Mixed Breeds, Book 1
by Julia Talbot
Ebook BIN: 05563-01782
[ Paranormal Romance ]
Werewolf Jason is pretty sure he doesn’t want to open his heart again to anyone, male or female. He doesn’t even want to go on a blind date, let alone deal with the mix-up when two people show up. Coyote shifter Scott thinks it’s a great idea, though, and he’s willing to put his head together with foxy lady Rita to help Jason loosen up, even if it might put them all in danger.
“I don’t need you to set me up, Rob. Thanks, but no.” Jason swirled the wine in his glass, watching the red stuff go round and round. It had been really nice of his buddies Rob and Lonnie to have him over for an extremely rare steak and some bacon and cheese concoction they said included vegetables. Too bad they had, just as he’d figured they would, begun trying to set him up on blind dates before they even got to dessert.
Rob stared at Jason over the horn rims of his glasses. The man was a software engineer, and liked to pretend he wasn’t a unibrow type who went all alpha on the full moon. The glasses were a pretty good disguise; they made Rob look owlish. “You need to get out more. It’s been nearly a year since…” Rob trailed off with a grunt and a start, which meant Lonnie had kicked Rob under the table. Lonnie had far more tact, even if he looked like he should be in San Quentin selling cigarettes and making all sorts of criminals his bitches.
“What he means,” Lonnie said, smiling. “Is that you need to get back on the horse. You don’t have to win the derby or anything. Just get going at a trot.”
“Wow.” Jason tossed his wine back in a single gulp. “Nice to know I’m a prize pony.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Rob flapped one big, square hand. “You’re a healthy, not-yet-over-the-hill werewolf. You have a steady job, a nice duplex with a big yard and an SUV big enough for all the pups Lon and I will never have. You need to get with the program and find a nice girl. I have the perfect one.”
Lonnie snorted. “No. Jason needs a boy. We’ve talked about this.”
Jason rolled his eyes, watching his friends digress into a discussion of his sexuality. The truth was, Jason had tried both men and women, and while he enjoyed swinging either way, he’d had no luck settling down with any of the people he’d dated.
Having to hide the werewolf thing was an issue in most of his relationships, and the one time he hadn’t had to worry about that had ended a year ago, disastrously, if he did say so himself.
Which he did, often. It bore repeating, though. Now. “Guys. Guys! I appreciate the thought. I do. I’m just not interested. You’re right, it’s been a year. In case you haven’t noticed, I still have scars from that.” Jason gestured at his face, where he knew his wicked, jagged scar made him look a little like an axe murderer. Iron blades dipped in silver and blessed by pagan werewolf hunters did damage which took a long while to heal.
Lonnie pulled a sympathetic face. “I know. It sucked. Amy was a nice kid; she didn’t deserve to go like that. You have to start moving on, man. I have just the guy. Moved to town three weeks ago.”
Jason stared. It was all he could do at the moment. He stared down Rob and Lonnie both, waiting until they looked away. Then he cleared his throat and smiled. “Thanks, guys, but no. Can we just have cheesecake and coffee?”
Lonnie and Rob exchanged a long glance, then turned to grin at him as one, both of them nodding. “Sure, Jason,” Rob said, sounding cheerful as ever. “We’ll leave it alone.”
Lonnie chuckled. “At least long enough to eat dessert.”
* * *
Scott Alvarez wondered what he was doing at the Café Lupo, for like, the millionth time. The smell of garlic bread and red sauce was making his mouth water, the half bottle of Chianti he’d consumed was making his head spin, and he felt like an idiot for accepting a blind date from a guy he’d only worked with for two weeks.
Oh, Lonnie was nice enough, and he seemed awfully sure Scott would like this Jason guy, but it still seemed pretty stupid to try going out with one of the local pack when Scott hadn’t even gotten approval from the alpha to stay in the area.
The truth was, he knew he wouldn’t get that approval if he ran with the pack on the full moon, which would be one of the criteria for membership. It always was, and Scott always failed.
Scott shoved the sleeve of his Henley back so he could check his watch. His date was now officially five minutes late. He sighed. He’d give it three more minutes. Then he was ordering his food to go and sitting in front of the TV the rest of the night.
“Are you Jason?”
Shit! Scott damned near jumped out of his skin. How he’d missed the lady who stood next to his table, he had no idea. She was a redhead, stacked to the ceiling, her curvy figure stuffed into a glittery green dress that managed to be both revealing and demure. Hot.
Scott managed a smile. “Sorry. No. My name is Scott.”
“Oh.” Her lips curled in a delicious little smile, even as she managed to appear disappointed. “Bummer. I’m Rita, and I was really hoping you were supposed to be my blind date.”
“Well, I am here for a blind date…” Scott frowned. “With a guy named Jason.”
She raised a brow, which was darker than her hair, more of a mahogany color. “That’s a hell of a coincidence. Sorry you’re not my type, though.”
Now it was his turn to raise his brows. He sucked at putting just one up, damn it. “Who says I’m not? I might surprise you.”
Rita slipped into the seat across from him and planted her elbows on the table. The pose did amazing things to her breasts, which looked firm and pale with a smattering of freckles across the upper regions. “Do tell.”
“I will if you have a glass of wine with me.”
“I’d like that.” She stayed put, and he waved down the waiter to get another glass.
“So, what Jason are you meeting?” he asked, clinking his glass against hers.
“Tyson, his name is. Some kind of…” she gestured with her newly filled glass, “outdoor kind of guy. Does water quality testing.”
Scott sat back in his seat, starting to really get the idea he was being played. “No shit? Who set you up with him?”
“My friend, Rob. Pretty size queen? Does tech work?”
“Mine is named Lonnie. He’s a mechanic.”
Now it was Rita’s turn to frown. “That’s Rob’s lover. What the hell?”
“I was just thinking the same thing.” He had no idea what kind of sick game this was, but Scott was pretty sure he didn’t approve.
“I’ll just call Rob.” Rita slipped an iPhone out of her purse and started punching numbers. That was probably the best solution, since Scott didn’t have a personal number for Lonnie yet.
No one answered Rita’s call, and she huffed. “Well, shit.”
“You gonna leave a voicemail?”
“I guess I’ll call back and…”
They both paused when they heard someone with a deep voice talking to the waiter. “I’m Tyson, party of two. I’m really late.”
“Your party is still here, sir. If you’d come this way.”
The man who came into view was definitely worth waiting for. He was tall, well-built in the way of men who worked with their hands, and had dark blond hair. A square jaw with a jagged scar and a pair of arresting gray eyes completed the look. In fact, Jason Tyson might actually be worth hearing whatever shitty story there was to explain all this. Maybe.
The guy paused when he saw Scott and Rita at the table together, his eyebrows going up. Then he came forward, nodding politely at the waiter who was grumbling about getting more bread.
“Hi. Uh, my name is Jason. Are you… I’m supposed to meet someone here for dinner. Lonnie and Rob wouldn’t tell me who; they just assured me I would know my date because they were perfect for me. Am I in the wrong place?”
Rita stared at Jason, then gave Scott a look, which he answered with a shrug. What a messed up situation this was turning out to be. Then Rita’s lips curved in a sexy, devious smile. She leaned back and crossed one leg over the other. “Well, Rob sent me and Lonnie sent him. Why don’t you tell us which one is perfect?”
Scott grinned. That was pretty damned clever. He nodded. “Yeah, man. Might as well let us know now which one will be missing out on dinner.”
* * *
Jason was going to kill Rob and Lonnie both. What a cluster fuck of mammoth proportions. Not only had they manipulated him into going on a blind date, they had both set him up and now he had to navigate a minefield of hurt feelings and awkwardness with two people he’d never met. Not to mention the fact that neither of his pair of new best friends was a werewolf like him.
He held out a hand. “Well, like I said, I’m Jason, and I’m so sorry for the mix-up, and for being late. There was an accident on I-70 and I tried to call the restaurant, but Siri couldn’t find the darned number.”
The guy stood and shook his hand. “Well, that means he’s more tech savvy than I expected, and more polite.” Then the man looked at Jason. “Scott Alvarez.”
Warmth radiated from the place where their hands met, and Jason blinked. He got an impression of sandy, rocky dessert, and cactus. Southern New Mexico, maybe? Huh.
The girl stood, her green dress hugging every curve. Slinky, but solid. She could hold her own. She offered her hand, too, and he took it, more holding than shaking “Rita. This is just like Rob, pulling a fast one.”
Jason grinned. This one knew his friend Rob well, and she was from up in the trees, from up on Grand Mesa or above Boulder or something. Fascinating. She had a musky smell, not too strong, tempered with sweet pine and flowers. He tilted his head. Maybe a kitty. Fascinating.
He gestured for them to sit before pulling out a chair. “It is so like Rob. Not at all like Lonnie,” he said to Scott. “He would have thought you were the only one coming.”
Scott nodded. “He seems like a stand-up kind of guy.”
“He is. Chianti?” When Scott nodded, Jason grinned at the bread-delivering grump of a server. “More wine, please.”
“Sure. Sure. Another glass…”
“The kid is just a mess.” Scott smiled at him, and it seemed genuine enough. “Look, I can go if you want.”
“Hey, no. I can hit the road.” Rita fingered the little beaded purse lying on the table, her nails painted a deep purply-red.
“No, really. I see no reason why all three of us can’t have a nice dinner together, if it doesn’t freak you out.” Jason had decided as awkward as this was, this was the best case scenario. Now there was no pressure to really get in depth with conversation or to get sexual or do any of the other stuff people expected out of a date. They could have some good food, some wine, hopefully enjoy each others’ company and then hit the road. It was perfect.
Scott and Rita exchanged another glance before both of them relaxed visibly. Rita laughed. “That’s a great idea, thanks. I told Rob I didn’t want to come, but he assured me he had already told you I had agreed and blackmailed me into it.”
“Oh, man, Lonnie played the same trick on me.” Scott shook his head, reaching for the garlic bread. That took a little more pressure off Jason. Anyone eating garlic bread on a first date probably wasn’t terribly interested in getting it on.
“They did the same thing to me. Buttheads.” Jason said it fondly, though. His friends were only trying to help. When Steffan had left him, he’d thought his world was over. Amy had been his savior of sorts, and when he’d lost her to hunters… Well, he’d almost given up and died, too.
“Well, if you’re sure you want us to stay and have supper…” Rita settled deeper into her chair, grabbing some bread, too.
“I do. In fact it’s on me.” They were both attractive, and they appeared to be fairly normal. Why not let himself enjoy the night out?
Scott chuckled, the sound low and incredibly inviting. “Cool. If it’s on you, I’m having the chicken parmesan.”
“Oh? What were you going to get if you had to eat by yourself?”
“Spaghetti and meatballs. Cheap and filling.”
“They say you are what you eat,” Rita murmured.
“Yeah?” Jason grinned at her. “What are you having?”
She batted her lashes at him. “Pasta puttanesca.”
Jason hooted. This might just be worth it after all. He couldn’t wait to see what they all decided on for dessert.