God of Monsters (Juniper Unraveling #4) - Keri Lake
Titus tipped his chin toward the darkening sky and breathed in the thick humidity of an oncoming storm. The winds had begun to shift from the south, portending another long hot summer that’d sweep like a burning wick over the arid desert.
And more storms.
Yanking the canvas taut against the ridgepole, he secured the outer surface of his only shelter from what would likely be a torrential downpour in a few hours, and nabbed the heavy rock from beside him to pound the stake into the earth. For weeks, his makeshift home had offered protection against the frigid winter temps, but had since worn down with abuse. Not that Titus was ever troubled by the weather, anyway. His skin had hardened over the years, become accustomed to whatever brutality nature might throw at him.
Life in the Deadlands could be merciless, at times, but at least he was a free man.
Across the camp, his Alpha brother finished securing the lines of his own tent, before crouching to turn the spit-roasting rabbits over the small campfire.
“You smell that, Brother? That’s the work of a master.” The taunting amusement in Atticus’s voice left Titus shaking his head, as he pounded another stake into the ground. “A far cry from the charred, fire-gutted carcasses you offer up.”
“You’re welcome to starve,” Titus spat, pushing to his feet and catching sight of the golden meat adorned with sprigs of green. “Food doesn’t have to be decorated with flowers where I come from.”
“They’re called herbs. They add flavor. And we come from the same place, last I checked.”
“You must’ve gotten the penthouse. No slop I ever swallowed down in that hellhole was flavored with herbs.”
The food served in Calico could barely pass as edible, but even the heartier meals fed to the Alphas were hard to swallow.
“If, by penthouse, you mean the inflamed bowels of the infirmary with a gloved hand shoved halfway up my ass, then I guess so.” The indignant sound in his throat died with the lifting of the skewered rabbit, and he examined the damn thing like he might a polished jewel. “Never cared much for that high life. I’d even take your bland cooking over that any day.”
Titus snorted, plopping himself onto the dirt bed near the bonfire, where he rested his elbows onto his knees. “Tell that to the woman you bedded last week.”
Laughter broke through Atticus’s momentary focus, and he shook his head. “A little fisting is good for the soul.”
Down the road from their camp was a hive where the two of them traded on occasion. Fuel and blankets in exchange for rabbit meat and venison, in Titus’s case. Liquor and sex for chopped wood, in the case of Atticus. Three adolescent daughters made up the only females under fifty years old in the hive, and Atticus saw fit to plunder them equally in exchange for his toils. Though, there were a few men able-bodied enough to carry out the wood-chopping themselves, so perhaps the exchange for sex wasn’t so one-sided as Titus thought it to be.
While the daughters had propositioned Titus, as well, his conscience bit too hard to ever risk getting a female pregnant. No ordinary female was equipped to handle impregnation by an Alpha from Calico.
Somehow, Atticus didn’t seem to care about the dangers, in spite of Titus’s chiding.
Still, it made the trips to the hive difficult each time. The petting. The flirtatious smiles of young, fertile women, smelling like flowers and sweetness. It reminded Titus of the last time he’d been with a woman. Two years ago, when he’d been forced to fuck his best friend’s girl, Calithea.
With Valdys trapped inside Calico, the young female had endured painful bouts of estrus, a sort of screwed up mating cycle she suffered every month that could be relieved only by the seed of an Alpha. In spite of the guilt, there was a small part of him that enjoyed the task. Enough years had passed now, that he could admit his appreciation for the sensations he’d felt in the thick of it, ones he’d chosen to ignore at the time, for Cali’s sake. The relief for both of them when it was over. Cold, detached sex, but such was nothing new for Titus. It was all he’d ever known.
Prior to that, he’d been forced to fuck countless females, whose fates, as a prisoner, he’d never become privy to. The doctors used the girls to study Alpha pregnancy, and Titus swore he’d never willfully harm a woman that way again.