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The familiar itch to keep riding had been absent for several weeks after Gus met Bex, but ever since the wolf had shown up with all his theories and troublemaking, it was back. The desire to run as far away as he could get. Only, he couldn’t do that. Not now. He was in deep and leaving Bex behind was out of the question.

She was his home.

And he wouldn’t let her fight alone. He didn’t trust anyone to keep her safe better than he could.

He took a sharp curve, then another, and another. With each climb through the mountain pass, Bex clung tighter to him. Her thighs gripped around the hips. Her hands clasped at his t-shirt. But she didn’t tense. She wasn’t scared or frightened on the bike with him. She trusted him and he’d never betray that.

So, he’d stay. He’d resist the urge to run from his adoptive family, from the pain of the past being dredged up, from the tethers of falling in love with Bex. He’d resist it all and he’d stay.

Only, he didn’t know how to fight through it. He’d never had to. He’d always just picked up and left.

When the bike reached a stretch of road that was somewhat flat and straight, Gus took one hand off a handlebar and used it to cover her hands, linking their fingers. She calmed him. From the moment they’d met, she’d touched something inside him and the first time he touched her, peace unlike anything he’d ever known flowed through him.

He’d been scared ever since.

And none of it made sense to him. He was content to go with the flow, to take it however it came. But ever since the wolf, Luke Blackwood, had shown up, all Hell had broken loose and not only was Bex’s quiet life disrupted, but everything from her past and Gus’s past was coming back to haunt them.

He eased his fingers from hers and resumed holding onto the bike with both hands as the curves ahead came into view.

Bex leaned into him and laid her head on his back.

She was comfortable with him. She was at ease with him.

She’d never been scared of him, but she had been curious about him, something he’d relished. He’d been interested in her from the start. Her smile made him ache. Her body made hungry.

She had no idea what she did to him.

He knew for someone like Bex, trust didn’t come easy. She didn’t have many friends, no family left, had a sketchy coming into the world. She was naturally wary, but she was strong. And faced with what had been presented to her in recent weeks was more than any one person should have to deal with in a lifetime. She wasn’t who she’d always thought she was.

But she was who he needed her to be.

The winding country roads brought him freedom. Being out and away from the closeness of a family who didn’t really belong to him usually made him feel at one with nature, at one with who he really was. A bear. A shifter. A lover of the outdoors. An artist. The forests and the mountains were his inspiration for the art he used to express himself and that he used to help others find ways of expression through ink.

Bex relaxed against his back as he began to decelerate the closer they got to Dandridge. He loved it, the way she put her faith in him. As he turned down the side street that led to the Victorian house they were still in the process of renovating into her bed and breakfast, he scented the wolves, first. Blackwood must’ve left them behind. He also scented the bears of his adoptive family, namely his adoptive mother.

Bex gripped his shirt and lifted her head when he parked his bike. Her thighs didn’t ease their grip on his hips. Her arousal was strong, the way it always was when the wolves were around. It was the craziest damn thing that he scent of them made her angry and horny and aggressive.

If he hadn’t been on the receiving end of her horny aggression, or seen the split second shift from mild to angry aggression, he wouldn’t have believed Bex capable of it.

“She’s cooking,” Gus said, speaking of the woman who’d raised him as her own. He took his helmet off and hung it on the handlebars.

“I smelled it about a mile out,” Michael remarked as he mirrored Gus’s actions with his head gear.

“I can’t smell it. What’s she cooking? Anything good?” Bex swung her leg over and slid off the bike.

“She’s frying fish. Catfish.”

“Trout,” Gus countered.

“Nope. Catfish. It’s my favorite.”

“What does it being your favorite have to do with anything? She’s here at our house. So, it stands to reason that she’s making my favorite.”

Bex shook her head and took the back steps up to the kitchen door. “You two are pathetic.”

“They are,” Mama Bear agreed. “They’ve always argued about food. Especially fish. And sweets.”

“Other than fish, what are you making? Smells like hamburgers.”

“Yes. Hamburger steaks. The wolves didn’t want fish.”

“Why does it matter what they want?” Gus asked, elbowing Michael in the ribs. “Catfish. Told ya.”

“There’s trout too, you big baby.”

Michael grinned and hugged his mother. “I knew I was your favorite.”

There will be more information for you soon about a new set of Southern Shifter books coming in early February from some awesome paranormal romance authors, so stay tuned.

~lissa