Julia is happy with her place in the shifter community as the owner of the famous shifter bar, The Backwater. But the life she’s created for herself isn’t enough to satisfy her crazy-ass mother, Lucinda, who shops her and her sister Krystal around to the pure blood shifters like a piece of meat. Only a born shifter mate is good enough for her girls.
Thomas James has his hands full as the shifter king’s head of security. He certainly wasn’t looking for a girlfriend during the first annual shifter gathering. He had the king and queen to protect, not skirts to chase.
A childhood of emotional and physical abuse by his birth father has left Thomas emotionally unavailable and uninterested in romantic relationships. His father Tim’s cruelty to his mother and brother molded him into an extremely protective person. No one messes with his loved ones without answering to him.
Even though Julia and Thomas are destined to be mates. The obstacles standing between them and their happy ever after seem insurmountable.
Lucinda insists Julia stay away from the filthy human.
Tim is trying to kill everyone Thomas loves.
The mysterious Benevolent Sovereign who is trying to over through the throne, has sent swampers attack Thomas and destroy Julia’s lively hood.
With family like theirs, who needs enemies?
Will Julia and Thomas’s happiness be snuffed out before it has a chance to begin or will they forge through – obstacles be damned.
“Hello?” Julia yawned into the phone.
Her alarm never had the chance to go off, her mother Lucinda beat it by a good thirty minutes. She was convinced she could hear Julia’s biological clock ticking, which was ridiculous since she had another six hundred years for children. No matter what Julia said it didn’t seem to penetrate her mother’s ears, so, here she was having the same conversation again.
“Julia, are you still in bed? Did you forget I’m bringing another family to your house this morning?
“I thought I told you not to bring them. I’m done with your parade mother.”
“For Goddess sake, get showered immediately. We’ll be at your door in one hour.”
“I’m not going to answer the door so don’t bother.”
Her mother ignored her as usual and one hour to the minute later was at her door.
Julia hung her head in frustration. She lost count years ago how many men her mother brought for the ‘sniff’ test. Each time it was the same, no mate. Like the little engine that could, Lucinda refused to give up.
The last time Julia locked the door and ignored her mother’s knocking, it resulted in a very ugly scene. Lucinda in the throws of an angry tirade was not a pretty sight. Her face turned a mottled shade of red right before she broke the door down and dragged the shocked men in after her.
Since that day she grudgingly opened the door, if not for her houses sake, then for the men, she could at least spare them the humiliation of a tantrum that would surely happen.
An hour later, Julia’s stomach was churning. She loathed the questions that came after each ‘visit’. Couldn’t her mother forget to ask, just once?
“Well?” Her mother, Lucinda asked impatiently from the doorway.
“Nothing.” Julia mumbled not bothering to look up from the romance she was reading. “I had no attraction. No scent. No telepathy.” She didn’t even bother to say she was sorry this time, because she wasn’t.
Lucinda snarled in frustration as she came fully into the room.
“I met with all the single men you just paraded through my house and had none of the mating signs. I don’t know what more you expect from me.” She sighed wearily.
“I expect you to accept one.”
Julia’s chin fell to her chest as a heavy sigh escaped. “You know as well as I do that it doesn’t work that way.”
“I’m sure if you made the extra effort to at least date them something would shake loose. How hard can it be? Just look at Cade and the human, Anna, they met in a bar in the French Quarter of all places. Not to mention, Simon and his mate Rose, yet another human to dilute the royal gene pool. She showed up at Cade’s house after she lost her job in Denver and now the family is stuck with her. And I heard a rumor that Stefan has found his mate, and you guessed it, a human. He bought her at the auction Simon had. I can’t believe Isaac can still hold his head up in public with his son’s mating lowlife humans. My daughters will mate with pure blood shifters and maintain the integrity of the blood line.”
Julia wanted to scream. A mating didn’t just shake loose, and there was nothing wrong with humans. Heck, most mates were human. There was no reasoning with her mother anymore, that ability had left the building along with Elvis years ago. She wasn’t sure if the animal part of her mother was taking over and acting erratic or if the human side was slipping into insanity.
Her mother leaned forward. “For years you have rejected the males I bring to you. It’s time you made a…”
“Mother, I know you want your children mated, but no matter how badly you want it, you can’t force it.”
“Just watch me.” Lucinda spat. “We are in line to gain the throne, the lineage must be continued and ready at all times.”
It was true the family needed to continue but mates and children came into a shifters life when the Goddess deemed it was the right time. The last thing you wanted to do was push the Goddess or try to circumvent her plan. Thinking that way was suicide.
Lucinda turned on her heel toward the door and then paused. “There will be a group of available males here Friday. This pack is out of Arizona. Pray one of them is acceptable to you.”
Once she was in her car and headed down the road Julia finally breathed easy again. Krystal would be home in a few hours and available to talk. They needed a plan, somehow they needed to find a way to approach father about mother’s behavior. The problem was her father, Charles, was completely blind to her mother’s oddities.
Julia turned the page of her book and settled deeper into her favorite easy chair; there was nothing she could do until Krystal got home. Tonight she was going to suggest again, that they bring Logan and Quinton into the conversation. It was time the boys knew what was going on behind the family’s back. Thinking it through she shook her head, she wouldn’t bother the twins Rémi and René just yet, they were too young to be dragged into this.
Once Lucinda got a notion in her head, she had a tendency to twist it until it fit her needs and desires. After that, she could never be swayed.
And her mothers drive to force both Krystal and Julia to find mates had reached critical mass.
“What are we going to do?” Julia whispered to herself.
Two weeks later
Morning was Julia’s favorite time of the day. The bar wasn’t open yet, and she had it all to herself as she wiped down tables and checked the bar stock.
The only problem was, it sometimes gave her too much time to think. Today was one of those times. She had her mother on her mind.
It wasn’t that her mother didn’t love her—she did. At least, she was pretty sure she did. But her mother was having some pretty extreme ideas of late. She apparently believed shifters should only mate other born shifters and humans were a scourge and diluted the bloodline.
In her disturbed mind, she believed if she dragged her daughters around to enough eligible shifter males she could somehow force a pureblood mating.
Julia and Krystal were tired of being paraded before one shifter family after another. Tired of letting hundreds of males sniff them in the hopes of finding a mate. It was straight up embarrassing.
As much as she loved the bayou, she was seriously considering tagging along with Krystal to Lucas’s Texas ranch. She heaved a sigh and took a good long look at the bar. All right, she would do it. If her mother tried to drag her out ‘visiting’ one more time she was packing up and heading for Texas.
It had been a busy shift at her bar The Backwater and she was ready to relax in a bubble bath with a good romance.
Julia Le Beau came through her front door to a horrifying sight. Her beloved romance novels lay shredded and callously thrown in a pile. It must be her entire collection to create a mountain of pages and covers this large in her living room. A few feet from the carnage, lay a note on a side table. The room smelled of anger, frustration and her mother.
She was going to have to store her books in a safer place from now on. Huffing out an angry breath she picked up the note.
You need to get your head out of the clouds and look for a mate. You won’t find him in one of these human books. I’ve had it with your lack of interest in settling down. Pick out a mate or I will pick one for you.
Pick one for me?
“She has completely lost touch with reality.”
Every shifter knows you can’t just pick any old mate, you had to find the one who held the other half of your soul. It was time to have a private talk with her father. He needed to know how crazy she was acting.
Sighing, at one hundred and eighty, she was well past the age she had hoped to be mated by. Every year her mother had paraded available men into her quaint little house. Or worse dragged her out to them. Not a single one had been her other half. How exactly was she to blame for that?
Then she read the last sentence of the note.
You will attend the dance at your uncle Isaac’s on Saturday, perhaps this time you will find your mate.
She audibly groaned. She hated being sniffed at by every single male who came within five feet of her. It made her feel dirty. First thing she did after these set ups was take a long hot shower.
Julia thought back to the beginning of her ‘shame’, as her mother would describe it. She had gone to yet another event where she was set out like a prize to be won. When none of the men were a match, her parents announced that they were buying the Gator’s Tooth bar and grill and she would be the full time bar tender. Their hopes were she would stumble upon her mate amongst the patrons and visitors. The first thing Julia had done was rename the bar “The Backwater” to spite her mother.
Has it really been twenty years?
“I have six days before Isaac’s party; time enough to stock up on new books. Take that mother.”
At least her uncle’s party actually sounded fun. Her cousins would be there and she could hang out with them while avoiding her mother.
The day of the gathering
Stretching, Julia considered what to do with her free day. The gathering didn’t begin until seven that evening, and since everyone was invited, the Backwater was closed for the day.
Grabbing her robe, she slipped on her bunny slippers and made a beeline to the coffee maker. Goddess she loved her new programmable machine. No more waiting for the coffee to brew for this girl.
With steaming cup in hand she grabbed one of her new romance novels. A friend had recommended it, saying the storyline and names sounded like her cousin Cade and his mate Anna. She’d never read V.A. Dold before, but she hoped it would be good.
Not two chapters into the book and the last person she wanted to see walked through her door. Her mother. Lucinda took one look at the book and turned an interesting color of purplish red.
“Do you always barge into a persons home without knocking?” Julia asked coolly.
“Where did you get that?”
“The coffee? From the maker in the kitchen.”
“You know very well I’m not talking about the coffee.”
“Well, if you’re referring to my NEW book, touch it and die. And, if you think I’m kidding, try it.”
Lucinda was dumbstruck; Julia had never spoken to her like that before.
“Since I have a day of relaxation planned, why don’t you tell me why you’re here so I can get back to it?”
“I bought you a dress for the gathering. I was shopping for one for myself and saw this. It’s your favorite color and I’m sure it will be stunning on you.”
Lucinda held it out to Julia a little hesitantly. Interesting, She’d never seen her mother unsure of herself before.
I’m going to have to tell her off more often.
“I wasn’t planning on wearing a dress, but I’ll try it on later and see what I think of it.”
“Wonderful. We’ll pick you up at six thirty.”
“No. You won’t. I’m driving myself.”
“But you have to ride with the family.”
“Because, that’s the way you travel to these gatherings. You arrive as a family pack.”
“Then I guess I’m starting a new tradition, because I’m going by myself.”
Lucinda narrowed her eyes at Julia, she was so mad Julia looked to see if steam was rising out of her ears. “You wait until I tell your father.”
“Go ahead. I’m still driving myself.”
Lucinda growled at her, spun on her heel, and slammed the door on her way out.
“Well,” Julia chuckled to herself. “That was pleasant.”
Cade Book 1
Amazon § Goodreads
Simon Book 2
Amazon § Goodreads
Stefan Bood 3
Amazon § Goodreads
V.A.Dold is the bestselling author of the Le Beau Brothers series, New Orleans wolf shifter novels. A graduate of Saint Cloud University, she majored in marketing. Prior to becoming a full time writer, she was a publicist to the authors, owning ARC Author & Reader Con’s. Still is.
Her idea of absolute heaven is a day in the French Quarter filled with nothing but her computer, her coffee mug and the Brothers, of course.
A Minnesota native with her heart lost to Louisiana, she has a penchant for titillating tales featuring sexy men and strong women. When she’s not writing, she’s probably taking in a movie, reading or traveling.
Her earliest reading memories are from grade school. She had a major fixation with horses, and the Black Stallion was a favorite. Then junior high came along and teenage hormones kicked in. It became all about the Harlequin Romances. She has been hooked on romances ever since.