Lay Your Body Down

an excerpt

Chapter One

Fear had such a rancid scent. It was a smell Odin James had become very familiar with over the last several months. Every time he let his guard down for a fraction of a second his nightmares came flooding back to swamp him. His nights were never peaceful, and now even his days were sliding down the shit chute to hell. Nearly seven months had passed since his world had imploded. People he thought were his friends were no longer in his life, and weirdly those he'd never even considered close friends were the ones still standing by his side. It's funny how quickly things can change. How one small circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time could fuck up the life you had.

Nowhere was safe anymore. Odin couldn't go home, and the police were at a loss with what to do with him. Every other witness to the murder of Sebastian Norris was either dead or hiding so far underground they were never going to be found. For the last five days, he'd been staying in police custody in a supposed safe house. That was until an hour ago when the station rang and told them their whereabouts had been disclosed. Woke them in the dead of night to tell them it was time to run again and disappear. Odin hoped things got back to normal soon.

"Don't worry, son. We'll find you someplace new to hole up for a while. We're not going to hang around here waiting for them to come and get you." Patric Charles was the older of his two babysitters at the moment. Okay, so maybe he was only in his late fifties or early sixties, but compared to Odin's own twenty-two years it was like a lifetime away. Patric was on loan to the police from the FBI, and right now he was Odin's very last hope.

After they had woken the day before, Patric had been making calls to someone outside of law enforcement. When Odin had asked he was just told it was a family friend who lived off the grid. Someone that had a place he could take Odin to for safekeeping. To be honest, Odin wasn't sure if this was a good idea or not, because according to Patric they were going to be breaking protocol and pissing off everyone along the chain of command. But at least Odin would be protected, and more importantly he'd be still alive to be able to testify at the trial of Warren Mortimer.

Odin fought hard to keep his mind from going back to the night he'd hauled arse all those months ago and went to the police about what he'd seen. One minute, he and Sebastian had been walking home from the night club and the next Bas had been lying dead in a pool of blood at his feet. Odin had looked up long enough to see Warren Mortimer sitting in the backseat of a Jag, pointing a gun at Odin's friend. The man had snarled, and Odin had known it was time to get the hell out of there. He'd hated leaving Bas on the ground, but the hole in his forehead said his friend was dead.

Odin had run. The sound of a gun firing had made him run faster. He'd crawled into a hotel dumpster and hid. He had called the police to tell them what had happened, and then he'd waited, hoping like hell the police would find him before Warren Mortimer did. Mind you, back then he'd had no clue who the guy was. Mortimer had just been the person that had shot and killed his best friend.

It felt like hours had passed until someone had come to get him. The smell of the garbage he'd been sitting in had enough time to permanently bond with his clothing and skin. When the lid of the dumpster had opened and a uniformed cop was standing there, Odin had sighed in relief before bursting into tears as the whole evening came crashing back on him.

Odin came out of his flashback when Patric placed a hand on his arm and spoke. "Odin, it's time to move."

"Where are we going?"

Patric guided him out through the kitchen and into the garage. It wasn't until Patric had unlocked the door out into the side yard that he realised they weren't taking the car. His fear tripled as Patric led the way to the back of the property and into the adjoining Golden Club Resort.

"What's happening, Patric? Where are you taking me?" Odin whispered. He was too scared to talk any louder in case someone was already out here in the darkness watching them.

"Hush now, before you alert everyone to the fact we are trying to sneak away." Patric gave his hand a tug and headed further away from the safe house.

Odin jumped at every noise he heard as he followed Patric around the boundary of the resort. When they got to the car park, Odin dug his feet in. There was someone standing there waiting for them. Someone he didn't know, but by the way Patric yanked him forward the man was a friendly, or at least Odin hoped he was.

"Is this him?"

The growl in the deep voice scared the shit out of Odin. What if he'd been wrong about Patric? What if Patric was the one who had leaked his location?

"Yeah, this is Odin. Odin James, I'd like you to meet a good friend of mine, Tom Wylie. He's the son of one of my former work partners. I promise you this, Tom will keep you well hidden."

Odin stared at the bear of a man and didn't know what to think. Tom on the other hand appeared to be giving him the once over and finding him lacking in some way. How was he supposed to trust someone who for all intents and purposes he didn't know? Then again, he had trusted the police and look where it had gotten him. Taking a deep breath to fortify his nerves, Odin held out his hand. "Hello."

For a moment, he wasn't sure Tom was going to respond. He wasn't prepared for the shot of electricity that flowed through him the instant their hands met. There was something primal about the other man, and it terrified Odin beyond belief.

"We need to move. We've been standing here for far too long," Tom growled at him, and then added to Patric, "I'll be off the grid. Contact me the way you would Dad, and I'll eventually get the message."

Odin gasped as Tom took a hold of his upper arm and walked him toward a huge SUV. He was even more shocked when Tom opened the passenger door and lifted Odin into the seat like he was a sack of groceries. He bit his lip to keep from lashing out, because if he believed Patric--and seriously he needed to believe in someone--Tom was going to be his bodyguard for the foreseeable future. The truth was he was too scared to do anything to piss the man off in case he dropped him by the roadside to fend for himself. It'd be just his luck.

I can do this. I can put my trust in a stranger. Who am I kidding? I just want my life to go back to normal. After buckling in, Odin moved as close to the door as he could. He tried to put as much distance between himself and Tom as he could, but as big as Tom was there wasn't much room left. His grip on his seatbelt tightened as Tom started the ignition and began driving. The overwhelming silence between them was rattling Odin's nerves, but he wasn't going to be the one to break it.

A little over thirty minutes had passed before Tom spoke gruffly. "You don't say much do you? Don't you have a ton of questions you want to ask?"

"Would you answer them if I did?"

The deep chuckle filling the interior of the car was akin to a low rumble of thunder and Odin felt it vibrate against his body. "Now that'd depend on the question," Tom said, and Odin couldn't work out if he was joking or not.

"Can I ask where you're taking me?" Odin asked.

Tom was quiet for a moment, and then said, "I'm taking you to a place no one but myself knows about. Not even my family. Basically, I'm taking you off the grid."

"Are you in the armed forces?" The way Tom talked Odin knew he wasn't just an average everyday man.

"No. I used to be, but I can't talk about what branch. Suffice to say, I'm very good at what I do."

Odin shuddered. "Am I safe with you?"

"Safer than you were with the police. They have rules to follow--I don't."

He voiced another thought going through his mind. "Are you human?"

The way Tom's hands squeezed the steering wheel Odin guessed he'd hit a sore point. Again he didn't think Tom would answer, and was surprised when he did. "I was once, but now I'm not." There was an underlying sadness to his words and Odin felt bad for bringing up the topic.

Nearly a hundred and eighty years ago, all hell had broken loose when the human populace had discovered they weren't the only sentient creatures on the planet. Most people had panicked, and mob mentality had ruled as they sought to destroy anyone determined to be preternatural. Personally, Odin thought the humans were all idiots, and had taken the wrong approach. Instead of starting an interspecies war, they should have realised the preternaturals were the same people they'd always been. When he met new people, Odin usually never asked what species they were. If it was important the other person would let him know.

"Aren't you going to ask what breed I am?" Tom asked.

Odin shook his head. "It's none of my business. Patric told me you were a good person, and he trusted you to keep me safe. I'm willing to do the same."

"You'd be the first. Most people shun me when they find out."

"Even your family?" Odin asked.

Bitterness edged Tom's words. "They were the worst of all. If it wasn't for Patric, I'd have no family left. Even then, it cost him his friendship and work partnership with my father."

"Sometimes people are idiots, even if they are family. My family hasn't spoken to me since I was nine years old." Odin bit his lip to keep from revealing more than he should. Not everyone needed to know his life history, but if Tom asked he knew he'd be truthful.


Weighing the pros and cons of telling the whole truth right now, or waiting until Tom had them both safely tucked away, warred within him. In the end, his soul told him he'd just better man up and get it over and done with. "I'm gay. My family is very religious. Luc, my father is very high up in the community, and I apparently no longer fit into his perfect family."

"Like you said. Some people are idiots."

Odin flashed Tom a grin. "I wish everyone thought our way." The sky outside the window was beginning to lighten. "Do we have far to go?"

"Not much farther today. I have an out of the way place to hole up until nightfall and then we'll make the next leg of the journey."

"I hope they don't find me. I'd hate to bring trouble knocking on your door."

Tom winked at him. "They'd have to find the bloody door first."

There was definitely something rugged about the man which made Odin think wolf. He was dying to know what kind of preternatural creature he was, but knew it had to be Tom's choice to reveal it, or not. "Not to be a pain in the arse, but I need to pee."

"You'll have to be quick about it. I want to be off the road before it's fully light," Tom said as he turned into a side track and stopped the vehicle.

They were out in the bush, so Odin made short work of the pit stop knowing no one would see his junk swinging in the breeze as he stood beside the car and relieved himself, though he was a little self-conscious with Tom being only a few feet away. He swore he could feel Tom's gaze on him but was too chicken shit to turn around and find out if he was correct. When he was done, he zipped up and quickly got back in the car. He wasn't even fully buckled in before Tom was already pulling back onto the main road.

Odin yawned, and then was immediately embarrassed when Tom chuckled softly. "Why don't you get some shut eye? I'll wake you up when we get there."

"I'm okay. I just haven't been getting much sleep lately. Every time I close my eyes I keep seeing my friend being gunned down in front of me. To be honest, I'm too scared to sleep."

"Trust me, if you don't start looking after yourself and trying to sleep, you'll burn out."

With the way he spoke, Odin wondered what had nearly burnt Tom out. Whatever it was, he must have gotten over it or at least worked out how to cope as he was a picture of perfect health. "I try, I really do, but then I wake up terrified, because I know I'm next on Warren Mortimer's list. I don't know why he killed my friend. All I know for sure is he's after me because I saw him with the gun in his hand. I know he did it."

"He won't get you. I'll keep you safe."

"And what if you can't? The police couldn't, and apparently neither could the FBI." Panic swamped Odin as he started to hyperventilate. The sad part was he didn't know how to stop it from happening.

"Deep breaths." Tom reached across and squeezed his thigh. "You're safe with me."

A violent shiver tore through him as he tried to do what Tom asked. "You just don't want me to puke in your expensive car."

"Well, there's that too." Tom grinned and as weird as it was Odin was grateful Tom kept his palm firmly pressed to his thigh as if anchoring him in the here and now.

"I'm not going to puke. I'm just freaking out. Seven months ago, one night changed my whole world. I lost my best and dearest friend and found myself on the run when some arsehole called a hunt on me. Warren Mortimer isn't going to let me live long enough for his case to go to trial. Every night, I pray for time to turn backward so I can have a do-over. I wish I could make it so that night never happened at all. That way Bas would still be alive, life would be normal, and you wouldn't have to be stuck babysitting me." Taking a deep breath, he added, "And yes, in case you're wondering, I do have a tendency to babble when I'm in the process of having a panic attack."