Home > Unexpected Demands (Hidden Wolves #2)

Unexpected Demands (Hidden Wolves #2)
Kaje Harper

Chapter 1

I’m running through the woods, full out on four legs, over leaves so dry they crumble beneath me. The air is still and hot, summer’s last breath. I’m not running for my life. If he catches me, it will be death for one of us, but the death might be his. He’s old now, his hair streaked with grey as a man, his wolf ’s muzzle frosted white. A senior, a veteran who never quite made Alpha, and bitter with it. He taught me well; in my desperate fury I might take him. But if I do, I’m not sure I’ll be sane afterward. I can feel the black abyss hovering, an emotionless darkness where I could go and let my wolf take over. My wolf wouldn’t hesitate. Hatred runs hot and acid in my throat and only iron control keeps me from turning to finish this. I’m running for my soul, and there are heavy footfalls coming fast through the dry leaves behind me…

Shit. I gave myself a quick smack to the head. The gesture was juvenile, but there was no one else in the room with me, and it jolted me back to the present. Bad enough that the nightmares had invaded my sleep again, claiming the few hours I allowed myself. It was unfair of them to sneak up on me when I was awake. Well, nominally awake.

I let myself have a moment, put my head in my hands and just closed my eyes. Breathe, for one moment don’t think and just breathe. I’d taught myself meditation long ago, for relaxation, for control when control was the difference between life and death. I used it now to gather energy. I was tired.

Make that fu**ing exhausted. Of course I was also angry, and frustrated, and worried. And admit it, Aaron David Tremaine, scared. Actually, you could take one of those charts from school, the name-your-emotions ones with the silly faces, and just put a check next to all the negatives, and that would pretty much sum up my current state.

And don’t forget the one that’s not on any kids’ chart: horny. After thirteen years of locking my need away where it couldn’t influence me, that one tumultuous night a week ago had brought it roaring back to life, worse than ever. And it wasn’t even a night when I got any sex.

Maybe being tired was good. It took the edge off all the rest. I rubbed my face briskly, sat up in my chair, and laid my hands

flat on the desk. This was no time to be indulging myself. When you’re the Alpha of a werewolf pack, even a pack as small and non-traditional as mine, you have to be Alpha. No doubts, no worries, at least where the lower-ranked wolves can see you. I’d been faking that all week, ever since pack leadership had fallen into my hands.

Since I’d ripped it from Karl’s bleeding body. A rap on the door startled me, then the door was flung open before I could respond. Vincent looked in. His normal air of detached amusement was replaced with a frown. “Aaron, there’s trouble at Simon’s.”

“Damn.” I was up and moving immediately. “Do you know who or how many?” “Nope.”

“Who’s on guard duty?”


“Son-of-a-bitch.” It was only a figure of speech. There are no female werewolves. If there were, maybe we’d have a much more relaxed attitude about sex and reproduction, and this whole mess wouldn’t be happening. I didn’t mean it as an insult to Andy either. He was just the wrong person to be on deck for any kind of trouble. Young, submissive, and easygoing, Andy had the softest personality of any of my wolves. And if anyone had hurt him and I caught up to them, they were going to be eating through a straw for a month, werewolf healing or not.

“Do you want me with you?” Vincent asked eagerly. The old wolf had been a surprise addition to my pack. I hadn’t expected any of the seniors to come my way. He’d appointed himself my secretary, and was so useful I had no desire to depose him, even though secretly I thought he decided to be mine mainly out of boredom. Joining my pack gave him a ringside seat at the circus. Some people weren’t made for retirement.

But Vincent wasn’t above stirring up a little extra excitement, just to see what happened. Which was the last thing I needed. “No. Stay here. Call Joshua and tell him I’m about to come down on some wolf of his. Again.”

Vincent made a face. He’d have preferred the chance of a fight over making an unwelcome call to the no doubt pissed off Alpha of a different pack. Especially since Joshua was too dour to make it fun for Vincent to rile him up. But he would make the call, and—I gave him a hard glare until he dropped his eyes— he would control the impulse to be snide. It was a good thing Vincent accepted my authority. I left him to it.

Simon owned a small house with a white-fenced yard. It was far enough from the neighbors for privacy, which was turning out to be a good thing. When I pulled in the driveway, four men were standing on the front steps. On the bottom step, in a dark parka and boots, stood a stocky, brown-haired man with a reddened face. He looked in his mid-thirties, but I knew he was sixty-six. I also knew he was short-tempered, right-handed, of average intelligence, and he was as violently homophobic as they come. Daniel. Shit.

A few steps behind him was a man who might have been his clone, but for the lighter hair and eyes: Geoffrey. He had been eighth ranked in our old pack, and was now Joshua’s Third, and not a stupid man. But he was cold, and calculating, and had no love for any wolf of mine.

At the top of the steps stood my two men. Andy was dressed for the weather, his gloved hands clenched into fists, the hood of his jacket pushed back to give him a full range of vision. His breath streamed out in puffs of white, and I could practically taste his fear, but he held his ground. Behind him, oblivious to having bare feet on the frozen porch, Simon stood still as stone. Short but wide, built like a fighter with muscles rippling under his copper skin, Simon was not a wolf to take on lightly. A fact Daniel apparently acknowledged, since he was still at the bottom of those stairs.

They all swung their heads to look at me as I got out of the car. Andy’s posture relaxed immediately. I winced inwardly at his faith in his Alpha, even as I appreciated it.

Simon held his ground, unmoving. But then he had his lover, Paul, in that house behind him. No one was getting through Simon to come close to Paul. And he trusted no one, not even me, to take that responsibility from him.

“Geoffrey,” I said coolly. “Daniel.” “This is none of your affair, Tremaine,” Daniel snapped. I noted that Geoff was holding back and letting the lower wolf speak up. Interesting.

“Of course it is. My wolves, my problem. Want to tell me what’s going on?” “I’m here to challenge that…that…thing that you’re letting walk around like he’s as good as the rest of us.” Daniel pointed a finger at Simon. I took into account the slight tremble that was due to rage, not fear. Stupid of him to underestimate Simon, but that was Daniel.

“In the first place,” I told him, “you can’t. He’s not in your pack now. You want to take on one of my wolves, you have to face me first. And I don’t think you want to do that.” I glared at him, and it took less than two seconds for him to drop his eyes. I might have been only a few ranks ahead of him in the old pack, but I was an Alpha now, and his body knew that even better than his brain. “In the second place, Simon would wipe the floor with you, if I let him.”

“Bullshit,” Daniel blustered. “He’s nothing. Stinking faggot. He’s bowed his head to me a hundred times.” “Because he chose to. Think, you fool. Simon beat Frank in a fair fight. Frank!” The big tawny wolf had been our Fifth, and a vicious fighter. In the scrambling events of that night, when I killed Karl and everything had changed, perhaps the biggest surprise had been Simon rising victorious from Frank’s body. I had known he was holding back, hiding in the middle of the pack. I hadn’t realized how much.

The memory of that night flitted across Daniel’s face too, and he paled a shade, but he wasn’t the kind to ever back down. “Bullshit,” he repeated. “I can take him.”

I turned a calm eye to Geoffrey, who was watching us both. “Is this challenge sanctioned by your Alpha?”

Geoff shook his head. “I don’t believe he ran it by Joshua first. But he does have a complaint.” More than the standard g*y werewolves are the spawn of Satan and should be destroyed?

“What complaint?”

“My house!” Daniel sputtered. “Someone took orange spray paint and wrote things on my house!”

I turned an inadvertent snort into a cough. Not funny, not funny. “What things?”

Daniel’s face had regained its red hue. “Words. Insults. And he did it.” He turned to glare at Simon again. “You know he did. Cowardly, sneaking around, afraid to face me. He wrecked my house!” He made a lunge up the stairs.

I grabbed his arm, and swung him around to face me. “Shut up and stand down,” I hissed, with all the menace I could put into it. Apparently it was enough, because he sagged like all the air had leaked out of him. “I will look into this, and if your property was damaged, I’ll see that you get compensation from the guilty party. But it wasn’t Simon. I’ve had men watching him for his protection all week.” I gestured at Andy. “Simon didn’t do anything to you. So go home, and let your Alpha deal with this. Unless you’d rather challenge me?”

He didn’t even try to meet my eyes. “No, Alpha.” “Go.” I gave him a shove toward his parked car.

From where he stood watching, Geoff said, “Maybe it wasn’t Simon this time. But your pack’s out of control. You’re only asking for trouble, letting this go on. Follow the law, get rid of the human who knows about us, deal with your fag, and then we can live in peace again.”

“Over my dead body,” I said coldly. “Perhaps.” Geoff looked me up and down, then shifted his gaze to Simon, and to Andy still trying to look tough and protective. When Geoff turned back to me his lip was curled in a sneer, although he couldn’t quite meet my eyes. “Perhaps someone will take you down, and then deal with this…perversion… the way it should be handled.”

“But not you.” I stepped forward, pushing into his personal space, and he backed off a step, then two. “And not today. Now get out of here.”

I held my ground until they climbed into their car and drove away. Then I sighed. Damn. I so did not need this.

Behind me Andy said softly, “I’m sorry, Aaron.” “For what?” I turned to look at him. “You did what you were supposed to. When trouble came, you called me and backed up Simon until I got here. What else could you have done?”

“I wasn’t much backup,” he said miserably. “Daniel would have walked right over me.” “It’s not your job to stand up to wolves like Daniel. It’s mine. You did fine.” I climbed the steps and slapped his shoulder gently. “Take off, Andy. I’ll be here for a while, and Damian will be on patrol soon. Go get something to eat and warm up.” Not that we wolves felt the cold much.

Andy ducked his head. “Okay.” He turned to Simon. “You okay, bro?” Simon dredged up a smile. The two had been friends a long time. “I’m fine. I’m glad you didn’t get dragged into a real fight, but it was good to have you here.”

“Right, sure.” Andy waved a hand toward the house. “Bye, Paul.” He pulled his hood up over his ears and headed off down the road to wherever he had parked his car.

I turned to Simon, still standing immovable in his doorway in sweatpants and a T-shirt. “Let’s take this inside,” I said gently. “You’re letting in the cold, and you may not feel it, but Paul does.”

Simon came back to me with a start. “Yeah.” He led the way into his house. Just inside the entry, in the shadows of the hall, stood his human mate, Paul. Simon went to him quickly, perhaps unconsciously keeping himself between me and Paul. Neither one was tall, but Simon was wide, hard with muscle, while Paul was slender. Simon was dark, copper-skinned, and black-haired. He was good-looking, with regular features and that muscular build, but not remarkable unless you caught the spark of humor in his eyes.

Paul was dark gold of hair and eyes, and beautiful. All the more so because he seemed unaware of it. Simon, anything but unaware, practically pissed circles around him when other men came too close. It would have been funny, under other circumstances.

I looked at them for a moment, then shut down the bond that linked me to Simon’s emotions. I couldn’t concentrate with the force of Simon’s fear and love and anxiety pressing in on me. The odd echo that was Paul went with it. My head felt a little better without the intense stress I’d been getting from the two men.

“Can we sit down?” Simon led the way into the living room, bringing Paul with him. He kept his hand on Paul’s arm like he needed the contact. I dropped onto the couch and Paul sat in the chair across from me. Simon chose to stand behind him. Paul craned his neck back to look up at his mate and sighed, but forbore to comment.

“So,” I told them, “I’ll check into the spray paint thing. It’s not your concern. But this pattern of threats against you is not going to go away.”

“I didn’t think it would.” Simon’s voice sounded as tired as I felt. “Once the word got out, I knew we had a problem.” “It’s all over the pack websites. So far a dozen Alphas have called for me to purge my own pack or they’ll do it for me. Most are calling me a liar to my face, for taking you in as a pair. They’re suggesting I should be eliminated immediately myself. The mate bond thing is making them have kittens.”

Paul snorted, as I’d hoped he would. Simon just looked grim. “On the plus side…” I continued.

“There’s a plus side to this?” Simon asked.

“I have eight queries from other wolves either putting out tentative feelers about joining our pack or asking me to explain how the mate bond between two men worked.”

“Which helps us how? You’re not going to invite strangers into the pack right now.” “No. But it’s proof that eliminating you and Paul won’t get rid of the issue of g*y wolves. We need to address it, not try and stuff it back in the box. Which is the point I’m trying to make on the Net.”

“How’s that working for you?” Simon asked acidly. “It’s an uphill battle,” I agreed. “But I think I’m getting a shift from ‘kill them now’ to ‘check the situation out and then kill them.’” “Which is so much better.” “Of course it is,” I snapped. Even without the bond open, I could almost feel the darkness pulling Simon down. For a wolf who had faced his own imminent death more than once with a can-do attitude, he was awfully negative now.

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