Sergeant Major Owen Dewirter lives every day with the guilt of having let a shifter hurt one of his own. Now he's being forced to work beside Alpha force newcomer Selena to train a new covert unit of shifters for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and stop a rash of serial kidnappings. Can Owen ignore his prejudices–and his fantasies–about his sexy new partner and do his job?
When their passion ignites in the remote Canadian woods, the tension between Owen and Selena puts the joint mission in jeopardy. Can they learn to trust each other while tracking the enemy? Or will a cunning foe lure them into a dark and deadly endgame?
About the Author
Linda's first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the Year. Armed with an undergraduate degree in journalism with an advertising emphasis from Pennsylvania State University, Linda began her versatile writing career running a small newspaper, then working in advertising and public relations, and later obtaining her JD degree from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh. In addition to her writing, she continues to practice law.
Linda is a member of the Los Angeles chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and is actively involved with Romance Writers of America, participating in the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters.
The protagonist of Linda's mysteries, Kendra Ballantyne, is a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood hills with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Lexie. Coincidentally, Linda is also a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood hills with her husband and Cavalier named Lexie, plus Lexie's younger Cavalier friend, Mystie. Linda has not, however, had her law license suspended or turned to pet-sitting, nor has she discovered any murdered clients.
Read an Excerpt
I'm still so jazzed!" said Lieutenant Rainey Jes-sop, clasping her hands under her chin. "Working with Mounties. This'll be so much fun!"
Lieutenant Selena Jennay sent a wry smile toward her aide. Rainey had been excited from the moment the two of them had first been given this assignmentyesterday. As for herself, she was skeptical. She'd reserve judgment until she better understood the players in this new mission.
She took a seat across from her aide at the table in the small meeting room with gray wallpapered walls, the secluded area to which they'd been shown after arriving at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's northwest Vancouver facility. Her cover dog, Lupe, a canine who resembled a mix between a wolf and a husky, lay beside her.
She glanced at Rainey. "Do you think it's more fun than working with shapeshifters?"
Rainey looked momentarily shocked, a rare occurrence for the outgoing and chatty young woman. "Hardly. But I'm going to get to work with both Mount-ies and shapeshifters. Amazing!" She paused, and her smile morphed into a frown as two men in white shirts and blue pants walked into the room. "Although I'd hoped that we'd get to work with Mounties in their gorgeous dress uniforms and tall hats," she added under her breath.
Selena and Rainey rose to meet the men, smoothing down the camo uniforms of Alpha Force, the highly covert US military unit to which they belonged. Selena's light brown hair and Rainey's darker brunette locks were both pulled back tightly into clips.
"Good morning," said the first man to enter. He appeared middle-aged and had short white hair. Walking around the oval wooden table to where Selena and Rainey now stood, he held out a veined, long-fingered hand. "I'm Anthony Creay, deputy commissioner of the RCMP's general policing services."
Then he was the head of the group who'd contacted Alpha Force, Selena reasoned. "Hello, sir," she said, shaking his hand. She introduced both Rainey and herself. Then she let her gaze drift to the other man.
"Sergeant Major Owen Dewirter," he said, proffering his hand for a shake, too. "Also with general policing services."
And most likely the man with whom they'd be working over the next few weeks, Selena figured. The other guy was his superior officer and probably just wanted to make sure things got started well.
"Which one of you is the shapeshifter?" Owen asked. The sergeant major had a distinctively handsome face, with brilliant blue eyes beneath strong brows that matched his short, wavy black hair. His nose was aquiline, his chin broad with just a hint of a beard shadow.
Yet judging by his unreadable expression, Selena had the impression that he wasn't overly fond of shifters. Did he even believe in them? That wasn't clear, at least not yet.
"That would be me," she said in as mild a tone as she could muster, considering her initial bout of irritation. She could be wrong. She didn't know the guy, let alone how RCMP members thought or acted. He might be attempting to impress his superior officer by remaining emotionless.
"How fascinating!" Anthony did indeed appear fascinated. He stood behind a chair at the opposite side of the table, his eyes wide, his mouth slightly open. "I'm pleased that you're here to give us a close-up demonstration."
"Yes. About that." Rainey drew their attention as she sat down again. Her movement caused Lupe, who'd stood up as the humans did, to sit as well. "We've discussed that and are not sure about the best way to handle it. You see, we need a bit of privacy. Actually, Lieutenant Jennay needs a bit of privacy," she amended. "I'm her aide, and I'll be with her, but a shift requires that someone, er"
"I'll be nude," Selena interjected. She remained standing for now, her arms crossed. "That's why I have a female aide. We use a special proprietary elixir, and we will make some available to the shifters you have recruited into the new RCMP team that we're to train. When the rest of our Alpha Force team arrives tomorrow or the next day, they'll include a male shifter or two. They may be more amenable to being observed by men when they change. But although you can definitely see me once I've shifted, you unfortunately can't watch me shift." She found herself looking straight into Owen Dewirter's still-unreadable gaze. "Too uncomfortable for me. And I don't like to feel uncomfortable."
"I see." The words were drawn out slowly by Anthony Creay as he sank down into a chair across from the two women. And clearly, to Selena, the point was that he could not see. Not everything. "Nude? I didn't consider thatbut I believe that observing a shift was part of our understanding. So we would be sure of the genuineness of the help we're getting." As he scowled, his fleshy lower lip protruded.
Owen took a seat beside him, then exchanged glances with his superior officer. When he turned back to Selena, he had a decided frown on his face, too. "We need to work something out here," he said. "We have to watch the process to be sure you're a real shifter and not just trying to put something over on us."
His pronunciation of the word outwith an almost long O soundemphasized that he was Canadian. But his accent wasn't the only difference between them. He wanted her to get nude in front of him for her demo shift? Not gonna happen. Even though he was one great-looking guy. The thought of him observing her body as she stripped sent waves of heat through Selena that made her feel as if this meeting was on the hottest summer day in the US South instead of a cool evening in the Canadian West.
Was this whole thing primed to be a fiasco? Selena hoped not. She and Rainey were here representing Alpha Force and, since they had been in the western United States and were therefore the closest of those in their unit who had been selected to help the RCMP form their own similar unit, they'd been ordered to Vancouver to give a small and limited demonstration.
Limited being the key word.
Even Lupe must have sensed the tension in the room since she stood beside Selena and whined. Selena reached out and hugged the wolf-dog closer to her.
"Here's the thing," she said to the men in as reasonable a tone as she could muster. "Let me introduce you first to my cover dog. Lupe, this is Deputy Commissioner Creay and Sergeant Major Dewirter." She scratched Lupe behind the ears in a manner that caused the dog to turn her head toward the two men, not that Lupe, a genuine canine, could understand her words. "Gentlemen, this is the canine who looks a whole lot like me when I'm shifted. The way I figured we'd do this demonstration is for Rainey and me to go into another room. You can keep Lupe with you and lock the door to the room. With Rainey's help, I'll shift. Then when you unlock the door there'll be Rainey inside with a canine who looks a whole lot like Lupe. Voila! That'll be me, shifted. There'll be no other person in the room. With doors locked and all, there's no way we'd be able to do this without it being the real thing." The very suggestion that they'd try to pull a scam on representatives of a national police department that had requested their help really peeved Selena.
"But we understood we could see the actual shift take place." Creay's tone was icy.
Selena glanced toward Rainey, who looked uneasy and bewildered. Well, she needn't be. Selena was in charge here, at least for now.
"I understand your wish to see the process, gentlemen," she said. "Maybe you'd have been able to if you hadn't requested Alpha Force's presence so urgently. You said you needed at least our initial representation within one day. We were the closest team members available. So here we are."
"I recognize that," Creay retorted. "But we don't have any extra time, either, to waitor to deal with a situation where things aren't as represented to us."
"Are you accusing us of lying?" Selena hated to be confrontational, but their attitude was forcing her into it.
"We're not accusing you of anything." Owen's voice sounded placating, but his expression remained unreadable. "We just want to ensure we've got what we were promised by the US military."
Selena wanted to make good on that promise, too, for the sake of Alpha Force. She took a deep breath, then said, "Look, we want to cooperate with youbut certain things are nonnegotiable. If you don't feel you can trust us, if you think we'll play some kind of hoodwinking, magical game even when you can watch to make sure the room stays lockedwell, maybe we'd better just leave right now."
Selena saw Owen glance once more into the angry face of his commanding officer. Then Owen looked directly toward Selena. "Okay," he said. "We understand your concern, and I hope you understand ours. Our mission is highly important. And well, it's probably no surprise to you that not all people believe in shape-shifters. We just need"
"Do you believe in them?" Selena glared as if daring him to say that who she was, what she did, wasn't real.
"Yes," Owen said quietly, planting his arms on the table in front of him and leaning toward her. "I do. But this is all new to Deputy Commissioner Creay and he has his doubts."
Interesting, Selena thought. Creay's position was that of the majority of regular people. But the sergeant major was a believer. How did he know the reality?
Well, if he was the one who'd be working with them, maybe she would find out. Or not, if things continued to deteriorate.
He leaned in closer toward Selena, and his confrontational posture made Lupe tense up and growl. Glancing at the dog, he backed up slightly. "We seem to be at a stalemate. I'll be with you at the headquarters of the new team we're forming. But Deputy Commissioner Creay won't be with us. He's going back to our headquarters in Ottawa when we're done here. I may be able to watch some of the male shifters change then, but he needs to see you shift now." His expression changed then from demanding to something Selena couldn't interpret at first. Challenging?
Could be, considering his next words.
"I'll tell you what, Lieutenant Jennay. If you strip and show us your change, I'll strip right along with you. That way we can both feel uncomfortable, not just you. Although I have to admit that I'm just a normal human being."
Selena blinked in surprise at his outrageous offer.
Normal? She doubted that. The idea set her body on fire, and it was all she could do to prevent herself from letting her gaze slide down his fully clothed body toward the area she really would like to see nude.
But was he serious? Or was this some kind of additional challenge? "That's not" she began.
"Not necessary," Deputy Commissioner Creay interjected. Selena drew her gaze away from Owen and focused on Creay. His expression had calmed a bit. "I trust the people I spoke with at Alpha Force, and I'll trust them more after one of us gets to observe a shift. But that's apparently not going to happen now, so why don't you do your shift, as you suggested, inside a locked room. We'll check out the room before you enter and then monitor the shift from the outside. For now, that should be fine."
Selena gave a sigh of relief that the face-off had now been averted, even as she continued to watch Owen Dewirter. Now his eyes, too, were unreadable.
What would he do if she told him that she accepted his offer to strip bare?
No matter how much she liked the idea on some levellike, deep inside her now-blazing bodyshe wouldn't agree. Handling her shift the way she had already described was the best way to go. It should satisfy them. This was an RCMP facility. Where would Alpha Force find another dog that looked like Lupe and be able to sneak it in?
Besides, she was aware that others in Alpha Force sometimes used this method of shifting in a secured room to prove to nonshifters whoand whatthey were, and she hadn't heard of any problems resulting.
But all she said was "Fine. So shall we get started?"
Owen Dewirter observed Selena from across the tablefor the moment, at leastas she stood.
Maybe he'd been way out of line with his suggestion. It had been impulsive. But it had also been born out of irritation and a need to end their impasse.
Owen hadn't wanted to strip herealthough the idea of seeing Selena Jennay nude definitely stiffened a certain part of his body. But he also knew Anthony Creay well enough to be certain that his superior officer didn't like to be denied anything he believed he was entitled to.
This way, Anthony wound up making the decisiona good thing, and probably the only way to make the superior officer stand down. And now what Lieutenant Selena Jennay had proposed had become acceptable. She would shift without a male audience.
She would shift, though. He didn't actually doubt that she was a shapeshifter.
Although he believedno, knewthey existed, he had major concerns about shapeshifters.
But this one was also a gorgeous, sexy womaneven dressed in the sexless camouflage uniform of US soldiers.
She was slender, moderately tall, with full lips and high cheekbones. Her light brown hair seemed most unusual, with highlights that shimmered in even the low artificial lights in this conference room. Her amber eyes flashed with emotion as she spokelike now, as she conversed softly with the other woman, glancing occasionally toward the two men.
Owen rose, too, as did Anthony. "Do you know of any suitable room?" his superior asked in a low voice.
"Why not in here?" Owen asked. "We can leave." As he spoke, he scanned the small chamber, furnished only with the table and chairs. They were two stories up, so their visitors couldn't slip Selena out and a dog inespecially since the window overlooked the parking lot and the station's inside guard post. Whoever was on duty would no doubt see any shenanigans.
"I suppose that would work," Anthony said, also looking around.
As they spoke, Lieutenant Jennay speared them both with a sharp gaze that gave no quarter. Owen had no doubt that if her demeanor was typical of the US military's Alpha Force, that explained how the covert group accomplished its sometimes impossible missions.
He looked forward to this assignment.
He'd been one of the very few members of his division within the RCMP's general policing services who hadn't immediately scoffed when Anthony asked in his interview whether he believed in shapeshifters. Owen knew they were real.
He just didn't happen to like them. Experience had taught him to mistrust them.
And yet, it was in his country's best interests for a group of shifters from the States to help the RCMP to form its own covert unit, similar to Alpha Force, but a police unit instead of a military one.
Owen was all about helping his country. He would head the team. The fact that he'd previously worked with canines at the RCMP's police-dog service training center wouldn't hurt, either.
"So what do you think?" Selena eventually asked, her hands on her hips and confrontation in her expression.
"We'll lock you right in here," Owen said with no inflection, as if he had no interest in continuing the confrontation. "This is as good as any place. Maybe not the most comfortable location to get naked, but you won't be aware of it for long anyway."
"Not true," Selena snapped back. She clearly hadn't lost her attitude. "You may believe in shapeshifters, but you don't know anything about Alpha Force and our elixir if you think we lose awareness. For your information, the elixir developed by members of Alpha Force allows us to shift without a full moon and to keep our human awareness when the moon isn't full, and neither is the case with other shifters."
"Sounds like a useful concoction." Owen had understood there was something that made Alpha Force members different from other shapeshifters, but hadn't known what it was.
She seemed to relax a little after that. "But that's okay for now. You'll learn more as we help to train your RCMP shapeshifters." She drew out those words as if to rub the concept back in his face.
He realized that he was smilingwryly perhaps, but genuinely. She wasn't only lovely. She amused him.
Even though she was a shapeshifter. Or so she said.
She was right. He knew little about Alpha Force, its elixir or anything else related to the unit. But if she could genuinely shapeshift now, when the next full moon wasn't due for a couple of weeks, it would tell him a lot.
"There aren't any security cameras in here, are there?" Selena asked. He watched as she scanned the walls.
"No," said Anthony Creay. "This room is usually used for secure and private meetings."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Title: Canadian Wolf - Alpha Force Series Author: Linda O Johnston Published: 91-2015 Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne Pages: 304 Genre: Paranormal Romance Sub Genre: Shifters; Werewolves, Series; Suspense ISBN: 9781460387818 ASIN: B00UFIHFPA Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 4 Stars . Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Major Owen Dewirter and Lieutenant Selena Janney, a wolf shifter, of the American Alpha Force have been assigned to train a group of recruits that are to become the new Canadian Alpha Force. Dewirter has a prejudice against all shifters since a shifter harmed one of his people. The guilt from allowing it to happen eats at him daily, but to find who is behind the multiple kidnappings he would work with the devil himself. From their first meeting there is friction between the two. Which continues to grow and morph into physical and passionate attraction. Can they learn to work together as well as trust one another to accomplish their mission before their suspect can make them disappear as well? I am sad to admit that after the first few scenes the story does slow down while they begin setting up the new group and begin their training. Once all is established the pace picks up again and moves quickly. I found myself liking Owen and Selena from the very beginning and enjoyed watching their personal relationship develop. Both try to fight their attraction for personal reasons. The plot is well developed and fits well into the series. My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.
What an original story! Johnston has definitely created a wining mix here. I loved the realism of Northern BC set against the magic of shifters. The scene was so well set that I could picture the wilderness around me. The one of a kind plot kept me on my toes with twists and turns. The entire concept behind Alpha Force & their modified abilities was amazing. Johnston mixes science with the miracle of the paranormal to create something entirely new, while still following the age old premise of shifters. Johnston also creates characters who carry her story forward very well. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of them on their own, and the way that they mixed together as a team. I really enjoyed the way that Owen`s past and beliefs highlighted the difference between Alpha Force shifters and regular shifters. His relationship with Selena was also well developed. I enjoyed how their chemistry morphed into real feelings. Combining Owen`s `man in charge` aura with Selena`s need to get it done while keeping everyone safe created an atmosphere that I couldn`t look away from. Johnston has definitely created a unique and loveable novel here. I wouldn`t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fast paced, hot story with some shifters and a mystery. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.