USA Today Bestselling Author
Welcome to the desert town of Cambio Springs where the water is cool, the summers sizzle, and all the residents wear fur, feathers, or snakeskin on full moon nights.
Single mom Jena Crowe is desperate for a day off. Work at her diner never ends, her two boys are bundles of energy, and she’s pretty sure her oldest is about to shift into something furry or feathery.
Added to that, changes are coming to the tiny desert town of shapeshifters. Changes not everyone will welcome.
Caleb Gilbert was looking for a fresh start, and the quiet town of Cambio Springs seemed like just the ticket for a more peaceful life. Now if he could just get the spitfire owner of the local diner to go on a date with him.
But when murder rocks their small community, Caleb and Jena will have to work together before the secret of their safe haven is exposed.
This book opens with a unique scene at the diner as old man Quinn shifts and runs out on his bill, leaving his clothes and hat behind. Jena who is running the diner while her parents galivant around the country nails his hat to the wall it won’t come down until the bill is paid. Not even the Devin ‘Dev’ Moon a county deputy will leave his eggs to chase the man.
All of Cambria Springs residents are shifters, all kinds of shifters, birds, reptiles, cats, wolves etc. Jena hasn’t always lived here although she was born here. She returned with her two sons after her husband died three years ago. Someone else has just returned and his reasons are totally different as they will see at the town council meeting. Alex MacCann is back and he’s a successful Real Estate Broker in L.A. and while people expect him to return to stay at some point, they aren’t expecting what he has to say this time around.
Jena meets Caleb Gilbert at the Cave where she sometimes helps out her best friend the owner, Ollie. She figures he’s just passing through when he responds to that question with something like that. She’s in the mood for some adult fun with someone and Caleb fills the bill. That’s just a part of the surprise to be sprung at the council meeting.
The town council consists of a representative from each of the seven families that make up the population, nothing goes through without a unanimous vote. The mayor Matt is always coming up with plans to boost the town’s economy since the nearby military base shut down. This time he has something else up his sleeve and it’s already done and without a vote and the MacCann’s are on his side.
This is a favorite scene.
“Hey, folks!” Matt stood and walked to the front with a confident step. “There are some exciting things going on. As many of you know, since the base closed down, we’ve been applying for a lot of federal money to get some more development in town and create jobs.”
Matt paused, but you could have heard a pin drop, so he continued. “Well, I’m happy to say that a lot of those grants are coming through! And one of the things they’re funding is our own police station.” A few quiet rumblings started among the Quinns in the back of the room and Jena’s senses came alive with tension.
This was not good.
Matt was still talking. “While we’ve been making do with the sheriff’s office, our own dedicated police force is something we’ve needed for a long time.”
Ollie’s deep voice may have been quiet, but it carried throughout the room. “For what?”
Matt looked irritated. “Well… for a lot of reasons. It’s better in an emergency if we have our own—”
Ted interrupted this time. “What emergencies? Between me and the volunteer fire fighters, we have most of the regular stuff covered.”
Matt held up his hands and nodded. “Ted, I agree. For medical emergencies and any kind of rescue work, you and the fire department do an amazing job. We’re lucky to have you. But in other cases, the sheriff’s office—”
“There a crime spree happening we don’t know about?” someone—Jena thought it was one of the Quinns—piped up from the back. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask your brother?” another voice answered. Scattered laughter spread across the room. Jena glanced back at Caleb-who-was-not-just-passing-through. He had an amused expression on his face and was watching the room with measuring eyes.
“Aren’t you responsible?”
He was a cop. He was their cop.
Jena died a little inside. Shit. There was a reason she didn’t date. She didn’t have time and she didn’t particularly want her personal life spread around any more than it was already. Everyone in the room had known her since she was born. She was Lowell’s widow. Low Jr. and Aaron’s mom. Tom and Cathy Crowe’s daughter. Max and Beverly’s beloved daughter-in-law. The owner of the Blackbird Diner. A responsible, hard-working, single mother.
And she wasn’t known as a woman who fooled around with strange men at The Cave.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
One lonely night. One irresistible grin. Jena had given in to a passing impulse and was now, no doubt, going to be thrown into the deep end of the Cambio Springs’ gossip pool.
Matt was trying to regain the attention of the church. “Everyone, I know that this is going to be a change, but—”
“What about Dev?” Ollie asked in his attention-commanding voice. “Dev’s in the sheriff’s department, and he’s always made the Springs a priority if we need anything. I still don’t understand why we’re wasting the money on some cop from who-knows-where.”
Jena glanced around. No one was arguing with Ollie. They rarely did. When the quiet man offered his opinion, people listened and they generally did what he said. Just then, she saw Alex McCann rise to his feet.
If Cambio Springs had a golden child, it was Alex McCann. Oldest son of the oldest son, Alex was the descendant of the elder McCann brother, one of the two soldiers who had come west with a mismatched group of families to the isolated springs in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The McCanns became the wolves and other canine shifters. If her husband Lowell had shifted and survived, he would have given his loyalty to Alex. If either of her sons shifted into a wolf—which they had a fifty percent chance of doing—they would belong to the McCanns. The wolves were the unofficial alphas of Cambio Springs and, other than the cats—who had no loyalty to anyone but themselves—they led and others followed. Alex was the heir apparent.
And he was also one of her closest friends. He may have lived away for now, but everyone knew he would end up back in the Springs. It was his town.
Alex walked up to the table, leaning casually against the podium set off to the side.
“Hey, everyone. Hope you’re all doing okay tonight. Thanks for coming out. I know this meeting was kind of last minute.”
Jena could see the expression around Matt’s eyes tighten. He wasn’t pleased, but he wasn’t going to say anything, either.
Matt said, “Thanks for stepping up, Alex. Maybe you could explain a little better—”
“You know, folks, I think this is a good move.”
Alex was being deceptively casual. He was putting on the easygoing charm that made him such a successful real estate investor in Southern California. When Alex McCann wanted to get his way, he didn’t try to convince you. He just explained things in such a way that you came to the decision all by yourself.
“I think things in the Springs are changing for the better. We’re going to be having some investment coming in soon. Some new challenges come along with that. It’s just my opinion, but I think Matt’s made a good decision here.”
“What kind of changes?” Ollie asked.
Jena saw the two old friends exchange some wordless conversation before Ollie’s shoulders relaxed a bit, and he settled in his seat.
Alex continued. “And I think the mayor’s done a hell of a job picking a new chief of police. Caleb Gilbert—Caleb, do you mind coming up?”
Alex lifted a hand and Jena stiffened when Caleb-who-was-kind-of-a-liar walked up to the front of the church. If possible, he was even better looking in full light. The previous night at The Cave, she’d been attracted to his smile first. He had a gorgeous full mouth that kept lifting at the corner, like he was amused by a private joke. She knew she’d never seen him before, but something about him seemed familiar. He had angled features that hinted at some Native American blood, a mess of wavy brown hair, and eyes that were almost black in the low light of the bar. But it was his mouth, those unexpectedly full lips curved up with mischief, that had dragged her attention back to him over and over again as she worked. She saw him peeking at her from the corner of his eye as he walked toward the front.
“Nice ass,” Ted whispered.
“Nice boots,” Allie said. “No wonder you—”
“Please, shut up.”
Actually, on second thought, Caleb-with-the-superb-ass-and-boots didn’t walk. He swaggered. Jena narrowed her eyes. Yep, that was definitely a swagger. A cocky one. One that said, “I’m going to blow your mind with my kisses, then hang around for another hour looking tempting.” Okay, maybe it only said that to her. Jena peeked at her two best friends, one of whom was married and the other who claimed no man would ever live up to her exacting standards. Two sets of eyes followed Caleb intently.
Never mind, apparently the swagger was a universal language.
She was an idiot for thinking she could have one crazy night without consequences. It may have been just a kiss—or a few—but Jena Crowe was not the kind that usually gave in to temptation that way. It was one thing when he was a cute guy passing through town that she’d likely never see again. Someone who lived in the Springs? No way. She was just going to have to pretend the new chief of police didn’t exist.
And really—her shoulders slumped a little—Caleb-who-really-was-an-amazing-kisser would move into town, take one look at the myriad family, community, and professional obligations heaped on Jena’s shoulders and back away quickly. It would be more like a fast jog than a swagger, if she had to guess.
Matt took over. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Caleb Gilbert, former decorated detective of the Albuquerque police department. Caleb here was on several very prestigious task forces before he decided to make a move to California. We’re very lucky to have him. He was instrumental in—”
“Good evening.” Caleb stepped in front of both Matt and Alex, easily drawing the attention of the curious crowd. “I’m pretty positive your mayor and Mr. McCann will paint me in a far better light than I deserve.” Caleb offered a friendly grin to the crowded church. “The simple fact of the matter is I’m really looking forward to making this my home. I lived in the city for years and… well, I never really got used to it to tell the truth. I’m from a small town myself.”
That would explain the boots and the attitude, Jena thought. In her experience, men who carried themselves like Caleb Gilbert hadn’t grown up in the cushioned comfort of air-conditioning and smooth roads. The holes in his jeans weren’t put there by the manufacturer.
“Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have a lot to learn about all of you, and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve been informed that Jeremy McCann here”—Caleb nodded to one of Alex’s cousins near the front— “is going to be my deputy, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Well, that part made sense. Jeremy and his wife were expecting their first child. He’d been living near San Bernardino and working in the police department there, but McCanns always moved back to the Springs when they had kids.
“Anyway, I don’t want to draw this out. I have a lot of work to do, organizing everything from the ground up, but, like I said, I’m looking forward to it.” Then Caleb grinned. His eyes deliberately sought hers and locked, just for a second, before they continued on their friendly journey. “I’ll go ahead and let you all talk behind my back now.” That drew a low laugh from the crowd. “And I’ll be on my way. Deputy McCann and I should have the station open early next week if any of you want to stop by. Consider the door open to anyone who’s curious.” Then Caleb tipped his head in a fashion his mother would approve of and turned to shake Matt and Alex’s hands.
His new deputy rose and met him at the back of the room before the two walked out into the night. Silence blanketed the church. Jena could hear some shuffling papers and feet, but not a single person spoke.
Ted mumbled, “Wait for it…”
Outside, the engine in Jeremy’s truck started. Low voices drifted in the wind. One door slammed. Then another. The sound of spitting gravel hit the night air and a few moments later, the telltale retreat of the old Dodge could be heard by everyone in the church.
The silence was broken by Elder Gabe Vasquez glaring down at Matt and Alex. His voice boomed through the silent desert night.
Hunter, Elizabeth. Shifting Dreams: A Small Town Shifter Romance (Cambio Springs Book 1). Kindle Locations (-528). Recurve Press, LLC. Kindle Edition.
On top of the new sheriff being announced, Alex MacCann drops another. An exclusive Hotel and Spa utilizing the hot springs and offering yoga and other health-oriented activities.
There’s only one hold out on the vote, Jenna’s grandmother. When she’s murdered, there is more to be concerned about than the hotel. There’s the distinct possibility the whole town could be outed.
This books combines, suspense, humor and romance into a fun and adventurous read.
5 Contented Purrs for Elizabeth!
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ELIZABETH HUNTER is a ten time USA Today bestselling author of romance, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal mystery. Based in Central California and Addis Ababa, she travels extensively to write fantasy fiction exploring world mythologies, history, and the universal bonds of love, friendship, and family.
She has published over fifty works of fiction and sold over two million books world-wide. She is the author of the Elemental Mysteries, the Glimmer Lake series, the Irin Chronicles, and other works of fiction.