Marine veteran and panther shifter Forrest Bell has given up on life. A double amputee, he does as he is ordered then spends the rest of his time sitting on the front porch of the hotel waiting to die. His panther side pulled away during the past year he spent recovering and he’s not sure it will ever return.
After ending up in the drunk tank, music composer Kris Kelly finds himself sent to Paladin, Montana to friends of his uncle. Though he’s not happy with the situation, he hopes the forced vacation will bring back the music that has gone missing from his soul.
Can a wounded warrior who has given up find a new reason to live when his mate, a dirty Irishman, shows up? Will Kris be able to salvage his floundering music career? Can the two men find their happily ever after as part of Team Paladin?
Be Warned: m/m sex, public exhibition
“I’m not going.” Kris Kelly glared through the jail cell bars of the Nashville police substation at his uncle who had shown up in full military dress uniform shortly after three o’clock in the morning. “I’m not going and you can’t make me.”
Yes, even four hours after arriving at the jail he was still a little drunk, but there was no way he would agree to being shipped off to the middle of nowhere for an indefinite period of time. He had songs to write, a demo CD to finish, and a job to keep. If he didn’t keep up with everything, Talita Jones, his manager, would drop his ass from her up-and-comers program and the dream would be over.
He tried to forget that the only thing he had written in weeks was a grocery list and the monthly rent check to his landlady who didn’t do online banking. Instead of working, he spent his days reading or watching old movies. Anything other than acknowledging that the music that normally flowed through him had gone silent. Admitting that would be just what his uncle needed to restart his argument that Kris be practical, grow up, and get a real job.
His uncle took a deep breath and held it for several seconds before releasing it on a long sigh. Kris’s stomach knotted painfully as he waited for the man’s decree. He had fucked up yet again, hurting the only family he had left. It felt like all he had done since his parents died and he’d been sent from Ireland to the United States to live with his Uncle Micah was mess up. Of course, he had only met the man a total of three times before getting off the plane that cold and rainy February day a dozen years ago. From the first day he had not fit in, no matter how much he tried.
“Do you really want your agent, and the rest of the world, to know your boyfriend screwed around on you? And when you found out you got so drunk you picked a fight with a man three times your size? Fine by me, it’s your reputation. At least with you in here I’ll know you won’t get in any more trouble. Call me when you get out.”
His uncle had nearly reached the door where a guard waited to walk him out when Kris broke. “All right, I’ll go, but I need a couple of days to get ready.” Maybe in that time I can figure out how to get out of this, he finished mentally.
Uncle Micah did a slow about-face and stood at attention, looking every inch the three-star general he was. “No deal. I get you out, we go to your apartment where you will shower, change, and pack. From there we will go to the airport where my plane is waiting to take us to Montana.”
Kris peeked over his shoulder. Too many of his cellmates were drunken, redneck, good old boys. Several of them stared back with unholy hunger in their expressions. He might be blond, gay, and a twink, but doing a dozen men in one night had never been an entry on his bucket list.
When one man winked and two others grabbed their crotches, his future became set in stone. There was no way out. He was going on a long trip to nowhere.
“All right,” he said with a sigh, “I’ll do it. I’ll go to Montana.”