Figure of Speech Page 2

Oh, that couldn’t be good. Chloe tried to beat back the sudden panic that assaulted her. “He’s not taking well to becoming a shifter?” Jim had been attacked by a rogue Wolf, bitten and changed against his will. He hadn’t even been aware that shifters existed before then, and not everyone who was changed could handle it, especially when it happened in such a traumatic fashion. If Jim turned out to be one of those few who couldn’t deal with it he’d be…dealt with.

Chloe shuddered. She couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to Jim.

“I don’t know. He’s gone again.” Alex winced when Chloe accidentally let loose a distressed yip. “I don’t know what’s going on, all right? I was hoping he’d contacted you.”

Ryan patted her hand. “Now that he’s one of us he should be feeling the mating pull. The mate dreams should be hitting him hard.”

“Yeah, he should succumb to your charms soon.” Julian winked. “We just have to lock the two of you in a closet together and let nature take its course.”

Oh yeah. That would go over real well. “In the dictionary under ‘stubborn’ is Jim’s stricture.”

Again, that rapid blinking as the guys processed what she’d said.

Chloe propped her head in her hands. “This sucks monkey balls.”

Ryan ruffled her hair. “Anyone who knows you accepts that this is a part of you, kiddo.”

“Yeah, don’t let it get you down.” Julian hugged her. “Trust me, it could have been a lot worse.”

“You mean I could be dead?” Chloe groaned. Man, she sounded like a Sad Sue, and she really wasn’t. At least, not most of the time. “Sorry, it’s just…”

“We understand. You’re missing your mate.” Ryan’s tone was sympathetic. While Glory had denied their mating for months, at least Ryan had been able to see her every day. Chloe didn’t have that luxury. Jim was gone with the wind, but she’d think about that tomorrow. For now, she had to bring her spirits back up, and talking about her absent mate was no way to do that.

She’d get her Wolf if she had to tranquilize his ass and carry him off to some remote location where he wouldn’t be found for weeks. She’d tie him to a bed and have her wicked way with him…

And get arrested for felony kidnapping. Let’s face it, Chloe, you don’t have the best luck with men.

Ugh. Chloe pounded her head on the table.

“Don’t let it get you down.” Alex’s big hand stopped her from giving her forehead a huge-ass bruise. “We’ll figure out a way to get you mated off.”

She lifted her head and stared at him. “You’re going to offer Jim some goats and a sheaf of wheat?”

“I was thinking you’re worth at least a cow or two, but it’s negotiable.”

Chloe giggled. “Asshole.”

The boys dog-piled on her, careful not to hurt her, and tickled her until she cried uncle.

Once the big lugs got off of her she sat up and pushed her hair off her forehead. Breathless and happy, she gasped, “I hate you all.”

Alex winked. “Anyone know where I can get some cows?”

James Woods sighed as he hung up the phone. God, this sucked big time, but what else was he going to do? There was no one else who could deal with the issues he faced, no one who cared enough to bother with the fucking paperwork, the long hours, the flights back and forth, or the horrendous expense, both financially and physically. He was exhausted, run ragged, and the little sleep he got at night was littered with dreams of a damaged redhead far too young and vulnerable for him. She did not need his shit piled on top of her own. When things had been taken care of, when they finally knew what they were dealing with, then he’d give in to the mating pull.

He was not making her deal with his bullshit.

He.

Was.

Not.

He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his hand over his forehead as the creature inside him howled with longing. The headache that had become his constant companion wouldn’t go away. The Wolf whimpered, wanting out in the worst possible way.

The Wolf wanted its mate, wanted her touch, her comfort, and it couldn’t have it.

“Not now,” Jim muttered, hoping to soothe it.

It grumbled, but quieted down. It knew the truth of what Jim was going through, and the support and love it gave him had made everything more bearable. When he felt at his most alone and he just couldn’t bear it any longer, the Wolf was there, reminding him that he would never be alone again.

His life was completely fucked up, but the Wolf was one of the bright spots.

A nurse in blue scrubs stuck her head out the door. “Dr. Woods, Mr. Strickland?”

Jim stood, putting down the magazine he’d been halfheartedly leafing through. “Yes?”

The nurse smiled. “Dr. Abbot will see you now.”

Jim nodded and turned to Spencer. “Ready?”

Spencer blew out a breath. “As I’ll ever be.” The cheeky grin and blond hair reminded Jim of his father, but the golden brown eyes came straight from Spencer’s mother. Jim pretended he didn’t see how that grin shook, or the way Spencer clutched at the wheels of his chair. “I mean, it’s not like it’s life or death, right?”

“Right.” Jim rolled his eyes, smiling as his little brother laughed.

Jim had nothing to laugh about. They would finally find out, after numerous tests and multiple diagnoses that turned out to be wrong, exactly what was going on with his half brother.

The nurse held the door open as Spencer wheeled himself past with a jaunty wave. His brother couldn’t walk any longer, but he made the most out of his situation. Spencer rarely let himself get down, facing his difficulties with a smile.

Jim wasn’t quite so optimistic.

The last diagnosis Spencer had gotten was ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was a debilitating and, in most cases, ultimately fatal neurological disorder that affected voluntary muscle movements like speaking, walking and swallowing. ALS eventually affected the ability to breathe, causing respiratory failure and death.

There was no known cure.

If it was confirmed by Dr. Abbot that Spencer had ALS, his prognosis was not good. Most patients died within five years of onset, and Spencer had been ill for three of them. Dr. Abbot had finally agreed to see them after numerous phone calls from Jim and Spencer both.

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