Thursday, February 23, 2017

Author Interview & eBook Review: Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth

Today I'm happy to help feature J. Scott Coatsworth's new novel release, Skythane with an interview, my review of the story, and an eBook feature and excerpt for you to enjoy!


Thanks for having me to celebrate the release of my first novel, “Skythane.” :)

If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
National Writer’s Day – every movie poster would be headlined by the writers, not the actors. Every writer would get free coffee and donuts all day long. Writer’s block would be abolished for 24 hours. And we’d all look like movie stars for our cover headshots.

If you could kill one person, who would it be?
Um… decline to respond. But let’s just say if lightning were to strike in one place of my choosing, I’ve made up my mind.

If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
OMG… this is so tough. Can I have two?

 Anne McCaffrey, because I adored her books, especially her Dragonriders series. For my 16h birthday, my Dad bought Moreta’s Ride for me, even though he had no idea what the hell it was or why I wanted it, and I was in heaven. I would love to talk to her about her writing style, how she managed her series, where her ideas came from- everything! I was so bummed I never got to meet her.

And Sheri Tepper. We just lost her this year, but she was an amazing writer. I found her by accident, picking up After Long Silence at the checkout counter at Safeway. But her books were transformative – she was one of the few writers who could leave me thinking about her stories for weeks after I finished them. I wish I could have asked her how she came up with them. 

If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
Hmmm… tough one. But it would probably be the year we lived in Kauai, when I was 32. Mark and I moved there, and it was amazing. We had an ocean “peek” from our condo, and we had our company meetings on the beach. It was amazing…

If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
The hubby, a bag of Oreos, and a pad and paper. Or is that four things? Is a person a thing? Do the Oreos count individually, or en masse? So many questions.


My new novel, Skythane, is just out – and it combines my love of sci fi and secret reveals and MM romance. I hope you enjoy it!


I think the cover of Skythane (which is absolutely gorgeous) pretty much sets the stage for the story. There's a strong fantasy element, sexy men, and a setting of space/alternate planets. I found the story to be far more fantasy-based than science based, with prophecies, men with wings, mysterious guiding characters, and other things I'd normally associate with the fantastical. In the fantasyesque style, it reminded me of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series which feels very pastoral and fantastical until it delves into the fact that there is a space element in later books.

Of course, unlike the pastoral setting of Pern, J. Scott Coatsworth created an extremely complex "half-planet". The visual of that, when it was first introduced, was fascinating. I immediately wanted to know exactly how that happened and why. There is a lot of backstory in the book that you need to know, but I did find some of the flashbacks confusing to the running timeline. That is a personal preference, however, as I like a linear sequence of events for the most part. Overall, though, the characters and their journey is what drew me in.

I loved the threads of similarity between Jameson and Xander. It comes out in vastly different ways, but they have so many of the same wants and needs. In the end, their growing relationship was my favorite part of the story, just edging out the wonderfully descriptive settings J. Scott Coatsworth created.

About the Book

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Authors: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Anne Caine
Length: 85K
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 2/17/17
Pairing: MM
Genres: sci fi, mm romance, gay sci fi

Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnison, a handsome, cocky wing man with a troubled past.

Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.

Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them together.


Rain hit the plas and ran downward in little rivulets, separating and rejoining like branches of time as the storm whipped itself into a frenzy over Oberon City.

Xander Kinnson lay on his bed, head thrown back, watching the tempest with a laziness that belied his inner turmoil and pain. Alix had left him and gone missing. A year had passed, and still he had a hard time accepting that simple fact.

His dark wings with their jet-black feathers were stretched out lazily to each side of his supine form, their tips extending past the edge of the bed. His chest heaved slowly up and down, and he breathed easily, as if he were utterly relaxed.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Below the surface, under the deception of skin and sinew, his heart beat at a thunderous pace, and his mind raced for answers to Alix’s fate that slipped beyond his grasp.

The handsome trick he’d brought home rested his warm hands on Xander’s thighs, his hot mouth engaged elsewhere. Xander smelled the deep, masculine musk of him, slipping a hand absently through the man’s dark, tousled hair as the rain increased to a thundering downpour against the plas. The drops glistened, each an individual universe of shimmering light before running quickly out of sight.

A flash of lightning illuminated the room, thunder indicating how close it had been. As the heavy rain pounded against the arco’s walls, Xander rode the wave of pleasure higher and higher. Despite himself, he rose quickly toward climax, drawn up on the tide as the trick worked his cock. Unable to stop himself, he thrust his hips almost angrily upward into the man’s willing throat. Closer, closer….

He reached the crest, a pleasure so intense it burned through him like phosphorous, a white-hot fire.

Lightning flared again across the wet, black sky, followed by thunder so close it shook the bed. The storm had reached a fever pitch outside, and he arched his back in the air one more time, his wings rustling beneath him. As if in concert with the storm, Xander came, the release of his orgasm radiating from his hips along his spinal cord and down through his toes and the tips of his wings.

The rush of elation washed away his cares for a few brief moments. Xander shuddered, shivered, and shuddered again, and it was over.

For a while, he drifted in an oblivion that was blessed in its emptiness. The rain fell in a steady beat against the window, and he forgot to wallow in his pain. His mind floated free, with no responsibilities, nothing to worry about for those brief moments between sex and real life. This was what he needed. This lack of thought, this pleasurable oblivion where he could just be.

When he opened his eyes at last, the nameless trick was staring down at him, expectant.

“You’re still here.”

“I can do more, if you’d like,” the man said with a grin. Like Alix, he had no wings—a lander man.

Xander glared at him, annoyed. He was handsome enough, tall, dark-haired, with blue eyes and a light complexion. Strangely, he reminded Xander of Alix. The hair and eyes were wrong, but there was something about him, and that annoyed the hell out of Xander, for reasons he didn’t care to examine too closely. “Get out,” he said with a dismissive wave.

The man frowned. “I thought—”

“Oh right, your pay.” Xander took the man’s arm and slitted him a hundred crits from the wrist reader embedded in his own. Then he waved the trick away. “We’re square. Now get the fuck out of my flat.”

The man gathered his own clothes, but Xander didn’t give him time to put them on. Instead he hustled the trick out of the irising door, palming it closed on his hurt and angry expression.

I really have become a bastard, he thought, staring at his dim reflection in the shiny black door. It had been a long year.

He tapped the cirq in his temple with his left hand, and called out to his PA. “Ravi, any messages for me?”

Buy Links Etc:

Dreamspinner - eBook:

Dreamspinner - paperback:

Amazon - kindle:

Amazon - paperback:

Barnes & Noble – paperback:




Author Bio:
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.

Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him "the only one stopping you from writing is you."

Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way. He has sold more than a dozen short stories - some new, some that he had started years before. He is currently working on two sci fi trilogies, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi ( site, a group for readers and writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Seven

Another week, another update! In this one, we get some answers but there are still so many questions.

Chapter Seven

“What are you doing here?”

The tiger’s eyes were dull, and he shook his head. Was he stupid, foolhardy, or did I deprive a few too many brain cells of oxygen? Surrounded by a half-circle of werekin and with me in his face… he was in a no-win scenario. Maybe he needed a little encouragement.

“I’m told you work for Trein. Do his dirty work. That true?” The tiger stared at me, and I growled. “You broke in here and tried to hurt me, or kill me, and do who knows what to Ritch. Because of you, I’m going to carry scars.” I held up my arms, swathed in white bandages. “Trust me when I say I have no problems making you tell me what I want to know.”

The tendons in my hands and wrists burned, but I slid my claws out. I crouched in front of the tiger. “One last chance. Who are you and what are you doing here?” I lightly pushed against one edge of the black markings on his face, just under his eye, then dug my claw in until blood welled up around my nail. “Answer me!”

My rage pulsed, and my vision narrowed in as I gave myself up to hunter mode. I flashed my fangs and hissed. He flinched. There, a reaction. Watching his eyes from inches away, I dragged my claw backward, slicing open his cheek as I traced his markings along his muzzle.

He gasped and leaned away from me, but I had no mercy. Blood dripped down his face, but it wasn’t enough. Deke trusted me to take care of this, to protect the streak. No one else flinched when I did it again. The tiger was breathing hard, the whites showing all around his eyes.

I dug my thumb into the mark on the side of his neck not far from his racing pulse. “Talk. Or die. Who do you work for?”

“Trein,” he gasped.

“Why did you attack us?”

“To take him.” He glanced at Ritch.


“Alpha owns him. No one takes his things.”

I barely fought off the urge to slice this throat wide open right there. “Ritch is a person. Not a thing. He can’t be owned, and he’s not that bastard’s anything.” I yanked my hand away from his neck before I took his head clean off. I couldn’t look at Ritch, or there would be no stopping me from avenging the pain and humiliation I knew they’d heaped on him.

“Keep him quiet.” I grabbed my phone, wincing as the wounds pulled. That only pissed me off more, and my phone made an ominous crackling sound. I eased my grip immediately. I walked into the bathroom and turned on the water to mask my conversation from the others’ sharp ears.

“What is it, Park?” Deke asked. His voice was growly.

“Trouble.” I summed up the events succinctly. “What do you want me to do with him?”

Deke snarled. “Gag him and leave him tied up. I will lodge a complaint and someone else can tell his alpha where to find him. Make sure he’s out of commission, though don’t let him die.”

I lowered my voice. “Do you think that it’s a cover? That Trien has something to do with the scientists and the human werekin looking to create an army?”

“Maybe, but he’s one of the worst offenders. Look what he did to Ritch. I can’t imagine him considering human werekin equal enough to conspire with him.”

“You’re probably right.” I sighed. “I was hoping for a quick answer. He’s in on it, attack and take over his streak, extract information on the scientists’ whereabouts, and then it’s done.”

“Nothing is that easy,” Deke said. “I think this is exactly what it seems. A thwarted tyrant tried to take something he wants.”

Kraig’s voice came though fainter, but I could still hear him. “How hurt are you, really?”

“It’s not good, but it’s not that bad either. I didn’t lose any use of my hands, it just hurts like a son of a bitch. I’ll be careful and Ritch will have to drive, but I should be healed in a few days.”

“Keep in touch whenever you can.”

“I will… Maybe don’t tell Mom about this?” I was the pack beta, Deke’s enforcer, and a strong, powerful werekin, but she liked to forget that when she coddled me and Deke. Besides, she’d been through enough.

“Agreed. Come back soon. Isiah is performing your rounds, and he’s driving me crazy with the constant updates.”

I huffed. The last time I ran the perimeter I was gone for two weeks and I didn’t call Deke once. I’d wanted some alone time, and when there was nothing to report, there was no reason to call. “Maybe you should get used to it. I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up even though I heard him saying something.

Ritch was dressed and sitting in the remaining chair on the other side of the room from the tiger who was swearing up a storm and making threats.

“Shut up,” I hissed at him. “Someone gag his ass. We’re leaving, so everyone go get your shit.” They gagged him and then left until it was just me and Ritch.

“Are we taking him?” Ritch asked. He grabbed the stuff out of the bathroom, then zipped both bags shut. I hated not being able to help.


The tiger began to struggle, his complaints muffled by the gag, but I ignored him. “We’re paid up, so Deke will handle it.”

“So that’s who you called.”

I nodded. “We keep going.”

When we got to the car, I instinctively went to the driver’s door, but Ritch met me there. I sighed. “Being a passenger makes me sick.”

“Sorry. I’ll be careful.”

Slowly, I lifted Ritch’s chin. “Don’t apologize. None of this is your fault.”

He shook his head. “It is. You wouldn’t be hurt, if it wasn’t for me.”
Want more flash? Check out these other updates:
Briefers Website

Thursday, February 16, 2017

KU Fun with LGBT Romance Deals!

If you've read my blog, you know I love a good deal. And I'd even say, adore it, when said deal involves books. And right now you could be missing out on a few great ones!

Seriously! It's okay! I have all the information you could want. Check out the LGBT KU Fun newsletter for highlighted eBooks (including the second editions of my novella, Pricolici and M.A. Church's Paws & Claws) available through the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program (there's a great free trial option if you don't already have a membership) and don't miss the...

Enter to win an Amazon Fire or Kindle eReader!!!

So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Six

Another week, and this update is eagerly awaited, I think! Some serious action hinted from last week's cliffhanger, so I hope you'll enjoy this update inspired by the prompt: "Sweet dreams are made of this."

Chapter Six

“Son of a bitch! Ritch, hide!” I jerked my arms and the cuffs busted through the cheap wood. Ritch bolted upright and then scooted backward off his bed and into the corner. “Where the fuck is the key?”

No time. I jumped off the bed, fighting with the sheet. In seconds the attacker was on me. I fought back, using my cuffed arms to grab the back of his neck and yank his head down onto my rising knee. He yowled and raked my sides with sharp claws.

I held back my own cry and fought with my teeth clenched. I had no time to spare to see if there were others coming in or if Ritch was safe. Hampered by the cuffs, I fought back using my legs, finally getting my attacker on the ground. I rolled us, getting his back to my front, and held on tight with both legs around his waist and my arms locked around his throat.

My shout rang through the room when he clawed down both my arms and hands, but I didn’t let go, even after blood dripped down his neck and onto my chest. He finally went limp and his arms splayed out to the sides.

I groaned as I shoved him off me. There was no one else in the room. “Ritch?”

He peered over the bed.

“Call Christian.” I’d be shocked if he hadn’t heard the commotion, but I’d tried to keep it quiet. Shit, I was bleeding all over the carpets. “And then I need towels.” I yanked the ugly bedspread down to the floor and pushed it under me to hopefully soak up some of the blood. My mattress was halfway off the bed, and I was having a hard time catching my breath.

Ritch unlocked the door and then grabbed towels while I kept my eye on the intruder. “I can’t find the key,” Ritch said. He turned on the light, and I flinched.

The door burst open. I growled and tried to stand, but Ritch put his hand on my shoulder. “It’s just Christian.” And the werekin staying in his room, of course.

“What the fuck happened here?” Christian hissed.

“That guy broke busted his way in through the window. He’s unconscious.”

“Jesus.” Caleb looked at me and then the tiger on the floor. “He tore you up good.”

“I’m awake and he’s been choked half to death. Pretty sure I fucking won that one.” I snarled and the towels on my arms slid off, exposing the cuffs.

“Bondage? Sweet dreams are made of this,” the bear said. He laughed huskily.

“Oh shut the fuck up. And be quiet, damn it. Do you want the humans to hear and come investigate?” The was blood everywhere, and I knew my eyes were glowing red. I’m was damn close to hunter mode, and if one of these fuckers pushed me, I was going to hand out another ass-kicking.

“Found it!” Ritch crowed quietly. He carefully unlocked the cuffs, grimacing when his fingers came away bloody. He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”

“What, why?” I swayed toward him. Maybe the blood loss was getting to me.

“You wouldn’t have been locked up if I hadn’t been such a weakling. I know you won’t hurt me, and now you’re all torn up. I can almost see bone on your wrist.”

“I heal quickly. Come on, look up.” He did and I smiled ruefully. “So you have to drive for a few days, and I won’t be winning any races. I’m fine. And now we have a clue. Toss those cuffs to Christian, but keep the key on you, okay?”

Christian pulled the tiger up and into a chair before cuffing his hands behind him. He hung limp. “Doesn’t look like he’s waking up for a while.”

“Fine. I need some time to clean up. First Aid kit’s in the car. Christian, go with Ritch, please?”

The wolf had trailed behind the bear, so I hadn’t seen him until they moved out of the way. “You. Come sniff this guy and tell me if he smells like our quarry. And no fucking wisecracks, Wolf.”

“My name’s Victor, and you’re not very cautious, are you?” He leaned close to our captive and began sniffing.

I leaned against against the bed. “What do you mean by that?”

“You send away your men, and you stay here with us while you’re injured. Foolhardy, if not outright stupid.”

“Why, you thinking about attacking me while you think I’m weak?” I split my attention between both of them, but neither looked ready to move in just yet. Ritch had moved my weapons bag next to me and it was gapped open from his search for the keys. I narrowed my eyes—I hoped the fuckers tried something.

“Maybe,” the bear rumbled.

Good enough. I whipped out a pistol and aimed it at his face. “Maybe I don’t care if we have to get rid of a few human witnesses then. Survival of the fittest, after all.”

He held up his hands and stepped back. I swung the gun toward Victor. “What about you? Got more attitude for me?”

“I’m just here to sniff these guys out and get the fuck back to my clan.”

“Well then get to work.”

By the time Ritch and Christian had me cleaned up, the rest of the werekin had filed in and our guest was beginning to stir. “Think he’s part of it?” I asked.

There were some general murmurs, but then Ritch actually spoke up. “I don’t think so. I recognize him.”

I growled. “Do you now?”

“He’s part of the alpha’s clan. One of his errand boys, the ones who don’t mind getting the job done even if it’s dirty.”

“Dirty, huh?” I glanced down at the tape holding the bandages on my ribs and the swathes of fabric covering the slices down my arms. I’d have scars. “I can do dirty.”


More to come next week! Want more flash? Visit these authors:

Friday, February 10, 2017

MM Romance Giveaway Valentine's Event--Free: Married to the Enemy

Hey guys! Who loves free...? Of course, we all do! You can get a copy of my scifi short story, Married to the Enemy during the MM Romance Valentine's Giveaway just by signing up to get the LGBT Romance Deals newsletter in your inbox... that's right! You get a free book just for asking for great deals and offers (plus monthly contests!) to appear in your inbox. I've found several eBooks since the newsletter started.

If you're already a subscriber to the LGBT Romance Deals newsletter, not to worry!! You can still get a free copy of Married to the Enemy if you check the last newsletter. Otherwise, get in touch with me. And make sure you check out all the other great offers available during this event. Look at all those options!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Five

This week I have a prompt! It's a bit apt: "Hell, he purred like a pussy on catnip". LOL

Chapter Five

“What’s in that?” Ritch put the leftover pizza in the fridge. “I didn’t see you pack that bag. It looks heavy.”

I hesitated. “Weapons. And cuffs strong enough to hold bonded werekins. I don’t want to pack a lot of this stuff openly at this point. I don’t think we’ll need anything in this bag for a few days, at least, but it’s better to be prepared. And I really don’t want to leave anything in the car in this neighborhood.”

Ritch made a face. “Right.”

“You’re not afraid of having the guns in here, are you?” I asked. Maybe I could ask Christian to take the bag to his room, but I didn’t really want a lot of weapons accessible to the others.

“Why would it?” Ritch shrugged one shoulder. “I’ve seen plenty of guns. Besides, you don’t need those to hurt me. You’re faster and stronger with sharp claws and teeth. Human werekin aren’t any stronger than humans.”

He shut the bathroom door behind him. I stashed the bag between the beds and then pulled the nasty hotel comforter off the one closest to the door. The water shut off and Ritch was moving around in the bathroom, so I grabbed some clothes out of my bag.

Ritch came out in a pair of pajama pants and one his new shirts. “All yours,” he said. He yawned. “I have no idea why I’m so tired. All I did was sit in the passenger seat while your drove.”

“Traveling always makes me tired. Feel free to find something to watch if you want. Remote’s on the table between our beds.”

I put my clothes on the miniscule bathroom counter and stared in the chipped mirror. I had no idea how to make this work. Maybe it would be fine. Ritch smelled nervous, but he didn’t look scared. Maybe locking his door was more about the ability to do it than needing the lock to feel safe.

The shower was tiny, and the water pressure sucked. Trying to get the shampoo out of my ruff took forever before the heavy strands were finally clean. I hated the man bun look, but I didn’t want to get my shirt wet if I was being forced to wear one to sleep in. I stalled after brushing my teeth.

How did Deke do it? I could see how many issues Kraig had, and Deke never faltered. Hell, he purred like a pussy on catnip whenever Kraig let him pamper him. I rubbed my hand over my chest. I could understand why he felt that way.

I loved that I’d provided what Ritch needed. If he wasn’t going to wear my clothes, I liked that he had been able to get things he liked because I was able to provide for him. He had to go in and pay for the food, but when I pulled off a slice of the double pepperoni and handed it to him before anyone else got some, he’d flushed red but smiled.

If it wouldn’t have been embarrassingly obvious, I would’ve purred when he took his first bite and groaned at the thick crust, gooey cheese, and spicy pepperoni. It was actually pretty good pizza.

No more stalling.

I expected the TV to be on, but the room was silent and dark expect for the lamp on the nightstand. I wasn’t really tired, but Ritch was curled up in his bed and his eyes were closed. I turned off the like and took a deep sniff when I lifted the sheet. At least this bedding was clean, but the bed squeaked and there was a loose spring in the middle. I scooted closer to the door to avoid it digging into my side and lay there thinking.

The sounds of the city around us didn’t muffle the restless sounds of Ritch moving, even if he was pretending to sleep. Every minute or so he popped his eyes open and looked at my bed. I doubted he could see me even with the light seeping in around the curtains behind me.

I leaned up on my elbow. “Are you okay?”

Ritch gasped and jerked. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Not yet. I thought you were tired.”

He rubbed his forehead. “I am.”

“Can I help?”

“How?” Ritch scoffed. “You know some way to fix the broken shit in my brain?”

I turned on the light. “You’re not broken.” He made a rude sound, and I sat up. “Being scared because bad things happened to you is smart. If you were broken, you wouldn’t be here. You had the bravery to come. It will get better.”

“You sound so sure.”

“That’s because I am. Now, what can I do to make you more comfortable. Is it the dark? We can leave the light on.”

Ritch hesitated. “It’s not that.”

“What about…” I stopped when I looked down and saw my bag. “What if we cuff me to the bed frame?”

“That can’t hold you.”

“No, but I can’t break the cuffs, and if I do break the bed, you’ll hear it.”

Ritch frowned. “You’d do that for me? Let me restrain you?”

In a freaking heartbeat. “If it’ll help, yes.” The Velcro on the pocket was loud when I grabbed a set out of the side pocket. “Don’t worry, I got this.” I pulled the covers up and bunched my pillows so I’d be comfortable, and then I threaded the cuffs through the wood bars on the ancient headboard and tightened them on my wrists. “You’ll have to turn out the light.”

Ritch’s eyes were wide. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

“It’s fine,” I assured him. “But you’ll have to turn off the light if you don’t want to leave it on.”

I waited for Ritch’s breathing to steady before I closed my eyes. It was still dark when the window behind me shattered, spreading glass across the room and startling me out of a deep sleep.

Want more? There are several other flash updates for you to enjoy:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two: Chapter Four

Another week, another update. Park and Ritch get some alone time...

Part Two: Chapter Four

“Here.” The panther held the back out toward Ritch. “Oh, wait. You can’t smell any better than a human.”
A snarl slipped out before I could stop it, but Ritch put his hand on my arm. “Damn! Poor me, I don’t have to sniff pissy stuffing.”
Landon snickered. “Stop being an asshole, Silas. Unless you’re looking to get your ass kicked.” He raised an eyebrow and pointedly looked at me. I flicked out my claws. I was bigger than the annoying panther, and I wasn’t above kicking some ass to make my point.
So maybe I was a bully….
Silas narrowed his eyes, but he shut his mouth and passed the bag without giving me a reason to tear him a new one, so I retracted my claws. Ritch squeezed my arm and then let go. I missed the warmth of his skin on mine.
“You all know why we’re here. Obviously, your alphas are concerned about the danger to your clans, or they wouldn’t have sent you. But let me be clear.” I leaned forward, my fists planted on the table. “Treating human werekin as if they’re chattel, just because they were born different, is what got us in this mess. Learn from the fucking mistake, or I’ll prove just how dangerous that attitude is for you personally.” I stared hard at Silas, but then swept everyone with the same look.
What fucking hope was there to stop the experiments if the people who were actually supposed to stop this shit in the first place didn’t believe in what they were doing? I wanted to protect our clan—we had four human werekin now, with Ritch staying—and I never wanted anyone else to face what Kraig had gone through.
My tiger wasn’t the best tracker, but I could hold my own. The scent of the fabric was bitter. Behind the strong tang of urine was fear. “I don’t think whoever did this was here voluntarily. Or they didn’t expect to be used in an experiment.”
“So we know they have at least one other victim,” the horse said calmly. “I’m Caleb, by the way. We don’t treat our human werekin bad, just so you know. I don’t need a Tiger on my ass because he thinks I’m going to challenge him about something that’s his.”
“I haven’t—”
“He’s not—”
Ritch and I broke off at the same time. I refused to show my embarrassment. An awkward silence descended, and I wasn’t sure how to break it. Fortunately, the bear broke the ice. His stomach growled, the long, drawn-out rumble loud in the quiet.
Someone snickered, and then another, before we all started laughing. We were still guys, after all.
“All right. How about some food?” Half the reason we were at each other was probably hunger.
Ritch rifled through the binder on the desk. “Looks like there’s a few pizza places they recommend. This one place has some good salads too.”
“What do you guys want?” We’d been given a discretionary fund for the investigation to cover costs, and it wasn’t like the sleazy motel had kitchens. Microwave food wouldn’t cut it.
Order in hand, Ritch made the call. His eyes bugged out at the total, but I nodded. “Christian. Get everyone sorted. We’ll get drinks and the pizza. If you have to go outside, for any reason, pair up. We’re outside clan lands, so from this point on, no one goes anywhere alone.”
Christian nodded. I didn’t wait for the others to agree.
“You trust them by themselves?” Ritch asked as he buckled his seatbelt.
“If they can’t handle it now, they won’t when we’re on the hunt. It’s important to know who will pair up and who can’t. Christian isn’t there to really make them do anything, but he’s my eyes and ears. He’ll let me know what I need to know.”
“Huh. I guess I never really thought about it like that. The alphas I’ve known….”
“Weren’t worth the name. They’re bullies, and so are their betas if they allow the assholes to beat down on their own clan the way yours did,” I said firmly. “Deke leads. I protect. We work together to keep the clan safe and prosperous. That’s the way we were taught by his dad and his beta. It helps that we’re best friends too.” I pulled into a grocery store only a half mile from the motel.
“If I go into the store for the drinks and the restaurant for the pizza, you’ll be alone, you know. Maybe one of them should’ve come.” Ritch paused with his hand on the door. “We could go back.”
“I can see all the way into the store from here. No one is going to attack you in there with all the humans. The doors will be locked, and I’ll keep the engine running.” I turned the car back on. “Okay?”
“All right.” He was reluctant. “I should use that card you gave me, right?”
“Yeah. Just keep the receipts. Thank you, Ritch. I know this is a lot to expect of you after the life you’ve had for the last few years.”
“No.” Ritch shook his head. “I’m happy to do it. I’ll get used to being around people again, and I have the chance because of you and your alpha.” He flushed and hurried to get out of the car, fumbling with the lock before he could open the door. “I’ll be fast.”
I watched him grab a cart outside before heading into the store. I rubbed my thumbs on the steering wheel. Gratitude.
Damn gratitude.
How in the hell was I going to get him to open up to me, to let me show him how great sex with a tiger could be when it wasn’t with some asshole who’d considered him bought goods? On top of that, he’d locked his door every night. Now we were going to be in beds, side-by-side, in the same room.
Fuck me.

Okay, okay, so not that kind of alone time... but it's coming next week. I wonder what will happen?
Want more flash fiction? Check out these updates: