Wild About You

(Book 13 in the Love at Stake series)

A novel by Kerrelyn Sparks


To the best critique partners an author could wish for—

MJ, Sandy, and Vicky.

For thirteen books now, you have watched my back

and helped me do my best.

Many thanks for your friendship, patience, and loyalty.


I have to confess—some books are easier to write than others, and Howard’s book was a real bear. For those who helped me survive my journey into the were-bear culture, I owe many thanks. First, there were my critique partners: MJ Selle, Sandy Weider, and Vicky Yelton. A special thanks to Sandy’s husband, Paul, who came up with the name for the series—Love at Stake—and spent many hours tutoring my daughter in chemistry.

Thanks also to Jimmy Franklin, good friend and super realtor, who helped us move and sell a house while Howard’s book was being written and produced. Jimmy, I hope you enjoy having a young were-bear named after you.

As always, I owe a big thank you to my husband, who is always encouraging and supportive, and even makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches when I’m in deadline hell. Thanks also to my son, Jonathan, who reads galleys with an eagle eye and spots typos at the last minute.

And there are so many at HarperCollins who work tirelessly to help my books succeed. To my editor, Erika Tsang, and her assistant, Chelsey: thank you for your patience and wise advice. To Pam and Jessie and the Publicity Department: thank you for arranging fabulous events and book tours. To Tom and the Art Department: thank you for the beautiful covers! And then there are others in sales and marketing—many thanks to you all!

Finally, my heartfelt gratitude to all my readers around the world. Without you, my Undead friends would have died years ago. Many thanks for your support!

Chapter One

In the dim light of a cloud-shrouded moon, Shanna Draganesti cast a forlorn look at the flower beds she’d once tended with care. They’d become choked with weeds since her death.

To be honest, gardening had ranked low on her list of priorities for the past three months. She’d had bigger things to fret about, such as adjusting to a steady diet of blood when six years ago she would have fainted at the sight of it, and dealing with an increased amount of psychic power that made it too easy to hear people’s thoughts whether she wanted to or not.

Practically overnight, she’d been expected to master all the vampire skills. Levitation? Downright scary to look down and see nothing beneath her feet. With no way to ground herself, she kept tipping over. Mental note: never wear a skirt to levitation practice.

And what about teleportation? She was terrified she’d materialize halfway into a tree or a rock. And why the heck couldn’t she materialize ten pounds lighter? Her scientific genius of a husband couldn’t answer that one. Roman had laughed, under the impression that she was kidding.

Then there were the fangs. They tended to pop out at inopportune times. Thankfully she couldn’t see her scary new canine teeth in a mirror. Unfortunately she couldn’t see herself, either. She’d nearly dropped her three- year-old daughter on the floor the first time she’d seen Sofia floating in a mirror, held by an invisible mother.

And that was the most difficult part of being a vampire. She was no longer the same mother she’d been before. Every scraped knee or bruised feeling her children experienced in daylight hours would be soothed away by someone else. Because during the day, she was dead.

She’d never fully appreciated what the other Vamps went through each day at sunrise. Death-sleep was easy enough, since you just lay there like a lump, but getting there was the pits. She had to die. Over and over, as the sun broke over the horizon, she experienced a burst of pain and a terrifying moment of panic. Roman assured her it would get easier in time when she learned to relax, but how could she remain calm when she was dying? What if she never woke again? What if she never saw her children or her husband again?

There was no comforting light in the distance, reaching out to her with the promise of a happy afterlife. There was only a black hole of nothingness. According to Roman, that was the way it was for vampires. As a former medieval monk, he had interpreted the darkness as one more indication that he was cursed and his soul forever lost.

He now believed differently. When he’d fallen in love with her, he’d accepted that as a blessing from above and a sign that he wasn’t entirely abandoned. And then dear Father Andrew, may he rest in peace, had convinced the rest of the Vamps that they had not been rejected by their Creator. There was a purpose to everything under heaven, Father Andrew claimed, and that included the good Vamps. They were the only ones with the necessary skills for defeating bad vampires and shifters. The good Vamps protected the innocent, so they served an important purpose in the modern world.

Mental note: remind yourself every night that you’re one of the good guys. It should make that glass of synthetic blood easier to swallow.

“Come on, Mom!” Constantine ran ahead of her and charged up the steps to the front porch.

Not to be outdone by her older brother, Sofia clambered up the steps, too.

“I don’t have to wait for Mom to unlock the door,” Tino boasted. “I could teleport inside.”

Sofia scowled at him, then turned to Shanna. “Mom, he’s bragging again.”

She gave Tino a pointed look. How many times had she warned him to be mindful of his little sister’s feelings? So far, Sofia had not displayed the ability to teleport, and she was growing increasingly sensitive about it.

“There, now.” Shanna’s mother, Darlene, gave Sofia a hug. “Everyone has their own special gifts.”

Sofia nodded, smiling sweetly at her grandmother. “I can hear things that Tino can’t.”

“Mom, she’s bragging again,” Tino said in a high-pitched voice to mimic his little sister.

With a snort, Shanna carried her children’s empty suitcases up the steps to the front door. In spite of the recent upheaval in her personal life, her kids continued to behave normally. Like the weeds, they seemed capable of thriving in any environment.

“Nice porch.” Darlene looked around. “It needs to be swept, though. And you’ll need to get the yard tidied up before you post a For Sale sign.”

“I know.” Shanna set the small suitcases down so she could unlock the door. This was the first time her mother was seeing their home in White Plains, New York. And maybe the last.

Since Shanna’s transformation, they’d all lived at Dragon Nest Academy, the school she’d started for special children, mostly shifters or hybrids like Tino and Sofia. Roman had claimed she’d sleep easier, knowing their children were well supervised during the day.

He was secretly worried that she wasn’t happy, that she wasn’t adjusting. And deep inside, he was afraid that she blamed him for transforming her and separating her from her children. He never said it, but she could read it in his thoughts. And sense it whenever they made love. There was a desperation in his kisses and an extra

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