A Vampire’s Redemption
Casey Wolfe © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Caleb ushered the prisoners from their holding cells, encouraging them to escape. A naiad, shivering and pale, was carried by a collared were-creature. A dwarf asked for some assistance getting an injured elf to her feet, a pair of fellow prisoners stopping to lend aid in getting her out.
He continued to move as quickly as possible until he reached solitary confinement at the back of the block.
Only one cell was occupied. The prisoner was curled on his side, groaning as he attempted to right himself. “Hold on,” Caleb said. “Lemme help.”
He was met with a hiss and flash of fangs. Vampire. Caleb shied back to the threshold of the cell, dropping into a crouch. “Whoa, whoa, I’m not gonna hurt ya, man. We’re here to free you guys.”
The vampire blinked a few times before his hackles lowered. His body sagged, the rest of his energy going with it.
Caleb scented the air—filth, sweat, excrement; all of which was expected. Then he smelled blood and infected flesh. As the vampire used all his remaining strength to push himself into a seated position with only one arm, the source was made obvious. “They took your arm?” Caleb snarled. “Fucking bastards.”
Letting out a humorless laugh, the vampire looked at him. “They wanted to know if it would grow back.”
There was no helping Caleb’s growl. Were-creatures and vampires had accelerated healing, a trait of their particular races. But even they had their limits. Growing a new limb? These people were madder than he originally thought.
“Gonna get you out of here,” Caleb said, tempering his anger with an awareness of the situation he was in. He inched inside the cell, moving slowly so he didn’t startle the wounded vampire again. “It’ll be alright now.” He soothed him with the voice he used on Kyle and the other pups when they got scared or needed help with a shift. “You’ll be okay. I promise.”
“I’m so tired,” he murmured, eyes closing as his head fell back against the cell wall. “Don’t even think I can walk out of here.”
“I’ll help you. We’ll do it together, okay?”
“I can’t.” The vampire’s face scrunched in pain, the words forced out.
“We can.” Caleb offered his hand, even though the vampire’s eyes were still closed. “Come on. I’ll carry you if I have to.”
The vampire looked at him, lips curled in mirth. “Yeah? Just you there, small fry?”
Geez, he can manage to joke at a time like this? Caleb thought, though he was amused all the same. This one was most likely a sassy bastard when he was in top form. Something about that thought made Caleb want to see him at his best.
“Up you go,” Caleb encouraged, wiggling his fingers. When the vampire took hold, Caleb hauled him up in one quick motion before the vampire could try to lift himself.
“Shit,” he cursed, balance lost in the process, and falling against Caleb.
Catching him easily enough, Caleb prepared to make a smart comment when he smelled it. Closer now, the scent of honeysuckle wafted under his nose, and every place their skin touched was tingling with static. It couldn’t really be…
“Mate.” The word was said with such awe and reverence, Caleb’s chest clenched.
Caleb looked up to meet eyes the color of sea glass. He licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry. “Yeah,” Caleb agreed. “Mates.” He pulled the vampire closer, both supporting him and fulfilling his wolf’s selfish need to keep him near. “I’ll get you out of here.” If the statement was filled with more conviction than before, then nobody could blame him.
Marcus was in bad shape. Caleb didn’t need a bunch of doctors and healers to tell him that.
The survivors were scattered among various hospitals throughout the region. Not simply a way to keep from overloading a single facility, it also served to keep the victims safe. Military officials who joined the extraction team feared they would all be in danger until the threat was dealt with.
Marcus was one of those brought to Everstrand Central, sequestered in the SICU. There may have been extra security added, and the Inquisition Temple in the city shut down with its knights and inquisitors held for questioning, but that did little to ease Caleb’s worry. That was one reason he hadn’t left Marcus’s side, taking up a guard of his own in wolf form.
Having Shaw and Rowan around helped to ease the stress a little. Their presence was comforting and it meant Caleb had less to worry about. There was no reason to think about them being alone and vulnerable out in the Sacred Timber if they were there in the hospital with him. Their best hope to get through all of this was to stick together.
Even so, Rowan stubbornly refused to stay overnight at the hospital, much to Caleb’s vocal displeasure. At least Rowan agreed to use Caleb’s apartment since he wouldn’t budge from Marcus’s side. Instead, he watched over his mate while curled on the floor, growling at the staff he didn’t like the look of, and keeping a close eye on the rest. He would have been in the bed if he could have gotten away with it, but too many nurses—and Rowan—had scolded him for it, so he let it go.
At least they had good news that Marcus would make a full recovery. He’d been in an induced coma for three days, his body so weak it was something of a miracle he’d lasted as long as he had. Severe malnourishment and dehydration were secondary to the septic wound his shoulder had become.
Rowan’s constant badgering of the doctors probably would have gotten anyone else kicked out, but it paid to be both a Masters Board member and a now-championed hero for uncovering the Inquisition’s plot. Apparently, reporters had camped outside in an attempt to get information from him and Shaw every time they came or went. Just one more reason Caleb wasn’t about to try to leave.
The first time Marcus woke, Caleb moved immediately to his side. His front paws were on the bed as he gazed at Marcus intently. “Hey,” Marcus managed, nothing more than a faint whisper. “I’d know those pretty eyes anywhere.”
Caleb’s tail wagged back and forth, thumping against a chair.
Rowan chuckled, sitting in said chair. “Let him breathe, Caleb,” he scolded gently. To Marcus, he said, “Not sure if you remember me…”
“Yeah. Rowan, right?” He glanced around. “Where’s Shaw?”
“Out there dealing with reporters.”
Marcus groaned, head lolling to the side. “Better him than me.”
“I know,” Rowan sympathized. “They’ve been hounding us since the breakout. Inspectors too. From about every agency you can think of.” He rubbed Caleb’s head between his ears. “At least you and Caleb have gotten spared the worst of it.” Rowan offered Marcus a slight smile, patting his leg. “I’ll go grab a nurse and see about getting the doctor in to look you over.”
Caleb waited for him to leave before he hopped on the bed. He snuffled into Marcus’s neck, enjoying the laugh he pulled from him.
“I doubt you’re allowed to be up here,” Marcus said, pressing his hand to Caleb’s cheek. Caleb pulled away to look at Marcus, those aquamarine eyes of his so piercing they practically glowed. “Not that I’m complaining.”
Marcus smiled slyly and Caleb’s tongue whipped out to lick at his nose. In mock indignation, Marcus swatted at him. “Blah! Dog breath!”
Caleb rolled his eyes. In truth, since he’d yet to go home, he probably did in fact smell ripe. He went to bop Marcus on the face with his paw, but Marcus snatched it. He brought it to his mouth and pressed lips to the pads of Caleb’s paw. Had he been in human form, Caleb probably would have blushed.
Footsteps in the hall sent Caleb jumping off the bed and scrambling to sit, as though he’d been there the whole time. He made it right before the door opened and Shaw walked in. Marcus chuckled, dropping his voice so only Caleb heard. “Guess that answers the question about being allowed on the bed.”
“Bloody hell,” Shaw said, walking to the bedside opposite of Caleb. He stared at Marcus in something akin to disbelief, unsure what to do, before Shaw finally bent over and gave him a crushing hug. “You had us so worried.”
Marcus’s lips quirked as he hugged Shaw back with his remaining arm. “Kept hoping you guys would find me. Almost thought…” Marcus strangled a whimper as he held Shaw even tighter, fist clenching the back of his shirt.
Caleb watched with mixed emotion. Part of him rankled at someone else being so close to his mate, but that was promptly pushed aside as ridiculous. Shaw was Marcus’s pack—had started to become Caleb’s pack somewhere along the way. Marcus needed to reconnect with Shaw as much as Caleb needed to keep him close.
Shaw pressed their foreheads together and murmured, “It’s good to have you back,” before straightening. Shaw rubbed at his eyes, trying to hide the start of tears, Marcus doing the same.
“Least your hair looks better,” Shaw said, fingers combing through Marcus’s ebony locks. They had been tangled and greasy from his incarceration, but once he’d been stabilized, the staff had washed, combed, and trimmed his hair the best they could. “Still a little long, but now that you’re up, we can get you straightened out.”
“I think we’ve got more to worry about than my hair here, Shaw.” He gestured to himself pointedly. While it was true there was more recovery ahead, Caleb had already seen progress. Color had returned to his tawny olive skin, and the dark circles under his eyes had lightened while the sunken quality of his face softened.
“We’ll get you there,” Shaw assured.
Caleb pressed his nose to Marcus’s hip, giving a little whine. Marcus’s lips twitched, his hand falling on top of Caleb’s head.
When Rowan returned with the doctor and a nurse, Caleb vocalized his complaint, but moved over to Rowan’s side all the same. “I know,” Rowan offered, rubbing the side of Caleb’s face vigorously. A technique Rowan picked up long ago, he knew it would calm Caleb’s wolf side as his scent dumped into the air.
“The bloodwork we took this morning looks good,” Doctor Nikos informed them once introductions were made. The human Caleb could deal with, but the dryad nurse with him, Ash, was one Caleb didn’t care for. “Now that you’re hydrated and have proper nutrient levels, your accelerated healing should be kicking in. We gave you antibiotics to help combat the infection, in the meantime. That shoulder of yours was septic, but I’ve been assured by my colleagues that it will fully heal, so you’ll be able to be fitted for a prosthetic soon. You were pretty lucky, otherwise.”
“Lucky?” Marcus huffed. “Don’t feel very lucky.”
Caleb whined, face rubbing against Rowan’s hip.
Marcus’s eyes cut to him. “I didn’t mean—” Marcus grumbled, looking away.
“Regardless,” Doctor Nikos insisted, “you’re still alive, and that’s what matters.” He turned to Ash and ordered, “I want you to set up a consultation in two days’ time with Isbrae. Marcus’s shoulder should be healed enough by then to get proper measurements.” To Marcus he said, “I want you here at least four more days. By then we’ll be able to make sure you’re on the right track and have a rehab plan in place.”
Marcus sighed, clearly not wanting to hear about rehabilitation or prosthetics. “Thanks, Doc,” he muttered.
Doctor Nikos hesitated before deciding to offer more. “We have counselors you can talk to anytime you’d like. Simply ask one of the nurses and—”
“No.” Marcus closed off at that, refusing to look at anyone.
Doctor Nikos motioned Ash out of the room before mentioning to Rowan, “If he needs anything…”
Caleb was already back at Marcus’s bedside, ears pinned down to his head. Marcus didn’t smell so sick anymore, the sterilization of the hospital overcoming the stink of infection, but clearly Marcus’s mind was still troubled. Caleb couldn’t say he knew what Marcus was going through, but he wanted to help.
“Don’t give me puppy eyes,” Marcus gruffed, not even looking at him.
Caleb whimpered, stretching his nose out to nestle under Marcus’s hand.
With a sigh, Marcus’s lips quirked at the corner. “Stop being so damn cute, huh?”
Cute? Well, Caleb wouldn’t let that one go. He shoved his head farther forward, Marcus’s hand sliding onto his head. His perfectly perfected puppy eyes landed on Marcus, his chin on Marcus’s lap.
That brought a true smile back to Marcus’s face as he laughed lightly. “I’m already wrapped around your paw, aren’t I?”
Shaw moved closer to the bed. “I hate to interrupt…”
“Sure you do,” Marcus muttered, causing Caleb to huff out what passed for a laugh in wolf form.
Ignoring them, Shaw said, “I called Hale to let him know we found you. Rhys too. The guys don’t know yet.”
“They’re on mission?” Marcus guessed, fingers idly running through Caleb’s gray fur as Caleb tried his best to maneuver closer without actually getting in the bed.
“They have been for about a week. Recon in the Dark Mountains.”
“Not sure when they’re due back. Doubt Rhys can let them take off to come here though. This whole damn thing has blown up, and they need all hands on deck.”
“So what are you doing here then?” Marcus sounded a little bitter about it.
“Looking after you, asshole.” There was no real heat behind his words. “You worry about getting better. I’ll worry about logistics.”
“In the meantime…” Shaw pulled a cell phone from his pocket, passing it over to Marcus. “That’s your new phone. Call your sire.”
“Are you serious? I just woke up, Shaw. I’m exhausted.”
“I know. The only reason Hale isn’t here already is because he’s too busy raining hellfire and brimstone on the Inquisition.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
“As soon as things went down, Osterian and Calagon both raided the Inquisition facilities in the cities. Now they’re going to be moving on outposts and gathering intel on any other hidden strongholds. But, as Rhys tells it, Hale led the charge slaughtering every inquisitor in Shadewind.”
Rowan stepped forward. “You never told me that.”
“It wasn’t exactly something to bring up in conversation,” Shaw pointed out. “We’ve had other things to deal with.” Between keeping investigators and reporters away, Rowan obsessing over Marcus’s medical care, and Shaw doing his best to keep them all safe, Caleb imagined the newly bonded pair hadn’t had much time alone together.
Shaw turned back to Marcus. “Calagon declared a State of Emergency after that and Hale’s been sitting in on the Situation Room with the rest of the powers that be. I’ve been keeping him updated, but for the love of God, call the man, because he won’t stop texting me! And do you have any idea how weird it is that he texts?”
Marcus looked down at the phone and sighed. “I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s been nearly four months… He only needs to hear your voice.”
Rowan offered, “We’ll get out of here and let you have some privacy.”
Marcus nodded, barely acknowledging the squeeze on his shoulder from Shaw before the pair took their leave. Caleb figured they wouldn’t go far. He hesitated, wondering if he should make his way out too.
When he wavered, Marcus looked at him and asked, “So you getting back up here or what?”
Caleb sprung onto the bed, nuzzling his nose into Marcus’s neck.
“Cold nose!” Marcus swatted at him, laughing the whole time. As Caleb lay next to him gingerly, large head resting on his thigh, Marcus scratched behind his ears. “Thank you,” he murmured, dropping a kiss onto Caleb’s head.
Marcus dialed the number, flipping it to speakerphone before setting it on his lap. Then his fingers curled into Caleb’s ruff. Caleb wasn’t going anywhere and only snuggled closer to let him know that.
“Hi, Dad,” he answered, soft and unsure. There was a rapid-fire reply in a language Caleb couldn’t identify. “Dad.”
That apparently focused Hale. “It seems asinine to ask, but, are you okay?”
“Tired,” Marcus said. “Just woke up.”
“Oh, kiddo…” Hale sighed forcefully. “I should be there.”
“Nothing you can do here.” During the silence on the other end of the phone, his fingers flexed in Caleb’s fur. “Give ’em hell for me.”
“I plan to.” The vindictive tone caused Marcus’s lips to twitch. “And I’ll be there soon.” Hale paused. “Shaw said something else happened that you need to tell me yourself.”
Marcus bit his lip. “Not sure what he told you.”
“Full medical report. A brief on what they did to you in that place.”
“Then he was probably talking about Caleb.”
Hit that one on the head, Caleb thought, gazing at Marcus.
“He was one of the guys who helped Shaw raid the prison. He—he’s my mate.”
A pregnant pause filled the room. “Marcus. I— Congratulations. I’d always hoped you would find your paralagi.” He chuckled. “I guess I never figured it would be this soon.”
“Dad, I’m over two hundred. I think it’s been plenty of time.”
“I know. I know,” Hale conceded.
Caleb hadn’t thought about how old Marcus could be. He didn’t look a day over thirty-five, even with how sick he’d become. He didn’t know much about how vampires aged, since he’d never known one well enough. Though at only twenty-six himself, Caleb had the urge to snark that Marcus was robbing the cradle.
“Well, you’ll have to tell me all about him,” Hale continued. “But, right now you need to rest and regain your health. I’ll be there as soon as I can. I promise.”
“No rush,” Marcus said, though his expression softened. “Gonna be stuck here for a bit longer and I don’t really want visitors in a hospital room.”
“I get it, kiddo,” he assured. “Keep in touch. I love you.”
“Love you too.” They said their goodbyes, Marcus taking a deep breath after he clicked the phone off. “That went better than expected.” His grip loosened on Caleb’s ruff, allowing Caleb to snuggle closer. “I feel so beat,” he murmured, eyes already falling shut. “You’ll stay, right?”
Caleb stretched his neck out and swiped his tongue across Marcus’s cheek as he lay back. Marcus managed a grateful smile before sleep called him under again.
“So, you live in the city?” Marcus asked. He’d gathered as much when Shaw had mentioned staying at Caleb’s apartment.
Caleb came out of the bathroom, the flash of a tattoo visible on his right hip as he pulled on a fresh shirt. It jostled a small bundle of raven feathers clipped to the belt loop of his black pants.
Rowan had brought him a duffel bag of clothes, he and Shaw making themselves scarce to give them some privacy. There was mention about stopping off at Rowan’s shop to gather supplies he needed before going back to the apartment—honestly, Marcus was still drowsy after spending the remainder of the previous day drifting in and out of sleep, plagued by nightmares. Every time he opened his eyes he was relieved to find a beautiful gray wolf lying next to his hip, keeping guard over him.
“Yup, northwestern outskirts. It’s all rather…bohemian.”
Marcus chuckled. The sarcastic comment flowed easily off his tongue, “I wouldn’t picture you in a place like that.” Caleb rolled his eyes, smiling all the same as he returned to the bathroom.
Unsure what he was doing, Marcus leaned over to get a better angle. Caleb was standing in front of the mirror, applying black eyeliner. Marcus didn’t comment. He’d seen guys wear eyeliner before, and given Caleb’s particular fashion aesthetic—monochrome punk—it wasn’t as though it was a surprise.
He was wearing winter camouflage when I saw him, Marcus recalled. He couldn’t remember much about their meeting, other than the intense feeling that overcame him when they touched, the pull deep in his gut—the mating bond flaring to life, telling Marcus he had found the person he’d been searching the world for.
Caleb stepped out of the bathroom, Marcus meeting deep honey eyes framed by kohl, and he breathed in sharply through his nose. He looked away, feeling the prickle of nerves—which was ridiculous; this was his mate.
In his mild panic, Marcus asked the first thing to come to mind. “Where’s your pack?”
Caleb’s shoulders tensed, the line of his back straightening. “Southern Hills,” he answered reluctantly. “Haven’t been back since I was nineteen.”
“You don’t have to talk about them,” Marcus assured him. Lord knew he had his own demons he had no intention of speaking about anytime soon.
Relaxing a little, Caleb murmured, “Thanks.” He walked over to the side of the bed, fingers brushing lightly across Marcus’s forearm. Focused on his hand, Caleb sounded distracted. “I was being groomed to take over the pack. Between all the politics and the pressure I just… I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left.”
Marcus turned his hand over in offer, thankful when Caleb twined their fingers together instantly. Finally looking at him again, Caleb added, “Rowan’s my pack now.” His mouth ticked up at the corner. “And you.”
Marcus smiled gently. Having lived in the military the last five years, he was quick to pick up on the fact werewolves adopted their fellow soldiers as pack. Although, in most cases, it was a temporary arrangement, always having their home pack to go back to. For others, it became their world.
Caleb looked down again. “I only keep in touch with my little brother, Kyle. Get to see him every now and then, but it’s mostly phone calls and video chats.”
“That must be tough.”
Caleb nodded. After a moment, he sat on the edge of the bed. He looked at Marcus, flipping the longer pieces of his emerald-green hair out of his eyes and putting on a brave face. “What about you? What’s your family like?”
Letting out a little huffing laugh, Marcus replied, “My family’s fucking insane.” He shook his head, finding himself scooting closer to Caleb. “My mom died giving birth to me. Dad was never around. So, I was raised at an orphanage there in Yufril.”
Caleb’s brows lowered in confusion. “How did you end up meeting Hale?”
“Oh, I ran away from that shithole as soon as I could make it on my own.” Yufril was notorious for its violent history, warmongers decimating everything from infrastructure to economy. As a child, Marcus had wanted as far away as possible. “I didn’t meet Hale till I was…thirty-seven?”
“And he turned you?”
“Not for a couple more years.” Marcus smirked. “He courted me for a bit.”
That made Caleb’s frown deepen. “So, you two were…?”
“No, nothing like that. Strictly platonic. Well, as platonic as one can be with their sire. Kinda like pack is with each other. There’s a bond there. But, no, nothing sexual. Not with us.” A valid question, since changed vampires commonly had such relationships with their sires.
Caleb was clearly relieved. “Does he have a mate too?”
“Nope.” Marcus lifted his good shoulder, looking away. “I suppose that’s why he’s had so many childer over the years. I’m sure he’s gotten lonely…but, he has coven duties now, so there’s that.”
“Oh? What coven are you guys in?”
“House of the Moon.”
“Shadewind. Well, technically, it’s north of the city, in the mountains.” The coven house was the first, and only, place Marcus had ever called home. He had been a nomad, and even after meeting Hale that hadn’t changed very much. It simply meant he finally had a place he could always come back to.
“So, you met Shaw in the military?”
“Yeah, all the guys.”
“Why’d you join?” Caleb finally settled beside him, his earlier stress gone.
“Long story short, it’s Rhys’s fault.”
Caleb tilted his head. “That’s your commander, right?”
“Our commander, member of the coven, and an all-around pain in the ass.”
It was a wonder he stayed with the military as he had, but the squad had become family. After the two years Rhys had tricked him into signing on for, Marcus could have left, gone home to Hale and his brother, Gareth. In the end, he couldn’t leave the squad.
“That sounds like there’s a story there,” Caleb said with a little laugh.
“Rhys is the biggest shithead on the planet.”
Caleb’s laughter grew. “I’m sure he’s not that bad.”
“Oh no,” Marcus insisted, “you have no idea.”
Twisting his body, Caleb leaned toward Marcus. “I know we haven’t been able to talk a lot—”
“Being passed out will do that.” Marcus smiled and Caleb rolled his eyes.
“I wanted you to know you could come back to my place when you get out.”
Marcus froze a moment, out of surprise, but then his whole being relaxed. “I’d like that.”
“Yeah?” Caleb’s tail probably would have been whapping against his leg had he been in wolf form, ears pricked forward. He reined his response in almost instantly. “I mean, it’s not much. My place is pretty small, but—”
“Caleb.” Marcus squeezed his hand. “It’s fine.”
When Caleb continued to look unsure, Marcus used his little returning strength to lean forward, wrapping his remaining arm around Caleb’s waist and tugging as he lay back again. They ended up chest to chest, Caleb gazing at him in shock. Marcus smiled at the warmth that surrounded him.
“Look,” Marcus said, “there’s really no question I’m gonna stay with you. Doesn’t matter much to me where.” He wished for his right arm, not for the first time. This time it wasn’t to beat the shit out of his captors or to be able to escape, but to give in to the urge to brush the hair from Caleb’s gorgeous eyes.
“We’re mates,” Marcus continued. “So, yeah, we’ll take it slow. I’m gonna have some recovering to do, to get better for you. And we’ll get to know each other more.” Marcus wet his lips, eyes locked with Caleb’s. “But, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make this work.”
Caleb’s grin was almost blinding. He lay half on top of Marcus then, nose going to the crook of Marcus’s neck. Not that Marcus was about to complain. His arm squeezed around Caleb’s waist, enjoying the warmth and contact he had been missing for months.