Alpha Henri Giraud has finally found his Mate; but Vitas Kosloff comes with a host of problems not the least of which he carries a great gift and the Russian First, Fydor Chernof, claims Vitas is his.
After much hardship, Vitas Kosloff finds his Mate, Henri Giraud, Director of Security for the North American Council and Garou Industries. Vitas, held captive by Fydor Chernof, the Russian First, who claims Vitas belongs to him He escapes Chernof's torture with the aid of Chernof's two Betas, Anatoly and Maxim.
Vitas is a full loup garou who carries a huge mating gift, he can tell the truth from lies and dream the future. Because of this Chernof will stop at nothing to re-capture him, even after Henri mates and marries Vitas. With the aid of the other Mates, the North American Council and Frank Ferone, Vitas and Henri attempt to outwit Chernof and take care of the Russian problem for good.
Outside Moscow, Russian Federation
Third Week in June
Vitas Kosloff lay shivering, naked, and chained to the damp earth of the old mushroom cellar amidst the smell of shit, fertilizer, and fungi. He had a rumbling cough, and his chest felt heavy and congested. The drug they’d administered to prevent him from the change was potent. They had descended upon him again yesterday, the man with the injection and three Enforcers with a chair. He’d tried to fight them, but he was broken and weary. The Enforcers held him up in the chair and injected the drug into his thigh. They took away the chair, leaving him to lie in the mushrooms and dust.
At first, he didn’t know what the injection did, only that he had no energy after they administered it. Then one evening, Anatoly, one of Chernof’s Betas, left the door open a crack. If Vitas could have shifted, he might have been able to slip out of his chains and escape through the door. He tried to make the change to wolf. No matter how many attempts he made, he couldn’t shift. Sometime after that, he developed a cold, and he realized the drug rendered him almost human.
Vitas sighed. If he were a true human, he would be dead by now, and his suffering would end. Wolves never got sick, but his immune system was severely compromised by the shot they had been forcing on him. Now, he alternated between fever and chills, and he was unable to shift to his other form. He thought he had pneumonia, but he still wouldn’t yield to Alpha Chernof’s demands. Vitas refused to confirm to the Russian loup garou packs that the First Alpha, Fydor Leonovich Chernof, was his Mate.
Chernof and his Enforcers came to his parents’ small Moscow apartment. It was there the Russian First claimed that Vitas was his fated Mate. Vitas knew he lied.
“Alpha, I feel no attraction to you, I don’t see the beginnings of a tether. You’re not my Mate. There is some kind of misunderstanding.”
Vitas’ father, Evegny, stepped between Alpha Chernof and his son. “Alpha, be reasonable. He is not meant for you. Whatever his gift, as his Alpha, you may order him to use it, but you are not his Mate.”
Chernof backed off. “I’ll be back, and he better be ready to come with me. I have business to attend to first.”
They continued to live a small life in their dingy little Moscow apartment until the next week when the home pack discovered that the government had imprisoned their Alpha, Alpha Davidoff.
For four years, Alpha Davidoff was imprisoned, and after he emigrated, Chernof left them alone. Vitas drew closer to his twenty-fifth birthday with the former Second, Alpha Davidoff, no longer available to protect his family.
Since he had left them alone, the Kosloff family thought that Chernof had forgotten about them and made plans to leave Russia. Then, three months ago, they saw Alpha Chernof and his men watching Vitas come home from the grocery. Thinking about it, Evegny realized that since Alpha Chernof’s visit, there was always a strange wolf in the neighborhood near their apartment. The Kosloff family recognized he had spied on them for years. Evegny told Vitas that now they had no recourse. They needed to leave, immediately. Their time had run out. His family packed their meager belongings; Vitas’ in a small satchel. He, his father, and mother fled into the night. They made it as far as St. Petersburg before Chernof’s Enforcers arrived to take them off the train.
The entire family was thrown into a car, bound, gagged, and dragged back to Moscow with Chernof’s men using papers acquired from the government ordering their detention in Russia. Brought before the First at his dacha just outside of Moscow, Evegny protested and asked, as was his right, for the Alpha to convene the full council.
There were led into a pine paneled room with dirty cushioned chairs. Chernof sat at his desk smoking a cigar and laughed, “You fool. I control the council, and now I control your boy. Don’t say another word.” The Enforcers laid their hands on Vitas, and he fought like a man possessed. His father told him to keep struggling, that his Mate would come. Vitas fought like a madman, but in the end, they prevailed. But to assuage his injured pride, he reveled in one small triumph. He had done some damage to Chernof’s Enforcers despite being small, even for an Omega.
“Vitas, come quietly, or there will be consequences,” Chernof hissed. He rose from his chair and walked over to the family.
He looked over to his father for guidance. Evegny shook his head no. Vitas took a deep breath and stayed strong. He kept up the struggle while disregarding his injuries.
The Enforcers finally overcame Vitas for a second time. He gazed at his father who attempted to intervene.
“He doesn’t receive his gift until he turns twenty-five. How do you intend to keep him docile for that long?” Vitas’ father shouted.
His mother stood nearby with tears running down her face “Do as your father commands, my son. You must protect your gift so you can give it to your Mate.”
His father lied to the Alpha. “His blessing is small and as insignificant as he is, of no real use. Why take him for such a paltry gift?”
Chernof slapped Vitas’ mother’s, then his father’s face while the Enforcers held them down, leaving his red hand print visible on their cheeks.
“His gift is immense or else you would not have tried to run. I want it, and no one will get in my way.” Chernof shouted a command to his Enforcers, “Hold them.” The First ripped out Vitas’ parents’ throats then had his Enforcers sever their heads. Their blood spattered Vitas. He fell to his knees in grief. Chernof’s men took Vitas underground.
He found his new home to be the cold, damp mushroom cellar, where he spent the entire spring, naked and shivering. Things were so bad that he didn’t even have a bucket for his own excrement. They unleashed him once a day, and he was permitted, like a cat, to go in the corner and cover it with dust.
He brought himself back to the present day and lifted his head. Footsteps thudded closer. The Betas came to beat him daily so he would change his mind and accept Chernof. He quickly buried his memories deep in his mind where they would be locked against Chernof’s Alpha link. But the link only gave the Alpha impressions unless the loup garou permitted the intrusion. Vitas would give Chernof nothing. His thoughts were his and his alone. He guarded them against the Alpha when he attempted to use the link. The Alpha stood in the doorway impatiently waiting for Maxim, one of his Betas, to bring him paper booties so he wouldn’t ruin his boots with shit and fertilizer.
Vitas had lost track of time during his imprisonment but his birthday approached. He could feel the quickening of his gift and the Siren song of his Mate. Vitas despaired. Helpless to do anything about his current situation, he could only wait. If his Mate didn’t come, he had a plan, it may be desperate but, it was still viable.
Chernof marched into the dark room. Evil rolled off him in sickening waves. The Russian Alpha regarded him with a feral smile of satisfaction. “Now that your parents are dead, there is nowhere left to run.”
Tears ran down Vitas’ face like rivulets. He tasted their salt.
“I will mate you tonight, you piece of shit. The first loup garou in your channel gets control of your gift.” Chernof casually kicked his chest. Vitas grimaced and tried not to scream out in pain.
Despite his torment, Vitas hoarsely shouted, “I’m not your Mate. I’d know if I was.” He was losing his voice, yet he continued to try to yell. It came out as a harsh whisper. “My father told you I didn’t belong to you before you murdered him and my mother.”
“You little bastard.” Chernof seized him by his neck and cuffed him on his ear. He hit him so hard, Vitas heard bells.
Chernof gritted his teeth. “You made me lose my temper. I can’t deal with you now, or I’ll beat you to death.”
“Death would be preferable to you.” Vitas spit, hitting the tongue of the Alpha’s shoe and top of his sock well away from the booties.
“If I lay into you, you might get a concussion, and I’d damage your gift. I’m leaving, but know this, I’m going to bite you tonight, and the pack will see the marks. Even though I can’t knot you, no one will ever know. Who would take the word of an Omega over mine?” The First strode toward the door.
Vitas used his last deep breath to scream in defiance, “Anyone—all the packs know you for the lying scum you are.” He stood and pulled on his chains.
Chernof stopped and swerved. He stalked Vitas back across the room, coming so close that Vitas smelled the cabbage and onions on his stale breath and the stench of a cheap cigar on his rumpled shirt. Vitas wrinkled his nose. Chernof cupped his face in one big, beefy hand, squeezing his cheeks together so hard that Vitas felt like a trout.
The First laughed manically. “You’ll take my cock in your channel, boy, and down your fucking throat. After the mating, I might cut out your tongue and let you make the change to grow it back only when I need you to speak. That will teach you not to sass me. Know that I’m going to fuck you until you’re bloody. By tomorrow you won’t be able to walk, and I’ll have control over both you and your gift.”
Without thought, again, Vitas pulled at the heavy chains Chernof had spiked to cement-footed rings in the ground.
When Chernof drew him closer, Vitas head-butted him, knocking Chernof’s hand away. He jumped and kicked out with his foot with all his might trying to disable the Alpha by breaking a rib, but he was too short, and the chains weren’t long enough. They jerked him back to the dust. Vitas fell on his ass. He looked up. Chernof was hunched over and grimacing. To his surprise, he saw that he had got in a hit before the musty earth he’d kicked up from his fall clouded his view. He coughed harder as he breathed in the dirt. It mixed with the tears in his eyes and streaked down his face. Even in all his misery, Vitas managed a little smile. With a stroke of luck, he’d managed to kick the Alpha in his balls. Not that it would give him anything but small satisfaction. Unlike him, Chernof could change, heal, and make the pain go away.
“Fuck…” Chernof jumped back, staring at Vitas with menace. “There is nothing in our laws that say I can’t have you bludgeoned until you’re bloody before the mating if you are recalcitrant. Anatoly,” he turned to his Chief Beta who stood at his shoulder. “Work him over. Stay away from his head and face. I don’t want you to damage his gift. Make sure he can still walk. The packs shouldn’t get the idea that he’s being forced.” Chernof grimaced and gave Vitas a casual kick in the chest, spitting at his face before he left the cellar, one hand rubbing his balls. “You little rat bastard. I’m going to tie you to the bed to take you, but you’ll suffer. I’ll take you dry.” He glanced back and chuckled. “That will make you scream.”
In fear and loathing, Vitas watched the Alpha leave. He didn’t know if he could endure another pummeling, but understood he couldn’t let Chernof give him a false mating bite. He had a gift, and it was singular. The gods spoke to his father and told him to protect Vitas because his gift was both precious and rare. When he came to his majority at midnight, in his dreams he would glimpse the future and while awake, know the truth from lies.
If he let Chernof bite him, the Russian Alpha, through Vitas, would be aware of the truth in every wolf or human’s words, and profit from the knowledge of future events. Only his Mate would share his gift, but his Alpha could force him to use it. The Russian First desperately wanted this talent after he learned from Evegny’s friend what it was. He wanted to use it so he could regain control over the packs; the control he lost through his cruelty and excess. Chernof couldn’t afford to have Vitas’ talent go to someone else. If the Russian First allowed it to go elsewhere, there would be challenges, and he would lose his position. Already there were mumblings. Vitas sighed in resignation. He had made up his mind. He’d kill himself rather than let Chernof take him.
Vitas shivered in fear. Another beating would render him senseless and allow Chernof to take him without a fight. The huge Beta seemed to read his mind. Anatoly leaned in and whispered, “Hold on a little longer. Maxim and I have arranged your escape. You’ll fly out of Moscow to Helsinki then on to America.”
“Why are you helping me?” Vitas knew the penalty for a Beta rebelling against his Alpha. It was death by beheading and no chance to return to the wheel. Anatoly was courting oblivion.
“Even Maxim and I know he must be stopped. We spoke and we think the gods will understand.”
“I have no documents, he took them.” Vitas gritted his teeth in pain.
“We stole your documents from Chernof’s desk and hid them away. We have your passport and everything else you need to emigrate, just as your parents planned. You will leave later, tonight.” Anatoly handed him a tiny piece of rolled-up paper. “Hold this for courage. Alpha Davidoff is at the address on the paper. He needs to know what Chernof is doing. Now scream. I’m going to have to do some damage, but this will be the last time. Scream loud.”
Anatoly pounded on him, pulling his punches until Chernof stuck his head back into the door of the cellar. The Beta whispered, “I’m sorry.” By the time Anatoly was finished, Vitas could only cry in agony, desperately clutching the paper in his hand. As Anatoly and Maxim knew it would, it gave Vitas strength of purpose, and the will to live.
Later, as he lay in the corner gasping for air, Anatoly unlocked the door, snuck in, and undid his chains. He threw him some clothes and his satchel. Maxim handed him a washcloth and hosed him down with icy water. They gave him a thin towel.
“Dress, we’re leaving now. Maxim and I will put you in the trunk of the Lada and take you to the airport. I told the Alpha you were too hurt and sick to mate tonight. Hurry, he may check. You have until morning to get out of Russia. In this envelope are plane tickets to Helsinki and through to New York. You also have your Irish passport, a green card for legal residence in the United States, and five-hundred dollars in American currency. We’ve been planning this since he murdered your parents.”
“I’m still hurt and dirty. They won’t let me on the plane.”
“No worries, you can shower at the first-class club in Helsinki. I put soap, shampoo, and a towel in the bag. The steam will help your chest. If the shit smell clings after your shower, douse yourself with cognac, it’s free in the lounge. They won’t smell the fertilizer, only the liquor. You speak English, so when you get to America, ask for a taxi to go to Alpha Davidoff’s address. You need to find him and tell him how bad things have gotten here. He must do something. The others are like sheep.”
Maxim whispered, “I put a few of your things in your satchel. I couldn’t risk more.”
Vitas nodded. He understood how much they had risked for him already. Vitas dressed with help and limped out of the cellar shivering and trying not to cough. He crawled into the trunk of Anatoly’s old black Lada. He was bruised but not bleeding so there wouldn’t be a trail of blood for Chernof to follow. Damaged from self-indulgence and hard living, the Alpha’s nose was no longer acute for tracking. Few remembered Chernof was a one-eighth human and therefore vulnerable to some of the effects of his excess. He rarely made the change anymore, and his human frailties were beginning to catch up to him because he wouldn’t call his wolf. His nose was iffy, at best. Anatoly promised he would lead him east instead of west when he found that Vitas was missing. The dirt and shit of the cellar still clung to him. He frowned. The clothing helped to cover the odor but didn’t eliminate it. Anatoly assured him the foul smell would throw Chernof off the scent.
The ride in the trunk over bad roads was hellish, but Vitas didn’t dare to speak or cry out. When he boarded the jet to Helsinki, people scrutinized him, askance at his condition, but once he reached Finland, he had eight hours between flights. Since he had a first-class ticket, the steward told him he could shower in the club the airport kept for premier passengers. He could also get something to eat and drink.
He washed as best he could in his condition but couldn’t do a thorough job on his back, hair, and nails. He changed his clothing and put the things he had worn in the trash bin, remembering to take Alpha Davidoff’s address from his pocket. He hoped it was warmer in New York because he’d thrown away his jacket. Once on the plane to Newark, he dared to breathe. The berths in first class allowed him a seat that reclined almost into a bed, and he could lie down and rest while trying to suppress his coughs. The flight attendant was kind. He gave him a blanket and some hot tea with lemon, honey, and whiskey. The whiskey would do him no good, he was loup garou, but he welcomed the sweet tea, lemon, and blanket.
From the steward, Vitas found out the date. He turned twenty-five yesterday, the day Chernof planned to rape him. He went to the bathroom and as he checked the damage, he contemplated his face. He wasn’t beautiful, yet he was attractive in his own way, with unblemished skin, his mother’s straight, dirty blonde hair, worn long in a braid, along with her green eyes, the dark color of the Irish Sea. His eyes were the problem. They were his gift. He saw too much. Vitas wished he was an ordinary loup garou. But the gods saw fit to have him carry this burden, and carry it he would. But as long as Vitas drew breath, Chernof wouldn’t get it. He would kill himself first.
On the plane, he slept fitfully, shivering in fear, fighting his fever, and trying not to cry out in pain. He couldn’t eat, but he took another cup of tea. When he arrived at customs, he didn’t have anything to declare except his small carry-on satchel that contained all his worldly goods. Maxim had smuggled out a picture of his parents, a beautifully illustrated book of Russian fairy tales his father used to read to him, an additional set of underwear, and the silver bracelet his mother had given him last Yule. The rest he’d had to leave behind. Forcing back tears and lifting his shoulders, he made his way through the airport, determined to make sure Chernof paid for his cruelty.
§ § §