Boarlander Beast Boar (Boarlander Bears Book 4)(9)

By: T. S. Joyce


“Mason?”

“Hmm?”

“Did you hear me?”

“Uuuuh, yes. But just for fun, can you repeat whatever you just said?”

“I asked if you thought the boys would be okay with opening discussion boards on their bangaboarlander pages?”

“Beck, if you saw the kind of messages that come through there, you wouldn’t ask that. All you would get is sex talk.”

“Right.” She clicked her pen and frowned down at a massive to-do list. She hesitated, her pen hovering over a bullet point. “No, you’re right. That wouldn’t be helpful.” The long scratch of her marking it out filled the car.

He was actually flattered that she was asking his advice. He didn’t know shit about public relations, but he liked how familiar she was with him when she talked. A wave of chagrin took him. She was a publicist and used to managing people. It was part of her job to be familiar with him.

Mason pulled under the Boarland Mobile Park sign and slowed on the nice, new, pot-hole-free white gravel road. Whoa. He leaned forward and squinted at the park. He hadn’t been here in a month, and a lot had changed since then. The yards all boasted bright green sod and were freshly mowed, and someone had disposed of the pile of tractor parts and old car frames one of the old Boarlanders used to work on before Clinton had chased him off. The trailers had new roofs, fresh paint, and each yard had professional looking landscaping. All except Clinton’s, where he had somehow burned the words FUCK THE NEW RULES across his front weed-riddled lawn. That was about right. He huffed a surprised chuckle. A part of him had missed Clinton, though he wouldn’t ever admit that out loud. Clinton was a canker sore—always had been, always would be.

Even the chairs around the new bricked-in fire pit in front of 1010 at the end of the road were shiny, new, and in an array of neon colors.

“I expected something way different,” Beck murmured, her eyes round as she gawked at the pristine park.

“Me too,” he admitted. A slash of pain ached in his chest—he’d missed the last of the Boarlanders’ transformation. He would miss everything. He needed to drop Beck off quick and get out of here before he started spiraling again. This wasn’t his place. He worked for Damon and had his old room up in the dragon’s cliff mansion.

Mason had no business aching for places that weren’t home.

He puffed air out of his cheeks when Harrison came out of the first trailer on the right, followed by his tiger shifter mate, Audrey. Like a coward, Mason wanted to run. Wanted to drop Beck off right here because emotions hurt. He’d felt almost normal here once, but now his animal was reacting to everything, and he couldn’t be the one who dragged the Boarlanders through the mud with him. Not after they’d improved this much.

He let off a shaky, steadying breath, and beside him, Beck cast him a worried glance before she stunned him to stillness by placing her hand over his thigh. He came to a stop in front of the fire pit and fought the urge to pull away from her. This time, she didn’t burn him with her fingertips. This time it was just warm. Comfortable. But still, he didn’t deserve the touch. Couldn’t handle it. He wasn’t like the others. Slowly, he eased his leg away from her and did his best not to flinch at the ache in his middle from the hurt in her eyes.

“Look,” he said in a hoarse voice. “You seem like the affectionate kind. Soft-hearted. But that isn’t for me.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but he held up his hand to cut her off. He couldn’t hear it right now. Not when being back in the trailer park for the first time in all these weeks felt so overwhelming. Not when he was doing his best not to Change and show her what a monster he was. Not when it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest and everything was too bright.

Not when he still had to face the crew he’d abandoned.

* * * *

Beck sat there shocked as Mason fled his truck. She winced when he slammed the door. Her hand tingled again, so she rubbed it. What did that sensation even mean? She’d never felt it before, and now the man who was drawing her animal up couldn’t wait to get away from her. No, she wasn’t the human he thought she was. She just didn’t have the kind of animal that smelled like fur, and she had fierce control over her eye color. A product of her upbringing. A product of hiding—from everyone.

Why was her animal screaming out possessively for a man who wasn’t her match? His edges, as it was turning out, were too rough, too jagged. Painful, like serrated sheet metal, keeping her at a distance, and it had only been one day. Mason felt big, and terrifying, and he couldn’t even bear her touch.