Poison, a forced marriage, untamed lust; what’s not to love?
Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
Genres/Themes: Dark Fantasy, Paranormal, Gay, Vampires, Werewolves
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Emily Carrington
Garrett woke moderately early the next morning, which meant the sun had risen and he could see in the dimness without using his hawk-given sight. He had gone to bed confused about Michael’s odd behavior from the night before. The beta wolf had refused to share the bed that was rightfully his. Instead, he’d slept in the den — assuming he’d slept at all. He’d been acting strangely yesterday, letting Garrett put an arm around him and then pulling away. It was as if he couldn’t make up his mind.
Garrett could hear muffled sounds all around him, not in the same room but indicative of a crowded house. His heart ached for the aloneness of his house in Arizona. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t made any provision for being away for a long time beyond asking his friend Maggie to water the spider plants.
It’s not like I have pets or anything. That was true, but… well, he hadn’t meant to abandon his home. Especially not for these frozen wastes.
He groaned softly and rolled to a sitting position. He put his legs on and thought his clothes into existence. Standing, he made his way toward the door. Just as he opened it a crack, two close, lowered voices reached his ears. Garrett stood perfectly still, hoping he was upwind as well as mostly invisible thanks to the door.
“You’re spitting on our traditions,” said a voice Garrett recognized but couldn’t immediately name. He had the distinct feeling this other person had challenged Michael before.
“How, exactly?” Michael asked, his tone emotionless.
“You aren’t treating the mating bond with respect.” If the other wolf was intimidated by Michael’s flat delivery, it didn’t show.
“How?” Michael asked again, although after a pause that Garrett thought betrayed nervousness. He was right, he decided, when Michael added, “We had sex yesterday.”
“Yesterday morning. Most new couples can’t keep their hands off each other and there’s nothing but sex, as you put it, between you. Does he hold your hand? Does he submit to being guarded by you? Does he even tell you where he’s going?”
Garrett cursed silently. He had called Michael to inform him of his plans. But that had been when he was five minutes away from the house in Hamburg.
Michael was quiet for several moments. Then he replied, “Where is it written that we have to be exactly like every other couple you’ve ever met? And have all the mated pairs you’ve encountered been the same? And as for the prescribed ten times, that may be tradition but it’s arbitrary.”
“Ten is a number of power. As you well know. You should be careful, Michael. You’re pushing back against centuries of tradition. And if you keep on, we can dismiss you.”
“Donald, I think that’s Tilthos Charles’s purview, not yours. Wolf packs are not a democracy.”
“No, but the alpha will listen if there is unrest in his pack.”
“Face it,” Michael said, and real emotion entered his voice for the first time since the conversation had begun. “You just want to get rid of me. You’re hoping for a better place in the pack, or for more favor from our new alpha. You thought, with Katka and Viktor gone, that you’d have a chance to get a little higher. But you’ll have to eventually admit to yourself that you just aren’t dominant enough.”
“And you’re not dominant enough to defeat Jeremy Redpath, so you’re not beta anymore.”
Michael didn’t answer.
Garrett’s heart ached, but he couldn’t think of any way to step in that wouldn’t make Michael look weak.
“The be-all-and-end-all of it is this,” Michael said at last. “You don’t have as much power as you think you do. I’m not going anywhere, and my relationship with Garrett is none of your business.”
Footsteps approached the door and Garrett moved back quickly.
Michael entered, looked at Garrett, probably read what Garrett couldn’t quite keep off his face, and pressed suddenly trembling lips together. Then he closed the door and went across to the radio. WYRK came in clear. Garrett had no particular feelings about country music one way or the other, but he had to admit there were some more liberal songs on this station than he was used to associating with the genre.
“Well?” Michael asked. “I assume you heard all of that.”
Garrett crossed the room and took Michael’s hands. “You’re not anything less in Charlie’s eyes –” He saw Michael wince. “Sorry. It’s just that I knew him before he was an alpha. You’re not anything less in Charles’s eyes if you’re not his beta. He’s not like that. All of his people matter to him.”
“How do you know if you’ve never seen him as an alpha before?”
It was a valid question, but luckily one that Garrett could answer easily. “Because I’ve seen how he treats students, faculty, donors, and SearchLight agents alike. With respect, but in such a way that you know he won’t take any shit. And he is not going to like how Donald is bullying you.”
“He’s not going to know about that,” Michael said, bearing down on Garrett’s hands. “At least not by me. Or you.”
“Because Donald’s not really a threat to me. He’s just a pain in the ass.”
Probably that was the only answer that Michael could have given that might convince Garrett not to go to Charlie right now. “So… you don’t think he can raise the pack against you?”
“I have too many friends here for him to get what he wants.” Michael sighed. “It does hurt knowing that I’m breaking traditions I’ve believed in all my life.”
“I’m not sure how to help you if having sex won’t do that.” Garrett hesitated before adding, “Because Donald’s right, at least in this: I’m not a hand-holder and I’m unused to having to answer to others for my actions. At least not unless it’s in an official capacity.”
Michael nodded, looking miserable.
Garrett reminded himself that werewolves could smell lies, so instead of spewing some assurance he didn’t mean, he took Michael into his arms and rubbed his back.
“Thought you didn’t like hand-holding,” Michael said against his shoulder.
“Being sentimental isn’t my nature. Being compassionate is.” And he kissed Michael’s hair.
“This is more than compassion,” Michael said, and he cupped Garrett’s crotch…