My what big… teeth you have.
To grandmother’s house I go, though I want nothing to do with magic or my former life. Especially not after being kicked out of the Fairy Fine Arts Academy.
But when I find a dangerous, heavily scarred wolf shifter in my grandma’s bedroom, the fragile human lifestyle I’ve built from scratch is suddenly at stake.
Magic, chaos, and my past is charging at me like a raging ogre on pixie sticks.
My grandma is nowhere to be found, and I’m being hunted.
The big bad wolf is the only one I can trust to protect me until my grandmother resurfaces.
Worst yet, I’m in heat.
I’ve told the werewolf “no touchy,” but just my luck, he hasn’t been to obedience school. The longer we’re stuck together, the closer he is to killing me himself, or showing me just how really big and bad he is….
In this steamy, action-packed fairytale retelling, Red Riding Hood is more spicy than sweet, and the Big Bad wants a taste…
Strong sexual content, Physical abuse/ bullying off page.
Chapter 1 & 2
The Big Bad Wolf
“Why did you call me here?” I ask, though I know perfectly well why the grizzled old son of a bitch sent for me. I spin the titanium ring around my forefinger with my thumb.
He frowns under his thick beard, across from me at the wooden table. He pushes a pint of ale over before grabbing his own. I don’t pick up the mug, but the man shrugs and takes a swig.
How did I end up here? For most of my life, I’ve lived on my terms with no consideration for anyone else. Not even the women I sometimes let in my bed. I follow the jobs that bring the most money and that has served me perfectly well until now.
“It’s been a long time, Brexley,” he says.
Nineteen years, if one were counting. And for nineteen years, I’ve felt the ghostly shackle, tying me to someone else. Nearly two-thirds of my life, waiting for the shoe to drop.
“Not long enough,” I say gruffly, finally grabbing the mug and taking a healthy swallow of the stuff. I hate to admit the shit is good. So I don’t.
I’ve done everything I could to be free of social ties. There is no place for me among mage, man, or fae. But today is the day my only marker is called.
I owe one being a favor in this entire world and he has summoned me here to the musty backroom of his tavern. Boxes pile high around the room, surrounding us. He named the joint Sam’s, though his name is Jameson. I never asked who he named it after, and I still won’t ask.
The drizzle kicks up a heavy mist that clings to the windows. The cold seeps its way into my bones despite my knit sweater and leather jacket. On a shitty day like this, I’d normally be at home by the fire with a book. But this old son of a bitch has me by the balls.
“You owe me, Brexley,” Jameson starts, as if he expects a fight.
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. “I’m aware, you old bastard. Just tell me what you want so we can get this over with.”
His calloused fingers drum on the manilla folder next to him before sliding it over. “I need you to take care of her.”
His tone tells me he doesn’t mean take her out for lunch and shopping. He must have been keeping tabs on me to know what kind of business I’m in now. Or maybe he’s just a sadistic son of a bitch, and I could be a florist and he’d still give me the same mission.
I push the mug away, despite wanting more. Drinking won’t make this problem disappear. But once my only debt is paid, I won’t have anything hanging over me. I’ll truly be free.
I flip the folder open to a picture and a single page of details: name, occupation, home addresses. But I didn’t need any of that info. I instantly recognize the older woman in the photo. I’ve seen her many times—on billboards, commercials, packages of food, enamel pins that people stick on their jackets.
A dry snort escapes me. “You’ve got to be joking.”
The old bastard doesn’t crack a smile, doesn’t move a muscle.
I run a hand through my already unruly silver hair. “Grandma. You want me to go after Grandma from ‘Grandma’s House?’ The face of the most popular household brand, and one of the most powerful witches known to the world?”
Jameson repeats himself in slow, steady words. “You owe me.” Coiled tension is locked up behind his dark eyes and in the set of his broad shoulders. Blood lust shines out from his face. This is business from his past. But I don’t ask questions, and I’m not about to start now.
I study him, observing how he’s changed since I last saw him. Even more gray strands pepper his black hair and beard. His scowl has only deepened with the years, multiplying the lines at the corners of his eyes. He must be nearing his fifties, but under his flannel shirt vest is a body still packed with the sturdy muscles of a heavyweight boxer.
Once upon a time, I considered this man to be like a father to me. He quickly dispelled me of that notion with an unholy vengeance. He taught me the truth. Dependence is death. Don’t buy into the lie. You don’t need others to survive in this world. It is a gilded lie that ends with getting stabbed in the back.
Or, in my case, a set of claws raked across my face.
But finally, I’m given the opportunity to dissolve my last tie to another being, and this is my chance. As one of the most beloved celebrity icons, this also may be my chance to get killed.
My fingers wrap around the cold handle of the mug, suddenly thirsty. “She won’t be easy to get to. And afterward, I’ll be hunted like an animal.”
His chair creaks with a loud groan as he leans back with a smirk. I’ve already accepted his terms. “Good thing you’re used to it.”
So he does know my business.
I shoot him a cutting look over the edge of the mug as I swallow the rest of the amber liquid.
“After all,” he folds his arms across his chest, “you are the Big Bad Wolf.”
My grin is half-grimace. “And that is very bad news for grandmas right now.”
“Hey, I know you,” someone exclaims, cutting through the music in my ears.
My combat boots drop off the table and slam into the ground as I jackknife up in the chair, my heart taking off like a shot. Sweat pools in my palms, and I swipe them down my rumpled black rock band sweatshirt.
I pull out my earbuds with clumsy fingers. A guy hovers over me in the library, excitement and recognition sparking in his eyes. His friend stands next to him, watching me with curiosity.
Witchtits, I knew I should have receded into the depths of the university stacks. Curse my dependence on mochas. They only allow students to drink cafe drinks in the study room. Here, people talk quietly and work in groups.
I traded my usual solitude for four shots of espresso to cure my trash troll state. I love working nights, but I’m getting only about two hours of sleep before my nine AM class. And right now, I feel like absolute garbage.
Which begs the question, how did this guy recognize me in trash troll mode, and why would he bother me?
Because he knows who you really are.
My heart pounds like a jackrabbit’s at the nasty little thought.
The guy adjusts the strap of his backpack over his shoulder. “You’re that redheaded girl who works at the Poison Apple. Aren’t you a bartender?”
His shorter buddy chimes in. “Oh yeah, that’s your name, Red.”
Of course. My hair is a bright fucking beacon, announcing me everywhere I go. Vibrant red, most people assume it’s a dye job, but it’s pure genetics. And right now, it’s a shaggy mess, in a haphazard bun.
I almost sag in relief. “Yeah,” I force the word out, though I feel shaky to my core.
“Well, shit. I’m Alan and this is Jimi. Think you could hook us up with free drinks some time?” the first guy asks, before shooting me a flirtatious look that comes off more like a leer.
Rolling my shoulders backward, I regain my balance. I’m used to this kind of coercion, but usually it’s after midnight, and I’m behind a bar. Right now, I’m too exhausted and on edge to deal with entitled little boys thinking they can charm something out of me today.
“Sorry, they don’t let me do that,” I coolly lie, readjusting my textbooks on the long, shared table.
People start to take notice from a few seats down and look up with interest.
“Of course they do,” Alan says with a cheerful scoff. “I’ve heard you can be a lot of fun.” He leans in and traces his fingertip down my neck.
Goosebumps immediately rise and race down my entire body at the touch, and it’s like a switch is clicked into the “on” position.
“I can be a lot of fun,” I purr, despite myself.
My legs instantly press together as I think about first taking Alan and then Jimi on the ride of their lives. The images come almost violently, as they are unbidden. Heat rushes through my body as I glance up through my lashes in a way that I know is pure seductress.
Calm down, I order my hormones. You can control yourself.
My chair scoots back with a loud metal shriek. The second he’s out of reach, my body dramatically wails, wanting to be touched, wanting more touch everywhere. But I’ve cooled it, and I regained control.
Wiping away the sultry vixen trying to muscle her way out, I shoot the two boys a stony look. “But I’m not interested in having fun with either of you.”
The playful air evaporates immediately and Alan scowls. He leaves with his friend in tow, but not before muttering an audible, “bitch.”
I pull the hood of my sweatshirt up over my head, covering my bright red hair, trying to disappear. I could dye it to a less noticeable shade, but I’m too vain. Plus, it’s one of the only things that makes me feel connected to my mom. I don’t remember much about her, but I see a little piece of her every time I look in the mirror.
Embarrassment and arousal still run hot inside me, and I can already hear Goldie in my head.
Have a little fun, Red. It doesn’t hurt to try a few boys on for size.
But I’m definitely not up for another round of “Red’s spectacularly unfulfilling one-night stands that make her feel like garbage after the fact.” Goldie may not mind the bang and bye, but it’s never settled well with me.
Besides, she doesn’t know the full extent of how I turn into a woman possessed. And I have no plan on telling her about how it’s almost that time of the month. If only I could down a bunch of Midol and hunker down with some ice cream, but no. This is my other monthly problem. This beast has a whole other set of needs that are difficult to satisfy.
Something nudges my shoulder. I turn to see the girl next to me holding out a box of mini muffins. A familiar blue-haired lady smiles at me from the box. Again, a spark of panic ignites in my chest before evaporating.
“Guys can be such dipshits,” she says dryly. The girl is in similar trash troll mode. Her books are about anatomy, and I know she’s got it even worse than me.
I manage a half smile. “No joke.”
She gives the box a shake, still offering me one of the pre-packaged baked goods.
“I’m good, thanks,” I beg off.
“Have you had this kind before?” she asks, not letting it go in the name of friendliness.
“Uh . . . ”
Before I can answer, she goes on, pulling out a muffin for herself. “This is the newest kind of Magic Morsels. I love the mini brownies that make you feel like you’ve gotten a hug from grandma herself.”
I keep it to myself that I’ve actually received real-life hugs from the grandma she speaks of. And the treats she offers have zero effect on me.
“But these are blueberry and make you more confident. It’s a godsend when you’re pre-med.”
“Yeah . . . ” I trail off. There are at least a dozen similar boxes littering the study tables. More than usual as we creep up on finals, which is probably what’s got me so paranoid. I’m surrounded by my secret.
“I’m so glad we have Magic Morsels. Can you imagine being in college, away from home and feeling like a mess and not having a little magical pick me up?”
“Totally,” I say, trying to seem pleasant, but I’ve got to get the hell out of here.
Thankfully, the girl finally pops the muffin into her mouth, ending the conversation.
Downing the last of my mocha, I grab my books and flee, chucking the cup in recycling along the way. I have to study, but my focus is shot.
If I don’t pass Dr. Langley’s class, I’ll hurl myself into the ocean. I need this credit for my major. If I fail, I’ll have to repeat the course, and the dragon is the only one who teaches Finance 201. I’m already three years older than the students in my class, and I feel behind as it is.
“Rogers,” a voice calls out.
My head whips around. Speak of the damn devil herself.
“D-dr. Langley,” I acknowledge with a stutter. Dammit. Why do I have to admire and fear her so much? Oh right, because Langley is a she-dragon powerhouse.
Students practically dive out of her way. Her dark brown skin is visibly moisturized, though I’ve never seen her crack a smile to threaten that implacable face with lines. Today’s navy suit is perfectly pressed, and her thick, curly hair is pulled back into a tight poof. Heels click along the pavement like gunshots as she strides toward me.
“I was going to email you, but this is fortuitous.”
I force a polite smile. “Yeah . . . ”
“I just got your last test scores, and I have to say, I’m disappointed.”
My stomach drops out from under me. Am I going to throw up?
She licks her thumb and forefinger and sorts through the stack of papers she’s holding until she pulls one out. I don’t want to take itthe red marks on it make me positively ill. My sweaty fingers pinch the pages. The grade is written at the top, circled, highlighting my shame. D minus.
“I studied . . . ” my words come out in a stammer. I want her to know I’m not a total loser.
“Smarter, not harder,” she says in a clipped voice, then glances at her watch. I feel as though I’m an inconvenient road bump, keeping her from getting to the things that really matter. “You held such promise in the beginning, but you have shown a lack of focus.”
Oh, I’m focused. I’m so focused my eyes are near bleeding and my brain wants to explode almost hourly. But all the hours I’m putting in just aren’t helping.
“Perhaps if you spend a little less time at the Poison Apple, and a little more time studying, you’ll stand a chance at passing my class.”
I can’t speak for the lump in my throat, but I mutely nod. How did she know I work at that bar? Even though I love working there, I suddenly feel like dirt in the dragon’s presence.
My fingers curl into my palm to keep from nervously playing with my septum ring. I may be tatted and pierced up, but my makeshift armor isn’t cutting it right now.
“I urge you not to waste the long weekend and put some actual effort into your studies. Or if that is too much for you, perhaps you need to consider another major more suitable to your lifestyle. Or maybe even another school.”
My tongue is sandpaper. Before I can work up the nerve to say anything, she turns on her heel and marches away, gunshot heel clicks echoing through the quad.
The paper wrinkles in my hand. Does she know I flunked out of my last school?
Realizing I’m wrecking valuable feedback I desperately need, I try to smooth the paper along my thigh, then stash it in my backpack.
I readjust the hood to make sure it covers most of my hair again. I feel too exposed, too noticeable. I thought I’d gotten over this habit of retreating into my shell months ago, but the stress is getting to me. Between my shitty grades and those guys hassling me in the library, my jaw clenches so hard my ears hurt.
For a split second, I was worried those boys recognized me as the actual granddaughter of Grandma from ‘Grandma’s House,’ the highest rated streaming show and lifestyle brand.
To me, she’s just Gigi.
Eloise Rose Rogers became a worldwide celebrity when she launched Magic Morsels. The baked goods allow humans and non-magics to have a taste of magic, literally. Most every kid and professor on campus is packing Magic Morsels in their bag when they need a pick me up. Or if they want to have a little fun.
I’m the heiress to the biggest magical legacy this world has ever seen. But I want nothing to do with magic, and I don’t want anyone to know where I come from. I simply want to live the little human life of obscurity I carved out for myself.
I overhear two girls chatting as they walk by. “I bet they don’t have to deal with this boring-ass shit in magic school. I wish we were levitating teacups instead of learning about another epically boring-ass war.”
I resist the urge to chime in that magic students levitate teacups while reciting facts about boring-ass wars.
Over the summer, I transferred from the Fairy Fine Arts Academy to Boston University, a human college. And by the grace of the fae lords, I have yet to be recognized. I’d always kept a low profile and my grandma protected me from the media as best she could. But I still get a phantom icy drip down the back of my neck at the mere thought of my cover being blown.
Not even my best friends know the truth.
Before I could find a secluded corner to set up again, my phone vibrates.
When are you arriving?
Not, are you still coming? Not, do you need to stay at school to study for finals?
My Gigi knows I will use any excuse I can to avoid going home for the long weekend and phrased it so I can’t worm my way out of it.
She was understanding enough when I wanted to leave the magic world and live life as a regular human. But she doesn’t know all the reasons why I left.
I type a quick response, and then veer off course, heading toward my apartment.
Hot shame and sharp pain slices my heart as I think of one of the biggest reasons I left. My need to get something hard between my legs is only going to worsen over the next several days.
I can only pray to the sweet lords of fae that when I go home, he won’t be there. Or I’m scared I won’t be able to control myself.