Connecting with an Altered
Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Charlie Richards
Word Count :29804
Publication Date :2021-10-15
Series : Wolves of Stone Ridge#56
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3404-5
Out of the Cage: A vampire doing his friend a favor runs across his beloved in a confused human altered into a shifter through experimentation.
Agreeing to do his fellow vampire enforcer a favor, Nereo Belmonte heads to Stone Ridge, Colorado. He thought the task sounded simple enough—search the minds of four men who’d been experimented on and see if he can restore their memories. To his surprise, when Nereo walks into the room, he finds himself drawn to the blood of one of them—Warren Berger. With a vested interest in the job, Nereo worries the mental fog he encounters may never clear, leaving Warren’s mind in danger of returning to the experiments’ original programming.
Warren knows his name. He knows his duty—follow Doctor Winoan’s orders. Everything else is immaterial. Except, when Winoan orders him to kill a man, he hears a noise that makes him question that—a snarling hiss that sounds like an order to stop. To Warren’s surprise, something deep within his psyche responds, and he obeys, as does his three team members. The odd presence in his mind decides that the speaker—a cheetah, which turns into a man—is their new leader. Warren doesn’t understand what’s going on, but he has no choice but to obey.
Upon meeting Nereo, that voice in Warren’s head purrs with delight. Warren agrees—he wants the man. While peering into Nereo’s red-irised gaze, odd images flood his mind, clouding him with confusion and distrust. Can Warren learn to trust Nereo, allowing him to help, before those who worked with his old boss finds a way to counter his internal voice’s control and steal him back?
“I really appreciate you doing this for us.”
Nereo Belmonte relaxed in his office chair and stared at the ceiling as he replied to fellow vampire enforcer, Vince Marché. “You’re welcome, Vince.” Grinning, he added, “Besides, the rumor-mill is all about how the Stone Ridge pack has been blessed by Fate, what with all the mate-matches those guys have found…you included.”
Less than a decade before, Nereo never would have believed that Vince would end up with a shifter beloved. The other Vampire Council enforcer had avoided shifters at all costs. He’d been more than a little prejudiced against them, too—a result of his upbringing.
Times do change.
“That’s true,” Vince replied, and Nereo could hear the happiness in the other vampire’s voice.
And he has every right to be.
“Maybe you’ll find your beloved there,” Vince continued.
“From your lips to Fate’s ears,” Nereo quipped back, a smile curving his lips. At almost two hundred years of age, Nereo had been waiting a long time to find his soul mate. He couldn’t give a rat’s ass who it turned out to be. “I’ll fly out in the morning.”
“Good luck, my friend.”
“Thanks, Vince,” Nereo replied before lowering his phone from his ear. A press of his thumb disconnected the call, and he tossed the device onto the desk. Lifting his arms over his head, Nereo stretched, arching his back and flexing his arms. The twinge to his right side reminded him that he was still healing.
“Another day, and I’ll be right as rain,” Nereo muttered as he lowered his arms. With a sigh, he rose to his feet and headed out of his home office. “Can’t believe that bastard managed to get the drop on me.”
Still, Nereo had taken down the rogue vampire. He’d walked away with deep claw wounds raked along the right side of his rib cage, but he had walked away. The rogue hadn’t.
Nereo strode into his bedroom and pulled out a large duffel bag. As he began packing, he thought about Vince’s request.
Vince and his three buddies were already on assignment, so they couldn’t help out their friends in Stone Ridge. The alpha there—Alpha Declan McIntire—had requested their aid in peering into the minds of four soldiers who’d been experimented on. Evidently, they didn’t respond to any commands other than who they perceived as their alpha.
As part of their experimentation, the men had been programmed to think their alpha was the scientist doing the experiments—Doctor Winoan. Then the doctor had begun using them as his personal bodyguards. Evidently, he’d realized his life was in danger.
That hadn’t stopped the wolf pack from capturing the doctor, though. Of course, it was by dumb luck that they’d stumbled upon the group’s real leader—Bailey Dyer. The man had been their unit commander, and he’d been smuggled out of the scientist’s facility by his brother—Ronan. Ronan had ended up mating with a wolf shifter, and they’d helped alter the experiments done on Bailey, saving the man’s memories.
As Nereo folded a couple of pairs of polo shirts and placed them in the bag on top of his jeans, he marveled at Fate’s unique design.
Hope I’m going to be in there somewhere soon. Maybe I’ll ask to meet all the single wolf shifters.
Nereo wouldn’t mind a shifter beloved.
I wouldn’t mind a human beloved, either.
Whoever Fate ended up sending him, Nereo knew the other half of his soul would be just perfect.
Smiling, Nereo chuckled under his breath at his thoughts. He felt a fissure of anticipation slither up his spine. Hope, he decided.
After finishing his packing, Nereo headed to his kitchen. He opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle full of red liquid. After popping the cap, he brought it to his lips and took a gulp.
Nereo grimaced at the taste of the cold blood. While he always had the stuff on hand, it would never be a favorite. Still, he knew he needed the sustenance before heading to the wolf shifter pack the next day. With his healing injury, Nereo needed more than his standard once-a-week donor, and he didn’t feel like hunting right then.
With the bottle still half-full, Nereo grabbed the tomato juice. He poured it into the blood and put the juice away before screwing the cap back on it. Then he tipped the bottle back and forth, mixing the two liquids.
Once Nereo reopened the bottle, he took another swig. Grunting with pleasure, he headed toward his living room, ready to make his version of a bloody mary. Turning on the TV, he found a show to watch. Then Nereo poured himself a whiskey from the sideboard, adding a couple of shots to the bottle, too. Taking both drinks, he settled in his favorite recliner and relaxed for the night.
“What kind of vehicle do you want us to have available to you when you arrive?”
Nereo had just finished making his way through security when the call from Beta Dixon Holsteen came through his line. Slinging the strap of his bag over his shoulder, he thought swiftly. He tried to decide what would be a fun vehicle to wander around the mountain roads of Colorado.
With a grin, Nereo couldn’t help but ask, “You wouldn’t happen to have a motorcycle I could borrow, would you?”
Beta Dixon’s deep chuckle sounded through the line. “You’re one of those, huh?”
“I own a Harley,” Nereo stated, surprised by the beta’s teasing, but he was happy to roll with it. Vince had told him that the pack was fairly laid-back, so hearing the confirmation pleased him. “But driving across country would take a couple of days, and I figured you needed me there before that.”
In truth, driving cross-country hadn’t even crossed his mind when Vince had approached him with his request.