Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo
Published by: Claire Davon
Release Date: 12/13/21
Dakota lost everything the day her fox shifter family was driven out of town on a lie. Property, standing, all of it gone. Her secret friendship with Maddox, the eldest son—and heir to the clans—of the Shunokh family was abandoned as well, left behind in the ruins of their lives.
Years later one risky chance lies before her. To present herself for consideration to become Maddox’s mate, to restore her family’s honor and their standing with the fox shifters. She does not admit that she has another reason—to see Maddox again.
Maddox has a duty to perform—one he hates. He must marry a woman with pure red fox shifter blood in order to lead the Maine clans. None of the eligible foxes tempt him—until he sees his old teenage crush at the party. His split-second decision to leave with her is insanity, but one look into her eyes and he doesn’t care.
It was only supposed to be one night. Yet neither can let go. With each passing day their doomed passion grows. His parents will never allow her to be his choice, yet the more they are together the deeper their bond gets. Maddox has to choose a mate to lead the clans, and it cannot be Dakota.
Will they risk it all for love, or give each other up forever?
“Where have you been?”
Her mother was at the kitchen table, paying bills online when Dakota tiptoed into the house. It was full sunup, and there was no hope of her absence going unobserved. She breathed a sigh of relief that her dad wasn’t there.
“I was um…er…” She shuffled her feet, staring at her now-dirty toes. The heels proved too much for the next morning, and she’d driven to Maddox’s place and back to theirs barefoot. Her disheveled and rumpled appearance, coupled with yesterday’s clothes, were all the answer anyone needed.
“The Shunokhs called here.” Her mother still didn’t glance up from her bill paying, but a self-satisfied aura wafted out from her.
“And? What did you say?”
“I told them to go to hell. That they had no business calling our home in the middle of the night. That we had nothing to say to them. Did you do it, Dakota? Did you accomplish what we sent you there to do?”
Dakota was about to slump at the table, but then the scent of coffee drew her. Her mother finally shifted her gaze from the papers to her daughter and frowned.
“Go change first. Your father shouldn’t see you like that.”
Dakota nodded and hurried to switch into jeans and a t-shirt. There were chores to do, and guilt flared within her. She should get started, but she was so tired. She’d arranged with them to take today off just in case the night ran long. She had no idea how long it would go.
When she returned to the kitchen, her mother had tucked away the laptop and was bustling at the stove. Dakota’s favorite breakfast of sausage and waffles was waiting on the counter.
“You look like the cat that ate the canary.” Ria’s observation was dry, but again that sense of satisfaction pervaded everything she did.
Ate the fox, perhaps, but not in the way you mean.
Dakota stifled a giggle, heated reminders of the night before searing through her vision.
“It was a good night,” she admitted. “It didn’t start out that way. Did you hear the story?”
Her mother made a sound that might have been amusement. “I got it from Mrs. Vulpin. Rowley’s mother. You remember her, don’t you? I wouldn’t say we’re still friends, but her family stayed neutral when everything happened. She called me and told me that the Shunokh’s enforcer tried to strongarm you out, and Maddox and the two of you left the party. That must have been quite a sight. I wish I’d been there.”
The remembered heartbreak when his parents attempted to toss her out struck Dakota like a lightning bolt. She’d managed to forget the insults that preceded their taking off, but in the cool light of morning, it was not so easy to take in stride.
“That’s pretty much what happened. They did try to throw me out, but Maddox stopped it. I had the right to be there, but they were doing everything they could to get me to leave. When they took it to another level, Maddox stepped in.”
“I bet Cordelia Reynarde was mad about that.”
Dakota’s remembered sight of Cordelia’s indignant face was sweet. The future hung over her with large question marks, but that was a memory she would cherish.
“I’m sure she was. She was determined that she was going to be his wife, but Maddox wasn’t convinced.” She took a sip of the coffee, grateful for the strong brew.
Dakota sputtered on the caffeine, droplets spewing out over the tablecloth. But that was why she had gone to Maine, after all.
“I wouldn’t say that. Mom, listen. I know why we sent me there, but that’s not fair to him. Maddox needs to choose a wife his parents will approve of, and they made it clear that it was never going to be me. I just took a little happiness when it presented itself, that’s all. Nothing can come of it.”
She couldn’t tell if the sound came from the sizzling sausages or her mother’s spitting reply. Even understanding that last night had been ripped from time didn’t stop the glow inside her. Not even the events before they fled the scene diminished the memories of Maddox touching her, loving her. They were remembrances she would carry all her life.
“I wouldn’t have sent you there if I didn’t think you were deserving. It was a lot to ask of you, and I’m so proud of you that you went through with it. I bet you were astonishing staring those bastards down. Your courage is far beyond anything I could have imagined—I’m proud of you, Dakota. Thank God for Maddox Shunokh—and I never imagined I would say those words. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be you. Don’t sell yourself short. You are beautiful and a pure red fox, and you beat all hell out of that ugly socialite Cordelia.”
“She’s not ugly. She’s stunning. She knows how to wear a dress and put on her makeup and dance far better than I ever could. She’s the proper choice.”
“I bet she can’t milk a cow.”
“I doubt she knows where milk comes from.” Dakota chuckled, but her mirth faded in the realization of what had happened in the aftermath of their escape. His family had been so desperate to find them that they’d called their farmhouse. She couldn’t imagine what Maddox would face at the mansion.
She had to trust he knew what he was doing. They would have their fling, and he would return to the fold. That was what would happen in the end.
But not yet.