Love otter be easier….
Otter shifter and piano player Abe is usually pretty suave, but that was before the otterly amazing new choir director turned out to be his fated mate! His otter is so excited that Abe himself can’t get a word in edgewise. How can he impress his mate if he can’t even talk to her?
Blaire thought her new job as a choir director in Virtue would be a breeze, but the old piano player took one look at her and quit, and the new one can’t even meet her eyes! Which is just too bad, because he’s probably the most handsome man Blaire has ever seen. Why, if Abe could only make eye contact, Blaire might even be prepared to consider him a potential significant otter!
But rehearsals for the choir concert mean at least they’re together, and it’s not long before they realize they have a whole lotter more than music in common. From ice skating to hot springs, the winter holiday activities in town bring them closer and closer…right up to one last surprise that reveals itself at the Christmas concert!
Blaire Hobart was sure she was losing her job as the new choir director after her pianist quits. However, she didn’t get a call, note or summons from the town council before the next choir practice. There was someone playing the piano when she walked into the church. Maybe she hadn’t lost her job after all.
Abraham Fenn, was asked or rather told by his great aunt to take over as the pianist for the choir. He wasn’t expecting the choir director to be so beautiful and sweet. He certainly didn’t expect her to be his mate either.
This is going to be a problem because his otter is going crazy in circles of excitement causing Abe not to be able to concentrate on talking at all.
This is a favorite scene.
Nothing could throw off his stride.
Not until Blaire Hobart walked down the aisle toward him, causing his otter to shriek, MATE!!!! before diving deep inside his mind and quivering with such anticipation that it bordered on terror.
Abe said, What?! in the depths of his own head, but his otter was a jittery ball of excited jelly and couldn’t form so much as another word.
It wasn’t like Abe hadn’t heard it correctly anyway. It wasn’t as if the woman coming down the aisle toward him like a bride in Uggs and a puffy jacket wasn’t obviously the most spectacularly beautiful, intelligent, witty, kind, generous, delightful human being he’d ever laid eyes on. Even if his otter hadn’t screamed Mate! inside his head, Abe felt like he would have known that this woman was the person he was meant to be with forever.
And with that knowledge, his confidence deserted him entirely. He could barely even look at her. His otter was so excited and nervous that Abe struggled not to shift right there in the church. He mumbled something about why it was him and not Aunt Ruby there, and Blaire responded with charming understanding.
Then she was right there in front of him and wanted to shake hands like a normal human being, so he did, of course. Her hands were strong, but so soft, except for the callouses from playing stringed instruments.
His damned otter shrieked I bet she gives good scritches!!! and Abe dropped her hand like it was on fire.
He was forced to look up then, to get a really good look at her, and caught the brief expression of confusion on her face. Probably men didn’t usually act like meeting her was a torment.
Probably nobody with eyes usually acted like meeting her was a torment. She was tall and slim, like a distance runner or an upright bass player, and her eyes were dark liquid brown. Her features were sharp: sharp jaw, sharp nose, even her eyebrows had a distinct point to them that Abe instantly adored.Her lips weren’t sharp, though: they were soft and full and kissable—
Kiss her! squealed his otter, and Abe knew an expression of horror went right across his face.
Blaire said something polite about it being nice to meet him, and then he was rescued, thank goodness, by the choir kids thundering into the church. They started a game of tag as they ran up and down the aisles and the rows between the pews, and under their noise Abe said, What is wrong with you?! to his otter.
She’s so pretty, the otter replied, starry-eyed. So tall and strong and slim, like a fast fish in the water!
Oh yes. That was what women wanted. To be compared to cold-blooded slimy fish. Blaire pulled her winter hat off, revealing a fantastic, straight-cut, jaw-length bob of dark brown hair. Static lifted some of the strands out of place and she absently smoothed them with one palm, making her a flawless vision once again.
To Abe’s surprise, she didn’t try to stop the kids from running through the church. She just slipped her winter coat off and folded it on a pew. She was dressed casually in tall winter boots, jeans, and a cream-colored sweater knitted in an Aran pattern, and looked incredibly sleek—
Like a fish!!!! his otter yelled. Abe clenched his teeth shut, as if the animal could somehow force him to say that aloud.
Not a fish! A professional used to dealing with kids!
Like a fish, the otter insisted. Fast in the water for a chase and then when we have caught her—
The otter obviously hit a mental block at that point, because its thoughts took a distinct turn toward the idea of mating, except it had no interest in mating with a fish. Otters ate fishes, and there was nothing in an otter’s vocabulary or concept of sex that involved ‘eating’ in a non-food innuendo.
No matter. The otter rallied. Sleek and strong and slim and fast like an otter! it declared, and by that time Abe was in no condition to try to argue with it. Keeping himself from blurting out its running commentary was suddenly a full-time job.
The otter wasn’t wrong, though. Blaire Hobart was sleek and strong and slim and, with her smooth brown hair and deep brown eyes, seemed more otter-like in her human form than Abe himself did.
Except she was clearly no-nonsense as she walked up to the altar, and at the moment, Abe felt like he was pure nonsense. There were choir galleries in the chancel on both sides of the altar, but the two rows of raised platforms in them had been moved into full view, so the kids would be on display when they performed. Abe’s piano was off to one side, half-hidden behind the platforms. Blaire went over to it and played a few notes, then sat down and began to play in earnest.
Not a holiday tune, though. To Abe’s barely-contained laughter, she started playing the latest hit from a British pop star, an incredibly catchy tune that even he’d listened to dozens of times in a row. The kids, although entirely involved in their game of tag, couldn’t stop themselves from singing when the chorus kicked in, and a few of them approached the piano as she launched into the second verse.
By the time she’d gone through the chorus again, most of the kids were gathered around the piano, singing their hearts out. One little boy of six or seven sidled right up to Blaire and raised his eyebrows invitingly at a line about conversations with a stranger.
Abe’s otter gasped in dramatic disbelief. Is the little boy flirting with our mate?
He’s trying to, Abe replied, amused. And he’s doing a better job than I’ve been doing so far! You have to stop distracting me!
I am not a distraction! I am your soul. If she cannot live with me, she cannot live with us at all. This last was delivered with such theatrical conviction that Abe laughed, a sound he had to smother with both hands so he didn’t interrupt the last go-around of the chorus.
“You guys were amazing.” Blaire sounded genuinely impressed as she stood up from the piano and gave the kids a round of applause. “If you can sing pop music that well, these Christmas songs are going to be a breeze!”
“Are we gonna go on America’s Next Stars?” asked the little boy who’d sidled up to her.
She raised her eyebrows, looking down at him seriously. “Noah, right? They don’t usually have choirs on those shows, Noah, but once in a while, they do. I’m not gonna lie to you. Getting there would be a huge amount of work, the kind of thing that would probably take years. So I guess whether there’s a chance of it or not would depend on how hard you all wanted to work, and whether you agreed it was the kind of goal you were all interested in.”
Ooooohhh, the otter breathed, star-struck. She’s so good with kittens.
A quick smile touched Abe’s mouth. Otter babies were often called kittens, but he hadn’t ever really thought to apply the term to human children. It was kind of cute. Another child, older, but also perhaps more practical at heart than Noah seemed to be, said, “Maybe we should do the Christmas concert first.”
Blaire grinned at the girl. “That’s a good idea, Kelly. Kelly? Kelly.” She smiled again as the girl nodded. “One thing at a time. I mean, maaaaayyybeeee you’ll all hate singing in the choir so much that you’d rather throw up all your candy canes into your shoes and then wear them!”
Abe’s otter recoiled, staring at Blaire in horror as the kids all squealed, “Ewwww!” happily.
She is not good with kittens after all, the otter reported in confused dismay. She wants them to wear regurgitated food! That is disgusting!
She’s joking. It’s okay, buddy. Maybe the otter now thought Blaire was so gross that it wouldn’t flail like an excited kid when it looked at her, so Abe could talk to her like a functional adult human being instead of a squeaky idiot, which is where he’d started.
Blaire was now herding the kids onto the choir stands, where they were eager to go and show her how they were good enough to win competitions, or at least to not barf in their shoes and wear them. She cast Abe a quick look, and he took himself back to the piano, feeling like maybe he could do this.
Oooooh, the otter said. Her eyes are so pretty….
Maybe he couldn’t do it, after all.
Chant, Zoe. A Christmas Like No Otter (Virtue Shifters Book 4) Kindle Locations (103-169). Kindle Edition.
I laughed so hard all through this book, that otter, OMG! He’s just hysterical.
Blaire is taken with Abe and she does give him a chance. Their dates are fun filled and Christmassy. Even after his big reveal, and I do mean big. She’s on board to get to know him better.
One of my favorite Christmas books this year.
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!