Currently, I'm working like mad on another new series (slated for release in July) because I'm crazy. It also means I'm pushing back the next Haven City book until September. Sorry about that! This book is crawling around in my brain and begging me to write it. It's a new adult (college age) story, which I've only done once before. But this one has superheroes and lots of twists on popular tropes (nerd/jock -- stuff like that). Oh, and only one shifter -- and he's not the main character. But he'll get his own book eventually.
Plus, it gives me an excuse (do I really need one?) to look at DC porn.
By Fish Ghost
Here's the first chapter of Omega Enslaved. If you want to read the second chapter, join my mailing list to get it first. Sign up here!
The only thing worse than Felix Underwood’s cell in the dank underground prison was his reason for being set free: to bring the infamous and dangerous alpha wolf, Lucien Mircea King of Wallachia, to justice. Well, what passed as justice in the eyes of the European Union, which didn’t say much considering the EU consisted of humans.
Shifters got a worse deal due to that, and while Felix couldn’t blame them for their fear of creatures stronger and faster than they were – he sure as hell could blame them for everything else. Like locking him up without a trial. And what they did to Evelyn. Not to mention this whole fucked up situation.
He gritted his teeth and took a deep breath. A thin drizzle of rain misted his hair and darkened the cobblestones at his feet. Made them slippery and difficult to run on. He knew that from experience. If it hadn’t been raining the day they got caught—he touched the scar on the back of his neck, the one made with the silver prick of the tranquilizer dart. If it hadn’t been raining they’d have gotten away from those Interpol agents easily.
That night haunted him. It filled his chest and stomach with guilt. If he had moved faster – if he hadn’t been so set of making that one last mark suffer (and that bastard needed to suffer) – they would’ve escaped. It wasn’t Felix feeling sorry for himself. His actions got them both caught, Felix and his alpha, Evelyn.
Felix popped the collar of his trench coat and slipped around the corner. It’s one of the few requests he made. He wasn’t wandering into the middle of a deal with one of the most dangerous shifter leaders in Europe without looking the part.
His blue prison coveralls didn’t cut it.
Thankfully, his captors saw it his way.
Of course, the EU didn’t have jurisdiction in Croatia, and the government wasn’t about to cooperate without special provisions, which is why Interpol needed Felix. He silently scoffed at the thought. That wasn’t their only line of reasoning. He doubted any human wanted to send their own kind against a wolf known for his impressive methods of torture. So impressive he had a nickname: Lucien the Bloody King of Wallachia.
But they weren’t in Wallachia now.
Oh no. They were in the port city of Pula, with the charming multicolored villas and quaint shops that looked like any other village along the coast.
Not to mention the dearth of shifter lands close by. That meant Lucien couldn’t retreat and disappear inside territory no sane human would tread within. Because if they did, the Old Ones might rip them to pieces or do whatever it was Old Ones did. Felix didn’t know, but he’d heard the stories as a boy. The Old Ones were ancient shifters with special magic that protected shifter territory. Without them, the barriers that kept magic in and human technology out dissolved.
That’s why Interpol chose that moment to take Lucien down. The alpha hardly ever left his own kingdom, according to their intel (which Felix didn’t trust because humans), so this deal was big.
Only Interpol had no clue what Lucien was buying.
So they were using someone disposable to figure it out. Because if Felix fucked this up no one would care except Evelyn.
He smiled at that thought. His sister had been remarkably well behaved so far. But if he died, he’d like to see what she did to them. It’d be worse than what Lucien would do, he’d bet everything he owned on that. Or everything he used to own before they tagged him like a stray and tossed him into a cell.
However, he’d rather survive than win that bet.
Like many clandestine meetings, this one took place at the port well after midnight. Of course it did. The only time in a year that Interpol let Felix out of his cage, and he didn’t even get to feel the sun on his face. At least he got to see the moon. It was half full and would’ve provided enough light but for the clouds that clogged the sky and the gentle mist that rolled off the sea.
Felix went over the scant bits of information they’d given him since they yanked him from his cell a week ago and tossed him into the middle of this bullshit.
Lucien would be in Pula to meet a ship at two in the morning. A deal would go down, and Felix was supposed to assess the situation and intervene as necessary to bring in the alpha.
Never mind that Felix was an omega. Or that they hadn’t given him a long-range rifle (his weapon of choice). And that when he and Evelyn did a job, she was the one making contact while he stayed on the outside and out of the middle of everything. Not because he couldn’t lie his way out of a paper sack (he sure as hell could), and he blended in well enough. Brown hair and brown eyes. Small to medium build. Handsome enough to get what he wanted without leaving a lasting impression. Felix was the perfect con man except for one thing: kissing ass. And con artists had to know when to butter up a mark. Evelyn did it with ease. Felix, not so much.
Now, as he turned the last corner, he shoved down every instinct that told him to whisper obscenities into the mic tucked into his collar. It’s not like his handlers would let him go into the field without one. They had a tracking device on him too in case he tried to run. The mic and earpiece would be easy to ditch, but the tracking device was under the skin at the base of his skull. Nasty bit of technology.
He wouldn’t run in the first place. Not with the ultimatum they gave him.
His stomach turned at the thought.
He had to do what they said or else she’d pay for it with her life. The thought of her hurt coiled in his belly. He got them into this shit, and he’d find a way to get them out.
“Ship spotted. Check your six,” Howard, Felix’s handler, said over the com in Felix’s ear.
Military jargon. Because Felix, an unassuming omega, was obviously a well trained soldier. Wait. No, he wasn’t.
“Does that mean to check my watch?” Felix grumbled.
A huff blew into his ear, almost as unpleasant as if the bastard was next to him and not a mile down the coast. No one wanted to get too close to a wolf like Lucien unless they had to. The actual humans in Howard’s ranks were all hidden on the dock somewhere. Felix couldn’t even smell them.
“Check behind you. We gave you the handout.”
Felix rolled his eyes. “Didn’t read it. I tried to eat it and choke, but someone stopped me. Rude, by the way.”
“You don’t get to die until we’re through with you, dog,” Howard snarled, and Felix imagined, for the hundredth time, how satisfying it would be to rip that man’s throat out.
Someday he might get to do it.
For now, he did what he was told and checked the harbor. Sure enough, a small freighter sat in the port. A few burly hunter types stood on the deck smoking and walking back and forth. Of course they were burly hunter types, because that made everything easy.
“How are you seeing this?” Felix asked.
“You think we’d trust you to go in blind? The entire area is covered with my men and their cams. I can see everything you do, so don’t try anything,” Howard’s accent was thick. British. Felix caught the hint of roughness around the edge.
“Grew up in the East End, did you?” he murmured into his mic as he worked his way closer to the ship.
Felix imagined the sneer, to his great satisfaction, on Howard’s ugly face. “Shut it.”
“Just making small talk. You don’t want the higher ups to look down on you for such humble beginnings. I can see that. Not everyone has privilege in life. Don’t hold it against yourself. It’s not as if everyone can be born with a family legacy and so many possibilities set before them.”
“Speaking from experience are we?” Howard said. His voice held a note of satisfaction like he’d won.
Far from it, but Felix let him have that. He let Howard relish in the sensation for a moment before he yanked it away. How else could he get back at his captors?
“Goodness no. I’m an Underwood. You know what that means. The stories I could tell you,” Felix said lightly and chuckled. It’s the chuckle that pissed people off. It reminded them that, shifter or not, he came from a long line of blue blood that used to have more power than any human wanted to admit. Even if their homeland didn’t look as kindly upon shifters as the Americas, the UK didn’t rally against them like the rest of Europe.
They put the shifter wars of old behind them and let most law-abiding shifters live in peace. That was the problem with Felix, however. Abiding by anything that didn’t suit him.
Even with a name like Underwood, it didn’t protect them from the men who caught them. Sold them. Used them. Nothing could protect them from that. But that didn’t stop Felix from rubbing his highborn status in everyone’s face that let him.
Howard was silent for a moment. “Lot of good it did you if you ended up here.”
“Yes, well. If only I could get back to my estate I’d be home free. No extradition over shifter lands. You know how that works. But you bastards kept me locked up in Paris, which I wouldn’t mind if I had a nicer room.”
“It’s called a cell, dog. It’s where animals belong,” Howard grunted.
“Wolf, thank you very much,” Felix said and made a rude hand gesture. If there really were men with cams everywhere, Howard would see it.
The man didn’t say a word, so Felix considered it a win.
“Get on that boat. We need to see what Lucien wants to buy before he gets here,” Howard said as Felix hung in the shadows.
He sniffed the air, but the scent of the sea and humans blocked any fellow shifters, though he caught a faint hint of silver and wolf’s bane. The two things guaranteed to kill him, and they were close enough to smell.
“How am I suppose to do that?” Felix asked and bit back the shiver that fought to travel up his back in the cold winter air.
The dim street lamps burned every meter or so, which made it easy enough to slip through the shadows. Humans didn’t have the same enhanced nocturnal vision and sense of smell that shifters did, but they did have technology that could see heat sources and hear just as well as shifters if it was properly set up. It all evened out in the end. Except those things didn’t work in shifter territory, but they weren’t in shifter territory right now, unfortunately.
“You know I’m not a spy, right?” Felix said as he watched the men stroll from one side of the deck to the other. He only spotted two humans so far, but there had to be more. That ship needed a crew of at least a dozen men.
Howard scuffed. “I don’t give two shits what you are. Get on that ship. Or are you going to let them catch you like we did?”
That bastard had nothing to do with catching them initially, and he knew it, but Felix bit back the remark. If he insulted Howard too badly the man might let these hunters kill him.
More to the point, why the hell was Lucien meeting with hunters? Well, he’d have to get on the damn boat to find out.
Sure, Felix could sneak quietly. Move like the shadows and slip up unannounced, but where was the fun in that? Plus, if he got caught it would just make his eventual death worse.
Instead, he strode out of the alley purposefully and started up the freighter’s ramp. His footfalls from the white trainers (frightful, but what could he do?) rang on the metal, and the men on duty ran to the edge brandishing their guns.
The bigger of the two put out his cigarette and glowered. He shouted something in a language Felix didn't speak.
Felix put up his hands in mock surrender.
They had to speak at least one common language. If they were dealing with Lucien, it might be Romanian, which Felix didn’t know. He went with English. “Please. Relax. I’m here on business. Lucien sent me to check the cargo. I’m his human proxy in case you don’t deliver the goods to his specifications.”
The two men looked at each other. The smaller one shrugged while the larger one frowned. At least they seemed to understand him.
“He said nothing about a proxy,” the larger one said, his English stunted but understandable.
Felix shrugged. “Why would he? Did you really think a man like Lucien would come to meet you alone?”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Howard hissed in his ear.
Felix smiled, careful not to show his fangs, and didn’t respond.
The men whispered in their native tongue, and Felix acted bored although his heart slammed in his chest. Not entirely out of fear. It was a rush to be back in the game even if he didn’t play this side too often.
Finally, they looked at him. “No weapons,” the big one said.
Felix held out his arms, inviting a check. The smaller man performed it and found nothing. They wouldn’t. It’s not like Howard let Felix protect himself. Why would he want that?
If Felix needed a weapon he’d grab a gun from one of these men. Or shift and use his claws and teeth, if it came to that.
“Settled? Good. The cargo, if you please,” Felix said and infused his voice with an air of boredom that always went over well when conning someone. He might not be able to grovel, but he could act like a stuck up asshole.
After another short conversation, the smaller man turned and led Felix toward the lower decks. The steps disappeared into the bowels of the ship, and the metal clanged with each footfall. Felix kept his eyes and ears sharp, but he smelled no other humans. Perhaps they went ashore and left these two alone to deal with Lucien.
Stupid didn’t begin to cover it, but it was their hides and not his.
The man shoved open the rust stained door at the bottom of the stairs and brought Felix to the cargo hold. It was dark, and with a flick of a switch the man turned on the sputtering fluorescent lights.
One crate sat there. It was wooden with holes drilled into the sides. Silver chains covered it, the pungent odor so strong Felix almost took a step back and shielded his face from it. Dried bits of wolf’s bane were intertwined with the silver, and the man gave him a toothy smile, obviously thrilled with the ingenuity. Besides the reek of silver and wolf’s bane came the very distinct scent of shifters, a variety too large to distinguish.
Bile rose in Felix’s stomach. His skin felt like ice, and a cold sweat broke out on his brow. He’d seen this before. Shifter pups rounded up to be sold as slaves for humans. He swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut.
Lucien Mircea was going to buy a crate of shifters? Who the fuck was this sick bastard? And how the hell was a wolf worse than humans. That didn’t seem possible.
“See?” the man said and turned, like that was good enough.
Felix grabbed the man’s forearm and squeezed. “I need to see what’s inside. All you’ve shown me is a box with holes in it. I’m not impressed. My employer will be even less impressed, and you don’t want to know what happens to people who disappoint him.”
Without someone else to consult the man made up his mind quickly. He rubbed a hand over his nearly bald head and nodded. Then he yanked a key from a ring on the wall and approached the crate.
Please. Whoever was inside, be alive, Felix silently begged.
He wasn’t in the mood to see shifter pelts, not today, but he wouldn’t put it above humans like this. Especially those willing to lock up shifters in a fucking crate.
Once unlocked, the chains clattered to the floor and the man lifted the lid.
Felix sidestepped the silver – no way in hell he wanted to touch the stuff – and peeked inside.
His heart thumped harder, and he took a breath.
Let it out.
They were all pups, girls and boys, which a few adolescents tossed in for whatever reason. Alive. Asleep. And being sold to a mad king.
No wonder Interpol wanted to take Lucien down. And Felix never agreed with anything his captors wanted.
“Well? What’ve you got?” Howard asked.
Felix gritted his teeth because it’s not like he could answer with a hunter standing there. Also, he wasn’t sure if trading shifters was even a crime in human territory. With how fucked up most humans were, he doubted it.
He glanced around the room, but it was mostly empty but for the crate, some greasy tools and a tranquilizer gun propped on the wall. That’s how they caught all the pups, no doubt. It’s how hunters always caught them.
“How much tranquilizer did you give them? My boss doesn’t want anyone not waking up,” Felix said.
The man shrugged. “One shot each. They’ll all wake up eventually. You can use them for whatever. They’re just animals.”
Felix squeezed his hands into fists. Otherwise, he might squeeze that bastard’s fragile neck until it collapsed. Of course this asshole would say that. Typical hunter. “If they don’t, Lucien will come looking for you. Got it?”
Before the man answered, a call came from above. The only word Felix caught was Lucien. On board.
The man shut the crate, but he didn’t bother with the chains. Then he turned toward the stairs. “You come to your boss?”
Felix almost laughed. If he went up there now what would happen? He’d die eventually, but what would Lucien do to him first? Felix didn’t want to find out. He was called the Bloody King for a reason, and Felix heard stories of the things that alpha did to his enemies. They included guts rolled on wagon axels and bodies impaled on pikes and left to rot in the summer sun.
“I’ll be up soon. I’ll lock this crate, just to be safe.”
The man didn’t argue. He hung the keys up and left.
Felix waited for the door to shut and the footsteps to fade before he took a breath and glanced around the hold.
No windows. Fuck! That meant he couldn’t slip out and take a late night swim in the Mediterranean.
There was one other door, which he assumed led to the upper deck. Even worse, he had to leave these shifters here for Lucien and whatever that crazy alpha had in mind.
“He’s onboard. We’re closing in,” Howard said.
“You don’t even want to know what the merch is?” Felix growled as he checked the second door. The stairs led up. Good sign. Hopefully they deposited him on the other side of the ship.
“It’s not important if we get that alpha dog,” Howard said.
It shouldn’t have been important to Felix either. This should be about saving his own ass and keeping his sister alive. But that didn’t make slipping out the door any easier. Not when the idea of those pups weighed on his mind. They were probably orphans with nowhere to go. No one who’d miss them. That thought was far too familiar to be comfortable.
Voices rang from the deck, and when Felix reached the top of the stairs, he listened.
“I was informed I’d deal with Arno directly. Where is he?” A velvety voice slipped over the air. That had to be Lucien. The man spoke perfect English with just a touch of an accent that hardened the consonants around the edges.
“He’s busy. You can deal with us, yes? We know the deal and what the boss wants,” the larger man said.
“No. That’s not good enough for me,” Lucien growled. “I was promised a meeting with Arno.”
If the man weren’t human and an idiot, Felix would’ve felt sorry for him. As it were, he was more intent to get the hell out of there before backup arrived.
“I can’t call Arno now. It’s too late. He’ll be angry if you wake him,” the hunter said and laughed, as if that would make turning down Lucien better. “And he’s not here. He’s probably far away.”
“I can wait,” Lucien said. “Now, are you going to do as I ask or will I have to prove my point?”
Felix fought the urge to peek around the corner and see if he could catch a glimpse of the alpha.
“I’ll call, but I make no promises” the hunter said.
Felix pressed into the side of the ship as if that would keep his scent from Lucien’s nose. The hunter’s phone call to Arno (whoever the hell Arno was) took far too long.
“Arno is sorry he’s not here to deal with you directly, but you can buy the merchandise or not. Your choice,” the man finally said.
Lucien sighed deeply. “Is there anyone else on the ship? More crew members?” he asked, and Felix swore he heard a smile in the alpha’s voice. It felt like something tugged him forward. Shoved his nose to the edge and forced him to look.
Why else would he do it?
Felix was the farthest thing from stupid.
Thankfully, Lucien wasn’t facing him. He stood with the two hunters near the railing. His body was turned to the side.
“Yes, a few other men. Why?”
“Call them out. I want to make sure no one is looking to kill me after I pay for my goods,” Lucien said and held up a briefcase. Money for the crate, no doubt.
Felix glowered. He was no saint. Violence was a way of life if a wolf wanted to survive, and Felix was a master at surviving. But he’d never sell a fellow a shifter. That was as bad a crime as the humans who hunted them.
The mist was thin enough that Felix made out the paleness of Lucien’s silvery blond hair and the tattoos that twisted up his pale neck, black and in an intricate design that looked sinister. He was tall, like most alphas, though not a hulking monster. He was well-built. Strong. That was evident even under his clothes and in his powerful stance. Like Felix, he wore jeans and a black trench coat, though he had boots instead of ridiculous trainers.
Felix bit his lip.
Worse yet, no one said Lucien was beautiful. That didn’t mesh well with the image Felix built for the alpha in his mind. Or the fact that Lucien was a man, and Felix never thought a man could be beautiful. But those cheekbones didn’t lie. Neither did the cut of his jaw or the slope of his nose. Or the way his pale hair fell over one side of his face like wisps of silk.
Felix’s gut lurched uncomfortably.
Lucien wasn’t some raging beast, but this. . .this. . . wolf willing to buy a crate of other shifters. Pups. Perhaps he didn’t look it, but he was a monster underneath.
Then footsteps clanked across the deck as the rest of the crew emerged from their sleeping quarters. A few of the other men were taller and wider than Lucien, and the hunters grumbled at each other before they spoke to the alpha.
“Is this all the men on board?” Lucien asked. He glanced up and down the deck, and Felix ducked right before Lucien’s eyes swept past his hiding spot.
A shifter with red eyes.
He’d never seen that before.
“All but your man. He’s below with the crate. You want to get him?” the smaller hunter asked.
Felix felt his heart stop, and he squeezed his eyes shut, ready to move. To run. Perhaps he’d shift first. That’d give him a better chance of survival considering he was weaponless and surrounded by enemies.
He never got the chance.
A series of gunshots rang through the fog draped air.
Great. Howard’s men attacked and that asshole didn’t even give the heads up!
At that moment, Felix spotted several of the Interpol agents as they slunk over the edge of the ship.
The hunters shouted, and Lucien growled.
A moment later, chaos erupted on deck.
During the fight Felix intended to get away, but one of the hunters rounded the corner just as he moved out of the stairwell.
The man raised meaty fists, and Felix rolled his eyes. They made it far too easy sometimes. Especially when the man had a knife shoved into his belt. It’s like the damn hunter was asking for it.
Felix ducked the first swing.
Grabbed the knife.
It slid free with startling ease.
Then Felix shoved it to the hilt in the hunter’s gut and pulled hard enough to slice through the viscera inside. He watched the man stumble backwards. The only thing that’d have made it better is if his body fell over the edge of the ship. It didn’t, but Felix wished it had.
Instead the hunter slumped, bleeding and useless, against the railing. His hands groped at his guts, but there was no way he’d put them back inside.
Felix smiled. Despite everything else, at least he got to take down one of those sick fucks.
Then, just as he was ready to make his escape, a wolf howled.
In the mist and confusion, he counted at least ten Interpol agents closing in. Another shot rang through the air, and the agent in Felix’s eye-line dropped to the deck. Dead. The back half of his skull splattered the side of the ship.
What the hell was going on?
“He’s taking out our agents with a sniper!” Howard said.
Of course Lucien came prepared with backup. It’s what Felix himself would’ve done, but it put the omega right in the thick of it.
He turned and scattered back down the stairs and into the cargo hold. Staying on deck would get him killed. Fast.
“Stay on him, Underwood, or I swear to God!” Howard snarled.
“How am I supposed to do that?” Felix growled.
“I don’t care, but you’re going to stay on him until we catch him. That’s an order.”
Felix gritted his teeth. At a time like this, Howard still thought he could give Felix orders. Well, he could, but that didn’t make it easier to swallow.
Footsteps banged over his head, and Felix looked at the crate and realized what he had to do. It’s the only way he’d be able to stay close to Lucien and keep Evelyn safe.
But if he was going to try this, he’d need to look the part.
Felix rubbed some grease from the discarded tools on his face and through his hair. If they found the mic and earpiece they’d probably kill him straight away, so he yanked them out and smashed them to bits. However, it’d be a shame to lose the trench. He kept it on. Finally, he grabbed a dart of tranquilizer from the gun on the wall.
Climbed into the crate.
Shut the lid.
Squeezed his eyes shut and begged the universe.
Let him live long enough to free his sister and kill Howard. That’s all he wanted.
Someone trotted down the stairs toward the hold.
Felix took a deep breath, buried himself between a lion cub and a fox, and pressed the dart into his neck.