Alexander "Zan" Sutton padded down the stairs of the nearly silent house. If he thought about it, the building was more mansion than house, boasting three bedroom suites, four stand-alone bedrooms, three full baths, two powder rooms, a fully equipped gymnasium, a high-end rec room, and a kitchen large enough to feed a small army. Which was an accurate description of those residing in the house, though not generally present at the same time. A special elite group of soldiers called the two-story building their home. Special in that not only were the eight men rough, rugged, and trained in military combat, undertaking dangerous assignments and beating the odds to live and tell the tale, they all had a common but rare and very efficient ability. An ability that included super speed, super human strength, highly keen senses, a talent for hunting their prey, and an uncanny instinct for survival. In other words, each male was a shifter. A wolf shifter to be exact.
Yawning, Zan rubbed a calloused hand over his buzz-cut dark brown hair and briefly contemplated going back to bed. He passed by a window and glanced through squinted eyes at the late afternoon sun. By rote he estimated he'd slept nearly twelve hours, having dragged his sorry ass in around four that morning. Normally not able to sleep much more than six hours at any given stretch of time, he knew the extended nap was due to the prior hellish week of little to no sleep. Running on adrenalin, stress, and caffeine could only last for so long, even for a shifter, and once his mission was over and he'd made it safely back to the mansion, he'd passed out cold.
Zan yawned again, this one wide enough to unhinge his jaw. The man might desire more sleep, exhausted in mind and body, but the other half of him, the predatory beast that started to stretch and wake inside his soul, would want another hunt. Never seemingly satisfied, the animal always wanted more. A more calculated risk, a greater prize. Some days Zan didn't know who was stronger, the man or the wolf. On those days he felt old behind his years. Days he wondered if he'd chosen the right path.
At thirty-three he was far from old. His six-one frame was heavily muscled yet lean, shoulders wide and strong, hips narrow. Muscles bunched in his bicep as he rubbed the back of his neck, working out the kinks from sleeping so long in one position, and thought about hitting the gym after gulping down eight or so cups of coffee and eating a dozen eggs. Or a whole pig. He was starving. Remaining mobile and unnoticeable from the day he entered Russia for his latest assignment until his return trip meant a lot of missed meals. He needed to refuel.
Over the sound of the air conditioner struggling to cool the enormous open spaces and twelve-foot ceilings, Zan detected two male voices coming from his destination, the kitchen. Even as he stepped in the room he knew who was there. Scott Boeing and Joe Feider. Even if he couldn't hear their chatter, he could smell them. Not that they stank. It was just that a shifter's sense of smell was their strongest, which made it easier for them to find those who were lost or those who didn't want to be found, as long as they had their scent.
A bunch of damn killer bloodhounds, Zan thought with a wry sense of humor, that was LunaWatch, the name of the team ensconced in this gilded cage in Virginia. They could leave at any time, of course, and did so for every mission. On many occasions, the men gave into their wolf's need to run and hunt by sprinting through the vast forest that surrounded the estate. But at times it still felt like a cage to Zan. When that elusive need for more came upon them, Zan tended to override his boss's suggestion of an extended leave of absence.
How much longer he could hide the compulsion of the wolf's addiction from his boss, Zan didn't know.
His mother had once stated that Zan's need for more was his biological clock ticking away. What a crock. Men didn't have biological clocks. And even if the idea of home and hearth was an enticing prospect, it wouldn't be complete unless he found his true mate. While he could have human children with any fertile female, his wolf wouldn't necessarily be compelled to stay, and he'd only find himself trapped in another cage.
"Yo Sutton," Joe lifted his chin in an absent greeting from the solid-wood kitchen table where the much younger shifter sat next to an equally youthful Scott. While both men were in their early twenties, they were dedicated soldiers: strong, smart, eager, and at times acted much younger than their years to the irritation of the older members of LunaWatch. At present they were staring with intent at something in the tech savvy Scott's hand.
"Yo back at you," Zan mumbled as he bee-lined for the coffee machine. From the smell it was a recent pot so he filled a large mug to the brim. "Anything new?"
Joe laughed. "Nay, man. You know how it is. Kicking ass, taking down the bad guys and getting the girl. I love this job!"
Zan closed his eyes as he savored his coffee. Yeah. It was almost always the same for him as well. Though the girl part was a stretch. Just as he knew it was a stretch for both Joe and Scott. As the youngest in the team, it seemed they had a need to brag about their conquests. In time they'd learn. But for now, the comment brought a small smile to Zan's lips.
He leaned back against the granite countertop. "What are you two up to now?"