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Sassy Ever After: Northern Sass (Kindle Worlds Novella) by Elianne Adams
Available at Amazon
Release Date: May 7th
After twenty years away from the only place she’s ever called home, Maple Hudson is back. Too bad it’s only for a couple of weeks. With debts piling high, and more responsibilities than she can handle on her own, she’s left with no choice but to sell the land, ending her dream of reopening the family business.
Two long decades. That’s how long it took Jaxon Barnett to accept that Maple, his fated mate, was gone for good. Too young to be claimed, she’d been whisked away, and no amount of searching had brought him any closer to finding her.
After an attack leaves the Wassookeag pack devastated, Jaxon resigns himself to finding a suitable mate. That is, until the scent that had haunted him for years sends him racing through the forest, back to the old cabin where fate had played its cruel joke and stolen her from him.
Maple was back, and this time, she wouldn’t get away.
“I know, Grandma.” Maple Hudson rolled her eyes as she twirled the telephone cord around her finger, watching as the tip turned pink, then purple before releasing it again. Cell reception didn’t reach this far out, and she was kind of glad. If it weren’t for the fact that she wanted the retirement home to be able to contact her in case of emergency, she wouldn’t have bothered getting the phone connected at all.
“Are you listening to me, baby?”
A grin cut across her face. At thirty-two, Maple was hardly a baby, but her grandmother had yet to realize she wasn’t a child anymore.
“There are sweeter things in life than candy, and a hell of a lot more satisfying than working in that glass coffin you go to every day. You can’t keep pushing yourself like you do, it’s criminal. I would like to hold some great grandbabies before I keel over. I’m not getting any younger, you know.”
A pang of guilt tightened in her chest. It wasn’t that she didn’t want a man in her life, or even children, for that matter, but she had to work. The beautiful senior community her grandmother had moved into a couple of years ago wasn’t cheap. She loved it there. She’d made great friends and even had a social life. There was no way Maple was going to ask the woman who’d raised her to move to a cheaper place, even if her uncle had reneged on his promise to pay half. She had to figure out how the hell she was going to do it on her own.
“I know, Grandma,” she said and grinned wider as her grandmother huffed at the other end of the line.
“Fine, I’ll stop harping. When are you coming to see me? We haven’t visited in weeks.”
Maple peered out the window toward the lake. “I’m not sure. Things have been crazy at the office.” It wasn’t a lie, exactly. She’d been putting in a lot of overtime and taking on extra work to make ends meet over the past few months. She held her breath. The woman could sniff out a lie, even one of omission, a mile away. Maybe if she didn’t say too much, she wouldn’t catch on for once.
“You’re never too busy to come for dinner. What’s wrong, Maple?” she finally asked after a long pause, worry making her voice tight on the other end of the line.
Crap. “Everything is fine. I just…” she sighed, giving up on keeping her whereabouts a secret before she got into more trouble. “I decided to get out of the city for—”
“Out of the city? And you didn’t think to tell me about this? Where the hell are you? How long have you been gone? When are you coming back?” The questions came out in rapid fire.
“It was a last-minute decision, Grandma. I needed to get away. I hadn’t made up my mind until late last night, and didn’t want to wake you with my phone call, which is why I’m on the phone with you this morning. I had no intention of keeping it a secret.” She so had been, but she wasn’t going to admit that.
The fact was, she’d been sitting in her office—exhausted from the long hours she’d been putting in—when the idea had struck her a few days earlier. Unable to focus on work, she’d been staring out the window at the beautiful downtown skyline, but the joy it once held was gone. As gorgeous as the view was, it was nothing like the land where she’d grown up. She’d closed her eyes and let her mind drift to a time when life had been simpler—happier. She didn’t know how long she’d been lost in her memories, but when she finally snapped out of it, she’d made some calls. The phone service and electric had been connected to the old property the next day. Too bad this would probably be the last time she’d set foot on her old stomping grounds. She shoved the depressing thought aside to deal with later.
“Are you okay, baby? Where are you? I’ll come see you.”
A chuckle slipped past her lips. She could see it now. Bertha Hudson, swooping in on her electric wheelchair to save the day like a superhero. Her special power? Hugs and kisses. “I’m okay, Grandma. I just missed home.”
“Home?” she asked after a long, pregnant pause. “You’re at the cabin?”
Maple swallowed hard. Her grandmother loved this land as much as she did, but she’d warned her against going back since they’d moved to the city after her grandfather had died. “I…yes. I’m at the cabin.”
She held her breath again, waiting for the scolding to come through the line. Her grandmother might not be as strong as she once had been, but her mind was as sharp as a tack, and she wasn’t afraid to let her tongue loose.
“Okay. Good. Do you have a rifle with you for protection?”
Okay? What? That wasn’t what she was expecting. At all. “Yes, I have grandpa’s gun. And ammunition.”
“And you remember how to use it? Maybe you should get those targets out of the shed and practice a few rounds like your grandpa taught you. Just to be sure.”
Who the hell was this woman, and what had she done with her grandmother? Maple had begged to go back to the cabin so often in the years after they had left, and had been shot down so abruptly every time, that she didn’t think her grandmother would ever approve.
“I remember. And if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll get some target practice in. You’re sure you’re okay with this?” she asked, still not certain what to make of the situation.
The older woman sighed at the other end of the line. “Just promise you’ll be careful.”
“But nothing. You’re a grown woman now.” She heard a sniffle across the phone lines. Was her grandmother crying? She never cried. “I want you to be happy, baby. You work too hard, and you never take a break. You deserve this. When will you be back?”
Maple swallowed around the lump in her throat. “I took a month off, but I should be back in the city in a couple of weeks.”
“I still expect a call every Saturday.”
“You know I look forward to our calls as much as you do, Grandma. I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, baby. Now, bingo is about to start. I best put some gloss on and get down there to get a good seat next to the caller. He’s a handsome devil, that Mr. Hunter.”
Maple shook her head. The woman was incorrigible. “Good luck.”
“Don’t forget to call, and for God’s sake, don’t go wandering into the woods at night. You know what’s lurking in that forest,” her grandmother warned.
Maple chuckled. She remembered. Werewolves. At least, that’s what her grandparents had used to scare her from going into the forest alone when she’d been a child. “I won’t. Love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”
Maple stood staring at the phone for a moment before untangling the cord and hanging the receiver on the cradle. The old rotary had seen better days. Hell, she was surprised it still worked at all with the frayed cord and the wobbly, mustard yellow box on the wall. Maybe she’d pick up a cordless the next time she went to town to be safe. She was looking forward to the solitude her time at the cabin would bring, but she wasn’t an idiot. She needed to make sure she could call someone for help if need be. There may not be werewolves around, but there were plenty of wild animals.
Taking a deep breath, she looked around. Time to get to work. If she was going to stay there for a few weeks, she’d best get it in liveable shape again.
First, fresh linens, then she’d tackle the dust. She hoped the old machine would still work after all these years. She turned the knob and waited. After a groaning shake of the pipes, nasty smelling, rusty colored fluid came trickling into the tub. It took a minute, but the water came faster and eventually cleared, taking the rotten smell with it. So far, so good. No water was coming out from under the old wringer washer. It would be a pain to use but better than finding a laundromat in town. She drained the sludge, washed and rinsed the tub, then started the machine. Yes.
Everything was going better than she could have hoped for. With a smile on her lips and her spirits higher than they’d been in a long time, Maple turned the old radio up loud and set out to clean the cabin she’d once called home. She took a break for lunch and kept going. By the time she was done, her T-shirt clung to her sweaty body, and streaks of dirt covered her face.
All she needed now was a hot shower. Stripping down, she tossed her dirty laundry into a pile in the corner and turned the faucets in the tub. There should have been some sort of resistance, but the taps spun and nothing happened. Crap.
She tried turning the faucet again, but it wouldn’t catch on whatever it was supposed to catch. Double crap. Even if she went into Dexter, the little town up the road as dirty as she was, there was no way she’d find a plumber to come out and fix it this late in the day. Not to mention the cost of getting it done after hours. The idea of a quick wash at the sink was almost as repulsive as remaining in her filth. Thankfully, she’d thought ahead and bought a camping shower on her way to the cabin. It wasn’t ideal, but at least she wouldn’t be climbing into her clothesline-fresh-sheets smelling like death had warmed over when she went to bed tonight.
Jaxon Barnet’s heart pounded so loud he could hear nothing else. Not the birds, not the wind rustling through the leaves. Nothing but the heavy beat blasting through him. His claws couldn’t quite catch deep enough into the soft dirt to propel his body as fast as his wolf demanded he run. After nearly twenty years—twenty fucking years—the scent that he’d been searching for had returned.