Authors: Lynn Hagen
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Fiction
Darcy is a worrier, a pessimist, and overanalyzes everything until the subject dies a slow and painful death…and then he worries some more. When he and his brother, Sterling, find their way to Brac Village, Darcy thinks the place is just too perfect. Something is off, and Darcy is determined to find out what that something is.
Raven, the oldest of four brothers, has found his mate. Being raised by a prejudiced, homophobic jerk doesn’t deter Raven from wanting Darcy in the worst sort of way. From the moment he sets eyes on Darcy, Raven can think of nothing more than drinking from his mate’s vein.
When a motley crew of shifters shows up in Brac Village, seeking protection, trouble isn’t too far behind them. And when Darcy’s younger brother is attacked, Darcy grabs Sterling and heads out of town as quickly as his feet will carry him.
But can he leave knowing his heart is chained to Raven? Can he walk away from the best thing to ever happen to him? When Darcy discovers Tate’s Resource Center, he also finds out what he is truly running from.
Alternative (M/M or F/F), Paranormal, Vampires/Werewolves
TAKE MY HAND
Copyright © 2012 by Lynn Hagen E-book ISBN: 978-1-61926-959-0
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Take My Hand
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Darcy glanced sideways at his brother as they walked down the long stretch of country road. It was late afternoon, the sun high and hot, making Darcy wish for an ice-cold glass of water. He was tired as hell, too. He knew Sterling was just as tired. But his younger brother didn’t complain as Darcy tried to figure out just exactly where they were going and what they were going to do once they got there. The problem was he didn’t know where they were at.
He hadn ’t seen a sign for miles.
They had left the last town they were in when the work had dried up. Darcy had just turned south and started walking, Sterling following behind him. It wasn’t the smartest way to plan their next move, but Darcy was getting tired of trying to plot out his life and getting nowhere. Maybe just walking out the door and heading into the unknown was what they needed.
Darcy was a plotter, a planner, and a thinker. It had worked great up until he and his brother started moving from town to town. Lately his tactics hadn’t been working out that way, so he had done something he had never done before.
…Just going with the flow.
But now they were lost.
“There’s a sign up ahead,” Sterling pointed out as he quickened his pace, having more energy than Darcy originally thought.“That should tell us where we are.”
Darcy hoped so. He was also hoping to find a job and a place to live for him and Sterling. Being broke, and having no home, didn’t leave Darcy many options. That last job he took wasn’t much, but he still had the money from his last paycheck in his pocket. As small as it was, Darcy could say he was broke and mean it. If they didn’t find work soon, the three hundred bucks wouldn’t last long.
“Do you think we’ll find work here?” Sterling asked eagerly as he walked briskly toward the sign. Darcy wished he had the energy that Sterling bounced with. At twenty-five, Darcy felt old as hell. He had been on the road with his brother for a few months now, taking odd jobs here and there, sleeping in shithole motels.
Darcy wanted more out of life than to just drift through it. He wanted a place to call home. He wanted somewhere he could lay his roots down. He knew Sterling yearned for the same thing. It was just him and his brother. That was it. But Darcy knew Sterling wanted a large family. The guy had always wanted a large family.
But that wasn’t in the cards. His parents had stopped at two children, which Sterling didn’t complain about, but Darcy knew the man wasn’t happy with.
That’s what Darcy loved about his brother so much. Sterling was so easy to please, it made Darcy’s brooding mood seem even more obviously opposite.
He and Sterling had shared a place together over in Dorman County, but the landlord had found a loophole in their lease and evicted them because he made a pass at Sterling and his younger brother had turned the man down flat.
With no money and no place to stay, they decided to find a new town to live in. He wanted a clean break and a new life. But Darcy also wanted to go back to that arrogant bastard and pop the landlord in his face one good time.
It would serve him right.
“That’s what I’m hoping,” Darcy finally said as he caught up with Sterling, who was almost trotting toward the sign now.“But don’t get your hopes up, little brother. Times are tough, and jobs aren’t just waiting around to be handed out.”
Sterling finally stopped, standing in front of the sign, his hands on his hips as he leaned his head back, reading the sign posted on the side of the road. It was a brightly colored sign, making anyone who saw it feel welcomed. Darcy sure as shit hoped that was the case.
“Welcome to Brac Village. Mayor, Maverick Brac. Population, nine hundred.” Sterling read the sign out loud and then turned back to Darcy, a skeptical look in his light-grey eyes. “That’s not very many.”
Darcy agreed. With a town this small, they may not find any work. It would be a shame to come all this way only to be turned away. He couldn’t allow himself to think like that, though. So far they had lucked out whenever they entered the small towns along their way, and Darcy prayed their luck still held in this even smaller town.
Because if their luck finally turned sour, they were screwed. He wasn’t sure where the next town was, and Darcy was tired of traveling the back roads. He wanted to hang his proverbial hat up and toss a welcome mat out.
“We can still see if they have any openings at their store or diner. Most small towns have at least a general store and a mom-and-pop diner.” He wasn’t so sure, but giving Sterling a little hope never hurt. Giving himself some never hurt, either.
“I can work in a garage. Don’t forget that, dork,” Sterling teased and then jumped out of the way when Darcy smacked a hand toward him. He was glad Sterling was still in such good spirits. He knew that being kicked out was rough on his brother.
It still pissed Darcy off to no end to think about what his landlord did to them. They probably could have fought the case in court, but the landlord had them dead to rights. He hadn’t added Sterling onto his lease when his brother had moved in. It hadn’t occurred to Darcy to do so. The landlord was a scumbag, and never fixed anything. Darcy had thought the man wouldn’t care if Sterling moved in. Hell, Darcy had thought the guy wouldn’t notice.
But he had noticed Sterling all right.
His brother’s dark-blond hair and light-grey eyes always attracted both men and women, but it was Sterling’s personality that always won everyone over. He was vibrant, naïve, and so full of life that Darcy felt blemished in comparison.
He didn’t think badly of his brother for having a personality that won over even the hardest of men, but in cases like his landlord, it hadn’t helped. But it did make Darcy’s fierce protective instincts come out to protect his little brother.
And the insane part about what had happened was that Sterling hadn’t acted in any flirtatious way. He just acted like Sterling, his natural disposition grabbing the attention of even the most rotten of men.
That truly sucked. The guy was too sweet to go through life taking crap from people like Darcy’s landlord.
Again, he wanted to go back there and beat the hell out of the scumbag who had turned their life on its ear.
“We better get moving if we want to catch any businesses open this late in the afternoon. It’s going to take us at least another hour or two to get to town.” Darcy was hot and tired as hell, but he would much rather sleep in a bed—even one in a cheap motel—than out in the woods, although they had to do that once or twice already. It wasn’t fun, and the ground wasn’t as comfortable as it looked.
And Darcy wasn’t even going to think about how pitch-black it was at night in the countryside.
“Then let’s get moving.” Sterling jogged in place, laughing when Darcy scowled at him. Every bone in his body ached from walking for so long, and Sterling was acting as if he were refreshed and invigorated by their travels. How in the hell did he do that?
“Chill or I’ll tie you to a tree and leave you out here for the bears.”
“There are bears in these woods?” Sterling swallowed hard as his head snapped around, his grey eyes glancing around the area wildly. “You never told me there were bears out here.” His brother looked like he had paled as his eyes grew rounder by the second. Darcy chuckled to himself. His brother was just too easy.
“There probably are, but you’re not sweet enough for them.” He sure as shit hoped there weren’t any bears out here. The thought hadn’t occurred to him when he was teasing Sterling. But now that he thought about it…
“You know what they say about outrunning a bear,” Sterling teased, but picked up his pace as he glanced around nervously.
“If you outrun me, I’ll make sure the bear eats us both,” Darcy warned, but hurried alongside his brother.
Why in the hell did he have to think of bears at a time like this? There was plenty of forest around them, making it easy to imagine a bear tromping out of the woods and giving chase. It was bad enough that Darcy was afraid of the dark. He didn’t need to start imagining wild animals trying to eat them.
Why, oh, why did he have to mention a large wild animal? Now that was all he was going to think about.
Sometimes he was so damn brilliant that he outsmarted himself.
Darcy and Sterling kept at an even pace, but their heads never stopped turning back and forth as they made their way toward town. It gave Darcy a solid headache by the time the small village came into view. Now not only was he hot and tired, but his neck was sore from the constant snapping back and forth. Gods, all he wanted was a cold shower and a soft bed.
Maybe something to eat as well. He was starving.
“It looks quaint,” Sterling commented as they walked past a recreation center. The building wasn’t large, but there were cars still in the parking lot and he could hear kids out back playing. “If we could settle here, I’d be happy.”
That was the first time Sterling had ever said anything about being happy in a town. His brother was usually the first one trying to hightail it out of a place. Darcy had tried to find something good about each town they had been in, but Sterling had always talked him into moving on.
Darcy was going to try his damndest to make sure Sterling liked it here, and he could find work. If Sterling was happy, Darcy wasn’t going to do anything to blight the feeling.
He spotted a diner up ahead after another mile of walking and headed straight for it. Diners were pretty easy gigs to handle. Washing dishes and busing tables wasn’t rocket science. Darcy just hoped this town wasn’t so small that they didn’t need any help.
Pushing the diner door open, Darcy could see the place had a fair amount of customers seated all around the place. He would have thought that in a small town like this, the diner would have one or two customers, but he had been wrong.
And damn was he glad he’d been wrong. Maybe they would find work after all. A small sliver of hope filled him as he and Sterling entered the diner. It wasn’t a run-down joint that had grease clinging to every surface. The place was well kept and nice looking. Darcy had seen some dives and shuddered at the thought that he and Sterling had eaten in those places.
But this place, he wouldn’t mind eating here anytime. It seemed the proprietor of this diner took pride in making sure the place stayed clean and the atmosphere homey.
Darcy liked it.
“It smells good in here,” Sterling commented as he inhaled deeply and then headed for a booth. Darcy followed, sniffing the air around him. The diner did smell good. Whoever was cooking knew what the hell they were doing.
A waiter came over to their booth, laying down silverware wrapped in a napkin for each of them as he smiled. “What can I get for you gentlemen?” he asked as he pulled an order pad from his half apron.
“I love your tattoos,” Sterling said as he leaned closer to the man. Darcy kicked his brother under the table, giving a slight shake to his head. He didn’t want his younger brother pissing anyone off as soon as they hit town. They were trying to find work, not get booted out.
“Thanks.” The waiter grinned. “I’m kind of fond of them myself.”
The smile looked genuine on the waiter’s face, so Darcy relaxed. People in small towns acted differently than in the big city. They took things a little more personally and Darcy really did want a job and a place to live.
Sterling was glaring at Darcy from across the table, but turned back to the waiter with a friendly smile. “I’ll have an orange juice and a job if you have one.”
Darcy was ready to smack Sterling. That was not how he planned on asking. His younger brother was acting strange as hell in this town, and Darcy prayed Sterling didn’t blow their chance of finding work by seeming overeager.
The waiter chuckled. “I’ll grab your juice, and I just might have a job for you as well.”
“Really?” Darcy asked in astonishment, his mouth slightly open. “Just like that?”
The waiter was still grinning, giving Darcy a quick nod. “Well, I’m not the boss, but I know that Cody is looking for a prep cook and a dishwasher.”
“I can wash dishes,” Sterling quickly said as he practically bounced in his seat. He looked pleased as hell with himself as he stared up at the waiter, who had a wall of flames licking around his neck, along with other tattoos on various parts of his visible skin. “Call me Mr. Scrubber.”
Darcy sat there in the diner with his mouth hanging wide open. What the hell had gotten into Sterling? The guy was acting as if he and the waiter were longtime friends. He couldn’t figure his brother out, but glanced up at the waiter for his answer.
“I’ll go get Cody. He’s the one you have to talk to,” the waiter said and then smiled at Darcy. “Do you want anything to drink?”
He quickly closed his mouth, glancing across the table at his brother who looked too damn smug for his own good. “A Coke,” Darcy answered.
“What was that all about?” Darcy asked once the waiter walked away.
“If we waited for your way of doing things, we might miss out on the chance to talk to the owner,” Sterling stated.“Face it, Darcy, you are not real smooth when it comes to talking deals.”
“Am so,” Darcy shot at his brother.“I got us our last job, didn’t I?”
Sterling snorted. It was a sound Darcy was growing used to from his brother, but it was still annoying as hell. He seemed to have developed the annoying sound just months ago, and Darcy wished Sterling had never picked the sound up. It was disgusting in his opinion.“Barely. I had to promise to work Sundays just to get us into the garage. Your standards are way too high, Darcy. I mean, we were looking for temporary work, and you started asking about a 401K and when our vacation was going to be. You can’t come out of the gate demanding benefits when we aren’t going to be there long.”
“I’m just trying to think of our future,” Darcy grumbled as he sank back into the soft cushion of the booth.“You’ll thank me when you are old and toothless.”
“I’m twenty-one, Darcy. That’s a long way off.” Sterling shook his head, as if Darcy were being unreasonable.
Darcy looked away from his brother and glanced around the busy diner. They’d had this argument before. Sterling lived in the here and now, never thinking about tomorrow. His brother was impulsive and never thought anything through.
Darcy on the other hand knew they would need a savings. He planned and saved what little money they made, investing it into stocks and bonds. He may only be twenty-five, but retirement would be here before both of them knew it. He had to think of their future, something Sterling refused to even talk about.
He was a bean counter. Sue him.
He also overanalyzed things until they were lying dead on the ground in agonizing pain. Darcy didn’t make a move unless he thought it through, and then flipped it over, and reexamined it from every angle. It was a wonder they had even left their old apartment with as many new decisions that had been made over the past few months.
Darcy saw the waiter talking with a guy behind the counter and then pointed over to their table. He sat up straighter, trying his best to look presentable as the man with every damn natural highlight imaginable in his hair looked their way. There was no way that hair coloring came from a bottle. Some people had all the luck when it came to good hair. It seemed Cody—if that was who the waiter was talking to—was blessed with not only good hair, but good looks as well.