Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter

“All right,” I said, “I’m now part of the wolf pack.”

The alpha smiled, a possessive, smug look. My entire body tensed and I waited.

A colossal hand clasped my shoulder and yanked me backward against a massive, firm body. Then, Ramsey spoke the longest sentence I’d ever heard from him. “In accordance with the law of the Bjorn and the were-bear clans, I claim this one as my mate.”

The wolf leader’s face contorted with rage. “What the hell is this?”

More glowing testimonials for
BEAUTY DATES THE BEAST

“A world that is both dangerous and humorous. Add a heroine who is plucky and brave, and a hero who is sexy and powerful, and you get a story filled with sizzle and spark!”

—RT Book Reviews

“The adorable relationship between Bathsheba and Beau drives the story and will leave readers eager for more.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This page-turning debut . . . possesses humor and a protective male character similar to those of Katie MacAlister. This will likely be a popular series.”

—Booklist

“A fast-paced story that’s got both humor and heat. Beau is a meltingly sexy hero.”

—Romance Junkies

“What an awesome debut book! . . . If you enjoy shifter books, then this is a must-add to your reading list.”

—Bitten By Books

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Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Epilogue

Midnight Liaisons Series Teaser

About Jessica Sims

For Micki!

Thank you for letting me go a little off the beaten path with this one.

Chapter One

M
y sister lay in a hospital bed, and it was all my fault.

Oh, sure, one might blame the two cannibal Wendigo that had attacked and kidnapped her. One might also blame the burning building she’d jumped out of. Bathsheba had set it on fire herself to force the Wendigo out of the mansion so they’d have to face the powerful were-cougar Beau Russell, head of the Paranormal Alliance.

But I knew whose fault it really was.
Mine.
If my sister hadn’t been trying to protect me, she wouldn’t have been here in the hospital. If Bath hadn’t felt the need to constantly be on the lookout for her baby sister—the fucked-up little sister who couldn’t control her own body—then she would have had a normal life. One where her biggest problems would be getting the kids to dance class and football practice on time.

Instead she was up to her elbows in supernatural creatures, her life in jeopardy, all because of me. It was an uncomfortable but all too familiar feeling.

I took her hand in mine. Bathsheba was always
so tall and strong, even when we were kids. I was the small one who needed to be protected. She looked fragile in the hospital bed, an IV in her arm, her face almost as pale as her white-blond hair. She had cuts and bruises all over her body and two cracked ribs. Long scratches covered her torso from where the Wendigo had clawed her.

The Wendigo had lied and told her they’d captured me. She’d run straight to them, fearing for my life. She’d known it was stupid, known it was a death wish, and she’d still gone because I was her baby sister and she would protect me.

Me, a werewolf, needing to be protected by a human. I wanted to laugh at the irony of it. But I couldn’t laugh. The lump in my throat was too enormous.

The door opened and a tall, handsome man entered the room. Beau’s eyes had circles under them, and his thick hair was a disheveled mess. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for days.

He quietly shut the door behind him, then moved to Bath’s bedside and sat in an empty chair, reaching for her hand and pulling it into his. His drawn face kept watch over her, as if he had to supervise every breath she took just to make sure she was fine.

The agony on his handsome face mirrored my own.

“Thank you for being here,” I said quietly.

Beau looked over at me. “I’m not leaving her side.” His hand clutched hers tightly, careful to
avoid the IV. “The Wendigo took us by surprise. Never again.”

Bath and I had been so focused on keeping the wolf pack looking for me that we’d been blind to everything else. Then, the wolf pack had taken Savannah Russell, Beau’s were-cougar cousin, captive to force the Alliance to give up a mysterious female wolf in their territory.

Me.

Except the Alliance hadn’t given me up, and I didn’t know whether to feel grateful for that, or guilty that the wolves still had Savannah and it was all my fault.

It seemed that a lot of things were my fault lately.

“Your cousin?” I asked quietly so I didn’t wake my sister.

“Still missing,” Beau said. “The wolves keep laying false trails to throw us off. My brothers have spent the last week chasing their own hindquarters.” His jaw clenched. “We’ll find her. It’s just a matter of time.”

But time wasn’t on Savannah’s side. She’d been about to go into heat when she’d been taken. It had been days now, and all the affected males in the territory had responded to the need, taken care of it any way they knew how. Most of the Russells had taken a date for the night. Beau had taken my sister, but who would Savannah take when she was surrounded by wolves? The heat would escalate until she was mindless with the need to have sex . . . and she was trapped.

Another life ruined to protect mine. I looked at my sister’s pale face in the hospital bed, felt the bile rise in my throat. “I should turn myself over to them.”

“No,” Beau said. “They don’t get to demand things and just assume that we’ll fall in line with what they want. The days of supernaturals living in fear of the werewolves are gone. They need to learn to act like civilized human beings.”

Except they
weren’t
civilized human beings. They were werewolves, and they didn’t give a shit about a human law if that law didn’t suit them. They certainly didn’t care about Alliance laws, either. If they wanted something, they took it and dared someone to say otherwise. No supernatural would go to the police: they’d ask too many questions, and they couldn’t know that the things that went bump in the night were a reality. So because everyone was afraid to speak up, the wolves got to do whatever they wanted.

The Alliance fought back, but it was hard when you played by the rules and your opponents didn’t.

“We have to do something,” I said, desperation edging my voice. I reached out for Bathsheba’s long, tangled hair, brushing it off her shoulder. “I don’t want anyone else getting hurt because of me. How many lives are worth mine?”

Beau looked over at me, his mouth firming into a frown. But he didn’t disagree, simply ran his fingers over my sister’s knuckles. He was torn, I knew. He wanted to keep me safe because that would please
my sister. But my safety was costing Savannah her freedom, and he couldn’t allow that to happen. Beau was stuck, just like me.

It was a lose-lose situation, and I was going to lose either way. The wolf pack wanted me because female werewolves were hard to come by. Every wolf pack in the area seemed to have only one female. Maybe two. The pack demanding me had eight men and one female—their sister. They wanted me as a mate to complete their pack, and they weren’t going to take no for an answer.

Beau gently brushed his fingers on her face, and his gaze swept over her body, taking in her bandages, making sure everything was in place. He then scrutinized her IV, then her vitals ticking on the monitor nearby, and adjusted her blanket, making sure that everything was fine. Looking out for her when she couldn’t look out for herself.

I needed that, I thought wistfully. A mate to have my back when I was unable to protect myself. An idea flickered in my brain, and I sat up straighter. I forced my voice to be casual. “What would happen if I had a mate?”

He looked over at me and shook his head. “I’m not following you.”

“What if the wolf pack tried to claim me . . . and I already had a mate?”

“A mate takes precedence,” Beau said, playing with my sister’s fingers as he spoke. “You could officially be part of the pack, but if you had a mate that wasn’t pack, you wouldn’t be forced to go with
them. You wouldn’t be forced to mate with them, either. You’d be taken off the market. Mates are sacrosanct.”

Perfect! I nearly jumped with joy. “Then that’s what I want to do. I want a pretend mate. We can tell the wolves we’ll meet with them, insist that they bring Savannah, and then we can throw the mate thing at them at the last moment.”

Beau thought for a minute. “That’s kind of underhanded and dirty.”

“So are the wolves,” I retorted. “Since they want to play nasty, we can play nasty right back.”

A hint of a smile tugged at his mouth. “You have a point. Are you sure that this is something you want to do? It’s going to put you right in their crosshairs.”

Hell no, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this. But right now we didn’t have a lot of options, and poor Savannah was suffering because of me. “I’m sure,” I told him. “I’m already targeted by them, so they can’t do much worse to me. And I’m tired of living in fear. So we just need a volunteer to be my pretend mate to get the wolves off my back. Do you think Joshua would do it?”

Joshua was the next oldest Russell brother. He was friendly, flirty, charming when he wanted to be, and easy to get along with. I was comfortable with him and could easily pretend to be his mate for a few hours. Hope fluttered in my breast.

Beau shook his head. “Joshua’s the wrong man for the job.”

My heart sank. “Why?”

“They’d challenge him for you. We need someone that they won’t want to fight.” A wicked grin curved Beau’s face. “So we’ll pair you up with Ramsey.”

A squeak of alarm rose in my throat, and I coughed. “Um, Ramsey?”

Beau stood, grinning. “This’ll work. They won’t challenge Ramsey because they’ll be too intimidated by him.”

Of course they’d be intimidated by him. I was
terrified
of him. Ramsey Bjorn was a were-bear, and he was just as big and muscular and surly as you’d imagine. “I don’t—”

“Great idea, Sara,” Beau said. He leaned over, ruffled my hair, then glanced down at my sister. “Stay at her side. I’m going to go talk to Ramsey about your plan. He’s still out in the waiting room, so we can get this resolved fast.”

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