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Authors: Amber Kell

Tags: #M/M Paranormal Romance, #Shifters

A Prideless Man (3 page)

BOOK: A Prideless Man
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James didn’t strike him as the suicidal type. It could only be an accident.

Please be an accident.

Shit. He finally found his mate only to fall for a drug addict. There had to be a different explanation. Thinking back during his experience in the bigger cities, Lou couldn’t equate James’ behaviour to drug addicts he’d dealt with before in the line of duty, but then some people hid their symptoms well.

His heart sped up when the hospital came into view. Sweat dampened his palms. The hospital valet prudently stepped to the side when Lou came to a screeching halt in front of the patient valet parking sign. Throwing his keys towards the young man he rushed inside.

He didn’t have time to talk. He needed to get to James.

The nurse at the counter was a deer shifter he went to high school with.

“Hey, Darlene.”

“Your mate’s in room one-o-three.” She gave him a sympathetic smile. “KC called ahead.”

Thank God for KC.

Lou rushed down the hall and slid to a halt in the doorway. Catching a glimpse of his mate, he grabbed the sides of the doorframe. The metal frame screeched as his fingers pressed into it, creating dents. James lay in the hospital bed, still as death. A doctor hovered beside him looking at the monitor. For the first time since he met James, the overpowering scent of medicine was gone.

He smelt divine.

“Hey, Sheriff.” Dr Henrickson looked up at his entry. He was a grey-haired mink shifter who ran the hospital ever since Lou could remember. He nodded towards the patient. “I heard he’s yours.”

“Word gets around. What did he take? Crack? Ecstasy? Overdose on prescription drugs?”

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

17

The doctor shook his head. “That’s the interesting part. It’s a suppressant.”

“A what?”

“A drug to prevent shifting.”

“Into what?”

Henrickson’s gaze went to the man on the bed. “I don’t know. Did he say anything to you?”

“He thinks he has Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

“Ahh. I’m willing to bet he’s only a half shifter then. A full-blooded shifter would’ve changed before now even with the medication. Someone convinced him along the way that he was sick instead of telling him what he really is. I’d bet on one of his parents. I’ve seen a few cases in my time but nothing this extreme. If he really is your mate, it was probably meeting you that set him off.”

Guilt ate at Lou.
He
had driven the other man to drugs, even if he’d done it inadvertently. Meeting his mate could’ve killed James.

The doctor continued to drone on unaware of the affect he had on Lou. “More than likely, his shifter blood saved him. The enzymes in his blood repaired most of the damage when he went into shock. Unfortunately, if he’s been on these drugs since he first showed signs of shifting we’re looking at ten, fifteen years of addiction. His heart might not be able to take the shock of stopping cold turkey.”

“What if we ease him off them until we can get him to shift?”

“That’s assuming he can change. A half shifter might not have the ability. He could be on the drugs to stop his body from tearing itself apart. I’ve heard of a few cases where a half-breed turned himself inside out. Some things you can’t recover from even with shifter blood.

We need to find out where he got his drugs and why before we try to cut him off or find a better solution. The biggest problem we have is getting his cooperation.”

“Oh, he’ll cooperate.” Lou had waited his entire life for this man. He wasn’t going to lose him now.

A sharp rasping cough drew his attention away from the doctor and back to the bed.

James’ eyes fluttered open. A glowing ring of gold surrounded his normally medium brown irises.

“Did I miss our date?” James’ voice sounded sandpaper rough, completely unlike his usual smooth tones.

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

18

“Can he have some water?” Lou asked the doctor.

“Just a little. I’ll have the nurse bring him some ice chips.” Lou rushed to get the small cup. Supporting his mate’s head he titled a little water into James’ mouth. “Drink, honey.”

Quickly swallowing, the smaller man took down what he could before Lou removed the cup. When he licked the water from his lips, Lou flushed as he thought of the other things the sweet man could lick. Shit, there was something wrong with lusting after a man lying in a hospital bed.

“Thanks,” he whispered, giving Lou a grateful look.

“Where did you get the pills?” He didn’t beat around the bush. The doctor needed to know.

“What pills?”

“Your medication. You overdosed on pills.”

James shook his head, his pallor competing with the whiteness of the pillowcase. “It wasn’t the pills. It was a shot. When the pain is too much I take the shot.” The light went on in Lou’s head. “That’s why you said we couldn’t get together. You knew the shot would affect you.”

A careful head nod was his response. “The shot usually knocks me out for a few hours and makes me loopy the day after.”

Henrickson jumped into the conversation. “Have you ever gone into shock before?” Lou hadn’t even noticed the doctor had returned.

“No, like I said they always knock me out and make me loopy but I’ve never had this bad of a reaction before. I noticed recently the pills are becoming less effective so I took the shot. I don’t take it very often but I really needed it today.” Sweat beaded James’ forehead and his breath came in shaky gasps. “I need my medication.”

“No!” Lou gripped James’ hand, drawing his attention. “You need to stop fighting it.

You need to embrace what you are.”

Lou watched closely as Henderson pushed a syringe into the IV.

“What are you giving him?”

“A sedative to calm him. If he becomes stressed the adrenalin will hit his system and trigger his symptoms.”

“Lou.”

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

19

He turned at the panicky tone in James’ voice.

James frowned at him, a deep furrow forming on his pain-filled face. “What’s going on?”

Fuck. He hadn’t planned to break it to him this way. “The doc thinks you’re a shifter.

The medicine you’re on is an anti-shifting medicine.” Lou swallowed, trying to get moisture to his desert-dry throat. “Would you let doc do some genetic testing? He thinks you might have a parent who has shapeshifting blood.”

Fear filled his mate’s eyes. “I can’t be a shifter.” Lou released the other man’s hand, taking a step back from the bed. “Why not?”

“My father despises them. He heads an agency opposing shifters. Shit. That’s why he gave me the medication. My mother must’ve been a shifter.”

“Or your father is one and hates it. I’ve met a few of those myself.” He didn’t mention they usually went crazy and killed themselves. James was already shaking his head.

“No. He never talks about my mother. It explains so much about my childhood.” An expression of utter defeat crossed James’ face. “I’m tired. I just want to sleep.” He closed his eyes, shutting out the other men.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” Lou gripped James’ chin, turning him towards him. “You don’t get to ignore me. Dr Henrickson thinks cutting you from your medication will kill you. I’m going to go back to your apartment to get it. Where do you keep your drugs?” James reluctantly opened his eyes. “On my side table in the walnut box. The liquid medication and my few remaining pills are there. I was going to contact my father to get more. So I don’t have RA?”

“I don’t know, love. We won’t know until the doc runs some tests on your blood work and examines your medication. Will you let him?”

“No. My father will find out. He probably already knows I’m here.”

“No,” Henrickson denied. “We’re privately funded and not in the medical network. It keeps the privacy of the shifters. Many of them don’t want their employers to know they can shift or people to know where they are. We are champions of staying off the grid.”

“Good. I’m tired.”

“Get some rest. We can talk tomorrow.” Lou gave James’ hand a gentle squeeze before standing up and following the doctor into the hall.

“What do you think he is?” Lou asked as soon as they were out of James’ hearing.

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

20

“From my observation I’d say he’s a big cat of some kind.”

“I think he might be a lion.” He explained about his encounter with James earlier. “I should have Talan talk to him. Maybe he could go stay with the pride for a while. Learn about the cats. I don’t like him living alone without any support.” The doctor gave his a sly smile. “You could stay with him.” Lou laughed. “He’s going through enough crap right now without dealing with a new mating and from what you said close contact with me could aggravate his problems.”

“You think Talan will take him in?”

Lou nodded. “Yeah, if I tell him the situation I’m sure of it. He’s a good guy for an alpha and his pack is pretty laid back.”

“Very well. Get his medication and I’ll see if I can figure out a duplicate. I have a little anti-shifter medication but I have a feeling he’s on a much more specialised drug. I’m going to have him continue his pills but leave off the shots until I have them analysed by a chemist friend of mine. I’m also going to give you a prescription for a sedative to knock him out if he starts losing control. We can only hope living with the cats will trigger his shifting instincts.

He can’t continue as he has been. Our ultimate goal is to wean him off the drugs completely and have him shift, because the way he is going now, eventually the drugs will kill him. It’s a miracle he’s survived this long.”

Lou looked back at the frail man on the sterile white bed. If he never saw his mate in a hospital bed again it would be too soon. No way would he let James drift away. The man was his and once they got everything straightened, Lou would stake his claim.

* * * *

James didn’t know how he ended up heading towards the Pride lands. After a few days in the hospital and innumerable tests, he finally got clearance to leave his hospital bed. As soon as the doctor discharged him, the sheriff scooped him up and put him in his truck.

“I still don’t know why we’re going to the Pride house.” His heart beat like a frightened bird in his chest as he thought of confronting the big cat leader. The last time he’d seen Talan it was after the lion’s mate killed another wolf. Even though intellectually he knew he had nothing to worry about since the lions had never been anything but nice to him. Instinct compelled him to fear the large lion despite his apparent easy-going nature.

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

21

“You know the doctor said he thinks you’re a feline of some kind. It would be easier if you called your father and asked.”

“Trust me when I tell you that would be far from the easiest thing. If what Dr Henrickson said is true, my father would rather I was in crippling pain for the rest of my life than a shifter. Does that sound like the actions of a sane man to you?” Silence ruled the vehicle for the next several miles. The mountain road was bumpy and shook James around like a broken doll.

“Sorry about that.”

“No problem, you didn’t make the road.”

Not completely sure of the sheriff’s role in this entire thing, James felt guilty for taking so much of the other man’s time. They hadn’t even had a date and Lou still made James his responsibility. Lou’s behaviour was taking community responsibility a step too far.

He let out a gasp when they pulled up in front of an enormous mansion. It wasn’t the size or the beauty of the house that stunned him—it was the dozen or so lions sunning on the veranda.

“Holy crap, how many of them are there?”

Lou laughed, a deep booming sound, immediately calming James’ nerves. The sheriff wouldn’t laugh if the lions were dangerous to him.

“Come on. Grab your bag. I already talked to Talan and got permission for you to stay.” James slid out of the cab, grabbing the small rucksack Lou had packed for him. He didn’t know what was inside but he trusted the sheriff to know what he needed.

Taking a deep breath, he slipped the bag over his shoulder and followed the big form of the bear shifter as he marched up to a porch covered with lions like it was an everyday occurrence. Hell, it might be for all James knew. A low growling started and became louder the closer they came.

To James’ relief Talan came out of the house in his human form.

“Hush now,” the alpha said to the intimidating felines. “James is going to stay with us a while.”

He saw the smaller form of Talan’s mate following him as they approached. “Nice to see you again, James,” the pretty wolf said with a smile.

A PRIDELESS MAN

Amber Kell

22

“Same here.” He tried to return the smile but knew it fell short of the real thing. His body ached, his head pounded and if he didn’t lie down soon, collapsing was a real possibility.

Lou frowned at him. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“Yeah, you don’t look so good,” Adrian agreed. He flashed a quick look towards Lou.

“You’ll have to leave James with us. I can’t let you into the house,” Talan said with an apologetic look at his friend.

“I understand,” the sheriff responded. “Take good care of him.”

“Of course.”

“I don’t understand why can’t you come with me?” Damn, he sounded whiny but he hurt and he didn’t want the bear shifter to go. It was selfish of him but he didn’t want to be left alone with the lions when the man he wanted walked away.

Lou gave him an apologetic smile. “I make the lions nervous around their cubs.”

“I guess I’ll see you later then.” What did you say to a man trying to save your life and why did it hurt so much to say goodbye?

Lou’s eyes bored into James. “You will definitely see me later. I’ll call you every day.

You owe me a lunch date.”

Relief rushed through James. The bear wasn’t dumping him and running. Lou still planned to see him later. Somehow staying with the cats no longer seemed so bad.

Lou cupped his face, tilting James’ head back until their eyes met. “Tomorrow. We will have lunch tomorrow in town. Two o’clock.”

BOOK: A Prideless Man
8.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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