Jaguar shifter Sebastian Severino is an enigma. He lives alone, works alone, and will die alone. But the night he’s attacked by a female werewolf, nothing will ever be the same. And when his young niece is kidnapped, Sebastian, the deadliest assassin Nero has ever produced, will be forced to choose a side…
Isabelle Wood has never taken the easy path. As a bounty hunter and now a bitten werewolf without a mate, she’s searching for answers to her father’s disappearance while helping to lead an Alphaless Pack. The night she gets the opportunity to take out their enemy, with her blade at his throat, her wolf discovers her mate in the last person she can be with.
If Shopping for Shifters gets your interest, make sure you check out the first book in the Moon series, Moonlight.
Shopping for Shifters
I stalked the crowded shopping mall, scanning the faces and scents for any trace of my fiancé, Isabelle. Children whined and cried, men had obnoxiously loud calls with their Bluetooth stuffed in one ear, and in my mind, Dies irae from Verdi’s Requiem accompanied the chaos.
This was the first Christmas I ever had a reason to shop. I’d never admit it to anyone, but I was dreading it. I think Isabelle sensed my reluctance.
She suggested we make it a game of wolf and jaguar. How could I refuse?
The crowds parted as I walked through the wave of Christmas sweaters and Santa hats. Perhaps they instinctively recognized the danger surrounding me. Although I no longer accepted jobs as an assassin, my skills were still just as sharp.
Isabelle and I were partners in her private investigation business, and our side jobs as bounty hunters. But today, we entered from opposite ends of the mall, and the first one to track and find the other would be able to wash their hands of the Christmas shopping list.
I had every intention of winning.
But first, I had to concede that my love’s sense of smell was stronger than my own, so my first stop was to the perfume counter of the department store. I found the least offensive male scent and liberally spritzed it on myself. As I was leaving, the light glinted on a pendant. Unable to resist, I circled around for a closer look and cursed under my breath.
I needed to buy it.
It was the traditional masks of comedy and tragedy set in white gold with small diamonds outlining the entire piece. I could envision it hanging from Isabelle’s slender neck, lying against her tan skin.
A woman came up behind the counter with a forced smile. “May I show you anything?”
I pointed to the pendant, glancing over my shoulder. No familiar faces. As a jaguar shifter, my eyesight was heightened, even more acute than Isabelle’s. When I turned back again, the sales woman had the pendant out of the case.
The light sparkled in the stones as I took it from her.
She rattled off her memorized proposal. “Have you applied for our Mastercard? You’ll get an extra ten percent off if you’re approved.”
“No, thanks.” I pulled my wallet from my pocket and placed my black American Express card on the counter. “Wrap it up please.”
“Yes, sir.” Her smile blossomed into an honest grin. “I’ve got just the right trimmings.”
I checked my phone, stealing glances around the store. The woman returned with my credit card, a sales slip, and a festive red box with a metallic silver bow and a sprig of holly. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Severino.”
“Merry Christmas…” I glanced at her name badge. “Kerry.”
Her cheeks flushed with color as I signed the slip and tucked the gift into my coat pocket. I hadn’t expected to actually find a gift. A rare smile tugged at my mouth as I ventured back into the masses.
A few feet outside of the department store, I froze. People milled past me as I scanned the area. I’d know that scent anywhere. Isabelle. She had been down this part of the mall.
I ground my teeth. Forcing my senses to hone in on one scent in a sea of so many was…challenging. Besides Isabelle’s unique scent, I was also assaulted by perfumes and the cologne I just sampled, along with a cacophony of food smells, popcorn, hot chocolate, and Hickory Farms cheese and salami samples. I pushed my way to the side, taking a long, deep breath.
She headed north. I followed, accosted by bags and purses, but now that I had her scent I wasn’t going to slow down and lose it again. The sooner I found her, the sooner I could get out of this insanity.
When I rounded the corner, a line snaked around the oversized courtyard. In the center, Isabelle stood just outside a gate with her back to me. I stalked toward her with a determined stride. She turned just as I approached.
Her nose crinkled in mock disgust. “Ugh. What the hell happened to you?”
“I won. I found you first.”
She chuckled. “At what cost?” She came closer, sniffing my chest. “I won’t be able to smell anything else all damned day.”
I bent to steal a kiss. “I guess I’ll meet you at the car. Happy shopping.”
“Not yet.” She nudged me with a playful glint in her dark eyes. “We have an appointment first.”
I frowned. “With who?”
An elf tapped her shoulder. “Is the rest of your party here?”
She nodded and looked up at me with an evil grin. “Sebastian have you ever had your picture with Santa?”
I looked past her as a deep baritone “Ho Ho Ho!” echoed through the courtyard. I shook my head. “This wasn’t part of the deal.”
She took my hand, her fingers lacing with mine. “I haven’t had a picture with Santa since my Dad…”
She didn’t have to finish. Her father had died to keep her safe from my father. I could stand a photo with Santa. Especially if it made her happy. I could deny her nothing.
And she probably knew it.
I followed her through the gate and stood behind her beside Santa’s ornate chair. The older man looked up at us and smiled. “You must be Sebastian.”
I raised a brow. “How do you…”
“You have your mother’s eyes.”
Isabelle placed her hand on Santa’s shoulder and glanced up at me. “I’ll explain in a minute, just smile.”
I leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “You wanted me to find you.”
“Took you long enough.” She grinned as lights flashed all around us. I blinked, momentarily blinded. Isabelle took a goodie bag from Santa. “Thanks for the photo.”
“Remember our deal.” Santa’s expression was dire. What was I missing here?
Isabelle met my eyes for a second before turning back to Santa. “I won’t forget.”
Santa gave a big belly laugh, and then stared right at me. “Merry Christmas, Sebastian.”
I followed Isabelle to the nearest exit. Once we were out of the fray, I caught her arm, stopping her. “What was that back there?”
She opened the photo frame to reveal our picture with Santa, and in the corner was a slip of paper with a phone number. She pointed to it and looked up at me. “This is Santa’s number.”
Usually I was quick to follow a lead, but I had no idea what she was talking about. “Why do we need Santa’s number?”
“Because.” She took my hand. “He’s your uncle. Your mother had a brother.” Her eyes searched my face. “I made a deal that we’d meet him for dinner on Christmas Eve.”
I wasn’t often surprised, but right now, I wasn’t sure what to say. “My uncle is…Santa.”
Her laughter steadied me. “His name is Steven, and your Mom mailed him some copies of property deeds before the fire. I think they might be…”
“The Nero satellite facilities.”
She nodded, and my heart swelled with pride as I spun her around in my arms. “You’re brilliant.” He set her back on the ground and shook my head. “Why keep it a secret from me?”
She glanced back at the mall doors. “That was his condition. He wanted to see you first. Your Mom told him not to trust anyone.”
“You could have told me why we were coming to the mall on Black Friday.”
“Really?” Isabelle crossed her arms. “If I told you we needed to go get a picture with a mall Santa who could be your uncle on Black Friday you would never have believed me.”
“Probably true.” I lifted her hand to my lips and reached into my coat pocket with the other hand. “At least I’m through visiting the mall until after Christmas.”
“Oh really?” She grinned.
“That was our deal. I found you, so you get to shop for the Pack members.”
She chuckled. “I let you find me.”
“Your mistake.” I tapped into my well of undercover training, masking my emotions.
Her jaw dropped before elbowing me playfully. “You’re lucky I love you.”
“Yes.” I nodded, allowing myself to smile as I took her into my arms. “I most definitely am.” I handed her the small wrapped box. “And I love you too.”
Her eyes widened. “You actually shopped?”
“I didn’t mean to, but I wanted to see this on you.” I moved back a step to give her room. “Go ahead and open it.”
“It’s not Christmas yet.”
I raised a brow. “You might recall, I’m not much of a rule follower.”
“Part of why I love you.” Her playful grin warmed my heart. I much preferred it over the hatred she’d shown me the first time we met.
She tore the paper free and the joy on her face made the entire morning at the mall worth it. She held up the necklace, studying the pendant. “Sebastian, it’s beautiful.”
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.” I latched it behind her neck.
“Dickens.” She turned around with a twinkle in her eyes. “That’s new for you.”
“This whole season is new for me because of you.” I embraced her, my lips brushing her ear. “I love you, Isabelle. Merry Christmas.”
Meet Lisa Kessler!
Lisa Kessler is an Amazon Best Selling and award winning author of dark paranormal fiction. Her debut novel, Night Walker, won a San Diego Book Award for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror as well as the Romance Through the Ages Award for Best Paranormal and Best First Book. Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award. When she’s not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, performing with the San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.
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