The prodigal son has returned.
Micah Heiney leaned back in the driver’s seat and stared at his phone.
James is home. Drama! Hurry up.
The text was from Elizabeth Farrant, the youngest blood-child of his pack. At eighteen she was a hopeless gossip, which usually annoyed Micah. He really didn’t need text updates about what was happening on American Idol, but tonight he was glad of her desperate need to pass on information.
James is home.
James Farrant, the oldest blood-child of his pack—a dark and dangerous man.
Micah snapped his phone closed and threw it on top of his gym bag in the passenger seat. Time to go home and greet the prodigal son.
* * * *
Micah should have gone straight from his car into the main house—it wasn’t as if the Farrants would be offended to see him in his gym clothes. Micah had been a member of the pack headed by Craig and Anita Farrant since he’d pledged his life to them at the age of twenty-three.
Micah was a Guardian, a pack member who would never be part of a breeding pair, and, therefore, never head his own pack. As was the way of wolves, he’d left his blood pack—headed by his own mother and father—at the age of eighteen. He’d moved to LA for college and been taken into the house of the Farrants, becoming a member of their pack.
Blood-children stayed with their parents until they were young adults, then moved out, much like human children. Though unlike human children, werewolf kids had to move someplace where they could be watched over by another pack.
There was nothing he didn’t know about the Farrants, or they about him, but tonight he bypassed the main house for the guesthouse out back where he lived. Slipping inside, he left the lights off so they wouldn’t know he was there, though if they cared to check they would see his car in the drive.
Micah stripped off his gym clothes, dropped them neatly into the hamper, and jumped into the shower.
James was back.
At twenty-eight, James was one year Micah’s junior. When Micah’d come to the Farrant pack James had been seventeen and in his last year of high school. Micah had been living on the university campus, not with the Farrants, but he’d seen James every Sunday for the mandatory pack dinner.
James had been full of the confidence and ease of the young, beautiful, and privileged. Micah, on the other hand, had felt uncomfortable in his own skin. He’d been fascinated by James, desperate to know exactly what it was that allowed James to move through life so fearlessly.
The fascination had led to a hopeless crush.
That hadn’t been hopeless at all.
Micah hadn’t officially come out then. He was still struggling to admit to himself he was gay. Though their culture had a place in it for gay men and women, if he were gay there would be no hope of having his own pack. The highest position he could hope for was Guardian.
There had been no doubt in Micah’s mind that James was straight—James had even brought a girlfriend to one of the pack dinners, which was a serious matter. And yet, the night before James was to leave, moving north to attend the University of Washington under the protection of the Vinar Pack, James had cornered Micah in a dark corner of the backyard.
A kiss. Nothing more.
But what a kiss.
Micah turned down the hot water, his shower turning icy cold. He was a grown man—it was pathetic that the memory of a teenage kiss still aroused him.
Micah scrubbed dry. He hadn’t shaved, but he hated shaving, so perpetually had a two-day stubble. Jessica, the second youngest Farrant girl, said it made him look dangerous. Since part of his job as Guardian was to play bodyguard, Micah had decided scary was a good look.
He brushed his teeth, moisturized his face and arms, and checked for any stray eyebrow hairs.
Well, a guy had to have standards.
“Idiot,” he told himself as he put on cologne and his favorite button up shirt and best jeans. It had been a long time since that kiss, and they were different people. Very different.
Thinking about what, and who, James had been doing in the past eleven years brought a tick to Micah’s eye. To say James had run wild was polite at best, laughably inaccurate at worst.
And yet, here Micah was, primping for their first face-to-face meeting in years.
The decibel level in the kitchen was astronomical. Micah slid the patio door closed behind him. Leaning back against the glass, he took in the family tableau in front of him.
He liked where he was, on the fringes of the madness, able to escape but more likely to be sucked in.
Elizabeth was the first to see him. She swept her artificially straight bangs to the side, then patted them back into place over her right eye. “Finally, you’re late to the drama-fest.”
He pushed away from the wall and gave Elizabeth a one-arm hug about the shoulders. “Heya, gorgeous.”
“He’s taking a shower.”
“Micah! Did you hear? James is back.” When Micah just nodded, Jessica looked sourly at her younger sister. “Of course you did.”
Jessica was seated at the breakfast bar. On either side of the twenty-one-year-old sat two of the other non-blood pack members, both girls and both students at USC along with Jessica. Theresa Sanchez had dark hair and eyes and caramel skin that Elizabeth was constantly trying to emulate. Kara Guillimen had fuzzy light brown curls and glasses. Micah saw a bit of himself in her—she was clearly unhappy in her own skin, though for Kara it had more to do with the fact that she was a werewolf and the only girl in the Aerospace Engineering Program than questions about her sexuality.
Craig Farrant, the Alpha male, was trying to lean masterfully against the counter but was foiled by Anita, the Alpha female, who kept shooing him out of the way as she bustled about the kitchen.
“Micah,” Anita asked without looking up, “do you want tea, coffee—”
“Beer?” Craig asked.
Micah nodded. He took up position leaning against a bank of cabinets near the doorway that connected the kitchen and dining room. He could see the sliding door to the backyard, the living room, and the dining room.
Standing here, he was watching over the heart of the pack.
Micah took the beer Craig handed him. The Alpha was a fit man with a close-cropped hairstyle he’d kept since his time in the military. He was older than one might guess from looking at him—he’d been drafted into Vietnam and then served for another five years. He was now a consultant on military psychology. Who better to teach the psychology of hunting, fighting, and pack behavior than an Alpha wolf?
Anita still wore a suit, with her wildly curly hair styled in a smooth bun. She was a corporate lawyer and, like Craig, looked younger than she was.
“Do you need anything?” Micah asked her as she passed him on her way to the girls, mugs of coffee in her hands.
Anita smiled at him. “Let’s wait for something to go terribly wrong, then I’ll let you know.”
The sound of chatter cut off abruptly. A human wouldn’t have heard, but the kitchen full of werewolves caught the faraway sound of footsteps coming down the steps.
Micah straightened, caught himself, and slouched against the cupboards once more. He was pathetically grateful the beer gave him something to do with his hands.
James appeared in the entrance to the kitchen. He was tall and lean, with defined forearms and a beautiful neck. Micah jerked his gaze away from James’s neck.
“Nice to see you clean,” Elizabeth said, fiddling with her bangs. “You smelled rank when you got here.”
“When I left you weren’t as mouthy. Bitch,” James said with a smile.
“James!” Anita barked in reprimand. James bent his head and murmured, “Sorry,” though he shouldn’t have bothered as Elizabeth smiled in pleasure.
James looked away from his sister and met Micah’s eyes. Micah held James’s stare for two long breaths, then tipped the beer to his lips, looking away.
* * * *
James swallowed, and swallowed again. His mouth felt dry and his fingers tingled. Was that Micah? Tall, dark and dangerous looked nothing like the skinny, freaked out guy he remembered from ten years ago.
Micah took a second drink from his beer and James watched his throat work.
A hand on his arm jerked James’s attention away from Micah. His mother had come around the counter and smiled up at him. He smiled back, pushing Micah from his mind, for now.
“James, I’m sure you remember Micah. I know I told you, but Micah is now our Pack Guardian. He’s very good. He’s also single.”
James jerked and the younger members of the pack groaned in unison.
“Be less subtle, Mom,” Elizabeth said.
“What?” Anita asked, all innocence.
James hoped he wasn’t blushing. His parents had to know he was gay, though he’d never officially come out to them. It was hard to hide the fact he was gay when he’d been living his life on the front page of the European tabloids as the much younger lover and model of a famous Dutch artist. Jaap Vadergraff painted nudes—erotic ones. James hoped his parents hadn’t seen Jaap’s paintings.
“Seriously, Mom, leave Micah alone. Besides, he’s seeing someone, remember?”
Anita held up her hands. “I’m sorry to have said anything.” She turned her gaze on Micah. “Maybe I wouldn’t have forgotten if you’d brought your boyfriend around to visit.”
It wasn’t an order from the Alpha female, as of now it was still just mom-guilt, but it was getting close. Being protective of her pack, blood-children or otherwise, came as naturally to Anita as breathing.
Now it was Micah’s turn to wince. “I don’t know if it’s serious yet.”
“And if it is…”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
“That’s all right then. James,” she turned back to her oldest, looking him up and down, though she’d given him a thorough inspection when he showed up, “are you hungry, thirsty?”
“I’d take a beer.”
James’s father, who’d been silently standing in the corner, finally moved. Pushing away from the counter, the older man went to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. Popping the top off with a flip-flop shaped bottle opener stuck to the fridge, the Alpha male held the beer out to his son. James felt his father’s gaze boring into him, but he couldn’t bring himself to meet it.
He shouldn’t have come back.
“Sit down.” His mother stepped neatly between James and Craig, putting an end to the awkward moment, though the tension seemed to linger in the air like a bad aroma. James took a seat between Elizabeth and the dark-haired pack girl whose name he’d forgotten.
A rush of nostalgia came over him as he sat on the stool at the long kitchen counter. This was home, his home.
Setting his beer on the counter, James smiled brightly, shoving his feelings deep inside so they wouldn’t show on his face.
“So what happened?” Elizabeth asked.
“Nothing happened,” he replied. “I just decided to come home.”
“I totally have an online subscription to the Sunset Stalker, so you might as well tell us what you did. I’ll find out anyway.”
“Why do you assume whatever I did is going to end up in that crap rag?” He turned to his mother. “Why do you let her read it?”
“I have a subscription, too,” Anita said, without any embarrassment.
The Sunset Stalker, a German tabloid that printed in both English and German, had become his nemesis. Everything he’d done wrong in the past four years had been splashed over the pages of their horrid little paper, most of the stories accompanied by photos, and if they didn’t have a photo they used a picture of one of Jaap’s paintings.
“You know they make most of that up, right?” he said. Damn it. If he’d known his family was following Sunset Stalker he wouldn’t have come home.
“I only did it because I wanted to know you were okay,” Anita said.
There was a rumble, like a motorcycle being started, but that noise didn’t come from a machine. Every person in the kitchen shifted, becoming instantly more alert as Craig growled.
The Alpha male moved to stand by his wife, facing James with the width of the counter separating them.
“You were without pack,” his father said, his voice a low rumble. “You did not report to any Alpha. You went outside our laws.”
James flinched. While living with Jaap he’d abandoned the pretense of being part of the were-world. He hadn’t reported to whatever pack held the territory he was in, the way he should have. There was no use denying it.
“I was without pack,” he admitted, staring at his fingers, which were pressed against the counter so hard the tips were white.
“Alpha, step back. You cannot risk yourself in a fight. Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.”
James looked up at the smooth voice, which sent shivers over him. Micah was there, standing at Craig’s right shoulder.
Micah must have said the right thing, because Craig nodded, once, and took a firm step back. “I do not require action at this time,” he said, and everyone relaxed. “Thank you, Micah.”
The dark-haired man nodded and moved out of the Alpha’s way.
Craig left the kitchen. James listened to his footsteps recede.
“Elizabeth, take your brother upstairs and make sure he has everything he needs.”
Micah stared at the clock. It was 10:45 P.M. He would have sworn hours had passed since he last looked at the clock, but really it had been only minutes. After Elizabeth had taken James upstairs, the pack had disbanded. Micah had driven Jessica and the other non-blood pack members back to the campus and dropped them off.
He returned home and crawled into bed at ten, which was actually late for him as he was up at five most mornings. Going to the gym should have tired him out enough so he could sleep, but he’d been lying here for forty-five minutes with no luck.
He had three options. The first was to lie here in the dark until morning, the second was grab some lube and his cock and try to tire himself out that way, and the last was to get up and go out.
Micah threw back the covers and got up, pulling on the jeans and shirt he’d had on earlier. Knowing his luck, there would be a huge line outside the Abbey at this time of night, but he’d risk it. Dancing, drinks, and maybe some harmless making out would, hopefully, wind him down enough that he could get some sleep.
He’d been on a few dates with a lawyer, but they weren’t close—at least close enough that Micah could call him for a late night fuck.
He slid into his car, backing out with the lights off so he wouldn’t wake anyone. He felt like a teenager sneaking out.
The streets were packed and the cheap pay lots full, so Micah paid twenty bucks to valet his car at the Abbey. The line wasn’t as bad as he feared and, as he took his place at the end and leaned against the wall, he couldn’t stop himself from remembering his first meeting with James.
He’d been so young, not just in years but in maturity. He hadn’t really known how the world worked or where he was going in his life, and as his sexuality asserted itself, he’d been forced to face a life without a pack of his own.
Into that tangled mess walked James, golden and god-like—Apollo reborn.
“Hello, precious, you in or no?”
Micah shook his head to clear it and smiled briefly at the cute little thing with the clipboard and pink fake eyelashes who motioned him in. He made his way up the steps to the beefy bodyguard, who checked his ID, frisked him, and then stepped aside, letting him into the buzzing interior.
The bar had the feel of old New Orleans. A half-naked dancer in wrestling boots ala Madonna’s current look shimmied past him to jump onto a dancing platform. Make that a bordello in old New Orleans. He gave a little salute to the mural of Dame Elizabeth Taylor (oh those eyes!) and then wiggled through the crowd to find some wall space.
While normally at bars places in dark corners were at a premium, in the Abbey, as with most of WeHo, the wall tables and dark corners were mostly populated by straight women out for a night with their girls. The gays were all jammed on the dance floor and around the well-lit bar—all the better to see and be seen.
Living, breathing, muscular anatomy lessons dressed in short shorts danced on pedestals, while the hottest of the patrons held court at the bar. Micah tugged his shirt down a half-inch so he had a nice smooth waist and folded his arms, making his biceps bulge.
He wasn’t a five night a week clubber, but he loved the dancing and music. A skinny boy in skinny jeans shot him a look—interested but not enough to make the first move. Micah thought about pushing away from the wall and heading for the dance floor, brushing by the skinny boy as he went, but he wasn’t in the mood—yet. He was too rattled by James.
As if Micah’s thoughts had conjured him, the music faded to a single low beat and the DJ piped up, “Hello, all you beautiful sinners. We have a trrreat for you tonight. Direct from the tabloids and looking pretty is LA’s own international playgay, James Farrant.”
James, dressed in low-slung jeans and nothing else, appeared on the thin stage in front of the DJ booth. The music swelled—Kylie—and the crowd lost it.
James leapt from the stage with inhuman grace. Literally inhuman—he was moving like a wolf. Micah pushed away from the wall, eyes narrowed not in lust, but in annoyance. Most of the people in here were drunk, but someone might wonder how James had been able to leap, from standing, eight or nine feet and land with ease. As pack Guardian, it was Micah’s job to protect the pack, even from itself.
Micah tunneled through the crowd. He let some of his beast—the power inside him that changed his body at will—slip free. Now danger rolled off of him like a dark cloud. Some men moved aside, others turned to stare, their eyes dilated and nostrils flared.
James was dancing—head back, arms up, hips thrusting. His hairless chest was well muscled and golden tan.
Micah slid up behind James and grabbed his hips. James, without looking to see who was behind him, reached up and back, and grabbed a handful of Micah’s hair. Now they were pressed together, Micah’s cheek against James.
“James, it’s Micah,” he growled.
“I know who it is,” James said, voice barely audible above the pulsing music, “I could smell you.”
James ground his ass against Micah’s crotch, and Micah closed his eyes. James smelled like sweat and wolf—like sex and power.
Micah used his hold on James’s hips to separate them, then spun James around so they were face to face. He grabbed James’s left wrist in his right hand. He couldn’t do anything more overt, as he didn’t want to draw attention to them.
“You need to watch yourself. No human can do what you do.” Micah motioned with a jerk of his head toward the DJ booth.
“Does this crowd look like they care? I could probably become wolf and they wouldn’t notice.”
“I would notice, and I would care. This isn’t about you. This is about the safety of our people.”
James, who was still bobbing his head in time to the song, laughed. He was still the golden god, Apollo reborn and made flesh. And like the god, he was selfish and vain.
Micah transferred his grip to James’s upper arm and dragged him off the dance floor. James laughed lightly, winking at boys who watched them.
Clearly he didn’t understand that Micah was not joking. Micah spun James and pushed his back against the wall. “When you’re in the Netherlands you can do whatever you want, but when you’re here you’re under the Farrant pack, and therefore my responsibility.”
James’s eyes had gone from warm laughter to hot fury. “I am a blood-child of the Farrant pack. Back down, Guardian.”
Micah leaned into him. James may have been well muscled and oh-so-hot, but Micah was built like a brick house—this fight, if it happened, would not be fair.
“Then act like one.”
Micah pushed himself away, turning his back on James. He returned to his place on the other side of the bar, knocking into people in his distraction.
Part of Micah wanted to drag James out of the club, but his action necessitated a warning, nothing more. Micah would stay and keep watch. If James slipped up again or grew petulant and showed off for attention, Micah would be in a place to control the situation.
With a sigh he folded his arms and leaned back against the wall. He wasn’t posing, as he had been when he first came in. Now he was just keeping watch over his pack.
James was gone, back into the belly of the dancing beast.
The skinny boy—thin, Asian, with a hat tipped low over one eye—sidled up.
“Bump into me, muscles?”
Micah stared blankly down at the boy for a moment before he remembered what was going on. He must have touched the boy, indicating his interest, as he passed.
Micah should smile and dismiss the boy; he had a duty to fulfill.
Micah tipped the hat back, so he could see the boy’s lined eyes.
“That I did.”
He shouldn’t have done it. He wasn’t in the club as Micah, a man looking for some fun, but as the Guardian of the Farrants, looking after a half-wild wolf. But Micah the man wanted to show James that he was not the scared boy he’d once been.
“Buy me a drink?”
“What’ll you have?” Micah replied.
“Some of this.” The boy rose onto tiptoe and pressed his lips to Micah’s. The kiss was soft and gentle, an invitation for Micah to take control. Micah fisted his hand in the boy’s shirt, holding him in place so he could ravage him.
His tongue pushed into the boy’s mouth, tasting gin and mint. The boy’s cheeks were soft against his. He smelled of musk and cologne.
A week ago Micah would have been planning the rest of the evening.
A day ago he would have been contemplating ravaging more than this boy’s mouth.
But today…today everything was different. James was home.
The boy jerked back, crying out. Micah blinked, only to find James there, holding the boy so he dangled a few inches from the floor.
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