Book three in the Supernatural Mates Series
Sometimes people aren’t quite what they seem.
James Everett moved to a shifter town to escape his shifter-hating father. Little did he expect to catch the eye of the town’s sheriff. Louis Arktos can’t resist the new human.
Something about the other man calls to his bear shifter nature and makes him want to protect the human from all the dangers in the world. When James’ life is turned inside out, Lou rushes to save him from unexpected dangers and most of all from himself.
James Everett woke up and made the mistake of moving. Pain ripped through his body like burning brands. Gasping, he blinked back tears while trying to keep still. By now he should know better than to try any motion first thing in the morning. His Rheumatoid Arthritis made waking every morning a new definition of agony. Only the medicine his father cooked up in his lab relieved the pain. He grabbed his bottle of medication, wincing as the pills made a light rattling noise inside the container. Shit, he was almost out. He didn’t want to have to call his father. He hadn’t talked to him since their last fight over Shifter rights.
A man that fanatical had to be wrong.
That’s why he’d moved to this town. To learn more about the creatures his father branded as evil and James had always found so fascinating, especially the lions. The lion pride kept him here. He didn’t know why, but when they came into town he always felt an uncontrollable urge to join them. Not only because of the gorgeous alpha—it was very clear Talan was devoted to his little wolf—but because something about the lions called to him.
Watching the alpha and his mate made James long for a relationship of his own, but who would want a skinny guy on heavy pain medication? Or when touching caused screams of agony, instead of moans of pleasure. Yeah, he was a real catch.
Slowly he rotated his wrists, easing the joints into their assigned roles of moving through the day. Next his fingers got attention as he stretched his hands, listening to the sickening popping noises they made as he flexed each digit. Curling his toes he listened for the crackles before rotating his ankles. Hell, with all the crackling, snapping and popping he was his own breakfast cereal. Eventually, his familiar routine paid off and his aching joints loosened enough to sit up. A cry of pain tore from his chest as he shifted positions. He quickly stifled further sounds. He didn’t want anyone running to his rescue. He didn’t want anyone to see him like this. If she found him suffering, his holistically-inclined landlady wouldn’t hesitate to recommend at least a dozen homemade remedies. She’d already hinted as much. James wasn’t fooled into thinking they would work. He’d tried every possible solution before he turned ten. By twenty-three there weren’t any new treatments to try anymore.
Unlike most people with arthritis, weather didn’t affect his RA, and neither did his amount of activity. In a moment of whimsy he once told his father it was probably the phases of the moon causing the flare ups. His father’s screaming response proved the man had absolutely no sense of humour.
Looking around his small apartment James felt depression descend again—not for the size of the apartment, but for its solitude. He could afford a bigger place. His trust fund was large enough. However, he liked the small MIL unit he rented at Ms Tyler’s house. She was a sweet Labrador shifter and though she said he smelt off, once he assured her the scent was medication, not inherent evil, she happily rented him the place.
James tried to save as much money as possible since his constant pain made it impossible to hold down a steady job and he had no idea how long his trust fund would need to stretch. Currently he taught classes online which finally let him find a use for his expensive college education.
Sliding into his ergonomic leather desk chair, James popped his pills and booted up his laptop while waiting for the drugs to take effect. He sometimes took extra medication on really bad days, but he hated how loopy the drugs made him feel. He’d rather suffer through pain than walk around in a drug-fuelled haze, especially if he ran into the sheriff again.
His cheeks burned whenever he thought of the sexy bear shifter. Sheriff Louis Arktos, a big barrel-chested bear shifter with black hair and dark eyes, starred in all of James’ hottest daydreams. He’d seen the other man watching him from time to time, but he didn’t dare get his hopes up. After all, what did he have to offer such a strong, fit manly man? Some days he could barely make it across the room without screaming.
Sighing over the hopelessness of his infatuation, James logged into the college website and answered several emails from his students. His slow two-fingered typing took forever, but eventually he got through them all. After he finished working he checked his personal email account. His father’s name sat in bold text squatting at the top of his inbox like a waiting spider beckoning him to its web. With strong resolve he closed his email and shut down the computer. He would deal with his father tomorrow. He had no idea how to explain to his shifter-phobic parent about moving to a town almost completely populated by shape shifters.
* * * *
“I haven’t seen him yet, Sheriff.”
Lou looked away from the window and into the amused eyes of his waitress, Kelly. “Who’s that?”
“Now, Sheriff, we both know you’re waiting for that odd-smelling boy.” The deer shifter waitress gave him a sweet smile.
“He doesn’t smell odd. He smells wonderful.” Beneath all the medication, James’ scent drove Lou wild even as he wondered about the human’s health problems. The pain the other man suffered carved deep lines on either side of his mouth and the slow methodical way he moved made Lou wince with sympathy and wish he could comfort the stoic human.
“We all know you’ve got it bad for him. The only thing I wonder about is why he fights it. He wants you so bad even Blaire commented on how he looks at you.”