Hesitating only another few seconds, she went over to the table, retrieved the key, and unlocked his wrist restraints.

“Thanks, babe. I hate those things. Now what have you come to do to me?”

Tara smiled. “I just really came for a visit. I heard at the ceremony last night that you were still having some trouble adjusting. I was a little worried.”

“So you lied to Tristan and Rory? I love it!”

Tara blushed and dropped her gaze. “I’m being very wicked. If my master finds out…”

Nicky smiled and took her hand. “Who’s going to tell him? Certainly not me.” He got out of bed and strode over to lock the door and winked at her. “We’ll just say we have no idea how that got locked.”

He walked over to the window and looked out at the mountain range. He hadn’t been allowed out yet. All he could tell about the area they were in was that they were very high on a mountain side, judging from the spectacular view from the window, and the compound was surrounded by dark and verdant forest. “It’s beautiful here. I’d like to go outside and look around, but I’m still on house arrest, I guess. Marco ordered me to stay inside while the rogue pack is out there.”

“Yes, Tristan told me the same thing.”

“Who are they, Tara? Do you know?”

“I’ve heard rumors, you know, nothing really substantial. Some of the mistresses, the female wolves who come to my shop were talking about it yesterday. They said some of them used to be in our pack, but ran away when they couldn’t follow orders.”

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“What kind of orders?”

Tara blushed again, and lowered her voice. “Well, they didn’t know I could hear them, I guess. They said it was about the pets. A few of the adopted pets couldn’t settle in well, and their masters and mistresses took them and ran, so they wouldn’t be so unhappy.”

“What?”

“Yes, and they keep coming around because it’s really hard for them to stay completely away from the pack and the ancestral land. They feel it belongs to them too.”

“But I thought all pets had to be controlled or go feral?” A cold doubt took root in Nicky’s chest. “So it’s not just me who has a hard time settling down with this submission thing. There are others too.”

“Well, a few of the male pets in particular find it difficult.”

“So they just collar and leash us and tell us to shut the hell up.”

“Well, they can’t very well let pets go wild, like the rogues want. They may seem okay on the outside, but if their tempers get the best of them they might hurt someone, and this way, at least, they don’t have to put them down for killing some human. Pets who are uncontrolled are unpredictable, you see. Dangerous.”

“So they don’t even give us a chance? They locked that poor guy up because he refused to be controlled. God, will they do that to me?”

“Only if you give them a lot of trouble, Nicky, and then Marco would have to agree, and I don’t think he would ever do that. He really loves you. Besides, you’ve only just got here. They would give you much more time to settle in before doing anything so drastic.”

“Yeah, well, fuck that. I need to get out of here.”

“But Nicky, you can’t. I explained why. You’re different now. You’re werekin. You have a need to be with the pack, and you have to feed from a wolf. The need can’t be satisfied any other way. And what about Marco?”

Nicky put his head in his hands. “Hell, I don’t know. I don’t know! I can’t leave him—I’d be miserable without him. I don’t even think I can live without him now. Damn it!”

“This is apparently most of the issue with the rogue packs. Their mates can’t or won’t settle for submission, and they can’t live without each other either.”

“What about this guy you told me about? Marco said they were giving him female hormones.”

“Yes, a kind of chemical castration, but they’re not working too well. When he escaped, he and his mistress were living with the rogue pack. They say she might be their Alpha. Our wolves have them both back in the pack now—she followed him back when he was captured. But they say she’s miserable, and he’s still really savage, fighting with everybody and everything they’re trying to do for him.” Tara sat up straighter with a sudden thought. “Maybe the rogue pack is here for them. Maybe they’ve come to help them escape again.”

“Look, I can’t just stand by while the poor guy loses his balls, even figuratively. I couldn’t live with myself. Think we should try to help him escape?”

“Oh no, Nicky. If they caught us, they’d punish us terribly. I don’t want another spanking. Those things are terrible.”

Nicky smiled. “Did Tristan really beat you?”

“Well, it was all on my bottom. He called it a spanking, and then he made love to me right after. I think he kind of liked it.”

Nicky laughed out loud. “I’ll bet he did.”

“What about you? Don’t you hate them too?”

“I’ve never had the pleasure.”

“What? As bad as you are and Marco hasn’t spanked you yet? He must really spoil you very badly.”

Nicky smiled again. “I guess he does. I get fucked every chance he gets.” He laughed. “Not that I don’t enjoy it.”

Tara sighed. “Me too. I love it too. I guess it’s because I love Tristan so much.”

Nicky leaned forward. “Tell me, Tara, I’ve got to know. Does he have one those gland things on the base of his cock?”

Tara blushed prettily. “Oh my God, yes, a wolf thing. It almost killed me the first night. We were tied up for over an hour.”

Nicky laughed. “Us too! Some weird shit, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but I love him, so I don’t mind. It’s just a part of who he is.”

They smiled at each other, and Tara got up to go. “My master will be coming for me soon. Let me put your cuffs back on.”

They’d only just gotten them fastened when the door jiggled, followed by a loud, frenzied knocking. Tara hurried to the door. Rory rushed in, followed closely by Tristan. They, apparently thought Nicky had overpowered Tara, and escaped. Both looked a little chagrined when they saw Nicky sitting docilely on the bed in his cuffs. Tristan snapped Tara’s leash on and led her out without even acknowledging Nicky. Rory, in a sulk, sat down, turned on the television and glanced over at him.

“I thought she was grooming you. You don’t look any different to me. Still as bratty as ever.”

Nicky ignored him, quietly watching television and biding his time, refusing to be baited. He had to behave himself if he wanted to talk Marco into letting him have more freedom.

“Hey, I’m talking to you, brat!” Rory threw a wadded up piece of paper at him, hitting him in the forehead. “Say, ‘yes, sir,’ when I speak to you!”

“Kiss my ass!”

Rory shook his head moodily. “I hate sitting in here with you all afternoon. It’s beautiful outside too.” He looked longingly at the window.

“Then let’s go for a walk,” Nicky suggested.

“Are you kidding? Marco would kill me for taking you out.”

“Just to the gardens near the house. You can tell him I begged you to go—he won’t get mad. C’mon, man. Like you said, it’s beautiful outside. I’ll even let you use the leash without a hassle. Anything to get out of here for a few minutes. I’m going stir crazy.”

“I don’t know,” Rory said, looking longingly out the window. “Marco said to stay inside. The rogue pack has been spotted nearby.”

“How will he know, Rory? I’m not going to tell him.”

“Have you forgotten he can read your mind, Nicky? Sense you, anyway. He’d know for sure if we went out.”

“Not if I jam my signals.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll sing in my head or something. That should jam his radar a little. C’mon—just ten minutes. We’ll stretch our legs a little. Get a little sun. What do you say?”

“Sing in your head, huh? You think that would work?”

Nicky grinned. “Only one way to find out.”

Rory smiled back at him, unbending a little. “Okay, let’s go, but if we get in trouble for this, I’m telling Marco you got away from me and ran outside. You really think the singing thing will work?”

“No, but I guess we’ll find out.”

Rory muttered some cuss words under his breath.

Nicky shook his head. “I heard that and back at you. C’mon, let’s go.”

Rory got his leash and firmly snapped it on, his look daring Nicky to argue. Nicky didn’t argue, keeping his promise, only too happy to be getting out of the room for a while, no matter what. After taking off his cuffs, Rory led him down the stairs and out into the warm, bright sunshine. Rory walked along the trail surrounding the big house, pulling Nicky behind him. As soon as they got out of sight of the windows, Nicky took hold of the leash, stopped walking, and jerked. Rory, strolling ahead and not paying any attention, landed on his butt on the trail. His look of utter surprise made Nicky laugh out of control, holding his sides and falling onto a bench by the side of the trail going through the garden.

“What the heck did you do that for, brat?” Rory jumped up onto his feet, looking around to make sure no one saw him fall. He was still young enough to be careful of his dignity.

When Nicky could speak again, he wiped his eyes and pointed at Rory. “You should have seen the look on your face.”

“Yeah, well, you’re gonna have a look on your face when I bust your ass!”

Nicky stood up, twirling his leash in front of him. “Bring it on, Rory. Bring it on!”

Rory stood with clenched fists, his face stormy, when a voice behind them made them both turn around. “Hey, Rory!”