Home > Raymond (Growl and Prowl #3)

Raymond (Growl and Prowl #3)
Author: Eve Langlais

 


Introduction

 

 

This avid gamer is about to discover love doesn’t mean game over.

 

 

As a hacker who rarely leaves the basement, Raymond’s chances of meeting Mrs. Right are slim to none until his hermit-lifestyle is jolted. A warning to stop poking into his past comes with consequences—and intrigues this curious cat.

Raymond’s only recently discovered he can shift into a lynx. He has questions, but the answers will require leaving his safe zone—and his comfy slippers—so he can find the one woman who can help.

A scowling and fierce woman who makes Raymond crave a happily ever after.

Whereas Lainey would rather he disappear.

She isn’t falling for his awkward charm. They must remain alert and never forget they’re playing a game with an enemy who will stop at nothing to win. The stakes are their lives.

Is it game over for this budding love?

Growl and Prowl, the series.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Raymond’s List of Reasons To Stay Home, #9: Straight A’s in school brings bruises.

It broke Nana’s heart to see Raymond dragging his feet as he trudged up the driveway after the bus dropped him off. His clothes were scuffed. His glasses were crooked. His younger sister Jessie wasn’t with him, having pre-arranged an afterschool playdate. His older siblings, now in middle and high school, took a different bus home, meaning it was just the two of them.

Nana took one look at his dejected posture and sat him in a chair before placing in front of him some freshly made lemonade and a cookie. She said nothing. Just waited.

Eventually he said, “I had a bad day.”

“I would have never guessed.” She tried to sound light, but inside, her heart ached. Smaller than the other boys, and introverted as well, Raymond struggled when it came to socializing. He was her quiet boy. Her shy one. Smart as a whip and wise beyond his years. A touch on the spectrum, but she didn’t medicate him. He didn’t need it. He just needed more quiet space than the other boys.

More than one night she’d seen him sneak out of the room he shared with his brothers to bunk downstairs on the couch. He didn’t fear the dark because her strong Raymond had survived it.

“We got our report cards today. But I kind of lost mine.” He nibbled on a cookie, having said his piece and told her without telling her exactly what had happened.

Those damned bullies again.

She wanted to drag him onto her lap and hug him, but Raymond wasn’t the type to want to snuggle. Even with his siblings he tended to often stand on the outside looking in.

“Want to talk about it?” Ten years of age, but already way ahead when it came to his schooling, he had a wisdom beyond his years. But emotionally? Still a little boy who had feelings that hurt even as he didn’t understand why he cared.

For a second, she thought he wouldn’t reply. He managed a soft, “Why does no one like me?”

“Of course, people like you,” she huffed. “You have friends.” At least one good friend since kindergarten, who she realized hadn’t been around in the last few weeks.

Raymond explained why in his next sentence. “Not anymore. Evan moved.”

The news halted her for a second. “I didn’t know.”

“His mom and dad separated. She took him to Nova Scotia.”

“I’m sorry.” A trite thing to say to the child who had a hard time making friends.

“It’s okay.” He lied for her. Her sweet boy. Her heart cracked even more.

“You’ll make another friend.”

He rolled his shoulders. “No, I won’t. The other kids don’t like me.”

Not entirely true, but with his anxious nature, he believed it. “That’s not true. You are plenty likeable. Just ask your family.” It sounded stupid, yet what else could she say? “Does Dominick know the boys are picking on you again?” In the past, her oldest child had stepped in.

Raymond shook his head. “No. And don’t tell him. He’ll get in trouble.”

As if Dominick would care. In that moment, she didn’t give a damn either. For all people talked about peaceful solutions, sometimes the quickest and easiest way to handle a bully was to sic a bigger threat on them. But she didn’t need Dominick to fight to be able to say, “Your brother would gladly accept the consequences if he thought it would help you. And why is that?”

Raymond grimaced. “I see what you did. You’re making me say he loves me, ruining my argument that no one likes me.”

“What can I say? I enjoy the rare occasion where I get to prove you wrong.” Because Raymond seldom made mistakes. A genius being held back by the school system.

“You just proved only family can like me and that’s because they have to. Those boys at school hate me.” His body sagged, and he had another tiny bite of his cookie.

“I can talk to the school—”

He gave her a horrified glance. “No. Don’t. Remember last time?”

At the reminder, she bit back a wince. She’d only wanted to protect him.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

He said nothing, just gave another dejected shrug.

It killed her.

She wanted to march into his school and raise holy hell, but it would make things worse for her sweet boy. Not better. At the same time, she couldn’t not act.

The next day, when Raymond came home from school, the knees to his jeans ripped, she asked what happened. He lied and said he tripped.

This couldn’t go on, or she’d end up in jail for throttling the bullies.

Despite money being tight, because she had lot of mouths to feed, she went shopping that night. The next day when Raymond came down for breakfast, his face drawn and anxious, she said to him, “You’re staying home today.”

“I can’t. I have a test.”

“A test isn’t more important than your wellbeing. I think you need a break from school.”

“I’ll get one in two days on the weekend.” He began to grow agitated. Raymond might struggle socially, but academically the boy was a genius.

“Fine. Write your test. But after school, I want us to have a chat.”

While he went and aced a quiz, she used that time to finish her arrangements. Then she picked up Raymond and Jessie so they didn’t have to take the bus.

Once they got home, Raymond headed for the stairs. Before he could disappear, his face buried in a book, she snared him.

“Can you come here for a second? I got something for you.” That something was a second-hand computer and a stack of workbooks.

Raymond stared at it with its fat keyboard, the yellow casing matching that of the monitor, the body of the machine black metal. Not the newest machine on the market, but given she only had two hundred dollars, it would do the trick. She hoped.

When he said nothing, she prodded him. “It’s for you. To do your schoolwork on.”

His eyes lit with excitement before they dulled. “We can’t afford it.” Young and yet he knew they had a tight budget.

“Too late. I can’t return it. You’ll have to keep it.”

His brow creased. “But it’s not my birthday.” And Christmas was still almost two months away.

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