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Seduced by a Shifter

By:Jennifer Dellerman

town sheriff.

“Holding up another wall, I see.” Ben drawled back, eyes lighting with amusement as he studied Zan. Zan had been with the pack less than a year, having been separated from his brother when the two were just kids, each thinking the other died in a vicious attack that had destroyed their smaller pack. A community fair and a photo by one of Zan’s former military buddies had brought them together once again, which also resulted in Zan finding his mate in Ben’s friend, Jacklyn Chavez, a doctor and female shifter.

To Ben, the female shifters got the short end of the stick. They might have some heightened strength and senses, but neither skill was as keen as the males’. The women also couldn’t shift. At all.

Most males shifted from human to wolf under the full moon, an instinctive pull that allowed the beast the joy and freedom to run wild. Some of the males, like Ben, not only gained enough control over their animal to suppress the moon shift, but they retained the ability to change forms outside of the full moon.

The caveat was that the creature hovered just beneath their skin. These men were a little more dangerous, a tad more assertive, and extremely fierce in their protection of those they cared about.

And most of those men were all in this very room.

In an overstuffed chair situated at an angle so he could oversee the room sat his alpha, Dean Kinigos. It was in his house that Ben now stood. On the brown micro-suede sofa perpendicular to a massive stone fireplace where an inviting fire popped merrily away sat the owner of the local hardware store, Jack Hodgins, the silver in his hair starting to outpace the thick brown. Next to him was Josh Renner, his lanky frame and youthful appearance belying his strength, both of body and mind. Josh taught at the local school and during the fall, also coached the school football team. It afforded a strategic position to keep an eye on the rough-and-tumble juvenile shifters. Crazily enough, Josh enjoyed it.

Looking slightly uncomfortable in grease-stained overalls was Eddie Toler. No doubt the call for the meeting forced Eddie over to Dean’s place before he could head home to change. It was possible he felt his dingy attire lacked the respect due to being in his alpha’s presence, and in his own home. But to Ben, it meant Eddie was a good, hardworking man who came when his alpha called him.

Mack Valenzuela appeared out of the kitchen, a square of white in his massive hands. The firefighter was built like the truck he was named after and as he passed Ben he sent him a short nod in greeting, his dark eyes alight with irritation. With an easy flip of his wrists, Mack lay a heavy sheet on the loveseat, separated from the sofa by a heavy wood coffee table. “Would you sit down, Eddie? You don’t want to hurt Kaylie’s feelings, now, do you?”

Eddie shot his brown eyes to the kitchen archway, as if the woman in question was silently glaring out into the room, keeping tabs on everyone. Ever since Dean married Kaylie, thus making Kaylie the Lupa of the Pack, many of the shifters used the threat of hurting her feelings with a sort of gleeful deviance when the situation suited them. In this case, Eddie’s unease was a palpable feeling that radiated out to the other gathered men, so much so that they too were beginning to feel uncomfortable. With an audible sigh of resignation, Eddie sat and Mack eased down next to him.

The last of the eight leaders, Vince DeNoza, also came from the kitchen with his hands filled, only he held a large tray of thick sandwiches, the scent of hot roast beef and cheese with the slight spice of green chili making Ben’s mouth water. He snagged one as Vince passed by, knowing how greedy shifters were when it came to food.

“The best we could do on such short notice,” Kaylie said from behind the Italian restaurant owner, her voice softly chiding. But it wasn’t just the sight of Kaylie that caught everyone’s attention—it was the sleeping baby nestled in her arms. At only three weeks of age, little Lukas Kinigos already drew a crowd of admirers, men and women, shifter and human alike. As the only son and firstborn of their alpha, Lukas was akin to a prince in their world. With his thatch of black hair and eyes already turning the deep, startling green as his father’s, the little boy was a precious treasure to the pack.

Ben swallowed and took another hearty bite of his sandwich, fascinated by how Dean’s eyes grew tender with love as he watched his wife cradling his son. Just over a year ago, Dean’s control had been fragile at best, his beast too close to the surface for comfort. Until Kaylie. Now, though his face remained hard, his eyes teased as he flicked his thumb at Zan. “Don’t blame me.”

“Hey.” Zan blustered, straightening at the accusation. “I’m not the one who had to do five thousand background checks before agreeing to help.” Eyes as green as his brother’s turned to stab Caleb.

Unfazed by the blame game, since acting like bickering siblings was part and parcel of a tight-knit pack, Caleb reached for one of the sandwiches Vince set on the coffee table next to another tray with bottles of water and soda.

“I’m not about to let my men handle a situation I don’t know every detail about. That includes background checks on those involved.” Caleb’s voice was low and solid, not just in deference to the sleeping child but because that was who Caleb was: strong, solid, and very protective of his pack. He could easily be alpha of his own pack or even challenge Dean for the position to run the Woodcliff Pack, but Ben knew the sheriff had too much respect and liking for Dean to do that. They all did.

Plus, no one else wanted that kind of responsibility.

Caleb was content to be Dean’s second in command, his job as town sheriff more than satisfying his beast’s dominate and protective instincts. And next week they would become brothers-in-law when Caleb married Kaylie’s sister, Tess.

Ben tr