Johnny arrived in San Francisco a month after rescuing Kristen. David Kern the office manager with the sexy voice, who always gave him his assignments, had a new job for him. This one was in San Francisco, so he’d get to visit the big city. The one downside to living in the mountains with your parents and little brother and sister, was the lack of opportunities for casual sex.
He didn’t have to report to the office until Monday as the case wasn’t critical. So Saturday night was party time. He was young, hot, gay, and ready for some fucking. He planned to drink and hopefully have a little indiscriminate sex for twenty-four hours and then sleep until Monday morning.
First he went to a bear bar just so he could say he did, hey, he was a bear. None of the men appealed to him so he drank a few beers and left. His next bar had a lot of dancing going on. He had some fun, made a few trips to the backrooms to make out with some guys, but no one appealed to him enough to take it further. He did have three or four long island ice teas though, dancing was thirsty work.
Four bars later and Johnny finally saw a man that intrigued him. Both his bear and his cock took notice. He was slightly drunk, his shifter metabolism was trying to keep up with the intake, but so far the alcohol was winning. He ordered another drink to maintain his buzz and also ordered a drink for the pretty man he plan to fuck for the rest of the night.
The man was slender but Johnny could see the muscles moving underneath his clothes, he was strong. His hair was many different shades of blonde that hung long just past his collar. Currently he was laughing with the man on his left. Johnny wasn’t worried because the other man was obviously with someone. Johnny walked over to him and caught his eye.
“Hi, I bought you a drink,” said Johnny.
David Kern looked up at the young handsome man handing him his favorite drink. He had come out tonight with friends, they had planned to hook him up with a friend and it hadn’t worked out. Maybe fate was stepping in with a better piece of candy. It had been three years since he had broken up with Michael and he’d been ready for the past eight months or so to meet someone new. He hadn’t met Mr. Right, so he’d been settling for a succession of Mr. Right Nows. This handsome hunk with long black hair was younger than he usually hit on. Still this guy was hitting on him, and he was really, really hot.
“Well thank you, handsome. Have you been here long?” David asked taking a sip of the drink.
“I’ve been to a lot of different bars tonight hoping to find some fun. Until I saw you, no one appealed to my inner beast. And even though I bought you that drink, I’m hoping you really want to leave…with me,” Johnny said boldly.
David laughed, then he noticed the heat in the young man’s eyes. “Don’t you think we should at least introduce ourselves?”“Later,” Johnny growled, tired of waiting he leaned over and kissed the man. David wished he didn’t have such a horrible head cold. He wanted to take in this lovely man’s scent. Well, maybe in the morning.
“Are you Craig?” the guy said.
“Yes, do you need something?”
“Yeah, I heard you can increase the size of a shifter’s animal. I’m a lion and could really use your help.”
“I don’t do that for just anyone. So come on down to my mom’s office and we’ll talk. You can explain to my mom and me why you want a bigger lion. Other than the obvious of course,” he said.
The guy was about five ten and couldn’t weigh more than one sixty. He had the muscular trim body of a guy that worked out but he didn’t have very much bulk. His lion would be very small so he could understand why the guy might want a larger one. But he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be using his larger lion in a negative way. They had run across a shifter that had become mentally twisted due to his smaller animal size.
When they got to his mom’s office, he explained what the guy wanted.
“You didn’t tell me your name. This is my mom, Ingrid Bjorn,” Craig said.
“Leo Lauva and no jokes please, it’s a family name. The eldest son has always been named Leo in my family,” he explained.
“Alright, Leo, have a seat and tell us why you need a larger lion,” she asked as she gestured to a sitting area on the far side of her office.
After sitting, he leaned over resting his elbows on his knees. “Our pride owns a lot of land. Control of that land has always rested with the Rex, the head of the pride, the strongest lion. That’s always been someone in our line. We run a wildlife park on a portion of the land. You may have heard of it, it’s called the ‘Out of Africa Wildlife Park’, in Arizona. We have forty-five species of mammals as well as birds and reptiles. What’s important is that amongst the mammals, fourteen are shifter species. So shifters can also vacation there and have a chance to run free.”
Craig and his mother were amazed, a place where shifters were protected and could run free, right under the noses of humans and not worry about being exposed.
“All of our staff are pride members. But some members of the pride don’t want to work at the park. That’s fine, we don’t want to force anyone. However, about nine-months ago we were approached by an energy company. I’m not sure whether it’s natural gas, oil, or uranium they were after but they want the mineral rights. It would mean a lot of money would pour into the coffers but the only viable method they could use is fracking due to the hardness of the rocks in the area. And that’s against our environmental stand. Dad turned them down and we thought that was that. But now, one of the males is making noises about challenging for head of the pride. He’s a part of the faction that wants to shut down the park, sit on their asses and let the energy company take what they want. So long as they’re getting paid, they don’t care what happens,” he explained.
“And would your father be able to meet this challenge?” asked Ingrid.
“That’s the problem. It’s not known yet, but my father is dead. We were doing a tour of the more remote areas of the property. I’d gotten out and shifted, I wanted to stretch my legs. My dad left me and drove off toward the next fence line. Right after I finished undressing and shifted I smelled the explosives, but it was too late for my dad. The truck blew up before I could get there and warn him.” Leo stopped talking and rubbed his hands over his face. Both Craig and his mother said nothing, they could see he was struggling with some strong emotions. It was a couple of minutes before he could go on.
“I take after my mother’s side of the family. I’m small. My dad was a big man, nearly seven foot and he carried a lot of bulk. No one would have challenged him because challenges are fought shifted. Xerxes is six two and weighs about three hundred pounds. I’m good but I can’t beat him. As soon as the pride realizes that my father’s dead, which will happen at the next pride meeting in two weeks, I’ll claim his place. I can expect to be challenged and I’ll be lucky to live. Xerxes won’t challenge me right off. He’ll have others challenge me first to wear me down so he has an easy win. If by chance one of the others beats me, he’ll just challenge them and they know it. That’s why I need a full sized lion. I need to defend my pride. I also need to find those responsible for my father’s death and get justice for him. Will you help?” he asked looking at them both.
“How did you find out about me? I’ve been keeping it pretty low key,” Craig explained.
“One of my sister’s friends was kidnapped by that maniac. She’s a lion too. The agency guys told her about it in case she wanted to come see you. They thought if she had a bigger form when shifted, she’d feel stronger, that it would help her during the tough times. I understand she’s still having nightmares. Anyway, she and my sister are good friends and she’s aware of the problems in our pride, so she told me in confidence. She didn’t even tell my sister. She also doesn’t know my father is dead. She wanted me to have it because it’s pretty much a given that at some time in the future I’ll be taking over the pride and I’ll be challenged.”
Craig looked over at his mom, “What do you think?”
Ingrid stood and pulled the strings at her throat, loosening them enough for her dress to fall to the floor. She quickly shifted and then took the two steps necessary to put her nose right up against Leo. After sniffing him all over she shifted back and put her dress back on.
“First, have this young lioness come to us. She needs a soul healing it will help with the nightmares. As to the rest, yes, you should help him,” she said.
Craig stood and removed his own clothing. He tossed his clothes on the chair behind him and kicked off his shoes. He quickly shifted to his own bear, there was barely enough room. Luckily because they had built their offices and clinic in a warehouse, the ceilings were high. Craig also sniffed at Leo, then he shifted back to human. “Give me your hand.”
Leo held out his hand right away. Craig took Leo’s hand in his own and partially shifting his opposite hand, he made a cut in Leo’s palm and then his own. As he blended their blood, he started chanting. His mother joined in the chant. When they were finished he separated their hands and the cuts had been healed. There wasn’t even any dried blood.
“You’ll find your shifter senses growing stronger over the next few days. Your lion will be full sized almost immediately, well before your pride meeting. This is a gift from the bear. You’ll also have your lion’s senses in your human form within a few hours, this is a gift from the wolf. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’ll always be able to find you. We’ll be connected to each other through our brother bond for the rest of our lives. So don’t screw up and turn into a bad guy okay,” he said pulling his shirt over his head. Sitting down he leaned over to grab his shoes and put them on.
Leo didn’t know what to say. He had expected a big ritual, with a sweat lodge and days of chanting and purging. He just had all his preconceived notions kicked in the pants. This bear was the real deal, and he’d just shared some of his magic.
“Would you mind shifting to your lion?” Ingrid asked. “I’d like to get an idea of how long it takes. By seeing your size now I’ll be able to tell.”
Perfectly willing to do anything they asked, Leo kicked off his own shoes and started to strip. Moments later they had a large lion standing in between them. He wasn’t full sized, but he was at lease a hundred pounds heavier than his human form. He’d be full sized within an hour or so.
Leo smelled the most delicious scent. He couldn’t help himself, he went to where Craig was sitting and took a deep sniff of his hands. Mate. Craig had been recently in contact with his mate! The goddess had truly blessed this trip. Shifting back he blurted out his question. “Who have you touched recently? My mate, the scent on your hands is my mate.”
Craig looked shocked and then he started laughing, “I hope you’re gay.”
“Yes, I am. Does it matter?”
Closing the door behind him, Felix sighed when seeing his room again. That was another thing he had against the FBI team that 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 adds 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 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 gets up to pace. This conversation is 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.
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 up.
“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,” he said.“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.
Arturo Vasquez sat at the corner table in the back of the bar he’d found in the Castro District of San Francisco. He was still nursing his first beer as he switched his attention from the bodies gyrating on the dance floor and the hot blond bartender. Man I need to get laid he thought. At least the job he came into town to take care of had ended happily. Which is why I’m here, hoping for a quick pick-up instead of sleeping back in my room. Markus and Marianna were fine, they didn’t need him.
He looked over at the bartender again. I’m so tired of losing myself in strangers, I want my mate. But damn that man is fine, and I really need to get laid tonight. My balls are going to turn blue if I go on this way much longer. He hadn’t been cruising the bars in some time. Work and his general lack of interest had kept him celibate. The bartender was the first man to peak his interest in some time. The longer he looked, the tighter his jeans felt. Even his jaguar was scratching and chuffing within him. Well no guts no glory. He paused to finish the drink he had. He got up from his table and walked over to the bar, snagging the stool on the end. He waited for the bartender to come down to his end.
As he waited he enjoyed the better view. Must be six foot, and one seventy or one eighty. All of it lean delicious muscle from what I can see. That hair, he must have ten different shades of blond in that hair, and those eyes. They seem to change color with the light, sometimes green and sometimes golden. Too bad the guy next to me is wearing such strong cologne, someone should tell him less more, because my jaguar would like to get a sniff of the bartender.
Brody Cartwright was trying to pay attention to his job when the Latin hard body from the corner decided to come over to the bar. All that smooth tan skin, golden brown eyes and wavy dark brown almost black hair, ooh boy I’m in trouble now. I have to pay attention or I’m not going to find out what happened to Cody. No time for fooling around with the tourists. But man I want to. He walked over to the end of the bar. “What can I get you?” he asked leaning over without being able to help himself.
Each of them took in a deep breath, soaking in the other’s scent. All at once their eyes flew open, staring at each other in surprise. They leaned into each other, pulled together by a force stronger than them both. They began sharing a kiss, only when the whistles and cat-calls penetrated did they stop. Each of them was halfway over the bar when they broke it off. Arturo regained his power of speech first. “I’ll have some more of that…later. For the moment though I’ll take a beer, whatever you have on draft, and a shot of tequila.”