Grayson Belle is one in a million. Unlike the government’s manufactured shifters —Circs— Gray was born with the ability to shapeshift and has a heightened sense of telepathy. But lately, his world has gone to hell. He’s prepared to throw in the towel after his current mission. He’s seriously messed up, lusting after his irritating partner, whom he’s not even sure he likes. And then the rogue Circ he’s been sent to kill turns his heart inside out and his resolve to nothing. He’s seriously losing his edge, because he wants to mark both Circs as his own. But if he does, what will that mean to the future he’s mapped out for himself?
He’ll have to gamble on his instincts to ignore what his head is telling him. Sometimes being rational means less than nothing if the heart isn’t happy. And Gray will be damned if he’ll let himself lose at love. Now he and his partner just have to convince one stubborn female to take that same chance.
Gray left with the admiral’s blessing, but Bas — as Sebastian referred to himself — stayed behind at his superior’s request. “Sir?”
Personally, he liked Admiral London. The man had been straight up with him from the get-go, unlike the pricks at the laboratory where he’d been kidnapped and injected with that nasty serum that turned him Circ — involuntarily. He could only be glad he hadn’t succumbed as so many others had. The mating heat had never affected him, much to the bemusement of the admiral and the myriad doctors who’d studied him.
But he feared he might be more like the Circs of Circe’s Recruits and Dawn Endeavor than anyone thought. Lately he had.needs. Sexual needs that his beast wanted only one particular man to satisfy. The scent of Grayson Belle lingered like a fine cologne. Wild and earthy and uniquely male. A mug on the admiral’s desk trembled, a residual of Bas’s telekinetic energy escaping, and he hurriedly tamped it back down. Another problem he’d been trying to handle lately — his unstable and unwelcome psychic ability. Fortunately, the admiral didn’t notice.
“Tell me, son, how is he?” The older man nodded to the closed door through which Gray had exited.
“Honestly?” Bas continued when the admiral motioned for him to speak. “He’s like a time bomb waiting to explode. It’s like he’s craving the excitement. I can’t explain it, but I can feel him tensing, sizing me up, and it’s all I can do not to attack him first.”
He hadn’t wanted to share Gray’s problem, but he worried about his partner. Truth was he lusted after the guy with a hard-on that wouldn’t quit. That caramel skin, those hazel eyes, the black hair that kissed the nape of his neck and framed a face too wild to be classically handsome. Yet Gray captivated all the same. He was Circ to his bones. A fact Bas’s beast never let him forget.
“At each other’s throats, hmm? That’s good.” The admiral smiled.
“Sir?” Did the man want them to kill each other?
“We’ve been waiting for these reactions from Gray for some time. It’s okay, Sebastian. He’s not quite like you and the others. Gray is different, special. He just needs to release his beast every now and then. When you’re in Oregon, keep an eye on him but encourage him to let go of that wildness. It’ll help, trust me.”
Bas did trust the admiral, as much as he trusted the admiral’s wife, Alicia Sharpe. She had a presence about her that heralded great power and soothing peace. Beautiful, graceful, and never a hair out of place. And she was Gray’s grandmother. How could he not like the woman? Besides, his beast accepted her, and he heeded his beast’s instincts. They’d kept him alive on more than one occasion.
“Now go on. Make sure you two read that file before you leave the building. Oh, and I’ve found you a place to stay for the night. I know you have a place in Alexandria, but I want you and Gray to be tighter, to trust one another. Yes, I realize the trust issue is on his end, not yours. Still, if I order you two to get along, he can chafe, but he can’t refuse.” The admiral tossed another paper at him. “That’s the address and directions to your shared temporary lodging. I’m sorry about the suddenness of this new mission, but it’s necessary. Now track down Grayson and find our rogue Circ.”
Bas nodded. He gripped the folder and paper and left the room. It didn’t take him long to find Gray. His beast easily picked up the trail of anger and exotic jungle, that rare scent that made him ache in the most inappropriate of places.
Though at ease with his bisexuality, since becoming Circ, Bas had been more and more drawn to men, or one man, in particular. Grayson Belle had become his sole focus. He dreamed about him, to the point he couldn’t think the word sex without an image of Gray popping into his mind.
He found his partner in a nearby break room, empty except for Gray.
“Hell. Now what?” Gray asked. Another soul blinked at him through Gray’s eyes, and Bas let that creature see the inner beast chafing within himself. Like called to like, if only Gray would acknowledge the fact. But Sebastian’s partner had a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it came to Circs created outside of the government’s official projects. Circe’s Recruits and Dawn Endeavor were two teams of Circs who consistently — though unofficially — did Alicia Sharpe’s bidding. The admiral had entrusted Bas with the information when he’d brought him on as Gray’s partner. Yet Bas wondered how much Gray knew about those teams, or how Gray actually fit into the Circs.
“Well? I’m not getting any younger.”
Or sexier, Bas’s beast whispered to him. He couldn’t help a small growl, which further irritated his partner. In an effort to make peace, Bas held out the paperwork the admiral had given him.
“Our lodging for the next three days.” He nodded at the paper Gray glared at. “The folder contains the info on our next mission. So let’s study the documents then get out of here to –“
“Wait a second. This address. You sure the admiral gave it to you?”
Bas couldn’t mistake the suspicion on Gray’s face. “Yeah. Why? What’s wrong?”
Gray looked from the paper to Bas and back to the paper. Then he muttered a few choice swearwords under his breath. He grabbed the folder from Bas’s hands and breezed through it in a few seconds, then closed it and handed it back to Bas. “Take that back to the admiral and meet me at the admiral’s spot in the lot.”
Bas had questions, but the shuttered look on Gray’s face kept him silent. He left and scanned the folder before turning it over to the admiral’s secretary. Then he looked for Gray at the specified area in the parking lot, only to find Gray behind the wheel of a dark SUV.
“Get in,” Gray ordered through the open window.
Surprised at the curbside service, Bas entered. “Thanks.”
“And there’s the Gray we know and love.” Bas gave him an overlarge grin. For the life of him, he didn’t understand why Gray’s peevishness made him more attractive.
“Look. I don’t know if you and the admiral set this up or what, but let’s get something straight. I’m not into sharing.”
“Ah, o-kay.” What the hell was he talking about?
“So don’t even think this is my idea.”
“Right. Look, hero, why don’t you just tell me what the hell crawled up your ass and died?”
Gray clenched his jaw tight. Bas knew he absolutely hated it when Bas called him hero. Which was why Bas made sure to call him that several times a day.
“You do know where we’re staying?”
Bas sighed. “Long as it has a bed, I’m game. It’s been nearly eight months of nonstop action. I barely remember where home is. Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass where we go. I want to sleep, eat, and take a nice long hot shower without interruption. Think you can handle that.hero?”
Gray growled at him, and Bas wanted to purr. Gray was so damn sexy when he scowled. All dark and broody. The power just bunched up inside him, waiting to be sprung free.
When Gray continued to sulk beside him, Bas slouched down in his seat. He closed his eyes while his partner drove, honest about being tired. The pace they worked had been incredible. Righting wrongs and cleaning up science gone wrong from Ecuador to Norway to Mexico had been more than tiresome, yet still exhilarating, being able to be so close to Gray. The man moved like the wind, had a mind that never quit, and the tenacity of ten bloodhounds. They’d occasionally routed rogue Circs but normally found themselves cleaning up drug wars. Only the drugs they found weren’t the illegal kind but the experimental kind.
Remembering how many times Gray had saved innocents and nearly gotten himself killed while doing so aggravated his beast until Bas reminded him that the man sat safely beside him, close enough to reach out and touch.
“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty,” Gray’s familiar voice rasped. “We’re here.”
They parked in front of a nice-looking brownstone in an upscale neighborhood. Expensive cars sat along the street, and the surrounding landscaping screamed money. A real step-up from the last hotel they’d stayed in.
“The admiral went all-out on our digs, eh?” Bas sat up, stretched, and bumped his head on the ceiling of the SUV. “Damn.”
“Just remember, inside, you break it, you bought it. And don’t even think of taking a step into the master suite. I’m not kidding.”
The way Gray talked about the place, he made it sound as if.
Bas followed him out the door of the vehicle and up the steps of the nearest building. Gray pressed a button on the keychain and locked the car door before using a different key to open the brownstone. “Wait here.” He slammed the front door shut after entering and then opened it a minute later. “Had to deactivate the alarm. Well, come on in.”
Bas blinked, amazed and excited to be able to see this more intimate side of Gray. “This is your place.”
“No shit, Sherlock. Well, come on. I’ll show you all the places you can’t be.”
Art from countries all over the world graced the walls. African masks, South American throw rugs, a German cuckoo clock. An eclectic mishmash that should have seemed thrown together instead looked sophisticated surrounded by dark brown woods and black leather furniture. On one hand, the place looked like a friggin’ museum, but on the other, Bas thought he could easily sink into the oversize furniture and not get up until the next morning.
He followed Gray around like a puppy, mentally thanking the admiral up and down. Finally, some alone time with Gray. One-on-one, in the man’s own home, where he’d feel more comfortable. Where he might finally relax enough to let Bas in.
Except the whirlwind tour stopped scant minutes after it had started. Gray forbade him from going down the hallway toward his room. “You can have the guest room. Here.” Gray nodded him toward a tasteful bedroom containing a queen-size bed and a dresser. “The bathroom is in there.” A hall bath done in blues and browns. Simple yet efficient. Very Gray-like. “Kitchen’s open and stocked. Had a friend of mine fill it for me when we wrapped Mexico.”
The surge of jealousy that hit Bas surprised him. His beast didn’t like the thought of Gray with anyone other than him. “Friend?” He coughed to cover a growl and forced a laugh. “I’d love to meet the person you trust with the alarm code to your house. A hot chick? Some smokin’ dude?”
Gray flushed, and Bas found the blush more than attractive. His dick hardened, and he thanked the jeans that kept his erection contained.
“She’s a friend of my grandmother, dickhead. Sixty-four and counting. Is sex all you think about?”
“Um, yeah. I’m a guy.” The surprising surge of lust that wafted from Gray urged him to take a step closer.
Until Gray set a finger tipped in a one-inch claw to his throat. “Let’s get something straight. I don’t have mating heats. I’m not like you manufactured Circs. I was born this way. I like women, not men. And if I catch you in my bedroom without an invitation, I’ll make you wish you’d never met me.”
“No way.” Bas stepped closer, feeling the bite of pain as the claw bit into his neck. “I could never be upset I’d met you, Gray. You’ve been so gosh awful nice so far,” he said in a bad Southern accent.
Gray just stared at him, those hazel eyes unblinking. And then the bastard laughed. The smile on his face was the most beautiful thing Bas had seen in a long time.
“Christ. You’re a serious pain in my ass.”
Man, I wish.
Gray stepped back and wiped his bloodied claw against Bas’s neck. The touch felt like a caress. Gray must have seen the heat in his eyes because his own narrowed, and he backed away in a hurry. “I’m tired. I’m going to catch some shut-eye. We’ll talk about the mission tomorrow.”
“But the case file, how do you know –“
“I read fast. It’s all in here.” Gray tapped his forehead. “Towels are in the linen closet. ‘Night, Decker.” Then he spun on his heel and disappeared down the hallway Bas had been forbidden to enter.
Bas heard a door slam. He glanced down at his cock, trapped beneath unforgiving denim, and swore. “Another lonely fucking night. Just you and me.” He looked at his palm, then down the hallway again, wishing it might have been different.
His beast protested the entire time he showered and thought of Gray…on his knees. All in time, guy. Your foot’s in the door now. Just don’t blow it — at least not until he asks you to. His beast didn’t like the advice, but he took it all the same. And Bas slept a little easier, knowing the object of his affection lay just a short distance down the hall.
Copyright © 2011 Marie Harte
All rights reserved — a Loose Id, LLC publication