“You have to leave now… Yes, now. Please,” Tommy heard through a haze of sleep. He opened his eyes only half-way, trying to bring the room into focus, but the dim light coming through the crack of the curtain was enough for the piercing headache to announce its presence. He quickly shut his eyes and moaned disapprovingly. His mind caught up a little slower, registering that the bed moved next to him and he now understood why he saw a naked woman sliding out from under the covers.
“I left my number… Call me whenever,” he heard her voice and he just grunted as an answer, pulling the cover over his messy head. He knew he’d never see her again. Not that she wasn’t great last night, but it was just that – another one night stand after he healed enough.
Once the woman was out of his room and flat he heard the source of the previous male voice come closer to the bed and suddenly the cover was pulled off his head and body.
“Come on, Tommy, it’s time to get up!”
“Shut up, Tay and let me sleep!” he growled back putting the pillow over his head, not caring about his white ass being on display.
“That’s not gonna happen!” he said and grabbed one of Tommy’s ankles, pulling him towards the edge of the bed.
“Lemme go!” Tommy growled louder and Taylor’s vision was suddenly blackened by the pillow landing in his face. He threw it on the floor and snorted disapprovingly, but he let Tommy’s ankle go.
The blond sighed relieved and closed his eyes to go back to sleep, but of course he couldn’t as he could feel the young wolf glare holes into him.
“What do you want?” he huffed giving up and crawled to the nightstand to take a few painkillers and drink some water from a bottle.
“Your sister sent me to shake you awake and get you back to Adam’s house,” Taylor said much calmer, hands in the front pockets of his worn jeans.
Tommy turned and glared at him with a disapproving snort. “I’m not a kid anymore.”
“She thought you’d say this and told me to tell you that then you should stop acting like one,” he said softly and a little cautiously as Tommy was still his beta and Taylor was barely a young adult in the pack. The blonde’s warning growl made him drop his shoulders and turn his eyes downward. “Sorry, these were her words.”
“But you agree with her,” Tommy snorted grabbing his briefs and put them on while he tried to ignore the throbbing in his head. Soon it’d ease up anyways thanks to the pills and the quick metabolism and healing abilities of wolves.
“I… I just don’t understand why you are trying to defy our new alpha all the time. He… he seems like a good guy who cares about his pack… about us too. He… he tries to make sure we are comfortable in our new positions and if we have everything we might need. He closely watches our progress of fitting in, trying to make it as easy as possible…”
“If he’s so great then what do you need me for?”
“Tommy!” Taylor exclaimed on a wounded voice. “You are still our beta! We love you… and miss you. Don’t you miss us? We still have our insecurities in this new pack and you are not there to ease those. You know that we look up to you… Or you don’t care about us anymore?” he asked very quietly and hurt and as Tommy glimpsed at the young boy he saw the edges of his mouth turn downwards and his lip quivering as he fixed his gaze on the floor. It was clear that even the possibility made Taylor fight with his tears.
His words were like a wake up call for Tommy and he sighed deeply as he stood and walked over. Taylor’s first instinct was to pull away and it hurt Tommy. Just when did he become someone around whom his pack members had to walk on eggshells? Oh right, since his father was killed by this “nice guy”. But Tommy had to admit that Taylor was right. In his grief and anger he started neglecting his own people and that wasn’t how a good beta should behave. The blonde pulled the slightly taller boy into a hug and let him melt against him.
“Of course I care about you. I’m sorry, you’re right. You need me there. I just… needed some time alone. To deal with stuff…” he sighed and he was glad that he could barely feel his ribs anymore. The perks of healing fast. He knew that the rest of his injuries were already gone. “Let me take a piss and eat something then we can go,” he stepped back and returned the small smile and nod he got from Taylor.
He has to pull himself together. This isn’t only about him. It never was.
There was quiet rain outside and the dark-grey clouds were slowly rolling across the LA sky. Most of the lights were on in Adam’s huge house because of the dark weather and from that Tommy knew that the pack retreated into the building from the rain. Getting out of Taylor’s car they hurried up to the main door and entered the house. Tommy kicked off his boots and left it among the dozens of other shoes in the hall. His leather-jacket shared the same fate then he walked in front of the younger wolf, sniffing out where most of the pack was.
The moment he entered the room he noticed the sudden tension radiating from his sister but most of all from Adam. Of course the gathered part of the pack could feel it right away too. He stood from the armchair he’s been sitting in while chatting with Violet and another female from the LA pack, and fixed his eyes on Tommy.
“Ratliff, come here,” he said on a forced calm voice and his stance screamed alpha-mode.
Tommy had no other choice as it was a direct order from his new alpha and his wolf wasn’t in the mood to defy his orders. Yet. The blonde shook his hair out of his face and looked up straight into Adam’s eyes instead of averting them since he knew well why the alpha greeted him like this.
“You ignored my order and left after the hierarchy fights just to come back reeking of booze and pussy…” he started with a frown and Tommy could feel his alpha power prickling his skin. A faint urge to cast his eyes downward and bare his neck nudged him at the edge of his mind, but he stomped on it and kept looking up at Adam, lips pressed into a thin line. “I know it’s been a rough few weeks for you and the fights weren’t easy either, but you know I can’t overlook that,” Adam continued with a strict expression on his face.
“What’ll you do then? Beat me? Fight me?” Tommy growled low, his eyes coming a bit more alive from the possibility of kicking this guy’s ass. Even if he knew Adam was stronger than him.
The alpha managed to conceal the slight surprise in his eyes. Did Tommy really think so little of him? “Misbehaving wolves need punishment to know their places and take their alpha’s orders without hesitation,” Adam shook his head and within a blink of an eye his hand shot up to capture the back of Tommy’s neck, squeezing hard enough that his elongated nails dug into the pale skin.
The bottle blond felt the alpha power and Adam’s wolf stronger and his own beast whimpered wanting to submit to him. What the hell was it doing? Tommy couldn’t help the sharp pang of betrayal he felt from its reaction.
“It’s not just for the alpha. It’s for the sake of the whole pack,” Adam continued and sent a hot wave of his power over Tommy.
The blonde’s knees buckled from it and he quite easily fell to them when Adam pushed him downwards by his captured nape. He knew the dark-haired man was right and he deserved whatever he was about to do with him. If there was a life-death situation or a threat to the pack and he disobeyed, he’d have jeopardized the life of many with his insubordination. Still, he didn’t know what made his wolf seem to accept the alpha’s authority. Tommy could feel the lack of need to defy him and snarl at Adam and his wolf like it did the night his father, their alpha was killed. The blonde didn’t know what’d changed, but there must have been something to make his wolf react like this. Was he too stubborn to listen to his beast? Because clearly it was trying to tell Tommy something it figured out. That has to be the explanation to his behavior.
“What is my punishment then?” he asked hating how Adam’s power made him drop his gaze to the ground. He was staring at the alpha’s naked feet and fingernails which were painted black. Those damned freckles were everywhere and Tommy hated them a little as they meant he was close enough to Adam to see them. He swallowed hard while waiting for the verdict, his nails lightly scratching the surface of the dark hardwood floor in the middle of the room. He could clearly feel the gazes of the other pack members and knew that the silence was so complete that a needle being dropped would’ve been heard.
Adam inhaled sharply before answering, his burning energy filling the room and pressing against the walls as if it tried to tumble them. Of course it made each and every pair of eyes look at him submissively – except Tommy’s, who was still fixing his gaze on the floor before him. “Look at me,” he demanded and the blonde reluctantly lifted his glowing gold eyes at the towering male. “If you really want to stay my beta, you’ll stay on your knees like this until you show signs of regret and you submit to my will,” he said and Tommy had to swallow from the power behind his piercing blue eyes and his strict words. He knew Adam had the power to banish him from the pack and make him a lone wolf without protection. It was all there in those words and Tommy cringed from the possibility.
The punishment was better and worse than he expected. It was less serious in the physical meaning. He knew the fights from last night took a lot out of him and he wasn’t fully recovered yet as far as his strength went. Risking a fight with the rested and much stronger alpha – or even with Sutan or one of the other betas – would’ve sucked. It was worse in the meaning that the punishment was to humiliate Tommy and stop him from defying his new alpha. It was forcing his will on him. Or at least the blonde wanted to think of it that way, even if he knew Adam wasn’t really using his power to make him submit. No, he wanted Tommy to do that from his own free will by regretting what he’d done. A feeling from his wolf seeped into the smaller male’s thoughts and he had to agree with it – another alpha probably wouldn’t have left him this much freedom. They would’ve forced him into submission. Maybe… just maybe the others were right and Adam really wasn’t such a bad alpha.
“Do you still want to be my second beta and part of this pack?” he heard Adam from above and he instinctively dropped his gaze from the tone he used, but his body remained tense.
“Yes,” he muttered.
“Then act like one,” he said and Tommy could practically feel Adam’s attention turn from him as he stepped behind him. The hold on the back of his neck never eased up while the dark-haired man continued the conversation he had previously started with the females. It was as if nothing was going on besides that.
Tommy felt anger boiling up in him for a second, but he stomped it down. Instead he watched closely how his wolf reacted to the warm touch and steady pressure on his naked skin, keeping him down but not pushing further, just holding him there. The wolf in him appeared to be more interested than pissed off for being forced to stay put. To Tommy’s horror he even let out a playful yip in his mind. By pressing his lips together, the blonde made sure it didn’t manifest physically. He was about to scold his beast when Adam’s power – and through it the black wolf too – pulsed through Tommy in a slow but steady wave. It filled Tommy’s senses with warmth, but not from the unpleasant burning kind, and his nose with the scent of the summer forest.
He was so surprised that he wanted to twist his head to look up at Adam, but the hold on the back of his nape tightened. Adam didn’t even pause in his talk about the use of different healing herbs. So Tommy didn’t have much choice. He just turned his head back and stared at the floor. Was it his imagination? Or did Adam smell it too? Feel the spreading warmth? It was similar but still slightly different from that certain ‘safety’ and ‘home’ warmth that pack members could feel around each other – especially if touching physically. First even Tommy misread it, but the more he concentrated on it, the stronger the difference got. He heard Adam take a shuddering breath and his hold loosening for a second before he regained control over his body and senses and that strange scent and feeling slowly faded into the background.
Tommy was confused and intrigued at the same time. And pissed at his wolf, who was about to roll on his back to bare his belly for the big black wolf inside Adam. The hair on the back of his neck was still standing on end so Tommy knew the alpha wolf was watching them.
This is ridiculous, the blond thought to himself. He wanted this ‘humiliation’ to end, but slowly he realized what the alpha already knew: only Tommy could stop it. It was up to him to decide how long he wanted to stretch it with his stubbornness. Like a good alpha, Adam wanted him to learn by himself. Not with – so to say (and pun intended) – pushing Tommy’s nose into the problem at hand.
He suddenly felt like a silly pup again. When his father had to use the same methods on his stubborn son to admit if he did something wrong. He remembered the countless lectures he got from him until he rose to his beta position in his old pack. His mother used to complain about Tommy’s stubbornness too. And they were usually right.
He sighed and fisted his hands on the floor, head hung low and eyes hidden behind his long fringe. He didn’t dare to look up and see who was still watching him. The whole room appeared to be busy talking to each other, but he knew that they were keeping an eye on him too just as much as Adam did, even if he was standing there seemingly relaxed and casual. Tommy could nearly hear their questions in his head, although he made sure he blocked out everyone else from his mind. ‘Will he submit?,’ ‘Will he regret it?,’ ‘Will he become an outcast if he continues like this?,’ ‘Is he good for our pack at all?’.
And really, what was he doing? Weakening them instead of trying to live with the opportunity this bigger pack held. Sure, his heart was still aching for the loss of his father and his old pack, but they were survivors by nature. Instead of dwelling on the past, he should stop being such a pain in the ass for the pack and look forward. He had to remind himself that it wasn’t only about him. It was about Taylor, Lisa, Bridget, Mike, Violet and all the other wolves too. They were one pack now and Tommy was a problem, a weak link that could be exploited in the case of an attack.
Another silent sigh passed his lips and he pressed his eyes tighter together while he slowly gave in to the hold on the back of his neck. He let the tension leave each muscle one by one. He was wrong once again. He should be wiser by now… He shouldn’t make such mistakes. He should be able to put his personal feelings aside. Maybe he could stay being a pain in the ass, but only for Adam and not the pack. He’s much cleverer than this. It won’t make him look weak if he gave in… His wolf didn’t think so either. It was beginning to want to please their new alpha…
His mixed thoughts were interrupted by the stronger scent of the summer forest. The more he went pliant under Adam’s touch, the stronger it invaded his senses and made his wolf practically purr and nuzzle to the back of Tommy’s neck where his skin was connected to Adam’s burning hand. It was surreal and insane, but he didn’t fight it anymore just gave in.
He knew exactly when Adam’s heavy gaze fell on him again. He felt the power burning the top of his head and the others quieted down too. Tommy had no idea just how much time passed until his hands flattened out on the floor too. His internal struggle vanished nearly completely and he felt serene, like in a trance, under the heavy gaze of his alpha. He kept in a small happy whine from his wolf when he felt Adam’s fingertips move a little. It felt like a praising stroke. His head was still bent and by then lazy waves of submission rolled off him, letting Adam know that he’d understood, that he’d try not to be a burden to the pack anymore. Tommy knew that the alpha could clearly feel all of it. Tommy could nearly see behind his eyelids the way his own power was creeping up on Adam’s long arm, giving him the information he was waiting for.
He didn’t move when he felt Adam step in front of him again. “Is there something else you want to say?” he heard the slightly hoarser question from the alpha.
The blonde lifted his head and with a small jerk of it he let his long fringe fall out of his eye as he bared his throat for the alpha, but his eyes stayed downcast. “I’m sorry. I understood,” he said quietly, still pliant under the searching gaze.
“Good. I accept your apology and submission,” Adam said just as quietly and let his fingers slide from Tommy’s nape to his throat, squeezing lightly for a second before he slid it up to his chin and further to one side of the pale cheeks.
Tommy’s nails lightly scratched against the floor once again as he felt Adam fondly caress his cheek with the back of his hand. Although it wasn’t uncommon for an alpha to show his appreciation through touch, the blonde was shocked by the tingling feeling on his heating skin and that certain hot summer smell getting stronger once more. His wolf was practically begging for them to bare their bellies too, but before he could even comprehend the urge, the magical moment was broken by Adam pulling his hand away as he stepped back.
“Stick around, Tommy. Get used to the others,” he heard the alpha’s gentle voice and he nodded while the outside world rushed back to his senses and that strange smell melted into the background. It didn’t disappear fully though.
Slightly flushed, the beta stood and headed towards the back of the room where he smelled food and drinks on a table. He reached for a bottle of Jack Daniels and a glass, pouring himself a nice amount. He needed it now. He could still feel some eyes on him, but he ignored them as he downed half of the strong drink. His skin was still burning where Adam touched him and he wasn’t sure if his wolf liked the feeling, or he himself.
As he turned around to face the room with wolves sitting in armchairs, on sofas and on the floor his eyes jumped to Adam’s form. He was sitting in his armchair again, lightly laughing on something Tommy didn’t pay attention to. As if he knew Tommy was watching him, suddenly he looked at him with his clear blue eyes and the blonde held the glass a little tighter as he realized: they both liked that feeling.