Authors: Tymber Dalton
“That’s it.” Sean slammed his hips against Emery’s ass, fucking him hard, racing to completion until he felt his own balls tighten, signaling the start of his climax. He let go of Emery’s cock and held on to both his hips, thrusting fast and deep until that sweet explosion nearly took his legs out from under him. He fell still as his juices poured out of his cock and into Emery’s ass.
Neither man moved for several minutes, the steamy water pouring over them as they caught their breath. Sean stroked Emery’s back. “You all right?”
Emery nodded. It was then Sean realized he was crying. Now scared, he untangled himself from Emery and made him turn. “Babe?”
Emery reached for him. Together, they sank to the bottom of the tub, Sean cradling his lover against him as he got it all out of his system.
Sean didn’t bother talking, knew Emery would say whatever he needed to when the time was right. He stroked his wet hair and comforted him.
After a few minutes, Emery spoke. “It could have been you. Or Dad or Mom. Or my sisters or brother. Anyone. He nearly succeeded in killing you once already. How the hell am I supposed to protect everyone as Alpha? Dad can’t even do that.”
Sean nuzzled his forehead with his lips. “Exactly. Not even your dad can do that. Some things are beyond one person, Em. I think you’re going to make a damn good Alpha. And I’ll be right there beside you. Well, you know what I mean.”
Emery rewarded him with a soft laugh. “And now look at me.”
“Dude, I was starting to worry about you, quite honestly. Dealing with that not once, but twice. Not to mention how tired you are from all the searching. I knew you had to have a breaking point somewhere. You’re only human.” He snorted as he realized what he said. “Well, you know what I mean. Everyone sometimes needs to have a breakdown when they know they’re safe.”
Emery let out a long sigh. “I love you so much, Sean. It’d kill me to lose you.”
“Yeah, well, it’d kill me to lose you, too.” He kissed Emery’s forehead. “Now let’s get rinsed off and go snuggle in bed before we use up all the hot water.”
Frustrated by another day of fruitless searching for the pod, Erik returned to his hideout. They’d found and removed George’s body, as well as Barry’s. That it hadn’t made the news proved to him it was the shifters and not humans. Otherwise, the local media outlets would have been all over it.
The fact that for several days he’d been unable to locate any dolphin shifters in the water meant Joseph had pulled everyone from the search.
It also meant he wasn’t able to get a shot at Emery’s human.
He’d even staked out the marina where the human kept his boat, watching, shifted, from the safety of a nearby mangrove, and had seen no sign of him.
All he could do now was watch and wait.
* * * *
Over the next several days, Sean and Emery both threw themselves into their work. Erik and the two dead shifters weren’t mentioned, although plans for the superpod continued unabated. Helen and Sam Morita didn’t mention the events that had transpired at the Nadels’ house, but they did start acting more normal toward Sean and Emery.
Wyatt stopped by for beers one evening after work. “Any news?”
Emery shook his head.
“I wanted to let you know everyone’s behind y’all. I’ve been talking to my contacts. Even the wolves offered to help out if you need them.”
“I don’t think wolves will be much help in the water, but tell them thanks.”
“Hey, you never know where this sumbitch will turn up.”
“And if it makes any difference, we’ve been spreading word around the whole Gulf coast. Dude shows up, lots of people got their eyes open for him. He’s good as dead.”
“I don’t know what to do about the superpod,” Emery said. “I told Dad I thought maybe we should reconsider having it here, but he won’t listen.”
“Naw, don’t change your plans. Besides, you’ve got a lot of us who’ll come in and help with the perimeter. Maybe that’s what we need, to set a trap for him.”
“I don’t want any other innocent people dying because of him.”
Wyatt shrugged. “Not your fault.”
“It kind of is.”
“Dude, you listen to yourself?” the Cajun said. “You didn’t kill them people. Erik did.”
“Thank you!” Sean said. “That’s what I keep telling him but he won’t listen.”
Wyatt leaned forward. “Let me tell you something. Man can do what he did to those two people, he’s not right in the head. Y’all know he tried to kill your mate. That right there’s enough fucked up that he needs to go.” He took a swig of beer. “Don’t know how y’all do things, but someone tries something like that among our kind, he or she’s marked for death. No second chances. Whether he did or didn’t cause the deaths of those other two is irrelevant. He’s bad. None of us can risk someone like him running loose. Shifter life’s hard enough to juggle without an asshat like him running around making things harder on ever’body.”
“Yeah,” Sean said. “I personally have no problem with him taking a dirt nap.”
* * * *
They were out in Sean’s boat the next Monday, working to scout the best location for the superpod. Complicating matters was the fact that they needed to keep the gathering in open water, due to the sheer numbers and that at least a few outsider humans would likely wander into their midst to see what was going on.
On the other hand, in open water, it would be easier to form a perimeter around the superpod and keep an eye out for Erik.
Sean throttled back into neutral once they were clear of the marina and pulled his waterproof chart out of the console. “I’m thinking here,” he said, pointing to an area off Gasparilla Island and Cayo Costa. “It’s deep, and the tarpon aren’t running right now, so it won’t be wall-to-wall boats out there. People can park on Boca Grande and swim out and in from there. Plus we can take some people over to Cayo Costa and drop them off by boat and they can swim out and in there, or even from Bokeelia…here. It’s close, really close. So less chance of Erik being able to pull something. Yet plenty of places close by for people to get into and out of.”
“Sounds good. Let’s go take a look.”
* * * *
Erik held back, watching. Finally, after several days of staking out the marina, he’d lucked out and spotted Emery’s human whore getting into his boat. Even better, Emery was with him.
Now I just have to figure out how to get him.
He followed them down the channel and south, toward Gasparilla Island.
* * * *
Normally Sean would be able to relax and enjoy the water. The breeze in his face as he pushed the 250-horsepower Yamaha outboard wide open. The feel of the boat skimming over the glassy rollers. The salty tang of the air.
He knew part of it was Emery, who remained on high alert from the moment they stepped into the boat at the marina.
“Dude, will you please relax.”
Emery glanced at him before returning his gaze to the horizon. “Sorry. I just keep thinking.”
“Well, stop thinking and focus on what we’re doing out here today. Wait, that came out wrong.”
At least his fumbling earned him the ghost of a smile from Emery, who’d done precious little of that since recovering George’s body.
They took a spin around the area Sean had pinpointed on the chart. Emery agreed with Sean’s assessment that it would work well for the gathering. Sean shut the engine down and looked around.
“Hey, Em. You want to…” He tipped his head toward the water and grinned.
* * * *
Of course he wanted to. He always wanted to make love to his mate, especially in the soothing, warm Gulf waters.
Unfortunately, today he wasn’t in the mood. He’d had a nagging feeling at the base of his spine ever since setting foot in the boat that morning. Unable to quit looking around for any sign of Erik, he hadn’t been able to fully enjoy the morning or the boat ride, much less Sean’s suggestion to get freaky and naked in the water.
Even Sean’s playful grin wasn’t enough to coax him into letting his guard down in the open. “Not today, babe. I’m sorry. Not here.”
“You’ve been jumpy ever since we left the marina.”
“I didn’t think you noticed.”
Sean cocked an eyebrow at him. “Dude, seriously? You’re like a Secret Service agent without the suit and wrist radio. You should be an owl instead of a dolphin, the way your head’s been swiveling around out here.”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t want to do anything out there.”
“Are you going to let the possibility of Erik being around somewhere rule our lives, or are we going to live?”
“Babe, please understand. I’m just concerned, that’s all. Can’t we mess around in the pool when we get home?”
“Fine,” Sean grumbled.
But Emery knew it wasn’t fine at all. Not from the dejected set of Sean’s shoulders and the way he heavily sat on the bench behind the console before reaching over to program the GPS for their return to the marina.
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
“Yeah, I know,” Sean said.
“I’m going to need a little time to feel at ease out here. I don’t want to put you at risk.”
“I’m not fond of putting myself at risk either. But I doubt he’s anywhere near here right now. He’s probably on the run.”
* * * *
Erik lucked out and blended in with a wild pod of dolphins, staying far enough behind them they wouldn’t feel threatened and turn on him. He slowed his speed, trying to match their lazy pace. Every time he breached the water to breathe, he glanced over toward the boat.
The small pod of six was heading in the boat’s general direction, but he’d have to break away from them at some point to get closer.
* * * *
“You don’t feel it?” Emery asked Sean.
Sean struggled to maintain his calm. He knew Emery was upset over the loss of the two men, but he didn’t want Erik to become Emery’s white whale, either. “I feel you on edge like fuck, is what I feel. Can’t you please try to enjoy today? It’s gorgeous out here. The breeze is perfect, the seas are perfect, and it’s a Monday so we’ve just about got the damn ocean to ourselves.” He threw out his arms and turned around. “Look, even the wild dolphins are playing. Do you think they’d be out here if they were worried?”
Emery stood. He pulled off his sunglasses. Sean watched his eyes narrow as he studied the pod in the distance.
“Son of a bitch,” he whispered.
He dropped his sunglasses and started stripping. “Stay here.”
“I said stay the fuck here!”
Emery dove into the warm Gulf, ignoring Sean yelling at him. Below the surface, he closed his eyes and let his body shift, reveling in the freedom as he kicked his fluke and sped away from the boat. He launched himself up and out of the water, rocketing through the air like a bullet, taking a breath before diving again.
He had his bearings and his target in sight.
Erik won’t get away this time.
In his mind he firmly held the image of the two dead dolphin shifters, their bodies slit open and guts spilled. Until he took his revenge, those images would forever haunt him.
They died because of his love for Sean, and Erik’s psychotic jealousy.
He let loose a blast of his echolocation, pinpointing the wild pod…and their stowaway following behind.
He’d know Erik anywhere, dolphin or human.
As he continued chattering, the trailing dolphin whirled around and broke free of the pod, heading north.
Behind him, he was vaguely aware of Sean yelling before cranking the engine and taking off after him. Already pushing himself, he reached deep for every ounce of speed. Erik was a little smaller than him, cutting less of a profile through the water and able to go slightly faster.
Emery stayed below the surface and prayed Sean couldn’t follow his progress. He didn’t want his mate anywhere close to Erik after all that had happened. He refused to put him in jeopardy.
“Em? Dude, where are you? Talk to me!”
“Stay back, Sean. I’ll take care of him.”
“Fuck that. I’m not letting you handle this alone.”
Emery closed his mind, ignoring Sean’s further mental pleas to talk to him.
Behind him, the sound of the outboard motor briefly grew louder before fading again. Sean had turned the wrong way.
Emery pushed harder, faster, closing the gap between him and Erik. Emery chattered at him, as much to yell at Erik as to use his echolocation to try to stay on course and not lose the other shifter.
“That’s it, motherfucker. You damn coward. You wait until I catch you.”
No reply from Erik, not that Emery had expected one.
The chase continued north, Erik trying to shake Emery by swinging in close to the beaches before veering out again, doing anything he could to try to lose Emery. As they neared Manasota Beach, Emery realized Erik had leapt from the water once before suddenly changing course.