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“Please tell me you’re kidding.” Diomedes Stollen—Dio to his friends—stared at his servant, hoping he’d heard wrong. Please let me have misunderstood. His heart sank at the demon’s guilty expression.
The red-skinned creature flicked its tail and looked nervously about, at everything but his master.
Dio sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. A headache rippled across the base of his skull, threatening to explode it off his neck.
He had known this wasn’t going to be a good day when he tripped over the servant cleaning his bedroom. That was the problem with tiny house demons, they were like cats—he never saw them until he stumbled over one in the dark and barely avoided breaking an ankle.
“Tell me!” he commanded. If he waited for the demon’s confession, he could be standing there the rest of the night.
“I-I’m kidding, M-Master.” The demon stuttered the words, but Dio could feel the lie. It curled around him like a black strand of ribbon, winding, twisting, and leaving a sluggish trail of discontent in its wake.
Dio pressed the tips of his fingers to his temples and rubbed, futilely trying to push back the piercing pain. He never should’ve accepted demons from the slaver as a means for the man to pay off his debts. The creatures were way more trouble than they were worth and three times as stupid. His spurious moment of compassion continued to kick him in the ass. Maybe his mother had been right: he was an idiot.
“Where is he?” Might as well get this over with.
“S-south p-parlor.” The demon’s tail lashed furiously back and forth. At least Dio would get his floor swept at this rate.
“Did you at least offer him something to eat?” Please let him get past this without starting an interspecies war. Dio needed to talk to the alpha, but he hadn’t known how to get across his request without going down to the pack lands and frightening the crap out of all the other shifters. Scaring them hadn’t been his goal.
In the spirit of having a peaceful meeting, he’d foolishly asked one of his demons to act as his mediator and request a meeting with the wolf alpha.
“H-he can’t eat or drink right now,” the demon muttered in a voice so low Dio had to strain to hear him.
Dio groaned and headed for the parlor. The demon’s words didn’t sink in until Dio opened the door. On his velvet couch sat the werewolf alpha, gagged and wrapped in rope like a bondage birthday present. The werekin’s furious gold eyes snapped his displeasure without him being able to speak a syllable.
Despair washed over Dio at his demon’s incompetence. “Why did you tie him up?”
The demon nibbled the tip of his tail as he hopped from foot to foot. “You said to bring you the werewolf alpha.”
“I said to invite the werewolf alpha to visit with me,” Dio corrected. He didn’t know why he bothered. Obviously, the demon wasn’t going to become smarter, no matter how much he scolded. It was like kicking a sad little fanged puppy.
The demon’s eyes transformed from a dull ruby to an incandescent red. Fangs popped out of the creature’s mouth as he spat like an angry feline and jabbed one finger in the direction of the alpha.
“He said no! No one tells my master no!” The demon’s voice reached ear-bleeding decibels.
“Okay, okay. Why don’t you go to the kitchen and get something for our guest to eat,” Dio rushed to say.
Better not to have the demon within biting distance when Dio released the alpha. He didn’t need a demon/werewolf battle in the middle of his favorite Persian rug. He still had fond memories of seducing the weaver all across the intricate pattern.
A bright smile came across the demon’s face. “Yes, Master.” With gleeful hops over being given a task, the demon left the room.
Turning back to the werewolf, Dio noticed the man no longer looked angry. Instead, Dio had a feeling that if the alpha hadn’t been wearing a gag, the werewolf would’ve been laughing at him. Dio sighed, then went to untie the alpha. Which was worse¬—to be hated or laughed at?
After freeing the shifter, Dio jumped back. Wolves were unpredictable, and he hadn’t planned for a mauling this week.
The alpha scowled. “I’m not going to attack you, but I make no promises about killing your minion.”
Dio ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. This wasn’t working out at all like he’d envisioned. “You can’t kill him.”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure I can,” the werewolf growled.
Dio shook his head. “No, I mean you literally can’t kill that type of demon. You can run them over with a car, push them off a cliff, or even set them on fire, but they always return. They’re hell demons. They go to hell, resurrect, then return to whoever has claimed them as their master.”
The werewolf stood and stepped closer until he was inches away and looming over Dio. Heat poured off the shifter’s body like a bonfire on a crisp winter day. Dio resisted the urge to draw nearer to absorb the warmth.
“Am I to assume you got this information about your demons personally?”
Dio shrugged. “I had a long, boring winter last year.”
“I’ll remember not to let you become bored.” The alpha’s golden eyes gleamed with amusement.
A smile curved the alpha’s lips at the corners. A fine mouth it was too. Dio shook his head to clear away his lustful thoughts. No mingling with the furries. His father had warned him about that after a female shifter had lost control and mauled him. Dio had always suspected his sire had just been really bad in bed. He doubted he had much to worry about with the alpha, though, especially since their first meeting had started out so badly.
“Your demon said you wanted to talk to me about something?”
“Yes.” Dio tried to focus on his reason for wanting to meet the alpha. He was pretty sure it had nothing to do with the man’s shimmering eyes or his buff body. A slow, deep breath did little to soothe his shattered nerves. He took a step away from the tempting man to gather his thoughts. Something about the alpha destroyed his usual iron control.
“What is your name?”
The alpha froze. Shock crossed his face. “You don’t know my name?”
Dio shrugged. “Your kind doesn’t live long enough for it to be worth remembering.”
“If you plan on dealing with werekin, it would do you well to learn who we are.”
Dio rolled his eyes but conceded the man might have a point. “Fine, what’s your name?”
The alpha crossed his arms over his chest. “I’ll tell you for a kiss.”
Dio scowled. “I’m not the one who said I should learn the furries’ names. If you want me to call you by name, you’ll have to tell it to me.”
“And if you don’t want me to start an interspecies war after the way I was treated, you’ll have to kiss me. It really is the least you can do.”
Dio didn’t appreciate being blackmailed into a kiss, even if the man was damn gorgeous. He gave the alpha a calculated look. “Just one?”
“Unless you can’t resist a second one.”
Dio sighed, hoping to convey how much of an imposition one kiss was for him. “Fine. One kiss and then you tell me the names of all the werewolves I need to know about.”
He wasn’t about to barter a kiss for the name of each wolf. They’d be there all day, and Dio knew the approaching deadline hovered in the horizon like a black apocalyptic storm cloud.
Dio stepped closer to the alpha. The scent of the shifter’s blood called to him beneath his smooth, strong throat, and the wolf hovering below the surface called to Dio’s love of power.
His mouth watered, and his fangs began to descend. He stopped midstep.
“What’s wrong?” The shifter gave him a look that might indicate concern if Dio didn’t know better. After only a few minutes of acquaintance, Dio could tell the wolf was a master manipulator.
“I’m trying to get my fangs to behave so I don’t bite you.”
A slow, sexy smile crossed the alpha’s mouth. “You wanna bite me?”
Dio’s stomach clenched. Shifters were notoriously stingy about sharing their blood. To have a wolf, not to mention an alpha, almost within fangs’ reach was equal to taunting a werewolf with a fresh deer carcass on a full moon.
“Oh yeah.” Lying would be stupid when the man could see Dio’s canines sliding out between his lips.
The alpha leaned forward and brushed his cheek against Dio’s. Dio jerked back from the sensation of warm flesh sliding across his. It had been so long since he’d touched another being, the sensation jolted his senses. Buried in his studies and with his demons bringing him blood and necessities, there hadn’t been any need for another person. He’d all but forgotten the craving for another’s touch.
Dio had thought he’d buried his sexual needs many years ago after his last master had enslaved him. However, the wild scent of the shifter along with the heat of the other man’s body against his overloaded Dio’s control.
The alpha stood a few inches taller than Dio. The heartbeat pulsing in his throat hypnotized Dio and lured him closer. The hold on his hips tightened, pinning him in place.
Dio snapped out of his daze. The alpha’s stern gaze pulled him from his fantasy. He swallowed the moisture pooling in his mouth.
“Sorry.” He took a deep breath and tried to regain control.
The alpha wrapped his fingers around Dio’s neck and tilted his chin up with his thumb. “You can bite me, but only after we’ve made our pact, my pretty one.”
Dio trembled beneath the shifter’s warm touch until his words snapped him completely out of his thoughts.
“I’m not pretty,” he snarled.
The alpha gave him another one of those slow smiles, turning Dio into goo. “Honey, if you were any prettier, you’d have to hide from all the straight men.”
Dio idly wondered if the pack would miss their alpha after he ripped out the man’s throat.