Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
Published by Changeling Press
Release Date: March 24, 2023
Jolene – My life wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t have any real complaints — until something went horribly wrong and one of my potions blew up, killing my husband. Raising our son on my own hasn’t been easy. Grief and guilt keep getting in my way. But a certain biker keeps stopping by to lend a helping hand. Is it wrong I wish he’d do more than fix my porch steps?
Alan – I knew Jolene was mine, even when she belonged to someone else. Now that she’s single, I might have a chance. I can’t rush this, though. Not after what she’s been through. Not till I’m sure she’s ready. I’ll take my time, build a friendship with her, then lay all my cards on the table. Only one problem. I didn’t count on traffickers hitting our little town. Everything’s gone sideways. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my new family safe, even if I have to get my hands dirty.
WARNING: This is a Dixie Reapers Shifter MC story and contains bad language, violence, and adult situations. Recommended for adult readers 18+.
Preorder for March 24, 2023
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Copyright ©2023 Harley Wylde & Jessica Coulter Smith
I clutched Rhett’s hand and stared at Alan. “Are you sure about this? I don’t really know anyone there. What if they don’t want us around?”
“I asked the Pres, and he said it was fine.” Alan shoved his hands into his pockets. I’d noticed he did it a lot, and wondered if it was a nervous habit or something else. “But if you don’t want to go…”
“No! We want to,” I assured him. “I didn’t want them thinking we were trying to intrude. We aren’t part of the club, and it seems like it’s just the Devoted Guardians and their families.”
“It’s fine, Jolene. Come on. I brought the truck.”
We followed him out to the driveway, and I stood back and watched as he buckled Rhett into his car seat. Alan came around so much these days, he’d bought one for his truck. I didn’t know many men who would do something like that. Not when it wasn’t their own child. All the little things he did for us made me like him even more.
I still remembered when I’d thought he was a decade older than me. Knowing he was over one hundred still blew my mind. Then again, shifters lived a long time, like witches. Compared to him, I was still a baby at only twenty-six. My little Rhett was only six. As far as I knew, Alan didn’t have children, and hadn’t ever had a mate. Of course, none of it mattered. Our relationship wasn’t the romantic sort — something I reminded myself of every single day. It didn’t stop my heart from racing every time he came near, or wishing there could be more between us.
Alan helped me into the truck, then reached over for the seatbelt and buckled me in. He’s just being nice. If I said it enough times, maybe I could make myself believe it. Not even Robby had done such a thing for me. I’d never met anyone like Alan before. Sure, I’d interacted with shifters, but none had taken care of us the way he did. He made me feel special, and I knew Rhett adored him. He constantly asked when we’d see Alan.
With Wolf Creek being so small, it didn’t take long to reach the park. I noticed the motorcycles right away, and Alan pulled into a spot nearby. He helped us from the truck, and Rhett took off. He might not have played with the other kids before, but it didn’t make him hesitate even a little. My hands trembled as I smoothed my clothes. Had I made the right decision? What if the women didn’t want me here? Just because Axe said it was okay didn’t mean I was actually welcome.
“Come on,” Alan said, holding out his hand. I took it and let him lead me over to the group. He released my hand near the women and went to join the other men in his club. He always referred to them as his brothers, even though he wasn’t related to any of them. I’d asked a few questions the last couple of months, wanting to know more about him and the Devoted Guardians, but I still didn’t understand everything.
I glanced at the women and gave them a smile. “Hi! I’m Jolene.”
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Emma,” one of them said, holding out her hand. I shook it and retreated, still not feeling comfortable.
“I’m Raya,” the other said.
“I’m so glad Alan invited us. Rhett can always use more friends,” I said. “Since Cody and Tanner are older, they aren’t in the same class at school. I know they’ve seen each other around town, but this is the first time they’ve been able to play.”
“How do you know Alan?” Emma asked.
“He helped us not too long ago. Actually, he’s been really great. Things have been hard the last few years. Alan seems to know what we need even before I do. He’s fixed my porch steps, replaced an outlet that no longer worked, and done so much more.” I smiled softly as I looked at the man in question. “And he’s so sweet to Rhett.”
“Has he asked you out on a date?” Emma asked.
“Oh, it’s not like that. I’m so much younger than him.”
“Axe is over one hundred fifty years old, and I’m only twenty-six,” Emma said. “It can’t be worse than that, can it?”
“No, it’s not,” I said. “Maybe it would work. I’m a little scared to find out. What if I’m wrong? Rhett already loves Alan so much. If we dated, then everything went wrong, it would devastate my little boy.”
Part of me wanted to hold back and not open up to these women so much. They were strangers, yet I started to feel at ease around them. Alan had told me about Axe and Emma, and I knew their relationship was still new. He hadn’t said much about Raya, other than Henry had recently found her. At least they hadn’t been with their men for years. We were all rather new when it came to the Devoted Guardians. Of course, they were actually with someone in the club. Alan and I were only friends.
“Henry hated me on sight,” Raya said. “He thought I was a dark mage. Then we had a chance to talk. He listened to what I’d been through, and when he bit me later that night, it felt… right. Sounds crazy, right?”
Emma shook her head. “Part of you sensed it. The same happened with me and Axe. Although, he was sweet from the beginning. From the moment we met, I felt drawn to him. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before, and quite honestly, I found it a little scary. Not Axe but my reaction to him.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “That’s how it feels when Alan is around. I want to get closer to him, and when I catch his scent, my body lights up and I want to crawl into his lap. Instead, I end up putting more space between us.”
“Maybe you’re his mate,” Emma said. “Axe said I was destined to be his. I heard it was the same with Henry. Once he got past the smell of black magick, he realized Raya was his.”
“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” I said. “I’m not sure he really feels like that about me though. He’s never flirted with me or asked me out. I think he just feels sorry for us and is such a sweet man he can’t help but try and ease our burden a little.”
Emma snorted. “Keep telling yourself that. I have a feeling you’ll be eating those words soon enough.”