Once upon a time, Gabriel had crunched numbers as a payroll accountant for Smith, Wheeler and Hayes, with his own office and—more significantly—an off-network printer he didn’t have to share. He’d driven a blue Taurus. He’d contributed five percent of gross to his Roth IRA and planned to pay off the mortgage on his loft apartment a decade ahead of schedule.
Shoulders hunched as he scurried along the trash-strewn alley, he blinked rain from his eyes and pushed sopping clumps of hair from his face.
Once upon a time, he’d been normal.
Gabriel swept the street with an assessing glance before he turned down another narrow back street partially blocked by overflowing garbage cans. Darker there, but his newly preternatural eyes saw better in the dark. Scents were sharper too. His nose wrinkled at the reek of rotten food and God only knew what else from the Chinese takeout place across the alley from his current bolt-hole. The stench worried at his overstimulated senses like a sore tooth, so much so that he’d nearly abandoned his newest sanctuary his first night there. But if his stomach lurched at the eye-watering aromas, it’d be worse for the others. They wouldn’t linger here.
His master wouldn’t find him.
Gabriel ducked into a gap between a mound of graying produce pallets and the stripped shell of a dead delivery truck. Bending in the tight space, he nudged aside sodden cardboard he’d used to hide the broken window. Gabriel was a small guy, only a couple of inches above five and a half feet, and he’d lost any fat he’d managed to glue onto his lean body within weeks of living on the streets. But squeezing through the window of the abandoned building still wasn’t easy. Pushing the air from his lungs, he twisted his shoulders, wriggled his hips…
He tucked his body for a softer landing on the basement floor inside. He rolled to a crouch and froze. Listened. Restaurant trash negated scent as an early-warning system so Gabriel relied more heavily on his hearing since moving to this hellhole. But the downpour masked everything.
Cold, wet, he shivered as he waited for a telltale sign.
No hope for it. In these conditions, he was as good as blind.
It was almost like being human again.
He shuddered in remembered fear, but, scowling, he pushed to his feet. He couldn’t let his fear rule him. If he thought about what had happened, what was still happening to him… No, it was better not to think. Keep moving. He had to keep moving.
He crept to the furnace room he’d staked out as his shelter. A flash of fur the size of a house cat to his left would’ve revolted him a couple of months ago, but now he noted how readily he’d find fresh meat. Only if he had to. Most nights, he’d rather starve. He used up more of his body’s precious stores of energy chasing the little bastards than he gained when—if—he cornered one. Hunting made him weaker, not stronger. Just another item to add to his You Suck As A Werewolf list.
God, he was tired of being hungry.
He reached for the plywood he’d cannibalized for a door. Gabriel slid inside before he scrambled for the damned rat.
His scent washed over Gabriel first.
Earthy, male. Gabriel’s mouth watered at the acrid tang of sweat. Nothing smelled as good as his master. Nothing. That scent sent shivers up and down Gabriel’s spine and pooled heat in his suddenly knotted gut.
He had to stop. Breathing through his mouth had made his arousal bearable when the shifter had drawn near before. This close though? Gabriel couldn’t resist. His nostrils flared in gluttonous rebellion. He inhaled lustily, bringing that intoxicating scent into his lungs.
“Close the door, Gabriel.”
He shuddered in equal parts fear and need.
The shifter knew his name.
Of course he knew it. By now, he probably knew more about Gabriel than Gabriel did. Gabriel’s heartbeat still stuttered.
“Boy,” his master growled in warning.
Gabriel pulled the makeshift door shut. The scrape of it closing split the darkness like a thunder clap. His fingers dug into the sheet of disintegrating wood. His forehead kissed its rough surface as he leaned into it to brace his shaking knees.
Christ, he was hard. His dick rubbed painfully against the teeth of his zipper.
That scent was making him crazy.
He smothered hopeless laughter.
Had he the strength, Gabriel would’ve leaped at him and begged his master to take him. That was the bliss and the horror of it. Starved and empty no matter how much he ate, hormones ping-ponging inside him as new instincts took hold, Gabriel was helplessly drawn to the shifter. The human part of Gabriel wanted to run. Gabriel had invested two months living like a vagrant to escape him, for fuck’s sake. But a growing part of him—the part his master had given him—wept in relief.
Swallowing down terror and longing, Gabriel slowly pivoted to face him.
He sprawled on the bed Gabriel had made of foam packing sheets overlaid by a quilt with a busted seam at one corner that some fool had tossed into the Dumpster outside. The thick shock of blond hair still surprised him. Gabriel expected werewolves to have dark hair and eyes, but his master’s hair was golden with streaks of lighter strands the color of sunshine. It smelled of sunshine too and verdant forest. Crisp, pure, and clean.
The shifter twisted the knob of the camp lantern so it flared bright, though his eyes never strayed from Gabriel. He wondered if his master’s gaze held some sort of hypnotic power over him. Why not, when the rest of him did? He wondered that those eyes could be such a pale shade of blue. Shouldn’t a werewolf’s eyes be feral yellow? Or black? Gabriel wondered why his master had bothered to hunt him, why he’d been allowed to survive in the first place, and if he would kill Gabriel quickly once he realized Gabriel’s transformation had taken root so poorly.
Gabriel’s mouth went dry. Glance lowering, he shuffled forward. He could not hold that stare. Meeting it felt too much like a challenge, one he couldn’t and didn’t want to issue.
The game was over. His master had found him.
Gabriel was his to do with as he pleased.
Gabriel didn’t even know his name.
Without being bade to do so, Gabriel dropped to his knees when he reached his bed and jerked both hands to the small of his back. His eyes focused on gray cement. His spine straightened. His shoulders squared. His knees spread on the gritty floor to widen his stance.
He moved into the position his master had taught him with disturbing ease. Kneeling for him comforted Gabriel—though not just the new wildness that had been bred inside him, but also the human sub he’d been before. Weeks and months of worry, fear and pain dissolved at the ritual of offering himself to his dom—to this dom. Gabriel’s galloping heart slowed. The tightness in his chest released. His hands stopped shaking. The terror that had gripped him these past months abruptly loosed.
The shifter would keep him or kill him. Or fuck him.
Gabriel no longer had any say in what happened to him. If he ever had.
“Good boy,” he said on a low rumble, sliding toward Gabriel on the pallet of his bed. When fingers briefly skated over his hair, Gabriel trembled and wished he could blame the quivering response on fear. God knows terror had made him shake in his shoes more than he cared to recall these past weeks, but he leaned toward his master’s hand, craving the affection and husky approval in his voice. With that scent wrapped around him and a soft caress twisting Gabriel’s gut, he needed to please his master more than he needed his next breath.
“Pity you aren’t always so biddable.” He threaded his fingers into Gabriel’s hair and palmed his scalp. “You ran from me.”
Gabriel gulped, but he didn’t reply. He knew from that one mind-shattering night with the shifter that he wasn’t to speak until invited to do so. When a hand fisted in Gabriel’s hair to yank his gaze up, Gabriel didn’t utter a word, though an anxious whine fell from his lips no matter how he tried to contain it.
“We know how much you like to be punished, though. Don’t we, pet?” One corner of his master’s mouth curved at the evidence of Gabriel’s distress. “And we both know I’ll always give you what you need.”
Gabriel’s pulse thundered in his ears. “Always?” he whispered then cringed at his audacity.
He stared into Gabriel’s eyes. Wholly captivating. Enthralling. Though nerves ate at his spine, Gabriel would not—could not—look away.
“Strip your jeans down your thighs.”
His stomach clenched. As he fumbled with his zipper, Gabriel’s gaze darted to his master’s nose, the thick blond hair that brushed his brow, to the pale scruff of stubble that roughened his jaw—everywhere the shifter’s grasp would allow. But it was the eyes that commanded him. Beckoned him. Gabriel licked his lips and shuddered at the cold blankness in the unwavering stare. Whatever the shifter intended to do with Gabriel, this was the real punishment—forcing Gabriel to look into his eyes. Gabriel knew it. His master knew it too.
Shoving wet denim down his hips, Gabriel bared his ass and jutting cock.
His master smiled. “Hands, pet.”
Gabriel yanked them to the base of his spine again.
Humming in satisfaction, the shifter tugged at his hair so that he stumbled off balance and wrapped the fingers of his free hand around Gabriel’s aching, needy dick.
Gabriel groaned out wanton lust.
He chuckled. “Have you missed me, pet?”
God, he had. Missed him. Horror at what the man had done to him hadn’t dulled the sharp, keening want. Gabriel had dreamed of him in the months since that night and thought of him endlessly. No matter how long Gabriel lived, he’d never forget the bitter taste of his master’s cum in his mouth, the sounds he’d made when he’d fucked Gabriel, or the exquisite pain of his teeth slicing into Gabriel’s nape.
His grip on Gabriel’s cock tightened.
“Yes, Sir,” he finally said around a broken moan.
Oh Jesus, he was losing his mind. “Y-yes, Sir, I missed you.”
He swept his thumb over the head of Gabriel’s cock. His fingernail digging into the slit scrambled Gabriel’s brains. “And yet,” he said on a gravelly purr, “you did not seek your master.”
Gabriel bit his lip to hold back the pleas that struggled to tear from his throat. For mercy. For the orgasm he already felt tingling in his balls. For just one moment’s reprieve to think.
“The night you offered yourself to me, your safe word was sparrow. It still is. Do you understand?”
Astounded that he would even now—especially now—be allowed a safe word, Gabriel blinked at him. And knew, regardless of what the shifter did to him, Gabriel wouldn’t use it. He’d fucked up so badly…Gabriel wouldn’t deny his master again. “I understand. Thank you, Sir.”
“You’re welcome.” The shifter gave his dick a lazy pump. “Over my knees, boy.”
Gabriel draped obediently over his lap, ass arched high while his toes and fingertips dug into the floor for balance. His master adjusted his position so Gabriel’s cock rooted between his denim-clad thighs. Gabriel’s desire fought scared embarrassment while he was maneuvered into place. Desire won.
One big hand rubbed the rounded globes of Gabriel’s ass. The other pushed against the small of his back, holding him in position. “Ten should sear this lesson into your memory. Ten and then the last two months will be forgiven. Do you understand?”
Gabriel braced his body, determined that he wouldn’t add to his transgressions by squirming. “Yes, Sir.”
“Count each stroke.”
Panicked arousal coiled in his stomach. “Yes, Sir.”
His master’s fingers massaged his ass cheeks. “You won’t come without my permission.”
Gabriel hoped to Christ he could obey. The shifter had given Gabriel a cock ring the night he’d been bitten, but no such mercy had been offered to him now. “No, Sir. I won’t.”
“Good boy.” But that single, taunting hand didn’t lift from the quivering flesh of his ass cheek to deliver the first blow.
Gabriel pushed up and into the shifter’s open palm. Not because he looked forward to the spanking. He didn’t. At least, he kept telling himself that his stomach didn’t jitter because he was that damn eager for it. No, he arched his back and spread his knees to give his master better access to his cock and balls because he preferred his subs open. Vulnerable. And wanton.
As did Gabriel.
“Greedy slut.” One finger traced his crease, up and down, then back again. Gabriel’s ring clenched and fluttered open, trying to draw that teasing fingertip in. “My slut.”
His lips parted on a whispery gasp. Yes, Gabriel was his slut. Gabriel wanted only to be his slut. He wanted his master’s cock thrusting into his mouth and down his throat. Gabriel craved his taste as he’d craved nothing else. He wanted to take the shifter into his body. He needed his master to spurt inside him, painting him with spunk. Gabriel needed his master’s delicious scent all over him, inside and out, declaring Gabriel his boy. His very good boy.
The fears that had driven him faded.
The promise of forgiveness overwhelmed those fears, his pride—everything.
Gabriel arched into his master’s touch and did nothing to smother his whimpers.
“You shouldn’t have run.” His hand finally lifted from the flesh kneaded to aching sensitivity.
Tears burned Gabriel’s eyes with the hard shock of pain at the first blow.
In this, the shifter differed from every other dom who’d mastered him. Gabriel had been spanked countless times. With paddles, belts, and the flat of many a hand. He loved a hard spanking and had cried during the best of them, but not like this, with the wet of his tears spiking his lashes at the first slap and his chest squeezing against the howl that wanted to rip free.
Other doms played at spanking him.
His master made him feel it. Made it real.
Even more so now that the shifter had changed him. That first night had been a blur of pleasure and pain, but no matter that Gabriel was a poor shadow of a werewolf, he could take more now than he could as a human. His body wouldn’t fail under harsh discipline. He hadn’t realized—then—how much the shifter had held back, unwilling to damage him.
He knew now.
He felt it with each stinging throb that infused the flesh of his burning ass.
“One,” he gasped, riding the pain as best he could. “Thank you, Sir.”
His master hummed quiet pleasure, perhaps satisfied that Gabriel had remembered to thank him or maybe just admiring the handprint he’d undoubtedly left on Gabriel’s heating ass cheek.
His cock hardened to steel at the sound. His balls tightened. If he’d been given leave to come, he would’ve shot. Explosively. He hadn’t been able to get off since his master had claimed him, so he desperately needed to come, but Gabriel held on to his orgasm with gritted teeth.
He absolutely would not disappoint his master again.
Though he knew what to expect, Gabriel flinched at the next blow. The crack of the shifter’s hand meeting Gabriel’s skin echoed in his ears as the ache in his ass spread. Gabriel welcomed the pain. There was no room in his head for fear of what he was becoming, no more worry about what the shifter would do to him. All he could feel was the fiery pulse of his cheeks as his master stroked his ass. His concentration narrowed to holding still for his punishment.
“Two.” He shook his head at the tears in his eyes. “Thank you, Sir.”
The tears spilled over when the shifter brought his hand down again. Gabriel sniffled, his belly tightening at the hurt lodging into the muscle of his ass, and his voice quavered when he gave the count and thanked him again.
Crying didn’t sway his master. If he’d meant for Gabriel to enjoy the spanking, Gabriel would’ve, but this was no reward. When he sobbed, the shifter simply smacked his ass harder, waiting only long enough for Gabriel to catch his breath to give the count before delivering the next agonizing blow.
Gabriel broke at the seventh stroke.
His ass was an inferno of misery. It burned, his skin hot and tight. Tears clogged his throat. His chest heaved as he tried and failed to pant through the pain, but it was no use. The agony of his throbbing ass overwhelmed him.
“I can’t,” he wept, draped boneless and defeated over his master’s lap as the shifter patiently waited his count. “H-help me, Sir. Please.”
“Hush.” He stroked Gabriel’s tender backside with gentle fingers. “Use your safe word if you need to.”
He stiffened, violently shaking his head. “No!”
His safe word would make everything stop, but he needed his punishment to be over. Badly. He could feel his master’s frustration and disappointment like an albatross around his neck, and he couldn’t take another moment with that deadweight dragging him under.
“Stubborn boy.” His caress traced Gabriel’s hip. “Find your center, pet. Stop fighting me.”
The shifter was right. Gabriel couldn’t ride the pain of that cracking palm while his traitorous heart struggled against his master’s claim on him. Gabriel would slip into his headspace when he accepted and submitted. Not a moment before.
He just couldn’t do it.
“No, don’t stop!” He wailed when the restraining hand lifted from the small of his back. “I’ll be good for you. Your good boy. I p-promise.”
The shifter chuckled. “I know you will, Gabriel.” His fingers twisted in Gabriel’s hair, angling Gabriel’s head to one side before raising his hand to his lips.
Not his hand.
Gabriel’s damp eyes rounded as his master’s mouth opened, teeth sharp and menacing. He bit down.
Gabriel’s stomach lurched.
Worse, his mouth watered.
He’d had months to get used to the idea of being a werewolf. Since he’d never managed a shift, even during the full moon, and he’d quickly realized his senses weren’t as keen as those who hunted him, Gabriel was a piss-poor werewolf, but he’d come to terms with it. He’d tried.
Adding vampire to the list pushed him over the edge.
He reared back when his master shoved his bloody wrist toward Gabriel’s mouth.
The shifter grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and held him in place. Gabriel lifted his hands to claw at him, kicking his legs to push away—
“Breathe me in, pet. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Which was rich considering he’d been beating the tar out of Gabriel’s ass. The shifter was stronger than Gabriel, though. He stoically held Gabriel’s mouth to his dripping wrist and waited for Gabriel to gulp for air.
When he did…
Gabriel’s longing crippled him.
He felt the scent of his master’s blood in the pit of his gut. In the thunderous roar of his pulse in his head. In the hungry tremble of his body. He moaned out wicked delight. And despair.
His master released his iron grip, threading his fingers into Gabriel’s hair instead. “That’s it, boy. Taste me.”
His dizzy senses took flight. Gabriel obediently lapped at his bloodied wrist, shocked at the brutal punch of desire that slammed into him at his first sip.
And he’d believed the shifter’s scent addicting? Intoxicating?
His heart leaped at the salty copper of the shifter’s blood on his tongue. He rubbed his dick against his master’s thigh and growled in rapturous thirst. Gabriel sucked at his master’s wrist as he had once sucked his cock—in primal, giddy abandon.
The shifter laughed, toying with Gabriel’s hair until Gabriel shivered. “You’ll never hide from me again.”
Gabriel would never resist him now.
He fed anyway. He licked the punctures, urged on by the shifter’s palm at Gabriel’s skull and his sly murmurs to drink more, to drink deeply. Sealing his doom didn’t matter. Gabriel’s thoughts focused on having more of him. More of his master’s fingers in his hair. More of his blood in his mouth.
More of his cock in his ass.
With each draw of his lips on the wound, Gabriel’s body hollowed. Rather than filling, Gabriel emptied. His body shook with the screaming arousal that flooded through him.
The shifter forced Gabriel from his thick wrist. “Enough.”
“Master…please,” he whispered, and he felt his eyes widen when he realized his mistake.
His glittered feral triumph. “What is the count, pet?”
Gabriel’s heart skipped a beat when his master licked at the bite on his wrist. Gabriel jerked his glance away, but it was too late. It’d been too late since that very first night.
The shifter owned him. Running away hadn’t changed that.
“Seven. Thank you, Sir.”
His mouth thinned. “Gabriel,” he rumbled in warning.
“Master.” He licked the shifter’s blood from his lips. “Thank you, Master.”
Exhilaration jolted through Gabriel. He’d never seen the shifter smile before, not like that. His pale blue eyes lit up as bright as a summer sky, the transformation all the more stunning after his forbidding glacial stare. One corner of his mouth kicked up higher than the other. His eyebrow arched. His head tilted to a devilish angle—
Gabriel had pleased him.
The part of Gabriel that was still human and struggling so fiercely died right then. Satisfaction bloomed in his chest, unfurling the tension that had gripped him. Whatever he was, this man was truly his master, and now that Gabriel knew the alluring thrill of pleasing him?
He’d do anything to earn another smile.
He would never run again.
“I know you won’t.” Lips curved in that wondrous bow, he nudged Gabriel’s head down and repositioned him, throbbing ass tipped high for the remainder of his punishment. “Such a lovely pet.”
The strike of his master’s palm against his abused ass was excruciating. Fresh tears leaked from Gabriel’s eyes. New sobs tore from his throat. His dick, swollen and aching, dripped precum. “Eight,” he sniveled. “Thank you, Sir.”
The shifter struck him harder than ever. The inhuman strength of his new body couldn’t save his poor ass; Gabriel wouldn’t sit comfortably for a week. But the pain was better now. Fueled with his master’s blood, Gabriel relaxed into it. Accepted it.
He’d found his headspace.
Suffused with peace, Gabriel skated on the edge of the world. His mind floated, bleary and vague. Lost though no longer alone, he fell deeper into his subspace—a quiet rush that never failed to stagger him. His spirit—his very soul—sang.
He couldn’t live without the pain that made him fly.
Nor could he live without his master.
The shifter saw to that, and Gabriel was done fighting him. If he killed Gabriel after, so be it. He’d have this first.
So Gabriel arched his back and pushed his ass up in invitation. “Nine. Thank you, Sir.”
He teased Gabriel’s cleft so that he trembled anew. “Who do you belong to, pet?”
His master rewarded him by presenting Gabriel with his finger to suck and then sliding the tip—only the tip—into his grasping hole. He pumped it slowly in and out, taunting Gabriel with what he wanted.
“One more, boy. Then I’ll fuck you. Hard.”
His balls hurt, eager to loose their load. He moaned out his delighted hunger.
The shifter played with him until he squirmed, then played with him more until the only sounds out of Gabriel’s throat were plaintive whines and breathless groans. Until he was desperate for his master to take him. To fuck him.
The last blow cracked the flesh of Gabriel’s tingling ass so fiercely his head rocked back. He cried out, his orgasm clawing at the base of his dick, and he couldn’t hold his pleas back anymore. “Please.” He gritted his teeth against the fervent need to come. “Master, please.”
* * *