This week on my blog I am sharing a snippet of my next Fun & Flirty romance, Beloved by the Bear, which will be out on July 13. Do the puzzle, read the excerpt and let me know what you think. Comment below.

Have a wonderful weekend and a delightful Fourth of July!

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Town of Mystic Bay

Anton~

The boss strolled over just before quitting time. “Knock off now, Anton. You have company in the office.” Her evident amusement was a warning light.

“As soon as we get this section upright,” he returned.

She shook her head and clapped his shoulder sympathetically. “Nope. I’ll take over. You, my friend, have an urgent meeting with the Marine Militia.”

What the heck? Well, his shoulders were broad. The trailer Gabby and Salinas used as their office squatted at the edge of the site. Its wooden steps were covered with mud. Anton scraped some more onto the treads and rapped on the door. He did not wait for a response before opening it.

Someone had pushed the clutter of blueprints and spreadsheets to the middle of the big round table that dominated the trailer. Four grim men were standing silently around it, arms bulging with muscles folded across broad chests. Anton sniffed. Three mermen and a non-shifter. The only one he recognized was Tom Peterson, Rutherford’s father-in-law. Without a doubt, the others were Serena’s kinsmen.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he said. “I understand you want to speak to me.”

“If you’re Anton Benoit, we do,” growled the tallest of the men. Like the other two mermen, his curly black hair was streaked with blue-green highlights. His face a masculine version of Serena’s.

“Yes, sir, that’s me.”

“I’m Roger Merryman, Serena’s father.” He pointed to the other two mermen. “My brothers Mark and Cliff. You know Tom Peterson.” No one offered a hand.

It was time to take control of this lynch party. Anton inclined his head and gave them his toothiest grin. “Glad to know you.” He pulled out the nearest chair and hauled out his folksiest drawl. “I’d guess you’re here because you want to know my intentions.”

Their hard, narrow-eyed faces didn’t soften, but the men followed his lead and sat down.

Roger spoke in a low growl. “We know your intentions, Benoit.”

“I’m glad to hear it, sir. I haven’t asked Serena to marry me yet – I don’t want to rush her off her feet. But I hope to do so before too long.” Anton met Roger’s intense green glare. All the men had squared their shoulders and re-folded their arms. No one had come prepared to listen to him.

“Do you know who you’re talking to, Benoit?” Roger hissed.

The guy who sent a rapist to pick up his daughter, seemed an impolitic reply. “King of the mer-people,” He kept his response polite. “I never figured to marry a princess, sir. But for certain if your daughter honors me with her hand, I’ll treat her like one.”

Tom Peterson cleared his throat. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves, Roger.” His voice was calm and deep. Rational.

Roger’s brothers nodded, but they held their tongues, and didn’t look at the sorcerer. Clearly they were backing the mer-king. Anton was screwed before he started. He sat a little taller and got out his best poker face.

“That’s right,” Roger said. “We want to know what you were doing hanging around the inn’s back lot waiting for Bock to attack Serena.”

“Not my finest hour,” Anton admitted. “I have to say it’s a good thing that Serena knows how to defend herself, because it took me a good few seconds to realize he was trying a snatch. Fortunately, she laid him out with one kick and then Deputy Babcock arrested Bock, so no harm done.”

“And just what were you doing back there in the first place?” demanded Mark Merryman just shy of a roar.

“I hoped for a glimpse of my mate,” Anton confessed wryly. “Just a lovestruck fool.”

“Your goldanged mate,” sputtered Cliff.

“Seems a damned strange thing for a grown man to do,” Roger sneered.

Anton could feel the heat in his face. “Yes, sir.”

After that confession, the interview went to hell in a handcart. The three mermen took his service record to pieces and stomped on it. Only Tom who had also served in the Marines kept that from becoming a total FUBAR. The others were Navy vets and unimpressed. As for Anton’s volunteer work with the shifter police, they sneered at the Fuck Alls as a pack of hunter vigilantes. Which was rich coming from this posse.

It didn’t do his cause any good when Anton protested he needed to get going because otherwise he would stand Serena up for their swim date.

Roger pushed his chair all the way back and stood so he could lean over the table. “Swimming,” he bellowed. “You’re not swimming anywhere near my daughter in bear. You got that?”

“Yes, sir.” Politeness dictated that he should rise but he guessed that would seem aggressive to the enraged mer-king.

“Serena has already given me her word that she won’t marry you without my permission,” the mer-king continued. “Which you have a snowball’s chance of receiving.” By now he was breathing so heavily and was so red in the face that Anton feared he would explode. Literally.

“I won’t encourage her to go back on her word,” Anton vowed. “But I would like to be allowed to change your mind, sir.”

“I’ll change my mind around the same time you recover my greatest treasure,” Roger bellowed.

Huh? Roger’s greatest treasure? Was the mer-king issuing a challenge or just spouting some mer curse that Anton couldn’t grasp?

Cliff stood up and patted his brother’s shoulder. His eyes shot green fire at Anton. “You want to court Serena? You court her where we can see. Tell her that swim date is off. Take her to the Crab Hut for dinner instead.”

Anton was a Marine. He had completed his missions for Special Forces under fire. He could eat his dinner while King Roger shot daggers at him. He grabbed at this slender olive branch.

“Be my pleasure, gentlemen,” he lied.

This is material not previously published. ©Isadora Montrose, 2018