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Authors: Stephani Hecht

Tags: #GLBT, #Gay, #Paranormal, #Erotic Romance, #Shapeshifter

The Trials of Gregg (5 page)

BOOK: The Trials of Gregg
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Gregg ducked his head so Mitchell and John wouldn’t see the blush that was sure to be there. He didn’t get compliments very often, so he didn’t know how to react whenever he got one. He was more used to slurs and mean comments being tossed his way. All thanks to his father.

Which reminded him, he only had until after dinner to be with John, then he had to head home to make sure Tiffy was fed. At school, she got lunch, but once classes let out, she was on her own.

Looking over at John and seeing the bags under the man’s eyes, Gregg realized that, for at least today, it wouldn’t be an issue to call it an early day. But Gregg would have to figure out something for the other days. Maybe he would just have to bring Tiffy along. It was probably against protocol, but it was the only feasible solution Gregg could come up with.

“We’ll have somebody deliver some uniforms to your new living quarters right away,” Mitchell said. “Gregg, have you decided where John will be staying?”

“I was thinking about the ones across from Ash and Doc Featherstone. He’s already met them, and if he needs anything, he can go to them for help.”

Mitchell nodded. “That’s a great choice. Why don’t you go show it to him now? He looks tired enough to fall asleep standing up. I’m willing to bet he didn’t get any sleep last night.”

John let out a bitter laugh. “No. Since I was too worried about what was going to happen to me today, I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.”

“I still can’t believe Spencer would leave you in the dark like that. You would think he’d be more considerate than that, considering who he is,” Mitchell growled.

Ah, so Gregg hadn’t been wrong after all. He could have sworn he had detected a hint of feline on the general, but it had only been slight. So either the general was good at masking his smell, or he was only half shifter. Either way, that would explain why he was the liaison to the coalition. It would also explain why he looked so young. Shifters aged at a much slower rate than humans did.

Gregg gave Mitchell a small nod. “I’ll go take him to his room right now.”

John and Gregg left the office, then Gregg led John to his room. They had to go down several more hallways and make a ton of turns. Gregg knew it was going to take John forever to learn how to navigate his way around the coalition.

“Don’t worry about finding your way around here just yet. I’ll come and get you in the morning and take you to the cafeteria for breakfast,” Gregg promised.

John let out a nervous sounding laugh. “Thanks, I was a little worried there for a while.”

“I promise not to let you get lost.”

Gregg meant that in so many ways, too. He wasn’t going to let this whole new world swallow John whole. Gregg was going to do his best to protect John. While John might be bigger and stronger than Gregg, Gregg knew his way around the shifter world better, and he planned on protecting the Lion. No matter the cost.

They arrived at the door to John’s new living quarters. Gregg handed the keys to John. “Here, since it’s your new home, I’ll let you do the honors.”

John took the keys and opened the door. The apartment was pretty much like the other living quarters of all the others at the coalition—spartan, yet still a bit homey. It had the same hardwood floors and warm-colored walls. A few paintings hung on the wall. There was a couch, a large screen TV, a well-stocked kitchen with a table and chairs. In the back was a bedroom with an attached bathroom.

“It’s not much. I know,” Gregg said. “But it’s a home.”

“Seeing how yesterday at this time I thought I would be tied down to a metal table and having my innards probed, this place is heaven,” John said.

“I guess it would be.”

John walked around a bit, opening cupboards and such. Gregg was pleased to find that everything fully stocked and ready to go. So John shouldn’t need anything. Just to be sure, Gregg peeked into the bedroom. It had a nice-sized bed fully made. Good, John could crash as soon as Gregg left.

Gregg went back out to the living room. “Do you have any more questions before I leave?”

John shook his head. “I think I’ll be fine.”

“Somebody should be here in a few minutes to bring you your uniforms. If I know Mitchell, they’ll also have a cell phone for you.” Gregg grabbed a nearby pad of paper and wrote his number down on it. “If you need anything, call me. I don’t care what time it is.”

John studied Gregg for a moment. “Thank you, for everything.”

Gregg ducked his head. “I was only doing what Mitchell told me.”

“Somehow I feel that you did a much better job than most would.”

A heat flushed over Gregg’s face. “I know how hard this must be on you. I want to make things easier for you. After everything you’ve gone through, it’s the least I can do.”

“I have to admit you have made things easier on me.”

Gregg looked up in shock. “I have?”

That had been the last thing he’d been expecting to hear. He was so used to hearing what a burden he always was. How much of a loser he was, and that he would never amount to anything. The last thing he expected was a compliment. Especially, since all he’d been doing was being nice to another person.

“Yeah, I don’t think I could have made it through today without you,” John said.

Gregg made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “You would have done fine. You’re a tough guy.”

“Maybe so, but even tough guys have trouble when they have their whole world ripped out from underneath them. You helped me back on my feet again.”

Then John did the most amazing thing of all. He stepped forward and gave Gregg the softest kiss. It was over before it even really began. But it still left Gregg’s body buzzing and his head spinning.

Well, guess that answered the question on whether John was gay or not because no straight man would have done that. Gregg brought a hand up to his tingling lips.

“Why did you just do that?” he asked.

“Because I’ve been dying to do it since I first saw you.”

Wow, that came as a shocker because all day long Gregg hadn’t picked up on any vibes that John had been attracted to him at all. But then Gregg had always been crappy at that kind of thing. Which is why his dating life sucked.

“Thank you. I’ve wanted you to do it to me since I first saw you, too,” Gregg said.

As soon as he said that, he cringed. He knew how much of a loser he’d just sounded. Now he’d be lucky if he got a second glance, much less a second kiss. Luckily, the comment didn’t seem to bother John at all. He let out a chuckle before running the back of his fingers down Gregg’s cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“I can’t wait,” Gregg said, meaning every word of it.

Gregg walked out and made his way to the cafeteria. It was getting close to dinnertime, and he needed to get a tray for Tiffy. He decided he would eat with her that day rather than with the guys. All they would do was pepper him with questions, and he wasn’t ready to answer them. Not when he himself didn’t know half the answers yet.

He loaded up the tray, then took it back to their living quarters. Entering cautiously, he was pleased to see the living room was empty. Gregg let out a sigh of relief. That must mean his father was at one of the many shifter dive bars. If he and Tiffy were lucky, their dad would pass out there, and then they would be free of the asshole’s presence for the entire night.

Tiffy was still in school, so Gregg sat the tray down, then went to the kitchen to grab some condiments and napkins. He was about to go back to Tiffy’s room when the door swung open.

Gregg froze. It was still too early for Tiffy to be home, so that could only mean one thing. His father was back, and they were about to have a confrontation. There was no doubt about it in Gregg’s mind. Whenever the man was awake and in Gregg’s presence, that’s what always happened. It was the way things had always been since his mother had left, and they would never change.

Gregg came out of the kitchen as his father slammed the front door. Gregg cringed, wondering how many Hawks had heard that. The last thing Gregg wanted was more whispering about what was going on in their family. It was already bad enough his father was known as the cast drunk. To add the fact he was a mean, abusive drunk would only make things all the more humiliating. Not that Gregg’s dad seemed to care about that kind of thing anymore. It would seem keeping up his reputation was the last thing on his list of worries.

Gregg’s dad stumbled forward. He was dressed in a pair of jeans that were at least two sizes too big and had numerous stains on them. He’d paired them with a t-shirt that was so old and faded that the logo on the front was no longer recognizable. His once-full head of lush brown hair was now thinning and patchy, a side effect of the shifter liquor he consumed. So were the rotten teeth that now filled his mouth, giving him the worst breath possible. It even overrode the stench of the booze. Even the man’s coloring looked horrible. He had a yellowish tint to his skin, and there was a waxy appearance to it, making him look like a cheap candle. There were large bags under his eyes, and his nose was bright red and covered in small spider veins.

“What in the hell are you doing here?” his father demanded. “Shouldn’t you be off, pretending you’re actually some sort of soldier or something?”

“I’m off duty right now, and I
am
an actual soldier,” Gregg said in a tired voice.

Gregg’s dad let out a brittle laugh. “Like they would let a scrawny fuckup like you see any real action. They probably have you on some team that only does cleanup work or something. I’ll bet you have never seen any real action.”

Even though he knew it would only make things worse, Gregg argued back. “My team is usually one of the first ones called out when there is a battle going on. So I see plenty of action, thank you very much. In fact, I’m the best shot in my group. Not that you ever bother to ask.”

“You’re lying. I know you better than anybody, and there’s no way that you’re good at anything, let alone the best. You’re nothing more than a disappointment. A loser. You’re the whole reason why your mother left.”

“No, Mom left because you were a drunk, and she didn’t want to put up with your verbal abuse anymore.”

His father gave a savage grin, showing off his brown, stained teeth. “And you were so special that she took you with her?”

God, but his dad was the king of sarcasm. He also knew how to hit hard. That comment stung so hard it felt like an actual physical blow to Gregg. He had to pause a moment to take in some steadying breaths before he continued.

“I never said Mom was any better a parent than you. Tiffy and I both got screwed in that department,” Gregg snapped.

“If you don’t like it, you are free to leave at any time.”

“You know I’ll only leave if I can take Tiffy with me.”

Gregg’s father laughed as he shook his head. “I’ve already told you that’s never going to happen. She stays with me.”

“What does it matter to you? You never even talk to her, much less acknowledge her presence. I’m the one that takes care of her, feeds her, makes sure she has clothes to wear, and cares for her when she’s sick. You sure as hell don’t.”

“Maybe so, but I’m still not letting you take you with her if you leave.”

Gregg fumed. He knew his father was doing that out of spite. It was the only way he could keep Gregg under his iron will for there was no way Gregg would ever leave Tiffy alone with that monster. No matter how Gregg looked at it, he was trapped, and there was no way he would be getting out of his prison any time soon.

Chapter Six

 

 

The next couple of days went by like a blur to John. The only thing that seemed to keep him anchored in place was the fact that Gregg never left his side. Without the Hawk shifter, John knew he would have been lost in more ways than one.

The coalition didn’t waste any time in assigning John a military team. Since Gregg was his mentor, they put him with Gregg. John didn’t say it aloud, but he was both relieved and excited at the same time. That would mean that even after Gregg was finished mentoring him, they would still be seeing each other every day.

That meant a lot to John, too, because with each passing moment, he found himself growing more and more attracted to Gregg. Even though all they had shared was that one all-too-brief kiss. It had come to the point where Gregg was consuming nearly all of John’s thoughts. Which was odd since John had never felt this drawn to another man before.

They were currently in the gym, practicing sparring. John was going up against some Jaguar named Bowie. While Bowie was trying his best, it was obvious that he was a rookie.

Bowie finally let his arms drop. “I’m never going to get this.”

John’s heart went out to the newbie. He knew how hard it was when first starting out in the military. It was both scary and daunting most of the times. There was a reason why there was such a high dropout rate.

“You can do this. I see great potential in you,” John assured him. “You just need some more practice is all.”

“You think?” Bowie asked, his face growing hopeful.

Or at least John thought his face was hopeful. At the moment, his long blond hair was obstructing his face and keeping John from seeing much. John had heard one of the leaders ordering Bowie to go the barber to get it cut after the morning’s session. John personally thought it would do a lot more for the rookie. Not only would he be able to fight better, but long hair could be a danger in battle. The enemy could easily grab ahold of it and use it against you.

“I know so,” John said. “You just need to believe in yourself and not give up. The only reason I’m beating you is that I’ve been doing this for years. You’re just starting out. Soon you’ll gain some experience and be fighting right alongside the rest of us.”

Bowie looked down at his gloves. “I hope you’re right. It’s been a dream of mine, ever since I was a kid, to be a soldier. Of course, until last year, I thought it would be part of the human military.”

“So you’re a lost shifter, too?”

Bowie nodded. “Yeah, I found out when they tracked me down at my local college and dragged me here. I didn’t believe them until one of the men shifted into a Tiger right in front of my eyes. It freaked the shit out of me, but it finally did convince me that what they were saying was the truth.”

BOOK: The Trials of Gregg
5.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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