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Playing to Win

Playing to Win

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When I lose a game of strip poker, I expect the fun to end at the table. But for the three bear shifters that are my formidable opponents, it’s just the beginning.

I didn’t come to The Real Werewives to find a forever mate. I’m hiding from hitmen who think I stole their money. The last thing I can do is star in my own episode.

These offensive linemen have decided I’m their mate, and the only way I can stay with the show is to go on a date with each of them. They’ve laid their cards on the table. They want me.

Troy—the dapper one.

Corey—the downhome one.

Steele—the dangerous one.

I’m faced with an impossible choice. Choose one of them or keep running.

What will happen when they find out who I really am? These bears protect their quarterback every week, but will they protect me when my dangerous past catches up to me in Alaska?

This is the wildest game I’ve ever played, and I’m all out of second chances. Good thing my three bears play to win.

Main Tropes

  • Why choose with three bears
  • Goldilocks retelling
  • football player heroes
  • Curvy heroine on the run
  • Dating Reality Show
  • Fated Mates

Read Chapter One

The game moved a lot faster when I was the one playing it.
Or maybe I was a little distracted by the three giant bear shifters sitting at the table with me.

A girl had priorities, after all.

I couldn’t be mad that I’d lost yet another round as three
sets of eyes followed my fingers as they took a slow, lazy trip down my leg to
hook into my sock. Distraction was my favorite medium. I’d learned the tricks of the trade on the Las Vegas Strip, first working as a showgirl, but that
wasn’t where the money was. My ex-boyfriend was a professional poker player and
he used me as his foil to tip the scales in his favor. Professional didn’t mean he was good, or even ethical. It meant he’d made enough money playing the game to survive, by whatever means necessary.

Until he managed to royally piss off some casino guys with a mafia complex. Our racket ended the morning they broke down our apartment door,
demanding we give them back the money we no longer had. So I did what I always
had before when I got myself into a sticky situation—I ran. After catching the first bus out of town, I saw an ad for The
Real Werewives of Alaska
on my phone. Holiday Falls became my new destination, and here I was, trying to prove I had what it took to be a Real Werewife.

And these bears were beating me at my own game.

“Are you gonna look at your cards or are you just taking
something else off?” Steele winked at me. The biggest of the three men still had all his clothes on. The only delicious hint of skin he flashed was a muscular forearm. It was covered with tattoos. I salivated, wondering what else he’d decorated. He might consider it a win, but I didn’t.

I narrowed my eyes at him, our gazes locking into a
dangerous magnetic pull before I picked up the four cards in front of me. Distraction. It’s the name of the game. “Why would I make this easy on you?”

He rumbled. It was the sexiest noise ever, and one of the
many reasons those of us who’d signed up for The Real Werewives of Alaska were falling head over heels in lust with these guys. Lust was more than enough for me. I couldn’t weigh any unsuspecting shifter down with my baggage. I’d never mastered the art of packing light, especially when it came to my past.

“I’ll give you some advice.” His voice was still tipped with
that irresistible vibration. “Don’t make anything easy on any of us. We’re football players. We love the game.”

When I looked up again, his gaze hadn’t wavered. I forced
myself to look away from Steele, taking in a quick sip of Corey to his left and
Troy to his right. The three men couldn’t be more different. Corey gave me a slow grin, but it didn’t make him any less wild with his long blonde hair and
wide, bare shoulders. Troy winked at me. He thought he’d be cute and take his shirt off first, putting his vest back on over his dark, ripped chest.  His head was shaved, but he had a beard. And the most piercing dark eyes I’d ever seen. Each man set off a series of little
explosions deep inside that had me squirming in my seat.

I was already down to my lacy bra, my nipples painfully
straining against the fabric, begging for someone, anyone’s touch. I’d worn a lot less in public many times, but I’d never shared this kind of electricity
with my audience. My body was writing checks my gambling prowess couldn’t cash. These bears knew they had me exactly where they wanted me.

And I liked it way too much.

Oh yeah, the cards. At least someone was distracted. Too bad it was me.

Three tens. An eight and a nine of hearts. Not a bad hand.
It gave me some options. I snuck another peek at the guys. They were all so
ruggedly beautiful. I’d already won this game.

Professional football players had some serious poker faces.
And none of them were really interested in the card game. The only move they wanted to see was what I’d take off next.

Which made my strategy that much more important. These bears weren’t the only ones who wanted to see some skin. The heart cards were my best
bet. I discarded the ten of spades and clubs. Troy pushed two more cards at me.
A seven of hearts and a three of spades. Nice. I grinned before laying down my

The bra should make it through the round. I still wore my
skirt, my panties, and the disapproving scowl of Tessa Williams, the producer of The Real Werewives of Alaska.

On the surface, running to a reality TV show might not seem
like the brightest strategy for hiding from the thugs who were hoping to collect on my ex’s gambling debts. But in gambling, the greatest risk reaped the biggest rewards. Or an unmitigated disaster, but I didn’t have time for that kind of negative energy. I was hiding in plain sight. Deception, remember? It was supposed to be my specialty. If I pulled off my grand scheme, I’d never
be on camera long enough to get anyone’s attention.

I could already check off changing my name and bleaching the bejesus out of my hair. Those thugs would have to be paying a whole lot of attention to a reality dating show to catch me if I actually got any screen time.

Troy flipped over his cards. A royal flush. Seriously? Corey
had two jacks and two queens. And Steele, that magnificent bastard, had four aces.

“This game is totally rigged,” I rolled my eyes dramatically, making sure to give Tessa and her camera a grin before I stood to take off my skirt.

“No it’s not, darlin’.” Oh, I liked the way Troy said darlin’, with a slight hint of a southern drawl. “It’s a game of luck. And right now, we’re about to get lucky.”

“That’s enough. Cut.” Tessa waved her arms before I got the skirt over my hips. The groan emitted from the other side of the table was so
satisfying. “We can’t show this on TV.”

“There’s an easy solution for that,” I said as I let my
skirt drop. “Don’t.”

Steele cocked an eyebrow, calling bullshit. But his gaze
settled on my bare butt cheek. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen much worse on shows like this.”

“C’mon, Tessa, things are just starting to get good.” Corey
grinned at her. It would’ve worked on me, but apparently Tessa’s heart had been
poured from concrete. “Can’t you blur out the good stuff?"

If Tessa had superpowers, she would’ve obliterated me with
her stare. But the fact that I was still standing proved she was human. Some of the Werewives thought Tessa had a mom-like vibe, and maybe that was true, but she was the type of mom who always busted my ass over every little thing. She knew I had something to hide and she used it to her advantage.

She sighed. “Put your clothes on. This game is over. We need
to talk.”

Tessa wasn’t playing. She gave me an epic stare down until I
picked my skirt up from around my ankles and pulled it back to my hips. The grumbles from the other side of the table would not sway her. I wasn’t getting dressed simply to appease her. I was a grown-ass woman with needs. If I had
better circumstances to choose from, I would’ve taken the bra off too and shimmied
in front of her damn camera. Good decisions had never been my strong suit, and I was no stranger to dipping my toes in some very hot water. But if Tessa sent me packing, all I had waiting for me back in Las Vegas were a bunch of angry wannabe mafioso who’d decided I was responsible for repaying my ex-boyfriend’s gambling debt.

I certainly couldn’t go home.

The moral of this lesson was gambling was risky as fuck,
addicting as hell, and I had to play these cards right because I was all out of second chances.

The guys grumbled as I followed Tessa out the door and to her van. She had as much of a hold on me as those Vegas goons.

“You wanted to talk.” I glared at her in the darkness as she
pulled out of the parking lot. “What did I do wrong?”

The Real Werewives of
is about finding love. You’re taking advantage of the situation.”

“Every Werewife wants something. Doesn’t make me special.” I couldn’t let on that I was secretly glad for her outrage. My plan was to string
production along until those goons who wanted the money I didn’t have moved onto someone with a bigger debt and forgot all about me. And play with some smokin’ hot football players while I passed the time. A girl needed a hobby…or three. “How is a game of strip poker different than hot tub time?”

Hot tub time had become a running joke on the show—but it was also the universal Real Werewives signal that things were getting serious between a couple. I had some ideas for ways my three bear friends and I could finish our game in that tub that Tessa would most certainly hate.

“Because a couple goes into the hot tub. Two people. Not

“But some of the Werewives have been to the hot tub with
more than one guy.” Maybe not at the same time, but Tessa’s theory had holes in it big enough to drive the production van through. “Will you show that on their episodes when they find their forever mates?”

She sighed. “You’re not the first Werewife to think you’re
smarter than production. This show is my baby. It’s about finding love, and it’s about the Alaska Bloodhounds. Some of the Werewives think they’ll use it as publicity for whatever they’re here to promote, but once they find their
forever mate, that changes.”

“I’m not promoting anything.” Just hiding, a full-time job
on its own.

“I know why you’re here, Shauna. And that Shauna is not your real name.”

She didn’t know the whole story. I barely squeaked past the background check. Lucky—or unlucky—for me, the guys who were on my tail weren’t
the types to report my offense to any authorities. But I’d insisted production let me use a pseudonym. Just in case I actually did find forever love with an Alaska Bloodhound. Only then would it be necessary to come clean on my shaky past.

“I’m not good with rules.” I tried to stick to things that weren’t bullshit. Kept me out of trouble.

“I understand not everyone finds their mates right away. I
want you to take this seriously. If you think you like Steele, Corey, and Troy—I’m cool with that. All I’m asking is you take the time to get to know them—”

“That’s what I was doing.”

She pulled the van in front of the Werewife Compound, cut
the engine, and looked at me. “I want you to go out with them separately. If one of them is your mate, even better. That I can use. But there’s no way I can put a four-way striptease on TV. Or whatever would’ve happened if I didn’t put
a stop to it.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. It was about time all this gambling finally paid off. Tessa bought me precious time I didn’t think I had. I could totally go on a couple of sexy dates with Steele, the giant wall of man whose temples were tipped with gray. Then move on to Corey, with his wild long blond hair and a smile that dripped with sin. And then, like I deserved this much
good fortune, there was Troy, who was meticulously put together…and that accent. A shiver went up my spine just thinking about it. Now if I could play by the rules, there was a chance I could get those Vegas goons off my back. And
date three sexy as sin bear shifters while I did it.

But there was absolutely no way I could let any of them think I belonged to anyone.

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