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Surrounded by a group of devoted four-footed and two-winged family members, Zak and Killian have built what should have been a dream life in their countryside farmhouse. But a cruel twist of fate and the re-emergence of old demons has frayed the edges of the men’s seven-year relationship until just one wrong move could end up severing their bond for good.
Seemingly content to walk on eggshells around one another, things come to a head when ER nurse Zak brings his work home with him… literally.
After being forced to leave their posh Southern California lives, homeless stepbrothers Liam and Noah are slowly losing themselves to the streets they can’t seem to escape. When twenty-one-year-old Liam is beaten up while protecting his younger “brother,” the pair find themselves being welcomed into a home where being a stray is considered a good thing. But Liam and nineteen-year-old Noah have learned the hard way that nothing is given for free and there’s no such thing as the kindness of strangers. Survival means only counting on and trusting in each other.
Will Zak and Killian’s offer of a no-strings-attached place to heal end up being more than any of the four men bargained for? Especially when feelings between Liam and Noah begin to crawl to the surface and the truth of what Zak and Killian’s relationship has turned into becomes harder to deny?
And what happens when lines begin to blur and needs start to change? Will Zak, Killian, Liam, and Noah end up going their separate ways?
Or will they learn that love doesn’t always come in twos?
*This is a novel about a foursome relationship, not just a story of two separate couples in physical relationships with one another. Thus, there is no “cheating” in this story. This is a standalone novel.
Trigger Warning: The trigger warnings in this book may be considered “spoilerish” so they can be found by using the “Look Inside” feature or by downloading the sample and going to the section entitled “Trigger Warning.”
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“What did you do?” I called the moment I walked through the front door. I was greeted with a cacophony of barks, meows, and a few high-pitched shrieks. Claws scraped along the cheap laminate floor and I could practically see feathers flying in the other room as Skittles and Blueberry likely simultaneously took to the air to try and get to me first.
But just by a feather.
I put out my arm to give the gray parrot a place to land. Just as she settled effortlessly on my arm and got her wings tucked against her body, Skittles slammed into her. Blueberry’s claws dug into my arm as I reached my hand out to catch Skittles before she fell. The colorful macaw was small for her age, so that made the task of steadying her and keeping Blueberry upright at the same time a little easier. While Blueberry was as nimble-footed as they came, Skittles wasn’t so lucky. The brightly colored parrot had suffered significant neurological damage at the hands of her previous owner and while it was a miracle she could even fly, if she didn’t have Blueberry around to use as a guide, her ability to hit her target was fifty-fifty at best… even a target as big as myself.
I immediately felt more at ease as the birds began moving up my arm so they could perch on my shoulder at the exact same time that all five of the dogs and three of the four cats rushed into the room.
“Okay, okay,” I murmured as I greeted each four-legged family member in turn. The knot of pain that had been building in my chest as I’d gotten closer to the house eased a bit as one animal after another greeted me in their unique way. Bentley, the one dog I’d come into the relationship with seven years earlier, lay dutifully at my feet as the other animals got their attention. But like clockwork, the little menagerie parted like the Red Sea at the subtle click-clack sound coming down the short hallway from the kitchen to the front door. More of the tightness in my chest eased as the medium-sized black and white bird carefully made his way along the slippery floor toward me. We’d long ago put a runner down on this part of the floor just to make it a little easier for Waldo, but the stubborn toucan always made it a point to walk around the narrow strip of carpet. It seemed to be his way of reminding us that he might have had a shit-ton of bad things happen to him and he didn’t necessarily look like his beautiful brothers and sisters flying free in the rainforests of South America, but he was still here. And with his unique brand of determination to survive whatever was thrown at him, he’d likely outlive us all.
I waited until Waldo was within a few feet of me before I carefully bent down. Skittles and Blueberry balanced themselves on my shoulder and flapped around a bit but stayed where they were.
“Hey, old man,” I said to Waldo as I held out my hand to him. He ignored the cats and dogs that were circled around me as he slowly stepped onto my hand. Like Skittles, his balance wasn’t great, but I knew better than to try to assist him like I had the macaw. It took a good minute for the battered bird to make it to my forearm. He used his mutilated beak to balance himself as he stepped, and when I slowly lifted my arm and stood, he spread his crippled wings to try and balance himself. I tucked my arm close to my chest so he’d have my body to use as additional support if he needed it.
Which he did.
“You been keeping an eye on your daddy for me?” I asked Waldo just before dropping a little kiss to the top of his head. As crusty as the bird pretended to be, for some reason he’d gotten particularly attached to me, of all people. So much so that I was the only one who was able to actually touch him, despite the fact that Zak was the one who’d played a part in his rescue more than a year ago. It was the reason Waldo now lived with us rather than the rescue group that’d coordinated getting the bird away from his abuser.
My eyes fell to the small black screws that stuck out like a sore thumb against the bright orange of the bird’s long upper beak. Part of the beak was the gorgeous, natural orange that the bird had been born with. The rest was a close match but didn’t have the subtle hues of color that Waldo’s remaining natural beak did. I’d done my best to match the primary shade of orange, but there was only so much a 3-D printer could do. I’d managed to give Waldo a beak that made it possible for him to eat more of the foods that were a part of the bird’s natural diet, but it still broke my heart every time I saw those damn screws. I could feel my anger and frustration building as I thought about the nameless, faceless human who’d beaten the poor bird with a stick so badly that his upper beak had been ripped in two.