Authors: Kristen Painter
Tags: #Romance, #Holidays, #Paranormal, #Romantic Comedy, #Vampires, #Werewolves & Shifters, #One Hour (33-43 Pages), #Witches & Wizards
The Werewolf’s Christmas Wish
Copyright © 2015 Kristen Painter
All Rights Are Reserved.
his book is
a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
has almost everything
a werewolf could wish for. And it’s not that her awesome family and popular business aren’t enough – she just wants someone to share it all with this Christmas. Too bad the someone she wants doesn’t want her. Or does he?
the last martini
glass and put it on the rack to dry. The eggnog martinis had been popular, even with the small crowd that had been in.
She dried her hands on a bar towel as she rolled her shoulders. Her vertebrae crackled like Rice Krispies. It had been a long day and she was ready for it to be over, but since her bar and grill, Howler’s, was one of the mainstays of Nocturne Falls, she was still open for business.
She checked the time. Another thirty minutes and she’d be out of here.
Every other place in town was closed except for Mummy’s, but the diner was a twenty-four seven kind of joint. She couldn’t imagine they’d get much business tonight though.
After all, it was Christmas Eve.
She wiped down the bar. The Trevors were finishing their dinner and would be leaving soon. After that, she’d close up and head over to her brother Hank’s for a fun family evening with him and his wife, Ivy; their son, Charlie; her other brother, Titus and his fiancée, Zoe; their aunt, Birdie; and of course, Ivy’s brother, Sam.
If Sam showed. Bridget had the distinct feeling he’d been avoiding her. She snorted softly at the thought of Sam. Now there was a man who defied understanding. For about two seconds, Bridget had thought there might be something between them, but ever since he’d come back from the fire academy, he’d been all business, giving her the cold shoulder. Oh, he’d been pleasant enough on the rare occasions they’d crossed paths, but nothing like the blatant flirting that had gone on between them when he’d first arrived in town.
Maybe he’d met someone else. Whatever. She didn’t care. If he didn’t like her, that was fine. Maybe she didn’t like him. One Kincaid in the family was enough anyway.
She walked into the kitchen. Juan Carlos, her cook and a mountain of man thanks to the ogre half of his family, was scraping down the grill. “Take off when you’re done. I’ll close up. There’s just the one table left anyway.”
He looked up. “You sure, boss? I can stay.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Juan Carlos. You have a wife and two kids. You shouldn’t be here as it is. And it’s snowing.”
He shrugged. “What was I supposed to do? Leave you here shorthanded?”
“I appreciate you filling in for Lenny. I really do. I swear, that’s the last time I assign a new hire a delicate shift before I know they’re reliable. He’s totally fired. If he ever shows up again.”
Juan Carlos snorted. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“That makes two of us.”
Juan Carlos hung the scraper up and took off his apron. “You have a good Christmas, boss. Thanks again for the bonus.”
“You earned it. You and Marita enjoy your holiday.”
He nodded as he headed out. “Say hello to the sheriff and the chief for me.”
She smiled. “Will do.”
Hank was the sheriff and Titus was the fire chief. Between the two of them, they knew everyone in town. Or maybe it was more accurate that everyone knew them. Bridget went back to the bar and poured herself a club soda. Having them as brothers was the best. But it did tend to make the local guys less likely to ask her out. Not that she had time to date anyway.
She sighed and sipped her drink. The Trevors looked like they were ready for their check. She had just started for the register when the phone rang.
“Bridget, I was hoping I’d catch you.”
The youngest of the Ellingham brothers had an easy-to-recognize voice. Few men could make the act of speaking a woman’s name sound like an invitation to bed. “Evening, Julian. What can I do for you?”
“You could deliver that case of Dom my grandmother ordered. She’s a little cranky it’s not here yet. You know how she likes her champagne.”
“I sent Lenny over with that two days ago. It was in the same delivery as the two cases of wine and the standing rib roast.”
“The wine and the rib roast are here. The Dom Pérignon is not.”
The spot between Bridget’s eyes began to ache. “You’re sure? Maybe your grandmother moved it.” A strange thing to say, but considering that the woman was a vampire, not out of the realm of possibility that a woman of her age could lift such a thing.
Julian snorted. “Didi doesn’t do manual labor.”
“No, I suppose not.” Bridget’s stomach soured as reality set in. Lenny had screwed her more than once. “Lenny didn’t show up for his shift today either.”
“You think he stole the Dom?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I hope not.”
“I hope not too. That’s about five large in bubbles.”
“I’m aware.” She sighed. “I keep a couple of bottles on hand. I’ll gather up what I have and bring them over. I’m about to close up anyway.”
“I feel bad that you have to do this on Christmas Eve.”
“Lenny’s going to feel worse if I ever get a hold of him. I’ll be over as soon as I can.”
He made an odd sound. “Have you looked outside?”
“I know it’s snowing.”
“Yes, but have you seen the roads?”
“Not really. Are you trying to tell me my Vette isn’t going to cut it?”
“I don’t want this to turn into a rescue mission. Neither of your brothers would appreciate my stranding their sister in the middle of the Georgia hills in the name of champagne.”
“Don’t sweat it. Titus usually has a truck I can borrow for stuff like this. The firehouse isn’t far. I can walk over and pick it up as soon as I close. I’ll be up at the estate in no time.”
“All right then. We’ll see you soon. I’ll smooth things out with Didi.”
“Much appreciated.” Bridget hung up.
What a mess. Lenny was about to move to the top of the sheriff’s most wanted list. Just as soon as she told Hank. She got the Trevors checked out and on their way, then locked the front door behind them and turned off the main lights.
Julian had been right about the snow. White blanketed everything and the snowplows had yet to make an appearance. The snow was pretty though, and perfect for Christmas Eve. She stood for a moment watching it come down. Charlie must be ecstatic. He’d probably wished for this. Kids loved snow anytime, but at Christmas it was even better.
make the family run later that evening a lot of fun. Jumping into the drifts and rolling around in the stuff was a ball when you were wearing a natural fur coat. In fact, in her wolf form, cold wasn’t a big deal. Right now, however, she wouldn’t mind a cup of hot chocolate. Well, she’d have that soon enough at Hank’s.
She went back to the storeroom to see what she had in the way of Dom. She flipped on the lights and stared in disbelief. “You have got to be kidding me.”
The case of champagne that was supposed to be at the Ellingham estate sat right in the middle of the floor. Several empty boxes sat on top of it, flattened like they were ready to be hauled out to the recycling bin. She leaned the flattened boxes against the wall out of the way. Yep, that was the Elenora’s champagne.
Had Lenny not seen the case? Or just forgotten it? Or more likely been too lazy to haul it out? Either way, she was happy it was there but not thrilled that she now had an entire case to deliver. She found two more bottles and put them on top of the case. They’d go a long way toward smoothing out the error. The Ellinghams ran the town, and while they were always fair, Elenora wasn’t someone whose bad side you wanted to get on.
Champagne sorted, she went to her office to call Titus.
He answered quicker than she’d expected. “Hey, you on your way over?”
“I wish, but not yet. Long story short, I need to make a last-minute delivery.”
“In this snow? You’ll be lucky to make it this far in that fancy-pants car of yours.”
“I know that, dipstick. That’s why I’m calling you. You have a truck over at the firehouse I can borrow?”
“Oh. Um…” He thought a second. “Yeah, I can work something out.”
“You’re the best brother ever. Tell Zoe and everybody else I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Titus cleared his throat softly. “Hey, about that, I was going to tell you when you got here, but… Zoe and I aren’t seeing each other anymore. I mean, we’re not a couple anymore.”
Bridget’s jaw unhinged and it took her a second to compute what he’d said. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
“No. Look, it’s been a long time coming. She wanted to move back to Oregon to be near her folks, and I was never going to move. Then her dad fell and broke his hip last week, and that was it. Her decision was made. We love each other, but we’re not meant to be.”
“But you were engaged.”
He sighed. “She gave the ring back. I’m sure you have all kinds of questions, but honestly, I’m worn out. I’d like to get through the holidays without the whole thing turning into a Titus pity party, which Aunt Birdie is already making extremely difficult.”
“I can imagine. Are you… okay?”
“Mostly. I’m not bitter, I’m not destroyed, I’m just hurt and missing her and I’ll get over it. In my own time. Okay?”
She nodded, feeling numb. “Sure, if that’s what you want.”
“It is. Now let me go so I can call the firehouse. By the time you walk over there, the truck will be ready to go.”
“Thanks, Titus. I love you.”
“I love you too, Bridge. See you soon.” He hung up.
She stared at her phone, shaking her head. “Titus and Zoe?” They’d been a couple for so long. She’d assumed, like the rest of her family, they’d get married, have kids, and grow old together. Then just like that, the dream was gone.
She hurt for her brother. Of the three of them, Titus had always been the one who’d had every aspect of his life sorted out. Hank had disappeared into the military on some quest to turn himself into the perfect alpha who would one day take over their father’s role as leader of the Georgia Pack. Hank’s life had been built around discipline and responsibility. Becoming sheriff seemed the next logical step.
His marriage had only happened because it had been arranged for him. Otherwise, he’d probably still be single.
She’d gone to business school, but that had been because she wasn’t sure what else to do and being the daughter of an alpha meant doing something while she waited on the possibility that she might be married off to the son of another alpha. Instead, Hank had ended up being the sacrificial lamb, but thankfully it had worked out.
The bar business had just kind of happened to her. After school, she’d waited tables and bartended to make some money that was all hers and not tied to pack dividends, but as it turned out, she was good at it. People liked her, and she liked them. Usually. Those she didn’t, she handled with the kind of quick, decisive thinking that had gotten her promoted to manager at the first place she worked.
So when Howler’s had come up for sale, she’d taken a chance and interviewed with the Ellinghams to buy it. She’d already had the supernatural part going for her, and unlike some of the other vampires she’d run across, they didn’t care that she was a werewolf. They’d wanted diversity in their town, and they’d definitely gotten it.
Buying the place had been the best thing she’d ever done, but Howler’s had become her best friend, her child, and her husband. It took tremendous amounts of time. And what social life she had happened in the bar.
But Titus had known right away what he wanted to do. Without the pressure of the possibility of an arranged marriage hanging over his head, he’d gone from high school straight into the fire academy. He’d gotten into a house, settled into a routine, and not long after moving to Nocturne Falls to become chief, he’d met Zoe. Schoolteacher, werewolf, and all-around perfect wife and mother material.
Or so it had seemed.
Bridget put her coat on. The best thing she could do was get this delivery done and get to Hank’s. Titus might say he didn’t want to talk about it, but she could at least be there for him.
She went out the back, locked up, and looped her purse across her body. She checked her pockets for gloves but found none, so she tucked her hands into her pockets instead. The snow crunched under her boots as she headed for the firehouse. If Titus really didn’t want to talk, she could help in him in other ways.
Like whipping up a batch of her famous Naughty and Nice punch. If that didn’t make him forget Zoe for the evening, nothing would.
am Kincaid stood
at the firehouse window, watching the snow drift down in fat flakes. The year was almost over and a new one was about to begin. But his new year had really begun about six months ago.
When his father and older brothers had gone to prison.
Some days the fact that more than half his family was behind bars was tough to take. And some days, like today, he knew it was the reason he was free.
They hadn’t been good men. Not to their community, not to their pack, and especially not to his sister or mother or nephew.
For their sakes, prison was the best place for the Kincaid men. It was also a constant reminder for Sam to do better. To
better. To make something respectable of his life. And to wring every possibility out of the fresh start he’d been given.
He had his sister, Ivy, and her new husband, Hank, and his family to thank for that. And while Sam appreciated it, he was also aware of that debt every single day. Not because of anything they did, just because that’s how his head worked.
Maybe he should let all that go and try to live like a normal person. He laughed. Whatever that meant.
Living this new life had meant giving up some things. Making some sacrifices. He was okay with that. Everyone had to pay their dues. Even if that meant missing Christmas Eve with his sister and nephew because he was low man on the totem pole and had pulled the holiday shift at the firehouse. Even that was okay.
For one thing, it meant he wouldn’t have to see Bridget Merrow. He closed his eyes for a moment as an image of the breathtaking redhead filled his mind. He shook the picture out and opened his eyes.
She wasn’t for him. He knew that. But knowing that and stopping himself from thinking about her were two different things. And damn, he thought about her a lot. Way more than he had a right to, but he was so far gone over her he wasn’t sure how to stop.