The free books choices are:
For the Love of His Life--the first book in the Minnesota Romances--Raul is an action-movie star at the top of his game. He's totally addicted to life in the fast lane. But an indie director wants him to star in his new movie--a role Raul isn't sure he can deliver. After bailing him out of jail, the director sends Raul up to Grand Marais, MN, in the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area, hoping his favorite cousin Veronica, who taught him to love the outdoors, can do the same for the wayward actor. Can she? And when Raul slows down and dries out enough to hear his own thoughts, will he made a change in his life? Or will he continue to hurt everyone who cares about him?
Her Last Resort--the third book in the Minnesota Romances. Stella has retired from the CIA after 30 years. She's done with the business--but the business isn't done with her. Someone is sending newbies--untrained agents--after her, to kill her. She doesn't have immunity from murder charges anymore. She just wants to be left alone. She gets a call from her estranged daughter, famous movie star Kelly, who often stars with Raul in the indie director's movies. She asks Stella to spend two weeks with her at a resort up in Grand Marais. The resort is owned by Kelly's good friend Ivan, who tells few that he's a retired KGB agent. Stella has no way to know how many ways this brief respite will change her life.
Prophecy of the Mayan Undead--Vampire saga involving Keesha, a brilliant neurobiologist determined to find the key to intelligence in the human mind. And Yuri, a centuries old vampire who is initially interested in her mind, but becomes entranced by the woman possessing such intelligence. When she becomes a target for an unknown reason, Yuri has to make a decision--does he let her die, or change her into what he is? And can she adapt to his world?
Here is the second chapter in Worth the Wait; Enjoy!
The following Sunday, Grant drove down into Maine from his home in Canada. He'd found someone to take over his apartment completely furnished, and he'd packed his few remaining belongings into his small truck and headed across the border to a new life.
At the compound's gate, he stopped and waited while the security people checked with their leader to be sure he was allowed to enter. The older woman with grey hair nodded to indicate the gate should be opened.
"Welcome to the pack, Mr. Knutsen," she said to him with a smile.
He grinned back. "Never been a part of one before. There's a first time for everything, I guess."
He had no trouble finding the main mansion, despite the many smaller roads that led off to the neighborhoods where many of the pack members lived. He'd been the one driving the last time they had come down, when the family had been asked to hunt and kill the two pack members who had betrayed the trust of the leader. That was when he'd seen the large black she-wolf that had so intrigued him. He had no idea who she was, but he'd been close enough to her to realize simultaneously that she was female, and that he wanted to be her mate. The details still needed to be worked on. But he was a researcher, so details were his specialty.
We need to find her, his wolf spoke softly in his mind.
He nodded. I know. We will. We'll be here for some time, so there's no hurry.
We will fight for her, if we must. And we will win.
He grinned at his alter-ego's confidence. He pulled up in front of the main stairs that led to the patio in the front of the house. To his left was the field where they'd begun their hunt. The mansion was an imposing edifice, strong and sturdy, to survive the brutal Maine winters, yet now covered with the glow of the early evening summer sun.
He was expected, since he'd texted from the front gate. So he wasn't surprised to see Nathan, the man he'd spoken to the last time he was here, come down the stairs to greet him.
"Hi, Grant. Do you want me to park your truck for you?"
He shook his head. "Nah. But if you ride in it with me, you can tell me where a new pack member is supposed to park. I don't plan on needing to go into town for a while, and there must be a lot of some kind, where vehicles are kept until they're needed."
Nathan opened the passenger door and got into the truck.
"It's further away than the visitor lot you parked in the last time. It's behind the garage, actually, and that's quite a ways behind the mansion. So just keep heading the direction you're going, and I'll tell you when to turn."
They chatted about the weather, the current status of their favorite teams in the World Cup standings, and other inconsequential things as he parked the truck. He pulled his two knapsacks out of the back of the truck.
"That's all you have?"
"Why? Will I need more? Mom said I'd have a furnished apartment."
Nathan shook his head. "You won't need furniture. But I'm not sure I could reduce my worldly belongings to just two small packs."
He shrugged. "I've got my laptop, some clothes, and a few books. What else does a man need?"
Nathan grinned. "I guess. We'll supply you with Academy polos, so that will take care of some of your clothing needs. And you're right, the apartment is furnished. Let's go into the back entrance to the dining room. Are you hungry? I think the buffet is still open."
"I could eat," he said, following the tall, thin but wiry blond man up the back stairs.
There were few people left in the dining room, and the buffet was in the process of being emptied. Nathan left Grant sitting at a table and went into the kitchen to tell the chef, Janine Johnson, widow of the late pack leader, that he'd arrived.
He rejoined Grant, telling him, "She said she'd be right out."
Ten minutes later, a short, but elegant black woman emerged with a covered tray. She had an apron on over her stylish clothing, and her medium-length graying hair was held back by a headband. She smiled at Grant when he rose to greet her with a bow.
"My lady," he began, "you're even more beautiful than the last time I saw you."
"That's because this is a happier occasion," she said. "I put some of the food under warming lights, when Diego told me you were driving down today."
She removed the cover of the tray she'd set down in front of him, and Grant inhaled appreciatively.
"Smells great! I stopped along the way a couple of times, but not for an actual meal."
"Dig in, and enjoy," Janine said as she sat down, taking one of the cups of coffee that Nathan had returned to their table holding.
As he ate, Grant glanced around at the people who were finishing up their dinner, but none of them sparked any recognition in him. Janine asked after his mother before questioning him about his siblings. Janine had known them all since they were children, and she enjoyed hearing about the jobs he and his siblings had, as well as their antics involving family dynamics and romances.
When he had cleared off the plates, Grant pushed himself back with a satisfied sigh. "If this is the kind of food I can look forward to, I'm even more determined to make myself a place here in your pack."
A quick shadow flitted across Janine's face. "Well, John isn't sure how long he's going to be away, so hopefully you aren't on a deadline as to when you need to get back."
He shook his head. "Nope. Footloose and fancy-free, that's me. I'm here for as long as you need me to be. In fact, I'm honored to be welcomed as a part of your pack."
Nathan got a text, which he read, then he looked up.
"Diego asks that you and I join him in ten minutes, in one of the smaller conference rooms. He wants to formally introduce you to the other ranking members. John will be there also."
Janine's smile was sad. "He's planning on leaving tomorrow. He's already out of his apartment, and sleeping on the sofa in my place. He's anxious to start the next chapter in his life, as he says."
Nathan patted her hand, resting on the table.
"He'll be fine. He's a grown man."
"I know. It's just that I'm a mother, and Jennifer already lives in Portland. Boston is so far away. And now I'll only have one of my children still living in the compound."
"But Jerene is the one with the grandchildren, right? So you'll still have them to fuss over."
She lightly punched his shoulder as she rose. "I don't fuss. I take care of. And I feed. Now you better show our new member to his quarters so he can stash his stuff. Then you need to get to that meeting with Diego."
Grant tried to insist that he be allowed to carry the empty tray into the kitchen, but Janine resisted his offer. "No. It's even lighter now than when it was carrying food. You two run along. You don't want to be late for your first meeting with your new pack leader."
* * * *
Grant was pleasantly surprised at the size of the apartment he was shown to. It had a moderately-sized sitting area, with a dining room table in front of a counter that had a sink, a microwave, and a medium-sized fridge. Beyond that was a spacious bedroom with a queen-sized bed. There was a balcony accessible from the bedroom, with chairs and a small table, for sitting out to enjoy the fresh air. And the bathroom had a large shower stall, with multiple shower heads for maximum water exposure. "This is much nicer than any apartment I've ever been able to afford," he remarked to Nathan, as he tossed his packs onto a table in the bedroom.
Nathan handed him the key. "There are a few people who can get in, if they want to. There is a maid--I think Sharon takes care of this area. She will clean as often, or as infrequently, as you choose. Just let her know. And of course, Diego has a master key that gets him into anywhere in the building."
Grant nodded. "I'd expect as much. I don't have anything to hide, so that all sounds fine with me."
Nathan glanced down at his watch. "We'd better get moving. I think we're late already. But Diego knows that we were in the dining room before, and you hadn't seen your place yet. I'm sure it will be fine."
They eschewed the elevator for the stairs, and both took them two at a time, to get down to the main floor. Nathan led them briskly along a long hallway, until he stopped at a closed door and opened it, waving for Grant to go in first.
John, seated close to the door, rose from his chair to hold out his hand to Grant.
"Hello, again. And I have to thank you for being willing to help out this way, especially on such short notice."
Grant had clasped his hand and was smiling at him, in the middle of making a reply, when his nostrils flared.
The smile froze on his face as a tall, dark-skinned Black woman rose from the chair behind where John was standing, and she also extended her hand in greeting.
His brain went into overdrive. She's almost as tall as me. She's gotta be damn close to six feet. Her voluptuous curves don't stop! He had begun sweating, so he made himself look at her face instead. Her hair was cut very short, and she wore huge gold hoop earrings that glinted when she moved. But it was her face that transfixed Grant. Her dark eyes reflected intelligence, her dimples as she smiled suggested good humor, and her full lips made his mouth water. He wanted to take her into his arms to kiss them, and proclaim his undying love for her immediately. He knew he couldn't, but his wolf was insistent.
It's her! She's ours! Let her know she has met her mate.
He was rooted to the spot, at the mercy of warring factions in his head. He was still smiling, but realized that he hadn't stopped shaking John's hand. He forced his body to obey him, and turned to shake the woman's hand. That was a big mistake. Her skin felt like warm silk. Just touching her hand rendered him even more speechless. His hormones were racing, his cock had hardened to a rock, his heart was pounding, and he was having trouble breathing.
Take her now!
"No!" he croaked out. He realized, horrified, that he'd spoken aloud when he was met by puzzled stares from everyone in the room.
He spoke sternly to his wolf. I have to get control, now! Be quiet!
Aloud, he grinned apologetically, and forced himself to let go of the hand he wanted to get onto his knees and beg to hold forever. "Um, you know that uneasy feeling, when your wolf is talking to you, and you realize you've just answered out loud?"
That made everyone in the room smile. Everyone except the pack leader's wife, nodded in recognition.
"Oh yeah, that happens more than I like to admit," John said.
Grant's feet finally agreed to do as they were told, and he moved further into the room, to collapse onto an empty chair, next to where John had been sitting, and across the table from the beautiful woman.
Nathan had moved into the room also, and sat next to the woman.
Grant's wolf snarled a challenge, but he ignored it. He forced himself to look away from her.
"Well, now that we're all here, let's be sure that you remember everyone," Diego said with a smile. "I'm Diego, but then you know that, since you were just here recently. Unfortunately, that day was such a drain on me that I don't remember much of what happened. I'm told I was all but carried back upstairs, and I collapsed for a couple of days."
Grant leaned forward to speak earnestly. "But you did something that I'd never seen done. You partially shifted, and were able to control not only your own wolf, but the wolves of two others. And they were both unwilling to obey you. The sheer force of your will made them both shift. That took an enormous amount of power. And to think that you did that while still suffering from the injuries of a leader's challenge? I'm honored to be asked to serve such a leader, for as long as I'm needed."
Diego inclined his head in acknowledgement. "I'm grateful. A change in pack leadership always creates a period of unrest. Ours was made worse by a second challenge from the same man. Then we had to mete out pack justice, which was unpleasant. We are very thankful for the services your family provided to help us. Very few remember a time when Joe had to do the same thing, and your parents came down to do him that favor. But everyone remembers that his actions led to fifty years of steady leadership, with peace and quiet. We're all hoping for that again."
"You deserve it," Grant said earnestly. "And I'm glad to do my part to help."
Diego took the hand of the red-haired woman sitting next to him.
"You might not remember my wife, since I barely had time to introduce her at your last visit. Grant Knutsen, may I present my wife, and fifth-in-command, Saoirse McColl Vargas."
Grant rose up to make a small bow to her, and Saoirse grinned. "I'm pleased to officially meet you, Grant. And very grateful that you're willing to join the pack to help us. Your family seems to do that a lot."
"Nathan told me that with your degree in biological research, you're trying to isolate any substance in our bodies that might lead to an early indicator that there is a wolf about to present itself, before it actually does?"
Saoirse looked surprised. "Yes, I've been working on that for a while. My more senior students have been helping. I'm kind of stuck right now. Is your background in biology?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I've got a masters in research, and I've spent the last few years running a lab up in Montreal. But I had already given them my notice when Mom got the call about you needing someone to be a substitute in security down here for a while. I'm only too happy to help you in your quest to determine how to predict which kids will ultimately find out they're not alone in their own head and body, before the wolf makes itself known by appearing."
Her smile was genuine and warm. "Thanks." She turned to her husband. "Diego, I approve."
The pack leader grinned. "I'm so relieved, cara mia. If you didn't like him, I'd have a lot more phone calls to make."
She stuck out her tongue at him.
He ignored that disrespect, to continue his introductions. "John Johnson is my second-in-command, and he's the one who is taking leave for an unspecified length of time."
"We've known each other since we were kids, Diego," John reminded him, turning to speak directly to Grant. "See, the thing is, I haven't lived on my own since college. It's been a while, and I'm kind of wondering if I'll be able to handle things away from the pack. Only one way to find out, right?"
"I'm willing to stay as long as the pack needs me to, so it's cool," Grant replied. "I had to move out of my mom's house years ago, before I could feel like a real adult. And moving down here is the furthest I've ever lived away from my family."
Diego continued. "My third-in-command is Monique Martin, who will now be moving up to become my second."
Grant looked over to realize that Monique was watching him intently, as if she was studying him and his reactions. Her smile when he nodded at her was only on her lips. Her eyes were steady.
She doesn't miss much. I wonder if she suspects what my problem was, he thought with a start.
No matter. She will belong to us, his wolf drawled lazily in his mind, supremely confident in the outcome.
"And you know Nathaniel Taylor, our fourth-in-command, who will now move up to third. That means that you, Grant, will become our fourth."
"I'm just curious," Grant began, but Diego waved a hand to cut him off.
"Why we didn't just promote someone from within? I thought about it, but ultimately decided not to do it. There have just been too many changes recently. No one wants to cause any more unrest by moving around or changing positions. I think we all just want things to settle down and get back to normal. We have to do that before the students return, in a month or so. Parents trust us to provide a stable environment for their kids. We are, first and foremost, a school. Monique is also our principal."
Monique cleared her throat. "We need to talk soon about some of the inquiry letters I've received."
Diego replied, "Tomorrow morning, at nine?"
Diego looked around, smiling. "Then I think we've got everything taken care of--at least for now. This meeting is adjourned."
When he got up, everyone else did also. He made his way around the table, holding his right arm out to John for a handshake. They shook hands, then moved closer for a hug.
"Take care, old friend," Diego said. "It's scary and exciting out there, all at the same time."
John grinned. "But that's what I'm looking forward to discovering for myself. And to finding out what my place is, and where I need to be."
Saoirse had moved closer to him also, and she grabbed him for a long hug. "Say hi to Freddie for me," she said quietly, obviously forgetting that everyone else in the room had the enhanced hearing of wolves.
Nathan shook his hand, as did Monique. Finally he turned to Grant for one last handshake.
"Good luck," Grant told him. "I hope you find what you're looking for."
John looked startled, but quickly recovered his composure. "I hope so too," he answered.
As they all filed out into the hall, John addressed everyone in general. "Anyone want to join me for a run in the moonlight?"
There was a general murmur of agreement.
Saoirse cleared her throat. "Um, I'll pass. I can't keep up with you guys, when you're running on four paws, and all I have is two legs."
Diego pulled her close, kissing her lips. "I'll see you later, carida."
"I'll try to wait up for you. But if not, you can always wake me, in that special way you do, when you come back in," she said with a saucy wink. Then she turned and strolled down the hall back to the stairs that Grant and Nathan had come down.
As they walked down the hall, Grant remarked to Diego, "I noticed you're not wearing a splint on your left arm anymore. Has it healed enough for you to run as a wolf?"
"Not for very long. Each time I shift back and forth, it repairs more damage. Rachel, our doctor, thinks it might be another few weeks before all of the bone is totally healed. It's still a lame leg, for now. But I don't want to miss the opportunity to bay at the moon in celebration of our newest pack member. And to call out for good fortune for our departing John. I'll go out to the clearing where we usually meet each other, before a longer run. Then I'll head back inside while the others show you our favorite spots. I know you've run here before, but this will be your first time as a resident. I hope you enjoy your time here."
Grant glanced at the back of the tall woman in front of him. "Oh, I'm sure I will," he replied.
When they all reached the area just inside the trees, where everyone left their clothing before they shifted, Grant tried not to make it obvious that he was watching Monique. He'd already stripped when he glanced over and almost swallowed his own tongue.
Oh my God! In clothing, Monique's an attractive woman. Naked, she's a goddess! Look at that regal bearing. Her nudity is proud, with no self-consciousness at all. And she doesn't seem to be aware that being this close to her, with both of us unclothed, is the biggest strain that I've ever had to fight in my life! He moaned softly. I've never shifted with such a huge hard-on! Hopefully the twilight makes it, if not invisible, at least harder to see.
We will take her tonight! His wolf insisted.
No! We will not! We need to be patient. She's a complex woman. Her wolf might agree, but we need her to agree also. You have to give me the time I need to convince the human woman, that I'm her human mate.
His wolf was already starting to take over their body. Grant dropped to the ground onto all fours, as everyone else was doing. He grimaced with the pain of his bones remaking themselves into a wolf's skeletal structure. He could feel his organs shifting, and his face stretched into an elongated snout, as his humanity faded. Once he was shifted, he could feel his wolf-cock pushing its way out of the sheath. He tried to will it back into submission.
If you take too long, I'll take her as a wolf, and leave you humans to work things out later.
Then there was no longer any need for words, as the sheer pleasure of being animals out racing in the moonlight took over. They all enjoyed feeling the grass under their paws, smelling all of the delightful odors of the forest on a warm summer evening, which enticed everyone to forget anything else. They howled out their pleasure and began to run.
Copyright 2020, Fiona McGier