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Missing: shifters and partners, #26

Missing: shifters and partners, #26

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Missing: shifters and partners, #26

Length:
167 pages
1 hour
Released:
Mar 25, 2021
ISBN:
9781393627494
Format:
Book

Description

Bo and Jay work well together—in bed and out. Even if they have very different ideas of what their relationship actually is.

When Bo disappears without warning, Jay is frantic. His wolf partner wouldn't up and leave, not for anything. That means he was snatched. By whom, and for what purpose?

The guy who wanted to be Bo's mate is the first suspect. Maybe he couldn't take no for an answer. But he's not the only suspect. A shifty fox, a crooked sheriff, and strange gunmen at a mysterious diner all enter Jay's line of questioning.

He won't stop until he finds Bo, no matter who he has to cross. And he'd better hurry, because the clock is ticking for his partner.

 

40,000 words

Released:
Mar 25, 2021
ISBN:
9781393627494
Format:
Book

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Missing - Hollis Shiloh

Story copyright March 2021 by Hollis Shiloh.  All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce without written permission from the author.  All characters and events are fictitious, and any similarity to real people or events is coincidental.  Image content is being used for illustrative purposes only and any people depicted in the content are models. 

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MISSING

by Hollis Shiloh

About the story:

Bo and Jay work well together—in bed and out.  Even if they have very different ideas of what their relationship actually is.

When Bo disappears without warning, Jay is frantic.  His wolf partner wouldn't up and leave, not for anything.  That means he was snatched.  By whom, and for what purpose?

The guy who wanted to be Bo's mate is the first suspect.  Maybe he couldn't take no for an answer.  But he's not the only suspect.  A shifty fox, a crooked sheriff, and strange gunmen at a mysterious diner all enter Jay's line of questioning. 

He won't stop until he finds Bo, no matter who he has to cross.  And he'd better hurry, because the clock is ticking for his partner.

40,000 words

Chapter one

BO

The small wolf shifter, currently in human form as a little boy with scrawny knees, rather than a small, fluffy wolf pup, looked up with big, worried eyes to the most important person in his life.  Mom, will I have a mate when I grow up?

She looked down at him, her brow crinkling a little as she tried to smile.  Of course you will, honey.  Every wolf does.  Someday you'll meet the right girl and you'll just know.  She paused, even the attempt at a smile disappearing.  Or maybe the right boy.

The boy's heart sank.  "But I have to have a mate?  I have to?"

You get to have a mate, said his mother, correcting him gently, looking disappointed that he'd even hint he didn't want one.  Wolves are lucky that way.  We always get someone.  Then her gaze got farther away, and she sighed quietly.  We never get to be alone.

He stared up at her, and even at that young age, he felt a certainty and horror that surprised him.  It was one of the strongest feelings of his young life, a decision, a certainty. 

I'll never end up like you.  I'd rather die.

Present Day

It wasn't that he was so particularly good looking.  He wasn't.  It was just that I took one look at him, and I knew.  He was my mate. 

He was the best potential match that I'd ever met in my life, or perhaps ever would.  And I hadn't even met him yet.

What's the matter? asked my partner, nudging me gently.  Is something wrong?

Nope.  I bit the word off, staring at the man across the room. 

I couldn't believe this day had arrived.  I'd dread it for so long.  My mate, here in the flesh.  Once, I'd thought I'd rather die than have a mate.  The certainty of a future, smugly carved out for me by my genes, by generations of heritage, had made me honestly think it would be better to die.  If that was my only other choice.  I'd get out of it one way or another.

Instead, I'd found another way.  Lone wolf, and now, when my life was finally going in a good direction—a job I was happy with, a friend I got to work with every day—here it was, that awful day.  I'd just seen my mate and caught his scent for the first time.

I knew I'd never forget that.

I also didn't think my only choice now was to die.  I could walk away.  And I would.  I would definitely walk away without saying a word to anybody about this.  After all, nobody else had to know.

He looked up and his gaze caught mine across the room.  His eyes were blue, and faintly inquiring, and very clear.

I froze.

Maybe I wasn't the only one who had to know.  Maybe he knew, too.  And maybe he'd want to do something about it.

He held my gaze for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few curious, inquiring seconds.  Then he started walking over.

I couldn't help it.  I bolted.  I'd always had a strong fight-or-flight reaction, and I certainly wasn't going to fight him.  It wasn't planned or anything.  I just found myself running away.

Jay, my partner, caught up to me in the parking lot.  Big beautiful Jay, so strong and sweet and safe, with his big muscles and that broad, flat, squashed face of his, and his gentle eyes.

Hey, hey!  Calm down, Bo.  He rubbed a hand up and down my arm.  What's the matter, huh?  What happened?  He was using that gentle voice that usually worked such wonders on me, even if I felt stupid for needing soothed in the first place.  You're shaking.

I'm not—  I stopped.  It turned out I was shaking.

Do you need to go home?  His voice got even gentler, which you wouldn't have thought possible if you didn't know the guy.

Yes please.  I hated how small and defeated I sounded.  I hated being this scared—just bone-deep, downright terrified.  My breathing was fast, and I was in a cold sweat.  And for what?  Nothing.  I'd seen my mate, that was all.

It didn't have to matter, except that he'd seen me, too.

#

Jay crawled into bed with me the way he did when I needed a little extra comfort.  He wrapped himself around me.  He kissed the back of my neck.  You want me to...?

He never said the words.  Neither of us did.  I nodded, and he kissed the back of my neck again, and reached around and started tugging me off.  His big, strong hands were sure and powerful, skilled and perfect.  It felt good to be handled by him.  And when we did other things, as well.

We hadn't meant to start anything.  Just sort of fell into it, after we picked each other as partners and graduated together from the shifters and partners academy.  Jay was a county auditor, and I helped him in his work.  It wasn't dangerous work—except for when it was.  I'd saved his neck a few times.  Mostly, though, he needed me around to tell if people were straight-up lying to his face.  It was something I was good at as a wolf shifter.  My instincts and sense of smell had been honed at the academy, as well as my ability to read microexpressions.  Statistically speaking, people couldn't lie to me, not successfully.

Our work wasn't always easy, and we were on the road a lot.  That meant long nights and sometimes lonely nights.  They were less lonely if we had a drink or two and then went back to our hotel room together, instead of going on the prowl for strangers.  Safer, too.  I trusted Jay, just trusted him down to my core.  It was hard to have any defenses around him.  Maybe because I didn't need any.

I've got you, Bo.  He whispered it in my ear, holding onto me as I finally found release in his hand.  It felt so good when he held me like this, taking care of me, even when I couldn't do anything to make it worth his while.  I've got you.  Shh.

I squeezed my eyes shut, and it made some tears leak out.  For a moment, I had blessed mental stillness, the release from tension, thought, and pain.

Then, slowly, unwelcome, thoughts slipped back in.  I thought of my mom, and the awful way her mate—my father—had treated her.  I didn't even like thinking of him as my father.  We'd disowned each other long ago.  But she never did get away from him, except by dying.

I almost thought she'd been relieved to find out she had cancer, at the age of thirty-five.  Like she finally had a way of escape.

But it meant leaving me behind, too.  And then I had to find my own escape.

I was shaking again.  I should be able to shut the thoughts off, the memories away—it shouldn't be harder to quiet them, here where I was safe, and Jay had his big hands on me.  Hands that had never hurt me and never would.  Not like a mate could.  They could get at you the way nobody else could, and you'd never get away.

Jay was smoothing my back, my chest, trying to calm me down.  What's wrong, Bo?  That usually helps.

I shook my head, helpless to explain.  There were things I didn't tell even Jay about.  Words it was too hard to know how to say.  Places of myself I couldn't crack open and share, not with anybody.

Can't talk about it, huh?  He sighed, and kissed the back of my neck again.  Then again.  Then again.  He pressed his forehead against me, holding me close.  Try and match your breathing to mine.  Think about breathing.  Can you do that?

I did that for a while, and I must've fallen asleep at some point, because when I woke up, I was alone.

Jay!  The first sound out of my mouth—and I was ashamed of it—was a panicked call of my partner's name.  It was quiet, scared, as if I thought he'd left me somehow. 

I'd done that before, when I was alone.  A bad dream, or just the sudden jump to being awake, had given me that desperate feeling like falling, the sudden need to call out for someone safe.

Bo?  The bathroom door creaked, and he stepped back into the bedroom, staring down at me worriedly.  His hair was damp.  He was still drying it, and he wore only boxers.  A pair of mine, faded and thin.  They looked good on his sturdy frame.  What's the matter?  He sat down on the edge of the bed.  It creaked.  What's wrong?  He reached out to take my hand, to hold it.  He was so open with his affection.  It calmed me down quickly.  I held his hand, even as I felt my face getting hot.  I stared up at him.  Nothing.  I just woke up.

He looked down at me, like he was trying to decide what to believe.  Then he sat down beside me and started stroking my hair.  I thought for sure he was going to make me talk about it, or about yesterday, but he didn't.  He just sat there and petted me, not saying anything, not demanding anything.

I soaked it up like a dying cactus finally getting some sunlight.

Of course, it couldn't last forever.  I had to get up to take care of business, and he went out to my kitchen to make us something to eat.  He was a good cook, or at least I liked everything he ever made.

You're a pretty forgiving critic, he'd said once, and laughed when I told him I preferred the lasagna a little crunchy, anyway.

I'm not a critic at all.

But this morning there was no smile on his face when I gulped down the food he'd made.  Not even a hint of one.  He watched me with a serious, level expression.

It wasn't enough to make me lose my appetite, but it was uncomfortable.  I'd known we'd probably have to talk about it at some point.

When I put down my fork, he spoke.

I need to know if you're in danger, Bo.

I hesitated.  I wasn't, not really.  Nobody could force me to take a mate.  It only felt like I was in danger.  Hesitantly, I shook my head.  He wasn't going to get why I was the way I was.  It seemed dumb not to tell him, even if he didn't understand, though.  If he was worrying about me being threatened or something, the truth had to be better, no matter how weird and uncomfortable.

Did somebody hurt you?  You took a look at someone yesterday and bolted.  Did he do something?

He was so serious about this.  I wasn't used to the super serious version of my partner, not when we weren't working. 

No...?  I tried to make sense of the question.  He thought I'd gotten beaten up—or

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