Do you like shifters? Rock stars? Not sure? Here’s your chance to decide if you want to go on a journey with the Bad Oak Boys….
…scroll down for chapter one of ALPHA SHAMAN!
Gay Romance, Shifters, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Word Count: 56,260
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing
The world isn’t ready for a rock star werewolf, but Josh Oakley can’t stop biology. When his brother sends sexy wolf shaman Gerwulf to help him, instinct is too mild a word for how he feels. Gerwulf calls to his animal in a way that defies logic.
Gerwulf knows Josh is his mate the moment they meet, but he doesn’t like guys and he doesn’t intend to bond with anyone. He’ll help the musician control his wolf, but getting too close isn’t his intention. Besides, he wouldn’t know what to do with a man in his bed.
Of course, shifters can’t dodge fate—a crisis forces Josh and Gerwulf to accept their connection just in time to save Forst Pack from an old enemy. When biology ties them together beyond even a mating bond, will they be able to move past their fear and into a future that holds more than they ever expected?
Chapter One Excerpt:
Only half awake and still shaking from the nightmare, Josh Oakley stared at the lit display of his cell phone. The time told him that he hadn’t been asleep long. He considered heading to the hotel bar in search of liquid consolation, but quickly dismissed the thought. He didn’t like the way booze made him feel, and the band didn’t need him going off the rails in public. Not that I ever drank much. His heart pushed against his ribs too hard and fast for a man having only just gone to sleep an hour ago. He frowned, willing his brain to stop running in circles. A long, dark, coarse hair had wormed its way between the side of his phone and its black case, pricking his thumb. He plucked it out and tried to calm down, but his thoughts wouldn’t settle.
It’s just a dream, Josh. It’s not real. Just like aliens aren’t real and neither are zombies. He crushed the hair between his fingers. It crinkled, then bounced back onto the phone’s display. He brushed it to the floor, pretending he hadn’t seen it. Pretending he wasn’t feeling what he was feeling. That he wasn’t sensing something wild and wolfish in the deepest part of his psyche. Fuck. His heart stuttered again.
“Call him, you idiot,” he muttered, sliding a finger down the screen until his contacts list popped up and glared at him accusingly. “He’s your brother. He won’t mind even if it’s the middle of the night.” His thumb stabbed Ryan’s name before he could chicken out again. I hope to God he can help me. Josh took a deep breath and put the phone to his ear. It rang once, twice, and then he winced as Ryan’s groan reverberated through his skull.
“Jesus, Josh. Do you know what time it is?” His older brother’s voice sounded rough. Tired.
“I’m sorry, but it’s happening again, Ryan,” Josh said, biting the words out one at a time so he wouldn’t start yelling. He ignored the stab of guilt he felt for bothering his brother so late. Ryan would have to deal, and he’d make it up to him. “I’m not imagining it. I swear I’m not making this up.” He stared at the blurry outline of the hair he’d swatted to the floor. From his vantage point on the bed, it sort of blended into the hotel’s carpet, but he knew it was there. He didn’t have to see it to remember how it felt against his finger.
Silence, and then a long sigh told him his brother understood. Finally. “Okay, I’ll send someone to help you. Just hang in there, Josh.”
Josh swallowed, hard. “Can’t you just come yourself? I wouldn’t mind seeing Fenris, too. I miss you guys. It’s weird touring on my own. And I’m sure the audience is sick of my lame-ass voice trying to do lead vocals. Bad Oak isn’t the same without you, and everyone knows it.”
“Fenris is sick, and Bardulf is off mediating a disagreement between two packs. Something about a territory dispute. Damned idiots, fighting over a few acres.” Ryan let out a frustrated growl. “You’d think grown men would know better. Last I heard, they were flinging accusations of witchcraft back and forth. It’s ridiculous.”
“Oh.” Josh rubbed his face, disappointed. “Is Fenris okay?” He hated the thought of his two year old nephew being ill. He loved the little pup more than he ever thought he would. “I can deal with my shit. I’m not dying or anything.” His guilt increased. He didn’t like feeling so weak. So frightened. He was twenty-five years old. He should be able to handle a few bad dreams without calling his big brother for help. And his big brother had a lot more on his plate than dealing with his sibling’s nighttime anxiety attacks.
“It’s just the flu, but he’s still got a fever. The barfing finally stopped yesterday, thank God. He can’t seem to aim for the bucket, and I’m getting tired of cleaning vomit off of my feet.” Ryan yawned into the phone. “So tell me, what exactly is going on with you?”
Josh stared across the hotel room. As a founding member of Bad Oak, platinum selling rock band extraordinaire, he no longer had to stay in crappy motels, but sometimes the swanky resorts had the weirdest wallpaper. Old tea roses sprawled along the walls of this particular room like drunken spiders. He shuddered. “Bad dreams,” he finally said. “More hair in my bed.”
His brother took a deep breath. “Shit.”
Josh had hoped he was overreacting, but his brother’s flat response blew that wish out of the water. “I’m fine. It’s nothing.” He regretted calling. Now that he was on the phone with his brother, he felt like an idiot, especially compared to what Ryan was dealing with. A sick kid, a spouse who was off trying to solve the impossible… “I’m sorry I called. I didn’t realize Fen had the flu.” He rubbed his face tiredly.
“You’re probably trying to shift in your sleep. That’s not fine. That’s fucking dangerous. And it’s not just bad dreams. We don’t have dreams like that without it meaning something, Josh.” Ryan sounded more awake now. “When the wolf wants out, he’ll come out, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If someone isn’t there to help you—”
“I’m not a wolf, Ryan,” Josh cut him off. He knew his protest was feeble. He and his brother shared DNA. He had the same dormant capacity to shift as Ryan. But I don’t have a mate to push my genes over the edge, so this shouldn’t be happening. Ryan is mated to Bardulf. I’m alone. I don’t have a mate. I don’t even have a fuck buddy, for Christ’s sake.
“You’re my sibling. Anything is possible.”
Josh’s anger rose to the surface. “I called you for help, not to listen to you state the fucking obvious, brother.”
“Shit, Josh,” Ryan said. Then he took another deep breath and blew it out. “I didn’t mean it like that, and you know it.” He sounded even more tired than he had just a minute ago.
Something feral inside Josh pushed at his skin. He ignored it. He was getting really damned good at ignoring that part of his mental landscape. “I want to cancel the rest of the tour.”
“What? Are you serious?” Ryan sounded shocked. “No, don’t do that. Look, you only have another month to go, right?”
“You know the schedule as well as I do.” Josh gritted his teeth. “I’m tired, Ryan.” He rubbed his free hand over his arm. His skin prickled. It had been doing that more and more lately. “I just need more rest. I don’t need a babysitter. As soon as the tour is over, I’m going to sleep for a week, okay? You don’t have to worry about me. Forget I called. I can manage.”
“I’m going to send someone to help you. Just hang in there until he gets to you, okay?”
Josh swallowed his frustration. His brother was trying to help the only way he could. Ryan had responsibilities. They all did. “Fine. Whoever you send better get here quick. I don’t know how much longer I can keep singing and not sleeping.” He kicked at the covers angrily, watching in satisfaction as they slid to the floor. He wished he could smash some windows and mirrors, but Bad Oak didn’t do the kind of destructive shit other rock bands loved to indulge in. “I’m not sure splitting the band up for this gig was a good idea.”
“The fans love you, Josh. The reviews of your acoustic stuff are fantastic. Bad Oak will tour again as a band, but right now it’s your time to shine as a solo artist,” Ryan said.
Josh made a face. “You seem really sure about that.”
“I am sure. It was the right thing to do, especially with Fen so little, still.”
Josh sighed. “Okay, whatever. Send your guy. He better not be a dick.”
Ryan laughed. “He used to have a bit of an attitude, but I think our Shaman has scraped off all the sharp edges.”
“Oh no. Please don’t tell me you’re sending—” The sudden deadness of the line was all Josh needed to know. “Fuck!” He tossed the phone down onto the nightstand and tried to ignore the sudden fizz of energy that shot through his body. Outside the room, the city lights twinkled at him indifferently. Inside his head, his animal side suddenly coalesced into something wild. Something desperate. He clenched his fists and willed his body to relax, shoving the wolf he knew lurked in the deepest part of his soul down deeper. He was going to deal with this shifting shit on his own terms even if it killed him.
Which it very well might.
“Alpha Ryan, you sent for me?” Gerwulf asked, trying to stifle his yawn. He was only half successful. His mentor, Shaman Ralf, had prodded him awake ten minutes ago and told him to report to the Alpha, never mind that it was the middle of the night. God knows what he thinks I did now. I’d hoped that the past two years with Ralf would’ve shown everyone that I’m not the fuck-up I used to be. Of course, changing people’s opinions was harder than it looked, especially since he’d been an idiot when he was younger. He’d managed to offend most of the pack with his stupid ideas and snotty attitude. Not for the first time, he fought down the shame that rose anytime he thought about what he’d been like. He had no idea why the Forst Alphas had seen fit to give him a second chance, but he wasn’t going to waste it by mouthing off over something as minor as being woken up unexpectedly.
Forst Pack’s co-leader stared at him, half-frowning. Gerwulf fought the urge to smooth down his hair under that steady perusal. He was a grown man. And he was the Shaman-Heir apparent, even if it wasn’t official yet. He wouldn’t disgrace his mentor by acting like the spoiled teenager he’d been two years ago.
“I did. I need you to help a new wolf deal with shifting unexpectedly,” Ryan said. “Ralf told me you would be more than able to handle the situation.”
Gerwulf’s eyebrows rose. He didn’t know of any teens on the verge of shifting in Forst Pack. Or at least, not any that didn’t have their parents on hand to help them out. “Did we take on new members? I know I sometimes focus on my studies too much and maybe I missed the welcome announcement.” Shit. He hoped he hadn’t missed something important. It was going to be his job to keep track of the pack’s emotional and spiritual needs and he didn’t want to give the impression he was a flake.
Ryan shook his head. “No, no you didn’t miss anything.”
“I don’t understand.” Gerwulf glanced around, but the Alpha’s office was neat and no one else was awake in the pack mansion. Miles of gleaming wood didn’t do much to answer his confusion.
“This is a delicate situation, so I’ll need you to keep this quiet.”
This didn’t sound good. Gerwulf frowned. “Shamans aren’t usually sent to help with shifting, except in extreme circumstances. The change works better if the wolf’s family is the one helping. There’s an emotional connection that eases the way.” He watched Ryan’s face twist slightly. Worry slid down his spine. Something weird was going on here. “Of course you probably already know that.”
“I do know that, Gerwulf, and believe me, I would go if I could. But Bardulf is off dealing with that dispute, and I’m needed here because Fen is sick. You’re the next best thing.” Ryan sighed and rubbed his face. “This is important. I’m trusting you with this.”
Gerwulf’s wolf whined very quietly in the back of his mind. “Who is it?” he asked, knowing that the answer would probably not make him happy. He could think of only one person in particular who was related to Ryan and who also easily made him feel like the selfish brat he’d been a couple years ago with just a brief look. Gerwulf had been young and incredibly self-centered, protesting when Bardulf had become Alpha of Forst Pack. No one in the pack had approved of his behavior, especially not Ryan’s brother. “You know that my relationship with some members of the pack is still tenuous,” he said. His mind turned over possibilities of who Ryan could want him to help and kept circling back to one person in particular. But that would be impossible. He’s a human. And off on tour, being famous and perfect and completely not someone I can hang out with.
“You’re very perceptive, but then, Ralf assured me you’d come a long way since you began studying with him,” Ryan said, his expression easing a bit. “The wolf who needs your help is Josh, my brother.”
“Okay, so this is crazy,” Gerwulf told Ralf as he shoved clothes into a duffel. He didn’t feel up to this task, at all. The fire at the far end of the cave flickered against the stone walls, mirroring the turmoil he felt inside. He was supposed to help Josh. Bad Oak’s lead guitar player and sexy rock star. The guy who made him feel like an loser just by existing. Josh had always been incredibly polite, even when Gerwulf was a sixteen-year-old asshole. Josh was a nice person despite his fame and boatloads of money. And yet, Ryan wants me to help him? Everyone knows I’m not that cool. And, too, he didn’t want to go off to live on some cramped tour bus filled with guys who’d known him before he’d managed to reform himself into a decent person. Unfortunately, that’s what his Alpha was asking him to do, so he would do it. But I don’t have to like it.
“This is what you’ve been training for,” Ralf said mildly, not seeming to notice Gerwulf’s agitation. He sat in his creaky wooden chair with the faded and worn cushions half fraying into dust. The old man loved that chair. Someday it was going to disintegrate right out from under him, but Ralf didn’t care. His mate, Kenyon, had crafted it as a mating gift. Their joining had been the stuff of legends: two males, one a Shaman and the other a lone wolf, choosing to be together when same-sex pairings hadn’t just been illegal, they’d been downright life-threatening. “You are exactly the right person to help Josh learn how to accept his wolf into his life. And you’re not the kind of man to let a pretty face turn your head,” Ralf said, smiling slyly.
Gerwulf shot the Shaman a disgruntled look. “Are you joking with me?” Josh? Pretty? Sure, the guitarist was handsome, in a rugged kind of way. Gerwulf could picture Josh’s piercing gray eyes with almost no effort. But pretty? He shook his head as he grabbed another pair of socks and stuffed them into the outside pocket of the bag. Truth was, he was already done packing and just looking for an excuse to linger. The cave where he’d studied with Ralf had become home to him, and Ralf the grandfather he’d never had. This place is more of a home than any my deadbeat parents ever gave me. “I thought I was training to be a spiritual healer. A shama, not a babysitter.” His lips curled. “And certainly not a Bad Oak fanboy.”
Ralf laughed. “Well, maybe I was teasing a little.” He sobered. “Truthfully, you are ready to go back out into the pack. Isolation is important for a Shaman at first, but a true healer and wolf spirit must be integrated into the whole. It’s time for you to become part of Forst Pack. This task is simply the first part of your larger duty.”
Ah. The truth comes out. It’s just like Ralf to spring my next lesson on me in the middle of a crisis. Gerwulf zipped his duffel and leaned back against the now empty shelves that had held his clothes. “I’ve been part of Forst Pack my whole life.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I want to matter. I don’t want to live on the fringes, but I also don’t feel ready to do this. How can I help Josh when I know he’s going to look at me and remember the jerk who challenged his brother and Bardulf?” He sighed. “No one in the pack has fully accepted me, especially not after the way I acted when I was younger.” Tension rippled down his shoulders. “I know I didn’t make it easy for people to like me, and I’m sorry about that. More than anyone realizes.”
Ralf’s face lost his smile. “Your parents were adopted into the pack, but they never truly bonded with us. And the old Alpha’s mental issues made it difficult to repair that problem. I take responsibility for your unhappy youth, Gerwulf.” The old Shaman shifted in his chair. “You were a child. A pup. You needed care and attention, not ostracism. I’m sorry I didn’t see that sooner.”
Gewulf bit back a growl. His behavior was not his mentor’s fault. “What? No.” He took a deep breath, controlling his emotions before his wolf took over. He’d learned that much, at least, in the past two years. “No, Shaman,” he said more softly, frustrated that his mentor had misunderstood his meaning. “You’ve been nothing but helpful to me, and I appreciate that. You have nothing to do with my parents and their problems.” Gerwulf shoved the old bitterness down. He was grown, and his parents were part of his past, not his present or his future. “You couldn’t have saved them from themselves. Trust me on that. They’re barely part of the pack anymore, and it’s probably a good thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just ran off someday.” He thought about what it had been like growing up with them and grimaced. He remembered his father’s inability to control his wolf very acutely. He remembered his mother’s weakness and inability to stand up to his father. No. Their terrible choices are not Ralf’s fault. They’ve never been Ralf’s fault.
Ralf sighed. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.” He slowly stood up from his chair and walked over to Gerwulf. “I’m proud of all you’ve accomplished these past few years.” He put a knobby hand on Gerwulf’s shoulder.
Gerwulf nearly stepped back in surprise. His mentor’s expression was deadly serious, and almost stern. “I’m grateful that you took me in and taught me, Shaman,” he said formally, bowing his head in respect.
Ralf’s hand tightened. “Your studies have been exemplary. I petitioned Alpha Bardulf and Alpha Ryan for permission to officially appoint you as my successor, Shaman-Heir Gerwulf.”
Gerwulf’s froze, shocked. “Are you serious?”
Ralf smiled, blue eyes suddenly twinkling. “Yes. And my petition was accepted. Henceforth, you shall be known as Shaman-Heir Gerwulf, with all the status, rights, and responsibilities of the position. Where you go, it will be as if I am speaking. You are truly part of the pack, grandson of my heart.”
Gerwulf stared at him, unable to process the news. “What—” He broke off and cleared his throat as emotion clogged his voice. “How?” He shook his head, then reached up to clasp Ralf’s arm. “Why?”
Ralf nodded. “You have done well.” His face softened into a bittersweet smile. “And you are an Alpha, so it is your destiny.”
“An Alpha?” Gerwulf blinked. “No. That’s impossible.”
Ralf laughed and stepped back. “Why do you think you chafed so much at Bardulf’s authority, pup?”
Gerwulf couldn’t respond. None of this made sense. “I’m too young to be appointed your heir. You’re going to live for a long, long time.” He stumbled back to his bed and sat down. “And I can’t be an Alpha. We already have two of them in Forst Pack. That’s already one too many for traditional purposes.” He ignored the wolf inside of him who insisted that Ralf was correct. He’d known he was somehow more, for a long time, but since it didn’t make sense, he’d denied it. Maybe that’s why I was such an arrogant jackass when I was a teen. He flexed his fingers, hoping the motion would distract his wolf. The last thing he needed was to start whining like an untrained pup. “I don’t understand.”
Ralf sat back down in his chair and brushed his silver hair away from his face. “After the last two years of leadership and growth, Forst Pack is the largest North American werewolf group on the continent. Additionally, Alpha Bardulf is the leader of the North American Council. Did you never stop to think that perhaps we needed an Alpha-Shaman as well?”
Gerwulf took a deep breath. “You’re the Alpha-Shaman. The only Alpha-Shaman that has ever been.” His wolf howled in his head, denying the statement.
Ralf smiled. “Don’t get so hung up on tradition, young man. To be a wolf is to be wild and free. We are pack, but we are also human. We are a complicated species.” He nodded emphatically. “You are Alpha. You are a Shaman. It is done. The news has already been given to the other packs and the Council. After me, you are the premier Shaman of the North American werewolves. You outrank even Ylva Roul.” He smiled faintly. “Your wolf knows this already.”
Gerwulf’s hands shook as he smoothed them down his thighs. “What if I’m not ready for this?”
“Your wolf is ready. Trust in that. If I had done so when I was younger, my life would not have been nearly so difficult.”
Gerwulf couldn’t argue with his mentor. Even now, his wild better half growled agreement. “I don’t know what to say. This isn’t what I studied for. I just wanted to help people and erase what my parents did.”
“There is nothing for you to say and no blame you need to expunge. Only one thing is certain in life: werewolves cannot deny their nature, my grandson.” Ralf gripped the arms of his chair, blue eyes simultaneously sad and sure. His gaze pinned Gerwulf to the bed. “When we try to ignore instinct, disaster follows.”