Gideon - Book cover


Nicole Riddley

22-year-old Layla is the only human in her family of werewolves. Desperate for independence, she lands a job cleaning the penthouse of a mysterious billionaire. When a mesmerizing smell hypnotizes her, Layla crawls into his bed… naked… When 200-year-old Lord Gideon Archer, the head advisor to the Lycan royal family, gets home from work, the last thing he expects to find tangled in his sheets is his mate. Can Gideon protect Layla from the dangers that come with his high profile world?

Age Rating: 18+ (Attempted Rape, Kidnapping)

Different Worlds


“Lord Archer!”

I turn at the sound of my name to see Alistair Pembroke facing me, looking flushed and a little drunk.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he says like he’s trying to be cute.

Or maybe just a prick.

Alistair’s a social climber and a billionaire, and he desperately wants to get closer to the royal family. He’d shit his pants if he knew the crown prince was here in California.

He takes my hand, then pounds me on the back while he shakes it—like we’re old pals. I can’t stand guys like him.

“And Ms. Helen Aristophanes,” he says, turning to my date. “The pleasure is mine.”

The really fucked-up part? He’s had sex with her. More than once. While she was mine.

“Mr. Pembroke.” Helen gives him one of her sultry smiles as she offers him her hand, and he scans her body before lifting it to his lips.

“So…” He looks over at me, still holding Helen’s hand. “What brings the legendary Lord Archer here tonight? I never expected to see you among humans.” He finally lets go of her hand.

I shove my own hands into my pockets and glance around the room, in no hurry to respond. Let him wait.

The gala is in full swing: champagne, live music, men in thousand-dollar suits, women in designer dresses. And the place is crawling with humans.

Besides the three of us, I’ve counted only two other lycans here tonight. Pembroke probably brought them himself, part of his security detail. Or maybe friends of his.

“I’m here for the same reason we all are,” I say. “To support the charity.”

“Of course.” He sounds a little disappointed.

A woman sidles up to Pembroke. “There you are! Alistair, honey, aren’t you going to introduce us?” She plants her eyes squarely on mine.

“Lord Archer, let me introduce you to my beautiful date, Ms. Juana Vega. Juana, this is Lord Archer and his stunning date, Helen Aristophanes.”

“His stunning partner,” Helen says, curling her fingers around my arm.

Juana’s eyes brighten. “Oh my, you’re Lord Archer,” she breathes. She looks over at Alistair. “You never told me you knew Lord Archer.”

I hold out my hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Vega.”

She looks starstruck as she takes it. “The pleasure is all mine!”

Helen’s grip tightens around my biceps, and I have to resist the urge to shake her off. She and I need to have a talk. Soon.

Pembroke gestures to the VIP section at the front. “You must sit with us.”

“I’m afraid we won’t be staying.”

“Oh, do stay. Please. The floor will be cleared soon for dancing.”

Pembroke must have a hard-on right now, thinking he’s so close to getting an introduction to the royal family.

“I wish I could, but I have work to do.” I’m such a cocktease.

“Darling, you’re always working,” Helen says. “And the party looks like fun.”

She’s making that pouty face I’ve grown to despise. Pembroke probably finds it a turn-on.

“You know very well we have a reservation,” I tell her, then excuse us.


At the restaurant, Helen continues to sulk while we wait for our food.

I made her my companion nearly five years ago, and even though she was entertaining back then, I made it very clear that if I ever found my erasthai, our relationship would be over. No hard feelings.

And it’s not like we’ve been all that close these last five years. She’s often away for months. Once, for nearly a year.

She says she likes to spend time in Mykonos where her parents live. I doubt that, but I don’t ask her where she goes and she doesn’t ask me where I go. That part of the relationship has always worked well.

I can’t remember exactly when I stopped enjoying her company, but it was a long time ago.

The last straw, though, was when she started getting flirty with the crown prince. I take working for the royal family very seriously, and messing with my job is the one thing I won’t tolerate.

Caspian is happily paired, and that’s not going to end on my account.

I may have given up on finding my own erasthai, but I still need to find a companion I can trust. Someone I genuinely like.

For a lycan, an erasthai is more than your other half, they’re your match, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Even if it’s not love at first sight, you feel a pull deep inside, and you know you’ll develop a love for them so deep, it’s a life bond. Your obsession. Your life. Your everything.

“I heard there’ll be a mating ceremony at Banehallow Palace,” Helen says, interrupting my thoughts. “The crown prince is flying his pack back to Russia for it, and I’m sure we’re invited. It’s going to be a ball to die for.”

“I don’t think we’ll be going.”

She pouts again. “You’re such a workaholic.”

I sip my wine and try to pick up my thoughts from where I left them, but she interrupts me again.

“It’s just as well, since I’ve heard rumors he’s going to reject Quincy. She’s not pretty enough to be a queen, don’t you think?”

That’s ridiculous. Helen knows Quincy St. Martin is stunning. In fact, she was the only woman I found intriguing enough to consider as a mate. Too bad she’s the crown prince’s erasthai and my future queen.

“I’m bored,” Helen whines. “We’re in LA—I want to go out.”

“Very well. When we’re done, take the car. I’ll get a ride to the penthouse.”

I have no doubt she’ll go straight to Alistair, but I’ll be relieved to be rid of her. I could use some time alone.

I consider telling her to not bother coming back. But Helen is not someone who’ll take getting dumped well, and I’d like to avoid a scene.

Maybe I can sweeten her up with an expensive gift first. She loves expensive gifts.


When I get home, I take off my jacket and pour myself a lowball.

“Home” is a 5,000 square foot penthouse with fifteen-foot ceilings and a perfect view of the Pacific. But I travel all over the world for my job, so, nice as this is, it’s just a temporary residence.

Sometimes I’m a negotiator, sometimes I’m just given a command, but my official job title is “emissary to the king of lycans and werewolves.”

The king jokingly calls me his messenger boy. I call myself his most trusted messenger boy.

As I take out my laptop, my phone buzzes in my pocket. It’s my friend Louis.

“Gideon! Where are you, man?” He sounds drunk.

“I’m out in LA. Where are you?”

“Ibiza, but I’m done working.”

I check my pocket watch. It’s almost midnight, so nine in the morning in Ibiza. “The party never ends, does it?”

He chuckles. “Some of us like to live a little. You should try it.”

“I enjoy my work.”

“Yeah, so you keep saying. LA sounds like fun. I’ll come visit you.”

“Don’t bother. I’ll be leaving for Lisbon in a couple of days. You want to meet there?”

“Sounds great. Let me know when you land. It’s a short flight for me,” he says, then hangs up.


I stare into the restroom mirror, hating what I see.

It’s not that I look ugly. Just the opposite. The flowing pink dress my mom insisted I wear looks beautiful, as do the touches of makeup she applied.

However, I wanted to wear an ugly cat sweater and keep my hair up in a frizzy bun. But my mom wouldn’t allow it, not when “this might be the night you find your mate, Layla.”

There’s a knock on the door, and I hear Carmen’s voice outside.

“Layla, everybody’s here. We’re going to the table.”


I wash my hands and try to mentally prepare myself for the night I have to endure.

But as I walk to the door, I can feel the familiar knot in the pit of my stomach intensify. I plaster a smile onto my face and turn the handle.

Surprise! When I open the door, my sister-in-law is standing next to my mom’s latest attempt at matchmaking, her friend’s son Kofi. I have to fight to stop my face from falling.

“You look beautiful tonight, Layla,” Carmen says. “Don’t you think she looks beautiful, Kofi?”

Kofi grins and his eyes slide down to my chest. “She always looks beautiful.”

God help me. I suppress a groan.

He’s gross, but my mom and grandmother are convinced he’s my future mate. I’ve told them over and over to stop their incessant quest to set me up, but it only seems to make them more insistent.

I’m only half werewolf—my mom is a human—so when I was born, no one knew if I’d be able to find a mate like a normal werewolf. And after twenty-two years with no sign of him, I think it’s fair to say he’s not coming.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll be alone forever. No matter what my mom says.

Without asking, Kofi slips a hand behind my back and steers me across the restaurant after Carmen.

I can feel his hand slide down toward my ass, but I was expecting it, so without breaking my smile, I grab his hand and pull it back up to my waist.

When we reach the table where my mom and grandma are waiting, I see immediately that my grandmother has taken my seat, forcing me to sit next to Kofi.

“Grandma, your seat is right there.” I gently push her toward her usual chair, but she refuses to budge.

“Ouch, my hip! I don’t think I can get up. I swear, I might need a new hip soon. Now, what was that, Layla dear?”

I try to talk myself out of murdering my eighty-seven-year-old grandma—my mom’s mom, so a human like me—who’s been living with us since my grandpa died ten years ago.

She’s a crafty old lady who’s as fit as a fiddle, but she shamelessly pretends to suffer every ailment known to man to get her way.

I sigh and sit down next to Kofi, who immediately rests his hand on my thigh under the table. I shoot him an “I’ll kill you” look and he removes it.

The rest of my family sits down too: my dad; my younger sister, Maya, and her newly found mate, Abraham; and my older brother, Kaleb.

“So, Layla dear, did you hear back from Frank?” my grandmother asks when everybody is seated.

I force myself not to roll my eyes. Not content to attempt to control my love life, my grandmother recently insisted I apply for a job at her friend’s company.

She wants to get me back on pack territory. No one in my family understands why I moved away to the city for university, nor why I insist on paying my own bills by working part-time as a maid for wealthy werewolves.

But after I gave up looking for a mate, I was in a bad place. I needed to control something in my life or the pain would overcome me. So I moved out.

It hasn’t really worked, though. I still lie awake most nights thinking about the mate I’ll never know and wishing I could rip out the werewolf half of me so I no longer have to worry about this stupid desire.

Mates are overrated. Really. If only I could convince my heart of that.

The waitress comes over to take our orders, and before I can ask for the steak I always get, Kofi orders me the leafy greens salad.

What an asshole! What does my mom see in him?

“So,” he says, leaning too close and staring at me with those bright green eyes. “What do you want to do for our date next week?”

“We don’t have a date next week,” I say, turning away from him. Unfortunately for me, he doesn’t seem to get the message.

“Oh? You want to cut right to the chase and come over to my place instead?”

That’s it! I’m going to kick Kofi in the balls—

But he’s saved at the last minute when my phone buzzes. I pick it up and see it’s my boss, Beth, werewolf and owner Elly Maid’s Cleaning Service.

BethI need you to cover a high-priority shift.

I stifle a groan. I’m always covering shifts at work and it’s getting ridiculous. I spend more time cleaning other people’s bedrooms than I spend in my own bedroom.

LaylaWho is it?
BethSomeone important. That’s all you need to know.
BethI need you to clean his penthouse on Monday.


Kofi puts his arm around me as we leave the restaurant, and I want to shrug it off and punch him in the gut. But my mom and grandma are watching.

Ever since Maya found her mate seven months ago, they’ve doubled their effort to set me up with guys, especially Kofi. The torture is real.

“Oh, how sweet,” Grandma coos. I send her a glare, but she continues. “You two would make beautiful babies together.”

Shoot me. Just shoot me now.

“Did I tell you that I want at least ten grandkids?”

I know they all pity me, but I think my mom is joining in the fun just to torture me.

I mean, even my grandmother has a boyfriend. Yep, that’s right, Grandma’s getting more action than me. A twenty-two-year-old woman is getting less action than her eighty-seven-year-old grandmother.

How sad is that?

When we get home and sit down in the dining room, my sister takes Abraham’s hand and starts talking softly to him and giggling, reminding me why I chose to move out.

Pretty soon Kaleb and Carmen will be acting all cute too, and even my mom and dad will be whispering to each other.

It’s PDA central around here.

The only thing that could make this worse is Grandma bringing her boyfriend around and acting the same way.

Ugh! The image of that sears my brain.

Kofi takes my hand in his. “Layla, you really do look pretty. I appreciate the effort you made to look extra nice for me tonight.”

Oh no, he didn’t

I feel Kofi’s fingers sliding over the back of my hand and swat them away. His hand retreats, for now, but Carmen peeks around my brother to give me the look.

You know, that look. The one that says I’ll be in trouble later if she reports me to my mom.

However, when I promised Mom this morning that I’d give Kofi a chance, that did not include groping or romantic hand-holding.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is playing, and I’m ~trying~ to concentrate on what’s happening on the screen.

Carmen’s been in my family for over ten years now, so she’s like my own sister, though an annoying one most of the time. She means well, but she’s as meddlesome as everybody else in my family.

Kofi tries to put his arm around my shoulder, and when I smack it away, Carmen shoots me another warning glance.

Ugh. I didn’t want to come, but since I caved, once again, the least they could do is let me enjoy the movie.

But noooo… Mr. Grabby Hands wants to be all touchy-feely.

I still regret telling my family at breakfast that I’d be leaving right after lunch to go back to the city.

Mom immediately slid a glance at Carmen, and then Carmen casually “suggested” that Kofi and I should go on a double date with her and Kaleb.

I should have known they would join forces and should have snuck out before breakfast. I blame it all on my tummy.

At first I stood my ground and refused to partake in their crazy matchmaking scheme, but then they brought out the big guns: my dad.

He raved about how lucky I was that a gamma like Kofi was interested in me when so many other unmated werewolf women were interested in him.

According to Kofi himself.

Next he tried to make me feel guilty for moving out and living so far away from the pack.

Only half an hour away.

Then he recounted how his friends’ kids my age are all mated with babies, and how the babies of their babies are having babies soon.

Eek! Not true! I’m only in my twenties, for heaven’s sake.

Finally, he went on and on about how his heart and lungs and kidneys or whatever other organ he could think of were going to collapse due to the stress I put him under by not being mated and taken care of.

Drama queen much?

So…I agreed to the date. What can I say? He’s a bit extra…and I’m a pushover.

I could hear Grandma snickering in the background when I gave in. I swear, that octogenarian lives for my suffering.

When the credits start to roll, I slump in my seat. And—after countless hand slaps and endless glares from Carmen—I finally give in and let Kofi hold my limp hand.

Everybody looks happy by the time we all walk out of the movie theater. Well, everybody except me. I don’t even know if the movie was any good.

Kofi places a hand on the small of my back and smiles triumphantly at my brother and Carmen.

I roll my eyes. Whatever.

When we reach the concession stand, I’m still letting him hold my hand. It’s not like I’m going to be mated to him tomorrow…right?

“Hey, Carmen!” somebody yells from the crowd of people lining up to buy tickets and snacks.

“Oh, my gosh, you guys!” she yells back excitedly. “What are you doing here?”

We trail behind Carmen as she runs to hug her friends, and I resist the temptation to roll my eyes…again. They’re obviously here to watch a movie. Duh! I bet the last time they saw each other was this morning.

This theater is in a small town, a neutral zone, just outside the pack’s territory. There are many humans, but younger werewolves from our pack and the neighboring packs come here to hang out for dinner, see a movie, or go clubbing.

“Hi, Kofi!” calls one of the women in the group.

“Hey, Kofi!” says another.

Wow, he really is popular with the ladies.

He looks at them with a big smile on his face, but when he notices me watching, his smile turns sheepish and he awkwardly scratches the back of his close-shaven head.

Well, he is quite attractive with his smooth dark brown skin, dark mustache and goatee, and tall build. Not to mention that charming smile.

If only he weren’t such an asshole.

Plus, no spark at all on my part. Maybe I’m the one who’s broken.

“Kofi’s on a date with Layla tonight,” Carmen says proudly, as if I’ve achieved something, and the smile on one lady’s face dims considerably.

“I need to go home now,” I say. “I have a class tomorrow.” I actually do have a class tomorrow, but not until noon.

No one else needs to know that, though.

“Yeah, uh…I’d better take Layla back to the city,” Kofi says. “See you later, Kaleb. Girls.”

Kaleb flashes him a warning look. “You drive my sister home safely, Kofi.”

“Yeah, for sure, man,” Kofi replies while I give Carmen and Kaleb a goodbye hug.


“I had a really great time tonight, Layla,” Kofi says after he stops the car in front of my house.

Oh, I’m sure he did.

He was talking nonstop in the car, mostly about himself. But I didn’t mind it, really—it gave me time to think about the things I have to do tomorrow and plan my day.

All I had to do was just supply an appropriate response while he was talking: stuff like “Uh-huh,” “Oh, really,” “Wow,” “OK,” and “Interesting.”

“You’re such a great listener, Layla,” he continues, his teeth glowing in the dark.

I wonder what tooth whitener he uses… “Uh-huh.”

“The other girls sure don’t measure up to you.”

“Oh, really?” I reply, still only half listening.

“I like someone who’s not easy. Someone classy but shy, who plays hard to get, ya know?” He’s looking at me meaningfully. “I can tell that beneath that ice queen act, you really like me.”

Wait. What?

“So you can quit the act now—you’ve got my attention, girl. I know you’re just as attracted to me as I am to you. You’re the one for me.”

Oh God, that sounds like a super bad, cheesy song.

I want to tell him off, but I can’t for fear of my mom’s wrath. So I end up staring up at him, worrying my bottom lip as I try to think what to say.

I have to handle this delicately, because if I do it wrong, I’ll be getting phone calls from my mom all night tonight. She’s relentless.

Delicately. Right. “Uh, Kofi… I’m not shy, and I’m not playing hard to get. I do like you…”

His smile widens.

“What I mean to say is, I don’t dislike you. But I don’t like you like…like, ~like~ you, you know. I—”

He suddenly swoops in, and I turn my face just in time so his lips smash on my cheek. His hand comes up to grip my chin and turn my face his way, but I smack his forehead, his chest, and everywhere else that my hands can reach.

“Ow—Layla. Ow! Ow!” he yelps.

“Behave yourself, Kofi!” I wipe my cheek and scramble out of the car like my ass is on fire.

“Oh, come on, Layla. Don’t be like that.”

“Don’t you ‘come on, Layla’ me!” I yell at the window before I stomp up the tiny driveway. “Sheesh! What has the world come to?”

I continue to grumble as I push the key forcefully into the lock.

I’m pissed. So pissed!

And I’ll definitely be getting calls from my mom tonight.


I open the door to a dark, quiet house, but there’s light under Lana’s door. I don’t talk much to Lana, but at least someone’s home.

It used to be five of us living here: Lana, Isaac, Jonah (who is also the owner of the house), his cousin Quincy, and me.

I turn on the light in my room and drop my overnight bag on my bed. As I take in the empty bed on the other side of the room, my anger turns to sadness. That used to be Quincy’s, but she moved out after met her mate.

Everything on that side of the room is now bare. The silver-framed picture of her beloved nana is gone from the wall, and she even took the small, old, broken mirror with her.

I wish she were here. She used to help me forget about my own problems by entertaining me with her boy problem. Singular. Just the one boy.

Who she’s now mated to.

She landed herself a handsome lycan—lucky bitch!

I’m very happy for her, but I do miss her. I even miss her swear jar and her grubby teddy bear, Oliver.

I wish I’d opened up more to her when she was still here.

To be honest, I actually freaked out a bit when she moved out last week. Now that I’m not sharing the room, I might have to pay the full rent again. And I don’t think I can afford it.

I still need to pay my tuition this month, and I don’t want to ask my father for the money. I might have to get a better-paying job, or come up with something else, soon.

I take out my camera and my laptop and place them on my little study table. I bring my camera everywhere I go, but I haven’t had much time to take pictures these last few days.

I’m studying photography at a small college a short bus ride away from where I’m living, and I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it.

My father grudgingly helped at the beginning, but now I’m trying to survive on my own. And I don’t want my family to know how much I’m struggling to pay the bills.

Ironically enough, it was my grandma who gave me the money to buy my first equipment for the course, including the camera.

Of course, it came with a warning that if I told anybody about it, she just might have to kill me. I understand—she has to maintain her street cred after all.

I haven’t told anyone, obviously.

That’s why I’m still alive.

My mom and dad have been trying to persuade me to forget about school and come home. In our pack, very few girls attend college. They’re usually mated and too busy popping out babies as soon as they find their mates.

Pretty sure that’s what my family wants for me.

And even though I still yearn for a mate of my own, I also dream of being independent. Of opening up my own studio or traveling the world and taking photos.

I want to be free, but I want that all-consuming love.

It’s such a contradiction, I know. But there are things to see, experience, and explore outside our pack’s territory.

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream. But the scariest part is, I can see myself giving in to my family in the end.

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Nicole Riddley

22-year-old Layla is the only human in her family of werewolves. Desperate for independence, she lands a job cleaning the penthouse of a mysterious billionaire. When a mesmerizing smell hypnotizes her, Layla crawls into his bed… naked… When 200-year-old Lord Gideon Archer, the head advisor to the Lycan royal family, gets home from work, the last thing he expects to find tangled in his sheets is his mate. Can Gideon protect Layla from the dangers that come with his high profile world?

Age Rating: 18+ (Attempted Rape, Kidnapping)

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