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When his alpha kicked him out, Tucker heads south—to unclaimed territory—or so he thinks. Shane sent him right into Pricolici territory. They're ancient lupes who police their kind to keep the peace and ensure their secret stays a secret, and Tucker expected to be killed. No one likes a submissive lupe, but Stelian claims him instead. And Tucker isn’t a lupe at all. But what the hell is a hultan?
“Are you trying to incite a riot in my house?”
“Go to your room,” Tucker repeated, ignoring the rest of what Shane said. He was sick of being ordered to hide all the time. “Like I’m a little fucking kid or something. Seriously, Shane?” He stared at his alpha, crossing his arms over his chest.
Shane snarled. “Don’t push me, Tucker.” The afternoon sun coming in the window couldn’t the faint yellow of his eyes as Shane’s wolf started to show. “Go to your room. Now.”
“Fine.” Tucker slunk down the hall. It wasn’t his fault his hormones were out of whack, but if he didn’t follow his alpha’s orders, he would face punishment.
Sometimes being the lowest ranked lupe of his haitas sucked. Of all the lupes that lived in their territory, his was the weakest. His nature was far more human than the others, and shifting took him forever by comparison. The big changes he’d expected on his twentieth birthday, when he’d finally become a full-fledged member of the haitas and gain some status, hadn’t gone at all like he wanted.
Of course, reading about nineteenth century America sucked even more than being ordered to his room. He yawned, ready for another nap. He’d slept nearly two hours during the meeting Shane had refused to let him attend, but it didn’t feel like he’d slept at all. Maybe the past few years were catching up to him, now that he had more down time than he knew what to do with. Tucker had been in an accelerated degree program, and taking time off was killing his schedule. He’d had a plan—study hard, get a teaching degree with a minor in history, and get the heck out of his Alpha’s house and earn some respect.
Of course, his birthday had changed everything—but not in a way anyone could’ve forseen. Now he spent most of his time studying alone.
It wasn’t like there was much else to do, so he did a lot of reading when he was ordered to his room. Tucker had a small room in Shane’s house, furnished with a twin bed, a desk, and a whole lot of not much else. Well, Tucker had stacks of books against the wall, mostly textbooks and cheap used books, but that was it. No TV, no game system, though he did have a radio.
Lupe hearing being what it was, he usually wore his headphones if he wanted to listen to the radio. Tucker’s senses weren’t much better than human, contributing to his place at the bottom of the haitas, and what was quiet to him wasn’t quiet enough. He’d endured more than a few of Shane’s lectures about his appalling taste in music.
Tucker’s stomach growled. “Time for a study break.” He glanced at the clock. It was after ten, late enough that there probably wasn’t anyone still hanging around. Shane considered taking a shower first. Sometimes he could cover his scent well enough that it didn’t entice anyone. It’d been six months since his first shift—six months since he threw his haitas into chaos. He’d discovered a few tricks early on, like astringent soap hiding his scent for a brief amount of time after a shower.
Tucker rubbed his eyes, still crusty from the unplanned nap he’d taken; he was tired all the time, even though he was sleeping more than ever. He’d had to drop out of his classes for the semester; there were too many lupes on campus for him to stay in class. More than one had caused a disruption in class trying to remind him of his place in the haitas hierarchy. Dominant assholes. His stomach growled again and hunger warred with his exhaustion.
“Screw it.” Tucker cracked open his door. He’d skipped dinner, too, unwilling to deal with the hassle of dealing with the betas who stayed after the monthly meeting. A quick peek told him the hall was empty. All Tucker wanted was a quick sandwich and some apples. Maybe a cookie or two.
Shane’s mate made excellent chocolate chip cookies, and Tucker had been tormented by the scent of the soft, gooey cookies baking all afternoon. They were best warm, but he wasn’t picky. Tucker hurried out of his room and down the hall to the kitchen. The creaks of his footsteps were loud in the quiet.
Meat. His wolf was pushing him toward the tub of roast beef leftovers. They’d make a great cold sandwich with some ketchup. He slapped his late dinner together and grabbed an apple and some cookies for later. He’d almost made back to his room when Martin, one of Shane’s betas, stepped out of the guest bathroom. He froze.
Martin sniffed the air. He turned toward Tucker. “Smells good.”
“Shit.” Hopefully he was talking about Tucker’s sandwich. Tucker thrust the plate toward the beta. “Here. Take it.”
The other lupe’s eyes turned yellow. He raised his lips in a silent snarl. He smacked the plate out of Tucker’s hands. It crashed to the floor; the plate broke and his apple went rolling toward the living room. His heart about to beat out of chest, Tucker took a single step sideways toward his door. He didn’t need this. Not again.
“Martin. Calm down. You don’t like me, remember?” Martin had always avoided Tucker. He had no use for a lupe as weak as Tucker. Tucker kept talking. Sometimes he could avoid a disaster if he talked long enough, giving the lupe a chance to work past his instincts. He just had to get… passed… shit. Tucker had tried to avoid touching Martin, but their arms barely brushed together.
“Mine.” Martin slammed into Tucker, shoving him into the wall. Pain radiated from the back of his head where it bounced off the corner of a picture frame. Martin’s weight on his chest knocked the wind out of him.
“Not… yours,” Tucker wheezed out. “Stop, Martin.” He tried to push the feral lupe away.
“Mine.” Martin claimed his lips forcefully. Tucker had nowhere to go; he was pinned. He tried to keep his lips shut; the beta wasn’t even gay! Martin growled, then bit down on Tucker’s bottom lip, drawing blood.
Tucker whined. He shoved on Martin’s shoulders desperately. “No, no, no.” He shook his head, fighting to get away. Martin ignored his struggles. He reached up and yanked on one of Tucker’s arms, using that and his hold on Tucker’s neck to spin him and shove him back against the wall.
Barely able to move his head in time, Tucker’s cheek slammed into the picture. He heard a crack, but he wasn’t sure if it was his face or the picture frame cracking. He tried to push off the wall, gaining a few inches of distance, only to collapse again when Martin shoved his chest against Tucker’s back.
“Get off me!” Tucker shouted. He felt like his elbow was going to break, but he fought almost mindlessly. He had to get Martin to let go. He had to get to his room. He’d be safe in his room. Martin growled, then thrust against Tucker. His erection was an iron bar against Tucker’s ass.
“Mine.” The claws on Martin’s hand raked down Tucker’s stomach as he reached between Tucker and the wall to get at the front of his pants. He was out of his mind, drunk on Tucker’s fucked up pheromones. This could not be happening.
Before Tucker could shout again, Martin was ripped away from him. It wrenched Tucker’s elbow, and he howled in agony. He tucked his arm across his chest and tried to hold the torn front of his pants together with the other.
“Get out of here!” Shane snarled. Tucker didn’t know if he was talking to him or Martin, but he rushed to his door and slammed it shut. He locked it and then shoved his desk until it blocked the door. He backed away, panting, until the back of his knees hit the edge of his mattress.
Tucker collapsed onto the bed, still staring at the door. He could hear the fight on the other side. A few of the lupes in the haitas had attempted to dominate him, and a few had sniffed around him like they were thinking of going further, but no one had attempted to claim him so forcefully.
If Shane hadn’t come….
“What in the hell were you thinking?” Shane snarled at him. “I told you to stay in your room.”
“I was hungry. How was I to know he was still here?”
Shane snorted in disgust. “If your wolf wasn’t so worthless you would’ve scented him. I thought you’d be worth something when you matured, but you’ve done nothing but cause problems since you shifted. I had to beat Martin unconscious. He ignored my commands, because of you. This is not who we are; we are not beasts.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Tucker protested. “None of this is my fault. I don’t know why—”
“It doesn’t matter anymore, Tucker. This haitas is too big, and I have too much to do running it, to keep dealing with this crap. You’re an adult now, and you found your wolf. My duty to your parents is done.”
“You’re kicking me out?” No way. He’d done nothing wrong. “I haven’t even finished school yet!”
“And how are you going to do that? Everywhere you go, you cause chaos. The humans are even starting to take notice. I won’t risk this haitas for one wolf.” Shane shook his head. “I’m sorry, but this is the way it has to be.”
Tucker slumped in his chair. He’d had a lot of meetings with Shane in his office—Tucker had never been the most obedient of lupes, even before he shifted—but he never thought he’d be kicked out of his haitas. His whole world was imploding, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
“What am I supposed to do?” He looked up at Shane, at the alpha who’d raised him.
“Go south. You get about three days past here, and you’re in unclaimed territory. Wear cologne; that ought to hide your… deficiency from the humans.” Shane tossed an envelope at Tucker. “This is enough cash to get you out of my territory. I’ve released your account. Your trust from your parents’ share of the haitas funds as well as their social security.
“If you are careful, you can finish school and have enough to live on. I’ll gas up your truck tonight, and you leave first thing in the morning.” Shane stood up, and Tucker knew he was dismissed.
Nothing could’ve prepared Tucker for the pain he felt. He was being exiled, banished from the haitas—the only family he could remember. Tucker had wanted freedom, but not… not like this.
“Go pack your stuff.”
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