by Wes Leigh

Chapter 8

Torn between two lovers,
Feeling like a fool.
Loving both of you
Is breaking all the rules.

-- Mary MacGregor, 'Torn Between Two Lovers'

September 13

I'm not sure I should be writing this in my journal. It's probably a serious violation of the vampire Ordinance, but fortunately I'm not a vampire, just a vampire's soulbound boyfriend. At least, I think that's what I am.

Anyway, I'm sure Minerva Smyth would be very upset if she knew I was writing about this stuff. The way Xavier explained it to me, Minerva is the Executor of the Smyth Covenant, which makes her the leader of the vampires here in Agony. She's also Xavier's adopted mom, but they don't act much like a mother and a son. Actually, Xavier is now the Executor Elect. I guess when he took off for that family gathering just before school started, it was some major meeting of all the vampire groups in the area, and one of the actions they took was to confirm Xavier as Minerva's second-in-command. So he's her son but also her deputy. That's why he has so much pull and other vampires fear him, and he seems to think he can tell me a lot of their secrets even though it's a clear violation of their rules.

I told him I didn't want to know, not if it would get him in trouble. He said I needed to know, so I could make an educated decision about becoming a vampire myself.

Even when I write those words down in this journal, I can't believe it's real. I'm actually considering becoming a vampire. Surrendering my humanity and joining the ranks of the undead. Sounds creepy when you say it that way, doesn't it?

It won't hurt for long, according to Xavier. He'll bite me, but he'll do it in a way that is only painful for a second. If he chose to suck my blood, it would hurt. But vampires have pretty much given up blood-sucking in favor of dining on emotions instead. So when Xavier bites me, he will immediately inject me with something called serum vampyrus, which will do two things. First, it will take away the pain of the bite. Second, it will infect me with Sanguine Vampyrus, the scientific name for Blood of the Vampire, the disease that transforms a human into a vampire. The serum will work its way through the body, changing my blood first and then all the cells of my body.

The upside: I will live forever, I'll become incredibly strong, I will have the ability to teleport short distances (no, vampires do not transform into bats—that's another silly myth), and I'll be able to hypnotize humans and fuck with their memories.

The downside: I will have to dine on human emotions from time to time, and I'll have to figure out what to do with my parents, who will no doubt be unhappy that I've become a vampire. I don't feel comfortable discussing this with them, especially considering that they don't allow me to drive a car, drink alcoholic beverages, or smoke cigarettes. How do I ask them for permission to give up my soul to a vampire?

Quite a decision I'm facing.

Oh, and apparently there are other secrets in Agony. The Smyth Covenant moved into town in the 1940's to get away from problems on the East coast. When they got here, they found out that Agony was already the home of one of their natural enemies, a bunch of werewolves. The Silvermane Pack settled in Agony first, in the 1920's, because of how isolated the place is and because of the terrific hunting out in the hills and along the river. There's an uneasy truce between the two now. The Smyth Covenant, or Ravens as I've been calling them, dominate the town. The Silvermane Pack controls the rural areas surrounding Agony. Apparently, I chose a very accurate name for them when I called them the Wolves.

Interesting, isn't it?

And painful, because Connor Finnigan, who I thought was my friend, has been lying to me all along. Well, technically, so has Xavier.

I'm fucking pissed at both of them.

Daniel finished writing in his journal and stuffed the pen inside. He closed and latched the journal, spinning the combination dial and checking that the journal was securely closed and locked. He hadn't wanted his mom peeking inside when he wrote about his worries that he might be gay. He certainly didn't want her knowing about all the dark secrets he had uncovered in Agony.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed the phone number for the Finnigan's hunting lodge.

Gabi Finnigan answered the phone, her usual cheerful self.

Daniel asked to speak to Connor. He waited while Gabi called Connor to the phone, then when Connor picked up, Daniel said, "We need to talk."

Connor glanced at Daniel several times as he drove them to a secluded spot north of town. It was obvious that Daniel was mad about something, but he wouldn't talk to Connor, other than to ask him to drive them somewhere they could talk privately.

Connor pulled to the side of the road at the top of a hill. Barren prairie stretched out on all sides, the sparse grasses waving in the cold northern wind blowing that night. Daniel's heart felt cold, like the prairie, but he was determined to have this conversation and get some things out in the open with Connor.

Daniel looked down at his hands, folded in his lap, and said, "I have a few questions for you, Connor. And I want honest answers."

Connor turned in the seat to face Daniel. "Okay. Sounds serious."

Daniel nodded. "It is, so I need you to tell me the truth."

"I will," Connor replied. "I've always been truthful with you, Big D, as much as I can be."

Daniel turned and looked Connor in the eye. "Today, I need more than that, Connor. I need the absolute truth, with no messing around, no putting me off. I've learned a few things, so there's no point in you keeping secrets from me anymore. I WILL get to the bottom of this, so I expect your complete cooperation."

Connor gulped. For a short, skinny kid, Daniel was suddenly extremely intimidating. "Okay, Big D. Ask your questions."

Daniel took a deep breath and said, "You're so strong, so fast, so good at football, that college scouts are already trying to recruit you. But your parents say you can't leave Agony. Why is that?"

Connor frowned as he replied, "I have responsibilities here. My Pa expects me to take over the hunting lodge one day, so he wants me to learn to run everything. College isn't in my future."

"Even if you could be one of the best football players in the nation?"

"I'm not meant for college, Big D. My destiny is here, in Agony."

"As the future leader of the Silvermane Pack?"

Connor's head jerked up. "How did you hear about that?"

"You are the future pack leader, right, Connor? Your dad Andreas is the alpha now, but when he dies, you will take over. At least, that's the plan, isn't it? That's why you feel chained down here in Agony, even though you're one of the best football players this state has ever seen. But then, being a werewolf does give you certain advantages over the other athletes."

"Who told you all that?"


Connor closed his eyes and shook his head slowly from side to side. "He had no right."

"To tell me the truth? To stop lying to me? To stop jerking me around and keeping me in the dark?"

"It wasn't like that, Daniel."

"Oh, really? What was it like, Connor?"

Connor sighed. "We couldn't tell you. Our parents wouldn't allow it. It was for your own safety."

"BULLSHIT, CONNOR! You fucking led me on. You made me think I had a chance with you, hugging me and kissing me and all that other shit, but all along, you knew a human like me could never be a part of your life."

"You're wrong, D."

"I'm wrong?"

"Yes. It wasn't that way at all. You DID have a chance with me. No … that's wrong … you DO have a chance with me! Nothing has changed. You're my friend and I want to keep hugging you every chance I get and stealing kisses and letting you know that I'm ready to take this to the next step, if you decide you want that too."

Daniel laughed bitterly. "The next step? Are you hearing yourself, Connor? There is NO NEXT STEP. I'm not a werewolf!"

Connor nodded. "But you could be."

Daniel shook his head in confusion. "What … uhhh … Connor, what are you saying?"

"You could be, Big D. I could make you a member of our pack. You could become a Silvermane, with me as your mate."

Daniel couldn't believe his ears. "Ummm, okay. So, you would be willing to make me a werewolf?"

"In a heartbeat, Daniel. We would hunt side by side. Fulfilling our destiny. Don't you feel it. Don't you feel the connection between the two of us?"

"Connection? What are you talking about, Connor?"

"From the first time we met, I felt it. When I took you campin' and held you in my arms, it was there. My hands on your chest felt the beat of your heart, and I knew then that we were bound to one another. You must have felt it too. I know I'm not mistaken. I recognize the bindin' of souls when I feel it. We were meant to hunt together, Big D."

Daniel opened the door and jumped out. He walked away from the pickup into the waving prairie grass, shivering in the wind, and kept going. Connor jumped out of the truck and quickly caught up with Daniel, stopping him with a one hand on Daniel's shoulder, turning the smaller teen around.

"You don't have to be afraid of me, Daniel."

"I'm not afraid."

"Then why are you shiverin'?"

"Because it's fucking cold tonight and I didn't bring a coat." They both laughed.

"So you aren't afraid of what I'm suggestin'? Makin' you into a werewolf?"

Daniel shook his head. "No, although that is the second strange offer I've received this week."

Connor tilted his head, then grinned. "Xavier offered to make you a vampire, didn't he?"

"Yeah, so I guess I'm being recruited hard by both of the local factions." He grinned bitterly. "But that's not why I'm so upset."

"Then why?" Connor asked.

"I'm upset because it's the second time this week I've been told that my soul is bound to another."

They pulled into the fast-food drive through and ordered sodas. Then they talked some more. Connor couldn't explain how it was possible for Daniel to be soulbound to both Xavier and Connor, but he was fairly certain that it was somehow true. They both felt connected to Daniel. They both wanted him as their lifelong mate. They both wanted to transform him, but neither one would force it upon Daniel. The decision was Daniel's alone.

Connor was honest with Daniel about what life would be like as a werewolf. He'd be incredibly agile and fast. And tough. Werewolves healed rapidly from minor wounds and could even recover from life-threatening injuries, if given enough time to heal. Even a skinny, scrawny kid like Daniel would be an asset on the football field, allowing him to fulfill his dream of finally being more than a bookworm. Daniel chuckled when he heard that.

No, as Connor explained it, he wouldn't undergo uncontrolled transformations whenever the moon was full. That was nonsense. Werewolves were able to transform at will, even tapping into their lycanthropic skills while still appearing mostly human. Connor was one of the best at that, which made him especially dominant on the football field.

There was a major downside, however. He'd have to leave human society behind and join the pack. Living in isolation in a small place like Agony for the rest of his life. Avoiding all other humans. Once again, having to explain to his parents why he could no longer be their son.

Just so he could have Connor as his lover and mate.

After Connor dropped Daniel off, Daniel stepped inside his house only long enough to grab a heavy coat and go back outside for a long walk. For some strange reason, the weather had been extremely cold, the coldest September on record. Forecasters were warning of early storms coming out of the north. Totally appropriate, to Daniel's way of thinking. His mood was icy cold at the moment, just like the night air. He had a lot to think about, so no matter what the temperature was like, he planned to walk until he sorted everything out in his head.

He was gay. That much was clear. Or was it?

He had never been especially interested in girls, and his porn choices were usually young sexy guys. But he'd never been into gay porn. Could it be that there was something more to this soulbound connection? If he really was soulbound to both Xavier and Connor, could it be that he wasn't interested in girls because his soul already had a partner (or two) lined up for him. Maybe that was why he was so curious about cute, young guys in all the porn he chose. Maybe he was anticipating his future partner and what it would be like to enjoy his touch, his caress, his love.

But if that was the case, how was he going to choose? He loved kissing Xavier. His body responded with fiery passion every time their lips touched. But when Connor held him in his arms, Daniel felt his body melting in the comfort and protection of those strong arms. As much as he hated to admit it, he desired them both and couldn't choose between them.

He kept walking, hoping that he'd find an answer to his dilemma.

He reached the city park, now abandoned. It was night and no one was about. Or so it seemed at first. Then he saw a familiar pickup. Connor's old Dodge. Sitting at the edge of the park. He walked up and looked inside, finding it empty. But that meant Connor had to be in the park somewhere.

Daniel started walking through the park, looking for Connor, which wasn't easy to do with only a half-moon in the sky above for illumination. The shadows beneath the trees were inky and deep. And the blowing wind caused the trees to sway and the shadows to dance. He'd just about given up hope of finding Connor when he heard a low moan ahead, behind a picnic shelter.

He walked slowly over and peeked around the wall.

And came face to face with Connor and Xavier. Holding each other in a tight embrace. Lips pressed together.

It was the most uncomfortable moment in Daniel's life.

He sat in Connor's pickup, with Xavier to his right and Connor to his left. Neither of them were speaking. What the fuck could they say?

Daniel leaned back and stared at the truck's ceiling. "I don't fucking believe this," he muttered.

Xavier bowed his head and stared at his hands.

Connor looked outside at the trees waving in the cold wind that was now roaring in out of the north.

"Could you start the truck and turn on the heater?" Daniel asked. "I'm cold."

"Sure," Connor mumbled. "I forget that it bothers you more than us."

Daniel laughed bitterly. "Apparently, there are lot of things that bother me more."

The uncomfortable silence returned. The only sounds were those of the truck rumbling and the heater blowing and the wind howling.

Daniel finally decided what he wanted to say. "Let me see if I have all this right. I have a guy who is a vampire, who claims that we are soulbound to each other, who wants to bite me and make ME a vampire, so we can be live forever together as emotion-eating MONSTERS. I have another guy who is a werewolf, who also believes we are soulbound, who also wants to bite me and make me a werewolf, so WE can live together as HUNTING MATES. And those two guys HATE each other ravenously and want to rip each other's faces off at school, but they still enjoy meeting in a park late at night to suck face. Have I got it right so far?"

"I know you're mad, Daniel—," Xavier tried to say, only to be interrupted by Daniel.

"No, Xavier. I'm not mad. I'm FUCKING FURIOUS! Is there anything you guys have been telling me that's true?"

Connor began pounding the steering wheel softly with one fist. Turning to Daniel, he said, "EVERYTHING we've told you is true. There are just some things … some parts of it … we COULDN'T tell you … we couldn't tell ANYONE."

Daniel shook his head. "So, guys, explain this one thing to me. The two of you. Out here kissing. What the fuck, guys?"

Xavier looked across Daniel to stare at Connor. "It started about a year ago. Because of the way our families hate each other, we've always been enemies. Then one night, I had a big argument with my mother. I took off and started walking down the street. I ended up outside of town when a pickup pulled up behind me and stopped."

Connor took up the story. "I had to take a friend home that night. On my way back, I saw Xavier walkin' on the side of road. I pulled over and asked him if he needed a ride."

"I almost turned him down," Xavier said, "but I was so mad at my mother, I remember thinking, 'Who is she to tell me who I have to hate and who I get to like?' So I got in."

"I asked him where he wanted me to take him," Connor said. "He told me it didn't matter, so we drove around and started talking. Turns out we had more in common than we thought."

Xavier nodded agreement. "There is a great deal of pressure on the only child of the leader of a Covenant … or of a wolfpack … many expectations and demands and responsibilities. Connor and I can't live our lives the way we want to live them. It's always the way everyone else expects us to live."

"Including hatin' on each other any time we run into each other at school." Connor looked at Daniel. "Do you get it, Big D? Can you imagine what it's like to have all your packmates watchin' your every move, expectin' you to carry on some stupid, ancient feud that's been goin' on for centuries?"

Daniel nodded. "I guess I can understand all that. So what happened next?"

Xavier grinned apologetically at Connor. "I found out he's not a hot-headed fool like his father."

"And I learned he ain't a cold-hearted bitch like his mum." They both laughed, then Connor added. "He's a guy like me, strugglin' to stand up under the weight of a destiny he didn't ask for."

The anger gone from his voice, Daniel said, "Okay, I get all that. But … kissing?"

Xavier shrugged. "That part surprised us both. We spent quite a few nights in Connor's truck, driving around and talking and getting to know each other in a way we'd never have been allowed to do at school. At some point, I guess we fell in love."

"A forbidden love," Connor added. "As a werewolf and a vampire, it would be unthinkable. As two kids battlin' the same demons, we became allies and then friends and then lovers."

"Are you? Lovers?" Daniel asked, not wanting to hear the answer but desperately needing to know.

"Yes, we are," Connor acknowledged.

"Secret lovers," Xavier added.

"Then …," Daniel whispered, "… what about us? Our kissing, Xavier? Our hugs and playing around, Connor? If you two are lovers …"

Xavier slid his hand over on top of Daniel's, gripping gently. "Daniel, do you remember when you asked me if I was gay?"

Daniel nodded.

Xavier squeezed Daniel's hand. "I told you that there were some things humans cared about that weren't a consideration in my world. Being gay is one. I was drawn to you, not because we're gay, but because we were meant to be together."

"The same is true for the pack," Connor growled softly. "It never mattered to me that you were a guy. I couldn't help myself around you. I wanted you, Big D. I still do. For my mate."

"But you and Xavier—"

"Are lovers," Connor firmly stated. "There are many in the pack I love. Some as hunting companions. Some as devoted followers. Some …," he caressed Daniel's cheek with one finger, "… some who I would call lifemate."

"Then what is Xavier to you?"

Connor's eyes flicked over Xavier and he smiled. "Soulbound."

Daniel looked at Xavier, silently questioning.

Xavier nodded. "Yes. As you and I are soulbound, Daniel, so are Connor and I bound."

"But how can that be?" Daniel demanded.

Connor shrugged his shoulders. "We don't have a clue, Daniel. It's just the way it is. With him bein' a vampire and me bein' a werewolf, there always seems to be something keepin' us from fully connectin'. But we're definitely soulbound, to each other and now to you."

Xavier pulled Daniel's hand and held it against his chest. "Stop looking at this through human eyes, Daniel. Forget everything you've been taught, that love is something that restricts you, holds you down, keeps you in chains. Being soulbound doesn't imprison us; it sets us free."

Connor slid his arm across Daniel's shoulders and gave him the lightest of hugs. "To be soulbound is the most precious gift you could ever receive. It means you're joined to another, givin' love and receivin' it back, never hesitatin' to pour all of yourself into the bond."

"We never lied to you about that, Daniel," Xavier said, pulling Daniel's hand to his lips and kissing his fingers softly. "We wanted to love you and to be loved by you, but our situation made it almost impossible for us. And yet, we couldn't deny our feelings for you. Just like we can't deny our feelings for each other." Xavier leaned in and kissed Daniel on the cheek.

Daniel turned to face Xavier. His mouth opened slightly, and he pressed his lips against Xavier's, enjoying the rush of chilly air flowing through his lungs as they kissed. Xavier kissed him back, moaning with joy at reconnecting with Daniel.

Daniel broke the kiss and turned to Connor. He stared at Connor, silently pleading. Connor leaned over and pressed his lips against Daniel's. Warm and soft, his kiss washed away the chill of Xavier's touch, replacing it with a wave of hot passion.

Connor pulled back, giving Daniel space.

Daniel sighed and looked from Connor to Xavier. "You both love me?" They nodded. "And you love each other?" Another round of nods.

For someone driving along the streets, seeing the pickup sitting in front of the city park late at night, its windows fogged up, the natural conclusion would have been that two lovers were having a late night make-out session. That would be only partially correct.

Every inch of Daniel's body had been groped, squeezed, massaged, and stroked. His pants were sticky and clinging to his body. His hair was mussed. His lips were sore and bruised. One ear was wet from a tongue sliding in, which he hadn't thought would be fun, but he'd actually enjoyed, especially since his neck had been getting a thorough licking at the same time.

The only reason they stopped was Daniel's cellphone went off, startling them in mid-fondle. "It's my mom," Daniel moaned, answering the call. "Hi, Mom … still with Connor … talking … yeah, we had a lot of stuff to work out … yeah … sure … okay, Mom. Be home soon."

"You have to go?" Connor asked.

"Yeah," Daniel sighed.

"When?" Xavier asked, rubbing Daniel's stomach under his shirt.

"She wants me home in thirty minutes."

Xavier smiled wickedly and leaned down, kissing Daniel's stomach and licking his treasure trail.

Connor chuckled and pulled Daniel's face around and pressed their lips together.

Daniel groaned and slid one hand along Connor's leg, finding the hard shaft inside his jeans, rubbing and pressing down. His other hand he slid down Xavier's back to cup Xavier's soft ass.

From outside the truck, a passerby would have seen the windows fogging up even more.

September 15

I've made up my mind. I want them both.

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