Six months later…
“You grew up.”
My brother’s voice had deepened during his years of incarceration. Gaze lowered to the metal table, I shivered at the mix of strangeness and familiarity. Part of me rejoiced. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Joth since we were boys, but despite what he’d done, the wolf inside me stirred with excitement at a reunion with my kin, any kin. The rest of me knew better, and I kept my attention the fuck down, my numb fingers grasping the telephone humans had provided as our means of communication. A thick pane of reinforced glass separated us, one I’d been assured could not be pierced by the claws of a shifted wolf and, in separate rooms, he couldn’t smell me through the overbearing prison aroma of cleaners and sweat. I was safe. Completely safe.
I shuddered anyway.
Joth chuckled at this visible sign of weakness. “You always were the runt of the litter. A year older than me, but still the smallest.” His chair squeaked, and when I cautiously peeked, he’d leaned forward, his massive body edging closer to the reinforced glass window. Only the barriers humans had erected prevented him from looming over me. “You grew, though.” He flashed a smile full of teeth. “So did I.”
When my heartbeat fluttered, I hoped the telephone wasn’t sensitive enough for him to hear it. I glanced at the video camera filming my side of the visiting room, hardly comforted by the flashing green light that told me the humans were recording and monitoring us closely.
“Won’t you look at me, Nox?”
I couldn’t. I sensed the humans and my alpha urging me to raise my stare from the table, to do as my brother bade me. When our father died, Joth had suspended the test regime and counselling that human authorities had instituted to study him. Humans were such contrary creatures. Their laws prevented the gathering of evidence and otherwise assessing a murderous shifter without the shifter’s permission. Joth had denied them that for months. No taped transcripts with human psychiatrists, no MRIs. Nothing.
“You can look at me, you know. I won’t hurt you.”
Oh, how I wished that was true.
Fingers tightening on the telephone, I stiffened my spine and forced my stare up. From the identical metal table on the other side of the visiting room window. To the faded blue chambray shirt our father had provided so Joth wouldn’t have to wear prison orange. Pulse racing, I looked from his chest to his thick forearms, ropy with muscle under a dense coat of dark wiry hair. Black, like our father’s. It contrasted the pallor of his skin, the hand gripping his telephone receiver unnaturally pale. I squirmed in my plastic chair, a jolt of anxious dread shooting through me at this reminder my brother rarely saw the sun. Steeling my resolve, I peered under my lashes at the broad stretch of his shoulders, then at the white glare of his undershirt peeping from the vee of his shirt at his throat. Pride at my audacity swelled my chest upon reaching the stubbled column of his neck—he hadn’t bothered to shave for my visit. But neither his patience nor my determination could prod my gaze higher. I could not meet the stare of an alpha, even one as disgraced and stripped of power as my brother.
“You have Mom’s blue eyes,” Joth said, his voice a low purr of satisfaction. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten that.”
I didn’t know how he could have forgotten it, either. Whereas he and Kinessa had taken their dark coloring and muscular bulk in both human and shifted form from our father, I’d resembled our mother from the first—blond, lean, and surprisingly agile. Not nimble enough to evade attack when it had come, but I was physically as much an omega as she’d been.
Joth tapped his fingers on the table, drawing my wary attention back to him. “Dad brought pictures a few years ago.” He sighed. “The warden let me see them eventually, but you didn’t directly face the camera.”
If our father had taken pictures of me, he’d done it without my knowledge, but that didn’t surprise me. We’d been ghosts, he and I. We’d shared the same address, but while Dad had haunted the house, I’d built a den in an outlying shed. We hadn’t talked. We’d barely noticed each other. I hadn’t realized our father remembered I existed until the freeway wreck had claimed his life on my twentieth birthday. Some believed it an accident, but I knew better. He’d waited to join his mate and his oldest son in death until pack law would deem me an adult and not a single day more.
I gulped, swallowing down a knot of grief. “I’m surprised the humans allowed pictures of me.” I resembled my dead mother. A lot.
“They wanted to assess how I responded.” Shrugging, Joth relaxed into his chair. “It was a test.”
Foreboding tensed my shoulders. “Did you pass?”
“I have no idea. They don’t tell me much.” Joth blew out a long breath. “I didn’t shift, though. Or cry.” He straightened in his seat. “I was happy to see you grown up. At least I knew you were hale and healthy. Dr. Bennet calls that a positive sign.” When I glanced up, Joth smiled at me. “I’m glad I didn’t rape you.”
My stomach flipped.
I jerked my gaze down so fast my head took a dizzy spin. Sick terror flooded me and the muscles in my body clenched in alarm as fight or flight endorphins dumped into me. Only my tight clasp on the telephone receiver anchored me in place. Human authorities and my alpha had sent me into the visiting room for this, insights and information they’d hoped I might pry free.
“Oh?” I said through numb lips. “No one told me you’d considered rape.”
“Of course they didn’t tell you.” Joth pressed his lips into a thin line. “I couldn’t admit it to anyone. You were a kid.”
He’d been one too, my brother a year younger than me. My belly twisted at the painful realization my then thirteen-year-old brother had… had… “Why?” I asked the monster who was my brother.
“Why didn’t I tell them before? Or why didn’t I rape you?” he prompted.
When I glanced up, his brow furrowed. “Either,” I said. “Both.”
“I didn’t lie about killing the little girl. Or murdering Mom and Kinessa. Knowing humans would lock me up for the rest of my life, I confessed. I don’t hide from what I did.” He shook his head, ruefully. “I’m glad I didn’t rape you, though. I think I would’ve regretted that.”
* ~ * ~ *
Humans escorted Joth from his side of the visiting room later. My stomach churned, acid burning the track of my throat while they shackled him for the walk back to his cell. He winked. Smiled. Then, he vanished through the metal door.
The hour with him had passed quickly. My brother could be charming when he wanted, and he’d made a concerted effort to draw me out after revealing the bombshell detail of my endangered virginity the day of the murders. With his message—warning?—delivered, he’d invested the rest of our hour together mining my memories of happier times. With an ease that astounded me, a laughing Joth reminded me about the persistent stench of Kinessa’s farts lingering in the bedroom we three boys had shared. He spoke of pancake Sundays, our frequent camping trips, and past holiday mornings too.
After the murders, I hadn’t wanted to remember. Thinking about Mom, Dad, and my brothers had hurt me deeper and more grievously than the coma Joth’s blow to my skull had induced. Our father, for instance, had stepped up as coach when we’d enrolled in little league. Comparing those sunny afternoons with him at the ballpark to the dark tormented shell of a man Dad became short years later ripped open festering wounds I’d hoped had scarred over.
By the time humans strode through the door to return my brother to his isolation cell, a smile had curved my lips despite the pain, though.
Grief was a funny thing.
Still as marble, I waited in the uncomfy plastic chair on my side of the visiting room until my escort slipped to my side and, with a hand at my elbow, urged me to stand. She led me through the labyrinth of security checkpoints to the prison parking lot where a black Cherokee idled. My escort passed a flash drive to the driver through the window while I opened the rear passenger door to climb inside. As soon as I safely buckled into my seat, the driver gunned the gas. The vehicle shot forward like a rocket.
Little unsettled shifters more intensely than cages.
“All right?” the driver called over his shoulder as he steered to the main road.
I met his gaze in the rearview mirror and nodded.
My tense nerves unraveled as the scenery changed from city to suburbs, then to the green fertile woodlands promising home wasn’t far. The stress squeezing my chest loosened, allowing me to draw my first easy breath in what felt like decades.
Though he must surely scent my distress, the driver ignored me. He was only my guard, a beta selected to ensure I made the trip to and from Westfield Correctional Institute without incident. I didn’t know his name. One of the shifters the new alpha had brought with him when he’d assumed leadership of the pack, I guessed, though I’d kept away from my kind for so long he might’ve been someone I’d known before, now unrecognizable as an adult. The information hadn’t been offered and I hadn’t asked.
My heartbeat thudded loud in my ears when the Cherokee passed the road to my den without slowing and instead continued toward the center of the pack’s territory. Anxiety screamed inside me until I realized the new alpha would expect a report of the visit. Him, I’d met. Farron, my old alpha, had brought his replacement to my den before my father had died. Surprisingly young, even for a temporary fixer, Dio had towered over me, but when he’d spoken, his voice had been gentle, his words kind. He’d smelled of the pine forests of his previous pack and the bitter coffee he’d drunk while travelling on the road. He’d brushed his bent fingers across my cheek before taking his leave and accepted my submission to him as new alpha with only an acknowledging dip of his chin.
Dio was a hard man. He’d sent me to Westfield, but I’d seen his soft center, experienced it when he took care with me in the crude workshop shed, which was also my den.
We pulled up to a log cabin only a few hundred yards past the white farmhouse from which Farron had run the pack when he’d led as alpha. Once we’d parked, I unlatched my seat belt and hopped from the vehicle without prodding, curiosity overriding my caution. The pack had built the cabin after I ran with them as a boy, the absence of fresh wood scent, sawdust, and construction debris proving the place wasn’t newly constructed. A lot had changed, so many new things to see. I didn’t often desire or notice the world outside my den and didn’t venture far from it as either a man or my wolf, but the new homestead of the pack piqued my interest. I didn’t jolt at the driver’s hand splaying at the base of my spine to urge me to the porch steps, my senses too preoccupied with birdsong, buzzing insects, and the riot of fanciful colors in flowerbeds edging the front walk. My fingers curled at my sides upon spotting a swing hanging from the porch rafters, some horrible contraption manufactured from cheap labor and cheaper wood. The porch swing was serviceable, but hardly the mark of an alpha with a craftsman at his disposal.
Dio had assumed leadership of the pack months ago. Why hadn’t he ordered me to build a swing?
After the driver ushered me through the front door, I scowled at the bench lining the wall inside next. I sank onto it when my driver gently pushed my shoulder down. Irritation bloomed when the bench rocked, balance awry with my added weight.
“Stay here.” The driver marched through a doorway, deeper into the house, while I recalled the dozens of benches I had already built as trade goods for my pack. I was no lazybones, nor slacker leeching off the charity of the others. I worked hard and, after six years of practice, with skill too. I knew the pieces of furniture I made fetched a pretty price in the towns. Farron had told me.
I glared at the knotty wood. Clearly, this bench was unacceptable.
“Heya, Nox. You remember me, right? Asa?”
I jumped, startled from my disgruntled distraction and then blinked, uncomprehending, at Asa. We’d been close as boys, teammates in Little League and frequently assigned as camp buddies in scouts. He’d shot up several inches since and filled out with dense muscle. His hair was darker, his face leaner. When I pushed to my feet, instead of standing chin to chin, I tilted mine up to gape at him. He’d grown that much.
“I know you.”
“We were best friends. I knew you’d remember.” Smiling, Asa waved at the empty doorway. “It’s okay, I swear. C’mon, follow me.”
I’d left my only surviving kin, a brother who was a notorious mass murderer, in a human prison. Demonstrably, nothing was okay, but I shuffled toward Asa anyway. He led me into a great room. My nerves prickled at the trio of shifters gathered around a laptop on a desk on the other side of the wide space. The warm steady cadence of Joth’s voice reached my sensitive ears despite the low volume. Panic streaked through me, making me tremble until I spotted the flash drive sticking out of a USB port on the machine. I didn’t own a computer or any other digital device, but I remembered what technology was capable of when I’d attended Chester Run Middle School with Asa what felt like twenty lifetimes ago. My own quiet voice responding “I don’t know” to my brother confirmed Dio and his betas watched a recording from the prison. I managed to breathe again.
Stupid with relief, I followed Asa to a pair of wingback chairs placed before a fireplace in the corner innermost to the cabin. I sank gratefully into one of the chairs at Asa’s nudge.
“Wait here.” His mouth quirked into a sad smile. He lifted his hand from my elbow to card the hair at the top of my head. I usually kept it tied back and away from my face with scraps of string, but before climbing into the Cherokee for the drive to Westfield, the taller beta now screening the video of the visit had dressed me for the occasion. Gone were the gray sweatpants and flannel shirt my old alpha had brought for me when I’d outgrown the clothing I’d worn as a fourteen-year-old. Blue jeans now hugged my hips, ass, and thighs. A white cotton T-shirt and hoodie had replaced the flannel. New sneakers had been swapped in place of my sturdy work boots. The beta had shaved off the wild scruff of my beard as well. I’d expected a haircut too, my first since the murders, but other than yanking it free of my ponytail, he’d left my hair alone.
Considering how tenderly Asa petted me, maybe my hair at least had passed muster. I hadn’t bothered to ask then and didn’t now either. I simply basked in the heat of the fire, staring at the flickering yellows and oranges while Asa’s fingers stroked me. I tuned out the sounds of my visit with Joth—I was good at wiping my mind clean—and my bones soon melted under his touch. I forgot everything. The video. My brother. The antiseptic smell of the prison underlaced with the pungent stink of urine and despair. The new shoes pinching my toes inside glaring white socks I’d pulled up my calves that morning. The fire’s warmth and the casual hand in my hair felt wonderful, almost drugging me. My eyelids grew heavier. I might have fallen asleep had the recording not ended and Dio strode from the desk to crouch at my feet, his stare sweeping my lax form. He brushed my knee and I spread my legs, making room for him to edge nearer. His arms twined at my neck, a jerk of his chin ordering Asa away before plowing his fingers into my hair in his stead. His hand fisted, holding me fast as he leaned into me, brushing his cheeks over mine to mark with his fresh pine scent.
“You did well,” he said on a throaty growl. “Very well.”
I shuddered, my dick plumping inside scratchy denim at his praise.
“Seeing you pried loose a fresh detail about the murders. The human authorities are excited at this development.” He drew back, his nostrils flaring. He stared at me, his eyes as black as sin while he lowered one hand from my hair to pluck at the button at my fly. “I’m impressed.”
When my arms moved restlessly, Dio glanced at Asa still standing above me. “Get out.”
“No.” When I glanced behind me, Asa crossed his arms. “If he wants me to go, he’ll have to tell me himself. I won’t leave him.”
Shock exploded inside me. One of the pack daring to defy the order of the new alpha? On my behalf? I wasn’t alone. Maybe… maybe I never had been.
Capitulation became easier then. “It’s fine, Asa.” I drew my wrists over my head, anchoring my hands to the tall back of the chair. I froze in place. “I’m fine.”
“You sure?” He regarded me with steady dark eyes, brow raised quizzically. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.”
I shook my head. “Go.”
“Yell if you need help.” With a disapproving glare at Dio, Asa pivoted and marched away.
“Asa is a loyal friend. And a good man,” Dio said, but the scritch of my zipper lowering reverberated through me, catching my breath. Farron had never wanted me for this, and truthfully, I didn’t tolerate the company of others. Maise, another school friend, stopped at my den at each full moon to load the furniture I’d built as my offering to the pack. She distributed the pieces to other shifters or shipped it for sale in the human towns. I didn’t know or care which. All that had mattered to me was the lamp oil Maise left in trade and the supplies she brought to aid my work. I didn’t talk to her. She didn’t touch me. I made myself scarce, darting into the woods in my wolf form as soon as I heard the rumble of a truck engine as Maise bounced down the rutted driveway of my father’s house. I’d watched her from the shelter of the trees more than once. Maise was as small as I was and an omega too, a mated omega no less. She wouldn’t hurt me, but even her company, I could not bear. I’d occasionally put up with talking to Farron, but only because he was my alpha, so I had to.
Farron had stepped down as leader, though. Now, there was Dio.
Smothering the urge to squirm in my seat, I schooled my heart to stop racing and my limbs to cease shaking. I gasped as Dio spread the fly of my jeans wide and tunneled his hand inside. Strong hot fingers wrapped around my cock and squeezed, dizzying me. My lips parted on shallow pants as he drew my dick from the stiff denim, my length growing when his grasp tightened. He gave me several lazy pumps.
Dio didn’t smile. He didn’t try to soothe me with silly words or kiss me.
Instead, he bent over my crotch and kissed my cock.
My back bowed. A whimper climbed up my throat. I couldn’t have prevented my body’s reflexive response to Dio’s gentle attention to the head of my dick if my life had depended on it. Fortunately for me, my new alpha seemed well versed in controlling unruly omegas. He swallowed my dick down in one deliberate and greedy gulp. The wet heat of his mouth staggered me, the skillful dance of his tongue along the length when he bobbed magical and consuming. Tingling pleasure concentrated at my groin, swamping me. I groaned in equal parts joy and sorrow. His growl, smothered by my dick in his mouth, vibrated up my cock in unsubtle warning.
I couldn’t think.
I couldn’t breathe.
The trill of his tongue enraptured me. I whined, moaned helplessly. Every lick was beautiful agony, the pressure on my cock as he sucked shattering. I reveled in the sensations he wrought in me and hated it. Hated him for this callous seduction and despised myself for surrendering to him.
But of course, I submitted. What else could I do? I could no more resist the siren’s call of his talented mouth working my dick than withstand the regular flux of air into my lungs that demanded I continue this life of wrongness, of brokenness and misery. Still, I longed for the orgasm Dio built within me, gathering at the base of my spine. I yearned for release, struggled against it. Fought for it.
I cried out when he tore his wonderful mouth from my cock. Dazed, drunk on pleasure, I stared at his red swollen lips as he jacked me once, twice…
The world splintered. My muscles clenched. My vision grayed. My dick spurted, wet and thick. My alpha stripped my defiance from me as readily as he drained semen from my aching balls. I could only hold on for the ride. Sated, defeated, I collapsed into the chair.
Dangerous and magnetic, Dio studied the wreck he’d made of me. He didn’t smile or gloat. I wished for the proud curve of his lips because at least a grin might signal his own appetites appeased, but I didn’t lie to myself. I hid all the time. From what I’d lost and what I was, especially from those who claimed to love me, but I didn’t lie.
Still, my stomach jittered when Dio shuffled back from between my legs. I yelped when he grabbed and turned me in the chair so that my face pushed into the cushions and my ass tilted high. I trembled as Dio stripped my jeans down my thighs, baring me for whatever he desired. I expected him to fuck me. Being bedded by an alpha was my fate, after all. Before my brother had ruined me, before he’d destroyed our family, my future and my role in my pack had been set. This was what I had been knit in my mother’s womb to do. My terror was irrelevant. My weakness and rebellion didn’t matter. Dio had been brought into the pack as a fixer and among the many failures that required addressing was the stubborn virginity of a damaged omega: me. After half a year of the new alpha leaving me alone, I’d thought—hoped—Dio shared as much sexual interest in me as Farron had, but demonstrably, I’d been mistaken.
Despite my frightened wail, I didn’t feel the spongy tip of my alpha’s cock pushing against my hole. Dio pried my ass cheeks wide to expose the vulnerable part of me that would be his, but he didn’t open me for his dick.
He spread my crack for his tongue.
Wet. Hot. Slippery and agile, the tip danced over my hole, the warmth of his breath when he chuckled fanning my ring as it clenched. I shouldn’t have wondered at his laugh. As an alpha in his prime, he probably knew my body better than I did, but the frightened keening that climbed from my throat stuttered to a shocked gasp at his mouth on me, kissing me, sucking me there. The satisfaction that had dissolved me into a gluey puddle sparked with new hunger, pleasure whirling with the lap of Dio’s tongue on my hole. Wanton arousal tore through me, nigh painful in intensity. Dangling between my legs, my flagging dick stirred.
Horrified, I moaned out my anguish, but I still widened my thighs as much as I could, which wasn’t a lot, trapped as I was in denim. Dio’s control over me was absolute. He enticed my response with gentle nips and voracious suckling at my ring. Darting licks lit me up and obliterated everything else. My senses narrowed. My thoughts scattered. He taught me to want, to give in to him, and my blood heated with wicked delights I had never imagined. I pushed my greedy ass back to his mouth for more and whimpered brokenly with each avid swirl of his tongue.
So lost was I in my debauchery, I hardly cared when Dio finally withdrew his face from my ass because, though I mourned the loss of his sinful mouth, I knew what would come next and needed it.
He draped his body over mine, the warm silk of his skin astonishing me. I arched my back to welcome the stab of his dick in my crack and cried out when he slid from my hole in a heavy layer of spit.
“Shh,” he murmured on a throaty snarl, his grip on my hips a steadying vise sure to leave bruises. “Shh.”
I hushed, inhaling a lusty breath of air as his ass pumped, bringing his glorious dick to my opening again. This time, he pushed and with a painful snap, the head of his cock lodged inside me. I stiffened beneath him, a shocked yelp slipping from me. The intrusion didn’t hurt much. My alpha had roused me too expertly, softening my ass for his dick. The stretch burned a little, though, the sweetest of stings. I clenched my fingers and bit my lip as the sense of fullness intensified with every inch he pushed into me. He simply overwhelmed me. The musk of his lust teased my nostrils while his teeth sank into my nape. I welcomed the hurt as eagerly as my ass sucked his dick into my body. I wanted the taking and my chest heaved at the first gulp he stole of my blood.
He growled, ferocious and husky with menace, as the bulge of his knot pressed to my already stuffed hole. The spinning in my head and feral glee in my heart urged me to relax, to accept. I feared the knot he slowly shoved past my ring but not as fiercely as I desired that part of him. I shuddered with my relief when my ring snapped around the swelling, holding him captive inside my ass as certainly as his iron grasp on my hip and his teeth stabbing into my neck.
With me locked in place, Dio’s taut muscles unbunched. He’d tied me. I wasn’t going anywhere. Neither one of us would until he’d emptied inside me. Fixer or not, Dio was an alpha through and through. He lowered his hand to my desperate cock. He laughed into my bloodied nape as he fondled me. Orgasm would open my womb to him and to the seed that would soon race up his iron-hard dick.
Jaw clenched, ass tingling, I held out as long as I could, as much because I never wanted such pleasure to end as from my blind terror at the impossibility of Dio breeding me. Helpless, hopeless, I could not resist the deft skill of his stroking fingers. Tears I refused to shed burning my eyes, I spilled for him. Semen jetted from my dick to paint the floor and the chair in sticky ropes.
With my womb now opened, my alpha released the clench of his teeth in my neck and tossed his head back, howling as my tightening ass wrung his seed from his body. Moist heat flooded me as his cock pulsed, shooting his semen deep. The strength of my climax triggered his and best stacked the stingy odds of planting his pup within me.
Tired, sweaty, I moaned at his cum spurting into me. Filling me.
I blearily wondered how long it would take to confirm my brother’s claws had left me barren six years ago. Either way, the life I’d known was over. Again. I would never be the same.
My virginity was gone and the omega wolf inside me finally ran free.
* ~ * ~ *