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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

www.ninestarpress.com

Bad Moon Arising

Copyright © 2018 by CL Mustafic

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at Contact@ninestarpress.com.

Printed in the USA

First Edition

July, 2018


eBook ISBN: 978-1-949340-05-1

Print ISBN: 978-1-949340-06-8


Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers.

Bad Moon Arising

Outcasts, Book One

CL Mustafic

Table of Contents

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

To Christina Quinn, you dared me and now you have to take responsibility for the havoc you created.


Chapter One

Clay


Sitting in the back booth of the Blue Moon Bar and Grill—the only openly gay-friendly spot in the small city I worked in—I ran my finger over the screen of my phone, trying to gather up enough courage to tap the picture I’d been staring at for the past ten minutes. Touching the pic brought up his profile, which I’d already memorized. The green light told me he was online and only a few miles away from my current location. I liked his pic. It wasn’t very often Grindr users in my rural area posted pictures of their faces. Previous experience had taught me most of the app’s users were closeted and/or straight guys who liked to suck the occasional cock and worried their dude bros would download the app as a joke and see them there. But this guy had no such issue, and boy, was I glad.

Of course, on the heels of that thought came another: it probably wasn’t a real pic of the guy. As I stared into the mismatched eyes—one a light green, the other a pale blue—I had a feeling he was catfishing, but there was only one way to find out for sure. Tapping the picture of the shaggy, sandy-blond-haired, scruffy-faced man brought up the chat, but I hesitated a moment. His user name was MoonGazer, which made me think of a nerdy guy with a telescope. Suddenly I had a vision of the guy sitting in his room spying on the hot guy next door, which gave me the boost of confidence I needed to send a message.

[hey]

I sent the one word and immediately wanted to take it back. I should have said something like Hey, sexy, want to hook up? but that wasn’t me, and I couldn’t change the person I was, even on Grindr. Half a beer later, he responded.

[hey urself]

My palms were sweaty as I stared at the words and tried to formulate a response, but he beat me to it.

[r u l%kin 2 h%k up]

All the moisture left my mouth, so I picked up my beer and chugged the rest before I sent another one-word message.

[yep]

[whr u at]

Shit, he moved fast, but this is what I wanted, and he must have liked my pic enough to give it a go. My profile pic was only my chest. Yeah, I know it’s a cliché, but I had a great body, whereas my face? Well, my face wasn’t my best feature.

[you know where the blue moon is]

[b thr in 10]

I almost dropped my phone, but instead, I juggled it and managed to avoid it hitting the table.

[I’m in the back booth, black hair, red shirt]

What the hell was I doing? Oh, fuck it. I needed to get laid, and even if the guy wasn’t remotely as hot as his picture, I could turn him around and do it without having to look at him.

[gotcha]

Well, he wasn’t going to be much for conversation; that was for sure. After ordering a shot of vodka and another beer for courage, I sat back in my booth, eyes glued to the front door as I sipped my beer to soothe the burn from the stronger alcohol. The minutes ticked by slowly, and then the door opened and all the air in the room was sucked out when he stepped into the bar.

He waved to the burly bartender before turning his head and surveying the room. It was like a god had appeared, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Every set of eyes followed the tall, muscular man as he sauntered across the room. I wanted to shrink down into the booth. His picture hadn’t done him justice, and I knew I was about to be rebuked in a horrible fashion when he saw what he’d come to meet.

The moment he spotted me will be forever etched into my mind. His mismatched eyes settled on my face, and a predatory grin spread across his lips. Droplets of sweat rolled down my back and pooled in the crack of my ass, making me shift at the uncomfortable sensation. His gaze never left me as he made his way to my booth before dropping down on the bench across from me.

“Hey there, black hair, red shirt,” he said, in a slow, sexy, Southern-tinged drawl. His voice was low and gravely, and it stirred all sorts of feelings in me—well, in my pants at least.

“Hey.” God, I sounded like the nerd I’d been hoping he’d turn out to be. He chuckled, and the hairs on my arms stood up.

“Want to get out of here?”

Straight to the point, like his messages; at least he wasn’t at all about false advertising. Nodding, I grabbed my wallet and pulled out a twenty to leave on the table to cover my tab and tip. We stood at the same time, and he waited for me to put my jacket on before he headed for the door. We didn’t say anything more as we left the bar. I followed him out into the parking lot, but then stopped when I realized I had no clue where we were going since my car was parked in the opposite direction from the one he was heading.

“Do you have someplace we can go?” I asked. I could take him back to my place, but that meant a twenty-minute drive, and I wasn’t sure I wanted him to know where I lived. He could be a serial killer for all I knew.

“I got a camper on the back of my truck. That work for you?” His grin widened into a smile when he looked back over his shoulder at me and pointed to the brand-new four-door extended-box pickup that did indeed have one of those tacky campers attached to it. His wasn’t too bad, since it was a newer model, but it was still something of an atrocity. I wondered briefly if he lived in there, but then decided I didn’t care. It wasn’t as if I was looking to marry the guy.

“I guess that will do.” I shrugged and went to the small door at the back, but he’d gone to the driver’s side door of the truck.

“I think we should at least drive out of the city a bit. Wouldn’t want to scare the good folks when you start screaming my name,” he said, with a wink, before opening his door and climbing in without even waiting to see if I’d follow.

I hesitated. Did I really want to get in the truck with this guy? My brain said it wasn’t the best idea, but my cock didn’t agree. I guess the small head won out because next thing I knew, I was sitting in the big leather seat next to him, and he was driving out of the city. There was no conversation. I didn’t expect there to be an in-depth discussion on environmental politics or anything, but a bit of chitchat would have been nice while we drove for over ten minutes looking for a place to pull off that provided us some tree cover to hide the truck from the traffic on the highway.

He put the truck into park and shut off the engine before he turned to me. “You ready to do this?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” I opened my door and jumped down. The sound of his door opening made the situation feel real to me in a way it hadn’t before. Something about the guy seemed off, and I wondered, if I were to start running, would he give chase or simply laugh at me? I made my feet move and met him at the back of the truck.

He unlocked and pulled the door of the camper open and then waited for me. There was no step on the outside of the camper, so I stood there trying to think of a way to climb up and into it without looking like a fool. The guy harrumphed as he let go of the door, grabbed my waist, and, lifting me like I was a ten-pound bag of potatoes, dumped me into the darkness of the camper.

“Geez, impatient, are we?” I grumbled when he followed me in, shut the door, and clicked on a light. I’d never been in a pickup camper before, so I was surprised when the light revealed a space that looked relatively comfortable even for a man the size of the guy who’d just shoved me through the door. It also looked lived-in.

“I ain’t got all night, and you looked like you needed a little boost.” His grin was back as he moved to the seating area and started converting it into a bed. I was having a hard time getting over that accent and the way he talked. He sounded every bit the redneck hick who resided in a camper, and I wasn’t sure if that was a massive turn-on or not.

“Isn’t there a bed in this thing?” I asked because I’m an idiot and I had nothing else to say.

“There is, but it’s up in the loft and last time I tried fuckin’ up there, I got a knob on the back of my head for my troubles. This works better.” He went to a cabinet and pulled out a sheet that he threw haphazardly over the bed. He then kicked off his shoes, shrugged out of his jacket, pulled his shirt over his head, and started on his belt buckle. “You gonna get naked, or do you have some sorta magic that lets you fuck in your clothes?” he asked when I sat there staring at his tattooed torso.

“I…uh…no.” I began to unbutton my shirt as he laughed at me.

Soon we were both standing there naked, his eyes sweeping over my body, and I swear he growled before he tackled me back onto the bed. He pinned me down, and just when I thought he was going to kiss me, he veered left and sniffed my neck—no, sniffed is not the word for what he did. He snuffled at my neck and I laughed because it tickled, and of course, the laugh made me snort, which is not the sexiest sound a guy can make.

“You smell like fear. Are you afraid of me?” he asked when he was done sampling my aroma.

“What? No. How can you smell fear? Are you part bloodhound?”

He chuckled, and then he did kiss me, hard. He was all tongue and teeth. I tried to keep up with him, but in the end, I let his mouth have its way with mine. It was fucking hot! I’d never had a guy who was so energetic about something like a kiss, and my cock was rigid against his hairy thigh. I rocked my hips, and he got the idea and shifted so that our groins matched up. He started humping me, and I knew if he wasn’t careful, I’d come just from that and ruin any plans he’d had of doing something more.

I turned my head to free up my mouth to tell him so, but once my lips were no longer there for him to maul, he started in on my neck and all I could do was moan. I was on the brink when he nipped at my earlobe and said something I hadn’t expected to hear.

“Want you to fuck me.”

Paralyzed by the thought of this man wanting me to fuck him, I lay there like a moron. I had been expecting either mutual blowjobs or maybe for him to ask to fuck me, but never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d be the one fucking him.

“Did you hear me?” he asked, pulling back to look down at me with those strange but alluring eyes. I nodded. “Is that not something you want to do?” His brow creased as he frowned, and I finally found my voice.

“No, I mean, no it’s not something I don’t want to do. I want to. Christ, I really want to!” Okay, that might have been a bit too enthusiastic, but it wiped the frown clean off his face.

“Good, I’ll get the stuff.” Getting up on his knees, he rummaged through one of the kitchen drawers that happened to be right next to the makeshift bed. He pulled out a handful of condoms and a huge tube of lube and dropped them on the bed next to me. “Hurry up and get one of ’em on.”

Not needing to be told twice, I ripped into one of the condoms and rolled it down my hard shaft while he climbed over me to the center of the bed. Just looking at him there on all fours made my dick throb, and getting the lube applied without coming was a true test of my willpower. I did manage to hold back the groin geyser long enough to get in position behind him. Pressing my hands to his muscular cheeks, I spread him. I thought to tease his hole with my finger, maybe even get some lube up in there, but he jerked away.

“Just do it,” he said. His head hung low between his shoulders as he pressed back, offering his ass up to me.

“Are you sure?”

“Fuck, man. Just fuck me already!”

I grabbed his hip with one hand and my cock in the other and did what he wanted. Sliding the head of my cock into the tight, hot heat of another man’s ass was probably the hottest three seconds of any sexual encounter and I liked to savor the moment, since it was a rare occurrence for me, but the guy didn’t let me enjoy it. He pushed back, and I watched, fascinated, as his ass quickly swallowed my full length.

“Fuck, give a guy some warning,” I groaned, and that fucker chuckled at me again. I slapped his ass, and that got his attention. “You want me to fuck you, or are you the one in charge here?” I smacked his other cheek and had to admit the sound it made was very satisfying.

“What are you waiting for? Do it, hard.”

Gripping his hips, I pulled out and slammed back in, making him grunt with the force of it.

“Fuck, finally.”

His groaned words equal parts pissed me off and turned my crank, and that’s all I needed to give it to him good. I lost all my earlier worries and let go, fucking him with an abandon I never would have tried with any other guy, but this guy had asked for it. His body shifted when he reached under himself to jerk his cock, and I had to readjust my stance, which must have been a good thing, because upon my next thrust, he howled. I looked around since the sound was such an uncanny imitation of a wolf I wondered if maybe one had wandered out of the woods and had somehow gotten into the camper.

My one moment of inattention earned me a growl because I’d stopped moving my hips. He pushed up off the bed so he ended up on his knees and sitting in my lap, burying my cock even farther up his ass. Using his thigh muscles, he bounced on my cock. I wrapped my arms around his chest and held on for the ride. Staring at the back of his sweaty neck put ideas in my head, and I bent forward to get a taste, but his shudder egged me into doing more than kissing the moist, overheated skin. I nibbled, and that produced a moan as he tilted his head to expose more of his neck for me. I took it as an invitation and bit down, making him howl again.

His ass clenched down on my cock as he came, shooting his come out over the sheet he’d laid down earlier. He only missed about two beats before moving again, and I was done. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but as I came, sheathed inside his quivering hole, I bit down harder on his neck and the coppery taste of blood filled my mouth.

“Ugh, fuck.” He reached back and grabbed my hair, holding my head in place over the wound when I tried to pull away.

I couldn’t stop the automatic reflex to swallow and cringed as his blood made its way down my throat, before he let me go and slumped forward. Remembering to hold the condom while my cock slid out of his ass, I sat there staring at him, wondering if I’d just swallowed a death sentence. What if he had some kind of disease or something, and now I had it too?

“Is there a bathroom in this thing?” I asked but was sure there couldn’t possibly be one.

“Yeah, that door there. But don’t flush the toilet unless you gotta shit,” he mumbled without moving to indicate which door was “that door there.”

I half expected him to be joking, having meant the outside door, but when I got off the bed, I saw what he was talking about, and once opened, found there to be a tiny sink and toilet. I dropped the condom in the small wastebasket and then turned on the water. Knowing it wasn’t going to do me any good, I washed my mouth out with water. I looked at the door before sticking my finger in my mouth to try to gag myself. Maybe if I vomited up the blood, it would keep me from catching anything he had. I was desperate, but nothing doing. I couldn’t make myself puke; damn blowjobs had done fuck-all to my gag reflex.

Banging on the door scared the crap out of me. “You okay in there? You didn’t fall in, did ya?”

“No, I’m fine. I’m only washing my hands,” I called back. I turned the sink off and looked for something to dry my hands on, but there was nothing but toilet paper. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door with one of my dripping hands and stepped out, ready to apologize for biting him so hard.

“I thought maybe you got lost in there.” His grin was back and so were his underwear and T-shirt, which was a little bit disappointing.

“Yeah, it’s pretty huge. I almost asked for breadcrumbs.” My joke fell flat because I got another of those frowns from him. “I’m kidding.” I went to the pile of clothes and started dressing, wanting to get out of there before I could make myself look like a bigger idiot.

He managed to get dressed faster than me and stood there waiting once again for a reverse of the earlier scene. I kept my head down because I was afraid if I made eye contact, I might have to talk to him. Once I was fully dressed and had zipped my jacket, he opened the door. I hustled to get out right away so he wouldn’t feel the need to help me again.

He shut the door after dropping down and winked at me before turning to go to the front of the truck. I trudged to the passenger’s side and got in. I still wanted to tell him I was sorry for the bite, but I didn’t know how to bring it up. He wasn’t much of a talker, so I couldn’t casually mention it in the course of the conversation. I sat there, hands folded in my lap, and watched the nothingness of the dark night pass us by until we hit the city limits.

“My car is over there.” I pointed to my beat-up blue Honda Civic, which had seen better days, as he pulled into the parking lot of the Blue Moon. He stopped right next to my car and turned to look at me, and once again I noticed how unsettling his bicolored eyes were. Even in the dim light from the dashboard and the parking lot lights, it was eerie. Like two different people were sharing the same head, and both were looking out at me in judgment.

“So, that was fun, thanks,” he said.

“Ah, yeah, but before I go, I want to tell you something.” I shifted in my seat, ready to say I was sorry, but he held up a hand to stop me.

“No names, I’m not looking for anything more than a quick hookup.”

My mouth dropped open but then snapped closed. Of course, a guy who looked like him probably had guys wanting to do it again all the time, so I could respect that he was only looking to get off and nothing more. I nodded to indicate I got it, but I was still going to apologize whether he wanted to hear it or not. It was how my mom had raised me, and there was no going against that ingrained bullshit.

“It’s not that. I wasn’t going to tell you my name or ask if we could do it again.” My statement didn’t have as big an effect on him as his did on me, but he did quirk a brow as if he was surprised and maybe interested in what I had to say. “I just wanted to say I was sorry for biting you so hard. I didn’t mean to break the skin and, yeah, I’m sorry.”

“You broke the skin?” The cocky way he’d been holding himself all night—like he knew he was the shit—fell away, and a worried look turned to horrified when I nodded to confirm what he’d heard was true. “Shit, did you get blood in your mouth?”

Fuck! I knew it! He had something, and now I was going to die! “I did and I think I swallowed a little bit too. Please tell me you don’t have anything that’s going to kill me,” I pleaded.

He shook his head. “Fuck, goddamn it.” Slamming his hand down on the steering wheel, he made us both jump when he accidentally hit the horn.

I didn’t take his reaction as a sign that I didn’t have anything to worry about, and I was ready to go full-out panic mode when he reached over and grabbed my arm. I jerked away as if his touch could do more harm than swallowing his fucking blood already had.

“Hey, it’s not that. I’m not sick. I don’t have anything that’s going to kill you. It’s just not a good thing to be drinking other people’s blood,” he said. The words did nothing to calm my fears after his earlier reaction. “I swear to you that I don’t have a disease that will kill you.”

Well, that was reassuring, but what about the ones that wouldn’t kill me? After taking a few deep breaths, I nodded. Freaking out would do me no good. The damage was already done, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going to the clinic and asking the doctor if there was a way I could cut the risk of catching anything that could have possibly been in his blood. “Okay, I believe you. I have to go.” I clutched the door handle, but once again he grabbed me.

“My name’s Damian Maccon,” he said. I turned to look at him, wondering why he was suddenly having a change of heart about the no-name-exchanging thing. It only made me suspicious about his claim of not having any diseases. “If I gave you a deadly disease, do you think I’d tell you my name?”

“I have no idea, and I guess I don’t care. What’s done is done. It was my fault anyway. I really have to go now. Thanks for the…sex.” Not letting him stop me again, I got out and was locked in my car in record time. He didn’t leave, which made me nervous enough to not head home right away when I pulled out of the parking lot, instead driving to the all-night grocery store. Only after I parked, looked around, and found no sign of his truck did I put the car back into gear and drive home.

Chapter Two

Damian


After parking my truck in front of the doublewide trailer on the edge of the compound, I shut off the engine and let my head fall forward until my forehead was resting on the wheel. I wasn’t happy about having to go in and tell Pete and Willard about what had happened. It wasn’t about the sex. If it was about that, they would only slap me on the back and ask if it was good. No, it was about the bite and the blood. Shit, he’d swallowed my blood. I sat up and punched the steering wheel with the flat of my hand, accidentally hitting the horn for the second time that night and sending a sharp bleat out into the night. When the front porch light came on, I knew it was time to get out and face the music.

Willard met me at the door after what felt like the longest damn walk of my life, and I’ve taken some walks of shame in my time. His brow furrowed when he saw my face, and he asked, “Whiskey or tea?”

“Whiskey.”

He nodded. “All right, come on in. I’ll get Pete.” He let me pass before he shut the door, then snapped off the porch light.

I took a seat on the sofa and adopted the posture of the truly repentant, even before I confessed my blunder. Hearing Willard tell Pete I was there waiting for them and had chosen whiskey instead of tea, I knew I only had moments left as part of the Outcast pack. There was no way they wouldn’t exile me for this fuckup.

A liter bottle of Jack was plonked down on the table in front of me, and then three glasses joined it. Pete sat on the couch next to me, and Willard took to his recliner right across from us. I waited until Pete had poured a healthy three fingers of the amber liquid into three glasses and they each took theirs from the table. Grabbing mine with an unsteady hand, I sat back on the couch and took a deep breath before throwing the whiskey back. I let the burn in the pit of my stomach center me.

“I might have a problem.” Understatement of the year goes to…

“Tell us what happened and let us decide if you do or not,” Willard said. It was what I’d expected him to say because it was his standard line.

One time I’d killed a farmer’s cow and thought it was the end of the world. Pete and Willard had taken care of the situation after I’d told them, so therefore it hadn’t been a problem, which was why he always said it was up to them to decide if it was one or not. I wished this time it was something as simple as dead livestock.

“I was with someone tonight, and he might have—no, he did, swallow some of my blood.” There. I’d said it. Now, all I could do was wait for the damnation to be dealt out.

“You’re sure?” Pete put his hand on my thigh. I’m sure he thought it was a comforting gesture, but to me it felt like he was pinning me down with that one slender hand.

“He said he did. I can’t be sure because I didn’t even realize he’d broken the skin, and it had healed by the time I’d gotten a look at it.”

“If you’re not one hundred percent certain—”

“And lycanthropy isn’t easy to spread. He’d have had to swallow a good amount, and there’s still a chance he might not catch it,” Willard interrupted Pete.

“But there’s a chance he could have, and if he does, then that means I’ve broken pack law and—”

“Now, hold on here.” Willard leaned forward and picked up the bottle, gesturing with it across the table for me to hold out my glass, which I did, so he could fill it. “You said he bit you, right?”

“Yeah.” I blushed, knowing I had put myself in a position to be bitten by a human.

“Then you’ve broken no laws. The law is you can’t bite or in any way seek to infect intentionally,” Willard said, and Pete smiled at his lover like he’d just told him they were having a baby.

“But still, he may be infected,” I said.

“He may, and now it’s your responsibility to watch him, and if at all possible, get him here to the compound on the first full moon so you can monitor him. If he changes, then he’ll be your cross to bear.” Willard’s stern look brokered no argument over his pronouncement.

“What does that mean, exactly?”

Pete sighed and took my hand. “He has to be indoctrinated into the way of the pack, and you’ll have to bring your case in front of the elders.”

“What case?” I’d thought telling the two of them would be the extent of my embarrassment, but telling all the elders in the pack would really suck.

“If he is werewolf, he’ll need the protection of the pack, and the only way for a turnt werewolf to get that is to find a mate within the pack.” Willard looked at Pete and smiled softly. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s happened before.”

“Yeah, but he’s not my bonded mate. It’s not the same as you two.” Yep, the two guys sitting in the pack leader’s doublewide trailer were a bonded pair. In our culture it was a big deal. Only about one percent of all werewolves ever felt the mate bond, and the fact that Willard had found his mate among the humans had brought a huge upheaval to the way the pack had operated ever since. I didn’t know all the details as I’d only joined them about five years ago, but I’d heard the stories. Their mating was one of the main reasons I’d been accepted into their strange collection of werewolves that called itself the Outcast pack.

“I’m sure if he was good-looking enough to find his way into your bed, he’ll have no trouble finding a mate here if you’re not interested,” Pete said. He sipped his drink almost daintily, which looked weird after having seen him rip the throat out of a wild boar in his beast form.

“I don’t even know the guy. I met him on Grindr, and he seems like the type who will totally freak out over this.”

“Oh, he’s going to freak out. There’s not a single man alive who won’t have some issues with not only finding out werewolves are real but that he’s now one of them,” Willard said sagely.

“But, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. Your job now is to figure out a way to get him here next week for the full moon without telling him why. We can’t risk exposing our secret if he’s not infected.” Pete and Willard exchanged a look that probably held an entire conversation before Pete added, “You know what will happen to him and you if that was to happen.”

“I know,” I sighed. Maybe death would be preferable to what my future held if Grindr guy turned out to be infected. There was a reason I played up the hick card when I met my hookups. It usually kept them from wanting to have meaningful conversations with me. I was a pretty face and a good fuck but dumb as a box of rocks as far as they were concerned. Now I’d have to try to get the guy to talk to me, and after I’d told him I wasn’t interested in anything more than a quick fuck, how was I going to explain my sudden change of attitude?

“You’ll figure it out, and like I said, the chances of him being infected are really low. It’s something like only point five percent of people who are possibly contaminated that actually get it. The numbers are in your favor.” Willard was trying to make me feel better and maybe give me some hope, but I was as pessimistic as fuck by nature and was sure this would end up biting me somewhere other than my neck.



Finding out who Grindr guy was turned out to be surprisingly simple. All I had to do was go to Officer Randy Turnball, the resident cop. He lived in a single wide on the north side of the compound with his kid sister. They’d basically been run out of their old pack when it was determined the little sister didn’t have the lycanthropy gene. The parents had wanted to give her up for adoption, but Randy was having none of it. At the age of sixteen, he’d taken his nine-year-old sister and run, ending up here where Willard and Pete took them in and raised them until Randy was able to support the two of them on his own.

I hadn’t slept for shit, so I looked like death warmed over when I knocked on Randy’s door at seven the next morning. I had to wait for him to answer, and then he gave me the strangest look when he found me on his front steps.

“Damian, what a surprise. Do you want to come in?” He was already dressed in his uniform, and I could hear loud music coming from farther inside the mobile home.

“Do you have a few minutes? Pete told me you usually don’t leave until eight, but I don’t want to hold you up.” I needed his help, but it wasn’t like we were friends or anything that would make him want to give it to me. Being part of the pack meant he was likely to do what he could for a fellow member, but I knew there were some people who didn’t much care for me, and Randy was friends with one of them.

“Sure, come on in. Want a cup of coffee? I got the pot on.”

“That would be great, thanks.” I followed him inside and sat at the counter that served as both a divider between the kitchen and living room and a table.

“So what brings you by so early?” he asked, as he set a steaming cup in front of me and pushed the sugar and creamer close enough for me to reach.

“I have a situation, and I wondered if maybe you could help me out.” Ignoring the extras, I picked up my cup and sipped the hot bitter liquid.

“What sort of situation? I can’t fix a DUI if that’s what you’re aiming at.”

“Do I look like the sort who’d get a DUI?” I shouldn’t have asked because, of course, I looked exactly like that kind of guy, but I wasn’t. “I need to find someone, but the only thing I have to go off is his Grindr profile and the make and model of his car.”

Randy raised an eyebrow as I pulled out my phone and pulled up the app so he could look at SweetGuy12’s profile. I wasn’t sure if it would help, but when Randy snorted, I glared at him, thinking he was making a comment on my taste in men.

“I know who that is.” Randy’s smirk made me want to lash out at him, but I remembered I needed his help. He had the information, and he didn’t even have to do anything to get it.

“How?”

“He works at the DMV. I see him all the time.” Randy shrugged like it was no big deal.

“How can you tell from a picture of a chest that it’s the same guy?” I wasn’t convinced Randy knew the guy from the DMV. Now, if he’d said he’d fucked him and recognized the tiny mole below the guy’s belly button, I’d have believed him one hundred percent.

“If you look at the picture a little harder, you can see his face reflected right there.” He pointed out the tiny image reflected on the metal surface of an unidentifiable object.

“Wow, I never even noticed that. You have a good eye.” I was impressed.

“I am a cop, you know. I’m trained to notice the details. And that guy? His name is Clay Anderson, and as I said, he works at the DMV. He’s a grumpy shit who scares the teenagers when they come in to get their permits. You know that class I teach once a week? Every one of the students says he gives them the stink-eye when they pass.”

That didn’t sound like the shy, stammering guy I’d met the night before, but I wasn’t going to question Randy’s assertion it was him. I’d drive down to the DMV and check it out for myself. I was sure I could scrounge up something to make it look like I’d simply popped in to stand around for an hour and a half, even when there were only four people in line and as many working the counter.

I stood after gulping the last of my coffee and held my hand out to Randy. “Thanks for the help. That was easier than I thought it was going to be.”

He shook my hand. “Is there a reason you want to find him? I mean, you’re not going to do anything to him, are you?”

“No, it’s a long story, but I’m not looking to go out and beat him up or anything.”

“I figured that; still had to ask, though.”

He followed me to the door where I thanked him one more time before hopping in my truck and driving to my own stationary mobile home. I didn’t spend much time on the compound because I worked construction and lived out of the camper on the back of my truck to save money. I’d finished up a job in Oklahoma and was supposed to start a new one in Texas in a week when they finished erecting the wind towers on the Melland Valley Wind Farm. It would be my last one for the year, and then I’d be home for a couple of months to recharge my batteries. When I worked, I worked seventy, sometimes eighty, hours a week to get the sites closed down on schedule, so I needed some time off in between, and my company gave it to me because they couldn’t find a closer like me.

I pushed the door open and wrinkled my nose. The damn kid I paid to look after Stumple and Grumpkin, my two Maine coons, while I was gone, had failed to empty the litter boxes again. I hadn’t been home, since the first thing I did when I hit town was look for a hookup, and then I’d passed out in my camper, drunk off my ass after having a bottle of whiskey and listening to Pete and Willard reminisce about their fated romance. I’d have to chew the little shit a new asshole again and dock his pay because this was beyond the pale.

The two huge cats converged on me and wound around my legs, vying for my attention. I reached down and scratched both behind the ears, earning me purrs that sounded like motorcycle engines. Something about the sound of a cat purring calmed my nerves the way nothing else could. I wished I could sit on the floor and cuddle them for a couple of hours, but I had things to do, so I had to settle for a quick snuggle as I picked each one up and hugged them. After changing the litter boxes, I fed the beasts before leaving once again. I had the paperwork for my old boat, and needing new tags for it was the perfect excuse to go to the DMV.



The DMV on a Wednesday morning is like the first circle of hell; everyone sits around waiting and looking like they wonder if they’ll ever get out, knowing they might not. I took a number from the little red box thing and looked at the screen to see I was ten numbers away from being helped. My gaze traveled over the people working the counter and found all older ladies, no Clay among them. I thought about leaving, but then I spotted a familiar head of black hair poking up from behind a divider in the back of the office. Bingo.

I lounged against the wall as I waited, trying to ignore the looks I got from various people walking in and out of the small office. I knew what most of them thought about guys like me. I could give less fucks about their opinions, but it did get irritating when mothers of small children pulled them as far away from me as they could when they passed. My number was one away when Clay took up a position behind the counter. I cursed under my breath, thinking he’d get the next customer and my wait would have been for nothing.

Sometimes things work in a person’s favor, and that morning at the DMV, of all places, it worked in mine. The lady next to Clay punched her button, calling up the next number to her station just before Clay hit his and called up mine. I grinned as I walked to the counter, but then I remembered why I was there and I couldn’t maintain it. Clay, on the other hand, looked outright horrified by my presence in his workplace.

“Morning, cupcake,” I said, dropping my papers on the counter in front of him. He didn’t even glance at them; instead, his mouth dropped open, drawing my attention to it. I still regretted not having the time to get those full pouty lips wrapped around my cock, but this was no time to be thinking about sex. I needed to weasel my way into Clay’s life without him knowing I was doing it.

“W-what are you doing here?” Once he regained some of his composure, his hazel glare could have killed me if he’d been able to throw the icicles in it.

“This is the department of motor vehicles, isn’t it?” I asked innocently while looking around like I was checking for a sign or something.

“It is.” His two words were as frosty as his stare.

“Well, I’m thinking of doing some fishing, and I realized the tags on my boat have expired. This is the place to be if you’re in need of renewed tags so you can enjoy some recreational water sports, right?”

Clay’s eyes narrowed before he looked at the papers I’d put down. He grunted and put a form in front of me. “Fill that out and sign it.” He turned away and started stamping things and stapling other things, making quite the show out of being too busy to chat after I’d filled out all the blanks on the renewal form.

“That’ll be thirty-five fifty,” he said when he laid my yellow tags on the counter with my renewed registration.

“So, since it seems we’re fated to run into each other like this, what do you say I take you out for lunch?” I asked, looking at the clock to make my point that it was almost noon.

“No, and it’s still thirty-five fifty for the renewal.”

Well, that was cold. I pulled out my wallet but wasn’t giving up yet. “Why not? You have to eat, right?”

Clay looked from one side to the other at his coworkers before leaning over the counter toward me. “What’s with the way you’re talking?” he asked in an angry whisper.

“What do you mean?” I knew exactly what he meant.

“Where’s the aw shucks, ain’t ya gotta eat? Was last night just an act? Because I was a sure thing, you didn’t need to sweet-talk me with your Southern twang to get my pants off,” he hissed.

“Hey,” I said, holding my hands up in surrender, which only made it look like I was being mugged since I had my wallet in one hand and money in the other, so I quickly put them down before it drew attention to us. “We all play a part when we meet people to hook up. The stupid rube is mine, and the wide-eyed innocent is yours. You don’t see me busting your balls about acting like a dick now, do you?”

“Look. Just pay for the registration and go away.”

“Just let me—”

“Is there a problem here?” An older lady with bluish-gray hair, and wearing a sweater with a dog on it, came over to see what the fuss was about. The way she looked at Clay made it clear she wasn’t too pleased to have him working with her.

“It’s nothing, Betty. The customer was having a hard time finding the correct change, but I told him I could break a fifty.” Clay eyed the one I was holding in my hand as he held out his to take it.

There was nothing I could do but give him the bill. I didn’t want to get him into trouble at work. That would go against my aim of getting him to go out with me. He quickly made change under the watchful eye of the elderly woman before pasting a fake smile on his face as he handed it to me. “Have a nice day and enjoy your water sports,” he said.

“I will, thanks.” Rolling my eyes got me a somewhat real grin from Clay. Well, that was a start, not a good one, but I’d take what I could get. I turned on my heel and went out to sit in my truck. I’d wait and catch him when he left for lunch, and if he stayed in to eat, I’d be there when he finished his shift. I had nowhere to be, and Clay was the only business I needed to attend to. I laid my seat back—maybe I’d nap a bit.

Chapter Three

Clay


“See you tomorrow, Clay,” Betty said when I passed her office at the end of my shift.

“Have a good night, Betty,” I called before pushing my way out the heavy steel door leading to the employee parking lot in the back. She got over her little snit earlier when I gave her the piece of cake from my lunch. That little bit of chocolatey goodness was the only thing that kept me going all morning, but after my run-in with Damian, I knew I needed to get her off my back or she’d find a reason to write me up again. She always seemed to have it in for me, but I had no idea why.

I was unlocking my door when a hand landed on my shoulder, making me jump and drop my empty lunch cooler. Turning to face whatever threat approached me, I brought my fist up—keys held between my knuckles—in case I’d need to defend myself. However, I stopped short of actually throwing a punch because it could have been one of my coworkers, and hitting some little old lady I worked with would be bad form. I was sorry I didn’t follow through, though, when I saw who was standing there with that shit-eating grin that made me want to knock out his teeth. I dropped my hand instead.

“Don’t hit me, cupcake. I promise not to mug you.” His grin turned into a smile as he took a step closer, picked up my cooler, and held it out to me. “Do you always try to punch people who come up behind you?”

“Only jerks who I hate,” I said, grabbing my cooler out of his hand before turning away to use my keys for what they were intended.

“What did I do to make you hate me so much?”

Did I hear him right? I turned around once again to make sure he wasn’t pulling my leg with another one of his acts. “What did you do to me?”

“Yeah, last I knew, we had a good time, and the only thing I said was that I didn’t want anything more than a hookup, which if I’m not mistaken, is exactly why most guys use Grindr. Why are you so pissed at me?”

“Do you not remember last night in your truck when I told you I might have swallowed your blood and you freaked out? Why don’t you tell me what you did to me, huh?” Yeah, if he thought I was going to forget his reaction, he was sorely mistaken. I’d already called to make an appointment at the clinic on my lunch break the next day. I hoped it was something they could detect right away and not something that would lurk in my system, only to come back and bite me a month or two down the road.

“I told you, I didn’t think it was a good idea to be drinking someone’s blood—not like you’re a vampire, right?” he asked as if it were all some joke.

“Why don’t you go the fuck away? I mean, if you can only make jokes about stupid made-up creatures, you’re not worth any more of my time.” This time I didn’t wait for him to try to explain himself. I opened my door and got in, locking it right after I slammed it in his face.

He knocked on my window. Even though I didn’t roll it down, I still heard his words through the glass. “You’re the one who bit me. Remember that.” He turned and strode off after leaving me with that little tidbit to mull over.



It took me exactly twenty-three minutes to drive from the office to my house. I lived in a town that was not officially a town. Shit, the name of the place was Grebes, but everyone called it Grebes Village. It was a tiny place that had sprung up in the middle of nowhere to serve the summer lake people. There’s a community center with a small library, a gas station that also serves as a bait shop and still rents the occasional DVD, a liquor store, and of course, the Grebes Pub, which is also a restaurant and known simply as the Pub. The rest of the town consists of twenty houses loosely grouped around the two intersecting highways.

I parked in my driveway and stared at my little one-and-a-half-story house. It needed a coat of paint, but it was in good shape. My parents had died the summer I was supposed to go off to college, leaving me the house but no desire to seek the college education they’d insisted I needed. My best friend’s dad—my ex-best friend because Jon had gone off to college and moved to the city afterward—had gotten me the job at the DMV because he felt bad for the poor orphan boy. I’d worked there for almost ten years now, and I was happy with my life, for the most part.

My nights usually consisted of heating up some sort of leftovers from meals I’d made over the weekend or the carryout I’d stopped and picked up on the way home. Tonight, I was having reheated tuna casserole with a side of wontons, which I ate in front of the television. I was trying not to think about Damian, but my mind kept going back to him asking me out to lunch. Why had he wanted to go out with me when he’d had no interest in even learning my name after we’d fucked? It was a mystery, so I decided I wanted nothing to do with the guy. He wasn’t my type anyway. I snorted. At this point, my type was male and having a heartbeat, but still, something about Damian rubbed me the wrong way.

I browsed the Internet for a bit and checked my Grindr app, but shut it down as soon as MoonGazer popped up as online. And then I showered and went to bed.



The second Friday night of the month was all-you-can-eat walleye at the Grebes Pub, and it was the one time I braved the crowds to eat there. I loved me some walleye and felt like I should celebrate my semiclean bill of health. There were a couple of tests I was still waiting for, but my doctor was fairly certain I could cease my worry over a few of them since they weren’t all that common. The only one I had to worry about was the HIV test that I couldn’t even take for another couple of weeks. And though I did worry about it some, Damian seemed like the kind of guy who would have told me if he knew he had it. I don’t know why I came to that conclusion about him, especially since he’d lied to me before, but it was a feeling I got and it eased my mind a little.

Jenny, the hostess slash head waitress, seated me at one of the small tables near the back of the pub after she asked me if anyone would be joining me—to which I rolled my eyes because she knew better. I was as good as the town hermit because, after my parents died, I couldn’t form the kind of bond with people that would put me at risk of going through the loss again. I’d shunned my friends until they left me alone, and I never bothered to make new ones.

I ordered tap beer and the special. There was some background music playing, but it wasn’t so loud that it hindered conversation—not that I was going to hold one with myself, but I could have if I wanted to. I pulled out my phone and tried to pass the time until my food arrived by scrolling through a few of my favorite forums on Reddit. I was in the middle of reading a horror story about a bunch of kids in a trailer in the woods when the chair on the other side of my table was pulled out. I didn’t look up because usually everyone knew I ate alone, and it wasn’t unusual for someone to grab my extra chair to add another seat to their table.

“So, you find a new guy for tonight, or are you still looking?”

My head snapped up at the sound of Damian’s voice. He was sitting at my table, arms resting on the top as he leaned forward to look at me.

“I’m not online tonight, but I am right here if you want to chat, or maybe we could go to my camper again?” He raised an eyebrow as if it were a real question that had any possibility of me saying yes.

“Fuck off. What are you doing here?” I’d lived there all my life, and though lots of people came through in the summer, in the off season, I knew every single person in town, and I’d never seen Damian at the Pub before.

“I heard they had excellent walleye here, and it’s all you can eat tonight. I’m hungry, so I decided to stop in and see for myself what the fuss was all about, and imagine my surprise when I saw you sitting here all by yourself. I thought, why not go join him? So here I am.” Damian shrugged like his story made one lick of sense, but I wasn’t buying it.

“I thought that’s why you registered your boat, so you could catch your own fish.” I reminded him of the last time we’d seen each other and the reason for it.

“Well, I can eat a lot, and I’d have to fish for hours if I wanted an all-I-can-eat buffet of those suckers. And that’s only if I was lucky enough for them to be biting.”

“So, you’ve never been in here before?” I asked because it didn’t seem to trip him up when I asked about his boat and supposed fishing excursion he needed to take. He shook his head in answer to my question. “And you just happened to wander in tonight?” He nodded. “The one night of the month I come here to eat?” He grinned and shrugged again as if it was the world’s greatest coincidence. “I call bullshit.”

“You can believe what you want, but it’s the truth.”

“Where are you from?” I thought I’d try a different tack and see if I could find something about him that might help me figure out what I was dealing with when it came to Damian Maccon.

“A little place outside Pelican. You probably wouldn’t know of it,” he said, sitting back in his chair, seemingly relaxed when faced with personal questions.

“Try me. I grew up here. I know every town from here to the cities,” I said, pretty confident I could pinpoint any town he named on the map, no matter the size.


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