This is a rough draft, but I wanted to give you a tease before the book’s release. If you’ve read Naomi and Tyler’s book, you know that she had another option: the wolf shifter, Quinn. Will he be as well suited to her as Tyler is? Or will the choice be a total bust?
There’s only one way to find out!
“If one of the men floats your boat, then you should absolutely pick him. And one or both will float the hell out of it, I promise. I know the two guys I’ve selected will appeal to you. They’re…special.”
Miri, the owner of the Plenty of Shift dating service, had uttered the words a few days earlier, when Naomi had come to her in need of reassurance, convinced that what she was about to do might just be the result of some supremely foolish impulse. After all, she was throwing herself back into the dating scene after a prolonged period of swearing off men. This wasn’t going to be easy, opening herself up like a vulnerable flower and exposing her weaknesses to the scrutiny of male eyes and minds.
Then again, it might just be pretty damn fun. And fun had been absent from her life for too long.
The ferret shifter had to confess that Miri had done an incredible job of convincing her that it would be amusing to spy on two sexy males from behind a two-way mirror. Two enticing specimens of shifter masculinity, Miri had claimed, who would probably be more delectable than anything Naomi had ever seen.
But while it had all made for a very stimulating fantasy a few days earlier, now that Naomi was actually sitting inside the office experiencing first contact, her jaw seemed to have locked itself into a permanent state of steel-hard tension. This was really happening, and there was no escape. As she watched he first candidate, Tyler, undergo his interview, fascination, excitement and terror fought for dominance over her insides.
Daylight poured in through the French doors to his right, illuminating extremely handsome features while he draped his body casually over the couch. He offered Miri the occasional smile as well as the odd grimace, his changing facial expressions and resulting unpredictability making him a very difficult man to read.
Tyler was without question gorgeous to look at, and on top of that he possessed a boyish charm that appealed to Naomi. And perhaps in an alternate universe she might have chosen him immediately. If only to calm her raging sex drive, which had long been neglected in favour of telling herself that men were unworthy scum to be pitied and scorned. Though the truth was that she simply worried about being hurt by one of the good ones, if she had the misfortune to fall hard for him. It was never a bad thing to have a jackass walk out of her life. But to have things fall apart with a man she truly cared for? That would be agonizing.
Don’t get ahead of yourself, Naomi, she murmured, her brain giving her heart a pep talk. Enjoy them for the physical specimens that they are. Just picture them naked. And possibly covered in coconut oil and you.
In a few minutes, her eyes would land on the second man—the second option—for the first time. He might be even more compelling than candidate one. In spite of his outer perfection, something about Tyler had made her hesitant to waltz into his life, to insert herself into his world. From his replies she’d deduced that he was guarded, and it seemed that somewhere in his past he’d been hurt. Naomi wasn’t sure he was the kind of man who would ever open up about it, or that she had any great desire to deal with his hidden secrets. Somehow it seemed too much like hard work.
A sort of mental pros and cons list was forming in her mind:
Handsome. So, so handsome.
Sexy. Not only physically but that deep-rooted something, that hidden personality. He reminds me of what pheromones are and the definition of “horny” springs to mind, as well.
There is anger in this one, and it may come out in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I’m not convinced that his smile is real. He’s trained himself to look like that. That’s never good.
He’s like a gorgeous carved box filled with unseen contents that might end up being diamonds—either that, or lumps of rotten fish. But I’d never know until I’d opened it up, and then it might be too late.
He rides motorcycles and punches things. And probably people, too.
As she watched him leave, Naomi fanned her face with a stray envelope, trying to remind herself that he was only the first of two options, and that perhaps she shouldn’t pay too much heed to what was occurring between her legs in his presence. Sex aside, he would be an impractical choice and her brain was lashing her libido with criticism as she drummed her fingers on the desk in anticipation of number two: Quinn, a wolf shifter.
Miri hadn’t said much about him other than that, like Tyler, he was “special.” That could mean anything, of course. But Naomi trusted her friend, and she had faith that this particular wolf would be something to see.
And Miri did have good taste—her grizzly shifter mate, Malcolm, was handsome, intelligent and kind. Their relationship had been through a bumpy phase early on, which Miri admitted could put a damper on her credibility as a successful matchmaker. But in spite of her ability to complicate her own relationships, she knew very well how to find men whose goodness overrode their sometimes rough exteriors, and she was a good judge of character.
And so, the moment Quinn walked in to the bright living room, Naomi saw from her perch in the office that he was indeed something to behold. Unruly brown hair, broad shoulders, and a perfectly cut suit that accented his lean waist and strong chest. An intensity about him drew her in, a magnet for her senses. His eyes took in his surroundings as though assessing them on every possible level—though Naomi didn’t sense any disrespect on his part; it wasn’t that he was scrutinizing Miri’s taste. He was simply curious and alert as he prowled through her space in human form, his wolf never far away.
As for his allure, there was plenty. Tyler wasn’t the only one who set her libido into overdrive, and she found herself gripping the edge of the desk as she enjoyed an almost immediate fantasy. I could spend all day with my legs wrapped around that torso. She studied his sly face, tearing her eyes away from the beauty below his neck. Something in his eyes pulled her in again, made her want to know more about him immediately. And his lower lip was delicious: pouty, entirely biteable, a touch of deep pink emphasizing its fullness.
Unlike Tyler, Quinn exuded an unflinching confidence. He knew exactly who he was and what he wanted. Naomi had questioned whether she had the constitution to deal with a man like Tyler. But now she questioned whether a man like Quinn would be satisfied with someone so straightforward, and no doubt dull, as herself. The guy looked like he could easily take on a whole harem of women and come out unscathed on the other side, leaving a trail of smiling, deeply satisfied naked female corpses in his wake. The thought terrified and invigorated her at once. He was sex in a suit, and she wanted to peel the layers away and reveal their extraordinary contents.
You’re judging him prematurely and far too favourably, she thought. Wait and see what he’s really like. Maybe he’s actually a pig in wolf’s clothing.
Wolves were an issue for her, as well as for many of Grayson City’s residents, shifter and human alike. The Kefir Wolf Pack had been on a rampage over the last few months wreaking havoc, apparently at the command of their Alpha, Char. But none of the other shifter groups—the Shardik Lion Pride and the Ulrika Grizzly Clan included—had managed to figure out what they were up to. Their strange, unpredictable behaviour made no sense; wolves were normally protective and secretive, not thuggish and aggressive for no apparent reason. The fact that they were going out and trashing businesses was baffling to most, and could only be blamed on a power-hungry shifter at the head of the Pack.
Either that, or a strain of rabies that made men into slobbering idiots, which Naomi wasn’t about to discount as a possibility.
But she was curious to see how Quinn would defend himself when questioned—would he support the Kefir Wolf Pack’s policies? If so, she would know that he wasn’t the man for her. Much as she enjoyed a bad boy, she didn’t much care for dipshits. She trained her eyes on his tall form as Miri sat him down and began her interrogation:
“So, Quinn,” she began when the second candidate had made himself comfortable. “You’re a wolf shifter.”
“I am.” His voice was a deep, round baritone, all softness at the edges and hard at its core. He exuded masculinity, and Naomi felt a tingle between her legs at the sound of the two brief words. The voice itself was an aphrodisiac, and one that he wielded with impressive expertise.
“You’re a member the Kefir Pack?”
“Yes. But don’t hold it against me.”
Miri smiled for a moment before proceeding. “Do you agree with your pack’s politics lately? They’ve been causing some pretty serious problems.”
Quinn’s eyes darted for a moment to the two-way mirror, and Naomi wondered if he could somehow see her in spite of the impenetrably reflective glass on his side. “No,” he said. “I don’t agree at all. In fact, I’d love to leave this place and the Pack behind. I’d love to travel the world, without feeling anchored to a bunch of derelict wolves. The problem, of course, is that I am a part of it, unwillingly or not.”
“All right. And tell me—what do you do for a living?”
“What sort of business?”
Quinn scratched his chin for a moment before replying. The reply should be simple, but something told Naomi that it would be anything but. “Foreign investments, let’s say.”
“I see. May I assume, then, that you’re wealthy?”
“You may. But any woman who cares about my money probably isn’t for me. My wealth is far from a defining characteristic. It simply frees me up to do as I please.”
“And what sort of a woman are you looking for?”
“One who makes my heart race, who doesn’t hate children, and who would be happy to be stripped naked on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean and pleasured until she can’t take anymore, then pleasured some more.”
“Oh, my.” Miri smiled, and Naomi knew that her friend was hoping that she was catching all of this. I am. All of it. And so is my body, the ferret shifter thought as her nipples tightened under her bra. Her body, curse it, was already offering itself to his.
Quinn leaned forward to speak softly. His eyes were fixed on the mirror once again, and again, Naomi felt as though he were staring directly at her.
“She’s behind that mirror, isn’t she?” he said. Miri thought she noticed his nostrils flaring slightly.
“She might be,” she said. “Would it matter?”
“Not one bit. But whoever she is, she smells delicious.”
Heat radiated through Naomi’s cheeks and down her body, even as a deep throb hit between her legs. Something in his voice was sending her over an edge that she never wanted to return from. It was as though the guy could make her come just by speaking, and she found herself wondering if such a thing were even possible. Either way, suddenly she wanted to try. Maybe their first date could take place over the phone. She could simply ask him to read an old phone book slowly, his tongue lingering on each name. Aaron. Albert. Anderson. Atkins. Aaaaaxbury.
As she immersed herself in the linguistic fantasy, she saw Quinn lean back, grinning knowingly at the mirror. His eyes, deep and clever, were somehow managing to lock on her, to assess her as he’d done the room’s interior. He was more than a little intimidating, this one, and he was making the small of her back break out in an excited sweat. This one was a challenge, and enticing. And she was a strong woman. Well, on a good day she was. She could probably take such a man on, and no doubt have an incredible time doing it.
“So, let’s see. You’re not going to tell me what you do for a living,” said Miri, still professional, still focused, bless her. “But what sort of man are you? My client, who may or may not be hidden in this apartment, would want to know if you’re selfish, for instance.”
“Quite the contrary. I’d say I’m generous to a fault, despite the fact that it might make me sound like a megalomaniac,” he said. “My life is devoted to making others’ lives better. If that helps to inform your client.”
“So you’re a rich but generous man. That’s rare,” said Miri. “Most people don’t get rich by giving money away.”
“It’s not money that I give away. And it’s up to others to decide if I’m truly generous,” said Quinn. “But I try to be. I use what I have to protect those who don’t have as much as I do. I help people to escape their less than appealing fates.”
“Interesting,” said Miri. From behind the mirror, Naomi could see that she, too, was intrigued. The man really was a mystery that begged to be unravelled.
“Okay,” Miri stood after a few more questions had been posed. “Thanks for coming—I’ll let you know what she says.” She walked towards the door as Quinn stood, his eyes studying the mirror once again. Naomi thought she saw him wink at her, and once again a shot of electricity bolted to all the most sensitive places hidden underneath her clothing. That was the man who’d said that she smelled delicious.
Good Lord. He’s the delicious one. I’d like to suck him like a hard candy, she thought, fanning her shirt to alleviate a little of the heat that he’d inspired. When Miri opened the office door a few seconds later she stood, unable to conceal the smile that was forming on her lips.
“Well?” said her matchmaking friend. “Which one will it be?”
“Tyler is gorgeous,” said Naomi. “But Quinn—he’s beyond amazing. I may regret it, but I think he’s the one. He’s really hard to read, but I feel like I need to see what he’s like deep down.”
“Yes, you certainly do,” Miri said, chuckling. “If only so that you can tell me. When I first met him and picked him for you, I knew you’d find him fascinating, but honestly he gets more interesting the more I speak to him. He’s like a character out of a book. You should write someone like him into your new novel.”
“I would love to. A man full of mystery, sexy, charming and even rich, to seal the deal. But I much prefer him as a real-life shifter. I can’t fuck my characters, so it would probably be torture to have one on the page and inaccessible. However, if I’m lucky, I might get to see the real character naked.”
“True. And I think this one already wants you stripped of your clothes. Did you see him salivating when he scented you?”
“You really think he detected me?”
“Yes. I have no doubt that he knows you live in this building, too. That guy has quite a nose.”
“And quite a face. And body. And…”
“Yes, no doubt what’s inside his clothes is pretty amazing—not that I notice these things. But I do get the impression that he looks after himself. Besides, he’s a wolf. They’re always strong and sleek. And very protective. At least the good ones are.”
“Here’s hoping he’s one of the good ones then. So, when are you going to tell him I chose him?”
“When do you want me to?”
“I don’t know—three days ago would have been nice. The sooner the better. I would have followed him out of here and insisted on hopping into his car to tear off his shirt, if it didn’t seem so desperate. And possibly a little stalkerish.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I was pretty sure that he wanted to jump through the mirror and tear your shirt off too. I’d say you’re on equal footing.”
Naomi fake-swooned at the thought, and Miri laughed as she put an arm out to catch her.
“I’ll contact him for you,” the matchmaking shifter said. “But don’t forget that we have the Hospital Gala tomorrow night—I wouldn’t want you setting up a date and bailing on me.”
“Oh, crap. I’d forgotten. Why the hell do I need to go to that thing again?”
“To keep me company. Remember—it’s a fundraiser. A noble cause.”
“I suppose hospitals are important. But damn, I’d rather just stay home—they should know that I’m no millionaire.”
“No, but you’re a big name and people like meeting big names.”
“I just type words into a computer about people who end up playing Hide the Cucumber with abandon.”
“And then sell those words to a ton of people.”
“You’re right. I’m fabulous and important. The Gala attendees should bow at my feet.”
“Get enough free drinks in them and they might just.”
“Well, anyhow, I need to figure out when I can seduce the wolf. I guess tomorrow evening’s out. And tonight seems too early. I need to wax parts of myself that haven’t seen sunlight in months. I might even shave ‘Lick Below’ into my pubic hair.”
Miri chuckled. “Somehow, I think Quinn will know exactly where his tongue should be. He seems awfully skilled with it, even when he’s just talking.”
“I know. That voice is orgasmic.”
“No comment. Anyhow, tomorrow night, Malcolm will be distracted all evening by important medical types. I probably won’t get to talk to him much, so I need you by my side, at least until I’m sloshed.”
“Fine, then. I’ll save my lupine seduction for another time. I’ll meet you at your place. Still—tell Quinn that I want to straddle his face, would you?”
“Absolutely. I’m on it. Though I may leave out the face part. And the straddle part.”
“And here I thought you liked my directness.”
“I do. But I have to be professional and all that crap. I’ll sell you well, as if you need my help in that department,” said Miri, opening the door to usher her friend back up to her own apartment. “Prepare yourself for the wolf.”