Welcome to the Preternatural Pacific Northwest, where fairies, werewolves, and all sorts of strange creatures live in secret, right alongside humanity. Empathy in the PPNW is Urban Fantasy with a chick-lit feel. If you can relate to sarcasm in the face of hardship, loving cupcakes, and having a best friend you'd do anything for, you'll love following Gwen and her friends.
Why are there two monsters in Gwen Arthur's office?
She's just a therapist who likes reality TV, junk food, and not getting hit on by Mel, the werewolf PI who works in her building. By all accounts, these two creeps should want as little to do with her as she does with them. And yet somehow she finds herself standing next to her best friend Chloe, being asked to help rescue some missing kids, by two creatures she thought existed only in her nightmares.
She's gotta do it, right? What sort of jerk would just ignore a bunch of kidnapped children? Not this kind of jerk. Gwen may be a gluttonous coward whose only skill is reading the emotions of those around her, but she can shape up long enough to help save the lives of innocent kids. Even if it does force her to face her own fears, treat Mel like a decent person, and stop cramming cake in her mouth long enough to get it done.
You only turn twenty-nine once, and these birthday cupcakes weren't gonna eat themselves. Or, if they were, I was damn well going to beat them to it.
There's an assassin in town trying to catch a murderer, a lovesick werewolf trying to get lucky, and Gwen Arthur still has a mysterious magical marauder stealing her sugar stash. On top of all that, Gwen's estranged ex-husband Stanley's in town asking for a favor. She's got to help, of course, if only to ease her guilt over how they left things a decade earlier. Too bad she's got no idea how to deal with a rogue admirer writing him weird letters, sending gifts to his home, and threatening to show up at a convention full of his beige-clad, sugar-eschewing fans.
Once again, Gwen's got to step out of her comfort zone to confront strange situations, learn closely held secrets about her friends, and—worst of all—hit on her worst enemy. Gwen thought her life couldn't get any stranger, but things are getting hot now that summer's hit Seattle.
I'm not the heroine in a preternatural romance novel; I don't need this shit.
"Will you marry me?" Mel asks, making Gwen suspect maybe his presence has finally given her an aneurism. Of course she won't, she thinks, before he offers her the most delicious cupcake she's ever eaten.
Hang on, she reconsiders, maybe this could work.
Mel's not completely sure it can work either, but he's got a problem that Gwen seems unusually suited to solving. There's a shady marriage counselor that bears investigating and seeing as how Gwen's a therapist herself—and an empath—her help could be just what Mel needs.
The only downside for them both is that, despite no longer totally hating each other's guts, now they've got to play nice. Not completely nice, luckily; no couple goes to counseling because they get along too well.
Gwen always knew spending a week with Mel would nearly kill her.
"As much as I gripe, I know he's a good guy under all the teasing and the—the—" I paused, unsure how to explain it to someone who didn't live in my head. Finally, lacking the words, I mimed brutally stabbing myself in the neck.
Gwen's back home for the worst birthday of her life.
Yes, it's nice to see her family, great to get presents, and exciting to find that her uncomplicated, unlabeled friend with benefits just so happens to be in the area. But her mother loves feeding her vegetables, Gwen can't go two minutes without fighting with her father, and her bed buddy is also a mercenary in town on some dangerous business.
Not only has something in the forest has been kidnapping hikers, but there's a weird flu going around that seems suspiciously resistant to hot tea and cold medicine. Shops are closing, streets are emptying, and Gwen's on the case, whether she likes it or not.
What was supposed to be a relaxing vacation has turned into a nightmare of midnight treks through the woods, grumpy sasquatches, and a rival mercenary who may be more trouble than whatever has it out for the townsfolk.
At least there's cake.
My brain and my eyes were disagreeing over what was going on, but my empathy didn't care about their argument. It knew these weren't imagined; I could tell this wasn't a pack of kids stacked on top of each other, wearing a gorilla costume. These were the real thing; I was actually close enough to a bigfoot to see the rough fur along its grumpy face.
If you want more Gwen but just, like, a little more for now because maybe you've got places to be and want to read a whole story in a few minutes rather than a few hours, then I've got good news for you!
Amazon doesn't allow you to upload books directly as Free Reads, so these shorts are not currently free there. You can find them on another site (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc) and report its price (to Amazon) as FREE there and they claim they will price match. It hasn't happened yet, so forgive me if you go to Amazon hoping for a free book and they try to charge you a dollar.
Bone to Pick
"I'm a wizard," says the girl with the rainbow hair. Not ten seconds ago, Gwen thought eating lettuce was going to be the worst part of her day. Now there's a stranger in her office eating her chocolate and trying to pay her five hundred bucks to help steal something.
Might as well give it a shot, Gwen figures. At least it'll get the girl's charred fingertips out of the candy dish.
Mel Somerset's had a bad week. The kind of week where everything goes wrong. The kind of week where you can't properly grow eyebrows and a woman gets shot to death in your living room. The kind of week where nothing feels real except the sting of loneliness and the fading smell of blood. The kind of week where you can't go home, and you can barely remember where you left your wallet.
The kind of week where you're in no shape to seek comfort in the arms of another. Mel's a man in need, a down on his luck werewolf who can't seem to catch a break. Even holed up in his brother's home, a house full of love, he feels empty inside, lost and abandoned. He needs distraction, a purpose. He needs the case offered up out of the blue by his high school crush, Roxanne. She's got problems and only this busted gumshoe can solve them.
Flesh and Blood takes place right after Business With Pleasure
A kiss from a lovely stranger, a surprise houseguest, an ill-gotten meal, and an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach: It's been a strange day for Stanley Sneedley.
Poppy is a whirlwind of inappropriate caresses, flirtatious winks, and double-talk, but Stanley still can't help but say yes when she asks for his help. She's on the run from dangerous men, after all, and Stan can't bear to leave her to be found and possibly captured. He's a gentleman above all, and no amount of her suggestive glances from this damsel will change that.
As the night wears on, however, Stan realizes that perhaps Poppy's not being entirely truthful about why she's in trouble and how she plans to get out of it. Perhaps inviting her into his home meant asking for a lot more than just a friendly dinner date.
The Writer's Overnighter takes place after Business With Pleasure, with no specific relation to the rest of Gwen's series other than sharing the 'verse and Stan.
Despite how things went last time Gwen agreed to help Mel on a case, she gives into the bribe he offers and agrees to let him drag her through miles of gravestones and gobs of mud on a freezing, stormy night. It's not for nothing, at least: Mel's been hired by a rich couple to locate their stubborn kid and drag him home, even if he kicks and screams the whole way. Mel's a werewolf, after all; he can handle a steel-toe to the gut if it comes to that. It's only after Gwen's fingers are numb and her patience is strained that she realizes Mel may not be the only dangerous creature out there among the tombstones.
A cemetery, a necromancer, and the promise of a boatload of cupcakes: Gwen Arthur's about to have a very interesting Halloween.