Sage had managed to get to school without Corey waking up, his brother having stumbled in drunk some time around dawn and promptly falling asleep. School had been difficult, impossible to concentrate with so many thoughts running through his head never mind feelings through his body. The shifter had not been in the alley. Sage had checked. He wasn’t even sure why just that he had to know that Heller was really gone. Whether he wanted the man to still be there or not, Sage still wasn’t sure. His body was aching and he couldn’t stop thinking about the night before.
Taylor was waiting for him after school, soft ash blond hair and bright blue eyes setting him apart from the others. Taylor was a really odd kid, looking very much sweet and weak and even shorter than Sage was. But the boy was vicious when he needed to be, a switch inside his friend that turned Taylor into a wild, angry thing that would defend himself and friends at any cost. That was how they had become friends to begin with.
Sage had seen the boy being picked on and gone to help, only to be as surprised as the bullies to find that Taylor was plain crazy, biting and punching back with a rock in his fist. He had burst out laughing, seeing such a sweet looking kid go nuts and win. Bullies always underestimated him too, and it just seemed right to hang with Taylor after that.
“You get home alright last night?” Taylor asked, slipping in step with Sage, hands in the pockets of his baggy jeans. “I wish you had let me go with you. You know how I worry.”
Sage nodded mutely, not sure what he wanted to tell his friend just yet. He was in trouble, he knew that much. His body was aching, each step he took making his hole throb in memory and unceasing want.
“Sage… you kinda smell, man,” Taylor said, glancing over at him. “And not a garbage smell from the Wastes. Something musky, almost.” He stopped, grabbing the brunette’s hand when the boy tried to walk by him. “What are those marks on your neck?”
Sage ducked away, covering his neck. His flesh had only gotten darker as he slept, bruises blossoming purple in the morning light. “Shit, is it really noticeable?”
“That someone’s been sucking on your neck? Yeah, it fucking is. What the hell happened last night?”
“Oh god, Corey’s going to kill me,” Sage gasped frantically, eyes wide in fear. “Literally kill me. Tayls, I need makeup or some shit. I need to hide this. You know how he gets—He’s going to slice me up so bad, I’ll never move again!”
“Calm down, Sage. Just stop and breathe.” Looking around at the students in the distance, Taylor pulled his friend down the street, heading for his neighborhood. “Start at the beginning and we’ll figure out how to fix it.”
Sage nodded weakly, bottom lip caught between his teeth. “Tayls… do werewolves ever… fuck people on the full moon?” He asked quietly, staring at his sneakers.
Taylor stopped walking, scratching the back of his head. “Umm… why do you…?”
Sage ducked his head, edging closer to whisper into the blond’s ear. “When they’re transformed, do they ever… fuck people?” He asked again, blushing brightly.
“I don’t…” Taylor glanced around, speaking quietly. “Yeah, I think so. Not something I’ve seen firsthand, or anything, but they talk about it sometimes. I guess there are some people that really, er, like it.”
“What about shifters?” Sage asked, fidgeting under his friend’s stare.
“Do werewolves fuck shifters?” Taylor asked, looking confused.
“No… damn it.” Sage got right into Taylor’s ear, feeling the blond shiver from his breath. “Do transformed shifters screw a lot of people?”
“Um… maybe? There was this girl once, sister to one of the shifters. The gang had said things about her. About her letting dogs do her and stuff. Why? Did you see something last night?” Taylor stepped back, looking Sage over cautiously. His friend looked different, his already pale skin nearly translucent, lips flushed a deep red, green eyes bright and glowing.
Sage had always been kind of pretty, singled out for his delicate features and slender form. The kid was tough with a terrible brother that kept most bullies away just by existing, but Taylor had taken it on himself to protect Sage as much as he could. The boy was just so nice, stuck in a bad situation with his brother and was the most loyal friend a guy could want. Seeing the brunette now, he had to wonder if maybe Sage might have been getting a different sort of attention looking the way he did.
Glancing around nervously, Sage pulled Taylor into a blind alley, making sure no one was walking by or that any windows were open. “I… I don’t know how to say this,” he mumbled, rocking from foot to foot. “It’s really, really fucked up and… and I don’t know if…”
“Just say it,” Taylor demanded, grabbing Sage by the shoulders. “I don’t care, just tell me. Was it Corey? Did he kill one of them?”
Sage shook his head, fingers tangling in his hair as he tugged his chocolate locks in frustration. “I met a shifter.”
Eyes widening, Taylor pressed his hand over the brunette’s mouth, looking around the alley to make sure that no one was definitely there. “Are you fucking serious? Did he hurt you?”
Sage bit his lip, unable to meet his friend’s concerned gaze. “A little… I don’t think he meant to. There’s something wrong with me, Tayls. I think someone might have, have cursed me or something.”
“Why would you…? Just tell me what happened,” Taylor muttered, ducking his head so his friend could whisper in his ear. Blue eyes widening in shock, Taylor began to curse under his breath as Sage poured out the events of the last night in halting sentences. “Holy fuck, Sage. Shit… Shit! How did you even go to school after that? How are you just fucking standing there and not fucking freaking out or something? He—Sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t yell.” Taylor stepped away, kicking the nearest thing he could find, a soda can clattering loudly down the pavement.
Sage continued to tug at his hair agitatedly, watching Taylor’s sneakers as the blond paced. “I gotta find a way to hide the marks, Tayls,” he whispered, flinching when the blond reeled and turned on him.
“You’ve just been fucking raped!” Taylor covered his mouth, glaring at the entrance to the alley. Ducking his head, he whispered furiously into Sage’s ear. “You should go to a doctor. Make sure he didn’t give you something. Who the fuck knows what kinds of diseases shifters have?”
Sage just shook his head, his anxiety growing. “If I go to a doctor, they’ll want to talk to Corey. The shifter is not the issue right now. If Corey finds out, I’m fucking dead!”
“He wouldn’t—Would he? Is he that fucked up that…” Taylor trailed off, eyes closing. Corey was that fucked up. He wouldn’t care how or why, just that Sage had been tainted by a shifter.
“Please, Tayls, I don’t know what to do,” Sage pleaded softly, watching the emotions swirl on his friend’s face. “There’s something wrong with me. The shifter said I had a scent that made him that way. And Corey smelled me last night and you just did now. I don’t know what to do.”
“Okay. Okay, we’re going to fix this. I just… just have to ask for help.” Taylor looked at his friend warily, again taking in the brunette’s strangely beautiful features. Whatever had changed in his friend, it wasn’t just the odd, musky scent. He looked different too, possibly magically different. “First we’re going to get you a hoodie to cover you up. I got something big at home you can wear. And then… then I’m going to call Jared,” he added under his breath.
“But Jared’s a werewolf,” Sage said fretfully.
“Yes, and werewolves know magic,” Taylor replied as evenly as possible, trying to ignore the feeling of dread growing in the pit of his stomach. “So if you’ve really been cursed to… to make shifters want to do that… Well, he’ll be able to help.”
Fidgeting, Sage eventually nodded, letting Taylor grasp his arm and lead him towards his house. “Just… we can’t tell Corey. If he finds out that I’m talking to a werewolf… I already get in trouble because you talk to them.”
“I know, Sage, and I’m sorry about that. We’re going to disguise you so no one will know it’s you.”
Taylor’s mom had once had a fling with a werewolf, the man passing through their lives very briefly. But Taylor had been drawn to the lifestyle the werewolves had led while they were dating, never having to worry about anyone preying on his family or trying to cheat his mom out of her hard earned money and house. Taylor had figured if he were a werewolf, maybe he could protect his family the same way.
“He won’t… he won’t think I want to be one, right?” Sage whispered, Taylor unlocking the door to the small house he lived in and quickly jostling the brunette inside.
“I’ll let him know, not that it matters. They have so many damn hoops you have to jump through,” Taylor said bitterly. “Jared says they won’t even consider me until I’m twenty-five—Which is fucking bullshit because I’ve seen way younger than me. But that’s Frey for you. He’s one of the better pack leaders and has rules like that to keep from being totally terrible like the other gangs.”
Taylor left Sage drinking a glass of orange juice in the kitchen while he rustled up a large, black sweatshirt out of his closet. Grabbing a toothpick, he chewed on it mindlessly while looking around his room. His eyes fell on a pair of sunglasses on his bureau and he quickly snatched them, bringing both downstairs to his friend.
Sage dressed while Taylor used his special cellphone to contact Jared. There would be no way the werewolf would come to his house. It just wasn’t smart, even with Ms. Hunt out and working at the hospital. Taylor’s mom was not a fan of what her son had been slowly getting into, having seen firsthand the consequences of the werewolf gangs and the people that tried to cross them.
“Come on. He says he’ll meet us at The Den,” Taylor said abruptly, pocketing his phone. Sighing, he pulled the hood over Sage’s hair. “I know it’s hot out, but you have to stay covered so you won’t be recognized.” Taylor didn’t bother mentioning that he’d run across way too many fucked up werewolves that would think someone as pretty as Sage was fair game. Jared was his sponsor, protecting him from any ill attention even though he wasn’t officially in with Frey’s pack yet. Another perk with joining a proper werewolf pack and not some bunch of fucked up creeps that thought just because they could transform on the full moon they could hurt anyone they liked.
Sage let Taylor pull him out of the house, his head spinning, stomach tight with anxiety as they headed for the bus. He had made a point to avoid the werewolves; after nearly being murdered by one as a child, Sage really didn’t trust any of them. Taylor was the only reason he was even considering this, and mostly because his friend was as street smart as they came. If Taylor thought the werewolves were his only chance to fix whatever had happened to him, then Sage was willing to give it a shot.