Jul 14 2017 11:06am

Cassandra Khaw Excerpt: Bearly A Lady

Cassandra Khaw

Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it).

The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month.

Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to?

Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague.

What’s a werebear to do?

Get a sneak peek at Cassandra Khaw's Bearly A Lady (available July 18, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

“So, this is me.” Janine jabs a thumb at the stoop, smile awkward. London settles around us like a scarf. The world is quieting, calming, drawing into itself, into the old Victorian houses crammed with too many roommates. The street lamps pick out the gold in Janine’s hair, limn her jaw in light. She smiles and my heart forgets a beat.

“Um.” I push my tongue against the roof of my mouth, breathe in. “It isn’t very late yet, and I was wondering—”

“I was—I was wondering if you still like Scrabble.” A corner of her mouth lifts. “Sorry?”

“I mean, we could get a pint if you’d prefer. But I figured it might be nice to, I don’t know, hang out in your apartment, get something from Deliveroo, and maybe play a game or three. We haven’t done that in a while.”

Not since we were navigating the murky waters of should- we-shouldn’t-we, and thinking about being more than just friends. But I don’t say that. Instead, I just smile around my nervousness. London might be a cosmopolitan city, but it’s absolutely bollocks at teaching you how to deal with social anxiety.

Janine laughs, softly, every note glimmering silver. “Where did that come from?”

“That dude—”

“It was hardly your fault.”

“Yes, it was. I asked you to come with me. If you were somewhere else instead, you wouldn’t—”

“Zelda.” She closes the gap between us, fingers grazing my forearm. “You’re not serious. That had nothing to do with you.”

“Look, can we just agree on the fact I’d like to spend more time with you?”

The statement dangles in the air, laden with months of missed opportunities. I tense.

“Even though I beat you at Scrabble every single time?” “Yes.”

We end up ordering too much: two seasonal specials from Pizza Express, Barbacoa beef, chipotle salsa, garlic oil, and excessive cheese; some chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, too many helpings of honeycomb cream slice. Janine’s housemate, a wiry vegetarian who fancies herself Cirque de Soleil mate- rial, was appalled, and totally no help. Consequently, we made a pact to work on the leftovers tomorrow.

As for Scrabble, Janine beats me, of course: ten games to three. While discussing theories for Westworld, season two. And answering text messages from her supervisor. Under that covergirl smile, Janine’s practically Professor McGonagall, ex- cept she enjoys working at Vogue.

“Hey.” I lean back into my chair and glare at the board. All night, Janine’s been pulling out words like NUMINOUS and PATHOGENESIS. The best I managed was BISCUIT. “You think you’ll stay in Vogue?”

“Hm?” Her smile is distracted as she tips cheap white wine into my empty glass.

“You know.” I shrug. “Are you planning to stay on? Maybe, move into an editorial role instead? See about climbing the food chain? Or is this just a temporary thing?”

“I don’t know.” She scrunches her mouth into a moue, a leg drawn up to her chest. Janine rests her chin against her knee. “I haven’t decided yet. Depending on whether the schol- arship’s approved, I might see about going to university some- where. Get my PhD. The possibilities are endless.”

“Well, you’ll be amazing. Whatever you decide to do.” “Thanks.”  The smile widens into something dazzling.
“What about you? You planning to stick with the fashion in- dustry?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I—” am a werebear, with a moving van full of related emotional baggage. “I’d at least stay as long as you do.”

Whoops. “Zelda.”

Wine-dulled and carb-addled, I slop onto my feet, fingers raking through my hair. “I have to go.”
“Zelda. Wait.”

Did I just hit on her? I think I might have just hit on her. Gently. Possibly, even gallantly. But I hit on her. And after we’ve silently agreed to a platonic relationship. Will this result in a trip to human resources? Can this be construed as work- place harassment? “Night. Janine. Um. I can—I’ll find my way to the door. Thanks. Good night.”

“Zelda, wait!”

Face burning, I stagger out of the door, chased by a caval- cade of uncertain regrets. Tomorrow is going to be awkward.

Copyright © 2017 by Cassandra Khaw.
Learn more about or order a copy of Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw, available July 18, 2017:

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Cassandra Khaw is author of RUPERT WONG, CANNIBAL CHEF, and HAMMERS ON BONE.

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