Ben Miner is happy with his life as a business major at Colorado University Boulder. For the first time in his life, he's getting things planned out. He's about to graduate and ready for anything life can throw at him, as long as he doesn't have to go home to Hardwood Valley. He's tired of the shifter community there and wants to stay among the humans.
Felix Chantal is doing his best to support himself and his sister as they struggle to get their degrees. When hunters ambush them at his sister's work, the two fight back, then find themselves on the run.
When Ben and Felix run into each other, their lives change forever. They have an instant attraction, but with hunters on their tails, do the badger and bat have time to explore the feelings welling up within them before a hunter’s bullet ends everything?
Ben Miner hurried down the sidewalk of Colorado University Boulder campus. He’d made it through finals and was ready for down time over the winter break. He was carrying a full load in the spring so he could graduate with his degree in business. With several local startups already expressing interest in hiring him when he had his degree, he was really debating if he wanted to head back to Hardwood Valley after school. He knew his parents were going to be at him over the holiday for an answer, and he wasn’t sure what to tell them. There were certainly positives of living in Hardwood Valley. The biggest of those was he didn’t have to hide what he was, a badger shifter. But other things, like a social life, were very restricted there. He’d heard from his folks and his good friend Van about the number of shifters suddenly pouring into the safe haven of the valley, but he wasn’t sure he was cut out for that life. After attending college at CU and getting used to life in Boulder, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to the quiet valley and spend the rest of his life helping his family keep the public works there running. He had a good head for business, and there just wasn’t much of that in Hardwood.
“Hey, Ben!” Robbie, one of his newest roommates, called as he hurried into the house he shared with five other guys.
“Hey, Robbie!” Ben slowed, but he wanted to get to his room and drop his backpack.
“So are you going to the bar for the final final celebration tonight?” Robbie leaned against the doorframe going into the living room.
Ben nodded. “That was the plan. Got nothing else going on.”
“Cool.” Robbie beamed. “When are you heading home? I heard there were some storms heading in day after tomorrow.”
“I’m not sure I’m going home this year. A couple of the guys were talking about just staying here over the holiday. I thought it might be a nice change from taking the bus home and dealing with the folks for three weeks.” Ben sat down on the stairs and put his backpack on the floor at his feet. He’d been wondering for a while if a human holiday was everything they portrayed in the movies and had been thinking about spending time prowling the Pearl Street Mall and maybe catching a few of the holiday shows the various theater groups were having around Boulder. He wondered about going down to Denver for a few days. He had friends down there he could stay with.
“Wow. If I missed Christmas, my folks would have a cow.” Robbie was always going on about how much he wanted to do new and exciting things while complaining about having to do exactly what his family wanted him to do. Even though they were all the way in Michigan, he always bowed to their whims.
Ben shrugged. “My mom will try and guilt me into coming home, but my dad will understand.” At least he hoped his dad would understand. “But I haven’t made up my mind yet. The plus is I can just hop on a bus if I decide to go. You had to get plane tickets.”
Robbie nodded. “There is that. Well, if you want to walk over to the bar with me later, I’m going to leave about seven.”
“Okay. I’ll think about it. I figured I’d get something to eat first. The food at the bar isn’t that great.” Seeing his opportunity to get up to his room, Ben stood and picked up his pack.
“Yeah, there is that.” Robbie frowned for a second. “I might want to do that, but it’ll cut into my beer money.”
“Then you might want to hit the fridge and see if there’s anything in there.” Ben started up the stairs. There was always food in the fridge. Part of their rent went to food, and their house father, Paul, always kept things well stocked. His only problem with what was stocked was it tended to be on the vegan side of life and he was a true carnivore, so he tended to eat out more than some of the other house mates.
“Maybe.” Robbie turned and walked back into the living room, his steps not as energetic as they had been when Ben came into the house.
Ben hurried up to his room. A small box lay on his bed. It was wrapped in brown paper and he recognized his mother’s tight perfect script as he picked it up. There were extra postage labels on it, indicating she’d used overnight mail to get it to him. It wasn’t like her to spend the extra cash for fast postage, and since he might be seeing her in a few days if he didn’t keep to his idea of staying in Boulder, it didn’t make sense. He unwrapped the package, and there was a small ring case in it with a note.
I can’t wait to see you in a few days. This ring is something Mark Troch came up with to help keep us all safe. I wanted you to have it as fast as possible. We don’t know what all the hunters are doing to find us, but this ring will keep you safe from human technology. Whenever you have it on, you won’t be detected. Please wear it. I don’t want anything to happen to you.
P.S. I can’t wait to see you this weekend!