face. Her face was peaches and cream with a few specks of nutmeg on her nose and cheeks. Light brown hair pulled back into a long, bouncy ponytail. Pale pink gloss on her heart-shaped lips. Sounded like sin but looked like an angel.
There was a word for that kind of mismatch.
Probably’ll think of it later when I forget some other damn word.
“See what?” Scott asked her as Ben continued his silent assessment of the waitress.
Average height. Maybe a little taller. A bit thin for his tastes, but healthy.
“His eyes are deeper set,” she said. “Yours are a little farther apart and you’ve got a widow’s peak.”
Scott’s hand went immediately to his forehead.
Ben snorted. Folks back at home didn’t generally have to stare so hard. They could tell them apart without even looking by noting their energy or their scents. The human was at a disadvantage.
He didn’t mind her staring at him, though. They could call it foreplay and save themselves some time.