He chose it. He chose it—but I could have said no. Chiz still felt like shit about turning Dare.
Dare, who’d morphed into a gorgeous, huge tawny brown wolf. He was stunning, powerful, his chest bulky with muscles under his pelt. As Chiz watched, Dare used his massive paws to tear off a strip of wood in the barn.
“What—“ Chiz clamped his mouth shut as Dare plucked out a nail from the wood, then he returned to his human form and picked the locks on the cuffs.
“You are…amazing,” Chiz whispered, feeling as if his eyes were the size of saucers. The UFO kind.
Dare held a hand out to him. “No. I don’t—everything’s a mess in my head. We gotta go.”
“Yeah.” Chiz winced and big back a moan as pain shot through his shoulders and down his arms and back.
Outside, the coyotes were still making a ruckus.
“I think they’re fighting with each other,” Dare murmured. “Maybe we can sneak out?”
Chiz eyed him warily. “Do you not know how huge you are as a wolf?”
“Uh. No?” Dare looked to be blushing in the dim light. “I—I felt like a wolf, that’s all. It was so weird and so cool and—“
“Kill anyone who doesn’t listen,” Maxwell bellowed outside.
Although, he didn’t sound like he was very far from the barn at all.
Chiz and Dare exchanged a glance, then without a word between them, they shifted.
Chiz wished to hell they’d had time to form a plan, discuss some kind of strategy—anything, but that wasn’t the case. The barn door was flung open a moment later, and Chiz just prayed that Dare would follow his lead.
Fighting in human form was something Chiz knew how to do. It seemed his wolf was keen on it as well. He didn’t have to think; Chiz let his wolf take over and he lunged at Maxwell.
Maxwell let out a shout, then he shifted. Chiz expected an attack, but instead, Maxwell scuttled backwards, then spun around and bolted.
Less than a second later, Dare zoomed past Chiz.
Chiz snorted as he ran after Dare. No wonder Maxwell ran! Dare was scary-big, as if his human height and musculature translated into the wolf he was. And maybe that was the case; Chiz was a lot smaller in stature and so was his wolf.
Whatever the case, he followed Dare out into the barnyard without hesitation.
Coyotes yelped in fear and some of them took off for the hills. Maxwell collided with a few of his pack and barked out orders. A half-dozen coyotes raced to stand in front of Maxwell, then several more took places at his sides and back.
Chiz strained to reach Dare before Dare just plowed into the coyotes. He howled in warning, and Dare skidded to a stop, tipped his head up, and howled back.
And the coyotes attacked. Dirty fighting fuckers! Chiz shot around Dare just as Dare stopped howling. Chiz blanked his human mind and let his wolf-brain rule. He took the first coyote out easily, tearing his throat open and sending blood spraying in a violent arc of red.
The coppery taste of blood fueled his wolf’s thirst for more. He bit and ripped at any part of the coyotes he could reach. Dare flung one broken carcass overhead and the dull thud of it hitting the ground registered faintly, right behind howls in the distance.
Chiz yelped when a coyote bit his flank. The pain wasn’t too bad—until another coyote bit him, this time on the back left leg.
Then he understood. They were taking him out first, and pulling him down to the ground so they could kill him. He tried to turn around but a coyote in front of him came dangerously close to getting his neck. Chiz growled and snarled even as he tried to kick his back legs, but there had to be a few attackers behind him; too many to fight off.
Another bite to his other leg, a settling in of teeth and pain so bright Chiz’s vision blurred. Chiz went down hard, a coyote landing on his back, teeth on his nape, and he knew he was dead.
Except he wasn’t. He couldn’t see what happened, but he heard the vicious snarls, felt the weight lifted from his back, his legs. Heard the thuds he knew were bodies landing several feet away, and when he took a shuddering breath, he smelled his own blood, and the familiar scent of Bowen as Bowen stood over him, fighting off coyotes.
Chiz struggled to get up, but his injured legs weren’t cooperating. Bowen killed any coyote that came near them while Dare bounded toward Maxwell.
A larger, even scarier wolf hit Dare, plowing into his side. Chiz yelped at his lover—one of his lovers, afraid that Dare was about to be killed by a wolf—Wait! What wolf is that? Belatedly, Chiz noticed other wolves in the yard. They were everywhere, and the biggest one leapt at the same time Maxwell did. They collided in air, and something snapped—a bone in one of the two beasts.
Maxwell yowled and the wolf, a hulking silver and blond monster, let out a satisfied growl.
The fight was over almost before it began. Maxwell landed on his side, and the wolf was simply too much, too big, too vicious. Blood flowed from Maxwell’s body, pooling under the moonlight which was reflected in the dark red stream.
Howls filled the night and Chiz shivered as he recognized the voices of his men. Men. My wolves. We’re going to make this work, damn it all. That determination burned brighter in him than did the pain. He wanted Bowen; he wanted Dare; they wanted each other, and they wanted him.
It was going to happen. Now that they were all shifters, there was no reason for Bowen to be scared of it.
Surely there was no reason why they couldn’t be together, the three of them. No reason at all.