Don't STAHP Believing - Susi Hawke Page 0,2

nothing like that, Saint. Believe it or not, my heart just isn't in it anymore. I've completely lost the bloodthirsty need for vengeance I felt when I started it, and that's okay. While our kind still aren't treated well under human laws, there are other options now that weren't around when I founded STAHP. People like Team ALPHA, and the team Finn works with… they do good work and make sure justice is done. I want Finn to have the chance to continue thriving. His career is important and he shines there.

“And… I don't want strangers raising my babies. While I won't mind having a nanny or two to help, I want to be hands on. And whatever work I do, I want it to be done here on the property where I’m always nearby if they need me."

The ticking vein in his throat, the raw vulnerability of his gaze, these told me he was speaking from the heart, telling the complete truth. When he fell silent, I took a moment to swallow my shock.

"Are you really asking me to take your place, Tonio?"

"Sí. Who else would I trust?"

We stared at each other for several seconds. "You know things would have to change if I took over, right? Like you said, there are other options now. We aren't the only ones policing our own kind. Not just in this country, but also abroad. Maybe not everywhere yet, and not as well orchestrated in many places as the human law enforcement, but still better. What happened to Mami and Papi wouldn't be so easily swept under the rug in today’s world."

We both swallowed and looked away from each other at the mention of our parents. The so-called accidental plane crash that had killed them was an assassination, bought and paid for by American politicians who were closeted shifters. The kind of shifters that preferred to make money off their own kind rather than see equality and justice for them.

The work our parents were doing in the shifter-rights movement, not to mention the free medical care they'd offered to the forgotten poor in countries most people didn't even know existed, had gotten them killed. Antonio had dealt with his grief by forming STAHP and returning the favor to all guilty parties. I’d poured mine into keeping their work alive through charitable efforts. Sending money, food, and medical aid to shifters in the impoverished areas around the globe.

STAHP had also done a lot of good over the years, but their methods were, well, bloodthirsty at best. Cannibalistic, at worst. Not that I cared to think about the way the STAHP vigilantes preferred to dispose of bodies. I didn't care if they were shifted at the time and let their animal do it, I still found it beyond the pale. Or as Jodie would say, nasty AF. And yes, she’d use the letters rather than the actual obscenity. What amused me was the fact that my straitlaced, bow-tie wearing brother-in-law allowed it.

My attention was pulled back to my brother when he cleared his throat. "I'm okay with things changing, Santiago. It's the nature of things, is it not?"

"True. But what about those who won't support the change, both in leadership and company guidelines? I know I come across as a kitten next to you, but if I do this, my word will be law."

Tonio inclined his head in acknowledgment. "As it should be. And those who don't like it can leave if they have a problem. But I would caution you to keep an open mind, hermano. Not everything in life is as black-and-white as you think."

An old argument between us. One I wasn't going to go into too deeply right now.

"If this is happening, first rule, other shifters are friends, not food. Whether they're bad guys or not, we are more than the animals we shift into. Eating suspects, no matter how guilty, isn't… never mind. I don't want to complete that sentence. You get it. I guess what I'm saying is that I'd want to be more involved with law enforcement when possible."

"You don't need to justify yourself to me, Saint. There's a reason you earned your nickname, remember? I was the violent brother, you were the peacekeeper. The light to my dark within the Montoya familia. When I see something wrong, I use vigilante justice. You prefer law and order. I get it. We've had this discussion too many times over the years, we both know where the other stands.

“And for