Book Two in the One Wish series
Benny Oshiro is having the time of his life at a private gig for his band, One Wish, until he’s assaulted and kidnapped by their former manager. When his rescue—or more accurately his rescuer—gets a little hairy, Benny knows he should reconsider their sparking attraction, but no one has ever looked at Benny with the naked want that Curtis does—want Benny can’t help but return.
Curtis Salinas knows at first sight that Benny is the only one for him. But now is not the time to test Curtis’s newly developed control. Outside forces are at work, threatening to expose his family’s secret, and when Benny is kidnapped a second time, Curtis realizes the enemy he’s searching for is only half the problem. To ensure a secure and happy future, he must also face down his doubts and claim Benny for his own.
CURTIS stepped out of the side entrance and walked along the wraparound porch to the corner where it met the front. Yet another night he was unable to sleep with the mating call roiling inside him.
Hed known as soon as he met Benny that he was his mate. Or, as his uncle Jared had explained, could be his mate. Technically, there wasn't one mate and one mate only for shifters. You could meet several possible mates over the course of a lifetime. It was whether they were available, suitable, and there at the right time in your life that determined whether you could or should act upon your pull.
Unfortunately, Benny was none of the three. He was seeing Rory, though Curtis was dubious that they were as close as they portrayed. Benny was known worldwide and a media magnet--about the worst possible person to get close to. And Curtis was in his period of celibacy prior to the solstice ceremony during which he would come into his powers. But Curtis was hard-pressed to think that he'd ever feel this way about another person in his life, ever have the same overwhelming sense of rightness. The urge to claim Benny, to keep him away from any threat, was almost overwhelming...
Curtis frowned. Why was he thinking threat? Just then he noticed all the outside lights were off. Maybe the breaker? Before he could turn to go inside, he caught a hint of movement in the parking lot.
He inhaled. Not one of his own. It was the all-too-familiar mixed scent of Rory and Benny, but it was difficult to distinguish which man it was. After he went through the change in a weeks time and came into his powers, he would not only be able to tell which man it was, but would be able to see him clear as day. Right now, though, he was hampered by his only slightly enhanced human state.
Now movement on the porch by the front door. Even in the poor light, he could tell this one was Rory, which meant the man on the far side of the parking area was Benny. He froze in place, not wanting Rory to see him and think he was spying on Benny.
Rory walked tentatively out through the dark parking lot. Curtis could hear his low voice. "Fuck," he whispered. "Ben?" he called in a slightly louder tone. "Benny?"
Suddenly the scent of blood overwhelmed Curtis. Benny's blood. Rage boiled up inside him, bringing with it a burgeoning well of power. He dropped helplessly to his knees, instinctively scrabbling at the fastenings to his clothing as the rapidly submerging rational human was overtaken by the rising change. In a dim part of his mind, he knew it was too soon, that he needed to get help. But the smell of his mate's blood colored his perception red, and he lost all will to fight what was happening within him.
Freed of his clothes, he hovered in between states for a moment before his mind seized on the image of a wolf, the shape his uncle preferred. A moment later it was so. He bounded to his feet and took off running even as he heard Rory scream. "Ben!"
Almost instantly across the darkened lot, his vision now acute, he stopped a short distance from Rory. No Benny in sight. Crouching as Rory turned, he could instantly scent the worry turn to fear when Rory saw him and froze, holding Benny's bloody scarf loosely in his hand. Curtis sprang forward, snapping his jaws around the fabric, and pulled it from Rory's fingers.
"Hey!" Rory's exclamation followed him into the night as he turned all his senses toward tracking his injured mate. Whoever had him was dragging him, according to the evidence on the ground. A growl gathered in his throat, and he picked up speed. He hit a gravel road and stopped as the visual trail became more difficult to distinguish and he had to use his senses of smell and hearing.
Wheeling to the right, he arrowed down the roadway, then slowed to a silent prowl as he rounded a curve, not wanting to miss the trail if they suddenly went off the road. The trail led to a seldom-used side road opening into a clearing. His gaze narrowed on a large vehicle with a motionless figure lying on the ground behind it. Benny. He scanned for danger, but the sight of his mate quickly overcame his caution as he moved forward more quickly now. He didn't see anyone inside the Hummer, but he was too low to the ground to get a good look.
As if in response to that thought, he felt a disorienting haze flow through him, almost as if he was on the verge of fainting; then he realized he had the rocky ground under his hands.
He had regained his human form, but that probably wasn't the worst thing since he would need arms to carry Benny. Rising cautiously, he peered into the Hummer and didn't see anyone. He knew the assailant had to be around somewhere. Where could he have gone?
Then Benny groaned from beneath him, and he dropped to his knees next to him, heedless of the stones beneath his knees. The smell of his own blood was suddenly in the air, and mixed with Benny's, it was a heady combination.
All at once, Curtis's efforts at restraint, in holding himself back from Benny this week to protect him, didn't seem so important anymore. Never having chanced being with a more fragile human, very conscious of his physical size coupled with his latent powers, he'd tried his damnedest to keep from touching his potential mate. Oh, he knew deep down that no matter what Benny and Rory portrayed, they weren't in the intimately involved relationship they claimed. At least not presently, though the familiarity with which they interacted bespoke a past connection. No...when Benny looked back at Curtis, it was with a mutual interest and heat he knew was reflected in his own eyes...
An interest he couldn't act upon at this vulnerable crossroads in his alpha training. By the time he had enough control to touch Benny, the man would be long gone.
Damn it! Of all the fucking timing.
Benny's eyes fluttered open and slowly blinked as he appeared to try to focus on Curtis, bringing him forcibly back to their current predicament. "Curt?"
"Yeah, I've got you." He began to carefully slide his hands under Benny's shoulders and knees, kicking himself for his damned scruples. It was just wrong that the first time he touched and held Benny was when he was injured and in danger. Damn his automatic obedience to his alpha and clan laws.
A metallic click that could only be a safety disengaging froze his motion.
"Stand up!" a voice ordered from a few yards away in the depths of the tree line surrounding the clearing. Curtis slowly raised his head and stood as ordered, his newly acute vision finally spotting the man dressed in all black pointing a gun directly at him. He could just make out a smallish tent in the trees behind the man.
"Now back away from him."
An ill-timed groan from Benny had him looking down, and he met Benny's uncomprehending, drugged stare.
He was helpless to stop the growl that bubbled up from inside at the thought of moving away from his injured mate, and he shook his head as he narrowed his gaze on the man, mentally gauging whether he could get Benny and himself behind cover of the Hummer before the lunatic could get a shot off.
The man either read his mind or had the same thought, because an instant later he heard the shot just as pain impacted his deltoid. "Uh." He staggered back a step, trying not to tread on Benny, as his eyes went automatically to his upper shoulder. Dart.
Curtis could feel himself losing his already tentative hold on his magic, and as his head became woozy, he felt the newly discovered and disconcerting moment before the change came over him, way faster than earlier on the porch. It was as if sheer muscle memory was kicking in, because he had zero control, and it took no effort at all. When he hit the ground next to and partially atop Benny, he was already a wolf.
"Holy shit." Benny's voice seemed tinny and distant, but it caught Curtis's attention, and with effort, he raised his head to look at his mate, dimly satisfied to be touching him but vaguely concerned that he was forgetting something. He felt Benny's hand stroke him lightly and keened with pleasure deep in his throat.
Then Benny was leaving, moving away. No! He reached out and watched bemusedly as his paw changed to a hand before his eyes.
"Leave him alone!" Benny shouted. Then another sharp report, and he landed with a thud atop Curtis, whose arms instinctively went around Benny. The black-clad stranger came into his vision, and he tried to marshal a defense, but the sucking effect of the tranquilizer held him immobile as another dart plunged into his chest from a short distance away and everything went black...