Tangling with His Tiger
Shifters of Arizia, 1
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Vallo
According to the priests of Arizia, the first shifters were once only beasts, not human at all.
They took human form because of lust.
They stayed in human form because of love.
Captain Byron Gregg stood on the deck of his ship, the Arabella, and watched the people milling around amongst the stalls and shops beyond the docks. They’d only arrived an hour ago, but he was ready to disembark and get his business done so he could get on to the task of finding someone to pass the evening with. He’d been bedding down alone for far too many months, and his inner beast grew more restless each day.
His first mate, Christian, finally came up out of the hold with their bounty, and Byron smiled at their scowling prisoner, who was bound very tightly. He must’ve said something to piss Christian off. Again. Byron was more than ready to be rid of their unwanted guest. He eyed the tightly knotted ropes a moment before turning to fully face the two men.
“Aren’t you happy, Viktor? We’ve brought you home!” Byron said, spreading his arms wide as he gestured toward the village of Dannis, where Viktor was wanted for the murder of his own father and two brothers.
“You won’t be smiling much longer. You’ve made too many enemies, bear,” Viktor said, nodding toward the land. “You better stay here if you don’t want your throat cut. Go hide in the woods like the animal you are.”
“And give up my passion? Never!” Byron laughed and nodded for Christian to disembark ahead of him with Viktor. “You bastards would do better to recruit me than to kill me.” Under his breath, he chuckled and added, “Though it wouldn’t work.”
Byron had grown up on a pirate ship and been raised by a heartless man who may or may not have actually been his father. But since his mother had died mere moments after his birth and left nothing but a note addressed to Captain Jack Drake, Byron had been bundled off without too many questions being asked. Though he’d never understood it, many pirates disliked shifters of every variety. Drake’s men had all either feared or hated him, and he’d had very little freedom to shift into his bear form while they were at sea. He ran away from Jack at the age of fifteen and began his mission to become the only thing he’d ever wanted to be—a pirate hunter.
Now, at the age of thirty-five, he was damned good at it.
Most people moved out of the way as they passed by, though many of them nodded in acknowledgment to both Christian and Byron. As they passed one of the pubs, a very good-looking man sitting at one of the round tables outside took notice of Byron, openly looking him up and down. Byron considered stopping, but he thought better of it. Viktor wasn’t as stupid as he acted, and Byron wasn’t about to risk losing the bounty on his head, let alone setting him loose amongst the general population. It would cause trouble for innocent people and damage his reputation considerably. Byron kept walking and told himself he’d come find the man later.
However, when they turned a corner, Byron glanced back and couldn’t help smiling. The man had started following them, and he didn’t seem to care if he was seen. The man wore a sword, and he held to the grip of his weapon while his thumb kept circling the rounded pommel at the end. At a quick glance, it almost looked as if the man was stroking his cock. Byron licked his lips at the thought. He liked any man who knew what he wanted and went after it with abandon. He could already picture the handsome, well-built man kneeling on the floor before him and stroking himself as Byron fed inch after inch of his cock into the man’s eager mouth.
Christian gave him a knowing look as they mounted the steps to the Hall of Vanes, where the clan leaders conducted their business, including passing judgments and paying out bounties. “Do you want me to handle this? He’s only one little pipsqueak.”
Viktor jerked against both the ropes binding him and Christian’s hold on him, but Christian was taller and stronger than him and kept hold of him easily.
“No, I need to go in and see Vane Harold while we’re in port here.”
“Harold, hmmm?” Christian said. “He have a mission for us?”
“He may have information. I’ll let you know.” He glanced back to where the man who’d followed them stood against the wall of a building and watched Byron with a faint smile on his lips. “But probably not tonight.”
Christian laughed. “Just remember some of us need sleep tonight. We need to get supplies loaded up within the next three days.”
“I’ll make sure we muffle our enthusiasm,” Byron said as he nodded to Christian and headed for a side door to find the man who might be able to lead him to Captain Drake.
* * * *
Eric sighed as he turned his collar up against the wind. The dark clouds moved in faster now, and he still had several errands to do for Vane Harold. The man had been kind and understanding when Eric’s twin brother Samuel had been caught shirking his duties, not to mention fucking the vane’s youngest daughter. Eric resented how Samuel had tarnished their family’s reputation as good clansmen, and he was determined to show Harold that he was a far better man than his lazy, conniving twin.
As he moved past the entrance to an alleyway, a strong hand reached out and grabbed him. Before Eric could even react, he found himself pushed face first up against the stone wall of the butcher’s shop, the muscular body of a large man holding him in place. He could feel the man’s large cock rubbing against his ass.
“I only have a little coin. I’m hardly worth fooling with,” Eric whispered, though he didn’t think he was about to be robbed. The man’s erection pressed against him even more, and Eric had to stop himself from pushing back and encouraging his attacker. He hadn’t felt a man’s touch in a long time, but a back alley fumble was hardly the way to scratch that itch.
“You know that isn’t what I want,” his assailant whispered, his tone surprisingly soothing and gentle. The man backed up enough to turn Eric around, but he still kept Eric pinned there against the stones. Eric drew in a breath as he stared at the handsome man. He’d intended to put his attacker at ease and then knee him in the crotch and make a run for it, but this man was no ordinary thug. He looked like a sailor, possibly one of rank. He wore fine leather boots and tight breeches that showed off the erection Eric had just felt pressed against him. His white shirt was clean, and his brocade waistcoat seemed to have been tailored specifically for him. His beard was well trimmed, and his long brown and gold hair was clean. And looked very touchable.
Eric licked his lips. He’d only slept with one man before, but he’d loved every moment of the rough, passionate fucking. “I think you’ll find a more suitable companion down by the docks,” Eric said. “This part of town is a bit more respectable.”
The man laughed. “Is it respectable to follow a man around with lust in your eyes and then vanish?”
Eric didn’t understand at all. Who was the man talking about? He’d been the one following Eric around, hadn’t he? And he certainly hadn’t vanished. Their bodies were pressed close now, and Eric worried his cock might start responding soon. He’d never be able to get away if the man felt him getting hard. Eric started to speak, but the man stopped him with a kiss. The embrace was slow but heated, and Eric felt as if he was being branded by the man’s mouth. No one had ever kissed him so deeply before.
The man broke the kiss and opened a few buttons on Eric’s shirt, his mouth and tongue exploring. “Smell so damn good. Taste even better.”
Eric gasped when the man’s teeth grazed his neck. But he didn’t resist, even though he could feel the heat creeping up his face. He’d never done anything like this out in the open, and the street would only get busier as people tried to get home and out of the coming rain.
“Come back to my ship with me,” the man said. “I’ve been looking for you all afternoon.”
The man leaned in, and this time he sucked on Eric’s lower lip before running his teeth over the tender flesh. “Of course I have. Why didn’t you wait for me?”
“Wait for you? I don’t understand anything you’re saying to me.”
Blinking, the man backed up and looked Eric up and down. “Outside the Hall of Vanes. You followed me and my first mate from the pub at the edge of the east dock. We were bringing in a pirate to collect the bounty on his head. You followed us. You smiled at me.”
“I’ve been inside the Hall of Vanes most of the day. I wasn’t down near the docks.” He sighed and let his head fall back against the stone wall as he stared up at the sky and cursed under his breath. “Just my luck.”
“What do you mean?”
Eric looked at the man. “I have a twin brother. Did this man have a sword?”
Eric nodded slowly. “That’s Samuel, my brother. My name’s Eric. It wasn’t me following you.”
The man blinked at him again, seeming to weigh his options. “I’m Byron. What did you mean by just my luck?”
“Handsome man kisses me senseless and I have to walk away.”
Byron stepped closer. “No, you don’t. There’s nothing between me and your brother. He’s the one who couldn’t wait half an hour for me. His loss, I say.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Byron stood much too close. All Eric wanted was to kiss him and feel that hard body pressed against him once more. “If my brother was following you, then you’re in danger. He’s likely to find you if you’re anywhere near me. I don’t know what kind of trouble he might cause you, but you definitely need to be on your guard. And leave this village as soon as possible.”
“I’m a pirate hunter. I’m not afraid of anyone. And I’m certainly not about to let anything stop me from taking you to my bed tonight.”