Saturday, January 18, 2020

Wolf Pack Freebie Fest - January 2020

For the first time ever,
these shifter reads are  FURRREE !


Check prices before you buy. They can change without notice. 

If you see a book that isn’t furrree,
please check back later as price changes may be delayed.

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Ten years ago, he spent three months in a dungeon, punishment for kissing her. Now, they’re stuck together in a cottage in the woods, during a snowstorm, when she’s to become betrothed to another. They can’t have forever, but what’s the harm in taking advantage of tonight?

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When librarian-guardian Seria discovers a vandal raiding the ancient site she's charged with protecting, she pursues him. Being captured by space pirates and caged with the criminal wasn’t part of the plan...

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Eli has been obsessed with curvy Olivia for years.  There’s just one complication. He’s the man responsible for taking her out.

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Only a vampire is strong enough to teach these werewolves how to fight...

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When a dragon shifter prince and a single mum bond accidentally, it could be deadly, for both of them.

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An alpha wolf, a trip to the city, and a human female who he shouldn't want...but does. Can this wolf survive the city?

   Apple   Kobo

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Love - and shifter intrigue - in 1950's Paris! But all is not as rosy as it seems in the City of Lights, where warring shifter forces conspire to seize power...

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Can a rogue bear shifter and a halfblood fae put evil back in her grave?

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With more on the line than his love life and the scales covering his backside, Gage MacAllen is about to learn the true meaning of ‘Destiny will always find a way’. Fate Will Not be Denied, but if you happen to be a Gambler, the safe bets always on a Dragon and his Mate.

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Would you betray your lover to save a friend? As a paramedic, Eloise had seen her share of gruesome horror. Yet nothing could have prepared her for this...

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A beautiful dragon general. A vampyr rockstar with a double life. The traitor who reveals a decades-long secret hidden by the Dragon Court…

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Firefighting wolf shifter Seb is an expert at just-a-good-time flings. Elka is an everything-or-nothing kind of witch. And they’re Black Moon Peak’s new favorite fated mates…

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When her favorite customer insists on setting her up on a blind date, Jane reluctantly agrees. It was only supposed to be a harmless night of fun... until it was more. Until he was everything.

Nook   Apple   Kobo

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After a long wait, Cade finally has a match from Lovely and Kind Brides. But this isn’t his first time getting a match. Worried that this one also won’t work out, he pulls out all the stops to romance human Kira in this heartwarming holiday story.

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A Find Your Fate science fiction tale...where YOU are the main character, and YOU choose the story!

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Brock Hume is a lone hunter, and right now he's hunting the most tempting prey he's ever encountered. He has all kinds of plans for when he catches her. And catch her, he will...

Nook   Apple   Kobo

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 CLICK HERE  to enter our giveaway!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Nutshell History of Indie Publishing...2020 Edition

As always, we first look at where we've been...

2012-2013: The Golden Era. (Some will say it started earlier or lasted longer, but these two years were the peak from what I saw.) Money came easy. I witnessed dozens of authors become overnight millionaires. Hundreds of authors hit six figures, thousands hit solid five figures and they all quit their day jobs. You saw a steady stream of 'I quit my job' forum posts all over the place. It was an amazing time to be a writer.

2014 was the year of Kindle Unlimited (which has since turned into a cesspool, but we didn't realize how bad it would get back then). This was still a heyday year. Almost everyone was doing well. The big drops in income hadn't happened yet.

2015 was the first year that was worse than the previous year. We didn't know it at the time. We thought we just needed to work harder and get a bigger mailing list, but in reality, this was when the first big restructuring of the industry (which started in 2014 with the launch of Kindle Unlimited) really hit hard and no one could stop it. This is also when smart authors started to up their marketing game. 

2016 was even worse. This was the year readers got tired of newsletters, one of authors' best marketing tools (mostly because scammers emailed readers every day). For the first time, more authors went back to day jobs than quit to write full-time and scamming started to get bad. KU also had major failures...a page flip glitch meant that page reads were grossly under counted. Authors left KU in droves, some have refused to go back since. Everyone was learning FB ads.

2017 was the year of the scammer. Even though the scamming started in 2015, this year it completely gummed up the the point where Amazon finally took legal action to stop the bleeding. Authors who could manage it went back to traditional publishing to stabilize their careers. Everyone was learning AMS ads.

2018 will be the year of divergence. Why do I say that? First, some background on the indie publishing industry...

It's important to understand that an indie career is driven primarily by technology. Publishing has agents, editors, marketing departments and book printing capabilities. Yes, indies have editors and cover artists, but none of that would happen without access to technology.

Why does this matter?

Divergence 1
First, technology has shorter, more vicious business cycles. Innovation is king, so it's constant. Hence, we had KU, then the new version KU1 a year later, then KU2 and now KU3...all making big changes in how KU works (or doesn't as the case may be). Indies must be fast and agile.

When was the last time you read about a brand new publisher making big bucks? Pretty much never.  If anything, a traditional publisher is more likely to go out of business than be the shiny new moneymaker everyone gushes about. But you see the latest tech whizbang in the news every other day, right?

Divergence 2
Second, technology is scammed at a much higher rate than the traditional publishing industry. True, authors have been scamming the bestseller lists for decades, long before ebooks, but technology has meant that any author, anywhere can scam their way to the top. Hence, scamming has grown exponentially over time. Large scale access to technology changes everything, everywhere.

These first two have made indie authors different from the beginning. Number 3 digs into what's coming in 2018.

Divergence 3
Third, technology for ebooks is not modeled after traditional publishing, at least not anymore will diverge almost completely over time. Do you know how the Chinese like to read stories online? You should. There's only a billion of them and they are the origin of many technology trends we see in the US now.

Here's the thing, and why I call 2018 the year of divergence: Indies used to sell in all the same places as traditionally published authors. We had about the same shot at best seller lists that a traditionally published author got. We were more alike than different. 

That is about to change.

The future coming for indies is one in which ebooks are NOT necessarily sold on the same platforms used by traditional publishers and indie book sales will NOT register in the industry like they used to. We will diverge and become more different than alike.

Will this transition be complete in 2018? No. But we will see it develop and make inroads we could have never foreseen back in 2012 when I started in this business.

Think I'm nuts? That Amazon will never lose? Here's the thing, KU's failures have created pressure to find a way to sell books. Because of the scamming, authors are looking for an out. 

Maybe that's not where you are, but I've watched this industry for years, I know authors who are trying to find a better way. Most people see KU for what it is now: A very limited opportunity that cannot build or sustain a career for the vast majority of authors.

(And yes, there are always outliers, but that's why I ignore them. The 1% are not the trend. If you are doing fantastic, that's great, but you are not everyone and much larger numbers are crushed by the current market dynamics at play. Those are the people I'm trying to help.) 

So we have this pressure of 'how can I sell books without the blackhole of scam that is KU?' at the same time different reading models and new technology are coming online. 

Smells like opportunity to me.

Do you know what is happening already in 2017? Authors are jumping into new technology with both feet. They have nothing to lose's not like KU will save them. 

Haven't observed this yet? Don't worry, you will. I can see it because of my's not widely available knowledge yet as of September 2017.

In 2018, we'll begin to see hints of how well up and coming tech is working. If any of it takes off, the big game in town won't just be Amazon anymore.

We could even see another little gold rush, similar to what we had in 2012-14. BUT to cash in, you have to pay attention. You have to know what you're doing. 

Learn, learn, learn. Write, write, write.

My prediction for 2019, as of June 2018, is that it will be the year of reinvention. The market is merciless now. It will force you to figure out how to be competitive or it will drive you out of business. The things we've done the last several years don't work anymore, by and large. We need a new paradigm.

Starting in 2018, authors searched for solutions. Is it branding? Is it marketing? Is it craft? What is the magic bullet? Everyone was looking for the webinar, the class, the workshop to help them figure out how to carve a niche in a crowded market.

And internet marketers did their best to drown us alive in useless webinars. The real information went underground. Authors stopped sharing freely. Partly because the scammers made it hard to know who to trust and partly because dilution is the enemy of all great marketing techniques. 

Why is marketing dilution so bad? The more people do the same marketing thing, the worse that marketing thing performs. Better to shut up and keep it to yourself.

The key going forward is to create an outstanding product at a medium-fast rate of speed (3-4 books a year) and understand branding and how to use various marketing outlets. The faster you acquire the skills to do this, the faster your business will grow.

Cooperative marketing (cross promos, group giveaways etc...) are still effective, easy, and great for beginners BUT also a mine field because the scammers are so pervasive, they get into promos too, and taint everything they touch. The solution is to vet who you work with carefully and build a trusted network of authors...which takes time, it's not overnight.

Nothing is fast now. You need to invest in your knowledge of craft and business to succeed. You can't expect to coast on a good book or good marketing for a mediocre book. It all has to hit hard.

Predictions for 2020...

This is still true from 2019: "The key going forward is to create an outstanding product at a medium-fast rate of speed (3-4 books a year) and understand branding and how to use various marketing outlets. The faster you acquire the skills to do this, the faster your business will grow."

The market conditions of 2020 will favor the savvy, the bold, the cooperative, and the innovative originals among us. If you aren't hustling to be a publishing rock star, are you even in the game?  The answer now is going to be no. 

You must find a niche, brand it with your soul, and be its rock star. 

In addition, it continues to be the case that cooperating with other authors on audience outreach is still valuable. Newsletter swaps, cross promo etc... are all still useful.

Further, smart authors will diversify their business. It's becoming risky, I believe, to have all your eggs in one basket. If you've been around a while, it's time to take your experience and know-how and use it to create multiple streams of income.

Beyond that, I suspect the fast release model will start to hit a wall in 2020. It's not going to be about fast anymore, it's going to be about brand and being totally original, offering a quality experience readers can't get from any other author...not matter how slow or fast they release. 

To be successful in 2020, authors also need to find high quality training to move the needle. Both on craft and marketing. Training is a massive growth hack because it saves you so much time and makes your marketing much more effective. 

I've even started offering a few classes and a lot of free mentorship in the Wolf Pack Promotions group on Facebook trying to fill the void, BUT I'm a limited resource. My own personal issue with 2020 is going to be striking a balance between helping other authors--like so many who helped me in the early days of my career--and focusing on what I need to do for my business. (That's partly why I wrote my free Smarter Author Boot give authors a quick level up without having to do it one-on-one over and over again.)

2020 is the year authors will need--not want, need--affordable services that save time and handle some of the marketing to-dos for them. It used to be that authors wouldn't pay for help until they were at a certain level in their career, but there is too much benefit now in outsourcing some of the digital marketing that goes into building a brand. DIY marketing is too slow in 2020.

It's also becoming impossible to manage all the digital marketing to-dos and keep up with writing anymore. Affordable services that provide high value will be godsends. (On the free, cheap side, get in the habit of funneling your procrastination into your marketing to-dos.) 

With regards to retailers, so far, nothing new has appeared. KU continues to divide the market, but is now a mature segment of our industry and is pretty saturated. Word on the street has it that Apple will be working hard on ebooks this year, but there's no public announcement from them on that. There's a big push to do audio, but there are naysayers saying that ship has sailed. 

You know what? In 2020, retailers are what you make them. Your opportunity isn't about a retailer, it's about your books and how you market them. It's about how you get readers to SEE you and want your books.

To that end, authors will continue to try different models of selling direct with variable rates of success. Direct sales will be increasingly important in the future, but there are few administrative integrations that shop services need to offer before it can really take off.

In terms of technology, we will see AI and increasingly sensitive pseudo-AI algos make inroads into our industry. This will create both opportunities and challenges. It won't be all sunshine and roses, but you'll be able to use AI to do some helpful things-->frex, you'll be able to automate pieces of your never ending digital marketing to-dos. 

The downside of AI is a bit murky right now, but it's there. I highly recommend you dig up PBS Frontline's documentary Rise of AI and watch it (it's free on YouTube) as it's the most current synthesis of what we think we know. The implications are huge for everyone, but especially for those trying to make a living online. 

The other big challenge I foresee is the push for data privacy. We saw the start with the GDPR rollout from the EU last year, and now California has a data privacy law, and there's all sorts of maneuvering behind-the-scenes as tech giants look for ways to use privacy to lock up their user base and monetize it even more OR challenge privacy laws in court (Facebook's current strategy).

Who pays for this? 

We do. 

Anyone selling something online will feel the squeeze from 2020 forward. The exact mechanics of it are TBD. Authors will need to be nimble and quick to navigate the overnight changes we'll see roll out this year.

Part of what feeds all this, by the way, is the lack of government regulation. Tech is still a Wild West where anything goes...until you're caught. There is increasing noise from the government that suggests legislators recognize there's an issue, but I'm not sure we'll see any meaningful regulation in 2020, though, given the political chaos that reigns in the US. However, in 2020 we'll definitely see more news articles and sound bites about there's that much to look forward to.

Scamming is still very much present in our industry, but it has been fairly quiet. Botting (automating sales, reads, downloads etc...) will continue to reinvent itself and be a pest. Amazon will continue to refuse to report scammers to the FBI (for those in the US) or other enforcement agencies...which just emboldens the next generation of scammers. 

Something most authors don't realize is that Amazon is committed to staying out of court and keeping things quiet. This is why you don't see any really serious legal deterrents to scamming. They'll shut scammers down, but they aren't really stopping them. The second Amazon changes their mind about that, though--if they ever do--people will go to jail.

2020 will also have a large power vacuum left by the implosion of RWA. For all its faults, RWA was one of the writing organizations most likely to go to the mat for authors at the national level. Authors will need national advocacy more than ever as AI is unleashed, but we lost that at the start of the year. 

For example, Facebook's pseudo-AI algos, think romance is porn and have been rejecting ads and shutting down author accounts starting in the spring of 2019. There is no one to tackle that and all authors suffer for it.

Lastly, if you look at US economic history, economic downturns hit, on average, every ten years or so. We are overdue for one, although the era we live in is so warped and so many things have disconnected from their foundations or been actively subverted that it's difficult to say anything for sure. However, in 2020, authors should be saving money, paying down debt, avoiding debt, and thinking about sustainability and economic resilience. 

We live in weird times,and while I hope the world will give us all huge wins for our hard work, past performance suggests that is not as likely as a recession. So heads up.

To sum it all up, 2020 is the year to...
Be savvy. Be bold. Be original. Band together. Innovate. Diversify. Learn. Save.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bring Her Wolf - The rest of the FREE *Instant* Read

Bring Her Wolf by Michelle Fox. Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

(Need part one? It's here-> )

“You’re not going to invite me in?” Shock registered on his face. It was possible I was the first woman in history to tell the man no.
“I’m not looking for anything you got.” I crossed my arms, leaning against the door jamb.
“Fair enough.”  He stepped closer, crowding me, our bodies almost close enough to touch. His voice dipped down into a husky whisper that seemed to reach out and stroke my skin. “What if I could help you?”
What if he could help me? I snorted. “Where were you two weeks ago? I’ve already quit my job, packed my stuff and sold the house.” Cal had bought it from me so I would have some money to start over with. I tried not to think about how the house had belonged to my parents. That just brought back the memory of their deaths. A car accident had left me alone at a young age and spared them the pain of their only child being a waste.
He stepped back and cool air from the early autumn night rushed in to fill the void. “I’ve been away, visiting my mom down in Louisiana. She knows something that might fix you.”
I grit my teeth, nostrils flaring. “Fix me? What am I? Getting spayed?”
“She’s my pack’s shaman, Chloe. I think you should listen to what I have to say.” He managed to look serious enough that I gave a curt nod and backed away, allowing him into the house.
He settled on the brown leather couch my mom had bought when I was still a kid and helped himself to a slice of pizza. He lifted the wine bottle off the coffee table and gave me questioning look.
I flopped into the recliner across from him. It had been my Dad’s seat and it still smelled like his pipe. “Go ahead. Help yourself.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled through a mouth full of food.
I gave him a minute to eat and then pushed. “Spill it, Jackson.” What Bayou voodoo did he have up his sleeve?
“An alpha can bring out your wolf.” He snagged another piece of pizza and gulped it down.
I sighed, deflated. “If Cal could’ve done something, he would have.”
Jackson lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “He might not be able to. Every pack is different and so are the alphas.”
“Well, thanks for nothing.” I leaned forward to close the pizza box and pulled it closer to my side of the coffee table. At the rate Jackson was eating, there wouldn’t be any left for me.
He held up a hand, his gaze focused on the pizza. “Hold on. Cal might not be able to, but I could. Maybe.”
I raised my eyebrows and motioned for him to continue.
“My pack has a history of helping nulls and well--” He squared his shoulders and sat a little straighter. “I’m an alpha.”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure you are.” Every male wolf thought he was an alpha, which was one of the things that made them so annoying. As much as I’d wanted to belong, being spared the endless posturing and strutting of a male wolf in lust was one thing that went in the plus column.
He looked puzzled. “No, I’m really an alpha. Why do you think Cal asked me to come to Huntsville?”
Crossing my arms, I said, “Why did he ask you here? Was he aware that you would leave no woman untouched?”
Jackson winced. “Come on, that’s not fair. Listen, you guys don’t have an alpha here. There’s no one to come up after Cal.”
That made my ears perk up. Pack succession was a primary concern among wolves and I’d had no idea Huntsville lacked true alpha material. Of course being a null, I was banned from the pack clearing and thus had no way to know. “Is Cal sick?” My stomach sank to think of a world without him. He’d been as kind as a father to me many a time.
“No, but he’s planning for the future.” He eyed the pizza box and I moved it closer to me, pushing down on the lid again for emphasis. Mine.
“You’re the future of the Huntsville pack?” I stifled a laugh. God help us. Them, I corrected. Considering that Jackson would someday lead made my situation slightly more palatable. A gigolo was not my idea of prime leadership material.
“Why is that funny?” He looked perplexed.
“Never mind. So tell me, how exactly can you make me a wolf?” I couldn’t wait to hear what Pack Master Gigolo would say next.
He cleared his throat and rubbed his hands on his pants, gaze roaming the room and looking everywhere but at me. Nervous was a new look for him, usually he brimmed with brash confidence.  “We have to sleep together.” The words came out fast in a jumble, but my mind quickly interpreted the message.
I jumped out of my chair, hand over my mouth and backed away from him. “Holy shit. You have got to be fucking kidding me.” I paced the living room and then froze, shooting him a look that could kill. “Wait, this is a joke. You sick fuck.” My hands balled into fists and I stormed over to where he sat.
He stood up and side-stepped me, his arms raised in a placating gesture. “No joke, Chloe.”
“You’ve slept with everyone else. Why not give me a whirl, huh? Sleep with the null and see if it’s any different? Am I right?” I was yelling now and stalked him across the room, one hand cocked, fist at the ready. I wasn’t as strong as a real wolf, but I wasn’t human weak either. Oh yeah, I could bring the pain.
“Wait--” he began, but I lunged for him, my fist aiming for his jaw.
My fist never landed. Instead of feeling my bones grinding into his, I connected with flesh stronger than my own. He caught both of my hands and pulled me close as he pinned them behind my back. Then his lips crushed mine in a fierce kiss.
I’d never been kissed. Nulls can’t be mates so I was out of the dating pool from day one. The shock of his lips against mine left me motionless for a moment. A strangled gasp escaped my throat and I wrestled with his grip, but couldn’t break his hold. His mouth was insistent, plucking at my lower lip, tongue probing. He tasted like pizza and wine and the smell of him filled my senses.
So this is what it’s like to be kissed.
“The thing is Chloe, you smell like wolf to me.” He spoke with his mouth still on mine, his words telegraphing through my body in little shivers. “I think she’s in there and just doesn’t know how to come out.”
He nuzzled my neck, nose caressing me as he inhaled deeply. I froze under the assault of sensations I didn’t fully understand. My body felt like it was the wrong size, stretched too thin in some places and too slack in others. The smell of fur filled my nose along with hyperawareness of Jackson’s musk. When I blinked, I saw a wolf staring back at me from behind my eyelids. She--instinctively I knew she was female--was light gray and her gaze bore into mine. I gasped and my eyes flew open.
“What is it?” He lifted his head, concerned.
“I don’t know.” I licked my lips. “I think I saw my wolf.”
He gave me a satisfied smile. “See? I told you.”
I closed my eyes again. She was still there, but pacing now. Something under my skin prickled as if she moved through my flesh. “She’s beautiful.”
“You never saw her before?”
I shook my head, keeping my eyes closed. I’d heard talk about how your wolf danced in your mind. Wolves appear right before the first change, which, for women, often coincides with their first menstrual cycle. I’d hit puberty, but my wolf had was a no-show. Now that she was finally here, I couldn’t stop watching her.
 “So now you know I wasn’t joking.”
“Am I going to change?” The idea of that took my breath away. I’d never dared to hope, but now that very emotion blossomed in me like spring after a desolate winter.
His body moved around me as he shifted his weight. “It takes more than a kiss to bring out a wolf, Chloe.” His voice was a soft murmur on my skin. He kissed me again, nipping the nape of my neck with his lips.
“How do you know?” I tested his grip again, disappointed to find it as firm as ever. Jackson wasn’t going to let me go any time soon. My wolf gave a low growl, unhappy as I was at being restrained.
“Because my mom said so.” His lips moved to the hollow of my throat and pressed against the pulse that thundered there.
“Did she also tell you to sleep with everything that moved?”
His lips went still. “You sound upset.” His inflection implied I shouldn’t be and it rankled.
I huffed, irritated. “You’ve been sleeping your way through town. It doesn’t exactly make a girl feel special to be last on the list.”
“You’ve got me all wrong.”
I opened my eyes for a second to glare at him. “How so?” I closed my eyes again, not wanting to lose sight of my wolf. She sniffed the ground intently, looking for something.
“You were always first on the list.”
My eyes opened wide. “What?”
His gaze locked with mine and his wolf came through in the yellow gleam of his pupils. “Like I said, you always smelled like wolf to me. The second I met you, I wanted you. I didn’t know you were a null until Cal told me.”
I was silent for a moment. “So then you slept with everyone else instead?”
He sighed. “You have to understand, I’m supposed to find a mate. Preferably sooner than later. Cal wants me settled in.”
I furrowed my brow in confusion. “Are you like some mail order wolf groom? Cal just sends out an order and you show up?”
“In a roundabout way. My pack has too many alphas, yours is all betas. Word got out and Cal made me an offer.” He shrugged. “So here I am. Ta-dah. The alpha on order.”
His tone was so light and self-effacing that I couldn’t hold back a giggle. My wolf’s ears perked up at the sound and she cocked her head, listening.
“So are we going to do this, Chloe? Are you going to let me bring your wolf?” His soft, low voice made me weak in the knees.
I didn’t hesitate, not with everything I’d ever wanted so tantalizingly close. “Yes.”
“I’m going to let you go now. Don’t hit me, okay?”
I bit my lip as shame washed over me at my behavior.“Sorry about that.”
The pressure on my wrists eased and I was free. I shook out my arms, releasing the tension from being locked in one position for so long.
“Let’s start over, from the beginning.” A hand on each shoulder, he pulled me against him and kissed me. With gentle persistence he won his way into my mouth, tongue laving mine. A dizzy heat surged through me, rushing with my pulse until I tingled all over. He grasped the hem of my shirt, lifting it up to expose my stomach and grazing my rib cage in the process.
Unbidden, I raised my arms overhead and he pulled off my top. Tossing it to the floor, he continued to ply me with kisses as he worked to unhook my bra. Shy about being the only one naked, I decided to remove his t-shirt, forcing him to pause in his efforts to strip me bare.
Jackson’s chest was broad and sleek with muscle. I ran my hands over his pecs, the nubs of his nipples brushing across my palms. His shoulders flexed at my touch and he sucked in his stomach with a hiss when I trailed my fingers over his abdomen.
“There’s something you need to know,” I said, my voice hesitant.
He raised an eyebrow, his hands pausing in their efforts to remove my bra.
“I’m a virgin.” I breathed it more than said it. Closing my eyes, I retreated to my wolf who paced anxiously against the screen of my eyelids.
Jackson cupped my face in his hand, thumb caressing my cheek. “It’s okay, Chloe.”
I gave a shaky laugh, the sound making my wolf freeze. “At least you’ve had a lot of practice.”
“I’ve had a lot of practice in a lot of different things.” He captured my bottom lip in his mouth and sucked for a long moment. Between kisses he said, “I wasn’t an attractive kid, you know. Sure, I changed, but the girls wanted nothing to do with me.”
I opened my eyes and took in his dark good looks and rippling physique with a doubtful expression. He was sexier than calorie free ice cream. I tried to picture girls turning their noses up at him and failed.
“It’s true. I was skinny with acne. A weakling alpha in a pack full of bigger, stronger alphas just looking for an excuse to take me out.”
“So what changed?” I asked.
“I worked out. I grew into my body and I stayed out of the way. The point being, you aren’t the only one who’s lived on the fringe of a pack. I did it for a long time.” My bra finally came free, going slack around my breasts and he smiled at the small victory. “You see me as I am today, but it didn’t come fast or easy for me.”
I clutched my bra strap, resisting his efforts to pull it off my shoulders. He paused, his thumbs circling the skin on each shoulder. “Nervous?”
Swallowing hard, I nodded.
“Don’t be, you’re in good hands.” He planted a kiss at the nape of my neck and gently bit me there, sucking the skin hard and fast into his mouth. Coming up for air, he said, “I’m going to enjoy making you howl, Chloe. I’ve wanted this for a long time.” He inched the bra straps over my shoulders, moving down toward my elbows. “Just let go.”
My arms went slack right on cue, allowing him to pull the bra free. The air was cool on my skin and I shuddered slightly as goose bumps raced over me, puckering my nipples. Jackson cupped a breast in each hand. His thumbs stroked the tips and my breathing hitched. Something deep inside me tightened.
He kissed his way down my neck, pressing his lips against my sternum before veering over to take a nipple into his mouth. The sensation was like warm velvet stroking my skin. I gasped when he increased the suction, my hands going up to his shoulders  in an effort to ground myself against the heady pleasure of his touch.
He continued to tease my breasts as he tugged at the waistband of my jeans, pulling the button out of its loop and pulling down the zipper. His fingers worked their way inside my underwear and found the cleft between my legs. One lone finger wiggled into my core, touching the wet heat there.
My knees sagged. If I hadn’t kept such a tight grip on his shoulders, I might have fallen. “Why don’t we go to the bedroom?” My voice came out as a strangled gasp.
He released my breast and straightened up, but his finger lingered at the nexus of my core. “Lead the way.”
My heart beating like a frightened hummingbird, I took him by the hand and navigated the short hallway to my bedroom. The room was a mess of boxes, but the bed remained intact. I had considered an air mattress, but then rejected it in favor of comfort. Now, given the circumstances, I was doubly glad I had opted to keep it.
Jackson pushed me down on the bed and yanked my pants off, tossing them over his shoulder. Eyes locked on mine he leaned down and took the elastic of my panties in his mouth. With a low growl that vibrated over my pubic mound, he pulled them down using his hands on my hips to aid in their removal.
Letting my panties drop to the floor, he stood and took off his pants, kicking them into a corner. He didn’t wear underwear and my eyes widened when I caught sight of his cock. He was so much bigger than I had expected, but everyone always said wolves were well endowed. This was just my first time seeing the truth of that up close and personal.
Catching the expression on my face and the direction of my gaze, he smiled. “Don’t worry. We’ll fit like we were made for each other.”
“Are you sure?” I tried and failed to hide my concern.
He came onto the bed and wrapped my fingers around his shaft. “Yes.”
I skimmed the length of him. He was soft and hard all at the same time. A pulse throbbed against my palm that gave the illusion of movement, as if he was jumping at my touch. The deepest, darkest part of me spasmed with need, jealous of my hand.
Jackson lifted my hand to his mouth for a kiss. “As you have pointed out, I have some experience in these matters.”
I laughed, more from nerves than anything else. “So what do we do now?”
“You just lay back and let me do all the work.”
“That sounds hardly fair.” The memories of every romance I’d ever read and every movie I’d ever seen flashed through my mind. Oh God. This was going to happen. I was the damsel about to be ravished. A tingle went through me at the thought.
“You can pay me back some other time.” A slow smile spread across his lips and he leaned in to kiss me and tease my breasts with his expert touch. I gasped and arched up against him, nipples hardening.
Moving down, he replaced his hand with his mouth, sealing his lips over each pebbled nub in turn. His tongue lashed the sensitive tips into stiff, throbbing points. A heaviness filled my breasts and I wondered if this was how his cock felt, all tense and hard, almost bursting with need.
He lifted his head and looked at me. “Close your eyes and focus on your wolf.”
I nodded and quickly shut my eyes. My wolf gave me an impatient look as if scolding me for leaving her alone so long. With a haughty gait, she walked away from me, almost fading into the distance and then she froze, her ears upright on high alert.  Jackson kissed his way to my stomach, his hands caressing me in time with his tongue. When he reached the wet heat between my legs, he kissed the top of my mound and encouraged my knees to part with a gentle nudge.
Focusing on my legs, he skimmed his fingers across the sensitive skin of my inner thighs and delved into the hollow behind each knee. I undulated on the bed, his touch sparking a full body tingle of pleasure. He lowered his head, his mouth burning a trail up my thigh and finally to my core. His tongue pressed against my wet entrance, breaching it for the first time before swirling up to the quivering nub at the top.
My hands fisted in the sheet and my hips rose up off the bed as I gave a soft cry. In the distance of my mind’s eye, my wolf began to run straight toward me, a look of fierce concentration on her face.
Jackson sucked on my clit as he gently, but persistently pushed a finger inside me followed by a second and then a third. Desire surged in me like a gasoline fed fire. I was hot all over, my body twisting this way and that way, my restless feet searching for purchase on the mattress. A tight coil of pleasure wound in my belly and with one enormous flex it exploded.
I screamed. My wolf gathered her haunches under her and jumped. She sailed through the air, fangs bared and her eyes gleaming yellow. I flew with her on wings of ecstasy and then she seemed to slam into an invisible barrier. The force of her impact shuddered through me, real and tangible in my body. She fell with a yelp and lay still. I stopped breathing, horror rising up to clog my throat. Was she dead?
“No.” My voice was a mournful cry. Tears filled my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks.
“What is it?” Jackson shifted on the bed and moved up to lay beside me. “What’s wrong?” Concern filled his voice.
I held up a hand to silence him, not wanting to take my focus off what was happening to my wolf. She remained motionless, but after a long moment I could see her chest rise and fall. She was breathing. She’s alive, but why didn’t I change?
As if she heard my question, she turned her head to look at me. Her ears were down and back, a sign that she was stressed, but her eyes held alert intelligence. She stood and gave her body a shake, stretching her back legs behind her. After that, she began to pace again.
“Chloe are you okay?” Jackson touched my shoulder, concerned by my silence.
I held back a sob. “I didn’t change. She couldn’t break through.”
“Shh.” He pulled me close in a soothing hug. “We’re not done yet. I haven’t called your wolf, I’ve just woken her up.”
“How do you know?” My eyes fluttered open to glare at him.
Jackson shrugged. “My mom, remember? Besides I can feel it. It’s not over yet. Promise.” He kissed my shoulder. “Are you ready?”
I nodded and he kneeled between my legs, his hard shaft jutting in front of him.
“I’m going to go nice and slow. Just try to relax and focus on your wolf, okay?”
“Okay.” I closed my eyes and my wolf paused in her pacing to give me an arch look. She tried to walk forward but was held back by some unseen force. She tossed her head and walked away, putting some distance between us. I assumed she intended to try and rush me again.
The head of Jackson’s cock bumped against my wet entrance, and, with gentle pressure, he won his way inside. It pinched, but mostly I felt primal satisfaction at being taken, as if I had finally fulfilled some ancient purpose.
It took some time for me to feel pleasure with his thrusts though. It happened in phases. First I had to accustom myself to being stretched  in both width and length. The tearing of my maidenhead was a sharp pain that made me gasp. He paused at that moment and leaned down on his elbows, his abs of iron on top of my soft stomach, to suck a nipple while pinching the other between his fingers. Only when I was fully distracted by all the sensations in my breasts did he resume pumping his hips.
Sitting up, he reached for the sweet nub between my legs and stroked it in time with his thrusts. A throbbing heat rose up and overtook any discomfort. I pushed my hips up to meet him on the down stroke. I wanted him to fill me up, to never leave me empty.
Jackson groaned. “That’s it, baby. Take all of me.”
He increased his pace and I moaned. Every time he sank himself into me there was a little starburst of ecstasy. My wolf  began to run, a black speck in the horizon of my mind’s eye. At the same time, the spiral that would carry me up to an orgasm tightened.
“Let’s go deeper.” Jackson lifted up my legs, placing them on his shoulder. My eyes opened wide for a second at the change in sensation. He was deeper, longer than before and hitting new nerves that quivered with delicious pleasure.
Once again my hands twisted in the sheets. My back arched up and my wolf seemed to run at light speed. My heart roared in my ears and the smell of sex mixed with fur filled my nose.
The orgasm exploded. All my muscles flexed, first contracting short and then fluttering in release. I howled, attempting to relieve some of the pent up pleasure before it blew me apart. My wolf had a fierce look of determination on her face as she jumped at me one more time.
I screamed. My body was too long and too tight. Bones shattered under the strain and grew back in a new formation. Sharp pin pricks pushed through my skin while the muscles underneath melted. I wanted to open to my eyes, but lacked the autonomy to do so. I was at the mercy of an outside force I couldn’t control.
For however long it went on in a mind shattering mix of pain and ecstasy. In the distance, I heard Jackson’s voice. “Just go with it, baby. Let it happen.”
The sensations were too overwhelming for me to even try to formulate a response. My flesh ripped open like ripe fruit and grew into a new unfathomable shape, expanding and contracting in time with my thundering heart beat. When it finished, I was an exhausted heap on the bed. I slept, or maybe passed out, I couldn’t say for sure.
When I could finally open my eyes, morning sunlight poured through the window in a yellow haze. I lay still and blinked until the blurriness at the edges of my vision sharpened into recognizable details; the stacks of boxes looming to the side, the rose pattern on my bedspread and the little dots of dust dancing in the sunlight.
I sucked in a long drag of air, filling my lungs. The room smelled like sex. Heavy, hot sex. I sniffed, enjoying the aroma. Jackson woke at the sound, jerking into full consciousness mid snore.
A slow smile spread across his face. “You’re up.”
I tried to talk, but my voice wouldn’t cooperate.
“You did it,” he said, patting my head.
Did what, I wanted to ask, but all that came out were some strangled high pitched sounds.
He pointed at me. “Look at yourself.”
I looked down and saw a dainty paw. Looking behind me, my gaze caught the side of my flank and the tail beyond.
My wolf had come.
I yipped with excitement. Springing to my feet, I turned in a circle, so excited I tripped myself and fell off the bed. I landed with a yelp, but quickly bounced back up, too happy to be embarrassed.
Jackson stood up and stretched. I watched him with rapt attention. He was sinfully beautiful. The sweet spot deep in my core spasmed at the memory of the night before. I would be sad when he finished with me and moved on to this next conquest.
“You ready for your first hunt?” He walked out of the bedroom and I followed after him my ears up. Unable to form human words with my new mouth, I yowled the wolf version of yes.
He opened the front door and motioned for me to go through. Once I was outside, he stepped onto the front porch, still naked, and shut the door after him.
“Let’s go,”  he said. In a blink, he changed. Jackson’s wolf shook his large frame, rearranging his dark sable fur. He had enormous paws that were almost as big as his human hands.
With a clipped bark he ran for the woods. I loped after him, my head swimming with all sorts of novel sensations. The earth tickled my feet and so many new smells assailed me that I had a hard time focusing my attention.
We raced through the woods, the wind streaming over my nose, filling it with more scents than I could count. Together, we flushed out a rabbit, chasing it from the brush and  crowding it into a corner. I bit through its tiny neck to make the kill. Warm blood filled my mouth along with the taste of raw meat and fur. In my wolf form I had no remorse, only hunger and the satisfaction it craved.
In a small clearing, next to a creek we resumed our human forms. I set the rabbit aside and joined Jackson where he lounged under a tree. The sun was warm, but the air had a tinge of autumn coolness, which felt good on my overheated skin.
“Oh, that was glorious.” A wide smile played on my lips as I took in the view around us. The auburn and gold leaves formed a canopy overhead with the bright blue sky beyond. The day was a panorama of seasonal perfection.
“Yeah, there’s nothing like the first change and the first kill.” Jackson put his arm around me and pulled me close.
I rested my head on his shoulder, intoxicated by his scent; a mix of earth and alpha musk. “I never thought this would happen to me. I’ve been a null so long.”
“And now you’re a wolf. You’re pack.” He squeezed me tight against him.
Sudden tears filled my eyes. I’m pack. Me. I’d lived my life on the outside looking in. Never belonging. Tolerated, but never wanted. That was all going to change. I sniffed and laughed. “Some notch in your belt, huh?” The idea of Pack Master Gigolo didn’t sound so bad anymore. It was certainly the best thing that had ever happened to me.
He went still, his body tensing up along mine. “You were never a notch, Chloe.”
I rolled my eyes. I had no illusions about Jackson. He was as sinful as a piece of chocolate and just as short lived. He’d never stuck with any girl long. A night or a week at most and then on to the next conquest. “It’s okay, Jackson. I don’t expect you to play house.”
He frowned. “Are you really that dense?”
My mouth dropped open. “Are you calling me stupid?”
“If the shoe fits.” He gave an irritated growl.
I stood and made to stomp off, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back. He yanked me hard enough that I fell into his lap. Grabbing my hair he held me in place for a searing kiss. Angry, I snapped at him with my teeth, which he deftly evaded before claiming my mouth with his tongue.
“Why do you think I went home?” He asked after a particularly brutal kiss that left my lips swollen and bruised.
“I thought it was maybe because you’d already fucked your way through Huntsville and were bored,” I said, snarling.
His grip tightened on my hair, burning my scalp with the tension of it. His other hand went to grab my pussy and he tugged on the hair there until I yelped. “You’re mine. You were always mine and I wasn’t going to let you go without a fight.”
“I’m not yours, Jackson,” I said, unsure of the truth of my words. I sure as hell felt like I belonged to him, but I would bet all the other girls had had similar feelings. I would be damned if I was going to let Jackson turn me into a simpering fool.
“Like hell you’re not.”
“Are you saying you want to mate me?” The idea was stunning. That meant more than a one night stand, it was marriage. And with him slotted to succeed Cal, I was going to be first lady of the Huntsville pack. Talk about going from zero to hero.
“Yes.”  His knee nudged my legs open and his cock rose up to bump my stomach. “It was always you from day one. Those other girls--” He paused as he centered his cock at the entrance of my wet passage. “Were me trying to make Cal happy and being dumb enough to think I could forget you.”
I moaned as he penetrated me, filling me with slow thrusts. Despite the pleasure between my legs, I was still angry at him and launched a fist toward his face.
Just like the last time I’d tried to punch him, he caught my hand and pinned it over my head. I made a jab with my other hand, but he captured that one too and restrained me against the ground.
“Your pack believes you can choose your mate, but my pack believes different.” He rammed into me as he spoke and I grunted, staring up at him. His jaw was clenched in determination and his eyes gleamed more yellow than brown. His wolf ran close under his skin, riled and ready to break through.
 “How does your pack do it? With a harem?” I couldn’t keep myself from taunting him. My wolf was just as riled, her hair pricked me from the inside, ready to burst through my skin. “Will I have sister wives?”
He glared at me and pounded his length into my core, an action that was driven by both anger and pleasure. “We believe mates are destined.”
My hips spun in restless circles as my body responded even while my mind fumed, wanting to duke it out with him.
“The second I smelled you, Chloe I knew it was you.” As if to prove his point, he ran his nose over my skin inhaling deeply. “You smelled like wolf. Like home.”
For a second, his grip on me weakened and I roared up, pushing him back and down under me. We were still joined at the pelvis and I pumped along his hard shaft, gasping when my clit hit his pubic bone. The coil inside me tightened with a quiver.
Jackson’s hands battled with mine as he fought to regain his position. I managed to evade his grip for several minutes, but he was faster and caught me. He pulled out of me and spun me around on my knees so my back was to him. Pushing me down to the ground he entered me from behind. I gasped as he took me. His strong and rough thrusts split me open.
The cold earth scraped my shoulders, belly and breasts, scrubbing my nipples with a mix of pleasure and pain. Jackson pinned my arms behind my back, applying pressure to my wrists as if they were reins and I was a horse to be ridden. My body rocked with the force of his thrusts and the coil in my belly flexed, almost ready to burst.
I pushed my hips back, slamming him just as hard as he slammed me. At one point I reared up like a cobra, seeking to head butt him with the back of my skull. He simply wrapped one arm around my throat in a chokehold, pinning me against him, his cock still plunging in and out of my wet passage.
“You are mine.” He leaned down and bit the top of my shoulder. This was no gentle love bite, it was an attempt to mark me, to claim me as his. The moment his teeth drew blood, I came with a howl, my insides spasming as pleasure pythoned its way through me. My body traced the outline of his cock, gripping him tight until he howled his own climax.
Even after our release, we stayed locked together. He held my hands pressed into the small of my back while also maintaining his hold at my throat. When I swallowed, I could feel his arm on my neck. If he squeezed  just a little harder,  he would cut off my oxygen. Our breathing was labored and we both sucked in air with ragged gasps as if we’d just run a marathon.
Behind my eyelids, my wolf watched me with quiet interest. I couldn’t tell if she approved of  what had just happened or not. I mentally shrugged at her and she looked away, breaking eye contact. At first I thought she was shunning me, but then I realized something in the distance had caught her attention. A dark speck zoomed toward us and when it came closer I gasped.
The speck in my mind raced straight for me. It was a wolf. A sable wolf with paw’s the size of a man’s hands. Jackson’s wolf. In my freaking head. Holy werewolf shit.
“Do you see it?” he asked me.
I nodded. “Yes. What does it mean?” How had I gone from no wolves to two dancing in my head in the span of a day?
“We belong to each other.” There was a note of satisfaction in his voice. “I can see your wolf now too.”
“Is this how werewolves do it? Through mind melding?”
“I don’t know. This is how it works in my pack, but you Hunstville wolves are different I think.” The pressure on my wrists eased. “If I let you go, will you stop trying to beat me up?”
His wolf smirked at me as if daring me to try. My wolf growled at him in warning. I watched as he tried to look innocent and failed, much like a bad dog caught in the act. “I guess so.”
Jackson released me and I stood, stretching out the kinks of our love making and fight match. He looked me over with an appreciative gleam in his eyes. “You’re so beautiful, Chloe.”
I rolled my eyes. Sweet talking would get him nowhere with me. “What now? I changed. We’re in each other’s brains. Anything else on the werewolf agenda?”
“We go to Cal and give him your first kill. From there, we see what happens. No rush.” His words were measured, careful. His eyes were tracking me again, like I was prey and he was trying to predict which way I would bolt.
I took a deep breath. The ache of our lovemaking throbbed between my legs. So much had happened, it made me dizzy to think of it all. “I like the idea of going at a snail’s pace.” I definitely needed some time to adjust and get my head screwed on straight. Maybe he was ready for happily-ever-after, but I had some catching up to do.
He gave a curt nod. “Get your kill.”
I grabbed the rabbit by the ears and we walked through the forest toward Cal’s cabin. In one night, my life had forever changed. My wolf had come and given me a future I thought was lost.
Cal was sitting on the front porch of his wood cabin enjoying a morning smoke. At our appearance, he jumped up, cigar dangling out of his slack-with-shock mouth. He tracked me with wide eyes as I walked across his front yard naked, streaked with dirt and a dead rabbit dangling from my hand. “Chloe?”
I dropped the rabbit at his feet and kneeled. “I claim my place in the pack.” The deep meaning of the words weighed heavy on my tongue as I spoke them.
Cal held out his hand and pulled me to my feet when I took it. “Welcome, daughter of Huntsville.” He gave me a big hug, enveloping me in a cloud of cigar smoke. “I’d given up hope.”
“You and me both,” I said, his shoulder muffling my voice.
“What happened?”
I stepped back, breaking our embrace and nodded back toward Jackson. “He did.”
Jackson cleared his throat and shifted on his feet as our attention fell on him.
Cal’s eyes narrowed as his whole body bristled. “I told you to give her a wide berth.” There was a long pause as the two men stared each other down, neither giving ground. Then, Cal gave a big smile and relaxed. “This is one time I’m glad to be disobeyed.” He held out his hand. “You did good.”
They shook hands.  Cal looked happy, but Jackson’s expression was tight. “There’s something you should know, Cal.”
The Huntsville pack alpha raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“She’s my mate.” Jackson shifted his body weight imperceptibly back to increase the distance between him and the alpha.
Cal laughed and clapped his hands. “I did not see that coming.”
I smiled. “Me either.”
Jackson looked at us, his expression incredulous. “Was I the only one who knew? Neither of you could see it?”
I shook my head and Cal said, “Nope.”  I closed my eyes for a second to commune with my wolf. She and Jackson’s alter ego were sleeping in a jumbled ball of fur. I couldn’t tell where he started and where she ended, but, from the location of her head, she was underneath him. I snorted. How very alpha of him. But they looked cozy and content and I felt the same way.
I opened my eyes. “So how many wolves mate the same day they change?”
Cal shrugged. “It’s never happened that I know of.”
I went over to Jackson and head butted his shoulder affectionately. “I guess we made pack history.”
He put his arm around me and squeezed as he kissed the top of my head. “I always knew we would make something.”
“Welcome to the pack, Chloe and congratulations on mating with the pack second.” Cal began to take off his clothes. “How about a race to the pack clearing?”
Before he’d even finished speaking, Jackson and I had changed. The second Cal assumed the burly shape of his gray wolf, we ran, air streaming over our noses, the earth soft under our feet.
I was home. I was free. I was a null no more.
-The End-
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About the Author
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author Michelle Fox lives in the Midwest with her husband, kids, the occasional exchange student and a black lab who steals like a kleptomaniac. She loves fantasy and romance, which makes writing paranormal romance a natural fit. Occasionally, she goes through a maverick phase and writes contemporary romance. In her spare time, she's been known to shake her bon-bon at Zumba, make spectacular cheesecakes, hoard vintage costume jewelry and eat way too much ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra for the win!).