THE GROOM CHASES HIS UNICORN
Sugar Skull Books
Release Date: September 2017
Unicorn shifter Keke LaFleur is known around Nocturne Falls as the ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ gal. She’s been running from relationships since her childhood sweetheart accidentally witnessed her transformation. Just when she believes her hooves are planted in the present, her past rides in on a sleek Bronco—of a vehicular kind—pulling an oversize Mobile Vet trailer behind it.
Traveling veterinarian Rochester “Rock” Winthorpe has spent over a decade in search of his first love. He hopes to finally straighten out the misunderstanding that had sent Keke off in a huff. Now that he’s found her, he’s hell-bent on chasing her until he gets an “I do”—before she manages to gallop away with his heart again.
Read an Excerpt
The pueo owl made a cute little HOO-HOO, followed by a snort before clearing his throat as he read the article on the kitchen island. He flapped a wing and the newspaper flipped to the next page.
Keke LaFleur finished pouring the freshly brewed coffee into her mug and turned toward her aumakua, her ancestral god. Her watcher. She leaned a hip against the counter, raising the drink toward her nostrils. The rich aroma of roasted beans sliced through the foggy veil of drowsiness.
She elicited a soft sigh, missing her best friend Luna Matsya. Keke had half expected the mermaid to walk through the front door for their usual breakfast gabfest. Last year the woman had gotten engaged to a wizard prince and moved back to Mer Haven, where Luna took over her family business. The island was a mix between a magical theme park and a luxury family resort for mermaid lovers. She snorted. More like obsessed enthusiasts who believed they were actually mermaids!
Her mornings weren’t the same since. No more daily gossip, weekend girl’s night, or TV show binges with her bestie. Instead, she’d buried her loneliness in work and getting her hands dirty on her hybrid floral farm. Any additional free time was occupied with one boring date after the next.
She wasn’t looking for a prospective groom, and she definitely wasn’t looking for Mr. Right. He was a fairytale that didn’t exist. Keke had known this reality since she was thirteen years old. She cringed, her heart constricting at the childhood memory she’d never been able to shake.
She blew into the mug a few times so it would cool down to a drinkable temperature before taking a sip of the dark brew. Her frown transformed into a happy smile of unadulterated bliss. Warmth spread through her, awakening the rest of her groggy senses.
Taking another healthy swallow, she thought about her new seasonal neighbor and wished for the same connection she’d had with Luna. Too bad Stasia Tien was a total iceberg. The woman was a no-nonsense seasonal catering owner of Death & Haute Cuisine who possessed zero personality and zero friendliness. On occasion she’d wave at the beautiful woman, but Keke was always met with an intense stare. She shivered. It was as if the neighbor could literally see straight through her soul.
Another snort HOO-HOO pulled her back to the present and made her laugh. “Professor Hyde, what’s got your feather’s ruffled in the Tombstone news?”
He craned his neck and peered over at her, using the tip of his wing to push the spectacles up the bridge of his beak. He answered in his usual distinct professor-like British accent, “It appears as if the animal whisperer is headed into Nocturne Falls.”
Thank goodness for Hyde with his adorable round face and grumpy disposition. He was the only man that counted in her life. Assigned to guard, protect, and mentor her since she was a teen. Of course, mortals and immortals couldn’t hear him speak. But she could. Loud and clear.
Keke scoffed. “Is there such a thing as a person who speaks to animals?”
“Besides you?” Hyde rolled his eyes, his beak revealed a hint of a sly smile.
She took another sip of coffee. “Point taken. Sometimes I forget you aren’t human.”
His voice drifted, “Maybe once. A very long time ago…”
“What? I didn’t catch that?” She’d heard him, but knew he’d never share his entire story about how he’d come to be. How a curse had made him her familiar. Witches had cats, she had a smarty-pants owl.
“Nothing important.” He quickly continued, “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of that Rock Winthorpe fellow?
The smile froze on her lips. Rock. Did she hear correctly? The mention of that man’s name made every muscle in her body tense up. “Wh—who did you say it was?” Keke gripped the cup until her knuckles whitened; praying she’d misheard, but knew she hadn’t.
Hyde was so absorbed in the article he hadn’t notice her reaction. “Apparently this Rock, aka Rochester Winthorpe, is quite a respected veterinarian. New York Times Bestseller, animal activist, had a reality show, etcetera, etcetera. Quite impressive. I’m starting to like the chap.” He moved the tip of his wing across the sentence. “It appears he’s been traveling throughout the country to be a do-gooder for his animal charity. We just happened to be a pit stop on his road trip.”
Keke’s stomach knotted so tight she felt nauseous, and it wasn’t from the side effects of the strong coffee, either. How was it possible that the one man she’d been hiding from for the past twelve years had accidentally made his way here? She took a deep breath. Her mind was racing for excuses if she’d run into him in town. She put the brakes on her overactive thoughts. There was no way he would recognize her now. The childhood version of Keke was so different from the woman Keke. She was being ridiculous. What did she really have to fear?
Except being exposed.
Her shoulders slumped. There was no way she’d be able to hide from him. Her unique hybrid florals were in demand across the internet and with the local shops in town. She had her business dealings to maintain and she decided she wasn’t going to avoid him. After all, she needed closure. If that didn’t work, she was willing to do whatever it took to wipe that childhood memory completely from his mind. No more liability.
“If he can speak to animals as they say, it will be a welcome change to have a civil conversation with another Brit,” Hyde mumbled to himself.
Keke placed her mug on the counter. Seriously, there were a zillion places Rock could have chosen. “Why Nocturne Falls of all places?” Oops. She hadn’t meant to ask the question out loud.
The owl answered, “Why don’t you ask him for yourself? He should be rolling into town any day now.”
Her eyes widened from the unexpected news. She wasn’t ready to face him this soon!
“By the way, happy birthday!” He hooted happily. “I must say, I like the new hairdo. It’s an edgier version of you.”
Keke blinked. “I didn’t do anything different to my—”, the words died on her lips. She bolted out of the kitchen, leaving a puzzled pueo owl behind.
“No. No. NO. NO!” Keke shrieked. She peered closer into the bathroom mirror, turning her head from one angle to the next. Gone were her natural golden tresses with pastel colored rainbow streaks. “What’s happening?” She let go of the strands of blue ombre hues and stepped back for a better inspection.
Hyde flew in, landing gracefully on the sink. “I take it, this wasn’t planned?”
She shook her head. “You’re my watcher. Shouldn’t you know what the heck is going on?”
He raised a wing. “I have my suspicions, but I’ll check the resource files to confirm.” He focused his eyes on the round screens that were built into his dark frames. The glasses were not only an advanced and powerful, high performance computer, it also contained everything and anything about Keke’s magical lineage.
Henri LaFleur had been a genius, and she’d inherited the same love of technology from her father. Whether she wanted to or not.
“Found it!” Hyde exclaimed. “From what I’m reading, upon your twenty-sixth birthday you are officially in season.”
She glared at him. “What does that actually mean? Just cut to the chase, will you.”
“My dear, it means your hair color will change to indicate that you are in mating season. You must also prepare to choose your mate within the month. If you do not find a suitable groom and consummate the union, you shall forever return to your unicorn origin and thus, immediately head home to the Sacred Forest of Maui.” He paused for a moment then proceeded to read slowly, “You shall forever be without the ability to shift into human form.”
“Great. Just great!” No way was this the final say. There had to be a loophole somewhere and she was just the stubborn unicorn to find it. If she hadn’t seen the miracle firsthand with Luna and Ace, she would’ve easily believed there was no other option. However, that wasn’t the case. Keke wasn’t one to lie down and take it without a good fight.
She seized the owl, raising him to meet her eye-to-eye. “Looks like you’ve got a lot of research to change this tragic ending. Otherwise, you may wind up on someone’s dinner plate when I’m long gone.”