Talk Bunny to Me
Author: A.R. Barley
Genre: MM Paranormal Romance
Publisher: MLR Books
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
A.R. Barley lives in the Motor City with a dog (who's currently annoying the cat), a cat (who's doing his best to avoid the dog), and an engineer. She likes hot drinks, hotter novels, and ice cream. She writes seven days a week (when she's not playing referee to the dog and the cat) and is always happy to hear from readers at email@example.com. You can also reach her on Facebook and Twitter!
‘Benjamin Holland, Werewolf Hunter’ sounded cool, but the reality didn’t live up to the hype.
Not when he’d spent the last six hours freezing his ass off in the woods, eating cold beans out of a can.
Frost pricked his fingertips and Ben gathered his coat closer against the wind. Nothing was moving. Damn it. The local werewolf pack had sworn their rogue member was shacked up in the small stand of trees, but if Ben didn’t find him soon he’d be going back empty-handed.
No dead werewolf meant no bounty.
It also meant he’d wasted two days, the gas from Chicago to Minnesota, and four cans of beans.
He’d have been better off staying in town and working on his portfolio.
Unfortunately, the graphic design internship that was supposed to launch his career wasn’t just a pain in his ass.
It was also unpaid.
Hunting down killer werewolves—and the occasional cougar shifter—meant paying his rent on time. It meant groceries and health insurance, with enough left over for the occasional night on the town.
It meant never having to ask his brother for help again.
The wind whipped across the open space between Ben and the trees, but other than that, the place was silent. He let out a low sigh and—
Silence. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. Ben had grown up in the woods outside of Chicago. His family owned a hunting store, and he’d started going out with his father when he was knee high to a caterpillar.
Only citified idiots thought of the woods as silent. There was always something going on—rustling in the bushes or birds chirping high up in the trees. It was one of the first lessons he’d learned while he was still toting gear for his father and his older brother.
“If it gets all quiet-like, that means something big is coming,” his father had explained. “You stop hearing anything at all and that’s when it’s time to make some noise.”
Except the rogue werewolf wouldn’t be frightened off by outstretched arms and Ben’s Katy Perry impression, not like a wild bear or a real mountain lion.
Ben adjusted his grip on his rifle. He’d staked out his position a few hours earlier on a small rise looking towards the woods. The holly bush in front of him still had some growing to do, but it was big enough to hide the glint off his scope without obstructing his field of vision.
As soon as the wolf broke cover, it would be a goner.
In. He took a deep breath, swallowing hard. Out. He expelled every ounce of air from his lungs.
A branch broke somewhere in the distance and his finger tensed against the trigger. He’d stopped going to the shooting range every Saturday with his brother, but he still made sure to practice between hunts. He wouldn’t miss at this distance.
The wind brought him the sound of rustling in the underbrush and then—a ball of fur darted into the clearing.
Ben had to jerk backwards to avoid shooting the rabbit. The damn thing was a light gray color with pale fur around its dark eyes and a nose that never stopped twitching. He wasn’t a lop—like his best friend Peter in bunny form—but his ears weren’t very long either.
He swallowed down the familiar wave of unease. It had been four months, a week, and three days since Peter had mated with Ben’s older brother. He wished them both the best, but sometimes it still hit him like a punch to the gut. Crushing on his best friend had been idiotic, but that didn’t make it any easier to see Peter happy with someone else.
After he finished his hunt, he’d drop the body with the Minnesota pack, head back to Chicago, and find someone cute to fuck. Man or woman, he wasn’t picky.
Damn. He forced back a wave of arousal. He reached down to press the base of his palm against his burgeoning erection and send the rushing blood back towards his head. If just thinking about sex was enough to get him hard then he really did need to get laid. Repeatedly.
The movement must have made some kind of noise because the rabbit’s head jerked to the side. Big black eyes stared directly at him. His head nestled down between his shoulders. His entire body vibrated.
Something else rustled in the bush and the rabbit’s eyes squeezed shut. His entire body went still.
The bunny wasn’t alone.
Ben fumbled his hand back into position. The rabbit was being hunted, and—as far as he knew—there was only one other predator in the woods.
Ben’s breath was coming just a little too fast. It didn’t have the practiced rhythm he usually relied on to keep him steady. His heart was doing the cha-cha in his chest. He expeled all the air from his lungs and—
A wolf crashed out of the woods.
Damn. His contact hadn’t been kidding when he’d said the guy was big. Three and a half feet tall at the shoulders and bulky to boot. Ben couldn’t tell if his mass was mostly fluff or muscle, but he didn’t want to find out.
In. He took a deep breath. The wolf stalked closer to the bunny rabbit. Out.
He pulled back on the trigger and the rifle thundered. The recoil made the stock slam back against his padded jacket. The noise made his ears ring.
The bullet caught the wolf in the shoulder. He stumbled backwards before righting himself. His gaze never left the trembling rabbit. A real wolf would be incapable of that kind of focus. It would skulk back into the woods to lick its wounds.
This was definitely Ben’s rogue—a high school kid who’d decided to eat the head cheerleader when she wouldn’t go to prom with him. There wasn’t a court in the world here the victim’s family could find justice. Just Ben, his rifle, and the bounty the Minnesota pack had placed on his head.
Hell, Ben would have done it for free.
Especially after he’d seen what the asshole had done to her body.
Crack. Ben didn’t pause between shots. Crack. He hit the wolf once in the shoulder and once in the side. The wolf went down, but he was still conscious.
Shifters were hardy, especially the predators. Ben had taken out almost a dozen with his rifle and another three up close and personal when wolves had kidnapped his brother to try and get to Peter.
Thankfully, most of those had been head shots. They’d died quick. The ones who’d made it through the first few seconds had all charged in his direction, teeth bared, ready to attack.
Every single one.
This wolf was different. He didn’t even turn in Ben’s direction. He was too busy forcing his way towards the rabbit. A loud growl exploded out of his throat. Saliva dripped from his mouth.
Snap. His teeth closed only an inch from the rabbit’s head.
The fuzzy little bastard didn’t move.
His fight or flight response had to be broken.
Either that or he’d given up.
Giving up was a human response, not an animal one. It wasn’t something a normal bunny would do.
Adrenaline surged through Ben’s body. He surged forward, aiming and firing on the run. Not ideal. Especially not when his rifle only had a five-round magazine. Crack. Crack.
His grip was awkward. The recoil sent the rifle into his collarbone instead of the padding of his jacket. The pain was enough to make his eyes water.
He’d have a bruise in the morning.
He’d be lucky if he didn’t have a broken collarbone.
That didn’t stop him from reversing the rifle and sending the butt of his gun down into the wolf’s skull.
The scent of gunpowder was thick in the air. Ben’s hands were sticky. Blood had sprayed across his jeans.
It was nothing compared to the rabbit.
He was coated in blood from the tip of his twitchy little nose to his cotton ball tail. Then his eyes opened. He blinked twice. One small foot edged forward like he was preparing to escape.
“Not a chance.” Ben lunged forward. His rifle thumped against the grass. He wrapped his fingers tight around the rabbit’s midsection as he lifted it up off the ground. Strong back legs kicked out and connected with his side. That would be another bruise in the morning. A front paw dug into his wrist and long nails clawed deep into tender flesh. He refused to let go.
He didn’t know whether the rabbit was a wild animal, a child’s pet, or a lost shifter, but he wasn’t going to let him get away.
Ben fumbled the zipper of his coat down—biting his lip against the Minnesota cold—and slipped the rabbit into the warm space between his padded hunting jacket and his cotton T-shirt. He held his breath. If it was a wild bunny this was the moment when he was about to get scratched up.
It would be painful.
He released his grip.
The rabbit’s body curled ever so slightly. Claws connected with his flannel shirt. He dug in tight, but he didn’t draw blood. He just snuggled close.
Not a wild animal.
Ben zipped his jacket back up over the rabbit’s head before snagging his cell phone out of his back pocket. The number he wanted was the third one down in the history. It rang twice before the person on the other end of the line picked up. He didn’t wait for them to say hello.
“I’ve got your rogue.” He used a booted foot to toe the corpse on the ground. “Time for you to come clean up your mess—and teach the rest of your pack some manners. I don’t want to have to come back.”