It Takes Two to Tango by M.A. Church.
By M.A. Church
Fur, Fangs, and Felines: Book Three
Release date: Sept 26th
I’ve been asked what was the toughest thing about writing this story. I’d have to say it’s the worldbuilding… getting that down and making sure it made sense. I love it, and I hate it. Worldbuilding makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but it also keeps me up nights, tossing and turning, lol. I firmly believe there has to be an element of realism even to things that don’t exist.
I also think…. Oh, um, I seem to have someone tapping me on the shoulder here and…. I see. *glares at the person* Okay, fine! So, Remi, one of the characters, said just because we don’t *think* they exist doesn’t mean they don’t. *Sigh* That’s the thing about cats. They are opinionated and gotta have the last word, lol.
And the easy thing about writing this book? *Snort* Dealing with this group of paranormals? Writing the end was the most satisfying, lol. The book gave me fits. I ripped it to shreds, moved whole pages, cut things, added stuff, screamed, cried, and drove my betas completely insane. Which they would tell you is nothing new when dealing with me.
*snicker* Poor betas.
Can two very different men find the love they need to survive?
Remi Ginn’s an easygoing werecat with a love of snarky T-shirts. He would be perfectly happy with a human mate. Is that what the goddess Bast gives him? Of course not. Instead she gifts him with Marshell, a Vetala, a snakelike nonshifter who drinks blood to survive. A man who’s just as toppy as Remi—and even more powerful than the West Falls Clowder’s Alpha and heir apparent.
While Remi is deciding whether he can handle the fates’ choice, hunters attack Marshell. Afterward, in an explosion of passion, Remi and Marshell mate and Remi declares Marshell his. Now they have to figure out how to make their relationship work as they dance around each other.
The clowder is in turmoil, and Remi’s acceptance of Marshell rocks the very foundation of the insular group. The consequences will be far-reaching. And if that isn’t problem enough, the situation with the hunters is far from resolved… as proved by the appearance of an Alpha werewolf.
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
So much had changed over the past year and a half. Dolf and Tal found they had a second mate. It’d been a rough time for them. Paranormals, as a rule, didn’t like humans, and Kirk was human before Dolf and Tal mated him. Then another shifter tried to kill Kirk.
Not long after that, Heller found his mate, who was also human. Of course. It just so happened Heller had a huge problem with humans—he hated them. But they worked it out. Or rather, they were still working it out.
Now I’d met my mate, who was very close to Lawson. In fact, they had a sexual relationship over ten years ago. Then hunters found Marshell and attacked. Lawson found out humans weren’t the only beings who walked the Earth.
My mate was a paranormal, which was kind of ironic. I’d been totally fine with a human. What I didn’t expect was someone who drank blood and had the power Marshell packed. Why was nothing ever easy?
We finished congratulating Dolf and Alpha Armonty and took our seats.
“Now, back to business. My retirement was my first announcement. Now for the second. As I mentioned, Remi found his mate a few days ago while attending a Thanksgiving dinner at Heller’s house. His mate is Marshell Foles. He has a sister, Janelle, who mated with Sam Ross, who, as you all know, is the owner of Arches. Marshell is a paranormal—a Vetala.”
“I remember Sam mating her.” Brier frowned. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but why do you sound concerned all of a sudden? We accepted her, so…?”
“Okay, let’s review,” Dolf said. “The Vetala are snakelike paranormals who don’t shift. I’d been told the word vetala translates into ‘vampire’ or ‘zombie,’ but neither is accurate. Unlike vamps or zombies, the Vetalas are very much alive. They age slowly, just like us, and die just like us.”
“Oh yeah. I remember that. They drink blood, right?” Brier asked, biting into another wing.
“Yes,” Dolf said. “Also the Vetala appear human until provoked. Or highly aroused. At which point their fangs drop and their eyes turn a very light blue with a black vertical iris.”
I spoke up. “Marshell and the others have to drink blood in order to survive, guys. But Vetalas also eat regular food. You should know they inject venom through their fangs, and this paralyzes the victims when they feed. As a rule they don’t kill their prey. Also, as with vamps, the Vetala can wipe their victims’ memory of the attack.”
What I didn’t add was Marshell told me he could use the venom to paralyze me during sex if he fed then. It wouldn’t hurt me, just make me completely helpless. He could do whatever he wanted, and I could do nothing about it. The idea freaked me completely out. Talk about a trust issue.
“Is he dangerous?” Aidric asked.
“No more so than the rest of us,” I said, trying not to get offended. “He hasn’t killed when feeding—only when threatened or attacked.”
“That does bring us to an important issue,” Dolf said. “Marshell is very powerful. I was there when Marshell found out Remi was his mate. The power he released was truly impressive, which is the problem. He’s stronger than Dad… and me.”
That scared me to death. What Alpha would accept a new member into his clowder who was stronger than him? Such a person could upset the power structure. Alphas were strong-willed, natural leaders, somewhat arrogant, and very confident.
“Wow. That’s serious.” Brier glanced at our Alpha, then at Dolf. “What are you going to do, Alpha?”
Alpha Armonty looked at Dolf. “I’m leaving it up to Dolf since I’m retiring.”
Dolf sighed and pushed his plate away. “At this point I have no idea what I’m going to do. He’s Remi’s mate, and I respect that. I don’t want to lose Remi as a beta, but… well, I’m still debating the issue.”
Thus the whole “fuck my life” analogy. I didn’t know what I was going to do either. I loved my job as a beta. I loved my clowder. I didn’t want to leave if Dolf couldn’t accept Marshell, but I also didn’t want to lose my mate. Mates were a gift from our goddess Bast, and we didn’t turn our backs on such a gift.
“Remi, I think you and Marshell need to talk.” Aidric pushed his food around on his plate too. “Marshell may be powerful. He may even be more powerful than you. But Dolf, has anyone asked him if he’s even interested in leading a group? He can’t challenge you for position since he’s not a werecat. Am I right about that?”
“You’re right,” Alpha Armonty said. “He can’t. But what if he let his power leak around the clowder members? That could erode Dolf’s position as Alpha. Or what if they refused to accept Marshell because of it? Dolf is well liked. Our members could be threatened by Marshell’s power.”
“What if we called a meeting and told the clowder? The Vetala don’t live in groups like us or werewolves, do they?” Brier asked.
“No,” I said. “They don’t. At the most you’ll have a hunting pair. They hunt in twos as a precaution. Other than that they stay to themselves. Janelle and Marshell hunt together, and they lived together after they moved here. Well, until Janelle met Sam and Heller met Lawson. They still hunt together, though.”
“‘Hunt.’ Earlier you called the humans they fed from ‘prey.’ Am I the only one who finds that kind of freaky?” Brier asked.
“We shift. For all we know, they find our shifting kind of freaky,” I spat. Oh yeah, I was beginning to see why Dolf reacted as he did when he told us about Kirk.
“I didn’t mean it as an insult.” Brier held up his hand. “But come on, Remi. You telling me it doesn’t freak you out some? I’m guessing your mate would want to feed from you. I mean, he would, wouldn’t he? Even though you’re not human?”
Shit. He would hit on the one thing I couldn’t answer.
“Okay, I’m going to throw this out there, so don’t yell at me,” Aidric said before I could formulate a response to Brier’s question. “Our clowder is already uneasy since we’ve added two humans—”
Dolf sighed. “This again? Dammit, they are not—”
“Yes, yes, they’re no longer human since they mated two of ours,” Aidric hurriedly added. “But they weren’t born werecats. They grew up with different values and beliefs. Now we’re talking about accepting another paranormal—which we’ve never done in our clowder until Janelle—who’s stronger than our Alpha.”
“It’s a problem,” Brier agreed.
“Look, the man’s my mate,” I snapped, my anger rising. “While I don’t want to leave you guys or my clowder… he’s my mate. Do you get that? I’ve watched how Kirk fought to be accepted. Hell, he still fights. Lawson probably will too. I’ve already heard rumblings about Janelle from some of the older clowder members and—”
“Wait a minute. Rumblings? What are you talking about?” Aidric demanded. “Dolf?”
“After her and Sam’s joining ceremony, the betas and Alpha met at Sam’s house for the welcoming party we always have,” Dolf said, rubbing at his eyes. “A few of the elders’ wives dropped off food—again, as they always do—then left. Janelle had a few words to say about there not being any other women there but her.”
“She referred to us as a ‘good-ol’-boys club’ and pointed out there are no women as betas either,” Heller said. “That there are very few women business owners. She asked Lawson if our clowder was stuck in the nineteen twenties.”
Dolf massaged his temples.
“How do you know she said that to Lawson?” Alpha Armonty asked. “Lawson wasn’t at the party after the joining ceremony. It was just those of us with rank.”
“She said that to Lawson after the joining ceremony,” Heller said.
“We’ve never had a woman try for a beta position,” Alpha Armonty added. “That’s why we don’t have one.”
“Do they even know they can?” Heller took a deep breath. “I feel I should add that Lawson considers Janelle and Marshell family. If Marshell isn’t accepted, Lawson has let me know it’s going to be a problem for him.”
“Now what does that mean?” Dolf demanded.
“He’ll leave the clowder,” Heller said. “He says if the man he considers a brother isn’t good enough for us, then neither is he. If he leaves, then I go with him.”
“So I might end up losing two of my betas?” Dolf slammed his hand on the table. “No, dammit. I won’t. All of you matter too much to me.”
“Janelle is right about the small-minded attitudes, Dolf. That might make some mad, but it’s true. You don’t want to lose us? Then this clowder needs to come out of the nineteen hundreds and join the twenty-first century. I won’t walk away from Marshell.” I sat back in my chair.
Well, looks like I made up my mind what to do about my very powerful, very deadly mate.
M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!
When not writing, she’s exploring the latest M/M novel to hit the market, watching her beloved Steelers, or sitting glued to HGTV. That’s if she’s not on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two children.
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