Though he posed as a teenage gay hooker, Daniel had never been with a man and was only mildly curious about how it would be. As a cop, he thought he’d seen it all, until he propositioned the stranger, touched his arm, and experienced a rush of arousal no man had ever caused. Looking into those pale blue, ice cold eyes, he recognized a predator and beat a quick retreat. He thought of the stranger when the first murdered pimp showed up and his young boy prostitute was kidnapped. The possibility didn’t stop Daniel from giving into an urge he didn’t understand and said yes to the man the next time he saw him.
Brand had no intention of ever getting involved, woman or man, human or wolf. He didn’t know how to love, only to kill. His plan was to experience sex with the man once and walk away. His wolf wanted him to stay. The man part of him couldn’t leave the man/boy alone, not when his wolf was the only thing that could save Daniel’s life.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Daniel said, wishing like hell he could talk without slurring his words, wishing he had the strength to reach out and touch him. Not have sex with him, but to touch, hold, be held, an entirely different yearning than he’d had before.
“I can help you.”
“It isn’t working. It only helps for a couple of hours, then this comes back. Hell, maybe it’s your blood doing it.”
“Wolf’s blood wouldn’t. It has immunity factors that enhance healing in humans.”
“They almost caught you last night. You have to quit. They’ve got the FBI on you now. They’ll hunt you down. You have to quit.”
Ignoring what he said, Wolf continued in the same vein. “I can help you, but it would take more than just giving you blood. You’d have to give up everything. I’d have to take you home with me.” He took a deep breath to finish. “I’d have to mate with you.”
“Mate?” Daniel managed a weak smile. “You already did that.”
“I fucked you. Mating is more involved.” For a moment his mechanical demeanor faltered. He sucked it back up. “I’m not even sure it can cure you, but the change gives you strength you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
“Change? Like a werewolf?”
“No. Only a born shifter can change to wolf. You’ll become kin through mating. The change will make you stronger, less vulnerable to disease and aging.”
“So what’s the downside?” he asked in a joke, half believing him, half not.
“Mating takes longer, it’s painful, and the condition you’re in, the transformation might kill you before it can cure you. If you live through it, you’ll be my mate. You’ll be with me for the rest of your life.”
He bite into his wrist and held it to Daniel’s mouth. Daniel didn’t hesitate in sucking down Wolf’s blood, but confused thoughts tumbled through his mind. Mate? Forever? Shit, did he even believe any of it? If he didn’t, why was he drinking blood? Was he even? Was his mind so screwed up he imagined it all?
“Think about it,” Wolf told him, pulling his arm free. “I’ll be back tomorrow night.”
“No more killing,” Daniel told him. “They’ll catch you if you don’t stop.”
Daniel drifted into sleep, sedated. Hell, he was already sedated with morphine dripping into his arm. The blood was different. Two hours later he woke with the nurse poking on him, a look of perplexity on her face.
“Your fever is down again. It looks like you’re fighting this off on your own.”
“That would be nice,” he murmured, but he didn’t think so and was right.
The blood only worked for a few more hours. By the morning, the fever, aches, and swelling were right back. Think about it, Wolf said. How could he not? A chance to live or a certainty of dying in agony while the chance to live was only a chance?
A gasp from the nurse got his attention. He rolled his head and blinked several times. Daylight and Wolf was there? He’d never seen him in daylight.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse said. “I didn’t hear you come in.” She looked from Wolf to Daniel and back again. “Visiting hours don’t start for several hours yet.”
“I just arrived from out of state. I got here as soon as I could. I won’t stay long, and I won’t get in the way.”
“Well, I suppose a few minutes won’t hurt.”
Neither one of them spoke until the nurse was gone. “I thought wolves are nocturnal?” Daniel said in a half-tease.
“Another fallacy. My wolf is something you’d have to get used to.”
“Have to. That’s what you said when you said the way to save me was to mate. You said you’d have to. You’d have to take me home. You don’t want to do either. You’ve got it in your head you owe me in some way, a responsibility maybe because you saved my life. You aren’t gay. You don’t want that kind of life. I don’t know what happened between us, but you don’t want me.”
Wolf moved a little closer to the bed. “I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t—can’t…” He worked the back of his lower front teeth with the tip of his tongue a few seconds. “I just meant that’s the only way it’ll work. I have to take you home. We can’t do it here.”
“You’ll never know if I only say yes because I’m afraid to die.”
“I know that won’t be the reason. Whatever happened between us, happened both ways. I felt it, and you felt it. It was a mating call.”
“Between two straight men?” he asked in disbelief.
“Same gender matings aren’t uncommon with shifters. We don’t know why.”
“Are there…are there a lot of you?”
“I need your answer, Daniel. The blood is only holding the infection off, and you aren’t getting enough for even that. You need more to kill it before it kills you.”
“You look tired.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I want you. I want to be with you.”
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours to get you.”