Authors: Odessa Lynne
Tags: #Gay Romance Fiction
Matthew shook his head, not knowing what else Ash wanted him to do.
What would it be like to have someone claim him as a mate? Would he want that when all he could think about right now was how warm Ash’s hands felt on his thigh and his arm? When his dick was getting hard just because Ash was touching him? When Ash was the one he wanted, not some alpha he couldn’t even remember meeting?
Then he decided he might as well just admit the truth to them both. “Whatever you want me to do. You know I’ll do it.”
“Then submit. Because I—” Ash’s voice turned deep and troubled. “I don’t want to see you hurt.”
After that, Ash backed away. Matthew wasn’t exactly sure where in the room Ash settled, but it was somewhere near the door. Eventually, even though he played over the things Ash had said many times in his mind, he finally feel into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until the faint light of daybreak spilled into the room.
By then, Ash had gone.
In the bright light of day, Matthew got his first good look at the alpha. Since no one had given him a human pronounceable version of the alpha’s name to use, he decided “Alpha” was going to have to be good enough.
Almost as soon as Matthew came out of the bedroom, he was ushered into the kitchen where he found the alpha and Ash quietly discussing him.
Alpha had golden eyes several shades lighter than Ash’s brilliant amber. He also had a look about him that said he had been an alpha for a very long time. He stood straight and tall, a few inches taller than Ash, in fact, and Ash was as tall as any wolf Matthew had ever met. Matthew was sure he’d met this wolf before now but he still couldn’t place him.
“Sit. Eat,” Alpha said. He gestured to food that had been spread across the rectangular table. “We’ll leave soon, but first I want to know exactly what led to your injuries.”
So Matthew ate, and then he told the alpha and Ash exactly what had happened to him over the last few days.
“I know of this Jay,” Alpha said. “He’s the human who tried to capture the peacemaker and turn him over to Alpha
Matthew picked up a few syllables but the rest were buried in the varying pitch of Alpha’s voice. Didn’t matter. He had no idea who the hell Alpha was talking about. Although … he did remember the events of three years ago well enough to remember that Jay had been working to impress a female wolf.
“He also injured Matthew at the time,” Ash said.
Alpha stared at Matthew. “I remember. Alpha
brought you out of the building before the collapse.”
“Yeah.” Matthew swiped cracker crumbs off the table in front of him. “I don’t remember a lot about that.”
“No, I imagine not.” The alpha’s golden eyes traced over Matthew in a way that made Matthew’s skin prickle. Matthew shifted on the hard seat and glanced at Ash.
Ash’s amber eyes looked back calmly and Matthew forced himself to take a breath.
The alpha’s nostrils flared. His gold-eyed gaze fixed on Matthew. “What’s wrong? Why are you afraid?”
“What?” Matthew shook his head and sat back in his chair, pulling his arms in tight across his chest. “I’m not afraid. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But that wasn’t exactly true. He couldn’t stop thinking about what Ash had asked of him last night. Would he be willing to submit sexually to this alpha if necessary? He didn’t know—even though he agreed with Ash that any other option wasn’t a real option. If he got caught up in a heat fight, he would most likely die. But just thinking about letting the alpha fuck him made his heart pound uncomfortably hard in his chest and stirred up an unpleasant rush of acid in his stomach.
The alpha turned his head toward Ash.
Ash seemed to know exactly what the alpha wanted and he stood, his chair screeching across the floor as he did. He leaned over the table, hands braced on the surface and claws peeking from beneath the dark material of his fingernails just enough to scratch the wood of the table.
Ash’s eyes drifted almost closed as he took a careful sniff of the air. He straightened before he spoke, a pronounced sheen to his brilliant gaze. “His scent—” His nostrils flared as he took a deep whiff. “He’s afraid, but—” Ash leaned even closer, until Matthew could feel his breath across the bridge of his nose. “His scent—” Ash’s claws extended abruptly, digging into the table’s surface.
Alpha clenched his hand around Ash’s upper arm and yanked him to his side and off the table. His voice came out sharp as he said, “Submit.”
Ash shook his head, closing his eyes momentarily before reopening them and focusing on Alpha. “My apologies. I—” His hesitation lasted a moment too long.
Alpha surged to his feet and the entire table jolted. “Submit!”
Matthew sat as still as possible and tried to ignore the churning in his gut. He’d known heat season had started. Proof of that was harder to accept than he’d imagined. He might not be ready for this.
Last time, he’d been young and stupid enough not to grasp the enormity of what happened during heat season, how the wolves went from the calm, peaceful people they claimed to be to something beyond human understanding.
Ash blinked several times, and the fiery light in his eyes faded. He shook his head and stumbled backward, two, three, four steps until he came up against the wall.
A dark-haired wolf came to the doorway, his gaze flickering around the room. He was the same wolf that had held onto Sal last night.
“Go!” Alpha ordered.
His raised voice startled Matthew, who jumped slightly in his seat. He took another deep breath and made himself stay calm. Nothing was out of hand yet, and the alpha seemed aware of the problem developing.
The wolf turned and left as quick as he’d appeared.
Alpha took hold of Ash by the back of his neck and brought his head in close. Matthew couldn’t make out what he said—his voice was too low, his tone measured, and his accent thick enough that the words got lost.
But Ash nodded and visibly relaxed, and Matthew breathed a very real sigh of relief and felt the tension bleed out of his shoulders.
Alpha’s voice reached more understandable levels, “Go see…” he said, the last word a collection of sounds that most likely named one of the other wolves. “… a stronger dose.”
“Your alpha will be proud of your strength.”
“Yes, Alpha,” Ash said again, voice low, straightening until his weight was on his feet instead of the wall at his back.
Alpha slowly released Ash, and Matthew was startled to see a trickle of the wolves’ dark red blood at the side of Ash’s neck. Alpha stepped back.
Ash’s gaze collided with Matthew’s. Matthew hadn’t meant to be caught staring and he quickly dropped his own to the table in front of him.
His stomach roiled as Ash passed him on his way out of the room, but not because he was afraid of Ash. If Ash tried to take him for a mate, Matthew would submit, and he would do it without hesitation.
But Ash had never expressed any desire for Matthew before now, so if Ash did try to take him for a mate, it would only be because of Matthew’s human scent. Nothing would change.
Matthew would still end up alone.
* * *
Matthew stole two pairs of socks and a worn out pair of black athletic shoes one size too large from the cabin’s owner. The extra thickness of the doubled up socks made the shoes fit better, although they still didn’t feel quite right on his feet. Better than nothing though, because he sure as hell didn’t want to hike through the woods in socks again. He healed quickly, but he still felt pain and he’d had enough pain the last couple of days to last him a while—preferably the rest of his life, although he doubted he’d be so lucky.
He had trouble with the laces, the same as he’d had trouble zipping his pants that morning. His injured hand had stiffened to the point of uselessness overnight—as if the damn biotech was fusing his bones together.
He gritted his teeth, tried again, and finally got the fucking laces tied on his fourth attempt.
Then he realized he still had to tie the other shoe.
Ash found him with his foot up on the edge of the bed, his back bent low, trying to tug his first two fingers free of the knot without undoing the entire thing.
“I can help,” Ash said.
“No, dammit. I’ve just about—son of a bitch!” Matthew yanked the lace and started over.
Ash pushed his hand aside. He quickly knotted the laces while Matthew fumed.
“Thanks,” Matthew bit out.
Ash gave Matthew a flat stare that did just as good a job of calling Matthew out for being an asshole as words would’ve done.
Matthew stood and rolled the tension out of his shoulders. Calmer, he said, “I mean it. Thanks.”
The corner of Ash’s mouth turned up in what might have been the first smile Matthew had seen from him since he’d arrived.
Matthew grinned. “Sorry for being an asshole.”
“You’re injured and your body’s working hard to repair itself.”
“You don’t have to make excuses for me. I can admit when I’ve been acting like an asshole.”
Ash’s steady look made Matthew’s heart pound faster. Ash dropped his gaze to Matthew’s throat. “Your pulse is racing.”
Matthew swallowed hard. He could feel the sweat collecting under his arms. “Sorry,” he said, too breathy, too faint.
Ash took a step closer to Matthew and his hand came up. Matthew caught sight of those claws, the deadly sharp points extended from beneath the dark material of Ash’s fingernails. When Ash’s hand wrapped around the back of Matthew’s neck, he shuffled forward a step.
“I want to mate you,” Ash said simply. “But I can’t.”
Matthew stared at Ash, understanding slow to come. Then he blinked and cleared his throat and stepped back.
Ash’s hand fell away.
“Those drugs are sure the hell working, aren’t they?”
Ash frowned. “The drugs aren’t working as well as they should be.”
“Not what it looks like from here.” Matthew rubbed his shoulder and then turned away, looking around the room. Goddamn, his chest hurt. He tried to shake it off, but he couldn’t, so he grabbed up the light jacket he’d taken from the closet and started for the door.
He could feel Ash’s eyes on him as he shouldered past Ash and headed into the hallway, and all he could do was keep his eyes on the floor in front of him and ignore the wolf following him.
He was walking into the front room of the cabin when he heard a gunshot in the distance, a single sharp retort that echoed through the woods and made Matthew’s blood run cold.
One of the wolves standing outside pounded across the small porch and another slammed through the front door.
Ash pulled Matthew behind him and shoved him up against the wall. “Stay here.” Then Ash ran toward the commotion and Matthew stood there for a moment before thinking the hell with that and tearing off after him.
Matthew barreled out onto the porch to see three wolves running toward the cabin, the two on the outside almost dragging the third between them, blood everywhere. Matthew thought he recognized the one on the right, but he couldn’t be sure from this distance.
He heard the sound of a vehicle coming up the old road he’d noticed through the window yesterday. The rapid-fire retort of several more gunshots echoed even closer than before.
Someone grabbed Matthew from behind by the back of his shirt and dragged him backward into the cabin.
“Hey!” he yelled, stumbling as he crossed the threshold. Another wolf took his arm and started hauling him down the hallway.
“You were told to stay inside.”
“I could help.”
The wolf ignored his reply and shoved him hard through a doorway and into a small room that was barely big enough for the cot inside. “I’m sorry but your scent—” The wolf slammed the door.
Matthew ground his teeth together and took a deep breath. Then he knelt down beside the cot and started patting Sal’s cheek with his good hand. “Sal, can you hear me?”
The gunshots sounded closer and Matthew’s heart pounded thunderously in his ears. “Sal,” he said again. And then again and again, his pats turning to light slaps until Sal’s eyes cracked and he frowned up at Matthew.
“What’s … going on?” he slurred. He pushed at the cot as if trying to sit up but his arm wouldn’t hold his weight. He dropped back to the cot.
“Fucking assholes,” Matthew muttered. He liked the wolves, honest to God, but at that moment, he would have gladly cursed any one of them to hell and back.
“You’re going to have to wake up,” Matthew said, yanking on Sal’s arm. “Come on.”
A nerve-stealing roar sounded from somewhere outside the cabin, too close. Sal jerked and then took a deep breath. He seemed to be trying harder to shake off the effects of the drugs, but by the way his eyes kept sliding shut on him, he wasn’t having much luck.
Matthew cursed again, hard and loud. Then he slapped Sal’s face again. “Come on, Sal. Come on.”
With his help, Sal staggered to his feet, but then he lost his balance and crashed back down onto the cot. One of the metal legs popped and Matthew jumped. “Goddamn!”
“Gunshot,” Sal slurred.
“Wasn’t a gunshot,” Matthew said, taking hold of Sal again. “Just the cot.” He heaved, dragging Sal upright again awkwardly with his one good hand and then quickly shoving his shoulder under Sal’s arm.
The door behind them slammed open, and Matthew nearly fell over when he spun around, hauling Sal with him.
Watcher stood there, eyes bright and fierce. He grasped Sal’s other arm, easily taking Sal’s weight off Matthew.
“What are you doing?” Matthew asked.
“Several of the others are dead. You can’t stay here.”
Matthew’s heart felt like it stopped. He couldn’t breathe.
Watcher started out the door with Sal.
Matthew hurried behind him. “Who’s dead?”
“See for yourself. The rest of the pack is fighting to keep the renegades away from the cabin.”
They came out into the front room. Watcher led him straight to the front door and out onto the porch.