Seth Mason arrives at the Alphas’ Homestead under duress. The Council have made it clear that if his cousins, Caleb and Jacob, can’t tame Seth’s wild ways his very last chance will be used up and he’ll have nowhere left to go.
Seth is horrified to find that he’s going to have to spend a year living in the backwaters of Nebraska. He hates the Alphas. He hates the dirt and the horses. He hates the nearby town and everyone in it.
In fact, the only thing he doesn’t hate is Malcolm, the deputy sheriff. Unfortunately, Malcolm doesn’t seem to feel the same, especially when Seth uses his bad behavior to try to get the deputy’s attention.
Jacob feels for Seth—knowing what it’s like to lose family—but when his cousin’s bad behavior turns the town, not only against Seth but against all the werewolves at the homestead, he has to put his sympathies aside and fight to save his family and the place he’s called home for the last five years.
Sometimes the only shelter we can find from ourselves is in the hearts of others.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Alpha Character, Coming of Age, Death of Parent, Families/Raising Kids, First Time, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, Love Can Heal / Redemption, Married Life, Second Chances, Slow Burning Love, Uncommunicative Masculinity
Word Count: 98598
Setting: Nebraska, USA (AU)
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
If there was a knock at his door, Seth didn’t hear it through his drunken haze. The first thing he was aware of was Ezra Fletcher sweeping into his room, insistently calling his name.
“Seth. Seth, get up.” His tone was even more impatient than usual.
Seth groaned and tried to prize his eyes open as he raised his hand weakly. “This is a violation of the house rules. No coming in—”
Ezra angrily swiped Seth’s legs towards the edge of the bed, sending Seth sprawling. He clutched at the bedspread as he rolled, hoping he wouldn’t tumble right off. A giggle bubbled up out of him as he tried to clamber back to the center of the bed. One of the only ways he could face waking up in this god-forsaken place was making sure he’d still be drunk from the night before. And last night was no exception.
“Look at you. What a mess.” Ezra was practically growling.READ MORE
Seth peered up at the Alpha, unable to stop himself grinning like a loon. One of the few pleasures he had left in life was antagonizing the man whose household he’d been dumped into when nobody else would take him. Although this morning there was something in his cousin’s demeanor that was different. The facade of cool detachment the Alpha unwaveringly presented was slipping. Ezra seemed anxious, running his hand through his gray hair as he looked down at Seth’s disheveled form.
“At least you’re dressed, I suppose.”
Seth frowned and looked down at himself. He was indeed still dressed from the night before. Sans shoes and jacket but it seemed he had simply flopped face first onto his bed after taking them off and fallen right to sleep. Not that Seth could recall much of that or any of the night’s other activities with much clarity. He recalled sneaking out to meet his friends, against Ezra’s instructions, naturally. There had definitely been drinking at two of the city bars he liked to frequent…
Seth strained to remember as he pushed his aching body upright. He held his swimming head in his hands and took a deep breath to quell the rising nausea. There was some vague remembrance of the Sutter brothers dragging him to keep watch while they got up to some nonsense or other—he’d stopped asking what they got up to after the second burglary he’d unwittingly taken part in. Then someone had yelled at him to run and there were police whistles…
“Have the constabulary come for me again?” Seth’s mouth could barely function. He wiped sloppily at the slime in the corners of his dry lips. “‘Cause I didn’t do anything. Can’t you just pay them and send them away as usual?” The exertion of talking was too much to deal with at such an early hour so Seth started to lie back down. Except, Ezra’s large hand grabbed him painfully by the shoulder.
“It’s not the police. You need to get up and pull yourself together.” Ezra’s tone was authoritative and exasperated as always but there was concern there.
Seth ignored it and tried unsuccessfully to wrestle out of the Alpha’s grasp. “I don’t have to do anything—“
“It’s the Council, Seth. Just—just try to stand.”
An ice cold bullet of fear penetrated Seth’s chest and he felt very sober, very quickly. Slowly, he looked up at his cousin. “I’m sorry. I thought for a moment you said the Council is here.”
Ezra looked pursed his lips. “Well, at least your hearing is functioning. They want to see you and I really don’t think you should keep them waiting.”
Seth thought he might die right there. Instead, he jumped up, shaking his head to try to clear his vision. He ran his trembling hands over his rumpled clothes, trying to smooth down his rolled up sleeves, and tuck in his shirt as best he could. Ezra appeared at his side with a clean jacket and started to guide Seth’s arms into it.
Seth sought out Ezra’s eyes but his cousin was avoiding his gaze. Seth cleared his throat. “Whatever they think I’ve done, I didn’t, I swear—“
“It’s not one thing, Seth,” Ezra said, sadly. When he finally met Seth’s eyes, Ezra’s expression was total resignation. “I told you this would happen if you didn’t stop. I warned you.”
Ezra turned to walk away but Seth grabbed him by the arm. Ezra looked back at him in surprise, staring at the offending hand like he might bite it off. Seth let go, but stepped forward. “You—you won’t let them take me, will you? Please. Please don’t let them take me.”
Everyone had heard the stories: the work-camps were a fate worse than death some said. Execution sounded preferable and if the Council deemed Seth problematic enough, that’s exactly what would happen. And even Ezra, with his long political reach and quiet influence, wouldn’t be able to save him if it had come to that.
Ezra didn’t say anything. His face was as grim as Seth had ever seen it. Taking Seth roughly by the bicep, the Alpha all but dragged him out of his room, into the eerily silent house, and down the stairs without another word.
Seth’s mother had once described the Fletcher’s front parlor as ‘exquisite,’ with the fine, yet simple furniture, delicate tapestries and elegant drapery. Seth had a whole different opinion of the room when he entered it that morning.
The exact number of Alphas sitting on the Council fluctuated so no one really knew how many there were, and they rarely all congregated in one place at the same time for reasons of security. So, Seth didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by the fact that seven of the members had turned up to announce his fate. They variously sat and stood around the bright room like ravens presiding over a corpse, each one dressed in black from head to toe. When he entered, both women and one of the men raised handkerchiefs to their noses and Seth realized he must smell like a whiskey-soaked whore—something that was confirmed when he looked down only to see a rather unfortunate stain down the front of his trousers.
Seth tried to keep his composure except he all but gasped as he stepped into the room. Ezra was such an imposing Alpha that even Seth, with all his stubbornness had a hard time resisting him but multiplying that presence by eight almost had Seth on his knees. Ezra seemed to feel Seth’s body weaken and compensated by holding him upright, even if he didn’t stop pushing Seth in front of the crowd.
One of the Alphas saw the problem and snatched up a chair, placing it in the center of the room for him. Ezra steered Seth over and, when Seth refused to sit, forcibly pushed him down by his shoulders.
Seth wanted to cry with the shame of it. He forced himself to look defiantly into the face of every person there and not think about how devastated his mother would be, knowing it had come to this.
One of the Alphas stepped forward, a large middle-aged man that Seth vaguely recognized whose bushy mustache twitched as he spoke. “Mr. Mason. I think you know why we’re here.” Seth shrugged. He felt somewhat gratified that the gesture seemed to annoy the man, who cleared his throat and continued. “Complaints have been filed against you, not only by the New York City officials but also by members of our own community which is highly unusual. The Council has been consulted and we’re in agreement. You can no longer stay in New York without any pack affiliation for your own safety and that of the wider community. Therefore—”
The Alpha was all set to go on and looked startled beyond all reason to be interrupted by Ezra clearing his throat dramatically from where he stood at Seth’s shoulder. In fact, all the Council members looked in various levels of outrage at the clear breach of protocol but their expressions softened when Ezra stepped forward and asked softly, “My apologies but may I propose something?”
The Council members looked at each other in some silent communication until an elderly lady who was seated with her hand resting on her black parasol, asked, “What is it Ezra?”
Ezra smiled at her. “I know the matter of Seth leaving New York has been decided but—well, my son and his mate have a small homestead in Nebraska, as you know.” The Council members nodded, so Ezra went on. “And I wondered if you would consider commuting Seth’s sentence for a year? Under the circumstances. And on strict conditions, of course.”
A wave of understanding passed over the faces in front of Seth, almost all of them nodding and one or two smiling. The man with the bushy mustache sighed. “Well then, Seth. How do you feel about Nebraska?”
Seth felt like crying all over again.COLLAPSE