The scent was fresh. He caught it smeared against the corner of a building, alcohol and wanting. It smelled of man, and it smelled of prey. He pressed his nose to the concrete and followed the scent.
He would find the man that smelled so good, and he would rip into his flesh. He would bite and bite and bite. He would spill the blood—red under the waning moon’s light. Then the man would belong to him. He would keep the man for his own. And he would find others. Others that smelled as good, as sweet, as… intoxicating.
His long nails scraped across the concrete every time one of his paws hit the ground, but he could hardly hear it now under the sound of his own panting. He was excited—soon he’d have the man. Each exhilarated breath came out loud. Soon, soon, soon….
Around another corner—so many buildings, but… there! The man was only ten strides away! Stop!
Stop, stop, stop.
The man was prey and should be attacked like prey. He was the hunter. He would hunt.
Quiet, quiet, quiet, he crept. So close, so close. The man saw nothing. The man was nothing, but soon the man would be better. So much better.
Thump-thump went his heart. Ta-da-dum sang the man.
To the ground, low, low, he readied himself to pounce.
The man stopped.
Low on the ground, he tightened his muscles, opened his mouth, bared his teeth. Snarling, ready to take down his prey, he leapt.
The Wolf at the Door
THERE was a tiny spider spinning a web in the southeast corner of Ezra’s bedroom, just above his bed. A breeze was coming in through the open window, and every few minutes it blew hard enough to set the spider swinging.
Then a harder gust blew it all the way into the east wall, and Ezra blinked hard and realized he was awake. Had been for a while now.
Exhaling noisily, Ezra rolled over and sat up, then immediately regretted the first part of that decision when his shoulder screamed in agony. “Jesus, what the fuck—?”
When he looked, his shoulder was an ugly mess of dried blood and yellow-purple bruises. What the hell did I get up to last night? he wondered.
But he couldn’t seem to remember.
Automatically, he staggered to the bathroom. This time it wasn’t just his shoulder protesting. His legs were sore, too, and his stomach muscles. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any part of his body that was pain-free. Had someone roofied him, then attacked him on his way home from the pub last night? Had he gotten into a bar fight? Been mugged? “That’s the last time I walk home from the bar,” he grumbled aloud. Definitely taxis from now on. Even his voice sounded strained.
In the bathroom, his reflection offered nothing but more questions. To put it bluntly, he looked like crap. Blood had matted the hair on the left side of his head, turning it rusty brown from its usual dirty blond. His blue eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot enough to rival any drug addict’s. The bruising wasn’t limited to his shoulder but had spread across his chest and legs.
And—Ezra inhaled deeply, then coughed—he desperately needed a shower.
Well, with any luck some hot water would clear his head and help him remember the events of the previous night. Ezra stumbled into the shower and turned the hot water up high, planting both hands on the tiled wall and letting the heat and steam soothe him.
Red water pooled on white ceramic before swirling down the drain, and gradually Ezra began to wash himself, starting gingerly with his hair. The blood must have been from his shoulder, because his head didn’t hurt—not so much as a bump, which he supposed made him very lucky, though it just raised more questions about why he couldn’t remember.
Getting soap in the gashes on his shoulder was an experience he had no desire to repeat, but he couldn’t risk getting an infection. He didn’t have health insurance, and he wasn’t going to waste his inheritance because he couldn’t handle a little sting.
Finally he was clean and as ache-free as he was going to get without painkillers, so he reluctantly shut off the water and patted himself dry before digging through his father’s medicine cabinet for a first aid kit. A few squirts of Bactine and some fresh gauze later, he was about as close to healthy as he was going to get.
And still just as clueless about what had happened last night as he had been when he woke up.
Ezra ran the towel over his hair again quickly before limping back into his bedroom and gazing down at the pile of clothes he’d thrown around the room the night before. They were a total loss—all of them torn to shreds or bloodstained—but they didn’t smell of alcohol. He knew he’d had a few drinks at his father’s wake, but he hadn’t had enough to warrant a blackout. Besides, alcohol didn’t explain the clothes.
With a sigh, he bundled his ruined clothes up and shoved them into a garbage bag. They obviously weren’t going to offer him any answers.
Dressing seemed to take eons. Every muscle resisted movement. The process of pulling a sweatshirt on over his head left him exhausted.
Maybe coffee would help, Ezra thought hopefully, and then he meandered into the kitchen to put on a pot. If not, he could always call his cousin; he was sure Dominic had been at the bar with him. In fact, they had decided to walk home together. He’d left Dominic in front of his apartment building ten minutes or so from the bar, and then… then he must have walked home himself.
The streetlamp two blocks from his apartment had flickered, he remembered now. And—had he heard a noise?
No, he couldn’t have heard what he thought he’d heard. His mind was just playing tricks on him now, after the fact. Obviously he’d made it home safely. Sort of.
A brief search turned up a bottle of aspirin hiding beside the microwave, and Ezra popped three of them while the coffee percolated, strong-smelling and too loud.
He needed to be mobile today—he had too much to do to just sit around. There were papers to be signed, accounts to be closed out. He’d have to see his father’s lawyer to make sure the ownership transfer of the apartment was in order.
He desperately wanted to crawl back into bed.
He was halfway through his third cup of coffee before he realized his dad had switched to decaf. No wonder he didn’t feel any better.
Thunk thunk thunk.
Christ, was that—was that someone at the door? What the hell were they using to knock with, a battering ram? And anyway, who would be visiting him?
Probably one of his new neighbors wanting to convey condolences. Or maybe the superintendent? Ezra limped over to the door and pulled it open. “Can I—?” he started to ask, but then his voice deserted him.
There were two Mafiosos standing in the hall.
Or, well, Ezra assumed they were Mafiosos, because it was either that, or he had called for a couple of really high-class hookers before he’d blacked out. Who else would go around making house calls in expensive-looking black suits and wear sunglasses indoors? Oh God, had his father died owing the mafia money? Had they come to collect on his loan?
“Good morning.” The man in front nodded to him. He didn’t sound like he particularly meant it. “May we come in?”
No! Ezra’s common sense screamed at him. Do not let the organized crime boss and his bodyguard into your apartment! But he found himself stepping back, out of the way.
The two of them walked into the apartment like they owned it, and Ezra shut the door after them, pulse pounding. “I—who are you?”
“My name is Callum Dawson,” the same man said. From his tone, he expected Ezra to know who that was. “This is my associate, Blaise LaPorte.”
The huge man still standing slightly behind him—Blaise—gave Ezra a cold nod, his ponytailed dreadlocks bobbing.
“Hi,” Ezra said finally, when it seemed like they were waiting for him to speak. “What do you want?”
Uh oh. That was apparently the wrong answer. Blaise folded his—Jesus, massive—arms. If Ezra hadn’t been in fear for his life, he would definitely have considered trying to hit that.
Dawson raised an eyebrow over the top of his sunglasses, then reached up with one hand to take them off. His eyes were a deep chocolate brown, just a shade lighter than his hair.
Ezra lamented his bad luck. He absolutely would have hit that too.
Dawson lowered his voice. “You don’t have to say anything aloud. Just point to where he is. We won’t let him hurt you. Help us to help him and you won’t be in any trouble.”
Trouble? Won’t let who hurt me? “Did I do something illegal that I don’t know about?” That explained it—maybe they were detectives? FBI or something? That guy Mulder always wore a suit, didn’t he?
The guy must have finally sensed Ezra’s confusion—and hopefully his innocence—because he took a step forward into Ezra’s personal space, searching his face.
And then sniffed.
Seriously, what the hell?
“Alpha….” The bodyguard seemed wary.
“Do you smell that?” Dawson asked the room at large, though Ezra assumed he was talking to Blaise.
“Um, sir,” Ezra began warily, trying to meet the bodyguard’s eyes over Dawson’s shoulder to discern if this was normal behavior.
Dawson reached out his hand and touched Ezra’s shoulder right above the bandage, his gaze suddenly very sharp. Ezra’s eyes were drawn to his as though they were magnetized, and he swallowed. A surge of adrenaline coursed through him; Ezra could barely feel the pain. There was a waft of clean, pine-scented air, warm somehow, and comforting. Then Dawson said, “Take off your shirt.”
He should have thrown a fit—or at least thrown the two of them out on their asses. This was definitely not typical FBI behavior. Besides, those guys had badges. He should definitely not have reached for the hem of his sweatshirt with his good arm and started wriggling carefully out of it, but that was what he found himself doing, contorting his body until the skin-warm garment was balled up inside-out in his hands.
It was suddenly too hot in the apartment anyway.
Callum Dawson was staring at his bandaged shoulder. Ezra watched as if mesmerized as he reached out again and ran his finger along the edge of the tape until he found the end and began peeling it away.
Ezra shivered. “What—?” he started again, but when the gauze peeled away, he saw that the gash had scabbed over completely and the skin at the edges was already shiny, healthy pink scar tissue.
Dawson said, “You should sit down.”
That sounded like a fantastic idea. Ezra did as he was told.
Across the room, the bodyguard snorted. “Well, at least he knows his place.”
Dawson shot him a dark look, but then he turned back to Ezra and sat on the couch across from him, and most of the hostility in his posture evaporated. “I need to ask you some questions,” Dawson told him. He put his sunglasses down on the coffee table. “And I need you to answer me honestly.”
“Okay,” Ezra said hollowly, looking down at his shoulder.
“First—” He stopped, and when Ezra managed to tear his eyes away from his crazy mutant skin, Callum Dawson had become an entirely different person, kind and quiet. “What’s your name?”
“Okay, Ezra. You can call me Callum.”
“I need you to tell me what you did last night.”
He blinked. “I… I don’t remember.”
“Think,” Callum persisted. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Shaking his head, Ezra forced himself to concentrate. The bar. He’d been walking home. “I was walking home from my father’s wake. With my cousin.”
Callum and Blaise exchanged a dark look. “Which bar?”
“Uh. O’Callahan’s? On Higgins?” Ezra took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes. “Dominic was plastered. He decided to walk home to sober up so his girlfriend wouldn’t be mad at him, and I thought he needed a chaperone. So we walked to his place on Chestnut. After that I figured I might as well walk the rest of the way home. It was only another four blocks.”
“Did you notice anything strange?”
“You mean like when I woke up with a gash in my shoulder and bruises all over and no recollection of what happened?” Ezra raised a shaking hand to his face and realized he was shivering. Maybe he should put his shirt back on.
“Blaise, find Ezra a blanket,” Callum said calmly without turning around. “And something to eat with sugar in it, if you can.”
Ezra looked down at his hands. “I thought I heard a noise,” he admitted. “But then I convinced myself I was crazy. I mean—I guess it could’ve been a stray dog or something just—growling. Must’ve been the full moon,” he joked weakly.
Blaise wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, which helped with the shaking a little bit. Then he shoved a cookie in Ezra’s face.
“Eat it,” Callum advised. “You’ll feel better.”
Ezra had the somewhat stale cookie halfway swallowed before a thought occurred to him. He licked the crumbs from his lips before speaking again. “You’re very bossy.”
From behind him, there came a cough that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. For the most part, Callum ignored Ezra’s comment, though he did look up long enough to roll his eyes at Blaise.
“Why are you asking me all these questions?” Ezra said suddenly, feeling a bit more energized. He’d apparently really needed that cookie. “Am I in some kind of trouble?”
The air filled with a tension. Ezra could practically taste Callum’s reluctance as he sighed. “In a manner of speaking, yes. Last night you were bitten by a lycanthrope—a werewolf.”
Great, now Ezra was looking for hidden cameras. “I’m sorry, I thought I just heard you say I was bitten by a werewolf.”
“That’s what I said. This one escaped from a correctional facility two days ago. We’ve been tracking him since. That’s how we ended up here.”
“You can’t be serious.” Could he? “I was bitten by an escaped convict werewolf? That’s the line you’re going with? Really?”
“No. He was a psychiatric patient. Sort of. And we prefer lycanthrope, or lycan.”
Oh, so it was a crazy escaped were—sorry, lycanthrope. That… really didn’t make Ezra feel better. “Listen, buddy,” he began, “you need to lay off the HBO.”
Callum sighed. “If I prove it to you, do you promise not to panic?”
Ezra didn’t think it was too likely that this guy—who was, he now realized, obviously crazy himself—was going to convince him of the existence of werewolves. He shrugged. “Sure, boss. Whatever you say.”
And then Callum pulled his lips back in an unattractive expression, and Ezra watched as his teeth grew and sharpened into something that was definitely not human. Just as quickly, they reverted to their earlier form, and Callum said, “Remember, you promised.”
Ezra swallowed, shaken to the core. “So what you’re saying is, I’m a were—uh, lycanthrope.”
“Well, not yet.” For the first time, Callum looked unsure. “I’ve never seen anyone change—there’s usually a lot of paperwork involved before a human can be turned. Background checks, psych evaluations, that kind of thing. But from what I’ve read, it takes anywhere from a few days to a full month for the lycanthrope DNA to splice into the human sequences.”
“Splice?” Ezra echoed. He was definitely regretting that he’d taken only three aspirin.
Ignoring him, Callum turned to Blaise. “See if you can find a bag or something. Pack for at least a week.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Blaise rumbled, disappearing again into the depths of the apartment.
That snapped Ezra out of his daze. “Excuse me? Were you going to ask before you just carted me out of here? Or don’t I get a say?”
“It’s not safe for you here,” Callum said dismissively, checking his watch and then standing and reaching into his pocket and drawing out a cell phone.
“I can take care of myself!” Ezra stood up, letting the blanket fall to the couch.
Callum looked pointedly at the healing wound on his shoulder and said, “Obviously,” before putting his phone to his ear. “Bring the car. Five minutes.” Then he snapped it shut. “You should put your shirt back on. It’s cold out.”
Ezra gritted his teeth. “I’m not going outside.”
“Yes, you are. You need my protection, and I need answers about what happened to the wolf that bit you.” Callum shoved his phone back into his pocket just as Blaise reappeared from the bedroom. “It’s in everyone’s best interest. Just until your DNA is done rearranging itself.”
“I don’t even know you!”
“Well, that’s about to change.”
“You got any medication I should know about?” Blaise asked, slinging an ancient Coors Light duffel bag over one shoulder.
“Not yet I don’t,” Ezra snarled.
Then he looked down and noticed he’d put his shirt back on.
And he was sporting wood.
Fuck my life.
Callum gave him a knowing look. “The car’s waiting. Let’s go.”
EZRA was feeling less shaken and much more in control by the time they pulled up to a tall, nondescript office building in the center of the city. The driver of the SUV, a slender woman with curly dark hair and her eyes hidden behind dark aviator glasses, put the vehicle in park. “Pick you up at six?” she asked, all business.
In the front seat, Callum shook his head, reaching for the door handle. “Take Blaise home. I’ll use one of the fleet vehicles.” Then he looked over his shoulder at Ezra. “You’re with me.”
Ezra supposed he really didn’t have much of a choice. He unbuckled his seat belt and slid out of the SUV behind Callum, then quickened his steps to match the other man’s stride. “What is this place?”
They went past the reception area and stopped at a security checkpoint, and Callum flashed an identification badge at the two uniformed men at the desk. “He’s with me,” he said shortly, taking the time to scrawl Ezra’s name and the date and time on a generic sign-in sheet.
“Yes, sir,” the guards chorused.
What the hell was up with these people?
The shorter of the two men handed over a bright pink visitor’s pass, and Callum passed it to Ezra with barely a look. “Here, put this on.”
Ezra was beginning to see that very bossy did not even begin to cover it.
Once you got past the security guards, the office building seemed to be just like any other. The floors were a polished engineered stone, and large terra cotta pots held a variety of plants, both real and fake. In the center of the lobby was a bank of elevators.
And that was where things started to get interesting. Callum pressed the call button and motioned for Ezra to follow him inside the first elevator, but when he selected the sub-basement level, a mechanical voice spoke seemingly out of nowhere: “Voiceprint confirmation required.”
“Dr. Callum Dawson, head of research and development.”
As if this day could get any more Twilight Zone. “Are you going to tell me where we are now?”
“You’re at the CDC’s Center for Lupine Research.” The elevator came to a halt, and Callum led the way out and down a brightly lit hallway.
Ezra kept up as best he could, trying not to get distracted by, well, everything. His ears kept picking up noises he shouldn’t have been able to hear, like the tap of Callum’s shoelaces and the buzz of mechanical equipment in the far reaches of the building. Some of the rooms off the hallway were glassed in, and there were people moving around behind the windows, dressed in lab coats and goggles and doing mysterious science things. “I didn’t know the CDC had a building in Missoula.”
Callum grunted. “That’s because it’s classified.”
Obviously. Wait. “So the government knows about you, then? About us, I mean? Werewolves?”
Callum stopped in front of the last door in the hallway and pressed his thumb to a pad beside the door. A light on the adjacent panel flashed green, and he pulled the door open. “It’s lycanthropes. And certain branches of the government have some knowledge of us, yes. Each pack has a government-appointed liaison officer.” He held the door for Ezra to precede him into the office. “Basically their job is to bring the concerns of the pack to the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and vice versa.”
Ha! That was kind of funny. Maybe Callum did have a sense of humor buried somewhere under that brusque exterior. Ezra smiled. “Fish and Wildlife Service. Good one.”
Callum shot him a sideways look. “I wasn’t kidding.”
Then again, maybe not. If Ezra got his foot any further down his throat he was going to need the Heimlich maneuver. “Right. So.” Embarrassed, he cast his gaze around the office. It was a decently sized room, but it had no windows, so it felt a little claustrophobic. There were two doors, not counting the one they’d come in through, as well as what seemed to be a tall standing wardrobe in one corner. Ezra counted no fewer than four mugs of coffee in varying stages of consumption, though an accidental sniff with his apparently improved nose informed him that the contents were actually some kind of tea. File folders of varying shapes and colors littered the desk, by the door a tattered umbrella slouched in a beat-up old stand, and an overcoat hung from a hook on the back of the door. “It smells like microwave dinners in here.”
“I like to work late.” Callum didn’t bother looking up as he rooted through the folders on his desk. He finally came up with a purple one and grabbed a pen out of an organizer next to his widescreen computer monitor. Then he looked up, just briefly, but Ezra counted the eye contact as progress. “Follow me.”
Tamping down on the thread of anxiety, Ezra did as he was told—again—feeling as suggestible as he ever had after drinking too much. Maybe, Ezra thought as he trailed after Callum into a small, sterile-smelling room, his ability to reason had been compromised by the amount of blood flowing away from his brain and into his stupid dick.
Callum clipped his folder to a clipboard and hung it on a hook on a small cabinet. “I need to get a few things. Undress and get up on the table, and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Ezra stood stock-still until the door closed behind him. Then he let out a trembling breath and fisted both hands in his hair. The plain white walls were oppressive, and the smell of disinfectant invaded his nostrils, choking him. All at once Ezra was fifteen years old again, sitting in his mother’s hospital room while the heart monitor sang a steady, unforgettable note.
Well, at least his hard-on was a pretty powerful distraction. Now that the shock had worn off, he was starting to find Callum’s constant orders more than just compelling. Ezra didn’t know if it was a temporary side effect of the bite, some kind of weird hormonal thing, or if it was just the fact that Callum never said “please,” never acted for a second as if there were a possibility Ezra might not follow his commands to the letter. Either way, he found himself suddenly battling between the compulsion to disrobe and the need to maintain some shred of dignity. The last thing he needed was for Callum to think he got off on being ordered around.
Maybe it was because he was thinking about it—or maybe because Callum hadn’t strictly told him he needed to be naked—but Ezra managed to keep his boxers on as he climbed up onto the cold metal table. He shoved his hands underneath his thighs to protect himself somewhat from the cold and stared down his long, pale legs at his toes.
Someday not too long from now, he’d have paws there.
Every tick of the clock was overloud, and he kept seeing his mother’s chest rising and falling and then stilling as she lay there in that hospital bed, dying right in front of him.
When the door opened again, Ezra was still staring at his feet, watching as his toes slowly turned blue from the cold.
The door clicked closed, and there was the slide of metal on metal as something was deposited on the table beside him. “Ezra?” Callum’s voice had gone quiet and gentle again, like it had at the apartment when Ezra had started panicking. “Are you okay?”
Ezra laughed a little hysterically, though it sounded more like a strangled sob. “Are you nuts? I’m going to be a freaking werewolf! A monster! No, I’m not okay!”
“Hey.” The soft, calming tone washed over Ezra’s frayed nerves like a gentle wave. “Relax.”
Closing his eyes for a moment, Ezra let himself be soothed. It probably should have concerned him that being ordered to relax was actually helping, but damn it, he’d had a hell of a day. He was allowed to find comfort wherever he wanted. “Sorry. I promise I’m usually not this crazy.”
“Forget it,” Callum said dismissively. “You’re going to be crazy for the next couple of weeks until your DNA settles down. You might as well get used to it.”
Awesome. Well, at least he had carte blanche to freak out.
Ezra opened his eyes again and let them actually focus on Callum this time. He had changed into scrubs and a lab coat, and the difference in his appearance was almost as striking as the change in his demeanor. Though not nearly so foreboding, he was still every bit as attractive. “So,” Ezra managed, suddenly self-conscious. “Doctor?”
“PhD, not MD.” Callum’s eyes flicked up to his, then down to his shoulder, and he snapped on a pair of latex gloves as he examined the quickly scarring tissue. “I need to take a picture of this to verify that it was the escaped lycan that bit you.”
“Go nuts.” Ezra held still while Callum took several digital photographs of the wound. “Don’t tell me a lycanthrope’s bite is like a fingerprint.”
“It’s not quite that specific.” Callum set the camera aside and reached for the tray, coming up with a single-use iodine swab. “Hold out your left arm.”
Mostly naked or not, when Ezra shivered, it had nothing to do with the cold. Callum rubbed the cold cotton vigorously over the skin of his inner arm. “I thought you weren’t a medical doctor.”
“I’m not.” To Callum’s credit, Ezra barely felt the needle slide into the vein in the crook of his elbow. “But I took an EMT course once.”
“That’s not very reassuring.” Ezra was a handy enough programmer despite the fact that he’d dropped out of MIT halfway through his third year, but he was pretty sure medicine wasn’t something you could pick up in your free time.
Callum pulled the needle out and capped the vial of blood before disposing of the rest in a biohazard container. “I need to make sure Teller didn’t infect you with anything other than lycanthrope DNA.”
“Teller.” Ezra watched as Callum peeled his gloves off and disposed of them as well. “That’s the name of the werewolf—the lycanthrope who attacked me?”
“It was his name, before he got sick,” Callum explained, rolling over a tall stool and sitting.
Great, now Ezra was worried he had werewolf AIDS too. And how sick did someone have to be, if they didn’t keep their name after they got infected? “Sick with what?” he asked with no small degree of trepidation.
“We’re calling it ARD for ‘alphatropin regulatory dysfunction’—alphatropin’s a werewolf hormone—even though it could be a symptom of something else. We’ve only encountered the infected individuals, never the source, and the most obvious symptom is abnormally elevated hormone levels.”
Ezra was not comforted. “And by infected you mean….”
Callum met his eyes evenly, all business. “Normally, the human side of a lycanthrope is in control at all times, even during the full moon. But throughout history there have been cases of lycanthropes losing control to the animal aspect, and not only during the full moon.”
“So they turn into monsters,” Ezra said flatly.
“If you like.” Callum leaned forward then. “But there’s no evidence to suggest that it is communicable at all, never mind via a single bite.”
Okay. So he probably wasn’t going to go nuts and kill someone. That was a load off his mind. “And when it happens, you, what, go find them and lock them up until they get better? Is that what this building is for?”
“That’s part of it.” Standing straight again, Callum crossed his arms across his chest. “While we’re here, I might as well lay down the ground rules.”
“Rules,” Ezra echoed flatly. What was he, a naughty teenager?
Callum ignored him. “Until you change for the first time, you won’t fully be in control of your body. Stay out of public places and keep an experienced lycan with you at all times.”
Despite the pull to give in, to accept Callum’s word as law, Ezra managed to grit out, “I don’t need a babysitter.” He was starting to get a major headache.
“You do if I say you do,” Callum told him. “I’m pack Alpha. It’s my job to do what’s best for everyone. And you’re going to come home with me and do as I say. It’s for your own good.”
“I don’t even know you,” Ezra protested with difficulty. He did not want to go home with Callum and do whatever he said, no matter what his hormones were telling him. “I’m just supposed to trust that you’re not going to drug me and keep me locked in a basement somewhere?”
“I’d prefer not to. But that brings me to my next point.”
“Oh, I see.” Ezra had been vulnerable and off-balance earlier that morning, but he was bouncing back now. The more he stood up to Callum’s bullying, the easier it got, and he wasn’t about to start rolling over on command just because Callum seemed to expect it. However, his growing headache was making it more difficult to concentrate on his defiance. “House arrest wasn’t enough.”
Callum narrowed his eyes slightly but otherwise didn’t react. “If you do need to go out sometime in the next three weeks—I mean life or death—avoid humans. They react unpredictably to lycans during the change.”
“So much for freedom of association,” Ezra muttered, shifting on the table. A few minutes ago he’d been freezing, but he was sure it was several degrees warmer now. Wasn’t it?
“But the most important thing is that you abstain from sexual contact until the next full moon.”
Ezra’s jaw dropped, and he stared, speechless, gaping like a fish and determinedly ignoring the little throb of want from his dick at just the sound of Callum’s voice saying “sex.” “Excuse me, what?”
“The rules are the same for born lycans when they start to change. Like I said, it’s for your own benefit. It’s only for a couple of weeks.” Callum flicked his eyes down to Ezra’s waistline for a moment before returning them to his face and flashing a brief smirk. “I’ll leave you to get changed.”
When the door closed behind him, Ezra let out a long, unsteady groan. Fantastic. In the space of a few days, he’d lost his father and his job and, apparently, his humanity. Now, to top it all off, it seemed like he was going to lose his independence too. No matter how temporary that situation was supposed to be, it was still degrading.
He took a deep, shuddering breath. Okay. Time to face the music. Ezra bent his head and looked down at his lap, then buried his face in his hands. Granted, it could have been worse—at least he was wearing boxers with buttons, so his dick wasn’t actually peeking out the slit or anything, but it was bad enough. Whether it was due to Callum’s presence or the messed-up hormones he’d warned about or some combination of the two, Ezra didn’t know, and it didn’t really matter. He was twenty-two, not twelve; he should have been past the uncontrollable hard-on stage.
“Fuck,” he muttered, finally mustering the energy to slide off the table and begin dressing. Three weeks, Callum had said.
God, this was going to suck.
CALLUM waited until the door was shut behind him to run a hand over his mouth worriedly. He knew he’d been hot and cold, all over the place, with the new wolf today, and that wasn’t really fair to him. Ezra needed stability right now, something he could count on—but Callum couldn’t help it. He was drawn to the new lycan, to what he’d seen of the natural tendency to submit coupled, almost paradoxically, with the need to know, to question. So much so that he was finding it difficult to control himself and had to keep stepping back in order to maintain the proper distance. He had accidentally blasted the poor kid with pheromones more than once. Callum hadn’t done that since long before he’d come to Montana to be pack Alpha.
But he didn’t have time to worry about it now. Not with a rogue wolf on the loose and only three weeks to track Callum down before he’d attack again. He’d just have to grit his teeth and bear it. After all, it was only for three weeks.
He let out a breath and paged a tech to come collect Ezra’s blood sample. Yeah, this was going to suck.