Beastly Desires(5)

By: Nikki Winter

“That’s funny. I’ve used mine for more important things. Like last week when I relieved myself in your shampoo.”

The roar that came from the other end satisfied every vindictive fiber of his being. “Rinse and repeat, little brother. Rinse and repeat…”

“You mother—”

Naresh didn’t get the opportunity to complete that insult because Kaisal hung up and replaced the landline on its stand. Whistling as the coffee warmed him from the inside out, he snatched up a pair of keys, his jacket, and one of the many phones he kept handy when he needed a new one after the previous one ended up broken. He was a creature of habit, not to be judged. The brisk air of a Colorado winter hit him full force the moment he stepped outside, and he welcomed it. His large booted feet crunched through inches of snow as he trekked toward his truck, climbed in, and pulled out of the cul-de-sac where his home resided along with several other pride members as Mozart’s Requiem softly played through his sound system.

Christmas and New Year’s were long forgotten but the laziness of his feline family was not. Lights and decorations still twinkled on every lawn and roof, illuminating the usual darkness of their pride compound as he made the long drive out onto the main roads. They’d purposely sequestered themselves away from the humans, preferring to remain out of sight and mind lest they start hearing reports of tiger sightings in the area.

Kaisal had no interest in attempting to explain that to his father, or as he liked to call him—Lucifer’s kept promise. Taras Verochka was a hardened man, only made softer by his mate. His father’s softness ended there, never really slipping beyond the bounds of his adoration for Kaisal’s mother, Asha. He wasn’t cruel, just…gracefully cold. That seemed to be the best way to describe the man who’d raised him, groomed him to take over what he’d built.

Taras would be the first to call if he believed the management of what was once his understated but strong empire was beginning to slip through his eldest son’s fingers. He’d never made Kaisal feel inadequate, even with his constant criticism—he’d just always seemed determined to give their pride a legacy that his hadn’t had. Kaisal didn’t understand why neither Naresh nor his cousin Basanti had been chosen, being that Kaisal’s name hadn’t always been clean. There were things he’d done after retiring from the military and coming home—things that occasionally made him cringe; things he never wanted to return to. His days as a hunter for hire were long gone, forgotten by his father, supposedly by his pride, and he wouldn’t go back. His jobs had supplied what he needed when he needed it—had satisfied the untapped bloodlust that manifested the day he signed his life over to becoming a soldier.

The Navy had changed him, had done something not even his natural predatory instincts did—it made him enjoy the kill. The structured regimen of taking lives appealed to his baser urges and when it was over, he couldn’t separate from the need. He’d taken contracts under the table from certain government types and found himself falling into the demands of his beast more often than not, becoming someone no one around him recognized. But if he could’ve stopped himself from taking that first deposit, from accepting that second bundle, from finding that third target...Kaisal would have.

Being chosen to lead the Verochka pride was something he’d never understand, never truly grasp, but it was obvious his father had known what would happen the moment he became the dominant male. The need to constantly keep moving, killing, stopped and he found himself caring more about his people, his family.

Taras didn’t know everything but he obviously knew something. The old man always knew something. As a cub, there wasn’t much that he, Naresh, or Basanti had been able to get away with. That had never changed, and to say he was grateful was an understatement. His father’s thinly veiled approval meant much more than Kaisal would ever admit.

His mind now on how he could stop the Monahan pups from re-enacting Escape from Oz once again, Kaisal took a detour and made his way to a gas station in Lakewood just off the road that was closed due to the heavy fall of snow they were supposed to receive in just a few hours. Climbing out of what his brother referred to as a misguided tank, he reached for his wallet, looking to pull out his card when it hit him in the solar plexus harder than his brother had when he’d told him he was getting fat. And by it he meant the most incredible scent that had ever struck his heightened olfactory glands. Sweet. It smelled amazingly sweet.

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