On the Road: When a realtor reviews a home before showing a prospective client, he finds something unexpected.
Bruin Rawlins is a musk ox shifter who enjoys his job as a realtor since it allows him to meet so many new people. That increases his opportunity to find his mate—the other half of his soul. Imagine his surprise when it’s not a client who turns out to be that special someone, but a beaten, battered human he finds in a home he’s checking out. Giving in to his shifter instincts to care for his mate, Bruin takes the man home and, with the help of his brother, treats his injuries. When the human wakes, he panics and runs. To Bruin’s embarrassment, it’s his mammy who manages to calm him, taking him to call his family and giving Bruin a chance to learn his mate’s name—Juan Ramirez. When Juan’s relations arrive, other people are with them. Bruin learns that Juan already knows about shifters. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to jump in and bond. Can Bruin earn Juan’s trust while keeping him safe from whoever had hurt him?
Whistling along to the tune playing from his radio, Bruin Rawlins checked his GPS. He made the turn indicated and switched to singing. Bruin knew he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, so he would have been embarrassed if anyone heard him, but there was just something about Perry Como’s It’s a Good Day that always put a smile on his face.
Bruin continued to grin as he switched back to whistling.
Yep, even I can’t stand my singing.
Pulling up in front of the address indicated on his paperwork, Bruin picked up his metal clipboard. It was one of the thick kind that opened to store additional papers or small items. He opened it and tossed his truck keys inside before exiting his vehicle.
Walking to the sidewalk, Bruin took a few minutes to survey the neighborhood. He noticed most of the lawns appeared to have been mown recently and had nicely manicured hedges. A few had children’s toys in the yard—tricycles, bikes, and plastic trucks. One house two doors down had sidewalk chalk marking up the driveway.
Bruin grinned. If the house behind him was as nice as the listing said, it would be perfect for the couple he intended to show it to that afternoon. As a realtor, Bruin always checked the home before taking a client there. He’d had one too many unpleasant surprises early on in his career, making a client walk away from not only the house, but him.
He’d learned from those experiences. It took more of his time, but he didn’t mind. It was well worth it for the sterling reputation he’d eventually earned as well as all the word-of-mouth referrals that came with it.
For over a century and a half, Bruin had earned his living with his hands—first as a blacksmith, then in a variety of steel and other types of mills. As a musk ox shifter, he could live as long as five hundred years. He didn’t want to do that without his mate—the other half of his soul. Working in mills and factories didn’t give Bruin much of an opportunity to meet new people.
With that in mind, when Bruin and his family—his parents, four siblings, and a number of extended family members—had moved south to a different territory twelve years before, the identity he’d requested had given him a new focus. He’d learned to be a realtor. Bruin had always had a friendly personality with his herd-mates, while being more reserved with humans. He’d learned to adjust that.
His new occupation gave him the opportunity to meet plenty of people. He just knew he would run across his mate eventually. Until then, he enjoyed seeing different homes and making new friends.
Bruin gave the neighborhood one more cursory sweep, taking in the Halloween decorations in many of the yards. There were orange leaf bags painted with jack-o-lantern faces, skeletons, and witches. One house had a myriad of fake spider webs and spiders in their trees.
Grinning, Bruin headed toward the house. Just as he reached the door, his phone rang. He pulled it from his belt clip and checked the screen before answering it.
“Hey, Warren,” Bruin greeted his older brother. “What’s up?”
As Bruin had been speaking, he’d been checking his paperwork for the lockbox code.
“Hi, Bru,” Warren replied. “I’m calling to make sure your client showing this afternoon isn’t going to interfere with Rochelle’s birthday party.”
While punching in the code, Bruin rolled his eyes. “As if I’d ever miss my niece’s birthday party.” He pulled the house’s key from the now-open box and inserted it into the lock. “Don’t worry, Warren. I’ll be there on time.”
“Good. Because no way do I want to figure out a way to tell my little girl that her favorite uncle…”
Bruin stepped into the house and immediately lost track of what Warren was saying. The scent that hit his nostrils was just too distracting. It contained an earthy fragrance mixed with something sweet—like honeysuckle. Except, there was an underlying hint of iron to it, too, as well as a bitterness that set his musk ox on edge.
Goose bumps formed on his arms underneath his jacket, and the hairs on his nape stood on end.
“Bruin? Bruin? Are you listening to me?”
“No,” Bruin admitted when he finally registered Warren calling his name. He had no idea how long he’d been standing inside the foyer of the home, but now he started forward. His need to identify the source of the confusing scent surged through him. Part of it set his teeth on edge, even as arousal began to burn through his system.
He didn’t understand it one bit.
Evidently, something in Bruin’s tone must have alerted Warren. “What’s going on, Bruin?” his older brother demanded. “What’s wrong?”
As Warren was a damn dominant musk ox—and the head enforcer for their herd—Bruin naturally followed his commands…and answered his questions. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “There’s a scent in here that’s…I can’t describe it.”
“Are you at that house you plan to show your clients later?”
“Yeah.” Bruin tipped his head back and inhaled deeply.
“Well, isn’t it sitting empty because it’s on the market?” Warren started slowly. “Plenty of people could have been through it.”
Bruin growled low in his throat. He didn’t like Warren’s logic, even if he was right. Tracking down and sniffing every person who’d toured the place would be a difficult, if not nearly impossible, task.
Except, as Bruin started up the stairs, the scent intensified. “Maybe, but—” Something told him he wouldn’t have to do that. “This is too fresh. It’s…current. Here.”