The Awakening: Aidan by Abby Niles
Is the gift of eternal love a blessing or a curse?
After years of counseling grieving shifters, psychiatrist and half-shifter, Dr. Jaylin Avgar has become jaded on shifter mating. She wants to marry a human and forget about the love for eternity crap. Then she meets Aidan O'Connell, an infuriatingly laid back shifter who represents everything she doesn't want. Yet, the more he pursues her, the more she craves a future with him. Only one thing stands in her way: death. Can she overcome her fear of losing Aidan to the one guarantee in life?
Millionaire consultant, Aidan O'Connell knows he'll one day meet a woman who'll awaken an unrelenting mating instinct. Unfortunately, that woman is Jaylin, who has no qualms about telling him that he and his so-called eternity can shove it. When she pushes him away, he takes a drastic step so she can no longer escape. The close proximity throws the instinct into overdrive. Can he control the need engrained in him until he's certain she will reciprocate the bond, or will a moment of weakness doom him to hell on earth?
About the Author
Abby Niles has always loved to read. After having twins and becoming a stay-at-home mom, she started doodling stories to keep her sanity. She didn't plan for writing to become an obsession, but it did. Today, she juggles work, home life, and writing. It's not always easy, but hey, who said life was easy? When Abby's not writing, you can find her playing ‘Just Dance' with her kids or trying to catch up on her never-ending to-be-read list.
Read an Excerpt
The Awakening: Aidan
By Abby Niles, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Abby Niles
All rights reserved.
Aidan O'Connell juggled an armload of groceries as he tripped up one of the cabin steps. Damn it. When he reached the front door, he knocked on it with the only thing he had available at the moment: his foot.
He took a calming breath between clenched teeth.
A virtue he feared he was running short of. Hadn't he already used every ounce he'd possessed? He'd offered his friend a place to stay while he mended a broken heart, and at first his new living situation had been fine. But over the last few weeks, his temporary roommate seemed to forget this wasn't his house. And that common courtesy — like opening the blasted door when needed, or hell, helping unload the groceries — was expected.
"Liam, come on, man. Open the door!"
He listened for the heavy footsteps of his friend on the other side of the wood. The only thing he heard was a pissed-off squirrel chattering in the distance. Most likely some other animal was creating a disturbance in its life. He could sympathize. Liam had completely disrupted his.
He grimaced at the thought. That wasn't fair. Liam couldn't help it. Though if he'd freaking listen, he'd at least get some therapy.
He kicked the door with more force than necessary, taking satisfaction in the way the wood groaned in response. No way Liam hadn't heard that.
Still, no one answered.
Cursing under his breath, Aidan shifted the brown grocery bags in his arms, fished his keys from the front pocket of his khaki cargo shorts, then fumbled with the lock. He probably should've done this from the beginning and saved himself the irritation. He kept giving Liam chances to prove that his old friend was still there. The friend who would've heard Aidan pull into the driveway and been outside to help before he'd even parked the truck. He hip-bumped the door open.
"Liam! I could use some help here."
Crickets. Aidan tightened his grip on the bags. He shouldn't be surprised. Liam had been MIA for weeks. Oh, he'd been around in body, but he'd checked out mentally ages ago. If he didn't get some psychological help soon, it wouldn't be Liam who went stark raving mad, but Aidan. He backed into the living room. "Dude, we've got to have a serious talk."
As he turned around, he stumbled to a stop.
His friend sat ramrod straight on the edge of the black leather armchair, his gaze focused on the wall in front of him, unblinking. If it weren't for the muscle that jumped occasionally in his jaw, Aidan would've thought Liam was dead and rigor mortis had set in. Aidan slid the bags down his body and dropped them on the matching leather couch as he stepped toward his friend. "Hey, Liam?"
He didn't move, didn't even acknowledge that Aidan had spoken. He remained as still as the armchair he sat in. Laying his hand on Liam's shoulder, Aidan was stunned by the rock-hard tension of his friend's muscles. He gently shook. "Hey, buddy. You okay?"
Stupid question. Liam was certainly not okay. Aidan squatted beside the chair. "Li-am." He sing-sang his friend's name. No reaction. Shit.
Could the tales be true?
Panic tightened his throat. Dsershon was rare among shifters — so rare that most shifters only knew about it through someone who knew someone who knew someone else. And the stories had become like old wives' tales.
But Liam had been increasingly agitated over the last month. Aidan had walked on eggshells around his friend, worried that one wrong move would find him on the biting end of Liam's sharp tongue, which had gotten even sharper lately. He'd rather take his nasty attitude than this. This scared him, and made the unbelievable all the more real. He called Liam's name again with no response.
Aidan straightened and dug his wallet out of the back pocket of his shorts. He hadn't wanted to do this. Had hoped Liam would come to this conclusion on his own, but the time for his friend to see reason was long gone. The man needed help — months ago.
He retrieved the business card Britton had given him a few days earlier. "Dr. Jaylin Avgar, Psychiatrist" was imprinted on the off-white stock paper in a gold italic font.
Not that a normal human therapist could ever help Liam, but the symbol in the right-hand corner of the card, a square with three lightning bolts inside that represented the beast within, was exactly the therapist he needed — and there were only a handful of them in the United States.
Liam was going to be pissed, but he'd just have to put up with whatever his friend threw at him. This — whatever this was — wasn't normal. He slid his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed the number on the card. It rang three times before a young female voice answered with, "Dr. Avgar's office. This is Pam. How may I help you?"
"May I speak with Dr. Avgar, please?"
"I'm sorry, but she's in a meeting right now. May I take a message and have her call you back?"
In a meeting. The typical rebuttal for someone screening calls. How many times had he blown off someone with the same excuse? "This is an emergency."
"I understand, sir, but she's in a meeting."
Aidan clenched his jaw. "Dsershon is at stake here. I don't have time to wait."
Silence stretched on the phone. The woman was either a half shifter and knew what the word meant or thought he was talking in some cryptic code that only Dr. Avgar would understand. It didn't matter to him which one it was, as long as she got the doctor on the phone.
"One moment, please." She didn't even wait for his response as classical music assaulted his ears.
He studied Liam. His friend still hadn't moved. Nor had the vacant expression left his face. Had there been any warning signs? Yeah, he'd stopped mid-sentence a couple of times, had gotten this confused, disoriented look, but he'd always blinked it away and picked right back up where he'd left off. Aidan had chalked it up to stress. Idiot! Why hadn't he insisted Liam see a specialist? He'd tiptoed around the subject. But every time he brought the topic up, Liam went ballistic.
"Dr. Avgar. How can I help you?"
"This is Aidan O'Connell. I have a friend —"
"Mr. O'Connell. While I appreciate your thinking of me, I no longer practice in that area of psychiatry. I can refer him —"
"I need someone now. He's sitting here like he's in a trance or something."
The silence on the other end of the phone allowed the squeaking of her chair to come through the phone. "How long?"
"I don't know for sure. He was like this when I walked in the door ten minutes ago."
"Listen to me carefully. Place one hand on his shoulder and snap your fingers in front of his face. Do not release the pressure from his shoulder. He's lost in her and needs stimulus from his surroundings. Continue snapping and calling his name until he comes around."
Aidan put the phone on speaker, placed it on the arm of the chair, then gripped his friend's shoulder. "Liam." He snapped his fingers three times in quick repetition. He didn't even blink. "Liam," he said his name more forceful, snapping his fingers again. Nothing. Damn it. "Liam!"
"It's not working," he directed to the phone. "What the hell's the matter with him?"
A whispered "shit" came through the speaker before she said, "He's in Bahrraj. Has he had no therapy at all?"
"None. He's refused."
"Stubborn damn shifters. I swear to God ... Where are you?"
He gave her directions.
"It's going to take me at least thirty minutes to get there, and that's making all the lights. I'll get there as quickly as I can. Don't stop trying to reach him. The longer he's in Bahrraj, the harder it's going to be to get him out."
The phone went dead.
Aidan continued doing what Dr. Avgar had instructed. Desperation twisted his guts as his friend's gaze failed to focus on him. He grabbed both Liam's shoulders and shook — or tried to shake. It was as though Liam were made of stone. His head didn't wobble, didn't even sway with the motion. His entire upper body moved in unison. He had no doubt if he pushed Liam over onto the floor, he'd stay in the exact same position.
This was all Ava's damn fault. She better hope Dr. Avgar could bring Liam around, or there'd be hell to pay.
* * *
Jaylin tapped her palm against the steering wheel as she willed the light to change. Carnal Ridge, North Carolina, was one of the top ten shifter-populated towns, evident by the sharp, musky scent of wildness lacing the air.
A smell that should've reminded her of home. Instead, it made her question her sanity.
Why had she agreed to this?
She should've referred Mr. O'Connell to ... to whom? The next closest therapist specializing in Dsershon was three states over. Thankfully, the condition was rare. In her eight years as a therapist, she'd only had five cases.
Only five cases. She shook her head. One case had been one too many. She could've gone her entire life never seeing the true effect of Dsershon. The dismal life a bonded shifter lived after being abandoned by his unbonded mate was heartbreaking to watch, much less counsel. Add in the many Wydow cases she'd dealt with and it was enough to make her quit shifter therapy and concentrate solely on human grief. Which was still difficult to bear at times, but at least she wasn't dealing with the Fewshon. A bonding of souls that was supposed to bring endless happiness, but all she'd witnessed was endless pain.
She glared at the red light. "Come on!"
Finally the light changed. She hit the gas and she turned left, leaving Main Street and the tiny town behind. The glare of the sun struck her straight in the eyes, causing her to squint. She lifted her foot off the accelerator. She'd be no help to the shifter if she got in an accident. A few miles down, she pulled onto the dirt road Mr. O'Connell had instructed her to take. Towering trees blocked out the glare, giving an eerie orange cast to the densely packed trees. The narrow, curvy road wound deeper and deeper into the woods, yet again making her drive slower than she wished.
Why couldn't he have lived in one of those cute little housing developments she'd passed a few miles back? Instead he lived in the middle of BFE where the banjo tune from Deliverance was probably played nightly.
As she crested a steep incline, the trees thinned to nestle around a modest-sized log cabin in a perfect, circular-shaped clearing. Vibrant green grass surrounded the area, and a walkway made of stone led from the gravel driveway to the cabin. Freshly mulched flower beds filled with lush bushes and other greenery hugged each side of the steps of the porch.
The place had a definite homey vibe to it. You'd never know a shifter's life was in danger by looking at it. With that thought, she haphazardly parked the car beside a four-door truck that made her sedan seem ant-like in comparison, grabbed her briefcase, and jogged up the path. The door flew open before she'd made it onto the porch.
"He hasn't come out of it!"
Despite the panic on the man's face, her breath caught and she stumbled to a stop. She didn't know whom she'd been expecting, but this young, muscular all-man man was certainly not it.
Shaggy ginger hair topped his head. The same color stubble lined his cheeks and strong jaw. Green eyes, with tiny laugh lines crinkled at the edges, watched her. Though she figured their appearance was more from worry than laughter right now. That thought brought her out of her hottie-induced stupor. "Where is he?"
"In the living room."
She went to brush past him, trying to keep her wayward eyes from the thick expanse of his chest. Which taunted her from beneath the stretched fabric of a green cotton T-shirt that read "Kiss Me, I'm Irish."
The word "kiss" held her transfixed for a moment, and she paused in the doorway staring at it. A rumble from his chest nudged her back into motion, and she hurried into the room. She felt his eyes follow her, felt them burn into her ass as if he'd actually touched her there.
She was a professional, for goodness' sake. She'd been around plenty of attractive men. What was it about this one that made her have a momentary lapse in judgment?
No matter. She had a job to do.
Placing her briefcase beside her on the floor, she studied the blond man sitting on the chair, so deep in Bahrraj, completely lost in his mate's emotions, and her heart twisted. As she grabbed a penlight from the pocket of her suit jacket, she stepped in front of him and lifted his eyelid wider. She flicked the light across his pupils. No dilation. Damn it.
"Is he going to be okay?"
She wanted to ignore the other man, pretend he wasn't there, but she couldn't disregard the worry in his voice. Without looking at him, she said, "Give me just a minute. I need to do a few things."
She lifted a stethoscope from her briefcase. She hadn't used the thing in eight months, but even after she'd made the decision to never work with shifters again, she couldn't bring herself to toss it away. Weak on her part, but she wasn't completely anti-shifter. Just ... worn out.
Placing the scope to the man's chest, she listened to his heartbeat. The Fewshon buzzed in the background like static from a radio. The fact that she could hear it was concerning. He was even deeper in Bahrraj than she'd thought. She moved the scope to his right side under his rib cage, listening for a rumble of his beast. Silence. She clenched her teeth together. Worst-case scenario right in front of her. Thank God she'd brought her kit.
Straightening, she pulled the plugs out of her ears and let the scope hang from her neck. She turned to face Mr. O'Connell. His eyes pierced hers, assessing her with an interested gleam. He stepped closer to her, and she tilted her chin up in warning.
"Mr. O'Connell —
"Mister O'Connell, he's very deep in Bahrraj. I'll need to take extra measures to reach him. I'll need for you to leave the room."
He crossed his arms over his chest. "No."
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Like she hadn't seen that coming. Heaven-for-freaking-bid she ask a shifter to do something he didn't want to do. "If you insist on staying, I'll need your help."
"He needs more outside stimuli. What's Liam's favorite food?"
"Do you have any on hand?"
"Could you throw some on so we can get the scent inside the house? It will help reach him." Which was a lie, but he didn't need to know that. If it got him out of the room so she could do what she needed to do, then she had no qualms about lying.
When he didn't move, she leveled him with a stare. "Now."
A slow grin spread across his lips, drawing her attention to them. Irritation spiked. Not only for noticing his lips, but for what that slow grin had meant. He thought she was cute for trying to boss him around. Ass.
"Yes, ma'am," he said in a slow drawl.
While he rustled around the kitchen, she calculated the distance. He should be far enough away. He may feel some residual effect, but she and Liam should be safe from any negative impact it may have on Aidan. Jaylin riffled through her briefcase and pulled out the leather package containing the Splycer.
Years ago, when she'd been inexperienced and allowed emotion to cloud her judgment, she'd made the mistake of using the device in the presence of another male shifter, something she'd been taught never to do. She'd ended up having to tranquilize the raging beast that had emerged. She'd never made that mistake again. She withdrew the small tool, no bigger than her thumb, and put the earbuds back in her ears.
The smell of pork chops cooking started to permeate the air. Good.
Now to find his beast and bring it back to its rightful place under Liam's rib cage, so it could help him fight his way back to reality. Unfortunately, his beast could be lost in one of six areas. Placing the stethoscope on his wrist, she listened for a faint rumble. Nothing. She checked around his back and temple, and finally heard the low vibrating growl below his ear where his jawbone stopped. She pulled the cap off the electrode and placed the two coils directly to his skin and pulled the trigger. A red flash lit the room as the sounds of electricity shooting from the Splycer into Liam rent the air. His body jerked. Once.
"Liam!" She barked the word, with force and dominance. She snapped her finger.
"Liam!" she repeated.
She saw a flicker in his eyes, a quick shadow that passed right across the iris. Then the tense shoulder beneath her palm relaxed and he blinked.
Excerpted from The Awakening: Aidan by Abby Niles, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2013 Abby Niles. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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