Ellie Reynolds runs a nail salon that caters to shifters of all varieties. The proverbial shift hits the fan when billionaire mogul Jackson Lawrence walks in the door and offers Ellie two million dollars to sell her shop. Ellie has no intention of selling out, especially to someone who plans to bulldoze her shop to the ground and replace it with a fast food joint. Their battle of wit and will is brought to a sudden halt when Jackson’s enemies appear, throwing them into a fight for their lives.
Jackson believed he’d left violence behind when he resigned his position with the Blood Wolves, a secret shifter military group, but someone wants his company’s cyber invention and will stop at nothing to get it. He didn’t mean to drag Ellie into his mess, but he’s willing to do anything to protect her and the firewall his friend created...anything except fight his attraction to the outspoken redhead he’s suddenly responsible for. Jackson soon learns Ellie is hotter than he first gave her credit for...like dragon hot...and life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.
Sometimes shift happens when you least expect it.
Reader Note: contains BBW heroines, billionaires, humor, werewolves, dragon shifter, and paranormal erotic romance elements
Ellie grabbed a rag and disinfectant. She was in the middle of wiping down the station when the doorbell chimed. Before looking up, she called out a cheerful greeting. “Good morning, Mrs. Sussman.”“Good morning.” The deep, chocolate-sweet tone traced fingers down her spine. Whoever it was, was definitely not Mrs. Sussman. Ellie glanced at the visitor and experienced a set of trembles to rival the world’s strongest earthquakes.Holy shit. Jackson Lawrence.The Jackson Lawrence. Atlanta’s most eligible bachelor and a billionaire ten times over. Maybe a hundred. Hell, there were more zeros in his bank account than she had toes. Why was he in Polished? And more importantly, why did he choose a bad hair day to visit her salon?She tossed the rag aside and smoothed a hand over her frizzy red curls before strolling forward. Her knees knocked every step of the way. Could he see them? Dear Lord, don’t let him see her wobble. “May I help you?”Sea-green eyes locked with hers. “Yes, you may. I’m looking for Ellie Reynolds.”Holy shit! Conscious of the looks Antoinette shot her, Ellie pretended to be a suave, cool professional. “I’m Ellie Reynolds. What can I do for you? Do you need to make an appointment?”No way could she hold his hand in hers and even pretend to work on his nails.“Not today.” Jackson’s gaze roamed her face, dipping down to the tie-dyed purple, blue, and yellow smock she wore with her name embroidered in pink thread. “You’re the owner?”Did she detect sarcasm? And what was wrong with her smock? It had character, or at least she’d thought so when she’d ordered a dozen of them.She propped a hand on her hip and lifted an eyebrow. “Yes, I am. And you are?”A strangled laugh escaped Antoinette from somewhere behind her. Ellie ignored the flutters of apprehension in her belly and waited for Jackson’s response.God, he was even sexier in person than in the magazines, with perfectly groomed brown hair and a hint of stubble on his angled jaw, like he’d shaved the day before but forgot to that morning. He was several inches taller than her, and his physique rivaled her favorite action heroes: bulging chest and arms, with a trim waist and thick thighs. His lips were entirely too kissable, almost as if they would appear plump if he hadn’t tightened them into a firm, straight line.Dressed in a black sweater and faded jeans, he should be just like any good-looking man in Atlanta, but Jackson Lawrence was anything but normal. The rumor was he’d turned his back on his pack when he was a teenager, a definite no-no in the world of shifters. Then he’d become a lone wolf. A rogue. A shifter guaranteed to induce heat in any female he met.Her imagination supplied images best left to the bedroom. She made a mental note to cool it on the romance novels. Her hormones were already in overdrive without an extra dose from the erotic love stories she preferred.Jackson straightened the pile of magazines she’d left strewn on the counter. Very clean freakish of him. Figured. A man who looked like he did couldn’t be perfect. It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the world.“I’ve got a proposition for you.” His voice smoothed over her. Slow and sweet, like honey or the molasses Nana had been fond of pouring on buttermilk biscuits.“What sort of proposition?” She didn’t try to hide the suspicion in her tone.“Yoo hoo,” Antoinette called out. “If she says no, I’m available.”Jackson graced Antoinette with a slow grin. Even though the smile wasn’t directed at Ellie, she felt it to her toes. She grabbed the edge of the counter to keep her balance, afraid she’d totter right out of her three-inch-high sandals. The corners of his mouth inched to their normal position, and his attention returned to Ellie. “As I was saying, I have a proposition for you. Can you spare a moment to speak with me?”Ellie glanced at the cat clock. Eight thirty-eight. What the hell was keeping Mrs. Sussman? Usually the panther shifter was on time. “Actually I have another appointment.”Before she could stop him, he snagged her appointment book between his long, beautiful fingers and flipped the page. “She’s eight minutes late.” Another tick of the minute hand. “Make that nine minutes.”He tapped the laminated sign taped to the counter. “In another sixty seconds, her appointment is canceled according to your policy. I’ll wait.”The beast within Ellie flared to life, but she batted it aside. No one knew she was half shifter, and she planned to keep it that way. The client base she’d cultivated seemed to be suspicious of other shifters, and the last thing she wanted to do was ruin her professional image. She’d played the part of a human, and she would continue to play it as long as it paid off. Besides, Antoinette was fully human and probably had no clue shifters existed. Not many humans did. She didn’t want to lose the one friend she had in Atlanta.Jackson seemed to recognize Ellie’s ire, and he stepped aside, whistling softly to himself and crossing his arms over his massive chest. Ellie stood there, mute with irritation, and listened to the clock’s ticks. For the first time, she regretted digging the memento out of storage.Antoinette breezed past waggling a wave with her freshly painted nails. “I’m all dry. See you next time, Ellie. Later, handsome.” She directed a wink at Jackson.Ellie watched her go. The traitor.Left alone with the sexiest, richest man she’d even seen, Ellie ripped off the laminated sheet and tossed it into the trash. It was a stupid policy anyway. None of her clients were ever on time. Except Mrs. Sussman. The second traitor of the day.At exactly eight forty, Jackson returned to the counter. “According to previously stated policy, your eight thirty appointment is canceled. May I speak with you now?”She glared at him but finally relented. “Fine. But if Mrs. Sussman shows up, you’re out of here.”He lifted an eyebrow and nodded. “Fair enough. Your animosity is a bit of a mystery, but I think you’ll be happy once you hear what I have to say.”His assessment was spot-on. What was it about him that pricked her ire, besides the overwhelming libidinal response? Typically she wasn’t a hateful sort of person, but instinctively she knew she had to be careful around him. He threw her off-balance, and she didn’t like the feeling. “I’m sure you’re used to women falling over themselves to talk to you, but I’m not your typical female.”He smirked. “I can tell.”A flush burned her from head to toe at the implication. She wasn’t skinny or particularly beautiful, but damn, couldn’t he show a bit of interest? She had big boobs, after all. What man didn’t like big boobs? Unless he was—She glanced at him. Nope. Definitely not gay.Wait. What was she doing? Did she want him to show interest?Oh God, she did.“Is there a place we can go to talk?”She plucked a piece of lint from her smock and flicked it away. “Here’s fine. Say your piece. I’m a busy woman.”Another smile crossed his face, soul-shattering because this time it was directed at her. “I like you, Ellie Reynolds.”Something was wrong with her knees. Had to be. They kept giving out on her. Was twenty-five too young to have arthritis? Was it even possible for her to have it? Suddenly she wished she’d paid more attention when her mother taught her about her shifter heritage, if only for medical purposes.In an effort to maintain control of the conversation, she borrowed one of her Nana’s favorite expressions. “Stop blowing smoke up my ass and get on with it.”The tolerant light in his eyes extinguished. She wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it herself, but his entire demeanor transformed, becoming the man she recognized on the cover of business and financial magazines, the man who bought and sold property for a living. “I want to buy Polished.”Shock held her immobile. “What would a savvy businessman like you need with a small-time salon?”“I have an investment opportunity, but I need your building to complete the transaction. I can’t go into further details. Contract negotiations, you understand.”Actually she didn’t. She’d bought Polished, scoring a hell of a deal when the previous owner died and the son agreed to take a low-ball offer. “I see. How much are you offering?”Not that she would consider it, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.“Two million dollars.”She choked on her spit. “Come again?”His green gaze was serious. “Say yes, and I’ll have my lawyer draw up the paperwork immediately.”“Oh, I know what’s going on.” She leaned back and looked around him. “Where are the cameras? I’m being punked, aren’t I? I should’ve known. Did Antoinette put you up to this? I’m painting her nails baby-poop green the next time I see her. Wait and see.”Jackson stepped forward and took her cheeks between his warm palms. “Ellie, focus. I want to buy your salon. I’m not dicking around here.”“This is real? Your offer is real?”Fucking A. Jackson Lawrence was touching her face. Jackson Lawrence smelled like cedar and mint. Jackson Lawrence had the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen.The animal within her purred with satisfaction.Hold the phone. She didn’t purr. Yet honest to goodness mewls continued to escape her throat.The tips of his fingers pressed into the curves of her cheeks before gentling into a caress. “You can be rich, Ellie. Think about it. All you have to do is say yes.”The money was tempting, but nothing held a candle to the man before her. She’d probably strip naked and walk through Buckhead to please him, but Polished was her life’s work. She’d done it for Nana. No way could she sell her Nana’s dream.Stepping back from temptation, she shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m not selling.”Surprise registered in his striking, feline-tinted eyes. Odd eyes for a wolf shifter to possess. Did he have a cat ancestor she hadn’t read about in the shifter gossip blogs? “Two million dollars is a lot of money, Ellie.”A shit ton of money to be exact. “I know. I thank you again, but no deal.”His lips twitched. “Is that your final offer?”Dang it. She was trying to be a serious businesswoman, for heaven’s sake. “I think you should go.”