They both whirled toward the dark-haired young boy headed toward them. About fifteen years old, he wore the same leather pants as the other pets wore, but no collar and was unattended. He waved a bat, baseball, and glove at Rory as he jogged toward them. “Rory, do you want to play ball? My coach says I can play next week if I can improve my batting. Will you help me?” He ran up next to them and looked Nicky over with interest. “Hi. I’m Adam. You must be Nicky, Marco’s new mate. I’ve heard a lot about you. Gee, you really are as pretty as a girl.”

“Uh, thanks—I think.” Nicky smiled back at him. “Nice to meet you, Adam.”

Rory nodded at Adam and back at Nicky. “This is my little brother.”

Nicky regarded him with interest. “Really? So, Adam, you’re one of what they call the natural pets?”

Adam shrugged. “Guess so.” He watched Nicky twirling his leash in his hand. “Are you supposed to be doing that?”

Rory growled. “No, he’s not. He’s a jerk.”

Nicky ignored him and stood up. “I’ll play ball with you, Adam. I played some in high school. I warn you, though, I’ve got a mean curve ball.”

Adam grinned and tossed Nicky the glove and ball. He ran back about twenty feet and took up a batting stance with his bat. Rory shook his head in disapproval as Nicky neatly unclipped the leash and tossed it at him before strolling over to toss the ball to Adam.

Nicky pitched the ball to him for the next fifteen minutes, fielding the balls and calling out some tips from time to time. Rory stretched out on the lawn while they played and soon dozed in the sunlight with his mouth open.

“Okay, Adam, are you ready? Here it comes—my special curve ball.” Nicky wound up and put his best spin on the ball, but instead of sailing over the plate as he’d planned, the ball took a wild turn and shot off into the woods.

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“I’ll get it,” Adam yelled, laughing and ran off into the shadows beneath the trees. Nicky glanced up to see Rory still stretched on his back, sound asleep, expecting to see Adam running back. There was no sign of him.

“Adam?” he yelled. “Can’t you find it?”

No answer came from the shadowy woods, and unease swept over Nicky. He could sense movement in the shadows just beyond where the path disappeared in the pine trees even if he couldn’t see it. He walked up closer, anxious and about to call for Rory when a burly arm shot out of the shadows. A hand clamped over his mouth, and the arm clutching him around the waist dragged him into the dimness of the trees.

Chapter Four

Nicky decided they were definitely in some deep shit. He had no idea who these guys were, but he suspected they were wolves from the look of them, maybe some of the rogues. The two men who kidnapped him and Adam were moving fast down the trail, despite carrying Nicky and Adam over their shoulders. A damned uncomfortable way to travel, bumped and bounced along on the biggest one’s shoulder. Nicky’s hands were tied behind him, and they’d stuffed a rag in his mouth, so he couldn’t even yell. All he could do was jolt along on the guy’s shoulder and try to keep an eye on Adam behind him. Adam was also tossed over the shoulder of the young, good looking man jogging along behind him. He didn’t struggle as Nicky did, or at least it didn’t seem that way from Nicky’s vantage point. Maybe it was true that the natural born pets were more docile.

Nicky struggled so much at first it took both men to tie him up, and the big one who carried him had actually slapped his face a few times, drawing some blood on his lips. He could taste it, seeping around the cloth in his mouth. He hoped the bastard hadn’t knocked a tooth loose. He concentrated on calling out for Marco in his mind, not knowing if Marco could sense him at a distance or not. He knew they needed some help and fast. Nicky hadn’t liked the look in the biggest guy’s eye when he finally picked him up and slung him over his shoulder. He had a feeling he was about to get fucked again in the very near future if somebody didn’t intervene.

“Aaron, hold up,” the younger one in back called out. “Let’s rest for a few minutes.” The big one turned, giving Nicky a view of the trail in front of them for the first time. Not that he had any idea where they were. Wherever it was, the brush was thick, and the trail practically nonexistent. He shifted his aching stomach a little and got a hard slap on the ass for his troubles.

“We’re still too close, Cody. Two as young and pretty as these will have wolves looking for them soon. It was sheer luck they were so unprotected when we found them. This one here,” he paused and slapped Nicky’s ass again. “This one will be worth a pretty penny. No, we gotta keep moving.”

He turned and returned to a tireless jogging. These men had to be wolves. They were so large and strong. They traveled along for at least a couple more miles, and Nicky despaired of Marco finding them. True, the men couldn’t travel as fast burdened down by Adam and Nicky, but what if Rory hadn’t woken up right away? What if he was still lying on the grass snoring and no one knew they were missing?

From somewhere far away, Nicky detected a delicious odor. Marco! Nicky bucked his hips wildly, trying to get the big one to stop. He ignored him, breaking into a faster trot, as if he smelled it too, bouncing Nicky up and down even harder.

Nicky grunted in pain as the guy’s shoulder came in contact with the soft parts of his abdomen, making it harder to catch his breath. Suddenly from behind him, he heard a loud howl. The men heard it too. He was tossed down on the trail, landing with a hard thud on his stomach. Facedown and trussed up as he was, he could hardly see a thing. He lay for a moment, stunned, as he heard the two men’s panicked yelling at each other. The big man hauled him back up into his arms, producing a knife and holding the sharp blade at Nicky’s throat, with good reason. The trail and the forest beside it bristled with wolves of every shape and size, a big silver one right up front, flanked by a smaller one covered in black fur.

The sharp blade pricked against his throat and he stopped struggling. Getting his throat cut was getting monotonous, and he wasn’t a big fan.

Aaron, the one with the knife, yelled at the wolves. “Come any closer and I’ll slit his pretty little throat.”

The wolves yipped and howled, and the big silver one shifted right in front of him. Of course, it was Marco. He was huge, naked and dangerous in his fury. Both hands in fists, he snarled out three words between his clenched teeth. “Let him go!”

“Now I don’t think I can do that, Wolf. If I do, I have a feeling you’re going to go for my throat. What do you say we make a deal?”

Marco growled low in his throat with the other wolves circling around them.

“Don’t come any closer—I’ll kill him.”

Marco, ready to lunge, was anxious, shifting tensely from foot to foot. Nicky feared Marco wouldn’t be able to hold himself back, and he would suffer the consequences when the big dude let his knife slip. He’d better do something fast to end this. Two things happened simultaneously. Nicky stomped down on Aaron’s instep as hard as he could, and dropped. He made himself go limp, sagging down in a heap and pulling the big man off balance. The man fell on top of him and, incredibly, never dropped the knife. They fell together, still struggling. The man shifted his hand to catch Nicky around the waist, the point of the knife piercing his leather pants and puncturing his abdomen near his groin. Things happened quickly after that.

Aaron was torn away from him. One minute the man gripped him as they rolled to the ground, and the next he dragged Nicky a foot off the ground before his hold slipped and he was tossed through the air, landing an incredible ten yards away. Marco and the other wolves hauled Nicky to his feet, pulling the cloth from his mouth. Several hands patted at him, trying to discover any wounds. All the while Nicky could hear the sounds of a vicious struggle taking place nearby. Snarling and growling, punctuated by loud yells and screams for help came from right next to him, but too many people and wolves were in the way for him to see anything.

Not in pain, though he could feel the blood slipping down his thigh under his pants, Nicky was jerked around and stumbled. Marco put his face up next to his. “Why did you run away from me? What did you think you were doing?”

Nicky couldn’t quite understand what Marco said. Run away?

Marco shook him until his teeth rattled and then held him out at arm’s length again. “Tell me! Why did you run away? I’m going to beat you for this, Nicky! I swear to God you won’t sit down for a week!”

“I-I…”

Marco shook him again, viciously upset and not realizing his own strength. Nicky’s head rocked back and forth violently. Things spun around dangerously, and then his knees refused to hold him up any longer. He sagged down a little. If he could only sit down for a minute. His knees gave away, and Marco caught him in his arms. Nicky winced in pain as Marco’s hand grazed his wound, making him catch his breath. Marco lowered him to the ground and shoved down his pants, gasping when he found the deep wound still oozing bright blood. Marco put his mouth over the wound and bit down. Nicky fainted.

* * * * He awoke back in his own dark, quiet room, in bed. He had a slight headache, and his side stung horribly, but he felt surprisingly good, considering all that had happened. Marco lay beside him and came instantly awake when he stirred. He propped up on one hand and gazed down at him with worry.

“Are you all right, honey? I’m sorry if I hurt you. I shouldn’t have put hands on you so soon after shifting and running after that asshole.”

“I think I’m okay. A little sore.” His hand strayed down to his side.

“It’s healed over. I took care of it, but it might be a little sore for a while.” He looked down at Nicky, his expression serious. “What if I hadn’t been able to get to you in time, Nicky? What if he’d had time to get you back to his camp? He meant to ransom you and Adam, but not before he’d had his way with both of you.”

“Had his way with us? Damn, I mean, dang, Marco, it sounds like an old, very bad movie.”