Friday, June 21, 2019

Books for Writers: The Emotion Thesaurus, Second Edition

Books for Writers: The Emotion Thesaurus, Second Edition

Did you ever read the Hardy Boys series or the Nancy Drew series

As a kid, I think I read every one of them. I know I read all I had access to. They were my favorite books at one point in my life. I recommend these books to any young person who loves to read. Or those you wish would develop a love of reading.

At the time, I didn't have a problem with the following dialog indicators:

  • He/She blared
  • He/She demanded
  • He/She screamed
  • He/She chortled
  • He/She laughed
  • He/She snickered
  • He/She cried
  • He/She twittered
  • He/She giggled
  • He/She boasted

There were more, too. While it is true that some of these are perfectly fine, such as 'she screamed' or 'she cried,' many of the others are simply not possible.

You try laughing and talking at the same time. It's almost an impossibility. For that reason, it makes more sense to use a period than a comma in this sentence: "I can't believe you did that," she laughed.

Instead, this would make more sense:

She laughed, her arms wrapped tight against her chest as if to hold her amusement inside. "I can't believe you did that!"

Some have said using the tags mentioned above is simply laziness. I don't know if that's true. After all, that's what most of us grew up reading. It could be that it's what we've internalized while growing up as readers. However, richer, more intense writing requires more.

Tags can be overused, too. He nodded. He shrugged. These are two of the tags I have to watch out for in my own writing. The more tired I am when writing, the more often these show up. The thesaurus is helpful in coming up with new ways to say the same thing. Instead of 'he bowed his head,' maybe 'he stared at the tip of his boot' or 'he raised one shoulder' would be better.

Dialog Tags

Dialog tags are phrases that intuit a character's action before, during, or after the character speaks. It provides richer, more satisfying prose to the reader and helps the reader know who is talking without the constant use of 'he said' or 'she said.' Even so, the occasional 'he said' or 'she said' tag is useful when it is otherwise difficult to know which character is speaking.

When I first learned to use dialog tags, I used the suggestions in The Romance Writers' Phrase Book to come up with some of my own dialog tags. For an author in the early years of my writing efforts, that book was a fantastic tool. I still recommend it. Unfortunately, it is pretty limited.

I blogged about this book last year. If you're interested, you can find blog entry below Reviews of Writing Books on my Author Helps page.

The Emotion Thesaurus

Then I found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist.

In many ways, this book is more helpful than the Romance Writers' Phrase Book. There are more categories.

The categories for each emotion are broken down into definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term responses (this emotion), may escalate to, cues of suppressed (this emotion), and writer's tips.

Wow! That's pretty comprehensive coverage for each emotion.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, Second Edition (Expanded)

Then, the second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus (Expanded) was published in 2019, with even more emotions listed.

The categories for each emotion are broken down into definition, physical signals and behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, acute or long-term responses for this emotion, signs that this emotion is being suppressed, may escalate to, may de-escalate to, associated power verbs, and writer's tips.

As comprehensive as the coverage for terms was in the first edition, the information provided for each term in the second is even better.

So, how are these used? You could copy and paste whole phrases from the book, but that isn't the best use for this thesaurus. For best practice, read the entire two pages for the emotion you're trying to evoke in your writing, then think about it within the context of your scene.

Which character is feeling the emotion? Which character is the viewpoint character? To stay in POV (point of view), you need to make sure whatever dialog tag you use is one that is directly observable or 'feelable' by the POV character.

For instance, your character can see that someone's face turns red and his or her lips tremble, but unless the POV character is a telepath or empath, he or she cannot know what the other person is thinking or feeling directly.

Does the person's face turn red because she's angry or because she's embarrassed? Are his lips trembling because he's afraid or because passion has overcome him? Your POV character can assume, but not know unless the other character specifically states it.

As the author, you know, or should, how your character will respond to a situation. Read the appropriate thesaurus pages, then visualize your character responding in the scene. Write what you visualize. This makes it your writing, rather than just a copy and paste situation.

My Recommendation

I highly recommend the second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus. However, don't just read the entries for the specific emotion you want to show in your writing. Take the time to read the first chapters in the book, too. These chapters will teach you the importance of showing emotion in your writing. You will learn more about:

  • The Power of Emotion
  • Character Research: What to Know to Write Authentic Emotion
  • Using Dialogue to Write Emotion
  • Subtext: What Lies Beneath
  • Additional Ideas for Brainstorming Fresh Emotion
  • Common Problems with Writing Nonverbal Emotion
  • Using the Emotion Thesaurus

For years, I taught computers and coding. If I were to teach a class on writing fiction, I would require my students to have a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, Second Edition. In my opinion, it's a tool that should be on every writer's shelf. Or even better, sitting next to the keyboard ready for use.

Dialog tags can be fun to write. Check it out. You may be surprised that you find it fun, too.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Large Print Edition Wolf's Man

Large Print Edition: Wolf's Man

Wolf's Man is now available as a large print paperback edition!

The other books in the series will also be offered in large print editions over the next few months, one approximately every two weeks. The text is 16 point type to make reading a more pleasant experience.

The first time I saw a large print section in a library, I was surprised. It never occurred to me at the age of fourteen or fifteen years old that there was a need for it. After thinking about it, though, I realized my grandparents would probably be more comfortable reading large print editions.

Fast forward to the current time. Now, I'm the grandparent. While I can still read 11 or 12 point text, it isn't easy. Especially, if my reading glasses aren't handy. (My arms are just too short!)

With a population that is growing older, there comes a time that most people have trouble reading normal font sizes. At the same time, I and others like me still love to read. For this reason, I've decided to add a large print edition to my paranormal romance/suspense series.

At the same time, I balked at increasing the price. I'm a big woman. It's hard to find shoes wide enough, and I have to shop at specialty stores for clothes. As a woman who also sews, and therefore knows that it doesn't often require more yardage to make a dress for me than for a smaller woman (unless she's really tiny), it infuriates me that I have to pay $5 or $10 more for the same blouse than smaller women. Especially when I know the extra fabric, etc., would have been scrap from making the same item in a smaller size.

There is an entire industry determined to make more on people who don't fit a specific mold, whether it be physical, medical, or other. For instance, the same nebulizer machine that an asthmatic would use for medication can be used to aerate an aquarium. I know this because my dad purchased old nebulizers at yard sales to pump air into an aquarium for fishing minnows. It makes sense to my weird brain, then, that the same pump used for an aquarium (filtered properly) would work as a nebulizer. 

When I mentioned this to my doctor several years ago, he was surprised at the thought, then agreed. You can purchase an aquarium pump for less than $10. If you purchase a nebulizer online, the price starts at $20 and goes up. And if it's a prescription? You better have insurance. Before I was smart enough to search online for the best price, the last prescription nebulizer I purchased was over $400. Just because it's medical and prescription, the price goes way, way up.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. It really irks me to have something go up in price when the cost to create that same item in a slightly larger size or different format/style doesn't go up enough to warrant it. Therefore, I have decided that the large print paperback edition of my books will be the same price as the regular paperback editions.

Thank you to Joanna Penn for her brilliant idea of making large print editions! If you enjoy writing or think you would be interested in trying, Joanna has a great podcast and blog with tons of helpful information!


Friday, June 14, 2019

Wolf's Mate Update

Wolf's Mate: A Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Short Story

Free Through June 18, 2019

For a limited time, my new story, Wolf's Mate, is free on Amazon! If you haven't read this short story placed in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack world, now is your chance to do so without cost.

Made-wolf. Changeling. Shifter.

Whatever she called it, Violet still had trouble accepting that she was a werewolf. All she ever wanted was to be a teacher. Teaching shifter children? Not even on her radar. Until her former fiance tried to kill her and the pack alpha changed her to save her life.

As a former Huntsman and a human, Phillip has been taught to hunt and kill wolf shifters. Now, he's learned shifters aren't the killers he was taught they were. He's surprised to find himself drawn to a wolf shifter, even if she was recently human. But her gorgeous red hair and dark, mysterious eyes pull him to her.

Can Phillip convince her that he's the mate for her?

This story occurs during the first half of book 11 in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, Wolf's Guard.

All of my books are clean and suitable for teens to read as well as adults!

Other News

At this point, I have more than 13,000 words written in book twelve of the series, Wolf's Duty. 

I'm a little behind where I intended to be at this point. I've been sick, requiring antibiotics and rest for a few days, but I'm feeling better. Back to work!


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Work-In-Progess Snip of Wolf's Duty

Progress on Wolf's Duty

As mentioned elsewhere, I am currently writing the final installment of the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, book 12, Wolf's Duty. I've got nearly 9,000 words written so far.

Today, I have a preview snip for my readers, but at this point, I can't tell you which chapter it will be in when the book comes out. 

Seldom do I write a book in the order that the finished book is in. After all but the last two or three chapters are written, I sit down and work out which order to put the chapters. 

Events that have been mentioned in previous books that are not closed with this final book will be dealt with in a series of short stories over the summer.

I look forward to working on the spin-off series I have planned for this world.

Preview of Wolf's Duty

After both Nate and the general gave their reluctant approval, Don glanced at his phone to check the time. Amelie would be off in half an hour. When he offered to pick her up at work, Nate agreed. It still felt strange to Don that everything he did with Amelie had to have Nate’s approval, but since the shifter who was a father-figure to Amelie was also the alpha, Don didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Taking his keys from his pocket, he grabbed the roll bar and pulled himself into his Jeep. After leaving the ranch dirt road, he cruised down the farm-to-market road toward Travis Ranch. Nate recently bought the ranch next door and set up both a school and a hospital for shifters there. He named it for the doctor who agreed to run the hospital. Travis supervised the hands-on training for shifters who wanted to be nurses and medical technicians. Over the previous week, a few, well-vetted humans were hired to work as trainers and hospital staff.
Don pulled into the parking lot at the hospital and texted Amelie to let her know he was there. A few minutes passed before the front pneumatic door slid open and she walked out. With a wave, she waited for him to pull up in the circle drive, then climbed into the Jeep. Don put the Jeep in Park and leaned toward her. “Hey, you.”
“Hey!” She met him half-way.
His lips gently caressed hers for a moment, then he leaned back into his seat. “Buckle up!”
When her belt clinked, he grinned at her, put the Jeep in Drive, and pulled out of the driveway. At the ranch entrance, he turned toward Hallettsville. “I need to talk to you about something. How about a burger?”
“I’d love a burger. Or two. Maybe even three!”
Don laughed. “Rough day?”
Amelie hunched down into her jacket. “Ugh! Dr. Travis insisted we clean everything! All the rooms, including the exam rooms and the surgical center.” She shook her head and huffed. “It hasn’t even been used since the last time we had to clean it.”
With a grin, Don turned back to his driving. The only time his superiors insisted they clean when it wasn’t needed was when there was nothing else planned for the day. “Did you watch a movie, yesterday?”
Her puzzled gaze turned to him. “We did. We watched a documentary on how diseases spread. How did you know?”
“Sounds like Dr. Travis might be a bit overwhelmed and hasn’t finished his lesson plans.”
“You mean we had to clean because he didn’t have anything else for us to do?”
“Happens sometimes. Even in the military.”
She harrumphed and glared out the windshield. “He could just let us go home for the day.”
“And cut your pay? I bet you’d rather clean.”
“I guess so.” Her head bowed, she cut her eyes at him. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
“After we get some food and go to the park, we can talk.”
Fifteen minutes later, Don pulled into the Hallettsville City Park. For January, the temperature was still a little chilly for a picnic, but they both had on light jackets. Carrying a bag of burgers and fries in one hand and his soda in the other, he led Amelie to a table in an empty picnic shelter.
He waited until she unwrapped her first burger and took her first bite before speaking. “So, I’m on leave a few days next week. My folks called to see if I could make it to my mother’s birthday party. Would you like to go with me?”
Sitting perfectly still, her mouth full and eyes wide, Amelie stared at him. After a moment, she blinked, then chewed and swallowed her bite. “You want me to meet your parents?”
“Sure. You don’t want to meet them?”
She took a sip of her soda, then leaned back, her forearms resting on the concrete table, the burger held in both hands. “Did you ask Nate?”
“He said it’s okay if you want to go.”
“He did?”
“Well, he made a few threats if I let anything happen to you, but yeah, he did.”
The corner of her mouth twitched, then she pressed her lips together. “What did your parents say?”
“They said I could bring you.”
“And . . .?”
Don leaned forward, sliding his arm across the table and rested his hand on her forearm. “If we’re gonna get serious, I want them to meet you.” He raised one shoulder. “I want you to meet them.”
Amelie scrunched her mouth to the right and bowed her head. When she looked up, she was biting her lip, and he couldn’t tell what she was thinking. But then, he never could. “I’ll go. I’d like to meet your family.”
He let out a sigh of relief. “Great. The party is on Saturday. I’m off Friday, so we can shop for a birthday gift and then drive up on Saturday morning. We’ll stay with them a couple of days, then drive back Monday afternoon. If that’s okay.”
“I’ll have to ask Dr. Travis.”
“Nate said he’d take care of it if you want to go.”
“Still, Dr. Travis is my boss. I want to talk to him, first.”
“Okay. My folks have several extra rooms, so you’ll have your own room.” He squeezed her arm. “Thanks, Amelie. It means a lot for you to go with me.”
A smile touched her eyes. “It means a lot that you asked me.” She took another bite, chewed, swallowed and then grinned. “You will put the top on the Jeep for the trip, right? You never know. It might rain.”


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wolf's Mate: A New Short Story

Wolf's Mate Cover

Wolf's Mate

There are so many stories to tell in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series. Some, due to time or space constraints, get put aside for later.

After thinking about how to go about getting these stories told, I decided to write a group of short stories. Once I have a dozen or so written, I'll put them into an anthology of stories.

The first, Wolf's Sorrow, told some of Snarl's (Thorkell Ericsson) and his mate Freyja's back story.

The second short story, Wolf's Mate, tells some of Violet Heath's and Phillip Marston's story. Violet and her family became a part of the pack in Wolf's Rage. As former humans, Violet and her sister don't always know how to deal with living among wolf shifters.

In Wolf's Guard, the Heath family is now living on the Rollins Ranch, and Violet endures her first day of teaching shifter children at their private school. The events in Wolf's Mate actually occur the evening after her first day as a shifter teacher and give a little insight into how Phillip knew what he needed to know at the end of the Wolf's Guard.

This story is part of their continuing story. They'll also be around in Wolf's Duty.


Made-wolf. Changeling. Shifter.

Whatever she called it, Violet still had trouble accepting that she was a werewolf. All she ever wanted was to be a teacher. Teaching shifter children? Not even on her radar. Until her former fiance tried to kill her and the pack alpha changed her to save her life.
As a former Huntsman and a human, Phillip has been taught to hunt and kill wolf shifters. Now, he's learned shifters aren't the killers he was taught they were. He's surprised to find himself drawn to a wolf shifter, even if she was recently human. But her gorgeous red hair and dark, mysterious eyes pull him to her.
Can Phillip convince her that he's the mate for her?

You can find more of my short stories on my Short Fiction page.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wolf's Destiny Now Available in Paperback

Wolf's Destiny is a Paperback!

I hadn't intended to make a paperback version of Wolf's Destiny, the collection, or box set (in ebook), of the first six books, Wolf's Man, Wolf's Claim, Wolf's Mission, Wolf's Huntsman, Wolf's Trust, and Wolf's Reign.

Fearing the cost would be prohibitive for readers, I decided against even thinking about it.

However, my oldest granddaughter wasn't happy. She told me she personally would prefer a paperback to an ebook. She also told me other readers would rather pay for a single paperback (for less cost) than six individual paperbacks for the same material.

I thought about it for several months, then decided it was the height of arrogance to decide for my readers what they want and what they could afford.

I apologize.

At $39.98, it will surprise me if it actually sells, since the cost is a bit on the high side, Wolf's Destiny is now available in paperback. However, it is a savings of nearly $20 over purchasing each paperback book individually.

EDIT: The paperback is now $29.98!

The book image is a little different than that for the ebook box set.

The main image, however, is the same.

In the future, once the last book in the twelve book serial series is completed, I plan to put out a second box set in ebook form.

If the paperback of the first box set does well, I'll put out a paperback for the second set of six books, too.

So, if you've been awaiting a paperback version of Wolf's Destiny, Naomi is the reason it's now for sale on Amazon.

Other News

The short story I'm working on is coming along. It will answer the question of how Phillip knew there were over a thousand sharpened pencils just sitting in the school office.

As soon as the short story is done, I'll be jumping into book 12, Wolf's Duty!


Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Updated Covers for Wolf's Huntsman, Wolf's Trust, and Wolf's Reign

Cover Updates are Complete!

The updated covers for Wolf's Huntsman, Wolf's Trust, and Wolf's Reign have been uploaded to Amazon.

I have completed the updates to all the covers in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series. Also, minor corrections were made in each of the stories to fix grammatical issues. The stories didn't change, just got prettied up a bit.

I've also made grammatical corrections on Wolf's Queen. By the end of May, I should have all the books updated.

Over the weekend, I plan to update the files for Wolf's Destiny to match the corrected versions of the first six books. 

New Puzzles

These three updated covers have been made into puzzles, too!  You can find them in the Texas Wolf Pack album at Click here for the direct link to the album.

I enjoy working these puzzles. They sometimes help me when I have a plot problem. While working an online jigsaw puzzle, my subconscious mind works at the issue, and sometimes I have the solution ready by the time I finish working the puzzle.

All the covers are done, but I still need to check Wolf's Enemy, Wolf's Rage, and Wolf's Quest for grammatical errors.

My goal in doing all this is to ensure my readers have the best possible experience reading my books.

Other News

I'm working on the plot and subplot for the last book in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, Wolf's Duty. While I don't plot as most people would understand the word, I think through several possible storylines, decide on new characters, and get at least a few of the scenes in my mind. 

Take care!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Updated Cover for Wolf's Mission

Updated Cover for Wolf's Mission 

In my efforts to improve my books, I continue to make changes to book covers.

The cover for Wolf's Mission, book three in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, has been uploaded.

In addition, minor grammatical errors have also been corrected.

If you have the previous version of the book, you have the same story.

Nothing important has changed.

This book is one of my favorites. It has some intense moments, but my favorite line is, “Good to know, Sir. I’d hate to shoot superior officers.”

New Puzzle

Following along with my previous practice, I have created a new online jigsaw puzzle for the book.

The covers for all the books in the series have been created into jigsaw puzzles. There are a total of fifteen puzzles in varying levels of difficulty.

As I add new puzzles to the album, I leave previous book covers, so that there are more puzzles than there are books in the series.

Other News

I'm off to make updates to Wolf's Huntsman. With only three covers left to update, this project should be complete within the next week, and I'll be back to writing the last book in this set of twelve books, Wolf's Duty.

After that, I am undecided as to whether I will begin working on the series for the Colorado pack or the Arkansas pack. Do you have a preference? Which stories would you prefer? Terrell's pack or Eli's pack? Let me know!


Monday, May 13, 2019

Wolf's Claim has a New Cover!

Updated Cover for Wolf's Claim!

The Wolf's Claim cover now displays the wolf from the later books in the series.

The cover should show up in Amazon within the next 72 hours!

In the ongoing process of improving my writing and my marketing, I am continuing the effort to update all my first six books to include a wolf.

Why go to the trouble of changing or updating these six covers?

Part of it is to make the book covers match genre and market tropes for my books.

In some ways, the book series is hard to market. The books are paranormal romance/suspense/thriller/action/adventure mash-ups, but primarily the stories are about the characters and their loves.

Suspense/thriller readers who enjoy shifters seem to like them as much as paranormal romance readers do.

As I go through the books to prepare for the new covers, I am fixing some of the continuity errors in the series. The action and plot are still the same. The changes I've made do not affect the story, but I think will make the series better overall.

If you read them again after the books are all updated, I would love to hear what you think.

New Wolf's Claim Puzzle Available!

The new Wolf's Claim cover is a puzzle, too. The old cover is still available to work as a puzzle, too. This one has 130 rotatable pieces.
If you like working jigsaw puzzles, check it out.

Other News

Wolf's Guard, the newest book in the series, has been well received. I am so thankful. It's hard to know while you're writing a book if you are doing a good job or flubbing everything up.

The next book to get a make-over/update is Wolf's Mission. I'll post and let you know when it's done.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Wolf's Man: New Cover

Wolf's Man has a New Cover!

As an indie author, I am a lifetime learner. Recently, I learned that my first six covers are not totally to market.

What this means is that the people most likely to read my books will pass on them, because there isn't an expected component added to the cover.

My series, Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, is about wolf, panther, and bear shifters, among others, but the first six books in the series do not have wolves on the cover. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be updating the covers of all six books.

The first, Wolf's Man, has been submitted and should be available on Amazon soon.

So, what do you think? Like this one better, or like the old one better?

New Wolf's Man Puzzle

For readers who also enjoy working online jigsaw puzzles, I've created a new puzzle for this new cover. The puzzle has 120 pieces.  Enjoy!

The old book cover will continue to be available as a puzzle, too.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Wolf's Guard: Now Available in Paperback!

Prefer Paperbacks to E-Books? 

Wolf's Guard is in Paperback, now!

Paperback versions tend to take a few days longer before they are available, even when they are uploaded to Amazon at the same time.

If you prefer paperbacks, you can find Wolf's Guard here.

One of my readers told me she would be starting the series over and waiting to read this book until she gets to it. That way she will have all previous events in mind when she reads Wolf's Guard. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that someone would do that. 

Other News

Book 12, Wolf's Duty, is Started!

I woke up in the middle of the night with a scene ready for the next book in the series. Rather than hope I would remember it, I got up and wrote it. This morning, I was thrilled to see that it was the perfect chapter 1 for the next book.

My mind is churning with ideas, and I'm taking notes. Hopefully, book 12 won't take as long to write as book 11 did.

Book Cover Jigsaw Puzzle

Like working online jigsaw puzzles? I have all the books in my Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series set up as puzzles for you to enjoy.

All eleven of the book covers are there, as well as the cover for Wolf's Sorrow.

The Wolf's Guard Puzzle has 70 pieces, and the individual pieces can be rotated to make the puzzle a little more challenging.

The rest of the puzzles for the other book covers are available on the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series puzzle page. I enjoy making these puzzles for you. And I love working them out.



P.S. My time on completing the Wolf's Guard puzzle is 9 minutes, 21 seconds. Can you beat it? Comment below and let me know!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Wolf's Guard has Published!

Finally! Wolf's Guard has published!

Wolf's Guard took much longer to write than I thought it would. In a way, that makes sense, because this book is over 61,000 words compared to the 35,000 to 42,000 words for the books in the rest of the series.

The book opens, like many of the books in this series, with several chapters setting the story up from different points of view.


Rogue werewolves attack the White House!

Nate, king of all shifters, not only has to deal with the werewolf threat, but he must also deal with the consequences of being outed to the public. No one said being the king of all shifters would be easy. No one said it would be this hard, either.

Meanwhile, Bess finds her mate in the queen's kitchen. Learning he's a dragon is almost too much. Bess doesn't need a man to be happy. Especially not one who keeps his foot in his mouth.

As the only dragon shifter on Earth, Magnus never expects to find a mate. When he sees Bess, he knows she's the bear for him. But she won't have anything to do with him, and everything he does seems to shove her away.


Let me know what you think of it!

2 Preview Chapters

Chapter 1

    Peyton Marston turned off a Texas farm-to-market road into the Rollins Ranch driveway, the RV’s wheels grumbling over the cattle guard bars. Cedar and evergreen live oak trees cast deep shadows on the brittle, brown grass welcoming him back to the ranch. Another rumble of sound and a glance in the rearview mirror verified that Phillip followed behind him in the second RV.
As much as he enjoyed the trip to Florida with Gloria, his soon-to-be mate, his kids, Paige and Phillip, and the Heath family, Peyton was relieved to be back on the ranch. After his only shift in the Everglades resulted in a confrontation with a couple of alligators, Krieges, his wolf, refused to shift again. Krieges howled in his mind, excited at the return to pack lands.
Peyton glanced at Gloria. Sitting in the front passenger’s seat, she surveyed the area, as if looking for wild animals running through the trees. He tapped the back of her hand where it rested on her denim-covered thigh, then grinned when she looked at him. “Looking for wolves?”
Gloria bit her lip, then grinned and nodded. “I suppose I am.”
“You’re not likely to see any this time of day unless they’re patrolling the ranch border.” He cast another glance her way. “I thought you were okay with all this.” He didn’t intend for the sentence to end in a question, but it did.
“I’m, it’s just . . . well, it’s just a little weird, still.” She lifted a shoulder and smiled into his eyes. “I’ve known Nate for more than ten years, but I never knew he was were.”
“I’m not surprised since he didn’t know until last spring. I told you about his medallion, right? The one that prevented his shifting?”
“You did.” Gloria pressed her palms together and tapped her lips with her forefingers.
“Not changing your mind, are you?”
“About what?”
Peyton pulled the RV to the side of the road, put it in Park, and waved out the window for Phillip to stop. “Paige!”
He heard muffled movement, the bedroom door opened, and Paige walked to the front of the RV. “Need something, Dad?”
“Yeah. You and Laci Jean get out and ride the rest of the way with Phillip and Lacy’s family. And tell Phillip to go on ahead.”
“But we’re almost there.” When Peyton raised an eyebrow, Paige frowned, glanced from her dad to Gloria, then sighed. “Okay.” She turned and called, “Hey, Lacy, let’s ride the rest of the way with Phillip.”
Peyton watched in the mirror as the two girls, one in her teens and the other in her mid-twenties, opened the door and left. After they climbed into the other RV, Phillip pulled around Peyton and Gloria and drove toward the ranch compound. Peyton turned off the ignition and twisted in his seat to face his mate.
“What’s wrong?”
She twisted her hands in her lap, shook her head, and looked out the windshield. “Nothing.”
The acrid smell of the lie filled the RV. Nose twitching, Peyton studied her profile for a moment. Gloria looked good for her early fifties, but after Nate changed Peyton to a wolf, his fifty-two years didn’t show. He regressed until he looked as young as his twenty-four-year-old daughter. But even with grey highlights in her black, pixie-cut hair and crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes, Gloria was the most beautiful woman Peyton had ever seen.
He gazed at the side of her face, watched as pink climbed her neck and spread across her cheek. “We both know that’s not true.”
When she cut her eyes at him, he grinned and tapped the side of his nose. “I can smell it when you don’t tell the truth. Remember?”
“It’s just . . . that guy at the station . . ..”
“The one that called you my mother?”
Her blush darkened, and she bowed her head. “It feels so strange, Peyton. I mean, I know you’re a couple of years older than me, but you don’t look it.” She clenched her fists.
Peyton frowned as she slowly unfurled her hands and pressed them against her thighs. “You know you’ll regress, too, once we’re mated.” He visually searched what he could see of her face. “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”
“No, but . . ..” She blew out a long breath. “You don’t really know me. I mean, we met right before Christmas, and even after spending Christmas together in Florida, we haven’t known . . . I mean. What if you suddenly change your mind?” She swallowed hard and turned to look out the side window with a soft gasp of breath. “What if you decide I’m not your mate?”
“Gloria, look at me.” When she refused to turn, he gently took her shoulders in his hands and turned her to face him. “Krieges knows you’re my mate. He told me the first time I walked into a room with you in it that you’re the only woman I will ever love.” Palm gentle against her face, he searched her eyes. “You don’t have to choose me. Nate told you that. If you decide you don’t want this or decide you want someone else, you’re free to choose.”
“But you . . ..”
“No, I’ll never find anyone else. For me, you’re it. If it will make you happy, I’ll let you go. I’ll protect you and watch over you from afar, but I won’t push you into anything you’re not ready for.”
She was silent for a moment, her gaze pinned to the hands she clasped together. “What if I get stuck? I heard Phillip tell Violet that sometimes changelings get stuck between forms and can’t control themselves.”
“That’s what’s bothering you?” Peyton clenched his jaw and was happy Phillip wasn’t within reach at the moment. “Gloria, Nate won’t let that happen.”
Her face jerked toward him. Eyes blinking rapidly, she swallowed. “He’ll be there? I mean, I thought you would bite me while we, um, while we . . ..”
He managed not to laugh but couldn’t help a few chuckles. “We could do it then, but I’d prefer Nate not be there for that.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Stop laughing at me.”
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. We’ll do the bite during the wedding ceremony. Nate will be there to make sure it works without problems.” Peyton captured her hands in his and raised them to his lips. After pressing a gentle kiss to her fingers, he smiled at her. “I wouldn’t do anything that could harm you, Gloria. You are my life.”

Chapter 2

     “Peyton and Phillip just entered the ranch gates.”
“Thanks, Jonathan.” Nate Rollins, royal alpha of the Rollins Ranch pack and King of the Were, disconnected the call and dropped his cell phone into his pocket. “The Peyton’s and Heath’s are here.” He smiled at Janelle, his mate, and handed their daughter, Ophelia, to her.
Ophelia squirmed in her mother’s arms, reaching back to her father. “Daddy!”
Nate’s jaw dropped and he huffed. “Did she just . . .?”
Janelle laughed and gave Ophelia a squeeze. “She did. She called you Daddy. It’s the first word she’s spoken since the night Pace tried to kill Mason.”
“Hmm. Let me have her.” Nate lifted Ophelia into the air and looked up into her laughing face. “Want to go with Daddy to see Peyton?”
Giggles erupted and Ophelia grabbed his hair with both fists as soon as he lowered her enough that she could reach him. “Ouch. Guess it’s about time for a haircut.” Careful not to hurt her, Nate pried her hands from his hair. Patting her back, he settled her into the crook of his arm and walked toward the office door. He quirked an eyebrow at Janelle. “Coming?”
A few minutes later, Nate opened the front door and walked out on the covered, wrap-around porch. The younger ranch kids played in the center of the compound, chasing each other. A group of teens came around the corner of the house, watching to see who was coming up the drive. Nate stood at the top of the steps and watched an RV pull up and stop. By the time Paige, Phillip, Lee, Violet, Laci Jean, and Claude, Violet’s and Laci Jean’s father, exited the RV, a second RV rumbled down the drive toward the ranch compound.
Nate waited until the second RV stopped and Peyton helped Gloria from the cab before walking down the porch steps. “Welcome home.”
He ignored the surprise on Claude’s face and handed a key to Violet. “Violet, this is the key to your house. You and your family will occupy the house on this side of the pond.” He waved a hand toward a modular home in the distance. “It’s the closest one to the schoolhouse that’s available. With four bedrooms, it will allow you to consider moving your grandparents in with you if you desire.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rollins.”
“None of that. Everyone calls me Nate. I expect you and your family to do the same.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“School starts Monday, so that’ll give you a few days to prepare for your classes.”
“Monday?” Violet glanced at the faces around her. “But it’s the middle of January. I thought I was late.”
“Monday. We combined Spring Break with the holiday break to give you the time you needed to travel to Florida.” Nate shrugged. “The kids didn’t mind having extra time off, but I think most of the parents are ready for school to start again. After you get settled, you can meet with Flora. She’ll show you where everything is and help you get started.”
“Thank you, Nate.”
“Sure.” Nate glanced over his shoulder to the teens standing at the corner of the house. “Reese, Trey, Adrian.”
Three teen boys walked to the group. “The boys will help you get the RV unloaded. Boys, you remember Violet?” When they nodded, Nate waved at the teen girl in Peyton’s group. “This is Violet’s sister, Laci Jean, and her father, Claude.”
Reese stepped forward and offered his hand to Laci Jean. “Welcome to the ranch. I’ll be happy to show you around.”
“As if,” muttered Adrian. He shouldered past Reese and took Lacy’s other hand in his. “I’m Adrian. You need anything, you let me know.”
Nate laughed at the boy’s antics, then smiled at Claude’s glare. “Don’t worry, Claude. They’ll be perfect gentlemen. Right, boys?”
All three whipped their faced to Nate, then looked relieved when he didn’t seem upset. They nodded. “Yes, sir,” chorused three voices.
The door behind Nate opened. He glanced back and smiled at Freyja and Dana. “Dana, come meet Laci Jean. She’s new to the ranch, too.”
Dana’s soft footsteps came down the porch steps. She walked past Nate and gave the three teen boys the stink eye. “You guys leave her alone for a while. Let her get used to everyone before you start being silly.”
Nate raised an eyebrow when the boys nodded and took a step back. Glancing from them to Dana, he started to ask what was going on, when Freyja nudged him from behind. Nate glanced back at the tiny woman. She smirked at him and shook her head. Deciding to wait and ask Freyja later, he cleared his throat to capture everyone’s attention. “Since the weather turned off warm today, we’re having a barbeque at the shelter this evening. We’ll see you all there.”
Ophelia jabbered as if she was repeating his last sentence, then grinned at her audience. Nate laughed. “And Miss Ophelia wants you all to be there.”
After Phillip loaded everyone back in his RV and drove to park in the drive at the house Violet’s family would live in, Nate gave Ophelia a kiss and handed her to Janelle. “Sorry, Sweetheart, Daddy has to go to work for a while.”
Behind him, Peyton’s RV motor roared to life, and Peyton moved the RV to park in the line of RVs between the main house and the warehouse. Peyton’s family would still live in the RV until the bear carpenters could get more houses ready. Nate sighed. The ranch was starting to get crowded.
Janelle called Lisa to take Ophelia to the playroom. Nate shared a grin with Janelle when Lisa took Ophelia and the child pouted all the way up the steps and into the house. Taking hold of Janelle’s elbow, Nate walked to the front door, then turned and looked back at Freyja. “Come to the office for a minute, Freyja.”
When he reached the office, he settled into the executive’s chair behind the desk and glanced at Janelle and Freyja. Janelle settled in the chair on the other side of his desk, while Freyja continued to stand. Sunlight streamed through the window behind him, warming his shoulders. “Something tells me I missed something out there. What’s up?”
Freyja lifted one shoulder, and Nate forced himself not to grin. Viking though she was, the woman was quickly picking up Americanized habits. “The boys teased Dana, so I told her to take care of it.”
“Take care of it?”
“Hmm. After all the training I gave her while we were prisoners, she’s pretty good at self-defense.”
Nate stilled, red tinging his eyesight. In his mind, Koreth tensed. “She needed to defend herself?”
“It’s nothing, Nate. The boys were teasing her. One at a time, she put them on the ground, and they couldn’t get up, no matter how hard they tried. Now, they leave her alone.”
“But Dana’s human!”
Head tilted to the left, Freyja laughed at his expression. “She’s half were, Nate, and stronger than you would think. With a little training, she’s more than able to take care of herself.” She motioned toward the door. “I have chores to complete unless you need something?”
Nate shook his head. “Let me know if I need to . . ..”
“Nate, Dana’s fine. The boys respect her and her abilities to take care of herself. I really think they were flirting, and she took it wrong. She hasn’t been around many boys her age, so she doesn’t always know how to handle their antics.”
“Okay. I’ll stay out of it.”
“Sometimes, that’s the best thing to do. If you get involved, the boys will resent it. As it stands, they know to treat her well, and you can deal with more important things. Like, you know, having a dragon on site. It’s going to take time for the were to get to know him and trust him.”
“But not you?”
“I’ve known Magnus my entire life. He’s faithful and loyal, but sometimes single-minded. He’ll fit in, eventually.”
Nate released a sigh. “I’m sure he will. I think it’ll take longer for me to be comfortable with him than the reverse.”
“Probably.” She studied him for a moment.
Nate fought the need to squirm in his chair. “What?”
“Has anyone told you that you’re doing well?”
He blinked at her. “What?”
“For a man who didn’t know he was were until less than a year ago, you’ve adapted quite well. Give Magnus time, Nate. He’ll grow on you.”
“Like a friend?”
“If you let him. If you choose not to be his friend, he’ll grow on you like a fungus. He won’t let you face danger alone. His entire purpose is to be the king’s protector. Relax and be his friend. It’ll make the future easier on both of you.” With a wave, she grinned at Janelle and left the office.


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