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Earning His Trust

Miracle Book 8










By

Shea Balik





Earning His Trust

Miracle Book 8


Iniko had a problem. His mouth often said things that his brain hadn’t thought through. It didn’t make him very popular with anyone. How he hadn’t been kicked out of Miracle was in itself a miracle. Iniko also had a gift to help others find their niche in life. But to do that, the men of Miracle would have to find a way to give him a chance.


Greyson was stunned when he walked down the street of Miracle to discover a brash mouse shifter with blue and pink hair ordering about predators twice his size. So, he was shocked when that man, who also happened to be his mate, ran from him in fear.


Neither man had planned to ever find his mate. Now that they had, would they be able to find a way to deal with their pasts? Then again, nothing in life had ever been easy for either of them. Doom, or happily ever after, would start with Earning His Trust.



Copyright© 2018 by Shea Balik

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Smashwords Edition

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This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Cover by: Harris Channing

Edited by: Avril Stepowski



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Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Epilogue


CHAPTER 1


“That will be thirty-two fifty, Dale.” Iniko wasn’t quite sure how he managed to read the numbers on the screen with the riot of blinding colors Dale was wearing.

He had to keep his gaze lowered when he took Dale’s cash but Iniko forgot when giving Dale his change and looked straight at his horrific shirt. “Two dollars and fifty cents is your change and might I say, that is a very brave thing to wear a shirt as gaudy…I mean…” Shit. Iniko had to learn to control his mouth or he was going to end up getting punched.

“Tacky,” he blurted out. Slapping his hand over his mouth, Iniko stared in horror at Dale, who could probably use his pinky to pound Iniko into the ground. “That’s not…I didn’t…”

Dale just growled, grabbed his bags and walked out of the door. If only Iniko would have kept his mouth shut, the entire episode could have been over.

“Have a psychedelic day,” Iniko called out. “Fuck,” he cursed realizing what he’d just said.

Iniko usually was proud of himself for saying what was on his mind. He never backed down from stating his opinion, even though no one ever seemed all that happy to hear it. Sure, too often he tended to be a bit too blunt, but Iniko felt that was part of his charm. He just wished others thought that way, too.

Usually he received scowls, eye rolls or, when he’d stepped over a line like he’d just done with Dale, people either walked away or told him none too nicely to shut the hell up. Iniko wasn’t about to do that, which tended to leave those he interacted with prepared to walk the other way when they saw him coming.

Not an easy accomplishment when Iniko owned the only general store in Miracle.

“Hey, Iniko.” Harper breezed through the door with his mate, Kirill.

Harper was Iniko’s best friend and the only reason Iniko had decided to make Miracle his home. At least that’s what he told himself when everyone in the small town didn’t want him around. The reality was, Iniko didn’t have anywhere else to go.

The shifter world was changing thanks to the new Council enacting laws making it no longer illegal to be gay, but too many shifters out there weren’t as accepting as the laws were. At only five-foot-five, Iniko wouldn’t stand a chance trying to defend himself, especially since it was clear he was different than the average shifter.

Between his runaway mouth, his long hair that went just past his shoulders, which currently had the under layers dyed a deep blue with the top layers in pink, Iniko tended to attract attention wherever he went. He wished, just once, it would be the kind of attention that might get him a mate.

“Harper.” Iniko left Asher, the next customer in line at the check-out, who was still laughing at how badly Iniko had screwed up with Dale, to give his best friend a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here. Wilder hasn’t shown up yet and my people skills aren’t exactly working today.”

Kirill glanced outside where Dale revved up his truck menacingly before peeling off down the road. That happened far more often whenever Iniko ran the cash register. He was going to need to speak with their Alpha, Edrick, about moving his store to a place with a parking lot if it kept happening. The last thing Iniko wanted was for someone to get run over by a pissed off customer.

“Let me guess,” Kirill said, barely hiding his laughter, “you made a comment about that atrocious shirt Dale was wearing.”

Asher slapped his hand against his thigh and howled with laughter. “More like three,” Asher said when he gained a modicum of control. “First, he told Dale he was brave for wearing something so gaudy.” Tears streamed down Asher’s face as he continued to laugh hysterically.

“Not necessary to go into details,” Iniko tried to tell Asher but he might as well have been talking to himself for all the good it did.

Asher dragged in a noisy lungful of air, as if he were gasping for breath, before adding, “Then he told Dale the shirt was tacky.” Dale must have found that particularly hilarious because he slapped the counter three times. “And when Dale stormed out, Iniko told him to have a psychedelic day.”

There were tears streaming from Asher’s eyes and Kirill was laughing outright. Only Harper looked at Iniko with sympathy. Then again, Harper was probably the only one who knew Iniko would stay up nights worrying about some of the hurtful things that ran from his mouth like diarrhea.

“Very funny, Asher. Now, why don’t you go on home, so I can try to forget this morning ever happened.” Iniko would honestly like to forget most of his life but he was willing to start with just the last few hours.

Asher, thankfully, stopped laughing and blinked at Iniko, then pointedly glanced at the counter which held the dozen or so groceries the man was trying to buy.

Fuck.

He was going to kill Reed for being late, forcing Iniko to run the cash register since they’d opened. He really needed to find another person to help out around the store. It wasn’t as if Iniko couldn’t afford it with the entire town pretty much dependent on his store for anything they needed.

Iniko gave a huff and stomped back over to the register. As quick as possible he rang Asher up and sent the still chuckling man on his way, with a warning he would never be allowed to step in Iniko’s store again if he told anyone about what happened with Dale.

Asher’s face fell. For a moment, Iniko was sure the man was going to cry. “But… You know I can’t keep a secret,” Asher complained. “How about if I only tell…”

“No,” Iniko cut him off. He was tired of being treated like a bully when he didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. He shouldn’t be held accountable for what comes out of his mouth, when he clearly had a malfunctioning thingy in his brain not stopping him from saying whatever popped into his head.

“Fine,” Asher said reluctantly. “But I don’t see why it matters. Everyone already knows you blurt out stuff you shouldn’t.”

That stung. It shouldn’t, since it was true, but thinking it to himself and having someone else tell him that was like a punch to the gut. Iniko tried so hard to help the community. It was why he started the stupid store in the first place. Driving an hour or more to neighboring towns for simple groceries and supplies was challenging to say the least.

Iniko had seen the need for the store, so he’d gotten Edrick to agree he could open it and Chadwick’s men to build it. Since he’d opened the damn thing, Iniko had taken great pains to ensure it was well stocked. He even listened to what some of the residents of Miracle wanted and did his best to get the items on the selves.

Yet, all anyone knew about Iniko was he was the town’s bully. Well, verbal bully, because there was no way Iniko could physically hurt anyone. He’d tried to kill a spider once, but just couldn’t force himself to step on the poor thing. In the end, he’d gotten it to crawl onto a piece of paper and released it out the back.

“Hey,” Harper got in Asher’s face, which wasn’t something Iniko saw every day. “Don’t talk about my friend like that.”

Iniko couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corner of his lips at Harper’s bravado. He loved that his friend, who was painfully shy and fearful of his own shadow most of the time, actually stood up for him.

“What?” Asher’s eyes widened. “It’s not exactly unknown.” Then he gave a shrug. “What difference does it make? We all have our issues. His is just that he can’t control what comes out of his mouth.” Asher cheeks pinked a bit as he looked down at the floor as if he were studying the wood planking. “Just like everyone knows I can’t keep a secret to save my life.”

When Asher’s gaze once more met Iniko’s with a pleading look in them, Iniko just knew what happened with Dale would be spread through Miracle like wildfire. “I’m sorry, Iniko. I’ll try to not say anything, but we all know that’s not going to happen.”

The thought of the entire town having another reason to hate him didn’t sit well with Iniko, but Asher was right. Expecting him to remain silent was like asking the sun not to rise.

It wasn’t fair, but it was Iniko’s own fault for not learning to curb his own tongue. “It’s okay, Asher. I won’t be mad.”

Asher nearly bounced with glee as he headed out the door with a huge smile on his face. “Thanks, Iniko. And don’t worry about what others say. Just be you, man.”

After Asher left, Kirill said, “He’s right, you know. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to reign in some of your comments, but you can’t be anyone but who you are.”

The next thing Iniko knew, Harper threw his arms around him. “And I happen to like you as you are. Flaws and all. It’s what makes you such a good friend.”

Iniko raised an eyebrow at Harper in askance. It didn’t make any sense that Iniko’s blunt honesty would make them friends.

Harper gravitated to Kirill’s side. His mate seemed to understand that Harper needed his support and gave it to him unconditionally. “When, well, you know…” Harper’s cheeks bloomed a bright red. “My brother…”

Iniko wasn’t about to let Harper say anything more about what happened to him. “You mean that asshole who I still think was some sort of demon spawn who crawled up from the depths of hell to make us all miserable?”

Just as he’d hoped, Harper smiled. Even better, he appeared to relax against Kirill’s side. “That right there,” Harper told him. “That’s what got me through each day. You will never know how much it meant to me to have you on my side.”

If he wasn’t careful, Iniko was going to cry. That was all he needed, for the town to label him not only a bully but a crybaby. Clearing his throat, he changed the subject. “I got in those,” Iniko shot a glance at Kirill, “things you wanted. They’re in my office.”

Harper’s eyes lit up.

Kirill was chuckling when Harper raced to the back to get his order. It wasn’t until Harper had disappeared from view that Kirill faced Iniko. “I know I give you a hard time sometimes, Iniko, but what you did for Harper…” Kirill closed the distance between them and pulled Iniko into a bone crushing hug.

It wasn’t until Kirill stepped back that he finished by saying, “Not only does it make you one of the most loving and kind people I have ever known but know that I will always have your back.”

That meant more to Iniko than he could possibly say. More often than not, he wondered if he should try to find another place to call home. But if a place as accepting as Miracle didn’t want him, what chance did Iniko have at finding somewhere better?

This was the first time he was able to truly be himself without worrying about being killed for being gay. Even with his runaway mouth, Iniko knew deep down, no one was going to kill him for it. Punch him, maybe, but not kill him.

No. Miracle was the place for him. If only he could discover a way to find happiness.


CHAPTER 2


Jolted from sleep, Greyson Henley bolted upright, his gaze sweeping the room for whatever had every instinct within him screaming at him to run. He knew better than to ignore his innate drive for survival. It had saved him and his friends more times than he could count over the decades they had been on the run.

The question was what caused him to wake up and which of the six exits he and his friends had should they use? Nothing was amiss that he could see. So what had woken him?

Slowly, he breathed in, trying to normalize his racing heart. He stilled and inhaled once more.

Gasoline.

With the grace of his panther, Greyson leapt from the couch and raced silently toward where the strongest of the fumes were coming. The overpowering chemical scent burned the hairs of his nostrils. Whoever was intent on burning them alive had doused the entire house and was currently dumping what smelled like an entire gas station of fuel right outside Kylo’s room.

Greyson was still at least a dozen steps from his friend’s room when he heard the whoosh of fire igniting. He tried to push himself faster, but had only made it two more steps before an explosion hit him with the force of a bull on a rampage, throwing him back several feet in a heap on the floor.


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