A little bit of background about “Bully Boys” — I had just finished the BBC’s NORTH AND SOUTH when I saw the call for the antho, so I kinda had Richard Armitage in full Victorian fig lodged in my head when I sat down to come up with a story. Since I was already thinking Victorian, I figured, “Okay, let’s set it in Victorian London. Now what kind of shifter species would you expect to find in the Smoke way back then?”
Which is how I settled on bull terrier shifters. Personally I happen to adore pitties, but they’re tough dogs when threatened. I could see RA being able to shift into a Black Staffordshire bull terrier and leading a rough-and-tumble shifter pack in the slums of London.
Of course, then I had to come up with Gunner’s mate. *dimples* Let’s just say that I’m a fan of Peter Jackson’s latest trilogy and leave it at that.
When Victorian solicitor Arthur Finter is forced to cut down a dangerous London alley after work, he stumbles upon pit bull shifter Alpha Gunner Jones in the middle of a dogfight with a rival shifter pack. The hardnosed bully boy scents Arthur and recognizes him as his mate, but will events orchestrated by the other pack separate them before Gunner can lay final claim?
When Arthur awoke, he was in bed. The awful scene in the alley drifted through his memory, dim now from sleep. It was just a nightmare. Oh, thank goodness.
He tried to turn over, and couldn’t. Looking up, he saw that a length of hemp rope had been tied around his right wrist and woven with very little slack through an unfamiliar brass headboard. The other end of the rope had been attached to his left wrist, effectively pinning his arms wide.
Lifting his head as high as possible, he stared around his prison. It appeared to be a small bedroom, lit only by a coal fire in a blackened grate. A row of hooks on the far wall held various items of clothing, and an armoire hulked in the corner. A plain wooden table stood next to the bed, bare of anything except a candlestick with an unlit candle.
He flexed his feet and found that his legs were bound as well, with the same amount of slack given to his arms. To make matters worse, someone had removed his clothes before tying him to the bed and covering him with a thin blanket.
Panic set in, making his heart lurch. “Help!” he shouted. “Please, I need help!”
The door opened and his hopes were dashed as the handsome werebeast sauntered in, carrying a wash bowl and water jug. He’d taken the time to rinse the blood from his face and slick his hair back, and an old, threadbare towel hung casually over one shoulder.
“Someone’s up, I see,” he said in an East-End accent.
Arthur fought down his fear and gave the man his best glower. “Untie me immediately, sir!”
“Can’t do that. At least, not just yet.” The man approached the bed, giving him an appreciative look. Arthur belatedly remembered his nude state, and cringed under the cheap blanket that protected his modesty. “I suppose you want to know why you’re here, then.”
“Indeed I do,” Arthur said, hoping he sounded braver than he felt. “I am a solicitor, sir, and if you do not untie me this moment, you will find yourself in grave trouble with the law.”
The man shrugged. “Won’t be the first time. Doubt it’ll be the last.” He moved to the bedside table and deposited the jug and bowl on it, then sat down on the mattress. That blue gaze trailed over him dispassionately, but there was a flicker of something else as well, something that tugged at Arthur’s senses and caused his breath to come faster.
The man grabbed the edge of the blanket, dragging it down to just below Arthur’s waist. The solicitor flinched as the cool air of the room hit his skin, causing it to break out in embarrassing gooseflesh.
“You’re trim. I like that in a bloke,” the man said conversationally. “Don’t spend all of your time on your arse, do you?”
Arthur gaped at him. “I—how—that’s none of your business!”
“Oh, but it is my business.” His captor sounded amused about that. “Everything about you, Mr. Arthur Finter, is my business. Now that we’re to be mates and all.”
The bizarre comment would have made Arthur laugh in other circumstances. “If you mean we’re to be friends, sir, I can assure you that I feel no such friendship with anyone who ties me to a bed and terrorizes me in such a manner!”
The man tilted his head to one side, and Arthur was forcibly reminded of his other shape. “You’re tied to my bed to make sure you don’t run away,” he said. “I know you saw what happened in the alley, and I’ll explain it in good time. As for terrorizing you, it wasn’t what I had in mind for us tonight.”
He reached out and touched one of the tiny nubs on Arthur’s chest, tracing a circle on it. The caress caused Arthur to gasp, an indecent zing of pleasure arrowing down to his groin.
“Thought so,” his captor said in satisfaction. “You long for the touch of a man, Mr. Finter. I’ll be that man for you tonight and ever after. We’re mates, you and me.”