Betrayed by his sister, Inno Weston becomes the captive of mad scientist, Lorus Korl. After he is helped to escape with the secret mutant formula, he races through the streets and straight into the arms of the vampire Mikel Cruento.
Mikel doesn’t quite know what to do with the injured werekin he finds in a dark alley. Unable to abandon the poor shifter Mikel takes him home. A promise has him escorting Inno to the Moon Pack to deliver the formula however lust makes him want to slake his thirst for the gorgeous shifter.
Inno Weston crouched behind the dumpster, his legs trembling as he squatted in a puddle reeking of urine and vomit. Not a scent he longed to bottle and spray on in the morning. But tonight, he’d use it as camouflage until he was certain the mutants were gone. Hell, he’d roll in it if he didn’t think it would infect his wound. Surely even psychotic wolf-men couldn’t smell him through the stench. He hadn’t known who they were when they first grabbed him, but after watching one man transform from a normal werekin to a frightening creature frozen in a grotesque half-wolf, half-human form, he knew what he didn’t want to happen to him.
With slow, careful motions, he patted his pocket, not wanting to cause any noise or call attention to his location. Relief shook him when his fingers brushed across the unbroken vial of serum, the one reason he remained free and unharmed. His escape would’ve been for nothing if he’d shattered the container during his headlong dash across town. But so far, he hadn’t let Blake down by breaking his word or the small glass vessel.
Blake, a mutant who assisted the lab scientist, had taken pity on Inno and paved the way for him to escape. In return, Inno had to promise to get the formula across town. Inno didn’t know what he’d have done if he had broken the vial. Returning to his cage in the lab wasn’t an option.
For his next trick, he had to find Alpha Silver and pass the sample along. When Blake had handed Inno the printed formula with the vial, Inno had sworn to take it to the Moon pack. Seconds from becoming a mutant himself, Inno gratefully snatched at the opportunity to help.
He hoped Silver had the resources to examine the liquid and discover its secrets. From what Inno had heard, Silver led a large pack, and Blake sounded confident the alpha would be willing to help.
Standing in the freezing alley, Inno’s teeth chattered from cold and shock. If he didn’t move soon, he’d bleed out from his wounds. Clenching his jaw, he pulled himself farther into the shadows. He didn’t have much fighting skill, a fact reinforced when a mutant almost disemboweled him as he ran to escape.
His inner wolf urged him to shift so he could heal. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the option of changing forms. He’d promised to get the vial to Alpha Silver, the only shifter who had enough power to possibly stop the mutations. He couldn’t keep it protected if he went wolf and lost his clothing.
“Come out, come out, little wolf.”
The whispery voice sent fingers of fear down Inno’s spine. He knew that voice. It belonged to the mutant who almost killed him.
“You need to go back to the lab, so you can become one of us. Stronger. Faster. Better,” the creepy voice continued.
The man sounded like a commercial promoting the mutant formula. Inno could almost hear the disclaimer at the end, warning people about how the fabulous product sometimes led to insanity or even death.
The lack of sensation in Inno’s fingertips meant a bleeding finale might be a real option. He wouldn’t need the mutation to achieve his life’s end. He’d meet it in a filthy alley, hiding from his pursuers.
A scream of terror pierced the air and echoed across the alley walls.
The noise frightened Inno even more than the previous whispers. Inno didn’t want to meet anything tough enough to take out one mutant, much less several. Maybe if he remained quiet, the danger would pass. A shadow, at least twelve feet tall, grew on the wall opposite Inno. The sound of footsteps came closer. Inno pulled himself into a tight ball and closed his eyes to hide their shine.
Please don’t see me.
Please don’t see me.
He flashed back to his childhood when he hid in the dark from the monster in his closet. Inno’s heart hammered against his chest, his stomach churned, and for a moment, he worried he might be adding to the volume of the puddle he huddled in. Unfortunately, just as he knew they would, the footsteps paused before him.
“What do we have here?” A voice, richer than a river of chocolate, caressed his ears.
Damn, he would die in this stupid alley and not keep his promise. When the speaker said nothing further but didn’t move away, curiosity made Inno lift his head and open his eyes to face his doom. Anyone who said curiosity killed the cat hadn’t met a wolf shifter.
The word whispered in his head as he examined his bringer of death. The man’s skin glowed white and perfect with high cheekbones, a pointed chin, and a lush, kissable mouth. Even the red flames glowing in the depths of the stranger’s dark eyes didn’t take away from his attraction one bit. Inno shuddered and tried to get closer to the wall, to meld with it if possible.
He needed to get away. To hide from this creature he instinctively knew would be much more dangerous than the mutants hunting him. The panicky urge to run shot through his body. He fought the urge to transform into his beast. He didn’t have enough practice controlling the wolf anyway.
Don’t shift! Don’t shift!
He thought hard at his wolf half, fighting his inner animal. Struggling against the desire to pick a stronger form than his weak human one.
“Hey, now. I’m not going to hurt you,” the delicious sounding person said.
Mikel smiled at the wolf shifter, trying not to scare the young man. He didn’t know why the mutants were hunting the pretty little thing, but Mikel didn’t want to frighten him any further.
The wind shifted and the scent of blood reached his nose. Mikel’s fangs dropped, his fingers lengthened and grew long claws, and he had to fight his own inner beast just as hard as the wolf shifter looked to be fighting off a transformation seconds before.
“You’re wounded,” Mikel accused, worry completely dissolving his usual polished manner. For some reason, the thought of the delicate looking creature being injured terrified Mikel.
The wolf shifter shook his head frantically, his dirty blond curls bouncing with the force of denial. “I-I’m fine.”
Mikel’s beast retreated a bit as the smaller man’s voice calmed him. “Are you really?”
He got a nod.
Despite the horrible alley stench and the gory remains of mutants crusted beneath his fingernails, Mikel had never been happier in his life. To his vampire’s senses, the terrified wolf shifter glowed like a shining star in the dim light. Looking around, a sudden fear struck Mikel. A wolf shifter, alone and hunted by mutants, would be one small attack away from a dead shifter.
“What’s your name?” He kept his tone gentle, not wanting to scare the smaller man.
“Inno Weston,” the shifter replied in a shaky voice.
“I’ve never heard of the Weston pack.” Wolves always used their pack name as their last name.
“It’s my mother’s last name. I don’t have a pack,” Inno said apologetically.
Even with vampire hearing, Mikel barely made out the words.
When they finally registered, Mikel’s jaw dropped open. “How can you not have one? I thought all you shifters had packs? Surely you should join one.” He knew from his vampire friend Alesandro the importance of shifters having a support system.
Alesandro consulted with Anthony, the Moon pack alpha mate, on his hotel requirements for vamps and enjoyed telling Mikel about the tightly knit wereshifters. Hell, even that tiger, Dare, joined the wolves to be part of a pack, and most felines were solitary. Why Mikel cared one way or another about a small wolf’s packless status, he couldn’t say, but his fear for the young man remained.
The werekin shook his head. “I don’t have a pack,” he repeated again.
Inno didn’t go into details, and the stubborn tilt of the werekin’s chin meant an explanation wouldn’t be forthcoming. Mikel made a mental note to pursue this line of questioning in a more congenial environment. He had to get the injured man out of this disgusting alley and tucked away in Mikel’s apartment before other mutants came hunting.
“I’m Mikel Cruento. Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll get you all patched up?”
Inno shook his head.
Mikel’s patience vanished as the scent of blood became stronger. The waste of so much powerful shifter elixir drove him mad. Determined not to spend time trading niceties while the shifter bled to death, Mikel reached out, grabbed the smaller man and pulled him out of his shadowy corner. He tried to be careful, but the little guy had more strength than Mikel expected. Inno snarled like a trapped animal, snapped his teeth, and glared with the glowing yellow eyes of a wolf.
“I-I h-have to go,” Inno’s voice trembled.
Even in the dark, the shifter’s pallor would make a vampire appear sun-tanned.
“Where are you going to go, little wolf? Come with me. I’ll see to your wounds.” He tried to keep his voice level, coaxing even, but the smell of Inno’s blood drove him insane.
“I c-can’t trust a vampire.” Inno’s teeth chattered as shock started to set in.
“I’d generally agree with you, but I’m all you’ve got,” Mikel said practically. Before he had time to advance his case, Inno’s eyes rolled into the back of his head.
Mikel caught the wolf as he passed out. “I guess I’ll definitely have to take you home with me now.”
A surprising surge of pleasure rushed through him at the thought. Shaking his head at his foolishness, Mikel lifted Inno up into his arms. Shifters were generally densely built, but with Mikel’s supernatural strength, Inno barely registered as having any weight to him at all.
Mikel cast a spell of concealment as he walked. If anyone came looking for the small wolf man with haunted eyes, there wouldn’t be any witnesses to claim to have seen him.
Using his vampire speed, it took little time to go from the shady side of town to the street where Mikel’s posh townhouse stood. He came to an abrupt halt when he spotted a lean figure propped against his doorframe. Damn, he’d forgotten about Jager. He muttered a quick reveal spell so he could speak to the werekin. With the previous spell in place, anything he’d said would’ve sounded muffled and been disguised as traffic noise.
“Guess our date is canceled if you’re bringing other men home.” The werekin’s mouth curled in a wry smile that didn’t quite reach the beautiful man’s eyes.
Oddly enough, Jager’s classic features didn’t appeal to Mikel as much as the pretty little wolf in his arms.
Mikel shrugged. “Something came up.”
Jager nodded, looking more resigned than annoyed. “It often does.” He started down the steps only to stop midway. Snapping his head back around, he focused on Inno. “He’s injured!”
“I know that!” Mikel growled. “Why do you think I’m carrying him?”
Jager shrugged. “I thought maybe you had turned romantic.”
Mikel gave a staccato laugh. “Yeah, because I’m known for my romance.”
“No, you’re known for being a sexy asshole who happens to be good in bed. Where did you get the wolf?” Jager leaned forward to get a better look.
Mikel instinctively shifted his burden away from the other man. He liked Jager, but he didn’t like Jager close to his injured wolf.
He focused on the front door, a smile crossed his face when the lock clicked and the door swung open to his silent command. His lock picking skills were an iffy talent. Even after all his years, he wasn’t always consistent in getting stubborn locks to give.
“I found him in a stinky alley off Jefferson Street running away from mutants. I killed the one hunting him, and the others ran off.”
“What were they doing there?” Jager lost his easy, teasing air. “There haven’t been any reports of mutants in that location.” He whipped out his cell phone, started dialing, and within seconds was talking. “It’s Jager, I need to talk to Silver.” There was a pause. “Then get me Anthony.” Another pause. “Then who’s in charge? Fine, I’ll talk to Dillon.”
“Why don’t you call your own alpha?” Mikel found it odd Jager didn’t contact his own leader before contacting another alpha.
Jager’s lips curled. “He’s more interested in his next full moon hunt. The last time I mentioned mutants, he said Silver could take care of them since he had the biggest local pack. Plus he’s got Anthony to back him up. I don’t think my alpha would lift a finger if he saw a mutant gnawing on one of his pack mate’s bones.”
The disdain in Jager’s voice made Mikel frown. The alpha must really be a piece of work to upset Jager. The gorgeous wolf worked as a model and was known for his easygoing temperament. Mikel had a feeling Silver would soon add another wolf to his pack. He looked down at Inno. Maybe two.
Jager informed someone in the Moon pack about the mutants location as Mikel carefully laid Inno on the couch. Turning on the lamp, Mikel got his first clear look of the werekin. Thick, reddish-blond hair covered Inno’s head like an angelic cap, and blood soaked the entire front of the werekin’s jacket, a bright splash against the muddy gray material. Mikel unzipped the lightweight material and started to peel it off Inno’s body.
The shifter’s eyes snapped open. “No. I need that. I have to get it to Silver.” Inno whispered, urgently gripping his clothing.
Although he could barely open his eyes, he clutched his jacket with surprising strength.
Jager came forward. “Hey, there.” He used a soothing tone when speaking to Inno as if sensing the man’s fragility.
Mikel whipped around, blocking the other werekin from approaching the injured man. “Back off!” he snarled.
Jager held his hands up in a pacifying gesture. “I’m only trying to help.”
“Do it farther away.” Even though he considered Jager a friend, he couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else touching Inno.
“Do you think you can handle the blood?”
Jager’s eyes focused on Mikel’s mouth as his fangs pricked his bottom lip. The urge to attack Jager rode Mikel hard, but he resisted. Not only did he like the other werekin, he might need the other man to help fix the fragile shifter on the couch. The panic fluttering through Mikel’s chest had nothing to do with a need to taste the shifter’s blood and everything to do with the worry Inno’s time would soon run out.
“Yes, I can handle it,” Mikel said.
Inno’s eyes drifted closed again, and Mikel worried they might not ever re-open. “We need to get your clothes off to heal you.”
“Can’t lose the vial,” Inno whispered, still not opening his eyes.
“Okay.” Not certain what Inno was talking about, nevertheless Mikel searched through the blood-soaked material and found the glass vial. He set it carefully on the coffee table beside a piece of paper he found tucked in beside it. “Your vial is safe. Now let’s get you naked.”
A faint smile twitched Inno’s mouth. “I bet you say that to all the guys.”
“Yep, all the time. You are just one of the many bloody and battered shifters in line for my couch. Help me get you naked, and I can heal you up and usher in the next one.” Mikel tried to keep up the light banter as he assisted the shifter out of his clothing, but his nerves rattled together when he saw the copious amount of blood staining the jacket.
Inno groaned as Mikel gently lifted him up to slide the garment out from under him.
“Sorry babe. I’m trying to be careful,” Mikel said.
The air of disbelief made Mikel smile despite the seriousness of the wolf’s injuries. “Sweetie?”
Inno’s soft snort changed to a gasp when the vampire pulled apart his shirt, popping the buttons off instead of bothering to unfasten them. Blood gushed from the open wound that covered most of his stomach and a good section of Inno’s ribs. Someone had tried to disembowel the small werekin.
For the first time in his life, Mikel almost threw up. Spots danced before his eyes as he opened his senses to the wolf shifter. Blocking his surprising distress over an injured stranger, Mikel placed his hands on either side of the wound and pushed in his power, sucking in his breath as the Inno’s excruciating pain rebounded back to him. He used more power. Electricity crackled as he pumped his magical ability to heal into the other man’s wound.
Inno gasped beneath his hands, the wound closing slower than Mikel liked.
Taking a long, deep breath, Mikel compelled a third wave of power into the wound.
“Pull back, Mikel. You’re going to burn yourself out.” Jager’s panicked voice threatened to break Mikel’s concentration.
The werekin’s fear and concern, while heartwarming, didn’t help the situation.
“No! I can’t leave him suffering.” Mikel had to save Inno. He knew the werekin suffered a mortal wound. The younger man’s terror clawed at him, leaving mental wounds almost as awful as the physical ones covering Inno’s stomach. Closing his eyes, he dredged up more energy than he’d ever used before.
Inno must live! The thought became paramount in his mind. If asked, he couldn’t explain why the compulsion was so strong to save this one wolf, but he knew nothing would stop him.
“Mikel, pull back. You’re going to kill yourself,” Jager yelled.
Jager’s voice pulled Mikel from his daze. “He can shift and finish healing now.”
With a gasp, Mikel opened his eyes. He hadn’t realized he’d closed them. The gaping wound had sealed completely. Barely a scratch remained on the werekin’s stomach. Mikel checked Inno’s face and let out a sigh when he saw the shifter’s eyes were clear and free of pain. Mikel closed his in relief.
“Thank you.” For the first time, Inno’s voice—a clear alto—lacked the cloud of pain.
Mikel opened his eyes to meet the werekin’s gaze. “You’re welcome.” He’d never been so grateful to see a person healed in his life. He’d also never expended so much energy to heal someone before.
“You should’ve let him shift,” Jager scolded.
“Jager, see yourself out. Inno and I are going to rest,” Mikel said, waving a hand toward the door.
“If you’d like, I could take him home with me. I’ve got the room, and he might be more comfortable with another wolf. I’d take really good care of him.” A wicked smile flashed across Jager’s handsome features.
Mikel’s fangs descended at the thought. “Out!” he snapped.
He ignored the unnecessary smirk and the taunting laugh as the werekin spun on his heel then walked away.
“See you later, boys!” Whistling, Jager sauntered out of the townhouse.
Mikel didn’t bother responding to the annoying shifter or watching him leave. His entire focus centered on the werekin on his couch. The door closed with a soft snick.
“Come on. I only have one bed, but I’m willing to share it. I promise not to molest you in your sleep. We can go see the Moon pack tomorrow night.” He’d never been so tired in his life. “I’m too exhausted to jump you anyway.”
All of the energy he’d fed into Inno had drained him of anything more than the ability to make it to his bed, and even that would take much more effort than usual.
Inno shook his head. “I promised I’d take the vial to Silver. I have to go to the Moon pack now!”
Mikel wanted to ask who Inno had made that promise to, but the werekin could barely keep his eyes open.
Inno wouldn’t be going anywhere if Mikel had anything to say about it. “It can wait. Silver is out of town anyway. You’ll have to give it to Dillon or Thomas. Rest for the night, and we can go see them tomorrow evening.”
He didn’t know what was in the vial but the little shifter was tied up in knots over it. Conflicting emotions crossed Inno’s face. The man’s firm chin warned Mikel he’d have to be more persuasive.
Without remorse Mikel pressed some of his magic into the werekin. “Tomorrow.”
Inno’s eyes drooped. “Promise?” His tone sounded like a little kid trying to get an adult to keep their word, wary and yet full of hope.
“I promise,” Mikel said. With another push of magic, the werekin closed his eyes and fell asleep where he lay on the couch.
Mikel grabbed a washcloth and a bowl of water from the bathroom. With careful dabs, he cleaned Inno the best he could. He dumped out the water and hung up the cloth to dry before returning to the injured werewolf.
Although he could leave Inno on the couch for the night, he chose not to. He wanted the smaller man snuggled next to him. Mikel scooped Inno up then carried the shifter into the bedroom. With careful hands, he stripped off the remainder of Inno’s clothes then laid him on the bed. To help resist temptation, he put a pair of clean boxers on the wolf. They’d been a present, and Mikel had never worn them. He figured an injured shifter wouldn’t care about borrowing another person’s clothes. After removing his own outfit and dropping it in the hamper, he slid in beside the werekin.
It struck him that he’d never really slept with another person before. Hopping in and out of beds and rushing home before the sun rose didn’t leave a lot of time to cuddle. However, in his own home, he had plenty of opportunity to be near another person.
He’d never taken advantage of that until now.
Mikel scooted closer to the still form and snuggled into the heat. By nature, vampires were cool-blooded. To lie beside the overly hot body of a shifter warmed him in and out. Alesandro had picked a human? He didn’t understand his friend’s thinking. Werekin were the way to go.
Snuggled up next to his own personal furnace, Mikel fell asleep.