Damien had made good on his word and had found Owen a job. Working at a coffeehouse was a thousand times better than that smelly pet store. Owen had tried to clean the cages on a daily basis, but his boss hadn’t seemed too worried about selling pets. Owen had begun to suspect the store was a front for something. In the few months he worked there, he’d only adopted out three animals.
And then there had been the secret meetings in the back room. His boss, Mr. Reynold, was rarely around, but when he was, he never asked how sales were doing or how many animals had been adopted. He acted as if he didn’t care about his business.
One night, Owen had even seen men in black fatigues talking to Mr. Reynold in the back. He wasn’t stupid. He knew to keep his mouth shut and his ears closed. Owen wanted no part in whatever his boss was into.
Just like he wanted no part in Ernest’s business venture.
“Are you always this quiet?” he asked his coworker, Cameron.
“I get my foot stuck in my mouth when I open it,” Cameron cocked his head to the side. “I also get into trouble when I’m left to think on my own, too.”
Owen saw regret in Cameron’s blue eyes. He wanted to ask what Cameron was talking about but let the subject drop. He knew when to keep his nose out of things.
Instead, he looked toward the door. Damien had run some errands but had said he’d be back soon. Owen knew he shouldn’t fall for the mysterious and moody guy, but the more time he spent around Damien, the harder it was to stop himself from becoming attached. That was never good. Sooner or later Damien would tire of helping Owen and kick him to the curb.
No one had ever been a constant in Owen’s life.
Still, that gnawing fear that Damien would walk out of his life kept Owen on edge. “I’m not very good thinking on my own either,” he admitted. But that wasn’t because he put his foot in his mouth. Owen just didn’t like being alone. He’d seen some of the ugliness of the world, and it would be nice, for once, to have someone in his corner.
“Can I get some service around here?”
Owen turned and hurried to the counter. Although he would’ve liked to talk to Cameron more, he really did like working here, and meeting new customers brightened his day. “How can I help you?”
The guy cocked his head to the side, staring at Owen as though he was looking at a ghost. His pretty, green eyes widened slightly before he leaned farther over the counter and began to sniff.
Owen took a step back. He’d taken a shower before coming to work, so he knew he didn’t stink. “Why are you doing that?”
A wide grin broke out over the man’s face before he winked at Owen. “Because you smell like daisies, sexy.”
That was an odd thing to say. Owen hadn’t been anywhere near flowers and his cologne was very manly. “I’m not sure if I should be offended or say thank you.”
The man leaned an arm on the counter. “Oh, you should definitely be thankful.” He stuck his hand out, and after a moment’s hesitation, Owen shook it. The stranger brushed his lips over Owen’s knuckles, and Owen quickly yanked his hand back.
“The name’s Jace. What’s your name, sexy?”
“It’s not ‘Sexy,’” Owen said. “It’s Owen, and do you flirt like this with every guy you meet?”
Jace chuckled. “Just you, sweetheart. When is your break?”
“Never.” Owen was flattered, but he only had eyes for Damien. Although Jace was gorgeous. He was Owen’s height—five foot six—but Jace’s personality made him seem taller. His green eyes seemed to sparkle as he smiled at Owen.
“Come on, cut a guy some slack.” Jace glanced around the shop. “Unless you have a boyfriend.” He looked at Owen again. “Or girlfriend?”
“This is Desire,” Cameron said with a bitter chuckle. “Everyone here seems to be gay.”
“I take it you’re not,” Jace said.
Cameron walked away.
“So, you gonna cut me some slack and take your break so I can ravish you?”
“Pump the brakes, Romeo.” Owen crossed his arms over his chest, uncomfortable with how brazen Jace seemed to be. “You come on strong.”
“I didn’t know there was any other way.” Jace shrugged. “I’ve been accused of having no filter, and I’m sorry if that offends you, but I am who I am.”
“Maybe that’s why you’re still single,” Owen said. “Try to dial it down a notch.” He found Jace somewhat entertaining. The guy seemed like an excited puppy with a bone.
“Give me a kiss and I might think about it,” Jace said.
Owen gasped as Damien stepped behind Jace, yanked him by his collar, and threw him toward the back of the shop.
“Damien!” Owen raced around the counter just as Jace got to his feet. He held up his hands as though that would stop Damien from tearing Jace apart. “Damien, stop!”
“Leash your goddamn dog!” Jace’s eyes widened before he ducked, dodging the fist that had come at him.
Owen was grateful the shop was empty. Damien was making quite a spectacle. “Damien, what is wrong with you?”
“He tried to kiss you.” Damien’s voice sounded demonic as long, black claws emerged from his fingernails. Owen gaped at them.
“You’re-you’re a shifter?”
“Will you stop trying to tear my throat out,” Jace yelled at Damien. “Damn it, I was only trying to kiss my mate.”
Damien stilled. He glanced back at Owen, then leaned in to sniff at Jace. Owen took a step back, then another. The only other shifter he knew had tried to whore him out, then sell him to some rich investor. They were dangerous, evil, and cared for no one but themselves.
Owen raced toward the door and took off down the street.
He drove over the speed limit and had them home in five minutes. Damien parked the Jeep in front of the house and slung the back door open. “Get your asses to my bedroom, now.”
Jace slid from the car, brushed against Damien, and gripped Damien’s hard cock through his jeans. “I can’t wait to suck you off.”
Damien’s jaw clenched as Owen slid out. He looked up at Damien with pained blue eyes. “Funny how you’ll agree to sex when Jace says something about it, but you turned me down when I stood in front of you completely naked.”
The erection that had throbbed the entire ride home was gone. Damien gripped the car door as he looked away. “I wanted you,” he admitted. “It took everything in me to turn you down.”
“But you did turn me down,” Owen said. “Jace told me about mates at the bar, and I know you two are it for me, but that still doesn’t change the fact you rejected me and kept the biggest secret of my life from me.”
“Please tell me we aren’t about to have an in-depth conversation,” Jace said. “I promise we’ll have a big powwow afterward and lay everything out on the table. But can we please go upstairs and have sex?”
“I told you,” Damien said as he looked down at Owen. “I’m fucked up. Both of you would be better off without me.”
“Maybe.” Owen twisted his hands in front of him. Damien knew enough about what Owen had been through to get a good idea of how much he feared wolf shifters. Damien should’ve said something, but then again, he hadn’t known Ernest was a wolf. Not in the literal sense. That odor in the pet shop had been overwhelming, and Damien hadn’t been able to sense Ernest's scent among the others.
“Do you want to leave?” It killed Damien to ask that. He didn’t want Owen or Jace going anywhere, although Jace was proving to be a pain in the ass.
“I want you to give me a reason to stay.”
Damien cupped Owen’s smooth jaw. That feeling of terror at touching someone else wasn't there. He only felt that overwhelming sense of peace around Owen. “I wasn’t rejecting you. I was trying to work things out in my head.”
“Will you two kiss and make up already?” Jace asked.
Damien started to growl at the leopard, but he saw insecurity in Jace’s eyes, as if he feared Damien and Owen would kick him aside to be together. He didn’t know Jace’s story, but he clearly wasn’t the confident, take-charge guy he pretended to be. Jace had issues of his own.
After closing the door to the Jeep, Damien nodded toward the house. “We can finish this discussion upstairs.”
Jace looked as though he were about to argue, but he simply nodded as he followed Damien and Owen inside. Damien took them straight to his bedroom. He didn’t need his brethren seeing Jace and asking a million questions. Damien wasn’t in the mood to answer any.
“Nice house,” Jace said as he stepped into Damien’s room. “Although your room looks more like a nun’s room. Why so sparse?”
“I suck at interior decorating,” Damien said. In truth, this house had never felt like a home. After Damien had been rescued, Sebastian had tried to make Damien’s bedroom his sanctuary, but his mind had been so fractured that Damien had torn the room apart. He’d broken every last piece of furniture Sebastian had bought for him. Damien had replaced the luxuriant items with a bed, nightstand, and dresser. That was all he needed to hide away from the world.
Jace approached and slid his arms around Damien’s waist. Damien tensed, and Jace kissed Damien’s clenched jaw. “We don’t have to do anything. Seriously. We can just talk if you want. I just tend to get pushy when I’m horny. I’m sorry.”
Damien took a step back, then opened the balcony doors. He needed fresh air, room to think, time to fuck things up. He always overanalyzed things, and that, more times than not, made him make the wrong choices.
He turned when he heard moaning. Owen was kissing Jace along his neck, grabbing his cock through his knee-length shorts. Jace stared bug-eyed at Damien. “He started it.”
Damien leaned against the doorframe and watched as Owen lifted Jace’s shirt over his head, revealing a flawless chest. Next went Jace’s shorts. They pooled around his ankles as Owen gripped Jace’s cock, giving the hardened flesh slow strokes. Damien crossed his arms over his chest and curled his hands into fists when Owen lowered to his knees and took Jace’s prick into his mouth.
“Oh hell.” Jace’s eyes had hooded, and he was staring right at Damien. Their gazes locked as Owen started to bob his head.
“I need you to kiss me,” Jace said to Damien.
Before Damien went to Jace, he sat and removed his boots, then tossed them and his socks aside. There would be no talking, not while Owen made the most beautiful noises as he slurped and sucked on Jace’s dick.
Damien reached for the hem of his shirt and hesitated. He usually had the lights off when taking a lover. No one had seen his scars since he’d been rescued.
“Take it off,” Jace said. “I need skin.”
“I don’t care.” Jace ran his hands through Owen’s hair. “Nothing will stop me from wanting you.”
Damien took a fortifying breath before he pulled his shirt over his head. He knew how his chest looked. He’d stared at the scars at length over the years. The worst was on his back, but he also had a long scar that ran from sternum to navel. Another slash mark ran through his left nipple, and he had a few more by his waist.
But Jace didn’t look at Damien in horror. His green eyes held nothing but lust. He licked his lips and crooked his finger as his other hand still played in Owen’s hair.
“Fuck, I’m close,” Jace said with a quiver. “Get your ass over here, Damien.”