License to Shift


By Kathy Lyons

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Bear Meets Girl…

Julie Simon returns to Saginaw, Michigan, to find her ailing father’s missing research on local shapeshifter lore. Unlucky for her, the only person who can help her is the darkly sexy Mark Robertson, the guy who spent an entire summer giving her the cold shoulder-and one white-hot night of pleasure…

Mark is a hair’s breadth away from going feral. Soon, his grizzly side will destroy everything that makes him a man. And after years of fighting, Mark is ready to give in to the beast. Then Julie-the gorgeous, curvy book nerd who awakened his most primal desires as a young man-shows up at his door. Now, he’s fighting an insatiable longing to claim her as his mate. But Julie isn’t the only one after her father’s research. Someone-or something-evil is tracking Julie’s every move…


Chapter 1


Mark Robertson's nose twitched, and he moved to explore the scent.


He pursued, the spice of her as sharp as a hook.

A sound grated on his nerves and his hackles rose in irritation. The female was here and he was already thick with the drive to mount her.


He would hunt her, and she would succumb.

Part of him was uncomfortable with that predatory thought. It disliked the absolute ruthlessness with which he would claim his mate. But that voice was tiny and uninteresting. When it came to mating, there were no limits. Offspring were imperative. Taking a female urgent. He would hunt this female unto the ends of the earth.

If only the damned noise would stop.

He blocked out the sound, refocusing on the female, but she proved elusive. The scent was there, the draw undeniable, but he had to wake to find her.


He did, though the struggle to consciousness was hard. He'd been dreaming, he realized. And someone was making a noise that pounded in his temples. The grizzly part of him wanted to obliterate the sound with his claws. The man in him barely had the wherewithal to comprehend it was the door buzzer.

He shoved to his feet, his movements lumbering and awkward. He banged into a desk and howled in rage, the sound waking him enough to open his eyes.


He was in the place bear and man coexisted in relative peace, but the sound was forcing him to leave it. That didn't bode well for whatever idiot was leaning on the buzzer. He inhaled, pulling in the scent of humming electronics, stale coffee, and fertile female.

Well, at least that part had been real. A woman stood on his doorstep, which made her easy prey.

He stumbled to the stairs, climbing angrily out of his basement den. The raw buzzer sound ate at his control, and each moment it continued made his teeth bare with fury. The man in him prayed it was the female, otherwise the grizzly would kill it. This was his most dangerous time—when bear and man fought against each other for control. It made the animal unpredictable and the man insane.

The clamor paused, giving him a split second of relief. And then it began again, the renewed racket even worse because of the brief respite.

He had no dexterity to manage the locks. The bear tried to rip the door open, but it was steel reinforced and would not budge, though God knew he tried. The frustration nearly undid the bear, but the man took control. He slammed his hand down twice trying to break the lock before he thought to twist the deadbolt. The chain was harder, requiring more focus, and his higher cortex was recruited to handle the fine manipulation. Higher cortex was controlled by the man, which forced the beast back into sullen bitterness.

This was why I layered a dozen different locks on his door, the man gloated. So it would require higher brain function to open and thereby save whatever idiot thought they could wake him. The bear remained silent, biding its time until the man managed the locks. And when the task was done, the bear attacked.

It surged to the fore, hauling on the doorknob with all its strength. It still required the man to grip the knob, but beyond that, the grizzly was in control. Worse, it was whipped into a frenzy by the buzzer and the female.

Still, the door would not open.

He roared in frustration. The grizzly wanted to rear up in fury, but since the man was already standing, this merely reinforced his upright position. And with that, a large yellow sign came into view. It was a black arrow on a yellow placard, the color so bright it hurt his eyes even in the semi-light of the front alcove.

It took the man to understand it. And it took another eon of that relentless sound for the man to establish control. That, of course, was why the newest lock and sign were there. It could only be managed by a man. The bear would destroy it, thereby trapping him indoors forever.

But he was a man still. At least enough so that he could control himself. So he beat the grizzly back, forcing it into a tight compartment of his mind where it clawed at its cage. The arrow pointed to a keyboard hung on the wall. To open the door, he had to type in six numbers and four letters. The animal had no prayer of remembering the sequence, but the man could do it, though he fumbled it twice before managing it on the third attempt.

The door unlocked with a loud thunk of electric magnets shutting off. Then he twisted the knob and hauled the heavy thing open.

First thing he did was slap her arm away from the buzzer. He tried to modify his strength so as to not break her arm, but the grizzly demanded violence for the assault on his ears. She gave a squeak of alarm, but it wasn't a cry of pain, so the man in him was reassured. And while she stood there, her mouth open in shock, he took the time to use all his senses, orienting himself to the world outside his den.

It was afternoon on a Michigan summer day. The sky was overcast, which was a blessing on his eyes. It also kept the air from being too hot. His home edged the Gladwin State Park, a rustic cabin that belied the expensive electronics that kept his basement a hum of activity.

But that was behind him. In front was a woman, lush and fertile.

He cared little for her coverings—crisp linen pants beneath a polyester blouse. What he focused on was the scent of her body and the flush on her cheeks. The animal in him smelled for disease and found none. He also evaluated the power in her body, the width of her hips, and the full, lush roundness of her breasts. The grizzly pronounced her exceedingly healthy to carry young. The man liked the sight of her cleavage and the length of her legs. Neither cared that her mouth hung open in shock, though they noted the quick tempo of her breaths.

"Uh, hello," she said. There might have been more words, but he didn't have the brain function to process sentences yet, and even if he did, her voice drowned out the sounds of the forest. He had been asleep for a while, and he needed to be alert for danger. He would brook no interference now that the fertile woman had presented herself at his door.

So when she kept speaking, he growled at her. Low and guttural. She snapped her mouth shut on another squeak, which he found strangely funny. He sniffed the wind, finding the usual mix of civilization and woods. Nothing of note except for this woman, whose scent mixed feminine musk with citrus. Oddly appealing.

So he turned his full attention back to her, mentally dissecting the smell—what was shampoo, deodorant, and her. He liked her, and he felt his organ thicken in desire.

A memory teased at his mind. Did he know this woman? He studied her sturdy body, seeing the lush curves and wide hips, good for carrying young. If he took this woman now, she would conceive his young. He could overpower her here, rip off her coverings, and release his seed inside her within moments. It wanted it with a fierceness that alarmed the man.

So he forced himself to turn away, heading for the one thing that helped most when his control balanced on a knife's edge. It required him to turn his back on her, but he did it while he lumbered to the kitchen and the acrid scent of cold coffee.

He found it on the counter. A banged-up metal mug that waited for situations just like this. He grabbed it and swallowed the cold brew, praying it would work one more time. It would push the brain cells into life and thereby suppress the animal a little more. Then he could live for another day as a man instead of a beast.

He heard her follow him. She wasn't in the least bit quiet as her sandals slapped on the hard tile of his front hall. He heard her draw breath, probably to speak, and he whipped around to glare at her. He was not human yet. She would wait until he was. Anything else was too dangerous for her.

But when he spun around to growl at her, he was struck again by how pretty she was. Not her scent, but her features. Round face with a pert nose. Large brown eyes and curly hair pulled into a messy bun. She wore makeup, though lightly, and she'd chewed off any hint of lipstick. She had a light brown mole near her right ear just above her jaw, and he wanted to lick it to see if he could detect the change in texture with his tongue. And then there was her mouth, soft and red. She was biting her lower lip on one side. It was an endearing, human sight that made the man happy. The bear didn't care about such details. Minute shifts in expression on a human face meant nothing to it. But as long as he could see the flash of a white tooth as it tugged at her lower lip and know she was uncertain, he knew he was still a man even if he couldn't form actual words just yet.

Again that hint of knowing her teased at him, through both bear and man. She was familiar, but he hadn't the focus to isolate the memory. He needed more caffeine, but the metal mug was empty. Fortunately, he knew the next steps by heart. It was a complicated process, but that was part of the plan. The more he used his brain—even to fire up an expensive espresso machine—the better for everyone.

So he did. He turned on the machine, pulled milk from the refrigerator and honey from the cabinet. He did everything by rote, while each motion reinforced the human side of his personality. He ground the beans, measured out the espresso shots, and filled a large mug. Without conscious decision, he added chocolate and whipped cream, then drizzled the honey across the top before offering it to her.

A gift for the woman who would be his mate.


The man cut off the thought, knowing that it came from the animal. This was a gift for the woman who'd risked her life by waking him. That made her stupid, not a life mate. And why the hell would she come here when she was fertile? Good God, who would be that stupid?

Every normal human woman would be that stupid, he answered himself. It was only the shifters who scented fertility and thought about what that broadcast to the world. Which meant this woman was fully human and completely ignorant of his kind.

He ought to throw her out of the county. Until her cycle ended, she was a temptation to every young boy in the flush of his first season. Though, if he were honest, she was in the most danger from him.

She looked perplexed as he held out the drink. He ought to be drinking it instead of giving it to her. He needed all the caffeine he could get right then. But she was his female—a woman, the man corrected, and not his at all. She was a woman in his home and this was as polite as he could manage. If she took it, though, that would seal her fate. The grizzly would take it as a sign of agreement to mate.

There was nothing Mark could do to stop that. Her only hope was if she left while he remained in control of himself. Which made it the man's job to get rid of her as soon as possible. For her own sake.

And all the while, he just stood there, his hand beginning to burn from the heat of the mug.

Take it, the bear urged.

Run, the man screamed. While you still can.

But no words formed on his mouth. And after a long, slow moment, she reached out and lifted the mug from his fingers.

Her touch was light, the brush against his skin sending bolts of desire into his hard dick. It jerked toward her, but he didn't move beyond that. And then she smiled, her expression clear enough for even the bear to understand. A wary greeting. Her face said, Hello. And maybe added a "thank-you" as she pulled the drink to her mouth.

He watched, mesmerized, as her lips pursed against the white cream. Her eyes drifted closed, and her throat shifted as she swallowed. Then he heard it. A soft release of sound, too quick to be a purr and yet was undeniably delight.

Oh, hell. She was appreciating his gift. His cock stood up ramrod straight, and if his muscles hadn't been locked tight, he would have reached for her. She'd accepted his gift of food, even murmured her appreciation of it. She was his now, according to the grizzly. The man wondered if she'd just signed her death warrant.

She lowered the mug and licked the cream from her lips. His breath caught, and he had to tighten his hands into fists so that he wouldn't reach for her. He had to leave before the grizzly caught him unaware. Willing or not, the bear would impregnate her because that was its number-one, absolute drive right now. Get her with child.

With a strangled sound, he jerked himself back to the machine. He could make his own drink and pray that the caffeine helped him keep the grizzly caged.

So long as she didn't speak. And if she touched him, she was doomed.

He began to order himself about, his mind becoming a drill sergeant to the body. Put in the coffee, slam on the machine, watch the dark liquid of sanity pour from the spout. He focused on those simple details while beside him he heard her breath catch. There'd been fear in her scent from the beginning. An acrid tang that helped keep him away from her. The man detested that scent and would do nothing to make it continue. But now he wished it would overwhelm him. Now he wanted her to be bathed in the scent because while he tried to focus on making coffee, he scented her arousal. The musk deepened, the scent akin to roasted nuts. He knew that scent. It was imprinted on his brain as clearly as a brand.

Who is she? He wanted to remember.

He finished making his latte, sweetening it only with honey before gulping it down. It seared his tongue and burned his throat, but it was better to feel pain than smell her. It was a skill he'd perfected in these last years while slowly going feral. He focused on one sensation and blocked out the rest. His throat burned, therefore he couldn't know that she was attracted to him. He couldn't be drawn in by her body's interest because all he felt was his own scorched tongue. Or so he told himself.

And then—thank God—she did something smart enough to preserve her virtue. She began to speak, her words high with nervousness and too rushed for him to process without recruiting his higher cortex.

Yes. Yes. Make me think. Make me hear. But for God's sake, don't touch me.

More words. What did they mean?

"…my father…computer…notes…have them?"

It took three tries before he could form a word. Even so it came out more like a grunt. "No," he said. Then the most important thing for her own safety. "Leave."



Chapter 2


Julie Simon was not a prude. She enjoyed a finely honed male body as much as any woman. But when said finely honed man answered his door stark naked and proceeded to look at her like she was the answer to his prayers, well, then, her libido kicked into overdrive. Especially when that look turned into hunger and his already thick cock stiffened into a staff that aimed unerringly at her.

She was not a prude, but hell, this was sexually at its most raw. And she apparently liked raw.

Who knew? All her boyfriends up to now had been friendly, flaky men who spoke in full sentences and never, ever growled. And yet one hairy, horny grunt from this guy and her nipples tightened while everything else went liquid.

Not a prude, then. Apparently, she fell more into the slut category because if he made a move on her right then, she wasn't exactly sure what she'd do to stop him. First of all, he looked like he could overpower her in a heartbeat. Second, the moment he'd offered her his mocha latte, her knees had gone weak and her lust spiked. When the hell had she developed a caveman fetish?


But she wasn't a beast to be ruled by her hormones. And she certainly wasn't going to jump a near stranger, no matter how ripped his abs or how much he stared at her. Good lord, she'd never been the center of such focused attention. Need rippled off those sculpted pecs, it vibrated in the air between his broad shoulders and her tight breasts, and it seemed like he wanted her so badly it was hard for him to form words. But how was that possible? All he'd done was answer the door…naked.

She took a breath, startled—but not surprised—to find it thick with musk. His? Hers? Who knew?

Get a grip!

She momentarily flashed on what she could grip and struggled to restrain a near-hysterical laugh. She was not a woman who thought things like that. Not in the usual course of the day. So she closed her eyes and lifted her latte to her lips. Damn, he made a great cup of coffee. The honey added just the right amount of sweet.

Focus on the essentials: caffeine and sugar.

That's when he spoke. Two words: "no" and "leave." Well, that was par for the course from the men in her life. They'd act one way, then say the opposite. Get her revved, then disappear. Give her a latte and then order her to leave. All he needed to do now was invite her to move in, then break up with her and he'd be just like her ex.

But unlike what she'd done with her ex, she refused to leave. Her father needed his help, and so she would be stubborn. At least until she got a fuller explanation from him. One that included two-syllable words.

"So," she ventured when the silence stretched too long between them, "do you remember me?" She certainly remembered him. Linebacker for the football team with a crazy streak. She hadn't gone to high school here, but she'd spent a few summers being rejected by his clique while listening to tales of his antics. Everyone had talked about the stunts he'd pulled running wild in the state park. According to the gossip, he'd jumped from tree to tree the length of the park. He'd raced the train and won. He'd swum the river when it was still clogged with ice.

Blah, blah, blah.

What she remembered was him finding ways to keep her away from the group. He stopped people from talking to her, he hosted parties in places she couldn't find, and he never did anything but give her the cold shoulder. And where the great Mark Robertson went, everyone else—but her—followed. Which meant she had two very lonely summers thanks to him.

He was a dick of the first water…except for that one amazing, incredible, life-altering night. But she refused to think about that. Ever.

She grabbed onto the cruel memories now. In her mind's eye, she lined up every time he'd turned away from her and used them to ice her hormones. She was here to get her father's journals, and she'd be damned if he frightened her away with his hard muscles and his manly lust.

"I'm Julie Simon," she said clearly. "You have my father's journals, and I need them."

He blinked at her, his brows narrowing enough that she noticed a long scar along his forehead. Probably from tripping while racing a train, she thought sourly. Though, damn, that looked like it had been a scary wound.

"Your father?" he said, his voice gravelly and bedroom sexy. His eyes drifted closed and he spoke as if he were just waking up from a really beautiful dream. "Julie."

She shivered at the unexpected timbre of his voice, laced with both yearning and pain. "Er, y-yes," she stammered, feeling way off-kilter. "My father is Professor John Simon. You've been working with him. Helping him with his computer system for his research. He said you had—"

"I don't." His voice was clearing, going from bedroom sexy to just radio mellow.

She huffed out a breath, irritation doing little to cool her lust, but every tiny bit helped. "He gave you his journals to digitize. I'm going to transcribe them for him while he's in the hospital."

His gaze sharpened. "Hospital?"

"Yeah. Heart attack. Bypass surgery a couple days ago." She kept her answer short, not wanting to relive the frantic midnight phone call from her mother or the drive from Chicago to Saginaw, Michigan, when her life was already in so much chaos. But considering the circumstances, her boss had given her leave from work. Then she had that anxious wait through the surgery while she, her mother, and her younger sister went slowly crazy from too much bad coffee and too little news.

"He okay?"

She nodded. "He's lucky he collapsed at the café in town. He got CPR immediately and then was air lifted to Saginaw."

She fell silent while he studied her face. His eyes narrowed, and the intensity kicked up in their dark blue depths. She hadn't thought anything about the man could be more raw than what she'd felt earlier, but his scrutiny made her uncomfortable. Like he was reading every curve and hollow on her face for way more than she wanted to reveal.

Then he set down his coffee with a hard click. "You are worried."

"Of course—"

"But not too worried. You believe your father will be fine."

Two complete sentences full of two-syllable words. Quite the improvement. Maybe now he'd put some pants on. Meanwhile, she watched him curve his mouth into a slow smile.

"I'm glad he's going to be okay."

Hard not to soften when he spoke in those bedroom tones. "So am I. But by tomorrow he's going to be bored. I was sent here to get his journals."

He frowned. "I gave them back a while ago." His gaze shifted from her to a large calendar on the wall. It was a Dilbert one, full of cartoons about working in the cubicle jungle. And it was on the wrong month. "What day is it?"

"Tuesday." Then when he stared at her in confusion, she got more specific. "June second. Do you need the year, too?"

He slowly shook his head as he walked over to the calendar. "I've been asleep for three days."

What? Holy shit! "Are you sick? Do you need to go to the hospital?" That would explain a lot.

"What? No." His voice was emphatic, but given that he was still staring at the month of May, she wasn't convinced.

"It's not normal to sleep for days on end." She kept her voice neutral, but was ready to dial 911 if he showed signs of delirium or something.

He swallowed, then carefully switched the calendar over to June. "It is for me. Lately." Then he stood there glaring at the new Dilbert image. "I woke up a couple times, I think, but fell right back to sleep."

"For three days?"

His gaze cut to hers, and in those dark blue depths, she saw a haunting despair—like a man staring down the barrel of a gun. And now she remembered what had drawn her to him as a teen. Even back then she couldn't look at that much pain without reaching to comfort him. But she only got one step closer before he stiffened and turned from her.

"I'm suddenly starving," he said, his voice settling into a forced cheer. After the husky tones from a few minutes ago, this was downright irritating. "Want something to eat?"

"No, thanks."

He crossed to a large refrigerator and pulled it open. A big T-bone sat in the center as well as a couple more cuts of beef, plus milk and a surprising number of fruits and vegetables. Given that her refrigerator contained an expired tub of yogurt and a crappy bottle of wine, she had to be impressed that Mr. Caveman kept a well-stocked kitchen.

"You sure?" he said, his voice becoming cheerier with every word. "I've got plenty."

"No, thanks. I had a burger on the way up."

"Ugh. Fast food." His tone held all the contempt of a celebrity chef. Meanwhile, he pulled out two steaks and threw them on a plate. His movements were efficient as he poured on a homemade marinade and set them aside to soak. Then he grabbed a variety of leafy greens, tomatoes, and God only knows what other vegetables for an amazing salad. Just watching him work was a delight, especially given the way his muscles rippled as he sliced and diced.

The steaks went into the oven right before he started sautéing some kind of mushroom and onion mixture. Oh, hell. It smelled amazing, and her stomach rumbled. That burger had been a long while ago. He heard it, of course, and his eyes cut to hers even while he stirred his mixture.

"I was rude earlier. Please, let me make it up to you with some decent food."

She swallowed. Damn, she was tempted. Hot guy who cooked like a dream? Sign her up! But she knew the truth of him from high school. Someone who was mean to the outsider as a teen didn't grow up to have a generous soul. It just didn't happen, no matter how well he cooked or that she could play "name the muscle" on every part of his body.

"I just need those journals," she said. "Then I'll get out of your hair."

"I told you, I don't have them. I digitized them, then gave them back…" He glanced at the calendar. "Eight days ago."

"They're not in our cabin."

"Sure, they are. You just don't know where to look."

Actually, she did. With nothing else to do those two lonely summers, she'd learned her dad's "filing" system by heart. "They're not in the cabinet beneath the desk. They're not in the pile behind his lounger or beneath his bed. They're not in the pile by the toilet or the cabinet next to the coffee—there's just car magazine crap."

He turned and frowned at her. "Are you sure?"

She glared at him while desperately trying not to admire his profile. Muscled thighs, taut butt, washboard abs, and that dusky erection that had yet to shrink down. "Yes," she bit out. "I'm sure."

"Huh." He turned back to his sauté pan. A moment later, he sniffed the air. Apparently, he could smell when the steaks hit the right temperature because he quickly pulled them out of the oven. Then, he set them on two plates and poured the contents of the sauté pan over them. Next came the salads with a homemade dressing, of course, plus two glasses of lemonade that was probably homemade, too.


  • "Lyons gets it right."—Kirkus Reviews on The Bear Who Loved Me
  • "I can promise you, the opening sequence will grab your naked, coffee loving sensibilities and run with them! Go read that, put yourself in Julie's shoes and you'll appreciate her all the more! It's a known fact, coffee tames all beasts!"—
  • "I enjoyed Mark and Julie together and the love that develops is sweet and true. The storyline is intriguing and held my interest throughout. There's danger and excitement that kept me riveted while turning each page to see what would happen next."—
  • "I really enjoyed this book! The author did an excellent job with the characters and the story is very well written. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good shape-shifting or paranormal romance novel."—

On Sale
Oct 4, 2016
Page Count
288 pages
Forever Yours

Kathy Lyons

About the Author

Kathy Lyons is the wild, adventurous half of USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee. A lover of all things fantastical, Kathy spent much of her childhood in Narnia, Middle Earth, Amber, and Earthsea, just to name a few. There is nothing she adores more than turning an ordinary day into something magical, which is what happens all the time in her books. Winner of several industry awards including the Prism-Best of the Best, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and Fresh Fiction’s Steamiest Read, Kathy has published over 50 romance novels, and she’s just getting started. Check out her latest news at

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