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JAYNELL’S WOLF

Amber Kell

Copyright 2010 by Amber Kell

This Edition: February 2018


Editor: Rhonda Walker, Celest Fitzpatrick, Sam Nelson

Cover design: Meredith Russell


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.

Sometimes it takes a little magic to find true love…


His father’s dying wish had Jaynell Marley signing up to attend the Mayell Wizard Academy. It only takes him a short time to realize he doesn’t belong. His abilities, far more advanced than the other students, cause jealousy. Knowing how to speak Gnome and summon a dragon puts him beyond everyone’s skills but the teachers.


Enter Thomas Sparks—a member of the local wolf pack who isn’t impressed with Jay’s magic. He wants the man himself. One look into Jay’s eyes and Thomas knows he’s found his life mate. The only problem—convincing the powerful wizard that they were meant to be together.


When outside forces threaten to tear them apart, it will take their combined skills to defeat the evil wizard trying to steal their future.


A Wizard’s Touch series




Jaynell’s Wolf (Book One)

Kevin’s Alpha (Book Two)

Farren’s Wizard (Book Three)

Elijah’s Ghost (Book Four)

Porter’s Reaper (Book Five)

Temple’s Touch (Book Six)


Contents



Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight


Talan’s Treasure (Sample)

Author


Dedication



For everyone who thinks there should be a little magic in every book!


Chapter One



Jaynell Marley looked at the tall lions flanking the doors and let out the breath he’d been holding. Students ran up and down the stairs, rushing off to class or wherever busy students went. This was where his father had wanted him to be, the last request of a dead man who had given Jay everything, including his very life. Despite not wanting to be here, Jay wouldn’t deny his father’s wishes. He couldn’t, even if the thought of attending school with a bunch of strangers sent shivers of apprehension down his spine.

Watching the ebb and flow of people, Jay closed his eyes for a moment to push back the slight panic attack threatening to overtake him. It had been only him and his father for so long he didn’t know if he was equipped to deal with this many people at once. The sheer volume of bodies rushing back and forth had him on edge, and his magic crackled just beneath his skin, ready to strike out at the first sign of danger.

His nerves ricocheted like bullets around his body as he realized soon he would be one of these harried students rushing about. At twenty five, Jay was older than a lot of the freshmen at the Mayell Wizard Academy, but life had kept him too busy to start formal training until this point. Maybe he could test out of some classes and graduate earlier than anticipated? He clung to that dream even as he searched for some sort of school directory to help him locate the administration building.

“Are you lost?”

Hmmm.” Stuck in his own head, he’d missed the girl walking up to him. She had bright green eyes, blonde hair, and a perky air about her. He wondered if wizard academies had cheerleaders.

“Are you lost?” she asked again. “You look like you’re not sure where to go.”

Jay didn’t know why she cared, but maybe she liked to help total strangers. “I’m looking for the headmaster’s office.”

“I can help you. I’m one of the freshman coordinators.” She pointed to a bright pink badge on her shirt that Jay hadn’t noticed, mostly because he hadn’t tried to stare at her breasts. “The school appointed some of us to help out incoming students who might not know where to go or what to do on their first day. I’m Lira—nice to meet you. Are you a transfer student?”

Jay gave her proffered hand a quick shake. “I’m Jay. No, I didn’t transfer. I’m just starting late. Family illness.”

That was the story he would tell everyone. They didn’t need to know his family’s tragic past. Soon enough word would get around.

“Oh.” Her face reflected pity, but thankfully she didn’t comment further or ask any probing questions. “Come with me. I’ll take you to Headmaster Vreel. He’s really amazing. You’ll like him. He’s the most powerful wizard of his generation.”

Jay didn’t comment on Vreel’s power. Instead, he nodded and hoped he looked suitably impressed. He definitely didn’t want to get into a debate over magical power. Not when he had the energy of three wizards rushing through his veins.

He hoped Vreel was as nice as he’d been told. His past tutors had spoken highly of the headmaster, but Jay’s father had never met him so hadn’t been able to offer any opinion.

Listening to Lira chatter soothed some of his anxiety. He’d never had to deal with his peers before. He hoped more of them were like Lira—friendly and incurious.

Jay followed Lira up the long trail of stone steps to an enormous building. The tall structure stood at least three stories and had an assortment of white marble creatures decorating the front. Gargoyles squatted at each of the peaks, dragons twisted along the columns and a pair of lions guarded the entryway. About to go through the front door, Jay stopped to give the lions a closer look. The big cats’ eyes glowed blue, an eerie light casting shadows on their marble faces.

“Why do they glow?” Jay asked, pointing. The light faded before Lira turned to look.

Lira frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“Their eyes. They lit up,” Jay insisted even as no signs of illumination remained.

“I think you’re imagining things.” Lira dismissed Jay’s statement with a shake of her head.

Perhaps it was just one of those things only Jay saw. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“Never mind.” Jay brushed it off even though he knew that wasn’t the case. He didn’t need to draw attention to his differences too early. Everyone would find out soon enough that he had little in common with the usual student.

Lira seemed happy enough with that explanation since she picked up her chatter again. She led him through the marble halls to a gleaming wooden door. The words ‘Headmaster’s Office’ were embossed on a brass plaque in big important letters.

“Here you go!” she announced unnecessarily, waving at the sign.

“Thanks, I appreciate it.” Jay didn’t want to think about how long he would’ve been wandering around campus before he’d found this place. His sense of direction was one skill his father could never seem to find a way to improve.

“You’re welcome! See ya.” With a quick wave, Lira ran off, probably to rescue some other lost idiot.

Jay shook his head at the perky girl as he opened the door. Entering the office brought him to an elaborate reception area with more marbled floors. It smelled a bit musty, like a good library, although Jay didn’t see any books.

A gnome sat behind an enormous wooden desk, looking even tinier in comparison to the huge furniture that all but swallowed her presence. Her grey skin gleamed dully beneath the natural sunlight streaming through the lead glass windows. Jay could tell she was a female gnome by the earring in her left ear. Males wore them in their right ear.

Jay gave a short bow to the receptionist before saying in perfect Gnome, “I have an appointment with your master.”

For the first time, he appreciated the long hours his father had insisted Jay spend learning other languages. At the time, he’d resented it since they didn’t have any personal house gnomes, and he had felt foolish learning a language no one around him used. Now his cultural and linguistic skills might be good for something after all.

Most people didn’t know gnomes only worked for their masters. Gnomes were forced by the magical community to live underground unless they were owned because of their famous rages. Their anger could only be controlled by the one who bonded with them. It was a high honor to belong to a master, and oddly, an owned gnome had more status in their tribe than a free one.

The gnome’s eyes sparkled when she spotted Jay. “Greetings. You must be Mr. Marley. Someone has trained you well. You speak Gnome beautifully. I will tell my master that you can skip Gnome linguistics.”

One less class to take.

Inside, Jay did a happy backflip, but to the gnome, he gave another polite bow. “Your help is appreciated.”

Any class he could skip would be one more for which he wouldn’t have to waste his time. Although Jay didn’t have any clear plans for his future, he’d spent most of his life studying—he was ready to begin this new chapter of his life.

The little creature beamed, flashing her pointed teeth in a frighteningly sharp smile. “You are most welcome, gnome friend. Go right in.”

She must’ve telepathically told the headmaster he’d arrived. He’d forgotten they could speak mentally with their bonded.

Jay smiled at the receptionist and headed for the door the gnome pointed toward. He entered without knocking.

A tall, thin man with long white hair sat behind a silvery metallic desk. He gave Jay a nod as he approached.

“Good afternoon, Master Jaynell. It is a pleasure to meet you. My secretary told me great things about your Gnome skills.”

Jay realized his entire interaction with the gnome had probably been relayed to the headmaster as it had happened. Damn, he hoped he’d passed their first test. “Thank you, Headmaster Vreel. She was very nice.” Not discreet, obviously, but nice.

“Indeed.” The wizard pierced Jay with a level stare. “She doesn’t like many people so I’m always fascinated when she takes a shine to one. She’s been working for over two hundred years, and I can count on one hand the number of students she’s liked.”

Jay smiled but didn’t speak. The headmaster hadn’t asked him a question so Jay remained silent. His father had taught him to never offer information voluntarily.

“Now have a seat and we’ll go over your schedule.” Vreel pointed at the guest chairs positioned across from his desk.

Jay perched on the edge of one of the straight-backed wooden chair, his nerves swirling around his stomach like a tornado. He could do this. Surely the academics couldn’t be any more intense than the grueling studies his tutors had put him through. Some of his tutors had been relentless in their goal to make Jay the most powerful wizard of all time.

Vreel shifted some papers around on his desk until he pulled out a file with a victorious shout. “Found it.”

Jay waited impatiently while Vreel reviewed his file. The number of thoughtful sounds the headmaster made had Jay reconsidering his first urge to flee the academy and go back to the safety of his family home. After a long pause, Vreel spoke.

I see that you’ve been privately trained your whole life so we don’t have any of your talent scores available. You’ll have to meet with the testers to certify your greatest strengths. I’m sure you won’t have any problems—it appears you’ve had an excellent education. It looks like my secretary is one step ahead of me as usual and has scheduled your talent exams for tomorrow at noon. Today, you can get settled in your room and familiarize yourself with the campus. Do you have any questions?”

Jay wondered why he’d even had to stop at the wizard’s office. Surely, they could’ve mailed him his schedule. When he met Vreel’s eyes, the question died in his throat. The cool examination in the headmaster’s expression told Jay everything. The wizard had wanted to assess Jay’s threat potential.

“I didn’t come here to make any trouble, Sir.”

“Good. Then we should get along just fine.” Vreel nodded as if they’d reached some sort of agreement. He stood and Jay jumped to his feet to shake the headmaster’s outstretched hand. At the obvious dismissal, he began to leave but stopped at the door.

“I just have one question, Sir.” Curiosity had always been his greatest weakness.

“Yes?” Vreel looked up from his papers, a scowl wrinkling his forehead.

“The lions out front, why do their eyes glow?”

“Saw that, did you?” The headmaster gave him a companionable smile. “Security system.”

“Ah.” Jay nodded. “Thanks.”

He left without asking any more questions. No doubt his fellow students would be more forthcoming.

Jay accepted the folder the secretary held out and gave the gnome a respectful nod. He received another sharp-toothed smile in return. Gnomes might appear civilized, but Jay knew his history well enough to understand how much damage they could cause with those razor-sharp teeth. Hiding his shudder, he left the building.

A few steps outside the entrance he paused to examine the map the secretary had provided. Maps had always been a challenge for him. Hopefully, he’d figure out where he needed to be before tomorrow at noon.

Chapter Two



After three wrong turns and a few invitations to join his fellow students for alcohol and sex, which he turned down, Jay found his door. His room was on the second floor and, from the sound of the music pounding through the door, wasn’t empty. Damn. He’d hoped to have a private room. His father would’ve told him this was part of the experience.

Taking a deep breath, Jay hesitantly knocked on the door.

A tousled blond head peeked out, half-elf if Jay was any sort of judge.

“Hey. You must be the new kid they said was coming.”

“I’m Jay.”

“Kevin. Nice to meet you, come on in.” Kevin stepped back to allow Jay to enter.

Jay walked through the door and into a large room. Five beds were spaced out in a fan-like pattern with small desks wedged between them. There must have been some sort of spell placed on the room because the size definitely defied the amount of space that should’ve been available between the doors in the hall.

Three dark-haired men, identical in appearance, stared at him with bright blue eyes. They reminded Jay briefly of the glowing lion statues.

“These are the Stewartson triplets. Devin, Dean and Dan. We just call them all D.”

“Guys.” Jay scanned them with his magic, quickly imprinting their differences into his memory. He didn’t want to get stuck calling them by the wrong names. Names were important and carried power.

The triplets watched him with similar expressions of curiosity as if he were an interesting animal at the zoo.

“Where’s your stuff?” Dean asked, glancing at Jay’s bare hands.

“Oh. Right here.” Jay pulled a sheet of paper out of his back pocket. Unfolding the vellum, he placed it on the only bed with an empty desk beside it.

His roommates crowded around to stare at the picture of a steamer trunk.

“Funny, dude,” Kevin said. “But really, where’s your stuff?”

“Haven’t you ever seen a compression spell?” Jay slid his right index finger across the photo. “Reveal.”

A flash of purple lightning crackled in the room, and a full-size chest appeared on Jay’s bed.

“Whoa.” Devin stared at the luggage like it might bite him. “How did you do that?”

“I used magic to compress my luggage until it was paper-thin.” From their reaction Jay decided they must not have much experience with magic.

“Man, that’s way advanced. Are you sure you’re a freshman?” Devin asked.

“I’ve had a lot of private tutoring,” Jay confessed. “My father didn’t like me to be away from him for too long.”

All four sets of eyes stared at him like he’d performed a miracle. “I’m thinking you’ll be ahead of the rest of the class,” Dan said.

Jay didn’t know what they taught in public schools so there was no way for him to judge a normal level of experience or magical power. His father couldn’t stand any separation from Jay, not since he’d bound his magic and life force to Jay’s. Jay didn’t think now was the time to discuss his past with guys he’d just met, even if they were going to be his roommates. He didn’t know them or how they would react to his full magical talents.

“How about you put your stuff away and we’ll take you out for pizza?” Kevin said, smiling. “Even with all this space, it gets a bit claustrophobic with so many people in one room.”

“Sure, I’d like that.” Relief surged through him. His roommates weren’t freaked out by his magic. Jay’s stomach growled. With his anxiety over starting school, he hadn’t eaten any breakfast. Now with the worst part over, his body demanded sustenance.

He pulled his trunk off his bed and dropped it at the foot. There were dresser drawers beneath the bed. Jay quickly transferred his garments inside then placed his favorite books on the shelf above his desk.

“Look at this,” Dean said, opening one of Jay’s spell books. “It’s autographed by Michael Dragonspawn. I don’t think this one is still in print.”

“Wow, do you know him?” Dan asked.

Jay didn’t know what the big deal was, but he thought it was best to come clean. “He was one of my tutors.”

“That must’ve been incredible,” Dean said, carefully placing the book back on the shelf as if worried about damaging it.

Jay shrugged. “He was a good teacher. I didn’t know he was famous until later.”

“Wow. You can tell us all about it at dinner,” Kevin said.

“If you want.” Jay had always found Dragonspawn a bit on the pompous side, but he could share his impression with the guys if they wanted.

If they were looking for interesting stories about Jay’s life, he didn’t have an overabundance to share. Although some might say the absorption of both his parents’ magic was a good story to tell.


* * * *


The pizza place was obviously a favorite with the college crowd. Jay saw a lot of students showing off minor spells across the tables while chomping pizza. His roommates took the first table they found. As soon as they sat down, a female gnome approached and asked what they wanted to drink.

Jay automatically answered in Gnome. “I’ll have a soda.”

The gnome’s dour face lit up. “You speak Gnome really well.”

“Thank you. My father taught me it was important to learn the language of all peoples. Today is my first day here,” Jay confessed.

“Welcome. Pizza for you and your friends today is on the house.” She beamed a bright smile at him.

Jay gave a seated bow in the traditional gnome acknowledgement. “My house thanks yours.”

“I’ll be right back with your pizzas.” The little gnome ran off.

Jay hoped his companions weren’t picky pizza eaters since they hadn’t even placed their order yet.

“What did you say to her?” Kevin asked.

Jay looked at them, puzzled. “None of you speak Gnome?”

“Dude,” Kevin said. “I’d be surprised if anyone on campus who isn’t a gnome or in linguistics can speak Gnome that well. We all have to take beginning Gnome, but hell, I don’t remember more than a couple words. You know, things like ‘thanks’ or ‘you’re welcome’.”

“Really?” Jay had expected Gnome to be more of a requirement with so many around. It would serve them better to know how to talk to the people taking care of things.

“Really,” all four of them said in unison.

“Huh. Well, she thanked me for speaking Gnome and said she’d be right back with free pizza. You guys should learn how to speak it if you plan on having a gnome of your own someday.”

“Why bother?” Dean asked. “They all speak English.”

Jay didn’t know how to convey that it was a measure of respect without sounding preachy. Luckily, another of the triplets interrupted.

“You’re my hero. I’m never going to eat pizza without you again,” Devin vowed, batting his eyes with fake adoration.

Jay laughed. He’d been worried they would think he was showing off. Gradually, the tension in his shoulders faded. The crowd in the pizza place made him twitchy. He didn’t like crowds, and this boisterous group was particularly rowdy. Maybe the restaurant should rethink serving beers in giant pitchers.

A pert redhead walked past them. “Hi, Dan,” she said, waving as she went.

“That’s Dean,” Jay corrected, without thinking. The triplets stared at him with their mouths open.

“How did you know that?” Kevin asked. “They’re identical.”

“In appearance sure, but they all have different magical signatures.” Jay paused when he got the same wide-eyed look he’d received over the compressed trunk spell.

“Only master wizards can see magical signatures,” Dan scoffed.

“No. It’s really easy.” Jay held his hand out to Kevin. “Place your hand palm down on mine.”

Kevin searched Jay’s face for a moment as if searching for the signs of a trick before gently setting his hand on top of Jay’s.

“Now take a deep breath and look at the triplets. I’ll guide you.” Jay had plenty of experience twining his magic but never with anyone besides his father. He wondered for a brief second if it would work.

While Kevin breathed in, Jay pulsed a fraction of his magic into his roommate until he saw the two strands of their power combining. The blond jolted for a moment. “You’re really, really strong,” Kevin said in a breathless tone. Good thing Jay used his lightest touch.

Focus on the triplets,” he ordered. He didn’t want Kevin to become distracted or even worse, detect the truth about Jay’s power.

Kevin turned to the trio. “Shit.” He snatched his hand away from Jay’s. “Is that what you see?”

Jay nodded.

The triplets pounced on that statement with eagerness.

“What?”

“What did you see?”

“How did we look?”

Kevin struggled to explain what he saw. “It was like there were different colored lights flowing around you. He’s right. You don’t look anything alike under the surface. Dean has more red bits swirling around, Dan has more blue, and Devin, you have a kinda white glow.”

The triplets turned their attention back to Jay. “Show us how to do that,” Dean said.

His brothers nodded their heads.

Before Jay could reply, Gnomes appeared out of nowhere. They filled the table with platters of bubbling hot pizzas along with pitchers of soda. Jay thanked them all in Gnome. They vanished as quickly as they’d arrived after bowing to Jay.

“This looks great.” Jay’s stomach gurgled in agreement.

He ate three pieces before he realized none of his roommates were eating. They were staring…at him.

“What?” he asked with his mouth full.

“How powerful are you?” Dean asked.

Jay shrugged. “They’re testing me tomorrow.”

He suspected none of them were prepared for Jay’s level of pure magic. Not many people knew what had happened to him, or what his father had done to make sure Jay survived. His father had always worried Jay would be turned into a pawn by people wanting to take advantage of his power. Maybe he should’ve researched what a usual student his age would know, then he wouldn’t keep getting the odd looks. As it was, he just wanted to take the least number of classes to graduate so he could get the hell out of there.

“Who’s the new guy?” A group of four girls walked up to the table and stared at Jay as if they’d never seen a man before. Jay rolled his eyes and grabbed another piece of pizza. The pizza was really good. He’d definitely be coming back here. It didn’t hurt that they could walk to there from campus.

“This is Jay,” Kevin introduced. “Jay, this is Lisa, Sara, Mara and Farra.”

Jay nodded and went back to eating. He couldn’t remember the last time something had tasted this good. It took him a moment before he realized Lisa was saying something to him.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” He might not care what the girls wanted, but he didn’t want to come across as rude. He’d only been there a few hours. It was too early to get a bad reputation. That would no doubt start after classes began and the others saw what he could do.

Her pretty face blushed. “I was asking if you wanted to go out some time.”

Jay wiped his mouth with a napkin. It was probably best to get this out in the open, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings by crushing her. She seemed like a nice girl, and if Jay liked girls, he’d be extremely flattered.

“Lisa, could you do me a favor?” Jay asked.

“Sure,” she said, leaning forward and exposed her cleavage. They were nice breasts—too bad he wasn’t into that kind of thing.

“Could you pass the word around that I prefer men?”

Lisa stood up straight. “You mean…”

“I’m gay, Lisa. Sorry.” He wasn’t really sorry. He was quite comfortable with his sexuality despite his inexperience. He just didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

“Oh.” Lisa blushed but nodded. “Sure, I could do that.”

Jay gave her a sympathetic smile. “Thanks, Lisa. I’m very flattered you thought of me as date-worthy. If I liked women, I’d be all over that offer.”

Lisa laughed, the tension visibly leaving her. “You’re welcome.” She lowered her voice. “I’ll make sure to spread the word so other girls don’t get any ideas. You’re very handsome, you know.”

“Thank you.” This time it was Jay’s turn to blush. After a few more words exchanged between the two parties, the women ran off.

Jay looked up from his pizza to see all four of his roommates staring at him again. “What is it about you four? You’re always staring like I’m some sort of freak.”

He tried to keep his annoyance to a minimum, but it was starting to wear on his nerves. Maybe he should request new roommates. At this point, it was probably too late to get re- assigned, but if they kept it up, he’d rent an apartment near school. He really should’ve thought of that option before. Grief for his father and granting his dad’s last request had haunted Jaynell until he came to the college solely to keep his promise rather than to get an education.

“She’s the hottest girl in school,” Dean said, in a low voice. “I’ve been trying to date her for weeks."

“Want me to set you up?”

Dean laughed. “I guess it’s a good thing you aren’t interested in women. I don’t think I could stand the competition.”

Jay was relieved to see none of his new roommates seemed to give a crap about him being gay. It could’ve become uncomfortable if any of them were prejudiced against gays. Jay shrugged. After pizza, he begged off doing anything else. He knew he needed his rest if he was going to be awake for his testing tomorrow.

“I’ll catch you guys later,” he said. He stood up and turned to leave only to slam into a mountain. It took him a moment to realize mountains probably didn’t wear tight denim and soft cotton shirts.

I’ve got you,” someone with a deep voice said above him. Jay looked up into the greenest eyes he’d ever seen; spring green like summer grass.

The man was gorgeous in an I-can-rip-your-head-­off kind of way. Muscles bulged beneath a fitted shirt, and the man towered at least half a foot above Jay’s five feet ten. Jay resisted the urge to rub his quickly hardening cock against the man like a dog in heat. He let out a strangled moan when the stranger grabbed Jay’s arms to steady him. The man’s fingers sent jolts of electricity directly to Jay’s cock.

“H-hello.” Jay’s ability to speak completely evaporated before the hotness of the man in front of him.

“Hello there.” Interest glowed in the man’s brilliant eyes.

Chapter Three



Thomas Sparks looked down at the man in his arms and barely resisted the urge to howl. Magic all but glowed off the smaller man, but it was his brown eyes with shards of blue that had Thomas entranced. He sniffed at the stranger, pleased when the sexy creature tilted his head back and let him.

The scent of sex and magic filled his nostrils until he couldn’t stop the growl rolling through his chest. Unable to resist, he licked a long line up the sleek neck. It took him a moment to realize two groups of people were trying to part him from the gorgeous creature in his arms. Idiots.

“Hey, man, he didn’t mean to run into you. He’s new,” a dishwater blond said in a coaxing voice like he was dealing with a lunatic. “Why don’t you let him go, and we’ll get out of here and leave you alone.”

Thomas frowned at the wizard. Why would he want them to go? He liked this guy right where he was. Thomas’s bed would be a better location, but other than that, he didn’t want the man to leave, especially if it took him out of Thomas’s arms.

“Thomas, you gotta let the pretty wizard go.” Larry tugged at Thomas’s shirt.

Thomas snarled at his brother. His wolf pushed close to surface, willing to hurt anyone who pulled him away from his mate. He needed to protect what was his.

With an assessing gaze, he noticed his pack preparing to spring and take him down while the wizards were pulling wands from their pockets.

“We can’t yank him from the wizard. He might hurt the man,” James, his oldest brother and Alpha said. “I’ve never seen him like this. Maybe he’s going feral.”

“I’m not going feral.” Thomas growled. “He’s my mate.”

He didn’t know if they understood him through the low rumble rolling through his voice, but he knew the man he held did.

The wizard jerked in his hold. “I can’t be anyone’s mate.”

“You’re mine.” No way would he accept denial of that fact even from his mate.

“Shit.” He wasn’t sure which side had said it, but he was pretty sure all the people around him reflected the sentiment.

“Bring him back to the pack house,” James said in a resigned voice.

“I can’t go with the pack. I have tests tomorrow,” the beautiful wizard said, his soft mouth firming in a stubborn line.

“I’ll make sure you get back in time.” Thomas slid a soothing hand down the wizard’s back. He’d swear anything to get the wizard to return to the pack house with him. The suspicious man in his arms apparently knew that too.

Those stunning eyes pinned him with a look. “Promise.”

“I vow on my shifter soul.” The beautiful wizard searched Thomas’s gaze for a moment as if truly examining his soul. He tried not to squirm beneath the imperious stare.

“All right. Tell Kevin where I’ll be so that if I don’t return, he’ll know where to start looking,” his mate demanded.

Thomas laughed, but no one else in the place smiled, not even the other wolves. He carefully spelled out his location to the wizards. Not that they could find it even if they tried. It was hidden except for pack and their mates.

Leaning down, he rubbed his check across the top of his mate’s silky hair, spreading his scent across his head.

“Let’s go home.” Not giving the wizard a chance to come up with any other excuses, he turned them toward the exit. Hopefully, the others could pick up the pizzas. He began to usher his mate through the doorway when a pair of gnomes zapped into view, loaded down with white boxes.

They handed the pizzas to his brothers, exchanged a few words in what he assumed was their native language with the gorgeous wizard, then popped out of sight.

“What did they say?” James asked.

The wizard blushed. “They said to feed me so I can keep my stamina up.”

Thomas laughed. “Wise gnomes.”

He kept hold of the back of the wizard’s neck as he led him out to the limos. He didn’t trust his mate not to make a run for it. Thomas didn’t know how wizards felt about bonding outside their species, but wolves would accept anyone whom the gods blessed as a mate.

“You took limos to get pizza?” the wizard asked.

“We have people drive us everywhere. They aren’t always limos. We need someone else to drive in case we have unexpected shifting. Wolves can’t drive cars.” More than a few accidents had occurred when weres changed in vehicles. Those packs that could afford the expense had drivers. Most of the time, werekin could control their urges, but unexpected shifting had happened enough times that most packs took precautions.

The wizard nodded. “Makes sense.”

“What’s your name?” James asked. Thomas wanted to smack himself in the face. Here was his mate, and he couldn’t collect enough brain cells to ask the man his name.

“Jaynell Marley. People call me Jay.”

“I’m Thomas Sparks, and I will call you Mine,” Thomas growled. He opened the limo door and ushered the wizard into the vehicle.

When James tried to climb in after him, Thomas flashed his fangs.

“You don’t want to challenge me, little brother,” James warned, his eyes flaring gold as his inner wolf peered out.

Thomas felt power fill him as he stared down his brother, his Alpha. “Today, I will challenge anyone who tries to take what is mine.”

The thought of anyone else pressed against Jay made his inner wolf ready to rip people apart.

“Fuck. His eyes are glowing,” Larry said. “Must be the wizard’s influence.”

“Because of your mating, I will defer and ride in another car,” James allowed.

Thomas tried to look grateful, but mostly he was resisting the urge to rip off his brother’s head and beat him with it. He forced himself to give his brother a polite nod before climbing into the limo and sliding next to his mate.


Jay wondered how he’d gone from eating pizza with his new roommates to being kidnapped by a werewolf pack. Not that he minded if it involved sex with the gorgeous creature beside him. Jay had waited a long time to have sex and he was more than ready.

“We are going to have sex, aren’t we?” Jay asked, blushing. He wondered what the shifter would think of his body. Not all of him was pretty to see. Maybe if he stayed on his back, Thomas wouldn’t see all the damage.

“Eventually.” Thomas slid across the long leather seat of the limo. A feral light glowed in his eyes as they latched onto Jay like he was the world’s best treat.

Jay moaned as Thomas yanked him into his lap. When Jay straddled Thomas, he grabbed Jay’s hips and yanked him closer. If they had been naked, their erections would be sliding against each other. Before he could comment, Thomas cupped his face and kissed him.

Thomas didn’t just kiss, he plundered. He investigated every inch of Jay’s mouth, entwining his tongue with Jay’s with the thoroughness of a detective at a crime scene. Drowning in lust, Jay moaned and rubbed restlessly against the body beneath him. He needed less clothing and more flesh. He whimpered against Thomas’s lips, trying to convey his frustration. He slid his hands under Thomas’s cotton shirt, savoring the silky skin beneath his fingers.

He pulled back.

“What?” Thomas’s expression, puzzled and a little hurt, tugged at Jay’s heart. “Don’t you want me to kiss you?”

“Um.” Jay scrambled to grasp at his thoughts, but they scattered like leaves tumbling with the wind. He needed to say something, but he couldn’t remember what had been so important to stop kissing over. He moaned as Thomas bit his neck. Shivers of need rippled up and down Jay’s spine, making his skin feel too tight for his body as prickles danced across his flesh.

Thomas licked Jay’s neck with his rough tongue, ripping a groan from the depths of Jay’s soul. His body tingled with a desperate, hungry need outside his usual experience.

“Please,” Jay begged. He clutched at Thomas trying to keep him closer. Nothing was more important at that moment than the taste, feel and scent of Thomas. Everything else could wait.

“Anything you want, my one. Anything at all.” Thomas’s growl rolled up his chest, vibrating between their bodies.

“Touch me,” Jay gasped, pressing his body against the gorgeous man above him.

Thomas dipped his head and bit down on Jay’s jugular. “Mine,” he growled when he lifted his mouth.

Jay cried out. Wetness spread across the front of his pants as he spurted out his release. “Fuck.”

His bones almost melted from the heat of that encounter.

Thomas said, nipping Jay’s ear, “Unfortunately, fucking will have to wait until later.”

After he regained his equilibrium, Jay realized the limo was slowing down. They must’ve reached their destination. He took a few slow breaths, hoping to bring his pounding heart back to a normal rhythm. No doubt the shifters would hear it beating like a frightened rabbit and think they scared him. Jay didn’t worry about his safety in a pack of shifters. Not only could he handle himself but Thomas wouldn’t let anything happen if he wanted to claim Jay. He might not know a lot about shifters, but he knew they were protective of anyone they considered a mate.

Thomas’s shy smile was completely at odds with the aggressive man of moments ago. “Sorry about making you come without a change of clothes.”

“No problem.” Jay waved his hand as he whispered a word of power. The scent of flowers filled the air. Jay’s pants cleaned and dried beneath a quick whirlwind of magic that swept through the limo within seconds.

Thomas flashed his canines, his eyes going feral. “What was that?” he asked after the breeze faded.

“I’m not going to walk into a group of shape shifters soaked in cum,” Jay snapped. “I’m sorry if you don’t like magic.”

Thomas lifted his hands in a placating gesture. “I wasn’t criticizing. I just wasn’t expecting it. I’m not used to people doing magic. Werekin are magic, but we can’t do magic.”

“Huh.” Jay didn’t know what to say. It had never occurred to him that magic would be strange to a person who could turn into a completely different animal. Jay had always been taught that magic existed in all living beings. He had known shifters couldn’t perform magic, but he didn’t know they had had limited exposure as well.

Before he could pursue this line of questioning, the limo came to a complete stop, and moments later, the driver opened the door.

Thomas climbed out first. He turned to hold out his hand and help Jay from the vehicle.

“I’m not a girl, you know,” Jay teased.

“Don’t argue,” Thomas growled. “It’s in my nature to take care of my mate.”

Jay shivered at the shifter’s possessive tone. Damn, what had he gotten himself into? He had thought hot shifter sex would be a great way to break out of his shell. He hadn’t expected to be permanently claimed.

“We need to discuss this mate thing.”

After becoming free of the connection with his father, Jay had no wish to ever be bonded to another person again. Dating sure, maybe living together, but not permanently connected. He’d had enough life force bonding with his father.

“There’s nothing to discuss.” Thomas’s expression dared Jay to argue.

The foolish man apparently thought Jay could be easily cowed. Biting back words he might regret, Jay let Thomas help him out of the car without further comment.

The shifter retained his grip on Jay’s hand as he led him to the steps of a sprawling mansion. It wasn’t what he expected of a pack house.

The Victorian monstrosity towering above him looked more like something vampires would inhabit, not a pack of wolves. His opinion changed once he stepped inside. For such a large interior, it had a cozy feel with overstuffed leather furnishings and natural wooden floors. Jay dragged his attention away from the exposed rafters to find a dozen wolves, in their human form, staring at him with a startling intensity. Unconsciously, he stepped closer to Thomas, gripping his hand a little tighter.

Despite his onset of nerves, Jay didn’t look away. He met each wolf’s stare with one of his own. His father’s advice whispered through his mind.

Never back down. You’re strong enough to match anyone.’

The last shifter growled at Jay when they locked gazes. He recognized him as Thomas’s brother. The Alpha. Shit. It was too late to look away. The Alpha’s words confirmed Jay’s worries.

“Your mate is challenging me,” the big shifter said in a gravelly voice.

Thomas tilted Jay’s head up to him so his gaze filled with the werewolf’s face.

“He’s my mate,” he said proudly. “He’s a powerful man in his own right.”

“So with him by your side, you seek to become Alpha?” the other werewolf demanded.


Thomas turned his attention from his mate to give his brother a puzzled look.

“No, but I can’t ask him to be less than he is. I will always defer to you, but he isn’t pack. He is Other.”

“He’s going to get his Other ass kicked if he doesn’t learn his place,” James growled.

Jay’s eyes began to glow. As the smaller man started a gesture he was certain would toss his brother on his ass, he quickly grabbed Jay’s hand.

“I’m taking him upstairs. We’ll be back down later for dinner.” Before his brother could object, he dragged Jay up the winding staircase to the second floor. It would be a balancing act to keep his gorgeous wizard from hurting his brother. The thought both amused him and scared him to his core.

“I could’ve taken him.” The quiet confidence in his mate’s voice told Thomas he’d gotten Jay away from his brother just in time.

Thomas pulled Jay into his suite. He locked the door behind them so no one would interrupt. Privacy wasn’t a big deal for pack mates, but he had a feeling his wizard would take a dim view of a wolf wandering into their bedroom while they were being intimate. The close proximity of his mate and his bed was enough to completely derail Thomas’s thoughts as his cock hardened and begged for attention. With a great deal of effort, he focused on their conversation.

“It wouldn’t be good for pack politics if you kicked my brother’s ass, even if he did deserve it.” Thomas pulled Jay close and lapped at his throat, imprinting the flavor of his mate onto his soul.

“Sorry, I’ll try to resist the urge to annihilate him.”

The wry twist of Jay’s lips told Thomas his mate was only sort of kidding.

“I have to live with him for a while yet. A wolf can’t live without a pack.” Clutching Jay tighter, Thomas swept Jay’s sweet mouth with his tongue. Damn, he tasted good.

After several pleasant moments of kissing, Jay leaned back. “Why is he Alpha?”

Thomas frowned, not understanding the question. “Because he’s the oldest and the strongest.” That was how it worked in packs unless the oldest was weak. His brother might be an asshole sometimes, but he wasn’t weak.

“You’re stronger.”

Thomas shrugged. He didn’t try to deny the truth. Technically his wolf was stronger than James’s, but he didn’t have the drive to devote his life to the pack. Most people didn’t understand it took more than physical strength to be a leader of shifters.

“Maybe, but I don’t want the job. You have to be willing to sacrifice everything for the good of the pack. James has the hunger to lead and be in charge. I’ve never wanted to be top wolf.”

“What do you want out of life?” Jay’s expression, questioning instead of censoring, had Thomas relaxing. He hadn’t realized how much his mate’s response mattered to him. If Jay had pushed for Thomas to take over the Alpha position, he would’ve worried if the fates had chosen the right partner for him.

Thomas stepped forward and brushed Jay’s hair away from his face. He decided it would be better to let the wizard know up front how little ambition he had to take over the world. If Jay had plans for being a leader in the supernatural community, Thomas would support him, but Jay should know Thomas didn’t have any dream of becoming involved in politics.

“The only thing I’ve ever wanted was to find the mate of my dreams and settle down.”

Jay’s smile, quick and bright, dazzled Thomas like a bolt of lightning leaving the impression of its brilliance imprinted on his eyes.

“So now that you found me, your life’s complete?” The wizard’s teasing tone made Thomas sigh.

He hoped he wasn’t about to ruin everything, but honesty was important. Thomas took Jay’s hands in his own and looked into his mate’s brilliant eyes. “Yes. Now that I’ve met you, my life’s complete,” he answered honestly.

Jay blushed, a brilliant rose color Thomas found utterly enchanting.


Looking around the room, Jay frantically tried to think of something to say. Things were getting too serious, too fast. Jay was far from ready to settle down. Freedom was a new, hard-won experience, and he was going to cling to it for as long as he could. However, it was one thing to know that he didn’t want to be bound to another person, and another to tell it to this man who’d waited his entire life for Jay to wander by.

Thomas’s smile brought new meaning to the word wolfish.

“I can smell your panic, my mate. Don’t worry. I’m not quite ready to keep you for myself. An untrained wizard can be a dangerous thing, and I want you to be fully in control of your powers before you become one of my pack. I won’t do anything to prevent you from finishing your schooling.”

“One of the pack? I’m going to become a werewolf?” Jay couldn’t keep the panicky tone from his voice. He had enough on his plate without worrying about becoming an entirely different creature. The thought of having triple magic and also shifting into an animal made him shiver. His magic pulsed beneath his skin, poking at him like a million pinpricks trying to seep through his skin.

Thomas laughed for a long time. Really, the tears weren’t necessary.

“You can’t become a shifter any more than I can become a wizard. You’re either born one or not.”

“It was just a question.” Jay pouted. The rush of relief soothed him and settled the magic ruffled by his panic. Although his father had ingrained various languages and culture into his brain since birth, it occurred to Jay that his knowledge of shifters was strangely lax. He thought about that for a bit, but was distracted when Thomas pulled him into his arms. He had no doubt the shifter would be more than happy to educate him.

“Aww. Come here.” Thomas wrapped his long arms around Jay. He wondered if the cleaning staff would mind mopping up his puddle of goo. It was hard to keep his irritation when he was being snuggled like a favorite teddy bear. “You know that I would never laugh at you, my mate,” Thomas said, his deep voice low and intimate in Jay’s ear.

“I don’t know you well enough for me to know what you would or wouldn’t do.” Jay knew it would be easy to give up everything for the soothing comfort of Thomas’s arms. It frightened him how much he would do for a man he’d met only minutes before. Maybe the mating pull worked on both sides of the equation. He certainly couldn’t imagine walking out of the pack house and never going back.

Thomas held Jay away a bit so he could look into his eyes. “I would never do anything to harm or humiliate you. That is my vow to you.”

“Do most werekin find their mate?” He didn’t know if any of the shifters downstairs were mated, but none of them had objected when Thomas had declared Jay as his.

“No.” Thomas’s smile glowed with joy. He looked at Jay as if he were the best treasure ever. “Most werekin never find the one fated to be theirs. I was one of the lucky ones.”

“I’m glad you found me.” Jay wasn’t quite ready to help Thomas pick out furniture and curtains, but he didn’t want to crush the guy either.


Thomas watched his mate for a long while. There couldn’t be a werekin in the pack who wasn’t jealous of him at this moment. Not only had he found his mate, but Jay was an extremely hot man. His mate had so much power that Thomas could feel it prickle across his skin like a live wire. How much of that was their mating connection, and how much was Jay’s magic, Thomas didn’t know, but he had plenty of years to figure it out.

Jay leaned forward and kissed Thomas, short-circuiting every thought in his brain. Heat poured down his spine as the lip-to-lip contact spread warmth throughout his body. His inner wolf growled happily. Unable to bear the distance between them, he gripped Jay’s hips, pulling him closer.

Reluctantly, Thomas broke the connection, ignoring his beast’s whimper.

“We can’t.”

“What do you mean we can’t? Of course, we can.” Jay stroked a hand through Thomas’s hair, and he damn well almost came from the contact. He forced a bit of space between them even as his instincts urged him to yank Jay closer and claim the man born to be his.

He loved being petted.

No!

He had to focus. Shaking his head, he stepped farther away from his mate. Thomas took a deep breath. “We can’t have sex until you promise to be mine forever.”

“What! But we just met!” Jay glared at Thomas. “I think we could have sex first to find out if we’re compatible.”

Thomas shook his head. “If I have sex with you, we will be mated for life because you are the one destined to be mine, and if you decide later you don’t want me, I’ll be doomed to spend the rest of my life alone. I won’t be able to have sex with anyone else because my body will always be yearning for you.”

He’d known of more than one wolf whose life had turned into hell on earth because he’d jumped into sex with his mate before they’d reached an agreement. Wizards were particularly tricky. They could break a bond and leave without any repercussions.

Jay frowned. “I’m not trying to mess up your life. If abstaining will prevent us from bonding, maybe we should hold off. But does that mean we can’t do anything?”

No.” Thomas shook his head. “We can rub off. As long as I don’t fuck you or swallow your cum, we won’t bond. But even if we don’t fuck and I eventually match with another mate-less werekin, I will always yearn for you.”

After meeting his mate, Thomas knew he would ache for Jay for the rest of his life. He’d heard of shifters who could survive the loss of their mate, but they never enjoyed their life, only existed. Memories of the hollow look in his uncle’s eyes still haunted Thomas all these years later.

Jay paled. “I need a book on shifters. My knowledge of your people is pretty slim.”

“I’d be more than happy to give you one of the primers we give to our young.” The pack library was pretty extensive. It was designed to give shifters something to concentrate on beside their constantly fluctuating hormones.

Jay let out a shaky breath. “Thanks, I’d appreciate that. If we’re going to eventually be mates, I’ll need to learn about your customs.”

“I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” Thomas rushed to say, worried he was putting too much pressure on their new relationship.

“Since you’re placing all your cards on the table, I guess I should too.” Without warning, Jay stripped off his shirt and turned around.

Chapter Four



Thomas gasped. Dozens of tiny symbols were branded into Jay’s back. Each one glowed slightly as if embedded with magic. Bile rose in Thomas’s throat. The pain must’ve been excruciating. It took several minutes of hard swallowing before he was certain he could talk without emptying the contents of his stomach.

“Who did this to you?” He couldn’t imagine any reason to cause this amount of pain to another person or have it done. Anger had his claws popping out of the tips of his fingers. His wolf wanted out to protect his mate from whatever monster dared to mar Jay’s perfect skin. Whatever had happened to Jay, it had been carefully planned. Each group of marks aligned in exact rows both horizontally and vertically.

Jay turned to face Thomas. The pain in his eyes twisted Thomas up inside. He took Jay’s hands into his and pulled the wizard onto his lap where he belonged. “Tell me what happened.”

After a long pause, Jay spoke in a soft tone. If Thomas didn’t have enhanced hearing, he doubted he’d have heard what his mate said. “Each wizard is born with a Diviner in attendance, a magic user who can read a newborn wizard’s future. My mother had a bad heart and died at my birth, passing her magic on to me. The Diviner told my father I would die, due to magic sickness, unless he performed the Rite of a Hundred Flames. To save my life, my father branded me with pieces of his magic, binding his life force with mine so I would be strong enough to survive. When I reached one hundred brands, my father’s life force gave out.”

“By the goddess, I’ve never heard such a thing before.” Thomas brushed Jay’s back with the tips of his fingers. The tears in his mate’s eyes tore him up in sympathy. He couldn’t even imagine the devotion Jay’s father must’ve had for his son. It also explained the magic all but crackling the air around him.

“My father gave up his life so that I could live.” Tears dripped down Jay’s face.

“Shh, don’t cry, mate.” Thomas kissed Jay’s cheeks, swiping at Jay’s tears with his thumbs as he cupped Jay’s face between his hands. “Your father was very brave and would’ve wanted you to have a happy life.”

Jay swallowed audibly. “What I’m trying to tell you is that two people have already given their lives for me. It would kill me if you were to be the third. I’m a bad bet, Thomas. I know you’re excited to find your mate, but I’m dangerous. I don’t have the magical power of one person. I have the magical strength of three. I could lose my temper and kill you.”

“They willingly gave their lives because they wanted to, Jay, not because you made them. Do you know what that story tells me?”

Jay shook his head.

“It tells me you had two amazing parents who knew you would grow up and do great things. I’d like to be the person to stand at your side while you do them.”

“Thanks.” Jay’s eyes glowed slightly, a sexily eerie sight. “I don’t know if I’m worth that level of devotion, but I’m too weak to give you up when we just met.”

Thomas kissed Jay on the lips, keeping the embrace sweet and light. “We’ll take it easy, my mate. As much as I yearn to claim you and keep you as my own, I don’t want you to stay with me out of obligation or pity. When I claim you, it will be because you have decided that I’m the only one for you, not because you want to spare me a lifetime of pain. I won’t be one more burden on your soul. Just promise me that while you’re deciding our fate, you won’t go to another. I might not be able to handle another man touching you. I don’t want to leave the campus strewn with the bodies of promising wizards.”

The smile he got was breathtaking in its sweetness.

“That I can promise,” Jay said. “Right now, I have enough to worry about with starting a new school and dealing with roommates.”

This was going better than Thomas could have hoped. His mate hadn’t run screaming when he’d learned Thomas wanted him to be his one and only. He considered that a promising beginning.

“Do you have classes tomorrow?”

“I have my entrance exams at noon,” Jay confessed with a sheepish smile. “I have to find out what level they want me to begin my studies at.”

I’m sure you’ll do well.” After all, hadn’t he just said he had the magic of three people? “I’d like to keep you here tonight so we can get to know each other. I promise to get you back to school in time for your classes.”

Jay appeared to think it over for a moment before nodding. “Okay, sounds good. It’ll be better if I get to know you before we make any firm decisions anyway.”

“Sure.” Thomas didn’t have to make any decisions. Jay had been chosen by fate to belong to him. If the wizard wanted to pretend they had any choice in the matter, Thomas wouldn’t make any waves, but he would still do everything he could to persuade Jay to see things his way.

Thomas kissed Jay, making sure to rub his hands up and down Jay’s bare back. When they had dinner with the pack, he wanted Jay to be saturated with his scent.

When they finally broke apart, Thomas smiled at the dazed expression in Jay’s eyes. He cupped Jay’s crotch to confirm.

“Yes, I’m hard.” Jay laughed and moved a step away.

“Hmm, let me see.”

Jay’s fingers shook as he unfastened his pants and slid down the zipper.

Thomas growled at the sight of Jay’s underwear.

“What?”

“You shouldn’t have anything barring my way.”

“I’m not going without underwear; I’ll rub my dick raw.”

“I do fine without it.”

“Well, obviously, you’re a big tough wolf and I’m a wimpy wizard, but I’m keeping my underwear.”

Thomas lifted Jay off his lap and yanked down both pants and underwear with one quick jerk. “Step out,” he ordered.

“You’re bossy,” Jay complained.

“I’m extremely bossy.” He slapped Jay’s calves to get him to move.

Laughing, Jay stepped out of his garments.

Thomas lifted his face and inhaled the rich scent of his mate. Jay’s cock bobbed, tempting him with a drop of nectar. Thomas’s canines pricked his bottom lip as he resisted the urge to swallow his mate down.

“You smell amazing.”


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