*Please note this content contains adult language and themes. It is intended for a mature audience.*
Thorn By My Side
By Jordan Ashton
Author’s Note: This short story is based on the werewolf MM erotic romance series Harbor of Lost Souls. The first book in the series, Milan, is coming out in June at Siren Publishing.
A soft, warm hand gently caressed Jeremiah Reyes’s face. He tried to open his eyes, but a veil of fatigue enshrouded him in darkness. When he heard a familiar, deep, sexy voice mumble something he couldn’t understand, he tried to push the disorientating fog from his mind and rise from unconsciousness.
But sleepiness was too powerful and he began to sink back into an unknowing state. Just as the image of a dark, grisly beast attacking him from the side made its way into his dreamful mind, he jolted awake, screaming, “Get away from me! Help!”
“Calm down, Jeremiah. You’re okay,” said the sexy voice he’d heard minutes ago.
He slowly turned his head to see him standing there at the edge of the bed. Wide-eyed and in awe, Jeremiah whispered, “Thorn, is that you?” He twisted his neck and looked around to see how Heaven looked. Instead of witnessing pearly white gates and the beautiful Garden of Eden, he saw dull, blue-gray walls and nothing else.
Confused, he asked, “Am I dreaming?”
Thorn shook his head as he gently grasped his hand. “No, you’re awake. It was touch and go there for quite a while, but thank God you pulled through.”
Jeremiah frowned. “I don’t understand. You’ve been dead for years, Thorn. And if I’m not dead, then why can I see you? Are you a ghost?”
Thorn’s handsome face took on a long expression. “No, I’m not a ghost.”
“But the police said you were dead, that you burned to death in your car when it exploded.”
“It wasn’t me. That was someone else.”
Tears welled in Jeremiah’s eyes as he stared at his ex-lover and soul mate’s beautiful chiseled nose and square, strong chin, his hazel-green eyes that made him weak in the knees and his beautiful, supple full lips that he yearned to kiss. He hadn’t laid eyes on him in over three years.
“All this time I thought you were dead. How could you let me think that? How could you do that to me?”
Thorn’s hurtful eyes seemed to glisten. He bowed his head in apparent shame. “I didn’t choose to do it, to leave you behind and make you think I was dead. But I had no choice. When I woke up from the coma and realized what I had become, I knew I had to let you think I was dead.”
“Why?” Jeremiah tried to sit up. A searing heat spread through his limbs with his movements. Excruciating pain followed and he cried out, trying to breathe.
Thorn reacted quickly. He grasped a pre-filled syringe that rested on the table beside Jeremiah’s bed and quickly injected its contents into his chest. “This is a painkiller. Take deep breaths and you’ll begin to feel better soon.”
Jeremiah did as instructed. Within minutes Thorn’s promise came true. The pain died a little more with each breath he took until it was bearable and he could speak again.
“What’s wrong with me?” He looked down at his almost nude body as he sat up in the bed. All he wore were his tight briefs and nothing else. He touched his arms. They felt foreign and numb, as if they had been cut off and replaced by someone else’s limbs.
“You were bitten by a werewolf. That’s why you’re experiencing this.”
“What? This isn’t funny. Stop messing with my head, Thorn. Please tell me what’s wrong with me.” Jeremiah was on the verge of hysteria when he saw reality as he knew it unraveling all around him.
Thorn’s eyes were sincere once he spoke. Jeremiah could see that much. “I’m not making this up. I wish I were, but it’s the honest truth. The Brotherhood got to you too late, after the beast had bitten you and you lay on the ground bleeding to death.”
The blood drained from Jeremiah’s face. “A beast?”
“Yeah, a seven-foot-tall hulk of a werewolf with huge, menacing fangs and razor-sharp claws. From the look of fear in your eyes, I’d say you remember something of what happened to you.”
Jeremiah gulped, but his parched throat made it almost impossible and painful. Red, glowing eyes and gigantic teeth and black fur pierced his vision as he stared at the wall facing him. He shivered as a cold chill shot down his spine. Trying to make sense of the images scrolling in his head, he asked, “You said the Brotherhood got to me too late. Who are they? And what did you mean by that? Am I dying?”
Thorn walked over to the other side of the bed as he stared at him. He tossed the empty syringe into a partially closed plastic box. “You’re not dying, but you’re going through the change. That’s why you’re in so much pain.” He sighed. “I’m sorry you’re going through this, Jeremiah. I will do everything I can to help you.”
His words and strength did comfort Jeremiah as he stared into his hazel eyes and remembered how they used to be, madly in love and inseparable. They couldn’t live a day without telling each other how they felt for one another or showing each other, by making passionate love over and over again.
Thorn gazed up at the ceiling as he continued, “The Brotherhood is a group of paranormals. They protect humans from creatures like werewolves and vampires. They also bring the infected to the Harbor so that they can get better and not become a danger to themselves and others. That’s where you are now.”
“I was infected?” Jeremiah’s lips trembled with the revelation.
“Yes, I’m afraid so.” Thorn blinked several times. It seemed to Jeremiah that he was fighting back tears. “They’ve given you medication to try to control the change, but for some reason your body is rejecting it.”
Panic washed over Jeremiah. “So then I am dying.”
“No, you’re not. You’re just changing, turning into the werewolf that created you, unless…”
“What, Thorn? Unless what?” He leaned forward, hoping to make him answer more quickly.
“Unless you mate with another werewolf in the next hour,” Thorn said, staring deeply into his eyes.
“Mate? Are you freakin’ serious!” Anger boiled in his voice at Thorn’s ridiculous suggestion. He kicked his feet over the edge of the bed and he started to stand when a wave of fatigue made his head spin. He fell forward, but Thorn caught him in his arms before he could hit the wall.
“Easy there, Jeremiah. No fast movements. The painkiller has strong side effects.”
Shaking his head to try to stop his spinning surroundings, he cursed, “I don’t freakin’ care! I’m getting out of here before you and these deranged people turn me into a sick experiment. I’m going to the nearest hospital and getting help there.”
Still holding him in his arms, Thorn gazed into his eyes. “No hospital can help you, Jeremiah. Only the doctors at the Harbor. They can help you like they helped me.”
Frowning, he looked up into his bewitching hazel eyes. His manly scent was so intoxicating he restrained himself from leaning in closer to sniff him. “They helped you? What happened to you, Thorn, when you disappeared?”
“I was bitten by a werewolf just like you were.”
This was all just too incredible to believe. Jeremiah kept expecting to wake up any second now from this freakish nightmare. Soon he’d start to pinch himself hard in the hopes it would jolt him awake.
“So you went through the change like I’m going through? Or did you mate to stop it?” Jeremiah snorted. Pangs of jealousy rose in him as he envisioned Thorn fucking another man.
Thorn shook his head. “The medication worked on me. It stopped the permanent change.”
“So then why didn’t you come back to me, Thorn?” Jeremiah pushed himself away and sat onto the bed. Thorn released him and stood beside him.
His brows furrowed. “I told you I would have come back if I could, but to protect you and everyone else, I couldn’t.”
“But tell me why,” Jeremiah begged. “Tell me why you just abandoned me, abandoned our love. Do you know how much you hurt me? I hate you so much right now. You have no idea.” He sneered.
The words were cruel and hurtful. He could see the pain he inflected on Thorn, but something inside him, a rage and hatred he couldn’t seem to control, was growing and taking over.
“I’m sorry I did what I did. That I hurt you so badly. And I understand that you hate me. But I’m infected and even though they were able to stop the permanent change, I can still turn on a full moon. I didn’t want to risk your life.”
His eyes did a complete scan of the room. “Here at the Harbor, I couldn’t hurt you or anyone else. I could protect everyone.”
The hatred in Jeremiah continued to take on a will of its own. His voice turned bitter. “But I did get hurt, didn’t I? I’m infected just like you were by another werewolf and now the medication isn’t working on me. I have to mate with a strange werewolf in the hopes of stopping it.”
Thorn touched his hand and he smiled slightly. His perfectly white, pearly teeth sparkled in the room’s artificial lighting. “No, not a stranger. With me.”
Tearing his arm away, he screamed, “Who says that’s any better! As far as I’m concerned, you are as much a stranger to me as any other werewolf walking in the halls of this so called Harbor of yours. Whatever we meant to one another died when I thought you had really perished in the car explosion.”
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