Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Hello, lovelies! This week I’m breaking away from To My Muse to tease you with the third installment in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Kate Chandler is a cougar shifter with an embarrassing handicap — a childhood accident destroyed her sense of smell. When Sheriff Lynch deposits a tall, hunky vagrant searching for her father at her door, she has no idea that the new arrival is a wolf shifter…and her mate.
But Jack Hawthorne knows. An Alpha without a pack and a SEAL without a team, he’s hoping that his former commanding officer can give him a job and some direction on what to do next. Learning that a sexy blonde cougar shifter who can’t smell is his heart’s mate just makes things more complicated. But Jack is determined to win Kate — if he can convince her to give him a chance, that is.
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Kate Chandler heard the rumble of a truck crunching through the snow out front and groaned. Dammit, Dad, you weren’t supposed to be back for another hour or so. How am I supposed to get this tax paperwork done if you keep interrupting me?
Leaning back from the desk, she twitched her office window curtain to one side, expecting to see her father pulling up to their shared home outside the family business of the Cougar Ridge Ski Resort. Instead of a dark green SUV, one of the Esposito County Sheriff’s Department trucks had rolled into the driveway.
Oh, great. The ski resort was one of the tourist attractions of the county, bringing in avid skiers from Albuquerque and the surrounding sections of New Mexico. It also generated its share of drunken visitors doing stupid human tricks. By now she was used to one of the police trucks pulling up with a guest who’d gotten caught trying to steal a street sign or something equally moronic.
But she really didn’t need the hassle now. Cursing under her breath, she got up and headed to the front door just as a rapping knock sounded. She pulled it open, smirking at the tall, handsome coyote shifter in a uniform jacket standing there. “Hey, sheriff. What did one of our idiot guests do this time?”
Sheriff Caleb Lynch shook his head. “It’s not a guest this time, Kate. Is your dad home?”
“He’s running some guests to the airport, then he was going to stop off at the store.” She checked her watch. “Should be back in an hour or so. Can I help you?”
The sheriff frowned. “Maybe. Could you come out to the truck?”
“Sure.” Curiosity now mingling with annoyance, she slipped on her boots and a jacket and followed Lynch back to his truck. In the back seat was a large, hunched shape. “I picked up this gentleman from one of the culverts out on Muenzler Road,” the sheriff said, nodding at his passenger. “He said he was trying to reach your dad. Do you know him?”
Kate peered through the truck window. This close, she saw that the shape was a man in a dirty blue parka. Heavy brows and a strong nose that had been broken at some point stood out over a thick, unkempt beard that bristled from the parka’s hood like a miniature tumbleweed. The man stared at the floorboards of the truck so she had no idea what his eyes looked like.
No, not a man–a male. She could sense his aura just as she could sense Lynch’s. Whoever this male was, he was also a shifter. Her handicap meant that she couldn’t tell which animal form prowled inside that human body, but a hunch told her he wasn’t a cougar shifter like herself and her father.
A headache began to build behind her eyes. “Let me guess. Ex-military?”
Lynch nodded. “Said he was in the Navy with your dad. Do you know him?”
“Nope. But he wouldn’t be the first one to show up here. Can I talk to him?”
“If you like.” The sheriff opened the door, eyes narrowing at his passenger. “Come on out.”
Kate stepped back instinctively as the man unfolded from the back seat and got to his feet. Jesus, he’s big. The shifter easily topped 6’4” and she suspected his shoulders were proportionately broad when they weren’t hunched. Jeans that were as stained as the parka had been neatly cuffed over worn military boots. He was still staring at the ground, but seemed more comfortable now. Well, yeah. Getting out of that cramped seat would do that.
She edged forward, bending down a little to try and catch his gaze. “I’m Kate Chandler. What’s your name, sailor?”
His head came up at that and she saw his arm twitch as if he was about to salute. She found herself looking into a pair of eyes the color of warm Caribbean water. Oooh, pretty.
“Jack Hawthorne, ma’am,” he said softly, blinking. “Are … are you with Commander Chandler’s family?”
“I’m his daughter. The sheriff said you were trying to reach him?”
“Yes, ma’am. I served under him at Coronado.” His gaze flickered to Lynch, clearly not wanting to discuss the all-shifter SEAL teams commissioned by the US Navy in front of a civilian, even one with a badge. “The commander said that if we ever needed him on the beach, he’d help us.”
Kate swallowed a groan. Her father was a tough old bastard with the stereotypical solid gold heart. In the past, his promise to be there for his men had covered anything from a loan to helping someone establish a new identity. “Are you AWOL?” she asked bluntly.
Hawthorne flinched, anger flickering across what she could see of his features. “No, ma’am. I was honorably discharged six months ago. I … there was a problem with my pack.”
Pack. That gave her a hint. “Canine?”
His anger was replaced by puzzlement. “Can’t you tell?”
Damn. She hated having to explain her handicap. “No. I can’t smell your animal. Or anything, to be honest.”
He grimaced. “Jesus. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, so am I. So, canine?”
“Wolf. From the Rugged Pines pack in North Carolina.” He chewed his lower lip, giving Lynch another of those suspicious looks. “Look, I’m not a criminal. I didn’t know it was illegal to stay in the culverts. I’d been walking since dawn and I just needed a quiet place to rest.”
“In a big metal pipe under a road. Right.” She looked him up and down. “Why do you want to talk to my dad? You need a job?”
Those broad shoulders had straightened while they talked, but now they sagged again. “Wouldn’t turn it down if one’s going.”
The bulk of the jobs at Cougar Ridge tended to be seasonal, filled with locals who knew how to run the lifts and do the rest of the work that a ski resort required. It was already February, nearing the end of the season, but there was one last big event coming up and they always needed extra hands for that. She eyed him again. If he could ski and had a halfway decent face under that facial fur, the female guests would fall over themselves to take lessons from him. “Well, like I said, Dad won’t be back for an hour or so. Should be enough time for you to take a shower and get cleaned up. I’ll see if I can rustle up some clothes for you.” She turned to Lynch. “Thanks for bringing him by, sheriff. I’ll take it from here.”
Lynch frowned. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Kate. I’m fine with Mr. Hawthorne cooling his heels at the sheriff’s office until your dad gets home.”
“There’s no point. If Mr. Hawthorne served under Dad as he claims, Dad will find something for him to do. And if he didn’t,” she bared a humorless grin at the big wolf shifter, “I’ve got about fifteen big ol’ boys within shouting distance who will be more than happy to toss him off the resort if I can’t manage it myself.”
She expected Hawthorne to bristle at that, but his shoulders hunched again under the dirty blue parka. “I served under your father,” he muttered. “I’m not a liar.”
“Fine. You might as well get cleaned up, then. I may not be able to smell you, but I can assure you Dad will.” With a parting nod to a still-wary Lynch, she waved at the wolf shifter to follow her, mentally reviewing what clothing she could scrounge up from the extras bin they kept for just this purpose. Don’t know if any of the shirts will fit, but we’ve got to have some XL sweats somewhere…
One long, hot shower later, Jack leaned closer to the bathroom mirror, wiping the condensation from it. A stranger peered back, eyes weary and hard over a thick growth of facial hair. Helluva beard, guy. You look like the Abominable Snowman.
Not that he’d had a reason to do much personal grooming since his discharge. He’d hacked off his hair with his knife when it got too long, but the beard kept his face warm when he slept outside. It was easier to find a safe place to crash in the woods or other outdoor locations, easier to find food and clean water in the towns. He shifted back and forth between the two as he slowly headed westward, remembering the promise Commander Chandler had made and praying that his former commanding officer would made good on it.
And if Chandler couldn’t…
Jack grimaced and picked up the trimmer the female had left for him in the bathroom, a disposable razor and a can of shaving cream placed next to it. Then I’ll leave. Simple as that.
The empty spot in his soul ached at the thought. He couldn’t help prodding it, the emotional equivalent of tonguing a gap where a tooth had been extracted. It was the place where he should have felt the connection to his pack, the solid link that an Alpha always maintained with the shifters he led.
But he wasn’t an Alpha anymore. Nobody’s fault but your own. He could still hear his brother Ed’s words as they stood at the edge of their father’s grave the day he’d returned, three months too late to say goodbye. You wanted to go off and be a hero, Jack. I stayed behind and took care of the pack, like Pa wanted. You can’t blame him for making me Alpha.
He switched on the trimmer and started paring down the beard, bits of dark brown and grey hair pattering into the sink with each buzzing pass. Slowly his face began to emerge, the family resemblance to brother and father too strong to ignore.
He could have challenged Ed for leadership, and he would have won. Both of them knew that. But Ed had been a good Alpha after their father’s death. Before that, he had been Pa’s trusted beta while Jack had been off traveling around the world with the SEALs. The clincher was that Ed had already found his mate and had a pup on the way. Even if the pack wouldn’t reject him for it, there was no way in hell Jack would fight his own brother and risk orphaning his oncoming niece/nephew.
So that was that. At least Ed hadn’t insulted him by offering him a position as a beta, which was something. He’d left North Carolina and headed west, searching for something that would convince him that life still had some meaning. His retirement pay was deposited into his account regularly, more than enough to buy a car or RV and travel in comfort. But he didn’t want comfort. Traveling by foot to New Mexico gave him a chance to atone for not being there when Pa died.
He’d finally made his way to Esposito County, Chandler’s last listed address, only to be picked up for vagrancy by a damn sheriff. He’d been lucky that Lynch was willing to listen to him, even agreeing to take him to the commander’s house instead of throwing him in a cell for a couple of days. But the thought of being brought in front of Chandler as a prisoner had been damn humiliating. He hadn’t even been able to look up, guilt and shame gnawing at his belly, when Lynch ordered him out of the truck.
And then the scent hit him. Something irresistible, a deliciously warm, spiced scent that made his mouth water and his cock stir at the same time. When he looked up into a pair of celadon green eyes, it had taken every ounce of his will to stay in place and throw himself bodily at the female who smelled like home. Like his mate.
He put down the trimmer and picked up the shaving cream, decanting a foamy blob into one hand and smoothing it over his newly trimmed stubble. Christ. She’s a cougar shifter. And Commander Chandler’s daughter. And she can’t smell me. Somewhere, he could hear Fate laughing at him.
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Posted on February 14, 2018, in Belaurient Publishing, Mid Week Tease, Shifter Woods: Snarl and tagged cougar shifter, Mid Week Tease, nicola cameron, paranormal romance, Shifter Woods: Snarl, wolf shifter. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.