First Chapter Sneak Peek: Alpha's Cage (Haven City Series #9)

So, like a complete dork, I forgot what day of the week it was and didn't post this yesterday. *face palm*

It's here now!

Also, I'm working on the next Lost Wolves book as well. It should be out in November. I forgot how much I enjoyed writing the Black Prince, Aslan. He's a treat. And he keeps Kamil on his toes.

Also, if you do a google image search for 'naked yaoi' you'll find a bunch of Digimon porn. 0_0

I'm not gonna post that. Instead, more Free! pics. I pretty much ship everyone with everyone else on that show.

First chapter time! Enjoy! 


 Ari Gold stood in the middle of the haunted house and waited.

The familiar presence lingered at the top of the grand staircase carved of dark wood, which wound around in a circle to the top of the third floor. The house itself, a charming Victorian set in the historic district of Haven City, had been in the Gold family for the last three generations but the haunting—that was a recent occurrence.

Recent as in the last ten years. 

And it wasn't as if it bothered Ari in the least. He’d rather have this ghost close by, hanging over his shoulder and speaking to him in those quiet whispers at night than gone for good. 

Because it meant Kian might be dead, but he was still here. 

A reminder of Ari’s failure on so many different levels. Staying around to keep him in check. Prevent him from making anymore dire mistakes like he had in the past. Though, he knew, losing Kian hadn’t been his own fault entirely. The wounds were too grievous to treat when the wolf arrived on his doorstep, but that sort of guilt didn’t listen to reason. 

Ari could still feel him—hear him, and even on rare occasions see him, and that was all he needed, most of the time. 

Unfortunately some people wouldn’t agree with that sentiment.

Or, not people, but wolves. 

Well, one alpha in particular. 

Felan Cage. 

And he was the one wolf Ari didn’t want to deal with on the best of days, and certainly not on any of his worst. 

Having an alpha as an ex-boyfriend sucked.

Kian’s presence roused, the air charging with an energy that Ari had grown accustomed to over the years. Akin to the sensation a thunderstorm puts in the air on a muggy summer’s day. It meant someone was coming, and Ari knew just who that someone was. 

A moment later, a knock just shy of forceful sounded on the front door. 

Ari stood to the side of the entryway in the formal sitting room (that hadn’t seen actual use in ages), fists clenched at his sides and heard the knock echoed on the wall at the top of the stairs, a hollow sound.

“I don’t have to answer it,” Ari said under his breath. 

He knew it was Cage because the alpha had the sense to call first, and even if Ari told Cage he was heading out to open his shop and run some very important errands, did the wolf listen? 


Never did. 

It had to be an alpha thing, because not all wolves were that dense. 


Ari wished his front door didn't have the frosted glass panel that made it far too easy to see in and out. The morning sunlight framed Cage’s silhouette, and his six foot something frame look larger than normal.

When Ari glanced to the top of the staircase, he saw a ghostly shadow similar to Cage’s there. Only there was no way that shadow could travel up three flights of stairs. 

Kian was playing tricks on him again.

“Does that mean you want me to answer it or not?”Ari asked in a hushed whisper. Not that it would do any good. Shifter hearing was much better than his own human abilities.

Though, Ari did have skills above and beyond a normal human as a healer, the shadow folk version of a medical doctor, really, but it’s not like it came with many special powers. He knew how to bring out the medical properties of herbs with a bit of latent magic. When to harvest them and pick them, all of that was innate. But the potions he made were learned through years of practice from his grandmother, who’d served both Haven’s shadow folk and regular folk for years before her death. 

Ari had enough of one kind of folk for his own liking, thank you very much. 

Not to mention, being a healer didn’t pay well.

He had more than enough bloody shifters and mages showing up on his stoop at all hours of the night with everything from a simple sprain to a bullet wound (those were some of the worst), but it’s not like he could magic them away with a puff of smoke. 

That’s not how his power worked. 

It took time to collect herbs for his work and money to buy them if he didn’t have the time. 
At least shifters healed quicker than humans. 

In order to run his own private healing clinic, he needed to have a side job as well. In Ari’s case he ran a high end antique shop over on 20th that specialized in magical objects. Which is where he needed to be now, not trapped in his own house caught between a ghost and an alpha, both of whom were on his very last nerve. 

“Ari, I said I’d buy you coffee. If you go out the back, I’ll hear you,” Cage said through the door, and Ari gritted his teeth and watched the shadow at the top of the stairs dissipate in a way a normal shadow had no business doing. Kian’s presence faded with it until it was nothing more than a vague pressure, something that watched from the walls and didn’t speak.


If Kian wasn’t going to be of any help, Ari would handle this on his own.

He righted his dark brown hair, brushing the loose strands off his forehead. His shirt was tucked in and fit his smallish frame well. The green matched his eyes, and the gray slacks were professional and well-fitted. He didn’t bother with a tie, but he had a sweater to keep the chill off. Even the summers in Haven City were changeable. A warm day could turn into a cold one with a bit of cloud cover and a rainstorm. 

He made a show of checking his pockets for his wallet and keys and cell phone before he finally answered the door with an exaggerated frown. 

Cage, the tall handsome alpha with a crook in his nose and those keen dark eyes, smirked at him. He was dressed much like Ari himself, save his button up was checkered neutrals instead of green. For those who didn’t know him, he looked every bit the middle aged history professor, with those copper wire-framed glasses and his gently mussed brown hair. Most shifters had excellent vision, but an accident as a child left Cage with poor eyesight that could only be fixed by human means, hence the glasses. 

Which Ari didn’t find charming at all. 

Quite the opposite, in fact. 

At least, that’s what he told himself as he stared up at the smirking alpha and counted backwards from ten to keep from raising his voice. While also reminding his traitorous body that, while attractive, dating Cage was the most disastrous thing that had ever happened to him. 

And it killed Kian. 

He didn’t know why it took so many years for it to understand that simple fact. 

“I don’t need coffee,” Ari managed and brushed out the door, turning to lock it before Cage could say a thing. 

“You look like you need coffee. One cup on the way to the shop won’t hurt you.”

Not having an actual excuse, Ari scoffed instead and marched down the twisting cement path that led to the sidewalk, past the roses and hydrangea in his front yard, both in full bloom. The heady scent filled his nose. Not what he needed with Cage so close. 

“Maybe not, but I can buy my own coffee,” Ari said and didn’t bother to check if Cage followed. There’s no way he wouldn’t. “Don’t you have a class to teach?”

“I’m not teaching this summer. Research only,” Cage said and sighed. 

He did that when he had something to say but didn't want to actually say it without prompting. No way in hell was Ari prompting him to say anything.

He changed the subject instead. “How's Tyler?”

Tyler Harrison. Cage was his NA sponsor. 

Cage stepped next to Ari. “Quite well, actually. He’s made a lot of progress since Quinn came along. Who knew having a mate would do a wolf so much good?”


Ari forgot about that. 

Wolves and their mates. 

To think he’d almost bought into the whole notion back when he was young and stupid and oh so naive. Not only that, but talking about Tyler should’ve been labeled ‘off limits’ in his brain too. How Cage and Tyler were acquainted was a delicate issue.

“I forgot about that,” Ari said and paused to wait for a stoplight to change. He had a car, but his shop was only twenty blocks away, and unless it was pouring there was no reason not to walk. “How’s his tattoo shop?”

Ari swore he felt Cage’s eyes boring into his skull, but he refused to look. “Are you thinking of getting a little ink?”


Cage chuckled. “His shop is doing well enough that he doesn’t have to worry. You know how the Chinatown gangs are with their tattoos. He hasn’t missed a meeting in ages either. And he’s even getting along with Davis, for once. I think he might be on his way to forgiving him, if he hasn’t already.”

Ari snorted. He wasn’t one to gossip, but he knew the basics of what Tyler’s older brother had done to lose Tyler’s trust. Still nothing compared to what Felan Cage himself had done, and if he wanted forgiveness for that, he could search elsewhere because Ari wasn’t offering it. 

“Well, at least Tyler is alive to give it,” Ari said and bit the inside of his lip after the words spilled out. He definitely wasn’t going to look at Cage now. 

“That he is,” Cage said heavily. “I don’t expect you to forgive me for that.”

“Good, because it’s never happening so you should stop trying to—”

“To what?” Cage asked, and Ari’s eyes betrayed his internal command and glanced over. 

His heart seized up at the pain in Cage’s brown eyes, pinched at the edges and showing his age, alpha or not. He was older than Ari by several years, forty-two this past May. Not that Ari kept Cage’s birthday written down on a calendar or anything, but there were some things his mind wouldn’t let him forget. 

It was far too much like the look he had the night he carried a broken Kian to Ari’s door, rambling incoherently about blood loss and not knowing what had happened. 

Ari shook the memory away the pointed at the café. “Here. Buy me the coffee if you insist, but I’ll need breakfast too, and I’m not cheap.”

The expression cleared, and the corner of Cage’s mouth quirked. “Don’t I know it.”

Ari ignored that. 

After he was weighed down with a large latte and a blueberry muffin as big as his fist, he turned toward his shop, fully expecting Cage to go his own way. 

The alpha didn’t. He followed Ari right up to the front of Gold’s Curios and stepped inside. 

“I told you I have errands to run, and I can’t be bothered to entertain a stray dog today,” Ari said as he set his load on the counter, then plucked out a blueberry and ate it. He didn’t open until eleven a.m. and it was just after six now. 

Did Cage really get up at the crack of dawn to meet him? No. From the smudges under the alpha’s eyes, he’d probably pulled an all nighter in his office. 

“You can’t use company on your errand?” Cage asked as his eyes wandered over the shop. “I can carry your bags.”

“I’m not grocery shopping. It’s an estate sale out at Lake Orlando, and I don’t need anyone to escort me. They probably wouldn’t like a shifter sitting in anyway. They have wards against your kind up there.” 

The words felt like fire in his throat, no matter how true they might be. The tightening of Cage’s jaw told him they hit their mark. 

“Who died?”

“That’s confidential as of this moment. But the fact that I got an invitation means I have to be on time if I want to get the prime valuables.”

Cage smiled at that. “I wouldn’t want to get in the way of you picking the bones from the dead, Goldie.”

Ari’s spine tingled at the use of his old nickname—the one he’d hated since as far back as he could remember. “Oh? Says the man who makes up stories about dead people. At least I have something to show for my line of work.”

Cage laughed. 

It was an old argument and, grudgingly, Ari knew they had nothing against what each other did. They were, in a way, joined by their love of the past, though they went about it in different ways. But making a living as a professor wasn’t easy: case in point Cage. And Ari had more than himself to think about—he had a legion of shadow folk who depended on him as well. 

Cage might be the alpha of his own pack, but he didn’t support them all monetarily. Not anymore, at least. Now they all had jobs and families of their own while their alpha was alone. 

Not that Ari felt bad about it. It wasn’t his fault Cage ruined everything. 

“I have written a few books about folklore and magic if you're interested,” Cage said, his voice light. 
“Did you write about how magic is real and that you can turn into a giant wolf at will?”

Cage’s eyes crinkled. “I neglected to mention that part. You know how humans can get.”

Ari nodded. So did all shadow folk, which is why their world was kept secret from regular humans. “Look at what they do to each other. I can't imagine what they’d do to us.”

Cage smiled sadly. “You don't have to imagine. We have history to back it up.”

The alpha was talking about the witch trials in Europe which had affected the shadow folk primarily.
“Let's hope nothing like that happens again,” Ari said and chomped on his muffin.

“Don't you need to drive to Lake Orlando?” Cage asked and sipped his coffee. Black with two sugars. Why did Ari remember that?

“They're sending a car, but I'd rather not be covered in crumbs when it arrives.”

“Or seen keeping company with a wolf,” Cage said and his smile sharpened, showing his canines.
“I don't care if they know who I associate with. I'm just a healer, after all.”

And healers weren't high on the totem pole of magic users in the eyes of the old families. They valued power and prestige over everything else. The only reason they came to Ari in the first place was because he was the only member of the shadow folk with an antique shop in Haven City, and the only one who even sold magic antiques in a hundred mile radius (not a large market for his wares but a loyal one). Though he wasn't fooling himself; there would be other bidders there as well. Probably ones with deeper pockets than he had. 

Still he wasn't going to turn down the opportunity.

“Don't underestimate yourself,” Cage said, eyes wandering the depths of the shop.

It was filled with antiques from all over the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the world. Some highly polished furniture in dark exotic woods. The walls were hung with tapestries and paintings and a surprising number of weapons, mostly swords and spears. Odd knickknacks of every conceivable type, from a stuffed raven (a necromancer’s familiar) to a supposedly cursed deck of playing cards dotted with blood, were organized and displayed tastefully. As far as Ari knew there wasn't a mote dust on any surface. He liked to keep it that way. 

It looked almost as haunted as his home.

“I never have. I know exactly what I'm capable of and what I'm not. Maybe you shouldn’t overestimate their abilities, alpha,” Ari said and polished off his muffin. 

“Perhaps I’ve overestimated my ability to win you back,” Cage said into his coffee.

Ari narrowed his eyes into sharp green slits. “I'm not a prize, and yeah you have overestimated your ability to ever call me anything more than an acquaintance again.”

Outside the shop, a black Aston Martin pulled to a stop and honked on the horn.

“Your ride?” Cage asked, and kept his face turned away from Ari.

He wasn't going to feel bad for what he said. It was best to get the truth out and not let Cage think he stood a chance. As far as Ari was concerned, he wasn't anybody’s mate. Especially not that alpha’s. 
Ari moved to the door and held it open. “Looks like it. Get some sleep. You need it.”

Cage started. Stared at him for long moment. “You do care.”

Ari shook his head. “No, but you look like shit. You can't run your pack if you don't take care of yourself.”

“I suppose not. I'll see you tonight. Dinner,” he said and turned.

“Stop threatening me,” Ari called after him, but Cage didn’t stop or make any sound that he’d heard. 


Still, Ari had more important things to do than stroke the ego of an alpha wolf. 

He climbed into the backseat of the Aston Martin and settled in for the ride. The driver didn't say anything as they wound up into the hills, through Forest Park and toward the lake. The trees were nothing but a blur of green and brown, and every glimpse he caught of the lake itself felt like seeing a blue-green jewel glimmering in the distance. The area was almost exclusively owned by the old families and one dragon, as far as he knew. But that was a dragon not even sorcerers wanted to mess with. Ari didn’t blame them. He didn’t want to get on Jin Yue’s bad side either. Not only due to the dragon bit. But Jin Yue also ran every criminal enterprise throughout Haven, including all the Chinese shifter gangs. 

In short, not someone to mess with. 

The car pulled up a long drive lined with towering fir trees on either side and surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. The house was a massive sprawling thing with too many columns to be Victorian and too many balconies to be colonial. It was made from red and brown brick, and looked like it could be a castle if it had a turret or two. 

The Montgomery family had owned it, though now it was in the hands of the attorney since they had no living relatives any longer. That’s what the old families got for being so damn picky about who they allowed their offspring to marry. Not that anyone would have wanted to marry Bradley Montgomery anyway. He’d been in his prime, but from what Ari had heard, he was a terrible bastard who deserved to have a sudden heart attack in Forest Park on a night that just happened to be a full moon. Normal humans didn’t understand that significance, and the shadow folk police on the force weren’t going to attempt to prosecute the shifter responsible for a variety of reasons. One being that shifter in question had been wrongfully held captive and abused for nearly twenty years.  

Still, it had taken long enough for the lawyer to get everything put on the market considering Bradley had died well over a month before. 

Ari considered that as he stepped out of the car and across the drive. 

There were a few other cars present, but it looked like Ari was the only one who’d been offered a ride. Unless, of course, they had a whole garage full of Aston Martins on their way. With the old families you could never tell.

Being a human magic user meant Ari couldn't smell magic the way shifters could, but he felt the shimmer on his skin as he stepped into the house, and he saw the pale glow of wards that covered the place, though some of them had been broken already. The underlying power pulled with a revolting sensation that made him wish he’d never finished that muffin. Wasn’t Bradley a light mage and not a necromancer? It felt like the latter more than the former, but that sort of dark magic was never associated with the old families. 

That didn’t mean their magic was all light and goodness—far from it. 

Mrs. Barnes, the attorney running the sale, approached as Ari glanced around the empty entryway. He hoped they gathered all the interesting artifacts into a few rooms or this trip wouldn’t have been worth it.

“Good. You're here. Now we can start,” she said and led the way into what would’ve been a formal living room, Ari guessed. 

His loafers echoed hollowly on the smooth wooden floors. 

The lot in question was smaller than he thought it’d be, and Ari felt that twinge of annoyance raking up his spine. Of course they wouldn’t keep the good stuff for him. They probably sold it as soon as Montgomery keeled over to pay their bill. 


And what was left didn’t hold any particular interest to him in the first place. He specialized in curios. Meaning rare items. Not things a normal antique shop carried. He might have some furniture, but it was all carefully selected and, to the discerning eye, unique. Not typical cherrywood side tables with inlaid rosewood. 

He almost turned to go, but the mood in the room, and the two over-sized men who loomed in the corner watching him, changed his mind. The lawyer stood at the front of the room and gave her spiel about the history of the estate (she was wrong about most of it, from Ari’s research) and what was for sale (everything). 

“We’re selling things by the room only. We have them organized that way and found it might be easiest for the buyers as well. No cherry picking. Take all of it or none of it,” she said and shot a look at Ari. 

He rolled his eyes. He’d never dealt with Mrs. Barnes before, but her firm handled a lot of wealthy estates. Maybe he was earning a reputation in Haven for his shrewdness. Good. Couldn’t hurt. 
Ari glanced at the other buyers. One was Margaret Benson, a normal human who owned another antique shop in town. She had frizzy brown and gray hair in a braid down her back and wore a long floral dress. He’d seen her plenty and would often recommend her shop if his customers wanted something a little more mainstream. She smiled at him, fire in her eyes, and he knew he’d have to move quickly if he wanted the impressive stuff. 

It was clear from Mrs. Barnes speech they’d moved it out of sight for whatever reason. Hopefully, the things that remained in the room were just rejects and not a hint of what the Montgomery family had. 
There were a few other buyers there that he didn’t recognize. Probably from outside of Haven somewhere. One pair was a man and a woman in slick black leather jackets. Not the weather for those, but maybe they came on motorcycles. The oppressive nature of the house and whatever wards were worked into the walls kept him from sensing if they had magic as well. 

He wondered if Cage could’ve done a better job and scowled at himself for even daring to consider that. 

Finally, Mrs. Barnes pointed at the doors with the guards, and everyone stood up and shuffled through them. 

Ari was small and quick, so he made it through first. 

That room was all furniture and a few lamps. Nothing that caught his interest, so he passed to the next one. 

More furniture. 

Some family portraits. 

No one would buy those. 

He moved on. 

And on. 

Past more antique furniture that every old family seemed to own. Sure, it would catch a good price, but it didn’t interest him. And Ari’s shop didn’t specialize in that. 

He was ready to call it a day when he arrived at the final room. 

This is what he came here for. 

It bristled against his skin as he stepped inside, a distinct buzzing that told him several of the objects were imbued with magic. A faint glimmer of power covered nearly everything. Ari smiled and closed the door behind him, doing a quick mental sweep of the room and what it held. A golden hourglass with lapis lazuli colored sand. The stuffed head of a badger—gruesome, but he knew a collector who’d be more than interested. A lantern with a dim blue flame flickering inside (definitely strange). And a jewelry box full of amulets that nearly made his hand numb when he touched them. 

The set that caught his eye sparkled with rubies, inlaid in an intricate golden necklace with a pair of matching earrings. That would fetch a pretty penny once he figured out why they were so charged with power they put his hand to sleep. 

Tucked in the back of the lot was a dull dagger, holes in the hilt that must’ve held jewels at some point. They were missing now. It looked like nothing more than junk, but touching it sent a cold jolt up Ari’s arm. He’d have to keep an eye on that one. 

He smiled and sent a text to Mrs. Barnes with his bid for the room. He didn’t bother going low, offering what he actually thought the wholesale value was. He’d double his money, no problem, but paying the fee would put him in a tight spot for a few months. 

Still, it was worth it. 

Sure, there was some junk in there too, but he’d find other shops to unload it on. The prime stuff he’d keep for his own. 

He got an immediate response. 

Accepted. Want it sent to your shop or your home?

Home. Ari replied. 

He did all his sorting there since it had more room than the shop. 

Perhaps even after his meeting with Cage this morning today wouldn’t be so bad after all. Or he might even rope the alpha into helping him after dinner. Though, ugh. 


No, he wouldn’t. 

Because there wouldn’t be dinner. It was just another one of Cage’s empty threats he never followed through on. Like all the times he said he’d take Ari out for a drink. 

That was his brain betraying him again. 

It really needed to stop doing that. 

Ari bought from too many estate sales to trust them to pack it up for him, so he assisted the large guards (he was pretty sure they were bears) in packing the lot into crates. Once it was all put into the truck, Ari climbed next to the driver and nodded. 

“You’re not going in the car?” the man asked, his voice a deep rumble. 

“I’d rather make sure my assets are secure, if you don’t mind. I’m near Burnside and thirtieth.”
The driver shrugged and pulled away. 

Ari glanced outside and swore a few of his fellow buyers glared at him. Most notably, the man in leather. 

He ignored it and focused on the time. If he didn’t hurry, he’d be late opening shop. Which meant he had to put off sorting until tonight. 

That brought Cage back into Ari’s mind and he scowled at the way his gut clenched. 

Maybe the alpha could be useful for something after all. 


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