Michael has been on leave from his job as an enforcer since he was stabbed while on a mission. He feels ready to get back to work, but Jared, the Whitedell pride doctor, won’t let him. He’s relieved when he and two of his team members are sent on a short, easy mission—along with everyone else in the pride because he’s whined about being bored for weeks. But the mission isn’t as easy as Michael had thought it would be, and the biggest surprise for him is smelling his mate in the house he's supposed to check.
Cooper has been stuck in the Green Hill pride mansion for close to fifteen years. His alpha is obsessed with keeping the pride members there since several of them left, and Cooper is the one paying the highest price. He’s the pride’s slave, and he’s beaten regularly.
But when he smells his mate at the front door, he knows things are about to change.
Michael needs to get his mate out of that house. Cooper is stronger than most people give him credit for, and he manages to escape on his own. They both know Alpha Carter isn’t going to take it kindly, though. Bonding will make sure Cooper isn’t forced to go back, but Will Alpha Carter stop and acknowledge it, or will they have to find another way to keep Cooper in Whitedell?
“You’re pouting. It looks good on you, but you’ve also been bitching almost non-stop, and no one likes that.”
Michael glared at Nysys. “You’d be bitching too in my place.”
Nysys shrugged. “I don’t know. A forced vacation? Why are your panties in a twist? I’d be all over that.”
Michael was pretty sure that was true, and that he should be using this time to relax, maybe watch the TV shows he never had time for. He hated not being able to work, though, especially when it was for something as stupid as being wounded on the job. “I’m healed. Hell, I was healed as soon as I walked through the door. I can go back to work.”
Nysys patted Michael’s thigh. “I’m sure you were, but there has to be a reason you haven’t been cleared yet. Maybe Jared wants to make sure you don’t have any lingering effects due to the wounds? Physical and mental?”
Michael glared harder. “I’m not going crazy.”
Nysys rolled his eyes. “Who said you were going crazy?”
“And it wasn’t the first time I was wounded while on a mission.” Although it was the first time most of the team had needed to leave someone behind because it had been safer for everyone. Michael didn’t blame them. Why would he? They’d all done their jobs, and everything had been all right. Even Sasha and Hunter had come back in one piece. Michael had been the worst one off, with his two knife wounds, but Nysys had shimmered him right into the infirmary, and he’d been taken care of right away.
So why hadn’t he been cleared for work yet? It had been weeks. He was healed. He felt good. He wanted to get back to work.
“I’m bored,” he whined.
Nysys huffed and got up. “I can’t watch TV with you when you’re like this. I can’t even hear the TV over your whining.”
“Benji hasn’t complained,” Michael pointed out, slightly wounded. His brother was curled up next to him and had stayed out of the conversation until now.
“That’s because he has to stick with you. You’re his brother.” Nysys wiggled his fingers. “But I’m going. I’m sure I can find something more interesting to do than listen to you whine.”
“Good riddance,” Michael muttered as Nysys walked away.
Benjamin sighed. “You know, he’s not wrong.”
Michael’s chest tightened. “What, you stick around only because we’re related?”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “No. I stick around because I love you and I know how frustrated you are. I even understand it, in a way. You love your job, and you hate to be on the sidelines.” His voice went softer. “And you still want to prove to our father that you can do this, even though you two haven’t talked since you moved to Whitedell. It’s been almost fifteen years, Michael. You have to let go of that.”
“I don’t care about him.” And it was true. If anything, he was glad his parents had brought him along when they’d come to Whitedell for Benjamin. It had given him a chance to see there could be more for him than the life they’d planned for him, and he’d grabbed the chance with both hands.
He hadn’t yet let go. He loved his job. He loved feeling like he mattered, like what he did changed things for people. He couldn’t help wondering if people were getting hurt because he hadn’t been cleared for missions. Of course, he knew there were plenty of other enforcers, but there were also plenty of bad guys, even though the number of shifters and paranormal creatures in the world was nowhere near to the number of humans.
“Why don’t you go talk to Sarah or Emerson?”
“I already talked to Sarah. She said she couldn’t do anything. She’s not the one in charge of the enforcers, and she’s not the one who decides who does what.”
“What about Emerson?”
Michael hadn’t talked to the local head of the enforcers because he already knew the answer he’d get, but maybe it was worth a try. He’d been home for two weeks already, and he was fine. “Not yet.”
“Why don’t you go? The worst he can do is tell you no. That wouldn’t be great for those of us who have to spend time with you, but at least you’d know. You can even ask him why he’s not sending you and your team out right now. Maybe having an answer will help you deal with it.”
Michael wasn’t sure about that, but Benjamin was right. At least he’d know why, and he could try to change his mind and convince him he could be sent back to work.
Michael loved living in Whitedell. He loved spending time with friends he had outside of the team and his brother. He didn’t get to do it often. But two weeks was too much. It wasn’t even that he wanted to go who knew where. He just needed something to do. He’d had enough of reading books and watching stupid TV shows.
He kissed his brother’s forehead and got up. “Thanks.”
Benjamin smiled. “What for?”
“For listening to me bitch for the past two weeks.”
“Like Nysys said, you’re my brother. I kind of had to.”
Michael laughed. “Whatever. Let’s just hope Emerson has something for me to do.” The best would be for the team to be sent out, but Michael would accept anything, even if it meant babysitting the new recruits or whatever. As long as he wasn’t forced to spend one more minute on the couch or in his room, he’d be fine.