I’m not ready for this.
Logan’s chest tightened as he looked at the three lions around him. His breaths began to come out fast and shallow. He was feeling claustrophobic. He was feeling like the world was suffocating him.
He wiped his sweaty forehead with the only arm he had left. I can’t do this.
His alpha’s lion looked back and must have been concerned by the look on his pale face because Grant phased back into his human form.
“Are you okay, Logan?”
Logan shook his head. He was pretty far from being okay. Ever since he lost his left arm about a week ago, he had felt like the world was closing in on him.
“I know it’s hard,” Grant said as he walked over, putting a hand on his shoulder. “But you’re going to have to let your lion out eventually. It’s not healthy to keep him bottled up inside you.”
Logan swallowed hard. He was terrified to let him out. He could handle losing an arm, but what about his lion?
If he lost an arm in his human form, would his lion lose a leg as well? He was scared to phase and find out.
His inner lion had been restless all week and was constantly begging to be released, especially since Logan did nothing all day, except sleep and sit around in a depressive cloud. He kept whining to get out, but Logan had no idea how the big cat would react if he found out that his front leg was gone forever.
Logan had no idea how he would react either. What would he do if his lion was as useless as he was?
“What if—” Logan couldn’t even say the words.
Grant sighed as he gave him a look. That look.
Ever since he had lost his arm, everyone was looking at him with pity and it always cut right to his heart. He hated it.
“You’re going to have to find out eventually. A three-legged lion can still be powerful.”
Logan would have laughed if it wasn’t so goddamn unfunny. How powerful could an awkwardly limping three-legged lion be? Sloth would be able to kick his ass in a fight.
“Let him out,” Grant said softly. “It’s going to be okay.”
The two other lions of the crew, Ryder and Mack, were waiting by the base of the mountain. Logan glared at the largest one. It was Mack’s lion who had done this to him.
While they were trying to rescue Amélie’s family, a skin shifter named Caelum had tried to take over Mack’s lion and the crazy animal went berserk. As they fought for control of the cat, Mack’s lion thrashed around, violently attacking anything within reach. Unfortunately for Logan, he was within striking distance of the out of control lion. One second, he had a wolf shifter in a headlock and the next, he had the powerful jaws of Mack’s lion clamping down on his upper bicep. All he remembered after that was blinding pain as the lion who was supposed to be his friend ripped his arm right off.
Logan gritted his teeth as Mack’s lion dropped his head in shame and turned away. Mack had tried to apologize, but Logan wasn’t hearing any of it. Mack had always been a hothead. He was always letting his anger get the best of him, and now Logan was missing an arm because of it.
And it wasn’t just an arm missing from the crew now…
Bryce was also gone because of that lion.
“It wasn’t Mack’s fault.” Grant must have seen the hatred in Logan’s eyes and the tightness in his jaw as he glared at him. “If that skin shifter had managed to take him over, you might be missing more than an arm. We might all be dead.”
“Maybe I would have been better off that way.”
“Oh, come on,” Grant said, shaking his head. “You can’t believe that. People lose limbs all of the time and still go on to live meaningful lives.”
“A meaningful life?” Logan said with a huff of breath. “How the hell am I supposed to live a meaningful life? I’m supposed to be a bounty hunter and I can’t even cut my own steak. The only thing I’ve ever loved is music and I can’t play my bass anymore. I’m useless. I’m useless to the crew, I’m useless to the band, I’m just plain useless.”
Logan dropped his head, turned back to the ranch and started walking.
“Logan, wait,” Grant called out. “You’re not useless. We’re going to need you to help us find Bryce.”
They don’t need my help. All I’ll be is a burden to them. They’d be better off without me.
He continued toward his cabin, wanting nothing more than to disappear and hide inside like he’d been doing all week.
It was a cool summer morning in early September and Logan was barefoot and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts as he walked through the Montana ranch.
He stared at his feet as he walked back to his cabin until some movement caught his eye. The latest member of the Bounty Hunter crew, a panther shifter named Amélie who was now his alpha’s mate, was sitting with her mother and younger sister outside of Bryce’s old cabin.
They were watching him, but Amélie and her mother turned away when he looked over. Elodie didn’t. She locked eyes on him and gave him a warm smile.
She was a pretty girl with green eyes and wavy blonde hair like her sister, but she had a little more meat on her bones with curvy hips that would drive any shifter crazy.
Logan dropped his eyes back to the ground as he quickened his pace. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and he felt like a freakshow on display for them.
He felt her eyes on him for the rest of the way.
The delicious smell of bacon was wafting out of his cabin as he opened the door and escaped inside. Tempest was in his kitchen, cooking up a storm. Eggs, bacon, toast, and those little sausages that he adored. Unfortunately, she was also burning most of it.
“What are you doing here?” Logan asked as he slumped down on the stool at the counter.
Tempest poured him a cup of coffee and placed it in front of him. Mentally, he went to reach for it with his left hand, before he realized he no longer had one.
“I thought a nice breakfast would cheer you up,” she said as she tried to flip an egg, but ended up breaking it in two.
“Your mother was a witch, right?” he asked as he sipped his coffee.
Tempest slowly looked up at him. “Yeah.”
“Did she leave you any spells for… you know…”
She took a deep breath and shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. Even if I had a spell for you, I wouldn’t risk it. You might end up growing a chicken wing with me. I was never very good at the whole spell thing. My mother only trusted me with the wand and that only did one thing.”
“Are you pissed?” Logan asked. “That you lost it?”
Tempest let out a sigh as she turned back to the eggs. “You lost more than me,” she answered as she accidentally broke another yolk. “Dammit. I will miss it though. I’m not sure how good of a bounty hunter I’ll be without it.”
“I know what you mean. I don’t know how good I’ll be either.”
“Then maybe we should retire,” she said, turning around with a grin on her face. “We can start a new career. How about strawberry farmers?”
“I’m not sure about strawberries, but I’ll have to try something else.” He stared at the coffee in his cup. “I can’t really catch any bad guys like this and I guess I’m out of the band. Predatone is going to have to find a new bassist for their gig next week.”
It broke his heart to think about the band playing without him. He was the one who had started the all-shifter band with Jordy, Dane, and Caleb. They were a hit in the local pubs but hadn’t gone much farther than that.
“I’m sorry about that,” Tempest said as she looked at him over her shoulder. “I know how much the band and playing music means to you. Have you tried to play yet?”
Have I tried to play yet? When Logan’s stump had first healed, the first thing he did was pick up his bass guitar. He massacred about three chords before getting frustrated and smashing it over the kitchen counter. Tears had filled his eyes as it exploded into pieces.
Normally, Logan used music to help him through the hard times, but now, in his hardest time, he didn’t even have that.
“Maybe you can do something else for the band,” Tempest said, trying to help.
She shrugged. “Tambourine. That only takes one hand.”
“I don’t think they’re in need of a tambourine player.”
“Maybe you can be the manager or be their agent or something?”
Logan sighed. The band really needed a manager to take them to the next level, but being their manager wasn’t for him. Especially if they made it big one day. How could he watch from behind a desk while they were out there, fulfilling his dream?
“I’m sorry,” Tempest said when she saw his somber face. “I’m not very good at this.”
“At what? Making breakfast?”
“Yeah,” she laughed, “that too. But I meant at cheering people up. I always seem to screw up most of the human interactions I find myself in.”
“I know,” Logan said with a genuine smile on his face this time. “But it’s all part of your charm, and why you fit in.”
Tempest loaded up two plates of burnt toast and broken eggs and soggy bacon and those little breakfast sausages that Logan loved (when they weren’t still frozen in the middle) and sat down at the counter with him.
To his surprise, having company was cheering him up. Tempest was always so positive and that’s what he needed right now. A sliver of positivity to brighten up his dark dreary day.
“Ew,” she said as she took a bite of a sausage. She tossed it back on her plate and shook her head. “I followed the directions exactly.”
Logan smiled, feeling bad for her now. “They’re supposed to be like that,” he said, taking a big bite of his and choking it down. “They’re a special brand that I like. Cooked on the outside and raw in the inside.”
“Phew,” she said, looking relieved. “I thought I had screwed them up.”
Tempest refilled their coffee and then sat back down.
“How did it go this morning? Did you take your lion out?”
Logan shook his head. “I’m not ready for that yet,” he said, feeling his chest tighten with nerves. “How have you been?”
It had been a tough couple of days on the Clayton Rock Ranch.
“I’m hanging in there,” she said. It was then that Logan noticed her face. She looked exhausted, like she’d been up for days. “I’m just worried about Bryce. I just hope he’s okay.”
Logan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. How could he be so upset over his arm when Bryce may very well be dead?
It was during the vicious brawl where he had lost his arm that Bryce had possibly died. They were on a rooftop, fighting General Hunt’s shifters when the skin shifter took over Mack’s lion. The alpha cat was too much for a skin shifter to handle and Mack’s lion lost complete control. He was about to plow into a group of innocent civilians when Bryce jumped in and saved the day. He stopped Mack’s lion from hurting anyone, but was accidentally kicked off of the tall building by Mack. They couldn’t tell if the impact had killed him or not, and when they finally got down to his body to help him, he was gone.
Grant thought he saw him in General Hunt’s helicopter, but they didn’t know where he was, what kind of condition he was in, or even if he was still alive.
“He’s a tough kid,” Logan said, trying to stay positive. It didn’t look good for the teenager, but he’d seen shifters do amazing things in the past, so they couldn’t know for sure.
Her shoulders slumped down. “I just wish we could know. It’s the not knowing that’s killing me.”
“That’s what Grant is going to find out,” Logan said, placing his hand on her shoulder. “Grant is trying to locate a lead now. Once he finds one, you’ll all mount up and find the kid.”
Tempest didn’t look too sure. “Trying to find a secret military base that could be anywhere in the country? What’re the chances of that?”
“Finding people is what bounty hunters do,” Logan said. “And Grant is damn good at it.”
“Isn’t his business about to go bankrupt?”
Logan laughed. She had him there.
“Maybe he’s not so good at the business part of it,” Logan said. “But the finding people, he’s world class.”
Tempest took a deep breath as she looked down at the mug she was cradling in her hands. “I hope you’re right. I just want to get out there and do something. Anything.”
Logan knew what she meant. Only now there wasn’t anything he could do. Not anymore.
“You’re coming, right?” Her eyes were locked on him. “You said you’ll all mount up, not we’ll all mount up.”
Logan dropped his eyes as he pushed a half-frozen sausage around on his plate with his fork. “I’m afraid I won’t be much use. And I don’t want to get in the way.”
“You still have value to the crew, Logan,” she said with a fierceness in her voice. “What are you going to do? Just sit around here feeling sorry for yourself?”
“That’s bullshit,” she said when he didn’t answer. “You can still contribute. We need you more than ever, Logan. The ranch is $1.5 million in debt and is about to be taken away, Bryce is missing, and General Hunt and his army of psychotic shifters will return. You can’t just tap out on us now.”
Logan took a deep breath as he placed his fork on the plate. He appreciated the effort that Tempest had made with breakfast and trying to make him feel better. It had worked, until she had to go ahead and get in his face, ruining it.
“Thanks for breakfast,” he said as he stepped off the stool. “But I’m done talking now.”
“Time to go sulk in your room?” she fired back. “We all lost something that day, Logan. We’re all hurting. But you’re the only one who has given up.”
Logan stepped into his bedroom and closed the door.