Authors: Bailey Bradford
ISBN # 978-1-78184-094-8
©Copyright Bailey Bradford 2012
Cover Art by Lyn Taylor ©Copyright September 2012
Edited by Eleanor Boyall
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Harley’s one-night stand turns into a nightmare when a vengeance-seeking shifter kidnaps him to use Harley as a pawn. Things don’t go so well for his abductor, or for Harley. He’d never have believed there were werewolves…shifters, rather, in the real world. After being freed, his mind is a mess and he doesn’t know how to cope with the things he’s experienced. Fear and anger are powerful emotions, and when they are out of control the harm caused can scar one’s soul.
Val Whitley only ever had one goal in life—to serve in Marcus Criswell’s guard. Val had looked up to Alpha Anax Criswell for a long time and was honoured to serve him. When an accident alters Val’s life, possibly forever, he fears he’ll be of little or no use to his Alpha Anax. What good is a physically damaged shifter, especially one as messed up as he is?
When Val is sent out on an order from Alpha Anax Criswell, he thinks he’s being pawned off since he’s blind in one eye and is less than any other shifter. He doesn’t expect to find a strength he never knew he had, or the love of a destined mate…
Another nightmare dragged Harley Johansen from a restless sleep. He sat upright in bed, instantly alert, terrified of everything and nothing. Sweat dripped from his brow into his eyes as he gasped, trying to get enough air into his lungs so that he didn’t feel like he was suffocating. The more he gasped, the less air he seemed to be getting, and some small, sane part of his brain told him to slow the fuck down before he hyperventilated himself into unconsciousness.
Unconsciousness didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Harley pressed a fist to his diaphragm and closed his eyes as he struggled against the urge to just give up. He was alive, no one was trying to harm him—now, at least he didn’t think they were. Then again, he was living in the middle of his enemies, wasn’t he?
He couldn’t figure it out right now, or any other time for that matter. There wasn’t any point in trying to sort out his thoughts at… Harley rubbed at his eyes, grimacing at the sting as he did so. His breaths were somewhat steadier now, not so harsh, so panicked. The bedside clock showed in glaring red numbers that it was a quarter after three in the morning.
Harley flopped back down and closed his eyes, but the sheets were sweat-soaked. So were his boxers and shirt, apparently. It made for an uncomfortable, cold and clammy experience he didn’t care for. Besides, as soon as his head hit the pillow and he closed his eyes, his heart started racing again, like he was on the verge of a panic attack. He’d had a couple of those damned things, and they sucked.
Sitting up, he opened his eyes and looked around the room. It wasn’t pitch dark, because he didn’t think he could handle that. Still, it wasn’t his room. He was being kept here, supposedly for his own safety.
“Right. Whatever. Fucking werewolves.” Harley scooted around and put his feet on the floor. The carpet felt warm and plush between his toes as he wiggled them around. Guilt slapped at him as soon as he experienced a bit of pleasure. He had no right to be comfortable here, or rather, no one else had any right to expect him to be comfortable or happy to be here.
Harley wanted to go home. He was scared to go home. He didn’t know what he wanted, but it wasn’t to stay where he was. Restless, gross with sweat, he got up and stumbled to the bathroom. A quick rinse and clean clothes didn’t make him feel any better, but at least he didn’t reek.
Pacing was out. He’d paced, and paced, and paced over the last week when the nightmares woke him up. Harley hated feeling like a caged animal. He’d been told he didn’t have to stay locked in his room, but as creepy as the werewolves were, his room was his sanctuary.
Except right now, it felt more like a prison. “God damn it, I want to leave!” Harley stomped one foot and immediately hated himself for acting like a cross toddler. “Ugh!” If he stayed in his room for much longer, he really was going to lose his fucking mind, or what was left of it.
Harley crept towards the door. Would there be any other people—werewolves—awake at this hour? He snorted.
Stupid question. They were just attacked a week ago and you can bet there’s all kinds of werewolfy security all over the place. But I was promised it’s safe for me if I want to explore…
Did he want to do that? Harley glanced around at his room and felt the walls closing in on him. He turned back and grabbed the doorknob. If nothing else, he was going to just step out into the hallway. The slight sound of shuffling feet made him hesitate. Harley put his ear to the door and concentrated on listening. He suspected what he’d heard were the sounds of the guards shuffling away when they heard him approaching the door. The guards were supposedly for his protection, and honestly, Harley hadn’t had a problem with any of them. He still didn’t like them, though.
Harley moved over a few inches then looked out the peephole. No one was in sight, but that didn’t mean much considering the limited viewing the little hole provided. He was just going to have to open the door.
Which was harder than it sounded, because Harley’s hands were shaking and he was trying to tell himself he had nothing to fear and it just wasn’t working. But he still managed to twist the doorknob. With little effort on his part, the door opened an inch. Harley took three deep breaths before he could crane his neck and look out that thin crack. He saw nothing but hallway, and even though he suspected he was still being watched, that his guards were nearby, at least he couldn’t see them or hear them, so he could pretend, maybe, that he was alone.
Desperation to escape the room he’d been in constantly spurred Harley to move. Maybe he could find a way out, a way to escape the werewolves who claimed to be on his side. There had to be exits and entrances in the enormous adobe mansion.
The hallway was deserted as far as he could tell. If there were more scuffling footsteps or whispering voices, he couldn’t hear them over the pounding of his own heartbeat. It sounded like a damned kettle drum in his ears, or a gong, something big and noisy and aurally overpowering.
Harley kept one hand on the wall as he moved slowly towards what he thought was the living area. He hadn’t seen it but once, when he’d first been brought through it on the way to his room. Maybe it was where all the werewolves gathered to watch scary movies and eat popcorn. Harley almost laughed at that. What kind of movies would scare werewolves? Ones about dog catchers or massive parvovirus infections?
Did wolves even get parvo, or was that a domesticated dog-only disease? Harley silently scoffed at his attempts to distract himself. He sucked at it. His mind kept throwing out visuals he didn’t want to see, memories of men turning into wolves, of blood and fear and death. Harley stopped and leaned against the wall. He should just go back to his room. He should… There was an odd, tingling sensation in his belly, and it made him suck in a sharp breath, surprised as warmth infused his veins.
What the hell is going on? I feel…
Harley lowered his eyelids as he ran a hand down his chest. If he didn’t know better, he’d think he was feeling the beginnings of arousal.
Right. Because I am so fucking turned on by what? The wall under my fingertips? Whatever.
Harley crept to the end of the hall. That weird, almost effervescent feeling was still trying to kick up in his belly, and maybe even his groin, but Harley wasn’t having any of it. He stomped it down with memories of being attacked by psychotic werewolves.
But he kept moving, drawn forward in a way he didn’t want to examine too closely. That something almost unworldly seemed to be leading him was just too bizarre a notion for Harley to entertain for long. Yet he walked on, aware of the utter solitude of the place. Surely it should be bustling with guards and crap at all hours? He suspected that his guards had maybe cleared the area out for him, then he discounted that thought. No matter what he’d been told, Harley couldn’t fathom why the werewolves would do anything for him, anything nice, at least. He knew killing him would probably make a few of them happy. They were just a twisted bunch of freaks.
He crossed the living area then belatedly thought to check the door. One glance over his shoulder was all it took to see the numerous bolts ensuring the place was locked tight. The windows likewise had locks on them, and bars over the windows for that whole security overkill sensation that Harley was certain was hip in the werewolf world.
Probably goes hand in paw with bone-printed doggie dishes for bowls and rawhide chews for snacks. All beds courtesy of Pet Supplies R Us. Or maybe some weird wildlife preservation fund.
Harley turned his attention back to exploring his prison, even if the werewolves who held him here swore he wasn’t a prisoner. They wouldn’t let him leave, and he wanted to, so what the fuck did that make him if not a prisoner?
Another long stretch of hallway was laid out before him. Harley considered heading off in the direction he thought the kitchen might be in, because some milk would be awesome, but something caught his attention. He heard the low murmur of voices from a room down on the left, and so he forgot about milk and tried to figure out if he should run back to his room or not. He didn’t really want to see anyone else, he damn sure didn’t want to chat with any of the freaks there.
But he didn’t turn around, because there was a tantalising scent he could barely detect. In fact, he wasn’t certain he was really even smelling it. For all he knew, it was a figment of his imagination, because what could possibly be putting out such an irresistible aroma?
He sniffed and frowned. The hall smelt like cleaner. So what the hell was he doing? Harley tried again, and while his stomach warmed with anticipation, he didn’t know of what, or why it was happening.
Curious, more so than fearful at that point, Harley tip-toed down to the room he heard voices coming from. He stopped before getting too close; the door had one of those frosted half-windows that began about chest high—for him at least. He could see blurry shapes through it, but at the angle he stood, he really couldn’t see much.
His heartbeat kicked up and his pulse seemed to race. Dizziness hit him and Harley leaned on the wall for a moment. He heard footsteps from that room, footsteps that were growing louder.
Fear of discovery spiked in Harley and he opened the first door he reached, one right beside the frosted door. He’d just closed the door when the other opened and a woman came out, followed by a werewolf Harley knew and feared more than most of the others. Marcus Criswell was big, and he exuded a power that made Harley very uncomfortable. If he were a cat, his fur would have been standing on end and he’d have been doing the whole arched back and hissing thing.
However, he was nothing more than one short, scared guy and so he hid in the other room. He kept the door opened a hair and hoped no one noticed. He wanted to know what was going on in the room those two had come out of. Harley realised he knew the woman, too. She was Shania, the doctor for the pack of werewolves. She’d examined him as much as he’d allowed her to before he’d started freaking out at her touching him.
“I don’t know, Marcus. He’s non-responsive, and the scarring has only faded, it hasn’t gone away. I suspect he was exposed to a toxin that prevents complete healing like our species is capable of.” Shania sighed and pushed back a clump of hair. “I don’t know if he’s going to live, or if he’d want to. The break was bad, very bad. He might have a limp, he might have brain damage, he might die, Marcus.”
“Fuck that,” Marcus snarled, and Harley quivered, fear almost making him whimper. Only the knowledge that he’d be found out kept him silent as Marcus went on. “He’s held on for this long, he’ll come out of it. If he’s scarred, he won’t be the only one of us who is.”
Shania’s expression showed her doubt even as she spoke. “But these scars—”
“Are proof of his strength, his determination,” Marcus snapped, clearly not liking what Shania was trying to tell him. “He’ll wake up from this…this…” Marcus flicked his hand at the frosted door. “Coma or whatever it is. Clearly he isn’t meant to die or he’d have done so, rather than hang around the world of the living in a state none of us have ever heard of a shifter being in. He
will not die.
“Yes, Alpha Anax.” Shania sighed and canted her head to one side as she inhaled. She frowned and Harley almost wet himself at the thought that she might have smelt him. “Do you—”
“Think you should join me for a cup of tea, yes, I do.” Marcus took Shania by the elbow, and Harley thought his expression looked absolutely fierce and terror-inducing. Shania just kept frowning but she did let him lead her away as Marcus murmured in her ear.
Harley had no idea what was said, he was just glad when they disappeared from the hallway. He waited a minute, which was about as long as he could stand it, then when no one else showed up he left his hiding spot and went back to the room Shania and Marcus had just exited. Who were they talking about? It was intriguing, in a way.
That was why he opened the door, Harley told himself, and why he closed it quietly behind him as he looked around the medical facility. Or room, he corrected himself. It wasn’t much more than a large room, with five hospital-type beds in it. Only one of them had a body occupying it, and Harley was drawn to it like a child to candy.
Before he knew what he was doing, Harley was walking towards that form, so still and swathed in bandages. He wondered what kind of IV fluids a werewolf got. From Marcus’ end of the conversation, Harley was assuming whoever was lying there was another werewolf, and one Marcus cared about. He obviously wouldn’t hear of the man possibly dying. Harley stopped beside the bed.
There were tubes and beeping things and bandages and a cast on one of the patient’s legs. He didn’t know what all of that meant, other than the cast. Obviously the guy was pretty bad off. His body jerked with each breath, and it dawned on Harley then that some sort of machine was making him breathe.
Harley bit his bottom lip. He might not like the supernatural freaks, but he sure didn’t wish this kind of suffering on any of them. Well, none of the ones who didn’t try to hurt him, at least. He looked at the wires and tubes running up from the guy’s hand. What had happened? Had this been one of Marcus’ guards who’d been injured in the attack?
Harley reached out very slowly. His entire arm shook, and he growled low under his breath, angry at his body’s reaction. It took almost every ounce of concentration he could find to make himself stop shaking, but he did it. With one finger, he brushed over the swollen hand of the comatose man. The touch jolted him, like the man was a live wire, and Harley yelped, jerking his hand back and glaring at the injured man.
Glaring at the poor guy was wrong. Harley focused his pique on the wires. He must have brushed one wrong or something. There was no other explanation for that weird-ass shock he’d just had.
Unless it was in his head, which it probably was. Harley reached up and pulled at a lock of his own hair, pulled until his eyes watered from the pain of it, then he let it go. He hadn’t truly got shocked, or jolted by simply feeling the werewolf’s skin with his fingertips. That kind of thinking was crazy, and Harley wasn’t giving in to it.
He needed to get out of there, away from all the creepy-ass werewolves who could kill him with a swipe of a paw. Harley knew that was all it was, his mind melting under all the weird shit that’d happened to him lately. He hadn’t felt a shock, or arousal, or smelt anything other than the burn of antiseptic and cleaners.
And yet, turning away from that silent form almost hurt, and that scared Harley more than anything else did. He didn’t even care if he woke everyone else up in the damned place, he ran hell-bent for his room. He was never leaving it again unless he got to go home.