Hearts and Minds

A Shifter Chronicles Story, Sequel to Healing Minds

by M.D. Grimm

(A Shifter Chronicles story, sequel to Healing Minds)

With the construction for their shifter rehabilitation clinic in Haven underway, wolf shifter Xavier and his mate Josh couldn’t be happier, professionally. But their busy lives leave them little alone time. It’s putting a strain on their relationship, and they still haven’t had anything close to a honeymoon. Josh realizes Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and sees an opportunity he can’t let get away. But never having observed the holiday before, he has no idea what Xavier might want. All Xavier knows is that Josh wants to celebrate, but he has no clue how. Before either of them makes a concrete decision, a bear shifter attacks Haven and threatens to trample their romantic plans.

Second Edition with revised text.

This book is on:
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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: Alpha Character, Badass Hero
Word Count: 20055
Setting: Montana
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

Josh was mentally and emotionally drained by the time he staggered into the kitchen to get some food. It was late afternoon, and a couple of the patients had some emotional crises. He’d ended up skipping lunch. Bruno, the human chef, was moving swiftly around the kitchen, obviously starting dinner. Bruno was the tall, dark, lanky mate of a deer shifter who was a teacher at the local high school. Apparently, Bruno really liked food and would rather cook for a good cause than for money. He was a perfect fit around there, despite being human. Josh didn’t feel so out of place with him around.

Bruno took one look at him and frowned. “Skipping meals isn’t healthy.”

Josh smiled. “You don’t say?”

Bruno sighed heavily before grabbing Josh’s arm and leading him over to one of the counter chairs. Josh sat, and before his eyes, Bruno whipped up a fresh, full-bodied salad, and set it down in front of him in what Josh thought was record time.

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“This’ll hold you over until dinner.”

Josh stared at Bruno. “I think I’m in love with you.”

Bruno chuckled, his open face showing affection. He ruffled Josh’s curly hair and turned back to the stove. “Save it, kid. I’m a stone’s throw away from sixty. You’re better with your current mate.”

Josh picked up a fork and dove into the salad. He couldn’t stop the sounds of pleasure coming from him. “Apparently I like older men,” Josh said, his mouth full. “Xavier’s almost forty.”

“How I long to be forty again,” Bruno sighed nostalgically and continued to move around the kitchen with ease and grace. Filled with every cooking implement invented, the kitchen was rather large, so Bruno had taken over the running of the kitchen with at least two assistants occasionally helping him.

Josh smiled and focused on eating. While he’d become better at holding his tongue and not acting like a motormouth, he still caught himself sometimes going on and on to either a glaze-eyed patient or staffer. It was hard since he had so much knowledge, and he couldn’t understand why not everyone was interested in sharing that knowledge with him. But it was nice he didn’t have to worry about that with Xavier. Xavier never told him to shut up. Not from the first time they met had Xavier ever told him to be quiet. In fact, it was Josh’s voice that had saved Xavier from falling under the mind control of the Knights. He was proud to remember that.

“Any plans for Valentine’s Day?” Bruno asked.

Josh choked slightly before managing to swallow. “Wh-what? Um, no, nothing planned. I kinda forgot, actually.”

Bruno chuckled. “It happens to the best of us. Ray and I are so busy during the week, we try to have at least one ‘date night’ a month. Valentine’s Day doesn’t really hold much significance for us.” Bruno looked over his shoulder and met Josh’s eyes. “But it’s a nice excuse to make your shifter dress up and treat you like a gentleman.”

Josh chuckled. He finished the salad and politely took both plate and fork to the sink, rinsed them, then put them into the dishwasher. Maybe he and Xavier should set up a “date night.” If nothing else, that way Josh could talk to his heart’s delight and get out some of the tension such silence brought. Despite the fact that his voice was no longer needed to drown out the violent voice that the Knights had implanted inside Xavier’s head, Xavier still enjoyed listening to him ramble. Josh knew because he’d told him. Xavier would just stare at him, eyes clear and focused, filled with interest and a warm affection that never failed to cause Josh’s heart to race. Xavier’s eyes were truly amazing; a perfect mix of green-gold, one color sometimes dominating the other depending on his mood.

Speaking of Xavier…. Josh thanked Bruno before grabbing his thick coat and walking outside and around the clinic, eyes peeled. He stuck his hands in his pockets, small puffs of fog in front of his face marking each breath he took. He had energy again, no patients scheduled for the rest of the day, and a few ideas on how to pass the time.

Josh found Xavier in the back, sawing plywood. Workers were around doing other projects, chatting, shouting, ordering. Josh had become accustomed to the sounds, and he knew all their faces and their names. But his attention was focused on his mate. Xavier had stripped down to his tank top despite the cold and wore safety goggles. His foot was propped on the sawing board to give him leverage, and his hold on the electric saw was steady and sure. The lifted leg caused his jeans to become even more form-fitting than they usually were. Josh could only stop and stare. When was the last time he’d allowed himself to just look at this man, his man, and revel in his beauty? Xavier might be close to forty years old, but it was just a number, seemingly disconnected from the wolf. His body was still lean, formed by muscle that flexed as he sawed, and his skin was slightly bronzed from his childhood in Australia. His black hair and green-gold eyes made for an exotic picture, and Josh wondered why he’d been so distant of late. Yeah, sure, he’d been busy, but just look at him. And Xavier was all his. All Josh’s. Everyone else could only look, never touch. He’d had Xavier inside him.

Josh’s mouth watered, and his palms became sweaty. His pants also became rather tight around his groin. He cleared his throat and resisted running over and jumping on Xavier’s back. Having an accident with a power tool was something that could kill a mood.

Josh walked over instead, breathing carefully, heart pounding. He just kept thinking: this hot wolf shifter is all mine. Josh stopped at the side of the board, the farthest away from the blade.

“Hey, Josh,” Xavier panted slightly.

Josh couldn’t speak.

Xavier reached the end, and the loose plywood fell to the ground. He lowered his leg, turned off the saw, and stood up straight, rolling his shoulders before glancing at Josh. He blinked in surprise. Josh was sure his intentions were written all over his face. Xavier’s eyebrows rose, and his eyes flared gold.

COLLAPSE

This is the sequel to "Healing Minds" (The Shifter Chronicles 5) and takes place after "Wisdom's Allegiance" (The Shifter Chronicles 6) and before "Ghost of Halloween Past" (The Shifter Chronicles 3.5).

If you enjoyed this story, make sure to check out the others in the series! Xavier and Josh are series regulars and might make cameos in the other stories!

Psychic Moon (1) * Celtic Warrior and Wolf Spirit (1.5)

Love is a Whirlwind (2)

Blind Devotion (3) * Ghosts of Halloween Past (3.5)

Hunter and Hunted (4)

Healing Minds (5) * Healing Minds (5.5)

Master's Blood (6)

Hunted Guardian (7)

The Serpent and the Angel (8)

Predator and Prey (9)

Shifting Moon (10)

Feather and Scroll (11)

Kindred Truths (12)

Wisdom's Allegiance (13)

Red Sun (14 - Available January 2022)

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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