Yevhen. Forest ranger. Werewolf. Stifled by pack rules.
Radek. Foxy ginger brat. Changeling. Will avoid responsibility at all cost.
Banished from his pack for being gay, Yev has one last chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his family. He needs to stick to the rules for a year, and bury his sexuality forever. Shouldn’t be so hard, since he can’t have a relationship with a human without revealing his werewolf nature.
That is until one night, a drunk ginger brat points a rifle in his face.
Radek finished University months ago but thinking about the future is not on his agenda. Life would be great if he could just avoid any and all responsibilities.
He doesn’t want to be his mom’s caregiver, doesn’t want to take over the family fox farm, doesn’t want to return to his village, and doesn’t want a steady boyfriend.
His world turns upside down when he’s arrested by an infuriatingly attractive forest ranger. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s now hunted by werewolves for discovering their drug smuggling operation, and… he turned into a fox!?
Helpless and wounded, he seeks sanctuary with the very man who got him into this mess, but what’s a fox to do? If there’s someone who can help him understand his changeling origin, it’s Yev. A werewolf.
Genre: Paranormal M/M romance with dark elements
Contains scorching hot, emotional, explicit scenes with a hint of kink and lots of biting!
Themes: Folklore, forbidden love, hurt/comfort, little town, homophobia, coming out, fish out of water, shifters, discovering magic, age gap, size difference, changeling, animal rights activism, growing up, werewolf, family issues
Length: ~ 120,000 words (standalone)
WARNING: This story contains scenes of violence, offensive language, bodily harm, animal cruelty, and morally ambiguous characters.
He blinked, stepping closer to the wooden structure growing out of the slope of the ravine. The gaps between wooden planks had been filled this year, as the moss still looked fresh enough, so it wasn’t abandoned. The door was partially open, inviting him with the comfort of the herby scent he knew so well. But the odor of a predator? It was dense in the air, so Radek pressed the stock of the rifle to his shoulder and walked toward the shed as steadily as he could.
He hadn’t realized until now just how fast his heart was beating. Everything seemed to still, even the snowflakes hung in the air instead of falling, as if he were the single living being moving through a landscape stuck in time.
Radek set his foot on the wooden floor inside the hut, which was much bigger than it had seemed from afar. He now regretted not taking a flashlight. He regretted many things, but that didn’t mean he would back out.
He’d come here for a kill, and as paws tapped against wood somewhere inside, his index finger twitched against the trigger. His stomach tightened, blood rushed to his frosty cheeks, but a low voice spoke behind him before he could have taken the shot.
“I don’t think this property belongs to you.”
“Huh?” Radek turned so abruptly, he slapped the person behind him with his damp hair, but that meant the man stood far too close, and that he’d managed to approach unseen, like a ghost. Radek stumbled into the hut that smelled like a weed farm, and pointed the rifle at the stranger, painfully aware of the canine somewhere inside. Behind him. “Who are you?”
The man’s form filled the entire doorway, a dark barrier to trap Radek between the wild animal and freedom. The stranger’s face remained shadowed, but the moonlight streaming from outside revealed the pitch black of his longish hair.
He smelled of wood and moss, as if he’d slept buried under the snow, in the safety of some underground lair, and had only come out to hunt.
Radek froze when something tumbled over the floor behind him. Something as heavy as a grown man.
“Put that down,” the stranger said, melodically rounding up syllables with a Ukrainian accent. “You’re trespassing.”
Radek’s hands tightened on the rifle, and he glanced over his shoulder, his chest too tight. “You don’t understand! There’s a wolf—”
“What wolf?” asked a voice from inside the hut, filling Radek with a sense of dread. He was trapped with two strangers in the forest. In a little hut that smelled of marijuana.
“You’re drunk and confused,” said the tall man at the door. “Give me that rifle.”
Radek made a quick turn and pressed his back to the wall, because he didn’t want to be vulnerable to either of the strangers. “There’s no way I’m giving up my gun! Why is he naked?” He couldn’t help his voice getting a higher pitch, but he was starting to freak out when he noticed the man hiding in the shadows was completely bare.
Air got stuck in his throat when the giant by the door grabbed his neck and freed him of the rifle before Radek could have managed to pull the trigger.
There, he’d gotten distracted, and was now defenseless.
The shadows inside the cottage were so deep even he couldn’t see his opponents clearly, but when he grabbed the man’s wrist to pull the hand off his throat, he found it hard as steel. But Radek wouldn’t give up, and writhed as hard as he could, not ashamed by the pathetic whimpers he was making. The booze was evaporating from his blood at record-breaking speed.
“Did anyone else follow you?” the clothed one asked the naked guy in Ukrainian, confusing Radek further. So he hadn’t followed a wolf? It was just his luck to end up in the middle of a drug-smuggling operation, because booze confused his senses. There had been howling, though. He was sure of that.
“Yeah, but this idiot parted from the rest.” The naked one huffed. “Don’t be too free with your words, he could understand.”
The tall stranger shook his head, but when he leaned in, the moonlight captured his face through the open door, revealing thick brows over eyes like polished steel, which seemed to reflect more light than reasonable. Or maybe it was the alcohol. The man also had a scar. Thick, as if it had been sutured too late, it ran vertically across the eye, ending on a slight dip in the cheekbone.
“Walking around at night, intoxicated, with a loaded rifle? You could kill someone,” he said in Polish, but his speech betrayed him as someone raised beyond the border with Ukraine.
Radek stared up at him, desperate to de-escalate, and spoke as soon as the hold around his neck lessened. “I was just hunting a wolf. And I… I won’t tell anyone about the weed. I smoke myself. I’m a supporter of legalization!” But his Adam’s apple bobbed in panic under the massive paw of a hand.
“What weed?” the man asked, and his hand flexed against Radek’s throat, as if he were trying to make a point.
Radek was a hundred percent certain he could smell it all over the hut. “The… I mean… Maybe I’m just smelling it on myself.” He dared to smile.
“Yev?” the naked man started
The stranger holding Radek still pulled him out of the shed, into the light, where his face was finally revealed. The black hair brushing the man’s shoulders wasn’t enough to soften his somber features. His nose was somewhat flat and severe, his chin—pronounced and, like his cheeks, covered by a dark stubble. He was tall, strong enough to move Radek like a mannequin, and if he chose to break Radek’s neck, there would be more than enough places in the woods to hide a body so it would never be found.
“I’m the forest ranger here, and you broke the law,” Yev said sternly.
Radek stared at him, dumbfounded. “Say what?” He glanced back at the darkness inside, but the naked man didn’t follow them into the snow.
“You heard me. Do you have any documents on you?” Yev asked, still holding on to Radek’s arm, and the strength of his grip made Radek unwilling to struggle.
“N-no.” Radek glanced down his bare chest, which now felt painfully cold. “But I’m Radek Nowak, and I live in Dybukowo. I’m local. And a member of the Hunting Association.” The paperwork should be somewhere at home. Then again, his dad had been the one to pay for both their memberships, and he died two years back, so maybe Radek’s permit was out of date?
“You pointed the rifle at a person. The wolf is a protected species, and you’re drunk,” Yev said, dragging Radek along the shallow ravine, away from the dark little shed and the naked Ukrainian man.