There are only twelve days until the Christmas bash Ivy is throwing at Steve and Gareth’s penthouse. How much trouble can a small pack of shifters get into in less than a week? While working to plan the perfect party, she keeps her eye on all of the members of her new family. Each day, a different couple seems to be moving closer together, and she hasn’t even brought out the ruddy mistletoe yet.
At the heart of it all, though, this party started with a wish three years ago for only happy Christmas memories after the worst time of Ivy’s life.
Be warned, things get hot and spicy in this anthology.
‘You are cordially invited to the annual Blackbird Security Firm Christmas Bash to be held at the penthouse, hosted by our mate, and yes, you all have to bloody attend.’
Spending an hour staring in horror at a party invitation wasn’t exactly a productive use of her time, but Elaine had been hiding in her office all day thanks to losing a bet to Darren the week before. They’d made a less-than-friendly bet about a game of Battlefield which she’d ended up losing. Bollocks. It meant instead of Darren finding a way to get everyone to leave her alone for the holidays, she was forced to wear hideous holiday jumpers until Boxing Day.
Hideous might’ve been a bit of an understatement. Twelve days of holiday jumper monstrosities, Elaine had no idea how she was going to make it through to Christmas. She might have to call in sick for a few days. The blaring colours were certainly making her feel nauseous today.
Elaine had been trying to sneak out of the offices and stopped to turn slowly toward Gareth who was leaning out of his office with a smirk on his face. “No.”
“I haven’t asked anything.”
“You called me ‘Gibbsy’ which usually implies you think you are about to be charming when in reality, you’re a massive pain in the arse, you furry wanker.” She glared at him. “What do you want?”
“Our lovely mate wants to know if you’re bringing a date to the party.” Gareth’s grin widened to the point of making him look ridiculous. He grinned even wider when she commented on it. “No Mr. Narky Cougar in your life? Should we hire someone?”
“If there was, do you honestly believe I’d introduce him to a bunch of prats like you?” She flipped him off and continued down the hall toward the elevators. If she made it into one, she’d be safe from harassment of the male variety for the rest of the day. Her eyes narrowed on the wolf standing in the elevator when the doors opened, and she snapped at him before he could say anything. “I don’t want to hear about your day or my day or my sweater. Go away, the lot of you.”
Steven raised his hands in surrender while sidestepping out of the lift to avoid Elaine brushing against him as she refused to budge. “Who was it this time?”
“Does it matter? They are all blithering idiots.” Elaine dodged past him inside the lift and hurriedly smacked the button for the first floor. She leaned against the inside wall with a sigh of relief when the doors closed. “Arsey bastards.”
There were things within the realm of impossibility which Elaine Gibbs had long ago decided would never happen for her. She was a ‘mate’ in the ‘share a pint while playing video games’ kind of sense, not in a ‘naked in the shower’ or ‘under the covers’ sort of way. She wasn’t certain a man existed who could see past her often-prickly personality.
She didn’t think love would ever happen for her, though just sex might be nice for once. It was the downside of being the lone cougar shifter in all of Europe—and being beyond socially awkward. She wasn’t exactly opposed to seeing someone who wasn’t a cougar or a shifter.
And it was Christmas time.
Elaine glared at the repulsively bright decorations in the hallway which had been brought in earlier. They twinkled, which seemed highly unnecessary in her opinion. She’d taken to wearing her sunglasses in the office to avoid having to squint all day. The blinking lights, merry music and blasted cinnamon candles were overwhelming her senses and giving her a ruddy migraine.
She loved her alphas’ brunette fiancée, but the woman was too damn cheerful. All Elaine wanted was to indulge in a good holiday sulk and maybe thrash Josh and Darren on the digital battlefield after work. She always felt so much better when she’d trounced the two mangy bastards. The men were like big brothers—annoying prats who never went away.
Every year the Blackbird pack had a small Christmas party which usually involved a lot of ale, mince pies and very little in the way of actual holiday paraphernalia, but Ivy had decided it should be a proper do this year. It meant Elaine had twelve days to find an iron-clad excuse to blow the whole thing off. She didn’t like her chances.
She could’ve made it easy on herself and admitted to having problems with any party including more than five or six people. It would unfortunately mean spilling her greatest secret of all. They might be her pack, but bugger it all if she was going to tell them.
“Oi.” She cried out when she ploughed into the back of the tall bloke blocking the exit to the building. “Sorry.”
“My apologies. Forgive me for so rudely obstructing your path.” The tall bloke gripped her arms to steady her on her feet. She felt a strange surge of energy flow through her at the deep, lyrical voice of the man in front of her. “Were you hurt?”
He looked to be about six inches or so taller than Elaine with broad shoulders and what she briefly felt was a muscular body underneath his impeccably tailored, light-grey suit. His frown deepened when she failed to respond to his second inquiry into whether or not she’d been hurt.
Deciding she’d spent enough time ogling the few dark hairs peeking out from underneath his unbuttoned collar, Elaine tilted her head to peer up into the handsome, refined face of Tarek Alim Kader. She couldn’t help but notice the silken texture of his jet-black hair which had just a few whispers of grey here and there. His dark eyes were filled with concern and a keen interest as he watched her every movement.
She’d never felt quite so strong an urge to touch a man’s skin. It was rich, deep amber—unblemished and smooth. She paled in comparison, quite literally. Her adopted mother always joked her complexion was paler than fresh snow.
And how the hell does any of this help me through the sheer awkwardness of having been blankly staring at him for several minutes?
Alim appeared to be completely unfazed by her silence. “Will you accept my apology?”