I absolutely adore Anna and Charles. I’m so excited to have another book featuring them. Wild Sign was really good, and that ending! Ahhh. I can’t wait for you guys to read it.
Autumn: Aspen Creek, Montana
Anna let her hands press the ivory keys of the old upright piano in a few preparatory chords, enjoying the rich sound. Music, for her, was not just an auditory experience-she loved the feel of the vibrations running through her fingers. The bass notes resonated in her core, leaving her energized and ready to play.
In all senses of the word.
She glanced over her shoulder and up at her husband’s face. She wasn’t sure anyone else had ever played with him. No one in their pack, for certain, including Bran. Oh, they played music with him, but they didn’t play games.
The piano wasn’t her instrument, but like most people who had ever attended college with the aim of majoring in music, she was reasonably competent. For this game, the piano was more flexible than her preferred cello, which was limited to two notes at a time, a few more with harmonics.
“Ready?” she asked him, then launched into the song without waiting for his response.
She hummed where the melody came in-it was his job to figure out the words. It didn’t take him long this time. Charles, his warmth against her back, though he didn’t touch her, began singing the lyrics to “Walk on the Ocean” with her two beats after she’d started humming.
The game had originated when Anna found out Charles hadn’t heard of P. D. Q. Bach, who had been a favorite of one of her music teachers. A lack she had remedied with the help of the Internet. In return, Charles had shared a few singers he liked. Some of them left her cold. Some of them had been unexpectedly awesome. Of course, she had heard Johnny Cash before she’d met Charles. But Charles had turned her into an unabashed Johnny Cash fan-though she liked Cash’s songs even better if Charles sang them. They suited his voice.
She would have loved Charles if he hadn’t been able to carry a tune in a bucket, but Charles’s facility for and love of music had been one of many unexpected gifts her mate had brought to their union. She had been so lucky to find him.
Gradually they had begun challenging each other, finding singers, groups, or songs that the other didn’t know. It was the best kind of game: one with no losers. Either they figured out the song the other pulled out of their store of obscure or favorite songs (or obscure and favorite songs) or they didn’t.
Sometimes they kept score-the loser to do dishes or cook or something more fun. But mostly they just enjoyed making music together-the game giving the activity more variety than it might otherwise have had.
Toad the Wet Sprocket, evidently, had not been a challenge at all.
Anna laughed in surrender, then sang the rest of “Walk on the Ocean” with Charles, letting him anchor the melody while she worked out a descant an octave above him-pushing her alto into a register mostly reserved for sopranos. Sometimes crafting harmonies on the fly could go terribly wrong, but this time it sounded good. Their voices complemented each other, which, even with good singers, wasn’t always true.
“That’s one of Samuel’s favorites,” Charles told her when they were finished.
Anna hadn’t spent much time with Charles’s brother; he’d left his father’s pack by the time she’d joined, but she knew he was a musician, too. Listening to Charles, Samuel, and their father perform the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts” at a funeral had been the first indication Anna’d had that she’d married into a very musical family.
She’d thought her music lost the night she’d been attacked and turned into a werewolf. Charles had given it back. In return, she hoped, she had given him playfulness.
He bent down, put his mouth against her ear, and said, in a mock-villain growl, “You’ll have to do better than that to defeat me.”
The rumble of his voice sent chills up her spine. She loved it when he was happy. She was so easy-at least as far as Charles was concerned. She leaned back against him, then tilted her head up. He bent over and kissed her lips.
He started to pull away, hesitated, and came down for a second round. His lips were softer than they looked, sweeping from the corner of her mouth in a gentle caress before pressing her lips open.
His breath became ragged. His muscles, still warming her back, tightened until she might have been leaning against a wall instead of a living being. If there was anything sexier than being desired, she didn’t know what it could be.
Her body became liquid as their lips lingered together, taking the gift of desire and returning it to him. His hand pressed briefly on her breastbone, just above her breast, his touch gentle. Then he slid his hand up until it covered the arch of her throat, fingertips spread to span her jawline, encouraging her to keep her head tilted for his kiss. As if she needed encouragement.
When he finished with her mouth for the moment, his lips brushed her cheekbone and over to her ear, which he nipped. The sharpness after the soft and light touch sent a shock reverberating up her spine.
“Mmm,” she said.
He stepped away from her, breathing hard. His smile was sheepish. “That was a little more than I intended,” he said.
She shrugged, knowing the dismissive gesture would be given the lie by her reddened lips and the arousal he probably would not have to be a werewolf to sense. “I am not taking any of the fault for that, sir.”
He laughed, the sound low and soft. Hot. But he still took another step away-backward, as if he couldn’t quite make himself turn his back on her.
“I have a song for you,” he said. “I’ve been working on this for a while.”
He grabbed one of the cases stacked along the wall of their music room and took out a flute. He gave Anna an assessing look and then pulled her guitar off the wall where it hung with several of his.
She had come to him with nothing, but she had the feeling, given the pleasure he took in giving her things, that her collection of instruments might outpace his in time. She took the guitar when he handed it to her.
“Just what am I supposed to do with this?” she asked archly, but she reversed her position on the piano bench so the piano was at her back and gave the guitar strings an experimental strum, adjusting the high E until the pitch was true. They were new strings, and the E liked to slip.
He didn’t answer her, just pulled up a chair so he would face her when he sat in it. He dragged a low table over beside his chair and set the flute on it. Then he searched the cases and pulled out an instrument she hadn’t seen him use-a viola.
“Oooo,” she said. “Can I see?”
He raised an eyebrow but handed it over. “It’s Da’s,” he told her.
She glanced in the f-hole and found a maker’s ink signature and the date 1872. It didn’t tell her much. She reached out blindly and he gave her the bow. She tested it, tightened a peg an eighth of a turn, and stroked the bow across the strings, smiling at the rich tone.
“Bran has good taste,” she said, handing the viola and bow back to him.
He took more care in tuning it than she had with the guitar-as one does, she thought with amusement. Violas-like their little sister, the violin-were temperamental. When he was satisfied, he sat down, the viola held like a cello, instead of the more usual under-the-chin method.
“Ready?” he asked.