Clayton Zukan is a skilled bomb maker, but he’s careful to only sell his devices to those with a worthy cause, or so he thinks. He learns about shifters when an assassin disarms one of his devices and tracks him down. After his brother mates with a shifter, Clayton does his best to hide his jealousy. After all, Clayton would love a mate of his own.
The wolf shifter pack is kind enough to build Clayton a large shop with an apartment over it, so he throws himself into his work. It’s pretty remote, and he likes that, so he doesn’t have to watch all the mated couples’ sickly sweet antics. Taking a hike, Clayton comes face to face with an animal that shouldn’t be living in the mountains of Colorado—a cheetah.
When the beautiful animal transforms into an even more gorgeous man, Clayton feels the mate-pull, and he’s overjoyed. Fate has brought him his very own shifter. Except, the sexy man—Bailey Dyer—claims not to know what a shifter is. When explanations begin, can Clayton convince Bailey that paranormals are not the enemy, especially after learning that Bailey volunteered for the experiment that turned him into a shifter?
The soft beep of a machine cut through the haze permeating his mind. He twitched his fingers, intending to swing his arm and slap his alarm clock. His foggy brain insisted that he needed a bit more sleep.
Except, he couldn’t lift his arm. His appendage felt heavy, oh-so-heavy…and weak. His muscles screamed just from the effort of wiggling his fingers.
What the hell happened to me?
Then the beeping sped up a smidge, and he realized he had to be in the hospital.
Heart monitor, but why?
Forcing himself to slow his breathing, he heard the beeping slow back down again, too.
Okay. Think. What happened?
Nothing came to mind.
Then what’s the last thing I do remember?
His mind remained stubbornly blank.
Then something else occurred to him…or didn’t occur to him.
Uh, what’s my name?
Once more, his mind remained stubbornly blank.
The heart monitor began beeping faster again.
He swallowed hard and returned his focus to his breathing. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his thoughts from racing. His brain screamed that something was wrong—so very wrong!
“Hey, hey, easy there.”
A soft melodic tenor cut through his rising panic. He felt hands land on his arms, pushing him back on the bed, although he wasn’t certain when he’d begun struggling to rise.
“Just relax, Bailey,” the man urged, continuing to press him to the bed. “Just sleep a while longer. Then everything will make sense.”
He latched onto that. His name was Bailey. Before he could ask for more information, like what the hell was going on, whatever sedative the man gave him took effect, and he slipped back into sleep.
When Bailey drifted to wakefulness, he remained perfectly still and listened. The beeping continued, but he didn’t hear any other sounds. With the way his breathing sounded so loud in his ears, he worried he would miss any other noises.
Bailey heard soft footsteps on floorboards, the noises coming from below him. Realizing there was someone in the building, he hoped there wasn’t anyone in the room, too, as he worked his eyelids open. It took an excessive number of blinks, but he finally managed to focus on his surroundings.
Confusion flooded him. He wasn’t in a hospital room. While there was obvious medical equipment here and there, the medium tan walls, forest pictures upon them, and the green duvet covering him screamed a private home.
A private medical facility, maybe?
A vision of sterile white walls flashed before his mind. He frowned, uncertainty filling him anew. While he remembered his name—Bailey—due to whoever was caring for him—
Wait, what if they’re not caring for me? What if they’re holding me hostage? Is that why that guy put me back to sleep?
Some inner voice Bailey didn’t recognize screamed that they needed to escape. They needed to find shelter and safety while he sorted out his memories. His need to flee, while unfamiliar, began to dominate his thoughts.
Spotting the IV in his left arm, Bailey reached for it. He paused before making contact, hesitating. Peering up the line, he tried to read the label, but it was just a string of characters that didn’t make sense to him.
Unwilling to trust whatever the strange liquid was, Bailey eased the IV from his arm. He grimaced and tossed the needle to the floor, then pressed a corner of the sheet to the mark. His arm stung for a few seconds, but the pain swiftly eased.
Bailey lifted the blanket, surprised to see the wound was already closed, new pink flesh covering it. Shaking his head, he pulled the clip off of his finger. The machine monitoring his pulse immediately began to beep loudly.
Hissing, Bailey shoved from the bed. His legs nearly buckled, and his head swam at the movement. Only grabbing the nightstand and dresser kept him on his feet. After a few seconds, he managed to reach over and yank the machine’s plug from the wall.
The blessed silence that followed concerned Bailey almost as much as the noise had. He focused on listening for footsteps below as he took one slow breath after another. Upon hearing the quiet murmur of voices, then the soft thud of footfalls, he knew he needed to hurry.
Still using the nightstand as support, Bailey eased past the machine to the window behind it. He pushed up, fully expecting it not to budge. When it slid up easily, he nearly tumbled out of it.
Bailey caught himself on the sill and stared. Directly below him was an expansive back deck. A huge built-in grill stood off to the left on a stone patio. Beyond that was an even larger spread of green lawn that backed up to pines…pines as far as Bailey’s eyes could see.
A desire to run, to climb and jump, flooded him. He frowned, uncertain from where it stemmed. Even as a kid, he hadn’t been a climber.
Wait. Or was I?
The sense memory remained just out of reach.
Frustration mixed with fear.
Why can’t I remember anything?
The creak of footsteps on the stairs reached Bailey. He returned his focus to the far trees. Glancing down, he wondered if he had enough strength to climb down the drain pipe at the corner of the house.
Bailey heard a voice from outside his room, one he recognized from before, say, “That’s odd. The beeping stopped.”
Someone answered, “Crapballs. That can’t be good.”
His decision made, Bailey knew he had to chance it. He swung his leg over the windowsill. Balancing carefully while gripping the window frame, Bailey swung his leg and hooked his heel around the side of the downspout. Then he reached up and grabbed the rain gutter.
As soon as Bailey swung out, placing all his weight on the aluminum, it tore from the building, and he fell.
Bailey’s cry of shock almost drowned out a man yelling, “Wait! Bailey, stop!”