Friday, September 30, 2011

Musa Publishing Opens Its Doors!

Ebooks,Penumbra eMag, so much More
Musa Publishing 
Opens its Electronic Doors

After months of editing, designing, contracting, and formatting Musa Publishing launches on October 1, 2011. The E-publishing company opens with a large catalogue including Penumbra Speculative Fiction eMag, New works by three bestselling authors, and Aurora Regency’s

Penumbra's inaugural issue is a collection of speculative fiction stories that encompass the arts--the arts we love and revere. Some of these stories deal with the arts we're familiar with. Some create arts we haven't thought of and some resurrect arts buried in the depths of the past.  And yet, all of these offerings celebrate the creative process, which makes them a fitting theme to launch Penumbra--an enterprise that will showcase the creative work of speculative fiction authors each month with a new collection of works within the genre.

The New Works by:

Gini Koch
Things aren’t what they seem to be when Princess Olivia of Andromeda jumps aboard a spaceship to escape a loveless marriage.
Join the crew of the Hummingbird as they take on the rich, famous and sleazy of the galaxy. They're also on a long-term secret mission, so it's a good thing they're the best con artists, spacers, and roughnecks in the Milky Way, because they need all their skills to pull off this particular Royal Scam.

Cindi Myers

More than gold awaits two lovers at the end of the trail.
Mariah Tate and her dog, Worthy, persuade veteran guide Campbell Jefferson to let them join his expedition headed to California. Camp can't say no to the beautiful widow, but his need to protect her soon clashes with her need to keep secrets. Mariah left more than bad memories behind in Pennsylvania and her growing attraction to the stoic but surprisingly sensitive Camp forces her to face up to the consequences of the choices she's made. Camp doesn't know what Mariah's hiding, but he's determined not to let the only woman who ever made him want to settle down get away. He pursues her across the prairies, through stampedes, Indian raids, desert drought and mountain snows. In the gold camps of California, Camp will discover Mariah's secret, and prove the love she wants most isn't out of reach.

And the return to writing for USA Today Bestselling Author

Sharon De Vita

"The Estrogen Posse is a hoot! I laughed, I cried, I couldn't put it down! For every woman who needs a pick me up, this is the book for you!"
Janet Evanovich, NYT bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum mystery series

Once upon a time Ellie Briotti had a quiet life as a suburban housewife.
Until…she confronts her wealthy husband Nicky about doing the pecker polka with another woman, and Nicky tosses Ellie out of his life like some misbehaved household pet.
Until…Gram Crackers, her dotty mother begins passing out house keys to homeless bums.
Until…Joey, her eleven-year old son starts on a new career path: breaking and entering.
Until…Rina, her best friend, a single, successful, entrepreneur learns she's about to become a mother.
Until…Candi, Nicky's 22-year-old mistress turns up murdered with traces of furniture polish on her bare backside!
A rip-roaring ribald mystery about a woman’s journey to discover what she really wants in life. Now, if Ellie can keep her son from becoming a second-story man, while trying to hide everything from the gorgeous cop who’s started sniffing around, Ellie might be able to get a new life.
That is—if she doesn’t go to jail for murder first!


Aurora Regency

Musa has acquired Aurora Regency. Within the next month over forty books in this line will be available to Regency and Historical Romance buffs to enjoy.

Stop by check out the books already for sale as well as those coming soon. Over the next few weeks there will be something available for everyone’s taste. Musa aims to offer well writing, interesting stories, all at a price that doesn’t bite into your check book.

“Hearts set upon song, spirits free from care”~ Hesiod

If you'd like more information about Musa Publishing, please contact Elspeth McClanahan at or go to our blog

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Shoe Thief

The Shoe Thief
by Beth

Rixva’s scales brushed the top of the mushroom ceiling. Even as a member of the smallest Demon clan, he was taller than these Trades Elves. Squatting to give himself some head room, he surveyed the workroom. The she-elf had more cunning than he expected.
Set in the center of the table, the shoe-form looked like a tempting bit to swipe.  Too tempting. His forked tongue sampled the air above the table, searching for a trap.
He smacked his lips on the caramel flavor: not a trap but a location spell. Something to lead the caster back to their lost item.  So the she-elf was tired of him stealing her stuff. He grinned. A challenge made the mischief making all the sweeter.
Now what to do?  The impish side of him wanted to steal everything but that shoe-form or better yet…steal the form and leave the beacon on the counter. But he promised to help his elf-friend win the woman.  And she just might be the companion his friend needed.
The first rays of sunlight streamed through the workshop window.  Itchy fingers demanded he make mischief while he waited for the she-elf to arrive. He chanted and a bit of wind lifted the lids off boxes of finished shoes. Another cast to devise a tower out of alternating horizontal and vertical boxes. Next he switched some of the shoes – putting two left shoes together, one red and one green. For the rights he mixed jewel-toned blues with creams. Other boxes, he changed the size on the outside, leaving the shoes alone.
He considered the flats of leather and velvet shoe coverings. From the top shelf, he rubbed a piece of leather between two of his three fingers. A soft buttery texture along with the gentle tingle of a protection shield met his exploration. So he wouldn’t be able to dump dye on it. Good of the she-elf to protect her most valuable items. Once he got lost in the joy of mischief he could not stop.
Rixva touched the material on each shelf until he got to the roughest material on the bottom shelf. The skins were tough, dry, and cracked. Used for making boots, not a commodity usually called for in the Amara-Tierra, the Faery Realm. These would soon be thrown out due to age. Perfect for a bit of coloring. Removing the lids from the powdered dyes, he magicked the sparkling red, orange, yellow, and blue powders into the air. A bit more casting and the colors were rubbed into the animal hide.
The muffled tinkle of the bell above the door followed by dainty footsteps on the wooden floor caught his attention. A last glance around the room and he vanished before the she-elf topped the stairs.
“I’m going to sic a sprite on the elf responsible for this mess.” The she-elf muttered as she unstacked boxes.
Strands of her straight auburn hair lifted from her head. For a moment, he thought her sea green eyes glowed but it had to be a reflection of the sunlight streaming through the windows. Still her bit of temper appealed. It showed there was more to her than her angelic appearance suggested.
            Satisfied with his bit of mischief, Rixva floated down the stairs and regained his appearance to let Stephan in. He placed a Mute spell around the bell so it wouldn’t jingle as the door opened. “It’s done. She’s upstairs cleaning up.” The irony of being quiet was not lost on him.  In Eysteinn, noise was a hallmark of his kind.
Stephan handed him a rust red bottle. His food for the day. A spell kept the magic in the Fae blood fresh enough for him to survive the lower Faery Realm temperature. He made a face as he swallowed the thickened liquid. It kept him alive, but was quite distasteful when compared to the sulfur-rich lava rock he consumed at home.
“Are you sure you want to keep doing this?” He worded his question with care.
A magickal debt would prevent him from returning home. He could question his friend’s actions but never offer the words “Thank You” to show his appreciation for the sacrifice of Stephan’s blood.
The elf shrugged. “We have a deal. You do a bit of work for me and I give you the blood.”
“You! You’re behind these tricks?” the she-elf screeched from behind them.
“Emmalyn.” His friend’s skin turned an even paler white as he faced the woman he loved. “I…I’m not sure what to say.”
“How about I’m sorry for making more work for you? Some of the shoes you spirited away were for private commissions.”
“I’m sorry.” Stephan walked over to the she-elf and took her hand. “I wanted an excuse to spend more time with you.”
The she-elf pulled away, gave them an angry glare, and paced around the small entryway.
Rixva intoned the return of the absconded footwear. “Here are your precious shoes.” The impeccably crafted merchandise hung in the air a moment before he floated them upstairs to their proper placement. “Stephan thought if he showed an appreciation of your work, it would catch your attention. His idea had merit over those dimwitted elves who sent you Lily Bells.” Sharp pointed teeth showed as he gave her a devilish smile. “Hives are never attractive.”
Emmalyn’s expression softened and she turned to Stephan. “You want to spend time with me?” At his nod, she asked, “Will you trust me to deal fairly with the imp?”
His friend gave the she-elf’s hand a squeeze and whispered, “Be nice. He’s had a bad time of it.” Then he left them alone.
“What is your hold over him?”
Women, even tiny ones, could be dangerous when angry. He hopped in place from foot to foot as she regarded him. Trapped by her gaze, he eyed the nearest window as a means to escape.
As she stood there staring at him, he sank to his knees in defeat. He owed it to his friend to answer her. “Nothing. He saved my life. I thought helping him catch your attention would be fun.”
“Why are you here? In Amara-Tierra?”
“My teleportation powers were stripped from me by the new Demon Lord. Then he banished me from Eysteinn.” He bowed his head. “I cannot go home to see my wife. My kidlets.” His voice cracked. Even though it had only been three months, he considered it a lifetime.
The she-elf walked past decorative wall cabinets and brushed the palm of her hand over blank space. She whispered an incantation and the wall glowed yellow before two doors swung open. She pulled out a dark red shoebox before saying a few words to close the hidden vault.
“These Brogue shoes should solve your problem,” the she-elf said as she lifted a pair of glittery reddish-brown dress shoes from the box.
He almost laughed. The she-elf should know it is impossible to cross the Realms with a pair of shoes.
A tendril of magic skated along his scales. It wrapped around him to form a cocoon and drew him closer to the table. Hope and a touch of fear filled him as he stared at the shoes with holes punched in the tops to form delicate flowers.
“Go on. Put them on.” Not just magic but true Power infused the words Emmalyn commanded.
He hesitated. Emmalyn hid enormous magic in that tiny form – she possessed remnants of magick from the Aesir gods. The thought of crossing the Realms with a pair of shoes no longer seemed so absurd.
She stared at him, dared him to deny the gift she offered. He leaned against the table and waited as it creaked and groaned. When it didn’t break, he stuffed his three toes into the confining leather and stood.
“Now, imagine your wife and kids and say ‘I want to go home’ three times while thinking of them. And don’t worry when the shoes disappear after you get there.”
He imagined his wife, her ears poking out with a few stray scales stuck at odd angles. His kidlets with their expressions of innocent child and mischievous wonder at the world at her side. “I want to go home.” Everything around him swirled throwing off his senses. “I want to go home.” His stomach lurched as his body moved through space. “I want to go home.”
“Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”
His children threw themselves around his legs as he appeared in the center of their cave. The heat from the rock floor warmed his now bare toes. Last of all, his wife walked into the room. The smile she gave him warmed his cold heart.
Maybe faeries aren’t so bad after all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The One-Night Diet by Maureen O. Betita

She hauled her bright red suitcase behind her on the approach to the hotel check in. As usual, a perky and perfectly put together young woman smiled and took all the information to see Nadine able to retrieve the keycard and head to her room.
Three days later, she was exhausted but also filled with exhilaration. A typical conference, full of goofing off, meeting the online friends she only saw once a year, and ending the day looking at her silhouette and wishing she’d managed to shed thirty pounds before attending. Then squeezing into the almost too tight outfit she’d bought just for the evening frivolity.
Tonight was the last party and she was dreading coaxing her very tired feet into the bright pink little pumps.  But this was the last and a chance to make sure she had all the contact information for the new friends she’d made as well as the professional contacts.
Nadine brushed her tight curls and fastened one side up with a vivid green hair clip. Taking a deep breath, she just managed to fasten the top button of the split skirt. Good thing the shirt had started out slightly loose! Three days of conference challenged anyone’s diet. Especially when it came to drinking and picking up chocolate treats, left out by authors hoping to lure readers into pausing long enough at a display to be intrigued by the actual book, and not just the goodies scattered about.
She’d be there one day, and had to admit, she’d put out chocolate, too. It worked!
Last night had been a different sort of fun than the simple rock and roll event of tonight. The vampire ball always brought out the more decadent and curious of the convention goers. And if one stayed late enough, it was amazing what was seen. She shivered, remembering the slender man who had watched her dance with several of her friends.
There were so few men at the conference; it was natural to notice the ones that did come. And this man was conspicuous. He wasn’t one of the muscle bound men vying for the book cover model prize. He was too old, for one. He had black hair liberally streaked with silver. She’d noticed him particularly. There was an aura about him, as if he was alone even at a table full of women, all babbling.
No one seemed to be with him. No one took his arm or leaned close to hear his words. Nadine wasn’t even sure the women at the table realized he was there. When the dancing began, he moved toward the edge of the stage, just out of the light and watched. She’d been tempted to shimmy over toward his vicinity, but a lack of self-confidence had squashed that impulse pretty quickly.
He wore black, but most men did at the vampire ball. In fact, most everyone wore black or shades of black. She’d been slightly different and gone for a deep blue velvet gown. That was probably what had drawn his attention. The four women she’d been with had swept from the ballroom as it grew late and taken her with them. And she hadn’t seen the man again.
Well, she had dreamt about him. Shaking her head, she put those thoughts out of her mind. It had too long since she’d had a lover, that was all. And a man that slender and put together wouldn’t be interested in a zaftig woman with unruly hair and limited sexual experience. So she might as well think of something else.
Forcing her feet into the shoes, she snatched up her key, tucked it into her badge holder and left the room.  Four hours later, she somehow found herself alone in the bar. Two of her internet friend had to leave for red eye flights home and it seemed a very large number of attendees were opting for a last chance to visit the Magic Kingdom instead of the last party.
And Janice had fought with Nell. Nadine was refusing to take sides, so that left her out in the cold. She actually didn’t mind. It was pleasant to just enjoy her margarita and think about the extra day she was spending before tackling the flight home on Monday.
Until he sat down across from her. Thinking about it all several days later, she couldn’t recall what he’d said. But she’d been mesmerized. That, she remembered. He’d bought her another drink, stroking her fingers where they rested on the coaster. A chocolate martini. She’d never had one and the taste of it had melted any reservations she carried about why he’d taken the chair across from her.
Who cared? He looked as rich and elegant as the beverage sliding down her throat. And she enjoyed looking at him.
She’d enjoyed a hell of a lot more than that. All night long.
It had been past noon when her eyes had cracked open. Her body had never felt so good. Reaching out a hand, she’d found herself alone. But when she pushed the curtains back, she saw the single red rose left on the extra pillow. It had been extra, for days.
She could just recall his saying something about “…plump as a fragrant red rose…” She picked up the rose and inhaled its scent. Heavenly.
Her brain hadn’t fully registered what was different about her body for several hours. She’d showered, still dwelling in the sensual universe he’d spun about her.  She languidly shampooed her hair, moisturized her face, and belted the robe about her waist… And ordered room service. She hadn’t left the room until dinner.
This was when she realized something had changed. Her pants fit. In fact, they were falling off of her. She’d been quite confused and pulled out the jeans she’d worn two days earlier. Same thing. Hell, her panties didn’t want to stay up!
She dropped her clothing and went to the full length mirror just outside the bathroom. She normally avoided full length mirrors like a plague. This time she studied her body. Where was her belly? Was that an actual waist? There were no dimples on her thighs! Her tits…she looked down and could see the nipples without pulling her shoulders back!
What the fuck?
Nothing she’d brought fit her anymore. Gigging at the miracle, she pulled out a simple shift she’d brought and pulled it on. And went to the boutique at the hotel  before going to dinner.
She didn’t notice her dark companion, sitting near the fire, sipping a cup of coffee. One hand rested on a rounded belly as he smiled to himself.
God, he loved these conventions!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Chains

by Seleste deLaney

Since becoming a vampire, especially since I was brought here, time has little meaning. Christmas, however, always brings a special surprise.
The first year of my imprisonment, hot pokers were driven into my flesh so I would understand what my victims felt if I didn’t glamour them when I fed. The lesson repeated the next year, along with my first bath in holy water—in case the first time didn’t convince me to be kind unless there was cause to be cruel. The next year, I spent Christmas day chained in the garden, just within the shadow of its walls, where the sun could sear my flesh without destroying it so I would remember that no matter how strong I think I am, there’s always something stronger.
It was by those memories I counted the years here. A dozen so far, and judging by the decorations draped luridly about the place, number thirteen was fast approaching. I gave up begging for release after the first five years. Now I alternated between hoping to survive and praying for death.
Today, I leaned toward the former. I wanted to live…just not here. Not anymore.
There were no more lessons I could learn. Even if there were, I didn’t want those answers. I had enough nightmares to last me several centuries.
The stones of the hearth bit into my bare knees as I scrubbed at the marble inside the fireplace. Silver chains clinked at my wrists and ankles. Resting on my heels, I wiped the back of my hand across my forehead.
“You missed a spot.” Remus’s voice grated on the last of my frayed nerves.
Snapping would do no good though, especially not with Christmas and my annual “gift” right around the corner. So I choked on the retort and clenched my shackled hands into fists, trying to calm myself. “Where?”
“Don’t growl at me, Maxmillian. To your left.”
A faint smudge of soot marred the very edge of the marble. Movements rough, I scrubbed at the spot until it disappeared. “Is that all, Remus?”
“I’m tired of talking to your back. Turn around.”
As always, the order, issued with complete calm, made me bristle. Part of me wanted to defy him, but my back still stung from the last time he’d reminded me who was in charge. So I turned and stared brazenly at him. I’d tried playing the whipped puppy; it didn’t get me anything, so I didn’t bother anymore.
Remus lounged on a red velvet couch, his robe gaping open to reveal flawless pale skin. I knew he thought it made him look irresistible. I resisted anyway. And I never found it all that difficult. He twirled a finger in his hair, looking almost coy for a moment. I must not have responded the way he planned, because he sighed and lay back on the couch. “I’m chilled. Start a fire, would you?” He turned toward me, his gaze even.
I tried to stay calm, but my muscles bunched. And my captor simply smiled at me. Of course he would notice. He always noticed. “You just had me clean the fireplace, Remus.”
He waved a hand lazily. “Yes, and now I want a fire. Build it and you can be free for the evening.”
All I wanted to do was race across the room and sever his head from his shoulders, but I knew better than to try that again. The next time I tried to kill Remus, he couldn’t see it coming or I’d fail. “Right away.”
I built the fire and had it blazing in minutes. Then he had his guards take me below ground and chain me to the ceiling. “Enjoy your Christmas Eve,” one of them growled as he yanked the chains over my head and stalked out, slamming the door and leaving me with only the light of the moon filtering through the barred window.
This was my reward. Not freedom by any standards I used to know, but I was away from Remus for a few blessed hours. Sometimes that was enough. Straining against my bonds, I could just see the moon outside my cell. A connection to the outside world—tenuous though it was—like a cruel lover, disappearing when I needed her touch most.
My muscles taut and trembling with the agony, I muttered prayers as I did every moment I spent alone—for life, for the lives I’d taken, for release, for death, for the death of Remus, and for the ability to kill him myself.
“I cannot help you with the killing, but I can get you out of here.”
The tiny voice in my right ear jerked me from my meditation, my arms screaming as I stood upright. “Who? What?”
The voice by my ear laughed and in a flurry of wings revealed itself as a shadow in the moonlight. “I am Janiqua, and I can spring you from this prison, Vampire, but you will owe me a favor in return.” She fluttered back to land on my arm, barely five inches tall, with brown hair and dragonfly wings that glittered in the pale light.
As much as I wanted to jump at the offer, I had a hard time believing I wasn’t hallucinating from pain and exhaustion. “What sort of favor?”
She shrugged, more a movement of wings than shoulders. “I don’t know. That’s why you’ll have to owe me. Do we have an accord?”
I’d long since given up hope of Christmas miracles, but I nodded. In an instant, the shackles opened and my arms fell heavily by my sides, forcing me to stifle a groan of exquisite pain. She darted under the door, and soon enough it swung wide.
“Quickly, Vampire. The guards won’t stay asleep for long.” She flitted up the stairs. I raced after her, rubbing my wrists. The guards were indeed asleep at their posts, and I dashed out the front door.
I didn’t question my good fortune until I stood shivering at the gates of the estate. “Janiqua?” I called as she fluttered into the night. “How did you find me? And why the hell did you help me?”
Her pointy teeth flashed in the light of the moon as she darted close to my ear. “I like people being in my debt, Vampire.” She flitted away and called back over her shoulder, “As to who sent me? Consider it a Christmas present from your Fairy Godmother.” Her laughter echoed in the night as she flew away.
After that, I did the only reasonable thing—put as much distance between myself and Remus’s estate as I could before dawn lit the sky, savoring my Christmas miracle and plotting my vengeance with every step.
Find Seleste deLaney

Owen's Christmas Boot by Stephanie Beck

The pups were sleeping. Was there a better sound? If there was, Owen hadn’t heard it yet. His aunts had kicked him out of Mona and Chris’ house hours before, so the new family could get some rest, but there was no damn way he was leaving his alphas unprotected with new pups in the house. Chris and Mona needed to be parents for the night, not worry about assholes. That’s where Owen, as head enforcer for the Haven Pack came in. He not only enjoyed dealing with assholes, he also took great pleasure in ripping said assholes new ones.
He turned over on the sofa, watching the fire as it burned down. He was going to have to grab more wood before long. The house didn’t rely solely on the blaze’s heat, but it sure as hell took the edge off on nights like this. It was bitter outside, but he wasn’t going to let his new nieces feel that cold. No sir. There might not be a whole lot he could do for them at the moment, but safe and warm, those were things he could do.
Owen perked up to attention. One of the babies had sighed. Maybe they needed him. He jumped to his feet and headed to the bedroom. From the door, he could see Chris and Mona beneath their blanket with the babies between them. He crept out of the room. The last thing he wanted to do was fluster either new parent. They knew he was there—there was no question of that—but knowing he was there and actually having to acknowledge his presence were different things.
Checking the fire again and turning on the Christmas tree lights for fun, Owen headed past the kitchen and toward the porch. The woodpile on the porch was half depleted, and with a whole night ahead of him, Owen decided a good Christmas gift for the family would be to replenish the wood. He could keep an eye on things and still be useful. He grabbed Chris’ work coat and headed out into the cold.
It was freezing, but when Owen took a deep breath, he enjoyed the bite. Winter in Pennsylvania was supposed to be cold, and this year was living up to expectations. In the dead of night the blankets of snow made the surroundings relatively silent. It was nearly eery how quiet the surrounding space was, but Owen liked it. Peace and quiet wasn’t usually his thing. In fact, he had a pile of new, loud and violent video games waiting for him at his house. They would wait, though, until Mona was feeling better and Chris had a chance to bond with his daughters. Then Owen would hole up with a couple of cousins and play games until their eyes burned.
He was on his third trip when he heard it. The sound was nearly tinkling, but that didn’t make it any less of a threat. He tossed aside the wood and tried to pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from. There were other Weres in the area, he knew, but none of them were sending up any alerts. He wasn’t about to cause a stir and chance alerting Mona or Chris until he knew what the threat was. The sound came again, just a whisper of a tinkle and this time, he knew where it was coming from.
The roof.
“No fucking way,” he muttered. Visions of baddies trying to come down through the chimney filled his head, and Owen ran inside.
He kept his feet silent upon approach. After the last few weeks of added surveillance and the actual fight with Mona’s family, he was more than ready to kick ass again. Fighting was like sex: the more a guy had, the more he wanted. When he turned the corner, the scent of the spices Mona used baking the day before messing with his nose, he was ready to attack.
The red suit was odd, but the bent over ass made a target Owen wasn’t about to pass up. He couldn’t risk changing and alerting the intruder to his presence so Owen jumped instead, crossing the distance of the living room with a single bound. If he’d have been a wolf, Owen would have bit the guy in the ass—instead he booted him straight in the backside, knocking the intruder into the mantle of the fireplace.
“What the hell? Owen Myters, don’t you have enough sense not to attack Santa Clause on Christmas Eve?”
Owen froze, getting a full look and finally smell of the intruder lying on the floor. He wasn’t human, not wolf, and sure as hell wasn’t anything else Owen had ever encountered. The guy actually smelled like gingerbread and the tinkle Owen thought he’d heard before actually came directly from the man.
The red covered man pushed to his feet, holding his hand up toward the bedroom as he moved. “Shut up, will ya? I’ve got Mona and Chris in a sleep, but with new pups they could break my magic pretty easily.”
“Oh yeah.” That made sense. “Sure, no problem. What are you doing here?”
Santa rolled his eyes and gathered a sack Owen hadn’t noticed. “There are two children in this house. What do you think I’m doing here?”
“Cool. What did you bring the girls? I got them dollies and stuffed squirrels. Beat that.”
Santa chuckled, and Owen felt momentarily drawn in by the sound. The man in red wasn’t exactly like the books and songs said. He was younger, slimmer and didn’t have a beard either. Those things could have been off putting, but there was something about Santa that brought out all the feelings Owen had always expected if he ever met Santa.
“Don’t worry. The little ones are going to adore you much more than they ever will the likes of me,” Santa said. “And the trinkets I brought are only the start of teaching goodwill and selfless love. I only have one night to show those things, but you and the rest of the pack will reinforce the lessons for the other three hundred and sixty four days a year.”
Owen watched the not-chubby man place two small packages under the Christmas tree. The first time he remembered a gift from Santa, he’d been maybe four. It had been a hard year for all the Weres, the crops failing and no one doing well, but there had been blocks and other little toys under the tree for all the pups. In the years following, the simple, but usually most fun toys always came without a ‘from’ tag. He’d always known the man in red had something to do with it. The gifts stopped when he was seventeen and he’d missed them.
“You didn’t need them anymore, Owen,” Santa said, tossing the now empty sack over his shoulder. “Some kids need gifts for years, others not so much. I was happy to bring you the toys you asked for. Visiting pack pups has always been one of my very favorite things. I look forward to years of visiting these two little ones and their brothers and sisters to come. Now, if you’d get busy finding a mate, I could visit your place again too. I hear you’ve got some good video games.”
“You could always bring me a mate,” Owen offered with a grin. “You know, like the old days.”
The soft red glow from the fireplace partially lit Santa’s face as he added a few treats to the stockings hanging there. A quiet change overtook him, and Owen froze, not only sensing the difference, but understanding that it was important. “She’s out there for you, Owen Myters, looking for you every day. She won’t find you in Haven. You’ll find her in the West—not what you expect, but exactly who you need.”
The air in the room dropped in temperature, and the fire flickered before Santa came back to himself. His words had been prophetic and interesting, but the whole ambiance had made them excessively creepy. The mystery girl could wait.
“She will wait,” Santa said, the clandestine aura gone, replaced with the affable elf once more. “I’d say she’s a bit young now, anyway, but what the hell do I know about love? I’m head over heels for a succubus stripper librarian so I sure as heck know better than to cast stones. But maybe wait a year or two, and take a long road trip to the West Coast. It wouldn’t hurt anything.”
Owen nodded. He could do that.
“But in the meantime, do me a favor and don’t mention kicking me in the ass,” Santa said, standing directly in front of the fire. “I get enough shit from my friends in New York, adding a booting from a werewolf isn’t something I’d like to do at this point.”
“Sure Santa,” Owen replied. “No problem.”
Santa sighed, and Owen figured the sainted guy had seen through the lie. Of course Owen was going to tell everyone he knew and probably a few strangers about getting the drop on Santa and booting him in the ass.
“At least I tried.” Santa shrugged. “Take care of those little nieces of yours. See you next year—or rather, I hope I don’t see you next year—sneaky, damn Weres.”
In a blink, Santa was gone, and Owen was left in the living room surrounded by the scent of cinnamon and gingerbread. He opened and closed his eyes a few times, trying to get his bearings, and when he did, he noticed a third gift under the tree. It was smaller than the other two he’d seen Santa deposit, and when he crouched closer, he saw his name was scrawled in perfect script across the tag.
The clock struck midnight, announcing the beginning moments of a new Christmas. The tinkling was gone and Owen knew Santa had passed by, probably off to the neighbor’s house where several pups were waiting.
Owen sat beside the tree and pulled out the little gift. In the morning he’d go to his mom’s place and exchange a few gifts with his siblings, but this was something different, something completely special he’d never thought he’d get again.
He opened the sides of the gift carefully, the thick paper holding its shape even after Owen pulled the small box out of its confines. His hands quivered a little, and he shook his head. A mighty werewolf, brought low by a little paper and a bow.
Inside the box was tissue paper, but below that was a picture. The woman in it was small to the point of being impish. Even her ears were slightly pointed, but her eyes were all werewolf. Was this the one who was already looking for him? He tilted the picture toward the fire to get a better look. Santa was right about the age thing. If the picture was recent, she was pretty young. Still, she was mighty cute. He tucked the picture in the breast pocket of his shirt, and smiled when he realized he’d put her close to his heart. She could stay there until he was good and ready to find her.

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Mona is an assassin. Since her fifteenth birthday her life has been nothing but hunting and killing. That changes when she realizes she needs more to her life and decides to start her family. In quitting her job, Mona finds herself also fleeing from her pack mates, dead set on keeping her at her post.
Her journey leads her to Pennsylvania where another pack of werewolves resides. Pregnant and due soon, Mona is out of places to run, and Haven Pack Alpha, Chris Myters, is all too happy to to have her land in the comfort and support of his pack.
Between baking, surveillance and falling in love, Mona and Chris get ready for the approaching holiday with the Pack. When Mona's past comes back to haunt her, she will have to trust her new pack.