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On the Road: Sometimes family makes decisions for youand you just have to roll with the punches.

Richard Ponders joins the Tamang wolf pack when his younger brother, Crain, mates with one of its members. When the pack gathers to celebrate passing the alpha mantle from father to son, naming Abbott Tamang as alpha, Richard discovers his mate is part of the Tamang pack, tooand its the new alpha. Sensing unrest in the pack, Richard decides allowing the pack to settle is the safest thing for everyone. Unfortunately, the choice is taken from him when Crain asks him to come over and discuss more changes in pack dynamics, bringing him face to face with Abbott. Now, not only will Richard be fighting for a position in his new pack, he needs to fight for the trust of a man hes been hiding from for weeks. Can he and Abbott come to terms? Or will the unrest in their pack tear them apart?

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the authors rights is appreciated. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Unwrapping the Alphas Mate Copyright 2013 Charlie Richards ISBN: 978-1-77111-776-0 Cover art by Angela Waters All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. Published by eXtasy Books Look for us online at: www.extasybooks.com

Unwrapping the Alphas Mate Kontras Menagerie: Book Fifteen By Charlie Richards

Dedication
For those who help out, even when they dont have to. Bless you all!

Chapter One

bbott leaned against the side board and, lifting his tumbler, watched the amber liquid swirl around and around as he rotated the glass. So, I need you there, brother. I know you dont want any of the positions, which makes me value your opinions all the more. You never even have to ask, Abbott, Aaric stated, slapping him on the shoulder and grinning. I know you and dad have been putting it off for decades, so Im happy he finally stepped down. Thisll be good for you and Diego. Chuckling softly, Abbott nodded. Thanks. Abbott knew he hadnt actually needed to ask, but after being passed the alpha mantle just over a month before, Aaric had begun to pull away. Abbott didnt like it and couldnt figure out what hed done to cause such a reaction. At four years Aarics senior, Abbott had always been close to his brother. You know I still want you as my lead tracker, and if youd wanted an enforcer position Id have given it to you in a heartbeat, Abbott stated 1

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before swallowing most of the liquid in his glass. The scotch burned just right as it slid down his throat. Aarics brows shot up, surprise evident in his scent. I dont want to be an enforcer. Abbott sighed. I didnt think you did. Youve just been a bit withdrawn lately, ever since you mated. Grimacing at how whiney he sounded, Abbott shook his head. Sorry. That came out wrong. I know you need time alone to bond with your mate. At that, Aaric exchanged looks with said mate, Crain Ponders. The much more submissive wolf actually ducked his head and curled tighter against Aaric. Damn it, I didnt mean to make Crain feel bad. The small wolf was just too cute to look that dejected. I apologize, Aaric, Crain. This is about me and my stress over change, he assured, turning back to the bar and refilling his tumbler. He rubbed his fingers between his brows, trying to ease the frustration headache he could feel building behind his eyes. His father, Diego, had been Alpha for over a century and a halftaking over when their grandfather, Gorn, had stepped down. Now, Diego wanted to do the same. His father had actually petitioned Kontra Belikova grizzly bear shifter who acted as Alpha of a nomadic biker gangrequesting to travel 2

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with them. It was the same group Abbotts own son, Vail, had been traveling with for over two decades. The group planned to leave right after the holidays. In the meantime, Abbott needed to hold a pack challenge. He needed to assign the roles of beta, as well as two enforcer positions, to other members in the pack. Having been best friends with his brother, Abbott only had two other close friends, Darrell and Pritchard. Abbott had invited Darrell to participate in the pack challenge. The wolf shifter was a large, fairly aggressive wolf and loyal as hell. Abbott hoped and prayed to the Gods that his buddy ended up an enforcer, not really thinking he had the aggressiveness to be beta. Shame, really. Pritchard, on the other hand, was not in the least bit aggressive but had one of the best noses. When hed told his friend he thought it best he sat it out, Pritchard had laughed in his face, winked, and said, Good call, Alpha. Abbott had chuckled at that. Only his best friends could get away with talking to him like that, which was why he normally did those kinds of conversations in private. As he swallowed down a mouthful of scotch, Abbott heard Crain whisper something to his brother, but he didnt bother to listen. If Crain was 3

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whispering, it was private, and Abbott tried to respect that. Instead, he thought about his biggest concernDelorian Saverman. The wolf shifter was both aggressive and mean. Abbott wished he could have removed Delorians name from the invitation list, but he couldnt. It would have been a recipe for alpha challenge. In fact, Abbott mused, Delorian still might do just that. Abbott knew he could take the asshole wolf shifter, but it was the principle of the thing. He hated division among the pack and he just knew that if Delorian challenged him, hed have at least four or five backers. He could name at least that many that werent happy about an unmated, bisexual alpha. Refusing to hide his attraction to his own sex had been a tough decision, but his father had understood. Especially after Emily passed. He smiled as he thought of his late wife. Shed have been the first to tell him to go for what he wanted. In fact, theyd shared a male on more than one occasion before theyd gotten married and completed the mate bondnot that anyone in the packother than his brotherknew about that little tidbit. Tell him! 4

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Crains hissed words drew Abbott out of his thoughts. He turned and lifted a brow as he peered at the men. Crains face appeared flushed, maybe from frustration. Aarics brows were creasedperhaps drawn down in thoughtas he rubbed the back of his neck, a sign of his unease. What? Abbott couldnt wait to hear it. Itd been years since hed scented Aaric this worked up. In fact, decadesnot since his brother had struggled to get over walking away from Melissa, a possible mate. Aarics jaw clenched for a second, then surprisinglyhe looked Abbott directly in the eye and stated, You need to invite Crains brother, Richard, to your challenge. I think, he scratched his five oclock shadow and once more glanced toward Crainwho noddedthen finished, you might be surprised. Richard Ponders? Abbott queried. He frowned, trying to put a face to the name. Diego had been the one to meet with Crain and Richard when theyd petitioned to stay due to Crains bond with Aaric. He couldnt remember Richard at the last full moon run three weeks ago or even at the announcement that he was taking over as alpha over five weeks before. Have I met him? Um, no, Crain mumbled. Hes, uh, hes been adjusting. 5

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Adjusting? Abbott wasnt certain he wanted someone who had a hard time with change being one of his inner circleespecially since he didnt know him. It made him too hard to predict. To Abbotts surprise, Aaric rose and crossed to him. He placed a hand on his arm and urged, Trust me. Never one to question his brother, Abbott immediately nodded. Of course. Consider him invited. Cocking his head, he asked, Can I at least meet him first? Aaric turned toward his mate, lifting a brow. Crain nodded once, punched a couple numbers on his phone, then held it to his ear. After a couple seconds, someone must have answered, for Crain said, Hey, Richard. You busy? Never too busy for my baby bro, Richard stated. Abbott was just able to make out the mans words with his sensitive hearing. Whats up? Crain licked his lips and met Aarics gaze, then said, Ive just learned of some changes in pack dynamics that youll definitely be interested in. I need you to come over, so I can talk to you about them. You cant tell me over the phone? Richard asked, sounding surprised. I-I think itd be better if I could tell you face to face. 6

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Damn, bro, must be serious. Ill be there in ten. Crain slowly lowered his arm, resting the phone on his leg. The submissive wolf looked Abbott in the eye just long enough for him to feel his own wolf rise at the challenge. Abbott beat it back. He did narrow his eyes a bit as he slowly stalked across the room. For some reason, Abbott just knew these men had kept something from himalthough, hell if he knew what. Stopping in front of Crain, Abbott crossed his arms over his chest and asked gruffly, How come I feel like something important is going on? Even my wolf is on edge. Not something hed admit to most, but this was his brother and his mate. If he couldnt admit his unease to family, who the hell could he trust? Aaric settled back next to Crain, pushing a tumbler of dark liquid into his mans hands. Crain took it, smiling wanly at him, then sipped, only to grimace. The shifter took a second sip. Finally, Crain licked his lips and stated softly, I need to tell you about my past before Richard arrives. It might explain why he did what he did. Abbott felt confusion flood him, but willing to listen before passing judgmenton what he had no clue, yethe settled into a chair and motioned for Crain to go on. 7

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My old alpha, Preston, was a controlling man. Ruled with an iron fist, Crain explained. If you didnt remain in step, you were punished. If you didnt ask how high when he said jump, you were punished. Everyone walked on eggshells around him, cow-towing and on edge. Crain took another sip, then frowned into his drink. The only thing Preston respected was strengthand since he was a pretty powerful wolf, there wasnt anyone who could challenge him. He fell silent for several seconds. His lips pressed together. Lifting his gaze, Crain actually met his gaze and clearly stated, Richard is a damn strong wolf. He won Prestons favor. He was an enforcer by the age of forty. Some people didnt like that, so they used the fact that Im gay to get me kicked out of the pack. Were the only family each other has, and were pretty loyal. Richard followed when I had to leave, trying to protect me. Abbott tried to make sense of Crains words, wondering why he needed to know this. Rubbing his temple with two fingers, he slowly asked, Are you telling me Richard is a young alpha, hovering on the outskirts of my pack? No! Crain almost shouted. He jumped to his feet and actually started pacing the floor. No, Richard isnt an alpha. Hes Crain growled low in his throat and shoved a hand through his hair. 8

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Swinging back around, the wolf stated, He doesnt want to lead. He just hates taking orders from those weaker than him. Frowning, his jaw clenching at this sudden, odd development, Abbott snapped, Then, how come he hasnt declared himself? Once again, Aaric and Crain exchanged a glance. This time, Abbott growled, tired of their little mate secrets. What the fuck, Aaric? he snarled, zeroing in on his brother. Please, Crain quickly cut in. Please, wait. After everything Richard did for me, I couldnt betray his trust. Please, just wait until he arrives. Crain rung his hands as he glanced between Abbott and the door. Youll understand when he arrives. Abbott knew he wasnt known as the most patient mansomething he was working on. Clearing his throat, he downed the last swallow of his beverage and set the tumbler aside. Very well. He frowned at his brother. Dont make me eat my words about my faith in you. To that, Aaric chuckled low in his throat. Oh, you wont. Youll like this surprise. Crain snarled at Aaric, whapping his chest with the back of his hand.

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Abbotts brows shot up. Hed never before seen Crain behave aggressively. What the hell is going on? Before he could question more, the doorbell chimed. At the same time, someone knocked loudlypounded reallyon the front door. Evidently, Richard had arrived. Crain leaped to his feet and scampered across to the front. He yanked open the door, mumbling, Sorry for the crash landing. Abbott frowned at the odd comment. He watched Crains brother enter the roomand swallowed hard at the sexy hunk of wolf shifter naked wolf shifter, indicating Richard had come in shifted formthat appeared in the hallway. Tall maybe six foot twobroad-shouldered with thick muscles and well-defined arms and pecsgood Gods, is that an eight-pack?even most shifters didnt have that! Richard had thick strawberry-blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a body any wolf shifter would be proud of. However, it was the scent of the man that truly sent Abbott reeling. Heavy, masculine, and spicy flavors burst across Abbotts senses. Even as Richard took the sweats Crain handed him, his head snapped around and he pinned his gaze on Abbott. 10

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Abbotts eyes widened as he peered into shocked, yet knowing, blue eyes. Then, Richard broke the stare and aimed a betrayed glare at Crain. The look told Abbott a couple things at once. Richard Ponders was his mateand Richard had known.

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Chapter Two

ichard wanted to howl in excitement, snarl at his brother, and present to Abbott, all at the same time. Hed been keeping his distance from his alpha for over four weeks nowever since hed scented Abbott in his brothers home and realized who and what he was to himand his nerves were stretched taught. Now, because of Crains urgent call, Richard stood face to face with the manfinally. Swallowing hard, Richard quickly shoved his legs into the sweats and yanked them up to cover his growing arousal. Not that he could hide the scent, but still As soon as he was covered, he lowered his gaze and presented his neck to the alpha wolf, and nearly croaked, Alpha. Abbott growled low in his throat, the sound going straight to Richards balls. His cock filled as he watched his sexy alpha stalk slowly toward him, the mans deep hazel eyes blazing. 12

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You call me alpha, Abbott rumbled. Yet, you know Im your mate. How did you know? Weve never met. Richard slowly lifted his gaze and peered at him beneath his lashes. We havent, but youre here often enough. I scented youweeks ago, he admitted. The fire sparking in Abbotts eyes warned Richard to watch his step. Deciding he needed to be completely honest at this point, he added, Youd just been passed the alpha mantel by your father. Since Crain and I had just joined, we remained on the outskirts. Meeting his alphas gaze carefullyhell, the guy might be his mate, but the conflicting scents rolling off the man told of his inner turmoil Richard struggled to explain his reasoning. Seeing you from a distance, I definitely felt attracted to you. It wasnt until I watched your brother hug you, then return to me and Crain, and I caught your scent, that I realized why. Youre my mate. And you decided to hide this from mewhy? Abbotts tone held clear warning. Part of Richard wanted to pounce on the man, wrestle with him, challenge the other shifters wolf just for the thrill. He also knew getting wrestled to the ground by this man would be fantastic foreplay. 13

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Later, he promised his randy dick and excited wolf. Swallowing the saliva pooling in his mouth, Richard softly replied, There is unrest in your pack. A few people arent happy with Diego handing you the reins, thinking an alpha challenge was in order, instead. I didnt want the bigots Ive overheard to add to the problems you might possibly be facing. Protecting me? Abbot murmured, his brows lifting. Is that your intention? Yes. It was a simple thing to admit, yet, he knew his alpha deserved more. I was an enforcer in my birth pack for several years, Richard explained, trying to control his desires. Abbott had stopped directly in front of him. With the wall at Richards back, he began to feel trapped, cornered, and he struggled to control his need to move closer to Abbottor step sideways from the manor even push into himjust to alleviate that sensation. Hed never liked being cornered. All those options could cause trouble. Needing to get some space before he did something stupid, he blurted the first thing that came to mind that might appease his alpha. Im already used to controlling unrest. When you add that to you being my mate, I thought only to lower the possibility of problems for you. That meant 14

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waiting until your people settled before revealing myself. Unfortunately, Abbott didnt back off at his words. He stepped closer, pressing his big body against Richard. Sucking in a harsh breath, Richards mind reeled as his mans scent flooded his senses. His cock thickened in his borrowed sweats. Abbott pinned him to the wall, nudging him with his groin. Richard hissed at the contact, his prick oozing. Spikes of pleasure tingled in his balls and danced up his spine. Itd been so long since hed been intimate with another. Itd been so hard keeping his wolf in check. Now, breathing in the other males earthy and wild scent, he feared hed come without even a touch. Abbott, while only an inch taller than Richard, seemed to tower over him as he leaned in and settled his weight against him. His eyes gleaming, Abbotts gaze roved over Richards face, his focus lingering on his mouth for several long seconds. Richard fought the urge to lick his lips. Finally, the alpha pinned him in place with a solemn stare. Even before we meet, you hide things from me, Richard, he rumbled, his displeasure clear. You should have come to me, expressed your concerns. Then, we could deal with the interlopers together, as mates should, by standing at each others sides. 15

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Said like that, Richard could certainly see Abbotts point of view. Shit. Before he could think up how to fix his mistake, Abbott chuckled low in his throat. The move vibrated Richards chest, sliding the fabric of Abbotts t-shirt over his skin. Richards nipples beaded. The skin on his arms goose-bumped. When Abbott traced his thin, dry lips up his neck, Richard shivered and tilted his neck, exposing his throat. His alpha nipped his tendon lightly, then crooned, You made a mistake, Richard. It wasnt a question, but his name spoken by Abbott in that deep croon, nearly fried his brain. Yesss, he hissed. And you wont do that again, will you, mate? Abbotts sultry tone caused Richard to want to agree to anything the man said. No, mate, he murmured. Good, Abbott whispered, nuzzling his neck, licking and nipping. Were a team, arent we? T-Team. Richard panted, barely holding in his moan as he submitted to this man. Losing some control, he bucked his hips, searching for friction on his aching shaft. Abbott didnt disappoint. He slid his jean-clad leg between Richards thighs, pushing up against his balls. Fuck, he groaned. 16

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Abbott chuckled roughly. Later, lover. Gonna mark you now. Ill ride your ass into submission later, he growled. Hed never admit it, but Richard whimpered. Rumbling low in his throat, Abbott wrapped his jaws around the point where Richards shoulder met his neck. Richard shivered at the pressure. He rested his head against the wall, giving Abbott more access. His breath came in harsh pants, anticipation making his blood hum and his cock twitch. Abbott, wait. The alphas growl registered more to Richard than Aarics warning cry. It was Crains words that really cut through Richards lust-induced haze. Alpha, please, Crain pleaded. You cant mark him before the challenge. Wait, what? Challenge? Abbott lifted his head and snarled. He glared at Aaric and Crain where the two men stood to their left. It gave Richard just enough time to engage his brainand his mouthand ask, Wait! Challenge? Youre being challenged? He really thought hed been doing a good job keeping an eye on the outer crowd. Hed even had some asshat named Delorian approach him in a bar, wanting to know more about him and his opinion of the new alpha. Itd been tough, and 17

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hed had to keep his answers short to avoid lying and smelling of deceit, but hed been fairly certain hed managed it. Especially when Delorian had smelled smug as he patted Richard on the shoulder when he left, promising to be in touch. Did Delorian challenge you? That caused Abbotts gaze to refocus on him. No. No one has challenged me, and Delorian would be a fool to try. His eyes narrowed. Why do you ask? Do you know him? Ive met him a handful of times, Richard admitted. Ive met a number of the dissenters in this pack. Refusing to seek you out got around, so they thought Id be interested in, well He grimaced. They misunderstood why I was avoiding you. Really? Abbott glared. And when were you planning on telling me any of this? Richard blinked, struggling with the sudden change in his mate. Once I found out their plans, he stated. Frustration rolled off Abbott, his scent turning slightly bitter. His jaw clenched as he stared at some point just over Richards shoulder. Wanting, needing, to soothe his man, Richard lifted one hand and settled it on Abbotts shoulder. Then, he slid it up his neck to his jaw. Even as Abbott focused on him, Richard gently 18

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traced his thumb over the top of his alphas firm lips. I didnt want to point fingers if they were all talk and no action, Richard told him. Im new in this pack, so had no way of knowing if Delorian really was a trouble maker, or just a wolf who liked to blab his mouth. Abbott held his gaze for several long seconds, searching his face even as his nostrils flared, telling Richard that he inhaled his scent. That his mate thought he might intentionally lie to him hurt, but considering the last twenty minutes, he understood the reaction. Okay, I understand your reasoning. Relief filled himuntil he remembered the comment about challenges. So, if he didnt challenge you, who did? No one challenged me, Abbott explained. Im holding a pack rank challenge. I plan to invite about ten members. Theres only twentythree members in the pack, so thats about half, he admitted. A rank challenge, Richard murmured, his mind awash with hope. He hadnt thought hed get the opportunity to gain a pack rank forwell, decades. Just enforcers? Or others as well? Actually, I need a beta as well as hopefully two enforcers, Abbott told him. While my fathers inner circle has been working with me, 19

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theyd prefer to move on with their lives, as well. Theyre not getting any younger, and I havent earned their respect as my father had. He lifted a brow, even as his lips thinned. I understand their reasoning and appreciate their honesty. Richard nodded slowly, knowing hed need to do some research on the wolves in the pack, their strengths and weaknesses. He hoped Abbott, Crain, and in-laws would help. Surely they wouldnt begrudge him now that they knew what the hell was going on. He actually kinda liked Adriana, his brothers sister-in-lawand his, too now, he guessed, since she was Aaric and Abbotts sister. Hed hung out with her a couple of times at Aaric and Crains, and the strong female wolf gave him shit, which he returned whole-heartedly. Can I get a list of who else will be at the challenge? Richard asked. Why? Richards brows shot up at Abbotts apparent confusion. He cocked his head, frowning. Because I need to know who Im going to be facing. Itd be nice to know at least a few things about them and their wolves beforehand, he pointed out. Youre not entering the challenge, Abbott stated flatly. Releasing the man, Richard placed his hands on Abbotts chest and shoved. It gained him maybe 20

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two feet of space as his alpha backed several steps. Richard glared, first at Abbott, then at Crain and Aaric. Then, what the fuck am I doing here? Abbott snarled and grabbed Richards upper arm. What the hell do you mean? Youre my mate. That makes you the alpha-mate. You dont need to fight for position! Richard returned his attention back to Abbott. He licked his lips, taking in his alphas fierce expression and blazing eyes. It was sexy as hell, as was the dominant curl to his lips. It took a hell of a lot to keep his tone level as he asked, And what rank does the alpha-mate hold in your pack? His alpha actually looked confused, his brows creasing as he replied, He doesnt. Hes the alpha-mate. Blowing out a breath, Richard shook his head. I dont think me or my wolf would handle that very well. Were too dominant. He shook his head again. If the betas wolf wasnt as strong as mine, or the enforcers, how do you think that would work? Id never follow their commands, which would create all kinds of discord in the pack. You could try, Abbott pointed out. Richard snorted. And you could try taking orders from me. At Abbotts shocked expression, Richard placed his hand on his mans shoulder 21

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and squeezed. Look, were all wired with our wolf. You of all people understand that. Shit, Abbott snarled. I dont want to see my people trying to rip out your throat. His brows shot up. Arent these to submission? You know what I mean, he snapped. Then, youd better back away from him, Aaric advised. Both he and Abbott turned to stare incredulously at the other wolf. Why? they both asked nearly in unison. Crain reached out and grabbed Richards fingers, gently tugging Richard away just as Aaric did the same by resting an arm around Abbotts shoulder. For several seconds, neither man moved, before each allowed their brother to draw them away. Richard glanced over his shoulder at Abbott, seeing the man looking at him, too. It took a hell of a lot of focus, but he managed to turn his attention to his brother. What? he asked gruffly. His brother grimaced. Richard sighed. Sorry. You call me over here when you know my mate is here, one Ive been avoiding, so Im already on edge. Now you pull me away from him? He frowned. What gives? He cant claim you. He cant even have his scent on you, Crain whispered. 22

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Blanching, Richards jaw sagged. That was the last thing hed thought his little brother would say. Why would you try to keep me from my mate now? Crain cupped Richards jaw in both hands and stared deep into his eyes. No other but his brother could get away with such a move. Richard would do anything for his brother, but give up his mate? He didnt understand. Tell me. If another wolf scented their alpha on you, would they fight you? Richard thought about his brothers words and realization sank in. Awe, shit.

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Chapter Three

bbott prowled around the perimeter of the clearing. He struggled to maintain a pleasant faade, but from the way a few of the more submissive wolves instantly bowed their heads to him when he passed, he knew he didnt quite pull it off. Pausing, he discreetly sucked in several deep breaths under the guise of sweeping his gaze over the assembling pack. Ten days. Itd been ten fucking days since hed seen his mate. Getting his hands on the sexy wolf seemed to be the only thing hed been able to dwell on these past few days. His body vibrated with anticipation. Soon. Soon I will have my mate. After decades of being alone, bouncing from one night stand to one night stand, hed have a steady lover, a partner. Gods, hed missed that so much. Thinking of his late wife, he smiled faintly. Shed have been happy for him. Getting over her 24

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had been difficult. Hed nearly lost his mind to grief. Only caring for his newborn son, Vail, and the love and support of his family had gotten him through. Emily might not have been his fated mate, but hed bonded with her just the same. Abbott had seen several shifters lose their minds after losing their bonded spouse. He felt blessed Fate had given him the fortitude to move on. I havent seen you smile like that in a while. Its good to see. Abbott peered at his sister. Adriana grinned at him in return. He nodded. Yeah, well, Im glad this will finally be finished. Itll be nice to have things settled. Adriana nodded, resting her hands on her hips as she surveyed the group. I look forward to showing these wolves a thing or two. YouWhat? Abbotts brows lifted in surprise at her words. What are you talking about? Lifting a brow, Adriana stared imperiously at himwhich was actually pretty impressive since she stood almost six inches shorter than Abbotts six foot three height. I know youre not thinking Im going to sit this challenge out, she stated. Abbott realized hed just somehow entered a verbal field of landmines. He struggled to figure out the right words to tell his sister he didnt want to see her get her ass kicked. 25

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Evidently, Adriana knew exactly his thoughts. She lifted a finger and pointed at him. Oh, no you dont. I have every right to attempt to earn a position. My wolf is far more dominant than half those people youve invited and you know it. At least she kept her voice down as she hissed the words. Grimacing, Abbott bent close and murmured, Youre only five nine, Adriana. I know thats tall for a woman, but most of the shifters fighting are six foot or more. What about Darlene? Rolling his eyes, Abbott pointed out, Darlene might be five seven, but shes almost as wide as she is tall. Shes built like a damn brick houseonly the female version. Her wolf is huge. I can take her easy, Adriana insisted. Dont make me go behind your back. Abbott sucked in a harsh breath, only to catch a whiff of Richards scent. He glanced around and saw his mate appear through the trees with Aaric and Crain. His mind instantly fixated on what he wanted to do to the wolf once this whole challenge was completed. Absently, he stated, Fine. Do what you wish. His sisters surprise came through in her scent. She followed his gaze. Whos caught your 26

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attention? Is it appropriate to govern over this with a hard-on? Nearly choking, Abbott snapped his gaze to Adriana. What the fuck? She shrugged one slender shoulder. Just curious. There arent too many women here, so who is he? Abbott shook his head. Youre far too observant for your own good. Youll know after the challenge. Oh, Richard then, Adriana stated, peering at him. Yeah. I can see how youd think hes hot, in a silent broody type of way. How the hell Oh, please. Adriana waved a hand negligently. Hes the only new wolf in our pack thats unmated. Shaking his head, Abbott growled, Off with you. Its time to begin. He took a step away from her, then paused and turned back to stare into her mirth-filled brown eyes. And, Adriana, please dont mention that to anyone until Ive announced it. For a second, Adriana looked confused, then her eyes widened just a bit. Your? She didnt need to finish. Abbott knew what she asked. He nodded curtly. Adriana squealed, dancing a jig in place for several seconds, before giving him a swift hug. 27

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Then, she was gone, hustling off to join the other shifters getting ready to fightwhich essentially meant stripping down to sweatsor in her case, a halter top and biker shorts. Something easy to remove so they could shift. Putting Richard out of his mind took some effort, but Abbott did it. He strode several steps forward and lifted his hands. Good afternoon, everyone. I know you all want to get this done so you can get back into warmer clothes, he stated, garnering chuckles from several. Yeah, doing a challenge in December sucked, but at least the days weather had turned out to be nice. This challenge is triple elimination. If you win your first two fights, you wont need to fight a third. If you lose your first two fights, the same. He pointed to Aaric. My brother has pen and paper. Everyone write your name on a slip and put it in the jar held by his mate, Crain. Once done, reassemble over there, he ordered, pointing to the area across from him. He waited patiently for each person to comply. He caught Richards gaze for a second, just long enough to see heat flare in the other shifters eyes. He knew an answering desire flashed across his own countenance before he could mask it. Then, Richard broke contact. Abbott watched him scribble his name on a paper and shove it into the jar Crain held. Richard 28

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received an encouraging smile and a pat on his back from his brother, then he turned away and took up what appeared to be a parade rest stance near the others preparing to fight. Huh, I didnt think hed been in the military at any time. Of course, Abbott realized he knew very little about his mate, but he sure looked forward to finding out everything. Soon, everyone was ready, and the fights began. There ended up being a dozen shifters vying for the three positions. Abbott watched as the numbers were quickly cut in half. To his surprise, Adriana fought very well. Moving fluidly, her wolf showed tenacity and agility that Abbott hadnt been aware she possessed. It didnt surprise Abbott that Delorian made it into the top six. He felt grateful Darrell made it, too. Along with those two, Adriana, Richard, Nedrika dark gray wolf who was good friends with Delorianand Jimmya black wolf whod just retired from the military. Abbott hadnt had much contact with him since his return six months before, but his name had been recommended by his father. Abbott had been a bit surprised, and disappointed, by his mates performance. Not that hed ever admit that to Richard. The shifter had barely won his two fights, almost losing to 29

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Darlene, before taking down Berniean eighty plus year old red shifter whod been with their pack since birthin his second fight. Now, they started the next round. Each shifter fought each other wolf. Three losses and they were gone. If they won all five, theyd be beta. Four wins earned the head enforcer position and three wins won the second enforcer position. It wasnt the best system, but Abbott planned to add a caveata two week trial to make certain they all meshed. The first pair to spar was Jimmy and Darrell. Abbott watched as the pair of black wolves circled each other. Jimmy was a bit smaller than Darrell, but when they moved, lunging back and forth, swiping paws, snapping at legs, Abbott quickly noted how Jimmy easily out-maneuvered Darrell. After only two minutes, Jimmy forced Darrell to submit. The next pair to face off was Richard and Adriana. For almost a minute, Richard and Adriana circled each other. Suddenly, Richard pinned his ears and growled low in his throat, his warning clear. Adriana froze, and in a surprising move, lowered to the ground and showed her belly. Richard stalked forward then wrapped his jaws around her throat. The bout was over. 30

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Abbott scowled, trying to figure out if his sister had done that because she knew Richard was his mate or because she didnt think she could win. Seconds later, he got his answer. A naked Richard helped an equally nude Adriana to her feet. Laughing, she patted him on the shoulder. Damn, you got a mean growl, Richard. My wolf demanded we show our belly in the worst way. I just couldnt help it! Richard nodded. I appreciate the opportunity to save my strength, he replied, smirking. Seeing his mate nude, and touching another even his sisterAbbott nearly lost control. Even as his cock hardened at the view, he struggled to keep from stalking across the area and snatching him away from her. Fortunately, Aaric calling the last two into the center to fightDelorian and Nedrikrefocused Abbotts attention where it needed to be. Within minutes, Delorian forced his buddy to submit. The next round went to Richard and Darrell. Abbott watched, impressed, as Richard repeatedly slipped past Darrells guard. At one point, Darrell managed to get his jaws around Richards strawberry blond wolfs neck, but the smaller animal twisted and rolled, slipping from his grip. In the next moment, he used Darrells now awkward position to grab his throat from beneath. 31

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He tightened his jaws. Darrell froze, surprise shining in his eyes. He remained in place for thirty seconds, indicating his submission. Huh, had Richard been holding back on purpose? Maybe he considered the other fights a warm up? Abbott wasnt certain as he turned his attention to the next pair. Jimmy successfully took Nedrik down, making it look easy to wrestle the nearly same size wolf to the ground. Next up, Adriana faced off against Delorian. Abbott watched, just holding back a grimace, as Delorian raked his claws down Adrianas side when she didnt move fast enough. She made a valiant effort, but Delorian was just as fast as her, more aggressive, and managed to pin her. After several more rounds, Jimmy remained undefeated, Nedrik had lost all fights, and Darrell had only won oneagainst Nedrik. Both were out of the running. Adriana had lost to Jimmy, Richard, and Delorian, placing her in a runner up position. The final match began, between Delorian and Richard, and Abbott found his control over his wolf stretched horribly thin. He watched the pair circle, lunge and retreat, claw and snap. More than once, Delorian drew blood. The scent of Richards blood called to him, making him horny and angry all at the same time. He wanted to shift and tackle Delorian, wrestle him away from his mate. 32

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Unfortunately, Abbott couldnt. That knowledge did nothing to appease his wolf.

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Chapter Four

ichard felt his strength failing. The scrapes, bites, and cuts from not only this fight, but those prior were taking their toll. He needed to find a way past Delorians guard. The wolf was bigger, but not quite as fast. However, his mean aggression more than made up for that. While dodging another lunge and swipe, an idea formed. Aggression meant impatience. He could use that. Purposefully, Richard started counter-attacking only half the time, while dodging Delorians strikes by a narrower and narrower margin. Finally, seeing a blow that wasnt aimed to tear out his throat or innards, he allowed it, partially, to connect with his haunch. The power behind the strike still sent him sprawling, just as he knew it would. He rolled an extra foot, putting his back to Delorian. The gasp from several pack-members nearly botched up his plan. 34

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Fortunately, Richard heard his opponents snarl over the noise of their audience. He rolled toward the other wolf, right under his attack. Reaching up, he latched his jaws around the other wolfs throat just as he brought his legs up and raked them down Delorians belly. The larger wolf howled. Richard used Delorians continued momentum to roll them, forcing the other wolf to his back. With his belly up, exposed, and Richards jaws sinking deeper and deeper into his neck, Delorian struggled but couldnt budge him. Finally, with his oxygen supply most likely running low, Delorian submitted. After holding his opponent for an extra fifteen seconds, just to be certain, Richard slowly released the other wolfs neck and backed away, all the while growling low in his throat. The sense that told Richard exactly where his mate was the entire afternoon, warned him that Abbott approached from somewhere behind him and to the left. He appreciated that, since hed been injured on that side and if you couldnt trust your mate, who could you trust? Both of you, shift, the alpha ordered. Sucking in a slow breath, Richard searched for his human form and obeyed. His body reshaped quickly, and seconds later, he stood and popped his neck. Struggling to ignore his burgeoning 35

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erection, he accepted his sweats from his brother. The man must have known that he hadnt wanted to pop wood in front of most of his new pack, especially since hed just managed to snag the lead enforcer slot. Richard had to hand it to Jimmy. The man used his military training even in wolf form, executing rolls and strikes he never would have thought possible in their animal form. He knew he wouldnt have any trouble following him as beta. Well, as long as he didnt turn out to be a bigoted asshole, anyway. At least focusing on Delorian kept Richards arousal at bay. Hed managed to dress and move back toward where Jimmy waited before Delorian had even managed his feet. That concerned him a bit. What if he needed Delorian to have his back in a hurry? Would Delorian blame any possible injury on Richard because he couldnt shift quickly enough? Time would tell, but after some of Delorians previous conversations, Richard didnt think he could trust the man. Especially after some of the things hed said in the bar a few weeks back. After a minute, Delorian joined them. Abbott swept his gaze over them, meeting each mans eyes in turn. Richard did his best to keep his expression neutral when his mate looked him up and down. Finally, Abbott stated, 36

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Congratulation, gentlemen. James Noleander, youve earned the honor and responsibility of my pack beta. Do you accept? Jimmy nodded briskly. Thank you, Alpha. You have my allegiance. It will be an honor to serve you and our pack. After a nod, Abbott turned to Richard, then Delorian. They each went through the motions of accepting their position and reaffirming their loyalty. Abbott turned back to the rest of the shifters standing around and said, Thank you all for coming. Im honored by your presence. I present to you the new members of our packs inner circle, our beta, Jimmy, and our enforcers, Richard and Delorian. Cheers went up from many members of the pack. A few just clapped, looking concerned or exchanging looks. Richard wasnt certain what that was all about, but figured hed find out soon enough. Then, Abbott turned to them and stated, If you three would join me at my home for dinner, Ill fix everyone steaks and we can discuss what I expect of each of you. Yes, Alpha, Richard murmured, hardly listening to the words of agreement from the other two men. His fingers itched to grab his mate and pull him close, but he knew now wasnt the time 37

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or place. Richard turned away and headed toward the rest of his clothes. As he dressed, he accepted congratulations from Crain and Aaric as well as several acquaintances and even a few of the shifters that hed beaten. Darrell slapped him on the back. Damn, man, he cajoled. You never acted so aggressive when we went out for beers. Smirking, Richard stated, We were drinking beer. What the hell is there to be aggressive about? True that, he quipped. Then, sobering, he leaned close and confided, I dont envy you working with Delorian, man. Hes a bigoted asshole. Ive met him, Richard admitted, his voice just as hushed. Im more worried about unrest in the pack. Especially after He bit off his words and shook his head. At Darrells interested look, he shook his head, finishing lamely, Youll know it when you hear it. All right. Darrell nodded. I got your back, should you ever need me. As soon as Darrell moved off, Nedrik drew close. Awesome move with playing injured. He grinned and snickered. Delorian never saw it coming! Richard nodded. Youre right. He winked, leaning close, The bigger they are, eh? 38

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Nedrik snorted. You got that right. Then, he glanced around, looking worried. Dont tell him I said that, he quickly mumbled. Giving his shoulder a squeeze, Richard nodded. Not a word. After chatting with a few others, whose names he wasnt certain of, Richard finally made his way to his motorcyclea 2013 Ducati Diavel. One thing could be said for Kontras packthe assorted shifters that had rescued him and his brother from a group of asshole scientists bent on experimentation and world domination. They knew how to pick a great mode of transportation. Hed just swung his leg over his bike, steadying the machine between his thighs, when he spotted Abbott stalking toward him. A couple shifters made as if to stop him, but upon seeing the alphas almost feral expression, their brows shot up and they watched him in shock. Abbotts eyes glittered with obvious appreciation as he swept his gaze over Richard. Licking his lips, Richard found he really liked the way Abbott eyed him. Why the guy did it now, in front of everyone, stumped him. Richards confusion regarding Abbotts intentions intensified as his alpha drew near. That was, until Abbott stopped at his bikes side, cupped the back of Richards skull, and hauled him in for a deep lip-lock. Richards thoughts 39

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scattered. He reveled in the heady taste of his mateearthy, musky, and oh-so-masculine. Richard felt the hand in his hair tighten, forcing his head a bit to the side. When he felt his alphas tongue prod at his lips, he opened. Grunting, Richard welcomed Abbotts tongue, then proceeded to suck the appendage, showing his hopefullysoon-to-be lover exactly what he intended to do to his cockthat evening, if it could be arranged. Abbotts groan, a sound full of pleasure, set Richards blood on fire. His dick ached in his sweats, but he kept his hands on the handles of the bike, refusing to reach for himselfor his mate, for that matter. Richard didnt think hed be able to control himself if he touched Abbott now. Gasps and whispers from others reminded him of where they were. Evidently, it reminded Abbott, too, because he brought the feral kiss to an end andeven while he still gripped Richards thick hair, holding his headhe peered around at their audience. Maybe half a dozen strangersas well as a gaping Darrellstood within twenty feet, most with mouths open in shock. Abbott grinned widely. Then, he stated in his deep voice, husky from the tonsil hockey, Yes, everyone. Our new lead enforcer is also my mate. Feel free to spread the word. Seeming to ignore 40

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the shocked gasps and questions of a couple females, Abbott returned his focus to Richard and gruffly ordered. Head off to my house, now, Richard. We have new inner circle members to share this news with, then a mating to complete. Then, Abbott walked away with a relaxed swagger. Richard wanted to tackle the man, wrestle, feel their wolves battle. Sure, he knew hed lose, but it was the feelings, the foreplay, the fun that it would entail. Instead, he struggled to ignore his need. Besides, it wasnt like he could do anything too physical until he checked his woundswell, he didnt want to, at least. Ignoring the questions from others that plagued his alphayeah, Abbott can deal with them, since he raised themRichard started the engine of his machine and roared away. He knew where Abbott lived and headed that way. Upon reaching his mans drive, Richard slowed down, carefully navigating the gravel. Roving his gaze over Abbotts home, Richard took in the three foot high deck that wrapped around the domicile on both sides. He figured at some point, there was a door to the basement, but he couldnt see it from there. The only thing he could do was park his Diavel in front of the garageright next to a vintage mustang and an old battered S-10 pick-up. 41

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Richard could only guess at who owned whathell, for all he knew, his mate owned both of them and drove them around depending on his mood. Leaning his bike on its stand, he glanced at the darkening clouds. He grimaced. Stepping to the first garage door, he tried to lift it, but it didnt budge. Richard figured he could have broken the garage door mechanism keeping it closed, but he resisted the urge. Shaking his head, Richard crossed to his bike and pulled out a rain cover, then draped it over the bike. Right now, there was no wind. He made a mental note to listen, so hed know if that changed. Once his ride was taken care of, he headed up the half dozen steps and rang the front doors bell. A woman opened the door. Richard started to get concerned by the beautiful brunettes presence, until she sniffed the air and shook her head. You must be Richard. Jimmy said you were the third. Come inside then. Ill patch you up. She actually grumbled about pack challenges and stupid, outdated shifter traditions as she led the way to what must have been a family room. Jimmy and Delorian already occupied the two easy chairs, so Richard settled on a short sofa. The womans clipped words drew his attention. Well, take your shirt off, and if you have wounds on your legs, take the sweats off, too. 42

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Richard couldnt help it. His brows shot up and his eyes widened. Uh, you think thats wise? The woman snorted rudely. Please, not like you got anything I aint seen before. Okay, so not the smartest thing to say, perhaps, especially to a doctor. Except, even as she motioned for him to strip completely, Richard heard the front door open and scented his mate enter the building. The brunette stood over him, her arms crossed as she snapped, Well, lets see it. I can smell the blood oozing from your thigh even as we speak. I need to clean it up. She scowled and added, Hell, from the heavy scent, you might even need stitches. Then, perhaps, you could show me to a bedroom, Richard requested. Never in Richards life had he been selfconscious or shy, but with his unbonded mate moving through the home, he didnt want to strip down in front of everyone. Hed just come from a shifter challenge where hed had to be naked in front of everyonecontinually. Since he could easily imagine how angry hed feel upon seeing AbbottGods just the thought made him want to punch someonenaked with others, Richard forced out the request. The doctor looked shocked, her eyes wide. What the hell is your problem? Id think the lead 43

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enforcer wouldnt give a rip about who saw him naked. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed. Wait, does this have something to do with showing weakness? You dont want to show your wounds? A low menacing growl sounded through the room. Everyone looked up to see Abbott standing in the doorway. His arms were spread, hands braced on each side of the door frame. His glittering gaze was focused on the female, the doctor. Perhaps you should have listened to Richard when he spoke, he snarled softly. The woman looked confused, concerned, and gave off a fearful scent. I-I dont understand, Alpha. I just wanted to tend his wounds, she whispered, ducking her head. You asked my mate to bare himself to you. I should flay you alive and bathe in your blood. Okay, Richard knew his alpha didnt actually mean that. Or, he hoped he didnt. Leaping to his feet, Richard maneuvered between Abbott and the doctor. He lifted his hands in placation. Easy, Alpha. Licking his lips, Richard moved toward his mate. He could almost feel the rage and jealousy rolling off the male. Settling his hands on his mans chest, he rubbed over his pecs in what he hoped would be soothing 44

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strokes. The doc didnt mean anything by it. You know that. Damn, I hope thats true. Abbott rumbled a low growl, glaring at the doctor over Richards shoulder. Richard continued smoothing his palms over Abbotts chest, then up to his shoulders, massaging gently. He tried not to get too excited at the feel beneath his fingertips, even as his body ached in ways he hadnt felt in years. He knew they were both giving off all kinds of pheromones, but he couldnt do anything about that even though he didnt mean to embarrass anyone. Finally, Abbott seemed to calm. He wrapped his arms around Richard, holding him close as he nuzzled first one side of Richards face, then the other, marking him thoroughly with his scent. Slowly, Abbotts breathing calmed and the rage Richard scented faded. Thank you, Abbott whispered. Were both running a little hot, Richard replied. Richard couldnt remember the last time hed been so hard, when hed anticipated a coupling so much. His blood surged through his veins, lust and desire swirling through him. Abbott nuzzled down the side of his face, humming softly until he came to the crook of his neck, then nipped his tendon lightly. 45

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Abbott lifted his gaze and grinned ferally. You smell good, he rumbled against Richards skin. Cant wait to sink into this tight ass and claim you, he growled. He slid his hands down and squeezed Richards globes. A hiss escaped Richards lips. His dick flexed and his hole clenched. Anticipation surged through him. I really think I should stitch up your mates side first, the doctor hazarded softly. At about the same time, a disgusted snarl sounded, followed by, What the fuck, Alpha? Tightening his grip on Abbotts neck, Richard kept his gaze locked with his mans for just a second. He took advantage of that instant, shaking his head sharply, just a bit, in warning. Abbotts eyes narrowed, telling Richard his message had been received. Pressing his lips together in an obvious effort to keep himself together, Abbott held Richards gaze. Then, he plastered a smile to his facea fake one, since Richard saw it didnt reach his eyesand looked at Delorian. His smile widened. Im sorry it couldnt be made public knowledge earlier, Delorian, but we didnt want anyone disputing Richards abilities or whining about favoritism if he earned a position. Abbott 46

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swept his gaze over those in the room. Richard is my mate. Jimmy grinned from where he sat sprawled on a recliner. Congrats, Alpha. Im very happy for you. Delorian scowled at their new beta. Youre okay with thisthis Sure, Jimmy stated, his dark eyes twinkling. But, theyre both men, Delorian growled. Now youre stating the obvious, Jimmy replied. Lifting a brow, he asked, What? Have you never been with a guy? Of course not! Delorian snapped, appearing offended. Your loss, Del. Jimmy dismissed Delorian with those words and returned his focus to Richard and Abbott. You want us to come back later, Alpha? His grin returned and he exaggeratedly sniffed. I think youve got something on your mind other than cooking us steaks and discussing whatll be expected of us. Richard snorted. He had a funny feeling hed end up really liking the new beta. Smirking, he quipped, Why dont you watch TV? Just give us five minutes and well get back with you. Five minutes? Abbott scowled in mock offense. You think thats all Ill last?

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Running a finger down his soon-to-be lovers jaw, Richard all but purred, Oh, that will just be an appetizer to take the edge off for later. Delorian made a choked sound, drawing attention, and Richard noted his suddenly red face. Jimmy leaned forward and placed his hand on Delorians knee. You need a glass of water, buddy? Looking askance, Delorian jerked away from the beta, leaping to his feet. Deciding to push just a little bit more, after all, they needed to prompt the man to move up whatever plans he had against their alpha, Richard winked at Delorian and smirked. Sorry, man, he said, shrugging, trying to appear sheepish. Well try not to embarrass you too badly. You really think the others would have dared rolling around in the dirt with me, even in wolf form, if they knew I was the alphas mate? Of course, I wouldnt, Delorian snapped. Since we dont know each other well, Abbott cut in, there is a two week trial period. That should be plenty of time to see if we can figure out how to work together. Wait a minute. Delorian immediately butted in. Whats that supposed to mean? Well lose our position? Easy, Delorian, Richard cut in, putting just a bit of growl into his tone. He really didnt like how 48

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the lower ranking wolf spoke to his soon-to-be lovernot to mention their alpha. Thats not what he said. What are you saying, Alpha? Jimmy asked respectfully. Abbott shrugged. Actually, thats exactly what Im saying, he stated mildly, completely blunt. We need to be able to work as a well-oiled machine. I am your alpha, and youve sworn your loyalty to me. If you cant act on that oath, respect me and my decisions, carry out my orders, it will create dissension in the pack. That is not acceptable. He scowled at both Jimmy and Delorian. There are others in my pack whod be honored to hold your positions. Turning toward the brunette, who looked distinctly uncomfortable, shifting her weight from foot to foot, Abbott smiled. I apologize for snapping, Lacy, he stated. My mate and I are not yet bonded, so perhaps you can understand the jealousy. Lacy nodded, keeping her head bowed in submission. I do, Alpha. If Id known about the two of you, I certainly would have offered more discretion. Abbott nodded. Of course. Pointing toward the doorway behind him, he ordered, Go down the hall to the first room on the right. Its a spare bedroom, so it should be fairly comfortable for 49

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you to clean my mates wounds. Then, leave. I have other things to complete tonight. Lacy bowed, then gently guided Richard from the room. At the last second, Richard glanced back and caught his alphas eye. Abbott winked. Relief flooded him when he realized the overbearing attitude was just an act. As Richard reclined on a bed and grunted through getting the slices on his hip cleaned and stitched, he hoped Abbott would hurry the hell up and tell him what hed been thinking.

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Chapter Five

ifting a brow, Abbott crossed his arms over his chest and leveled a hard gaze on first Jimmy, then Delorian. He really hoped he wasnt going to drive his beta away with his next words, since they were more meant to mess with Delorian. If you cant take orders from a fag, youd best decide damn quick, Abbott stated, leveling a cold gaze at both men. Betrayal is met with lethal force. Delorian straightened his spine, his eyes fixed forward. At least he didnt salute. Thatd be completely over the top since Abbott knew hed never been in the military. You can count on me, Alpha. I apologize for my earlier words. I wassurprised. Glad to hear that, Abbott stated. For your first assignment, I need you to check on Cooper. Ive heard rumors that there is unrest in the home. Sheriff Psydia has record of two domestic disturbance calls to his place. His wife, Lydia, is 51

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human, and I need to know their disagreements will not put our packs safety in jeopardy. You can count on me, Delorian assured. Abbott smiled, making certain the move lit his eyes. Im glad to hear that. Think you can get me a report in forty-eight hours? Yes, Alpha. Fantastic. I look forward to your findings. We need our pack safe. At that point, Abbott scented his mate before he saw him. Turning, he watched a bare-chested Richard, wearing a clean pair of sweats riding low on his waist, stride into the room. He licked his lips, taking in Richards hard pecs, cut abs, and thickly muscled arms. Abbott couldnt wait to feel his mans muscles under his fingertips. Maybe hed bend him over the sofa, fuck him hard and fast, coating his innards with his seed. Then, hed drag Richard into the bedroom, lay him out on his bed, nip and suck every bit of the mans flesh until he begged to be taken again. Finally, hed give him a slow, thorough fucking, until he sank his canines into Richards neck, marking him as his own for all eternity. A low growl of excitement escaped him. Abbotts cock thickened in his jeans at the possibilities. His fingers itched to touch and his canines ached to descend. 52

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Ill get to my assignment now, Delorian grumbled. Im not hungry for steak. Without waiting, the wolf shifter fled the house, slamming the front door loudly behind him. The loud slam yanked Abbotts mind from the gutter. He frowned at the doorway through which Delorian had disappeared. Forcing his expression to ease, he looked at his mate. How are you feeling? Richard smirked. Fine. Or I will be. Just a few scrapes. Good, Abbott crooned, stepping close and pulling Richard back into his arms. Gods, never have days been longer than this past week and a half. Knowing about you but not having you, he mumbled. I cant keep my fucking hands off you. How the hell did you go over two months without jumping my bones? Richard grunted at the way Abbott bit into his neck, hard enough to feel but not enough to break skin. Abbott reveled in the sound, almost giving in to his urge to mark his man when Richard tilted his head, giving him more room, and gripped Abbotts shoulders. It wasnt the right time, Richard practically hissed. Damn, you two really are horn-balls, Jimmy commented, almost idly. 53

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Abbott lifted his head and peered at his beta, his brows shooting up. Jimmy grinned. So, were gonna have a problem with Delorian, arent we? Sighing, Abbott nodded. Im afraid so. A bigot, an asshole, uses aggression instead of smarts, and now hes in a position of power. Jimmy ticked off the points on his fingers as he shook his head. Thats really not a good combo. Abbotts brows shot up. He eased away from Richard, then led his mate to a sofa and pulled him down next to him, unable to allow his man far from his side. Leaning forward, he eyed the slender, dark-haired wolf. Youve been in the military for the last fifteen years, just returning permanently six months ago. His eyes narrowed. Youve been using that time to assess the pack, havent you? Did you intend to challenge me? Chuckling, Jimmy smiled as he tapped the bottle of beer he held against his leg. Yes and no, Alpha. Which is which? Abbott demanded. Taking a moment to formulate his answer, Jimmy popped his neck once, twice, then bowed his head and peered up through his lashes. I have no real desire to lead, Alpha, but there are a couple wolves I couldnt, in good conscience, follow, or allow to remain in power if somehow they gained it. He licked his lips, then admitted, 54

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And from the things Ive heard, theyre not happy. Let me guess, Richard said, cutting into the conversation. Delorian is one. Walter is another. Jimmy grinned widely. Well, well. Youre not just another pretty face. Abbott didnt like that tone addressed toward his man and growled low in his throat. Surprisingly, Richard rested his hand on Abbotts arm and squeezed lightly, then rubbed soothingly. Relax. Hes our beta, and Im the enforcer. Even though Im your mate, he has every right to tease me like that. Then, Richard snorted and rolled his eyes. Besides, I kinda like the ass and I think hes gonna work out well. His brows shooting up, Abbott pinned Richard with a disbelieving look. You do? Why? Other than the fact that Jimmy thinks its funny that were talking about him in front of him as if he isnt here? Richard teased, waving his hand toward the clearly amused shifter. Because hes straight-forward, doesnt play games, and He shrugged. I enjoy his sense of humor. Abbott growled, not liking that his mate was complimenting another shifter. Jimmy snorted and rose to his feet. Okay. It sounds like you two have a coupling to complete. Im gonna follow Delorian. See what the asshole is up to. Ill swing by tomorrow. He glanced 55

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between them, then scented the air. Grimacing, he mumbled, Afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon. The shifter moved toward the doorway, his head still bowed. Sighing, Abbott knew he couldnt leave it like that. James Noleander, he called. When the other shifter paused and looked back at him, Abbott smiled. I look forward to working with you. Thank you, Alpha. A smile curved the corners of Jimmys lips, and he left the house. Once Abbott heard the front doors clasp click, he returned his focus to his mate. He smiled at how Richards eyes glittered. Richard smirked and quipped, So, you had a reason for being a complete asshole? Abbott chuckled, even as he pressed Richard down against the sofas arm. Oh, yes. He lowered his head and nibbled up his soon-to-be lovers neck. Gotta make sure to piss the guy off. We both know hes gonna try to use his new position against us. Us? Richard asked, his breath hitching. Humming, Abbott sucked on Richards tendon, slowly working his way up to the sensitive skin directly below his mans ear. You are head enforcer, arent you? Richards breathing hitched. Y-yes. 56

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Then, you have just as much a stake in this as I do, Abbott whispered into Richards ear. Maybe even more, he added. Youve been an enforcer before. Now, youre an enforcer to your mate. Chuckling, he mumbled, No pressure, before sucking his lovers earlobe into his ear. Growling softly, Richard tilted his head. His arms came around Abbott, and he dug his nails in so much Abbott felt them through his sweatshirt. He hummed his approval, goose bumps breaking out on his skin. Responding with a snarl, Richard released him, only to slide his hands under the fabric and scrape his nails up his back, stopping to latch around his shoulder-blades. Abbott hissed and arched, pressing into Richards touch. The sting of his mans hold caused his balls to tingle and tighten. He released his mates ear and growled, That feels fucking fantastic. Love the feel of your hands on me. Youll like this better then, Richard muttered, his voice low and guttural. To Abbotts surprise, he suddenly found their positions reversedhim under the other man on the couchwith his sweatshirt off, to boot. He growled at the change, not certain he liked being the one under his lover. Except, then Richard wrenched open his button flyhis cock springing freeand swallowed him to the root. 57

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Abbott howled at the tight, wet suction around his throbbing length. His prick oozed pre-cum. Richard lifted his head a couple of inches, swiped his tongue over his glans, scooping up pre-cum and swallowing it down in one smooth move. Digging his hands into Richards thick sandy hair, Abbott moaned at the feel of his mates tongue gliding up, down, over, and across his hard aching flesh. His balls drew tight. Undeniable needneed hed been feeling for dayserupted through him. He tightened his hold and bucked, driving his prick deeper into his lovers mouth. Richard took it, sucking and licking, swallowing around his head, massaging his glans. The contract and release around his head caused his balls to pull tight, delicious sparks rocked up his spinethen right back down. His prick jerked and swelled. Abbott wanted to hold on, but watching his cock slide in and out of Richards mouth, slick and shiny with spit, set his blood on fire. When Richard peered up at him through his lashes heat blooming in his deep blue eyesand hummed, Abbotts control snapped. He howled as his orgasm bowled through him. Cum spurted from his dick and Richard swallowed it down. Seeing his mates throat muscles work as he unloaded into his mouth, Abbott grunted and 58

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thrust once more. Richard took it, holding his gaze as he petted his thighs. The mixture of heat and smug satisfaction on Richards face told Abbott that his man had gotten exactly what hed wantedfor him to lose all sense of control. Abbott growled softly, his lust renewed, even as endorphins from his release still pinged through his system. Two can play at this game. Abbott released Richards hair and moved his hold to his mans shoulders and pushed. His mate grunted in surprise as he fell backward, landing unceremoniously on his ass. The baggy sweats slid lower, revealing the wet head of Richards prick, flushed red with blood and oozing another drop of pre-cum. Freezing, Abbott licked his lips, appreciating the sight of Richards obvious arousal. He couldnt wait to pull those sweats off his man, revealing the rest of him. Abbott just bet his mans hard cock would jut from a nest of reddish-blond curls. Richard frowned and snapped, What the fuck? Too bad his jerking, leaking prick belied the irritation in his mates tone. The mans musky arousal permeated the room, mixing headily with the scents of cum. Growling low in his throat, Abbott grabbed his lover, picked him up a bit, and moved him to the center of the throw rug before 59

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the roaring fire. Next, he ripped the sweats the rest of the way off. Humming gruffly at the sexy sightyep, hed been right, reddish-blond curlshe petted his mates hard thighs. Stay there, he snarled, pointing a finger for emphasis. He watched Richards Adams apple bob, even as he licked his lips. More pre-cum oozed from his mans dick, betraying his excitement. Growling his pleasure at the sight, Abbott used every ounce of self-control he possessed to turn away. He hustled from the study and practically sprinted to his bedroom. He grabbed the tube of lube from his nightstand and retraced his steps just as quickly. Abbott froze in the doorway of the room, and if the tube of lube had been open, hed have squirted half the contents all over the place. Richard hadnt obeyed. Instead, hed rolled to his knees, reached back with both hands, and spread himself open, exposing his pretty, dusky brown hole. Licking his lips, Abbott sucked in a breath as his cock jerked and twitched at his groin. Even after coming, hard, in his lovers mouth, the desire to slam his prick into that inviting hole and ride his mate until he howled with the knowledge of to whom he belonged rode him hard. His wolf snarled in his mind, urging him on. 60

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He took several deep breaths to steady himself. Finally, when he felt he had some semblance of control, Abbott peeled his grip from the woodwork. As he took his first step, realization slammed into Abbott. Once more, his mate had pushed him. A low growl rolled up his throat. Naughty mate! Yes, he couldnt wait to bury himself balls deep in Richard, but first, he needed the man to scream his name, to beg him, plead and whimper. Abbott smiled at that thought. Devouring Richard with his gaze, Abbott stalked toward the man. Looks like someone wants something, he crooned, quickly closing the distance between them, only to kneel behind the other shifter and wait, not touching. Richard looked over his shoulder at him, his eyes wide in surprise. Wh-What are you waiting for? Just admiring the view, Abbott explained, lifting a brow imperiously. He took in Richards hard thigh muscles, firm ass, and strong back lines. Reaching out, he gently stroked down his lovers flank, admiring the goose bumps that broke out over his mans sides and back. Richard groaned. Abbott shoved his mates hands away, then palmed the globes himself and pulled them apart. 61

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Get your elbows under you, he ordered. And no touching yourself. A-Abbott, Richard whined, even as he did as he was told. Grunting with pleasure at Richards immediate obedience, Abbott stroked his lovers body more firmly. He enjoyed the smooth skin over firm muscle even as he wondered about the scar trailing up his hip to disappear at his abs. Abbott vowed to learn the story of each and every mark on his mates bodybut later. So, Abbott started, stroking his hand lightly up the inside of Richards thigh. What exactly did you want me to do with this? Fuck me, damn it! Abbott chuckled darkly. The harsh pounding of his blood through his veins made it difficult to control himself, but he refused to be detoured from his plan. Draping over his lovers back, Abbott slid his erection between Richards legs. When his cock head bumped the back of his mates balls, he bit back a hiss of his own at the contact. Richard whined and wriggled in his grip. Oh, hell, yeah! Abbott wanted more of those noisesthose sexy as fuck responsesand he suspected he knew just how to get them. 62

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Chapter Six

ichard felt as if his blood fired through his veins, causing his dick to throb and pulling his balls flush to his body. Gods, just a few more touches, a few more bumps to his balls by his lover and hed tip right over the edge. Abbotts rough fingertips wrapped around the base of his prick and squeezedhard. Richards orgasm backed off and he howled in frustration. No! he moaned. Rough chuckles sounded behind Richard. He peered over his shoulder at Abbott, catching his lovers eye. His alpha released his prick and began slowly threading his fingers through Richards pubes, softly tugging, touching, and every once in a while, rubbing along his cock. Abbotts hazeleyed gaze blazed with lust andsomething else. Abbotts wolf peered out at him, and Richards breathing hitched as he realized his mate would accept nothing less than total submission. 63

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Richards own wolf howled in the back of his mind. If he could have in his lovers tight hold, he would have rolled over and showed his belly anything to speed up the process of getting the thick rod rubbing between his legs into his ass. Instead, Richard bucked his hips and lowered his shoulders. Hed never presented to another everbut if that was what his man needed, hed do it. I need you, Richard admitted roughly. Hmm, Abbott rumbled. He nuzzled his temple against Richards own, spreading his scent. Just as I need you. Without another word, Abbott popped the lid off the lube, poured some on his fingers, and rubbed the cool gel over Richards entrance. Richard couldnt help it. His body tensed at the contact, at the touch of the cool liquid. Abbott didnt stop the slow, soothing massage of slick fingertips against his muscle, keeping up the light caress. After a few seconds, Abbott slipped just the tip of one finger into Richards channel. He thought it should hurtor, at least, feel uncomfortable. Instead, he really wanted more of his mate inside him, to feel that connection. Even as Abbott gently slipped the first couple inches of his finger in and out of Richards 64

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channel, he nibbled up the side of his neck and whispered into his ear, Youre so very tight, mate. When was the last time you had someone in here? As he spoke, he eased his finger all the way in and nudged his prostate. Richard moaned. Sparks shot out from his chute, making his cock throb and his balls roll in their sacks. Closing his eyes, he gasped hard and managed to admit, N-Never. Abbott froze, his hand stilling. Richard groaned with frustration and scowled over his shoulder at his lover. Dont stop, damn it! he snarled. Abbott growled in response, but at least he started moving his hand again. Although Im honored I get your cherry, he snarled into his ear, You are not in charge, mate. Abbott nipped his ear, hard. I am. With those gruff words, Abbott pressed a second digit in alongside the first. This time, Richard felt the burn. He stiffened in surprise at the pain. Fuck. Easy now, his lover crooned, moving his free hand down over his side, up his thigh, and over his flank. Just relax. Abbotts light touches soothed him. Richard rested his forehead on the rug and sighed. He felt his clenching chute ease. Abbott must have felt it 65

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as well, for he added more lube and started moving his fingers again. The burn faded quickly, turning into an odd sensation of feeling full but still not enough. Moaning, he arched his back, trying to get more every time Abbott pulled his fingers nearly all the way out. When Abbott added that third finger, stretching him even wider, Richard hissed. Once again, Abbott crooked his fingers and massaged his prostate. Richard shuddered, his body seeming to catch on fire as goose bumps erupted over every inch of his skin. Even his toes seemed to tingle. Holy shit, A-Abbott! Never felt He couldnt finish, a moan ripped from him. Abbott still worked the nub inside him, rendering him unable to continue speaking. It gets better, lover, Abbott purred into his ear. Just wait until its me in here. He punctuated his words with shallow thrusts of his fingers, working the walls of Richards chute, continuing to stretch him. Im gonna fill you up so good. Gonna slide my cock in here and sink my teeth here. Abbott rubbed Richards prostate and nipped the point where Richards shoulder met his neck. Oh fuck, yes, Richard moaned. Wanna feel you. Please, mate. 66

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Abbott hummed. Oh, youre gonna feel me, he assured. Except, then Abbott pulled his fingers free, and Richard whined his frustrationnot that hed ever admit to it later. Abbott! Im still here, Richard, his lover assured. Just lubing up. Dont want to hurt you. Shit, never thought Id feel like this, he muttered. His body practically vibrated with need. His wolf rolled to his belly in his mind. His cock oozed, aching, throbbing harder than hed ever imagined possible, surely more than hed ever felt before. Feel like what? Abbott asked softly, sliding his cock head against Richards entrance. It took every bit of self-restraint Richard had left not to press back and try to get his lovers cock into his ass. Like Ill fly out of my skin if you dont fuck me. Well, we cant have that, can we? Then, Abbott pressed forward and popped his wide head past Richards guardian muscle. The stretch took him by surprise. His breath left him in a soft hiss between clenched teeth. Shit! Easy, lover, Abbott soothed. Push out for me. Keep breathing. The first time is always tough but it will get better. 67

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Richard nodded, rolling his forehead on the rug. Just put it in me already, he ordered gruffly. I dont care about the pain. I do, Abbott responded, then slowly started rocking his hips. Back and forth. Back and forth. Richard felt Abbotts cock slide into him in near infinitesimal increments. He wanted to rock up, force his lover to sink into him more swiftly. Unfortunately, his mates tight hold on his hips didnt allow him to move. He did the one thing he couldsomething hed never done before. He begged. More, fuck, please, more, Richard pleaded. Please, take me. Make me yours. Been waiting so long. Abbott growled low, but didnt change his speed. However, he did release one hip, place his hand on the floor next to Richards and drape over him, blanketing him with his hard, muscled body. And whose fault is that, mate? Abbott hissed. Back and forth. In and out. So slow! Mine, Richard mumbled. Yes, Abbott confirmed, his voice throaty and low. Now, you wait on my time. Fuck! We are, baby, his lover crooned. We are. Finally, finally, Abbott bottomed out. 68

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Hmm, Abbott hummed into his ear. Now this is the place to be. Richard groaned, feeling stuffed full, stretched almost beyond max, and nothing had felt better in his life. Abbott was inside him, connected to him, in the best possible way. His lover remained still, his breathing ragged in Richards ear. After nearly a minute, Richard thought maybe something was wrong. W-Why arent you moving? Are you okay? he whispered. He rolled his head a bit so he could peer up and over his shoulder. The feral light filling Abbotts hazel eyes almost turned them brown, taking his breath away. Abbott, he gasped. Abbott growled softly, vibrating Richards back. My mate, he snarled. Youre mine, Richard. Mine. Im yours, Abbott. All yours. Some of the feral gleam in his lovers eyes eased. Abbott blinked, then grinned widely. Mine, he whispered. Leaning down, he pressed a soft kiss to Richards lips. Gonna please you now. Richard really thought Abbott would pull out and start fucking him. Instead, his lover slowly rotated his hips. The move massaged his opening, sending odd tingles up his chute and across the sensitive tissues of his opening. He felt his lovers 69

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balls rub against his own, the crinkly hair brushing pleasantly over his sacks. Oh, Richard whispered, his eyes widening in shock. There we go, lover, Abbott stated, repeating the move. Feel me. Feel me in you, reaching all your most intimate places. The next roll was a bit more pronounced. Abbotts cock shifted in Richards chute, jostling his gland. His groin felt hot and waves of fire pulsed up his dick. His balls pulled tighter and tighter with each rotation, with each rub, rub over flesh. You gonna come, babe? Abbott growled. I want you to come. I want to feel you squeeze my dick. Y-Yeah, please! he whined. His body practically vibrated with the need to come, with the desire to please his mate. Abbott released his other hip and reached beneath him. The bigger shifters calloused hand around his dick was the final straw. One stroke was all it took. Richards orgasm crashed over him. His cock spurted, pumping strings of cum onto the rug beneath him. Moaning, he clamped down on his lovers thick cock spearing him. He knew it wouldnt take much to get addicted to the feel of his mates prick filling him, stretching him. Amazing, he slurred, his body still twitching. 70

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Continuing the slow strokes to Richards dick, Abbott licked and nibbled the side of his neck. He slowly pulled most of the way out. Richard could feel his chute muscles ripple, the sensation almost indescribable. Between his lovers soft stroking on his shaft and the riot of tingles up his ass, Richards erection didnt wane. His balls rolled in his sacks, telling him he was drawing dangerously close to a second orgasm. His body felt like a wire strung too tight and he had to move. He began rocking backward into each of his lovers thrusts. The slap, slap of skin on skin, the heavy scent of his mans arousal mixed with his already spent seed, sent Richards blood roaring through his veins. A tingle started at the base of his spine. Wanting his alpha with him this time, he clamped his ass muscles, struggling to milk his lovers cock. It worked. Abbott snarled, his thrusts becoming erratic. Richard tilted his neck, offering to his mate. Pleeassse, he hissed. Abbott didnt even hesitate. He sank his canines into Richards neck, biting deeply. The flash of pain almost instantly morphed into pleasure, the most intense bliss Richard had ever experienced even considering hed just comeand he came again. 71

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Spots danced across his vision and darkness grayed around the edges of his sight for a few seconds. When he managed to catch his breath and focusRichard thought itd only been for a few secondsthen he realized his lover had already pulled out and was gently easing him sideways onto the rug. Damn, that was Richard paused and shook his head. Abbott smiled, smug and satiated. Hell, yeah. Leaning down, Abbott sipped from Richards lips. He gently sucked his bottom lip, before dipping his tongue inside and slowly fucking his mouth. Richard sighed, opening wide, not even trying to fight for control. After a couple of moments, Abbott eased up and drew the kiss to an end. Smiling up at Abbott, Richard relaxed onto the rug. He had no clue what to say to the man whod just rocked his world. Evidently, Abbott didnt need words. His mate pecked one more kiss, then drew away. Ill be right back with a towel. How about we go shower? I think I need one, Richard stated, rising up on his elbows. He grimaced, feeling the pain in his thigh for the first time since the doc had stitched him up.

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Abbott swept his gaze over his nude form and nodded. Good idea. He held out his hand. Come on, babe. Richard took Abbotts hand, allowing his lover to help him stand. The bigger man immediately wrapped his arm around him, offering him support. If anyone else had been in the room, he would have refused, but with just his mate, he smiled his thanks. As they moved out of the room, he muttered, We really need to work on that pet name. Smirking, Abbott winked. Sure, babe.

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bbott crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. He frowned at his beta. Jimmy, Im not asking you. Im telling you. His beta growled low in his throat, even as he ducked his head in submission. I know, but I dont have to like it. The corner of Abbotts lip curved up. Over the last couple of weeks, hed grown to like and even respect his beta. The man garnered trust from the pack, remained level headed, friendly, and polite to the families even as he got to know them. Hed been gone for fifteen yearsin the military as a navy seal, which was long enough for his lack of aging to start getting noticed. So, hed retired and come home. His skills made him an excellent beta, and Abbott felt grateful the man was willing to back him instead of trying to take his position. Although Abbotts wolf was stronger than Jimmys, because of the mans military training, it 74

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was entirely possible the younger shifter could take him. You need to be seen at the lake already. We cant allow Delorian to know were onto him, Abbott reminded the man, growling back just a bit. Jimmy grimaced. Keeping his head bowed, he stated, I know. I just dont have to like it. Ill be with him, Richards lip curled. If hed been in wolf form, his hackles would probably be rising. You think I cant care for my mate? Cocking his head, Jimmy met Richards gaze. Slowly, he narrowed his eyes and growled low in warning. Hissing in frustration, Richard bowed his head, peering at Jimmy through his lashes. I apologize. That was just insulting. After the beta nodded, Abbott rested his hand on the back of Richards neck and massaged gently. Having his mate be his enforcer, hence lower ranking than his beta but still aggressive and protective, left Abbott walking a fine line. He couldnt show favoritism to his lover. Richard and Jimmy had to find a balance on their own. So far, the pair did a fairly good job of it. Theyd never spoken out of turn in front of others, keeping their disagreements behind closed doors. So, its decided then. You drive to the lake and hang with the others, Abbott instructed. Well 75

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be cutting through the trees in wolf form. Weve already told Delorian, so if hes going to follow through with those rumors that reached you, itll be then. Two against five is not good odds, Jimmy grumbled. Sighing, he nodded. If I dont see at least one of the shifters that are supposed to be involved with the coup, Im shifting and coming to you, he warned. Abbotts brow lifted as he eyed his beta. For just a second, Jimmy met his gaze, before lowering it again. He had to hand it to the man. The shifter had brass. Delorian had been carrying out his duties to the letter over the last week or sowhen they could get hold of him. One too many times having to leave a message began to erode Delorians faade of being loyal. Although they hadnt let on, they all had started sending out feelers with the shifters they knew they could trust. It didnt take long to find out that in Delorians off time, he hung out at a bar and insulted the alpha. Theyd heard several tales, a couple from various members of Kontras shifter gang, including from the alpha bear himself, as well as from the bars owner. The human didnt understand why Delorian hated Abbott so muchat least the wolf had been discreet about thatbut the owner had assured Richard when 76

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questioned that Delorian was there at least four evenings a week with sometimes up to four others. All right, Abbott stated. Then, Ill see you shortly. Well leave here in thirty minutes. Call me as soon as you get there and give me a heads up, hmm? Yes, Alpha, Jimmy replied. After a nod to first Abbott, then Richard, he turned and strode from the room. A moment later, the front door opened and slammed. Thirty minutes, Richard murmured. How should we pass the time? Abbott grinned and pulled his mate into his arms. He pressed a soft butterfly kiss to Richards lips, then whispered, By packing our bags and getting ready to go. Richard snorted and rolled his eyes. Youre so mean. Barking a laugh, Abbott released his man and headed out of the kitchen to the front room. Since that first time, his man had been insatiable. The morning after their matingand after a morning blow jobAbbott had asked Richard if hed ever been with a man before. Itd been more curiosity than wanting to know about his past lovers, but the way Richard had slowly explored himwhile amazinghad indicated a level of inexperience 77

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Abbott would never have anticipated from the good looking man. Uh, yeah. Once, Richard had admitted. Wow. Just once? Wasnt, uh, wasnt what you expected? His face flaming, Richard had licked his lips before saying, Uh, it wasnt really that, actually. Hed stared at the ceiling, frowning. The only guys who ever really came onto me were slender twinks, but it was men like you that I found attractive. Abbotts brows had shot up at that admission, but his mate hadnt been done. To be honest, I didnt even know you had to stretch a guy. Richard turned and looked at Abbott, shrugging one shoulder. The dude I took home was wearing a butt plug. So, when I stretched you yesterday He let his sentence hang. Richard flushed. Id actually thought you were just, uh His face darkened a bit more. I thought you were just prolonging the activity. Abbott had explained that, yes, stretching did prolong their time together, but it was also a necessary part of it. Not to mention, he loved giving pleasure to his mate. The only problem was, once they got started, it took a hell of a long time to satiate either one of them. Abbott loved that about his man. 78

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Grinning, Abbott looked back at Richard and winked. You and I both know that if we start something now, well never get there on time. Yeah, yeah, Richard grumbled, but he grinned while saying it. Abbott headed into his garage and pulled out his ice skates. Lifting the black hockey skates, he checked the blades, running his finger along them. They could stand to be sharpened, but theyd do for another two or three outings. Hed have to remember to put it on his to do list. Taking them into the house, he placed them near the door to the back deck where theyd shift. Upstairs, he grabbed a small duffel bag, then returned to the back door and proceeded to remove his clothes, roll them up, and carefully tuck them into the bag. Standing in the buff, Abbott waited. A few minutes later, Richard appeared, carrying his own bag. He set it down, along with his skates. They stood silently for a moment, watching the tiny snowflakes drift to the ground, adding to the white blanket already covering the ground. Finally, Richard broke the silence. I wont leave you. You know that, right? Smiling slightly, Abbott nodded. Any enforcer worth his salt would fight beside his alpha to the death. The only time thatd be different was if there were cubs to get away and protect. He 79

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turned his focus on his man. Reaching out, he gently cupped Richards jaw. You being my mate just makes the compulsion that much stronger. Richards eyes narrowed. His lips pressed together into a thin line. So we understand each other. Abbotts heart pounded in his chest. He licked his lips and, lowering his head, pressed their foreheads together. Id expect nothing less from my partner, he whispered. And I would do the same for you. You were married, he pointed out. Would you feel differently if I were a woman? Smiling, Abbott shrugged. Emily was human, so its a non-issue. For a second, Abbott thought Richard would disagree, so he added, Youd have liked Emily. And she would have loved you. Two big men, loving up on her, then me fucking you through the mattress. What wouldnt there be to love? To his surprise, Richard growled low in his throat. His eyes turned feral. His canines lengthened. Mine, he snarled. Instead of wrenching away from Abbott though, Richard twisted his head and sank his teeth into Abbotts bare neck. Abbott roared in shock. Pain swept through him, followed quickly by heat waves of bliss rushing through his veins. He moaned as his body 80

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shuddered. His dick thickened and shot, an orgasm blind-siding himhard. Sucking in ragged gasps, Abbott tried to catch his breath. Seconds later, Richard slid his teeth free and lapped at his wound, sealing the mark. After swallowing hard, Abbott found his tongue. Not that I didnt enjoy the orgasm, he whispered. But what the fuck? Richard nuzzled Abbotts cheek, humming almost contentedly. Mine, he rumbled. Yours, Abbott murmured. Blinking, he struggled to figure out what the hell had brought on Richards sudden need to mark him. Then, it hit him. Hed talked about sharing his mate with another. Shit, that was a stupid thing to say. Im sorry, Rich. I didnt mean it like that. Richard, he hissed, yanking away from him. Not Rich. Abbott grimaced at his mistake. Richard had been adamant on that one point, and when hed asked why, his mate had explained his old beta had used his shortened name as a derogatory terma way to put him in his place. Now, and for good reason, Richard hated being called Rich. Abbott knew hed need to be far more careful in the future. And I dont fucking share. Youre fucking mine. You got that? 81

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Sure, hed shared Emily, but thatd been before hed claimed her. But, she hadnt been his fated mate. As a human, hed loved her, but his wolf hadnt been involved. He lifted his hands in placation. Yeah, Richard. I got it. No sharing. I never plan to share you, either, he assured. He wished he could grab the agitated man and hold him close, soothe him, and it hurt like hell that the wild look in his mans eyes told him not to even try. Good, Richard snarled. He pointed his finger at Abbott and snapped, You fucking remember that. I will shred anyone who tries to touch you. Man or woman. With that parting shot, Richard grabbed his stuff and stalked outside. He dropped the items on the porch and proceeded to shift. By the time Abbott got his head together and followed him outside, Richard was already wolf and holding his bag and skate laces in his mouth, looking at him expectantly. Sighing, Abbott dropped to his knees before Richard. He grabbed his mates ears and forced the other wolf to look him in the eye. Richard, Im sorry. I didnt think about how my words would affect you. Richard looked unconvinced. Its not common knowledge, but before I married Emily, wedwe enjoyed the occasional mnage. I would never dream of doing that with you. He 82

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grimaced, then admitted, Believe it or not, if anyone were to touch you, Id do the same. Id shred them. Richard stared at him for a long moment, and Abbott prayed he would accept his apology and forgive him. Finally, his lover released his stuff, dropping it, and licked the side of his face. Abbott wasnt a fan of wolf kissesalthough he tolerated them from pups on occasionbut after his and Richards misunderstanding, hed accept anything his man wanted to give him. Ruffling Richards ears, Abbott smiled. Thank you, babe. Its been a long time since Ive been in a relationship. Im bound to make mistakes on occasion. At his words, Richards wolf did a really great job of rolling his eyes. Abbott chuckled, releasing his man just as his phone rang. This is Abbott. Delorian is here. Well, damn, Abbott mumbled. Okay. See you shortly. He disconnected the call and tucked it into his bag. It looks like they must have changed plans or something, he explained to Richard. Jimmy says Delorian is at the lake. Richard growled softly. Abbott nodded absently. I hear ya, he mumbled. What the fuck is he up to? Knowing even if his man had been in human form, he 83

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wouldnt have an answer, Abbott didnt waste any more time and initiated his own shift. His skin tingled as his fur grew, his tendons and muscles popped as his skeleton cracked and reshaped. Although hed heard humans comment that it sounded painful, for the most part, it wasnt any more painful than a really good stretch. Plus, as an alpha, it only took Abbott about fifteen seconds to get it done. Once done shifting, Abbott shook out his fur. He grabbed his bag and skates, and took off running. The crunch of paws on snow behind him told him his mate followed. In wolf form, itd take about twenty minutes at a steady jog to reach the park owned by his pack. Theyd bought the nearly two hundred acres almost eighty years before. The pack had met three weekends in a row to clear dangers to cubs, put in a couple pavilions and fire pits, as well as a dock for the seven acre lake on the property. Every year, the pack held a number of celebrations there, including a holiday party. The shifters enjoyed ice skating, BBQing, and at the end of the evening, a tree lighting. If they werent working, everyone attended. Fifteen minutes into their jog, three wolves skittered across their path, growling and snarling. Abbott skidded to a stop, dropping his bag and skates, and peered around at the disrespectful 84

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shifters. He returned their aggression with his own, growling back. Richard stood at his side, his head lowered, his ears pinned, and his teeth bared. As Abbott surveyed the three wolves before him, he recognized Bernie, Walter, and Logan. The third one surprised him. He knew the shifter was gay, having spotted him dancing in a gay bar out of town. Why was the shifter backing these other homophobes? When hed growled, these three should have backed down, offering their submission. They hadnt. For now, that information was enough for Abbott. Hed take these fuckers down and remind them why he was alpha. Knowing his matean enforcerhad his back, Abbott lunged at the nearest wolfBernie. Even as Abbott landed on Bernies back and sank his teeth into the other wolfs neck, he heard Richards snarls and the thumps of bodies colliding. Focusing on Bernie, Abbott used his larger mass to flip his opponent to his back. Just as he was about to sink his teeth deeper and demand submission, a heavy weight slammed into him, knocking him sideways. Abbott rolled twice before splaying his legs and regaining his feet. Abbott snarled upon seeing Richard faced off against three wolves, Walter and Logan having 85

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been joined by Nedrik. He realized itd been Delorian whod attacked him, knocking him away from Bernie. Damn it! How could Delorian have slipped away from Jimmy? Realizing it didnt matter nowwhats done is doneAbbott swept his gaze over the attacking wolves, searching for an advantage. He needed to level the playing field. Two against five, even with that pair being the alpha and enforcer, were not good odds. Slowly, growling in warning, Abbott circled the two wolves he faced while trying to keep an eye on the others. He watched carefully, trying to find an openingany opening. When Abbott crossed between Nedrik and Walter, Delorian lunged. It was the opening Abbott needed. Abbott leaped away from both of them, directly at Walter. He landed on the unsuspecting wolfs back and sank his teeth into his neck. Driving the wolf to the ground, he tightened his hold, tasting blood. Another wolf slammed into himagain. Except, this time, Abbott showed no mercy. He refused to loosen his hold, tearing out Walters throat. Hed feel bad later. Right then, he crashed sideways into a tree, slamming the wolf latched onto his back into the trunk. 86

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With a howl of pain, the brown wolf Abbott recognized as Delorian released him and thudded to the ground. Turning back toward his mate and the others, he spotted Richard standing over Berniewho appeared down permanently. To his surprise, Nedrik snarled at Logan, who dropped and showed his belly. Pain sank into his flank, drawing a surprised yip from his lungs.

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ichards head snapped around upon hearing Abbotts pained cry. He leaped toward the pair. Before he could get there, his alpha had turned on his haunches and swiped a clawed paw at the wolf that had attacked him. With one mighty swing, Abbott knocked Delorian away from him. Richards mate didnt wait for Delorians next attack. Instead, he pounced on the enforcer. With a quick move and powerful jaws, Abbott ripped out Delorians throat. Abbott stepped away and spun around, growling again as his gaze fell on Nedrik and Logan. Nedrik immediately rolled and showed his belly. Stalking forward, Abbott clamped his jaws around first Nedriks neck, then Logans. Both wolves remained still, baring their throats, waiting. Abbott backed away and sniffed. Seconds later, a naked human Abbott knelt in the snow. 88

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Shift, Abbott snarled, glaring at the remaining pair of wolves. Once theyd both begun their changes, his alpha turned his stare toward Richard, his expression softening just a bit. You, too. Richard obeyed, pushing hard to shift as quickly as possible. Even having started a good ten seconds after the other pair, he still managed to get done just as they were. He quickly stood and crossed to stand beside his mate, showing a united front. Son of a bitch! Keeping one eye on the pair of men, Richard spotted Jimmy appearing between the trees at a dead run, skidding to a stop in the clearing. The beta took in the three dead wolves and the four naked men. His jaw sagged open. Son of a bitch! Jimmy hollered again. Richard smirked at the beta. You said that already. Jimmys eyes widened. He opened his mouth, then must have changed his mind, for he snapped his jaw shut. Instead, he turned his attention to Abbott and cocked his head. I apologize, Alpha. I allowed myself to become distracted. Jimmy flushed red and explained, The little kids asked me to decorate the tree with them.

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Abbott nodded once. Its fine, James, he stated, the alpha remaining formal in front of the two wolves whod attacked them. Although, now that Richard thought about it, Nedrik hadnt actually attacked them. He hoped his mate realized that, because hed hate to have to stand up for the dubious shifter, because he didnt truly trust him. Crossing his arms over his chest, unmindful of his nudityand the freezing snowAbbott glared at the pair of men. After a second, where he peered at first one wolf, then the other, and scented the wind, Abbott gave Logan a narroweyed glare. Logan St. Clair, you sided with Delorian Saverman, backing him when he led a coup against his alpha. The coup failed. Your fellows are dead. For a heartbeat, Abbott paused. His eyes narrowed as he took in the tense lines of the man. Logan St. Clair, you are hereby banished. If you ask for sanctuary from another pack and they ask why you were banished, I will tell them you mutinied. The more Abbott spoke, the more Logan paled. The wolf shifters Adams apple bobbed as his entire body trembled. You have seventy-two hours to say your goodbyes, pack your things, and get off of my packlands. 90

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Logan licked his lips and swallowed hard. His eyes gleamed for a moment and he blinked quickly. Finally, Logan sucked in a slow breath, nodded once, and bowed his head. I apologize, Alpha Abbott. I see the error of my ways. Should I be granted another pack, I will do my best to earn back my honor. At that, Abbott lifted a brow. I wish you all the best in your quest. After a second, the alpha sighed and softly added, Join us this evening, for the festivities. There will be time enough tomorrow to tell the rest of the pack of yourmisdeeds. Thank you, Alpha, Logan whispered, his voice hoarse. Abbott turned to Nedrik, scowling. He grunted low in his throat, then snapped, And you, Nedrik Rosher. You did not warn us of the danger. Why? Nedrik flushed. His gaze on the ground, he whispered, I didnt think youd believe me. We would have, Richard assured softly. He crossed his arms over his chest and growled, How do we know you didnt change your mind because you realized, even five against two, you all couldnt win? Im sorry, Nedrik immediately murmured. I was afraid. Afraid? Jimmy quickly cut in. Logan whispered, Of Delorian. 91

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Everyone turned to stare at the banished wolf. Logan swallowed hard. Delorian wasnt a real nice wolf, he whispered. If someone spoke against one of his ideas, he used his fists to convince him. Never anywhere noticeable, of course, Nedrik quickly cut in. In the gut or the kidneys were his favorite places. He glanced toward the downed wolftrepidation on his faceas if he feared the shifter would get up and attack. Abbott scowled. And this was something you tolerated? Why didnt you come to me? Or my father? Or Daniel? he snapped, referring to the prior beta. He always did it in the guise of one wolf showing another who was more dominant, Logan mumbled, his gaze fixed on the ground before him. Then, he became an enforcer. We didnt think wed be believed. Sighing, Abbott shook his head. He stared up at the gray sky for a few seconds, then focused on Logan. In your future pack, I hope you choose your friends more wisely. Logan nodded stiffly, his tension nearly a visible thing. Jimmy, head back to the pack. I need you to keep the deaths of Delorian, Bernie, and Walter under wraps for tonight, Abbott ordered. Well 92

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need to meet with Bernies mother and Walters brother and sister tomorrow, first thing. Yes, Alpha, Jimmy responded. The betas gaze swept over the downed wolves. For a moment, it appeared he planned to ask something, but then he turned away and trudged through the snow, back the way hed come. You two can help us get these wolves back to my place. Well put them in the shed for now, Abbott said, heading toward Delorian. Thats when Richard noticed itthe slight thinning of Abbotts lips, the pinch to the corners of his mouth, and the tense way he held his shoulders. Wait? Is that a limp? Richard followed his alpha to Delorians prone form. With each step Abbott took, small drops of blood colored the snow. Grabbing Abbotts bag, Richard thrust it at him. Here. I can get Delorian if you carry our stuff. He tried to make it sound like an offer, but upon Abbotts narrow-eyed look, knew he hadnt quite pulled it off. Forcing a smile, he stated, Well just drag them in wolf form. No sense in all of us freezing our asses off. Abbott peered at him. Fatigue and regret flashed in his eyes for just a second before he managed to hide it again. Very well. Ill go ahead and get tarps and open the shed. 93

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Relieved his mate wasnt going to argue, Richard quickly shifted. Once again a wolf, he sniffed around the downed Delorian, searching for the best way to grip him. Finally, he decided what the hell. He latched onto the shifters tail and began to drag him home. Behind him, Nedrik and Logan did the same to Walter and Bernie. Abbott paced beside them, making certain no one was around to see. Once they crossed onto his land, he jogged ahead, presumably to prepare the shed as hed mentioned. Richard wrapped a tarp around the last wolf, muttering thanks to Logan. Even upon hearing the pressure Logan had been under, Richard understood why Abbott hadnt overturned his decision to banish Logan. The wolf could have gotten out of the situation at any time. Instead, hed committed mutiny. Still, feeling bad for the wolf, Richard figured he could throw the shifter a bone. After Nedrik had left the small space, Richard grabbed Logans arm to keep him from leaving, too. Logan cringed and hung his head. Immediately releasing the shifter, Richard lifted his hands in placation. Look, Im gonna tell you I agree with my mate. You didnt give him the 94

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respect he deserved, so its time for you to move on. Logans cheeks flushed scarlet as he mumbled. Yeah. I know. However, Richard continued, I also know what its like to not have a pack. Running a hand through his hair once, he settled his fists on his hips. Look, go talk to Kontra Belikov. Hell be at the park this evening with a few members of his pack. Diego and Vail are part of his pack now and theyre gonna head out tomorrow evening, so theyre saying good-bye to most everyone tonight. He paused for just an instant, then before he could second guess himself, suggested, Ask to go with them. Finally, Logans head snapped up and he stared wide-eyed at him. Richard smiled and nodded once. Hes a fair alpha and firmly believes everyone deserves a second chance. H-Hes a bear shifter, Logan whispered, his trepidation clear. A grizzly bear. He paled a bit more. And theres a hyena and a bull and a ssnake! His last few words came out on a squeak. Chuckling, Richard patted his shoulder. Theyre good guys. Give it some thought, he recommended. Knowing he couldnt convince the shifter if he didnt want to be convinced, Richard 95

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patted the man on the shoulder and headed out of the shed. Besides, he was ready to get the hell out of the cold. The house was quiet when Richard entered. Cocking his head, he listened. Hearing a grunt, then a hiss, Richard started toward the master suite, calling for his mate. Abbott? Bathroom, his alpha called back. Stopping in the doorway, Richard leaned against the trim and watched his lover tape a piece of gauze on his leg, covering the claw marks. Richard growled low in his throat. Abbott straightened, his brows shooting up. Flushing, Richard admitted, I hate seeing anothers marks on you. Abbott stepped in front of him, cupped his jaw in one hand and slid his other arm around his waist, pulling him close. They will heal. You had my back, just as I knew you would. Remembering the fight, Richard scowled at his lover. You turned your back on Nedrik and Delorian to attack Walter. What the hell were you thinking? he roared. Instead of getting upset, Abbott pressed a soft butterfly kiss to his lips, then rested their foreheads together. You, babe. What? Confusion laced his voice. 96

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I was thinking of you, Richard. You are my mate and you were facing three wolves, Abbott stated. I know you can take care of yourself, but you are my mate. I will always consider your safety above my own. Sighing, Abbott rubbed their temples together, nuzzling, as he added in a hushed voice, I love you. I needed to see you safe. Richards heart tripped in his chest. His anger dissolved nearly instantly at those words. He swallowed hard, remembering the rage and jealousy hed felt upon Abbotts careless words earlier that evening. The fear that he wouldnt be enough for his lover had nearly torn a hole in his heart. Hearing Abbotts apology out on the deck, then facing off against those wolves, had put things into perspective for him. Richard knew hed been so angry, so hurt, because he loved Abbott. Richard had known only one thinghe had to keep his alpha safe so he could share that information. Even if Abbott hadnt reciprocated his feelings, Richard had vowed to tell him anyway, and hed have prayed that, someday, his mate would feel the same. Look, I know we havent been together long, Abbotts soft words cut into Richards thoughts. And its okay if you dont feel the same, but you asked, so I wanted to be honest with you. His 97

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man pressed a soft kiss to his temple. I always want honesty between us. I love you, too, Richard blurted. He jerked his head back a couple inches so he could look Abbott in the eyes. He scented the mans disbelief, even as he read the hope on his face. Im not good with words or emotions, but thats the truth. I do love you. He smiled, running his thumb over Abbotts brow, easing the creases there. Honesty would be great. To that end, I want to tell you that you scared the shit out of me. His tone lowered as his jaw clenched. Please, try not to do it again. A grin slowly took over Abbotts features, his eyes softening, expressing his pleasure. We live in a dangerous world, my lover, so I can only promise to try. Thank you, Richard replied, putting every ounce of gratitude he could into those two words, even knowing how inadequate they were. Abbott captured Richards mouth in a slow, thorough exploration. He tangled their tongues, encouraging Richards appendage into his own mouth, then sucking it lightly. The gentle pulls seemed to transfer straight to his cock, and Richard moaned into his lovers mouth as his cock hardened, painfully so. After a few minutes, Abbott eased the kiss to an end, then grinned at Richard. I plan to make 98

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slow, sweet love to you this evening, mate, he crooned. Show you emotion in action. Richard grunted. Reaching down, he pressed the heel of his hand against the base of his shaft. Fuck, he muttered. Oh, we will, Abbott assured softly. Pecking a kiss to Richards lips, he spoke against his mouth. Later, babe, Ill take very good care of you. Why not now? Richard knew he sounded whiny, but he couldnt help it. His cock ached and his ass clenched. Sure, hed felt his lovers dick just that morning, but he wanted his man pounding into him againalmost desperately. Not enough time to take care of you properly, Abbott murmured, nibbling on the sensitive skin at the joint of his jaw. Suddenly, he stepped back and grinnedlooking smug as he took in what Richard knew must be his kiss-swollen lips and flushed face. Damn, his man did it for him. However, I can help out with that. Upon watching his alpha lower to his knees, Richards breath caught in his throat. His shaft twitched, tapping against his stomach. Pre-cum strung from his abs to his cock-head, connecting them with a thin, gleaming thread. So pretty, Abbott crooned. Gripping Richards hip in one hand, he used the index finger of his other hand to break the thread, then swipe the moisture around his head. 99

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Richard moaned at the feel of the gentle touch on his sensitive glans. Seeing his mates lust-filled expression, he felt his balls roll in his sacks. Seconds later, Abbott opened his mouth and sucked him to the root. Wet, sucking heat surrounded his shaft, drawing a groan from his lips. Seeing his lover, his alpha, sucking his cock, combined with the sensations shooting through his stalk to zing through his veins, had Richard riding the edge embarrassingly fast. Unfortunately, right about then, Abbott released his hip, reached between his legs, and rolled Richards balls in his palm. Orgasm swamped him. Shouting hoarsely, Richard coated his lovers throat with blast after blast of seed. Bliss pinged through his system as his body convulsed. When Richard finally returned to some semblance of his senses, he sighed and smiled down at his lover. Give me a sec, and Ill return the favor. After licking his lips, Abbott grinned up at him. No need, mate, he assured. He rocked back on his heels and revealed the hand he had on his own spent cock. I came when you did. Leaning forward, he gently kissed Richards cock head, sending renewed tendrils of arousal through Richards system. You taste delicious. 100

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Grinning, Richard debated what he could say to get his man to take him to bed right then when the sound of Abbotts phone sounded from the dresser. Abbott must have read his disappointment, for he laughed as he gained his feet, slapping Richards hip as he went. Get dressed, lover, Abbott ordered. With a wink, he ordered, Duty calls. Richard lounged on the bench, grateful for the thermal underwear he wore under his jeans. The wood beneath his ass was damn cold. Watching his mate teach a ten year old girl how to ice skateNaomi, if he remembered correctly Richard couldnt be more proud. Somehow, hed managed to snag the heart of that man. Damn, Fate is good to me. Sipping the hot apple cider, he stretched his toes for a minute before sliding them into his boots. Gods, itd been ages since hed ice skated for that long. He put down his cup and tied his shoes. Just as he straightened, the bench under his butt jostled and the scent of a fellow wolf shifter drifted to his nostrils. Richard picked up his mugit felt damn awesome on his cold fingersand turned to smile at his brother. Hey, Crain. How you doing? 101

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Great. Crain took a sip of his own mug, which Richard recognized from its scent as coffee. His brother loved the beverage. That was a really nice thing you did for Logan. Richard peered at his brother from the corner of his eye. Im sure I dont know what you mean. Crain bumped his shoulder into Richards. Im sure you dont. Richard remained quiet, knowing he couldnt really speak openly about the whole incident with his brother. Of course, sibling intuition meant the second hed arrived at the lake, his brother knew something was up. Ten minutes after Richards arrival, Crain had pulled him aside and Richard had spilled the whole sordid mess to him. I heard Logan talking with Kontra, Crain revealed softly. Richard grunted in response. He knew his brother wouldnt need any other response of acknowledgement from him. Instead, Richard took in the scene before him. Families milled around the area, stopping at the grills, eating hotdogs and hamburgers, chatting and playing. The tree had been decorated by just about everyone. Even Richard had added a few ornaments, although most had been added by the children. I really like it here, Crain whispered, watching the activity. 102

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Richard grinned. Me, too, he murmured. Me, too. He spotted his lover hobbling off the iced-over lake, helping the little girl and almost landing on his ass. Richard stood and after an affectionate squeeze to his brothers shoulder, he crossed to his mans side. Abbott smiled his welcome, accepting Richards arm around his waist even as the mother took the little girls hand. Thank you, Alpha, the female shifter said sincerely, her grateful smile encompassing them both. Say thank you, Naomi. Naomi beamed up at Abbott. Thank you, Alpha! Laughing, Abbott replied, Of course, sweetie. You keep practicing. Youll be a pro in no time. I will, she called over her shoulder as her mother led her away. Helping his lover to the bench hed vacated not long before, Richard grinned over at his man. You have a fan. Abbott chuckled. Naomi got the hang of it fast. That was fun. After removing his skates and shoving into his boots, he rose and held out his hand. Richards brows lifted, but unwilling to deny his lover, he took the mans hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. He was even more 103

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surprised with Abbott leaned forward and pecked a quick kiss to his lips. Come on, babe, its time to light the tree. Glancing around, Richard realized no one freaked out over their PDA. In fact, no one seemed to care at allexcept Adriana who gave him a huge grin and a double thumbs up. Following his mate to the decorated tree, Richard realized hed really done it. Hed found the love of his life in a pack that accepted him. Grinning, Richard stood at his alphas side, watching him light the tree. Pride and love for the man mixed strangely with the satisfaction he felt at watching the people laughing and chatting around him. An amazing sense of peace and contentment filled Richard. Leaning close to his mate, Richard whispered, Love you. Abbott paused in his conversation with Aaric. He turned and smiled at Richard, his eyes glowing with his own pleasure. I love you, too, Richard. Knowing his lover spoke the truth, Richard couldnt wait to get home and see just how Abbott planned to express his emotions.

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About the Author


Charlie started writing fantasy when she was eight, and after stumbling onto her first erotic romance at age nineteen, she realized her true calling. She now focuses on writing gay erotic romance, normally of the paranormal variety, with heroes of all kinds. With the help and support of her husband, Charlie finally fulfilled one of her life-long goalsmove to acreage with her horses. You can often find her curled up with her laptop and a cup of tea or glass of wine, creating her next adventure. Charlie enjoys exploring the mountains of her new Oregon home on horseback, 4-wheeler, or motorcycle. She can be reached at ch.richards2010@yahoo.com Or visit her at www.charlie-richards.com