Jessica Morris has a secret that could get her killed. Hiding in plain sight, pretending to be normal, is all she’s ever known. And even though she’s been lucky so far, she knows that she can’t hide in Shifter Falls forever. Getting involved with the town sheriff is the last thing she needs, but lately it’s all she can think about.
Novak Porter has watched Jessica since the first day she came into town. He suspects that, like everyone else in Shifter Falls, she’s got a skeleton or two in her closet. She’s nervous around him, and for years he’s forced himself to give her time. But when a chance encounter throws them together for more than five minutes, Novak decides he’s tired of waiting. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her around. Convincing her to work for him is easy, but getting her to believe in happily ever after might be a little more difficult.
Jessica turned to the voice in the darkness. The sexiest voice on the face of the planet. “Sheriff,” she said, her pulse increasing when she turned to look at him.
He looked as if he had been built of stone, and again she wondered just exactly what sort of shifter he was. No one seemed to know, or be willing to share, which was very strange in a town like Shifter Falls. Then again, she didn’t let anyone know what she was, either, so it could just be a privacy thing.
“I’m not sure what’s going on, but suddenly all the electronics inside the car went completely dead. The lights, dash, everything. I’m afraid it’s the alternator, since it has a brand-new battery.” She might be a lot of things, but she wasn’t completely stupid. “And I think that Jagger’s cub swiped my cell phone, again, so do you think you could maybe call a tow for me?” She shook her head. “That little guy gets me every single time. I swear he’s taken more cell phones off of me than I can count. Phi is never able to find them, so there’s no telling what he does with them.” She was snickering as she said that. She didn’t know why she was talking so much, but she was.
The sheriff was watching her intently and didn’t seem all that bothered by her random rambling. He merely pulled out his cell and put in a call for a truck. “Mick will come get your car. He said to leave the keys on the passenger front tire since he might be a while. They had to pull a couple cars from a slough after some young twits decided that drag racing with their parents’ cars was a good plan. Come on, I’ll give you a ride home.”
She whistled. “Oh boy. I bet there are going to be some kids in serious trouble about right now. Thanks for the offer of the ride.” She grabbed her purse, locked the car, and put the keys on the front passenger tire as she had been instructed. “You’ll probably be going out of your way a bit. I live at twenty-nine Forest Acre Road.” It was a dirt road surrounded by forest and she loved it. Nature called to her, and at least there she didn’t have to worry about nulling any abilities as she typically did when she was near other witches.
“No worries at all. It keeps me out of the station until the parents have finally wound down to a dull roar and the kids have had a few minutes for everything to sink in. Anyhow, I think that an hour’s worth of stewing before I arrive to come up with some interesting charges might help the situation. By then I’ll know if the lawyers have actually been called in or not and can figure out how to play this to keep the kids from doing something worse down the line.” The sheriff held her door for her, then shut it when she settled into her seat. A minute later he was setting out reflective markers behind her car before sliding in behind the wheel to take her toward town and home.
“You are a good man. Too bad you can’t keep a secretary to save your gorgeous ass.” She felt her face turn red from heat when she realized she’d blurted that out. “Crap, ignore me. I don’t know what I’m saying.” She cringed, but then shrugged. Since it was too late to take her candid observation back, she pressed on. “Well, from what I understand, you have gone through thirteen of them inside of three months. That’s outstanding right there.”
He leveled a look on her she couldn’t read. She was only thankful he seemed to ignore her initial comment and it allowed her cheeks to cool. “I have a specific way I expect things to be done. And, I admit, my temper can get the best of me. Everything we do can be called into question inside a courtroom. If even one I isn’t dotted right, or a T was missed being crossed, that is potentially a dangerous offender being allowed out on the street due to clerical error. Unacceptable in my book so, yes, I have some impossibly high standards I expect to be carried out by every man and woman in the department.”
“No, not impossibly high standards. They are perfectly reasonable. The way that everyone made it sound you were seriously a neat freak nut job, but what you’re saying doesn’t sound like that at all.” She understood the importance of perfect record keeping, of ensuring that everything was where it should be at all times. “When the council took me on as their secretary, I had to redo a hell of a lot of stuff because the person before me couldn’t seem to understand that paperwork is filed by number then letter. Idiots.” She smirked and looked over at him. “I guess I have high standards as well. Then again since I’m a witch without abilities, I have to be able to contribute somehow, right? Especially with my mother’s coven proclaiming me to be nothing but a human.” That’s what all of Shifter Falls thought of her, and she was happy to keep it that way. When she’d first started out on her own, she’d wondered if it wouldn’t have been smarter, and safer, to try to hide even the fact that she’d been born into a witch family. Ultimately she’d decided that it was better to stick as close to the truth as possible. So she never tried to hide the fact that she had been born to witch parents. It was unlikely that she would ever run into anyone from her old coven, but on the off chance that she did, she didn’t want to arouse suspicion by being caught in a lie. Besides, being known as a witch without powers—therefore, more or less, human—kept her just as safe as if she’d tried to pass herself off as a normal human.
“I’m glad you understand. Few do,” he muttered. “I think the council foisted their rejects my way for some form of payback. They all loved the idea when the mayor had me run for office and I won by a landslide, but the minute I arrested the first council member and wouldn’t take a bribe, they started to wonder. Told them the same thing I told the mayor when he hired me—I was going to run things my way, and if they found someone that could run against me and get elected that would be the only way they’d get me out of that seat. They haven’t had any luck yet.”
Jess knew it was because the sheriff was respected by every citizen in the Falls as well as the other two cities that made up their exceptionally small county. While not everyone agreed with his methods and strict by-the-book ways, they liked how he’d cleaned up and kept the area protected from a drug problem several years back when he’d first taken the position.
“You cleaned up the area. No one would run against you. You’re too good at your job, so it is what it is.” She shrugged. “You are strict and you can be an ass from what I’ve been told, but then again there are a lot of falsehoods that fly through Shifter Falls, aren’t there?” she asked with a smile.
“True enough. The trick is determining what’s truth and what’s lie in everything that goes around town. It’s amazing what one can discover the moment they find that tiny thread and give it a tug. After all, there’s not a soul in this town that is exactly who they appear to be on the surface once you dig down a little further.”