Bowen had been sitting on the floor for hours, watching Jonas interact with the half-dozen other shifters attending to him. As much as Bowen wanted to hate Jonas, the wolf in him kept telling the human part to shut up and mind his alpha.
Why, Bowen wondered, had his parents not discussed any of this Jonas-crap with him? Granted, they’d never been very chatty about being shifters, and Bowen had never pushed, but even so, they should have told him this. That there was an alpha, someone else nearby who apparently ruled the area.
Bowen had never caught a whiff of another shifter. He had to assume Jonas and his…pack, or whatever they were, lived outside of town, away from civilization. He could have asked, started to just as a new shifter came running into the room.
“Alpha Jonas! We have a problem!”
Jonas scowled and the new guy shivered before dropping to his knees. “I’m sorry, Alpha. I tried—“ He shook his head. “No, I was too scared, and there were too many. I…I ran. I’m sorry. I—“
“Dillon, what the hell are you babbling about?” Jonas snarled, and Dillon lowered his head, covering the back of it with his hands as he pressed his forehead to the floor. “I’m sorry!”
Bowen’s gut went tight with anxiety. He wanted to smack Dillon himself, even though he had no idea what the man was freaking out over. He expected Jonas to kick Dillon or hit him, something, just because of the way Dillon was cowering.
Instead, Jonas sighed and squatted. He cupped one big hand over Dillon’s. “When have I ever hurt you, Dillon?”
Dillon quivered and whimpered, “Never.”
Bowen’s temper flared. “So it’s just me you want to smack around, huh?”
Jonas glared at him. “It’s not my fault you didn’t know the rules.”
“It kind of is,” Bowen snapped back. “I mean, if you’re the alpha and in charge of every one of the shifters around, then it stands to reason that you failed in ensuring I had the education I needed.” He was pretty proud of himself for his logic, even if his wolf was trying to curl up in a ball inside of him.
Every sound in the room ceased, as if no one even dared breathe. Jonas’s glare should have scorched the skin off Bowen’s frame, there was so much anger in it.
Then Jonas’s expression blanked, the anger hidden or gone. He turned back to Dillon. “What happened? Don’t fret so, you aren’t in trouble, pup.”
There was a tenderness in the way Jonas caressed Dillon’s hands. Not that of a lover, Bowen thought, but perhaps a child or relative. Come to think of it, Dillon did look like Jonas somewhat.
“I should be,” Dillon whispered. “I didn’t do anything, and they took them.”
“They took who?” Jonas asked. “Dillon, who took—“ he darted a glance Bowen’s way, and Bowen’s insides crystalized with fear. “Who took Chiz and the other guy?”
Bowen was up in a flash. “What the fuck are you talking about?” He wasn’t even sure who he was shouting at—Jonas or Dillon.
Dillon whimpered and seemed to curl up on the floor while still remaining on his knees.
Jonas shot to his feet and had Bowen pressed against the wall in less than a heartbeat. “Don’t you ever address my brother in that tone again.”
“Or your alpha,” someone added.
Jonas growled. “That, as Bowen has pointed out, is my own fault. I will let it slide, but snap at Dillon again…” He bared his teeth, and there was nothing human about them, nothing human in the way his hands morphed into huge claws, paws, that were every bit as flexible as hands.
“They’re mine,” Bowen muttered, unwilling to back down, at least in regards to Chiz and Dare.
“The one you turned, maybe,” Jonas informed him. “Maybe he’s your mate. The other one?” Jonas shook his head. “And now he knows about us.”
“No one shifted,” Dillon said. “I mean, I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone shift.”
Bowen’s heart was pounding so hard, he heard his pulse almost as loudly as he heard Dillon’s voice. “They’re mine,” he reiterated. “Both of them.” Though why he was saying that, Bowen didn’t have a clue. He’d barely even had any time with Dare. Regardless, he couldn’t stand the thought of someone taking him or Chiz. “Where are they? Who has them? How do I—“
Jonas shook him. “Enough. I haven’t gotten any answers that you’ve not heard. Let me ask Dillon without you being a hotheaded idiot.”
Bowen wanted to snarl and snap and argue, but Jonas had a point. He’d been right there listening to Dillon, and Dillon hadn’t said much.
Bowen lowered his gaze, and some of the tension in the room eased—not much, but some.
Jonas let go of him but stayed toe-to-toe with Bowen. “You will shut up and let me find out what happened. I had Dillon watching Chiz—and that’s the stupidest name I’ve ever heard—to make sure he didn’t turn anyone. Like you did.”
Arguing would just delay the information Bowen needed. He gave a curt nod and bit back the ‘yes, Alpha’ that was trotting across his tongue. There was no way he’d call Jonas anything other than asshole if he had to use a title.
Jonas’s expression was grim as he pushed on Bowen’s shoulders.
Bowen wanted to resist, but again, he couldn’t be the cause of any more wasted time. He sat, thumping his ass on the floor.
Jonas turned back to Dillon. “Dill, come on, get up. Tell me who took them.”
“I don’t know,” Dillon wailed, peeking up at Jonas. “I was watching, then there were a bunch of shifters, and they smelled weird, not like us. They attacked. I ran. I don’t even know if the…if Chiz and the other guy are alive.”
Bowen couldn’t keep back a pained rasp. “They better be, or there’s gonna be a fucking slaughter.” He didn’t know when or how, or who, even, but he’d tear apart anyone who harmed Chiz or Dare.