If you like your guys mysterious, tender, and caring with a side of hairy… I have just the man…
By: Diana DeRicci
Published: Oct 31, 2012
ISBN # 9781612920566
Word Count: 56,876
Jamie Ness is homeless and on the run. After divulging his deepest, guarded secret, his father attacked him, which left no choice but for Jamie to leave everything behind he’d once known. His greatest fear is that his father will realize the mistake he made in throwing away the only real income coming into their home and hunt for Jamie. Putting distance between his father and wherever he stops is his only priority. After walking for days, putting one foot in front of the other, it’s impossible to turn down a hot meal when Chris Rose pulls up at his side on the outskirts of a town he doesn’t know.
Offering the young man a helping hand is ingrained in Chris. Something to eat, a warm bed, and safety, even if he could only get Jamie to grudgingly agree to one night. He would have offered that and more to the young man with the shadowed eyes, except more trouble was looming for Jamie. It isn’t just Jamie’s dad that Jamie has to worry about, because there is nothing in his life that could have prepared him for Chris’s secrets.
Chris waited on the sidewalk without moving a muscle. He would have waited all day for Jamie to decide. Turned out the next wave of grilled beef on the breeze did the trick. He shuffled up to Chris’s side, though not close, his head down. At least he hadn’t covered his head again. Without saying anything more, Chris led him to the backyard.
“Hey! About time,” Cade called when he caught Chris’s gaze as they rounded the house. Chris flashed him a look, twitching with a miniscule effort of his chin behind him. Cade’s eyes widened in surprise, then he smiled, a known attempt to soften the gruffness of his features.
Chris heard Jamie’s steps falter when he cleared the corner of the house.
Chris made the introductions. “Cade, Jamie.”
“Hi, Jamie.” Cade glanced at Chris, who shook his head once. Cade didn’t offer a hand.
“Hi.” Jamie all but whispered it. He clutched his backpack strap like a lifeline.
Cade waved toward Jamie’s shoulder. “You can put that on the table over there. There’s tea all ready. Help yourselves.”
Chris usually helped Cade with the cooking but in this instance, he walked over to the table and poured two glasses instead. Warily, Jamie followed him. He guessed compared to Cade, he was the lesser of two evils. Cade was a big guy compared to Chris’s compact size. Cade was six-three where Chris was five-eleven. Cade also looked like a tattooed biker on a good day, with his wild auburn hair to his shoulders. Cade was definitely the wilder one of the brothers.
He offered the iced tea. “Here.” He waited until Jamie raised his eyes before trying to hand him the glass. “Drink it slowly. You’re probably dehydrated, and it’ll make you cramp if you gulp it.”
Jamie frowned. “I’m not—”
“Not a people doctor, but I know enough. Okay?” he said gently.
Jamie’s pinched lips only exacerbated the abuse they were healing from. Lashes lowered to hide enigmatic blue eyes that were so deeply shadowed with sleep deprivation they looked smudged. Whatever had happened it had been bad, with all the bruising and fading swelling. And that was only what Chris could see. He sincerely doubted it was limited to his face. He hadn’t had a chance to see in the truck and Jamie had put the hoodie back on, covering his skin. With a flash of insight, he realized Jamie was wearing a long-sleeved shirt beneath it. The reasoning behind that in the May heat made his stomach curdle. Thick bronze-blond hair that curled around his ears was the only other feature Chris could be sure of.
He also knew, had known the instant he’d opened his window, that this was the same person he and his pack had discovered in the woods last night. Not because he was dirty, or male, or alone. But because even then, as bad as he looked, as woeful, hurting and as lost as he seemed, Chris wanted to curl around him and keep him safe. His wolf had known last night but he hadn’t been able to do anything about it except tell his pack what he’d found, what they’d almost stumbled on last night and likely would have terrified right into hysteria.
After their run last night, his plan had been to return to the woods and find him. Figure out what the story was behind why he was hiding in the woods and help him. Except the Mathison’s mare had pulled his priorities in another direction. He was going to ask Cade to help him track tonight to find this young man again.
Unexpectedly, Chris had found him trudging along the side of the westbound two-lane highway moving toward town instead. He watched Jamie carefully from the corner of his eye so he wouldn’t feel like a spectacle. He was pale, thin, and in need of some major TLC and nourishment. And a very light touch. He wasn’t a big guy like either Chris or Cade, maybe five-seven and light of build, like a reed. He had long fingers and narrow hips. The fact that he’d been someone’s punching bag was merely an inarguable observation.
Jamie took his advice and drank slowly, taking a couple minutes to down half the glass.
“This is good,” Jamie said, tapping the plastic with a finger. He took another couple swallows and looked at the pitcher.
“Help yourself,” Chris told him. “I’m going to see if Cade needs anything. All right?”
Jamie nodded, finally unhooking his pack and laying it on the ground by the picnic table leg.
That helped Chris to relax, seeing Jamie become comfortable as well. He placed his own glass of tea on the table and then walked over to the grill and his brother. “The rest inside?”
“On the counter.”
“I’ll grab it.” With a nod of thanks from Cade, Chris went through the rear screen door heading for the kitchen. He found a covered platter filled with stuff to stick on a burger like lettuce and tomatoes, plus cheese and bacon strips as well as ketchup and mustard. Cade must have realized something was up when Chris told him he was bringing a friend. He never bothered with vegetables. They weren’t on his palatable list. With his hands full of plates, the platter, and bottles he nudged the screen door open with a toe and a hip, then wove to the table.
Jamie was still standing and immediately leaped to help Chris, taking the plates off the top.
“Thanks,” Chris said.
“Did you grab the chips?” Cade called from his position in front of the grill.
“Do you need more help?” Jamie asked, almost too quietly to hear.
Chris gazed at him, sorry when Jamie didn’t lift his own eyes. “No. Just a couple bags of chips to go with everything.”
Jamie moved a shoulder. “Okay.”
“S-sure,” he replied unsteadily.