QSFer Missy Welsh has a new MM paranormal book out, book two in her Isherwood Pack series: SubDominant.
Varick Ward spent two years trapped as a wolf before pledging himself to Isherwood Pack. Since then, he’s been slowly regaining a real life despite keeping his past pains to himself.
When the king of werewolves invites the pack to Romania for an official introduction, Varick goes because protecting his alpha pair is his job. Right away, things go sideways. They’re barely through the doors of the castle where the king’s pack lives when a man attacks— Or wait. Is he trying to protect Varick from everyone else? Like the dominant partner in a mate bond would?
Though the new couple is meant to be in isolation while they bond, ghosts from Varick’s past are plotting against the people he now calls family. Circumstances separate them and danger hovers on the edge of town, but can these two persevere and secure their second chances at love?
Isherwood, Ohio, USA
Beady eyes stared down at him. Every instinct in him screamed to run, to hide himself. He wasn’t the kind of wolf who could pass for a dog. He had to get away. Don’t let the humans see you. They’ll definitely know what youare.
But he couldn’t run. Everything hurt. Paws to nose to nuts, he was in worse shape than ever. All he could do was look up at those small, black eyes… This human was going to hurt him, too.
He’d planned to lay down and die here. Accept that there was nothing left for him to live for and simply give up. Not his finest moment, but there it was. Time to die, Varick Ward.
Except now the human was here… The human, reaching down. The muzzle…
“No!” He sat up and fought off the ropes and muzzle. His hands tore at…cloth. Bed sheets, not restraints. He was in a bed— He looked around at the small room lit by streetlights. Hisbedroom. This was his apartment, one of many in the renovated building occupied by his new pack mates in Isherwood. Goddamn.
Varick gulped air and closed his eyes. He wasn’t slowly dying in West Virginia anymore. He wasn’t even trapped in wolf form here in Ohio anymore either. He was home in Isherwood, and he was safe.
Better place. Better life. He kept repeating that until he got himself under control again. When he had that, he waited another few moments to listen. Had anyone heard him holler? He hoped not, because he didn’t want to have to talk about it in therapy. Again.
Varick sighed wearily and rubbed at his eyes before getting out of bed. He snatched up a t-shirt and boxers. He didn’t actually want to go out and prowl the halls, but his damn instincts to protect his alpha pair and his pack had him doing it anyway. He was on red alert, but it was only in his head. No one was trying to hurt anyone here.
He still had to check. He’d never get back to sleep if he didn’t. But also, what if…
With a grumble of annoyance at his uncontrollable brain, he left his apartment and stalked down the hall in the opposite direction of the elevators and stairwells. He lived between the entrances and the alpha pair, the three of them the only ones on this half of the floor. Varick needed to check to reassure some whacked part of his mind that nothing had gotten by him to hurt them while he’d been trapped in a nightmare from his past.
Halfway to their door, Varick paused. Finn stepped out into the hall.
“Hey,” Finn said, “I heard—”
Varick immediately growled.
Finn held up his hands, but stood his ground.
Varick sighed. He didn’t wantto alienate his alpha. It was Finn’s job to be aware and involved with his pack members. Problems—even emotional ones—were his business. That was what made for a good alpha, and Varick wanted a good one this time. So he said, “I have nightmares about my old life.”
Finn met his eyes. Surprise bled into painful sympathy. “Okay. You want to talk—” The torture of that idea must have made it to Varick’s face because Finn held up his hands again. “Fine, but know that I’m serious, Beta.”
Not fair. Varick stood still and closed his eyes. He swallowed a couple times. “I’m not ready,” he admitted.
Finn stepped closer so he could touch Varick’s shoulder. “Then I’ll wait.” Finn squeezed, then let go.
Varick watched Finn walk back inside and close the door behind him. His alpha secured, Varick continued toward his own apartment.
It was hard enough talking with his therapist about anything related to losing his mate. It was easier to talk about spending two years trapped in wolf form, caged by a madman, with the rest of those who’d also been Noble’s victims. None of them had had the greatest lives before, but the ones that had stayed with Isherwood Pack were all slowly accepting the fact that working through their traumas would let them live great lives now.
But talk to Finnabout any of it? Let the one person who trusted him with his life and the life of his mate know he was so fucking broken inside? No, that he did notwant to do. What if Finn thought it meant Varick couldn’t do his job? He’d have to leave the pack. He’d have nothing. Again.
He’d answer Finn if he asked directly, but he wasn’t about to go out of his way to share.
Varick went back into his apartment, locked up, and tried to sleep.
* * *
“You’re going where?” Sawyer asked in amazement while the rest of the pack stared at Finn, too.
They sat in a semi-circle in the communal room in the basement of the building. A lot of pack business was done via Cas’s group texts, but sometimes they needed the face-to-face. As meeting rooms went, it was nice enough, with secondhand couches and a dining set. There was a kitchen, too. The walls had framed werewolf and vampire movie posters because Saffron—one of the pack’s humans—thought she was hilarious.
“We’re going to Romania.” Finn looked like he wanted to tug at his collar as he stood facing them. “We were invited a few months ago—like a put-it-on-your-calendars kind of thing, which is why I didn’t mention it until now. Then they asked for names for the tickets this morning.”
Varick hadn’t been surprised when they’d told him about this originally. After the events that brought them all together, of course the alpha over all werewolves would summon them. Not every day someone discovered a human with the ability to force weres to shift just by being near them. Now that the piece of shit who’d imprisoned Varick and six others for nearly two years was dead and cremated, Alpha Grigore Farkas of Romania wanted to debrief those who’d witnessed everything.
“This is an honor,” Cas said and poked at his mate’s butt, “not an inconvenience.” He looked at the rest of them. “And we got the invite before we’d completely figured out who would hold what positions, so we didn’t know who’d be going until now.”
Erica cleared her throat. “Aside from the obvious, who else do they wantto go?”
As the secretary of the pack, she already held her tablet at the ready. Seeing the little blonde without Saffron beside her was weird—they’d been inseparable ever since they’d announced that the anonymous “donated swimmers” had done their job, and Erica was pregnant. But as part owner of the apartment building, Saffron was off dealing with a plumber at the moment.
Cas tugged at Finn’s belt to get him to sit down before saying, “Yeah, so it’s the alpha pair and any betas,” Cas said with a nod to Varick. “Plus our secretary and treasurer need to go so they—”
Percy gasped all the air out of the room while fluttering his hands, effectively cutting Cas off.
Finn chuckled at him. “Yes, you and Erica are both going with us. They’ve got some kind of training thing you can do to help you in your roles.” He held up a hand and looked at Erica. “Before you ask, yes, Saffron can go, too.”
Erica relaxed in her seat, smiling, and got out her phone. She started typing fast, no doubt letting Saffron in on what was happening.
Cas got a notebook off the floor and pulled out some papers. “These are basic itineraries for those not going so you know where we are, plus more specific information for those who are going.”
Sawyer leaned close to see what Varick got, so Varick handed it to him. Since Varick, as the only beta, was primarily the alpha pair’s security, he’d been coordinating things from the beginning and knew the schedule by heart.
“I wanna be a beta,” Sawyer mumbled.
Varick said nothing, but he had a feeling Sawyer was aiming too low. Deep down, Varick sensed something building inside the kid—okay, young man, since he was approaching twenty. Varick wouldn’t be surprised if Sawyer turned out to be an alpha. And that made Varick wonder who Sawyer’s parents were—something he didn’t know either—because alphas tended to have alpha parents.
Saffron suddenly ran into the room, a big smile on her face. Varick grinned as he watched her swoop in and hug the stuffing out of Finn before nearly tackling Erica right out of her chair. Though Saffron was Goth, she was cute about it, so the skulls on her knee-high socks were cartoon cat heads with pink bows in front of their ears. And she’d mimicked the look with her own blue hair and more bows.
“Romania,” she exclaimed. “This is going to be soamazing.”
Since the meeting dissolved at that point into a rousing discussion led by Cas about what to pack and the many things to do in Romania, Varick got up and out before someone could ask his opinion.
Minutes later, Finn found him around the corner in the kitchen with the little coffeemaker. “Did you know they live in a castle over there?”
Varick grunted as the coffee pod thing filled his mug.
“The king of the vampires owns it,” Finn went on. “Sorin something.”
“Yeah, that. And he’s supposed to have known the real Dracula or something, too.” Finn held up his hand, thumb and forefinger maybe a half-inch apart. “I was this close to bringing Leland.”
A snort popped out of Varick. “So you’d have a vampire, too.”
Finn shrugged and chuckled. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m getting better at this alpha stuff.”
The smile Finn gave him, like Varick made his day, had a wave of heat washing through Varick. The appreciation of an alpha… Hadn’t felt that in ages.
Back when he’d first met Finn—when Finn had come to rescue Cas and found the rest of them trapped with him—Varick had known only that life under Finn would be a helluva lot better than where he’d been. Hadn’t needed much thought to offer his services as beta to Finn’s alpha. Even if he was human.
Because that rolling happiness coming off Finn now was a sign that something was changing inside Finn. Varick had never feltthe emotions of humans, only smelled their physical responses to their emotions, like sour fear. So Finn wasn’t a typical human anymore.
Things like that—partially human alphas, gay mates—made Varick remember his old pack with shame and regret. Alpha Strain had been so wrong. There was nothing bad about letting humans be in a pack and there sure as hell wasn’t anything bad about same-gender mates either. And staying in a pack that had forbidden both? He should’ve left the instant he found— Varick sighed. Better place. Better life.The past should stay in the past.
As Finn left the room with a bounce in his step, Varick lifted his mug to his lips…and paused. Could be Finn’s something would grow stronger once they were in Romania. Surrounded by that many wolves—that many powerfulwolves—could be the push Finn’s wolf needed to find his way out. Watching that happen would make going worth it.
“Varick?” Cas called from the meeting room. “Make sure you pack your best suit. And I mean businesssuit, not track suit or any other kind of suit, so don’t you tell me later you misunderstood what I meant.”
He rolled his eyes and made his escape up the back stairs.
“Varick, did you hear me?”
Missy Welsh lives in Northeast Ohio and works in the marketing department of an independent insurance agency. A nature enthusiast, she paints landscapes in her spare time. She is a monthly donor to The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). #RESIST