Ice Moon ONLY
a Moon series novel by Lisa Kessler
2016 Aspen Gold Finalist for Best Paranormal
2016 finalist for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award for Best Paranormal
Moon Series won Best Shifter Series for 2015 in the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewers Choice
One touch and she is his…
Jared Ayers works outdoors, embracing a solitary life, hiding from his inner demons. But after so many of his Pack brothers have found their mates, he starts wondering if there might be a mate in his future too. His world turns upside down after he’s hired by the “Ice Queen of Lake Tahoe”. One touch is all it takes. One touch to send the wolf howling within…
A gifted psychic with pyrokinesis, Taryn Goldstone wields fire beyond her control– sometimes with dire consequences. With Jared, she discovers that some flames are meant for passion–and healing. She has enemies who covet her powerful gift, but they are about to learn just how far a wolf will go to protect his mate.
Title: Ice Moon
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An Excerpt from:
by Lisa Kessler
Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Kessler. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
|“Look Ben, we’ve been over this, my buyer is not paying for the upgrades. The inspection report is clear. It’s your client’s responsibility to have the addition up to code.”|
The realtor gave it one last push, but I wasn’t budging. I’d already had my agent print out five new listings. We could find our buyer a new property. First rule of negotiating was to be willing to walk away.
“I’ll give you forty-eight hours. If your client is still unwilling to make the repairs, then I’m terminating this deal.”
I set my cell phone aside and stared out at my worn deck. I was beginning to think the carpenter might never leave.
Through my French doors, he tugged his tape measure out again, jotted some notes, and then checked the horizon. From this safe distance, I could admit he was easy on the eyes. Kind of a tan, working man’s version of Hugh Jackman in a tool belt. Not a bad view.
Jared Ayres came highly recommended for his custom carpentry and woodworking, and my deck needed all the help it could get. The sun reflecting off of Lake Tahoe made it tough to keep the wood protected, and another coat of stain and sealer wasn’t going to cut it this time.
Speaking of time, Charlie would be out of school in twenty minutes.
I opened the door. “Excuse me. I’ve got to leave soon. Are you almost done?”
He nodded and hooked the tape back on his belt. “Just about.”
“Perfect.” I closed the door and went into the kitchen for a glass of ice water. I poured a second one just in case my contractor was thirsty. Anything to save time at this point.
Finally, the door opened and he stepped inside. “I’ve got an estimate for you.”
He waited on the other side of the bar, notepad in hand, and I froze. Up this close, his bright hazel eyes gripped me. I cleared my throat, breaking contact, and placed the other glass in front of him.
“Thank you.” He took a quick swallow and turned his pad around for my inspection. “Here’s what I’m seeing for the new deck.”
His drawing was stunning and detailed, nothing like the chicken scratches most contractors turned in on my real estate deals.
“You’re angling it?”
He nodded and pointed outside. “It’ll cost a little more, but if we build it out an extra eight feet and then angle to the north, you’ll have a perfect unobstructed view of the sunsets at night.”
I tapped the drawing. “I’m impressed.”
He chuckled. “Good, because it’s not going to be cheap.”
Flipping the page over, he showed me his math in figuring the estimate. Pricey was putting it lightly, but as the top commercial and residential broker in the Tahoe area, I could write a check without feeling too much of a pinch.
“Can I get back to you on this?”
He slid a card across the counter. “Yeah, give me a call when you’re ready to get started, or if you come up with questions.”
“I do have one question. Will you be able to finish before the snow settles in?”
The corner of his mouth quirked into a half smile. “That would depend on how long it takes for you to say yes.”
“Excuse me?” My pulse jumped. Was he flirting with me?
He raised a brow. “How quickly you approve the bid will determine if I can get it finished before it starts snowing. We’re already into the first week of October, so if you don’t want to wait until spring, I need a decision very soon.”
Maybe the flirtation had been in my head. I crossed my arms. “Then I’ll be in touch.”
“Perfect.” He tore out the pages from his pad and laid them on the granite countertop. “I look forward to hearing from you.”
He reached out his hand. I stared at it, and then up into his disconcertingly bright eyes. “I don’t like to be touched.”
“Okay.” He lowered his hand, confusion plain on his face.
“Germs. You understand.”
He raised a brow and nodded, plainly not understanding. Not that I cared. It was best for anyone who came in contact with me to know the limitations of our relationship immediately.
They didn’t need to know it was for their own protection.
“My number is on the card.”
“Perfect. Then I’ll be in touch.”
“I look forward to it.” He smiled. Not a fake, I-wish-I-never-had-to-deal-with-you-again business smile, but a genuine, warm grin.
Something unfamiliar bubbled inside me. He tipped his head, respecting my boundaries while avoiding another awkward non-handshake, and walked out.
I held up his drawing, envisioning the custom deck overlooking the clear water of Lake Tahoe. I could’ve said yes on the spot. His idea for angling the space to view the sunset was inspired. I’d worked with plenty of contractors over the years. But this one had vision.
Not that it mattered. I’d still make him wait. I didn’t keep my reputation for being a cold-hearted bitch by writing checks without bargaining first. My savings had enough in it to put Charlie through Harvard because I never took the first price offered. Once we agreed on a better discount, I’d pull out my checkbook.
|I waited in my opalescent Cadillac Escalade outside of the elementary school as the children trickled out. Finally, Charlie wandered toward me with his backpack tight on his shoulders. He jogged to the SUV and opened the door.|
“Hi, Mom.” After tossing his books in the backseat, he twisted forward and clicked on his seatbelt.
“How was school?”
“Fine. I have homework in math, and vocabulary words, and a project for science.” He paused, lowering his voice. “Could you help me on the science project?”
I pulled out of the parking lot, my hands tightening on the wheel. “That’s what we have Lorna for.” I shouldn’t have picked him up. It always made him wish for things we’d never have. “I only came to get you today because Sherri was sick, remember? I’ve got lots of work I need to get done.”
“I know.” He nodded and stared out the window. “I just thought…”
Thought his mother had a heart. Poor kid. I rubbed my chest and adjusted my seatbelt. What was left of my heart after his father had ripped it out died the day Charlie’s twin brother did.
I stayed alive for my son, but I’d stopped living a long time ago.
We pulled in the driveway and his tutor, Lorna, opened the door. I stifled a sigh of relief. She was a retired teacher and thought the world of my nine-year-old. She was also a hugger, which was a perk for my little boy.
He raced out of the SUV and clung to his tutor and substitute grandmother. His real grandmother didn’t even know he existed. For all I knew, she could be dead. My boarding school had housed many orphans. When my parents sent me away, I used to imagine I might be one, too.
Funny how life turned out sometimes.
I yanked his backpack from the backseat and walked it over to him. “You forgot something.”
He took the bag and stood tall the way he should. “Thank you, Mom.”
“I’ve got to go back to work. You be good.”
“He’s always a good boy, Taryn.”
Lorna was the only member of my staff to call me by my first name. She’d been my first friend when I relocated to Tahoe as an ambitious single mom with a new broker’s license.
I headed for the Escalade. “I’ll be back to make dinner. Sherri’s sick.”
“All right,” Lorna called.
When I got in the driver’s seat, they were already inside the house. My pulse settled back into a normal rhythm. Only a few more years, and Charlie could go off to prep school. Life would be much simpler then.
I wiped a stray tear from my cheek and grumbled. This was the only way to protect him.
|My office buzzed with activity. As the broker and owner of the firm, I not only worked my own deals, but I oversaw three real estate agents under me and two property managers.|
And my new community relations manager.
Madison was fresh out of college with a bright future. Her bubbly personality collided with mine regularly, but I recognized the importance of bringing in an outgoing person to interact with the community and keep our name at the front of their minds. Referrals were our lifeblood. Madison brought them in.
“Ms. Goldstone, I have my budget for the Masquerade ready.”
The Masquerade event. Halloween. Great.
“Can you email it to me?”
“Already did.” She beamed, and I struggled to cling to patience. “But I wanted to discuss a couple of particulars with you.”
She nodded. “Yeah. I’ve heard in years past that the company has sponsored events, but not really attended them.”
“I always assign agents to go to our functions.”
She raised her brows and gave a slow nod. “Yes, but that’s not what I mean.”
“Okay, how about cutting the subtlety and just tell me what you need.”
“I want you to attend the event.” Her unflappable grin was back in place.
“Me?” My eyes widened. “Why? That’s a terrible idea. I hate those things.”
“But you could fake it for a night.” She plopped onto a chair across from my desk. “This is your business. Your name is on it. You should be there.”
“I disagree.” I shook my head. “I’m not going.”
“Real estate is about people and relationships, that’s why the reps have their pictures on signs and business cards. The residents here need to see you and feel like you’re involved in their city. That’s how you build customer and community loyalty. We’re not the only ones moving properties up here.”
I sighed, narrowing my eyes. “I’m well aware of that, and I have built a reputation for being tough, but fair. Dressing up for a Halloween party isn’t going to help.”
Her smile faded. “This would be the event of the year, and if you went, and people met you, and saw you having fun, they’d be the first ones to pick up the phone and call us or tell their friends.” Her voice tightened, not quite whining, but close enough. “It’s just one night.”
“I don’t know how to say this…” She stared at her hands in her lap. “But some people whisper that you’re…”
“The Ice Queen?” Her jaw dropped as she snapped her head up. “Trust me. I don’t care what they call me as long as they pay.”
Madison sighed. “But your name is on the building. It’s not good business to have people associating it with someone who might be…difficult.” She blinked big puppy dog eyes up at me. “This party could go a long way to improving your image, and ensuring that our phones are busy.”
I rolled my eyes, shaking my head. “Fine. If you think it’s that important for the business, I’ll go, but I’m not being an emcee or anything.”
“I’ll prepare a little welcome statement for you to read to kick off the event. It’ll be easy peasy.”
She bounced out of my office, and I stared out the window. I couldn’t possibly go to the party, but I could call in sick that day. Madison would pull it off without me.
That’s what I paid her for.
After a few phone conferences, and a visit from a client considering the possibility of renting out their place next summer, I sat back in my chair. The sky was painted in oranges and purples as the sun settled lower on the horizon. Sunsets were gorgeous up here where the air was clean and crisp.
It was going to be an amazing view from my new deck.
I plucked the carpenter’s card from my bag, turning it over and over with my fingertips.
“Night, Ms. Goldstone. You’re the last one out.”
I glanced up at Ray. “Thanks. See you tomorrow.”
He nodded and walked away. The front door buzzed behind him. I picked up my desk phone and punched in Jared Ayers’ number.
“This is Jared.”
“Hi. It’s Ms. Goldstone with the deck?”
“I know who you are. What’s up?”
His deep voice carried a smile. I closed my eyes, wishing I wasn’t picturing his face.
“I need you to knock a few dollars off the labor on your estimate so we can move forward with this project.”
He was quiet for a moment. “I gave you a fair price.”
“I’m not saying it wasn’t fair, I’m asking you to discount the labor a little bit.”
He sighed. “Look, I’m the best damned carpenter in the state, so if you want to save money, call someone else. I work hard and run an honest business, and I expect to be treated the same.” He cleared his throat and added. “Thanks for calling, Taryn.”
The line went dead. My jaw fell. I wasn’t sure what threw me more, the fact he wouldn’t drop his price, or that he called me by my first name. It wasn’t like my name was a secret, but most people took my hint and kept our communications formal. Distant.
I hung up the phone and stared at it. He turned me down. I wasn’t asking for free, I wanted to negotiate. Who did he think he was?
I snatched up the receiver again and hit redial.
I ground my teeth. My name had no business sounding so good when he said it. “We’re not friends. I’m Ms. Goldstone.”
“Is that what you called about?”
“Then what’s on your mind?” His truck engine revved in the background.
“I want to know why you’re not being flexible on your labor costs. It’s a simple business transaction. I’m not asking you to do the work for free.”
“And I’m worth every penny I asked for.”
I tangled my fingers in the phone cord. “I always negotiate.”
“And I always give a fair price the first time around.”
Heat smoldered, burning in my belly. Oh god. Not now. I closed my eyes, forcing myself to slow my breathing. “Fine. Can you be at my house tomorrow?”
“Sure. I’ll get the lumber ordered and start demolition in the morning.”
“And it’s Ms. Goldstone.”
He groaned. “I pull on my pants one leg at a time, same as you. I’m Jared and you’re Taryn. I don’t need this job as much as you need it done.”
I gripped the handset tighter, eyes still closed. “Tomorrow at ten a.m.”
“I’ll be there.”
After replacing the phone on the receiver, I slowly opened my eyes. Fog lined the window, and the office A/C kicked on.
I’d need to be careful around Jared Ayers. For all our sakes.
|I placed the plate of macaroni and cheese in front of Charlie and moved to sit at the other side of the table. “Did you get your project done?”|
“Almost.” He poked at the pasta. “Miss Lorna said we can finish tomorrow, but if you helped…”
“Wish I could.” And I did. “But I’ve got to get the deck cleared off tonight. Tomorrow the carpenter will be here to take our old one down.”
Charlie peeked out the French doors. “Will it look the same?”
“It’s going to be even bigger and he’s going to angle it so we can watch the sunsets better without the trees in the way.”
Charlie munched his food. “Can I help?”
He pointed his fork toward the door. “The deck.”
My eyes widened. “No.”
“Why not?” He grumbled, “I’m not a baby anymore. Is this because of my scar? I don’t even remember getting it. I’ll be real careful, I promise.”
That damned scar. His entire right forearm was burned, the skin still pink and shiny smooth, a forever reminder that I should keep my distance.
“I know you’re bigger now.” I took a sip of water, collecting my thoughts. “But you’ve never used the tools. It’s dangerous. I won’t let you get hurt again.” I set the glass down. “I’m serious, Charlie. No going out back until the new deck is ready.”
His head drooped toward his plate. “Fine.”
We finished dinner in silence.