A Howling Success
Jezibaba Saga, Book 3
SERIES: Jezibaba Saga, Book 3
LENGTH: 34,307 words
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2018
Moona knows she’s a wolf, but there’s nothing in her life worth howling about.
Werewolf healer Moona intends to make the former Jezibaba keep her promise to help her discover why she’s never been able to shift. Born under a blood moon, her parents named her for it. She owes it to her parents, their memory, and the sexy alpha of the pack who hasn’t given up on her to keep searching for answers.
Her birthday is coming soon. Those significant decade ones can sometimes be magical. Maybe this year her favorite wish will finally come true.
Does she have a future with Jared as his mate? Will she ever lure her wolf out?
Moona doesn’t have the answers yet, but she won’t give up until she’s a howling success.
Moona isn’t giving up until she’s a howling success.
As she was leaving, Moona’s sharp hearing picked up the celebrations coming from the fairy queen’s reception hall. Not long after that a large black dragon met her at the veil and walked along with her as she headed toward her pack.
He claimed to be Elenora’s mate and assured her absence was only necessary until the new queen and king had thoroughly stomped out all those opposed to their rule.
After seeing her safely delivered, he nodded to Jared and left.
Leaving the land of illusion wasn’t really a problem for Moona. She was done with the fairies anyway. However, she still had no intentions of returning to her pack. Her willpower wasn’t going to be enough to save her from acting out her stupid fantasies with their alpha.
Jared was seven feet of lean muscle with eyes the color of the sky and hair the color of the sun. Moona had watched that lean muscle develop from childhood to adulthood. She’d run like hell when her interest in his muscles had grown too large.
As if to prove that very point, Jared snatched her up in his arms in relief. It made controlling her emotions instantly ten times worse. His possessive grip on her curves always reminded her of the one moment of insanity she’d allowed herself in kissing him like there was no tomorrow. She hadn’t been able to touch another male since doing so.
And given Jared’s physical reaction to her, he was having a similar problem.
She was over six feet herself with her fair share of female assets. She wore her clothes loose and her hair long to tone down her femininity, though those things had never stopped determined males, especially not the one holding her.
Jared had watched her grow up too. The longing in his eyes had nearly sent her running into his arms more than once. He’d been hurt when she left the pack to live with Willa, but it had been a matter of self-preservation.
Plus, it had kept disgruntled pack members from picking on her supporters. Afterward, she and Jared had gone years without exchanging a word, but then something always drew them back together. Like today when he’d come running to make sure the fairies hadn’t hurt her.
“Thank the ancestors you’re alive, Moona. Seeing the dragons here, I feared the worst,” he said.
“I breathe for now, but that’s going to change if you don’t stop crushing me, Jared.”
His tight embrace turned her brain to mush, which was worse for her than the loss of air. But she was not the right she-wolf for him, and at the rate she was going, she was never going to be. It was getting harder and harder to keep hoping her wolf would finally make a physical appearance. The deal she just made with the Jezibaba might well be her last chance at discovering why it had never happened.
Moona pushed against the arms of steel that held her. The smell of Jared was driving her insane with lust, but as an alpha, Jared needed the right female at his side. She hated lying to him, but the last thing she needed was a lecture about making yet another deal for magical help. “Don’t talk about my new employers that way. The dragons have hired me.”
“To do what? Be their next meal?” Jared demanded as he set her on her feet.
Moona carefully backed away a few steps. “No. To make them a new salve for their accidental burn victims,” she lied as she stepped even further out of reach.
Jared’s jaw tightened as he glared. “And if I forbid you to leave me, Moona?”
“Nearly all the pack believes I’m human and therefore, not a member of your pack to command,” Moona said firmly. “They’re wrong about that first part but I still can’t prove that to anyone.”
“What about the second part?”
Moona ran agitated hands through her waist-length hair.
Jared came close and bent to whisper in her ear. “Are you mine to command or not, Moona? You’ve never had to prove what you are to me. My wolf believes in you. I believe in you. I want you in every way possible. Come home to the pack and be with me. I’ll deal with the doubters.”
“It doesn’t matter what you or I believe, Jared. No one else believes and you have to lead the pack. That’s what my Dad would have told both of us. You being pack alpha is what I want,” Moona said, not giving in to her need to hug him close. There had been an abundance of males in her sixty years of life, but this was the only one her soul had ever longed for.
“You’re the only wolf in the pack worthy of leading.” Moona bowed her head and lowered her eyes in reaction to his stern look. “Even as a wolf—I’d be a lone wolf, Jared. We’ve had this discussion many times.”
“You will return to me eventually,” Jared said firm and low. He followed it with an angry growl. “I cannot save you from dragons, Moona. Werewolves are immune from fairy magic, but not from those who breathe fire. If you choose to deal with dragons, you will be completely on your own.”
“I know… and I understand,” Moona said softly, stepping away again. She swallowed hard. “It’s a chance I have to take. My new employer is the Jezibaba. I have given her my word and she has given me hers. I’ll be in touch when my time with her is over.”
Jared nodded and looked away. “Do what you must then. I still say your best future is with our kind and me. I hope one day you feel that with as much conviction as I do.”
Before she could prevent him from acting, Jared’s demanding kiss staked a public claim she badly wanted to give in to. She lifted an unsteady hand to his face and wondered what other pleasures she’d find in his arms.
When he finally set her free, Moona shook her head and backed away. The flash of pain in his gaze stabbed at her heart, but she had to be strong for both of them. He deserved so much more than she had to give.
“Take care of yourself and watch your back,” she whispered.
Then Moona turned on her heels and walked away from the wolf she loved.
The young female bobcat threw her tail up in the air and hissed at her. It was a light brown, striped thing with ugly tufts of hair sticking up over each chewed-up ear.
Sha had just shown up one day with a collar around her neck stating her strange name. Some poor human had no doubt tried to domesticate her. Given Sha’s attitude, it probably hadn’t taken long for her previous owner to realize she was made for the wild and not a litter box.
Keeping some sort of tabs on her, Sha came out of the words and followed her whenever Moona left the house. The bobcat yowled and whined every five seconds when herb gathering was involved, but hissing was new.
And it was getting on her last nerve.
Moona turned her head and gave the feline a hard stare. “Hissing now? We have hissing?” She grunted and went back to snipping herbs. “You’re free to go back to wherever you came from, you know. I’m a wolf, not a witch. Wolves don’t keep a bobcat for a pet. In case I’m not being clear here, Sha, my kind eats your kind for dinner.”
The low, irritated yowl she got in return for that comment grated on her ears. Rolling her eyes at all the dramatics, Moona rose from her work and looked around. “I’m done, except for the mudwort.”
The next yowl was hair-raising and hurt her eardrums. She didn’t have to understand bobcat yowling to know what Sha was carrying on about. Her witch mentor had been sneaking Sha treats and winning the annoying feline over.
“Will you please, for the love of Gaia, quit that yowling? I know I have to chant. Must you nag me?”
She stepped over to the mudwort and lifted her shears. She focused on saying the words correctly as she made each snip.
“With these blades, I claim your gifts.
Blessed plant, all pain please lift.
I use your leaves to heal the sick.
In ending the pain, let’s both be quick.
Through great Gaia, you came to me.
As I work now to heal, so mote it be.”
She repeated the healing charm over and over until she had filled the corner of her basket with a large pile of mudwort. “There, Sha. I chanted over it. Are you happy? Good. Go tell Willa,” Moona ordered.
Her blinking, yowling audience took off running at her words.
Moona carried the overflowing basket of freshly picked herbs out of the forest and back to the tiny house she shared with the pack healer. Willa’s cottage was picturesque and looked like it belonged in a human fairytale, as did the ancient human diligently sweeping dirt out of the house’s back door.
Willa swept with a broom she’d made herself and one Moona knew was warded against all manner of evil. The daisy-covered apron Willa had tossed on over her drab green housedress made her look like some human’s cookie-baking grandmother. Except Willa couldn’t bake worth a damn. Any cookies in Willa’s house were ones Moona had made. Visitors should be grateful for that fact. What her healing mentor needed to pull off a true witch vibe were a black hat and some equally dark clothes.
“You shouldn’t be outside looking like a fifties housewife, Willa. People might say that’s false advertising. Where’s your black hat and ceremonial robe?” Moona teased.
She laughed at Willa’s middle finger reply to her question before she disappeared back into the house.
By the Ancients, she loved that crusty old woman.
Willa was a naturally evolved witch, which Moona had long ago decided was a fancy way of saying Willa hadn’t been born into a family of witches like most witches were. Instead, Willa had gotten her witch powers when she was in her middle thirties.
No matter how many times Willa told the story of her witch beginnings, she still sounded surprised that she’d just woken up one morning and her magic had been there within reach.
Moona never minded each retelling because she found the story incredibly inspiring. She liked the idea that there were other creatures in the world who were late bloomers when it came to destiny. All her life, she’d felt like her wolf was just outside of her reach and held back by some invisible wall she hadn’t been able to find a way to move.
In her mind, she and Willa were kindred souls. Willa must have felt the same way because her healing mentor had insisted Moona live with her after she’d officially left the pack’s little village. Moona traveled a lot in her search for answers to her shifting problem so she wasn’t home a lot anyway. Or at least that used to be true. Lately, she picked up more and more of the healing tasks for her pack.
“About time you got home. Sun’s been up for two hours already. Did you chant over the mudwort before you cut it this time? It won’t work unless you do. That last bunch you brought in was almost unusable.”
“Yes, Willa, I chanted over it. The problem with the last bunch’s usability might be that I’m not actually a witch with any magic.”
“Rubbish,” Willa said with a hand wave. “We’re all witches. It comes with being female. Every midwife in the world is considered a witch. The unknowable feminine—that’s who we are.”
“Unknowable feminine?” Moona laughed. “You’ve been reading poetry about Gaia again, haven’t you?”
“Don’t be flippant about the Great Mother. That goddess has always been misunderstood. Poor Gaia—she has my sympathy.”
“I don’t think Gaia really cares what anyone thinks of her,” Moona said as she slid the basket onto the table. She looked at her mentor. “The fairies said Gaia showed up in human form to help save the new fairy queen from the old one. Can you believe that? Wish the Great Mother would help the wolves out once in a while.”
“I’ve never known the Great Mother to get involved with fairies all that much. But she’s an enigma, Gaia is,” Willa stated.
Moona shrugged. “Well, someone broke Leelu’s curse and I’m glad. I only had one more vial of that tree serum left. It takes a lot of damn trees to distill something so concentrated. That was a whole lot of work… and I never got paid for it.”
“I tried to tell you Queen Arraign was never going to help you. She hates anyone who isn’t a fairy. I hope the new queen isn’t like that,” Willa said, wagging a finger.
“She isn’t. Leelu will be a good fairy queen. You should see the hot guy who’s going to be king. No doubt he’ll keep her in a good mood.”
Willa laughed. “You need to get laid, Moona. Go find Jared. Even if he can’t fix your problems, I bet he’d make you feel a whole lot better about life.” She pointed a bony finger at Moona. “Stay away from magicals and their deals. Someone your age ought to know that.”
“And I told you I’d make a deal with the devil himself to fix my problem,” Moona said.
“Hush now. Such strong words bring reality shifts,” Willa replied. She padded over and peered into the basket. “Lovely pickings, my lovely wolf.”
Moona snorted. Willa always called her a wolf, but she knew it was to placate her. “If you don’t need me for anything more, I’m going to take a walk before I eat. All that spell chanting and hyper-focusing gives me a headache. I need a nature fix before I start the day.”
“Fine, but don’t be gone long. You’re getting a visitor soon. Damn vision won’t leave me alone, but I can’t see who it is or what they want. There was a time when I saw everything. It sucks getting old.”
“People come here for healing help, not for social calls. I’m sure it’s for that,” Moona said as reassuringly as she could. Friend or foe, she and Willa would deal with them together.
Willa arched an eyebrow. “It could be someone who’s remembered tomorrow is your sixtieth birthday. It also could be someone who doesn’t want you to live to celebrate it.”
“I was trying not to think of my birthday. All turning sixty means to me is that I’ve been failing to be a werewolf for a very long time.”
Karen grunted and shook her head. “Sixty is nothing. In werewolf years, that’s like saying someone’s turning thirty. You look damn good for your age, Moona. I wish I had aged so well.”
“You look like a human witch to be feared and respected. That’s a very good thing to have accomplished in your life,” Moona said firmly.
“Finding true love is a better thing to have accomplished—it was something I didn’t get done in all my years. I’m pushing you to give Jared a chance because I don’t want you to end up alone like me.”
“You’re not alone. I live with you—most of the time,” Moona said, but her heart leaped at the thought of Jared coming to see her for her birthday. She knew he wouldn’t though, not after she’d shut him down in front of so many pack members the other day. Even a determined wolf like Jared had his pride.
Unless you counted her. Moona had no pride. She only had curiosity and a soul that demanded answers. Knowing what was stopping her from shifting would be the best gift of her life no matter the age she’d reached.
“I’m going to tell Sha to stay with you while I’m gone—just in case someone unfriendly does stop by,” Moona said as she headed out the door.