A mate for christmas, p.1
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       A Mate for Christmas, p.1
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         Part #7 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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A Mate for Christmas


  A Mate for Christmas

  Moon Shifter Series

  Katie Reus

  It will take a miracle to survive the holidays…

  After recently losing her parents, packmates and a sister, Noel Cordona isn’t even close to being in the holiday spirit. It seems that everyone around her is moving on and happy, but she can’t seem to get it together. When an unexpected kiss changes everything she thought she knew about her packmate Nathan O’Neill, she feels alive for the first time in a year. She’s too broken for him though. At least that’s what she tries to tell them both.

  But Nathan’s been waiting patiently for Noel. He’s not going to lose faith now. With a little holiday magic, he can help her overcome the weight of her grief and show her that opening her heart to him is the best Christmas gift he could ever give her.

  A Mate for Christmas

  Copyright © 2016 Katie Reus

  Cover Art by Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs

  Editor: Julia Ganis, JuliaEdits.com

  Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.

  * * *

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.

  Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book. This purchase allows you one legal copy for your own personal reading enjoyment on your personal computer or device. You do not have the right to resell, distribute, print or transfer this book, in whole or in part, to anyone, in any format, via methods either currently known or yet to be invented, or upload this book to a file sharing program. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  eISBN: 9781942447979

  Table of Contents

  About A MATE FOR CHRISTAMS

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Thank You for Reading!

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Complete Booklist

  Dedication

  For all those who believe in the magic of the holidays.

  Chapter 1

  Noel swatted at the garland hanging over the front door. It had fallen from the artful way her oldest sister had looped it over the entryway. She didn’t bother fixing it as she stepped outside either. At this point, Ana was lucky Noel hadn’t just ripped the whole thing down.

  Christmas could go fuck itself.

  She was keeping her foul mood to herself, but she was over the holiday and over all this stupid happiness. It was like Ana had decided to make things even cheerier this year to make up for the blackness of last year’s Christmas.

  Well, Carmen was still dead and Noel couldn’t seem to move on. Couldn’t be happy. Because if she was happy then it would be a betrayal of her sweet, loving sister who’d been senselessly murdered.

  And all around her, people seemed to be celebrating. There had been so many new matings in the last year. Not to mention births and new packmates joining them. She was glad for the births. Cubs were always a joy, but…everything else. It was hard to get excited about.

  God, when had she turned into this bitter bitch? She felt as if she’d been simply existing since Carmen died. Just going through the motions and being a “happy” pack member when in reality, she felt like she was suffocating.

  Her first mission right now was to move out of the main house. She loved Ana and Connor and was grateful that Ana hadn’t moved to another house once she’d gotten mated, but being in the house where Noel had lived with Carmen was too hard lately. Plus she figured that her sister and Alpha wanted privacy. They’d never made her feel as if they wanted her to leave. The opposite, actually. Noel knew Connor must want more alone time with Ana but he’d gone out of his way to make sure she was happy. And not because he was her new Alpha, but because he knew it would matter to Ana. Hard not to love the guy for that alone.

  Still…it was time to move. Maybe it was the holidays giving her this sense of urgency, but she knew she needed a change of scenery. A change of something.

  It didn’t matter that she was surrounded by her pack, surrounded by people who loved her and who she loved in return. She felt so alone. A sort of constant ache resided in her chest. Maybe not constant exactly, but at night when she was alone it was excruciating.

  Swallowing back the sadness that seemed to live inside her, she jogged up the steps of one of the new houses on the ranch. At the top she kicked away a mound of snow someone had missed when sweeping off the porch.

  Since the Armstrong-Cordona pack had taken in new packmates in the last few months—and others had gotten mated—they’d started building more homes at record speed.

  The pack’s houses were spread out in circular rings, layered outward with the Alpha’s house in the center. It didn’t matter that they owned hundreds of acres—the pack lived close together. Though not so near one another that mated couples couldn’t have privacy. It was the way most shifters were wired. They needed to be near their people.

  She was surprised by how quiet it was when she entered through the open front doorway. There was no actual door installed yet. In the foyer she saw that almost everything had been framed out and most of the drywall was done, but they still had a way to go.

  Other than the buzz of a saw from the back of the house, there was no chatter. No banging of hammers. Nothing. Following the buzzing sound, she exited through one of the back door frames—which also had no door installed—and saw Nathan O’Neill cutting a piece of tile.

  Her traitorous heart leapt at the sight of him. She started to back away, hoping he wouldn’t notice her, but of course he did. Because that was just her damn luck.

  The sound died as he turned off the saw and looked up. He shoved his goggles onto his head. “Noel.”

  God, the way he said her name made everything feminine inside her flare to life. She shoved all those feelings back down. Apart from a few kisses they’d shared a year ago, nothing had happened between them. She’d gone out of her way to avoid him and he sure hadn’t come after her, pursued her for more. Clearly she’d meant nothing to him other than some fun. And once things had gotten real, he’d moved on to greener pastures. Or she assumed he had. Not that she could exactly blame him.

  She cleared her throat, shoved her hands in her jeans pockets. “Hey. I, uh, I thought Liam was working.”

  Nathan watched her with steady green eyes. Heading toward her, he tugged his work gloves off. Even the way he walked was sexy, all coiled strength, each move precise. He moved like the predator he was. “He took lunch with December. The others are at lunch too but I wanted to finish up some tile work. Everything okay?”

  She swallowed hard as he reached her. Since she was five feet two, most people towered over her, and Nathan was no different. He was broad though. Broad, muscular and very dangerous to her sanity. Wearing work clothes and covered in dust and dirt, he still looked good enough to eat. His hair was a light auburn, his beard the same color. He looked like what she imagined a lumberjack would. He was ridiculously masculine. She inhaled, breathing in the scent of sawdust and something earthy, primal. Something all Nathan that she could never forget. Even if she wanted to.

  “I’m good.” She took a step back, needing to pu
t distance between them.

  His expression softened as he followed. “How are you doing? I know it’s hard this time of year for you.”

  The sincerity of his question ripped something open inside her. She hadn’t expected it. Hadn’t expected to see him. If she’d known he’d be here she’d have never come. Because simply being around Nathan made her feel weak, needy. She never wanted to be like that for anyone; never wanted to fall for someone so hard that she couldn’t live without them. Losing her sister and parents had been hard enough.

  She tried to answer around the lump in her throat but was too close to crying. So, coward that she was, she turned on her heel.

  “Damn it, Noel.” For such a big guy Nathan moved incredibly fast. Even for a shifter. Before she’d taken two steps he’d sidestepped around her, now stood in front of her, blocking her exit.

  “What?” she rasped out.

  “You’re obviously not okay. Do you want to talk about it?”

  She shook her head even as she blurted, “I miss her so much.” Stupid tears pricked her eyes. Before she could swipe them away she found herself pulled into strong arms.

  It had been a long time since she’d been held like this. And the truth was, no one had ever held her the way Nathan was right now. He wrapped his arms around her as if she was precious in a way that was both intimate and protective. Feeling something break inside her, she buried her face against his flannel shirt, wrapping her arms around him as a wave of sadness swept through her. She didn’t let any more tears fall, didn’t want that dam to break right now. If it did, she wasn’t sure she’d stop.

  But she still held onto him for dear life. “Christmas is just hard,” she whispered, pulling back after a long moment so she could look up at him.

  He cupped her cheek with one hand, the feel of his callused palm a shock to her senses. God, she’d been avoiding him for a year because she’d known she’d be weak enough to fall into his arms given the chance. No one had ever looked at her the way Nathan did.

  As if he could devour her.

  Without thinking she went up on tiptoes. She’d barely moved when he crushed his mouth to hers with an intensity she hadn’t expected.

  Her entire body flared to life at the feel of his tongue invading her mouth, his huge body pressing her up against the nearest wall.

  His cock, already hard, was heavy between them. That was a surprise too, but damn, she liked the feel of it. Moaning, she arched into him, desperate to get as close to him as possible. She didn’t want to think about anything. Didn’t want to think about how this would probably be a mistake, or how damn guilty she felt for needing to feel pleasure when her sister was gone. She’d never had sex before, but at one time she’d thought Nathan would be her first. That seemed like a lifetime ago. Even if she did regret things later, right now she just wanted to forget everything.

  And Nathan could definitely make her forget. She clutched his shoulders, had started to wrap her legs around him when he tore his mouth from hers, took a big step back.

  His green eyes flashed with…anger?

  Mouth swollen and feeling shaky inside, she stared at him. She was glad the wall supported her. “Why’d you stop?” she rasped out.

  His jaw clenched once, a rage she’d never seen from him before flickering in his gaze. “I’m not here for you to use as a way to mute your pain. It’s…” He seemed to struggle to speak, all the muscles in his neck pulling taut. “It’s screwed up when you know how I feel about you. It’s not like you’re the only person to lose your packmates!” The words were a savage snarl. He turned and stomped out of the house before she could blink.

  How he felt about her? What was he talking about? She rushed after him but by the time she’d stepped onto the back porch the only things left were shredded clothes and his shoes. She could see his paw tracks in the light layer of snow, leading toward the woods.

  Unexpected guilt punched through her. The pain in his voice and rolling off him in waves had been potent and real.

  She wanted to race after him, but if he’d gone running in the forest she’d never find him. Not if he didn’t want to be found. Wolves were sneaky like that, able to hide their trail from pursuers.

  Feeling out of sorts she sucked in a breath, the cold air seeming icier than normal, cutting at her lungs. A sense of shame invaded her though she wasn’t sure why. The only thing she knew was that she had to make this right. She needed to apologize to him at the very least.

  Chasing after Nathan wasn’t an option, so she headed to December’s. The female mated to Liam, the pack’s second-in-command, had quickly integrated into their pack and very recently she’d been nicknamed “the secret-keeper.” The female seemed to know everything about everyone and if you asked her to keep a confidence, she would.

  Noel figured the reason so many of the pack went to December was because after she’d had Elspet—Ellie, for short—her house had opened up to so many visitors. Everyone wanted to see the sweet little cub, and since December baked like a dream, their home had become a natural stopping point during the day for so many.

  Noel included. She found herself over there more and more often under the guise of getting baby cuddle time. It made her feel less alone—less sorry for herself. Which was just pathetic.

  Rolling her shoulders, she knocked on the door to Liam and December’s two-story home. The door would likely be unlocked but she didn’t want to intrude, especially since Nathan had said Liam was having lunch with December.

  A second later the door swung open. Liam stood there, huge and intimidating, holding a tiny sleeping baby cradled in his arms. Her heart ached at the sight.

  “She just fell asleep,” he whispered.

  “I won’t ask to hold her, then… Is December available?”

  “Yeah, come on in. You didn’t have to knock, you know.” He gave her a strange look as he stepped back.

  She lifted a shoulder. “I figured you guys might want some alone, grownup time.”

  He snorted and gently shut the door behind her. “If the door’s locked, go away. But if it’s not, you’re always welcome. You doing okay?” The concern on his face nearly stripped away the rest of her defenses.

  She thought she’d been doing a good job of hiding her depression. “Of course. I just wanted to talk to December.” She cleared her throat. “Alone.” Because she needed to talk to a female who she could trust, and who wasn’t her sister. Or one of her cousins. For all Noel knew, they’d feel a need to report back to Ana. She didn’t think so but didn’t want to take that chance. Ana was her big sister but she was also the Alpha’s mate. She had enough to deal with on a daily basis anyway.

  Liam kissed her on top of her head and nodded down the hallway. “She’s in the kitchen. I’ll be upstairs.”

  Noel found December sitting at the island, a hot cup of cocoa in her hand. The redhead smiled at her. “You hungry?”

  Laughing, she shook her head and sat across from her. “I didn’t come here for the food.” Tapping her finger against the counter, she tried to figure out what to say.

  December stood while Noel struggled. Noel watched as she took a pot off the stove and poured some of the contents into another mug. Her mouth watered as she realized it was homemade cocoa, not the packet stuff.

  “Whipped cream or marshmallows?” December asked.

  “Whipped cream…and some advice. I kissed Nathan,” she blurted. “And I think I hurt him. Not physically—obviously.” She nearly snorted at the thought. “I just… I don’t know what happened. I hurt his feelings or something. But I didn’t mean to.” The words came pouring out and even if she could stop them, she didn’t want to. She’d kept too much buried inside her the past year and it felt as if her heart was just a giant bruise inside her chest. “He made a comment about me using him to erase my own pain, made it sound like…he had deeper feelings for me. And I’m an asshole for hurting him if that’s true. I just can’t seem to get over Carmen’s death. Then I feel guilty because I mo
urn her even more than my parents. And I feel guilty for wanting to be happy when she’s gone, when she’ll never experience anything again. It’s like I’m all bitter and twisted up inside and I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me! Everyone else seems to have moved on from all of our of losses and I can’t.” Tears burned her eyes, but she didn’t let them fall. Her throat was thick, making it hard to swallow.

  December set the mug in front of her and wrapped her arms around Noel, pulling her close. Noel buried her face in the female’s shoulder and sniffled, letting a few tears escape.

  “People cope in different ways. It doesn’t mean they’ve moved on. When you lose a sibling, you don’t ever forget. You just learn to live with the pain.” December squeezed her once in a tight grip then stepped back, but kept her hands on Noel’s shoulders. “I know someone you can talk to. He’s a shifter, a doctor.”

  She frowned for a moment then realized what December meant. “Like a shrink?” She couldn’t keep the disdain out of her voice.

  December’s expression softened as she took a seat next to her. “A psychologist. He’s very good at what he does.”

  “I didn’t even know there were shifter psychologists.” Who the hell wanted to talk about their feelings to a stranger? She was a lupine, strong, and alpha in nature. She wasn’t supposed to need something like that.

  December sighed. “Something I’ve learned in the past year is that so many of our pack and apparently others look down on getting help, whether in the physical sense or emotionally. After Ellie was born I was feeling all out of sorts. Suddenly I had this new, tiny thing who depended on me and I could shift into a wolf. I wasn’t even depressed, just…sort of a mess of confusion. I talked to Dr. Pomeroy and he made a recommendation.”

 
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