And Now, the Irresistibly Adorable Jackie Nacht!

I’ve mentioned once or twice that there isn’t ANYONE in the world cuter than Jackie Nacht. Except maybe Devon Rhodes. Seriously. The two of them together? Deadly with the cute! Jackie’s got the triple threat thing going, too. Cute, funny and smart. Smart enough to come up with the idea for the Three Degrees of Heat antho, as a matter of fact. Jackie is our caboose – her story is the last of the three, and the “sweetest” of the bunch. Love her story, love her sister, and love her. And I know all of you will, too.

So, here’s Jackie’s blurb:

Best friends since childhood, now it will take everything Chase has to heal Landon and finally make him his mate.

After receiving a call from his old roommate, Foster, stating that he was needed back home, Chase drops everything to go. What he finds when he gets there is that not everyone has healed from the wrath brought down by the old Alpha. His best friend growing up, the one he secretly knew was his mate when he was sent to college, is still wrought with guilt and never healed from the abuse at the hands of the Alpha, who happened to be Landon’s father.

Landon doesn’t know what to do. He’s laced with guilt for seeing his father become more twisted as the years passed but never voicing it. And worse, he can’t bring himself to face the Leash or even go back to the house where the violence began. Feeling lost and scarred beyond healing, he goes to the one place he feels safe, to the lake.

Will Chase be able to help Landon heal, and is it too late to tell the man he grew up with that not only is he his mate but the love of his life?

And her excerpt:

white fox 1Chapter One

Chase couldn’t get there fast enough. Two hours earlier, he’d received a call from Foster, making him fly out the door to his Jeep. The vibes he’d had for months about home and the unanswered questions were all beginning to make sense. That didn’t make him any less pissed off that his brothers transferred him to a college three hours away this fall.

Finally, after white knuckling the whole damn drive, he pulled into the driveway of the home he shared with his older brother Benjamin and, apparently, his new mate, Foster. His other brother Axe lived next door with his mate, Scotty.

Chase already knew Foster since he’d roomed with him in school, but he’d barely ever talked to the Omega, Scotty, since he was so shy, and Chase tended to spend all his time with Landon. He’d wanted to come home to be with the family, but again got a firm, you need to stay where you are until the end of the semester. Why did he listen? Oh, that was right—because his brothers were Alpha and Beta while he was only a gamma. They never gave him shit for it, but he still submitted to them in all things. He couldn’t help it, as it was bone deep in his instincts to submit.

Chase cut the engine and took off for the front door. He had such a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach but wasn’t sure what was going on. Things had been so…weird when he left. The old Alpha, Joe, had changed his brother’s role in the Leash and had planned on sending them on missions outside the Leash. Benjamin didn’t want him to stay by himself, so he transferred him to a college to live in the dorms. That had seemed so strange in itself, but his brothers had been tightlipped. Then there was Landon. Was Landon okay? After all, Foster said he was in trouble. God, why hadn’t he insisted on keeping in touch with Landon?

Walking in, Chase yelled out, “Foster! Benjamin!”

Axe appeared, imposing in the kitchen doorway, “Calm the fuck down, Chase. Come in here. We need to talk to you.” Axe turned and didn’t so much dismiss him as just knew that he would follow him in. Yep, the gamma in him had always followed his brothers around. They were more dominating, but they never used it on him unless he was being a shit, which he had been a time or two growing up. C’mon, everyone had their bratty moments as kids.

Chase walked in and saw Benjamin leaning against the kitchen sink with his arms crossed. Chase thought that maybe he would see his brothers’ mates, but it was just the brothers. Benjamin pointed to a chair, “Take a seat, Chase. We need to talk.”

So calm and so in control and very much unlike him right now. He went and sat in the chair, where his damn knee started bouncing, and his thumb did a nice fwap fwap fwap on the wood table. Benjamin and Axe sat down across from him. Axe passed over a beer before handing Benjamin one and taking a swig of his own. No, thanks, he was too geared up to even take a drink.

Benjamin looked him straight in the eye, “You know I’m the new Alpha of the Leash, and Axe is my Beta.”

Chase nodded. He was too pissed to be snarky and say No shit! Yeah, he received a two-minute call. A call! He had been mostly getting text since he left for school. There was only one time in the year they actually talked for more than a minute, and that’s when his brother had told him he was the new Alpha. He’d asked his brother if he could come home. What he got was, we need to figure out what’s going on and make sure you’re safe. In other words, it was a nice way of keeping the weakest link out of the picture. Thanks, bros, for the vote of confidence. That was also the time that Foster pulled a disappearing act on him.

Plus, he’d hated leaving Landon when he knew Landon’s father was such a bastard. Then, to hear he’d been abusive before Benjamin took over. He’d never seen marks on Landon, but the few times they would go to the lake, where they would shift and run until they fell asleep under the stars, he always did that when it was so dark. Was he hiding marks? And Landon never wanted to go home…ever.

Axe slammed his beer down, making him jump and bringing him out of his thoughts. “Pay attention, Chase.”

“Yeah, I am.” Chase glared at his brother even though he knew he’d gotten caught.

Benjamin leaned forward, “Here’s what’s been happening. Alpha Joe was a lot more twisted than we thought. We didn’t know half of the shit that was going down until after I took over. The Leash is…recovering…slow, but it’s moving in the right direction. Our concern is for Landon.”

Chase knew it, “What wrong with Landon?”

“He’s withdrawn. The Leash was taking out their wrath on him until we quickly intervened. Landon was shunned by the Leash, and we thought it was over, but Foster and I keep having to have little chats with them. He’s been taking it pretty hard and hasn’t been back to his home in weeks. The last we saw him was a few days ago in the woods. We thought he just needed a little time to heal. Scotty told me he saw his dad kill Laurie right in front of him. That’s not even mentioning that he had his own fair share of abuse at the hands of his father. We think he might need you.” Benjamin gave him a knowing look. It wasn’t like it was hard to tell that Chase had always loved Landon. It started as childhood friends, but it had become so much more in the last couple years.

Wait…Landon lost his sister, and it happened right in front of him? Those two were always close, since they never knew their mother. Hell, by the looks of them, they probably had two different mothers, but that never seemed to matter to them. Laurie had always been so shy and sweet to Chase. His heart hurt from the loss. Landon must be beside himself.

“Why didn’t you call me weeks ago? How come you had me stay away? Hell, it was Foster who called me. What the fuck?” Chase was pretty sure he knew, but he wanted to hear it. They think I’m weak.

Surprisingly, Axe was the one who answered, “We weren’t sure what was going on. We had our suspicions and knew it involved the Alpha, but we needed you away from Landon to protect you. Remember, Joe kept sending us away, and that would have left you totally vulnerable. Then when Benjamin took over, there were still a lot of issues that were unstable with the Leash. It was best that you stayed at school…safe.” Yep, weak.

Chase pushed his chair back, pissed, “I can take care of myself, and who the hell was taking care of Landon? Shunned? Alone? Are you fucking kidding me?”

Axe stood up, a challenge in his eyes, “Our priority was to you. How much worse would it have been for Landon if the Alpha had seen the two of you mate? Oh, don’t even look so shocked that I could see it, too. You two were right at maturity, and a blind fool could see you two were mates, even the Alpha. He would have toyed with him and who the fuck knows what else. He might have killed him just to get to you. And through you, he would have gotten to us. Same after he was gone. It was a shit storm here, and we couldn’t afford for anyone to harm you. Yeah, you’re an adult, but there were foxes here that were stronger and almost as bad as Joe.”

Axe’s logic made sense, kind of…but there were other options out there they could have taken, which involved giving the Leash the bird and walking away together. “I’m going to go look for him. I can’t…I can’t talk to you two right now.” Chase started shaking his head, but he couldn’t let this drop, “How could you let him go through this without me here? How could you not tell me?”

For the first time, Axe’s eyes looked at him pleadingly, “We didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors. We were gone, and when we got back, no one was talking. We protect each other first, and then we protect the other members of the Leash.”

“Landon is so much more than another member of the Leash.” Chase gritted out.

Ben scrubbed his hands over his face, “We know that, and we fucked up. All we can do now is try to help everyone heal. We want to help Landon and we know you’re the only one that can help him. We might not have been the bad guys, but we’ve had to learn a lot, too. Foster and Scotty have been the balance this Leash never had. We’re learning as we go, here.”

“We’ll talk, but later. Landon is my priority now.” Chase turned and walked out the front door and down the steps.

He made his way into the woods, knowing that Landon would be at their spot. Foster had told him as much, but he knew Landon would stick close to what felt safe. In fox form, it was a mere five minute run but, in human form, he was going to be hiking for closer to half an hour. Maybe that would give him some time to pull it together. Chase wasn’t even sure what he was going to confront. Was Landon going to be pissed at him because he’d failed to protect him? Or maybe mad because he didn’t take Landon with him when he left? Whatever it was, Chase was going to do everything in his power to make sure Landon healed and never had to worry about walking alone in the future. Shunned, it was absolutely unthinkable, and the shit before…Chase’s stomach churned.

Trying to clear his head, he breathed in the fresh pine-scented air and listened to the soft sounds of nature’s very own music. The last of the day’s sun rays were breaking through the canopy of trees. For just a moment, Chase was centered enough to think he might be able to approach this with a level head. That was until he broke through and saw Landon for the very first time.

Something was…wrong. Landon was sleeping in fox form on a patch of grass down by the lake. That was pretty much the spot they had always slept when the two of them came here, so that wasn’t the difference. Chase looked Landon over, wondering what was wrong with Landon’s white fur. All over the back and sides bald patches showed through where beautiful fur used to be. How come he hadn’t healed? A lump formed in Chase’s throat. To be permanently marked like that in his fox form. What the hell had happened? Chase tried to school his features and walk to Landon as slowly as possible. He didn’t want to frighten him or cause him to run.

Chase got within ten yards of Landon when the fox gradually opened his eyes. Seeing the shadow falling at his paws caused him to pop up and get ready to bolt.

Chase held out his hands and squatted down, “Easy Landon…easy. It’s just me.”

He kneeled with bated breath until Landon cautiously approached him. Landon stood inches apart from his outstretched hand for one moment before a soft whimper left the fox, and he pushed his furry head into Chase’s hand. The fox slowly closed his eyes as though he might be relishing the touch. It was a far different reaction than Chase had expected. Maybe it had to do with all the distance from the rest of the Leash. Chase knew himself that he always loved the closeness of others, from his brothers to Landon.

“Landon, can you shift so we can talk, please?” Chase continued to stroke the soft fur until it began to shift into longer silky pale strands. The height change made his hand rise until he was cupping Landon’s face in front of him. Chase knew Landon was naked but couldn’t take his eyes from the sad light gold ones that stared into his. They held him captive, but Chase wanted to make sure Landon was okay.

Eventually looking down, Chase saw pucker marks from his neckline all the way down to his thighs. They might have been farther down, but with Landon’s legs tucked under him, there was no way to know. My God, how did this happen? Chase tried to keep his composure in order to be the strength that Landon needed but he could feel himself breaking. His eyes began to burn and, with his last bit of restraint, he took a quivering breath to keep himself together.

“Your dad,” Chase whispered. It wasn’t a question, but Landon nodded anyway.

“Why didn’t you call me? I would have come and gotten you out of here, Landon.” Shit, his body was trembling from anger, or maybe shared pain. Chase had no idea.

“If it wasn’t me, Chase, it would have been one of the females, and if you would have come, he would have killed you. He told me that…daily.” Landon’s voice came out gruff and hoarse from being unused for so long.

What could he say to that? He had no effing clue, so he sat there and continued to stroke Landon’s hair for comfort. Landon’s white hair had always been unique to the Leash. His mother must have been an artic fox, but no one knew for sure. Landon’s mother had never been in the picture as far as Chase knew.

“Will you come back to the house with me and stay?” Chase attempted to help Landon up. The injured man hissed in pain and needed more help than even Chase thought. Looking down, Chase saw that Landon’s legs were riddled with scars, and his feet looked like they’d gotten the worst of it. They were completely covered in overlapping scars.

“Brands,” Landon whispered, drawing his attention.

“Brands?” Chase felt the words pass his numb lips.

“My dad figured out a way that we don’t heal ever—branding. It was his favorite thing to do.” Landon broke off and turned his head clumsily, sitting back on the grass. His body began quaking, silently crying. Chase sat next to him, grabbed a hold of Landon, and held him as he cried from the pain he had endured over the last year.

To find out a way to permanently scar a shifter and then turn around and use it on your own son—the idea was so sick and twisted his stomach turned. Landon’s crying began to quiet, and he looked up with a tear-streaked face, pale gold eyes gazing at him.

“Do you think I’m ugly now?” Landon whispered, and Chase could feel the very breath of those words brush against his own lips, they were so close.

With complete honesty, Chase answered, “You’ll never be ugly to me. Everything about you is perfect—scars can’t ruin that.”

Landon closed his eyes and leaned his head on Chase’s chest. There were no more tears. He had his cry out, which he’d needed to do but never had before this, and, knowing Landon, would fight tooth and nail before he did it ever again. That was just the way he was. That fact didn’t make him a weak man or strong—it just made him Landon.

“It’s starting to get late. I’d like you to come back and stay the night with me at my brother’s house.” Chase felt Landon tense beneath the hands that were soothing him.

“I…I…” Landon swallowed, not going on.

Chase tried another tactic. “We can grab something from the kitchen and then go up to my room where it’s just us, food, and a nice warm bed. How long have you been sleeping on the forest floor?”

“Too long,” Landon muttered. That was a weakness of his friend. Whenever Landon came over when they were younger, he was a bed hog all the way. The only way Chase ever got any sleep was to wrap himself around Landon in the middle of the bed. Chase never complained about that. Sleeping next to Landon were some of his happiest memories growing up and, looking back at it now, he should have known what that peaceful feeling meant when he lay with his friend at night.

Chase stood up and pulled Landon up with him, “C’mon, food and bed.”

Landon wrinkled his nose, “I may need to use your shower, too. Somehow, the lake just doesn’t cut it.”

They began a leisurely walk toward the house, and Chase glanced over at the thin golden frame. Landon wasn’t quite as tall as his five-ten height, but he was really close. Landon was ten pounds shy of his one hundred eight pounds, or, at least he used to be. Landon had lost the sleek muscles that usually were the body type of a Gamma. Chase observed Landon and figured he’d lost maybe twenty five pounds, making a few of his ribs show through the tan skin. Landon still wasn’t small like an Omega, but only height was making that difference, because it certainly wasn’t the weight.

Some of the Leash might seem to think it would be weird for two Gammas to be mates. There was no dominate and submissive partner in the mating which was more typical with foxes. However, that wasn’t always the case, and Chase was only too happy for it. Somehow, being mated to another Gamma suited Chase just fine. They fit each other perfectly.

“Do you want to go over to your house and grab some clothes?” Chase asked casually. He didn’t expect Landon to stop in his tracks next to him.

“No, ugh…can I just borrow some of yours?” Landon’s whole body began to tremble. Shit…of course he didn’t want to go back there but still…had he not gone back since Benjamin took over the Leash?

“Do you want me to get you settled in the shower, and then I can go get a bunch of your clothes and bring them over to the house?” Chase watched Landon’s eyes go wide as he visibly swallowed hard.

“Could you?” Landon whispered.

“Yeah, I’ll go grab anything you want.” Chase grabbed Landon’s hand, walking him back to his home.

“Just the clothes, thank you.” There was so much sadness in his voice with just a touch of underlying bitterness that Chase tried to squeeze the hand in comfort. He found it wasn’t good enough and pulled Landon closer until he had one arm wrapped around him. All the tension in Landon’s body seemed to melt off him. Chase felt relief and guilt. Could he have been here to help him when he had been going through it? Get him out? He knew it would haunt him all his life that he was writing term papers while Landon was being branded by his very own father.

And, just so’s you don’t forget, the Three Degrees of Heat anthology is available HERE at eXtasy Books, and HERE at Amazon for Kindle.

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2 Comments

  1. OMG, hahaha! LOL, I came over to read about Jackie and did a triple-spit-take when I saw my name.

    Awww. you are so freaking sweet! And great blurb and excerpt. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and big hugs!

    • LOL, Devon I can’t think of GRL without picturing you and Jackie cuddled up on a chair somewhere. It’s like eating cotton candy while watching puppies play! To. Cute. Seriously. 😉 And, yep, Jackie and Steph totally make me look good!


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