Authors: Bianca D'Arc
Tags: #shapeshifter, #shifter romance, #alpha male, #strega, #bear shifter, #bear shifter romance, #grizzly cove
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characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s
imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be
construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead,
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Copyright © 2016
Smashwords Edition March 2016
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A man with a plan…
John is the Alpha bear of Grizzly Cove, a
town built to his own design, made up mostly of bear shifters. He
brought them all together, so it’s on him when the community comes
A woman of power…
Ursula is more than she appears, and when her
secret comes out, she’s afraid the shifters aren’t going to take it
well, but John surprises her. He needs her help to combat the evil
targeting the town, but there seems to be more to their
A battle to the death…
When evil attacks from the ocean, can John
afford not to utilize Urse’s skills to protect the town and people
in it? Better still, can John reconcile his inner bear’s demand
that she is his mate, with his lifelong dream of leading his people
into a new way of living—in a town built just for them? Or will he
have to give up Grizzly Cove in order to keep the woman he
Many thanks to Valerie Tibbs for checking my
Special thanks to my editor, Jess, and to my
readers, especially Anna-Marie Buchner, Suzanne Henry and Peggy
McChesney, who have been both kind and encouraging at every turn.
Love you guys!
And most especially to my family, and my Dad,
for being my rock of Gibraltar. Thanks for always being in my
Ursula and Amelia were settling in to their
new apartment in their new town, but things were definitely strange
here in Grizzly Cove. For one thing, the place was lousy with
magic. Shifter magic, if Urse didn’t miss her guess, just like her
grandmother had told her about.
Nonna Ricoletti had taught her granddaughters
all about the unseen world. The sisters hadn’t really believed most
of what Nonna had told them until they got out into the wider world
and realized Nonna wasn’t just some crazy old Italian eccentric.
No, Nonna was a witch. A
And she was a Catholic too, but that was
Nonna—a woman full of contradictions. She preferred to see the
Catholic mother of God as the Mother of All. And if she mixed a
little blasphemy into her daily devotions, in the privacy of her
own mind, she figured it was between herself and the divine. No
need to get some priest involved.
Ursula missed Nonna, but her grandmother had
played a large part in shooing Urse and Mellie out to seek their
futures. In this new adventure. And this new place. Teeming with
Bears, mostly, Ursula thought. She didn’t
have the strongest nose in the family, but Nonna had sworn they
were descendants of one of the strongest of the Italian Alpha bears
and his human magic-using mate. Nonna was their
great-granddaughter, and the magic had stayed strong in her line,
while the shifting talent had passed on to other branches of the
family that were now somewhat estranged.
Both Urse and Mellie could sense magic.
Mellie was better with potions and kitchen magic, as Nonna called
it. Urse was better at straight-up spoken or chanted spellwork.
Nonna had taught them as much as she knew, and when they’d
progressed beyond her abilities, she’d brought in friends of hers
from the magic user community for what she called
were really tutor time for her granddaughters.
There were more than the average number of
mages in their hometown of San Francisco, but Nonna had brought in
specialists from far afield, including a few from her native land.
She’d spared no expense when it came to her granddaughters’
education, and they loved her for it—and for the fact that she was
the most loving grandmother a kid could ask for.
It had been hard to leave home—and especially
Nonna—but she’d practically forced them to go. Nonna had a bit of
foresight and had been known to make the odd prophecy now and
again. The girls had learned to listen when she gave them advice,
and this time, she’d been adamant. She’d told them that their
futures were waiting for them in Grizzly Cove and that they
shouldn’t be afraid to embrace their destinies.
The fact that she’d been so vague, while at
the same time being so forceful, meant that she knew a lot more
than she was saying. But that was her burden as a clairvoyant,
she’d always claimed. She had to balance how much to reveal of the
future with what she called
la forza del destino
, or in
English, the power of fate.
Luckily, that particular gift hadn’t
manifested in either of the girls. Personally, Urse thought it
would be a real pain in the ass to know what was going to happen
and have to decide how much to say in order to arrange the best
outcome. That was a little too much like playing the Almighty for
her comfort. She didn’t trust herself not to mess it all up by
saying too much or too little to the wrong person.
Better such things were left to Nonna. She
had years of experience and the purest heart Urse knew. Nonna could
handle that kind of pressure way better than either of her
granddaughters. Which was probably why that gift hadn’t passed to
either of them, though Nonna claimed it could manifest later in
That was something Urse was definitely
looking forward to—if it should ever come to pass.
Thankfully, her thoughts were interrupted by
the tinkling bell that hung over the door that led to Main Street.
Since they weren’t open for business yet, it had to be Mellie
returning from her sugar run to the bakery down the street.
“Thank the Goddess! I’m about to starve over
here, Mel. Gimme one of those honey buns, right now!” she yelled
toward the front of the store.
Urse had been stacking books all day, taking
them from the back storeroom to the shelves out front, where she
was working on their displays. Mellie was supposed to be helping,
but she’d gone AWOL about twenty minutes ago, claiming she was just
going to make a quick run to the bakery to get snacks.
“I would if I could, but I’m afraid I don’t
have any on me,” a deep voice said from the open doorway that led
to the front of the store.
Urse jumped to her feet, dusting herself off.
She was a mess.
. And in front of the hunky mayor of
“Oh, sorry, Mayor Marshall. I thought you
were my sister, finally returning from the bakery.” She smiled,
hoping he didn’t notice how messy her hair was, or the fact that
she was wearing zero makeup. Great. Just great.
“Call me John. We don’t stand on ceremony
around here all that much.”
Except for maybe full moon ceremonies
she thought privately. She and Mel were still arguing over whether
or not to come clean to the shifters about who they were and what
they knew. Urse thought they should tell someone—probably the sexy
mayor—before they went any further. If the shifters in town didn’t
in their midst, that was their right, and
Urse certainly didn’t want to stay where they weren’t welcome. She
might be doing all this backbreaking work setting up the store for
But Mellie didn’t agree. She wanted to keep
their secret a little longer. She was enjoying ogling the handsome
shifters a little too much, if you asked Urse. Of course, nobody
was asking her, and Urse didn’t want to go against her sister’s
Urse was trying to talk her around, and for
the moment, they were at a stalemate.
Continuing with her work, in order to hide
the real direction of her thoughts, Urse bent to pick up a heavy
box of books. She was just getting her hands under the edge of the
box, when two much bigger hands appeared beside her, shooing her
away. John lifted up the cardboard box that felt like it was
stuffed with anvils—Urse had tried to lift it before—like it was
loaded with feathers.
“Where do you want this?” he asked
“Just up on the workbench, please,” she said,
unable to keep herself from admiring the way his muscles stretched
out the fabric of his shirt sleeves.
The man was
And those sexy brown eyes that flashed with
intelligence just made her heart go pitter-pat. His lustrous golden
brown hair made her want to run her fingers through it too. She and
Mellie had drooled over the mayor when they’d first met him, and
the reaction hadn’t faded. The man certainly made an impact on Urse
every time she saw him. One she tried hard to tamp down.
The rumor mill around town—aka the Baker
sisters who owned the shop down the street—said that the mayor was
single, but Urse feared the Alpha shifter wouldn’t want to get
involved with a witch. Plus, there was the fact that he didn’t seem
to realize that she and her sister weren’t entirely human. That
would have to come out, eventually, but… Oh, it was just so
John tossed the box easily to the workbench
and stood back, just looking at her. She didn’t know what to say,
which was unusual for her. Urse was usually the more glib-tongued
of the two sisters. But there was something about the way he was
looking at her.
Their eyes met…and held. Time seemed to stand
still. The earth seemed to stop spinning. Just for a moment.
And then, the bell out in the front of the
store rang cheerfully, and the world started turning again.
“Hey, Urse!” Mellie yelled on her way into
the store. “I got the honey buns. Damn, those Baker sisters got
lucky with their shifter mates. I can’t decide which one is
hotter—or cuter when they’re running to keep up with their gals.
I’ve never seen so many shifters in
explosion of words ceased the moment she stepped into the back room
and realized they weren’t alone. “Oh, crap,” she blurted out,
coming to an abrupt halt in the doorway. “Hi, Mayor Marshall.” The
last came out on a squeak.
John looked from Urse to Mellie and back
again. “And just what would you two know about shifters?”
Urse sighed heavily and leaned back against
the work bench. “More than you might think,” she said, knowing this
looked really bad. “And
is why I said we should tell
them,” she railed at her sister, who stood silently in the
“Tell us what, exactly?” John wanted to
He didn’t look happy, nor could Urse really
blame him. This town was his baby, from all accounts. He led the
town council. They were able to ratify and deny applications for
new businesses, and they were damned choosey about who they let
into their community. Urse didn’t blame them one bit.
,” Urse admitted, just
wanting the truth out there.
?” John countered.
She hadn’t realized he wouldn’t
recognize the term. She tried again.