Tim Trujillo is about to learn a whole lot more than a few facts about his heritage as a snow leopard shifter.
All Dr Tim Trujillo had in mind when he took the position with the Snow Leopard Conservation Programme in Mongolia was to see if he could learn anything about his heritage. Snow leopard shifters sure weren't native to Colorado, his home state, and though his family was learning more about shifters in general as various cousins found their mates, Tim wanted to know more about where his kind came from, and what made them the way they were.
He hadn't counted on destiny intervening in the form of one very fine snow leopard shifter. Otto Marquat is a native to the Land of the Blue Sky, as Mongolia was sometimes called. But there in a country so far from his own, Tim finds more than his heritage. He finds adventure, cruelty, friendship, pain—and love so strong and unbreakable it will turn his world inside out.
About the Author
Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is know as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.
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Some people were vivacious, full of energy and fairly bouncing with it. They had an inner glow, the kind you could see in their eyes, in the mischievous curve of their smile. You just knew they'd be a lot of fun to hang out with, and usually, they were — but they could also get on your very last nerve and make you want to throttle them.
Tim Trujillo was experiencing just such an urge toward his best friend Dane Calderon — Dr. Dane Calderon, not that anyone would guess the man held a PhD in Zoology. In fact, with his short stature and youthful features, no one would think Dane had graduated from high school yet. He sure didn't act like it.
"I still can't believe we're really here!" Dane rose up onto his toes and put a hand to his forehead, shading his eyes as he looked around. "I have to say, I thought Mongolia was all, I dunno, like it was in Mulan." Dane stopped and frowned at Tim. "Wait. Was the movie set in Mongolia, or were the invaders Mongolian?"
Tim was not one of those effervescent people on the best of days. Added to that, he was utterly exhausted from flying halfway around the world then riding in the shittiest vehicle ever — although it was much better than walking or riding a horse, thank you very much. He was definitely not a chatty man.
What he was, was a mix of man and feline, a snow leopard shifter who had to keep his dual nature hidden from most people. He apparently hadn't got the playful kitty gene some of his shifter relatives had, either. Bubbly wasn't a word that would ever be used to describe Tim Trujillo.
Or perky, or particularly mild-mannered. If it'd been anyone besides Dane blathering on about a cartoon, Tim probably would have told them to get their head out of their ass and get a life.
But it was Dane, and Tim never could stand to see the guy unhappy. Dane had perfected the hurt-puppy look and even Tim, grumpy as he could be, wasn't immune to it. He didn't like it knowing he was so easily manipulated though, so Tim just grunted and shrugged.
Dane huffed and smacked his arm. "Right, I should have known. You probably never even saw the movie, did you?"
Tim racked his brain until he found a tendril of a memory, a hint of the movie plot he'd seen or heard about somewhere or another. He'd probably overheard parts of the movie when one of his siblings had watched it because Tim just wasn't into stuff like that. "Why would I? It was a cartoon."
Dane scrunched his features into a horrified expression and clucked his tongue. "Oh, Tim, what a sad, sad childhood you must have had. I can just see you now, holed up in your bedroom, posters of Einstein and Jack Hanna all over the walls, hunched over at your desk with your nose in some thousand-page text book. Poor kid."
It irked him because Dane wasn't too far off base. Tim glared at his friend, who remained unfazed about pissing Tim off. "No Einstein, he was creepy looking. Jack Hanna was kind of hot, though." Honestly, Tim still thought the man was cuddly-cute. Not that he'd admit so even if his life depended on it.
"And I liked it in my room. It was the only place I could escape my brother and sisters." As the oldest of four kids, it'd seemed to Tim there was always a sibling wanting to follow him around. Usually he hadn't minded, but it'd sucked when he had wanted to read or have any kind of alone time.
Dane sighed wistfully and resumed looking around. "I wish I'd had a brother or a sister."
"I can lend you Isaiah or Renna or Stephanie any time you want to borrow them — when we're back in the US," Tim tacked on. No way would he want to hear his sibs whining about being in the middle of bumfuck nowhere for weeks.
"Right. I might take you up on the sibling borrowing sometime." Dane stretched up onto his tip toes again and gave a low whistle. "Mmm-mm, sex on a stick at three o'clock. Damn!"
Despite his snarky mood, Tim wasn't going to miss the opportunity for eye candy if he could help it. He seriously doubted he'd be getting any action in Mongolia, as there were no gay nightclubs, no cruising, no anything in the way of finding a potential hook up in the town they were in. Or anywhere he knew of, from what he'd read online. Mongolia was not a hotbed of sexual delights for anyone, as far as he could tell.
Which was part of the reason Tim would try not to be as obvious as Dane, who was practically panting. Then he spotted the guy Dane had to be talking about, a tall, thickly muscled man with short black hair and golden skin. Dark sunglasses covered the man's eyes, which only served to emphasize his full, dark pink lips and slightly crooked nose, but it worked well on his face with those blade-sharp cheekbones and the square chin.
Dane stared. "God, I want him to fuck me."
He made a whimpering sound, one Tim had heard before, back when he'd been the one to drive Dane to arousal. Back before they'd figured out they'd kill each other if they didn't keep their relationship on the friends-only level. They simply squabbled too much to be happy together, and frankly, Tim hadn't been particularly blown away by the sex.
"Damn. I can't tell if he's gay or straight."
Tim kept his groaning to an internal level. Dane and his much-vaunted gaydar weren't very accurate. One of these days, its inaccuracy was going to get Dane hurt.
"Well, I'm not going to go up and ask him for you, so don't even try to nag me into doing it. Last time I did," the only time he'd done it since Tim learned fast, "I nearly got my head knocked off my neck. And the guy over there looks like he could drop me without breaking a sweat." Tim would love it, too, if it didn't hurt much. The big stranger looked like just the sort of man Tim wanted to feel pinning him down and fucking him senseless.
But he wasn't senseless, he was tired, hungry and anxious to get on with his work. Work was, after all, the reason he was here. Dane, too, which, it wouldn't hurt to remind his drooling friend of. It was a huge coup to be accepted into the Snow Leopard Conservation Program. The SLCP was the major driving force behind protecting endangered cats, and there were a lot of applicants who had been rejected for the program.
Tim elbowed Dane, earning him an evil glare. "Come on. I need a shower and so do you. And quit looking at the pretty man. The last thing either of us needs is to wind up beat to hell in some Mongolian alley or ... or whatever they do to someone who pisses them off here."
"Spoilsport," Dane muttered, but it was just for show and Tim knew it by the way his friend turned away from the object of his admiration. "Fine. If we get absolutely desperate enough, we can beat each other off or blow each other, whatever."
Tim stumbled over — he looked down — okay, he stumbled over air, apparently, but Dane was talking shit, pure and simple. "Why in the hell would we want to do something we already tried and decided didn't work for us? You said yourself, the sex we had together wasn't much of a big deal."
Dane looked at him like he was an idiot. "It wasn't. It was good, but I want great. Fireworks and orgasms, the kind guaranteed to leave me unconscious. But I can't suck my own dick, and friends lend each other a hand —"
Tim waved off the rest of Dane's sentence. "Don't even try those skeezy lines with me. Take up yoga. I'm sure you can learn flexibility, and with a dick the size of yours, you shouldn't have to bend too much to suck it." Damned guy was hung like a bull. Tim had been glad Dane was strictly a bottom when they'd been together, or at least, that's what he'd told himself.
"You're a jerk," Dane groused, "but yeah, I do have a great dick."
Whereas I am just a dick. At least sometimes he was, like when he was worn out, stressed, and in a country Tim had hoped would maybe feel like home. It didn't. He just felt like an outsider, something he was used to in a way, except for when he was around his family. Probably to be expected, considering what he was, and the necessity to keep it secret.
Dane chattered on beside him while Tim cast occasional glances toward the stranger in what he hoped was an unobtrusive manner. He wondered what the man was doing, and if he was aware of Tim's appreciative observation.
"I wish we could have stayed in Ulaanbaatar City for a few days. It was like an oasis in a desert. I'm telling you, the hotel clerk there wanted me. He was undressing me with his eyes."
Tim tuned Dane out for the most part. He'd catch it if his friend said anything important, but Dane, for all his brilliant intellect, loved to babble and gossip like a star-struck teenager. Sometimes Tim wished they could have made their attempt at being partners work. Dane was his opposite in every way but intellect, when it came to personality and looks.
Tim was tall and lanky, his hair long and a dirty blond. Usually it was a tangled mess despite how often he brushed it. Tim had considered doing something to it to make it look not so boring a color, but he just didn't have enough vanity to deal with it.
His eyes were a dull shade of blue, in his opinion. They weren't a vivid color like his cousin Oscar's. Sometimes Tim thought of himself as a washed-out version of Oscar. He'd always compared himself to Oscar, he supposed, since they were the only two in the family who didn't have dark auburn hair and green or brown eyes.
He'd been teased about his features, called a girl by more than one asswipe when he'd been in school, even a couple of times in college, although once he'd hit his Masters' degree stupid things like that had ceased to happen. Dane, despite being on the short side, was bulky with muscles, and had the chiselled jaw and masculine features Tim had always envied.
Kind of like the sexy stud Dane had pointed out, actually, although the stud's masculinity seemed to be so apparent Tim thought he could almost touch it.
A shiver trailed down his spine, an imaginary, icy finger. Tim stopped, his instincts kicking in. Goose bumps prickled his skin. Dane kept chatting, although now he was managing to converse in one of the Mongolian dialects, most likely Khalkha Mongol, or maybe he was speaking Turkic, Tim wasn't sure. Languages weren't his forte. He was damned lucky not to mangle English too badly.
His lack of language skills didn't matter, not when he looked across the dirt roadway into a pair of eyes so dark brown they appeared black. Maybe they were, because Tim, with his enhanced shifter abilities, couldn't detect a hint of any lighter color in the man's irises, even though he'd removed his sunglasses.
There it was, one of the very things that made Tim have to keep some distance between himself and others. His ability to see and hear and scent things that a regular human being couldn't, were parts of himself he couldn't share with anyone other than family. It made having a lover difficult, and Tim had spent more time alone than he'd have liked.
Something about those dark eyes brought a heat to Tim's groin, spreading down to his cock and balls, arousing him terribly. He didn't understand it, considering there was nothing encouraging in the man's expression. Indeed, Tall, Dark and Handsome sure appeared to be angry, very, very angry. His full lips were twisted into an almost painful looking sneer, and for some reason Tim wanted to laugh at him. Or lie down and roll onto his back. Neither were wise choices.
Tim didn't look away from TDH. He liked the acronym for the man, especially since TDH could stand for Total Dick Head as well as Tall Dark and Handsome, and considering the glare and the sneer, yeah, TDH worked in both respects.
What the hell was he doing, standing there in some kind of testosterone-infused visual equation of a pissing match? He didn't have time for stupidity like this. Tim turned away and realized Dane had shut up finally and was staring at him with a knowing look.
"What?" Tim grumbled. He was not blushing. He was just hot, even if it was only about sixty degrees Fahrenheit. They'd been walking, and he wasn't used to travelling halfway across the world. For all he knew, the differences in the altitidue were messing with him.
"He's coming this way," Dane said, hissing the s' and sprinkling Tim's forearm with spit. "Whoops. Sorry about the spontaneous spit shower. But he's coming, seriously."
Tim's stomach dipped. He was surprised he didn't hear it go splat on the ground. What was wrong with him? He grabbed Dane's wrist. "Come on, I don't think he appreciated us checking him out. We aren't in a gay-friendly country, remember." Tim sure did, and he didn't dare to glance back, instead propelling Dane forward with a shove. "Let's get out of here!"
Tim had never been the panicky sort, but for some reason, he felt as if he were being stalked. It was creepy, being the prey instead of the hunter. Tim didn't care for it, yet his cock hardened and his heartbeat sped up. His pulse rushed through his veins and a weird euphoric sensation rolled over him.
Jesus Christ, I must be hallucinating! Sleep, sleep and drink lots of water and I'll feel better.
He hoped so, anyway. Distractions and carelessness were dangerous, and being worn out could certainly make each of those more likely. Tim weaved around several people grouped by a doorway. The sound of their voices was an unfamiliar mixture of tones and tempos, yet the language they spoke was oddly musical to Tim's ears.
But he was no less aware of the man he thought of as TDH behind them. Tim would bet every fine hair on his body was standing up and vibrating from the sensation of being watched. Tim tried to focus on hearing TDH, but there was too much noise with the group of people he'd just passed, and he wasn't downwind, so there was no scenting his pursuer.
"Why are we running away from Mr Gorgeous again?" Dane huffed.
"Why is he chasing us?" Tim retorted. "Didn't I just remind you about this not being the most gay-friendly place?" He lengthened his strides and wished Dane wasn't with him. If he was alone, he'd confront TDH. Tim was, due to his shifter nature, quite a lot stronger than the average male, and if worst came to worst, he could let his beast loose, although shifting wasn't a speedy thing for him. And it hurt, which certainly didn't encourage him to do it more often. It was wholly possible he could be killed mid-shift, so he'd not do it unless he absolutely had no other choice.
Tim scowled and darted a glance over his shoulder as they turned down a street leading away from their hotel.
Dane started to dig his heels in. "Hey! We need to go —" "I know where we need to go," Tim growled, jerking Dane's arm and propelling him back into moving. "I don't want TDH to figure out where we're at."
Dane's laughter had a slightly hysterical tinge to it and Tim glowered at his friend. "What?"
Dane shook his head. "How many hotels do you think there are in this place? And TDH? Really? Tall dark and handsome —"
"Or Total Dick Head," Tim snarled. "Fuck!"
"Exactly." Dane didn't slow down, though. "That guy, whoever he is, looks kind of like a native, or at least more like one than we ever will. I doubt he's gonna have to guess where we are, or who we are, or who we're with. He probably just has to ask someone who's seen us. Or he could watch us from God knows where."
Tim knew Dane was right. He and Dane stood out in their Western clothes as well as their different physical appearances. They weren't the only people here not native to Mongolia, but they were the only ones he'd seen in the nearby area. If their stalker was from here, he probably had friends or knew shortcuts Tim and Dane would never find.
Added to that, the organization they were working with had established a base camp here almost a decade ago. It wasn't an unknown entity in Dalanzadgad. The Snow Leopard Conservation Program had been established here by Dr. Marquat years ago, and was still running strong.
Idiot. Dumb, narrow-sighted idiot! Tim scolded himself some more as they turned left. Why were they even bothering? Dane was right. If Tim hadn't been so beat, maybe he'd have realized the same things Dane had.
Right, Tim thought scathingly. He never had been any kind of brilliant, and yes, he had his PhD, but it was due more to very hard work and determination than his IQ. Tim wasn't stupid, though. He wasn't. He just tended to be very focused, and wasn't blessed with a lot of common sense. Book smart, he'd heard it called, but Tim didn't even think of himself in such a manner. It'd damn near killed him getting his degrees.
Tim was pulled out of his self-chastisement when Dane nearly yanked his arm out of its socket. "Stop!"
Like he had a choice, short of dragging Dane onward? Tim spun around and tried not to appear as freaked out as he was beginning to realize he felt. He didn't see TDH anywhere.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Timothy"
Copyright © 2017 Bailey Bradford.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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