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Curse of the Cougars (MM)

Blackwater Falls

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 53,393
Available Formats
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ePub
Mobi

Hostage negotiator Sloane McClaine has things under control at a hostage scene when things go terribly wrong. Suffering from a concussion and embroiled in a wrongful death lawsuit, he is recovering at home when it comes time for the dark of the moon. His lover, Holden MacKay talks him into coming to Blackwater Falls to finish his recuperation during the three dangerous days, and Sloane reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, shifters Travis and Camron get shocking news that freaks them both out and precipitates an argument that drives Travis away from home. He runs to Holden, his former best friend, who takes him in even though he knows it will cause trouble with a furious Camron. Travis is unable to shift and now Holden has two people to worry about keeping safe during the dark moon, but that isn’t the worst of it. Someone is lurking around the bar late at night while Holden and the rest of the cougars are on the prowl. Strange screams have been heard on the mountain and someone is throwing rocks at the house to lure Sloane and Camron outside. An injured Sloane is forced to rely on instinct and ingenuity if he’s going to be able to survive the dark moon and get himself and Camron out of this alive.

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Excerpt

A mating between two cougar shifter males was almost unheard of in the town of Blackwater Falls. Sex between them might be possible, even enjoyable, but they’d never be able to live together for long without one of them killing or seriously injuring the other in a bid for control—one of them would have to be in charge, and that was just the nature of their kind, or so it had been said. Add to that the idea of the two males in question being from two different and usually less than friendly clans, and a recipe for disaster was in the making.

Camron MacKay thought that he and his mate Travis Sutherland were proving the old adage to be untrue. When Camron first realized Travis was his true mate, he knew the dominant partner would be him. He was older, bigger and more responsible, certainly, and he had an aggressiveness that Travis lacked. Travis was spoiled and lazy and young when they first got together, but he also had a sweetness and generosity of spirit that Camron didn’t have. Camron was crazy about him, even after a year together and didn’t know how he could have lived so long without him. He thought they made a perfect team. Still, it was difficult, trying to be the dominant male and not cause his mate to resent him or hurt his mate’s pride in any way. In that respect, he was still trying to find a balance.

Take now, for instance, on a morning when Camron was in a hurry to get started because he needed to go pick up a vehicle for one of his best customers, an auto repair shop at the foot of the mountain, and he couldn’t seem to get Travis out of bed.

“Travis, baby, please. Wake your ass up and get in the shower and I’ll fix us some breakfast.”

Travis rolled over on his back and Camron was a little alarmed at how pale he looked. “No,” Travis moaned. “God, no breakfast. I feel like…I think I’m gonna be…”

He got a panicky look on his face and kicked at the covers that had twisted themselves around his legs, trying desperately to get up. Camron, who could see he wasn’t going to make it in time, grabbed for an empty plastic wastebasket nearby and shoved it in his mate’s arms, then held his long, blond hair back as he vomited helplessly into it.

He knelt beside Travis in concern, holding onto the calf of his leg, just wanting to touch him to reassure Travis he was with him. When Travis finally stopped retching and wiped his mouth, falling sideways onto the pillow, Camron grabbed for the wastebasket, putting it on the floor and climbing up beside Travis.

“Damn baby, what’s wrong? Did you eat something bad? Do you think you have a stomach bug?”

“I don’t know,” Travis said, his voice sounding weak. “I didn’t feel great to begin with— that heartburn I had last night just got worse and worse and I woke up in the middle of the night feeling nauseated. I got back to sleep, but then you said ‘breakfast’ and…” he made another gagging sound. “Oh. Oh shit, not again!”

Camron scooped him up in his arms, with Travis flailing like he always did when Camron picked him up. He hated being “manhandled” as he called it, but this was an emergency—Camron loved Travis more than anything, but he wasn’t keen on cleaning up his vomit from the bed and the floor, so he didn’t waste any time. He made it to the bathroom with him before Travis emptied what was left of the contents of his stomach, just barely getting him settled down by the commode before he lost it. The poor thing was mostly down to dry heaves now, his face clammy and with only slightly more color than the porcelain.

After getting a cold cloth to wipe Travis’s face and helping him to sit on the side of the tub, Camron quickly flushed the toilet, disposed of the contents of the wastebasket, rinsed it and put it back by the bed. He went back for Travis, who was still sitting naked and shivering on the side of the tub. He slept in the nude most nights, with both he and Camron taking a lot of pleasure from it, but now he just looked cold and weak. Camron was suffused with tenderness for him.

“I’m going to pick you up again, okay, sweetheart? Just to take you back to bed.” Travis nodded weakly and slipped his arms around Camron’s neck. They made the trip with less thrashing around this time and Camron tucked him back in bed, straightening the covers. “Look, just give me a minute to call someone at the shop and get them to go make that pickup and I’ll be right back.”

Travis waved his hand without opening his eyes. “No, just go on. I think I’m feeling a little better now. Damn, I have no idea what that was. It came on so quick.”

“At least let me call the doc before I go…”

“Nah, I’ll be okay. I can call him myself if this doesn’t stop soon. You go ahead. I know Mike’s Body Shop is an important customer. He really wants you to do his towing for him, not anybody else at the shop.”

Camron stood by the side of the bed uncertainly for a few more seconds, wanting to go, but trying to decide if Travis was serious when he said he wouldn’t mind. Lately, Travis had been so unpredictable with his mood swings—calm and happy one minute and grouchy and irritable the next.
“Well, if you’re really sure…”

“I’m sure. I’m just going to try to sleep a little more if that’s okay and then I’ll go down to the shop and keep an eye on things.”

“Of course, it’s okay. I’m not your boss, honey, the business is yours too. No, you stay here in bed. Don’t worry about the shop—I’ll tell Jed that you’re not coming in today, and he can handle the front desk.” Since Camron and Travis had mated a little over a year ago, Travis had gradually worked his way out of his father’s hardware store and into becoming Camron’s full-time partner in his towing business. Camron’s business had been growing rapidly since Travis had come to work with him. With Travis handling the phone calls that came in, they were no longer missed because Camron was out on a job, and their business had rapidly expanded. Travis had also been the one to contact some of the local body shops around the area and offer them special deals for their business. Camron knew full well they owed a lot of their success to Travis and he was proud of him for the way he’d taken on extra responsibility.

“All right. I’m taking off then. Promise me you’ll call me if you get worse.” “Okay, then,” Travis murmured, closing his eyes.

Still dithering around, Camron cleared his throat. “I could call your mama to come stay with you.”

Travis peered up at him through narrowed eyes. “Don’t even think about it.”

Camron laughed softly, hesitating for another moment, smoothing the hair from Travis’s face as his long dark eyelashes swept back down on his cheeks again. His damn mating instincts were kicking in and he was feeling protective and guilty for leaving Travis.

Travis opened one eye and growled at Camron. “Don’t baby me.”

“Okay, okay,” Camron said, dropping his hand and taking a step back. There was that mood swing again. Damn, Travis was getting as mean as his mama, and that was saying a mouthful. “Love you,” he said softly as he backed toward the door.

Travis mumbled something that might have been, “You too,” and kept his eyes closed as Camron eased the door closed behind him.

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