There’s a killer on the loose in New York City, and it’s up to shifter agents Akoni Kekoa and Naoko Gima to solve the case. The body count is rising and the pressure is on as the Bureau of Paranormal Affairs demands resolution.
Now is definitely not the time for personal issues to arise, but when they find their mate living out of a box in an alley, they can’t turn their backs on him. Slater is wary, and they can’t blame him — but with some luck they’ll not only win their human mate’s heart, but stop a rogue shifter before he kills again.
Little do they realize their present and their mate’s past would collide so violently. When they take Slater into their home, they never dream it will lead the killer right to their door.
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Copyright ©2017 Dulce Dennison
“I don’t like this case,” Naoko said. “Something doesn’t feel right about it.”
“Yeah, it’s leaving an icy chill down my spine. We’ve solved plenty of murders, but this time it’s different. I don’t like that it’s a rogue. He could tear apart the country before he’s caught. This asshole is methodical. The way the crime is devoid of any evidence that could give us a lead suggests that he’s either cleaning up after himself or he’s careful not to leave any clues to begin with. You almost have to wonder if he plans the murders before the sex even happens.”
“Think we’ll have any better luck than the previous agents?” Naoko asked.
“At this point, I’m thinking no. Not unless the M.E. finds something new, or another murder happens and he leaves more evidence. Each crime scene is too damn clean except for his smell and DNA, neither of which do us much good. Can you imagine trying to track a scent in this city? Fuck, most days it smells so bad I wish my nose didn’t work.”
Naoko nodded. “Tokyo is much the same. Too many people.”
Akoni pulled into a parking space on the corner a block down from their favorite cafe — a minor miracle. If driving in New York was a nightmare, parking was usually even worse. If the city weren’t so damn big, he’d just walk everywhere. Being a shifter, it wasn’t like he couldn’t handle a bit of walking.
He locked the car and they pushed through the crowd on the sidewalk. It was impossible to walk in the city without being shoulder to shoulder with a stranger. He’d often questioned his sanity in moving to such a place, and sometimes thought about going back home. Then another case would land on his desk and he’d remember his skills were put to better use here.
The cafe was crowded when they stepped inside and they had to wait twenty minutes before a table was ready for them.
Akoni didn’t even look at the menu since he ordered the same thing every time they ate here. Naoko perused the selection before setting his menu aside.
“You’re getting the Reuben, aren’t you?” he asked Naoko.
“Then why look at the menu?”
“They might have added something new,” Naoko said. “Besides, something else might have looked good today.”
Akoni snorted. “Face it. You’re like me and eat the same damn thing every time we come here. The regular wait staff even knows our order by heart.”
Naoko smiled. “Are you saying we’re getting too predictable? Maybe we should order something else, just to throw them off.”
Akoni chuckled. “No thanks. My stomach is settled on having a club on rye with broccoli cheese soup.”
Their favorite waitress made her way over to their table. “Morning, agents. Same as usual?”
“Morning, Bethany,” Akoni said. “Yeah, we want the usual. Can I get an extra pickle though?”
“You bet.” She smiled. “Just water for both of you, or can I tempt you with some soda or tea?”
“Water for me,” Akoni said.
“I think I’ll actually have a lemonade today,” Naoko said. “Something tart would hit the spot.”
Bethany scribbled down their order and headed for the kitchen.
Akoni yawned and cracked his neck.
“I told you last night to let me take care of that for you,” Naoko said.
“It’s just stress.”
Naoko snorted. “If it was just stress, you would be fine right now. We spent a good hour relieving stress as I recall.”
“No arguments tonight. I’m rubbing your neck and putting some Icy Hot on it before bed. You probably need a chiropractor. I bet you’re out of alignment.”
“That shit stinks.”
Naoko growled softly at him. “You will take care of yourself or allow me to do it. The last thing we need is to have you out of commission because you were too damn stubborn to see a doctor or get a little TLC.”
“I had plenty of TLC last night.”
Naoko’s lips twitched. “I meant of a non-intimate nature. Although, I’m happy to offer that kind any time you’d like. There’s a perfectly good bathroom down the hall right now.”
Akoni’s eyebrows went up. “Are you suggesting that we play while on the job? Shame on you. First time we’re caught fooling around, while we’re on the clock, they’ll assign us different partners. It would be different if one of us was having a heat cycle, but last time I checked, it’s not the right time of year for either of us.”
Naoko sighed. “Fine. Take the fun out of my day.”
Their food arrived and Akoni attacked his with gusto. His stomach was growling so loudly he was surprised they hadn’t thought a bear was loose in the restaurant. Naoko regarded him with some humor as he took small bites of his sandwich in a more leisurely manner. Akoni swore his mate could be starving to death and his manners would still win out. It both fascinated and confounded him.
Naoko wiped his mouth with his napkin, but Akoni didn’t see the point. It wasn’t like food would dare leave his mate’s face a mess. He could even eat spaghetti without a speck of sauce landing on his chin or his clothes. Akoni, on the other hand, practically needed a drop cloth to eat the stuff. His mate had often compared his eating habits to that of a cub still learning to feed himself. Instead of being offended, he’d laughed it off. He was a messy eater and knew it.
They finished their meal and left enough money on the table to cover the bill and a tip. Pushing back from the table, Akoni made his way to the restroom to clean up. He splashed cool water on his face and washed his hands. A noise caught his attention and he pricked his ears. It sounded like shuffling on the other side of the wall, the wall that faced the back alley. Probably just a vagrant or a bunch of rats, but it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.
Naoko was waiting for him by the front door, and as they stepped outside, he motioned for his mate to follow him around the corner. Despite the sun shining brightly, the alley was dim. The narrow strip of concrete between the cafÈ and the building next door smelled like rotten garbage and human refuse. His nose wrinkled as they advanced down the alley.
Movement caught his eye as someone ducked into a large cardboard box. It wasn’t uncommon to find homeless people living in alleys in New York, but there was something about the situation that felt different. The shuffling sound reached his ears again and he realized it was the person in the box. Stopping in front of it, he tapped on the top. “Bureau of Paranormal Affairs. Please step out of the box.”
There was more shuffling and then a head of auburn hair appeared. When the man stood, he was nearly as tall as Akoni, but not quite as broad. Blue eyes stared at him defiantly. The man had dirt smeared on his skin and his unwashed smell filled the air.
“You have no jurisdiction over me,” the man said.
Akoni sniffed at him. “Human.”
The auburn haired man nodded. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Akoni’s brow furrowed and he leaned in again, getting a better sniff, trying to go past the smell of unwashed body, trash, and urine. With a soft growl, he felt his wolf rise inside of him. Naoko placed a hand on his arm.
“Easy,” his mate said.
“Mate,” Akoni said, his voice a near growl.
Naoko looked at him in surprise, then leaned in to sniff the human. Surprise registered on his face and Akoni knew he smelled it too. Whoever this human was, he belonged with them. He just wasn’t sure how to get the human to come with them. It wasn’t safe for him to remain on the streets, not with a rogue shifter on the loose.
“What do you mean by mate?” the human asked. There was distrust and uncertainty in his eyes.
“What my not so eloquent partner and mate is trying to say is that you belong with us. You’re our mate,” Naoko said.
The human snorted. “Yeah, sure I am. Next thing you’ll tell me is that you’ll take care of me as long as I’m willing to perform sexual favors.”
Akoni rumbled again, his fangs lengthening. “Someone propositioned you?”
“At least once a day,” the human said.
The defiant stance told Akoni that he expected the same of them. The wolf didn’t know how to get the human to trust them, but if they could just get him home, then maybe he would see they only wanted to take care of him.