CHAPTER ONE

 

HARRIS GROANED when his alarm went off, rolling over and slapping his palm over the snooze button for five more precious minutes of sleep. He buried his head under his pillow to block out the light and cursed Anne Marie for calling an emergency staff meeting at 8:00 a.m. on the only Saturday he had off all month.

He’d planned to sleep in, indulge in a little self-love, and spend the day binge-watching shows. Tomorrow he had plans to make the long drive to Lexington to spend the day with Jackson and Jordan. There was a Korean barbecue place with killer kalbi he’d been craving for weeks. It was a little mom-and-pop place that seated ten, tops. The atmosphere was a lot like his grandmother’s kitchen in San Francisco, where he’d learned to make crispy lumpia and other dishes she said were important because they reminded the family of their history.

There weren’t any Filipino restaurants in the Midwest, but he’d learned to take what he could get. The Korean place was in a seedy neighborhood, but everyone respected the owners enough not to cause any trouble for them. Besides, only an idiot would try to mug a werewolf. Harris was packed with lean muscle, but he was scrawny for a Were. Jackson and Jordan were both stacked because of their jobs. Even without letting the werewolf secret out of the bag, they radiated danger.

Maybe he’d try to convince Jackson to wear his police uniform. Just for safety’s sake. The sight of him in his uniform never failed to make Harris’s palms go sweaty and his heart race.

Harris snorted and burrowed farther under the pillow. Jackson in uniform was a favorite jerk-off fantasy for him, but he didn’t have time for that right now. He needed to get his happy ass to the staff meeting. Anne Marie wasn’t above sending a search party if someone was late, and Drew and Nick would burst right into his bedroom no matter what he was doing. Assholes.

He got up with a growl and turned off the alarm, proud of himself for not taking the whole five minutes to sulk. He ran a hand over his barely there stubble and decided it could go another day as he stumbled into the bathroom to get ready. Even without a shave, he’d be cutting it close, but he wasn’t willing to forgo a shower. It was just common decency when you lived with a bunch of werewolves.

By the time he’d showered and changed, it was five till, so there was no chance of grabbing breakfast. Luckily Drew always kept food stocked in the infirmary kitchen, including Harris’s favorite tea.

It was ten past by the time he ambled onto the infirmary’s porch, sipping his ginger tea. He raised a brow when he saw only Scott and Kaylee.

Harris settled into a rocking chair. It didn’t look like the other two had been there long. They were alone on the porch, though he heard heartbeats upstairs, so he knew Drew and Nick were there. Probably grabbing a quickie. Bastards.

He was glad they’d finally gotten their heads out of their asses and admitted they were gone for each other. He was. But now he’d had a full year of them stinking up every room with their hormones and making googly eyes at each other. Not to mention coming to every staff meeting reeking of sex. Maybe they should find a new place for staff meetings. Drew’s screened-in porch was outfitted with comfortable furniture and large enough to hold all the Camp H.O.W.L. staff, but there were more important things than physical comfort—like the assurance that no one would be walking in on them having sex. Drew was a great guy, but he was also Jackson’s little brother. He would entertain zero fantasies of Drew.

“Where is everyone, anyway? I thought the queen bee said eight.”

“There’s a huge food fight in the mess,” Kaylee said with a grin.

God. They happened every few months. It was a natural hazard when dealing with teenagers, especially teenagers who had super strength and the ability to shift into wolves. Their adrenaline and stress needed an outlet, which was why the staff worked so hard to keep them busy. But every so often a group cropped up that was… extra. Extra rowdy, extra loud, extra stupid. This was one of those groups.

“Great day to be alive, isn’t it?” Scott asked, wrapping his arm around Kaylee.

She snorted and pushed him away. “Great day to have off, you mean.”

“Same thing.”

Harris grinned. They’d all three be in the mess at ground zero if it wasn’t their weekend off. The knowledge that everyone else was having a terrible day tempered his annoyance at having to get up so early.

Scott gave Kaylee a noogie and yelped when she bit him. “We’re going into Bloomington to see a movie and get dinner and drinks later. You wanna come?”

Harris wondered if the two of them would stop pulling each other’s pigtails long enough to watch a movie. Unlikely. Odds were good they’d be kicked out of the theater.

“As enticing as that isn’t,” he said, earning a laugh from Kaylee and an indignant sound from Scott, “I’ve got a date with Netflix.”

“Come with us,” Scott said. “Friends don’t let friends waste their weekend off holed up watching Bruce Willis movies.”

“I’m not watching Bruce Willis movies,” Harris snapped. “Besides, I’m not wasting anything. I’m going to Lexington tomorrow for the day.”

“Ooh,” Kaylee chimed in. “Gonna get some?”

He wished. “No, I’m going to go see Jackson and Jordan. It’s been a few weeks, and they want to catch up.”

It had been over four weeks, but who was counting? Having Drew here at camp meant he was seeing a lot more of Jackson than usual. But things at the station had been busier than normal, so Jackson missed the last monthly dinner.

Scott laughed and elbowed Kaylee in the ribs. “That sounds good. Wanna ‘catch up’ later, Kaylee?”

She punched him hard in the thigh, but from the look on her face, some catching up was definitely in the cards. Gross.

Harris ignored them and sipped his tea, watching birds flit around the feeders near the pond outside. He’d still rather be sleeping, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend the morning.

He scented Drew before he saw him, his nose wrinkling. As he’d predicted, Drew smelled like he’d rolled around in Nick’s scent before coming down. Hell, Harris bet he had. They were newly mated—he didn’t care what bullshit Pack law said about humans and Weres not mating; they were mated, not just married—and Nick had been aggressively scenting him since the wedding.

Harris didn’t begrudge them their happiness at all. Finding a mate was a huge deal in Were culture. Harris didn’t know what a fulfilled mate bond felt like, but he often wondered if it was as euphoric as it seemed. Mates were so connected and in tune with each other. He’d do anything to have that with his own mate, but their incomplete bond meant he was empty—there was nothing to pick up on besides his own longing and loneliness. That was hard to deal with, but Harris had been best friends with his mate for years before the mate bond formed. Jackson had always made it clear he wasn’t interested in settling down, so when Harris realized he’d bonded with him, he’d kept it quiet. Friendship was all he could have with Jackson, and Harris would rather have that than nothing. Unrequited bonds were hard, but rejected ones were a million times worse.

“I was all prepared to make up excuses for being late, but I guess I’m in the clear,” Drew said as he sat in the rocking chair next to Harris’s.

A few moments later Nick appeared in the doorway with two steaming cups of coffee. He handed one to Drew and stole a kiss before sitting down on the wicker couch a few feet away.

Apparently, his inner wolf was satisfied by the way he’d painted Drew in his scent earlier, which was fortunate. They’d spent more than one staff meeting with Drew sitting in Nick’s lap.

“Food fight in the mess,” Harris explained.

Drew’s eyes lit up. “Excellent!” He held up his coffee cup and clinked it against Harris’s mug. “Cheers.”

“Hallelujah. Praise be to days off,” Nick muttered after a sip of his own coffee. “I had syrup in my hair for days after the last one.”

Drew’s scent took a cloying turn after that announcement, and Harris hurried to take his mind off whatever memory it had sparked.

“You two staying here today or heading off campus?”

Drew blinked and smiled. “We’re going to Indianapolis. There’s a driving range Nick wants to try, and I want to visit a few medical supply stores to see if I can do better than the place I’m ordering things from for the clinic.”

“Romantic,” Harris said.

“I know my man,” Nick said, fluttering his eyelashes. “The best way to woo him is a good selection of stethoscopes and an unlimited supply of gauze.”

Everyone except Drew turned at the sound of a group approaching. Anne Marie and the rest of the staff had arrived. That or the campers had won the food fight, and they were coming for them.

The whole group was chattering as they filed in, and they all looked pissed. Richard had a smear of butter on his forehead, and Stacy had an entire piece of bacon stuck in her dark curls. Even Kenya hadn’t been spared; she had what looked like blueberry muffin stains all down her shirt. Everyone looked the worse for wear, and soon the porch smelled like brunch.

Anne Marie brought up the rear, ketchup and eggs smeared on her shirt. She had a fierce temper, and Harris didn’t envy those kids. She was a take-no-prisoners kind of person when she was this angry. No doubt Alphas would be called and tears would be shed later this afternoon, none of them Anne Marie’s.

“I have an addition to our roster for the next moon,” she said without preamble. She handed Kaylee a stack of folders to pass out. “She’s a high-profile wolfling, so we’ll have to be extra vigilant about keeping a low profile while she’s here. That means spot checks of campers’ phones and disabling the Wi-Fi during lights-out hours. Her parents wanted us to install a cell blocking device, but I’m not comfortable with wolflings being separated from their parents and Packs without reason, so I said no. It’s an option if things go badly after she arrives, though, and one I will consider if need be.”

They normally had more warning about high-profile campers. “Why are we just hearing about this now?”

Anne Marie scowled at him. “Because heard about it yesterday. There’s a significant risk of exposure with this one, and her people are playing this close to their chests.”

Harris took the folder Kaylee gave him and cracked it open. It was an intake profile like they got for all wolflings. He didn’t recognize the name or the photo of the girl that accompanied it.

Anne Marie slapped a glossy magazine against his chest. By the time he looked at the cover, she was halfway across the room distributing more.

“I might be gay, but that doesn’t mean I’m into trashy magazines,” Harris said, scowling a bit at the girl on the cover, who was clad in a latex, bubblegum-pink pantsuit that left nothing to the imagination.

“Look closer, genius,” Kaylee taunted. She was already flipping through her magazine, which looked like a different flavor of awful gossip rag than his.

Harris inspected the cover, his eyes roving over the headlines and little picture insets, until something in the cover model’s eyes made him do a double take. He pulled out the intake form for comparison. Great. Their new wolfling was “America’s Favorite Good Girl,” according to the headline. That was what a good girl looked like? What the hell would they photograph a bad girl in? Pasties and a smile?

“That’s right, folks. Kandie Bates is our newest Turn. Her given name is Candice Bachman, and if any of you leak that, your life won’t be worth living. This girl is a scared wolfling worried about her Turn and managing her shift. She is not Kandie when she’s here. Our high-profile camper protocol is in effect starting the moment campers arrive. You will watch your campers like hawks. No autograph requests, absolutely no photos, and no one, wolfling or staff, will breathe a word about her being here. Got it?”

Richard snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding me. A pop star?”

Anne Marie whipped around and glared him into silence. “First and foremost, she’s a wolfling, Richard. It’s our duty to help her through her Turn.”

“Still—”

Kaylee cut him off. “And she’s an actress, not a singer. If you’re going to be a raging asshole, at least get it right.”

“No one will be an asshole,” Anne Marie said before Richard could respond. She only raised her voice a bit, but it was enough to send the entire porch into silence.

“Now, as I was saying, it is vitally important that we stick to our high-profile camper protocol. I don’t need to tell you how disastrous it could be if word got out that she was here.”

“What about when she gets back to Hollywood?” Richard asked, a vein popping in his forehead. “What safeguards do we have then?”

Anne Marie opened her binder. “On to the logistics,” she said, ignoring Richard entirely. “Let’s talk housing.”

Harris pitied the poor soul who had her in their cabin. It would probably be Kaylee. She was a woman, after all. Not that they segregated the wolflings by sex in cabins. But she could relate or some shit. She’d taken Nick’s cabin when he and Drew had gotten mated, freeing Nick up to move to the infirmary.

“Now, since Candice has privacy needs that are different from most of our campers, she’ll be taking the guest room at the infirmary instead of sleeping in a cabin to start. If she feels comfortable, she’ll move into Kaylee’s cabin.”

Harris breathed a sigh of relief, but a moment later Anne Marie pinned him with her bright blue gaze, and his heart sank.

“Harris, since she’s specified she’s more comfortable with a male therapist and you’re the ranking dude, she’s on your caseload for therapy.”

Wonderful. He held back a groan since voicing his displeasure would only get him in trouble. With Anne Marie that might mean a reprimand or a smack to the head. Neither sounded like a great way to start his day off, so he kept mum.

“You’ll also be the one to go get her from the airport,” Anne Marie continued, and Harris couldn’t hold back his outraged squawk at that news.

“Are you kidding me? If she’s so rich and famous, she should be able to hire a car,” he protested.

Usually campers arrived with parents, who would rent a car for the drive or hire cars to bring them to a hotel nestled in the Hoosier National Forest. They’d spend the night, and then someone, usually the groundskeeper, George, would fetch them the next morning and bring them to camp. It didn’t bode well for her stay if this little starlet was already demanding special treatment.

“She could,” Anne Marie said, the glint in her eye making Harris’s balls draw up. “And she’d be recognized by the driver and the guests at the hotel. What part of low profile was unclear, Harris? You will be waiting there when her chartered plane lands, and you will drive her straight back to camp, no stops. Got it?”

Harris swallowed. He hadn’t thought about the potential for exposure. “Got it.”

“Good. Her flight details are in your packet. You’ll take the SUV with tinted windows.” Anne Marie swiveled around and pinned her predatory gaze on someone else, but Harris tuned out the orders she was barking. He rifled through the folder until he found Candice’s itinerary. She was landing at the Lexington airport early two Sundays from now. Smart. It was a smallish airport favored by business commuters, so there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic on a Sunday morning.

He didn’t relish leaving at the asscrack of dawn to go get her, so maybe he’d spend the night with Jackson and Jordan next week so he could leave for the airport from their place.

Sleeping in the same apartment as Jackson would be a special torture. Harris had only done it half a dozen times, and the experience always left him both wishing he hadn’t stayed and wishing he could stay longer. It was hard for his wolf when their scents mingled, though having Jordan’s scent in the mix tempered things a little. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to hold back without it. It would take the situation from uncomfortable to unbearable.

He tuned back in as Anne Marie was wrapping up. Everyone had special projects to work on to ready the campers and the camp itself for Candice’s arrival. The wolflings had all been raised to respect other Weres’ privacy and keep the secret, but this was a big secret to keep. Their gooey little brains weren’t fully formed yet, but impulsive behavior would get everyone in a lot of trouble.

“Harris, we’re hiring Fang and Fury to do a security audit and beef up the protection around the camp. I’m putting you on point with that since you’re friends with them. Find out their installation plans and let me know. We’ll put them up for as long as it takes, of course. They can stay with Drew.”

Harris’s heart leaped. Fang and Fury was Jackson and Jordan’s private security firm, which meant Jackson was coming to Camp H.O.W.L., maybe for several days. They must have been hired recently since Jackson hadn’t mentioned it last time they talked.

“Will do.”

“The system is due some upgrades anyway, so don’t worry too much about a budget. We’ll make it work somehow, especially since if we handle this right, we could get more high-profile wolflings. They pay a premium for the extra security, and I like being one of the few camps in the country who can accommodate them.”

Camp H.O.W.L. was one of the premiere camps in the US, if not the world. They had kids come from all over, including overseas, to take advantage of the Olympic-quality athletic facilities, the luxury cabins, and the chef Anne Marie had poached from a Michelin-rated restaurant. The quality of the food was wasted on the palate of the average nineteen-year-old, as evidenced by the food fights that broke out and the number of times kids tried to order a pizza and have it delivered to the secret werewolf camp in the middle of a national forest. Harris despaired of the future sometimes. Then again, the kids were going through the most stressful thing in their young lives—the Turn. A few weeks ago, their bodies were human. Weres had no physiological difference from humans until they entered the Turn the first full moon after their nineteenth birthday. These kids were experiencing super senses and getting to know a whole different body on top of the usual teenage hormones. It was a miracle anyone made it out alive.

Security around the camp was already serious, so Harris had a hard time imagining how it could be tightened. Then again, that was literally what Jackson and Jordan did with their security business, Fang and Fury. If there were weaknesses in Camp H.O.W.L.’s security, they would find them.

“I’m heading over to Lexington to see them tomorrow,” Harris said. “I’ll confirm everything with them and make sure they’re all set with their credentials.”

They were both frequent visitors to the camp, but the security system required updated tokens to gain entrance. For staffers in Camp H.O.W.L. cars, the beacons installed in the vehicles were enough to trigger the facial recognition camera, which allowed them in. Visitors had temporary tokens and were buzzed in by whomever was manning the control center. It was a pain sometimes, but it kept the wolflings safe and the werewolf secret under wraps. They were free to run around the camp shifted with no fear of exposure, which was practically unheard of anywhere else.

“I was going to mail them a long-term token, but if you’re going over, you can take it. They’ll be coming and going a lot, and I don’t want to keep issuing temporary tokens, especially since they might need to access the control center in a crisis. Tell Jackson he should work on getting them added to the visual recognition software.” She paused and frowned. “If he thinks it’s a good idea, of course.”

Harris had never seen Anne Marie defer to anyone for any reason and was surprised she’d put so much trust in Jackson and Jordan.

She must have picked up on his curiosity. “Part of Candice’s requests was to have Fang and Fury provide security assistance while she was here. They’ve made a big name for themselves in the supernatural world. I was planning to hire them for our upgrade anyway, so this just moved my timeline forward. I’ve been around Jackson enough to know he’s a trustworthy guy, and Jordan gets on my last ever-loving nerve, but his instincts are good. They’re a good fit for us.”

She had no idea how true that was. Harris had been friends with Jackson, Jordan, and Drew since college—and lusting after Jackson for nearly that long. Being with them was easy. There was no other way to explain it. Jackson, Jordan, and Drew felt like home to him, which was ironic because St. Louis wasn’t his home. He’d grown up in the San Francisco Pack. He was still on the books as a Pack member there, though he hadn’t been back in years.

Why go back when he had everything he needed here? Drew liked to joke that Harris was a common-law member of the Garrison Pack in St. Louis, since he went to a good number of the Pack ceremonies and celebrations. He liked the Pack well enough, but Jackson was the real reason he kept going. And Drew and Jordan. But mostly Jackson.

And now he was going to spend the day with him and at least part of a week with him next week. Starlet or not, things were looking up.