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N Gray Books

Hidden Shifter: A Paranormal Romance Revealed! (Shifter Days, Vampire Nights & Demons in between Book 7)

Hidden Shifter: A Paranormal Romance Revealed! (Shifter Days, Vampire Nights & Demons in between Book 7)

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Pre-Order - releases July 5th, 2022

 

A Hardened heart, a chance encounter, and forbidden love.

Deep in the forest hid one of the last saber clans who did their best to stay hidden. That's until Ava stumbled upon Tyler in the most embarrassing way. But little did she know their lives would change forever.

Would Ava's hardened heart be thawed through Tyler's care and strength?

And would Tyler's clan accept a human as one of their own?

Reader discretion is advised, recommended ages 17+ due to language and sexual content.

Hidden Shifter is a thrilling stand-alone HEA shifter romance.

Heat level (3 out of 5):🌶️🌶️🌶️

*Previously published in the Hearts Unleashed Anthology

Universal book link 👉 here

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I currently offer several of my book ones and short stories for free. Therefore, once you read the freebies, you should have a good idea whether you like my writing style or a particular series or not. Because of this, I have a no refund policy.

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Chapter 1Ava

I couldn’t explain it. This place was where I preferred to come and expel all the bad I’d gone through. I’d hike one trail at least once a week and hoped to catch an animal in its natural habitat and hopefully snap a picture. Then I’d watch the sunset, the sky painted in bright colors as the air cooled my warm skin, the tension I’d clung to dissolving. It was better than therapy, for me of course. I’d sit on the ground, surrounded by nature and absorbed the sounds, smells and everything my eyes saw.
Some thought I was antisocial, but I was selective of who I brought into my life. I had to be.
I sucked in a deep breath of air, closed my eyes and allowed the cool breeze to caress my cheeks. My cellphone vibrated, snapping me out of my thoughts. I hated cellphones, but it was a necessity; for emergencies. I didn’t have social media and used my phone only to make calls for work. I glanced at the name displayed on the screen and unfortunately; I had to answer the call.
“Hi.”
“Ava, where are you?” Derek asked. He was one of the nicest bosses I’d ever had, but painfully forgetful. I’d tell him I was grabbing lunch, and he’d phone asking for the writeup for the picture I’d taken. Sometimes I had to leave sticky notes over his desk to remind him which story went with which picture.
“I’m hiking this weekend, remember. I want to take photos for next week’s wildlife piece.”
“Oh, yeah,” Derek said. I heard him scratch his head. He had a nervous tick where he scratched the back of his head, leaving red welts on his skin, and sometimes his hair fell out. When he did this, he knew he’d forgotten something.
“It’s an important piece. You know it’s my dream to work for National Geographic. If I get the shots I need, I’m sending them my portfolio.” I already had my degree in photography and journalism, and my portfolio was almost complete. I needed this weekend to get some of my best shots to package the portfolio for them. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to work for National Geographic. All it took was their show on the ocean to get me hooked for life. I did everything I could to help my chances. They received many applications, which meant they only selected the best. And I had to be the best.
“Yes, yes, of course. It slipped my mind. I take it you will stay the weekend?”
“Yes!” I reeled in my irritation; Derek paid my salary, and I needed to play nice if I wanted to stay in his employ. “You know I can’t get the best shot in only a day. I need to stay here and blend in, wait for the animal to come to me.”
Silence filled the air, and I rolled my eyes. I shouldn’t lose my temper with him. He was actually an amiable person; it was just… sometimes… I needed a break.
“What’s wrong?” I asked delicately. It sounded like he was having another bad day and I shouldn’t take my frustration out on him—he had enough of his own issues.
“Nothing, there’s a dinner with my folks this evening and was wondering if you wanted to join me. But if you’re there, then that’s your answer, I guess.”
I knew he shrugged to accompany that loud sigh.
“Perhaps next time.” I lied. I always said, ‘next time’. Besides, he wasn’t my type, he led an unhealthy lifestyle, and he was my boss.
“Okay.” Silence filled the space again. “I’ll see you Monday then.”
“Yes, I’ll see you first thing on Monday. Enjoy the dinner and your weekend.” I hung up before he said anything else.
I switched off my cellphone and pocketed it. I pressed the fob, my car’s alarm sounded and locked.
During the time I was speaking with Derek, three more cars had parked with the occupants going to the various trails they’d be hiking. Two people headed toward the one I was taking.
Once my backpack was on, I headed toward the start of the tough trail; I hadn’t hiked it yet, and the ranger assured me the views were breathtaking and the best this time of year. It was also their busiest weekend and she was expecting at least two hundred hikers to come and go. The ranger had pointed out I’d be able to see most of the animals, which were scarce on the other trails.
I’d been coming to Sterling Meadow Forest for a few months and hadn’t hiked the harder path because it took much longer and I’d have to spend the entire weekend completing it. The other paths were quick trails and completed in a day. But I needed the trail where the animals were to get spectacular shots for my portfolio. I kept changing the photos in the portfolio because I didn’t think they were good enough and I needed to finish it. My clock wasn’t ticking, but I had to stop over analyzing my work, get it done, and send it off. And this weekend I had to get it sorted.
An animal cried, stopping me. I glanced over my shoulder and still saw my vehicle in the parking lot. The cries sounded again, reminding me of a wounded animal, and I couldn’t continue until I knew the animal was safe. If it was a predator, I hoped I could run faster.
Pushing through bushes, I came to a clearing where a deer fawn was sitting beside its mother’s carcass. My heart broke staring at the poor baby, taking me to the first time I watched Bambi. There was no way I’d allow the fawn to remain on its own and dialed Ruth, a wildlife veterinarian I’d befriended when I needed to understand animal biology.
I didn’t approach the fawn for fear of it running off, instead I waited in silence nearby for forty minutes. When a loud noise sent birds flying, I stood slowly from my spot, kept my eye on the fawn and sauntered to the path. The fawn didn’t budge, but she watched me.
Ruth approached with her equipment and two assistants.
“Thanks for coming. I didn’t want to leave her on her own. She looks to be a few days old and suspect the mom died soon after giving birth.” I didn’t say I suspected something with large teeth had attacked the mother. When I’d first seen the fawn, I noted the mother had a bite on her neck but couldn’t get closer for fear of scaring the baby away. Whichever predator did that had bitten the mother and left, which was incredibly cruel.
“Hi, Ava.” Ruth handed her equipment to the girl on her left and hugged me. “You did the right thing. I’ll check her out to see if she’s healthy, then hand her over to the sanctuary for rehabilitation.”
“Thanks.”
Ruth had shocking red hair and blue eye shadow. She wore a pink blouse, dark green pants, and green Crocs. Each wrist bound with leather bracelets and a crystal pendant hung around her neck. She was eccentric, easygoing and a loving veterinarian.
“Do you mind if I continue?” I pointed toward the path.
“Oh heavens, yes, of course. When you’re done, you must visit me. I’d love to see your portfolio.” She winked.
“Will do.” We hugged, and I left them to do what they did best.
***
The winding path took me around one of the largest mountains in the area and the sights were breathtaking. I stopped near a spring and sat on a fallen log. The spring water was cool and drinkable. I splashed water on the back of my neck and wiped the sweat away with my bandana. I glanced at my watch and found I’d been walking for two hours. The sun would set soon and I needed to find a place to set up camp. I picked up my backpack and continued on my way.
The sky painted in bright colors and within twenty minutes the blues and blacks had taken over, bathing the path in dark shadows. I stopped at an area not used in a while, but it would have to do. The ground was level enough for my tent, with sand and an old log for a fire. Since some animals came out at night, I decided against hiking in the dark, and I didn’t want to spook them. The ranger had mentioned the first main campsite, but it was much farther up the trail. I’d started on the path late because I’d waited for Ruth but I’d do it again, I couldn’t leave the fawn on her own. Anyway, I hardly mingled with other hikers anyway, so the thought of camping out here alone was fine with me.
I removed my backpack and set up camp. The tent was up with a flick of my wrist; I unrolled the sleeping bag and placed it inside. I gathered enough firewood to make a decent fire for warmth and made some tea. For dinner I’d already prepared a chicken wrap at home, followed by a packet of chips.
I connected my cellphone to the portable charger and switched it on. Derek had left messages. He was sweet, but no. I vowed never to date my boss again. My previous boss/lover owned one of the larger wildlife magazines, and I was his star photographer—or he had made me believe. I travelled the world getting the best pictures, but when his possessive streak worsened, I saw less of him. The result was fewer travels, but frequent visits to the ER. I knew I’d made a mistake getting involved with him. He was not a nice man. Instead of trying to go through the legal battles with the proof I had, I packed my bag. Naturally, he didn’t approve and tried to win me back by stalking me. I’d gotten away one late evening, and he didn’t have a clue where I was. I found a small town, Krystal Creek, near Sterling Meadow, which I now called home. After a while he’d stopped calling me, and I didn’t need to look over my shoulder everywhere I went. Needing to know where he was, I’d learned he started dating another girl, who was just as crazy as he was. And exactly a year later I hadn’t heard from him again.
Once I’d arrived in Krystal Creek, I took a six-month sabbatical, then when I was ready I found a job at the local newspaper/magazine in Krystal Creek. There were two reporters, myself, and Derek, who was the owner and Editor-in-Chief. Derek came from a long line of heirs to the oil industry, but he preferred to spend his inheritance on the Krystal Creek newspaper and seemed to manage the advertising just fine. I got paid per photograph; animals, features, or anything worthy of the space.
I read the text messages Derek had sent, and they were the usual ones; ‘Let me know if you change your mind’, ‘I’ll send my driver to fetch you’ and ‘Wish you were here’. He really wanted me with him, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have the heart to say ‘No’, but I wondered whether it was for the best. Then again, I might lose the only income I had if I told Derek I wasn’t interested.
I sighed and deleted his texts. It was better to avoid. I would deal with it on Monday. Right now, I wanted to enjoy nature in all her splendor with only myself to keep me company, which I preferred. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want anyone in my life, I did, but the next guy would have to be worth it.

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