For right now, it's only one week left until my first Omegaverse story, SAVED, releases into the wild of Amazon/KU, and I'm crazy nervous. If you're curious about this story (and I hope you are), here is the first chapter to give you a taste of this brand-new world I've created.
Braun didn’t remember a thing about the car accident that sent him to the provincial hospital’s emergency care. He only remembered getting in the car so his father could drive him to his health screening, and then waking up in a bed with a headache and sore ribs, and a beta constable watching his door.
The constable didn’t surprise him. Braun was an unmated omega showing signs of his first heat, hence today’s health screening. His guard, Constable Heely, gently explained that their car had been hit on the driver’s side, head-on, and that his father was in surgery to repair severe lacerations to his neck and torso.
Braun wanted to tell the doctors to simply let the man die, but what would become of Braun then? His omegin was long-dead, and his older brother’s mate was a nightmare, just as their father had been. Omegas, especially young, unmated ones, could not legally live on their own, and he’d heard terrible rumors about the halfway houses for orphaned omegas, or for those whose mate had died.
As much as Braun hated the man, he needed his father to live long enough for Braun to find a mate who’d take him, despite having nothing to offer except his body. Their family came from poor stock, barely living on their fixed government income, and it was to his alpha father’s eternal shame that he’d been given two omega sons and no alpha heirs.
Besides, as an alpha, the doctors would help his father, no matter what. Alpha health received top priority, always, while omegas were seen to last, even after betas. Probably why the constable wasn’t making an effort to tell anyone Braun was awake and asking questions.
“How long has he been in surgery?” Braun asked the constable.
“They took him up about thirty minutes ago,” he replied. “He lost a lot of blood on the scene and in transit, from what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will be down when there’s news.”
“Thank you.” Braun didn’t ask any other questions, because the older man seemed bored by the whole thing. Betas were generally indifferent to omega issues, so being told to stand guard over one on the verge of his first heat had to be pretty high on the list of Boring Things I’d Rather Not Be Doing.
Braun tested out his extremities and torso, finding nothing else terribly wrong with himself, other than a few bandaged cuts. His father’s side of the car had taken the brunt of the collision, and Braun had never before been so grateful for the man’s asshole-ish demand that Braun ride in the backseat like a child, rather than in the front like the grown man he was. Twenty—twenty-one in a few weeks—was ridiculously old to still be subjected to that, but Braun had no choice if he ever wanted to leave his neighborhood. Unmated omegas weren’t allowed to drive, and mated omegas could only learn with the permission of their alpha mate.
“Has my brother been told about the accident?” Braun asked.
The constable shrugged. “I don’t know. I wasn’t given that information.”
“Can you find out? His name is Kell Iverson. His mate is Krause Iverson.”
The name snared Constable Heely’s full attention. “Iverson?”
“Yes. His family is part of the Iverson Financial Group.”
“Your brother mated well.”
He’s mated to an evil son of a bitch alpha who treats my brother like shit.
“Can you find out if he knows, please?” Braun asked, pushing back a rise of fury that always hit him when he thought about his older brother’s situation with Krause—a situation Braun had no power to change. And worse, his brother was pregnant with their first child and due to give birth soon. Braun’s joy at finally being an uncle was always tempered by remembering who the child’s sire was.
“I’ll call my supervisor and find out.”
The man stepped into the corridor to make his call. Braun used the bed control to raise his upper body some more. It strained his ribs, but he felt less exposed, less weak. He had no idea who his father might have listed as an emergency contact, but he knew the man wouldn’t have listed either of his sons. His disdain for omegas dripped off him like oil. More than once, Braun and his brother had been subjected to cruel ranting tirades about “useless omegas” who weren’t “good for anything except shitting out more useless omegas, just like your useless omegin!”
A nurse in red scrubs walked into his room, then stopped short, dark eyebrows going up in surprise. “Oh, you’re awake,” he said.
“For a few minutes now,” Braun replied. He smelled like a beta, so Braun didn’t bother averting his eyes. “My head hurts a lot.”
“That’s because you got a solid wallop against the car window. I’ll let your doctor know, so he can adjust your pain dosage.” The man made a note on Braun’s chart, then fiddled with one of the machines. “There you go. More pain medicine for your head.”
Braun blinked. “Don’t you have to ask the doctor first?”
“Unfortunately, honey, your assigned doctor is one of those old-fashioned assholes who doesn’t think omega health is a priority. He’ll probably look at the chart and think he did order the increase.” The kind nurse held out his hand. “I’m Serge.”
Braun tentatively shook the offered hand. “Braun. Thank you.”
“Treating me like a human being.”
Serge groaned. “Ugh, I hate that you have to thank someone for being kind to you. Alphahole parent?”
Braun glanced at the door to make sure were still alone—an omega openly bashing an alpha was considered an arrestable offense—before nodding. “And my brother’s been mated to someone worse.”
“Ouch, honey, I’m so sorry. Is your brother coming to see you?”
“I don’t know, that’s what my guard went to find out for me. I doubt my brother’s husband would bring him here to see me, or allow him to take a taxi, but he still should know. Especially since our father is critical.”
Constable Heely walked into the doorway and hovered there. “I left a message for your brother with one of the family’s servants.”
“I appreciate it, thank you,” Braun said.
“And I, unfortunately,” Serge said, “have other patients to check on, but I’ll try to stop by later to see how you’re doing, okay? You aren’t being admitted for your injuries, but the authorities will probably keep you here until your father’s condition improves.”
“I understand.” As much as Braun didn’t want to be stuck in the hospital for days or weeks, it was better than being stuck in a jail cell, which he’d heard rumors had been done a few times when an unmated omega or widowed omegin was in heat. For the omega’s safety.
After Serge left, Braun settled in to wait for news of his father’s condition.
News came after two hours of staring around his small room, with only the bored constable for silent company. Neither of them attempted to initiate conversation. They likely had nothing in common, anyway. The man was a constable and of authority, and Braun was a lowly omega with no higher education. His father had withdrawn Kell and Braun from school when they each turned sixteen, as was his right under the law. Omegas could enter their first heat at any time after that age, and the younger they heated, the more fertile they likely were.
Braun and Kell had both disgraced their father by not heating until they were both nearly twenty-one, usually an undesirable age for an alpha in his own prime who wanted a large, healthy family. It had shocked Braun when a family as powerful as the Iversons had allowed Krause to mate with Kell, especially at Kell’s age. Their father had been overjoyed to relieve himself of the burden of one of his two omega offspring.
A doctor in white scrubs entered Braun’s room with Serge in tow, and the tall, broad-shouldered man reeked of alpha. His flat expression told Braun nothing, and Braun respectfully kept his gaze on the man’s chin.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, “but your father died in surgery. The damage was too extensive.”
Braun’s heart ripped in two directions at once. He wanted to celebrate the death of a cruel, heartless man, but he was also terrified now that his only protection from the world was gone. Ripped away in a freak accident, leaving Braun an unmated orphan omega. Braun didn’t know what his face looked like, but Serge rushed to his side and held one of his hands. Braun squeezed tight, grateful for the support from the stranger.
“What happens to me now?” Braun asked.
“I’ve been advised of your situation,” the doctor said. “And I believe the authorities will agree that you’ll be best off in a halfway house for now, until you’re claimed.”
Claimed. Braun hated that word, as if he was a lost possession waiting for its owner to find him. Mated at least implied a partnership, even if there never was an equal balance to the pairing. Alphas would always be bigger, stronger protectors of the smaller, weaker omegas. It was simple biology.
“I have a brother who is mated,” Braun said. “Could I go live with him?”
“If you were a widow, then normally yes, other family could take responsibility for you,” Constable Heely replied. “But you’ve never been mated, and your chart says you’re showing signs of your first heat. You’ll be safer in a halfway house, unless you’d prefer a jail cell.”
“No, not jail. Wait, when did you read my chart?”
“While you were unconscious.” The constable still sounded bored. “I can transfer him as soon as he’s released,” he said to the doctor. “All I’ll need is his medical history, so the staff knows how to tend to him.”
Tend to me. I’m not a damned house plant, I’m a human being.
A human being utterly alone in a world that denied him any autonomy to make decisions about himself or his body. He had to go where they sent him, or risk being jailed for real.
The doctor and constable conversed by the door.
Serge squeezed his hand tighter. “I’m so sorry about this,” he whispered. “I wish I could help, but I don’t have any legal authority to intervene.”
“I know,” Braun replied, “but it helps knowing someone actually gives a damn what happens to me.”
“Your brother doesn’t give a damn?”
“He does. We love each other very much, but he has an extremely controlling husband, so there’s nothing my brother can do to help.”
“Well, these halfway houses are just temporary for omegas. I’m sure someone as gorgeous as you will find a mate in no time.”
“Thank you.” Braun had never felt very attractive, and the compliment from Serge—cute, blond, blue eyes, excellent build—boosted his confidence a fraction. “It’s scary not knowing what’s next.”
“I know, honey, but you’ve got a strong core. The car they pulled you out of was completely totaled. Whatever’s coming your way? You’ll survive, I know it.” Serge pointed at Braun’s chest. His heart. “In here, I know it.”
“I’ll get started on the discharge paperwork,” the doctor said, loud enough for Braun to hear. “And then he’s all yours.”
Braun bristled at the dismissive tone. He’d heard it all his life, mostly from his father, but that vile creature was dead. Gone from this earth and Braun’s life. In that moment, Braun vowed to find a good, decent alpha for his mate, someone who’d protect him from cruel men and provide for their children.
He owed Kell and their omegin nothing less.
The halfway house was a dreary structure in a mostly abandoned neighborhood, a victim of the housing crisis of three years ago. Empty, abandoned homes lined the street, some of them vandalized, many with front doors wide open. Untended yards likely teeming with ticks and snakes and spiders. The yard of Braun’s new home was mowed, but still a bit wild in its upkeep.
Constable Heely delivered him there as promised, and a wide, stumpy man greeted him at the door. Beta to his core, but he’d been around an alpha recently, because the scent clung to his skin.
“Ah, our new arrival,” the stranger said with a grin. “Name’s Fynn. I’m house director here, and I’ll be helping you get settled.” To the constable, he asked, “You got papers?”
Heely handed over a big envelop with Braun’s medical history, as well as the bottle of prescription painkillers for his ribs.
“Good, good,” Fynn said. “Your work is much appreciated, constable, but I can take it from here.”
Braun swore he heard Heely muttered, “Thank goddess,” but he couldn’t swear to it.
Fynn ushered Braun inside. The interior of the home was well-maintained. They stood inside of a big living room with two sofas and a television. Four young men were lounging around, watching a program. They didn’t wave or greet him in any way, and that sent prickles of alarm down Braun’s spine. They all seemed….disinterested. Bored.
“The downstairs is all yours,” Fynn said, leading him through the living room to a kitchen in the rear. He pointed to a locked refrigerator. “Mealtimes are strictly observed and there’s no snacking in between. And that room”—he tapped on a padlocked door that was probably the entrance to a basement—“is off-limits unless you’re in heat. That’s our quiet room. The backyard is fenced in and has barbed wiring at the top, so you can go out there at your leisure, except during heat.”
All that made sense. Braun followed him down a hallway to a staircase, and up they went. Fynn stopped at a room with a set of bunked beds, one of them less than perfectly made. “This is your room. Top bunk is free. Your roommate’s name is Gill. He’s probably in the yard right now, he does love to lay about in the sun.”
“How many of us are here?” Braun asked.
“Six, not including you, so I guess seven. Once a week, we have an open house for unmated alphas to come visit, see if anyone is a good fit or feels the mating bond. Next one is in three days. You’re good-looking enough and in great shape, so you might not be here very long. How old are you again?”
“Twenty, almost twenty-one.”
Fynn grimaced. “Well, maybe, I don’t know. Like I said, you’re good-looking.”
Braun resisted rolling his eyes. He was well-aware of his age and that it lowered his chances of finding a good match, but he was determined to do this for Kell. Maybe it would be difficult to find a good alpha at twenty, going on twenty-one, but he was damned glad he hadn’t been made an omegin at eighteen. The idea of giving birth at any age terrified him.
“I gotta go get dinner started,” Fynn said. “We eat at six sharp.” The man turned and left.
Alone for the first time in hours, Braun stared at the bunked beds a moment, and then heaved his duffel bag onto it. Constable Heely had driven Braun home—his former home—so he could collect clothing, toiletries and personal items. As per the law, omegas couldn’t inherit property, so his father’s home and possessions would be sold, and whatever money it made would be put into a trust for Braun’s future mate to manage.
Please, goddess, give me a mate who will let me manage my own money.
Braun didn’t know anyone in this house, and he didn’t know his roommate, this Gill person, so Braun didn’t unpack, despite the small room having two dressers and a closet. He stayed in his room, bored and scared, until dinner. The dining room had a long, wide table, and he sat next to a young omega who exuded fear and sadness. Everyone at the table, except Fynn, was subdued, and Braun couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. They were all young, like him, and likely orphaned. Alone in a world that saw no value in them except as reproductive vessels for future alphas.
Betas could marry in a civil union version of an alpha/omega mating, but they were unable to reproduce. Beta couples who wanted children could apply to adopt unwanted beta infants produced by alpha/omega couples. Those children were usually given up for adoption by extremely fertile couples who couldn’t support the extra offspring.
Only an alpha/omega coupling could create children, and alphas were the top prize. The biggest earners, the CEO’s, the inventors and the powerful. It was considered an honor to be omegin to an alpha offspring, and doubly so to birth two. Only one omegin in history had ever given birth to four alpha children, and he had small marble bust in his honor at the Museum of Natural History.
No one really spoke during the meal, and Braun wasn’t sure if that was because of house rules—of which he hadn’t really been notified—or because no one had anything to say about anything. So he ate the boring plate of meat and potatoes Fynn had cooked and drank the juice put by his plate. Apple wasn’t his favorite, but it was wet and he was thirsty. Apparently the only other between-meals thing available was tap water.
After everyone had finished eating, Fynn stood at the head of the table. “We have a new face in the house tonight, everyone,” he said. “Please say hello to Braun Etting. His father died in a tragic automobile accident this morning, leaving him alone in the world.”
A murmur of hellos rose up from the table. Braun waved, cheeks blazing at being put on the spot.
“Gill, Braun has been assigned to your room.”
The guy across from Braun with white-blond hair and a thin face glared at Braun but said nothing. Must be Gill.
“Now,” Fynn continued, “who can tell Braun what the number one house rule is?”
“Don’t go out the front door without an escort,” a guy with dark skin and black hair piped up.
“Exactly. I’m the only permanent resident who lives here and sleeps here every night, but we have daytime volunteers who are here from seven in the morning until five at night, to assist with your needs. The backyard is open territory, but you are not allowed to go out the front door, not for medical appointments or any other reason, without a volunteer escort.”
“Understood,” Braun said softly.
“A list of chores is put out every morning, and everyone is expected to contribute their fair share. As long as you all contribute, no one will be punished.”
Braun had been on the painful end of enough belt beatings to avoid doing anything that led to punishment. He’d do whatever he needed to do in order to get through this new part of his life and be ready for his alpha when he finally showed up.
(c) 2017 A.M. Arthur.