The Werewolf Dates The Deputy by Kristen Painter

Many Thanks

For my husband, who may or may not have inspired a few lines of dialogue in this book.

Being the sheriff of a town where Halloween was celebrated three hundred and sixty-five days a year had its ups and downs. Today wasn’t an up.

Hank Merrow stared across the conference table at the two stubbornest people on the face of the earth. His brother, Titus, who was also the fire chief, and one of his best deputies, Jenna Blythe, a valkyrie.

The only other person who might be more stubborn than these two was his sister, Bridget, who owned the local watering hole, Howler’s. No, wait. Make that their aunt, Birdie Caruthers, the woman he’d foolishly hired in a weak moment of nepotism to work as the sheriff department’s receptionist.

Okay, maybe stubbornness ran in the family. But that didn’t explain Jenna.

She and Titus stared back at him, waiting on an answer.

He growled softly. “Look, I forgot. It happens. I have a three-year-old at home. I’m lucky I remember to eat breakfast. Can’t one of you just step aside?”

Titus shook his head. “Kind of dirty pool using my niece as an excuse. But I’m not stepping aside. It’s high time the fire department got to organize the charity relay 10K. The sheriff’s department always does it.”

“That’s because we do it right,” Jenna said.

Titus glared at her. “And you think we wouldn’t?”

She raised her brows. “I think you’d make it all about the fire department, and it’s supposed to benefit all first responders. Plus, you’d probably make people carry hoses or buckets of water.”

Titus snorted. “That’s quite an assumption, and I don’t like—”

“Enough,” Hank said. “Since neither of you wants to step down, you can co-chair the project.”

Jenna scowled. “What?”

Titus looked fit to chew nails. “Hank, that is not—”

Hank stood. “I’m going back to my office and back to work. The matter is settled. Unless one of you wants to quit.” He almost cringed. He shouldn’t have said quit. There was no way either one of them would do that.

The two of them, the werewolf and the valkyrie, went back to arguing. With him or with each other, he wasn’t entirely sure, but he wasn’t sticking around to find out. He left and shut the door behind him. Their bickering carried through the door—although to be fair, he was a werewolf, so his hearing picked up a lot more than most people’s.

He pinched the bridge of his nose.

Birdie, seated behind the reception desk, snickered. “How’d that go?”

He gave her a look. “You can hear as well as I can. You already know.”

“Yes, I do.” She sipped her caramel-and-cinnamon-scented coffee, if you could even call such a froufrou drink coffee. Ripples of white foam remained on the surface, all that was left of the whipped cream that had once topped it. “But I still want to talk about it.”

“I don’t.” He went straight to his office, which necessitated continuing past her desk. “Next year, the sheriff’s department is out of that race entirely.”

Birdie frowned. “You mean you aren’t going to let the deputies enter?”

“They can enter. But we aren’t planning it. Not a single kilometer. We’ll provide security. That’s it.” He opened his office door. “Hold my calls. And no visitors unless a serial killer comes to confess.”

“That reminds me. Ivy called.” Birdie grinned.

He frowned. “Serial killers remind you of Ivy?” Not the most flattering comparison to his wife.

“No, you ninny.” Birdie frowned right back at him. “The hold-my-calls part.” She smiled again. “Hannah Rose said her first full sentence.”

Hank’s heart clenched at the mention of his little girl. “What did she say?”

Birdie’s grin widened. “Check your phone. Ivy sent a video.”

“Will do.” Now he had a real reason to hide away in his office. “Thanks.”

He went in, shut the door, and picked up his phone off the charger on his desk. He pulled up Ivy’s text and hit play.

Hannah Rose appeared on the screen. She was at the side of the couch. Off-camera, he could hear Ivy saying, “Go ahead, tell Daddy.”

Hannah Rose laughed and lifted her chubby arm in the air. “I love you, Daddy.”