Sunday, April 23, 2017

Guest Author - Victoria Vallo and Alric's Runaway

Welcome Victoria Vallo to my blog as she shares a bit from her new release, Alric's Runaway (Mate Me, Book 2)

***


Alric has always been one step behind his brother, and now he might walk away for good.

After failing at yet another task his older brother Mace performed perfectly on his first try, Alric has decided he doesn’t care anymore. He doesn’t need anyone’s approval, and he certainly doesn’t need a conditional inheritance from his father. But his attempts to comply with his father’s demand that he settle down and have children brought someone into his life, someone completely different from his numerous past lovers. Chase makes Alric question everything about his life, and with Chase’s help, he might finally see that the kind of acceptance he’s always wanted was being offered to him all along.






Chapter One 

Alric stood at the edge of the grass behind the hangar bay and watched Mace’s ship depart. He kept thinking about what his brother had said to him moments earlier. My life has nothing to do with yours. It certainly shouldn’t destroy your happiness this way. Alric couldn’t exactly agree with that. Being the second son had always felt like a burden. His parents constantly compared him to his older brother Mace, who was smarter and stronger and far more hardworking than Alric had ever been. Admitting to his brother that he was jealous—and that he still loved him anyway—had been hard. He almost regretted the confessions and didn’t know what to do next.

Their father Bor had given them a mission, of sorts. If they wanted to inherit their share of the family’s shipping company, they had to get married and produce heirs. The fact all three brothers preferred male lovers had made this mission a bit challenging. Mace had naturally found the perfect solution with very little effort. Within one week of their father’s ultimatum, Mace had returned practically engaged to a handsome omega wolf shifter named Finn. And then Alric had spent months watching the two fall in love. Today, he’d arrived home and found out that Finn was actually pregnant. He was happy for his brother and Finn, but once again, it seemed as if everything always worked out perfectly for Mace while none of Alric’s plans ever came to fruition.

Though he hadn’t told either of his brothers, Alric had actually been trying to find a husband as well. The fact his father wanted grandchildren had made this search a bit harder, and he’d actually resorted to contacting several matchmaking agencies. He’d been amazed how many species actually presented options for him. As much sex as he’d had in his life, Alric had mostly slept with humans and didn’t know a lot about alien biology. He’d met a few people but had been disappointed with the results so far. He felt disheartened and believed he’d never be able to do what Mace had done and find someone who would actually love him.

Alric cursed under his breath. Until his father had done this to them, he’d never given a damn about falling in love. He’d certainly never given a bit of thought to getting married or having children. Thus far, he’d done everything in secret and worked his arranged meetings into his work schedule, but now he was actually going to take some time off and think over what he wanted. He had an appointment to meet with a new agent, and he would follow through with it. Even if he decided to walk away from the family business and stop trying to find a husband who could give him children, the agency might be able to set him up with someone he could enjoy his vacation with.

He hadn’t had sex in a month, and the celibacy was starting to get to him. He’d never apologized for his libido and never would. And he’d never admit it to his brothers, but Mace’s comment about all the possibilities of finding an intersex partner had fueled many of Alric’s fantasies ever since the day their father had told them about his change of plans for his will. Alric had been in many threesomes with a man and a woman, but what would it be like to be with someone who had both kinds of sex organs? He’d been a bit nervous the first time he’d mentioned it to one of the matchmaking agents, but no one had acted as if he was asking for something strange. He’d only been on a “date” with one intersex candidate, and the man had laughed and said it was obvious how nervous Alric was about saying and doing the right thing. That had embarrassed Alric, but the man had been very kind about it and actually made him feel better by the end of the night. The date had ended with nothing more than a kiss, though, and the man had very pointedly told Alric that physical attributes and sexual identity wouldn’t matter at all when the right person walked into his life.

At first, Alric had felt angry, as if the guy had been condescending to him, but now he saw it as true kindness. He’d never find real happiness if he picked a partner based on a checklist. Or on a fantasy. His ideal probably would be someone who had both a penis and a vagina but identified as male, but that was only what his body wanted. His heart had never been involved before, and he had no idea how to even begin.

“Alric, you aren’t leaving yet, are you?”

Alric turned to see his mother coming along the stone path alongside the green space. She stopped beside him and admired the grass. “This does look nice. Gives the place more color. Good idea. Perhaps we could add a couple of benches or something.”

“Thanks,” Alric said. He couldn’t even remember why he’d suggested his parents put more green spaces in the undeveloped places around their main facility, but it was nice to hear his mother praising him. “And no, not leaving yet. Maybe tomorrow morning. Or tonight if I get things squared away.”

Rama put her hands on her hips. “Did you fight with Mace? You look perturbed.”

“No. I’m tired. Nothing more.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re taking some time off. I only wanted to make sure everything was all right. I know I’ve been preoccupied with the wedding and everything.”

Mace and Finn would be getting married before long. They would’ve done it sooner, but Rama wanted the event to be just right. “I’m fine. I really am.”

“You’ll be all right with or without anything from your father. Don’t force it.”

Alric sighed. “Mom, I’m all right. I’m thinking. That’s all.”

She gave him a look that said she didn’t believe him, but then she shrugged. “Then enjoy your trip. And keep in touch.” She turned on her heels and walked away, pulling out her communicator and punching something in as she headed back toward the main entrance.

Alric stood there a moment longer and then went back to his room to pack. He’d leave tonight. The quicker he was on his own, the better he’d feel.

* * * *

Alric followed the beeping sound until he found his brother Tore in the corner of one of the larger store rooms doing inventory. He’d considered telling his brother about his attempts to find a mate, but Tore seemed to think both he and Mace were crazy for taking dad’s ultimatum seriously. Tore liked Finn and was happy for Mace, but he still thought it was the wrong way to approach a romantic relationship. What would he say about Alric filling out surveys and questionnaires? He’d probably laugh, though that was easy for him to do. He’d just turned twenty-three and hadn’t had as many disappointments in his life as Alric had. Alric cleared this throat, feeling bad about the way he’d been thinking just now. He never wanted his little brother to experience any kind of disappointment at all.

Tore looked up and set his scanner aside. “You heading on?”

“Yeah, within the next hour. Wanted to say goodbye and all.”

“You get to see Finn and Mace before they took off?”

“Yes. I congratulated Finn.” Alric paused, thinking about the half-assed fight he and Mace had just had. “They seem really happy.”

“They are. It’s gonna be interesting watching Mace chase a kid around.”

“He’s probably going to be a pretty strict father.”

Tore tilted his head. “I can see why you’d say that, but I think he’s going to spoil the kid rotten. A baby might be just what his serious side needs. He’s already changed a lot since he met Finn. He’s easing up some. And if it’s a girl? You know she’s going to have him wrapped around her finger.”

Alric laughed as he imagined Mace trying to say no to even the wildest demand from a little girl. “All right, I can see that happening.” He sighed, his happiness short-lived, as it had been lately. “Anyway, I’ll contact you in a few days, and be back well before the wedding.”

“Where you heading?”

“Rematu. Just going to relax.” He would have an appointment with the Hearts in Harmony dating agency when he got here, but he wasn’t about to tell Tore that. It was better his little brother didn’t know that he kept failing where Mace had succeeded immediately.

“All right then. I hope it helps.”

“Thanks. I think.”

Tore shook his head. “You’ve been in a bad mood for weeks. You need some time for yourself. Go eat and drink and sit on the beach. And get laid.”

“I’ll be staying in Malen, not at one of the resorts. And I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that last part,” Alric said as he turned to walk away.

“Hey, I’m observant, that’s all. You haven’t been seducing any of the new employees from this most recent hire dad did, so I figure something’s gotta be up.”

Alric stopped and looked back. Testing the waters, he said, “Maybe I’m reforming. Gonna settle down like dad wants.”

Tore laughed loudly and picked up his scanner again. “That’ll be the day.” He went back to his work.

Alric frowned but made himself walk away. That’ll be the day, huh? That thought stayed with him as he gathered his bags, the words mixing with all the things Mace had said to him earlier. He hurried to his ship, ready to be alone for a while.

* * * *

Chase made his way down the street, keeping an eye out for anyone he knew. He didn’t have a place to stay tonight, which was fine, but it was supposed to start raining after midnight and he didn’t want to be caught in it, especially since the storm was supposed to last several days. He’d made a couple of friends since leaving home, but he hadn’t seen any of them today. He was still learning how to function on the street. Malen was a good city for being homeless, if one could say any city was, but he’d been too slow today, so most of the shelters were already full.

“Hey, Chase!”

Chase turned around to see Varian Corbin coming his way. They’d gone to school together, and Chase had crashed on his couch one night just after he’d run away last year. Varian had never been a close friend, but Chase was still relieved to see him. It was getting late, not to mention cold and dark. Given the weather forecast for the next few days, Chase had few options, though he didn’t want to come off as desperate.

“Hi, Varian. How are you?” Chase said, smiling and shoving his hands into his pockets.

“I’m good. And very glad I found you.”

Chase frowned as he asked, “Why?”

“I might have a solution for you.”

That perked him up. “A job?”

Varian made an odd face, squinting and frowning as he shrugged. “Mmmm, kind of. Maybe. It’s not really a job exactly.”

“What do you mean?” Chase adjusted his bag on his shoulder.

“There’s a guy coming in to the agency tomorrow. And he’s interested in something very specific, if you know what I mean.”

Chase didn’t respond at first. He’d never been ashamed of the fact he’d been born intersex, but Varian had found out about his unique qualities by accident. They’d been on a school trip where they’d had to share a room, and Chase had forgotten to lock the bathroom door one night while he was masturbating. He’d thought Varian was in the room across the hall fucking his girlfriend, but they’d been caught, so Varian had come back much earlier than expected. Now, Varian worked for a matchmaking agency, so Chase knew where this conversation was going. “Specific, huh?”

Varian said, “Hear me out. He’s a pilot who’s looking for a man to settle down with, but he’s got a little problem I think you could solve for him.”

“Problem? What problem could he have that would make him want me? What, does he not like anal sex or something?” If this person preferred men, Chase couldn’t imagine him wanting one who also happened to have a vagina. His mind raced, but he couldn’t begin to guess what Varian was getting at.

“No. The problem is he’ll be left out of his father’s will if he doesn’t have children one day. He likes women, but he simply prefers men.” He lowered his voice. “Seems you’d be perfect for him.”

Children. Of course. He needs someone with the right biology, not just the parts. Chase got the picture, feeling relieved it wasn’t something more unusual. “So, likes pussy but needs cock? Hmmm.”

Varian licked his lips, a bit of color coming to his cheeks. “We’d never put it that way, but yes. There’s no one registered with the agency who exactly fits his specifications. I have alternatives for him, but you’d be his ideal. And it would get you off the street. I feel bad I haven’t been able to get a job for you.”

“Jobs are hard to find these days, especially for someone registered as a runaway.”

“But you’re eighteen now. People will get over it, plus it’ll come off your record after your next birthday.” Varian shook his head. “Though that is months away. Maybe this guy’s your answer.”

“How old is he?”

“Not old at all. Only twenty-five.”

Chase fidgeted with a thread inside his pocket. “I don’t want children. Not really. Just because I can have them doesn’t mean I want them. If that’s his main requirement, I can’t promise that out of the gate. Not with anyone, but especially not with someone I don’t know at all.”

Varian sighed. “All right. I’m only trying to help.” He moved a bit closer. “You could come stay with me. I was so lucky to get the job I have. I know it’s hard out here. I’d be on the street, too, if I hadn’t been chosen in that first round of interviews after graduation. I understand you don’t want to feel obligated or anything, but it’s not safe out here.” He lowered his voice. “Especially if certain types of people did find out about you.”

Varian’s parents were dead, and he’d been in foster care their final year of school. And of course, he’d been on his own the very day he’d turned eighteen due to the overcrowded foster system on Rematu. If nothing else, at least Varian truly did understand his situation, whereas some simply pitied him. Chase had little choice, though he’d always tried to avoid accepting too much help from any one person. He’d put himself in this situation by running away from his stepfather, and he felt he needed to man up and find his own path. But Varian had a point about the kind of people who would take advantage if they found out about his true nature. If he didn’t take Varian up on his offer, he might not get another tonight. “Maybe for a few days. There’s a storm coming.”

Varian looked up at the sky. “Really? It is pretty cloudy.” He gazed down at Chase. “Then you have to come home with me. Stay as long as you want. You’ll get sick out here.”

“Just until the storm moves off.” Chase adjusted his bag again. “I’ll cook. Do some cleaning. Whatever you like.”

“Whatever I like? I’d like you to forgive me so we can be friends. Real friends.”

Chase blinked, a bit shocked Varian felt that way. But it made sense the more he thought about it, as they’d never really talked about that night since the fumbling conversation they’d had after Varian had walked in on him. Chase had been so embarrassed when Varian had caught him jerking off while sliding three fingers in and out of his pussy. “I never said I didn’t forgive you. There’s nothing to forgive. You walked in, but I forgot to lock the door.” He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced around before adding, “It’s fine. You’ve never judged me the way some have.”

“Are we good then?” Varian smiled again. “I owe you some help. I’d never have realized I liked guys, too, if not for you.”

“What?” Chase asked, almost laughing.

Varian shrugged. “Never seen another guy’s cock until that day. Got me thinking.” He gave another shrug. “I’m dating a guy now. It’s still casual, but he’s great. Treats me better than anyone else I’ve ever been with.”

“Good.” Chase envied the way others could date casually. He’d had a couple of partners, but telling people about what to expect when his clothes came off wasn’t always easy.

As a few raindrops hit his shoulder, Varian looked up again. “Hey, let’s go. We’ll both get soaked.”

“Yeah, I’m more than ready to be indoors. I’ve been walking for hours.”

Varian hailed a transport pod for them, and they slid in just before the sky opened up. Chase sat back and tried to relax as he watched the water trickle down the window as the pod lifted into the air and maneuvered toward the skyscraper Varian’s small apartment was in. Chase tried to focus on the fact he’d be dry tonight instead of wondering what the future held for him.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Re-Release of BETWEEN HIM AND A HARD PLACE (A Dead Ones Novella)

Between Him and a Hard Place is BACK from the dark recesses after All Romance E-books (my previous publisher of this book) folded.

Folded... and stole all author money. Yep, still salty.

But as of now, all my books with them are now re-released with a publisher I can trust.



Archer has survived for three years after the zombie virus brought down the world, doing things he didn’t know he was capable of. When his traveling companion is murdered by dead ones, he knows his time has come. But seconds before he’s slaughtered, a combat vehicle crashes through the scene and a masked man saves the day—a man he feels inexplicably drawn to.

Only the man isn’t a man, but a vampire. Syn is a tracker, sent out by his kind to find and protect the last of the humans and the precious blood in their veins.

Archer isn’t like the others Syn’s found. He feels tied to the human in a way he can’t explain. The two come together explosively, both fighting the intense emotion they feel. After, they both run to escape the lust inside.

Can they find a way back to one another?


“We’ll go on to the Citadel tomorrow. It’s a long drive, and we’ll need extra supplies before we head there. For tonight, we’ll stay in my bunker.” They rolled up to an electronic gate, and Archer watched as Syn rolled down the window and pressed his finger into an electronic keypad. The gate slowly began to slide open, and Archer’s mouth dropped open.

“You’ve got power?”

“Solar,” Syn answered.

The sound of Syn’s voice made goose bumps skitter along Archer’s arm. And it wasn’t fear. He felt… excitement? He brushed the emotion aside, sure it was just the prospect of what lay behind those gates.

Syn stopped the truck after they’d passed through, and the gates had closed behind them. “Stay here,” he said quickly before jumping out.

“Why?” Archer asked, but realized what was happening as a zombie fell onto the front window. Syn slammed a knife into the thing’s skull before jumping down and searching the vehicle, for more dead ones, Archer assumed.

Syn climbed back behind the wheel and moved on. They came up to another set of gates and again, Syn entered a key code in before the gate slid open for them. They’d do the same thing one more time before they finally pulled before a small building. No lights lit the area, besides the light coming from Syn’s vehicle, so he could only see a narrow swatch.

Syn pulled the tank-truck past a thick, sliding wall that skated back into place as soon as they drove in. Once the wall locked, lights went on inside. Archer squinted at the illumination after the relative darkness and missed a chance to get a good look at Syn. The man was out of the vehicle before Archer could peek.

He grabbed his bag off the vehicle’s floor and exited the cab. Looking around, he saw a garage outfitted with tons of weapons and supplies. A smile came to his face as he looked about. “Damn, this place looks like heaven.”

Syn walked from behind the tank-truck with a wide smile on his handsome face.

His extremely handsome face.

Archer felt his gut clench as he looked at the man.

Syn stopped inches from Archer. The man had to be at least six and a half feet. He caught Archer’s stare and held it with his wickedly blue eyes. They were light, too light. They didn’t appear natural.

Yet the lust swamping him when Syn captured his stare felt more than natural.

Archer took a deep breath, trying to figure out why he felt so drawn to the stranger. And why he felt an attraction to a man.

Sure, it had been a long time since he’d even looked at another human with lust in his eyes. When he was running for his life, sex was rarely the first thing on his mind. Survival was. For a long while, he’d been alone, and he had rarely touched his own cock. The thought had passed his mind one night with Nadine, on a night he had thought their location was fairly secure, but just before he’d approached her to make a move, a zombie had pounded on the door and chased them from where they’d holed up.

Sex had been a luxury he could ill afford.

Why was he suddenly feeling the urge now? And with a man?

It had to be his gratitude morphing into the wrong emotion. He was in what appeared to be the safest locale he’d been in within the last three years he’d been running. Syn was handsome. He was clean. He didn’t smell like sweat, dirt, and zombie guts. All of that combined with the formidable lack of sex and his head was messed up. That had to be it.

He dragged his gaze from Syn’s, but had to look back up when the man closed the gap and nearly touched him.

“You’re safe here,” Syn said, staring down. “There are three electrified gates with spikes on the outside and top. The place is under constant surveillance. I’ll know if anyone with or without a heartbeat approaches.”

“Sounds like you know your stuff,” Archer said, struggling with his traitorous body. He fought the rising need he felt, but wasn’t winning the war.

“I’ve got hot water. And plenty of hu—” Syn frowned slightly with the pause, but he moved on quickly. “Food. Let me show you to your room and you can shower while I dig something up for you.”

“A shower? A hot friggen shower?” Archer hadn’t been expecting that.

Syn smiled. “Yeah, it looks like you’re past needing one. I think there might be a handsome man underneath, but I’m not sure.”

Archer nodded, not sure he could trust his mouth to form the right words. Between the desire he felt and his trepidation regarding the offer of supposed safety, he was in deep shit.

Syn held his stare a few seconds longer, more than he should have. Archer was sure he saw interest on the man’s face, but he didn’t want to think it. It was bad enough he felt the want. Seeing it reflected back at him only made him more uncomfortable.

And more needy.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Spotlight - Shea Balik & Purring with His Mate

Welcome author Shea Balik and her new release, Purring With His Mate, Miracle Book 1


Welcome to Miracle!

In a world where everyone was against them, they needed a Miracle. What no one had expected was to find their salvation in an abandoned town that was ready to collapse. Yet, that is exactly what happened when they moved to the town of Miracle, Oregon.

Edrick Rapp, a mountain lion shifter, wanted to kick himself for not moving he and his friends far from their former pack years earlier. It wasn’t until he came upon one of his friends being beaten to death for their sins that he realized his mistake.

Mouse shifter, Nole Hayward, had been punished by his Alpha. Left for dead, he barely managed to crawl away with his life. He ends up hiding out in Miracle, Oregon until a group of mountain lion shifters show up. Before he could get away he ends up with a building collapsing down around him and his mate rescuing him.

Can Edrick and Nole find love or will they let the ghosts of their pasts tear them apart?




Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

“Please tell me we’re just stopping to take a piss,” Hudson whined as the rumble of their motorcycles died down.
Edrick Rapp ignored Hudson as he swung his leg over his treasured Fat Boy S.  He took in the surroundings and tried his best not to wince at what he saw.  The last thing he needed was for Hudson to have an actual good reason to bitch.  The man may be one of his best friends, but Hudson had the unique ability to complain about winning the lottery as if it were a bad thing.
When Edrick had bought this little town, he’d known it had been abandoned for some time and would need work.  He’d just hoped it wouldn’t look like if they breathed on it wrong, the whole place would topple over.
There had originally been ten buildings along the main street of the town, well, the only street the town actually had.  The two other roads the town boasted were nothing more than dirt paths.  One led to a small residential area, while the other led to a large farm that, according to the real estate agent, no longer had any buildings that were still standing.  There was a second farm nearby, but the owner had refused to sell.
Scanning the ten buildings, Edrick guessed he should be glad that only two of the buildings had collapsed.  The other eight buildings were still standing.
Sort of.
Okay, so they may have only been upright because they were leaning against each other, preventing them from tumbling into a pile of wood and brick.  The point was, they were vertical – mostly.
Hopefully, the six homes the real estate agent claimed were still intact that came with the town were in better shape or they would be camping out - again.  Something they had done the past two nights as they’d run from their previous pack. Edrick could have gotten hotel rooms, but he didn’t want there to be any trace of where they had gone.
He only hoped traveling to the other side of the country was enough to keep his father from hunting them down.  Edrick sighed at that thought.  Two thousand miles would be a deterrent, especially if his father’s pack couldn’t follow their movements electronically.  But, sooner or later, Lorcan Rapp would find them, if for no other reason than to prove he could.
But for now, they were safe - he hoped.  The last thing Edrick wanted to do was to fight his father.  He had little doubt he’d win, but he wouldn’t relish killing his old man.
Shaking the morbid thoughts away, he answered Hudson.  “Sorry to disappoint, but this is our new home.”
“Good,” Lucca growled.  “Kellach needs to rest.  Riding on the back of my bike as he tries to heal isn’t helping.”
A stab of guilt pierced Edrick’s heart at the reminder of his failure to protect his friend.  Striding over to where Kellach leaned heavily against Lucca’s bike, Edrick cupped his friend’s face and tilted it up so he was looking into his pretty lavender eyes, filled with so much pain it threatened to send Edrick to his knees.  “I’m so sorry, Kellach.  Can you hold on another few minutes?  The houses are just a short distance away.”
A much smaller hand landed on top of his as Kellach tried to smile.  “This isn’t your fault, Edrick.  We all knew the risks.  I was careless and paid the price.”
A rumble pushed up from deep within Edrick as he thought of what might have happened if he hadn’t of come upon Kellach getting beaten by his friend’s father when he did.  The rage that had been in Milton Alder’s eyes had a promise of death that would be long and painful.  Something Kellach had already gotten a taste of for far too long before Edrick had shown up.
“If I had just gotten us out of there like I should have, this never would have happened.”  They also might not have his father’s pack after them, prepared to kill them.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Hudson called out as he picked up a sign that had been lying on the ground.  “This place is called Miracle.”  Hudson gave a snort of derision.  “Miracle the place is still standing.”
“Miracle it remains that way if we breathe too hard,” Kellach joked, even though he clearly was in a tremendous amount of pain.
“Miracle this place hasn’t fallen down on top of us,” Lucca said as he stared critically at their new home.
“Miracle if we can fix it,” Chadwick, the last of their team chimed in.  “Actually, tearing it down and starting from scratch might be a lot easier.”  A light Edrick hadn’t seen in Chadwick’s eyes for more than a decade flamed to life as their resident handyman started inspecting the closest structure from the outside.  “Although, it would be a shame to destroy the character each building has to offer.”
How they rebuilt the town wasn’t something Edrick cared about.  As far as he was concerned, that would be completely up to Chadwick, who was the only one of them with enough building experience to make that decision.  “We’ll follow your lead on this one,” Edrick told his friend.
Gray eyes studied him for a moment as if Chadwick was trying to ascertain if Edrick was serious or not.  He must have seen the sincerity in Edrick’s gaze, for Chadwick gave a nod.  “First we need to find these houses you mentioned and see if any of them are livable.”
Edrick agreed.  They needed to get some rest.  Tomorrow they could make plans for what they would need to do to restore the town Edrick had bought.  “Let’s load up.”
Once more engines roared to life.  As soon as Kellach was safely on Lucca’s bike, Edrick rolled onto the road that should lead them to their new homes.  He just prayed they would have some time to figure out how they were going to defend themselves when Edrick’s father caught up with them.
As much as Edrick would like to believe they were safe, he wasn’t stupid enough to think that was an actual possibility.  Edrick had committed the ultimate sin in his father’s eyes.  He admitted to being gay.  At forty-five, a mere child in the shifter world, it had been past time to stand up to the archaic bigotry that ran rampant in the shifter world.
Why a person’s sexuality mattered, was anyone’s guess.
They were mountain lion shifters.  As with all shifters, fate designed mates.  Male or female didn’t seem to matter to the powers that be, so why did men like his father think it was a sin to love someone of the same sex?
In the past, same-sex mates had a difficult choice – ignore the mate pull, which was nearly impossible, or accept their mate and live the rest of their lives on the run from shifters who believed they should be killed for their immoral ways.  In the past?  Who was he kidding?  The practice was still occurring.
Case in point.  Them.
Kellach had been caught kissing a man by one of their pack mates.  His father had been told and when Kellach got home, his father started beating him.  If Edrick hadn’t of passed Kellach’s home and heard his friend cry out, he had no doubt Kellach would have died that day.
The rage that had coursed through Edrick’s veins when Milton admitted why he was beating his own son, nearly ended in Milton’s death.  Edrick had wanted to rip the man to shreds and would have, if Lucca, who had been with him when they discovered Kellach, hadn’t stopped him.
By then, it was too late to stop the wheels that had been set in motion.  Hauled in front of his father for daring to interfere in a father’s right to kill his own child for his perverted ways, Edrick had to explain his actions.
Refusing to allow his friend to be sentenced to death for being gay, Edrick admitted that he, too, was gay.  His friends had already grabbed their go bags by the time he’d made that announcement.  Their bikes were loaded up and waiting for them outside of the council chambers.
They had barely made it out with their lives.  Only the shock he’d caused by announcing his sexuality had delayed the attack by his father and his enforcers.  By then, Edrick had scooped Kellach up in his arms and charged out of the council room to where their friends were waiting for them, bikes ready.
From the beginning, they had known one day something would happen to out them.  Plans had been made, including a sizeable amount of money saved and moved to secret accounts that couldn’t be traced.  The more advanced technology came to be, the easier it became to create new identities and hide their actions.  But Edrick knew it would also make them easier to find in the end.  The world was just too small to keep their whereabouts a secret for long.
Turning onto an overgrown road that was more weeds and potholes than a smooth dirt surface, Edrick groaned as he took in the six homes that lined one side of it.  Two of the homes no longer had roofs.  Two of them had large sections of walls missing.  While the other two appeared in somewhat better shape, they still looked ready to fall over from a stiff wind.
He wasn’t sure any of them were livable enough to give them shelter.  It looked like they would be camping once more.
Turning off the engine, Edrick climbed off his bike and headed for one of the two story homes that might have a chance of remaining standing.  Chadwick quickly joined him.
They circled the structure first, looking for any obvious signs of trouble.  “Considering the other homes, it’s in relatively good shape,” Chadwick said as they came around to the front of the house.
Carefully, they opened the front door, which fell to the ground as soon as Edrick pushed against it.  “Then again, what do I know?” Chadwick quipped.
Edrick glared at him.  Normally he would be thrilled his usually reserved friend had been coming out of his shell the further from the pack they traveled, but this wasn’t the time for joking around.  They were all too damn tired.  “You’re a contractor.”
Chadwick lifted a shoulder as he carefully stuck his head inside the door.  “Yeah, but that doesn’t make me psychic.”
“That doesn’t look safe,” Hudson called out.  “Maybe we should find a hotel nearby.”
Out of all of them, Hudson hated camping the most.  He grumbled the entire time about how hard the ground was.  Then again, Hudson would have bitched about the thread count of the sheets at a five-star hotel, so he didn’t pay much attention to his friend.  Admittedly, camping wasn’t Edrick’s favorite way to sleep, but he didn’t mind it, either.  His cat enjoyed being outdoors.
Chadwick looked over his shoulder and gave Hudson a cocky grin.  “Aww, come on Hudson.  Where is your sense of adventure?  If you’re lucky, there might even be a ghost or two inside.”
Edrick had to stop himself from smacking Chadwick for bringing up ghosts.  They had enough problems.  The last thing they needed was Hudson becoming obsessed over paranormal activity.
“Do you think so?” Hudson asked as he clomped up the steps of the porch.  “I knew I should have taken the time to grab my equipment,” Hudson groused.  “It wouldn’t have taken that long.”
“For the last time, Hudson, even if you did have time, you have too much crap for us to have carried,” Lucca said from where he stood holding a now sleeping, or most likely passed out, Kellach, in the safety of the yard.
“Enough,” Edrick growled.  He was too damn tired to let this inane argument continue.   They needed to find a safe place to bed down for the night and let Kellach get some real rest so he could finish healing.
Turning to Chadwick, he asked, “Is this place safe enough to enter or should we set up the tents?”
Chadwick crooked an eyebrow and shrugged.  “Guess we’ll find out.”  Before Edrick could respond, Chadwick stepped inside.
Not about to let another of his friends get hurt, Edrick entered right behind Chadwick.  As darkness fell, the dim interior didn’t allow them to see much, although as mountain lion shifters, they could see relatively well in the waning light.
As they walked further inside, a faint scent tickled Edrick’s senses.  His cock thickened.  He couldn’t explain what he was feeling, but the need to find the source of that scent became paramount.
Striding through the home faster than was probably wise, Edrick let the arousing aroma lead him up the creaky stairs to one of the large bedrooms with an attached en suite.  Disappointed to not find the source, Edrick searched each nook and cranny.  He might have wondered if Hudson was right about ghosts if he hadn’t noticed there was a disturbance of dust along the floor.  It was more pronounced in one area, as if someone had slept there recently.
“I think it’s safe enough for us to use as we fix it up,” Chadwick said several minutes later when he’d caught up to Edrick.  “It’s going to need a lot of work, but it appears sturdy enough.”
Edrick nodded his agreement.  “Tell the others and let’s get set up for the night.”
Once more Edrick’s gaze swept the room, looking for evidence of who had been there.  Not finding anything, Edrick headed downstairs to help unload.
Based on the faintness of the scent, the person was no longer there, but if Edrick had to guess, he had only been gone a couple of days.  If he was lucky, whoever it was would be back.  If not, he’d have to hunt him down, because Edrick was positive that enticing aroma was from his mate.

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