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Wolf (Collection)
by Dakota Cassidy and Marteeka Karland and Kira Stone and Sierra Dafoe

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-546-4

Werelock by Dakota Cassidy
Addison Ross agrees to go on an All Hallows Eve pumpkin picking expedition to appease her niece and nephew. Hoo boy does she ever pick a winner. Beneath her pumpkin lies a talisman that brings the delish Caleb Marsden into her life. Caleb Marsden, the werelock…

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Prologue

Dear Nathan,
 
So I went pumpkin picking with my sister and her kids like three weeks before Halloween. I said it was much too early in the month. But my sister, Tricia, said that if those two spawn of Beelzebub spent one more second driving her out of her mind, she was going to hang a noose on her tree in the backyard, stick her head in it, and jump from the highest branch.
 
I told her I didn’t think her husband, Griffon, looked at all like Beelzebub, but she kinda did.
 
I also thought that was sorta extreme and the visual was kinda ugly in my mind’s eye, but well, Joel and Sophia are spirited. Spirited is the polite word that stressed out, glazed-eyed parents use when they’re describing their little heathens. Heathens that constantly move and chatter. I say, bring on the Valium and slip it in their Kool-Aid.
 
Hoorah for whatever helps you preserve your sanity.
 
Plus, to make matters worse, lately Sophie has been driving Tricia nuts about getting a dog. At the ripe old age of six, she’s decided — after watching far too much Animal Planet in my opinion — to become a veterinarian and she’d told us all quite proudly she needed a puppy to practice on.
 
According to Tricia, if Sophie mentioned getting a dog one more Jesus effin’ time, she’d simply end it all.
 
Anyway, we’ve had a cold snap and the kids had been stuck inside for a week. So they were driving her insane. Clearly Tricia needed respite. And a reason to razz the shit out of me for doing nothing but work. They take me pumpkin picking and Christmas tree hunting every year, under protest, while they nag me about my social life.
 
Er, non-social life, that is.
 
They make me go because they think that Auntie Addison needs to get out more. I say bullshit. Well, I didn’t say bullshit to the kids. Just so we’re straight. They’re only six and eight. I’d never do that. I said bullshit to Tricia about the theory of me getting out more.
 
I get out. I do. I go from my townhouse to my car to my office, and then do that all in reverse at like six o’clock at night. Okay, maybe more like nine if I’m honest. Sometimes I get all crazy and make a trip to the grocery store for milk that never fails to end up sour because I’m always working and forget it’s in the fridge.
 
My sister (and her kids too — they’ve learned well from the master nagger) calls me driven and ambitious. Like the little shits even know what those words mean. I call my sister crazy for so purposely and intentionally having nose pickers with big mouths just like their mother’s.
 
I mean, they’re cute and all, and, yeah, I love ’em but, Jesus, they have way too much to say. Just like their mother.
 
Big mouths aside, I went anyway just to shut them all up and keep the peace. I hadn’t seen them in a month and I was long overdue for a visit. I figured I could be in and out of that pumpkin patch in an hour flat and back home with the glow of my computer warming my face in an hour and a half tops given mini-van travel time. Well, maybe not an hour. I’d forgotten to include time for the apple cider and donuts.
 
They’re a must, according to nose picker number one, er, my nephew Joel, and when you’re eight, it’s an experience you don’t wanna miss.
 
I’d soon come to find there were several experiences at the pumpkin patch I didn’t want to miss and it wasn’t just the apple cider and donuts. I just didn’t know I didn’t want to miss them until I almost did, ya know?
 
I know. You’re confused. I was too. Bear with me.
 
Here’s the thing. I skipped along behind those two little buggers and Tricia, between those rows of that damned pumpkin patch for like forevah until we finally found suitable pumpkins for them.
 
Little Sophie’s pumpkin coup was the hardest of all. Christ, you’d think we were shopping for friggin’ life support machines rather than a pumpkin. Sophie took choosing one to a whole new level. It had to be round, perfectly so. It had to be reallllly orange. “Cuz that’s how punkins should be, Auntie Addison,” she’d reminded me in all of her six-year-old wisdom. It had to be reallllly big. Big enough that she could fit three candles in the base so it would be reallllly spooky at night after it was carved. I remember smiling down at the top of her chestnut brown head and saying, “Reallllly?” and making her giggle.
 
Everything was reallllly something or other with Sophie. That word was synonymous for Sophie with anything needing solemn description or anything seriously cool.
 
When we’d finally settled on one for each of the kids, they decided I needed one too. I didn’t want to tell them it would most likely rot away, sitting on my kitchen counter because I’d forget about it. Not to mention, I turned off all my lights and locked my doors come Halloween night. Trick-or-treaters are a persnickety, snobbish bunch these days. They want the big candy bars and they call you crappy names if you don’t cough up the good stuff.
 
Shit on that. I don’t need a bunch of ten-year-olds in Darth Vader costumes calling me cheap. I have my niece and nephew around to abuse me plenty, thanks.
 
Fine, I said. Auntie Addison needs a pumpkin like she needs a spiral perm, but sure, let’s blow twenty bucks so I can see just how long it really does take a pumpkin to rot. It’ll be like a science project.
 
My sister nudged me hard in the ribs and gave me the “mommy” look. The one that says I was being a mean, cranky, old auntie, spoiling all the fun — who was going to end up all alone in a nursing home someday because she wasn’t nicer to her sister’s demons.
 
I rolled my eyes and grudgingly agreed. Auntie Addison did indeed need a pumpkin.
 
I guess that’s where the trouble all began for me.
 
That fucking pumpkin.
 
And what was under it.
 
I should have stuck to my guns and refused to buy one, but I honestly do love the little heathens and I sure would like someone to visit me come my twilight years if my life keeps going on the path it’s on. I really am absorbed in my work and I haven’t dated in well over three years.
 
So I picked a pumpkin.
 
A humdinger of one.
 
Joel began jumping around like he always does. He’s prone to constant motion. It’s as if he’s had an overdose of his daily gummy worm intake and the sugar was rushing to his skinny, little legs. Thus creating a Riverdance-like effect. He makes me dizzy and my head swirls from his endless chatter.
 
So I didn’t pay attention to all the noise he was making after I’d yanked my pumpkin up.
 
When I saw him pointing to the soft dirt where the pumpkin had been and realized he wasn’t just jumping around for the sake of making us all bonkers, I stooped to check it out.
 
And there it was. A little statue on a rope imbedded in the dirt. It looked like a totem pole to me.
 
Joel thought it was uber cool and Sophie thought it was reallllly weird. Imagine that, eh? Very predictable my Sophie is.
 
So since we found this — this — er, talisman is what I’m told it is — shit’s been a little crazy around here.
 
That brings me to why I’m writing this letter. I mean, in case I don’t come back, I’m going to assume that eventually my sister will come looking for me. Damn, I hope she doesn’t bring the nose pickers here to my house before you can contact her. They might get upset if Auntie Addison is dead.
 
I really do love them. In fact, part of the reason I’m doing this is because I love them. Well, it’s not the only reason, if I’m honest. I kinda like the guy that started this whole talisman thing. No, I mean I really like him and if I don’t help him, he might not come back either. I think the world won’t much miss me if I end up dead trying to help him. My sister has her family and husband to keep her busy. They all have each other.
 
Me? I don’t have much that needs me here.
 
But if I’m left behind after this mess is over, I’d sure miss Caleb if he ended up six feet under. He’s the guy I mentioned. Anyway, I’ve grown attached to him. Like seriously attached. So I hope you’ll understand why I had to go with him. He fulfills something in me I didn’t know was missing. I like the way he calls me Addy. He makes me smile. He makes me nuts. He makes me wish I’d spent less time at work. He made me realize there’s a whole lot going on out there that I didn’t know about. He made me value the here and now.
 
And so what if Caleb isn’t your typical idea of a knight in shining armor? He’s mine. At least I think I want to find out if he can be anyway.
 
I’m leaving this note in the event of my death and I’ve followed it up with a message on your service that you won’t get until November first.
 
I was of sound body and reallllly close to sound mind when I wrote this. Please tell Tricia there’s a more detailed account of the events since that day at the pumpkin patch in my top right-hand dresser drawer. Oh, and tell her I love her and I’m sorry I didn’t go pumpkin picking without bitching about it for all these years.
 
As for you, Nathan, my legal-eagle, well, you’ll know what to do after you read this.
 
Addison Ross

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