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Julian handed over his keys to the valet and ran into the brightly lit Freidelinde mansion. Tonight was the annual Halle Halloween masquerade. Jamie and Marie Howard had apparently continued a long-standing tradition and agreed to host it at their lavish estate. He entered the building and grinned.


The place was rockin’ and it wasn’t even nine o’clock at night.


Julian smiled at everyone he met, until his eyes landed on Eric Bunsun. He was still ticked at Eric. Not only had the Grizzly messed with his date, he’d disrespected Julian’s mate. He planned on having words with Alex’s brother if the boy didn’t straighten his ass out. No one, especially not another Bear, treated a Kermode’s mate that way. Julian might not be as strong physically as Eric, but he could still put the man in his place.


Eric simply nodded and turned away. If he was ashamed of himself he didn’t show it. Julian snarled and added Eric’s education to his to-do list.


He’d caught glimpses here and there of the Pumas. Emma and Max were dressed in matching gangster costumes, the long coat of Emma’s costume giving way to a pair of short-shorts that had Julian’s eyebrows rising in surprise. The Curana had some fine legs on her. She and Max were striding through the room as if they owned the place, the Pumas in their path acknowledging them with a discrete tilt of the head to show their submission. Simon and Becky were dressed as Spiderman and Spiderwoman, the spandex outfit striking on Becky’s slender frame. Gabe and Sarah had come as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, an odd yet fitting combination. And Adrian and Sheri were…steampunk vampires? Maybe? He would have said cowboys if it weren’t for the brass goggles on their heads and the painted brass Nerf guns at their hips. He was pretty sure the fangs they were flashing weren’t plastic. When they passed Max and Emma, they grinned and whipped out the guns, nailing the Alpha and Curana before running away, laughing like little children.


Those two are just too weird.


“Have you seen the girls?” Alex’s deep voice startled him. He turned to find the Grizzly behind him, grinning at the fleeing Pumas. Max and Emma had taken off after Sheri and Adrian, vowing Nerfy revenge. Julian stared at Alex’s masked face and burst into laughter. Alex had come dressed as Tuxedo Mask, complete with cane and red rose. The man’s obsession with Sailor Moon was scary.


“What the hell are you dressed as?” Alex shook his head. “Paul Bunyan? Really? You couldn’t come up with something better than that?”


“It’s too cold out for a loincloth.” Julian shook his head. He’d bound his long black hair in a braid down his back. The bottom of it swung out and hit a nearby partygoer. He waved his foam rubber axe in apology. Nerf seems to be popular tonight. “Sorry! Besides, I’m all out of my favorite war paint. It’s not like I can order a new supply from Mary Kay.” He frowned. “I thought you were giving the girls a ride tonight.” Julian immediately sniffed the air, looking for any sign Cyn had made it. It was just too loud to pick her voice out from among the crowd, though he’d been listening for it since entering the mansion.


“They should be here any minute now. Tabby wanted their costumes to be a surprise.” Alex gave him a secretive grin.


What the hell had Alex talked his mate into? If Cyn showed up as a stripper—okay. If Cyn showed up in a skimpy outfit, he’d have to yell at Alex…in public.


In private he’d owe him a burger.


Murmurs of surprise and laughter came from the front of the ballroom. Julian turned and there, in all their glory, were Alex’s fantasy women come to life.


“This skirt’s so short it’s a sports bra.” Cyn reached behind her and tugged on the bright red skirt with a grunt. The white, satiny shirt gleamed, the huge, sailor-like collar red and white striped just like in the anime. The huge purple bow was draped across her breasts like an invitation, the red gem in the center glittering. Her elbow length white gloves were topped with bands of red in the same shade as her skirt. She’d thrown on a waist-length black wig to go with her white and red Sailor Mars outfit. Julian’s jaw dropped at the length of thigh the shiny miniskirt revealed. She was the only one of the three not wearing boots. Instead, Sailor Mars wore red fuck-me pumps.


He was beginning to understand Alex’s obsession. Fuck, she looked hot. He owed the man two burgers. Maybe even fries.


“That’s nothing. Try wearing this wig.” Tabby reached under the blonde wig to scratch her scalp. Some of her lime green hair escaped, giving the blonde, floor-length pigtails some really odd highlights. Her outfit was predominantly white and navy blue, with touches of red. She made a stunning Sailor Moon.


“I kind of like it.” Glory stuck out her powder blue booted foot to admire it. She hadn’t even bothered with the short, blue-black wig Sailor Mercury should have worn. Instead, her blue curls were loosely held back by the gold tiara all the Sailor Scouts wore.


“Oh my god. You got them to dress as the Sailor Scouts?” Julian’s eyes gleamed as he took in Cyn’s seriously short skirt. “Me likey.”


He started forward, only to stop when Cyn plastered a Post-It note covered in kanji on his forehead. It was a well-known Sailor Mars trick, but only if you were a fan, which meant she could only have learned it if Alex told her about it. “Hey, it worked!”


Everyone laughed. Julian ripped the Post-It note off his forehead. “Ha-ha. Very funny.”




Glory’s eyes widened as she stared at something over Alex’s shoulder. He turned to find Ryan, dressed as a sheik in all white, grinning at them. He carried a white rose in his hand. “Someone call for the Moonlight Knight?”


“Oh hell no.” Alex shoved his cousin back a step with a low, menacing growl. “You stay away from Sailor Moon, you sneaky bastard.”


Julian burst into laughter. Ryan must have found out about the costumes the girls were coming in and bought his costume to match, but he’d picked the wrong guy for Glory’s Sailor Mercury.


“Your Sailor Scout is safe. I find myself enchanted by the color blue.” Ryan held out the rose to Glory. “Sailor Mercury, may I have this dance?”


Glory took off running in the opposite direction.


Ryan grinned. “When will she learn that predators love to give chase?” Ryan took off after his errant, unclaimed mate.


When he stopped laughing long enough to take stock he realized Alex and Tabby had also disappeared. Only Cyn was left. She batted ridiculously long, false lashes at him. “Want to dance?”


Did he look stupid? He glanced down at his red-checkered shirt. Perhaps he shouldn’t ask that out loud. “Yes, please.” He vibrated between the need to take her in his arms and hold her close and the need to cover her skin so no one else could see how fucking sexy she was.


She stepped into his arms and his first need took precedence. God. Damn. He had to buy his woman more miniskirts. “You look gorgeous.”


“Thank you. You look…lumberjacky.”


He grinned. “Thanks. And for the record, I’d love to show you how I swing my axe.” He waggled his eyebrows, chuckling when she threw her head back and laughed. That ridiculous wig almost fell off her head. “How did you get roped into this outfit, by the way?”


She scowled and tugged on her skirt again. “Tabby lost a bet.”




“She talked us into this stupid shit.” She glared at him. “Not. One. Word.”


He had no idea what she was talking about but he zipped it anyway.


“This skirt is illegal in twenty-five states. The wig itches like a bitch and I look horrible in white.”

Huh. He thought she looked delectable. He bit his tongue and kept dancing. Was it his fault if his hands just happened to slip down to the top of her ass?


“And then she has the nerve to try and talk me into full makeup! She even wanted me to wear these—hands!”


Julian’s hands, which had made a very happy foray to her southern hemisphere, moved back up to her waist.


“These stupid contact lenses you can’t even buy off an eye doctor. You have to order them over the web. They’re the same ones Lady Gaga used in this video—hands!”


Julian immediately removed his hands from under her skirt. Damn, she was wearing boy shorts under it. All of his secret fantasies of backseat explorations were dashed.


“Do you have anything to say for yourself, mister?”


Julian pretended to think about it for a moment before shaking his head.


“Jeez. It’s like talking to a three-year-old.”


“A three-year-old wouldn’t be trying to shove his hands down your pants.” Julian stopped dancing long enough to rub his shin. Those pointy red shoes were hard on the anatomy.

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