Title: Bear with Me (Strawberry Shifters Book 1)
Author: Marilyn Barr
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Blue eyes, dimples, and silky brown hair; Grant Luther has all of Alison's weaknesses.
When he asks for one last chance to save their marriage, she agrees to relocate their family to isolated Strawberry, Kentucky in pursuit of his career dreams. Grant views Alison's sensory issues as limitations and protects her from outside threats. When he finds his new job includes changing him into a shifter in a war against the soul-sucking Sluagh he vows to keep the changes a secret. What he doesn't know is Alison has been hiding a magical secret of her own. One that makes her a target of the Sluagh.
Will Alison emerge from Grant's shadow to protect her family? And can Grant learn that being different can be a strength not a weakness?
I jog along my driveway and use my phone to disengage our security system. All the windows in the giant renovated plantation home are dark and I get a rush from what I am about to do. Stupid because I am sneaking into my own house.
Mine. The word floats through my mind and I feel satisfaction warm my chest. The landscaping is in full bloom but that is Alison’s domain. I remember her saying she planted nocturnal plants along with the regular ones so our house would have curb appeal twenty-four hours a day.
That had been in response to an argument where I accused her of bringing down our property value in Ohio with her giant gardens and hoop houses. I wince when I recall her face falling as I spat vile insults at her. As I walk around to the back of the house, I become cognizant of the gardens as an extension of her. They are more beautiful, and full of life in November than most are in July. Just like her.
Mine. The word keeps thundering through my brain as I creep through the house, up the stairs, and into our bedroom. I take a moment to look around as her citrus flowery scent teases my nose. The room is dominated by the giant bed; its mattresses almost four feet off the ground. There are flowerpots housing a single flower and slightly used candles on every surface. A crumpled flower petal sticks to the bottom of my foot. As I remove it, I see a few more petals stuck in the carpet threads.
A pile of red lacy cloth lays in the corner of the room as I move toward her side of the bed. I bend down to examine it. It is lingerie. I can’t resist. I lift it to my face and inhale. Mine. My brain gleefully answers. She had put together a romantic night for us on Friday night. She was saying yes to us, to me…and I hadn’t come home that night. I stand up gingerly and let her lingerie drop to the floor.
Crack! I am hit across the back of my shoulder blades. I whirl around to find my wife armed with my old hockey stick. She is winding up for a second slash, so I must get my mouth moving. She looks magnificent though. Dressed only in one of my dress shirts, I can see the shadow of her curves in the moonlight. The golden stars in her eyes glow with angry fire. Even though her lips are pulled into a snarl their thickness is evident. The delicate pink bow is an object of my fantasies.
Crack! The stick blade hits the middle of my chest. Wow, my wife is strong. I stand there rubbing my chest waiting willing my breath back into my lungs. “It’s me, Alison,” I choke.
Thump! “Oh, I’m sorry,” Alison stammers, dropping the stick to the floor. “You said you were staying the weekend at Bergan and then I heard someone enter. I was really scared so I got up and you were there. Only I didn’t notice it was you and here we are,” after looking at me closely, she adds: “you don’t look like yourself.”
“I don’t feel like myself,” I say quietly. I had hoped to mask my bodily changes with the cover of darkness. My plan to fool her isn’t going to work. My wife is too sharp for that.
“Well, I’m glad it is you and not a serial killer,” Alison says awkwardly.
Oh no, we are not going back to awkward. Surrounded by the evidence she wants more under her frosty demeanor, I am not going to let her get away. Not now. Never again. As soon as my queen realizes that our days of parallel lives are over, the better life will be for both of us. Too bad my mouth can’t form words.
My eyes, however, possess a life of their own. They take in her red toenails at the end of delicate feet that are, for once, without traces of dirt. They follow her shapely legs to the bottom of the white dress shirt. It brushes at her upper thighs, so I use the moonlight to see the curves of her hips. I follow the curves to her tiny waist. It flares to her rib cage giving her torso the shape of a vase.
Atop her torso vase are her flowers, and her flowers are generous, almost too heavy for someone of her dainty bone structure. My hands itch to cup them as I blatantly stare. My tongue becomes too large for my mouth. Her arms instantly cross over them, obstructing my view with red-tipped fingers.
“Well, now the threat of danger has passed. I’m going back to bed,” she declares. However, she doesn’t move. I try to give her a reassuring smile, but it feels a little too toothy. She has awoken the beast in me, and this has nothing to do with shifter blood. I can’t control it now.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
When a teacher suggested I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I had the privilege of missing class to pick it up from the school library. I was a bit of a teacher’s pet growing up. Intrigued with the back of the book, I sat in the library’s aisle reading and the time flew as fast as the words to my eyes. When it was finished, I devoured Dandelion Wine followed by Something Wicked This Way Comes. I was so engrossed I didn’t notice when school let out and the library closed. The police pulled me from my book binge on the library floor hours later. When I didn’t get off the school bus, my parents had frantically called the school who had no idea what had happened to me. In the mess, I got a blissful day between the pages of Ray Bradbury’s classics. It was perfect except the school authorities did not let me check out any books while I was being escorted out!
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
The Strawberry Shifters series has sixteen paranormal romances in various stages of production. There are also spin-off novels in various stages of production for the Seagrass Pack and the packs in California, New York, and North Carolina. Bear with Me is the start of this vast project. It introduces the reader to the core characters and settings around which the subsequent installations revolve. Being in Strawberry at the beginning and growing with the characters in real-time, enriches the experience for the reader.
Strawberry KY is a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Readers will get frequent updates on their favorite couples post-book and experience them through the eyes of new characters as the town evolves. Bear with Me is centered around Grant, Alison, and their son Henrik. We meet the employees of Bergan Pharma and Henrik’s friends, the Paulino boys, through their eyes. Watching each of Rosie Paulino’s boys grow up and find love, the reader connects to the family, like someone visiting my Sicilian family.
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Runs August 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on September 1.
Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula.
She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, biodefense microbiologist, high school science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, and advocate for the autistic community.
She would love to hear from readers via her website: www.marilynbarr.com.
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