R PHOENIX & M.A. INNES
When M.A. Innes, bestselling author of sweet taboo romance, and R. Phoenix, author of playful dark erotica, paranormal romance, and horror team up, you should leave your expectations at the door. The duo responsible for Almost Strangers, a sweet contemporary romance with more than a few taboo themes, has collaborated again to bring you something from the other side of the force.
That said, here are a few notes from Raissa:
This is not an alpha / omega / beta tale, at least not in the usual sense (designation at birth, slick, heats, mpreg, primary focus on the werewolf part, etc.). Alas, “Alpha” in this universe is completely different and refers more to status. I hope you’ll give it a shot anyway, but please don’t expect A/B/O dynamics! (Though there are plenty of Big Os in here. Just saying.)
To M.A. Innes’s Readers:
I’ve temporarily corrupted your favorite author. Don’t worry; it isn’t permanent. Seriously, though, please do not go into this book thinking it is a typical M.A. Innes book. It isn’t. Innes is writing in my world — and my world is a much darker place. The warnings are there for a reason, darlings!
To R. Phoenix’s Readers:
Hello, my loves! It’s great to (finally!) get back to Caleb and Liam. Thanks so much for being patient. I know it’s been a while, but I hope you’ll agree this was worth the wait. You know the drill — this is playful dark erotica, emphasis on the dark. If you’ve read Puppy, you’re (probably) ready for Alpha. 😉 Give a warm welcome to Zain!
*Please scroll to the bottom for trigger warnings.*
This is the sequel to Puppy by R. Phoenix, which should be read first. Sorry, loves, it’s definitely not a standalone. You can find Puppy at Amazon for 99c or free in Kindle Unlimited.
“There’s… a white picket fence,” Caleb said. A pristine white picket fence at that, still shining with the fresh coat of glossy paint in the moonlight.
“Yes,” Liam said, gesturing to the driver carrying his bags.
“And it’s cute,” Caleb went on. A little on the big side for cute, maybe, but it was still sort of adorable in its own way.
The muscled, dark-skinned man squinted at the house, then shrugged. “It was for a good price. It is only temporary, after all.”
“It has a garden,” Caleb pointed out, more than a little disturbed by the disturbing lack of… well, anything disturbing.
He was tempted to try to say that ten times fast.
“How long are you going to continue to state the obvious, Pup?” Liam asked, getting that tone that meant he was about to start getting fussy.
Not that Caleb had any intention of calling the centuries-old vampire fussy to his face. He valued his body parts, which was already problematic enough considering how his vampire master had so casually decided to add one. What would happen if he decided to take one away?
Nope. Best left unsaid and un-thought about.
With any luck, his master wouldn’t get bored. “I’m all done for now,” Caleb replied, just chipper enough to annoy the vampire without — hopefully — going too far.
Liam gave him a dubious look but shrugged, tugging at the leash.
Caleb knew better than to let it go taut, and he scrambled to move before the collar dug into his throat.
He was already bruised and sore enough from leash training — which Caleb still was not amused by — and he was tired of being dragged around like he was a stuffed animal.
He’d tried to play dead, but Liam hadn’t thought that was funny either.
He’d been deprived of sleep, fed actual dog food, leashed where he could barely move, and a whole plethora of other things Liam thought should be used to punish an errant pet.
That had been the story of the past few weeks. It was like a not-so-carefully orchestrated game of chess. One of them would make a move, and the other would respond — usually in a way they knew would press the other’s buttons. Caleb was getting awfully good at pushing boundaries, but there was a special emphasis on the awfully part when Liam had every advantage.
Caleb had seen enough to know the vampire liked the little acts of defiance, but he could only push Liam so far. He was learning where the hard limits were, and he was constantly testing the rest to see just how much freedom he could reclaim.
Some days, it was a whole hell of a lot. Other days, he missed the fucking terrible conditions of the slums.
“Come,” Liam said.
It was Caleb’s turn to give him a look, but if the vampire was amused, it didn’t show on his face. Sometimes, he wasn’t any fun.
Caleb moved with the mockery of grace he’d managed to acquire since Liam had plucked him out of the heart of the human neighborhoods. It mostly meant he could sort of walk on all fours like it was somehow natural without tripping all over himself anymore, but he’d take the small victories.
It didn’t stop him from getting up onto two legs every chance he could, even though he could see Liam’s patience wearing thinner each time he got caught… which was practically every time, leading Caleb to believe that the vampire’s superpowers extended far beyond what they advertised.
Increased strength, check.
Enhanced senses, check.
The ability to make Caleb obey with just his voice… double check and then some.
Then there was… whatever the hell else vampires could do. It was like Caleb was playing some sort of game where he never seemed to level up and the big bad boss was impossible to beat.
The fact that they weren’t playing a game probably had something to do with that. This was in deadly earnest. It was what his life had become since Liam had waltzed into his life and picked him to play the starring role in some fucked-up science fair experiment.
Liam’s claim had changed everything. Even before his arm had been inked all to hell to show that he was a registered slave — registered pet, as Liam preferred to put it — he’d been fucked. The mark had simply been a formality.
No matter how impossible all of this had seemed before the Takeover, it was reality now. Ten years sort of had a way of solidifying things, and a few weeks with Liam had driven that home.
He huffed out a breath, trying to focus on the fucking flowers instead of the fact that he was all fours as he headed toward said flowers. He might as well enjoy them. If focusing on the negatives helped, he’d have been free before he’d gotten stuck with the… supernaturally-installed tail.
The damn thing creeped him out as much as it turned him on, especially when it started wagging when he was in a good mood or it tucked between his legs when he got caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to. This went beyond some tail plug into a whole new category, turning him into some weird human puppy pet… thing. Caleb was keenly aware of the fact that the tail brushing against his leg was part of his body instead of some kinky accessory, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to it.
If he’d thought he could ignore it, the humiliation and pain of getting the damn thing stuck in the elevator doors had made him realize it was a bad idea. To the vampire’s credit, Liam hadn’t laughed at him, and he’d gotten an orgasm instead of a punishment.
That was always a plus.
But there was still the fact that he was a forever naked human with a tail, mitts making it impossible to use his hands and knee pads keeping him from ripping his skin open as he walked on all fours twenty-four seven.
The collar yanked at his throat, pulling him from his thoughts about the still-creepy tickle of the tail against his leg. He jerked forward, letting out a low snarl.
Liam stopped abruptly, pulling a rolled-up magazine out of his pocket. Like Caleb really was a fucking dog, the asshole smacked him squarely on the nose with it.
That was new — and fucking unpleasant.
Caleb yelped and tried to pull back, only to feel the collar tighten again. “What the fuck?” he protested, trying to spur himself into motion before the vampire got the idea to test out his fun new form of encouragement — or discipline, or whatever he was calling it these days — again.
Liam offered Caleb the smile he hated, all vulpine satisfaction and zero humanity. “I have been watching training videos on YouTube.”
Caleb glowered at him. “For humans or for dogs?” he demanded.
Liam chuckled and patted Caleb on the head with the fucking magazine before tucking it back into his waistband.
Caleb followed him when he started to move again, not entirely sure if he was happy to find that keeping up with Liam on all fours was getting easier. He still felt awkward, and every time someone glanced sidelong at them, he was tempted to growl like the dog Liam treated him as.
“Are you seriously going to carry around a magazine to smack me with now?” Caleb asked as he fumbled his way up the stairs.
“Yes. Or a newspaper,” Liam said, unlocking the door and pressing in a key code that Caleb couldn’t see from his vantage point.
What the fuck even. He wasn’t sure which was more baffling, the whole swatting him with rolled-up paper thing or the fact that the vampire had an alarm system.
“Need the extra security?” Caleb asked.
“Do you need a gag to remind you that good dogs do not speak?” Liam retorted.
“I never said I was a good dog.”
Liam gave him an even look, then opened the door so they could enter.
Reluctantly, Caleb backed off, peering into the house around Liam’s legs. He was already treading that thin line between needling his vampire master with some grumbling in response and genuinely pissing him off until he got smacked again.
Liam flicked the light on, taking a moment to scan their surroundings. He took Caleb off guard when he abruptly tugged at the leash and strode inside. It made the fucking collar bite into his throat, which hurt a little more every time.
The fucking vampire liked doing that a little too often, and Caleb should’ve learned by then that Liam was going to pull on the damn thing at the worst possible moment. He liked to make sure the ring of bruises didn’t fade from around Caleb’s throat — his necklace, Liam almost sweetly called it.
It was like Liam thought it was something he should be proud of instead of something that marked him as inferior. He wasn’t any prouder of it than he was of the recently inked tattoo on the inside of his arm, which labeled him as a number within some admittedly pretty designs that didn’t mean much to him. It itched like fucking crazy.
His mind might not have liked it, but his cock sure as fuck did.
The place was startlingly normal inside too, which Caleb hadn’t expected at all. He’d thought it would be darker, more like a lair than a pleasant home in a nice neighborhood for a family with 2.5 children and a—
“… you don’t have kids, do you?” he blurted out.
Liam blinked at him, pausing as though utterly taken aback. “I have progeny, yes,” he said, voice even stiffer than usual.
There had to be a story there, but he doubted Liam was going to share it with him. “Not two and a half, right?” he persisted anyway.
Liam shot him an exasperated look. “No. How would I have two and a half, Pup?”
“What about… a wife? Or a husband?”
The gag was out of Liam’s pocket before Caleb could draw in the breath to ask another question. He snarled in irritation as the vampire fitted it between his teeth, but he couldn’t do much else considering the supe’s unfair speed advantage. Liam moved swiftly enough to where Caleb couldn’t even keep up with his eyes.
Like it wasn’t bad enough that he’d been gagged, Liam had used one of the ones that made him drool all over the fucking place. Caleb had started to dread them and crave them all at once, torn between the desire to slip deeper and deeper into the place where he didn’t hate himself for being turned on by all of this… and fighting that much harder.
Liam knew he hated it, but it didn’t ever seem to dissuade him. Most supes were assholes that way. The whole ‘subjugating humanity like they were evil geniuses’ thing had really gone to their heads. Meanwhile, humans like Caleb got to live their own version of a disaster movie or a zombie apocalypse or whatever the fuck he could call the complete and utter chaos and misery of their daily experiences.
Liam nodded to himself, petting Caleb’s head after a satisfied once-over.
Caleb stubbornly jerked his head away — only to be snatched back by the fucking collar a-fucking-gain.
“You test my patience too much, mutt,” Liam warned.
It was probably a good thing Caleb couldn’t reply with anything other than a brief toss of his head. It was probably an even better thing that the vampire ignored his reaction completely. He started to lead Caleb through the house, which continued to be utterly… boring.
The living room and kitchen looked like they’d come straight out of magazines, and he wouldn’t have been surprised to find that they had. The first bedroom was, unsurprisingly, equally impersonal.
That was where the normalcy ended and the fucked-upness he’d expected from the second they’d arrived started to kick in.
The second bedroom had been set with expensive tile on one side of the room and plush carpet on the other. It was utterly devoid of furniture, boasting only one object in the middle of the tiled area…
An honest-to-fucking-whatever-deity-he-didn’t-believe-in kennel. Not some makeshift thing like Liam had occasionally tossed him into at the hotel when he’d done something to get kicked off of the foot of the bed for, but the real deal. The bars were thick, solid, and even Caleb could tell that this thing had been made for a supe.
It would easily fit a shifted werewolf, so at least there was that, but the most he’d be able to do was sit up. Lying down all the way would be impossible, and even if his legs hadn’t been strapped so he couldn’t stand, there sure as hell wasn’t enough room to.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Caleb tried to say, except it came out more like a mess of garbled syllables than anything resembling words. A line of drool trailed down his chin, and he cringed, still hating the feeling of it even as it made him squirm. It made him feel bestial, like he really was the dog Liam was trying to… to turn him into.
His cock was so fucking hard it drooled too. It sent humiliation crashing over him, through him, surrounding him until he didn’t know what to do.
No, that wasn’t true. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to ignore everything but his cock, to relax and just roll with it. He wanted to be taken care of, even if that care left a few somethings to be desired.
He wanted to give in without question and curl up on the doggy bed that had been oh-so-helpfully placed in the room and laze there. It wouldn’t be that uncomfortable. He’d have enough space to get comfortable, and he could go to sleep…
But the puppy pads on the other half of the cage reminded him of the reality of the situation. Caleb wouldn’t — couldn’t — just give in, not when he knew that it was one more step toward becoming what Liam wanted. One more step away from his humanity and toward being the pup his master wanted him to be.
Caught somewhere around panic and arousal and fury, he cast Liam a look, doing his best to convey just how Unhappy with a capital U he was about the kennel.
Unhappy, and having to shift as surreptitiously as he could in some futile attempt to shield his hard-on from Liam’s view. Of course, that had never been particularly successful.
Liam looked smugly at him, then at the cage — the cage, the dog bed, and the fucking puppy pads. He had to be insane if he thought Caleb would use those. Even back at the hotel, Liam had let him use the bathroom like a proper person.
“Do you like your room? Your bed?” the vampire asked pleasantly, fingers running through Caleb’s hair again. His fingertips glided along the top of his ears in a way that made him nervous… and even more turned on, which he would’ve thought was physically impossible.
Motherfucker. It wasn’t even fair.
“I’ve even put in a grooming tub in your bathroom,” he purred, leaning in close to Caleb’s ear. “I’m all prepared…”
He made a low sound in the back of his throat.
Liam chuckled, his eyes trailing pointedly to Caleb, whose apprehension grew as he wondered just what other surprises Liam had in store for him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know — no, that wasn’t true.
He didn’t want to know. He didn’t even remotely want to know.
But his body couldn’t wait to experience it.
“Good boy,” Liam said smugly. “Now… Kennel up.”
Caleb whined, nudging Liam’s leg with his head. He didn’t want to be trapped in that space, the irrational fear that the vampire might just lock him up and leave him there creeping over him.
Duh. That was the point of the kennel.
“What did I tell you, puppy?” Liam demanded, his voice taking on the cold edge Caleb knew meant danger.
He crawled to the cage, keenly aware of the bars and trying to tell himself it was… No, a prison cell did not sound any better. At least a cell would’ve given him room to stand up. Not that people went into prisons for crimes anymore. No, the old jails were used as housing for humans — or as corrals for slaves.
This was at least better than being shoved in with a bunch of other humans who—
He went the rest of the way inside, wishing he could vanish into the part of his mind where he didn’t remember those things. Liam followed, stalking him like he was prey, and only paused long enough to remove the gag before he closed the door. There was a certain finality about the sound of the metal door settling into place and the lock clicking into position.
He flinched, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it except look pleadingly up at his master….
“I am going to sleep,” Liam announced.
“I have to piss,” Caleb retorted, glaring harder at him.
“There are puppy pads,” the vampire countered.
Caleb gave him a look. He wasn’t that far gone. Not yet. “Not a puppy. I can use a goddamn toilet, remember? You really expect me to piss inside?” he asked.
Never mind that the tile told enough of a story in and of itself.
Liam’s smile was chilling. “I would not be the one cleaning it up, Pup. And I do not think you would like the punishment for failing to control yourself.”
“What the fuck?” Caleb snapped. He gritted his teeth, forcing himself to add, “Master. I’m telling you I have to go out. You can’t punish me if…”
Ugh, he couldn’t say it. He couldn’t talk about potentially having an accident.
“I can do anything I wish to you, mutt,” Liam said matter-of-factly. “What will it take for you to stop being so resistant to training?” he asked.
Caleb got it — finally.
Grimacing, he braced himself to debase himself, and he shifted low to the ground. Peering up at Liam with the best puppy eyes he could manage, he whined and pawed at the bottom of the cage with a mitt-covered hand.
A smile lingered on Liam’s lips. “Is something the matter, Pup?”
Pup. That was a good sign. Wasn’t it? He barked, pawing at the bars.
“Does my puppy need to go out?” Liam asked, mock-sweetness in his accented voice.
Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, asshole.
Caleb gathered all of his dignity — then pushed it away, shoving it deep down until it didn’t matter as much as something this basic.
He whined again, his eyes as sad and pathetic as he could possibly make them. He barked for good measure… and for fuck’s sake, his cock shouldn’t have been so goddamn hard when he wanted to bite the crap out of Liam’s ankles.
As usual, the vampire noticed, a smirk curving onto his lips. He leaned down and unlocked the cage, and Caleb forced himself to stay still and wait for the stupid leash to be attached to his collar.
Holy fuck, that was never going to stop being hot, was it?
What he wouldn’t give for a pair of pants so he could pretend it didn’t get him all hot and bothered… He didn’t think it would actually fool the vampire, but it was worth a try.
“C’mon, boy,” Liam said, patting his leg. “Let’s go outside before bedtime, hmm?”
Caleb shot him a look, but he gave another bark and followed Liam to the back door. At least it was as well-maintained as the rest of the place. The grass was lush and deep green, a perfect walkway of fancy tiles lined with flowers like the front of the place. Liam closed the door behind them and let Caleb off his leash — which was fucking irritating, because if he was going to do that, he didn’t need the leash to begin with.
Then again, this was better than being dragged out the front door and forced to piss on the sidewalk like he was marking his territory.
“Go on, puppy,” Liam said, too sweetly. “Go do your business.”
He was torn. He half-wished the sun would abruptly rise and fry Liam to a crisp, and he half wanted to get this over with so they could get to the good part where the vampire might let him come.
Caleb hesitated long enough for Liam’s foot to come up and nudge him in the ass, hard, sending him stumbling into the grass. He let out an indignant yelp, then caught himself as a chill ran through him. He’d yelped instead of cursed, made a noise instead of bitched.
That wasn’t a good sign, yet…
Hadn’t the times he’d started to surrender felt wonderful, peaceful, like something that might not really be so bad after all? Wouldn’t it be better? This wasn’t a bad life, all in all. Other human pets were treated like punching bags. Oh, sure, Liam didn’t hesitate to spare the rod, and he knew he was expendable, but the vampire didn’t go out of his way to find excuses to hurt him…
And when he did, it was usually delicious.
This, though? This was taking things just a little too far for him. He wasn’t sure how much further he could be pushed before there was no coming back from it.
He clumsily dodged another nudge to his ass and started out into the yard. He looked helplessly around it, not having any idea where to go. This was… He’d done some humiliating things before, but this was above and beyond anything he’d experienced.
He should not have been as equally turned on as he was disgusted.
Finally, he went for the back fence — which was solid and high, thankfully, where no one would see him playing the family pet — and stared at it. It was going to be awkward trying to do this. His hands were too useless to help him aim, and the last thing he wanted was to piss all over himself.
He glanced back at Liam, who quirked a brow and watched him, gesturing for him to continue. Caleb muttered under his breath then edged closer to the fence, awkwardly lifting a leg and trying to mimic how he’d seen male dogs piss on fire hydrants.
And shoes. He had to remember shoes. If Liam wanted a dog and wanted to treat him like he was that poorly trained…
Right. Because provoking the vampire was a brilliant thought.
It was strange, but for a moment, it felt right, too. Disturbingly so, to the point where he faltered. The aim he’d briefly managed got off track, and he grimaced as he wondered what punishment Liam would come up with for that.
The vampire didn’t look pissed, though, even though it was obvious he knew what had happened.
Somehow, that was worse, and Caleb eyed him.
“Here, boy,” Liam said with a whistle. “Come to Master.”
Caleb was going to bite his fucking balls off. He went, crawling low and trying to rub himself off in the grass — not nearly as surreptitiously as he wanted to be.
Liam pointed to a spot in the grass. “Sit there.”
Caleb looked warily at him then went over there, sitting down.
“Like a dog,” Liam said impatiently, the amusement in his voice bleeding into annoyance. “Not like a human. I should not have to tell you this.”
Caleb closed his eyes but shifted his position, settling onto his haunches. He didn’t know what to expect, but he didn’t think he was ready to know.
It didn’t matter. His eyes flew open when he felt the first blast of cold water against his skin. He swore, trying to keep his cock and balls from being targeted. “What happened to the fucking grooming tub?” he complained loudly, which only made Liam’s aim suddenly become even more accurate while he scrambled to shield his dangly bits.
“This is more fun,” the vampire said smugly.
It threw Caleb for a moment. He’d expected a nasty answer, some asshole commentary, not some gleeful declaration of amusement. He glowered up at Liam, shivering as the man hosed him down.
“Next time, you’ll be cleaned properly,” Liam added dismissively. He turned off the hose and grabbed the towel that should’ve been a clue. Why else would there be a conveniently-placed fucking towel hanging outside?
The vampire was surprisingly gentle as he toweled Caleb off, efficiently wiping the beads of water from his skin. He tossed the towel onto the back of a chair then beckoned right as the first rays of sun threatened to peek over the horizon.
What would happen if he—
No. Liam was too old, too fast, and Caleb would be severely delusional if he thought he could keep the vampire outside long enough to fry him. All he’d do is set the guy off, and that was… not a pleasant thought.
This time, the vampire didn’t leash him, but he gave a pointed look that made it more than clear he’d be willing to do that or more if Caleb pushed with daylight looming over them.
Reluctantly, he followed Liam inside, goosebumps rising on his skin as they returned inside. “In,” Liam ordered, gesturing to the kennel.
Caleb balked at first, but before Liam’s eyes could darken in that usual stormy look, he dashed across the room to the carpet. Scrounging up what little remained of his pride — and really, there really wasn’t fucking much — he rolled over onto his back, whining pitifully. He’d act like a damn dog if it meant getting to stretch his legs a little longer.
He’d been afraid Liam would strike him, but the vampire chuckled. He still nudged Caleb painfully in the ribs with his foot, but it could’ve been a whole hell of a lot worse.
Liam crouched down, rubbing his belly but ignoring his aching cock. “Behave,” he said sternly, “Your dog walker will be here at noon.”
He wasn’t sure if he should laugh, cry, or hump the stuffed animal in his cage until he got off.
NOTES AND WARNINGS
*(Warnings/Potential Spoilers) Prepare for M/M/M, puppy play, body modification, humiliation, dehumanization, and other stuff I’m forgetting about right now. Not every dynamic or element is 100% consensual.*