Ben wove in and out of consciousness. He remembered lying in the dirt, bleeding, pain running through his entire body and claws digging into his chest. Ben also recalled fierce but protective black eyes and leaning on dark brown fur. Griffin. He didn’t know why, but at that moment, he knew Griffin would do anything to protect him. That he didn’t need to worry anymore.
This must be a dream, because how could Griffin even know where he was? Besides, didn’t the werebear blow him off? Why would Griffin risk his life to save Ben? How else to explain why he was still alive though? Maybe it had all been a dream but the pain in his body told him it wasn’t.
The next time he opened his eyes, those same black eyes looked at him with concern, except they were set in a human face, not a bear’s. Griffin smoothened his hair back and pressed a big hand to his forehead.
“Shit. I should take you to the hospital,” Griffin began.
Ben didn’t know where he got the strength to grip Griffin’s arm or croak out one word. “No.”
“Ben, I’ve tended to the cuts on your body the best I can, but I only have basic first aid.”
“No hospitals. No police.”
“You’re the police,” Griffin said.
“I don’t know anymore.” After that, Ben tapped out again.
The next time Ben woke, he felt sunlight on his face. He groggily opened his eyes and found himself lying on someone’s leather couch, a warm patchwork blanket thrown over his body. Ben slowly sat up, only for his body to protest and his aches to flare up. He looked down and saw he was wearing someone’s oversized shirt. Ben peeked underneath to see his chest was covered in bandages.
“Griffin,” he whispered. “So it hadn’t been a dream after all.”
“Nope,” a voice answered. Griffin appeared in his line of sight, and Ben swallowed, seeing the werebear only had boxers on and an apron with a bear cartoon printed on the front. “Glad to see you’re still with us, Sheriff.”
“Ben,” he corrected. His throat felt dry, but Griffin seemed to know what he needed because the werebear headed to the kitchen, only to reappear with a glass of water. “Thanks.”
Ben accepted the drink and took a few gulps until his tongue and mouth no longer felt dry. “Plus, it’ll take more to kill me. I just got a little scratched up, that’s all.”
Griffin’s answering growl made him freeze up, and all the hairs on his arms stand up. “You should’ve seen how badly injured you were last night. You bled so much, I was tempted to haul your stubborn ass to the hospital.”
“Haul?” The nerve of this bear, thinking he could lecture Ben.
“Carry,” Griffin corrected, flashing his fangs at him.
“I didn’t ask for your help.” The moment he said those words, Ben instantly regretted it. Griffin huffed and glowered at him. Guilt hit him. If it weren’t for Griffin, he wouldn’t be alive and kicking last night. There was murder in Lorenzo’s eyes, and he knew Reaper would only cover up his death. That was just how insignificant and powerless Ben was, and it frustrated the hell out of him.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “And there’s a reason I don’t want to be brought to the hospital. It’ll only bring attention to me, and right now, I don’t need that. The mayor’s in Reaper’s pockets, do you know that?”
“I figured,” Griffin said, then sighed. “Before we have a serious discussion, let’s get some food in your belly first. Can you stand?”
“Of course. I’m not an invalid.” To prove his point, Ben stood up, only to feel dizzy moments later. He nearly stumbled if not for Griffin gripping his arm. He let out a breath as his chest started to ache.
“No harm asking for a little help now and then. Everyone knows you’re a tough son-of-a-bitch, Sheriff,” Griffin said.
Ben let Griffin help him to the table. Seeing the piles of scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, and toasted bread with butter made his stomach growl. Ben remembered he had only gobbled up some half-priced sandwiches at the convenience store last night, before he went on his little jaunt.
“Ben. Call me Ben, and don’t think this nice breakfast spread is going to make up for you standing me up on our date.”
They sat down, and after Griffin piled heaps of food on his plate, the werebear let out a breath. “Look, Ben. I’ve regretted that night more than you know, but it was a life-and-death situation. If I didn’t back up Diesel, he would’ve died that night.”
Ben stared at Griffin. It struck him that he might’ve overreacted about their missed date far too much. Maybe it had been that long for him that he easily became emotional and cynical when it came to the dating game. Perhaps it was because he genuinely had a thing for Griffin. Not just a thing actually, but full-blown attraction. It had been a long time coming, too.
He’d been working at the station for four years now and had spoken and worked with Griffin plenty of times. Griffin had flirted with him, and he flirted back.
“A text would’ve been nice,” he grumbled, feeling like a spoiled child.
“To tell you the truth, we were both knocked out from that fight. Bishop had to drag our unconscious asses back to the shop on his own,” Griffin admitted.
He stared at Griffin, who didn’t seem like he was lying. “That serious? Why didn’t you call for backup? Where was your Alpha?”
“Piston left me in charge,” Griffin said. The werebear stiffened. “I needed to show him I can take care of myself and the others.”
Ben let out a frustrated breath. “You bears can be stubborn as hell.”
“Just like a sheriff I know.”
“Fine. We’re even.”
“Not even close.”
Those words struck a chord, resonated with his bear.
“Too much?” Griffin asked.
Ben shook his head. “I’ve tried to fight it, but it comes back, twice as bad. I like you, Griffin, more than like even, and my attraction to you—it scares me.”
“There’s no reason to be scared, not of me,” he said.
If he told Ben now that they were fated mates, would his sheriff bolt? Griffin couldn’t take that chance, not tonight. Things were only heating up between the Four Claws clan and Reaper’s MC. It would only go downhill from here. Ben was too involved as the sheriff to back out now. If the future was so uncertain, then Griffin wanted Ben now, to grasp the present by the horns and never let go.
“I know you’ll never hurt me,” Ben whispered. “You’ve already saved me twice.”
“And I’ll do it all over again. I’ll keep you safe. Always.”
“Why? I mean, all my life I’ve always been on my own. Then you suddenly barge in, confusing the hell out of me and—” Ben groaned as Griffin ran his fingers up and down his shaft. Griffin gathered the precum at the tip, lifted it to his lips, and licked.
Ben stared at him.
“We’ll talk more. After we fuck.”
“So crude,” Ben mumbled. “And presumptuous.”
“Go ahead and lie to me, Sheriff. Tell me you don’t want me to take you against that car, to strip you naked and plunge my dick deep inside your ass.”
Color spread to Ben’s cheeks and neck, but the human didn’t seem outraged or shocked.
“I can’t. I don’t want to lie to you anymore.” Ben took off his jacket and even peeled off his shirt, before shyly smiling at him.
Fuck, but Griffin was definitely turned on. He never expected Ben to take initiative.
Griffin spun Ben by the shoulder and pressed him against the hood of the car, delighted when Ben climbed on top of it.
“I’ve fantasied about this numerous times,” he said, hooking his fingers into the belt loops of Ben’s pants and yanking it down, along with Ben’s underwear. “Fucking you in a thousand different ways. Last warning, Sheriff. Once we start down this road, there’s no going back.”
* * * *
Ben’s heart beat so loudly that no doubt the shifter could hear it.
“I know,” he could only answer, because what else was there to say? Ben couldn’t very well hide his growing erection. He felt so sexy, so wanted when Griffin took off his jeans and underwear, and now, he couldn’t believe he was lying naked on the hood of someone’s car.
The metal felt cool under his flesh, but his skin turned fever hot when Griffin started peeling off all his clothes. Seeing the bandages across Griffin’s chest, Ben grimaced.
“Don’t worry about me,” Griffin said, probably noticing his reaction. “I heal fast.”
He knew Griffin was cut, but Ben never expected the other older scars. Rake marks, just like the healing one on his chest. It looked like Griffin had seen his fair share of battles, and there was no doubt in Ben’s mind that he won all of them. The werebear grabbed something from the back of his jeans. Lube. Ben sucked in a breath. So they were really doing this.
“You usually carry that around, huh?” Ben asked. Griffin definitely wouldn’t lack for attention, and he’d seen some of the locals, both shifters and humans, throw themselves at him. Unwarranted envy rammed into Ben because in some ways, Ben had begun to see Griffin as his. Exclusive.
“Just for tonight,” Griffin said, flashing him a heart-aching grin. “Because I had a feeling I’d get lucky. Guess I was right.”
Griffin climbed on top of him, and Ben couldn’t help but touch the were bear’s left pectoral. He could imagine the strong heart beating under layers of bone and muscle. A heart that began to enrapture his own. If Ben wasn’t careful, he might just tumble down this rabbit hole, but he didn’t care. Ben wanted to fall, knowing Griffin would be there to catch him.
“Kiss me again.”
“Demanding, Sheriff.” Griffin made a tsk-tsk sound in his throat. “You’ll soon learn who makes all the rules, but you like them, don’t you? Being told what to do.”
He shuddered at those words. How could Griffin easily read the dark desires he’d harbored, kept secret his entire life? Ben didn’t protest when Griffin pinned his hands above his head, grip firm but not bruising. Then the werebear took his fill of him, taking his mouth without apology.
Ben caved under the demanding press of Griffin’s kiss. Griffin’s rock-hard body touching his felt too amazing for words, and he became aware of Griffin’s prick, curving up against his belly. His own dick hardened and went from half to full mast in seconds. When Griffin pulled away, he moaned, keeping his hands above his head even as Griffin let go. His bear left a trail of kisses down the side of his neck and his chest. Griffin bit him as well, leaving marks all over his body for Ben to remember—not that he’d forget this encounter any time soon.
He moaned when Griffin reached his cock and gave the tip a playful lick. The shifter parted his legs and hefted them over his broad shoulders, exposing his cock and balls, his pink hole. Ben felt exposed, had nothing to hide from the shifter.
“Look at you, Sheriff, lying on your back with your cock already stiff, and I haven’t even rutted you again.”