"I'm innocent!" he raged. "You can't punish me without evidence."
"We have all of the evidence we need, Julian Gallagher," Elder Belikov replied, shaking his head as if displeased by Julian's protest. "You have been found guilty of one of the worst crimes a clan member can commit, the crime of betrayal."
"I didn't betray anyone!" Julian shouted.
"The evidence says otherwise."
"The evidence is wrong. I am innocent of the charges brought against me. I would never do anything that brought harm to my clan, no matter what the evidence says." Julian had to make these men see reason. He didn't betray his clan. He would never betray his clan. "If you'd just listen to me—"
"Enough!" Elder Belikov shouted as he held up his hand.
Julian felt the ominous silence that fell over the small area like a lead weight around his neck. He glanced from one man to the next until he had looked into the faces of all five and knew he was doomed. They weren't ready to listen to reason.
"This is wrong!" Julian shouted. He could see another man pull something from the fire pit and walk toward him. He started to struggle between the two large council enforcers that held him.
"Maybe you should have thought of that before you betrayed your clan, Julian."
"I didn't betray my clan."
"That is not the decision of this council.
"Council?" Julian sneered. "This isn't a council, it's a joke."
Julian grunted as Elder Belikov stepped forward and backhanded him across the face. He licked at the trail of blood the dribble from his split lip and looked up to glare at the man. "Like I said, a joke."
"You, Julian Gallagher, have been found guilty by this council. You will be taken from this place, stripped of your position as Alpha of your clan, punished as befitting your crime and status."
"Punished?" Julian's struggles stopped as he swallowed hard. "Don't you mean attacked?"
"It is the decision of this council that you be punished, Julian Gallagher. You're name will be stricken from all recorded records. No clan will accept you into their midst or acknowledge your existence from this day forward."
"You can't do this," Julian whispered. "I have a mate. What's to become of him?"
The frown that covered the man's face sent a chill of foreboding down Julian's spine. He wasn't going to like what he elder had to say and he knew it.
"Where is this mate, Julian?" the elder asked as he waved his hand around the small area. "Why does he not stand by your side to defend you?"
Julian didn't have an answer for that. He knew his mate was deep in the closet and having a hard time coming to terms with their mating. But they were mated, destined to be together. Rogan should have been here.
"What is the name of this supposed mate?"
Julian pressed his lips firmly together. If he was to be punished and banished, he refused to drag his mate down with him. Rogan was everything in the world to him, more precious to him than even the clan he governed. He would no more betray his mate then he would betray his clan.
"That’s what I thought," the man said after several minutes of silence. "No clan member would leave his mate to face the council all alone. As the mate you say you have is not standing here then I can only assume he does not exist or he believes you to be as guilty as we do."
Julian inhaled sharply and struggled to back away when the man from the fire held out a small metal bowl to Elder Belikov. The liquid inside splashed around and Julian got his first good look at the torture he was about to endure.
"This is wrong," Julian cried out desperately. "I can't be found guilty without a trial."
"You lost your right to a trial when you betrayed your clan."
"I didn't betray my clan!" Julian shouted but his words seem to fall on deaf ears. The men holding his arms forced him down to his knees. Julian grunted when someone grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back.
"Julian Gallagher, you have been found guilty of the crime of betrayal." Elder Belikov spoke the formal words of the council but Julian knew he was just doing it for the men surrounding them. Elder Belikov never cared a wit about the rules of the council. He cared about power, his power.
"The council will punish you for this."
"Dear boy." Elder Belikov chuckled. "I am the council."
Julian felt the first cut before Elder Belikov's words had even left his ears. He jerked and tried to pull away, refusing to utter a sound. He wouldn't give Elder Belikov the satisfaction of hearing him beg. As the second and then the third cuts were made across his skin, Julian wondered how long he could keep that promise to himself, especially when he saw the evil grin on Elder Belikov's face.
Julian's eyes widened when the bowl of liquid silver was brought closer to him. He felt true fear for the first time since he had been kidnapped from his bed in the middle of the night. Shifters didn't heal from silver.
White hot agony filled Julian as liquid silver was poured over the cuts made in his skin moments before. He gritted his teeth and stiffened, trying to ride out the pain. But the agony continued, growing worse with each passing moment. The kicks and punches added to his torture between cuts only increased his pain.
Julian's mind began to wander as one ache melted into another. He didn't understand why he had been picked by Elder Belikov to be tortured and he'd never have a chance to ask. Julian doubted he'd survive his injuries.
Julian was saddened by that knowledge. He'd never get to see his mate again, to hold the man in his arms or feel his sweet kiss. He'd never get to convince his mate to come out of the closet and live side by side with him.
Julian could only hope that Elder Belikov never learned the name of his mate. Julian had no doubt that the elder was evil enough to go after him. As much as he regretted it, Julian could die happy knowing his mate was safe.
Julian looked up through glossy eyes when he heard Elder Belikov's low laugh. The man really was just too happy. He had a right to be. There wasn't an inch of Julian's body that didn't scream in agony.
"You will pay for this, Belikov," Julian whispered.
"You might be right, dear boy, but not before your mate does." Belikov chuckled then leaned in close to Julian's hear. "Rogan, isn't that his name?"
"Rogan, how are you feeling?"
"Surprisingly well considering."
A light flushed filled Rogan's face. "Define pain."
Julian frowned. "Does anything hurt?"
"Well, there's a definite ache in my ass." Rogan chuckled. "But other than that I feel fine, great, in fact."
Suddenly understanding the meaning behind Rogan's words, and enjoying the delightful man that had woken up, Julian stretched on the bed next to his mate. "I imagine I can help you with that ache if you want."
"Not dressed you can't."
"Want to bet?" Julian grinned as he moved in, pressing his lips against Rogan's. The man's acceptance was instantaneous, which thrilled Julian down to his toes. A growl of satisfaction built in Julian's throat when he felt Rogan lean into the kiss, his mouth opening and allowing Julian in.
It was a heady feeling, having such acceptance. It made Julian ache. The need to dominate Rogan again and claim him was almost overwhelming. He'd been pretty rough on Rogan last night and he wanted to be just a bit gentler this time around. Rogan deserved it.
Julian kept his lips pressed against Rogan's, their tongues brushing together as they explored each other. He pushed against Rogan until the man rolled onto his back then moved over the top of him.
The feeling of Rogan's skin under his hands drove Julian crazy. It was soft and silky, hot and hard. It felt perfect under Julian's fingertips. He pushed the blanket down as far as he could, wanting to explore more of Rogan's skin.
"Julian," Rogan moaned as he tugged at his shirt, "take off your clothes. It's been so long. I want to feel you."
Julian didn't give Rogan a chance to say anything more. He claimed the man's mouth with a hunger that quickly consumed them both. He could feel Rogan's chest moving rapidly up and down as he panted.
Julian moved his lips away from Rogan's mouth and kissed a small trail down his face to his throat. He licked at the small pulse that beat against his lips. The sweet taste of the man's skin exploded across his tongue. Julian groaned, never having felt anything better in his life.
He moved further down Rogan's body, wanting to explore more, to taste more. He'd never tasted anything so sweet yet masculine. He took particular interest in the twin brown hued nubs that decorated Rogan's chest. The musty taste there was stronger, more masculine than sweet. Julian paid them special attention, rubbing his tongue across them then gently biting down.
Rogan squirmed beneath him. The loud groans that filled the room also filled Julian's soul. He'd waited years to hear those soft sounds come from his mate, more time than anyone should have to wait. He didn't think he'd ever get tired of hearing them.
And the groans just turned louder the farther down Rogan's body that Julian moved. They turned into one continuous moan and full body trembles by the time Julian hovered over Rogan's hard cock. He gently blew across the straining erection.
"Fuck, Julian, what are you doing?"
Julian grinned as he licked away the small pearly drops pooling at the tip of Rogan's cock. "I'm having fun," Julian said through their bond. "What are you doing?"
"Losing my fucking mind!"
"Good." Julian chuckled then went back to what he was doing, admiring the thick solid cock in front of his face. But he wanted to do more than admire it. He wanted to taste it. Julian opened his mouth and gulped down Rogan's entire length.
"Julian!" Rogan screamed as he arched into the air.
Julian swallowed hard, trying not to gag when Rogan's hard cock was shoved further into his mouth. His movements had an added affect when his throat muscles gently massaged Rogan's cock.
"Like that, baby?"
"Oh god, don't stop," Rogan groaned. "I've never—"
"Never what, mate?" Julian had to ask. He was intrigued by the sudden intensity he could hear in Rogan's voice.
"Never felt anything… anything like it."
Surprised, Julian glanced up to Rogan's face. The man's head was moving back and forth on the pillow with wild abandon. His hands were clenched in the sheets besides his body. His face was flushed.
Rogan looked as sexy as hell.
"How about this?" Julian asked as swiped his tongue across the tip, licking away the drops of pre-cum gathering there. At the same time, Julian licked his fingers then reached back and pressed two of them into his own ass.
He had claimed Rogan last night and ridden him hard. This time, he wanted to be the one claimed. He knew exactly how gorgeous Rogan's cock was, and how large. Rogan was even bigger than he was. The thought of the man pounding into his ass made Julian as hard as stone.
Julian released Rogan's cock and worked his way down to the man's balls, sucking them gently then licking them with his tongue. Rogan's legs spread, giving Julian more access. Rogan brought his knees up then let them fall to the side.
Julian looked up and groaned at the wanton picture his mate made. He looked totally debauched spread out the way he was with a soft glow of passion making his skin look flushed. Julian couldn't stand it anymore. He needed to feel Rogan inside of him before he exploded.
He quickly shoved two more fingers into his ass, stretching himself as fast as he could. Julian winced in discomfort but not much. He liked a bit of pain with his pleasure. He liked knowing he was being taken.
"Are you ready for me, baby?" Julian asked out loud.
"Yes, god, yes!"