Authors: Becca Jameson
“Ha ha.” Liam planted a kiss on Jaden’s lips and then continued. “We get to run free all summer in wolf form. It’ll take no time at all each day to collect the data we need if we shift to get to the locations and work together. We can stuff our supplies in a pack and carry them on our backs. The rest of the day we can lounge around, swim, drink beer, and traipse through the woods free of detection. How many times in your life have you been able to do that for months on end?”
The man was right. Never. Jaden had not ever had the luxury of spending long periods of time in wolf form, one with nature. He’d been born and raised in Knoxville. Hell, he’d gone to college there and even taken a teaching position there. His life had been a steady stream of…boring.
“Come on.” Liam grabbed Jaden’s arm. “Let’s get the car unloaded and then investigate.”
Jaden was surprised there was even electricity out this far. And running water. They were a few miles from the nearest town where they’d have to go occasionally for supplies. Internet and cell service would be a joke.
Liam pushed past him again, lugging the laptops they would use to input data and setting them both on the chair in front of the single desk in the room.
“This is awfully rustic,” Jaden pronounced. “Can’t say I’ve ever stayed in a one-room cabin with no television for entertainment before. Feel like I’ve gone back in time.” He stepped outside and did a double take of the inside of the structure, hoping it had been an illusion and he would find the accommodations much more palatable on second glance.
Nope. Same small shack, different view.
Liam moved quicker than Jaden. He always did. He was by far the more energetic of the two. He unloaded twice as many boxes and suitcases as Jaden in half the time. Liam didn’t complain, but he made Jaden’s head spin sometimes.
“Ain’t this cute?” Liam asked, opening the half-sized refrigerator and unpacking the grocery sacks into it.
“Do we have to talk like we’re backward just because we’re in the middle of nowhere, Li?”
“Yep.” Liam didn’t even look up, but Jaden heard the smile on his lips. He was insufferably positive. “Here.” Liam tossed a beer at Jaden. “Have a drink and relax. It’s going to be fun. Trust me.”
No way was Jaden going to turn down a cold brew. He was already hot, and it was barely noon. They’d left the apartment early and stopped only once to grab supplies in the neighboring town. Out here in the middle of nowhere, who cared what time he started his first beer? He tipped his head back and took a long swig before he relaxed his shoulders and sat on the room’s only sofa.
He glanced around. To the left was the kitchen area—fridge, small oven-stove combo, microwave, table, four chairs. He grinned. What would they do with four chairs? He needed to lighten up. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this plan for the summer. Liam was totally right about everything. The freedom to run free would do wonders for their lupine sides.
He turned to the right next. It wasn’t a king-size bed, but a queen was better than a full. The mattress looked decent. At least there was that. A dresser stood next to the bed. Wouldn’t take long to unpack their suitcases and stow the contents. The couch was flanked by a chair. Nothing fancy. They faced a fireplace. Jaden couldn’t see them needing to light a fire anytime soon.
“What’s so funny?” Liam shut the fridge and sauntered toward Jaden with his head cocked to one side.
Jaden didn’t realize he’d been chuckling. “This place. It’s comical. You have to admit.”
“It’s perfect. All we need is each other and the great outdoors.” Liam didn’t stop until he leaned over Jaden and pinned him with his gaze. “Are you going to bitch and moan all summer? Or can you just get it out of your system now and we can move on?”
Jaden sobered. “I’m good.” It was true. The place was fine. The atmosphere was perfect. Hell, they could probably just sit around naked most of the time. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. He wouldn’t be opposed to watching Liam strut his fine ass back and forth across the one-room cabin for three months.
There were benefits to this arrangement.
Liam stood and nodded toward the door. “Did we get everything?”
“I think so.”
Couldn’t we start out this little trip by christening the inside of the cabin?
“Let’s go explore the area. I’m sure we’ll be quite familiar with it in no time, but I’m eager.” Liam smiled big and opened the door.
Apparently sex was not going to happen first…
Jaden dragged himself off the couch and followed Liam outside. There was a nice breeze. He knew it would soon be hotter than hell and thanked God the cabin at least had a window unit or they’d swelter at night.
There were paths leading away from the cabin in every direction. A lot of their research would have to be catalogued off the beaten path, but at least they could explore a bit without worrying about proper clothing this afternoon. Poisonous plants, snakes, and spiders would be their main concern. They’d usually be traipsing around in long pants to protect themselves from the random creatures amongst the vegetation.
Jaden followed Liam a ways down his randomly selected path before running into his back. “What the…?”
Liam lifted up one hand to stop Jaden from continuing and tilted his head to one side.
Jaden held on to Liam’s bicep with one hand and strained his neck forward to catch whatever sound had made Liam pause. He jerked when a keening cry filled the air on the breeze.
What the hell is that?
It didn’t sound like any noise he’d ever heard before. Great. Their first hour here and already mysterious animal noises filled their ears.
“That is not human,” Liam declared.
Liam tiptoed a few steps forward. “It’s coming from that direction, and whatever animal it is, it’s in distress.” Liam pointed north.
“And you think we should go investigate of course.” Naturally Liam would need to go check out the source of the horrible sound. Was something dying? Perhaps a large animal had captured a smaller one? This was the forest for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t unheard of.
Liam picked up the pace, increasing until he was jogging. “You think it’s a wolf?”
Jaden shivered as he followed. He’d thought the same thing. But why would a wolf be in distress? They were pretty high up on the food chain in this area. It was rare for one to be caught and killed by another animal.
As the crying grew stronger, Jaden slowed and grabbed Liam’s arm. “Be careful. You have no idea what you’re up against.”
Liam nodded and inched forward until they came to a small clearing.
The second Jaden stuck his face out from between the trees, he gasped. “Fuck.” He raced forward with Liam on his heels.
It was a wolf all right, and there was a distinctly good reason why it was in distress—it was stuck in an old abandoned trap. When Jaden knelt in front of the poor creature and reached forward, he startled so badly he almost toppled over backward. Only the urgency of the situation saved him from falling on his ass.
He took a long, deep breath in and released it without blinking. That inhale told him all he needed to know.
The little wolf was female. She was a shifter. And not just any shifter. She was his mate.
Jaden swallowed and reached for her fur. She winced, her eyes huge and bulging as she pleaded with him using just her gaze. Her glance moved from side to side as she took in Liam at his left.
At least she’d stopped crying, though her mouth hung open as she panted, and she shuddered when Jaden stroked her fur. “It’s okay, honey. We’re going to get you out of this.” He turned to Liam, who stared open-mouthed also, not breathing. “Right, Liam? You have any idea how these traps work?”
Liam seemed to jerk out of a trance. He turned toward Jaden and then swatted his hand away from the little wolf. He bared his teeth at Jaden when he looked back. “She’s my mate,” he growled.
Jaden smiled. “Perfect. Because she’s mine too.”
A tiny cry made them both look back toward the object of their newly formed affection. Her huge green eyes pleaded with them again to stop bickering and get her out of this fix.
Jaden leaned forward to examine her paw. Her hind leg was stuck good, the jaws of the trap having snapped closed around the lower section. He gingerly examined the paw and leg and determined her leg was indeed broken. They needed to get her out of the trap as quickly as possible. Who knew how long she’d been lying here.
“You hold her steady, and I’ll pry the jaws open,” Liam stated. He gripped the edges of the rusty metal and braced himself to open the trap. “Ready?”
Jaden gripped her little paw and her leg with both hands and nodded. “Go.” Seconds later, he’d pulled her free, her wail of pain piercing the air. He pulled her into his arms, careful to avoid the broken leg, and stood. “Let’s get her back to the cabin and see what we need to do.”
Emma panted heavily. Where the hell had these two men come from? Was she dead and heaven had sent two sexy gods to rescue her for eternity?
The taller one with dark brown hair and deep brown eyes held her against his chest. He smelled fantastic and soothed her with his tone as he dashed between the trees toward whatever cabin he’d mentioned.
The shorter one, which wasn’t saying much since both men were almost six feet tall, ran alongside his partner, glancing at her every few seconds. The concern furrowing his brow warmed her heart. No one had ever looked at her with that much devotion to her well-being.
She relaxed into the dark-haired man’s chest, letting him take her wherever he pleased. Her notion that this was heaven faded. She shouldn’t be in such pain if she were dead.
She’d been in that trap for only half an hour when the knights of her imagination showed up for the rescue. She wouldn’t have flinched if they’d been on white horses at this point.
In no time, they arrived at a cabin and entered. The inside was cool, much cooler than the weather she’d been experiencing the last few days. How the hell had she not seen this place earlier? Like before she’d stepped into a trap.
The dark-haired man set her on the kitchen table and stroked her jaw. “I’m gonna see what needs to be done here, okay? Can you be brave?”
She nodded her wolf head. She had no way to communicate verbally in wolf form, but she could at least nod assent.
“Good.” Jaden moved down her body and lifted her bleeding leg.
The blond man petted her ears and stared into her eyes. She’d been in so much pain, she’d not paid attention to much of what they’d said earlier, but suddenly she inhaled deeply and realized a few truths. These men were her mates. Both of them. Jesus, two of them? And they knew it too. They’d mentioned as much outside.
. This was not good. She was on the run. No time for mates. No time for anything out of the ordinary—like a broken leg. But no way in hell could she allow herself to be claimed. It was too dangerous. For them and for her. She closed her eyes, letting the realization soak into her mind.
She needed to get away as soon as possible. But with a broken leg and who knew what other internal damage,
was probably not going to be quick enough.
“Hold her steady, Liam. I’m going to set this bone. It’s a clean break, but it needs to be set as soon as possible. Who knows how long she’s been out there. I’m guessing less than an hour judging by the flow of bleeding. The slice to the leg is clean. I don’t think it needs stitches.”
The blond, who must be Liam, held her body with one hand and her head with his other. It wasn’t as though she was going anywhere.
When the pain hit her, she nearly fainted. Intense, sharp, distinct pain unlike anything she’d ever experienced wafted through her body. It didn’t even compare to the moment the trap had snapped her leg in the first place.
She heaved for breaths. Liam stroked her fur all along her head and body. “So sorry, baby. It’s over now. Jaden set it. The pain will ease in a moment.” He turned toward his partner. “Do we have any ibuprofen?”
“Of course. You don’t think I came all the way out here without a first aid kit, do you?” Jaden joked. These men were friendly. A peace settled over her entire body even before Jaden returned with two tablets. “Can you swallow, honey?” He turned away from her. She heard water running. Seconds later he set a bowl next to her jaw.
Water. The sweet, sweet taste of water would be the most welcome thing in the world right now. Clean, fresh, delicious. She’d never take it for granted again…if she lived through this experience.
Liam lifted her head and helped her line up with the bowl. She lapped at the cool liquid until he set her back down. “Don’t overdo it, baby. Your stomach might get upset from the pain. A little at a time.”
Jaden stepped up to her hind leg. “I’m going to clean up the cut and then splint this so it can heal some, okay? Just hold as still as possible.”
His hands were so gentle, caring. Tears welled up in her eyes. She wanted to shift and thank them for their kindness. But she knew better. If she shifted now, she could damage the leg.
As though reading her thoughts, Jaden spoke as he washed her fur and then wrapped her hind leg and paw in an Ace bandage around a butter knife. Resourceful. “You need to stay in wolf form, baby, at least until we’re sure this break is stable. Don’t want to risk damage to the human bones. You’ll heal faster in wolf form anyway. Any tendon or ligament damage will heal faster this way too.” He ran his fingers into the fur on her back, his touch soothing as her breathing slowed.
Liam stepped to her side and lifted her against his chest. He carried her to the sofa in the center of the room and set her down with great care. “Comfortable?”
As much as I can be. And more than I ever expected in this lifetime
“More water?” Jaden leaned next to her and held the little bowl out.
She stuck her tongue out and took another lap. She felt so tired. A deep exhaustion overcame her. She’d been on her own and tensed for a fight for two weeks by her count. She’d been the walking dead before the trap accident—probably the reason why she’d not been paying close enough attention to her surroundings.