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Charlie and Me: shifters and partners, #27

Charlie and Me: shifters and partners, #27

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Charlie and Me: shifters and partners, #27

Length:
128 pages
2 hours
Released:
Sep 12, 2021
ISBN:
9798201211165
Format:
Book

Description

Peter is stuck in a dead-end job, maybe a dead-end life. It's still hard for him to accept that he's not straight, even though he should be used to it by now. The best thing in his life is his friend Charlie. Charlie is a wolf shifter and could qualify for a better job. Peter thinks he should try—one of them should get ahead in life—and Charlie has a counter offer: they get a job together through the Shifters and Partners program. If they do, it will mean spending a lot more time together. Time for Peter to realize it's getting harder and harder to imagine he might be straight after all...or to ignore his growing feelings for Charlie.

 

31,000 words

low heat

Released:
Sep 12, 2021
ISBN:
9798201211165
Format:
Book

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Charlie and Me - Hollis Shiloh

Story copyright September 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.  Cover design by James, GoOnWrite.com.  Image content is being used for illustrative purposes only and any people depicted in the content are models. 

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Charlie and Me

by Hollis Shiloh

About the story:

Peter is stuck in a dead-end job, maybe a dead-end life.  It's still hard for him to accept that he's not straight, even though he should be used to it by now.  The best thing in his life is his friend Charlie.  Charlie is a wolf shifter and could qualify for a better job.  Peter thinks he should try—one of them should get ahead in life—and Charlie has a counter offer: they get a job together through the Shifters and Partners program.  If they do, it will mean spending a lot more time together.  Time for Peter to realize it's getting harder and harder to imagine he might be straight after all...or to ignore his growing feelings for Charlie.

31,000 words

low heat

Chapter one

Y ou're interested in the Shifters and Partner's program?  The woman at the booth looked doubtfully up at the handsome young man.  It seemed like she was having trouble believing it.

I should get to try, he said, trying for dignity. 

Of course, said the woman, containing whatever her objection was.  (Was he too pretty?)  I'll need some information from you.

He gave it to her, as I kept sneaking glances from across the mall.  He had a beautiful face.  A beautiful mouth.  He'd kind of flowed when he walked up to her, sleek and perfectly formed.  I hadn't guessed he was a shifter till he went to the booth.  You never can tell who's a shifter and who isn't.  But I'd certainly noticed how hot he was—and wished he'd come into my workplace.

I had no business noticing hot guys.  I was a married man.  At least for a few more days. 

As the lady at the kiosk took the man's information down, I idly wondered what sort of shifter he was.  The kiosk was for recruitment for the medical wing of the Shifters and Partners program.  I was just a regular guy working at a nearby outlet.  Not a creep perving on cute shifters. 

Not gay at all, of course.

He glanced in my direction, as if he'd read my mind, a faintly inquiring look on his beautiful face.  I looked away, quickly, and tried to look busy arranging the window display.  Oh man.  He'd seen me staring.

Not supposed to stare at men, remember?  Except I don't have to follow that much longer.

My wife was leaving me.  She could do better.  But maybe, so could I.

We'd gotten married young.  I guess some people would say we still were young.  But neither of us felt like it. 

The beautiful shifter drifted away, tucking a hand in his pocket.  His jeans fitted him perfectly and his hand there kind of outlined how well he was built, in, uh, all areas. 

He sauntered while he walked, but it was almost like he was flowing, smooth and confident and beautiful.  Nobody would be able to look at him and not think he was sexy.  Like a rock star, he just had 'it.'  Anyone would find him attractive, regardless of their own sexuality.  I bet women in nursing homes would sit up and take notice if he walked by.

And the men?

Would the men notice, too?  The way I did?

I watched him walk away and swallowed, hard.

What's going on over there, Peter?  My coworker and friend, Charlie, sounded kind of stressed.  You need some help over—oh.  He fell quiet and joined me in watching the guy, the guy walking away.

He's a shifter, I said.  He was just at that kiosk.

The woman at the kiosk glanced over to see us, and Charlie and I both quickly busied ourselves with the display rack again.  It was getting a big workout today.  Probably not a convincing one. 

There were no customers around this corner of the mall looking for clothes, not yet, and Charlie and I were the only employees working right now.  It was quiet in the mall, and we had the store to ourselves.  Not for much longer.  But long enough, maybe. 

I liked the times when it was quiet.  Not just because that meant we weren't dealing with awful customers, but also...well, Charlie.

We made our way back into the interior of the store, which was kept purposely dim, maybe so customers couldn't see just how low quality the clothes sold here actually were.

Have you been thinking about signing up for that program? I asked Charlie, trying to sound casual.

He was a wolf shifter.  He didn't share that with just anyone, and he lived a pretty stealth life, so I wouldn't have said anything if we weren't very clearly the only ones in hearing distance.  I mean, it was a big deal that he'd trusted me with that at all.  I wouldn't out him or anything, not ever.

What?  Why?  He looked startled and embarrassed, drawing his face back, making a sort of scrunched up expression, like he'd smelled something bad.  "Sign up with that place?"

Yeah, why not?  The pay's got to be better.  I leaned on the counter, but resisted the urge to fiddle with my hair.  I always wanted to look cool when I had Charlie's undivided attention.  That didn't mean I needed to primp in front of him, though.

He was a handsome guy, quiet and self-contained, occasionally nervous.  He had beautiful hazel eyes and a way of looking at you like you were the only person in the world. 

When you had his full attention, you had it.  It worked like a charm on the customers.  But it affected me just as much.  I'm not particularly proud of that, but it's the truth.  I liked it when Charlie looked at me that way.

You have to practically sign your life away, he pointed out.

Really?  So he had researched it, then.  He wouldn't know that if he hadn't.  I kept that thought to myself so I wouldn't accidentally come across as snarky and risk pissing him off.

Yeah, you have to work with a partner.  They don't trust unaccompanied shifters in the medical field.  You need a handler.  He made a face, waving a hand in front of his nose.  Can you picture me doing that?  Signing up with some stranger?

A customer came in then, so I straightened up, and we stopped talking. 

We got busy enough that we couldn't chat about anything private for a while after that, but I thought about what he'd said.  I guess I couldn't see his reasoning, because I mentioned it as we were leaving.  It had been a long day.  We walked slowly, side by side.

I always felt lucky when our shifts ended at the same time so we could walk to the parking lot together.  Silly, I know.  But sometimes little things are all you have to look forward to.  They can make life feel worth how hard it can be.  Time with Charlie was like that for me.

I hadn't had a lot of friends in my life.  Outside of the small, non-denominational and very strict church that Emma and I had grown up in together, and gotten married at before we moved across the country, I hadn't known many people my age at all.  All my friends had been church friends, and none of them were super close.  They'd kept me accountable and checked up on me, but they weren't people I felt like I could trust with private things and confide in.

I hadn't realized just how hard that was, until I'd left and hadn't had anybody at all for a while.  Then I started working and meeting people, and Charlie sort of made me his friend, even though I was still pretty jumpy about being in the big wide world and away from the church's protection, influence—and judgment.

At first, it was Emma who wanted out.  Not me.  She wanted to move across the country for school.  Emma was clever and motivated.  She wanted to be a nurse, and got accepted at a decent school, despite the obstacles her family and the church put in her way.  They said I should tell her no, for one thing.  Because I was the head of the home.  I wasn't going to do that. 

If Emma wanted to move for school, I was going to follow her, no matter how hard it was.  Turned out to be our chance to escape the way we'd grown up, the bonds that had grown too tight, that had been strangling us both. 

I struggled hard, with guilt messages from home and no support where we were now.  Emma excelled at school, but I could tell how hard it was for her, and she was exhausted all the time. 

I took whatever job I could.  I tried to keep my

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