After being rescued from witches by demons, Aaron finds himself left with a group of biker shifters to be rehabilitated until he regains his ability to shift. Once he does, due to being alone for a long time and being at loose ends, he sticks with the guys until he can figure out his next move. When the bikers take him into the territory of a wolf shifter pack, he’s surprised to discover them welcoming and friendly. Deciding to take them up on their offer to stick around and build a life, Aaron accepts a part-time volunteer position at Stone Ridge’s firehouse. While there to meet the fire chief, he’s shocked to meet his mate—a human named Thoron Ballaro. Even better, Thoron knows about shifters…sort of. When he and Aaron begin navigating a life together, he learns that Thoron has a six-year-old son…and that Thoron’s ex-wife is an opinionated bigot. Can they figure out a way to keep Thoron’s ex from causing trouble while cementing their life together?
“The option is open to ye all.”
Aaron listened to the alpha wolf of the shifter pack—Declan McIntire—make the offer to all the rescued shifters. They’d traveled to Stone Ridge, Colorado with Alpha Kontra Belikov. Kontra was a grizzly shifter who led a semi-nomadic biker gang.
While Aaron didn’t know the whole story, the pair had met over a decade before and, after a few bumps, had ended up friends.
“If ye decide ye wish to stay in me territory, we’ll help ye build a life,” Declan continued. After casting a smirk Kontra’s way, Declan glanced around at the over half a dozen shifters sitting around the alpha wolf’s lounge. “After all, not everyone wants to spend half their time on the back of a motorcycle.”
Kontra chuckled, the sound deep and low, proving that he wasn’t offended by Declan’s teasing. “Which is one of the reasons we came this way.” The large male squeezed the opposite shoulder of his mate, Tim. “One of several.”
While Aaron had never seen Tim in action, he knew that the man was a warlock. He occasionally had visions. Aaron wondered if he’d seen something that ended up being one of those reasons to travel to the wolf’s pack. After all, Aaron was already aware of two reasons.
First, while clearing out a facility where scientists experimented on shifters, the gang had found the brother of one of the wolves in the area—Ishmael. They’d brought him to be reunited with his brother, Boaz. Aaron had heard their meeting had gone well, and Ishmael and his bear shifter mate, Madagascar, intended to stay, at least for a while.
The second reason had to do with the fact that some of the other shifters from Aaron’s group who’d been rescued by demons and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from witches still hadn’t shifted yet. Alpha Declan’s people had dealt with that problem before. The alpha wolf’s mate, Lark, was a doctor. The pack also had a couple of their own scientists, as well as a psychiatrist who they worked with to help with rehabilitating traumatized shifters.
Unable to keep his mouth shut, Aaron piped up, “I’d like to take you up on that offer, Alpha Declan.” He even raised his hand, then lowered it quickly, feeling a little silly. Meeting Kontra’s dark-eyed gaze, Aaron hurried to add, “As much as I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, I’m not a motorcycle enthusiast.”
A couple of the guys in Kontra’s pack had offered to teach him to ride, but Aaron had declined. Instead, he’d utilized a sidecar while Mutegi drove.
Kontra smiled, his gaze holding a wealth of understanding. “We knew you’d choose here.” He exchanged a look with Tim. “This is where you belong.”
Aaron nodded, wondering at that look. “Uh, thanks.”
“I’ll talk to Leopold about starting ye with a new identity,” Declan stated with a smile. “He’s our pack’s expert in that area.” Cocking his head in a very canine way, the alpha asked, “Any idea what sort of position ye’d be interested in pursuing?”
“No pressure to decide right away, Aaron,” Beta Dixon added. The pale blond wolf grinned around the toothpick in his mouth. “We just need to give Leo a place to start.”
“Uhhh…” Aaron thought about things he’d done in the past. At nearly two centuries old, he’d done his fair share of jobs. Rubbing the back of his neck, Aaron admitted, “I don’t think I’m in the right headspace to learn something new. Can I give you a list of things I’ve done in the past?”
“Sure, man,” Dixon responded.
“Didn’t you mention firefighting in the past?” Tim arched a brow questioningly. After Aaron nodded, he turned to Declan and asked, “Any chance there’s a local position available?”
“Me wolf Brahms Glowder is the fire chief,” Declan told everyone. “He’s usually lookin’ for part-time volunteers at the very least.”
“I’ll give him a call and ask,” Dixon offered. Then he chuckled. “That is, if that’s something you’re interested in?”
Aaron hadn’t been a firefighter in nearly three decades, but he recalled the rush of adrenaline it always brought him. “Yeah.” He returned Dixon’s smile. With a scoff, he added, “I figure a lot’s changed since I’ve done it, but that would definitely be…fun.”
“Fun, he says.” Declan’s deep gray eyes twinkled as he exchanged a look with Dixon. “Not sure he’ll feel that way after Paolo puts him through his paces.”
“Paolo?” Aaron glanced between the grinning men. “Who’s that?”
As Dixon chuckled softly, Declan smirked at him. “Paolo is a rat shifter and a full-time firefighter,” the alpha told him. “He’s a tough, dominant shifter and will make certain ye’re ready to actually join our firefighting force.”
“A rat shifter?” Aaron couldn’t help the surprise that filled his tone. “Didn’t realize they existed.”
Declan scoffed. “Ye’d be surprised what’s out there,” he told him. “Got some exotics in our pack.” Aaron’s questioning scent must have registered to the alpha, for Declan continued, “Me own daughter is a gazelle shifter.”
“Adopted,” Dixon revealed.
“After I realized her father was abusing her.” Declan sighed deeply, shaking his head. “Mother wasn’t in the picture. Died when Sara was a wee one, from what she’s said.” With a grimace, Declan admitted, “She was three, so who knows if that was true. I never got the chance to question her father before his actions forced me to put him down.”
Aaron nodded slowly, wondering what the father’s actions had been, but he knew he would never ask. It wasn’t his business. The fact that the alpha himself had adopted the girl said a lot about him, though.
This is a man I can follow, even if he is a wolf and not a rhino.