Loved by werewolf Brad and Victor, a vampire, Julie, stricken by a deadly disease, needs both men to survive. Upon the murder of her father, Julie becomes Matron of a rural ranching town where supernaturals co-exist with humans. The neighboring wolf pack wants Julie, the only adult female, for procreation but whenever her body tries to shift, she nearly dies. Only Victor's rapture numbs her body to the pain. She knows to continue her own lineage she must convince Brad to share her with Victor for without both, she cannot live, unless the murderer gets to them first.
Sandra gives an overview of the book:
Brad Billingham, full-blooded werewolf, felt fear. He normally did not fear anything; he had nothing to fear. But, staring him down, in the middle of his corral, was the longest-legged, most viciously tail-swishing, meanest black-eyed stallion he had ever seen in his life. And this stallion stood between him and eight mares of varying temperament and beauty. Brad had never felt so out of place than he did at that moment, again questioning his decision to move out to the country.
"Remind me why you had to bring him along, too, again?" Brad cast the question over his shoulder but did not take his eyes off the stallion.
"He wasn't going to let us take the ladies from him," a low, melodious voice said. "He is very protective of his women."
A truck door creaked open, slammed shut and he heard footsteps approaching. The stallion nodded his head twice and nickered in a low cautious way. Brad first saw her long, muscled legs wrapped in blue jeans step up beside him. Julie Woods, the main reason he stayed, slipped her arm around his back, hooked her fingers into his own jeans' belt loops. He put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close. She turned a little sideways at the waist and rested against his chest. Her body flooded his with warmth and he couldn't stop the reaction his tight jeans did little to hide.
"But didn't he know I'd be here?" he asked, his voice a little tenser than it should be, and not just from the close proximity of the stallion.
Julie laughed as she laced her fingers through his dangling hand. "Perhaps that's why he came."
"Jealousy? A horse suffering from jealousy?"
"He's just doing what his instincts are telling him to do."
Brad pulled her around in front of him. He placed a hand below her chin-unnecessarily, for she was already reaching for his lips, and they kissed. She opened her mouth, inviting his tongue in and he tasted her sweetness, tinged with a flavor of hay. So, she'd been chewing on straw again. He chuckled.
Julie pulled her mouth away. "What's so funny?"
"I'd always wondered what a cowgirl tasted like."
"Ahh!" Julie playfully swatted at his chest then turned around in his arms. "I am a horse woman, not a cowgirl. How many times do I need to remind you of this?"
"Sorry, I get confused. Cows. Horses." Brad bent down and kissed the back of her neck, pushing aside her jet black ponytail. "At least I know you're a woman."
She laughed now. "You're in a frisky mood today, Mr. Billingham."
"Do you realize this is the first time I've had you all to myself?"
Julie pulled his hands tighter across her chest so they lifted her breasts just the tiniest bit. Not that they needed lifting anyway, Brad thought. They were just perfect the way they were. But still he enjoyed the feel of the soft flesh through his shirt sleeves.
"You must stay for dinner tonight."
She sighed. "You know I can't."
"Can't someone else look after your father? Just for one night?"
"My brother? He doesn't have the patience. They can't even stand to look at each other. Besides, you knew the answer to that question before you asked."
Brad pulled her closer, almost crushing her. "And I will keep asking until you say yes."
Julie patted his arm. "You're awfully stubborn, you know."
He loosened his grip. "You're awfully special, Julie."
"Come on, horseman," she said, slipping away from him. "Let's go check out the feed you got delivered this morning." Julie took off at a run toward the barn. Brad enjoyed the view as he followed. She had the long legs and lean muscular rear of the werewolf species, yet she never spoke about shifting. She had the natural agility, speed and sensory adaptation common of most werewolves. He wondered what she looked like as a lupine. Probably jet black like the color of her hair. She slowly pulled away and loped into the barn a few steps ahead.
Stopping just inside the doors, he listened for her footfalls. He heard her breathing hard in the tack room. He stepped silently across the sand surface and stood in the doorway, watching her bending over the sacks of grain, reading labels.
"What took you so long?" she asked without looking up. "Your age catching up to you?"
With a growl, he rushed forward and grabbed her around the waist. She squealed and they both fell, sliding from the sack to the sandy floor, Julie on top. A wicked grin formed on her face and she sat up, straddling his bulging jeans. She began to unbutton his shirt.
"Apparently, you need a lesson on proper tack room etiquette," she said, opening his shirt. She spread her hands on his chest and ran her fingers down through the light covering of dark hair.
Brad moaned from her touch.
"Everything must be kept neat and tidy," she bent her head to his right nipple, "clean even," and licked it. Brad moaned again. She moved over to the other nipple and licked it too. Brad reached for her waist. He began to tug her shirt from her jeans. When he saw her pale skin, he slipped his hands beneath the fabric, grasping her slim waist, his hands splayed across her sweating back.
His hands slipped down to her waist as she sat up and released his belt buckle. Then she unbuttoned his jeans and lowered the zipper. She buried her hand beneath his briefs and began to rub the area just above his rod. It drove him crazy when she did that: so close...but not touching.
Brad sat up and pulled her blouse over her head. Pushing down the bra straps, he freed her breasts and held them together, teasingly touching both nipples with his tongue in one broad stroke. Julie thrust her chest forward and bent her head back, forcing him to take in more. He released her breasts and took one into his mouth. His hands pressed against her back, holding her chest close. After suckling one breast, he moved to the other. Julie arched up and in one quick motion he laid her on the sand and pulled off her jeans and panties. They got stuck at her boots and he struggled to pull them off, swearing under his breath.
Julie began to giggle and wrenched her foot out of his grasp. "I'll take off mine if you take off yours."
He grinned, jumped to his feet and dropped his pants to his ankles. Julie gasped with laughter. "Your boots! I meant your boots."
Smiling, he leaned against a sack of grain and pulled off his boots and pants. He had known what she meant. He just wanted to hear her laugh; she had such a joyful laugh. She stood up, the sunlight from the tiny window glistening off her sweating body. Tanned and strong from her outdoor activities, she still looked vulnerable. It wasn't her body but something in her eyes made him pause, his jeans dangling from his hand. She seemed almost wistful as if wanting to dare to hope. He wondered what more she could want. Then the look vanished, her eyes full of concern. For him. He nearly choked, overwhelmed with emotion.
"What's wrong, Brad?" She moved toward him, her feet barely touching the ground.
"You are so beautiful," he said, sliding up onto the sack.
She sighed. "I hate it when you get so pensive." She took his head in her hands, her fingers running through his short hair and pulled him close. "You are almost ruining the mood." Her right hand traveled down his neck and across his shoulders.
Brad shivered and ran his hands down her back. Then he cupped her cheeks and lifted her onto his lap. Julie forced Brad to lean back as she slid her body forward quickly. She rode him hard, demanding his full attention. His hands, just as insistent, held her hips tight and pressed firmly against his thighs. He wanted Julie to slow her movements yet felt the blood rush within his own body. Is this what she felt? He asked her many times and she responded positively but he could always see a lost look in her eyes as if she truly did not know what he meant. The blood lust was similar to the heat felt when he changed form. Becoming a wolf was only second to experiencing sexual climax. Did Julie change so easily she did not recognize her own blood lust?
With each urgent thrust, he could feel the rising force of his blood. He bent his neck forward, his mouth touching the salty texture of the skin on her shoulder. His teeth grazed the top ridge. She hadn't yet let him sink his teeth into her skin, taking her blood into his body, claiming her as his own. When he opened his mouth, her skin slipped away as Julie pushed her shoulders back, thrusting her chest outward. Realizing she neared her own climax, Brad kept a firm grip on her body. They gyrated and pounded in rhythm as the storm built and all too soon exploded within.
Brad held her tight, his arms around her back, pulling her forward as her body contracted into the orgasm. He felt his own seed spurting into her warmth and, selfishly, didn't want her to move away. He wanted to feel her body close and smell her scent, for a long time afterward. He now knew what it meant to love only one person, to have a soul mate. And Julie was his. But he wondered if she would accept him as her one true mate. Julie lay gasping on his chest. The bond between them flowed strong as they both lay sated and content for the moment.
A loud bang against the outside of the stable jerked them out of their reverie. They stared at each other blankly; then another bang was followed by a loud whinny.
Julie smiled. "Seems someone's hungry." She began to climb from Brad's lap but he held her close. "Don't go."
She bent down and kissed him hungrily. Then with a smile that promised more soon, she slid off his lap and started to dress. Regretfully, Brad pulled on his jeans, knowing this moment was gone.
After quickly dressing, they fed and watered the horses. Brad, new to ranching, was a quick learner. He watched as Julie climbed back into her truck.
"I wish you could stay." Brad stood between her and the door, not letting her close it. "Live with me. Be with me."
"Are you asking me to move in with you?" She looked surprised but only for a moment. A sad smile lit up her face. Oh, her eyes spoke so much, yet she herself actually said so little.
"Yes, Julie. Move in with me." He had asked because he had known the time was right.
She glanced at the sky, biting her lip. "I gotta go. Dad needs some care before he goes to bed."
"What if I don't let you go?" His hands gripped the window tight; then realized how foolish that looked knowing she did have her responsibilities. He added seriously, "I have money. I can hire..."
"No, Brad," she said angrily, twisting the key, her foot pressing down on the accelerator revved the engine a little too harshly.
"Please think about it." He began to step away but she grabbed his arm. He stopped, feeling in her grasp a need to explain. "I'm sorry. Dad needs me, too. I should be back tomorrow; if he's doing poorly it may be a couple of days. We can talk then. Please, Brad. I have to go." She looked out the window, squinting at the setting sun. "Now. Please."
Something about the way she said the last two words, almost pleading with him, made him feel guilty. He stepped out of the way and she closed the door. As she wheeled the truck with its horse trailer out of his yard, he almost swore he saw a tear run down her face. Now, he had to find out the real reason she couldn't...no, had never stayed beyond sundown with him.
* * *
Once out of sight of Brad's ranch, Julie braked the truck in the road, shooting dust everywhere, creating a momentary haven of solitude. She slammed her hand against the steering wheel.
"Stupid." Slam. "Stupid!" Slam. "Stupid."
She took several deep breaths. "Julie, you know you can't do this. It's not fair to him, Brad." Her voice softened when she spoke his name. "Oh, Brad. All you want is to fall in love, have a family and live a normal life."
Placing her forehead on the steering wheel, Julie continued to chastise herself. "I can't give you that. I can never give you a normal life. Not even a family." She hadn't wanted to lie to him about her father being hurt. But if he knew the truth, he would turn tail and run.
Julie lifted her head. The dust cloud had settled. Down the road she could just make out the tower of her father's house. Her father. Her brother. They only wanted to protect her. But they didn't understand. She could handle this. Yes, she knew the rules. She followed them every day. The Were rules. But she had to live her own life. Follow her heart. Was that so bad? She just wanted to be loved. Once. By a man. And she wanted to do that before...
Julie started up the truck and jerked it into drive. There was nothing wrong with wanting to feel the touch of a man. And Brad was very much a man. He made her feel so alive. Her body still tingled from their lovemaking. She so wanted to stay the night with him. Have him all night long to herself. Not the empty bed and night full of pain she was headed for now.
A sharp twinge in her chest made her wince. She glanced up at the setting sun. Still lots of time, she had thought. Her right hand jerked and she held it up. The feeling had almost left it. She banged it against the seat but to no avail. Panic set in as she realized the numbness was spreading faster than usual.
She pressed down the accelerator pedal and heard the engine roar into a higher gear. The tires skidded around a bend in the road. The trailer dragged at the back end nearly fishtailing into the ditch. She twisted the steering wheel and brought the truck back under control. The electric gate designating the entrance to the Woods ranch had barely swung fully open as she drove through at high speed. Someone must have seen her coming. Her right arm now hung uselessly at her side. The ranch house loomed in the distance. A massive building built in a time of prosperity and large families; it now seemed more like a mausoleum than a place to raise children. She skidded to a stop in front of the house.
The front door flew open and her brother, Mark, ran out across the porch and leapt down the three front steps. He slid to a stop at her door and reached in to put the truck into park.
"I figured you were in trouble by the way you were driving," he said, opening her door.
"My arm," Julie said, twisting her body so her legs came out first and she slid off the seat.
"I see." Mark caught her before she hit the ground and gently lifted her good arm around his shoulder.
She followed his gaze. Her hand had already clenched into a claw.
"It's too early," she said.
Mark glanced skyward, blowing his curly brown hair out of his eyes. "Doc warned us. He said this might happen as you got older."
They started toward the door when Julie's left leg gave out. Only Mark's quick wolf reflexes kept them both from tumbling to the ground. He picked her up and shouldered his way through the door.
"Dad's waiting upstairs."
"I don't think I'll make it." She spoke, her words already a slur, a definite sign the attack was coming on too quickly.
"Sure you will. You just want me to do all the work." Mark walked briskly across the main floor, dodging two massive sofas set near an equally massive stone fireplace, heading toward a sweeping staircase.
She smiled. Her brother. Her big brother. Always ready to take care of her.
"It won't be long now. You'll be asleep and feeling better in no time." Mark never had been a good actor. She saw the fear in his eyes and her smile turned grim. Scared, too, her body usually didn't react until after dark when the attacks began.
"How is your gentleman rancher by the way?" he asked, starting to climb the stairs. "Did he like your idea of giving him some responsibility?"
She smiled, again. "He thinks Sultan is out to get him, is jealous."
Mark chuckled. At the top of the stairs, he turned into the first room on the right, her bedroom. "Perhaps he is jealous. Having to share his mares with another male. And you, don't forget. He probably can't figure out why Brad looks human but smells like an animal."
Julie had never thought of it that way. Did Brad really smell like a wolf to other animals? Perhaps next time she was at the ranch she'd better properly introduce Sultan to Brad so the horse wasn't so put out. Next time...
Mark placed her upon the bed. Her father, a leaner, older version of her brother, already held the first syringe in his hand. Mark pulled her shirt sleeve up to her elbow and he slid the needle under her skin. She gasped at the sudden intrusion even though she should be used to it by now, having suffered with years of attacks.
"Easy, Julie," Mark said, brushing her bangs back from her sweaty forehead.
She felt the sedative begin to take effect. What she could still feel of her body relaxed into the soft sheets. She looked up into her father's eyes but he wouldn't meet them. Instead, he busied himself filling a second syringe from another bottle. She had something important to tell him. What was it? The sedative made her mind go fuzzy. She looked up at Mark. Mark knew.
As if reading her mind, Mark spoke. "She said it had started earlier this time."
"She'll be 24 next week," her father said, placing the second syringe against her skin. She felt it pierce. Fire shot through her veins. Her body jerked once then lay still.
Mark slid a pillow away from her head.
"She didn't give us much time, Mark," her father said, stern, unforgiving.
"I wish..." Mark said as he pulled a chair up close to her bed. He sounded so sad. She wanted to reach out and reassure him but her body no longer responded to her mind's commands.
Her father removed her boots and placed them on the floor. Then he reached for the last syringe. Julie tried to still her voice but a groan escaped.
Pained, Mark knelt down on her arm holding it still with the weight of his body. Her father plunged the needle into her arm. No longer able to feel, her body nonetheless jerked spasmodically as it fought the serum. Mark leapt backward. Julie felt her head tilt back and she thought her neck would break. Her lungs constricted and she couldn't draw a breath. For many seconds, her body remained stuck in the contorted position. Spots formed in front of her eyes. Her lungs ached for air. Then slowly her body relaxed, her airway opened and she could breathe again. Every time this happened she thought she would suffocate. Then, after a minute or so, her body would flop back onto the bed and she could breathe again. Darkness enveloped her mind as the sedatives took control and she lost consciousness.
Long, lush grass brushed the sides of her legs. She stood atop a long, slow rolling hill. At the bottom, the grass parted and a black tail switched just above the green tips. He was telling her where he was without really giving himself away; that would've spoiled all the fun.
Julie smirked, then felt the ground coming up. Through blurred vision she saw her arms and legs lengthen, claws replace fingers and nails. She felt only slight discomfort as she ran through the grass toward the other wolf. The shift had come so quickly once she stopped fighting it. Much more pleasant than getting stuck all the time. If she'd only known the truth of it.
Her nose close to the ground, she found his trail and followed it to a clump of rotting tree stumps. Here his scent stopped. She raised her head and sniffed the air. Nothing. Where had he gone?
Jumping onto one of the stumps, she scanned the surrounding grass with her limited day vision, seeking moving shadows in a blur of sunlight. Nothing moved. She crouched to jump to the next stump when, suddenly, a black blur sideswiped her, knocking her to the ground. She tried to get her breath back, then felt his jaws clamp around her throat. She froze and gave a playful whine.
The wolf released her throat and lay down beside her with a heavy sigh.
She whined again and nuzzled his throat hairs. Okay, so she had made a mistake and put her full body out in the open. Anyone could've seen her and, if hunting her, could've taken her down easily. Her stomach growled loudly, betraying her position again. Anyone could have heard that sound from miles away.
Brad huffed and jumped to his feet, his ears pricked forward. Then he was gone. Vanished. Maybe he was giving her another try. She heard a small animal cry out, then silence. Sitting up, her ears twisting every which way, she listened for him to return. Grass rustled a moment before Brad bounded to her side. He dropped a small carcass at her feet.
She nuzzled it, found it to her liking and, with blood dripping from her muzzle, touched Brad's muzzle. He tore into the body and gulped half of it down. She ate her share. Satiated, she lay down in the sun, her eyes closed. She had never been so satisfied in her life. Brad lay down beside her, their pelts touching, and napped.
Julie opened her eyes and jolted upright when she saw her bedroom and not the grassy plain. She cried out in fear and sorrow, knowing what she had dreamt would never be. The cry sounded like a howl in her ears. She felt the jab of another needle. "It was beautiful, Dad, so beautiful." She saw tears in her father's eyes.
"Hush, child, don't speak so."
Mark appeared in her doorway, his hair tousled from sleep. "What happened?"
Her father backed out of the room. "She hardly made it through the night."
"No." Mark sounded almost frightened.
"We'll contact Doc later this morning."
"But he said there's nothing more he can do." Mark sounded panicked now. "And what about Victor? You know he doesn't like having to wait to come in until the last minute."
"He knows how we feel about his type being here." Her father could be so stubborn. She wanted to tell him Victor meant her no harm. He would never ever hurt her. But her body had become numb from the drugs again and she couldn't move her mouth to speak.
"But without him, she won't make it through the next couple days." Mark sounded so grown up, so in charge.
"Better make the phone call." She could hear the frustration in his voice as he surrendered. Was love always this difficult, she wondered. Could she ask this of Brad? For a lifetime. Her lifetime?
As Julie drifted off, a dark wolf stepped into her mind. From behind him emerged a tall winged creature with silver eyes and teeth. Her body ached to be near them both.
Sandra is an author of fantasy, urban fantasy, romance and erotic romance fiction who also writes under the pen name of Lee Pearce. She lives in southern Ontario and cottages on the Bruce Peninsula with her family and dog, Baxter.