The only thing Emmett has known his entire life is the zoo. He was born in captivity, taken away from his mother when he was twelve, and has lived alone in his cage for the past twelve years.
Levin is a free shifter. He was born free, and he’s made saving shifters under human control one of his missions in life. The lucky ones are locked in zoos for human entertainment. The unlucky ones are in labs, being tortured and killed.
Emmett and his best friend are rescued from the Colorado Zoological Park just before the park plans to get rid of Emmett for not being able to breed. Emmett has trouble adapting to life outside the cage, but Levin is there for him, helping him every step of the way. It’s confusing and scary, but Emmett has never felt so safe—yet so out of place.
Levin and Emmett must find a way to fit together as they deal with a jealous ex and Emmett tries to become a true pack member. When one of the kids runs away, not even Levin listens to Emmett when he says he can help. Will Levin manage to rescue the pup before it’s too late? What will happen when Emmett decides to disobey Levin’s order to stay put and gets hurt in the process?
The little girl stared from the other side of the bars, her pink ice cream slowly melting all over her fingers. Emmett licked his lips. He’d never eaten ice cream, but he’d always wanted to, ever since he’d been a kid. If only the girl would lean closer, her ice cream might fall, and Emmett could snatch it up.
He crept forward, his gaze fixed on the girl. Her eyes widened when she finally noticed him, and she jerked back. Her mother noticed and pulled her away, whispering, “Don’t lean too close to the bars, honey. You know these wolves are dangerous.”
Emmett sighed and flopped down. He leaned his chin over his paws and stared at the world on the other side of the bars. He couldn’t even get ice cream. He couldn’t imagine how actually being out there would be.
Emmett had been born in a zoo, and he’d never known anything else. And he was one of the lucky ones—he’d been in two different zoos, and he’d been able to stay with his mother until he’d turned twelve. That was when he’d been sold to the Colorado Zoological Park, and he’d been there since then.
He got up and shook his fur out. He might as well have a run around his enclosure. That way the customers would see him and his handler wouldn’t complain that he’d stayed hidden.
Not that the man was ever happy anyway, but he was nicer when Emmett played the game and behaved like the animal the humans thought he was. Run a few laps, maybe bathe in the tiny hole in the ground they called a pool. The only thing they didn’t want him to do was to eat in front of the zoo’s customers, and Emmett was okay with that. They already thought he was an animal, but that didn’t mean he wanted everyone to watch him tear apart the raw meat that was his dinner.
The door at the back of the enclosure squeaked open, and Emmett cocked his head. It was too early for his handler to come. Robert usually waited until the zoo was empty, and Emmett could think of only one time he hadn’t.
He trotted toward the door, because hiding wouldn’t solve anything. Robert was waiting next to it, looking impatient as he scanned the enclosure with his gaze. He huffed when he saw Emmett approaching. “Come on, boy. I need you to come in here.”
Yeah, that was definitely weird.
Emmett followed Robert inside. Robert closed the metal door and gestured toward the room he locked Emmett in when he needed to. “You know what to do.”
Robert sighed. “Come on. You know what’ll happen to you if you don’t do this. What good are you if you can’t even have pups?”
Emmett hated those words. Even if he hadn’t found the female body uninteresting, he wouldn’t have wanted to bring pups into his world. They’d have been condemned to the same life he’d had—growing up behind bars, with their mother if they were lucky, alone if they weren’t. Moved from zoo to zoo as the owners sold them, forced to reproduce because the owners wanted more wolf shifters to add to their enclosures.
What kind of life was that?
Robert crouched next to Emmett and scratched the top of his head. “Look, I know you don’t like this, but you’re already twenty-four. The owner was very clear the last time I talked to him. If you don’t get that bitch pregnant, you’re out, and I don’t think he meant it as in sold. No one will want a wolf shifter who can’t have pups. It’s not worth it. I don’t care if you do it in your wolf form or in your human one, but you have to do it.”
Robert wasn’t a bad man. He was doing his job, but he’d never understand what being a shifter was like.
Emmett sighed. Maybe if he stayed in his wolf form, it would be easier. The last time, both he and the woman had been in their human form, and Emmett’s dick hadn’t appreciated it. He knew what it meant—he’d seen his fair share of same-sex couples on the other side of the bars, even though no one had ever explained there was such a thing as gay people. He knew he was gay, and it complicated his life. It might even get him killed if he didn’t manage to get over it.
He whined, and Robert’s hand fell away. “Go on. I’ll just go clean up the enclosure while you’re busy.”
Emmett snorted and trotted toward the other room. It was as cold as everything else in the zoo was—cement and not much else, with only a bowl of water near one of the walls. Well, the bowl usually was the only thing in there. It wasn’t at that moment.
A wolf was huddled in a corner, her eyes wide, her gaze jumping from the only window to the door. She tried to push back when Emmett entered, but she had nowhere to go.
He stopped next to the door and waited for Robert to close it. He listened to Robert walking away, and only then did he shift into his human form. Fuck doing it as wolves. There was no way he was forcing himself on the other wolf. She was so obviously terrified.
Being human was weird. He didn’t usually spend much time in his human form, and he rolled his head, trying to get the kinks out of his neck. He scratched his chin as he looked at the wolf.
How was he supposed to do this? He wanted to do it as little as she clearly did, but it was his ass that would end up on a metal table if he didn’t get her pregnant.