“Are you sure you’re ready for this, Liam?” Quentin asked. He, Marcus, and their host Brian stood clustered near the desk in Brian’s office. The remaining alpha, Jared, was leaning near the window, playing with his sunglasses. The house might be Brian’s, but the others were alphas in their own right. They were all invested in what was happening. Up till now, they had been conversing quietly among themselves and ignoring Liam. He gave them smile full of teeth. Technically, they all outranked him, but neither of them was his alpha. While he respected them, he wasn’t going to take orders from them. He stayed where he was, sprawled insolently on the couch along one wall.
“As ready as I can be, I guess,” he drawled, wondering what the correct answer to that question was. He had no idea what to expect. He wasn’t going to make promises he couldn’t fulfill.
Marcus frowned. “This is important.” There was an edge of reproach in his voice. Liam felt a flicker of annoyance. Marcus was about his age and recently got the position. Of four alphas in the room he was the one who felt the most need to assert his position. Liam didn’t think he’d managed. He was of the opinion that Quentin, who was oldest of them and on the Council, had more respect for Brian, who seemed to take everything in stride. Even Jared was more respectful to Brian than to Marcus, which must have grated on Marcus, who obviously despised Brian. Liam wondered why. But Marcus couldn’t argue with his fellow alphas at least not right now and right here. The Council had made a stern warning when they organized this meeting. They were not supposed to do anything to draw negative attention from humans. That left Liam as an obvious target for Marcus’s displeasure. Sadly he had never responded well to bullies. He batted his eyelashes at them.
“I know that. That’s why I was picked for the job,” he reminded them. He didn’t volunteer. The Council had asked. Politely.
“I don’t envy you,” Jared commented. “I think we all know it’s not going to be an easy job.” Liam pursed his lips. He didn’t disagree with Jared. His new job was in Atlanta, or more precisely, as shifter liaison on their police force. The precinct he was assigned to was supposed to handle all shifter connected cases. It was a compromise that didn’t satisfy either shifters or humans, or at least more vocal among them. Humans were largely still frightened and suspicious of shifters. It was only four years after shifters went public, and both sides suffered through backlash.
Some shifters demanded that they be the only ones punishing their kind. Liam had run interference for pack members while on his previous job as a cop in another town and disagreed with that opinion. It was impossible to lock up a shifter in jail, so their punishment depended on what their packs decided. Packs didn’t always discipline their members adequately. Liam had argued with more than one alpha about that. Luckily he had usually been in the position to get his way. It was one of the reasons the Council had tapped him among first to work on their new Human-Lycan Initiative. Liam wasn’t sure how this thing was supposed to work, but he supposed it was a step up from shifters or suspected shifters being killed on the spot when they were even peripherally involved with a crime. He shook off his thoughts and focused on Jared. He threw an arm over the couch.
“Why do you say that?” he asked. “Because I’m going to be the shifter liaison, or because I’m going to be the liaison in Atlanta?”
Jared snorted. “Not going to tiptoe around the issue, are you?” He sounded amused.
“None of you mentioned it,” Liam pointed out. “But it would be hard to miss. Everyone knows Atlanta was the Hunters’ base of operations.”
Two of the three men winced. Apparently, existence of Hunters was a sore subject, especially with those packs who lived in the vicinity. Hunters were group of officers who had dealt with shape-shifters even before they went public. They hunted the most vicious criminals and disposed of them. They were a dangerous group. In the wake of the shifters’ uncovering, they had become very well known. The Hunters’ existence, Liam figured, was probably the reason why Council had pulled Liam, a decorated officer and known for not making compromises in his job, to work in their former headquarters. He needed to impress people who were used to working with Hunters. Like Jared had said, it wasn’t going to be an easy job.
“The so-called shifters hit squad,” he quoted. Some smart-ass reporter had called them that, and the name had stuck. After the unveiling, Hunters were called to deal with shifters all over the country. They were very well known by now. Liam hadn’t met them, but he’d certainly known of them.
“They are humans. They can’t be as dangerous as everyone seems to think,” Marcus said. Liam arched an eyebrow at this statement.
“That’s how they got dangerous,” Brian muttered. Quentin was eyeing them both with interest.
Marcus waved his arm dismissively. “You should have dealt with them years ago, before they became so well known disposing of them would have caused problems.”
“I didn’t have reason to,” Brian pointed out mildly.
“Please,” Marcus complained. “You going to tell us they weren’t involved when you challenged for alpha? I always wondered what they offered you to get you to get rid of old Darell. He was getting vocal in the Council about them, so they hurried to eliminate the threat.”
“They didn’t care about the Council. Darell was helping drug dealers, and they found out. So they made me a visit and very politely informed me that if I took care of the problem, none of them would visit again. They kept their word. I can’t say they weren’t right. The situation was bad enough as it was. A shifter, a whole pack involved in a crime? Do you have any idea what could have happened if someone other than Hunters found the evidence and then found out about us? At least the Hunters let us deal with it ourselves.”
Lio grabbed his shoulders, fingers digging into his skin until they were practically nose-to-nose. His pupils were blown up, his cheeks flushed, and his lips parted.
“I don’t want to shoot you,” Lio said so softly Liam almost didn’t hear him. The room was deathly quiet, the sound of Lio’s breathing echoing off the walls.
They were painfully close, Lio’s palm burning into Liam’s skin. He swallowed heavily. Lio was close enough to kiss. He could reach and touch him. He was almost sure Lio wasn’t going to refuse him. Did he want to do it? His cock pressed against his zipper. He wanted to. But what was it going to do to their working relationship? How was the Council going to react if they had to pull him out of Atlanta?
He leaned in and laid his mouth on Lio’s.
Lio breathed out, his grip on Liam’s shoulders tightening as he leaned into him. Liam’s senses exploded, savoring Lio’s scent, Lio’s taste on his lips. Arousal burned through his nerves. He hauled Lio closer, barely stopping to breathe as they kissed each other hungrily.
“Wanted to do it from the beginning,” he whispered hoarsely. He turned his head, nuzzling into the arm Lio had on his shoulder. He jerked his head as his tongue met a raised ridge of the scar. He looked back at Lio, but his eyes were half lidded. Tentatively, he licked over old mark. Lio’s breath hitched.
“This turns you on,” he said.
Lio blinked, dragging his hand over Liam’s side. “Yes.”
Blood rushed into his cock. He got so hard it was almost painful.
He caught Lio’s deceptively slim wrists and pushed him against the wall. Lio’s eyes were now wide. He groaned as Liam slid slowly to his knees, keeping their eyes locked. Lio’s cheeks flushed as the realization what Liam intended slowly dawned. He pressed himself harder to the wall, like he was afraid Liam would stop if he moved. Liam nuzzled his belly then lowered his head to press his cheek against Lio’s thigh. He breathed in Lio’s scent, a spike of lust arrowing through his body.
“Liam,” Lio whispered brokenly.
He slid his hands up Lio’s thigh, looking up at him. Lio eyes glazed over, and his breath hitched. With slow smile, he reached for Lio’s belt.
“Don’t—” Lio warned. Too late. Liam sucked in breath, a sharp burn traveling up his wrist. Lio grabbed his hand, pulling it back.
“You kept silver,” Liam commented idly, extracting his wrist from Lio grip and turning to look at red mark it left.
“Yes,” Lio said. “I didn’t think you would…”
“Next time,” Liam said, enunciating every word carefully. He brought his hand to his lips and ran his tongue over it, tingles exploding over his skin as he wet the burn. His lips tingled. Lio swallowed heavily, gaze glued to Liam. “You will be the one taking your jeans off.” Avoiding the silver belt buckle, he tugged Lio’s jeans down. A leering look crossed his face. Lio’s eyes glazed off.
“I’m going to like it,” Liam whispered against his skin, “watching you get naked for me. I’m going to let you do everything, just watch while you undress. I’m going to get harder with each moment, like you don’t make me hard every time I see you.”
Liam mouthed him through thin fabric of his briefs, deliberately teasing. He tugged the briefs down, then leaned in, hearing Lio’s sharp intake of breath. He ran his thumb up Lio’s dick up to the patch of hair at its root and rubbed idly. Lio was already leaking. He bit into the crease of Lio’s thigh, feeling Lio’s cock jerk under his hand. He smiled against Lio’s skin and pulled back.
Lio watched him with hooded eyes.
In the replay of his earlier move, Liam ran his tongue over Lio’s dick. His wrist still hurt, but the pain just mixed with desire, hot and heavy in his balls. He had to shift slightly on his knees to accommodate his growing erection as he took Lio’s dick into his mouth.
“You keep silver anywhere else?” he asked, pausing to lick his lips.
Lio didn’t answer. Liam wet his lips deliberately to draw his attention.
“Knife on my wrist,” Lio admitted breathlessly.
“Don’t touch me then,” Liam warned. “At least not”—he twirled his tongue around Lio’s cock—“if you want me to keep doing this.”
Lio slammed both palms on the wall, the sound loud and echoing in the room. He moaned as Liam suckled him again. His fingers scrambled against the smooth surface, and Liam chuckled, the sensation making Lio’s cock jerk in his mouth. He ran his palm behind Lio’s balls, the heavy sac resting in his arm. Lio was desperately trying not to thrust, his whole body shaking with effort.
Liam idly wondered what it would take to snap the tight control Lio had over himself. He took him deeper.
Lio gasped, his back arching. His own cock throbbed.
“Liam, I’m going to—”