The bell over the door chimed merrily, and Summer looked up as four big men filed in. As always, her heart skipped a beat in anticipation. Would Drew be among them?
“Morning, Summer.” Luke, a wrangler from Seymour ranch, tipped his cowboy hat.
“Having a good winter, Summer?” That was Mack, the jokester of the group.
“Hi, sweetheart. Got some of that coffee today?” Sam asked.
She greeted each with a genuine smile because they were all great guys. But when a fourth man crowded the doorway, her smile stretched cheek to cheek. Her whole face heated and flushed, and a boom like waves breaking over distant rocks registered in her ears.
Drew. Drew. Drew! her inner wolf cheered.
The other three men had come striding in like it was a second home, but Drew paused in the doorway. He did that every time, wiping his boots in a practiced right-left, right-left slide that said he’d been raised to do that at home. Then he pulled off his hat and stepped over the threshold.
Such a polite bear, her grandmother would have sighed.
He rubbed a thickly muscled shoulder against the doorframe in a territory-marking move that would have been a blatant challenge to the bears that owned the place if they weren’t his cousins. And the way he did it screamed, This place might not be mine, but it’s mine to protect. Keep out, strangers. Don’t even think about bringing trouble here.
“Morning, Summer,” he rumbled, locking eyes with her. His were a pale, gold-hued green, and they sparked with wonder when they took her in.
“Morning, Drew,” she said, trying not to squeak.
It was ridiculous, how a perfectly normal exchange of greetings could set off a dozen wild fantasies. Like hearing those words while naked and sleepy in bed. Like replying and winding her leg around his as they lay skin to skin.
Morning, Summer, he’d say as she woke up, like it was the best morning ever because she was at his side.
Or maybe he’d just wake her with a quiet kiss and a touch — one that led to more touching and kissing and a long, unhurried session of making love.
Morning, Summer, he’d say when they dropped back onto the sheets, sweaty and satisfied. She’d rest her head on his chest — a chest so broad and so piled with muscle, she had dozens of options for exactly what subsection to try out — and run her hand down his thick, corded arms.
Summer cleared her throat and blinked. It was ridiculous, the way her body reacted to him. Her mind fluttered and took wing like a hysterical butterfly set loose in a meadow blooming with wildflowers.
Get yourself together, girl, she ordered herself.
But her inner wolf remained all dreamy, batting its eyes and wagging its tail.
A crush. It had to be a crush, right? And seriously, what woman wouldn’t have a crush on a man like Drew? He was big, broad, and quiet. Honorable, too, like all bear shifters were. His close-cropped beard was thick, dark, and neatly trimmed, and she longed to tip forward and nuzzle it with her chin.
When he stepped closer, his eyes went a little hazy, too, as if he was thinking the same thing. The whole world started to fade away — the rumble of truck tires on the street, the quiet clink of silverware in the café, the murmurs of the other men. Everything receded to the far corner of her mind like a vague memory, and all she could see was Drew. All she could hear was the sharp intake of his breath as he looked at her, and all she could register was the rich, woodsy scent of him. She focused on his lips — thick, round lips that somehow fit perfectly on that edgy, masculine face, and she leaned forward even more. Their arms brushed, making blood rush through her veins.
Mate, her wolf murmured. My destined mate.
Mate, she swore she heard him think. My destined mate.
Then, Bang! The back door opened, and Jessica’s cheery voice snapped her back to her heels.
“Morning, everyone!” her boss called, swinging a platter of muffins so fresh from the oven, they steamed.
Drew hastened a step back, and his eyes dropped to the floor. Summer gulped and blinked desperately, trying to find her focus again. Focus on something other than her favorite bear shifter, that is.
“Blueberry or apple?” Jessica held a platter of oven-fresh muffins up toward Drew.
“Um… uh…” He seemed as tongue tied as Summer felt.
Luke reached in and helped himself. “Both, thanks. Can I get a coffee, too?”
Summer forced her feet into motion. “Coffee, coming right up.” She stepped behind the counter to fill four mugs and inhaled deeply, hoping the rich scent would bring her back to her senses.
“Mind if we take these next door?” Sam asked as Jessica served more muffins.
Summer looked around. What was going on next door? And why did Jessica’s face cloud? In fact, everyone went serious at the same time.
Then she remembered. Soren, the alpha of this unusual mixed bear-wolf clan, had called a meeting with the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch. A meeting she hadn’t wanted to think about because the subject was a vile enemy that had staged several attacks on the hard-working shifters she’d grown to love.
Worse, that enemy was the band of rogues she’d once been forced to work for. The rogues she’d unwittingly assisted through so many heinous crimes.
Summer went stiff all over, remembering just who she was. Even if Drew felt anything for her, disgust would make him reject her in the end. It didn’t matter that she’d been working her ass off in the café and saloon, trying to prove she meant everything she’d said about her reluctant involvement with the Blue Blood rogues. But she knew she could never truly sweat away the guilt of what she’d been a part of. Her past would always be part of her. A black mark. A steel-barred cage. No matter where she went, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t outrun her past.
And she certainly couldn’t dream about taking a bear as a mate.
Deception (Blue Moon Saloon, Book 5)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Twin Moon Press
Date of Publication: January 5, 2017
Nothing is more dangerous than forbidden love.
She-wolf Summer Smith is desperate to make up for a past she can’t deny — and the best way to accomplish that is to take on a deadly mission for her new pack. She’ll sacrifice anything to clear her name and protect the people she loves. With the future of shifters across the Southwest resting in her hands, it’s the worst possible time to fall in love — with a bear, no less.
Burly bear shifter Drew Kovacs hasn’t traveled to the Southwest to look for trouble, and he sure isn’t looking for love. But the second he lays eyes on the she-wolf with a mesmerizing smile and haunted eyes, he knows she’s the one. There’s just one problem — Summer is about to plunge head-first into danger, and he sure as hell won’t let her go alone. But he can’t show up and blow her undercover mission, either. Unless…
Behind the doors of the Blue Moon Saloon, alpha shifters confront their darkest fears and their deepest desires. This book is a complete standalone story – no cliffhangers!
USA Today and Amazon best selling author Anna Lowe loves putting the “hero” back into heroine and letting location ignite a passionate romance. She loves dogs, sports, and travel – and letting those inspire her fiction. On any given weekend, you might find her hiking in the mountains or hunched over her laptop, working on her latest story – be that travel romance, adventure romance, or paranormal romance. Either way, the day will end with a chunk of dark chocolate and a good read.