Excerpt for Wrapped Up in Stripes by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2018 Sarah Marsh



ISBN: 978-1-77339-717-7


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: CA Clauson



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.





DEDICATION


This book is for two amazing ladies I’m very lucky to call friends, Heidi Rundle and Julie Ayling. Thank you both for all that you do and all of your support—it means the world to me.

May your luck in love always be plentiful and may your boob punches be few and far between.



WRAPPED UP IN STRIPES


Blue Valley Shifters, 1


Sarah Marsh


Copyright © 2018


Chapter One


Heidi sighed as her older brother Hector waltzed into The Watering Hole with a few of his friends and found a table at the back of the bar. Good grief—there went her plans on flirting a little with some of the non-local cuties in the hopes of seeing a little action tonight.

How was a girl supposed to scratch an itch with her brothers and their friends always showing up to threaten any interested male in a fifty-yard radius? Here she was, twenty-two years old, with the same needs as any other red-blooded shifter, and her three older brothers had ensured that none of the Pride males would risk touching her. Her best friend Julie had once overheard Derek telling the entire high school football team that whatever they thought about doing to Heidi, Derek would do to them … and not in a fun way. Not many of the other shifters who lived in their small community of Blue Valley wanted to risk the wrath of the lion pride Alpha’s three sons—Heidi’s brothers were extremely large.

“Hey, kiddo, just four pitchers to start,” he said, giving her a kiss on the forehead when she arrived at their table.

“Sure thing, Hector,” Heidi made a point to smile and look around the table at her brother’s friends, “Hi, guys. How’s it going tonight?”

Not one of them would make direct eye contact, and all she got back were mumbled ‘Heys’. Good Goddess. Her brother could be such a dick sometimes. Not only was he here when she knew they usually went to the strip club across town for their boys’ night out, but since he’d so blatantly kissed her and rubbed his chin across her forehead, many of the prospects she’d been flirting with all night would bow out rather than risk challenging her brother. Which was exactly what he’d intended.

She went back to the bar to get their drinks and was happy to see Julie sitting and nursing a beer with a disgruntled look on her face.

“Did that A-hole just mark you in front of the entire bar?”

“Yeah.”

“How in the hell are you supposed to get laid when he struts in here rubbing his alpha lion shit all over you?”

Julie was pissed, although for the last couple of years it seemed that Julie was always pissed when it came to Hector. And he avoided Heidi’s best friend like she was a leper. She’d once asked Julie what was going on with them, and of course, the sneaky wolf just shrugged it away, but there was something going on, that was for sure.

“I kinda think that’s the point, Julie,” she sighed, “I don’t think that he wants anyone ‘defiling’ his baby sister, as he keeps putting it. Damn, I really need to get some action.”

Heidi went to deliver her orders, and when she returned to Julie, she was mildly alarmed. The smile that was now on her friend’s pretty face was nothing short of beaming, and she held a large envelope in her hands.

“Happy early birthday, baby!” Julie squealed, practically vibrating in her seat, “Open it!”

She couldn’t help smiling at her friend’s enthusiasm as she took the expensive-looking envelope from her, carefully opening the thick paper. When she slid out the letter inside and read it, her heart almost stopped in her chest.

“Oh, my Goddess, Julie! How did you do this?”

It was a confirmation letter for both her and Julie’s booking on a vacation with the most exclusive cruise line in the entire shifter community. Wild Desires was a shifter-only cruise line catering to the wealthiest of their kind, where shifters of all types could strip away their inhibitions and completely be themselves in all ways without worrying about humans seeing them. It was also known to cater to all types of fetishes, and that thought had Heidi’s curious blood heating up.

“Well, obviously, I could never afford to book regular packages for us, but my cousin Lindy works for them, and she was able to get us booked on as sensual volunteers. We leave on Monday!”

“Sensual volunteers? What does that mean?”

“Well, basically we’re there to have a good time and meet some of the paying passengers. We don’t have to spend time with anyone we aren’t into, and we don’t have to do anything we’re not comfortable with, but we still get to enjoy everything on the cruise.”

“Oh, man, are we really going to do this?” Heidi smiled up at her crazy friend. She’d always told Julie the things that she’d fantasized about, and a couple times they’d considered going to a fetish club, but the shifter community around here in Blue Valley was close-knit. She could only imagine what her father and brothers would say if they ever found out, “Holy crap, Julie.”

“Hell, yeah, we’re going to do this!” Julie whooped out right before the smile slipped from her face and turned into a smirk aimed behind Heidi’s right shoulder.

“What exactly are you two deviants going to do?”

Heidi groaned at the booming voice of her second-oldest brother as it came from behind her.

“Just a little girls vacation, that’s all, Derek.” She tried to tamp down her excitement as she spun around to face him, giving him her most innocent look. “Julie bought us tickets for a cruise for my birthday. We leave on Monday.”

“A cruise, huh, Sprout?” his narrowed eyes took in both of them with suspicion, “Like one of those spa things where you spend all day getting your nails painted and mud put on your face?”

“Yes, exactly like that!” It was times like this that she loved her middle brother’s naïve tendencies when he thought about his little sister. Derek would go forth and plant that idea with the rest of the stubborn males in their family like her very own Trojan horse made out of chicken wings and beer. His little ‘Sprout’ would never do anything like go on a sexy cruise full of fetish clubs … no, sirree.

Heidi could hear Julie snickering from behind her. She tried to kick back at her, but ended up hitting the bar stool instead, causing Julie to swear as she spilled beer down the front of her shirt.

Derek just shook his head with a disapproving look at Julie, and kissed Heidi’s cheek before wandering over to join Hector and the rest of their group.

“Julie. You almost blew it,” she swung around and snatched the beer from her girlfriend’s hand as she took a long swig to calm her battered nerves.

“Hey! Get your own beer.”

“It's not like you paid for it, you heifer!” she snapped back with a smirk before she went to cash out her shift.

“That’s true.” Julie answered, “Now hurry that ass up and serve the rest of these drunk bastards. We’ve got packing to do.”


Chapter Two


Mason sat and stared out of the window as his mother droned on and on about all the eligible ladies that would be coming to her club’s annual Match dinner on Tuesday night. He couldn’t possibly be less interested than he was. He’d been running his family’s holdings since he’d gotten out of University four years ago. His father couldn’t seem to retire fast enough and Mason took the responsibility very seriously. Who had time for silly galas and old ladies match-making when there was so much work to be done?

“Honestly, Mason. Are you even listening to me?” His mother's voice broke through his thoughts once again.

“I’m sorry, Mother. I really don’t have time for your event this week.” He excused himself gracefully. “Besides, I believe you’ve already introduced me to all of the eligible females in your friends’ circles, and none of them was my mate.”

The look of surprise on his mother’s beautiful face was unexpected.

“Why are you so shocked, Mother?” he asked gently. “You and Father have a true mating. How can you think I would settle for something less when I’ve seen how wonderful it can be?”

Mason swore he saw tears in her eyes briefly before she smiled back at him.

“I don’t know, my boy. I suppose you just always seem so—well, sensible. I didn’t think you had that romantic streak in you.”

“Well, I’m glad I can still surprise you with something.” He kissed her cheek.

“I just worry about you, Mason. How will you find your mate when you are working all the time?”

“Actually, Wade and I are taking a week to look into the new utilities on The Wild Side. So perhaps we’ll meet someone while we’re aboard.”

“The new ship for the cruise line that launched six months ago?” His mother looked surprised. “I thought Simon was looking after Wild Desires? Have you found something amiss in his quarterly report?”

Just like that, his doting mother flipped the switch to keen businesswoman. Just because Mason’s father had wanted to retire didn’t mean his mate was ready to spend her days golfing and lunching with the ladies at the club. Mason had noticed how incredibly bored his mom had seemed the last few years.

“Yes, well, you know Simon.” He tried to place a non-judgmental look on his face when speaking about his little brother. “He’s more interested in how many dance clubs the ships have on board than the fact that their revenue has dropped.”

“I suppose.” She frowned. “But your brother has to learn to take his share of responsibility in this family, Mason. You can’t baby him forever. If you try to run it all like your father did, you’ll just end up burning out the same way.”

“You know, Mother,” his tone gentle, “you didn’t have to retire just because dad did. You don’t seem like you’re enjoying the lifestyle, and there’s always a need here for your skills.”

His mother’s face went from worried to stunning in a second. She truly was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever known. Tiger shifters were, in general, a good-looking bunch, but his mother had always been the epitome of grace, intelligence, and natural beauty. It was nearly impossible to find a woman who could compare to that—perhaps that was why Mason was so convinced that a true mating was worth waiting for. His perfect match was out there somewhere … he just had to sniff her out.

“My Mason, always looking after everyone, aren’t you?” She reached up to cup his cheek affectionately. “I promised your father that I would give retirement a try, and as long as we’re traveling and seeing the world together, I’m loving it. I just get bored with all the dinner parties and luncheons when we come home. Honestly, I didn’t realize how tedious the other ladies at the yacht club really were. Who can talk about shopping and gossip all day? It’s beyond me.”

She sighed, then her resolve seemed to return.

“But you boys go on and make sure you enjoy yourselves at least a little and let me know if you need any paperwork from the office while you’re investigating.” She laughed. “How fun! I’m almost jealous.”

“I’m certain Wade will make sure we have at least a little bit of fun.” He walked his mother to the elevator.

“Oh, yes. I imagine that boy will.” She shook her head as she entered the elevator, the affection for Mason’s childhood friend obvious, “Talk soon, baby.”

He was still smiling when he walked back to the receptionist’s desk. He knew Patty would have overheard his mother’s term of affection, but that didn’t bother him.

“Patty, did the package I was waiting on arrive today?” he asked the young blonde woman.

“Yes, sir. Here you go. Everything else has been booked under the names you requested, and the car will pick you up on Sunday night to take you and Mr. Richter to the airport.”

He took the heavy envelope from her and thanked her before he gathered his briefcase and left for the day. Mason didn’t want to admit it, but he was almost looking forward to a week in the sun on the water. Sometimes a tiger just needed a day off.


****

Wade was already in the limo when Mason slid inside Sunday evening.

“Did you get the passports and IDs we needed?” His best friend was dressed in a pair of expensive jeans and a button-down shirt, similar to his own outfit. They were registered on the cruise under fake identities. Mason’s face wouldn’t be recognized as the head of the Veris Corporation since he was rather private, but his last name certainly would be if they’d used it. If they were going to investigate the employees on this cruise, then they needed to be anonymous.

“Of course, here you are.” Mason handed Wade his package before opening his own.

“Wade Lincoln?” His friend peered over at the other ID. “And Mason Collins? Aren’t you worried that someone will become suspicious?”

“You said you triple checked the registry and there’s no one with any connections that knows what we look like.” Mason shrugged. “It’s not like we’re super spies, Wade. I figured it would be a lot easier to pull this off if we didn’t have to remember to answer to new first names.”

“I guess you’re right.” Wade’s sulky tone almost made him laugh—the two-hundred-fifty-pound tiger shifter sounded like a ten-year-old. “But I totally wanted to have something cool like Carson or Deacon—especially since you won’t let me take any guns.”

“Normal shifters do not carry guns, Wade. If we’re just two guys looking for a good time, no one would have any reason to attack us,” Mason argued. “Besides, the only reason I let you be armed all the time normally is because of the possibility of non-shifter attacks.”


Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-10 show above.)