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.
Buy linksCurrently unavailable
ReviewsMrs Condit & Friends Read Books - 5/5 - “... Gruesome. Brutal. Fierce… Meredith Russell has built a paranormal world unlike most other romanticized werewolf cultures. This is a horror story at its most... well, horrid… This is as good a horror/romance blend as it is possible to be....”
M/M Good Book Reviews - 4.5/5 - “....This is a brilliant story that takes us back to the horror of werewolves, where they are near mindless monsters that revel in murder and terror… I loved this story for the visceral feel to it, the unapologetic way it shows the werewolves as nasty and the darker haunting way that Mason has dealt with it. I recommend this gem to those who love base werewolves, fighting instinct and urges, a battle for life, destroying the evil and finding a happiness that was never expected.....”
Book Fan, Amazon - 5/5 -“...[Meredith] did a great job with story, characters and writing. If you love werewolf romance and want something with a little more bite you will love this tale....”
Kaylee Shyanne, Goodreads - 5/5 - “....Wow okay when I picked this one up I was unaware that it portrayed the dark side of werewolf lore… BUT this one was fantastic! The book kept my interest the whole time and had a very satisfying conclusion. Definitely one of my favorites...Dare I hope it won't be a long wait for book two?...”
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.
Mason raised a hand to his neck as he sat up in bed. He knew he shouldn’t think it, but some days he wished he’d never wake up. He kicked off the tangled, sweat-damp bedding and leaned over to turn on the lamp at his bedside. It was a little after midday and the afternoon sunlight shone through the narrow gap in the drapes, casting only a dim line across the room. Gently, he ran a soothing line across his shoulder, a disgusted frown creasing his brow as his fingertips traced the ridges of the old, ugly scar. Despite the passage of time, the scars remained, forever a hideous reminder of what he was. Snatching back his hand, Mason shook off the unsettling feeling and got to his feet. He had things to do before tonight.
Heading for the kitchen, he stretched away the tiredness from his body. He felt like he’d been hit by a truck. He was stiff and it was like every bone and muscle in his body ached, complaining at the short walk across his apartment. Entering the kitchen, he stood in the doorway and screwed up his mouth as he spotted the dried stain on the tiled floor. He’d gotten sick last night and he remembered the bitter taste and how bad things had gotten. One more night and then the cycle was done for another month.
A knock on his apartment door pulled him from his thoughts and he turned around, leaving the kitchen. He didn’t really know any of his neighbors in the building. It was easier and safer that way. Especially for them. Opening the door, he gave an audible sigh as he found an all-too-familiar face standing in the hall.
“Saskia,” he said and opened the door a little farther. “What are you doing here?”
Saskia Kotko pulled back the hood of her red jacket and smiled. “I got what you wanted,” she said. She held out her hand and grinned. “It’s good stuff.” She raised her eyebrows—a line of dark blonde playfully enticing him. “I promise.”
Mason eyed the small bag of white powder in her hand. He never asked where or how she got the drugs. He was grateful but he knew he needed to find another way. “You shouldn’t be here. It’s dangerous.” He considered pushing her away and shutting the door. But in a way, he didn’t want her to go. Not really. She was kind of his only friend.
Saskia smoothed out her long blonde hair. “I can look after myself. But you cannot.” Her Russian accent had diluted over time, but was still obvious. She’d even taught him a few words. Mainly curse words, he remembered fondly. She pushed the door, creating a gap large enough for her to slide through and then she was in his apartment. Smiling, she sat on the arm of his old, worn couch. “I could stay and keep you company.”
Mason lowered his eyes. He was aware the girl had a crush on him, not that he had ever done anything to encourage it. She was seventeen years old, still in school, and well, even if she was ten years older, she wasn’t exactly his type.
“It’s the third night,” he reminded her.
“I’m not scared of you. Besides, you’re in control, not that thing.”
He wished that were true. His gaze settled on the damaged wall beside his bedroom door. “Perhaps. But you shouldn’t keep coming here.”
He didn’t trust himself, or rather, he didn’t trust the monster inside him. Slowly, he raised his hand and felt out the cheap chain around his neck. Hesitantly, he moved downward and touched the silver cross threaded on the end, which lay against his chest above his clothes. With a hiss, he drew back his fingers. It had been his mother’s and was a constant reminder of what he was capable of.
“I have things to do.” He met Saskia’s clear blue eyes. He was always amazed by how bright they were. As flawless as sapphires. She was a beautiful girl and would no doubt grow into an exceptional young woman. Maybe she was a little on the thin side, but she already matched Mason in height and was mature beyond her years, looking after her small brother while her mom worked shifts.
“Let me help,” she offered and jumped to her feet. She came to stand beside him and rested her hand on his arm. “I can help.”
Though he appreciated her enthusiasm, she was just a kid and this was something he had to deal with himself. Mason smiled and leaned forward, brushing his lips against her cheek in a light kiss as he slid a fifty-dollar bill into the pocket of her jacket. “Go home.” He had plenty to keep him busy.
Saskia lowered her head, blushing as she pulled her hood back up around her face. “I’ll just leave this here.” She waved the plastic-wrapped powder in the air and dropped it on the couch. “I’ll come tomorrow. Bring you some supper.” She cleared her throat as she met Mason’s eyes. “Mother is making meatloaf.”
Mason smiled. “Sounds great.”
She hesitated before moving to the door. “Tomorrow then.”
Once Saskia had gone, Mason quickly locked the door, leaning back as he eyed what she’d left on the couch. He sometimes wished she didn’t know about him and his problem. He sighed heavily, rubbed at his eyes, then slid the chain across the door. He could already feel the familiar ache rippling across his skin as he picked up the bag and went through to the kitchen. Laying it on the kitchen table, he stared at its contents. Heroin. He wondered what he had done so wrong in his life that it had come to this. He’d been an English major, studied hard, had a loving, understanding family and then it was all ripped away from him. Now all he had was his drugs, painful memories, and a teenage girl who was the only person he’d let within touching distance in the last six years.
Shaking his head, he turned to the sink and stared out the window. He had several hours before sunset, an apartment to clean and then a few-hundred-page document to edit. Plenty to keep his mind busy until the evening. Just one more night and then he could pretend to be normal until the next time.
Lost in work, the night had crept up on Mason and now the powerful pull of the moon had him aching for the freedom of outdoors. Clearing his throat, he looked at the powdered crystals through the plastic wrapping, before sitting down at his small dining table. He reached forward and pulled an open shoebox toward him. He looked at its contents. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply as a low sound escaped from his throat. There was no time to debate what he was doing. Working quickly, he lined up what he needed across the surface of the table—a metal spoon, a syringe, a lighter, a bottle of colloidal silver and then the heroin.
As he began to create his poison, Mason considered each item. He held the small glass bottle in his hand and looked at the liquid it contained. It had taken him years to find a way to control the change. All the books he’d read mentioned the use of silver, more often than not as a final means. He’d thought werewolves and silver bullets were things of stories and make-believe, of movies and TV shows. Carefully, he slid the needle of the syringe into the top of the bottle and drew back the plunger, drawing the metal-heavy liquid into the syringe. Resting the needle on the table, he then prepared the second part of the crude mixture—crystals, water, and heat, before combining the two halves.
Tying off the top of his arm, Mason massaged the inside crease at his elbow, looking for a vein. He rested his arm on the table and clenched his fist. Hesitantly, he pressed the needle to his forearm. With a deep breath, he prepared himself and slid the needle beneath his skin. The sting of the silver was enough to make his eyes water. Grimacing, he pressed down the plunger, emptying the full contents into his bloodstream.
“Fuck,” he hissed. It stung like a bitch. He gritted his teeth as heat, starting in his arm, spread throughout his whole body. Damn, he felt like he was on fire.
Mason slid the syringe across the table. A growl escaped his throat and he lowered his head to the wooden surface. He breathed heavily, waiting for the mix of chemicals to flow around his body. First the painful heat of the silver and then the euphoric feel of the heroin. Closing his eyes, he curled his hand against the table. He could feel his body battling against the silver and fighting to change. He opened his eyes again, squinting as he watched the tiled floor beneath him appear to twist and arch. Slowly, he lifted his head, his eyes narrowing as he looked at his hand.
“No,” he growled. He wouldn’t change. It was as if his fingers were swelling and his fingernails lengthening and hardening. Slowly, he dragged his nails across the wooden surface, fear rising in his chest as he dug them into the tabletop.
With a painful gasp, Mason threw back his head, panic fleeting through him as he caught sight of himself in the metal door of the refrigerator. He met his eyes in the sleek surface, watching as their human hazel coloring drained, replaced instead with a dull silver. He closed his eyes and kicked the dining chair from under him as he struggled to stand. Frustrated, he managed to tangle his feet in the wooden legs of the chair and he fell to the floor.
Please. Stop. He curled into himself. He was shaking as he pulled his knees up to his chest. Why did it have to hurt so much?
As the heroin kicked in the pain started to fade to a dull ache. Slowly, he uncurled his body and pushed himself to sit up against the leg of the table. Taking steady breaths, he rested his chin on his knees and wiped away the tears trapped in his lashes. He wished there was another way. He wished it would all stop. And he wished he hadn’t survived.
The night seemed to be never-ending. Grimacing, Mason held a hand to his stomach as he leaned over the kitchen sink. He’d managed to sleep away the first few hours, then distract himself with exercise and reordering every book, movie, and CD in his apartment for the rest. He checked the clock on the microwave as he scratched at his arm. It was a little after four in the morning. His skin was itchy but it didn’t sting as much as before. The silver and heroin would be almost out of his system by now. He’d already increased the dose from last month. He seemed to burn through the fix far more quickly than he used to.
Mason scratched frantically at his arm, giving a low growl as he kicked at the cupboard door. There was only an hour until sunrise and then all this would be over for another month. Restlessly, he stalked across the kitchen and back again to run himself a glass of water. Slowly, he sipped at the cool liquid, closing his eyes as he tried to ignore the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in his own skin.
I need to get out of here.
Thoughtfully, he screwed up his mouth. Would an hour really hurt? He leaned over the sink and gently parted the blind. Outside, he wanted to be outside. Looking out at the city, he admired its vast space and silent streets before snatching back his hand. He shouldn’t. Mason took another drink of water and then held the glass to his inflamed and itchy forearm. But it was only an hour.
Quickly, he downed the water and headed for the door, grabbing his jacket off the back of the couch. He stopped at the door and curled his hand into a fist at his side. Leaving the apartment would be fine, he tried to convince himself. What could possibly go wrong in an hour? Less now.
Maybe he should stay inside. He totally just jinxed any chance he had of a peaceful stroll to the city park and back. His arm itched like hell and he was going stir crazy. He needed out.
Mason headed out the apartment and made his way down the three floors of stairs. As he stepped out onto the sidewalk, he closed his eyes and let the early morning air wrap itself around him. It was kind of liberating and almost perfect. He breathed in the cool air and welcomed the emptiness. It would do him some good and help to clear his mind.
The park was a few blocks over, but it would be nice to sit and watch the sunrise. To remind himself there was still beauty in the world. He walked for thirty minutes, happy to enjoy the quiet. He thought nothing could ruin the peace he felt. But then, as he swerved down one of the side streets, Mason stopped and listened. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as they rose with a shiver. The sensation of being watched smothered him like a weighty cloak and a familiar scent hung in the air.
It can’t be.
Mason looked around fearfully as the familiar scent filled his nostrils. He couldn’t be here. There was no way he could have found him. He had been so careful. Suddenly, from out of nowhere a heavy weight crashed into him and Mason fell forward, landing on his hands and knees. Flipping himself over, he crouched on the ground and looked the length of the narrow, dark space. There was something in the shadows. He barely had any time to register what was happening before a mass of fur and claws were on top of him. With a grunt, Mason’s head hit the concrete. Dazed, he grabbed at the flailing body above him and pushed hard against its firm chest. Desperately, he wrapped his fingers in matted fur and pushed the animal higher, narrowly avoiding the snapping jaw of the enormous wolf. He pushed frantically, managing to lift the wolf away from him enough to create space to raise his legs. Through gritted teeth, he cried out and kicked, relieved as he managed to push the animal away. Quickly, he got to his feet and readied himself. He watched the wolf cautiously as it got back on its feet. Dark brown fur covered the animal’s body, sharp claws protruded from its four large paws, and it settled its milk-white eyes on Mason. This wolf wasn’t Kaine. Its fur was a few shades lighter than Kaine’s ebony coat.
Mason breathed deeply. His own monster fought to break free from within him. He raised his hand and wrapped it around the small, silver cross outside his t-shirt, doing his best to force away the urge to let go—to let the wolf out. He would not change.
“You want me?” he spat, and yanked the chain from around his neck. “Then come and get me.”
The wolf ran toward him and leapt into the air. With its jaw wide and teeth bared, the animal pounced, impacting Mason hard in the stomach. But Mason was ready for the attack this time. Tackling the wolf, he wrapped his arms tightly around its neck and dragged it to the ground. He pressed the silver pendant to the animal’s forehead and held on for as long as he could. The animal whimpered and kicked out as the silver burned its skin, and the smell of melted hair filled the air.
Mason closed his eyes, stifling a cry as the wolf sank its claws into his thigh in a final bid for freedom.
“Fuck,” Mason hissed and twisted the animal over, pinning it to the ground as best he could. He lowered his head to the animal’s back, feeling the rise and fall of its chest beneath him as he tried to calm his own desires. Where was the sun? He held on, waiting until the animal finally gave in to the power of the silver and fell still in his arms.
Slowly, Mason raised his head. A gasped howl escaped his throat and he knew what was about to happen.
“No. No,” he pleaded and wrapped his hand more tightly around the silver necklace. He had been so close. The silver burned his palm, but it wasn’t enough. Helplessly, he watched his fingers stretch and thicken. There wasn’t anything of the silver left in his system and the necklace alone wouldn’t stop his transformation.
A growl erupted from his throat as he lifted his head and looked at the sky. He thanked God as he was met with his salvation. The sun. The first rays of the morning light shone over the city and relief flooded Mason’s mind. It was okay. He was okay. In moments, he had reverted to his human state and breathlessly, he rolled away from the body he’d been resting against. For a moment, he lay and watched the sun continue to wake and then turned his head. The wolf he’d managed to overpower shifted, gradually turning back into a man. Paws turned to hands, strong, fur-coated thighs turned to pale, human legs, and the once long, teeth-filled face turned into soft, male features and dark bangs.
Mason stiffly sat up and glanced down at the unconscious man beside him. He looked the man up and down, noting the jagged scar on the inside of his left thigh. Curiously, he tilted his head. The scent he had caught earlier still hung in the air around them. Narrowing his eyes, he considered the man again. He didn’t know the man and yet he smelled so familiar. He smelled like—
“Kaine,” he hissed as he pushed himself up off the ground. The smell of his old friend tormented him and clung to the man's skin. If Kaine was back, it wasn’t safe to be out in the open and unprepared. He should leave. Slowly, Mason crouched beside the man and gently swept back the hair from his dirty face. They both should leave. There was a twisted feeling in his gut as he considered the man and also remembered how he had once been. He couldn’t just leave him here. Once he was sure there was no one else around, he lifted the man from the ground. Keeping his balance, he managed to get the man over his shoulder and held him tight. He tried not to think about the naked man in his arms or what the hell anyone would think if they saw him. He just wanted to get home. Hell, he wished he’d never left.