The Altered's Atonement
Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Charlie Richards
Word Count :29508
Publication Date :2022-05-20
Series : Wolves of Stone Ridge#58
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3603-2
Out of the Cage: After a thoughtless outburst reveals his secrets, an altered shifter must finally come to grips with not only his changing reality, but his sexuality, too.
When Corporal Brian Haas took in a fellow marine’s comatose younger brother in an attempt to figure out how to heal him, he never could have imagined the chain of events that it would set off. The testing his patient—Bailey Dyer—had been forcibly subjected to changed his DNA. Bailey had ended up turning into a paranormal creature called a shifter, giving him the ability to turn into a sentient cheetah at will.
Upon learning of shifters’ existence, Brian agrees to relocate to the mountains of Colorado to help his buddy and the shifters looking into those targeting them. He builds a new bunker, preparing for when the thugs of the shadow military branch come calling. Brian knows it’s just a matter of time, and he has every intention of making sure he and his new friends will be ready for them.
Brian spots a cheetah trotting into his yard. Assuming it’s Bailey, he doesn’t think anything about it…until it starts purring and rubbing up against him. This cheetah is not his ex-patient. When the man shifts, Brian finds himself face-to-face with a blond calling himself David Preston, and he seems to be just as confused by his sudden infatuation as Brian…until David calls Brian his mate.
Brian realizes his life is about to be turned upside-down all over again…if the confused altered can come to grips with his own changes.
Corporal Brian Haas rhythmically swung the axe, splitting log after log. Humming under his breath, he relished the burn in his muscles. The simple act worked just about every part of his body, from his neck to his calves. Considering he used firewood to help maintain his off-the-grid lifestyle, he did it nearly every day to keep his wood stores up.
Pausing, Brian set aside the axe and stretched his arms over his head. He twisted left and right a few times. Feeling the pop in his back, he grunted softly with pleasure.
The pops and cracks reminded Brian that he wasn’t as young as he used to be. For the most part, he didn’t feel old, but there were times when his body reminded him that he was forty-eight years old, and he’d been discharged from the military due to injury.
On a mission, Brian’s Humvee had hit an IED. His team had been fortunate, as they’d all walked away with their lives. Brian had sustained lacerations in his left thigh from flying debris. While he’d healed, his leg would never have the strength it had once had, and he’d been forced to retire before he’d planned.
As it had turned out, Brian found it a good thing. He’d grown tired of the bullshit bureaucracy that seemed to be taking over the military, not to mention the less-than-stellarly-researched assignments. That included the last one where he’d had chunks of his thigh muscle torn out of him by debris.
Yeah, Brian knew he’d become more than a little jaded. His whole damn team had been. Unfortunately, like him, most of them had at least a year and a half left to their service contract.
Then the IED.
While the rehabilitation had sucked, Brian knew it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He just felt bad that his buddy Ronan hadn’t agreed. Still, looking back, Brian figured if Ronan had still been in the service, he wouldn’t have been able to help his brother, Bailey.
With the turn of his thoughts, Brian snorted while rolling his eyes. “Bailey,” he muttered under his breath before using a flannel shirt sleeve to wipe his brow. “God damned military experiments.” Stacking a number of pieces of wood in his left arm before grasping another with his right, Brian began trudging toward the shelter where he stored his firewood. “Shifters and paranormals are real.”
Brian still had a hard time believing the rabbit hole he’d fallen down. Except, as the saying went, seeing was believing. He’d seen shifters in action.
Hell, Brian had even met a vampire.
Back and forth, back and forth, Brian stored away his chopped wood while allowing his thoughts to ruminate over the events of the last, well, over a year.
After leaving the service, Brian had kept in touch with his closest comrades—Ronan Dyer being the top one—although there were a few others. He’d been his team’s medic while in the service. Instead of pursuing that line of work, Brian had dropped out of society. He’d bought a hundred acres of secluded forestland with an old ramshackle cabin on it. After making the home just this side of livable, Brian had built a bunker and stocked supplies, using the cabin as a decoy.
After everything Brian had seen in the military, he knew the world was getting ready to implode—one way or another—and he planned to be ready for it.
Imagine Brian’s surprise when, several years into his prepping, Ronan had contacted him about his brother. His buddy had busted his younger brother out of a military-funded lab, which had been disguised as a hospital. Ronan hadn’t known how Bailey had ended up there, and his brother had been in a coma, so he hadn’t been able to tell him.
All Ronan knew was that the military was after him, wanting Bailey back badly. They’d spread lies, tarnishing Ronan’s record. Due to Brian’s medical experience and his prepper lifestyle, Ronan had asked him to keep Bailey safe while he tried to figure out what was going on.
Brian had kept Bailey safe for nearly a year—even when a couple of military stooges had arrived and questioned him about Ronan and if he knew his whereabouts. Playing the eccentric prepper mountain man, he’d easily been able to send them on their way. Then he’d passed the names on to a hacker buddy of his, but the man hadn’t been able to discover anything.
Ronan hadn’t been able to do much either, considering he could barely stay in one place for long.
Everything had changed when Ronan had set up camp in the wrong forest. He’d been discovered by a wolf shifter who ended up being what they call mates. Evidently, that was a shifter’s term for the other half of their soul.
Go figure. What are the odds?
Those wolf shifters had already dealt with people like the assholes who’d experimented on Bailey, and they were happy to help Ronan and Bailey. Their arrival had dragged Brian down the rabbit hole, too. He wasn’t too proud to admit that discovering proof there were others on the earth had overloaded him, and he’d fainted.
Proof of a theory could do that to a man.
Chuckling under his breath, Brian put away the last pieces of wood. He’d burned through a lot more than he’d thought he would need over a Colorado winter, and he knew he would need to step it up over the summer to replenish his supplies. His prior home had been in the wilds of the Ozarks in Missouri, and while they did get snow, it didn’t compare to the Colorado Rockies.
I’ll get used to it.