Authors: Aline Hunter
“I don’t go by that title anymore,” the warlock replied.
Arden skirted behind Trevor, and the beast inside Wolfe went mad. It wanted to tear the warlock apart, to see the magic wielder bleed for coming anywhere near its mate. Wolfe shifted his feet despite the binding of the spell, and Trevor McAvoy lost a bit of his cool composure.
The warlock thrust the wand forward. “Don’t come any closer!”
“Damn it, Arden!” Wolfe roared, his body pulsating, skin burning. “Stop running from me.”
So close now.
The wolf’s howl in his head was so loud he couldn’t hear anything else. If she ran, he’d hurt her even if he didn’t mean to. The animal would be in charge. It would mark her without hesitation, fucking her so everyone knew it had staked its claim. It wouldn’t be kind and it wouldn’t be romantic.
“I’m going to shift,” he panted, holding back the change while he still could. “When that happens, only a silver bullet to the heart will stop me from taking you. Do you understand? The wolf will take over, and I won’t be able to do anything about it. Nothing will prevent me from making you mine. I’ll do it right here, in this very room. I’ll care who sees, but the animal inside me won’t.”
He scented her fear, heard the turmoil inside her stunned mind. The need to reassure and comfort her came second only to his efforts not to lose control. If she took off, he’d lose his hold over the beast. Then she’d learn just how eager his wolf was to claim her. He’d take her with or without the warlock watching, in such a way she’d never dare think of another.
“Stop moving.” Trevor addressed Arden quietly, his voice eerily calm. He kept his staff upright, eyes locked on Wolfe. “He’s not lying. He’ll shift, rip out my throat and take you on the floor where we’re standing. It’s in his nature. He can’t control it. Set him off and there’s nothing I can do. I’ll have to kill him to stop him.”
Wolfe studied her, absorbed the emotions that ran through her thoughts. She was afraid of what he was—of what he represented—and of what he offered. He was the future she didn’t want to believe in. Happiness was something she’d never allowed herself. She didn’t feel worthy of such a thing. Somehow she’d managed to convince herself that it didn’t matter if she never found love. His heart ached at what he discovered in the deepest recesses of her mind.
Everything she’d ever loved, she’d lost.
“Lycae don’t hurt their mates,” she said quietly, refusing to look at him. “I’ll go while he’s bound. Now that I can see, travel won’t be an issue—”
Trevor cut her short. “If you run, he
find you. There won’t be any talking until after the deed is done. You’ll hate him, even if you brought the harm on yourself because you refused to listen to me.”
“Damn it!” A simmering spark of temper shone through her fear. “This isn’t logical. I’m a vampire, not a lycae.”
,” Trevor amended. “Not a vampire. There is a distinction.”
“Release me before I break free of the goddamned spell and demolish this entire fucking room,” Wolfe snarled, his eyes locked on the female who captivated him beyond reason. He was a ticking time bomb. Without her nearness, he’d explode.
“I willna allow you tae harm her.” Trevor’s accent was full on now. “If you give your word no’ tae, I’ll set you free.”
Arden’s attention drifted from Wolfe to the warlock. Her outrage was obvious. “Don’t discuss me as though I’m not here!”
“I’m sorry, Cricket,” Trevor said, his manner pacifying. “You don’t understand what this means, but I do. I’d help if I could but this is out of my hands. Denying him will only lead to suffering. You two need to talk and sort things out.” He turned from her and clarified, “No harm to her, lycae.”
Wolfe stared directly at his mate and vowed, “You have my word.”
With a heavy sigh, Trevor lowered the wand and the orb dimmed. “Very well.”
The heaviness in Wolfe’s feet evaporated. He didn’t hesitate, crossing the short distance in three long strides. He snaked his arms around Arden’s waist and lifted her from the ground. Burying his nose into her nape, he basked in her scent. She didn’t struggle, staying passive in his arms, but he knew the temptation to flee remained.
“Don’t run from me,
.” He attempted to voice his torment and complete devastation at the possibility of failing her. “Don’t force me to become the monstrosity you believe me to be.”
“Damn,” Trevor muttered as he moved past them, walking to the entrance to his home. “I have tae replace the door and the frame.”
“Would you put me down?” Arden’s softly spoken request sent bristles of want down his spine. “PDAs are not my thing.”
The scent of her arousal clung to the air. She could pretend that she was disinterested—that she didn’t long for him as he longed for her—but her body told a different story. She’d been afraid when he’d arrived but she’d also been excited. She hadn’t understood her strange reactions to him, but in time she would. They were meant to be together. A part of her recognized that. If he slid his hand into her pants and cupped her cunt, she’d be ready and wet.
“I’m not letting go of you again,
.” He emphasized precisely what she was to him, needing her to hear and accept it. He knew she disliked
, having heard the random thought when she’d tried to run from him. Fortunately there were other—more suitable—things to call her. “You may have fooled me once, but it won’t happen again.”
“Smug fucking bastard.”
He chuckled as he plucked the thought from her mind, squeezing her waist. With her near, the beast settled. But it wouldn’t last. Not until he knew the bond between them had been created and could never be broken. That was something that would only happen after he undressed her delicate body, fucked her like mad and came deep inside her.
“Where’s home?” he whispered in the shell of her ear. He nuzzled the soft lobe with his nose and grinned when she trembled. “We have unfinished business.”
“Don’t even think about it,” she argued weakly. “I don’t pick up strays.”
“The old abandoned Smith plant off St. Peter,” Trevor yelled over his shoulder. “She lives on the top floor of the building.”
“Trevor!” she screamed, betrayal etched in her face.
Wolfe watched as the warlock approached, turning slightly so Arden could see. Her anger and hurt was brutal to absorb—a miserable twisting of his heart and gut. He hated seeing her like this. Funny, as he didn’t even know her yet. But he would. He’d learn everything there was to know about her. He’d become her refuge and home. The one person she could always depend on.
“You don’t know it yet, but mating the lycae is for the best. Now you’ll have the protection I couldn’t give you.” When Arden turned away, Trevor sighed. “You can’t keep living like this. Hell, neither can I. Worrying about you night after night is aging me prematurely. I know you’re angry, but I hope that eventually you’ll understand why I did this.” Trevor met Wolfe’s gaze. “What’s your name?”
The warlock didn’t react as Arden had, unfazed and unimpressed by Wolfe’s stature in the pack and his relation to the alpha of the area. “I know your face, Wolfe Trevlian. And I’ll be holding you to your vow. I don’t care if you’re related to the goddamned creator. You harm her, and I’ll hunt you down. You don’t want that. Trust me.”
“I won’t harm her.”
He didn’t have to say it, but he did anyway. The warlock obviously knew and understood the lycae way of life. If he hadn’t, the male wouldn’t be speaking. He’d be resting face up on the floor with his neck torn apart. Thank God Trevor had made the right choice for everyone in the room.
Trevor nodded and turned away. “You don’t have to convince me. You have to convince her.”
Too bad he had a feeling that would be easier said than done.
“I’m going to need my hands.”
Wolfe relinquished his grip on Arden’s fingers and circled his arms around her waist, apparently uncaring that she wanted him to get away from her. The touchy-feely lycae had refused to give her any space, even when they’d had made the trip across the Quarter in Trevor’s Jeep.
Her faced burned hot.
Wolfe had forced her to sit in his lap, which gave him the perfect opportunity to caress her in the most intimate of ways. Each time Trevor had glanced over at them in passenger seat, Wolfe’s large hands smoothed over the surface of her thighs, back and stomach possessively. His meaning was evident. She was his, and he had no qualms about showing the entire world just that. Her former friend turned traitor couldn’t wait to drop them off, and peeled rubber the moment they exited the vehicle and slammed the car door shut.
The damn bastard.
“You like my touch, Cricket.” Wolfe nipped her neck. “You know it, and I know it. It’s a good thing too, because I love touching you.”
She cringed at the nickname Trevor had given her a decade earlier—something the man adored as much as she detested. Thankfully no one had ever heard Trevor call her that.
The damn nicknaming bastard.
Wolfe’s tongue followed the line of her neck, sending prickles along her skin. “I think it suits you.”
“Don’t you have pack things to deal with?” She bent as best she could with Wolfe wrapped around her, attempting to find her key, get inside and take a shower. Recalling his presence during her scuffle at the pub, she grumbled, “Or should I say, don’t you have
things to deal with?”
“Not right now. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Rolling her eyes, she retrieved the key inside one of the flowerpots. The cool soil along the carved edges was clumpy, worked deep into the crevices. She shook the shallow grooves clean before stepping closer to the door. The deadbolt turned with a loud click. She grasped the knob and pushed, knowing she’d need a bit of elbow grease. The place was perfect for her but needed some fine-tuning.
The front door wouldn’t budge without the assistance of immortal strength.
As soon as she stepped inside, the reality of her situation slammed into place.
She’d never been this uncomfortable in her own home. This was her sanctuary, a private place to relax and unwind. Now it would be nothing more than a cage. One she would be forced to share with a lycae bound and determined to possess her. Even now, she could feel the hard ridge of his cock against her buttocks, finding herself drawn to the alluring heat of his skin.
. She wasn’t immune to him as she should be.
There was no way to describe what she was experiencing. Desire had overridden sound judgment. Wolfe’s throaty chuckle told her he picked up on the thought, and she wanted to throttle him. He seemed to derive pleasure from being as close to her—mentally and physically—as possible.
Walking into the apartment was difficult. Wolfe was a good foot taller than her five-feet-six inches, his long muscular legs bumping hers as he shuffled forward. She considered asking him to let go but knew it wasn’t going to happen. The hand he’d placed against her stomach brought her closer.
“You’re going to have to release me at some point.” She sighed, guiding him across the long living space to the winding kitchen counter.
Afraid to know but too curious not to ask, she questioned, “What does that word mean? Is it lycae for mate?”
She felt his face brush her hair. “Close. It means most beloved one.”
The urge to relax against him was stronger, the deep, inner longing and want becoming impossible to ignore. It wasn’t enough that he had the looks of a god. He was also blessed with a voice so sleek and sultry it accentuated the adoration he had no shame professing. To her embarrassment, she realized and accepted she was excited about uncovering his body, anxious to take him to her bed.
“This is insane,” she muttered, straining to reach the flashing answering machine on the counter. They didn’t even know each other. Feelings that led to a binding—and in this case absolute—commitment came from developing a strong connection with someone.
It should have been deeper. More emotional.
Not an all-consuming lust.
The vintage machine rewound in a wretchedly high-pitched squeal. It came to a stop and the messages started. The first two were prospective clients wishing to procure services to locate missing family members. The third was a blank recording. When the fourth message started and she heard Michael’s deep baritone, she tried to reach out to press the Erase button.
“Listen,” Michael said, continuing on, “Since you won’t answer your phone, I guess I’ll have to plead my case here.”
Wolfe’s warm fingers wound around her wrist and prevented contact with her target. She listened, mortified, as Michael apologized for their failed date weeks before. He asked her to reconsider her decision to stop seeing him. It had taken three years for him to wear down her defenses—an eternity for a mortal man—and as a deserter of the Thymeria human faction, he knew what she was. That was what had fascinated him in the first place, what had ultimately encouraged him to risk everything to experience a night in her bed. She’d only relented because—as an immortal approaching the dreaded half-century mark—she wondered what she’d been missing.
Oh how she regretted that decision now.
The message was too intimate, too damn personal. When he mentioned his behavior, alluding to the bite he’d begged for that had nearly killed him, she wanted to fold in on herself and die. If she could have shriveled and vanished into the floor to escape Michael’s voice, Wolfe’s presence and her own humiliation, she would have.
The message ended and the tape stopped, leaving her standing in a very odd and uncomfortable silence. The lycae male that believed her to be his other half had just listened as another man presented a very vivid picture of an envisioned future together.
“You’re involved with someone?”
The question was falsely impersonal—posed as if Wolfe was asking about the weather—and they both knew it. So many answers came to mind, but she didn’t want to speak. She chose to shake her head instead, attempting to find a small reprieve.