Warsaw knew that joining the rogues was wrong. Except, when his best friend begged him to help a pair of disgraced ex-councilmen, he couldn’t say no. After all, he could never have the man he secretly loved. The guy was already mated. Warsaw joined the wrong side of a shifter war, and they lost.
While most consider Warsaw lucky because he wasn’t sentenced to death for his crimes, he doesn’t feel that way. The man he’d loved is dead, as is his best friend, both having died due to the shifter battle. Feeling empty inside, Warsaw does his job in silence, ignoring the nasty looks and slurs from others. His one joy is his little Shih Tzu, Jasmine.
When Jasmine is viciously attacked by an unknown shifter hell-bent on punishing Warsaw further, a sympathetic acquaintance introduces him to a warlock to help his dying dog. To Warsaw’s shock, the warlock—Urskin Claspin—is his mate. Except, after everything that he’s done in the name of love, Warsaw doesn’t believe he deserves the happiness and peace a mate would surely give him. Can Warsaw figure out how to accept Fate’s gift while discovering who still has it out for him?
“A lot of people died because of scum like you.”
Warsaw continued raking the fallen leaves from the Spanish moss trees separating the second and fifth hole of the golf course. Keeping his head bowed, he ignored the snarling voice. He’d heard it all before.
Plus, it’s true.
“You should have been put to death with the others.”
After the words ghosted over Warsaw’s ear, he heard heavy footsteps crunching on gravel, telling him the speaker had headed away. He recognized the scent of the male as a lion shifter, but he wasn’t certain which one. Damian had had plenty of friends, but the top-level enforcer had been best friends with three lion shifters. From what Warsaw had heard, the four-some had all come from the same lion pride to become enforcers for the council. Although not all of them had succeeded.
Just thinking about the lion shifter who’d died as a result of the battle when the rogues had attacked the estate of Councilman Shane Alvaro caused Warsaw’s gut to clench. His heart rate sped up. Even the hairs on his arms stood on end, and sweat beaded on his temples.
Blinking quickly, Warsaw breathed slowly and deeply. It took a moment, but he managed to regain control. Although, nothing could quite dull the ache in his heart.
Warsaw returned to raking and bagging the leaves. They’d fallen during the storm that had swept through the Savannah area two days prior. After raking these leaves, Warsaw needed to head back to the storage shop, pick up the UTV with the bed, and grab the chainsaw. A limb had fallen from one of the willows. He needed to buck up what could be used for firewood and burn the remaining tailings.
At least it was no longer windy, which meant it was safe to start a fire.
The problem with raking, however, was that it was fairly mindless. It gave Warsaw’s brain time to wander. As always when that happened, Warsaw thought of the past, his mistakes, and…Damian.
Warsaw recalled the last time he’d seen the lion shifter. It had been before he’d allowed his best friend, who was more like a brother—Kennedy—to talk him into siding with disgraced ex-councilmen who’d turned rogue. Talk about the mistake of a life-time.
He’d been at a barbeque at a fellow enforcer’s home—Dane Drudeson. Damian had been laughing at something the host had said. His head had been tipped back as he laughed, a huge smile lighting up his handsome features. The man’s expression had caused Warsaw’s breath to catch in his throat, and arousal had surged through him.
Unfortunately, Damian had also had his arm wrapped around the waist of his Fate-given mate—a tiger shifter named Madison. The woman truly was a wonderful person. It had made hating Madison difficult, no matter how painful it was to watch them together.
While Warsaw had loved Damian from afar, he knew he could never have the man. Over time, he’d realized he needed to stop spending time with the shifter socially. He’d distanced himself from that crowd. That meant spending more time with Kennedy and others…who were homophobic assholes.
Yeah, I can acknowledge that now.
Warsaw had ended up deep in the closet, making do with his hand and the occasional drunken tumble with a bar floozie. He’d become bitter and jaded. After several years living like that, Warsaw had lost his way—and his will to live—and when Kennedy had approached him about joining the rogues, Warsaw was embarrassed to admit that he hadn’t put up much of a counter-argument.
Yeah. I fucked up.
At least I pulled my head out of my ass before flushing the rest of my life down the crapper.
While it had shocked Warsaw, he’d realized that Nkosi—a black mamba shifter—was actually a spy, helping bring down the rogue organization. Instead of reporting it to their leaders, he’d approached Nkosi in private. Warsaw had revealed that he was gay, and he’d even propositioned Nkosi to prove it.
As Warsaw recalled that, he felt his cheeks threaten to heat. The snake shifter had turned him down. The man had met his mate, although he hadn’t been bonded with him at that time. If Nkosi had, it would have changed his scent, betraying his true loyalties with his smell alone.
Nkosi had helped Warsaw. He’d given him a safe place to hide until after the attack the rogues had initiated. In that same attack, Damian’s mate, Madison, had been killed by a trio of lions. Damian had managed to finish the battle, but he’d died of heartache shortly after.
Warsaw tensed, but he continued to rake, working on the last of the piles. As he rested the handle of the tool against the trunk of a tree, he heard someone approaching along the gravel path. Picking up a large plastic bag, Warsaw shook it out, prepping it for all the leaves he would need to stuff inside. He spotted the black pumpkin grin on the large orange bag, and he couldn’t help but smile. Warsaw decided to make certain the bag was stuffed well, making it a fantastic pumpkin for whoever decided to take it as a Halloween decoration.
Just around the corner.
“I’m talkin’ to you, asshole.” A tenor voice sounded behind him right before an elbow slammed into the small of his back. “Pay attention and face me, you bastard.”
Warsaw bit back his natural desire to growl at the offending lion shifter—a different one than before, judging by the scent. After having been a council enforcer for nearly five decades, Warsaw struggled with obeying those his animal considered weaker.
And the wiry lion shifter Warsaw turned to peer at was definitely weaker. Staring down the three-inch height difference at Lonnie, another of Damian’s buddies, he frowned at the male. Warsaw dismissed the male just as quickly.