|Y’all, my 14-part series is launching book seven tomorrow, and it’s time for you to meet Midnight! He is one hell of a character, and I love that.|
I’m launching a new book in the series every 28 days in 2022, and the series will be complete on December 31st.
To celebrate cycle seven, stay with me because the three chapters of the book is below for you to read!
Read the First Three Chapters Below!
Why did she always have this heavy dread in the pit of her stomach for the hour before a new alpha arrived? Like she’d felt as a girl when she had to socialize with the kids from other families. The other girls would want to play with dolls or hair or make up, and all she wanted to do was get out of her dress and run wild outside. Which was exactly what happened by the end of night.
Winter’d come home and get a slap on the wrist from her father and her mother’s tongue as she was washed. More so when the boys she’d run off with came back with bruises and filth like she was the bad influence.
Maybe she was. Certainly more now than when she was a pup, but the boys who’d slipped off were just being boys. Although she absolutely led the ones after her mother’s death. She’d turned radioactive, and when she’d launched herself off the side of one of the cliffs to a river and came out with five broken bones, Amarok cracked down on her training. Gave her focus before she killed herself. The other two boys that followed her broke more than five.
Winter won her reputation as a bad seed—dangerous.
The knock on the door jarred her from the memory. Taking a swig from her glass of tequila, she braced herself to answer it.
She opened the door to a tall man with dark hair and eyes and…
My goddess, he’s beautiful.
The dark suit did him so many favors in that department, but it also showcased this new alpha as the epitome of poise and good breeding. He even gave her a slight bow.
“Miss Winter Jarl, a pleasure to meet you.”
Her mouth pursed at the sound of his warm voice. The embodiment of a gentleman.
“For now, Mr. Marsh Orvar.” Part of her mocked the formality, the other part wondered if she should have worn one of her mother’s dresses.
Way too long lashes brushed his lightly pinked cheeks as he looked down.
Was she embarrassing him already? This would be interesting.
“Come on, I’ll show you to your room.” Winter walked away without waiting, but he followed prompt on her heels. His room was across from the study with Dad’s books, a few rooms down from hers.
The magic clicked as the door unlocked, and she held the key out to him. He moved with the grace of a man used to being seen, but he didn’t seem so talkative. Nor did he look at her with the blatant show of undressing her like most of the others had.
In fact, Marsh reminded her of the way North had responded to her—formal, reserved, and proper, but she’d been wrong about him at first. Maybe, she’d learn and be nicer this time. The opposite of her wasn’t such a bad thing. Yet, the gold accents to his suit jacket didn’t help.
Safely in his room, he put his suitcase down and peered sideways at her.
“I hope you know how to cook and clean up after yourself.” She left him with that sentiment as she had all of the others.
After the brazen openness of Midnight, Marsh’s decorum had Winter a little more insecure. A light and mostly liquid lunch it was then: her old buddy tequila and some tea, but she smashed together a few ham sandwiches before she left the kitchen to stake her claim somewhere in the house.
Winter Jarl was more striking than Marsh remembered. Those hazel-green eyes seemed to see him more fully than the first time they’d met, nearly forty years ago. She was still the most stunning creature he’d ever seen. The warnings her father and friend boasted seemed so detached from the reality of Winter. Maybe the last six cycles polished her edges, but that sharp, preceptive gaze and the agility in her movements screamed danger.
It left him in awe of her.
The woman he judged all other women against for the bulk of his adult life.
She might just chew him up and spit him out, heartbroken, but no matter how he imagined these next twenty-eight days, even the worst of them amounted to more than he’d ever had with a woman. And for it to be Winter…
He took a deep breath once she left and savored the mint and rosemary scent of her—cleaner now, distinctive, and he wanted to commit it to memory. Hair filtered through his fingers, and the heat in his cheeks and throat persisted, even though they’d spent mere minutes together.
The side-table drawer held a pad of paper and pen, so he scrawled out the imagery she conjured in a wrapping of pretty words. Folding it and placing it in his pocket, he freshened up in the bathroom, washing his face and changing his shirt. Marsh went in search of Winter without trying to seem too obvious, but what else did he have to do here other than learn about her.
She sat on the couch with a cup of tea in her hands and a bottle of tequila in her lap. A tray sat on the coffee table with crumbs and a crumpled napkin.
Marsh hovered at the entrance to the kitchen. This interaction thrilled and terrified him. He was so bad with women, awkward and too quiet. Putting his own thoughts and feelings to words made him choke, but give him a pen and paper, or a poet to quote, and he could fake it competently enough. A difficult charade to keep up.
Shaking it off, he took the jagged step into the kitchen, opening the fridge and smiling at the containers of prepared foods and bottles of beer. He took one, not accustomed to the beverage, but he wasn’t ready for the hard stuff.
Nerves got the better of him, so he slid the piece of paper onto the counter and retreated the way he’d come, circling the house with a slow intent of examining each picture and piece of art, noting what each room held, and not immediately coming around behind Winter watching television. He would end there eventually. She was a magnet, and he was iron.
His favorite room on the first floor was filled with plants and large windows that arced to the ceiling. Benches spread across the bottom of them, and the green outside matched the table of green inside, making the room seem much more open. Its smell calmed him, closing his eyes.
Did it make Winter feel like she resided in the wilderness? Surely, she could merely go outside for that.
Marsh didn’t typically spend extended time outside, except for his morning walks. Business kept him from other leisurely activities during the day, and he usually read at night. With the extra free time, this would make a nice place to sit and read, to think. Moreover, he couldn’t wait for his first morning walk around these grounds. He didn’t often get the chance to explore a mountain so thoroughly.
He took a few pictures of the plants and the windows, and he lingered for a little while before circling again, pausing in front of the training room, where he imagined Winter practicing in the tight under armor he’d seen her in so long ago, sweaty, dirty, and smeared with blood, and heat swathed him.
Pushing the overwhelming reaction down, he closed in on the large living room, cut in half by the couch and filled with the pool table behind it. A dartboard hung on the wall to his right as he entered, but Winter didn’t sit on the couch. The TV sat paused mid-action in the show.
Heart hammering, he took the quick and quiet steps to the corner of the pool table, and he caught the edge of her at the counter where he’d left the paper. She tapped her fingers beside it, flipping it in her grip and pursing her lips.
Winter’s eyes widened when she finally unfolded the paper and read the contents. Short and sweet and spreading a smile across her face. Her gaze lifted, and he slipped out of view, turning to the window. Her steps entered the room behind him.
He took three breaths before he peered at her.
She’d paused in front of the couch to survey him and slid back onto the cushions as if to say she wouldn’t bite unless prompted, but he retreated to examine the second floor, finding his favorite room by far—the one that held books he’d never seen before.
A folded note sat on the counter. It hadn’t been there before.
Winter washed her dishes, dried her hands, and stood in front of that paper, fiddling with it, tapping the counter in indecision.
Was this for her? Who else would it be for, Winter?
Unfolding it, a short poem etched across the small page.
Fire trapped in form
Coiled veins of magma
Scorch skin like dragon’s breath
Heart vulnerable to her blade
Ready to bleed upon approach
Something about the gory romance made Winter smile.
Had he written this about her? And just left it here?
She read the poem again and brought it back to the couch with her. Marsh stood by the window, pausing her.
Spying on her? Rather juvenile but cute. Was he shy?
The slow turn to regard her screamed, yes. Terribly shy.
Winter wouldn’t try to scare him off, but she wasn’t so great at initiating either. Sliding into the couch, she touched the paper in her pocket and tried not to laugh as he ran away.
That was more of what she’d been used to before this whole thing started.
Decorum wasn’t her forte. Ask to take a beast’s head off or build a fire or field strip a squirrel, sure, Winter could do that. But polite conversation wasn’t what men typically had with her. It was all innuendo and threat in her prior life. Mostly the former, but now, that seemed so far away.
Winter wished she was better at carrying on a normal conversation. How badly would her bluntness scar her interactions with Marsh?
When the episode waited to transition to the next, she read the poem once more.
He knew how bad she was at this. He had to.
When she stood to stretch her legs, she caught a flash of white on the window sill. A polaroid sat against the glass. Winter picked it up: a closeup of her red gerbera daisies. The composition was pleasing, not that she knew how to replicate it.
Her mother had loved art in all forms, so she learned some of the lingo.
Slipping the photo with her poem in her back pocket, Winter grabbed a fresh beer and traipsed up to the study for a book. Hot sand and sea lingered in the doorway, so she wasn’t surprised when Marsh filled the chair in the far corner by the window, a book open to catch the sunlight.
He stood, startled when she entered, like he wasn’t supposed to be there or thought it improper to remain sitting when a female entered the room, which reminded her of the old romances her mother used to read to her.
A soft, husky laugh accompanied her shaking head. “You can be here.”
Marsh blinked at her and nodded, sitting again, but he pinched the book around his finger to keep his place.
Winter finished her re-read of War and Peace too long ago, so she searched the shelves like she’d done her whole life, waiting for something to reach out and grab her. His attention touched her, obvious along her skin as she perused the titles. Not a constant embrace. He was polite, after all, but she rather enjoyed that he didn’t seem able to help looking at her, even after he re-opened his book.
As beautiful as he was with his high cheekbones and square jaw, smooth skin and perfectly manicured everything—at least everything she could see, he snuck glances at her like she was an exotic creature he might spook.
After twenty minutes of searching, Winter pulled a small, clothbound book off a low shelf and settled herself on her usual couch by the window, facing Marsh.
His gaze danced up to hers, holding for a heartbeat and descending to his book.
She opened the pages to a world of dramatic romance with sweeping, poetic imagery, and she lost herself to the saga. Trauma dashed through the plot and crashed into the characters’ lives. It engulfed her, wrapping her arms around her knees, the book’s spine propped between her feet as the pages flew.
The young hero reminded her of Marsh, or at least, her first impressions of him. A rich young man with a suitable upbringing, in love with a woman who didn’t fit with his society. But she was a sweet and tender thing like him, although poor and innovative. They didn’t end up together. It completely broke Winter’s heart.
A huff brought Marsh’s attention back to her, and behind her eyes burned from the tragic ending. She flashed him the spine. “Have you read it?”
He shook his head. “No.”
Winter crawled from her seat and approached him. His shoulders stiffened and his jaw set. “It’ll devastate you. If you’re into that.”
He took it, fingertips brushing hers. A skittish shift watched her grip’s retreat. “Thank you.”
That tender voice made her restless on top of the doom already hanging over her from the novella. Winter shook her head, leaving to burn some of it off outside. As a wolf. Like she used to.
When she returned, a small bouquet of leaves and small buds surrounded one, large wild flower. They were bound with twine and hung from her door handle. Frilly purple petals paired nicely with the large flat leaves.
Three gifts in one day. A little overwhelming, but nice. Winter didn’t know how to respond.
Bringing them to her bathroom and putting the bundle in a vase, she filled her tub with steaming water and herbs. She missed the near constant sex of the last couple of months. Had gotten too used to it.
Winter relaxed into the heat, her muscles in need of proper care and relaxation.
Naughty images wound through her thoughts as she tried to empty her mind. Men overlapped each other, and she pushed them away, wondering at Marsh. The beautifully crafted diamonds in his ears suggested a profession, or at least which industry it focused on, and she found herself thinking about his fingers.
Would he touch her like some prized gem? As rough and uncut as she was.
Once she broke through that shy barrier, would he fight with her or push her buttons? Would he grab ahold of her like he might perish without her? How much experience did he have?
Something about him made Winter want to press her lips against his wide, shapely mouth and muss his neat hair. She wanted to smudge dirt across his clothes and hear him whimper.
How many women like her did he come across in his life?
She’d wait him out, but once he got brave enough, she’d let him see what real fire felt like.
Smiling at the poem’s possible meanings, Winter added mint oil to the sponge and pictured the variety of outcomes she might discover with Marsh, haunted by the men before him and the torn lovers from the story.
Thirteen Clans. Thirteen Males. One prize.
Winter Jarl is the most notorious female warrior of her species. Her father is chief, and he’s dying, so he’s cashed in on a promise she made long ago: he’s setting her up with an alpha from each of the thirteen clans before she takes over his position.
Sentenced to a year of isolation, she will spend twenty-eight days alone with each man. By the end of it, Winter must choose one to stand beside her.
The challenge? She must be in love to produce an heir.
Cycle Seven: Worshiping Winter
When a prim and proper alpha replaces his wild predecessor, Winter can’t help but poke and prod, tease and torment Marsh, but he doesn’t seem to know what he wants.
Marsh has been enamored with Winter for forty years, and he can’t believe he gets to spend an entire moon cycle alone with her. Now, he has to learn how to balance his shy demeanor with the primal instincts threatening to swallow him whole.