Healing Minds

The Shifter Chronicles 5

by M.D. Grimm

(Beginnings Book Five)

Josh McPhee always wanted to be an agent. To keep from going crazy at the Agency’s New Mexico substation, he talks to the imprisoned wolf shifter—or tries to. Their one-sided conversations only prove the shifter is not getting the help he needs. After all, he is a victim too.

Wolf shifter Xavier doesn’t remember much before his time with the Knights or the time under their control, where he was brainwashed and used to kill innocent shifters. He wants to recover his memories, and yet he fears what he might find. He would escape were it not for the aide whose voice quiets Xavier’s implanted urges.

Late one night the Knights attack the station to retrieve what’s theirs. Overpowered, Josh cannot stop them before they unlock Xavier’s cage. But Xavier rushes to Josh’s rescue and, sensing his opportunity, escapes, taking Josh with him. When Josh wakes up on the road, they strike a bargain: Josh offers Xavier one month of freedom before he calls in the Agency. Both doubt he can be cured, but something about Josh makes Xavier better. They just have to figure out what before the enemy catches up to them.

Second Edition with updated and revised text.

This book is on:
  • 1 To Be Read list
Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Amnesia, Badass Hero
Word Count: 44080
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

Xavier sat down heavily. He considered the mess he’d made and couldn’t help the exhilaration. He was free. He was free! And those three intruders… they’d smelled like his captors—his evil captors before the Agency found him. That smell had triggered his memories, his memories of imprisonment, of being strapped to a table, of being poked and prodded. Memories of hearing that damn voice for the first time.

Growling, Xavier stood on his four legs and shook himself hard, flinging blood and other bodily debris off his coat. His gaze roamed over the pieces that used to be human, over the damaged cage and monitors, before coming to rest on Josh. It hadn’t only been their smell that triggered his rage. They’d threatened Josh. Pointed a gun at him. Shot at him. Hurt him.

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Xavier padded over to Josh and nudged him with his snout. He was alive but unconscious. The smell of vomit drew his attention, and his wolf whined faintly in sympathy for the poor kid. Xavier sat next to Josh and took a moment to take in the situation. This was the first time his shift hadn’t been triggered by that damn voice that constantly bounced around inside his head. Even now he could hear it in the back of his mind, telling him to leave, to hunt. To hunt for shifters.

Xavier thought this was a success. He’d shifted of his own free will and had a choice whether to follow the voice or to reject it. He and his wolf had decided together, together after fighting for so long, to transform. The voice didn’t have anything to do with his shift this time. And he was sure he was staring at the reason this very moment.

Josh.

His lapses stopped when this kid arrived, when Josh started talking to him. Somehow, someway, Josh’s voice was able to drown out the evil one. And boy, did that kid talk. And talk. And talk. About everything and anything. At first, Xavier had found it annoying. But then, when Josh’s voice became the only one he heard for stretches of time, he realized the gift he’d been given. The kid’s voice was able to steady his thoughts and allow him to think. Xavier couldn’t explain why, but did he need to? It was enough to know he had a small chance of being normal again.

But not if he stayed here. He looked around and knew he had to leave. The Agency meant well, but this place, their scents, they were too much like the other place. The bad place―the place where all this began. The voice thrived on those sensory memories, and if he was to get rid of that voice, he had to leave. Now.

Closing his eyes, Xavier focused on his breathing. He remembered what it was like to have fingers, to feel his hair brush against his eyes. He focused on his dulled senses, the sensation of walking upright. Slowly and steadily, he shifted back into human form, the change natural. Yet it still exhausted him. He knelt on the floor, slightly dizzy. He stared at his hands, at the blood coating them. They were scarred, rough, and slightly bony. His fingers curled into fists.

Who had done this to him? Who had made him into a monster? Who had stolen his life, made him forget his memories from before? Who had put this madness inside him?

He didn’t have any answers. Xavier stared at Josh. But the kid might. Coming to a decision, he stood and walked out of the room. The security system had been compromised. He knew that much. An explosion like that, an alarm should have gone off. But it didn’t. Xavier knew, in his gut, that he had time. A little time before backup came. If backup was coming at all. There might be a silent alarm, but the attackers hadn’t been amateurs. They’d cut all electricity to this place, after all.

He stepped delicately over debris strewn across the floor, careful where he put his feet, and searched for a bathroom. His own was damaged by the explosion. He found it quickly, through the break room, and scrubbed himself clean. His movements were mechanical, efficient. He hardly thought about what he was doing; he just did it. He splashed himself with hot water and dragged soapy hands through his hair. He really was a mess. Using paper towels to dry off, he walked back into the room that had been his home for who-knew-how-long.

He stepped carelessly over those he’d dismembered and continued over to where they kept his spare garments and put them on, knowing he would have to find better clothing before long. There were no shoes, but Xavier easily stepped over the debris again.

He went directly over to Josh, carefully lifted the kid, and slung him over his shoulder. The poor kid probably had a mild concussion. Xavier still remembered the sight, the noise, of Josh smacking his head against the plexiglass. Xavier bared his teeth, his wolf crouching. Before he shifted again, Xavier shook himself, hard. Focus. He needed to stay focused.

Proceeding over to the locked cabinet, Xavier fished the keys out of Josh’s pocket and opened the doors. He found a treasure trove of weapons and set Josh on the floor to grab as many as he could. He’d smelled the metal, the gunpowder. Even in human form, his senses were heightened, but still dull compared to his wolf’s senses.

Xavier realized, after handling all the weapons with skill and efficiency, that he must have done something like this before he was taken. But what? His memories of his early life were fuzzy. Then again, so were his memories during his time of insanity―as he considered it. His only real, distinct memory was waking up in that cage with a short, blue-eyed man staring at him from the other side.

“My name is Agent Poe,” the man had said, his voice steady and calm. Hard. “I don’t know if you can understand me, but you are safe. You won’t be hurting anyone, and no one will hurt you here. Can you tell me your name?”

But Xavier couldn’t tell Agent Poe his name. He didn’t know it at the time. He’d only remembered his name a couple of days ago.

Shaking away those thoughts, ordering himself to focus on the present, Xavier considered Josh’s key ring. There were many keys on it, but one he recognized as a vehicle key. Perfect.

Leaving Josh and the weapons, Xavier walked carefully through the mess. He glanced briefly at the fallen light, up to the ceiling, then back down at the floor. How did that fall? It was well beyond the blast radius of both explosions. Strange. He shrugged and continued walking.

The front doors looked untouched by explosion, which meant those black-clothed invaders must have hacked their way inside. Xavier stepped outside and instantly swung his head away from the searing sun. He blinked, his eyes stinging. He threw his arm up to block the rays. Half blind, he struggled to look around. It didn’t take him long to spot the truck sitting alone in the driveway in front of the building. People still walked up and down the street, going about their business.

The building must have some great soundproofing to keep several bomb blasts hidden. Xavier didn’t have a problem with that.

The next few minutes went by quickly. He hauled Josh―gently and careful of his head―into the cab of the truck before shoving the rifles and axe behind the seat. He tucked a handgun in his waistband, making sure the safety was on, and grabbed as much food and supplies as he could from the break room. He covered the guns and axe with the tarp, just in case someone happened to look into the cab. He packed the food efficiently in the back and covered it with another tarp, tying it securely together. His movements were automatic, as if he’d done this many times before. Xavier tried not to wonder why he had this sort of knowledge. His memories would come back, just like his name. Whether he wanted them to or not.

Starting the truck, he backed out of the parking lot and sped down the road.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Pixie on MM Good Book Reviews wrote:

4 Hearts

This story is part of a series and can be read as a standalone but is best read in order. Josh has always wanted to be an agent but he is stuck as an aide in the Agency’s New Mexico substation, he spends his days talking to the wolf shifter, who was captured a year ago, but never getting any response. Josh is left alone and just making a breakthrough with the wolf when the Knights attack to retrieve their property, Josh won’t let them get the wolf without a fight. Xavier doesn’t remember much and he wants to know everything that has happened to him, and whose voice is urging him to kill? Josh is Xavier’s lifeline, his voice drowns out the other voices urgings, so when the Knights attack Xavier protects the only one who can help him. Xavier and Josh come to an agreement, for one month Josh will help Xavier to try to overcome the voice before he calls the Agency.

This is a great addition to The Shifter series. Josh wants to be an agent more than anything else, when he develops a connection with the wolf shifter Xavier he jumps at the chance to help him and to further his own chances with the Agency. Xavier just wants to know what was done to him and to stop the voice in his head, Josh is the only thing that stops the urges and now Xavier needs Josh’s help and forces Josh to come with him. Xavier wants more from Josh than just his help he wants his body as well, but Josh can’t be involved with a shifter not if he wants to be an agent no matter how much he might want the sexy shifter.

I really enjoyed this story and how it progressed, Xavier trust in Josh being built over time and Xavier’s reliance on Josh to keep him calm, but Josh’s determination that Xavier can be coaxed as he becomes uncontrollable and his trust that Xavier won’t hurt him. Josh is caught in the middle though when it comes to what he wants, the Agency took him in and has given him a sort of family and he wants nothing more than to become an agent. But, Josh is drawn to Xavier and the Agency has strict rules concerning interaction with shifters, if he gives into his attraction to Xavier he will lose the Agency, so we see his struggle as he weighs up want he truly desires. With Xavier you see his soul-searing pain as he remembers what was done to him and what he was forced to do, his guilt is palpable and you can feel his need for revenge and it is only his love for Josh that stops him.

I found this story to be enjoyable and we see characters from previous books, it was nice to see them again and they did add a bit to the story. We get some great action and danger as the Knights are determined to get Xavier back, and Josh’s and Xavier’s love is truly tested when the owner of the voice tracks them down. I am beginning to get a healthy dislike for the Agency because of what it expects from its workers, during this story I got the feeling that their purpose was more to thwart the Knights than any true desire to help shifters.

I recommend this to those who love shifters with problems, danger, trust, love, choosing the right path, hot sex and a happy ending.


If you want to see more of Xavier and Josh's story, please check out their Valentine's Day-themed sequel, "Hearts and Minds."

About the Author

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.


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