What a fucking miserable week. Bowen was exhausted and had new blisters on his hands despite how tought his skin was. His feet ached, all of him ached, and god damn it all! That included some mushy spots inside he tried not to acknowledge.
But he was pretty certain he’d fucked up with Chiz and yeah, even Dare. Even so, Bowen couldn’t figure out what else he should have done. He’d already turned Chiz into a freak like himself, and as hot as Dare made him, Bowen had no illusions. If he fucked Dare, he’d probably bite him, and that had to be the thing that sparked the change in Chiz.
Bowen sighed as he left the barn. The sun had set a while ago, and he knew, despite being so worn out, he was not going to sleep much.
The fact that he was off his game, physically wiped out and mentally fucked, had to be why he didn’t see the man standing on his porch until Bowen was slogging up the steps.
“What—“ he got out, all senses suddenly blaring in alarm as the mountain of a man lunged. Bowen didn’t have a chance. Before he could even blink, one thick, huge hand was around his throat, and he was picked up as if he weighed nothing.
The man holding him up was scary as hell, and looked a lot like something hell itself might have rejected and spat out. Furious, with red eyes glowing in the darkness, the stranger growled and shook Bowen fiercely.
Bowen didn’t want to die. Adrenaline surged through his body and he lashed out with hands and feet.
All that got him was slammed against the front door. Bowen’s breath gushed out of him and pain exploded in his head.
“You do not raise a pack against me,” the attacker snarled before rattled Bowen’s bones with another shake.
Bowen tried to speak, but he had no breath, and that hand was still around his throat. He clawed at it only to have the grip tighten.
Everything started to blur—his vision, his life, and all he could do was think that he’d fucked over two people he could have, should have, protected.
Because now he knew—the man killing him was another wolf shifter. A bigger, stronger, angrier one, and he didn’t appear to care for competition.
As suddenly as he’d been grabbed, Bowen was released. His legs said fuck you and gave out as he went down.
“I left you alone because your parents weren’t pack,” the man growled, his words mixed with the sound of his wolf. “And you repay me by trying to start your own pack?”
Bowen thought he shook his head, but it was hard to tell with everything spinning.
“No,” he forced out, the words stripping his already dry throat and making it ache. “No pack.”
“Right. So you didn’t turn a human into one of us?”
Bowen couldn’t speak. His throat hurt and felt like it was swelling. His chest hurt, too, and he was afraid he was having a heart attack.
“No one turns a human without the area alpha’s permission,” the—area alpha?—said. “And that’s me, as if you didn’t know.”
Bowen sucked in a shallow breath, exhaled, then tried again. He was healing already, which was good, because he must have had damage in his throat. “Didn’t know.”
“Yeah, right.” The man squatted and cupped Bowen’s chin.
Bowen flinched and figured he was dead meat.
Instead, he was studied for a long moment, and the stranger’s nose twitched as he sniffed almost continually. “You know who I am.”
“No,” Bowen protested.
More sniffing, then the man leaned down and inhaled right by Bowen’s ear.
Bowen shivered, and fear tangled with something else inside of him. Not lust, but…something he didn’t recognize.
Until his wolf whimpered and begged to be set free so he could roll over for the stronger alpha.
Oh. Oh shit. Bowen gulped.
“Your parents never told you about me?”
Bowen slowly shook his head, just the miniscule bit he could while his chin was still in the grip of a giant shifter. “They died in an accident years back.”
“Yeah, that much I knew. I am the territory alpha. Jonas Kantz.”
Bowen had never heard the name. “I don’t—that doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Jonas’s white teeth glinted in the dark night. “It means everything. You just don’t know it. For example, it’s up to me whether you, and the human you turned, live or die.”
“Wait, I didn’t mean to—“ Bowen began, only to be overridden as Jonas kept talking.
“You committed one of the biggest transgressions a shifter can commit. You’ve revealed us to humans, and in fact, turned a human. So that’s actually the two biggest fuck ups possible for a shifter to make. Both sure death sentences.”
Bowen jerked his chin free and began to get to his feet. “Not for him, not for Chiz. He’s innocent. I won’t let you hurt him.”
“Admirable.” Jonas backhanded Bowen. “Foolish.”
Bowen went down hard. His ears rang and he tasted blood. “You aren’t going to hurt him.”
“You think you can stop me?” Jonas asked. “Especially when he’s with another human male, probably turning him just as you turned… Chiz?”
Bowen’s sweat was cold on his hot skin. “He won’t. He wouldn’t turn…anyone.” Dare. He has to be with Dare. Jesus, I hope they’re both okay. Please, let them be safe.
“Fear. It has a rancid scent.” Jonas pressed a booted foot to Bowen’s shoulder. “Stay down. Every time you rise, it’s a challenge.”
“I—you can’t hurt them,” Bowen rasped. “Please, kill me, whatever, but leave them alone.”
He wasn’t sure, but he thought Jonas shook his head. “How stupid do you think I am?”
“Not as stupid as I am,” Bowen mumbled.