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Broken Pack

Troubled Mates, Book 1

Keep your supernatural rivals close. Really close…

When a popular and wealthy werewolf shows an interest in her, Elspeth Murray walks away without a backward glance. Regrets—yep, she has a few, but she’s an intelligent dragon. Playing sensual games with a wolf isn’t worth the aggravation and becoming entangled in a dangerous battle of passion and politics. No thanks!

Iain Murray can’t shove the siren dragon woman from his mind, despite the drama dallying with her might cause in his pack. He understands that pursuing her could have deadly consequences for himself and his species. But the pull of their undeniable chemistry is too strong to ignore, and soon he finds himself embarking on a risky bout of cat and mouse with his own kind. As the tension mounts, Elspeth and Iain must decide whether to risk everything or walk away from the only true love they’ve ever known.

Contains a paranormal world on the cusp of significant change. Humans, stand back. Let’s watch the shenanigans unfold…

Other Books in the Troubled Mates series

Read an Excerpt

Elspeth Murray charged along a well-lit alley and used her electronic keycard to enter the rear door of the nightclub. She was ten minutes late. Blast the Auckland rush hour traffic.

Family or not, Adelaide Penn would ream her a good one and likely dock her wages for her tardiness. The clatter of bottles and glassware and the faint wail of an electric guitar, along with the sweet tang of alcohol, hit the second she stepped inside. She peered left and right, her fingers crossed behind her back.

The coast was clear.

In the spartan staff dressing room, Elspeth stripped and scrambled into her uniform. Yet another theme: Sixties night. The uniforms were short minidresses paired with knee-high white boots. Those with long hair—like her—wore a black velvet headband, and the only jewelry allowed was dangly red plastic earrings to match her red minidress and three bracelets to be worn on the left wrist. Adelaide planned her theme nights to the nth degree, and woe betide any of her staff who didn’t follow her precise orders.

“You’re late,” Adelaide snapped from the dressing room doorway. Her aunt had arranged her black hair in a bouffant style, and she rocked her black minidress, her showgirl legs encased in sheer hose. Instead of boots, she wore black ballet flats, and the black pearls around her neck shone with a luster that spelled expensive and real.

“I’m sorry.” Elspeth didn’t offer an excuse. Adelaide would brush it aside, anyway.

“We’re short-staffed tonight,” Adelaide said in her crisp, no-nonsense voice. “You can work a double shift to make up for your tardiness.”

Elspeth suppressed a groan but nodded her compliance. There went her date. Since this was the second time she’d canceled with this guy, he’d probably call her trouble and move to his next conquest. Too bad. The extra money was handy since she hated to rely on her parents to pay for her science degree and other expenses.

“I’ve shifted the rotation, which means you’ll work the VIP tables. You’ll have half an hour dinner break between your shifts.”

“I had a date. Can I text him to cancel before I start?”

“I expect to see you on the floor and working in five minutes.” Instructions issued, Adelaide strode away.

Elspeth sent her text and apologies but didn’t expect a reply. She sighed because she’d looked forward to the outing, then stalked along the tiled hall and into the dim-lit nightclub where the hubbub from clubbers and the live DJ was noticeably louder. At the wait staff station, she picked up her tray, plucked her order tablet from the charger and signed in, resigned to six hours on her feet.

The VIP section was popular with the wait staff because the customers tipped well, but the servers worked for every cent and tolerated arrogance and entitlement. Rudeness was frequent, as were touchy-feely customers who considered staff part of the entertainment.

Elspeth inhaled a breath full of designer perfume and aftershave, hair products, and a whiff of drugs—something herbal since that was the latest trend. She strolled past the closed-in vaping section. Enormous windows allowed glimpses of happy, flirting customers, plus the fragrant colored clouds they blew. The air conditioning unit extracted the smoke, but she hated working that room or passing drinks through a specially designed serving slot in the wall. Her dragon sense of smell worked overtime, and even resorting to medicinal rub inside her nostrils didn’t counter the stench.

“Miss! Can you get me a drink?” a tall, bespectacled man asked in a pleading tone. The mirrored balls hanging from the ceiling cast weird shadows over his face, but his smile was pleasant, and she thought it genuine because of his polite demeanor.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t my section.” Elspeth halted near his table and narrowed her gaze against the flicker of colors coming from the nearby dance floor. A couple jostled her, pushing past, and she scowled after them before turning her attention to the man.

He grunted and pulled a comical expression. “The server in this section is more interested in flirting with the female customers. I’ve tried to snare his attention, but he never glances my way. He’s too busy staring at their boobs.”

“All right.” Elspeth felt a pang of sympathy for him. “What would you like?”

“A bottle of lager, please. Actually,” he said and shot the guy working his section a glower, “can you bring me two bottles?”

“Sure, no problem.” Elspeth added the order on her electronic. “Can you make sure you stand near the VIP section so I can find you?”

“I will,” he promised. “Thank you.”

“And I’m sorry, but I’ll need to take orders from my section before I come back with your drinks.”
“I understand.” He glared at the male server again. “My guess is I’ll still get my drink from you before this guy glances in this direction.”

Elspeth laughed. “My best advice is to take his name and write a complaint or ask to speak to the manager. I’ll be back soon.” She hustled to the roped-off VIP section and nodded at the burly guy on security. “Hi, Jimmy. How are things tonight?”

Jimmy was a beefy man and not much of a talker. He scanned the crowd of affluent twenty-somethings before rolling his eyes. That expressive gesture revealed way more than mere words.

Elspeth grinned and strode into the VIP melee to take orders. She noticed the striking man sitting at a booth straightaway since his lack of interest in the music and the crowd made him stand out. Brown Hair sat alone as if waiting for someone. Her dragon shifted beneath her skin. Yum. Sexy man.

Several women sent him surreptitious glances, but he ignored them, keeping his focus on a tablet. His black button-down shirt hugged broad shoulders, and Elspeth got an impression of height. His brown hair was longer than the trend for very short. In fact, she’d call his locks tousled and shaggy. Her fingers tingled with the urge to ruffle his curls. Yep, a tasty man.

A couple approached and slid into the booth with him. His lips curved in welcome, and Elspeth noted his sincere smile and his white teeth. Minutes later, two younger women joined them, and Elspeth saw she was right about his height when he rose to greet the newcomers. One woman pressed close and brushed a kiss across his mouth. His face remained expressionless when he pulled away, but Elspeth gained the impression he disliked the liberty.

A sharp pinch on her backside had Elspeth leaping off the ground and bumping into a table. On hearing laughter, she whirled to glare at a pair of young men not much above the legal drinking age.

“I saw that,” Jimmy, the security man, growled from behind Elspeth. “If I catch you touching any of the wait staff again, I’ll toss you out and make sure Adelaide bars you from every one of her clubs countrywide.”

“You can’t do that,” the braver of the two protested. “My father is a lawyer, and he wouldn’t allow it.”

“Try me,” Jimmy invited, his glower not leaving the youths. “The security cameras will support my story. There is no excuse for poor behavior. Order your drinks and let Elspeth do her job.”

A band emerged on stage to replace the DJ. Elspeth shuffled between bodies and tables to take orders. Then, it was a matter of skirting the crowd to the bar. At least the mass thinned out once the live entertainment started. Some customers gravitated to the dance floor, but the rest took their seats and listened to the rock music. Adelaide had an excellent ear for what worked with her clubs, and the customers appreciated the often-original compositions.

It was busy in the VIP room. Typically, two wait staff covered the area, but Adelaide had been right when she’d mentioned they were short-staffed. The customers kept Elspeth busy, although they tipped well. Even the bespectacled guy tipped her, and she served him twice more before he left the club.

He’d raised her curiosity because he hadn’t seemed interested in the music, and as far as she could see, he hadn’t met or talked to anyone but her. Elspeth shrugged and dived back into serving her section.

“Miss!” a dark-haired twenty-something male with mocha skin hailed her.

Elspeth redirected her steps, scanning tables and booths for others who might want a drink. Brown Hair indicated their empty glasses. She acknowledged him but headed for the dark-haired man first.

“Hey!” The woman sitting at the end of Brown Hair’s booth grabbed Elspeth’s arm as she tried to pass. “We want to order a drink.”

“I know.” Elspeth paused, maintaining a pleasant mien. “I’ll return to take your order.”

“Take it now,” the woman ordered, her almond-shaped eyes smoldering with temper. She glanced at Brown Hair and flipped her own locks before turning her glower back on Elspeth. “I’ll have champagne.”

“No,” Elspeth said, firmly but courteously.

“I’ll get you fired if you don’t take our order. I’m not—”

“Janet, that’s enough. The server told us she’d return. You still have drink left, and you’re keeping her from doing her job,” Brown Hair intervened.

Shock darted across the woman’s features, the twist of her mouth spoiling her natural starlet beauty. “You’d stand up for her ahead of your girlfriend,” she snapped, sneering. “A dragon.”

Elspeth, like other supernatural creatures, had excellent hearing. But what shocked her most was she hadn’t scented the group’s otherness. Judging by the woman’s disdain, she wasn’t a dragon, so what was she?

Elspeth hurried past the table to the dark-haired man and his date. “Hi, I’m so sorry. What would you like to order?”

“Two firebirds and two shots of Scottish whisky,” the man said. “We’re leaving once we finish these drinks. Can we close off our account?”

“Yes, of course.” Elspeth plugged the order into her electronic. She called up the table number and told the man the total. He pressed his watch to the face of the electronic and payment transferred from his account to the club.

“Your tip.” The man tossed her a gold coin.

“Thanks.” Elspeth pocketed the cash. “I’ll be back soon.”

Elspeth wove between the tables, intending to go to the bar to collect the drinks since her tray limit was full.

“Hey! What about us?” the woman from Brown Hair’s table shouted. “You told us you’d take our order next.”

“And I will.” Elspeth fixed her smile even though she’d prefer sending a stabby glare at the demanding woman. Really. Privileged customers with money didn’t have the right to run roughshod over everyone else. “Your order will be the first on my electronic when I return.”

Elspeth stalked away, ignoring the woman’s shouted threats and the accompanying giggles from the nearby tables. The shouting beauty was the sort who’d complain. Adelaide would be fair, and since the security guy, a fellow dragon, had heard the entire exchange, Elspeth was positive Adelaide would back her.

Elspeth waited her turn at the bar, received her drinks, and delivered them as fast as possible, but ten minutes had passed when she returned. The rude woman and her companions had left. As she cleared the table and pocketed the cash they’d left as a tip, she smelled the otherness and froze. Wolf jumped to mind, but perhaps feline too. Why had they come here?

The werewolves had their nightclubs and kept to themselves. Wolves and dragons played nice for the sake of unsuspecting humans, but there was no love lost between the species. In centuries past, they’d had outright wars and killed each other. These days, the packs attended different schools, and the communities never intermingled.

If Brown Hair had been a werewolf, she needed to squash the interest she’d experienced from the moment she’d spotted him. She wasn’t vain, but she looked okay, and she’d thought the man had returned her awareness. Ah, well. He’d had a girlfriend—a rude one but stunning with movie star glamor. Dragons and werewolves were polar opposites, and that was the end of it.

Sensibly, Elspeth pushed Brown Hair from her head and returned to work. A man would only impede her plans, anyway.