“Stop freaking out. That would only be a last resort, baby. I’ll increase your feedings first and use more restraints. Train you more. Please don’t worry. We’ll work it out. I promised you I’d take care of you, and I meant it. Now get ready and let’s go down to our ceremony. I’ll get a leash. Along with my presence, that should calm you. Please tell me if you start to feel agitated again.”

Nicky nodded, walked closely behind him to the closet and held stone-still to have his leash attached.

Nicky looked up at Marco with a frightened gaze. “But what if nothing works, Marco? What if I’m a mistake? What if I can’t be like the others? What if I’m more like that other guy?”

“Don’t talk that way, baby. You’re not a mistake! I’d never let anything happen to you. Not ever. If I have to, I’ll take you somewhere and keep you safe. Just you and me. I’d never leave you. I can’t, don’t you see?”

Nicky stepped up close to him and laid his head on Marco’s chest.

“Now put on your robe, baby. We have people waiting for us downstairs.”

Nicky slipped the robe over his head. Marco smiled approvingly and put his arm around his waist. They walked through the door and down the hall toward their mating ceremony.

Marco led Nicky down the stairs to the group assembled in the large common room. He stopped at the back of the room and unclipped the leash, laying it aside. “Stay back here, Nicky, until I call you forward.”

Nicky nodded, unable to raise his head even to look at Marco. He could feel the eyes of everyone on him, singling him out. Embarrassed and humiliated, he desperately wished this whole thing was over, so he could go back upstairs. Hearing a soft whisper beside him, he looked up to see Tara smiling at him from the back row. Seeing her friendly face made him feel a little better, and he raised his gaze to survey the room. Probably about a hundred people were gathered there, both wolves and pets, the pets all dressed in the leather pants. They all looked quite solemn, as befitted the occasion, but whenever he caught someone’s eye, he was rewarded with a friendly smile.

He looked toward the front as Marco began to speak. For the first time, he noticed Marco was wearing a dark suit and looked very handsome. It occurred to him he’d never before noticed anything Marco was wearing—Marco’s presence was so overwhelming, nothing else mattered. Or was it because, as Marco told him, his mind had been clouded before.

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“I’m here today to introduce my new mate to all of you. Nicky, please come forward.” Marco held out his hand, and Nicky moved toward him like an iron filing to a magnet. When he reached the small dais in the front of the room, Marco gave him his hand and then pulled him to his left side, his arm tightly around him.

“This is Nicky, and I hold him to my heart in the hope that he will lodge there forever. I pledge to him my love and faith, and my promise to always care for him, always protect him. My soul has found its mate, and I will never forsake him. Even unto death, my heart will follow his.” Marco turned to Nicky, seeming to be in the grips of a strong emotion. His face was flushed and his eyes glittered with tears. He bent down and kissed Nicky tenderly, and then he pulled away and gave Nicky a slight push to move him to the side. Shedding his clothes, he fell down onto his knees. Nicky watched in fascinated horror as his body morphed. He dropped his head, but Nicky could see his face elongating and changing. His arms lengthened and morphed as hair sprang out all over his body. In less than thirty seconds, Marco shifted into a huge silver wolf. He put back his head and howled—an unearthly, strangely human-like sound that chilled Nicky’s blood. He heard answering howls and dragged his gaze away to see wolves shifting all around the room in response to their Alpha’s call.

Knocked to the floor, Nicky turned his frightened gaze back toward Marco, or what used to be Marco and was now a huge, scary animal. The huge, scary animal jumped on top of him without warning, putting its paws on his chest and lowering its mouth toward his throat. Too scared even to scream, Nicky closed his eyes tightly and waited for death, but instead he felt the wolf lick him from the bottom of his chin to the top of his forehead. Nicky met the wolf’s gaze and saw Marco’s beautiful eyes gazing back at him. He instantly relaxed, knowing in his heart Marco wouldn’t hurt him.

He heard more howls before Marco leaped away and ran for the door, followed by his wolf pack. Nicky sat up slowly, still feeling stunned. The pets in the room calmly went into action, picking up knocked over chairs and generally straightening up the room as if nothing unusual at all had just occurred. Tara come up beside him and gave him her hand to help him up. He got up off his back and looked at her in wonder.

She laughed. “Welcome to the pack, Nicky. Get used to this—it happens from time to time, whenever the wolves get emotionally charged. They’re beautiful, aren’t they?”

Nicky nodded, having to admit that even though the huge silver wolf frightened him at first, he was one of the most beautiful creatures he’d ever seen, his coat glossy and thick, and his eyes expressive and human-like. He could hear them outside the compound, calling back and forth to each other as they ran through the woods.

He moved slowly back up the stairs to his room, having to stop along the way for the well wishes and congratulations of the werekin. The room seemed empty without Marco. Nicky slipped off the robe and put it across a chair. Then he slipped out of his pants and lay down on the bed. He lay in the darkening room, listening to the sound of the wolves and waiting for Marco to return, drifting into an exhausted sleep before Marco, not the wolf, slipped into bed with him.

“Put your legs over my shoulders, darling,” Marco told him. “I want to see your beautiful face when I make love to you.”

Nicky had barely complied before an already lubed, steel hard cock slipped into him. “By the acts of mating and vows spoken before my pack, you are my mate until death takes us.”

* * * * Waking next morning was difficult. Marco had kept him up half the night making love to him and making him feed until he was sated and almost unconscious with fatigue. By the time he allowed him to rest, his ass ached and burned, his limbs felt like jello, and his mouth was still making sucking motions as he wiggled his ass up into Marco’s crotch and sank down into sleep.

He awoke to find Marco gone, and Rory sitting in a chair by the window, watching him closely.

“Hi, Rory,” Nicky said, stretching. “Where’s…uh…my master?”

“The council needed him this morning. There have been more sightings of the rogue pack,

some as close as a mile from the compound. Shawna, the mate of the one we captured, is back in the compound, demanding to see him. Marco is meeting with her.”

“Oh. Will he be back soon?”

Rory shrugged. “I’m supposed to babysit you till he gets back.”

Nicky frowned. “Do you have to use that term?”

“Yes.”

“God, Rory, why do you have to be such an asshole?”

Rory raised his eyebrows. “You really haven’t changed a bit, have you? I’m a wolf—don’t talk to me like that.”

Nicky sighed. “Whatever.”

Rory frowned again. “You know Marco is worried sick about you, don’t you? That makes all of us nervous and jumpy. Can’t you even pretend obedience?” His voice grew in volume, and he rose to his feet to stand by the bed, looking down at Nicky, his fists clenched.

Nicky looked up at him and yawned. “Guess not.”

Rory slammed his fist into the pillow next to Nicky’s head. Nicky glared at him. “Go ahead. After I break you in half, Marco will take care of the pieces.”

The door opened, and they both turned tensely to see Tara standing there quietly with her mate, Tristan, behind her, waiting for Rory to invite them in.

Before Rory could react, Nicky smiled at her. “Hi, Tara, Tristan, come on in. Rory and I were just having a little discussion.”

Tara glanced up for a moment, surprised, and Tristan glared at him with disapproval. Wolves and pets didn’t have “discussions.” They obeyed without arguments.

Rory took a deep breath and spoke to them. “Come in, Tristan, and your pet too. What do you need?”

“Marco sent me to groom Nicky here in the room.” Tara explained. “He said he’d be in restraints most of the day.”

“He certainly will.” He sent a smoldering look Nicky’s way and pulled cuffs from the bedside table. “Hold your hands out, Nicky.”

Nicky hesitated a long time, debating if he would accept another humiliation. Fear stole over Rory’s features, igniting fear in Nicky. He held out his hands, and Rory twisted his arms behind him and slipped the cuffs over his wrists, snapping them shut. His hands were now cuffed behind him. Uncomfortable and humiliating, as Nicky supposed was the point.

Rory turned to Tristan and Tara. “I’m stepping outside for while then. Please call me when you’ve finished with him.”

“Yes, sir,” she said quietly, eyes downcast.

Rory went to the door, but couldn’t resist one parting shot before he stepped out into the corridor. “That’s how well behaved pets act, brat. See if you can learn something from her while she’s here.”

Tristan gave him an equally disapproving look and unclipped Tara’s leash.

“Don’t pick up any bad habits, Pet.”

“No, sir.”

The two masters went out and closed the door firmly behind them.

As he closed the door, Nicky yelled after them. “Assholes!”

“Nicky, please!” Tara cast a frightened glance at the closed door. “What if they’d heard you?”

He sighed and turned his back to hold out his cuffed hands to her. “Unlock me, Tara. The key is in the bedside table. I saw it in there earlier when Marco took out some lubricant.”

Her eyes grew wide, and she shook her head nervously. “But I’m not supposed to.”

“Tara, listen to me. Rory’s gone for at least an hour. We can put them back on before either of them returns if you’re scared. Come on.”