A Halloween Read...Enjoy!
“A Halloween party isn’t a party until someone has to clean up.”
On a labored sigh, Pennelope Anderson twisted her tawny hair into a clear plastic clip. She nudged a garbage bag chock full of crinkled cups and paper plates. An avalanche of refuse tumbled out onto her feet. “My friends are pigs but I can forgive them because we have a good time.”
A warm hand covered hers. Her gaze shifted to her best friend, Nicky Lyons. Eyes the color of unripened lemons pinned her to the spot. He licked his bottom lip and knelt next to her. “My time with you is always good.”
Nervous giggles slipped past her lips and a shiver slid up her spine. “You’re just saying that to make my day.” God, she had to get a grip. Measuring her words, she paused. “And I love it.”
A hank of raven hair slid over his forehead. “I see.” The corner of his mouth kinked. “How about spending more time with me, besides dressed in costumes?”
Forcing her breathing to slow, Penn shrugged and twisted the bag closed. “You’re not a commitment kind of guy and I’m a relationship kind of girl. Look at how many women you’ve dated in the past year. I can’t compete.” Although a short, spicy evening of passion enticed her, she refused to ruin a strong friendship for a one-nighter.
Tipping his head, he crinkled a dark brow. “Are you sure about that? This Lyon could change his stripes.” He shook open a new bag and lined the garbage bin.
Covering her mouth with her hand to smother a chuckle, she raked her gaze over him. Sinewy muscles rippled under his tight black T-shirt and she yearned to smooth her fingers over the dusting of beard on his cheeks. Okay, how to change the subject to something a little less—distracting? “I’m not sure about stripes, but you did change out of your vampire get-up in a quick fashion. Don’t tell me you left it stroodled all over my bathroom. I think there’s still white and black makeup smeared around my sink.”
Nicky rocked back on his heels. “And you spared no time losing the skimpy black dress in favor of your favorite jeans. Not that I didn’t like the dress, mind you.”
Dusting her hands on her jeans legs, Penn stood. She rolled her tongue around her dry mouth and tossed the garbage bag into the can next to the back door. “Okay, well, in other news, I think it’s time to let Fang out of the bedroom. He’ll probably need to run outside.”
Nicky followed hot on her heels. “He hates that name, you know.”
Frustration marred her forehead. She clutched the wooden stair rail and turned. “Does he? How do you know? Or is that a male thing—you telepath your inner desires to each other?” She snorted. “Cause it would be funny if you did.”
Swatting her ass, he urged her forward. Displeasure clouded his voice. “Would you really want to be referred to as a tooth?”
As she reached the top of the stairs, she edged her shoulder up in a thoughtful shrug. “When I found him, he hissed at me. Fang seemed appropriate. He thinks he’s tough, but he’s really a lover, despite what he likes or dislikes.” She stopped short in the hallway. “The door is cracked.”
With a grunt, Nicky ran into her. “I thought you left it shut. Did you forget?”
With trembling hands, she shoved the door open. Deafening silence met her ears. “I know this was closed. I closed it.” Her heart thundered in her chest. Fear pounded into her brain. “We have to find him.”
Trailing his fingers through her pony tail, Nicky tucked her tag into her sweatshirt collar. “He can take care of himself.”
“What?” She shrieked, jumping from his grasp. “It’s Halloween! Some people hurt black cats on Halloween. I can’t let that happen to Fang, even if he hates his name. I’d be lost without him. I love him.”
On a sigh, Nicky cocked his head. His brows rose beneath his dark bangs. “He’s safe.”
She burst past him, bounding down the stairs. “I’ll get his treats. Please grab the carrier. If he’s not in the basement, he’s probably just out in the yard.” Her hands fluttered through the air. “He’s a smart cat and can’t have gone far.”
With a firm hand to her shoulder, he stopped her frantic movements. Concern and something else shone in his green eyes. “Do you trust me?”
Penn let out a long breath. “Yes, more than I care to think about some times.” Why did she just admit that? He wasn’t that in to her. She bit her tongue. “Why are we just standing here? We need to find Fang.”
He brushed a rogue lock of hair off her forehead. “I know where he is.”
Clutching her chest, she rested against the living room wall. “Thank God. You always think ahead. Did you lock him in the basement? Or is he at your apartment?”
Nicky cocked his head. He tapped his chest, right above his heart. “He’s in here.”
She angled a brow. The low tone of his voice sent shivers through her body. “You ate my cat? That’s just weird.” Forcing her attention from his emerald gaze, she sighed when he didn’t laugh at her joke. “I know you didn’t eat him, so where is he—really?”
A calloused finger tipped her chin. No matter how much she wanted to remain indifferent, Nicky was the one man she couldn’t ignore. A growl rumbled in his throat. “I’ll ask again. Do you trust me?”
Without thinking, she spoke the words in her heart. “I trust you.”
“Then come upstairs with me.” As he tugged her down the hallway, she fought to register his words. Did he want to sleep with her? A lump lodged in her throat. She wanted him—once they found Fang.
In front of her bedroom door, he paused and leaned on the stark white frame. “I need to show you something.”
She held up her index finger to buy a moment of time, to slow him down in case his plans included taking the relationship a step further. “You can show me later. First things first, let’s find Fang.”
Angling his head toward her bedroom, he nodded and kissed the tip of her finger. “He’s in here. Safe and sound.” With a gentle tug, he helped her into the room and gestured to the bed. “Sit.”
Though feeling uneasy, she did as he asked. Chills ricocheted through her system. Something was odd. God, why did it have to be Halloween? Bad things happened on Halloween, like last year when her Labrador, Lugosi, was hit by a car, yet his body was never found.
Wrapping his fingers around her hand, Nicky knelt before her. “Do you know you’re sexy?”
Before she could stop them, words rushed past her lips. “In a baggy KSU sweatshirt, worn jeans, no makeup, and messy hair—that’s sexy all right.” He exemplified sex. She looked like the frumpy girl next door. Still, what did her looks have to do with finding the damned cat?
He chuckled. “A man can only take so much.” Her breath stuck in her throat as his hands braced on her thighs. He moved closer, situating himself between her legs. “You make one gorgeous witch, baby girl. I couldn’t take my eyes off you all night.”
Rolling her eyes, she snorted. “Because you worry about me.”
His breath warmed her skin and sent tingles to her core. “Because I love you.”
Could he want her for real? She didn’t see that declaration coming. Beneath her sweatshirt, her nipples pebbled. “Me?”
“You.” He pressed warm, wet kisses over her cheeks. “I lost my heart the day we met five years ago. With you, I’m free to be myself.”
His lips met hers. On a sigh, she opened for him. His taste, a mix of cola and spicy man rolled over her tongue. Sizzles shot from her core to her heart in warp speed. Could he be the one?
Nicky broke the kiss and cupped her jaw. “Did you ever wonder why you never see me in the same room with Fang?”
Working to catch her breath, she turned his words over in her mind. “Well, he’s shy. He only honeys up to me.” Like I want you to.
His thumb smoothed circles on her cheek. “He loves you, but he’s not who he seems. Do you want to know a secret?”
Nicky closed his eyes. His body fizzled and morphed at her feet. Before she could process his disappearing act, Fang appeared in his place surrounded by the rumpled clothing. The cat cocked his head and stared at her with vibrant green eyes.
With white knuckles, she grasped the comforter. Nicky was flesh and bone. She tasted him, fantasized about him. How the hell did he shift into—a cat? No, how did he shift into her cat? “I know what I’m seeing, but this isn’t happening. Nicky, wherever you are, stop trying to scare me.”
Fang’s eyes closed. He lowered his head. In a moment, Nicky sat before her—stark naked. She gasped and her eyes widened. Every inch of his ripped body imprinted itself on her brain. Another gasp slipped past her lips as she noticed his cock, long, thick, and steely against his thigh. She shook her head. “But you can’t be him. I brought him home. He hissed at me and wouldn’t come out from under the bed for a month. He escaped from the vet’s office...”
He caressed her cheek. “Baby girl, I have the ability to shift. I’m not evil and I won’t hurt you. Until I met you, I hid my abilities, but one look at your sweet body and I knew I wanted to be with you.”
“Is this a sick Halloween joke? ‘Cause looking at you makes me want you, but I’m not laughing at that trick.” Hot tears dampened her lashes. “Why didn’t you tell me before now? I wouldn’t have scheduled the appointment to have you fixed.”
Nicky kissed away her sadness. “I feared you’d run from me. I care too much to let you go. Despite the fact that you tried to have my nads removed, I’m in love with you.” His hands roved over her body underneath the baggy shirt. She groaned as he nipped her neck. His voice rumbled over her senses, turning them inside out. “And right now, I want to make love to you.”
Edging away from him, she ripped the sweatshirt over her head and tugged the clip from her hair. “Do you want to know my secret?”
His brow crooked again. “You can shift, too?”
“I’m in love with you, too.”
With a small chuckle, Nicky grinned. “I hoped you’d say that.”
Smoothing her hands over his pecs, she sighed. “So now you know my truth, do I get a trick or a treat?”
Deft fingers unbuttoned her jeans. Nicky growled. “It’s only eleven a.m. and I plan to treat you all day long until we collapse. Happy Halloween, baby girl.”
She fell against the mattress, tugging him along for the ride. “Happy Halloween, indeed.”