When Archer is kidnapped by a litch on the eve of his arranged mating, his life has gone from bad to worse. His father, the alpha, goes to the local vampire for help to track down his son, but none of them are prepared for what happens when Reese and Archer meet.
Reese had no idea why the local werewolf alpha would want to see him before sundown, but since the werewolves and vampires were trying to set aside old differences, he decided to see what the old man wanted. However, he certainly wasn't willing to meet the werewolf alone. That was just asking for trouble.
They were savages, or so he'd been told, so he met Leon deep in his covenstead. The werewolf came into his living room, escorted by two of the other vampires in his coven, and Reese waved delicately to a nearby couch, telling him to sit. Reese preferred to stand. He was in control there, and the height helped him feel that way as well, though he was surprised the werewolf hadn't brought others along with him. Three vampires could easily overtake him, and there was only the tenuous treaty between their kinds to stop him from doing just that. Had it been even a few months earlier, they wouldn’t have met at all. Their world was changing, and Reese wasn’t sure how he felt about that. When werewolves thought they had enough right to request a daylight meeting, things were changing quickly.
"Leon, I'm Reese," he introduced himself. "You wanted an audience with me?"
Leon tapped his fingers over his knees. "I need your help. My son has been kidnapped, and another pack thinks I had him taken intentionally, but I would never want a litch anywhere near my family."
Reese pulled back his lips at that hated kind. Litches were evil, even to vampires, and the whole reason the vampires and werewolves were working together at all was to end the litch rule and bring some semblance of peace back to their world. They would never be friends, but at least they could be civil to each other. The decision to call a truce while they got rid of the litches made that clear enough. Where they would go from there was anyone’s guess.
"And what makes you think it was a litch who took your son?" Reese asked. The other two vampires were getting nervous too, not that Reese blamed them. If a litch really had taken this werewolf's kid, then the litch had been far too close to their territory, as well. Leon and his pack lived less than twenty minutes from them if they were to drive the distance between their houses.
Leon growled. "I would know that awful stench anywhere. Are you going to help me, or not?"
Reese didn't really have much reason to stick his neck out and help the werewolf. "Why should I? Your son got kidnapped—it seems like it would be far more reasonable for you to be the one to go track him down. You're a werewolf. Go follow his scent or whatever it is that your kind does."
"I'll let you bite him if you save him.” Leon pursed his lips and frowned. It was obvious the man was desperate for a quick resolution. “That should sweeten the deal. Whatever you need. I just want my son rescued. I don't have much money, but you can have it if you want that too. What do you all value outside of blood? If you tell me, I'll give it to you."
Reese knew some vampires might have helped the werewolf out of the kindness of their hearts, but he wasn't most vampires. Blood was harder to come by since they'd moved out of the city. "How old is your son?"
"Twenty, and he's a virgin, if that matters."
He highly doubted that, since in his experience most twenty-year-olds often lied about such things, but he wasn't going to dissuade Leon of his idea. "Why can't you go rescue him yourself?"
The werewolf looked away and seemed to study the carpet. Reese instantly became suspicious. "What is it?" Reese snapped. At his side, the other vampires moved closer as well. The tension in the room became almost tangible. It would take just a movement from Leon, and Reese’s lieutenants would tear him apart.
Finally, after several very long seconds, Leon met his gaze again. "The litch, he left a ransom demand. He said that he would release Archer only if I killed you, publicly. I wanted to go through with it, but there was no way. I know that. My guess is he wants to hurt the bonds we're forming between the pack and your coven. Will you help me?"
Reese shared a look with the other vampires. He wouldn't decide this on a whim, especially not when Leon expected him to go up against a litch and all he'd get in return was to bite his son's neck, an unwilling neck at that. Leon wasn't offering much of a trade off when he was risking his life. "You said the other pack accused you of orchestrating his abduction. Why would they think that?"
"Because Archer was set to be mated to one of their females this morning."
So that was it. Reese had heard that some of the werewolves still engaged in arranged matings, but he'd never personally known a pack that followed the old practice. "I'm sure she's heartbroken," he sneered.
Leon shrugged. "I doubt she cares much either way. If she wasn't going to be mated to Archer, she was bound for my younger son. He's eighteen, so only a year younger than she is. It has been decided from their births that our families would be joined together."
He sounded proud.
Reese couldn't imagine a crueler fate for two teenagers than to be promised to each other in some archaic ritualistic mating, as it surely was. "I’ll discuss this with the other vampires in my coven and have an answer for you by midnight."