Boarlander Beast Boar (Boarlander Bears Book 4)(2)

By: T. S. Joyce

“Bash misses you,” Harrison murmured from right beside him. “The girls, too. And me and Kirk. Hell, the trailer park isn’t the same without you. It feels…empty.”

Mason knew all about feeling empty. He’d just been really good at hiding that until recently.

“You moved out a month ago, and you haven’t visited once,” Harrison said. “And I hear things.”

“What things?”

“How you are in the woods. Diem and Clara are worried, and the dragon doesn’t say so, but I can see the worry in his eyes when I ask how you’re doing. You aren’t yourself.”

Mason swiped the collar of his cotton shirt over his face for a quick dry and then stood and squared up to Harrison. “Yeah? And who am I?”

Harrison shook his head and shrugged. “I thought I knew. You were good with us, man. You were okay.”

“Yeah,” he rasped out, because for a while with the Boarlanders, he’d felt okay. He’d had purpose, and that was a big deal to a man like him. But logging season had ended, and now he was back to where he had been before, living in mountains where he didn’t belong, where he floated on the outskirts like a ghost, never really a part of anything. “I’ll come by. I’ll see Bash and the girls, just…maybe give me some time.” Because they couldn’t see him like this. He was midway down one hellish spiral, and he hadn’t hit rock bottom yet. He’d be damned if he dragged any of them down with him.

“All right, man,” Harrison said, “I’ll see you soon.” He looked like Bash right now, his face all shadowed with sadness, and Mason ducked his gaze. He had to. He was carrying enough weight right now without feeling guilty over disappointing Harrison, too.

As Mason watched him walk out of the alley, he wished he was different. He wished his animal would settle. Wished he could be like Kirk and Bash, or hell, even Clinton. Wished he could choose a crew and allow himself to be a part of something bigger than himself. He wished he could be a Boarlander under Harrison, but his animal didn’t attach to people like he should. He hadn’t since Esmerelda.

Mason’s pocket vibrated, and he gritted his teeth against the urge to pull his cell phone out and toss it into the puddle. He knew who it was before he even looked at the caller ID.

“Please tell me you didn’t just send me to town to pick up a package that doesn’t exist,” Mason ground out as a greeting.

“There is a package, just not at the post office,” Damon said coolly.

“Spare me your riddles. What am I doing in Saratoga?”

“You need something I can’t give you,” the dragon-shifter said.

Mason snorted and leaned back against the gray brick of the alley wall. “You gave me a job, and friendship when I didn’t deserve it. What else do I need?”

“Remember when you saw me struggling and decided it was time for me to breed a new female? You reminded me that I’m happiest when I’m raising offspring and caring for a woman, but that’s not what you brought me when you paid for Clara to meet me. You weren’t looking for a breeder. You found me a mate instead.”

Mason narrowed his eyes suspiciously down the alleyway where Harrison had disappeared and pushed off the wall. “What did you do?”

“I have a new job for you.”

“Well, if breeding a woman is what you have in mind for me, you and I both know I have a zero percent chance of succeeding at that.”

“So they told you.”

“No, so I know. I’m not having this argument again. What job?”

“A driving job.”

Mason inhaled deeply and made his way around a muddy bog and out onto the sidewalk of the main drag in Saratoga. “I’ll be up there as soon as I can.”

“No, Mason. It’s not for me. I’ve hired a publicist to improve our public relations. We need it with the shifter rights vote approaching. You’ll be her driver.”

“Her.” Mason pulled his sunglasses from where he’d hooked them on the back of his shirt collar before the fight. Huh. He couldn’t believe they were still in one piece. Holding the phone between his ear and shoulder, he wiped a smear of red off the aviator lens and stepped out of the way of a stressed-out mother and two kids arguing over a plastic pony.

“Rebecca Edwards is waiting in front of that new Thai food restaurant for you to pick her up. Do try to be professional. You’ve let it slip lately.” Damon had said it with an edge that made Mason shake his head and want to spit. Damon didn’t even know how much Mason kept hidden. When he’d driven Damon around, he’d been about a million times more professional than he felt like being.