The next morning Corey put his phone away with a deep sigh. At least they could reschedule those two gigs they are missing. Good thing in the bad that Jim's wounds from the silver spear looked horrible for human eyes. So the tour manager had no objections when they fed him the story about thieves attacking them.
The sun was just rising as he was done with the last call to the venues. It was nice out in the balcony looking at the sun filling up the sleepy little town with life. And inside the room his sleeping mate just made him smile more.
Maybe he should wake up the big bad wolf, he giggled to himself as he entered the room. A good run under the full moon and some romance and mating with his mate for life was always something that made his mood for a while. Even if it happened after a bloodbath. They will talk that over too if Jim wants. But now, Corey just gonna kiss his face till he wakes.
Jim soon started to stir a bit from said kisses, making a pleased grumbling sound, because only one person could kiss his face like that. His mate. "Morning..." Jim lightly turned his face against the kissing mouth. He felt dead tired and sleepy, yet also happy to be awakened and so close to his wolf.
"What were you doing out there?" he mumbled on a deep sleep-soaked voice since before he drifted close enough to waking up and sensed him out on the balcony.
"Made our little break with the venues," Corey said nuzzling his mate. "How are you feeling? I wake you to treat your wounds and feed you stakes and eggs."
"Oh..." Jim hummed as suddenly the previous day's memories came rushing back into his mind. It was as if his wounds only needed this acknowledgement and Jim started feeling them again. With that a wave of guilt came along too. Not just because of having to cancel and reschedule those shows, but because of the blurry images he remembered from the warehouse after he’d shifted.
"Coffee... First of all coffee, okay?" he deliberately tried to steer his thoughts to more practical things for now. His wounds and stomach – which kinda knotted up a bit – could wait.
"Of course," Corey kissed into his neck and got up to fetch his man a fresh cup of coffee from the table at the wall. He clearly felt Jim's change of mood. "We can talk about it. And we should too. I hope you know that you didn't do anything wrong. Those people would have skinned alive all of us if we gave them the chance."
Swallowing hard Jim grunted a "yeah" then carefully rolled onto his side from his stomach to slowly sit up. Damn, he felt sore all over. And not just from the shift and the fighting, but because of their mating in the woods too.
"Damn, you got me good last night," he wheezed out a small chuckle, pushing his hair out of his face as he looked at his mate, reaching out a hand for the offered mug. "Thanks."
Once he drank a few gulps, feeling a bit satisfied, he tried to collect his thoughts and let the coffee work in his system a bit as it was still damn early. "It doesn't mean though that... I liked what I did. And losing my control like that? That was so not cool. I only remember bits and pieces, blurry images. What if it happens again?" What if he sucks as a wolf? That second question was something he didn't voice, though.
"It's not a horror movie, remember? You are now a wolf spirit. Look at your fingertips. What kind of a human you where that kind of a wolf you became. And I don't think you would lose control like that if you are not triggered during the full moon like how that asshole did. We keep learning. And you just started to get to know what you transformed into. I can assure you that it won't happen again. Nor the circumstances or the control losing," Corey said on a very sure and calm voice as he sat next to Jim.
"Sorry... You're probably right," Jim said, looking at the smooth tips of his fingers. It was literally as if he was erased from his old life without being actually erased, since he was sitting there with Corey. It was more like he'd evolved into something else. Something more. That didn't mean though that it was easy to process it in just a few weeks. A couple of months ago he had no idea that the supernatural world or demon wolf spirits existed. Now he was part of that world and one of those rare wolves.
With a sigh he dropped his hand back on his lap and drank some more coffee. "I'm still trying to adjust. And... although I knew about the possibility of killing at some point since you'd told me how violent things could get with these corrupt hunters, and Mick has been mentally training me for this too... I just... never thought I'd be capable of such massacre, no matter if I was triggered or not," he admitted.
"It's normal, baby. I also needed time to adjust from a history junkie geek into a wolf fighter for justice. Give yourself time and try to think with these new situations and new life in mind. It's a gift. Remember? I know it's hard now, but we should try to enjoy it and embrace it. The demon spirits chose to evolve us into one of them, and let us live a long life with a different view on things. Remember how the forest felt and looked through your new wolf eyes and senses?" Corey rubbed his face to Jim's shoulder. "It will be alright. I even haven’t been hunting the families for a long while. I don't even get it why they came after us. Or how they managed to track us down so easily... Hmm…" Corey mumbled the end, getting lost in the thought.
"I will," Jim promised after thinking through what Corey told him about looking at life from this new perspective. He even smiled a bit from the memory of the forest and their wild and free run in it. He turned his head to kiss Corey's right under his hairline where it was shaved on the side.
"Now that you mention it... with all the precautions and Mick keeping an eye on things... It was kinda easy to separate and lure us away with stealing my guitar. The bad news is that I doubt it would be so easy for them to steal something so specific unless they had help. Or unless they are trained thieves too, don't you think?" Jim thought out loud then drank the rest of his coffee, just staring into the empty mug afterwards. "I just hope they didn't dump it somewhere along the side of a road. It would be an unfitting end for my baby."
"Yeah… Someone from inside," Corey mused on that. It was not a good thought that they let someone sneak close to them with such harmful intentions. "I need to look at the wounds, though. The staff is still looking for your guitar, baby. If they just took it or hid it to lure us away, we should find it."
"I agree. It would suck if it was indeed the work of an inside man," Jim answered Corey's thought without really realizing it. "Yeah, at least I'd like to have it back after everything," he chuckled dryly then nodded to his mate that he could go ahead with tending his wounds. Jim knew that he had to heal and regain his strength as fast as possible. Not just because of the tour, but to be prepared in case there was a traitor or traitors among the staff.
"We're alone all day today. No one will bother us. The wounds look okay... For such ones. But maybe you could shift and rest. The wolf body recovers faster than the human one. This form of you got the inhuman strength but your human system is much weaker and reduced in the transmutation. And I can feed you and pet you all day..." Corey added with a playful wink as he was done to treat the black, seemingly dying flesh parts with herbs and oil. "Meanwhile Mick’s checking out the staff and people around us again and teaching Sid."
"That sounds nice for today. I'm dead tired from yesterday. Barely slept thanks to you too," Jim groaned once his wounds started soaking in the healing oils. "But first you promised me some breakfast," Jim said, trying not to worry about what Mick might find out.
While the mated wolf pair rested, the others from the small family were busy in an abandoned nearby storage building. It all would’ve been easier and smoother though if the newbie wolf, Sid would have paid more attention to Mick than to being a goofy pup.
It was also a meeting place with the hunter twins. The big guy still had to pay his dept to the girls. And they also did some investigation after the crew of the Surfacing band.
"He would make a better house pet than a wolf," they suddenly heard Stacey's voice from somewhere above them.
As the men (well, man and wolf) looked up to find its source, they saw the twins in all black up on an iron walkway that ran along a wall of the building, leading down onto the ground floor where Mick and Sid were. Megan was bent forward, resting her elbows on the rusty railing, while her sister was standing next to her with her arms folded under her full breasts.
"You're probably right, sis. But he's kinda cute. Silly puppy," she smirked at Sid, who couldn't help himself and wagged his tail with a wolf-grin. It seemed Megan had eased up a bit towards the newbie wolf after saving her life.
"He is, and mostly will be just a lovely kid to Corey from now as well. But he should learn to survive. As a wolf he is more in danger than he was as a man," Mick spoke up to the girls and shook his head. Because meanwhile silly wolf puppy Sid decided to throw a show for the girls and ran up and down being even sillier.
"Anyway... You wanted to meet us here. So here we are…" he added, waiting for the twins to speak about what they found.
"True that," Megan agreed, chuckling a bit on Sid's silliness then she straightened up and looked at her sister, who just nodded as if they were communicating about something. Then they walked down on the stairs as quietly as they moved around to get up there in the first place.
Once they were facing the big ex-hunter and the red wolf which pushed his nose into the air to sniff in the direction of the girls, Stacey looked into Mick's blue eyes with a guarded expression on her pretty face. "Okay, so we had not much to start our investigation, but pulled a few favors."
"Exactly. Important favors from people we wanted to continue owing us. It'll cost you, Mr. Mick," Megan grinned up at him with a devious smile.
"I wasn't expecting anything less from you two," the big man looked back at Stacy, a small smile playing in the corner of his lips. "Behave…" he growled low at Sid. Who started whining and nuzzling Megan's thigh. "I'm gonna put a collar on him. Sorry…" Mick muttered and pulled the eager pup back by its fur.
"I will give you whatever the price you'll ask for knowing Corey and the rest in safety again," Mick added as an answer to Megan's grin about the costs. He didn't care. He already owed a lot to Corey and his ex anyway. And this attack was very alarming because it had to be an inside job.
"Make sure it's a glittery pink collar," Megan chuckled, but otherwise ignored the silly pup since what they were talking about was serious. Looking at Stacey again she nodded to her to go on. It was probably good that she was willing to talk to Mick again and after all these years it was her turn to communicate more with the big guy. It'd probably make her less gloomy and more like her old self before all went down the drain when Mick had left.
"At least that's something you keep yourself to," Stacey hummed then frowned lightly. "Through said favors we could trace back that asshole leader a bit. He called himself Warren and had relations with a lot of the corrupt families. We managed to narrow down those connections to more relevant families," she explained. "Three, to be exact. The Reeves, the Blackwoods and the Petersons. He and his men did the most business with these families. None of which is good news to your wolf friends."
"No, not really," Mick frowned. Those families were feared even among the corrupt criminal clans. "And why do they want Corey? They’ve been crossing those leaders’ path? I know that they were after one clan that wanted the sacred forest where the shamans have their sanctuary for the spirits of the worlds. Those wiped out Sidney's parents too…" he continued to think out loud. "I remember they were after my cousin and best friend for no reason only because they guarded an area as demon spirit wolf mates. They were new wolves and never harmed no one…" Mick looked deep into Stacy's eyes.
The pain of how he found out of the corrupt ways of hunters was still painful to him and was showing in his ice blue eyes. He had to face that at times the 'hunted' wolves like Corey and his mate were more accepting and helping without objections or judging. Especially when he was sent after his own human family for no logical reason, and was beaten half-dead for denying the command. That wolf pair helped him and his friend and cousin without a second thought. "The Taylor's took me in and that pair and kept us safe till we could heal from the attacks. It was only fair to try keeping them safe in return." He hoped the twins knew by then how he got to be an outcast like Shawn was. If not… they will find out. Probably soon enough…
Stacey forced herself to look away from Mick's sad and deadly serious eyes. She didn't need her special hunter senses to feel and see how hard Mick wanted her... them to understand why he had to leave his previous life and them behind. And also that how much the aforementioned realization had hurt him.
Swallowing hard with her emotions getting stirred up once again, she looked at her sister for a long moment then glimpsed up at Mick.
"Yes, they crossed their path. Especially the Reeves'. We managed to find out a couple of years ago that it was their men who had killed Sid's parents," she admitted, turning her nearly apologetic eyes at the red wolf, who froze next to Mick from that information and started growling. Not at the girls but from the memories and the suddenly overwhelming need to go after those fuckers and make them pay for making an orphan of him. Sid knew that if he didn't hide that day and the mated pair didn't take him in afterwards, he'd probably be dead too.
"I see. I think that's all connected. How my cousin got attacked and the Taylors too," Mick nodded and subconsciously stroked Sid's head in a caring and understanding manner. "Shawn also became an outcast because he stood up for justice against his clan and didn't let innocents die. “Any idea who might be the one that sneaked between us and what to do with it all?" the big man asked the twins with slight hope in his voice. He was totally clueless about how to fix this without his old connections.
"We doubt it’s a coincidence," Stacey nodded at the same time as her sister. And now she kinda felt bad for not giving Mick some more information that could help him get to the end of this. Stacey found herself starting to change her mind about the man's motives behind his old decision to switch sides. Because everything that he'd shared with them since he'd called for the twins' help was logical and made sense.
The Riley family was one of the hunter clans that didn't yield to the corrupt ways yet, although some of their members and even the leader, the girls' father had been approached a few times in the past. But they all took pride in saying no to such temptation. After all they – like Mick – had sworn to protect the innocent.
Mick just nodded to that. He knew how these things worked. So not getting an answer about what to do now was a sign that the girls couldn’t share more with him. "I will try to get to the spy around the band. Thank you for all the help, ladies. Do you need anything from me now?"
"I'm sorry that we can't answer your question," Stacey said quietly and from her look Mick could tell that she meant it. Knowing that was just as important to him like finding out who the leak was.
Rubbing her chin, Megan's expression quickly changed into a dark and playful one hearing the big man's question. Squinting at Sid she even smirked. "Puppy, it's time for you to run back to your daddies. We have some private business to discuss with Mr. Mick. Don't want to hurt your innocent ears," she giggled.
Sid positively looked puzzled even in his wolf form as he looked up at Mick, who nodded. "Go and see if Corey or Jim might need something and keep an eye on them. It might take a while for me to get back," he said calmly, but when Sid made a questioning sound as if asking 'You sure?', the light blue eyes met the wolf's. "I'm sure. Go. Now."
With a huff the red wolf yipped as if saying goodbye to the girls too then ran off.
"Bye, bye, silly puppy!" Megan wiggled her fingers at him and made sure that Sid truly left. Then both sisters sized up their 'victim'. "We need you to run an errand for us since we're going to be busy for a couple of hours..." Megan started then Stacey continued.
"Once you're done with said errand..." she stepped closer to the big man as if she wanted to whisper something in his ear "you are to get back to one of our hideouts, which's coordinates you'll get later, and report to us. Then as the stray puppy you've been, as punishment you're gonna lay at our bed for a while," she finished on a sultrier voice and with some challenge in her eyes to see if he'd dare to object.
"He is alright, Sid. Calm down. The girls won't hurt him.... Errrr… Not like that anyway," Corey giggled to himself. He earned a killer glare from Sid for it, but it was worth it. The young wolf kept checking his phone. It was the next morning, almost a full day has passed and Mr. Mick didn't show any life signs yet. And the way his papi joked around didn't ease up his hyped up nerves one bit either.
At least Jim looked better in his human form. The wounds seemed to be closed up and only black and gray patches on his skin and the scars showing by then. "Now you have battle scars like me. I'm sorry, love..."
Jim smiled behind his mug before he took a sip of his second coffee. He indeed looked better, even got his color back. It was also interesting to stay like a wolf all day. He definitely saw things from a different point of view, not to mention his body needed to heal faster to be ready for the next show that night. They had to be on the buses in a couple of hours to go to the next city and venue. And frankly, Jim was glad to leave this godforsaken town and some of his newer memories behind.
Thanks to Corey and the time he'd spent with these guys, Jim pieced together that Mick had a special kind of relationship with these hunter girls and from the vibes coming from his mate, his smirk returned, sensing the nature of said relationship. He leaned back on his chair, stroking down on his now longish beard then looked at one of the mentioned scars on his tattooed forearm. Luckily the ink mostly hid it.
"The scars doesn't bother me, love," he shrugged lightly and put his hand on Corey's. "They actually make me feel closer to you," he admitted.
"You're such a romantic it makes my stomach flip," Corey smiled back at him and leaned in to peck Jim’s lips. Soon it turned into a deep loving kiss, though...
"Bloody hell..." Sid groaned rolling his eyes when a door was opened with a key card. A very drained Mick walked in. He nodded to everyone as a greeting then poured a huge mug of coffee for himself and dropped his heavy and very tired looking body down with a loud moan. His hair was messy and there were dark circles under his eyes, showing that he didn't have much sleep. For long minutes the other three were just staring at the ex-hunter drinking his coffee, the silent shock about his state evident on their faces.
Jim wanted to say something like 'shut up, you love it' to Corey, but that kiss shut him up instead. Though he was fairly sure his mate could catch that thought anyways, so he let himself get lost in said kiss right until Mick's appearance.
"So... you're in one piece at least," Jim finally broke the silence and of course all three wolves could smell the girls' slightly different scent all over the tired man. "Did they torture you or something?" he asked the most innocent question that he could come up with as Jim couldn't judge Mick's mood, just that he was tired to the bone.
"Or something... I'm getting too old for this," the man muttered and stretched his legs and back as he was sitting there. "Sid, can you get me a glass of water and one from that doughnut please? I feel like my blood sugar gonna drop dead."
Sid nodded and did as asked with a slightly naughty glint in his eyes from Mick's state. The mates exchanged some meaningful looks too.
"You know... I can hear you, right?"
That made Jim chuckle under his moustache and look back at Mick once Sid plopped back onto his seat too. "The kid is dying to hear the story too. He's been pining after you like he'd lost his master or something."
"Hey! I wasn't pining. Just was worried about Mick. You might not know this yet, but those sexy ladies are damn dangerous. I've heard the stories..." the red-haired man glimpsed at Mick. "They're legendary among hunters, am I right?" he narrowed his eyes.
"I've heard this and that too and remember a few pictures of them fighting better than most would," Jim murmured then stared at Mick expectantly, telling him through the connection that it was better to spill the beans now, because they wouldn't leave him alone till that.
"You can't keep your muzzles out of my business, right?" the big guy groaned rolling his eyes while eating the doughnut like a starving... wolf… "Yes, Corey. I am a puppy to them. And that's all. I left without a word years ago and only contacted them now to ask for help. So, they didn't help us for free... But anyway, the thing that is important: we might know who is behind all this. Corey, you remember the Reeves? They don't forget easily and still want that land. The question is: who is their man here?" Mick said and stood up to sit closer to the donuts.
"The Reeves wanted the sacred land, they... they killed Sid’s parents too. And started a Great War between hunters and wolves. They tricked many hunter families to turn and join their 'mob' of criminals. And who refused usually paid the price. Mick is an outcast because of that. And the only thing why they are not hunting him is because the shamans made him our protector. We gave him from our blood, like we gave to Sid and the shamans connected them to the wolves. That's why he hears us and is relatively hidden from other hunters," Corey summed it up for Jim, who looked puzzled from Mick's words.
"I have a few bets. But will have to wait for the twins to check it out to be sure. And to be ‘sure sure’, I'll ask my other connection for info too," the guard of the spirit wolves added with a mouth full of food, sugar powder all over his beard. Very gracefully, of course…
Suppressing a chuckle from how Mick looked, Jim thought for a moment, humming to himself. "Things are starting to make sense, yes," he said then looked at the visibly tense Sid and the other two. "So what now? We should come up with a plan while Mick investigates, right? I mean... I don't want to just sit around and do nothing."
"I want to teach them a lesson," the hot-headed answer tore itself out of the youngest wolf, his emotions stirred up like his painful memories from the Reeves coming into the picture again. "Can't we sniff out the traitor?"
"They are no beginners. I'm sure you three or at least Corey could have done that earlier if it was possible," Mick objected after swallowing the last bite of his donut then he immediately reached for another one.
"What do you think, Corey?" Jim turned to his mate, waiting on his opinion not just about the sniffing out thing but what they should do now. "I'm sure you can already feel that I don't want to just sit back and heal. I want to heal to be able to fight for my new family, even if I'm still processing what went down in that warehouse," he added to make things clear. He might be new to this and Jim usually wasn't a violent kind of guy, but this was a serious threat and he wanted to help and protect not just his mate and the guys, but the shamans and their land too, like they were supposed to do. And that feeling only grew stronger in him with every passing day.
"I cannot sniff them out. Not the Reeves. They use something, probably the blood of the wolves they changed to be their slaves. But I couldn't sniff them out, and years back my ex couldn't either. And he was way older and experienced than I am now. And Jim, I wanted to give this up. I didn’t want to get into fights and risk loosing the ones I care for again. I stayed far away from those mobs and clans. And I'm really sorry that you got dragged into this. But I don't want you to risk your life. I cannot lose any of you. I'm sorry..." Corey mumbled and walked out onto the balcony, clearly shaken up from the war on their doorstep that raised its ugly head up again against them.
"He is right. He really gave up on that fighting life... You know that Sid. Because of you too… He wanted to give you a peaceful home. And to you too Jim," Mick said, finally feeling full and brushing the sugar off his beard and broad chest. "Give him time, guys. Let this topic rest. He will protect you two at any cost, even his own life. We need a few days to be sure about everything anyway."
From Mick's very reasonable words Sid kicked his chair back as he stood and marched towards the door. "I'll be in my room," he said from the door before closing it surprisingly quietly.
With a sigh Jim shook his hair out of his face and stroked down his beard too, letting the silence stretch between the remaining two men. "I'll check on Corey. You go and try to sleep a bit. You could use some rest," he said calmly and stood too to pick up and put Sid’s chair back on its legs.
With a nod the big guy drank the rest of the water and left too. Looking out at the balcony Jim saw Corey holding onto the railing tight. Walking behind him, Jim put his long arms around his mate and kissed into his hair. "I'm sorry."
Corey sighed letting go of the railing and leaned back against the bigger body, stroking the long arms around him. "No baby. I am sorry. I wanted to give you a life on my side that is calm and beautiful. Running under the full moon and showing you all the wonders of this different world. To share these with you during our long lives. If anyone is fully innocent here when it comes to those clans, it’s you. They could want revenge on me, or on Sid because of his parents. But you just dropped into the middle of this and I don't want to lose you or feel like I brought all this dangerous shit on your head."
"Well... it kinda came with the sexy package and you know we can't fully separate these things. You saw how it didn't matter to the hunters that you've been staying clear from fighting them. They still used me as bait to catch you..." Jim murmured quietly, not wanting to stir Corey up even more, but it was the truth he had to say out loud.
"I'd love the picture that you just painted to happen. I don't want to fight either, but if we have to, I will. I want to protect what's ours just as much as you do. I can't lose you or the others either," he nuzzled his cheek against Corey's temple.
"I'm still sorry, though," Corey whispered nuzzling back. "How are you feeling? We should rest a little then join the others with the packing and stuff. I hope we can close this mess up fast and find who the spy is. Not really sure though what to do with him if we find him... We are too small to stand up against the Reeves and they are not likely to give up easily..."
"I know you are and it doesn't matter if I tell you not to be, you're gonna continue to feel sorry, right?" Jim chuckled a bit and turned Corey around in his arms so he could see him better. "I'm sure that sooner or later we'll find the traitor and we'll figure out what to do with him or her once we get there. We have to wait a bit longer to see what the others can find out. We'll also come up with something regarding the Reeves. Now I want you to cuddle and kiss me on the bed for a few minutes to make me heal faster. Then you should go talk to Sid, I think. I'll take care of our bags and stuff," Jim said then started backing towards the bed. "It might make me a possessive and romantic bastard, but I want you close to me for a little while. Is that okay with you?"
The small wolf couldn't help but smile. Damn, he loves this guy so fucking much. He even blushed from the alluring way Jim spoke and pulled him towards the bed. "Of course it's okay. I want to do that too," he pushed his mate to fall on his back on the bed and straddled the bigger body. "I love you. You know that? No... Don't answer. I don't want another moment ruined by your marvelous humor," Corey giggled nuzzling his mate and stole a kiss before he could actually try to speak. And make a pun about something. They should enjoy what they have. That includes Sid too. He shouldn't feel like his papi didn't stand up for him and his hurt feelings. He will have a good man-to-man, or more like a wolf-to-wolf kinda talk with him. He has to know how much he means to Corey.