The Midlife Prelude (Book One)

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Omega wolf shifter, Matilda Carol, is about change her life forever. Starting over at forty-five isn’t the scariest thing she’ll have to face in her new life. But she’ll pay any price to gain her independence. Even if it means she has to die in the process.

Faking her own death and moving away from the only home she’s ever known is intimidating, to say the least. Especially when Mattie has been sheltered and controlled by her uncle all her life. It’s a good thing that her BFF, Julie, is a powerful fae with connections to several paranormal factions that have all sworn to keep Mattie hidden from her uncle.

When Julie goes missing, Mattie will not rest until she’s brought home. But she’s never investigated a missing persons case before—or any other case.

When the police can’t find any trace of Julie, Mattie does her own detective work with the help of a vampire king, a witch, and a mysterious hottie who stirs her inner wolf’s mating urge. Wow. She didn’t see that one coming.

Mattie may be packless in Seattle, but she’s in control of her own destiny for the first time in her life. She’s not about to waste this opportunity.

Excerpt

“I’m having doubts. What if something goes wrong?” I cringed at the sound of my own voice. It was whinny and even to me, I sounded like a pup doing something her mother told she had to do when I really didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t a pup—far from it—and it wasn’t my mother telling me what to do. It was my best friend with the demands. 

Actually, demands might be to strong of a description of our plan. Yes, our plan.  

I was about to do something that went so far beyond my natural instincts that I wasn’t sure I’d ever recover. But it was either me or my betrothed. One of us had to died. I didn’t want to leave this earth just yet.  

But my bestie said both us had to go. 

Of course, I’d be faking my death, or Julie would be while framing the mean SOB who my uncle insisted that I mated. Roger—my uncle—still thought of me as pup and a piece of property that he could sell off to the highest bidder. I was forty-five years old, damn it! And more than capable in finding my own mate and living my own life. But no one in the Claws Creek Pack did anything without the Alpha’s permission. Roger’s word was law, no matter how cruel the command. 

Faking my death was my only way out. At least I kept telling myself that. The reality of my situation wasn’t so cut and dry. Roger wasn’t only my uncle, he was my Alpha. The latter was something he reminded me of every day of my life since my mother died when I was ten. 

It was hard to be the independent dominant female when he used his power to force me into submission. The fact that I was unable to shift into my wolf form made me the omega of the pack. The weakest link. The one that had to deal with all the mean girls, and guys, of the pack. Really, I was surprised I survived as long as I had. 

Being sold off to another Alpha that was more of a sadist than Roger, put the fear of the Fates into me. 

“You are better than that asshat of an uncle of yours. He is no Alpha. He’s an insane, greedy rogue. The same goes for that bastard he sold you to.” Julie’s words were spoken through her teeth since she was trying to keep her anger and her voice on the down low so no one overheard our conversation. That was the reason we picked this dinner, just outside of town—outside of Roger’s territory. It was a human-owned place, meaning none of my packmates would be there. They were too good to hang out with humans. Especially eat with them. Besides not many them left their own territory. 

I shrugged and traced the rim of my glass. Julie and I had the day off. We worked at a bar and grill in town. Well, had worked. After tonight we wouldn’t be back. “It’s the fact that I’ll be leaving Abbotsford. I’ve lived here all my life.” And I’d never been outside of Canada. “Why are we going to Seattle?” 

I knew why, but I wanted to hear Julie say it out loud. Felix, her ex-boyfriend-almost mate lived there. He was also the vampire who ruled the United States Pacific northwest. 

“You know why,” Julie said with a raised brow and smirk. “Felix can protect you there. No paranormal being enters his territory without him knowing. Not one. And believe me there have been idiots who tried. And died.” 

The thing Julie wouldn’t admit to was that she was still in love with Felix. When I asked her why she hadn’t moved with him when he was voted into as ruler of his region, Julie gave me the same excuse. “I don’t fit in with royalty and politics.” 

That was a load of cat yak. She was born to be a queen and to rule. Literally, she was a Fae princess and would have ruled her realm if war hadn’t destroy it a few years after she was born. 

Julie looked at her phone, then slid it across the table to me. “It’s time.” 

I handed her my cell and pocketed hers as I stood. Then we went into the restroom and switched clothes. It was important that she smelled like me as well as look like me. It wasn’t unusual for her scent to be on me since we worked together.  

After dressing, I pulled her hoodie over my head. “Be careful.” 

She winked at me. “Always. Call me when you get to the apartment and leave a message. I’ll have the phone on silence with the vibrator turn off.” 

Precautions. I hated that we’d be out of touch for any period of time. It was for the better, or it would be if we pull this thing off. 

Without another word, I tugged the front of my hoodie down to cover my face and stepped out of the diner. I made myself as small as I could as I moved through the crowded sidewalk. It was technique I had mastered at a young age, being the omega and all. 

Right now, the less people saw of me the safer they all were. I was about to disappear and in a few hours I’d be dead. At least those who knew me would think I was dead. 

The sound of metal crunching and glass breaking, startle me along with everyone on the sidewalk. Jerking my head up, I spotted a car that had smashed into the side of a building across the street. I couldn’t plan that more perfectly if I did it myself. Everyone around me stopped to stare at the wreckage, giving me the opportunity to slip into the shadows. All the while hoping the people in the car and the building were okay.  

I ducked into a breezeway and quickened my steps down the path into the forest. I had excellent sense of direction, plus my wolf helped. I just didn’t see well night. 

Julie had all the connections set up for our scheme months before I agreed to fake my own death. Talk about premeditated. 

Once I was out of sight from nosey human eyes, I created a small ball of light and directed it to float a couple of feet off the ground alongside me to light up my path. I had magic in my blood. Julie said it was like witch’s magic but different, more powerful. I hadn’t believed her at the time, which was about four years ago, shortly after we met. My mom wasn’t a witch. Not that I know of, anyway.  

Over the last few months, my powers had started to grow. So much that it was getting hard for me to hide the magic from my uncle and pack. 

The rogue Alpha could never know about my power because he would use it for evil and to control me. Not happening.  

Not today Satan. 

The growing magic in my veins was just another nail in my coffin. You know since I was going to die tonight. I had to leave the pack and death was the only way to do it.  

I slowed my pace as the scent of old magic and burning wood reached my senses. I eased through the trees while keeping my senses open, cautious of my surroundings. Up ahead was a small cabin with smoke rolling from the chimney. That was the only sign that someone was inside the hovel of a home. The wood slats on the outside looked weathered and need of replacing. Then again, it was most likely the magic surrounding the place that gave off the illusion of a rundown shack. 

As I moved closer the front door opened and an old woman shorter than my five feet, two inches height. She had long white hair with wild corkscrew curls that seemed to have a mind of their own. Her wrinkled skin was pasty and as pale as a vampire’s. 

Please don’t let her be some hybrid witch, vampire. She was scary enough. 

“Are you going to stand out there out night?” The crone’s voice was husky and cracked as she spoke, but the words held power and strength.  

I stepped out of the tree line, inching closer to the old witch. Dark power flowed from her, making me uneasy. My wolf paced under my skin. Being unable to shift didn’t mean that I couldn’t feel my wolf. In fact, we had a strong bond and were almost perfectly in sync with each other.  

If it wasn’t for the fact that Julie trusted this woman and that I didn’t need any from portal control to see my face, I wouldn’t be here. 

“A wolf with the powers of a sorceress. Interesting.” The crone studied me for another few moments before turning to go back inside. “Come. We don’t have all night.” 

Sorceress? Impossible. They were all hunted down and killed because they were too powerful. Since they were created by the Underworld gods, they were the darker version of witches. From what I heard sorceresses were as powerful as their godly creators, and just as deadly. 

There was no way I was part sorceress. That would mean my mother was one, since they were only female. My mom was the most caring and compassionate being I’d known. Even though I hadn’t known her for long before she died. 

I came to abrupt stop, almost running into the witch. She whirled around and eyed me closely. Literally. She leaned in so close that all I saw were her strange, Champaign-colored eyes.  Then she inhaled. Was she sniffing me? I hoped like hades I didn’t stink. I hadn’t shower that morning. 

In a flash, she was gone, then reappeared on the other side of the room, in front of a closet. “Someone had bound your magic, but it isn’t holding anymore.” She held up her hand with her palm up toward the ceiling. A small round bottle formed in her palm. “Come here.” 

I didn’t like her tone. I also didn’t understand what she was talking about. The magic in my veins was nothing like a sorceress’s power. At least none that I heard anyway. Mine were weak in comparison.  

Stepping closer to the old woman, I didn’t take my eyes off her. She frowned and handed me the bottle in her hand. “Take this.” 

When I wrapped my hand around it, she grabbed my wrist, sending a jolt of panic through me. I tried to jerk free from her hold, but she was a lot stronger than she looked. She pulled me closer, making me stubble. “Do not open this bottle until you are ready to open your full powers. Whoever hid your magic, did it for a reason. However, I fear you will need your power sooner than later.” 

What the hell was she talking about? 

Instead of explaining herself, she opened the closet, shoved me inside, and then slammed the door. 

“Hey!” I pounded on the door just as purple smoke rose from the floor and a wave of dizziness came over me. Oh, great. The crazy old hag gives me a potion to unlock my power then tries to kill me. 

“Let me out!” I pounded on the door again, ignoring the feeling of moving. It was like I was in a high-speed elevator.  

The door opened and I tumbled out, falling on my face. I tightened my grip on the bottle, glad it did crash to the floor and break. The last thing I needed was to unlock my nonexistent sorceress’s power. Knowing my luck, there was an evil creature inside that bottle. Wait. That train of thought didn’t help at all.  

I glanced up at a tall slender man who had opened the door. He beamed down at me and flashed me a perfect smile. His blue eyes sparked with magic and I instantly knew he was a witch. I’d always been able to tell what the different species were. Some it was their eyes and others it was their aura—the energy that surrounded them. 

“Hi.” I pushed myself to a stand and glanced around the room. It was an office. Was it his? “Where am I?”  

I glanced back inside the closet and sure enough, it was just a closet. That old witch must had pushed me through a portal or something. 

“Hexed Towers.” He held out his hand. “I’m Dylan Pearce, property manager.” Then he pointed to the closet and added, “That is Hex Towers Portal One.” 

Portal one? The way he said it was like it was a secret or something. I took his hand and shook it, instantly feeling warmth coming from him. “Nice to meet you. I’m Mattie Carol.” 

He winked at me. “I know who you are, and it is a pleasure to finally meet you.” 

Finally? Was everyone going to weird and cryptic?  

Before I could respond, he opened his office door and ushered me out into a beautiful lobby fit for a palace. The smells of food and coffee invaded my senses and my stomach growled. My wolf pranced around, wanting me to scent every inch of the place. Not now. We have plenty of time to get to know our new home. 

As we walked across the huge lobby, I couldn’t help to take in the beauty of it. Crystal chandeliers hung in a row from one end to the other. The floor was pure white tiles and I was betting they weren’t cheap ceramic either. The walls were a cream color with burgundy trim and various accents with splashes of gold added in randomly throughout the space.  

We stopped in front of the elevators and Dylan turned to me, handing me a key card I hadn’t seen him with earlier. Of course he could have conjured it with magic. “This is the key to your apartment and to this elevator. You can’t get to your floor without it.” 

That little tidbit helped me to relax. I had my own secure access. Or did I? “How many people are on my floor?” 

“There are six apartments total on your floor, but this elevator only has access to two. It’s very secure.” The elevator opened and Dylan motioned me to go in first. 

I could help to wonder if Felix had anything to do with all the security. A feeling deep in my gut told me he did.  

The ride to my floor, which was the second level from the top, was quick and soother than I ever experience. We exited out into a small foyer with two doors in opposite corners. There were no numbers on them, which I found odd. 

Dylan pointed to the door on the left, “That one is yours. Before you ask, no, we don’t put numbers on the doors for secure and privacy reasons for our residents.” 

Cool. It was a good thing that there were only two on my floor. Or I’d piss off a bunch of people for trying to get into their apartment because there was no way I’d remember where mine was without a number. 

There wasn’t a handle on the door, just a small black box to the right of it. I pressed the key card to the box and the lock clicked. Pushing the door open, I entered the apartment and my jaw dropped.  

Dark hardwood floors stretched throughout the place, framed in with dark green floorboards. The walls were painted pale green. The living room was open to the kitchen, separated by a bar-style island. Directly across from the kitchen, on the other side of the living room, were two doors. I assumed that were the bedrooms. 

Dylan moved to the floor to ceiling dark green curtains and opened them, spilling light into the room. I stopped next to Dylan and stared out the wall of glass. There was a balcony with seating and a small fire pit. Beyond that was a breathtaking view of Elliot Bay.  

To keep my mind off faking my death, I did some research of Seattle and surrounding areas. I knew from the start that Felix would put us up in an apartment in the city. One that had tight security, like the one he lives in. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his building and her was the one to occupy the entire flood above the one I was on. 

“Do you like it?” Dylan asked.  

“Yes. It’s gorgeous. Although I’m not sure how Julie and I can afford it.” The rent on a place like this had to be more than my year’s salary at the diner. And considering I didn’t have a job at the moment, I definitely couldn’t afford it. 

Dylan snapped his fingers and an envelope appeared in his hand. “I almost forgot. This is for you. It’s the paperwork for your records. And there is no rent because you own it.” 

Surly I was hearing things that weren’t real. “How can I own? I never bought it.” 

Dylan smiled and took my hands. “Your mother did for when you were ready. That’s why you are here.” 

“My mom?” My heart sank as I looked down at the envelop. “Why?” 

Did Julie know? Did Felix? I was betting yes since he was in charge around here.  

“Because, she knew you would need it. But not until you were ready.” Dylan glanced at his wrist as if he had a watch on, which he didn’t. “Oh, look at the time. I have a meeting with the staff and managerial things to do.” He kissed me on each cheek. “If you need anything at all, just call the front desk. They will know how to contact me.” 

Then he left. 

I stood in front of the window for a little while longer before roaming around the large apartment. Seriously, it was huge compared to my tiny house at the Claws Creek Pack den. 

Once I picked my room, I set the envelop on the dresser, not opening it yet. I just knew seeing my mom’s name and her signature would bring me to tears. It didn’t matter that I was fourteen when she died and it’s been, what, twenty-eight years since she left me in the care of my sadist uncle? 

I didn’t blame her for Rodger. We had no other family and she couldn’t hide me from the bastard if she tried. Beside her death was sudden. There was no time to prep or hide. And up until she died, Rodger wasn’t too bad. At least I didn’t think so. Then again she could had been shielding me from him. The latter made sense to me. 

The words from the old witch who shoved me into the closet portal floated around in my head. Someone has bound your magic. 

I made my way to the kitchen and opened the cabinets, smiling when I discovered them packed with food and everything I need to cook and eat with. My wolf danced inside me at the notice of several of our favorite snacks. Turning to the fridge, I opened it and sighed at the various food items. My stomach reminded me it was there and still hungry. 

Five minutes later, I had a large plate with a sandwich, cheese, and fruit, and I headed to the balcony. Once settled into one of the comfy chairs, I pulled out my phone and texted Julie. Where are you? You never showed up for work. I’m worried. J. 

That was code since she had my phone and I had hers. Rodger knew I had friends at work, although he never met Julie. So my first message after I was safely in the apartment would be “Julie” worried because I never showed for work. That covered us for when someone found my phone at Reuben’s house, where he supposedly would kill me tonight. 

I searched through Julie’s contacts and hovered my thumb over Felix’s name. He was in Seattle somewhere and it would be nice to hear a familiar voice. But I couldn’t call him from Julie’s phone. I wasn’t sure if he knew what our plan was. 

What would he say? That we were crazy and putting ourselves at risk unnecessarily.  

Whatever. I was free, or would be very soon, from Rodger and the sadist he sold me to, and had a large expensive apartment in a city I was dying to explore. 

Well, not dying…Okay so the pun was intended. 

After I finished my lunch, I secured the glass door to the balcony, then stepped out of my apartment just my neighbor exited hers. She lifted her bright green gaze up to meet my stare and her face went from stoic to beautiful in seconds.  

“Hi. You must be Matilda.” She rushed forward and took my hand and shook it without me offering it. I had to suppress my urge to back away. She wouldn’t be my neighbor if she intended to harm me. I had to believe that. These people were not like my pack. 

Usually, I’d panic and run away from people when they got too close. Years of living in a pack full of rogues, made you have trust issues. However, there was something familiar about this woman. My wolf was leery, but she didn’t snap at the female. My magic told me she could be trusted.  

I am not weak! 

My wolf repeated my words. WE are not weak! 

“It’s Mattie.” I frowned. The only one who called me by my birth name was Felix. I figured it was a vampire thing and that he was older than God.  

“Well, Mattie, it’s great to meet you. I’m Anya.” She stepped back a little and tugged her blonde hair behind her ear. “Were you on your way out?” 

“Yeah, I was going to see the city. I’ve never been here before.” 

Her smile brightened. “Would you like a guide?” 

“That would be great.”