The soft hum of the jet fades into the background noise of the small cabin. Rafe exits the cockpit and locks eyes with me across the tight space. His rugged face carries a tired grin and his blue eyes look weary. He’s been flying through the daylight hours as we make our way down the globe to Argentina, where our final destination is a small private island off the southern coast.
His muscular form, encased in well-worn jeans and a snug black t-shirt, looks as delicious as ever. Worry pinches my husband’s expression as he heads back to my location opposite the plane’s bar. Chelly, lounging on a brown chenille couch, shifts her attention up from her eReader—more than likely trying to catch a last glimpse of Drew who took over flying duties. She deflates a little when she sees Rafe and goes back to her book. Her long blond hair hides her expression from me, but I’m sure I’d see a hint of longing on her face.
She and Drew, the one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old vampire who came to our resort as a guest last fall before joining our seethe, began dating this winter. Now he only feeds directly from her, taking bagged blood for extra nutrition when needed. To my knowledge, he still has not claimed her and exchanged blood to make her his companion. His old-fashioned ways have made for a cute courtship display, but I doubt Chelly can take much more of the long tease. She looked ready to snap and jump his bones on the spot when he invited her on this trip.
Bob, one of our ground crew, plays cards with Tommy and Paul—our imported Aussie who usually mans the inn’s front desk and our fledgling vampire. The three sit around a table set between four seats, each wearing an intense look while examining their cards. Their voices are pitched low, but every once in a while their excited chatter over a hand becomes loud. Tommy glances up as Rafe walks by. The sandy-haired, lanky man folds his cards and slips into the aisle behind my husband.
Rafe leans down and kisses my cheek before settling into the club chair next to mine. A half-glass of red wine sits before me, on the round cocktail table bolted through the cream carpet. In honor of our destination, I’ve changed from the Alaskan vampire favorite of hot coffee to South American wines. It wouldn’t be acceptable for me to appear uncouth at any Tribunal gatherings by holding a coffee mug instead of a crystal goblet filled with bloodwine. But I admit, I do miss the caffeine jolt.
“Tired, darling?” I ask.
“Yeah.” A heavy sigh escapes him as he runs a hand across his forehead and back over his short, light-brown hair. “Flying through the last storm was a challenge. Head winds slowed us down quite a bit.”
“Can I get you something, sir?” Tommy asks from our right, standing behind the glistening, marble-topped bar.
“A Yuengling, thanks.”
In a moment the beer is poured into an ice-cold pilsner glass and set on the low table. At a nod of appreciation from Rafe, Tommy heads back to his game.
Rafe stares at the amber liquid and remains still. “I’m worried, Dria.”
“The talk with the seethe regarding your manipulator abilities went well, but you know it won’t be the same with the Ancients.”
“Yes, they took it surprisingly well.” I stifle a smile at the reminder of Paul’s confusion and mini-freak out. Asa, our ex-military vamp, just nodded as if confirming something he suspected and Drew listened in stony silence. He pledged his loyalty again with the others easily enough, showing no hesitation at the end of the gathering.
Glancing at the shaded window, I debate on raising the covering now that night has fallen. “The idea isn’t to tell the Ancients; you know I’d never risk that. The plan to arrive earlier than in previous years is to surprise them—find out who knows or suspects what I can do.”
“And then what? Slip into their minds and alter what they know?” he shakes his head. “It’s too risky.”
“The alternative is to kill them.” I lock eyes with Rafe, and see the concern he never tries to hide. “Depending on how many of the Inner Circle we’re talking about, that might not be smart.”
Rafe grips the chair arms, his frustration and anger quickly outweighing his previous concern. “Twenty-two members of the Inner Circle and eleven Ancients, not to mention an unknown number of powerful gophers and lackeys on the fringe doing their bidding. Too many variables. I prefer a concentrated and planned attack.”
“We’ve gone over this before, love. What choice do we have? Let them come to us in Alaska? Where we have over a hundred humans in our care?” I shake my head. “I won’t put them at risk. Not an option. Besides, we normally head down south when the season changes and it’s impossible to run the inn for vamp guests. This early fact-finding mission in Buenos Aires is the best way to go.”
“Yes, yes, your ‘beard the lion in his den’, crap. I get it.” He reaches for his beer and drains half the glass before setting it back down. “I worry it’s more than just the three members you’ve speculated on.”
Bitter resentment and rage coil in my middle. For years I’ve hidden my ability and ran from certain death, only to find I’ve now cornered myself in a remote location with twelve dozen lives at stake. Fight or flight. That’s what any predator would do when left with no options.
“I don’t plan on running again.” Anger leaks through my tone and the tension in the cabin rises. “The only option left is to infiltrate and bring a stealthy battle to them.”
“Won’t they be expecting it? Coraline visited back in January. It’s foolish to think they haven’t done anything in three months.”
“If it were me,” I say with a deadly smile. “I would have attacked immediately.”
“Agreed. So why didn’t they?”
“Coraline could have been the main force driving the whole witch hunt after me. With the alterations I did to her psyche, it may have taken her cohorts a while to bring her back up to speed—or even months just to unravel what I did and how I did it. I’m still not sure how they could repair the damage if they weren’t able to slip into her mind as well.”
“What about that damn charmed brooch? Someone made it for her. Maybe the person is a strong magic user and has countered what you did?”
I speculate on his suggestion for a bit and focus on letting go of my fury. I try to center my thoughts and picture myself mentally moving through a few sun salutations. The yoga moves work, even sitting still. The anger deflates and I focus back on Rafe’s suggestion.
His idea is possible, I suppose, but I’ve never met a witch or wizard that powerful. Most of them can do what Diane, Dr. Cook’s witchy daughter, does back home. She can cast minor spells and contrive complicated charms given enough time and the right ingredients … but a witch with mind powers or the ability to cast a complex spell to counter my mind altering? I shake my head. Not likely. Could it be a wizard? They have been known to do more mental damage, but their spells are usually quite intricate, having no innate elemental powers like a witch is born with.
“I don’t think so,” I finally answer. “But, you’re right. It could be an option.”
Paul, our undead head chef, saunters back toward us. He’s become a sleeker version of himself, thanks to the liquid diet, and is now able to keep up with his kids and slim wife much better. He nods to us on his way to the bathroom facilities in the rear of the plane.
“Smooth flying, Rafe,” he says when he emerges from the tiny room, brushing a lock of dark wavy hair off his forehead. “Will I get to add ‘pilot’ to my growing list of super-cool things I know?”
“Ask Drew to teach you,” Rafe answers with an easy-going smile. “We’ve got better facilities in Alaska, but you could probably start on the basics when we arrive in Argentina.”
“I’m still bummed Bunny and the kids couldn’t come.”
“We don’t know what we’re walking into, Paul,” I say. “It wouldn’t be wise to bring them.”
“Yeah, I know. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. And why did you bring only male donors for me?” he directs my way. At my sly smile he just laughs. “What, you thought I didn’t notice Tommy and Bob were guys?”
“Bunny asked me to make sure you were loyal. No temptation for you while I’m on duty.”
Paul looks stricken as he turns to face away from the passengers in the cabin and leans in, speaking low, “What happens when the men start to become tempting?”
“You close your eyes,” I whisper, “think of your wife, and jerk off when they leave.”
The smile is absent from his jovial face as he nods like he’s just received a death sentence. “Okay.”
“There is also a large supply of donated blood on ice coming with us. You’ll do fine.” I reach out and grab his sleeve before he leaves. “You’re gaining control, Paul. Getting stronger each day. Don’t let the urges get the better of you.”
“Think of things if the shoe were on the other foot,” Rafe says. “Would you want Bunny spreading her legs every few days when she got hungry?”
Anger colors the cheeks of the good-humored vampire. “No!”
Rafe drains his glass and stands to get another. “Then keep that anger front and center in your brain when you get horny for another person.” He slaps Paul on the back as he heads to the bar.
“How do you do it Vivian?” Paul asks. “Do you ever crave another lover?”
My mind flashes to Jonathan, my hunky werewolf servant with the compact wrestler’s body who tastes like dark chocolate. I’ve got ten pints of his blood stashed just for me over the next few months in Argentina. Yum. “You channel it back into passion for your mate. You can’t control what your body craves, but you can control what you do about those cravings.”
His shoulders slump. “Why is it so hard?”
“Most vampires want the sex and the blood together, it’s only as we age we can channel the blood-lust into pure sexual lust.” Beeps and a whir of the microwave come from the bar area, indicating Rafe must be getting something to eat.
“You mean, someday I might just want sex from everyone rather than their blood?”
I laugh. “We’re talking centuries, Paul. And maybe not sex from everyone, but some days it may feel that way.”
“Won’t I still need blood?”
“Yes, but not as much. As you age you can feed from other means, like sexual energy.” My thoughts turn inward as I remember some of the old vampires I hunted. A few of them fed on fear and pain. When their appetites grew too large and they terrorized too many humans to hide what they’d become the Tribunal of Ancients would discover their actions, sending an enforcer like me to end their madness. “Trust me, Paul. There are a lot worse things in the world to crave energy from.”
The smell of corned beef and sauerkraut wafts our way, teasing me of times long past in Ireland. Rafe sets a large plate holding a Rueben and chips on the cocktail table and eases back into the chair. “Thanks for making this for me earlier, Paul. It heated up nice, not soggy.”
Paul smiles at the praise and heads back to his card game. Bob and Tommy look up at his approach and then back to their hands. I wonder what they are wagering to make them so serious.
“Do you think the other two men will do okay on the island?” I ask.
Rafe nods, while swallowing a big bite of his sandwich. “They’re good guys. Tommy can make sure the rest stay in line; he’s pretty good at herding cats and managing without being overbearing. I trust him to anticipate Paul’s needs before Paul does. Bob can help out when Paul decides to cook—which you know he will—and maybe work with the gardener during the day.” He takes another long drink and some of the harsh lines of exhaustion soften from his face. “Our main issue will be the housekeeper’s barely-legal daughter, doubling as a maid this year.”
A smile creases my face as I recall the dark, good looks of Rosia. Her eyes snap with life and she knows exactly how to move her hips to attract a man’s eye. “Dalton might exert his fatherly protection and insist she work in the gardens with him while we’re in attendance.”
“Last we spoke, he said Flavia had called her younger twin sisters to stay with them to help out this season.”
Picturing the women we’ve met before, I can’t help but feel amusement. They’re all as pretty as Dalton’s wife and will provide ample distraction for the two men, not to mention a major temptation for Paul when Rafe and I eventually leave for Buenos Aires alone. Chelly’s blond and curvy good looks will stand out like a beacon when compared to all the small-breasted, exotic-looking brunettes.
“Paul might have a hard time resisting Dalton.” My eyes dance with humor, teasing my spouse. “He’s a suave and sexy guy.”
Rafe wipes his mouth carefully with a cloth napkin and tosses the fabric on the empty plate. “You’ve managed to resist him for almost two decades.” A warm palm lands on my thigh, caressing one leg through my linen trousers. “However did you cope?”
Heat fills me, burning a path from Rafe’s hand to my privates. “I’ve got this big stud of a husband I ravish daily. Thankfully, the old man doesn’t need Viagra yet.”
Rafe’s laughter booms across the cabin. The four other passengers all glance in our direction, then back to their interests. “All thanks to you, dear—and those magical sips of blood I take every now and then.”
I lower my lids when my lover looks my way. “Surely, it can’t all be just me?”
Rafe leans in and our lips meet. His soft mouth molds to mine, the tip of his tongue gently begging entrance. I open and he deepens the kiss, plundering my mouth like a starving man at his first meal in weeks. A throaty growl escapes one of us. Could have been me—I’ve been known to growl once in a while.
A soft, electric tingle enters my mind as my husband telepathically speaks to me through our mate-bond. The day I need Viagra to be ready for you is the day you need to shoot me.
Put the old dog out of his misery, eh? You’ll not get rid of me so easily. A warm hand comes up to caress the back of my head and hold me in place while Rafe plunders my mouth. I pull back when I hear the clearing of a throat in the airplane’s cabin. No need to put on a show. Should we head back to the bedroom?
Rafe ends the kiss and stares into my eyes. Sixty-five years together and you still have to ask? Heat fills his gaze and a predatory smile curves his mouth. Get your ass in there or I’ll pull a cave man and throw you over my shoulder and carry you back.
A smile curves my lips as I rise from the chair and sashay back to the sleeping cabin down the narrow hallway, feeling the burning gaze of my lover on my backside the entire time. The cell phone clipped to my waist starts to vibrate, with its usual perfectly horrible timing. I answer as I open the privacy door and hear the succinct gruff tones of my werewolf servant across thousands of miles.
“Have you landed?”
In man-speak that means, “I’m worried you haven’t called”, so I try my best to swallow the humor in my reply. “No, we haven’t.”
“What’s the hold up? Problem at one of the refueling spots or weather?”
A sigh escapes me as I climb onto the queen-sized bed and recline against the upholstered headboard. Rafe closes the door and turns to me with a feral look in his eyes. Without a sound he starts to strip in the dimly lit cabin.
“You guessed it, we hit several storms and the winds were against us.”
A muffled “hrmph” meets me from the other end of the line and I stare at the flesh slowly revealed by my spouse. The hard sculpted planes of his chest come into view and he tosses the shirt at my face—his not so subtle hint to get off the phone.
Rafe stretches his arms over his head, bending them at the elbow to avoid hitting the aircraft’s low ceiling and leans to the right and left working his cramped muscles. God, that man has delicious abs. Saliva fills my mouth at the thought of licking the hard stomach ridges.
“The werewolves are starting to land.”
What? Oh yeah, I’m still on the damn phone. Jon’s referring to the summer guests arriving, who plan to hunt Alaska’s native game during their stay. The upcoming landing must be what triggered his call; he’ll be tied up for the rest of the day. Rafe reaches for the button on his pants and I track every movement of his supple fingers. “Good. Any last minute questions for me, Jon?”
“No. Our mind connection is getting fuzzy. I can’t feel much of you in my head.”
“I think it’s the distance.” He should count himself lucky, I doubt he’d want to see my husband getting naked. Then again, knowing Jon’s conflicted emotions regarding both of us, he just might enjoy the view. “You’ll do fine this summer. We’re only a phone call away if you need us.”
“Yeah, and including stops you’re over a full day via plane. I’m not reassured. And for the record, it’s not me and the pups I’m worried about—or even Asa for that matter.”
Jon really loves teasing Pat and Eric, our new permanent werewolf members on the resort, by calling them pups. Makes the grown men squirm in their desire to correct him—but both are pretty smart and resist his goading well. “I’ll be fine, Jon.”
“This is your first year there without me. What if you need me?”
Rafe’s hearing is vampire-sharp, and he can hear both ends of the conversation just fine. He snorts his disagreement on the likelihood of us needing Jon and thrusts his jeans down past his hips, taking his tight boxer briefs with them.
My mouth goes dry at the sight of my husband in all his aroused glory. I clear my throat and try to hurry up the phone call, “This year I’ve also got Drew and Paul here. Things will work out.”
Rafe steps out of his discarded clothing and leaps onto the bed, straddling my body. His muscular arms bracket my torso on the headboard and the heat of his breath fans my cheek.
“Okay, gotta go. I’ll call you when we land.”
I click the phone off and toss it to the floor before wrapping my arms around the man I love more than anything else in the world, including my own semi-immortality.
The phone cuts off and I can picture, all too well, what must have caused Vivian to hang the phone up—a half-naked Rafe. Her husband distracts her way too easily. The worry I’ve held inside at being so far from the couple’s side starts to grow.
Will he be enough to protect her and keep her safe in Argentina? Is he quick enough, strong enough, and observant enough? I should be by her side to make sure her enemies don’t get to her at a weak moment. A sigh escapes me as I slip the phone into the pocket of my flannel shirt. Time will tell, but for her sake I hope they made a smart choice.
An ache in my chest has me knuckling a fist and rubbing a sharp circle. The sound of banging pots and pans pulls my attention from the quiet foyer to the activity in the dining room. Eric and Pat appear to be balancing a set of cookware, heading for a side door leading to the hot tub grotto.
“What the hell are you two doing?”
Pat looks at me—his crooked nose hanging over an infectious grin. “Dude, we’re setting up a cooking station outside by the spas. Good idea, right? It’ll be a great party spot for the Weres.”
A glance out the window reveals they’ve already set up a large, drum-like grill and three folding tables. I love the idea of grilling outside now that the weather is bearable—not warm yet, but not freezing all the time either. I grunt my approval at their efforts.
“Don’t think you need all the pasta pots and such. They’ll be easier to use on the stove in here.”
“Jerry lent us a grill station that has three gas burners. We’re setting that up next.”
I nod my head, suppressing a laugh as Eric’s broad shoulders ease sideways to squeeze through the door with his arms loaded full of supplies. “Fine. But take care of everything yourselves. And no drunken cooking mishaps like last month, understood?”
Pat’s face sobers at the memory of burning half of their cabin’s kitchen when they passed out while boiling water. A Were has got to be pretty damn drunk to not wake up at the smell of melting cookware. Thankfully, they woke when the flames started and got the fire out before they lost any of their limited possessions.
“Yes, sir,” Pat says in a serious tone. “You can count on it.” I can never tell if the crafty little bastard is telling me what he thinks his new Alpha wants to hear, or if he’s being genuine and I can trust his words. Next time I catch the bugger in a lie I’m going to pound on him a little bit to let him know I won’t take his irresponsible behavior like so many have before me. Eric has a harder time lying to my face and at least comes clean when he knows he’s caught. I think just watching a whoop-ass will work fine for him.
I shudder slightly when the implication of my thoughts sinks in. They seem almost, dare I say, permanent in their tone. Christ, the little fuckers are growing on me.
Wanting to push any complex thoughts out of my head right now, I head into the back of the kitchen where the buzz of a Sawzall rips through the air. Dirt and dust scratch under my step on the once-clean tile floors. Maybe it is best not to cook in here for a while. Good thing werewolves aren’t picky and will probably gorge themselves while in wolf form if they catch anything.
I open the door to the small storage room next to the walk-in freezer and weave my way past the pushed-aside metal shelves and stacked boxes. Temporary work lights on hooks hang from the ceiling and point to a back corner, where they illuminate the windowless space to a near-blinding level of brightness.
Asa angles the power tool through the exposed plywood of the subfloor. He should have the new spiral staircase installed into the basement command center within a week. Framing a secure closet around the stairwell and installing locks will be the tedious part–demolition is fun and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
The young vampire pauses in his cutting when he sees me and the whine of the jagged saw shuts down. “You need something, Jon?”
“Yeah, I came to help with demo. Where are the sledgehammers? Don’t we get to bang through beams and shit?”
Asa’s stoic face doesn’t crack at my attempt at humor. “If you want to ruin the structure and cause more expense to repair the damage, sure. But this isn’t a wall we’re tearing down—we’re building within an existing room we’d like to keep intact.”
“Just kidding, man.” I smile at his deadpan look. Guess my attempts at joking are lost on the undead bastard. “Did you clear the drywall and insulation underneath from the basement side and check for wires and pipes before you started cutting?”
“No, I’m a complete idiot who didn’t actually build the whole basement out with you this past winter.”
“Good. Glad to see you only need to cut through wires once to learn your lesson.”
Asa gives me a flat stare and raises one eyebrow up, inching it toward the smooth bald expanse of his shaved head. “Can I get back to work now?”
“Wait. Did you print up the file for the new arrivals for me?”
“Yeah. It’s on the kitchen table in Rafe and Viv’s apartment.”
We’ve been using their suite in the short time since they left and I’m debating on moving temporarily into their place when the guests are here. It would make trekking out from my cabin in the woods unneeded. We’ll see.
I curb my longing to smash through the subfloor Asa is cutting with my bare hands. The release of strength and call to action would feel great… but it might reveal my frustration at being away from her if I were to indulge in such a childish act. Apparently, the eight-mile run this morning in the woods wasn’t enough. God, it feels like I have a syringe of adrenaline pricking a muscle just below my skin, just waiting for the right moment to explode me into movement.
Taking my leave, I exit the storage room and enter the couple’s apartment via the key-carded security door located in the rear of the kitchen.
The warm tones and bright jewel colors accenting the living room always make me feel welcome. The scent of the happy lovers wraps around my senses to pummel me in the gut like a boxer’s hard right jab. Damn, I miss them. The mind connection we share has strengthened in the time since the hunt, but I noticed it started to weaken once they were a few hours away on the plane.
Could I push and try to reach her? Should I? I know I need the break from them mentally, but losing touch with her, even for a little bit, makes me feel uneasy. I think I almost died for a moment back on the gym floor months ago, when Vikram attacked me. Since then, they’ve let me in mentally. I feel what they feel when they look at me and think of me. I know they love me, and in Rafe’s case, that he hates me a little, too. I can’t blame him.
When I pledged my loyalty to Vivian seven years ago I never expected any type of relationship for the three of us to evolve from it. That’s what I get for jumping in with both feet without a backward glance. Granted, at the time, I was hoping she wasn’t too attached to her human husband, but that didn’t prove to be the case.
Sinking down onto the plush couch I grab Vivian’s favorite lap blanket, bringing the soft, red knit to my nose. Images of the three of us relaxing for another of Rafe’s movie marathons fill my head. It took over two months until I felt comfortable enough to join the love birds on the couch, previously isolating myself on the chair closer to the TV.
I never would have believed we’d all be able to relax enough to really feel at home. But damned if those two didn’t somehow pull it off. No sexual tension, no innuendo, no handholding—just pure admiration of the films and heated discussions of the plots. The feeling of pack became so strong with all three of us, I actually felt content. Once in a while, I’d lean my head back next to where Vivian snuggled in a deep cushion and our calves or thighs might touch. The comforting weight felt like that of a deeply-loved friend, not a lover. I don’t think I’d ever experienced it before, even during my time in Romeo’s pack.
There was always a sexual undertone in the wolf pack. Unmarried partners were often swapped, young wolves trying to find their mate. Anger and resentment ran close to the surface near the blinding animal passion. I wondered how they were supposed to pick a mate when they seemed more inclined to bed hop. After all, love doesn’t blossom instantaneously for most people.
The movie marathons allowed me the freedom to get past the mental bond of “all or nothing”, and allowed my mind to carve out a place where I felt I finally belonged in Vivian’s life. I’ve felt her intense love for me and even though I know it will never cross a physical line, I can’t help but want it to.
My cock stirs at the familiar dreams of Rafe and me both taking Vivian. Too bad Diane took the summer to visit friends in the lower states. The witch had always been a willing bed partner and often helped me get past the overwhelming fantasies with her blocking charms. I reach down and shift my eager erection to a more comfortable position—it’s not going to happen so I might as well get to work.
Pushing up off the couch I head to the kitchen to get the files. The lingering aroma of coffee fills the air, once again reminding me of Rafe holding his steadfast coffee mug. I grab a bottle of water out of the fridge and settle in at the scarred round tabletop.
We’ve got a small number of guests for the opening—only fifteen wolves coming out for this introductory week. The season will pick up to full capacity when the daylight hours increase and more big herd animals start migrating north. Right now, we’re at ten hours of darkness and fourteen of daylight, almost like a normal day—although, normal never lasts for long up here. The main difference in spring is the sun is still pretty weak and the nights can get nippy, but nothing like we have here in the winter.
I sift through the paperwork and see some familiar names. Romeo and Elsa are coming with half of their pack. All fifteen guests originate from the Canadian province of Manitoba, where the alpha couple calls home. I recognize several of the wolves who were new to the pack when I left eight years ago. It’ll be nice to see how the some of the ladies turned out. Damn, thoughts of randy female werewolves isn’t helping to calm my raging boner.
A mental weight lifts when I see Lori’s name is not on the list. Considering her friendship with Eric and Pat I wasn’t sure if Romeo would acquiesce and allow the angry bitch to attend. She’s attractive, but after our last encounter I have no desire to tangle with her sour nature again. I wonder if Vivian made it a request that they couldn’t bring her? I wouldn’t put it past the vampire to try and spare me any awkwardness if she could.
Thinking back to my last meeting with the pack makes me realize the pups have now been here with me longer than they lived with Romeo and Elsa. Having Asa here to help Eric adjust to his new way of life has helped. Every once in a while Asa would slip into both his and Pat’s minds to calm them down when their wolves ride their mind too high after a kill. Certainly easier than me having to corral them on my own—I’d more than likely have to wrestle them to the ice and cause damage.
Looking back at the list of attendees, the lovely ladies causing my renewed discomfort leap to mind. Katrina, Naomi, and Ruby were three scrumptious co-eds attacked after a football game in their senior year of high school. They were still wearing their cheerleader outfits when Romeo and I strolled into the emergency room to break the news of exactly what attacked them. The three brunettes were best friends and made it through the change, and the subsequent lifestyle alterations, together.
They’d be twenty-six now. All three are long-legged and athletic. One of Russian, one of Jamaican, and one of Latin descent. Huh… maybe there’s a reason Elsa didn’t let Lori come. She wanted me to have a fresh shot at these gorgeous young ladies. Hot damn, I love a meddlesome female alpha with good taste in women.
With a spark of hope swelling in my heart at the prospect of getting laid with a hot-blooded, good-looking Were, I flip through the other pages quickly. A couple I kinda know, Kotsana and his wife Deneishia, and two females I don’t know, Lilli and Tricia, and three other couples I vaguely recall. Do I really need to study these sheets as carefully as Vivian always does? It’s not like we’re here with a bunch of vampires and need to worry about hidden power plays and intrigue.
Wolves hunting big game animals. A soft sigh of contentment seeps out of me, dispelling some of the pent up sexual energy. What could be better than that? I’m looking forward to having wolves here to party and hang with. Running through the forest with them while we hunt will be exhilarating—it possibly ending with me having sex with three gorgeous women will be the icing on the cake. Wonder if the three girls are close enough that I could talk them into a ménage a quatre.
A painful lurch in my pants makes me realize I need to stop this line of thought or I’ll be sporting a woody all afternoon. I’ve got a little under two hours until the first plane lands. Better go tell Asa to clean up for now and do a last-minute check. Knowing him, I bet he did all his checks before he started with the tools, but I plan on telling him to quit just the same.
Through the window, a whoosh of flame shoots up in the corner of my eye and quickly dies. Loud voices come from the hot tub grotto. Perhaps I’ll detour outside first and make sure Pat and Eric haven’t burned anything down yet.
A soft beep from the intercom pulls me out of a light slumber. Dria slips from under my arm and presses a button on the com box near the cabin’s door. “Yes?”
“We’re going to land in twenty minutes.”
She pads lightly back to the bed and leans over me. A whisper soft kiss lands on my mouth. “Time to get up, love.”
“Yeah, I heard.” I stretch and allow the sheet to fall away from my chest. Dria’s eyes lock onto my revealed stomach muscles like she’s weighing the thought of biting them. It’s so fun to tease her. She’s like a caged tiger living next door to the butcher, and I’m the raw meat parading past her bars. “Let me pull on some clothes and grab our overnight bag.”
“My turn to pilot. I’ll fly the seaplane from the marina hangar,” Dria says while drawing back from the bed and grabbing a jumpsuit from a nearby chair. She deftly steps in and zips the dark blue coverall up her naked form, wiggling her round ass to torment me. The lined fabric hugs her curves and hides the fact she’s not wearing any underwear.
Dria gently pulls her long hair out from under the collar and gives her head a sexy shake. Her motions remind me of her hair teasing my cock with just such a movement an hour or so ago. The glint in her eye reveals she knows I’m watching her and the gesture was intentional, the little minx.
The next few hours proceed without a hitch and minutes after a smooth water landing, one of the workers from our private island is taxiing the plane back down the cove to return to the hangar to retrieve the rest of our luggage from the jet.
“Holy cow!” comes from an excited Paul standing on the large dock. “The house overhangs a freakin’ cliff? I don’t know why I thought ‘tropical’ when I thought of Argentina.”
I look up at the large crest Paul called a cliff. It has shadows and crags hidden by the darkness, and the pinnacle of the lighted stucco house at the top draws the eye.
“Flip your thoughts when you pass the equator. Buenos Aires is three hours north of us. Right now, it’s like the difference between Maine and New Jersey during the fall in the US,” Drew says while holding Chelly’s hand and trudging up the hill behind Dria. She’s leading our merry band to the small parking lot set about a hundred yards up a gently sloping hill. The rolling landscape here is much greener than Alaska was when we left. Lots of short grasses and manicured shrubs.
“Fall?” Bob comments from the dock. “Who ever heard of fall in April? Makes no sense, I tell ya.”
Paul shoves the large man playfully, encouraging him to walk behind the others. “Dude, didn’t you hear him? We crossed the equator. Southern Hemisphere is opposite the northern one in seasons.”
A “harump” comes from the larger man, but he dutifully trails along with the rest of them. “So that means it gets colder the more south you go, too?” Bob shakes his head. “Right when I think I get to understanding how the world works I get thrown a curve ball and visit the other side of the globe.”
“Yeah,” says Tommy, “’Cause God-forbid you step out of the comfort of your living room and explore beyond the flat screen TV.”
“I always wondered where you guys went in the summer,” Paul directs to Dria and me. “Should have guessed you’d go to the next dark location on the planet.”
“That Vivian,” whispers Drew in a faux conspirator-like tone. “She’s a smart one.”
“I’ve owned this small island for seven decades now. It’s much nicer than when I first brought Rafe here.”
I laugh recalling the two-room cabin my wealthy wife so humbly lived in. She never ceases to amaze me. It was dank, dark, and cold. I don’t know how or why she lived in it for as long as she did. More to hide from her enemies, I suspect. “Yes, and a team of gardeners made this desolate island even prettier. Not many trees, have you all noticed?”
“Yeah,” says Chelly. “I was wondering about that.”
“Remember those pictures I showed you of the Falkland Islands?” Drew asks. She nods. “I had a feeling the terrain here would be the same. Looks like sheep have cleared most of the vegetation away.”
“No,” I answer. “It may look that way, but there are no trees native to the islands off the coast of Argentina. The Paleozoic rock under the surface makes it very hard for roots to form, making it a natural terrain for grasses. The sheep came later with European settlers.”
“I still had hoped for palm trees and pretty flowers,” Bob admits in a quiet tone while eyeing up a grouping of two-toned ornamental grasses. “It’s pretty, don’t get me wrong. I just hadn’t pictured big grassy hills when I thought of visiting an island off Argentina.”
“Reminds me a little of Ireland,” Drew says. “From the pictures I saw, it didn’t look as green, though. Now that I’m here I can see it’s colder, and much windier.”
A familiar black-and-white body waddles on by, heading back to the cove, and I wait for the expected exclamations. “Holy crap,” says Paul. “Did I just see a penguin?”
“Bet they don’t have those on Ireland,” Chelly quips, leaning in to Drew a bit to show she’s teasing. He whips around to check out the bird and the group continues in this fascinated vein for a bit while we walk.
By their expressions, I’m betting only one or two of them even vaguely researched where we were going. Typical ignorant Americans. They really do make the rest of us look bad. Hell, Tommy is Australian and Drew is older than I am—there’s no excuse for the lot of them, really.
Vivian continues up, ignoring the inane chatter from the group. She looks regal as she carries herself over the crushed stone drive, even in her jumpsuit. The lighted trails distinctly remind me of the winding pathways in Alaska, but without the snow and different plants. I wonder if that was subconscious on our part when we directed Dalton to install them?
We make it up to the terraced parking area and see a grouping of truck-like electric carts. They are larger and nicer than golf carts, but the principle is the same—compact, not built for speed, but designed to shuttle people and things for short distances.
Chelly looks around, the strong breeze whipping her long hair out of her face, taking in the many small buildings and road leading to the main house. “I’m getting the feeling like I’m walking through an episode of Fantasy Island more and more as the months go by.”
Drew laughs and grabs her hand. “You mean Vivian would be Mr. Roarke?”
Before Chelly has a chance to clarify, Dria jumps in. “But of course, darling,” her eyes flash in a rare show of amazing good humor. “I’m proud to say you’re the first in a while to make the connection.”
The young blond woman straightens under the attention and smiles. “Classic TV. ‘Da plane, boss. Da plane’.”
We toss our bags in the carts and silently motor up the winding drive to the main house. Bob, Tommy, and Paul make a big show of driving the cart and acting like fools. All in good fun and we’ve been cooped up in the plane, so I don’t correct their idiotic behavior. Dria must be thinking the same thing since she rarely suffers fools.
The largest grouping of buildings we pass look like old English country farmhouses, a style Vivian detests, and one most prevalent on these islands. She never lived in the houses here, flat out refused, and made herself a rustic cabin instead. Said the old style reminded her of the homestead Mikov locked her in for over two decades. Can’t say I blame her for disliking it.
Dalton and his wife took over the dilapidated structures when they took up permanent residence on the island and turned them into livable dwellings. By the time they were hired we had the first portion of the main home built and we didn’t have to field any questions on why we lived in the crappy cabin. I’ve gotten used to my wife’s idiosyncrasies, but that tiny cabin was never my favorite. Drafty as all hell and no windows. It was like living in a windy coffin.
“Is that the caretaker’s house?” Drew asks from the cart behind us. “Where are they now?”
“Yes, it is,” I say. “Dalton and Flavia await us at the main house. Dria dislikes them all feeling like they have to crowd down at the dock to say hello.” I slide a warm palm over Dria’s jumpsuit-covered thigh, snagging on a zipper pull. I tickle the edge of it and resist. The multiple fasteners make me want to open up all the zippers and explore.
“Well, their daughter fell in the cove that one time. I felt so guilty when she cried for her ruined dress.”
“That was fifteen years ago, dear. She’s no longer a four-year-old wearing a frilly pink dress.” No sooner do the words leave my mouth than we round the last bend to see Dalton standing on the cobblestone circular drive, flanked by four delectable beauties. Poor Paul, he’s going to whimper when he gets a gander at them.
Once the thought leaves my head, I hear a stifled intake of breath from one of the stopped carts. I suppress a smile as I picture the poor sod trying to calm his raging vampiric tendencies to seduce and feed from anything attractive. I lived through it when Dria changed Cy, but his fledgling stages progressed so very quickly it was maybe only a week where he walked around being led by his semi-mortal cock.
Perhaps our presence in a large city helped Cy, too. There’s not as much temptation for Paul at a job you’ve worked at for ten years and they all know your wife.
“Welcome, Dria and Rafe.” Dalton steps forward and shakes my hand the moment I disembark from the cart. They call my wife by her real name because they’ve never been associated with the inn or her nickname resulting from its title. His dark eyes flash with good humor and his wiry frame looks whipcord tough. “How was your long trip?”
“A few storms,” I answer. “Uneventful, otherwise.” The wind whips across the driveway, conveniently punctuating my comment, hitting us harder now that we’re at the top of the hill where the house sits.
“Good.” He withdraws his hand and moves to kiss Dria on both cheeks. I see that the dark haired, doe-eyed beauty of his wife has not faded as she’s aged. Flavia’s full lips part in a small smile and she greets me with the traditional show of Argentine hospitality, double cheek kisses and a short hug.
Their daughter, Rosia, stands near her two aunts Carmella and Carmina. The trio look like they stepped off the set of a South American telenova—glossy, dark-brown hair, fully made-up faces, dressed to the nines, and exuding a sexual air combined with a womanly confidence one doesn’t often see in the States.
I nod to the ladies, but wisely keep my distance during our greeting. Dalton is a protective man and I can already see the frown forming between his brows at Tommy and Bob’s slack-jawed appreciation of the single women. Thankfully, with a shove from Chelly, they close their mouths and manage to keep quiet.
I’m guessing Flavia’s younger sisters are in their mid-twenties, the perfect age for sexual experimentation with exotic strangers. This could be a very good trip for the two bumbling fools if they play their cards right, and avoid Dalton’s watchful eye. Although, I think I’ll mention something to them about not hitting on his daughter. Dria would be pissed if we lost a good caretaker over their exploits.
After Dria introduces the group to our traveling companions, we make our way to the large, modified Spanish-style hacienda. All of the lights have been left on inside to welcome us, and the effect is grand. A warm glow spills from each pane of glass, inviting the weary traveler indoors. The red tile roof compliments the creamy stucco beautifully, even if we did have to fly in craftsmen from northern Argentina to do the work.
The many exterior balconies have a distinct twist; they’ve been recently re-fitted with high-tech glass, which tint to block the sun at the press of a button, and thus converted to enclosed spaces, allowing for heating and blocking of the fierce winter winds. From every side of the house the gently sloping terrain does not hinder observation of the ocean, but prior to the conversion it was not cozy viewing this time of year. The central courtyard of the home is enclosed as well, with high-arching atrium panels spanning the open area between rooftops.
Maintaining the sparsely-wooded twenty acres closest to the home takes up a large portion of Dalton’s time in the summer. But since Jon didn’t join us and we plan on heading to Buenos Aires soon, his efforts won’t be as appreciated this trip.
With a welcoming gesture, the couple ushers us into the home so we can get out of the wind. The foyer is much smaller than the one at the inn, but it makes up for its size with homey warmth. Terra cotta tile covered with bold rugs stretches off in all directions, spilling into all the rooms on the first floor. Pieces of art from around Central and South America decorate the walls, rustic wrought iron scones highlighting their beauty without being harsh. The kitchen and dining rooms lay to the right, leading away and bending around the corner to bracket the central courtyard, and the various living areas lay to the left, also wrapping around the courtyard. The bedrooms lay above, on the second floor, with the connecting hallway running the length of the inner courtyard.
The mouth-watering aroma of seafood and fresh bread drift from the kitchen wing to greet our weary group.
“Oh, something smells good,” Paul says, earning an appreciative smile from Flavia.
“You like to cook, sir?” the housekeeper asks, deftly guessing from his pale complexion, so like her employer’s, that he probably likes to cook more than eat.
“Yes, and I can hardly wait to get in your kitchen. I’d love to learn some of the local dishes if you don’t mind sharing. My wife and kids would appreciate me bringing some new cuisine back.”
Dalton’s face relaxes at the mention of Paul’s family and Flavia’s smile grows even broader. “Come back to the kitchen with me,” she gestures for him to follow. “I’ll show you what I’ve made for tonight.” As they walk off, I can hear her peppering Paul with questions about the ages of his children and where he learned to cook.
Dalton approaches Dria and bows slightly at the waist, “Dinner at nine? Is that acceptable, ma’am?”
My wife’s face softens as she looks to him fondly. “Call me Dria, please. You know I don’t stand on ceremony.”
“As you wish, Dria.” He smiles to show he’s agreeable, but I can still tell he’d feel more comfortable calling her ma’am. It’s not just a generational thing, but in this case it’s manners from his upbringing as well, we do this same dance every year when we arrive. “Is nine still good?”
“Yes, thank you. Would you mind showing our guests to their rooms? The luggage will be a while, but I’d like them to get a feel for the place.”
“Certainly, ma’—Dria. Right this way, gentlemen,” indicating Tommy and Bob should follow him. “Carmella, would you mind showing the others to their room?”
Before we’d left, we’d emailed the sleeping preferences. Tommy and Bob will share an ensuite next to Paul, and Chelly and Drew will be alone in their own room.
Carmella casts a lingering glance at Drew, raking his body from head to toe. Chelly sees the look and steps closer to Drew, slipping an arm through his and glaring back at the honey-skinned brunette.
Isn’t that just typical of some women? Carmela’s more interested in the one who has a woman than the available single men drooling at her feet.
Dalton clears his throat and Carmina, caught staring at Drew as well, scurries off to the kitchen after the others.
I wonder what’s going on there? I say to Dria through a slight tingle of connection.
She shrugs and motions for Drew and Chelly to follow us to the staircase, trailing after the men and Carmela. “Come, your room is just past theirs, she’ll show you the way.” Drew, oblivious to the entire female power exchange smiles warmly and looks to us to follow.
Looks to me like the ladies want to bag a vampire lover, Dria says. Should prove an interesting few weeks for Chelly, that’s for sure.
The dull thud of my footsteps echo back to me from the smooth walls of the dimly-lit, narrow tunnel. With the twist of a key and a hard shove of my shoulder I open one of the cold steel doors placed every hundred yards or so in the complex warren of underground passages. Vivian said it took ten years to build the subterranean basement and intricate tunnel system, but I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of the job when she first explained it to me. Seeing it, and walking in them, is a whole ‘nother level of awe.
There is no map, and according to Vivian, there never will be one. Only the seethe and our small werewolf pack know of its existence and I swear, even after six months, there are twists and turns I don’t think I’ve discovered. I wouldn’t put it past Vivian to have designed hidden rooms on purpose, hence there being no map. The slim dimensions of the tunnel make it easily defensible by one person, denying fighting space and blocking any enemies farther down.
There are hidden stores of weapons, which frankly alarmed me when I saw how ancient the stuff was. It’s like an old bomb shelter from some military extremist group—except the food stores are sadly lacking. Sure, there are some canned goods, which I bet must have been intended for Rafe and Jon, but I think this place was designed more to confuse an enemy than defend against one. Make them chase their tails singl- file underground while Viv and Rafe got out safely.
A chill creeps up my spine. The cold of the surrounding permafrost never lets you forget where you are for long. It’s like the low temperatures seeps in, past the five-foot-thick walls, and grasps every inanimate object it touches. I may not fully understand the reasoning behind such an elaborate and expensive design that is off limits to guests, but I can certainly appreciate it now that I need to get around while the sun is out.
It’s almost three and the darkness won’t descend for several hours. The newly-arrived Weres plan to meet and strip in the hot tub grotto before leaving to hunt. I grew up in an area where hunters routinely had to win a lottery for the license to hunt bear, so the concept of big-game hunting isn’t lost on me, but doing it in an animal form is.
The thrill of the chase I heard most older vampires experienced years ago is almost non-existent in our present day life. Vampires might still be hidden from society as a whole, but thanks to popular fiction and teenage movies the idea of supernatural beasties is not unwelcome. Instead of being creatures to be hunted down, we’ve become creatures to be emulated—and not just on Halloween.
After making two more lefts, three rights, and passing through six more steel doors, I approach a metal ladder just like one of the other half dozen I’ve passed. Nothing is labeled. You must learn the means of access by rote memory and not leave a mark when passing. Vivian was quite emphatic on her wishes if we were to start using the network of tunnels. And even though there are no cameras down here, I don’t doubt that she patrols them every once in a while to check that her requirements are being met.
Thankfully, I haven’t gotten lost yet. Turned around once or twice, but not lost. The humiliation of having to call for guidance has proven a terrific incentive to pay attention when exploring.
Not a trace of dirt or dust is anywhere; a smudge might reveal a location or turn to a pursuing enemy. Who cleans it? Maybe it’s one of the tasks Vivian takes on when she’s not taking a daily restorative sleep, like I still need to do. I ascend a ladder into a tight tube leading to the surface and open the submarine-like hatch at the top, taking a step down to allow it to swing inward and lie against the tube’s wall. It works opposite as a normal submarine hatch would, which took some getting used to on my part. A thick, wooden trap door hangs over the hatch, with no trace of light leaking around the seams.
I press the secret panel to the left of the seam, which triggers a hidden latch on the other side and the lock springs softly open. Easing the heavy floor piece up, I carefully lean it against the interior closet wall that houses the escape hatch. I scramble up and return it quietly to its original position. Once it’s closed and locked I step forward and knock on the closet door leading into the cabin.
“Yo! Asa, is that you?” comes from the room beyond the thick wood.
“Who the hell else would it be, Pat?” I say, trying to keep the annoyance from my tone. Damn cheeky bastard knows it would only be me, but he still asks every freakin’ time. “Is it safe? Have you dropped the window shutters down yet?”
Unknown to most of the guests and employees, all the cabins are equipped with light-deterring, steel hurricane shutters. To say Vivian planned for every possibility would be putting it mildly.
“Oh yeah, let me do that.”
Prick. I’m betting he’s hoping to catch me one day to see if I really will burn from the sun’s rays.
A metallic whir and the clickity-clack of the descending exterior shades soon follow. A glance over at the fire extinguisher mounted in the closet leaves me wondering what safety precaution the rustic-looking cabins could possibly lack. No vampire, young or old, needs to worry about the sun burning them during the rare hours of twilight the winter does see or, thanks to the sprinkler systems, concern themselves with a candle mishap torching them while they sleep.
“It’s cool, man,” Pat calls. “Come on out.”
I enter the pristine cabin and glance around in amazement. Two beer bottles sit on the table, Eric and Pat are spread out on the couch and recliner chair like they haven’t a care in the world. Sons of Anarchy is paused on the television, the surfer-boy, relaxed-but-messy, looks of Jax in black leather are frozen in mid-grin.
No dirty dishes, no open food containers, no dirty socks under the coffee table, just the two beers they are currently drinking. The young men were complete slobs when I left for the Army eight years ago. The government whipped their asses into shape and taught them what it means to be a man—one key point being that you pick up after yourself. You’d never know two guys in their early twenties lived here.
“Haven’t you seen this episode already?” I ask, knowing the two have watched the entire series at least twice.
Eric nods and picks up his beer. “Yeah, but there’s nothing better on and we needed to kill some time before the gathering at the inn.”
“I’m really surprised you’re both not hanging out with your old pack-mates.” I say while heading into the room. “Jon was smiling and grinning like a jackass over something he read about cheerleader chicks.”
“They’re hot as hell, sure,” Pat says. “But they want nothing to do with us.” He lets out a gut-wrenching burp. “Stuck-up bitches.”
I look to my brother, who proceeds to shrug his broad shoulders. “I think he’s just recalling how they shot him down… over and over again.”
A smile creases my face as I join Pat on the couch, forcing the younger man to sit up and make way for me. “You were with them, like, what—two months? You couldn’t help yourself from hitting on everyone there?”
Pat shoots me an indignant look. “No, not everyone.”
Eric laughs, “Yeah, he managed not to hit on the guys or Elsa, Romeo’s wife.”
“Glad to see you have some sense,” I say.
“Fuck off, both of you. One of them might have said yes.” He sniffs and looks back to the TV. “And hell, you don’t know unless you try.”
Typical of most guys, our conversation peters off after the ribbing is over. We watch the rest of the show in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. The peace of being near my brother never ceases to calm me. It was never like this with our other brother, Justin. Our mom poisoned him to us long ago, using him to shield the world from her many flaws. He grew up being her staunchest defender, but was still too young to escape her selfishness when she took him and fled the country.
It’s been ages since I’ve thought of him. Hell, before this winter I didn’t think I’d ever get to see any part of my family again. If you had told me last year where I’d be at this moment I’d have thought you were smoking crack.
My attention drifts from the show I’ve already seen to the modifications made for the werewolves to get ready for the coming summer. We’ve got an outdoor shower area set up in the hot tub grotto to wash off the bloody hunters fresh in from the chase—with strict orders from Vivian to not allow any wet wolves into the main building while in their furry form.
My nose wrinkles in slight distaste. It would be hard to get their distinct odor out once they shook like wet dogs all over the carpet and furniture.
“I’d offer you a beer…” Pat says with a sneer in his voice. “But you being a bloodsucker and all, you couldn’t enjoy it.”
I allow my fangs to descend and smile menacingly at my old friend. “I could drink it if you opened a vein to mix in.”
Pat pales a bit and launches up from the sofa, masking his unease by turning the movement into a stretch. “Not funny, dude.” He flips me off and downs the rest of his drink. “Shouldn’t we be heading out soon?”
Eric glances at the clock and nods.
“What did Jon tell you guys to do during the hunt expedition?”
“We’re to hang back and not interfere,” Eric says. “Even though we know the wolves attending this first week, we’re no longer a part of their pack and need to respect their limits while in animal form.”
I nod my head, already aware of Jon’s instructions, but wanting to hear it straight from them. Well, straight from Pat, truth be told—or at least within his hearing with a witness. He could very well pretend to not remember later if it suits his needs.
“Do you miss the larger pack?” I ask.
Pat barks out a laugh, “Ah, hell no!” he pulls off his shirt and tosses it on the couch. “Lots more willing ladies here.” He smiles as his own irony hits him. “Who woulda thought I’d be saying that about Alaska?”
Eric shakes his head and likewise, starts to disrobe. “More like the women in the pack just didn’t want to be with ‘puppies’. We both have better chances here, with the single female employees.”
“Assuming they don’t mind that you shed,” I add with a smile.
He smiles one of his rare full-toothed smiles, revealing a jagged tooth he’s been self-conscious about for years, and reaches for his waistband. “Yeah, there is that.”
Wanting to get the hell out before they’re both buck-naked, I rise and head back to the closet. “Don’t forget to open the door this time before you shift.” I don’t hold my laughter in. God, it was funny as hell when they had to dive through a window after a change last month. Jon didn’t think it was too amusing when he first found out, but it has gradually become an event to razz them about.
Vivian was not pleased when she heard. She gave them both a terse look and said, “Plan better next time.”
Needless to say, there has not been a reoccurrence—yet. They’ve been changing more, several times a day, to be able to master it better and not take as long. Apparently, the frequent changes require more energy and they’ve each been eating like a family of six on an all-protein diet. And damn, that’s a lot of food.
As I shut the tunnel hatch behind me, a soft whine and scrape meet my ear. Eric must be scratching at the closet, following my scent. While the idea of howling wolves running through the tunnels sounds cool, and straight out of a movie, I’m betting the ladder would be a difficult obstacle to overcome. I knock twice to let him know I heard him and slip into the tube to head back to the main building, carefully counting tunnels and turns to trace my steps back.
Within a few minutes I make it back to the SCIF in the basement. The large concrete foundation runs the entire length of the large hotel. We’ve managed to construct six rooms and still have a huge amount of space not utilized under two of the wings.
The conference room won’t get used much with most of the seethe away. While I could technically occupy Paul’s safe room during the day, I chose to make a bedroom for myself out of one of the other unused rooms. It felt nice to personalize the space and make it my own.
Easy access to my room and the SCIF is another reason I’ll be glad to get the new entrance into the kitchen storeroom completed. The spiral staircase is in the large closet next to my bedroom and will be much simpler than trekking through the owner’s apartment to get down here.
Walking in on Rafe and Viv getting busy once is enough for my lifetime, thank you very much. Not like I had the right to tell them they shouldn’t be doing the nasty in the living room—after all, it is their apartment. It felt like I walked in on relatives—kind of creepy and very uncomfortable. Made me want to bleach my eyes afterward.
I settle into one of the swivel chairs in front of the large, L-shaped desk of the command center. A press of a keyboard button reveals three views of the hot tub grotto, courtesy of a few of the cameras we installed all over the property before the hunt this past January. The four LCD computer monitors on the desk each have the ability to show six different views at once, rotating between camera locations on the screen. The system allows an observer to quickly scan an area or monitor a preprogrammed set of views, like outside entrances, for example.
The sun is still out and won’t set for about four hours, allowing the werewolves to get the joy of hunting in daylight and in darkness on their first trip out. The plan is for me to help with manning the grilling area when darkness hits. Eric and Pat did a good job with setting up the outdoor kitchen. And with the dust from the construction project it was probably a good idea they had to move the kitchen.
The regular day shift cook, Stephanie, left to go visit her family once the high season ended, as did a lot of the regular employees. We’re down to less than half staff right now, about fifty, but that’s not bad considering Vivian normally likes to have more people here than I think are truly needed.
A silver-gray wolf, with a white left foreleg, bounds into the monitor’s view of the grotto. I’d recognize Pat and his playful manner even if I didn’t know his markings well. Eric meanders in a moment after, his larger form and charcoal tones blending into the sparse greenery better. Jon’s reddish-brown coat comes into view and nips playfully at the heels of Pat, sending the younger wolf into a yapping whirl.
The three of them seem to get along well, and I haven’t noticed any overt clashing from either side. In another minute the clearing between hot tubs explodes with furry forms. Due to the movement and how close they are to each other, I can’t be sure if the whole pack of wolves is present or if maybe one or two bowed out from this first excursion. From what Jon told me earlier, the Weres will head off into an undeveloped portion of the property and see what trails they come across.
According to my research, it still seems a little early for there to be anything worthy of a wolf pack this far north, maybe some caribou and that’s about it. Do they perhaps just want a place to run that is different than their own territory? Could they be here to scout the terrain for real hunting later on in the season? Jon seemed a little baffled by it as well. I hope they find a hungry bear that wandered north or some caribou to make the journey worth it for them.
Four or five smaller wolves circle Jon, nudging him to join them when the pack begins to heads out. One or two lick his jaw and rub shoulders with the larger male. Huh. Wonder if this could be some elaborate set up from Romeo and Elsa to find Jon a suitable bitch. After Jon reviewed the files he said it looked like they brought every eligible female they had in their pack.
Poor guy is in for it if those ladies are looking for an Alpha to start a pack with. I can’t believe Vivian would go for this. I wouldn’t put it past her to hand-pick Jon’s mate herself. She must not have any idea what his old pack leaders are doing. Hell, I’m seeing proof of it right on the screen in front of me and I’m still having a hard time believing it. Match-making for a werewolf? Poor bastard. Then again, he might get laid this week, so it’s not all bad.
Finally, after much tail wagging and what look like happy yips, the remaining wolves race out. I toggle the screen and see the group tearing down the paths toward the mostly-empty family cabins. The group splits and before you know it, there are three groups barreling through the trees into the wilderness.
I spent some time this winter researching wolves and watching lots of nature films. Observing these wolves with human intelligence is downright scary. I notice an almost military precision with how they move and spread out. Not quite the same as the natural wolves behaved on TV, and rightly so since they aren’t real wolves.
Their bodies race across the screen and within minutes, I run out of cameras to monitor them. I toggle quickly between all the viewpoints in the region, but come back blank. Damn, I’ll have to just keep switching and hope something comes into view.
I reach for the phone, doing the mental calculation in my head. Should be close to ten p.m. in Argentina right now. I wonder what Drew and Paul are up to?
I hang up the phone with Asa, smiling at his description of the subtle matchmaking by the pack Alphas. We’re six hours ahead of the crew left in Alaska, so while our human travel mates here have just finished a late dinner, they’re still awaiting sunset back home. Overall, it sounds like the wolves have settled in and things are off to a smooth start for them.
I’m not used to hopping so many time zones in such a short span of time, but I will certainly enjoy the increased darkness we’re expecting here with the change of seasons. The wind whipping around outside I could do less of, but for now I’m content.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip from the moment I heard about the island, assuming the whole seethe would be going to take advantage of the long winter nights. Having Vivian move up our trip by a month and allow us to bring guests shocked me from the second she informed us on Monday. I thought maybe she was off a few days on an April Fool’s joke or something.
There’s got to more to this than meets the eye. She’s explained she wants to surprise the Tribunal by coming early, in the hopes it will help ferret out her enemies, but I wonder if there is more we don’t know. Why leave her werewolf servant and military vamp behind? If she’s expecting trouble it would be wisest to keep the seethe together and strong.
I’ve never attended an event at the Tribunal headquarters, the council being a hidden ruling class for my whole existence, but I do recall hearing stories from the old masters in Chicago. They said the Ancients stick to the old ways and tend to treat humans like pets. Could that still be accurate in this ever-changing world? After True Blood, Blade, and Anne Rice is there anyone left who may not have an inkling of our existence?
Surely the old ones have evolved like the rest of the undead as well? “Adapt or Die,” isn’t that one of Vivian’s favorite sayings?
I shake my head at the puzzles rattling around in my brain. It’ll all work out and I know I’ll eventually be able to see her plan; I just need to think on it more. Never once have I thought of questioning her outright. It’s simply not done. I could get a major ass chewing or smack down, depending on the master’s mood. Sure, I may have spoken out at our meetings during the hunt with Emiko, but making a habit of it would be dumb on my part. “Pick your battles wisely” is more than just advice for a teenager’s parent.
Chelly enters our suite from the connecting bath, an excited look on her cherubic face. “I’m done!” She heads to the club chair I’m in, set near a table in the sitting area. Her tousled blond hair looks wild and sexy draped over her shoulders, framing her freshly scrubbed face. Ample cleavage is on display and her round hips stretch the gossamer material of her baby-doll nightie.
I raise an eyebrow indicating I have no idea what she’s talking about. In actuality, I’m having trouble focusing on anything except her pert nipples pebbled beneath the pale pink fabric.
“I unpacked, silly. Nothing like getting all your clothes hung up and placed in drawers—not to mention getting your toiletries laid out—to really make you feel like you’ve settled in.”
She ignores my look of feigned interest in her unpacking and heads to the balcony. “Have you checked out this area yet?” She fiddles with the drapes covering the glass doors, fingering the thick blackout fabric firmly affixed over the panes. The sheer negligée reveals she’s not wearing any underwear and the full globes of her bottom jiggle slightly as works the lock on the handle. My fangs itch to descend and my cock surges to life in my pants. Perhaps I should move up my seduction plan to tonight. I don’t think I can handle a whole night by her side while she’s wearing that delicious concoction.
Opening the glass doors, unaware of my internal debate, she folds them back against the wall and strides out to the small, enclosed space. The floor tile extends into the new area, making it feel like a natural addition to the room.
“Nice,” I say, rising from my seat. I’m staring at her butt and not the view, but I mean it nonetheless.
“Oh,” Chelly exclaims while gazing out into the darkness. “Looks like we’ve got a distant view of Puerto Santa Cruz. The lights are pretty. How far away is it?”
“Hmm?” I approach her position with an outstretched hand ready to cup her buttocks. She must know what she’s doing to me prancing around in this flimsy getup.
A knock at the door whips us both around. “Who do you think that is?” Chelly asks while racing to the closet.
“I’ll send them away, not to worry.” My cock deflates slightly at the interruption. By the time I make it to the door, Chelly has emerged from the closet with a thick white robe on.
I swing open the heavy, carved door to reveal the twin sisters, Carmella and Carmina. They’re both dressed in short, black terrycloth robes hanging open over gold string bikinis. Sparkly wedge sandals decorate their slim, tanned feet. Each woman carries two glasses and a bottle of champagne. Long, wavy dark hair spills down to tickle their barely-covered breasts, and sultry brown eyes hold an invitation no one could misread.
“We’d like to offer you a tour of the house…” Carmella says. “With maybe an end at the hot tub… if you’re interested.”
Chelly pushes forward, a nasty expression on her face until she counts the glasses. “Oh, I see.” Her cheeks flush a deep scarlet and I’m tickled by her shyness when I know she’s a bold creature of passion.
“Perhaps,” I say, while staring at my blond temptress wrapped in her fluffy robe, “simply a tour for tonight?”
Chelly’s eyes met mine and the heat in them at the mention of the hot tub is unmistakable. “That sounds fine. Let me get some slippers on.”
She retrieves them and we head down the hall following the sashaying hips of the twins to the staircase. I find it quite telling that the pair approached us and not the single men. One of them must prefer women and she’s after Chelly.
While I have had my share of group sex in the past, I’m positive my new girlfriend hasn’t. Considering this trip will be our first time consummating our union, and where I plan to make her my companion, I doubt we’ll get to explore any ideas the twins might have for us. A wistful sigh escapes me and Chelly shoots me a heated look.
She’s thinking about the women. Interesting. I slip my arm around her waist and then casually lower my palm to rest on her ass. We reach the end of the hall, having just passed the rooms Bob and Tommy occupy, and descend the stairs. Back in the main foyer two sets of French doors stand open, allowing the scent of the hot tub to drift in.
Chelly squeezes my hand in a signal I have no clue on how to read. Does she want to go in the hot tub with them? I’m happy to oblige, but I have no intention of sharing her just yet—despite the mincing, sexy walk of the twins and the waft of their arousal coming up to tickle my senses.
We enter the formal dining room and the warmth of the fireplace and the heavy wood furniture lend an historic Spanish feel to the space. Thick beeswax candles burn brightly on the rich mahogany table and mantle, lending a faint sweetness to the air.
“Oh, this is pretty,” says Chelly.
We skipped the sit-down meal with the men and Paul, ever the conscientious chef, brought Chelly a plate to have in our room. I nod while taking in the rich red drapes and dark buffets pushed up against one wall. The lingering odor of the fish dinner prepared with lemon is detected as we walk further into the room.
A wide archway leads into a true gourmand’s kitchen. On one end of the room away from traffic, stands a wet bar complete with full-sized wine fridge. Six stools line the long kitchen island, indicating the couple planned for more visitors down the line—as the numerous upstairs suites and large dining room would also indicate.
Spanish tiles in bright colors decorate the back splash and counters, conveying joy and life with their vibrant designs. An industrial-sized Viking stove and two stainless steel units, one a freezer one a fridge, nestle next to each other on the other side of the island. “Wow,” says Chelly, “and I thought the inn had a nice kitchen.”
“The difference, my dear, is that one is commercial and this one is in a private home.”
Carmina runs her hand along the tile counter, staring at my blond companion the entire time. “Yes, it is lovely, no?”
“It is,” I respond, trailing a hand down to cup Chelly’s ass, letting the other woman know she’s very obviously taken. Carmina’s mouth turns up at the corner, seemingly amused by my show of possessiveness. Chelly smiles over her shoulder at me and steps forward, out of my touch. By her heated look I can tell it’s more to move than in an expression of not liking my hand on her.
“Is there more to see?” Chelly asks while walking to the doorway near the bar, next to where Carmella stands.
“The game room is through there,” Carmella motions as she moves to take Chelly’s hand. “This wing wraps around the back of the building and it leads to the large living room that takes up the wing on the other side of the courtyard.”
The sexual tension spikes the moment her skin touches Chelly. I can feel the arousal of all three women coating my senses like honey. It’s a heady experience, and one I’m not sure what to do with. Are they trying to seduce her to get to me, or are they truly interested in women? I’m not so sure I’m comfortable with this strong show of interest within hours of our arrival.
Carmina moves to Chelly’s other side and takes her free hand. “Come, we’ll show you.”
A nervous laugh escapes the blond. “Which one are you again? Carmella?”
Carmina shakes her head, tossing her long dark hair back and encouraging her robe to slip off one shoulder. “You can call me Mina. It’s much easier than the silly matching names our parents gave us.”
The two lovely twins walk my girlfriend into the game room, and I follow close behind. We walk through the Spanish-themed room past a pool table, Ping Pong table, card tables, arcade games, darts… there might be more, but my mind is focused on the two sirens corralling Chelly between them.
If I speak up I’ll look like a jealous sod, and yet, that’s exactly how I’m feeling right now. Definitely like I’m the odd man out. Carmella’s hand drifts out of Chelly’s to rest on the blond’s lower back, in a gesture to usher her forward. Or at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to look, but I’m thinking it’s just another excuse to touch my girlfriend more intimately.
Mina looks over her bare shoulder at me, her heated stare perhaps meant to inflame and bring me into the magic of their seduction. We walk through the large, plush living room. The multiple sitting areas and curtained alcoves of the space do not quite register in my mind, more like a vague awareness, as my peripheral vision seems to spiral in on the threesome.
The two slinky brunettes clatter across the tile in their gold wedge sandals and lead Chelly toward another set of open French doors. The courtyard has small trees and lots of plants growing, despite the season and the outside temperature. The hint of bromine and fresh earth assail my senses. I step out onto a cobblestone path and glance up, wondering at the warmth this outdoor area shouldn’t have.
A vaulted atrium ceiling in glass winks light back at me, reflecting the flickering tiki torches dotting the courtyard. The greenhouse-like roof explains this garden oasis and warmth in the middle of the house. Gotta hand it to Viv and Rafe, this is some set up. It’s similar to the feel of the pool wing in Alaska, but smaller and greener, with the plants in the ground rather than in pots around a pool.
The three ladies venture over to the hot tub and I see another body lounging in the water, awaiting us. It’s Rosia, the owners’ nineteen-year-old daughter. Warning bells sound in my head. Whatever fun the twins were hoping for isn’t going to happen now, not if I can help it. I have a feeling Rafe and Viv would have my head if Rosia were involved, right after Dalton tried killing me in my sleep.
I quicken my pace to pull up alongside the twins as they shrug off their robes. Rosia stands to greet us, the water spilling off her topless body, water droplets glinting in the torchlight. “Come, join me. The water feels perfect.”
Chelly catches her breath at the sight of the younger woman’s pert and perfect palm-sized breasts. A seductive smile spreads over Rosia’s face as she reaches for a drink on the edge of the hot tub.
The twins have hung up their robes on a nearby hook and focus all their attention on Chelly, sashaying toward her with their arms extended in welcome as if to help her out of her robe. I slip my hand into my girlfriend’s and draw her back to my side a bit. I push my awareness out to the three women, sliding into their minds to take control. One by one, they look to me and our eyes briefly lock. Mina and Carmella lower their hands from reaching out and their arms drop to their sides.
“Thank you for the tour ladies, but I think we’re going to turn in for the evening.” Chelly lets out a slight mew of protest, but says nothing. She fidgets from foot to foot and I can clearly smell her arousal on the air. I stroke a thumb across the back of her hand, reassuring her that she’s forefront in my mind.
Should I plant a suggestion in their mind or dig to see what has brought on the sudden interest in us? It could be simply that they are lonely on the island. I know how protective Vivian is of us mesmerizing the humans in her care, so it might be best to leave this group link as unobtrusive as I can.
I tip my head forward in acknowledgement of their loveliness, “Enjoy yourselves. Perhaps we’ll join you another time.” I let go mentally, pulling my will back from coating their minds, and the twins react as if nothing happened, changing direction toward the hot tub and climbing in. Rosia gives us a playful little pout, but otherwise she looks fine, too.
“What just happened here?” Chelly whispers to me in a low voice. “Did you do something?”
“We’ll discuss it back at our room.” We turn and head down the path we came, entering the large living room wing of the house and head silently for the stairs together.
Once the door closes behind us Chelly pounces, unbuttoning my shirt and latching her heated mouth onto mine. When I saw her leave the bathroom in her negligée, I’d thought tonight would be the night we’d consummate our relationship, but now I’m not so sure. I want to drive all thoughts of the sexy women from my lover’s mind and have her focus solely on me and the pleasures I can give her—not on what might have been at the hot tub.
She spreads my shirt open and runs her hands across my lightly-haired chest. “God, those ladies were hot. Do you think they were hitting on us?”
I chuckle and decide now is not the time to analyze, it’s the time to act. I untie her robe and push the soft terrycloth off her shoulders to pool on the tile. The bra cups of Chelly’s sheer baby doll nightie hug her luscious curves and the sight drives the blood back into my wilted erection. Running my thumbs over her aroused peaks pulls a gasp and shudder from my lover.
Never one to stand still for long, Chelly boldly unzips my fly and pushes my pants past my hips, springing my cock free from its confines. “I think they were hitting on you in a round-about way…” Her voice trails off as she pumps my cock. “Bet they thought if they won me over they could get at your man meat.” She snickers at her crude phrase and squeezes the head of my cock harder.
“Am I all yours?” I ask, while guiding her slowly back toward the bed.
“Hmph. I’m not willing to share until I’ve had every bit of you inside me, repeatedly.”
Her sexy innuendo could lead to more down the line, but right now all I care about is the here and now. Chelly’s legs hit the back of the bed and she sits, scooting backward to the head of the bed.
I remove my shirt and step out of my pants before climbing up on the bed. Chelly pats the bed beside her, motioning for me to come up next to her. I stop instead at her knees and push her legs apart. Her mouth parts in a little “O” and heat fills her cheeks.
“How about we start this trip with my tongue inside you first?” Chelly nods enthusiastically and settles back on the pillows and padded headboard.
I plant my first kiss along her thigh and the warm skin above her knee prickles in gooseflesh. We’ve touched and fondled for months, but our dates have always been every two weeks when I can safely feed from her and have not included oral sex yet, despite the vixen’s many attempts to get down on her knees and gobble me whole.
The scent of clean woman and tangy arousal wraps around me as I slowly work my way closer to her center. I slip my hands under her full bottom to tilt her up and open, encouraging her to spread her legs wider. With a moan she complies and the delicate flesh along the crease where thigh meets torso is exposed to my eager lips.
Her shaven pussy quivers under my attention, silently drawing my eye and focus to the delicate folds of flesh. Moisture gathers at her hole, glistening in the soft light of the room, inviting me to bend and taste. I resist for a moment longer and spread her outer lips open with my thumbs.
The flesh here looks swollen, eager for coupling. The dark pink color telling me her blood has rushed to her arousal just like mine does to harden my prick.
I nuzzle her privates, dipping my nose near her mound and move my face around gently to coat myself in her delicate scent. I continue to plant soft kisses and begin to lightly lick the heated flesh. She squirms and thrusts her hips up, begging for more pressure and more attention where she wants it—right on her clit.
A rumble of satisfaction comes from me as I gently hold her back down on the bed. I plan on controlling this ride and I want her screaming my name when I’m done. Focusing on the outer lips I gently lick, nibble and tug until the wetness from her opening slides down to coat her tiny pink ass pucker.
I finally dip my pointed tongue to her center and trail it up from the dripping center to her hard pearl peeking out from its hood. “Yes! More like that,” she calls out while thrashing back and forth on the pillows.
Oh, I know exactly what she wants and I don’t intend to give it to her yet. At the top, I change my tactic and caress the inner folds with my tongue, skimming the sides of the clit where I know the nerve endings extend. “No, no, no…” she pleads, “back to the middle a bit.”
Spreading her legs even wider, I’m able to take one hand away from holding her lips wide and tease her opening by pushing a finger in up to the first knuckle. I’m worried she might not even feel it with all the wetness, but she immediately bears down and tries to force it in deeper.
“Oh, yes. That’s it. Get that finger in me.”
Steadily I pump back and forth, working the entire finger in and curving it up as I pull the stroke out. I keep my licking focused to the right and left of her sensitive clit, not wanting her to peak too soon. Soon, I’m able to work a second finger in and this time I apply pressure with both fingers to the spongy spot at the top of her vaginal wall, curving up toward her clit from the inside.
Lightly I stroke in a circle as her moans become louder and her squirming on the bed more intense.
“Please, Drew! Lick my clit, dammit! I want to come.”
A smile forms on my face as I pull away from her succulent flesh. “As the lady wishes.”
Without waiting for further direction, I amp up the pressure and speed on my fingers inside her, while zeroing in on the hard button above her pussy with my mouth. I rotate between sucking the heated flesh between my lips and flicking it fast with my tongue.
Chelly’s body bows off the bed and starts to quiver beneath my hand and mouth. “Oh God, this feels different. Oh, God. I’m coming. Drew!”
The ripple of her pleasure wraps around my fingers, squeezing them tight and pulling them in deeper. The pulses I feel through her body vibrate out from her spasming clit as her cries of pleasure bounce off the bedroom walls.
I ease up on the pressure as her orgasm continues, not wanting to over-rub the sensitized flesh. In a moment she relaxes on the bed and stares down at me winded and flushed. “Holy crap. What did you do there with your fingers?”
A satisfied grin curves my mouth as I rise and lay down next to her, my own throbbing cock bobbing with each movement. “That, my dear. Was your G-spot.”
“Wow,” she says while wrapping her hand around my long cock and stroking. “Is there an equivalent for a guy? ‘Cause man, I’d like to return the favor. It was mind blowing.”
I settle back on the pillows while my lover pumps up and down my shaft, exactly as I like. “Yes, there is.” My hips rise off the bed as my need to come tingles at the base of my prick. “But I don’t think I can handle it right now.”
The scent of mud, new grasses, and woods fill my lupine nose. I slow to a trot, making sure I don’t come up behind Romeo’s pack too closely. While there is no worry the wolves will get lost and not find their way back to the inn, I still wanted to trail them to see how this scouting expedition goes.
Eric and Pat were supposed to stay behind, but I heard them crashing through the woods behind me about half a mile back. The single females from the pack rallied around me and gave me more attention than I was bargaining for.
I’m not complaining, but getting a woody while in wolf form isn’t like when you’re in human form. Everyone can see, and when the bitches started to nuzzle the area the wolf urge to mount them was almost overwhelming. Damn, I knew I was horny, but I have no desire to hump like a dog my first time with a woman.
The flash of taking Naomi doggie-style whispers through my brain, thankfully we’re both in human form in my vision or I’d really be in trouble. This is what happens when you hold back your desires for too long, you wind up getting a boner like a teenager the moment a woman pays you any attention.
A black body zips across my right field of vision and turns mid-leap to barrel into me. The heat of another werewolf slams my shoulder and the confusing scent of Spike wafts through my head. We tumble to the ground and jump back up to face one another. His dark fur has a glossy look to it and his muzzle is open in a playful manner with a long pink tongue hanging out.
What the hell does he want? I snap my jaws at his shoulder when he approaches, telling him to keep his distance. He bounds away, pulling his tongue back before snapping his mouth shut, and he lowers his head, dipping slightly down on his extended front forelegs.
In a split second he charges and I rear up to meet his advance. We clash together, our front legs tangling and his mouth an open maw, looking like it’s coming for my throat. There is no growl of tension coming off him and he playfully nips my lower jaw to show me the clash is all in fun. We bound apart and I lower my head, ears down, but in no way pinned back in a submissive show.
What the hell? Since when do werewolves play like a bunch of puppies? A low rumble begins in my chest, my way of letting him know his playful antics are not welcome right now. The flesh pulls back from my teeth and the snarl has the desired effect.
Spike lowers his head, curves his back, and tucks his tail, pinning his ears back and looking away to show he understands I’m not game to play. I look away, ignoring his show, to let him know it has been accepted and he can stop the display.
Apparently, I came across a little strong because the black wolf leaps forward, eagerness vibrating from his exaggerated wiggle and he licks my jaw. To say I’m confused by this Were’s behavior would be putting it mildly. We don’t normally ape our counter parts so closely while in this form, but sometimes it is the only way to convey intent when we can’t speak to one another.
I try to walk away from the unwanted submissive show, only to receive a wet nose in my ass and ball region, taking a deep sniff. My furry form quickly whips around and I give a warning snap to Spike’s face to tell him to cut the shit out.
His tongue once again lolls out in laughter and he bounds away. What is it about that guy? If I didn’t know better I’d say he was flirting with me. Is he a gay werewolf and maybe he thinks I am, too?
With a snap at my flank and a playful yip, Spike darts into the sparse woods surrounding us, to be swallowed up quickly by the low-growing underbrush. I follow the scent trail left by the pack and focus my ears forward to catch any hint of when I might be getting too close.
In a few hundred yards the scent of fresh blood carries to me on a breeze. The animal desire to rend with my teeth and feast on the flesh of prey clouds my mind. Steady. Don’t want to approach the others when their own feeding instincts over a kill will be running high as well.
I pick up my pace as the aroma strengthens and soon I hear the unmistakable low growls of a feeding pack. Keeping my distance, I edge through some bushes until I can see Romeo and Elsa off to one side licking the blood from their paws and muzzles, and a mass of other wolf bodies surrounding a carcass. From the underlying odor I’d wager they got a caribou. Huh. Way luckier than I would have thought this time of year, we normally don’t have many this far north yet.
The ten wolves that attended this first hunt aren’t truly eating due to hunger. They’re allowing their inner wolves to come to the surface and enjoy a few moments as true animals, acting and savoring their place in the pack.
After ten minutes or so, I hear the unsubtle movements of Eric and Pat approaching. We haven’t hunted much since they’ve been here because there isn’t much game in the winter, so this early spring kill has got to be tempting their inner beasts quite strongly. They follow my trail and approach my spot in the bushes. With one glance from me they settle down, lowering to the ground and putting their heads on their paws while they stare with ears perked up toward the feasting pack of wolves.
In a bit, the pack has had its fill, with no sign of Spike joining in. In fact, he’s been absent since I last saw him bound off. Romeo walks to our location twenty yards away from their kill, his head high and ears forward. He looks to the carcass and looks away, letting us know his pack no longer has an interest in it. In a final show, he turns his back on our group of three and heads into the woods, back toward the inn.
I have no desire to feed from the caribou. I plan to keep my wolf tightly leashed during this week to ensure we have no conflicts between Romeo and myself. A small whine issues from Pat, as he holds back his tightly-coiled body, ready to pounce on the bloody remains. I calmly wait until all the others have trailed after their Alphas before giving the two young pups their freedom.
With a soft snort from me, the two leap from the bushes and race to check out the hull of the carcass. I trot over to the fleeting pack’s exit location and settle down to ensure no one backtracks to harass the younger wolves.
Eric gnaws on a rib bone while Pat drags a leg bone to the edge of the clearing. A loud pop sounds in the distance, northeast or so from where I sit. Recognition whips my head around as I raise my nose to the breeze, scenting for a precise direction. That sounded like gunfire. Two more pops echo loudly and a yip of pain sounds from in front of me.
I burst forward, the instinct to protect my pack overriding common sense that you don’t run toward gunfire, but away. Pat trots toward me, head down, ears back, favoring his back right leg. Eric paces around the kill, looking like he’s trying to decide what to do. I race toward the dark gray wolf, past Pat, and nip at Eric’s haunches. I run back to the fleeing, silver form of Patrick, looking back over my shoulder to see if Eric understands and is following.
The urge to race toward the shooter and discover our assailant–and rip them limb from limb—pushes against my will like a living beast. My job is not to hunt right now, but to protect the wounded of our small pack and get them to safety. Protect! Protect! I scream into my mind, trying to override the hard-wiring within to defend and attack.
Eric follows me, as any good packmate would their Alpha, and soon we’re trotting together in a weaving pattern away from the kill site. Within a minute, Romeo’s pack comes barreling back through the woods toward us. A few try to approach Pat, scenting his bloodied wound, but a show of teeth from Eric and myself keeps them back. While I don’t think they’d do him any harm, I’m not willing to risk his safety further.
Romeo sees I have it under control and takes off in the direction we just came, Elsa and the others hot on his heels. I’m betting they plan to fan out and circle back, to see if they can catch the shooter in a wide net.
Eric and I continue to flank our weakened packmate setting a fair pace back to the inn and where we can find medical attention. At a mile into our trek, I angle us toward one of the outermost cameras, still a far distance from the leading left portion of the inn’s developed area near the family cabins. We pause for a moment and I purposely circle back to sniff Pat’s wound, hoping Asa is monitoring the cameras and can see the torn skin and blood on the grainy image.
It takes a while, but soon we’re back at the hot tub grotto. Pat’s lost a lot of blood and several times we had to nudge him to keep going when he wanted to lie down and instinctually make the change back to human form. He collapses after the first step onto one of the paved walkways and the change hits him hard.
Screams rip from his throat as his body convulses and bows trying to reshape. The transformation can be very painful if you’re injured and have been fighting the inner need to change back, which allows the body to partially heal mild damage. The good news is you soon pass out and don’t feel it anymore. Calling my will, the change flows around me and I’m human once more, bending down to pick up the still-transforming Pat.
He’s thankfully blacked out and doesn’t feel the crack and snap of his bones melding forcefully back into place. I’ve coached them to change more frequently because it only gets easier with practice. Unfortunately, practice doesn’t help when he’s unconscious. He can’t relax into the change and his body naturally fights it because of the injury.
I carry the semi-furry, semi-naked form of my packmate to the outside shower we set up for the Weres and step inside to rinse off the blood and mud.
Wrestling his weight to free a hand, I adjust the water and soon the worst of the past hour is washed away. Eric walks nude to the kitchen door to Viv and Rafe’s suite, right as the calm Dr. Cook opens it to exit.
“What happened?” She calls out, hustling to me with clean towels.
“Pat was shot.” I step from the shower stall and the doctor drapes a towel over Pat’s middle and starts to dry his limbs with another.
“Let’s get him inside and see the wound. Bring him to the basement.” Eric emerges wearing a pair of sweatpants to take Pat from me.
“I’ll carry him in so you can dry off.”
Dr. Cook tosses me the last towel and I quickly dry off and follow their retreating forms into the building.
“No, no, you fool. Not their couch.” The doctor calls out to change Eric’s direction. “Bring him to the basement. He’s not going to die for crying out loud and blood is really hard to get out of furniture fabric.”
I push aside the angry retort clouding my mind. No need to fight when she’s right. He won’t die from a leg wound. Asa stands in the hallway going down to the basement stairs, carefully avoiding the fading sunlight coming from the kitchen windows, “Can I help?”
“Just move,” Eric says. “The doctor wants him in the basement.”
“I set the medical table up and laid out supplies.”
“Good boy,” the auburn-haired doctor pats Asa on the arm as she goes by. “That’s a big help to me. I’ll be able to start right away.”
Eric makes his way down and through the halls, then carefully sets his injured friend on the examining table. The towels come away and while we all stand in the doorway it’s clearly visibly that the wound is deep, but there is an entrance and exit wound, two rounded holes.
“Holy shit,” Asa barks, trying to hold in a laugh. “I don’t know which is funnier, the fact that Pat got shot in the ass or that he has a fat chick tattooed on his ass.”
Eric gives him a shove, but the moment is just what we needed to diffuse the tension.
Dr. Cook shakes her head while examining the wound, “You young people today. Always thinking you invented sex and anything interesting. Tattoos are for life, you idiots! I have no idea why this handsome young man would want an unattractive woman on his butt for all eternity.”
“Well, now it’s a torn-up looking fat lady, to boot,” Asa remarks. “That’s one grisly-looking bullet hole.”
The doctor motions to a cart nearby. “Hand me that bottle, Eric.”
He steps into the room to answer her request and smiles when he turns back to his brother, “You’re not going to get all vampy on us and try to lock your mouth on his ass, are you?”
“Hell, no!” A look of true revulsion crosses Asa’s face. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that hungry.”
Dr. Cook dabs at the wound with some alcohol and Pat comes screaming back to consciousness.
“Fuck! That burns!” He glances down at the doctor, “Hey, could you go a little easier on me? It really hurts.”
The doctor harrumphs under her breath and starts to ready some sutures. “Almost as much as that tattoo?”
“What?” Pat looks confused. “Oh, that.” His old smartass expression races across his features. “Never mind that. You can keep your comments to yourself, thank you very much. How about you stay focused on the bloody wound giving me horrible pain?”
Asa laughs. “Man, have you ever noticed all you do is bitch and moan? Have anything positive to say, ever?”
“Yeah, okay. How about ‘aint it nice I got shot in the ass and not that stupid vampire?’ Is that better?” Pat lets out a howl of protest when the threaded needle punctures his skin. “Damn it woman, don’t you have any drugs? This is not how a real hospital would treat a patient.”
“Drugs will slow down your werewolf ability to heal faster,” she replies in a calm voice. “We wouldn’t want that.”
Another yowl comes from the enraged Pat. “You’ve got to be lying. That sounds like bullshit to me. I want some drugs, woman!”
I shake my head and wander back down the hall toward the command center. The kill zone was way off the camera grid, I know that, but I wonder if Asa saw anyone moving around on the property who shouldn’t have been.
Pat’s cries of pain and complaints keep going until Eric offers him a leather belt to bite on. Asa makes his way back to my location, still shaking his head over Pat.
“Shot in the ass. Damn that’s funny.” He looks up and meets my stoic gaze.
“Yes, except you’re forgetting this is not friendly fire and we thought we were safe on our property. I want to see all the feeds from the last few hours, right now. We need to figure out what the fuck happened so it doesn’t happen again.”
End of Free Excerpt -- book is set to release in April, please look for it at your favorite online retailer!