Red River Excerpt

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“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Wesley Stone reached for the volume dial on the cracked dashboard and turned it to the right. Maybe if he could make the music loud enough, it’d drown out the voice in his head.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Time for what? There weren’t any other Alpha wolves in the Purple Sky pack, so everyone knew Wesley would eventually be leading them. What exactly were they waiting for?

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Unfortunately, the sound in his head was louder than any rock song. He turned the knob again. He could concede that twenty-three was young to be a pack Alpha, but it wasn’t too young. And his uncle Paul was already sixty, well past the age when Alphas normally handed over the reins. It was time for him to transition leadership to Wesley.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

He raised the volume and wished, not for the first time, that his old Civic had a better sound system. Wesley had spent three hours a day in that car during the four years he had driven back and forth to the nearest college. Getting a degree had been his uncle’s idea. He had said it would give Wesley extra credibility, but very few people in their small pack went to college, so they weren’t impressed with Wesley’s hard work and newfound knowledge about environmental engineering.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Memories piled up of those long days: waking up early, driving away from his pack and the woods into a concrete jungle, attending classes in huge buildings, holing up by himself in the musty library, and then driving home and falling into bed exhausted, only to do it all again the next day. And for what? If anything, the time away had put even more distance between him and the shifters he should be leading.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Once Wesley was truly their Alpha, they were certain to see his strength, his devotion, his skill in leading them, and they’d know the mark on his skin didn’t matter. Maybe then the pack would respect him.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

Of course, for Wesley to be Alpha, his uncle would first have to step down. At six feet, one inch in height with a muscular one hundred eighty-five pound frame, Wesley had the advantage of size and youth over his uncle. If the man kept clinging to the position, Wesley could challenge him for it and he was bound to win. But at what cost?

His uncle, though not as strong as he had been during his youth, was a good Alpha and he had always treated Wesley well. His mother would be horrified if he went against her beloved brother, and the pack was already wary of Wesley, so taking the position by force wasn’t likely to endear him to them. Winning in a challenge against his uncle might earn him the position of Alpha, but he’d lose the respect of everyone who mattered, himself included. He had no options, no solutions. He was stuck waiting.

“You’re only twenty-three. Give it time.”

The radio knob he had turned yet again, snapped off in his hand.

“Dammit!” Wesley yelled in the empty car.

The music was already on full blast so he couldn’t hear himself, but his throat felt the strain. For that matter, so did the rest of him. His heart raced, his lungs worked overtime, and his muscles stretched so tightly they could have snapped at any moment. He needed a way to release the tension and frustration, and when he glanced out the windshield at the streets he had been blindly driving past in his effort to put space between himself and the maddening conversation he’d had with his uncle, he found the perfect solution: a human bar.

Most shifters had fated mates, but Alpha wolves needed to focus on their pack, not a mate, so instead of settling down with one wolf, they gave their energy to their pack and sated their bodies with shifters who weren’t yet mated. Wesley had a mirror so he knew he was attractive and there had been no shortage of admiring glances and come-ons from the humans at his school, but he hadn’t been receptive to their advances because he dedicated all his remaining free time and energy into socializing with his pack. Unfortunately, the shifters who should have been falling all over themselves to get attention from an Alpha gave him a wide berth because of the scar he’d carried since birth. As he jerked the wheel and skidded into the parking lot, the last thing Wesley wanted was to focus on wolves who held him at arm’s length.

The scar, though large—the oddly textured skin bisected his stomach from just under his bellybutton to the top of his groin—didn’t keep him from shifting quicker than others, running faster, or being stronger. When he’d scuffled with other wolves as a youth, he had always come out on top, demonstrating his strength and proving that his skin anomaly should be irrelevant. But shifters were animals as well as people, and animals perceived an abnormality as a weakness, so to them, the scar mattered.

In a bar full of drunk humans, though, it wouldn’t matter. They’d notice his strength and appreciate his appearance. They’d want him even with his clothes off. And in that moment, Wesley desperately needed a reminder that, as an Alpha shifter, he was revered, not excluded. Even if it was from people who had no idea he was an Alpha or that shifters existed.


As it turned out, Wesley’s decision to focus on his pack and his education rather than engage with humans meant he didn’t have a full understanding of their drinking holes so he had missed whatever clues denoted the bar as one catering exclusively to men. Or, more specifically, men who enjoyed the company of other men. In fact, he had been there for half an hour already, downing one beer after another in an attempt to calm down, when he first became aware of the absence of women and, shortly after that, the way some of the men interacted with one another.

His gut reaction was to get up and leave before anyone noticed him and considered his presence at a gay bar yet another difference that made him unworthy of serving as Alpha. But then he remembered that he was far from the Purple Sky pack lands at a human bar where nobody would recognize him, so he sat back on his stool, ordered yet another drink, and considered his options.

Between his time away from his pack and the hesitancy shifters exhibited around him, Wesley didn’t have the level of sexual experience befitting his status as an Alpha wolf, and the experiences he had managed to acquire all involved women. In truth, he found the males in his pack as attractive as he did the females, but he had never approached men because he hadn’t sensed interest from any and, even if he had, he would have worried about exhibiting any trait that some people considered less than optimal.

But none of these humans knew him and, given where they chose to spend their evening, none of them would think lesser of him for being with another male. He was already willing to deviate from his usual rule about sleeping only with shifters, why not take the opportunity to sample something else he’d likely never try again—sex with a man. With that decision made, Wesley curled his fingers around his pint glass and raised it to his lips as he turned around and surveyed his surroundings.

The bar wasn’t big or crowded, so it didn’t take long to catalogue the available humans. Unfortunately, he was the only person alone so the obvious choice of who to approach wasn’t possible. Those people seated in pairs exchanging touches, he immediately dismissed. Although Alpha wolves rarely had mates, they realized the value in their pack members finding their other halves and therefore didn’t approach mated wolves for sex. Humans didn’t have that same bond, but Wesley saw no reason to seek out a man who was already with someone else, so he instead focused on the larger groups and tried to determine who among them was unmatched. The process wasn’t as easy as he would have expected because, unlike the humans in his university classes, the people in the bar were as touchy with one another as wolf pups, perhaps due to the alcohol they’d been consuming.

After a few scans of the room, he noticed a small blond watching him. When Wesley settled his gaze on him, the other man’s lips turned up in a shy smile. Wesley looked him over, his Alpha senses useful given the dim light and distance between them. The human was well-groomed, attractive, and based on the way he stared at Wesley, clearly interested. His search criteria met, Wesley rose from the stool, intending to make his way over to the man to implement his plan of setting his frustrations aside, at least for one night.

But before he could take a single step toward his target, something, or rather someone, in his peripheral vision caught his eye. Twisting his head to the side, Wesley squinted toward the large metal door at the front of the bar and assessed the new arrival. He looked to be about the same height as Wesley, his hair was dyed a brash green and it stuck up in odd angles, there was something shiny in his right eyebrow—a piercing—and his pants were bright red. Everything about the man’s appearance should have put Wesley off because he had always preferred smaller and milder sexual partners, likely stemming from his dominant Alpha nature. Maybe it was due to the alcohol flowing through Wesley’s body, but despite the new arrival’s height and colorful appearance, he captured Wesley’s attention so thoroughly that he couldn’t look away.

Within seconds, the man’s gaze met Wesley’s and his eyes widened, first in surprise and then in excitement. Without hesitation, he moved toward Wesley, ignoring everything and everyone in the room. The show of desire was exactly what Wesley needed to soothe his feelings of rejection from his pack and he easily forgot about the blond at the other end of the bar as his heart raced in anticipation of spending time with the intriguing new man.

“Hi,” he said as soon as he was within arm’s distance of Wesley.

Despite his unorthodox appearance, the man in front of him managed to push almost all of Wesley’s buttons. Almost because he didn’t have the wild, warm, comforting scent natural in shifters. But everything in the bar smelled unfamiliar—liquor, sweat, stale cigarettes, and musk—so Wesley had already resigned himself to ignoring his sense of smell for the night.

“Hello.” Accustomed to socializing only with shifters he’d known his whole life, Wesley considered what he could say to a prospective human conquest. He could try a pickup line, but the only ones that came to mind were from cheesy movies and there was no way he was asking the guy if he came there often.

“Wow,” the man said appreciatively as he flicked his kohl-lined eyes from Wesley’s face to his feet and back up again. “You’re more gorgeous than in my fantasies.”

Relieved they were both in the bar for the same reason and he wouldn’t have to play games or wait to get to the point of the evening, more tension bled from Wesley. He even managed to chuckle.

“My fantasies generally involve fewer clothes.” Wesley rested his palm over the human’s chest and moved his thumb back and forth over his T-shirt covered nipple. “Want to get out of here so I can show you what else they involve?”

“Sure.” A flicker of hesitation crossed the human’s face. “Do you want to…get some tea and talk?”

Oh, no. Conversation was a bad idea because the constant stresses regarding his role within his pack had exhausted Wesley and he didn’t trust himself not to accidentally say something that would strike a human as unusual. That aside, he hadn’t come to the bar to make friends. He had come to get laid without worrying the entire time that his bed partner was looking at his scarred stomach and judging him as unworthy to lead. He had seen the appreciation and interest in the green-haired man’s eyes from the moment he spotted Wesley and he wasn’t going to let them move backward.

“Actually, I don’t.” He slid his fingers up to the man’s neck, wrapped his hand around it, keeping his hold gentle, and walked them toward the door. “I want to take you home.”

Swallowing thickly, the man bobbed his head. “Okay. You live close by?”

As they stepped out into the cool night air, Wesley shook his head and then blinked away the sudden spinning in his head. “No.” He pointed at his car with the out-of-state license plate. “I meant we should go to your place.”

The man stayed silent for several long seconds, his brow furrowed and his eyes seemed to examine Wesley’s face. “I’m not from around here either,” he finally said. “But I can get a hotel room and—”

“That’s perfect.” Wesley grasped the man’s elbow and led him toward a hotel at the end of the street. “A night in a hotel is exactly what I had in mind.”


Unable to completely shake his concern over being seen and judged for getting involved with a male and a human, Wesley hung back while his new friend got a room. The silence continued as they walked up the stairs and down the dimly lit hallway and a frisson of unease trickled over Wesley’s spine, as if he was overlooking something.

Unable to identify any potential problem aside from his choice of bed partner for the evening, Wesley reminded himself that even an Alpha deserved a night when he could think about his own needs rather than those of his pack. And in that moment, Wesley wasn’t sure he could do right by his pack unless someone touched and looked at him with desire rather than apprehension.

“Hey, whatever it is, it’ll be okay.”

The softly spoken words snapped Wesley back to the present. He must have been lost in his thoughts longer than he realized because they were standing inside the hotel room, the door clicking shut behind them.

“I’m fine,” he said reflexively.

“You sure are,” the other man said as he pointedly dragged his gaze up and down Wesley’s body.

They hadn’t turned the light on so he doubted the human could actually see him, but the sentiment rekindled his earlier desire.

“Glad you think so.”

“I need to kiss you.” The comment was whispered just before careful hands cupped Wesley’s face and soft lips pressed against his own.

The action wasn’t aggressive per se, but Wesley was accustomed to leading all interactions so it caught him off guard. Instinct had him grabbing the man’s wrists even as desire caused him to part his lips and open himself to the kiss. The human’s flavor was richer than Wesley would have expected, more potent. It sharpened his arousal and fogged his brain.

Seemingly having the same reaction, his companion moaned. With their mouths pressed together and their tongues tangling, they stumbled deeper into the room, blindly found their way to the bed, and fell onto the mattress. All thoughts of asserting his power flew from Wesley’s brain as they rolled from one side of the bed to the other, their bodies writhing together. The replacement of soft curves with hard muscles pleased him soul deep, as did the hard ridge of arousal sliding against his thigh. Nothing had ever felt so right, so necessary, and Wesley wondered how he had gone his entire life without it.

As they moved together, the human skated his hands from Wesley’s cheeks to the sides of his head, tangling his fingers in Wesley’s curls and taking the kiss deeper. Wesley clutched at the sinewy body against him and thrust his hips, the friction necessary. Lightheaded from the lack of oxygen and the influx of hormones, he wasn’t aware of how he ended up on his back with an unexpectedly strong body on top of him, but his legs reflexively spread, making room for the human to get closer.

“So good,” he whispered as he grazed his lips across Wesley’s jaw. He flicked his tongue over Wesley’s earlobe and rolled his hips, causing his erection to slide against Wesley’s balls and shaft.

Needing more of that sensation, Wesley tilted his pelvis up and, before he knew it, a hard dick was rutting against his butt. Although the layers of clothing prevented them from making actual contact, Wesley could feel the friction in his sensitive channel and his hole flexed in reaction.

Taking the receptive role during that evening’s hookup hadn’t been on Wesley’s agenda. So despite his body’s seeming hunger for that very thing, he would have taken control of the situation and gotten onto more familiar footing—one in which he led the interaction—but then hot hands rolled his shirt up and reached for his stomach, his scarred, imperfect stomach, and the only thing Wesley could think to do was flip over and press his shame onto the mattress where it couldn’t be seen.

Interpreting the change in position as a request, the human rocked his hips against Wesley’s ass and asked, “You want me to fuck you?”

Although that position would allow him to keep his belly hidden, Wesley could have accomplished the same thing in other ways or he could have let the human see his scar. While he might not find the textured skin appealing, a human wouldn’t assume that a less than perfect body meant a less than perfect leader.

“Yes.” Wesley’s own response surprised him, but the truth was, hiding his scar was only a small part of why he’d rolled over. The main reason was because he was swamped with an urge to know how the hard ridge rubbing against him through clothes would feel skin to skin and, even more, how it would feel pressing into his body.

This night away from the pack was, if not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, at least a rare one, and Wesley didn’t know when, if ever, he’d have another chance to have sex with a man without repercussions. Even if he found out a male pack member was interested in him, Wesley could never take the submissive role during sex. But the pack wasn’t in their hotel room and the human he was with wouldn’t think him a weak Alpha for relinquishing control because he had no idea Alphas, or shifters in general, existed. So when firm hands grabbed Wesley’s butt and massaged the muscled globes, he told himself to relax and enjoy the sensation rather than flipping over and taking the lead.

“I need to get these pants off and feel your skin.” The human’s voice had gotten huskier, sexier. He pressed his chest to Wesley’s back and kissed his nape while he circled his arms around Wesley’s waist and fiddled with his button and zipper. All the while, he continued humping against Wesley’s butt, reminding him what they’d soon be doing.

By the time Wesley’s pants were unfastened and yanked down to mid-thigh along with his underwear, his body shook and all he could think about was having more friction, more touches, more everything with the man above him.

“Yes,” he hissed when a gentle hand made its first contact with the bare flesh of his ass. He kept his shoulders down and raised his backside up, the vulnerable position completely unfamiliar but in that moment, right. “I want you.” Those words didn’t convey the intensity of what he felt. He’d had no idea his sense of isolation within his own pack had gotten so acute, but it must have. There was no other explanation for why a simple touch from a stranger burned him from the inside out.

“I want you too. More than you know.” He rucked up Wesley’s shirt the rest of the way, exposing his entire back, and then kissed, nibbled, and licked his way across the suddenly sensitive skin. While his mouth worked, his hands kept busy, caressing Wesley’s thighs and hips, until he eventually cupped one of Wesley’s cheeks, pulled him open, and then dipped his fingers into Wesley’s crease and explored the never-before-touched channel.

“Oh.” Wesley gasped, surprised by how much he enjoyed that sensation. He spread his legs farther apart, opening himself as much as he could.

“It’s hard to make myself get up, but I need to go see if they have something slick in the bathroom.” He pressed his finger against the puckered skin of Wesley’s hole and moved it in circles, giving Wesley pressure but not penetration.

A completely foreign noise slipped from Wesley. It sounded like a whimper, but he didn’t whimper so it must have been something else.

“Hold that thought, okay?” He licked a swath from the bottom of Wesley’s butt cheek to the base of his spine. “I’ll be fast.” The mattress squeaked as the man jumped off the bed.

If he had been left in that position long enough for the lust to clear from his mind, Wesley likely would have called off the entire encounter, or at a minimum changed the rules of engagement. But within seconds, the mattress dipped and Wesley was gifted with the now-comforting sensation of a warm body blanketing him.

“I found a little bottle of lotion. It’s probably not as good as lube, but it’ll do.” The finger came back, this time slippery and wet. “You’re so hot here.” He pushed against Wesley’s pucker again, continuing the pressure until he slipped his fingertip inside. “So hot,” he said huskily, pressing deeper.

Moaning, Wesley relaxed his muscles, opening himself to the surprisingly erotic sensation of another person inside him. When the finger grazed his prostate, his soft moans turned into hoarse gasps. “Oh lord.”

“I hope those are happy sounds because I need to feel this tight heat on my dick.” The human gently pulled his finger out and then slid it back in, wiggling it from side to side. “So smooth and soft.”

The sensations set fire to his body, robbing him of words. “Uh-huh.” It was the closest Wesley could come to assuring him that he wanted to continue. “’S good.”

“The best,” the man said, sounding awed. A brush of lips against his back and then the finger disappeared.

Wesley looked over his shoulder and squinted in the dark. The human was kneeling behind him, drizzling lotion on his erection. “This should be enough,” he whispered as he tossed the bottle aside. He flattened one hand on the small of Wesley’s back, keeping him in place, and circled the other around the base of his own cock, holding himself steady as he approached his target.

Wesley had never had anal sex with the women he’d taken to bed so he didn’t know if the act was supposed to hurt, but as the heated shaft pierced his core, all he felt was relief and pleasure. He pressed his forehead to the mattress and closed his eyes, blocking out all distractions so he could revel in the sensation.

“More,” he mumbled, the word slipping out without his permission. “Want you to fill me.”

“Ungh.” The groan from behind him sounded equal parts pained and turned-on. “I will.” The steady slide into him continued until crinkly pubic hair brushed against his ass and then the human draped his chest over Wesley’s back, wrapped his arm around his waist, and caressed his stomach. “I’ll fill you completely.”

His malformed span of skin had never been an erogenous zone—how could it be when Wesley did everything he could to hide it—but when the warm, strong palm made contact with his scar, Wesley’s arousal spiked impossibly higher.

“Oh!” he shouted in surprise and then he groaned. “Yes.”

“You feel so good.” The human licked and mouthed Wesley’s nape as he pumped in and out of his hole and slid his hand from side to side over his scarred stomach. “So right.”

Though he didn’t touch Wesley’s dick directly, the back of his hand brushed across it when he moved it over Wesley’s stomach. That, added to the friction from the soft sheet, was enough to bring him to the precipice.

“I’m close,” Wesley rasped, jaw clenched and lungs working overtime.

“So am I.” Teeth scraped over his shoulders and neck as the thick cock continued stretching him, warming him from the inside. “Wish I could do this forever. Don’t want to stop.”

“Me too.” For the first time in his life, Wesley wasn’t thinking about his pack, about his role as Alpha, about the obligations he was born to fulfill; he thought only of the elation overwhelming him. He rocked back, meeting the man’s hips as he thrust forward. “Lord, me too.”

Time stood still, Wesley’s mind clear of anything except the strong body above him, inside him, and then he fell over the edge, his seed shooting onto the mattress as he shouted in joy.

“Yes!” The man moaned behind him and then his hot breath ghosted over Wesley’s cheek. “Yes.”

Wesley twisted his head to the side and their mouths met in a fierce kiss—lips, tongues, teeth, and passion. When their bodies were spent, their balls empty, and their hearts slowing, the kiss gentled, the touches softened, and Wesley found himself pulled into another man’s arms for the first time. Instead of pulling away now that the haze of lust had waned, he pushed closer, holding tight to the person who had given him a soul-deep sense of satisfaction he had never experienced and hadn’t thought possible when he had driven off the Purple Sky pack lands in a fit of anger only hours earlier.

Tangled in Wesley’s arms, the human fell into a deep sleep. Wesley held him, feeling unexpectedly protective of the stranger, but, he supposed, he likely was projecting his need to protect his pack onto the human. So far, his uncle had denied him the role of Alpha and the pack had held him at arm’s length. But if he wanted to be their leader, he’d need to be patient and give them time to see that a surface scar didn’t alter his strength or his ability to provide for them and keep them safe.

With the reminder of his obligations in the forefront of his mind, Wesley sighed and pulled away from the human. Neither of them had removed their clothes completely, so he doubted the man would be cold, but he tugged the edge of the blanket up and covered him as best as he could anyway. “Thank you,” he whispered and then he brushed aside the green hair, kissed the sleeping human’s forehead, and quietly left the room, forcing himself to keep the memory of the perfect night behind that closed door so he could focus on his responsibilities.

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