Authors: Aline Hunter
There was no way in hell she was returning to that room.
To his arms.
Mating a lycae meant an eternity spent together. When the member of any shifter race discovered their mate, nothing else mattered. They’d kill anyone who stood between them and the one person they couldn’t exist without regardless of the cost, or the consequences.
She turned to stare at the window over the shower. Her life was too dangerous. If they got involved, he’d put his life at risk. There was no way she could live with that. She’d seen too many people suffer and die because of her.
A soft knock invaded her thoughts. “Arden? We need to talk.”
Inhaling deeply and striving for calm, she tried to pull herself together. “Give me five minutes.”
She hoped he wouldn’t read her mind. Seconds passed like minutes. She held her breath, waiting to see what he’d do. After a moment, she heard heavy footsteps as he moved away from the bathroom. She sprang into action, thinking quick on her feet. If she stuck around, she’d eventually give Wolfe what he wanted. He brought out impulses in her she couldn’t control, appealing to a part of her nature she’d denied for too long.
She left the water running and hurried to the window. The glass had already been lifted, allowing her to see the sunshine outside. Although it was a tight fit, she managed to wriggle through the tiny space, trying to be as quiet as possible. Bright and painful beams of light blasted her face, and she slammed her eyes closed. She used her fingers to guide her, feeling for the side of the building. As her legs slid free and she fell toward the ground, she relied on instinct, rotating her body, saying a tiny prayer that she didn’t break her neck.
She landed on her feet but stumbled. An object tripped her up, sending her to her knees.
Get up! You don’t have time for this.
Using her nose and ears for guidance, she extended her arms and rose on trembling legs. It only took a moment to regain her balance. She scented the air, trying to figure out precisely where she was.
Focus. Focus. Focus…
Then she knew. It was just as she’d thought.
The location reeked of Greyson. Wolfe had taken her to the small loft above the pub. If she stayed off the radar, she could maneuver the landscape without bringing undue attention to herself. A destination was uncertain but at the moment, all she needed was a direction. And in this circumstance, the direction would be as far away from the unforgettable lycae, Wolfe Trevlian, as possible.
She started jogging, knowing she had to move fast.
It wouldn’t be long before the game was up and her would-be suitor discovered he’d been ditched.
Arden pounded on a door that was too blurry for her liking, hoping her luck was about to change for the better. She’d managed to travel to a safe place but she couldn’t relax. Not yet. She needed time to sort through everything that had happened. In order to do that, she had to put her fate in the hands of someone who had the power to help her. Despite being someone she knew to fear, he was also her only friend. She’d put her life in his hands before. Hopefully he wouldn’t kill her for doing so again.
A warlock judge—the deadliest of all wizards.
Heavy stomping from within indicated she’d lucked out.
Thank God. Trevor’s home.
“I’m coming, I’m coming! Hold on to your water.” The chain latch came undone, and the door opened with a swoosh of air. “What the hell have you gotten yourself into this time?”
She ignored the question, brushed past the man in her path and stomped into the apartment. The trip through the business district had been hell to navigate, but she knew the layout of Trevor’s apartment well enough to dodge obstacles in her way. She hauled ass, heading for the back patio where he kept a small garden.
“Answer me, damn it,” Trevor ordered. She heard him close the door and sensed he’d followed her. “Do I need to prepare for company?”
“Yes, actually. The sooner the better.” She opened the French doors, walked outside and knelt beside the potted plants Trevor meticulously cared for. After she’d retrieved a small clump of soil from one, she asked, “Can you mask my scent?”
“Who have you pissed off this time?” His voice conveyed his worry and anger. He started mumbling, one of his numerous bad habits. When he snapped at her, his Scottish brogue was no longer hidden but in full swing. “Like I doona have enough trouble of my own tae deal with, I have tae take care of your shit as well. Thank you bloody fucking much.”
“Mask my scent. I’ll explain.”
“Doona tell me it’s another ghoul. The last one refused tae stay dead.”
“Would you just mask my scent already?” She lifted the chilled earth between her fingers and pressed it against one eyelid at a time. “I don’t have time to argue.”
Trevor grasped the top of her head. She felt something wet coating the top of her scalp, and whatever it was soaked her hair. He spoke several clipped words in Latin, evoking a spell of some kind. She felt the magic as it wrapped around her, keeping her presence hidden from those who might come looking for her. When he finished, he snagged her by the arm and guided her into the living area none too gently.
“We’ve got a problem,” she muttered and took a seat on his couch.
have a problem, singular.” Trevor growled and paced the small area. “After our little run-in at the city of the dead, I told you I was done. No more, Arden. No more going into situations half-cocked. Unlike you, I
“I’m afraid you don’t have much choice.” She cleared her throat before continuing, “The lycae who’s on my ass will sniff me out once he passes the Quarter.”
“Damn it!” Trevor stomped around the room, and his Scottish temperament decided it was time to shine. “It’s no’ enough that ye have vampires, vampyren and demon kind wanting to rip out your throat. Oh no. You had to go and tangle with a fucking werewolf? Are you bloody insane?”
“He got between me and Taylor. I didn’t have a hell of a lot of choice.”
“A lycae will tear you apart. You can’t atone for the life of your friend if you’re dead. Did you ever think of that?”
“At the time, no.” She shook her head and her shoulders slumped. “I wasn’t thinking about anything but finding Lucius.”
Silence followed, broken only by the ticking of a clock on the wall. She didn’t blame Trevor for being upset. Lycae were something they avoided. With the exception of Greyson, the agreement to stay away from them had never been an issue.
“You know why I couldn’t leave. I had to do everything I could.” Even though she couldn’t see, she tried to look him in the eye. “I owe Portia that. I gave her my word.”
Trevor understood her compulsion to risk everything for vengeance, having been there himself. It was how they’d met and formed a bizarre friendship. They reminded each other they were not alone. The death of a loved one left a permanent scar, but the pain of the blow could be eased with the aid of the right person.
Fucked up relationships. Gotta love them.
“We can’t stay here,” Trevor announced, wearing a hole in the carpet as he walked back and forth across the room. “We’ll pack some things and drive over to my parents’ place in Violet. No one knows about it. If I mask our scent, nothing will be able to detect us.” He stopped pacing and asked, “How much time do we have?”
“Minutes, maybe?” She was fast, but she had been forced to make her way to Trevor’s home blind. Wolfe would find them. It was only a matter of time.
“Damn, damn, damn!” he bellowed, anger coming off him in waves. “You owe me.”
She lowered her forehead to her palm, listening as he stormed from the room. Things had taken a turn from bad to worse. Her valued friendship with Trevor McAvoy was something she couldn’t afford to lose. His magic let her space apart her feedings and staved off the bloodlust. Without him, she would have to drink at least once a week. Since their relationship wasn’t formed in the most common sense, it meant she had to proceed with extreme caution.
The past returned, restoring awful memories.
She’d met her business associate when he’d needed help exorcising a demon that destroyed his parents and murdered his dearly departed girlfriend. Making money on the side was rather boring until they’d taken a job that’d pitted them against a lich—the purest and most disgusting kind of vampire. Both of them had walked away battered and alive, but just barely. Trevor had jumped ship shortly after, severing their professional ties. Not that she blamed him. Her line of work could kill a person. She didn’t fear the loss of her life, but she understood why he didn’t feel the same way.
Different strokes for different folks.
He returned and shoved something into her hand. “Take them. They’re not what you usually wear, but they’ll do. Ray Bans never go out of style.”
Arden happily accepted the glasses, sliding the thick plastic over her nose and ears. She forced her eyes open, blinking rapidly in order to clear tears from her lashes. In an instant, Trevor’s unnaturally beautiful face came into focus, his long mahogany hair mussed as if he’d just woken, his dark goatee lined with shadow at his jaw. Although he was fuzzy, she could see him clearly.
“Thank you,” she murmured and met his livid indigo-hued eyes through the thin, darkened barrier of the glasses. “You bespelled the lenses, didn’t you? So I could see?”
“Aye. The magic I put on them isn’t strong, but it’s enough to protect your eyes until I get my hands on some shade leaf.”
“Anything is better than direct sunlight.”
He retrieved the duffel at his feet and snatched a casting wand from the coffee table. Clutching the lethal object in his left hand, he manipulated his fingers around the base. She didn’t speak as he looked at her, giving him time to gather his thoughts. After a moment, he rose and walked to a vintage coat rack, retrieved his trench coat and slipped it over his arm. When he returned to her, he paused. His face changed and a small, humored smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“What am I going to do with you, Cricket?” he asked softly, bending down to smooth a strand of hair from her forehead. “You’re more trouble than you’re worth, you know.”
“I know.” She lowered her face in humiliation. He only called her Cricket when he was being nostalgic, had too much to drink or felt sorry for her. “I’m sorry, Trev. I didn’t know where else to go. Greyson knows where I live. I couldn’t go home.”
“Come on.” Like a gentleman, he helped her to her feet. “We’ll talk in the car.”
She stood on shaky legs, trying to stand. Trevor slipped a hand around her waist to keep her balanced and pulled her close. Thankful for the support, she allowed him to bear her weight. He wasn’t built like the average magic castor. No lack of muscles or brawn. He was as tall as he was large—well over six feet. It came from his father’s side.
McAvoy men were stout Scots, so Trevor said.
They were walking toward the door when Arden’s senses went on alert. She recognized a scent but didn’t have time to place it. The floor trembled and shook, as if the world beneath them was crumbling to ash. Trevor’s hand tightened on her hip, and he swiveled their bodies in time to see the apartment door burst free of the hinges. Wood from the frame split and splintered with loud and horrific snaps. The door crashed to the side, sending amber thistles skittering across the floor.
Arden watched, wide-eyed, as a thoroughly enraged lycae appeared in the entranceway.
Trevor hadn’t worked fast enough. Nothing could keep her safe.
Her time was up.
Get away from my mate
,” Wolfe snarled and stepped over the remnants of the door.
He stomped into the room, angry enough to destroy everything in his path. The beast was nearly unhinged, crazed by the sight of Arden in the arms of another male. He felt the tremors in his muscles and bones, the desire to shift and destroy taking over. After he’d demolished the bathroom door and found her missing, he’d nearly lost control. It had taken all of his willpower to track her down without going into a maddened state, driven by the possibility she could be lost to him.
His instincts were primordial. Something he couldn’t contain.
The male released Arden but didn’t step away from her, his face showing his shock. “Your
?” he yelled and peered down at the female beside him. “What in the bloody hell?”
“Don’t look at me like that! It’s not my fault he’s delusional!” Arden tried to take a step back, staring at Wolfe. “I tried to tell him he was wrong, but he won’t listen to reason.”
“And you’re surprised?” The male ripped his gaze from Arden and sized Wolfe up. “Lycae are not known for their reasoning when they mate.”
“To hell with this.” Arden held Wolfe’s stare for a second before she looked away. “I’m leaving.”
Reckless little vampire!
He didn’t come this far to leave empty handed. She was coming with him whether she liked it or not. He started to close the distance between them when the male beside her lifted his arm and revealed a casting wand. The rounded end contained a clear orb that glowed white, the crystal structure coming to life as it shifted into prismatic colors.
,” he barked, and the orb pulsed, turning almost orange.
Wolfe stopped immediately, as though his feet were glued to the floor. He drew back his lips, revealed his fangs and scented the air. The stench of amber, wick and salt permeated the space. But beneath it all there was a hum of energy he hadn’t noticed.
Damn it to hell.
He narrowed his eyes at the warlock, aware of whom he faced. Only one warlock judge had survived the curse of the crux demon that wiped out a majority of the magically inclined population twenty-five years before. They were a rare breed with magic so powerful supernatural things avoided them like the plague.
“Sheriff Trevor McAvoy.” Wolfe’s voice was no longer entirely man—throaty, garbled and animalistic.