Benjamin was hurt when the pride was attacked, and he’s had enough of the infirmary. He’s been stuck there for a week, and when he decides to make a run for it, the last thing he expects is to meet his mate in Dominic’s office.
Lucas knows about shifters. His best friend Heath is a bear shifter, and they’ve lived together for years. He’s surprised when Heath’s alpha, Dominic Nash, calls him and asks for his help, but before he can do anything, Benjamin stumbles into his life and tells him they belong together.
Both Benjamin and Lucas are happy about being mates, but not everyone is. Benjamin’s family suddenly arrives in Whitedell, and added to the hunter problems the pride is still facing, they’re not making life easy. Will Benjamin and Lucas be able to stay together even when the circumstances aren’t the best?
Benjamin hated the infirmary. He’d spent too much time in it when he’d first been rescued from the lab almost two years before, and he’d hoped he’d never have to spend another day there, but of course he’d been wrong. He’d played hero and got hurt in the process, and now his ass was back in an infirmary bed.
He scowled down at his chest. It was still wrapped in gauze and bandages, because Noem hadn’t been able to heal him completely. He and Jared had decided they needed to make the process slow, because Benjamin had been stabbed multiple times, and all the knife wounds had been deep, almost deep enough to kill him. Then there were the multiple cuts on his hands and wrists and the loss of blood.
It meant Benjamin had been in the infirmary ever since the mansion had been attacked. He knew it had been only a week, but it felt like forever, even though he’d spent the first two days of that week unconscious.
“Still pouting?” someone asked from the door.
Benjamin looked up and immediately regretted telling Jared he didn’t mind visitors. “Keenan.”
Keenan sauntered into the room and flopped into the chair by Benjamin’s bed. At least he was alone. Benjamin didn’t think he’d have survived a visit from Keenan and Nysys together.
“So?” Keenan asked. “Still pouting?”
“I’m not pouting. I just want to get out of here.” Benjamin started moving his arms to cross them over his chest, but a twinge of pain reminded him it wasn’t a good idea, so he let them fall by his side and gripped the sheet instead.
Worry flickered on Keenan’s face before he could stop it. He smiled widely to distract Benjamin, but Benjamin wasn’t blind. He sighed. He didn’t want people to be worried about him.
“What did Jared say?” Keenan asked. “When can you get out of here?”
“I have to stay at least another week, if not more.”
“Why? Can’t Noem help?”
“He is helping. He just can’t heal everything at once.”
“Nysys could help.”
Apart from the fact that the more time Benjamin spent away from Nysys the better he felt, he knew it wasn’t possible. “Noem says other Nix could help, but it would take a while anyway. He has an extensive knowledge of the human body, and even he’s been having problems knitting everything back together. That guy did a good job on me.”
Keenan scowled. “The hunter.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened?”
Benjamin would never talk about it again if he could avoid it, but he knew he’d have to. He didn’t have to tell Keenan of all people though, so he shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, of course you don’t. Sorry.”
They were silent for a while, and Benjamin was surprised he’d somehow managed to make Keenan so uncomfortable he’d stopped talking. It wasn’t something that happened often, and he didn’t know whether to feel smug about it or just sorry.
“So,” he started, just to break the silence. He didn’t know what to say, though, so the sentence just died there, but it was enough for Keenan to grab the opportunity and run with it.
He smiled, and even though it didn’t reach his eyes, he nodded. “So, you’ll tell me when Jared says you can leave? I’ll make sure your room is clean and everything. Me and Nysys will take care of you.”
“I don’t need to be taken care of.” Especially not by Nysys and Keenan.
“Of course you don’t, but we’ll be there if you need us.”
Benjamin closed his eyes. The words reminded him too much of what had happened when he’d gone back home right after the lab, and that hadn’t ended well at all. He didn’t want to think about his parents, about his sister and his brother. It hurt too much.
“You’re tired. I’ll go and come back later, or maybe tomorrow. You need to rest if you want to heal faster.”
There would be no fast healing, not if Benjamin trusted Noem’s words, and he did. Noem knew what he was talking about.
He kept his eyes closed, faking sleep. He didn’t know if Keenan believed him, but he heard him move. He almost startled when he felt lips press a kiss on his cheek, but he managed to keep himself in check. He listened to Keenan open the door and softly close it behind himself, and only then did he open his eyes.
His room was empty again, but he knew it wouldn’t last for long. He had a planned healing session with Noem, and while he couldn’t wait to be better and finally able to leave, he didn’t look forward to the healing bit.
Noem was a good healer, but he was a bit standoffish. Benjamin couldn’t believe he was thinking that, since the last thing he wanted was to have to talk to someone, but Noem made the whole process of healing him feel a bit mechanical. He never talked during it, and afterward, he was usually too tired to do anything besides leave Benjamin’s room. Benjamin understood it, but he was a bit conflicted. He didn’t even understand why, since he’d just faked sleep so Keenan would leave him alone.
He both wanted company and dreaded it. He knew Keenan meant well, as did Nysys, but they were too exuberant for his taste. He wanted company, but he wanted someone quiet. He didn’t want to have to chat or to give explanations.
Benjamin had had that kind of quiet relationship with Jayden when he’d lived in the mansion. They were both book lovers, and even though Jayden talked a lot, he never did so when they were reading. It had meant long, quiet afternoons and evenings in the library, and Benjamin had felt a bit less lonely while still being left on his own. He and Jayden had shared something, but now Jayden was gone, and while Benjamin was happy for him, he still couldn’t help feeling mopey.
Damn. Keenan was right. Benjamin was pouting.
He shifted around, trying to find a more comfortable position, but pain shot through his chest and stomach. He scowled at his bandages again, and he didn’t notice Noem was in the room until Noem chuckled.
Benjamin snapped his head up, unsure how to take it. Noem looked more relaxed and rested today, and that probably had a lot to do with the fact that he looked happier and that he was actually laughing.
“Scowling at them won’t make them heal faster,” Noem said, walking closer to the bed after closing the door.
“Are they bothering you? Are you experiencing pain or anything else? Itchiness?”
Benjamin shrugged, biting on his lower lip when that too proved to be painful. “It hurts, but only when I move.”
“You should avoid doing it, then.” There was still an amused light in Noem’s eyes, but it was quickly replaced by cool professionalism when he came to stand next to Benjamin’s bed and helped him sit up so he could unwind the bandages.
Benjamin looked away. He’d seen his wounds the first day after he’d woken, and he didn’t want to see them again, not soon anyway. He knew he’d scar. There was no way around it, no matter how much Noem tried to heal the wounds. They were too deep, and they hadn’t been healed right away. The loss of blood also didn’t help.
Not that it mattered. Benjamin didn’t usually take his clothes off in front of other people. The last time he’d done so had been with Blair, and that had been a disaster, so he’d vowed to keep away from other pride members and even enforcers from now on.
It wouldn’t be hard, since he’d been keeping his distance, but sometimes, like with Blair, he longed for human touch, a connection he couldn’t have on his own. He’d have to do without it, though, no matter how much he wished he didn’t.