Authors: Bonnie Vanak
He comes to her in a dark dream promising sensual pleasure—sexy, tempting and dangerous. Raphael is an obsessed wolf with one thing on his mind. He wants Jessica naked beneath him, and nothing will stop him until he has her in his bed.
Jessica Tyrell is a Lupine with a mission—find her missing brother, her only living blood relative. Now, with the help of magick crystals, her dream can come true. All she needs is to hack into restricted records at her friend Alexa’s ranch. The only thing standing in her way is Raphael Amador, head of pack security. The wolf wants her with the same ruthless intent he displays in protecting the pack. Jessica knows if she surrenders to his sensual allure, she could lose her soul to Raphael.
Haunted by his tortured past and determined to never love again, Raphael finds his passion awakened by the lovely redhead, who threatens his control. He has vowed to seek revenge against the man who killed his intended mate and scattered his pack. Can he experience a night of pleasure with the lovely redhead and pursue his goal of revenge, or will Jessica capture his broken heart?
New Mexico, seven years ago
Someone please get me the hell out of here. Please.
Raphael Amador gripped the iron bars of the cage until his knuckles fisted white. Sweat streamed down his temples, matting his long black curls and cutting rivulets through the dirt and caked blood on his naked body.
Four days, he silently chanted. Four more days in this hole and he’d be free.
Free? Hell, he’d be dead if he didn’t find a way to escape.
For six days, they’d kept him in this cage in an abandoned animal testing facility. Scraps of moldy bread for food. A bucket in one corner to relieve himself and a fouled water dish in another. They wanted him drinking on his hands and knees, like a dog.
Raphael tried again to tug free the collar around his neck that prevented him from shifting in wolf. The leather and iron held fast. Infused with a strong warding, he could not break the restraint.
Betrayed and imprisoned. He’d been a fool to trust the stranger when the Lupine arrived at their gate, cold, hungry and ragged, and begged for sanctuary in his pack two months ago.
The male called himself Julius Caesar. Later, Raphael would only call him The Monster.
Raphael should have left him to rot. Instinct warned Julius was not sincere. But his only brother, Angelo, insisted on sheltering him.
And then one night as he’d slept, Angelo had used the code only he and the pack beta possessed to unlock Raphael’s house. The Monster had brought in an army of Others, killed Raphael’s beta and several others before the reminder of his pack managed to escape.
In thanks for his assistance, The Monster had killed Angelo, too. His brother would never rule the pack as The Monster had promised.
Raphael’s chest tightened as he remembered the screams of innocent mothers and young as they were slaughtered. He’d fought with all his might, but the army of Changeling Gnomes had proved too much. He’d promised to protect his pack from all harm, had vowed it as their alpha.
Nothing would ever bring them back.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there to keep you safe.
He could not think of his beloved Britney, her little gasps as she’d died in his arms. Raphael squeezed his fists. If he thought of Britney, he’d shatter and he needed all his strength and cunning to free himself.
The Monster had captured Raphael and left him alive for shits and giggles…as a reward for his followers, and told him, “If you can survive the cage for ten days, I’ll set you free.”
I can do this. I can do this. Ride through the pain. Pretend it doesn’t exist. No emotions. Can’t think of those I lost. Have to focus.
During the last session when the Changeling Gnomes tortured him, he’d nearly passed out, but forced himself to stay conscious. If he fainted, he was dead.
Raphael didn’t plan to die today, or tomorrow.
I can make it through.
Four more days and he’d find a way to break free. Soon as The Monster opened that cage door, he’d be on him, tearing him the fuck apart. He didn’t need his wolf for the job. He’d gnaw through the SOB’s throat with his human teeth.
I am Lupine. I am strong.
A wall and a sliding door separated his cage from the one next door. Snarls and growls filled the air. Raphael centered himself. They wanted at him, wanted to tear him apart again…
I am Lupine. I am strong.
The door to the shed opened. Raphael squeezed his eyes shut as the blinding New Mexican sunlight flooded the darkened room. He blinked hard, knowing he must not show weakness. He was alpha, strong and powerful.
A low, nasty giggle echoed through the shack. Raphael’s eyesight adjusted and he swallowed rage at the sight of the Lupine standing before him. The Monster’s gray gaze met his as he squatted down to Raphael’s level. Dressed in pressed gray trousers and a black shirt, The Monster looked like a prep out for a stroll, except for that flaming mop of red hair.
Few Lupines had hair that color.
Sunlight winked in the clear crystals studding the purple suede belt around The Monster’s lean waist. Raphael sensed the crystals fed the Lupine’s extraordinary dark magick. The stones glowed purple when The Monster used his powers to hurt Raphael.
He would never forget the face. He had memorized every detail, including the odd star-shaped birthmark at the base of The Monster’s neck. Small as a dime, but distinct.
I will have at you, you son of a bitch. I am patient. One day…
“And there is the almighty, powerful Raphael. Look at you, you helpless animal.” The Monster grinned as Raphael lunged at him, only to be yanked back by the length of chain attached to his collar.
“Join me in here and I’ll show you how helpless I am.”
The Monster sat on the floor and dread curled down Raphael’s spine. When The Monster stayed for a conversation, he stayed to watch.
“I’d rather stay and watch you with my little ones. They’re hungry this morning. Very hungry.”
“Why are you doing this?” Raphael did not ask because he was curious. He asked, as he did every time his captor drew near, to examine his enemy for weakness.
“Because I can.”
His pack killed, and he was tortured for shits and giggles? But that was part of The Monster’s tactic. Never give a reason. Add to the mental torture…
“You need your army to back you. You’re too puny to fight for yourself.”
The Monster’s lips drew together. Sore spot. He was only five foot six, compared to Raphael’s six foot four.
“We’ll see how weak and puny you’ll be after my little friends are finished with you.”
“You wouldn’t last five seconds in this cage. That’s why you’re doing this. You can’t stand for anyone else to be stronger than you are.”
The Monster narrowed his eyes. “You think you’re such hot shit. So powerful. Might Raphael. Look at you now, dirty dog. When I’m finished with you, Tristan will know I can take down the strongest alpha in New Mexico and he’ll finally listen to me. I am fit to rule my own pack! I’m the eldest son of an alpha and I won’t be ignored by that bastard anymore.”
Raphael almost laughed. The Monster, torturing him to make an impression on Tristan, the wizard who judged Lupines? “You’re delusional if you think killing me will make Tristan sit up and pay attention.”
“Oh, but I don’t plan to kill you. No blood will be on my hands.”
Raphael searched The Monster’s face, saw the pinched look around his eyes. The male was tired. Drained. Perhaps controlling an army taxed him more than he’d realized. A weakness…
He’d tested out the length of chain. All he needed was one shot.
“I survived. Doubt you would if they turned on you. What kind of wuss name is Julius Caesar? Sounds like someone with an inferiority complex, like a pussy-whipped Skin. You are skinny and short for a Lupine. No wonder everyone ignores you and thinks you’re weak.”
Crimson flushed The Monster’s cheeks. His mouth turned down like a child’s denied a toy.
A little closer, just a little closer…
The Monster brought his face near to Raphael’s. “I’ll show you who’s weak.”
He reached through the cage.
Raphael sprang forward, seized The Monster’s hand and yanked hard. His captor banged his head against the iron bars, but then the crystals on his belt glowed purple.
Burning pain engulfed Raphael’s fingers. He tried to hold on, but the heat grew too intense. Cursing, Raphael drew back and his captor scuttled away, rubbing at his head.
“Just for that, you’ll get an extra hour of punishment,” he rasped.
The Monster fished a remote out of his trouser pocket. “My Gnomes are very hungry. And since you’re a pureblood alpha, you heal quickly.”
The iron door separating his cage from the one next to it opened. Raphael tensed.
He did not speak, but reserved all his strength to fight them as the Gnomes fell upon him, their pointed teeth clicking together like razored castanets.
He fought with all his strength and might. He grunted as one or two gained the advantage and tore at his back, the tastiest flesh, The Monster had told him. A line of fire lashed his back as he thrashed and tried to hold them off, but there were too many and they were too hungry.
An hour later, he screamed.
All the while The Monster watched him. “Maybe Tristan will save you,” he told Raphael.
The price he paid was terrible pain, sharp as a hot razor slicing through his flesh. But around him were the bodies of ten Changeling Gnomes he’d crushed with his bare hands.
Raphael collapsed into unconsciousness.
A while later, as he lay in pools of his drying blood, he forced his swollen eyelids open and saw The Monster standing outside the cage with a disappointed expression.
“He’s not coming. He doesn’t care about you. That silver bastard…you’re a powerful alpha. I was certain he’d rescue you. I wanted to be here when he arrived.” The Monster stroked the crystals on the purple belt. “I’ll get his attention. Just have to lie low for a while.”
He eyed Raphael with disdain. “I can’t stay here longer and risk Skins finding out about this little game. You can die here, you fucking alpha.”
The remaining 10 Gnomes and The Monster left. Raphael summoned the last ounce of his strength.
I can do this… I can do this
This cage would not be his coffin.
Raphael crawled over to the water dish. Empty.
Staggering to his feet, he hurled himself at the cage door. Pain exploded in his shoulder. Grimly he kept hammering at the door and then it gave way. Brief euphoria exploded through him. He was free!
But he had no food. No water. He desperately needed water.
Raphael staggered outside. The burning sun beat upon him, as sweat trickled through the dried blood on his naked body. No strength to shift. He was going to die out here.
Raphael’s stomach clenched. Die like a dog in the desert. He’d let his pack down and failed them, and now would never have the chance to gather them back together, and avenge the slaughtered.
Killed for what? A deviant Lupine’s fragile ego, and desire to prove himself?
His cracked lips formed a smile. “Tristan you bastard, you couldn’t toss me a bone? Even a cup of water?”
A motor hummed in the distance.
Blinking, Raphael saw a Jeep rattling down the dirt road leading to the testing facility. A kind stranger? Or one who would leave him to die alone in the desert?
No strength left to fight, he knew he’d die if the stranger wanted to kill him. But as the Jeep stopped and a tall cowboy climbed out, he picked out the scent.
Lupine, like him.
The cowboy rushed over, squatted down. “Whoa. Holy shit.”