Watchers never get attached. Kenai has heard that rule all his life. He started his training as a small child and his mentor became his world. Now, at nineteen, he’s handling the shifters in the Pacific Northwest on his own. He only interferes with them when he has to—otherwise his life is spent alone. As a mountain lion shifter he doesn’t mind the solitude, but in his visions he sees shifters going off and having adventures, and he desperately wants one for himself. When he meets a bear shifter walking through the woods near his cabin, he’s all in and ready for whatever the bear wants to do.
Derek finds the overly energetic mountain lion annoying. He won’t stop bouncing around, and eventually he has to put Kenai in his place, which sends Kenai darting off. He does want some company though, so he follows Kenai’s trail back to his cabin and invites him to the salmon pools for a feast. He thought everyone knew what went on at those pools, so he’s surprised when Kenai reveals he’s a virgin. That isn’t the only secret this mountain lion is hiding, though, and when Derek finds out Kenai is a Watcher and practically a god to the shifters despite his young age, it might be more than he’s able to handle.
Kenai rolled his neck, then his shoulders, as he lay perched up high in a tall pine tree with the Pacific Ocean breeze brushing over his thick fur. It was a good thing he wasn’t afraid of heights, since mountain lions were so good at climbing. They weren’t good at getting down, or at catching their own fish. As he watched a pair of eagles skim the surface of the water nearby he had an instant craving for sushi, but no one to go out with him to go get some. Because Watchers didn’t traditionally have friends, or a family, or dates.
Sometimes he really had no idea why any higher power would have ever thought he would be good for this job. Sure, helping people was sometimes fun. He could go into a group of pissed off shifters and get everyone to sit down and talk about their problems simply because of his title. But there were other times when he wanted to be nineteen and go out to do things that had nothing to do with watching over all of the shifters in the Pacific Northwest. There were so many of them, and he could absolutely understand why some of the other four Watchers in North America sometimes talked about walking away from the life entirely.
But where would he go? What would he do? He’d always be a Watcher. That was his destiny. And he’d learned a long time ago that fighting with destiny hurt like hell, because it was more than just a title and being able to calm people down with a few words. The job came with dreams of the world and people who needed him, and the worst ones—the ones where shifters died—always left him hurting when he ignored them. The headaches were bad enough, but the migraines left him screaming for days. He’d learned quickly not to delay when it came to shifters in trouble. When they were just bickering among themselves, though, he’d put off dealing with their petty crap as long as he possibly could until it turned into more or they handled it themselves. Seriously, he wasn’t the damn shifter babysitter. At nineteen, he should have been out partying, but he was forbidden from even going to Wild, the shifter club that was less than a mile from the tree he was currently lying in, unless he needed to hide out or rest.
There was no official rule about socializing with people who weren’t Watchers when it wasn’t official Watcher business, but he’d heard all the warnings from the Watcher who had raised him. Don’t go out unless it’s important. Don’t get kidnapped. Don’t let anyone manipulate you. Don’t have friends. Remove all ties with family. And above all, never, ever, fall in love. For whatever stupid reason he couldn’t quite figure out, love was completely off the table. And maybe that was the one rule that hurt him the most, because so much of his life was about helping other people figure out their problems so they could have one person, or sometimes two people, in their lives who they could mate with and love forever.
It was so completely unfair sometimes, and he would have loved to be able to say fuck all of the shifters and let them figure out their own messes for a day. But that wasn’t his destiny. So he kept his mouth shut and waited for the next crisis to come along. He never had to wait all that long though. It seemed almost as if shifters enjoyed beating each other up sometimes. He often wondered if they weren’t worse than humans when it came to violence.
As he’d predicted, the next shifter who needed his help was only a ten minute walk into the woods off the side of the road. In Washington the trees were thick everywhere, making for some great hiding spots for shifters who were lucky enough to find him. “Are you a Watcher?” the raven asked him as he stood slightly behind a tree to hide his nudity. Kenai didn’t have that problem. Clothes were a nuisance, so he often simply did without. If any cop tried to arrest him for indecent exposure, running into the woods and quickly shifting to get away wasn’t that hard. But it was safer, and easier, to stick to the forests.
Lying wasn’t acceptable behavior, so Kenai simply nodded when what he wanted to do was to tell the raven that Watchers were just a myth and he, like all the other shifters, should figure out his own problems without coming to him for help. When had he gotten to be so cynical? He was sure he was far too young for such thoughts. “Did you need help?”
The raven nodded. “One of my young is stuck up in a tree much too high for me to get to with my hurt arm. A cat got me last night, and I haven’t been able to get to her since.”
Kenai silently followed the raven to a high tree with a nest near the top. As the raven had said, his arm was a battered mess of deep cuts that would have made flight impossible. “Go to Wild and get that looked at. Ravens have to be able to fly.”
“And my child? Can you help her?”