When Deacon Ferdmin learns his brother, Daevon, is transitioning into a new life, he decides it’s time to do the same. Plus, as a badger shifter, he’s tired of living in the city. Buying a motorcycle and heading cross-country to meet up with Daevon, Deacon enjoys the change of pace from his prior high-stakes job as a firefighter…until his motorcycle breaks down. There’s only a couple of mechanic shops in town, and the first one he goes to refuses to service his machine since he’s openly and obviously gay. As angry as it makes Deacon, when he walks into the second shop, he quickly turns grateful. He scents that somewhere within the depths of the dingy space is his mate. However, Deacon also realizes that approaching the man—Axel Spumoni—will take some finesse. Not only has Deacon already experienced discrimination, but he notices Axel is a burn victim. Can Deacon figure out a way to woo his reclusive, wary mate while dealing with the backwater town’s hostility?
“We don’t serve your kind here.”
Deacon Ferdmin arched his left brow as he stared at the smirking man—James, according to the name written on his coveralls. “Excuse me?” At first, he thought James was referring to the fact that he was a badger shifter. Except, there was no way the human could know…right?
James curled his lip in a sneer as he swept his gaze over Deacon. “We ain’t helpin’ a faggot.”
Well, holy shit!
Deacon couldn’t remember the last time he’d been discriminated against for being gay. The fact that he swung that way was pretty damn blatant, too. Between the streaks of green that he’d dyed into his black hair, the studs and hoops in his ears, eyebrows, and lip, plus the pale-green and yellow plaid shirt he’d chosen to wear under his unzipped black leather jacket, it was an easy assumption.
Even all the guys at the firehouse he’d left behind when he’d resigned his position hadn’t given his sexuality a second thought in years. At least, they hadn’t acted as if they had anyway. They’d thrown him a going away party and wished him well. A few of them had said to keep in touch, and Deacon probably would for a few years. Then he would need to stop, since he would outlive all of them by centuries.
“Didn’t you hear me?” James crossed his arms over his chest. “You can leave.”
“I’d like to speak to the owner,” Deacon countered. As much as it galled him to trust the workmanship of his Triumph to a homophobic bastard, he needed his motorcycle fixed.
James sneered at him as he pointed at the store logo on the wall. “James’s Garage. I’m James.” He tapped the name on his chest. “I’m the owner, and I ain’t servicin’ the bike of a cocksucker. Get out.”
Damn. Was afraid of that.
Turning on his heel, Deacon left. He crossed to his motorcycle and leaned against it. Pulling out his phone, he opened his internet app and searched again.
When his motorcycle had quit and Deacon had coasted into town, he’d thought he’d been lucky to immediately spot the garage. Too bad he hadn’t known it was owned and operated by a backwoods homophobic hillbilly. He sure hoped there was another garage in this Podunk town.
Deacon read a second garage listing and hoped it wasn’t run by a homophobe, too. After making a mental note of the directions, he lifted it off the kickstand and began wheeling it down the street. At least with his shifter strength, pushing the motorcycle was easy.
As soon as Deacon had heard that his brother Daevon had chosen to resign as a college professor and approach a nomadic alpha to join his pack—or gang, as they called it—Deacon had decided he would do the same. He hadn’t had the opportunity to spend much time with his brother in over forty years. As a shifter, a paranormal living in a human world, he had to remake his identity every few decades.
The last time around, Deacon had headed to Chicago to be a firefighter, while Daevon had found a position in another city. Neither of them had had much free time. For the first time in a long time, Deacon had appreciated the changes in technology, but talking over a computer wasn’t the same as frolicking together in animal form.
Thinking about his brother, Deacon realized he would need to call the man and let him know he wasn’t going to make the rendezvous.
“As soon as I have something to tell him,” Deacon muttered as the sign for the second garage came into view. The place appeared old and dingy, but at least, there was a glowing open in the window.
Deacon left his Triumph in the parking lot and headed into the office. Seeing no one behind the counter of the dirty room, he grimaced. He could hear clanging and talking coming from an open door to the left of the counter, so he knew someone was there.
“Hurry up with that oil change, Axel,” a man ordered. “You were supposed to have that done this morning.”
“Yes, sir,” a deep voice responded softly.
Deacon knew that only his shifter hearing allowed him to make it out. The bass tones caused a warm flutter in his gut, and he almost hummed appreciatively. Having already been singled out for being gay stayed his reaction.
Instead, Deacon headed for the door and hollered, “Hello, the garage?”
“Yeah!” responded the first voice from deep in the bay behind an older Dodge pick-up.
Stopping in the doorway, Deacon swept his gaze over the area. He spotted movement in the back and waited. As he watched an overweight man in filthy coveralls lumbering toward him, he tried to breathe shallowly.
The scent of grease, oil, and other vehicle fluids hung heavy in the air. To his surprise, however, there was something else, too. He took a slow, deeper inhale, and heat and need began pooling in his gut.
Oh, damn! Do I seriously smell my mate in here?
With the way the heavyset man stared at him with narrowed eyes and a curled lip, Deacon prayed to whatever gods cared to listen that it wasn’t him. Great. Another homophobe. Doing his best to ignore it, Deacon dipped his chin in a nod of greeting.
“Hello, sir,” Deacon greeted. “I think the stator went out on my motorcycle. Can you take a look?”
The man looked Deacon up and down, his expression easy to read. “Axel, take care of this customer.” Then he turned and walked away.
Oooookay. At least he’s not my mate. His nasty BO just about knocked me outta my boots!
Which leaves Axel.