Cassium Jones is closing in on his fourth century mark and over the years has held many roles, from farmer to soldier to vampire enforcer. Now, he’s ready to settle down in moderate relaxation…if working a cattle ranch can be considered relaxing. He loves the wide open spaces, the fresh clean air, and even tending the animals. Handling the maintenance and care for the Angus cows in the northern pastures offers plenty of solitude, and he should have been left pretty much alone. Instead, Cassium stumbles upon an injured Angus bull amongst the livestock, and realizes the bull is not only a shifter, but his beloved, his soul mate. Cassium learns Garth has been driven from his herd for disobeying a controlling alpha, leaving behind two young children. While Cassium is happy to help reunite the bull shifter with his kids, is he ready to take on the role of parent when all he wanted was to retire?
Lying under a tree, the Angus bull rested its muzzle on the ground. Deep red splotches marred the animal’s flank, belly, and shoulder. Cassium could see that fatigue and sadness filled the deep brown eyes.
Not only was this Angus bull not one of his herd…this Angus bull was a shifter.
No wonder the smell of his blood caught my attention.
That was Cassium’s first thought, followed swiftly by another.
What the hell is an injured shifter doing hiding out in a vampire coven’s herd of cows?
Cassium hadn’t alarmed the shifter, yet, as he currently stood downwind. He knew the second he stepped around the tree that would most likely change. Still, seeing as the large shifter was injured, Cassium figured he was safe enough.
Besides, the shifter was the one who was trespassing.
Cassium felt an odd desire to see if he could help the male. Always one to trust his instincts, he slowly eased under the tree’s branches. He glanced toward the cattle bedded down not far away, but they paid him no mind. They were used to him.
The Angus bull’s head immediately lifted, refocusing Cassium’s attention on him. He began to struggle, working to get his rear legs under him. His movements appeared stiff, uncoordinated, and pain shown clearly in the bovine’s large brown eyes.
“Easy, shifter,” Cassium soothed, holding up both hands in placation. “I am not here to harm you. I saw the blood and wanted to make certain one of my cows wasn’t injured.” As he spoke, he slowly approached the large paranormal. “With all that blood matting your fur, I’m not surprised you didn’t scent that this is vampire territory. My cabin is a bit to the east, following the line of the trees. Can I offer first aid?”
Seeing the disbelief in the intelligence-filled animal’s eyes, Cassium curved his lips into a small smile. Hell, his offer had surprised even himself. Except, the closer he moved to the bull, the headier the smell of his blood became.
Cassium really wanted to know if that was him or someone who’d attacked him. He sure hoped it wasn’t the latter, because he couldn’t imagine how that conversation would go. When the shifter again struggled to rise, Cassium focused on him once more.
“Can I help you?” Cassium asked. “I mean you no harm. Feel free to scent me to confirm.” He offered another small smile. “I won’t be offended. It seems you’ve gone through a rough spot.”
Having finally gained his feet, the bull’s sides heaved. If he’d been in human form, Cassium just knew he’d be covered in sweat from the exertion of rising. Instead, his splayed legs betrayed his unsteadiness.
“Come on, big guy,” Cassium urged gently, taking another step toward him. The closer he drew, the headier the shifter’s blood smelled. Damn, he wanted some of that. “You need help and I’m offering. What do you say? You wanna just follow me to the cabin? No pressure.”
Cassium couldn’t remember the last time he’d pleaded for something. For some reason, though, he just knew this would be worth it. Judging by the amazing smell of his blood, this shifter could very well be his beloved…the one person in the world he could bond with and enjoy everlasting companionship.
Taking a step backward, Cassium watched to see what the bull shifter would decide. The big male tipped his head up and sniffed the air. He took an unsteady step toward him.
“If you shift, I can put you on my horse,” Cassium told him. “That way you don’t have to walk the whole way.”
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. He bit back a grimace. Hopefully, the shifter wouldn’t think that was an insult. Still, with how unsteady the male’s steps were, he wasn’t certain the bull could actually make it to his cabin on his own.
To Cassium’s surprise…and relief, he watched a shudder work through the shifter’s body. He’d been around enough of them to know what that meant. The bull was shifting.
Seconds later, the rippling fur gave way to patches of bronzed skin. The sound of tendons snapping, bones cracking, and muscles popping filled the clearing. The man’s body shrank, his fur disappeared, and his tail retracted. Within a minute, a bruised and bloody man knelt on all fours before him.
Cassium felt his mouth go dry and his throat tighten. Even when injured and weak, he was sexy as fuck. He had wide shoulders and thickly muscled limbs. His broad, deeply bronzed torso tapered to a trim waist. The male even had a smattering of body hair on his back, making Cassium wonder just how thick his chest hair was.
He couldn’t stop his body from reacting and he found himself thinking that, even if this man didn’t turn out to be his beloved, they could have so much fun together.