$0.99 special at Evernight–Alpha Shaman!

When instinct howls, the wolf must obey.

ALPHA SHAMAN is only $0.99 at Evernight for a limited time!

 

  amazon-bestseller-icon  ARebestseller

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?

***MPREG***

buy links: Evernight – Amazon – ARe – BookStrand – iBooks – Barnes & Noble – Kobo

Story Excerpt:

Josh needed to taste Gerwulf, right the fuck now. He’d gone from confusion over his intense attraction to this wolf and straight into need. It felt right to desire this man. It felt like that unattainable connection he’d been searching for, all through the years of writing love songs and fucking random men and women on the road. “I’m going to kiss you, Gerwulf. You don’t get to say no.” His wolf growled, wanting him to get on with it. Mate.

Gerwulf stared at him, eyes dark as old whiskey. “You shouldn’t be doing this, especially not now. Your instinct to shift is confusing your libido.” He reached out and grabbed Josh’s arms, pressing his fingers into his skin as if he was afraid Josh was going to take off.

Confusing me? As if. I’m not the one hanging on for dear life. This guy is mine, even if he doesn’t realize it yet. Josh let himself enjoy the pain of the Shaman’s grip. He hadn’t expected to feel attraction like this, ever. Hell, he hadn’t expected to shift into a wolf either, but the moment Gerwulf showed up at his door, his desire for both things had grown stronger and stronger. “Your hands tell me a different story, Gerwulf.” He moved in and pressed his aching cock right into the Shaman’s hip. The man was built solid. Josh ground against him, desperate to feel a response.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Gerwulf said, voice cracking on the last word. His fingers flexed on Josh’s biceps. A minute tremble told Josh the Shaman wasn’t as unaffected as he tried to appear. Instead of pushing him away, Gerwulf pulled him closer.

Josh smiled, all teeth. “I’m going to shift, I promise you, but you need to let me in first.” He inhaled, savoring the warm spice scent that drifted from Gerwulf’s skin. “You smell fucking fantastic.” He leaned in and put his lips on Gerwulf’s neck. God, he wanted to bite him. Was this what it had been like for his brother? Maybe being a wolf wouldn’t be so bad.

Gerwulf trembled and dug his fingers into Josh’s arms. “I’m a Shaman. I’ll be Forst Pack’s Alpha-Shaman someday. Your wolf recognizes my power. That’s all this is.”

My cock recognizes your extreme sexiness. Josh laughed, going along with Gerwulf’s delusion that he was doing this because of some paranormal status woo-woo. “Yeah, whatever.”

Gerwulf opened his legs slightly, slotting them together more closely. “You don’t understand what’s happening.” He sounded disturbed.

Josh forced himself to lean back. He wanted to take a bite out of this man, God help him, but he didn’t want to hurt him. “You’ve never been with a guy before, have you?”

“What?” Gerwulf’s eyes widened, and he shook his head. “How did you know that?” He moved his hands to Josh’s wrists, trapping his arms against his flanks, as if that would hold him off. “Not that it matters. That’s not what this is about.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not as scary as you think.” Josh leaned in again, nosing along Gerwulf’s jaw. He took his time. This particular moment would never happen again. “We have the same plumbing. The same needs.” He wanted their first kiss to be explosive. He shoved down the niggling worry in his mind that told him he’d forgotten something extremely important. His wolf was happy. His dick was happy. Gerwulf wasn’t pulling away. What could be wrong? He’d deal with the shifting problem later. “It doesn’t have to mean anything, Gerwulf. It’s not like we’re getting married.”

“You have no idea what kind of fire you’re playing with,” Gerwulf said, hips jerking slightly. His erection, still trapped in his pants, slid across Josh’s nude cock, making them both moan.

“You’re playing with the same flame, Shaman,” Josh said, once he’d gotten control of his voice back. His dick had never before been so hard just from light foreplay.

Gerwulf flushed. “Nothing about this is normal.”

Josh groaned. “You’re sexy and hot. This is perfectly normal. You may not have fucked a man before, but I have. I’m bi and totally fine with it.” He paused. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. I don’t want to scare you off.”

“For Christ’s sake.” Gerwulf let out an explosive breath. “This has everything to do with you being a wolf, Josh. Listen to me.” He shook Josh slightly. “I’m an Alpha-Shaman. You’re a Beta. Our wolves are confusing power and status with sex.”

Josh blinked, trying to force his arousal-soaked brain to function. “You think I want you because you’re a Shaman?” He chuckled. “No.”

“Yes,” Gerwulf insisted.

His mouth says one thing, but his body says another. Josh wrestled with himself. He would not force Gerwulf to do anything he truly didn’t want to do, despite what he’d said. But I want one good kiss before I step away.

“Fuck this.” He leaned in and kissed Gerwulf. Immediately, the Shaman opened his mouth, letting Josh’s tongue inside. “Christ, you taste like the forest,” Josh said, shuddering. He suckled Gerwulf’s bottom lip, then dove in again. “I can’t get enough of you.” His mind felt white-hot and crazy, with his wolf howling and growling. His cock was so stiff it hurt. He wanted to take Gerwulf up against the wall. He wanted to bite him and mark him and not look back.

Bad Oak Boys series

Bad Oak isn’t just a rock band, it’s a family.

  LR Cafe 2015 Winner

When instinct howls, the wolf must obey.

Bad Oak is Ryan Oakley, his brother Josh, and their cousins Silas and Shane River:

Ryan Oakley: lead singer, bass player, heartthrob extraordinaire, band founder. He has no idea that he’s a shifter and that he’s about to meet his mate, Bardulf Forst, Alpha-Heir of Forst Pack. Stats: dark brown hair, light brown eyes, tattoo of winter tree on his chest.

Josh Oakley: lead guitar, bisexual, loves to annoy his big brother Ryan. Stats: dark brown hair, grey eyes, emotionally attached to his Martin guitar.

Silas River: drummer, band mediator, the dude who came up with the name Bad Oak. Stats: honey blond hair, shoulder length, hazel eyes, addicted to catchy beats.

Shane River: keyboards/sound effects geek, loves video games, his piano, and earworms. Stats: short golden blond hair, scruffy beard, dark brown eyes. Loner.

Shifters, gay romance, and some unexpected rock star surprises! Oh my!

RockStarBaby-ebernightpublishing-jayaheer2015-smallpreview    alphashaman1l    Wulfgang-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage    Lone-Wolf-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage

I publish this series through Evernight Publishing. You can find my books at the publisher’s website in various formats, as well as at AmazonBarnes & NobleAReSmashwordsBookStrand, and Kobo in e-book form.

TRR Readers’ Choice Awards nomination round!

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I have four books up to be nominated in The Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Awards! Woo!

Nomination Round Voting is from March 14 – 31.

~ Alpha Shaman ~ Handy Harry ~ Captive Fire ~ Bitter Bite ~

Click on the covers to nominate my stories!

alphashaman1l   handyharry-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2015-finalimage   captivefire1l   BitterBiteevernightulishing-jayaheer2015-finalimage

A lot of other Evernight authors are also nominated. If you can show them some love, it would be greatly appreciated. 😀

Books need at least 50 nominations to move to the final round. Nominate your favorite Evernight books here

 

Bad Oak Boys won LR Cafe’s Best of 2015 Series!

Bad Oak isn’t just a rock band, it’s a family.

  LR Cafe 2015 Winner

When instinct howls, the wolf must obey.

Bad Oak is Ryan Oakley, his brother Josh, and their cousins Silas and Shane River:

Ryan Oakley: lead singer, bass player, heartthrob extraordinaire, band founder. He has no idea that he’s a shifter and that he’s about to meet his mate, Bardulf Forst, Alpha-Heir of Forst Pack. Stats: dark brown hair, light brown eyes, tattoo of winter tree on his chest.

Josh Oakley: lead guitar, bisexual, loves to annoy his big brother Ryan. Stats: dark brown hair, grey eyes, emotionally attached to his Martin guitar.

Silas River: drummer, band mediator, the dude who came up with the name Bad Oak. Stats: honey blond hair, shoulder length, hazel eyes, addicted to catchy beats.

Shane River: keyboards/sound effects geek, loves video games, his piano, and earworms. Stats: short golden blond hair, scruffy beard, dark brown eyes. Loner.

Shifters, gay romance, and some unexpected rock star surprises! Oh my!

RockStarBaby-ebernightpublishing-jayaheer2015-smallpreview    alphashaman1l    Wulfgang-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage

Lone Wolf, coming in April!

I publish this series through Evernight Publishing. You can find my books at the publisher’s website in various formats, as well as at AmazonBarnes & NobleAReSmashwordsBookStrand, and Kobo in e-book form.

Coffee Time Romance gave Alpha Shaman 5 cups!

ctr5cups

I’m so happy that Coffee Time Romance liked Alpha Shaman!

“All I can say is WOW! Absolutely adored this sequel to Rock Star Baby! Ms. Leaf has done it again and I cannot wait for Book 3. The romance between Josh and Gerulf is hot enough to singe eyebrows, and the love scenes are emotional and sexy. The world building just keeps getting better and better, and it was so cool getting to see characters from the first book and how they are evolving along with the story line in this book. The suspense is off the charts as well, as Josh and Gerulf and their pack try to find and defeat their enemy. The hints we get about Ryan and Josh’s cousins in this book are enough to make this reader salivate for the next installment of Bad Oak Boys. Quite simply, if you loved the first book, then you are going to be screaming for the next one by the time you finish Alpha Shaman. I for one cannot wait, just stellar writing all the way around. This one is a keeper for sure!”

ReviewedAtCTR

 

buy links: Evernight – Amazon – ARe – BookStrand – Smashwords – iBooks – Barnes & Noble

  amazon-bestseller-icon  ARebestseller

Gay Romance, Shifters, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Word Count: 56,260
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing

Click here for an excerpt.

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?

***MPREG***

 

Alpha Shaman gets 5 stars! #review

The results are in…. 

basic-5-point-gold-star-beveled basic-5-point-gold-star-beveled basic-5-point-gold-star-beveled basic-5-point-gold-star-beveled basic-5-point-gold-star-beveled

Gay Guy Reading Reviews loved Alpha Shaman! — 5 stars!

“This book has it all, we have an angsty character pairing, a character attempting to bring harm to the Forst pack, magic, amazing sex (whew) and of course the romance and Mpreg.”

 

Cocktails and Books loved Alpha Shaman! — 4.5 stars!

“The sex scenes are INSANELY hot, just like all sex scenes written by Erin Leaf. She really knows what she’s doing there, folks. Trust me. However, there is tenderness and love under all that heat, and that makes me heart beat a little faster.”

 

buy links: Evernight – Amazon – ARe – BookStrand – Smashwords – iBooks – Barnes & Noble

  amazon-bestseller-icon  ARebestseller

Gay Romance, Shifters, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Word Count: 56,260
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing

Click here for an excerpt.

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?

***MPREG***

 

…and coming soon, the next book in the Bad Oak Boys series, releasing February 9, 2016:

Gay Romance, Shifters, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Word Count: 54,000
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing

 

Click here for an excerpt.

After years in the military, Wulfgang Marrok has had enough. He wants nothing more than to settle down into quiet normalcy and live out his life. Unfortunately, the moment he meets his music history professor, normal and quietdisintegrate beneath a sudden metaphysical connection he didn’t think was possible. His mother is a werewolf, but he didn’t inherit her abilities… until now.

Silas River desperately needs a break from life as Bad Oak’s drummer, so he dons a disguise and heads to a sleepy little town to teach music. Of course, life always fouls up the beat: the moment his fated mate walks into his classroom, his dormant wolf side wakes up and demands attention.

For shifters, instinct trumps solitude. Werewolf politics and violent enemies trump peace. Can Silas and Wulfgang’s new bond survive murder and a loss so deep that Silas almost destroys himself trying to soothe the pain?

***MPREG***

 

Alpha Shaman Chapter One #excerpt!

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!

buy links: Evernight – Amazon – ARe – BookStrand – iBooks – Barnes & Noble

  amazon-bestseller-icon  ARebestseller

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?

***MPREG***

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.”