Salvation called as dawn whispered along the unbroken horizon.
The voice from the radio beyond the cabin held Adam rigid where he knelt on the bed, staring out the horizontal porthole as the sailboat rocked gently. He looked over his shoulder at Parker sprawled on the mattress on his belly, his lips parted as he murmured in his sleep, the sheet tangled around his bare, lean hips.
“—here. All are welcome. Join us as we build a new home. We can be found on this—”
Static burst from the radio as it automatically switched to the next frequency, and Adam scrambled off the mattress to fiddle with the radio’s settings.
They’d programmed it to scan at ten-second intervals, keeping the volume down so the static was white noise that didn’t bother Adam, even with his acute hearing. But after the warmth of the woman’s voice, the crackling set him on edge, his fangs pressing for release.
He jabbed the button to scan back, goosebumps sweeping over his skin. But there was only more static. Exhaling, Adam peered at the radio’s green-lit dashboard as if he could will the voice into existence again. He switched off the auto-scan and waited, glancing back at Parker and turning up the volume a bit.
Their queen-sized bed was in the cabin at the front—no, the bow—of the sailboat, taking up the whole space but for maybe a foot on either side near the bottom of the bed. Adam’s motorcycle, Mariah, was wedged into the other cabin at the stern.
Parker’s dark-blond hair stood up in clumps, and Adam’s fingers itched to smooth it down. Or to grab his little digital camera and start filming, even though he’d taken a few minutes of Parker mumbling in his sleep the other morning, his hair mussed in ridiculous spikes, the little moles on his pale neck stark in the early light.
Not that there was any point in filming footage at all, let alone a repeat of Parker sleeping. Adam imagined being back in the editing studio in the basement of one of the arts buildings on campus. The musty concrete and tile, rows of private editing bays off the hallway with multiple screens and a control board of the latest equipment, everything digital now. No windows, and time had passed in huge slices.
He’d forget to eat—forget everything else but cutting the footage together, fixing the audio and making it perfect. Making it permanent. Real. There was nothing else waiting for him outside that box of a room and building. Aside from Tina, the first real friend he’d ever made, there was only his camera and his footage, observing life around him without touching. He’d held his TA office hours twice a week, and had usually spent them alone. Until the day Parker had marched in.
Parker rolled over and muttered, never able to bite his tongue in sleep either. Smiling, Adam took a quick minute of footage before tucking his camera back away. The battery was super long-lasting, but it wouldn’t hold out forever. And even if it did, there would be no more documentaries. That part of his life was over—that part of the world. But Parker was here, and he was real.
Adam fiddled with the radio. Maybe he’d imagined the voice. Aside from the odd message and conversation between survivors, there was nothing out there but hissing static. The automated emergency messages from the Coast Guard had ceased broadcasting the week before as Parker and Adam had sailed down the coast after leaving Provincetown.
Smacking his lips, Parker mumbled something about peanut butter. It was hard to fathom that it’d only been a couple of months since Parker had appeared at Adam’s office demanding a better grade. Adam wouldn’t have believed that entitled rich kid was going to change everything. Sure, the virus had changed everyone’s lives, but Parker’s impact was just as enormous for Adam.
Despite the horror, the world was a strange, wonderful place.
Parker shifted restlessly, exposing a round ass cheek. Naked, Adam tugged idly on his dick for a few seconds, stretching his foreskin and sending faint tingles over his skin as he thought about licking that skin and dipping his tongue into the shadowed crevice.
Hard to believe Parker was actually still a teenager. Adam sometimes thought he should feel guilty about that although he was only twenty-three himself. But this strange, wonderful, terrifying new world had new rules, and they were a million miles from Stanford and its code of conduct.
They’d covered many of those miles riding Mariah, getting out of California and crossing the desert, traveling into the mountains that split the country, an oasis appearing from the thin air in Colorado.
The memory of waking on a narrow cot under fluorescent lights filled his mind. The only other wolf he’d met aside from his family had betrayed him, and the bruises had gone deep.
He struggled to forget what had happened at the Pines—the powerlessness and terror, made better only by Parker’s presence, his hand brushing back Adam’s hair, voice shaky but determined. Stumbling out of the lab, not going to make it. Telling Parker to leave without him.
“Oh my God, shut the fuck up and run!”
In the darkness, Adam’s smile let him breathe a little easier, and he crawled back to bed, pressing a kiss to Parker’s shoulder, tasting the faint tang of sweat-salt.
The older woman’s voice returned. “This is Salvation Island. We are twenty-nine point-nine-six-five-three degrees north and seventy-eight point-zero-eight-five-seven degrees west.”
“What the fuck?” Parker pushed himself up on one hand, his shoulder blade connecting with Adam’s nose.
“Ow. Shh.” Adam listened intently, rubbing his nose absently, his mouth going dry.
“We have plentiful food and water. We are free from infection and violence. It is safe here. All are welcome. Join us as we build a new home. This is Salvation Island. It is November seventh.”
Low static filled the void as Parker asked, “What did she say? Who was that?”
“I’m not sure.” Excitement thrummed through him, something about the woman’s calm voice plucking a string that vibrated deeply within.
Parker’s breath whistled faintly in his nose, his heart tapping out a staccato, too-quick rhythm that echoed in Adam’s ears. Adam leaned against the pillows of their wide bed, pulling him back to sit between his legs. He smoothed his palm over Parker’s chest.
If Adam’s own heart drummed too sharply too, Parker didn’t need to know.
“What did she say?” Parker whispered. “Something about an island? I thought I was dreaming.”
“Salvation Island. She said it’s safe there.”
Water splashed gently against the Bella Luna’s hull. A gull cawed hungrily, soon joined by another. The sparse hair on Parker’s chest tickled Adam’s hand as he rubbed slowly.
When the woman spoke again, Parker clambered off the end of the bed. Adam followed as Parker cranked up the radio volume. The woman spoke again, giving the same message and date.
As she finished, Parker stood there naked, his hair still sweetly sleep rumpled and brown eyes wide, staring at the radio, which was tucked into a control panel above a padded bench outside their sleeping cabin.
“Wow, do you think…?” He breathed rapidly, mouth working. “That recording is from today. It’s new.”
“Maybe it could…” Parker raked a hand through his hair, making it stick up even more. “But there’s no way. Right?”
Adam ran his hand over Parker’s head and down his back. “We know there are more survivors out there. Maybe it’s a good idea to band together.”
“But they’re not safe.” Parker leaned into him, his breath a warm gust on Adam’s neck. “No one’s safe.”
The woman’s voice had been so calming, though. It still echoed through him, smoothing jagged edges like water over rocks. “We don’t know that for sure.”
“Don’t we?” Sighing, Parker stepped away and rubbed his face. “It has to be a total trap.”
“We don’t know that.”
“Sure we do.” Parker snorted cynically. “How could it be anything else?”
“Her voice just sounds so…soothing.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Totally, she sounds like my mom reading me a bedtime story. Super soothing. And guess what? Next thing we know she’s hypnotized us or some shit.” He flicked off the radio with a snap of his wrist. “Then it’s all downhill from there.”
Adam had to laugh. “You’re so cute when you’re a drama queen.”
Clearly fighting a losing battle not to smile, Parker shook his head, sputtering, which only made him more adorable. “Dude, you were a cinema major. Don’t tell me you never watched zombie movies. The message on the radio calling people to a safe haven? It’s always evildoers. Every. Single. Time.” His smile vanished, a tremble rippling through him. “And you remember what happened at the Pines.”
White light, helpless.
“I know.” He drew Parker close, nuzzling his cheek. Some nights, Parker woke sweating and wild-eyed, his nightmares of the things Adam couldn’t remember rocking him with tremors that lasted until morning.
“Adam, we’re not going near this place and its bullshit bedtime stories.”
Hope still tugged, low and insistent. “But what if they’re on the up and up?”
Parker stepped away with a brittle smile. “Then great. I wish them all the best and many happy returns in building their little community. And when it all goes to shit, we’ll be hundreds of miles away. Safe and sound.”
And alone. The woman’s voice echoed, like a loose thread begging to be pulled. Parker had good reason to be afraid, and he was probably right that they should give Salvation Island a wide berth. But still…
“We have an advantage they won’t expect since I’m a werewolf.”
“Yeah, because that turned out really well at the Pines. No. It’s too risky.”
“How far away are we? Just out of curiosity.”
Parker shot him a skeptical look, but switched on a light and padded over to the map spread on the dining table in the main area of the boat, which he referred to as the “saloon.” There was a little kitchen outside their cabin, and a shower and toilet (or “head,” as Parker insisted) on the starboard side. Soon the sun would beam through durable skylights that gave the saloon an impressive amount of natural light during the day.
It was remarkably spacious, with almost a half foot of clearance above Adam when he stood. Still, as the days ticked by, the boat seemed more cramped. He loved being with Parker, but would this be their life? He missed the solid ground beneath his boots, the purr of Mariah’s engine, the open road.
Of course roads now teemed with the infected, who seemed unable to swim or survive in water. It was safer at sea, especially since Parker wasn’t immune to the virus like Adam.
But he couldn’t help fantasizing about finding a home with Parker somewhere. Maybe even a community. All the years since his family had died he’d hidden himself away, and now he ached for more.
Head bent, Parker examined the map, muttering to himself. “She said twenty-nine and seventy-eight, yeah? That’s…hmm. Too far north for the Caribbean.”
“Have you been?”
Parker’s brief smile was too sharp. “No. Dad and Eric sailed down the winter after Eric graduated college. Dad said I was too young. I followed their progress on a map.” He ran his fingertip down and across to the Caribbean. “Eric loved the Caymans. Always joked that he’d run away there once he made his fortune trading stocks.”
Adam went close and wordlessly rubbed his hand over Parker’s hip. They’d discussed investigating the Caymans when they presumably made the Caribbean. Since leaving Cape Cod, progress down the coast had been relatively slow since Adam still had a lot to learn about sailing.
It was possible Eric was still alive, although Parker rarely talked about it. Adam knew Eric had called the night the virus took hold and had been escaping into some kind of bunker with his billionaire boss in London.
Sometimes Parker would pore over charts, which to Adam looked like maps with extra stuff on them, scribbling notes on a transatlantic voyage. But when Adam asked about it, Parker always scoffed and said it was a daydream—that sailing south in good conditions was one thing, but crossing the Atlantic would be much more difficult. And even if they did, finding Eric would be a challenge to say the least. If he was even alive to find.
Still, Adam often found him staring at the maps, and all Adam could think to do to help was take him to bed, holding him and making him come so Parker could fall asleep.
Parker jabbed a blue swath. “East of Daytona. That doesn’t make any sense. There’s nothing there.”
“How far from where we are now?”
Parker gave him a long look. “We’re not falling for these people’s crap. Right?”
“But why would they try to lure us out into the middle of the ocean?”
“To steal our shit? Take Bella? Eat us for dinner? The possibilities are endless.”
“Or maybe they want to help. We’ve met some good people. It’s possible.”
“My dad always used to say, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it is.’ And some message on the radio telling us exactly what we want to hear? That there’s a safe, awesome place out there? Is too good to be true. Since when are you gung ho to trust strangers? After what those fuckers did to you—” He clenched his jaw, his eyes shadowed.
“I’m fine, Parker.” Adam tried to draw him close, but he spun away.
“Let’s keep it that way.” He scrubbed at his hair, pulse jumping as he stalked to the kitchen and chugged a bottle of water from the little fridge. “We have to be smarter.”
He was right, but Adam still wanted to find out more. It couldn’t hurt to have more information. “Agreed. I’m just curious how far it is. Just so we know our options.”
“Okay, solely for the record, we’re off the coast of Virginia now.” Parker returned to the table and pointed to a spot on the map. “The naval base is here. Well…was.”
Adam’s stomach clenched at the memory of the acrid smoke choking his senses, still not enough to mask the rancid smell of the swarms of infected on shore, the eerie chattering sound they made so loud even Parker could hear it drifting over the placid water of the bay.
They’d hoped perhaps the navy would be organizing…something. Anything. Some kind of official response. But if there were navy ships at sea that could help, they remained silent.
Parker swallowed hard and dragged his finger lower. “So we’re about here.” He lowered his finger. “Daytona Beach. This supposed island is about here, on the other side of the Gulf Stream.”
Adam peered at the map. “You’ve never heard of any islands there?”
“No.” Parker scratched his belly, and Adam’s gaze followed the trail of dark hair to his groin before forcing his focus back on the map.
“But there could be?”
“I guess so. A private island. I don’t remember ever seeing any mention of it, though.”
“Would you have?”
“Maybe. My dad said when I graduated high school, we’d sail down the coast. I did a bunch of research into it. But when senior year rolled around and it was time to actually plan, he was too busy at work, so.” He snorted.
“I’m sorry.” Adam ran a hand over Parker’s head and kissed him softly.
“Yeah.” Parker’s eyes went distant like they did when he remembered the time before the virus.
Adam understood grief and the waves in which it came and went. It had been more than fourteen years since his parents and sisters had died, but sometimes the pain struck like a two-by-four, merciless and blunt. Other moments it slithered in unannounced, insidious and endlessly patient.
“I’d come out by then, and I think he was terrified of a summer of awkward silences. He tried, but me being gay made him so uncomfortable. It was like he didn’t know what to say, so he basically stopped talking to me altogether except for surface stuff.”
Pulling Parker into his arms, Adam traced the knobs of his spine with his fingers.
“I just wish we’d gotten the chance to…I don’t know. A chance for him to really know me. As a grown-up.” He forced a laugh. “It’s stupid.”
“It’s not. Not even a little.”
Parker clung to him. “I know you understand. And it was so much worse for you, being there in the car when they died. I just—” He sighed. “I’m sorry.”
Screeching tires and shearing metal. Glass exploding. The terrible silence and so much blood he could taste it, choking on death.
They stood in each other’s arms as the cabin brightened inch by inch, until Adam quietly asked, “Have you thought any more about our route?”
Swiping at his eyes, Parker stepped back and returned to the map. “Okay, so there are pros and cons to sticking closer to shore. Another storm could blow in like last week. And that was nothing, not a real nor’easter. Always a risk to go offshore. But if we do, we’re not going near this Salvation Island.”
Adam nodded, but the woman’s low tenor echoed in his mind: It is safe here.
Since taking to the sea, avoiding contact with creepers and survivors alike had been far easier. When the radio did crackle to life with reports from ham radio operators and other watercraft, the news had not been heartening.
The sickness apparently spread unchecked, with more and more people either dead or infected. There were more rumors of the religious zealots who’d allegedly brewed the virus and unleashed it in coordinated attacks across the world. The Zechariahs had apparently claimed responsibility, but Adam and Parker hadn’t heard anything from the group itself.
It was impossible to know what was true, and he supposed it didn’t really matter in the end. What mattered was surviving. Keeping Parker safe.
Adam said, “We don’t have to decide today which route to take.”
“Nope.” Parker yawned, stretching his arms over his head and flexing his lean muscles, his soft cock swaying. He shuffled to the small fridge and took out another bottle of water, passing it to Adam wordlessly before sticking his finger into a bowl of chocolate pudding they’d made with powder and boxed almond milk.
The Bella Luna was equipped with both a hydro generator below the surface of the water and a wind generator high on the main mast. Parker had explained that each one worked best under different sailing conditions while Adam tried to cram the information into his head along with all the other things he was learning.
He was just grateful they had electricity. Out on the deck with a cool breeze over the water and a frosty beer in his hand, sometimes he could forget about the rest of the world.
Leaning a hip against the table, Adam said, “They might have medicine there. A doctor, even. At Salvation Island.”
Parker exhaled noisily. “And they probably have lies and betrayal and sex slavery. With bonus cannibalism.”
Pulling at the moist label on his water bottle and ignoring Parker’s hyperbole, Adam looked at the map. “If something happened to me and you were alone, you’d need people. Even if nothing happens, it would be good, don’t you think? For us not to be alone?”
His eyes on the pudding, Parker’s heart skipped, reaching Adam’s ears. “What, I’m not enough for you?” He tried to smile.
“That’s not what I meant. Of course you are. You’re everything. But we don’t know what’ll happen. Maybe we could check them out from a distance. With my vision and the binoculars, we could be miles away.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to you as long as we stay smart.” Parker abandoned the pudding and hugged him, pressing his face to Adam’s chest. He was several inches shorter than Adam’s six-one, and he fit so perfectly. Adam held him close, breathing in the salty scent of sea air and sweat from Parker’s skin. “You’re a big, bad wolf, remember?”
Adam chuckled as Parker rubbed against his chest with his stubbly cheek. Parker was like a cat, and Adam his willing scratching post. As he ran his hands over Parker’s back, the woman’s voice echoed in his mind again. It is safe here. All are welcome. “But if we—”
“Dude!” Parker jerked out of Adam’s grasp. “We just went over this. Like, I didn’t imagine the shit-show that went down at the Pines, right?” He stalked to the head and flipped on the shower, waving his hand under the water as if he could will the generator to heat it faster. “Did you wake up with selective amnesia today?”
Adam chugged the rest of his water, biting down a retort. When he swallowed, he calmly said, “No. But there were pros and cons to the Pines.”
Parker yanked the shower curtain closed after him. “I’ll grant you that movie night and the palatial suite were awesome, and the chef knew his stuff. But my fond memories of our time there are just a tiny bit tainted by that part when the batshit scientist guy and Ramon the werewolf and professional bag of dicks held you captive and did tests on you. Aka tortured you.”
“I heal quickly.” When he thought of Ramon, Adam’s anger and hurt was tempered by regret that he hadn’t found out more from him about being a werewolf. There was so much he’d never had a chance to learn from his parents. Would he ever have the opportunity again to meet someone else like him?
“Oh, so what they did was okay?” Parker’s voice rose as he switched off the shower and stormed out, a few curtain rings flying off the rail. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
“No, no.” Adam hugged Parker from behind, wrapping around him tightly as Parker tried to get by. “I’m sorry. I’m not saying it was okay. It wasn’t. I just worry. We might need allies. We don’t know what’s coming. We’re even more vigilant now than we were then. We won’t be fooled.” He pressed his lips to Parker’s damp hair.
Parker relaxed a bit against him. “I want to believe that, but…”
“Shh. It’s okay.” Another day was beginning, and it could be their last. Adam didn’t want to fight. Still hugging him close, he inhaled Parker deeply, holding his essence in his lungs until there was nothing else, the fear and uncertainty fading away.
He rubbed against Parker’s ass, the adrenaline from their argument quickly transforming into desire. Here, pressed against Parker’s warmth, Parker’s heartbeat filling Adam’s ears and drowning out any other voices, nothing else mattered. Here, together, they were safe.
Kissing his way down the side of Parker’s neck, Adam stroked over his chest and lower to his cock, which thickened quickly in his hand.
“No fair,” Parker whined. “You play dirty.”
Growling low in his throat, Adam whispered, “And you love it.”
Parker moaned as Adam nudged him the short distance to the cabin and pushed him facedown on the bed. Adam wanted to drop on top and cover him completely, keeping the rest of the world at bay.
When Parker spread his legs, Adam knelt between them. He licked the water from Parker’s flushed skin, kissing and teasing. He hadn’t shaved in weeks, and he rubbed his scruff against Parker’s ass until the skin reddened beautifully.
“Tease,” Parker muttered. “My ass can take more than that. Need more.”
Adam spread Parker’s cheeks and blew across his hole before kissing it ever so lightly, his lips barely touching the puckered flesh.
Parker groaned. “If you’re trying to get me to beg, it’s working.”
The sun filled the cabin through the long and narrow portholes, and sweat dripped down Adam’s spine as he chuckled and briefly flicked with his tongue.
Parker’s little cries of pleasure joined the gulls circling overhead, and the boat rocked gently as the tide swelled. Adam kissed Parker’s inner thighs now, caressing his hips in teasing circles.
With an impatient huff, Parker pushed his knees under him and jutted his ass in the air, reaching back to spread his cheeks. “Come on.”
“Hmm. I’m not sure what you want.”
With a growl of his own, Parker glared over his shoulder. “Adam.” His eyes went soft and vulnerable, and his voice was barely a whisper. “Need you.”
The urge to hold Parker close and never leave their little cabin again swelled, and Adam leaned over to kiss Parker tenderly before whispering in his ear, “You want my cock? Want me to fill you up with my cum? Hmm? You like that, don’t you?” He stroked Parker’s hips harder now.
“Yes,” Parker hissed. “I love it.”
“Or do you want my mouth today?” He kissed Parker’s hole. “My tongue?” With a long swipe, he licked along his crack.
Shuddering, Parker gasped. “All of it. Please.”
Closing his eyes, Adam took a deep breath and let the transformation begin, hair spreading thickly over his face and around his eyes—just enough so he knew Parker could feel it. Could feel the slight prick of claws on his hips and the tip of fangs against his hole too.
Parker trembled with a groan, and Adam could smell the pre-cum that flooded Parker’s dick and surely dripped from the end. “All of you,” Parker muttered.
Adam’s cock throbbed, but he didn’t touch it. With his face buried in Parker’s ass, he went to work licking into him, careful to only tease with his fangs and not cut. Parker cried out, writhing and panting. Adam supposed it was their own form of edging—seeing how much of the animal he could let out without going too far.
“Oh, fuck yes. Feels so good. You feel so good.”
That it was all of him Parker felt—not just his human side—made Adam’s blood sing. He’d never dreamed of revealing himself to a lover, and certainly not during the act itself. But Parker wanted it; he came so hard when Adam let the wolf out. Adam had to breathe deeply and rein himself in so he didn’t leave cuts on Parker’s hips.
He stabbed in with his tongue, which grew rougher and slightly longer when he transformed. He held Parker’s ass open and fucked him as Parker begged for it.
“Yes, yes. Like that. Right there—fuck! Adam!”
Parker shouted and came, jerking as he shot over the sheets without his dick being touched. It filled Adam with a primal pride that sent heat through him. He sat back on his heels to stroke himself, coming on Parker’s flushed ass and wet hole after only several tugs.
Parker pushed up on his hand to watch over his shoulder, his chest heaving. They collapsed together in a tangle on their sides, kissing roughly as Adam’s fangs and claws retreated, his werewolf features fading away. Parker took Adam’s hand, uncurling his fingers. Adam hadn’t even realized he’d cut his own palm with his claws when he’d jerked himself off.
The wounds were already shrinking, leaving tiny smears of blood behind that Parker ran his fingertip through so gently. He pressed a kiss to Adam’s palm before burrowing into his arms, his breath damp and comforting. Adam nuzzled Parker’s growing hair. The boat’s previous owner had left an electric razor, but they hadn’t bothered trimming anything yet.
The boat’s previous owner. As if it had simply been sold.
Despite himself, Adam thought of the framed pictures they’d tucked away carefully in a drawer in the spare cabin. His name was Richard Foxe, they knew that much. He’d had a husband or partner, whose name they didn’t know since it hadn’t been on any of the paperwork or permits stashed near the radar console.
But the husband was in the framed pictures. They assumed Richard was the older man, with gray creeping back from his temples. His husband was a good ten years his junior, his smile almost blinding as he held up an enormous fish.
Adam had considered unscrewing the picture frame to see if there was anything written on the back of the snapshot, but in the end had just put the photos out of sight. Richard and his husband would never sail the vessel again, even if they were somehow still alive. Still, it’d felt wrong to erase them completely.
Parker’s hot whisper was muffled against Adam’s neck. “They cut into you.”
Shutting away his thoughts of the Bella Luna’s ghosts, Adam frowned. “Hmm?”
“They hurt you. At the Pines. I couldn’t stop them. I know you were knocked out for most of it, and you heal, but…I don’t.” He shuddered, his voice scraping out. “I remember. I remember it all.”
Holding Parker too tightly as if it could erase his memories of pain, Adam kissed his head. “I’m sorry. It’s okay. We’re okay.”
“I can’t deal with that happening again.” He shivered in Adam’s arms despite their sweat-slick skin in the warming cabin. “We can’t trust anyone. We can’t go to that island.”
Adam relaxed his grip and smoothed his palms over Parker’s body until they breathed in a slow unison. “It’s okay. We won’t.”
He pushed away the echo of the woman’s bedtime-story voice and listened intently to their surroundings, his eyes closed. No other heartbeats reached his ears. They’d anchored in sight of land, but if anyone had spotted them bobbing on the tide, they kept their distance.
He and Parker should have gone up and caught some fish while they were biting, but the world was out there, and it could wait.
Copyright © Keira Andrews
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