Rae Brewer

Author of paranormal shifter stories from a male loves male perspective

3/26/2016 - Hello, I know I haven't been here in awhile.  I was concentrating on finishing school.  Now that I have that all important piece of paper in hand I can get back to writing!  I've been tossing around a few ideas for the next few books in my Panthera series.  Yes, Oscar is going to have his story told.  And we're also going to visit Remy's brothers again as well as a few of our FBI guys.  Stay tuned.

Once again we have a best seller on All Romance.  Thank you readers for making this happen!  David'd Dilemma is my second book to reach best seller status and I know I couldn't have done it without the support of my readers!

Here is the cover for the new book!  Register for email updates on upcoming releases and other information.

I will be at the IRC convention in September in Lebanon Tennessee.  Stop by for signed copies of my books!

Upcoming Release - David's Dilemma will be released on 8/26/2014

4/30/2014 - New Release is a bestseller!

Raoul's Pride, the third full length book in the Panthera Series has hit the bestseller list on the secaond day of sales!  Go to the Panthera Series page to read and excerpt and check out the new cover!
Hello and welcome!  I am a new author in the M/M paranormal genre.  If you want to be notified of upcoming releases register on the site.  Thank you for visiting!

Prologue

It was four o’clock in the morning when the phone rang at The Panthera Agency less than a week before Christmas.  However, the caller wasn’t worried.  The emergency line was manned twenty-four hours a day when agents were in the field.  After three rings it was answered.

“Panthera Agency, this is David, what’s up boss?  You’re not on an active case are you?” asked David.  He knew who was calling from the caller ID.  It saved time when agents called in to make a report or ask for information.

“David, damn glad you’re on the phones tonight.  Marianna missed her check-in.  I tracked her collar signal and it’s been cut off.  From what I’ve scented, she’s been hunted.  Thank God there’s no blood trail.  I need all available field agents to drop whatever the fuck they’re doing and converge at my coordinate’s a-sap!  We have less than three hours until daylight,” said Oscar Vasquez current head of The Panthera Agency and eldest brother to Marianna Vasquez.  As he listened to David’s response he allowed his gaze to wander over the landscape, quartering the area taking in everything. 

If, no when I get a hold of the assholes that have taken my baby sister, I’ll take great pleasure in showing them what a pissed off jaguar can do, he thought.

“On it boss, help is en route,” said David Kern the office manager for the agency. 

“Make arrangements for Marianna’s car and my Jeep.  I’ve got my radio so I’m going to head out and pick up the trail,” said Oscar just before he closed his cell phone, his mind already on the job ahead.

David hung up the phone with his left hand.  He was already bringing up the GPS coordinates on the computer with his right.  Once he had them he sent out pages, texts and finally picked up the phone and started calling.  Everyone in the agency had a soft spot for Marianna, the youngest in the Vasquez family and the only girl.

David wasn’t a field agent anymore but he wouldn’t leave the office until Marianna was found.  He’d provide tech support and whatever else those in the field needed.  David had lost his mother to hunters, that would not happen again to someone he considered family.

Seven minutes later, after he was sure everyone was on their way, he relaxed back into his chair.  He done everything he could do for now.  Glancing around he thought back to when he’d first met the Vasquezes.  He was working for another private investigation firm at the time, his first job.    

Coincidentally, both firms had been hired by separate Vice Presidents at a large marketing firm to find out how proprietary information was being leaked to their competition.  David had been working his first field assignment at the time.  He was undercover as an office manager and quite close to nabbing the culprit when Markus Vasquez from the Panthera Agency, also working undercover in another part of the building came into his orbit.  David was immediately in lust and was disappointed to be getting the straight vibe from the guy.

They both turned in their reports at the end of the week, pointing to the same culprit.  And David got a job offer from the rival agency.  When he realized the Panthera Agency was run and staffed entirely by shifters he jumped at the offer.  A shifter himself, it was a perfect fit.

It was five years ago, he’d quickly realized he preferred working inside instead of outside in the field, so he’d perfected his tech skills and had been promoted to Office Manager a year ago.

The Panthera Agency had been started by Manuel Vasquez in the nineteen fifties.  It had remained a family business since then.  They did everything from corporate fraud investigations to personal protection.  David thought it was great that a shifter agency had been around for so long.  The Vasquezes were all jaguar shifters and David was a puma so they worked well together. 

But what really fascinated him was the fact that in each generation of Vasquezes there was one straight son to carry on the family name and all the other sons were always born gay, at least going back the last six generations. 

He turned his mind back to Marianna.  She was the first daughter to be born to the Vasquez family in three generations and much loved.  David prayed she would be found alive and not a trophy for some damned hunter.

David turned to his computer and tracked the signal from Oscar’s radio collar.  Oscar had shifted and was scent tracking Marianna in his jaguar form.  They had developed methods for using their jaguar abilities in their cases.  When they had to go over a large terrain, one operative would shift and wear a collar so his movements could be tracked via computer.  A second operative would keep track of clothing and vehicles so the shifted agent wouldn’t need to backtrack.  And then the two of them would use the two-pronged investigation to find evidence or track an adversary.

His cell phone beeped and David switched from the collar monitoring software to check his phone.  He quickly answered the text from his current lover, letting him know he’d be missing their specially planned breakfast date. 

As much as I hate to miss this date, it’s been a while since we’ve gotten together with Michael working those crazy hours. I’m really glad I was on duty tonight, he thought. 

Even though his replacement would be arriving in the next hour, he didn’t plan on leaving until Marianna was found.  He let Michael know what was happening.  Michael was currently a medical resident and working the 24-hr shift, which was why David was covering the phones at this hour.

Fifteen minutes later Michael text back that he was saying a prayer for Marianna and said he would be there for David if he needed him.  It was little things like that which made David smile during tough times like these.  It was too bad that Michael wasn’t his mate, he really cared for him.

Just before daylight Arturo Vasquez called in, David had been feeding him Oscar’s coordinates via text messages as Oscar worked the scent trail.

“Arturo, did you find something?” David asked as he waited for the ‘situation report’.

 “David, I called to give you a Sit Rep.  I dropped Markus off at Oscar’s Jeep.  He’s following me and we’re about to pick-up Felix.  He found Marianna’s Mustang in the parking lot of the National Park.  Her things were in the trunk.  If Oscar keeps heading in the direction he’s going we’ll be meeting up with him pretty quickly here.  Something occurred to me that might be important, those last coordinates you texted seem to be taking us into familiar territory.  Can you to check that database of yours and see if this location has come up in a case before?” said Arturo.

“I’ll give it my best shot Arturo, hold on,” said David as he flipped over to a different database.  One of the things he’d done since becoming Office Manager was to put all of their case files into a database that could be searched by multiple data points.  Unfortunately, GPS coordinates weren’t one of them.  He made a note to program that in for future searches.  For now he did a scan of Arturo’s cases and their notes for the last year.

“Arturo, can you remember anything else?” David asked, “I can’t search by a set of coordinates.  I’m currently searching through your case reports for the last twelve months but that’s going to take too much time.”

“Shit, I think it was a case involving the sale of endangered species.  We had a suspect we tracked out this way.  I wasn’t Panthera it was…I remember now, it was an endangered turtle,” said Arturo.

“No! It was a tortoise! I remember that case, let me pull it up.  Okay, okay,” he said as he read over the notes.

“Here it is.  You’re right Arturo, it was two years ago.  Wow, great memory!  Anyway, we had a suspect, Darryl Wilson, suspected as trafficking in endangered species.  We couldn’t pin anything on him, but we did locate the tortoise in a zoo in Sonora.  We were able to prove that the papers were forgeries and broke open a small ring of dealers,” said David.

“Fuck! You’re right, and I remember at the time we didn’t think we’d gotten all of them.  I’m going to have Felix meet up with Oscar while Markus and I head over to Darryl’s last known address.  Would you look it up for me?”

“I’ll do you one better and see if I can verify it’s still current.”

David rattled off the address while he spun in his chair to boot up his other computer.  The agency kept memberships on several people finder sites.  If this guy had registered a vehicle or filed a tax return that information was available through the freedom of information act and he could access it.

He could hear the engine of Arturo’s truck in the background so he must have started driving again and put his cell phone on speaker.  David kept looking up information.  On the second monitor he could see Oscar moving in the same general direction as Arturo.

“Arturo? It looks like your hunch is paying off.  I can see that Oscar is heading in the same direction as you are.  Should I send a signal to his radio?” asked David.

“That’s a good idea David.  He should be notified that we have a suspected destination and we’re both converging on it.  Give him the background on this Darryl Wilson too, it’ll refresh his memory,” said Arturo.

David called Oscar and relayed the information.  Things moved fast after that.  A search of Darryl Wilson’s house resulted in paperwork and emails that led them to believe Wilson was selling Marianna to the San Francisco Zoo.  Arturo and Markus took the first available flight out.  They knew Wilson would most likely be driving, so Oscar and Felix took two of the firms Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycles.  They had cell phones worked into their helmets so they could connect with each other en route.

They would each take different routes to see if they could catch up with Darryl’s vehicle.  David had supplied the make and model of the cargo van owned by Wilson.  If Wilson was transporting Marianna in her jaguar form, they would be traveling at the speed limit.  The Hayabusas could easily travel at triple that speed.  They would both travel as quickly as possible for the first two hours trying to close the distance.  They could only estimate the lead based on the age of the scent trail and any tracks they picked up.

If they missed him on the road, Arturo and Markus would pick him up in San Francisco.

Five hours later neither Oscar nor Felix had caught up with the van.  Arturo and Markus had landed at San Francisco International Airport.  They’d taken the first flight out, rented a car and a hotel room near the airport.  As soon as they could they drove to the zoo to take a look around.  They couldn’t contact the zoo officials.  They would have the evidence point to Wilson and his crew, and if it got that far they would rescue Marianna from the zoo and leave evidence making it look as if Darryl Wilson and his crew had taken the jaguar, intending to sell her to another zoo.

Bad guys go to jail, justice for Marianna and their shifter secret would remain secret.  The main thing would be to get her away from the zoo before any medical tests were done. 

Oscar and Felix were called when David notified them Wilson’s cargo van had been found at the local airport.  David immediately called Arturo and let him know it was possible Marianna was already at the zoo.  Oscar and Felix headed back home they wouldn’t be able to get to San Francisco in time to help with the rescue. 

***

Marianna Vasquez woke up angry and growling.  And she had a headache.  Opening her eyes she noticed two things, one she was still in her jaguar form and two she was in a cage.  Then she realized her collar with its GPS locator and micro radio transmitter was gone.

Shit! She thought this is just perfect! I’m never going to live this down.  I’ll be lucky to be let out of the house on my own, when I’m sixty!

She had stopped growling as soon as she opened her eyes.  Now she carefully looked around to see where she was.  She could feel movement, so based on what she could see she was in a truck or van of some kind.  There was a tarp over the cage.  She could probably dislodge it but she didn’t want her captors to realize she was awake.  It was likely they’d dose her with another tranquilizer if they knew.

She looked around again, this time examining the cage in detail.  The doorway was locked with a padlock instead of a simple closure, no luck there.  She would have to play possum until someone opened the cage door.  And just her luck the vehicle started to slow down, she lay back down as she had been before and closed her eyes.  She concentrated on listening without twitching her ears.

A little while later she felt the van slow down, take a turn and then go over some speed bumps.  The driver had taken the bumps a little quickly and it didn’t help her headache any.  She heard doors open which told her that she was in a van and not a truck.  She was shocked when the cage, tarp and all was wheeled out of the van, up a ramp and into another location.  The tarp snagged and pulled off the crate a little, enough that Marianna could see she was being loaded onto an airplane.

She heard them close the door to the cargo hold and after about twenty minutes, she felt the plane taxi for take-off.  She still felt a little sleepy so she decided to take a nap.  She was sure she’d feel the plane land and then she would be more alert.

The next time she woke up, she was in a larger cage or caged room.  She warily looked around, a small door opened in the concrete wall to the left.  Warily, she approached the opening, crouching down she looked through.  Oh hell no, she thought I’m in a zoo! She sat in the opening looking out, trying to figure out if anything looked familiar.  She supposed she could step out into the enclosure, maybe she could see something that would tell her what city she was in.  Unfortunately that would mean stepping out and exposing herself.  That didn’t appeal to her at all.

She backed up and let out a scream, which she was sure could be heard for a great distance.  A door opened on the opposite side of the room, on the other side of her cage.  Two zookeepers walked in and approached the cage.  The patches on their shirts read San Francisco Zoo, now Marianna didn’t need to go outside.  They were talking about her, wondering how to lure her outside and how long it would take her to settle in. 

She could tell them, alright.  She wasn’t freakin’ planning on settling in, she was planning on escaping.  Of course, if she actually told them, they’d faint on the floor.  Looking around she realized there weren’t any cameras here in the room.  So she would be able to get out of the cage.  She would be naked though and she didn’t know what was on the other side of the door.  But this exhibit was small and she thought it led to the outside.  The good news was escaping once she got out of the room should be fairly easy.  The bad news was that if the door did lead outside, it was most likely kept locked.

Well, damn, just once I’d like a plan to come together, she thought.  While she was considering her options she heard a chuffing cough, twitching her ears, she let out a low cough herself.  She stretched and went back to the small doorway to the outside.  Looking out she was overjoyed to see two of her brothers standing outside the cage.  She chuffed at them and then let out another scream so they knew how angry off she was.  She then backed up into the room again.  Looking back at the zookeepers she then pulled a classic cat move.  She turned her back, lifted a leg and began grooming herself.  She heard one of them laugh.

Damn, I could use some coffee and a hot bath.  They better hurry up and rescue me already, she thought.

***

“Damn bro, she is pissed off,” said Markus laughing.  He was so damn glad she was still alive.

“Wouldn’t you be?” said Arturo looking at the ugly cage.

Having made contact the two of them scoped out the enclosure.  It was one of the smaller ones which would make it easier to get in to.  That taken care of both men had the same thought.  To spend their days in an eight by twelve foot cage, being stared at by strangers.  For any jaguar, full blood or shifter, it would be hell on earth.  Jaguars were secretive loners, they perched high in the trees, hidden and waiting for prey to come along so they could pounce.

Shaking his head he turned to walk down the path, he wanted to get another perspective and check out the back of the building.  While he was doing that Markus had taken out his cell phone to let everyone know that the lost had been found.  Relieving everyone of the worries and speculation of what had happened to Marianna.

Arturo and Markus met at the convergence of two paths.

“Mom cried, luckily dad picked up the phone.  You know I never know what to do with the tears,” said Markus.

“You’d better learn, you’re the straight brother, remember?  Did you call David too?” asked Arturo giving him a punch in the arm.

He needed a run, or a fight, anything to relieve the build-up of adrenaline.  Breaking in to this zoo wasn’t even going to put a dent in it.  He tuned back in to what Markus was saying.

“Yeah, he was still at the office.  I told him to go home but he said the job wasn’t done yet.  And he’s right.  The fuckers that did this are still out there.  He’s trying to get a line on that guy Wilson.”

Arturo put a hand on his brother’s shoulder and squeezed.  Markus was the next child before Marianna, and they were really close.  This was hard on him too.

“We’ll let Oscar and Felix handle that end.  Let’s do some more recon.  The better prepared we are…”

“…the less chance of everything going to FUBAR.” Markus finished the standard Panthera Agency motto.

It was a tradition in their family to serve their country.  All of them, men and women had served in some capacity on another since the Spanish American war.  Dad of course joked that in that one they fought for Spain.  No particular branch of the military was preferred they had served in them all.   They didn’t let that fucked up don’t-ask-don’t-tell law mess with their tradition either.

Their long ago ancestor Victor Jorge Vasquez had been the one to make the decree.  He felt that the discipline of the service helped control the wildness of the jaguar which made it possible for their family to remain close.  They remained a tight-knit family so no one cared to test the theory.

They prowled through the park, taking pictures of the exhibits with their cell phones.  And if most of the zoo’s security measures made it in to the photos, well I guess they were just lousy photographers.

As they drove away from the zoo Markus pulled out a notebook.

“We’re going to need some supplies to avoid the cameras.  Not much else.  I’ve got my lock picks,” he said.

“I’ve got mine too.  You wanna get Mari?  I’m in the mood to hit the vet’s.  I’m afraid an animal rights group is going to make a mess in their lab tonight,” added Arturo.

“I see that it’s necessary, it’s harsh though.”

“We can’t risk them connecting the loss of the jaguar with the loss of any blood work or medical tests.  Don’t worry they’ll get an anonymous donation to cover the expense of repairs.  Perhaps one that covers the cost of a better jaguar enclosure,” said Arturo.

The two of them drove to a large anonymous Home Depot and bought the few things they needed.

“Artie, do you think you can make yourself scarce later on?” asked Markus.  He felt bad broaching this subject he didn’t want Arturo to feel that Marianna didn’t love him too.  But he and she had a special bond, and he knew she was going to need to unload.  It would be hard enough for her to talk to him.  He knew she wouldn’t say anything in front of two of her adored older brothers.

“She’s not gonna talk about it if we’re both there is she?” said Arturo.

“Thanks man, you gonna be okay?” he said.

“Hey, we’re in San Francisco.  I’ll find something to do,” he said with a smirk and Markus laughed out loud.  He’d completely forgotten where they were, so focused on the job at hand as he was.  Gay Mecca that it was he was sure Arturo would find a good time.  He was glad; his brother had been acting like a hermit for at least six months.

“Okay, well then I’m going to need to stop at another store or two.  I’m going to need ice cream and some movies.  It mystifies me why the straight brother has to sit and watch chick flicks instead of the gay guy.  How is that fair,” he complained.

“Hey, ice cream is fine, but I’m not into the chick flicks.  Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m some twink,” said Arturo, Markus just laughed.

 Arturo went ahead and booked a separate single room, leaving the suite for his brother and sister.

The rescue went as planned.  They left behind a few pieces of incriminating evidence pointing to Darryl Wilson and his crew.  Arturo dropped Markus and Marianna off at the hotel and then he headed off to find a bar filled with men.
Prologue

 

 

“Hey Felix, how many heat signatures did you say you had registered during reconnaissance?” asked Markus.  They were on their way to rescue, Cody, the twin brother of Brody.  Their brother Arturo was back at the hotel with Brody, his new mate, who was recovering from being poisoned. 

“The signatures overlapped a little so it was hard to tell.  I’d guess four though at a minimum,” said Felix.

Using a conversation overheard by Arturo in his jaguar form, and the help of Cody’s coworkers at the place where he bartended, they had discovered the name of the man who had poisoned Brody and had most likely kidnapped Cody a week earlier. 

Luckily, Arturo and his brothers were owners and agents of the Panthera Agency.  A security agency founded several generations back by their family.  The Panthera Agency had become the premier investigation service for the entire shifter community. 

Sure, the wolf packs had their enforcers.  But they tended to their home pack as a rule and didn’t always interact well with other packs and weres.  The Panthera Agency had a solid reputation and were respected by all in the shape shifter communities.

David Kern, their office manager had used his skills on the computer to track the guy down.

The reconnaissance they’d completed earlier in the day had shown several unmoving heat signatures, they believed were additional captives.

They were approaching the back of the property belonging to Chaz Spellman as Oscar pulled the van off the road and into the trees.  Mr. Charles Spellman, a.k.a., Chaz, lived in a rural area of Marin County, just north of San Francisco.  They were sure that Chaz, who had inherited piles of money from his family, loved the privacy of his ten acre, walled estate for his nefarious deeds.  Now that privacy would work against him.

They had made a trip to the home improvement store earlier, as well as a security store, to pick up supplies.  They didn’t need weapons, only supplies for breaking through the alarms and other estate security.

Oscar disabled the interior lights earlier so when they opened the doors to exit the van, no lights came on.  From this point, until they breached all the security and secured the house, they wouldn’t speak.  As soon as they’d gotten a backpack of supplies over the wall, Felix and Marcus removed their clothes and shifted.  They knew there wasn’t any overt security on the grounds—no dogs—no guards. 

Felix and Markus led the way with Oscar following behind with the supplies and their clothes.  Oscar wasn’t merely acting as a pack mule, he was the head of the Panthera Agency and the eldest brother, and he directed the operations.  Right now, he was watching his brothers’ backs.  If there was any passive surveillance they’d missed, it would be his face, not theirs caught on film. 

Of course, as soon as they were in, it would be his pleasure to get the details of Mr. Spellman’s possible, additional security measures out of the man—if there were any.  Just thinking of it put a smile on his face.  Anyone seeing that smile would know to run very fast and very far away.

It took about ten to fifteen minutes for them to reach the house through the small wilderness at the back of the property.  They hadn’t come across any additional security measures so far. 

Felix and Markus crouched down, holding perfectly still so as not to set off the motion sensitive outdoor lights.  This is where their earlier surveillance and planning paid off. 

They knew where Chaz’s security installers failed.  There was a slim gap where two sensors didn’t overlap.  Using the slow stop and start movement, associated with their shifter species, Marcus moved forward, sliding in between the two sensors.  When he reached the right spot, he leaped up to the overhanging eaves.  Once there he moved around the side of the building, quickly shifting and disabling the motion sensors from above before shifting back into his jaguar form. 

He worked his way back to where his brothers stood waiting.  Shifting back to human just in time as Oscar threw up a small bag of tools.  He would need them to disarm the alarm system.  Inside the bag, each tool was kept in its own elastic slot with a half-inch slice of foam keeping the two sides of the kit from touching.  There was no rattle of tools or clinking of metal to bring them notice.  Marcus slowly and silently climbed up the highest roof peak; the alarm box was at the apex of that wall.

It’s a little chilly up here without the fur coat, Marcus thought as he lay down on the cold Spanish tiles to hang over the edge.  Too bad shifters can’t shift and keep their clothes the way they do in some books, he thought for about the hundredth time as he felt his balls shrink up in the cold.  He heard Felix make a quiet chuff sound as he dealt with the alarm, telling him to speed it up. 

David’s background search had been deep and thorough.  Luckily, the house had been purchased only a year earlier, after the death of Chaz’s parents.  David had been able to pull up the survey the company had done of the property before installation, so they were confident the new system was the only one.  Of course, they’d still check since they had been and would be shifting on the property.  They couldn’t take the slightest chance of that being caught on tape.

After the alarm had been dealt with, both Felix and Markus leapt back to the ground.  Felix shifted and Markus stayed in jaguar form.  Felix took a moment to put his clothes back on.  Moments later, they were entering the house through a sliding door in the back.  They split up, Oscar heading toward a part of the house where he could hear music playing with Markus following behind to back him up and help search.  They didn’t think Chaz would be difficult to deal with—Oscar would easily subdue him.  Then Markus would sniff out any of the poison he liked to use.

Felix went down the hallway toward the room that held the single heat signature.  If it held a victim then he would help, but there was the possibility it held an accomplice.  In that case, Felix would make sure he was subdued before he freed the captives from the other room at the end of the hallway.

Even in his human form, he walked softly; the person in the room would not hear him.  When he reached the door, he tested the doorknob, and realized it was locked.  The odds of finding an accomplice just went down.  He pulled out his lock picks and went to work.  Six seconds, a personal best, he thought as he slowly turned the knob.

When he got the door all the way open he was shocked at what he saw.  He couldn’t see the man’s face so he didn’t know if it was Cody, but he cringed at what he did see.  The man was naked, bent over the end of a thin bed at the hip, his arms stretched up over his head, and his legs spread, resting on the floor near the bottom corners.  He had chains linked to shackles on his neck, wrists, waist, and ankles.  He had lash marks on his back, buttocks, and thighs. 

Even as Felix stood there in the doorway shocked at what he was seeing, he saw the man struggle against his restraints.  The rattling of the chains brought him out of his stupor and he rushed forward.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m here to rescue you,” said Felix as he approached the bed, “I’ll have these chains unlocked in a sec.”  He wanted to touch the man’s shoulder to let him know things would be okay but was afraid to cause him any further pain.

Cody heard what the man was saying and he could hardly believe it.  He was trying to hold still as the affects of the paralytic poison that Chaz kept injecting him with wore off.  He felt as if his skin was crawling with ants.  As glad as he was to be rescued, he almost wished this guy hadn’t shown up.  Furthermore, just as soon as he could speak coherently, he would tell this guy that Chaz was his to kill.

He knew Chaz wouldn’t be back tonight, and within an hour, he’d be able to shift.  He was looking forward to getting some revenge on that asshole. 

It took less than five minutes for Felix to unlock all of the shackles.  When he helped the man up onto the bed, he saw that it was Cody as he had guessed.

“Cody, am I ever glad we found you.  Your brother has been really worried about you.  Lucky for you both, he met his mate earlier in the evening,” Felix recognized Cody’s symptoms because they were the same as Brody’s symptoms had been.  He pulled a flask out of his pack and had Cody swallow some brandy laced with medicines given to them by the bear doctor.  The brandy acted as a counter agent to the poison.

“Cody, do you think you could shift?” he asked.

Cody looked into Felix’s eyes, “Not…yet…in a bit,” he whispered.

“There are at least four more people in a room at the end of the hall, maybe six.  Are you going to be okay for a couple of minutes?  Oscar and Markus, my two brothers have Chaz under guard by now.  He won’t ever hurt you again,” Felix hurriedly added when he saw the panic in Cody’s eyes.

“Don’t tell,” said Cody in a stronger voice.

Felix didn’t have to ask what it was Cody wanted kept secret.  He had no problem with promising his silence.  He stayed another ten minutes telling Cody how their brothers had met and how Arturo and Brody were now mated.  He filled Cody in on his brother’s condition, plus how they had found him, while he waited to make sure Cody was breathing steadily and regaining control of his body.

“Go, help the others,” said Cody after awhile, “I’ll be okay now.  I’m going to shift and take a quick shower.  Then I need to scrounge up some clothes or keep my fur.”

“No worries, we’ve got some extra sweats you can borrow,” said Felix, “I’ll be back in a few.”

Felix left the room and headed down to the end of the hall.

*****

At the other end of the house, Markus and Oscar were stalking their prey.  They found him in a large living room watching a video.  He was sitting sprawled over the couch as he faced the screen.  There was a glazed look in his eyes as he lay back with his hands between his legs.

They couldn’t see the screen but judging from his posture and what he was doing, he was probably watching some porno flick.  Markus slowly inched across the carpet in the start-stop crouch of a stalking cat.  He eyes never left the target as he made his way through the room.  Oscar stood in the doorway, looking around for weapons and any other hazards that might be nearby.  Markus had reached the front of the couch, just a couple of feet from his prey when Oscar spoke.

“I don’t think he likes you very much so you should probably avoid splattering your spunk all over him,” said Oscar.

Chaz had thrown back his head and had picked up the speed of his strokes.  At the sound of a voice, he turned his head.

“Huh, what—” he mumbled looking around.  Just then, Markus let out a low growly howl and the man looked down and saw him.  He froze in terror and immediately lost his erection.  He made a startled movement when Oscar took a couple of steps into the room and then froze again when Markus made a slight movement toward him.

Oscar walked around the back of the couch.  He wasted no time as he clipped the man behind the ear with the side of his hand and knocked him unconscious.  It only took a few moments to tie the guy up with plastic cable ties that he had ready in his back pocket.  While he was careful not to cut off his circulation, he also wasn’t very concerned with being gentle as he remembered the suffering of his brother’s mate.  He didn’t bother tucking and zipping, he wasn’t going near that guys junk with a ten-foot pole.

Neither he nor Markus had paid any attention to the video on the screen, now that they had secured their objective, Markus shifted and reached for the pack holding his clothes.  His back was to the screen and he wondered why Oscar wasn’t handing over his clothes.  He looked into his face and saw the anger there.

Turning around, Marcus looked at the screen and was shocked at what he saw there.  It seemed Mr. Spellman was providing the evidence needed to convict him of his crimes.  The video showed him in a room with several men tied up in various positions, and Chaz Spellman walking from man to man, viciously tormenting them.  He was naked and they could see by the evidence between his legs that he was turned on by his actions.

Markus reached over and turned off the television, then walked over and found the video player, stopped that, too, and ejected the disc.  Turning to his brother he said, “If he recorded once, there are likely other recordings.”

“Put on your clothes and then a pair of gloves.  You should probably put the disc back in unless Cody is on it.  It will be good evidence for the cops.  Don’t forget to wipe your fingerprints off the TV and DVR,” he said as he walked over to a cabinet and started searching.  He agreed with Markus’s assessment, where there was one, there would be more.  Luckily, the cabinet was unlocked.  They would prefer not to leave too much evidence that they had been on the premises.  They were being careful not to leave any trace evidence.  The police would know someone was there—no way to avoid that.  They just wanted to make sure the trail of questions didn’t lead back to them.

Oh sure, the police would quickly discover they were involved in the case.  They hadn’t actually been quiet in their search for Cody.  They planned to make an anonymous call to the police before leaving.  Therefore, it was important their fingerprints and DNA not be found in the house.  The police would likely know they’d been there—they just wouldn’t be able to prove it.

They wanted Cody to decide how involved in the case he wanted to be.  And if he chose to mete out shifter justice on his attacker, they would help him and the courts would be saved a costly trial.  Markus and Oscar went about collecting any recorded evidence that featured Cody.  Luckily, they didn’t have to view all of the discs; Chaz Spellman had clearly marked each one.  Oscar came across the security set up.  He thought it would be monitoring the property, and it did.  It also monitored two additional rooms in the house.  He saw Felix helping Cody sit up on a bed, then switched to the second room and saw more prisoners.  He turned off the security cameras and ejected the disc currently being recorded.  They would think of a way to safely dispose of the discs featuring Cody, on the way back to San Francisco.

*****

At the other end of the house, Felix was entering the other room that held multiple heat signatures.  He was disgusted with what he found there.  Six men were restrained, tied to beds, racks, and other apparatuses.  All of them appeared drugged.  Backing out of the room, he clicked his mic two times to let Marcus know he needed assistance and then went and found a linen closet.  He grabbed a stack of sheets and blankets and went back into the room.  Marcus arrived and they freed each of the men, wrapped each one in a sheet and a blanket, and then laid each down as gently as possible on the floor. 

“I know we’re destroying evidence but I couldn’t stand to see them like that,” said Felix.  Taking out a sharpie, he wrote on the sheets “aconite poisoning” so they would get the correct treatment.

Markus explained what they had found when they captured Spellman.  “Something tells me we don’t need to worry about lost evidence,” he said.

As they finished releasing and wrapping the last man, Felix heard the scream of a cougar, Cody had shifted.  He ran back to the other room.  Markus, not wanting to overwhelm Cody went back to Oscar.  Felix opened the door and stepped back inside the room with Cody.

Cody was in his cougar form and he paced back and forth in an agitated fashion.  He was fully recovered from his wounds now.  Feline shifters had the ability to quickly recover from nearly fatal or everyday injuries if they could shift. 

“Cody, I need you to shift.  I need to talk to you,” said Felix.

Cody let out another howl and began to pace back and forth again.  Felix just stood quietly—he knew Cody needed some time.  From the condition he found Cody in, he knew the man had experienced endless torture and degradation.  As a shifter, with a shifter’s dominant personality, being helpless would be many times harder to deal with.  Felix knew Cody would need a lot of time to recover from his captivity.  As he waited quietly for his calm to penetrate Cody’s haze of anger, he took a closer look at the room he’d been held in.

As Felix had walked through the house, he’d noticed hardwood floors, Persian carpets, and original artworks.  However, the rooms where he kept his captives were utilitarian and stark.  The only things the men could look at during their time—were the instruments of torture used by their abuser.  Felix felt his own anger increasing as he took in more and more of the surroundings.  What a sick fuck, that asshole Chaz had turned out to be!  He pulled out some sweats from his pack, laid them on the floor and worked to keep his calm as Cody finally stopped pacing and began his shift back into his human form.  When Cody finished his shift, he sat back on the floor, his knees up, his forehead resting on his knees with his hands wrapped over the top of his head.  He was fully healed from his injuries but he was breathing heavily as if he’d run a race.

Suddenly he tilted his face up and looked at Felix, “I claim shifter justice,” he said in a low voice, a haunted look in his eyes.

“Then you shall have it, come with me,” said Felix, turning his back so Cody could dress in privacy.  He’d been stared at enough.

The two of them strode through the house to the room at the other end where Oscar and Marcus had gone.  When they entered the room they saw Chaz Spellman on the couch, he was just regaining consciousness.  Cody let out a low growl and Chaz started to pee himself at the sound.

“Cody has claimed the right to shifter justice,” Felix said to Oscar.

“There is a great deal of damning evidence here.  He will go to prison for a long time.  Are you sure?” said Oscar.

“Oh, hell yeah, I’m sure,” said Cody with a look of such hatred on his face they were almost sorry they had asked.  The formalities having been met, they didn’t push it.

“Remember, Cody, take the justice you deserve.  But try not to lower yourself to his standards,” said Felix.

Oscar explained that first—he had a few questions for Mr. Spellman.  Cody walked over to the French doors leading outside and stepped through the doorway.  Once out of sight from those in the living room he stripped off the sweats and shifted.  He ran into the yard and began familiarizing himself with the area he would use to hunt Spellman.  Twenty minutes later, Oscar pulled a tool out of his pack and clipped the zip ties he’d used to bind Chaz.  Then he pulled him up by his arm and dragged him to the door.

Wild eyed, Chaz looked at the three angry men.  He didn’t even notice his pants were still unzipped.  Hearing Cody, he turned toward his voice.

“Chaz?” said Cody standing naked on the tiled patio from shifting back just to speak to Spellman.  “Run!”

Chaz took off through the French doors and out into the yard.  He ran to the right, thinking to get into his garage when all of a sudden a huge cougar leapt in front of him and growled.

The cougar began stalking him, and turning, Chaz fled into the trees, away from the cougar.  Cody gave him a small head start, just enough time to move away from the house and into the wilder acreage behind the house.  It only took him a few minutes to catch up to his prey.  Cody decided not to play with his prey, he wasn’t like Chaz, and he would refuse to be.  Jumping onto his back, he took some comfort hearing Chaz shriek.  The sound cut off abruptly as he pushed him to the ground and snapped his neck with the killing bite known to his wild species.  Using one large paw to flip the body over, he then used his longer rear legs, tearing the pelvic area to ribbons.

Justice accomplished—he turned back toward the house, he scented two panthers coming toward him.  The two of them led him quickly to the rear of the estate where their vehicle waited.  Oscar brought up the rear, picking up Cody’s sweats and carefully wiping their tracks.

Within five minutes, they were gone.

Within ten minutes—the police, responding to an anonymous 911 call, arrived at the open gate at the front driveway.

It took the men thirty minutes to get from the house to the Golden Gate Bridge.  They were burning off the adrenaline and didn’t speak to each other.  Felix quietly handed Cody a bottle of water and some sandwiches.  Cody was grateful they weren’t asking him questions.  He wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened to him, maybe he never would be.

Cody was surprised when Oscar pulled the car onto the scenic overlook in Sausalito, instead of continuing up onto the bridge.  When Oscar and Marcus got out of the car, he realized he also needed to stretch his legs a little more.  After a week of being restrained for hours at a time, he had a need for movement even though he was healed.

Felix leaned against the car as he watched Cody walk around the parking lot.  Oscar and Markus jogged down the pedestrian walkway on the bridge.  It wasn’t until Felix noticed that Markus was holding a backpack that he realized what they were doing.  While Cody was outside the house, he saw the pile of discs Markus had mentioned.  And he’d heard Chaz pleading for his life as Oscar and Markus questioned him about any additional evidence and the house security.

After a few minutes of walking around, Cody went back to the van.  “What are they up to?  It seems unlikely they’d want to do the tourist thing at four in the morning, after the night we’ve had,” he said to Felix.

Felix looked at Cody closely, he knew what he was about to say would add another layer of misery, but also a bit of relief.  “Chaz had discs of all of his sessions with you.  They were clearly marked,” he rushed on to say as Cody’s posture stiffened.  “It wasn’t necessary to visually review them.  And Oscar interrogated Chaz, thoroughly, before we sent him to you for justice.  Oscar and Markus are making sure the discs find their way to the bottom of the bay.  I saw them add rocks to the backpack and Markus broke up the discs as he found them.  The salt water will complete their destruction.”

Cody stood there, fine tremors shaking his body.  Finally, he let out a breath and looked Felix in the eye.  “Thank you.  And I appreciate your word to keep silent about what you saw.  I don’t want my brother to ever find out,” he said.

Felix wanted to reach out to the man but he didn’t think Cody was ready to be touched.  “All I saw was a beautiful wild cougar, ready to take the justice he deserved.”

The two of them looked at each other for another minute and then climbed back in the van.  They could see Oscar and Markus returning.

“Those couple of sandwiches weren’t much, are you still hungry?” Felix asked.

“I could eat,” Cody said, his mood lightening a little.  He was beginning to realize that he was really free and these incredible men had his back.  It was a wonderful feeling and his natural easy and friendly, outgoing, personality sparked a little inside him.

“Here’s a candy bar.  That’s all we have here.  But our sister, Marianna, spent most of the day cooking, so in another forty minutes or so, you can get some really great food.  Then you can share the suite with your brother and his new mate, our brother, Arturo.  There you can get some well-deserved rest.  Tomorrow afternoon, we’re heading home for Christmas.  I saw your bike, Oscar and I came up on ours, if you want you can ride south with us,” said Felix.

“Thanks man, I’d like that a lot.  I don’t think I could take a long drive in Brody’s truck and I’m sure he’d like some privacy with his new mate.  But what about the M&M’s?” he asked.

“M&M’s?” asked Oscar as he took his seat behind the wheel.  “What’d I miss?”

“We were discussing getting home in time for Christmas so mama doesn’t come after us with her wooden spoon.  Cody has his bike so he’d like to ride down with us,” Felix met Oscar’s eyes in the rear view mirror and passed him a message.

“That’d be great, but what’s this about candy?  You want some chocolate, Cody?” Oscar asked.

“Who doesn’t?  No, I meant Markus and Marianna,” he said and they laughed.  “How will they get home?  In this van?”

“The van is a rental, they’ll fly home,” said Oscar.  “M&M’s, I’ll have to remember that one,” he said with a chuckle and Markus punched him in the arm.  Cody noted the camaraderie between the brothers and wished he and his brother hadn’t been separated when their parents and younger sister had died.  They’d spent four years apart, the ages between fourteen and eighteen, which were so important to teenage boys.  The years where they set the code they would live by, the years when boys became men.

Luckily, for them they always had an awareness of each other, and they were able to regain the closeness they’d had as children.  But they’d grown into very different men.  Brody was settled with his landscaping business and Cody moved from job to job every one or two years.

True to his word, it took them another forty minutes to travel from the Bridge to the extended stay hotel where Arturo and Brody were.  Cody didn’t really speak on the way; he just listened quietly while Felix, sitting next to him, finished telling him everything that had transpired that weekend.

Cody was really glad to hear that his brother was going to recover from the aconite poisoning.  He was looking forward to reconnecting with his twin.

Expecting to find Brody ill and still recovering he was shocked and pleased to see he’d been busy mating.

“So this is what you get up to when I’m not around.  They told me you were sick!  If this is the kind of treatment you get, then let me know what you had.  I may want to get that disease,” teased Cody as he stood in the doorway to the bedroom.

It was very difficult, but Cody didn’t want Brody to find out all that he’d been through.  So using every ounce of energy he had left, he put a smile on his face and tried to act as much like his old self as he could muster from within.

After giving Brody a hug and greeting his new brother-in-law, he used the excuse of the late hour to be shown to a bedroom he could use for as long as he needed to.  The food, or what was left of the food that Marianna had cooked earlier he quickly sat down and ate up all the leftovers.  As he was eating, Felix pointed out the clothes Marianna had picked up for him at Target. 

Meanwhile Brody wasn’t buying his excuse; his acting hadn’t been that good, plus he had visible lines of strain on his face.  Cody probably hadn’t looked in a mirror and wasn’t seeing how pale and haggard his face was.  Arturo feeling his mate needed time to get his own emotions under control recommended he eat and take a shower.  They would meet up in the living room in half an hour. 

Cody was agreeable with that—it would help him shore up his defenses; he’d die before letting Brody know what had been done to him.  Thank the Gods, he was a Panthera, his wounds had completely healed after his shift, he wouldn’t have any scars. 

True to his word, Arturo and Brody entered the living room a half hour later.  Arturo stepped outside with Felix while the two brothers reconnected.

“How did it go,” Arturo asked Felix who had stayed with Cody.

“Hell on earth, Arturo.  That Spellman guy was one sick fuck,” said Felix.

“Was?”

“Yeah, Cody claimed shifter justice,” said Felix.  He went on to describe the rescue, but kept his word and didn’t reveal anything he’d seen when he’d rescued Cody.  When they finished discussing the operation, they went inside to check on the brothers.

“You know, Arturo, you didn’t do too badly in the mate department.  They’ll make a great addition to the family,” Felix observed, trying to lighten the mood. 

The two brothers were sitting side by side and both were fighting tears, confronted with the pain of their sibling.

Going along with him Arturo answered, “Yeah, and they come as a matched set.  Mama will be please, two for the price of one.  You know she’ll start baking as soon as we call her.”

“Yeah, Cody is going to ride his bike down and stay for a couple of weeks so you two can bond.  Mama will love that, she’ll spoil him rotten,” Felix added.

Picking up on what the brothers were doing, Brody joined in.  “You better tell her to head straight to the grocery store and stock up.  Cody eats more than a bear.  I don’t know where he puts it; he must have a hollow leg.”

Cody went along with the kidding.  Finally after a couple of hours, he’d been able to get away on the pretext of needing sleep.  He was happy to accept an invitation to visit Arturo’s family.  The more people around, the less likely Brody was to pick away at him.  As wrapped up in his new mate as he was, it would give Cody time to get his head together—he hoped.
Chapter One

 

 

Closing the door behind him, Felix sighed when seeing his room again.  It was another thing he had against the FBI team who had beaten him to town.  They’d taken the last four rooms at the only motel in town so he was stuck in this B&B twenty miles away with frou-frou flowered wall paper, chintz covered bedspread and wicker furniture.  He didn’t care if he was a gay man, he could feel his masculinity leaking out of his pores every time he stepped in the room.  Floral wallpaper and chintz were fine; it was just the proliferation of those things along with the predominant color of various shades of pink.  He was a jaguar shifter, jaguars liked to blend into their surroundings and become invisible.  They could remain immobile for long periods of time awaiting their prey to come to them.  There was no way he could blend into this room.

Letting out another long sigh, he walked over to the white wicker armchairs in front of the window overlooking the back garden of the B&B.  He could deal with the room.  The truth was he was depressed over not getting here sooner to save Molly O’Brian.  She’d been hunted and killed.  A wolf shifter from Tennessee and a college freshman away from home and her pack for the first time in her life.  Her life over before it began.  Dropping his leather jacket on one of the chairs, he pulled his cell phone out of his back pocket and dialed his brother, Oscar, as he sat in the second chair, once again surprised that it actually held his weight.

“Good afternoon, Panthera Agency, this is David speaking, how may I help you?”

“Hey, David, I’m checking in.  Is Oscar around?”

“Yeah, but he’s on the other line right now with Harris from the FBI shifter team.  I’ll put you through as soon as he hangs up.  So, since we have a minute, I just wanted to remind you to email your daily report.  I haven’t gotten one from you since you got there.”

“Okay, okay.  You know how much I hate reporting nothing.”

“See, this is why I nag.  You always say you have nothing and when I get the report, there’s always something.”

“Flatterer, enough employee motivation, tell me some gossip.  How’s Michael?”

“I know we’re supposed to wait for our true mate.  I haven’t told Michael about our group and never can, I understand that.  But I really love him Felix.  Anyway his birthday is coming up so I’m working on a surprise for him.  He really wants to paint his apartment and he has to go out of town at the end of the week.  He’s already got the colors picked out so I’m good there.  I figure I can get the place done before he gets back,” explained David.

“You guys make a great couple.  Personally I don’t think you should limit yourself to guys from our group.  Love is the important thing.  If you and Michael get that forever love then it doesn’t matter that he’s not one of us.  He hasn’t called you on keeping things from him?  You’re not telling him where you are when you go for a run?” asked Felix, using euphemisms because this was an open line.  They always had to be careful about people finding out about them.

“It hasn’t come up yet.  He’s still so wrapped up with his residency that I do my running when he’s on duty.  And with the crazy hours we keep it’s always easy to find some time for a run.  I’m not worried about that.  Oscar’s off the line so I’ll transfer you, and thanks for listening, friend.”

“Sure thing, David, keep me posted and since it looks as if I’ll be home in a couple of days, I’ll make the supreme friendship sacrifice and help you paint Michael’s apartment,” Felix added before the transfer goes through.

“Felix, I’ve got some good news for you.  I just got off the phone with Harris.  He’s going to pull the FBI team on your case and send in his special team.”

“That would be great news except for two things.  One, the SAC on this team plays for our team and he’s going to be pissed when he’s replaced.  And two…I’m not positive butIthinkhe’smytruemate,” he rushed out.

Oscar brought his feet down from his desk and stood.  “Did you just say what I thought you just said?  You think he’s your true mate?  How?  I didn’t think you’d gotten that close to him.”

Felix knew Oscar was referring to the fact that of the three types of shifters, cat shifters had almost no shifter abilities in their human form.  Their sense of smell, sight, and their physical strength were all at a normal human level.  The wolf shifters kept all of their shifter strengths as human and the bears, well they were somewhere in between on the senses but always magical in some way or another.

“I couldn’t get on scene at first because they have it taped off and watched.  The weather has been clear for the last three days but it’s supposed to start snowing later tonight.  So last night I took a little run and came in from behind them.  I wanted to track her back to where they released her for the hunt if I could.  Come up with some evidence that way.  I got a strong sense at the scene.”

“Are you sure it was him and not one of the others?  Or maybe someone who was passing through?” Oscar wanted to know.

“Nope, it’s him and he’s a total Sylvester,” explained Felix, using their code word for a cat shifter.  Bear shifters were referred to as Yogi and wolf shifters were Huckleberry Hounds, the brothers had come up with their own code words when they were kids watching Saturday morning cartoons during the time their parents taught them about the need for keeping their identities secret.

“Man, mom is going to be in seventh heaven.  Two sons and a cousin finding love in less than three months.  You couldn’t put this off a little longer?  Are you sure?  She’s going to start in on the rest of us now.  Thanks a hell of a lot, bro.”

“Well, I’m not too thrilled about this either.  I like playing the field.  I’m not ready to settle down.  And he’s in the freakin’ FBI.  How can that work for us?”  Felix got up to pace.  This conversation was not going down the road he’d intended.  Unfortunately, Special Agent Singh kept intruding on his thoughts.

“Oscar, let me worry about this later.  For now I may have a teeny tiny lead.  David’s busting my chops for reports so I’m going to pull out my laptop and get it all together, encrypt the file and send it over.  I’m only an hour ahead so you may actually still be in the office when I send it.”

“Okay I’ll do that.  Hey, I heard from Brody, he’s going to be picking up Cody and Remy tomorrow.  It seems the shaman they called is kick-ass and Cody’s doing a lot better.”

“Oh man, that is some really good news.  Give everyone my love and I’ll keep in touch,” said Felix.

“Okay, I will.  Be careful out there, especially if you and this Sylvester get together,” said Oscar.

“Bro!  Just keep it under your hat until I’m sure.  I don’t need mama calling right now.”

Oscar laughed as he hung up the phone, then headed out to share the news with David.  He had to tell somebody!

Felix clicked off his cell and then plugged it in to the charger.  Grabbing his laptop out of its carrying case, he set up on the wicker table and started typing up his notes. 

He’d gone out the night before and after driving a few miles past where the body of Molly O’Brian was found, he turned on a side road, parked his rental truck, and taken off into the woods.  About a mile in he’d undressed and after putting his clothes in the backpack he’d brought along, he’d shifted and taken off with only a pouch of small tools necessary for evidence gathering around his neck.

After making his way to the crime scene, which wasn’t difficult since the cops had stopped guarding it, since all the evidence had supposedly been removed.  It was there he’d caught the scent of the cat shifter he believed was the Special Agent in charge of this case.  Pulling himself away from that alluring scent, he began backtracking Molly’s run through the forest. 

From the way the body had been found, David had hacked the local cop’s database enough to get some copies of the crime scene photos, he extrapolated where the shot that had finally killed her must have come from.  She’d run with the bullet in her for nearly two miles and had made it to the road before she died.  It was the only reason they had found the body, a local had spotted the body before the hunters could retrieve it.  Felix had arrived fourteen hours too late for Molly O’Brian and he was kicking his own ass about it.

He’d found where the shooter had been and backtracked him.  There were several places where the hunter’s tracks overlapped Molly’s.  Unfortunately, one of them was where Molly’s tracks went from wolf to human.  Felix could see that she’d taken some time to erase the wolf tracks and her human ones as well but if when he’d followed the scents, he’d found the single track of the wolf and then the single track of a barefoot human and then the tracks of the hunter.

Using his panther, he further confused the tracks, then breathed the hunter’s scent deep into his lungs so he’d remember it.  He then continued to backtrack the hunter and found where both the wolf had left the preserve where his information says she’d been shipped.  The tracks on both sides of the fence were wolf so she’d obviously partially shifted long enough to start climbing the fence then shifted to finish climbing over and finally shifting back before leaping to the ground.  She must have thought she was home free.  From the tracks, the hunter, or maybe there was a group?  Looking around some more, Felix spotted a second set of tracks inside the preserve.  Yep, someone had tracked her to the fence, or herded her there.

And then another had taken up the hunt from there.  Instead of jumping the fence, Felix stayed with the hunter who had eventually killed Molly.  There was still snow on the ground that hadn’t melted because the temperatures in the area had stayed below freezing.  These dumbass hunters had left tracks a child could follow.  Either they hadn’t paid attention to the weather or they just didn’t give a shit.  Time would tell.

His senses alert, Felix felt it was time to take stock.  Leaping onto the branches of a tall tree, he worked his way up to a thick branch and then lay down along its length.  It was a little after two in the morning and the night was still.  Something had nudged his jaguar senses so he slowly let his eyes take in the area around him.  In his jaguar form his vision was up to six times better, sharper, and clearer at night.  He didn’t see anything.  Moving his ears, he listened closely to all the sounds around him, from the movement of the rodent across the floor of the forest to the flutter of the wings of the owl hunting it.

After another fifteen minutes of silently scenting, watching, and listening, he leaped back to the ground and resumed tracking the hunter.  He tracked him for another two hours and finally found where he’d entered the woods.  After once again checking to make sure he was alone, he shifted and then quickly used the camera in the pouch around his neck to take pictures of the boot prints and tire tracks of the hunter's car.  By the time all the evidence was gathered that could be, he’d practically frozen his balls off and was beginning to worry about frostbite on other sensitive areas of his anatomy.

Deciding he’d done all he could for that night, Felix quickly made his way back to his own vehicle.  Using a trick he’d learned from his panther brothers, he used his tail to wipe out his tracks as he went along retracing the path he had come through earlier.  He didn’t want any hunters or anyone else to come across panther tracks in this area so far out of their natural range.

By the time Felix had returned to the B&B it was just past dawn.  The owner of the B&B was up and baking for the morning’s breakfast buffet.  That was a good thing because otherwise he’d have to sit in his truck for a few hours before going up to his room.  He turned down the coffee but grabbed a couple of scones before heading up to his room to sleep for a few hours.  Then it was back out for a quick meal before calling into the office.

Felix had finished encrypting the file and was writing the cover email to send it off when there was a knock at his door.

“Just a minute,” he called out.  Finishing his email, adding the encrypted file as an attachment and hitting send, he got up to answer his door.

Thinking the maid was checking in about changing the sheets, he was more than a little surprised to see Special Agent Singh standing in his doorway.

Not waiting for an invitation, Agent Singh walked into the room.

“Who the hell are you and who are your contacts?  My team has been recalled and I’ve been told to hold here to wait reassignment.  How the hell does a two-bit PI from nowhere California make that happen?” he raged in a low hard voice.

Felix shut the door while he gathered his thoughts.  So, Harris had already acted.  Felix turned back from the door and looked at Agent Singh, who was pacing the floor.  He was a tall man, well over six feet with close cropped black hair that looked as if it would wave and curl if he let it grow.  While he was broad shouldered, he had a runners build, sleek and wiry.  Felix took a deep breath to check his scent.

“It’s not who I am, it’s what I am.  Or more precisely, what we both are, and what your victim was,” he said matter-of-factly.

Ajay Singh abruptly stopped pacing and stood stockstill.  This was not at all what he had expected to hear.  He knew this victim and a previous one were both shifters.  It was one of the reasons he’d been working so hard on the case.  He felt the need to protect those of his kind.  It was also the reason he resented his squad being reassigned and his transfer to a new squad.  He wanted to stick with this case, his people were being hunted.

“Tell me what you know right now,” he insisted.

Felix walked over and held out his hand.  “I’m Felix Vasquez of the Panthera Agency.”

“Ajay Singh,” answered Ajay, taking Felix's offered hand and shaking.

“It’s kind of a long story, how about I get us a couple of beers and we can sit down and discuss it,” said Felix.

Agent Singh paced across the floor and back running his hands over his face and head.  He hadn’t expected a wrinkle.

“Actually, I could use a beer.  I’m pissed and frustrated and wasn’t expecting you, though I guess I should have.”

Felix walked over to the mini fridge in the corner of his room.  He pulled out a couple of bottles of beer, handing one to the agent.  Felix said no more, he could see that Agent Singh needed to cool from his anger.  Knowing to never mess with a cat when he’s pissed, it’s a good way to be scratched.

“Have you ever heard of Harris Daughtry?” asked Felix.

“Of course, the man’s a legend in the bureau.  He’s been a bureau chief for nearly twenty years.  Everyone keeps thinking he’ll retire but he hasn’t yet.”

“Harris was one of the first shifters to join the FBI.  As he moved around the country over the years from one section to another, he came across other shifter agents.  Then when he gained control and the power to put together a unit of his own choosing, he pulled those agents in and created a bureau within the bureau.  A shifter only unit, dedicated to investigating shifter related crime,” explained Felix.

Ajay let out a long low whistle.  “I had no idea.  I’ve come across a few shifter related cases and did my best to solve them while protecting the secret at the same time.  It hasn’t been easy.”

“Well, Harris doesn’t get around as much as he used to, he’s been promoted so many times he’s stuck to a desk these days.  It’s harder to find the new shifters.  And he isn’t able to actively recruit the way he’d like to.”

“So my transfer?”

“Is most likely to the all shifter unit.  Now that they know who you are, they’ll pull you in.  It will make your job both easier and harder.”

Felix went on to explain the case to Ajay and what he and his agency had done up to that point.  Ajay listened in silence, waiting until Felix finished to ask his questions, which he had many.  He could see the Panthera Agency was a lot further in their investigation than he was with his.  Finally Felix finished but Ajay could tell he was holding something back.

“What aren’t you telling me?” he asked.

“It’s not case related.”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that.”

Felix took another long look at the beautiful man sitting back in the wicker chair, drinking his beer, like he was sitting on a porch on a hot afternoon.  He could easily envision the jungle in the background.  The entire time he’d been talking, actually ever since the man had walked in the room, he’d been trying to hide his increasing arousal.  Obviously he hadn’t been very successful.  He held out his arm.

“Take a whiff,” he said.

Giving him a searching look, Ajay leaned forward and, taking Felix’s hand in his own, bent his head until his face rested against Felix’s pulse.  He took in a deep breath, and the scent went straight to his cock.  Oh!

“It seems we have a few more things to discuss,” he said, giving Felix a heated look.

“So you feel it too now.  Not exactly what I expected when I came here.  Please tell me you’re gay,” Felix nearly pleaded.

“Oh, I’m gay all right and as much as I want to jump your bones from the one sniff, we have a murder or two to solve.  This complicates things, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing, just the last thing I was looking for.  Like you, I am a form of Felidae and as such, family groups are not usually common.  However, my own family is unique in that it is very close and very large.  Our religion is one of the things that hold us together.  I am gay as is one of my brothers.  My other brother and my two sisters are all straight,” he said, leaning back in his chair and moving his legs to find a less restricted feeling.

“One brother and sister both straight, the rest of the boys, four of us are all gay.  And if I don’t kiss you soon I’m going to go insane,” said Felix.

They both stood and took that one step to bring their bodies together when Ajay’s cell phone rang.

Pulling it out of his suit pocket, he flipped it open.  “Agent Singh.”

Felix could see that Ajay’s attention had gone to the phone call and he wanted it back on him.  So he lifted the edges of the fleece-lined wind shirt he was wearing over his head, leaving his white undershirt, which clung to his muscled torso.  Next he went over and sat on the edge of the bed, untied and removed his athletic shoes and socks.  Undoing the top button on his jeans, he leaned back on his elbows, all the while watching Ajay.  If their relationship were a little further along he’d have removed his clothes entirely, perhaps unzipped Ajay’s pants, and fondled the erection he currently sported.  He could see the thick ridge even now, making his mouth water.

Ajay tried to pay attention to what his fellow agent was telling him.  As soon as Felix leaned back on the bed his brain short-wired.  He turned away and stared out the window.

“Are you okay?” asked the voice on the phone.

“I’m fine, Jimmy.  I’m twenty miles out.”  Regaining his equilibrium, he turned back to Felix, two could play at this game.  “This detective has some information so while you guys pack up and wait for the new unit, I’m going to stay here and squeeze this guy until I’ve gotten every drop from him.”

“That’ll work.  I’d recommend you were back here for the hand-off though.  They’ll be here in about five or six hours.”

“No problem, that’s plenty of time to make a thorough job of it.  By the time I get back there, this guy won’t have any secrets from me, I’ll know him inside and out.”

Jimmy, who’d worked with Ajay for about six years, knew him well.  “Why do I get the feeling we’re talking about different things?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll call you later,” said Ajay with a short laugh before hanging up his cell.