Wolf's Bounty Page 1

Chapter One

2258 C.E. Larsson blinked at the message on his computer screen a few times before the growl rumbled low in his throat, trying to rip its way free. His cousin Blayde, sitting next to him on the command deck, looked up, a little startled by the sound.

“Lars? Is everything okay?” “That no good, cat bastard. That motherfucking son of a bitch.” Larsson raised his gaze and glared over at Blayde.“He put out a bounty on me. On me!”

A little frown settled between Blayde’s eyes. “Someone put a bounty on you?”

“Not someone! That asshole cat fucker!I’ll kill him this time, I swear to the gods.”

As Blayde leaned over to look at Larsson’s screen, Larsson started cursing again. Larsson may have been angrier and more outraged a time or two in his life, but just now he couldn’t remember when. He looked back down at the screen Blayde was looking at. On the screen was a picture of Larsson, grinning up at the camera. The picture looked like it came originally from a group shot, because apart of a guy’s head had been cut off next to him, and Larsson’s head had been carefully cut away from the others. Larsson thought he recognized the shot as the one from his graduating class at the Academy.

Beneath the enlarged picture was a one, with a long string of zeroes following it, and the words Wanted—Larsson Balenescu written beneath in bold letters. A warning appeared written in red under the heading.

Subject should be considered armed, dangerous and volatile. Use extreme caution in his apprehension. A strong cage is recommended, since the bounty is a Lycan shifter. Notify Tarr Bonnet for immediate pickup when apprehended.

Tarr Bonnet —the Tygerian outlaw who had been the bane of his existence since the moment they met, the most irritating, exasperating, maddening man it had ever been his misfortune to meet. The fact that he was also the sexiest just made his existence even more annoying.

Blayde whistled low under his breath. “Tarr Bonnet? Look at the reward he’s offering. And in diamond standards too.”

“Yeah, thanks, Blayde, I see that. Whose side are you on anyway? This will bring out every fool bounty hunter in the galaxies looking for me. You realize that, right?”

Blayde shook his head.“Yes, it will. I’m even considering it myself. I think I have a goodsized cage around here somewhere.”

Larsson snarled at him, his incisors dropping down from his gums so fast they scratched his bottom lip. Blayde held out his hands in front of him.“Kidding! Damn, Lars, Tarr’s right about one thing.You are volatile.”

“He’s not right! There’s nothing right about that man. He’s insufferable, arrogant, conceited… I knew from the first moment I saw him he was trouble! I should have taken off running then.”

Blayde smiled sadly and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.“Except that you couldn’t. Because he’s also your mate, and believe me, I know how that is.”

Larsson shot him a furious, disgusted glance.“You have no idea how it is. The gods gave you a beautiful little human—look what they saw fit to give me.”

Nodding, Blayde pulled his hand away and looked back down at his own screen. They were about to enter a wormhole in a few minutes, and navigating into it would require his close attention for a while. Larsson kept quiet beside him, still brooding over the bounty Tarr had put on his head. It was a good thing Blayde was piloting this trip—Larsson was way too furious and upset to navigate the tricky maneuvers it would take to launch into a wormhole.

Wormholes were space anomalies that were like rifts in space, connecting two separate locations. The particular wormhole they were about to travel through would propel them away from the Milky Way and into intergalactic space. Unlike stargates, the wormholes weren’t permanent. Their connections lasted only for a short time, usually sixteen to forty-eight hours, and they collapsed if too much mass passed through them. The transport they were traveling in was small and fast, though it still took almost a full day of travel time.

Once they passed through the wormhole, they’d be back in their own galaxy and on their way home to Lycanus 3.They’d been gone for over three weeks on this trip, delivering a prisoner to the authorities on Earth. Blayde had been bitching almost constantly the past few days, saying that he needed to get back home to ‘check on things.’

Larsson knew what he really wanted to check on—his mate, Ryan. Ryan had decided not to accompany him on this trip to Earth, because it brought up bad memories of the last time he’d been there, when Ryan and Nikolai were almost killed. Earth was, of course, Ryan’s home planet, and eventually he wanted to go home for a visit, but for now, he preferred to stay back on Lycanus 3 until Blayde returned.

Since Blayde pretty much denied his mate nothing, he’d agreed to let Ryan stay behind, even though it was literally painful for him to be away from his mate so long. Larsson was feeling the effects of not being with his own mate, Tarr Bonnet, for the last quarter cycle, even though they had only imprinted on each other and hadn’t yet officially mated. Still, his head ached and it was getting harder and harder to take a deep breath, especially on planets like Earth, where the oxygen levels were not as rich as on Lycanus 3.

Blayde executed the complicated maneuver that launched them into the wormhole and then sat back in his seat. For the next six to eight hours, there would be nothing much for him to do except monitor things occasionally. The computers had complete control of the ship. Blayde glanced back over at Larsson.

“Despite what you say, Tarr Bonnet is not exactlysomebody I’d kick out of my bed. You know, before Ryan came along, of course. I value my nuts too much to even think about another man now.”

“Tarr’s gorgeous enough—the asshole,” Larssonagreed. “But doesn’t he just know it?” Along with his identical twin, Taz Bonnet, who had recently taken their cousin Kyle as his mate, Larsson grudgingly admitted that Tarr Bonnet was one of the best-looking men he’d ever seen. He was huge, of course—Tygerians stood an average of seven feet tall, and the gods only knew how much they weighed. Tarr was perhaps a few inches over seven feet tall, and built like a god. Larsson felt like a kid when he stood beside him.

Tarr’s chest and shoulders were broad and muscular, but not in an overly muscle bound way. He was graceful in his movements and he had a deadly charm, when he chose to exert it, that could win anyone over. Except for Larsson—he was far from being won over. He cursed the day their paths had crossed.

Like all Tygerians, Tarr had the sexy black tiger stripes running just under his golden brown skin, like some exotic full body tattoo. His hair was long and curly and a shade somewhere between red and gold. His eyes, like manyof his people’s, were catlike, slanted and a rich shade of emerald green. Oh, he was good-looking all right, sinfully so, and he knew how to use his looks to get most anything he wanted.

From the first moment Larsson had seen him, he’d fallen completely, irrevocably and resentfully in love with him. Now all Larsson had to do was find a way to hide it from the bastard, so he wouldn’t gleefully and with malice aforethought, break his heart into a thousand pieces. Their relationship had been contentious right from the start. Larssondidn’t want to be mated to a Tygerian, especially one like Tarr, who had a huge bounty on his head from trafficking in love slaves.He didn’t want to be mated to anybody, damn it.He’d seen how the mating curse on their family had affected his brother and his cousins. He had no wish to join their ranks. Really, he only wanted to be left alone.

Admittedly, the bounty on Tarr’s head was only from the Alliance of Planets. The Tygerians refused to accept their authority and always had. The troublesome thing for Larsson was that he suspected Tarr was an outlaw every bit as ruthless and out of control as his own grandfather had been.

Old Gunnar Balenescu had been a voyager, like Larsson. He had traveled across the galaxies transporting their planet’s primary export—bauxite. Bauxite was still used in the making of aluminum, and in the manufacture of the transports like the one Larsson and Blayde were on now. The mines on Lycanus 3 had become as valuable as the diamond mines on Tygeria. Gunnar had been one of these early voyagers, ferrying any kind of bauxite, as well as other cargo, including human slaves, to various destinations in the galaxy.

He had kidnapped his own lover to use as a love slave, a human from one of the moons of Jupiter. The man, Ivan, turned out to be a handsome young warlock. Eventually, Ivan had been cajoled and seduced into staying with Gunnar, even though the authorities had caught up with Gunnar and would have released Ivan and taken him back to his home.

Ivan refused, preferring to stay with his Lycan, but he cursed allGunnar’s offspring to fall madly in love with their mates, and be forever bound to them, unable to leave them for more than a few days at a time. This was probably a result of Ivan being left alone so often while Gunnar caroused his way around the galaxies. The story was passed along to the Balenescu cousins when they were children, and they all scoffed and thought it was only legend.It didn’t take long to find out it was all too painfully true.

Larsson dry-washed his face with his hands and stood up.“I’m going below to get a couple hours sleep.If you need me, just call.”

Blayde waved him away, already deeply engrossed in a compnet card game that looked way too intricate for Larsson to even think about as tired as he was. Larsson went down to his room, briefly considering getting something to eat before he lay down, but deciding he was too tired to eat at the moment. Promising his stomach a substantial meal after he slept, he crawled into his rack and stretched out on his back. He was asleep in minutes, dreaming about Tarr.

In his dream, Tarr climbed onto the rack behind him, turning on his side and wrapping a big, warm arm around Larsson’s waist. That settled it—this had to be a dream or their combined weight would have brought the rack crashing to the floor. Since it was only make-believe that his mind had conjured up, Larsson sighed and settled back into him, loving the feel ofTarr’s hard body against his.

“Why don’t you just surrender to me, sweetheart?” Tarr whispered wickedly in his ear. “You know you want to.”