Kenny hates getting milked—the process where Doc Anthony eases his snake’s fangs through a thin lid covering a cup in order to collect his venom. Still, he knows it’s a necessary evil if he expects to live in a shifter pod. The doc needs it so he can always have anti-venom on hand, and since he used his last vial to save a human Kenny had bitten, he needs to make more.
Imagine Kenny’s surprise when, as Doc Anthony sinks his fangs through the paper, an amazing scent teases his senses. The distraction causes him to pop his head up, and he nearly stabs a fang into the doc. In the doc’s shock, he fumbles Kenny’s snake form, dropping him to the counter.
A set of hands Kenny doesn’t recognize grabs him. He struggles for an instant until he catches his new holder’s scent. Stilling, Kenny realizes the big human holding him with a firm and confident hand is his mate. He listens for a moment, learning the man is Renaldo Martinez, and he’s a snake enthusiast.
When Kenny shifts, revealing what he is and declaring their connection—that Renaldo is the other half of his soul—will he be able to convince his human to be just as enamored with him in human form?
“Well, I sorta feel like I need a shower after dealing with that guy,” Renaldo Martinez drawled as he reentered the conference room.
Elioch Parkinson lifted his attention from the brief offered by Ramone Windervine. “He did remind me of a greasy snake oil salesman,” he mused, frowning. After another glance at the brief before pushing it away from him, the lanky, dark-skinned male rose from the table. “I have no idea how he thought you’d go for this horse shit.”
The fact that Elioch cussed told Renaldo exactly how offended he was. His best friend of nearly twenty-five years was usually the most mild-mannered of men. In fact, that was how Renaldo had originally met him while in grade school.
Renaldo had spotted Elioch being bullied by a trio of jerks on the playground during recess in sixth grade. While Renaldo had sprouted like a weed even before puberty, making him bigger than most, his mother had instilled in him a sense of fairness that hadn’t allowed him to stand by. Elioch, on the other hand, was the quintessential geek—skinny and nerdy with glasses.
After sending the bullies on their way, Renaldo and Elioch had become fast friends. Good thing, too, because they’d ended up helping each other make their way through school. Elioch was a wiz with anything electronic, not to mention the sciences. Renaldo helped coach his friend through social interactions, keeping him off the bully radar.
The fact that Renaldo ended up six-foot-three of pure muscle and everyone knew that Elioch was his best friend had probably helped, too.
They’d even gone into business together. Right after college, Renaldo became the face of a small company offering state-of-the-art electronics chips for the motherboards in computers. The technology had been an instant success, but instead of selling as a start-up and making hundreds of thousands, they’d decided to get a loan and build on it themselves.
The choice had paid off in spades—or millions—and two years prior, Renaldo had convinced Elioch to become more hands-on in the business. His buddy had officially gone on record as the head of their research and development department, which currently boasted six employees.
“How he thought we’d go for this horse shit,” Renaldo teased, gently correcting his friend, reminding him that he had just as much of a voice in their company’s decisions. His friend still suffered from self-esteem issues, and Renaldo refused to ever think he would take advantage of him. “And this isn’t the first time he’s made a proposal to buy us out, even if he did pretty this offer up by making it sound like a merger.” Renaldo lifted his fingers and made air quotes.
Elioch tilted his head to the side, furrowing his black brows behind his brown-rimmed glasses. “Really? How come I don’t remember that?”
“It was three years ago, and you hadn’t become quite as involved in the management aspects, yet,” Renaldo explained, picking up his own copy of Ramone’s offer. “You were immersed in the development of that laser guidance chip, so I’m not surprised you don’t remember.” Grinning, Renaldo thought fondly of how his friend always lost himself in his research. If it was an important meeting, he made a point of swinging by Elioch’s office—or workroom—to get him with plenty of time to spare. “Plus, I think I only mentioned it in passing. I knew it wasn’t something you would be the least bit interested in. Even working on the guidance chip, you were already mentally immersed in that contract for nanite enhancement we’d just won.”
Upon the word nanites, Elioch’s black eyes lit up. “That was so much fun.” He grinned broadly, obviously thinking of the work he’d put in. “It was so easy, too. I don’t know why their own engineers hadn’t spotted the problem right away. All they had to do was—”
“Whoa there, Eli.” Renaldo lifted his free hand, hoping to stop his buddy’s diatribe into complex electronics that he couldn’t hope to understand. When doing proposals, he had to make copious notes when Elioch described things to him. “Anyway, give me that copy. I’ll file mine, have yours recycled, and write up a polite thank you but no thank you letter.”
Elioch nodded, handing over the packet. “You know, with the way they worded what would happen to the human resources and administration departments, they were pretty much telling you that you’d be out of a job.”
Renaldo barked a laugh as he nodded. “They did, didn’t they.” He shook his head as he led the way out of the conference room. “Whoever wrote this isn’t the brightest bulb in the box.”
Upon hearing Elioch’s snickers, Renaldo smirked.
Ramone had briefly brushed over the fact that upon merging with Perisource Enterprises, their own company’s human resources, administration, accounting, and marketing departments would be made redundant. Renaldo had asked if openings were available to accommodate their people, and Ramone had hedged that there were a few. Then he’d hurried to say that if there weren’t any openings that fit their skills, they would be given a generous severance package.
Considering Renaldo felt as if all his employees—even the six other people that made up those departments—were family, he had no intention of dumping them on the street, even with a generous severance package. After all, once an employee had been with the company for six months, they were given the option of investing in the company. Renaldo had found that, if an employee did that, they would have a personal stake in how well the company did.
Currently, the majority of their company’s stock was owned by himself and Elioch. The remaining twenty percent was held in various percentages by their twenty-two employees. No way would he force out nearly a quarter of his people.
Large corporations like Perisource Enterprises just didn’t understand that mentality.