“That’s it,” Noel said as he crossed his arms. “I’m moving out.”
Bart rose from the chair and stabbed his finger against Noel’s chest. The menacing expression on Bart's face made Noel take a step back. He knew better than to push his brother too far, but he’d been so mad he hadn’t cared. He cared now, though. The last thing he wanted was for Bart to beat the shit out of him.
“You aren’t going anywhere. Your name is on the lease, and you know damn well I can’t afford for you to move out.”
“Then you shouldn’t have rented the house.” Noel tried to get around Bart, but his brother gripped his arm in a bruising hold and spun Noel to face him. The look in Bart’s eyes said he’d have no problem smacking Noel around if he didn’t comply.
Rick trotted downstairs, looked between Noel and Bart, then sauntered to the wrecked kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of juice before heading back upstairs. Apparently no one was concerned with cleaning the place up.
“Stop having a fucking hissy fit and leave me alone,” Bart warned as he shoved Noel away. “I have a hangover from hell, and your mouth is getting on my last nerve.”
Noel trudged down the hallway and into his room. He closed the door, grabbed a backpack, and tossed a few essentials inside. He wasn’t sticking around to see what the landlord would do.
The weekend was finally here, and Noel wanted to take off. Spending it hanging around Bart and their roommates made life feel dismal. Noel needed the stars above him, the woods around him, and the dirt below his feet. He only ever felt at peace when he hiked in the mountains.
This time he planned on going farther than he’d ever been before. Maybe he’d get lost and bears would eat him. That would save him the trouble of living with Bart.
The thought made him remember the rumors he’d heard growing up about the Rising men—rumors that still floated around today. Noel rolled his eyes at the idea of men taming or changing into bears. Grizzly Ridge residents needed to get lives.
He left through the side entrance of the house and hurried to his car before Mr. Archmand showed up and raised hell. Noel might’ve yelled at Bart, but he wasn’t a confrontational man. He cringed just thinking about their elderly landlord screaming at him.
Noel drove to the rest area at the bottom of the mountains and parked by the outhouses. No one seemed to be around, and he couldn’t understand why. It was a gorgeous spring day and the temperatures were supposed to reach into the seventies.
After grabbing his backpack, Noel locked up his Ford Focus and headed up the northern trail. He patted his backpack, making sure he hadn’t forgotten his bottle of water. When he felt it, he moved on.
Noel spent the better part of the day walking higher and higher into the mountains. The place was so beautiful, so serene that it helped him clear his mind and forget about his idiot brother, Bart’s asshole friends, and the landlord who probably wanted their heads on pikes.
He’d been so busy walking and enjoying himself that he hadn’t paid attention to the time. Finally, he glanced skyward, past the canopy of trees and saw that the sun was sinking.
Shit. He needed to start back down. It was too late to make it to his car before dark and Noel hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight but he had to make the trek anyway. He checked his cell phone for the time and noticed he didn’t have any reception.
Noel tried to hurry but became disoriented. He’d gone off-trail to explore a ridge, and now, as he glanced around, he couldn’t remember which way he’d come from.
He spotted a path and hurried to it, but as he rushed along, he realized it didn’t go downhill but led him east. Maybe. Without any navigational help from his phone—and he'd forgotten to bring a compass in his haste to leave the house—Noel couldn’t honestly tell which way he was going, but it wasn’t down.
He shivered as he looked around. Although the day had been gorgeous, the air was getting chilly as the sun set, and Noel only had a light jacket.
“Damn you, Bart,” he growled. “If I hadn’t been trying to get away from our landlord, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now.”
He stilled and spun in a circle when he heard a howl…and then another. He’d grown up with rumors that wolves and other predatory animals roamed these parts, not just bears. He should’ve stayed close to town. He shouldn’t have wandered this deep into the mountains.
Noel bolted down the path, slapping at branches and hitting his feet on loose rocks and roots. He squealed when he went down, and the fall knocked the wind out of him.
Noel shoved to his feet and ran, then stopped so abruptly that he fell on his ass. He rolled to his stomach and tried to control his breathing and racing heart as he looked at the two gigantic bears just to his left.
Both animals turned their heads toward him. Fuck, fuck, fuck! Noel was about to be torn to shreds and eaten. Knowing he couldn’t outrun them, he curled into the fetal position, covered his head with his arms, and waited in terror for the bears to make a meal out of him.
“Please don’t eat me. Please don’t eat me,” he kept whispering as he strained to hear their approach.
“I saw him first,” someone argued.
“You’re a damn liar,” another person snapped. “We both saw him at the same time.”
“Then we’ll share,” the first man said.
What the hell? Noel couldn't figure out why he heard voices instead of growls. With his heart in his throat, he lifted his arm from his eyes to see who had been talking. His jaw dropped. Where the bears had been seconds before, two very naked men now stood.
Two very naked and very gorgeous men.
Noel must’ve hit his head when he’d fallen. There was no other explanation. He thought of the story that said the Rising men could change into bears, but quickly dismissed that asinine idea.
The two men must’ve scared off the bears, but that didn’t explain why they didn’t have any clothes on.
They sauntered toward him, and Noel scooted backward until his back hit the trunk of the tree. He pushed to his hands and knees, wondering if he could outrun them—or if he even wanted to.
Hello. Two naked, drop-dead gorgeous men in front of you. Are you really going to run away from that? They were like some sort of fantasy come to life.
Yep, he’d definitely hit his head and was out cold, and this was nothing more than a dream.
A very lifelike dream.
“Now what’re you doin’ out here so far away from home?” the one on the left asked Noel.
“He’s come here to make our night even better,” the other said.
Now his dream was turning into a strange porno. It had to be with those cheesy-ass lines. The only thing missing was the corny music. Noel should know. He’d watched too many of them that he should’ve had carpal tunnel and a swollen right bicep.
“Is this real?” Noel got to his feet but kept his distance from them.
The men looked at each other, then directed their attention back to Noel. The one with the pretty, gray-green eyes gave Noel a breathtaking smile. “I should be the one asking that question. A sweet-looking thing like you lost in the woods? This has to be a dream.”
“He does look like a tasty morsel,” the other said. The second guy wore a beard, but no mustache, and was maybe an inch taller than his friend. He was handsome, but not as handsome as the other guy. The other man had five-o’clock shadow running along his sexy jaw, a mustache, dark blond hair, and damn, Noel couldn’t stop staring at his breathtaking eyes.
“I think he’s drooling over you, Bobby Ray.” The second one grinned.
“That’s fine by me,” Bobby Ray said.
Noel’s heart thumped harder when Bobby Ray drew closer. He stopped, sniffed the air, then turned to his friend. “Fuck me. He smells like my mate.”
The second guy’s black brows shot up as he studied Noel. “No shit.”
Bobby Ray growled, closed his eyes, and shook his head. He turned, as if fighting against an emotion, then spun back toward Noel.
Holy shit! Bobby Ray had canines! Noel squeaked and tried to take off, but Bobby Ray grabbed him and sank those sharp teeth into his shoulder.
“Don’t eat me!” Noel shrieked.
“He’s not gonna eat you,” the other man said. “He’s marking you.”
That didn’t help Noel’s panic. He shoved at Bobby Ray’s chest and kicked his legs, but Bobby Ray wouldn’t let him go. Noel shivered and whimpered when Bobby Ray licked at the bite mark. His cock grew hard as Bobby Ray’s arms slid around him.
“Okay, I’m heading out,” the other guy told Noel. “If I see his hairy ass trying to hump you, I’ll have to bleach my eyes.”
Noel heard the man, but his attention was on Bobby Ray as he kissed his way over Noel’s neck, slid his tongue over Noel’s jaw, and nibbled at his ear.
“Tell me I can fuck you,” Bobby Ray groaned in Noel’s ear. “I need to be inside you.”
“Your teeth were just inside of me.” Noel shoved at him again. “Now get off me, you lunatic. I don’t care how sexy you are, fuck off.”
Bobby Ray’s chuckle was devilishly wicked. Noel nearly melted at the sound. Noel’s cock was so hard that he was tempted to say yes.
Bobby Ray’s hand glided down Noel’s back and landed on his ass. He squeezed, eliciting a moan from Noel.
“Let me fuck you, Sugar.” Bobby Ray licked at Noel’s Adam’s apple. “Let me bring us both pleasure.”
“I…can’t…think.” Noel slumped in Bobby Ray’s arms, his head rocking to the side as he moaned.
“Don’t need to think.” Bobby Ray scraped his teeth along Noel’s shoulder. When his tongue flicked against the bite mark, Noel cried out. White-hot fingers of pleasure assaulted him. His body ached to be taken, to be used by this hedonistic man.
Noel didn’t stop Bobby Ray when he slid the backpack off his back, removed Noel’s jacket, undid his pants, and shoved them past his knees. He never stopped nibbling at Noel’s shoulder, either.
If this was a dream, it was the best dream ever, and Noel would be damned if he acted like a prude in this fantasy. He would still be lost and cold when he finally woke, but that was fine with him.
Bobby Ray lowered him to the ground. Noel willingly went, allowing the stranger to place him on his hands and knees. He blanketed Noel’s back, and something wet bathed his hole. Seconds later, Bobby Ray’s thick cock inched inside him.
Noel’s head lowered as he hissed. He was pissed that he couldn’t spread his legs wider. He clawed at the earth, whimpering and mewling as Bobby Ray thrust deep inside him.
“What’s your name, Sugar?” Bobby Ray’s lips were at Noel’s ear as he lashed his tongue over the lobe.
Shivering, he said, “Noel.”
“You’re mine, Noel.” Bobby Ray reared back and pistoned into him. Noel shuddered, his heart thundered, and a level of pleasure he’d never felt before gripped him and pulled him under.