A London Werewolf in America
by Pat Cunningham
eBook ISBN: 1606017713
Print ISBN: 978-1606017722
British werewolf Roderick Chase finds himself the target of assassins. Philadelphian witch Darinda Lowell agrees to act as his bodyguard. There’s no way the wolf and the witch can get along, but in the end love works a spell even they can’t ignore.
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“Now, Roddy, it’s not like you to be so glum. Cheer up. I’m sure you’re going to love her.”
Bloody doubtful. Roderick Chase—never “Roddy,” thank you very much—wrinkled his nose and growled under his breath, first at his Aunt Letitia’s never-ending perkiness, then at his first good whiff of America. Granted, London’s air was no fresh spring bouquet much of the time, but this! Even for an airport, it made his eyes water, and he’d thought himself inured to the stench of monkey. He didn’t even try to muffle his sneeze. “I don’t suppose she lives in the country?” he muttered.
“She lives with her family in Fairmount Park, but she’s getting an apartment soon.”
Roderick’s nose wrinkled further.
Aunt Letty fixed a scowl on him. “Don’t you make that face at me. Your mother went to a lot of trouble to arrange this meet.”
“Ah, yes. Always on the lookout for her favorite son’s best interests.”
“Yes,” Aunt Letty said shortly, “she is. New blood’s always good for the pack, and it’s long past time you were properly mated.”
“I’m quite capable of finding my own mate, you know.”
“Oh, we know. Found yourself a dozen in the last six months, I’ve been told. Usually in pubs. Human pubs.”
“I thought you just said new blood’s good for the pack.”
“That depends on the blood, and you know it.” She took his arm to haul him off to baggage claim, weaving them expertly through the mass of ill-smelling humans. “Your mother wants you mated and settled. The sooner the better, I say.”
“And we all jump when the Queen Mum yips.” Which wasn’t so far off the mark, he was forced to bitterly concede. His mother, Bernadette Chase, had ruled the pack with an iron paw since well before the death of his father. No one, not even Roderick, dared raise hackles in front of her. Playing the happy submissive had grown more difficult over the last several years. Rank as this Yank air was, he found it easier to breathe than the close, tension-filled atmosphere of Chase Manor, although he felt it could do with a lot less monkey-whiff.
A fat ape in a straining business suit nearly ran him down in his desperate lumber toward the boarding gate. Roderick didn’t know whether to snarl or shudder. “So what am I supposed to do with this bitch? Submit to the whole arranged mating, or just get a litter on her?”
“You watch your tone, puppy. I’m not afraid to nip you in public.” Aunt Letty flashed a fang to show she meant it. “Coraline comes from a fine old pack. Impeccable pedigree. No human blood in her veins.”
“She sounds delightful. Perhaps we ought to show her at Crufts.”
Aunt Letty reached up and cuffed him on the scruff of the neck. “There’ll be no more of that talk. You’ll marry this girl and there’s the end of it.” She stared about, her nose working as hard as her eyes. “Oh dear, where’s Eugene got to? He should have joined us by now. Ah well, let’s go fetch your bags.”
She snatched his claim ticket out of his hand and trotted toward the carousel. Roderick lagged behind. Inside his expensive, restrictive suit, he was seething. An arranged marriage, in this day and age. With some Yank, no less. Lycaon bite it, who did they think they were dealing with? He was alpha!
But so was his mother, and some alphas were more alpha than others, as his sister Tamra was fond of reminding him. One did not defy one’s pack leader unless one was prepared to face the consequences, possible death being foremost. Which is how he’d come to stand alone in a crowded airport, hemmed in by monkeys and their noxious stench in bloody Philadelphia. Why couldn’t his mother have found him a she in a more civilized country?
This is punishment, he decided. Her way of forcing him to show throat. All right, perhaps he deserved a cuff or two. He liked his romps. He’d never tried to hide the fact. However, he’d been discreet. No lovers sent to hospital, no half-human whelps left behind, no cries of werewolf to come back and haunt the pack. If the girls themselves didn’t object—and none had to date—then where was the harm? Better a human she than some protected daughter of the pack. The monkeys howled just as loudly and enthusiastically as any were. Or perhaps the Queen Mum expected her get to stay celibate? He shuddered and growled at the thought.
Well, Bernadette Chase was back home in England, and Aunt Letty was verbally tearing out the throat of the hapless baggage clerk, and cousin Eugene had yet to return, so there was no one to stop him from visually feasting on the bounty laid out before him.
Say what you would about humans, they bred themselves some fine, attractive shes, even here in the Colonies. Like that one in the flowered scarf, with legs longer than the Amazon. Or the blonde at the ticket counter, who kept flicking glances his way. Or the redhead alone in the seating area, perched on the edge of her plastic chair, who had placed a shallow clay bowl in her lap and was currently starting a fire in it.
Roderick blinked and narrowed his eyes. She wasn’t actually—
Yes, she was actually. The redhead had taken a white stump of candle out of a shapeless knit shoulder bag big enough to hold India. She murmured to the candle, and it burst into flame. With this she lit the scrap of parchment she’d placed in the bowl. A little wisp of purplish smoke spiraled up. She bent low over the bowl. He saw her lips move.
Now monkeys, the Yank breed especially, had been known to do some pretty queer things, but this was new even to Roderick. Intrigued, he ambled over for a closer look.
He crept up behind her on silent hunter’s feet. His keen ears picked up an unfamiliar language, similar to Gaelic but oddly accented. He risked a final, closer step and walked right into the scent of the smoke.
It wasn’t at all the type of odor he associated with burning paper. Tart and sweet at once, it conjured up images of thick, dark forests, a belly full of fresh-killed venison and, inexplicably, the color violet. Suddenly he felt invincible, as if nothing on earth could do him harm.
All this lasted only a second. Then the woman blew a kiss into the fire, murmured, “Be safe,” and snuffed the flame. The smoke billowed up in a final burst, straight up his sensitive nose. He couldn’t stop his sneeze.
The woman gasped and nearly dropped her bowl. She twisted around in her seat. The most striking cobalt eyes he’d ever gazed into widened at him. Her full and perfect lips formed a full and perfect O. Would those eyes darken during love, he wondered? What cries would she make? What cries would he make in response when those long-fingered delicate hands took their wicked liberties with his flesh?
His fantasy spoke, in low, husky tones. “Oh geez. I’m not a terrorist, honest.”
The left side of his mouth quirked upward. “Of course not.” He nodded at the bowl and its smoldering contents. “So why dispose of the evidence?”
“It’s not evidence of anything. It’s a—” She cut herself off. Her eyes got thin. So they could darken. Fascinating. “You’re not airport security.”
“No,” he admitted with a graceful shrug. “Merely a concerned citizen.”
His first concern at this point was how best to bring down this delectable prey. This involuntary trip across the pond had just become infinitely more interesting.
* * * *
Concerned citizen, Darinda thought. Yeah, right. And she was Morgain Le Fay. He wasn’t even an American citizen either if that accent was for real. She gave him the automatic once-over. His suit did nothing to disguise a trim, athletic build. His face sported a long nose, square, powerful jaw, and hair as black as Scranton coal and thick as an animal’s pelt. It went well with his tawny eyes. An alarm went off in the back of her head. What did she know about yellow eyes?
“You’re not from around here,” she said. “Just get in?”
“Twenty minutes ago.” He glanced around quickly, as if checking for someone. Darinda started to rise. Instantly he moved around the seat to offer his hand. “Roderick Chase. London, England.”
“Darinda Lowell. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”
She didn’t take his hand. Instead she peered at it as if passing judgment. He beamed his most disarming smile at her. “I assure you, I don’t bite. Not right off.”
Still skeptical, she shifted the bag and the bowl into her left hand and extended her right. She accepted Roderick’s hand and rose gracefully to her feet.
And the world slid sideways.
Oh crap. Her truth touch had just kicked in on her again. Mr. Merry Olde throbbed with primal, predatory power, more than ready and willing to claim all within his line of sight. Like her, for instance.
She knew in her head she was holding his hand, but her eyes saw a paw in her palm. Looking up, she found herself eye to yellow eye with a great black wolf in a suit. His muzzle twitched, and he cocked his head slightly to one side. His jaws parted.
“Is something the matter?” the wolf said.
Darinda snatched her hand away. The wolf snapped back to human. Her bag slid off her shoulder and nearly knocked the bowl from her hand. In frantically transferring the bowl from left hand to right she lost her grip on the shoulder bag. It dropped off her forearm and plopped at her feet. Small plastic vials, a lipstick, a handful of business cards and a John Grisham paperback scattered across the floor.
Roderick stared at her, puzzled. Darinda backed a step, placing the bag between them. The yellow eyes made sense now. “You’re a werewolf,” she blurted.
His nostrils flared. Hecate’s bra, he was actually sniffing her. “You’re a witch.”
“Yes,” she said proudly, and waited for The Look: raised brows, pursed lips, naked skepticism. Dropping the W-bomb on strangers usually provoked that reaction.
Instead this intercontinental were merely shrugged broad shoulders. “I suppose that explains the bonfire.”
“The—? Oh. Right.” She secured her grip on the bowl. “Protection spell. My brother’s plane just took off. I wanted to make sure he gets home safely. It’s not easy casting spells in a public place these days. They think you’re trying to burn the building down. You’re taking all this rather well.”
“Your being a witch? We do have them in England, you know. Old hags, mostly. Not young and lovely. You don’t object to my being a were?”
“I’ve dealt with my share of wolves.” Maybe not as smooth as this one, but with intentions just as transparent. She cut eye contact and knelt to clean up the spill from her bag. Instantly he crouched to assist her. “So what brings you to Philadelphia?”
“Nothing important.” He reached for a vial. She swept it deftly out of his reach and back into her bag. Their fingers nearly brushed. She skillfully avoided that as well. “Don’t touch the vials,” she warned. “They’re not for amateurs.”
“What’s in them?”
“Herbs, mostly. I don’t want to get them mixed up. Some of the combinations can be volatile.”
She groped for the business cards. He helped her gather them up. He paused to examine one. “Set A Spell, South Street. You’re the shop’s resident witch?”
“And the owner.” She grabbed the card from him. Not quickly enough. This time their fingers did touch. The wolf popped into existence again, his interest blatantly sexual. Her body responded with a shiver of reciprocation. Bad body, Darinda scolded it. Lusting after a werewolf, even a sexy British one, was not in the cards for a witch. Talk about your volatile combinations.
“I’d love to see your establishment,” he said. “And the rest of your lovely city. Perhaps you’d consent to show me around.”
He wasn’t quite panting, and neither was she, but if he kept inching closer to her that would change in seconds. Get onto another subject, fast. “Does Big Alex know you’re in town?”
He paused in his relentless inching. “Who?”
“Big Alex. The King Wolf of Philadelphia. No outside were sets a paw on his turf unless he okays it first.” She put some frost in her voice. “We don’t want any trouble here. If he hasn’t given permission—”
“Arrangements were made on my behalf. I’m to stay with a local branch of our pack. I’m sure your ‘Big Alex’ has been properly alerted.”
“Got family in the city, then? Whereabouts?”
He growled under his breath. “Bite it, Aunt Letty’s mentioned it a million times. Fairlane Park? Something like that.”
“Yes, that’s it.” She’d scooped the last of the spillage into her bag and was about to rise. He cupped her elbow and helped her to her feet. He barely stopped himself from licking his lips. “The house is called Meadowlands. I’m sure I can arrange a visit for you.”
“That won’t be necessary. If you have family here, they can show you around, so you won’t be needing my services.” She smiled, at the same time stepping just beyond his reach. “I’ve got to get back to work. Enjoy your stay in America, Mr. Chase.”
She turned her back on him and walked away at a brisk stride that shouted finality. That’s for you, Mr. English Werewolf, she thought. If you have any sense, you’ll let it drop. She increased her pace to a trot, and marked the nearest exits. Not that she was worried, of course. Just to be on the safe side.
* * * *
Roderick growled again, this time low down in his throat and with a fierce smile framing it. This Yank monkey she stirred his blood as well as his hunting instincts. He would give her just enough of a lead, then run her down and—
“There you are.” Aunt Letty bustled up with Cousin Eugene in tow. She thrust a leather suitcase at him while Eugene shrugged apologetic welcome. “Here’s the one. The other’s on its way to Istanbul. Those primates at the desk act like it’s nothing. I’ll ‘nothing’ them, the chattering—” She broke off and sniffed. Her expression darkened further. “Roddy! Have you been after the shes again?”
“Of course not.” Roderick rolled his eyes at Eugene, the picture of innocence. Then yelped when Aunt Letty cuffed him. “What was that for?”
“For thinking you can lie to me. I’ve got a nose, puppy. Shame on you.” She cuffed him again. “Barely off the plane and already hunting a romp. Detty was right to get you mated off. If you thought with your brain instead of your nether bits you wouldn’t get in half so much mischief. From here on you’d better be on your best behavior, or else I’ll put you on a leash.”
“She will, too,” Eugene said. “With a choke collar.” He rubbed his neck, as if at unpleasant memories. “Can we go? It stinks in here.”
“In a minute, dear. Roddy has to go through Customs. Assuming the simians don’t muck that up, too. Come along, Roddy. Stay close.”
She headed off. Roderick followed meekly. Now was not the time to bristle and bare teeth. Growing up under Bernadette’s reign had taught him when to show throat and when to lunge for it. Eugene slipped into formation at his back, cutting off escape.
Neither could stop Roderick from looking around. The witch could not have gotten far, not in a crowd this packed.
Ah, there she was, along the wall, emptying the ashy contents of her bowl into a dustbin. That hair drew all eyes to her even in a mob this size. A rich, thick pelt, perfect for burrowing fingers in.
As if aware of his regard, she suddenly looked up. Her stare was drawn to him like a compass needle to the Pole. He grinned at her and winked. She couldn’t possibly have seen either gesture, not at that distance, yet her posture stiffened. She turned abruptly and marched away, toward the distant exit. The lesser apes scurried out of her way, as they would before any alpha.
“Forget the monkeys,” Eugene was saying. “You want fun, I know where to find fun. There’s this place on Arch Street, lot’a vamps but they won’t bother us. We can—”
Roderick let him blather on without paying any attention. He smiled to himself and slid his hand into his trousers pocket. His fingers curved around the business card he’d palmed while helping the witch gather her potions. The pad of his thumb rubbed along the embossed letters of her name, as it would soon rub the creamy richness of her skin. One did not escape a wolf so easily, not even a witch.
His smile broadened until fangs showed. Perhaps this trip to the Colonies would turn out well for him after all.
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