Chapter 1

Liam stumbled down the stairs, squinting as he pulled at the front door. A large shadow lurked on the other side of the glass panes. The incessant bell had woken him from a deep sleep.

“This better be good.” Liam growled as he pulled the door open. He leaned out into the morning sun, blinking against the light. He scratched his chest, sizing up the man who stood in front of him.

“Rough night?” 

“Nah, what did you do to your hand?” He watched as the familiar face grimaced as he shook his hand.

“Nothing, your doorbell is too stiff.” The whine was clear in his voice.

Liam counted down from ten. Just find out what he wants and then you can go back to bed, he reasoned with himself.

“Your sister sent me.” The bear shifter held his hand up, backing up a step.

He rubbed his hand over his head as he sighed. Damn polar bear shit. He didn’t have time for this. Or for them.

He had plans and helping his sister wasn’t on them. Crap, he’d needed a cup of coffee. The trip back from Hong Kong had taken longer than intended. He could still feel the stickiness of the job coating his skin.

“You bring coffee?”

“Ah, nah. Was I supposed to?” 

“Then tell me why I shouldn’t close this door on you now, Oliver?” He pushed his polar bear back down before he showed.

He didn’t have time for whatever bullshit she had dreamed up that he needed to be involved with. He needed to find the woman who had haunted his dreams and fantasies for longer than he could remember, the woman who might even be…his human fated mate. Ever since Jake had found Emma, he couldn’t shake the possibility that, Ava, the woman who had left him twenty-odd years ago, the young woman whose scent had called to him… 

He had made plans to find her. Nothings getting in the way, his bear huffed at him as it sneered at the man in front of him.

There wasn’t anything in his way any longer. True, they had been fifteen when she had deserted him, but he planned to find her and claim her. He would not entertain the thought that she might have found someone else or that he was wrong about her scent.

The mission that had come up had delayed his plans enough already. He raised his eyebrow at the male in front of him. 

“Catlyn’s boyfriend was murdered last night.” 

“And?” 

“I’m just doing what she asked me to, which was go get you if that wasn’t clear.” 

“Not sure why I should care.” Liam grabbed onto the door frame as he inspected Oliver on his doorstep. Nothing had changed. The polar wore a pinstripe suit, immaculate tie in place. A new BMW was parked on the side of his house, the paint shining in the morning light.

Oliver came from money, shame that money didn’t buy him class. He snorted to himself. “Did she kill him?”

Oliver let a snort of laughter loose. “I think she’s thought about it a time or two, but no.”

“So why does she want me there?”

“Something about you being the head of the household…” Oliver trailed off.

No, no. He shook his head. They would not have that conversation again. Nope, he did not owe the family anything. 

“You are not going to leave without me, are you?” Liam flexed his fingers.

“Come on, Liam. I’m only doing what I’m asked, you wouldn’t take it out on me?”

“No Oliver, I won’t but I’m taking my car.” He shut the door on his baby half-brother’s face.

#

With another sigh, Liam put the big four-wheel drive in park around the back of the mansion. He slipped in through the kitchen to avoid the media scrum he spotted at the front door.

The staff glanced at him but kept working, all except Daisy, the cook. She put her hands on her hips, shaking her head at him before giving him a big bear hug. 

“It’s about time you got here.”

“My sister can take care of herself.” He smiled at the woman who had practically raised him.

“Course she can, doesn’t mean she doesn’t need help sometimes.”

“Catlyn?” he rubbed his chin.

“Get on with you.” Daisy narrowed her eyes at him.

“She’s in her study with your sisters.” Daisy pointed down the hall.

He saw them standing around uniformed cops drinking coffee and talking amongst themselves. His brother had neglected to tell him the murder had been in the mansion. Damn.

Liam looked down the hall leading to his sister’s study. He could smell jasmine with a hint of frangipani. The scent called to him. No.

He licked his lips, his body going into overdrive at the scent. The long, familiar scent had his jaw clenching. She couldn’t be here, could she? The thought ran through his brain. She had always wanted to be a cop, but she couldn’t be, could she? Was it really going to be that easy? Maybe checking on his sister had some perks after all.

He made his way to his sister’s study, hearing the arguing before he even reached the door. He winced. She was good and loud with someone. His advanced shifter hearing could hear every word. Some of the curse words even he didn’t think his sister had known. Liam couldn’t blame her; the last thing they needed were cops and humans running all over the estate.

Kullen, being shot in the back of the head in his girlfriend’s mansion, indicated murder, and his sister was the prime suspect. The cops had every right to be going over the estate and interrogating her. But that logic wouldn’t mean a thing to his sister: all she’d care about was how this would affect her image. He snorted.

He took a big breath as the scent reached out to him. It was stronger here by his sister’s study as he rounded the corner. His brain stopped functioning, and his bear growled deep. He had to stop himself from reaching forward, picking up the gorgeous woman in front of him, and running with her out of the house.

His cellphone rang in his pocket; he reached to grab it.

“So what did your brother want?” Jake’s voice came down the line.

“How did you know my brother visited?”

“Saw him drive by the house, plus Carter is still bitching about being woken up to let him in. Say’s your brother has no manners.”

Liam smiled at the image of Carter that sprung to mind. His team leader had a very short temper for stupid.

“My sister wanted me at the house.” He growled as he ducked back down the hallway.

“Poor bugger.” Jake’s laughter reached his ears.

“It’s not funny, Jake. They found Kullen Ballot with a bullet to the head here last night.”

“Damn, do you need anything, mate?” 

“No, I’m going to find out what’s going on and leave it to the police for now. Congress can let us know if we need to help.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Thanks, talk to you soon.” Liam hung up the phone. The brief conversation had centered him.

He’d been right. She was here. He closed his eyes as the picture she had made flashed across his eyeballs.

Her petite frame, skin-tight jeans hugging an ass a man would drop to his knees to worship. A white t-shirt and soft red leather jacket that couldn’t hide the rack on her. She’d been an early bloomer when they were younger. Her long black hair was in a braid down her back. Damn, she hadn’t changed. A Pacific goddess in the flesh.

It also explained why his sister was so angry. The two of them hadn’t gotten on at school. He could bet she had recognized the cop who was standing outside her office. The one who Liam had called a friend and rubbed his sister’s nose in it every day because she wasn’t a shifter. There was nothing his sister could do.

He smiled, moving into the foyer off the hallway; she was standing in front of a window looking out, an air of calm radiating from her. Her arms were loose by her sides as she grinned at the noise coming from the office.

He glanced down the length of her curvy body. It was everything he loved in a woman; it was like she had grown into a fantasy of everything he ever wanted.

She hadn’t seen him yet. He knew how to be quiet when he needed to. He would not let this opportunity go to waste. He thought he would have had to spend the next week tracking her down, and here she was like a ripe cherry. He licked his lips.

“I thought you’d never call me back. You wouldn’t believe where I am.” Her voice rolled over him, causing his bear to sit up further like a hound dog.

“Catlyn Seal’s house…no I’m not making it up. How could I? I swear I’m standing outside the bitch’s office.” 

His body tightened at the scent of her.

“Nah, don’t you listen to the news? Her boyfriend was killed this morning at her house. Want me to give her a message?” She huffed out while cracking up with laughter at whoever was on the end of the phone.

“Will do, catch you later.” 

She hung up the phone. God, she was beautiful, even more so now.

#

Ava puffed out her breath as she looked out the window. She tried to keep the smirk in. She was inches away from being in the bitch’s face. Her childhood archenemy—the thought of taking her down almost had her panties wet.

The image of Catlyn Seal crying in front of her as she placed the cuffs on her was almost enough to make up for the way she had made her life a living hell when she had been younger at school. It wasn’t acceptable to the rich bitch…heifer. She really needed to clean up her language. She shook her head. If her mother caught her talking like that, she would be in a world of hurt. That she was at school through her own merits, having earned a scholarship to attend. This, it appeared, was the reason that Catlyn disliked her. Ava was the poor kid at school and Catlyn made sure everyone knew it. She unclenched her hands.

Ava puffed out her chest. Her dream of being a cop was a reality. She’d proved them all wrong.

Life had a way of going three hundred and sixty degrees, she mused. Take this morning when she rolled out of bed—she never envisaged she would be standing in the Seal household ever again. She couldn’t wait to see Catlyn. An evil grin crossed her lips.

Thinking of the last time she was here caused the smile on her face to fall. She had been doing homework with her best friend Liam Seal, Catlyn’s brother, and the one reason Catlyn had to rein in her bullying of her at school.

“You’ll never be good enough for him.” She could remember the words like yesterday. The way Catlyn had stood over her, her sisters at her back, looking down on her.

Liam had thought she was good enough for him. Thoughts of him caused her to smile. She would bet that if he was here, he would have been standing next to her egging her on. She wondered where he was; it had been years since she had last seen Liam. Her family had moved and with it she had moved schools, losing her connection to Liam. Which was just as well as she had been half in love with him by then. What would he look like now? She cocked her head as a shadow passed across the window in front of her, and she tensed, ready to turn.

“So darling, it’s been a long time.” Ava shuddered as her lungs took in the most delightful scent she had ever smelled, the voice sounding familiar to her as well. No, it couldn’t be…

She spun only to have to look up and up into the most gorgeous face; it was ruggedly handsome, with compelling green eyes twinkling down at her. Eyes that were very familiar to her. A smile caused the creases to crinkle at the corners of his eyes. Liam always made her smile. He knew how to laugh, how to make her laugh. He had thought her brain was cool, and they had both liked the same things. She learned that was a lot more important than looks over the years for her.

“Do I know you?” She cocked her head to the side, a small smile breaking out inside her.

He snorted before he crossed his hands over his chest.

Damn, and what a chest it was. He had filled out over the years. He had filled out but in muscle straining the polo shirt he wore. Tight jeans hugged his rock-hard thighs, and biker boots completed his outfit. She blinked. Only years of practice on the police force helped her hide her reaction to the prime male in front of her.He was eyeing her up and down now like…Like she was an ice cream cone he wanted to eat. The thought caused her to shiver a little. His scent called to her.