Accepting His Human

By: Charlie Richards
Wolves of Stone Ridge Four

To all those who love shifters as much as I do!

Chapter One

rake Whitton strode out of the building, fighting back the urge to run. Man, those guys give me the heebie jeebies. If he D

didn’t need the grant money so bad, he would have told them no after the first meeting. But it was tough to find anyone willing to front money to a crypto zoologist, and one thought to be eccentric at that.

Maybe he should walk away. It wasn’t like he needed to do research to survive. He’d fallen back on his teaching degree last year after the critics tore apart his paper on the existence of the chupacabra. He should have known better than to publish something so controversial.

Drake rubbed a hand over his lean face, realizing he’d lost weight since taking this grant from the Crystal Lake Corporation. Their schedule for results was pretty aggressive, and Drake often found it difficult to find time, if he even remembered, to eat. And getting enough sleep at night? Forget it. He was lucky if he managed four hours.

Letting out a sigh, he lifted the key fob and pressed a button. The lights to his hatchback Ford Focus blinked, and he heard a muted click, the noise that meant he was pushing the button to unlock an already unlocked car. Odd. He felt certain he’d locked it.

Drake glanced around warily but saw nothing amiss. He was the only one in the parking lot. Rolling his shoulders, he tried to relieve the tension. He continued to sweep his gaze over the area as he climbed into his car. After putting the 1

keys in the ignition, Drake fastened his seatbelt and started the vehicle. He put the car in reverse and looked in the rear view mirror, checking for traffic that he knew wasn’t there.

His eyes widened as he focused on the gun.

“Drive,” the man lying across his tiny backseat ordered.

Drake’s jaw dropped open, and he struggled to breathe.

“Just drive and you won’t get hurt.” The rasping order of the gunman came again.

Nodding quickly, he headed out of the parking lot. “W-where do I need to take you, sir?” Drake managed to squeak out after several moments of tense silence. Yeah, that sounded so un-manly, but he was a college professor and scientist, not a courageous man.

“Grady,” his armed hitchhiker wheezed.

It was then that Drake noticed the metallic scent of blood filling the small car. Another look in the mirror showed the bruising covering the man’s face and the dark, dried blood caking his arms. His eyes widened even more. What had happened to this man? “Is your name Grady?” For a second the man just stared at him, and Drake worried he’d managed to anger him.

The man shook his head slowly and said, “Need to get to Detective Grady Stryker.”

The man’s words were slow and deliberate, as if each word was an effort. “Detective Grady Stryker?” At the man’s slow nod, Drake couldn’t stop a smile, or the nervous laugh.

That’s odd. Why would a kidnapper want to get to a cop?

Hopefully this Grady fellow wasn’t crooked. “Okay,” Drake said softly. “Just relax. I’ll find Detective Stryker for you.” His words seemed to soothe the man because he eased back onto the seat and let out a sigh. Drake worried his lip, eyeing his uninvited, and evidently severely injured, passenger. What on earth happened to him? Should I take him to my condo? If he were to find this detective, he’d need to get 2

online and do a search, and it wasn’t safe to use his phone and drive. Hopefully, this guy wouldn’t be too far away. Or maybe…

“Do you know Detective Stryker’s phone number?” His inquiry received no response. On a straight stretch of road, he took a long look in his mirror and realized the man had passed out, either from exhaustion or from his injuries, Drake didn’t know. Okay. My condo it is.

Fifteen minutes later had him driving through the gate of his secured community. He hurriedly parked his Focus in his garage and hit the button to close the garage door, locking them inside the cavernous room. If he could get the gun away from the man and then get online, maybe he could locate the detective and get some answers, or he could drive back out of the garage and to the nearest police station.

Another look in the mirror at the severely injured man had Drake opening the door and shoving his seat forward. He sucked in a breath as he got his first good look at the stranger. Short dark hair was matted with blood, and dark, square facial features were obscured by bruises, scabs, and a bushy beard. Even in sleep, the man clutched a rough, gray, military style blanket around his body. The arm he could see, the one holding the handgun, was pale, a chafing line around the wrist indicating confinement, and needle marks.