They’re not dating, they’ve never been dating, they’re not going to hook up, no way…oh. Oops.
Annette Garsea is the fiercest bear shifter the interspecies foster care system has ever seen. She fights hard for the safety and happiness of the at-risk shifter teens and babies in her charge—and you do not want to get on the wrong side of a mama werebear. Handsome, growly bear shifter PI David Auberon has secretly been in love with Annette since forever but he’s too shy to make a move. All he can do is offer her an unlimited supply of Skittles and hope she’ll notice him.
She’s noticed the appealingly scruffy PI (and his sugar fixation), all right, but solitary bears make her nervous, and the man’s barely ever said more than five words to her… Until the night they risk everything to rescue a were-baby and bring down a hideous bad guy. Dodging unidentified enemies puts them in a tight spot. Very tight. Together. Tonight. Oh...like that, is it?
There’s no looking back now…
He tells her he wants her and proves it
his hands are everywhere his hands are magic they make the world fall away
and that is just what she craves and she is desperate to do her part she is wild to make the world disappear for himand he is easing her onto her back and filling her up with all of him and all of her knows that is fine, just fine and the only thing she wants is for this to never stop
“Beautiful dreamer…wake unto meeeeeee… Starlight and dewdrops…are waiting for theeeeee!”
The world was falling away—no, was wrenched away. And by Stephen Foster, no less. “Nnnnnfff?”
“Sounds of the rude world…heard in the day…lulled by the moonlight…have all passed awaaaaaaaay!”
“Gah.” She swiped, missed, found the thing, smacked it. Opened her eyes—and her fist—and the crushed components pattered to the carpet. Oh, hell on toast.
Annette Garsea, twenty-seven, single, IPA caseworker in need of a shower and a new alarm clock, sat up, pawed at her blankets, and finally freed her legs. She glared at the nightstand drawer, which stayed closed more often these days than her libido liked. Especially last night, when she had gotten home so tired she’d barely had time to undress before doing a belly flop onto her (unmade) bed and succumbing immediately. And even if she had made the time
(note: buy replacement batteries. lots.)
it wouldn’t have made much difference. She and David had just missed each other…again. And even if she’d seen him, nothing would have happened. It wouldn’t have changed anything, including the fact that her sex life was barren and mornings were…yuck. It was like thinking through honey for the first ten minutes. Which wouldn’t be so bad if there was actual honey, but she hadn’t had a chance to go grocery shopping this week. Eggs were good several days past their expiration date, right? Right.
He tells her he wants her and proves it…
From long practice, she pushed the fantasy away, stretched, yawned, padded though her messy den toward the bathroom. Showered, shampooed, watered down her conditioner again (at this point, it was water that vaguely smelled like conditioner), hopped out, toweled, ran a comb through her shaggy locks
(note: grocery shopping and conditioner and haircut)
and dressed. Black office-appropriate slacks she could stand, sit, and run in; ditto her shoes, which were plain black rubber-soled flats. Sports bra, dark-blue turtleneck. Dad’s wristwatch. Or as her partner called it, “that quaint clock you strap to your body for some reason.”
Breakfast. She loved their sun-filled kitchen, with bold, black appliances (easy cleanup) and lots of counter space (room to spread out the junk mail, tape, more mail, books, pens, junk mail), and the island, which was usually Pat’s domain for his project de la semaine. She went straight to the fridge, took inventory of the pitiful contents, and grabbed staples. She sniffed at the eggs and, satisfied, cracked three, whisked them, added the last of the half-and-half, then swirled them into the softly bubbling butter.
“Oh, Gawd, I can’t watch.”
“And yet,” Pat whispered, round-eyed, “I cannot look away. This is what people see just before they die.”
“Stop it.” Annette added chopped onions, ham, tomatoes, and sprinkled half a cup of cheese over the glorious mess. She let it cook for a minute, then grabbed a rubber spatula and ran it around the edge, lifting the bubbling, thickening omelet up here and there so the raw eggs could run beneath. A minute later she plopped the thing on a paper plate
(note: dishwasher soap)
and sat across from Pat, who took one look at Annette’s repast
and shuddered. “You’ve gotta know the answer is a vehement ‘Oh dear God, not even on a bet.’”
“And yet.” She took a bite, relishing the overcooked bottom and the undercooked top. “It’s important to start the day off right.”
“Self-induced salmonella is not starting the day off right. Are you okay?” Pat was 55 percent legs, 20 percent hair, and 25 percent heart, and had a horror of people discovering the latter. So before Pat could express concern—who’d know better than her lunatic roommate that Andrea’s job was dangerous?—he had to insult her breakfast. “You got in late.”
“One of my kids got pinched for shoplifting. I went out to make sure they had a decent bed for him.”
“Let me guess.”
“Don’t guess. You know I can’t talk about it.”
“What did I just saaaaay?”
“You talk about that kid in your sleep. Seriously, you yell at him in your dreams.” Pat drummed his fingers on the countertop, already involved in early-morning plotting. “I’ve gotta meet him.”
“And here I was the idiot hoping you were out on a date with Donald.”
She almost dropped her fork. Pat had a tendency to read her mind, and she was in no mood to be teased for her recurring fantasy, which had now invaded her dreams. “David.”
“I honestly don’t care, Annette. Stop playing with your food before you eat it. That’s literal and figurative, by the way.”
“I’m not following.”
“Call or text Derwood—”
“Still don’t care. Call him or text him or homing pigeon him and then brutally and enthusiastically shag him silly.”
Oh, sure. As if it were that simple. “And then?”
Her roommate looked taken aback. “How should I know? I’m all about the setup, not what comes after. Give him cab fare? Or a wedding ring? My point is—”
“I know what your point is.” She brought the flat of her butter knife down on Pat’s knuckle just as the duplicitous wretch was about to snitch some ham. “Nice mani, by the way.”
“Thanks. Wouldn’t kill you to sit still for one, either.”
“Never. If I can’t read during a procedure, I won’t endure it.”
“God help us if you ever need surgery, then.” Pat inspected his nails, which were spade-shaped and the color of glossy pink pearls. “Got an interview.”
“I figured. The suit and all.”
Pat was wearing one of his brother’s navy-blue pin-striped suits with a crisp white shirt and a pale-blue tie dotted with poppies that looked like blood clots. Though he wouldn’t leave the house, Pat was a big believer in “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Which led to some confusion the month he wanted to be a park ranger. (“I don’t care if it’s five below; this is what rangers wear!”) And the following month, when he wanted to be a hippotherapist. (“If you’re going to do physical therapy with horses, this is what it takes!”)
“I’m letting you change the subject in your clumsy and obvious way because I’ve said my piece—”
“Oh God, if only that were true.”
“—and because I want you to get what this means. No longer will I be the homeless parasite suckling at your 24-acre teat!” Pat declared.
“Okay, gross.” Not to mention inaccurate. Pat insisted on paying $666.66 every other month, and he was far from homeless. “You know you don’t have to get another job on my account.”
“This isn’t about you or your account. It’s about me getting a job within these four walls before I go crazy within these four walls.”
“Good for you,” she said, snarfing the last of her runny omelet. “And stop with the matchmaking-roommate trope.”
“I’m the original, dammit! Tropes come from me, not the other way around. Take. That. Back.”
“Nuh-uh. And good luck on your interview. Knock ’em…uh…” Argh. Because once upon a time, she and Pat had knocked ’em dead. It was why he wore his straight blond hair shoulder-length, when his preference for years had been a buzz cut. “Knock ’em good luck.”
“Gosh, it’s such a treat to see your razor-like mind in action.”
“You wait. ‘Knock ’em good luck’ will be in the national lexicon within the month,” she said, and stifled an eggy, hammy burp.
MaryJanice Davidson is the NYT and USA Today best-selling author of several novels and is published across multiple genres, including the UNDEAD series and the Tropes Trilogy. Her books have been published in over a dozen languages and have been on best-seller lists all over the world. . A former model and medical test subject (two jobs that aren’t as far apart as you’d think), she has been sentenced to live in St. Paul, MN, with her husband, children, and dogs. You can track her down at bit.ly/mjdavidson.