A Werewolf's Valentine: BBW Wolf Shifter Paranormal Romance

A Werewolf’s Valentine

 

By

 

Zoe Chant

 

©
Zoe Chant 2016

All Rights Reserved

 

 

One

 

McKenzi

 

When McKenzi Enkel turned twenty-one, she officially declared war on Valentine’s Day.

Her younger sister Kesley stared as if pigs had flown out of her ears. “But you
love
romance!”

“No, I love men,” McKenzi replied. “What I
don’t
love is all that flowery slop about ‘forever’ and ‘true love’ and  . . .”

“Mates?” Kesley said in a low voice. “Mom and Dad are mates.”

“Mom and Dad have been mates since fifth grade,” McKenzi retorted. “They never even dated anyone else. They don’t count. I mean, who
does
that?”

Kesley, like the good, marshmallow-hearted sister she was, did not point out that, well,
they’d
done it.

In answer to the question Kesley didn’t ask, McKenzi said, “Mom and Dad are the exception. Uncle Lee is the rule.”

McKenzi felt like a meanie watching Kesley’s face fall, but it was true. Uncle Lee, their kindly, good-natured, bloodhound shifter uncle, had just moved back in with Mom and Dad after his wife had dumped him, leaving Uncle Lee with Rolf, their young son.

“I don’t think the whole mate thing is real,” McKenzi said. “Uncle Lee’s a dog shifter. The rest of us—except for you, dear raccoon sister—are cat shifters, so we’re fine alone. But dogs need packs. I think he mixed up his doggie pack-sense with that whole ‘true love forever and ever’ hogwash about mates.”

“But his wife wasn’t a dog shifter,” Kesley said. “She was human.”

“Can’t shifter packs include humans?” McKenzi argued, and then, “Oh, who cares. The whole subject is stupid—especially Valentine’s Day.”

Neither convinced the other, and ever since then, McKenzi had watched Kesley, who had the biggest heart in the world, suffer through every type of dump, which had hurt her all over again. McKenzi had promised herself to never go down that road. Serial dating was the answer. Keep it light, don’t get involved, and move on before the inevitable, and she’d done her best to change her sister’s mind for her own good.

Until last autumn, when Kesley met the man of her dreams, whom she insisted was her
mate.
And two weeks ago the happy
couple married and flew off on an extended honeymoon to visit all the art museums in Europe.

Now McKenzi was left behind to deal with real life, which most definitely did not include true love. All that had changed was that Kesley was gone, and in her place, McKenzi had Rolf, her fourteen-year-old cousin, who did nothing but get in trouble at school and pick fights with his friends, then storm home to snap at everyone before going to sulk in his room.

And February rolled around once more. . .

“Valentine’s Day,” McKenzi muttered. “The stupidest day of the year.”

She parked her car in the heavy rain and splashed to the Crockery, the restaurant where she worked. She went into the back entrance, avoiding looking at the hideous red, pink, and white crepe paper decorations festooned all over. She’d helped hang them a few days ago, and hated every second of it. Especially since she’d have to take them all down again once this pointless holiday was over.

At least she got paid for her time. And hey, she was getting pretty good at ignoring the Valentine’s Day hype until the fifteenth of February
finally
arrived, and everything settled down to the dreary gray skies, cold, rainy winter of mid-California’s coast.

You know, real life.

But some things were hard to ignore. Like the hideous new apron hanging over her locker.

McKenzi pulled it on, then looked down in utter disgust at the heart-shaped bib, leading to frills over the shoulders that made her think of Flossie the Cow. Very romantic! More frills edged the oval of the apron. Her boss, Mrs. Nixon, had ordered extra long ties, complacently explaining, “This nice polyester will make perky bows that will stay fresh much longer than cotton.” Worst of all was the color, a virulent pink the same exact shade as Pepto-Bismol.

McKenzi gritted her teeth as she tied the apron over her jeans and left the back room to start her shift.

“Oh, McKenzi, don’t you look
festive
,” Mrs. Nixon gushed as McKenzi walked by the cash register. “I’m so glad I spotted that fabric on sale.”

McKenzi forced herself to smile. Mrs. Nixon had retired as cook, but usually stayed around through the late afternoon because it was the best way to keep up on town gossip. People with time on their hands tended to migrate from Ralph’s across the street, which was open for breakfast and lunch, to the Crockery when Ralph and his wife Deedee went home at two. Between the two restaurants, the coffee crowd could nurse a couple of mugs of caffeine through an entire day.

McKenzi went up to Amelia, the tall, thin day-shift waiter. Her apron made her look like cotton candy on two sticks.

“If you say anything about carnations, pink clouds, or cotton candy, I will kill you with my brain,” Amelia whispered as she wiped down the already clean condiments tray. And Amelia
liked
Valentine’s Day!

McKenzi snickered—wondering how many comments Amelia had already heard about cotton candy. Then she remembered Flossie the Cow and thought,
This is going to be such a great shift
.

Not.

Amelia went on in a whisper, “The customers love the aprons. They think they’re very Valentiney.”

“Reason number 1,457 why Valentine’s Day totally sucks,” McKenzi retorted.

Amelia snorted a laugh. Then she whispered, “Oops,” poking her thumb toward the partition that divided the coffee and tea service from Table Twelve, which McKenzi had thought empty.

“Sorry,” McKenzi mouthed the word, hoping that whoever was tucked away in the corner behind the coffee service wasn’t a cozy couple who adored Valentine’s Day.

Amelia headed out with a fresh pot to top off the coffee-only crowd. McKenzi got busy folding clean silverware into the dinnertime napkins—which were pink, red, and white. Ugh.

McKenzi preferred the late shift. She was a night owl, as many cat shifters were. She never minded closing the restaurant. For one thing, the tips after a good dinner were generally better than the quarter or fifty cents the coffee drinkers tended to leave, which might have been generous in 1962. But the next week would mean fewer families or people too tired to cook, and a lot more couples wrapped up in each other so much they wouldn’t notice those three dimensional crepe-paper hearts hanging all over the place.

At the thought of those couples, a big ball of nasty something roosted inside her Flossie-the-Cow-covered chest. She gave a short sigh. This was stupid, the whole subject was stupid, so she wouldn’t think about it, la la la.

As the low February light faded, and she finished the napkins and refilled the salt and pepper shakers, she tried to imagine where her sister was. What she was seeing.

But that threw her mind back two weeks to the night before Kesley’s wedding. The sisters had been talking, and McKenzi pointed out how weird it was that Kesley’s Jameson was in all ways an eleven on the hotness scale of one to ten—yet she didn’t feel the slightest twinge of attraction.

Then Kesley said, “I’m not surprised. His billionaire-boss nature is all wrong for you. You’re a caretaker.”

“Wrong!” McKenzi laughed. “You’re mixing me up with my job.”

Kesley stared back at McKenzi out of big brown eyes the same color as her own, but with a completely different expression, and said, “You
are
a caretaker. You watched out for me my whole life. And who turned Rolf onto Harry Potter, and played video games with him, and helped him with his homework when the ‘rents and Uncle Lee were busy? Who is it who worries about him now while everybody else says he’s just being a typical teen?”

“So I’m a big sister to our cousin. That has
nothing
to do with what guys I go for. In fact I can’t stand guys who really want their mom, or sit around and laze off.”

“This is something different. But I still think you’re a caretaker.”

“And
I
think this wedding stuff has gone to your head.”

They’d laughed it off as they always did, but that conversation was still bugging McKenzi two weeks later, because it made no logical sense. Serial dating and keeping it light made logical sense.

Meanwhile, the looming day of hearts and flowers sugar-overload definitely didn’t improve her mood . . . and here she was again, brooding over Valentine’s Day.

She looked around for something to do. Amelia was at the cash register dealing with the departing coffee crowd, so she figured it was her turn to make a coffee round to those still sitting. Time to put on her game face, and get this show on the road.

What was the first thing she heard?

“Why, don’t you look pretty in pink, McKenzi!”

“Thanks, Mrs. Hochstetter.”

“We were just telling Amelia earlier, those aprons are simply darling! She looks just like a floating cloud of cotton candy!”

“Agnes Nixon has always had an eye for style,” cooed Mrs. Hochstetter’s friend.

“Thanks, Mrs. Prendergast.” McKenzi gave the ladies her biggest smile, which vanished the second she turned away from their table. What happened to people over the age of fifty? As she moved toward Table Twelve, she made a mental note to get her eyes checked—or a brain scan—if she ever woke up and found Pepto-Bismol pink frilly heart aprons anything but toxic atrocities.

At first she thought that last customer was an old guy, as his short hair was silvery-looking in the fading gray day, but as she neared, she saw his hair was pale blond. She came around with the coffee pot out, poured coffee into his half-empty cup as she raised her eyes to his face.

Damn!

When she was thirteen, and sneaking Mom’s DVDs of
Buffy
, McKenzi’s first and most passionate crush had been on Spike, the evil vampire, whereas everyone else at school had all been mooning after Angel, the angsty vampire.

This guy looked like a taller, ripped version of Spike. He was even wearing all black—a beat up leather coat open over a tight black tee that molded his eight-pack . . .

“I’m good,” he said—in an American accent.

McKenzi blinked, looked down, and managed to pull up the coffee pot a second before it could splash brown liquid all over the table. As it was, the coffee brimmed the top of the mug. “Sorry,” she said, with a blush she knew was radioactive red—great match for her toxic pink apron. “Let me bring you a new one.” She began to sidle hastily away.

“Shame to waste good coffee,” he said. He picked it up, his hand so steady he didn’t spill a drop, and sipped.

As a matter of fact the coffee really
was
good. Everything was good at the Crockery. Mrs. Nixon, for all her terrible taste in decorations and aprons, had won many awards for her cookery at county and even state fairs over the years.

But McKenzi wasn’t thinking about coffee, or cooking. She meant to move her horrible red face and evil apron out of his sight, but she was totally mesmerized by the sight of his beautifully shaped mouth as it softened to gently suck the coffee down to a less dangerous level. What would those lips feel like, shaped just like that to suck her . . .

Behind the giant pink Flossie-the-Toxic-Cow-covered heart, her nipples hardened.

At that same super-heated second, he set the cup down, and raised gray eyes to meet hers. A meteor of white hot fire bulls-eyed the Crockery, and she exploded into tiny fragments of fire and ice and glitter . . .

Then took a breath.

Nope.

Still standing there, coffee pot in hand, decked out in a hideous pink heart-shaped monstrosity that stretched unflatteringly over the girls—the very excited girls—and what had just happened?

She sucked in another breath, forced her feet to become unglued from the floor, and retreated to the side bar to return the coffee pot to the warmer.

Oh, she knew what had happened. Not for nothing had she become the Olympic champion speed dater before she left college. That’s what cats
do
, she’d said to friends as she’d flounced around in her twenty-one-year-old wisdom, but the truth was, being dumped
hurt.
So the smart thing was to make it clear from the get-go that you knew nothing lasted, nothing was serious. Lust was simple, love was a lie. Come and go, easy-peasy. That way they never had to lie, or cheat, or give you The Talk, or even worse, text-dump you.

So she stood there at the coffee station, gripping that pot as if it were the Coffee Pot of Doom, and thought hard. Mr. Not-Spike had some super-powered pheromones going on there, that was all. No mystery, and nothing whatever to do with the month of February, hearts, pink, or glitter.

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