Valentines Heat III, page 1
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Look for these titles from the Authors
RATED EX by Christy Gissendaner
About Christy Gissendaner
Also by Christy Gissendaner
CRASH ME ONCE… by Jayne Ripley
About Jayne Ripley
Also by Jayne Ripley
More Valentines Heat from Etopia Press
Look for these titles from the Authors
By Christy Gissendaner
The Tybee Island Shifters Series
In Too Deep
By Jayne Ripley
The Alien Catch Series
More Valentines Heat Anthologies
Valentines Heat I (Paranormal/Urban Fantasy)
Ally Shields, Nessie Strange, Keith Melton, CL Bledsoe
Valentines Heat II (Historical/Contemporary Romance)
Elizabeth Ellen Carter, Cynthia Hampton
Valentines Heat III (Erotic Paranormal/Sci-Fi Romance)
Christy Gissendaner, Jayne Ripley
Valentines Heat IV (Erotic and Ménage Romance)
Anne Lange, Nikki Dee Houston, Lyssa Jackson, Arianna Archer
Valentines Heat III
Erotic Paranormal and Sci-Fi Romance
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
136 S. Illinois Ave. Suite 212
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Valentines Heat III
“Rated Ex” Copyright © 2015 by Christy Gissendaner
“Crash Me Once…” Copyright © 2015 by Jayne Ripley
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Etopia Press electronic publication: February 2015
RATED EX by Christy Gissendaner
Rebecca Wilson cradled a glass of wine and stared at the red envelope propped in front of the chardonnay bottle sitting on her coffee table. Was the pack serious about matching the single wolves for Valentine’s Day? She’d thought the e-mail she received from Parker Lewis last week was a joke. That was until the glitter-infested, red envelope arrived in her mailbox today with the signature scrawl belonging to the alpha.
One sip of wine followed another until the glass was drained. Lucky for her, there was another bottle waiting for her in the chiller. She’d probably need it depending on what the card revealed. Snatching the envelope between two fingers, she stared at it like it was a snake ready to bite her. Whose name would it contain? Hopefully not Charlie Baxter, the not-so-bright ex-football player who’d once tried to get in her pants at the junior prom even though she’d come with Parker, her boyfriend at the time.
Parker. Becca sighed with regret.
She’d broken his heart when she’d left for Boston, but he’d made his choice to stay in Raleigh, and she’d made hers. Putting her life on hold for a high school boyfriend, no matter how well matched they’d been, hadn’t been in the cards. She’d heard through the grapevine a few years back he’d met a wolf from Myrtle Beach and settled down. She ignored the reappearance of old jealousy and slid her fingernail beneath the flap of the envelope.
Holding her breath, she pulled out the single sheet of card stock. Entwined hearts and pink ribbons decorated the border, but the name written in thick, black ink caught her attention.
Becca swung her feet to the floor and reread the name. Nope, not a mistake. Parker Lewis really was the pack’s idea of her perfect mate. What sort of fucked up luck was this? Wasn’t he married by now?
Without hesitation, she grabbed the phone and dialed her sister’s number. Emily answered on the third ring, out of breath but still annoyingly chirpy. “Emily’s Yoga Studio. How may I help you?”
Becca rolled her eyes. “Are you seriously working out at nine o’clock, Em?”
Emily took a deep breath. “Umm…maybe.”
Becca’s eyes widened. “Holy shit! Are you having sex?”
The rustle of sheets sounded through the phone line before Emily came back on. “Well, I’m not now. What’s up, Bec?”
The thought of her little sister with a man distracted Becca from her reason for calling. “I didn’t realize you were dating anyone.”
“I’m not.” Emily shushed her when Becca let out a surprised squeak. “I’m twenty-three. Sheesh. I’m allowed to have one-night stands, aren’t I?”
“Is that what you’re doing?” The thought of her goody-two-shoes little sister engaging in casual sex sent the wine straight to Becca’s head. “Does Mom know?”
Emily snorted. “Of course not. Do you think I’m stupid? Besides, he’s not a wolf. Mom would never approve.”
Now it was Becca’s turn to take a deep breath. “Oh, Em. I’m so proud of you. A little late for teenaged rebellion, but I applaud you.”
Emily’s tone sharpened. “Cut the crap, Becca, and tell me why you called so I can get back to the sinful piece of chocolate in my bed.”
Becca didn’t suppose it was possible to be shocked further, but Emily succeeded in throwing her for a loop. She struggled to keep her wits together and remembered the reason she’d called. “Did you get an envelope from the pack too?”
Emily hesitated. “Yes.”
“Did you open it?” Becca flipped the card over and glared at the blank back.
“Not yet.” Emily’s voice lowered. “If it’s Charlie Baxter, I swear I’m going AWOL. The rumor is his first wife left him because his willy was small.”
“That’s ridiculous. Not that I’m interested in learning about Charlie’s willy, but how do you hear this stuff? I’m so glad I got out of Raleigh when I could.” Raleigh wasn’t a small city, but the shifter population was tiny. Everyone knew everyone, it seemed.
“I opened mine.” Becca turned the card back to the front and rubbed her finger along the ink. Her sister would freak when she found out whose name Becca received.
Emily gasped. “You did? Who did you get? Please, please say Charlie so I won’t be afraid to open mine.”
Becca giggled. “It’s not Charlie. It’s worse.”
“Who can be worse than Charlie?”
Silence reigned on the other end of the line. Becca frowned and checked the LCD display of her handheld to be sure she hadn’t accidentally disconnected the call. “Emily?”
“You got Parker?” Emily’s voice sounded strained, as if she were holding back tears or laughter. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. Isn’t he married?”
“Not anymore. He and Gayle divorced a year ago. I thought I told you when it happened.”
Becca shrugged even though Emily couldn’t see the action. “You may have. I was so scatterbrained with the merger last year; I probably didn’t pay attention.”
Emily snorted. “My big sister, styling and profiling. Are you a billionaire yet?”
Becca struggled with the urge to laugh. “Not quite.”
Although with hard work and slavish devotion to her company, she’d banked a few million. Not too shabby for a twenty-five-year-old shifter from North Carolina, if she said so herself. And she had. Usually at family reunions or the few trips she’d made back home.
The success had gone to her head at first. The need to prove she was more than the shy, nerdy shifter with Coke bottle glasses and frizzy hair had driven her all the way to Boston on a college scholarship and earned her a fancy degree in business and a coveted internship with one of New York’s leading businessmen. She’d learned everything she could from Derrick Milton and moved on to form her own company. The success had been overwhelming. The money intimidating. But the confidence boost she’d received had been well worth the hard work.
With the fat bank account had come the personal stylists, makeup artists, and professional hair care. Finally Becca could look in the mirror and be pleased with the reflection. The frizzy hair tamed into a sleek, dark bob. The glasses replaced with green-tinted contacts that made her muddy-brown eyes pop. Designer outfits created to flatter her slender frame, to flaunt instead of hide, replaced the jeans and baggy sweatshirts.
Emily giggled, and a masculine murmur in the background alerted Becca to shenanigans she wasn’t prepared to relate with her sister. “I shouldn’t keep you. You’re busy.”
Emily said a few indistinguishable words to the man and came back on the line. “I’m sorry, Bec. Zeke is getting impatient. Can we talk about this tomorrow? I’ll open my envelope in the morning and call to tell you my fate. Damned Charlie Baxter. I bet I get his name.”
“Go enjoy your night.” The big sister in Becca reared its ugly head. “Be safe. Use protection.”
“No, duh,” Emily answered. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”
“Love you too.” Becca tossed the phone aside and stared at the card until her contacts dried, and the name blurred into a blob of ink.
Parker Lewis. Hmm…
* * *
The shrill ringing of a phone cut through the silent garage. Parker wiped his greasy hands on a shop rag before tucking it into the back pocket of his jeans and striding over to the phone on the wall and snatching up the receiver. “Yeah.”
An amused voice traced over the line. “My sister, huh?”
Parker leaned a hip against the wooden paneling outside his office and grinned. Emily Wilson was like a little sister to him, the connection to Becca he’d refused to give up even though she’d left and broken his heart. “Yep.”
“How did you pull that one off?”
Parker glanced at the clock on the wall. Almost ten o’clock. He was used to working until almost midnight, but he needed to close up shop and get home if he planned to catch his flight in the morning. “I am the alpha, aren’t I? Suffice it to say I pulled strings with the planning committee.”
“Do you really suppose this date will work? Becca’s intractable once she’d made up her mind.”
Parker scratched at the stubble on his jaw and grinned. “I can be stubborn too.”
“You’ve changed, Parker. I’ll grant you that. Hell, I’d jump your bones if it weren’t for my sister, but the big, burly alpha male isn’t exactly Becca’s type.”
Doubt was an emotion he couldn’t afford to feel. Not now. Not when he’d finally decided to stop ignoring his obsession with his first love and get her out of his system once and for all.
Seeing Becca, reconciling the memory of her with the present, was the only way he could move on with his life. She’d ruined his marriage, making him incapable of seeing Gayle as anything other than Becca’s stand-in. For what should be a case of puppy love, his fascination with her hadn’t faded. He’d have Becca once and for all, and move on. Simple as that. “What is her type?”
“Actually Becca doesn’t seem to have one. She bounces from guy to guy, and they’re never the same. Maybe she should install a revolving door in her bedroom.”
“Emily.” Parker growled out a warning. “You’d better be teasing me.”
“Chill, dude.” Emily’s laughter grated on his already thin nerves. “You know I am. Becca’s always been a prude. You should’ve heard her when she found out about Zeke. I swear, you would’ve thought I was talking to my mother.”
“Emily,” Parker said again. “Get back to Becca. I have no wish to learn about your flirtation with Zeke. It’s bad enough listening to him yap about you all day at the shop.”
Emily cleared her throat. “Becca’s only had a couple serious boyfriends. You, and a guy she met in college. It didn’t work out. She moved to New York, and they broke up.”
Pain lanced his heart. “Sounds familiar.”
Emily must’ve realized she’d put her foot in her mouth, and she cleared her throat a second time. “Ahem. Moving on. Since then, she’s gone on a few dates but nothing serious. As far as I’m aware, she’s still a virgin.”
He knew for a fact she was not, but no need to enlighten Becca’s little sister about their sexual history. “Will she even talk to me? Or am I flying to Boston to make a fool of myself?”
“You’re flying to Boston?”
Heat touched his cheeks. Damn, he hadn’t meant to let that slip. “Yeah. In the morning.”
Emily’s voice softened. “You’re really serious about Becca, aren’t you?”
“I want to see her. She avoids me whenever she comes home. It’s time she owns up to her actions.”
Emily sighed. “What she did was wrong. A fool could see you two were the perfect match, but she needed to leave Raleigh. She had to prove herself.”
“She was perfect already,” Parker muttered.
“To you and me. Not to herself.” With expected Emily-style wisdom, she dug to the heart of the matter. “You don’t realize how she struggled with self-image. She needed to do it. Like you need to see her to move on, she needed to stretch her wings and make a new life.”
“By leaving me behind?” The pain of betrayal made his words harsher than intended. “She didn’t give me a chance to follow her.”
“She didn’t want you to give up your own life. You had your father’s garage and your precious cars. Look, Parker, I don’t want to fight with you. I need you to understand my sister cares about you. She always has. Don’t hurt her just because you can.”
Guilt filled him. He had planned to hurt her. After he fucked her senseless. “I can’t make any promises.”
“Parker, don’t make me come over there and kick your ass. You may be the alpha, but I fight dirty.”
He chuckled. “I know you do.” God love her, but Emily always amused him, especially when she tried to be big and bad. “Night, Emily.”
After hanging up the phone, Parker moved his gaze around the garage. After his pops had died, he’d inherited the title of alpha and a large steel building that housed some of Raleigh’s most expensive cars. Hot rods, old Ford trucks, and priceless imports filled the bays in a mixture of shiny paint and chrome. He loved cars, enjoyed taking them apart and putting them back together again.
Emily was right. At eighteen, he hadn’t wanted to leave the garage or his family behind. Even then, he
His gaze landed on his current project illuminated by the overhead fluorescent lighting. His father’s ’66 Ford Mustang Fastback V8. The carburetor was shot, but Parker had located a replacement. Installing the new part was all that was left, and the baby would be ready to drive. He’d planned to gift it to his mother for her birthday, since it was the car his father had used for their first date, but it would have to wait. First, he needed to get to Boston and prove to Becca that she’d been wrong to leave him.
Her headache the next morning, before she even opened her eyes, signaled to Becca that she’d drunk too much wine the night before. Drowning the memories in alcohol was a foolish thing to do. Made even more imprudent by the yearbook she’d found gripped in her hand when she awoke. Why in the hell had she brought it out of storage? Reading the note Parker had written on the first page made her emotional, forcing her to relive those terrible first days in Boston.
She hadn’t meant to hurt him, but he wouldn’t leave Raleigh, and she didn’t want to be trapped in their hometown. It wasn’t fair to ask him to wait, so she’d ended their relationship. He’d been her first kiss. Her first love. Her first sexual experience. True, they’d been nothing but two geeky kids then, but he’d been so sweet, so gentle with her, that even now the memory of him whispering her name over and over again made her ache.
When he’d looked at her, he didn’t seem to see the shy, nerdy shifter. She’d seen the reflection of what she might be in his gaze, and it scared her, made her leave him behind and bury her feelings for him.
She’d been stupid. She never should’ve let him go. He’d sworn he’d wait for her, and she should’ve listened. But it was too late now. Seven years too late.