They reached the guest bungalow where Trace was staying and walked in without knocking. David stopped, taking in the scene before him. River stood looking down at Trace, who lay on the couch, Xavier sitting beside him. The pack alpha’s face reflected an odd mixture of concern and anger. Sweat soaked Trace’s skin, making his blond hair a shade darker. His blue eyes were unfocused. His chest rose and fell with quick, labored pants, and his shirt was ripped open. As they watched, he arched up off the couch, muscles in his arms and legs straining. The right leg of his jeans began to tear down the center, exposing skin roiling alarmingly as though something swam beneath it, veins standing out like roadmaps. Twitching violently, Trace let out a yell that gradually strengthened, rising up from his belly until it was very close to a howl.
“Holy shit,” David said, immediately realizing what had happened.
“What the hell?” Jax ran forward. “What’s wrong with him?”
“The change…” River looked at David, who immediately turned to Xavier, eyes wide.
“You bit him?”
Xavier rose from the couch, hands fisted at his sides, eyes defiant. “He’s mine!”
“You had no right.” Jax moved closer to Trace, and Xavier let out a low growl that stopped Jax in his tracks.
Trace had been reasonably fit before, but now his muscles rippled with definition as right before their eyes, his physique became stronger and fiercer until his clothes ripped and hung in shreds off his body.
“What the fuck?” Jax’s face was pale.
“He’s going through a molecular change from the bite,” River said. “I’ve never seen it before, but my father described it once.”
“He looks like he’s dying!”
“It’s very painful, but he’ll be okay.”
“You bastard!” Jax started for Xavier, and David grabbed his arms to hold him off. Xavier would rip Jax in two. “You complete and utter, totally selfish bastard!”
“He wanted me to. He wants to be with me,” Xavier said. He turned to stare down at Jax, a mixture of pain and love in his eyes.
“He didn’t know what he wanted. How could you?”
As he held Jax against his chest, David could feel the man’s heaving breaths.
“He wants to be with me!” Xavier insisted. “And I couldn’t let him leave tomorrow. Someone would keep him from coming back.”
“The humans aren’t going to take this well,” David said.
“Is that all you have to say?” Jax jerked out of his grip.
“It’s important, don’t you think?”
“He’s just changed a man against his will!”
“I’m telling you—” Xavier began, but Jax cut him off.
“I don’t believe for a minute that Trace wanted to become…this!” He pointed at the writhing, now naked man on the sofa. Trace’s cock stood out from his body, painfully stiff and flushed, a large knot forming at its base. “Oh, my God,” Jax choked out.
David clamped his mouth shut, watching Jax pace the room restlessly.
“Can’t you help him?” Jax stopped in front of River. “Change him back? Make it stop?” He gestured to where Xavier knelt beside the couch and held Trace’s hand.
“It will be over soon,” River said to Jax, and then to Xavier, “Give him your blood to drink.”
“No!” Jax rushed forward, and Xavier snarled so violently, Jax tripped in his effort to change direction and fell to the floor. David reached out to help him up, but Jax moved away. The rejection felt like a blow.
“It will help with the pain,” River said.
“It will make him into more of a beast!”
David audibly gasped, and Jax showed the first signs that he realized the effect his reaction was having on his lover.
“I didn’t mean that,” Jax said, taking a step toward David.
This time, David moved away. “Yes, you did.”