BLURB: Deputy Roman Charsguard survived Afghanistan where he lost his best friend—his K-9 handler James. Roman was a military dog until two years ago when he developed the ability to shift into a human. It’s not easy to learn how to be a man. He found a place to live in Mad Creek, a haven for the secret world of dog shifters. Finding a reason to live has been harder. That is, until a certain human walks into the Mad Creek Sheriff’s office and starts making trouble.
Matt Barclay has the worst luck. First he was shot in a SWAT drug raid, then he was sent as DEA investigator to Mad Creek, a little town in the California mountains. Matt’s job is to keep a lookout for illegal drug farms, but nobody in the town wants him there. And then there’s Roman, Matt’s erstwhile baby-sitter. He’s the hottest guy Matt’s ever seen, even if he is a bit peculiar. If the town doesn’t kill him, sexual frustration just might.
The town is counting on Roman to prevent Matt from learning about dog shifters, Matt’s counting on Roman to be his work partner and tell him the truth, and Roman’s trying to navigate love, sex, and a whole lot of messy human emotions. Who knew it was so complicated to walk like a man?
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EXCERPT: “Now Roman, remember. You’re going to have to stay very conscious about not exhibiting any… er, dog like behavior during this meeting. We can’t afford to raise suspicion.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be on my guard.”
Roman didn’t need to be reminded how important it was that humans remain blissfully unaware that quickened–dog-human shifters–existed. But he could tell Lance was anxious and his chatter was down to nerves. Sweat beaded on Sheriff Lance Beaufort ‘s upper lip as he steered the car and–Roman sniffed as subtly as he could–Lance smelled wary, suspicious. Roman’s inner dog wanted to whine at the unease of his pack leader, but Roman swallowed it. No dog behavior.
They were driving to Fresno in Lance’s white Sheriff’s department SUV for a big regional law enforcement meeting. The DEA was giving a presentation, and Lance had asked Roman to go along. It was probably because he wanted company on the long drive, but Roman had been thrilled. Since he’d become a full-time deputy with the Mad Creek’s Sheriff’s office, he had a purpose in life again, and he liked being included in Lance’s plans. Besides, he loved to ride in cars! It was even better when you didn’t have to drive and could roll down the window and stick your hand out, feel the wind buffet your skin.
With the window rolled down, a scent caught Roman’s nose on the warm September air. He turned his head as they zipped past endless pine trees. There was something dead out in the woods–something small, like a groundhog. If he were on foot he’d go find it just for the fun of it. But not today. Not today.
He smiled and looked at his hand as he tried to catch the wind. Today he was a man, and it was still amazing. Hands were amazing. Lately he’d been finding his own body more fascinating. He’d been quickened for two years now, but sometimes he felt like he was just now wakening from a dream–only to find it wasn’t a dream at all.
“I think it’s very different,” he said, wiggling his fingers. “Being quickened from birth, like you were, and getting it later in life. Living as a dog first.”
“I’m sure it is,” Lance agreed. “Incredibly different.”
“I’m glad I was who I was. That I had that time in Army K-9. With James.” Lance said nothing and Roman felt a pang of self-doubt. Maybe he was being too open in an ‘un-human’ like way. Lance was pack, but he was also Roman’s boss. He cleared his throat and rolled up the window. He’d better stick to talking about work. “So. What do you expect to happen at this meeting today?”
“I don’t know.” Lance frowned at the windshield. “I’m hoping it’ll be good news, but–”
“We haven’t had any trouble. Not since that night those drug dealers shot up Tim’s house.”
Lance’s frown deepened. “I know. But I have a sense something’s coming, like… a prickling on my neck. I’ve had a bad feeling for days.”
Roman didn’t have any such ‘bad feeling’, but he didn’t say it out loud. As a border collie shifter, Lance worried about his territory obsessively, more than Roman or any other quickened. So if Lance sensed something, he was probably right.
Roman’s heart beat a little faster. “Do you want me to carry my weapon, sir?”
Lance laughed. “No, I don’t mean I expect trouble at this meeting. Coffee and donuts and a lot of ass-kissing is probably as dangerous as it’ll get. But the DEA’s presentation… This is the first time they’ve called us all together for something like this. I’m assuming it’s not going to be good news on the war-on-drugs front. I just hope, whatever’s brewing out there, it has nothing to do with Mad Creek.”
“Because that would be bad.” Roman knew Lance’s philosophy: fly as under-the-radar and away from things as possible. Mad Creek was in the middle of nowhere for a reason.
“Yes, Roman. Because that would be very bad,” Lance said darkly.
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