Happy Release Day to Eli Easton and
How To Walk Like A Man
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 this job doesn’t kill Matt, 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?
Matt parked his red Jeep Cherokee in front of the sheriff's office on Main Street. He got out of the car and looked around. The town had a simple, unassuming look. Unlike a number of other towns in the California mountains, Mad Creek had not put up those fake Western facades, and there was no ice cream parlor, McDonald’s, or motel on the main drag. It was almost as if they didn't want tourists. The buildings were mostly brick and sturdy but unadorned. There were no window boxes full of colorful flowers. There was a town park—a four block long section of green right along Main Street, and people actually roamed in it, even though the day was overcast and chilly.
Despite its lack of pretentiousness, or maybe because of it, the little town had a pleasant feeling about it. It felt… alive, Matt thought. Besides the unusually large number of people that were taking advantage of the park, there was a cheery-looking restaurant called "Daisy's Diner" with a red neon sign. Through the window, he could see booths that looked fully occupied. And there were people on the sidewalks too. At the post office, a man with a heavily-receding hairline and big ears chatted enthusiastically with a plump man. And here and there were groups of two or more people just standing and talking and—
Okay, that was weird. A young man with glasses crossed paths with another man on the sidewalk and they rubbed up against each other as they met. Matt squinted. It didn't appear to be sexual. The two men were woefully mismatched, the man in glasses being at least twenty years younger than the other. But they rubbed against each other's chest and side—the man with glasses actually turning and doing it again—then they stood and talked as if nothing had happened.
Was it a new version of a 'high five'? Somehow, those two didn't seem like the types who would be sporting the latest 'homey' signs. Secret handshake? Huh.
It was not, however, Matt's problem at the moment. He was procrastinating. With a shake of his head, he turned toward his torture chamber for the next twelve months. The Mad Creek Sheriff's Office was marked with a woodsy brown sign out front. It was a one-story brick building with big windows that had half-open white exterior blinds. Matt steeled himself and opened the door. A small bell tinkled overhead.
Inside, the room was cold, as if they hadn't turned on the heat. There was a central desk facing the door with a woman seated behind it. She had long, blonde, extremely fluffy hair and makeup that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 80s. She could have been any age from twenty-five to forty. She had big brown eyes, a pleasant face, a long nose, and a happy smile. Her name tag said 'Leesa'.
"Hi there! How are you?" she asked enthusiastically.
Matt looked around behind him to make sure she wasn't talking to someone else. "Um… I'm good, how are you?"
"I'm really great! What can I do for you?"
"I was wondering if—" Sheriff Beaufort. Sheriff Beaufort. "—Deputy Charsguard or, um, Sheriff Beaufort is around?"
"They sure are!" Leesa continued to smile at him.
He nodded. "Okay. Good. Could you tell…" damn it "…Sheriff Beaufort that Matt Barclay with the DEA is—"
Simultaneously, two doors beyond Leesa opened. Sheriff Beaufort and Roman Charsguard appeared in adjacent doorways, and they both stared at him. Christ, he hadn't been speaking that loud.
Sheriff Beaufort was a strange one. He was a fairly young man and damned good-looking. He had black hair, blue eyes, and wore clothes tight enough to see muscle definition. In another life, Matt might have found him attractive. But Beaufort's bristling attitude put a guy right off. He was glaring at the moment, as if Matt were some vile graffiti that had been painted on the window. Mad Creek sucks, perhaps, or something with the words 'Beaufort' and 'motherfucker'. As for Charsguard, it was hard to tell what he was thinking. He was perfectly still and watched Matt with no expression whatsoever.
His eyes were golden brown. They were not unfriendly. Maybe 'curious' was the right word. Fuck, the guy had the broadest shoulders.
Matt tore his eyes away and addressed the big boss. "Sheriff Beaufort? I'm Matt Barclay. I'll be your DEA investigator. I know I'm starting Monday, but I thought I'd come in and introduce myself. Get my desk set up, if that's possible."
Beaufort was far enough away that Matt didn't feel compelled to reach out his hand for a shake, and Beaufort made no move to get any closer.
"Excuse me," Beaufort said, low and tight. "I need a word with my deputy."
He looked at Roman, tilted his head toward his office, and they both went inside and shut the door.
Matt blinked. Well. That had gone… about as bad as he'd expected.
"Want some broth?" Leesa asked cheerfully.
"Broth! We've got beef broth or chicken broth. So so good! Or there's coffee if you like that better!"
"Uh… I'd love a cup of coffee, thanks. But I can get it myself." There was no point in getting off on the wrong foot with Leesa, since she seemed to be the only person in the office happy to see him. In Matt's experience in the military, and then the DEA, there was nothing a female hated more than being expected to get you coffee.
"Oh, no! I don't mind at all!" Leesa got up and skipped, literally skipped, down a hall, which presumably led to the coffee and… broth.
Matt had been in Mad Creek for only an hour and already it was the strangest place he'd ever been.
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About the author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.
As an avid 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.
Find out more about Eli on her website.
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