Marlow is at a loss. His team has been permanently transferred to the Allegheny forest to act as a liaison between the shifters there and humans, but what does that mean exactly? The team is figuring things out, and one step of doing that is integrating, which is why he decides to move in with the badgers. The fact that Misha, one of the carriers, still lives in badger territory in the Bishop house might be related.
Misha had his son a few months ago, and he’s still learning how to be a father. The trauma of what he’s gone through doesn’t help, but he’s safe now, and he’s not alone taking care of Tommy. Having his friends makes the situation better, but when Marlow moves into the Bishop house, Misha can’t stay away.
Misha is a sweet man who’s been through hell, and Marlow is more than happy to help him with his son. However, Marlow has other people to worry about, like his brother, who’s stuck with their abusive mother. Maybe now that Marlow has a home, he’ll finally manage to get custody of Jackson, but it won’t be easy—just like finding a way to make his relationship with Misha work won’t be.
Misha is wounded and scared to trust that Marlow is there to stay, while Marlow is torn between Misha and Jackson. Is there a way for their relationship to work and both of them to be happy, or will they eventually lose each other?
“Is he done eating?”
Misha had to press his lips together so he wouldn’t smile. He looked down, noticed that Tommy had fallen asleep against his chest, and nodded. “He is, but he’s asleep.”
Oakley pouted. “But I wanted to cuddle him.”
“You do realize he’s not a doll, right?” Gallagher asked.
Oakley stuck his tongue out at him. “I know that. A doll wouldn’t be so noisy, and it wouldn’t poop as much as Tommy.”
Sometimes, living at the Bishop house with the other carriers was like living with children. Most of the carriers were young, and even those who were older behaved younger than they were. It had to do with the way they’d been treated since they were teenagers, plus what they’d gone through. Misha didn’t blame any of them for wanting to be teenagers now when they hadn’t been allowed to then.
He was only twenty-two himself. He was too young to have a child, yet here he was. He’d become a father, not because he wanted to, but because he’d been forced to.
He looked down at the baby. Some days, he wished Tommy didn’t exist. He wished he could have a normal life, go back to his parents and the life he’d left behind when he’d been taken from his home and sold off. Other days, he saw Tommy as a gift, and he wouldn’t change his life for anything in the world. On yet other days, he couldn’t even look at his baby.
Those were the worst days.
Misha had been offered options. He’d been too far along in his pregnancy when he’d been found, but Thomas, the badger alpha, had told him he could find someone to adopt the baby. Misha had been tempted, and some days, he still was. Then Tommy opened his eyes and looked at him, and Misha fell in love with his son all over again.
He doubted his life would ever be easy, but he wanted to make his son happy. Luckily for him, he was with the badgers, and he had no intention of ever leaving them.
The sound of the front door opening and closing made all of them look up. Hector had been silent while Gallagher and Oakley bickered, but his body tensed as if he were ready to defend his friends. He probably was. The carriers had become close while they lived in the Bishop house, and while several had left, they all were family. Misha knew that eventually all of them would have to find a new home, but the thought was a bit scary. He didn’t know if he’d be able to deal with having a baby on his own as well as losing the only people who were family to him.
Calum appeared at the living room door. Everyone relaxed, and Calum narrowed his eyes as he stared at Misha and the baby. Misha knew Calum had a problem with him having decided to keep Tommy, but they hadn’t talked about it yet. He suspected that would happen soon.
“What are you doing here?” Hector asked.
Calum glared at him and came to flop on the couch next to Misha. “I have as much right as you to be here.”
Hector rolled his eyes, not one bit intimidated by Calum’s grumpiness. No one here was. Calum had been grumpy since the day he’d arrived. Misha hadn’t been there, but he’d been told about it, and in the beginning, he’d stayed away from Calum. Well, in the beginning, he’d stayed away from pretty much everyone. He’d been hurting, both physically and mentally, and he’d needed time to sort through his feelings. He still wasn’t sure how to deal with most of them, but he was better now.
“I never said you couldn’t be here.” Hector pointed out. “I was just wondering why you weren’t with Julian and Kaspar.”
“They told me to take a day off.”
“You don’t like children. I don’t understand why you volunteered to move in with them and take care of two babies,” Oakley said.
Calum’s glare deepened. “Who said I don’t like children?”
“The way you look at Tommy says it all,” Oakley muttered.
Oakley, Gallagher, and Hector turned their attention back to the TV. Misha wasn’t sure what they were watching. He hadn’t been paying attention, and honestly, he didn’t care. He just liked having people around and noise surrounding him.
“You know I don’t hate Tommy, right?” Calum asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.
Misha smiled at him. He settled Tommy better against his chest and turned a bit so he could look at Calum. They weren’t friends, exactly, but then Calum didn’t seem to have friends. “Why would you hate him? He’s a baby.”
“Exactly.” Calum hesitated. “I just don’t understand.” He looked around as if he’d asked Misha to sell him Tommy.
Misha knew what Calum was talking about. Calum wasn’t the first to ask, although he was the one who’d been the bluntest about it. “I hate Gruber,” Misha said.
Gallagher stiffened on the armchair next to the couch Misha and Calum were sitting on, so Misha knew he’d heard what Misha was saying. That was fine with him. Gallagher was his closest friend, but even they hadn’t talked about it. Gallagher tended to avoid the topic of conversation, which wasn’t surprising considering what had happened.
“I’m pretty sure everyone hates him,” Calum said, the scowl back on his face.
It was sweet that he felt that way on Misha’s behalf. “Well, I have extra reasons to hate him, and I do. I’m also glad he’s dead and that he’s never coming back. But what he did to me isn’t Tommy’s fault. Tommy didn’t ask for it to happen, and even though he’s a result of it, I can’t hold it against him. He’s just an innocent baby, and he’s my baby. I love him, just like I love my new family and my new life.”