Series: How to Tame Your Dragon Mate #1, Melissa Thomas #1
Published by: Nordic Lights Press
Release Date: 2/19/2019
Contributors: Melissa Thomas
Genre: New Release, Zodiac
Buy the Book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Books | Google Books
Witch BJ MacClamity signed on to bake enchanted cupcakes, only to wind up stranded on an alien world with her skunk familiar. Born under the Capricorn sign, this curvy woman is an overachiever with a control complex a mile wide. Things can't get any whackier... or can they? Horny dragon-shifters are fighting over her. These misguided males must be nuts!
Dragon-shifters Jael and Asher have been without their fated mate too long. For centuries these warriors yearned for the queen who will complete their trinity... a dragon rider in the truest sense. Discovering a voluptuous goddess alone in the woods is a dream come true. They combat an ancient rival to claim her for themselves.
Between dodging lightning bolts and tripping off cliffs, who has time to tutor a pair of kilt-clad virgins in the finer points of the art de l'amour?
Life is so very hard... and so are they.
Sexy escapades won't get her home... and she's not even sure she wants to go. When Asher sustains injuries that place him on the threshold of death, BJ must find some way for her cupcake magic to save the day.
Also in this series:
Chapter 1 Excerpt:
The dragon-shifter home world of Zambonia...
Gateway #1 crouched on a rocky shelf just below the tree line on a vast, snow-capped mountain... less than a hundred yards from a miles-high drop-off. Ever paranoid, BJ MacClamity kept her distance from the ledge. One klutz maneuver and she'd be skydiving without a chute. BJ was short for Belinda Jane, though in high school she'd been saddled with the unfortunate, but not undeserved nickname: Calamity Jane.
Mr. Stu Guntley flashed his crooked Grinchly-grin. "We're almost done!"
"Yeah!" BJ cheered, waving invisible pom poms. The outpouring qualified as the first genuine enthusiasm she had experienced all day, even though she'd been fake smiling for hours. Her muscles were so stiff, she feared her face would crack.
Mr. Guntley tightened his grip on his clipboard and poised his number two pencil in the air. The man was a troll—literally. He had a crooked nose and a loose, bald scalp. Flaps of skin hung over his ears. Prominent warts covered his face, throat, and hands.
Blast it! BJ snapped her mouth shut with a sharp click of her teeth, but it was too late. Her boss was already pissed off. She hated working for a troll! The whole lot of them had battery acid running through their veins, they were that mean!
"Do you find my readiness checklist tedious, Ms. MacClamity? Perhaps you don't realize every item on this list is essential to your safety and ability to do your job properly? Perhaps you feel it's unnecessary, and that I'm wasting your time?" Mr. Guntley narrowed his beady eyes and sneered, revealing yellowed canines. At eight feet in height, he towered over her without the least bit of effort.
"I didn't say that." For appearance's sake, BJ smiled, but inwardly she fumed. Did her boss think she was an idiot? Of course he did! Otherwise, he wouldn't have just wasted the past ninety minutes of her life!
At twenty-six, BJ held the newly appointed position of master baker. Dozens of witches had competed for the prestigious assignment, and BJ had proven herself the best of the best. People described her baked goods as heavenly—to die for. Cupcakes were her specialty. So yeah, she really had to wonder why Mr. Guntley persisted in treating her like an incompetent.
Better question—why did she put up with it? The answer came to her readily enough. Because he has the power to send me home, that's why. Bullies like Guntley had made a career of picking on BJ in high school. She'd graduated and gone onto a successful career. Yet, no matter her accomplishments, she always had nagging self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome. She felt like a fake.
"Am I to interpret your outburst as insubordination?"
"Hey, buddy, back away from my witch or you can interpret this as insubordination!" Norbert, BJ's familiar, called in his ground-hugging voice. He stood protectively before his mistress.
The skunk raised his tail, aiming his butt at the troll.
Guntley glanced down. He yelped and damn near jumped out of his warty skin. The leap carried him thirty feet in the right direction—toward the cliff's edge. Close, but no cookie... Too bad. BJ quelled the temptation to give Guntley a little push, helping him along.
"Ms. MacClamity, get that thing under control!" The troll hunched over, claws raised defensively. At least he'd dropped that stupid clipboard.
BJ bit the insides of her lips to keep from smiling. "Sorry, Mr. Guntley. My familiar is very protective and you were standing rather close. It'd be best if you kept your distance from here on out. C'mere, Norbert."
She bent and scooped Norbert into her arms. She'd let the skunk down to investigate but from here on out, she'd hold him, especially if he served as an anti-troll shield.
Norbert winked up at her. BJ scratched behind his ears.
"Yes, well. See to it you keep it away from me..." Guntley scuttled over to recover his clipboard. He grumbled, but seemed to have lost his train of thought.
BJ decided to take advantage of the opening. Bitter medicine, swallowing her pride. "Naturally, I didn't intend any disrespect, Mr. Guntley. I didn't want to interrupt while you were talking. I consider everything you have to say immensely..."
Irritating... Insipid... Inconvenient...
"Instructive," BJ concluded through clenched teeth. "Earlier, I was just expressing my excitement. I can't wait to get to work!" And far away from you...
"Oh. Very well, then." The troll brooded over his clipboard.
"I have absolutely everything on the list," BJ insisted. Plus a few extras, which she chose not to disclose. Handing Guntley ammunition would be stupid.
The magical fanny pack she wore about her waist contained every ingredient imaginable, wet and dry, protected by preservation spells. She even had a couple trays of decorated cupcakes for immediate product testing. The executive board wanted to know what flavors the indigenous dragon-shifter population preferred as part of the planned breeding program. All she needed was a fully equipped baking facility—which had been promised to her—and she would be in business.
Guntley pursed his speckled lips. "What's your point, Ms. MacClamity?"
"My point is the sun is getting pretty low and we still have a—what? Two mile hike ahead of us to the base camp?"
"Give or take. It's about a half hour walk."
BJ cast a nervous glance skyward. Traveling at night topped her list of things to avoid, especially when tripping meant falling off a cliff. The mountain's dark red rock reminded her enough of the Grand Canyon that she wanted to request a mule. How long did it take to hike two miles through rough terrain? Pretty sure it's going to take longer than thirty minutes. I'm entitled to that mule.
"I'd like to get going," she said. "What was that final item on your list?"
She swore, if they didn't finish soon, she'd take a running leap off that cliff... or shove her boss to his death. Now there's a tempting thought! BJ suppressed a smile, knowing it wouldn't go over well with the testy troll.
"Do you have your enchanted GPS amulet?"
"My, ah—what?" BJ scrunched her face. A global positioning system—magical or otherwise—hadn't been on her list! She was sure of it. She'd checked and double-checked it like Santa Claus on December 1st.
"Oh, my," Mr. Guntley said with a hefty sigh. "Are you saying you don't have a complete inventory of everything you were supposed to bring?"
"I don't have a GPS amulet. This is the first I've even heard of it."
Norbert, bless his heart, came to her defense. "That wasn't on the list."
The troll pinched his brow and cast the skunk a wary glance. "No?"
"No," BJ returned flatly.
"Our lists were identical. As you can see, it's right here on the second page at the top." Guntley folded the paper over the top of the clipboard and pointed to something printed on the back in tiny letters.
BJ leaned closer and squinted to bring the text into focus, and there it was in four-point font: one GPS amulet. Annoyance surged through her. Incompetence, deliberate or otherwise, infuriated her—and the paranoid part of her immediately suspected her boss of being behind the omission.
But she didn't dare make the accusation, not without proof.
To add insult to injury, Guntley refused to accept her word on the matter. "Show me your list."
"Of course." BJ extracted her cell phone, pulled up the project management app, and held the screen so Guntley could see. A quick swipe scrolled down the list to the last bullet point. "It definitely wasn't on my list."
"Well!" Guntley huffed, scrutinizing her phone screen and then his hardcopy. The troll's manner implied underhanded trickery must be involved. "What a major mishap. This sort of ineptitude is intolerable."
"I agree," BJ bit off, though she retained her suspicions about whether the oversight was a mistake or deliberate. Regardless, she couldn't prove it one way or another, so she preferred to move on. "What's done is done. I'll just have to get by without a GPS amulet."
Mr. Guntley flapped his jowls. "Impossible! The company rulebook states: 'All Dragon Conservation Center employees and contractors who are on assignment in the field must carry a GPS amulet on them at all times.' If you don't have one, we'd be in violation of regulations!"
Oh, no, can't have that. BJ found herself running out of unbitten tongue. She believed in responsibility and following the rules, but not to the point of absurdity or inefficiency. She didn't want to return to earth through the gate for one forgotten item. Round trip, it'd take hours. Knowing Stodgy Stu here, he'd insist they had to go through the entire checklist again.
Thanks, but no thanks.
BJ smiled to keep from cursing. "Well, we can't have that, now can we? What do you think we should do about it, sir?"
Mr. Guntley tightened his mouth and glared with palpable dislike. A cold trickle of sweat ran down the middle of her back, and she was certain she'd finally pushed the troll too far. "I wouldn't want to inconvenience you, Ms. MacClamity. I'll go and fetch the amulet, even though this was your oversight. You'll just have to wait here until I return."
Trepidation set in. Guntley couldn't possibly be serious... could he? BJ didn't want to be left in the wilderness on an alien planet, all by her lonesome. Okay, she had Norbert... so she wouldn't be totally alone, but still.
"Uh, that's okay... I'll come with you."
"Stay. I insist." Mr. Guntley tucked his clipboard beneath his arm and chugged off toward the oval portal.
A needle of panic pierced her calm. BJ hurried her pace, chasing after him. She had her arms full of pudgy skunk, so she couldn't go too fast anyway. "It's probably safer if I come with you. We shouldn't separate."
Without any warning, Guntley swung around and she almost ran straight into him. Guntley growled and backpedaled.
To avoid a head-on collision, BJ yelped and she swerved. Her shoe caught on a rock and she stumbled. Reflexively, she gripped Norbert tighter to stop from dropping him. Probably the wrong choice. The skunk had the dexterity of a cat whereas she definitely did not. BJ staggered sideways and stepped into a hole.
Sharp, stabbing pain radiated through her twisted ankle.
Tears flooded her eyes and she choked back a pitiful whimper, because she refused to show weakness in front of her boss. She released Norbert, who landed on all fours.
"Are you okay?" Norbert asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Nothing's broken." BJ bent over, rubbing her injury. The heat of her anger drowned out the hurt.
Guntley thrust out his hand. "Stay. That's an order. You'll be perfectly safe so long as you remain within the circle of protection. It's warded against any creature with harmful intentions."
The troll's stare dared BJ to defy him again. In fact, she was positive he'd not only set this whole thing up, but he wanted her to disobey. The jerk probably had a reprimand already written up, just waiting for his signature.
Well, she refused to give him the grounds to submit it.
"Fine. I'll wait here."
"Good." Guntley glared at her, then the skunk, and slowly backed away. He raised his arm, fiddling with the gateway's command-control module, a portable device worn like a wristwatch.
Guntley wore one; BJ didn't.
In sullen silence, she watched while the troll dialed home. Gateway #1 opened—a swirling vortex of brilliant light—and Guntley marched through, vanishing from view. When the portal closed, it emitted a sonic disruption that caused BJ's ears to pop so hard she winced.
Afterward, she stood there, hands fisted, in a state of shock.
Norbert plunked down on his haunches. "Well, it's not all bad."
BJ erupted at her familiar, "We're stranded on an alien world. The sun is setting, I'm injured, and the base camp is a two-mile hike through the wilderness! Once it's dark, the temperature will plummet. We don't have any survival gear. You're lucky—you have a fur coat—but I don't even have a jacket. So please, tell me, how is this not all bad?"
"I'm here with you."
BJ sighed. "And I'm grateful for that, but you know what?"
"I still wish I'd shoved Guntley off that damn cliff."