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Pursuing Peter

Amber Kell

Copyright November 2017 by Amber Kell

Smashwords edition


Cover design: Meredith Russell

Editor: Jason Bradley

Proofer: Cristina Monole Sujoy


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.


Contents



Dedication


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue


Talan’s Treasure (Sample)

Author


Book Sixteen of the Moon Pack


Peter Woods had never expected to find a soulmate. After his time spent as a mutant, turning into a wolf had become a painful transformation.


Quain Ilves planned on spending his life alone. As a seer he had no vision of a future partner especially after wizards captured and tortured him.


Two lost souls found each other through the interfering hand of fate. Now it was up to them to grab onto their happy ending and not let wizards, parents or outside forces pull them apart.



Moon Pack Series



Attracting Anthony (Moon Pack, #1)

Baiting Ben (Moon Pack, #2)

Courting Calvin (Moon Pack, #3)

Denying Dare (Moon Pack, #4)

Enticing Elliott (Moon Pack, #5)

Finding Farro (Moon Pack, #6)

Getting Gabe (Moon Pack #7)

Hunting Henry (Moon Pack #8)

Inflaming Inno (Moon Pack #9)

Judging Jager (Moon Pack #10)

Keeping Kylen (Moon Pack #11)

Loving Leif (Moon Pack #12)

Marking Mikel (Moon Pack, #13)

Needing Noel (Moon Pack Book 14)

Owning Oliver (Moon Pack Book 15)

Pursuing Peter (Moon Pack Book 16)


Coming Soon

Questioning Quain (Moon Pack Book 17)



Dedication



For my fans who are following my adventurous wolves.

Welcome to the pack!




Chapter One



Quain Ilves’s visions had always started the same way. Mist swirled across his dreamscape in silvery waves before sliding aside like curtains on a live theater stage. Years of seeing the future had stolen away the mystical joy of viewing potential events, only to leave behind hard bundles of nervous anticipation. Not all visions were of pretty rainbows and floppy puppies. The ones he had were more along the lines of horror shows with shades of tragedy.

Unfortunately, natural-born gifts weren’t returnable, and he refused to anger the fates by asking for a refund of his time or his sanity. His family had been the sentinels of the unwritten future as far back as they could trace, and the few who had spurned their talents had all come to a bad end.

Quain floated in the soothing world of in between, enjoying his brief vacation from pain. Captivity had scraped away his natural optimism, and days of torture had worn him down bit by bit until hope disappeared like a forgotten memory. The charmed bracelet stuck on his wrist blocked his animal form and added to his depression. Falling into a vision was the best thing to happen to him in days, weeks, months—he didn’t even know any more. The basement where they kept him caged inside had no windows. His discernment of time had fallen to the pattern of his irregular meals.

If he could breathe while in his seer world, he would be letting out a large sigh in sheer relief. The calm environment invigorated him and eliminated a bit of stress. Even if his anxiety returned as soon as he woke, the brief escape kept the rising panic at bay.

Broken bones and shredded skin had no place in his mental arena. Here, he remained whole and undamaged. Too bad injuries and pain awaited his return.

“Hello.” A tall man with dark hair and bright aquamarine eyes appeared before him.

Quain jerked back at the stranger’s sudden entrance. There had been no fading in. How strange. Never in a lifetime of visions had anyone ever introduced themselves or seen him back. His sight normally worked more as a movie-watching experience, never interactive, until today.

“Um, hi.” He examined the stranger, trying to remember each and every detail. The sheer anomaly of a conversation with one of his visions had thrown Quain off his game. How did he respond to someone walking around into his brain as if they were measuring the space for furniture placement?

“Who are you?” The six-foot, denim-and-leather-wrapped sex god asked. He towered easily over Quain’s more petite five-foot-seven frame.

He grinned at the gorgeous intruder. If torture had finally broken his mind, for once, he didn’t care. Insanity had never looked so good.

“I’m Quain Ilves. Who are you?” In the real world, he would’ve stumbled over his words when addressing a man this stunning. Here, there were no such limitations.

“I’m Peter . Where are we?” Peter looked around as if searching for a familiar landmark.

“In my mind,” Quain blurted out. Surprise streaked through him. Only one person should be able to unknowingly breach his mental defenses.

Mate, his inner lynx whispered. Quain smiled. Despite his current captivity, fate had decided to grant him divinity in human form. A giddy wash of joy swept through him, followed by a shadow of worry.

What if his lynx half was wrong? Being suppressed for so long could have ruined his inner animal instincts. His lynx had never claimed anyone before, but to believe his perfect match would just appear in front of him when he needed hope stretched the bounds of possibility into implausibility. None of the seers in his family had ever found their matches. What would make him special enough to be the exception? Would he be the first one to break that tradition? Did he want to be? Before he had had a chance to speak, Peter beat him to it.

“How did I get here?”

Quain shrugged. “There are only a couple of possibilities. You are either my mate, or you have magic and have figured out how to break into my mind. I honestly don’t know any other options.”

Peter offered him a crooked smile. “Hmm, I don’t have any special magical ability other than being able to turn into a wolf. I think that must make us mates.”

“Were you looking for a mate?” Quain dared to ask. A second later, he winced as pain lanced through him. Someone must be touching him in the real world enough to jar his injuries. Assholes.

“What’s wrong?”

“My captors have returned. They like to keep my wounds fresh.” He winced when fury crossed Peter’s face.

“Where are you?” Peter demanded. “Tell me, and I’ll get you out of there.”

A shiver of dread went up and down his spine. He didn’t want Peter to get hurt, or worst, captured for experimentation. He didn’t have visions to keep him from permanent harm. “I don’t know exactly. Wizards kidnapped me. I was unconscious when I arrived. They keep me in a dark basement. I could be anywhere.” He tried to keep the depression out of his tone, but he doubted he did a good job. The idea of dying in the dark basement amidst his own sweat and blood ruined his joy at finding the one person fated to be his.

“Which wizards? Do you know their name?”

“No.” Quain curled his fingers into fists as frustration filled his voice. “They never give their names or say anything personal. They are very careful.”

“Why did they capture you? Are there any others there with you? Are they creating mutants?”

“What? No! Why would you think that?” He had heard rumors about mutants but had never seen one. From Peter’s question, it seemed he had run into them before. “I’m a seer, and they want to use my abilities. I don’t know if there are other captives somewhere else here, but I’m the only person caged in this basement.” No sense in trying to hide the facts, future mate or not. Quain’s family prided themselves on being seers or relatives of seers. Not all lynx had the skill, but the Ilves had a higher percentage than most. He braced himself for rejection. Not all people accepted the possibility of psychics.

“Huh. I’ve never met a seer before.” Interest lit Peter’s eyes, instead of revulsion.

The tight knot of nerves in Quain’s chest eased. He had expected ridicule, disbelief, or maybe even disgust. Easy acceptance hadn’t been on his list of possible reactions. “Well, now you have.”

Quain gasped. Before he could warn Peter, he was jerked back into his body.

Damn, he didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Still acclimating from returning to reality, Quain took a few gulping breaths, trying to calm his body from the shock of consciousness. There was always a bit of displacement when he returned to the physical world. He screamed out all the oxygen in his lungs when his tormenter stabbed a sharp-nailed finger into one of the open wounds in his side.

“Tell me what you saw,” he demanded.

Quain blinked back tears. He refused to appear weak or let them think they had the upper hand. His heart fluttered, and shock cooled his skin. Part of him wished to remain with Peter even if only in his mind. After swallowing a few times to make sure his miniscule lunch stayed down, he focused his attention on his torturer.

“What?” He refused to be nice to people who abused him. He didn’t care if it resulted in further punishment. Eventually, they would give up and either kill him, sell him for ransom, or let him go as too much trouble. He had a morbid fascination in seeing which it would come down to.

“What was your vision? Tell me.”

“No.” Quain closed his eyes as reality reassembled itself in his temporarily fractured psyche. After all this time trapped in a cage and struggling to hold onto his sanity, he wouldn’t break during a moment of dissonance. His interrogator must have studied psychics. Only someone familiar with the process would know the fragility of a seer shifting from a vision to reality. More than one psychic had let a prophecy escape while in the state of in between. Not Quain, though. The Ilves were one of the few with more than one seer in their family tree and had strong protections in place over those with foresight. During his kidnapping, Quain had blessed every one of his ancestors for the writings they had handed down. The training he had cursed in his youth had become his main survival tool. If he got out of this, he would apologize to every mentor that had ever had to deal with his teenage angst and fractious temper. Maybe buy them houses in apology.

“You will tell me what you saw, or I will make you.” The man had moved from persuasion to pain within the first week, while still not giving Quain his name. Apparently their torture sessions didn’t make them best friends. Luckily, he hadn’t experienced many visions during his captivity and the others had learned torture didn’t make him talk. That didn’t stop the more sadistic members from doing it anyway for their own amusement. Those people didn’t return, and Quain never asked what happened to them. He didn’t care.

“There are ways to make you talk,” his interrogator drawled.

“And they will fail too. Unless you are part of my prophecy, I can’t share.” He kept his eyes closed so he didn’t see the punch. His head snapped back from the impact. The crunch of his nose breaking didn’t earn his tormentor more than a watery glare. Quain swiped at his face. His hand came away bright red.

“Keep in mind that if you don’t have any value, you will be tossed away. We have no use for a seer who won’t share his visions.”

Quain refused to cry from the pulsating pain in his face.

“I’ll be back. You should reconsider your position.”

He remained still and quiet as the wizard marched away. He wished Peter could save him. Never before had he been in the position of needing to be rescued. He tugged at the tight bracelet around his wrist. If they hadn’t placed a magical object on him, blocking his ability to shift, he would have already been out of there. Bastards. They had attached the jewelry while Quain was unconscious, and nothing he did loosened its magical hold. The one time he’d tried to transform, his bones had crackled like shattered glass. It had taken two days before he dared move again. Luckily, they had cast some sort of spell to empty his bowels if they got too full. It was one of the few courtesies they’d offered.

He hoped it would be a while before anyone returned, even if it meant he had to go without eating. He would rather starve than be beaten. Each time they hurt him, it took a little longer to heal. Soon they would learn he couldn’t tell them anything even if he had the best psychic ability in the world.

Even under torture, he couldn’t reveal his visions if they didn’t pertain to the person asking. He closed his eyes, wishing to be anywhere else. He still didn’t know what they had done to his driver, Craig, but he worried they had killed him during Quain’s capture. A tear dripped down his cheek as memories of Craig flashed through his head. The older man had been a kind soul and had taken care of Quain since his teens.

He bit back a sob, not wanting anyone to see him cry. The bastards didn’t deserve his tears. No one had remained in the room where his cage was, but cameras were trained on him from multiple points. His captives weren’t the most trusting of people. Some of the cameras, he suspected, were to spy on the other wizards, to make sure none of them killed him before they were ready. Quain had no confidence he would leave there alive.

If he somehow managed to escape, maybe Peter would give him a place to stay. He loved his family but couldn’t live with them, even temporarily. Everyone did better if they lived apart. He could handle his mother smothering him from a distance, but in some ways, she was worse than his father. Between his father’s critical analysis of his life and his mother’s fluttering, Quain had to live apart from them to have some breathing room. Granted, it resulted in him tumbling down the stairs a few times when a vision took him unexpectedly, but someone living with him would not have saved him either unless they followed him from room to room, and that would’ve been even worse than living at home.

A loud pop echoed in the cavernous room as the last light bulb went out and plunged the room into total darkness. Luckily, his cat vision kicked in, or he might have become hysterical from the lack of visual feedback. He might not be able to fully transform, but he could shift his eyes and, in one instance when a wizard became too grabby, produce a claw on the tip of his index finger. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to do that trick again. The torture had taken away a lot of his strength to shift and focus. He suspected that was why they did it. Nevertheless, it had yet to result in him sharing any information.

Quain rubbed his forehead to ease the tension. Visions always hurt. That much pressure on the brain did a bit of damage with each episode. One of his great aunts had hypothesized that their shifter magic prevented their brains from permanent damage. Human seers weren’t so lucky. Many of them went insane, damaging the reputation of true visionaries everywhere.

The bracelet on his wrist chafed his skin raw, causing a teeth-clenching itch. He focused his attention on the irritation rather than on his bigger issues. Apathy was his enemy. As soon as he gave up all hope, his lynx half would pull him into depression. Seeing Peter renewed his eagerness to escape.

He waited a minute, then a minute more. After no other guards appeared, he banged his bracelet against the metal headboard of his cot. Breaking the hinge or clasp was his only hope of getting free. The runes and magic on the jewelry prevented Quain from fully reaching his lynx half and possibly harming his captives. As a person, his petite stature didn’t intimidate anyone. As a lynx, his claws and teeth could do a lot of damage. A grim smile curved Quain’s lips. He would get free, and when he did, they would all pay for their actions.

He continued banging the bracelet with no success but great determination. If he got the damned thing off, he could at least shift and be warmer. He only stopped when he’d hit his arm one too many times. Bruises bloomed up and down his skin, adding to his discomfort. Eventually, despair would take over and he would be nothing but a faded shadow. Peter couldn’t save him if he didn’t at least try to save himself. He refused to be a weak damsel in need of rescue.

Memories of a warm bed and enough food to fill his belly wafted through his thoughts, like mirages in his mind to tempt him into thinking he was back home. He could almost taste the homemade waffles he had foolishly pushed aside before his capture. Damn, if he got out of there, he’d never turn down food again.

His stomach growled like the snarls of an angry beast. It had been a few days since he’d last eaten, or it could have been a few weeks. His mind had grown fuzzy. His foolish kidnappers thought he would break down if deprived of food and basic comforts. They had no idea Quain had inherited his mother’s stubbornness and his father’s temper, a bad combination under any circumstance. If he never left this cage, he would die with the happy knowledge that he’d given them nothing.

He took great delight in keeping his visions from them, refusing to give them any advantage. From what he could tell they thought he was defective and prone to fits. He had done nothing to dissuade them from that viewpoint. Although he worried they might decide to kill him, giving them his visions didn’t guarantee safety only further imprisonment.

A sudden pressure in his chest had his heart galloping out of control. Gasping for air, he tried to catch his breath. Spots sparkled before his eyes like little black bugs, chasing across his vision. What was happening? A darkness tunneled his sight, swallowing his ability to see the room around him far more effectively than any absence of external light. He barely had time to snatch another lungful of air before the cage, the cot, and everything around him vanished. This wasn’t normal. His long-held control shattered without warning.

A vision punched through Quain’s inner eye with the destruction of a burning meteor, in bright full color and without any of the usual misty preview. A handsome man crouched among the trees, watching a white mansion. It took a second to recognize him. Peter. Where was he? Had Peter found him? It should’ve taken longer unless Peter had already planned to come for another reason. How far into the future was he seeing?

If he had been able to feel his fingers, he would’ve crossed them, hoping the building Peter watched had Quain’s cage inside. Since he’d entered the place unconscious and woken up trapped, he had no idea of his true location. The mansion Peter stood outside of could be any place.

“This place feels strange,” Peter muttered. His deep voice tugged at Quain as if wrapping him in comforting warmth.

“Why?” another man’s tenor voice replied outside of Quain’s sight.

Peter frowned. “I don’t know. It’s as if something I’ve been waiting for is inside. I’m hoping my mate is there, but I can’t be sure. Anthony’s contacts said they have someone inside, but they couldn’t say who. They don’t expect us to come again, not after Oliver’s last visit. This will let them know we are watching them and their actions. Oliver said they needed a reminder since they’re trying to meddle in shifter politics.”

“I don’t know if this will help, but hopefully, they will take it as a warning not to mess with the Moon Pack. I don’t really care what they do with the other packs. They left us to deal with the mutants. They can deal with the wizards.”

Peter made a scoffing sound. “Shifters need to stick together. Just because they were too cowardly to help, doesn’t mean we should do less than our best to assist when we can.”

“Well, either way, we need to keep the wizards in check, especially if they’re kidnapping shifters. Hopefully, we can find your mate.”

I’m here! Quain wanted to shout, but this vision appeared to be like his usual ones. No interaction would be possible between him and the people he watched.

Peter nodded. “Me too. I also hope these are the right wizards.”

“Anthony said he felt the signature of a shifter inside,” the tenor voice said.

“That’s why I’m hoping he’s right. Not that I wouldn’t save other shifters, but I want my mate.” The low growl underlying Peter’s voice sent a shaft of warmth through Quain.

His mate wanted him!

Despite their meeting in the vision, Quain hadn’t had much hope Peter would do anything to find him. Not all shifters were eager to find their other half. That Peter had not only sought him out but got help to search for him told Quain that Peter really wanted him.

Silence fell between the two for several minutes before the one Quain didn’t recognize spoke again in a soft, hushed voice. “What was it like?”

“What?” Peter turned his head, and Quain saw his startling aquamarine eyes. Even in the dark, they gleamed like the Caribbean Sea. He couldn’t wait to see them every morning.

“Being a mutant.”

Quain wished this wasn’t a vision. He had never wanted to punch someone so much before. A low growl built in this throat. What kind of fucked-up question was that? How would Peter even know such a thing?

There was a long pause before Peter replied. “It was hell.” His sexy mouth hardened in a firm line, and his jaw tightened as he turned back to watch the house.

Oh! Poor Peter.

“Sorry, Peter. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” Remorse filled the man’s voice.

“Damn right,” Quain fumed.

Peter shrugged off the apology. “It doesn’t matter. Not anymore. I’m out of there, and they can’t change me again even if they tried. Anthony made it so the mutation can’t be applied twice even if there was someone to do it.”

Before Quain could hear anything more, Peter tapped his ear. For the first time, Quain noticed an earpiece tucked inside. “Understood. We’re heading out.”

Peter walked away, and Quain’s vision darkened before returning to the dim room inside which he lay. He knew deep down his fated mate would be coming for him. Instinct had shaped Quain’s life until now, and he saw no reason to doubt it at this point. Maybe he was expecting too much from a complete stranger, mate or not, but he would cling to hope with the tips of his mangled fingernails until proven otherwise.

Worry wrinkled his brow and a headache pressed against his temples. What if his mate was injured entering the mansion? The wizards had no problem using force against shifters. Quain was example enough. Assuming it was where Quain was being held, why was the group trying to infiltrate it anyway? It was clear Peter didn’t know where he was, and he doubted they were attacking random wizard homes to find him. When they met, he would make sure to add that to his questions for Peter.

He rubbed his forehead, digging his fingers into his temples to ease the sore points as his mind ached from having two visions so close together. There was little he could do now except wait and see. His sights had never been wrong before. Misinterpreted, yes, but never wrong. He had to cling to the belief that everything would work out and he would be reunited with his mate soon. If only he could communicate telepathically with Peter and share his thoughts. Weakness sank into his limbs and fine tremors shook his body. He didn’t bother trying to suppress them. Between the beatings and the visions, Quain was running on no energy. As his body tried to heal without his full shifter abilities, the magic in the bracelet fought back. The two forces were attacking each other. Much more of this and it wouldn’t matter if Quain wanted to help the wizards or not, he would be dead. Despair sank its greedy claws into his chest again.


Chapter Two



Two weeks later, Quain still hadn’t seen Peter in real life, and his visions had abandoned him. The lack of any psychic activity caused his captors to be particularly vicious. Apparently if he saw the future but didn’t share his visions with them, it was still better than not having them at all. He couldn’t figure out their logic, but it did lead to greater punishment.

Curled into a ball on his cot, breathing took more effort, and he was almost certain one of his lungs had a puncture hole the size of a baseball. The occasional coughing up of blood encouraged that thinking. Every day or so one of the wizards would cast a spell, healing him just enough to prevent death. They appeared to enjoy his pain and refused to do more than the bare minimum to keep him breathing. In his darkest moments, Quain thought it would serve them right if he died on them.

“I’m never getting out of here,” Quain whispered. Between injuries and depression, rolling out of his cot to pace his cage took more energy than he had.

A new, low buzzing tingled through his senses and jolted him to alertness. Someone magically powerful had entered the building. Quain eased his body upright as anticipation overtook him. He struggled to his feet and stretched out in slow, cautious movements, cracking his spine to work out the kinks, an action more satisfying in his lynx form and without broken bones. A frown pushed his lips downward. He glared at the demon-spawned bracelet stealing his shape-shifting ability. Damn, he missed his lynx half. This would remain as a lesson to appreciate his other form more. Too much time had passed since he’d last transformed. Even without the bracelet, he worried he would never merge with his inner lynx again. Damage from the spell could have caused permanent issues.

Another surge of energy swept through the room and tingled across his skin. The smell of ozone reached his nose. He sneezed. What the hell was that? Peter had claimed not to have magic. Did his companions? Was it even Peter? Fear iced over his veins. What if this newcomer tried to control him like the wizards? Was he just exchanging one cage for another? Memories of the handsome shifter who’d kindly listened to him in the vision evaporated some of his concern. No, Peter wouldn’t do anything like that. Pushing his worries away, Quain closed his eyes and tried to focus on the energy.

Whatever had entered the building had more magic than the wizards responsible for his captivity. Electricity crackled across the bars of his cage and sparks sprayed from the door lock. Quain jumped back to avoid a serious burn. Was this Peter coming to his rescue or something more sinister? Quain rolled his eyes. He hadn’t even been rescued yet and he was worrying about the future; the downfalls to being a seer.

More magic crackled across his cage until the lock snapped off. Screeching, the door swung open, an obvious invitation to escape.

“Damn.” He whistled at the impressive show. Whatever, or whomever, had entered the mansion had overridden the wizards’ magic and broken the enchantments on his cage. “Thank you, whoever. I damn well better stay on your good side,” he added in a low voice in case this magical being could hear him.

Gleeful, Quain grinned. If he were in better shape, he would be jumping up and down. He shuffled to the door and dared to press one finger against the closest bar, hoping it wouldn’t electrocute him. Nothing. A wide grin spread across his face.

Freedom!

Giggling madly, he stumbled through the opening. Hope, an emotion he thought he had lost weeks ago, reappeared, bringing with it a hurricane of relief. Without electricity, the cameras would be down. Unless they came to check on him in person, they wouldn’t know of his escape right away. A quick glance to the corner of the room confirmed his belief. The camera light had gone out. Now he had to find a way to escape before they regained power. He had no intention of being inside when the power came back on.

Once cleared of the cage, he scanned the room. Whatever had entered the manor and saved him, intentionally or not, was keeping the wizards occupied. He absently tugged at the bracelet as he pondered his options.

“I hope they can’t track me with this,” he muttered as he petulantly yanked at the ring of metal once again. He doubted the wizards had that capability since there were only so many enchantments that could be placed on one object and the bracelet practically oozed malevolent magic.

He still didn’t understand his kidnapping. What had they thought he would see? Not once had they tried to guide his visions toward anything in particular or ask specific questions. Instead, they had tortured him over the random visions he had had while in captivity. Did they imagine keeping him under their control would eventually solve all their problems? He didn’t understand wizards or at least this group of them. The odds of Quain randomly seeing anything useful to them were astronomically low. After trying to explain over and over the intricacies of visions and having them ignore his words, he had given up trying to reason with his captives.

Walking up the short set of stairs from the basement used up almost all of the little energy he had remaining. Pain radiated through every inch of his body, but he refused to let that stop him from getting the fuck out of there. Better a little pain now than a lot of pain later. When he finally reached the top of the stairs, he pressed his ear to the door and tried to hear over his wheezing breath. He no longer just wondered if he had a punctured lung. A quick swipe over his lips with the back of his hand revealed an uncomfortable amount of blood.

“Fuck,” he whispered. He might escape, but would he survive freedom? No time for second-guessing. If they discovered he had left his cell, he definitely wouldn’t like the repercussions.

Listening hard didn’t reveal any sounds from the other side. Not that he expected the wizards to suddenly become chatty, but he had hoped to hear some hint of their movement. He clenched his fists and barely held back the growl threatening to roll up his throat. Freedom beckoned to him behind the door, he could almost taste it. After a few minutes with no guards rushing in or other sounds, he dared to turn the knob. He pulled the door open far enough to peer through the crack. There was no one standing on the other side.

Tossing away discretion, he opened it wider before slipping through the gap. Out of habit, he sniffed the air for danger, but when he didn’t smell anyone, he questioned if he would even know without his lynx skills. Damn, he had to be careful. He couldn’t count on abilities he no longer had access to.

Building pressure in his head urged him to hurry. Allowing a vision right now would be the worst thing possible, but the longer he waited, the more violent and uncomfortable the backlash. Once, when he was younger, he had thought to ignore his gift. The result of built-up visions had left him bedridden with migraines for three months while his family members scolded him about trying to avoid his responsibilities.

His family. Crap. They were going to skin his lynx hide and hang his pelt above the mantel as a warning to other family members about being aware of their environment. He should have spotted someone spying on him long enough to figure out his schedule. His family had taught him how to avoid capture, but after years with no attacks, he had paid the price for his laxity.

A shudder went through his thin frame. Grandmother wouldn’t be pleased. The matriarch of his family insisted everyone call her weekly. As solitary shifters, they didn’t normally live close together, but they did keep open communication. If he got out of there, the wizards better hope his grandmother didn’t find them. She might be old, but she still had a tough lynx attitude whether shifted or not.

He shook his head and shoved aside his concerns. He first needed to get out of this place, and then he could worry about his family. He hurried the rest of the way down the hall, only stopping when another door blocked his path. Despite his previous failure, he pressed his ear to the wood and tried to hear through to the other side.

This time, soft murmurs reached him. He bit his lip as he considered his limited options. Deciding to chance it, he turned the doorknob in a slow, silent motion before pulling the door open just enough to peer through the crack. Electricity still worked in this part of the mansion. He hadn’t noticed this during his self-reflection, but the sconces in the hall were also lit.

Over a dozen people filled the room, none that he recognized. Scents of vampires, shifters, and magic laced with lightning overwhelmed his nose. He barely held back the sneeze threatening to escape. Now wouldn’t be a good time to draw anyone’s attention. He didn’t know this group. They might not be on his side. Two people stepped forward and Quain spotted Peter in the mix. A quiet, relieved sigh left him.

His heart fluttered in his chest as he fought against the urge to run to his mate. For Peter’s safety, he had better stay away. The wizards wouldn’t hesitate to kill them all if they saw Quain escaping. Better to run off now and find Peter later. If the person who broke the cage door for him had wanted the wizards to know about freeing Quain, he or she would’ve come down and freed him in person. The subtlety of the act told Quain to keep things quiet and sneak away while they were all occupied.

He absently yanked on the bracelet. If only he could change into his lynx form. Not only would he be able to run but also the shift would heal most of his injuries during transition. Instead, he stuck to the shadows and hoped the others were too invested in their conversation to notice him. He caught sight of a vampire and almost stumbled. He didn’t fear vamps, but he didn’t want one finding him either. The fewer people saw him, the better his chances of escape.

Peter turned as if sensing him. Quain tilted his head toward the door and waved goodbye. His mate nodded but didn’t move from his spot, reinforcing Quain’s belief that they wanted him to use stealth. Deciding Peter understood the situation, he pushed away the mating instinct and slunk out of the mansion. He would prefer to at least be able to visit the shower and put on a fresh set of clothes before they officially met—so the first time he properly greeted his mate, it wouldn’t be while exhausted and stinky.

A trip home shouldn’t be too much trouble. He could be in and out with a shower, clothes, and cash without anyone the wiser. If only he could get the damn bracelet off.


Chapter Three



Anticipation thrummed through Peter as he turned the key. A huge grin crossed his face at the engine’s loud roar. After years of restoration, he’d finally gotten it working. He had dedicated months to his obsession, and it finally paid off. Granted, part of the delay had been due to his mutation and being under the control of a psychotic scientist. Now he had his own business and no more weird genetic shit. He was back to normal and he couldn’t be happier.

Only his missing mate stopped him from fully enjoying his life. Where had he gone? Was he really his mate? Peter had analyzed every minute of his dream meeting with Quain and, after deciding it must have been real, had taken his suspicions to his alpha. With Silver and Anthony’s help, they had gone to the wizards and created enough of a distraction to allow Quain to vanish.

When Quain didn’t show up by their cars when they were ready to leave Peter had almost turned back. He only stopped when Anthony convinced him that Quain would seek him out. Going back to the wizards would only increase suspicion over the pack’s actions.

Still, memories of Quain stuck inside his head. He had looked rough with his torn and blood-coated clothing. Peter had no way of knowing if Quain had got the medical attention he needed. Unfortunately, seeing his mate didn’t mean he could locate him later. As far as Peter knew, there was no magical seeking spell he could use to discover where Quain had gone, and if there was one, Peter wouldn’t be able to use it anyway.

When he’d seen Quain in person, it had taken all of his resolve not to rush over and claim him right away. The thought of the slim lynx shifter caged and tortured somewhere had led to many sleepless nights. It had taken too long to organize a way to free him and he still didn’t know if Quain had been recaptured. What if the wizards already had him back in their control? If he didn’t show up today, Peter would go back to the mansion and blow it up if necessary.

Memories of his mate’s face followed him into his dreams. Gold flashes in Quain’s eyes revealed his shifter heritage, and Peter regretted not asking about his inner animal. Quain’s status as a seer had distracted him. He ached without the presence of his other half.

After his forced mutation, Peter’s survival instincts had pushed away any plans of settling down with anyone. Now free of power-hungry psychos, things were looking much better.

Loud clapping pulled his attention away from his self-congratulations. Grinning, he rolled down the window to shout at his friend. “Hey, Steven.”

Since joining the Moon Pack, he had become good friends with wolf shifter Steven Dell and his tiger shifter mate, Dare. The couple had a strange relationship, but they were happy together, so who was he to judge? Besides, Dare made Peter laugh. He found little enough amusement in life that he appreciated anyone who could increase it.

“That crazy preacher is still screaming on the corner.” Steven jabbed his thumb over his shoulder toward the open bay door.

“I know.” Peter rolled his eyes as Steven pointed out the only downside to the garage’s excellent location on a busy intersection. Good for business, but too appealing to religious wackos trying to shout down infidels. They used the street corner to preach their beliefs in loud self-righteous tones. Most of the time, Peter simply turned up the garage radio and drowned out their noise, but one in particular screeched his rhetoric from Wednesday to Friday every week in a loud booming voice. Peter’s head always ached by the end of the day. He respected other people’s religion, but he didn’t appreciate anyone screaming at him about his imminent trip to hell. “I wish I could have him arrested for disturbing the peace, but he has that whole obnoxious freedom-of-speech thing working for him.”

Steven laughed. “Pesky rights and everything.” He nodded his head toward the car. “You finally got it working.”

Peter turned off the engine. Even with the bay doors open, he didn’t want fumes filling his garage. “I got the last part this morning. She might need a bit more fine tuning, but she’s running great.” He couldn’t stop a small bit of pride from shining through. The opportunity to indulge in his love of cars had been a long time coming.

“She sounds great! What color are you going to paint her? I’m guessing Bondo gray isn’t your final choice.” Steven gave the patched vehicle a wary eye.

“I’m thinking of going with her original red. I want to keep her as authentic looking as possible.” Peter stepped out of the car to speak with his friend. His inner wolf gave a happy bark at the sight of a pack member.

“Now that you’ve almost finished this project, maybe you can do me a favor and help Dare shop for his new car?” Steve asked.

Peter frowned. “Why does he need a new car? His SUV isn’t that old.” As of his last oil change, Dare’s vehicle had only four thousand miles on it.

Steven rubbed the back of his neck, not meeting Peter’s eyes. “I might have used it for a mutant raid, and someone possibly could have dropped a body from a few stories up onto the hood.”

Peter winced. “And did your mate possibly threaten your life?” It was all he could do to hold back his laughter. Dare’s notoriously laid-back personality didn’t extend to his vehicles. The possessive kitty had loved that SUV.

“Possibly.” Steven’s sheepish expression had Peter throwing back his head and laughing.

“You’re an idiot. Why didn’t you take your own car?”

“It had a flat tire and I hadn’t replaced it yet,” Steven whined.

“A new tire would’ve been a hell of a lot cheaper than a new car. You should’ve brought it to me.” He didn’t really have it in him to do more than mock scold. It took too much effort to hide his amusement. Steven seemed to search out the worst ways to rile his sweet lover. A more mismatched pair, he had never met. If they hadn’t been mates, he wondered if they would’ve gotten together at all.

“Perhaps. Or maybe I wanted to get Dare a new car and didn’t want to listen to him argue about it.” Steven’s smug smile set Peter laughing again.

“My lips are sealed.” Peter shook his head at his friend’s antics.

They spent the next few hours in Peter’s office, talking about new vehicles and mates over bottles of beer. The slight smudge of loneliness Peter had refused to acknowledge vanished. Joining the Moon Pack had been the best choice ever. Silver and Anthony were awe-inspiring, powerful leaders and more than capable of protecting the pack against any enemies. It helped that one of the pack leaders was the ultimate alpha wolf and the other a god. Peter didn’t know what kind of god, but he wouldn’t cross Anthony for anything.

Steven slapped Peter on the shoulder. “Well, I’ve gotta go. If you don’t mind, I’ll have Dare call you to arrange a day for car shopping. It might be better if I’m not there to help him pick. Just make sure he chooses something brand new and safe. I don’t care about the price as long as it doesn’t go into the six figures.”

Peter raised his eyebrows at that. “Win the lottery lately?” As far as he knew, Steven didn’t have a fortune stashed away.

“I’ve been saving for a while.” Steven grinned. “I was going to buy him a new car as a birthday gift, but I was worried he would complain about my ‘extravagance.’” He used his fingers to make air quotes over the last word.

“Aren’t you the sneaky wolf,” Peter teased.

“I have to be. You’ve met my curious kitty.”

Peter ignored the painful twist in his chest at the thought of a mate of his own. Would his mate care what kind of car he drove? In the future, would he be plotting to buy Quain expensive gifts he couldn’t turn down? He had been surprised enough to learn he had a mate. If bonding had a genetic component, then having his DNA twisted into a tangled strand should have destroyed any chance of happiness. Quain had been an unexpected but welcome surprise.

“Don’t worry. I’ll help Dare.” He smiled at Steven’s relieved expression.

“And make sure it has excellent crash-test ratings.” Steven scowled.

“You are such a mamma wolf watching out for your tiger.” Peter grinned at his friend’s blush.

“You bet I am. He might be a cat, but he’s still only got the one life.” Steven’s eyes flared wolf gold for a minute before returning to their normal blue.

After Steven left, Peter spent another half hour puttering around the garage. He originally had considered becoming part of the full-time security team for the pack but, after talking to Anthony and Silver, had chosen to open a garage instead. He kept all the pack vehicles running and in good condition, and they paid his lease and got a discount on labor. Being his own boss gave Peter a sense of independence sorely lacking in the past few years. He still pitched in to help when they needed muscle like at the wizard manor, but he kept most of his focus on car maintenance. With all the pack vehicles, he had been able to hire a couple more mechanics to help him out.

A hubcap clanged against the concrete garage floor. Peter spun around, trying to figure out what had knocked it over. He took in a deep breath, but the smell of motor oil masked any other scent.

“Hello?”

Feeling like one of those idiots in a horror movie who were picked off early, he walked over to the hubcap. Away from the cars, he took another sniff, inhaling deeper until he found the strange scent of feral feline.

His inner wolf gave a happy yelp.

What the hell!

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” A slim man with a bruised face and messy dark hair stepped out of the shadows. His arms were black and blue, and the lower half of his right arm had a raw look as if he had rubbed the bracelet wrapped around it a few times too many.

“Quain!” Peter froze at Quain’s appearance. The manor’s poor lighting had prevented him from seeing all of Quain’s injuries. His dominant side growled at the poor condition of his mate.

“You recognize me.” Quain ran his fingers through his hair. “I wondered if you would, now that I’m not as hazy.”

“Of course I do. More importantly my wolf does. Are you all right? I saw you escape, but I couldn’t find you afterward.” He couldn’t stop staring at Quain. The gods and fates had been kind to him when they chose his other half. Quain’s slim form and height were the perfect size for cuddling. Peter might not admit it out loud, but he enjoyed snuggling up to his dates. The wolf in him appreciated the body-to-body contact.

“I will be. Wolf?” A flash of confusion went across Quain’s face before clearing. “Oh right, you did say you were a member of the Moon Pack. With everything going on, I had forgotten about that.”

“What are you?” Peter asked, trying not to sound judgmental, but many shifters didn’t like to mate outside of their species. He had heard of foolish idiots who tossed aside their fated mates because they didn’t match up to their expectations. Peter had no plans to behave the same.

“A lynx.”

“Nice.” Peter scanned his memory, trying to remember anything about lynx shifters, but came up empty. “Are there a lot of you?”

Quain shrugged. “Less than wolves.”

Peter didn’t pursue the subject. He didn’t blame Quain for not spilling all his secrets at their first meeting. “And you’re a seer also?” He knew he had understood that part of their conversation.

“Yes.”

“Huh.” Peter didn’t know what to say about that. This wasn’t how he had expected their first face-to-face to go. Although the pull between them nudged him to walk closer, he didn’t wish to freak out his mate. Coming on too strong could spell disaster for their future relationship, and Peter wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.

Quain cleared his throat. “I was hoping you could help me.”

“I will always help you.” Peter bit his lip at Quain’s hopeful expression.

“Will you?”

“Of course. How injured are you? I’m sure Anthony can heal you. We don’t have an official pack healer, but a few of the pack are good at fixing people up and we use Anthony when the injury is more than superficial. I should ask Silver about that.” It hadn’t occurred to him before that the Moon Pack should have a doctor. There must be someone out there who was experienced in healing and either was a shifter or knew about them.

Relief crossed Quain’s features. “Thank you.”

“Always,” he vowed before even registering the words. Damn, he had to keep a lid on his need to do anything for his mate. He had just met Quain and had no idea of what kind of person he was binding himself to. Peter pushed back his inner wolf’s attempts to leap out and pounce on Quain. The obvious injuries were enough to stop him from pulling his mate into a hug. Unseen wounds might lay beneath his clothing, and Peter refused to harm his mate even if it meant holding back his instinctive affection.

Quain lifted his arm and shook it. “The wizards put a suppression bracelet on me to stop me from shifting. I was hoping you would be able to help me remove it. Once it’s gone, I will be able to turn into my lynx and heal most of the damage.”

Peter walked closer to get a better look. With each step, Quain’s scent filled his nose. Delicious. His wolf rumbled in agreement.

Quain remained in place while Peter approached. Only the stillness of his body told of his nervousness.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Peter soothed. For some reason, Quain’s wariness hurt him deep inside. How much damage had the wizards done physically and emotionally. Hate burned in his heart for those who had harmed what was his. He pushed down his anger. He didn’t want Quain to think it was directed at him.

“I-I know. My lynx can sense we are mates,” Quain replied, his eyes revealing his nerves as Peter moved closer. “I’m not used to being this close to someone who isn’t a relative or trying to torture me.”

“Oh, sweetie.” Compassion squeezed Peter’s heart. He fought the urge to wrap himself around Quain and never let go. Quain’s injuries wouldn’t allow a good squeeze.

Peter gently gripped Quain’s right hand, then lifted it to peer at the bracelet on his wrist. Energy thrummed through the metal. “Hmm. There is a lot of magic going through this. I don’t know if my tools will make any difference. We’ll have to have Anthony look at this, along with your injuries.”

Quain sighed. “Are you sure you can’t take it off? I thought with all these tools, you could do something.”

Peter tried to calm Quain’s obvious frustration. “I probably could snap the metal, but I don’t know if there would be any magical backlash. I think it would be better to take you to my Alpha Mate and have Anthony take a look.” Peter was reluctant to prod at unknown magic. Quain could be hurt if they tried to force the metal apart.

“Anthony?” A pungent fog of uneasiness wafted off Quain.

Peter examined Quain’s expression but couldn’t see anything wrong. “Yes. Anthony is Silver’s mate. He’s magical. He would know how to deal with this better than me and be able to avoid injuring you further.”

Quain nodded but still appeared reluctant. “Okay.”

“What’s wrong? Did I do something?” Peter released Quain’s hand and stepped back.

“No, it’s not you. Magical people put the bracelet on me. I’m worried Anthony might be one of them.” Quain bit his lip.

Peter pulled his attention away from Quain’s lips and shook his head, trying to clear out his lust-clouded thinking. It had obviously been too long since he had last been laid if a single lip bite had him struggling for control. He blushed as his pheromones filled the garage.


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