A Heart for the Taking by Mell R. Bright

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Bright Lake Chronicles Book 1

In the North American town of Bright Lake, witches and wolf shifters have been at odds for centuries. But a new threat forces the two factions to work together. A shadow is roaming the streets at night, ripping hearts out of its victims.

Ellis Tolmach is the powerful (and explosive) warlock back in town. He has a taste for action and justice. And also, apparently, for the alpha of the MacRath clan.

Iagan MacRath is the primary police investigator in Bright Lake and the alpha wolf of the MacRath clan. He has no time on his hands to deal with hot and dangerous warlocks. And yet, he finds himself spending more time than necessary with Ellis Tolmach.

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Excerpt from A Heart for the Taking © Copyright 2023 Mell R. Bright

At last, I hear the sounds of tires on the dirt road, and I know Ellis has arrived. I open the door before he has time to knock. He stands there, dressed in tight jeans and a leather jacket. His blonde curls are still a little wet; he must have taken a shower before coming. He smells like soap and magic.

“Hey,” he says, a little grudgingly.

I have a feeling this talk will feel like pulling teeth. “Hey yourself.” I step aside. “Please, come in.”

Ellis hesitates a second, looking at the cabin, then takes a deep breath and steps in.

“You know,” I say, “we could have talked on the phone if it made you so uncomfortable.”

Ellis frowns at me, and his cheeks redden. “I’m not uncomfortable,” he lies as he sits down on one of the old chairs.

I sit in front of him. “If you say so. I would like to offer you a drink, but the place is still pretty much empty. But I’m sure I can find some beans.”

Ellis finally relaxes enough to smile, remembering the bean incident. “Don’t tempt me,” he says.

Oh, but I really want to tempt him. Just not with beans. As if realizing what he just said, Ellis fidgets in his chair. The silence stretches.

“So, that talk?” I say.

He glares at me. “You’re the one who said we had to talk first.” “Right.”

I can’t hide my smile. He looks so ill at ease, which is rare for him.

He grunts, annoyed. “The talk, about you know…the bonding thing. How do you feel about it?” Of all the things I expected Ellis to ask, this wasn’t on the list.

How do I feel? Good question. I have many feelings I can’t wrap my head around. Like the way he smells right now. So enticing. His smell changed somehow. I don’t know if it’s because of the bond or something else. And then there’s the fact that apparently my wolf likes him a lot too. I can feel him stir under my skin. He wants to rub his scent all over him. But I can’t tell him that, can I?

So, I lie.

“I don’t really have an opinion yet,” I say. “I’m just as confused as you. I’ve never heard of bonding before.”

“Right. Okay.”

“Do you have an opinion?”

He shakes his head too fast to be casual. “Me? No, of course not.” Then he seems to think better of it and adds, “I actually thought it was rubbish. This whole fated love and friendship kind of—”

“Yeah, right. It’s rubbish,” I cut him off.

I’m not surprised by his answer, but I still hoped we could have taken a closer look at our bond. But I don’t feel like arguing about it.

Ellis goes rigid, and the smell of his magic floods the cabin. The air tastes like the coming of a storm. He stands up stiffly. “I’m going home.” Then walks to the door.

“Wait. What?” I ask as I follow him. “That’s it? That’s the talk?” “There’s nothing to talk about,” he adds.

He sounds…hurt.

“Ellis. Why did you come here, really?”

“I just thought we—never mind. I was wrong.” Now he sounds angry.

I stare at the back of his head, confused. Then, just a second before he crosses the door, I notice how red his neck is. And if I focus, I can recognize something else hiding behind the strong smell of his magic. Anxiety and arousal.

My mouth makes a comical O shape as I realize what might be going on. I speed up to close the door before Ellis can go out and face him. His face is red too, and he’s avoiding my gaze.

“Ellis,” I say softly. “Why don’t you sit back and we can talk some more.” “There’s nothing to talk about,” he says, but his eyes dart to my face.

“Talk, maybe not. But words aren’t the only way to communicate.” I push him gently backward until the backs of his legs hit the couch and he falls on it.

I can swear that Ellis’ eyes shine from within. His magic reacting to me? My own wolf is making my body vibrate, eager to burst forth.

“Tell me, Ellis. Why do you think we bonded?”

“I—I think it’s just a natural hormonal reaction,” he stammers. “Our bodies express their needs. And because magic lives in our bodies too—” He seems to lose track as I come closer.

“Hormones, uh? Are those hormones working their magic right now?” Ellis bites his lower lip, and that’s all the answer I need.

“Gods, Ellis. You’re too much.”

I bend over him and bring my lips close to his own. So close, our breaths mingle. But I stop just before actually kissing him. I want to give him the opportunity to refuse. Some part of me still thinks I might have misread the situation.

But I really haven’t. Ellis opens his mouth and swallows my lips. There’s no restraint anymore. I grab the back of his head as we kiss savagely. His magic burst forth, and my skin tingles. His smell is intoxicating.

I push him farther down on the couch as we kiss. He whimpers amazingly as I slide my knee between his legs. I find him hard already. I understand. I’m getting there too, really fast.

After a moment, I pull back to breathe. I look at him. His lips are red and swollen. His curls are messy, and his blue eyes are alight.

“So, that’s what you wanted,” I tease him.

“Shut up and kiss me some more.” He lunges and bites my lips. I growl. He sends me over the edge, and I get a hold of him.

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