Nicole Oliver had been warned that stepping even one foot on the Fouche land in Georgia would stir up a whole host of family secrets. But her grandmother had been murdered and she had no intentions of letting the murderer get away with it, family curse or not. Solving a murder wouldn’t be easy, and local help would go a long way to helping…even if help came from a distracting and super sexy alpha werewolf. It was said that the Fouche curse never missed. From a few great greats back all the way forward to the present generation, heartbreak awaited each and every woman. From Nic’s point of view love didn’t last and hadn’t proved worth the effort, so escaping the curse would be easy enough. Besides, she would be too busy solving a murder to even think about love.
Jeremiah, JT, Taylor was the leader of the local motorcycle gang and alpha of the Taylor wolf pack. Nothing magical moved down highway 95 unless he knew about...and got his cut. His pack’s reputation was well-earned and far reaching. He took the death of a practitioner on his territory personal and he had planned to find the murderer with or without Nicole’s help. But, if asked, he’d have to admit that having her help came with all types of bonuses. He didn’t believe in that curse mess, but neither was he looking for anything long term, so a no strings affair was right up his alley. He was warned that his wolf would have the last say. He wasn’t worried though, because he’s in control of the animal, not the other way around.
Nicole soon realized she’d bitten off more than she could chew, in more ways than one. One too many attempts on their lives makes them question if the curse has finally caught up with its latest victim, or if there is something more sinister at play.
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“Mama used to always say, not everybody who is family is rooting for you.”
“Oh Lord, not this again, mama. TiTi apologized.” Nicole pushed her knee down on her suitcase and worked on zipping it.
The practical thing to do would be to take the clothes out and fold them properly, but she wasn’t in the mood, so…she leaned harder on the top of the suitcase, grunting in victory when it zipped.
“And a lie don’t care who tell it. She said that too,” Lauren’s accent was thick, betraying her aggravation. On a regular day, her mother melded well into the urbanites in Connecticut, where she’d finally settled to be closer to her new husband’s family. Her Georgia accent would be firmly tucked away, the clipped tones of New England helping her fit right in with her peers. Lauren could never pull it off when she was irritated, though, especially when talking to or about her family.
“Father God,” Nicole whispered under her breath. Her mother was so damn dramatic.
She took a look around the hotel room to make sure she wasn’t leaving anything behind. It was a mid-level hotel room, the same any government employee would use when traveling for work. It had two queen beds, a small desk in front of the bed, and a small sitting area off to the side, so there wasn’t a lot of room for her to lose her stuff. All the same, she took a lap around it, leaning for a peek under the desk and armchairs.
“According to the lawyer, she divided it between her three granddaughters. Equally, I might add. Aunt Shelby said they only cleaned the place up. She has no intention of keeping everything.” Nic said as she kneeled between the beds.
“Shelby still stole mama’s jewelry before I could even look through it.”
Nicole imagined her mother on the other end of the call pouting. Lauren and her sisters had constantly been fighting for her grandmother’s attention. In light of Grandmother Patsy’s death, now there was only ‘stuff’ to argue over. She closed her eyes and wondered how long she’d be subjected to her mother’s current tirade. Finding the beds clear, she sat on the edge of the one she’d used to hold her clothes before she’d packed them.
“Perhaps if you’d spent more than an hour there after Grandmother’s funeral, you could’ve got what you wanted yourself,” she muttered under her breath.
“Watch your mouth.”
Nicole rolled her eyes. “Either way, I’m going, mama.” She had to. Even being on the road was no longer helping. She was restless.
“I don’t see why you want to go down there and get mixed up with all of mama’s mess. What can you do that the police can’t?”
“I’m not…” Nicole swallowed the growl building in her throat and stood to pace. Her mother always managed to get under her skin. “I’m going down there because the lawyer requested the three of us to come. Plus, it’s been so long since I’ve been to Georgia for more than a day. Is it so bad that I want to pay my grandmother her last respects? It’s already bad enough you kept her funeral from me.”
“Excuse me for trying to protect my only daughter. I left to break the cycle. Why would you go back and stir it all up?”
She sucked her teeth, “Speaking of cycle, how is Gerard?”
Lauren sucked in a sharp breath, and Nicole immediately felt horrible for the dig. According to her grandmother, no Fouche could escape the family curse. It didn’t stop her mother from trying. What was this, husband number four, five? Nicole shook her head.
“I’m sorry, mama, that was unnecessary.”
Her mother sniffed. “Gerard is fine by the way, his children visit, with grandchildren. We’ve been enjoying it.”
Nicole growled at that dig and decided she was done talking to her mother for the day. “Anyways, I’m already in Texas. It will take nothing for me to get to Grandmother’s. I can relax there for a few weeks while I decide what to do with my share of the inheritance.”
“Weeks! You barely visit me, and when you do, you go rushing off on assignment.”
“Not you acting surprised we can’t be in the same house for more than a few days at a time,” Nicole muttered.
“Excuse your damn tone. I’m still your mother.” Lauren snapped.
Nicole took a deep breath and sat down on her closed suitcase. Only on the phone for half an hour, and she and her mother were at each other’s throats.
“I’m going to set up my office from there, so technically, I’m still working.” She put on the cajoling tone she knew would calm Lauren’s ire.
Lauren was silent for a tense moment. “Fine. Not like I could ever stop you from doing anything. You were always such—”
She growled, “Mama, please. You’re pissed, got it.”
Lauren huffed and took a deep breath. “Will you even call me when you arrive?”
Aah, and there was that new Yankee accent in place. It irritated Nicole that her mother changed herself for every new man in her life.
“Will the conversation be like this?” She shot back.
Lauren sucked her teeth. “Lord have mercy, goodbye.”
“Love you, mama.”
“So you say.”
Lauren hung up, and Nicole counted that as a positive interaction. There were so many others that ended much worse, so she’d take what she could. Nicole peeked at the paperwork sitting on the hotel T.V. stand and chewed her bottom lip. How had the lawyer found her? She’d been all across east Texas for two weeks now documenting flood damage, the hotel room merely a pit stop in between locations. The bulky envelope had been waiting for her at the front desk when she’d come back from taking pictures. It had been surprising and timely. It felt like a sign to her. She could go to Georgia, do a couple of assignments while staying at her grandmother’s place. See how it felt.
Her phone rang, and she blew out a breath when she realized who it was. She picked it back up.
“How did she take it?”
Nicole sucked her teeth but relaxed her shoulders. “A lot better than we suspected.” Her father snorted. “So she didn’t accuse you of betraying her?”
“Close.” She laughed. “Of course, she brought up Aunt Shelby and once again accused her of using her proximity to grandmother to steal her inheritance.”
“The inheritance she didn’t want?” Isaiah asked dryly.
Nicole sighed. “Let’s not let facts get in the way. Besides, Aunt Shelby called me and apologized, said she didn’t know mom wanted anything of grandmother’s. She offered to send her all the pieces she wants.”
“But Lauren would rather hold on to the mad?”
“Dad.” She scolded as she dragged her suitcase off the bed and popped up the handle.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t call to bad mouth your mother. I just want you to be careful. Someone murdered your grandmother.”
“I need to do this, dad.” She was starting to question if it was worth all the fuss.
He sighed and was silent. Nicole didn’t bother filling it, she knew how her father was.
“Your grandmother was a practitioner, Bean. Do you know what kind of magic users or supernaturals live there? Have you checked?”
“I hadn’t even thought of it, to be honest, dad. But, there are supernaturals all over this country. It’s not any more dangerous than the city I’ve been working out of for the past two weeks.”
He did make a good point. Nic should probably look into that. Would an internet search of the town bring up anything? Did City Hall keep records? She eyed the package from her grandmother's estate. Would they have that type of information in there?
He sighed again. “Fine, call me when you get there.”
“I will. Love you.”
“Love you too, Bean.”
She snorted and ended the call. She looked around at her hotel room. Everything was packed. All she needed to do was load it all into her SUV. With some mental gymnastics, she could count the whole thing as an adventure, no different than all the others before it. It was not like she expected to solve a murder in two weeks.
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