Kari is a loner. He’s lived alone with his father for his entire life, and he wants that to change because his dad deserves better. That’s why he’s taken it upon himself to get rid of the evil men in the Allegheny forest, and he’s finally managed to convince the council to put him on the team that will help the carriers obtain their freedom.
Calder has been fascinated with Kari ever since Kari confessed he was the one who caused the death of Oscar, one of the council members who were abusing carriers. Kari is slippery and has kept his distance, so Calder is surprised but eager when Kari plainly tells him he wants him in his bed.
Kari hasn’t told Calder he’s a carrier. He doesn’t plan to, at least until the condom breaks and he ends up pregnant. But Kari doesn’t want people to know he’s a carrier, because too often carriers are protected, not sent out to save people from their abusers.
Will Kari have to choose between building a family with Calder and continuing the work he’s been doing for the past months? Or is there a way for him to have both?
Everyone was yelling, or at least that was what it sounded like. Calder wished he could leave, but he was a council member, and that meant his presence was needed at this meeting—if he could even call this a meeting. Right now, it felt more like it was about to transform into a wrestling match.
“They’re loud,” Abel lamented from his seat beside Calder.
“Did you expect anything different? You knew this wasn’t going to go down well.”
“I hoped everyone would behave like adults.”
Calder snorted. “Behave like adults? Sometimes, I wonder if they are adults.”
But of course, they were, and they were dangerous adults. They were council members, and they made the laws for the shifters who lived in the Allegheny forest—which was one of the reasons people were yelling right now. The good guys finally had the majority in the council, and that meant they could pass laws that should have been passed decades ago. That meant that the council members who wanted to keep the carriers in slavery weren’t happy, which explained why they were yelling.
Abel looked at his watch, and Calder knew precisely why. He leaned closer to his friend and knocked their shoulders together. “How are Philip and Myron?”
The smile that bloomed on Abel’s face transformed his expression. “They’re good. Myron is starting to teethe, so we haven’t been getting a lot of sleep, but we’re dealing with it.”
Calder wondered if it was too soon for Myron to teethe, but it wasn’t like he had a lot of experience with children. “I’m happy to hear that. That you’re dealing with it together, I mean, not that Myron isn’t letting you sleep.”
And he was.
Philip had been through so much, and he deserved everything he now had with Abel. Abel would treat him right, and that was exactly what he needed. It was time for the carriers to have normal relationships and lives, although of course, that would only happen if the rest of the council members stopped yelling and finally sat down to talk.
“Are you even listening?” someone snapped.
Abel jerked, but Calder limited himself to arching a brow at Miriam, the raccoon council member. “I would listen if you all stopped shouting and behaving like children.”
Miriam straightened her back. “We’re not behaving like children.”
Calder could see he had touched a nerve. “Looks to me like you are. We’re here to discuss the new laws for the carriers, yet most of you are yelling at each other because you don’t want to talk about it.”
“We can’t change traditions—”
“Of course we can. Why should we continue following a tradition that hurts people? Besides, that’s exactly what your bunch did when you passed a law that all carriers had to be handed off to the council.”
“Carriers aren’t like the rest of us.”
Abel jerked as if Miriam had slapped him. This was a touchy argument for him, since he and Philip had just gotten together and Abel was so entirely in love with his man, although Calder supposed it was a sore spot for all of them who weren’t monsters.
“Carriers are humans and shifters just like us,” Abel said through gritted teeth.
It was obvious that he was restraining himself, but Calder had no such problem. “The difference between you and them is that they’re not all assholes like you.”
Miriam’s eyes widened. “How dare you!”
“How dare I? You want to keep human beings, shifters like you and me, in a state of slavery. You want to be able to sell them, to abuse them, only because they are men who can get pregnant. How can you not see how wrong that is?”
“Fuck the traditions. We shouldn’t follow them if they’re hurting people, which they are, and you know it. Didn’t you talk to your alpha? Don’t you know he had to move your raccoon carrier because he was afraid the man would get hurt?”
Miriam’s cheeks flushed. “I don’t often talk to him.”
“Obviously.” Calder had enough. He wanted to get out of there. He’d already known that the half of the council that was now outnumbered wouldn’t be happy about this and that they would try to stop it, so even though he hated the yelling, he wasn’t surprised by it.
Just like Miriam and her traditions, a lot of council members and alphas wanted to keep things the way they were. Calder didn’t know if it was because they genuinely thought it was for the best or because they were profiting on the backs of the carriers, and he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to allow the trafficking and abuse to continue, not when he finally had a way to change things. He knew Abel and the other council members on his side agreed, which was why they’d called this meeting. He wasn’t sure what he’d have to do to make people listen to him, but he wanted to go home and for the yelling to stop.
“You’re going to regret it if you do this,” Miriam said through gritted teeth.
Calder couldn’t help but think about the carriers at the Bishop house. They were there because they’d had to flee their homes when the council had passed a law that all of them had to be handed over. They were there because they’d been abused and rescued. They were there because they didn’t have another place to go, not a safe one. The lucky ones had been brought by their alphas because they were worried the council would take advantage of them, but the unlucky ones like Philip had been through hell and back, and they deserved to be able to make their own decisions. They were men, fathers in some cases, not objects or incubators.