The Good Wolf Available from eXtasy Books from August 15th here.
Sometimes the only way to let love in is to let the wolf in, too.
Ten years ago, Mason fell for his best friend while at university. Little did he know just two years later, that same friend would turn his world upside down in a way Mason could never have imagined. Now, he lives a cursed life. Living in solitude, Mason does everything he can to keep people away, not only for his safety, but for theirs, too. The night of the full moon. Niall has no idea he's a werewolf, but fate brings him and Mason together. A trick of the moon or something deeper, the men are drawn to each other. Together they must find a way to deal with what has happened to them both. But first Mason must learn to trust Niall and realize being alone is not always for the best.
Eight years ago.
Mason looked at the beer in his friend’s hand. “Fun is subjective,” he said, pulling off his glove of plastic knives and then taking the offered drink. The red and black woollen sweater he wore was itchy and despite it being October, the evening was strangely warm. He glanced up at the trees and the full, orange moon breaking through the canopy. Peach and silver illuminated the open space, creating shadows, which danced across the forest floor.
Mason Pearce removed his brown Fedora and brushed back his sweat-damp bangs. He rubbed tiredly at his eyes, watching as the partiers danced, talked, and drank. He’d already had several beers topped off with vodka shots and it had gone to his head. He was drunk and tired and he wanted to go home. But he couldn’t. He’d made a promise to the host, who just happened to be his best friend, and maybe one day, if luck was on his side, something more. Kaine Hudson had asked him to be here and here he was.
He watched one of the many loved-up couples in Halloween costumes—a vampire and a cat grinding seductively against each other in front of the lights of Kaine’s old truck. They moved in time to the base-heavy music playing over the hooked-up sound system. The vehicle’s headlamps lit the makeshift dance floor and the wooded area was filled with noise and people. By the beer cooler, a guy dressed as a ghost nodded, looking only half-interested in what the hooker-nurse was saying, and a Jedi raised his glass and smiled over at Mason. Maybe he had a thing for woollen sweaters and Fedoras.
The party had been going for a couple of hours. It was the start of a new year at the nearby university, Mason’s third of a four-year course, and for Kaine it was as good a reason as any to organize a party. Loud music, lots of alcohol, and sweaty students rubbing themselves up against each other. Sure it was fun, Mason figured, if you had someone to rub up against. As usual, even though Mason had come with Kaine, he had spent more time this last hour watching Kaine drink and talk to pretty much anyone but him. It wasn’t like Mason was unpopular, hell, he had Jedi Pete giving him the eye. But no one could compete with Kaine. The guy was a social magnet. Everybody loved him. It was like he oozed some pheromone that had boys and girls falling over themselves to line up, desperate to be noticed. Tonight was no different, and Kaine being Kaine, he had lapped up the attention.
“You okay?” Kaine asked as he sat beside Mason and rested a hand on his shoulder. The black and white skeleton face paint he wore contorted into a wicked curve as he smiled. Sweeping back his dark hair, he leaned in closer to speak above the music. “I saw you talking with Pete,” he noted and nodded to where Jedi Pete had been joined by some guy dressed as Frankenstein’s monster.
“Jealous?” Mason turned away, staring at the group of dancing students for fear he might betray the fact it was he who was jealous—jealous of anyone who had Kaine’s attention. He had come close, once. So damn close to admitting exactly how he felt about his friend. But even after a night of booze and play-fighting, Mason couldn’t find the courage to say anything or make his move. They’d lain together, breathless and looking in each other’s eyes and then Kaine had left. Maybe one day he would be brave enough before their degrees were over and they went their own way.
“Of him?” Kaine said. “Have you seen me?”
Mason met Kaine’s eyes and pressed his lips in a line. Sure he’d seen him. He just wished Kaine would see him in the same way.
“Get over yourself,” Mason said with a laugh and playfully pushed Kaine away. He sighed as he turned the beer bottle in his hand. “Well, Pete’s offered me a ride. He’s heading back to the dorm in ten or so.”
Kaine nodded. “You go if you want to, but it won’t be long now.”
“What won’t?” Mason scratched at his chest. Damn this stupid sweater. No wonder Freddy was always so pissed off and had the urge to stab people.
Kaine got to his feet and nodded to a couple of guys standing beside his pickup. “You’ll see.” He leaned down and whispered into Mason’s ear, “It’s going to be wild.”
Mason looked curiously up at Kaine. He narrowed his eyes as he watched his friend walk away. Getting to his feet, he pulled at the woollen sweater. He hoped it wasn’t fireworks. He hated fireworks. All that noise and neck ache over a few pops, crackles, and pretty colored lights.
“Can I have your attention?” Kaine called over the song. He and the two men moved forward and out onto the dance area. The music was turned down and people slowly gathered around them, forming a circle. “Are we having fun?” he continued in a raised voice. He raised his arms in the air as the crowd cheered.
“To a new year and new things!” Kaine roared and the guests lifted their drinks in a toast to the start of another year at Longwood University.
Mason nudged his way between the enthused guests to get a better view of his friend. He met Kaine’s eyes as the music was turned up loud, the beat of the song kicking in. He held Kaine’s gaze, surprised to see a glint of silver in his deep blue eyes. A trick of the moon perhaps. With a sigh, Mason frowned as he was pushed to one side. Finding his feet, he edged behind the line of shouting students as they joined in the chorus of the song and started to bounce on the spot. His head was pounding from one too many beers and he needed to sit down. Carefully, he wove between bodies, seeking out space.
He didn’t get far. A scream from beneath the music caught his attention and he turned toward the crowding people. He wasn’t sure what was happening as he heard more screams, and the line of bodies separating him from Kaine suddenly pushed and knocked into one another. The people scattered as if desperately trying to escape some unseen terror. Mason stepped forward, confused by the chaos around him. However, he wasn’t confused for long as he suddenly found himself frozen with fear. Shocked, he stared at the large animal in the clearing and then the girl beneath it. It looked like an enormous wolf. Viciously, it mauled at her stomach, wicked teeth and claws digging into her pale skin. Her head rolled to one side and she stared sightlessly toward Mason. His breath caught in his throat as he recognized her. She lived in the room across the hall from him.
Edging away, Mason watched the animal through wide eyes and his heart leapt in his chest as the creature lifted its head and settled its bright gaze on him. The animal’s eyes were white and silver, with dark, blown pupils at their center. The animal looked at him hungrily and curled up its top lip as it snarled. Mason couldn’t understand what he was seeing. The animal had the features of a wolf but this was like no wolf he’d ever seen. Slowly, he moved back, keeping his gaze on the creature. He watched the animal cautiously. The beast was bigger than any wolf he knew of, with huge muscular legs and a thick layer of black fur. With a growl, the wolf stepped over the girl’s body and made a move toward Mason. The girl was dead and no longer of interest. Mason, however, was very much alive.
Mason panicked and ran. He had no idea where he was or where he was heading. He’d driven in with Kaine, and anyone else who’d driven had left their cars at least a mile away up at the highway. Managing to stay on his feet, Mason darted for the trees, joining other people as they fled from the horrific scene. There wasn’t just the one monstrous wolf. Two others appeared, ripping and shredding through human flesh as they tackled their prey to the ground. Mason ran as fast as he could, giving a gasped yelp as a branch scratched a line across his cheek and drew blood. He didn’t care. He just wanted to get the hell out of there.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mason found himself alone. Breathless, he stopped and spun around, managing to disorient himself as he focused on a series of screams and yells that seemed to echo from all directions. He stood for a moment as he tried to listen, but the sound of his own heavy breathing was all he could hear. He suddenly felt very cold and could do nothing to stop himself from shaking. He dared to raise a hand to his bleeding face, wincing as he pressed his fingers to the small wound.
Mason nervously looked over his shoulder as he heard his name. “Kaine,” he said, relieved to see his friend step from between two trees. Kaine’s face makeup was flawed from sweat running down his cheeks and forehead. “We need to go.” He jogged to meet Kaine and grabbed him by the wrist. “There’s a…I don’t know. A wolf, I think. But we have to get out of here.” He pulled on Kaine’s arm, but Kaine didn’t move.
“Kaine?” He looked at his friend. Something he hadn’t noticed before scared him. Kaine’s eyes were no longer the rich blue that Mason knew and loved. Instead, he found them startlingly similar to that of the creature he’d seen back at the party. The blue of Kaine’s eye had faded, leaving an almost solid white area surrounding large dark pupils.
“What’s going on?” he managed as he released Kaine’s wrist, only for Kaine to harshly grab his instead.
An open smile spread across Kaine’s face, and Mason swore he saw fangs. “Why’d you run?” Kaine asked, pulling Mason closer. “I told you it was going to be wild.” He pushed his face closer to Mason’s and took deep breaths as, with a low growl, he seemed to absorb himself in Mason’s scent.
“Those things…you…” Mason didn’t understand. He tried to twist away, but Kaine’s grip grew tighter. Wide-eyed, he watched Kaine’s hand as it seemed to grow and stretch around his arm. What the hell is happening?
“Running makes me hungry.” Kaine leaned closer and ran his lips over Mason’s cheek. Lingering over the small cut, he flicked out his tongue and licked the wound, as if to taste Mason’s blood. “Always hungry.”
Panic clawed at Mason’s chest as he struggled to pull away. His stomach recoiled as Kaine dragged his warm, rough tongue slowly across his face. His attempt to escape was short-lived as he found himself being thrown to the ground.
With a wicked grin, Kaine quickly straddled Mason’s thighs and pinned him firmly to the forest floor. “I want to give you a gift,” he said. He shuffled lower and brought one hand down to Mason’s stomach, rolling up the woollen material of the costume Mason wore. “Up to you how it goes.” He grinned as he ran his fingers across Mason’s skin. Sharp claws protruded from his fingertips and he drew a neat line of blood across Mason’s stomach.
“You’re going to like this.” He moved lower, tracing his finger down the zipper of Mason’s pants and then across his thigh. With a grin, he pressed down, slowly slicing through the material of Mason’s pants and into the sensitive flesh of Mason’s inner thigh.
“Don’t.” Mason bit down on his lip as he fought against Kaine’s hold. He eventually gave in as all he achieved was to drive Kaine’s nails deeper. “Please. Stop.” But Kaine didn’t stop, not until someone else made him and wood splintered around the side of Kaine’s face.
Mason scrambled backward as Kaine got to his feet. Fresh blood glistened at Kaine’s hairline and he raised his hand to the wound as he turned around. Standing behind him was Pete, a look of sheer terror on his face as he dropped the thick branch he had hit Kaine with.
“I…oh shit,” Pete stammered and turned to run. He didn’t get far. Kaine was quickly on him. He dragged Pete to the ground before slashing at his chest with his clawed hands.
Mason watched in horror as Kaine leaned over Pete and ripped out the man’s throat with his bare hand. Blood pooled on the dry forest floor. Kaine seemed to savor the moment as he arched his head toward the sky and closed his eyes. Mason reached behind him, edging away from the man he had known as friend for the last two years. He couldn’t believe what was happening and he stared at Kaine. It was as if Kaine’s body was in flux, changing and stretching into something no longer human. As Kaine angrily slashed at Pete’s chest, Mason flinched and averted his eyes. He couldn’t watch any more. Kaine was distracted and Mason took the opportunity to escape. Quickly, he got to his feet and ran. Where to? He had no idea.
He ran as fast and as far as he could. Scared and confused, he completely lost his bearings.
Where the hell am I?
His feet hit something solid, causing him to lose his balance. Tripping, he fell forward and landed with a grunt on the ground. He flipped onto his back, horrified to see what, or rather who, he had fallen over. The torn and mutilated body of a girl lay beside him. Her eyes were pale and lifeless and her stomach was shredded, her insides tumbling outward.
Why is this happening?
There was something beneath his hands on the forest floor and he curled his fingers in the sticky dirt. He didn’t want to look but he had to. Slowly, he raised his hands in front of him. His breath caught in his throat as he looked from his hands to the ground. He thought he was going to be sick as he stared at the thick dark liquid around him. Suppressing the urge to vomit, he struggled to get to his feet. His hands slid through the crimson puddle as he pushed against the ground.
“Oh God.” He stumbled forward and out into an open space. “Shit,” he hissed as he heard the sound of Kaine’s stereo. He was back where he had started. He was at the party.
The area was shrouded in darkness and bodies lay on the ground bloodied and torn, eerily illuminated by the sliver of moonlight. This couldn’t be real. It was a sick dream. A nightmare. He’d wake up soon and everything would be okay. He’d be in his bed and he’d joke with Kaine about it over breakfast. Cautiously, he moved across the area toward Kaine’s pickup. With a deep breath and a small prayer, he pulled open the door and slid into the cab. He began the desperate search for the keys or maybe a weapon, anything that meant he wasn’t going to end up like those people out there on the forest floor.
“Fuck,” he hissed. No keys and nothing of any use.
“Help me.” The plea came from outside.
Mason froze and strained to hear over the sound of his pounding heart in his ears.
Mason jumped down from the pickup and gripped the vehicle’s door tightly as he nervously looked around.
His gaze settled on the ground and the girl lying several feet away. She held out her hand to him, pleading for his help. Instinctively, he rushed to her side. She wrapped her hands around his, blood smearing across his skin as she begged him to do something.
“Shh!” He looked her up and down. There was a nasty gash down her side. “Can you move?” Maybe they could hide out in the pickup. Maybe help would come. Hell, maybe he could hotwire the fucking thing.
“I can’t,” she whimpered. “I can’t.”
Mason tried to hook his arms under hers but his hands slipped over her bare, blood-slick arms as he failed to hold on. Suddenly, he stopped, frozen with fear as the girl dug her fingernails into his forearm. Something was different. He caught his breath as he realized what it was. The music. The music had stopped playing.
“No!” the girl screamed. Mason spun around, fear gripping his chest as he saw what she had, a large, dark figure on the opposite side of the clearing. “Please. Not again.” She sobbed hysterically as she held onto Mason.
Kaine stepped forward. Menacingly, he dragged his claws over the hood of his pickup, causing a terrible, high-pitched sound as he scratched the paintwork.
“Kaine.” Mason returned his attention to the girl. They needed to get out of there. Awkwardly, he struggled to get them both on their feet. Not that it mattered as she was violently torn from his hold.
“No,” she screamed. Her fingernails scratched his arms as she was pulled to the ground and dragged away between the trees. Her screams mixed with the wild sounds of an animal and then, nothing.
A low growl disrupted the silence and Mason closed his eyes. He knew Kaine was behind him. Fearfully, he turned around. A blow to his chest left him reeling, and with a stilted breath, he pressed his hand to his stomach and fell to his knees. Blood seeped through his torn sweater and covered his hand. Raising his head, he looked up at Kaine.
“Please,” he said. “Kaine—” Mason was cut off as he was pushed to the ground and Kaine forced his head to one side, exposing his neck. He kicked out and tried to push Kaine away, but his struggle was futile. A scream caught in his throat as he caught sight of Kaine against the backdrop of the orange moon. He watched in horror as Kaine threw back his head, his jaw shifting as it widened and lengthened and he took on the full form of one of the monstrous wolves.
Mason could do nothing but watch his friend turn into a monster. His face was pushed hard against the dirt as a searing pain flashed through his shoulder and across his chest. Kaine dug his teeth and claws into Mason’s flesh and the pain overwhelmed him. As his vision blurred and all he could do was stare hopelessly up at the sky, he was resigned to his fate. This was it. He was going to die.