Chapter One Alpheus
“How’s he doing?” Alpheus asked, standing in the doorway of his father’s bedroom.
Teo stood by his father’s bedside, holding the man’s hand. He wore the same, stoic expression as he always did, but there was a frown tugging at his lips. Alpheus’ heart squeezed to see his brother struggling.
“Not good,” Teo said with a sigh. “His breathing is getting more erratic and he’s barely eating or drinking. I don’t think he has long left.”
Alpheus’ stomach turned and he felt the bile rise in his throat. His father was going to die. And it wouldn’t be months or weeks like the pack doctor had predicted. No, it would be days if not hours. His head spun and he felt the urge to vomit up the little bit of food that he’d choked down.
His father's deep, raspy voice made Alpheus’ head shoot up. He crossed the room in seconds, going to the man as he always had when he was called. Alpheus hesitated as he reached out his hand and then closed his fist. Touching his father felt as if he was admitting that there wasn’t much time left. That he would die soon.
And Alpheus wasn’t ready to admit that yet.
“Yes, Father?” he asked.
“Come sit with me,” the man said as he peeled his nearly translucent eyelids open and stared at Alpheus with watery eyes. “Sit, sit.”
“I-I should let you rest, Father,” he said.
He coughed, the sound wet and thick. Alpheus snatched up a cloth and held it to his father’s lips before the coughing fit passed. He wiped his mouth gently and grabbed the glass of water beside the bed, angling the straw as his father pushed himself up and failed.
Teo grabbed the man under his arms, grunted, and yanked him up into a sitting position. Their father glared at him.
“I don’t need to be yanked around like a rag doll,” the man snapped, his eyes trained on Teo. “Get out.”
“Father, I was only trying to help,” he said softly. “Let me-”
“Get out!” he yelled before his words dissolved into another coughing fit.
Teo’s eyes narrowed. “Take care of him,” he said shortly as he spun on his heels. “I’ll be downstairs.”
Alpheus nodded. “I’ll keep him safe.”
“Please do,” he said as he gazed over his shoulder. “If his condition worsens, let me know.”
Alpheus watched his brother leave. He wanted to talk to him and tell him that it was going to be alright. Lately, their father had been incredibly cranky and short, but it was just the illness eating away at him that was making him so short. The man had always been kind to them as they grew up, but the disease was tearing him apart.
He shook himself awake and stepped over to his father. Alpheus put the straw to his lips and Boden drank slowly, every inhale followed by a rasping that would haunt Alpheus forever. Finally, Boden pulled back and Alpheus sat the glass on the nightstand.
“Why did you kick him out?” Alpheus asked. “He’s just trying to help.”
Boden’s eyes slipped to the door and back to his son. He leaned forward and raised a thin, pale hand beckoning Alpheus forward. He moved to his father’s side and grabbed a chair, dragging it closer before he sat down. Boden reached out and grabbed his hand tightly.
“I don’t have much longer,” he whispered.
Alepheus’ throat tightened. “Don’t say that,” he practically begged. “This pack needs you.” His shoulders slumped. “I need you. I’m too young to lose my father.”
Reaching out, Boden touched his cheek. The coolness of his palm against Alpheus’ skin made him shiver, but he leaned into his touch. He was once an orphan and soon, he would be one again. Boden had taken him in when he was just a young, rebellious, punk who was too damaged and callous for the world. And he’d changed him into a man that was determined to make the man proud.
“Don’t cry,” Boden said.
“Sorry,” Alpheus whispered, wiping at his eyes frantically. “I’m not a fucking child anymore. I know better.”
“Shh. Shhh.” Boden pulled his arm away from his wet eyes and shook his head. “There’s nothing wrong with shedding tears, you know that,” he said pointedly. “But I have a lot of things to tell you and a short time to say them.”
Right. Yes. Pay attention.
“I’m listening,” Alpheus said.
“Good because I don’t think I’ll be able to stay awake long enough to repeat it.” He nodded to the nightstand on the other side. “Please, get my medicine.”
Alpheus jumped out of his chair and rounded the bed. He yanked the drawer open and found the medicine. Dumping a pill from each bottle into his hand, he brought it back and helped Boden take them before he sat on the edge of the bed.
“You need to lead the pack,” Boden said.
Alpheus held the glass in his hand and blinked at his father. What is he talking about? Is he delirious? Reaching out, he laid a hand on the man’s head and Boden let out a sharp, rough cackle.
“Close your mouth, son. You’ll attract flies.”
“Are you trying to say my breath is shit?” Alpheus asked automatically, making the man grin at him. It reminded Alpheus of all their past interactions, times spent in the woods hunting, growing, and learning together. “Why would you want me to be alpha?” Alpheus whispered. “Teo is the rightful heir. He’s your son.”
“You’re my son too,” he said, shaking his head. “I love Teo and I always will, but…he’s not the one I want in charge of this pack.”
Alpheus frowned. “Why not?”
“He’s too impulsive, too…obsessed with power. I’ve tried to raise Teo up and show him compassion, love, and generosity, but he’s never fallen in line with those thoughts. l worry about him being in charge. This pack needs a good leader and Teo isn’t ready.”
Alpheus frowned. Boden wanted him to be the alpha. Seriously? Teo’s going to lose his mind. Leading the pack was all that he’d talked about since they were teenagers. He’d bragged about it, lording it over the rest of them that one day all of this would be his. And everyone just accepted it because he was the son of the alpha. Of course, he would be next in line.
But now that was being turned on his head.
Alpheus shook his head. “Teo isn’t going to like this.”
Boden waved a hand. “I can’t help that,” he said. “I’ve tried to give Teo so many chances to show another side of himself, but he’s never taken them. I can’t leave the pack in his hands. Not like this.” He coughed hard and covered his mouth, his rasping getting worse. Alpheus went for his inhaler, but Boden raised a hand. “Leave it. The damn thing won’t help.” He stared at Alpheus. “The only thing I need from you is for you to tell me that you’ll take over and lead the way.”
Alpheus opened his mouth and shut it again. He wanted to tell his father he would do anything for him, of course, he would, but this was asking for much more than he was capable of giving. Finally, he forced himself to speak.
“No one will believe this,” he said quietly. “They’ll think I’m jealous of Teo and…”
Boden waved a hand. “That doesn’t matter,” he said as he turned and patted the mattress. “Lift this here and grab the folder.”
Alpheus stood up and rounded the bed. He lifted the mattress and winced. The fact that his father was so thin that he could lift it when he’d once been a beast of a man saddened him even more. He carefully pulled the file from underneath the bed and offered it to him, but Boden waved it away.
He sat back on the bed and opened the folder. Inside there were a bunch of documents. A deed to the pack lands, birth certificates, including his own and the rest of the packs, a deed to the main house, and at the end of the papers was one that caused Alpheus to hesitate.
Last Will and Testament.
“What is this?” Alpheus asked.
When he looked up at Boden, the man only nodded. He glanced back down and read over the document. There, in black and white, were Boden’s wishes. He was to take over the pack, help it grow, keep them safe, and fully step into Boden’s role. In return, he would have the house. The one he’d grown up in the past fifteen years and had fallen in love with.
“Get out your phone,” Boden said as his eyes dropped and opened again. “I want to make a video as well that you can play for the pack when I’m gone. Just record it and keep it safe.”
Alpheus’ throat tightened. “Yes, Father.”
He recorded his father’s message as his heart shattered into pieces. Alpheus couldn’t deny the man a single thing and he wouldn’t tell him no to this. If Boden wanted him to lead the pack, then he would do it. Even if he was sure his father was making a huge mistake.
“That’s it,” Boden said, weakly lifting his hand, but it plopped right back onto the heavy blanket on his lap. “I-I need to sleep.”
Alpheus ended the recording and jumped up. “I think that’s for the best,” he said as he helped Boden get comfortable and pulled the blanket up his chest. “Get some rest. You can’t recover if you’re not resting.”
Boden laughed. “This isn’t a cold son, it’s cancer. No amount of rest in the world is going to fix me.” He groaned and shook his head. “I wish I could shift one more time. Feel the wind in my fur, chase a fresh kill, roll in the damn dirt.,” He laughed.
“I’m sorry,” Alpheus whispered. “That you have to go through all of this alone.”
Boden shook his head. “I’m not alone. My wolf knows we’re going and he’s there every time I close my eyes. Listen to your wolf, trust it, and you’ll never be alone in your life.” His eyes closed.
Alpheus stood up and laid a hand on his chest. He wanted to say so much more to his father, but he’d clearly reached the end of his energy. As he turned to walk away, a hand wrapped around his wrist and yanked him back. Alpheus turned on his heels, his eyes wide as he gazed down at his father.
“Be careful, Alpheus. And don’t tell Teo what I’ve said. Wait until I’m gone, okay? Promise.”
Alpheus frowned. “But…why?”
“Just…do it,” he groaned. “Promise.”
Boden’s hand fell away from his wrist and dropped onto the bed. Alpheus watched and waited as the man’s chest rose and fell. But he was out.
“I’ll do my best, Father. I promise.”
The door shot open and Teo raced through it, his long black hair wild. “We’ve got a problem. Possibly a vampire.”
Alpheus tore his gaze away from his father. “Fuck. On pack lands?”
He nodded gravely. “Yes, we need to take care of this.”
“Alright.” Alpheus crossed the room but stopped as Teo stared at his hands. “What?”
“What’s that?” Teo asked.
Alpheus gazed down at the folder. “Oh, just some things I need to put away. I’ll do that and join you.”
Teo frowned. “Hurry up. I’ll call someone up to look after Dad.”
Alpheus nodded and made a beeline to his own room. He dug around until he found a good place to slip it into the back of the closet on the top shelf. Alpheus’ fingers grazed the folder, but it was out of sight. That’ll have to do for now.
He jogged out the door and down the stairs. As soon as he joined up with a few other packmates on the front porch, he smelled the blood in the air. It was strong, human, and his wolf bared his fangs.
“Let’s take care of this,” Alpheus said.
“Shift,” Teo growled. “We’ll get there faster.”
All of them shifted on his command. Alpheus’ bones reshaped, and fur erupted over his body all back and thick before he lifted his head to the sky and howled. They shot off into the night and the file was quickly erased from Alpheus’ head.
Take care of the threat first. Everything else can come later.
Chapter Two Kado
Warmth slid down Kado’s parched throat, but it was never enough to quench the never-ending thirst. He was blinded by the hunger that clung to him like the moon to the sky. He drank until there was nothing left but droplets touching his tongue. A whimper broke free between his parted lips.
Kado’s head tilted back, and his blurry vision cleared as the full moon came into view. It was so much clearer than normal. No city lights stealing its beauty. The dark and desolate night was always his favorite; it was where supernaturals thrived. Humans scattered to their homes to stay safe from the monsters of the world. The monster Kado had turned into. Once upon a time life had been very different. But even as a human Kado had gravitated toward the night.
“Ah, the stars are beautiful,” Kado said. Nothing and no one answered him.
His mind was nothing more than a hazy field of need. Kado couldn’t remember where he was, let alone why he was there. He glanced down, his hands covered in dark sticky fluid. He didn’t have to think too hard to know exactly what it was. Blood.
“Not again. I-I. Fuck!” His fingers curled into his palms, cutting them open and adding to the blood already there. The pain did nothing to dampen the pleasure that drinking blood gave him. He should have been careful but instead he’d slipped up once again.
“Fuck is right! What is a vampire doing in my territory?” a deep, growling voice asked.
Kado jerked, turning on his heels as he sought out where the voice had come from. “Who’s there?” His gaze searched for the culprit; his fangs dropped down on their own as ice-cold fear stole all the warmth he’d just ingested.
“I should be asking you who the hell you are.”
Kado sucked in a breath. He stumbled back but there was nowhere to go, not when he was surrounded. Like a nightmare, a multitude of gold eyes peered back at him from the tree line.
The blood he’d just ingested threatened to come back up in a violent manner. It would only result in Kado needing to feed again. He hadn’t even come to terms that he’d killed again. Another life snuffed out all because his stomach growled with hunger.
“Do you have a hearing problem?”
Kado licked his lips, swallowing back the groan the taste of blood nearly caused. He took a step back lifting his hands but one glance at his palms reminded him of the way they were caked in blood. He quickly jammed them behind him, stuffing them into the pockets of his tight fitted jeans.
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” Kado said. His gaze bounced around, trying to figure out which pair of golden eyes was speaking to him.
A growl pierced the air. “You killed on my territory. I see no misunderstanding. And by our treaty with the mosquitoes, you’ve overstepped.”
Kado shook his head, words stuck in the back of his throat as crippling fear twisted his insides. The need to flee made his legs shake. He was still learning how to move fast, not that it would help him. So many surrounded Kado one of them was bound to take him down.
And do what? Kado didn’t want to think about it. It would only make him sick.
“I didn’t know,” Kado said.
More growls resonated around Kado and he let out a whimper unable to contain it. “Please believe me.” Licking his lips, Kado tried to think of a way to get out of the mess he’d found himself in.
“You’re a vampire.”
It wasn’t a question but Kado answered anyway. His entire body tensed up. “Yes,” he said through gritted teeth.
“And you’re in my territory.”
Kado shook his head, his long jet-black hair flinging over his shoulder.
A deep growl penetrated the air and sent a tendril of fear scraping down Kado’s back. His legs trembled, threatening to cave from under him.
“What the hell do you mean no?” A man walked out from the tree line the moonlight, bathing his tan skin with its blue hues. Next to him was a huge black wolf. It had a single white patch. For some idotic reason Kado’s mind thought it would be fun to pet the wolf shifter as if he was a husky and not a monster capable of shredding Kado to pieces.
He audibly swallowed and clenched his fist. I don’t want to die. Kado nearly laughed at himself; he'd had the same thoughts on the night he became a vampire. He shoved all the darkening thoughts away, not willing to be dragged down memory lane.
The man stalked toward Kado and every step held purpose and authority. There was no doubt in Kado’s mind the man meant business. There was something unnerving about the way he stared at Kado. It made every hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
Running was sounding like the better deal with every second that ticked by. As if the man could see it in Kado’s eyes, he growled. “Don’t even think about it, vampire.”
Kado’s mouth opened but he shut it before he said anything more. The beautiful wolf at the man’s feet watched Kado keenly. It felt as if he was at fashion week and in front of thousands of people being judged.
“I asked you a question,” the man growled.
The vampire jumped and shakily pushed his fingers through his hair. He knew that showing fear was how you pulled monsters closer but Kado was far out of his comfort zone. He was desperately grasping at mental straws trying to hold it together but it was all too much.
The wolf next to the man glaring at Kado shifted. Bones popped and fur receded to show off flesh. Kado had only seen shifters change in movies and they always made it seem worse then what it was. The man had done it fluidly as if he was changing out of an outfit.
“Teo, something doesn’t seem right.” Even his voice was beautiful. Not too deep, just the right pitch that had Kado’s nerves calming down.
“Are you siding with vampires over your own now?” Teo growled.
The other man shook his head and turned to face Kado. The vampire was taken back by the other man standing before him.
“No vampire would be caught so easily or dare step foot into Crescent Shadows territory.”
Kado knew he should be listening but his mind had other ideas as his gaze dropped from his green eyes flecked with gold to his expansive chest and down to his torso. There were three long jagged scars over his rib cage and tattoos on his forearms. Kado should have stopped there but it was as if he was possessed as his gaze dipped lower. Kado’s eyes widened and he jerked his head up and looked away, unable to meet the man’s eyes after seeing his third leg.
Holy shit, that thing is huge. If Kado’s heart still beat, he knew it would be racing and his face would be flush.
Rough fingers gripped his chin and yanked Kado’s face back toward the man with jewel-like green eyes. His eyes shimmered, nearly glowing as Teo continued to growl. Kado’s stomach flipped as he was forced to stare at the man before him. Every inch of him went still; he didn’t so much as blink.
Kado tried to recall what he should do when faced with a wolf shifter. It was taught in all the schools but over the years Kado hadn’t given it much thought. Like most of the humans in the world, it was easier to ignore that monsters lived in the same world as them. Especially when the majority of them were confined to certain cities around the world.
“What den do you belong to?” Teo asked
“I-I—umm what?” Kado rapidly blinked as he stopped getting lost in the man’s eyes.
“How old are you?” The other one asked.
He hadn’t even answered the first question and already there was another one. What was this good wolf, bad wolf interrogation? The first one scared the shit out of Kado and then the good looking one came up like some shining knight only to ask him multiple questions. Kado huffed “Uh, I don’t see what my age has—”
“Answer the question,” Teo growled.
Green eyes moved even closer and Kado could feel the heat radiating off his body. A shiver of delight ran down his spine and Kado wanted nothing more than to press himself up against the man and soak in the warmth. A new sensation attacked him as his gums tingled, but there was no blinding hunger that followed. Kado just wanted to sink his fangs into the wolf. A little nibble.
The handsome one snapped his fingers in front of Kado’s face, dragging him from his leeway thoughts.
“How long have you been a vampire? You smell more human than death.” His nose scrunched up.
He’s so cute.
Kado swallowed back the groan. His brain had to be fried because who in their right mind thought a wolf shifter was cute? Kado brought his wrist to his nose and sniffed. Without being able to recall the last time he took a shower, he’d take the man’s word for it. “I—” Kado’s brows dipped and scrunched together as he thought. “What’s today?”
The man let him go, rubbing at his stubbled jaw. “What do you mean what’s today?”
The wind picked up and blew Kado’s hair across his face and he puttered fighting with the long strands. “Uh, I mean I’ve been known to lose track of time since this happened to me.” He gestured to his hands and mouth. As if what he meant wasn’t obvious, Kado continued. “I became a vampire and things have been a bit difficult.” A bit was the understatement of the year. He’d had to quit taking jobs. His agent had given up hope and Kado didn’t blame him. Forced to live only at night and in fear of killing anyone, Kado had become somewhat of a hermit, only venturing out in a blood craze haze. Which was how he’d ended up surrounded by a bunch of wolf shifters.
“It’s October fifth,” the man said.
Wow, so only a single night. Kado sighed. He got a strange look from the naked man. Remembering that the man before him was as bare as the day he was born drew, Kado’s gaze back down and groaned as he forced his head back and stared at the sky.
“Right, um, I’ve been a vampire for six months.”
“What the hell are you doing here without your maker?” Teo asked.
Kado jerked his head back down to look past the one closest to him. That was right, supernaturals tended to know more about each other. “My what?”
Teo growled. “Don’t lie. Who are you working for?”
“I’m not lying. I went out with a bunch of friends and we ended up in Silvercross and the next thing I remembered was waking up like this.” Someone needed to believe him. Kado’s friends sure as shit hadn’t. Apparently he’d gotten into a cab and went home but that wasn’t what happened at all. Kado wanted to scream; someone had to believe him, but at the same time he knew if he let too many people know the truth, he’d be kicked out of the safe haven that was Canova and forced to live where the supernaturals were forced to stay.
“Teo, I don’t think he’s lying.”
“Stop taking a vampire’s side, Alpheus. Have you lost all common sense?”
The two went back and forth. Teo was far more aggressive with his words then Alpheus. In fact it was like staring at night and day. One was harsh while the other tried to come to a reasonable outcome.
Teo moved toward Alpheus and growled. “I am to be alpha next after Father is gone and in his stead I am to make decisions. This is rightfully my pack.”
“Not till Father is dead. I say we bring the vampire back to our alpha. He will decide what we should do. The last thing we want to do, Teo, is incite a war with the vampires.”
Tension filled the air, Kado was on high alert, certain that the two men in front of him were going to end up fighting.
Alpheus reached out his hand and laid it on Teo’s shoulder. “Brother, it is only for the good of the pack. I’m not making any decisions without you.”
I’d prefer if you did. Kado bit his tongue to keep his opinion to himself. Teo for sure wanted him dead, and as for Alpheus, Kado wasn’t sure but he knew he wasn’t going to die right then and there and that was good enough for him.
Teo visibly relaxed as he whistled and waved his hand. All the gold eyes focused on them started to disappear.
Kado’s shoulders dropped a little, still unsure of everything that was happening but grateful all the same.
“If he does something, it will be on you, Alpheus,” Teo said before he shifted into a large silver and black wolf.
Once they were alone, Alpheus turned toward Kado. His eyes were more green than gold. “You really don’t know where you are?”
Kado shook his head.
Alpheus’ gaze traveled over to the spot Kado knew the body still laid. His chest felt heavy as he fought with himself not to look. Over the past six months, seeing dead bodies had become a norm and somewhere along the way Kado stopped feeling anything toward them. It was as if his humanity was slipping through his fingers and that was what made him feel ill.
“Follow me,” Alpheus said.
“Uh, first, are you going to, you know, cover up?” Kado asked.
He smirked and Kado’s stupid body swooned. He had a thing for assholes who were overconfident and overall bad people.
“No.” Alpheus shifted into a wolf with pitch black hair that looked blue in the moonlight. Kado moved around him, seeking out the patch of white fur.
“I’m guessing I don't have a choice but to come with you,” Kado said. He sighed as he thought about his life as he knew it before. He’d never go back to it and in the back of Kado’s mind he’d known that for a while now. But he’d stupidly held onto the belief that he’d be able to live like any other human. The only problem was he wasn’t human any longer.
Kado pushed his fingers through his hair and grimaced as some of the strands pulled on the dried blood on his hands. “Lead the way. I hope wherever you’re taking me I can take a shower.”
The wolf looked back at him, and Kado smiled. “Sorry, wait, can you understand me right now?”
If looks could kill, Kado would be ten feet in the ground after the glare the wolf aimed his way.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Alpheus set off and Kado hesitated. He shouldn’t follow a stranger, but then again, he didn’t exactly know where he was either. He knew he wasn’t in Canova anymore. There was too much wildlife.
The wolf stopped and its gold eyes bore into Kado, waiting for him to follow. He’d always found his way back home. He glanced behind him at the body he’d left on the ground and felt nothing. No remorse or guilt. He ground his teeth. Kado jerked his gaze away.
I refuse to become a monster.
If he kept lying to himself, one day he’d believe it. Kado jogged after the werewolf with nowhere else to turn and no one else to go to.
Just hope he doesn’t eat me.