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Midlife Mate

Midlife Mate

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When my beloved librarian job becomes a victim of budget cuts and my husband decides it’s time to trade me in for a newer, sleeker model, I should be depressed.
But instead, I’m excited.
I finally have a chance to break out of my shell and apply to be a contestant on 
The Real Werewives of Colorado. Never did I expect one of those cowboy wolf shifters to choose me from my audition tape, but Mason Hemmings thinks I’m his forever mate.
Problem is, I’ve been thinking like a mom and a librarian for so long I don’t know how to be sexy anymore. But Mason makes me want to take chances. Get familiar with my long-neglected wild side. Mason’s been caught between two worlds too. Some of the unruliest wolves in the pack think he should be alpha, and he needs to blaze his own trail. He’s willing to make all my dreams come true—including giving me carte blanche to rebuild the pack library.
This wolf has fallen head over spurs for me, and the feeling is mutual. But when that wild side that’s come out since I arrived in Colorado threatens to take everything from us, our episode goes from fantasy to reality. Fast. Will our new little family be able to bring the pack together and save Colorado Ranch?
The Real Werewives for this fun and STEAMY season on Colorado Ranch and follow each couple as they find true love after forty.

Main Tropes

  • Growly, protective wolf shifter
  • Smokin' hot hero over 40
  • Cowboys
  • Curvy single mom starting over
  • Dating Reality Show
  • Fated Mates

Read Chapter One

“The queen handed the maiden the sword. ‘Your brave battle has earned you a place on the royal court. May you never have to defend the castle again.’ The villagers cheered as the maiden
accepted the gift. For tonight, they could sleep well, knowing the dragon had been defeated.”

I closed the book and smiled at the screen. This had been my ritual for the last three years. My reward for every story I read online was the dreamy faces of the little ones who tuned in every
night. “I hope everyone has sweet dreams about magic and maidens who never take no for an answer.”

Some of these kids had a lot on
their minds, and I was no stranger to sleepless nights, tossing and turning while I tried to solve my own problems. My hope was that I could give them a little peace.

Most of my audience had signed off, but one person remained.

Bianca, my ten-year-old daughter.

I missed her so much it hurt to see her on the screen. I’d only been at Colorado Ranch for a little over a week, but she already looked so much older than when I left her in San Diego.

“Hey, Bee. It’s been a while since
you’ve tuned in for one of my bedtime stories.” She used to sit with me while I read, but ever since I got divorced, she decided she was too cool for that. She
didn’t need me to read for her anymore.

“It’s too early for bed.”

“It’s never too early for a good
story.” At least she’d inherited my love of books. I was doing something right.

“Grammy says if you were a doctor, you wouldn’t be on the show right now.”

My laugh surprised her. Absolutely nothing had changed since I’d left to become a contestant on The Real
Werewives of Colorado
. Good to know. “It’s kind of late for me to be a doctor, kiddo.”

Bianca furrowed her brow. “Why?”

“Well, to be a doctor, you have to
go to school for a really long time, and I already did that for something completely different. So I’d have ten years of just college. And then like another four years after that of studying in a hospital.”

“Oh.” She wrinkled her nose in
disgust. “I didn’t know that.”

“Is Grammy trying to talk you into
being a doctor too?”

 “She didn’t tell me there would be so much school.”

“Speaking of that, how’s school
going?” I’d had a hard time getting her to open up lately. It was the reason I almost didn’t become a Real Werewife. My girl needed me, whether she was ready to admit it or not. And this was a make or break time. One wrong move and I could lose her trust, and those wounds would be slow to heal.

“It’s okay.” She wouldn’t make eye contact with me.

“Just okay? Is anything going on
that’s making it not great?”

“No.” Still not looking at me. “I
didn’t get invited to Riley’s birthday party.”

I could feel that gut punch all the
way in Colorado. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s no big deal.”

Yeah, right. “Maybe I can make it
up to you. I’d love to have you come visit me in Colorado. We’re staying on a real ranch. There are tons of animals here. We could go horseback riding.”

The light in her eyes was short-lived.

“There’s a big pool too. With a
slide. As soon as you’re done with school, you can come visit.” That was a dangerous promise. In the short time I’d been at Colorado Ranch, life was proving to be chaotic here. After all, we were filming a reality show. No one
would tune in if there wasn’t any drama. And the wolves on this ranch played for keeps, which was the whole reason I was here. Which meant if all went well,
I’d be staying, and eventually Bianca would be too. “I have to go do stuff for the show now. Can we talk tomorrow? I have an idea. Will you pick my next book
for me? If you love it, the other kids will too.”

She nodded, and my heart was heavy when I powered the laptop down. I had to keep reminding myself The Real Werewives meant freedom for both of us. A brand-new start. And tonight, I had a date with a cowboy wolf shifter named Mason who thought I might belong to him forever.

No pressure or anything.

He’d chosen me in hopes that I
could help him save this beautiful ranch. As soon as I learned what was on the line for this pack—The Real Werewives specialized in connections of the shifter variety—I went into full librarian mode trying to figure out how I could help them save their land. If there was a loophole in a generations-old treaty that was about to expire. Budget cuts may have cost me my job, but I
still had full access to the networks of information that made libraries magical. Unfortunately, there was very little available in human databases about any pack. Some generic stuff that barely scraped the surface, but nothing that
could prepare me for what I could expect walking into this strange and fascinating new world.

Even though everyone knew shifters existed, they’d done a damn good job keeping their business private. Which
meant they were hitting the panic button by turning to The Real Werewives
to solve their problems.

“You look amazing,” Stephanie, our producer, said when I came downstairs. It was her goal to make our path from strangers to forever mates as seamless as possible, and film all the down and dirty details along the way.

“Thanks.” I’d had no idea what to
wear tonight. All I knew was Mason wanted to bring me into Sunset Springs, the little town closest to the ranch. Otherwise, I’d said it was okay to surprise
me. Maybe not the best move on my first date—not only with this man, but since my divorce, and with a camera crew. The pressure was already on, so I decided
to go casual—my favorite pair of jeans and a patterned wrap top that plunged so low my cheeks burned every time I caught sight of my own cleavage.

“We have time for a quick trip to the confessional.” Stephanie motioned for me to follow her into the room of the lobby of the ski chalet that had become Werewife HQ for the season. I sat in the chair the rest of the contestants had dubbed the hot seat, and she adjusted
the microphone over my head. She nodded at the monitors in confirmation. “How are you feeling tonight? Remember, the viewers will only hear you, not me.”

My conversation with Bianca still
swirled in my head, along with the usual doubts and vulnerability. Who the hell did I think I was to go snag some hot cowboy on a TV show? I was forty-two years old.

“I can’t stop looking at my boobs.” I laughed. “I’ve been in mom- and librarian-mode for so long I’m not sure I know how to be sexy anymore.”

“Don’t try to be anything you’re
not.” Stephanie swore she wasn’t supposed to give advice, but she always did. She wanted these pairings to work out. Not because the concept of her show
depended on it, but because she genuinely cared about all of us. “Mason’s wolf chose you. He can see through any façade you throw up. Remember, if this works out, it’s forever. That’s a long time to pretend to be someone else.”

The forever thing made my heart
pound every time it was mentioned. That was how long I thought my first marriage
would last, and here I was, back at square one. “Was that a question?”

“Just a little coaching.” She
grinned. “Don’t stress yourself out about what you’re not. What made you want to be a Real Werewife?”

“I came to The Real Werewives
to find out who I am. I’m sick of people telling me what I can’t do.” I didn’t expect those words to come out of my mouth. They didn’t call it the confessional for nothing. “My ex-husband told me I wasn’t good enough, my job
told me they didn’t have enough money to pay me, and my parents insist none of this would be happening if I’d listened to them and become a doctor. So this show is a chance to explore my possibilities and see what’s out there when I stop living by everyone else’s rules.”

Stephanie whistled low. “Damn. That was good. Okay. Tell me how Mason Hemmings fits into that mix.”

“Mason chose me from my audition tape.” My heart stuttered when I said it out loud. “It’s like the ending in one of the books I’m reluctant to read to my bedtime crew because I don’t want them to rely on a man to solve their problems. But this doesn’t feel like that. It feels like he’s giving me a key to a new life.”

“Is that what you call them, your
bedtime crew?”

“The Bedtime Bunch.” I smiled. No matter what happened in my life, those kids stuck by me. The faces changed over time, but my stories always drew a loyal crowd. “I’m not sure how I’ll make a
sexy reality show fit in with being a kids’ librarian.”

“We’ll make it work. We always do. You’re not the first mom to become a Real Werewife. How do you think that will make things different with you and Mason?”

“He’s not just dating me. Every
decision I make, I have my daughter in mind. I just told her she could be anything she wanted to be.” I sighed. “This is scary. I haven’t dated anyone in
a long time.”

“Nerves are good. It means you
care.” Stephanie looked down at her phone. “Right now, there’s a hot wolf waiting for you in town. Are you ready for him?”

“If I wait ‘til I’m ready, we’ll be
here for a while.” I laughed. “Let’s do this.”

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