~oOo~

Rising Wolf (sequel to Beneath the Neon Moon)

by Theda Black

artwork by Sonja Triebel

ISBN

RISING WOLF

By all rights Zach should be dead, with Mal forced into the wolf pack that turned him into a monster. But thatís not what happens.

Mal is a werewolf, but heís not part of the pack. He and Zach are alive, together, and swearing vengeance on the wolves that started them down this road. All they have to do is learn to control Malís rising wolf Ėall while fighting off a seemingly invincible pack determined to claim Mal as their own.

The situation looks hopeless. But if thereís one thing the wolves should have learned, itís never to underestimate Mal and Zach.

 

Chapter 1

THE SCREEN DOOR swung closed behind them, creaking, humidity swelling the wood so that it stuck short of falling into place. Zach reached back absently and yanked it shut.

The air in the house was soupy, thanks to the earlier rain and lack of air conditioning. Zach walked to the window unit on the right side of the room and switched it on, standing in front of it as stale air roared from the vents. Stale or not, the smell was a thousand times better than the cloying, damp smell of the dirt inside the basement where theyíd been trapped for two days.

He turned to see Mal checking out his surroundings. Zach's rental was old, by all appearances around the century mark. The floors were hardwood and the ceilings low, with wide doorways between the rooms. An enormous, worn beige couch sat to the right of the door, a bookshelf full of paperbacks in the corner.A spider plant hung in the window behind the couch. On the opposite wall, bamboo grew in a pot on the floor, tall enough that the fronds curved over an outdated TV.

Jasper rushed for the kitchen ahead of them, claws clicking over the hardwood. He stopped and circled back when they didn't follow, meowing impatiently. His tail curled over his back.

Mal smiled down at the cat. He towered in the low-ceilinged room, dark hair wet and raked off his forehead, shirt plastered over shoulders and chest. He glanced at Zach, an expression passing over his face too quickly to catch.

Zach studied him, listening to the sound of their breathing and trying to figure out what he'd seen. Something like nerves, or uncertainty. After everything they'd gone through, that much was easy to understand. Something else, though. He didn't like it.

As if to reassure him, Mal moved closer and curled a hand around the back of Zach's neck, stroking his skin with a thumb.

Jasper meowed, high-pitched and aggravated.††

Mal sighed. "Maybe I could just eat him."

Zach stepped closer, smiling when he heard Mal's breath catch. "Not funny," he breathed in Mal's ear. "He's pack, got it?"

"Got it. You, me and the cat. We'll strike fear in the heart of wolves everywhere."

Jasper meowed again, quarrelsome and hungry. Zach turned back to him. "Coming, buddy." He followed the cat into the kitchen, pulling a box of dry cat food from a corner cabinet and pouring it into a bowl. Jasper was already purring before the food made it onto the floor. Zach rinsed and refilled the water bowl beside it.

He washed his hands at the sink, then turned to the pantry. "Want a peanut butter sandwich?"

"Love one. Not like we got a lot to eat this weekend." Mal washed his hands, too, then pointed at a cabinet. "The glasses in there?" When Zach nodded, Mal opened the refrigerator and pulled out the milk. He poured two glasses full while Zach put together a stack of sandwiches. They ate standing at the counter.†††

"That'll do for an hour or two." Mal patted his belly, nodding and grinning when Zach gave him a look. "Hey, you think I could get a shower?"

Zach drained his milk glass. "Definitely. I'll join you."

Mal waited a beat too long. "Sure."

Zach hesitated. "Sorry, I just assumed ... go ahead. Iíll take one after you. Iím fine with waiting."

"No, with me, okay? I'm just ... " Mal shook his head. "Nothing." He avoided Zach's look. "Is there any chance you have an extra toothbrush? Please say yes."

Zach decided to let whatever it was drop for the moment. "I usually keep an extra or two."

Zach kneeled beside Jasper, who was noisily crunching food from the floor. He ran a hand down the catís back, the fur soft, short but fluffy. Jasper arched briefly into his touch.

Zach frowned. "Too scrawny."

"You've only been gone a couple of days, right?"

Zach's knee popped as he stood. "Yeah, but his porch feeder was almost empty Saturday. I figured I'd fill it when I got home. Then I didn't come home. If he'll let me, I'm gonna keep him inside more. Look at him eat, he's starving."

"Or gluttonous." Mal grinned when Zach frowned at him. "I'm kidding. I'd hate for an animal to go hungry. It's just cute, you mothering a cat."

"Shut up," Zach muttered.

"Aw, you're sensitive about it." Mal winked. He grabbed Zach's hand. "Shower," he reminded.

"Then sleep." Zach pulled Mal out of the kitchen and down the hall to the small bathroom.

It was cooler than in the living room, the floor covered in scarred, dull red tiles. The walls were white, reflecting the light coming in from the single pane window. An old clawfoot bathtub sat in the corner, a shower curtain hanging from the ceiling track above it.††

"I like it. Antiquated." Mal nodded, looking around the bathroom. "Sleep sounds incredible, but you think it's safe to bunk down here?"

"Why not? Aaron and Kane picked you out for the pack, but me, I was just a pickup. And your dinner. They don't know my last name or anything else about me." Zach slid open the mirrored medicine cabinet and rummaged inside. "Here you go." He handed Mal a pink and purple toothbrush still in the package.

Mal grabbed it. "Fuck, I love you." Realizing what he'd said, his mouth dropped open.

Zach smirked, nodding as if it were his due. He uncapped the toothpaste and held it out to Mal, waiting.

Mal shrugged, lips quirking, and took the toothpaste. They brushed their teeth, jostling each other at the sink.

Zach opened the tiny closet to the side of the bathroom door, setting out towels and wash cloths. He pulled the curtain back on the ceiling track and turned the shower on, adjusting the flow and temperature of the water. Steam began to roil and rise in the air.

He turned back to Mal. "You look like Gulliver in here," he said, taking in Mal's height and width in the small room. He practically loomed over the fixtures. They began stripping, throwing clothes over the floor.

"That make you a Lilliputian?" Mal's shirt came off and he straightened.

This was the first Zach had seen of Mal's bare chest in clear light. He took his time, looking over the smooth, tanned skin, wide shoulders and small waist, stomach hard with muscle. "It makes me lucky."

Mal frowned. "Getting involved in this mess with me makes you the farthest thing from lucky.I thought about not coming inside with you, to tell the truth. I knew I shouldn't, but ... " he shook his head. "I didn't do you any favors, Zach." His hands fell still at the waist of his jeans.

Aaron's jeans, technically. The same jeans Zach had taken from the wolf pack's house for Mal just that morning. The memory was already starting to blur around the edges.

Zach lowered his hand over Mal's. "You act like this is your fault. You fought it every fucking inch, tore yourself up so you wouldn't hurt me. I won't forget that."

Mal looked up sharply. "You don't owe me."

Zach squeezed his hand. "Get your damn jeans off and get in this shower with me. Got something I want to show you."

Mal smiled, though he still looked uncertain. "I saw it already. Not that I couldn't stand another look."

Zach knocked Mal's hands away. "Never mind, just get out of my way." He unzipped Mal's jeans and shoved them down his thighs.

"Pushy," Mal grumbled, shucking his pants off his legs and over his feet.

They climbed into the tub. Mal groaned at the hot water cascading over his skin. "I'll never take a shower for granted again."

Passing the soap and shampoo, they washed thoroughly, luxuriating in being clean again. After they finished, Mal hogged what was left of the warm water, standing under the showerhead with his head back.

Zach shoved him aside. Mal staggered, shoulder blades thumping against the wall. Zach leaned into him, stroking over the ridges of stomach muscle, dragging the pads of his fingers over chest and throat.

Mal watched him, eyes fathomless. He rocked his hips gently, shifting his hardening cock against Zach's thigh.

Zach leaned close to Mal's ear. "I'd have come after you if you left."

"I didn't want to leave. I just want you to stay alive." Mal tilted his chin up into the water, opening his mouth and letting it flow over his lips and face. He reached out blindly and pulled Zach's hips close, thrusting when their cocks rubbed together.

Zach grabbed a heavy, slick handful of Mal's hair in his fist and hitched his body higher, burying Mal's mouth beneath his own. Mal grunted and opened for him, a slow, slick give and take building on itself, tongues twisting roughly together.

Zach's head spun with the rising steam and Mal's lips moving beneath his, pushing back, hot and slick. Their bodies slipped and slid against each other, trying to get closer.

Two long days in hell, Zach looking into the tilt of shadowed eyes in the dark, knowing he was going to die. But they were alive. The odds had been impossible, but even chained and desperate, he and Mal had escaped from the wolves. He didn't want to let the euphoria of that go, let Mal go, but finally he had to break away, starved for oxygen. Water flooded his mouth. He leaned close, gasping, and scraped his teeth over the skin at Mal's throat.

Mal tilted his head back, moaning, a quiet, breathy noise that vibrated against Zach's lips. Zach grabbed his shoulders and burrowed closer until Malís heart thudded, urgent and desperate and alive against his chest.

He was. They were.

Mal's hand brushed low, sudden and light, teasing over Zach's balls and then up, a trail of fingers and moist heat, capturing both their cocks in his fist. Zach's back curved, thrusting, dick pulsing into Mal's grip. Mal stroked them together, one hard long stroke. His other hand skimmed around Zachís back, steadying him.

"Fuck, yeah, harder, c'mon," Zach gasped.

Mal gave him a slow smile, water flowing down his face, eyes slitted and lazy in the steam curling around them. He spun them around.

Zachís shoulders hit the wall. He opened his eyes, ready with a token protest. It faded from his lips, watching Mal's eyebrow rise and his mouth curl at the corner. Mal wanted him to keep his eyes open.

Mal stroked them again, loose and fast this time, a maddeningly light touch. Zach thrust into Malís fist, but the friction and roughness he needed wasnít there. His fingers dug into the tile behind him. His cock pulsed and stuttered, shooting a short, desperate blurt of precome.

"Mal, please," Zach whispered, looking up at him.

Mal's fingers twisted hard over the head of Zach's cock. More heat, more pressure, roughness of Mal's fingers almost getting him there, but not quite. Zach's leg muscles tensed, carved in stone. He banged his head into the wall, wanting to close his eyes but knowing Mal would stop if he did. Instead he watched Mal's wet, shining face.

Mal, who bled and hurt to spare him, never giving up hope. Changing into someone, something else as the chains came apart, dripping blood.

Covenant in blood. For a minute Zach didn't remember who said it.

Kane. He'd been so sure Mal couldn't keep his word. That Zach would die.

Mal's gaze grew close, insistent, as if he knew Zach's thoughts and didn't like them. He gave Zach what he wanted, grip tightening, tugging them together in furious motion.

Zach looked down at himself, at Mal, at the water splatting over their cocks, the heads cherry red, veins in swollen relief, thrusting in and out of the long brown fingers curled tightly around them both. His spine bowed, only the tops of his shoulders touching the wall. The steamy air was thick syrup in his lungs, too heavy to provide all the oxygen he needed.

The tension grew sharp and tight in his stomach. He reached out, wet fingers tracing over Mal's nipple, brushing over the aureole, feeling it pebble and harden. Abruptly he pinched it.†††

Mal's hips stuttered. His eyes widened, lashes in dark spikes. For a moment there was something of the wolf in them, slanted, green and yellow, untamed. His mouth fell open. He groaned, come spurting over Zach's belly.††

Zach climbed and rutted and rubbed his slick body against Mal, control spinning out thin and wild and then gone, legs shaking but refusing to give way before the exhaustion and terror from the weekend. Because this thing between them, what they had been together in the basement, this was what had saved them.

Spots swam in his vision, the build of pleasure overtaking the dull exhaustion and aches in his body. The steam floating in the air was too white, an overload of light pressing into his eyes while he teetered on the edge. His balls pulled up tight and close to his body, heart thumping like a bass beat deep in his chest. Then his orgasm hit. He rolled his haunches into it, going rigid, painting Malís chest in white stripes.

The intensity faded to an echo. Exhaustion slammed him. Legs wobbling, Zach leaned against the tiles at his back. Mal slumped against the wall beside him, panting and looking almost as wiped out as he felt. Neither of them moved.

Peaceful now, pleasantly blank, Zach watched the water roll off their bodies. It was cooler by the moment. They'd used up all the hot water.

Mal nudged him with an elbow. "Sleep."

Zach nodded, his jaw cracking with a yawn. Both of them fumbled their way out of the shower and dried themselves, too sleepy to do more than a half-ass job of it.

Zach led Mal to the bedroom, wet footprints trailing down the hallway behind them. He pulled back the soft, worn blanket and the sheet beneath it that covered the bed. Mal rolled in first, sighing in pleasure. Zach was right behind him, asleep almost before his body hit the mattress.

Zach woke hours later to full darkness. The cellar. His heart tried to jam its way into his throat. He made a noise before he was able to stop.

"We're out, Zach. You're home, you're safe." Mal's hand lit on his chest, slow and hesitant, careful.

Zach grabbed it and hung on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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