Authors: Parker Williams
Tags: #romance, #gay, #paranormal, #shifter, #alpha male, #skunk
Shifting Needs Two
Scent of the Heart is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Parker Williams
Cover Art by Laura Harner
Edited by Jae Ashley
Formatting by Author.Services
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Parker Williams.
Warning: All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without written permission, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Contact the publisher for further information:
I want to thank those who encouraged me to write this story. Becky Condit, Amanda Atchley, Cate Ashwood, K.C. Wells, and others who found Jake and Zak, then wanted to know what happened to Casey.
Mary Phillips Wallace for the title idea.
Jae Ashley for her awesome editing.
Laura Harner for the gorgeous cover.
Author-Services for the help with formatting.
And to everyone who enjoyed book one, Protector of the Alpha, I hope you enjoy Scent of the Heart, too.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following trademarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
: Sanrio Company, Ltd.
: Nintendo of America Inc.
: SOP Services, Inc.
: Kabushiki Kaisha Shueisha Corporation
Magic: The Gathering
: Wizards of the Coast LLC
Dungeons and Dragons
: Wizards of the Coast LLC
Casey Scott grew up being told he’d never amount to anything, and despite the unwavering love and support from his best friend, Jake, the idea sticks in the back of Casey’s mind. When he discovers he has a unique destiny in an enclave where shifters and humans live together, he seizes the chance, wanting for once in his life to be someone special.
Tsvetok Yerokhin lost his parents to the evil ruler of the enclave when he was a boy. The responsibilities of raising his two younger brothers nearly overwhelmed him and self-doubt took over. When the new Alpha and his Protector arrive in time to save his life, Sev is grateful, but he’s even more shocked when he scents his mate with them.
Casey isn’t prepared for the feelings that sweep over him when he meets Sev, but he refuses to act on them because he’s straight. Still, there is something so alluring about Sev that Casey can’t help being drawn to him.
As the two explore the edges of their new discovery, an evil returns, determined to control the enclave or destroy it. The Alpha and Protector are powerless to stop it, but Casey holds the key to victory. If he can discover what it is, he has a chance to save them all. To be the hero.
Unfortunately, the hero has to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and for Casey that means losing his heart.
Casey Scott inhaled the rich aroma of the steeped energizing tea that would help him keep working for at least a few more hours without the buzz or crash associated with caffeine. He’d always blended his own, and never realized he innately knew what it needed. It was funny that a collection of herbs could do so much for a person. Some water, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger root, a bit of milk from a cranky goat, and Casey was able to brew a delicious pot that he packaged and gave to the members of the enclave, who did work around Hakiim’s—
—house in exchange.
Since he’d come to the enclave, the shifter paradise deep in the Tongass forest that he and his friends, Jake and Zak, had moved to six months ago, Casey had fallen in love with the place. He had his doubts about moving so far away from the life he’d known, but this seemed right. If someone had told him he would willingly give up his cell phone, computer, and the pub where he enjoyed hanging out and move to a place where people turned into animals, where there was no technology, and where he and his friends would have to overthrow a really bad mother of a ruler, he’d have laughed his ass off.
Now? Waking up in the morning to the sounds of singing birds rather than an alarm clock; spending the day tending the garden to harvest herbs that he’d use to make potions and balms, speaking to the people who lived in the enclave who never passed by without a greeting, rather than rushing through his day and never really taking the time to know his neighbors… He could see what mankind had lost in its rush to acquire the newest and brightest shiny things.
He wouldn’t say there weren’t things he missed. The onion rings at their favorite pub, for example. Some nights he craved them, the perfect crunch of breading combined with the sweetness of the onion to give an overwhelming taste sensation. Yeah, he missed those. Then there were his parents. He
to miss them, but just couldn’t work up the strength to care. His father had pawned him off on Jake’s family when he was young, and they’d been the ones to raise him. When Casey had decided to go to school away from Jake, his parents overruled him because Jake’s parents…guardians, Casey corrected himself, had offered to pay for his schooling, which sent his father over the moon.
He hadn’t spoken to them in the six months he’d been here, and though there was the occasional twinge of homesickness, it never lasted long. Things around the village always kept him from too many depressing thoughts. Mrs. Riley would be delivering twins tomorrow and that would take up most of his morning. He liked her. A stalwart woman in her mid-forties, still very young by shifter standards, she was the village teacher. When Elizar, the psycho who had ruled the enclave, was in power, she’d taught the children in secret, imparting the knowledge she’d gleaned from passed-down lore. Now that Zak was in charge, they’d assured her that she was encouraged to teach them the ways of their world.
Leaning back against the bench, Casey stretched his legs and sniffed the air. Wild, raw, and delightful. Living near the ocean brought a wealth of scents he’d never experience anywhere else. Between his garden and the ocean, the people of the enclave, and the daily visits from his friends, Casey had to admit that life was pretty damn sweet.
Still, he wished he had someone to share it with. The women of the enclave were friendly enough, but none took him seriously when he asked them out. There were dozens of young ladies in the village, but each of them saw him as more a friend than a potential romantic partner.
Casey sighed and looked to the sky. The pale moon seemed cloaked in a hazy cape. Without the city glow creating light pollution, he could see the entire galaxy laid out, which awed and humbled him. A perfect night to cuddle with someone, instead of going to bed alone. Again. He pushed his way into the house, laying his bundle of herbs on the table. In the morning, he would dry the bulk of them, then use the rest to create a salve for Zak, who seemed to be having problems sitting still. He complained of soreness, and Casey didn’t want to know any more about it.
He stumbled to the bedroom and gazed at the bed. Hakiim should be here, instead of buried in the ocean. His mentor had fallen to Kell, the wolf who’d aligned himself with Elizar. Casey never even got to say good-bye.
He pulled the thick down comforter up to his chin and relaxed, waiting for sleep to claim him.
Casey jolted. It wasn’t the first time he thought he heard someone calling his name, but each time he looked, there was no one there.
Casey? Can you hear me? Please, I need your help.”
Throwing back the cover, Casey leapt from the bed. The voice ripped through his conscience. It was his biggest failure, being unable to save Hakiim. He strode to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the wood-burning stove. When it started to whistle, he pulled it off and poured himself a cup of sleepy tea he’d blended.
He sat at the large hardwood table that the members of the enclave told him Hakiim had carved himself. Running his fingers over the surface, he wasn’t surprised to see the slight pits and grooves in it. Casey imagined Hakiim’s children sitting at this table and playing. He wished he could see them all. He’d made a few trips to the spirit side, even though it was dangerous to go alone, but he couldn’t locate Hakiim or his family. Those were sad days for him.
Tea drank, he rinsed out the handcrafted cup, a gift from one of the villagers, and stumbled his way back to the bedroom. He’d just pulled the quilt up to his chin again when he saw the shimmery outline at the foot of the bed.
Casey…I need you. Please. Don’t leave me like this.”
The figure faded, and a cold shiver ripped through Casey’s body. He closed his eyes, but sleep never quite came.
Sev’s eyes tracked the Protector as he stalked around the room. He’d been caught watching
who’d turned his life upside down. Even now, anger coursed through his veins, but Tsvetok sat stoic as the Protector continued to rant and rave.
“I understand about mates. Zak is mine and will be forever. But Casey’s straight," Jake rumbled.
"So am I," Sev groaned, wrapping his hands into his hair. "I never thought about having a man in my bed before, but that one is my mate. I watch him in the evenings as he toils in the garden. He seems happy, but his body language says otherwise. He’s sad, and I want to gather him up and fix him. He speaks to the stars, did you know that?”
The Protector shook his head.
“I believe they answer him, even if he’s not truly aware yet. When he talks, the stars seem to become brighter. They sing to him as well, I believe, and it calms his angst. As far as I know, they’ve never sung to anyone else. Our former shaman did not possess that gift. I know he’s not of our people by birth, but within him, I sense incredible power and such a good heart that it brings me shame.
“Our people believe it is spirits of those who go before us which guide us to know who our one true love is to be. We shall know them by their scent. That one is mine. He smells of the forest. Rich and earthy. He intoxicates me as no other ever has. When I’m around him, I can’t think. I see him and all I know is that he is meant to be mine. Then I see him speaking to the young ladies from the village, and I know I should do the same, but he is always on my mind. I don’t fear losing his body to these women, but his heart should beat for me. Then I become angry, because my heart should belong to another, and yet it is set on him alone.”
“I…think I understand. I remember Zak’s scent and how it tugged at me, even when I didn’t know him. I don't know what to tell you," Jake ground out. "Casey isn't interested in men like that. I mean he's open-minded, but he's not…shit. I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you should, you know, talk to him?"
Sev tugged at his hair again. "And say what? Hello, I know we just met, and this might sound crazy…"
"Oh, tell me you did not just pull a Carly Rae Jepsen on me."
Sev cocked his head. “Who?”
Jake pursed his lips. “Sorry. I forget sometimes. Look, I don't know what to say. Talk to him is about all I got."