Born To Run

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 69,652
1 Ratings (4.0)

When powerful alpha and bounty hunter Bodhi Matera is hired by another alpha to go after his runaway omega son, Bodhi thinks it’ll be an easy task. After all the beautiful omega is working as an escort in Las Vegas, so all he has to do is go to a hotel and order him up like room service. But when Ethan, the gorgeous little omega, arrives, Bodhi finds out fate has played a dirty trick on him. This omega, who belongs to another man, might just be his own true mate. Bodhi is determined to do the right thing, however, and honor the contract he has with the other alpha, not realizing powerful forces are working behind the scenes to deceive and manipulate him. When Ethan manages to escape, Bodhi must track him down again, and this time the animosity—and heady attraction—that simmers between them bubbles over when the two are face to face again.

A pregnant omega, powerful rivals, bitter family secrets and unforgivable lies—can Bodhi navigate through it all and keep his mate? Or is his relationship doomed to failure once Bodhi learns the truth?

Born To Run
1 Ratings (4.0)

Born To Run

Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: Sizzling
Word Count: 69,652
1 Ratings (4.0)
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Excerpt

“I’ll pay you a thousand to bring him home. Five hundred in cash now and the rest when you deliver.” The alpha slid an envelope containing the money and a photo across the table to me, seemingly confident I would take the deal.

His confidence wasn’t entirely misplaced. I could use the extra money as a matter of fact. Due to an unfortunate incident involving a drunken poker game and a bad run of luck, my personal bank account was currently a little lower than I liked. I tried never to use pack money for any of my personal expenses, so an extra five hundred in my account would bring the balance up nicely. But something about the look in this guy’s eyes told me he still might pay more.

The alpha across the table from me was Jed Connors, the alpha of a small pack in north Georgia. He had spent the first twenty minutes of our meeting bitching about his ungrateful, runaway son, an omega for whom he’d been at great pains to arrange a mating. He’d finally succeeded with a wealthy alpha from a neighboring pack. He spent another twenty minutes bragging about how much property and money this alpha had, though his omega had still not, apparently, been all that impressed.

“Before they could even consummate the mating, the ungrateful little bastard ran away,” Connors told me. “I want you to go after him and drag him home—I’m not even sure if Taylor will have him by then, but it’s worth a try.”

“Taylor Nistor? That’s the alpha you’re bonding him with?”

“Hopefully, yes.” He looked down at his coffee and fiddled with an empty pack of sugar beside it. After a moment, he raised his head. “I’ve already invested the money from the mating contract I signed with him. If he refuses my son now, it could be disastrous for our pack.”

I sat back and regarded the man in front of me. Invested, huh? More likely, blew through the first real money this old man had seen in a long while, judging from what I knew about his pack. They were storekeepers, mostly, operating some small roadside convenience stores, well off the main highways. Landing a marriage contract with a wealthy alpha like Taylor Nistor must have been a really big deal for him and his pack. With no dowry to speak of to offer Taylor, and no family connections, that must mean the omega was extraordinarily good looking. To an alpha like Taylor Nistor, who already had plenty of power and money, an omega arm candy was probably the biggest draw. Taylor probably relished the idea of showing the omega off to his friends.

But before they could even arrange the mating or consummate their union, the omega had taken off. That must have been a huge blow to Taylor’s ego.

Taylor was on the short list for the title of Riglera, or leader of all the wolf packs. My name had been floated for the job as well, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I was busy enough just leading my pack and running my own business on the side. But I knew that the other alpha considered me some kind of rival for the position. I should have just put him out of his misery and told him I had no interest in the position. But where was the fun in that?

As for the job of tracking down this omega, it sounded easy enough. Maybe too easy, in fact, and I suspected there might be more Connors wasn’t telling me. I didn’t even glance inside at the photo but stared steadily back at him.

“So, what’s the catch? You know where he is. You know what to do. Why haven’t you just gone after him and dragged his ass home yourself?”

His eyes narrowed, and the look in them was resentful and borderline menacing. Alphas like this one, an older man and a well-established head of his pack, weren’t used to being challenged in any kind of meaningful way. But I was an alpha too, and with much greater status than his own, so he didn’t intimidate me at all, and I didn’t give a shit about his pack or his posturing.

“There’s no ‘catch.’ I’m a busy man, Matera. I don’t have time to chase after delinquent, spoiled brats. Do you want the job or not?”

I took a sip of my Waffle House coffee and considered him over the rim. “Depends. If I take it, the price will be three thousand, plus expenses. Half up front and the rest on delivery. I’m a busy man myself, Jed,” I said, deliberately using his first name just to piss him off. “My time is valuable.” His dark eyes flickered up at me, and I caught a little flash of something that was gone too fast for me to decipher exactly what it was, but I had a pretty good idea.

But all he said was, “That’s a little high, don’t you think?”

The waitress stopped by the table with her coffee pot and I let her fill my cup and nodded my thanks. He never even glanced up at her, just shook his head, putting his hand over his cup.

She left and I shrugged. “That’s up to you. It depends on how badly you want him. I should be able to round him up and have him back home in a week. Maybe less, depending on whether or not your information about him is accurate.”

“It’s accurate. He works for this…business…at the address I just gave you, and he was there as recently as last night according to my source.”

“Should be easy enough to find him then, unless there’s something more you’re not telling me.”

“What might that be?”

I shrugged and drank some more coffee, waiting him out.

He considered me for a few seconds before he leaned back in the booth. “Okay, I’ll give you two thousand then. My final offer. Half now and half on delivery.”

I needed the money, but there was a lot about this guy that rubbed me the wrong way, so I shook my head. “I don’t haggle over the cost of my services, Jed. The price is three thousand plus expenses. Take it or leave it.”

He gave me a cold, hard stare, probably trying to…what? Intimidate me? Unless he wanted to huff and puff and blow my house down, he was wasting his time.

“All right then,” he replied in a nasty tone after our brief stare down. He pulled out his wallet and extracted the bills, all hundreds, and I could see that he had more where those came from. He wanted me to see it, because that was the kind of guy he was. He waited while I counted them, resentment oozing across the table at me. I had to wonder where he’d come up with that kind of money. He’d said he’d “invested” Taylor’s contract money. In fact, I’d deliberately set a price that I thought was above his reach, so I wouldn’t have to take this job. I didn’t think much of any of the parties involved. Hell, even omegas rubbed me the wrong way.

Male omegas were a rare and valuable commodity in any pack and usually highly prized. They could produce a beautiful child for any alpha they mated; they were a mark of their pack’s strength and wealth, and with a good marriage, they could be a source of income. As a general rule, omegas were used as bargaining tools in forming alliances with other packs. I had some female omegas in my own pack—all mated and settled down. I tried to encourage that as much as I could, because in my experience, an unmated omega was—not exactly a menace, but a nuisance to the alpha of a pack who liked a peaceful environment, where everyone worked together.

Omegas were like magpies—they liked bright, shiny things, and they often pitted wolves against each other to be able to get them. And as a rule, they were terrible liars. They just couldn’t be trusted and needed to be carefully managed and controlled by a wolf with higher status. They were usually beautiful, and I liked the way they looked, but I didn’t admire them overly much outside of that. The ones I’d met, especially the prettiest ones, were all conceited and thought way too highly of themselves.

Having said that, I didn’t allow any omegas in my pack to be mistreated. If I got wind of a beta or gamma treating an omega badly, they had to answer to me. Firm, but kind and steady control was what an omega needed, not harsh words and deeds.

I had gotten a little lost in my thoughts, it seemed, because Connors snapped impatiently at me. “Well, is that it then?” He bit off the words as if they tasted bad.

“I think that’ll do it. I’ll be calling you probably by the end of the week to set up delivery.”

He stood up, throwing down a five-dollar bill for the coffee on the table. “See that you do,” he said, obviously needing that last word. I let him have it, and he left the diner and went out to climb in his brand new truck with the oversized tires. I guessed that was where some of Taylor’s money had gone.  I was of the opinion that having a truck like that, a big old Dually with Michelins and flashy rims, said more about the size of your dick than about how big and bad you were, but that was just me.

I watched him drive off the lot and then picked up the envelope he’d slid across the table to me to have a look at the picture inside. I glanced down at it, and it literally took my breath away for a moment.

I had an art class in school once, just for a supposedly easy grade that would help give me enough credits to graduate. But the class was hard as hell if you didn’t possess a photographic memory or do a lot of studying outside of class. Neither of which described me. The class consisted mostly of looking at PowerPoint pictures of art and trying to remember the artist’s name and the style of the work. Sitting in that darkened classroom, being bored out of my mind, meant that I spent most of my time sleeping. I flunked that class—one of many, actually, which is mainly why I lost interest altogether and dropped out of college not long after that. It wasn’t as if I had any real interest in my major, which my father had decided was going to be business. Graduating from a human college had been his dream, and never mine.

Anyway, though most of the classical art I saw in that class is still one giant blur, I had been impressed by one of them, against all odds, and not for the style or the talent of the artist, but for the subject matter. The artist was some German, and the painting was of a beautiful archangel striking an arrogant pose outside heaven. I remember thinking at the time if that was what angels looked like, I was going to have to try to be a much better person so I could at least make it as far as the pearly gates. I think I even had a very erotic dream about that angel as I leaned my head back against that classroom wall, closed my eyes, and gave up all pretense of taking notes in the dark or trying to pay attention.

I didn’t believe in the Christian god or his pearly gates anyway, seeing as how I was a wolf shifter. But I knew any of the moon goddesses worth her salt would have seconded my opinion of that gorgeous angel and elbowed me out of the way to get to him first.

The boy in this picture the alpha gave me looked a lot like that angel, which is to say he was delicious and definitely worth what his father was paying to get him back and then some. Tall, lean and yet muscular, with black hair falling across his forehead, a haughty nose, and dark slashes of eyebrows, the young guy in the picture even had the arrogant pose of the angel just right. One leg was stuck out slightly in front of him, and he looked a little bored, a little sulky, and sexy as fuck, with those dark eyes smoldering out of the photo at me. I wanted badly to have a taste of that pouty bottom lip of his.

Unlike the angel, this guy was wearing a leather jacket, skintight jeans, and an equally tight T-shirt, cut in a low vee in the front. My jeans got snug as my cock took an immediate interest. Yeah, I’d pay to get this one back too, if he ever tried to get away from me.

But if I had an omega who looked like this one, I’d probably just try to make damn sure I never gave him a reason to leave me in the first place.

I went over to the cash register to pay my bill and then out to my Jeep to light a cigarette as I opened the envelope that contained the boy’s address. Connors had included a copy of his mating contract with Taylor. I checked it out and it basically outlined the sale of the omega to him for a little over five thousand dollars. There wasn’t any certificate of union yet or signed contracts because Taylor and the omega hadn’t yet gone through a mating ceremony, and Taylor hadn’t been to the human probate court to get the paperwork. But according to the traditions of our people, the omega was pretty much signed, and sealed, if not delivered at this point. The problem had apparently been in convincing the omega of the fact. The contract could still be broken by either party, but that was a rare occurrence.

The address Connors had given me was for an escort service in Las Vegas, which was a hell of long way from where I was currently sitting on the north side of Atlanta, Georgia. I’d need to fly, even though it was cheaper for the client if I drove. But our deal included expenses so fuck that. Vegas was a long way, and he was just going to have to shell out.

The note attached said the angel, whose name was Ethan, supposedly worked for this omega service in Vegas that had a wolf clientele and provided both male and female omega “escorts.” I was thinking that would make my job a hell of a lot easier. All I had to do was rent myself a room, call up his place of employment, and order him up like room service.  The thought of having the angel to myself gave me all kinds of devilish ideas for things we could do before I brought him back home, if I could talk him into doing them, that is.

Was that appropriate? Hell no, but Taylor and I weren’t friends in any kind of way. In fact, I’d say we were just the opposite. And the omega had made his preferences known when he ran. I almost hated to bring him back to be mated to the alpha, who had a reputation for being a real asshole. I could only imagine how he’d treat a male omega who had insulted him by running away.

Omegas who, for whatever reason, didn’t belong to an alpha, usually took a job in the sex industry as they were the only ones readily available to them. Pretty much anything was on the table except for anal sex, which was far too valuable to be given away for the price of an escort for the night. In fact, though, about the only thing I couldn’t do to him when I caught up to him was fuck him. Omegas were far too valuable to ruin, and I’d be expected to marry him if I did that.  I had no intention of it, though. Full sex with an omega was carefully negotiated with the seller, and the fucking was pricey. Still, that left a lot of options on the table to be enjoyed and explored, including oral.  But again, only if he was into that. Considering the job he’d taken, he probably would be.

I had a feeling that old man Connors wouldn’t like it worth a damn, and neither would Taylor, which made me want to partake that much more. I was an alpha, after all. What did he think I was going to do with a sexy, promiscuous little omega all to myself in a hotel room? It was like sending a fox to stand guard over the hen house.

 I held the photo up in front of me and smiled. “Get ready, sweetheart. I’m coming for you.”

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