Authors: Bailey Bradford
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
The odor of the bear, the sheer primal power of the beast, was more terrifying than anything Trent could ever have dreamed up—or have his imagination toss at him in a nightmare. It was like the demonic side of nature was on him, and Trent’s mind was close to fracturing over it.
“Get the fuck off of him!”
The shouted demand by Joe was followed by a shotgun blast. Trent couldn’t tell if he was being rolled over before or after the sound of that gun being fired. He just knew the room was spinning, then he was free of the weight, and Joe was yelling.
He wasn’t dead. Trent took a few seconds to let that sink in. Then Joe was there, pulling him up.
“Come on, before he comes back,” Joe ordered.
Trent couldn’t stand. His legs were still shaking too bad. “Won’t come back right now,” he rasped.
Joe pointed the gun at the sliding glass door. “Oh yes that fucker will. Diego’s out there with the twelve-gauge, waiting.”
Sure enough, another loud roar rent the air, followed by a sharp command from Diego for the bear to shift or die.
Since Trent didn’t hear another gunshot, he wasn’t too surprised when Mahon came back in, hands up, Diego behind him with that shotgun aimed at Mahon’s head.
Mahon refused to sit on the floor when Diego told him to.
Trent—though still feeling like he was made out of defective parts, everything was jittery inside, at least—put on his most sarcastic expression. “Scared of a little ol’ tarantula?”
Mahon shuddered so hard his teeth clacked together.
Trent frowned, not wanting to be cruel. He didn’t want to be a sucker, either. “Diego, don’t take your aim off of him.”
“I won’t,” Diego vowed.
Trent canted his head toward the couch. “Sit down on the couch, Mahon. You squashed that poor spider when you shifted. My trailer’s become an arachnid murder scene twice today.”
“I don’t like spiders,” Mahon whispered, ducking his head as his face turned red with a blush.
Trent studied him, noting the trembling, the wary looks at the floor and the dead tarantula in parts there. Mahon was a magnificently built man, but Trent had known that already. He just hadn’t gotten to see the man naked when they’d been fucking, and he hadn’t really checked Mahon out when he’d been unconscious, either.
Mahon was sex on two hairy, thickly muscled legs.
He was also a bear shifter, which was terrifying in Trent’s opinion.
So why was he still attracted to Mahon? Because he was.
Mahon sat on the couch after lifting the cushions, to check for spiders, Trent assumed.
“Why didn’t you kill me?” Trent asked. “Don’t give me any bullshit. We all know what’s what. Diego’s a shifter, his pack wanted to keep him and abuse him. He left, Joe and him found each other, and the alpha of the wolf pack sent a whole herd of betas to come get Diego, whether he wanted to go back or not.”
Mahon’s gaze was bouncing all over the place as he answered. “I didn’t mean to shift. And you killed most of the betas.”
“Trent wasn’t the only one that put bullets into those betas,” Joe said. “And he ain’t the only one with the video.”
Mahon looked confused at that. “What video?” He finally quit looking all over and focused on Trent.
Trent pulled his cell phone from his pocket and waved it in the air. “The video of Diego shifting back and forth. The video that will hit YouTube if anything happens to any of us—or if I hit upload.” Which wasn’t true. He did have the video on his phone but that was as far as it’d gotten.
Mahon tensed like he was going to run for it. He didn’t. “Can you play the video?”
Trent considered being a smartass and saying sure, but will I? He decided not to be that much of a jerk.
Trent pulled up the video and hit play, turning his phone so Mahon could see it. The clip wasn’t long, but it was very clear, with Diego dropping to his hands and knees, shifting then turning back to human form.
Mahon looked stricken. “That can’t get out. That can’t. We’ll all be destroyed, including Diego.”
“I’d rather die than be taken back,” Diego declared.
“I won’t let that happen,” Joe promised. “Hand me the gun, honey.”
Mahon hunched over, moving slowly to cup his head. “They didn’t tell me that. No one mentioned a video.”
“Well, you just saw it. We have it set up to go in the event that one or all of us gets kidnapped, eaten, et cetera, et cetera.” Trent almost felt bad for Mahon. “So if you had done whatever it was you were supposed to do, would that video have been released?”
Mahon took a full minute to answer, but when he did, he looked Trent directly in the eyes. “Yes.”
“Can I shoot him now, Trent?” Joe asked. “At least let me wing him.”
Trent knew his brother wasn’t the kind of man who could kill without very good reason. “No. No, I want to think about this. Y’all got anything that would keep him from breaking loose if he shifted again?”
“There’s that heavy chain,” Diego suggested.
Mahon lowered his head. He sure didn’t look like some alpha, and while he was big, he didn’t come across as a man that had to be in charge—maybe not even one that wanted to be, ever.
“You’re a pawn,” Trent realized. “Are you really the shifter bogeyman?”
Mahon had tensed up so much that all of his muscles bulged.
“The truth,” Trent said in a much gentler tone.
Mahon averted his gaze. “We’re all Mahon. It means bear. We’re all Morrison.”
“That’s confusing.” Trent couldn’t even make sense of it at first then Diego gasped at the same time pieces clicked together in Trent’s head. “All? So there are more bear shifters out there, doing the bidding of…of whom? And each of you has the same name?”
“Yes. We were raised up to be servants for the Cosgi, a few select shifters from varying breeds. They ensure the safety and protection of our kind.”
Trent laughed. “Well, they sure as shit dropped the ball on it this time.”
Mahon hunched over, propping his elbows on his knees. “It’s scarier to have shifters believe there’s just the one of us. I’m not the murdering version, either, in case you’re wondering. Though I was sent to kill you,” Mahon added, flicking a very fleeting glance at Trent. “They said you had Diego here—you and Joe—and Diego was being held against his will. That you had murdered several betas.”
“They were trying to kill us, and Diego—” Trent sent him a hopeful look.
Diego pulled off his shirt then stood in front of Mahon, but not close enough to be grabbed. “Look at me,” Diego said. “See all of these scars? Why would I want to go back to the pack that did this to me? Do you have any idea how much I was hurt? How often?”
Mahon clenched his jaw.
Trent knew how shocking it was to see Diego like that. The scars weren’t just contained to his torso and arms, either. He had them everywhere, even his private parts, his neck and his face.
“Why would I want to go back?” Diego asked again. “Joe loves me. I don’t ever want to leave him. We just want to be left alone, us and Trent.”
Mahon looked to be struggling with something. Trent waited, watching him.
Diego put his shirt back on. “These aren’t all of the scars, not at all.”
“He’s never going back to that pack,” Joe vowed.
Mahon folded his fingers together, and sat up straight. He tipped his head up. “I thought I was supposed to bring Diego back. I was told, kill Trent after holding him and making you give me what we needed. I thought that was Diego. Now, I think it was the video, the copies of it, everything to do with it.” He took a deep breath then let it out as he bowed his head again. “Then I was supposed to kill Joe.”
Mahon shook his head. “Your pack still wants you back, Diego. I didn’t know about…”
Diego moved to stand beside Joe. “How is that possible? If you’re from the east coast packs, you had to know how ours treat their omegas.”
“That’s just it. I haven’t been on the east coast in years. I was in Alaska making sure two of the packs there were protected. I kept the peace for two more packs in Wyoming, then more in Montana and South Dakota. A few other places. That was my job for almost a decade then I was called back.” Mahon rubbed at his eyes. “Then I was yanked out of that position and brought into this one.”
“Because you didn’t know the details,” Trent mused. “And this is all interesting, but I’m not sure I believe it. So what do we do with you?”
Mahon eyed the gun. “I wanted to live to be older, much older, but if you’re going to kill me, make it clean and quick.”
“Not much clean about most gunshot wounds,” Trent told him. “Killing… I did it when I had to. And when the tarantula scared me earlier. I don’t like doing it, though. I don’t want to.”
Mahon finally looked a little hopeful. “You could—those chains Diego mentioned?”
But Trent didn’t want to keep the man bound up. He waved the idea aside. “No. You tell me, right now, what you’re going to do. You’ll be free to leave here afterwards.”
“I don’t know, other than not kill you or Joe, or take Diego back.”
Diego muttered something Trent couldn’t hear then spoke. “You sign your own death warrant then. Not with Trent, or Joe, or me, but with the people who sent you. The Cosgi, right?”
“Or I go after them, take them all out,” Mahon said. “Their purpose, they say, is to keep shifter kind safe and hidden from human discovery, but it doesn’t seem like that’s all they’re doing.”
Trent hummed, considering that. “Don’t you think it’d just be easier to take off and hope they never found you?”
Mahon shook his head. “The next Mahon they sent wouldn’t give you a chance to take him down with a water hose.”
“There’s a story I gotta hear.” Joe looked at Trent expectantly.
“It was all I had in my hands when I went outside and spotted him,” Trent explained. “So I used the pressure nozzle and soaked him.”
“They’ll send others,” Mahon said again.
“Yeah, I got that, and I think Joe and Diego did, too,” Trent said, as he scratched his chin. “I wonder if they’ll back off if they get it very clearly explained to them what happens if something happens to one or all of us.”
Joe held the gun steady as he spoke. “We told the surviving betas. They know. They passed the message along.”
“Maybe not completely.” Mahon shrugged when Trent gave him an inquisitive look. “You didn’t send back the best and the brightest from what I saw, and only one survived the trip home. The other was shot. If the male was the smartest beta, then there’s no hope for wolf shifters in this world.”
Trent knew there was another reason, one that was very accurate if it had been figured out. “There’s also the very real chance the alpha doesn’t believe we would post the video since it would endanger Diego. Or he doesn’t care and wants us dead. He might even have plans in place to stop the video from being uploaded and played, though I don’t see how.”
Mahon was nodding in agreement. “So the alpha, Xavier, must be killed. The rest of the pack can be dealt with accordingly.”
“You’re on our side now?” Diego asked skeptically.
Mahon didn’t answer.
Trent walked over and held his hand out. “Give me the gun. You two, go home. Lock the doors, keep weapons at hand.”
“We’re going to get the chains, and you’ll lock that asshole up with them or we can all camp out here—or we can just shoot him,” Joe finished with.
Diego came up onto his toes in a little bounce move. “We should stay here anyway or all stay at the big house. What if more…um, Mahons show up?”
“It’s possible.” Mahon’s stomach rumbled loudly. “Sorry.”
Trent felt bad for the man. He couldn’t help it. He didn’t think Mahon was lying. That connection between them was still there, and he’d swear it acted as a lie detector of sorts. He also believed that, given a little time, Mahon would be on his side.
Speaking of Mahon…
“I’d call you Finn. Finn Beckett, if I got to pick a name for you.”
Mahon pointed to himself. “Me?”
Trent just kept from scoffing. The sarcasm he couldn’t restrain. “Well, yeah. You’re the one without a name, right? You’re part of a scary tale, not a living, unique being. I’ve always liked Finn, but you pick something whenever you’re ready.”
Mahon’s eyebrows met over his nose and he looked confused. “You say that like you think I’ll be here after tonight.”
Trent just smiled.
* * * *
Mahon’s whole life had been a lie, but he’d always known that, hadn’t he? Sharing the same name with five other bear shifters, being isolated from their own kind except for the six of them and the bear shifters who had seen to their training. He’d been used. How much blood did he have on his hands? Any was too much, his conscience said. Seeing Trent, Joe and Diego together had him questioning everything he’d been told, all the assignments he’d done—especially Diego, who was clearly happy with Joe and unwilling to return to his pack.
So how many others had he been told lies about? At least he hadn’t been ordered to kill—before this job.
He didn’t think he could trust anyone but himself, and even that was an
If he wasn’t being manipulated by anyone else, if he could think for himself, if he knew what he needed to do, if he knew what was right. If he’d known about the abuse Diego’s pack had meted out, would he have come to fetch Diego? Would he have seen that Diego hadn’t been brain-washed if Diego had refused to return with him?
His mind latched onto the subject of a name. He’d tried to ignore the fact that he was one of a label of six. The offer to be someone, someone just him, was very tempting.
Not Finn Beckett. That was a name someone else had chosen. He kept thinking about it on the ride to Joe and Diego’s, then again as he waited for them to figure out how to use the chain.
“Fuck it, bub. We can lock him in the attic, since it’s got that thick plywood down for flooring. Otherwise we’ll have to cut chain, find locks—that’s a lot more work than I want to get into at almost midnight. We’ve got work to do tomorrow, and someone needs to find Mahon here some clothes.” Trent pointed at him. “If we put you up there, it’ll be hot, but there’s one small AC vent that blows up there. Stay by it.”