The plague the wolves called the Pestilence destroyed more than seventy percent of the human population some fifty years ago. Nothing had helped, but the wolves, immune to human diseases, had done their best, and when it became clear there were no medicines that touched the illness, they buried the dead and started a new world order. Quinn the Supreme Alpha of the Nine Territories is now living happily with his human mate, Aaron, and trying to bring some of the human survivors, who have rebelled against wolf rule, back into the fold. When Aaron is struck down by the very plague Quinn thought he’d saved him from, Quinn is almost paralyzed by grief until doctors tell him of a remarkable mutation that just might save Aaron, even if it means turning the entire Wolf Council against them both by bringing a hybrid into the world. The only chance Aaron has is for Quinn to impregnate him with his baby.
Quinn takes the bold action to save his mate’s life, but a few months later, before Aaron can deliver the child, he’s kidnapped by the Human Alliance, a group of rebels who have a particular grudge against Quinn. Doctors don’t know if either Aaron or the baby can possibly survive the impending birth, and now Quinn is in a desperate race against time to find his mate. Aided by his closest allies, Quinn has to take desperate measures to bring his mate home to save both Aaron and the child. With the rebels out to destroy his happiness, Quinn is forced to rely on instinct and ingenuity if he and his mate are going to make it to out of this alive.
Quinn lowered Aaron’s body and put him back on his feet. He still felt a little shaky, and weak in the knees from the intensity of the orgasm he’d just had, but Aaron was bending down to pull up his pants, and the sight of his sweet ass was making Quinn hard again. He jerked him around to face him, barely holding himself back from taking his mouth one more time. He saw the purplish red marks on the skin of his throat and was glad he’d put them there, a strong mark of his possession to anyone who saw them. His wolf would like to cover Aaron’s entire body with them.
“Don’t think you distracted me, boy. I want to know why you tricked your guards; what the fuck you’re doing up here; and how in the hell you got out of your room after they locked you in?”
Aaron pulled his arm out of Quinn’s grasp and Quinn allowed the little show of defiance, but kept a hand at his waist so he couldn’t get far. His boy’s beautiful face glared up at him resentfully, a pout on those delectable lips, and it was all Quinn could do to keep from tearing his clothes off him again.
“Well, which of those questions do you want answered first?” Aaron said sarcastically, earning himself a look that promised a spanking as soon as Quinn got him back to their room. He blushed then, as if knowing his smart mouth got him in trouble and dropped his gaze. “What were the questions again? You make me nervous.”
Quinn growled in response and Aaron put up both hands in a “calm down” gesture before clearing his throat. “Okay…I, um, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong by coming up here.”
Bullshit. Aaron was one of the most maddeningly devious creatures he’d ever met. And far too beautiful for Quinn’s good.
“I knew they wouldn’t let me come alone, so yes, I tricked them. A little. I-I’ve had a key of my own for a while now. I use it to get out of my room whenever I’m locked in.” He cut his eyes up at Quinn accusingly. “You know how much I hate that.”
Quinn held out his hand and Aaron flushed a dark, delicious pink and dug the key out of his pocket, depositing it sheepishly in Quinn’s palm. Quinn looked down at it. “Did you steal this?”
“Steal is such a harsh word. No, I didn’t steal it. Not exactly. One of the new house-humans—Leslie, from Territory Six? Anyway, she put it down and I found it. It was all perfectly innocent.” He flushed again as Quinn made a noise in his throat. “Okay, even I can’t pull that one off. But she did leave it on a table and I found it.”
Quinn frowned, narrowing his eyes. “Leslie? You mean the little blonde from Territory Six? The new girl?”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “Yes, her name is Leslie and she’s very sweet. Don’t go fussing at her about this—though come to think of it I haven’t seen her all week. I wonder where she is.”
It was Quinn’s turn to look pale. “My second said one of the house-humans—this Leslie—came down with the pestilence. She-she’s been very ill.” He gripped Aaron’s arm. “You didn’t come into much contact with her, did you? Have you been exposed? Tell me.”
Aaron patted his chest. “No, no, I’m fine. I’m a little warm, but that’s because I’ve been without you all week. You know how I get when you’re gone.”
Quinn was immediately swamped with guilt, and responded crossly to cover it up. “If you were feeling ill, what are you doing up here playing spy? My god, Aaron, you need a keeper! How long have you had this key?”
“A couple of weeks. I didn’t give it back because I thought I might need it someday. You know, in case of fire or whatever.”
“That is such a lie,” Quinn said sternly. “You know as well as I do that if the fire alarm ever goes off, all the doors in the mansion immediately unlock. Not to mention the fact that you have a guard stationed by your door twenty-four-seven who is devoted to your well-being, since he’d be flayed alive if any harm ever came to you.”
Still gazing down at the floor, Aaron shrugged. “It wouldn’t be a problem at all if I were never locked in to start with.”
Quinn shifted his feet, feeling like shit. He hated second-guessing himself or having his orders questioned by anybody, even Aaron. He did know that Aaron hated being locked in, and normally he wouldn’t go to such measures, but he would do whatever it took to keep Aaron safe, by god, and if he didn’t like it, then…well, too bad, that’s all. Aaron was his duty and his responsibility, not to mention the single most important thing in his life. He wouldn’t make it without him, as whoever had been sending him anonymous threats against Aaron was all too aware of.
Quinn had been receiving rumors of a move against his mate for over two months now and it was making him crazy. He knew Aaron didn’t understand why he’d been gone so much lately, but he had to make sure he was safe, and he’d been personally checking out every clue, every rumor. If anything ever happened to Aaron… It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Tell me why exactly you were ransacking my office.”
Aaron glanced back up at him quickly and his mouth dropped open. “How did you know I was in your office?”
Quinn rolled his eyes, and Aaron sighed. “Oh. Cameras? I knew it! But I thought I turned off the power to that room and this whole corridor at the switch box.”
“The guards found them on their rounds and turned them back on. Anyway, the cameras have a back-up power source.”
“Oh. Right. Makes sense.”
“Answer the question.”
Aaron gave a little start and shifted his feet. “I wanted to find out where you were. Why you’ve been gone so much lately. I was beginning to think…well, I was wondering…if…”
Aaron looked miserable, but raised his head defiantly. “Is there someone else? I know I’m your mate, Quinn, and you have to be with me, you know, biologically speaking. But I was thinking, maybe you’d met someone else too and though you’d rather be with them, you have to keep coming back to bond with me, because you’re, you know, responsible for me and…well, I didn’t want to stand in your way if that’s what it is. If that’s what you want. And…” he glared up at Quinn.
“I just think you owe it to me to tell me, that’s all.” He looked up at Quinn and stuck out his chin. It might have worked if he could have controlled the tremble in his bottom lip. “I can take it.”
Quinn stroked the backs of his fingers down Aaron’s jaw. “Oh you can, huh? And what on earth makes you think I’d have the time or energy for someone else?”
“Last week when you came home, you had some bad dreams. I heard you say ‘Brandon’ in your sleep. I only know of one Brandon, and he’s gorgeous. And you did go to visit Devon and Jay without me when Brandon was there. And then a few days ago, Jay called and he was telling me about how Rhys and Brandon weren’t together anymore and how everyone was just shocked. I know they never completely bonded, but Jay said they seemed to be crazy about each other. Though I guess it’s a good thing now, considering.” He angled a look up at Quinn and shrugged again. “So I started thinking about it, and I put two and two together.”
“And came up with an incredibly stupid answer. Jay called me too so I must have had that on my mind for some reason. Apparently he feels the need to broadcast this thing all across the Nine Territories. It’s none of my business and none of yours.”
“But, if you love him…”
“No, Aaron, for fuck’s sake, I do not love him. I barely know the boy! I have not, nor have I ever been tempted to be with any other person except for you, and god help me, I seem to want you all the time. All the time, so please stop trying to get rid of me, because it’s not happening.”
“Really?” Aaron’s voice was hopeful, and he turned a face of blinding beauty up to Quinn, angling for a kiss. Which Quinn would be glad to give him, just as soon as he set him straight.
“You did a dangerous thing by sneaking up here alone and you’re going to be punished. And from now until the end of time, you are not to question any order I give you or the fact that I love you. You’re my mate and you’ll always be mine. Do you understand?”
Aaron nodded happily, slipping a knee between Quinn’s legs and wrapping his arms around his waist. “Yes, sir, I understand. But about this punishment. I don’t think that’s really necessary, do you? I hope it doesn’t mean you won’t make love to me, because it’s been a long time and I missed you.”
“Mm-hmm. No, I plan to make love to you for an extended period of time. Probably for a day or two. Both before and after I spank this pretty ass of yours.” He patted it fondly and laid a kiss on Aaron’s startled mouth. “Now come on, baby. Let’s go get the first spanking out of the way.”