Jordan loves his brother Freddy, but he hates that Freddy has fallen into a life of crime to make sure Jordan didn’t. He especially hates it when Freddy’s competitors try to get to Freddy through him, because unlike Freddy, he never learned more than the basics to fight and defend himself. So when he’s attacked, he shifts into his flamingo form and flies away, ending up wounded in the bushes behind a house.

Angelo left Italy and the mate who rejected him decades ago. He’s built himself a new life in Gillham, but he can’t help regretting he doesn’t have a man by his side. When a flamingo crashes into his bushes, he’s astounded to find out the bird the man shifts into is his mate, because it shouldn’t be possible. Angelo’s mate is in Italy, happily married. Right?

Jordan and Angelo hit it off from the start, but Freddy is in danger. The men after him won’t stop trying to get to him, even though he now has the council’s protection. Will Angelo manage to keep both Jordan and Freddy safe, or will he lose his mate for the second time?

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Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs

Jordan dropped his keys into the bowl on the counter and toed off his shoes, groaning as his toes were finally freed. He wiggled them and smiled, his body weary after a long night of work. At least the next day—or rather, that night—was his free day, so he’d be able to sleep and take care of all the things he never had the time to do on a daily basis. He might be glad he had a job, but being a janitor was harder than he’d ever thought it would be, and more time-consuming than should be allowed.

Of course, being a janitor was better than selling drugs for his older brother, Freddy, which was what everyone had thought Jordan would end up doing after high school. Or even during high school, really. Jordan himself wasn’t sure how he’d managed to escape that life, considering their father had been a criminal, and their grandfather before him. Maybe his mother’s death had changed things for him, or maybe he just wasn’t cut out to be a criminal. Freddy had a big role in it, too. He hadn’t wanted Jordan to follow in his footsteps, and Jordan had agreed.

Selling drugs would be easier than spending the night vacuuming and cleaning offices, but Jordan wasn’t afraid of hard work, and anything was better than selling drugs to people who might end up dead because of it, no matter how willing they were.

Jordan reached up and freed his long hair from the bun he kept it in when he worked. The white strands fell around his face as he considered whether he wanted to shower right away or wait until he woke up. He’d have time later, since he wouldn’t be going to work, but he didn't really want to get into bed stinking of sweat and detergents, especially not with the summer heat. His apartment didn’t have AC since he couldn’t afford it.

Shower it was.

Jordan left his clothes on the bathroom floor and quickly washed up, yearning for his bed. When he was done, he wrapped a towel around his waist and used a second one to dry his hair as he stepped into his bedroom.

He froze.

Someone was there.

He slowly lowered the towel and looked around the dark bedroom. When he noticed his brother standing by the window, leaning against the wall and looking at him with an amused expression, he relaxed.

“You’re an asshole. What are you doing here?” Jordan asked. He threw the hair towel onto the bed and went to the dresser, taking out a pair of boxer shorts and pulling them up his legs under the other towel. Then he unhooked that towel and threw it on the bed as well.

“I came to talk to you.”

“I kind of assumed that was why you’re here, but it doesn’t tell me what you want to talk about.”

Freddy pushed away from the wall. “Aren’t you tired of cleaning other people’s shit, Jordie?”

Of course, Jordan was tired, and they both knew it. “Nope. It’s better than selling people shit that will kill them.” Or using drug money to go to college, something Freddy had been trying to convince Jordan to do for years.

“I don’t force anyone to do anything.”

“I know.” That was why Jordan was there, living in his own apartment, working a job he’d chosen. Freddy might be a drug dealer, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who forced people, not even his brother. Especially not his brother.

Jordan flopped onto the bed and stretched his legs. “So? Why are you here, Freddy? I’m tired, so if you just want to talk shit about my job, I’d rather not hear it.”

Freddy sat next to Jordan. He was wearing what Jordan thought of as his uniform—black jeans, a tight black T-shirt, black boots. It was terribly cliché, considering Freddy’s line of work, but it looked good on him. They shared the white hair that came from their flamingo shifter mother, although only Jordan shared her animal half. Freddy had been luckier and was a mountain lion, like their father. It certainly made things easier in his line of work. No one took a flamingo shifter seriously, especially not drug dealers.

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Jordan frowned. “Why wouldn’t I be?” It wasn’t like his life was dangerous. He worked a dead-end night job, came back home, and slept the day away. Rinse, repeat. That was his life.

Freddy grimaced. “I’ve been having problems with a few…competitors.”

“And that’s my problem because?”

“Because they know about you and they threatened to get to me through you.”

“Shit.” Not that it hadn’t happened before, but Jordan hated it. He wasn’t even in the crime business, for fuck’s sake. Why people wanted to kidnap him was beyond him. “I’ll be careful.”

“I know you will, but what if it’s not enough, Jordie? I can’t afford to let them hurt you.”

Jordan knew Freddy loved him, but sometimes he wondered if it was enough. If he really wanted Jordan to be safe, he’d stop dealing, right?

“I’ll be fine.”

“You need to move in with me and let some of my guys protect you.”

“Yeah, no. And you already knew that was going to be my answer, so I really don’t get why you even bothered offering.”

Freddy’s grin was lopsided. “I had to try. I really worry about you, you know?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You’d be safer if you moved in with me.”

Jordan turned sideways so he could face his brother, folding one leg under himself. “Freddy, I’ve never wanted to be part of your world. Honestly, I don’t get why you do, but I’m not stupid enough to think I can change your mind. I’ve tried often enough.”

“It’s all I know, Jordie.”

“It was all I knew too. I got out.”

“That’s because you were always better than me.”

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