Hounded:A Steamy Shifter Mystery

By: Tasha Black

His heartbeat had sped up slightly, matching hers.

He leaned forward another inch.

The door swung open again.

Definitely violently this time.

Oh for god’s sake. It was Gil. She would know that smell anywhere.

Dulcie had sat at his kitchen table and listened to him yell at her for hours every time an open house led to nothing. When the house had finally sold, she almost didn’t have the heart to put his money in her bank account. Almost.

What reason could he possibly have to be angry with her now?

“Blanco!” he yelled, pronouncing it like ‘blank oh’.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Holly,” Van said, turning from Dulcie to reach out his hand.

“I don’t think so, you… bastard!” Gil’s face was pink with fury.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Van asked.

“My wife, my wife…” Gil spluttered.

“Oh, yes, Heidi looks great, doesn’t she?” Van asked with a smile.

Dulcie couldn’t help but agree. Heidi Holly had always been a beautiful woman, in spite of her rather unfortunate married name. But lately, she’d had a nice spring in her step. It figured, Heidi was his first client, and she’d devoured Van before anyone else could get to him.

Though, if the rumors were true, he’d been servicing the wealthy women of Woodland Creek for months, and not just as a personal trainer.

“You’re a charlatan, and I know what you’re up to!” Gil said.

“What am I up to?” Van asked.

Dulcie could sense Van found the situation more amusing than intimidating.

“You… you… You know what I’m talking about! I came home yesterday for lunch, and I heard you in there with her. When I opened the bedroom door, there was a big white dog jumping out the open window and running across my lawn. I’m not stupid, you know. It’s bad enough you have no respect for the bonds of marriage, but do I have to pay you on top of it?”

“Listen, man,” Van said calmly, not rising to the bait. “I’m a personal trainer. I’m not a dog. I’m not… whatever you think I am. My prices are very reasonable for an in-home personal trainer with my experience. I come as many times as your wife pays me for. If you have an issue with her spending, you should take it up with her. But I’m telling you, she looks fantastic - you’re getting your money’s worth.” He eyed the man up and down. “You know, I’d be glad to take you on as well. You’re gonna have a hard time keeping up with her before too long.”

Gil’s face turned a sickly shade of purple. He turned to Dulcie.

“Dulcie, you’re a nice girl,” he said as he stomped out the door. “Don’t let this guy get into your head.”

In all the time she’d worked with Gil, it was the highest praise she’d ever gotten.

Chapter 2

Dulcie half-expected Van to slink out with an embarrassed look. Or at least attempt to defend himself with assertions that he would never take advantage of Heidi Holly.

Instead, he hopped on Dulcie’s desk and gazed at her with one brow raised.

“Who whizzed in his Wheaties?” he said.

Dulcie felt a big goofy smile bubbling to the surface. For once, she didn’t try to push it down and stay professional.

Van smiled back at her - a real smile. She didn’t need to use her gift, she could tell by the way it crinkled the corners of his eyes. His canines seemed to poke out just a hair longer than they should have.

She was just losing herself in his smile and the warmth that seemed to pour off him, when he spoke again.

“Come on,” he said, turning to leave without even looking back to see if she was following. “Let’s get some coffee.”

A guy like Van probably had women trotting after him like puppies. Which might just be an appropriate analogy in this case.

A big white dog jumping out the window.

Gil was crazy, but his story was probably pretty close to the truth. She’d pegged Van as a shifter from the fist time they’d met. Her talent as an empath could usually glean at least that much.

Woodland Creek had more than its share of shifters, as well as other magical creatures, thanks to its unique location. But even so, it was considered poor form to ask someone exactly what they shifted into - a fact Dulcie was personally thankful for.

She had pegged Van just right as some sort of canine, but she’d expected something less domestic.

She wondered if there was more to Van’s bad-boy image than met the eye. But now he was almost to the door and Dulcie was still glued to her chair, watching his beautiful ass fill out his jeans as he walked away.

She couldn’t just walk out. She had work to do.

Dulcie glanced at the half-full pot of stale coffee on the back table.

She closed her laptop screen and launched herself after Van.

Chapter 3

Van smiled to himself when he heard Dulcie’s light footsteps approach.

She had to know that the real reason he came in all the time was to see her.

From their first meeting when he’d stormed in, feeling angry and defensive before he’d even opened his mouth, the mere sight of Dulcie had soothed him. Her soft dark hair, her sweet smile, the gentle curves of her body, they all seemed to have been created to absorb his hard angles.

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