Jason Eddings is a foreman for a construction company by day and a mountain lion at night. He got suckered into doing a calendar shoot. Little did he know that his sisters, Cindy and Anne, were hoping to set him up with Gregg, another man on the calendar shoot. That never happened, because Gregg met Albert.
Jason’s posing for Mr. March, working and running from some memories, and maybe even himself. One night, he runs right into a tranquilizer dart. When he wakes up at a wildlife refuge, he finds himself intrigued by the veterinarian who is watching him.
Casey’s a newly graduated veterinarian. He thought there was something special about the mountain lion, but he didn’t have a clue how much his life was about to change.
Reader Advisory: This book contains mentions of stalking and harrassment, as well as scenes of violence, assault, kidnap and reference to murder.
General Release Date: 6th March 2018
“That’s a wrap for the day! Thanks to Arturo letting us use his pretty property, we just might finish this calendar on time after all.” Perry gave Jason Eddings a thumbs-up. “You looked like the stud you are, Mr. March. Unless the shots I took of you aren’t as incredible as I think they’ll be, you’re done here.”
Jason returned the gesture to Perry. “Call me if you need me to pose again. For this calendar, I mean. Don’t think I’m made to be a model after this.”
Perry came over and hugged him. “You could be if you wanted to, so if you ever decide you don’t want to be a construction foreman anymore, let me know. Don’t be a stranger, Jay. You’re still going to come to our monthly bar crawls.”
“The last one almost killed me,” Jason admitted. “You outdrank me and everyone else there. I’ll never try keeping up with you again.”
Perry released him and stepped back. “Y’all are all light-weights. I bet Albert could keep up with me.”
“No way. I hate booze.” Albert nudged Perry. “It’s gross.”
Jason murmured his goodbyes as Albert, his boyfriend Gregg, and Perry all started bantering over the pros and cons of alcohol. Jason was going to thank Arturo on the way out, but Arturo and Darin had their heads together, speaking to one another in low voices. Jason could scent the pheromones coming off the two of them. Ain’t love grand?
Jason was a tad jealous. Love seemed to be in the calendar shoot air, with Gregg and Albert falling for each other, then Darin and Arturo pairing up.
There wasn’t a chance of Jason finding a lover on the set—for one thing, he wouldn’t be back. Perry took amazing photos—he knew she’d love the ones of him. Not because he was a stud as she’d claimed, but because she was talented enough to make a gargoyle look like a sexy movie star.
As he walked around the side of the house, Jason ignored the mountain lion part of himself that had hoped to get to see the koi again. He knew his beast well. His cat wanted to play with the koi, and not in a way the koi would have enjoyed.
It was best that he hadn’t gone near the pond today. Controlling himself was a battle at times, and Jason had shifted when he shouldn’t have on more than one occasion.
Turning into a predatory feline with a propensity for fishing wasn’t something Jason wanted to do right then. His cat yowled at him, the sound an internal one that bounced around his skull for a few seconds. “Behave,” Jason murmured to himself. “If you don’t, we’re not going for a run tonight.”
That threat tamed his beast. There was nothing quite like the freedom of being his mountain lion and running down prey, hunting it in the night.
You should wear your tag, young man, or you’ll end up someone’s trophy! How many times has Mom told me that?
Every now and then he thought about putting on his tagged collar, which would be the sensible thing to do. It’d let anyone who saw him know he was a shifter, but Jason liked the thrill of running free, and he stayed on his folks’ property, so he shouldn’t be in any danger.
The drive from Arturo’s place to Jason’s took over an hour. The traffic between Comfort, Texas, and the town Jason lived in to the southeast of San Antonio sucked donkey balls. The sun had almost set when he parked in front of the cottage he called home. It was on the north edge of his family’s lands, a good distance from his sisters’ cabins on the west and east parts of the property.
With a little over two thousand acres of scrub, mesquite, cacti and grass—when there wasn’t a drought—Jason had a decent-sized hunting area.
There was also a pond, much bigger than Arturo’s. There weren’t any koi in it, though.
Jason sighed and got out of his truck. He jogged up to his cottage and opened the door. He never bothered locking it—no one would scale the ten-foot, barbed-wire-topped fence surrounding the property just to sneak into his place. If they did, he’d smell them before they saw him.
His scenting ability was enhanced due to him being a shifter, but other than that, he’d gotten the short end of the stick when it came to having all the amazing mountain lion senses. His night vision was okay, his hearing acute, but neither were as accurate as an actual mountain lion’s would have been.
Anne and Cindy got all the enhanced senses, and they don’t even want them. His sisters were more focused on living their human lives, not their feline ones. Jason didn’t judge them, but he did wish he had their gifts.
He supposed his sisters might use some of their shifter attributes on the job. Anne and Cindy were twins and six years older than him. Both were doctors at a hospital in San Antonio, which was how Jason had ended up getting recruited to pose for the calendar. His sisters worked with another doctor whose child had cancer, and since the calendar was raising money for one of the best treatment centers for pediatric cancer, Jason had let his sisters convince him to participate.
If he’d had any idea how drawn-out the photo shoot would be, he might have said no.
“No, I wouldn’t have.” Jason headed into the bathroom. He used a washcloth to remove the makeup he’d had to wear for the photos then took off his shirt and tossed it toward the hamper. He didn’t glance at himself in the mirror for any longer than it took him to make sure the makeup gone. The chemical scent of it had made his nose sting.
He’d started taking off his boots when he heard a car coming down the unpaved drive. Groaning, he kicked off the boot he’d been toeing at, then bent and pulled off the other one. He left his boots in the middle of the bathroom floor when he traipsed into the living room.
Car doors slammed and his sisters’ voices filtered through from outside. Jason decided he needed to rethink not locking his door, because he knew they were going to come in without waiting to see if it was okay with him. He’d argued with them about that before. If his sisters had been two minutes later, they’d have barged in on him naked.
He reached the door right as it was shoved open. The doorknob whacked his knuckles and he yelped, yanking his hand back.
Cindy stuck her head inside. “What was that?” she asked, blinking at him.
Anne must have pushed Cindy, who squeaked like a mouse and darted into the cottage.
“What was what?” Anne shut the door and looked at Jason. “Why’re you cradling your hand? Did you hit your thumb with a hammer again?”
Jason bit back a groan. “Anne, that was six years ago. Can you forget about it already? I wasn’t a foreman then and I was still learning on the job—”
“So what’d you do to your hand then?” Anne cut in. She never was very patient—unless it came to bringing up accidents from Jason’s past.
“What did I do?” Jason shook out his hand and looked at his knuckles. The skin was scraped on a couple of them but he wasn’t injured. “Y’all barged in here without so much as knocking, as usual. I was reaching for the doorknob when Cindy shoved her way in.”
“I stuck my head in!” Cindy protested. “And we pop in all the time!”
Anne huffed. “That doesn’t mean you didn’t open the door and hit Jay.”
Jason tapped his bare foot. “Um, excuse me. You both came in without knocking. We’ve had this discussion before. I could have been naked—”
Anne waved his concern off. “We’ve seen you naked lots of times. I changed your diaper, we’ve shifted together—”
“Not in years—either of those things,” Jason added. “I could have been having sex—”
Cindy and Anne laughed and Jason was debating whether or not he could toss his sisters out on their butts.
“I do have sex,” he muttered, hands on his hips. “Sometimes.” It has been a while…months. Not since that guy I met at The Bonham. “Keep laughing, you two. Like y’all are out getting some any more often than I am.”
“We probably do,” Anne informed him. “We’re doctors, and we’re hot. We’re also not as repressed as you are.”
“I’m not repressed!” Jason was repressed. He had his reasons. The last guy he’d hooked up with was one of them. He never failed to attract weirdos.
“Aw, we’re just teasing,” Cindy said, moving around Anne to give Jason a hug. “But I did try to hook you up with Gregg, the cutie from the hospital who was part of the calendar shoot.”
Jason knew who Gregg was. He escaped from Cindy’s embrace.
“Obviously, that plan didn’t work,” Anne continued when Cindy didn’t resume speaking. “We’ve seen Gregg with his little nerdy cutie.”
“Albert’s not nerdy,” Jason protested.
Anne gave him a disbelieving look. “He tapes his glasses together and wears suspenders. And bowties. And cargo shorts. He’s a nerd.”
“He’s nice,” Jason countered. “Can we get back to you two knocking and waiting for me to invite you in before y’all waltz inside?”
“If you’d lock the door, we wouldn’t be able to walk in,” Anne pointed out.
Jason’s temper was beginning to get the best of him. “I shouldn’t have to lock the door for you to display some common courtesy. I don’t enter your homes without knocking and waiting to be invited in.”
Anne and Cindy exchanged another of their unfathomable twin-looks before Anne nodded. “Okay.”
Jason blinked then frowned. “Okay? That’s it? Y’all are going to respect my privacy now?”
Anne shrugged. “Sure. You finally articulated why you wanted us to knock and wait. You’ve grown, little brother. You are now an adult who can explain his feelings. I’m so proud of you.” She mock-swooned and Cindy caught her. “Our baby is a man now, Cindy.”
Cindy helped Anne to stand again. “Yeah, he is.”
“What you’re saying then, is that if I’d have explained why I didn’t want y’all to walk in unannounced sooner…” Jason trailed off. Of course his sisters had been trying to teach him a lesson. That was their excuse, anyway. It always had been when they’d irritated the crap out of him.
Anne and Cindy stopped goofing around and Anne touched his arm. “Jay, you’re bad about not speaking up, and that’s not a good thing. I get that on the job, you can hand out orders and all, but you have to do it in your personal life, too. You run from confrontation when it’s personal. That’s how you end up with guys like Bill. If you’re not firm and direct with people like him, they’ll think you still want them.”
“He left me alone after I told him I’d meant it when I broke up with him.” The second time I told him that. Jason didn’t want to think about Bill. Or any other guy from his past.
“You’ve got to put your foot down any time you’re being pushed to do something you don’t want to do,” Anne continued, “or if someone won’t take no for an answer.”
“Is this why you came over here, to lecture me?” Jason asked. He’d had enough of his sisters’ harassment. “I’m old enough to decide how I want to comport myself. I don’t need your hellacious lessons.”
Anne touched his arm again. “Well, see, when we were at lunch today, we ran into Bill and his new boy toy.”
Jason examined his innermost emotions for Bill—and found none. “Good for him.”
“He’s an ass,” Cindy groused. “He walked right up to us like he didn’t have a thing in the world to be ashamed of. He knows we know he cheated. That jackass had the audacity to ask if you were working at the construction site on the west side. I thought Anne was going to leap over the table and deck him.”
“I considered it,” Anne admitted. “He deserves to be decked. With a baseball bat. Repeatedly.”
“Aren’t you sworn to heal, not murder?” Jason asked, trying to lighten the mood. “Bill’s not worth prison time. Or the death penalty.”
Anne nodded. “That’s part of why I didn’t get violent. That, and I don’t lose my license. Logical reasons, but logic doesn’t always win out, and when I saw Bill, my first reaction was to get violent on his smarmy ass. I refrained, and we didn’t tell him what site you were or weren’t working on. Seemed to irk him a little.”
“Thanks for that.” Jason ran a hand through his hair. He wanted to be finished with this conversation so he could let his cat out.
“I’m ninety-nine percent certain he was trying to make his toy jealous,” Anne mused. “Bill would mention your name, then glance at him. Boy toy didn’t appear to give a shit.”
Jason didn’t care, either. “Bill is nothing to me now. Is that why y’all came by here?”
“Good, glad to hear that, and no, well, not the only reason,” Anne answered. “We want to run with you tonight.”
“What?” Jason decided he must have heard wrong. His sisters never ran with him anymore.
But Anne nodded and said, “Yes, we want to run and hunt. It’s been a long time since the three of us played together. Cindy and I tried suppressing our mountain lions. We’ve done so for too long.”
“We’re getting bouts of anger and, well, cattiness,” Cindy confessed. “I hissed at a nurse earlier today. Not a human hiss, either. It was embarrassing. I’ve never lost control like that.”
Jason knew he was blushing. He lost control sometimes still, and he hated it. “Not sure how much shifting will help. You know I run often, and I…mess up regardless.”
“Maybe you just need to hang out with your furry sisters,” Anne teased. “Besides, we love you and miss playing with you. What do you say? We brought our collars.”
Jason kept his wince to an internal level. He didn’t want to wear his collar, and he didn’t want to be lectured about it. “Sounds good. I’ll meet y’all at the pond in half an hour?”
His sisters agreed, and Jason both looked forward to and worried about running with them tonight. He hadn’t had companionship in his shifted form in years. Hope it goes well.