Lupine Valentine by Jasmine Aherne
erotic, holiday paranormal shifter romance novella
Cover Art by Winterheart Designs
Release Date: 02/07/2013
Julia’s always thought of herself as slightly odd, preferring museums to the outside world. Her dream job as a curator gets her close to the artefacts, and she begins to feel that one in particular might be made just for her…
Fae wolf shifter Ayden has chosen Julia carefully, but despite her open mind, he’s going to need to convince her that he’s the real deal, and that if she wants him to be, he could be her valentine for life.
The first day of Julia’s new appointment was over – and she was so pooped she could barely stand. She’d had an intensive crash course in all things Mammals at the Museum, in addition to meeting about a thousand and one new faces. She had already considered asking everyone to wear sticky label name badges for at least the next few years. Okay, she’d settle for a few days.
The public had left and night staff, as well as a few staff working late and a few hangers on, populated the Museum’s galleries and network of underground storage rooms and offices. Julia idly fiddled with the shiny, new plastic STAFF badge that hung around her neck on a museum-branded lanyard as she wandered the Mammals exhibit. The corridor of glasses houses stretched out along each wall, the dark blue carpet ribboning along at her feet, a well-trodden river of learning.
I work here now. I can come here as often as I want.The realisation thrilled her to the bone, and she had to hold in an excited gasp of happiness.
The silence seemed to bound off the walls. So unused to not hearing the clatter, footfall and chatter of the public, as she had on each and every childhood visit, Julia listened to the sound of her low-heeled boots clicking on the parts of the floor that were uncarpeted. She looked into the eyes of the lions, tigers and arctic foxes, and pressed her fingers to the glass, imagining them in the wild, leaping, bounding, roaring.
As she headed towards the long, tall wooden display of bird skeletons, something caught her eyes. A flash of grey, and a sound, not unlike a low growl.
The hair stood up on the back of Julia’s neck, but not with fear. With a sort of anticipation, a kind of delicious, desired excitement. This was what she had wanted for years, to be alone in the Museum, to hear its whispered sweet nothings after hours, to see what the public didn’t see. To hear what they could never hear.
She turned and found herself facing a single display, elevated slightly higher than those at ground level, as if the beast inside was proclaiming: look at me.
And how she wanted to look her fill.
Stood on its hind legs, Julia imagined that the wolf would easily top her meagre five foot three in height. Its thick fur glinted moonglow silver behind the glass, and as she shifted around the case for a better view, she would swear blind that its darkly golden eyes followed her. They didn’t look as glassy as they should.
Impossible.But then why did the hair-raising, toe-curling feeling zipping through her body intensify?
She leaned forward and pressed her face to the glass, her eyes roaming freely, studying every detail of the wolf, from the claws extended from its huge paws to the sharp teeth that cast a shadow on the flocked wall behind it. Even in death, stuffed, it seem to exude prominence, and a deep commanding nature that made her understand what it must have been like to face one of these beasts in a woodland, unarmed.
Terrifying, humbling – but the thought stirred something within her that made her feel very strange indeed.
She stepped back from the case, a million questions galloping through her head. “Maybe the other kids at school were right. Maybe I am weird.”
“Children can be very cruel.”
Julia jerked around to see her colleague, one of the other curators, Miles Ingram, smiling politely at her. “Sorry… I didn’t realise you were here.”
He adjusted his black-framed glasses. “Or you wouldn’t have been talking to yourself?”
She nodded awkwardly.
Miles chuckled and his smile now exuded warmth. “Don’t worry. I sometimes think that to work in a Museum, to spend hours alone with inanimate objects, you must talk to yourself or else go mad with lack of human contact.”
Julia chuckled softly with him, and she definitely felt less weird after that. But hours after, home in her bed, staring at the patterns the headlights of passing cars made on her ceiling, she couldn’t help but feel that not everything in the exhibit had been inanimate, at least, not to her eyes.