When a tried and true merger hits a few snags, only a traditional happily-ever-after will do.
In 2647, only ten percent of the population marries, and most of those nuptials are business related. Sierra Merritt, heir to Merritt Industrial, is married to her job. She doesn’t want another “husband” of any kind, and certainly not a Tergonian Shifter. Jonathan Bain Wright III, a Tergonian Shapeshifter and major shareholder in Wright Transport, completely agrees. Neither bride nor groom wishes to marry a partner sight unseen and think a merger should end at the business level. Unfortunately, their shareholders don’t agree. Trying to indulge in their last few days of freedom before they’re forced to meet and marry, they each visit a nightclub with pleasure in mind. But when her bridal shower and his bachelor party intersect, they find themselves naked, happy, and in each others’ arms.
When the unthinkable happens, they have to wonder. Can a Shifter find a traditional happily-ever-after with a human who makes him feel what no human should? And can said human convince him her love is real?
Jack Wright stared moodily at the fancy invitation his soon-to-be-bride had sent out. None of it was in his taste. He was only glad the invite hadn’t been covered in Tergon poppies, the latest trend in scented paper.
“How the hell did this happen? It’s almost here.”
Mark Denton, his cousin and best friend, shook his head. “You know something, buddy? You need to lighten up. So you’re marrying. Big deal. Doesn’t mean you have to change anything about your life.”
Jack scowled. “So you’re telling me not to change my lifestyle, to screw whoever and however I please, and to party and game all night long after I’ve said vows?”
“Hell, no.” Mark frowned. “But you don’t do any of that crap now, at least except for that screwing part. And even there you’ve been dry lately.”
“In other words, walk the straight and narrow, ‘give her a chance,’” Jack said in falsetto, mimicking his mother. “Christ, you know you should be the one marrying this girl. You have more financial need of her than I do. Besides, you’re better husband material.”
“True.” Mark grinned. “But this is your wedding, not mine. Thank God,” he murmured, but loudly enough for Jack to hear. “When I marry, and being the youngest, I can safely avoid an arranged match, I’ll do it for love. Imagine one woman forever.” Mark’s skin visibly rippled along his neck, black stripes gleaming before fading back to golden flesh, and a shiver coursed down his spine. “Damned if that doesn’t beat all. I love tradition.”
Unlike Jack, who couldn’t stand the old ways. Though the rite of marriage had slowly faded until only about ten percent of the populace said vows, those that wed married for life. No more divorces, no more wasted time in courts, no separations of any kind, for Tergonians and humans. Unless a spouse died, a marriage held fast. An extremely serious undertaking, marriage was allotted to very few, and only for the best of reasons. So it was with no small surprise that Jack had only recently learned of his coming nuptials.
“They told me just last week, you know. So that it’d be too late for me to find my way out of this mess.” Jack stood in his room, an opulent extravagance he could more than afford. “Why the hell are my parents forcing this? You know as well as I do that Wright Transport is sitting pretty. We don’t need the money.”
“True. But you have to admit, a merger between Wright Transport and Merritt Industrial would more than set you up for life. No more worries about where to find raw materials. And you get a wife to boot. What luck!” Mark lent with false cheer. “I’m making light of it, but the truth is, there’s no way to back out of this now, not without hurting your parents and your stockholders. Come on, Jack. Think positive. No matter how much of an ice bitch this Merritt woman may be, you can charm her if you put your mind to it. Hell, remember Professor Chavez? Totally sexy and totally frigid. Yet you not only scored an A in her class but had her out of her dress by the end of the our time at university.”
Jack shook his head, reluctantly smiling at the memory of the hot Julia Chavez in nothing but garters and high heels.
“It’s been so long since you’ve had sex, you’re bound to be cranky. What you need, my friend, is to get laid.” Mark rubbed his hands together. “Now it just so happens we received an invite to The Suns by a very sexy lady.”
“Trust me.” Mark thumped his back with a blow hard enough to fell a tree. “Our fees are covered—my gift to you on these auspicious days before the big event. Consider this your bachelor party.” At Jack’s grimace, he rambled on. “Look, the place is a feast for anything you could possibly want. The women we’ll be meeting, well, just remember to thank me later. Even in Fertu, these two stand out. They’re sexy enough to blow your mind…among other things, one can hope.”
“Two of them?”
“Sorry. You only get one. The redhead’s mine. But the blonde, she’s yours.”
“A blonde, eh?”
“More like a honey blonde. She’s got gold streaks through long hair that looks so soft you want to run your fingers through it.” Trust his cousin to exaggerate, though Jack felt his own interest stir. “Her eyes are a whiskey brown, mesmerizing. And her mouth makes you want to…ah, never mind. Look, I’ll show you the woman I’m talking about, and you can tell me what you think.”
An hour later, Jack drained another glass of Preeyo, the slow burn passing his throat to warm his belly. His senses hopped around in a puzzling circus of energy, making him wonder just what Mark had in store. Though Jack was no stranger to human women, he preferred Tergonians. Long and lean, they liked their sex rough, honest, and without emotional attachment. A quick, satisfying fuck and a goodbye.
Movement coming toward him caught his attention, and he turned to see Mark walking with a wide grin on his face.
“I finally found her,” Mark shouted after threading his way through the very crowded floor, a hot little redhead following in trace. “She’s upstairs in The Loft.” He leaned closer, trying for what passed for a whisper in this place. “You know that’s the area where anything goes, right? And did I mention she has really full breasts, a great ass, and legs that go from here to the moons?”
Jack grinned, his mood pleasantly buzzed. “No, you didn’t. But I’m glad you did.”
“She’s under curtain A.”
“Great. And she knows I’m coming, right?”
“Not sure she knows you’re coming, but I’m sure once she sees you, she’ll be all for it,” Mark joked then turned to the redhead behind him and whispered something in her ear that had her laughing.
Nice, Jack acknowledged, aware he wouldn’t have minded her. The redhead had a beautiful mouth and an intriguing smile that made him want to join her. But…he had someone already waiting on him. A woman who had his imagination and his senses tingling.
“Now to find this paragon of womanhood.” He wiggled his brows as he waved goodbye. He pushed off the bar and walked through the crowd to a guarded stairwell. Noting the small golden sun pinned to his shirt—compliments of Avery, the owner and a friend he’d attended university with—Jack passed the burly bouncers and jogged up three flights of stairs.
Not a bit winded, he looked around, trying to find the curtained section marked with an A. He found it, a scarlet A over black velvet. “Ironic,” he murmured, recalling The Scarlet Letter, an ancient text he’d been forced to read at university. “But then, Avery, you were a literature buff.”
Before he drew the curtain aside, he looked around. At least up here, the obnoxious noise in the club was muted. The floor had little foot traffic, with the occasional muttered groans and cries of couples engaged in physical pursuits. Privacy in the form of a dense black curtain surrounded each small section—what Avery had mentioned in passing as a table and chairs and a large couch, big enough to fit four easily. And comfortable enough to screw in all night long.
Feeling unaccountably excited at the thought of doing Miss Long Legs and Great Ass, Jack squelched the knowledge his wedding was in just three days and slowly opened the curtain.
The sight that met his eyes froze him, and he found himself unable to do more than stare at the vision sitting on the couch.
Copyright © 2012 Marie Harte