Authors: Kathryn Thomas
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
Midnight Moon copyright @ 2015 by Kathryn Thomas. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Book 2 of the
Roadside Angels Motorcycle Club
“No friendship is an accident.”
~ O. Henry
Lex listened to the birdsong outside his window as he lay in bed. It never failed to calm his spirit, and after an almost sleepless night, despite the long run he had taken after he dropped Tamara off, he needed calm. His past was catching up with him...or more precisely, his future. And he wasn’t ready. Not yet. Not when he had just discovered his mate, and realized that she would be in danger from the very forces seeking to destroy him. He wished he could hold back his fate, change his destiny, become something less, something ordinary. But he knew wishes rarely came true unless they were given a shot in the arm. And at the moment, he had nothing.
Rising up, he walked naked to the window to look out on the slowly lightening sky. He could hear Patrick, Bear to everyone he called a friend, whistling tunefully on the other side of the large house, in the kitchen. The big guy was not only his foreman, but his friend, his blood brother, and a fellow shifter. Patrick McKoy’s Kodiak bear heritage ensured that he was a standout in the shifter’s world, where his size and power made him an intimidating force of nature. When he had met Bear, they had been young together, finding their way in an unfriendly world, among humans who didn’t know what they were, but sensed their potential and feared it. They had become friends despite their differing species and Bear’s tendency to lose his temper and break things and people, leaving Lex to clean up after him. Bear had made himself Lex’s unofficial bodyguard when he had first heard who his friend was, and Lex had long ago stopped trying to talk him out of it.
Lex was two hundred years old, and the time had come for him to take his place in the world into which he was born. These years living disguised as human had been his salvation in many ways. He had learned to read those around him, both human and shifter, and to use his hybrid abilities to channel negative energy away from himself and Bear. He had learned how to harness his powers, to deploy them, to subdue them. What he hadn’t learned was how to know his mate without trial and error. Or how to keep her, once he knew her. And there was no one he could ask, unless he was prepared to go back to the Prime lands, to the seat of werewolf society, and bare his ignorance to a community that would have killed him, had they known before he turned what he was, that he was not of the One Blood, that he was hybrid with vampires.
He had a lot to do today. The club meeting had had to be postponed, because the chief needed to interview all the members, as well as anyone who had seen or spoken to Bob Rose on the last day of his life. Lex sighed as he went to take a shower. He set the showerhead to steaming jets and walked in, hoping to soak away some of the tension he knew was sitting in his broad shoulders and spine. Thoughts of Tamara being one of the people Putnam had needed to talk to made him growl. He knew he couldn’t keep her out any longer, and as he scrubbed his body and flexed his tight muscles, he wished again that he had met her elsewhere, that they had bonded soul to soul before this mess. He would do everything he could to keep her safe till he could bond their life forces together.
Dressing quickly after he shaved and secured his long hair with a leather tie, he went to find Bear. They had to make plans before he went into town, including what to do for Bret, who was a member of their club, as Bob Rose had been. His heart was heavy as he thought of how they had found his friend, and anger rose in him again. He could feel himself heating with it, and willed his body to calm. Like passion, anger made him glow and burn, and roused his wolf to fever pitch. He didn’t need that today. Dave Putnam was human, and though he was a good friend and knew that Lex was a shifter, he was not ready for all that Lex could become.
Bear’s broad back greeted him as he swung into the kitchen. He was dressed like Lex, in black jeans and a muscle shirt, and his tattooed arms moved with an odd grace as he flipped the pancakes.
“Expecting company, Bear?” Lex asked, helping himself to coffee. He knew his friend had sensed his presence as soon as he walked in. Lex eyed the huge piles of pancakes already stacked on two plates next to the griddle, and sniffed the air, savoring the flavor of bacon. Bear, he knew, had laid the bacon out on baking sheets and they were cooking in the huge wall oven. He also knew that the method had less to do with healthy cooking and more to do with Bear’s not wanting to have to attend to the frying pan, which is why their eggs would be scrambled, not fried. He grinned as Bear held up five fingers, indicating they’d have five for breakfast, excluding the two of them.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to face the guys yet,” he said, refilling Bear’s huge coffee mug.
“Better now than after,” Bear said over his shoulder, stacking the last of the pancakes, and beginning to break eggs.
“After what?” Lex quirked a brow.
“After you tell them about your lady.”
Bear poured cream into the eggs, seasoned the mixture, whisked it briskly, and then poured it into the hot saucepan. He waited patiently for it to set, and Lex got the feeling he was also waiting for a response. He had never been able to hide anything from Bear, who had been his faithful companion for more than one hundred and fifty years. He didn’t bother with denials. He asked a question instead.
“What makes you think there’s anything to tell?”
Bear turned a sardonic eye over his shoulder, and grinned. “Are you saying there’s nothing to tell? Remember who you’re talking to, Lex. I’m not a cub. Haven’t been for longer than you.” He turned back to his skillet, whisking the eggs to fluffy perfection, and then turned again as the sound of motorbikes disturbed the quiet morning. “Boys are here,” he added unnecessarily.
Lex went to let the club members in, watching as they all rode their bikes into the shed at the side. Five men approached, all good friends now, two of them shifters who would no doubt smell his mate on him, and the mating scent he could not quite subdue. It was faint, but there, especially once he thought about the woman he had yet to claim. His fangs fought to stretch his gums, but he wrestled his two sides under control, and was calm by the time they reached him on the porch. His human friends bumped fists with him when he moved to let them pass, but the two shifters, both also bears, stopped and regarded him with knowing looks on their faces.
“Get your asses inside and stop ogling me,” he barked at them, amusement edging his voice. They laughed as they walked past him, and he shook his head, following them back to the kitchen where the others were already helping themselves to food.
“So, Bear, your boy’s gone and done it, eh?” one of the shifters said, stacking his plate high with pancakes. “I never thought I’d see the day,” he continued, pouring syrup with a heavy hand over the stack.
“And about damned time, too,” the other added, waiting his turn at the pancakes.
Bear laughed, an unexpectedly merry sound, deep as his shoulders were wide. “Best not to bait him, boys. Remember, he’s an unknown quantity, if you know what I mean.”
All the men laughed, even the humans, though they only understood half of what was said. They all agreed that Lex was a mystery to them, but none seemed to mind it, and as he was not speaking, they had nothing to go on till he chose to tell them. They all ate in silence for a while, the humans jostling with the bears for extras. Lex shot Bear an amused glance, and they laughed together at the others’ antics. They hadn’t had this in a long while, and he wished the rest of the club had been able to swing by for breakfast. There had been fifteen of them, excluding Lex and Bear, who shared a love for vintage bikes, and they had agreed to enlarging the club’s scope from merely that of gentlemen bikers to working as unofficial deputies for the chief, whose actual force was four men, himself included. All the members of the club had had some experience in security and law enforcement, either in the military or as actual police officers and members of security teams. Aside from Lex and Bear, the men gathered around the kitchen table were the younger members of the group.
“This is a bad time for the guys to be away,” Lex said, rising from the table to put his dishes in the dishwasher. “We’ve got to help Bob’s family with the funeral, and we’ve got to find out who’s responsible for his murder.”
His voice was heavy with anger, but he controlled it. The humans in the club had no idea of what he and the other shifters were capable of, and he didn’t want to scare them. He trusted them with his life, and that of his fellow weres, but the less they knew, the better for all concerned. He had an inkling that one or two of the older guys suspected that he and the others were different, and not just in an “we’re-not-from-here” kind of way, but they never broached the subject or asked questions, and they were among the most loyal in the club.
“Do you think this has anything to do with that other attack, Lex?” The question came from the youngest human among them.
“I don’t like to speculate, but I can’t see how we can rule out the possibility. And if there are wild wolves around, someone’s got to be bringing them in.”
“I wouldn’t put it past the bastard Hell’s Rebels to be the ones behind this,” Bear said, and there were murmurs of agreement. “What better way to get us focused on other things while they carry on with the crap they’ve been pulling? We don’t have enough members to deal with smuggling and the flesh trade, and to find fucking murderers and provide protection.”
Lex could hear the rage and disgust in Bear’s voice, and he knew the pain this new trouble caused him. Bear had lost his mate, a human woman, before they were fully bonded, to white slavers. By the time he found her, she had been dead a month. Lex had been the only one who could approach him without fear of being mauled. And although a hundred years had passed, the wound was still as raw for him today as it had been the day he had found her. Bear was the one who was in charge of that aspect of the club’s unofficial work. He was zealous in his pursuit of every clue and exultant when he found the young girls and the women that they snatched as they crossed the border into the US, or the ones they kidnapped from their homes and jobs. And when he could send a message, as in a severely mauled slaver, back to their headquarters, he was beside himself with joy. The only thing that would have made him feel any better was if he had been allowed to kill the ones he caught.
Lex had had to talk him down from his killing rages a time or two over the last hundred years, and in the last few, he had had to call on every technique he had learned to get his friend calm. He knew he needed to give Bear a task, to avoid the rage building to such proportions that he might not be able to bring him back. And the last thing anyone needed was a rampaging Kodiak bear in this little town.
“We’ll have to split up, boys,” he said. “Bear, you’re with me. We’ve got to help the chief in town, and I need to stay close to Tamara. It’s business as usual for the rest of you.” He looked around at them solemnly. “I don’t need to tell you things have gotten even more dangerous than usual, so watch your backs. Let’s meet again tomorrow morning. We have a funeral to help with.”
Grunts of agreement filled the air as the men sipped their second round of coffee. Lex hitched his hip against the kitchen counter and waited for the inevitable question. The bears had already smelled his mate on him, and now that he had given her a name, it wouldn’t be long before someone asked who she was. As if on cue, one of the shifters asked, a smirk on his tanned face,
“So, who’s Tamara?”
Six pairs of eyes were instantly trained on him, with expressions ranging from amusement to curiosity and speculation.
“That reporter who came over to our table a couple of nights ago,” he said, keeping all expression off his face, knowing that would not satisfy any of them. It didn’t.
“Since when are you worried about keeping nosy reporters close?”
“Since she might have some leads,” he retorted, wondering why he was keeping this from them. Eventually, they would all know who she was to him. But something made him want to keep her to himself just a bit longer.
“So you talked to her, after blowing her off the other night?”
“Yes.” He did not explain why he changed his mind, and knew no one would ask. “And she makes good sense. Which places her directly in the line of fire. That’s one thing I can do something about, and I intend to do it.”
He looked into all their faces, realizing how his tone had shifted at the end, and needing to rein in the emotion threatening to overwhelm him.