Merry Mate (Red Velvet Christmas)
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Copyright ©2013 B.J. McCall
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"If our luck doesn't change by Christmas, we return the doll and the hat." Nan looked at the shopkeeper. "For a full refund?"
"Full refund," Mystery said.
Thinking this was the most foolish thing she and Nan had done since they'd decided to cut and color one another's hair after drinking a pitcher of margaritas, Sierra pulled out her credit card.
Nan snatched it out of her hand and gave it to the shopkeeper. "Ring us up."
Mystery processed the sales and handed over their purchases. "Have a wonderful holiday." Then she looked at Sierra. "Merry mate."
Packages in hand, Sierra and Nan left the shop.
"What is she?" Sierra asked.
"Mystery? Not your run of the mill human," Nan said. "There's something about her I can't quite put my finger on."
Nan giggled. "Do you think she's a witch?"
"Could be, but she may be a seer and sees the future."
"Do you think it will work, the doll and the hat?"
Sierra glared at Nan. "Now you have doubts? Our credit cards just got dinged for five hundred bucks. Each!"
A slow smile curved Nan's lips. "We'll know soon. Christmas is only a week away."
"Yeah, seven whole days to find my merry mate. I can't believe I bought into that."
"Maybe seven's your lucky number."
"To go with my lucky hat."
Nan laughed and hooked her arm in Sierra's. "I'm starving. Let's find a place for lunch, have a glass of wine and make a plan."
"The hat is a perfect fit for your mate, right? All we have to do is find him."
"How? Should I send an email to every unattached were inviting them to a hat-sizing party?"
Nan's stopped in her tracks. "The cookout. It's tomorrow. Everyone will be there. It's perfect."
The residents of Elk Mountain, both human and werewolves, gathered annually around the lake for an outdoor cookout to celebrate Christmas. The party began at noon and often lasted well into the evening. Ice-skating, snowball fights and sled races added to the festivities.
"Perfect. I'll ask every attractive male I meet if he's single and then I'll stick the Santa hat on his head. How's that for a plan?"
"If I were you I'd start with our new neighbor."
Sierra knew Nan was referring to Banning Hayes. A year ago he'd inherited a rundown ranch that bordered the pack's land. The elders had made an offer for the land. Banning had refused to sell, but allowed the werewolves access to the trails crisscrossing his land. Sierra made frequent use of those trails. The man was serious eye candy.
"I'm supposed to be looking for a merry mate. Banning is human."
"A very sexy, human cowboy."
Banning was a hunk with thick dark hair and sexy blue eyes.
"Does Stavan know you check out other men?"
"I tell him I'm checking them out for you."
"And he buys that?"
"He thinks I'm perfect."
"He hasn't known you as long as I have."
Sierra followed her friend into a cafe. They ordered soup, salad and white wine.
Nan grinned. "So when did Mr. Hayes become Banning?"
"I've run into him a few times. I like the trail that crosses his grazing meadow. He was checking on his cattle. He's nice."
"And a real hunk."
Sierra didn't want to go there. She was far more attracted to Banning than she wanted to admit. He slipped into her thoughts too often to ignore and entered her midnight fantasies as well. She'd spent far too many hours thinking about him.
The werewolves and residents of Elk Mountain lived in harmony. This peaceful co-existence was due to an agreement made decades ago concerning land rights and social rules, preventing wolves and humans from entering into relationships. Breaking that rule would upset both camps.
Problem was Sierra hadn't met a wolf she wanted enough to settle down with and the only male that made her sizzle was Banning.
"I know that dreamy look. You like him."
Sierra picked up her wine glass. "He's human."
"What if he wasn't?"
Sierra grinned. "I'd be all over him."
But dating Banning was a fantasy. The pack elders would never approve. The last wolf that had hooked up with a human had almost caused a war. That was decades ago, but wolves have long memories.
"Back to the problem at hand," Sierra said. "How do I find my merry mate?"