Dating a werewolf can get a little hairy, literally and metaphorically. Rayne Manchester’s suitors learn this pretty quickly. Rayne and her siblings, Rhyme and River, have been through a lot lately, and the loss of their father was only more fuel for the firestorm that is their lives.
Grief offers a subtle salve to the drama that eats up their existence and leaves them spinning like a tornado, but when their uncle reads their father’s last will and testament they discover things are only going to get worse. The will divides the massive estate equally, but there is one catch; all three must be mated and married one year from their father’s death. If even one of them fails in this mandate, none of them will inherit! Estranged, the siblings will now be forced to help each other.
Rayne’s Thunder is Rayne Manchester’s journey toward finding a mate and walking down the aisle. Upcoming, Rhyme’s Reason and River’s Fire are River and Rhyme’s stories to happily ever after.
In Rayne’s Thunder, Part One: Master Chef of the Dating a Werewolf Series, Rayne meets her first suitor, Brick. Their date goes well until payback is delivered for the disrespect the two made to the new alpha. Immerse yourself in this series, the characters, and their world. They’re waiting for you to join them on their adventure.
The day my father died was heartbreaking. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed more than my share of tears. It was what my roommate, Joanna, called an ‘ugly cry’. The searing pain that clenches the chest at a loss of a loved one is something I’m sure many people can relate to, Joanna had been lucky and hadn’t felt this agony yet. Foolishly, Jo spent a couple of days trying to cheer me up, even went so far as to set up a chance meeting at The Watering Hole with our neighbor, Cole, who I’d been crushing on for the past semester in Chemistry class at Brigade University.
It was a nightmare! Our very first, actual conversation ended with me rushing off to the bathroom for a good cry and then sneaking out the back door and disappearing. Odd? Perhaps, but I was the baby of the family and a bona-fide daddy’s girl. Being social with anyone was the last thing I wanted. Being able to feel the loss would be the only way I could heal. Getting set up with a guy who’d be no more than a fling, because he wasn’t a werewolf, was not going to make the pain go away.
It wasn’t peculiar, though, when I hightailed it out of the city and returned home that very night. Joanna was pissed and left some nasty voicemails on my cell, but I figured I’d straighten it all out with her when I returned to college after the funeral. I mean, my father did just die. If she couldn’t understand that, well, fuck her. The one man who loved me more than anyone else in this world was gone and I needed time to grieve. So I emailed my instructors and informed them I was taking a week of bereavement and left the big city of Denver, Colorado for the country of Myriad Springs.
When I arrived, it was late. Freda, the live-in maid, greeted me with an irritated scowl and let me set up my old bedroom. It was as though I hadn’t been gone for close to four years. Everything was exactly the same. I felt like I’d stepped back in time and was visiting the room of a stranger. I had changed so much over the last few years, it was hard to reconcile the image of the nineteen year old in the photos with the twenty-three year old staring back at me in the mirror. Pressures and the stress of school left miniscule marks on my face, and the ashen shade of my skin and dullness of my golden brown hair was a result of my guilt and grief.
In a moment of sadness, I snatched the photos off the dresser and walls, and tossed them into an empty drawer. The room still reminded me of happier times despite the soft pink (what-was-I-thinking) walls, and white antique furniture that I wanted to destroy with a sledge hammer, not because I didn’t like it. I loved it. But because father had helped me pick each one of the furnishings out, and together, we had refurbished them. Everything about the room reminded me of him. I could almost smell the pipe tobacco that he carried with him in the fabrics of the room. I was probably imagining that, but wolves do have extra-special senses and enhanced scent was my one of my strengths.
I plopped down on the bed, battling my younger self and the overwhelming emotions of loss and guilt for not being there for his last moments. He was always so strong and invincible. I truly believed he’d live forever… or at least as long as it took me to complete medical school.
I was the only one of his children that actually got along with him, who actually liked the stern, unyielding man. To be fair, we got along so well because he hadn’t put the same kind of pressure on me as he did on my siblings, Rhyme and River. Their relationships were heated to say the very least.
The faint, familiar knock on my door shattered my thoughts like thin glass. “Enter,” I told my sister, knowing her scent was coming from the other side of the door.
Rhyme, hair dark as night with a blue tint, entered the room. She hadn’t changed into her night wear, and looked stunning in her pinstripe grey suit dress and Navy blue pumps. Her blue eyes were red, most likely from crying. Rhyme may not have had a good relationship with our father, but that was not for lack of trying on her side. She was, by all intents and purposes, the perfect middle child. Straight As, always did as she was told. Her career as a lawyer was because father told her to do it. I briefly wondered, out of curiosity, if she’d give it up now that he was no longer around for her to impress. The idea seemed ludicrous. She was very good at what she did.
“I’m glad you made it home, Rayne.” Rhyme tried to smile, but failed miserably resulting in something that looked more like a snarl. We never really got along. She wanted the relationship I had with father and resented me because I was his favorite. I felt that resentment and responded accordingly. It wasn’t my fault I was born last, and it wasn’t her fault she was born second so the animosity we held for each other really was pointless.
“I never expected to hear those words from you.” My mind flew back to the last time we saw each other and the terrible fight we had.
Rhyme was standing in the rain, her heels barely able to stay steady on the gravel parking lot of the Long Neck Saloon. It didn’t help that she was drunk out of her mind. I was, too. We faced off like angry competitors, neither one wanting to give an inch. I knew I was right and she believed she was right.
“You just don’t get it, Rayne. He’s the one father picked for me!” Her hands were fisted at her sides, shaking as the rain increased its pressure on both of us.
“Then stand up to him! Tell daddy that your all-too-perfect fiancé is cheating on you with a paralegal at his firm.”
“He’s not cheating!” She insisted.
“He is, Rhyme, and I’m not going to stand here and watch you marry a man that disrespects you.” I trudged toward the truck, my mind dead-set on giving the asshole a piece of it when she stopped me.
“You’ve had too much to drink.”
“Then I’ll call a cab!” I shrugged her off my arm, opened my phone, and dialed the cab company.
“If he’s cheating on me I’ll find out before the wedding and call it off.” She finally conceded.
“He’s a terrible person, Rhyme, and I’m going to tell father.”
She shivered. “He doesn’t care.”
“Of course he cares. He’s our father!” I snapped.
“No, Rayne, he doesn’t. All he cares about is power, and Joshua and I are a power couple. He could care less about my happiness. Or yours for that matter.”
I shook my head. “You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I do know, and if you’re smart you’ll listen to me.”
“I refuse to let you belittle him when he’s not even here to defend himself.”
She shook her head. “You’re hopeless, even when I try to help you. You can’t see past your own head up his ass.”
“You heard me! He only favors you because you kiss his ass.”
I slapped her.
The two of us faced off, neither one wanting to give in. Anger boiling in my veins. Adrenaline pumping to every inch of my body. I’m sure it was the alcohol, but in that moment I could’ve hurt her. Instead, we both turned and walked away. Never speaking again.
It would have to be a death in the family that got us back under the same roof. I’m not saying it’s right, but we both have a stubborn streak, one we inherited from our father.
Rhyme sat down beside me on the bed and I resisted the urge to put space between us. Now wasn’t the time to open old wounds. If our father’s untimely death taught us anything, it was time for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry about the way we left things. I’ve wanted to call you for months, but I couldn’t quite find the courage to do so.”
I looked at her with confusion swimming in my eyes and crinkling my face, “I’ve never known you for lacking courage.” The bite on my words harsher than intended.
“You’ve also never known me to be wrong, but I was that night, and I’m so sorry I projected my insecurities onto you.”
I shrugged. “We were drinking, a lot.”
“Which only made me feel bullet proof,” she chuckled. “Feeling invincible is not always safe.”
“I suppose we have that in common.” It was Rhyme’s engagement party, her night and I ruined it. I know I had good reason. I’m a tracker and I easily discovered Joshua’s indiscretions. Instead of saying what I needed to in a sober environment, I told her hateful things while I was drunk. Pointed out that she was only marrying the man because father picked him. I told her she was a coward and needed to stand up for herself. Even remembering what I said made me cringe. My motivation was to help her, but all I did was hurt her. I left that night and a month later the engagement was off. I waited for her call, but it never came, and I wasn’t going to be the first one to crumble. All that bravado seemed pointless now.
“We have a lot in common, which is why we butt heads so much. You saved me from a horrible man. I should’ve called you and thanked you.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “But, Rayne, I need you right now and I know you need me so can we bury the drama between us?”
“I’d like that.”
She embraced me in a firm hug. It took a moment, but I hugged her back and we cried. We shared memories of happy times we had with father. They were few, but they were there. Sometime during the grief-filled cry and memory share we fell asleep.
“Wake up, sleepy heads!” River’s annoying big brother voice stirred us from our slumber, but it was his bouncing on the bed that forced us to open our scratchy eyes.
“You’re irritatingly happy this morning,” Rhyme grumbled as she ran her fingers through her dark hair in an attempt to organize the mess. She lived by order. River existed in chaos, and I was the storm and the calm before the tempest that roared between them. You’d be hard-pressed to find three siblings so different from each other.
“Your cheeriness is a little inappropriate, don’t you think?” I grouched as I pulled my aching body out of the bed. He handed us both glasses of water and aspirin which was a blessing after dehydrating ourselves from crying most of the night. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
“I’m grieving, little sis, I just don’t show it. Father taught us to put on a good face. The wake is today and I refuse to let my sorrow ruin his send off.”
“Ever the leader.” Rhyme rubbed her head.
“I am a senator.” He offered a tight grin.
“Something you did for father.” I pointed this out as I swallowed the pills.
“And he was right. I can do better as a senator than as a lawyer.”
“Excuse me?” Rhyme glared at him while she held her head in her free hand.
“Hey, you were always a better lawyer than me, sis.”
“Because I’m cutthroat.” Rhyme nodded, her words had a sarcastic ring to them.
“No, because you’re very good at understanding and upholding the law. I never had a handle on the ins and outs of law like you do.”
“So you decided to have a hand in making and passing the laws.” I shook my head. He wasn’t making sense, or maybe my head was too jumbled to connect the dots.
“Flattery will get you everywhere, big brother.” Rhyme shrugged toward me and smiled as she headed toward the door. “I suppose if we’re going to have a party to celebrate dad I better start getting ready.”
“Me, too.” I started going through my suitcase looking for the black dress I brought for the funeral and wake. Unlike my sister, I didn’t enjoy wearing dresses, but would do so for father’s memory.
River pushed off the dresser he’d been leaning on and kissed me on the forehead. “I’m glad you made it back for the funeral, sis.” He started heading toward the door, hand on the knob, “but I hope you don’t stay. Now that he’s gone things are going to get dicey.”
“You mean the Carters are making a move for the pack?”
“Yep, they haven’t even let him get settled in the ground before they made a move against us.”
“But father named you as the new alpha, right?”
“Then we’ll defend you and his last wishes.”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid, Rayne. You have a life away from here. You’ve escaped the family commitments. Rhyme and I have things under control here.” He embraced me in a hug. “Go and live your life.”
“We’re a family, River, and family sticks together.”
“Rayne, seriously–” his phone rang interrupting whatever he wanted to say.Saved by the bell, literally.
He flipped it open. “What’s up?”
“We have a problem,” the male voice on the other end of the line told him.
I lingered close to River so I could eavesdrop on the conversation, pretending to search my luggage for items I’d already pulled out. Werewolf hearing was good, but it wasn’t a super power. Especially, for me, a semi-domesticated she-wolf. I hadn’t honed my ability to hear like others.
“I can’t really discuss it right now.” River cast a nervous glance in my direction which I caught out of my peripheral vision.
“I know you have the funeral proceedings, but I have it on good authority the Carters are going to make a maneuver during the funeral today.”
“Christ, the bastards can’t even let us have one day to mourn? Get Storm and come meet me at the office before the funeral,” River snarled as he headed toward the door. “I’ll see you downstairs, sis.” With an easy wink, my brother was a master at hiding behind false facades, he left my room.
I took a deep breath and sunk down onto my bed. None of this sounded very good.