Story Excerpt
Shy Guys Finish First

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The shouting was the first clue Cory James had that something was wrong. It was loud and angry, but tinged with what sounded like fear to him. It was easy for him to pick out the tone. He was well acquainted with the emotion. He lived with it every day.

Hearing it from someone else sent a chill down his spine.

Knowing he wasn't going to like what he saw, Cory crept to the edge of the four story brick building and peeked around the corner. It was dark out, but there was enough light shining from the street lamp for Cory to see down the narrow alleyway.

Or at least far enough to see the fight going on.

He swallowed tightly, blinking back tears as he watched the scene roll out in front of him. It was one he had seen many times before. It was one he had lived many times before. It terrified him then and it terrified him now.

Cory doubted it was ever something anyone got comfortable with, but they did tend to get used to it. And that might be sadder than anything.

Three rough looking men surrounded a larger man, a much larger one. Cory had no doubt that if it wasn't for the fact that he seemed to be trying to avoid hitting anyone, the big bear of a man being bullied could have taken them all out.

Instead, he kept his arms up over his face, and tried to turn his body away to avoid the worst of the beating he was receiving. Cory didn't know if he didn't know how to defend himself or if he was just insane.

He did know he had to do something. While he didn't going looking for fights, and in fact did he utmost to avoid them, he couldn't in all good conscience, turn away when someone else was being bullied. Too many times he wished someone had intervened on his behalf.

It never happened.

He should have stayed in Cade Creek for his three day weekend instead of coming into the city. This was not going to turn out well.

"This is a really bad idea," Cory mumbled as he pulled his pepper spray and Taser out of his small backpack before sliding his arms through the straps and pulling it on. He had learned a long time ago to never leave home without his backpack or something to defend himself with. He held one in each hand as he moved into the alley, keeping close to the wall.

There weren't really a lot of places to hide. A few stacks of wooden pallets, a large industrial Dumpster, and random piles of garbage. There was an old tire, but Cory knew that would be useless to hide behind.

He knew the closer he could get before his presence became known, the better chance he had of...well, doing something. He still hadn't figured out what that something was yet, but he was working on it.

He was working on it fast.

Cory winced when his foot hit an empty beer bottle when he was just steps from the guys beating on the larger one and it clattered across the rough concrete. For a brief moment, eyes as blue as the summer sky peered at him across the distance. Awareness filled Cory as a crackle of energy passed between them, hot and raw, carnal.

Cory's breath caught on a surge of yearning so abrupt and intense, it felt like pain. He felt the wonder of the tall man in every pore, every nerve, with every pulse. His mother had told him about love at first sight, about that one moment when two souls connected. Until this one moment, he had never believed it was true.

Hell, he never believed he would ever find anyone at all, soul mate or not. That had just never been in the cards for him.

"Get the fuck out of here!" one of the bullies shouted.


"I just need to talk to my brother." Cory waved a hand toward the big man corned against the brick wall of the buildings. "Our dad sent me out after him and he's going to be real pissed if I don't come home with him."

The guy in the middle—Cory was pretty sure he was the ring leader of this little band of morons—tucked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and tipped back on his heels.

"You know Moose?" he asked.

Cory's eyes shot to the big guy.



"Because I know Moose," the guy continued. "I know Moose's dad, too, and the last time I checked, my old man only had the three of us kids." The guy's eyes narrowed menacingly. "So, who the fuck are you?"


Cory shot Moose a quick look of sadness and regret before turning to run. He had tried to help, but Cory knew he couldn't save the man. He was in serious doubt that he was going to be able to save himself.

Cory didn't get two steps before he was grabbed and spun back around. He had just enough time to douse the guy who grabbed him with pepper spray before he was punched in the stomach.

Cory grunted as all the air left his lungs, and then he dropped to his knees onto the cold hard pavement. He gasped as he tried to draw much needed air into his oxygen deprived lungs. He couldn't even begin to freak out about the pain in his knees until he could breathe again.

Right now, he kind of wondered if that was ever going to happen.

"Leave him alone!"

Someone had shouted that. Cory wasn't sure who. He prayed it was someone with a badge. He heard the unmistakable sound of flesh hitting flesh. His stomach clenched because he knew someone was getting hurt even if it wasn't him at that exact second.

He hoped it wasn't Moose, but he was pretty sure it was.

When someone grabbed his arm, Cory cried out and struggled to escape the strong hold. The fear swarming him was almost debilitating. Cory hated pain, maybe more so because he was so used to it.

He screamed when he was lifted up into the air. Before the panicked sound even had time to rip through the air, whoever had him was running through the streets. Cory bucked and struggled to escape.

"Stop it before I drop you."

Cory froze at the strained tone of voice coming from the man who carried him. It didn't sound threatening, but more scared like him. "Moose?"