Killian put tea down in front of Blaine and Jimmy. Funny, not that long ago, Jimmy Janx had just been a cheeky, seemingly human kid in his witchcraft class. Now, he was one of the coven’s most talented witches and Killian’s right arm.
The handsome, football-player-looking guy shook his head. “Why in hells would they attack you in broad daylight in a public place frequented by humans? It’s against everything witches believe. What did they want?”
“That’s what I want you to find out. You’ve established connections, especially in your tour to the European covens. Call your contacts. Go back if you have to. I need to know what prompted this attack.”
Blaine leaned back in his chair. “Hells, as you guys would say, the reason they stopped attacking is as mysterious as why they started. I thought they were going to kill me. Killian stepped in; then Aloysius took the hit. They had to know that Killian’s not as powerful without Al, and yet they ran off like they were scared or something.”
Jimmy glanced around. “Where’s Al?”
Blaine’s face crumpled. His poor darling. “We don’t know.”
The big guy looked confused. “Is he out catting?”
Killian breathed out. “We don’t know, Jimmy. He took a terrible hit and was unconscious. Blaine wanted to take him to a vet.”
“Take Aloysius to a vet?” Jimmy’s startled expression was priceless.
Blaine splayed out his hands. “Damn it, he’s a cat.”
Killian reached out and held Blaine’s hand tight. “Anyway, it worked. Kind of. While we were there, Al must have regained consciousness and taken off. He just vanished. But we don’t know where.”
Jimmy shrugged. “Hey, he’s a mysterious cat. You know he’s gotta be okay. I mean, you’d know it if he wasn’t, right? There’d be like a disturbance in the force.”
Killian frowned at Jimmy.
Blaine squeezed his hand. “It’s okay, baby. I’ll explain later. But you’re probably right, Jimmy. I’ll bet Killian would know if Al was… I mean, if there was something really wrong.”
“Should we tell Sammy?” Jimmy stirred three sugar cubes into his tea.
Killian shook his head. “Not yet. I really want him to live his quiet life and keep that power under wraps.”
“Maybe this is the time to use it?”
Killian sat forward on the sofa. “I hope not. Meanwhile, the most important thing is to determine who’s attacking us and why. I’m very big on the why.”
* * * *
Quiet. He opened his eyes. Dark. His back hurt. It was sorely cramped in here.
He pushed some towels aside and scooted closer to the door. Quietly, he pulled the lever down and opened the door a crack. Nobody. Good. He pushed it farther and looked into that plastic-and-metal room.
Odd. He recognized all the things in this room—an examining table of some kind, chairs, paper towels—but not what the room was for. He stepped out into the dim glow coming in from a streetlight outside the window.
He padded softly across the room and peered out into a short hall, also dark and quiet. To the left, the hall ended at a door. Light came from under it and a low noise, like maybe music or voices. Someone must be in there. To the right were several more doors. He went right.
Restroom. He opened the door. It was very dark, but his eyes seemed good. He looked in. A mirror on the opposite wall reflected the dim light of the hall and what must be…him. He stepped closer and peered at his reflection.
He closed the door. Until he knew his situation, best not to alert anyone. He ran his hand on the wall and flipped on the switch. Light blazed harshly in the tiny room. Holy gods.
He stared. Huge eyes, bluer than blue, stared back at him, surrounded by hair. Long black hair down to his back. He turned and looked. The middle of his back. And pale skin. That was him. Truly?
What had he expected?
Not sure, but not this…boy.
He looked down at his bare body. Boy. Or man, for certain. His eyes widened. And quite a man. Look at those
But not just man. He cocked his head. Hu-man.
Now why was that strange?
He shook his head. This was so peculiar. He wasn’t afraid, exactly. But he didn’t feel at home in this skin. He shivered. There were important things he was forgetting, and he must remember them. He took a deep breath. Lives might depend on it.
He flipped off the light. The dark felt more comfortable. What should he do? Maybe that was the frightening part. He didn’t know. Not an idea where he should go. And yet he felt certain he had a purpose he must fulfill.
There was a person out there. Should he go speak to them? He peeked down at his lean body. Probably not like this. Humans were strange about nudity and such things. Wait. He was human, wasn’t he? This was very confusing.
A sound like a whimper came from outside the door. Noise? What was that? He opened a crack and looked out of the bathroom. No one.
His heart leaped. He didn’t even think. One bare foot in front of the other, he crept down the hall toward the sound.
A different sound. Maybe from behind that door. He stopped and listened. The strange whimpers came from in there.
He pulled down the handle and opened the door an inch.
The sounds stopped.
He slowly widened the gap and peeked inside. Eyes. Pairs of eyes reflected the little bit of light from the hall.
More eyes blinked open.
Animals. Cats and dogs in cages. Oddly, they weren’t complaining or anything. Just staring at him.
He sniffed. Oh, one of them was hurt. That person outside must be looking after them. But they were so lonely.
“Mew.” A big-eyed kitten cocked her head. He walked to the cage and reached in between the mesh with his finger. She had water and food, a toilet place, and toys, but she took to that finger like a long-lost companion. He opened the cage and lifted her out.
She licked his hand. “Mew.”
A big dog, all furry and golden, looked up at him from his cage. He wanted out too.
The room had a plain, gray floor. The kind you could clean easily. He set the kitten back in her cage, then looked in the closet and found more of the towels and pads like he’d hidden in earlier. Parfait.
He pulled some out and made a big bed on the floor. Then he opened all the cages, nine in total. Five dogs and four cats, including the kitten. They weren’t barking or caterwauling, so they could decide for themselves if they wanted to come out and be with the others.
He picked up the little one and sat on the floor, leaning against the wall with her in his hand. She tried to climb his skin to get to his shoulder, which both tickled and hurt. He draped a towel around his neck. She understood, climbed up, and made herself at home, purring against his shoulder.
The big gold dog immediately joined them. With a sigh, the dog settled next to his leg, gave a lick to his knee, and dropped his head to the soft surface. Two cats—a black-and-white and a long-haired one—came out and negotiated with each other for a spot on his lap, while another big, fat cat lay his head against the dog. The four other dogs—ranging from a tiny, skinny creature to a tough-looking beast bigger than the gold dog—all settled in as close to his body as they could get.
Oh yes. This was good. He closed his eyes. Tomorrow he’d determine where he was and what to do next. For now, this felt a lot like home.
* * * *
Luke glanced into the rearview mirror and slipped on his black-rimmed glasses. He didn’t need them for seeing. Right. Just hiding. He pulled his chin-length hair back and wrapped the rubber band around it. Like always, his heart beat a little faster at the idea of getting to go to work. His dream job. He’d given up a lot to have it, but it had been worth every sacrifice. Well, most of them. Now he just had to keep his head down and not let his patients know that their vet used to be more of an expert with cocks than dogs and cats.
He pulled down the rearview mirror and glanced from side to side. Even after almost two years, he hadn’t stopped looking over his shoulder. But Nicky wasn’t back there. And if Luke stayed below the radar, he’d never be back there again.
He climbed out of the car. Pretty, bright morning. After a deep breath, he grabbed his backpack and walked quickly into the office.
His night helper, Amy, sat behind the reception desk with her head on the keyboard, softly snoring. He sighed. Going to school full-time and trying to work nights was really too much. But the girl needed the job, and she adored the animals and gave them excellent care. When she was awake. The small TV that helped entertain the night crew blared merrily with a morning talk show.
He touched her shoulder. “Amy.” He tapped. “Amy. Wake up.”
Her head popped up, and she stared around wildly, then finally looked up and saw him. “Oh no, Luke. I’m so sorry. Damn. I fell asleep.”
He wanted to look stern, but it was tough. She was such a good kid. “I can see that. Any idea how long the animals have been unattended?”
She looked at the clock, the TV, and stared at the light coming in the windows. “Oh no. A few hours, I’m afraid.”
“That’s not too bad. But we have to find a way for you to get sleep that isn’t while you’re working, okay?”
“I promise. It’s just the damned midterms. They’re over tomorrow, and I’ll be better. Scout’s honor.”
He grinned. “Ah, but does Scout’s honor hold when addressing a gay man?”
She laughed. “My honor, then.”
“Okay. You go home and rest. I’ll check on our babies.”
She shook her pigtails. “Oh no, Luke. Let me. Their cages need cleaning and everything. I should do it.”
“Madeline will be here soon, and she can help me. We won’t tell her why things are a bit worse than usual. Go on. Scat. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
She grinned, and it wrinkled her snub nose. “Thanks, boss. You’re the best.” She grabbed her stuff and headed out the door.
Luke stopped at the refrigerator to get some treats, pulled on his lab coat to protect his clothes, and walked down the hall to the boarding facility. Let’s see how big a mess you made, critters.
He stopped outside the door. Odd they weren’t barking or carrying on. They had to have heard him. Shit. What was wrong?
He threw open the door and stopped. What the holy living fuck was going on?
Lying in the middle of the floor on a pile of pads and towels was a man. A very naked man, sound asleep. His head rested on the side of Rolf, the golden Lab. The little feral kitten lay on his shoulder, and every other animal in the boarding room was crowded around him. None of them barked or meowed. Their eyes opened, and they stared at Luke. When he took a step forward, Rolf raised his lip. What the fuck? The gentlest of all dogs was warning him? Him
Luke squatted down. This had to be the most unbelievable thing he’d ever seen. He shook his head. Which part? The way the animals were acting, or the naked guy in his boarding facility?
He twisted his head and leaned down to get a better look at him. Nope. He’d never seen him before. And shitfire, would he ever remember. This dude was gorgeous. Like Killian Barth gorgeous but different. That black hair looked like silk, and there was so much of it. Kind of like Killian too. He had skin that seemed to glow. Wow. Look at that mouth.
Pink all by itself and shaped like a heart. Okay, maybe Luke was losing it. But it was amazing that in the last two days he had seen the two most beautiful men he’d ever encountered. Hell, Blaine Genneau was incredible looking. And Luke wasn’t considered bad himself, but Killian and this guy were different.
Stop staring and figure out what he’s doing here and what the hell to do with him now that he is.
He could see himself calling the police to report a naked, homeless angel asleep in his office. Riiiight.
Maybe a street kid? This guy didn’t look much more than twenty-one or -two.
So first problem was waking him, and since he seemed to have a fuzzy bodyguard or two, it wasn’t obvious how Luke was going to do that.
He reached out a hand, palm up. “Hey, Rolf.” The dog didn’t growl, but he also didn’t move.
He picked a liver treat out of his pocket and placed it on his palm. Not a quiver, though the dog eyed it lovingly.
“He likes chicken better.” The voice was utterly unique. High, musical, and raspy, like maybe he sang blues in a smoky bar. And those eyes were blue, like the Caribbean Sea.
“How the hell do you know that?” No, wait. Wrong question. “Will you please tell me who you are, how you got in here, and what you’re doing?”
The guy reached up and took hold of the kitten on his shoulder, then sat up slowly.
Every inch he raised revealed new areas of splendor. Wide shoulders decorated with the fall of silken hair. A lightly muscled chest with no hair at all, just pure marble skin and two pink rosebud nipples.
Luke’s cock wiggled. Down, boy.
And then the guy did it. He sat up fully and crossed his legs Indian style.
Holy hellish shit.
Lying on the floor in front of him were a dick and balls sized for a man twice this kid’s dimensions. Silky black hair curled around the base of a thick, long, uncut cock.
Catnip to a gay man.
The boy seemed to notice Luke’s fixed gaze, glanced down, and smiled. “Sorry.” He pulled a towel from the heap he’d piled on the floor and dragged it across his lap.
Too late. Luke wrapped the front of his lab coat to hide the boner trying to push its way out of his jeans.