I pick up my phone and dial Dad.
“Ah, Keller, my baby boy. Jensen said you hooked one already.” I can hear the pride in his voice when he picks up.
“Two actually. They’re twins.” I correct him, feeling good about the acquisition. “Keep them together if you can. I sort of promised them.”
“Twins!” He exclaims. “Haha! They’re way more valuable together than separate. Definitely keeping them together. Good job, son.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I can’t help but smile at the rare compliment from my old man, even if I feel like a slimeball.
“I’m putting a little extra in your account as we speak, and I want you to take the rest of the day off." He starts off happy, but his tone quickly changes. "But first, I have other things to discuss with you.”
“What’s up, Dad?” There’s always a catch with my dad.
“Mom and I have been talking. We decided it’s a good time for me to think about retirement.” He sounds serious now. “That means I’m most likely going to be handing the business over to Jensen if he can get his shit together. Ideally, I’d put you in charge, but we want you to keep focusing on looking for your mate.”
“Dad, can you please let it go already? If my mate was out there somewhere, I would have found her by now.” I let my head fall onto the headrest. “Please don’t make me work for Jensen. You’ve worked hard and his dumb ass is going to run your business into the ground.”
“Well, unless by some miracle you find her by the new year, I already decided." He sounds defeated. “See you at Sunday dinner, Keller. Enjoy the rest of your day off.”
He hangs up the phone before I can protest. I look at the dark screen and consider calling Mom, but Dad just said she’s the one that wants him to retire, so I won’t get anywhere trying to talk to her.
“You smell like shit. The sigma smell is disgusting.” My wolf, Rocky, snarls. He’s not great with words, but you work with what the Moon Goddess deals you.
“They smell like that because they’re homeless, Rocky. You can’t be mad at them. They can’t help it.” I try to stop him from judging these poor girls. He huffs at me, but doesn’t argue.
Normally, I spend warm Saturday nights rounding up sigmas. The sigmas who work as prostitutes are easier to find on Saturday after the sun goes down.
Now that I have the night off, it seems like a good time to get away from homeless, drug addict werewolves. I should spend time with my best friends who are human. That means it’s a strip club night… maybe a human bar after. Human bar means a good chance of hooking up with a couple of human females. Staying away from werewolves sounds like a perfect night, the more I think about it.
I pull out my phone and send a group chat message.
Keller: Angel’s Club in two hours. My treat.
Jasper: You don’t have work?
Keller: I got the night off.
Sam: Don’t have to ask me twice. See you there.
Keller: Jas, you in?
Jasper: I’m in.
I message the manager of our favorite strip club to secure a VIP spot and a few girls for us. I know it won’t be a problem. Our family names get us in the door anywhere we want to go and our wallets are more than welcome once we get there.
“Dude, how’d you get out of work on a Saturday?” My best friend, Jasper, asks when I hand the valet my keys.
“Met my quota. There’s only so many homeless girls a guy can pick up off the streets in a day without looking like a creeper.” I say, trying not to get into too many details.
“Your parents must be so freakin’ proud of you, man.” Sam shakes his head. “How many other families can help as many girls as you do?”
“Not too many, Sam.” I smile at his innocence. “Come on. I have a night off. I don’t want to think about depressing shit when there’s a VIP room with our names on it.”
Sam and Jasper don’t know I’m a werewolf. They think my family runs a program for homeless girls, trying to give them a new life. Which, technically, we do. They don’t know we actually run a brokerage. The girls we pick up are sigma werewolves who get sold to the richest werewolf families in the world to do with as they please.
I try to remember Mom’s outlook on things when I get in my head about the business. If we didn’t help these girls get off the streets, it would only be a matter of time before they go into heat and get killed by frenzied male wolves or overdose on ketamine. Hell, we even find some that get into really heavy shit and start dosing on wolfbane.
Sigmas don’t have mates, their packs have rejected or banished them, forcing them to live on their own as rogues, and they are not smart enough to survive on their own for long. If a male wolf catches a whiff of a sigma’s scent when she goes into heat, he’s likely to go into a frenzied state, and hunt down the sigma to have sex with her, whether or not she wants to. There are plenty of times where sigmas end up dead because of it.
Sigmas try to hide, but eventually they come out before their heat finishes, even though they know how dangerous it is. I asked a girl one time why she would risk it. She told me she would rather die than go through the pain of being in heat. Having sex is the only way she had ever found to ease the pain.
My brothers and I went through months of training to learn how to control ourselves before being allowed to work for our dad. I’m not convinced my brothers aren’t having sex with sigmas when they are alone with them, but there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s between them and their mates.
With all things considered, we’re helping these girls. Most of the sigmas we broker go to decent homes. They’ll still be sex slaves, but they will have a rich family to take care of them. It’s better than being a rogue turning tricks on the street.
Does working for the family business make me a shitty werewolf? Maybe. Actually, yes, it does. But does it pay the bills? Yeah, in spades.
Jasper, Sam and I make our way into the club and lose track of time with some of our favorite strippers. A couple are werewolves, a couple are human. They are all willing to do a lot of dirty things for good tips in the private rooms of the club.
“Cozy Up before the bar?” Jasper asks when we stumble out of the strip club. “I need to soak up the liquor with a burger before I drink more.”
“Cozy Up it is!” I laugh, helping him into the passenger side of the Range Rover. I rarely drink enough to get drunk. My metabolism is too fast. I would say I have a decent buzz tonight, though. Meatloaf and bowl of mac and cheese from our favorite all-night diner sounds like a pretty good idea.
“Keller, you drive. I’ll get bottle service reserved at the bar.” Sam says, throwing himself into the back seat and pulling out his phone, as if I don’t always drive when we go out.
“You do that, Sam.” I shake my head at him as I pull out of the parking lot.
The entire way to the diner, we listen to Jasper rave about a girl he met at one of his parent’s charity events as if he wasn’t just having his way with a leggy platinum blonde at Angel’s. The conversation turns to sports as the hostess at Cozy Up shows us to the back corner booth.
While we are waiting for our food, I hear the bell chime at the front door. A sickly sweet smell that’s difficult to ignore wafts in the air. I hear the manager talking to someone when Rocky interrupts.
“Don’t be rude. Say hello!” He huffs at me.
“Hello? Who am I saying hello to?” I feel confused. “What are you talking about?”
“She’s here. Our mate.” He whines at me with frustration. “Say hello.”
Over the distinctive sweet smell of a sigma’s heat, the scent of roses and chamomile fills my nose. I feel my heart beat harder and my eyes widen. There’s no way. Now? She’s here now? After over three years of waiting, there must be a mistake.
I peek my head out the side of the booth and see a scrawny, barefoot girl in a dirty, torn blue dress. She has a black eye, dried blood coming from her nose, and a cut on her lip. Her long, disheveled, blonde hair has some twigs sticking out of it. Her scared, blue eyes look at me and she whispers the word I was hoping to never hear someone say to me.
“Mate?” Her voice barely whispers as she accepts me.
I hear Rocky celebrating cheerfully in my mind, but when I speak, the words are not what he is hoping for. “What the fuck?”
I stand up from the booth and walk toward her. “Guys, I-I’ll be right back.” Sam peeks over the top of the booth. “Oh man, is that chick okay?” Jasper says something too, but all I can hear is my heartbeat and Rocky losing his mind at the sight of our mate. The night manager, Lucy, is patting the girl’s hand, trying to comfort her. The girl’s eyes get wide with fear as I approach, and she tries to pull away. “No! Lucy, no! Don’t let him hurt me, please.” She backs away and sobs. I grab her by the upper arm before she can take off and lead her to the kitchen. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” I announce a little too loudly. “Lucy, can I take her to the back?” “Uh, y-yeah, that would probably be a good idea.” Lucy looks nervously at the other customers who are staring at the scene. “NO! PLEASE! DON’T HURT ME! PLEASE!” The girl claws my hand, trying to pull away. “I’ll pick up their tabs.” I point to the customers and drag the screaming girl into the kitchen. As I tow her along, I no
Fifteen minutes later, I pull up in front of a white house with blue shutters. There’s a silver car in the driveway as well as two sedans from the pack fleet. “Mom is here!” She sounds relieved and tries to open the door. “You stay in the car with Sam and Jasper for a minute, Zara.” I lock the doors before she can open it. “I need to have a word with your mom first.” I look in the rearview and watch Sam take a swig from a bottle of rum he found in the back seat and try to hand it to her. She shakes her head sadly at him and looks out the window at her house. I step out of the SUV and walk up to the house. I’ve never met a sigma who still has a family. How did they not know they were putting her in danger when they sent her to the Mating Gathering tonight? There are a couple of lights on even though it is after two-thirty a.m. I ring the doorbell and stand back. After a minute, a woman peeks her head through the skinny window beside the door, then cracks the door open an inch.
I pull into an empty shopping center parking lot so I can concentrate. “Ahh, I hate when he gets like this.” Jasper says into the back seat. “Give him a minute, Zara. He’ll have something brilliant to say soon.” I drum my fingers on the steering wheel, then get out of the car. I open the back door. “Zara, can I talk to you outside for a moment?” “Here?” She asks, looking around the empty parking lot. “What? Now you don’t trust me?” I put my hands on my hips. She tries to get out, but it’s a far drop to the ground for how little she is. Especially since she isn’t wearing shoes. “C-can you help me… Please?” “I could just put you in my pocket.” I smirk at her, holding out my hand. Sam, who usually laughs at my dumb jokes, is suspiciously quiet behind her. I look over and see him passed out, hugging the empty liquor bottle like a baby. Jasper is scrolling through his phone, pretending to ignore us. Zara slowly slips her hand into mine and lets me help her out of the car. “You don
When I get back into the thick trees, Zara is curled up in a ball, crying silently and rocking herself back and forth with her arms over her head. Rocky flashes an image of me giving her a comforting hug. I consider it for a moment, then I sigh heavily and roll my eyes when I realize he is trying to manipulate me just as much as she is. “No, Rocky. Just be happy I’m cutting this one loose and not in for processing.” I snarl at him. “Get up, Zara." I reach my hand out to her. “I want to teach you something before I leave.” At first she doesn’t answer, she just stops rocking and holds still in her crouched position, just like they all do. I stand patiently with my hand outstretched for at least ten minutes before she lifts her head up and looks at me with fat tears rolling down her cheeks. “Wh-what?” “I’m going to teach you how to shift.” I lean forward so she’ll take my hand to stand up. “You need to shift before the sun comes up so your wolf can get her full strength. Otherwise, y
I make the drive out to my parents’ place in the late afternoon. We have over two hundred acres of land where their house and both of my brothers’ houses are. The sigma processing facility and research lab are also there, hidden deep in the woods, away from prying eyes.“Mom? Dad? I’m home!” I look around, hoping Dad isn’t actually in the house. He hates when we yell inside. The smell of food is coming from the kitchen, leading me in that direction.“How’s my baby boy?” Mom gives me a kiss on the cheek. “Dad’s out back with your brothers. I hope you’re hungry.”“Do you need help, Mom?” I ask, looking around the kitchen.“Just set the table for me. Always such a sweet boy.” She coos at me with sparkling gray eyes. Her dark brown hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail.As usual, Mom has gone completely overboard with cooking. She insists we eat dinner as a family once a month, whether or not we want to. She gets excited when all of us are under the same roof. One big happy family. We
Zara’s POV“We just need to survive for a month. Hopefully, there is space in the dorms, Lavender. When I go back to town, I’ll stop by the housing office on campus and find out.” I look around at the small pond of water Lavender found in the forest. “I have enough money in my savings to pay for a room since I won’t be moving with Liam, Sylvie, and Mark, but I still need to work at the diner otherwise I won’t have money for food once school starts.”“I think we can manage that.” She says with a sigh. She lets the duffle bag slide down her neck and lays down on the dewy morning grass, rolling around to cool herself down. “How about we shift for a while? I could use a break.”“Okay, how does it work? Like, the opposite of how I shifted into wolf form?” I ask. Keller only explained shifting into wolf form, not back into a human.“Sort of like that, yeah. Just imagine you are stepping forward into your own skin and I’ll fall back the way you did.” Her instructions sound like nonsense, but
Keller’s POVTwo days after I watched Lavender bolt into the forest, Jasper and I start vacation out with a bang. Specifically on his parents' private jet, with the ‘stewardesses’ he hired for the trip. As soon as we land, we drop our bags off at his parents' beach front condo in South Beach and head to the bars.We spend our days on the beach and our nights at the bars, with more alcohol and women than one werewolf should have in a lifetime, let alone three weeks.I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from work until I’m relaxing on the beach in Miami for a couple weeks. The heat of the sun makes all the images of scrawny, strung out girls melt away from my mind like bad dreams. The hopeless words and empty eyes fade from my memory more with every passing day. Even the crazy series of events from the night I met my mate are no longer consuming my thoughts. I’m able to convince Rocky that Lavender would take care of Zara until she finds a friend to stay with, and we don’t need
“Hi Keller, where have you been, stranger?” Lucy gives me a warm smile when I walk into the diner.“Just took a little vacation.” I reply as she leads me to my usual booth.“Oh, well, that’s nice. What can I get ya? Need a menu?” She hands me the plastic menu and stands next to the booth with a notepad and pen in her hands.“I’ll have my usual, please.” I pretend to look at the menu. “Oh, hey Lucy?”She raises her eyebrows but doesn’t look at me while she writes my order. “Yes, Keller?”“I was wondering how that girl is doing. The one that came in looking like a wreck the last time I was here.” I try to sound as innocent as possible.“Zara?” She tilts her head to the side.“Yeah, I think that was her name.” I lie through my teeth.“Oh, she’s well… she still works here. Tough getting her to stick to a consistent schedule though.” She scrunches her nose up at the notion.“I see. But she’s working. That’s good.” I raise my eyebrows with a smile. “So she, uh, found someone to stay with?”“