Title: Fall For You
Author: Keira Marcos
Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Genre: Paranormal, Gay, Werewolf, erotic romance
Warnings: Stalking, discussion of sexual assault
Dr. Riley Blake left New York and moved to a small town in Maine after inheriting his uncle’s house. Unfortunately, a disturbing part of his past follows him.
The last thing Sheriff Marcus Cameron really had time for was a new relationship. As the son of the alpha of the largest werewolf pack in the area, he had a duty to his family. But Riley Blake is a gorgeous temptation, and he’s always been rather fond of giving into his baser instincts.
Marcus Cameron strode naked across his backyard, the cool night air feeling great on his heated skin. He glanced toward the full moon with a wry grin. Though he was hardly forced to shift during a full moon, there was something really amazing about running on nights when the forest was aglow with lunar light.
He wiped his feet on the mat in front of his backdoor before entering his house. It was no surprise to find his older brother in the kitchen, hovering in front of the refrigerator with a beer in hand. Marcus pulled on the jeans he’d shucked before going for his run. “Something up?”
Jared shrugged and glanced toward him before digging out a container. “Is this Mom’s lasagna?”
“You know it is.” Marcus sighed and grabbed a beer out of the door before his brother nudged the refrigerator closed. “I know she sent you some leftovers, too.”
Jared grinned and popped the whole container in to warm up. “Yeah, it was great.” He grabbed a fork out of the drawer and went to stand by the microwave. “So, did you hear Old Man Carl’s nephew decided to keep the house?”
Marcus stiffened momentarily and then took a deep breath. “I hadn’t. When did you hear that?”
“I’m dating Julie down at the real estate office, and she said he took the house off the market two weeks ago.” Jared pulled out the lasagna and dug in. “Then he asked her to locate him some space for an office. Looks like he’s going to settle here. Can’t be a bad thing—we could use a doctor who went to medical school after computers were invented.”
“Right.” Marcus rubbed the back of his neck. “Fantastic.”
Jared chuckled. “You gonna ask him out?”
“Are you sure? Because you look at him like a thing starving.” Jared paused. “He’s got a great ass.”
Marcus glared at him. “You shouldn’t be looking at his ass.”
“I can give a subjective opinion of another man’s ass,” Jared protested. “I’m just as modern, educated and liberal as the next werewolf.”
Marcus bit down on his lip to keep from laughing. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Maybe…you guys could start with a bromance? That’s pretty popular—work your way into the butt sex.” Jared made a motion with his fork and wiggled an eyebrow. “I’m not saying that you gotta mate with the man but, Marcus, I don’t think you’ve gotten laid since…well hell…before you left the Marines?”
It had been more like a year, but he wasn’t going to discuss his sex life with his brother. “You can’t ever say ‘butt sex’ in front of me again.”
Jared laughed and leaned on the counter. “Blow jobs? How about a blow job? I bet he’s pretty all over—all slim hipped and pretty faced like Orlando Bloom.”
“I’m going to tell Mom and Dad that you’re bisexual,” Marcus warned.
“Well, maybe then Eileen Carlton will throw her grandson at me instead of you.”
Marcus groaned and rubbed his face with both hands. “He’s not even out of college, you know. What the hell is she thinking?”
“That you’re a pretty great catch?” Jared asked dryly. “Decorated war hero, ex-Marine, and town sheriff?”
“There is no such thing as an ex-marine,” Marcus said with a hard look in his brother’s direction. “Besides, even if I was interested in a relationship, it wouldn’t be with some twenty-year-old kid majoring in Russian Literature.”
“How about a thirty-three-year-old doctor with a great ass?”
“Stop talking about his ass!” Marcus grabbed his beer and stalked out of the kitchen. “And get out of my house!”
* * * * *
Riley wiped the sweat from his face with a towel as he walked toward the front of the building he’d purchased in Kent, Maine. It hadn’t been in his plan, but the price had been so outstanding he hadn’t been able to resist. There were four men standing out on the sidewalk, and he really hoped they were from the contractor he’d hired before returning to Kent.
“Good morning, gentlemen. Are you with Cameron Construction?”
“Jared Cameron.” Jared held out his hand. “I like to get a good look at each job before we get started, Doc. We’re a little early, so if you aren’t ready for us…” His gaze flicked over Riley’s casual attire and dusty state.
“I’m rearranging a few rooms,” Riley admitted. “This building wasn’t used for a medical office in the past. I have some equipment coming from New York, and I’m expecting furniture delivery in a week.” He motioned them in as he talked. “I have coffee set up in one of the smaller offices, and I had a refrigerator delivered if you want to store water or whatever while you guys work.”
“Great.” Jared glanced around the large room that would end up being the waiting area. “This is Phillip, Thomas, and Caleb. They’ll be your regular crew, and I’ll assign more workers if we run into problems with the build. When did you expect to open your doors?”
“I would have preferred two months to get settled as I have to hire staff and set up my computer equipment as well.” Riley sighed. “But I received a visit from some guy on the town council this morning, and I was encouraged to open as soon as possible because the town’s only family practitioner is on the verge of retiring.”
Jared nodded. “Right. Roger Byrd. Good ole guy, but ancient. I mean, I’m pretty sure he attended my granddad’s birth as an intern or something.”
Riley laughed. “Yeah, I met him yesterday, and we’re meeting again later in the week because he wants to refer his patients to me directly.” He paused. “None of his medical records are digital, so I’m going to hire a person just to see to that transfer.” He waved a hand as they moved through the building, leaving the crew to get started unpacking their equipment. “I’d like to have eight exam rooms, and I’ll need office space for a staff of five. I’m turning the space above the clinic into a private office and an apartment in case I have to stay overnight.”
“Lot of work,” Jared said. “Have you met my brother?”
“The sheriff?” Riley questioned. “Briefly at the diner when I was here several weeks back.” He looked back at Jared as they walked into another empty room. “Or do you mean one of the twins?”
Jared grinned. “The twins told me all about meeting you.”
Riley looked around the room. “Since the closest major hospital is thirty minutes by ambulance, I’d like to turn this space into an emergency operating room. That’s going to require ripping up the floor. The plumbing is a serious problem for the whole building, so I hope you can refer me someone to handle that.”
“So you can handle minor surgeries and stuff?” Jared questioned.
Riley smiled briefly. “You might say that. I was the surgical resident for two years at the last hospital I worked for. I specialized in trauma surgery. Moving into private practice with a side of OB/GYN wasn’t exactly in my original plans.”
“What changed your mind?”
“Someone who couldn’t take no for an answer,” Riley said sharply then took a deep breath. “I figured we both needed some breathing room, and while his alpha warned him off, I didn’t trust that it would be enough.”
Jared’s brown eyes widened. “You know…?”
“Yeah, I know what you are.” Riley inclined his head. “It’s pretty hard to miss, considering how many of your kind I’ve been around. The first time I had a werewolf on my operating table, I noticed a few things that I made the mistake of saying aloud. I had a visit from the local pack alpha within hours of the operation. I know how to keep my mouth shut, and over the last few years, I’ve become very familiar with your physiology—in both forms. If anyone in your pack needs help—the kind of help they can’t really ask for in a traditional hospital—this room will be available to them.”
“That’s good to know, Doc.” Jared cleared his throat again, obviously surprised. “I’ll let my dad know. He’s the alpha for the biggest pack in the area. There are a few smaller ones as well. We have a population of around three hundred—a lot of kids.”
Riley smiled then. “Good. I like kids.”
“This guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer…he wanted to mate with you?”
“No, he just wanted to own me. I believe there is a difference.” He leaned against the one counter in the room and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I don’t think he’ll follow me. He was warned off and punished for his behavior by his own alpha. Should I discuss this situation with your father?”
“It can’t hurt,” Jared admitted. “But to start, a conversation with Marcus would be good. He’s the pack enforcer and the town sheriff. Very little that happens around here gets past him, and if you’ve got a threat hanging over your head, he’s the best one to tell.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“No, but you’re smart enough to realize how dangerous one of my kind is when they don’t get what they want.”
* * * * *
“So, I chatted with your hot doctor this morning, and he’s got a problem.”
“He’s not my—” Marcus lifted his gaze from the stack of paperwork his admin had dropped on his desk. “What kind of problem?”
“The big, occasionally hairy kind that could very well follow him from New York. I don’t think the doc gets how serious a werewolf takes his personal claims, and we should probably keep an eye out.”
“Potential mate?” He hated the thought of that already and ran a hand over his hair.
“No, he said the guy didn’t want to mate with him, just wanted to own him.”
Marcus frowned at that but nodded. “We should contact the alpha of the man’s pack and get the particulars. If he’s a problem, I want to know what his face looks like.”
“You should go check out your hot doctor’s office space. It’s a pretty cool set up he’s trying to arrange.”
“He’s not mine,” Marcus growled.
“When I mentioned you, he started throwing off all of these pheromones,” Jared pointed out. “He could definitely be yours if that’s what you wanted. Can’t see how you could go wrong with a hot, young doctor who knows what you are and wants you regardless.”
“Shut up.” Marcus frowned at him. “Go work or something.”
Jared snorted. “Maybe I’ll go take the hot doctor to lunch.”
“No.” Marcus glared. “You will not. You work for him and that’s it, Jared. I mean it.”
“You know I’m mostly straight,” Jared said with a wry grin. “Unless you count that blowjob Bobby Ross gave me in the locker room after homecoming our senior year.”
Jared held up his hands in mock surrender. “I’m gone. Relax.”
* * * * *
Dr. Riley Christopher Blake. He stared at the diploma for a long moment after he’d placed the framed paper on his office wall. He’d had a smallish but nice office in the last hospital he’d worked in. Now, he had a big airy office that he didn’t have enough furniture for and a lot of wall space. He hung up the last of his certificates with a sigh. He had clearly over-degreed himself.
The sound of construction was actually something of a comfort, as it meant he wasn’t alone in the building. Riley wasn’t afraid of being alone, in fact, he was used to it. But still, it was nice to hear the sounds of men working and going about their day while he tried to do the same. He’d done most of the legal and licensing paperwork to set up his practice before he left New York, so now he was in Maine with a lot of physical labor to do and an odd sense of contentment about him he hadn’t felt in a long time. The problems with Jefferson Edwards had obviously weighed on him more than he’d allowed himself to believe.
There was a little burn of hurt along with the anger when he thought of Jeff. The man had romanced him from the start, outright seducing him with his undivided attention, his earthy masculinity and dominant personality. He’d been strong but not domineering. Riley was used to men backing off when they realized they weren’t going to get laid immediately into a dating relationship, but Jeff hadn’t. He’d played the part of the avid suitor quite well for several months.
Riley enjoyed sex, and while he was certainly picky about his lovers, he’d never made one wait as long as he’d made Jeff wait, and perhaps that should’ve been a clue for him to take heed of. The man had never gotten violent with him, never pushed him physically in either form, but Riley had realized all the same that things were never going to be equal with them when his would-be lover admitted that he’d never mate a man because he wanted children. Natural children. Pups. Riley couldn’t give him that, and frankly wouldn’t have been willing even if it were possible. He enjoyed kids but had no desire to have his own. Nor was he particularly interested in adopting, despite his own history.
And that reminded him that he needed to call his mother. Jessica Blake had been his foster mother first, and after two years had begun to the tireless process of adopting a boy that no one wanted. But the system had been reluctant to let her adopt because she was single. He checked his watch and fired off a text instead. She was most certainly in court and wouldn’t have time to chat with him while he complained about furnishing two buildings in Maine. She’d been laughing at him about the whole Maine move since he started the mess.
Riley looked up and barely refrained from groaning. The last thing he needed was Marcus Cameron lounging about with his smile, pretty green eyes, and stupidly fit body. It was just terrible, and God help him if he got an erection. He’d never be able to keep that from the man.
Marcus raised one jet-black eyebrow. “You were frowning at your phone.”
“Oh, I was just contemplating calling my mother but realized she was probably at work. She’s a lawyer…specializes in children’s rights.” And he was starting to ramble. He flushed and shoved his phone into his pocket. “Can I help you, Sheriff?”
“Jared told me you had a bit of a problem in New York.” Marcus crossed his arms over his chest and stared pointedly. “The kind that gets mean and furry.”
“He never got mean,” Riley said. “We dated. I thought we were serious. He made every appearance of being serious about me as well but eventually told me that he’d never mate with a man because he wanted children. He made it clear that while I wasn’t someone he would ever mate with, whatever woman he did mate with would just have to tolerate me because I belonged to him.”
Marcus frowned. “And you broke up with him?”
“Of course. I had no interest in being that sort of situation short or long term.” Riley shrugged. “Why exactly is this a concern for you?”
“You told my brother that you had the man’s alpha warn him off and he was punished. That’s a cause for concern, Doc. My kind don’t take their claims being ignored well.”
Riley shrugged. “He stalked me for a few weeks after I broke up with him. It was a little weird and uncomfortable, but it’s not a problem.”
“Not a problem,” Marcus repeated. “Doc, you’re a smart man…obviously.” His gaze flicked to all the framed certificates. “You moved to another state to avoid this man.”
“I just wanted a change of scenery and pace,” Riley explained.
“Right.” Marcus shook his head. “Name?”
“Jefferson Edwards. His uncle is the alpha of his pack and terribly old fashioned. He was horrified when he discovered that his nephew was at the very least bisexual.”
“So you basically outed the man to his alpha and family when you complained about the behavior,” Marcus summed up. “Excellent. Nothing to worry about.”
It wasn’t particularly fair that Marcus Cameron was still attractive in the midst of being a sarcastic bastard. Riley glared at him. “Good. I’m glad we agree.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Call me Riley,” he said with a frown. “You know…like I’m a person and not my profession.”
Marcus nodded slowly. “Okay. I’m going to keep an eye on things and contact the pack in New York about this guy. I’ll let them know he’s not welcome in our town for any reason.” He paused as he started to leave. “And Riley?”
“My kind only stalks prey.”
Riley huffed when the man turned and left without another word. The little wiggle in his gut that had almost dissipated completely once he’d left New York returned, and he barely refrained from groaning in frustration.
Riley was standing in front of his coffee machine, waiting for it to produce a miracle, when his doorbell rang. It was too early in the morning for anything, much less an uninvited guest. Disgruntled, he left his first reason for living and weaved his way through the boxes and furniture until he reached the front door of his house. He opened it and stared.
“Dr. Byrd.” He rubbed the back of his head in confusion. “I thought we were meeting at the diner in two hours?”
“I got a house call this morning. Figured you come along.”
Riley stared at the older man. “Pardon me? You have a what?”
“House call,” Roger repeated very slowly. “I have a patient in her home that refuses to leave it, so I have to go to her.”
“Oh.” Riley frowned. “I…what do you mean? Does she have some kind of medical problem preventing her from leaving her house?”
“Agoraphobia,” Roger said. “Figured I might want to go ahead and introduce you to her first thing so you’ll know.”
“Right,” Riley muttered and headed back toward his kitchen. “Is she your only housebound patient?”
“I have three. Two are just elderly without reliable transportation. I gave up trying to get them to come to my office years ago.”
* * * * *
Gillian Hastings lived in a genuine cabin in the woods. Riley had plenty of time to look at the cabin as the woman had yet to allow him into the structure. She’d opened the door, glared at the two of them, and shut the door in their faces. Dr. Byrd had been talking through the door at the surprisingly young woman for nearly ten minutes. Riley couldn’t imagine what kind of reception he’d have gotten if he’d come on his own. Finally, the door opened and Ms. Hastings glared at them both again.
“The sheriff says you’re okay.”
“That’s good to know,” Riley said. “Ms. Hastings, I have no wish to intrude on your privacy, but if I’m going to be your doctor you’re going to have to let me in the door on a semi-annual basis. Say, no less than twice a year unless you’re ill?”
She glared. “Right. Whatever. Come in.”
Riley shared a look with Byrd before they both entered the house. “It’s my understanding that you don’t leave the property. Is there anything that you need brought to you?”
“I get everything delivered,” Gillian said and motioned toward a table that sat near a stove. The one-room cabin was extremely neat, Spartan in decoration.
Riley took a seat and watched Ms. Hastings move around the space, preparing coffee he hadn’t been offered. Dark brown hair, much like his own, fell down her shoulders in soft curls. Her face—heart shaped and lovely—was devoid of makeup. She stared at him with clear blue eyes.
He opened the file Dr. Byrd had given him and read through the first few pages in silence. Gillian Hastings was a combat vet, and the list of medications she’d brought home after being discharged from the army read like a laundry list for depression and insomnia. There was a recommendation for psychological services, but no record that she actually had a therapist.
“You were discharged due to the loss of a kidney,” Riley murmured. “With your permission, I’d like to get a copy of your full medical record from the VA.”
“I’ll sign whatever you need,” Gillian said and put a cup down in front of him. “Milk?”
“No, but thank you. I drink it black.” Riley focused on the chart. “My practice opens up in a few weeks and I’ll schedule a time to come back to do a physical. I’ll need blood and urine at that point.” He closed the file and focused on the younger woman. “Do you have a problem with needles? Is your obsessive compulsive disorder confined to cleaning and the absolute control of your space, or do you have body issues as well?”
She frowned. “Body issues?”
“You had a traumatic, body altering surgery due to a near mortal injury. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find you have issue with controlling your body. Do you respond negatively to touch?”
Gillian shrugged. “Haven’t let many people touch me since I came back. I won’t get violent with you, Doc.”
“The point is, Ms. Hastings, is that I’d rather not hurt you or increase your level of emotional anxiety.” He reopened the file and pulled a pen from his pocket. “Be honest, are you taking any of these medications?”
“I take the anti-anxiety stuff, and when I can’t sleep for more than two days I take a pill for that.” She bit down on her lip and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t need the rest.”
* * * * *
Two hours later, Riley was seated in his office and the thump, thump, thump of construction was no longer soothing. He wanted to be furious with Roger Byrd for allowing someone so damaged to be left alone for so long, but Riley knew that mental health services were not well funded, and Gillian Hastings would not have been well served with a stay in an institution. Agoraphobia. He snorted. That was the least of the young woman’s problems—she was obviously suffering from PTSD and clinical depression.
“Gillian Hastings called me to confirm your identity.”
Riley looked up and barely refrained from frowning at the sheriff. “Yes. I know. I stood out on her porch while she did it. Dr. Byrd took me out there so he could introduce me.”
“Is it going to be a problem?” Marcus asked. “She’s not dangerous. I know she might appear threatening, but she’s not the kind to get out of hand with a human.”
“Do you know where she served? Dr. Byrd never bothered to request her medical records from the VA.”
“Iraq,” the sheriff murmured. “Left home with an easy smile and a great laugh—came home broken, furious, and sad. We all take care of her in our own way. She hasn’t shifted since she came here.”
Riley picked up the file on his desk and looked over the contents. “Dr. Byrd kept savvy but ultimately useless records for the pack. I know I can’t write down anything either, but it would be helpful to know when I’m going to encounter a pack member. Ms. Hastings didn’t look or act like I expected. Is that the PTSD?”
“Perhaps,” Marcus said and leaned against the doorframe. “It’s honestly a rare condition for our kind. We normally handle violence and combat stress very well. But Gillian lost more than her smile in Iraq.”
“Her mate?” Riley guessed.
“There was potential there for it,” Marcus allowed. “But circumstances prevented any sort of exploration of that connection.”
“That’s worse in some ways,” Riley murmured as he thumbed through Gillian Hastings’ file. “To never know if it was more than just potential. I realize that mating isn’t a matter of fate but one of compatibility. Still…” He sighed. “I can continue to provide her with the medications the VA put her on, and I will make the house calls just like Dr. Byrd did, but it could be months if not longer before the woman stops seeing me as a threat.”
“She won’t hurt you, but I’d be more than willing to attend any of those house calls with you, Dr. Blake. I want her to have all the care she needs.”
“Perhaps seeing you with me would smooth the way,” Riley said by way of agreement. “Did you come here to talk about Ms. Hastings?”
“Yes, but she wasn’t the only reason. I made a few calls to New York.” He paused and sighed when Riley grimaced at him. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s my job to protect the people who live in my town. You live in my town.”
“Technically, I live outside of town.”
“I’m the county sheriff,” Marcus said. “Stop being difficult. It’s attractive and irritating at the same time. At any rate, I talked to his alpha and you were right about him being terribly old fashioned. Terrible being the operative word. He’s disgusted and furious over his nephew’s pursuit of another man. He punished Jefferson severely for his indiscretion. At one point in time, Jefferson was set to take his uncle’s place as alpha. Now that wouldn’t happen if every able bodied man in the pack died.”
Riley exhaled sharply. “So I made a mistake talking to his alpha? What was I supposed to do?” He stood up and brushed past Marcus to get out of the room. He went straight for the coffee pot he’d setup in the break room and frowned at the empty pot. With a huff, he prodded Marcus out of his way and shouted down the hall. “If you assholes are going to drink my fifty dollar a pound coffee, the least you could do is make more when you take the last of it!” He waved a furious hand at the chorus of sorrys he got in response and walked back to his coffee maker.
“You realize any one of those three could tear you to shreds,” Marcus said dryly. “Also, fifty bucks for a pound of coffee? You know I can buy Folgers for less than ten dollars at the store.”
“Shut up, you Philistine,” Riley said crossly as he began the process of making more coffee. “It’s imported from Guatemala and is the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.”
“You need to date more,” Marcus said.
Riley laughed abruptly and turned to lean on the counter. “So I messed up?”
“I don’t know. His life is basically in ruin, and you played no small part in that. Thankfully, he doesn’t depend on his pack professionally, otherwise his alpha would’ve used that against him, too. He’s lost his leadership position in the pack and the woman he was set to meet from another pack has declined.”
“Wait.” Riley held up a hand. “You mean they arrange marriages in packs? I’ve never heard that.”
“No, not marriages per say, but when two packs want to merge they often start introducing their younger, unattached members to each other in the hopes of forging relationships that will make the integration easier.”
“I see.” Riley pulled two cups from the cabinet. “How do you take your coffee?”
“Hmm, so do I.” He poured for them both as soon as he could and proffered a cup. “I’m not feeling guilty about any of this, you know. He’s an asshole and a user and a misogynist. “
“Misogynist?” Marcus questioned.
“Yeah, he clearly has no respect for women, and while I have no interest in fucking a woman, I happen to like and respect them a lot. What he planned for his mate was abusive and hateful. I don’t know a lot about pack politics, really. Is that sort of behavior acceptable?”
“My mother would feed my father his own balls,” Marcus admitted.
Riley relaxed and motioned toward the cup in Marcus’ hand. “Drink. Expand your horizons.”
Marcus dutifully took a sip and paused. He took another. “Yeah, okay, you win this round. This is pretty much nirvana in a cup.”
Riley finished half of his cup before he spoke again. “Do I need to worry about him coming here?”
“I honestly don’t know for certain, but you need to pay attention to your surroundings and let me know if you notice anything out of place at your house.”
“I don’t understand,” Riley admitted.
“He’ll invade your space first, Dr. Blake,” Marcus said. He put aside his empty cup and cleared his throat. “He’ll mark territory around your house in one way or another, depending on his form at the time. The fact is that no matter what he said about not wanting to mate you, the wolf in him wants you.”
“And I’ve ruined the man’s life, so maybe he won’t have any interest in fighting what his wolf wants.”
“He ruined his own life,” Marcus corrected. “He’s the one that didn’t back off when you ended things. Whatever happens to him with his pack, he brought that shit on himself. You can’t live a lie, act like an asshole, and expect to get away with it indefinitely. How he’s gotten away with mounting a man in the past is beyond me. I can’t believe members of is pack didn’t smell it on him.”
“Mounting,” Riley repeated even as his face heated in response to the image that jumped forward in his mind. “Did you actually just say that? Really?”
Marcus grinned. “Your outrage would be easier to accept if you weren’t so obviously intrigued by it.”
Riley glared and went to pour himself some more coffee. “Don’t you have work to do? Bad guys to catch?”
“I do need to stop by Clare James’ house and pick up all the stuff she’s stole this month and put it back where it belongs,” Marcus admitted. “Town klepto. We don’t have the heart to arrest her for it. The bank is running low on pens, so they called me.”
Riley shook his head and tried to refrain from smiling. “You’re making that up.”
“I really wish I was.” Marcus offered him a little grin and strolled out of the room.
Maybe small town life wouldn’t be so bad, Riley thought. He appreciated the effort everyone seemed to go to take care of and accept each other.
“Doc Blake! You got a visitor!”
He put down his cup and checked his watch. It was time for his first interview. He hoped to hire at least two nurses before the week was out.
* * * * *
“Heard you’ve visited your hot doctor twice so far.”
Marcus didn’t even bother trying to correct him. There was really no arguing with Jared once he’d decided something was so. Before long the entire town would be calling Riley Blake the sheriff’s hot doctor. He was resigned, for the moment, to merely glare at his older brother.
“The situation in New York has potential for a serious amount of ugly so yeah, I went over there to talk to him about it. He’s not stupid, but I think he is a little naïve about his ability to handle one of us. I don’t know if it’s crossed his mind or not that Jefferson Edwards could tear him to pieces if the urge struck him.”
Jared sat down with a frown and tossed his feet onto the corner of Marcus’ desk. “Did you talk about this with Dad, yet?”
“He’s aware of the situation. I sent an email out. You should’ve gotten a copy.”
Jared pulled his phone and browsed silently for a few seconds. “Yeah, I did. Sorry. I haven’t checked email this morning. I’ve been all over the county. Want to have lunch?”
“I have something coming,” Marcus said. He started to say more but one of his deputies appeared in the doorway. “Hey, Susie.”
“Susan,” she corrected.
Marcus grinned and glanced at Jared who eyed Susan Jamieson a little more closely that he should. “I did agree to stop calling you Susie after you graduated from the academy, didn’t I?”
“You did,” Susan said and merely patted her gun when she caught Jared looking. “I’ll maim you for life, wolf boy.”
“Boy?” Jared questioned in pretend outrage.
“Oh, that’s right. You’re old enough to be my daddy,” Susan said wide-eyed and laughed when Jared scowled at her.
“True,” Marcus offered. “He was a very randy fifteen year old. What did you need?”
“Oh, you have a guest.” She smirked. “It’s your hot doctor.”
Jared burst out laughing, and Marcus sighed. “Send him in, Susan, and thank you.”
“Oh, you’re welcome, Sheriff. Come along, you old dog, and I’ll let you buy me lunch while we discuss your brother’s non-existent sex life.” She flicked an ashy blonde ponytail at him and left.
Jared hopped right up and trotted along after her, much to Marcus’ dismay. He really hoped his brother wasn’t going to start making his way through his deputies, though he only had six women on the job, so his foray into law enforcement wouldn’t last long.
He smelled Riley Blake before he saw him—soap, after shave, and a subtle cologne that was musky and pleasant. His mouth watered a little, and he cleared his throat just as Susan prodded the doctor into the room and shut the door behind him.
Riley frowned and stared at him with hazel eyes. “You’re gay.”
“Right.” Riley started to pace and ran one hand through short brown curls. “So, I had five interviews for potential nurses today.”
Marcus groaned because he knew exactly where the conversation was going to go, and he wasn’t really in the mood to explain how small some of the minds were in the town they lived in.
“Roger Byrd’s staff have all, of course, applied, but I can’t hire that woman to work for me, and I know she’s…well…”
“She’s not part of my father’s pack,” Marcus said. “The Greers are one of the smaller packs in the area. Rather isolated, honestly, old fashioned and standoffish with humans. She’s worked for Byrd for fifteen years.”
“Small town politics,” Riley muttered. “It’s bullshit, really. What sort of fallout would it lead to if I fail to hire all of his staff?”
“It’s no secret you’re gay, and it’s also no secret that she is a raging homophobe. I broke down most of the stereotypes and misconceptions years ago. The whole town got used to me, and they’ll get used to you as well. It isn’t like there aren’t other gay people here.”
“I met the lesbians,” Riley said and smirked.
“Did you get cookies? Marla makes awesome cookies.”
“I did get cookies,” Riley said and threw himself in a chair in front of Marcus’ desk. “So, fallout?”
“Not much, I’d say,” Marcus said as he tried to ignore the doctor’s elegant sprawl in the hard chair that everyone in his office avoided like the plague. “I’m honestly surprised she applied for a job with you. As I said, it’s no secret you’re gay, so I know she’s been made aware of it. The only one worse in Byrd’s office is his office manager.”
Riley frowned, and Marcus wondered how the man could appear that unhappy and beautiful at the same time.
“She seemed great actually.”
“Oh, she has no problem with gay people, but she had a bad experience when she was younger with one of my kind and, as a result, thinks we’re all animals that should be put down. When the twins were little they were prone to sinus infections. Judy Delmar suggested that my mother just drown them to avoid the expense of treating them.”
Riley’s eyes went wide. “Wow.”
“I know. At any rate, she’s an old woman and we let her be. She’ll never change her mind about us, and I can’t blame her I guess. She’s been walking with a cane since she was fifteen because one of my grandfather’s brothers thought it would be fun to make her run through the woods. She’s lucky her leg wasn’t amputated.” He sighed when Riley raised an eyebrow. “She fell into a trap—a bear trap.”
“There are bears around here?”
“Black bears are common in the state, but that trap wasn’t set to catch a bear.”
Riley grimaced. “Is that still a problem around here?”
“We find them sometimes, but my father owns a lot of land, and we rarely let our young run in areas where hunting is popular. Even those who aren’t aware of what we are might try to shoot a wolf, despite the fact that it’s illegal.”
“But people can hunt and trap bears in this state, right?”
“August through November for general hunting. Trapping is a little more restricted, but it does make for a dangerous situation. We’ve had a few incidents over the years. One of my cousins got caught in a trap about fifteen years ago. Fortunately, he wasn’t alone and his brother got him out of it, but it was just a foot snare. Steel traps and conibear traps, however, are legal in this state.”
“What’s a conibear trap?” Riley asked.
“It’s designed to kill like a mouse trap you might buy for your house, but they come in sizes big enough to take one of us down for the count. Especially one inexperienced or young.”
Riley swallowed hard. “If you die in your wolf form?”
“We stay in our wolf form,” Marcus replied. “So if you aren’t going to hire Byrd’s RN, you should talk to my cousin Della. She’s an RN but currently drives to Augusta for work. She finished school about five years ago, but she had to work and go to school at the same time so it took a while for her to get finished.”
Riley pulled out his phone. “Last name?”
“Wilbanks. She’s got two kids, but both are in junior high.”
“She didn’t apply,” Riley murmured as he flicked through his phone. “I wonder why?”
“I imagine because most people thought you’d just take on all of Byrd’s staff.”
“His staff certainly expected it,” Riley said. “For the record, I’m only going to hire two out of the entire lot. It was three, but I can’t see having Mrs. Delmar in my office when I’ve already told your brother that I was capable and willing to treat your kind in either form.”
“Either form?” Marcus questioned.
“I worked at a vet’s office in high school and through much of under grad,” Riley said. “After I found out that werewolves existed, I took some classes. I couldn’t qualify as a vet, obviously, but that’s not really what you would need anyway.”
“No,” Marcus agreed. “Normally all we need is pain management until we have enough mental control to shift back.”
Riley nodded. “I know.” He stood. “Okay, I’m going to go piss some people off, then I’m going to Maine General Medical Center in Augusta to finish setting up my privileges. I’ve completed the application process and been accepted by the committee.” He checked his watch. “And the board for the hospital sent through approval this morning.” He focused on Marcus. “You can pick me up for dinner around seven.”
“Dinner?” Marcus asked with a surprised laugh.
“Yeah, I figured since I’m apparently your hot doctor, you could at least take me out to dinner.”
Marcus could only nod at that point. “It’s Jared’s fault.”
“Oh, no,” Riley said as he stood. “Totally yours. He’s only checked out my ass once. You apparently ogled me for an entire hour the day we met at the diner all those months ago. Grace Martin told me all about it.”
“You can’t take that old lady seriously,” Marcus protested. “She’s crazy.”
“Crazy and incredibly observant. If she didn’t think computers were the devil, I’d hire her away from the diner and teach her how to manage my office.” He checked his watch again. “I seriously have to run.”
“Seven,” Marcus called after him.
“On the dot,” Riley agreed with a little laugh.
Jared reappeared in the doorway roughly thirty seconds after Riley left the building and raised his arms in victory. “And the crowd goes wild.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Marcus muttered and threw a pen at him.
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