For the Soul of an Outlaw 2018By: T S Joyce
Kurt swallowed hard. “Yeah, before she got killed.”
“Who killed her? What animals?”
Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck. He wasn’t ready for this part, and neither was Gunner. But he couldn’t lie to his smart boy. Gunner would see right through it.
Gunner’s little fists clenched his shirt, and he kept his face hidden against Kurt’s pec. “But I’m a mountain lion.”
“But you’re a good one. And I’ll make sure you stay good, okay?”
Gunner nodded, but he was crying. Kurt could tell. These were the moments that ripped his guts out. Laney should still be here raising Gunner with him, but she wasn’t, and it was just Kurt to pick up the pieces and try to be enough. An impossible task since Laney had been so good at being a parent, while Kurt was only good at war.
Kurt startled when the little squirrel climbed up his leg, but he stayed still as she made her way slowly to Gunner. She only hesitated a second before she nuzzled under Gunner’s arm and clenched onto him with her little paws.
Kurt didn’t know what was wrong with her lately, but in this moment, when he didn’t know what to do, he was glad the little squirrel brought a tear-filled smile to his son’s face. Gunner snuggled her up close and rubbed his cheek against her. Kurt waited for the little cretin squirrel to punish Gunner’s affection with a nip, but she didn’t. Instead, she let Gunner scoop her up tight, right there in Kurt’s arms, and hold her.
And for the first time since he had known this bitey, vicious squirrel, he was glad she was around.
Oh, this was awful.
Tenlee sniffed, shivering in the cold. She was in Kurt’s favorite thinking place, naked, freezing, staring up at the man in the moon who cared nothing for her. Kurt had told Gunner who had killed his mom. And oh, she’d broken over the pain in Kurt’s eyes when he admitted mountain lions had killed his mate.
This was it. A dead mate was what had broken him. He’d bonded, had a son, had a family, had everything, and he’d lost it. And now Tenlee couldn’t stop crying.
That woman was dead, but she’d still had everything that Tenlee would never have. She’d had a family for a little while. She’d had Kurt. She had him still.
Oh, Tenlee had wondered about Gunner’s mother. Wondered where she’d gone to. Wondered if she’d abandoned Kurt. In her head, Tenlee had always hated her because she’d left something great. But now things had changed. Kurt’s mate hadn’t left. She’d been killed, and Kurt would’ve belonged to her still had she been alive.
No wonder Kurt felt at home on Two Claws Ranch in a Clan of bear shifters. He’d paired up with one. His son bore the blood of bears.
And who was she? Just a squirrel, and not even a proper one. She was an Origin, fucked up completely, and she would never be enough for a man like Kurt who had known a normal pairing. She would never be enough for Gunner who deserved a fearsome shifter mother. Warm tears rained down her face as she drew her knees to her bare chest and buried her face against them.
She was hurting for herself, yes, but she was also hurting for the man she would never have.
Find her. The words echoed from Laney’s lips. You deserve more.
Kurt lurched up in bed, gasping for air. What the fuck? He hadn’t had a Laney dream since he’d first lost her. Completely shaken, Kurt scrubbed his hand down his face and tried to forget the pleading in her voice. Find her? Find who? He needed whiskey. No. No, no, no, whiskey didn’t solve anything. All it had done was dull the pain and make him worthless to Gunner. No, he needed to stay sober and deal with his own shit, not mask it. In the dark, he looked over at his son’s bed, but Gunner was sleeping soundly. Kurt needed to Change. Needed it. His skin tingled, muscles hurt, bones ached. His wounds from the Alpha battle were throbbing, but they wouldn’t hurt if he was a cougar. They wouldn’t hurt until he Changed back, but for a few hours, he could find relief from the pain in his body and in his mind.
You awake? He texted Colt out of desperation.
Now I am, asshole. What do you want?
Need a Change. Can you watch Gunner?
There was a pause before his cell phone lit up again. Karis is coming over.