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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Mating Habits of Werewolves by N.J. Lysk ♥ Spotlight & GIVEAWAY ♥ (M/M Erotic Paranormal Romance)







Devlin is an Omega, a male werewolf that can carry as well as father children. But that is not all Devlin is, and for the last six years he has actually had the freedom to become the scientist he always longed to be. Away from his pack and any other Alpha, Devlin has grown hopeful, but now his luck has run out; his Alpha is calling and he must return home to fulfil his destiny.

When he gets back to England, the news are even worse than he expected: the pack is expanding over further territory and with bigger land, the pack itself must grow. Every Omega in the pack must be bred to ensure the next generation is large enough. Including Devlin. He is given one choice that is not choice at all: between two young Alphas who have come to the pack for the promise of an Omega to mate.

Devlin is lost: He can't leave unless he makes a choice and he can't make a choice between two men he's just met that will determine the rest of his life. But if he doesn't make it soon he will lose the last thing he has left from his old life: his dream of a career as a research biologist.

In a desperate bid for freedom inside the cage the pack has made for him, Devlin makes the most daring offer of all: he will mate with both Alphas. After all, you can't belong to two people, he figures, and if he doesn't belong to them, maybe he can get to keep himself.

An arranged marriage story featuring first time, consent issues, mpreg, partial feminization and tons of angst. This books is a stand alone 95,000 words novel and the first in a series. HFN.



Copyright N.J. Lysk 2015

Chapter One

Home...

It had only been five months, but when I saw Brennan that day I knew he wasn’t the same brother I had known my whole life. He didn’t look any different than he had last Christmas, but there was a Dominant’s power to him now that he was head of the pack. My wolf knew it so abruptly and absolutely that I found myself slowing down, like the world as I knew it was getting redrawn in front of my eyes. It was like that really messed up image of the young maid who turns into an old lady with a hooked nose. There was my little brother in front me, but there was also my Alpha, my pack’s Dominant; the man who held my fate in his hands.
He didn’t hesitate, scooping me up in his arms and crushing me close. He buried his face in my neck, breathing me in, and murmured, “I miss his smell.” Then let me go and, like his voice had released me from a spell, I could see my brother again through the haze. The boy I had grown up with, played with, fought with. He had been bossy, sure, but he had been funny as well and protective as all hell. He loved me and he was the only one that got how much I missed my dad at that moment. In that room where his smell was fading, an absence so physical it felt like I might fall into the void if I stumbled, Brennan was there, holding me steady. I got over my ridiculous shyness and pulled him into another hug.
And then my mum was there. I felt her before she even spoke, “Devlin,” she murmured and it was like her heart was breaking in her voice. Or maybe it was mine. I let go of Brennan and enveloped her in my arms. She wasn’t a small woman and she was a wolf besides, so she gripped me back hard enough to hurt and I just thought, Good. Nobody had hugged me hard enough for months; I returned the embrace equally hard, unafraid of hurting her with the strength of my emotions.
Brennan came closer and put his arms around us both with some difficulty. But it didn’t need to be easy to be right. These were my people and suddenly I didn’t know how I had spent long so far away from them, from my dad.
Maybe they were right and wolves weren’t meant to live away from their packs. Of course, wolves weren’t meant to die in their fifties, either. It didn’t matter how strong you were, or how beloved, not even how powerful; nobody was really safe.

&

I woke the next morning feeling like I had travelled back in time. My room smelled just like it always had. Except for how my scent had faded from the clothes and the bedding, I could have been seventeen and waking up with the sun to go for a run before school, or twelve and so ravenously hungry that I had woken in the middle of the night again to go for some of the leftovers my mother always left for me. But if I had been, my dad would have been downstairs or in his room; not in a box somewhere in town. I washed my face but I didn’t bother with clothes, too desperate to be on the move, as if I could outrun the turmoil of my own mind. As if my father’s absence could be filled with activity.
My mother, unchanged through the years, still as blonde and rosy as she had been on her wedding day, seemed to feel the same way. She was busy cooking breakfast with her impressive methodical multitasking, so as to have everything just piping hot simultaneously. Her smile was a poor imitation of true joy, but I didn’t doubt she was pleased to see me enter her kitchen looking more zombie than werewolf, just like I had most mornings of my life.
She set a plate in front of me without speaking, and I sat there, eating and waiting for my father to walk in and ask for a cup of strong tea, till I realised I had put my fork down at some point and my eggs were cold and my bacon had solidified into a lump of fat covered leather. My plate was still half full but when I checked to see if my mother would get annoyed that I had wasted food, she just shook her head at me. “It’s fine, Devlin. I haven’t had much of an appetite myself. Just make sure you eat more later, you need your strength.”
I wished she could have been mad, or even bothered enough to give me a speech about those less fortunate than us needing the food I wasn’t eating. Then I would have known everything would be okay, that normal or something of the sort was still possible.

&

By dinnertime, the world was starting to look less like a scenario for my memories to play out and more like a place I inhabited. Of course, shock wearing off feels like abruptly noticing one of your limbs is missing. You understand the fact, but that does nothing to dull the pain or distract from the phantom ache that is the last clinging hold of what’s gone. There seemed to be reminders of my father everywhere: both his existence and his lack thereof; from random books left lying about in various rooms to an ashtray he had got from a Welsh pack when I was a kid and treasured ever since.
When the pain starts setting in, the body pushes you to curl up, to protect yourself from further attack. But there was nothing I could protect myself from it, so the next logical step was finding somewhere safe to heal. I wanted, more than anything in the world besides a miracle (and why the hell not? I ask you. Wasn’t I a real life werewolf?), to hole up in my childhood room. I thought I could survive the day if I got to call my boyfriend and talk about anything other than what was happening around me. I was ready to listen to him go on about cricket if it got me out of my head, or, alternatively, put me to sleep.
But death isn’t like other types of pain, and I couldn’t miss dinner with the family on my first night. It wasn’t an unreasonable expectation, I suppose, we had all lost my father but we had also lost our Dominant and the pack was feeling uneasy over it. It was up to Brennan now to show that he could take care of us now, and this was the first time he would gather the whole pack together since becoming Dominant a fortnight earlier.

“This is a hard time for all of us,” my brother started, voice quieter than I had ever heard it and everybody in the room went quiet at once. “Some loss is expected, it’s only part of life that the old should die and even as it is a terrible loss, we understand... we know nature intended it that way.” He trailed off. Anybody who knew him must have been able to tell he had prepared the speech, and just as I thought it, Brennan exhaled and stumbled. “I mean, it isn’t a surprise and that helps... a little... but my dad...” He swallowed thickly. “This isn’t supposed to happen, we are stronger than most people in the planet, we are meant... for more... we heal. I never thought I would be here,” he confessed, looking around at us like he was lost and had unexpectedly found himself in our midst. “I thought I would have more time... but life is always a surprise, isn’t it?” He added, picking up his speech again. “And when you receive a blow, you have two choices: you can stay on the ground and whimper, or you can get up and push through and become stronger for it.
“We,” he emphasised, looking around and meeting eyes across the room, “are going to become stronger. Just like my dad would have wanted, just like we are meant to.” I saw my cousin Ian lean close and clapped him on the shoulder, saying something too low for me to distinguish across the crowded room of cheering people. I was glad Brennan wasn’t alone.
“For that purpose,” his voice easily overwhelmed the last of the excited whispers. “I have purchased the Davidson farm. We are expanding!” There was some cheering, not surprisingly: you take a bunch of territorial people and put them together, territory becomes a goal per excellence. Every eye in the room was on him, even the children’s. He smiled winningly at Adora, and his wife returned the smile with all the candour of a young girl in love. He had met her at the Winter Shifter Summit and brought her back with him, aglow and so enamoured it was sickening to watch.
“We are expecting a child!” Brennan said into the silence, grinning like a madman. I smiled reflexively, his happiness spreading through the pack sense like a wave, so intense it was almost a physical sensation. The congratulations seemed to go on for hours, although it was probably minutes, and I was about to get up from where I had snatched a place between Kirby and Clara, two of the other Omegas I had grown up with, when my brother raised a hand to quieten everybody again.
“The next generation of the Hilliard pack will be twice the size of ours,” he continued in his booming voice, “and that’s why I have decided that every fertile Omega in the pack will bear a child this year.”
Kirby dropped her napkin, and Clara’s fists clenched right on the table where she had been tapping her fingers. The other Omegas were all around the table, sitting comfortably with friends and family, but in that instant I knew where every single one of them was because all of us had stopped, our thoughts grinding to a sudden halt in perfect sync. With all the pack in the same room, the pack sense was so strong as to almost constitute telepathy. I felt their shock adding to my own, like a mounting wave growing bigger with the push of the wave that follows it. Even Jason and Evangeline, both pregnant already, seemed shocked by the news.
Dominant Alphas nudged Omegas to reproduce when they thought they were ready and so the pack’s children would be in the same age range and grow up together. It made the pack stronger to have members who were close to each other. But none of us had ever heard of a mass breeding like this, and an announcement at dinner no less! And then I realised something else: it wasn’t all Omegas who were in shock, just the younger ones. The older generation – my mother, my aunts and uncles – were all conspicuously calm at the news.
They had known. My mother had known, and she had let me come back for it without even a warning. I tried to meet her eyes where she still sat at the other end of the table, the place of honour for the Dominant’s mate. She must have felt the weight of my gaze, but she didn’t look up. Not at me and not anybody else. She was looking down at her food, methodically cutting the meat in her plate in small, even pieces that would cool down too fast for her to eat. The concern for starving people was over, and what did that say about how badly we ourselves were doing?

&

I hadn’t paid any attention to the Alphas before, but it was hard to miss their joyous excitement. Now that I cared to look, it wasn’t hard to see that some of my cousins were missing from the celebration, and Alphas I didn’t know where there instead.
“Where’s Kenneth?” I asked Clara in a furious whisper.
She exhaled slowly. “He went to the Blackson pack down in Liverpool. They sent Tonio in exchange.” She licked her lips. “New blood. There’s been a lot of socializing with other packs the last year and a half. Now it makes sense.”
“Oh, God,” Kirby murmured, leaning in. “He’s been planning this.”
I didn’t say anything for a moment, and missed whatever they were whispering over my head. I couldn’t stop thinking of my flat in St. Andrew’s, of my boyfriend Dan, of my thesis, of my friends. Of my goddamn life… it was all gone. It was all there but it wasn’t mine anymore. Just like that, Brennan had taken it all away.
“…too many Alphas,” Clara was saying when I zoned back in.
“What?”
She looked pityingly at me. “There’s too many Alphas. And he can’t get more Omegas…”
She was right. Omegas only left their birth pack to follow an Alpha – either a closer relative or a partner they had met and been courted by while still members of their own pack. An Omega couldn’t walk out of their pack any more than a child could, and would be, as far as Alphas were concerned, just as vulnerable.
“Maybe he’ll let us choose,” Kirby suggested, sounding like she found the thought comforting. Like she thought that if we could only decide which of the men in the room got to fuck and breed us, then it wouldn’t be so bad.

&

I cornered Brennan as soon as the room started emptying and Clara and Kirby followed me to his study. They were both wary but confident that I could speak freely with our Dominant.
“What the fuck is this?” I spat the moment the door closed.
He turned to me, looking genuinely surprised. “I just told you.”
“You just told us?!” I repeated. “Like that? In front of everybody? Like we are just animals to be fucking bred?”
He frowned at me, like I was being ridiculous, like I was being hysterical just like Omegas were said to be. “You are not animals, not any more than I am. You are Omegas.”
“We are people, Brennan!” I shouted. “We deserve to be fucking asked.”
“Oh,” he nodded. “But I am going to ask you. You can choose.”
“We can choose?” Kirby squeaked from behind me. I turned on her, almost as angry at her as at my brother. But she seemed perfectly happy to ignore me in favour of the Alpha who held her fate in his hands. Surprising, isn’t it?
“Yes,” Brennan nodded enthusiastically, like he was finally being understood properly. I could tell he thought he was being kind too, but I was too furious to care about his delusions of magnanimity. “I have done some research for you, but within reason it’s your decision who you mate with.”
Kirby relaxed at the concession, but I was about to snap that I didn’t care to choose who got to use me as a fucking incubator when Clara volunteered, “I don’t think I’m ready.” She said it quietly but not timidly.
Brennan nodded at her and put a hand on her arm, even though he had to sidestep me to get close enough. “I know how you’re feeling, when Adora told me…” He smiled nervously. “Well, I was not feeling ready, believe me, Clar. But that’s life for you, it turns out we are a lot stronger than we think.”
He wasn’t explicitly saying it but the message was clear: we were not getting out of it. I wasn’t going to take it laying down, though.
“I don’t want to do it,” I said, enunciating clearly.
Brennan turned to me in surprise, and the edge of anger in his expression sent my wolf cowering. I locked my muscles to keep myself from backing away. “I have made plans for the pack, Dev, I can’t change them just because of you.”
“I have made plans for my life, Bren,” I said, using a diminutive like the Alphas always did to us. But Brennan didn’t care, he was an Alpha and he was my Dominant. He didn’t need posturing. He had me by the balls and he knew it.
He sighed. “You are going to have to adjust,” he told me gently. “We will all do our best to help you.” And then he turned his back on us, so secure in his invincibility that I wanted to rip his spine out. I couldn’t have, of course, my wolf wouldn’t have attacked its Alpha any more than it would have allowed me to jump off a cliff. Brennan shuffled for some papers, to put us in our place, I thought, but it turned out he was looking for something. When he found it, he turned back to face us.
He handed a piece of paper to each of us – it was some sort of diagram, and I couldn’t help but look. I was used to diagrams, I loved diagrams. Not this one, though. Clara’s breath hitched a second before it hit me what they were: family lines and breeding characteristics. He had made a study of each of us and each of the Alphas he thought would be suitable to breed us and rated them according to the dominant and recessive characteristics he wanted in the next generation of the pack.
“I’m willing to let you choose between the top 3,” he explained, then hesitated and snatched the paper I was loosely holding in my hand. “No, top 2 for you. It’s too much of a difference.” He tried to give me the paper back, but I backed away, swallowing hard and breathing shallowly. I needed to get out of there. “Devlin…” he startled but I was gone before he could add anything else. He had said more than enough for me to know I didn’t want to hear it.

&

Transforming was the only thing I could think to do not to go crazy right then. I dropped my clothes behind the porch and shifted faster than I could ever remember doing before or since. I would be a terrible parent, I thought. As a human I would have cried, but wolves don’t really cry and, as the animal mind took over, I felt better. Wolves don’t really care about the future either. All that mattered to the wolf was that we were in pack territory again, we were home and there was no danger anywhere in the vicinity, not even if we decided to run for days. I liked that, too, the human part of me, so we took off. Faster and faster, soon I was panting but I didn’t care and neither did the wolf, it understood my need to get away even if it didn’t understand what I was running from.

Brennan had to come and get me himself. It had been at least a day, but perhaps more. I didn’t care. When you are a wolf for long enough, time becomes immaterial. Pretty much everything but food, water and mating does, and as long as I stayed away from other wolves, only the first two mattered. But when Brennan howled, my feet moved without conscious thought on my part. I just went because my Alpha was calling. He waited till I had shown him my belly to catch me by the neck and drag me into the house. He shifted first and I followed instinctively. We were both naked and I was covered in loose bits of grass and smudged with mud.

“Have you had enough of an angsty fit?” He asked, sounding annoyed.

I tried to speak, but found myself coughing instead. Hair; it always got in my mouth when I shifted back. My brother knelt and rubbed my back. Then stayed there next to me. He wasn’t that much larger than me, physically speaking, but it didn’t matter, I felt dwarfed. His hand on me was like a steel buckle I could never shake. I couldn’t even think to shake it. He started carding his fingers through my hair and I tilted my head back. I didn’t mean to – I was just unable not to.

“You are a man grown, Dev, you can’t let your emotions get the better of you.”

I swallowed in lieu of nodding, and he rubbed my ear in what he must have thought a consoling manner and got to his feet.

“Go up to your room and get cleaned up. It’s time you met Rami and Naveen.”

And that was the first time I heard their names. Not the way one hears new names and nods, mostly assuming one will forget them till reminded a couple of times or until the person does something exceptionally good or bad. Their names were an announcement. One of those names, I knew, I would never forget. I would never be allowed to forget.





Chapter Two
Myself

You will imagine me naive when I tell you this, but it wasn’t innocence; it was hope. And distance, too, perhaps. You see, an Omega is only an Omega when Alphas are around, the rest of the time he’s just a guy. I was just a guy, truly and sincerely; I had a career in mind I was passionate about and, even if I was pretty quiet, I made friends easily. There was nothing about me personally that explained the blow fate had dealt me with my very particular biology. At eighteen I had left home to study in Scotland, not on a scholarship but in a university prestigious enough for its connections to royalty and academic excellence that it was still hard to get into. I pretended not to notice that most of my family was too concerned about having me far away from them to be proud about my achievement. I pretended it was normal to be driven there by my younger brother so he could make sure I was safe in my single dorm room. Safe from what? You might ask. Other shifters. As a werewolf I have the strength, speed and resilience of two men my age and health, but as an Omega I am vulnerable to Alphas like no puny human man could be.
Like most shifters, I grew up in a pack. My father led it, the Alpha of alphas, what we call a Dominant. And had I been born an Alpha, I would have followed in his footsteps. Nobody was crass enough to tell me any such thing, but children have an instinctive understanding of power. But by the time the hormonal shifts of my teenage years, it became obvious I would never lead the pack. Omegas served a very different function: they kept the pack alive. Unlike humans, shifters who could bear children were born as both girls and boys. Omega males were rare and so were Alpha females, which, according to historical records, had not even existed for the first five hundred years of the history of the packs of the isles, even if they were common in other countries. So I beat the statistics and believe me, they whooped me right back. It wasn’t just leadership of the pack that I had lost but any right to decide about my own future. As an Omega, I had to wait for an Alpha’s decision on anything. I didn’t know it then, of course.
Two years later my brother Brennan killed a wild coyote without even shifting completely and we knew who would become Alpha after my father. Nothing much had changed when my Omega status became obvious: I was just a boy, after all, and boys get told what to do no matter what they will one day be when they are grown. But when Brennan proved himself an Alpha, he also proved himself my superior in the hierarchy of the pack. He would inherit and control every single Alpha and Omega shifter that was part of it. Imagine you take a ten year old and tell him he will one day command every adult and child he knows; would you fault him for trying to do just that?
I had always been quiet and I had little interest in the roughhousing of boys, preferring the company of adults of either sex or denomination. I wanted to learn, to understand. And nobody begrudged me that. My father had enrolled me in a private academy when I had reached secondary school age instead of making me go with the other children of the pack to the local school. There had been a single other shifter there, an Alpha girl from a pack of fliers who avoided me as devoutly as any bird would a wolf, so I had spent my teenage years feeling normal. Well, some people would have probably taken issue with me being gay, but I wasn’t allowed to date. In all honesty, I don’t think I had the social skills to manage it in any case, so that particular prohibition passed me by without much angst on my part.
So I didn’t say anything, and at some point I think I forgot that being intimate with another person was even a possibility. In my world, where every person in my family would know immediately if someone’s smell was on me and how much they had touched me by how intense their scent was… maybe it is only fair to say it wasn’t.
In theory I could have made out with a boy at recess, even had actual sex somewhere secluded but I knew almost instinctively that any behaviour that even appeared suspicious would result in the end of my academic career. I couldn’t live without that, so I kept all my impure thoughts for the solitude of my bed and ignored my friends’ bafflement at my complete lack of interest in dating.
By the time I arrived at my first party in St. Andrews I remembered all at once that the world I had only caught glimpses of actually existed. I had spent my first year secreted away in the university library trying to somehow absorb what seemed like the entirety of the biological knowledge humanity currently possessed, alternating weekends with visits home. But after my visits had been discontinued to festive occasions, I started to have time to feel lonely for the first time in my life.
At first I had enjoyed my newfound freedom: my wild adventures including a number of museums specializing in animal biology and a spa. Just what my pack might have expected of me. No wonder they had become convinced I was too boring to be in any danger, to go by what I did at home on weekends: read a fuckload for school and listen to music as loud as I could bear with earmuffs on just to feel like I had some privacy in a house too old to have soundproofing.
But for Intro to Chemistry I had had to form a study group, and it turned out Sean lived in the single two doors down from mine. Sean was a smart guy but he made it clear he also knew how to have fun. He reminded me of Tomy from secondary school, sweet and with a certain way with words that gave his jokes an edge that made them stand out from classic teenage humour. And yeah, like Tomy, Sean was pretty good looking too. But because I had had to wait till my phone charged (God forbid I failed to answer if somebody thought to check on me), I had told him that I would meet him there.
So I was alone at a party, and as lost as a blind pup. The low light and smoke didn’t do much to stop my supernaturally good eyes from finding all the attractive guys in the room at a glance, and the smell of barely repressed sexual tension in the room wasn’t helping either. Teenagers were bad, but young adults without any type of supervision, confident their IDs allowed them to do as they wished… well, the repression mechanisms were failing, to put it politely. Or, to be blunt, there were people making out against every conceivable surface: couches, and walls, the floor and a piano that was probably too expensive to be making the sounds it was under that guy’s arse.
With the smells of sex, smoke and alcohol I also discovered something even more freeing: there was not a single person in that room who wasn’t human. I let myself grin, feeling my spine straighten and my body thrum with power I always had but was rarely allowed to enjoy. I was a top predator in this room. I could do whatever I wanted and nobody would dispute my right to do it. I approached the first guy I had seen: he was leaning against the back of a sofa with a half empty cup of not-that-cheap bear. A posh lad, then, I thought. He looked up at me, eyes the bluest of purples, and seemed surprise to find me there.
“Hello, there,” I told him, smiling with a confidence I hadn’t known I had in me. I didn’t even know if he went for… oh, and then I did. His body language telegraphed welcome, legs parting and head tilting back in involuntary submission. He wasn’t shorter than me, he was just positioning himself that way.
“You’re drinking something nicer than that shit they have in the kitchen, aren’t you?” I asked him. I hadn’t even bothered to check what was on offer, but I could tell the difference between what was in his glass and what had been in the ones on the table next to me like a human might be able to tell apart a telephone and a television. Shifters metabolize alcohol faster than humans, and beer could never get a shifter drunk before he had to piss it all away, so there was little point in drinking shitty ethanol.
He licked his lips. “Yeah, couldn’t stomach that.” He glanced at my eyes, a little nervous. “Do you want some?”
I grinned and took the glass from his hand, feeling him startle and ignoring it. I took a sip, savoured it. It was okay if not brilliant. Then I looked back at him and took another. “Thanks,” I told him, passing it back.
And that’s how I met Jiang. It wasn’t the most romantic, maybe, but he made out with me before the night was out and when I went back to my room I didn’t need to be afraid that my brother or my cousins would rat me out and I would end up having to drop out of school. Some might say the freedom went to my head when I tell them that after two months Jiang and I weren’t just dating but spending most nights together, and that at the six month mark I went and got myself a double bed. My dad asked me about it when it showed up on his credit card bill, but easily believed my carefully prepared spiel about being a big guy and needing space to stretch with my books. I wasn’t lying, technically, since I did study in bed, and on through the shitty sound quality of a mobile ‘technically’ more than did the trick.
As an Omega, sticking to the facts is a skill you learn early and learn well, no matter how good you are, nobody can be good enough to be as good as an Omega is meant to be. For example, I’m not really a big guy by my standards. I’m just 5.9 and I grew up surrounded by Alphas, who tend to average around 6.3 and often go over it, but technically I am pretty tall for a bed designed for humans. Of course, it’s not much good if the Alpha interrogating you decides to order you to tell the truth outright, or if you can’t come up with the right facts quick enough. But it’s something. When you have little, you have to take something.
It didn’t last with Jiang, no hard feelings between us. In fact, feelings of all types were missing, except for the goodwill one naturally develops towards the generous provider of one’s orgasms. We had fallen in lust with each other and in love with the freedom being away from home gave us both. Jiang because his parents were really traditional and couldn’t have coped with him being gay. Me because Omegas were supposed to be chaste till they mated so the pack knew whose children they bore. Of course even when I knew very little about my own biology, I knew a human male couldn’t get me pregnant. I still never let Jiang to fuck me, which in the lust department might have been something of a deal breaker. I just couldn’t disconnect the act from the uncomfortable prospect of getting bred. It was something that on most days I managed forget was in my future.
Maybe because our parting had been amiable, Jiang would sometimes invite me to party with him and his friends. I didn’t much like the loud party scene: I had never been good at filtering out excess noise and had grown up with other people with super-hearing, so I hadn’t needed to learn. But I was happy to drink some wine in good company in the flat Jiang shared with four other guys. And that’s how I met Dan.
He was slouching on a couch, dressed in tight jeans and wearing more than a hint of eyeliner. But that wasn’t what made me look twice as he sipped at what was certainly the cheap beer people who were not Jiang’s boyfriend got at these parties. His eyes were glued to the back of a paperback from the pile on the coffee table. It takes a special kind of addict to do something like that at a party. He was an English and lit major and it turned out he had got an invite to a science-heavy party by virtue (or lack thereof) of having made out with the right guy at a LGBT social.
“Me too,” I told him. He laughed and my fate was sealed.

&

I was at the computer when Brennan called me and I hadn’t spoken to my father for over a week. That’s what I always remember: my brother saying my name and then his voice breaking over the word Dad... and immediately searching back in my memory for the last time I had spoken to him. As if, somehow, I could assess the extent of the damage by how long it had been since he had talked to me.
“Tell me,” I barked at poor Brennan.
“There was an accident...” he said, but trailed off before explaining anything useful.
“And?”
“And it was really bad... he... he couldn’t... he couldn’t heal, Devlin,” he said, begging me to understand.
But it didn’t matter how much he begged, I couldn’t. “What?” I asked. “That’s not possible, the rate of healing is...”
“Devlin,” Brennan interrupted, “He didn’t.”
“He is... he is...” I couldn’t say it, I thought, but I forced myself to finish. “He’s dead?”
“Yes,” Brennan said, and I thought he was probably crying, somewhere secluded where nobody could see the mighty Alpha falling apart as if he was just as fragile as the rest of us.
I didn’t mean to, but I put the mobile down on the desk in front of me. I would have dropped it down an elevator shaft if that’s where I had been, my fingers going numb with shock.
“Devlin?” Dan was there, touching my cheek and forcing me to turn my head to look at him. I didn’t know how long I had been sitting at the table. The phone was silent now. “God, Devlin, what happened?”
I opened my mouth to respond and felt my eyes fill with tears, and had to close it again to keep in the sob that wanted to escape me. Devlin pushed the computer aside and dragged my chair sideways so he could put his arms around me.
“Shhhh...” he soothed, leaning close, his smell enveloping me like a layer of peace and calmness. I breathed him in, helpless to resist the offer of comfort and once my lips had parted, I started to cry. Tears and snot, and I was shaking so hard that Dan climbed onto my lap to keep hold of me. I clung to him, digging my fingertips into his clothes because I was afraid of pressing too hard on his skin. But I held on and he let me hold on, till it seemed like I could breathe again, even if it was still a little hard, a little wrong. What else was it supposed to be, but wrong? Dan got up long enough to get me tissues and then knelt at my feet and met my eyes.
“Do you think you can tell me now?” he asked me in a small but steady voice.
I nodded, then exhaled. “My dad,” I said, and stopped, closing my eyes. Dan didn’t need more than that, though.
“Oh, Devlin, I’m so sorry.” He sounded like he was about to cry. He surged to his feet and got his arms around me again. “I... do you want to come to the sofa?”
I did. I got up and followed him to our tiny living area and let him curl himself around me, as if he could truly protect me from the world with his body. It was beyond him, but he tried anyway.

&

Brennan called me back the next day to talk about funeral arrangements and ask if I wanted him to book my flight for me. He didn’t phrase it as an order or anything. I had been away from home for months at a time for the last six years, and although we both knew that he was technically my Alpha, neither of us felt it that way. It was all about my dad and how crazy it was that he was gone, and how I needed to be there to say goodbye, and so our mum wouldn’t completely collapse. Pheromones don’t go over the phone, you see, and I had never seen Brennan when he was my Alpha, and I had been away so long... it just felt normal. Awful, heart wrenching, but normal: the conversation anybody would have with their brother at a time like that. I told him I needed to stay a little longer to finish my work on my thesis, and he said he could handle things for a couple more days, but to come on Saturday because mum would be freaking out pretty bad by then.
“I’ll be there,” I promised, and proceeded to cry myself to sleep. Dan was a sweetheart about the whole thing, woke me up with breakfast and made me speak through it till I started crying again. He held me close with all the power of his average-sized future professor’s body. He was beautiful, a little taller than me and lean. I had lied to Brennan. I had turned my thesis in early so I could take Dan on a hike in Sky, as an anniversary present of sorts. The only schoolwork I had left was defending my thesis and that wouldn’t be for another month. I just needed more time. More time with my dad, really, but also more time to process what had happened, what life would be like now, how in my mind I would reach for him and find nothing.



Chapter Three
Alphas

I followed the smell of freshly baked bread and frying bacon to the kitchen. Although the whole pack lived together in the same area, this was the house my father and mother had shared, the one where Brennan and I had grown up. The place I had always called ‘home’ till I had got my own flat back in St. Andrew’s. And the kitchen had changed little, as had my mom, who looked closer to my own age than hers due to the delayed ageing of werewolves. But it wasn’t my dad and brother at the table partaking of a late breakfast. Instead, two men I had never seen before sat across Brennan. Brennan had taken the seat my dad had favoured; not an obvious position like the head of the table, just a spot from where he could watch the field and houses through the window, and have a view of my mother at the counter. For as long as I could remember, he had been as besotted with her as any kid with his first love, and she had brightened under his gaze like he was the sun to her. Nobody had arranged their match, they had simply fallen in love along the perfect lines the pack had outlined for each of them. An unimaginable stroke of good fortune. Unimaginable for me, at least.

The two men had their backs were to the door, but I could tell they both perceived my presence instantly. Unsurprising, as no werewolf would miss another in their midst, and no Alpha would miss an Omega. They got to their feet as if the Queen herself had walked in, turning to me with transparently eager expressions. I didn’t know them but I could tell by their scents that they had been around my pack for longer than a few hours. It was odd, like finding a stranger wearing familiar clothes. My sense of smell told me they were pack, but I didn’t recognize the scent underneath, or their faces. The smaller man was maybe a little taller than me, his skin a dark bronze and his factions speaking of Indian descent. He had the blackest eyes I had ever seen, not just dark, but like no light could ever touch them. His gaze was uncomfortably intense, though his posture was unthreatening, almost too eager. He is really young, I remember thinking.

The other man was the first to extend a hand to me. “Rami,” he declared, and I took his hand before I had consciously decided to. English politeness, maybe. An Alpha’s command, more likely.

I swallowed. “Devlin.” His hand was warm and a little rough from work. He had looked big from across the room, but he dwarfed me from up close, making me look up to meet his steady brown gaze. I only noticed he had been holding my hand for too long when the younger man came up to us and nudged him softly.

“You think I get to shake Devlin’s hand sometime today?” he asked Rami, but his mischievous eyes were on me.

Rami blinked and stepped back, taking his hand with him.

“Naveen,” the other Alpha told me with a disproportionate grin. He is happy to meet me, I thought. He took my hand in his and slid his fingers between mine slowly – more a caress than a greeting, and his smile turned into a smirk when he saw me react to the sensuality of the move.

Instantaneously, Brennan was on his feet as well and walking towards us. “I need to check on Adora, so now that you guys have met…”

Naveen nodded, letting my hand go perhaps a little too hastily under the Dominant Alpha’s gaze. “Of course.”

And then we were alone, with my mother. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother. But she’s a quintessential Omega: she loves all the traditions and thinks the restrictions are only for our protection, and she is genuinely grateful to Alphas for keeping us safe. For a long time I was really angry with her about it because as a kid I had believed her when she told me those things, and when I had realised I didn’t have those feelings of submission that were meant to come naturally to me I had felt like a failure and a freak. And then when I had realised that what I felt wasn’t so rare, that Clara did not like to be ordered around either and neither did many other Omegas… I had become angry that she had made me feel so terrible when the reason I felt bad was that I hadn’t chosen to be this way. That because I was this way I didn’t get to choose anything else.

“So, Naveen,” she started cheerily, setting a cup of freshly brewed tea in front of me. “You come from the North London pack, don’t you? I always thought big cities were such a crazy place for werewolves to settle!”

I took a sip without even thinking, immediately comforted at the perfect brew even as I couldn’t quite forgive my mother for the ambush. Could I have not come back? I wondered. I hadn’t even considered it, Brennan had already been my Alpha. The wolf had known his voice even from afar, of course, but before I had step back into the house…

Naveen shrugged, retaking his place at the table. I set my cup down, a heaviness settling over me.

“Well, you learn young to block out sounds and smells,” I heard him explain from my dazed state. “But London has a lot of parks, and a lot of squirrels and foxes, too,” he added with that grin that said, Aren’t I ridiculous? You totally find me charming.

I didn’t, although I’d have probably remained indifferent to squirrels and diverse cute animals in my intense and sudden apathy. But my mum seemed to, at least: she laughed a little at that before turning to Rami.

“What about you, dear? I have completely forgotten where your pack is from.”

“Not far, Yorkshire,” he said, not that anybody with ears needed to be told that’s what the twang in his voice was.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care where they came from or how big their packs were, but I couldn’t help tuning out and just watching them. After all, I was attracted to men and I was being given a choice between these two. And not just that, I wanted to know them. No, I needed to know them: whoever I choose would have immense power over me, and I would never forgive myself if I fucked up the only choice I was being given. It was absurd; I could fix nothing by choosing one of them over the other. No matter how kind he was to me, it was the power he would have that would crush me. But people reduced to making insignificant choices tend to give them bigger significance than actually they have. You can be so desperate for some control over your fate that you end up convincing yourself that if you just go for butter over marmalade on your toast it will guarantee an auspicious day.

I wanted to be happy. I wanted to believe I could be, even under my new restricted circumstances. So I tried to make the right choice. I tried to believe there was one.

Despite how different from each other they were physically and personality wise, it wasn’t a choice I was finding easy. Naveen was closer to my ‘type’ – leaner, strong but not muscled and extroverted in a way I, as a fundamentally quiet person, found captivating. But in a different way it was Rami who fit my ideal more closely: his body was larger than I favoured but he had incredibly well formed lips and eyes, eyelashes that were longer than they appeared and darker than anybody that blonde should have without mascara. And he was quiet, yes, but there was a solidity to every word he did utter, a certainty that was clearly missing from Naveen, even though my mum made sure to ask their ages and he was only a year older.

Both of them were younger than me, of course. I could just imagine Brennan’s answer if I objected on such grounds: what else could I expect when I had spent my ‘youth’ wasting away in a library? Alphas my age had families by now, he would have said.


&


“Would you like to have dinner tonight?” Rami asked almost casually. He even put some cake into his mouth after saying it and chewed it. After her extensive interrogation, my mum had fled the kitchen having forgotten to pay some bills that were due. Strangely, she had only remembered the date the moment Rami had been coaxed to tell her his birthday was on the 5th of December. Knowing how organized she was about household affairs, I had a hard time believing it, but it wasn’t like I could hide behind her skirt forever. I was an adult and sooner rather than later I would have to deal with one of this men very personally. There wasn’t much I got to decide but I certainly wasn’t going to give up the little choice I did have to someone else. I glanced at Naveen, who smiled at me.

“Sure,” I said, mostly to Rami. I wasn’t sure of anything. For starters it kind of seemed like it was both of them asking me, and wasn’t that odd? “Where should we meet?”

“I have a car,” Rami explained. “We’ll pick you up at seven, if that’s cool?”

I was apparently the only one surprised by the double dinner invitation. Later, when Rami showed up on black Peugeot 208, Naveen jumped out of the co-pilot’s seat and invited me to take his place with a dramatic bow, only belied by his self-deprecating smile.

He then immediately got going about the rib restaurant the pack’s been frequenting. I knew it well. The pack had been going to Benny’s for as long they have lived in Windermere. I think the place wouldn’t have done as well against fancier competition without the custom of the hungriest carnivores in the area. But I didn’t tell Naveen; otherwise I would have had to come up with a new topic of conversation.

Of course this turned out to be a mistake; the moment I walked in the owner’s son spotted me and freaked out a little.

“Devlin?” He almost squeaked and before I knew it I found myself enveloped in Bernardo’s arms. Bernardo, never ever Benny, had been one of the only friends I had had outside school growing up. I never quite knew why we were friends – we had little in common besides an obsession with well-cooked meat (which for us meant barely cooked meat), inherited by tradition and genetics respectively, and a knack for finding seldom used tracks in the wilderness. “I haven’t seen you in, what, two years?”

I nodded, smiling. I couldn’t help it. Bernardo was the happiest guy I knew. “I think so. I think we missed each other last couple times I was down from uni.” I became aware of Naveen and Rami again, I gave Bernardo a half smile and pointed my thumb at them. “I’m kinda in the middle of something… but we should definitely catch up sometime.”

Bernardo glanced at them and his eyes widened. “Oh, sure.” He seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes on me, but I didn’t follow his gaze. In my human form I couldn’t tell much of what the Alphas were feeling and I wanted to keep it that way. If I didn’t know what they wanted, I couldn’t be forced to give it to them. He led us to a table by the back window, looking directly onto the lake. I thanked him and asked for a beer. Bernardo turned to Rami, who simply put up two fingers.

“Me, too,” Naveen added, smiling too wide at him.

And then we were alone and the silence was all the heavier for the background noise of happy dinners. I decided to try. “We always come here. And they love us because we order a lot.”

“I wish you had told me.” Naveen had taken the seat across from me, leaving Rami to choose sides. Rami sat next to him. I didn’t know if that was odd, I had only even dated one guy at once, who knew what was the protocol for two?Especially because it isn’t a date, I reminded myself, if it was a date you could walk out of here alone.

I shrugged. “You seemed like you were putting yourself in the mood by talking about it,” I explained, and it wasn’t quite an excuse: he did get awfully excited about things he liked and he was right, it was kind of hard not to be charmed by it.

Rami snorted. “Well, now I am starving.” He glance at Naveen. “Thanks a lot, man,” he told him and turned directly to a returning Bernardo like he had already known he was there.

Here is something you need to know about werewolf senses: they are not magical or mean that you are omniscient. We can perceive more in the spectrum than humans do, but we do not have an ability to filter it effectively that’s any superior to a regular person’s. My ears and Naveen’s had probably picked up Bernardo’s heartbeat, but neither of us had been listening for it and so it hadn’t stood out from any of the other heartbeats that were going around the room, our own included. Rami, for some reason, had been listening. And that was odd – in the 21st century, there weren’t that many reasons for a werewolf to be paying that much attention in a restaurant. Life simply wasn’t dangerous enough to warrant such caution. Maybe he’s just that hungry.

Rami proceeded to order a whole rack before turning to me. “Would you like something else?”

I hesitated. “Chips,” I said and raised my eyes to Bernardo. “The garlic ones?”

He nodded, obviously trying not to let his curiosity show. I couldn’t blame him. Both Rami and I were wearing dress shirts and although Naveen hadn’t gone that far, the collar of his navy blue sport shirt was popped and he smelled like cologne. Nobody could mistake this for a casual outing.

“Cheers, mate,” I told him and took my first sip of beer. It was excellent. Not that it was such good quality, really – it was just that it was the beer I had learned to like beer with.

Bernardo nodded. “No problem. Be right back.”

“I really hate that word,” Rami commented, raising his glass to me before drinking. I shifted on my chair, confused and feeling like I had messed up just by drinking up. It was completely ridiculous, but I felt like I hadn’t followed his lead properly and was now in uncertain territory.

Naveen wasn’t as self-conscious, though, he just went ahead and asked, “What word?”

“Mate,” Rami explained, half sneering.

Naveen gave him an incredulous look. “Is this a Yorkshire thing? Are you guys not English? Coz ‘mate’ is like… I don’t know, basic English.”

“That’s not all it means, though, is it?” Rami replied, frowning.

“Oh, you mean…” Naveen’s eyes wandered to me for a moment. “Well, yeah, that’s something else. But that’s different: that’s my mate.”

Rami was quiet, and I wondered if I was supposed to say something. But I had never thought of the word’s pack meaning. I naturally knew it, but I didn’t like to think about all that mates implied. So I could call my friends that with no remorse or confusion.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Rami admitted, and drank some more.

Naveen winked at him. “That’s ok, mate.”

I laughed and Rami’s lips curved up and for a moment it felt like we were just that, mates out for a meal and a good time.

The familiar food, long missed, calmed something in me. Animals are fundamentally suspicious of new places. Humans are, too, but they like to ignore their better instincts for the thrill of it. Werewolves take after the wolves in that sense, though, and that’s why we all get too attached to each other and to wherever we live. It must have been a tough world out there when homo lupusdecided to immigrate: most werewolves I know don’t even much like to go onholiday. The biggest moves of a werewolf’s life tended to be changing packs, and the only reason Alphas left packs at all was to gain power or to go somewhere where they wouldn’t have to mate with their first cousin.

This tendency had kept me apart from my pack except when I myself made the journey back. It was only natural – wolves get antsy out of their territory and there’s always the danger of crossing a line the local pack thinks is more important than not shedding blood. As an Omega I was pretty safe from threatening anybody. I was especially safe in the Scottish highlands, where the packs had either fled or been summarily decimated by the combined might of the Scottish clans in the early Middle Ages.

I didn’t tell them about staying away intentionally, but Naveen kept asking questions about the Scottish extinction, and wolves is one of the few topics you can get me started on and be sure I will not know when to stop.

“Or maybe I’m projecting my research about real wolves onto us. It’s hard to tell, sometimes, do I see myself in them, or am I being objective enough? The scientific protocols of Animal Biology are not designed for people who are also animals, nobody is as worried about bias as when a human population is studied. Everybody just assumes you will be able to tell animals don’t have human motivations, which is just silly even if the researcher doesn’t spend part of his time in four legs. I mean, look at Diane Fossey and the gorillas!”
________________________________________
End of this sample Kindle book.









♥ To be released March 31 ♥




Rami came to Windermere for one reason only: to find an Omega to mate. But the process is slow going, especially since most of the Omegas in Windermere pack are female and Rami is gay.

In the meantime there's Naveen. Naveen is possibly the most laid back Alpha Rami's ever met, and definitely the most charming. Nobody has a problem with them being lovers, but what Rami is starting to feel is way beyond casual sex and friendship.

And if anybody finds out, he risks losing both the Alpha he has and the Omega he needs.

This novella contains graphic scenes of an adult nature, men struggling with their instincts and feelings, and significant spoilers for book I. 30k.



N.J. Lysk spends the day in an office with the heavy burden of a wandering mind. Nights are spent more enjoyably as that mind is let to wander free and darker desires to take hold in the form of these steamy forbidden tales.

With a genuine allergy to silver, a preference for werewolves was always a given, but it wasn't until the wonderful world of Alphas and Omegas that inspiration struck. Other stories where love is a struggle will also make an appearance.

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