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Authors: Deborah Leblanc

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The Wolven

BOOK: The Wolven
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She drove him mad with desire, and he had to struggle to resist it

Even if Shauna was interested in him, nothing could ever come of it.

She was human.

He was a wolven, and an alpha at that. That was a vast chasm to overcome. Danyon knew that those differences would never allow her to fully understand the depth of his true nature, even if she was his Keeper.

Still holding on to her arms, he suddenly became aware of the feel of her skin beneath his palms. Soft…silky…warm. Very warm.

Danyon felt his pulse quicken and his nostrils flare.

At that moment, he should have felt guilty. Two of his werewolves were dead. He’d just wiped their blood from his hands.

But Danyon felt no guilt.

There was no room for it. At that moment, every one of his senses was on high alert. Each excruciatingly aware of
her.

And it left him ravenous.

Books by Deborah LeBlanc

Harlequin Nocturne

The Wolven
#101

DEBORAH L
E
BLANC

Award-winning and bestselling author Deborah LeBlanc is a business owner, a licensed death-scene investigator and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. She’s the president of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest chapter and the Writers’ Guild of Acadiana. Deborah is also the creator of the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual national campaign designed to encourage more people to read, and Literacy, Inc., a nonprofit organization with a mission to fight illiteracy in America’s teens. For more information go to www.deborahleblanc.com and www.literacyinc.com.

DEBORAH L
E
BLANC
THE WOLVEN

Dear Reader,

Of all the books I’ve written over the years, this one had to be the most fun and adventurous. I had a blast diving into the world of vamps, shifters and werewolves, a world where anything and everything is possible—including great sex! That the story took place in New Orleans, a city whose heartbeat is part of my own, was a lagniappe, a gift, of the highest order. The crème de la crème of the entire project, however, was working with Heather Graham and Alexandra Sokoloff. Both are brilliant, hardworking and funny ladies. It’s impossible not to have fun writing with those two. I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them.

And I’m grateful to you, dear reader, and honored that you chose to spend a little time with me here. Life is short and minutes are precious. The fact that you shared a few with me does not go unnoticed. And I’m equally honored that you chose this book over the thousands available to you. Because of you, I’m able to continue a tradition I’ve loved for a lifetime—storytelling. Thank you for that gift.

Best,

Deborah

For Dad—I miss you terribly.

Chapter 1

A
thin pink line across light brown flesh.

She’d cut herself…again.

Shauna MacDonald looked up from the palm she’d been reading and into the wide, bright eyes of its owner, Lurnell Franklin. Lurnell was a large Creole woman in her mid-thirties with an affinity for spandex and a rock-solid determination to be married before she hit forty. She visited A Little Bit of Magic, the mystic shop Shauna owned with her sisters, Fiona and Caitlin, at least twice a week for a palm reading. For some reason Shauna still didn’t understand, Lurnell had zeroed in on her. Fiona was very gifted at reading tea leaves, and Caitlin was exceptionally intuitive when it came to Tarot cards, but Lurnell would have nothing to do with either of them. She always sought out Shauna for a reading, then would
argue adamantly that the marriage line, which didn’t exist on the side of her palm, just below the pinky of her right hand, was certain to appear any day. Even if she had to produce it herself.

“Didn’t I tell you?” Lurnell said, tapping a three-inch, hot-pink fingernail on the reading table. “It’s like I been sayin’, right? I know you was thinkin’ I was crazy, but this big girl here, she knows what she’s talkin’ about. You feelin’ me? You hearin’ what I’m sayin’?”

Shauna eyed her.

Lurnell waggled her head. “Oh, uh-uh. Don’t you be givin’ me eyes.” She kissed the palm of her left hand and held it up. “Look here. I swear, hand to God. All I did was wake up this mornin’, and there that line was, all pretty and pink.”

Shauna took hold of Lurnell’s right hand and turned it pinky side up. “That’s a cut, and you know it. And you know it because you put it there. You can’t
make
a marriage line, Lurnell. It’s either there or it’s not.”

Lurnell cocked her head, narrowed her eyes. “You sayin’ I’m lyin’ about it being for real?”

“Yep.”

Shauna let go of Lurnell’s hand, sat back and folded her arms across her chest.

Lurnell mimicked the pose. “And what makes you so sure, Ms. Big Drawers? You don’t have no second sight. You just a reader, and look at you actin’ like you all that, tellin’ me I’m lyin’.”

“Because you are. Just like you did the last two times you tried pulling this stunt. Look, just because you don’t
have a marriage line doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Time changes things, and palms change with it, so if you’ve gotta cut something, cut yourself some slack, will you? If you keep cutting your hand like that, you’re going to wind up with a bad infection.”

Lurnell tsked loudly and unfolded her arms. “Who taught you palm readin’ anyways, girl? You don’t know nothin’.”

Shauna grinned. She couldn’t help it. Lurnell always brought the same banter to the table, and she enjoyed swatting it back. “Well, if I don’t know anything, how come you keep asking me for a reading?”

Pursing her lips, Lurnell turned sideways in her chair. Shauna knew from experience that this was her way of regrouping, thinking of a good comeback. Normally she would have pounced on the opportunity and thrown out a one-liner just to fluster Lurnell, but a sudden uneasiness settled over her.

An intuitive whisper.

She sat silent, keeping her facial expression neutral while she listened for her inner voice, waiting for it to identify the source of the unrest.

The only thing that came to her was the scent of cinnamon wafting through the air.

King cake.

Her oldest sister, Fiona, was a firm believer in lagniappe, giving their customers a little extra treat with their purchases. It was usually something to eat, like pastry samples, homemade cookies, or pralines. With Mardi Gras
only three weeks away, it didn’t surprise her that Fiona had chosen to share the holiday’s traditional cake.

Evidently catching wind of the scent, as well, Lurnell jumped to her feet before Shauna had a chance to push away from the reading table. “Whoa, that be smellin’ good. It’s okay if I go get some, right?”

“Of course.” Shauna got up, and the uneasiness rose with her. Since she couldn’t find a rationale for it, she mentally pushed the feeling aside. Whatever was meant to be revealed by the intuitive whisper would come in due course, that much she knew. She simply had to wait it out.

Lurnell patted her stomach, her eyes sparkling with delight. “Girl, I do love king cake. Hey, you got some of that lemon drink? You know, like the kind y’all had last week?”

“You mean lemon-snap tea?”

“Yeah, there you go.” Lurnell slapped her hands together. “I think I’m gonna have some of that, too. That’d be good with king, right?”

“We’re out of the lemon-snap, but I can hook you up with a cup of green tea if you’d like.”

Lurnell frowned. “Ain’t green tea the one’s got all them anti-oxidations in it? You know, that stuff that cleans out all your potty pipes.”

“Yep, it has antioxidants, but that’s a good thing. Keeps you healthy.” Shauna grinned. “Don’t worry about your pipes.”

“Girl, you bes’ be right.” Lurnell flapped a hand, signaling Shauna to lead the way out of the room and be
quick about it. She evidently feared a rush on the king cake and didn’t want to miss out. “You know there ain’t nobody in Sistah’s but me. What I’m gonna do if a customer needs somethin’? I can’t just s’cuse myself and go to the commode, not with the crazy people they got today. Uh-uh. I’d be back in the bathroom and they’d be out front, helpin’ themselves to all my stuff, robbin’ me blind.”

Lurnell was the sole proprietor of Sistah’s, a mystic shop located on the corner of St. Ann and Rampart, which bordered the north end of the French Quarter. Like most of the tourist shops in the Quarter, it was tightly sandwiched between other shops that sold various baubles, beads, and T-shirts. Sistah’s carried similar items to those in A Little Bit of Magic—crystals, scented candles, herbs, and oils—but it served a different clientele, primarily those who dabbled in voodoo. Although Lurnell didn’t claim to practice voodoo, her specialty items easily led people to believe otherwise. Seven-day spell candles that promised to reverse a curse, remove a hex, or bring wealth and love in abundance. And incense oils that supposedly cured everything from toothaches to temper tantrums, headaches to hemorrhoids. The shop did relatively well considering the neighborhood that surrounded it and the fact that a major competitor—Papa Gris Gris’ Voodoo Shop—was located only three doors down. It was no secret that Lurnell and Papa Gris Gris didn’t play well together. In fact, they’d been enemies for years.

Shauna led Lurnell into the heart of the store, where
she spotted Fiona placing slices of king cake onto a platter near the register. Caitlin was at the opposite end of the shop, talking to an elderly woman who had an exceptionally long, hooked nose. Quite a few customers were wandering about, each stopping occasionally to examine a wall display, an item on a shelf, or something showcased in a curio cabinet.

Business had been brisk all day, which came as no surprise, given that Mardi Gras was just around the corner. The parades and balls weren’t scheduled to start for another two weeks, but that didn’t matter to the diehard partiers who made their annual pilgrimage to New Orleans. Most of them came early so they wouldn’t miss one of the main local events known as Nuit du Dommage. Literally translated, it meant Night of Damage, and the parties associated with it certainly lived up to its name. It was a pre-Mardi Gras free-for-all, and it was only three days away.

Dommage and Mardi Gras were always great for business, but both drove Shauna crazy. The streets and sidewalks stayed jammed with so many people it was hard to walk and breathe at the same time. Even worse was the noise. Drunken voices shouting, singing, laughing, talking, and all of them tumbling over hawking, squawking strip-joint barkers and a melange of blaring music—jazz, blues, rock ’n’ roll—that poured out of the bars in the Quarter. Because Shauna’s hearing was so acute, all that noise at such a high volume pained her considerably. It felt like an endless number of needles jabbing into her eardrums.

Still carrying a sense of uneasiness, Shauna mingled with a few customers, making herself available in case anyone needed help.

Lurnell had already shoved her way to the front counter and was hovering over the platter of cake. Fiona stood not far away, ringing up another customer at the register. Lurnell must have viewed Fiona’s preoccupation as a grand opportunity because she slipped two pieces of king cake into her oversized purse. She was reaching for a third when Shauna saw Fiona turn toward her. Judging from the small smile dancing on her sister’s lips, Fiona had not been oblivious to the heist. Still, she smiled more broadly, walked over to Lurnell and offered her another piece of cake. Always the gracious hostess.

Not for the first time, Shauna wished she was more like her sister.

Being the caboose on a train of three sisters wasn’t always easy. More often than not, Shauna felt like the odd woman out. Fiona was tall and slender, with long, thick hair the color of gold, her eyes a perfect cornflower blue. Caitlin had the same slender build but stood five-nine, a bit taller than Fiona. Her long hair was a darker shade of blonde, which matched beautifully with her magnificent silver-gray eyes. At five-eight, Shauna had height, like her sisters. She also had the same build. Her hair, which she kept pulled up in a ponytail most of the time, was more auburn than blonde, however, and she thought her eyes were a boring shade of green.

To Shauna, Fiona and Caitlin were the epitome of femininity. The way they walked, talked. Even their
closets held proof of it. Both were filled with silky dresses, pastel skirts, and elegant blouses. Shauna’s, on the other hand, held mostly jeans and T-shirts. She did own a couple of skirts, but she kept them tucked away for dress-up emergencies.

Besides height and build, Shauna shared another similarity with her sisters. She was a Keeper, responsible for maintaining harmony and balance between the humans and the three main underworld subcultures—vampires, shape-shifters, and werewolves—that lived in and around the city. Shauna watched over the werewolves, Fiona the vampires, and Caitlin the shape-shifters.

Their parents, Jen and Ewan MacDonald, had been unique Keepers, each born with the power to maintain all three subcultures. When they combined their powers, it had created a seemingly indestructible wall of protection around the city.

Or so Shauna had thought.

She had been fifteen when they died. A savage war had broken out between the subcultures, and the power her parents had to call upon to block the warring parties had cost them their lives. No Keeper, no matter how strong, could release that much power and survive. That had been ten years ago.

Shauna and her sisters didn’t possess tri-power the way their parents had. Instead, each of them possessed the power of the clan they were responsible for. Shauna couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have all three. The weight of responsibility associated with that much power must have been monstrous. Although she was still
young and learning, always learning how to be a better Keeper, the load she carried felt heavy enough.

“Hey, you okay?”

Shauna started, surprised to hear Caitlin’s voice behind her. She turned, offered her sister a small smile. “Yeah, fine.”

Caitlin studied her face for a moment, as if assessing the truth of the response. “You were pretty zoned out there for a while.”

“Daydreaming, that’s all.”

Before Caitlin had a chance to respond, a heavyset man wearing Bermuda shorts appeared seemingly out of nowhere and pushed his way into her personal space. “Are you her?”

“Excuse me?” Caitlin said.

“Are you the one who reads Tarot cards? The lady working the register over there said her sister, Caitlin, read cards, then she pointed this way. I wasn’t sure which one of you she meant, though.”

“She meant me,” Caitlin said, then directed him to the reading room. “If you’ll wait for me in there, I’ll only be a minute.” She waited until the man waddled away, then turned to Shauna. “See the couple standing over by the herbs?”

Shauna glanced in that direction, saw a young man and woman, both with spiked, multi-colored hair. They swayed slightly on their feet as they pointed to different bags of herbs and giggled. “They look wasted.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. They were asking for help a minute ago. Tend to them while I do that guy’s reading,
will you?” With that, Caitlin headed for the reading room before Shauna could protest.

Shauna let out a heavy sigh. She had a sneaking suspicion that the help the couple wanted wouldn’t involve questions about the healing properties of certain herbs. More than likely they would want to know if the store carried pulverized bats’ wings or hogs’ hooves, or some other nonsensical item that someone had told them they needed to cast a certain spell. Normally, no matter how spaced out they were, Shauna would have taken the time to give them the 411 on herbs and try steering them away from the stupid cliff. But she wasn’t up for it today.

The unrest that had swooped down on her earlier was turning into a case of the jitters. She felt agitated, on edge. Maybe it had something to do with the mingling energies from all the people in the store. All those energies swirling right alongside her intuitive whisper might have tilted her off-center. Whatever the case, she was in no shape to steer anyone in any direction right now. If the couple wanted bat wings, she would simply send them to Sistah’s. Lurnell would be more than happy to sell the couple a half ounce of ground up seaweed or Spanish Moss, all the while swearing it was pulverized bats’ wings that had been harvested back in the eighteenth century in Transylvania.

As Shauna headed toward the couple she tried tuning into the center of her mind, to the only truly quiet place she knew. She had discovered that place as a child, when her keen sense of hearing wound up collecting too much data from too many directions and over-stimulated her.
Fiona had been the one to teach her how to find that special place. How to close her eyes and focus on the small dot of light that always appeared behind her eyelids. Her sister had told her that the light was her center, and that if she concentrated hard enough, that light would always lead her back to a balanced, peaceful place.

BOOK: The Wolven
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