[Siren Publishing: The Lynn Hagen ManLove Collection: Alternative Paranormal Romantic Suspense Romance, MM, shape-shifter, werewolves, HEA]
When Sheriff Ezra Braxton is shot, Hennessey finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He refuses to leave the sheriff's side, even caring for him when Braxton is sent home from the hospital. They start out as almost-strangers, but over the course of Braxton healing, they become so much more. Hennessey learns to slowly let his past go as Braxton shows him that life is more than a tortured past.
Braxton has been interested in Hennessey for over a year, but never makes a move. It's no secret the men at Mercury Rising sleep around, and Braxton doesn't want to become another notch on the bounty hunter's bedpost. But unforeseen circumstances pull them together, and Braxton discovers a softer side of Hennessey. Unfortunately, life barges in and the case they'd been working comes back with a vengeance. Hennessey must keep Braxton safe from the feral lion shifter while Braxton tries to protect Hennessey from a scorned lover.
When he arrived, Hennessey groaned. Two cop cars sat in Harry's driveway. What the fuck was going on? He parked on the street, grabbed his mug, and swallowed some coffee before getting out.
Deputy Jameson stood in the driveway, talking with some guy as Hennessey walked toward them.
"I heard a loud scream," the guy said. "That's when I called the cops. I'm not usually up this early, but Honey had to use the bathroom."
A small dog huddled in the guy's arms. Hennessey slowed so he could hear the conversation and get the lowdown on what was going on.
"You did the right thing," Jameson said.
He didn't look old enough to be a cop. His uniform didn't quite fit him, hanging loosely in a few spots as he wrote down what the neighbor said.
"I heard a roar," the man said as he petted his dog. "Like a lion was in the house." He looked around nervously and lowered his voice, but Hennessey was still able to hear him. "And that's not the first time I've heard it. You might want to check his house for exotic animals."
"Sorry." Jameson held up his hand when Hennessey tried to pass. "This is a crime scene. You're not allowed inside."
"Sheriff Braxton called me," Hennessey lied. He needed to get inside and see what was going on, but that wouldn't be possible if Jameson didn't let him through.
"He did?" Jameson looked toward the house, uncertainty in his eyes. "He didn't tell me you were coming."
"Call him." Hennessey kept going. He wasn't trying to embarrass Jameson in front of anyone, but if Harry had killed someone, Hennessey needed to know. That would change everything. His capture warrant would turn into a kill warrant if that were the case.
"Sir, you can't go in there," Jameson called from behind him.
Just then Braxton stepped outside. Hennessey came up short and looked the sheriff over. He had to admit, Braxton was ruggedly handsome, with a touch of gray around his temples, a chiseled jaw, aquiline nose, and intense brown eyes. He reminded Hennessey of someone who should be riding a horse on a ranch rather than being a cop.
Braxton removed his trooper-style hat and scratched at his thick, black hair as he eyed Hennessey. "How did I know one of you guys would show up?"
He had laugh lines around his eyes, and lips that were full and kissable. One of the bounty hunters had once referred to Braxton as the Marlboro Man, and damn if he wasn't right. Braxton was macho, filled with authority, and made Hennessey's heart quicken as he stared into those amazing eyes.
"Maybe because the neighbor said he heard a roar." Hennessey looked over his shoulder to make sure Jameson and the neighbor weren't in earshot. "That's why I'm here." He tapped his leather jacket. "Got a warrant for Harry Bloom."
"Jameson, don't let anyone else in," Braxton shouted before waving Hennessey inside. As they walked, Hennessey checked out the sheriff's ass, and what a fine backside he had. But his attention was quickly pulled away when he walked into the bloody living room. A dead guy lay on the floor, his eyes wide open, staring lifelessly toward the ceiling.
"What the hell happened here?" Hennessey looked at the blood spatter over the wall, furniture, and floor. Someone had redecorated in red, and he was guessing that someone was Harry.
"Got the coroner on the way, so don't touch anything," Braxton said. "Just woke up two of my deputies to work the scene. They should be here shortly, so whatever you need to do, make it quick. I don't wanna have to explain why I let a civilian in here."
"I'm far from a civilian." Hennessey tilted his head back and sniffed. "The lion shifter was definitely here. But there was someone else, a human."
When the sheriff didn't reply, Hennessey looked at him. Braxton stood there staring at him with his head cocked to the side. "What?"
Braxton shook his head. "Still ain't used to your kind's 'special' senses."
"My kind?" Hennessey wasn't sure if he should be offended. He knew that Sheriff Ezra Braxton was a fair and just man, had seen the way he interacted with the residents of Mercury, and hoped the male wasn't secretly prejudiced against nonhumans. Finding out Braxton wasn't what he pretended to be would truly suck.
Braxton held up a hand. "Not insulting you, just not used to it."
"At least I'm not shifting," Hennessey replied. "I'd get a better sense of smell, though, if I did."
Braxton looked toward the door. "No, no shifting. But if you want, I can meet you back here once everything settles down and you can…shift."
Braxton narrowed his eyes. "Am I boring you?"
"Nah, just didn't get much sleep last night."
"Heard what goes on in those back rooms," Braxton said with a touch of disgust in his voice. He turned and stared at the body, giving Hennessey his back.
A shifter didn't know who his mate was unless he slept with the person. It wasn't as though the bounty hunters were whores, but they did tend to go through a lot of men in their search, and those men ran their mouths too damn much.
He let Braxton believe whatever he wanted to believe. Hennessey didn't correct him. Instead, he wandered the house, looking around, sniffing the air, and wondered where Bloom had taken off to. The neighbor had said he'd heard a roar before calling the cops, which meant the lion shifter hadn't been gone long.
"I need to call Matt," Hennessey said when he ended up back in the living room. "He needs to know what's going on."
Hennessey didn't wait for a reply. He stepped outside, then slipped into the backyard when another cruiser pulled up. Braxton was gonna catch flak from his men regardless, because Jameson had already seen him, but Hennessey abided by the sheriff's wishes and stayed out of sight.
"Shit just went south," Hennessey said when Matt answered.
"I just walked into a crime scene at Bloom's. There's a dead body on the floor and blood everywhere."
"Hang on." Matt spoke to someone near him. When he came back on the line, he said, "Just got the updated warrant. It's no longer a capture."
"It's a kill," Hennessey said before he hung up.
Tears slipped past his closed eyelids. His hands curled and uncurled as dark claws emerged and receded like an approaching and retreating ocean wave. His canines were elongated, thick, and sharp-looking. Ezra wasn't sure if he wanted to get anywhere near him. The last time hadn't ended badly, but Hennessey was a shifter, and there was no telling how much damage he could inflict with his inhuman strength.
"Hennessey." This was déjà vu all over again. Only this time he hoped Hennessey woke up without Ezra having to touch him. "Hennessey, wake up."
"Ezra," Hennessey moaned.
His name on Hennessey's lips shocked him. He had always called Ezra by his surname, regardless of how many times Ezra had told him to do otherwise. But what shook him was the fact Hennessey was dreaming about him.
His eyelids still didn't open but he'd calmed down. His canines and claws receded. Ezra should've gotten up and left him alone, but he secretly wanted to hear Hennessey whisper his name again in that deep, sexy voice.
Knowing full well he shouldn't, Ezra poked Hennessey's chest, hoping to get a response. Unfortunately, it wasn't the response he'd been after. Hennessey growled, grabbed Ezra's wrist in a bruising hold, and yanked Ezra on top of him, their chests crushed together and their bodies aligned.
His wounds didn't like the pressure. Ezra cried out, pushing himself up, but Hennessey curled an arm over Ezra's lower back and kept him pinned to his sweaty body.
"Damn it, Hennessey." Ezra wasn't a small man. Not by a long shot. He still worked out twice a week to keep himself in shape, but Hennessey's iron grip was impossible to break free from. Ezra slammed his fist into Hennessey's chest. "Let me go!"
Hennessey's eyes flew open. He gasped and yanked his arm away. He sat up so fast Ezra toppled toward the floor, but Hennessey's hand darted out and caught him, pulling Ezra onto the cushions. He stared down at him as if Ezra were a ghost. He kept blinking as his lips parted.
"Wake up, damn you." Ezra pressed his hand against his chest and hissed. At this rate, he'd heal in about a year. Between his own stubbornness and Hennessey's nightmares, his wounds weren't thanking him.
"You gotta stop coming near me when I'm asleep." Hennessey wiped his hand down his face, his eyes wide, his Adam's apple bobbing. "Fuck, man. I could've hurt you."
Ezra simply lay there, staring up at him, breathing past the pain as it slowly subsided and his cock hardened. He couldn't help the reaction. Hennessey was nearly naked, and even disheveled he was damn good-looking. Sweat glistened on his chiseled chest, his swollen biceps, and his rigid stomach. Ezra's gaze drifted lower and he groaned at the sight of the large bulge pressing against Hennessey's boxer briefs.
The man was a work of heavenly art, sculpted by the gods and kissed by angels. Ezra had never met a more stunning guy, and he wanted a piece of that art pressing into him, groaning as they found their pleasure.
Ezra's gaze flashed to Hennessey's face, and as he stared into those dark, bedroom eyes, a spark of lust entered them. Keeping eye contact, Ezra slid his hand up Hennessey's corded, hairy thigh and brushed his fingers over the man's soft, cotton-covered cock. Hennessey jerked, as if he hadn't expected Ezra to touch him, but the guy didn't move away. His breathing became rapid, his chest rising and falling in quick pants as he knelt there staring down at Ezra.
Ezra's emotions were playing tug-of-war. He felt as though he was taking advantage of Hennessey in a vulnerable state, yet he couldn't stop his fingers from sliding up the material to pull at Hennessey's waistband.
Hennessey kneeling there, with the moonlight at his back, looked like he'd descended from heaven—minus some wings and a crooked halo.
He kept watching Ezra's face as Ezra slid his hand between the man's hard body and the waistband of his underwear. Then Hennessey slowly lowered the material until his cock sprang free and the underwear rested around his thighs.
This was what Ezra had been craving for so long. An unobstructed view of Hennessey's naked body, a chance to curl his fingers around the man's cock, to taste him, to feel Hennessey's body under his as Ezra fucked him into delirium. He wasn't sure if he was ready for full-on sex since strenuous activity was painful and winded him, but simply touching Hennessey was enough for now.
Not totally enough, though. Ezra was drooling to taste his thick, perfect hardness. His watering mouth went into overdrive as he curled his fingers around Hennessey's hard cock. The flesh was made of steel, yet it was as soft as silk. Ezra swiped the pad of his thumb over the pre-cum dotting the head, then, without breaking eye contact, he eased his thumb into his mouth.
Hennessey's eyes became heavy-lidded. His nostrils flared and his lips grew tight. He looked like he was fighting to restrain himself, and Ezra didn't want that. He didn't want Hennessey to just kneel there watching the show. Ezra wanted him to be a participant.
His brows furrowed when something wet spurted from Hennessey's cock and landed on his chest, just missing his bandage. Ezra swiped his finger through the stickiness and stared at his finger. Hennessey didn't say a word, his gaze intense, watching him like he was waiting for Ezra's reaction.
He tasted the wetness and his tongue tingled.
"Natural lube." Hennessey's tone was thick, dark, and arousing. A shudder raced through Ezra at the deep sound of his voice.
"It won't harm me if I taste it, will it?"
The side of Hennessey's mouth curled into the most seductive, devilish smile Ezra had ever seen. "Why don't you find out?"