Tam Larson stood behind his brothers as they approached their new pack leader. At least the family hoped he’d be their leader. After a great deal of research, Tam’s father had decided Alpha Valko Dachev would be a good match for them. A new job opportunity had moved the family across the state, making it imperative they find a new pack. Unaffiliated wolves were unhappy wolves and unwelcome on pack territory. The family needed to get in with a pack soon, or they wouldn’t have a place to hunt during the upcoming full moon. And Tam didn’t think Seattle was ready for eight werewolves prancing through Pioneer Square all wolfed out.
Although Tam didn’t officially live with his family anymore, the Alpha had demanded the presence of the entire Larson clan to determine if they could join. Apparently, Alpha Valko had had an unpleasant experience before and now insisted on meeting the whole family to make sure there weren’t any bad apples in the bunch.
Tam hated taking time away from his studies. He needed to wrap up his thesis in order to receive his doctorate. His stress could be higher, but his advisor told him, confidentially, that as soon as Tam turned his thesis in, the doctorate committee would immediately sign off on it. After all, he’d brought millions to the college with his software inventions. Tam didn’t know where he’d go next, but he didn’t plan to stick around with his family. He loved each and every one of them, but he still hadn’t told them he was gay.
Tam wanted to explore his sexuality a bit more before confessing his preference for men over women. He doubted they would take it badly, but his brothers were big, and he didn’t want to have to fight over something that wasn’t under his control. Especially if they shifted and Tam had to use his extra abilities to harm those he loved. Tam liked to avoid confrontation, unless, of course, the other person deserved a smack down.
Fortunately, his computer skills were well regarded, which gave him several options. He’d already been contacted by six technology companies, and his biggest decision would be to figure out which one would fit the best with his future goals.
“Greetings, Larson family.”
The Alpha’s deep voice rolled across the crowd and sent tingles all through Tam. Unwanted attraction ripped through him, and he hadn’t even seen the bastard yet.
“Greetings, Alpha,” Tam’s father replied. As the patriarch, he spoke for the entire family.
Tam still couldn’t see the Alpha from where he stood behind his huge brothers. As the last and smallest of his litter of six, Tam was the runt. He had always thought the moon goddess made up for it by giving him all the brains and his super wolf, an extra bit of genetics giving him the edge over shifters who on the surface were stronger than him.
His back pocket vibrated.
Luckily, no eyes were on him. Hiding behind his brothers, Tam soundlessly pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the screen. John Lesley’s name popped up. Lesley was one of the men trying to recruit Tam for a job. Damn. He’d missed the call. The only downside to Lesley’s job offer was it would keep him in Seattle. The position in Lesley’s company, however, sounded perfect.
“Important call?” a rich voice asked.
“Job offer.” Tam answered automatically.
He froze as he realized who stood before him. Swallowing the nervous lump in his throat, Tam dropped the phone back into his cargo pants’ pocket and looked up into a pair of feral green eyes. Energy poured off the large man who towered well over Tam’s five-foot-ten frame. If they were both in bare feet, Tam knew he’d only come to the nape of the other man’s neck. Black hair fell in riotous curls around the man’s head and curled at the tips of his ears in a vivid contrast to his olive skin.
Tam had no doubt of the identity of the other man. He oozed Alpha power, making introductions unnecessary. Tam’s wolf yipped its interest, wanting to play with the bigger wolf. Stupid wolf had no sense of self-protection. Didn’t it know the man before them wasn’t a new playmate, but a potential adversary? Too bad the guy smelled so damn delicious. Unable to help himself, Tam leaned forward and took a long sniff, the smell of rich earth and piney forests coming off Valko’s skin in puffs of tempting clouds.
* * * *
Valko’s nose twitched from the amazing scent of the man in front of him. The smallest of the Larson family, research stated his IQ reached new heights in the genius category. Information from Valko’s detective said there were several companies vying for Tam’s talents.
Looking into the other man’s eyes, Valko could get lost in their brilliant blue depths. From his statistics, he’d been expecting a cocky asshole who looked down on others due to their lesser intellect. Instead, Valko found an unassuming young man with a slight build and a sweet demeanor who smelled like cherry blossoms.
Tam’s smooth tenor settled in Valko’s balls, making his cock harden in his pants. In the middle of the pack, beneath a glowing half-moon, he longed to throw the other man down and fuck Tam until he howled. His wolf wanted to mark the younger man before the pack, declare Tam as his, and take on any challenger who thought to touch him.
Valko’s hands twitched until he finally gave in to the need to touch the other man.
Reaching up, he cupped Tam’s cheek. “If I accept your family, will you be in my pack?” He kept his voice neutral, not wanting to expose how much it meant to him to have the other man.
An Alpha never showed weakness. An Alpha also would not give up what was his, and whether Tam knew it or not, the pretty wolf would belong to Valko.
Tam shook his beautiful head, careful not to dislodge Valko’s touch and offend the Alpha. “I don’t think so, but I still have to pick a job. I’ll move to whichever city my work takes me.”
The pack moved restlessly around Valko as they waited for his opinion. Normally, accepting a family was a quick process. You either let them in or, sensing something wrong, denied them membership. The Alpha didn’t usually go through the members and touch them or ask about their plans for the future, especially not the male members. Males were either accepted as part of a family unit or challenged and given a place in the pack that suited their abilities.
“Are any of the job offers in this area?” Valko’s heart slammed against his chest as he waited for Tam’s response.
He would be damned before he let this man leave the area, not after their first meeting. Valko needed time to… well, he wasn’t sure what he would do with the other man. Valko had arranged to sign the treaty to mate with another pack, but he’d find something for Tam. Valko had to keep the man near. When Valko moved his hands away, his wolf growled at the separation.
Tam gave a reluctant answer. “A—A couple.”
“Choose one of those local jobs, and I’ll let your family into my pack.” The thought of the other man possibly slipping through his fingers made Valko twitch.
“And if I don’t?”
Ooh, Tam’s beautiful eyes sparked with temper. Not wolf challenge, Valko would’ve smacked the smaller wolf down for testing his dominance. No, this man tested him in completely different ways. Ways the wolf inside Valko wanted to explore with Tam… naked.
Valko gave Tam his best grin. The one that bared his teeth and had made more than one opponent blanch. “Then your family will have to find another pack.”
Amazement bloomed when, instead of cowering in fear, the smaller wolf looked at him like he was a particularly interesting puzzle. One to be taken apart, analyzed, and put back together again. For the first time, Valko felt at a disadvantage. As the Alpha of his pack since the tender age of twenty, no one had ever challenged him. Valko had the unpleasant feeling Tam could wrap him around his little finger without even trying.
One slim graceful finger dared to touch Valko. He watched, mesmerized, as the younger man traced it down his bare chest. How had Tam stepped closer without him noticing, and even more importantly, why would his body shake from the sensation of one finger sliding along his skin? Tingles spread from the point of contact, and Valko worried for a moment he might come from that one single touch.
“So what you’re saying is, if I don’t take some piss ant job, you’ll take away my family’s right to hunt on your land and you’ll refuse the addition of five strong fighters to your pack?”
Valko noticed Tam didn’t add himself to the group of strong fighters. “What about you? Don’t you consider yourself a strong fighter?”
Tam shrugged. “No. I don’t like to fight. I get my way using other methods. I can fight if necessary, but I prefer other means.”
Damned if the little minx didn’t lick his lips. Valko’s body went into overdrive from the burning touch of the man’s finger to the man’s luscious scent filling his nostrils.
“Honey, you continue to touch me, and you can have anything you want.” His voice dipped two octaves lower than normal, and his body pumped out pheromones so quickly Valko was surprised they didn’t make a mushroom cloud around him.
Tam gave him a slow, sweet smile. “I’m still job shopping, but I’ll consider myself a member of your pack until I pick a place to stay. How does that sound?”
Valko nodded. At that moment, he’d agree to anything. After all, he was ninety-five percent certain the man before him was his mate, and the other five percent didn’t give a fuck. As long as he had Tam naked and beneath him soon, he’d let the man do anything except move away.
“How long before you choose a final place?”
“I have to finish my dissertation in three months. Until then, I will stay with my parents.”
Valko smiled. Three months. More than enough time to persuade the younger man to stay with his new pack. Wolves were creatures of habit. Once they settled in, werekin rarely moved. The fact Mr. Larson recently transferred told Valko the family wouldn’t be in a rush to do it again.
Valko turned to see Tam’s father watching him with wary eyes.
“Does this mean we can join your pack?”
Valko glanced toward Tam. “Do we have a deal?”
Tam gave a firm businesslike nod as if they were work associates, while Valko imagined throwing the man down on the ground and ripping off his clothing.
“We have a deal, Alpha. I’ll be here until the beginning of summer. After that, we’ll see.”
“Welcome to my pack, Larson family.” Valko smiled as they gave him a respectful head tilt. Tam offered his neck even as his bright, suspicious eyes watched Valko closely.
Valko walked down the line, nodding to the other Larson family members and touching each of their necks in greeting. Tam’s brothers glared but didn’t speak. He knew they distrusted his motives toward their little brother, but he didn’t care. They might be big and tough, but he was lethal.
He saved the last acceptance for Tam. Leaning down, he released his fangs and bit down on the younger man’s neck.
The pack muttered around him, gossiping more than a bunch of old ladies at a quilting bee. He knew they were wondering what the hell he was up to. Biting a new pack mate as a welcome was only done for possible mates. Unable to help himself, Valko wrapped his arms around Tam before pulling his fangs out and licking the wound closed.
“You can look for a new job as much as you want, my wolf, but I’m planning on keeping you.”
He shivered as Tam slid up his body and spoke directly into his ear, his hot breath bathing his skin. “Plan all you want, Alpha, but my will is my own.”
With those words, the sexy wolf stepped out of Valko’s embrace and walked away.
* * * *
Tam saved his breakdown for when he returned to his parents’ house. Remembering the look on Valko’s face, Tam wondered again what the hell he had been thinking, playing with the Alpha like that? Not to mention coming out to his family by all but teasing the man to get him into bed. It was all kinds of wrong, but something in the Alpha’s eyes had made him want to poke at the beast. Tam never could resist annoying others just for fun. Problem was, the Alpha didn’t look annoyed; he looked hungry.
It wasn’t long before the expected knock on the door came.
“Come in.” Better to get it over with immediately than deal with it later. If his family were going to cast him out because he was gay, he’d rather do it now than drag out the experience. He’d hidden his sexuality long enough.
To Tam’s surprise, his oldest brother entered, alone.
Tam would look like Jack if he grew five inches, took lots of steroids, and pumped iron twenty-four hours a day. His brother grew that large naturally.
“Can we talk?” Jack’s blue eyes held more caution than Tam had ever seen on his brother’s face.
“Sure, come on in.” He sat up in bed and scooted over to make room.
The bed creaked a little after accepting Jack’s bulk. “The family talked. I mean everyone but you, of course.”
Tam smiled. Poor Jack, obviously the chosen sacrifice to try to discuss Tam’s issues. God, he loved his family, but they were really predictable sometimes. He could have guessed Jack would be the one they sent. He was the first born of the litter and the official head of this generation of Larson boys.
“Really? What did you all talk about?” Probably wrong to torture his brother, but lifelong instincts were difficult to ignore.
Jack sighed and rolled his eyes. “You know, about you being gay and not telling us. Mom’s really upset, and Dad’s angry.”
Tam crossed his arms over his chest. “If they wanted to kick me out, they should’ve had the guts to come up here and tell me themselves.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jack glared at him. “Mom’s worried you’re dating inappropriate humans, which is why you don’t want to bring any of them home, and Dad’s pissed the new Alpha is trying to blackmail you into letting him into your pants. Frankly, if it was a female and she looked at me that way, I’d be all for blackmail.”
Tam frowned. “They’re not upset about me being gay?”
Jack stared at him like he’d lost his mind. “Tam, at age seven you hacked into the city’s police computer to realign its efficiency after your friend’s bike was stolen. At ten, you got into the FBI database and listed your teacher as Most Wanted after she gave you a B on a test, and at fifteen you finished your first college degree. Being gay is probably the least strange thing you’ve ever confessed to, and even then, we had to find out from the new Alpha of our pack because apparently you’re his new favorite wolf.” Jack patted Tam’s back in what should’ve been a loving gesture but instead, stole the breath from his lungs. “Besides, if the asshole hurts you, we’ll take care of him.”
Jack stood up. Tam could tell he was anxious to get out before any feelings were discussed. He would forever swear afterward that the devil made him do it.
“But don’t you want to hear about all my gay encounters?”
Jack’s mouth dropped open like a landed fish gasping for air.
“I mean now that we’re all open about my sexuality, maybe we can exchange dating pointers. You can tell me how you woo women, and I can tell you all about luring a man into a bathroom stall.”
The door almost cracked when Jack slammed it behind him.
Falling backward on his bed, Tam laughed until his stomach hurt and his eyes started to water.
His family was the best.
* * * *
Tam spent the next day on his computer trying to solve a problem that kept giving him an error. All of his calculations said it should work. The fact it didn’t drove him absolutely batty. Scanning his work again, he still didn’t see the mistake. He barely resisted the strong temptation to toss the computer against the wall just to hear the happy cracking sound. Unfortunately, after the last three, his father had made it clear Tam would have to pay for the next one. He had the money, but he didn’t want to have to explain his fit of temper to his mom.
A knock on his bedroom door drew a snarl. “What?”
The door swung open, and his mother popped her head in. In her hand was a plate of roast beef sandwiches and a glass of lemonade.
“Sorry, Mom.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m having problems with my programs today.”
She shook her head. “Well, maybe if you step away from it for a bit, you’ll feel better. Why don’t you have a bite and then go for a jog or something. Your father always thinks better when he’s on the move.”
“That’s a good idea.” Tam smiled at his mother. “I do need to get some fresh air.” He’d started his project early that morning and hadn’t left the room for most of the day.
His mother returned the smile. “Well, you did get your brains from my side of the family.”
Tam laughed. “I’ll be sure not to share that with Father.”
After handing over the sandwiches and drinks, she hovered in the doorway. He could practically hear her nerves bouncing about as she debated about saying something. “What?”
She fidgeted with her fingers for a bit. “You’ll be careful right?”
“Jogging? I’ve been crossing the street for a while now.”
“No. I mean with men. There are some bad people out there. I always felt fortunate that I didn’t have any girls because I didn’t have to worry about all the scary males out there, but now I do.”
Tam’s heart warmed as he watched his mother struggle between finding the right words and not upsetting her son. Standing up, he walked over and wrapped his arms around her. “I love that you’re worried about me, but I can take care of myself. Besides, I have pretty good instincts about staying away from bad men.”
She patted him on the back with her small hands. In a family of giants, she even made Tam feel big. “I know dear, I just worry. It’s a mother’s prerogative, you know. I worry about all of you boys.”
He smiled against her shoulder, love for her almost bursting his heart. “I know. I promise to be careful, and if any guy messes with me, I’ll call my big strong brothers to beat the crap out of him.”
“That’s my boy.” Stepping away, she gave him a sly look. “Our new Alpha seems like a nice man and interested in you.”
“You’re not exactly subtle, Mother.”
“I don’t have to be subtle, I gave birth to you. I know you’re still trying to decide where to go, but it wouldn’t hurt to see if the Alpha would be a good mate for you. He’s strong, runs his own pack, and looks at you like he’s found the wolf of his dreams. You could do worse.”
“I see it didn’t take you long to adjust to me being gay.”
His mother shook her head. “Dear, I’ve always suspected you were gay. I was just waiting for you to realize and admit it. Now eat your sandwiches and go for a run. You’ll feel so much better.”
With a final wave, she left the room. Tam stood there for several minutes, staring at the closed door. Maybe she was right after all. Maybe he did get his intelligence from her side of the family.