Rhyme Manchester is the second in her family to take on the Mating Games. Despite the chaos that ensued for her little sister, Rayne, during her own games, Rhyme decides to give it a go. All three siblings only have one year to mate and marry and time is running out. Logically, it makes perfect sense.
The problem is that Rhyme has never had the best emotional intelligence. Intelligence is her comfort zone and she will need to escape that tidy little box she has put her life into in order to find the love of her life.
When one of the ten contenders is murdered on the opening night of the games, Rhyme’s reason flies out the window. What is worse, all signs point to multiple contenders in the competition for her heart as the potential killer. Will she be able to work through the clues to find the other half to her soul? And when she does, will that man be a murderer or will he be the next one murdered?
This is the first book in a six installment paranormal romantic murder mystery serial from the Dating a Werewolf Series. Thank you for joining Rhyme as she embarks upon her journey to love in part one of Rhyme’s Reason.
DEAR DIARY, I’M STARTING THIS journal to keep my life in order, my emotions in check, and to help me make the most informed decision possible as to who I should choose as my mate. So much has happened in the last few months. My father passed away. My brother became the Colorado Alpha. My sister found her mate. My best friend, Isaac, was killed in a battle that bordered on the epically infamous Hattfields and McCoys feud, in truth, many people died in that battle, all over becoming alpha. I never really understood the need for power. My father had that gene, so does River. All I ever wanted was love, but I digress.
I have not even begun to tell you about how my little sister became the second Colorado alpha. Rayne was kidnapped and forced to kill her captor. In that one act, she went from a tracker wolf to an alpha pack leader herself, and now she and River have split the territory of Colorado. I can promise you, I have no intention of becoming an alpha, and I hope the Mating Games go smoother for me than they did for Raynie.
I’m ahead of myself, again… See, that’s why I decided to make this diary. If given leeway, I tend to babble. It is one way to process information, one I learned in law school. Thinking out loud, kind of like brainstorming. And you’d never guess how much you can discover when you talk out the problem. Not the most effective way, but it worked for me. It also helps me to write out lists, especially pros and cons. Seeing it written in front of your eyes in a logical manner helps to eliminate the emotional factor that messes everything up.
So I guess you’re wondering why the need to get married and find my mate? I would be wondering, inquisitive mind and all. Another law school trait.
When our father died, he left behind some hefty stipulations in his will. The only way we’d be able to receive our inheritance would be if all three of us find our mates and get married within a year of his death. One down, two to go.
Ironically, the one person I could see myself with, once we helped him over his own grief, died, and now I’m mourning Isaac’s loss while trying to find my husband. Father left each of us a list of ten men he pre-approved for the match, but while he was always good at pairing off his pack mates, his track record with his children wasn’t stellar. Well, that’s not true. He matched Storm and Rayne, but that was a no-brainer. We all saw that coming, all of us but Rayne.
He also picked men who betrayed my sister and our pack. Grayson, may his soul burn in hell for eternity, and Brick, who was now in the Authority prison for his betrayal were also on his list and they were epic fails. Interestingly enough, he also had Simon on Rayne’s list who is now dating Chloe, which killed two birds with one stone. Daddy never wanted River and Chloe to date, and putting Simon in the mix helped with that. It was pretty obvious Simon wasn’t meant for my sister. He was nothing like her type.
I’ve already broken off one engagement to a cheating lawyer and one of the men from father’s list, Jax. He turned out to be a better friend than lover. There was always a kind of wall between us. One I had no clue how to break down. He was good at playing the doting beau, but after seeing Rayne and Storm together I knew I was settling.
I almost fell for him, but my little sister taught me one thing, a mate is a cherished gift and if you picked the right one, the fireworks would light the night sky. I wonder if I’ll be able to recognize love if it comes? Rayne says it will bite you in the ass if you ignore it. You just know.
If it is possible, I want to find that soul-searing lover that leaves me vulnerable and yet safe in the arms of the man made for me. It’s not too much to ask, right?
I’ve never really opened up to the idea of sharing my emotions and trusting someone enough to make that a reality, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I promise. Which brings me back full circle. The reason I’m writing in this journal is so I can keep my thoughts straight and avoid letting my emotions muck things up. I figure I can use this as an analysis system. It will help me balance the pros and cons and make an informative decision.
It seemed like a tall order, but I’ve opened my heart to the probability of it working. Now the challenge will be to pick the right man that I can trust with my heart, and do so in a timely manner.
They say you can’t hurry love, but my father was obviously not of that school of thought. The idea that all three of us will find our true loves in a year is tough to swallow, but I am not going to let my family down and I have a vested interest in this, more so than the others. Well, that may not be true, but I have a problem, and that money will help me get out of the hole I’ve buried myself in. Hopefully, the man I choose will help me stay out of trouble in the future. Who knows? I guess we’ll see.
Okay, that’s Eva, the Games’ Master calling me. Things are about to get started. Wish me luck!
Rhyme closed her journal quickly and hid it away in her desk. “Coming!”
Eva was outside the door, tapping her foot impatiently on the carpeted hallway. “I do hope you’re not going to be as difficult as your sister was during this whole process, Rhyme.” She tossed her red hair behind her shoulder and raised her dark eyebrow in the unspoken question.
“My sister wasn’t difficult, Eva. She just didn’t like all the restricting rules.” Rhyme defended Rayne. She really hated it when people spoke ill of others, especially when those others were members of her family. “Raynie, has never been big on being told what she should and shouldn’t do.”
Eva sighed and placed a hand on her thick hip as she examined Rhyme's looks. She had styled her dark hair in a French twist, a style she was extremely comfortable with and applied makeup to her pale skin. They had lost Georgio, Eva’s stylist, during the rogue attack that happened during Rayne’s Mating Game session. His death was heartbreaking. Eva and Georgio seemed close so it was logical she hadn’t replaced him yet. That meant it was up to Rhyme to do her own hair and makeup, something she didn’t mind at all. At least until she had to endure Eva’s scrutiny.
Thankfully, she approved of Rhyme’s fashion sense, for the most part. “It will have to do. Now get downstairs so you can greet the men who are competing for your hand in marriage.”
Rhyme ran into her closet, grabbed her heels, and followed Eva’s heavyset frame down the stairs. No amount of preparation could make her feel comfortable for what she was about to face outside. She’d read all the dossiers on the men she was going to be welcoming into her home, which were sent to her by uncle Mitchell, the executor of the will. On paper, they all seemed suitable mates, but she expected no less from the list of men her father had left her in the will. Rayne’s adventure reinforced Rhyme’s belief that just because they looked good on paper didn’t mean they were decent people. She’d seen many people in her time as a lawyer that looked good on paper or in person, but turned out to be real slime bags.
“Are you ready for this?” River, Rhyme’s brother and her alpha, asked as she joined him on the front porch of the compound. The blazing sun that reflected off the fresh layer of light snow outside blinded her. She loved fall and winter in Colorado. It could snow one day, and the next, be fresh and clear as a spring day. Since this was autumn, she knew the snow would melt away by afternoon as though it hadn’t even fallen.
She blinked her ice-blue eyes, the same shade as his, as she tried to focus on his dark hair, which was longer than usual, a sign he was still stressing over the recent alpha responsibilities. “No. Not really,” she told him honestly as his tan skin and ruggedly handsome good looks came into focus.
He chuckled. “I’m sure it’ll go easier than Raynie’s games.”
“It better. I don’t think I can handle all that chaos as well as she did. When will she be coming home?”
“You’re a Manchester, You’d swim in that situation rather than sink, and you’ll have us here to help you if you get tangled in seaweed.”
Rhyme rolled her eyes at River’s attempt at comedic metaphors. Father was brilliant with them. River, not so much. He was still a work in progress.
“She’ll be here in the next couple of days. She’s bringing Simon and Chloe. Apparently she wants to discuss wedding plans.” River’s grin wavered slightly. Seeing Chloe move on with Simon couldn’t be easy for him, but he was handling it like a trooper. “Do you have any favorites yet?” He asked, changing the subject.
“Nope, I’m going to go with my gut and see where that leads me.”
“Good luck with that, sis.”
She elbowed him in the stomach.
“What? We both know your gut feelings aren’t always the most reliable.” He rubbed his torso as a black Town Car pulled up the gravel driveway.
Rhyme sucked in a nervous breath as they watched Mack Fredericks exit the vehicle. He wore a white suit, which contrasted brilliantly against his dark skin. His black hair was shaved close to his head and his brown eyes held an intriguing spark. He straightened his suit and pulled out a bouquet of flowers from the car. His movements were fluid and stealthy as he walked toward Rhyme. Before she could react, he held her hand in his and kissed her knuckles. The touch ignited an interest in her body. He was sweet, as far as she could tell, and quite the gentleman.
“Pleasure to meet you, Rhyme.” His European accent only increased the instant attraction. From what Rhyme read in his file, he was a regular Indiana Jones. Doctor of Archeology, curator of the National Arts Museum in Denver, Colorado, and a black belt in Ju Jitsu.
She couldn’t help the slight blush that colored her cheeks. “Nice to meet you, Mack.”
“Yes, very nice to meet you, Mack. I look forward to chatting with you about your work at the museum.” River offered his hand to shake. Mack accepted, but was reluctant to turn his attention away from Rhyme, which only made her temperature rise.
“And the adventures I’ve experienced as an archeologist?” He gave a knowing grin to River before turning his attention back on Rhyme. The intensity in his stare was creating heat in her body.
“Yes, I’m sure you have a great many interesting stories.” River acknowledged. Rhyme knew he was an adventurer. River had always wanted to have an exciting career in anthropology or as a covert spy, but father had other plans for him, being the firstborn, and his son, River’s destiny was determined before he took his first breath.
“I hope I’ll get to hear some of those tales too.” Rhyme told them both.
Mack nodded and took his spot next to Eva just as a second man exited the town car.
The first thing Rhyme noticed was his wavy, dark brown hair that hung just above his shoulders. His hair moved so fluidly it reminded her of those chocolate commercials, ribbons of ooey gooey deliciousness. Her mouth watered and fingers itched to touch the strands. As her gaze traveled, she stopped at his green eyes, then his sexy smile and strong, square jaw. He wore a green plaid button-down shirt over a dark grey t-shirt that did little to hide his rough and tough build. The stonewashed, relaxed fit jeans he wore hugged his hips and large thighs, and covered his cowboy boots. Rhyme recognized him as Trigger Malone, the owner of the Wolf Creek Ranch in Montana. He was all muscle compacted in a 5’10” frame. He moved with ease and had a genuine smile, and what seemed like an easy-going attitude, but there was a glint of danger in those moss-colored eyes, just enough to catch and hold her attention.
“You are far more beautiful than your photo.” Trigger smiled as he walked up to Rhyme and gave her a hug, which surprised her. After the shock wore off, she relaxed in his embrace moments before he pulled back. “I’ve been excited to meet you ever since I got the call from Eva. I’m sorry for your loss,” he told her in a country boy accent that made her stomach call out the butterflies.
Sadness rolled through Rhyme for a moment. She knew he was referring to her father, but there was far more loss surrounding her family than one man, including her best friend and his fiancé. “Thank you.”
“It’s a rough world we live in, but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier.” His words indicated he also knew about the recent tragedies that had befallen the Manchester house. He squeezed her hand in a comforting gesture, which served to spark her interest. He seemed genuine. It was nice. He was far more profound than she would’ve thought. Trigger was going to be interesting to get to know.
He handed her a wooden miniature of a wolf, then he took his spot next to Mack just as the next car came up the drive. Rhyme found herself fascinated with the tiny wolf statue. It was an intricate design. She turned to him. “Did you make this?”
He nodded. “Yes, ma’am, I did.”
“You are very talented.”
“Thank you kindly.” He winked and Rhyme felt the flutter of butterfly wings in her gut again. Two for two. ‘Well, father, so far so good’ she thought to herself as the next bachelor approached. His blond hair looked like wavy ribbons that layered around his boyish good looks and hovered around ear length. The tan on his skin indicated he loved the outdoors. He was wearing jeans, a blue t-shirt, which matched his eyes, and a worn leather biker’s jacket, which showed he liked his motorcycle, and her dossier told her that motorcycle was a Harley Davidson. He sauntered across the gravel drive to her side and placed a patch in her hands.
She looked down, and read the words, ‘Lives to be a bad girl’ and couldn’t help the smile that spread across her lips. She was the farthest thing from a bad girl, but had always wanted a bad boy to help her live dangerously.
“Dash O’Grady, I presume?”
“Right on the money, sweetheart. You might as well toss all the others out the window and ride off in the sunset with me on my hog.” His words rolled over her like a toxic spill. Something didn’t seem right about him. He was sexy. He said all the right words, but when he spoke, his close proximity made her want to step back. He reminded her of those smarmy guys who thought they were God’s gift to women. She didn’t like smooth talking douche bags. ‘Looks like I thanked you too soon, father.’ She thought to herself.
“I think we’ll let this game play through and see what happens.” She placed a hand on his granite chest as he moved closer to keep distance between them. “But it is good to know you are so confident in your ability to win my heart.”
“I’m confident you’ll find us perfectly suited for each other.” He grinned and settled for a kiss on the back of her hand.
It took every ounce of willpower in her not to wipe her hand off. She wasn’t ready to discount him yet, but he hadn’t rubbed her correctly and she wasn’t impressed with their first meeting.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she recognized Levi Mason as he breezed across the space between them. He was a lawyer, a very good defense attorney, and Rhyme figured they’d have the most in common. His light brown hair, layered with golden highlights from the sun showed he really did enjoy the surfing that the report outlined as one of his favorite past times. The Puka shell necklace he wore around his neck confirmed his hobby further. Today, he wore khaki pants and a polo shirt, but she had a feeling he looked just as delicious in Bermuda shorts, flip-flops, and little else, which was her idea of the perfect beach attire for a physically fit man. When he smiled, his teeth seemed to glow. It was painfully obvious he used a little too much whitener, but he was known for his easy-going smile and she guessed he was attempting to put his best assets forward.
“Rhyme, I’m very pleased to see you again.”
“As am I. I’m glad to see you were able to work around your schedule to participate.” She smiled shyly. She’d gone up against this man in court a couple of times and he was quite the contender.
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything.” When he smiled, a dimple showed in his cheek, one to match the other in his chin. Aside from the cheek imperfection, his face was perfectly symmetrical which was rare in the werewolf world. Noses and other bones were often broken from rough housing. Thanks to the transformation, things didn’t always morph back correctly. It wasn’t like an arm would move to a leg, but even Rhyme had seen minute in discrepancies after a change or two. They usually fixed themselves after a couple more morphs, but it was common happenstance in their world to see minor changes in one’s appearance over time. “I’m hoping the heat in the courtroom translates to heat in our personal lives also.” He whispered in her ear as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.
If Rhyme was honest with herself, he was one of her top choices, on paper anyway, and it also helped that she knew him in the real world outside of this competition, not that they were ever friends. Being on opposite sides of the courtroom didn’t make it easy to socialize.
The next man to put his name in the running for Rhyme’s hand in marriage was Chance Woodbridge. Short for Chancellor Woodbridge III. He looked like he was getting ready to hit the ski lodge. Navy blue cashmere sweater with tan khakis and brown shoes. His auburn hair feathered back lightly over his ears. His face and hands were lightly sprinkled with freckles, and a peach tone. His fingernails were manicured and Rhyme guessed he’d never seen a day of real work in his life. He was put together like a GQ model, but she couldn’t help but wonder if he was strong enough to be a contender for her heart. She liked manly men, the kind that could work on a broken down vehicle one minute and then carry himself like a socialite the next.
“Hello, Rhyme, nice to meet you.” He spoke with an Aussie accent, which helped up the attraction level. She searched her mind to review the file she had on this man. He was a trust fund kid from Australia. There was very little detail of the man other than his extensive partying history. He wasn’t her top choice, but she’d give him a chance -- no pun intended.
Next up was Elijah Jenkins. His hair was long, dirty-blond, and tied back in a leather ponytail at the nape of his thick neck. His face was strong, and the claw mark scar on his neck indicated he was a wolf that was made, not born into the life. He was built smaller than most of the other wolves, but Rhyme was sure he was a scrapper. He shook her hand and pulled her into an embrace, which was only off-setting for a moment. The man smelled of rosewater and pine, and was far stronger than he looked. ‘A firm handshake can tell a lot about a man,’ Rhyme’s father’s voice echoed in her mind.
“It’s nice to meet you, Elijah.” She told him when he let her go. He was a preacher, but he wasn’t wearing his collar. He wore a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt, and he wore them well. Very well.
Rhyme had to admit she was excited to see Diesel Jacovich. He was as handsome as his picture. Olive skin, shaved head, and dark, inquisitive eyes. Diesel owned a martial arts dojo as well as a coffee shop. He was a successful businessman which was probably the reason why father had picked him; a prominent business owner who knew how to fight and defend his family.
“Hello, Rhyme.” He nodded and kissed the back of her hand. His dark eyes intensely focused on her blue ones. The stare made her feel unnerved, but she held her ground. His touch was electric and she was disappointed when he pulled his hand away. Something about this man intrigued her.
“Nice to meet you, Diesel.” She smiled.
Myles Dunkin was the second to last man to arrive. He did so in style, eclectic style. The man walked up strumming a guitar and serenading Rhyme on the front steps with the song ‘Stairway to Heaven’. His voice was smooth as silk. He had green eyes that were alert and playful, and a smile that teased and enticed. His sturdy build and strong jaw were simply the bow that tied the sexy package together. He had long, wavy, brown hair, and like most of the men in the group, he had muscles that moved smoothly under his tan skin.
There was a military tattoo poking out from under his t-shirt sleeve, a stark reminder of his time in the service. According to the file she had on him, he served in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning home to take care of his ailing father who recently died. Something they had in common. There was something ‘nice’ about the man, but ‘nice’ wasn’t always good in the wolf world, and with all the drama that had descended upon her family lately, nice wasn’t a safe place to be.
The next man to join the competition was Stone Phillips. This man gave his name justice. He looked like a stone statue, and had just as much definition, from what she could see under his tight t-shirt, as those Greek marble statues. His pecs were the size of boulders and his arms looked more like missile launchers than guns. His blond hair made her think of the Norwegian God, Thor. This man was actually a bear shifter while the others were wolves. It was odd he made the list. Father wasn’t a purist, but he had never recommended anyone but wolves to her as possible mates. The idea that he was a bear shifter intrigued her more so than his striking good looks.
The file she had on him was sparse in comparison to the others, probably because intel on a bear would be more difficult than that of a wolf. She knew very little about him other than he lived in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. How he and father knew each other was a mystery and one she intended to discover.
“A pleasure to meet you, Rhyme.”
“And you.” Rhyme repeated. “I look forward to hearing more about the Adirondacks.” She told him.
“Of course, and I look forward to hearing more about the Rockies. They are beautiful.”
“Yes, they are.” She agreed.
The tenth man, Jackson Lasiter, was already out of the competition. They’d decided they were better off friends. He’d be arriving later that night and joining in, but more as a spy to tell her what was going on when she wasn’t around than an actual contestant.
“Our last contestant will be arriving tomorrow, but tonight I’ve put together a party in the garden so everyone can get to know each other better.” Eva announced. “So if you’ll follow me.”
Get the rest of Rhyme's Reason (Part One) Death of a Friend on Kindle now. It's only $0.99 or FREE with Kindle Unlimited here.
And if you haven't read Rayne's Thunder, check out the complete serial here or each individual installment on the list below.
Part One (Master Chef)
Part Two (The Veterinarian)
Part Three (The Politician and the Witches)
Part Four (Mating Games)
Part Five (The Battle Begins and the Games Continue)
Part Six (Alpha's Call)
You can also get the complete serial in a box set here.
Check out my other paranormal series on my website here.
Looking for an awesome deal? Get the Paranormal Affairs Box Set here. It includes 11 full length novels and novellas from 11 of my highly rated series. Hours and hours of romance, page turning action, and twisted adventures.