Sassy Claws - Robbie Cox - E-Book

Sassy Claws E-Book

Robbie Cox

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Beschreibung

She left Brighton Cove to escape her past, but this holiday season, her past comes to visit.

 

Alanna Bradbury hates the holidays. They bring back too many memories, memories she would rather forget. However, when those memories step through the front door of the women’s center where she works, everything she wanted to forget flood her mind with nightmares.

 

It’s Christmas, and after his successful Halloween festival, Josh Rayburn is ready to bring Christmas to Bull Creek. However, the woman he loves wants nothing to do with it. Somehow, he has to get her to change her mind, especially after she brings her work home with her, which threatens to put all of them in danger once more.

 

Spend the holidays with your favorite paranormals. Christmas in Bull Creek will be suspenseful this year, but isn't every day in this paranormal refuge? Still, Josh is afraid he’ll receive coal in his stocking with the way Alanna is acting. One-click Sassy Claws today to see how much trouble Josh gets himself into this time.

 

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Sassy Claws

Bull Creek Holidays

Robbie Cox

Sandy Shores Publishing

Copyright

Sassy Claws

by Robbie Cox

First Edition

Copyright @ 2021 by Robbie Cox

All rights reserved

www.robbiecox.com

Cover art & graphics by Beautifull Mess Graphics

Editing by CTS Editing & Weis Editing/Proofreading Services

Formatting by CJC Formatting

This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are strictly products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be reproduced in any form, except in assisting in a review. This book may not be resold. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

For up-to-date news on Robbie’s latest releases, book signing events in your area, and giveaways, follow Robbie’s newsletter - CLICK HERE!

Contents

Dedication

1.

Chapter One

2.

Chapter Two

3.

Chapter Three

4.

Chapter Four

5.

Chapter Five

6.

Chapter Six

7.

Chapter Seven

8.

Chapter Eight

9.

Chapter Nine

10.

Chapter Ten

11.

Chapter Eleven

12.

Chapter Twelve

13.

Chapter Thirteen

14.

Chapter Fourteen

15.

Chapter Fifteen

16.

CHapter Sixteen

17.

Chapter Seventeen

18.

Chapter Eighteen

19.

Chapter Nineteen

20.

Chapter Twenty

21.

Chapter Twenty-One

22.

Chapter Twenty-Two

23.

Chapter Twenty-Three

24.

Chapter Twenty-Four

25.

Chapter Twenty-Five

26.

Chapter Twenty-Six

What's Next?

Need More?

Acknowledgments

Review Request

About the Author

Also By Robbie

Writing as R.C. Wynne

Merchandise Store

Dedication

To Topher, who always sees the joy in the season.

Chapter One

ALANNABRADBURYSTAREDat the box Josh set on the table. “What’s this?” She crossed the living room to where Josh stood, staring at the box with pinched brows as she tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. “Are you moving out?” She glanced back up at him. “What? My snark finally get to you? What was it that finally did it? Tell me. I need to keep notes on this sort of stuff."

“What? Why would you even suggest such a thing?” He turned and stared at her, his mouth slightly ajar. “Are you wanting me to move out?”

Alanna chuckled, shaking her head. “You really need to relax. If I wanted you to move out, your stuff would be on the front porch already. I’ve almost got you broken in. Why would I toss all that hard work away?” She wiggled her eyebrows at him and then pointed to the table. “Now, what’s in the box?”

He stared at her for a moment, apparently still unsure if she told him the truth or not. She decided to keep him guessing and said nothing. After a few more lengthy seconds of awkward silence, he turned and opened the flaps on the box, obviously deciding not to push his luck. “Christmas decorations.” His face lit up at the words as he reached inside the box and pulled out an old Santa with a yellowish beard. “After how great our Halloween party went, I had my mom send them down to me a couple of weeks ago.” He glanced up at her. “Do you realize we’re the only cabin in the area not decorated?”

“Um, how old are these decorations?” Alanna asked, backing away from the figure he tried to hand her. “And we’re always the only house in the area without decorations. I prefer it that way.”

His brows furrowed as he turned the Santa around, staring at it. “What do you mean? What’s wrong with Santa?”

She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Seriously? Are you staring at the same little… What is this thing anyway? A statue? Stuffed animal? It’s not one of those musical contraptions, is it? I hate those. They’re creepy. Remember that mounted fish that used to sing while it’s head and tail flipped back and forth. Now, that thing was creepy as hell.” She shuddered visibly. “I mean creepy.”

“Really? I kind of liked it. The way it sang while it kept bending on its wall mount.” He laughed, nodding. “It always cracked me up.”

She stared at him, disbelief pinching her brow. “You need help. You really need help.” She turned and walked away from the box, holding in her revulsion at its contents. Plopping down on the couch, she turned to him, hands clasped together in her lap. “What made you bring that box out now? Feeling nostalgic?”

He turned to her, a puzzled look on his face. “What do you mean? Christmas is almost here. We need to decorate. After how successful our Halloween festival was, I can’t wait to see what we come up with for the Christmas party.”

“I don’t decorate,” Alanna said, wishing now they had this conversation sooner. She just assumed that after the past two years, he would have figured it out. She should have known that Halloween festival would have made him ambitious. There was a lot about her she had yet to share with Josh, and she knew it wasn’t exactly fair to him. He had been patient so far, not marking her as his mate even though they both knew their animals had scented the other as their forever one. It hadn’t been easy, of course, but he had given her the space she said she needed without pushing. She still had way too much baggage to unpack to be adding more to it now, even with Josh. “I don’t do holidays period.” She pointed to the box. “You can put that somewhere else.”

“Excuse me? What do you mean I can put this somewhere else? It’s the holidays. People decorate for the holidays. It’s part of the fun. I thought you’d be on board with this. You had a blast at Halloween.”

“I almost died at Halloween, remember? And you haven’t decorated for Christmas since you’ve been here.” She shrugged, considering the matter dropped in her eyes. “And, it may be part of the fun for those people who decorate. However, it’s just an annoyance to me, a reminder of things I don’t want to remember. Really, I hate Christmas. It wasn’t something I ever looked forward to each year.”

He stared at her for a moment, his expression showing how lost he was as to what to say. She felt bad for him but not enough to fill him in on her reasons. Her memories were hers, and hers alone. “You’re serious? You don’t want to decorate for Christmas? No tree? No colorful lights?” He grinned, waggling his eyebrows at her. “No hanging the mistletoe, so we can make out under it?”

She laughed, shaking her head. “As if we need some weed hanging from the ceiling to give us a reason to lock lips and tongue dance with each other. And yes, I’m extremely serious. No decorations.”

He dropped his arms to his sides, the Santa still clutched in one hand. “How could you not like Christmas? How come this never came up before now? I mean, what’s not to like? Christmas means happiness, joy, family…” She saw his face fall as soon as he said that last word, realization dawning on him. “You don’t like Christmas because of your family?”

“I don’t have a family, remember?” She shoved herself off the couch, moving to the small kitchen. She didn’t need a drink or a snack, just something to do besides look at him and deal with her past. “At least, not a family like other people have.” She blew out a frustrated breath. “I just don’t like Christmas, all right? Leave it at that.” She opened the cabinet and pulled out a coffee mug and then moved over to the coffeepot to pour a cup of coffee when she realized she hadn’t made any yet. She growled, her body tense from memories she didn’t want to deal with right then. She almost slammed the cup on the counter as she set it down, grabbing the carafe from the coffeepot with her other hand to make a fresh pot. She could see Josh staring at her out of the corner of her eye, but she chose to ignore him. He wanted answers she wasn’t ready to give, she knew. However, she might not ever be ready to give them. It wasn’t fair, of course, but he would just have to deal with the unfairness of their relationship. It wasn’t her fault their animals had sensed each other as their mates. She tried hard to avoid that situation, intending on living out her life alone to avoid all the traditional relationship bullshit. That was one of the reasons she came to Bull Creek. Who knew the universe had a twisted sense of humor?

She punched the brew button on the coffeemaker, closing her eyes and sighing. God, I’m such a bitch. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes again, staring at the wall in front of her. Josh deserved better. He had put up with her quirks since they met, and here she was shutting him down once again.

Turning, she leaned back on the counter, crossing her arms as she stared over at him. He hadn’t moved. Just stood there watching her. “Fine. You can decorate. A little.” She pointed at him, her eyes narrowing. “Very little. I don’t want to come home and see my house from two miles away because of all the damn lights you’ve strung up. Agreed?”

He gave her a childish grin, as if she just handed him his Christmas present. “Agreed. Subtle. I can do subtle.”

She sighed. “I highly doubt you even know what the word means.”

He chuckled as he reached out and held the yellowish Santa up in front of him with both hands. “I can look it up,” he told her with a wink. Then, she watched as his expression grew serious, and he set the Santa down on the island as he moved around toward her. She knew that look; it meant he was about to get all sappy and sweet on her. She hated sappy and sweet. She didn’t know how to handle it.

When he reached her, he placed his hands on her upper arms as he stared into her eyes. “Look, I don’t know what happened back then. You won’t talk about it. And I’m fine with that. Really. We all have things in our past we want to forget. But,” his smile grew, and the way he looked at her made her wolf prance about inside, “I’m not those people. None of the people in Bull Creek are those people. We’re your family now, and I promise, whatever you need, we’ll help you accomplish or get through or deal with or whatever. I love you. From the moment I first saw you over two years ago, we both knew we were fated to be together forever, and there isn’t anything on this earth I wouldn’t do for you. The past is the past. We only have the future, and together, we can make it the best, most joyous future anyone could ever imagine.”

She sighed as she stared back at him. She had been right. Sappy and sweet. She took another breath as she leaned in and kissed him soundly on the lips, sliding her arms around his waist and up his back. She felt his arms sliding around her, as well, and soon they were pressed tightly against each other, bodies grinding against each other, tongues dancing, hands roaming, as they forgot about Christmas and threw themselves into each other instead. They fell back against the counter, Josh pressing against her so hard the counter dug into her back. She didn’t care; it at least got him to shut the hell up about Christmas. Did she know how to distract him or what?

She felt his hands grabbing at her shirt, pulling it up and over her head, her dark red locks falling in all directions once the shirt was off. Josh immediately dove for the top of her breasts as his hands slid to her bra straps, fumbling with the hooks in his haste. She would have laughed except she didn’t want him to stop and start decorating again. Instead, she reached down for his pants button, making quick work of it and his zipper, and shoved her hand down the front of his pants until she gripped his growing cock. Yes, this was definitely much better than anything that had to do with Christmas.

Once she felt her bra sliding off her shoulders, she leaned her head back, giving him complete access to her exposed breasts as she ran her free hand up into his light brown hair. She gripped him, shoving his mouth to her hardened nipple. She felt his tongue glide across her sensitive bud, and it brought a moan from deep within as she clutched him to her while stroking his cock in his pants. He moaned against her tit, sucking her swollen nipple into his mouth while he slid his hands down to the front of her jeans.

As soon as he had them open, he pulled away from her breast and took a deep breath. With both hands, he grabbed the waistband of her pants and jerked them down her legs. Leaving them bunched around her ankles, he spun her around and bent her over the counter, pulling her ass back a little as he worked his pants down his legs with one hand. She felt him slide his hard cock between her legs to find her entrance as he reached around her, pulling her head back slightly so his lips were right against her ear. She groaned as she felt him lick the ridge of her ear, his breath warm against the side of her face. Then she heard him chuckle, slightly. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about decorating. Although, I do love this type of distraction.” And then he buried his shaft deep inside of her.

Chapter Two

DIMITRIEVERESTSTEPPEDfrom between the trees out onto the gravel road, the gritty pebbles crunching under his booted feet. Small lakes dotted the landscape of Bull Creek, and sometimes, he liked to check them out just to ensure squatters hadn’t moved in and claimed a spot he would have to kick them out of later. Ezra Havlin had set up camp a couple of years ago and lived out among the trees for a month or more before Josh discovered him, so Dimitri knew it could happen. Bull Creek came with enough surprises that they didn’t need unknown tenants staking claims out in the forest.

The sun had just started its downward dip into the western sky as a cool breeze rustled the surrounding trees, keeping the humidity at bay. Even in December, Florida was a toss-up as to whether or not the day would be bearable or sweltering, and usually it was a sweaty morass of unwanted heat.

Placing his hands on his hips, he took a deep breath as he glanced up and down Chad Jason Road just as a small Nissan pulled into the driveway of Maureen Mondor’s cabin. He stood there, staring down the road as he thought about just how much he still didn’t know about the older, redheaded witch who moved into the area about a month and a half ago. She kept herself scarce from the others, popping into Everglades occasionally for a whiskey neat, avoiding the weekly bonfires at all costs, and working in her yard, creating a small garden of herbs and vegetables. Even the few times she appeared at the bar, she avoided talking to people, sitting there, sipping her drink and staring at the back wall. Even Jake Goodman surrendered his attempts at engaging her in conversation, and that was a feat in and of itself. So, all of that begged the question, who would be visiting her?

As he continued to stare down the street at the front of her cabin, he heard himself lecturing Josh about keeping out of people’s business. After all, Bull Creek was a sanctuary, a place paranormals and humans alike come to escape the cruelty of a prejudiced world. Everyone here had a secret or two, maybe even three, or were running from something, more than likely family, which was what made his sister, Lainie, join him in the small community when the Paranormal Council of Draven Falls, who owned Bull Creek, asked him to take over as Alpha. Josh thought the rule silly, thinking they needed to know everything they could about the people who moved into their small town in order to best protect everyone. And over the past two and a half years, some of what Josh said actually started to make sense. Trouble seemed to crop up every other month, bringing people to their doorsteps who wanted nothing more than to destroy their peace and quiet. Yet, Dimitri still had not been able to force himself to surrender his “Don’t be a busybody” rule.

Of course, a simple stroll down the street wouldn’t really be an invasion of Maureen’s privacy, would it? After all, the street was public property. It wouldn’t be like he knocked on her door and demanded to know who just arrived.

Decision made—or rather rationalized—Dimitri turned toward Maureen’s cabin to see what he could see. I hope Josh never hears about this.

By the time he reached the front of Maureen’s cabin, his hands stuffed in his pockets as he attempted to look as casual as possible, just a man out for an afternoon stroll, whoever had pulled into her driveway was out of their car and heading for the front door of her cabin. As he reached the edge of Maureen’s driveway, on the other side of the street, of course, he cast a quick glance in the cabin’s direction and watched as a young woman with long, dark hair moved toward the steps leading up to Maureen’s porch. She appeared to be about the same age as Dimitri, slender in frame, with hips that curved into a tiny waist and back out to a perfectly round ass.

Maureen had just stepped out of her cabin, the door still in her hand as she spotted Dimitri walking by.

He saw her shake her head before he looked away, doing his best to pretend he hadn’t just been scoping things out. It didn’t work, however.

“You might as well come get your nosiness out of the way,” Maureen called out, and Dimitri could hear the ruffled tone in her voice. “Wouldn’t want you to strain your neck.”

He turned, opening his mouth, about to deny the accusation, but then decided better of it. Lying never helped anyone.

Instead, he turned, crossing the road to join the two ladies. “Sorry about that,” he said, waving at the newcomer. “I wasn’t actually being nosy. I was checking out the small lake on the other side of these cabins and noticed the car drive by as I emerged from the woods.”

“I thought I saw someone stepping out from between the trees,” the dark-haired lady said. “I wasn’t sure though. Maureen warned me to drive slowly. She said people complained a lot.”

Dimitri chuckled, nodding as he watched Maureen take the steps down toward them. “Maureen likes to speed through town on her motorcycle. They only complain about her.” He pointed behind him as if they could see the lakes. “I like to make a pass around the lakes every once in a while, just to make sure no one’s setting up camp. We’ve had our fair share of squatters and interlopers the past couple of years.” He stretched out his arm as he reached her. “I’m Dimitri,” he told her as she reached out and shook his hand. “Welcome to Bull Creek.”

“I’m Liberty,” the woman told him. “And thanks.” She glanced around at the massive oaks and towering pines. “It’s definitely a secluded little town.”

“Full of busybodies and buttinskies,” Maureen growled as she took the bag Liberty carried. She narrowed her eyes at Dimitri. “This town’s supposed to come with certain guarantees.”

Dimitri held his hands up in surrender before Maureen went on another one of her rants, accusing him of breaking his own rules. “I already explained what happened,” he assured her. “I’m not here asking any personal questions. You actually asked me to come over, remember?”

“I’m rethinking that now.” When Maureen first moved to Bull Creek just before Halloween, Dimitri had several complaints about her reckless driving, almost running kids off the road with her motorcycle. She was a cantankerous woman then, and nothing had changed since. The people of Bull Creek gave her a wide berth. All he had wanted to know back then was how she managed to get a key to Marilyn Bowman’s cabin, and she was determined not to tell him. Hell, the first time they met, she didn’t even tell him her name.

Liberty giggled as she dropped her hand to her side. “Don’t worry,” she told him. “I’m not as secretive as my mother. I tend to think people should be more open about things.”

“Your mother, huh?” Dimitri said, glancing back at Maureen, noticing the drastic difference in hair color.

“What? You don’t think I could get someone to have sex with me long enough to have a kid?” Maureen asked, her eyes narrowing at him as she twisted her lips into a scowl.

“Mom!”

Dimitri shook his head. “That wasn’t what popped into my mind, I assure you. Actually, I was thinking her father must have been the brunette then. As well as the taller one.”

“And now you’re calling me short,” Maureen sneered. “You’re just full of compliments today, aren’t you? Want to keep going? You haven’t said anything about my nose or my feet yet.”

Dimitri held his hands up again. “No, no. I think I’ll stop right there.” He turned back to Liberty, giving her a slight dip of his head. “As I said, welcome to Bull Creek. If you need anything, please reach out and let me know. I kind of run things here. There are great people around you, so feel free to reach out to anyone really.”

“Pah,” Maureen spat. “She doesn’t need anything from any of you. People need to learn to take care of themselves. She’s not in need of any Alpha, either, so keep your governing to yourself.”

Dimitri shook his head. How on earth would he ever get on Maureen’s good side? Of course, he wasn’t sure the woman even had one. Liberty must have received her pleasant demeanor from her father, as well.

Turning back to Liberty, curiosity trumping his better judgment, he asked, “And are you a witch like your mother?”

Maureen cocked her head slightly. “Isn’t that one of those nosy type of questions? Didn’t take long for you to break that rule, after all.”

Dimitri sighed, knowing there was no way he would win with this woman. “Just a curious question,” he said. “I’ll withdraw it.” He turned back to Liberty, almost afraid to say anything else that Maureen could misconstrue. “As I said, enjoy your stay. If you need anything, please reach out. We hold a weekly bonfire on Friday nights out at the clearing a few blocks over. Feel free to join us. It’s open to everyone. Might help you meet some of the residents here if you’re planning on staying for a while. As I said, good people all of them.”

“I will,” Liberty said. “Thank you.”

“Still here?” Maureen asked, narrowing her eyes at him.

Dimitri chuckled as he shook his head, turning and walking back up the dirt drive. Maureen was a character. Probably one from some abandoned horror script, but still a character. He laughed harder as he turned right at the edge of her driveway and headed for Lil Burt Road. He still found it funny that someone so crotchety could have what appeared to be a sweet daughter. Maybe it was the universe’s way of balancing out that particular family.

A few moments later, he turned down his own driveway just as Adira stepped out onto the front porch and sat down in one of the two rocking chairs she made Dimitri buy right after Thanksgiving. “You look perplexed,” she said as she settled back and started rocking slightly.

He shrugged. “Just thinking about how the universe creates families. I just met Maureen’s daughter. She seems too nice to have come from that woman. Must take after her father.”

Adira laughed as he took the three steps up to the porch and joined her in the opposite chair. “You are bad,” she said. “Maureen just likes her privacy, that’s all.”

“There’s a difference between wanting your privacy and being ornery all the time. That woman is downright mean. I think it goes all the way to her bones.”

Adira laughed even harder. “I’m sure she’s fine. We don’t know what her life has been like, so we don’t know what may have made her the way she is.”

He turned, furrowing his brows as he stared over at his mate. “Are you serious? No one needs to be that mean. I think she does it for sport.”

Adira shrugged, giggling. “Well, everyone needs a hobby.”

“Meanness is a hobby?”

“Picking on you is,” she told him. “I should know. I made it mine.”

“Nice,” he said, sighing as he settled back in his rocker. “Just… Nice.”

She reached out, taking his hand in hers and holding it as they rocked together. “Anything fun and exciting out there outside of Maureen’s daughter?”

“I’m not sure how to take that,” he said, narrowing his eyes at her. “I didn’t say she was fun and exciting. Just different than Maureen.”

“Oooo defensive,” Adira teased. “I bet you checked out her ass, didn’t you?”

He felt his eyes widen a little at her accusation, and suddenly, he had the strongest urge to simply change the subject. He shook his head. “No. There was nothing fun and exciting out there. How about you? You and Winnie get her new store all set up?”

“We have a couple of things still to do tomorrow,” she told him, turning her gaze back out to the front of their property. He couldn’t ignore the smirk that creased her lips, however. She knew he dodged her question on purpose but didn’t call him on it. What was the point? She knew him all too well. “We have one more shipment coming in, and then, she’ll be all set. How she’s going to attract customers, though, I have no idea. I mean, it’s not like we’re in the center of downtown or that there’s even a downtown around here to be the center of.”

He squeezed her hand. “It’ll work out. I kind of don’t think she wants to be gangbusters busy, you know. If she did, she wouldn’t have selected this area to open a store. I think she mainly wants to cater to the witches in the area.”

“Smart on her part, but it may not be too profitable.”

“True, but profit might not be on her mind.”

“Possibly. It’s been fun helping her out, though. I can tell you that. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the interaction with other witches until I was the only one.”

“And now you have three, maybe four depending on Liberty, if you can get Maureen to get past her defensiveness, that is”

Adira nodded. “Maybe I’ll reach out and invite her over for tea or something.”

“Tea?” Dimitri shook his head as he adjusted his position in his chair. “I don’t think she’s the tea type. More vinegar, if you ask me.”

“Dimitri Everest, be nice.” Adira reached out and swatted his arm.

“That was nice.”

“Santa is going to bring you coal if you keep talking like that.”

Dimitri sighed as he turned his gaze back out to the front. “I probably deserve coal. I will tomorrow for sure. Josh wants me to help him decorate their cabin. I might need you to come save me when Alanna sees it.”

“Just be gone before she gets home,” Adira warned him. “That’s one argument Josh can handle on his own.”

Dimitri nodded. “He’s definitely a masochist, it seems. Either that, or he has a death wish. She’s going to kill him, I’m sure.”

“It’s his funeral.”

“That’s all I need. Another grave to maintain.”

Chapter Three

JOSHTWIRLEDHISbeer on top of the bar in slow circles, his shoulders slumped. “I just don’t get it,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “I mean, she said I could decorate, but I’m sure that was just to appease me at the moment. I understand something happened back then, but how can someone not like Christmas? Everyone likes Christmas.”

“How did you not notice this last year? Or the year before?” Dimitri asked before taking a swig of his beer. As he set it back down on the bar, he grinned over at Wes Stapleton who leaned on the other side of the bar, listening to Josh’s woeful tale. “Of course, with the way they were always bumping and grinding on each other, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even notice when the holidays hit that first year.”

Wes chuckled, shaking his head. “I do remember the two of them going around without much on most of the time. Probably why they prefer the woods as opposed to the big city. Kind of hard to walk around the outside of your house naked in Draven Falls.”

“Oh, it happened,” Dimitri said, as he settled back in his seat. “It was frowned upon, but I assure you, it was done more often than not.”

“Like it wasn’t the same when the two of you found your mates,” Josh snarled at them, his brows furrowed. “We were just getting to know each other a little better.”

“By the way you two went at it, I’d be surprised if you two left anything undiscovered,” Dimitri said with a soft chuckle. “And it didn’t matter which form you were in, human or animal.”

Josh made a weak one-shouldered shrug. “What can I say? Alanna has certain…kinks.”

The other two men busted out laughing, and Josh felt his face reddening. The one thing he learned about Alanna Bradbury early on was that there wasn’t much that turned her off when it came to sex. He still remembered the threesome he had with her and Lanie, Dimitri’s sister, back in Draven Falls when the two of them went to bring Lainie to Bull Creek. Of course, he didn’t tell Dimitri about that little adventure. If Lainie did, well, that was between her brother and her. Since then, Josh and Alanna had explored their own little escapades on their own, mainly in Kissimmee to the west of them, since Alanna worked at the Domestic Abuse Center in Melbourne to the east. No one needed to know about that, either. Their little adventures were theirs and theirs alone. Besides, some secrets were fun to keep.

“So, what are you going to do?” Dimitri asked, picking his beer bottle back up and turning slightly so he faced his friend more. “You’ve always been a freak when it comes to Christmas, going all out and buying the weirdest decorations.” He turned to Wes. “He bought one of those animated fish that’s stuck to a wall mount and put a Christmas hat on it. If I remember correctly, it kept singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer over and over and over until his mother took her cleaver to it.” He shook his head. “Silliest looking thing I’ve ever seen.”

Wes shrugged. “Probably a staple out here. You are deep in the woods, remember? These aren’t exactly city folk.”

Dimitri shrugged as he glanced back over at Josh. “I guess I brought you to the right place then. You’ll fit right in, it seems.”