Christmas Hellhound – A Mate for Christmas Book 2 by Zoe Chant

Christmas Hellhound
A Mate For Christmas Book 2
By
Zoe Chant

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All Caine wants for Christmas is to get rid of his hellhound.

Twelve months ago, Caine Guinness was attacked by a pack of hellhound shifters and became one of them. All he wants is to be human again. His search for a cure brings him to snowy Pine Valley, home of magical dragon shifters, Christmas cheer… and Meaghan Markham.

All Meaghan wants for Christmas – is a merry Christmas. Just one.

Meaghan has never felt at home anywhere. She’s always too big, too loud – and never enough. Until now. Caine is everything she never let herself dream of. Kind. Caring. And hot as hell.

But all isn’t well in Pine Valley. Mysterious creatures are attacking the town, and Caine is the only one who can stop them. If he can learn to trust his hellhound. And even if he can…

Can a hellhound really save Christmas?

Caine Guinness lost everything when he was attacked and turned into a hellhound a year ago. Now all he wants is to get rid of his hellhound and he’s heard that the Dragons that reside in Pine Valley may be able to help him do just that. What he doesn’t realize is that there are others like him around causing havoc this Christmas. He’s rented a cottage far from others, not taking any chances on hurting anyone. He has his recurring nightmare and wakes to hear barking and then a woman screaming.

Meaghan found the stolen sleigh and the dogs from Puppy Express, and the dogs are very excited to see her. She’s struggling trying to get them to subside when Caine finds her. While he’s relieved, she is furious. After a near disaster with the sleigh, Meaghan gets him locked into her truck with the dogs and drives back to Puppy Express. All very proud of herself.

Instead of appreciation she gets yelled at not only because Caine wasn’t one of the thieves but also because of the danger she put herself in. Her punishment is to get Caine clothes from the gift shop and to take him to dinner.

On the way to town Meaghan apologizes and explains what’s been going on. She’s really determined that Christmas is not ruined by everything that’s been happening.

This is a favorite scene.

Snow crunched under his boots as he hurried to catch up with Meaghan, who was trudging head-down towards her truck.

“What do you think?” He waited until he had her attention, then did a slow turn. Bob had given him free rein in the clothing section of the Puppy Express gift shop, and it was possible he’d let his newfound freedom go to his head.

Meaghan’s mouth dropped open. She snapped it shut. “Aren’t you cold?”

Caine looked down. He had exchanged his thin sweatpants for a pair of insulated snow pants with a holly pattern on the cuffs. They were a few inches short—nothing in the store had really fit—but his ankles were snug under thick woolen socks with candy canes on them. The snowflake-print t-shirt stretched tight across his chest completed the look.

He’d forgotten to zip up his jacket again, but…

He glanced up. Meaghan was still glaring at him. More specifically, at his chest.

“I’m fine,” he said. Sure, the evening was chilly, but the sight of Meaghan’s eyes sizzling warmed him up better than any jacket.

“Well, if you fall over with frostbite I’m going to feel even worse than I already do. Take these. More handwarmers. Olly’s giving them out like candy. Probably because we don’t have enough visitors to use them all up and they’re taking up space.”

She handed him another couple of handwarmers like the ones he’d forgotten to use earlier. “Crunch them up a bit and put them in your—you’re not wearing gloves. Your hands are going to freeze off and it’s going to be all my fault.”

“No, here, see?” Caine pulled a pair of gloves out of his pocket and Meaghan’s shoulders visibly relaxed. She rubbed the base of her neck.

“Okay, well, good. So. Dinner. What do you feel like? There should be one or two places open.”

“Whatever you recommend.”

Caine hurried ahead of Meaghan to open the driver’s side door for her and found himself facing down a glare almost as ferocious as when she thought he’d stolen her dogs. 

“You are not driving,” she said. “Look, I know this whole dinner thing is to get me back for acting like a crazy person, but believe me, you driving my truck would be more of a punishment for you than for me.” 

Caine blinked. “I don’t want to drive. I was holding the door for you.” 

“Oh.” Meaghan’s glare lost some of its ferocity. “…Thanks?”

She folded herself into the seat, avoiding Caine’s eyes. Caine frowned. He might feel as though he was flying six inches above the ground, but he’d have his head in the clouds not to see that Meaghan was upset about something.

And he wanted desperately for that not to be the case. 

He wedged himself into the passenger seat and caught Meaghan glancing at him.

“It’s a tight fit,” he said, angling his knees under the dash.

“You get used to it.” Meaghan winced. “I mean, I’ve gotten used to it. I spend most of my time with the dogs, anyway, so that gives me plenty of time to stretch my legs.”

“You don’t think I’ll have time to get used to it, too?” he teased.

“It’s not that far into town,” Meaghan replied, not getting his meaning. She made a frustrated “mmf” noise as the truck wobbled over a bump in the road, and Caine’s blood ran hot.

He hadn’t so much as flirted with a woman since last Christmas. And now he wanted to do a hell of a lot more than flirt.

But whatever Caine’s hopes, Meaghan clearly had her mind somewhere else. Caine racked his brains for a topic of conversation that might lift the glare from her face.

“The dogs like you a lot,” he settled on. “And you must like them too, going to all that effort to find them.”

“Of course I like them. They’re good dogs, they get on well with everyone, even… even crazy women who go around kidnapping people.” She sighed. “I am so sorry about that. God, I must really be losing it.”

Her scowl wasn’t going anywhere. Caine was about to try again when she shook her head and tapped her palms on the steering wheel.

“I just—these last few months—no. No excuses. I’m crazy, and I jumped to conclusions, and I’m sorry for… everything.” 

“Don’t be.”

Meaghan snorted. “Trust me, you do not want to encourage me about this. I am one hundred percent capable of throwing myself into bad ideas without any help.” 

“What bad ideas, exactly?”

“Where should I start? How about moving to a new town where I don’t know anyone. Getting a job at a tourist shop right before their worst year for tourist numbers in decades…” She tapped the steering wheel again. “Nope. Don’t say it, girl. Keep the lid on the crazy.”

Caine’s instincts were pricking. Not his demon’s instincts, but the ones that he’d honed in his old life as a private investigator.

Something was making Meaghan upset. Something that had driven her to save the dogs from whoever had stolen them, and to shove him in the back of her truck.

And he had a suspicion she was getting close to revealing what it was. Or letting it boil out of her, at least.

“Don’t say what?” he prompted. She groaned.

“I warned you, don’t encourage me…” Meaghan narrowed her eyes at him and turned her attention back to the road. “Fine. You asked for it. I think there’s more to the low tourist numbers this year than just bad luck. Because numbers aren’t just low, they’re in the negatives. Even some locals are staying away from Pine Valley this Christmas.”

“Why?”

Meaghan was bubbling over with frustration, but something was still stopping her. “Keep in mind this is crazy conspiracy level stuff we’re talking here.”

“Is that what you really think?” How many people have told her that?

“No. It’s not.” Meaghan made a face. “Fine. There’s been… stuff happening. Weird stuff. Ever since Halloween.”

The skin on the back of Caine’s neck prickled. “You mentioned something about a toy store burning down.”

“Everyone says it was an accident.”

“And you don’t believe them.”

Caine watched Meaghan’s face as she decided how to answer. She gnawed on her bottom lip, squeezed her eyes shut for a second, and groaned.

“No, I don’t believe them. And I think it’s going to get worse. I don’t know how much you know about Pine Valley, but—”

“Assume I know nothing.”

Meaghan took a deep breath, and then shrugged. “Okay. The hell with it. So, Pine Valley is a tourist town. Lives and dies—pay attention to that last part—on people visiting on their vacation and spending money locally. The biggest draws are Halloween, when all the trees turn fall colors, and Christmas, because, well, it’s a cute little town in the mountains that gets a lot of snow.”

She rolled her shoulders back. They clicked so loudly that Caine winced in sympathy… and wished he could reach out and massage them.

“Stuff started to get weird around Halloween. I mean, there’s a limit to the number of trees that can fall down right in front of a tour bus, or how often all the streetlights can short out at the same time, right? Or people saying they were almost run off the road by some sort of freaky wild animals with scary glowing eyes? It can’t all be random. They have to be connected.”

Caine tensed. “Glowing eyes?”

Meaghan gestured angrily. “Jackson just says that all animals have glowing eyes when they get caught in headlights, but some of the people I talked to said their eyes weren’t just glowing, they were on fire. It’s got to be someone dressed up or some sort of trick, right? But no one remembers anything about what they looked like except for the eyes, and that seeing them really freaked them out.”

“And they’ve been running people off the road? Chasing them?”

“No one’s been hurt, thank God. But some tourists skidded into a snow drift after the driver thought he saw one of these ghost-things. And some people say they saw them on some of the Puppy Express routes, which took a chunk out of bookings. No one wants to go out on a magical sleighride and get eaten by wild animals.”

“Ghosts,” Caine said quietly. Burning eyes. Spreading terror. This all sounds too familiar.
Chant, Zoe. A Mate for Christmas: Collection 1 Kindle Locations (3208-3273). Kindle Edition.

Caine figures the best thing he can do is help her when he realizes that hellhounds are responsible for everything.

After dinner on the drive to his cottage, he gets a lot more information on the damage that has been done and also the tidbit that there are property investors interested in the area. Unfortunately, that sounds way too familiar to him.

I love the way this plays out as Caine not only helps the dragons but also romances his mate Meaghan.

There’s laughter, tears, suspense on top of the romance and that touch of sizzle.

5 Contented Purrs for Zoe!

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Zoe Chant loves writing paranormal romance. Over a cup of tea (or something stronger) she whips up sexy tales of hunky heroes and adventurous heroines to tantalize and satisfy her readers. Sizzling hot romance, no cliffhangers!

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