The plump redhead leaned in to the sheriff, who was clearly her fiancée, and his arm tightened around her shoulders. Lainey wished she could snap a picture of them, of their obvious affection for each other, and send it to her mother, but since she was never speaking to her mother again, that wasn’t happening.
Still, she thought, it was nice to see living proof that her mother was wrong: a decent man could love a larger woman.
Standing on the edge of the crowd, with his back to her and his hands on his hips, was a tall, muscular man, a wolf shifter, by the scent of him. He had broad shoulders and narrow hips, and his worn blue jeans were molded around the most perfect male butt she’d ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on.
She felt a jolt of adrenaline shoot through her, and she shivered in the damp Florida heat.
The old Lainey would have backed away slowly, slunk off to meekly ask one of the old ladies from the beauty salon for directions to the boarding house, and then spent weeks regretting it and wondering if the view of that hot shifter was as attractive from the front as it had been from behind. He would have been the faceless star of many a late night self-satisfaction session.
The new Lainey suddenly found herself sauntering up to him and tapping him on his very broad, muscular shoulder. Part of her was shrieking in panic—silently. Hey, new Lainey, slow down! the cautious little voice that sounded like her mother chided.
I’m not Lainey anymore. I’m Katherine for the next two weeks. And shut up, she told the little voice.
“What’s going on here?” she asked boldly, as the wolf shifter turned to face her.
She froze where she stood.
The view from the rear had been great, but the view from the front was magnificent. She tipped her head back to stare up into the blue eyes of a wolf shifter, eyes that were the icy blue of a winter sky, with little flecks of black in them. He had an adorable cleft in his chin, and broad, strong cheekbones with a hint of sunburn coloring his sun-bronzed skin. His thick, brown hair was perfectly mussed; she yearned to run her fingers through it.
Her gaze moved down and she saw that his biceps strained at the sleeves of his black T-shirt, and his stomach was plank-flat. A worn leather belt with a silver buckle threaded through the loops of his jeans. She realized that she was actually openly checking him out. Head to toe. Giving him the once-over.
And the most amazing thing was, he was staring back at her exactly the same way, with an unnerving intensity. His ice-blue gaze swept over her, making her shiver again. He took in her face, her generous cleavage, her broad hips, her plump legs…and the look on his face said that he liked what he saw.
He was so close that she could smell a hint of bay rum aftershave, as well as freshly tilled earth and the sweet scent of flowers. He’d just been working in a garden, she was sure.
“I’m Tate Calloway,” he said, thrusting his hand out to shake hers. “And you are?”
His gaze was like a tractor beam, holding her pinned in place. Her heart started beating very fast, and she felt her mouth dry up.
She swallowed hard and ran her tongue over her lips. “I’m sorry, I…what did you say?”
He was staring at her intently. She felt her cheeks burning, thinking how foolish she must look and sound.
He stood there holding out his hand, a look of amusement quirking his full lips.
Flushing with embarrassment, she reached out and took his hand, which was large and strong and rough with callouses. His hand closed around hers and squeezed hard, and a jolt of arousal shocked her. She suddenly felt her panties go damp, and her nipples swelled into stiff little peaks. Goosebumps pebbled on her arms, even though the air was as warm as a pie fresh out of the oven. Her mouth was so dry that her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, and she literally couldn’t speak.