Bradley set the broom to one side and wiped the back of his hand over his brow. The sun was really putting on a great show today, though having to work in the heat wasn’t the best way to enjoy it. He’d rather be on the beach, having fun, checking out the local talent in the surf. But he had a duty to do and promises to keep, so he was here, working.
“I know, Tiny, you’re the last one, but your new owner will be here any minute.”
Tiny was a tongue-in-cheek name for the enormous Great Dane wandering behind Bradley as he straightened the place out.
Since Malec had entrusted him with looking after the kennels, he’d taken his responsibility seriously. It was the biggest promise he’d ever made to anyone. Up until this point Bradley had been a wanderer, heading wherever the next hitched lift took him or wherever his paws led. He’d soon found out that a handsome face and a quick smile got him places—throw in some charm and flattery and life had been pretty sweet for Bradley.
But for the first time ever, his looks weren’t part of his days and hadn’t made anything easier. The dogs he’d been left to care for would have loved him had he been the Elephant Man, so long as he fed and walked them.
It had been a nice change.
A red truck with bull-bars pulled up at the roadside and a tall man with beefy muscles got out.
Tiny barked again.
“Yes, yes, that’s him. Your new owner.” Bradley peered forward. Talk about dogs and owners looking alike, these two really did, right down to the pale gray T-shirt the man wore that matched Tiny’s short dusky coat.
The man walked over the dry grass, arms swinging and a leash held in his fist.
Bradley opened the gate and set his hand on Tiny’s back. Tiny was a well-behaved dog, he’d just taken longer to rehome because of his size. “It’s a nice place you’re going to,” Bradley said. “I checked it out. You’ll be happy there, just try not to break too much stuff.”
Tiny wagged his tail as the man approached. They’d gotten on well when they’d met before and Bradley was satisfied they’d be a good match.
“Hey,” the new owner said. “Hot out here today.”
“Tell me about it.” Bradley smiled and urged Tiny forward.
The dog bounded up to the man, tail wagging, slack lips flapping.
The owner laughed. “Hey, buddy, you keen to get out of kennels, huh?”
Bradley smiled as licks and strokes were exchanged. “He’s all yours, Ted.”
“Thanks, and don’t you worry, he’ll be fine with us, one of the family.”
That was exactly what Bradley wanted to hear.
“So what you gonna do around here now?” The man gestured at the empty kennels and runs.
“Dunno, move on I guess.” His work was done, just as Malec had hoped it would be. The ridiculous number of strays on the streets of the small oceanside town were all rehomed and settled. It had taken several months, but the task had been completed.
“Yeah, well, good luck, and thanks for Tiny here.”
“I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.”
The man nodded and put the leash on Tiny. He then turned and headed back to his truck with his new dog lolloping along at his side.
Bradley had allowed a man to put a leash on him once. Not so long ago. He’d been in his dog body and rummaging in trash by the beach feeling sure a burger and bun were in there, when he’d been approached. The man, Malec, had been so calm and his scent so soothing, and before Bradley had known it he’d been leashed and trotting along the sidewalk like a goddamn domestic dog.
He’d gotten in deep, and ended up spending the night in one of these very kennels with a belly full of dog food. Luckily he’d soon discovered his new friends were also shifters—not that he’d come across many over the years—and been able to reveal himself.
Which was how he’d ended up at the shelter.
But now what? He’d said he was going to move on. And he would. But where?
For the first time ever Bradley felt tired at the thought of roaming California. Had his wanderlust finally been sated? Were his feet and paws no longer itchy to discover new lands and territory?
He closed the gate and headed back past the eerily still and silent kennels. He went into the hut that was his living quarters, and sat on the chair. He crossed his legs and stabbed his toe into the air over and over. Maybe he should shift and go for a run on the beach. See if the sea breeze would help his indecision and antsy mood.
Shaking his head, he tutted. It was too damn hot in the midday sun to wear his thick golden coat. He’d be itching and panting before he knew it. This time of year, in places like these, the only time to shift was in the evening when the temperature became tolerable.
Still restless, he got up and walked to the door, looked out, then came back in. He scuffed his feet on the floor, picked up a cloth and wiped the table. Why the hell was he doing that? It wasn’t as if he was going to stay here now the dogs had gone.
That thought struck him as though he’d been slapped on the ass. He stilled, puffed up his chest, then threw the cloth onto the counter. It was time to get the hell out of there. He wasn’t sure where he’d go or what he’d do. But Bradley had always been happiest when he was on the move, so he’d damn well get back to his nomadic ways and see if that brought him the usual sense of satisfaction.
He grabbed his sweater then locked up both the hut and the outside gate. It was the end of another chapter in his life.
The sun beat down as he headed toward the beach and he peeled off his tatty red T-shirt and held it in his fist. The ocean had always drawn him, though lately he’d had a yearning for the forest. He didn’t know why but the myriad scents, the softness underfoot and the cool shade of trees called to him. It was as if an image of a log cabin, a babbling brook, space to gallop in free and wild had set up residence in his mind. He had no idea where it had come from but he couldn’t shake it.
He ambled over the wasteland Malec had rented, then crossed the quiet road to the beach. There were people dotted around, and a lifeguard station set on long wooden legs.
Enjoying the heat on his bare shoulders and the sound of the waves, he walked toward the bench. Passing a trashcan, he thought again about how Malec had caught him. He’d been with his mate, Raul. It had soon become clear to Bradley that the couple were very much in love and lust. Hell, he’d had to listen to them fucking all night while he’d been out in his kennel. Sounded like they’d had a real great time, too.
He sat on the bench and remembered the day they’d left, with Flo, the woman in their relationship. Bradley had been happy to stay alone and work with the dogs. It had felt almost like a calling, a reason for existing. But those first few nights, lying alone in the narrow bed, he hadn’t been able to help the stab of jealousy he’d had for Malec. It wasn’t that he wanted Raul or Flo, and he harbored no desires for Malec, even though he was a great guy. It was just that he’d seemed so happy, so adored and loved and important to the people in his life. They’d missed him, they’d come to get him.
Who was Bradley important to? Who would miss him?
He frowned, but then his attention was caught by a group of cute surfers rolling in on a wave. Four guys, all typical California-handsome with sleek, toned bodies and white smiles. They were enough to wipe the frown off anyone’s face.
He wondered if any of the surfers were into men. If so, a night of fun between the sheets might shake his feeling of aloneness. The one who skidded onto the sand first, laughing as he did so, was cute. He wore aqua-blue shorts and had a tattoo on his right shoulder—Bradley wasn’t sure what it was of.
Bradley made a sudden decision—he’d go and chat, figure out the situation. See what team the surfing hunk batted for.
But just as he was about to stand, a super-slim woman in a black bikini rushed up to the surfer and flung her arms around his neck. He scooped her close and swung her three-sixty. They kissed, long and passionately, seeming to have forgotten they were in a public place.
Bradley sighed and settled back on the bench.
“Hey, what’s up?”
He turned at the sound of a female voice to his right.
Two women were taking a seat, both in matching red bikinis, one with blonde hair, the other brown. It was the blonde who had spoken.
“Not much,” he said, smiling. He’d never been attracted to women but could appreciate a pretty face and a body that must have spent hours at the gym.
“Why aren’t you out there?” The blonde nodded at the guys on the waves. “Having fun.”
“No board.” He shrugged.
“My brother’s got one you could borrow.” The brunette gestured up the beach. “If you want to.”
“Nah, I’m good, enjoying watching the waves today.”
“Yeah, there’s plenty around here to enjoy looking at.” The blonde giggled and let her gaze drift over his broad chest.
“I wouldn’t argue there.” He turned back to the surfers. Several more girls had joined them and they all appeared very happy about the situation. It was clear he was out of luck with that group.
“You from around here?” the brunette asked.
“I’ve been in town for a few months, yeah. Thinking of moving on, though.”
The blonde chuckled. “Seems to me there’s everything a girl, or guy, could want around here.” She moved a little closer. “Why leave?”
The heat of her sun-warmed skin radiated onto Bradley’s leg.
“We’re staying up the road,” the brunette said. “Just for the weekend.”
“If you want some, you know, company, you’d be welcome to join us.” The blonde ran her hand over her collarbone and onto the rise of her breast. “And we don’t mind sharing if you can’t decide which one of us floats your boat.”
The brunette leaned across her friend, pressing her hand onto Bradley’s thigh. “And I’m sure you’re man enough for both of us, after we’ve finished with each other that is.” She then slid her palm down her friend’s leg to rest on her knee.
Bradley had come across some forward women—and men—in his time. But usually they were only this bold late at night, in the shadows of a bar and their bravery supported by alcohol. The in-your-face, middle-of-the-day proposition surprised even him, and he’d thought he could no longer be surprised.
He smiled. “You’re very sweet girls,” he said. “And clearly you’ve got some great plans for today, but I don’t think I’ll be part of them.”
“Sure you will.” The brunette tugged on her bottom lip and fluttered her eyelashes. “We want you to be.”
The blonde pouted. “You’re not busy. You’re a beach bum hanging out for a bit of action.”
“Well, maybe you’re right there.” He pointed at the cute guy he’d been watching earlier, the one with the girl now attached to his side. “You see him, in the blue shorts?”
“That’s who I was hoping for some action with.” He sighed. “Hot as fuck, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, a dude. I’m afraid you girls are barking up the wrong tree.” He held in another chuckle, amused by his own turn of phrase. “I fuck guys. Never been with a woman in my life.”
They were both quiet for a moment and he could almost hear the cogs of their minds working.
“So you’re a virgin?” the blonde asked.
“Hardly.” Jesus, if only they knew some of the kinky shit he’d gotten up to over the years.
“You are if you’ve never been with a woman.”
“It doesn’t work like that.” He shook his head.
“Well,” the brunette said then puffed up her chest. “How do you know you wouldn’t enjoy being with a woman if you’ve never experienced the female body?”
“Yeah,” her friend said. “How would you know?” She paused. “In fact, why don’t you let us be your first? We’ll show you such a good time, show you what you’ve been denying yourself and…” She lowered her voice. “I guarantee you’ll realize you’ve been missing out when you come so hard and for so long you’ll forget your own name.”
He’d give her ten out of ten for trying. There was no doubt about that. But despite the fact her nipples were peaked, her pupils were wide and her breathing rate had picked up, he felt nothing. Not even the tiniest tingle in his cock or tightening in his balls at the thought of passing a few hours naked with two hot, willing women.
If ever he’d needed proof there wasn’t a bi bone in his body, that was it. Not that he’d ever doubted his gayness, he just knew he’d never sink his cock into pussy.
“You’re gorgeous girls,” he said, “and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to being very flattered by your proposition.” He rested his hand over his chest and inclined his head. “But my cock, well…he only responds to guys. Nothing I can do about that.”
The blonde sat straighter and a small frown line appeared between her eyebrows. “I still think you should give it a go.”
“Yeah, why not just watch us first?” her friend asked. “Might get your little man down there interested.”
“Hey, you two go ahead and have a great time.” He stood and placed his hands on his hips. “But my little man and me won’t be joining you.”
The brunette frowned, her pretty face crumpling.
“Your loss.” The blonde stood and held out her hand to her friend. “And for the record, that was a one-time offer. You’ve blown your chance with us.”
“Yeah, well, I guess I’ll have to get blown by someone else. Someone with a cock.” He grinned. He meant no hard feelings. “Have fun.”
After one last glance at the hunk on the beach, Bradley wandered back to the sidewalk. He wasn’t sure where he was heading or what he was going to do. If he’d been into pussy as well as cock, a few sweet, sexy hours with pretty girls would have suited him fine. But he knew he’d disappoint them when his dick stayed soft despite their best efforts.
He shook his head. Even the image of the scenario in his mind turned him off.
It just wasn’t how his genes had been put together.