A werewolf who’s been running from his past…
meets a dragon shifter who wants nothing more than to protect him.
Life hasn’t been kind to Tommy. Abandoned by his parents as a teenager after being bitten by a werewolf, abused by the alpha he turned to for help, and, most recently, having to deal with the after-effects of a hunter kidnapping all by himself, it’s no wonder he wants to put his past behind him. Now, at twenty-three, he’s made a life for himself as a trusted nanny and babysitter in the shifter community doing what he loves. He may spend too much time looking over his shoulder, but Tommy’s fine. He’s dealing. Or so he tells himself.
Michael is a dragon shifter in law enforcement. He was the one who helped rescue Tommy from hunters… and since then hasn’t been able to get him off his mind. When Michael gets a frantic call one evening from a terrified Tommy, he learns that Tommy’s ex, an older alpha werewolf, has just been released from prison and wants Tommy back. Michael offers his help without hesitation, but the more time he spends with Tommy the more his attraction grows, and the last thing Michael wants is to make Tommy feel forced into a relationship.
All Michael wants to do is help Tommy feel safe. But can he protect Tommy while keeping his own feelings at bay?
Tommy got home, kicked off his shoes, and immediately shucked the rest of his clothing, tossing everything in his laundry basket before he headed straight for the shower. He hated hospitals; they made him remember being a teenager and terrified and achingly alone.
One would think that after becoming a werewolf he’d be hospitalized less often than the average person, but so far he’d been unlucky twice more since the first hospitalization that had him recovering from being bitten to begin with.
Well. Maybe the third time would be the charm.
He stepped under the spray and lathered up with his favorite vanilla-almond soap to get rid of the scent memory of hand sanitizer and sterilization among sickness, but his mind kept wandering back to what had happened, especially with the slight pain of the water and soap on his wrists and neck. They were mostly healed from being collared and chained with wolfsbane-smeared silver, but the key word was “mostly.” The doctor had said it’d probably be about a week before he fully recovered, just because his body had gotten such a shock.
Still, he would have gladly taken more injuries. It had been hunters, kidnapping him and Aria, the little girl he had been babysitting, along with Aria’s neighbor Eric. They had taken the time to play with him a little, instead of immediately moving Aria somewhere else, which had given Aria’s dad enough time to track them down, subdue the kidnappers, and get help.
Tommy only had the blurriest of memories of the rescue. He knew Leon, Aria’s dad, had been there. But he also remembered someone else. Someone who had gotten him free, had let Tommy cling to them until an ambulance had arrived. Who Tommy was almost certain had been in the hospital with him at least once, for all that Tommy’s sense of smell had been dulled by the drugs in his system.
He shook his head and tried to return to reality. Best thing to do would be to put this newest traumatic event in a box and shove it down deep with with all the others. He didn’t have the time or desire to deal with that kind of negativity. Move past it and keep going with your life.
The alternative was dealing with what had happened. Tommy had built a life around doing exactly the opposite of that, and things were working out pretty well for him, random psychopath hunters aside.
Tommy gritted his teeth and turned off the water. Grabbed a towel and dried himself off, maybe going a little harder at the skin around his neck to use the pain to ground him some. Aria was safe and okay. Leon had even brought her and her brother Griffin to the hospital to visit him. They’d given him get well soon cards. That had been nice.
He went ahead and pulled on his softest, comfiest pajama bottoms and one of the washed-and-worn Ts he liked to sleep in instead of getting properly dressed again. It was already afternoon anyway; he pretty much planned to call the rest of the day a wash, hole up inside his apartment, and catch up on cartoons. If he showed up at Melody’s house tomorrow night behind on the latest episode of Princess Pony Pals… Best case scenario she’d just insist they watch it together. Worst case scenario and she’d have a melt down when he failed to summarize the episode for her, followed by the need to spend the next hour rocking. And while there was absolutely nothing wrong with a kid needing to stim, Tommy greatly preferred when the prelude to said stimming wasn’t uncontrollable hysterics.
The get well soon cards Tommy hung up on one of his bulletin boards. He had three huge ones that he’d made himself, one lining his little entryway, and two more in his living room. They were all full of pictures, notes, and cards that he’d collected over the years of babysitting and nannying. Every so often he went through them, taking down older stuff to make room, but even with regular culling (which mostly consisted of filling folders and stacking them in his bookcase) there hadn’t been more than a few empty spaces in almost five years. Ever since…
Tommy scowled. He usually didn’t think about this kind of stuff anymore. It had to be the hospital visit, still so fresh in his mind. It was making him reminisce.
“Stop it,” he muttered, clenching and then unclenching his hands. “Moving on. Other things to think about. Come on.” Food. He should probably eat. And then cartoons. Or…maybe he should do his laundry. Washing his clothes would help get rid of the last lingering hospital scent. Yes. Plan.
He got as far as the laundry room of his building, dumping his clothes into the washing machine, when he had to stop and blink down at a shirt. It was the one he’d been wearing when he’d gotten home. It had been folded up with his jeans so he’d just thrown it on when it had finally been time to change out of his hospital gown and go home. He hadn’t even thought to noticed that it, well, wasn’t covered in blood. And was also definitely not a shirt he owned.
He was pretty sure he’d remember a dark green shirt at least a size too big for him with the words Graduate and Est. 1906 on the back, along with some crest he didn’t recognize. Tommy’d never even graduated high school. He’d gotten his GED at nineteen after…
Where had this graduate shirt come from? And what had happened to his shirt? Not that he cared too much about the latter. It probably stunk of blood and wolfsbane and would have been good for nothing but the garbage heap anyway, but still.
Tommy growled and shoved the shirt into the machine. It didn’t matter. Whatever it was, it really didn’t matter. Lost a shirt, gained a shirt. Big deal.
He went back to his apartment, made himself a sandwich, and settled down at his desk to pull up Princess Pony Pals on his computer. He sat for Melody every other Saturday evening, which meant he had an hour’s worth of cartoons to watch to prepare. And then he should probably play more Ghoul Fighters. He was sitting for Connor this upcoming Sunday, and Connor was allowed forty-five minutes of video games a day. Ghoul Fighters was the current favorite, and Tommy had never been all that good at shooters. But it was important to Connor that Tommy play with him and make at least some kind of showing, so Tommy just practiced as best he could.
Once he was sick of Ghoul Fighters, he curled up with his planner and his phone and went through the rest of his upcoming schedule. For about the millionth time since he’d woken up in the hospital, he thanked his lucky stars for the hunters being so certain he wouldn’t be getting away that they didn’t bother trashing his stuff. He’d come to with his phone still safely in his pocket, and the battery not even too low to be useful. Leon had brought Tommy his backpack when he’d visited in the hospital and Tommy kept a charger in there, so he hadn’t been completely cut off from the world over the last two days.
It had also given him the chance to frantically text Ellie’s mother and apologize for having not freaking shown up for work that morning. At least she had been understanding. Then again, Tommy had been nannying for her for the last eleven months, since Ellie was only a year old, and he’d never no-showed before.
So. It was Friday afternoon, but he hadn’t had Ellie today. Melody tomorrow from six til whenever. Connor on Sunday from two to seven. Off Monday unless he got a last-minute request, Ellie Tuesday and Wednesday, off Thursday, Ellie Friday.
For sanity’s sake, he tried to only have one “full-time” regular nannying job at once, and filled in the gaps with other less permanent positions. Ellie was his current regular, and he watched her Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from eight to four. Melody he saw twice a month on Saturdays, Connor usually one or twice a month, always on the weekend. And then Jillian and Noah’s parents called on him a lot too. Thursday was his designated off day, though he made exceptions when Leon asked him to watch Griffin and Aria.
Aria had been his last full-time job, Tommy having watched her four days a week for an entire school year, and then both Aria and Griffin in the summer when Griffin got out of camp. Leon had stopped needing him regularly after the summer was over; Aria had been three for a couple months, and thus able to start preschool. But Leon still had him as a go-to sitter and Tommy was always going to make time for kids who had bonded with him. Besides, he loved being able to watch them grow up. Gabe Nelson had been ten when Tommy had first started taking on babysitting and nannying work. Now Gabe was fifteen and, well, the first time he’d reached out to invite Tommy to his football game, Tommy might’ve gotten a little choked up. Though it was definitely weird to fully realize that Gabe, at fifteen and five-eight, was taller than twenty-three year old Tommy by a good two inches.
All in all Tommy’s life was pretty full, and he liked it that way. The busier he was, the better.