Have you picked up your copy of Healing Christmas yet?
Amy hummed along to the Christmas music as she worked the wire and beads in her hand. She hated the overzealous songs, but her mind seemed to want to sing along with them anyway. Whatever. She’d be glad when the holiday was over. Christmas was the worst holiday ever. She loved winter though, snow especially.
As if to mock her, the air conditioning blew down on her, sending a cold chill zipping up her spine. At least she could pretend it was winter while in the store. Outside it was in the eighties. Ten years in Hawaii and she still couldn’t get used to the winters—or lack thereof.
“Are you sure you don’t mind locking up?” Celia asked as she strode by, slipping her purse onto her shoulder.
“Yeah. I’m fine,” Amy said, shooing her friend away.
“You know you can come to the ceremony, right?” Celia offered for the billionth time. “Everyone on the island will be there. I’m sure no one will notice if we close an hour early.”
Amy shook her head. “Thanks, but no.”
Celia sighed and came to the counter, leaning over the glass. She reached out and placed a warm hand on top of Amy’s. “You should get out and have fun,” she coaxed. “It’s Christmas and what better way to start off the holiday than watching the tree lighting ceremony. I’m going to a party afterwards, too. When’s the last time you let loose?”
Amy licked her lips and continued to work on the bracelet. She didn’t let loose—ever. Crowds bothered her. Christmas was a horrible reminder of all the bad things that had happened to her. Put the two together and you had a bad combination. “You know that’s not my thing.” God love Celia, but the two of them couldn’t be any more different if they tried.
Celia’s shoulders sagged and she let out an exasperated breath. “If you change your mind…” she trailed off.
“I’ll call,” she promised. Not that she was going to change her mind. She wouldn’t be caught dead in that chaos.
“Everyone is going to be there, including Mason and Rhea,” Celia tried again.
Amy quirked her brow at the mention of her brother, but continued to work on her beading. Mason always grumbled about going to the Christmas functions, but he would do anything to appease his wife and mate, Rhea.
Celia groaned and took a step back. “Still can’t change your mind, huh?”
Amy chuckled and shook her head. Nothing anyone said could make her go to the Christmas tree ceremony. She didn’t care if all of Honolulu was there. Solitude in the safety of the shop sounded much more appealing.
Celia let out another dramatic huff. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she said defeated.
“Be safe,” Amy said quietly, glancing up at her friend for the first time. Celia was a werewolf like Amy and the rest of their family, but Celia was too careless sometimes.
“I always am.” She grinned as she walked out the door.
The bell chimed loudly, sending a series of dings chirping through the store. Amy stared at the glass opening as it gently slipped closed. Her heart ached as Celia drove off and she closed her eyes. It’d been ten years. She loved that her friend and family hadn’t given up on her, but in some ways she wished they would. She didn’t trust people. The less she was around them the better. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone coming into the shop tonight. The entire city would be downtown. She could work in peace.
Amy returned to her beading. It was one of the only things that calmed her. Out of all the women, she was the only one that made jewelry. She’d gotten good at it through the years.
Her hand reached for a new bead, but none of the ornate purple and white swirls were atop the glass. She sighed, setting her work down on the counter and walked to the back to find another batch of the pretty beads.
The storage area was dark and the light bulb had burned out months ago. Not that it mattered; she closed her eyes, and called upon her inner wolf. Within seconds her eyes flitted into that of a wolf’s. She peered her eyes open. Everything was illuminated, similar to if she were wearing night vision goggles. Being part wolf had its perks.
She shuffled around boxes until she made her way to the shelf that held her supplies. As she was reaching for her beads, a series of dings tolled through the shop. Crap. Who was here?
A series of laughs rung through the front of the store as a few men joked with each other.
“Merry Christmas to us, guys,” a gruff voice called out.
“I bet we can sell this stuff quickly and make a pretty penny, too,” another announced.
“Check the cash register,” another hollered.
Amy swallowed as a lump formed in her throat. No, no, no. Why was this happening? Christmas—that’s why. Her heart pounded against her ribs and her pulse roared in her ears. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled.
Glass shattered and another series of laughs and hollers tore through the silence. Tears pricked her eyes and she covered her mouth to keep from whimpering. Her feet stumbled over a box, causing her to fall against a shelf. Items crashed to the floor. A box of beads erupted, sending the contents bouncing across the storeroom. She winced at the loud noise. Whoever was out there would’ve heard it. Wolves were supposed to be graceful, not klutzy.
Footsteps pounded against the carpet as a few of the intruders flocked to the back. They’re coming. Think. She had to do something. Her limbs were rubbery, refusing to move, and her brain seemed to have stopped working. Like a deer in headlights, she stood, rooted in her spot.
“Well, what do we have here,” a man chuckled as he shone a flashlight in her direction.
As Amy took a step back, her foot slipped out from under her, landing on beads. Her legs flew over her head and she gasped as the wind rushed out of her lungs as her back flopped to the ground. Her head bashed against a shelf and dots blurred her vision. Stay awake. Don’t pass out. God only knows what they’ll do.
Her mishap caused the men to laugh harder. They jogged toward her. Amy flailed, quickly hopping to her feet. Fight back. Don’t let them touch you. Her skin crawled just thinking about their grimy fingers on her flesh.
She snarled, using her quick reflexes to shove the first man away from her. He reeled back, falling on his ass. Even if her brain was fuzzy, at least her reflexes were kicking in. She knew how to fight all too well. Mason had made sure she could defend herself. There was no reason for her to act like a flake. Terror did funny things to people though. She needed to focus.
Her eyes were still shifted, giving her an advantage. She kicked out with her left foot, catching one of her attacker’s in the jaw. Take that!
“Enough,” a man yelled. A click sounded and Amy froze as a silver barrel was leveled at her face.
This close, it was unlikely he’d miss and he was too far away for her to charge him, not without him firing first. She’d never been shot before and would like to keep it that way.
“Aren’t you a spry thing?” the man said, cocking his head at her. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”
Amy gritted her teeth. Her wolf’s eyes were most likely glowing. Humans didn’t know shifters existed. It was a secret. One she needed to keep.
“Get her and bring her out front,” the man holding the gun instructed to the two she’d attacked.
The two men grumbled beneath their breath as they warily approached her. Amy bit her lip to keep from crying out as the man she’d pushed wrapped an arm around her. She shivered as his beer breath assaulted her sensitive nose. Nausea rolled in her belly and she closed her eyes. Just do what they say until you get an opportunity to fight back.
“Move, bitch,” he instructed, thrusting her forward.
The man she’d kicked reached out, snatching her long, wavy, dirty blonde locks in his hand and wrenching her to him. “You are going to pay for this,” he sneered as he pointed to his bloodied lip.
Amy’s body tensed. How was she going to pay for this? She didn’t want to wait and find out.
Smack! Pain ripped through the side of her face and Amy cried out at the unexpected assault.
“Where is the safe?” the man holding the gun snapped.
Amy blinked. How did he get so close to me? Damn it, she needed to pay better attention. Breathe in and out. Don’t let them fluster you.
Another slap sent her head whirling to the side. Coppery warmth flooded her mouth and she spat blood at the man holding the gun.
The cool metal of the gun pressed against her forehead as the man used his free hand to swipe away the blood spattered across his face. “The safe,” he repeated.
Money wasn’t worth dying over. Maybe they’d take the money and products and leave. She could only hope. “In the office, behind the painting,” she lisped. There wasn’t really anything in there. Catalina had made a trip to the bank before she left for the day. “Just take it and go.”
“She’s seen our faces,” the man holding her acknowledged. His nasty breath puffed against her neck and she shivered, trying to shrink away from him.
“I won’t say anything. I promise,” she said, squeezing her eyes shut.
“That so?” the man in front of her asked as he trailed the gun down to her temple, across her cheek, and rested it on the tip of her chin.
Amy swallowed, unable to open her eyes. “Yes.”
“Such a pretty face,” the man said quietly. “Have your fun with her, then kill her,” he told his counterparts.
Amy’s eyes flew open as a hand groped her right breast. God no! Anything, but that. Panic and anger surged through her. She wouldn’t be a victim again. The man with the gun turned toward the office. Fight back! Now! Her nails lengthened into claws without her calling upon her wolf. She drove her hand back and jammed them into the man’s thigh, raking them up.
He howled, pinching her breast harder. Amy wiggled in his grasp as the gun-toting maniac whirled back to her. His finger curled tighter around the trigger as she flailed, desperate to get free of her captor.
A loud crackle and scream ripped through the air. Oh crap, this was it.