Bowen shifted and reached for Chiz. Dare, who’d turned into a huge wolf, morphed as well and touched Chiz’s nape, beside the wound there.
“Baby,” Bowen began, only to have to give up speaking as tears clogged his throat.
Chiz shifted and whimpered. “M’not dying. Just feel like it.”
Bowen’s chest ached. Chiz had several deep lacerations—bites, along his thighs and one on his butt. He had another up close to the back of his neck.
“I’m glad they’re dead,” Dare muttered darkly. “Never thought I’d be okay with killing, but fuck those fucking fuckers.”
Bowen would have smiled at that had he not been so worried. Dare appeared uninjured, which was a relief, but Chiz…
“M’not dying, I said,” Chiz repeated. “Oh shit. Hurts.”
Bowen turned to see Jonas pointing at Dare. “Don’t get in my way again. I’m the alpha of this pack.”
Dare held up one hand. “What—“
“I knocked you on your ass once when you got in my way. Don’t think just because you’re bigger than I am, I can’t whip your ass.” Jonas glared. “And you aren’t even supposed to exist.” He leveled that glare on Bowen.
Bowen was going to take the blame, but Chiz spoke up first. “I did it, and if I hadn’t, we’d be dead, so fuck you very much.”
“Did you not hear the part where I said I’m the alpha here?” Jonas’s voice carried a dangerous note to it.
“He doesn’t understand what that means,” Bowen quickly interjected. “Just like I didn’t, except even…less.”
Jonas bared his teeth. “There is a penalty to be paid for turning a human. We had this discussion.”
“So you’d murder innocents who never knew?” Bowen snapped back.
Jonas nodded. “That’s the way it’s always been done.”
Dare gasped. “What? No! I told him to do it! And what kind of…of…ruler or whatever are you? You suck!”
Jonas looked stunned for a moment, then he simply looked furious.
“Hey, let me look this guy over,” said another man, a tall, rangy guy with blond-brown hair and hazel eyes.
Bowen suspected he was trying to diffuse the situation.
Jonas put a hand to the man’s shoulder. “Arin, you need to stay out of this.”
Arin slipped past Jonas’s hand. “Nope. My job is to treat wounds. I’m a healer, and you need to cool off and actually think.”
“Arin,” Jonas rumbled.
Arin waved him off. “You can’t scare me. I sucked teat beside you, bro. Stop being an ass.”
Bowen wondered where the hell Arin had been before this.
“I’m the Alpha,” Jonas snapped.
“Right. We all know that. If you keep repeating it, it just makes you sound insecure.” Arin had a small bag, brown leather, that he set on the ground as he squatted beside Chiz. “Ouch. Bud, these look like they hurt.”
“They do,” Chiz told him.
“You’ll heal up faster than a human, but unfortunately, no miraculous instanteous recovery will happen.” Arin opened the bag. “Hence my position as pack doctor.”
“Jesus Christ!” Jonas snarled, shoving his fingers through his thick black hair. “Why are you so calm, Arin? They made another shifter! Out of a human!”
“I see that.” Arin took a bottle labeled antiseptic from his bag.
Jonas wasn’t done bitching. “I can’t allow this!”
Bowen ignored him after a quick glance. “Chiz, try to keep still while Arin cleans the wound.” Chiz had several deep wounds, bites that luckily had missed any major arteries.
“You’re gonna be okay,” Dare said from Chiz’s other side.
“He’s gonna be fine, but I ought to—“ Jonas stopped. “This conversation will wait until Arin is done.”
Arin snickered almost soundlessly as he dabbed at the deep gash on Chiz’s butt.
“Ow,” Chiz hissed. “Fuck! Is that going to leave a scar?”
“Your ass will be just as gorgeous as ever even if it does,” Bowen said. His eyes and nose kept burning off and on. Sometimes his vision blurred. He’d come awfully close to losing Chiz and Dare.
Jonas grumbled and walked over to some other members of his pack.
Arin snickered again. “He’s all huff and puff right now. Cut him some slack. Jonas isn’t a bad guy, but he has a lot of responsibility. Keeping humans from finding out about us is a huge one.”
Bowen took hold of one of Chiz’s hands. Dare held the other.
“He wants to be mad, but he’s got a romantic’s heart,” Arin continued. “So if he starts in about the penalty for turning a human being death, just give him a line about true love and mates and destiny, and he’ll probably just make y’all swear fealty to him and take the Alpha’s bite.”
“Alpha’s—what?” Bowen asked as Dare grimaced.
“Fuck,” Chiz rasped. “I don’t any other shifter to bite me.”
Arin shrugged. “Got to take it from the Alpha to be pack.”
“He said I was part of his pack and he never bit me,” Bowen pointed out before whispering soft words of comfort to Chiz.
“Yeah, well. Your parents were bitten, and I guess Jonas figured that carried over in your case.” Arin shrugged. “Your folks were lovely people but they didn’t want to hang with pack. Jonas respected that and stayed back. His instinct is to keep his people…well, wolves, together. Pack. It was hard on him to stand aside. Don’t think he will manage it anymore.”
“So…” Bowen winced when Chiz whimpered. “Sorry, baby. He’ll be done soon.”
Arin shot him a look that said bullshit. There were several injuries left to attend to on Chiz.
“So what?” Arin prodded.
Bowen had to backtrack his thoughts. “Oh. He’s going to make us give up our lives and live in some kind of freaky shifter commune?”
Arin laughed at that—a musical, honest laugh. “No, God no. That’s not how pack works. Or not this pack, anyway. You’ll attend pack meetings of course, and do things to help out. You’ll be social with your pack. Jonas doesn’t control the way you live down to every last action.”
“He just thinks he can kill us, though,” Dare said.
Arin stopped wiping at the bite on Chiz’s leg. “Look. That’s the way things have always been done, but my brother isn’t a logger-headed fool. Let him have some breathing room. Jonas has never enjoyed killing, not even when it’s necessary, like today. And if you told him I said that, I’ll break your face.”
Dare blanched. “Seriously?”
Arin resumed working on Chiz. “Really. I’m tougher than I look, and I’ve trained in several martial arts as well as in the, hm, well, let’s say I’ve learned how a drop of this or that can kill in an instant. I’m not the biggest, baddest wolf around, but I am very likely the deadliest.”
“Why does everyone in this pack threaten people?” Chiz wondered before biting his bottom lip while Arin cleaned his wound.
“He nailed it in one,” Bowen noted. “And Chiz hasn’t even been around y’all yet, not really.”
Arin nodded. “Because we are pack, and we protect one another with our lives. Y’all aren’t pack yet. If you stop being macho rattletraps, y’all might be able to join us. And joining us is better than the alternative, though I suppose Jonas might give y’all the opportunity to clear out of his area nad start your own pack. None of y’all are alphas, though.” He nodded at Dare. “And you might be a big son of a bitch, but you’re not even a beta. You’re just a wolf. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but you aren’t a born leader. Bowen might be closer to being an alpha. Still aren’t one.”
“And me?” Chiz asked.
Arin grinned. “Pure trouble, I’d bet, but in the good way. It’s no wonder you’ve got two mates.”
“Two mates?” Dare blinked. “Like—“
“Like y’all were all made for each other,” Arin interrupted. “And none of y’all would be fulfilled without the others. It happens. I’ve seen mated packs. Blew my mind, but there was a dozen or so, men and women, all mates.” He shook his head. “I can’t imagine the drama, but I bet the sex is phenomenal.”
“Or confusing,” Dare said. “I mean, twelve people? How—I just can’t.”
“Never been part of an orgy?” Arin asked.
Dare blushed scarlet. “No!”
Arin winked at Bowen. “Well, he’s a little uptight, hm?”
Dare looked at Bowen.
Bowen had to reach over and caress his hot cheek. “He’s just fine the way he is.”
“Aw, see? That’s sweet.”
“It is,” Chiz agreed, looking at Bowen with one eye. “So we’re together?”
Bowen swallowed. “If y’all can forgive me for being a fucking idiot.”
Dare touched his cheek in return. “I can.”
“Hey, he didn’t deny you’re a fucking idiot,” Arin pointed out.
“So can I,” Chiz agreed.
“Now all y’all have to do is convince Jonas not to kill y’all.” Arin sounded entirely too cheery when he spoke.