On a tiny island off the coast of Washington, Brody has made a successful life for himself as a veterinarian. The highlight of his practice is when he's able to help wild animals and rehab them to be released back to the wild. It's a simple, quiet life, which is exactly what he needs to be able to piece himself back together after Aedan, the man he loves, disappeared six years earlier. He had given up hope of ever seeing Aedan alive again, until one night after an otter shows up on his doorstep, Aedan comes in to take the otter away. Even if Brody didn't want to smack the sexy grin off his face, he still wouldn't let Aedan just walk out with the otter. He's responsible for its safety, and Aedan hasn't given him nearly enough answers to make the past six years all better.
Aedan doesn't have time to answer Brody's questions though. He's got bigger problems, primarily a clan of bear shifters who claim the otter, Aedan's little brother, stole something from them. He lives in a dangerous world he never wanted Brody to be mixed up in, but it seems Brody can't help but get into trouble all on his own. His brother invites danger, Brody stumbles into it, and Aedan just wants to keep them both safe without losing his mind.
"I need you to step away from that cage, Brody."
He froze, and not just from having someone suddenly show up behind him well after midnight when he'd been certain he was alone in his veterinary practice. The real reason he couldn't get his lungs to work was hearing a voice he thought he'd never hear again. The same softly determined voice that, six years before, made him want to do anything for the other man.
Brody turned around slowly, begging his feet to work as his brain struggled to catch up with the realization that Aedan was standing there. He was less than three feet away, well within his reach if he could have figured out whether he wanted to slap him for how he'd left or ball his fist into Aedan's shirt and kiss him until neither of them could breathe again.
"Move away," Aedan said, his gaze not on him, but on the otter Brody had been working on all day. That little ball of fur was the reason he'd been unable to stay at home after closing up the office. He'd been too worried about the otter, who had come in with a paw that was broken in three places and two cracked ribs.
"Why?" Brody licked his suddenly dry lips and forced himself to meet Aedan's emerald-green gaze. When they'd met he'd been so sure Aedan was wearing contacts. No one had eyes that color naturally. They were so perfect they looked like jewels. But they were not contacts—everything about Aedan was real. Including the way he'd completely shattered Brody's heart.
Aedan gave him a little smile and took a step closer. That same smile had ended up with Brody on his knees in a department store dressing room. It promised fun, and just enough danger to get Brody's heart racing with the possibilities. Six years and a broken heart later, and dammit if Aedan didn't still have the same effect on him. "Please?"
Somehow, deep in the back part of his brain that wasn't jumping for joy at having Aedan alive and whole in front of him, he found the will to shake his head and try for reason. "I don't know what you could possibly want with this otter, but he's hurt. I found him unconscious on the front step this morning. He has broken bones, but somehow doesn't have any internal injuries that I've been able to find. My staff and I put a lot of work into him today."
There was a flash of pain across Aedan's face, and maybe even some uncertainty—not that Brody had ever known him to be uncertain about anything. "Since when are you in the wildlife rehabilitation department? I thought you just dealt with dogs and cats."
The only real way to deal with Aedan and not lose his senses was to bring out the snark. "We're in Langley, remember? On the little island of Whidbey off the coast of Washington?" Aedan made a face as if he was getting annoyed at being treated like an idiot, but Brody forged ahead. "Lots of animals need rescuing each year for whatever reason, and an island this size doesn't have a whole lot of wildlife centers."
"That doesn't explain what you're doing working with them," Aedan said, crossing his big arms across his chest. At twenty-four he'd looked like he was playing a game at being intimidating when he did that. At thirty and still in perfect shape, Aedan appeared downright dangerous. It made Brody want to drop to his knees all over again, the past six years and his heartbreak be damned.
Brody shook his head to clear away those thoughts and get somewhere back to sanity. It helped, a little, as long as he didn't look directly at Aedan. Turning his back on Aedan, and giving his attention to the little otter was a far safer place to be. "A big rehab center in Seattle was looking for veterinarians to volunteer three years ago. I did, and afterward got licensed for it. I've kept up with it ever since. It's nice to work with wild animals sometimes—it breaks up monotony of the daily neuterings. If you'd stayed around, you'd know all about it." He glanced over his shoulder at Aedan, who still stared him down. "You haven't told me why you're interested in the otter, not that I'm letting you take him anyway. It takes special permits to have wildlife, and I doubt you've bothered to get them."
Aedan smirked and relaxed his stance a little. His too-tight, long-sleeved, black shirt still stretched across the bulky muscles of his chest. That he should still look that good was unfair to Brody's sanity. "You haven't exactly called the cops yet either, though."