In the Shadow of the Wolf Series
Rob Tarrant is a cop and has just passed his thirtieth birthday. He’s been promoted to a special police task force specializing in wolf / human cases. He sees it all—the seedy underbelly of city life, the fights, the murders, and the parts of human / wolf interaction that people would rather ignore. He has no problem with wolves in general, but human/wolf relationships are not on his to-do list. When he meets a young man named Jamie at a club, he embarks on the hottest one-night stand of his life. He finds out that young man is a wolf shifter, and his world is turned upside down.
When a case involving kidnappings of young werewolves lands on Rob’s desk, the ugly specter of the werewolf sex trade is brought front and center. With Jamie seemingly at the heart of it all, can Rob keep his young lover alive?
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MM Good Book Reviews 4/5 – I thought the way that Rob handled everything was masterful, Jamie was headstrong and willful the supporting characters were incredible, too. They really added to the story. The story line is fantastic and written really well. Hopefully, this is opening up a new avenue in shifter stories where we have more realistic story lines and a different aspect to the ‘mating’ rules. If you love shifter stories, hot men and crime stories then this is for you. Diane Adams & R.J. Scott, I can’t wait for the next one.
MM Good Book Reviews For those of you thinking about writing a paranormal series, Shattered Secrets would be an excellent case study. Scott and Adams took a lot of time world building, without distracting the reader away from the main plot. The characters are wonderfully developed. I especially like the evolution of Rob. The attraction between Rob and Jamie is instant, but the love match takes a lot longer to develop.
Dark Divas Reviews – 4 Delighful Divas from Dark Diva Reviews… “Rob and Jamie are sexy, hot, and you want them to push through all the ugliness to reach their happily ever after. I look forward to reading more of the intriguing world… introduced us to in Shattered Secrets.”
A Night Owl Reviews Book Review – Shattered Secrets was pretty well written. I enjoy it a lot and will gladly recommend it to those who like Shapeshifter romances with redemption, love and forgiveness. The rescue and danger ramped up the story and made it a good read.
The music was loud, and the lighting was bad. Silver Moon was a typical dance club, filled with too many sweaty bodies, too much loud talk, and too many people desperate for a connection. Despite the crowd, Jamie Adamson drew attention as soon as he walked in the door. He ignored it; he knew how he looked and how to use it. Unfortunately for the masses, he was there for something—someone—specific. Jamie scanned the crowd, particularly the area around the bar. That’s where Jamie had met the guy he’d hooked up with the week before; Rob was a cop. Jamie knew it. A cop wasn’t his first choice for go-to sex, but damn the guy could fuck. Good enough for an encore, despite all the problems.
Jamie wound through the crowd, avoiding groping hands with a charming smile and a wave at the bar. His intentions were to grab a Coke and cruise the rest of the place. Maybe he’d get lucky and Rob would turn up. Smirking, Jamie glanced out at the writhing bodies on the dance floor. He was probably going to get lucky whether Rob showed or not. Conversation ebbed and flowed around him, much of it about shifters and most of it negative. Not a surprise considering that, despite its name, the Silver Moon was a pure club, meaning no wolves. Well, officially anyone could come to the club because it was against the law to have a rule excluding wolves, but it was common knowledge the Silver Moon was where the lupophobic crowd hung out. Jamie paid no attention to the comments. There wasn’t a guy in that club he couldn’t take, even if they ganged up on him five to one.
His normal hangout was Larry’s, a bar that was wolf friendly. It was closer to the apartment he shared with some friends, but the week before, he’d let Doug convince him to tag along and visit a pure bar. Doug was Jamie’s best friend but that didn’t stop him from being twisted. It turned Doug on to screw guys who didn’t know he was wolf. The more they hated shifters the better Doug liked it. Thinking about his crazy friend, Jamie laughed. A lot of shifters felt that way and it was an easy payback for a lot of the bigoted shit that was shouted at them by prejudiced assholes.
Jamie could smell the other wolves in the club mingling without fear of discovery. When a shifter was human, he was human. Hanging out undiscovered with pures wasn’t really passing, though that’s what the ’phobes called it. Sure Jamie was stronger and faster and never had to go to a gym to maintain his perfect abs, but he was all man when he walked on two legs. Jamie hadn’t set out to fool Rob. There’d been dancing and, fuck all, Rob. Jamie couldn’t think straight once he got the man’s scent. Standing next to Rob made Jamie dizzy, and the sex was why Jamie was back in among the pures looking and hoping for one more hookup.
Jamie scented the air. Maybe he’d get lucky and locate Rob’s scent mixed with all the other crap floating in the air, though it didn’t seem likely. He caught the scent of something, but it wasn’t Rob. Panicked, Jamie searched the crowd to find the source of what he smelled, but the throng was too thick and the scent dissipated almost as soon as he caught it. Scenting emotion wasn’t exact, especially not in his human form. He rarely depended on scent for much as a man, but that smell was recognizable—the panic, fear, and desperation of a broken wolf. A wolf was hurt. Female. Jamie scanned the crowd again. It was a pure club, not a gay one, so there were a lot of women, and doubtless some of them were she-wolves who had slipped in for the thrill. He scented again, but this time there was nothing. Maybe he had just imagined it? His body was still reacting and he inhaled deeply to attempt calm.
Jamie felt a tingle in the back of his neck, an itch in his fingers. Shift, find, protect. It was an instinctive need to protect the weaker, not just wolves, but anything. Jamie forced back the urge to take to all fours. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He couldn’t always control the shift because he was young, but if he shifted in the middle of this club, he might not make it out alive. He staggered backwards off balance, and a strong arm slid around his waist.
“Easy.” A single breath in his ear and Jamie’s heart skipped about ten beats before it started racing. Feeling a hard body at his back and the scent suddenly surrounding him made Jamie dizzy, and every blood cell in his body raced for his groin. Rob. Jamie’s mind supplied a slideshow of images from their last encounter that raised his blood pressure to dangerous levels. Without stepping away, Jamie turned into the embrace. Rob moved his hand to rest on the small of Jamie’s back, fingertips slipping under the waistband of Jamie’s jeans. Their eyes met, and Jamie made no effort to control the hungry way his tongue licked out to wet his lips.
Rob was just as he remembered. Hair so dark that Jamie expected it to shine blue under the light was cut short, though it waved a bit on top and was long enough there for Jamie to tangle his fingers in it. Rob’s strong jaw was permanently shadowed, giving him a wild, dangerous look despite the button-down white shirt he wore paired with dark dress pants. His tie hung loose and the first buttons of his shirt were open, giving a tantalizing glimpse of the bronzed skin beneath. Jamie knew that under the shirt a tattoo of an eagle sat on Rob’s shoulder and that every inch of this man’s skin tasted like heaven. Everything was exactly how Jamie remembered it, including how lightheaded with lust he got just standing beside the guy.
Apparently Rob felt the same. He shifted subtly, just enough that it brought their groins together. Pressed cock to cock revealed that Rob was hard too, and Jamie’s breath caught. Staring into Rob’s dark eyes, he was unable to find his voice. Rob’s pupils were dilated, reducing the irises to little more than dark gray borders around them. The fingers against Jamie’s back pressed harder, urging Jamie to take another small step forward. Their lips brushed, and Jamie’s fingers twitched. He had a vision of climbing Rob to wrap his legs around Rob’s narrow waist while devouring that full-lipped mouth with his own.
Straight pure bar, Jamie thought, admonishing himself, trying to keep a grip on reality, however slight. The majority of pures were homophobes. Jamie assumed it went with the mindset. Molesting his really hot cop in the middle of this crowd was a bad idea. Rob’s hand found his and he tangled their fingers together, reminding Jamie that as hard as Rob looked, he was unexpectedly tender, a real touchy-feely kinda guy. It disconcerted Jamie at first, the actions so at odds with Rob’s rugged police detective appearance, but he grew to appreciate it before their first night had ended. Now, in the midst of this crowd where Jamie didn’t really belong, the unexpected feel of a hand in his was comforting.
“Dance with me.” Rob’s voice in his ear brooked no argument, but Jamie held back, wide-eyed, for the same reason he hadn’t gone for the kiss moments before. He wasn’t shy, but neither was he suicidal. Rob chuckled at his expression and took his Coke. Tugging Jamie behind him, he deposited the glass on one of the tables they passed. Unable to resist, Jamie let Rob lead him through the twisting mass of bodies on the dance floor, working towards the center. Jamie realized there were a few same-sex couples already on the floor and began to relax. When Rob turned to face him, they were surrounded on all sides by people with no interest in anything but the music. Jamie doubted they could be seen by anyone more than a few feet from them. Jamie made no protest when a strong arm snaked around his waist once more, bringing their bodies together, hard muscle to hard muscle.
Jamie remembered clearly what Rob’s body was like under those clothes—lean, muscled, and his skin a burnished gold against Jamie’s own fair skin. Jamie had never seen anyone but other wolves so leanly muscled. He thought pure humans tended towards bulk when they worked out. He’d learned the dangers of stereotyping, as well as the difference between muscle building and strength training, under the strong movement of Rob’s body over and inside his the previous weekend. The memory caused sweat to break out on his upper lip. Jamie closed his eyes and let the rhythm of the music seep into him from the soles of his feet upward. He moved, bringing their hips together. Nuzzling behind Rob’s ear, Jamie let the other man’s scent fill his senses. Rob smelled good, his crisp aftershave some citrusy, woodsy stuff that probably sold for way too much money at a better department store. Under that was the scent of his skin and the steadily increasing aroma of his arousal.
Their groins rubbed, their arms wrapped around one another’s waists. Rob’s big hands cupped Jamie’s ass, pulling him in closer. Jamie clutched handfuls of Rob shirt and couldn’t repress the urge to nip the skin of his neck. Rob groaned and his hand was in Jamie’s hair, pulling his head back. Their mouths locked, tangled tongues sliding together in the wet heat. A high-pitched whine of need escaped Jamie, and he clutched Rob tighter, humping against him. Rob pulled back, his hand still fisted in Jamie’s hair, his eyes blurred and heavy lidded with lust.
“We have to go.”
Jamie didn’t protest. He held tight to the back of Rob’s shirt with one hand and to Rob’s hand with the other and followed close as Rob blazed a trail through the crowd that led directly to the front door.
They made it to Rob’s apartment, clothes askew, zippers down, barely on the legal side of indecent exposure. Rob fumbled with his keys, and Jamie pressed close behind him, hands down the front of Rob’s pants.
“Hurry or I’m fucking you out here.” Jamie rubbed the length of his cock against Rob’s ass. Rob dropped the keys in an instant.
“Oh yeah, baby, bend over.” Wrapping his hand around Rob’s leaking shaft, Jamie rutted hard against his upturned ass.
Rob got the key in the lock and the door open. He hauled Jamie inside, slamming the door shut and backing Jamie up against it. Jamie allowed himself to be crowded against the hard surface for a few minutes, relishing the feel of Rob’s body against his, the burn of Rob’s stubble on his skin. They tore at each other’s clothes, buttons flew and material ripped.
“God yes,” Rob breathed when he had Jamie’s naked chest under his hands, but when he wedged his leg between Jamie’s hard thighs, Jamie laughed low in his throat.
“Not this time.” With a show of dexterity and strength that took Rob by surprise, Jamie switched their positions. Despite his slightly smaller stature, he manhandled Rob back until his back was pressed against the door, his ass pinned there by the pressure of Jamie’s hips. Their eyes met, Rob’s expression surprised but smoldering. “Okay?” Jamie paused long enough to be sure this was something Rob would want. A lot of alpha types couldn’t or wouldn’t roll over and take it, but Rob was different enough that Jamie had hopes he was versatile. Rob’s lips quirked up at the corner.
Jamie’s mouth took Rob’s, the kiss hard and demanding with a touch of aggression. Rob’s pants slid off his hips and to the floor with little urging on Jamie’s part. Rob toed off his shoes and kicked his pants away. Jamie was momentarily at a loss; his brain froze, trying to decide what he wanted to do most—touch, look or lick. He was so hot he was in danger of coming with the least provocation, like the way Rob kept rubbing their cocks together. Rob held them both in one big-handed grasp, and Jamie groaned. He leaned his forehead on Rob’s shoulder.
“I’ll come.” He didn’t have the willpower to reach down and stop the steady pull of Rob’s hand on their cocks. His throbbed and leaked; Rob used the pre-cum to ease the movement of his hand. Jamie gasped and thrust. “Stop.”
Rob fisted a hand in Jamie’s hair and hauled him up for another kiss. “Come for me, Jamie. You’re a kid, probably won’t even get soft.” Rob growled. Growled. Jamie wondered exactly who was the wolf. The thought didn’t distract him for long, because Rob had one thing right. Jamie wanted to fuck him so bad he doubted his cock would go soft before that happened no matter how many times he got off. He thrust harder into Rob’s tight grip. Heat curled at the base of his spine, and his balls pulled up tight against the base of his cock. Jamie grunted and pumped his hips. He shouted when he came, hot and wet between them, coating Rob’s hand and their bellies. They held onto each other panting, Rob’s hand still on their cocks.
“You,” Jamie prompted, grinding against Rob.
“Not yet, I’m not a kid. Come on.” He led Jamie down the hall toward the bedroom. They finished stripping on the way and were naked by the time they arrived. They crawled into bed together and lay there admiring one another. Rob’s eyes flickered over Jamie, from his spiked blond hair to his feet, lingering on his hard cock. Rob smirked. “Told you.” The gleam in his eyes proved he relished his victory at being right about the state of Jamie’s cock. Rob reached for Jamie and pulled him close. Their bodies fit together just as well as they had the first time.
“Why would I get soft now? I’ve been hard all week thinking about you.” Jamie traced his fingers up Rob’s back, reading the braille of his spine. Rob grunted as he mouthed Jamie’s jaw and nipped his earlobe.
“You too? I haven’t jacked off so much since I was… well, twenty.” Rob laughed, his breath hot against Jamie’s neck. Jamie shuddered.
“My cock should be sore and exhausted, but all it wants is to fuck you.” Jamie mapped a trail of exploration down Rob’s spine to the swell of his ass. Rob’s breath hitched, and he rocked his hips forward. Jamie’s heart pounded, and the hope he’d get what he wanted notched upward. Jamie captured Rob’s bottom lip between his teeth and tugged, sucking it briefly, then he pulled back to meet Rob’s eyes. “You’ve got a hot ass. Will you share?” Jamie’s eyes sparkled with mischief, but he was only half teasing. The hand resting on Rob’s butt moved in caressing circles. He’d obsessed over that ass all week. He was determined to have it, but if he didn’t get it tonight, there were plenty of nights ahead.
Jamie wasn’t one to get emotionally hung up on anyone. Guys were guys, and they came and went. He had a vague idea that Mr. Right was out there somewhere, but Jamie figured he had plenty of time to play around before he got to the serious stuff. He didn’t dwell on his minor epiphany that he might want more than a couple of one-night stands with Rob. The sex was hot and the chances good that Rob wouldn’t object to hooking up a few more times. Jamie had no delusions beyond those thoughts.
“You think you’re man enough to handle my ass?” Rob’s words pulled him back into the moment. The challenge in Rob’s eyes aroused him, and Jamie growled, a low rumbling that vibrated his chest. Rob’s eyes widened a little at the noise, but Jamie was already pressing him onto his back, crawling on top of him to claim the dominant position, his mouth locked on the soft skin under Rob’s chin, sucking and biting, marking him. Jamie held Rob’s hands pinned to the bed beside his head and straddled his hips. Rob pulled at his arms, obviously testing Jamie’s strength but making no real effort to get away. He lifted his hips, and their erections knocked together.
Jamie licked his lips. “Try me.”
Rob stared up at him for a long moment, his gaze obviously weighing the sort of man he judged Jamie to be—smaller, younger. Jamie wasn’t sure if Rob would really give in and let him dominate, or if he was just playing around. Jamie wasn’t sure he could let Rob take it back. The idea of struggling for top with Rob made him sweat. Jamie swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. He was a wolf and in his prime, but Rob was strong and trained. There was no assurance that Jamie could take him. Just when he thought the fight was on, Rob relaxed. His body turned pliant and inviting, and he stopped struggling against Jamie’s hold. He wet his lips, narrowing his eyes seductively.
The sudden reversal of roles made Jamie dizzy. He stared at Rob uncomprehending for a few seconds, and then Rob moved under him, their cocks brushed, and all bets were off. Jamie let go of Rob’s hands to cup his face and leaned forward to bring their mouths together in a searing kiss. Instead of battling him, Rob’s tongue slid and intertwined with Jamie’s like a silken caress. Rob clung to his arms, rocking his hips and rubbing their cocks together. Jamie whimpered. Rob purred.
“Turn over.” Jamie had some vague plan of teasing Rob, of tasting every inch of that hard, dark body before giving in and fucking him into the mattress, but somehow they’d gone straight to the main event. Jamie couldn’t wait, not even long enough to get a taste of that perfect cock, but he wasn’t giving up all of his fantasies, and kneeling there as Rob rolled slowly onto his stomach, Jamie’s most fevered imagining came true.
Jamie slid back to straddle Rob’s knees instead of his hips. “Lift up.” Rob obeyed the whispered command immediately, pulling his knees under him and folding his arms under his head. Ass up and legs spread, Jamie couldn’t look away from the perfect curve of his lover’s spine, all the way to the soft skin at the base of his neck brushed by the soft black hair. An eagle tattoo spread over his right shoulder blade. Jamie didn’t know what it meant—if anything at all—though it was another indication of what appeared to be Rob’s Native American heritage. Just like the high cheekbones, bronze skin, and blue-black hair. The tattoo was attractive, strangely erotic for a tattoo of an animal. The wolf and eagle. For some reason the idea appealed to Jamie, and a shiver ran down his spine.
Clearing his throat, Rob wiggled his ass. Jamie blushed, wondering how long he’d been staring. “So beautiful.” He ran the palm of his hand up Rob’s spine, following it with his tongue. He traced the bones slowly, learning the taste, feel, and shape of the man under him. Jamie nuzzled the back of Rob’s neck, his thumb rubbed the eagle tattoo, and his cock pressed against the inviting curve of Rob’s tight ass. When Rob shifted, moving away slightly, Jamie yelped in protest, grabbing his hips to hold him still, but Rob wasn’t trying to get away. A moment later lube and condoms landed on the bed next to Jamie’s leg.
Jamie stared at them blankly before shaking his head to clear it and grabbing a condom. He’d almost forgotten. Wolves didn’t use condoms; they couldn’t contract or transmit STDs. A benefit to having a wolf lover was barebacking. Jamie never had a partner who didn’t take advantage of it. He’d never even had a condom on his cock, and wearing one now was not part of his fantasy, but he had the feeling if he confessed, there wouldn’t be a ride at all. Continuing to deceive Rob nagged Jamie’s conscience, but the call of his cock was louder. He tore open the condom and rolled it on, frowning. Damn stupid prejudices, but when he pressed his lubed fingers inside Rob, Jamie forgot all about them. In fact, he forgot everything but the feel of the man under him. Rob keened, pressing back onto the invading fingers; Jamie pressed deep and added another. He leaned over Rob, his breathing uneven, watching his fingers move into his lover. Sweat beaded Jamie’s forehead. God, Rob was gorgeous. Responsive.
* * * * *
“Jamie.” Rob gasped, palming his cock, rolling it against his belly. He was close. His cock throbbed under his hand, and his balls were hard, aching knots pulled up against the base. Rob wanted to come, but not before Jamie was inside. It wasn’t that he was a stickler for order, but tonight he wanted to get fucked while on the razor’s edge of arousal. He wanted… Jamie’s fingers were replaced by the pressure of his cock. Rob mewled, burying his face in his arms, and just that fast, he was on the edge. Wrapping his hand tightly around the base of his cock, Rob held off his impending climax. Sweat slicked his body, his ass burned, and he quivered under Jamie’s touch. Jamie set a steady rhythm of long, slow movements, his balls slapping against Rob’s skin as he pushed inside. Jamie’s fingers dug into Rob’s hips. Fuck, there’d be more marks. Rob thought blurrily he should care, but couldn’t find the energy. “Harder, faster; damn it, Jamie, fuck me.”
Rob’s demand seemed to fan Jamie’s lust higher. He leaned over Rob and gave him what he asked for, his body slamming forward harder and faster with each thrust, until the sound of their skin slapping together was almost a continuous sound. Rob sobbed and begged into the pillow, driving Jamie on. Jamie reached under Rob and slapped his hand away from his cock. Jamie wrapped it in his hand. He squeezed hard, jerked once, and Rob climaxed. Ropes of cum spurted out with every pulse of his cock, thick strands that filled the air with the scent of his musk.
* * * * *
Jamie breathed deeply, and the scent of arousal, of completion, escalated his arousal to the point of no return. He was still easing Rob down when he went over the edge. Jamie slammed forward hard, burying his cock in Rob’s ass, arching backward, his body convulsing with the force of his release. When it finally ended, Jamie curled over Rob protectively, petting him, calming him, easing him, urging him away from the wet sheets to the dry side of the bed. Jamie finally uncoupled them, tying off the condom and dropping it off the side of the bed.
Rob resisted being the small spoon, readjusting them so he was curved behind Jamie, wrapping him in a loose embrace and pressing his face behind his ear. Jamie lay still, letting his heartbeat slow to normal. He was exhausted. It was nice to know he didn’t have to move. Rob had him stay last time and apparently wasn’t going to chase him away this time either. Jamie relaxed against Rob, and he felt safe. Silly, since he never felt threatened, but it was nice.
“Did I pass the top test?” Jamie teased, breaking the silence.
Rob’s arm tightened around him. “What do you think?”
“I could try again.” Jamie rubbed his ass against Rob, teasing. He had no interest in a second round yet; he couldn’t believe how Rob had taken it out of him.
“Mmm.” Rob’s answer was noncommittal, but his cock stirred against Jamie.
Warm and sated, Jamie drifted on the edge of sleep. The twitch of Rob’s cock curled his lips, but he didn’t open his eyes. He reached back and ran a hand along Rob’s flank, and his cock twitched between them again. “Damn, not many guys can out-fuck a wolf.”
Shit, what did I just say?
Part of him hoped Rob hadn’t heard the words, but when the body behind him stiffened and pulled back, he knew Rob had heard every syllable. The room temperature was comfortable, but the sudden space and air against his back felt cool.
“What the hell did you just say?” Rob’s voice was hard, none of the fondness he’d exhibited for Jamie just moments before evident. Inhaling deeply, he turned to face the music.
“Wolf… I… I’m a wolf. I was going to tell you.” He wasn’t lying. He had always intended to tell Rob, but in a carefully orchestrated situation. Not like this when he was naked and vulnerable with the air still reeking of their mating. This was wrong.
“Get out.” Rob was up and off the bed with jerky movements. He pulled on a pair of sweatpants, pushing dark, tousled hair from his face. Jamie’s throat choked with emotion. He wavered between begging for Rob to accept he was a wolf and demanding to know why the hell it was a problem. If he thought about it, the first would probably have made the better option, but his emotions tumbled from his lips in exactly the wrong way.
“What? Dude, what difference does it make? It’s not like I wolfed out on you or something. It wouldn’t happen like that unless… Well, some people are kinky weird, but jeez… It has to be on purpose; otherwise I’m just a guy.”
“Who is also a wolf. I was in that type of bar for a reason, wolf.” Derision marked Rob’s voice. “Now get the fuck out.”
Jamie was on his feet. His clothes were strewn somewhere between the bedroom and the front door. He didn’t care because being naked wasn’t an issue for him. “You’re a cop. You can’t be prejudiced like that. They’d never let you on the force. What the fuck is going on with you?”
“One, you’re a liar, and I detest liars.”
“Is it just the lying thing, ’cause I can—”
“Two,” Rob continued with ice in his tone, “you’re a shifter.”
“You’re right; I don’t detest shifters as a species. However, sex with another species is not something I’m into. It’s a personal preference. I do not appreciate that choice being stripped out of my control by your fucked-up little game. You, as an individual, I feel quite free to detest. Now get out.”
Jamie searched for a response, temper and disappointment warring for control. In the end, his usual self-defense mechanism kicked in. He wasn’t going to argue with Rob. Clearly Rob was just like the rest of the people that had turned him away. He shrugged to indicate he didn’t care what Rob was saying. It didn’t matter he had lied, because in his head, it wasn’t a lie; it was just a delayed truth. Rob had left the bedroom. He moved to the door, opened it, and stood with arms crossed against his smooth, bare chest, waiting for Jamie to leave.
“Whatever.” Jamie acted as indifferent as he could. “I don’t need you. I’m going.” He stooped to pick up his clothes but straightened to face his now ex-lover as he spat words he couldn’t stop into the room. “You know what, cop? My parents just kicked me out of my home for being gay. Now you’re kicking me out for being wolf. I mean, what the hell? I must have some screwed-up DNA, right? Fuck you.” Deciding between one heartbeat and the next to leave his clothes, Jamie shifted. With no theatrics, he’d been a man and now he was a wolf. If it had been a movie, it’d get booed for lack of effects. Jamie had no idea how it worked genetically, just that it did. Inside, he was two creatures and, with the speed of a thought, could shift between the two. There was nothing unnatural about it. His wolf made the decision for exit easy—the open window to the fire escape or the open door with Rob and his anger-filled eyes.
He left the room through the window and down the steps, leaping the last distance and landing on four paws without looking back at Rob again. Keeping what he was from Rob had been a big mistake, but Rob’s reaction was nothing short of overkill. Just like his parents. Jamie was sick of being judged and found wanting for things he couldn’t control.
Shaking off the evening, he left the alley at the side of Rob’s building. The cement sidewalk was cold and hard under his paws. Jamie glanced back at the alley, and lifting his muzzle into the air, he howled. The sound was lost and mournful in the dark. With a shrug of his wolf shoulder, Jamie turned and walked away. The breeze ruffled his fur as he went. Regret colored his thoughts, and his heart ached with the realization of what he had just done.
With determination, he turned in the direction of Silver Moon. Shaking off his feelings, he toughened up. Putting others ahead of himself, he headed downtown. The scent of a she-wolf earlier had unsettled him and he was determined to see what he could find out.
Rob didn’t bother with even trying to get back to sleep. He wasn’t capable of washing his brain clean of what had just happened. A shifter. A fucking shifter. Fucking a shifter. Being fucked by a shifter.
He wasn’t a lupophobe, and he prided himself on his acceptance and understanding of the shifters and their right to live in the city. Jamie wasn’t the first shifter he had encountered. Far from it. Hell, Rob’s formal squad title was the Wolf and Human Team, and it was tasked to handle the peaceful coexistence of both species in his city to the letter of the law. To his analytical mind, it was just two categories of humans being classified into groups on the basis of similar observable physical traits. In this case, they were part-time human and part-time wolf, and he was one hundred percent full-time human. In a city where status was paramount, he fought hard to ensure equality under the law was available to all.
When Rob had signed up for this gig, after five years on the streets as a uniform cop, he had seen it all. It wasn’t only shifters that murdered or raped or conned any more than it was only humans. He had arrested both human and wolf on any given occasion. Both had their dark side and their good. Like every cop, he saw what happened beneath the surface, stuff that never made it to TV or the internet. There were numerous instances of equal and friendly relationships across the lines, even the deputy mayor was a wolf.
Jobs were open to both, and no discrimination was allowed. Policymaking in government made everything as equal as possible, but there was a disproportionate number of wolves in the lower-income areas of the city he visited on a daily basis. Other humans avoided these holes, but he had compassion for those wolves who struggled with money, position, or lack of control over their own destiny. In them, he saw his own mom struggling to get him through college, working three jobs to keep a roof over their heads, and he recognized the same resilience in families there. Shifter kids were raised right, rules were mastered, respect for authority was instilled, and ironically, it was in these shifter ghettos that there was a real sense of working-class pride. He had shifter friends who were on the wolf/human liaison team with him. Nick Alexander and Joe Christie were third-generation city shifters and formed the other half of his small team, alongside himself and his partner, Dan Brooks. They went bowling, did guy stuff together. They frequently got drunk together. The shifters in the foursome always won at the bowling. They were friends—good friends. Whether they were wolf or man had no impact on that friendship.
Once there had been legal restrictions on marriages between human and wolf, reinforced by ignorance and groups of high-powered pures. There were restrictions in immigration laws, even some spatial segregation, but the Equality Act put an end to a lot of that, even if it had taken some forty years to pass. Now these marriages weren’t common, but they weren’t unheard of, and it was legal, though often a difficult decision to make. The physical imbalance between the species made wolf/human relationships not just ill advised but downright dangerous.
Joe had married a wolf and Nick only dated wolves. The other human on the team, Dan, was in a heavy relationship with a human girl called Rebecca. In Rob’s mind that was the best way, just because it kept everything simple and ordered. He only slept with other humans. Didn’t matter what he accepted about shifters and humans being equal or that he had sworn on his badge to treat all as equal. It was his preference.
Lost in unpleasant memories, Rob stalked around his apartment. The anger he felt caused by Jamie’s lies coiled inside him, waiting to spill into violence. If he ever set eyes on Jamie again, he was going to completely ignore him and act as if the situation had never happened. Groaning, he slumped onto his sofa, shivering in the cold that permeated his apartment. He didn’t feel sick or changed or a victim of any of the horror stories spouted on street corners from those who battled the “scourge of the shifters.” Shifters didn’t disgust him. He just didn’t want to get into a relationship with one. His attraction to Jamie made him feel tired, old, and furious at himself for not recognizing Jamie for what he was.
Disbelief at Jamie’s words, spoken as if it wouldn’t matter to Rob he was being fucked by a shifter, gave way to remembering the fascination of seeing Jamie drop his humanity and changing to his wolf form. It had been beautiful, instant, graceful. Wolves were notoriously private, rarely shifting in public. Rob had only witnessed it twice. Once, when he was pretending not to look, Nick changed and leaped away, following a trail of blood, and the other had happened when he attended a trial and witnessed a horrific first change, which was something he never wanted to see again.
Seeing Jamie’s grace, the blond wolf standing, haughty and proud, then closing his eyes briefly and leaping out of the window, sent a frisson of guilt through him. He pushed it away roughly. Now was not the time to fall for the bullshit. The bottom line was Jamie had kept being a wolf a secret, stripping Rob of his right to choose. Rob’s desire to stay out of intimate situations with a wolf was the reason Rob went to Silver Moon, which was supposedly wolf-free and safe.
Burying his face in his hands, Rob found himself enveloped by the scent of the shifter—of Jamie, his aftershave, and the musk of sex. Tormented by the mixed feelings the smell aroused in him, he went to the bathroom to shower. If he could scrub Jamie from his body then he might be able to scrub the whole thing from his mind.
He stood under the pounding water for a long time, letting it relax his shoulders. Rob tried to focus only on his disappointment and anger. It was unsettling when all he could think about was how Jamie had been rejected twice, and how even in wolf form, he had seemed so sad when he left.
* * * * *
The bullpen was quiet with Joe scowling at a computer screen and Nick straddling a chair turned backwards, grinning at his partner’s distress.
“How many times do I have to tell you? No porn at work,” Rob offered as he leaned against his own desk.
“Not porn,” Joe muttered. He was clearly not rising to any teasing at the moment, which made whatever he was looking at important. Cop-attitude slid over Rob in an instant, and he straightened. He hadn’t been called in, but cases happened in the blink of an eye and maybe this was a new one. Murder possibly?
“What have we got?”
“An anniversary.” Nick smirked, and Joe threw him a dirty look. “A forgotten anniversary.”
Rob relaxed. Not a job then, which was a relief. It looked like maybe the exhaustion from his rough night was going to remain hidden from prying eyes in paperwork duties. He had to get in the expected dig. “You forgot your anniversary? Shit, man, Mara is going to kill you.”
Nick chuckled. “She already has. This is our wolf-boy post ear-bending.”
“What are you going to get her?” It was an innocent question, but Joe looked up at him, and the distress on his face made Rob wish he’d kept his mouth shut. Dan arrived at his desk, holding two coffees, called a hello, and passed one to Rob, who gripped it gratefully. His partner certainly knew how to kick-start Rob’s day. He sensed Dan was going to say something as he was looking at him curiously, and he cut it off at the pass. “Come on, tell us your ideas so far.”
“I don’t know. Everything I get her is wrong now. It’s like her hormones are perpetually screwed.” Compassion washed over Rob. He would never know what it was like to have a hormonal, pregnant wife, but he could sympathize with the real distress on his friend’s face. “I got her something for the baby for Christmas, this cute red T with a wolf pup and a slogan about mommy, but that was wrong ’cause it wasn’t actually for her, and did I think more of the baby than her? What kind of wolf am I to think his mate didn’t want a gift? Then, thinking on that, I got her this really expensive perfume for her birthday, but she just said it made her feel sick, and why couldn’t I think of the baby? I can’t freaking win.” He frantically pressed buttons on the scarred, dirty keyboard, as if the internet could solve all the problems in his life if he just hit the keys hard enough.
“A rocking chair,” Rob said, as memories of his own mom holding his baby brother flooded back. “A gift for her, an antique chair, and a thoughtful gift for baby too, somewhere to sit and rock.” Both Joe and Nick looked at him with eyebrows raised, and he sensed Dan’s observation from a side glance. Joe looked as if he wanted to say something snarky, even went as far as opening his mouth, and then it seemed the penny dropped and sudden realization crossed his face. He turned his gaze back to the screen and started banging away at keys, muttering words like chair, rocking, and nursing under his breath.
Dan continued to stare at him, and finally Rob turned to face him, seeing his partner’s eyes narrowing and a frown creasing his forehead.
“What?” Rob said patiently. He hated the way Nick and Joe looked at him sometimes, like they had some kind of freaky shifter sense that saw right through him, but Dan had completely crazy skills of his own.
Finally he spoke. “Jeez, Tarrant. Did you not sleep? You look like complete shit.”
Great. “Late night.”
“When the hell you gonna find some nice boy and settle your ass down?”
“Why would I want to do that? Just ’cause you loved up with that girl in traffic doesn’t mean we all want it. Anyway, I can leave the nesting to that idiot there.” He gestured at Joe, who was grunting like a Neanderthal at his screen, a huge grin on his face.
“Hey, everyone’s gotta settle down someday.” Dan patted him on the chest. “All this partying, man… I’ll tell you what’s happening. You’re losing your looks.”
“Dude, you wish you looked half as good as this,” he said, pointing up at his own face. It was easy to joke with his friend, familiar and safe and so far away from shifters and Jamie and his lies that he felt himself relaxing. They laughed, easy and calm, and shared the coffee and joked all morning at Joe’s expense about absent fathers and night feedings and hormones. To Rob’s mind, it was that calm before the storm that made what happened next seem even worse.