Keating is free. He has spent his entire life in a cage, but someone rescued him, and he almost can’t believe it. He doesn’t know how to deal with his new freedom, but Rodrick is there to help him through it, and Keating can’t resist falling in love with him.
Sully wants to hate Keating. He’s been in love with Rodrick since they were kids, and he hates seeing Rodrick and Keating together. He never expected Rodrick to tell him he loved him back, or that he wanted the three of them to be in a relationship together.
Rodrick knows he’s asking a lot from Sully and Keating, and he doesn’t know if they’ll ever be able to make things work. He just wants Sully and Keating to agree to give their relationship a chance—and they do.
But before they can do anything about it, Sully is shot by a human hunter. Will Rodrick lose one of the men he loves? Will Sully give up, knowing Rodrick won’t be alone?
Keating wished he had another pair of eyes, because he needed them to see everything there was to see.
He hadn’t known what to think when Levin, Rodrick, and the others had come rescue him and Emmett, apart from we’re free! And they were. After spending all his twenty-four years behind bars, after having to face humans who were either frightened of him or morbidly fascinated, Keating was free.
And he didn’t know what to do with it.
It wasn’t only that he’d never seen the world outside the bars of his cage. He knew enough of the human world to be sure most of it wasn’t like the cave they were standing in. It was huge, with an opening in the ceiling. It let the moonlight in, which shone against the stone walls and on what looked like a big garden. The lake—there was a lake—was smallish, but it was bigger than the oversized puddle Keating had in his enclosure back at the zoo. He didn't know if bathing in this one was allowed, but he was going to find out.
“Welcome home,” Rodrick said.
Keating beamed at him. “I have a home.” He couldn’t believe it.
“Yep, and it’s much better than the zoo.”
Keating looked around. “I can see that.” He wanted to see everything. He’d noticed several openings in the cave’s walls, and he wanted to know where they led, what they hid. Would it be too much to ask for a tour after Rodrick had rescued him from the zoo and they’d driven back to the mountain?
Levin solved Keating’s dilemma. “Ready to walk around? Or would you rather go to your room and rest?”
There was no way Keating was saying yes to resting. He didn’t need to rest. Then he realized Levin wasn’t actually asking him, but Emmett, and he grinned. He couldn’t believe Emmett had been free for only a few hours and had already managed to find himself a man. He had Levin wrapped around his little finger, and he didn't even realize it.
“I have a room?” Emmett asked, and Levin visibly melted. Keating was so going to tease Emmett about that later.
“Yep. You and Keating will each have your own cave. It won’t be big, but you’ll have privacy.”
Keating blinked. He was getting his own cave? His own room? He’d expected he’d have to share, at least with Emmett if not with someone else. But no. Levin had just said they’d each have their own room. Keating had never had that much privacy.
“Come on,” Levin said. “I’ll show you where everything is so you can navigate this place on your own.”
“You look like a deer in headlights,” Rodrick said as he bumped his shoulder against Keating’s.
“A deer in headlights. You know, surprised.”
Keating rolled his eyes. “I might have spent most of my life in a cage, but my ears work just fine. Do you know how many people visit zoos every day? A lot, and they all talk.”
Rodrick raised his hands. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You didn't. I was just pointing out that I’m not an idiot.”
“I never said you were. I’m just not sure what you know or don’t know. You and Emmett aren’t the first shifters we rescued, and some of them were in bad shape. I remember a couple of twins, a girl and a boy. They were about sixteen or seventeen, and they’d never seen the outside of their cage. They hadn’t been taught to speak or read or anything.”
“Oh.” Keating knew he’d had it good. He’d been taken away from his mother as a child, but he’d never been experimented on or beaten. He was precious, valuable, and all his owners had made sure he was well-cared for. Some of his handlers had been good people and had made sure he knew how to read and write. He wasn’t very good at it, but he could do it, and that was more than a lot of shifters held by the humans could say. “What happened to them? Are they still here?”
Rodrick shook his head. “No. We sent them to the island.”
“There’s an island somewhere in the tropics. It’s privately owned, so the government can’t capture the shifters who live there. The owner and his family welcome shifters and take care of them.”
That sounded great. “Can you visit the island?”
Rodrick shook his head. “It’s not easy to get there. The humans know about it, so they monitor the ships and everything. They don’t want shifters to be free, and they do what they can so that doesn’t happen. It’s not like we can go on vacation there or anything. You have to be approved by the owners, and once you get there, you stay there.”
Keating pouted. An island sounded great, but then the mountain he was in sounded great, too. Better than where he’d lived until a few hours earlier.
Levin was pointing stuff out, like his cave and whatever, but Keating wasn’t listening. He stopped outside the cave Emmett and Levin had disappeared into and looked at Rodrick. “Do you think you can show me around?”
“You don’t like Levin?”
“I don’t know Levin, but he seems like a good guy. That’s why I want to give him and Emmett some alone time.”
Rodrick grinned. “I’m on board with that. Come on. I’ll show you around.”
“What’s the cave they went in?”
“Bathroom, bath, and laundry room. You see that small stream that comes from the lake?” he asked, pointing at the floor to their left. “It runs through the caves and leaves the mountain eventually. That’s why we use the lake to water the garden, while the bathroom is the cave further from it. It’s the last one, actually, so that whatever you do in it leaves the caves.”
“Is that why you chose to live here?”