Make Me Howl, page 1
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Make Me Howl
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Make Me Howl
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Susan Shay
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Cover Art by Debbie Taylor
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First Black Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-885-1
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-886-8
Published in the United States of America
To the men in my life:
Gary, Danny, Matt and Brad.
You’re the beat of my heart and the depth of my soul.
Through it all—
the beautiful good times and the saddest of the sad—
you’ve always found a way to Make Me Howl!
Love you little. Love you big.
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
“Jazzy Cannis, you’re late!” My twin sister, Bella, was furious when I got to the Halloween party. “And you know how important this fund raiser is.” As Princess Fiona, Bella’s green-painted face almost glowed in the dim light beneath the pink cone hat.
“Are you’re responsible for that?” I waved a hand at the old “Wolf Man” movie, flickering on the big screen TV.
She had the sense to look sheepish as she tossed a glance at the film. “It’s a classic. We’ll be running them all night long.”
I snorted in reply as we moved away. “I can’t believe this party was your idea.”
“You know we’re going to need a lot of money to build the new surgery wing for my babies,” Bella murmured as she looked around the room. “Can you think of a better way to kick it off than by letting people pay to have fun?”
She had a point, so I shrugged. “With the way Texans like to party, it could be completely paid for tonight. But why didn’t the powers-that-be build the surgery wing before they blew their wad on this overdone meeting room?”
“It’s a multi-functional building—an ongoing resource for the park. Once people get used to it being here, there’ll be a waiting list for weddings, family reunions—all kinds of celebrations.” She nudged me with a hip-bump. “Besides, administrative and supervisory offices are here, and they’re extremely necessary.”
As my eyes grew used to the darkness, I glanced around. The colossal room was decked out like a haunted doll house, filled with costumed adults. The bar, created from several fake caskets, was being run by a witch whose costume was almost as low cut as mine—but not nearly as well filled.
The room was large and open with big windows on three sides. The wood floor looked smoky with ragged clouds of vapor, courtesy of a working fog machine. To one side of a designated dance area stood several tables, the tops shaped like old tombstones. Each one had a silly saying such as: Here lies Lester Moore, Four shots from a .44. No Les No More, and, Final Drop Funeral Home, We’ll be the last to let you down. Shredded pieces of cheesecloth hung over the windows and draped along the ceiling. The corners held an assortment of rubber spiders, ghosts and maniac killers.
As I waited, a man dressed like a vampire towed a cowgirl onto the dance floor, slid both hands to her bottom and pulled her snug against him. Oh, yeah. People in our area love to party. I leaned close to Bella. “Unless you want those offices to become multi-functional, too, you’d better be sure they’re locked.”
“Oh, crap! I forgot.” With a gasp, Bella rushed away, her scarf flapping from her cone hat.
“A fund raiser at a drive-through zoo on Halloween.” I tightened the knot holding my blouse closed as the cowgirl jerked away from the vampire and stormed off. “And all the really wild animals are inside. Appropriate.”
At the bar, I made sure I didn’t get close enough for the Green Hulk in front of me to stomp on my Jimmy Choo stilettos. I’d spent all afternoon at the manicurist and I’d have to hurt anyone who spoiled my ‘What’s Your Blood Type’ red pedicure.
The enormity of the bar, which spanned one side of the room and took four bartenders to run, amazed me. As I waited for my turn, I noticed the rank odor of what must have been really old cologne. Had someone found a way to dress up as the Fart Monster? Curious, I glanced back to find the dancing vampire, who’d just been mauling the cowgirl, standing as close as he could get without touching me.
His face puckered into a smarmy smile. He shuffled around in front of me, pretending to look at my costume as he coughed a phlegmy chuckle. “Hey, hey, darlin’. You a belly dancer? ‘Cause you can dance on my belly anytime!”
I gritted my teeth to keep from snapping at him. “No.” The best way to handle a man like that was to be short and to the point. Or eat his face.
“Too bad.” He had the temerity to reach for the gold medallion dangling between my breasts.
Reacting automatically, I knocked his hand away.
“Oooh, that’s a funny costume if you’re supposed to be the Karate Kid.” He tried to sound sarcastic, but he held his wrist close to his overgrown gut. “I’m an important man around here, baby. You’ve probably heard of me. I’m Norman Briderson, chief of animal nutrition. Why don’t you let me buy you a little drinky?”
What would it take to get this guy to give it up? Seeing no one paying attention to us, I dropped my focus to his groin and gave him a microscopic smile. The need to heave hit me, but I took my time. Very slowly I lifted my gaze over his beer belly and narrow chest until I stared into his heavily-jowled face. Then I removed every bit of expression from my face, lowered my chin, narrowed my eyes and concentrated.
I kept my growl low. Even my deep-in-the-heart snarl was nearly below human hearing. After a moment, the blood drained from his face until he was nearly the same color as Bella. Sweat poured from him, making him glow even brighter than she did.
With a backward step, he tripped over a man walking toward us and fell to the floor. Scrambling to his feet, he rushed out of the room.
“Hello.” The new man, dressed in a flat brimmed cowboy hat, black boots and a dark suit, looked me over then frowned. “What’s your costume?”
I glanced at the TV screen, and seeing where the movie was—at the gypsy camp—I nodded toward the young woman with the tambourine. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m the Gypsy dancer.”
“Nice to mee
Dark, almost black hair, a decent width to his shoulders and legs long enough to put a smile on a girl’s face. And no beer belly. Doc might just put some life into Bella’s Halloween party.
As if my thoughts had conjured her, Bella reentered from the far side of the room, a look of relief on her face. After a moment, she saw me and started over. When she noticed Doc Holliday, her face brightened. “Jazzy, I see you’ve met Chase.”
“Well, I met Doc Holliday here.” I watched Bella to see what kind of relationship the two of them had. No way would I cut in on a man Bella had her sights set on—unless I had to. “Do you two work together?”
Judging by Bella’s easy chuckle and her manner, she had no feelings for the man, and I was glad. He was too fine not to get to know. “This is Dr. Chase Holliday, the other veterinarian here at the park. Chase, this is my sister, Jazzy.”
He dipped his chin a bit when he smiled. “Maybe you two should have come as nuns.”
“Nuns?” I couldn’t keep from rolling my eyes. “You’d rather we were wearing long, black robes that hide everything but our faces?”
His gaze met mine then, and I could feel...something. I’m not sure about him, but there was a definite tingle on my end. Besides, he was hot. He had dark blue eyes, a square jaw, hair that was just a little too long and a way of focusing that made me wonder if I should attack or run.
And I never run.
As he moved closer, my heart did this flip-flop thing. I thought for a moment he was going to whisper in my ear, but instead he spoke in a tone both Bella and I could hear. “I didn’t say I’d rather see you hide all that, but on a night like tonight, you might be safer from men like Norman Briderson if you had.”
Bella chuckled with him as if they had a private joke, but I didn’t think Norman was funny. Rather than comment, I decided to change the subject and make Doc uncomfortable instead of me. Because he was still so close, I skimmed my fingers over the grip of his pistol a couple of times. “Hey, Doc. You got a hair trigger on this thing?”
Capturing my hand, he held it under his palm and studied me for a long, breathless moment. Something dangerous flashed in his eyes. Finally he released me, pulled out the firearm and held it out for us to look at. “It’s very well balanced, and when loaded, it’s deadly. But it doesn’t have a hair trigger.”
“Doc’s an avid gun collector,” Bella murmured. “How old is that gun, Doc?”
He thought for a moment. “A little over a hundred years old, from the original Doc Holliday’s era.”
“Could it have been his?” Bella asked, wonder in her voice.
“Probably not. I didn’t pay enough for it to have real historical significance.” He flipped the gun over his finger as easily as a percussionist twirls his drumstick before sliding it back into its holster.
“What’ll it be?” the overworked witch at the bar asked as the group in front of us moved away.
Touching our elbows, Doc moved to the bar between us. “So, Princess Fiona, Gypsy Dancer, what would you like to drink?”
Together we glanced at the list of available beverages and their common name equivalents. Corpuscle Cocktail—Bloody Mary, Monster Blood—Margarita and Bottled Witches’ Brew—Lone Star Beer topped the list. After making our choices, we took our drinks to a recently vacated table, which read: Here lies Butch, We planted him raw, He was quick on the trigger but slow on the draw.
Doc read the tabletop then glanced at the one next to us. “Bella, where did you find these things?”
Bella took a sip. “Hey, in the Metroplex, there’s very little you can’t find if you know where to look.”
Honest admiration for Bella was plain on Doc’s face. “And you would know where to look.”
“Of course. I’m a woman, aren’t I?”
As they chuckled, Norman returned to stumble then sprawled onto the empty chair next to me. “Hey, Doc. I have a joke for you. Ready?”
I edged as far away as possible.
With a small shrug, Doc answered, his voice tight. “All right, Norman. What’s your joke?”
“What did one worm say to the other worm in the cemetery?” The man’s inebriated speech shortened the last word to two syllables.
“I don’t know. What did one worm say to the other?” Doc asked obligingly.
“Let’s go make love in dead earnest.” He looked around the table. “Get it? Get it?”
“Yes, we get it, Norman.” Doc’s tone grew hard. “Now go get a cup of coffee. You’ve had way too much to drink. If you don’t sober up, you’ll have to pay for a cab to—”
Raised voices at a side door cut Doc short then a man dressed in denim and work boots rushed to our table. “Doc, Dr. Bella, it’s Sheba. She needs you. Now.”
“Damn.” Doc jumped up and followed the man out the door, but Bella paused.
“It’s the Mexican Gray wolf I’ve been telling you about.” Taking off her cone hat, she dropped it to the table. “Her first litter and she’s apparently having trouble. I hope I’ll be back before the party’s over, but if you’re ready to leave before I come back, go ahead and take the car. I’ll get Doc to drop me off.”
“Don’ worry about Bella.” Norman swayed toward me as my twin rushed away. “Doc takes care of her. Real good care.”
I glanced after Bella, wishing I were with her. I should have volunteered to boil water for them. Anything to keep from being left at Norman’s mercy.
I almost chuckled as I thought what Bella’s answer to that would have been. As if you’ve ever been at anyone’s mercy.
The next morning, Chase Holliday knelt nearby as the strange wolf in the isolation cage attacked the bars. His fascination with the species stirred in his gut. This one was a real beauty. Powerfully built, long and sleek, it obviously had never seen captivity before. But how had it gotten inside the heavy duty fence surrounding the Safari Land property? And how had it found its way inside the compound’s enclosure without anyone noticing?
Shutting his eyes, he drew a long breath. Sometimes he could catch a scent from the wild ones.
There it was. The nearly unnoticeable underlying odor that meant she hadn’t been eating the vitamin enriched meat provided by the park. She was wild.
As he waited, his eyes burned. He tried to blink the sand from them, but long hours of helping Sheba safely deliver pretty much guaranteed that wouldn’t be happening. Not today, anyway.
Bella left the delivery room to wander over. Dark shadows beneath her eyes were evidence of just how exhausted she was. “Why do you have that wolf locked up?”
At least she’d washed off the ghastly makeup and changed out of her froufrou costume before she’d gone into the delivery room. Otherwise, Sheba might have become really upset.
“It—” He took a second glance—”she’s not one of ours. Wandered into the compound last night. Aren’t her eyes an odd shade of green? I don’t think I’ve seen a wolf with eyes that color before.”
As Bella looked at the wolf’s eyes, her face paled. She must be exhausted, too. “So what’s she doing in there?”
“She had Norman treed on top of his car. After he rescued Norman, Tony put her here until he could find out what to do with her.” With a chuckle, he looked again at the wolf who’d stopped attacking the bars and was now in a low crouch. Growling. “You should tell your sister about that. She’d probably get a laugh out of it.”
Bella blinked a couple of times then glanced at him. “Yeah, I’ll do that. Next time I talk to her.”
“Next time? I thought you two lived together.”
She nodded then flipped her hands, palms up. “You know how it is. The life of a fashion consultant is almost as hectic as a Safari Land veterinarian’s. We live together but don’t see each other much.”
“And I imagine she dates quite a bit.” Damn, why had he said that?
The wolf chose th
“She goes out some, but hardly ever with the same guy twice.” Bella glanced at the wolf, letting her gaze linger.
He thought about the woman he’d met the night before, waiting her turn at the bar. Her shoulder-length hair gleamed, even though the room was practically dark. Her eyes had been huge and tipped upward at the edges. But it was her costume that had made it hard for him to breathe. The top had been snug with only the knot between her breasts holding it together. The skirt hung low on her hips and was made to look as if the hem had been torn in several thigh revealing rips. Her legs had been long and tanned, and he was fairly positive they rose all the way to paradise.
He had to swallow before he could speak again. “Tell me more about her.”
“Well—” she drew out the word while making the dimple low in her cheek indent— “we’re twins, but not identical.”
“So that means you know what she’s thinking, but just can’t hear her thoughts?” he teased.
She chuckled then nodded. “Something like that.”
“Wish I could do that with my brothers.” How could he find out what he wanted to know without actually asking?
“It comes in pretty handy for us, but it’s almost too much for my dad. He moved out for a while when we were two, but I don’t really remember it. He was back for our third birthday.”
He couldn’t put it off any longer. “So, is Jazzy engaged or dating...?”
Bella smirked that women-have-intuition-and-men-drool smile. “No, there’s no one in her life. Never has been, at least for very long.”
“Why not?” he asked before he considered his words. “With her looks and body, I’m surprised she’s not married or something.”
Bella’s superior smile disappeared as her brows drew together. She shook her head, then, more concerned than he’d ever seen her, she shrugged. “She just hasn’t found the right—uh—man. But when she does, I have a feeling she’ll never let go.”