Her Protector (Werebear Warriors Book 1) by V. Vaughn

Chapter 1


Tears burn in my eyes, like they do every time one of our shelter animals gets a new loving home and I have to say goodbye. I touch noses with a ginger cat we call Sophie, and she rubs her face against mine. I take it as a thank you before I hand her to her new owner.

Lila Owens, an older woman who lost her cat a few months ago, takes Sophie and coos to her before putting her into a cat carrier for the transport home. I don’t bother to hold back my tears as I watch them walk out the door. They’re happy tears, though, because I know Lila will treat Sophie like a queen. While I’ll miss Sophie, it won’t be for long. I’ve learned to not get too attached because there are too many other pets who reside in the shelter to take her place.

I sniff as I turn away and walk over to a storage closet to pull out a big bin full of props. I regularly take pictures of the pets with them, and later today I will feature two of the animals on the shelter’s social media accounts. Since I came up with a campaign to showcase our animals as if they were on a dating app, we’ve seen an increase in adoption rates.

I smile to myself as I look through the various props and think about a large Husky mix. We call her Snowstorm, and I’m going to put a hand-knit hat on her head and set her on a white towel with a pair of snowshoes I brought in so that I can write about how she’s looking for a match who’ll take her out in the snow to play.

I chuckle to myself when I decide that the short-haired black dog we call Pete will be featured today as well. I’m going to dress him up as a mail carrier since he loves to fetch things and has been known to jump up and snatch the mail off the reception desk to bring it to one of us.

“What have we got today?” Erin asks as I walk with my arms full of props toward the crates where we keep the pets.

“Pete and Snowstorm are getting their profile pictures taken.”

Erin chuckles. “I’ll get the treats. I have a feeling Snowstorm isn’t going to want to hold still for us.”

Probably not, but I smile when I think about how she’ll howl in protest when I try to put a hat on her head. Huskies sure do like to talk to you.

I shake out a white sheet to pin up in the corner where I usually take photos, and Erin joins me to help set up. “Jake and I are coming to the Landmark tonight,” she says.

“Oh, good. Thank you, I know it’s a pain.” I sing in a band that plays at bars on the weekends. “Sit near the front, please?”

“Of course we will, but I can’t believe you still need us there. And it’s not a pain. We like hearing you sing.”

I step back from the display I’ve set up. “I know it’s stupid, but I still feel like I’m going to throw up every time I get on stage, and it really helps to have a familiar face in the audience for me to focus on.”

“Chrissy, you have such an incredible voice that you haven’t got any reason to think people don’t love you. Do you know I still get goosebumps every time you sing “Landslide”?”

I chuckle, because I think I sang that song non-stop to the animals for weeks when I was trying to perfect it. “Goodness, you can’t still like that song.”

“I’ll always love that song, and it gets better each time you sing it.”

It might lately, because a talent scout named Fred Carter has been paying for me to take voice lessons. He discovered me one night in Landmark, a bar a couple hours across the Canadian border where my band plays often.

Fred is amazing. When he’s not helping people like me to make a career out of singing or running his import business in Portland, Maine, he seeks out non-profits who help families in need and donates unclaimed goods he accumulates. His charity extends beyond the state of Maine as well, because he puts together boxes of clothing and household items for me to bring his Canadian contact, Brad, whenever my band plays across the border .

Snowstorm’s crate rattles as I undo the latches to bring her over and sit her on the white towel that we’ve laid out to look like snow. Erin stands next to me with a treat and tells Snowstorm to sit. The dog definitely responds to treats, but I know I’ve got precious seconds before she begins to howl. I quickly step over and place a hat on her head as Erin commands her to stay.

But the second I lift up my phone she lets out a howl of complaint. “C’mon, Snowy girl,” I say hoping she’ll somehow comply. All that does is make her want to sing louder, so I join in. Erin laughs as I howl with Snowstorm, but amazingly the dog stays put instead of getting up. So I keep going with it as I snap pictures, hoping one will work. When other dogs join in with us, I stop and tell Erin, “Give her the treats. I’m bound to have gotten a good one.”