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Author Charlie Richards

Giving love and imagination free reign

A big Thank You to Beany for giving me the opportunity to be a guest on her blog. Merry Christmas to everyone & may you enjoy the holidays in whatever way you choose. To help along those lines, I chose to write a short story based on the Wolves of Stone Ridge series. Join Mathias as he gets the surprise of his life when he rescues an injured wolf from a poacher’s trap.

    Mathias stared at the tracks for a few seconds, then tilted his head and peered at the thick gray clouds overhead. If he was smart, he’d turn around and hike back to his cabin until the snowstorm that clearly threatened passed. Hearing the mournful, pain-filled howl, Mathias knew he must not be that smart.

Having been hired by an animal preservation company, Mathias needed to confirm or refute the rumors that wolves had made their way back into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. While only ninety percent certain the sad excuse for a howl came from a wolf, it was the best lead he’d had since he’d arrived five days before.

Hitching the rifle’s shoulder strap higher on his shoulder, Mathias started moving again. He continued to glance at the trees around him as he picked his way through a snow covered rock field. Mathias could just make out the rounded outlines of many of the stones and several were still visible, poking out above the thin layer of snow he trudged through.

Mathias heard the howl again, this time followed by a whimpering whine. Changing direction, he veered around a copse of pines and found himself at the edge of a small clearing. Mathias stopped, spotting his query on the far side, twenty feet away.

The wolf noticed him, too. It froze where it crouched, its left rear leg stuck out at an awkward angle, its ears back, and his brown eyes focused on him.

“Damn, you’re beautiful,” Mathias whispered.

For several long seconds, Mathias couldn’t tear his gaze away from the animal. The wolf had a tawny body with darker fur around his ears and muzzle. With the way he sat, Mathias could see that the animal’s chest and belly fur lightened to a cream color. The animal’s furry body trembled with the cold, but made no move to run, charge, or even growl.

Mathias continued to watch for several seconds, but the only move the wolf made was to twitch its outstretched leg. Focusing on the offending limb, he scowled. “Oh, pretty boy,” Mathias whispered, realizing why the wolf hadn’t run…and why it was probably howling mournfully.

Keeping his voice soft and as soothing as possible, Mathias slowly started toward the wolf. “Who the hell is placing snares out here?” He watched the wolf crouch, its ears flipping backward as it looked around, obviously looking for escape. “Easy, pretty,” he crooned. “I just want to see.”

If Mathias could cut the trap off of the wolf’s leg, it’d set the animal free. Then he saw the red splattered across the snow. “Oh, sweetie,” he continued. “That doesn’t look good,” he murmured. Stopping within three feet of the animal, just outside the circle of trampled snow the wolf had created by pulling and pacing, Mathias took in the too tight band around the wolf’s appendage and how it’d cut into the leg.

As if responding to his words, the wolf turned and licked at the blood welling slowly from the lacerated flesh. The animal whined a little, then bit at the metallic line stretching from his leg to the spike sunk into the earth.

“Hey, hey, now,” Mathias scolded gently even as he knew how ridiculous it was to talk to a wild animal. “Cut that out. It’s just gonna make it worse.”

To Mathias’ surprise, the wolf responded by whimpering and lying on its belly. Confusion warred with concern inside Mathias. “You’re not acting like a wild animal, sweetie, but I can’t really trust you,” he whispered. He was amazed by the animal, not a fool. When he slid the rifle strap from his shoulder, the wolf whined and began to scoot backward. The wolf’s head was down, and it’s tail was between its legs. “You recognize this, don’t you?” he commented, surprise coloring his words. “Just what happened to you, sweetie?”

The wolf continued to scoot backward. Then it lunged sideways, yanking on the tether. A fresh well of blood dribbled across the snow.

“Damn it,” Mathias growled.

Moving quickly, Mathias swung the weapon up, aimed, and fired. A red-feathered dart embedded in the wolf’s torso. The wolf yipped. It swung its head around and stared at the dart, then slumped to the ground, a glassy haze covering the wolf’s eyes as the fast-acting tranquilizer coursed through the animal’s system.

Mathias knelt next to the wolf. He reached out and rested a hand on the animal’s head, scratching behind its ears. “Tranq dart, sweetie,” he assured. “This way it won’t hurt when I remove the line…and you won’t hurt me, either, hmm?” He didn’t know why he felt the need to tell the wolf what he was doing, but he went along with it anyway. “You’ll be all right.”

After a few more seconds, the wolf’s eyes closed.

Moving quickly, Mathias removed the metal hoop from around the wolf’s leg. He grimaced at the renewed bleeding as he tugged it free of the beast’s lacerated flesh. Pulling his multi-tool from his belt, he clipped the line off the spike, since he couldn’t manage to free the metal from the frozen ground. Finally, Mathias swung his rifle back over his shoulder, slid his hands under the wolf, and hefted the animal into his arms.

It took Mathias twice as long to make it back to the cabin with his burden as it had to find the wolf. By the time he reached it, the snow had begun to fall, thick flakes half-blinding his vision and cutting visibility to about fifteen feet. He followed his own footprints to his back door.

Mathias juggled his burden as he fumbled with the handle, finally getting the door open without dropping the wolf. He hesitated for just an instant, wondering why the hell he was about to bring a wild animal into his house, then he strode inside the cabin.

The fire still crackled in the fireplace, so Mathias placed the large canine on the rug before the hearth. “Okay,” he mumbled. “Let’s get you fixed up.”

Working as quickly as possible, Mathias cleaned and bandaged the wolf’s wound. He grimaced upon seeing the missing strips of fur and flesh, knowing the poor beast would have scars. At least, no bones are broken, he thought, tearing up an old hand towel into strips.

Mathias had just finished wrapping the wolf’s leg when a knock on the door caught his attention. Setting his cleaning supplies in the sink, he headed toward the front door. Just as he reached it, an idea popped into his head. Poachers don’t like to lose their prize.

Resting his hand on the handgun he’d holstered to his hip before his hike—while he carried the tranquilizer gun, he believed in being careful—Mathias crossed to the door and called, “Who is it?”

“Detective Grady Stryker,” replied a deep-voiced male.

“Can I see your badge?” Mathias asked, using his free hand to move the corner of the curtain covering the window in the front door. Seconds later, someone with thick fingers held a badge up to the space. “Thanks.” Mathias opened the door and stepped backward. “Please, come in,” he offered to the tall blond standing on his tiny porch.

Detective Grady Stryker returned his badge to his belt, then stepped into the cabin. “You all right?” he asked. “Not too often I get asked for ID around here.”

Mathias felt his face heat just a smidge. “Sorry,” he replied. “I found a wolf caught in a poacher trap. Is that why you’re out here?” he asked, closing the door behind the detective. “Are you investigating poachers?”

“I am,” Grady responded. “I heard there was someone renting one of Dyson’s cabins, so I thought I’d check it out.” The big blond glanced around the room, his gaze falling on the sedated wolf. “Uh, you want to explain?” he asked, pointing at the animal.

Nodding, Mathias did so, briefly sharing how he’d heard the wounded animal, tracking him down and bringing him back there. As he spoke, he pointed at the tranquilizer rifle he’d leaned against the wall by the back door. Mathias finished by telling how he’d been sent to verify the rumor that wolves had returned to the mountains, and now he worried he’d led a poacher right to his door.

Grady nodded slowly. “Okay,” he drew the word out slowly, scowling out the window. “A snow storm is moving in, but I’ll check out the area northwest of here as soon as I can,” he assured. “In the meantime, keep your doors and windows locked.” He crossed to the wolf and knelt beside the animal. “I can take the wolf to a vet I know. There’s one not far.”

“No.” Mathias just caught himself before he shouted the word. Feeling oddly protective of the animal, he continued, “No, it’s fine. I’ve worked with injured wild animals before, and I’ve already done what can be done.” When Grady straightened, the look on his face clearly ready to argue, Mathias assured, “Once I’m certain everything has scabbed over, I’ll release him back into the wild. It’s no trouble. It’ll be fine.”

Once again, Grady appeared to want to argue. Then he looked out the window and frowned. “Maybe that’s for the best. I wouldn’t want to injure him sliding on snow and ice,” he stated gruffly. “Okay. Keep him sedated. We wouldn’t want you hurt.”

Mathias nodded, confused not only by his immediate rejection to the idea of taking the wolf out of his home, but by his relief when Grady agreed to leave it.

“Here’s my card,” Grady said, holding out a small rectangle. “Call if the poachers approach you. Snowstorm or not, I’ll get help to you.”

“Thank you.”

A moment later, Mathias closed and locked the door behind the detective. He crossed the room, grabbing the blanket from the back of the sofa as he went. Kneeling, Mathias laid it over the wolf. He smiled at the image, then shook his head at his ridiculousness before heading to the kitchen to make a light supper.

* * * *

Colton nuzzled into the blanket. Inhaling the scent, he whimpered appreciatively.

So good!

Opening his eyes, Colton blinked a few times until his vision cleared. He peered around the darkened room and realized he didn’t recognize the large, one room space. Lying on a throw rug in front of a fireplace slotted into the corner of the room, he saw that a worn sofa and a couple of chairs surrounded it. A kitchen and small round dining room table and chairs filled the other half of the room. Along the left wall were several doors. One stood open, revealing a bathroom, while two doors were closed.

Colton rolled to his belly and yelped as pain shot through his leg. Just that fast, his memories came rushing back. He’d been out running in wolf form and had gotten separated from his friends when the log they’d used as a bridge over a ravine had broken. He’d been stranded on the north side, while his buddies and the car had been on the south side. He’d assured them he’d be fine and would just jog down to the service road, meeting them there.

Instead, Colton had stepped in a fox snare.

Damn poachers.

Looking around again, Colton remembered the arrival of a human. His dark hair had poked wildly out from beneath his beanie and his beard had been flecked with moisture. Between the thick flannel coat, blue jeans, and heavy hiking boots, Colton hadn’t known whether to fear him or not…then, he’d seen the gun and panicked.

The prick of the tranquilizer dart had been a shocker.

Pushing his nose under the blanket, Colton shoved the fabric aside and inspected the bandage wrapped around his leg. The human had obviously brought him home and taken care of him. Colton took another deep whiff of the blanket and growled in appreciation. His cock thickened in his sheath, threatening to drop.

Oh, that smells so good!

Colton smelled the blanket again. Unable to help himself, desire surging through him, he mentally searched for his human form and shifted. By the time Colton gained his human figure, his dick had flooded with blood. Lying on his side, he panted softly as he stared down at his erection where it jutted from his groin.

Reaching for himself, Colton squeezed the base of his shaft and gasped. He racked his brain, struggling to understand his body’s reaction to a smell. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks.


Colton felt his wolf yip eagerly in the back of his mind. Now he understood why he felt so relaxed in this strange cabin, and his arousal made sense. His mate’s scent permeated the place.

The tight feeling just above his left ankle registered then, his foot tingling. Reaching down, he loosened the too-snug bandage, since his human shaped leg was thicker than his wolf’s. Once more comfortable, he used the sofa and pushed to his feet. Colton wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, then made certain his injured leg could handle his weight.

Once sure he could walk, Colton’s instincts drove him to seek out the source of the amazing scent…his mate.

Excitement coursing through him, Colton limped to the first closed door and sniffed. He groaned and pressed the heel of his palm to the base of his shaft. The heavy scent oozing from the room called to him on a base level he’d never experienced before.

Colton had just reached his twenty-third birthday a couple of months before. While he’d dated a few girls and even had sex with them, this desire, this need was beyond his realm of experience. While he’d appreciated how a number of men looked, he’d never considered himself truly attracted to one—and the heavy, musky scent couldn’t be mistaken as anything but masculine—and nerves mingled with his anticipation.

Turning the doorknob, Colton eased the door open and slipped into the bedroom. He peered around the small room, his enhanced eyesight allowing him to easily see the man sprawled on his back. The covers were bunched around his waist, revealing a broad hairy chest.

Creeping forward, Colton hesitated at the edge of the bed. His heart thudded in his chest as his pulse surged through him. His cock practically twitched with the beat of it, and he oozed pre-cum. Desire and fear warred inside him, along with indecision.

Evidently, Colton must have made some kind of noise. Either that or somehow, the human subconsciously knew he was no longer alone. The guy’s thick arm snapped out, wrapped around Colton’s waist, and yanked him down. Somehow, the man rolled and twisted and, seconds later, Colton gasped upon finding his back pinned to the mattress. Their naked chests pressed together, and Colton peered up in at him in shock as a fresh wave of arousal surged through him.

His face inches from Colton’s, the man glared into his eyes. “Who are you?” he snapped. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m Colton,” Colton replied breathlessly, honestly, saying the first thing that came to mind. “You brought me here.”

“I what?” The man scowled down at him. “What are you talking about?”

Unable to contain his need to touch—he’d always been a very tactile person—Colton lifted his left hand and spread it over his mate’s chest. With his other hand, he touched his forefingers to the hairs where his mate’s mustache met his beard. “Soft,” he whispered. “I didn’t expect that. What’s your name?”

“Mathias,” the man replied, his expression confused. “Mathias Williams.” His brows furrowing, Mathias scowled. “What are you doing? What’s going on here?”

“Mathias,” Colton whispered, rubbing his thumb over the corner of the man’s upper lip. “Nice.” Colton’s bodily instincts caused him to rock his hips, wanting friction on his rock-hard dick. He felt an answering thickness, hidden behind a layer of cotton, rub against his own. “Oh, very nice,” Colton continued, unable to stop his rambling. His prick oozed, and his asshole clenched. “Will you fuck me?”

His eyes widening in surprise, Mathias tensed above him. “Wh-Why would you ask that?” he asked, his voice gruff.

Colton scented the heady smell of Mathias’ arousal. He moaned and rocked up into the larger body above him again. “Because we both want it,” he replied breathlessly. Colton tensed his abs again, rolling his hips. Bringing his legs up and wrapping them around the bigger male’s waist. He rubbed unashamedly against his hot human’s cock and body. He moaned. “Never wanted a cock in me, but damn does your’s feel perfect. Wanna feel it everywhere. Wanna drown in your scent, drip with your seed.”

Mathias growled, the sound deep and throaty. While he used his left hand to shove down his underwear—jostling Colton’s thighs and hips in the process—he used his right to reach under his pillow and grab a tube of lubricant. “You sure?” he snarled. “I don’t have any condoms. I’m plenty clean, haven’t had a lover in over eight months.” His eyes narrowed. “You still want me to fuck you?”

Gaping, amazed—his cock jerking and oozing, betraying his excitement—Colton nodded. “Yeah. By the gods, yes. Do it,” he pleaded.

Holy shit! Did I just beg to have this big man fuck my ass?

Colton hadn’t had more than his finger in his channel, but he’d always enjoyed it. For his mate, he’d take anything he had to. He wanted to feel the connection he’d seen other shifters in his pack experience. While Colton knew he was young for a shifter, he still understood and appreciated the bond he’d seen between his alpha and his alpha’s human mate…as well as the many others in the pack who’d managed to find their other half.

“I’m yours,” Colton whispered, knowing just how true the words were. “Take me.”

* * * *

Mathias felt as if he were going out of his mind. Lust and need pulsed through his body. His cock ached where it rubbed against the slender young male beneath him. Even the fact that he didn’t know the man and didn’t know where he'd come from didn’t deter him. Mathias wanted him.

Opening the lube, Mathias poured some onto his fingers. He wasted no time in sliding his hand below him and searching for the young man’s opening. Rubbing lightly at the muscle, he growled, “What’s your name?” He didn’t want to fuck a nameless stranger, no matter how much he wanted to shove his cock into the tight opening he fingered.

“Colton,” the lithe young man replied as he rocked into Mathias’ touch. “Colton Neater.”

Mathias rumbled, growling deep in his throat. “Colton.” He pumped his fingers in and out of Colton’s channel, stretching him quickly. “You are a hot, sexy little thing.” He pulled his fingers free and swiped over his cock, slicking himself up before guiding his erection to Colton’s hole. “After I’m done fucking you, you will explain how the fuck you got in here.”

“Told you,” Colton replied lifting his hips in eagerness. “You brought me.”

While the answer still made no sense, Mathias pushed with his hips. His cock slid slowly into the hottest, tightest channel he’d ever experienced. It’d also been years since he’d fucked without a condom. Why he was doing it this time, he didn’t know.

Then Mathias bottomed out, his balls rubbing against the crack of Colton’s ass. Peering into the younger man’s face, he brought his left hand up and threaded his fingers through Colton’s thick, dirty-blond hair. He gripped Colton’s long strands and used his hold to tilt his head and meet his gaze. He slid his other hand to Colton’s ass, gripping the cheek as he withdrew his prick partway.

Watching Colton’s expression, Mathias watched his new lover’s eyes dilate and his mouth open in an oh of obvious enjoyment. He started a swift rhythm of thrust and retreat, reveling in the open pleasure on Colton’s face almost as much as the sweet pressure rippling along his dick.

Mathias’ body flooded with heat as his balls tingled. The vice-like constriction on his cock caused goose bumps to break out on his groin. “So fucking good,” he rumbled, his gaze riveted to Colton’s wanton expression and full lips. “Do you kiss, sweetheart?” he asked, the endearment slipping out without conscious thought. “Wanna taste you.”

Colton’s hands came up and he gripped Mathias’ upper arms. Holding onto him, he licked his lips and whispered, “Yes, please.”

Not waiting, Mathias lowered his head and captured Colton’s mouth with his own. He thrust his tongue into the man, lapping at his tongue. Colton returned his kiss eagerly. Their tongues tangled, and Colton fed Mathias a soft moan.

Mathias grunted. His hips picked up speed as he mapped his young lover’s mouth with his tongue and drilled his ass with his cock. Adjusting his angle, he drank down Colton’s cry of pleasure, telling Mathias that he’d found his lover’s prostate. He pegged it over and over with each thrust.

Stiffening in Mathias’ grip, Colton shuddered and twitched. Warm seed flooded between their bodies, slicking the space between them. His lover’s channel clamped down on him rhythmically with his release. Mathias’ balls pulled tight. It only took two more thrusts for him to lose control, and his orgasm rushed through him. His release sent waves of bliss crashing over him as his cock spurted, flooding the young man’s chute.

Mathias lifted his head, breaking the kiss, and groaned in bliss. “Yesss,” he hissed through clenched teeth. His hips bucked again as his cock gave one more spurt.

Lowering his head again, Mathias captured Colton’s lips once more. As he molded their mouths together, sliding their lips together, nibbling Colton’s lips, he felt his dick soften and slip from Colton’s channel. The oddest sense of possession surged through him, and he wanted nothing more than for his cock to harden so he could thrust back into him again. Mathias wanted to fuck this young man for hours.

Shivering at the unfamiliar feelings, Mathias brought the kiss to an end and stared down at the stranger in his bed. Colton returned his stare, his lips puffy from his kisses, his hair mussed from his grip, his eyes dilated from pleasure, and his chest and neck flushed with arousal. Pride pushed in on Mathias, pride that he’d done that to Colton.

Flopping onto his back, Mathias panted softly as he stared up at the ceiling. “Holy shit,” he mumbled. What the hell did I just do? Mathias grabbed the t-shirt he’d tossed over the nightstand while heading to bed earlier and rubbed it over his groin.

Then Mathias turned to Colton and, using a clean part of the shirt, began wiping him down. Colton smiled lazily up at him. “So amazing,” he mumbled. He shivered when Mathias’ hand went lower, Colton’s cheeks flushing a bit. He slid his gaze to Mathias chest, then whispered, “Never thought anything could feel like that.”

Mathias tossed the t-shirt to the floor, then returned his hand to Colton’s waist. He pulled him close, feeling an odd desire to touch and hold. What the fuck is this guy doing to me? Mathias had never really considered himself a cuddler, but holding Colton somehow seemed of paramount importance.

“Now, then,” Mathias began. “Your name is Colton.” He waited until the young man nodded. “And how did you get in here?”

Colton’s brows furrowed. “I already told you. You brought—”

“You in,” Mathias cut in. “Right. You said that. When?”

“Did you bump your head or something?” Colton asked, reaching up and touching Mathias’ brow, perhaps checking for bumps. “Maybe when carrying me? You shot me with the tranquilizer, which wasn’t very nice you know. You could have just told me it was a tranquilizer rifle and wouldn’t really hurt. I thought maybe you were the poacher who set the trap.”

Mathias gaped, confused beyond words.

“Anyway, I woke up here, so I assume you carried me, right? There isn’t anyone else here.”

Narrowing his eyes, Mathias scowled at Colton. “Are you on something?”

Colton sneered, looking offended. “Of course not. I—” He paused, gaping. “Oh gods. I thought you knew,” he whispered, his entire body tensing.

“Know what?”

“That I’m a shifter,” Colton replied softly. “I’m the wolf. See?”

Mathias opened his mouth to ask if maybe Colton should be taking medication, when the man flipped aside the blanket and stuck out his leg. The words died in Mathias’ throat as he stared at the bandage…a bandage that he recognized as the one he’d placed on the wolf’s leg. It was a bit tight and a little rumpled, but definitely the wrap he’d applied.

“What the hell?” Mathias mumbled, pushing into a sitting position. He gaped for a few seconds, staring at Colton’s leg. “How is this possible?” Still disbelieving, he reached out and touched Colton’s wrapped leg.

“I thought you knew,” Colton whispered. He peered at Mathias through his lashes. “You talked to me while I was in wolf form like you knew I could understand you. I—”

Mathias licked his lips absently. He could still taste the man on his tongue, and he wanted to taste him again, except— “Prove it,” he demanded. “Turn into the wolf.”

Colton nodded. “I can do that,” he replied, completely without hesitation.

Watching Colton slip from the bed, Mathias almost called him back. Who cares if my new lover is crazy? He’s sexy as hell. Mathias swept his gaze over Colton’s lean, strong frame and muscular arms. His limbs were dusted with the same dirty blond hair that covered his head, which—now that he thought about it—was very similar in color to the tawny color of the wolf.

Just as Colton’s feet hit the floor and he began to crouch, the sound of splintering wood and shattering glass sounded through the place. Mathias rolled away from Colton and grabbed his handgun from the nightstand. Rolling out of the bed, he crept silently toward the closed bedroom door.

Colton grabbed Mathias’ upper arm, gaining his attention. “It’s the poachers,” he whispered. “Same scent.”

Mathias jerked a nod, adding Colton’s claims of smelling poachers to his so very odd list. Still, he reached for the doorknob, pointing his pistol at the floor. The soft sound of popping and cracking caught his attention. Turning his head, Mathias gaped at the sight before him.

Colton—the man he’d just fucked—was…changing…turning into a wolf. When the animal shook out his fur, he easily recognized it as the same beast he’d freed from the trap and brought home.

“C-Colton?” Mathias gasped the name, shock and amazement mixing in him.

The wolf’s ears perked up and the animal looked at him for a second, then it focused on the door, sniffing at it. It growled softly, so low in his throat that Mathias wouldn’t have heard it if he hadn’t been standing right next to the beast.

The handle under his palm turned.

Pulled from his shock, Mathias backed a step and waited for the door to open. He watched a rifle muzzle appear first, followed by the arm holding it. As soon as the person’s shoulders appeared, Mathias slammed into the door. The wood crashed into the intruder, who grunted, and the rifle barrel lowered.

Mathias yanked the door open and swung the butt of the gun down on the guy’s head in one fluid motion. The guy grunted and fell to his knees. The wolf lunged, slamming into the downed man’s chest, causing him to sprawl backward.

Spotting a second man in the living room, Mathias saw this intruder also carried a rifle. They both lifted their weapons, but Mathias with his handgun was faster. “Don’t even think about it,” he snarled, aiming at the guy’s chest.

The man froze, his rifle only partially brought to bear.

Mathias’ eyes narrowed as he ordered, “Drop it.”

The man obeyed.

“On your knees.”

The guy glanced uncertainly toward the wolf.

“Don’t worry,” Mathias stated. “He won’t attack without being ordered to.”

Mathias glanced down at the wolf, praying he wasn’t lying. If that truly was Colton, how much could he understand while in that, uh, form. The wolf looked up at him and seemed to give him a wolfy grin. Okay, so he understood at least a little bit, then.

The intruder lowered to his knees, setting the rifle on the floor.

Advancing on the man, Mathias kicked the rifle, sending it skittering a few feet away. Next, he slammed the butt of the gun on the back of the guy’s head. Once the guy lay still, on reflex, Mathias went to tuck the gun in the holster, only to remember he was naked.

“Oops,” Mathias mumbled, stalking back into the bedroom.

Mathias yanked on the sweats, strapped on his gun-belt, then holstered his weapon. Returning to the main room, he pulled open a drawer and dug out the duct tape. He made quick work of trussing up both men, finding both unconscious. It seemed the first guy knocked his head on the floor when he’d fallen.

“Works for me,” Mathias stated.

Then Mathias turned back to the wolf. As if just waiting for his attention, the creature began to change. His skin rippled. His fur receded. His muscles popped, bones cracked, and tendons snapped. Mathias cringed as he listened. Then a few seconds later, a naked Colton stood before him.

“Wow,” Mathias whispered. “You really can turn into a wolf. How?”

Colton shrugged. “I just can. Once a shifter reaches puberty, we learn how to change.” He wrapped his arms around his torso, his head bowing. He kept glancing at Mathias through his lashes. “Most don’t know, so you can’t tell anyone, but you’re my mate, and I thought you already knew, so that’s why—”

Mathias stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Colton, tugging him close. “Stop,” he commanded softly. “I don’t know what most of that means, but I can learn.” He kissed the top of Colton’s head, shocked at how right, how perfect it felt to have the lean young man in his arms, to hold him. “I’m gonna call Detective Stryker, so he can get this trash out of my cabin.” Mathias cupped Colton’s jaw and tilted his head up so their gazes met. “Then, you and I are going to have a long talk about all this and what it means for us. How does that sound?”

Colton nodded, a look of such hope and longing glowing from his eyes.

Mathias looked forward to discovering this new facet of his world, especially at the prospect of doing it with Colton at his side. Lowering his head, he captured Colton’s mouth, sealing his words with a kiss.