Ride: Episode Nine
RIDE: EPISODE NINE – THE STABLES
Sage is an ex-navy seal and a single father who lives for his daughter. It’s now or never and he must risk everything or regret it for the rest of his life… and with his secret that might not be too long. He treks to THE STABLES, an exclusive mating service for the púca shape shifters on the Aran Islands as a last ditch effort. He’s greeted by a curvy, annoying, scrumptious package named Maelíosa. She makes him want what he hasn’t dared to hope for: love, a mate, and a home for him and his daughter.
Reader Note: This book is for those who are 18+. It contains explicit language, sexual situations, and one helluva cliffhanger. However, if you like curvy shifter romance, a stallion who can’t resist his curvy woman, and a dash of humor, then this is the story for you. Please read these installments in order. Enjoy!
One Year Later
Maelíosa’s head snapped up as the old-fashioned telephone jangled on the front desk. “Kieran, could you get that? I’m shattered!” She pillowed her head in her arms, letting her dark hair cover her eyes. The shrill ringing of the phone continued, and she was about to shove it off the edge of the desk before Kieran came to her rescue. Human technology… The shite they come up with.
“The Stables, can I help you?” Kieran’s thick, confident brogue cut through the pounding in her skull. She listened with vague interest as he carried on, evidently speaking to a potential client. By the time he’d hung up the phone, she’d straightened up on her stool and was looking at him expectantly.
Kieran pulled a face. “A real git, by the sound of it. Said his mating paperwork wasn’t filed by the date he’d been promised.” Kieran rolled his eyes. “Told me I could go shove it up my arse.”
He pretended to glare at her. “I saved you, now you owe me one. For real.” He raised his eyebrows at her, and she ignored the lustful look in his eyes. Maelíosa wasn’t exactly psychic, but she could tell the male púca was quite attracted to her…and every other relatively cracking woman in a twenty-kilometre radius. It was probably why she’d never given him the time of day. Women were conquests to Kieran.
Maelíosa laughed. “Thanks, then…you really saved the day.”
Kieran rolled his eyes again. “Did you ever think we’d have this much success?”
Maelíosa shook her head. Her hair whipped back and over her shoulders, and with some irritation, she tied it into a low ponytail. “No,” she said bluntly. “I didn’t want to tell Da, but I thought this whole idea was complete bollocks.”
Kieran stared. “Really? And you went along with it anyway?”
“It was either come work here or mate with someone in the clan.” Maelíosa shrugged. “And you know how I feel about mating.”
Kieran held her gaze, but a slight flush appeared on his cheeks. “Aye,” he said, and let out a sigh. “You don’t have to remind me.”
Maelíosa frowned. She glanced down at her hands, folded on top of the front desk. For some reason she was unwilling to tell Kieran the rest of the deal she’d made with her father, Fallon. Working at The Stables, the clan’s new mating resort, had been put on the table as an option…but only if Maelíosa eventually promised to mate with a suitable human. Just the thought of it made her nose wrinkle. She couldn’t stand the idea of mating—especially not now, not when everything was finally back to normal.
The past year had been a real mess, though it’d shaped up better than she’d expected after Nathan revealed their existence to the world. It had weakened the veil, however, which they now had to guard against stupid human tourists who’d likely stumble through while trying to snap a photo. Maelíosa rested her chin in her hands. Even when she was resting, she still felt as though she were legging around, frantically putting the finishing touches on The Stables.
After Archer’s death, Fallon and the other púca discovered his true intentions for the property in the Aran Islands: a tourist attraction, one that promised to let humans spy on the púca in their natural habitat. Thankfully, Archer was dead now. So Fallon had purchased the abandoned resort property, and turned it into the classiest of…what was it, exactly? Maelíosa giggled to herself as she tried to come up with a suitable term. It wasn’t exactly a house of ill repute. More like a matchmaking service. A very high-end matchmaking service, with supernatural clientele.
“What’re you laughing about?”
Maelíosa snapped back to reality. Kieran was staring at her, and as usual she met his gaze with her own fiery stare. “Nothing,” she lied.
Kieran raised his eyebrows and she laughed.
“Fine. I never thought that git’s book would get so much attention.”
Kieran shook his head. “More than a git, I’d say. Nathan’s a real arsehole. As if a blog post didn’t cause enough damage.”
He sighed. “But something good came out of it, right?”
“I’d say more than something.” Maelíosa gazed around the opulent front hallway of The Stables. She and the clan had all worked together for almost a year finishing what Archer had started.
Kieran chuckled. “I can’t believe you work here, even though I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.”
She wrinkled her nose and changed the subject. “Still, there’s that nasty group of eejits. What’re they calling themselves, Only Human?”
Kieran nodded. “They’re a dangerous bunch of gits,” he said darkly. “Racist arseholes. You know what Finn told me?”
Maelíosa shook her head. Finn was a big, goofy púca who worked at The Stables with Kieran occasionally. The two púca would always make a go of it at Tí Joe Watty’s, the local pub, after their shifts.
“Some tourist was making bloody jokes about us,” Kieran said. “Kept saying his ex-bird would need a horse around for the size of her fanny. Finn got into it—the tourists eventually backed off, but not until Finn had scared them right proper.” He raked a hand through his dark hair. “That bloody book turned us arseways!”
Maelíosa narrowed her eyes. “And think, Felicity used to like that piece of shite. He’s responsible for all of this!”
Kieran exhaled sharply. “She didn’t know what a real git he is, and neither did Cyn. It’s not their fault. You can’t go blaming someone for someone else’s arsehole behaviour.”
The two fell silent. Ever since Nathan Wood had published an entry on his popular blog, Everyday Supernatural, the lives of the púca had been drastically altered. And when he’d published a tell-all book, revealing even more information about Fallon, Maelíosa, and the púca clan, things went from bad to worse. Nathan was a friend of Felicity’s and Cyn’s from their old lives back in London, but when they’d travelled to the Aran Islands to report on supposed púca sightings, everything had changed. Felicity and Niall, Maelíosa’s brother, had fallen in love and mated. And after a little difficulty, Cyn and Fallon, Maelíosa’s father, had done the same.
Maelíosa and Cyn hadn’t always had a warm relationship, but things had improved in the past year. Working together on The Stables brought the two of them into almost daily contact, and Maelíosa eventually overcame her grudge against her stepmother. Even though Nathan had complicated matters for the clan, she couldn’t deny how happy Cyn made her father. They’d made an alliance, albeit a shaky one.
“Aye, you really can’t,” Maelíosa said agreeably.
Kieran nodded. “Aye.”
“Our alliance with the humans, that’s a bonny thing, right? Everyone knows we’re bloody skilled healers. It’s done heaps for our reputation.”
Kieran arched an eyebrow. “That’s all grand. But what if that arse from the pub is a member of that Only Human group?”
Maelíosa sighed. “Don’t think about it. We can’t go around worrying about who could be associated with the OH and let paranoia get the better of us. Besides, you and Finn are paranoid enough for all of us.”
Kieran scooted closer to her and batted his eyelashes like a girl. Like all of the púca, he was stunning in human form as well as in stallion form. Maelíosa had noticed that, but Kieran was too much of a flirt for her to consider anything else.
“I’ll think about something juicy instead,” Kieran said with a wink. He leaned in close. “Fancy a pint after work?”
“Oh, hump off,” Maelíosa said mildly.
She jerked her head toward the door. There was a tall man standing in the foyer. He had close-cropped dark hair, tan skin, and grey eyes. Interestingly enough, he also had a young girl with him. She stood beside him with those same serious grey eyes, a tall and resolute wisp. Maelíosa was immediately reminded of her younger sister Darcy, except that while Darcy could never sit still, this girl’s sedate appearance made her seem years older.
“Blimey O’Reilly,” Kieran muttered. “He’s brought a little bird with him, too!”
Maelíosa chewed on her lower lip. “Aye.”
She couldn’t deny the grey-eyed man was quite attractive, but who’d bring a child to fill out a mating application? And why?