Want to know what all the fuss is about? Here’s your chance to sample the story of Shane and his entirely unexpected hybrid mate, Tim! Scroll down to experience the first chapter of international bestseller LONE WOLF!
Gay Romance, Shifters, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Word Count: 54,900
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing
Shane River is the last of the Bad Oak boys to feel the pull of his animal trying to get out. Problem is, once he shifts, the wolf wants nothing more than to run far away… alone. He’s an Alpha Lone Wolf, and that means he doesn’t need a pack.
Tim Cooper thought his father was human. He wasn’t. He thought his werewolf mother could survive anything. She didn’t. He thought he’d never be able to shift, but he thought wrong, and the truth is more disturbing than anything he could’ve imagined.
When Shane finds Tim’s mother dying in the desert, he vows to track down the vicious wolf-coyote hybrids responsible for the attack. He doesn’t expect her son Tim: a hybrid who has no idea what he is. He doesn’t expect Tim’s animal to call to his wolf. And he certainly doesn’t expect to mate with a creature ravaged by grief, but when instinct howls, the wolf must obey.
Distant screams and the faint scent of blood woke him from his nap. Shane River stood up and slowly shook out his fur, ignoring the sandy dust that clung to his paws. He glanced around, uneasy with the silence. He’d tucked himself into the corner of a jumble of rocks, hoping to get some sleep before he continued hunting, but something had disturbed his rest.
Was I dreaming? He stared into the distance, ears cocked forward. The stars shone brightly enough to completely illuminate the landscape, but he didn’t bother with more than a cursory look. His nose told him everything he needed to know: the desert stretched around him like a barren moonscape, unbroken except for the low scrub and occasional vole scurrying for a hard-dug hole. His scruff rose, nose twitching as he caught the weight of blood on the wind.
Shane clamped his jaws shut on the howl that wanted to get out and followed the scent instead, heading west. The North American Council’s leader, Bardulf Forst, had sent him out here to find the wolf-coyote hybrid who’d attacked Shane’s brother Silas six months ago, but he’d lost the trail last week. Silas’s mate, Wulfgang Marrok, had handled the brunt of the attack, not that it mattered. He wasn’t blood related to the guy, but Shane would be out here hunting down the monsters regardless. Wulfgang was family.
And family and pack are all that matters. Shane was an Alpha, though, and that presented a big problem. He couldn’t stay with Forst Pack, not and remain sane. The pack already had two Alphas, Bardulf and his mate, Shane’s cousin Ryan. Shane didn’t want the responsibility, anyway. Lone Wolf, someone called him once, and now he knew it for truth. He loved his brother and cousins, loved making music in a band with them, but in-between times he needed to get the hell away from everyone. Touring together as Bad Oak was one thing. Living on top of each other when not on the road? No, thank you.
He stopped, nose flaring as he caught the scent again. North of him was the old rancher’s shack where he’d stored his human gear. The old man hadn’t said a word when he’d showed up in a beat-up pickup truck and holding a short note from Bardulf. He’d just nodded and taken Shane’s stuff inside, like having a rock star appear on his stoop was an everyday thing.
Shane snorted, still amused by the week-old encounter. Old man probably doesn’t even know I’m part of Bad Oak. Hell, I’d be surprised if he had a working television in that place. No way he’d know who I am. Shane had stripped and headed out in wolf form, not worrying about the details. The sooner he could get away from the guy, the better. Just standing within five feet of another person these days made him want to bite something, and not in a fun way.
Course, I looked like a homeless drifter. Holes in my jeans. Screwed up hair. Not surprising no one recognizes me out here in the middle of nowhere. He flicked his tail and kept going, needing to find the source of the screams that had woken him up, but his thoughts kept circling, like vultures over a corpse. Hanging out in Vegas was a disaster, and so was Maine, even though I was able to give Silas a hand. Still, I shouldn’t have expected to anything would be different out here in the desert.
He’d been feeling like crap since the first time he’d shifted. Everyone irritated him. Hell, he irritated himself. He needed to get his shit together, because his family was depending on him. And there was no way he could perform with the inside of his head all screwed up like this. His claws dug into the hard ground as he ran. He couldn’t even play piano anymore, not with the mental weight of an audience pressing at him, and that had been his go-to instrument since childhood. This nervous breakdown shit is a disaster for a musician. I’m better off out here on my own until I figure out what the fuck is going on with me. Just as well Bardulf sent me to hunt down the hybrids. I like being alone better than anything else right now.
He lifted his nose and added more speed. The desert blurred as he ran, heading towards the blood.
Tim Cooper frowned at his overheating engine. “Fucking piece of shit.” He ground his teeth together and resisted the urge to slam into the truck with a tire iron. Beating the crap out of an inanimate hunk of junk wouldn’t help a damn thing. He needed to get to his mother. His gut told him something really fucking bad had happened to her, and standing around, glaring at a fucked up engine wasn’t doing his nerves any good. “Shit.” He ran a hand over his face. “Shit on a shit stick. This is stupid. What the hell do I think I’m going to do even if I find her?”
He stared at the steam billowing out from the radiator, then turned on his heel. To the east stretched miles of empty desert. To his west, the faint glow of Flagstaff barely lit the horizon. Most of the city had capped their lights to cut down on light pollution for the stargazing community, so the glow was pretty dim. Normally, he thought that was pretty cool, but right now he didn’t give a flying fuck. He’d acquiesced to his mother’s need to run in her shifter form earlier in the day and had driven her out onto the desert prairie before his shift at the car shop, but now he regretted it.
Something is very wrong, his instincts told him. He ground his teeth together and jogged off the road, away from his truck. Not for the first time he cursed the loser sperm donor who’d violently impregnated his mother twenty-four years ago. The bastard had shitty DNA: Tim was human. Now, of all times, he wished he could shift into wolf form, too, and go after his mother more quickly, but he couldn’t. He’d never been able to shift, though he’d inherited just enough of his mother’s werewolf genes to heighten his senses. And right now, he sensed trouble. He picked up the pace, knowing it was going to be a long night, but what else could he do? He had no one to call for help. He and his mom lived alone, and they always moved on after a few months. They’d been nomads for most of his life. Normally, it didn’t bother him much, but lately he’d been feeling frustrated. Like something was missing.
An hour later, he staggered to a halt and bent over to catch his breath. He’d paced himself, but the longer he ran, the more his sense of doom screamed at him to hurry up. He lifted his face, wiping at the sweat on his forehead. The wind smelled wrong. The stars seemed dull. “Shit.” He took off again, skirting the edge of one of the many small canyons that cratered the dry prairie. It was half desert, half grassland, and a bitch and a half to run through with worry nagging at his gut.
The next time he paused, the stars had circled down lower, and his diaphragm hurt, but he sensed his mother just over the next bit of jumbled rock. He ran a little faster, ignoring the way his lungs screamed for mercy. He could breathe later. Right now he had to make sure she was okay. He stumbled around a low shrub, then halted, his mouth dry as sand. A naked man crouched over a still form on the ground, hands dark and wet.
Oh, God, no. “Get away from her!” Tim yelled as he sprinted the last few feet. His mother lay nude on the dirt, her stomach a mess of red meat. She blinked weakly, hands twitching. He lunged for the man, intent on choking the life out of him, but the guy backed off, hands raised.
“I didn’t do it,” he said quickly, and the note of despair in the guy’s voice sounded so weird that Tim involuntarily looked into his eyes. The moment their gazes met, thunder cracked through his body. He tripped, then turned his fall into an attack.
Tim, no, his mother whispered in his head.
What? But she’s gone, he thought, confused by the sound of her voice in his skull. And I’m losing my fucking mind. His hands closed on the guy’s shoulders. Dark eyes stared at him through shaggy blond hair. Tim’s palms skidded across the man’s collarbone, and then they were down on the ground. The man groaned as Tim’s knee caught him in the thigh.
“I didn’t hurt her,” he repeated. “I swear it. I found her on the ground like that. I was trying to help.”
Sudden pain choked off Tim’s voice before he could respond. His spine spasmed and he gasped, trying to shove his fingers around the man’s throat, but he couldn’t get them to work properly. To his shock, his mother let out a thin cry, like a bird that had fallen from the sky and couldn’t get up. The sound was so wrong he couldn’t help but freeze. He looked around, confused, then abandoned his anger when he saw her foot twitch. Now was not the time to kill a man who hadn’t even tried to defend himself. If his mother was alive, he needed to help her.
“Someone left her out here like that,” the man said, but Tim was already backing off.
“Mom.” He twisted and crawled across the dirt to her side. “Mom, Jesus. What happened?” His face was wet and he could hardly see. Everything looked blurry. He swallowed bile as he carefully cradled her cheeks.
“He didn’t do it.” Her lips moved, but no sound came out. It didn’t matter. Tim could understand her. “He helped me.” Her eyes rolled to the side, looking past him. “He’s yours.”
Tim touched her shoulder, ignoring the cramping in his gut. Gentle. Gotta be gentle. He smoothed back tangled hair. “What happened?”
“The coyotes caught up with me.” She grimaced, eyes going dim. “Don’t let them hurt you.”
Tim shook his head. “I’m good, Mom. I can take care of myself. You know that.” If only she’d let him take care of her. They should have moved two weeks ago. Every fucking time they found a nice place to settle, those fucking bastards caught up with them. What the hell did they want? He pressed his lips together. Now was not the time to bring that up again. She wouldn’t tell him, anyway. She’d kept the secret of their nomadic lifestyle for years.
She coughed, groaning as frothy bubbles welled up at her lips. “Shane found me. Offered me sanctuary.”
“Sanctuary?” What the hell did that mean? And who was Shane? “Mom—“
She shook her head, eyes focusing back on his face. “I love you, my perfect son. I’m glad you were born, even though it wasn’t my choice to have you.”
What? Tim’s scrubbed at his face. “Mom, don’t talk like that. I’m going to get you out of here. Just hang on.” He scrabbled in his pocket for his phone. Of course, when he pulled it out, there was no signal. They were in the middle of nowhere, after all. “Fuck!”
His mother didn’t seem to hear his frustration. She tilted her head, eyes darting around until they landed somewhere just past him.
“Mom, let me get you out of here.” He reached for her, intending to carry her out if he had to, but she shook her head. Her face was too damned pale. Too calm.
“Too late,” she whispered. Tim startled, then almost fell when the man he’d tackled a minute ago crouched down next to him. Rage welled up, but he shoved it away. His mother was staring at him again with that strange look she got sometimes.
“Mom, there’s no time,” he began to say, but she looked right through him.
“You still want it?” the guy asked.
His mother nodded.
“I need to take her hand,” the guy told him.
Tim clenched his teeth. Who was he to deny his mother what was obviously her last wish on this Earth? “Fine.” He pushed the word out, hard and fast, then watched as the man gently took his mother’s hand in his.
“Here we go,” the man said, almost under his breath. He closed his eyes and put his free hand on her wrist. His thumb moved over her pulse.
Tim gave him a sharp look, but the guy wasn’t paying any attention to him. His mother gasped, eyes going wide, and he almost shoved the man away, but then she smiled. He hadn’t seen such a look on her face in, well, ever.
“I can feel them,” she said as all the lines of pain in her expression abruptly eased away.
The man smiled faintly. “Yeah. Forst Pack is something else.” He adjusted his grip on her hand and took a deep breath. “Okay, here is the bond. You just have to reach out and grab it. I can’t do it for you because I’m not—” He broke off and took a deep breath. “I’m not bonded to them like that.”
Forst Pack? Bond? Tim narrowed his eyes. His mother was a wolf, but she had no pack, not anymore. Not for a long time. He ran his gaze over the man’s nude form: a large tattoo of a tree sprawled across his back, but there were no other identifying characteristics. He was fit, but not overly large. Muscles slid beneath his skin in a way that made Tim want to put his hands all over him. Hell. The guy’s body was almost too perfect. That meant only one thing. This man wasn’t human. Shifter. Probably a wolf, given his affinity with my mother. Which is just … shit. I can’t do a damned thing about it.
“Shh. It’s okay. I’ve got you,” the man said, still as a statue.
His mother gasped, back arching. Tim grabbed her free arm, nearly falling down when energy tried to crackle through his fingers. It was like holding onto a live wire with three layers of rubber between him and the electricity. He could sense the wild flow, but it didn’t quite touch him. The man glanced at him, frowning, but then Tim’s mother sighed and he turned his attention back to her.
“Thank you,” she said to him, her fingers going limp.
The man sighed and put her hand down. “Rest easy now, and forevermore,” he murmured.
“Mom?” Tim shook her. “Mom? Hang on to me. Come on.” His heart gave a hard lurch when she looked at him, eyes fading.
“I love—” Her face went slack.
Tim stopped breathing. He tightened his grip on her wrist, but he could already feel her skin going cold. “Oh God.”
Tim swallowed, hard, trying to make sense of what just happened. “She’s gone. What the fuck?” Grief punched him in the gut. He clenched his fists so he wouldn’t hit the ground. “What the fuck?”
“She was dragged here. Tracks lead that way.” The man pointed.
Tim blinked, then looked east, towards more empty desert. “Fuck.” What the hell was he going to do now? He and his mom had been running since he was eight years old. He’d gone to a community college, worked a bunch of loser jobs, and still, they ran. Now he had no one.
“It’s not your fault.”
Tim flinched when the man touched his elbow. “Get the fuck away from me!”
The guy pressed his lips together, but he let his arm drop. “I think they were hunting her.”
No fucking kidding. They’ve been after her for the past several decades. Tim turned back to his mother’s body and ran his hand down her face, closing her eyes. She looked weird. Foreign. She didn’t look like his mother anymore. He’d have to bury her. He’d have to walk back to the truck and somehow get it towed. He’d have to quit his job and go somewhere else. Somewhere very far away so he didn’t do something he’d regret. Like chase down the fuckers who killed her and rip their intestines out with a pair of pliers.
“I’m going to track them.”
“What?” Tim whipped his head around. The man had a handful of dirt and was letting it trickle through his fingers. “Are you fucking crazy? They’ll kill you, too.”
The guy turned his head, and that same, weird, gut hurting thunder echoed through Tim again when their gazes met. “I’m here to find them. That’s what I was doing before I caught your mother’s scent. I don’t know how she got mixed up with them, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re going to regret messing with the Council.”
Council? Tim opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He had nothing to say. He took a deep breath and organized his thoughts. “Who the hell are you? And what did you do to my mother?”
The guy stood up. “I’m Shane. I’m a werewolf.” He cocked his head. “But you knew that.”
The rage Tim had forgotten about roared back into place. “You led them to her!”
Shane shook his head. “No. I was sleeping in wolf form when I caught the smell of blood on the wind. It led me here.” He kept his voice low and mild. “I had no idea what I’d find when the trail brought me to this place. I’m so sorry I was too late to help her.”
Tim forced himself to unclench his fists. “Why should I believe you?”
The guy shrugged. “I have no reason to lie.” His nostrils flared as the breeze picked up. “And you could smell it if I did, anyway, so I wouldn’t bother.”
Tim’s stomach hurt, but not so much that he didn’t know every word the guy said was true. He might not be a wolf like his mother, but his instincts were sharp. “Fuck.”
“Look. I need to track them, but you’re about to shift, and I have a feeling you don’t do it very often.” He lifted a shoulder. “I’ll stick around until I’m sure you’re okay.” He glanced at Tim’s mother. “I’m so sorry she’s gone. I really wish I could’ve got here faster.”
“I don’t shift. I’m not a wolf.” The pain in Tim’s stomach was spreading. He could barely get the words out.
Shane lifted an eyebrow. “Are you sure about that?”
Tim nodded. “My mother was a wolf, but my father wasn’t.” He growled out the words. “And before you ask, the answer is no. I have no idea who he was. My mother never spoke about him.”
“You’ve never shifted?” Shane’s eyes sparked with some emotion Tim couldn’t place.
“Never. And I’m not going to now,” Tim said. His gut cramped again, almost doubling him over. “Aw, fuck. Just what I need.” He coughed, trying to ease the spasm. What the hell had he eaten for dinner? He couldn’t remember. Maybe it was the loss of his mother that was tearing at his insides. Because of his faulty, half-breed status, they’d never had the metaphysical connection she claimed pack members experienced with each other, but maybe there’d been something there. Something he couldn’t feel until she was gone.
“Oh, shit,” Shane said.
Tim looked at him. The wolf was staring at him like he’d just sprouted a second head. “What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m the one who’s sick.” Sick with grief, and anger, and a whole shitload of bitterness. If ever there was a time he wanted to go back and beat the shit out of his mother’s asshole family it was now. She was gone, and she’d died practically alone, and it was their fucking fault for kicking her out of her pack. So what if they didn’t approve of him? Didn’t approve of her for being raped? It wasn’t liked she’d consented, but that didn’t matter according to their fucking self-righteous fundamentalist morality, did it? He was a stunted half-breed who couldn’t shift, so her so-called family had kicked them to the curb. And after they’d left, the stalking had begun. And so they’d run, for years and years, trying to keep one step ahead of the mysterious weirdos who were obsessed with his mother. He’d have stopped running and confronted the men tormenting them ages ago if she’d hadn’t begged him to lay low. No longer, though. I’m a grown man, and I’ve got nothing to lose. If he ever got his hands on the guys who did this to her…
“I don’t believe this,” Shane muttered, backing away.
Tim groaned as his train of thought shattered. The pain was back, and it was worse. He dropped to the ground, curling over his abdomen. His skin hurt like he’d been set on fire. Jesus, please, let this stop.
His bones cracked. His vision went white, then came back sharper. Harder. Smells he couldn’t make sense of bombarded him, and he whined, then growled as his skin split open. His mind fractured, and he thought he might be going insane, but then a cool hand touched his soul, soothing the fire that boiled through his veins.
“Let go. Let it happen,” a voice said.
“Let what go?” Tim tried to ask, but the dirt under his spine hurt like a motherfucker and he couldn’t form the words.
“You’re shifting. It’s okay.” The mind touching his felt like fresh snow.
Tim latched onto it with all his strength. He sensed shock, and then acceptance, and abruptly, the pain faded. He took a deep breath. He felt … strange. He stood up, but his balance was off. He lifted his head, and a lonely sound drifted out into the wind. The moment he heard it he knew.
He was no longer human.