Her phone rang and it was her mother’s ringtone, slowly sitting up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes she answered the phone.
“Good morning Ellie!” her mother’s charming voice came through the phone.
“Good morning Mom, headed to church?” she asked, reclining against her wall of pillows, she smiled. Her mother’s voice always calmed her whenever she was worried about things.
“Yes, what’s wrong?” her mom asked, Eloise shook her head, her mom always knew when something was wrong.
“Well I met a guy last night,” she started, and pulled the phone away as her mom squealed.
“That is wonderful! What’s his name? Did you go on a date? How did you meet?”
“Mom, one question at a time. His name is Marcus Zephyr, he runs a protection agency here in White Valley. We did not go on a date; I finally went back to working the Mate Me events Josie hosts. We met while I was grading papers, because Rhett made me come to work early,” she explained.
“How did it feel to go back? Is he a shifter?” her mom’s voice dropped to a soft whisper.
“I was extremely on edge unless I was with Marcus, something about him appeals to me on a deeper level. I never usually fantasize about men and the second I met him I was mentally stripping him. He is a bear shifter and I even told him and my friends about the stalker,” she shared, she hadn’t told her mom about her current stalker.
“Why would that come up unless…” her mom trailed off.
“I have a new one, since I went back to work in August. Notes have been showing up in all the places I work or go to, always tapped to my car or on my door. I found one in my desk drawer a couple weeks ago. I thought it was Jimmy, the guy who tried to drag me off by my hair. I don’t know if it is really him, Marcus wants me to go to the police.” She got out of bed and went to make herself a cup of coffee.
“Eloise Catherine Rucker, why am I just learning about a new stalker now?” her mom demanded and Eloise cringed at the use of her full name.
“I didn’t want to worry you,” she explained, turning her coffee maker on setting it up. She leaned against the counter in her tiny kitchen. It was barely big enough for her to move between the stove and counter to make food for herself. She loved to cook, but her kitchen did not allow for much experimentation.
“Too late, I’ll look into what William is up to these days. He moved away a couple years ago, but his parents are still in town,” her mom offered and Eloise nodded.
“That’s fine Mom, but I am sure it isn’t William. I am pretty sure my stalker is a shifter, he always signs the notes Your Loving Mate. If I recall William isn’t a shifter,” she replied.
“I’ll look into him anyway; shifters don’t just come out and say they are a shifter all the time. Only the people they really trust know what they are. Okay, I’m at church, I want you to meet that Marcus at the police station and report your stalker. Don’t you dare think about just ignoring this. You did that and William followed you across three state lines to keep near you,” her mother warned.
“I won’t Mom, I am going to meet him there at ten. I’ll call you with an update later. I am working again tonight until midnight,” she replied.
“Good, love you Ellie and please be safe.”
“Bye Mom, love you too.” She hung up and poured herself a cup of dark roast coffee, she added a touch of milk and sugar and settled on her couch to start grading. She wanted to get as much done as possible in the next two hours.
Two hours later, Eloise was standing outside the White Valley police station wrapped in her thick pale pink wool peacoat, a white scarf, white beanie and white gloves. She loved having her accessories coordinate. As a teacher she had to make her budget stretch, but buying clothing was her weakness, she liked feeling good in the clothes she bought. She waited for Marcus outside, because she didn’t want to stand inside, the officers questioning why she was there. She had packed all the notes away in her purse, her hands shaking as she folded each of the offending papers and put them in her purse.
“Eloise,” Marcus called and she turned to see him stepping out of a massive truck. It looked so well cared for, unlike her car. She wondered if he took care of everything the way his truck looked, would he take care of her if she asked? She could see the two of them driving home in his truck, dumping her awful car off a cliff and spending all of winter break locked away in his home making love. She had no idea where he lived or if it was a house, but she knew he made her feel good. The man hadn’t touched her and here she was wanting to give him everything.
“Hi,” she replied, realizing he was staring at her. She blushed and wondered how long it had taken her to reply.
“Are you okay?” he asked, coming up and putting his hands on her shoulders. The heat from his hands passed through her coat and warmed her from the inside out.
“There was a note left on my door,” she answered, wanting to melt into his touch.
“Can I read it?” he asked, sliding his hands up and down her arms to comfort her. She found herself blinking back tears, she hadn’t been comforted like this in a long time. Even after the incident with Jimmy, her friends weren’t sure what to do with her and let her wallow in self-pity for a while. Josie was the one who demanded she come back to work.
“You want to read it?” she asked surprised, these notes were not for the faint at heart.
“Yes, if I am going to help you, I need to know what is going on and I need to know what is in the notes. There could be hints to his identity that you don’t realize,” he explained. She looked up into his green eyes and saw nothing but sincerity and concern for her.
“Can we go inside? I’m freezing,” she asked, looking toward the building. She caught a hint of a blush on his face.
“Sorry, being a bear, I don’t feel cold as quickly as you do,” he apologized, and pulled her in for a warm hug. Her body instantly warmed, she let herself lean into his large frame. He was the protection she wanted, her body longed for him, she had a very steamy dream about him the night before.
“Come on.” He kept an arm wrapped around her shoulders and walked her into the police station. Taking a deep breath she paused and looked around the station. Several deputies stopped and looked at them, one particularly tall officer walked over to them.
“Marcus!” he called out and held out a hand for Marcus to shake.
“I see being an officer is still in your blood,” Marcus replied, and turned to look at her.
“Eloise, this is Cody Ling, he and I served together in the Marines. He is the current sheriff of White Valley and the man we are here to see.” She smiled and looked up at the man, he had dark hair with streaks of gray running through it, warm brown eyes and a quick smile.
“Nice to meet you Eloise, let’s go talk in my office?” Sheriff Ling suggested and she nodded.