© 2017 Jack Doe. All rights reserved.
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“Whoa, look out, Colton!” Shane warned, snatching his slave out of the way by the shoulder.
Just then, a large wolf flew through the doorway and landed on his butt at the base of the stairs. He uttered something nasty as he stood up and stormed off to his car in a huff.
Shane and Colton exchanged glances before pushing open the wooden door and stepping into the bar.
Shane fixed the bartender with an expectant grin as he stepped up to the bar.
The rhino rolled his eyes and grinned as he walked over to greet and serve two of his favorite patrons. “Oh, look, it’s you guys,” he greeted them.
“Troubles, Horace?” Shane asked. Colton sat next to him at the bar.
“The guy was being an asshole to one of the sheep,” Horace replied, glancing and gesturing his head towards a table of ewes.
“I’m sure he won’t do that again,” Shane chuckled. “He made it to the edge parking lot this time.”
Colton frowned and looked at Shane. “This time?” he asked.
Shane and Horace exchanged glances and grinned. “Horace doesn’t take kindly to bad behavior in his bar,” the horse chuckled. “Over the years, it’s gone from him escorting them out to shoving them out to opening the door and throwing them out to launching them out.”
“This is a new record for me!” Horace beamed.
Shane laughed, and Colton shook his head. Horace went off to grab their beers and place their orders for cheeseburgers.
“So what are you working on now?” Colton asked when their beers arrived.
Shane rubbed his head. “It’s Friday,” he said as he lifted his mug. “The only things I want to work on are this beer, that cheeseburger, and you!”
Colton snorted into his mug and then put it down, wiping his nose and blushing.
“Wow,” Shane said, laughing into his mug. “You are so cute when you get embarrassed.”
“I’m not cute,” Colton pouted, his whiskers flattening indignantly, but Shane’s charisma was infectious, and Colton eventually just grinned ruefully and took another swig of his beer.
Their burgers arrived presently, and horse and cougar dug in with gusto.
After putting down their plates, Horace leaned on the bar. “You know, Shane,” he graveled, “word has it you’re working on the Coombs case.”
Colton snickered and eyed Shane as the horse sighed, shook his head, and put down his burger, grinning ruefully. Putting his elbow on the bar and resting his chin on his palm, he looked at Horace with eyebrows raised in amused exasperation. “Yes?” he said expectantly. Colton lost it and held his sides, leaning back precariously on the barstool.
“What’s with him?” Horace asked, perplexed.
“Oh, nothing,” Shane said with a wry smirk. “What have you got for me?”
Horace frowned and glanced at Colton, who was wiping his eyes with a claw. The rhino finally shrugged and said, “Coombs was a regular in here. Not as regular as you two, but a regular nonetheless. She was a sweet gal. I’d sure love to have the guy who did it put behind bars.”
“How is she?” Colton asked worriedly.
“She’s holding up,” Shane said, wiping his mouth and pushing back his plate so he could lean on the bar. Should have known better than to go out, he thought wryly. “She’s still in the hospital, but she’s expected to make a full recovery.”
Colton and Horace sighed in relief.
“Do you have any idea who did it?” Horace asked.
“We have a few ideas,” Shane said evasively. “It’s too early in the case for me to be able to talk about it, though.”
“Just promise me you’ll nail the sonofabitch,” Horace said through gritted teeth.
“Well, of course we will,” Shane said, surprised at the bartender’s passion.
“Horace, you’re mighty worked up over her,” Colton said, just as surprised as his master. “How come?”
The rhino pursed his lips and snorted, clenching and unclenching his thick, sausage-like fingers. It looked like he was going to say something, and then he abruptly walked off.
Colton’s jaw dropped, astonished. “Did I hit a nerve?” he asked Shane.
Shane looked after the rhino thoughtfully. “I think our friend might have a crush,” he said.
Colton’s face lit up. “Horace? A crush?” he asked with a grin, imagining the burly rhino and the delicate doe together. “That’d be a cute couple!”
Shane grinned and nodded. “It certainly would,” he said thoughtfully. Coming out of his thought, he glanced at Colton. “Ready?” he asked.
“Well, yeah, but I thought you wanted—” Colton protested.
“I did,” sighed Shane, “but it’s not gonna happen now.”
Colton’s ears lowered a little bit in disappointment. “Oh, well, okay…”
Shane left a $100 bill on the bar for Horace, and the two left.
Back at home, Shane disappeared straight into his study.
Colton stripped down to his jock strap and followed his master in. Shane was already poring over a large stack of papers. Colton hated to bother him, but this was Friday, and Shane was supposed to be off for the weekend. Colton wouldn’t ordinarily mind, but Shane had expressly forbidden him from pleasuring himself today, and he was feeling a little pent-up.
“Shane?” Colton asked plaintively.
“Mmm,” was the reply.
Colton fidgeted and then moved in front of Shane. “Shaane,” Colton whined.
“Mmm,” Shane replied again, his brow furrowed with thought.
Colton huffed, and then his whiskers poofed out. His tail twitched as he moved up to Shane’s desk. Watching Shane intently, he moved his paw between Shane’s face and the papers. The horse seemed unfazed, so Colton put his other paw next to his first, now both of them in the way.
Shane glanced up over his glasses. Colton gave a shit-eating grin. “Shaane,” he said again in a sing-song voice.
Shane snickered and grinned at his slave. “You’re such a fucking cat,” he laughed.
“Now that I have your attention,” Colton said as he flicked his tail, “you promised.” He pouted.
Shane huffed and considered the accusation, pursing his lips. “I did promise, didn’t I?” he said at last. “Horace lit a fire under me,” he admitted.
“I want the creep found, too,” Colton replied, “but it’s Friday, Shane, and you promised.”
Shane considered arguing that crime didn’t just stop on the weekends, but he had promised, and he was a fur of his word if nothing else. “All right, all right,” he said, holding up his hands. “You’re right; I did. Are you ready now?”
“Duh!” Colton replied incredulously, using his paws to gesture to his nearly-naked body.
“Ha ha, all right, then,” Shane chuckled. He stood up and put his stack of papers down.
“Shane?” Colton asked as the horse started for the doorway.
“Hmm?” Shane asked, turning.
“Would you, um, work out first?” the cougar asked, holding his tail in his paws.
Shane frowned. “Work out?” he asked.
“Yeah, I…I like the way you smell when you’re lathered up,” Colton admitted. “And how your muscles look when you’re straining. And it’s kinda hot to be with you when I know you’ve been exerting yourself physically. I mean, you’re good-looking and all, but I always figured you were kind of a nerd. It’s hot being with you when you’re a jock, too.”
Shane stared at him speechlessly.
“Sorry…” Colton said, blushing and clutching his tail tighter. “You don’t have to. I was just curious…”
Shane found his voice and said, “I—no, it’s just…nobody’s ever asked me to put on a show,” he said. “I take pride in being a nerd! Nobody’s ever called me a jock before, and I certainly wasn’t one in school.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Never thought I’d ever be called a jock,” he mused.
“Well, I think you look great,” Colton said, letting go of his tail and moving next to Shane so he could rub the horse’s abs with his paw. “Please?” he asked, looking plaintively at his master.
Shane shook his head and grinned. “All right, all right,” he said. “If it makes you happy!”
Colton grinned ear-to-ear, and Shane moved the book on the shelf that granted access to his workout room. He glanced over his shoulder at Colton as he stepped inside and his slave followed.
“I gotta admit, I’m suddenly feeling super self-conscious,” the horse said as he made his way to the bench, “like I’m a trick pony or something, performing for an audience.”
“Well, you are, kinda,” Colton said, “but don’t think about it that way. Think about it like you’re just doing your workout and pretend I’m not here.”
Easier said than done, Shane thought to himself. He seldom lacked in self-confidence, but this was…strange. He could feel Colton’s eyes on him as he walked up to the weight rack, grabbed some plates, and started loading the Smith machine. Best not to overdo it, he thought. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt himself while trying to show off!
I need music. “I’ll be right back,” Shane said as he stepped out to grab his earbuds. He returned presently with a driving rhythm playing in his ears. He could feel his heart quickening to synchronize to the bass drum and the resulting surge of blood coursing through his body, awakening his muscles and inciting their strength. Hell, yeah!
But first, stretching. He took his spot near the punching bag and began his routine, moving in fluid motions as he stretched his arms, biceps, neck, shoulders, back, thighs, hamstrings, and glutes.
Colton watched the horse’s movements with awed anticipation. As Shane stretched his back, his biceps would occasionally flex, and a vein would throb on his arm. When the horse stretched his quads, his buttocks would tighten, and his tail would raise, exposing the donut-hole that Colton was eagerly looking forward to enjoying. With each movement Shane made, his beautiful body rippled with horse strength, and Colton considered himself incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful master who also took such good care of him.
By the end of his stretch, Shane was barely aware that Colton was still watching him, and he certainly wasn’t aware that his slave was salivating, the front of his jock slick with feline precum. With a few hops up and down on the tips of his hooves to give his whole body a bit of a jump-start, he was ready.
He stepped over to the bench and lay down. The vinyl was cool under his back and shoulder blades, but the temperature invigorated him. He grasped the bar, could feel how cold, hard, and unyielding it was, how resolved it was to carry the load as he lifted. It was satisfying knowing that the bar would pull its weight as long as Shane pulled his. He wrapped his fingers around it, deliberately spacing his hands to focus on his pecs. He closed his eyes and let the music swell.
3… He timed his initial press to match the impact of the next major drumbeat.
2… Three more beats…
With a snort, he flexed his pecs, pushed his shoulders and back hard against the bench, and felt the bar moving away from him. He tilted his hands back, disengaging the safety latch on the bar, and extended his arms.
Fuck, lifting weight feels good. He could feel the blood already flooding into his chest and triceps, felt the surge of adrenaline that came when he lifted heavy weights. With his arms now fully extended, he began to lower the bar, feeling as the weight shifted from his triceps back to his pecs, felt the approaching weight making his lung capacity decrease. Yet he inhaled as the weight approached, and just before it touched his chest, he fired his pecs again and shoved the weight away, hissing out a grunt as he did.
Colton watched Shane as the horse lifted the bar. His muscles bulged and quivered with exertion, and in Colton’s mind, his well-educated, lawyer master might as well be yoked to a plow like in the old days. Hearing his master’s grunts, he imagined the horse up to his fetlocks in dirt, his muscles straining, the plow digging in and fighting to stay put. He imagined the horse giving one of those grunts and the plow suddenly surging forward, digging a deep scar into the ground.
And then it hit him: his master’s musky sweat—the sweat of physical exertion, not mental strain—washed over him like an aphrodisiac wave. Colton shuddered in ecstasy, his eyes half-closed as he instinctively reached for his crotch, but his precum-soaked jock prevented him from touching himself, and he whimpered in need. He opened his eyes and saw his master still hard at work, glistening sweat beaded on his forehead, his shoulders, his pecs, and—Colton knew—down his back. It was too much for the pent-up cougar, and he was going to have to do something about it…now!
He waited for Shane to lock the bar in place when he rested between sets. As soon as the weight rested safely on the latches, Colton tapped Shane’s shoulder.
“Mmf! Wha—?” Shane asked, whipping his head around to look; he’d been so engrossed in what he was doing that he’d completely forgotten Colton was there.
Colton motioned for him to take out his earbuds.
“What’s wrong?” Shane asked, taking out an earbud and looking up at his slave, concerned.
Colton had to steady his breathing. “Master,” he said hoarsely, “it’s time.” It took everything he had to keep his paws off himself—and off of Shane.
“But I just started—” Shane began to protest, but the look Colton gave him told him that his slave was feeling pretty desperate. “O–okay?” he said, slowly moving out from under the weight and sitting up.
Colton was on him in an instant. Before Shane could stand, the cougar was on his knees with both paws wrapped around Shane’s sheath, eagerly licking his flesh to entice him out.
“Whoa, hey!” Shane gasped, shocked at Colton’s eagerness, but the feeling was infectious and his slave’s tongue felt really good, and soon he, too, was ready to do it right there on the bench.
“Oh, Master, please flip over!” Colton begged, “and let me take off my jock?”
“Goodness, Colton!” Shane gasped. He’d never seen Colton this eager before. But a whimper from his slave made him forget his surprise and give permission to his slave. He rolled over, supporting his weight with his palms on the bench and feet planted firmly on the rubber floor behind him. His tail listed off to the side invitingly.
At the word from his master, Colton flicked his jock off, a thread of precum stringing its way from the jock to his cock before being interrupted by his leg. He stepped out of the jock and put his paws on his master’s flank, leaning in to savor the scent. His mouth salivated freely now, and he found himself swallowing a lot to keep up as his master’s musk overpowered him in the close proximity. His barbed penis throbbed in desperation as he moved to press it between his master’s buttocks.
Heat engulfed the feline cock and balls, making them ache for release. He pushed his body tightly up against his master’s and wrapped his arms around his master’s chest. He imagined the line of sweat where the yoke might have been and buried his face in his master’s rippling muscles. His hips twitched forward involuntarily.
Cock met ass, and Shane sucked him inside instantly. “Oh, Shane!” Colton cried out, his claws extending reflexively and digging into the horse’s back. His hips drove him in and out with blinding speed, and before he could stop himself, he pressed himself up to the hilt into Shane and roared in ecstasy as his pent-up orgasm drained the pressure on his swollen testes and flooded his master with day-old cougar jism.
For his part, Shane held onto the bench for dear life, wincing as his slave’s claws dug into him and sighed in pleasurable satisfaction as he felt his slave’s balls twitch against his rump and his ass fill with cum. He let out a quiet nicker.
Colton retracted his claws and slid off of Shane, sprawling on the floor to enjoy the afterglow. Shane blinked and looked over his shoulder at the puddle of cougar that used to be his slave. He shook his head and grinned, rolling his eyes as he flipped back over to sit on the bench, not caring if his slave’s seed leaked out.
“What was that?” Shane asked teasingly. “I’ve never seen you so worked up!”
“Ngh,” Colton murmured; it was about all he could do.
Shane laughed. “I think I’m gonna name you ‘Puddle’,” he said, scooping up his slave and walking to the bathroom. He started the water and carried Colton into the shower.
The invigorating stream seemed to help rouse the now-purring cougar, and he looked up at Shane with the most contented look.
Shane nearly dropped him from laughing. Colton, finally coming to, blushed in embarrassment and held Shane’s shoulders so he could be put down.
“Okay,” Shane asked as the two washed the sex off themselves, “Now, what was that?”
Colton grinned sheepishly. “It’s a fantasy I’ve had a long time,” he said. “You, out in a field, sweating as you pull a plow. You stop for a moment as I take you from behind. I can feel the sweat from your exertion and am thrilled to be using such a strong, hard-working stud.” He gave an embarrassed shrug. “Between being pent-up all day, you agreeing to let me top you, and then watching you sweat and smelling your musk, it was just too much!” He continued ruefully, “I wanted to hold back, to savor the moment, to enjoy the feel of your ass some more, but…I just couldn’t!”
Shane grinned and ruffled his slave’s fur. “Looks like we might need to work on that at some point,” he said, “Get you to have a little more self-control.” Colton’s eyes lit up, but Shane now gave him a penetrating look. “Interesting that you wanted to plow the plow-horse,” he said thoughtfully. “What about being plowed by the plow-horse?”
Now Colton’s face really lit up as the idea crossed his mind. “Ohh, that would be hot!” he exulted.
“Shame I’m already clean,” Shane mused with a grin. Colton’s ears drooped. “Next time,” Shane told him. “Next time.”
After the sexual interlude, Colton went off to get a head-start on his weekend chores while Shane went back to poring over the Coombs case. It didn’t make sense. Why would anybody attack such a sweet gal? He pursed his lips and pulled up the security video on his phone.
Mathilde Coombs, a doe, mid-40s, about 5’2″, and single stepped out of the bar as the video began. Moments later, an assailant ran into the frame, stabbed her five times in the chest and stomach, and then ran out of view. The camera didn’t have any audio, but everything happened so fast that Shane doubted much had been said, if anything. Still, he had halfheartedly hoped that the assailant might have said something when he stabbed her, something that might help identify him—or her. The video was frustratingly free of any bystanders, and the attacker didn’t show up on any cameras close to the crime scene. Shane hoped that Ms. Coombs would remember what happened when she awoke.
Shane frowned and rewound the video, played it back, and paused it when the assailant first appeared. The fur was wearing a faded red hoodie and appeared to be stocky, maybe around 5’8″ just estimating from his size versus Ms. Coombs’s. There really wasn’t much more he could make out from the video; the assailant’s back was turned to the camera, so Shane couldn’t make out what species the attacker was.
The horse sighed and was about to look for something else to examine when a thought crossed his mind. He clicked the video forward a few frames.
“Colton!” Shane called, suddenly excited.
“Yeah?” Colton asked, appearing presently.
“Look at this,” Shane said to him and showed him the video. “What do you notice?”
“Oh, shit, that’s Mathilde!” Colton gasped, shrinking back a bit.
“Well, yeah,” Shane conceded, “but what else do you notice?”
Colton frowned. “It’s a pretty nice bar,” he said. “When I was a prostitute, one guy in particular liked to take me there. We never really had sex, but he liked being seen with me there.”
Shane shook his head. “No, no. What do you notice about Ms. Coombs?”
Colton peered at the image, whiskers poofed out. He cocked his head, squinted his eyes, and let out a huff. “She looks…I dunno, happy, I guess?”
“Exactly!” Shane agreed. “She looks happy as the assailant is running up to her. Look at her gaze; she’s looking right at the attacker.”
“But why would she be happy that she was about to get attacked?” Colton asked, frowning.
“She wouldn’t,” Shane replied. “She’d be happy if she saw a friend running up to see her. She knew the attacker, Colton.”
“Oh! Wow, that’s—”
“Fucked up, yeah. Seems that Ms. Coombs had at least one two-faced friend.”
Colton shook his head. “I can’t imagine anybody hating her enough to do that.”
“Neither can I,” Shane replied. “I guess we’ll have to wait until she wakes up.” He frowned and looked at the paused image on his phone again. “That was all,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me who thought she looked surprisingly happy to see her attacker.”
Colton nodded and went back to his chores. Shane put his phone down, leaned back in his chair, and tented his fingers. No motive, no leads on identity, no witnesses, no weapon. He frowned and sat forward. Weapon… He rummaged through the stack of papers and found the hospital intake report.
“Patient presented with multiple deep lacerations across the chest and abdomen,” he read aloud.
Fishing around and finding a picture, taken after Ms. Coombs had been stabilized, Shane immediately realized an error in his thinking: the wounds were long, far too long to have been made by someone simply inserting and removing a knife. These were more like long, deep cuts. And there was no way for an assailant to move fast enough to make that many cuts that long and deep in the few seconds of the attack.
“Hmm.” Shane turned his attention back to the report. “Damage to the large intestine…didn’t penetrate the ribcage,” he murmured. Sitting back again, he pursed his lips. “It had to be claws,” he mused aloud. “Then it’d only take one or two swipes to inflict all those gashes.” He brightened a bit. “Well, that really narrows down our choices of attacker, then!” He picked up his phone and began dialing. Before he pressed the button to start the call, though, he checked the time: 11:00 PM. Nuts. He’d have to wait until the morning. He might have a fire lit under him to crack the case, but that didn’t mean everybody in the department did, too. He reluctantly cleared the dialed number and stood up. The case will still be there tomorrow, he reassured himself as he stepped out of his office, turning out the light as he went.
The next morning, Colton woke his master as usual.
Well, not quite as usual.
Breakfast was started and Shane’s attire for the day was laid out like usual, but Shane had planted an idea in Colton’s mind that had kept him up all night thinking about it, and Colton planned to beg his master to let him live the fantasy proposed yesterday.
Yet when Colton went to Shane’s bedroom to wake him, his master was not in bed.
Colton blinked and frowned before doing a double-take, yet the impossible-to-miss horse was definitely not in bed.
Maybe he got a head-start on the case again? “Shane?” Colton asked, padding into his master’s study. Yet he wasn’t here, either. Colton scrunched up his nose, perplexed. His master always did things the same way, every day. Shane should be in bed.
Maybe he decided to get a workout in? The cougar moved the book on the shelf, and the bookcase swung open silently. “Shane?” Colton asked again, stepping inside, yet the workout room was the same as it had been after he cleaned it the evening before. He paused next to the bench and grinned, remembering being buried to the hilt in his master that very spot the day before.
Yet he couldn’t let himself be distracted by that now. While he doubted Shane would be angry with him for not getting him up (he was up, after all), Colton felt a little unnerved by his master’s absence.
Maybe he went to town for something… It was the only other place his master could be, but it was really unlike him to leave without saying something to Colton…or taking him along. Colton couldn’t help but pout that his master had gone off for fun in town without him. But when he got to the garage, the vehicles were all present and accounted for.
“Okay, what the fuck?” Colton said aloud, closing the garage door. He grabbed his phone and began to dial his master when something caught his eye out the window looking into the back yard.
Oh, shit. Moving slowly, Colton lowered the phone and crouched down below the window so that he could sneak up beside it. Being careful not to disturb the curtains and give himself away, he peered out, his heart pounding in his chest.
He found Shane. His master was hard at work, mowing the grass with the reel mower, and doing it very quickly. Colton didn’t know the mower could keep up if you moved that fast. But it wasn’t the pristine grass that caught his attention; it was his master, sweat glistening in the morning sunlight. The mower might not be a plow, but…
Ohh. Colton gasped as he realized what his master was up to, and his cock sprang to attention under his jock. He whimpered at the sudden tightness and went to the door.
“Boy, I sure could use some relief after all this hard work,” Shane said with a wink as soon as he saw the cougar standing there in the doorway. He mowed his way up to the porch and parked the mower, standing close enough to Colton that the cougar could definitely smell the stud’s musk—and pheromones; apparently Shane wasn’t doing this just for him! Leaning against the porch railing, Shane added, “And I’m not talking about a glass of iced tea.” He winked and grinned mischievously. “It’s a shame there’s nobody around to give an old horse a little reward for his work.”
“I’ll do it!” Colton blurted without thinking. He blushed and coiled his tail around his ankles as Shane leaned in.
“Would ya?” the horse asked, his face lighting up hopefully.
Colton couldn’t help chuckling at the earnestness of the look Shane gave him. “Every hard worker deserves a reward,” he said, his embarrassment vanquished. He moved up next to Shane to rub his paw on his master’s strained crotch, looking at the horse’s face reassuringly.
“Well, uh, that’d sure be nice, then,” Shane said, keeping up the role perfectly. He licked his lips in anticipation as Colton deftly undid his master’s shorts and let them fall to the ground.
The wave of musk that flooded out of the well-exerted horse’s shorts made Colton giddy and light-headed, but he was determined to keep up his part, too. He reached down and cradled Shane’s cock in his arms. “I’m sure I’ve got a good place for this around here somewhere,” he said. “Oh!” He brought the fleshy tip to his lips. “Maybe here?” He took a long, slow lap at Shane’s cock-head, and Shane bucked involuntarily.
“Oh, my,” Shane drawled. “That is a mighty nice place, but do you think there’s an even better place?” he asked, almost shyly.
“Oh, well, there’s only one place better than that,” Colton said with a grin as he took one last lap at the blob of precum on Shane’s tip. “But for that, we need special arrangements.” He took Shane by the hand and led him over to the railing. “Now you just come over here, and I’ll get that spot warmed up for you,” he said, arching his back and spreading his legs as he leaned against the railing. “What do you think about that?” he asked, looking over his shoulder invitingly.
“Oh, I, uh—well, I reckon that’d be just fine,” Shane said breathlessly, his cock beginning to bob up and down on its own impetus. He stepped up behind Colton, and the cougar could feel the heat radiating off of it even before it made it under his tail.
Colton shuddered in ecstasy as the horse’s throbbing member found his hole. “Ohh, yes, Shane…” the cougar murmured.
Shane pushed himself inside and groaned in pleasure. Colton’s ass wrapped snugly around him and began to contract in rippling waves around his dick. Shane snorted ecstatically and drove himself deep inside.
“Oh, fuck, yes! Plow me, plow-horse!” Colton cried. He could feel Shane’s balls slap against his ass as his master did as told, pulling out only to drive himself back in with another audible “slap.” Colton held onto the railing for dear life as his cock ached inside his jock and his master grunted above him.
Suddenly Colton felt Shane’s hand slip under his jock to stroke his oozing prick. “Oh, Shane!” he whimpered as he felt his balls contract. The horse plowed into him one last time, and then Colton roared out as his cock erupted into Shane’s hand. Shane’s whinny chorused with Colton as his slave’s ass clamped down on his cock like any good mare would do and sent his own pent-up orgasm spurting into the cougar.
Horse and cougar sagged against the railing, Shane’s chest resting on Colton’s back as the two enjoyed the afterglow together, both feeling blissfully light-headed. At one point, Shane’s cock slurped out, letting his seed fall from Colton’s ass down his legs and onto the lawn below. Both shuddered in pleasure.
The two finally came to, and Shane stepped back so Colton could stand up.
“That was…even better than yesterday,” Colton breathed, standing cuddled against Shane’s chest. Shane nodded and held him.
Both were lulled into a dazed second afterglow until Colton’s ears suddenly pricked up. “Oh, shit! The coffee!” he said, disappearing into the house. Shane looked after him, grinning and shaking his head. Best. Sex. Ever! He’d have to remember this one to do again someday.
After a shower and breakfast, Shane told Colton that he had to make some progress on the case. Colton went to go visit his mom while Shane worked.
“Hi, this is Shane Thatcher with the DA’s office. I’m calling about Mathilde Coombs,” he said into his phone. “Yes, how is she? Okay. In that case, would you please let me speak with the fur who patched her up, please? Great.”
Ms. Coombs was still asleep, but the receptionist was patching him through to Dr. Ashlee Young, the surgeon who’d patched up Ms. Coombs.
“Ah, Dr. Young, just the fur I wanted to talk to,” Shane said when the surgeon came on the line, “I have some questions about the injuries. How deep exactly were they? Oh, I see. All right, and about how wide would you say the lacerations were? Huh. That’s interesting. All right. Thank you—what’s that? She’s awake? I’ll be right over!”
Shane hung up abruptly and threw his clothes on; he hadn’t planned to go out and about today, but he was glad that Colton was thorough about making sure his clothes were picked out every day, whether he went to work or not. He hopped in the car and headed for the hospital.
“Horace?” Shane asked, surprised as he stepped into Ms. Coombs’s recovery room. The rhino looked over and put a thick finger to his lips. Ms. Coombs had gone back to sleep while Shane was driving. Shane motioned for Horace to follow, and the two stepped into the hallway.
“How long have you been here?” Shane asked.
“A bit,” the rhino said evasively. His eyes were bloodshot and had heavy bags around them.
“It’s okay, Horace,” Shane told him, putting a reassuring hand on the rhino’s shoulder. “It’s pretty clear that you care for her.” He grinned wryly. “Or do you do this for all of your patrons?”
Horace blushed a bit and wrung the hat he’d been wearing in his hands. “I—I have to go get ready for work. The lunch shift will be starting soon. See ya, Shane,” he finally said.
Shane thoughtfully watched him stump off.
“Ever since it happened,” a voice said behind him.
Shane turned to see Dr. Young watching Horace as he left.
“The day she was admitted, he was here within an hour. He leaves for work, but as soon as his shift is over, he comes right back.”
“Are they related?” Shane asked curiously.
Dr. Young shook her head. “No. He claims to be a friend of hers, but she didn’t recognize him when she awoke. That does sometimes happen, so we’re not to worried about it. We’ll ask her when she wakes up again if she knows him and if we should deny him visitation.”
Shane stroked his chin. Interesting. “Any family members?” he asked.
“Her sister, Mable, comes by when she can, but I understand she’s working three jobs to make ends meet.”
Dr. Young shook her head again. “They both passed away several years ago.”
“None other than Horace.” Seeing Shane’s surprised looks, Dr. Young added, “As sweet as she is, I’m surprised that she hasn’t had more visitors myself.”
Maybe word just hasn’t gotten out, yet, Shane thought. It had only been a couple of days, and unless somebody sounded the alarm, her friends might just think she hadn’t checked her phone for a while.
“You’re welcome to stay and see if she wakes up again,” Dr. Young told him, checking her watch. “I’ve got to get back to surgery, but I wanted to make sure you found the room all right.”
“Thank you, Dr. Young,” Shane said with a smile. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“No,” she replied, “but if you’re on the case, then it’s a hard one, and I wanted to try to make things as easy for you as I can.”
Shane chuckled; his reputation preceded him. “Well, I appreciate that, Dr. Young,” he said earnestly.
She smiled. “If you have any additional questions, just ask,” she said as she left.
Shane stepped into Ms. Coombs’s room and took a seat next to her bed. Even lying in the hospital bed, she was very pretty, with gentle features, soft-looking doe ears, and a pleasant expression on her face. She looked delicate, like a precious china doll.
Shane looked around the room and saw a little table with a bouquet of flowers on it. Rising, he looked at the card, but it wasn’t signed. Poor Horace, he thought. He didn’t understand how furs could be too shy to tell people they cared about them—he’d never been short for words when doing so—but he had compassion for them.
He heard movement to his side and turned to see Ms. Coombs open her eyes. He smiled at her and discreetly pushed the nurse call button at the foot of her bed.
“Good morning, Ms. Coombs,” he said pleasantly. “Did you sleep well? Do you know where you are?”
She frowned, squinting her eyes at him.
“I’m Shane Thatcher,” he said. “I’m with the district attorney’s office. When you’re ready, I have some questions for you, but let’s take it one step at a time.”
Recognition registered in her face, and she said hoarsely, “Oh, I remember you from the bar. You and that cougar come in sometimes.”
Shane nodded and smiled. “Very observant, Ms. Coombs. Yes, that’s me.”
“He’s cute,” the deer said, smiling and closing her eyes. “You look good together.”
Shane opened his mouth to speak but was caught off-guard and closed it. He tried again and managed a “thank you” before regaining his composure. “Do you know how you ended up here?” he asked.
A nurse appeared presently, and Shane asked for some water for Ms. Coombs. The nurse nodded and disappeared, reappearing with a glass of water.
Ms. Coombs took the water and thanked the nurse very graciously. Turning her attention to Shane, she said, “No,” her voice much clearer now that she’d had a drink. “I was leaving the bar—uh, not Wisetail’s—and then I woke up here.
“Do you remember seeing anyone when you walked outside?” Shane asked hopefully, hoping to jog her memory. “Someone in a red hoodie?”
She frowned. “Hoodie…yes, hoodie…hoodie?” she squinted again, trying to puzzle it through. Finally she shook her head. “It rings a bell, Mr. Thatcher, but I’m not sure.”
Shane nodded understandingly. Too much to hope for, he mused. This case wasn’t going to get much easier. He knew not to press her, though; she’d been through a lot and didn’t need him adding stress.
“Do you have any friends or family I should tell that you’re here?” he asked. “Mabel has been here to see you, but—”
Shane frowned. “Mabel, your sister?”
Ms. Coombs blinked and frowned thoughtfully. “Mr. Thatcher,” she said slowly, “Mabel has been dead for ten years.”
“Dead?” Shane asked, shocked.
“Yeah. Liver failure; she was sweet, but she drank way too much.”
Shane was careful not to let his concern show on his face. Who was it pretending to be her dead sister? Why hide her true identity?
What he said instead was, “Oh, maybe I was thinking someone else. Not to worry.” He moved beside her and squeezed her hand. “It’s good to have you back,” he said. “You were always such a pleasant person at the bar.”
Ms. Coombs blushed a little as Shane turned to leave.
“Oh,” Shane said, turning back, “Do you remember Horace, the bartender?”
The deer nodded. “Of course I remember Horace! Sweet, sweet Horace,” she said, smiling at the fond memory.
“He’s been looking after you,” Shane said. “He’s gone to work now, but he’ll be back.”
Ms. Coombs blushed a little harder.
“Do you two know each other outside the bar?” Shane asked. “I don’t mean to pry, but he was here within an hour of your being admitted, and I was curious how he knew.”
“N–no, Mr. Thatcher,” she replied. “He’s a sweet fur, but we’ve never done anything more than talk pleasantly at the bar.”
“All right, thank you, Ms. Coombs,” Shane said, smiling kindly. “You get some rest, all right?”
The deer nodded and waved faintly. Shane stepped outside and closed the door.
As soon as he was outside, Shane immediately dialed his phone. “Ben, I need someone at the hospital right away. Somebody is claiming to be Ms. Coombs’s sister, but she’s been dead ten years. Okay, great.” He hung up and was about to head to the nurse’s station when he saw someone striding quickly towards Ms. Coomb’s room. The person looked up, saw him, and then turned and started walking just as quickly away.
“Hey, you!” Shane called out. “Stop!”
The fur’s pace quickened. Shane broke into a run, and so did the fur.
“Security!” Shane bellowed, alerting a German shepherd sitting at the end of the hall. “Stop that fur!”
Recognizing Shane, the guard got hastily to his feet and put his paw out. “Halt, or I’ll use the taser!”
The fur skidded to a stop, and Shane quickly caught up. “I’ve got questions,” Shane said simply.
“And you’re gonna get to keep them,” the female badger replied. “I want a lawyer.”
This should be interesting. “Police are on the way,” Shane said to the security guard. “Keep her here until they arrive, please.”
The guard nodded, and Shane went to the nurse’s station.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Thatcher,” the nurse said pleasantly. “What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to let you know that your security guard has someone detained until the police get here,” Shane told her. A sudden thought occurred to him. “A fur came here claiming to be Ms. Coombs’s sister, Mabel. Do you know what she looked like?”
The nurse shook her head but called out, “Hey, Cindy! Do you know who the fur was who said she was Ms. Coombs’s sister?”
Nurse Cindy came over with a frown. “Yeah,” she said. “I thought it was kind of weird because she wasn’t a deer, but she said she was her adopted sister.”
Just then, Ben and a patrolman walked in. Shane gestured down the hall.
“She wasn’t a deer?” Shane asked, returning his attention to Nurse Cindy.
The nurse shook her head. “No, she was a wolverine or some such,” she said. “I remember thinking that family life must have been interesting having her and a deer living together.”
At that moment, there was a loud commotion in the hallway, shouting, and sudden quiet. Shane excused himself to go see what had happened.
The security guard had three cuts above his right eye, Ben looked furious, and his patrolman had his foot in the small of the fur’s back as he put handcuffs on her, careful to avoid her claws. Ben and the patrolman hauled her to her feet and escorted her outside to the police car.
“Was that the fur?” Shane asked Nurse Cindy.
The nurse paled. “Y–yes,” she said.
“I’ll need whatever information she provided to you,” Shane said. The nurse wrote it down for him, and then he left to follow Ben to the police station.
“What have we got?” he asked his friend as he walked in.
“One really pissed-off badger,” Ben replied grimly. “We’re holding her on two counts of assaulting an officer and assault of a security guard.”
“That’s enough to hold her for now,” Shane said, nodding. “If she hadn’t acted so suspiciously, she wouldn’t be here in the first place.” He recounted her actions at the hospital, and Ben frowned.
“You think she’s the one who tried to kill her?” Ben asked.
Shane shook his head. “I don’t know. She definitely could have; she has the claws for it, but she’s been here several times with opportunity, so if she was trying to finish the job, why not just do it?”
“Shall we ask her?” Ben suggested.
“She said she wanted a lawyer to me,” Shane replied.
“She’s got one.”
“The was fast.”
“It’s not her first time through here,” Ben replied. “She’s been convicted of burglary and assault already. Served time for both. Just got out a week ago.”
“Shit. She didn’t waste any time!”
“She never does. Last time, she was out two weeks before getting put back in.”
Shane shook his head. “Hey, Ben,” he asked suddenly, “how did Ms. Coombs make it to the hospital?”
“Anonymous 911 call,” Ben replied. “Said a deer looked like she’d been stabbed right outside the Next Door Bar. Paramedics arrived to take her, and we arrived to investigate the scene.” Ben gave him a strange look. “You oughtta know all this, Shane,” he said. “It’s all in the case file.”
Shane shook his head apologetically. “Sorry, Ben. It slipped my mind. It’s been three months without a day off now.”
“You oughtta slow down, Shane,” his friend warned him. “Need to take some time to get recharged.”
“I know; I will once this case is resolved. It’s just been one thing after another since we put Mitski and company away.”
“Ain’t that the truth!” Ben agreed.
The two stepped into the interrogation room.
“Do you ever stop, Shane?” the attorney asked, shaking his head and standing.
“I’m trying, Richard; I really am,” Shane replied, shaking the ferret’s hand. He sat down. “But the way I see it, your client attacked an innocent victim and then snuck into her hospital room under false pretenses to try to finish her off. And, well, when that happens, I get to keep working.” He looked hard at the badger. “You haven’t managed to ingratiate yourself to anyone,” he said, glancing at her file. “Elna Little. Prior history of violent aggression towards others and now running from me, attacking two officers and a security guard, and looking an awful lot like Ms. Coombs’s attacker; I’d say I’ve got plenty to throw you away. How does attempted murder sound?”
The badger looked bored as her attorney leaned over to whisper to her. “Yeah, whatever,” she said.
Richard sat back up. “What are you offering, Shane?” he asked.
“Who says I’m offering anything?” Shane replied simply. He addressed the badger. “You started with assault and then stepped up to burglary, isn’t that right? This would be just the next-bigger-thing for you, wouldn’t it?”
The badger shrugged sullenly.
“Your client isn’t giving me anything to work with or any reason to extend any offers,” Shane said to Richard.
“I’m sorry, Shane. I’ve advised her to tell the truth, but she has no interest in it.”
“Do you deny your guilt?” Shane asked the badger, who shrugged. “She was a really nice gal, you know,” he said. “Nice to everybody, never a mean thing to say about anyone. Why’d you do it?”
“She looked like she knew you in the security footage. Did you know her?”
Shane rose. “Well, this has been as exciting as talking to paint drying on a wall,” he said. “In addition to the assault charges on the officers and security guard, I’m gonna go ahead and file for attempted murder. In the meantime, have a nice weekend in a cell.” He walked out.
“I’ve heard they’re supposed to be fierce fighters,” Shane said to Ben once they were out of the room, “but she’s more like fierce teenage attitude.”
“She’s fierce, all right,” Ben said ruefully. “You didn’t have to fight her until the security guard tasered her.”
Shane chuckled. “True. Everybody’s all right, right?” Ben nodded. “Good.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “You know, we’re going to need something to prove that she was the one who attacked Ms. Coombs.”
“What’d you have in mind?”
Shane grinned. “I wonder how good her claw hygiene is.”
Ben chuckled. “Get a warrant.”
Shane handed him the paperwork, and Ben shook his head. “Always one step ahead.”
“How’d the visit with your mom go?” Shane asked as they drove to Wisetail’s. They didn’t usually eat out twice in a row, but Shane had ulterior motives, and Colton was looking forward to making up for going home early the night before.
They made it to the door, and Colton cautiously looked around for flying furs. Shane chuckled as they stepped inside.
“Hey, guys,” Horace said. His demeanor was more guarded than usual. Colton frowned in surprise.
“Horace,” Shane said, taking a seat, “we need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Horace said.
“Oh, yes, there is,” Shane said in a low voice. “I need to know how you knew that Ms. Coombs was in the hospital.”
Horace swallowed. In all the years he’d known the bartender, Shane had never seen him look nervous.
“Horace, admittedly I’m coming to you on official business,” Shane said, “but I’m also coming to you as a friend. There’s no way you did anything to Ms. Coombs; I know that, the hospital knows that, and she knows that. But I need your information to see if I can prove the person did it that I think did it.”
“You’ve got a lead?” the rhino asked, his countenance brightening a shade.
“I have a suspect in custody,” Shane replied. “I can’t say anything more than that.” He gave Horace an expectant look. “I know you’re shy, Horace, but the cat’s out of the bag; you’re not fooling anybody at this point. You asked me to lock the perp away, and now I need your help doing it. Are you really going to let your shyness over your love for someone allow the perp to go free?”
Perspiration sprouted on Horace’s forehead, and he huffed uncomfortably. “Meet me out back,” he said at last and went to let the other bartender know that he was stepping out. Shane and Colton stepped out back and waited.
When Horace finally appeared, he was covered in sweat, and his hands shook. He pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. It seemed to steady him a bit.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Shane observed.
“I went a long time without,” Horace replied. “Now I only do it when I’m stressed out.”
“You’re stressed out over telling a girl you like her?” Shane asked pointedly.
“But Horace, you’re always so nice in the bar, and you don’t seem shy at all,” Colton interjected.
“It’s…different,” Horace replied. “The stuff in the bar, it’s just being friendly and a good host. It don’t mean nothing.” Seeing Colton’s downcast expression, he quickly added, “No, I mean, I like you guys; y’all are regulars, nice guys, and take good care of me, so what’s not to like? But with most furs, it’s just being friendly and welcoming.”
“And with Ms. Coombs?” Shane asked, barely concealing a faint smirk.
The rhino’s features softened, and he seemed to melt. But it lasted only a split-second, and his usual rough appearance returned. “She’s different,” he said.
“Oh, come on!” Shane said in frustration. “We just saw you melt before our eyes at the mention of her name. Her future safety could depend on you admitting that you like her! Doesn’t that bother you?”
Horace reluctantly gave a pained nod.
“All right. Repeat after me,” Shane prodded. “You don’t have to mean it; you don’t have to believe it, but just say what I say, okay?”
The rhino sighed and nodded.
“I have a crush on Mathilde Coombs,” Shane prompted.
Horace gulped. He couldn’t get his mouth to say the words.
“All right,” Shane said at last, “one word at a time. I.”
“I,” Horace replied easily enough.
“Have,” Shane continued.
“Have,” Horace echoed.
“Doing great, Horace,” Colton said, patting the rhino’s shoulder.
The rhino took several deep breaths. “On,” he managed. His lips moved, but no sound came out.
“Hey, Horace,” Colton asked suddenly. “What’s the name of that deer who shows up here sometimes, the really nice one?”
“Mathilde Coombs?” Horace asked, suddenly just thinking about answering a customer’s question.
“There ya go,” Shane said quietly with a wink. “You’ve said the words. Did it kill you?”
Horace reddened and shook his head ruefully.
“All right, then,” Shane said, breathing a sigh of relief tainted with exasperation—these shy types; how did they do anything?—”Now, how did you know she was in the hospital?”
“I was planning to ask her out on a date,” Horace replied slowly, but as he spoke, his pace quickened, and his face became brighter and brighter. “She’s been coming to the bar for over a year now, and we’ve talked off and on. She’s shy, like me. And she’s really nice. And sometimes she’d come up and there wouldn’t be anybody else there. So we’d just talk. And I had finally gotten up my nerve to ask her out.” He paused thoughtfully. “I knew she liked going to bars—she comes every night—but I didn’t want to try to take her on a date at Wisetail’s, so I figured maybe we could go to to the Next Door Bar. I know the bartenders there and know how to make her favorite drink just the way she likes it, so I went to talk to them in person on my day off. As we were talking, I happened to mention that she was a deer, and the bartender got this weird look.” His shoulders slumped, and his voice suddenly cracked. “They said a deer had been stabbed in front of the bar about an hour before. I can’t believe I didn’t see any police out front. Maybe I was just too excited…” he trailed off, looking guilty.
“What happened then?” Shane asked him gently.
“What do you think?” Horace asked with a pained expression. “I high-tailed it down to the hospital and found out it was her. They wouldn’t let me into the ICU; I wasn’t related to her, but they were nice enough to update me on her progress. It was a huge relief when I found out she’d made it okay.”
“Did you happen to notice anybody else there waiting for her?” Shane asked, being careful to sound casual.
Horace shook his head. “No, I was always the only one there. It seemed really strange,” the rhino mused, “I would have thought the place would be packed. The room looked so sad. I got her some flowers for when she woke up.”
“I saw those,” Shane said with a smile. “They looked very nice, but you should have signed the card,” he chided.
“She told me they were her favorites,” Horace admitted. “I kinda figured she’d know they were from me.”
“It sounds like you talked a lot,” Shane noted. “Did you two ever talk about her friends, acquaintances, enemies?”
“Who could be enemies with her?” Horace asked, shocked at the question. “No, we both admitted to being really shy and not having many friends. Why do you ask?”
“In the footage of her getting stabbed,” Shane said carefully, “she looked like she recognized and was happy to see her attacker. We were hoping you’d know why.”
Horace sighed. “Well, I do know why, but it’s not going to be very helpful to you,” he said. “I noticed that she did that in the bar, too. Like I said, I assumed she was friends with everybody, but I asked her about it one time, and she said it was a defense mechanism; if other people assumed they’d known each other for a while, they’d start up a conversation, and then she could talk to them. It was her way of getting conversations started despite being too shy to do it herself.”
“That’s really clever!” Colton interjected.
“Yeah, it is,” Horace replied, a bit of a dreamy look crossing his face. “She was really smart—is really smart—and nice, and pretty, and…” he trailed off, blushing hard.
“You need to tell her how you feel,” Shane said. “You’re a nice guy, too, and you’ve got a lot to offer. Who knows? She might be into you, too.”
“Aww, Shane, don’t tease,” Horace pleaded. “What could an oaf like me offer her?”
“A soft heart, a strong body, and more concern for her than anybody else has shown,” Colton said quietly.
Horace opened his mouth to speak but closed it, swallowing hard.
“Just talk to her, same as you always have,” Shane urged gently. “Tell her you like her. If she didn’t like you, she wouldn’t keep coming back to the bar to chat with you when nobody else was around.”
“Nah, she came for the drinks,” Horace said weakly.
“She woke up right after you left,” Shane said firmly. “I told her you’d been checking on her, and she blushed the same as you are. You should go see her. Let her know she’s cared for. If nothing else, it will help her recovery.”
“Life’s too short to spend alone when all you have to do to be with the person you love is ask,” Colton added, patting Horace’s shoulder. “You’re a tough guy; be tough for her, do like you planned to do, and ask her out.”
Horace shook his head as he wrestled with the thought. “Oh, you guys,” he finally said with a smile, “You guys are the best.”
“Go get her,” Shane grinned with a wink. “We’ll let Ernie know.”
“Thank you, guys,” Horace said, smiling and quickly walking towards his car.
“Look at you, playing matchmaker!” Colton teased after Horace was out of earshot.
“Look at you, tricking him into saying her name!” Shane said, genuinely impressed. “That was a stroke of genius!”
Colton chuckled. “I have my moments.”
They walked back in and let Ernie know what Horace was doing.
“About fucking time,” the bobcat laughed. “I was wondering if that big lunk was ever gonna ask her out!”
“He’ll probably be gone the rest of the night,” Shane said.
“More power to him, and more tips for me!” Ernie chuckled.
Shane rolled his eyes. Turning to Colton, he asked, “Do you want to get a drink?”
Colton shook his head. “I wanted to go out on the town,” he said.
Shane chuckled. “All right, then, on the town it is.”
The next morning found the two snoring in bed, both having slept through the alarm. When Shane finally awoke around 11:00, he glanced stupidly at the still-drawn curtains glanced at the clock, thought meh, and rolled over and spooned with Colton. It was Sunday; they deserved a day off. That attitude persevered throughout the day.
“So, Ben, what’d you find out?” Shane asked over the phone Monday morning.
“Her claw hygiene is terrible,” Ben replied, grimacing to himself in his office. “They must’ve scraped half a pound of crap out from under her claws. Brad’s got it and is going through it now.”
“Great!” Shane said approvingly. “In that case, I’m gonna leave him to it and go check on the victim. I’m heading there now.”
“You all right, Shane?” Ben asked over the phone. “You sound…different.”
“I finally took your advice and took a day off,” Shane admitted. “Didn’t get up until something like noon yesterday, had sandwiches in bed for lunch, snuggled with Colton, had breakfast for dinner—was just a really relaxing day, something I’ve needed a long time.”
“I’m glad you finally decided to take care of yourself,” the wolf replied. “It shows! Do some more of it!”
Shane chuckled and hung up. Moments later, he pulled into the hospital parking lot and parked. After checking in, he was admitted to see Ms. Coombs.
“Shane!” she beamed, moving to sit up and wincing.
“Don’t—don’t try to move,” Shane said. “That wound will take a while to heal.” Nevertheless, he leaned over so she could hug him. “Good news, then?” he asked.
“You just missed Horace leaving,” she said dreamily. “He came over last night and said that he liked me; that he really liked me. I told him I really liked him, too. As soon as I get out of here, we’re gonna go picnic in the park.”
Shane grinned. “I’m really happy for you both!”
“Horace said you put him up to it,” the deer said appreciatively. “He says if you and Colton hadn’t talked him into it, he never would have done it.”
“And that would have been a shame,” Shane replied. Ms. Coombs nodded. “Well, I am really glad to hear that things went well. You are both really nice furs and deserve a bit of happiness together,” he said earnestly, “but that’s not actually the reason I’m here.”
The deer smiled and nodded. “I figured not.”
“I came to ask if you remembered anything new from the night you were attacked.”
“A little bit,” Ms. Coombs replied slowly. “I remember I was at Next Door; I usually do that one on Wednesday nights because it’s Horace’s day off, and there’s not much for me at Wisetail’s without him. I was about to head home when I saw this fur jogging. I kinda smiled and waved, and the fur came towards me. Before I could react, all of a sudden my stomach just hurt really badly. I remember falling, and then things got dark. When I woke up, I was here.”
“Do you remember what the fur looked like? Anything about what he or she was wearing?”
Ms. Coombs frowned and thought really hard. “I remember something red. But that’s all I remember.”
Shane nodded. “I’m going to give you my business card,” he said, handing it to her. “If you remember anything else, call me and let me know right away, okay?”
“I most certainly will.”
“Good. In the meantime, try to keep taking it easy; you’ll heal faster, and then you and Horace can go picnicking!”
Shane left with Ms. Coombs beaming.
“All rise!” Frank boomed. “People v. Little. Ms. Little is charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one of attempted murder.”
“What’s your plea, Ms. Little?” the judge asked, looking down his considerable anteater nose.
The badger glowered at him but said nothing.
“Your choices are ‘guilty’ if you did it and ‘not guilty’ if you didn’t do it,” the judge prompted.
Still the defendant did nothing but glare.
“Nothing to say, eh?” the judge said. He shrugged. “All right, not-guilty plea entered. Mr. Thatcher, how do the People feel about bail?”
“We request remand, Your Honor,” Shane replied. “The defendant was found at the hospital where the victim of the attempted murder was recovering, and when she was about to be brought to the police station, she attacked and injured two police officers and a security guard. The defendant has a history of violence, and we believe she will be a threat to others if allowed bail.”
The judge cocked an eyebrow and eyed the defendant, who continued to glare at him defiantly. “I agree, Mr. Thatcher,” he said. “The defendant is remanded into custody.” With the bang of the gavel, Ms. Little was taken away.
“Brad, tell me something good,” Shane said as he strode into the forensics lab, addressing Dr. Brad Schneider, the medical examiner.
“Well, that depends on what good you want me to tell you,” the raccoon responded.
“The kind that links Ms. Little to my case,” Shane replied wryly.
“Sorry, Shane,” Dr. Schneider replied somberly, “but I’m afraid I can’t give you that good news.”
“What?!” Shane asked incredulously. “She has all of the markings of having done it!” He stared at the medical examiner in utter disbelief.
“Boy, you’re fun to put on,” the raccoon chuckled. Shane gave him a dirty look. “No, she had more of the victim’s blood and DNA under her claws than the victim had in her body, I think,” Brad laughed.
“Definite match?” Shane asked.
“100%,” Brad replied. Shane gave him a hard look. “Okay, okay, fine: 99.99964%. There’s a roughly four-in-a-million chance it’s the wrong fur’s blood. But as much blood as was under there, she’s guilty of something!”
“Thanks, Brad. Just made my day!” Horace would have clicked his hooves together if there’d been more space; the forensics lab was densely packed with fragile-looking equipment.
“Always glad to help,” Brad replied blandly, a grin belying his tone. “Let me know what else I can do,” he offered.
“You could tell me why she did it,” Shane suggested hopefully.
“Damn it, Shane; I’m a medical examiner, not a psychologist!” Ben retorted with a grin.
Shane rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Brad,” he said as he left.
Not a psychologist, he mused as he walked to his car. I wonder what it would take to get her in front of Willie. He shook his head. No, the last thing we want is an insanity plea. We’ll just have to figure out some better way to prove intent. He sighed. It shouldn’t be hard to prove intent when you run up to someone, slash her in the chest and gut, and then run off—it’s hard to make that an accident—but I’d rather hear it straight from the badger’s mouth.
An idea popped into his mind, and he gave a wicked smirk as he dialed his phone. “Willie,” he said, “I’m coming over. I need some advice.”
Dr. William Fitzgerald was a brilliant psychologist and all-around good guy. His cuddly koala body tended to disarm those sent to him for diagnosis, but mentally, he was sharper than an eagle’s talons.
“Shane!” Dr. Fitzgerald beamed as Shane walked in. “Long time, no see, you old horse! How’s life treating you?”
“Just great, Willie,” Shane beamed.
“Enjoying your time with your boyfriend?” the koala asked with a wink.
“He’s not my—” Shane began to protest, but the eye-roll that Willie gave him left him gaping.
“Did you like that?” Willie asked with a grin. “I call it my Eye-Roll of Bullshit Silencing. I’m thinking of patenting it.”
“You could come up with a better name,” Shane muttered.
“Got any ideas?” Willie asked hopefully.
Shane frowned. “BS-Muting Eye-Roll,” he said finally. “BSMER, for short.”
“Ooh, that’s not bad!” the koala grinned. “And I’m sorry for using it on you, but come on, Shane. You’re not fooling anyone.”
Shane rolled his eyes. “I know, I know,” he said ruefully.
Dr. Fitzgerald motioned to a chair for Shane to sit down. “But that’s not the reason you came over, is it?” he asked sagely.
“No,” Shane admitted as he sat. “Actually, I have a perp that I know is guilty—we’ve got all the evidence to support it—but I can’t figure out why she did it, and so far, she’s said a total of maybe ten words.”
“Taking her ‘right to remain silent’ to heart, eh?” Willie grinned, leaning back in his chair with a cup of tea.
Shane thought right at that moment that he wanted to scoop the adorable psychologist up like a little teddy bear. But of course such a thing would be terribly offensive, even to such a good-natured guy as Willie. He shook his head and grinned. “Yeah,” he said, his mind returning to the task at hand. “All she does is shrugs.”
“Hmm, that’s a fun one,” Willie said, taking a sip of his tea and grinning, eyes shining brightly. “Hey,” he said suddenly, “What did the German clockmaker say to the clock going ‘tick, tick, tick’?”
Shane cocked an eyebrow. “Really?” he asked. “Jokes?”
Willie shrugged. “Yeah, why not?” he grinned.
Shane shook his head. “I dunno; what did he say?”
Willie did his best German accent impression. “Vee have vays of making you tock,” he said, watching Shane’s reaction.
Shane groaned. “That was terrible, Doc,” he laughed.
“Ah! Ah!” Willie said, pointing at him. “You laughed!”
“I guess I did,” Shane admitted.
“And it’s relevant,” Willie continued. “We do have ways of encouraging reluctant clients to talk.”
Shane pursed his lips. “You know anything you hear from her is privileged,” he said, shaking his head. “I could use some advice on those ways, though.”
Willie looked crestfallen, but Shane was right; anything the defendant said to him couldn’t be used in court. But he could teach Shane how to do it and then let him see if he had any success. Shane was a bright guy, and with a bit of practice, he might be able to do it well enough to move past the standstill.
“You’re right,” he said finally, “and furthermore, I can’t very well sit in a viewing room and whisper what to say to you, either. What I can do, though, is teach you a trick that might help. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works on some.”
Shane’s ears pricked forward curiously, and he leaned forward in his seat.
“But first,” Dr. Fitzgerald said, leaning back, “what are you going to do with this information?”
Shane started to speak, but the koala cut him off. “You’re going to use it to blackmail her, of course,” he said matter-of-factly. Shane’s jaw dropped. “And while we both know that blackmail is illegal and very unbefitting of a district attorney”—Shane leaned forward, his mouth open as if trying to get a word in edge-wise—”I can understand where you might need some financial help.”
“No!” Shane said incredulously, his voice nearly shrill as he nearly rose out of his chair. “Are you out of your mind? I would never blackmail a defendant! What would the point be?”
“Well, Shane, I know you believe that, but what other reason could you have for needing that information?” the koala asked.
“Why does any prosecutor need that kind of information?” Shane snapped. “I need to find out why she did it so I can convince the jury she’s guilty!”
Dr. Fitzgerald leaned back in his chair with a knowing smirk. He said nothing, but a snicker escaped his nose, and pretty soon he had to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes. “Brad was right,” he laughed, “you are fun to mess with!”
Shane opened his mouth but couldn’t say anything.
The koala leaned forward, letting out a few more chuckles. “Did you notice how upset you were? How it was driving you crazy that not only did I answer the question for you—on a question about you—but I answered it wrong? It drove you nuts, and it will likely drive your defendant nuts, too.”
Shane closed his mouth, his lips in a tight smile, but they soon relaxed as he shook his head and chuckled. “You got me good, Doc,” he said. “Wow, that was really good.” His eyes lit up. “Yeah, that might just work!”
Willie nodded. “It should. But it needs to be on a topic close to home for her. For you, it was easy; everybody knows how seriously you take your job. If I’d asked you what day of the week it was and answered wrong, it might have bothered you, and you might have corrected me. But when it’s something really important, the need to correct me rises exponentially.”
Shane stroked his chin thoughtfully. “We don’t know much about her,” he admitted. “She’s done time for burglary and assault. Just got out of prison a week ago. She’s reasonably well-behaved in prison and has gotten out on parole for both crimes. No visitors during her stay, and the warden says she wasn’t close with any of the other inmates. She seems to be pretty solitary.”
“You’re overthinking it, Shane,” Willie said with a raised eyebrow.
Shane frowned. “Huh?” he asked.
“What do you want to know from her?” the koala asked with his head cocked curiously.
“I want to know why she attacked Ms. Coombs,” Shane replied.
“Then ask her that,” Willie said. With a grin, he added, “and then answer for her.”
“But I don’t know why she did it,” Shane replied.
“Think of the most ridiculous—but plausible—reason you can,” Willie suggested. “Money? Nah, too easy. Revenge? Getting better. Lovers’ tryst? Now that should get her riled up. Even better: she liked the victim, but the victim didn’t like her—double-whammy—and if she couldn’t have her, then nobody could!” The grin the koala gave looked positively wicked.
Shane laughed heartily. “You’re really devious—did you know that?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Dr. Fitzgerald replied with a wink. “I like truth just as much as you do. And when I can use my specialty to draw it out in a way that the defendant has nobody to blame but herself, mmm!”—he kissed his fingertips—”it’s a thing of beauty!”
Shane stood and shook his head. “Remind me never to get on your bad side, Doc,” he chuckled.
“Give her hell, Shane,” Willie grinned. “Let me know how it goes!”
“Will do,” Shane said. “Thanks, Doc!”
“I’m afraid I have bad news for your client, Richard,” Shane said to the attorney sitting beside his client across the table. “Police found Ms. Coombs’s blood under your client’s claws, and we’ve figured out why your client attacked her.” He kept his gaze on the ferret attorney, but out of his considerable peripheral vision, he was pretty sure he saw Ms. Little’s face register a flutter of doubt.
“How on earth did you find that out?” Richard asked skeptically. “I have just got to know.”
“We reviewed the surveillance video of the crime,” Shane replied. “The look on the victim’s face right as it happened said it all.” He clicked the play button on a remote, and the footage played on a TV behind him. He paused it immediately before the badger entered the picture.
“See that face?” Shane asked, pointing to Ms. Coombs’s expression. “Why does she look like that?” he asked, looking hard at Ms. Little. “Why does she look like she recognizes you?”
He waited a beat and answered himself. “Because you were in love with her!”
As he spoke, he noticed Ms. Little sit up a little straighter. “It is a shame that she just wanted to be friends, isn’t it?”
Ms. Little’s jaw tightened.
“And it’s a shame that you wanted more than she was willing to put out,” Shane said, maintaining eye contact.
The badger’s hands tightened into fists.
“If you couldn’t have her, nobody could,” Shane said, sighing and shaking his head. “It’s such a shame; I hate to see love turn into hatred.” He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “But that’s the brakes, I guess.” He glanced casually at Ms. Little, whose face had drawn itself into a nasty sneer.
“You think you’re so fucking smart,” she hissed.
“You don’t have to say anything,” her lawyer warned.
“No, this fucking prick thinks he’s got it all figured out!” the badger continued. “That deer? Never seen her. Don’t even know her name.”
“It’s Ms. Coom—” Shane began.
“I don’t give a fuck what her name is. I didn’t know her then, and I don’t care who she is now.”
“If you say so,” Shane said with a smirk and a shrug. “That’s what’s going in my report.”
“Then you’re a liar, too,” the badger spat. “You wanna know why I did it?” She leaned across the table and spoke in a menacing voice over her lawyer’s protests. “Because I was bored. Because she looked too fucking happy standing there outside that bar. Because it’s been a week since I got out of prison, and I was ready to be back in.”
“Then why visit her at the hospital?” Shane challenged.
“Psh, to fucking finish the job. I might be bored, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna get sloppy.”
“So you visited her twice?” Shane asked with a smirk.
“There was a fucking rhino in there the first time! I can’t take that on!”
Oh, shit! Shane thought. Horace’s doting may well have saved her life. Yet his smirk didn’t fade. He raised his eyebrows and grinned at Ms. Little. A flicker of confusion flashed across her face.
“I liked my story better,” he said, “but yours I can take to court. Looks like you’ll get to go back to prison after all.” He gave her a wink and stood. “We’re done here,” he said simply and stood to leave.
“You prick! I’ll fucking kill you!” she snarled, lunging over the table, claws extended.
Before the guard could react, Shane flattened the badger’s nose with his fist, and she crumpled on the table.
“And that’s now five counts of aggravated assault, four on public officials,” he said to Richard. “If your client keeps this up, it’ll be capital charges by the time we actually make it to court.”
The ferret held his paws up helplessly. “I know,” he said. “It’s completely irrational.”
“But not insane. Don’t even try it, Richard,” Shane said with a wink.
“Sorry, Shane,” Richard chuckled, taking some papers out of his bag. “She wouldn’t take a plea if you offered it—and I doubt you will at this point—so I’ve got to do whatever I can.”
Shane sighed. “You’re a good attorney, Richard,” he conceded, taking the motion papers and shaking his head. “You take good care of your clients, even when they don’t deserve it. We’ll see you in court, then.”
“Well done!” a voice said behind him as Shane stepped out of the meeting room. Shane turned to see Dr. Fitzgerald in the doorway to the viewing room.
“I thought you couldn’t come and observe?” Shane asked.
“No, I said I couldn’t whisper in your ear,” Willie replied with a chuckle. “You didn’t think I was going to miss this, did you?”
Shane rolled his eyes and grinned.
“No, that was executed masterfully,” the koala said. “Not bad for your first time!”
“Heh, thanks,” Shane smiled, a bit embarrassed at the praise. “I’m curious, though” he asked thoughtfully, “do you think she has a leg to stand on for an insanity plea?”
Wille shriveled his nose. “I doubt it,” he replied. “Based on what you’ve said and what I’ve seen seems to fit the bill for antisocial personality disorder. It could be sociopathy or psychopathy; additional examination will tell for sure. Assuming that’s the diagnosis, it’s not a legally defensible disorder. I’ll have to do a full workup on her to confirm it, but that’s where I’m leaning as of right now.”
Shane nodded. “Ah, Richard,” he said as the ferret stepped out, “you’re just in time. My psychologist would like to see your client.”
“I’m sure he would,” Richard replied blandly. “Just schedule the appointment; my client will be there.”
Shane looked at the clock on the wall. “How about now?” he suggested.
Dr. Fitzgerald nodded his availability.
“So efficient,” Richard said, rolling his eyes. “All right, but she’s probably gonna need to get cleaned up first, what with you putting your fist through her face and all.”
“She came at me,” Shane retorted with a shrug. “Give me a call when you’re done with her,” he said to Dr. Fitzgerald, “and let me know what you find out.”
“Will do, Shane.”
Shane got a call a few hours later. “Definitely APD,” the psychologist told him.
“What’s wrong?” Shane asked, picking up a note of disappointment in the koala’s voice.
“Just…not as exciting as I’d hoped,” Willie admitted. “Looks like getting her to talk was the only excitement in this case, and you already did that. Next time, save some for the rest of us!”
Shane chuckled. “Aww, I’m sorry, Willie. I didn’t mean to steal your thunder.”
“Ah, well,” Willie replied. “At least you’ve got what you need.”
“I’ll let the judge know,” Shane replied. “Thanks, Willie. I owe you one.”
“I’ll remember that!” the koala teased.
“There’s not a leg to stand on, Your Honor,” Shane said. “Classic APD, and Dr. Fitzgerald says there’s nothing defensible about it.”
“She’s confessed to the police and still refuses to take a deal,” Richard protested. “She’s not leaving me any other options!”
“Well, there’s always the obvious one,” the judge replied matter-of-factly. “We go to trial, Shane spends fifteen minutes talking everybody’s ear off, you and your client do what you do, and then the jury reads a verdict. Sounds to me like she’s stubborn but competent to stand trial.”
Richard sighed. It was gonna be a lousy week. “All right, Your Honor,” he replied.
“Good, that’s settled. We’ll start first thing tomorrow.”
Shane got home and collapsed on the sofa.
“Hey, Shane!” Colton said brightly. “Mom’s great, but man, the bus was slow today. It broke down on the way over to see her, and they had to call a tow truck. I ended up just walking.” He abruptly noticed Shane’s demeanor.
“Hey, Shane, everything okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Shane replied with a tired smile. “Just a long day, is all.” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“Wanna talk about it?” Colton asked, sitting next to him on the couch and resting his head on his master’s chest.
“It was productive,” Shane mused. “Got everything I need to put Ms. Little away, got to experiment with a little psychology, got attacked, got to go to—”
“Wait, attacked?” Colton asked, bolting upright. “Shane, are you okay?” He began looking for blood or injuries.
“Yeah,” Shane chuckled, eyes still closed. “Ms. Little didn’t like my psychology experiment. Clocked her in the face as she was lunging at me. She went out cold, and that was that.”
Colton breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said, hugging his master.
Shane hugged back and smiled. “Me, too,” he said. “Just a little tired.”
“Well, I’ve made something that should give you a little boost of energy,” Colton said proudly. “I call it Horse-Kick to the Gut.”
Shane opened his mouth to say something but closed it. Instead, he peered at his slave in dumbfounded silence.
“Haha, I thought that’d get your attention!” the cougar laughed. “No, I don’t call it that. It’s just oatmeal-battered fried chicken.”
Shane’s ears pricked up. “Now that does sound good!” he said.
“It’s on the table,” Colton said wryly.
“Oh!” Shane said, looking dazed. “Long day.” They got up and headed for the dining room.
“I guess! Did you even eat lunch today?”
Shane pursed his lips and then shook his head. “No, I guess I forgot.”
“If it weren’t for me, you’d starve to death,” Colton teased.
“If it weren’t for me, you’d starve to death,” Shane retorted with a grin.
Colton wiggled his eyebrows and grinned. “Speaking of, are you gonna feed me?” he asked, licking his lips.
“After dinner,” Shane chuckled.
“After dinner” came soon enough, and after Colton got the kitchen cleaned up, he found Shane in his study, mulling over some papers. Shane crouched down in front of the desk, put his paws up on it, and fixated his master with big, beseeching eyes.
Shane glanced up from his papers and burst out laughing. “You’re too cute when you do that!” he chuckled, putting his papers aside and leaning forward to ruffle the fur between Colton’s ears.
Colton grinned but said nothing, continuing to give his master an expectant stare.
“Is somebody hungry?” Shane asked with a wry smirk. Colton nodded. Shane shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Come around here,” he said, swiveling his chair as Colton made his way around the desk on his knees.
The cougar stopped short, glancing down at his master’s lap in surprise: Shane wasn’t wearing anything from the waist down. Looking up, Colton met the horse’s gaze, and his master grinned wickedly.
“You didn’t think I’d forgotten?” he asked.
Colton gave a rueful grin and nodded.
“Cat’s got his own tongue,” Shane chuckled and beckoned for Colton to come closer.
As Shane moved forward to sit on the edge of his chair, Colton came up between his legs and buried his nose in his master’s crotch, deeply inhaling the scent there. His mouth began to water all on its own as he purred in delight, nuzzling the underside of Shane’s cock, just beginning to peek out of its sheath. Shane leaned back in his chair and sighed in pleasure.
Colton opened his mouth and took a slow lap around Shane’s sheath, and the horse’s cock responded, emerging further from its protective cocoon. Colton’s tongue met the growing horse-meat, guiding it into his mouth with his tongue. His purring increased as he tasted the musky beads of Shane’s arousal and felt his master’s increasing girth and firmness on his palate. Soon his master’s cock filled his mouth, and he eagerly wrapped his tongue around it, lapping and purring as his own member strained against its jock strap.
“Such a good slave,” Shane murmured, his eyes closed as he stroked the cougar’s head. Colton’s ministrations on his cock felt amazing, and already he could feel his testes growing heavy in anticipation. He exhaled through pursed lips to slow his arousal. “Go a little slower,” he said to Colton. “Take your time with it.”
Colton glanced up and smiled to himself as he pulled his master’s cock out of his mouth, wrapping his paws around the base to steady it as he leaned forward to slowly lick, suckle, and nurse the head. Shane’s cock throbbed in response and grew to full length and girth. Colton’s eyes widened with excitement, but he willed himself to hold back, to obey his master’s command to go slowly and take his time. He ran his soft, warm nose along the underside of the shaft, licked the tip, and then put it back in his mouth to keep it warm and hold it still. With his paws free, he began to fondle his master’s testes, so heavy, warm, and full of his master’s delicious seed. He rubbed them between his paws, squeezing them lightly and willing them to share with him what he wanted.
“Ohh,” Shane gasped. Colton’s gentle touch made his balls ache in desire and abruptly retract. “All right, Colton,” he breathed shakily, “nurse it out.”
Quivering with excitement, the cougar slowly bobbed his head, pushing Shane deeper and deeper down his throat with each stroke, until he could reach out with his tongue and lick his master’s balls.
“Ohh, good boy,” Shane gasped. He reached forward and pulled Colton tightly against himself. “Here you go.”
With a quiet whinny that ended in a grunt, Shane emptied his swollen testicles into Colton. His cock throbbed inside his slave’s mouth, and he felt Colton’s throat squeezing around him as the cougar swallowed his cum in big gulps.
Colton shuddered in ecstasy as he felt the warning throb of his master’s cock, felt the balls he was licking retreat from him, felt his master pull him in tightly, and felt the first spurt shoot down his throat. He worked his tongue and swallowed for all he was worth as he felt glob after glob of Shane’s cum go down his throat.
Yet a wistful whimper escaped the cougar’s lips, despite his ecstasy. And Shane, despite being in the throes of orgasm, acquiesced to his slaves’s subconscious plea. Relaxing his grasp on the back of Colton’s head, he pulled his cock back so that his spurts painted the feline tongue with his juices, letting his slave taste his dessert. Colton groaned in pleasure.
At last with a nicker, Shane was spent and pulled out of his slave’s mouth. Colton’s tongue chased the retreating cock until it disappeared once again within its sheath. Both sighed contentedly.
“Feel better?” Shane asked with a grin.
Colton grinned and nodded.
“Good,” Shane replied, stroking his slave’s cheek affectionately. “Then I’ve got to get ready for tomorrow’s trial.”
The trial went exactly like everybody planned.
Shane showed the security camera footage for each assault—the one on Ms. Coombs, the ones on the security guard, Ben, and the other officer, and the one on himself—called Dr. Schneider to testify to the DNA in the blood under the defendant’s claws matching the victim’s, called Dr. Fitzgerald to testify that she was sane, and finally played back the audio where she claimed to have attacked Ms. Coombs out of boredom.
With his client refusing to say anything, Richard couldn’t put her on the stand, and so when the judge asked for him to present his case, he held up his hands helplessly and said that the defense rested.
As expected, the jury wasted no time in finding Ms. Little guilty. Shane asked for the maximum, citing the multiple attacks in such a short time, the utter lack of concern for her victims, and the high probability that she would do it again. The judge—understandably—agreed.
Shane and Colton were sitting at their usual table in the bar when something caught Shane’s eye coming through the door.
“Well I’ll be darned,” he said abruptly.
Colton frowned and looked behind him. “Oh, hey!”
Shane rose as Mathilde saw them from the doorway and walked straight to them.
“I just wanted to say, ‘thank you,'” the deer said when she got to them.
“My pleasure,” Shane replied. “It’s what I do.”
Mathilde shook her head. “No, not for that—well, I mean, yes, thank you very much for putting that badger away for life—but I meant, thank you for telling me about Horace.” She looked over her shoulder and waved, a beaming smile spreading across her face as she saw him.
The rhino looked up from washing a mug, waved back sheepishly, and blushed. Colton laughed and Shane grinned.
“Never thought I’d see that guy blush,” Colton chuckled, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
“How are you two doing?” Shane asked.
“Oh, Shane, it’s wonderful. Horace is such a kind fur. We agree on so many things, and he’s so attentive.”
“That’d make sense, as great of a bartender he is,” Shane agreed.
Horace stepped out from behind the bar and joined the group.
“Were your ears burning?” Shane asked with a grin.
“Maybe a little,” Horace replied, holding his hand out. Mathilde took it and kissed him. Horace was caught off-guard but kissed back tenderly. When the kiss was over, the skin on his face from his cheeks to his ears burned bright red.
“Oh, Horace, you’re so adorable when you’re embarrassed!” Shane needled him.
“Shut up, Shane,” Horace rumbled back, “or I’ll make sure the cook spits in your next burger.”
“Ooh! Maybe have him—” Colton began. Shane elbowed him in the ribs, and he broke off, glancing at his master with a guilty shit-eating grin.
“Mixed company,” Shane said, raising an eyebrow at his slave.
“I’m sorry,” Colton pouted, addressing Mathilde.
“Not to worry,” Mathilde said kindly. She paused, and then added, “I’m sure the cook would add some white sauce to Shane’s burger if you asked him nicely, though, Colton.”
Shane’s jaw dropped. After a moment, Colton burst out laughing, holding his sides. Mathilde gave a teasing wink to Shane, and Horace chuckled.
Shane shook his head and grinned ruefully. “Shame on me,” he said. “You’re as awful as Colton is!”
“I’m not quite so sweet and innocent after all,” Mathilde grinned.
“I’ll vouch for that,” Horace chuckled.
Shane and Colton exchanged glances.
“On that note, we’re gonna go be not-so-sweet-and-innocent,” Shane said with a grin, handing Horace some bills.
Horace shook his head. “Not this time, you guys. It’s on me.” Shane opened his mouth to protest, but Horace quickly added, “You did me a personal favor and gave me the guts to tell Mathilde how much I care for her. Let me do this, Shane.”
Shane pursed his lips thoughtfully. Colton squeezed his hand and gave him an encouraging look. Finally Shane nodded. “All right, Horace. Thank you,” he said humbly.
“My pleasure, Shane. My great pleasure.” Horace and Shane shook hands warmly.
“All right, you two,” Horace said. “Get out of here before I throw you out!”
Shane and Colton grinned. They didn’t need to be told twice.