Authors: Ronda Thompson
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Vampires, #Mystery
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To Linda Castillo. Thank you for always
being there for me, for believing in my talent
and for supporting me no matter what is going
on in my life. You're a true friend and
one hell of a talented author.
CONFESSION NO. 1
Most women find the bloating, cramping, and bitchiness of PMS bothersome at worst. I turn into a monster a week before my periodÂ â¦ literally.
Doing an underwear ad on a New York rooftop when it's blowing snow outside can get pretty hairy. And I'm not speaking figuratively. I like my job, but there are days when everything goes to hell. Today is one of them. The skimpy lace panties I wear ride up my crack. My bra is two sizes too small. I'm bloated and have a zit on my forehead that would make a Cyclops jealous. All these things have combined to make my day miserable, but now I've topped them all off with a fur outbreak.
“Lou! Are you coming out of there? The other girls have already gone up. We need to get moving!”
As I glance at the closed door, a growl rises in my throat. The photographer of the shoot, Stefan O'Conner, thinks I'm in here primping. Sure I've been known to mess with my hair until I completely undo the stylist's work, but the hair I stare at now cannot be fixed. At least not without a good waxing product. My lip curls with disgust while studying the nasty patch of dark werewolf fur attached to my left shoulder. The wolf outbreaks during PMS started about six months ago.
I had almost convinced myself that what happened to me seven years ago on prom night was just a bad dream, like the nightmares that haunt me frequently. Now suddenly I'm prone to outbreaks that force me to face the reality that I am a werewolf. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Speaking of butts, I turn my back to the mirror to make sure mine is normal. At least I haven't sprouted a tailÂ â¦ yet.
When I turn to face the mirror again, I hope I imagined the fur outbreak. No such luck. At least the past six months have prepared me. Slinging my beauty bag on the bathroom counter, I dig through it like a dog digs through a trash can.
My beauty bag is with me at all times now and represents my lifeline to normalcy. It weighs about ten pounds and is filled with every kind of beauty product available, plus my own tried-and-true concoctions, and what I like to call werewolf essentials. I'd start my own line, but as far as I know, I'm the only werewolf supermodel in the world.
How does one become a werewolf? you might ask. Good question. Now, more than ever, it's something I need to find out. I have deduced the when and where. I am totally clueless about the how or why. But if I want to keep the life I've made for myself, it's pretty freakin' clear that I need these questions answered.
I manage to find the green goop I've been digging for in my beauty bag. While smearing it across my shoulder, I consider the only logical conclusion I've arrived at concerning my altered state. Werewolfism must be hereditary. The fact that I'm adopted makes the possibility even more likely. I'd pick up the phone and press my adoptive parents for information regarding my biological parents, but sometimes you really can't go home. Like after you've murdered the star high school football player on prom night.
“Lou Kinipski! I swear if you make me lose the good light and the good snow, I'm not working with you again!”
Stefan's threat doesn't faze me. He tries to be a badass when he's working, but I know he has a heart of gold. I also know he has a hot body that he doesn't mind sharing with all the other models. That thought makes me frown. My knight in shining armor can't seem to keep his sword under control. I'd be a hell of a lot more interested in his sword if he could. But the sword business aside, I owe Stefan.
He found me working in a small cafÃ© on the East Side six and half years ago and launched my modeling career. He taught me to trust men again. He gave me confidence that I sorely lacked. He gave me a life when I thought mine was over. I'm a little in love with him, but it's that sword-sharing thing that keeps me from taking our relationship to the next level. That and the fact that I am a murderer. Oh, and that's on top of being a werewolf.
“Lou, please!” Stefan stoops to begging.
His tactics might work if my name were really Lou Kinipski. My agency urged me to change my name six and half years ago when I started modeling, but I refused. I had already changed it once. When I ran away from Haven on prom night seven years ago, I chose an ugly name as a reminder that I was once an ugly girl. I may be drop-dead gorgeous now, but that was not always the case.
As I stare at myself in the mirror, it's hard to remember that I was once butt ugly and a geek to boot. The night I turned into a werewolf, I woke up beautiful. It's as if there was a trade-off for what happened to me. Like I had an ugly disease and it suddenly went into remission. Now I have a werewolf disease and it suddenly is out of remission. I need to know how to send it back into hiding, and as quickly as possible.
Since I haven't done so well in the past six months finding answers on my own, I've made an appointment to see a private investigator this Thursday. It's probably not a smart move. A girl with as many secrets as I have is only asking for trouble when she pays someone to dig around in her life, but what else can I do? The answers must be out there somewhere.
“Lou! I'm counting to three and if you don't open that door I'm shooting without you! Got it?”
I might as well count with him.
Holding my breath, I prepare for a great deal of pain.
This is going to sting like hell.
Ripping the waxing cloth away, I put a fist into my mouth to keep from screaming. I gag on the cuss words stuck in my throat.
“Lou, sweetheart, you aren't in there purging, are you?”
Sticking a finger down my throat and puking up calories would be preferable to the horrific sting going on in my shoulder, but I have no need to purge. Whatever happened to me seven years ago, it kicked my metabolism into high gear and kept it there. I can eat whatever I want and never gain weight. That happy thought is chased away by not only the sting going on in my shoulder, but the ache that erupts in my gums. I take my fist out of my mouth and take a look.
Just what I need
. I close my eyes and breathe deeply in an effort to calm myself. It would be easier to relax if my panties weren't up my crack and Stefan weren't pounding on the door again. Even without those distractions, finding a happy place is difficult. There's more going on with me today than just PMS and werewolf outbreaks.
The nightmares that have haunted me for seven years are taking a toll. I had one last night. Behind my closed lids, flashes of the dream return to me. Him. Me. Sex. Then blood. Blood on the walls. Blood on the sheets. Blood everywhere. I shudder.
Stephan's voice brings me back to my current dilemma. Upon opening my eyes, I'm relieved to see that the red place on my shoulder now minus the werewolf fur is already fading. I heal at an alarmingly fast rate, another gift of whatever curse has befallen me. Why do gifts always come with a trade-off? Why can't I be beautiful and not be a werewolf? And then there's the big question of how suddenly coming out of remission, or whatever I've been in, is now going to screw up my life.
Peeling back my lips, I see that the fangs I had a moment ago have retracted. Thank God. No fur. No “the better to eat you with” teeth. I'm ready to face the day. I flush the waxing cloth, adjust my two-sizes-too-small bra, dig my panties out of my crack, walk over and open the door. Stefan nearly falls inside.
“About time!” he growls. “I hope you feel good about throwing my schedule off and making the other girls turn into Popsicles on the roof so you can stand around and primp!”
“I do,” I say, flouncing past him into a room that looks like a war zone. Women's clothes are strewn everywhere. Blow-dryers, makeup bags, and shoes. A pair of giant lavender angel wings rests upon the bed. The wings are part of my outfit. I glance around for Cindy Emerson. Cindy does makeup and also serves as Stefan's assistant on shoots involving more than one model.
Stefan knows who I'm looking for. “I sent Cindy up with the rest of the crew. I'll help you into your wings. We need to hurry.”
When he's working, Stefan is always in a hurry. He's full of nervous energy. I imagine it's because he's a Starbucks junkie and drinks about ten lattes a day. Rumor has it Stefan does not have the nervous-energy problem in bed. I hear he takes his time. Not exactly the kind of thing I like hearing about. I keep trying to put Stefan on a pedestal and he keeps screwing it up and falling off.
“Turn around, let me strap on your wings,” he says.
Since the red place on my shoulder is still healing, I gladly give Stefan my back. The discoloration should be gone by the time we reach the roof and begin the shoot. His hands are warm against my skin. He smells good enough to eat. I don't know what cologne Stefan wears, but it always sets off a horny gene in me. Obviously, it sets off the same gene in all women.
“Pull your hair over one shoulder,” Stefan says. “I don't want to get it caught in the Velcro attached to the wings.”
After I do as instructed, Stefan's breath whispers across my skin. He touches me while he works. A delicious shiver races up my back. I try like hell to ignore it. If Stefan were just another handsome face with a hot body, I would have had him a long time ago. But our relationship goes deeper than mere sex. Or at least it does with me. I can't sleep with someone I care about. Not with all the lies attached to my past.
“Hurry up, will you?” I say, because my constitution is weak and I'm in a hotel room with a bald hottie. Stefan is bald because he shaves his head. He shaves his head because his father is bald and he knows he's going to end up that way one day, and he wants control over the situation. Did I mention that Stefan is a bit of a control freak?
“We're dealing with a little wind factor today,” he says. “I need to make certain the wings are secure. Don't want you flying off the roof.”
Wind, sleet, snow. I might as well work for the postal service. “You could have set this up inside,” I complain. “Hot lights. Fake snow. Sounds good to me.”
He makes a tsking sound. “It wouldn't look as original as this will. Turn around and let me have a look at you with the wings.”