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Auctioned to the Alpha: A Dark Shifter Romance by Trent Evans – Sample

Prologue

Stacy

She’d been warned that the mate candidates would be naked, but it wasn’t until that first flash of pale, smooth skin, and the haunted eyes of the women standing up on the platform that Stacy really understood.

Karen, her team leader, laid a hand on her shoulder, gently squeezing. “Steady, agent. We went through this. Remember your training.”

Despite the cool calmness in Karen’s voice, Stacy’s heart hammered in her chest, her mouth suddenly dry.

She had imagined what she might find at the auction—there’d already been so much whispered rumor about what actually went on at one—but the reality of it was both more mundane… and far more unsettling.

The mates were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder on a polished wood platform, overhead lights spraying a warm, incandescent illumination down upon them, highlighting and rendering in stark unflinching detail the naked forms of each of the trembling, frightened women who’d been collected for the auction.

The fact that Stacy and her team had brought one of those women here only made it worse.

The women ranged in age from eighteen up to the early forties. Fifteen in all, they were outnumbered at least ten to one by the group of tall, muscled, and very dangerous looking men crowding closer to the stage.

Karen indicated two folding chairs along one of the walls, and Stacy sat down, the metal cold against her ass through the thin fabric of her slacks. She gripped the steel edges of her seat, hoping it would hide the trembling of her fingers.

Standing off to the left side of the stage, a towering man in a gray, pin-striped suit pointed toward the group of waiting women. “Turn around.”

Faces grew suddenly paler as the group reluctantly did as they were told. One of the younger women, her silky brunette curls framing a blushing, but pretty face, burst into tears, her back hitching as she haltingly obeyed, displaying her round, plump buttocks to the assembled men.

Stacy remembered the girl’s name from the auction list: Connie Oliver, a community college student in Spokane—before a team from the Fugitive Management Bureau had come for her.

At the sight of so many naked, vulnerable bottoms, a low murmuring rose from the gathered spectators, a few of them whispering to each other. Then the man in the striped suit called the first woman, a tall, statuesque redhead with lips the color of palest pink, beckoning her to come down… into the midst of the male throng.

Karen, seemingly unaffected, typed away on her phone, her earpiece dangling down onto the shoulder of her dark suit— “Agent Gray,” as they referred to the outfit. Standard issue charcoal suits—just like anything one might see in an office. Except their office was the entire country, and rather than chasing down the quarter’s sales numbers, they chased down fugitives.

Don’t you mean victims?

It didn’t matter what she called them—or felt about them—they were still the same thing. As soon as a mate was designated (she hated the term “fated mates” as it implied a sort of blame shifting on the part of the Wolf Nations), the unfortunate woman had one choice—to report, or not to report—when called for an auction.

When some decided to refuse—and a few always tried—or just plain disappeared, that’s when teams like Stacy’s were called in.

“How the hell are they all so… tall?” Stacy murmured, unable to look away from the spectacle taking place before them.

“I’ve never seen one under six foot two,” Karen replied, not taking her eyes from her phone. “Most of them are taller than that.”

They didn’t look that different from any other man. Taller, yes. Muscular—practically all of them, as far as she could see. Not an ounce of fat on any of them.

“Christ, it’s a bunch of Spartans,” Stacy said, rubbing a hand across her mouth, wishing she had a bottle of water handy to combat her suddenly parched tongue.

If only all your parts were dry.

She pushed that aside, not sure how to even unpack it, what it might mean.

Another woman was called down, her buoyant breasts swaying as she negotiated the stairs, her haunted gaze flicking from one waiting man to the next. Two males stepped from the crowd, each one taking her by an arm and leading her to one side of the stage. Several other men followed, at a distance. It was a custom at an auction. The agents called it “The Interview”—a sick joke.

One by one, they called down each woman to be paired with two, and sometimes three, hulking men, followed by a group of others. It was like predators sizing up their prey, culling the herd, isolating the most vulnerable, the most succulent.

Stacy shuddered at the ghastly metaphor.

Ironically, the last one remaining on the stage was little, frightened Connie Oliver, her weeping somehow even more heartbreaking as she stood all alone. When finally her name was called, rather than tottering down the risers, two lanky, strong men bounded up to the stage themselves, crowding her to the back of the platform. They stood between her and the waiting throng below, almost as if to shield the woman. A lump grew in Stacy’s throat as she watched Connie’s bright, overflowing eyes peer up at one of the men, then over to the next as they murmured to her.

Stacy looked away, unable to watch any more. She took a deep breath, glancing at Karen.

Her team lead was staring across the room, toward a group of men seated around one of the many tables.

“What is it?” Stacy asked.

One of their jobs as attending agents was to scan the crowds, make sure no uninvited “guests” were about. Wolf Nations security was good, but FMB agents knew better than to assume nothing untoward might happen. Anytime there was that much testosterone in one place, there was always the chance of an… incident.

“You see him?” Karen’s voice was low, tense, her stare fixed.

“See whom?

“The one sitting down.” Karen gave a tiny nod toward the crowd. “Short black hair. Stetson.”

Then Stacy saw him, reclined in one of the leather overstuffed chairs situated in a wide arc before the stage. He was seated toward the back, utterly at ease, his elbows propped on either arm rest. His gaze slid back to the stage just as Stacy laid eyes on him, as if he’d been caught observing them. He had a granite jaw, his five o’clock shadow almost bluish against the tanned, slightly weathered face.

Stacy flashed a quick smile at Karen. “You talking about the cowboy?”

“That’s the one.”

“Caught him watching us, I take it?”

He locked his bright gaze with Stacy’s then, as Karen whispered out of the corner of her mouth, “He’s not watching us, agent. He’s watching you.

Chapter One

Three years later

Stacy

The car bounced in and out of a pothole so big, Stacy almost spilled her hot coffee all over her face. “Jesus, Karen, keep it on the road, okay?”

“They spend so much money on transportation shit, and yet some of these streets are like driving on the goddamned moon,” Karen said, scowling.

The patter of rain on the windshield got louder, the wipers’ whir picking up in response. The city was cold, and gray, and heartless. Much like her job.

Stacy had barely slept four hours the previous night, and as a result was exhausted this morning. But at least the coffee was suitably bitter, and scalding.

It was yet another pick-up, the third one this month. She wasn’t sure why there’d been so many this year, but it was only July, and there had already been twenty—several more than the total from the entirety of last year.

“Jason and Miranda are on Two, Cover. They’ll watch the dorm parking lot exits while we make the contact,” Karen said, glancing over at Stacy. “You ready for contingencies? Let’s hear the parameters.”

It was always Karen’s way, to go over everything one last time while on the way to a pick-up. Normally, it helped. Today, it just made Stacy’s head hurt. She was flirting with burn-out, she knew, when even her longtime partner’s idiosyncrasies were getting on her nerves.

Maybe time for a vacation, eh, Stace?

Scanning the screen on the handheld, she went over it again. Stacy was actually thankful this one was going to be relatively simple by comparison. Some pick-ups were emotionally wrenching, uncomfortable—or both.

“Lola Grantham, twenty-one. Five foot, four. One hundred thirty-six pounds. Excellent health, no known familial or genetic predisposition. Classified as likely idiopathic, spontaneous presentation. FMB alerted by mandatory reporter. Looks like the person who called it in is… oh, interesting—her OB/gyn at her last check-up.”

“We get a lot of those, actually,” Karen mumbled, turning the car into the university’s main entrance, the drive now accented on the right side with a pristine, yellow-painted curb lining the tree-lined sidewalk too new to be encrusted yet with decades of sun-dried chewing gum and drunken Rush Week puke stains.

Stacy glanced behind them, spotting the sleek cruiser well back, but close enough to maintain visual. Jason was almost certainly driving; Miranda preferred to do the “people stuff” as she liked to call it. Jason did… most everything else.

“What’s the rest?” Karen asked, even though Stacy was certain the woman already had it memorized. There was a reason Karen had been team lead from almost the beginning.

“Um, let’s see. Family was notified ahead of time. Appealed on both Education, and Only Child grounds. FMB appeal commissioner rejected both without comment. Family notified subject this morning, per protocol, and agreed to keep her in place for pick-up (or notify FMB if subject attempted to evade pick-up). Not many social connections. Communications major. No priors. Normal reproductive cycle (as shown on medical records). On hormonal birth control. Unknown sexual history, but presumably sexually active.”

“That it?” Karen steered the car into the parking lot for Walters Tower, the multi-story reinforced concrete block structure that was the dorm building—until today—for one Lola Grantham.

“Oh… something else here. Looks like four years ago, they had three separate unrelated presentations here on campus in the space of four months. Two were idiopathic spontaneous, and one was legacy hereditary. One freshman, and two seniors. Looks like it was one of those seniors who was the legacy.”

“Cluster,” Karen said softly. “Don’t see those very often.” Parking the car diagonally in one of the handicapped spots, she killed the ignition, unbuckling her belt. She slapped the FMB sticker onto the inside of the windshield. She turned her head toward Stacy, her hand still resting on the top of the steering wheel. “Ready for pick-up?”

“We’re ready,” Stacy said, though if she were brutally honest, she was a lot more ready for a nap.

Get through your day, dummy. You can crash later.

It was the story of her life, of late.

She and Karen were both dressed in the standard issue of FMB agents: charcoal suits and sunglasses, hair in neat, ponytails. With the exception of a few notable differences—Karen’s ass was wider, the woman slightly taller, while Stacy’s figure was generally shapelier, and certainly more blessed in the boob department—the two of them could have been mistaken for sisters.

They were armed, but FMB policy was that any agent pressed into a situation where they actually needed to use lethal force was an agent who was a liability. Few agents ever remained with the Bureau long after having to shoot someone.

The FMB’s entire mission was to preserve life, not take it.

Even though a few of the women whose lives they ended up “preserving,” might have considered death a tempting alternative in their darkest of hours.

That wasn’t Stacy’s concern though. She was just doing her job, and the fate of omegas was, to her mind, something quite a ways above her pay grade.

So, as other veteran agents had told her almost from day one, she’d learned to keep their quarry at arm’s length. To be courteous, firm, and matter-of-fact, was kinder to all involved—including the FMB agents charged with bringing these unfortunate omegas in.

While she’d learned to be, if not callous, then resigned to the more troubling emotional and ethical considerations revolving around her job, she knew for a fact that other agents absolutely enjoyed what they did. Jim McCardle, for instance—the agent partnered with Miranda on Two, Cover—regularly stated for public consumption that he didn’t care either way what happened to the omegas.

But Stacy knew the truth. He took obvious, and consistent pleasure in the pick-up procedure, and especially the processing reports—copies of which he would request for every single woman he had personally brought in on a pick-up.

She imagined Jim was the sort who’d be jerking off obsessively to the rather graphic and exhaustive details often included in those processing reports.

The processing reports were a part of the Treaty of Cooperation between UNAC and the Wolf Nation, and while ostensibly they were provided to ensure the omegas being handed off were being treated well, everyone familiar with the process knew those processing reports didn’t guarantee any such thing at all.

In fact, once omegas became Wolf Nation property (which was what they legally were following a successful auction) they were essentially swallowed up, most of the time never to be heard from again. What happened to those omegas was shrouded in rumor, innuendo, speculation—and not a small amount of dread—but there was precious little actual data to go on. Those few omegas who were subsequently handed back into UNAC custody were, to a woman, disappeared into the Witness Protection program, thus making the prospect of interviewing them or making any sort of post-captivity documentation of their treatment difficult to impossible.

The dean of the college, Hamilton Westlin, waited for them at the entrance to the dorm hall. He was a tall, gaunt man, his close-cropped reddish hair receding so far it was little more than a ginger ring stretching around the back of his head from temple to temple. He wore a medium brown suit, ill-fitting, his arms just a bit too long for it, exposing the pale flesh of his wrists.

“Dean Westlin,” Karen extended a hand, slipping the bottom button of her suitcoat to let it open in the breeze. “I’m Agent Thurmond.” She tipped her head toward Stacy. “This is my partner, Deputy Agent Masterson.”

He shook Karen’s hand, giving them both a tight smile. “Agents, nice to meet you.” He wiped a hand across his bald pate, a gesture belying nervousness. Stacy wondered how much he knew about what was about to happen.

Karen pointed up toward the building. “Is the subject in her room? Our records show 616, sixth floor. Is that correct?”

“That’s her room, yes.” He looked back at the glass doors of the building entrance. “Her family—her sister, actually—is in there with her. I tried to ask them to, you know, before you…” He blushed, his gaze sliding away.

“It’s quite all right,” Karen said softly. “We handle this all the time. We’ll be in and out before you know it. If you’ll excuse us?”

“Of course,” Westlin said, standing aside. “Go on up.”

Let’s get this over with.

She and Karen stepped inside the dorm building.

Chapter Two

Dmitri

The faint sound of feminine distress floated into Dmitri’s office from the hallway. He rolled his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose, his head pounding.

The financials for the hotel and restaurant were usually a refuge of sorts for him, pure numbers, black and white. No politics. No conflict. No complex and fiendishly unpredictable interactions between competing factions.

Just money, and time, and resources.

If only everything about being the leader of the Cold Ridge pack was nearly so cut-and-dried.

A long moan rang out then, along with the muted rumbling of male voices. Then the crisp note of a slap.

“I need a break anyway,” Dmitri muttered, shaking his head. Pushing himself back from his desk, he rose to his full height. He stretched his arms overhead, groaning with the stretch, then grabbed the stainless steel tumbler from his desktop.

Time for some more coffee, too.

He passed down the long hallway that ran alongside the common area, a large recreational space in their lodge that was big enough to comfortably accommodate two dozen people. That was where the sound had been coming from. No doubt Matthias and Ryan, two of his pack’s betas, enjoying Miera again. They couldn’t seem to get enough of the human woman.

A dishwater blonde of perhaps twenty-five years, Miera was the “rabbit” interned with them for the past month, borrowed from the Glacier Peak pack of western Montana. “Rabbit” was the slang term given to the number of human females held by the various packs of the Wolf nation. Some were abductions, others were trades or the product of deals and obscure treaties, the sweetener to incentivize going along with the latest modus vivendi to keep the peace between competing interests—or bitterly opposed packs.

Mostly peaceful, anyway.

Though those human females had many names—quite a few of them derogatory or vulgar, “rabbit” being one of the gentler ones—in wolf parlance they were officially termed “Companion Humans.”

Pets, in all but name, really.

Leaving the lurid auditory tableau behind him, Dmitri found the kitchen, leaning over the center island to stretch his back.

Knox, dressed in dirt-encrusted jeans, boots, and a red and blue plaid flannel sauntered in a moment later.

“Sounds like quite a show in there,” Dmitri said, wincing as he cracked his back satisfyingly. “You going to, uh, partake?”

Knox shrugged. “Just giving those two a little break from the work detail. Figured you’d still be neck deep in the numbers. Is something going on?”

“No, just doing the same, actually,” Dmitri said, nodding toward the lurid scene still ongoing. “Those two know she’s got to go back in a couple days, don’t they?”

Her owner, Collin Gatwick, Alpha of Glacier Peak pack, had sent Dmitri a notice the day before yesterday that she would be collected in two days, per their temporary agreement. Though Dmitri had not used her—and never would—it was going to be a shame not to see her buxom form trotting obediently back and forth through the lodge on someone’s leash, her generous breasts bouncing, her pretty face blushing fetchingly as she smiled bashfully every time Dmitri so much as laid eyes on her.

Knox inclined his head. “Oh yes. I suspect Ryan and Matthias are going to run our little rabbit ragged before they have to give her up. They’ve grown quite fond of her. Will be a rather long, and exhausting forty-eight hours for that poor girl.”

“Good. They deserve it.” Dmitri clapped a hand on Knox’s shoulder. “You’ve been working hard. How’s the clearing going?”

Knox, Ryan, and Matthias were heading up the team assigned to spring thinning of the forest lands around the lodge, and along the main highway 22-D linking Dmitri’s sprawling property with the main village of Cold Ridge itself.

The humans did many, many stupid things, of course, but one of their most important contributions to forest ecology was perfecting the concept and practice of proactive tree thinning in an effort to make seasonal fires less devastating to old growth evergreens. It was one of the very few human practices many of the wolf packs had adopted following formalization of relations between the UNAC and the Wolf Nation in the Treaty of Breckinridge.

Miera gasped, a garbled pleading interrupted by the muted sound of a light slap. “All the way, slut…” a male voice said, the rest spoken too softly to make out.

Dmitri shook his head. “What are they going to do with themselves when she’s shipped back to Gatwick’s pack?”

“They’ll come up with something—or someone.”

Dmitri pointed at his lieutenant. “Look, when those two are done, we need to go over the trip plans. Bring them to my office once they’ve got her tucked away in her cage. Security and contingency plans are what I want to talk about. Nothing the rabbit needs to be privy to.”

Knox nodded. “Anything you’re worried about?”

Dmitri considered how much he wanted to disclose right away, and decided discretion was the better part of valor. There really wasn’t much to go on at this point, nothing concrete anyway. They’d all find out soon enough.

“Specific concerns? No. But auctions are always potentially dangerous. We need to make sure we’re all prepared for it. We leave in three days, so it’s time to finalize everything.”

“We’ll be there shortly then,” Knox walked out, the tones of his deep voice barking out something as he disappeared into the rec room.

Smiling, Dmitri walked around to the other side of the kitchen island, and refilled his tumbler. The polished floorboards creaked underfoot as he headed back toward his office. He needed that coffee more than ever, a long day still ahead of him.

And he didn’t have the luxury of a buxom female’s lips around his cock to distract him from it either.

Perhaps it’s time to do something about that?

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