Rene headed up the rickety stairs to his ridiculously expensive salon off Frenchman’s, intending only to grab some of his clothes and what cash he had left before heading west.
The Deep South had not been kind to him, non, not a bit. He’d run from Bartholome for well over a year, once the big male had caught scent of him in New Orleans, and he had thought he’d be safe in the sticks, but no.
His mate had found him.
He’d run until his pads were torn, until his fur was gray from soot and mud. Then he’d found his stash of clothes and ID and come home, hoping Bartholome was still heading east.
God, he just wanted to lie down somewhere and sleep. Just sleep.
Rene got his door locks opened and stumbled inside, the scent of home perfect. Oh. Shower. He could shower first. He tore off his filthy clothes and limped to the bathroom, hand slapping on the hot water tap.
Cold water spurted from the tap, but it didn’t take long for the steam to pour out. Oh, yes.
Rene climbed in, knees buckling as he landed on the floor of the tub with a soft sob. Better. So much better. He lifted his face to the spray, so tired of running. His bones hurt.
“Oh, chiot, you’re all skinny and bruised.” The voice was low, husky, but tickled, and Rene groaned.
“You can’t be here. This is my house.” His place, and he hadn’t even noticed Bartholome was there, goddamn it. The moon was playing tricks on him.
“It’s a tiny little bolt hole.” The big one, Bartholome, was right there. Right fucking there. Huge and dark and beautiful, like the river at night.
“It’s mine and you’re sitting on my toilet.”
“Well, you don’t have chairs.” Shifting his weight, Bartholome stared at him, dark eyes crinkled up with a tiny smile.
Rene was so tired, so tired, and the thought of running again made him want to whine. “How did you find me so fast?” Why won’t you go away? You sent me away. You told me to go. They all laughed.
“You just ran, chiot. You didn’t hide.”
“Give me until morning and I’ll do better.”
“I can do that. We can nap together.”
It was a terrible idea. Awful, but it sounded so appealing. Bartholome had never wanted to share a bed before now, had never wanted him. Of course, he had said more words to Barthe tonight than he ever had in his life, so it worked both ways.
“The bed is good, soft.” And Rene was worn to the bone. Was the mate call stronger now than it had been all those years ago? He definitely thought so, and that was so not fair.
“Then come on, chiot.” Bartholome held out a hand. A big, square, hard to resist hand.
A voice in the back of his head insisted this was a huge mistake, a stupid act, but he took it anyway. Bartholome pulled him to the bed after turning off the shower.
The top blanket was dusty and they tossed it, but the rest worked and Rene collapsed into a fuzzy pile as soon as he climbed up, body refusing to go another single step as a human. He snorted a little, wiggling around to try to get comfy.
Bartholome settled him once and for all by flopping down on top of him.
“Ooph.” Bossy old man. Rene was going to bite him. In his dreams. After he’d headed west.