Excerpt from Bonded to the Alpha by Robin Moray
The door banged open, and Nero couldn’t help how his muscles tensed. It was unnatural for a wolf to be so easily startled; he felt like his nerves had been stretched across a rack, twanging unpleasantly at every new thing. As if he could be played like an instrument.
He tried not to let the others see but he knew they did, and the knowledge made him surly. “Quiet,” he growled, as Hamish and Ria lugged in someone trussed up with rope, dropping them ungently on the floor of the den. The trussed someone smelled human, male, young, and healthy but he was bleeding somewhere beneath his clothes, and there was something else beneath the stink of his fear. Nero sniffed. “He’s bloodied.” And something else.
“That wasn’t us.” Hamish dropped down on his haunches, yanking the pillowcase off the boy’s head to show his face. Not a boy, a young man, maybe twenty? Dark-haired and wild-eyed, his mouth stuffed with something.
Nero frowned. “Ungag him.”
Hamish paused just long enough for it to be an insult, and then he pulled the gag free.
The human dragged in a lungful of air. “What do you want?” His eyes darted from one of them to another as he attempted to roll onto his front–he was trying to gain his feet, Nero thought.
Ria must have thought the same because she grabbed him by the collar, hauled him to his knees, and then held him there, a hand knotted in his hair to force his head back. She looked up, waiting for Nero.
The human was so young. He reeked of fear but he didn’t shake, didn’t fight Ria, just stared up at Nero as though Nero might save him. There was something in his scent that Nero couldn’t ignore. “He’s been bitten,” Nero said.
Ria scowled. “So? He hasn’t turned. He’s not one of us, and even if he were–”
“If he were.” Nero said, dropping his voice low, letting a growl bleed into it, “it would still be up to me to deal with him.”
She met his gaze and held it a moment, and then she looked away. “Alpha. Your kill, then.”
“Mine.” Nero agreed. The human was still watching him, listening to this, and his eyes were green. It shouldn’t have mattered, like it shouldn’t have mattered that his pulse raced, that the thudding of his heart was loud as it battered against his ribs. It shouldn’t matter that he was handsome, that the scent of him was good, and that Nero could tell that yes, he was afraid, but no, he was not afraid of Nero.
And he had killed Holly. If it were any other way, Nero might have thanked him.
Instead, Nero came forward, crouched in front of him, keeping hold of his gaze. Then Nero turned, nodded at the place where Holly had been laid out. “Do you see that, there?”
The human looked. He flinched. His scent was full of disgust, but also regret. “Yeah.”
“Tell me what it is.”
“It’s…there was a dog. Last night. I killed it.” He looked back, meeting Nero’s eyes with a defiance that could have matched any Nero had ever seen from Hamish. “It attacked me. So I killed it.” His eyes flickered, taking in Holly on her bier of blankets, Shauna who had come up along Nero’s side, the other pack members in wolf form in among the ones who were not. He licked his lips. “It’s not a dog, is it?”
“No,” Nero said.
“And those…aren’t dogs either, are they?”
Nero shook his head. “No.”
Now the human struggled. Ria had him, though, would not let him go. He gave up eventually, and his mouth made a wretched shape. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked. He was trying to sound brave, but his scent gave him away.
“Kill you,” Nero said. Except. He didn’t want to. And then, almost without thinking, he added, “Or keep you.”
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