First chapter of Jace, a dystopian mf omegaverse with the fabulous Sam Hall!
Copyright © L.V. Lane and Sam Hall
So this was a very, very bad idea.
“C’mon, Sloane,” Emma, my younger sister, insisted, grabbing my arm and tugging me forward. She was only a tiny thing, wearing stilt-like heels and a little sequinned dress, but she was strong as a bloody ox.
Why was I here again? Yeah, that was right—Emma’s birthday. She’d been in my ear for weeks and had finally worn me down. Once I’d shown signs of weakening, it had been full steam ahead. I’d lost track of how many people she had texted over the intervening days. It was only now, as I stood on the threshold of the alpha controlled territory, that the enormity hit me slap bang between the eyes.
I had a comfort zone… I couldn’t even see the bloody thing from here.
“Cut it out, Em! You might be able to walk on these shoes, but I’m about to fall on my face,” I shot back, trying to pull free and keep my balance at the same time.
“Hurry up!” Jewel, my sister’s best friend, insisted, waving us over frantically as it felt like half the beta community of our fair city converged on a far from salubrious gate. With chain link fencing, razor wire on the top, and both parts beginning to rust, it wasn’t the kind of place that screamed enter and be welcome! Yet as I looked across the crowds, having wrenched my arm back from Em, I saw that plenty of people were willing to risk it.
This was Desparion, aka the Desparion, where the biggest, baddest, least controllable members of the community lived. You’d think with all those qualities they’d be running the world, but their notorious inability to act rationally disqualified that. Anyway, there were way more of us betas than there were of them. We also had guns and an army to back us up, whereas they only had muscle and extreme strength. We funnelled the weakest of us, the omegas, into Desparion, and that kept them happy. In the end, that was what alphas wanted the most—their mates.
Entering alpha territory was dangerous, we’d had the message pounded into our heads at school, at home, and by the media every damn day, yet for some people, that proved to contain a perverse kind of attraction.
People like me.
“You’re eager tonight,” a man, an alpha, said on the other side of the fence. He grinned as he went to unlock the gate, seemingly conscious that every beta eye was trained on him, and why not? He was so damn different as to seem like a whole other species. Massively tall, getting close to seven feet, shoulders that were so broad, the artificial lights of Desparion beyond were momentarily blocked. And muscles, so many muscles as he worked the key in the lock until it popped open, pulling the chain free. I wasn’t alone in following the flex of those muscular forearms as he wrapped the metal links around his fist.
“Mummy, I would like one of those very much, because I have been a very good boy.”
My head jerked up to see the speaker was standing beside me, a man wearing a pair of bespoke jeans, personally beaten up to look like they’d been worn by several generations, and a white linen shirt open at the neck. He turned and grinned at me, flashing those bright white teeth, tossing those loose dark curls, until I punched him in the arm.
“Where the hell have you been? It doesn’t take that long to park a car?” I asked him. He’d dropped us off because Em was wearing high heels, and while she could dance all night in them, walking the small distance from the carparks to the gate was beyond a birthday girl. “Jesus, Jude, I’ve been trying to keep a lid on those two…” My voice trailed away as we both turned back to the gate and saw that amongst the people stumbling through were Em and Jewel. “Oh crap…”
Jude’s hand slapped down on my arm when I sucked a breath in, right about to call their names across the crowd.
“So the Mummy thing was supposed to be funny and kinda kinky,” he said in a low tone, “not the way you’re going to act tonight. Your sister is a big girl.”
“Are you serious?”
“And perfectly capable of looking after herself,” Jude insisted.
“Really? Like that time she managed to get an invite to a poker game with those bikers? Or when she was hanging out with those guys who turned out to be human traffickers?”
His face fell, a small frown forming.
“Shit, I forgot about that. But, Sloane, you can’t be your sister’s keeper for the rest of her life. Just because…”
His words faltered as I stared at him, both of us seeing it—the moment my parents had been lowered into the ground, victims of a horrific car crash. There were no open caskets, no final goodbyes, just the police at our door, informing us of ‘our loss,’ endless lawyers and discussions about who got what, and me fighting my family to take control of my parent’s very lucrative estate. Our eyes shifted to where the two girls had wandered, drawn in closer by the tawdry glitz and exotic air of danger that The Strip, a long street of alpha run clubs and pubs within their zone, used to entice and intoxicate the more civilised beta population.
All around the world, betas were solid, dependable, rational people, focussed on building our economies and our civilisations. Keeping order, wealth, success, those were the cornerstones of beta society, and they were the enemies of it.
Alphas and omegas.
Jude made an appreciative little purr as we walked through the gate into the area cordoned off from the rest of the city, where the alphas were left to live whatever brand of lawless bullshit they claimed their instincts dictated. The man at the entrance, the alpha, his brown eyes met Jude’s, my friend’s close regard pulling an amused snort from him as we passed, but then he saw me draw my clutch closer, my steps getting faster, and all humour was washed away. Instead, deep brown eyes stared into mine, making it very clear he saw exactly what I’d done and why, as well as how he felt about that.
I felt a flush, at the attention, at his expression, at the fact I was acting like all the other bigoted arseholes in this city. As I was about to yank my eyes away and walk past with my nose in the air, like any other over bred beta, something odd happened. A heat pooled in his eyes, his nostrils flaring, that smile returning but in quite a different form. This one was slow, sly, full of dark promises and even darker pleasures.
“Girl, Daddy’s got his eyes on you,” Jude said, leaning in close. “I came here to get my knot on, but damn if the hottest specimen in this cage ain’t looking at you.”
“Shut up,” I snarled, wresting my eyes away. “And how the hell are you getting a knot…?”
I didn’t finish the sentence because shit, I’d just realised exactly what I was asking, Jude grinning in response. He thought me a ridiculous prude, but that was mostly because he was an unmitigated slut. His words, not mine.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And lube—lots of lube. This boy I was seeing for a while had this alpha fetish, started ‘training’ me to take the knot of this freaking huge dildo.” His expression grew lazy and well satisfied. “First, I signed up because hey, you want to spend hours teasing my hole, I’m down. But then…”
His eyes roamed across what we could see of The Strip, bright lights and gaudy paint all designed to draw us here or there to drink, to spend all our hard-earned dollars, to step beyond the tight constraints of our little beta lives and walk on the wild side.
“But then it got weird and the role play was too involved and he was totally into the idea of me being an omega, which I’m not.” A little humph in his tone. “But I figured while we’re down here, I could see about broadening my horizons somewhat. Which it looks like those silly girls have a head start on.”
I stiffened, saw three massive men towering over my sister and her friend, moving slowly and surely closer, hemming them in. And Em? She was twirling her hair, giggling, reaching out to put her hand—
“Shit!” I yelped, striding forward, finding my way to her side in a matter of seconds. “Em, I’m dying for a vodka tonic. I found Jude, so let’s go?”
She took a few heartbeats to recognise me, her focus entirely captured by the alphas standing around her, and I understood why. A quick glance up, and I felt like I’d been scalded by hot water. We might be betas, but even we were susceptible to that alpha allure. All that power, all that intensity, it radiated off them, pinning you to the spot, making you all too aware of them and their interest. It made you want more, I knew that, dragging my eyes down, even while feeling a burning need to preen, posture, try and capture their attention.
Just like Jude was doing right now.
He ambled up, placing a hand on the nearest guy, one with a ragged shock of dark blond hair.
“Well, hello there, handsome.”
The massive man’s lips twisted into a smile almost identical to the door alpha’s. He took in Jude’s trim form—“You could bounce a twenty-cent piece off this arse, love,” he’d told me—with a kind of feral hunger that grew and grew.
“And who are you, pretty?” the alpha asked in a low rumble.
“Going is what we are,” I insisted as I linked arms with Jude and Em, leaving Jewel to stumble after us, her eyes trained over her shoulder.
“Nice collection of victims—I mean, opportunities,” Ryder said as he joined me at the gate.
I cut him a glare, hardly noticing the sea of bodies rolling past, every one of them with their bug-eyes trained on Ryder and me.
And open lust.
Yeah, mostly the lust. They wanted to try out an alpha cock, see if it really was as big as those illegal videos they’d been watching.
Fifty percent would run screaming at the first glimpse. The other half couldn’t handle it either, but their enthusiasm to try was fun, not that I partook of the opportunities often. To me, they were wealthy patrons about to get frivolous in my club.
“Don’t talk about them like that, arsehole,” I muttered.
“Willing participants?” he asked with an overly innocent expression on his face.
“Better,” I agreed.
The dick laughed. He knew about my hang-ups.
They’re not the same as omegas, I told myself. These are betas, and they rule the fucking world.
Maybe not Desparion, but everything beyond the metal fence was the dominion of their kind. I’d lived outside there once, and it wasn’t as pretty as the commercials would have you believe.
“You’re growling,” Ryder said way too casually.
“I’m good,” I said, letting the memories fade into nothing, which was where they deserved to stay.
I didn’t need to go back there, to being a small, unrevealed kid, powerless as they… When I became an alpha, I’d learnt how to fight and had dedicated myself to making a place for me and my sister. Ella was safe now, and I made sure she stayed that way. If she wanted to be with a man, beta or alpha, it was on her terms.
“You’re still growling,” Ryder said as a couple of alphas approached to take over watching the gate.
I huffed out a breath. “I know. I’ll deal with it.”
“You need to get laid,” he said, smirking now.
I chuckled, feeling the last of my tension fade. The arsehole was probably right. I didn’t usually partake of the party crowd, but there was one little morsel that was making me wish I could make an exception. Tiny little thing, trying to pry her eyes off me and failing as she walked by. She’d caressed every inch of me with her gaze, and I hadn’t missed that tell-tale swallow. I’d known what she was thinking, what she’d wanted, and for once, I’d felt the need to give it to her, staring long past the point of being polite. The bloke with her, he didn’t seem to be hers, looking at me with a much more blatant hunger
Omega, the beast inside me rumbled
I shook my head. No omega would willingly enter alpha turf. They were carted off and sold by the Dawn Agency, not waltzed in through the gate to get their drink on.
Several of my men ambled up to take over at the gate. We nodded to our replacements and started walking back toward the club.
“So, Miss Prim…” Ryder trailed off, eyeing the same woman I had, then he launched into a full-on snicker when I punched the bastard in the arm.
“Off limits,” I said, not bothering with pretences.
“Yeah,” he replied, still wearing a shit-eating grin. “That one’s a screamer of the unenthusiastic variety.”
He was probably right on that as well.
Our club, the beast said in a low purr of satisfaction as the uptight little beta and her party walked inside our bar, Inked. Smart choice on her part. I didn’t tolerate bullshit or alphas making unwelcome advances on my turf.
That didn’t mean I was green. I’d been with enough betas to know how to coax the right woman into the throes of pleasure. All it needed was time and patience.
And lube—a fuck ton of lube.
She was interested. Alphas were instinctual creatures, and we knew the signs of an opportunity, as Ryder referred to them, and how they were susceptible to alpha pull. I wasn’t going there, though, not tonight and not with her. She was in my club now, vulnerable. I wanted to frog-march her right back out of the gate so that she’d be safe.
Ryder’s assessment was like the proclamation of my doom.
“She’s still off limits,” I said because she was, and I was determined the purse clutching beta would be returning home without a scratch on her. If I wasn’t tapping that, then no one else was either.
I steered us into a nearby bar, but that was a mistake, though finally agreeing to Em’s demands to visit Desparion was probably the first one. We walked up the steps into a darkened space broken by spots of artificial light, the place not yet packed.
“Damn your cockblocking, Sloane,” Jude grumbled as he sat down at a stool by the bar, the girls doing the same. A bartender—beta, by the look of it—slid our way and took my order with a nod, along with my credit card. “Three alphas on the prowl. Three! Can you imagine—?”
“Oh, we could imagine,” Jewel said, then sighed. “They’re so big and hot. Do you think they’re proportionate?”
“Of course they are,” Em insisted. “That video we saw of those two alphas and…” She grinned nervously, remembering where she was and whom she was with. “You can’t cater to needy omegas with a pencil dick.”
“Omegas,” Jewel said, sighing. “It must be freaking amazing to be completely overwhelmed and swept up by feelings and instincts so big, you’re helpless to do anything but submit.”
“Shut up,” Jude exclaimed with a groan, rearranging his junk in his jeans. “I think I cried for two days straight when I revealed as a beta. I would’ve made a brilliant omega—being treasured, maintaining a beautiful nest, plus the harem of burly alphas gagging to take me over and over…”
“Shut up,” I said, but not harshly, as I pushed his bottle of beer over, handing the girls their drinks. From our left, a great squeal went up, and the next instalment of Emma’s entourage entered the club.
The drinks came right back to me.
“Hold these,” Em ordered before throwing her arms around the necks of the newcomers, and more enthusiastic dancing and squealing ensued. A hairband with sequinned cat ears emerged from one girl’s bag and was placed on Emma’s head to another cheer.
They all started to gravitate towards the dance floor, and with them came the alphas. They formed a ring around it, watching the beta men and women throw themselves around to the music with practised abandon. I could almost hear David Attenborough narrating a documentary about the mating habits of betas and alphas in the background.
But she was gone, throwing her arms up in the air, wiggling her hips in time with the thumping bass, the other girls doing much the same beside her.
“I take it you’re going to stake out this particular part of the bar, as per usual?” Jude asked, nursing his beer.
“I don’t dance, you know that. I’ve got—”
“Two left feet, I know—I’ve seen you in action often enough. For someone who seems to have it all together, I’ve not met anyone that damn clumsy.”
I shrugged, sipping the vodka. It hadn’t always been this way. Before puberty, I’d been perfectly capable of participating in the gymnastic program, taking dance classes, and performing all the little rituals a growing beta was required to with grace and poise, but then my body began to change. My feet became obstacles rather than natural parts of my limbs, my constant stumbling, knocking into things, tipping things over driving my extremely well put together mother mad. I took a big mouthful of my drink at that memory.
“Go,” I said, waving to the dance floor, my eyes on the way the men began to cluster around my sister and her friends. “I know I’m boring—”
“Not boring, love.” Jude swept in, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “Just…overburdened with responsibilities.” He grabbed my hand, clasping it to his chest in an exaggerated fashion. “Parting is such sweet sorrow, but…” His eyes slid sideways, and mine followed them, making him smile and me stiffen on my stool. “Looks like Daddy’s here to stake his claim.”
The doorway filled with a familiar figure—the guy from the gate. Dark hair that needed a cut was raked back with a big, broad hand, the tattoos over his arms and shoulders showing up in the flashes of bright light as he passed under the bulbs, the white tank top he wore stretched tight over his chest, serving only to emphasise the acres of rippling muscle there. Those dark eyes cut through the place, making me shrink back against the bar, even though I knew it wasn’t me he was searching for. He probably worked here, or he conducted business in one of the notorious backrooms and was here to carry out whatever shady deals passed for legitimate enterprise in the zone.
“Ohh, you’re gonna get it,” Jude said when the alpha’s eyes locked with mine, a small smile forming—a carnivorous one. Something that was only emphasised when the alpha came strolling over with the slow, confident prowl of a predator. “Well, tootles!”
He knew exactly what he was doing, my so-called best friend. Jude’s fingers trailed through mine, making it clear I could escape with him, out onto the dance floor.
Or I could stay.
I twisted on my stool, unable to find a comfortable position, my thighs trembling with the need to follow Jude or to lock me down tight on the seat.
He’s not coming over here, I told myself furiously, forcing my eyes to study the dance floor like it was me that was the scientist, studying the mating rituals of young betas. You are entirely too ordinary and too boring to be the focus of any alpha.
I watched the alphas on the edges of the dance floor move in, arrowing in on their choices, separating the man or woman from the herd, taking them down with surgical precision. And the betas? They responded to all that alpha allure, turning like flowers towards the sun, their steps faltering, their smiles fading, their bodies going soft, compliant, then wrapping themselves around their alpha, like a vine would a boulder. That wasn’t my fate. There was no way.
I spent so much time not seeing him that I didn’t even notice them when they approached.
My eyes jerked sideways, but I didn’t get what I was expecting. Not tall, dark, and handsome. Well, not just one. Three men, complete strangers, stood around me, none of them the guy that Jude had thought was coming over. And the alpha in the middle? He looked at me in a way that reminded me why I bloody hated these places—like I was a delicacy on a plate, ready to be devoured at their leisure, no matter what I might have to say about it.
“You’re looking lonely sitting here by yourself.”
God, this was what he was going with? The biggest guy looked over my head and spoke to the barman. “Get the lady whatever she wants.”
I glanced meaningfully at the nearly full glass in my hand, but the centre guy smoothly took it off me to the sounds of my outraged splutters as they carried on, seeming to believe I needed a fresh one. Okay, so the corny chat-up line had been amusing in an eyerolling kind of way. Still, I did not like anything about the way they were boxing me in and ordering me a new bloody drink, plus their scent was doing funny things to me. My belly fluttered, and not in a pleasant manner I’d heard being around alphas caused.
“Looking for some alpha cock, beta? We’ve got what you want,” the right hand guy said, moving in closer and closer as his friends did the same, no matter how I shrank back.
I couldn’t even see the bartender anymore. They had somehow cut even that off. I considered myself level-headed, I’d had to be for the sake of Emma, but everything about this screamed threat. Their scent was cloying, filling my nose and lungs, and I couldn’t stop from breathing it in.
Panic slammed into me out of nowhere. This was all very practiced and organised—take a separated female, close in, and get her high on your scent. They didn’t even need to drop something in a drink, as I’d first suspected, because I was already sinking under their spell. I fumbled for my bag, but my clumsy fingers couldn’t get the catch and I dropped it to the floor. Fuck!
“And you’re assuming that’s you?” a deep voice said—so deep, it made my ear buzz uncomfortably, my hand straying to rub at it. I should be thinking about the taser in my bag, not my damn ear.
I hadn’t wanted to look, to see who’d butted in on this humiliating event, because I knew. Somehow, I knew. I could feel the heat of the fourth man’s body, smell his much fresher scent cutting right through the choking smell of these three arseholes. It took a deep breath and another inspection of the group’s insistent gaze before I turned to acknowledge my rescuer. There he was, bigger, taller, stronger than I’d gauged at the gate, and close, way too close for comfort.
The three arseholes had frightened me. The newcomer I’d first met at the gate had twice their potency all on his own.
“You know the rules, dickheads.” God, that low rumble of a voice… It felt like it vibrated all the way through me. “In my bar, consent first. I didn’t see the lady accept your kind offer of a drink, did I?”
I hadn’t been able to work out how the group stayed standing there, the power, the repressed aggression radiating off the alpha making my head spin, and it wasn’t even directed at me. But it was for me, which made me all the more flustered. Then those deep brown eyes dropped to meet mine, and I was completely and utterly lost.
“Did you want these boys pestering you?”
What the freaking hell?
I’d heard all about an alpha’s bark, their voices reported to have the ability to force compliance in a way that sounded damn near mythical on the evening news, yet now? I had to admit my hubris as my gaze fell to those full lips, hearing the question there but unable to parse the meaning while I was caught under his spell.
I was so fucked.
“What the fuck, Jace? This little beta wants to try on some strange, and we want to be the ones to help her with it. I thought you’d know all about that.”
Wrong thing to say. A little whimper escaped my lips as I saw that body, Jace’s, turn to stone, a wall forming beside me of tensed muscle.
“You’re right—I do.” That was the only warning they got from Jace. He looked over their heads to a couple shadowy figures hanging by the door and gestured them over. “Escort these gentlemen out, not to return.”
“The fuck? Jace—”
“You heard the man,” Jace’s offsiders said, grabbing the three who’d been bugging me and hauling them out the door to the musical sound of their complaints.
Then they were gone, leaving me alone with him. My bag was still on the floor. I stared down at it, wanting to scoot off the stool and collect it, yet terrified because it would bring me closer to him.
A low sigh caught my attention, forcing me to recognise what I really didn’t want to—that there was a huge, very masculine presence by my side and only getting closer. I tried to keep my eyes to myself, which was all very out of character. Say thank you, I thought furiously. Get him a drink. Something, anything, then you can send him on his way. He moved in until the shadow of him fell over me, the heat of his skin radiating. Then he bent over right beside me, almost touching me, to retrieve my fallen bag and hold it out for me to take. I didn’t take it, just stared at it in confusion as I felt the equivalent of a storm batter me.
“You all right, love?”
Fuck, I’d read and heard people talking about ordinary men having this animalistic kind of growl of a voice and always dismissed it as overheated bullshit, but now? My eyes jerked sideways, a congratulatory smile spreading across his face, which should have gotten my back right up. I wasn’t one to accept pats on the head from men, not even men like him.
And he was all fucking man.
This close, I could smell him, a deep, woody, musky scent that filled my lungs, replacing a need for oxygen, my body instantly adjusting to breathing him in instead. It was nothing like the other alphas. I’d caught an enticing hint of this man as I’d passed when he opened the gate, but this was a thousand times more intense.
He frowned slightly, watching my chest heave as I sucked his scent in. I wanted to shrink away from the arseholes, but this alpha, I wanted more of it. I wanted to roll in it and him, wanted to get right up close and taste it from the source.
And that was when it happened—like the slow prickle of a lazy orgasm, every nerve ending perked up and sighed in one long wave. My muscles went lax and my bones to rubber as I was hit face first with alpha pheromones. That made sense. People bought and sold alpha and omega pheromone extracts on the black market for precisely this reason. It gave us a glimpse of how the other half lived.
But I wasn’t about to take a walk on the omega side, only to return to being a safe little beta.
“Fuck…” he rumbled, his voice sounding like grating granite right now. “What is that?”
He closed the gap between us and put a hand on the bar, caging me in, making me feel bloody tiny suddenly, despite being reasonably tall in my heels. He didn’t touch, didn’t impose anything, just moved so close, my personal bubble was obliterated, leaving only me. Me that trembled, holding myself still, so still, as his nose traced the air around me, breathing me in with slow, shuddering breaths.
I’d thought that this was just the way it went. An alpha hit on you, and his allure smashed into you like a fucking Mack truck, leaving you a quivering little beta morsel as your head swum and your body rioted. I thought that this was what Jude, what Em and Jewel were chasing, because it all became clear, as I fought to keep breathing, just why they were so keen to come here.
I’d never been so fucking turned on in my life. My skin felt too hot, too tight, while my cunt sent out distress signals, clenching down on a horrible nothingness, a whine rising in my throat in response, but it froze when he did. His body stiffened, then shifted infinitesimally closer, so the world was reduced to only him and me. Both hands were on the bar now, on either side of me, my body bowed backwards to avoid touching.
Because I think on some level, I knew.
Despite my body bowing away, there was no threat in him caging me. It was comforting, it felt right.
I was the one who fucked this up, who committed the final sin that damned me completely by reaching out blindly to take my bag, which was still in his hand. As I did, my fingers brushed against his.
“Jesus…” he hissed, just for me.
At that moment, we were hit by lightning, something I’d waited my whole life for and never thought would come.
Most betas woke up in puberty knowing what they were, feeling their betas-ness down to their toes. It was who they were, who they identified as, and it determined everything about them. My ‘reveal’ was weak, shaky, more a question mark than a statement. I’d never told anyone except for my doctor when I was an adult, and when he ran tests, he’d found nothing to suggest I was anything other than yet another beta. Now I, and the alpha before me, felt it, and he sucked my rapidly developing scent in like a dying man.
“Omega…” he purred. My designation, my death sentence...
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Jace is book one in the Her Monster series, an extra spicy mf dystopian omegaverse romance.