I'm joining NaNoWriMo this year and here's a sample chapter from my latest story. This story takes place after Care Package Mate. (You can find a copy on Amazon)
I've got some recurring characters here that are from previous books. Argus "Gus" Urbane was screaming, nay, bulldozing his way into the pages. Enjoy!
Scene from Chapter 1
Gus had been in a bad mood for three weeks. Mad Mariah’s replacement was late. A week late. This new replacement said a storm had prevented her from getting here. The tent Gus pitched in the gallery had already been set up for a week. There were plenty of inquiries on who the new fortuneteller was.
He was proud of the tent. It was fuchsia pink, Mariah’s favorite color. It had gold tassels and warm fairy lights around. Inside, it was velvet lined, had mood lighting, thick carpeting and had plush pillows.
Where in the world was she?
He turned around and was marching to Markus’ office when he bumped into something extra bouncy.
“Pardon me,” he said when he was unfazed yet the person who bumped him fell in a clatter of pillows, cards and marbles. It was a lady underneath the fluff of fabric. She was cute and a bit on the curvy side. She had no mask but had a face shield instead. Gus smiled and stretched out a helping hand. He thought she was cute and definitely edible.
“So sorry! I needed to get away from—eek!” She jumped up on Gus.
Gus had no problem carrying her generous weight. In his surprise, he let the lady literally climb on him. He frowned when he saw little Goliath yipping and jumping around the lady. The little dog was taking pleasure in jumping on the lady’s things. She even peed on one of the embroidered pillows.
“Nooooo! Bad dog!” The lady was horrified at her pillows being soiled. She jumped down from Gus and tried to shake the pee away.
Goliath, a chubby Chihuahua overly spoiled by her parents, grabbed one of the pillow’s ends and was determined to snack on it. The lady tried to pull on the pillow and stuffing and dried herbs exploded into the plaza. “My pillows!” The lady was in tears by then.
Gus was horrified at such a horrendous behavior from the little dog shifter. “Goliath,” he barked. The little dog gave a growl, challenging the big Werewolf. Normally, it was cute but nobody challenged Gus and lived to tell the tale. He may not be Markus’ Beta but he could still hold his own. Gus took her by the scruff of her neck and held her eye to eye. “You challenging me, pup? You know I could eat you for dinner.”
The little dog turned into a naked little girl and stuck out her tongue. “Daddy won’t let you!”
“See if he can stop me!” He growled.
“I’m gonna tell daddy!”
“Tell him all you want! I’ll show him your pee stains after you become my midnight snack!” Gus bared his teeth and roared. His head was turning wolf and was threatening to bite the little imp.
Scared, the little girl screamed and howled like a banshee. “Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!”
Seeing the exchange, the lady who was busy trying to save her things from pee, fainted. Markus came running towing a behemoth vampire behind him. Security must have called them. “Gus, let her down and for heaven’s sake, someone get her some clothes!”
Argus let the naked girl go, unceremoniously dumping her on the soiled pillow. She frowned at the wet feeling and started to cry-howl.
His head turned back to human. Only Werewolves and Eagle Shifters could partially shift their bodies to their animal counterparts. Wolves also have the Half-form where they turned into the humanoid wolf form of legends. “Vamp, I thought you’ve potty trained this critter? Look at this mess! We can’t have her chasing guests and peeing on their things.” Gus loved Goliath but she was acting so spoiled lately since she was the youngest pup in the pack. Technically Caleb and his family didn’t belong to the pack hierarchy but Markus sort of adopted Caleb and his family, making them honorary pack members.
“Goliath, what did we talk about? When you are in public places, you must be human and no peeing anywhere.” Caleb used his sternest dad-voice. Goliath kept cry-howling. Unable to resist her, Caleb enveloped her in a hug, partly to cover her nudity, partly to comfort her. “Hush, let’s go upstairs and get some clothes.” He left with her, giving an apologetic nod to Argus.
The maintenance crew came and started to pick up the fallen items. Two pillows were a goner. One of them had pee stains while the other had its insides ripped. Gus came over the fainted lady and helped her up. She was unresponsive. He felt her head, trying to sense if she had hit it on the floor. Markus came over to the fallen girl and Gus. The lady was a little pale. Gus didn’t like that. If something happened to her, they were liable. “There’s no lump on her head but she’s not coming to yet.”
“Take her to one of the rooms. I’ll send for a doctor,” Markus said. Gus nodded. “If she still isn’t awake, we’ll have to call for an ambulance.” Lucky for Wolves, they had an in-house doctor, nutritionist, nurse and dentist. Markus insisted each Wolves Resort to have one set in-house. He claimed a fortune teller told him that. The prediction paid-off. Many emergencies were quelled because they had competent in-house staff ready for action.
“Oh, please be careful with her, Gus. Meet our new fortuneteller. She’s Mad Mariah’s replacement.”
Rousella Jean Silvio came to and blinked, trying to remember why she was in an unfamiliar environment. It was so comfortable in the bed. The sheets smelled like fabric softeners. The pillows were fluffy and not well-worn like hers. She sat up and blinked. All she saw was a scruffy face who blocked her sunlight. Was she in the beach? Everything beyond his face seemed bright.
“Good morning, starshine. Do you need anything? I’ve taken the liberty of ordering food. Don’t worry. It’s on my tab,” the hulking giant said standing at the front of the light said.
Whatever he said, didn’t make sense to her. She turned her head to look around. Where was she? Did she faint? This didn’t look like a hospital room. It looked like a… hotel room, something she’d only seen in movies. She’s never actually been in a hotel room before. This definitely looked like the ads. It even smelled like what she’d imagined it to smell like, fabric softened and cleanliness. The man was standing in front of the floor to ceiling glass window. The sun was high above and it streamed through, nearly blinding her.
He moved closer. Scared, she rolled away, getting away from him. The bed was so big that she only rolled to the center of it.
“Please, starshine, eat. I’m not here to hurt you, just feed you. I hope you’re not on a diet. I like a woman with meat on the bones.”
Rousella, or Rose to her family, eyed him. He was a big man, foreign, carried himself well and dressed in a light-colored suit. Beneath the suit was one hundred percent pure muscles and the seams began to strain when he flexed.
“My name is Rousella,” she finally said. “Not starshine.”
“Forgive me, starshine, you were ever so radiant that I was nearly blinded. Please, come and join me. You’ll need breakfast, Rousella.”
There was something in the way he pronounced her name that made her shiver. Was it the accent? Or was it because she instinctively knew he was not human.
“Rooozeyliaaah,” he said once again as he made his way to the couches to the other end of the room.
“Um, Rose, would do.” She hopped over to the floor, trying to wrestle with her long skirts. She loved long and voluminous skirts but it was a bit cumbersome at the moment.
When she finally reached the floor, she wobbled before reaching the back of the couches. That’s when she saw a huge coffee table the size of a conference table. It wasn’t a light snack before her. It was a buffet.
The layout of the room was quite unique. There was a whole living room in front of the giant bed. One side of the room were wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking the resort. Rose glanced and saw her tiny tent for her card reading.
“Coffee, tea or milk tea?” They had all kinds of drinks in the resort, even four branded milk tea chains to choose from.
“I take warm milk tea, no sugar, extra pearls,” she said.
“Got it!” The behemoth went to the e-tablet mounted on the wall. He punched a few buttons for room service. He ordered her warm milk tea while asking for orange juice and black coffee for himself.
Rose sat on the single-seater couch on one side of the buffet. Was this food for a week? She loved eating but lately, money’s been tight. She had to forgo having weekly milk tea, specialty lattes and food binges. This temptation in front of her was not being helped by the temptation that was standing near the e-tablet.
Normally, Rose liked them big. She thought a small guy would probably get squished by her. This supernatural before her was big, huge. But he wasn’t fat. No, he was a hundred percent muscle underneath the suit. She could stare at him the whole day. She probably was because he smiled at her and sauntered over. With the grace of a tiger, he jumped from behind the couch to just right in front of her. Rose gasped. He was fast.
The man sat on the adjacent couch. How many couches does one room need? This was an odd layout but it was clearly meant for someone who entertained a lot.
He scooped what looked like Scampi pasta into a large bowl. “Try this.”
Rose accepted the bowl. The food smelled delicious. Everything smelled so good. “Who are you?”
“Oh, pardon me, starshine. My name is Argus Urbane. Gus for short,” he said as he scooped pasta and ribs on his own bowl.
He was eating food so that ruled out Vampires, she thought. Perhaps he was a shifter. It was his grace and how he jumped. Then, there was a glow behind his eyes. He was definitely not human.
The more he ate, the more she tried to guess what kind of shifter he was. In less than ten minutes he cleared a fourth of the entire spread. She was just finishing her pasta.
“Try the surf and turf. It’s to die for!”
Before she could respond, he began to pile her bowl with pieces of steak and shrimps. When she hesitated, he forked a crispy shrimp to her lips. It was dripping in butter garlic sauce. She couldn’t help but bite into it. It was indeed so good.
“So, who are you?” She asked again. Knowing his name was not helping her connect the dots. Why was she in a hotel room with a stranger who was feeding her so much food?
“I just told you. Name’s Gus,” he said as he piled on more food. He poured gravy and butter garlic over his surf and turf.
“That doesn’t answer anything.” He passed the butter garlic sauce and she accepted it. Did he think she was so desperate for food that she’d accept it from a random stranger? She didn’t want to seem rude.
“I happened to carry you from the plaza to here. Surf and Turf is one of the best-sellers of The Cavern. You should try it. We have our annual employees’ Christmas parties there.”
With food this good, it was definitely an incentive to stay. Apart from pasta and surf and turf, there were baked clams drowned in cheese, a fondue set, a chocolate fountain, exotic salads, a fruit plate and a gigantic slice of cheesecake.
“Cheesecake,” the word escaped her buttery lips before she censored herself. Cheesecake was her one weakness. She blew her money away when she saw cheesecake. She liked all types of them: Oreo cheesecake, matcha cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, Raspberry cheesecake, New York cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake and more. The newer the flavor, the more she wanted to taste it.
“Ah, yeah, they only had a slice left from the buffet last night. Unfortunately, the chef de patisserie reported sick today. We can’t let her back until she’s fine and has a COVID test.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, never taking her eyes off the cheesecake. “I’m going to have to taste it, make sure it’s safe to eat.”
Sensing her intent, he lunged towards the cheesecake. Rose, being closest to the cheesecake, grabbed the delicacy with her bare hands.
“That cheesecake is mine!” His eyes glowed bright golden.
“Not fast enough.” She started to bite into the cake. It was so firm yet had the right flavors. It wasn’t the cheap kind where they mixed in half a pint of cream more than the cheese and added gelatin to set it. This was the real-deal. It was a New York Cheesecake.
The cheesecake was so divine, she was devouring it at an alarming rate. “Oh no you don’t!” Gus grabbed her hands. The remnants of the cheesecake were still there. He began to lick it clean.
Rose was frozen in place at such a carnal act. Was he going to eat the rest of her too? Is that why he was feeding her? No doubt he was a supernatural person. What if he was a dragon shifter? What if his intent was to eat her? She needed to find Markus Simeon and get started on working before she became his midnight snack.
The door burst open and two big men came in. “Ha! I told you she’d have Gus eating at the palm of her hands! Pay up,” the man in light colored suit said but she doubted if he was human.
“I didn’t think it was literal,” the behemoth in pinstripes muttered. He handed his friend a plastic card. “Well, Ms. Silvio, it seems you are awake and have tamed young Gus.”
She pulled her hands away and wiped them on a napkin. “Um, hi. Who are you?” Her space was suddenly invaded by big hulking men.
Gus frowned. “I think she’s hit her head harder than we thought. She kept asking me who I am. I already told her my name twice.”
Rose frowned. “Yes, you said your name but I still don’t know who you are.”
“I think proper introductions are in order. I’m Markus Simeon, proprietor and predator.” The man in pinstripes had a gallant way about him that didn’t fit with what she saw on the internet as Werewolf. This Werewolf was sophisticated.
“Yes, and this is Caleb, he owns the gym and some of the restaurants here at Wolves. He co-owns the casinos. That’s Gus. He likes to eat and was hoping you’d read his palm. He’s also the head of construction and maintenance here at Wolves.” Markus pointed to the other two men, introducing them.
“Rose would do. I don’t read palms. I read oracle cards and aura,” she admitted. “So, everyone’s a Werewolf?” that explained the size.
Before he could answer, a team of waiters came and cleared the used dishes. They replenished the buffet and provided plates for Markus and Caleb.
They all sat around the table and began to eat. “I’m a Vampire,” Caleb said.
“But you’re eating!” Rose’s eyes were bulging when she saw him bite into a well-done rib.
“Of course! I get hungry too, you know. Also, I have to build muscle mass,” Caleb said as he bit into prime ribs.
“Don’t mind Caleb. He’s becoming more animal than Vampire these days,” Markus said as he fixed coffee for himself.
Caleb threw a piece of French fry at his friend. “You are the animals I hang with.”
Markus caught the fry and ate it. “My point exactly. We’re all predators here. Vampires are supposed to be the sophisticated kind.” When he said sophisticated, he flourished is spoon in the air. “You’re running around uncivilized. Your wife might object.”
“She loves me so she puts up with me being more animal than sophistication.” Caleb grabbed a handful of shrimps from the surf and turf tray and ate it in one bite. “I’ll bring her over once you’ve set up your tent,” he told Rose.
“I’ve already set it up,” Gus declared. “I’ve even decorated it until your imp peed on it.”
Caleb winced. “My apologies,” he said to Rose. “That was my daughter. She’s only ten and she’s only found her human legs recently.”
Rose didn’t quite understand that scenario. She knew there was a backstory to a Vampire with a dog shifter for a daughter who lost and found her legs. For now, she decided to listen. These people were who she’d be working for and working with.
Markus fixed himself a plate of pancakes and topped it with beef stroganoff. Compared to Caleb, he used a fork and knife. “Great! Ms. Silvio can put her finishing touches and start right away. These days, fortune tellers are a rare commodity, you know. While everyone’s here, we can talk. I just need a copy of the signed contract and you can have the tent.”
“I don’t have a printer,” Rose admitted.
“Not a problem.” Markus typed something on his phone. “My secretary will print it. Any concern on the particulars?”
“No, sir. It’s actually a pretty good deal. Thanks for the one-year free gym membership.” The contract for her tent in the plaza was pretty straight forward. She would give forty percent of her income to Wolves in exchange for the tent, lunch and dinner in the employees’ mess hall, medical insurance, free room and buffet for her birthday and invitations to Wolves Employee Events. Caleb gave her a one-year free gym membership as a welcoming gift. Technically, she was not an employee but a tenant. There were stipulations in her contract that states that all Wolves employees get a twenty percent off discount in her readings and Pack Members and immediate family gets forty percent off.
Rose sipped her warm milk tea. She liked it warm instead of cold. It was relaxing. She indulged herself in the spread in front of her. Who knew when she could eat like this? She piled on the surf and turf and tried the fish curry next. She let the conversation flow around her. There was something easy to get along with about these three men around her. They were big and all predators but hey treated her well and even told her of the state of the city. Minutes later, there was a knock on the door.
“Ah, there’s the pup and he’s towed another pup.” Markus called for the man to enter. His nose already told him who was at the door. “This is Ryan, my secretary. He’s the one who’s emailing you.”
“Good morning! Ryan Urbane, at your service.” The man was relatively younger than Markus and Gus. He was not as muscled but he was getting there. He was a foreigner and definitely a Werewolf. His suit had more color than the other two. Ryan wore a maroon suit over a navy shirt. He had a golden name tag on his left breast pocket.
“Urbane? You are brothers?” She looked at Gus, noting there was little resemblance between the purple-haired boy and the burly redhead.
Gus, Ryan and Markus laughed. “It is a Werewolf custom that members of the pack take on as Surname the name of the pack.”
“Oh, how interesting! But what about you? How come your name is different?”
Markus sipped his coffee. “My late father’s request to keep his name but I don’t run with the Simeon Pack. From my father, my eldest brother inherited the mantle of leadership. I chose to create my own pack, a business pack. One that’s not bound by land territory.”
“Boss, this little imp wants to say something,” Ryan inclined his head indicating the little monster who clung to his pants. They had all but forgotten Goliath, the little dog shifter who wreaked havoc on Rose’s pillows.
Caleb sighed. “Lia, are you here to say sorry?”
There was a squeak behind Ryan.
“This was the little animal who attacked your things and peed on your pillow. She’s also my adopted daughter,” Caleb explained. “We call her Goliath but Markus is trying to train her to respond to Lia as her human name. My wife raised her for the past ten years not knowing she was a shifter. Lia, come out here. What will you tell Ms. Rose?”
“I’m sowwy,” the little girl mumbled, still clutching Ryan’s pants tight.
“I’m sowwy I barked at you and I’m sowwy I peed on your piwwows and ate them.” The little girl poked her head out to look at Rose. “I thot I kill’t you.”
“The excitement has gotten to me. You are forgiven as long as you promise not to do it again.” Rose’s pillows wouldn’t survive a washing.
“That’s a good girl. Come to daddy.” Caleb patted the cushion beside him. The little girl ran from behind Ryan and jumped in the air landing on the couch. Caleb put a plate of pancakes in front of her. The chubby little girl ate as much as her daddy.
Gus poured her some more milk tea. “It’s not the excitement. Doctor came. Gave you all kinds of tests. Did a rapid test too, just in case. You’re COVID-free. He said you were dehydrated and your blood sugar was way, way low.” He then put a serving of ice cream in front of her and put crushed pineapples and cherries. Not satisfied, he put chocolate syrup on top. “You should eat more.”
“I’m trying to cut down.”
“You aren’t on a diet, are you? Those don’t work, you know. Look, thin people ain’t happy. Trust me. I’ve dated a lot of them. Happy people are happy because they aren’t hungry.”
That was the strangest analogy she has ever heard. Although the truth of her dieting was two-fold. “I’ll keep that in mind but with the amount of chocolate syrup you put, I’m headed for diabetes.” The bowl was big, with three scoops of ice cream. He had put generously the topics.
Markus laughed. “Ease up, Gus!” To Rose, he said, “not to worry, Rose. As part of our medical package, you have access to our nutritionist. She’ll work a healthy plan out for you.”
“That would be wonderful.” Rose was so happy. They were very generous with her.
Ryan handed her the contract. She signed them and handed them back. Ryan had Markus sign as well.
“Ryan will have this notarized then send you a copy,” Markus said. Ryan nodded and left.
Gus was looking at her, excited and happy. “Ready to start? I can’t wait already!”
“Whoa, boy! Let her finish her food.” The alpha reigned in Gus. The wolf could be very enthusiastic and as Alpha, he didn’t want that to scare the pack’s new fortuneteller.
More food was passed around. Rose loved to eat. She didn’t get the size she was at for nothing. Eating was her comfort and joy but she had no idea Werewolves could eat so much. They nearly devoured the tablecloth when they were cleaning their plates up. This was no mindless eating. They were enjoying the spread.
Then, Caleb complained that it lacked variety. Markus commented that it was supposed to be a midmorning snack and not brunch. It was getting late already. They all had work to do. Markus stood and made his excuses to go. Caleb dragged his little girl and apologized once more to Rose. He promised to send a voucher to replace the pillows that Lia ruined. The two men bid Rose goodbye and went to work.
“They’ll have brunch in an hour. Want to join them? They’ll be dining at The Needle Point. It’s at the rooftop restaurant of the Simeon,” Gus said. He called for waiters to clean up the dishes.
She didn’t think she could eat until Midnight. “Is this typical of the super sets?”
“What? Live in hotels or welcome guests with breakfast?”
“Um, eating a lot.” She came from a culture of welcoming guests with food. If these Werewolves came to town, she wouldn’t know where to get the amount of food they consumed. And it was just ten in the morning!
“Oh, yeah, that. You see, Werewolves burn a lot of calories especially when they expend energy. We have to eat a lot. Markus actually didn’t eat a lot since he’s stuck in his desk most days.” That wasn’t a lot? The man ate five plates’ worth, she observed.
“What about you? You don’t look like the type of wolf to be stuck behind the desk.” She noted his bulging muscles and calloused hands.
“Me behind a desk?” He laughed heartily. “I like hard work. My specialty is in construction. I’ve a degree in engineering and am now studying architecture online.”
“A wolf of many talents.”
He beamed a smile at her. Gus was charming. Too bad, she thought, she couldn’t have him or someone like him. “This morning was interesting. So, about eating a lot,” she prompted when they exited the hall. Gus led her to the elevator.
“Breakfast, midmorning snack if you’re peckish, brunch if you’re in a hurry, lunch, snack, coffee break, appetizers before dinner, dinner, dessert, nighttime coffee break, midnight snack, sleep. That’s basically a Werewolf’s life.”
She was amazed at the amount of food and the frequency they ate. Her food schedule was usually just breakfast, lunch and dinner with a bag of junk food in between. Finally, they arrived at the plaza. The plaza was in the middle of the resort. Gus promised to check in on her later.