“Please, I’m full.” He felt queasy, but not from the food.
Bad wolf. Jacob curled up on his side and kept his eyes tightly closed. He shouldn’t have sucked on Cali’s finger like that without being told or at least invited to.
“Jacob, what’s wrong?” Cali asked.
“Tired.” He just wanted to hide for a little while. Like eternity.
There was no way Cali would want him, anyway. Even without seeing himself in a mirror, Jacob knew he looked like shit. He wasn’t healing fast and had bruises all over still.
But more than that, Cali was a lion. What would he ever want with an omega wolf? Maybe, if he became horny enough, he’d want to fuck Jacob.
He heard Cali sniff, then a big, warm hand cupped Jacob’s nape. “Wolf, don’t lie to me. Your scent tells me you’re upset.”
Jacob shivered at Cali’s touch but didn’t answer.
“Of course you’re upset,” Cali murmured. “I’m an idiot.”
There was no way he could let that pass.
“No! You’re not!” Jacob opened his eyes and rolled onto his back. Cali’s hand grazed over his through, and had his body been able to, Jacob was certain he’d have gotten an erection, but even that part of him was messed up.
Even so, Cali’s body heat spread out and chased off some of the morose feelings Jacob was struggling with. He looked into Cali’s eyes for as long as he could manage before having to avert his gaze. It wasn’t in his nature to be so direct, or so bold as to treat a more powerful shifter as an equal rather than a superior. He wondered if lions had the same sort of pack/pride hierarchy as wolves did.
“Thoughtless, then.” Cali’s touch on his neck grew lighter. “You’ve lost so much.”
Jacob swallowed, shivering again as his Adam’s apple bobbed under Cali’s palm. He wanted to reach up, to grab Cali’s wrist and beg him not to move his hand away, but that was too forward a move for him to make.
“You need more rest. I should leave you—”
“No—please.” Jacob whimpered and arched his neck, desperate to keep whatever contact with Cali that he could. “Please don’t leave me alone.” Alone was wrong, terrifying, and it made him feel hollow and dead inside.
“Jacob, look at me.”
Jacob was incapable of ignoring Cali’s demand, even uttered calmly as it was. He raised his gaze to Cali’s once again.
Cali nodded and a crooked smile tugged his mouth up on one side. “I’m not so scary, am I?”
“Not at all,” Jacob rushed out, then instantly feared he’d insulted Cali. “I mean, you are, can be, if—I—what I—” He couldn’t for the life of himself get his words right.
Cali chuckled, and the sound of it chased off Jacob’s anxiety over what he’d said.
“I can be when I’m a beast,” Cali confirmed a moment later. “But I’m not a power-hungry predator. Is that what you think I am?” His expression blanked, but Jacob thought he could see worry in Cali’s eyes.
And Jacob wouldn’t lie. “You’re the alpha. I’m just an omega. Even though I’m not a member of your pack, I’m still your subordinate.”
Cali frowned and whether he was aware of it or not, he stroked his fingers along the side of Jacob’s neck, sending a riot of sensations through him.
“I don’t think I work like that,” Cali said after a moment. “Lions have prides, and in the wild, the males are more transient than a part of those prides. I want things here, at this sanctuary, to be different. I want a pride, a family of shifters, or I suppose a pack is fine, too. It shouldn’t all be just the way I think of things. If I’m opening this place to all breeds of shifters, I should take their natures and experiences into consideration, too. Hm. You’ve given me a lot to think about, but I want to know more of how your pack worked. You say you’re my subordinate. Are their tiers in a pack? I’ve heard references to such before but didn’t think it was true.”
Jacob was slightly offended, but he wasn’t sure why at first. Perhaps he heard a bit of disapproval in Cali’s voice? “Why wouldn’t you think it to be true?”
Cali shrugged. “I thought part of human nature would prevent that kind of thing.”
Yes, Jacob was definitely offended. He tried not to let it show but Cali blinked at him and cocked his head to the side.
“Did I say something wrong?”
Jacob licked his lips and willed himself to speak up. He’d never have done so against Kirk or any wolf higher-ranking than himself. “You sound…judgy.”
“Judgy?” Cali moved his hand and Jacob instantly mourned the loss of his touch. “I guess I am. Explain to me why I shouldn’t be. Tell me how your pack worked.”
Worked. Jacob’s heart hurt for his lost pack. “Like most natural wolf packs, I suppose. The alphas lead in all ways—male and female alphas, usually, though there are some packs that are run by other pairings. But the alphas are the leaders, then they appoint their betas, and other wolves jockey for pack position. The omegas are the lowest of the pack. Not all omegas remain as such. Being an omega isn’t always a permanent thing. It just depends on a lot of factors.” Please touch me again. Let me know I haven’t made you angry.
“Is being an omega a bad thing?” Cali scratched his own chin.
Jacob couldn’t look away from his hand, nor could he repress the slight whimper that escaped from him.
“Is it?” Cali repeated. “Are you okay?”
Jacob wriggled over a little, trying to get closer to Cali without being too obvious about it. “Yes, I’m just…” Please, please touch me! He was on his back, belly bared, showing his submissiveness. Why wasn’t Cali accepting him?
“You’re just?” Cali prodded, and then, finally, he touched Jacob, resting his hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “Is this a wolf thing, a pack thing? This—” He raised his hand up an inch and Jacob tried to sit up, to keep that contact. “Oh.” Cali put his hand back and Jacob could have sobbed just a little in relief.
“It’s both,” Jacob whispered as his nerves began to settle. “You may not see yourself as my alpha, but I’m an omega. I’m not meant to be without someone to lead me. I don’t know how to be independent.” There. He’d admitted what must seem like a weakness to Cali. “I’ve always been told what to do. How to do it. When to do it. Not every single second, but in general…” He must seem like a pathetic being to Cali.
“Do you want to be independent?”
Did he? Jacob was afraid to consider the question. He just wanted to sleep.