by Jade Buchanan
eBook ISBN: 06184-01986
Darren is looking for his brother and ends up finding something a little more alien. Durai has come to claim his mate. He won’t let anything get in his way. Not even Darren.
The Pridelands collection contains the previously released novellas Darren’s Surprise, Zula’s Stand, Sheer’s Choice, Griffin’s Joy, Khalid’s Challenge, and Achan’s Peace.
His pen traced madly along the wall, frantically putting down the images in his mind. He’d long since run out of paper.
He blinked, the shapes becoming out of focus. He couldn’t quite see what he was drawing, but it didn’t really matter. He could draw these in his sleep. The images were pouring out of him.
It’d been years since he’d gotten this kind of inspiration.
Darren wasn’t about to lose it — wherever it had come from. He hadn’t slept since yesterday, but he couldn’t seem to stop long enough to even think about slowing down. Every time he drew back to take a break, he was bombarded with another image.
Slowly, meticulously, he filled the walls with caricatures, roughly penned figures. He just hoped he didn’t run out of ink before he ran out of ideas.
He took time to eat briefly, then to answer the call of nature. If he’d had more time to spare, he would have cursed the interruptions.
Music played softly in the background, just at the edge of his awareness, the same fourteen tracks over and over again. He couldn’t be bothered to change the music, it was irrelevant anyway. It was the figures that filled his mind.
His arm lifted again and again, Darren couldn’t keep up with the flickering pictures. They were changing too fast for him to keep up. He whimpered in frustration.
Colors passed behind his eyelids, but he had to make do with the blue ink at his disposal. Of all the times to forget his colored inks…
He was just glad he was alone for this. He’d left his father in Calgary, despondent over Aaron’s disappearance. Best not to think about that. He’d come here for answers, but they would have to wait.
He had to draw the figures.
* * *
Darren wiggled, testing the strength in the arms holding him down. Turning his head, he made room for the long, swiping tongue that was attacking the side of his neck. God, that felt good.
“I want you panting for me, begging me before this is over.” The voice was low and rough, spoken beside his ear.
Curling his toes, Darren sighed. His head fell back, his eyes closing lazily. Something brushed his side, a hint of fur. It was soft, triggering his nerve endings and causing him to shiver in delight.
The other man chuckled, sliding his palms down Darren’s sides, caressing the sensitive skin on his belly. He shifted until his head was level with Darren’s hips, then he nuzzled the skin his hands had just stroked. A rumbling, sawing noise filled the room, almost like a giant cat was lazing somewhere nearby.
Darren paused when fur brushed his stomach instead of the smooth skin he’d been anticipating. What was going on here?
“Do you want this?” the voice murmured.
He was about to speak when a warm, velvety hand clasped his cock, squeezing in time to his rapid pulse. Darren arched his back, crying out.
“Is this what you want?”
Whimpering, Darren opened his eyes, trying to catch a glimpse of the other man. It was completely dark in the room, he couldn’t see anything. The man holding his shaft started to glide up and down, pressing his thumb against Darren’s slit. Stars burst in front of his eyes, almost enough to have Darren losing it completely. That was close.
“Yes, baby, I think that is what you want. Come for me, I want to hear it.”
Darren cried out, his body jerking with every long pull of his cock. The other man played him like an instrument, his every touch sure and deliberate. There were no hesitations, not even when he started to lick Darren’s stomach. His long tongue played with Darren’s navel, flicking in and out, a parody of what Darren wanted him to do to his ass.
“You’re almost there. Yes, like that.”
“Uh, oh, God, please…”
“Now, come for me now.”
Wordless pleas filled the room, Darren gasping and shuddering through his orgasm. He felt as if his very essence was leaving him, all because of this man above him. His shadow man. Darren panted, blinking in the darkness, trying to get a glimpse of his partner. Why couldn’t he see him?
“Soon, little one. Soon.”
Darren moaned, lifting his head to see that he was lying on the floor at the base of what he assumed was the couch. All he could make out was a blurry, blue-dotted monstrosity. Had to be the couch. He would never forget those giant blue flowers spread across the cream fabric. At least it used to be cream. After years of abuse by two rambunctious boys who grew up to be rambunctious men, the sofa had taken quite a beating.
“And that’s quite enough of sleepless nights for me. Where did that dream come from? Someone needs to get laid, apparently.”
Tilting his neck to get rid of the kinks, he slowly sat up, conscious of the wetness that filled the front of his pants. Frickin’ fantastic, he hadn’t done that in years. He widened his eyes, realizing that things were blurry for a reason. Where the hell were his glasses? Wait, hadn’t he put in his contacts this morning? Without a care for his dirty fingers, he removed his contacts, holding the clear discs in his palm. Blinking rapidly, he cursed himself silently. He knew better than to leave them in overnight.
He stood up, stumbling to the stairs at the back of the cabin, bumping his shins on the couch, coffee table, and side table. Christ, that smarted! The frickin’ cabin was only about four hundred square feet, so why did his dad have to fill it to the brim with furniture?
On the way up the stairs to the loft, paper crunched beneath his feet, but he couldn’t make out what was on the sheets.
CCR was playing in the background. He had a vague recollection of hearing it last night. He stopped off at his dresser to turn off the small, battery-operated stereo. Shucking his pajama pants, he cleaned himself with a shirt lying on the ground. Sure, it wasn’t the best option, but it was better than walking around with a constant reminder of his wet dream. He slid on a pair of faded jeans.
He finally made his way to his bedside table, picking up a little green bottle. Tilting his head back, he squeezed the eye drops, cursing the liquid running down his cheeks. Seriously, the damn stuff never stayed in his eyes. He lifted the thick black frames that had been beside the bottle and slid them on his face.
Stifling a yawn with the back of his hand, he surveyed the loft. A bunk bed was sidled up against the wall beside him. A single bedside table was arranged on the side closest to the stairs, nestled between the dresser and the bed. A large area rug was the only decoration in the middle of the room. Across from it, a very small double bed was set up, the covers strewn about as if a wild animal had slept there the night before.
He tensed, spying the results of his late night.
Sheets of formerly white paper littered the floor. Sketches covered the three walls. It appeared as if he’d gone on some drawing binge last night.
Picking up one piece of paper, he studied the drawing. Anthropomorphic cats sprawled along the page. A head here, a hand there, a full body just barely traced out.
The next sheet he picked up had the same theme as the first. On this one he’d focused on an ear, the pointed tip, the hint of fur shading the delicate slope. He’d drawn the ear from the front and back and every other angle he could possibly imagine.
The next sheet portrayed various tails, some rough and some more detailed. There was one covered in crescent shaped spots, and another that had a hint of stripes.
Every sheet he picked up had the same theme. He’d even used up several sheets just drawing eyes. The corners tilted up in amusement, narrowed with heat, wide with surprise.
Turning his attention to the walls, he realized he’d gone into even more detail here. A planet was stretched above his dad’s bed, hints of trees and mountains sketched out in minute detail. Around the planet, he’d obviously started and halted several prototypes, because small shadows of round globes circled the larger shape.
He had no idea where he’d gotten this inspiration from, but he wasn’t going to complain. It was some of his best work recently. Apparently he only needed to come out to Bumfuck, Nowhere, to get plenty of material for his next project.
The bunk bed wall and the wall by the stairs were covered with various drawings, some of his past work that had been up for years. He’d done that over a decade ago. It’d been so long he barely noticed it anymore.
Darren scratched his belly, looking down at his chest covered only by the freckles he’d cursed since junior high. He was barefoot, his feet peeking out from under the worn and faded jeans. They were a size too large on him — courtesy of his rebellious teenage years when he’d been in love with a certain rapper/male model. God, that man was gorgeous. Darren sighed in remembrance. He’d jacked off on more than one occasion to pictures of the underwear model.
Hell, at least his own tighty-whiteys weren’t showing above the waistband. Come to think of it, he wasn’t wearing underwear. His pants were in danger of falling completely off, hanging precariously from his narrow hips. Darren sniffed, trying to remember when he’d last had clean clothes. The jeans he’d originally found in a forgotten cupboard set along the wall beside the stairs. He hadn’t realized he’d left clothes behind but he was grateful for it when his previous jeans just about stood up and demanded to be washed.
Making his way down the stairs into the main room of the cabin, he looked around to see what kind of trouble he’d gotten into out here. His dad was going to tear a strip off him. He was still mad about the two walls in the loft, and Darren had done that in his teens.
Directly across from him were more anthropomorphic cats, drawn up and around the front door. Hell, he’d even drawn on the back of the door itself. He was so screwed when his dad saw this.
Cats of every species… some covered in stripes, some in spots, some furry with tufts of fur along their cheeks. The majority of them resembled lions, though, sleek and beautiful cats. With one single big cat front and center dwarfing the others.
Make that cat men, since every one of them was anatomically correct, especially the large lion creature in the center of the wall. He blinked, impressed despite himself. He’d definitely been more than generous when he’d been shading in the cats’ nether regions. Good on him, it’d obviously been way too long since he’d been laid.
No way would he get away with that in a movie. Lordy, he still considered himself lucky every time he got a job on another film. The last thing he needed was for some bigwig to see this display and he’d be laughed out of Hollywood for being a perv.
Not that there weren’t a fair share of pervs in Hollywood, but he prided himself on being above the rest of the riffraff.
He turned to view the wall to his left, behind the ragged couch. The two windows interrupted the mural, but it was still impressive.
A massive warship sat high within a galaxy of stars. He’d paid special attention to each constellation, meticulously drawing every tiny detail.
This was by far his best work.
The warship was shaded intricately with blue ink, each hatch set apart from the sleek lines of the ship. What appeared to be weapons stood out from the simple style of the rest of the craft, bulging along the sides and at the front. The entire top of the ship was open, the hint of glass reflecting back at him. Shapes were present behind the glass, but he couldn’t quite make them out.
“Not bad,” he murmured. “A race of alien beings inhabiting a large planet. A ship carrying space explorers from Earth crash lands. Suddenly the cat-like aliens take the humans prisoner, binding them and using them as slaves.”
He snorted, laughing at himself.
“Yeah, sounds familiar. Planet of the Apes, anyone? Strike one for Darren. Although it wouldn’t be too bad to be used as a sex slave by some of these big guys. Talk about wishful thinking.”
Pacing to the kitchen tucked in on the opposite wall, he searched for something else to eat or drink, finally grabbing a can of soup from the cupboard.
“Breakfast of champions. Who doesn’t want to eat mushroom soup for breakfast?” It was completely gross, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. There was absolutely nothing edible in the place.
Mike was supposed to come up soon to bring him his groceries — looked like it couldn’t happen a minute too soon. He might just kiss the man square on the lips if it meant he could eat something other than soup.
Upending the can into a saucepan, Darren placed it on top of the wood stove. Checking the wood, he decided the stove could probably use another log. He paced around the room waiting for his soup to heat up.
“Okay, no alien race. What about an urban fantasy type of society? One where cats evolved instead of monkeys? Would it still be urban fantasy if it wasn’t about humans?”
Darren scratched his belly again while he pondered the question.
“Okay, no urban fantasy. Uh, shapeshifters? Hidden on a secret island out in the Pacific. They were once joined to the mainland, but a massive earthquake separated the two land masses. A band of anthropologists stumble upon the island while they’re searching for the lost civilization of –”
Darren broke off to rescue his soup before it burned. Spooning some into a bowl, he sat down on the couch, balancing the bowl on the arm.
“Okay, too much like Atlantis for my liking. How about no humans? Hell, humans are overdone in movies anyway. Cats, cats, cats…” he murmured, lost in thought. “Oh, fuck it. I’ll think up a storyline later.”
Darren stared blankly at the coffee table in front of him. Aaron had insisted they bring it, even though the damn thing had been a major pain in the ass to haul up to this place.
The reason he was here.
Darren sighed, rubbing the aching pain in his chest. Where was his brother?
Aaron had come here two months ago, desperate for some peace and quiet. Darren hadn’t thought anything of it until he’d gotten the phone call from his dad that Aaron hadn’t come home.
Aaron had only booked a week off for vacation, so Darren just figured the poor guy had taken a longer break from the office. God knew Darren couldn’t figure out how Aaron put up with all the office crap he did. He would have gone nuts years ago.
But then again, the two brothers had always gravitated toward different things. It was what made them the best of friends. They both had their own interests, but they were always eager to share every experience they had.
Darren had never kept secrets from Aaron, and he prided himself on the fact that his younger brother had always confided in him.
Hell, Darren was the first one who ever found out Aaron was more interested in the same sex. Of course, Darren had been out for years by that time, but it was still nice that his brother had come to him.
Where the hell was Aaron now?
Darren hadn’t wasted any time to come up north as soon as his dad told him what happened. He was fully prepared to kick Aaron’s ass when he arrived, assuming that Aaron had just decided to take a few more days vacation. Didn’t explain why he wasn’t answering his satellite phone, but maybe his brother was just more tired and worn out than he’d thought.
When Darren had arrived at the cabin, it was completely empty. Well, not quite. It was full of Aaron’s stuff, the overnight bag he’d packed, the extra gear for hiking. Food filled the cupboards, freeze-dried packages that Darren had curled his lip up at.
But Aaron was nowhere to be found.
Darren had panicked, calling everyone he could think of — starting with the cops. The RCMP had come in pretty quickly since they were stationed out of Fort Nelson, and he’d filed a Missing Persons Report with them. They’d sent in a trained Search and Rescue dog team but they hadn’t found any sign of Aaron. They finally had to call the search off, but Darren couldn’t just go home for fear that one day Aaron would walk back into the cabin. The last he’d heard from the police was when they asked him to let them know immediately if he heard from Aaron. He had a feeling they meant that to reassure him, but he’d seen the looks on their faces. They all probably thought Aaron was dead.
His cousin Mike had come up immediately when he’d called him, dropping everything to be here. He’d lasted exactly a week to help out with the search before he’d gotten tired of the quiet and returned to Fort Nelson. He’d made the trip back to the cabin two weeks later, bringing Darren food and catching up on any news.
Not that there’d been any news. Hell, he’d been here without a single visitor except for Mike. He was due to come back soon. The second two week period was almost up. Darren had been here for a solid month by himself. He just wanted to know where Aaron was.
Hell, if Aaron had gone off with some boy toy while Darren was pacing the floors of this rustic cabin, he’d kill his brother. But he was seriously afraid that there was something wrong.
Anything could have happened to his brother. He could have gone hiking and lost his footing somewhere. He could even now be lying at the foot of some gully, screaming for help, but unable to move. If he’d travelled farther than the SAR team had gone, they may have missed some sign of him when they’d conducted the search. Maybe Aaron had been mistaken for a moose and shot out in the forest. Okay, maybe not a moose. Hell, a Sasquatch could have gotten him for all Darren knew. Aaron could even now be the sex slave of some giant hairy beast.
It wasn’t like Aaron to leave without letting them know he was okay. He’d never done this before. And if something had happened to him, it didn’t explain why the RCMP search team hadn’t found a single shred of evidence that he was in the area.
They may not have that twin radar, seeing as they’d been born years apart, but sometimes Darren and Aaron just knew things. Like the time Darren had gone to get his ear pierced and Aaron had felt anxious right around the time Darren was waiting for the needle to be pushed in. The earring hadn’t lasted long before Darren had removed it, but the bond he and Aaron shared wouldn’t end that simply. They had a connection, maybe it wasn’t as strong as a twin thing, but they were closer than every one of his friends were with their siblings. He didn’t know what he’d do without his brother.
Darren sighed, his soup forgotten. He lowered his head, bringing up his hands to rub his face. Aaron was okay, wherever he was, Darren just knew it.
So, where was his brother?