Bridenapped 2: The Alpha’s Choice
So, I’ve been working on Bridenapped 2: The Alpha’s Choice, and I’m very close to completion. I plan on publishing next Monday, August 24, at the latest, but I may have it out by Friday. It will be on Amazon only, available through Select.
In the meantime, here’s Chapter One, to whet your appetite!
Copyright Georgette St. Clair, 2015
“Would you like to hear a list of all the places that I’d rather be right now?” Mary Farraday asked.
“Not really,” her cousin Angela said without looking at her. “One of the photographers is really hot and I’m trying to flirt.”
“Which one?” Mary looked through the store’s picture window at the assembled paparazzi.
“The one with the dreads, tattoos, and nose ring.”
“Of course it would be that one.” She hadn’t even needed to ask, really. She was just kind of hoping for once that the answer would be something like “The guy with the button-down shirt and glasses. The one who doesn’t look like he’s on his way to boost a car.”
But no. Mary wasn’t having that kind of day. Or even that kind of life.
She was having the kind of day where let her older sister bully her into helping organize the arranged marriage of the local pack’s Alpha Regent – who had once been the love of her life – to a beautiful, spoiled socialite named Regina Van Hoffington. Regina was as skinny as a pipe cleaner, had stolen her personality from a rabid wolverine, and even her name was snooty. That was who Jarrod Shaw was marrying.
For some reason, even after all this time, the thought sent a stab of pain through her.
“Number one. Getting a root canal.” Mary ticked them off on her fingers. “Number two. Walking across the Sahara barefoot without a water bottle. Number three. Swimming through a lagoon full of crocodiles with steaks tied to my ankles.”
Angela tore her gaze away from the dreadlocked object of her lust, to look quizzically at her cousin.
“Why would somebody tie steaks to your ankles? And how would that work exactly? Did they drill a hole through the steak first, and then run some string through? Steaks are expensive. That would be a waste. I mean, if they wanted you dead that badly they could just shoot you.”
“Shut up and let me wallow in self-pity. Number four- ”
“Where is he? Damn it, this needs to go off without a hitch.” Mary’s older sister Hilda, owner of Mated and Matched, demanded so loudly that Mary could hear her from across the room.
“Do you realize that’s the 17th time she’s said that this morning?” Mary glanced at her note pad, at the little hatch marks on the side. She drew a little line through one of them. “Yep. 17.”
“Do you realize you need professional help?” Angela quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Making lists sooths me.”
“That’s why you never get laid.”
“Language!” Mary gasped indignantly.
“English. Spoken it since I was a toddler, so I’m told. I’m bored. Is this guy coming or not?”
“Mary, I just heard back from the pack secretary. He says Jarrod is on his way and he’ll be here in five minutes,” Hilda called out to Mary. Her brows were drawn together and she was glowering. That was something she and her older sister had in common; they were both high strung perfectionists. They just manifested it in different ways. Hilda got incredibly bitchy when she was stressed. Mary consulted her lists and tried to work thorough the problem. “This Bridenapping is incredibly important. It has to go off without a hitch.” Hilda rushed off to confer with her photographer.
“Huh. What do you think the odds of that are?” Angela asked, surveying the chaotic scene in front of them as Mary furtively added another line to hatch marks.
Then she looked up and shook her head in dismay. She was employed by her older sister as executive secretary for Mated and Matched, the East Coast’s premier bridenapping agency, and today was turning into a disaster on par with the Hindenburg. The Alpha was late, the paparazzi gathered outside of Outdoor Outfitters were getting impatient, and the bride-to-be, as usual, was stamping her feet and throwing a temper tantrum. Something about her lip gloss. Regina’s father and stepmother were there – yes, her overprotective helicopter parents insisted on attending all of Regina’s planned run-ins with Jarrod. Were they planning on being there for the wedding night? Mary thought, and then grimaced. It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Slim to none.” Mary suppressed a groan, surveying her to-do list. She’d planned out today’s “accidental” encounter between Jarrod Shaw and Regina Van Hoffington, down to the last detail. All her plans were perfect. They were perfect on paper, anyway. But unfortunately, today she was dealing with Jarrod. Jarrod had been ordered by his uncle to bridenap Regina – and that was the problem. Jarrod did not take orders from anyone.
“I think you’re being a little too optimistic,” Angela said. The bride to be just threw her water bottle at the photographer’s head.”
“Shi-iver me timbers!” Mary stuffed her list back in her purse and ran over to where the bride was. She thanked her lucky stars that Regina wasn’t standing where the paparazzi could see them. Angela scooped up the water bottle from the floor and tossed it into the garbage.
“I’m 21,” she said to Mary. “You do know I’ve actually heard swear words before? You were going to say shit, I believe?”
“Regina,” Mary said through gritted teeth, ignoring her cousin. “What is wrong?”
“Everything, damn it!” This was accompanied by a foot stomp and a ferocious scowl. When Regina moved her face, cracks appeared in her foundation. “Where is Jarrod? It’s like he doesn’t even want to bridenap me! And I look terrible!”
Angela looked at her with a critical gaze. “Well, if you’d stop making the makeup artist put so much makeup on you, you’d look a lot better. How can you even open your mouth with that much lip glo-ouch!”
Regina’s stepmother Bunny gasped in outrage, and her father Kurt glared at Angela.
Mary grabbed Angela’s arm in an iron grip.
“Ignore her,” she said to Regina, who was squawking in outrage. “She was raised by wolves.”
“I wish,” Angela said, casting a glance across the room. “If they looked like that.”
Well, speak of the devil. Jarrod was striding through one of the side doors.
Jarrod was impossible to miss; he made an entrance without even trying. He was big and handsome and he moved with a commanding presence. His thick, tousled brown hair had glints of caramel, and his lips were full and soft and sensual. Mary knew exactly how soft they were; he’d kissed her plenty of times back in high school. Ten years ago. To this day, she could still almost feel the firm, hungry press of his lips on hers.
Mary’s heart stuttered in her chest, the way it always did when she saw Jarrod.
Then she snapped back to their present situation – the bridenapping that was going down in flames. “Damn it,” she groaned. “He was supposed to come in through the front. His uncle promised us he’d come through the front, so he’d walk past the photographers.”
She shook her head in exasperation, as Regina fluffed her hair and Hilda ran over to the door to let in the paparazzi.
“Quick, let’s get out of the way,” she said to Angela, and hurried her over to the side of the store.
“Are all bridenappings like this?” Angela muttered, stepping out of the way as the agency photographer ran past her at full speed. He was going to take pictures of the paparazzi taking pictures of Regina and Jarrod. “I’ve got to say, this isn’t exactly what I imagined.”
“No, this is not normally what they’re like.” For one thing, I’m not usually forced to arrange a bridenapping with the jerkwad who broke my heart back in high school, she thought with a grimace.
Mary pulled her checklist out of her purse, surveying it as she spoke to Angela. “Most of the time, both parties are cooperating with the bridenapping,” she muttered. “We’ve never had a reluctant groom before.” Then again, Jarrod had always been a wild one. His parents had died young and he’d been raised by his uncle, and the two of them were famous for their clashes. It was amazing they hadn’t ended up in a Death Match. Yet.
“I mean more like, bridenappings are supposed to be romantic, not some business arrangement. The handsome Alpha is overcome by passion for the human woman, and he sweeps her off her feet and takes her back to his pack for weeks of kinky sex until they marry by the light of the moon.”
“What, I’m not supposed to know about kinky sex? I’ve had kinky sex. Again, I’m 21. I went to college. Take your fingers out of your ears,” Angela said to Mary, who was humming loudly to block Angela out.
You got kicked out of college, Mary thought but didn’t say. Angela liked to think of herself as a rebel against society’s unreasonable constraints – silly little things like schedules and homework couldn’t hold back a free-spirited gal like her. Jarrod had headed to the back of the store and he was standing in front of a counter looking at fishing lures, while Regina waited for him to notice her. Mary resisted the urge to run up to him and smack him on the head for ruining all her plans today. He was too tall, anyway.
She ran her finger down the checklist. It was 11:15; he was 15 minutes behind schedule. She and Hilda had carefully orchestrated the entire bridenapping scenario for Regina. Jarrod was supposed to “accidentally” run into Regina at specific times and places, after she’d had her hair and makeup done and the press had been notified, and then after a couple of months, he was supposed to grab Regina and carry her away back to his pack.
If only he’d for once in his life do what he was told.
“Anyway, bridenappings are so on-trend these days that everyone wants to be bridenapped,” she said, frowning in concentration while changing all the times on her list. “Models. Movie stars. They don’t want to just have the Alpha propose, they want him to be overwhelmed by passion and sweep them off their feet 19th century style.”
Only a human woman mated with an Alpha could give birth to another Alpha. And humans were completely dependent on werewolves, whose blood cured numerous diseases in humans, including cancer and diabetes. Therefore, werewolves were allowed to claim large tracts of land for their packs, living under their own law on that land, and the Alphas were permitted to carry out what was known as “bridenapping.” An Alpha could claim a human woman of their choice, carry her back to his pack lands, and marry her.
That ancient custom had died out around the early 1900s, giving way to more modern methods of courtship. In the past year, however, Bridenapping had come back into vogue.
“But why don’t they just date and let nature take its course?” Angela wondered.
“For the same reason that humans go to matchmaking agencies, and also, because it’s become incredibly prestigious for a woman to be bridenapped. It means she’s irresistible to the hottest, sexiest, wealthiest bachelor around. That’s why Hilda formulated this bridenapping agency. We get Alphas looking for the perfect bride, we get beautiful girls looking for their Alpha. They pay us to arrange everything. We set up all these accidental-on-purpose meetings where the Alpha runs into the bride, and then we have all the press assembled when he finally bridenaps her.”
Angela made a face. “Capitolism ruins everything,” she said.
Mary shrugged. “Hey, it pays the bills. And you didn’t have to tag along today. If you’re bored, you can hang out at my house. Or you could do something totally crazy and look for a job.”
“That would be crazy,” Angela agreed. “I’m still waiting for my muse to tell me what my true calling is. And I’m bored at your house, you don’t have cable. Who doesn’t have cable? This is the 21st century.”
“I can’t afford cable. I have rent, student loans, and a free-loading cousin eating all my groceries.” She scowled at Jarrod. “Is he ever going to go talk to her? For the love of – oh, no. No, no no.”
Jarrod was headed her way.