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Ada's Protective Mate (MF)

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 84,316
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Mobi

She has no choice but to trust a werewolf...

Long ago, Ada Gerritsen left the magically shrouded world of Galdorcwide and went to live among humans, finding her niche in New York as a lawyer. She's had little contact with her kind since then...until she ends up involved in a bitter land dispute between the brownies, imps, and werewolves. At the first meeting between the groups, Ada encounters Nate le Garde, a big, ruggedly handsome werewolf with intense green eyes who heats her up in ways she doesn't want to like. But after her best friend Remi is abducted, Ada has no choice but to turn to the werewolf for help.

Werewolf Nate le Garde knew Ada was his mate the instant he first saw her. Nate is used to getting what he wants, and he isn't exactly a patient man, but Ada is doing everything in her power to discourage his pursuit. But when she comes to him, desperate to find her best friend, he immediately rushes to her aid. Now he must keep her safe in their quest to rescue Remi from the tortured and evil sorcerer who abducted her before he steals her powers...and her life. Oh, and along the way, he must somehow prove to her that she's his soul mate. This isn't going to be easy.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE



Hanging up the telephone with a sigh, Ada Gerritsen opened the top drawer of her desk and reached for one of the neatly lined-up candy bars she kept stocked for just these occasions. She removed the wrapper with precise jerks and bit in, closing her eyes and allowing the small pleasure to take the edge off her annoyance.

The minute she saw Nana Mae’s name on the caller ID, she should have known her day was about to take one of those unexpected, and very unwanted, dives into the abnormal and irritating. At the beginning of the conversation, Ada stood firm, not moved in any way by the request or by Nana Mae’s squeals of outrage. And she definitely wasn’t moved by the tried statement of “loyalty to family and kind.” Yet within five minutes, Nana Mae had dragged Ada into something she knew she should stay very far away from.

A ridiculous Galdorcwide land dispute.

If she wished to deal with creatures, she would have taken a job in Galdorcwide, not New York. Yet time and again Ada was dragged into disputes and discussions with the creatures and life she left behind. She often found creatures were ruled by their natures and positions, whereas humans obeyed the law or suffered the consequences. She opened her eyes and tossed the chocolate wrapper in the bin beside her desk. Ada glared glumly at the framed poster on her office wall.

Enjoy life to the fullest by taking what you want. The brownie motto.

Humans who saw the poster automatically assumed it was an ironic little joke about the criminals she represented. They were wrong. Brownies were known for being sneaky and taking whatever they wanted, though if they were caught, they denied everything with a smile and flattery. And then they ran.

She should have smiled and run the moment she heard Nana Mae’s voice. This was what happened when family had your phone number. Constant nagging, reminders of obligations, family loyalty, and the obligatory guilt trips. Ada was not one to be easily swayed by supposed obligations, and even little less by loyalty, which was sorely lacking in her nature. But Nana Mae knew how to twist things and was damn good with guilt.

With a hiss of annoyance, Ada sat up in her chair, smoothed down the tweed skirt of her suit and clicked on her e-mail inbox. As promised, Nana had sent the information, and a quick scan revealed a hell of a lot more than the older woman had said during their brief telephone conversation. Cursing Nana even more, Ada printed the documents to read in the cab on the way to the meeting and stuffed them into a folder.

Ada turned in her seat and unlocked a cabinet behind her desk. She withdrew a thick Galdorcwide land rights book and placed it, along with the folder, inside her large Prada handbag then locked the cabinet. Leaving her office, Ada went to the open plan area where the staff was busy on phones and computers. She looked around for the intern, Remika, an imp and the only other creature in the human firm.

As usual, Remika Alberts was flirting with a criminal, one who would give her a good seeing-to in the bathroom or stairwell after he’d played innocent to his lawyer. Then he’d steal her purse or apartment keys.

Remi was such a sucker for bad boys.

Grabbing the intern, Ada hurried them to the elevators. She thrust a laptop into Remika’s hands and then pressed the elevator button hard in annoyance.

“Where are we going?”

“A land dispute meeting.” Ada impatiently hit the button for the elevator a few more times.

“Did you say land dispute?” Remi frowned.

“Yes.”

“Hang on,” Remi said. “Conflict of interest here! Me imp, you brownie. I cannot be a lawyer on the brownie side; my kind will turn me into a slimy, slithering toad! Or worse, a sneaky disloyal brownie.”

Not offended in the least by the imp’s remark—brownies were sneaky and disloyal—Ada flicked open her compact and applied lip gloss to her naturally plump, ruby-red lips.

Mildly curious, she closed the compact. “You cannot be turned into a brownie, can you?”

She eyed her only real friend distrustfully. Imps were known to be less than truthful at times and had an annoying tendency to exaggerate. Ada pressed the elevator button again and cursed the slowness of the ancient contraptions.

“Uh-huh.” Remi rolled her eyes. “Imps have big whammy magic, hon. You really need to take more of an interest in the creature world. Now, back to the point of sides in the land dispute—”

“Remi, lawyers, mediators, and judges are impartial. Your imp kind knows that.”

“Are you crazy? Imps don’t give a crap about— Hi, Carl!” Remi battered her lashes at the senior lawyer approaching them. “My, is that a new suit? It looks fabulous on you. Armani?”

Carl Renwick was a dynamic lawyer and a partner in the prestigious firm where Ada had worked as a criminal lawyer for the past three-and-a-half years. She’d worked hard to attain her position and had achieved it without using any little brownie tricks or the renowned sneakiness of her kind. Like any creature living and working among humans, she had adapted to their ways and methods for getting what she wanted, finding that humans could be as diverse and crafty as any creature. At present, Carl was interfering with her ambitions to move up the corporate ladder. For that, she was as nice to his face as everyone else in the firm, but behind his back, she fantasized about sneaking into his bedroom late one night and shredding his designer suits.

Smiling that practiced, seducer smile, Carl stepped into her personal space. Ada lowered her lashes a little, gritting her teeth and smiling as the sleazy human put a hand on her arm.

“I wasn’t aware you were out of the office this afternoon, Ada.”

“I wished to double check that last minute research for your case before court on Thursday.” Ada had learned just how to deal with Carl. Make everything about him and his needs.

Carl’s smile became egotistical. “Good, I have a few concerns about that.” Carl began caressing her arm, Ada wishing to recoil in distaste but held her ground. Barely. “Why don’t I drop by your place tonight, we can discuss the case, and your possible promotion over takeout.”

Without awaiting a response, the ego-inflamed human sauntered off.

“He’s got it bad for you.” Remi tugged Ada into the elevator that had finally arrived and pushed the button for the ground floor.

“He thinks I’m a challenge.”

“I’m sure there is that, but half the men in this building would pay to jump you, hon.” Remi laughed.

“I want that promotion, and not because I slept with Carl.” Ada pressed the ground button impatiently even though Remi had already done so.

She was annoyed by Carl, annoyed Nana Mae still had the ability to give her the guilts and was more than irritated by the fact she now had to go to a ridiculous land dispute meeting where she would sit through a lot of whining and name calling. This was not why she had worked so damned hard to become a lawyer.

Taking a deep breath, Ada worked at calming herself down. There was absolutely no point in allowing the situation to dictate her emotions. No, she was disciplined, centered, and focused. This minor aberration to the day’s events was nothing.

She was just beginning to relax when Remi spoke.

“What if you got the promotion without sleeping with him, then—”

“I am not going to sleep with the jerk. Come on, we only have fifteen minutes to get across town for this ridiculous meeting.”

A few minutes later they were in a cab stuck in traffic, and Ada chose to dwell on her predicament, rather than look through the documents Nana Mae Gerritsen had sent. There were creatures in the world that most humans did not know of, and that was the way everyone liked it. Ada was a brownie, Remi an imp and Galdorcwide was the magical little land they were from and where a great majority of creatures resided.

Galdorcwide was similar in appearance to a fairy tale world, with crystal waterfalls, castles, palaces, and magic. There were also demons, werewolves, vampires, imps, fairies, brownies and others who each had their allotted areas, which was the cause of the latest dispute as the imps and brownies declared the werewolves had stolen some of their lands. If this weren’t bad enough, the brownies were running around with tape measures and sneaking into homes, offices, palaces, and castles measuring every inch and were now contesting how much land the imps had.

The entire situation was ridiculous! These were immortal creatures with magic acting like children. The problem was, though it seemed childish to her, the dispute was very important to the brownies. They were without the rigid structure werewolves and imps had, and they didn't hold positions on the High Council, which led to her kind being ultrasensitive and feeling the need to assert themselves. Ada could understand this. It did seem at times that brownies were considered the workers. They lacked the High Council importance, had no rigid structure, and naturally worked hard, as was their way. They were given the manual labor and low paid work, despite possibly having higher skills, experience, and degrees.

Galdorcwide was a nice enough place; Ada didn’t have anything against it. She had fond memories of her childhood, playing with other brownies in the fields behind the brownie suburb. These days though, she preferred the world outside the shrouded creature domain and was impatient for this meeting to be done with so she could once again concentrate on her own life. She didn’t want to be drawn into brownie, or any creature, nonsense.

Finally through traffic, she climbed out of the cab behind Remi and smoothed the skirt of her suit. She glanced at the large building directly across from Central Park and spotted a buzzer beside the gates. Ada gave it a quick press.

“Ooh, nice digs. I think this is a vamp-owned building. They must be holding the meeting on neutral ground.” Remi said. “Yeah, right. Not neutral at all. It’s a well-known fact the bloodsuckers show favor to the dogs.”

“That’s a valid point for the argument.” Ada took out her phone and jotted down a quick note. “This is how we are going to play it. You simper and beguile and show full understanding and loyalty to your kind, while at the same time expressing how the poor little brownies, so kind and friendly, deserve to be heard. This way the brownies will feel a small allegiance and victory while I go for the werewolves throats.”

“You get all the damn fun,” Remi grumbled.

“Don’t worry, you won’t be an intern for much longer, and then I know you’re going to lay every single partner to get to the top.”

Laughing, Remi pressed the button. “How right you are, hon. Maybe you should try it sometime, might loosen that conservative knot you’ve got going on. Then again, the whole superior untouchable ice-princess routine does make the men go into heat. And with your sultry looks—oh look, it’s a dog.”

A werewolf approached the gate from inside. He studied Ada and Remi through the steel bars. She wondered if there was magical spell over the building that stopped anyone from entering without permission. This was the sort of thing creatures did to protect themselves and maintain the secrecy of what they were from humans. If this were a vamp-owned building as Remi said, security would be extremely tight. Vampires were creatures who had major trust issues. And they aligned themselves with the werewolves, who were aggressive bastards and highly territorial. Vamps, werewolves, sorcerers who preferred to be called immortals, and demons were the big powers. Fairies were also, but they tended to be free spirited fun loving creatures and did not bother themselves very often with disagreements or asserting their positions.

Ada took out the top sheet from the dispute documents folder and held it up for him to see.

“Lawyers on behalf of the brownie and imp clans for the land dispute meeting.”

The werewolf squinted at the sheet, top lip curling. “More of you.” He muttered and opened the gate. “Don’t touch anything.”

Ada and Remi stepped into a grand marble foyer with a high cathedral ceiling and a double staircase. She took a moment to appreciate a medieval tapestry on the wall, noted a beautiful Ming vase, and eye-catching Matisse painting. Vampires had good taste. Classic and elegant.

Returning her attention to the reason she was here, Ada focused on Remi. Her friend, as usual, was flirting. Brownies were known for being sensitive to nature and magic. They sensed changes in nature, the struggles, and growth, and felt when magic was being used. While a brownie’s senses may not be as strong as other paranormals, such as enhanced hearing and strength, Ada could feel the subtle rising of the security werewolf’s body temperature with the attention he was receiving from Remi.

“This way.” The security guard ushered them into an elevator, sniffing both.

“How did the witch spell go?” Ada asked Remika. She gave the werewolf a haughty look when he moved closer to her.

“What witch spell—oh, to banish the stalker warlock? As I haven’t been jumped in a few days, I’m guessing it worked really well.” Remi said.

Remi was a cute, flirtatious imp who attracted attention wherever she went and had no trouble accumulating lovers, and the occasional overzealous admirer.

“Warlock problem?” The werewolf inquired. “I can take care of that for you…at a reasonable price.”

Smiling, Remi trailed a long nail down the werewolf’s chest. “How unfortunate that the creature has been dealt with. Never mind, I’ll remember the offer next time I have a stalker problem.”

Ada rolled her eyes. “Expect a call tomorrow.” The imp was one of her best friends, but she was a trouble magnet, forever in need of a savior or spell and usually coming to Ada for a solution.

The elevator doors opened to another foyer. The werewolf led Ada and Remi through security doors and into a waiting room where he pressed a button on an intercom. Ada took the opportunity to load Remi up with the Galdorcwide land law book and the folder containing the land dispute documents. This way they looked professional and ready.

In some ways, Ada would like to be a little more like Remi. The imp was a dynamo intern and would be a well-sought-after lawyer in a few months when she finished her internship. Remi was smart, personable, and could work anyone over without them noticing. Plus, she was fun and open, which Ada was a touch envious of. Around the law firm Ada was known as “the ice princess” and probably took life more seriously than was strictly necessary. But that was fundamentally who she was. Disciplined, focused, driven, ambitious and a hard worker. She did know how to have fun, possibly not the type others considered to be all that enjoyable, but then, everyone was different. There was no changing herself, and when it came right down to it, Ada was fine with exactly who she was, in most ways. And as for the others, Remi was working on her.

“Lawyers for the dispute.” The werewolf spoke into the intercom.

“More?” A lightly accented voice responded.

An Italian accent, Ada thought. Though Galdorcwide was separated from the human world by a magical barrier, creatures were still able to move between both and often lived in different countries.

“Yeah,” the werewolf responded. “More lawyers.”

More? How big was this meeting? Ada was hoping to smooth things over with a forceful reminder of the even land allocation centuries ago after the clan wars, thus fulfilling the guilt trip and getting out of here as quickly as possible. Destiny’s curse! If her Nana and the brownies had hired another lawyer and wasted her valuable time, she’d be paying Remi for a few little imp potions to teach them a lesson, or getting one for herself that stopped any feelings of guilt the next time Nana called.

“Bring them in.” The voice sounded mildly indifferent and a little exasperated.

There was a small clicking noise indicating yet more security, then she and Remi were shown into a large conference room where about eight or nine creatures were either seated or standing about.

“Ada? Remi!”

“Nev.” Ada’s attention snapped to a brownie of medium height. “Nana Mae?”

“You bet.” Nev, her much older cousin, scooped up a briefcase and grabbed his coat.

“What are you doing?” She asked suspiciously and took a step back toward the door.

If he were planning to leave because she was now here to take up the position of lawyer for the brownie clan, he’d have to beat her to the door. She bumped into something very hard, big, and warm and hastily took a step forward again. The werewolf she bumped into sniffed her. She glanced over her shoulder and saw a different werewolf from the security guard who had shown her and Remi to the meeting room. This creature was tall with shaggy dark hair, vibrant green eyes, and looked rather scruffy. In that moment, Nev moved quickly.

“The both of us aren’t needed, and as you’re the lawyer, I’ll leave this in your ruthless hands.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek and got growled at by the werewolf behind her. Nev looked at the creature quizzically a moment. “OK… Brunch Sunday, Ada?”

“You’re not needed here. Go.” The werewolf’s voice was deep; the hand sliding down Ada’s back, warm and firm.

Damned werewolves. They needed to learn to keep their paws to themselves. And if this one thought she could be intimidated—or dominated, as werewolves were very much into dominating others—he was in for an attitude adjustment. She did not submit to anyone and was never intimidated.

At least not by grouchy, rude werewolves. She hoped that being dragged into a land dispute would tick the creature off. She had no doubt the werewolf clan had managed to sneak a bit of land away from the imps and brownies. Wolves were just as sneaky as the rest of them.

“Happy to oblige, wolf. See you Sunday, Ada,” Nev said.

“Oh, you’ll see me.” Ada watched Nev hurry out of the room.

She was so going to buy that imp potion now! An itching one for Nana’s non-existent corns that she’d complained about to make Ada feel guilty. Outwardly she showed no signs of annoyance, nodding at Nev as he left then placed her bag on the table while surveying the creatures in the room. Directly across the table was one of the many imp princesses and the distinguished looking gentleman beside her was Chairman Travis. Ada may not spend any time in Galdorcwide, nor mingle with other creatures besides Remi, but she did know Chairman Travis as he had authorized her to leave Galdorcwide and reside in the human world years ago. Her study of who else she may know in the meeting room was interrupted by Remi.

“Princess Missy! How wonderful to see you!” Remi gushed over the imp princess. “And Chairman Travis, always a pleasure.”

“Shall we begin?” A tall, elegant vampire was seated at the head of the table, his regal features calm.

Nico Romano, vampire prince, arrogant like the rest of his kind, was said to be the most charming and seductive of all creatures. He was definitely impressive, Ada noted, taking in the air of confidence and regal boredom surrounding him. The vampire was stunning and had the most startling turquoise eyes. She recalled seeing a painting of him hanging in the Galdorcwide museum when she was young.

At the time, ever skeptical and a little cynical even at the age of ten, she didn’t believe his eyes could truly be that unique, gorgeous color. Later, when she’d seen a photograph of him, she’d thought he used some kind of magical enhancement. But now she saw they were natural, as was his ice-blond hair and the toned muscular physique beneath the expensive suit he wore.

None of this explained why, of all people, Prince Nico was the moderator. The few times Ada interacted with vampires years ago, she found them to be a touch self-centered, and they weren’t particularly patient and interested in others’ opinions. Though they were charming and polite, which would be of benefit in a meeting, and they could mesmerize whoever got out of line.

She ignored the werewolf who had growled at Nev to leave and who was now pulling the chair out for her. She wouldn’t acknowledge aggressive behavior or encourage the werewolf’s attention.

Very meticulously, she set up the laptop and documents across the desk in front of Remi and her, wondering how to get this over with quickly. There was no real way to resolve the matter. If the werewolves had stolen land, which she definitely believed they would have, given the opportunity, they would not just give it back, no matter what tactics the brownies and imps used. Probably not even with an order from the High Council. This entire meeting was pointless.

Ada just hoped it would be over soon before the scruffily dressed werewolf bored a hole into her with his eyes. She lifted her chin and prepared to give him the ice-princess freeze-out that she was famous for.

“Allow me to make the introductions.” Prince Nico Romano glanced around the long conference room table, waving an elegant, manicured hand to his left. “We have Princess Missy representing the imp clan and Chairman Travis Hughes as their counsel.” He waited briefly for everyone to nod in greeting.

“She’s slimmed down,” Remi whispered behind the computer.

“Oh?” Though this may not be relevant to the land case, any information about opposing parties was valuable. And Ada enjoyed gossip as much as the next brownie. “Imps are immortal, they don’t have weight problems.”

“Two imp princesses have a branch of human in their family tree. Missy Moo is one.”

Ada’s brows rose, and she flicked a quick glance over the attractive, slender blonde imp princess. As creatures looked pretty much like humans, with only one or two features that might set them apart, it was impossible for her to tell if there was human biology in the woman.

“Missy Moo?”

Remi smirked and quickly covered it. “A less than affectionate nickname from a few of her cousins. Moo as in cow. Big fat heifer.” Remi burst into laughter and just as quickly stopped, shaking her head and biting her bottom lip. “Imps can be so cruel.”

Aside from the possible a weight issue, the princess had intelligence in her eyes and a graceful manner. Ada actually doubted Princess Missy had ever put on more than a few small pounds. She probably got the nickname because she was smart and threw her “weight” as a princess around.

“As support are Bronwyn Williams and Josie Wence for the imps, and Stefano and Marcie Peterson for the brownies. Next is myself as moderator of the meeting, Nico Romano of the vampires.” Every creature but a few fawned a greeting. “For the werewolves, their lawyer Aidan Charmers.” The werewolf flashed his teeth in a snarling smile. “And of course, Prince Nathaniel Le Garde.”

Ada had been nodding at each creature who was introduced, and now she frowned as her eyes met, and were held, by a set of fierce, bright green ones. The ones who had been boring holes into her since she sat down.

Prince Nathaniel? As in the Crown Prince of the Werewolf Clan? This was the rude dog that growled at Nev and dared try to intimidate her? Fates damnation, what exactly had Nana Mae pulled Ada into? Why would the werewolf crown prince be sitting in a Galdorcwide land dispute meeting? And why was an imp princess, for that matter? It made complete sense now why Prince Nico was here; he and Prince Nathaniel were as close as brothers, it was said. He would be assisting the werewolf prince against the imps and brownies.

Obviously this was a great deal more serious than anyone would have thought. Which meant a lot of work for her. That was extremely annoying. Nana Mae would not be receiving a nice birthday present this year.

The crown prince’s eyes were fixed on her, and he wasn’t smiling or nodding a polite hello. In fact, he looked royally pissed. And very gorgeous. Ada gave him the briefest look to show she wasn’t concerned by his presence, his glower, or his reputation.

Or his looks.

The werewolf was a prime male specimen even if he did dress badly and have appalling manners like the rest of his kind. She guessed him to be at least six foot five with the body of a well-toned and taut athlete, every inch of him muscular and tanned. Wily came to mind. With his wavy dark hair slicked flicked back, the two days growth of stubble, and defined, sharp features and bright green eyes, he was mouth-wateringly gorgeous. If you were interested in werewolves, which she wasn’t. Ada ignored the lust pooling in her lap.

“We are so in for it,” Remi whispered. “Werewolves despise these types of things, and they don’t respond to charm or flattery.”

“Try sitting on his lap.”

The creatures may not respond to charm and flattery, but they did have a large appetite for sex and loved to play with their prey. Remi laughed, grinning cheekily at the two werewolves.

The prince was making her uncomfortable with his staring, and more irritable as she disliked knowing anyone had the ability to make her feel this way. Raising her eyes back to his, Ada met the hard glare head on and felt a thrill at the challenge she saw there. Suddenly this land dispute was as important to her as the rest of the brownies, if only to beat this werewolf.

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