Sound. What was that? Movement. Who was that? Was he alive or dead? Why couldn’t he see? Oh right, the darkness of the alleyway.
It was still night. And someone was lifting him up. What was going on? He was very slowly awakening.
Pain exploded over his shoulder. It was still hot and intense. And so was the pain in his hands where he had fallen.
“Justin, oh my God. Are you okay?”
He knew the voice. Who was it?
“Justin. It’s gone. Whatever it was, it’s gone.”
Parker. It was Parker. His senses were returning to him. And he remembered. He remembered the beast, the animal, the creature.
“Parker, is that you?” he asked, standing up.
“Yeah, it’s me. The wolf is gone.”
Wolf? It was a wolf. How did Parker know that? Justin had barely been able to make it out. How did Parker know what it was? “It tried to eat me.” Justin was now on his feet, struggling to walk. His shoulder hurt so much. It had actually bitten him. Was he bleeding? It didn’t feel like he was; no blood trickling down his arms or back. But he must be bleeding. Bites bled. Justin leaned against a wall for support. “It’s gone?”
“Yeah, it’s gone.”
“Am I bleeding?” he asked, too exhausted, too drained to even check himself out. He felt weak, defeated.
“Let’s get you home,” Parker said, taking Justin in his arms and leading him to the mouth of the alleyway. Justin was still shaking with fear. But Parker was calm. How was it possible the attack hadn’t shaken Parker up more?
They made it out onto the street. The lineup to get into the club had vanished. There were only two men smoking on the street. They looked with concern at Justin, but no one said anything. How much time had passed?
Parker waved down a taxi that pulled up to the curb. He helped Justin into the car. It hurt to sit; it hurt to press his back against the upholstery. He was in shock. Everything felt like a dream around him. The pain in his shoulder wasn’t fading. It still felt as if teeth were still digging into his flesh. He could still feel the canines ripping his skin. It was agonizing.
Parker gained Justin’s attention long enough to get his address, and he passed that on to the taxi driver. They were off, weaving their way through late-night downtown Toronto.
Struggling to adjust himself, he reached around to try to feel the wound.
Parker stopped him. “Don’t touch it.”
“Shouldn’t I go to the hospital?” Justin asked.
“They can’t help you,” Parker responded. And Justin didn’t know what that meant. But he got the distinct impression it meant something.
The taxi drove on, and Justin closed his eyes. His heart was still beating intensely. He felt as if he were still being attacked by that creature. It was a wolf, Parker had said. How could that thing possibly be a wolf? It was nearly as big as he was. Wolves weren’t that big. And he had never heard of them venturing into the city. How could a wolf possibly make its way to the heart of the city without being spotted? It seemed so unlikely, so ridiculous. And why would a wolf be satisfied with just a single bite? None of this made the least bit of sense.
Parker kept his hand on Justin’s forearm, trying to soothe him. Justin appreciated that. He was glad Parker was here. He was pretty sure he liked Parker, even though he knew nothing about him. The fact that he had helped him up and was taking him home spoke volumes. Most guys would’ve run and left Justin for dead.
It took close to fifteen minutes for the taxi to make it to Justin’s building. Parker paid the driver and the two of them got out of the car. It was still difficult to walk. Justin felt woozy and disoriented. From a bite? How could a bite make him feel this way? Was this PTSD, he asked himself? He shook his head. Of course not, that was absurd. He felt almost drunk, he was so disoriented. It took some effort to fully understand what was happening around him.
Parker got him into the building, past the concierge, and took him up to his apartment. He fished the keys out of Justin’s pants and opened the door. Justin staggered into his apartment. It was nice to be home. “I’m sorry I’m so out of it. I don’t know what’s going on with me,” he whispered.
“It’s okay. Let’s get you to bed,” Parker said, flipping on the light switch as he maneuvered him toward the bedroom. He didn’t bother to turn the lights on in the bedroom.
He brought Justin over to the bed and lowered him gently onto it. The pain in his shoulder was still intense. It even hurt to rub the wound against the sheets of his bed. He knew he should get under the sheets but didn’t have the energy.
Parker undid Justin’s shoes and dropped them to the floor. He pulled off his jeans and draped them over a chair. Justin was too dazed to care what was going on. He wanted sleep. Well, not sleep, precisely. He wanted to be unconscious. Everything in his body seemed to crave a release from the conscious world.
Forgetting Parker was still there, he rolled onto his side and drifted off to sleep.
* * * *
Parker watched Justin sleep, not sure if he should stay or go. No, he should definitely stay. Justin needed him.
How had this happened? How had a werewolf found them? Or, more precisely, how had a werewolf found Parker? Parker suspected he was supposed to have been the target. But he wasn’t sure about that. Was Justin actually supposed to be the target? That didn’t make much sense. He supposed, though, it could be the case.
He didn’t know what to do. He also didn’t know how much to tell Justin. How would Justin react if he knew the truth? It had been a werewolf. That was undeniable. A werewolf had attacked him and had turned Justin. Turned him into one of its own kind.
Parker wasn’t a hunter. That was his two brothers’ domain. But he knew what they did. And he knew they could be ruthless when they wanted to be. They wouldn’t stop until every werewolf was eradicated. It was what their family had done for centuries. For three hundred years, his family had hunted the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, demons. And now that group included Justin. It wasn’t fair. Justin didn’t deserve this. He’d done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve being on Parker’s brothers’ radar. But what choice was there? How did he protect Justin from his family? Could he even succeed at that?
His brothers would want to know about this. But that meant they would want to hunt Justin. Parker liked Justin and couldn’t let any harm come to him. It wasn’t his fault he had been bitten. If anything, this was all Parker’s fault. The werewolf had come for him, surely as an opening salvo in the unavoidable war between it and his brothers. The werewolf must have known his brothers had come to Toronto to search it out and kill it. This was a pre-emptive strike. At least that’s what he was assuming at the moment.
Except the werewolf had claimed the wrong target.
Parker sat on the chair by Justin’s bed as Justin slept. He looked so innocent, so peaceful, like a truly sweet guy. And something within Parker told him he needed to keep Justin safe from his brothers. He couldn’t let his family claim this innocent victim. He had no idea how he would go about doing that.
He had no idea if he should tell Justin the truth. Would he even believe him?
Of course he wouldn’t. No one would believe such a fantastic story.
But was it right to keep him in the dark just to keep him happy for a little bit longer?
Then there was the werewolf. Parker assumed it would come back for Justin. It was Justin’s alpha now. The sweet, innocent man on the bed was now part of the alpha’s pack, whether he liked it or not. The alpha would certainly return to make life difficult for Justin. But what could Parker do?
Parker had, years ago, walked away from this life. And yet, it had come for him in ways he could never have predicted. His brothers and an alpha werewolf—predators about to converge on an innocent man who had done nothing wrong other than take an interest in Parker.
He needed to keep Justin safe. No matter what.
* * * *
Sunlight streamed in through the slats of the blinds as Justin awoke. Groggily, he pushed himself up off the bed. He shook his head, trying to clear the web of sleep that still mostly held him. He heard noise coming from the kitchen. Who was here? He lived alone.
The pain in his shoulder reminded him of the night before. The attack. How could he have forgotten that? He turned his head to examine the wound but couldn’t get a great look at it. But what he did see seemed white and mostly healed over.
Pushing himself up from the bed, he stood. The wound didn’t hurt as badly as it had last night. In fact, it felt a lot better. It was as if he had been sleeping for weeks, giving his body time enough to heal.
Parker had brought him home; he remembered that now. Was Parker still here? The smell of percolating coffee filled the apartment, answering his question.
He was feeling better than before, he realized. He staggered out of the bedroom, naked except for his pair of boxer briefs, and into the living room. To his right was the kitchen. And standing in the kitchen was Parker, looking familiarly handsome.
“Morning,” Justin said, rubbing his eyes with the meaty part of his hand.
“Are you okay? How are you feeling?” Parker seemed genuinely concerned. And Justin appreciated that. He also appreciated Parker staying. So few people would’ve done that.
“I’m okay. Still a bit woozy. But I’m better than I was.”
“You look good,” Parker said. Except for some reason, Justin felt Parker hadn’t meant that.
Justin shook his head to wake himself up. “I still don’t feel great. Do wolves contract rabies? I really have no idea.”
Parker stared at Justin for a moment and didn’t say anything. It was as if Parker was trying to formulate the best response. “I don’t think you need to worry about rabies. The wolf didn’t look rabid.”
Justin pulled up a stool beside the island in the middle of his kitchen. “I’m amazed you could make it out. All I remember was how dark the alley was.”
Parker pulled a cup down from the shelf and poured Justin some coffee, then handed it to him. “You probably don’t remember as much as I do since you were in the middle of it all.”
“Well, I’m glad you weren’t hurt,” Justin said, taking a sip of coffee, a sip he desperately needed. “Here, check my back, does it look okay?”
Parker circled the island and looked at Justin’s back. He touched the wound. “Does this hurt?”
Justin shook his head, putting down the coffee cup. “No, not really.”
“It doesn’t seem too bad. You should be okay.”
Parker kept his hand on Justin’s shoulder, above the wound, “I’m really sorry we were in the alley last night. If I hadn’t been so horny, we wouldn’t have been there.”
Justin turned and wrapped his arm around Parker’s waist. “You weren’t the only one who was all riled up. I was responsible too. But, wow, the night certainly didn’t go the way I thought it was going to.” He liked having his arms around Parker. The man was more than just sexy. He was also sweet, as demonstrated by the fact he had stayed the night to make sure he was okay. Perhaps it was better they hadn’t hooked up. If it had just been a meaningless fuck, Justin probably would’ve left Parker’s apartment by now and they might not have ever seen each other again. Now, he could see Parker was actually a decent human being.
“So how are you feeling?” Parker asked, seeming to be in no hurry to be out of Justin’s embrace.
“Honestly, I’m feeling really good. I actually feel energized. That’s weird, isn’t it?” Justin brought Parker closer, squeezing him closely.
“You seem a lot more energetic all of a sudden,” Parker said with a smile.
Justin reached up and kissed Parker on the lips. “I’m really glad you stayed.”