Riley should have known going for a run in his wolf form was a stupid idea. Now he has three hunters after him, and no means to find help, at least until he stumbles on a tent and a nice human.
The last thing Vaughn expected when he decided to hike the Colorado Trail was to save a wolf from hunters—and have that wolf shift into a very naked human. He’s fascinated with Riley and his life, so when Riley’s alpha suggests he help Riley go home, Vaughn jumps on the chance, starting what he hopes will be a new, less lonely chapter in his life.
“You’re sure you can’t come with us?” Vaughn asked Robbie.
Robbie sighed and kicked the tire of Vaughn’s truck. “I wish, but Sandra fell and broke her leg, so I can’t take my vacation time right now. I tried, trust me. But it’s either go to work or look for a new job.”
“Pity.” Vaughn had been looking forward to spending some time with his best friend. He and Robbie didn't have a lot of free time most of the year, so their Colorado Trail hike over the summer was a moment he cherished. Not being able to go with Robbie almost made him want to stay home, but he didn't want to waste his vacation time. He’d been looking forward to it for months.
“Tell me about it.” Robbie hauled Vaughn’s tent into the back of the truck. He almost stepped on Mouse as he moved away, swearing when he had to catch himself on the truck. “Why did you adopt that rat again?” he asked.
Vaughn grabbed Mouse and held her to his chest. “She’s not a rat. She’s a King Charles Spaniel.” He rubbed the top of Mouse’s head. “And I adopted her because I didn't want her to end up in a shelter.”
Vaughn had found the dog on the street over the winter. She’d been drenched and so tiny Vaughn had thought she was an overgrown rat until he’d heard her bark softly. She’d been with him since then. She was smaller than she should be—the vet had told Vaughn that it wasn’t surprising considering how underfed she’d been when he’d found her—and while she didn’t look like a rat anymore, the name Vaughn had given her in the beginning had stuck.
Robbie rolled his eyes “Whatever. Just make sure she doesn’t end up under my feet again. I can’t afford to break my leg like Sandra.”
“Don’t listen to Uncle Robbie,” Vaughn whispered to Mouse. “He’s a mean, mean cat-lover.”
Robbie laughed. “At least I don’t talk to my cat as if he’s a person.”
“Not in front of other people.”
Robbie squeezed Vaughn’s shoulder. “Be careful out there.”
“It’s not the first time I’ve hiked the trail. It’s not even the first time I’ve done it alone. Besides, Mouse will be with me.”
Robbie rolled his eyes. “Yes, because she’d do you so much good if you encounter a bear. She can be the appetizer, I guess.”
Vaughn put Mouse in her cage on the passenger seat. She settled down immediately, and he rubbed her head again. “We’ll be okay. You know bears don’t usually attack people.”
“Usually being the important word here, Vaughn.”
“I have my cell phone with me.”
“And we both know parts of the trail don’t have coverage. Just…seriously, be careful. Are you sure you can’t wait another few weeks? I could come with you then.”
“You know I can’t.”
“Right. Well, have fun, and stay away from bears and mountain lions. Oh, and from hunters. I hear there are a lot of them in some parts of the trail.”
“Hunting there isn’t allowed.”
“Hunting animals isn’t.”
Robbie didn’t have to explain. Vaughn grimaced, hoping he wouldn’t encounter assholes hunting for shifters. There were rumors of shifters living somewhere in the mountains, but no one had ever been able to prove it. That didn’t mean hunters didn’t flock there in mass. Vaughn hadn’t seen any when he’d hiked the trail in the past years, and he hoped he wouldn’t this year, either.
“I’ll be careful,” he told Robbie.
“I know you will.” He looked at Mouse. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you came back with a pet shifter, though. Who knows what you’ll get up to on your own.”
“They’re not pets.”
Vaughn punched Robbie’s shoulder. “See you next week. And remember to water my garden. I’ll make you buy new plants if you let mine die again.”
“I set alarms on my phone. Seriously, man. Go. You can’t afford to lose light.”