Authors: Leigh Ellwood
Tags: #romance, #paranormal romance, #werewolves, #erotic romance, #shapeshifter, #paranormal erotica, #shapeshifter romance, #shapeshifter erotica, #werepanthers
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Alright, bitch, time for
you to get your bony bow-wow ass out of that chair. Right
Calla Savitch bowed her
head and sighed. She had just poked into the back storage closet to
search for a fresh set of tease combs when that familiar, livid
voice rattled the very foundation of her salon. Sheila Houlihan
could have startled the most horrifying banshee back to the old
country with that heavily accented demand—or anybody else, it
appeared, save for the one person Sheila wanted to
Oh, go wait in the litter
box!” snapped Lorraine Winston, the bony bow-wow in question,
ostensibly still seated in Calla’s styling chair. “While you’re
there you can give yourself a bath, you filthy mongrel.”
How’d you like to be
bathed in your own blood, you mangy c—?”
Calla blocked out the
profanity and stared into the dim, cramped space before her. She
braced herself for the next inevitable counterattack, all the while
cursing herself for unconsciously arranging this minor battle in
the never-ending war. She should have known better to schedule
appointments for two women from the rivaling Houlihan and Winston
families on the same day, but with the economy in recession Shear
Bliss, Calla’s beauty salon, had taken a hit over the summer. To
say she needed the income was an understatement—she was apparently
willing to risk a violent, superhuman catfight destroying her place
of business in order to keep the bills paid.
thought to herself as she hurried to the front of the salon,
. Just her luck that the two feuding
families were comprised of were-beings.
Ladies,” Calla warned as
she approached, praying to all things divine that neither of them
had yet bared fangs or claws to strike. “At the risk of losing more
regular customers, I am using that term loosely. I won’t have any
of this crap going on in my salon. Take it outside if you must
remained in Calla’s chair, even though the position clearly gave
her little advantage in a tussle. Calla figured the she-wolf stayed
there to spite her werecat opponent. In a defiant move, Lorraine
crossed her legs and folded her arms over the long green bib used
to keep hair clipping off clothing.
Calla can confirm that I
reserved her services for precisely ten o’clock today,” she said,
her voice stiff and cool. “As you can see, we are not
Well, my appointment is
at eleven,” Sheila huffed, “and I’ve yet to wait to get my hair
done. I won’t start now.”
Sheila, it’s only twenty
after, you’re quite early.” Calla guided the raven-haired
were-panther to a chair in the waiting area. She no longer felt the
need to placate the woman. The way these two and others in their
family carried on their conflicts in public, Calla had to wonder if
their legendary squabbles had a hand in the sharp decline of her
customer base…to say nothing of surrounding businesses. Across the
street, Calla could count more “Space For Rent” notices than “Open”
signs. Times were tough, yes, but Calla also noticed the wide berth
given by townspeople whenever they spotted a Houlihan and a Winston
walking up the same street.
Calla then shook her head.
It’s not fair to blame them
, she scolded herself.
People are truly broke these days
. No sense in blaming a
shifter unless he raised the interest rates.
I don’t have much more to
do with Lorraine, and once we’re done I’ll get you in the chair,
since my appointments are pretty much open today,” she
Sheila grudgingly took the
nearest padded seat and snatched at an entertainment magazine.
“Make sure you spray it first,” she growled.
Relieved Lorraine didn’t
hear the remark, or pretended not to, Calla settled Sheila and
resumed fixing Lorraine’s hair. The lady wolf palmed her smart
phone while the stylist worked, swiping at the screen with her
thumbs and changing websites with practiced ease.
Forgive the smell,”
Lorraine muttered, her voice low. “I heard what she said and cut
Calla sighed again. Grown
women, alleged pillars of the small community of Bliss Township,
acting like spoiled kids! “I don’t know what is wrong with you
people when you get together. Beasts,” she corrected when Lorraine
eyed her with a frown. “Why can’t you all get along?”
You’re a human, you
wouldn’t understand. Werewolves and were-panthers simply don’t mix.
It’s the natural order of things.”
I see.” Actually, she
didn’t. “It’s just that I have a dog and a cat at home, and they
are very civil to each other. Sometimes it seems Duke would rather
play with Daisy instead of other dogs at the park.”
Lorraine scoffed. “Apples
and oranges. You can’t compare domesticated animals to a noble
breed like the werewolf—”
Or the panther shifter?”
One of these days, Calla would hit that special archive at the
library and research exactly how and when her adopted Jersey Shore
hometown became a haven to such an eclectic bunch. Perhaps the
fourth ship following the
took a wrong turn,
stranding Noah’s dysfunctional ark.
Lorraine sank in the
chair. “I said noble.”
I can hear every word
you’re saying,” called Sheila from across the room.
And I can smell
Calla cut off Lorraine’s
murmur. “Aaaand, it looks like we’re done.” Calla undid Lorraine’s
bib and depressed the pedal on the barber chair that lowered the
seat with a gushing hiss. She hastily swept away any shards of cut
hair clinging to Lorraine’s suit jacket, eager to settle her bill
and get her out before the two weres resumed their
To her relief, Sheila kept
her gaze focused on some Hollywood premiere pictorial while
Lorraine handed over a twenty and a five. “No change, hon. Great
job as usual.” The she-wolf cupped the underside of her newly
bobbed style. “Just think about what I asked you earlier,
My answer isn’t going to
Lorraine cast a sly grin.
“We’ll see. You just need a little, ah, convincing.” Tucking her
clutch purse under her arm, she spun on her designer heel and
sashayed out the door without so much a parting snarl at her
Calla let out a quiet,
relieved huff and prayed the next six hours of work passed with
less frustration. No such luck, for the present moment.
Sheila set down the
magazine but didn’t budge. She crossed her legs tight and delivered
an arched glare that could cut through steel.
Fine.” Whatever paid the
bills. Calla took the spray bottle of lukewarm water and a dry
cloth from her station and cleaned where Lorraine had
Sheila smiled, pacified
and eager to gossip. “What did Lorraine say to you earlier to which
the answer remains no?” she asked sweetly.
Don’t worry, it has
nothing to do with you or any other Houlihans. It’s no big deal.”
Yet, for all of Calla’s attempts to slag off the subject, she
realized the cat wouldn’t let up until Calla volunteered some
No, Calla decided. She
wouldn’t indirectly contribute more fuel to this ongoing feud. If
it meant losing a faithful head of hair, fur…so be it.
Sheila set her purse in
the chair and started toward the sinks. “I could use a wash first,
with the pomegranate shampoo, if you have it,” she said.
I can do that.” Finally,
normalcy. Calla grabbed a towel and lined the lip of a sink with it
as Sheila settled back in the low chair.
And remind me to set up
an appointment for Trisha,” Sheila added, referring to her eldest
daughter. “She wants a nice updo for the Indian Summer
The promise of future
business, too. The day improved. “Certainly.” Calla gathered her
customer’s thick dark hair, smoothing shampoo into it under a rush
of warm water. “Does she have her dress picked out yet?”
It’s gorgeous. We
splurged a bit and went into the city for something unique. Might
as well—a cat’s only a debutante once in her life.”
I’m sure Trisha will look
great in it.” Calla imagined a packed ballroom for the event. The
Indian Summer Ball, which heralded the end of the season, normally
served to pair off eligible weres with their mates. Non-shifter
patrons looked forward to the evening as one of the few when the
Houlihans and Winstons agreed to set aside their differences and
act civil toward one another.
The open bar proved a nice
draw as well. Thinking back to the earlier commotion, a drink
didn’t sound half bad right now.
Calla shrugged away the
temptation as she massaged the fragrant shampoo into Sheila’s scalp
and listened to the she-cat prattle. Whatever worked for
those....people, she decided, though she wondered why the Houlihan
pride would so eagerly betroth young Trisha. At eighteen, the girl
should be more concerned with college and having fun.
He’s starting his final
year at Rutgers, and interviewing with a few law schools this
winter,” Sheila was saying about her destined panther-in-law.
“Thing is, he’s leaning toward entertainment law—contracts and
repping reality show divas.” Sheila made a face. “Unless he finds
work in New York we may just lose our baby to the West
That a bad place for
shifters?” Calla cared less about geography, but preferred to keep
the topic of her stagnant love life, which Sheila always managed to
broach during her appointments, off the table. She didn’t want to
get into another argument like the one she had earlier with
Not really. I just hate
flying, and traveling by night in panther form brings on too many
risks.” Sheila blinked in the wake of spatter as Calla rinsed her
hair. “You’re coming, of course?”
The ball, you
Calla laughed. “Nah.
Thought I’d stay home with a bucket of chicken and season one of
Vampires, please.” Sheila
sniffed, then leered up at her. “No date?”
That’s what Lorraine
proposed to you this morning, isn’t it?” Sheila then cackled. “She
wants to hook you up with a real dog.”
Leave it to a cat to sniff
out a true gem. Calla shook her head. “And I told her no,” she
said, “just like I’m telling you right now. I’m not interested in a
blind date with any man, regardless of whether or not he can turn
into a dragon or a tree or whatever.”
But what if I
Sheila,” Calla warned,
“one more word and I’m rinsing with Nair.”