Story Excerpt
Poppy's Pleasure

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Dean Stone chuckled. His sandy blond hair, longer now, brushed against his cheeks as he shook his head. He leaned back against the wall behind him and he watched as his friend Gage argue with Noah, the man's mate. Noah Andrews was also the king of the cats, or some such shit like that. Dean was still trying to figure it all out.

What he did know was that despite the fact that Gage Tynan had grown from a man who a couple of inches shorter than Dean to man that stood a couple of inches taller than him, and topped him by at least twenty pounds, it was Gage's little five foot six mate that ruled his life. Noah had Gage firmly wrapped around his furry little finger.

The fact that Noah could shape shift into a house cat was just an added bonus for the cannon fodder. Dean was still reeling from learning that shape shifters lived outside of Hollywood movies. And now not only was he friends with the king of cats, he was living in the pride's damn house. He had to have been dropped on his head as a baby. That was the only way to explain it.

"Gage." Dean held up his hand to stop the arguing couple. His head was starting to ache from watching Gage and Noah go back and forth. Gage wanted to go with Dean to get Marcus. Noah wanted him to stay home. "I am perfectly capable of going to this meeting on my own. I'm a big boy, I promise. I've been taking care of myself for a very long time. I can even go to the bathroom all by myself."

Gage growled.

Dean smirked with amusement. The whole growling thing was not necessarily new. Gage always growled. Now, he just did it with more flair. "Dude, seriously, sheath the claws. I'm just going to pick up Marcus in town and bring him back here. It's not like this is a mission or anything. If I stub my toe, I promise to call you right away," he said with a touch of an attitude heavy in his voice.

Dean bristled a little bit that Gage seemed to have so little faith in him. He had been at the agency almost as long as Gage. He had been going out on missions for years. He wasn't stupid. He knew how to be cautious.

Dean clenched his hands, hiding them by crossing his arms over his chest and tucking his hands under his arms as he pushed away from the wall. "I'm starting to think you don't trust me, Gage."

"Of course I trust you, Dean." Gage pushed a frustrated hand through his short hair. "I just—" Gage grimaced. "I don't like the way this is going. We still haven't heard from Steele and Trent isn't answering any of our phone calls. This smells of a set up to me."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "You think Marcus set us up?"

"No, I think Marcus is being used as bait to set us up."

Well, Dean couldn't argue with that theory. Except for a single phone call two weeks ago to set up a time and place for pick up, they hadn't heard from Marcus at all. And Gage was right. They still didn't know where Steele was. He had simply disappeared.

Almost every single mission that Gage, Dean, Marcus, and Steele had been assigned to in the last few months had gone wrong somehow. Either the target was off or in the wrong place. The locations were questionable, and there was absolutely no backup. There's no way in hell intel got screwed up that badly that many times. It was all starting to add up to someone in the agency setting them up.

Dean's money was on Trent, their boss. He was the man that handed out the assignments and gave them their intel, even if he got them intel somewhere else. Trent was the one that decided if the information was good or not and passed it along to them. Trent was also the one that started acting strange just about the same time the missions started going bad.

Dean wasn't a genius by any means but even he could add one and one and come up with a good theory. Over the last few months, Trent, their supervisor at the agency where they worked, had gotten weird. He received phone calls that he always took in private, had meetings with people behind closed doors, and went off for days at a time. Trent had never been like that in the past.

"Would you be happier if I took Braden or Jonas with me?" In the weeks since he met the lion shifters, he had grown to respect them as much as he did Gage, and that said a lot. Gage, Marcus, and Steele were pretty much the only people Dean trusted to guard his back. He used to trust Trent just as much but that started to fade when Trent began keeping secrets and acting all mysterious like.

Gage's eyebrows shot up. "You'd do that?"

"Yeah, sure." Dean shrugged. "It wouldn't hurt for them to see how a professional does it."

Gage chuckled and nodded even as he wrapped an arm around his much shorter mate and pulled Noah to his side. "I'd appreciate it, Dean. Until we get a chance to talk to Marcus and find out where Steele is, you're the only one from the agency that I trust. I'd really feel a lot better if you took some backup."

Dean rolled his eyes. It wasn’t a mission, but a simple retrieval. Child’s play in his book. But he didn’t feel like arguing the point to death with Gage. The man could be just as stubborn, if not more, than Dean.

"Consider it done." Dean turned and started for the door when Noah's hesitant voice stopped him. He paused at the doorway and glanced over his shoulder.

"Be careful, okay?" Noah asked.

Dean grinned and winked at the smaller man, gaining a slight growl from Gage. God, it was too easy to screw with these two. "Sure thing, pussycat."