Diablo Lake: Moonstruck

Diablo Lake:
Moonstruck
By Lauren Dane

In Diablo Lake
,
Tennessee
,
a
town populated by werewolves
,
witches and more
,
magic woven deep into the earth protects the town’s secrets from outsiders.

Katie Grady left Diablo Lake to get over a humiliating breakup. But her family needs her help, so she’s back, in a sublet right across the hall from the guy she’s lusted after for years. Jace Dooley is hotter than ever, and their friendship picks up along with massive doses of grown-up chemistry.

The very scent of Katie sharpens Jace’s canines, makes the wolf within him stir. There’s nothing more alluring to a Pack Alpha than a sexy female who is so very in charge. She won’t be coddled, but if he plays his hand just right she might be convinced to become his.

Katie presents a challenge to Jace’s wolf nature, whose chief instinct is to protect. Especially now that she’s coming into the magic that is her birthright—and suddenly Jace isn’t the only one who’s interested in Katie or the raw power she’s just learning to use.

Editor’s Note:
The story continues in
Diablo Lake: Protected,
available soon!

92,300 words

Dear Reader,

Happy June! Man, do I love summer and everything that comes
with it. Okay, not mosquitos, but the beach, sunscreen, cookouts, fresh fruit,
long days and the opportunity to sit by the pool, ocean or other bodies of water
and read for hours and hours. Love. It. This month we have some new releases
that can be either your perfect beach read—or your perfect air-conditioned room
read!

Lauren Dane debuts a brand-new sexy paranormal romance series
with
Diablo Lake: Moonstruck
. In Diablo Lake, Tennessee, a
town populated by werewolves, witches and more, magic woven deep
into the earth protects the town’s secrets from outsiders. Katie Grady left
Diablo Lake to get over a humiliating breakup. But her family needs her help, so
she’s back...in a sublet right across the hall from the guy she’s lusted after
for years. Jace Dooley is hotter than ever, and their friendship picks up along
with massive doses of grown-up chemistry.

If you’ve been waiting for the second book in Amber Bardan’s
captivating Bad for You duology, your wait is over. Angelina has sacrificed
everything to be with the man she loves, but on the run with their lives on the
line, Haithem has a promise to keep—he’s promised to protect her—and he’ll stop
at nothing to fulfill his promise.
Didn’t You Promise
is full of
action, sex and emotions, and I loved every minute of it. Pick up
Didn’t I
Warn You
if you haven’t already, and fall in love with sexy, mysterious
Haithem like the rest of us have!

Professor Ian Larkin has two rules: no college kids and no
playing without a safe word. College senior Kelly O’Connor is always in
control—except when it comes to his sex life. When these two meet, the sparks
are electric, but their relationship will need to survive meddling aunts, the
university administration and Kelly’s own self-doubts in the male/male romance
Against the Rules
by A.R. Barley.

Sarah M. Anderson brings two beloved secondary characters
from her Rodeo Dreams series, available from Harlequin’s Superromance imprint,
to Carina Press in a
male/male cowboy rodeo romance
that’s sure to have us all
telling the men in our lives, “You can leave your hat on.” And did I
mention...cowboys and rodeo? Yeehaw!

Also in male/male contemporary romance, we welcome debut
author Elizabeth Varlet and her book
Fierce & Fabulous
,
the first in the Sassy Boyz series. Ansel Becke enjoys pushing the boundaries.
He is fierce, he is fabulous and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him.
Until one routine lap dance leads to a soul-shaking kiss and turns his glittery
world upside down. Straight-arrow Fitch Donovan doesn’t understand his instant,
blood-boiling attraction to the outrageous dancer—a man who wears makeup and
heels as comfortably as he does a cocky smirk. But the pull can’t be denied and
Fitch is willing to see where it leads, even if it goes against everything he’s
ever known about himself.

Coming next month: So You Think You Can Write winning entry
The Emperor’s Arrow
, the follow-up romantic suspense to Nico Rosso’s
fantastically reviewed
Countdown to Zero Hour
and a debut author brings
the heat with a new erotic romance motorcycle club series.

As always, until next month, my fellow book lovers, here’s
wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

Angela James

Editorial Director, Carina Press

Dedication

This one is for Bernice who wore White Shoulders.

Chapter One

The rising sun and a huge to-do list drove Kit from the bed in the guest room of her best friend Aimee’s house. Much better than the last two weeks on the couch at her parents’ place. Or the hotel near the hospital, several hours’ drive away, where her father was recovering from a stroke several hours’ drive away from Diablo Lake.

Diablo Lake, the place she’d run from several years before. And still, no matter what, she’d always be from the funky little town full of witches and shifters in the middle of the mountains that had always remained her home.

Her absence from town was officially over. Starting today, she would take over running the Counter, the family run soda fountain. That way her dad could do his job, which was getting better and her mother didn’t have to shoulder the stress of trying to help him and run a business at the same time.

And while she was at it, Kit needed to get the shop back on track so her parents had an economic future and, she supposed, she needed to accept that
her
future would look vastly different than she’d imagined it just two weeks before when she got the call that her father had been taken to Vanderbilt by helicopter.

Kit’s groan as her feet hit the floor made her roll her eyes at herself as she stood, swaying slightly, trying to wake up.

Coffee.
Yes, that was a good first step.

She shuffled into the kitchen and spied the huge pan of cobbler she’d totally forgotten about. Well, surely it would be far easier to get moving that first morning back than it would have been without cobbler. It was science after all. Probably. She really didn’t have time to look it up, but it sounded just right.

She rustled through some drawers and cabinets and failed to find coffee to go in the coffeemaker or a bowl so after a shrug, she simply spooned some ice cream directly onto the cobbler. Her people were pioneers after all; she could manage this fine breakfast without all the fancy stuff.

Aimee’s place had been remodeled, she thought as she looked around more closely. Nothing staggering, just a new coat of paint and the stuff had been moved. Aimee had a cute house. It fit her personality and lifestyle with the open floorplan. Once every three years she redid a room to keep things fresh, but overall, the style was warm and sexy with deep earth tones and overstuffed furniture.

Katie Faith wandered through the kitchen and dining room, spooning her cobbler and ice cream into her mouth as she hugged the pan to her body.

And that’s how Aimee found her, with a wooden spoon and an entire pan of berry cobbler.
Half
a pan of berry cobbler.

One of Aimee’s eyebrows rose as she took the scene in. “Step away from the cobbler, Katie Faith.”

Kit hugged the pan to her body a little tighter. “Shut up. I’m a growing girl and I need a good breakfast before I go to work. I also need coffee. You’ve remodeled in here and I can’t find it. How can I eat cobbler and ice cream without coffee? I know who raised you to be a good Southern woman. Your momma would be so disappointed in you. Just sayin’.”

Aimee snorted as she breezed into the kitchen, Kit in her wake. “Just because you know I peed my pants in kindergarten doesn’t mean you get to be grumpy and eat all my cobbler without sharing.” Aimee went to the cabinet to the left of the sink and opened it up, pulling out a red canister. “I have coffee. And I told you I was going to redo the kitchen last month.”

“I won’t tell anyone about the peed pants if you make me some. Coffee not peed pants. I’ll be your best friend,” Kit said in a singsong voice and tried to look thirsty and pitiful all at once.

“You’re full of it, Katie Faith. Just you know that I know it.” Aimee did that thing with her finger pointing from her eyes to Kit.

“As long as you know it while you’re making me some coffee.” Kit winked and held the spoon, full of cobbler, her friend’s way. “This is Sandy’s cobbler, isn’t it? I’m going to gain five pounds just being in the same room with it. I can’t believe I missed the bake sale yesterday.”

“There’s always another bake sale. It’s Diablo Lake.” Aimee turned on the coffeemaker, handed a clean spoon to Kit and dug in, settling in next to her on the small kitchen bench. “You’ll be moving back here permanently anyway.”

Kit froze. “We don’t know that for sure. Could just be six months or so.”

“Doesn’t change what’s true anyway. Your crazy vacation in Chattanooga is over and done and you can come on home. Accept reality, Katie Faith. Your parents are getting older. You need to come back here for them if for no other reason. What’s past is past. No one gives a fart in a high wind about Darrell Pembry.”

It did seem rather silly now, three years later, leaving her home because of a stupid-assed man like Darrell. The humiliation was nearly gone. Nearly.

“You’re such a delicate flower,” Kit managed around her cobbler.

Aimee handed her a cup of coffee with milk and lots of sugar. “Thank goodness you’re back because no one else is as cracked as you. Can’t make the same kind of jokes with anyone. Sit at the table so I can get at that cobbler too. In a bit we can get dressed and you’ll tell me what I can do to help today.”

“You’re going to make me cry.” Kit moved herself to the breakfast nook.

Aimee’s snort sounded a lot like her mother’s. “Go on then. If a body being nice to you makes you want to cry, Katie Faith, you’ve been gone from home too long.”

“We don’t know for sure I’ll have to move back.” She brooded over her coffee in between huge spoonfuls of cobbler.

“Don’t sulk. Imagine if your face froze like that.” Aimee rolled her eyes. “Pull up your big girl panties! You don’t belong in Chattanooga anyway. Every time I visited you there you were like a tourist. You’re from Diablo Lake. You belong here. Look at you calling yourself Kit. Spending hundreds of dollars to ride exercise bikes and get yelled at by the instructor.” Aimee paused her rant long enough to give Kit a sigh heavy with exasperation. “Your
people
are here. We want you back home, Katie Faith.”

“You’re one to talk about full names.”

Aimee’s eyes narrowed. “Hush your mouth. Don’t even try it. Katie Faith is
not
a bad name. You’re not named after someone everyone in your family hates because your grandmother hijacked the forms and changed your name from Aimee to something else.
You
are totally Katie Faith. You’re not Kit. Kit is a car who talks to David Hasselhoff. God I miss that show. Anyway, don’t avoid the subject.”

“You miss that show? You’re dumb.”

Aimee snickered as Kit giggled. It was an old joke, Aimee’s given name and how her mother had cried for days when she found out what old Mrs. Benton had done. Later, Aimee’s parents had gone and legally changed Larnamae Alvonia Benton to Aimee Marie as they’d planned to name her to begin with. But everyone knew Aimee started as Larnamae Alvonia.

“If I came back here, everyone would know my business again.”

Aimee waved her spoon around after taking a bite of the cobbler. “Girl, everyone knows your business anyway.”

True enough. Aimee’s mother, Trula Faye—everyone called her TeeFay—was best friends with Nadine, Katie Faith’s mom. They were the queens of gossip in Diablo Lake. If anything was worth knowing, they knew it and doled it out as they felt necessary and appropriate.

It had been a fine testament to friendship when, after the whole mess at the church three years ago, no one had said a single thing about it in public. She wasn’t quite sure what all her mom and TeeFay had done, but they’d protected her the best they could under the circumstances and that had meant everything to Katie Faith.

Too bad everyone had looked at her like she was dying for the next six months until she finally just moved away to lick her wounds without all the pity. And—she could admit to herself—to see who she was apart from Diablo Lake. She needed to understand if she could survive without all that. And the truth was, she had a three-quarter life in Chattanooga. The heart of her life was right there in Diablo Lake.

Home meant the way the earth seemed to welcome her and fill her with magic every time she drove into town. It meant the roses bloomed in winter and fruit still hung on trees. Home meant safety and people you loved.

“I hate moving. And I’ll have you know,
Larnamae
, spinning class is really hard! Keeps my ass from falling to my ankles.”

Aimee grinned after tossing a balled-up paper napkin at Kit’s head. “We need to find you a house lickety-split. If not, you’ll be living over the garage back at home and you’ll never get laid. You could live here, you know.”

Diablo Lake didn’t have a lot of extra housing, but she was pretty sure she could find something relatively soon. Location was important though. No way was she living on the Pembry side of town.

“I love you but we’d kill one another if we lived together too long. As for sex? Getting laid is at the bottom of my to-do list just now.” She was going to complain about how it was dumb for women to tell each other they needed sex. But Katie Faith loved sex and it did make her less cranky overall. And, she thought it made Aimee’s life better too.

“That’s your problem. Orgasms on the regular keep you mentally well adjusted.”

Katie Faith sipped her coffee. “Listen, I don’t need anyone else to have one of those. Anyway, when’s the last time
you
got any action?”

“I’ve been broken up with Bob for eight months now. I don’t miss him. But I can’t deny he knew his way around my lady bits. Diablo Lake’s stock is limited. What can I say?”

“You’re a floozy and have weak character.” Katie Faith shook her head sadly and then cracked up.

After a quick flip of her middle finger, Aimee went back to her breakfast. “That’s me all over. Hey, so are you heading to the hospital today? We got sidetracked discussing sex and other dirty things.”

Kit,
oh hell
, Katie Faith, stood, draining her coffee. “I’m going to stop over at the Counter first. Then I’ll call my mom and see what’s going on. I’ve got Curtis helping out while I’m back and forth to the hospital. And Miz Rose is going to help. She knows the place backward and forward anyway.” Curtis was Aimee’s cousin and Rose Collins had worked odd shifts at the Counter for nearly thirty years. She was eighty now, but spry and smart and she could run the place with her eyes closed. And the leader of the Consort of Witches in Diablo Lake.

“I need to shower. I’ll go in to work for a bit. Call me when you’re ready and I’ll ride with you. I haven’t seen your mom in a few days anyway. I’ll also make sure all the pieces coordinating with his physical therapy and all that once he’s home are in place.” Aimee’s expertise with all the medical related stuff was a huge help.

Katie Faith hugged Aimee tight. “Thank you. Really.”

“That’s what friends do.” Aimee jogged from the room as Katie Faith began to tidy up the kitchen and wash out the coffee stuff.

She’d have to handle a lot of things. She’d need a place to live and not just to get laid, as Aimee so delicately put it. If—when—she came back, it would be for good and she wanted her own space to put her roots back down.

Roots were important. She had them here in Diablo Lake. Gradys had been there for generations. She fit there in a way she knew she’d never be comfortable anywhere else. At the same time, it was really important that she come back and make a place for herself on her own terms. She didn’t want to be that woman who got herself left at the altar, or Avery and Nadine’s girl. Not only anyway.

She may have not fit into Chattanooga as well as she had in Diablo Lake, but she was her own person there. She’d also learned a lot about herself. She would return, partly because her family needed her and partly because it was time. But she’d do it with some dignity. As much as she could anyway.

Looking through Aimee’s kitchen window, she caught sight of a man jogging down the street in the early morning stillness. She leaned closer to see who it was, not that the long, powerful legs and shirtless torso weren’t enough to enjoy in and of themselves.

As if she’d shouted a name, he turned and she stilled, her hands gripping the dish towel tight. How on Earth could she still be so totally gobsmacked every time she caught sight of the man? And how on Earth did he still look so good? And forbidden, which, well come on, what girl with a lick of sense wouldn’t want that?

She did manage to lift her hand and wave. He must not have recognized her, either that or he hated her, because his wave in return was joined by a puzzled look and he kept on running.

Shrinking back from the window with a wistful sigh, she hung the towel up and headed to get dressed.

“I just saw Jace Dooley jogging,” she called out to Aimee as she finished with her makeup and came back out into the living room.

“Shirtless, right? Tell me it was one of those days.” Aimee waggled her eyebrows.

“Wait, this is a thing?” Katie Faith asked.

“Yes. He goes for a run every morning. You can see him twice if you’re up early enough. Unless it’s snowing he usually has his shirt off and tucked into his shorts. He’s one of the Lord’s finest creations.” Aimee hummed.

“I can’t believe you didn’t even tell me. What kind of friend knows Jace runs shirtless past a body’s kitchen window every single day and never bothers to say? It’s like I don’t even know you.” Katie Faith shook her head.

“You’re right. I sincerely apologize for my oversight. So.” Aimee looked her up and down. “Is this a thing then? I just need to know how to be supportive. Like should I be cheerleading you taking up jogging so you can get yourself and your jiggly boobs in his path? Or is this just an idle trip down memory lane when you had the hot and tinglies for him?”

She thought about it for a while. “I don’t know if it’s a thing yet. It could be a thing. If he’s single and I still like him. I’ve changed since then. I imagine he has too. But it’s not something I came back to town to do. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to set my alarm tomorrow so I won’t miss out. Just because I don’t have time to do anything doesn’t mean I can’t look.”

Aimee said, “It would be a crime against nature not to look at him.”

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