Blue Moon Brides: The Complete Series

BOOK: Blue Moon Brides: The Complete Series
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Blue Moon Brides:

Complete

Edition

TEMPTED
BY THE
PACK

 

 

 

ANNE MARSH

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Her scent was delicious. That captivating fragrance had hidden beneath the tumultuous smells of the farmers’ market, so the wolf’s first breath carried only flowers and vegetables, the tangy bite of overripe produce and dirt. And then
her
.

His attraction was immediate and powerful. She smelled more than good; she smelled
right
. He moved closer, following the trail she had unknowingly left him. She crouched over a bucket of frilly pink flowers, the tough stems falling away beneath her blade, wet and earthy. One quick slash, a deft twist of her wrist, and she handed the newly shorn flowers to a customer. Her hands riveted him even as her scent intoxicated him.

He’d visited this farmers’ market many times before he’d grown weary of fighting his wolf and had concealed himself deep inside the bayou, where he could be both man and beast, safe from the enemies who hunted him. He’d never noticed this female on those visits. She was new. Wonderfully different, even though the market was the same sleepy slice of stands perched on the edge of the Louisiana bayou he remembered from his previous visits. The summer heat slowed her down, putting a sleepy glint in her eyes as she fanned herself, fighting the sensual prickle. Her skin glistened with a sheen of sweat despite the airy sundress she wore.

He liked that sundress. The skirt was all colorful patches, the hem stopping mid-thigh and putting her long, long legs on display for him. She’d kicked off her shoes and twisted her honey-blonde hair up on top of her head. Tendrils escaped, however, curling insistently in the heat. The flower tucked in her hair was a surprise, a bold, deep pink hibiscus that drew his eyes away from the thin straps crisscrossing her bare back and shoulders. The dress cupped her breasts, molding her the way he wanted to shape her with his hands.

She wasn’t wearing a bra, and she looked good enough to eat.

His mouth watered from her delicious scent. He wanted to drag his tongue over all her curves and folds until he discovered if her taste matched that scent.

An answering heat tore through his body, an unexpected arousal that lengthened his cock. Right now, he watched from the shadows, his wolf unseen, but staying there much longer was impossible. He was hunted, and the market had no room for the wild and the uncivilized—or for the dark animal side he kept trapped inside. When he inhaled, he knew who had recently had sex and which women were coming into their fertile times. Sex was a pulsing rhythm beneath the surface of their everyday transactions that none of them were aware of. But he was.

He didn’t know her name—his wolf had no use for names—but her scent covered the market. While he’d been hidden deep in the bayou, she’d come here, often enough to mark this place as her own. She smelled of sunlight, of honey and sage. Good things, although her scent whispered of arousal too, and the strength of her needing made him wonder if she could possibly be the one. There were dark shadows under her eyes. A blue-moon brides always  dreamt, sexy, erotic dreams that would wake her early and leave her sleepless and aching for a lover’s touch. She was aroused now, but he didn’t know if she enjoyed that sensual state. Maybe she ignored that side of her nature like so many of the fully human did, denying her body had desires.

He wasn’t human. And he needed.

If she was his blue-moon bride, she could ease his loneliness. He’d never again have to worry that one night he’d fail to shift back from wolf to man. Tomorrow night, when the blue moon rose over the bayou, he’d know for certain if this woman was the one. For now, though, he stalked her from the shadows, watching her engage with the market’s customers, laughing. Alive. Wonderfully human.

She represented
famille
and a future as something more than an animal. If she wasn’t the one, if he failed to find his bride, he could den with a local wolf and produce pups. Whether or not that litter would be human, he didn’t know. It wouldn’t matter. That kind of pairing couldn’t save him from the animal madness slowly consuming him—and his Pack.

Tomorrow night, when the blue moon rose, the wolf would hunt whomever the blue moon found—and that chosen mate would run.

Let her be the one
.

 

~*~

 

The farmers’ market was a feast of heat and Cajun color. Dozens of people surrounded Lark Andrews. Talking and laughing, buying and selling. The market was the usual cheerful kaleidoscope of sounds and smells, and yet today everything was different.

Someone watched her. As she sold grower’s bunch after grower’s bunch, wishing futilely that today’s handful of dollars would be enough to make the mortgage, she felt the sharp prickle of eyes tracking her. Her gaze darted to the moss-hung cypress trees pressing in on the dusty square where Beauville held its weekly farmers’ market. No one lurked in those shadows, but she couldn’t shake the sensation of eyes. She knew better than most that the bayou held unseen creatures. Her
nannan
had told plenty of stories. The bayou had a dark side—yet it was a beautiful place. 

Hefting a bucket of unsold cosmos, the flowers’ pink frills just starting to droop from the late-afternoon heat, she gave the cypress trees a last once-over and turned away. It was time to pack up and go home. Before she didn’t have a home to go
to
.

She laid in a course for her truck, pausing only when she reached Mama Jolie selling her herbs and powders on the outer edge of the market right before the gravel rectangle of the parking lot started. The older woman squatted barefoot by a bucket of cilantro, wisps of grey hair escaping from her turban. Mama Jolie had a weakness for pretty flowers, and Lark always saved her a bunch.

God, it was hot. The stifling heat pressed against her skin, a heavy, wet weight that made her want to strip off her clothes and dip herself in the bayou. The flat waters would be bathwater warm, though, and would do little to cool her off. Or to ease the itch of unsatisfied desire that had tormented her these past few days.

Her body was on fire, and her vibrator hadn’t been enough to ease the aching need last night. Before she could stop herself, her gaze flickered to the cypress trees again.

“These are real pretty.” Mama Jolie raised the bouquet to her nose, inhaling deeply.

“You enjoy now,” Lark said.

The look of appreciation on the older woman’s face said no worries there.

“I will.” Mama Jolie rocked back on her heels. Rumor claimed she practiced
voudou
, and Lark knew the rumors were true. Mama Jolie’s eyes darted to the edges of the market and back. “Dark things comin’,
sha
. Your
nannan
, she talk to you about the blue moon? She tell you what happens when that moon goes blue over the bayou?”

Her
nannan
had talked about plenty of things—just not the obscene amount of money still owed to the bank on the flower farm or how to coax life from the cut-flower market. Certainly her
nannan
had enjoyed dark stories about the even darker creatures hiding in the bayou’s depths. Any warnings her grandmother had shared no longer mattered though. Whatever lurked out there in the bayou, Lark would still lose her farm in five days. Curiosity didn’t matter much when she wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. She needed to find a place for herself in this world. Fast.

“Blue moon as in
once in a blue moon
?”

“Sure enough.” Mama Jolie took Lark’s hand and turned it over. Her fingers traced the deep lines on the palm. “This month, the moon matter to you. You wan’ be real careful,
sha
. You got a decision to be makin’. Stay. Go. You’re choosin’ now.”

“That’s an easy call.”

The women in her family had run Pink Cosmo Farm for three generations, planting flowers. Not one had gotten rich farming, but none had lost the place to the bank, either. When her mother had deposited her on the front porch of the farmhouse twenty years ago, Lark had been exhausted from a week on the road in cheap hotels. After the noise and dirt and bustle of the highway, the farm was an oasis. She’d walked out that front door her first morning and come face-to-face with the farm’s trademark pink and white cosmos on feathery stalks and lilies half-bent from the heavy weight of their pollen-heavy heads. Later, she’d learned the farm supported itself selling those lilies, but all she’d known then was that their heady fragrance filled every breath she took. She’d stayed when her mother had run, hitting the road again.

Sometimes, her grandmother had said, you just had to stop and smell the roses. Take a deep breath and let your senses sort things out. Then her grandmother had passed, leaving her alone to fight to keep the farm going and to wrangle with the bank over past-due notes she hadn’t known existed.

The farm wasn’t paradise. But it
was
hers.

For three more days.

The older woman shook her head. “Not the farm,
sha
. This about somethin’ more.” Reaching out a gnarled hand, she tapped Lark’s heart. Drew a line straight down her sternum. “This, right here. You be choosin’ here.”

“Then I’ll stay.” Lark wanted to laugh, but her
nannan
had raised her to respect the older powers. It was never wise to thumb your nose at anything that ruled the bayou.

Mama Jolie hummed, amused. “Stay. Go. You remember that tomorrow night when they come for you. You remember you wan’ to be makin’ that choice.”

“Who’s coming?”

Mama Jolie shook her head, dropping her hands. “There are families don’ come out of the bayou much. They got their reasons. Some of them, they change too much in there. You know the Breaux brothers?” The other woman switched the subject smooth as a pirogue in the water.

Lark had seen those brothers a time or two. They were the kind of men a woman didn’t forget. Big brutes. Dark-haired and dark-eyed like a bayou night, the six brothers stuck together too. Rumor whispered hunting and fishing wasn’t all they did out there in the bayou. That itch of desire kicked up a notch. The Breaux brothers were rough and far from nice, but they possessed an earthy sensuality that promised their lovers wouldn’t go unsatisfied.

“I’ve seen them once or twice,” she said cautiously.

Mama Jolie nodded. “They live out there, on the water.”

Lark never had been one for water. Bayou water in particular was deceptively flat and calm, when nothing but trouble lurked underneath. Bad currents and fourteen-foot gators. Unseen snags and snakes. The bayou was beautiful—but it was also deadly.

Mama Jolie wasn’t done talking though. “You spend much time in the swamp?”

Hell no
. “Bad things happen in the bayou at night, that’s what I’ve heard.” She rubbed her arms at an unexpected shiver. Damn it, she’d never been superstitious. She wasn’t starting now.

“Dark things,
sha
.” Those old eyes watched her. “Dark don’ have to be bad. You just got to take the chance. Think about what you wan’ from this life of yours.”

“My farm. That’s what I want.”

“You sure about that?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” She hefted the buckets into the back of the pickup, the muscles in her arms burning. “That farm’s been in my family for generations.”

“And now you’re losin’ her.” The understanding look in the other woman’s eyes was one Lark recognized all too well. No one in Beauville got rich making a living from the bayou—the lucky ones, the ones with a good shrimping season or tourist season scraped by—and that was more than she’d done.  

“I am.” Defiantly, she met Mama Jolie’s eyes. She wasn’t hiding from this. “I didn’t make last month’s mortgage payment. Or the one before that.”

“Plenty of folks ridin’ in that boat,” Mama Jolie said at last, digging her hand in the pocket of her voluminous housedress. “True enough. You take your chances an’ you see where this leads you.”

She pressed a small gris-gris charm into Lark’s hand.

“One for luck.” The woman’s sly grin was knowing. “And for protection. ’Cause I’m thinkin’ the Breaux brothers will be payin’ you a call tomorrow night. Just as soon as that blue moon, she shows her face. They gon’ eat you up.”

Lark’s fingers closed around the charm. She’d never put much stock in the supernatural, but the gift mattered to Mama Jolie, and the thought always counted.

“You think I need that? Are they dangerous?” To her libido maybe. Even if she’d had only glimpses of the Breaux brothers before, tall, dark and handsome didn’t begin to cover those men.

Mama Jolie shook her head, shooing Lark towards her truck. “Those boys won’t hurt you. Rough around the edges, sure. But they got hearts in the right place. They come for you,
sha
, an’ you got to choose. You wan’ to play their games, you run. You give them a good game of chase-me-catch-me an’ you enjoy the endin’ in their arms. That’s a good choice for some of us. Those boys, they like to chase. That’s the wolf in them, an’ maybe he call to you too.” Mama Jolie looked towards the cypress woods. “You see him there?”

Lark’s gaze followed the old woman’s. The stand of cypress draped in Spanish moss was nothing she hadn’t seen a hundred times before, and yet she had that sensation once again of eyes watching her. Not hostile. Curious. Heated. A prickly, sensual awareness swept through her and pebbled her nipples against the bodice of her dress. For just a moment, she swore she heard a growl.

BOOK: Blue Moon Brides: The Complete Series
5.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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