In a brutal world where everyone is born an Alpha, beta, or omega, is it possible to be one birth nature but still lead a full life while pretending to be another?
Tobias Hanson is a cop, specifically a homicide detective. The cases he investigates? Murdered omegas. Except in Tobias’ world, an Alpha killing his omega is perfectly acceptable. After all, omegas are nothing more than easily replaced, purchased property. With his family long since gone, Tobias spends his days with dead omegas, and his nights in self-imposed solitary loneliness.
Abundio Chale is an enigma. Like most alphas, he is highly educated, attractive, and possesses the same self-confidence all of his birth nature do. Yet, despite his schooling and his alpha privilege, he hops from job to job as if searching for something. And, like Tobias, he spends most evenings alone, longing for the one thing he doesn’t have.
A chance meeting puts both men on a path neither saw coming. Lives will change, love will be found, and both men may get exactly what they want. But, like most things, there will be a price to pay. Will it be worth it?
- 2 To Be Read lists
Read The First Three Chapters Below
Staring at the dimly lit gray door, Tobias Hanson sat anxiously drumming his thick fingers against the steering wheel. Everything about the door called to him; it held the hope of release, of freedom, and of sexual relief. Sure, they would all be temporary, but that knowledge didn’t keep his palms from itching, his heart from picking up speed, or his khakis from growing tighter. However, what lay on the other side of that entryway also promised inevitable heartache and nearly crushing disappointment, not to mention incalculable odds of danger.READ MORE
Running a shaking hand over his broad brow, he desperately tried to ease the building anticipation, but it didn’t help. So instead he moved it down and clasped it over his mouth, fingers prickling against the day’s stubble, in an attempt to hold back the fucking whimper of desire that suddenly threatened to escape.
He despised the weakness that had driven him here—again. For years he’d been able to deny his needs, but once he’d crossed the threshold that first time, it had been over; his life had forever changed. And nowadays, he often found he only had the strength to stave himself off for a few weeks at a time, rather than what had started out as a few months. The last visit had been just thirty-four days ago. The realization that the more frequently he came here only stoked the desire to return simply heightened his agitation. How long would he be able to hold out after this visit?
Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against the cool imitation leather of the steering wheel, released his mouth—now that he was sure the needy-assed whimper had been squelched—and palmed his aching crotch. “Please. No. For fuck’s sake! No!” Yet, he still glanced toward the dashboard’s clock, mentally counting down the minutes until his shift ended, knowing he couldn’t withstand the temptation any longer.
The incoming message from dispatch forced him off the wheel. “Ten-eighty-four? Ten-eighty-four?”
Tobias’ eyes darted from the radio to the clock. Twenty-one minutes until the end of his shift, until he knew he would have left the car and walked across the street, knocked on the door, and ventured into...the unknown—again. Yeah. Work… He needed that now.
With a longing sigh for normality, he snatched the up the mic and responded. “Ten-eighty-four.”
“Ten-eighty-four, confirmed report of an O-157. That’s Omega-one-five-seven. 12 Bayside Terrace.”
“Goddamnit,” he murmured. So much for being grateful for a distraction. The very last thing he needed right now was a call involving any type of O, least of all a 157.
He punched the address into the GPS, then keyed his mic again. “Ten-eighty-four, copy. ETA eighteen minutes.”
With one final look toward the door, he started the police issued sedan, pulled out, and headed toward another murdered omega.
Tobias pulled to a stop in front of the residence and killed the engine. A quick look around confirmed he was squarely situated in La Jolla; one of the swankest areas of Greater San Diego. The neighborhood—fancy as shit—was quiet on this December evening. Behind artful walls and high-sculpted hedges that closed them off from one another, families settled down for dinner. At just shy of six in the evening, that wasn’t surprising, but neither was the facade of tranquility; the calming scent of winter blooming flowers and the pleasant tinkle of a distant wind chime conspired with the beautiful clear sky to act as a veneer. All of it hid what actually took place behind the manicured lawns and immaculately maintained homes.
Around the house, squad cars weren’t huddled in the driveway, an ME’s van wasn’t standing in wait, nor was there crime scene tape or any of the other countless law enforcement trimmings that would have indicated a murder had taken place. He snorted. Of course none of that shit was present: it was just an omega that had been killed—not an alpha or beta.
After leaving the car and making his way up the mixed stone walkway, he pushed through the heavy wrought iron gate and paused just inside the private courtyard. Situated off to one side, a small fountain bubbled pleasantly. Sculpted in what looked like aged bronze, a virile, bare-chested alpha stood next to his softer, tunic-clad beta. One heavily muscled arm wrapped protectively around his smaller partner while the other held an urn, from which poured water onto the bowed head of a naked kneeling omega. The alpha sported a thick, well-groomed beard—something the law forbade betas from growing, and omegas were incapable of—and eyes that conveyed strength and fortitude. The beta’s expression was far more placid, relaying calm and quiet. From one of the beta’s hands hung a leash leading to a thick metal collar around the omega’s petite neck. An equally thick ring encircled the omega’s small genitals. Bisecting the man’s slight torso, a chain ran from the genital ring to the collar, connecting the two subjugating pieces of metal. The alpha’s flowing water signified the ability to either offer or withhold life, while the beta’s tether was meant to represent care of the dependent omega. The entire thing, less than five feet in height, symbolized the whole of Tobias’ culture, and it sickened his stomach.
After pressing the doorbell, Tobias waited for it to be answered by the household’s beta. Of course it would be the beta. Without a living, breathing Omega in residence, who else would it be? After a moment, a smartly attired man in slim dress pants and a fitted shirt inched the door open. Like this one, all betas—along with alphas and omegas—were instantly recognizable. On the physical side, alphas were tall, muscular, and sharp-featured, where betas were nearly always a head shorter, masculine but with a much softer edge to their features, and conveyed a far less aggressive demeanor. Not to mention the distinctly different smells between the two. A beta’s smell was uniquely sweet and edible; their scent ranging from milkshakes, to chocolate, to cupcakes, and everything in between. The only commonality in betas’ scents was its sweetness. Toasted marshmallows drifted over from the man. Taking a deeper breath, Tobias could detect the strong earthy scent denoting an alpha; this beta’s partner smelled of wood smoke and marjoram. After another moment, the now-deceased omega’s lingering scent made itself known; summer rain and coriander. Alphas had two scents: a primary and a secondary. The first was generally a tree or a tree derivative, and the second was almost always a spice or herb. The same was true of omegas. Betas, on the other hand, had a single sweet smell that alphas found irresistible.
After introducing himself and offering his badge, the immaculately dressed blond beta led him to a richly appointed sitting area.
“Thank you for coming, Detective Hanson. May I offer you a cup of coffee—I just brewed a fresh pot of vanilla bean decaf—or a glass of mint tea, perhaps?”
Tobias wanted to growl, A glass of tea? Are you fuckin’ kidding me here? Your omega is dead, and you’re offering me beverages? Instead, he declined and followed protocol. “Is your alpha home?”
The man’s eyes brightened at the mention of his partner, but he shook his head. “He’s still at the hospital, performing rounds. He had a complicated surgery this afternoon, and it pushed his entire schedule off.”
Now that cultural etiquette had been followed, and having determined the man’s alpha wasn’t present, he could freely communicate with the beta.
“Beta Kingston, please, Detective” came the soft interruption.
The man’s choice of honorific told Tobias he was likely in a strictly traditional household.
Giving a nod, he amended, “Beta Kingston, can you please show me to your omega?”
“Oh, of course,” the man said, as if he’d completely forgotten why a SDPD detective was standing in his sitting room. “It is in its quarters. Right this way.”
Tobias consciously fought clenching his jaw. ‘It.’ Un-fucking-believable.
Following Beta Kingston down the long hall that divided the house in two, they passed through a modern kitchen and into a mudroom, coming to a stop at a deadbolted door.
The man slipped a key from around his neck—yep, very traditional—and Tobias knew Alpha Kingston would be wearing a matching key around his own neck. Once the door had been unlocked and the light flipped on, Beta Kingston stepped back.
“It would be improper for me to accompany you, Detective.”
Again, Tobias wasn’t surprised; following a man other than one’s alpha into a bedroom—any bedroom—was strictly forbidden in traditional households.
“Of course.” Tobias looked down the illuminated stairwell. “What can you tell me about—” He paused, hoping Kingston would supply details on his own. Often he could learn far more by asking partial questions and letting others fill in whatever they wanted. Most people liked to talk, and his job was to listen.
“It had been ungiving the last three months. Alpha Kingston and myself attempted the licit methods to rectify the situation, all to no avail.”
Tobias nodded in understanding but didn’t miss the beta’s use of the term “licit methods.” Or how it was still being used to refer to the omega.
“As a final effort, It had been confined”—he tilted his chin toward the stairs—“for the last two weeks.”
If it weren’t for departmental procedure, Tobias wouldn’t even bother going down to investigate—he didn’t have to actually see what lay waiting for him to know what would be found. Nonetheless, he made his way down.
At the bottom of the stairs, two doors sat across from one another. Unlike normal doors, which would have opened inward, each of these opened out onto the small landing. One would be the sleeping quarters and the other would be a washroom. If the household followed true tradition—and everything up to this point indicated it did—the door on the right would be the commode. He pulled it opened first and flipped on the light. Just as he expected, the entire room was no bigger than a coat closet, and it held only the most utilitarian fixtures: a stool, a sink, and a shower—if a simple open pipe protruding from the ceiling could be considered a shower. He didn’t have to look closer at either the sink or the shower’s single knobs to know they would only deliver cold water. Flipping off the light, he closed the door and turned to face the opposite one. He couldn’t help but shake his head. There were only two rooms down here, but forcing the omega to leave his sleeping quarters in order to use his own bathroom only served to reinforce his status, or lack thereof; no amenities for an omega. Everything in a traditional household was designed to repeatedly drill that fact in. Everywhere the omega turned there was a sign providing a consistent message: You are nothing. You are an It. You can be replaced. Mentally bracing himself, he turned the knob on the second door, pulled it open, and flipped on the light. A dim, bare overhead bulb, no more than ten watts, cast the dead omega in eerie shadows. No matter how many times he had “investigated” this same type of scene—an omega who’d grown ungiving—the unmitigated horror of it never failed to punch him in the gut.
The room was, at best, six by six. Directly to the right, on the unfinished concrete floor, sat a bed pallet. To the left, the dead omega was prone in a semi-sitting position, his wrists manacled and chained just high enough up the wall to prevent him from fully sitting. His left hip nearly grazed the floor, though, slightly lower than the right, but that was only due to a completely dislocated left shoulder. Faded bruises intermixed with fresh ones, and they painted nearly every inch of his pale skin. After pulling a pen light from his breast pocket, Tobias inspected the man’s gonads. The grotesque, heart-wrenching remnants of them had him diverting the light toward the floor, which brought up a distinct lack of body fluids. If the emaciated body weren’t enough, the scant urine and fecal matter—both of which would’ve let loose upon death—confirmed he’d been starved; a typical licit method to force the omega into giving again.
He tried to brush back the black curls from the man’s forehead, but sweat, blood, and heaven only knew what else had long plastered them in place. Pulling his cell phone out, he opened the Omega Registry & Inventory app and scanned the omega’s hairless right armpit.
After three short beeps—an indication the man had been found in the system—his details appeared:
Asset #: H1051-S806-O74
Assigned To: Alpha Kingston, Hawthorn J (52 years, 71 days) / beta Kingston, Cory M (36 years, 262 days)
Assignment Number: 01
Assignment Duration: 182 days
Age: 18 years, 182 days
Height: 5 feet, 4 inches
Weight: 94 pounds
Last Recorded Asset Name: Sed
After scrutinizing the details, Tobias fixed his gaze on the Asset Number. H1051 told him the boy—because he certainly hadn’t reached manhood—came from Hatchery 1051, the S806 indicated he was the eight hundred and sixth Special Order to come from that facility, and finally the O74 designated him as the seventy-fourth omega from his batch. He shook his head when he did some quick math and realized the boy had only been with his alpha and beta for less than six months. The poor bastard had barely made it out of the training center before meeting his end. He’d never even lived.
Special Orders were now so popular they were considered the norm. Decades and decades ago, an alpha and beta would meet, fall in love, and then register for an omega. Once their application was approved, chaperoned outings would be scheduled and, after the triad was deemed compatible, a ceremony would be held to celebrate the duo becoming a trio. Then, if the triad wanted children, at some point after the trio’s fifth anniversary, they’d begin the adoption process. Yet, even back then, the birth nature of the adoptive child had been limited to either an alpha or a beta. Omegas, the powers that be reasoned, would be too vulnerable and, thus, subject to potential abuse. Hence they were raised in protected group homes until they were of an age to become part of a triad. Now both processes were so far removed from what they’d once been that to call them perverted wouldn’t even begin to describe the fucked-up toilet-party they’d become. A duo now essentially bought an omega that had been raised and trained to be a slave. “Special Orders” were extra, and if the duo were willing to pay, their request would be pulled from a specific batch; innocuous to the downright obscene could all be obtained, provided a batch had already been created with the requested trait, and the duo was willing to pony up the cash. What was once a beautiful thing had become so distorted that it was now nothing less than horrifying.
There wasn’t much of a deterrent to torturing and killing an omega either. For one thing, there was absolutely no law against it—so long as the omega had been deemed ungiving by the alpha—and for another, the price one paid for an omega was relative to the buyer’s household income. Essentially, a man—or boy, in this case—could be bought for the equivalent of one percent of the alpha and betas’ annual salary. Of course, special orders were more, but not enough to give an abusive, firmly middle-class alpha more than a moment or two of pause before he committed murder. Thus, even the most income-strapped couple wouldn’t be kept from the bliss—and the health benefits, provided the omega didn’t become ungiving—of becoming a trio.
Tobias dragged his eyes from the dead boy back to the app. With a simple click, he brought up the alpha’s history. Sed—the unlucky kid hanging from the wall—was this alpha’s twenty-sixth omega in the last thirteen years. Even money had no influence on the strict two omega per year law. Although, there were rumblings in the senate the law would soon be repealed with the Traditionalists’ rise to power in the last election. Alpha Kingston had likely killed twenty-six men with complete and sanctioned impunity. And the man was a physician, for fuck’s sake.
Health concerns be damned, Tobias leaned in and kissed Sed’s forehead. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I wish I could make them pay for what they did to you.”
He turned, trudged up the stairs, and had to force a civil tone upon reentering the kitchen. Beta Kingston had just finished mixing a cocktail and placing it on a tray. Next to the highball glass sat a bowl of mini pretzels, a few cubes of cheese, and several slices of what looked like salami.
Kingston looked up with a smile. “All finished down there?”
“Yes. I’ll file my report and call for a pickup from my car.”
The beta’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh. My alpha just phoned. He’s only a few minutes from home. I was hoping you could stay and meet him.”
This isn’t a fucking social call, you prick, Tobias wanted to snap. A beta’s role was to care for an omega, and offer him the tenderness and love alphas were supposedly incapable of. Tobias thought both notions were a crock of shit; he’d seen heartless betas, like this punk-ass dingus standing in front of him, as well as alphas with the capacity of kindness and compassion. Granted, both were growing more rare with each passing year, but they certainly weren’t unheard of. Instead, he lifted a shoulder at Beta Kingston as if to indicate he had no choice. “I apologize, another call just came in. But please convey my deepest sympathy to Alpha Kingston for your home’s loss.” He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t keep himself from it. “I understand the trio bond is sacred and often irreplaceable...losing a beloved omega can be very traumatic.”
The dipshit’s lips tightened as he briskly wiped his hands on a tea towel. “I’ll see you out, Detective.”
Tobias waved toward the drink tray. “No, please. You’ve got your hands full. I can find my way.”
Tobias cracked a single eye open, groaned at what he was sure was retina damage caused by the burning ball of fire streaming through his open bedroom blinds, and pulled the blankets over his head. Sonofabitch, why he ever thought a pint and a half of gin was the solution to any problem, he’d never know.
Rolling over, he peeked out at the alarm clock and gave another groan: 12:37 pm. Sure, it was Saturday, but more than half of it was now over, and he had a shit-ton to get done today.
Bracing himself, he squeezed his eyes closed, flung the blankets back, and blindly felt his way to the narrow bathroom. Once the door was firmly closed behind him, blocking out any natural light, he hit the switch for the smaller bulb inside the shower, and shuffled to the toilet. After easing the lid open, careful not to let it bang—as any loud noises might cause his head to retaliate by convincing his stomach to heave—he sat down and hunched forward, trying to find that sweet spot between contorting his body nearly in half and relaxing enough to try and piss with his morning wood.
Of course, his hardon, despite it being completely unrelated to sex, found his mind drifting to the gray door—and what lay behind it. Jeez, not even that poor fucking dead omega from last night could put a damper on his twisted libido. And he didn’t want to even contemplate what the fuck that said about him.
After a quick, very warm shower—where a few simple strokes of his cock and a quick orgasm offered at least a brief measure of abatement—he found himself staring into the mirror and reaching for his razor. There were days where he envied omegas and their naturally hairless bodies. Well, he had to admit, “naturally” was a bit of a stretch; there’d been very little that was natural about omegas for many generations. Nearly every aspect of their DNA had been manipulated over the last several hundred years in an effort to “grow the perfect companion.” The lack of hair was only one in an ever-growing litany of enhancements catering to the almighty alpha. Their cocks had been bred for a reduced size since the beginning of time, but lately he’d heard rumor some of the new youngsters didn’t even have testes and, therefore, found they couldn’t catch a nut, even if their alpha owners were inclined to grant one. Fat fucking chance of that happening, rotten bastards. Jesus, he despised alphas, with their arrogant self-assuredness, their utter selfishness, and their complete lack of humanity. And yet, he loved them. He hated everything they stood for, everything they represented, and still he was drawn to them just as the proverbial suicidal moth was to the deadly flame.
And none of this was helping his hangover one bit.
He sighed, ran a hand down his furred torso, and thanked fuck that at least betas could be hairy—though it was unusual. Turning, he studied his profile, then made his weekly vow to get to the gym more often. It wasn’t as if he were flabby or even out of shape. But at thirty-six years old, maintaining a thirty-four inch waist became more and more difficult with each passing year. And although his biceps and pecs remained firm and defined, his abs had been MIA for nearly eight years.
“Motherfucking alpha bullshit.” If he weren’t certain venturing out of the house unshaven wouldn’t end up with a ticket, he’d chuck the razor and get on with his damn errands. But he, of all people, couldn’t afford a hygiene citation. His alpha captain would have a field day with that shit. “Hanson,” Tobias could hear the asstwat growl, “You think you’re better than every other fucking beta bitch in New California? A cop who thinks laws don’t apply to him? Is that the line of shit you’re gonna try and feed me?”
Fuck you, Alpha Captain, Sir!
He squeezed his eyes shut. Then resting head-to-arms on the vanity, he arched his back and pushed his ass out.
Quietly, and with a burning neck, he whispered, “But if you growl those degrading words in my ear while you’re fucking me, Sir….”
Shame filled him to the core, and before he understood what was happening—he had punched the mirror. “You pathetic weak bitch!” Ignoring his shattered reflection, he angrily wiped the contents off the counter. “What the fuck is wrong with you‽”
By the time his mind cleared and he had bandaged his knuckles, he’d made a plan: run errands, then head to the gray door. He needed what lay behind that door.
Dry cleaning dropped off, check. Oil changed in his truck, check. Baseball glove relaced, check. New bathroom mirror, check. Now all he needed to do was make it to the checkout counter, through the sea of irritating Target shoppers—and they had better have live people to ring him up, because he wasn’t having any of that self checkout BS today—drop his crap at home, and head for the gray door.
The kamikaze cart wielding betas came out of nowhere, yammering about Tide being on sale, and everything seemed to happen both in slow motion and far too quickly at the same time. He swerved to avoid them and then ran right into the dude on a ladder, stocking more of said sale detergent. Cartwheeling arms immediately preceded the man falling backwards, and just by the grace of some God, Tobias reached him in time. Suddenly, he found himself with a muscled back pressed into his front, his arms wrapped tightly around a firm torso, and his nose buried in a strong neck. But damn if the man didn’t smell good: deep sandalwood mixed with the perfect amount of…peppery-ness? There was no doubt he was holding tight to an alpha. Wait, he was holding an alpha, in public, with his nose snuggled into the man’s neck? What the fuck?
But before he could even contemplate letting go, the man huffed and whipped around in his arms. “What the—”
Tobias interrupted while trying to help the man right himself. “I’m so sorry, Sir! Umm, Alpha, Sir. I mean…Sir Alpha. I….”
The man’s trim dark beard, his bronzed brown skin, his rich, thick-looking black curls brushing his shirt collar, his coffee-colored eyes, so goddamn warm and dark: all of it finally quelled Tobias’ crazy-assed tirade of an apology. Fuck, the man was not only gorgeous, but they were so close, an index card couldn't have slipped between them.
He cleared his throat and straightened his spine. Jesus, he hadn’t been this flustered since the time he’d been twelve years old and walked in on his family’s alpha and omega in the boathouse. He still remembered omega Deak’s cries of pleasure, and thinking about that certainly wasn’t helping things now. He tried to step back, only to find both the cart blocking his retreat and the alpha moving with him. Why was the dude crowding him?
Creases formed at the corner of the man’s eyes, and his lips turned up in a smile. “I’m not altogether sure, but it might help if you let go of me before retreating.”
Shit. His hands had slipped to the alpha’s hips and he’d pulled the man along with him in his attempted withdraw.
“Jesus. Yeah. Umm, right.” And once again he was back to partial, incoherent sentences. “Look—” He cleared his throat. “—sorry about that. I was trying to avoid….” The man’s scent hit him again.
Mr.-Hot-As-Fuck-Alpha’s playful smile grew. “Hmm, still holding me, right here in front of God and everyone.” With a decidedly sexier lilt, he added, “Now normally I’m not into public displa—”
Before Tobias could pull his hands away, his cell phone blessedly rang. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled it out. “I’ve...umm, gotta get this.” Sliding the answer button, he cleared his throat again and put it to his ear. “Detective Hanson.”
Mr. Alpha didn’t step back, but a dark brow quirked, and he silently mouthed around his smile, “Detective, huh?”
It was only the dry cleaners calling to say they didn’t think they’d be able to get the blood out of one of his work sport coats, but Tobias played it off as more. “Sure thing. Just one second.” Pulling the phone to his chest, he reached behind and moved the cart out of the way. With a nod he gestured to the cell resting above his thumping heart. “Important business. Again, my apologies for not being more careful with the cart.”
Without waiting for a response, he put the phone back to his ear, turned his cart, and headed toward the safety of the checkout lanes and the store’s exit.
Tobias pressed the lock button on his key fob, saw his beat-up pickup’s lights flash with confirmation, crossed the street, and knocked on the gray door. This is it. I’m doing it—again.
After a series of interior doors and what was supposed to pass as security checks, he stood at the pimp’s desk. Or, as the fine establishment preferred to call it, Hookup Central. Seriously?
Tobias pulled the binder toward him and flipped the cover open. Inside, on the left page, sat an 8x10 of each alpha, and on the opposing right page was their bio. He flipped and briefly glanced at each familiar photo before moving to the next: Nope. Nope. Nope. Hell fucking no! Never again. Why hasn’t he been taken out and shot? He’d made it through two-thirds of the book, about fifteen alphas, and wondered what had possessed him to think this visit would be any different from the others. So caught up in the flipping, he’d skipped right past a new face before pausing and going back.
Without bothering to read the profile, because there really wasn’t any point, he turned the book 180 degrees back toward the Hookup Master and pointed toward it. “This new one. Half an hour. How much?”
The beta who wore far too much eye makeup—damn, he really didn’t understand gold sparkly eye shadow, but to each their own—glanced at the binder and smiled. “Two eighty-five, plus tip.”
Tobias silently groaned. He knew his charge card would take a hit tonight, but most alphas’ rates were somewhere between one fifty and two hundred. Two eight-five was steep.
The beta gazed dreamily down at Tobias’ selection. “He’s worth it, if you ask me. I can still feel—”
“I didn’t ask,” he snapped. “Which room?”
The beta flinched as if Tobias had slapped him. Fuck, why was he being such a dick? Makeup-dude had never been anything but incredibly sweet to him. He didn’t have to ponder that question too long: his mood sucked because he was nervous, plain and simple.
“Look—” he started, but the slighted beta wasn’t having any part of it.
After snapping the binder closed, he pulled it off the counter, put his back to Tobias in a single, abrupt swivel of his chair, and began straightening a stack of perfectly aligned file folders on the credenza. “Room 212, Detective. I’ll email your charge card receipt.”
Annnd now the one person who had actually liked him in this shithole thought he was a shithole. Great. Just fucking great.
Tobias ran a frustrated hand through his still-damp hair. He always came here freshly showered, and in his uniform of pressed khakis, sport coat, badge and gun—because even when he wasn’t just coming off duty, there was no way he’d venture through that door without his firearm, and that required his badge be clipped to his belt. He very briefly thought about trying to make amends, but the beta’s stiff posture told him to keep his ignorant trap shut. Tobias could send him something later…flowers, or…. Or perhaps bring him something pretty next time, because as much as it made his skin crawl to admit, he knew there would be a next time. Sighing, he decided it was best to cut his losses for now, then turned toward the stairs—toward the alpha in 212.
Fuck it! Let’s do this shit.
Strong, determined legs took the stairs two at a time. At the top, he noted the room in question was to the left, and within a few long strides he’d stopped in front of the door, raised his hand, and gave a single, sharp knock. Then the previous forty-seven seconds of bravado faded away, and suddenly he wasn’t a secure man, wasn’t a tenacious detective, wasn’t someone who could tear up a set of piano keys, or cover third base like nobody’s business. Instead, he was just…him. A man who wanted—no, needed—the feel of an alpha pressed to him.
The man on the other side couldn’t even be bothered to answer the door. Tobias knew it didn’t bode well. After taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, centered himself, straightened to his full five foot, ten inches, and turned the knob.
Like always, the first thing to hit him was the smell; lemon bars, hot chocolate, peppermint ice cream, licorice, and some sort of sweet cherry liqueur he couldn’t place. And those were just the most recent. Beneath them were layers and layers of tarrying beta scents that thankfully were easily enough ignored.
The predominate scent, of course, came from the man himself. He was tall, ginger, bearded, and clad in only a pair of faded jeans. His ass leaned against the edge of a table, arms crossed lazily over his broad pale chest, while one bare foot rested atop the other. The top button of his pants lay undone, and an impressive bulge brashly announced his physical alpha superiority. Tobias guessed the man was a good ten years his junior and couldn’t help but wonder how alphas so young could possess such confidence. Hell, it wasn’t as if he were a church mouse, or anything, but it had taken him years—and a loving, supportive family—to painstakingly build what this young man seemed to be born with. Born with, that was the key. And he couldn’t even blame it on genetic manipulation. Strict laws prohibited any kind of toying with alpha DNA; that fuckedupery was reserved for omegas and, to a lesser extent, betas. No, alphas were just born with that cocky, imperious self-assuredness bullshit. So when the man casually said, “On your knees,” Tobias simultaneously bristled and sprung wood.
He did, however, remain standing, at least for the time being. With no small amount of effort, he put strength behind his words while attempting to maintain the proper level of respect. The man may be a whore but, first and foremost, he was an alpha. “I don’t get naked, I don’t kiss, and I don’t scent or get scented—either neck or genital.”
Other than a lazy lift of one cerise eyebrow, the alpha gave no indication he’d even heard Tobias.
They stood there for several moments, staring at each other, and Tobias was just fine with that. Betas weren’t required to cast their eyes down, and he needed to know the man understood his terms. Finally, just as he took a step back toward the door, because if the dude couldn’t acknowledge his boundaries, there wasn’t any point in staying, the alpha drawled. “Your ears work okay?”
Behind his back, his fingers tightened on the doorknob in irritation. “They work just fine.”
“Sir,” the alpha soliloquized as he moved to the center of the room and pointedly looked to the carpet in front of him. “See,” he started slowly, enunciating the word, “the trouble with you older betas is you lack respect. But I can help you with that.”
If the man had just barked orders, Tobias would have felt much better; he knew how to keep his cool with barking alphas. But he found the man’s slow, unhurried manner far more grating. For fuck’s sake, the dude hadn’t even greeted him. Instead he’d immediately started issuing orders. It’s not like he was expecting hearts and flowers, but apparently it was too damn much to expect even the tiniest modicum of civil exchange.
Alphas and betas were supposed to engage in a “dance” of sorts. Sure, that dance wasn’t generally what one would think of as romantic, particularly in this setting. But fuck, give me something here. And the age quip, that was just fucking rude!
Tobias didn’t move, despite the alpha’s repeated order—both direct and indirect—to kneel.
The man shoved both hands into his back pockets and raised another questioning brow. “So, let’s get this straight, you don’t kiss, you don’t get naked, and you don’t scent. What exactly are you here for?”
For alpha companionship. For alpha authority. For alpha control. For alpha dominance. Because I need to…feel an alpha connection again. Put simply, just to be near you with the freedom to embrace the overwhelming need I try so desperately to deny. Except Tobias couldn’t say half of that: it’d give the man too much power over him, which was always a bad thing—especially in a place like this. So, he responded with, “To get fucked. So, if you think you’re up to that, then let’s skip the ‘teaching moment’ and get to it.”
“Beta bitch,” he hissed. “If you were mine—”
“Yeah, well I’m not.” Tobias made a show of eyeing the man’s ear-cuffs. They were always worn on the shell of the right ear. A single one indicated the alpha had a beta, and when two were worn it meant he was part of a triad. This guy wore two, so he was fully mated. Until he killed his omega, because he certainly seemed like the sort of arrogant prick who would. “Looks like your house is full.” With a smirk, he added, “But thanks for the offer.”
The man’s demeanor abruptly shifted. “You trying to rile me up? You need to get smacked around to feel worthy? Because if that’s your game—” He took a threatening step forward. “—you’ve found the right guy.”
Jesus, what the fuck was he doing?
Tobias knew he was intentionally egging the dude on with that last quip, but he didn’t understand why. Or maybe he did. Maybe it was the same thing that always made his skin tighten: the fear of giving up control—especially to a shitrag like this guy. And there was no question this power hungry dominant would make good on his word. The last thing Tobias wanted was to walk out of here injured, or worse, to cause a scene.
Slowly he released the doorknob and casually placed a hand on his hip—being sure to bring his sport coat back enough to flash the gold star of his badge. “No, Sir. That’s not what I’m looking for.”
He knew the badge itself wouldn’t be enough to protect him. Sure, there were a few laws in place that attempted to offer at least the illusion of protection for betas—unlike the non-existent ones where omegas were concerned—but he’d never press charges. He couldn’t afford that sort of attention.
The Alpha’s eyes flicked briefly to the badge, but it didn’t seem like it did much to defuse the situation.
Fuck, why had he pushed the dude?
“I meant no disrespect, Sir. I just wanted—”
“To get fucked,” he sneered. “To have my cock in your hole. Yeah, I got that.”
The alpha’s hands came around front, grasped the waist on either side of the loose button, and yanked. Suddenly his 501s were splayed open, creating the perfect cloth V and revealing burnished curls and the thick base of his shaft. Even with the full length of it unknown, most of it snaking down the side of his inner thigh, Tobias felt his resistance give way. All he could think about were the glands at either side of that bared shaft, and everything in him wanted to scent; to rub his nose along them and inhale the man’s—the alpha’s—pheromones. To feel the unique high he’d been told that sort of connection offered. He wanted it so badly, he started to go to his knees.
The man snorted. “Your opportunity for kneeling skipped right-the-fuck-by.” He nodded toward the bed and growled. “Bend over, pants down, ass up. I’m gonna tear your dirty, smart-mouthed hole up. See if you can still talk shit when I’m done…my bet is you’ll be cryin’ like the little beta bitch you are.”
Tobias sat on the red steel-mesh bench outside Target. Even without an overly fucked ass, the harsh, unforgiving metal would’ve been incredibly uncomfortable. Gently he brought the back of his hand up and touched his bottom lip. He was grateful when it came back dry; at least the bleeding had stopped. Tentatively, he fingered the side of his face. Rug burn on his damn cheek, if that didn’t sting like a motherfucker. The whole “bend over the bed” thing hadn’t lasted long; the alpha had fucked him on every surface of the room, including the floor with his face pushed into the worn carpet.
He glanced over at the dude who’d been attempting to gather ballot initiative signatures—for a doomed omega rights bill—and watched him pack up his clipboards, folding table, and chair, then make his way to a beat-up VW bus. The guy had guts, Tobias had to give him that, and he admired guts. In the twenty minutes he’d been watching, the man had been ignored, scoffed at, belittled, and even threatened once. And to think the guy had been at it for at least three hours. He had been manning that same table when Tobias was here around six that evening, and it was now close to nine. Lord only knew what he’d endured in that time. Tobias had signed the petition, added his name to a mere half a dozen others—likely all betas—and desperately tried not to despise humanity as a whole.
The old VW started with a blast of tailpipe smoke, and as it began to drift away, he was left to wonder, yet again, what the shit was he doing here. But he knew: he wanted to see the alpha he’d first almost run over with his cart, and then quite nearly inappropriately groped in public. He wanted just a glimpse. Hell, even if it was just to watch the man walk to his car. To just lay eyes on him again.
It was the smell—his smell, sandalwood and something freshly ground, like pepper, but not quite—that caught Tobias’ attention before he actually registered the sitting presence next to him.
He had to be out of it; no one ever snuck up on him like that.
“No ladders, no kamikaze carts…think I’m safe, Detective?”
Tobias, his gaze still turned away from the man—looking toward the long-since-departed VW bus—couldn’t help the warmth that spread across his chest.
Turning, he chuckled. “Yes, Sir. I think you’re safe.”
The alpha’s forehead creased. “This afternoon it was just bandaged knuckles, and now….” He gestured toward Tobias’ fuck-indignities. “You must have quite the rough job.”
He couldn’t hold back the snort. “I only wish it was work related.”
The man paused, his face tightening slightly. “I see. That accounts for your…odor.”
Before Tobias could think of a response, the alpha rose and started toward the parking lot. “Good evening, Detective.”
He hadn’t planned on speaking to the man. Hell, he had thought it was a long shot that he’d even see him. But now that he was here, Tobias suddenly couldn’t imagine watching him just walk away.
He surged to his feet and took hold of the man’s wrist. “Please. Wait? I…I….”
The man’s eyes had lost all their warmth, and the way he was looking at Tobias was too reminiscent of every alpha he’d ever paid to have sex with him. Jesus, he’d fucked this up—whatever this might have been. But, in reality, what had he expected?
He stepped back, intending to head in the opposite direction, but just like earlier this evening, the man stepped with him. Tobias took another step, and another, kept backing up until the rough block stone of the building halted his retreat.
“You’re holding me again.”
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. And even though he meant it, he couldn’t force himself to relax the hold he had on the man’s wrist.
Every fiber of his being screamed at him to cast his gaze down in deference, but he couldn’t do that either. The alpha’s eyes were intense, and intelligent, and slightly wild, and utterly captivating. They darted to his right ear, and then the man brought his free hand up and brushed a calloused finger over the shell.
“You’re unmated. The…odor, is it a boyfriend?”
“No. Just some—”
“You came here looking for me, yes?”
Tobias did cast his eyes down then. “Yes, Sir.”
“You come here bringing the stench of another man’s nut on you. And that man is who to you, if not a mate or boyfriend?”
Did he tell the truth? Did he admit, out loud, that he paid men to fuck him? And so what if he did? He was a long way past the age of consent. He was an adult. He had a good job, paid his bills, doled out his share of taxes every week, so fucking what if he exchanged money for sex? He looked back into the man’s eyes. “An Alpha House. I went to—”
The man pressed in closer. “A whore? No wonder the smell is so offensive.”
Tobias stiffened. He’d had enough.
“And yet,” the man said more softly, running his fingers over Tobias’ ear again, “you come here. Looking for something you didn’t get there?”
Tobias’ pulse picked up when that roughened finger slid down his ear, along his neck, and rested next to the vein pulsing in his neck.
Inexplicably he found himself whispering. “I kept my eyes closed…when I was there…and pretended I smelled sandalwood and something peppery. Pretended his touch was yours. Pretended I was somewhere else…somewhere with you.”
Never in his thirty-six years had he uttered anything so honest, or made himself so vulnerable. And to a complete stranger no less. What was he doing?
The man pressed in, his crotch firm against Tobias’ thigh, and nearly growled. “I…. There’s something about you that makes me want to obliterate that whore’s smell from your body.” He ground harder against Tobias, his arousal unmistakable. “Something that makes me want to mark every inch of you with my scent.”
As if he intended to do just that, to start at that very moment, the man tilted his head forward and licked the side of Tobias’ neck, right where his finger had been seconds ago, directly over his gland. Tobias wouldn’t have been able to hold back the shiver that ran up his spine had his life depended on it.
“What’s…?” Tobias swallowed and gently pulled his neck away. He knew this shit was getting way out of hand. Yet he couldn’t force himself to release the man’s wrist any more than he could force himself to walk away. Instead, he muttered, “What’s your name?”