“Come on, Patch. Open the door.”
Patrick ‘Patch’ Mason rolled his eyes as he turned away from the window to glare at his bedroom door. There was something about a locked, closed door that his twin brother just wasn’t getting. Patch didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even Jude.
He was pissed the hell off and had been for the last two days. He had every reason to be upset. If that meant locking himself in his room until he could figure a way out of his nightmare, then so be it.
“Please?” Jude whined. “There’s so much to do and I really need your help. The council approved a sanctuary for us…” Patch smirked when he heard his brother pause. Jude was probably sucking in a lungful of air so he could continue talking. “The local alphas have donated the land for it. It’s going to be great, but I need you to help me plan it.”
Okay, that caught Patch’s interest. He and Jude had been searching for a very long time for a sanctuary where they could just live their lives peacefully without having to watch over their shoulders constantly. It seemed like they had been searching for just such a place since the day they were born.
Logically, Patch knew it had just been a few years, ever since the day they transitioned and discovered that they were not the big, fierce jaguars of the great Panthera Onca species, like every other member of their pride.
No, they were ocelots, dwarf leopards. When in shifted cat form, they were about thirty inches long and weighed thirty-five pounds. They had sleek, smooth fur and rounded ears. Grated, they one of the largest of the generally dainty Leopardus wild cat species, but they were still dainty. There was just no getting around that fact.
Even in human form, Patch didn’t stand over five feet seven inches. He was small in every form—human and shifter. And that sucked on so many levels that Patch didn’t even want to think about it.
Life in general had sucked for the last four years. It wasn’t until Jude found his mate not long ago that they started looking up. They had a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, and they didn’t have to cringe in fear at every shadow.
Patch thought they were going to be just about perfect until he learned one horrible fact, and it had sucked out every ounce of joy he had felt over everything that had happened the last few days.
Patch’s chest heaved as he sighed deeply. He could hear the desperate tone in Jude’s voice and knew his brother was starting to lose it. Jude, bless his little heart, didn’t handle emotions too well.
Well, maybe it was that he handled them too well. He could be very emotional. And he was becoming upset which meant that any moment, his mate would come running to his rescue and—
“Patch, damn it,” Tripp Van Buren shouted as he pounded on the door. “Open this fucking door before I break it down. You have Jude in tears.”
And there he was.
Patch shook his head as he unwound himself from his cocoon of blankets and walked across the room to the door. While it drove him crazy, he was glad that Tripp cared about Jude so much. The man might be human, but he was just as fierce and protective a any shifter Patch had ever seen when it came to Jude.
Patch turned the lock and opened the door. Just as he suspected, Jude stood there, tears swimming in his cornflower-blue eyes. His lower lip was caught between his teeth as if he was chewing nervously on it.
“Well, it’s about damn time,” Tripp snapped, shaking a finger in Patch’s face. “Don’t upset your brother like that again.”
Eyes rolling again, Patch stood back and allowed Jude and Tripp to enter his room. The second they did, he closed and locked the door. He might be forced to talk with them, but he drew the line at anyone else in the house. Being in Hugh Marshall’s house, let alone his territory, was part of Patch’s problem.
“Look, guys, I’m sorry if I upset you.” When Patch spoke, his voice wavered. He felt like throwing his hands up in the air and asking the powers that be what else could go wrong in his life. He was starting to think it was just one bad joke after another. “That wasn’t my intention. I just needed some time.”
“Time for what?” Jude wrinkled his nose as he pushed his glasses back up.
“Why didn’t you say that then instead of freaking your brother out?” Tripp asked at the same time.
“Oh.” Jude turned to Tripp, his hand smoothing over the edge of Tripp’s jaw as he looked up at the taller man. “I wasn’t freaked out exactly. I was just worried and—”
“And you were freaked, angel.”
Patch smiled sadly as he watched the play between his brother and his mate. He wanted that and he was never going to get it. That’s why he locked himself in his room. Well, that was one of the reasons anyway.
He didn’t even want to think about the other reason, although that seemed to be all he had been doing for the last two days. He felt like his brain was stuck on autopilot. It seemed to just circle around and around through the same pattern of thoughts and emotions.
His mate was near.
His mate rejected him.
His mate tried to destroy him.
Intense burning anger.
The loop never seemed to stop. And Patch was at a loss of how to get off the fucking emotional merry-go-round he was riding on. He was going around in circles so fast his head was starting to spin.
At this point, he’d almost be grateful if the damn thing crashed.