Otter shifter and geology nerd Shane Richmond can’t believe his luck: the boss is sending him to northern Wales, a haven of mountains and rivers any guy like him would kill to explore. And to find the sword of King Arthur!
Whoever that was.
See, Shane’s got some… gaps. Things everybody seems to know except him. Plus, lately? He’s started having weird dreams about places he’s never been, people he’s never met.
Languages he’s never spoken.
It’s enough to make a guy feel off-kilter. Especially when he meets his mission partner, the kind of ultra-capable otter daddy you just don’t show your weaknesses to.
…but not as dangerous as digging them up.
Hired gun Mike DeLuca’s had enough of the business. One last job, and he’ll have the cash to retire to a quiet cabin in the woods, where he can shift in peace.
Just one complication: his assigned partner’s making it hard to keep his eyes on his objective. The kid keeps surprising him, and Mike doesn’t like surprises. Plus, Shane’s cute. (Way too cute.) And to top it off, sometimes he talks in his sleep.
It’s enough to spin a guy’s crank. And it’s dredging up a protective instinct he buried a long time ago. Because as many secrets as Mike has, he’s got a bad feeling Shane’s hiding a doozy.
Exposing His Secret is the 2nd novel in the Shift & Seek m/m shifter series.
Tropes: amnesia, forced proximity, bodyguard, grumpy/sunshine, age gap, hurt/comfort
Content Notes: story involves depictions/descriptions of brain injury & healing, amnesia, ableism, alcohol consumption, bondage kink, kidnapping, human remains, physical violence & injury, limb loss, in-hospital treatment, and grief
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Mike gripped the wheel of the rental car and assessed his surroundings.
The land was mostly flat, wooded with evergreens and birches. Snow still covered the ground, but it was a thin layer compared to what they would’ve had up here in full winter. A few inches at most in the deepest drifts. The sky was blue enough. If he rolled down the rental’s window, the air would be crisp. And if he were to stop the car and listen, all he would hear would be a light breeze soughing through the trees, the creak of branches, maybe a few optimistic birds. And no people.
It was almost perfect.
But it wasn’t. He squinted at the forest, the patchy snow, the deserted road, trying to figure out why. He couldn’t articulate exactly what the problem was. This was northern Minnesota, practically Canada. Remote, quiet, peaceful. Sure, they got invaded by tourists every summer, but if a guy built his cabin away from the towns, on a pretty little river, say, it’d be a sweet retirement. All the fresh air and fresh fish an otter shifter could want.
And no fucking people. Had he mentioned that?
It’s just not majestic enough.
He shook his head. Majestic. The word sounded stupid and was an excuse, if he was being honest. He needed to pick a spot and be done with it. Get on with the business of building a place. There’d be permits to acquire and contractors to hire. This final job would give him enough to top off his nest egg, and then he just needed to pick a plot of land and pull the trigger. The last trigger he ever pulled, he hoped.
One more job, which meant one more orientation meeting. Today, in… fifty-four minutes. But about twelve minutes ahead was a spot he’d scouted on the map to pull over and get in a swim. He had just enough time to strip and shift if he didn’t dawdle—
The rental jerked, and he gripped the wheel harder. Then came the full-carriage rhythmic thump of a blown tire.
Shit. He huffed his frustration in a sharp exhale. This was why he insisted on a spare. Rental places didn’t like to provide them, wanted to send a tow service instead. But up here, who knew how long that’d take. And what kind of forty-two-year-old didn’t know how to change a goddamn tire? He flipped on the blinkers and pulled over onto the narrow strip of bare dirt that counted as the shoulder. He looked at his watch. Eight minutes, tops, then he could shift. The aurora had draped the sky the night before and his skin itched with the need. He was also horny as shit—another effect of the northern lights—but his solo session in the shower this morning would have to suffice until after the meeting.
He’d leaned the spare against the car and was cranking the jack to raise the axle when he heard an approaching vehicle. Move along, pal. But it didn’t. It slowed and pulled over behind the rental, and then the driver was out and walking toward him.
“Need a hand?”
Mike finished cranking the jack and reached for the lug wrench.
“Morning,” the guy said, almost next to him now. “Would you like some help?”
“Nah, I got it.” He gritted his teeth and shoved at the first nut. Stuck tight. What joker had cranked them down like this? Probably revenge for his demanding the spare tire. Keenly aware of the stranger’s eyes on him, he got it loosened and unscrewed it. He set it on the shoulder and seated the wrench on the second lug nut. It was looser, thank God. He laid it next to the first.
“You upstate for some hunting?”
“Nope. And I’m good here, so.”
Jesus. Take a hint. Maybe if he made eye contact, the guy would beat it. He paused with the wrench and looked up. But whatever he’d been about to say dried up in his mouth.
The guy was gorgeous. He had green eyes and light brown hair. It looked soft, the way the breeze was lifting the curls, and Mike could imagine that with enough sun it’d take on some bronze. Slim build, nice broadness to his shoulders. The guy could’ve been anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five, which might have made him useful in Mike’s line of work, except there was no way this guy would blend in anywhere. In a fuckin’ surfer catalog, maybe. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing board shorts just now—had on a parka over Carhartts and fleece-lined boots—but Mike would’ve bet his last dollar the guy had a stellar ass.
Get a grip, DeLuca. He turned back to the tire and tried to seat the wrench. Took a couple of attempts, but then he had it. He cranked it like his own ass was on fire.
“There’s some sweet spots not far from here,” the pretty stranger said. “For fishing, I mean. It’s kinda early for smallmouth bass, but the walleye are perky right now.”
Mike’s dick was perky right now too, but that wasn’t doing him any good. “I’m not here to fish.” Wasn’t here to change a tire capably either, apparently, ’cause he fumbled the nut. Tried to catch it as it fell from its bolt, but it bounced off his palm and rolled under the car.
“I’ll get it.”
The kid dropped down next to him and went for the bolt, and before Mike realized what he was doing, he’d grabbed the back of his parka and jerked him away from the car. “Don’t!”
The guy looked up at him, those green eyes wide.
Mike let him go and huffed. “You can’t just go reaching under a jacked-up car. It could fall on you.”
The guy straightened up to a kneel. He stuck out a hand and grinned. “I’m Shane.”
Great. Well, at least he had a name to grunt the next time he jerked off.
He shook the kid’s hand. “Mike.”
“Whatcha up here for, Mike?”
“Maybe I live up here.”
Shane chuckled. “Sure.”
“Your car. It’s not what I’d call a local model.” He crooked his thumb back at his own vehicle, a pickup at least fifteen years old, maybe twenty. “That’s the local model.”
“You’re the local model,” Mike muttered.
Shane snorted and held out his hand again. Dropped the wayward lug nut into Mike’s palm. “Here you go. You seem to have things in hand. Good to meet you, Mike-Who-Might-Live-Here.” He gave Mike a nod, and then he was walking back to his truck.
Yeah, there was definitely a great ass under all those layers.
An ass that was sliding into a warm truck and leaving Mike’s on this deserted shoulder. The kid started his engine, flicked on his blinker, and with a wave pulled onto the road and drove off.
Mike finished swapping out the tires. He stowed the shredded one and the tools and checked his watch. Twenty-nine minutes.
No shift, then.
Grumbling and still half hard, he climbed back into the rental, checked his nav, and took off for his meeting.