Authors: Dana Marie Bell
To my mom who, like me, suffers from migraines.
To my dad, who gets to suffer through my mother having a migraine. Trust me; it’s no more fun for the family than it is for the sufferer.
To Dusty, who’s helped me figure out what my triggers are and how to avoid them. Yanking the roast beef sandwich out of my hand and eating it yourself was such a sacrifice. I know you’re still not over the pain.
And to everyone else out there who, like me, has suffered through what Dave does, you have my sympathy.
Benjamin Malone shivered in the dark, praying no one would find him. If they did, they might “help” him, and the last thing Ben needed was the Pack’s form of help. Because if they found him, the first thing they’d do would be to return him to his father.
He held still, praying, hoping Steve would just go away. Steven Hoode was his best friend. He knew all about Ben’s father, knew about the drinking binges, the fights, the emotional blackmail. The fists that left behind bruises no one else could see.
He always wondered why the Alpha didn’t do something about his father. He had to know what was going on! Or the Marshall, the Alpha’s enforcer, the one who felt the physical well-being of the entire Pack; how could the man feel what was going on and not
something? The Omega felt the emotional state of the Pack members; why didn’t he make it stop?
But no one helped him. No one cared except a few friends his own age. The entire Pack turned a blind eye to his father’s blows, the drunken rampages. Walter Malone was careful to keep his drinking to himself, hiding it from others, but there was no way in hell he was hiding it from the Pack leaders. Which, to Ben, meant they didn’t give a shit about the teenager hiding in the trees.
He thanked God every day that his parents only had one child. He couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like if his father had someone younger than him to hurt. Someone weaker. Someone Ben couldn’t protect. Hell, up until her death his mother hadn’t been able to protect herself. If the cancer hadn’t taken her, his father would have. Trying to protect someone when he could barely protect himself would have been a nightmare.
“C’mon, Benny. They’re headed this way.”
If his father found him cowering in the trees like a little girl he’d beat the shit out of him again. He might be a drunk, but his father was damn strong and still a lot bigger than Ben. Ben dropped to the ground, close to where he knew Steve was hiding.
Steve. The full-human boy who lived not too far down the mountain, the one he wasn’t supposed to be friends with. The one who knew nothing of Packs and Alphas and men who turned into Wolves. If the Alpha found out he’d let a human onto Pack lands his father would be the least of his worries. The Alpha might even go so far as to Outcast him, turn him out into the world without his Pack.
He’d rather suffer the beatings than that. To be Outcast was the worst form of punishment, forever cut off from the voice of the Alpha, the warmth of the Pack. Forever alone. He’d be a target for anyone from the shifter world who wanted a toy to play with or something to beat on just for the hell of it.
At least here he had hope that someday, when a new Alpha took over the Pack, he’d be safe.
Ben grabbed Steve’s hand and started running. Ben was even more terrified now that Steve was here. The Alpha could do serious damage to both of them if he caught them, and if he did catch them Steve probably wouldn’t survive. The Alpha firmly believed that humans and shifters should remain separated at all times no matter the circumstances. Anyone caught infringing on his rule would suffer the consequences. They’d probably never even find Steve’s body.
If Rick were here he’d help Ben hide the boy. Rick didn’t share his grandfather’s views on Pack life, but Rick wasn’t here. He was housebound, grounded for a week for trying to stand up to his grandfather. Ben had been proud of him. Someday, that scary redhead was going to challenge the Alpha, and Ben had every intention of standing right at his side when he did.
Ben froze. Oh God. Oh no. He recognized that voice. He couldn’t be here if the Alpha caught them. Ben couldn’t protect him. “Go away, Dave!”
Dave Maldonado, fifteen years old and tempting as sin, stepped out from behind a bush. His light brown hair glittered in the moonlight like it was dusted with gold. His startling amber eyes were wide. He stared at the hand Ben had clamped around Steve’s, his own hands clenching. When the boy grew into those hands he was going to be huge. “What’s going on?”
Ben didn’t want to drag Dave into this. The kid wasn’t ready to face Ben’s dad, let alone the Alpha. “Go away.” He tightened his grip on Steve’s hand, ignoring the way his gut clenched at the thought of someone hurting Dave.
Dave’s gaze rose to his, the pain in them worrying Ben. “Where are you going?”
“Far away from here,” Steve muttered. He looked behind him. “Can we chat later, ladies?”
Ben jerked. He could hear the pursuit behind them, knew they had seconds before the others caught wind of them. “Gotta run. Listen, don’t tell anyone you saw us, okay?”
“Dave!” Ben took a deep breath. “Don’t tell
Dave nodded and rubbed at his forehead. “Yeah. Sure. No problem.”
And Ben took off, dragging his best friend behind him and leaving behind the boy he knew would someday be his mate.
“Mmm. That’s so good. Don’t stop, baby. Please don’t ever stop.”
Dave reached down and dug his fingers into the short, ebony strands. Wet heat surrounded his cock, damn near swallowing him whole. He resisted the urge to thrust up into the warm, willing mouth wrapped around him. He didn’t want to be too rough, was afraid he might cause damage to the man currently sucking him down.
He would never hurt his mate.
Strong fingers reached around and toyed with Dave’s balls, his mate’s nearly black eyes dancing wickedly. Dave thought he’d died and gone to heaven. He groaned, the tingle in his balls stronger now. He was close. So fucking close he could taste it. Tingling sparks of pure pleasure raced down his spine.
“Gonna.” That was all he could get out, his brain having short-circuited the minute that wet mouth hit his prick.
His mate nodded, his tongue stroking the head of Dave’s cock. He sucked on Dave’s cock like it was the last piece of man candy in the world and he was determined to get a piece.
Dave exploded into his mate’s mouth, the pleasure so intense he damn near blacked out. His whole body clenched as wave after wave of pure delight streamed from him into Ben Malone.
Dave stroked the dark fall of hair away from deep, almost black eyes and smiled. His mate’s lips parted, glistening, plump from the suction he’d had on Dave’s cock.
He frowned. What the fuck?
Ben’s brows rose, and his mouth opened once more. Inside, his tongue had become a cell phone.
Dave bolted upright, his sheets sticky, his body still heaving from the best orgasm he could ever remember having. He picked up his cell phone, took one look at the caller ID and threw it across the room. Whatever it was, Rick could wait. Dave was battling the mother of all headaches and wasn’t in the mood for much more than sleep.
Fuck it. He’d rather dream than live in reality anyway.
In dreams, he got to have his mate. He didn’t have to see the scorn in Ben’s eyes or hear the disgust in his voice when he spoke to Dave. Why fate had seen fit to give him a mate who hated him Dave didn’t know. Life would be so much easier if Ben’s mate had been that fucker Steve, the full-human he was always around.
Then maybe Dave could have found someone of his own and these migraines would never have been.
Dave lifted away the sheet and stepped out of bed. It was time to face the day, damn it. Rick was coming back from his trip to Halle, and Dave had to be there to greet his Alpha. The headache was building again, slowly ramping up. He could feel it beating behind his eyes in time to his heartbeat. Soon the nausea would rise, and Dave would be useless. He just hoped Rick arrived sooner rather than later.
Dave just wanted to go back to painless dreaming.
He showered and dressed in the dim light of his cabin. When he came out, a text message waited for him on his cell. The Alpha would arrive in the next thirty minutes, and he wanted Dave’s ass on the front porch of the Red Wolf Lodge, ready to report on the last week. Dave threw on his light jacket and dark sunglasses and headed for the main lodge. He hid his wince when he saw who waited for him. Ben, the Pack’s Marshall, stood with his arms crossed, glaring at Dave. Chela, the Pack Omega, winced in sympathy.
It was nice to know one of them was on his side. “Morning, Chela. Ben.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Dave wasn’t surprised by the barely veiled contempt on Ben’s face, a sight he had become all too familiar with when they were alone. He sighed, resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. But that would move his sunglasses, and he just couldn’t handle the pain that would hit him if he did. It was a cloudless spring day, the sun bright and shiny and full of stabbing daggers dying to bury themselves in his eyes.
Ben rolled his eyes. “Headache again?”
“Yeah.” Dave hoped, just
, that the man who was meant to be his mate would be sympathetic.
“Hmm.” Ben’s lips pinched together in disapproval. He turned away, staring at the driveway. “Rick and Belle should be arriving any moment now.”
“Any itchiness, Marshall?” Dave folded his arms, ignoring the stabbing pain of the early spring light. If his Alpha didn’t arrive soon Dave was going to be in no shape to brief him. Ben’s attitude wasn’t helping, either. The coolness between them had returned quickly after Belle had arrived and settled in, much to Dave’s dismay. More than once he’d tried to get the other man to open up about why he was always so distant. Not once had Ben deigned to answer him.
He had to face it. His mate hated him, and he had no idea why. Not even Chela, the Omega, could figure out the source of the contempt Ben showered on him. All she could say was it was very personal. Just because you could feel someone’s emotions didn’t mean you understood
they felt them.
“Nope. They’re safe.”
“That’s good.” Dave sniffed. Damn, he couldn’t wait to get out of here. He had two weeks’ vacation coming up, and damn if he wasn’t looking forward to a little down time. He had all his plans in place. Fuck Ben Malone. Dave was going to enjoy himself if it killed him. And he knew just the person to help him too.
But he just had to try one last time to get through to Ben. If he could get the man to talk to him, maybe he could find out why Ben avoided him like the plague. “The fall crowd is pretty tame this year.”
“Spring looks to be busy, though. The lodge is full through June.”
Dave sighed. The man plain refused to talk to him. Enough was enough. Ben had been avoiding him ever since Rick and Belle left for Halle to visit Belle’s doctor. Dave, as acting Alpha, needed to coordinate with the Marshall, Marshall’s Second and Omega. That meant that Ben’s avoidance could be construed as a challenge. Dave chose not to see it that way at first, but now he wasn’t so sure. Rick and Belle had been gone for a week and Ben had been less than cooperative. “Ben.”
“Until Ted gets here with Rick and Belle I’m still acting Alpha.” Ted, the Marshall’s Second and Ben’s right hand man, had gone with Rick and Belle in Ben’s stead. For some obscure reason Ben had requested to stay behind with the Pack and Rick had agreed. “You need to respect that.”
Ben frowned. “Why the hell should I? You don’t.”
Dave blinked at the low growl in Ben’s voice. “Excuse me?”
“Why the hell do you think I stayed behind?” Ben sighed. “Look, I don’t know what the fuck Rick was thinking appointing you Beta, but we both know it was a huge mistake.”
He could feel his power shifting inside him, his wolf unhappy at his mate’s words, the innate Alpha within him stirring at the blatant challenge. Betas, like Alphas and Marshalls and the rest of the hierarchy of the pack, weren’t picked, they were born that way. Ben of all people had to know that. “Explain yourself.”
Ben winced. “Can we talk about this later? Rick and Belle will be here any minute now.”
Ben had been saying that for years. Some form of
Can we talk about it later?
had passed his lips ever since Dave had turned seventeen and let it be known he was ready to mate him. Well, Dave was twenty-four now and damn sick and tired of Ben wanting to wait. He let some of the power that was his seep from him, demanding an answer from the Marshall. “No. We’ll discuss this
Ben looked startled before his head bowed down in deference to the display Dave was using. If he knew exactly how strong Dave was he would probably be shocked. Most Betas didn’t have the strength that was an Alpha’s, and there was only one reason Dave
an Alpha. The fucking headaches made it impossible for him to be effective leading a Pack for more than short stints. Being Beta to Rick was the perfect solution, and one his wolf was more than happy with.