This year for Amber’s bash our prompt was “what fictional character would we invite to our birthday party?” Since my birthday is the 25th (Yes Ken, I still want that new waterproof Kindle) that subject is already at the forefront of my mind and it was easy to get into the mood of this project.
Many characters came to mind both from my own series and from other authors. We all know how much I love Shane and Carson, I adore the Harry Potter Series and Parker Williams and K.C. Williams came to mind as well (I love me some Dorien). Still, in the end I decided on Riley, the Eagle shifter from my Lost Shifter Series.
I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads right now. Why would I want a Bi-Polar Eagle sharing my cake? The answer in very simple, in many ways Riley is me.
When I first wrote about Riley I was coming to grips with my own diagnosis with Bi-Polar. We even share some of the same signs and symptoms. So, whenever Riley messes up I relate to him just like I know he would relate to me. As such, I share a special connection with him.
Nothing is scarier than being a hostage to your own mind. Imagine not being able to control what you say or do, knowing that you could mess up at any moment and there’s nothing you could do to stop yourself. Then they start giving you fistfuls of meds with the promise that you’ll get better, only you find your body having nightmare reactions to those new chemicals. Still, you can’t stop taking the pills because they are eventually going to be the only thing that saves you from yourself. That, my friends, is what living with mental illness is like.
Worse yet is having others treat you like a leper or a freak, all because you have a medical condition. Bi-Polar is nothing more than a chemical imbalance in your brain, much like diabetes is a sugar imbalance in your blood or cardiac disease is an issue with your heart and vessels. If properly medicated I am perfectly okay. When not, I have been accused of being demon possessed, not safe to be alone with children and a freak.
I’m none of those things, however. I’m a survivor and I will continue to be. One year at a time. So will Riley and the millions of others out there like me.
Hawk shifter Colin has been mentoring Eagle shifter Riley for several months now. Because Eagle shifters are so rare, Riley is constantly in danger of being captured and forced into slavery, so Colin has his hands full with training Riley to be a halfway decent soldier, protecting the younger man from their enemies, and trying to fight the growing attraction they have for one another. Then Colin discovers a bigger threat to Riley, more dangerous than all the others. Riley can’t run away from this threat since it comes from within him. Will Colin be able to save Riley from himself, or will the Eagle be lost to his own internal demons?
“This time? How often have you been cutting?” Riley took a deep breath. Here it comes. Once Colin heard the truth, he’d probably toss the crazy Eagle out on his ass.
“A lot. Sometimes more than once a day.”
God, how to explain it to somebody on the outside? While it made perfect sense inside Riley’s head, whenever he tried to enlighten somebody else, it always ended up coming out wrong.
He decided to go with, “It makes me feel good.”
Colin’s brow creased, but he continued to caress Riley’s hair, so that must mean he wasn’t totally disgusted. That gave Riley the courage to confess more.
“Sometimes I get so tired, I don’t want to get out of bed, ever. Then, other days, I feel like nothing could stop me—that I could take on the Ravens, the slavers, and every other asshole in the world.”
When Colin didn’t say anything for the longest time, Riley felt a well of panic fill up.
“If you want me to leave the cast, I understand. I know that nobody likes having a defective shifter hanging around.”
Then Colin did the most shocking thing of all. He leaned down and pressed their lips together. The kiss was brief, almost over before Riley even realized it’d began, but it still stole his breath away.
“What was that for?” Riley asked.
He raised a hand to touch his now tingling lips. A warm sensation pooled in his stomach as his heart ﬂ uttered in excitement
“I can’t fight it anymore,” Colin said, his gaze searching Riley’s face. “Fight what?” “The way I feel about you.”
For the first time in his life, Riley felt real, genuine hope blossom in his chest. “Please tell me that it’s not something like disgust or hate? Because if it is, and you’re still kissing me, that’s just messed up.”
Colin gave a small chuckle before kissing Riley again. “I could never be disgusted or hate you.” “You don’t know that for sure. I’ve done some really stupid things over the years.”
“If you’re talking about the time when you still lived with Ranger and the others, then I already know, and it hasn’t changed the way I feel about you at all.” Riley felt tears well up in his eyes. “I don’t know why I do some of the things I do. What’s worse, I don’t know how to stop myself from doing them. I’m so scared.”
Colin reached down and pulled Riley into an embrace. Riley closed his eyes and let himself sink into the comfort Colin offered. “You’re not facing it alone. This time I’m with you, and I’m not going anywhere.”
“I don’t deserve you,” Riley whispered even as he clutched onto Colin’s arms.
“Now why would you say that? Of course you do.”