The visit to Elk Ridge is supposed to be just another assignment for Tom Barrington. Then he encounters Bryce Reynolds, a generous, warmhearted cowboy who has the easiest smile he’s ever seen. It doesn’t take long for Tom to break all his rules and end up in Bryce’s bed.
Bryce Reynolds believes there’s no such thing as a hot politician, right up until he meets Tom Barrington. Tall, dark, and principled, Tom overturns all of Bryce’s prejudices, and Bryce starts to forget that he doesn’t do serious and he doesn’t do commitment.
As Bryce and Tom struggle to make sense of what’s happening between them, they’re drawn into a political battle—one which could affect the future of every shifter. And when long-buried secrets start coming to light, things turn deadly. Nothing will ever be the same again for the Elk Ridge pack.
Note: This is book 4 but it can be read as a standalone
“So what do you need to know?” Bryce asked. The thought that the sooner they got business done, the sooner they might get to other things was not in his mind at all. No way.
It turned out to be pretty much what he’d expected. Tom broke out a tablet on which he already had a list of pack members’ names. He jotted down the brief additional details Bryce offered and asked some open-ended questions, which Bryce answered in a meandering way that gave away precisely nothing. Then Tom wanted to examine for himself the potential hostile zone.
“You mean the house and ranch?”
Tom’s lips curved again into that grin. It did something quite remarkable to what was otherwise a serious-looking face, and Bryce found he wanted to keep seeing it. “Sorry,” Tom said. “Occupational hazard, using jargon.”
“I hear you,” Bryce said. “Like when I exit the vehicle in the vicinity of the building, rather than get out of my car at home.”
The grin widened. “Is it okay if I take a look around? I’d like to see your territory as well as the house.”
Even though Bryce found himself smiling back, he was aware that there was a lively intelligence in those brown eyes. They might be smiling, but Tom’s focus on what he was here for hadn’t faltered in the slightest. Given the secrets the pack was guarding, that made him a little dangerous.
“I’ll come with you,” he said. “Show you the lay of the land.”
“Thanks,” Tom said, then hesitated. “I think Tristan said he might help with that. Him and Colby.”
Well, yeah, but Bryce had given in to Tristan’s begging before he’d found out just how sharp Tom’s brain was. He didn’t want him spending time with Colby. He thought Colby would sooner be eaten alive by fire-ants than betray Matt and the pack, but he’d find it hard to answer any questions about how he came here without tipping off someone as alert as Tom that he was hiding something. And they couldn’t risk the wrong person finding out they’d had dealings with Cale’s pack, or they might just find themselves the next loose end to be cleaned up.
Bryce shrugged casually and let his eyes run appreciatively over Tom again. It wasn’t exactly a hardship. “Yeah, but I can show you things Tristan can’t,” he said, and bounced his eyebrows suggestively.
Tom was grinning in genuine amusement. “Bet you say that to all the National Council aides.”
“I’m going to have to find out. You’re the first I’ve met so far,” Bryce said.
Tom laughed, but Bryce could see his brain was still working. He was probably wondering why Bryce had changed his mind about Tristan and Colby showing him around.
“Also,” Bryce confided, “Colby’s—well, he’s just come out of a really bad relationship, met Tristan, and found out they’re mates. To be honest, the two of them could do with some time alone.”
Tom’s eyes softened as he nodded in understanding. Bryce was glad—not only had he steered him away from asking Colby questions about his past, but it also seemed as if Tom was a genuinely good guy. Added to the attractive exterior, that made him quite a package. One Bryce would very much like to spend some time opening.
“How do you want to do this?” Bryce asked, getting to his feet.
Tom’s eyebrows rose. “And there I was, thinking you were a little more experienced than that,” he said with a wicked grin that made Bryce choke. He was pretty sure he was going to get lucky later.
They decided to shift so Bryce could show him the pack territory first. And damn it, Tom wasn’t supposed to be just as attractive in wolf form as in human. He was lithe, his pelt a glossy dark gray, and he had the sort of awareness of his surroundings that Bryce had only previously observed in Matt and Karl. Tom might be attractive—okay, no might about it—but Bryce would do well to remember he was potentially dangerous. He hated the predictable way he found that knowledge even more enticing. It was the same thing that had always attracted him to Matt—the dangerous edge, the knowledge that he wasn’t entirely safe.
He shook his head impatiently, not willing to entertain those thoughts, and led the way out of the yard with Tom close on his heels.
Some of my friends have looked at me in confused horror when I’ve told them what my latest series is about. “Werewolves,” they echo blankly (because realising they wouldn’t understand the shorthand of shifter, that’s the term I’ve settled on for those who haven’t yet been initiated into the genre). “But why?”
Why shifters? What is it about them that has so many people, myself included, intrigued? I’ve no idea what it is for other people – and would love to hear – but for me there are a number of different things going on. Firstly, I love the whole pack dynamic. The shifters that are the focus of my Strength of the Pack series are wolf shifters, and while the rules of a wolf pack have been adapted to reflect human drives and needs, I love the social nature of the pack. I love that they need one another for support even while they don’t all get along all of the time.
Which brings me to a second reason – I love the idea that underneath the veneer of civilisation, there’s a feral nature lurking. It’s why they turn so easily and often to violence, leading to drama that’s great fun to write!
There’s something alluring about the idea of being able to transform at will into a different creature and run under the moon, wild and free, but still be able to parse it all through a human’s consciousness. As a dog-lover, I suppose I also have a weakness for the idea of piles of furry wolves draped on top of one another or basking in the sunshine.
And there’s the alpha dynamic. In real life I’d loathe such a hierarchical structure, but in fiction there’s something intriguing about a strong leader who is responsible for his pack. I think Matt Urban deserves a sainthood for putting up with his troublesome crew.
Oh, and last but definitely not least – the concept of mates. Not everyone finds the idea of mates overwhelmingly romantic and desirable, which is something that Shifting Sands tackles. But whether characters love, hate, or are scared of the whole concept of mates, it gives another dynamic to explore.
With so many different, fun strands to play with, I’m left wondering why anybody wouldn’t enjoy reading and writing about shifters!
Coming this afternoon!
About the Author:
Joy Lynn Fielding is a sucker for happy endings. She believes, however, that if characters don’t suffer along the way, they won’t fully appreciate being happy. Not all of her characters thank her for this viewpoint, but what do they know?
Joy lives in a small English market town, but also inhabits a number of fictional worlds at any one time, reflecting what she’s writing and what she’s reading. She has a tendency to share enthusiastically with anyone who will listen the latest fascinating facts she’s stumbled across in her research for books. Thankfully she has a very patient Labrador, who has a gift for looking as though he’s interested in what she’s saying while he waits for the food to arrive.