Hard Mated, by Jennifer Ashley
Shifters! I love them, especially the sexy wildcats, wolves, and bears that populate my Shiftertowns.
A few years ago, when my publisher nixed my idea for a vampire series (too many vamps out there, they said), I pouted, then brought forth an idea for a shapeshifter series that had been swimming around in the back of my head.
I’m so glad I did! The first book, Pride Mates, was my first New York Times bestseller, and paved the way for more Shifters to come.
I decided right from the start that my series wouldn’t be “save the world from evil,” or “save the species from the evil thing trying to kill it.” The books would be about the Shifters themselves, how they live and love, about their families, how they interact with the human world, and the problems (sometimes dire) that they have to solve in order to thrive.
Pride Mates and Primal Bonds (Books 1 and 2) introduce Liam Morrissey and his family, three generations of charming Irish bachelor wildcat Shifters living in the same house in Austin, Texas.
Indie publishing has let me put out stories in this word between the main books, and Bodyguard (Book 2.5), is about Ronan, a Kodiak bear Shifter who works for Liam. The book is available in print from Amazon, and in e-book everywhere you can buy ebooks.
This was followed by Wild Cat (Book 3) which introduces yet another family—wildcat Shifters Cassidy and Eric Warden (brother and sister), Eric’s son Jace, and the grizzlies next door. Wild Cat is Cassidy’s story (she meets up with a hunk of a Latino cop).
In October, Mate Claimed (Book 4), Eric’s story, will hit the shelves, and introduce yet another Shifter (Tiger), who gets his book next June.
Meanwhile, I’m pleased that this week, another character from the Austin Shiftertown gets his story told: Spike in Hard Mated (Book 3.5).
Spike is a “tracker”, a Shifter who works for the Shiftertown leader, one of a team of bodyguards and fighters. Spike is also a champion fighter at the Shifters’ fight club. Spike has a colorful past, working for the villain in Book 1, but now he’s one of the good guys. He’s tough and strong, and he’s about to meet he woman who cracks his hard exterior.
Hard Mated is available in ebook first, with a print edition following in a couple of weeks.
For more about the series—characters, blurbs, books, links, and my “Humans’ Guide to Shifters” see http://www.jennifersromances.com/NewSite/shifters/SU_main.html
More about all my series is at http://www.jennifersromances.com
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Excerpt from Hard Mated:
“Fight’s over!” one of the refs shouted. “The bear is down.”
The grizzly’s few supporters moaned in disappointment. The rest of the crowd screamed and hollered, humans punching the air, beasts doing victory leaps. Spike, champion of the Austin Shiftertown, had won again.
Spike stood still and caught his breath, his Collar sending fiery jolts of pain down his neck and into his spine. He’d pay a long time for what he’d done in the rings tonight. Close fight. The bear was damn good.
Spike stretched his forepaws into the air and let himself become human, his tall six foot six. He kept his arms up, acknowledging his victory, and his fans filled the place with noise.
Cormac the bear came across the ring, Collar sparking with residual arcs, and gave Spike a nod. “Good fight,” he said, his voice rasping.
The bear had no malice in his eyes, only approval for Spike’s technique and stamina. That was the problem with bears. They were so damn affable—when they weren’t trying to kill you.
“Good fight,” Spike said back. He kept his words light, pretending he didn’t want to fall onto the soft dirt of the ring and pass out. A few gallons of water poured down his throat wouldn’t hurt either.
Cormac turned away to his friends and a woman ran to Spike with a sports bottle.
Spike grabbed the bottle and upended a stream of water into his mouth before he realized two things. First, the woman who’d handed him the bottle was human, and second, he’d never seen her here before.
She had black hair cut short but wildly curly, blue eyes that looked back at him in perfect equanimity, a round face that was cute rather than pretty, and lips that any male, human or Shifter would want to sink into. Her plump body had nice curves that she didn’t much hide behind a button-down shirt, a sexily-cut lace tank, and jeans that rested low on her hips.
Shifter groupie? Maybe, but she didn’t have the obsessed look, nor did she wear a fake Collar or paint on whiskers or anything like that.
On the other hand, Spike was standing next to her wearing nothing but his tattoos, sweat, and the blood from the fight. The woman kept her gaze on Spike’s face, not even flickering it to his very naked body.
Spike upended the bottle, squirted water onto his face, and rubbed his hand over it. A shower was going to feel good.
A nice roll the sack would be great too, and here was this nice little morsel, handing him water and looking fine in a Texas cowgirl kind of way.
Not that Spike usually went for humans. He had to be too careful in bed with humans, because things could get wild and wicked. Shifters women were more resilient, more used to male Shifters and what they wanted.
But there was something Spike liked about this human.
“Who are you, sweetheart?” he asked.
“My name’s Myka. Myka Thompson. You don’t know me, but you know Jillian.”
Jillian. Jillian. Who the hell was Jillian?
“You knew her, I should say,” Myka said. “For one night at least. Five years ago. Shifter bar. You were a Shifter, she was a Shifter groupie . . .” She trailed off, one hand moving before she returned it to her shapely hip.
Memory came to him. Five years ago, sure, and Spike had been very drunk that night, but Jillian had been the hottest thing he’d seen in a long, long time. “Red-headed little thing, fiery. Yeah, I remember her.”
He’d never seen Jillian again. Spike liked to date his ladies for more than a night, much more than a night, but the phone number Jillian had given him had been disconnected, and she’d not come to the bar again—that one or any other Shifter bar.
Some humans were like that. They wanted a taste of the beast, but they didn’t want anything long-term with a Shifter.
“How’s she doing?” Spike asked. He grabbed a towel he’d left on a box outside the ring and rubbed his wet face.
“She’s dying,” Myka said.
Spike jerked back to her, towel dangling from his grasp. “What?”
“I said, Jillian’s dying. She wants to see you, but you have to come with me now.”
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