“You looking for the kid?”
Anna turned in the direction of the voice and found a booted pair of denim clad legs extended from the base of a tree near the river bank.
The man peered around the tree in her direction.
Her mouth fell open when the most beautiful pair of fawn-colored eyes locked onto hers. A warm bubbly feeling slowly spread down her spine.
“Blond kid? With more questions than an interrogator?”
She blinked away the drunk sensation that was taking over her brain. “Yes.” She stepped closer. “Have you seen him?”
The man pointed somewhere above her head.
She followed his gaze toward the top of a tree. Her breath caught in her throat when she spotted Seth dangling from a far too narrow of a branch for her comfort. “How—” She and Seth might both be part cat but that didn’t mean they couldn’t fall and break their necks. She marched to the tree that held her soon-to-be-grounded son. “Seth, get down here at once.”
“Awww,” Seth whined.
“Is he your nephew?” The man with beautiful eyes asked her.
She risked a glance in his direction but that only restarted the butterflies in her belly. “No.” She motioned for Seth to hurry so that she didn’t have to linger any longer than she had to with the more-attractive-than-he-had-a-right-to-be stranger.
Seth dropped down to the next branch, barely catching himself, which made her heart shudder in her chest.
“A little brother perhaps then?” the stranger asked.
“Wrong again.” This time she couldn’t hold in the start of a grin.
When Seth finally reached the lowest branch, she held her arms out offering to catch him. She grunted when his weight fell onto her, knocking her back a couple steps. The stranger stepped in behind her stopping her from toppling backward. His hand on her back warmed the area more than she thought possible and accelerated the spread of those tingling bubbles.
Seth might be too heavy for her to carry but she knew she could at least break his fall. Not that she’d ever admit that. As soon as she lowered him to the ground, she glanced at the man.
“Thank you.” Her voice came out far huskier than it should have.
A heated look flickered across the man’s face. He rubbed the hand that had been on her back against his own hip and mumbled, “No problem.”
She pressed her lips together and gave the man a small smile before kneeling before Seth. She scanned him for injuries. Scrapes on his knee and elbow caught her eye. “Are these from the tree?”
Seth looked down at his knee then contorted his arm to look at the place on his elbow where she pointed. He shrugged. “I dunno.”
“And why are your shorts wet?” She frowned. “I thought I told you to stay out of the river.”
“That might be my fault.”
She turned her head toward the stranger. Once again, she was struck by the urge to wrap herself around him like a spider monkey. From this angle his brown hair sparkled in the sunlight making it look as much copper as chocolate. She snapped her mouth shut and rose to her feet. What was wrong with her?
“He tried to help me reel in a fish and lost his footing on the muddy bank,” the man admitted.
“You should have seen it, Mom!” Seth’s grey-blue eyes sparkled with excitement. “The fish was like thisbig.” He held his hands out in front of him to demonstrate.
The stranger leaned to look around her at Seth. “He told me his knee was fine.”
She nodded. “Yeah he always says that. He hates for me to doctor his cuts.” Despite knowing anything he might injure could be easily healed by him shifting, she couldn’t stand the thought of her baby being hurt. To Seth she said, “I’m sure it was a big fish.” She grabbed Seth’s hands and pressed them between her palms. “Maybe Mr. Brown can take you fishing again sometime soon. Then you’ll get another chance to catch your own.”
“Yes!” Seth gave them an exaggerated fist pump in the air making her chuckle.
“But for now, I need you to grab the baskets I filled up and take them to the Jeep.”
“All right,” Seth’s shoulders slumped as he shuffled toward their vehicle.
“But tell Mr….” She gestured at the stranger with her palm open, hoping he would supply his name for her.
“I’m Cam. Cam Wyborn.”
She started to argue with him that Cam wasn’t the proper address but he held up his own hand to stop her. “My father goes by Mr. Wyborn. I do not.”
Something in his tone cautioned her to not argue with him. “Seth, tell Cam thank you for letting you interrupt his quiet fishing time.”
“Thank you,” Seth told him grudgingly then he continued on to their vehicle with his shoulders slumped. As he reached the bend in the pathway, he cast one last pleading glance back at them.
She flicked her hand at him, urging him to keep moving.
After Seth disappeared around the bend, Cam mumbled, “Cute kid.”
“You know Robert?” Cam asked as he turned toward her.
Anna cocked her brow. “Doesn’t everyone around here?”
Cam chuckled. “True enough.”
Even though it went against her better sense, she took in as many details about him as she could, including his scent. He was taller than her by at least a foot. He had broad shoulders that led her to believe he either had a physical labor job or he worked out regularly.
When she first crossed his path, she had only picked up the scent of the river and the surrounding cedars. Now she detected something else. Something musky and enticing. It made her cat sit up and take notice. “How do you know Robert?”
Cam crossed his arms. “He’s my uncle.” He jerked his chin in her direction. “What about you? How do you know him?”
“He’s my landlord. And I occasionally do odd jobs for him or Dorothy. They’re both really sweet.”
He snorted. “Not many people would say Robert was sweet.”
“Well, maybe not.” She grinned. “But once you get past all the growling he actually is. And the way he dotes on Dorothy is just adorable.”
“I suppose that much is true.”
“Does that mean you are…” She bit her lip.
His brow lifted in question. “Am I what?”
She wanted to ask him the big question but she honestly didn’t know if she hoped he was a shifter or not. “Are you…like…Robert?”
“Are you asking if I can shift?”
She nodded then almost immediately regretted it when she caught his grimace as he turned away.
“No. I can’t,” he admitted.
Some of her tension eased. “But you know about them.”
“Good. So, I don’t have to explain anything you may or may not have seen or heard Seth do or say.”
“Maybe just one thing.” He grinned. “But no. He did nothing to make me think he was anything but a, what? Seven-year-old boy?”
She nodded. “Well, I should probably make sure Seth is still by the car. But it was nice meeting you, Cam.” She offered her hand to shake with him.
He hesitated a brief moment before taking her hand in his.
As soon as their palms made contact, a wave of awareness rippled up her arm and through her body. Every cell of her body heated and her cat whispered, mate.
It couldn’t be.
She shook her head in denial and dropped his hand like it was a snake.
His amused expression turned into one of question.
“I, uh…thank you.” She backed away. “I’m sorry if Seth interrupted your fishing.”
“No, he was fine,” he reassured her.
“Good.” She took several more steps away. “I…maybe I’ll see you around town.” She hurried away without giving him a chance to respond.
She admonished herself for being rude and a coward as she hurried away.
It just wasn’t possible.
No, she whispered to herself as she marched through the tall grass near the riverbank. Perhaps her heat was coming on. It had been a while since her last. She’d look at her calendar when she reached the office.
She had never had a reaction to a man like this before. But what could she do about it? Was there anything she shoulddo?
As far as she could tell he had been kind to Seth. As a mother, that was bound to appeal to her, right?
Sure, the snarky voice in her head chimed in. That had to have been the reason.
Couldn’t have been due to the sheer volume of masculinity rolling off of him.
Not at all.