Veggie Burgers to Go
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by Karenna Colcroft
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Veggie Burgers to Go #3 Real Werewolves Don't Eat Meat Series A member of the Boston North Pack is attacked by humans who say they were hired by a shifter. The same night, Melia, the wolf who changed Kyle, returns to Boston. The pack suspects Melia of arranging the attack, but Kyle believes someone else is behind it. He just doesn't know who. The next day at the regional alpha meeting in Pennsylvania, Kyle finds his answer. Saul Hughes, another alpha, has a long-standing grudge against Tobias. He claims Tobias is too weak to control a pack and makes it clear that he wants control of Boston North. But no one suspects how far he'll go to get it.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [346 KB]
Reading time: 234-328 min.
The worst part about being a werewolf was the hyper-hearing. A reminder of that fact walloped me upside the head at two a.m. one morning, when even my pillows and Tobias's pressed against my ears didn't drown out the voices in Tobias's living room.
From the sound, the entire pack--minus me--had gathered in the apartment. For whatever reason, Tobias had chosen not to wake me. He must have told the others to enter quietly. Otherwise, the apartment door opening and closing and the tromping of shifter feet would have gotten my attention.
The pack had shown up at Tobias's apartment in the middle of the night. Something that would only happen in an emergency.
The bedroom door opened. "Kyle?" Tobias said softly.
"I'm awake," I replied. "How could I not be? What's going on?"
"There's a problem," Tobias said. I tuned into the debate in the other room.
"We aren't letting her come back," a male voice with a slight Jamaican accent said from the other room. "You can't seriously ask Tobias to consider this, Jon."
Her? My chest clenched. I knew of only one "her" who might try to return to the pack. Melia. The psycho-bitch who'd endangered the entire pack for the sake of her own personal vendetta against Tobias.
The bitch who'd changed me.
If they were talking about her, Roderic was right. Jon had to be crazy.
"They're talking about Katrine." Tobias walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "Don't panic. If Melia was around, we'd have half of City Pack here right now trying to bring her to Chal."
"Ah." I took a couple deep breaths and managed to slow my heart rate from Indy 500 to Saturday night dirt track. "So it's an official pack meeting?"
"As official as we can be at two in the morning." He stood. "Come on."
He left the room. I rolled out of bed and yanked on a pair of sweatpants over my naked legs and ass. When Tobias and I shared a bed, I almost always slept naked. Tobias didn't seem to mind. Nudity wasn't anything major for werewolves anyway. After all, we couldn't very well shift with our clothes on. I'd done it before. It pretty much shredded the clothes.
That didn't mean I wanted to walk into a meeting with my dick hanging out.
When I walked out of the bedroom, everyone turned to look at me. I pretended I didn't notice. They all knew why I'd been in Tobias's bedroom; they all knew we were mates. They should have been used to the idea by now.
Tobias gave me a slightly uncomfortable smile and strode to the center of the room. I settled myself on the floor in front of the bedroom doorway. In pack meetings, the lowest-ranked members always sat on the floor. As the newest wolf in the Boston North pack, I was lowest-ranked until I fought someone for hierarchy, and I refused to do that.
"Thank you all for coming at such an unusual hour." Tobias shot a look at Jon Rodriguez, a young-looking Latino with shoulder-length jet black hair loose and messy instead of in its usual pony tail. Jon flinched and looked at the floor. His mate Mariko Kobayashi, the only Asian shifter I'd met so far, rested her hand on Jon's knee.
"Apparently Katrine Mrowka wishes to petition to return to our pack," Tobias continued. "She has not seen fit to appear here tonight, but at Jon's request we are discussing the issue so that he can inform Katrine of whether she should petition me in person. Despite her defection to City Pack with Melia and Dougal early this summer, I personally still consider Katrine a member of Boston North Pack."
"She chose not to be," Mariko argued. "She chose to leave."
"Having observed her when the three came to petition me to leave, I believe Melia and possibly Dougal manipulated her," Tobias replied. "All of you except Kyle were here when we found Katrine. Lost, wandering the streets, nearly insane with fear."
"Now just nearly insane." Roderic, a tall man with deep black skin and graying hair that matched the coat of his wolf, didn't sound pleased. "Think of all the trouble she's caused us. When a pack member defects to another pack, they should not be allowed to return, Tobias."
"Mind your place, Roderic." Harriet Frelich looked like the typical little old lady next door, with curly grayish-blue hair and wire-rimmed glasses. She might have been anyone's grandma. The appearance was misleading. She was the pack's Peacekeeper, third in power to only the Alpha and Beta. And she didn't much like it when someone mouthed off to Tobias. I'd known her nearly nine months, and I'd only recently started calling her by her first name.
"My apologies, Alpha." Roderic stressed the last word. "I mean no disrespect."
His words had a slight undertone of sarcasm that belied the claim. Tobias raised an eyebrow, and Roderic shrank back slightly.
"I assume you wouldn't intentionally disrespect me," Tobias said. In front of the pack, his presence was intimidating. He wasn't the largest man there, but the aura of power around him definitely made him seem the strongest.
Under other circumstances, I would have found it sexy as hell. I usually did. Unfortunately, this was not the right circumstance to start drooling over my lover. Especially since he'd ticked me off.
"Of course not, Alpha," Roderic mumbled.
"Back to the topic, then." Tobias paced the small width of the room. "Yes, Katrine causes trouble and drama. I'd spoken with her about it on more than one occasion. She didn't do so maliciously. She operates out of fear. Fear that people will be angry with her, or that we'll abandon her the way her first pack did."
"People do get angry with her," Mariko pointed out.
"But in a way and for a reason that she can control." Tobias shrugged. "What do I know? I'm no psychiatrist. I just have the instincts of an alpha when it comes to my pack. Katrine constantly lives in fear. Melia might have been lower-ranked than Katrine, but she was unquestionably more dominant, and she was able to use Katrine's fear to manipulate her."
"I think that if she does return to the pack, I can work with her," said Suzannah Daigle, our pack healer and my closest friend other than Tobias. She was arguably the strongest wolf in the pack other than Tobias, but wasn't ranked in pack hierarchy because she didn't want to be. She shook back her curtain of long dark hair. "She pisses me off too, but she is one of us, even if she's officially part of City Pack right now. And she is definitely afraid."
"We have Roderic's opinion, clearly," Tobias said. "Mariko's too, I think. The rest of you haven't commented yet."
I thought about saying something to add to the discussion, but decided not to. I didn't really know Katrine well enough to have an opinion, though if Tobias felt she should come back, I was on his side. I wanted to hear what others had to say before I spoke.
"I agree with Roderic." Polly Taft, a gray-haired woman who looked even older than Harriet but was actually several decades younger, folded her arms and frowned at Tobias. "She used to be one of us. Now she isn't. Knowing who she associated with, do you really think it would be wise to bring her back here?"
"Chal investigated," Tobias said, naming the City Pack Alpha. "Katrine had nothing to do with Art. She didn't know anything about him or the situation until after it happened."
My stomach rolled when he said the name of the man I'd murdered. Okay, so I'd been in wolf form at the time, and so had he. If I hadn't killed him, I would have ended up dead. Even so, after years as a pacifist knowing that I'd deliberately killed someone felt like murder to me, extenuating circumstances or not. The fact that Art had reverted to human form when he died hadn't helped.
"We took in Katrine when she had nowhere else to go," Kirk McCoy, our good ol' southern boy Beta, said. "She always felt safe here. I think Tobias is right. She left us because Melia and Dougal talked her into it, not because she actually wanted to leave."
"She should have stayed, then," Polly argued.
"Or she could have gone with her friends," Kirk said. "As she did."
Roderic, Polly, and Mariko all tried to talk at once. Tobias held up his hand, and the room immediately fell silent.
"I prefer to run this pack as one where all members have a say," he said. "You all know that. I don't like to make decisions that affect all of us without giving all of us a chance to discuss the issue. However, if this arguing and disrespect continues, I will make the decision myself. I do have that right."
Everyone except Suzannah and me looked at the floor. After a second, I realized that I should be looking down too, so I did. It was a respect thing.
"Maybe a show of hands," Suzannah suggested. "Then those who have opinions can be given a chance to express them."
"Good idea," Tobias said. "Thank you. Those who agree that Katrine should be allowed to return to the pack, a show of hands, please."
Still looking at the floor, I didn't see whose hands went up. Mine didn't.
"Those who disagree?" Tobias said.
Again I kept my hand down. At times like this, I was glad some of the pack didn't consider my vote worth anything. No one would complain that I hadn't voted. Except maybe Tobias.
"All right." Tobias cleared his throat, and all of us looked at him. "Everyone voted except Kyle. Kyle, did you have a reason for abstaining?"
"I didn't know Katrine very well." I made up my answer as I went along. It sounded better than 'I don't really care.' "I don't know if she'd be an asset to the pack, or if that even matters. I didn't feel that I had anything to base a vote on one way or the other."
"The cub finally comprehends," Mariko muttered. Jon put his hand on her arm. She'd heard an earful a few weeks earlier for insulting me in front of Tobias, and Jon probably didn't want to risk her being on Tobias's bad side again.
Tobias glared at Mariko until she looked down again. "Kyle, I understand your reasons," he said. "You do have the right to vote if you choose to."
"I know," I said. "Thanks."
He nodded and started calling on pack members to give reasons for their votes. I tuned it out, for the most part. The ones who didn't want Katrine back all said pretty much the same thing: they didn't know whether we should trust her since she'd been friends with Melia. Those who wanted her back also became pretty repetitive. Our pack was a safe haven, and Katrine probably couldn't cope with a pack the size of City Pack. Boston North was the smallest pack in the eastern US, if not in the entire country, which was one of the things I liked about it.
By the time the discussion wound down, my stomach had started to growl. I wanted to wander into Tobias's kitchen and find something to snack on. I stayed put. I'd learned the hard way that low-ranking pack members didn't stand during pack meetings.
"I think we've talked long enough," Tobias said finally. "I'll take into account what both sides have said. I call the meeting ended. If anyone wants to stick around, you're welcome to. Personally, I'm going to have something to eat."
"I'm going for a run." Roderic stormed out of the apartment through the door that led to the garden.
"He'd better be careful," Kirk said. "The cops have been patrolling around here lately because of that vandalism in the park. If they spot him running, it won't be good."
"Hopefully he's smart enough to avoid that." Tobias gave me a look that was half smile, half grimace. Despite the grimace half, his dimples showed, and I had to rein in my typical physical reaction to seeing how cute he could be. "Are you as hungry as I am?"
"Yeah." We'd given each other a pretty good workout before we'd fallen asleep, and werewolves burned a whole lot more calories than normal humans. My stomach growled again. "I don't think I'll eat the same thing you're having, though."
"We'll make some beans and rice." Suzannah grinned at me. As the pack's healer, she'd been working with me to find good non-meat protein sources.
"Or you could just eat meat like a normal person," Jon muttered.
I wasn't exactly the favorite of some pack members. Part of their problem with me was because of the vegan thing, which admittedly even some humans had a hard time with. For a werewolf, who relied on protein and iron and so on to stay alive and cope with the strain of being forced to shift once a month, veganism made no sense at all. I understood that.
I wasn't willing to give up veganism. I hadn't taken a bite of meat, even during the monthly hunts I'd had no choice but to participate in.
The bigger problem, of course, was that I was their alpha's mate.
I ignored Jon's comment and shambled into the kitchen. Tobias and Suzannah joined me at the stove, and among the three of us we cooked enough for everyone who'd been at the meeting, even Roderic in case he returned. Mariko and Jon left. The rest of us sat in the living room--since the meeting was over, I was even allowed to sit beside Tobias on the couch--and chatted while we munched.
After a little while, my lack of sleep took over. I leaned against Tobias and let my eyelids drift closed. He put his arm around me, and I smiled. Someone in the room made a disapproving noise. I suspected Polly, but didn't care enough to find out for sure.
A banging on the front door jolted me out of my half-doze. My eyes flew open to see Frank, Harriet's husband/mate, opening the door.
Roderic stood there, in human form, panting and bloody. His eyes looked around wildly and pain creased his face. His mouth moved like he was trying to speak, but no words came out.
Then he collapsed to the floor.