Here we go, my darlings! As promised, you’re getting a sexy shiny exclusive teaser for La Famiglia Mostro: Werewolves Hate Clogs! The book will be releasing 6/23/23, but you can read the first three chapters here on my blog for freeeee! Happy reading!
(Also, keep in mind that this hasn’t been edited and it’s not the final manuscript blah blah blah. Just ignore any and all typos pretty please thankssss xD)
Neil Ricci had imagined many different futures for himself over the years, but not a one ever included working at a flower shop.
He’d wanted to be an astronaut when he was a little boy. Later, his dream was to be a professional chef or a break dancer, or break dancer who also cooked while dancing. His adult aspirations were far more grounded and ranged from an accountant to a financier because they always dressed so well.
Unfortunately, a future working with money required a lot of math, and Neil struggled miserably with his classes. After failing two, he’d decided to take the summer off and reevaluate his plans.
He needed a job, a place to stay, and he was surprised when his uncle, Shiloh Ricci, offered him a unique opportunity for both working at his flower shop. His uncle had always been a bit of an eccentric, disappearing for months at a time while he traveled all over the world, and he needed someone to watch the shop for him during his next big adventure.
The offer of good pay plus free room and board was too good to pass up.
The flower shop was a large three story brick building located in the heart of downtown Somerstown, a populous city with a crowded skyline. The city had held onto its greenery in the face of progress and boasted several lush parks, massive oak trees on practically every corner, and was known for its annual festival celebrating its many colorful azalea bushes blooming.
The flower shop had three award-winning azalea bushes flanking either side of the front door. The first floor was the actual store proper, including a lavish greenhouse that was impossibly bigger inside than it looked to be from the outside. The second floor was a spacious two bedroom apartment where Neil was staying, and the third floor was rented out as office space that tenants accessed via a service elevator in the back of the building.
The awnings hanging over the door and windows were the same bracing shade of pink as the prized azaleas, one of many examples of nauseatingly bright colors clashing with the dark rustic state of the building. His uncle had insisted on using big pops of color everywhere, and the counter and moldings inside the shop had also been painted hot pink. The frames of the menu and bulletin board up behind the counter were a shocking shade of lime green, the wooden floors were stained neon blue, and it was all enough to give Neil a headache if he stared for too long.
At least there weren’t any crazy colors upstairs.
His uncle had stayed around for a few days to teach Neil the basics, and it was laughably easy. Neil’s responsibilities included running the register, watering the plants in the greenhouse, and answering the phone and taking new orders. He didn’t actually have to make or stock any of the arrangements.
The cooler and the displays in the shop were always freshly stocked when Neil came in to open the shop for the day. His uncle explained that the delivery drivers and florists worked very early hours, so Neil should never be surprised when the flowers were there before he even woke up.
Neil didn’t think much of it.
After all, he’d never worked in a flower shop before, and he assumed that’s how it was done. He took the orders, wrote out the delivery schedule, left the orders on the counter in a little box, and everything just sort of… happened?
Okay, yes, it was a bit strange.
He never saw anyone else, even during the evenings when he stayed up a bit too late reading or playing on his phone. He didn’t hear a truck, the doors opening—not a peep. By contrast, he heard the people renting out the floor above him stomping around all the time, sometimes as late as two o’clock in the morning.
Yes, it was all very strange, but this was the best job he’d ever had.
He wasn’t about to question it.
Neil had never made money like this before in his life and he was able to save more than ever thanks to not having to stress about rent or utilities. The hours were long, which didn’t leave much time for socializing, but he was perfectly happy to spend the rest of his summer here. He was enjoying getting to know the regular customers, especially the ones on what he called the List.
These were the customers who had been getting flowers from the shop for years, and they all had standing orders every week like clockwork. Many of them didn’t want their arrangements delivered, instead choosing to pick them up in person.
Miss Loy got a dozen yellow roses for her weekly date night with her partner of forty-two years, Mr. Powell ordered big bundles of fresh herbs because he loved to cook, Mrs. R.L. Charles always got dahlias for the graves of her three deceased husbands, and so on.
There was one, however, he knew only by the name written on a sticky note stuck to a planter in the greenhouse.
L. Morénas-Mostro had a night-blooming cereus on order, a thick climbing cactus that hung in a nondescript planter near the doorway. Neil didn’t know much about plants, but he knew he’d never seen that damn thing bloom at night or any other time. It didn’t look like much, especially compared to the other fantastic plants inside the greenhouse, and Neil wondered if it had some sort of special significance.
He knew certain plants symbolized love, protection, and so on, but he wasn’t sure what a dried up cactus might mean.
Neil opened the shop like it was any other day. He was tired since he’d stayed up too late because he needed to know what kind of cartoon animal he’d look like from a popular social media app—a big raccoon apparently, which was not that far from reality—and he was dragging.
He’d almost forgotten to change his shirt and barely got a comb through his hair, and it was lucky he only had to walk downstairs to get to work. He’d checked himself out in the bathroom mirror to make sure he wasn’t entirely horrific, and he tried to appraise his sleepy reflection.
Tousled black hair, washed out tan skin, dark circles around his eyes, and two days’ worth of stubble.
He unlocked the register, counted it out, and then he made his rounds through the greenhouse. He watered the plants based on a chart his uncle had given him, though he had it mostly memorized by now. The night-blooming determination or whatever it was happened to be his last on the way out of the greenhouse.
Seeing a bud on it was a surprise.
Seeing that the note had changed was a bigger surprise.
L. Morénas-Mostro – CALL HIM
Neil stared at the message for several seconds, and he had no idea how it had changed. It was the same handwriting as before, presumably his uncle’s, but this didn’t make any damn sense. He didn’t know how to call L. whoever since he didn’t see a phone number.
He stared stupidly as the letters morphed right before his very eyes to create a new message:
There was a knock on the door.
A very loud, very impatient knock.
“Shit! Hold on!” Neil called out. He plucked the note from the planter and then hurried to the door. He had no idea if he was seeing things due to lack of sleep or what, but he didn’t think he’d trust a magical writing note even if he was fully awake.
Neil hadn’t even turned on all of the lights yet, but whoever was here hadn’t stopped knocking. He unlocked the door and then whipped it open with his friendliest customer service smile on. “Hi, can I help you?”
In front of him stood a jaw-droppingly gorgeous beast of a man with warm copper skin, long black hair streaked with silver, and a sleek black suit. Neil was six feet tall, so this guy had to be six foot five or even six foot six. The man was twice his size, his muscles bulging against the seams of his jacket, and his long hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. There was a thick scar cutting through his left brow that trailed over his cheekbone, and his eyes were the most incredible shade of ice blue.
Neil felt like one of those withered plant things that used to be mermaids in the sea witch Ursula’s cave in comparison.
Except he was bloated.
At least his shirt was clean.
“I’m Lou Morénas-Mostro,” the man said in a gravelly voice, a low rumbling purr that accentuated his R’s. “I’m here for my plant.”
“You…” Neil looked back at the note.
The message had changed again:
I TOLD YOU!
Neil laughed nervously and shoved the note in his pocket.
It was perfectly fine that the note was magically changing every time he looked at it and never mind that Lou was the most gorgeous thing he’d ever seen in his entire life. This was all very normal, totally not out of the ordinary, and not freaking him out in the slightest.
Yeah, fuckin’ right.
“Something funny?” Lou asked briskly.
“No, nothing. Heh.” Neil cleared his throat. “You’re here for the night cactus, yeah? I’ll, I’ll just go get it.”
“Who are you?” the man asked with a suspicious glare.
“Uh, Othniel Ricci. You can call me Neil.”
“I’ve always conducted my business with Mr. Ricci. You are not Mr. Ricci.”
“Excellent powers of observation you got there, big guy.” Neil stepped back so Lou could come inside. “I’m not the Mr. Ricci that you usually work with, but trust me that I can run the register just as well as he can.”
Lou scowled. “You think you’re cute, don’t you?”
Lou’s scowl deepened.
Neil was well aware that Lou could probably bench press him and hurl him across the room without breaking a sweat, but he never did like rude customers—even the hot ones. His natural defense mechanism was to get sassy, and he cocked his hip, defiantly staring Lou down and waiting for him to speak again.
He was ready with an entire litany of smartass comments.
To his surprise, Lou laughed.
“Feisty little thing, huh?” Lou smirked. “Fine, Mr. Adorable. I’ll deal with you. Go get my cereus.”
“Your what now?”
“Right.” Neil darted toward the greenhouse entryway, dropping the watering can off on the service counter along the way. He reached up for the planter, but realized he couldn’t get it down. He was tall enough to water it, but he couldn’t lift it high enough to slip it over the hook.
Lou approached from behind him, his long arms easily grabbing the planter and bringing it down.
The sudden proximity made Neil’s breath catch, and there was a brief moment where Lou’s chest was pressing up against Neil’s back. Neil lurched forward, surprised again when Lou grabbed his waist to steady him.
“You all right?” Lou asked.
Fine as in this brief contact was the closest thing Neil had experienced to intimacy in months and he’d already broken part of the wall in his bedroom from railing himself too hard with his suction cup dildo.
He was still trying to figure out how he was going to explain the damage to his uncle and now he was already imagining Lou’s dick doing some delicious damage to his insides.
“Thank you.” Neil took the cactus, his face growing hot as he struggled not to think about anything else sexual right this very second and suddenly sex was the only thing he could think about. “Lemme go check you out. Wait, I mean, let me, uh, ring you up. At the checkout.”
Lou was smirking again, and Neil noticed something under his jacket as he adjusted it.
A shoulder holster.
“Sure.” Lou didn’t seem to notice or care that Neil might have seen his weapon, and he followed Neil to the service counter.
Neil paused when he saw a small brown spider crawling over the register. He set the cactus down and then grabbed a red plastic cup from underneath the counter
He’d drawn cartoon spiders all over it and labeled it SPIDEY JAIL.
“Spidery jail?” Lou asked, trying to read it.
“Spidey jail,” Neil corrected as he used a bit of receipt paper to encourage the spider into the cup. “Just give me a second to relocate my friend here.”
To his surprise and delight, Lou walked ahead of him to the door so he could hold it open for him.
“Thank you!” Neil quickly deposited the little spider in his new home, the big azaleas just outside the door. He walked back in, sharing a smile with Lou. “Sorry. I can’t stand to squish ‘em.”
“I think it’s nice. Brings good luck, you know.” It was obvious now with the way Lou’s arm was stretched out holding the door that he definitely had a gun under his jacket.
Neil wondered if Lou was an off-duty cop or a bondsman, and his train of thought halted there because he couldn’t think of any other professions that would need a gun at nine o’clock in the morning and wearing a suit.
“Well, good. I could use some.” Neil walked back to the counter with Lou behind him, knowing he should really keep his mouth shut, but they had just bonded over spider relocation. As he took his spot back at the register, he felt comfortable enough to tease, “So, you expecting someone to mug you on the way home and take your cactus?”
Lou’s nose wrinkled, and then he laughed when it must have dawned on him what Neil had seen. “One can’t be too careful these days.”
“Hope you got silver bullets!”
Lou’s eyes narrowed, and he barked, “Excuse me?”
Neil flinched, taken aback by Lou’s abrupt attitude change. “B-Because it’s a full moon tonight? You know, uh, in case of werewolves?”
“Is that supposed to be funny?”
Lou leaned over the counter, studying Neil’s face carefully. “Did your uncle tell you who the fuck I am? Is this a joke?”
“What? No!” Neil refused to cower, getting right in Lou’s face and snapping, “You think he would have warned me about the smokin’ hot douche nozzle who might show up to get his stupid fuckin’ cactus.”
This would be how he died.
Murdered to death by a sexy guy for running his big mouth. Hopefully the many spider rescues over the years would help him end up in a good place.
Lou scoffed, but then he appeared to relax. “I’m sorry. I thought… never mind.” He sighed. “Please. Accept my apologies.”
“No.” Neil smiled sweetly, forcing himself to stay composed even though his bones were shaking inside. He checked the side of the planter for the price tag, eager now to get Lou out of his sight.
There was a sticker with a star which meant it was already paid for.
“Here.” Neil nudged the planter toward Lou. “You’re good to go.”
“It’s already paid for.” Neil gestured to the sticker. “You have yourself a wonderful day and never come back until at least the end of summer.”
“I am very sorry,” Lou said, making no effort to take the planter or leave. “Please.” He held out a hand and took Neil’s. “I thought you were making a joke at my expense. I would never do anything to upset my relationship with this store, your uncle, or his extremely good looking nephew who is charming, witty, and whose compassion for spiders is very endearing.”
Neil paused. “Okay, keep talking.”
Lou chuckled, and he gave Neil’s hand a soft squeeze.
Neil’s heart sputtered, and he stared at their joined hands hoping his palm wasn’t sweating as badly as he thought it was. He noticed Lou was wearing a silver charm bracelet with glass beads, but he didn’t look at it for long—not when he had Lou’s dazzling smile to admire.
“I’m so sorry in fact that I would like to make it up to you,” Lou went on. “How about dinner?”
“Dinner?” Neil echoed in surprise. “You’re asking me out?”
“Yes. In hopes that it will repair our professional relationship.”
“How professional are we talking?”
“Mmm.” Lou’s gaze wandered over Neil with obvious admiration. “Business casual for now?”
“What is that, like a polo shirt and a blowjob?”
Lou laughed. “What?”
“Or like a shirt and tie with some frottage?”
Lou’s eyes twinkled. “Why don’t we see how the night goes?”
“Well, this is officially my longest relationship so far this year, and we’ve already had our first fight and made up. Look at us. I think it’s gonna go great.”
Lou chuckled again. “I think so too.” He rubbed his thumb over Neil’s knuckles before withdrawing. “What time tomorrow?”
“Not tonight, huh? Important werewolf stuff to do?”
Lou grinned slyly. “Something like that.”
“The shop closes at nine, but I could be persuaded to close up around eight.”
“All right then, it’s a date.”
“This had better be a nice restaurant. Cloth napkins nice. You hear me?”
“Loud and clear.” Lou picked up the cactus. “I’ll see you tomorrow at eight o’clock sharp.” He cocked his head, looking Neil over. “Wear something blue.”
“Uh, all right.” Neil was so surprised by the odd request that he didn’t know what else to say. He’d never had anyone tell him what to wear before, and he honestly wasn’t sure if he should be creeped out or flattered. “See you tomorrow.”
Lou offered one more dazzling smile and then left.
“Holy fuck.” Neil exhaled sharply and collapsed back in the chair. “Did that just happen? Did I just get a date with the hot douche nozzle?” He paused. “Am I talking to myself now? Yes. Fuck.”
Neil took a few moments to process what had been the most frustrating and equally sizzling exchange he’d ever had with a customer. Lou’s shit attitude about the werewolf joke was a red flag, but Neil told himself it was only one date.
Maybe lycanthropy was a sensitive subject for him—perhaps Lou had been really hairy in high school and he’d been teased and called a werewolf.
What that scenario had to do with Neil’s uncle he didn’t know, but he was willing to ignore it for now in favor of dinner. It felt like there had been some real chemistry between him and Lou, and maybe he would even get laid if he played his cards right.
After all, what was a fight without makeup sex?
“Then again,” Neil mumbled as he headed into the greenhouse, “he only asked you out after he pissed you off. So, he might just really wanna keep shopping here and not actually be interested.”
“Oh no, darling,” a sultry female voice soothed. “Louis would have never asked you out if he didn’t find you attractive.”
“What?” Neil spun around, but there was no one behind him.
There was no one else anywhere.
He was alone.
He grabbed the note out of his pocket.
It read: ???
Not very helpful.
“He has so many other ways to make people do what he wants,” a deep, growling male voice drawled. “Bribery, brute force, brute bribery.”
“See?” the female voice said. “He must like you!”
“Who the fuck is there?” Neil raised the watering can, his eyes widening in frantic search of an explanation—a speaker, a phone, any sort of device that would transmit these strange voices.
“Oh! Right, of course.” The female chuckled. “I’m so sorry, darling. Allow me to introduce myself.”
A woman in a dress with a poofy skirt and her hair done up in curlers beneath a polka-dotted wrap appeared. She literally popped out of thin air, perfectly solid and standing right in front of Neil.
“Hi! I’m Myrna,” she cooed. “It’s so very nice to meet you.”
He didn’t know what else to do.
Beside her, a giant dog appeared. Giant as in it was the size of a Clydesdale, and it had jet black fur and glowing red eyes. Its ears were pointed, its back was arched at an unnaturally high angle, and it was more than big enough to snap off Neil’s head with one bite.
Oh, and because it apparently needed to be extra terrifying, there were chunks of fur missing on its sides exposing its ribs, but there were burning orange embers inside instead of organs or flesh.
Neil laughed harder.
Clearly, he was having a nervous breakdown of some kind.
The note was equally concerned.
ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?
It was nice to know someone cared, but Neil was nearly hysterical now.
“Well, I suppose it’s better than screaming, but are we sure he’s well?” the dog asked.
“I’m sure he’s fine!” Myrna said. “I think he may need a moment to calm down, that’s all.”
“He needs to change those shoes too. They’re hideous.”
Neil sat right in the middle of the floor because of course the dog was talking since that was clearly just what happened when someone was having a mental collapse.
People appeared out of nowhere, notes wrote new messages all by themselves, and giant dogs made bitchy comments.
“Are you all right, darling?” Myrna asked slowly, enunciating each word carefully. “Do you need anything? Maybe some water?”
“I’m great. Just great.” Neil wiped at his face. He’d been laughing so hard that he’d cried, and now he was shaking. “So, uh, is this the part where I die, pass out, or what?”
“Or put on different shoes,” the dog whispered loudly.
“Hey, fuck you, zombie Clifford,” Neil grumbled. “They’re Crocs, and they’re comfortable.”
“The holes must be where all your sense of shame drains out.”
“Right, so.” Myrna cleared her throat. “I’m Myrna in case you forgot, and this handsome fella here is Flanders. We live inside the Reliquary, that nifty little bracelet you got on.”
“I’m not wearing…” Neil looked down at his wrist.
It was Lou’s bracelet, the one he had seen with the glass beads earlier. Upon closer inspection, he saw each bead was actually a small hollow glass container full of either dirt, sand, hair, or…
“There’s a whole bunch of us in there, one in each little cabochon, but most times you won’t see anybody else but me and Flanders seein’ as how the others are real shy,” Myrna went on cheerfully. “Saving that little spider sure made Buffy happy though.”
“Who?” Neil asked.
“He’s another spirit. Buffy is actually short for Bupha—rghhrhhh.” Myrna made a horrible, rhythmic retching sound. “See? Buffy is just so much easier to say. And he is real particular about how people treat critters, big and small. I think he’s been bored with Lou. It’s always the same with him, but you’re so spunky and new!”
“Lou.” Neil took a deep breath. “I need to call Lou and tell him to come back here right now and get his crazy bracelet full of people and talking dogs and weird magical notes.”
“Magical notes?” Myrna blinked.
“This has to have something to do with you guys, right?” Neil held up the note.
HELLO, the note read.
“Oh! How curious.” Myrna frowned. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure we’ve had the pleasure. Hello there!”
NICE TO MEET YOU, replied the note.
“So, you don’t know why it’s doing that?” Neil shoved the chatty note back into his pocket. “Because it didn’t start acting weird until that cactus thing bloomed and Lou showed up.”
“Afraid not. But aw! Don’t you worry.” Myrna patted Neil’s shoulder. “Lou will be back before you know it once he realizes we’re missing. He knows a lot about magic. He’ll probably know. He’ll be back real soon, I promise.”
“Well, I do hope it’s before the sun goes down.” Myrna smiled sheepishly. “That lil’ werewolf joke of yours… Let’s just say it might have been a little on the nose.” She grinned. “Or snout. Or the tail.”
Flanders huffed. “I think he gets it.”
“No,” Neil snapped. “No, he doesn’t fuckin’ get it because what you and the damn talking dog are both saying is insane. Are you seriously telling me that hot douche nozzle Lou that I just met is a damn werewolf?”
Myrna ducked her head sheepishly. “Now I can’t tell you that he’s not because then I’d be a big ol’ liar pants on fire, darling.”
“Oh no.” Neil cringed.
“Maybe change first,” Flanders suggested. “Werewolves are very sensitive to fashion.”
| NEXT –>