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by Ally Blue
Description: Revenge can't heal a wounded soul. When Leon Fisher finds his lover butchered in their bed, he does what any good assassin would do--he gets revenge. But killing the murderer doesn't make the pain go away. Instead, it sends him on a vicious downward spiral into alcoholism and depression. In a bid to force Leon to sober up and regain his edge, his mysterious employers--known only as "the organization"--send him to a private property in the wilds of Alaska. In the lush and remote Tongass National Forest, Leon encounters Grim, a strange but alluring young man who saves Leon's life after a bear attack, then brings him to a cabin in the depths of the woods to recover. Leon doesn't expect to fall in love with this odd, subservient person, yet he can't deny what he comes to feel for Grim. But Grim has a past he doesn't talk about. A past just as dark and ugly as Leon's. And both pasts are about to catch up with them. Warning, this title contains the following: explicit male/male sex, graphic language, intense violence, drug and alcohol use, and references to past abusive situations.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
28 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [308 KB]
Reading time: 186-260 min.
Leon opened his eyes, and was surprised to discover that he no longer lay half in and half out of the water. He'd somehow moved up under the trees, and was now curled under a crude shelter of lashed-together branches and green leaves. The river flowed a few yards away. His clothes--boots and socks included--had been removed, and a thick, coarse blanket tucked around him. A campfire ringed with river stones crackled nearby, giving off a wonderful warmth.
He pushed to a sitting position, hissing at the pain in his torn shoulder. A wave of dizziness hit him. His stomach rolled. He shut his eyes and waited for it to pass.
Opening his eyes again, he frowned at the makeshift shelter. He could buy that he'd dragged himself out of the water without remembering it. He could even believe he'd undressed in his semiconscious state. But there was no way he'd built himself a shelter and made a fire, and he sure as hell couldn't conjure blankets out of thin air. Which could only mean one thing.
Someone else had done all of that. And Leon was willing to bet his left nut he knew who it was.
Keeping a sharp eye on the stretch of woods and riverbank visible from his shelter, he groped around him for anything which could be used as a weapon. All the available evidence indicated that his mysterious benefactor had his best interests at heart, but Leon wasn't taking any chances. His fingers closed over a broken stick with one end sheared into a point. He pulled it close to himself, holding it like he would a switchblade. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.
Feeling more secure now that he was armed--sort of--Leon leaned over to look out of the shelter. To the left, the rapids pounded in a constant roar, though they were far enough away that the sound was no longer deafening. To the right, the widening river flowed away through the forest. The land rose steeply on the far side, but the slope seemed gentler on the side Leon now occupied. Overhead, a single white cloud floated by. It seemed the weather had cleared, though the sharp, damp chill in the air spoke of more rain to come.
The sun had dipped low in the sky, meaning he must've been out for hours. Despite the stranger's apparent good intentions, it made Leon's skin crawl to know he'd been completely at the mercy of someone he knew nothing about.
Speaking of which, Leon saw no sign of his rescuer anywhere. Surely he didn't intend to leave Leon here alone, with night coming on?
And just when have you ever been afraid of being alone, jackass? Fucking deal with it.
Obviously, he couldn't get back to the house tonight, and he'd lost his radio and compass in the rapids. He'd have to spend the night here. A fire and shelter, he had. If he could locate his clothes, he could find some food. He could wait until first light, then set off for the house. The position of the setting sun told him the river flowed almost due west. All he had to do was follow it out of the forest, find a place to cross, and walk south along the tree line. Simple. They'd probably be looking for him, but he wasn't about to trust them to find him. Marie and her crew, Leon was convinced, couldn't find their collective ass with both hands.
Leon kicked off the blanket and bent his right leg up, trying to get a look at the damage. He wasn't surprised to see a bloodstained shirt wrapped around his calf, the sleeves tied in a tight knot to hold it on. The muscle throbbed with the slightest movement, but seemed to work okay. With any luck, it would hold his weight well enough for him to walk.
Clutching his stick, Leon crawled out from under the shelter. His body felt bruised all over, and his injured shoulder protested loudly. Gritting his teeth, he hauled himself to his feet.
He stepped gingerly on his right foot. Agony shot up his leg, hot and blinding. His foot came back up, he lost his balance and went tumbling to the ground.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he chanted, rocking in place with the force of the pain. "Jesus fucking fuck, goddammit!"
"The muscle's torn," said an unfamiliar voice. "You shouldn't try to walk on it yet."
Leon was up and turning toward the voice before he consciously realized it, his makeshift weapon held out in front of him. He dropped into a defensive stance out of habit, and promptly fell over again when his injured leg gave way.
Stop it. He's not your enemy. Yet. And you're in no position to be making enemies right now.
Forcing himself to remain still, Leon sat up and took a good look at the person who he assumed had rescued him from the river.
The man--more a boy, really--couldn't be more than eighteen, and wasn't anything close to the big, brawny specimen Leon had expected. He was tall, probably taller than Leon, but so thin it was amazing he'd been able to drag Leon from the water. He seemed to be all arms, legs and huge, wary brown eyes. A thick fur vest and a thermal shirt which had probably been white once upon a time hung from his shoulders. A chunk was missing from the bottom of the shirt, revealing a flat, pale belly bisected by a trail of dark hair. Battered jeans sagged on his thin hips and showed a fair bit of bony ankle between the frayed cuffs and the tops of his mud-caked boots. Tangled brown hair which looked like it had last been trimmed months ago with a dull knife fell in floppy chunks around a long oval face. He looked like some Hollywood director's idea of a crazed hillbilly.
Except he doesn't seem crazy. Leon studied the boy's big, long-lashed eyes and Cupid's bow mouth. And he's awfully fucking pretty.
Leon blinked, shocked at himself. He hadn't been remotely attracted to anyone since Ted. Why in the hell would he think this skinny, dirty kid was pretty? And since when did he go for the pretty boys, anyway?
"Who are you?" Leon demanded, trying with limited success to sound calm rather than threatening. "What happened to me?"
The boy's dark eyes narrowed, his gaze flitting between Leon's face and the sharp stick still clutched in his right hand. "My name's Grim. A bear attacked you. Pinned your leg with its claws. I shot it." He held up a large crossbow. "Didn't kill it, though. Just nicked its shoulder. But it ran away, so I guess that was good enough."
A crossbow. Fuck. Outgunned. Not that he'd expected anything else. It wasn't too hard to beat a sharp stick as a weapon. "Why'd you shoot it?"
If Grim thought it an odd question, he didn't let on. He shrugged. "I didn't want it to kill you."
"Oh." Hardly the cleverest answer, but Leon found himself inexplicably tongue-tied. He'd never had a perfect stranger save his life before, especially for no particular reason, and he didn't know what to say.
Grim didn't seem to notice Leon's discomfort, though if the look in his eyes was anything to go by he'd certainly noticed Leon's nudity. "Go on and get back in the shelter. I brought food and water, and stuff to clean and bandage your wounds with. Other than my shirt, I mean."
The thought of Grim touching him made Leon's insides churn with a mix of apprehension and anticipation. Blaming his uncharacteristic level of emotional reaction on trauma and blood loss, Leon did as Grim said and crawled back under the shelter. Snagging the blanket, he wrapped it around his shoulders. The dropping temperature had him shivering, and his leg hurt with a ferocious, nauseating pain. Galling as it was, he needed the help Grim offered.