The girl carrying the guitar was as pretty as a valentine in her ruffled pink and lace dress. The July sun was shining, but it wasn’t too warm, and he didn’t have anywhere to be until it was time for Toke Lobo and the Pack’s sound check. Even though his drums didn’t need checking, he was expected to be there with the rest of the band. Until then, he was free to enjoy the annual Moonsinger Brewery family picnic.
He decided to follow the girl. Given the guitar, he guessed she was headed for the stage, where a talent show was scheduled. Maybe being part of the Pack would help him get to know her better. The ploy worked for him in bars.
The sounds and smells of the event bombarded his keen nose and ears. Someone was overcooking the usual array of picnic meats. Children shrieked from the vividly colored bouncy houses. A generator roared and belched diesel fumes as it powered several small carnival rides.
The brewery did well by its employees.
As a member of the Loup Garou pack, Luke was one of the owners of the brewery. Yeah, the picnic cost a lot of money, but the workers deserved something nice. Moonsinger was catching on around the country, thanks to the Internet. Luke had convinced the pack leaders the World Wide Web was the place to be if they wanted to expand their market.
He liked the Internet as much as he liked playing drums and being with females.
The valentine girl looked vaguely familiar. Luke didn’t spend a lot of time in Oak Moon, the town where most of the brewery workers lived, so the recognition puzzled him.
Sure enough, the girl in the pink dress marched up to the talent show registration table to sign in. His super-sensitive werewolf hearing confirmed she’d be on after two more acts. Luke found an open seat off to one side. Her musical talent didn’t interest him in any way other than being the key to getting to know her. With luck, getting to know her real well.
Knowing there was a little blue pill in his pocket heated the contents of his boxers, as if taunting his usually inert organ with possibilities. He hated relying on meds when his human DNA should have overridden the stupid werewolf problem of no erections except with one’s lifemate. Luke was done waiting.
The Internet with its black market commercial websites was a wonderful place. There was no reason he shouldn’t take advantage. His order had arrived that morning, just in time for mingling with humans at the Moonsinger picnic. Seeing the pretty girl in the pink dress was a sign. Anticipation was making him antsy.
Not many people sat in the folding chairs in front of the platform. Nor were there as many blankets strewn around on the grass as there would be when Toke Lobo and the Pack took the stage. Luke felt bad for the performers. He sat through a magic act in which he saw every alleged sleight of hand. The garage band that followed should have stayed parked.
Then the valentine girl came out.
Her eyes were so pure a shade of blue he didn’t think they were real. She must have stolen the color from one of the mountain lakes high above Loup Garou. And her mouth. Ancient Ones, her lips were pink and shiny and full, as if she’d spent the past half hour kissing someone. A slight gap in her top front teeth personalized her smile. Her golden hair snagged the sun, then released beams in prisms of colors wealthy enough to tempt any leprechaun.
“Abigail Grant from Oak Moon,” the emcee announced. A girl in the front row whooped and hollered. Abigail’s fan club.
Luke leaned back in his chair. Abigail’s set wasn’t long—three numbers. The first was a cover of Adele or Christina Perri or something familiar sounding from the radio. The second song was . . . okay. The chord changes were simple and the lyrics adequate, but nothing to impress anyone. And Abigail’s voice was too smooth. Homogenized. There were no rough edges for the notes to cling to. As a performer, she was bland.
But those lips formed a perfect frame for naughty.
Oh, he was going to enjoy exploring those lips and having them explore him.
Her third and final number had him rethinking her talent—or lack thereof. Not that he was any kind of expert, but her voice wasn’t . . . big enough to do the lyrics justice. She sounded like cotton candy—pastel and sweet, but without substance. But the words, listening past the shell of her voice—there was power in lyrics, strength she undermined by singing. She infused the song with sorrow when the meaning required rage.
The smattering of applause as she concluded was embarrassing. She must have realized it, because her cheeks darkened, as if she was blushing.
Luke clapped. He knew how awful being in front of an unappreciative audience could be. He made his way to the edge of the stage, where portable stairs aided the performers getting off and on the platform.
“Hey,” he said, lifting his hand to help her descend.
She hesitated, then her too-blue eyes widened.
Luke thought he might drown.
“You’re the drummer for Toke Lobo,” she said. Her speaking voice was as smooth as her singing voice. She took his hand.
“Luke. Nice to meet you.” He grinned. Women loved his grin. At least, that’s what they told him. “You must be thirsty after all that singing. Can I buy you a cup of lemonade?”
Werewolves didn’t drink their own product and this girl looked too young to be of legal drinking age. He sure hoped she was of legal-to-have-sex age. Because he definitely wanted to have sex with her. The little blue pill in his pocket was making all sorts of promises he intended it to keep.
She smiled, pretty as—well, Luke had nothing to compare her to. Her hand felt good in his as he helped her off the stage. “I’d love a cup of lemonade. Thanks.”
She glanced over her shoulder at her fan club. Luke did the same. The girl in the front row was ignoring the act currently on stage and watching Abigail with an unusual expression.
“Friend of yours?” Luke asked.
“My younger sister.”
Luke was torn. He wanted to be a nice guy, but seduction didn’t work real well with kid sisters hanging around. On the other hand, if he waited until after his own performance, and he was nice to the sister now, he might score extra points. “Would she like some lemonade?”
Her hand relaxed in his before she withdrew it. “That’s sweet of you.” She gestured for the girl to join them.
The girl was a younger, unfinished version of Abigail. Rainbows didn’t nest in her hair, and her eyes hadn’t yet been to the mountain to steal color from a lake. And she was a child.
“Libby, this is Luke. He’s Toke Lobo’s drummer. Luke wants to buy us some lemonade.”
Libby smiled at Luke, but he had the feeling there wasn’t much happiness prompting the expression. Color wasn’t the only thing missing from her eyes.
“Thank you,” Libby said.
“Let’s stow Abigail’s guitar before we head to the lemonade stand,” Luke suggested. He led the way toward the bus hauling Toke Lobo’s gear. He summoned one of the roadies and asked him to look after the guitar. Even the roadies had higher rank in the pack than Luke, lowest of the low, Omega did—despite actually being in the band—but other than a dirty look, the roadie did as requested.
“Is Toke Lobo around?” Abigail craned her neck, taking in the behind-the-scene sights.
“He’ll be down from Loup Garou later.”
Tokarz was mated now, had a son now, but the honky-tonk angels sought him. Luke had hoped Abigail was different.
Someday, he was going to be more than an adjunct to Tokarz de Lobo Garnier. Someday, Luke was going to be respected, not ridiculed for his human blood and his computer expertise. Someday. But not today.
Today, finally, he was going to get laid.