I am sooooooooo excited, Shelly has given us a sneak peek into the 2013 release in the Pride series. I cannot wait . . . I wonder if I can pre-order yet?
Back Cover Copy:
WOLF WITH BENEFITS
Sure, Toni Jean-Louis Parker has to be the responsible oldest sister to a crazy-brilliant clan of jackal siblings. But now she’s cutting loose for some hot, sweaty, no-commitments fun—and the sexy, slow-talking, swift-moving predator assigned to keep her family safe is just the right thing to shapeshift her love life into overdrive. Trouble is, he’s starting to get all obsessive wolf on her every time he looks in her direction…
Getting serious about anyone isn’t in Ricky Lee Reed’s plans. Hell, even now he doesn’t really have a plan—outside of catching whomever is threatening this dangerously brilliant family. But the more he gets of Toni, the more he’s howling for her. And whatever it takes to convince her that what they have is everything, well, this wily wolf is down for the sizzling chase…
WOLF WITH BENEFITS
Available March 2013!
Her brother laughed and the sound of it made Toni smile despite the fact she didn’t really want to.
“Speaking of which, did you see Mom and Dad yet?” she asked him.
“Nope. They were sleeping by the time I went to bed.”
“I haven’t seen Mom since before I took Freddy to Aunt Irene’s hotel room yesterday . . . which makes me nervous.”
“Don’t know. Just feels like she’s up to something. She wanted me out of the house for a reason last night. I mean, she’d normally take Freddy over to see Aunt Irene herself.”
“You have a point.” Hearing the latest argument from their siblings, Coop’s head cocked to the side as they hit the top of those last stairs and started down. “Kyle and Oriana?”
“Of course. But Cherise is going to handle it.”
“She needs to try,” Toni reminded him.
“I wish her luck.”
“Look, it could be worse—” Toni began as she and Coop reached the last step, but Toni’s words were cut off when she saw her mother. Dressed comfortably in loose jeans, a B-52s T-shirt that was older than Toni, and her favorite battered “rehearsal” tennis shoes, Jackie headed toward the front door. Normally this was nothing for Toni to notice or remotely worry about . . . normally. But now Toni understood why her mother had avoided her and Coop last night—because her mother wasn’t alone.
Still walking, but not turning around, Jackie said, “I know what you’re thinking, Antonella.”
“You have no idea what I’m thinking or you’d probably pop me in the mouth.”
“Trust me. I have a plan.”
Of course she had a plan. Jackie Jean-Louis always had a plan. She was a plotting little jackal who was always up to something as long as it benefited her career or her children. But unlike some musicians, who could be downright psychotic about their careers, Jackie was just sneaky. She never did anything to take someone else down. Jackie didn’t have to because she had full confidence in her skills as a musician. Ever since she had picked up her first violin at the age of three, Jackie knew that she was unbelievably talented and no one would ever be able to bump her out of the spot she’d earned as one of the world’s finest violinists. No one.
But Jackie wanted to take that next step. She wanted to be the mentor of the next “world’s finest.” She’d had lots of students over the years, many of whom had gone on to wonderfully successful careers. But none that were quite in her league. They’d never be quite as successful as she. Quite as well-known. She wanted that student who would turn her into The Great Master.
And that, Toni knew, explained the dog walking beside her mother. Not a shifter but an actual dog. The family hadn’t had a pet since the feral cat they’d found under their home that kept hissing at them. They’d give it food and, after a few years, it wandered away. It was the perfect pet for the Jean-Louis Parkers because they only paid attention to it when they felt like it. It didn’t need to be walked or taken to the vet or dealt with in anyway except to toss it some food and gaze at it for a few minutes when one of the kids needed “inspiration.”
But real dogs needed lots of things that no one in Toni’s family was capable of providing at the moment, including her and especially her mother.
Yes. Her mother. Who opened the front door and told the dog, “Go take your walk, sweetie. When you’re done, come back and scratch on the door. I’ll let you in.”
The adult dog, appearing to Toni’s eyes to be a rescue her mother had picked up somewhere, saw that open door as a bid for freedom. It bolted and Toni’s jackal ears immediately picked up the early-morning traffic barreling down the street.
Running purely on instinct, Toni jumped off the last step and bolted out of the house, following that dog right into the street. Moving fast, she tackled the dog, wrapping her arms around its slim body, and made a wild leap for the opposite sidewalk.
Toni had almost made it, but the truck speeding down the street still clipped her with its fender, sending Toni flipping over the hood of a parked car to land hard on her back in front of a stoop.
When she finally got her breath back, Toni opened her eyes and saw the wolf she’d met yesterday staring down at her. He was holding a coffee mug. With an annoying amount of calm, he sipped his drink and remarked, “Darlin’, at this point, I’m startin’ to think you’re sweet on me.”
The She-jackal’s eyes narrowed dangerously but when she opened her mouth, all that came out was a little “yip” sound. Ricky quickly rested his coffee cup on the wide stone handrail and rushed down the stairs to the prone female.
“Darlin’, I’m sorry to waste time teasing ya. I’ll call an ambulance.”
She shook her head no, but when she tried to take his hand, she cringed something awful and put her hand right back down.
That’s when two jackals came running over from across the street. One was an older female. Her momma, Ricky would guess. They had the same eyes. And a male, close to the She-jackal’s age.
“Toni!” the older female barked. “What the hell were you thinking?”
There went those eyes dangerously narrowing again.
“Mom,” the male warned, and that’s when Ricky realized this was Toni’s brother. He ignored the sense of relief he felt. “Not now.”
“This isn’t my fault,” the older She-jackal argued. “It isn’t.”
The male tried to take the dog that Toni still held with one arm, but the animal lay flat against her, its entire body shaking.
“Poor thing.” The male sighed. “It’s terrified.”
“Also not my fault.”
The glass and metal security door behind Ricky opened, and several adult wild dogs rushed down the stairs and surrounded the jackal.
“Are you all right, hon?”
“Been better,” Toni squeaked out.
“Not my fault,” the She-jackal pushed.
“Grit your teeth,” Ricky told Toni as he slipped his arms under her. “I’ll take you back to your house.”
“Oh,” the older She-jackal said, suddenly looking around. “That’s such a long trip... can’t we just bring her inside here?” She smiled sweetly at the wild dogs. “You guys don’t mind, do you?”
The wild dogs might not have minded, but from the way the She-jackal’s two children gawked at her, Ricky felt certain they did mind. A lot.
Toni knew her mother was sneaky, but holy hell, this was some hinky shit!
Using her own daughter’s brush with death to ease her way into the wild dog’s home was beneath even Jackie’s usual depths. Maybe even Kyle’s!
The wolf easily carried her inside the wild dogs’ home and down the hallway until he reached an enormous kitchen.
Why the wolf was here at all, Toni didn’t know. Maybe she didn’t want to know. All Toni did know was that her life was getting weird.
The wolf placed Toni’s butt on the stainless steel kitchen island so that she was sitting up. “So what hurts the worst?” he asked.
“That’s what I thought. Because it’s not really in its socket.”
Toni sighed. “Great.”
“The dog is doing well, though,” one of the wild dogs pointed out.
“And that’s what’s important!” Jackie cheered, but when both her children gawked at her again, she quickly added, “You’re a hero! My daughter, the hero!”
A blond female wild dog pushed her way closer through the other dogs until she stood in front of Toni.
“Wolf is right,” she said in a thick Russian accent, “about this shoulder. But we can fix. Hold her, wolf.”
“Now wait a—” Toni protested.
The wolf scrambled up behind her, both legs around her hips, hanging well past her own long legs, and his arms around her waist, holding her tight.
“Got her!” he announced
The wild dog pulled her fist back. “I make this quick, jackal.”
“Hey! I don’t want you—owwwwwwwwwwwwww! You Russian cow!”
“See?” the Russian noted. “She’s better already. Who knew jackals were so tough?”
Coop leaned in, her brother cringing in sympathy. “Are you okay?”
“No!” Toni snarled.
“Make her sling,” the Russian ordered the others. She looked at Toni. “You’ll be fine tomorrow. I’m impressed you don’t cry like sniveling cat.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to.”
“All that matters is that you don’t. I loathe weakness. Like I loathe cats.” Then without another word, the wild dog walked out of the room.
“I’m weirdly freaked out,” Coop muttered, “and turned on all at the same time.”
Toni nodded. “I know.” Glancing down, Toni said, “Why are you still holding me?” she asked the wolf.
“I’m giving you my invaluable support, and my immense charm.”
“More like your immense bullshit.”
“Now, now, darlin’,” he teased, annoying her more. “No need to get so nasty just because you’re confused by your feelings for me.”
“I do not have feelings for you, other than pity for your mental illness.”
The wolf laughed while Coop suddenly raised his brows at her, and Toni shook her head at her brother. Tragically, she recognized that expression. Recognized it all too well.
“Don’t even—” Toni began.
“I’m Cooper,” Coop announced to the wolf, grinning at him. “The younger brother. Brother. Not boyfriend.”
Horrified, Toni snapped, “Cooper, stop it!”
“How y’all doin’? I’m Ricky Lee Reed. So glad you’re her brother. I’d hate to have to fight you for her.”
“No worries there,” Coop volunteered. “My big sis is very single and not even thirty yet."
“That is nice to hear.”
"And you already seem to know my very single sister.”
“I will kill you,” Toni warned. “I’m not afraid to.”
“I’m glad to know she’s single,” the wolf said, “but she’s playing hard to get while stalking me all at the same time.”
“I am not stalking you.”
“I feel like a little ol’ gazelle calf without its momma.”
Toni’s eyes crossed at that pathetic visual.
“Are you interested?” her idiot brother asked. “Because as I said, she’s very single, but she only deserves the best. I won’t hand her off to just anybody.”
“Hand me off . . . what is wrong with you?” Toni demanded of her sibling.
“I’m trying to help.”
“I don’t need help.”
“I tried to chat her up,” the wolf explained, “but she used y’all’s other siblings to confuse me.”
“Oh, the ‘are you my daddy’ move? Yeah. She’s been using that one for years.”
“You both are aware that I’m sitting here, right? In front of you?”
“She had a bad breakup,” Coop went on. “About a year ago. I was hoping she’d get over it sooner.”
“I can help with that.”
“That’s what I thought. I’ve had a few She-lion benefactors over the years, and they all say that wolves are great for that sort of thing. The casual hook-up, I mean.”
Toni looked around the kitchen. “Am I dreaming? Tell me I’m dreaming this conversation.”
“We’re real good for that until we find mates of our own,” the wolf explained.
“See, that’s what I’m thinking. Because her ex . . . not worth all this angst. Our father, who is a really great guy, still calls that man the ‘pimple on the cock of humanity.’”
“Fathers love me. I’ve got this winning smile.” And Toni didn’t have to turn around to know the wolf was showing that smile to her idiot brother. “Perfect Southern manners. I never cuss. I rarely get sloppy drunk and that’s only around my Pack if I do. And I treat my momma right at all times, and not just ’cause I’m afraid of her. Even though I kind of am.”
“Would you two stop it!” Toni, to her horror, started laughing, hating both males for making it happen. “I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
“Not a boyfriend, darlin’. A hook-up.”
“I don’t need that, either. From you or anyone else.”
“Shut up, Cooper!”
The males fell silent for a few moments until the wolf noted, “You do seem tense, though.”
Copyright © Shelly Laurenston 2012