SHAE

A Beauty and the Beast Gay Romance

(The Fennys Den College Series Book 5)

 

A sweet, sassy omega nurse who’s never been kissed

A seasoned killer who hasn’t either

Caught between a terrible past and a future bound to be worse,

is the present all they’ll ever have?

 

 

Shae Greyson has been raised to have an open mind. Now he’s nineteen and dating a convicted murderer. The sheltered young omega is convinced his outlaw lover has a heart of gold. All Shae’s pack want is to see him get over this.

Marc Rufus is a fighting machine. He’s killed, he’s skilled, and he runs on fury. Ever since his pack was wiped out, he’s been out for vengeance. At first, the young Greyson omega is just an unexpected diversion for the hard-bitten alpha rogue. But soon he finds the feisty nurse-in-training incites more in him than just the obvious. 
Is there something still alive in Marc’s savage soul, something that's worth saving? –

 

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SHAE is a non-shifter omegaverse gay romance and book 5 of the Fennys Den College series. 

Tags and tropes: opposites attract, beauty and the beast, hurt/comfort, rescue and redemption.

18plus!

 

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The Fennys Den College Series is a non-shifter omegaverse gay romance series about the Greyson brothers and their struggles to find love in a world under threat.

 

 

 

 

Prologue

Marc

 

 

The young man emerges from the forest, stepping out into the open. The moonshine bounces off his dark curls and caresses his fine features as he lets his gaze travel across the lake, then lifts it to the stars above. Same as the first time I saw him a few days ago, his beauty makes my heart miss a beat. Not to mention the effect of his scent on my hormones.

Why am I reacting to the kid like this? Why have I returned to these parts of Fennys Forest instead of keeping close to the beach to hunt with the others, all because I was hoping he’d show up again? 

Fuck, he’s just a random omega. I don’t even know his name. I lower my hand to my belt, touching the leather pouch next to my knives, like seeking strength from a talisman. There’s a bottle of vampire blood inside that pouch, my most prized possession in this world. Before I went hunting tonight, I took two droplets of it, which means I should be impervious to the boy’s beauty, as impervious as to silver blades and bullets.

He whistles, and a northern wolf dog the size of a full-grown deer comes bursting from the undergrowth. Jumping up on him, the dog gives him a quick lick across his face. The omega struggles to keep standing and pushes the dog’s paws off his shoulders, laughing. It’s the most wonderful sound I’ve heard in a long while, or perhaps in forever: bright and innocent and ringing with affection. 

Something tries to break from my chest, a sigh, or a sob, but I keep it inside. I keep as still as a stone. He can’t smell me because the vampire venom has erased my scent. To him, I don’t exist. It’s as if that venom had erased my whole being.

Only it hasn’t done that, not altogether, it would seem. The dog looks over to where I’m crouching in the darkness.

Stay where you are, doggo.

Lifting its head, the dog sniffs the air. Has it caught some echo of my scent? Or is it the four rabbits in my backpack that have piqued its interest? It bares its fangs, like imitating a charging alpha were.

Stay—

The dog barks and starts running toward my hiding place.

“Stop this, silly,” the omega yells sharply. “Come back this second!”

The dog freezes in mid-motion, only about thirty yards away from my hiding spot in the bushes. With a final, resigned bark, it turns around and trots back to its master.

“Good wolf. What a good, pretty wolf you are.” He pats the animal’s big head, showering it with gentle words of praise that sound like the song of sirens in my overheated brain. “Come on, Siri, time to go home.”

His dog at his heels, he disappears in the forest. 

Why is the fucking vampire blood not doing its job? It’s supposed to curb all emotion. Like hell it does. Watching him go, I feel as I did in my darkest hour, swamped with loneliness. It’s absurd. Dangerous, too.

I can’t afford to lose sight of what’s important. I came to this stupid island to finish a job. 

One more kill. That’s why I’m here; that’s the one reason why I’m even still alive.

 

 

 

Chapter One: Rescuing a Rogue

Shae

(Excerpt)

 

 

The moment we’re out of earshot of the guards at the Great Gate, I tell Siri she doesn’t have to heel anymore, and she dashes off into the night. I hate it when she doesn’t stay close to me. Sure, being a northern wolf dog, she generally knows how to take care of herself, but there are were traps in the forest, set up by rogue hunters. Those traps are against the law, and I hate them with a passion. 

They’re how I got Siri in the first place: Misti and I found her caught in one of the nasty spiked, silver-coated contraptions. She was still a puppy and badly hurt. We released her from the trap and brought her home. Braedan treated her injuries, taught us how to take care of her until she got better, and, in the end, grudgingly allowed us to keep her.

I whistle for Siri, once, twice. Half a minute later, she shows up again, coming bounding through the undergrowth.

“You know I don’t like this, girl,” I growl. “What the hell have you been chasing?”

The next moment, I have my answer: a whiff of pack in my nose. A minute later, someone emerges from the shadows between the trees. It’s my brother, Sky.

“Shae!” he cries. “What are you doing out here?”

I cock my head, shrugging. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’m laying a trail for the guys.” He points at the rabbit dummy hanging from his belt. “But then I caught your scent.” He pulls me into a brief embrace, and I give him a pat on his broad, leather-clad chest in return. 

“It’s good to see you, bro,” he says, smiling, his warm, dark eyes full of affection. “But seriously, why aren’t you at home?”

“I’m talking a walk with Siri.”

“You aren’t supposed to be out here.”

You are out here. I want a little exercise, same as you do.”

“Does Braedan know?”

“He told me to take Siri for a walk.”

And he didn’t expressly tell me not to leave campus.

Sky looks doubtful. “It’s not safe for you out here. There’s a curfew on the island for a reason. You know about the rogue sightings, Shae.”

“It’s just rumors.”

He eyes me. “This isn’t the first time you’re doing this, is it?”

I shrug. “So? Are you going to stop me?”

“You’re sad Misti is gone, right? That’s why you’re doing this. You don’t really care whether you’re safe. But we all do, Shae.”

“Misti and I went to walk Siri in the woods by night all the time,” I say, shrugging. It used to be fun to be all secretive about our nightly activities. Now there’s no point to that anymore, because she’s gone. My eyes have started to sting, and I rub at them, annoyed at myself.

“Hey,” Sky says, putting his arm around me. “I get it’s hard on you that she left. But things change, don’t they? It’s natural that people find mates.”

“I hate change,” I say thickly. “And if it’s natural for people to find a mate, how come you don’t have one?”

He looks at me, his eyes suddenly swimming with something I don’t understand. It makes me feel like a monster. Fuck, it’s no fun to fight with Sky. Instead of shooting back, he goes down in flames at the first strike.

“I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” he replies hoarsely, pushing his hair back. Looks like I touched a sore spot there.  … 

“Listen, Sky. What I meant to say was, I don’t need a mate. I have a job that I love, and a pack I love even more, even though you all can be quite irritating. And I have a dog that needs me to take her for a nice, long walk tonight. So, bye?”

“I don’t like this, Shae. I really don’t. Can’t you stay on campus?”

“I need to stretch my legs. I’ve had quite the hard day at the hospital, you know.”

He nods. “I get that, but…” He scratches his neck and groans in frustration, clearly torn. “God, I wish I could go with you. If only I could do that!”

“You could, right? Come on, forget your hunting mates; join me! I could show you the spot where Misti and I used to light a campfire down by the lake. We could have a campfire there together tonight!” For a moment, I think he might actually do it. I feel a little burst of energy in the pit of my stomach, like I used to when I sneaked off places with Misti. “It would be fun! Come on!” …

“I can’t go with you, Shae; I’m sorry. I can’t skip hunting practice.”

Of course. We’ve talked about doing this so often, and he never, ever has time. 

“Oh, screw college hunting!” I grumble. “It’s stupid. Seriously, what’s the point of running after a fake rabbit?”

“There are many different aspects to the sport. It’s not just about stamina and javelin skills, it’s also about group communication and wilderness orientation, and—”

“Stop! Spare me your sermons about college sports. I know they’re religion to you.”

He exhales, reminding me of a punctured balloon. “I’m sorry I can’t go with you, Shae,” he repeats.

I’d love to say some more snarky things about his beloved hunting, but how could I? His frigging sweetness makes it impossible to fight with him. 

Again, I touch his arm. “Of course, you can’t skip practice. Even I get that, man. You’re the fucking captain!”

“Yeah, I am.” It sounds resigned, as if that hadn’t been his dream since early childhood. 

“Okay. See you, Sky.” I turn to go.

“Don’t go too far, will you?” he calls after me. “Don’t go all the way to the lake.” 

“Huh,” I reply noncommittally. If nobody has time for me, I don’t need their tips and advice, either. I can take care of myself, thank you very much.

“I mean it, Shae. What if you run into a rogue? You’d be helpless on your own. He’d have all the power over you, and those guys have nothing to lose. And down by the lake, there’s not even any cellphone reception—”

“Listen, Sky. You’re out here in the forest almost every day. Have you ever picked up on any rogue scent?”

“No, but—”

“There you go. There are no rogues on this island! Because why would they come here of all places? Everyone knows Fennys Island is teeming with stupid Damon LeBlanc’s stupid security guards.”

He looks confused. “It’s a good thing they’re here, right? There are these massive problems with rogue gangs on the mainland. And all those people that get killed… We have to be grateful LeBlanc provides Fennys Island with professional security.”

Fine, I guess he’s right. Since the Starlings, the richest of the were families, left Fennys Den and stopped funding the college, it has been seriously struggling. Torien once said the college would be broke without the vampire dude. Still…

“He tried to force Laska to help developing that vampire hormone drug. Don’t you remember? We hate him. And you hate his son.”

Sky shakes his head like trying to clear it. “We’ve been talking about you, Shae. About you staying close to the college. Please, do. Avoid strangers, and if you spot a rogue, run. And be back before midnight.”

Sky believes it’s his job to protect me. He still feels guilty about what happened to Laska back when that nasty DaSilva alpha managed to take advantage of him and gave him Rayn. But that was a special case; there was a whole evil plot behind it all. 

I reach up to give my brother another hug. “No rogue is going to assault me, Sky. Plus, I have Siri, so, even if they do, they’ll regret it.” I laugh, and his face splits into a reluctant grin in response. I pat his arm. “Right, don’t you have a fake rabbit to hide behind some bush?” I whistle. “Come on, Siri, let’s go!”

On that, I walk off, abandoning him in the middle of the forest. It’s the only way to deal with my overprotective youngest alpha brother.

 

***

 

So, Sky thinks it’s natural that people find mates? I scoff to myself as I make my way deeper into the forest. Maybe it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hate it my twin did. I hate the whole frigging business of mating. All it does is break up people’s pack. 

I love my in-laws, especially Sindry and Trae. I was really happy when Trae became Aryn’s mate. He’s so much fun, the perfect mix of kind and cool. And Sindry is like a second dad to all of us. But as to us four younger Greyson kids, we were this team. It was important to me to have Laska in the pack. I only understood how much I needed him when Torien took him away. Torien might be a good man, but if it weren’t for him, Laska would still belong with us. These days, he’s completely absorbed in his pack life, and I miss him. 

I thought I’d at least keep Benny as an omega ally at Ocean Cottage. He’s this sparkling beauty who used to have another lover every moon night. Until he turned up for Sunday brunch with Bryan one morning, wearing his ring and announcing they’d gotten married.

And now Misti got snatched away by this stupid professor dude. I didn’t like it when she left for Nova Scotia, but I wasn’t devastated. I assumed I’d still stay her first confidant and partner in crime, same as I’d always been. Females usually live an independent life as a single. Well, they should, anyway. How long did it take her? Three months? Then she wrote home that she’d found her life’s companion. 

Stupid alphas. Stealing people’s siblings, that’s all they can do. 

And the rest of them don’t seem to be aware I even exist. Not that I care, but the fact remains: those boors are all obsessed with shiny, shapely omegas like the Whitfields or the Starlings, or else someone with a silky mane and a mysterious aura like Laska, or someone with heart-stopping beauty like Trae.

There’s nothing mysterious or heart-stopping about me, to be sure. I’m this skinny, nondescript guy with terrible hair. It’s so fine it’s like down feathers. I’ve tried to let it grow more than a few times, always with pitiful results, so I’ve resigned myself to keep it shortish. It’s a compromise, and it doesn’t work. In dry weather, my hair tends to stand on end because of statics or something, and when it’s damp, like now, it clings to my head in pathetic, fuzzy baby curls. And my eyes aren’t only too big, they have these stupid white sprinkles in them. Why can’t I at least have the shiny-black eyes other Greysons have? Why didn’t I get to inherit even a single attractive physical feature? I kick a pinecone into the undergrowth. My life sucks.

I start running. I know I’m being unfair, but I feel everybody left me in the lurch, most of all Misti. I mean, she had us. She had me. She’s my frigging twin. The simple fact is, we used to do everything together, and now I do everything on my own, even walking our dog.

Siri runs next to me with great leaps, barking. She thinks I’m racing her.

Okay.

“Come on, girl, keep up!”

She jumps enthusiastically, nearly knocking me over. 

I laugh. “You trying to be the big bad wolf here?”

I throw a branch for her, and she dashes after it and disappears in the undergrowth.

With my dog, at least, I can be sure it’s not for good.

 

***

 

We play fetch all the way down to the lake. Until I throw the stick once too often and she doesn’t return. I call out her name, I whistle, and no dog comes crashing through the brushwood to drop a slobbery stick on my toes. At first, I’m annoyed, then I get afraid.

“Siri!” I call out for the seventh time, and finally, there’s an answer. She’s barking in the distance. Not like she’s in pain, thank God, more like she’s calling me. Hastily, I make my way through the bushes, taking the most direct route. Thorns yank at my shirt, roots grab my ankles as if trying to stop me, but I push through. There’s Siri’s bark again. It sounds shrill. 

What if something happened to her? It wasn’t far from here that we found her in that trap. …

I burst onto a small clearing, and there she is. There’s a trap, too, a big, nasty rogue trap, like the one we once found her in, only this time it’s not her who got caught. 

It’s a man. An alpha in a sleeveless fur vest exposing his muscled chest and arms and in leather chaps held in place by a belt bristling with weapons. He’s crouching on the ground next to Siri, and his right thigh is stuck in the trap like between a shark’s jaws. Writhing in the mud, he keeps throwing back his shaved head, groaning. Ropes of muscle move under the sweaty skin of his neck and stomach as he struggles against the grip of the rusty iron. The air is heavy with the sharp smell of blood and torn flesh.

Caught up in his pain, he hasn’t noticed me yet. His eyes squeezed shut, the man rocks back and forth, clawing at his thigh.

Avoid strangers… if you spot a rogue, run…

There’s the glint of white, pointed tips as he bares his eyeteeth, grimacing in agony. He’s snarling and hissing like a beast. A beast in pain.

I rush forward.

The moment he notices me, he stops the rocking; he stops moving altogether. He stares at me, his cheeks smeared with blood and tears. His eyes, disconcertingly bright green in his filthy face, are wide open like those of a big cat, panicking. The next moment, he reaches for his belt, yanks out a knife, and points it at me. 

I lift my hands. “Don’t be afraid, sir, please. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to help.”

His hand holding the knife shakes as a heavy tremble run through his body. It’s the trap’s silver-coated spikes, buried deep in his thigh, that are doing this. Shivering is a cardinal symptom of silver poisoning. Depending on how long he’s been stuck like this, he might be beyond rescue.

“Please,” I repeat and take another step forward. Collapsing onto his back, he drops the knife. His chest quickly moves in and out with his labored breathing.

Siri lifts her snout and howls. “Siri, quiet,” I order. “Sit.”

She falls silent and sits down next to the man. His eyes flit to her, then back to me. They really are stunningly green. His eyebrows are a stark contrast to them, dark and scrunched up. He’s in pain, and he doesn’t trust me.

“Let’s get you out of this thing, okay?” I say, putting as much confidence into my words as I can.

He doesn’t answer. He hasn’t said a single word. Only his chiseled jaw is working. Maybe he’s mute, like the rogue Aryn and Trae once came across when they’d rented that cabin by the lake for the holidays. Pretty close to where we are now, actually. For the first time, the reality of the situation really hits me. I’m miles from nowhere, alone with an alpha rogue and no cell reception. He’s gracefully built for an alpha, but he’s still got a lot of muscle on that hard, toned body of his.

Aryn’s and Trae’s rogue turned out to be nice. He tried to steal Aryn’s sausage cake, but he also saved Trae’s life. 

And rogue or not, this man needs help. 

“All right, then,” I say briskly, stepping up to him. He flinches, like a captured animal of the wild. It’s just a minute movement, but it’s enough to make him claw at his thigh and utter another terrible moan. 

“Please, don’t move, sir. I’m going to try to open the trap now, okay?”

I kneel down next to his trapped leg and put my hands on the rusty lever that’s supposed to open the trap. Rogue traps are basically simply big, iron clamps fitted with a strong spring and spikes designed to release silver into the victim’s bloodstream. The lever is fixed to the thing in a way that makes it impossible for a victim to really reach it and put a sufficient amount of pressure on it to move it. When Misti and I freed Siri from her trap, it took our combined muscle to open it. Taking a deep breath, I push with all my might. There’s the sound of metal creaking, but the clamps won’t budge. Fuck. Sometimes it so sucks to be an omega. 

The alpha’s heavy breathing tells me he’s in absolute misery. I have to instill confidence.

“We’ll get you out of that thing in no time; you’ll see,” I tell him, pushing a damp curl from my brow. Looking down at his leg, I reassess the situation, giving my ring finger a quick nibble. It’s a bad habit, but it helps me think. Guess I have to try a different angle. 

“Excuse me,” I mutter, then move up against him. Facing away from him, the side of my hip pressing against his, I pull at the jammed lever, using every single muscle in my sorry body, trembling with exertion. Nothing gives. I try again, hissing when my palms get torn open on the rusty metal.

Something pushes against my back. The rogue is trying to push me away.

“What are you doing?” I hiss. “Stop the bullshit.”

“You can’t do it,” he groans. “You’re only going to hurt yourself.” 

Again, he gives me a weak shove. It makes me angry, too angry to be astonished at hearing him speak.

I glare at him. “Fuck, dude, you don’t want to piss me off. Fuck, don’t you get it? You’re fucking screwed without me!”

He stares at me, apparently back to speechless. Shoot, he’s a patient, and I snapped at him. I shouldn’t have. But the main point is, he’s stopped the annoying pushing. 

I take a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll try again, and you’ll keep your hands off me. Understood?”

Turning around, I grab the spiked bars clawing into his flesh and try to push them apart without using the lever. There’s a grinding sound. Panting, I push harder. Sweat runs down my brow, burning in my eyes. My arms shake; my hands are on fire. Another crunch, and suddenly, the metal snout of the trap bursts open with a loud snap. The spikes release the rogue’s thigh. He lets out a scream, rearing up and clawing the air like searching for purchase, then falls back onto the ground. Quickly, I pull the trap away from him completely. 

It’s done. He’s free. I want to sing with relief. I hate having to handle heavy objects that weren’t made for my physique, and opening this trap without help could well have proven to be beyond my powers. He wasn’t completely wrong about that. But I did it. The rest is medicine, and that, I know I can do.

“Sir? You okay?” He blinks at me, and I take it as a yes. “I’m going to take a look at your leg now. There’s probably remnants of silver in it, and they need to be removed.”

Or the poison might yet kill him. I don’t spell it out. Every were knows that’s what silver does.

“Right, before we do this, my name is Shae Greyson, and I’m a trained nurse. First year, to be accurate, but I’ve completed my training in first aid. So, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. What’s your name?”

He doesn’t react, but, okay. He’s heard me, and I know he’s fit enough to follow.

“Okay, then. Let’s see what we’re dealing with here. May I?” On that, I swiftly remove the ripped, blood-stained leather chaps from his legs, then tug his pants over his ass and down his legs. I’m moving the fabric as carefully as I can, but he sharply exhales, letting out a halted breath. 

“Sorry,” I say, looking up. His face has turned a striking dark red, and I realize that this gasp wasn’t about pain. I’ve shocked him with the way I’ve handled his pants. Shit, I’ve made a mistake. No matter the circumstances, it’s bad bedside manner to do this, saying “May I” before removing a patient’s underwear, then getting right to it without giving them the chance to say yes.

“Sorry,” I repeat. Quickly, I pull my shirt over my head and throw it over his mid-section before turning back to his thigh. 

A few months back, before I started out at the hospital, the sight of it would have turned my stomach. A row of deep, bloody gashes that are gaping at me from frayed edges, the surrounding skin already turning purple. It’s the inflammation triggered by the silver.

“There are five wounds in your thigh, each about four inches deep I reckon, and, of course, contaminated with silver,” I explain to him, following my training. A patient has the right to being informed and involved in what’s going on every step of the way. “In a situation like this, the only way to remove it is to suck it from the wounds. Like with a snake bite. Understand? So, that’s what we’ll do. What I’ll do. May I?”

I lift a sleeve of my shirt to indicate I’m going to give the operation area a cursory cleaning. This time, I wait until he gives a minute nod before I cautiously wipe down his mangled thigh do get the blood out of the way.

“Good,” I say, bending over him and getting ready to actually do what needs to be done. “Now, I have to warn you. This might hurt a little.”

It’s going to hurt a lot. I wish I had a bottle of morphine on me. The first aid kit I’ve been carrying around in my back pocket since I started working as a nurse only contains some basic equipment like disinfectant, needle and thread, and dressing. 

I open my mouth as wide as possible and close it around the first gash. The moment I start sucking on the inflamed wound, the rogue gives a wild jerk. His upper body rises up from the ground, convulsing, and the next moment, I’m being hurled through the air and land three yards away from him in the mud.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “Didn’t do that on purpose.”

“That’s fine.” I get up and come back to him, dropping to my knees by his side once more. He’s sitting crouching on the ground without looking at me, his shorn head bent. It shimmers in all the shades of gold in the moonlight. Sweat is glistening on his dirty cheeks. God, no, that’s tears of agony. 

“Listen. We can only do this if you keep absolutely still. And that’s going to be difficult with you being in pain like you are.” 

“It’s okay. I can keep still. I can do it,” he murmurs. His lower lip is bleeding. He bit down on it so hard his eyeteeth pierced his skin.

He so can’t do it, but being an alpha, he’ll never admit it. I could tell him I have enough brothers to know this is alpha bullshit. We won’t discuss this now.

“Maybe you can, but I can’t,” I say. “The thing is, you’re going to shove me away again if the pain gets too much, and it will. I’m not blaming you. It’s a natural reaction. Only I can’t do my job while I’m getting tossed around. Now, I’d give you pain meds if I could, but I don’t have anything on me. We have another option, though, if you get my drift, and I suggest we use it. Or rather, that you use it.” I wait for a moment to give him the chance to understand what I’m talking about. Sex hormones are almost as powerful as the strongest drugs when it comes to pain relief. Masturbation was the thing that got people through dental treatment for centuries. When his lids flicker and another wave of red washes over his face, I know he got my meaning.

“I’m not sure I can do it,” he mumbles, lifting his palms. They’re grazed and bloodied from his efforts to tear the trap open. Another tremble travels through him. The silver is ravaging him. I have to get the stuff out of him before his system shuts down.

“You have to, okay?” I say in my sternest nurse voice. “Man up and do it. Now.”

“Yeah, okay.” He looks piteous, and when he awkwardly reaches under my shirt covering his groin, it’s clear he’s not at all in the mood. Something needs to be done about that. 

“Would you like a little help?” I ask, as business-like as possible, and when he gives another nod, blushing yet harder, I lean forward and give him a few quick licks across the mouth and briefly grope his length through the fabric of the shirt. He gives a gasp, and I feel his cock fill out. Quickly, I let it go. I look on as it emerges from under its cover and twitches across his lean belly like a disoriented snake. It’s massive and looks kind of vicious, to own the truth, but I know there’s no danger. He won’t use this thing on me. He’s in pain and heavily impaired by his injury. And then… Yeah. Somehow, I know he isn’t going to do anything.

He tugs the shirt over his erection, then grabs himself and looks at me like waiting for more instructions, still with a red tint blooming under his shapely cheekbones.

“Great, looks like that worked all right,” I say, giving him a thumbs-up. “Fine, now get to it. Don’t mind me; I’ll be busy.”

 I intentionally look away as he obediently starts stroking himself. Yet again, I bend over him, put my mouth on his thigh and start sucking on a gash. The taste of were blood tainted with silver assaults my tongue. This time over, being busy with himself, he doesn’t do more than give a slight jolt. Alpha’s bodies are cool that way. They can switch to sex in no time, in the most improbable of situations, and focus all energy on coming. 

Taking care not to swallow, as if this were some kind of twisted blowjob, I spit a mouthful of blood into the mud, then repeat the drill.

“One down, four to go,” I say, glancing up at him. He looks back at me, his hand on his dick, his face screwed up as he suppresses his moans, obviously feeling mostly one thing and only a fraction of the pain he normally would.

He’s looking at me differently now. As if he’d suddenly realized I’m an omega. I still don’t expect him to get any ideas, but it’s probably a good thing he’s in no condition to act on any impulses in case he did.

Quickly, one by one, I suck the venom from the remaining gashes left by the spikes while he keeps doing his thing. I don’t get to see anything of the action, but as far as I can tell, he never once comes. Which is perfect. He manages to keep almost perfectly still all through this ordeal.

“Worst part is done,” I inform him when I’ve dealt with the last wound, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. “Next, we’re going to patch you up. I’d leave the wounds open for a few days first if it weren’t for the silver. There’s always a risk of infection if wounds as deep as these are closed too early, but if we don’t do it, there will be a chemical reaction between the remaining silver, your blood, and oxygen, and that would be even more dangerous than bacteria. So, we don’t really have a choice here. You okay with this?”

He nods, clenching his jaw, quite obviously not happy at the idea of getting patched up.

“Great. It won’t take long.” I reach into my back pocket for my first aid kit. When I’ve cleaned my hands with disinfectant wipes, I pull a small bottle of saline solution and a sterile piece of cloth from the kit. As I spread the cloth on the ground and lay out what I need for the sewing, I keep on talking to help both of us relax. This is a bit of a special situation, especially with his cock there right between us. He’s pushed it back under the shirt, but its outline is clearly visible.

“I’m going to rinse the wounds, then close each gash with a couple of stitches. That okay?”

“Okay,” he says hoarsely, eyeing the bottle and the needle kit in my hand. He can’t possibly be afraid of saline solution and stitches after all he’s been through. Only he can, of course. Almost all alphas are like that; that’s one of the things I’ve learned at home, way before I started working at the hospital.

“It’s going to sting a bit, but it’s going to be a piece of cake for you after all the other shit. Seriously. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. It’ll look fine, too. Trust me. I’m good with a needle.”

He shudders at the word.

I suppress a grin. “I suggest you lie back and do that little trick of yours one more time. You think you can do that?”

“I guess,” he murmurs and stretches out on the ground.

“I know it’s weird, but it’ll be easier for both of us that way. After that, we’ll be done. Promise.”

Again, he reaches under the shirt covering his middle. Again, I look away, but this time, I’ve noticed the tattoo on the inside of his left forearm. It’s a very nice-looking, very shapely forearm, if I’m being objective, and the tattoo is intriguing. Six straight lines forming an angular, open circle. I wonder what it means. If he weren’t busy distracting himself, I’d ask him about it.

After another ten minutes, I’m done, and he is, too. I just cut off the last of the sutures when he throws his head back, giving a suppressed cry. His hips buck under my shirt. Silvery come shoots over his stomach and up his sculpted pecs. After a few seconds, he settles back down with a final, aborted groan. I’m sure, being an alpha, he can climax for minutes on end when he’s healthy and happy and on his own. Or when he’s with an omega he fancies. Of course, that’s none of my business.

“Good job,” I say.

He stares at me.

I give him a wink. “I meant my stitches. But you did great, too.” 

Nothing like a bit of humor to diffuse tension during a tricky bit of treatment; that’s my motto. He doesn’t quite seem to know what to make of it, but never mind. We did it. That’s all that counts. 

“We’ll have to get rid of your pant leg,” I say. “It’s ruined, anyway, and your wounds are best left uncovered. You’ll have to take extra care to not get them dirty, of course.”

When I’ve cut off the torn fabric, I pull what’s left of his pants up his hips. He helps as well as he can, and I leave it to him to stuff away his equipment and wipe himself down with my shirt.

“Right, then,” I say. “How do you feel?”

“Fine,” he mumbles. It’s obviously a lie, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s obvious he must still be in severe pain. His stitched-up leg looks terrible. God, he has suffered like no one should in that horrible trap. My chest burns with a surge of empathy. A healer can’t afford to be soft like that, but my work is done, so I guess it’s okay. 

I straighten myself. “Please, listen. Your body has an important job to do now: it needs to destroy the remaining silver ions. There are always at least some. You might get a fever for a few days, too. I’m sure you’ll be okay, but you need to take it easy for at least a week. Understood? Rest, and try to let as much air as possible get to those wounds. That’ll help with preventing infection. Like I said, there’s always a certain risk of blood poisoning. You’ll need monitoring for the next couple of days.”

“Monitoring,” he echoes.

“Exactly. I’ll leave you for a moment to go somewhere with cell reception and get help. We need to get you to the hospital.”

“The hospital! I can’t go to a hospital.”

I shake my head. “I get you’ve done some, let’s say, rogue stuff, and if it was you who robbed the supermarket in Harbor Town, there are probably going to be a few embarrassing questions to be answered at a town ting and some damages to be paid. Maybe you can work it off with community service. A bit of a nuisance, sure, but I strongly advise you to put your health first.”

“I won’t go to any hospital,” he says.

“But—”

“I don’t need any monitoring. I’ll be on my way now.”

He tries to get up, but of course, he isn’t able to do it. He’s clearly spent all the energy he had left during the last twenty minutes.

What do I do? He isn’t the first refractory patient I’ve had to deal with, but this is proving to be more complicated than I thought it would be. Whatever he’s saying, no matter if he’s a criminal, he’s a patient, my patient, and he needs shelter, else he might yet die out here. I can’t allow that. But I can’t ignore a clear refusal of treatment, either.

Again, he struggles to scramble into a sitting position, then sinks back into the mud, gasping. 

“Please, stop doing that.” I put my palm on his hand to calm him. “I won’t force anything on you, okay? But if I’m taking care of a patient, I won’t quit halfway through. Now, let me think how we can go about this…”

I stick my ring finger between my lips and start nibbling on it, doing my best to think of some solution. After a few moments, I notice he’s watching me. When I meet his gaze, I’m not prepared for the sudden, sheer alpha intensity in it. I let out a small gasp, and his gaze shifts to my lips. And instead of stopping this, instead of going back to being what he was, wretched and wayward and altogether the kind of thing I’m equipped to deal with, however difficult it might be, he lets his eyes travel to my throat, my chest… 

An exquisite, electric warmth trickles down my spine. God, no. I didn’t imagine that look he gave me while he was beating off. He might be wiped out, but yeah, he’s definitely noticed I’m an omega. He’s reacting to me, and fuck, I’m starting to react to him, too. In spite of the state he’s in, it’s impossible to overlook the fact he’s drop-dead fucking gorgeous. And right now, he seems to, like, envelop me in alpha appreciation like no one ever has before. It makes it kind of hard to focus. 

Impossible.

Fuck, I’m more professional than that, right? And also, he’s a rogue. Who I’ve only just patched up, and who right now is rising onto his knees and picks up his knife from the ground. Fuck, what’s happening? Fuck! I yank my finger from my mouth and start moving backward, away from him. 

He lets the knife slip back into its sheath at his belt and gets to his feet, moving perfectly smoothly.

How is this possible? As I look up at him, thunderstruck, I lose my balance and land on my butt in the mud. I can’t believe it. He’s able to stand, and those gashes on his thigh are closing before my eyes. They’re still blood-encrusted, the sutures are still there, but within seconds, the torn skin has grown back together, leaving only tiny openings at the wounds’ edges. How? How has he healed like that? This fast?

“Vampire blood,” he says. Even his voice has recovered. It isn’t scratchy anymore; it’s deep and smooth. “I’ve had two drops of it this morning. It allows my body to recover as if I were an undead, or almost, I guess. It didn’t help as long as those spikes were stuck in my thigh, but with them gone, thanks to you, it did its job. Tomorrow, I’ll be as good as new.”

Vampire blood. The stench of injury has lifted; all that’s left of his smell are some layers of forest soil and rotten leaves. He covered himself in dirt for extra camouflage, and it’s suddenly obvious he has no scent of his own. Because he’s a vampire blood user, like the island guards.

It doesn’t matter why; it doesn’t matter how. 

I’m in trouble. 

Within the last fifteen seconds, the dynamics between us have switched completely.

He stands towering over me, ogling me, my face, my naked upper body, and it doesn’t take a genius to decipher that gaze. I asked him to beat off, twice; I pulled his pants down over his ass. I only thought of him as a patient, and he was, but he isn’t anymore. Now he’s the very thing Sky warned me about. A rogue with nothing to lose and all the power over me.

My breathing hitches as I sit before him in the mud. He might be no more than average in height for an alpha, but compared to me, he’s huge, and he quite obviously isn’t in pain anymore. Fuck, I should have thought twice before releasing an alpha rogue from a trap. Should have thought twice about all of this.

Oh, Sky, if only I’d listened to you…

Fuck, if he’s going to ravage me, why doesn’t he get on with it already? Is he having such a hard time to decide on how to start with the raping? Is he debating with himself whether to push his dick down my throat or rather up my butt? Or is he going to use that knife of his on me after all and simply stab me?

Hectically, I swallow, then swallow some more, staring up at him, waiting for his next move.

Slowly, he bends forward, stretches out his right hand and gently wraps it around my convulsing neck. 

Okay, it’s strangling. Okay.

I close my eyes.

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Waiting for him to press down on my throat or snap my neck. Waiting…

But he doesn’t do it. He doesn’t tighten his grip, he… God, his hand is moving up to my hair. He can’t be caressing my hair. I squint at him. He’s crouching before me, his eyes boring into mine, and his palm comes down on my hand, covering it where I press it into the mud. I’ve dug my fingers into the ground as if I could hold on to my life like that. One by one, he detaches them, then lifts my hand, carefully, relentlessly, and places it in my lap.

He holds onto my wrist, and I’m acutely aware how close his big paw is to my groin. 

What’s his deal? Is he trying to fixate me on the spot, or what?

“Let me go!” I cry, my voice failing. “Siri, help! Siri, get him off me!”

Siri, who’s settled down on the ground a while ago to watch the proceedings, cocks her head, tongue lolling, doing nothing.

Like, really? I almost start to cry with frustration at her disloyalty.

“Don’t be scared,” the rogue says. His voice is a soft, hypnotic growl. “They aren’t going to hurt you.”

What’s he talking about, for fuck’s sake? And who?

He lifts his nose, sniffing the air, then gets to his feet, forcing me to get up, too. His grip around my wrist isn’t soft and gentle anymore, it’s like a vise.

My mind in shreds, I try to grasp what’s happening. 

I’m a captive. I helped this guy, freed him, treated him, and now he’s holding me captive.

Shit. I’m starting to get mad. Shit, I’m angrier than I’ve ever been.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I cry. “Release me this minute, you stupid tramp!”

His head snaps around to me. He looks stunned, and in spite of everything, I find that beyond gratifying.

“Do as I say, dude!”

“Can’t do that, sweetie.”

“Don’t call me sweetie.”

“Okay, duckling.”

“You’ll regret you’re doing this.”

He grins down at me. “What, calling you duckling? It’s because of your hair, you know. It’s all air, no body.”

“Says the bald man.”

“At least I look my age.”

“You look like a fifty-year-old in age-decline!”

Somehow, it helps me keeping it together to fight with him. Oh hell, what’s going to become of me?

Siri, the traitor, starts barking like crazy. Her fur bristles as she stares into the thicket lining the clearing. There’s the sound of branches cracking, and a hint of alpha scent, then a group of men comes crashing through the bushes. Suddenly, the air is filled with loud voices and the bustle of alphas crowding a small space. Only the scent doesn’t match up with what’s happening; it’s much too faint for so much alpha to make any sense.

The men’s clamoring is ringing in my ears. “Marc!” — “Fuck, Marc, what happened?”

“Hey, he’s here!” an alpha with matted blond curls who can’t be any older than me screams over his shoulder. “We’ve found him!”

More alphas appear. These are his friends. This is his bandit gang. Fifteen alphas, maybe twenty; beefy, hairy, extra-large rogues, all in fur, leather, and rags. Why didn’t I see how unlikely it was that he should be on his own out here? Why didn’t I think ahead and foresee this? Apparently, I was too busy saving the asshole that’s still keeping me completely immobilized. 

Marc.

I try to break free, but he controls me by just holding me by the wrist, without the least effort.

Fuck, I hate alphas, oh, fuck, I’m angry, too angry to be scared. Obviously, I should be. He’s part of a whole platoon of rogues, all of them as big as him, most of them bigger. Objectively, I’m screwed. Even on the off-chance that he’d be interested in protecting me from the others, how could he, one man against twenty? Yeah, he wouldn’t stand a chance. Yet, when the men move in on us, I shrink back against him. It doesn’t make sense, not on any level, and it’s shameful as fuck, but I hide my face in his vest, seeking shelter in the soft fabric. It gives off a light alpha fragrance, his true scent, possibly. I shudder as I inhale it, again and yet again, fighting to get a grip.

He lets go of my wrist, and his left arm comes up behind me, curling around my shoulders, pulling me in. “It’s okay,” he murmurs. “I told you; they aren’t going to hurt you, duckling.”

“Boss, what happened?” A man with a braided beard and the frame of an ox steps forward. He eyes my rogue’s leg, then the trap and my scissors still lying on the blood-smeared cloth next to it. “Fuck, has the guy tried to catch you in that trap? Did he hurt you? Fuck, just say the word and I’ll take care of the little degenerate!”

What?

This is getting better and better. First, I’m being called duckling, now, a degenerate? And my alpha is the actual fucking leader of this pack of overgrown wildlings?

“I didn’t hurt your stupid boss, you oaf!” I cry, shooting daggers at the bearded idiot. “I patched him up! But fuck, I wish I hadn’t.”

My alpha’s arm is still slung around me, and I can feel something rumble in his chest. Is that a chuckle? 

“I got stuck in the damn trap, and he found me and freed me,” he says. “He’s coming with us.”

Okay, what??

“He most certainly is not,” I spit, trying to disengage myself from his grip. I can’t move an inch. God, this guy is actually about to abduct me. 

I have to approach this from a different angle. “Okay, listen to me, buddy,” I say, lifting my gaze to his face. “I’m going to put it simply for you. If I don’t come home, my pack is going to search for me. My brother is looking for me right now, I’m sure. And he’ll find me. Pack always finds their own; I’m sure even you are aware of that. And then he’s going to kick your ass, and my pack apha will do the same. By the by, you might have heard of him. His name is Dr. Braedan Greyson. A few years back, he made Adann Starling submit to him in a pack alpha fight. Remember?”

Now he’s listening. He’s looking down at me, his gaze glued to my face, all complacency and alpha appreciation and shit gone, and I could swear his jaw has dropped a little. The sight fills me with deep satisfaction.

 “Yeah, I guess even a dirty rogue like you must have heard about how he crushed poor Adann,” I continue in a conversational tone. “And, yeah, if you abduct me, you are going to be next. Oh, and the college chancellor is my brother-in-law. Yeah, before morning, the whole college is going to be on their feet to track me down. Hundreds of alphas and a whole army of trained security, too. Yeah, if you take me to your hideout, they’ll find it; they’ll find you, and you’re all going to go to prison. You’re busted.” He’s still staring at me. “Didn’t think of that, did you, pretty eyes,” I add softly.

He shakes his head as if to chase away an insect that got entangled in his non-existent hair.

“He’s right, boss,” the large alpha says. I want to tell him thank you when he adds, “We can’t risk them finding us, least of all you. We have to kill him.”

What the?

“How’s that going to help, stupid?” I cry. “Do I really have to explain it to you that that wouldn’t change a thing about your situation? At least not for the better? Oh my God.

The man stares at me, looking livid. I need to pull myself together. It’s not smart to call these guys names. The oaf is so red in the face it looks like his beard is going to catch fire any second. Against my will, I press myself against my rogue for cover again.

He lifts his left arm, and the men surrounding us instantly shuffle backward. Lowering his hand, he briefly rests it against the back of my head. His fingers knit into my curls. The sense of comfort his touch sends spreading through me is so powerful that, for a moment, I forget to breathe.

I close my eyes to regain control, and when I open them again, he’s gone down on one knee before me. For a moment, I think he’s about to propose. This night has been too long. I’m clearly about to lose it. With a second’s delay, I get he only intends to be at eye level with me to talk to me, much like Braedan does when he really wants me to listen. 

“Here’s what you’re going to do, duckling,” he says. “Take your dog and go home, and don’t tell a soul about us.”

“My name’s Shae,” I say numbly.

“Have you listened? Go straight home, and by God, don’t strip any alpha rogue’s pants off on the way.” The left corner of his hard mouth curls up.  “No matter whether they hurt their butt or anything. Got it? And don’t rat us out.” He gets to his feet.

I must not to let on how his crooked grin affects me. How can I find this mean-looking criminal so wildly attractive? 

“Why wouldn’t I?” I ask. 

His eyes glint; his grin morphs into a smirk. “Because I didn’t just rob the supermarket, sweetie. I’m a convicted murderer. I’ve killed half a dozen people. Exactly half a dozen.” He lifts his left forearm and points at his tattoo. “See this? One line—one dead man.”

I swallow and stare at the six lines forming an open circle that I thought was some rune. 

He’s a runaway convict. A killer, and quite obviously proud of it, too. When he bends down to me, I want to shrink back, but I’m too shocked to move.

He puts his index finger under my chin and gently lifts it so I have to look at him. “You spent almost an hour fixing me. If the executioner gets his hands on me, it will all have been for nothing. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

So that’s his point; that’s why he told me about his crimes. And for fuck’s sake, he’s right: I wouldn’t want that. If they caught him, they’d kill him, because he’s a murderer. And I couldn’t live with that, and he knows. Fuck. 

“You promise, duckling?”

“Boss…” Braided Beard pipes up from the back, wiping his palms against his leather pants as if he were getting ready to snap my neck.

“Shut up and let me handle this, Wayn,” my rogue says over his shoulder.

This.

That’s supposed to be me. Anger flares up inside me, yet again, helping me to find my voice. “I’m not going to talk to anyone, but not because of you. I won’t do it because I don’t want to get in trouble with my pack leader. That’s all. I don’t give a fuck whether you live or die!”

“Glad we got that settled,” he says serenely, then turns away to join his men. He’s subtly limping. As he walks past Siri, he gives her a light slap on the back. “Come on, dog. Take your master back to the college.”

Siri ignores him. She looks at me like rooted to the spot. Only her ears are twitching. She failed me big time; she didn’t do what she was supposed to do and bite the bloody rogue in the ass when she should have, but at least she isn’t following his orders.

“You can tell your fellow killers what to do but not my dog, or me, rogue,” I say, meeting his gaze full-on yet another time. The guy is dangerous, and I shouldn’t push my luck like this, but I enjoy it beyond all proportion so see his lids flutter. 

Not used to have anyone talk back to you, are you?

Holding his gaze, I put two fingers into my mouth, watching him blink again, then I whistle. Siri darts to my side. “Come,” I say. I turn around on my heels and walk off, Siri’s head by my knee. She has this tendency to run off or to choose to ignore my commands when it’s convenient at times, and she’s a complete failure at protecting her own as it turns out, but she knows when she needs to behave.

I’ve almost reached the perimeter of the clearing when the rogue calls out behind me. 

“Hey! Nurse Greyson! Shae.”

It’s the first time he’s said my name.

“What now!” I cry, struggling against a sudden weakness in my knees. I turn my head. There he stands, in the middle of his gang of shaggy rogues, a head shorter than the rest and clearly the center of power. 

He nods at me. “Thank you, Shae.”

I only lift my hand in acknowledgement and turn around again to leave. Okay, so he’s said thank you. Honestly, it’s the least he can do, and doing it using my real name for once is, too. 

Thank you, Shae.

God. 

Hearing him say those words should be no more special than a thank you from any other patient; it shouldn’t have any effect on me, and I’m telling myself that it doesn’t.

But really, it’s magic. 

 

***