Welcome to our cover reveal for
How To Walk Like A Man
First up, the blurb:
Deputy Roman Charsguard survived Afghanistan where he lost his best friend-his K-9 handler James. Roman was a military dog until two years ago when he developed the ability to shift into a human. It's not easy to learn how to be a man. He found a place to live in Mad Creek, a haven for the secret world of dog shifters. Finding a reason to live has been harder. That is, until a certain human walks into the Mad Creek Sheriff's office and starts making trouble.
Matt Barclay has the worst luck. First he was shot in a SWAT drug raid, then he was sent as DEA investigator to Mad Creek, a little town in the California mountains. Matt's job is to keep a lookout for illegal drug farms, but nobody in the town wants him there. And then there's Roman, Matt's erstwhile baby-sitter. He's the hottest guy Matt's ever seen, even if he is a bit peculiar. If the town doesn't kill him, sexual frustration just might.
The town is counting on Roman to prevent Matt from learning about dog shifters, Matt's counting on Roman to be his work partner and tell him the truth, and Roman's trying to navigate love, sex, and a whole lot of messy human emotions. Who knew it was so complicated to walk like a man?
There were at least a hundred sheriffs, deputies, and other law enforcement personnel at the meeting. Roman stayed by Lance's side, said hello when he was introduced, and otherwise kept his mouth shut, refrained from scratching his ears, or visibly sniffing people. He adopted the stoic military stance that was so familiar to him from his time in the Army. There was a lot he didn't know about being human, but he knew how to imitate a soldier.
In fact, it felt like the old days being around so many people in uniforms, though most of them were older and not as raucous and fun as soldiers in Afghanistan had been in their downtime. Still, there were jokes Roman didn't get, lots of backslapping and, yes, coffee and donuts. The ones with the white icing and raisins were Roman's favorites! He ate six of them before a warning glance from Lance reminded him to slow down.
After the donuts it was time for the presentations.
The Forest Service went first. An older man with gray hair and pot belly spoke. "Last year, we found over four hundred illegal marijuana farms in California. Three hundred of those were in the Sierra Nevada mountains."
The man showed pictures of razed dirt areas among trees and big water ponds sheeted in plastic. "The worst part of all this is the extensive destruction of public lands and animal habitat. These illegal farms use heavy pesticides and herbicides. They cut down trees. They set out poison for animals. They create irrigation ponds, siphoning off hundreds of gallons of water that starve the area of moisture, and rob water from the cities downstream."
Lance had been right. It wasn't good news. Roman felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he looked at the slide show. He loved the woods around his cabin, loved to run there, both as human and dog. It was beautiful and it was full of life. He'd be so angry if someone did that to his woods.
"Besides the environmental impact, it's a danger for hikers and campers who might stumble across these things. There were twelve murders last year for exactly that reason. And it's a danger for our Forest Service officers, who aren't trained, and don't have the bandwidth, to do this extensive policing. So we've asked the governor, and the governor has asked the president, for resources from the DEA."
The man from the DEA--the Drug Enforcement Agency--talked next. His name was Dixon. He had silver in his brown hair, but he was trim and tough-looking. He wore blue jeans and a black T-shirt that said "DEA" on it in gold letters.
"I guess I don't have to tell you that this is a huge problem. It's mostly marijuana farms in California, but in Arizona and Texas we're seeing an increase of meth and opium labs in wooded areas like these too. Fortunately, we've gotten the funding we need to make a concerted effort here in the California mountains." Dixon put up a list of town names Roman recognized. Mariposa, Oakhurst, Briceburg, and Coulterville were on the list, among others. And there, in black and white, was the name 'Mad Creek'. Lance started vibrating with tension in the seat next to Roman's.
"The new operation is called Operation Green Ghost. We're funding a full-time agent in each of these towns for at least the next twelve months. These DEA investigators will be based out of your offices and will form a coordinated web under the control of the DEA. We've got--"
Lance shot to his feet. "Excuse me!"
Dixon looked at Lance with disinterest. "Yes?"
"As the sheriff of one of the towns on your list, I think we should have a say over this. We don't need any extra manpower. We're overstaffed as it is, and I can promise you, we haven't had any trouble with the drug trade anywhere around Mad Creek." Lance was in his most intense mode. His voice made Roman shift in his chair uncomfortably, even though it wasn't directed at him. But Dixon just narrowed his eyes. "Mad Creek? Are you Sheriff Beaufort?"
"I certainly am."
Dixon nodded. "Well, Sheriff, I'm afraid you don't have any say over this. This is a federal operation, and we've chosen the locations for this task force strategically." He brought up another slide showing the Sierra Nevadas with circles over every town he'd listed with lines interconnecting them. Mad Creek was one of the towns most distant from all the others, so it was clear to Roman they held a key position. Maybe it was clear to Lance too. he sat back down, his blue eyes bright with worry. Roman's instinct was to rub his arm and shoulder up against Lance, to soothe him. But that was dog behavior. He remained still.
Dixon went on. "I'll be running the operation from here and coordinating with the Forest Service. The DEA task force members located in these towns will report to me. They'll work fairly independently day to day, but there may be times when they'll need your assistance, for example if they need to investigate a suspicious site. We hope you'll--"
Lance popped up again. "Excuse me! But if we must have an additional staff member in our office to coordinate with this 'Green Ghost' task force, can we be allowed to hire them ourselves? I have several candidates--"
"Sheriff Beaufort, these will be specially trained DEA agents, on our payroll. No, you will not be hiring them or interviewing them or picking out their clothes. They're our agents and they will be assigned to your town. They will sit in your office, if you would be so accommodating, but they will not report to you. Is that clear?"
Dixon was losing patience with Lance, and so were the other men in the room. Everyone turned in their seats to give Lance begrudging glances. Maybe, Roman thought, they also wanted more of those donuts with white frosting and raisins, so they wanted the presentation to hurry up and end.
But Lance didn't care. He was a good-looking and charismatic man, Lance was, with his thick black hair, tight compact build, and turquoise blue eyes. For a long moment, Lance stared at the DEA man, his shoulders high and tight in a warning. Dixon stared back. No human being on this earth could out stare Lance Beaufort, so the man gave up first. He went back to his slide show and continuing to talk, ignoring Lance. Lance sat down.
Roman could feel the anger coming off Lance in waves. He understood why Lance wasn't happy. He didn't want a stranger in Mad Creek, not a stranger like this, an investigator who'd be looking down every dirt road. And he certainly didn't want one in their office. Roman pushed down a growl. He didn't either. He loved the sheriff's office in Mad Creek, where he had his very own desk in an office he shared with Charlie. There was even a little sign with his name on it and everything! Everyone who worked in the office was quickened. They'd have to be so careful with a stranger around.
Dixon went on to discuss the details of Operation Green Ghost. Roman did his best to listen. But he was too aware of Lance's agitation, too aware of the fact that all this surveillance would be over the homes of people he knew and land he loved. It made him feel edgy and exposed, threatened. Mad Creek was a safe haven for so many souls--good souls, trusting souls, sometimes lost souls. He should know. He'd been lost himself.
After the meeting finally broke up, Lance pulled Roman aside in the hall. "Stay here. I'm going to go talk to the district supervisor, see if I can't do something about this." His blue eyes burned so bright it almost hurt to look at them. He kept his voice low so only Roman could hear. "I can't push too hard though, or they'll start to question what we have to hide in Mad Creek. God damn it. Just don't talk to anyone. And don't do anything... weird. Okay? I'll be back."
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About the author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.
As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.
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