Monday, 25 April 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 17 - Teaser

DISCLAIMER: Be warned in advance! THIS is really the worst cliffhanging tease I can ever give you. YOU choose to read this at your own peril. I refuse to be called any nasty names if you choose to spoil yourselves! LMFAO!!!!!

Chapter Seventeen

Dayton woke abruptly surprised to find he’d actually dozed off for a few minutes. Freya was curled up against him, the springy moss they were laying on not really cushioning their bodies that much. He felt sated and happy though, the best he’d felt in a very long time. And it was all because of the woman in his arms and the trust she’d placed in him.

She’d brought him back to life. It had been a hard road but he knew he was almost at the end of it. Once he claimed Freya completely everything else would fall into place. Life couldn’t get any better and he smiled contently for a moment before a frown crossed his face.

His thoughts drifted to Rayne and he couldn’t help worrying about her. He had no idea where she was but he knew she was hurting and needed him. She was so conditioned to running that she wouldn’t be able to stop herself doing so unless someone stepped in and stopped her. He felt guilty for being happy when he knew she was suffering.

Had she left the area already? He could try calling her again, try and entice her to gallery so they could talk. It had worked before but he wasn’t so certain it would work again. He just felt so damned happy that he wanted that same happiness for the woman who had stood by him for so long, refusing to allow him to completely self destruct.

“You’re thinking about Rayne.”

Freya’s words cut through his thoughts and he tightened his arms around her and brushed his lips against the side of her neck. She didn’t sound jealous but he instantly wanted to reassure her of his love. “How did you know?” he sighed against her skin.

“I can scent your concern,” she answered, turning in his arms to meet his gaze. Her soft skin pressed against his and it was all he could do to stifle down the groan of appreciation. Her arms snaked around his neck, her leg come to rest over his hip bringing their bodies together in a very intimate contact that had his breath catching instantly.

“She is a very resilient woman. You worry too much about her. But then, you care about her and it is your nature to be protective of those you care about.”

For a moment he had to struggle to remember what they were talking about so intent was he on the way her curves fit him so perfectly. His lips twitched and then a wide grin split his face as her words registered. “That actually sounded convincing, Freya, normally you’re ready to rip Rayne limb from limb.”

She shot him a withering look though her lips were curling in a smile as she cuddled closer to his warmth and ran her tongue against his neck where she’d bitten him. The deep groan and the surge of his body against her made her sigh in pleasure. “Mine,” she whispered against his ear. “I can afford to be generous now, wolf.”

He gripped the nape of her neck and brought her mouth to his, plundering her lips hard as need rocked through him. One kiss and she scattered his senses. His vampire was so intoxicating she could block out anything with just one touch of her lips.

She tasted so good he wanted to take her again, hard and fast this time until they both cried out their pleasure. He knew they didn’t have time for it though so he feasted on her lips a moment longer and then pulled away regretfully. “I need to try and find her, honey. She’s hurting.”

Freya could here the appeal in his voice, knew he was worried that she would feel neglected that he had a need to find the wildcat. Perhaps she would have before he’d made love to her but she didn’t any more. “I understand. I will help if you want.”

The surge of love that washed over him left Dayton speechless for a moment, and then he kissed her again taking his time to enjoy her lush lips. “You’re amazing,” he breathed against her mouth. “I’m so going to enjoy spending my life with you, honey. Thank you for the offer but I think I’ll have a better chance bearding Rayne alone. If I can get her to come see me in the first place, that is.”

He let her go reluctantly and rose to his feet, holding out his hand to pull her up beside him. “You need to think about where we should live. It doesn’t have to be the compound if you’re not comfortable with it. There’s the apartment over the gallery or your house when the work is completed on it. Or we could get something completely new if you’d prefer. I don’t mind as long as we’re together.”

His words caught her off balance and she stared at him in surprise for a long moment before she blinked slowly and headed over to retrieve her clothes. She hadn’t even thought about their living arrangements. Her heart started beating rapidly as she realised that she truly did get to keep him forever. As she pulled on her jeans she considered their options.

“I can handle pack life now and then,” she finally said. “If it is essential that you be close to the compound at times. But I’d prefer the retreat. It’s close enough we can be here quickly but far enough away that we can be alone. I have nothing but good memories there and Nors won’t mind us using it. I will buy his stake in it from him.”

She pulled her top on and slipped into her sandals before turning around to look at him. “And I will scout out any old traps too so a certain stupid wolf doesn’t fall into one again.”

Her breath faltered as he laughed at her jibe, so completely unashamed by his nakedness, his body teasing her mercilessly. “I should have carried your clothes with us,” she muttered under her breath and was rewarded with a huskier laugh.

“Self control issues, vampire?” The teasing in his voice was unmistakable as was the smug male satisfaction that she wanted him again. He strode over and pulled her into his arms for another long, slow kiss that had them both breathing heavily at the end of it. “The retreat is perfect, honey. I really liked it up there but then I’d like anywhere that had you and a large bed in it.”

Heat rushed through her at the thought. Being alone with Dayton in a large bed was very appealing but she pushed at his chest for him to release her. “I thought you had a friend to go rescue.”

His grip tightened in reluctance and she couldn’t resist caressing his hot skin when she was meant to be pushing him away. It was hard not to when he stood there allowing her to do as she wished, gave her that right to stroke him.

Dayton smiled ruefully and finally dropped a quick kiss on her lips. “Thought I was supposed to be the responsible one here,” he chuckled lightly stepping back. “Guess we should get back.”

Freya moved to head back the way they’d come and then suddenly spun around to face him before he’d even taken a step. Her eyes were as black as midnight, her fangs elongated. Long, wicked talons reached for him and he was so shocked at her transformation he could only stare at her in astonishment. He didn’t fear her but was confused as to what had set her off.

He opened his mouth to ask and found himself being picked up as if he weighed nothing. A split second later he began flying through the air backwards, away from Freya and towards the densely packed trees behind him.

Dayton knew she had moved at an insane, vampire speed and yet everything appeared to happen in slow motion to him. The instant Freya released him she was spinning around; running away from him, towards what he had no idea.

His heart pounded so loudly it was all he could hear and then muted sounds echoed on the air in front of him and his vampire was suddenly spinning back towards him, lifted bodily from the ground.

“Freya!” Her name sounded as if it came from a distance even though it had ushered from his lips. He watched her body jerk wildly as she flew through the air, her top suddenly wet and a much deeper shade of red than before. A ragged hole appeared in her shoulder blade and then blood began to ooze from the site.

“NO!” His scream was gut wrenching, memories of his last run with Faith vivid in his mind, the resounding crack of her neck breaking that signalled his heart dying along with her. Not again! He couldn’t live through that a second time. He’d only just found Freya and someone was trying to take her away from him.

His brain was finally connecting what was happening and his next scream was one of combined fury and anguish. Freya’s body was being thrown wildly from the impact of bullets smashing into it. Someone was firing some kind of semi-automatic weapon, trying to kill his mate and he was helpless to do anything about it.

Freya hit the rock where they had been not so long ago, landing hard enough for bones to break. Her momentum and the violence of the impact kept her body moving and she tumbled sickeningly over the stone to fall behind it. Dark red blood covered the rock. Freya’s blood. Dayton tried to scream again but he’d finally hit the tree line, pain engulfing his body entirely as he connected with first the trees and then the hard packed ground.

His head was the last part of him to hit the dirt and it hit with a resounding whack. Instantly he was disorientated, nauseous, and he could feel blackness starting to descend. Sick, terrifying fear clawed at him as he fought against the blackness, tried to get to his mate. He couldn’t pass out! Freya was hurt and he had to get to her. He tried to move but his body wouldn’t obey his commands. The darkness won and he sank into oblivion...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 16 - Teaser

Chapter Sixteen

Dayton smacked his hand off the doorjamb, a muffled curse escaping his lips. His bedroom was empty and he knew without a doubt that Rayne hadn’t come downstairs. He walked quickly to her room and looked in finding it empty as expected. She had run. He had seen it in her eyes but had hoped she would stay.

Ultimately the decision was hers and he knew that. She wasn’t one to be caged by anyone. It didn’t stop him wishing she had stayed so he could repay her for all she had done for him.

“She isn’t used to relying on others.” Freya’s quiet words had his head turning to see her standing at the top of the stairs. She looked perfect as always having changed into a pair of jeans matched with a red summer top which showed off her pretty curves very appealingly.

His mouth was watering instantly. Not only did she look great but it was the most casual he‘d ever seen her dress, almost as if she was slowly letting go of the rigid control she enforced upon herself.

“You can relate to that,” he answered, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. He wanted to kiss her luscious mouth so much but he wanted her to come to him first. So far he’d been initiating all their contact. He had to know if she wanted him as much as he did her.

“I’ve relied on Nors my entire life,” she countered walking forward slowly as if she couldn’t help herself. “It is others I have an issue with.”

His lips quirked. He loved her brutal honesty. She just opened her mouth and spoke, never stopping to think of just what she was revealing about herself. She reached him and stopped, her eyes glued to his, waiting for him to do something. When he didn’t move she reached up carefully and captured a lock of silver hair.

He held himself still as she caressed his hair, then her eyes darkened and she let go, taking a step back. He moved then, sliding an arm around her waist to pull her against his body. “What was that?”

She evaded his gaze but he cupped her chin gently, bringing her eyes back to his. “Talk to me, Freya.”

Resistance flared in her eyes for a moment and then she frowned. “You haven’t taken me to your bed. You touch my body, kiss me whenever you want to, you show me you want me but you fail to follow through. Your actions are confusing. At first I thought you were bedding Rayne but you’ve told me that isn’t so. It leaves me with only two options available. You still hold Faith too close to your heart or you don’t really want me.”

It was such a vulnerable admission coming from her that his heart twisted sharply in his chest. He teased his lips gently across hers. “You forgot the third option, honey.”

She pulled back frowning at his teasing tone as well as the endearment he used. A perfect eyebrow arched in his direction. “Which is?”

“I could be romancing you,” he chuckled lightly, brushing his knuckles against her cheek. “I may want to bend you over that banister right there and fuck the living daylights out of you but it’s not what you need, Freya. You may think it is and I know we’d both enjoy it immensely, but then I’d only be proving to you that I’m just like every other man you’ve ever known. Out to enjoy your body and nothing else.”

His earthy words certainly sparked her desire even as her confusion grew. “Sex is natural. It’s what males and females do. You are constantly being frustrated because you’re not achieving your physical release.”

Dayton did laugh then tightening his hold on her as she stiffened at his laughter. She sounded very altruistic but he was sure her own sexual frustration was driving her just as much as her concern for him was. “I’ve survived five decades without real sex, honey. I think I can manage a few months more.”

“Months!” Freya all but squeaked the word out, her eyes flying to his to see if he was joking. He made her so hot she was about ready to scream to get him to take her and ease the burning ache he set inside her. He was laughing at her still and her anger kicked in.

“Perhaps I am not willing to wait months,” she said darkly, moving out of his arms. “There are plenty of other willing males who would not turn down a night in my bed.”

Dayton’s smile froze on his face though he managed to contain the growl which threatened to rumble out of his chest. His vampire was testing him, pushing at the boundaries he’d set.

“I have no doubt there are, honey,” he drawled softly. “But I’d have to kill every man who touched you. As long as you’re willing to accept the consequences then feel free to indulge yourself.”

Her expression remained calmly neutral though her eyes narrowed slightly. “Possessiveness, aggression, typical Were traits when dealing with mates. You contradict yourself with your behaviour, Dayton. Your mate is dead.”

She was so keenly intelligent it was scary. He had no idea just how much she knew about pack and Were life. Now he had to judge just how much to let her know. Too much and she may take off as fast as Rayne just had. There was a fine line between easing her into his life and keeping secrets from her. She deserved the same honesty she gave him.

Dayton turned and walked to his room, holding the door open until she followed him and entered. He closed the door behind them and quickly straightened the bed. The reminder of Rayne being there would most probably be one she wouldn’t be comfortable with.

He stretched out on the bed and patted the spot beside him. She came with more alacrity than he thought she would. “You’re right about my behaviour in one aspect and wrong in the other. I am not contradicting myself. It is uncommon but not unheard of for a Were to find a second mate. It has probably only happened a handful of times in the last three hundred years but some have found happiness after their loss.”

Freya blinked slowly, quickly sifting through the information he was giving her. She hadn’t known it was possible for a Were to mate more than once. He said he wasn’t contradictory in his behaviour at her taunt about finding another man, which could mean he was alluding to only one thing.

“You think I am your new mate.” The words whispered out on a shocked gasp.

“Oh, I don’t think, honey. I know.” His eyes danced with amusement at her stunned expression.

She didn’t know how to react to this. Her heart rate was kicking up a healthy beat because he was effectively telling her that he considered she belonged to him. No one had ever dared to try and claim her the way he was. It was both thrilling and irritating at the same time.

She knew her emotional attachment to Dayton was stronger than anything she’d ever felt for anyone before. His pain had made her weep, her own actions which had caused that pain breaking something deep inside her. This man before her pulled out her softer side, made her vulnerable to him. It was frightening how easy it was for him to touch her on such a primal level.

He would demand full surrender though. No matter that she was the stronger of the two, the oldest and the more lethal one. He would want her to submit to him and she knew she was incapable of doing so.

“I will not submit to you.” There was no point hiding from the issue. She didn’t want to hurt him by rejecting him but he had to know that she wouldn’t come to heel at his command.

Dayton burst out laughing, doubling over and clutching at his stomach he was laughing so hard. Freya growled, her anger igniting instantly. The urge to hit him was strong but she didn’t want to really hurt him. She pushed him hard until he fell off the bed and landed on the floor with a loud thump. She expected him to be angry with her but he remained on the floor laughing even harder.

Curiously she looked over the side of the bed and then shrieked when he pulled her off and she landed on top of him. He rolled over immediately trapping her beneath him. He was still laughing and there were tears in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Freya,” he managed to get out between chuckles. “Just the thought of your name and the word submit being in the same sentence is enough to make me die laughing. You wouldn’t know how to submit if your life depended on it, honey. I don’t know where you got the crazy idea that I would expect that of you.”

Her irritation evaporated and she stared up at him perplexed. “Isn’t that what mates do? One is more dominant than the other?”

He leaned down and took her mouth. It was impossible not to. He wanted to stroke her all over so he could wipe the confusion from her exquisite face. She opened to him instantly inviting his tongue in to taste her sweetness. Dayton groaned and dived in eagerly, teasing her mouth erotically with his.

“No that’s not what mates do,” he whispered against her softness. “Mates love and protect each other. They spend hours kissing and licking and stroking each others hot bodies and they make beautiful babies together. There might be times when one is more dominant than the other but only if the situation calls for it. Does Nors dominate Ashleigh?”

Freya frowned. The heat of his body pressing against hers was making her want to do things other than talking but she knew she had to have the answers to the questions inside of her too. She was about to answer yes to his question and then her frowned deepened.

“When Nors really wants something Ashleigh concedes to him,” she answered slowly. “And yet when she has a need, he will do anything to ensure it is taken care of.”

“Sometimes Nors is the more dominant one and other times it is Ashleigh,” Dayton smiled as he stroked her cheek gently. “You view dominance as someone ordering the other person about and forcing them to bend to their will. Nors and Ash don’t truly dominate each other, they compromise. He can force Ash to do what he wants but he knows he’ll hurt her if he does. She knows there are times when he needs to be taking care of her so she lets him because it will hurt him if she doesn’t. Mates don’t want to hurt each other, Freya. It’s the last thing they’d ever want to do.”

She was quiet as she digested the information, applying it to what she knew of her family and seeing the truth in it. It was actually a very subtle dance Nors and Ashleigh performed in their relationship. They did it effortlessly and they found such joy in it. She stared up into Dayton’s expectant face. He was waiting for her reaction.

This was what he wanted from her? For them to be bound together exclusively forever, dancing the same dance as all the other mated couples? Part of her yearned for what Nors and Ashleigh had. A larger part was frightened of it. She didn’t think she had the capacity to bend in that kind of relationship.

Her eyes connected to the streak of silver in his hair. Dayton had chosen a mate before and had suffered unbearably for that choice. Choosing her was another mistake. Surely he had to see that? Faith dying had almost destroyed him. What would she do to him when she let him down as she knew she would? It was what she specialised in; letting down the people she loved most in the world.

And she did love this wolf so much. She was pulled to him like a moth to a flame. Every time she was apart from him she wondered what he was doing, who he was with, when she could be close to him again. So far she had managed to behave herself, control her more feral instincts despite the confusing emotions battling inside her. But that would end and she’d do something awful, hurt someone and he would hate her.

Freya pushed at his chest, breathing a sigh of relief when he acceded to her silent command and stood up. He held a hand out to her and she accepted it rising gracefully as he tugged her up.

“You’re making a mistake,” she said quietly pulling her hand back. “I would not make a good mate. I don’t have the ability to compromise with anyone. I can’t be like Nors. I would force my will on you because I am the stronger of us. I would damage your spirit.”

Dayton wanted to curse out loud but he held it in. He could see the conflicted emotions in her eyes. She wanted what her brother had so much but she genuinely believed she was incapable of having it. It was too much for her too soon.

“I believe in you, Freya,” he said gently. “I know what you’re capable of even if you don’t believe it right now. You not only want this, your soul is crying out for it, for someone to love you unconditionally.”

“You know what I’ve done,” she hissed moving away from him to pace the room in agitation. “You know what I am. How can you just wipe that out as if it doesn’t exist?”

He watched her carefully, hearing the plea she probably didn’t even know was in her voice. She wanted forgiveness so badly, yet didn’t believe she deserved it.

“Your past matters nothing to me, Freya. But I do want your present and your future to be with me.” He caught her, halting her pacing until she was looking up at him with an angry scowl on her face, denial in every bone of her beautiful body.

“I want to annoy the hell out of you until you push me off the bed. I want to be at your side as you work through your emotions and learn the correct ones for any given situation. I want you in my bed so I can show you what real love feels like between a man and a woman who are not out for just their own sexual gratification but want to give their partner as much pleasure as they can. I want you, Freya Eriksson. Forever.”

She yearned for what he spoke of, craved to give in and believe that she could have what he described. “And when I fuck up?” she ground out. “When I disappoint you, hurt someone you care about, what then, Dayton? Will you still want me or will you curse me?”

He framed her face gently in his hands and teased his lips over hers. “Why didn’t you hurt Rayne? You wanted to. She was a threat to you. Why didn’t you act on that threat?”

Freya stood so still, her heart beating hard in her chest as Dayton’s touch both soothed and excited her. He was a sneaky wolf, changing directions in their conversation to throw her off balance, using touch at the same time to focus her when she was becoming wild. She suddenly realised he’d been doing this since she’d returned to the compound with him. He’d been handling her the whole time and that sparked her anger again.

“Answer me, Freya,” he whispered against her lips, his tongue licking slowly over her bottom lip tempting a moan from her. Anger warred with desire as she fought not to take his mouth in a hard, punishing kiss which would hopefully soothe some of the pent up frustration running through her body.

“Because she was your friend,” she hissed out reluctantly. “I would have caused you pain if I had acted on my instincts.” The admission was ripped out of her.

“And mates don’t inflict pain on each other,” he whispered softly. “You could never hurt someone I care about, Freya. I’m sure you will fuck up many times in other ways but I’ll still be with you, I’ll still catch you when you fall. I won’t ever wash my hands of you and leave you alone. No matter what.”

“Why?” It was a confused plea, a need to understand why he was willing to fight so hard for her.

“Because you will do the same for me, honey,” he groaned softly, his fingers burrowing in her hair. “You already have by forcing me to confront my emotions over Faith. You broke through all my barriers and led me home to my family. You saved my life and cared for me even when I thought I hated you and wanted you dead. I fucked up spectacularly and you stood by me and picked up me. You didn’t give up on me as I will never give up on you. We’re meant to be together, Freya. We’re mates.”

He made it sound so easy, that all she had to do was reach out and take what he offered. She had hurt him when they were alone and he didn’t fault her for it, instead he saw it as necessary to achieve a greater good. He attributed coming home to be her doing, a gift she had selflessly given him. She didn’t believe that was true herself but he believed it and he took joy from it.

This wonderful man was offering her things she’d never dreamed she could ever have. And she wanted them so badly, she wanted him so badly. If she didn’t then she wouldn’t be staying in a wolf compound, afraid to leave him, to be alone again. He believed in her so completely.

“I’m scared I’ll fail again,” she finally admitted. “Before it wouldn’t have been so bad but now…Dayton, I’m so frightened of failing you.”

He crushed her tightly to him, stroking her hair gently. She sounded so vulnerable and his protective instincts needed to make her feel safe. She’d had to take in a lot and it was overwhelming her. “I’m not, Freya. You could never fail me. All you have to do is tell me when it becomes too much for you. I’ll be there to hold you and keep you safe when you need a bit of extra strength. I’ll always be there for you.”

Freya believed him. The conviction in his voice was total, his arms a protective cage around her. Her wolf would never leave her floundering in a sea of emotions that was so alien to her they caused her pain and confusion. He would drop everything to help her if she asked him to.

She didn’t deserve him but he appeared determined not to let her go, so she clung onto him, surrendering to him completely because he touched her soul and made her believe in happy ever afters. “Please, don’t ever let me go.” It was a plea from the very depth of her heart, her voice trembling.

“Never!” he vowed his arms tightening even more. “You’re mine, Freya. No one will ever take you from me, not even you. We’ll go slowly until you feel comfortable. There’s no rush, honey. We have all the time in the world.”

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 15 - Teaser

Chapter Fifteen

She felt pain. It was a hot, rushing agony running through her but it wasn’t physical. Physical pain she could cope with, understand it would heal eventually but this mental anguish was something she didn’t know how to combat. She knew she had to open her eyes, to face it, but she didn’t want to.

“You’re awake.”

The feminine voice startled her so much she did open her eyes, staring in surprise into the cold green depths of the stunning woman who was lying on some fancy sofa beside the bed. Rayne knew who she was instantly, having seen Freya Eriksson at a distance. What the vampire was doing in her room she had no idea, then she realised she wasn’t in her room but was in Dayton’s.

She couldn’t remember much that had happened after her memories had come back. Gard’s betrayal had been all that had registered before her mind had gone blank. She reached out with her senses and knew she was alone with the vampire. Not a good thing judging from what her friend had said the night before.

“Dayton had to talk to the Alpha,” Freya said when she didn’t speak. “He asked me to watch over you. You are safe, cat. I take my responsibilities seriously.”

Rayne swallowed; her mouth so dry it almost hurt. The vampire moved then, rising with a fluid grace that was mesmerising to watch. She really was stunning even with her clothes rumpled and her hair slightly tangled. She used an economy of movements as she vanished from her line of sight and returned with a small tray with some toast and condiments and a glass of fruit juice.

“When Dayton was injured he recovered quickly with food,” the vampire remarked, a smile tugging at her lips as if she was reliving a memory that pleased her. “The wolf that came to make breakfast was not pleased to find me in her kitchen.”

Rayne blinked slowly, staring at the other woman in confusion as she placed the tray on the bed beside her and then retreated back to her own ‘bed’. “You made me breakfast? Why?”

“You’re in his bed. You need to recover quickly so you can leave it before it becomes intolerable to me.”

The words were cold and brutally honest. The vampire didn’t want her sharing Dayton’s bed and wasn’t afraid to come right out and say so. Instead of making her afraid of Freya, the vampire’s honesty actually impressed her. Dayton was right. Freya was close to accepting the mating bond. Her possessiveness was that of a vampire but it was also that of a mate.

“I know he’s told you there is nothing between us other than friendship, Freya,” she answered after taking a sip of the juice to wet her throat and ease the dry ache. “You can trust what he says.”

There was a long pause and then the other woman nodded slowly. “I know he speaks honestly. That is why you’re still alive.”

Another blunt truth; which caused a deep well of pain to rise up inside Rayne. Being alive didn’t feel so great at the moment, not with the agony fighting to claim her soul and destroy her completely. Tears filled her eyes and she looked away.

Her reaction had Freya hissing in annoyance. “When I am given a task I perform it, cat. You remain safe because he asks me to watch over you. I do not go back on my word.”

“Maybe I wish you would,” she whispered back not looking at her. She knew she didn’t mean the words but they tumbled out anyway and was greeted with silence. She sipped at the juice again and then forced a bite of toast down her throat.

Freya watched her eat, fighting down the need to remove her bodily from Dayton’s bed. She knew her reaction was irrational. All she had to do was think ‘one kiss’ and she remembered just how Dayton had proven to her that she was all he was interested in. But it was so hard to let go of the old ways, particularly when she saw Rayne as a threat.

She had to remember that this woman was someone he cared about, that hurting her would be hurting him. She tried to focus on something else. “You are over three millennia old?” She remembered Caleb’s tale so long ago about the first hybrid child who was supposed to have died. If Rayne really was that child then she was older than she was.


The response was dull and lifeless and caused her to frown. Rayne’s wound was not physical. Freya knew how very much mental wounds could fester. She also knew what loneliness felt like. She heard it in that one word and felt a strange kinship click into place.

“It is difficult to walk alone,” she finally said, her tone a little softer and drawing the other woman’s gaze once more. “I have always been alone despite having Nors trying to keep me alive. Until Dayton.”

That brought a slight smile to Rayne’s face and a bit of warmth. “He has that effect on people,” she conceded. “I too was alone until I found him.”

Silence fell again and then Freya sat up watching her intently. “May I scent you?” she asked curiously. “I’ve never met a being as old as you before. I’m intrigued.”

Rayne nodded after a brief pause and Freya moved forward, inhaling softly against the side of her neck. The wildcat was tense but allowed her to indulge her curiosity. She was impressed. Baring one’s throat to another was a mark of extreme trust.

“I know he belongs to you, Freya.” The words were a whisper so soft they were almost undetectable.

She relaxed slowly and pulled back enough to look down at Rayne. She smiled and there was a hint of warmth in it. “He belongs to you too,” she conceded. “He loves you. For that reason alone I will protect you. I will not have his heart broken again for any reason.”

“Have you told him you’re in love with him?”

The question made her freeze in shock, confusion crossing her face for a moment before she suddenly softened a bit more and sank down onto the bed beside her. “Does he require me to? I don’t know how to react with your rituals. In my world everything is so clear cut. You see what you want and if both parties are agreeable you take it. Weres are more complicated. Your social structure is confusing.”

Rayne held her breath, staring in awe at a vampire with eyes so old they shone with the knowledge of millennia. Freya Eriksson may be Ancient but she was completely out of her depth when it came to something as simple as falling in love.

She pushed away her own misery and reached out to the other woman. She couldn’t help herself from doing so, she’d been reacting to other people’s hurt her entire life. “It’s not so complicated, Freya. You just need to let him in completely. Take a leap of faith. If you find it difficult to believe in yourself then believe in him. He will catch you if you fall.”

The vampire regarded her intently for a long moment and then the tension slowly drained from her body. “Eat your toast,” she ordered. “I still want you out of his bed as soon as possible. But I will not drag you out bodily.” She rose and returned to her sofa.

Freya mulled over Rayne’s words, silently conceding that she could see why Dayton found the cat so intriguing. Up close to her she could scent the pain the other woman was trying to force down. She could understand the misery she lived in at the moment because she had been there herself. Despite that, Rayne still tried to reassure a vampire who could just as easily rip her throat out if she wanted to.

The wildcat was strong. She would adjust to whatever was hurting her. She had Dayton at her side and she now had an Ancient vampire watching over her too. Freya’s lips twitched in a derisive smile. She was growing soft. She would never admit to the other woman that her thoughts had changed, but she admitted to herself that she would now protect Rayne, not just because Dayton had asked her to, but because she wanted to.


Dayton flew up the stairs hurrying back to his room. He’d left Freya alone with Rayne while he sought out answers from his Alpha. Rafe had been reluctant to talk but he’d held his ground until he’d gotten the truth. He’d had to appeal to his Alpha to get the information, arguing that it was in Rayne’s best interest if he had all the facts. That had finally swayed Rafe and he’d told him the whole story.

It was a heartbreaking tale all around, not just for Rayne. He could understand Gard’s reaction the night before even if he still wanted to rip the other man apart with his bare hands for hurting his friend. He was intelligent enough to know that it had been an impossible situation, two core loyalties battling against each other. He didn’t know if Rayne would be able to understand it though.

His concern for Rayne was twofold. He didn’t know if she could heal from the discovery her mate had abandoned her as a child. And he wasn’t wholly confident of leaving her alone with Freya. He felt guilty for doubting his mate but she was still so new to her emotions. He wasn’t sure just how far she’d come.

He entered the room and his eyes went first to Freya who was watching the door expectantly. She would have heard him approaching so he wasn’t really surprised. The slight smile tugging her lips warmed his heart and he relaxed instantly. His gaze turned to the bed and he saw Rayne was awake and eating breakfast. She looked shattered but she was functioning. It was a start.

He strode across the room, bending down to rub his lips gently against Freya’s. He kissed her at every possible opportunity. He knew it grounded her, soothed her, and he loved the taste of her mouth. He was honest enough not to pretend he was being altruistic.

“This nursemaid act is becoming a habit,” he teased lightly against her lips. “You’re going to ruin your reputation.”

“Not if I toss you out the window I won’t,” she remarked drolly, but pleasure danced across her face at the approval in his tone.

“Now you know Rafe asked you to play nice, Freya,” he laughed softly, kissing her again just because he wanted to, smiling as her lips curled against his.

“This is me playing nice,” she retorted. “If I was being mean you’d already be laying out there rueing the day you ever met me.”

He bit her bottom lip hard, his tongue laving the nip he’d given her. “You are going to be so much trouble,” he chuckled breaking away from her. His eyes shone with excitement as he ran a thumb over her bottom lip and then turned to Rayne who was watching them intently.

His gaze turned pensive as he took in her wounded expression. “How are you feeling?”

The silver in her eyes pulsed dully as she met his gaze. “I’ve been a whole lot better,” she admitted.

He sat down on the bed, moving the tray when it became apparent she wasn’t going to eat any more.

Freya took it from him. “I will leave you to talk.” She didn’t wait for anyone to object, simply strode from the room leaving them alone. It was hard to do, especially when she had seen the softness on Dayton’s face when he looked at the cat. But she knew Rayne would talk better without her being present and she wanted to prove to Dayton that she could be rational about things, that she could accept his friendship with the other woman even if it did make her gut clench painfully.

Dayton relaxed as the door closed behind her turning his full attention to the woman in his bed. Although he wanted Freya close to him, he knew Rayne needed his undivided attention. The pull of two opposing needs helped him understand Gard’s dilemma a bit more and his anger ratcheted down another notch.

To be continued...

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 14 - Teaser

Chapter Fourteen

“For the love of all that’s holy would you two stop growling at each other?” Caleb’s words rang through the sitting room, startling Rhianna and earning an irritated snort from Gard.

His mate turned wintry eyes on him, her lips tightening in a firm line. It was enough to drag a weary sigh from him. The atmosphere in the house had been unbearable. Rhianna was still angry at her brother for forcing her hand to reveal herself. Gard was pissed about something he wasn’t willing to talk about and failing to back down in the face of his sister’s displeasure.

“Annie, what’s done is done. Rafe is adapting well to everything he’s learned as is Lacey, Jared and Millie. It’s unfortunate they had to find out the way they did but growling at Gard every five minutes isn’t going to turn the clock back.”

His tone was firm, his usual patience almost at an end. He could feel her conflicted emotions through their bond, had heard her pacing back and forth at night when she thought he was sleeping. It was driving him crazy because he couldn’t help her work through her issues. He hated feeling so helpless.

“You think I’m mad because of that?” Rhianna gaped in surprise, her tone incredulous. “I’m mad because he is hurting and refusing to talk about what’s bothering him.” She pointed a finger at her brother though her gaze never left her mate’s. “Stupid idiotic males! Think you’re all so tough and can deal with everything on your own!”

Her eyes suddenly turned to her brother. “Well you can’t and as soon as you start realising that, I’ll start calming down. Talk, Gard.”

“I have nothing I wish to discuss.” It was the same curt statement he’d delivered time and time again to his sister. Lavender eyes clashed and then Rhianna let out a frustrated shriek and left the room in a wave of fury.

Caleb let out a long weary sigh and regarded his brother-in-law with a hard look. “This has got to end. I don’t give a fuck whether you want to talk or not. You are going to tell her something, anything, and make her believe what you’re saying is what’s really bothering you.”

“Or what?” Gard growled dangerously. He coiled his big body tensely, on his feet in an instant as his eyes began to glow with his own anger.

“Or I’m going to trash this room using you to do so,” Caleb answered, his voice chilling. “And then she’s going to be pissed at me so I’m going to have to trash something else with your help once again. I will continue on doing so until my mate is happy once more. I hope I’m making myself perfectly clear.”

He saw the dangerous flash in Gard’s eyes but he didn’t care. He’d always thought his Annie in tears was the worst thing he could be forced to endure. That was before she’d vanished completely and was replaced by the bundle of fury she currently was. This wasn’t his Annie and he wanted his mate back. If kicking the living daylights out of Gard was the only way he was going to achieve it then he would.

He waited for Gard to attack, was certain he was going to do so and was prepared to carry out his threat. When the other man backed down he blinked in surprise.

“Crystal,” Gard barked out before he too swept out of the room leaving him alone.

Caleb knew something important had just occurred. His complicated relationship with Gard had hovered between them for years. His brother-in-law acquiescing to him had finally formalised their boundaries.

Gard was acknowledging Caleb’s right as his former king and mate to Annie. There would be no more confusion on the matter.

He wanted to go search for his mate but he knew he needed to give brother and sister some time together. Instead he grabbed his car keys and left the house. Maybe if he wasn’t around they would be able to scream at each other or whatever it was they needed to do to resolve their problem. His protective instincts always kicked in and he couldn’t stay out of it when they started on each other. He was effectively doing more harm than good.

With a glance back at the house he climbed into his car and headed over to Demetri’s. He hadn’t been at work for days and figured he could use the time to catch up with anything that may need his attention.


Rhianna hated feeling the way she was. It was frustrating and unnecessary and she knew it was driving Caleb insane. She was amazed it had taken him so long to blow. He must have been gritting his teeth for days trying not to react to her temper. She would need to make it up to him but first she would need to try and find a way to get rid of the negative emotions she was feeling.

Gard’s pain was killing her. She could feel it every moment of every day and it was like a knife in her gut. He was hurting so badly though to look at him it was hard to tell. But she could feel it deep inside and he wouldn’t talk to her about it.

She had thought Rafe’s pain was unbearable to endure. Her brother had amazed her with his acceptance once he’d gotten over his shock. She had thought everything was going to be fine now that hurdle was over but she hadn’t counted on Gard becoming an issue.

He was clearly resentful of Rafe and that concerned her. Her fear was escalating daily because she didn’t know if his withdrawal was in direct relation to her Were brother. If the two of them went head to head, if they put her in a position of having to choose between them, she didn’t know if she could survive that. She loved them both so much.


“Annie! My name is bloody Annie! How many times do I need to tell you that, Gard? When will you start listening to me?”

A loud snort greeted her angry words and she pushed away from the kitchen counter and walked across the room to sit at the dining table taking a deep breath to try and regain some control.

“Annie’s full of love and laughter, a happy little thing who doesn’t fail to draw everyone under her spell. Don’t see much sign of her at the moment so I figure Anakatrine is most definitely in residence.” Gard’s tone was mocking as he sat down across from her, forcing her to look at him.

She was silent for a very long time and then her shoulders slumped and she let out a deep sigh. “You’re driving me insane,” she whispered wearily. “Did you forget the bond, Gard? I feel everything you’re feeling. It’s killing me.”

Shock rocked through him and his own hard expression suddenly melted away to be replaced with one of horror. “I’ve been blocking,” he said hoarsely. He’d known the bond had reformed. That was how he’d tracked her down all those years ago. In the past they had always been able to block each other when required. He’d been doing so religiously for days.

“Well, it’s not working for some reason,” she answered, tartness still in her tone.

“I don’t feel you or Caleb when you block. You shouldn’t be able to feel me, Annie. Not unless you’re much stronger this time around.” He was aghast at the prospect. She had always been powerful but if she was even more so, then there was no telling just what she could do now.

“I don’t want to be stronger. I just want to be your sister and to help you with whatever is hurting you so much. Please, Gard.” Her eyes filled with moisture and he let out a groan and reached for her hand, enclosing it tightly in his.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you could feel me. No wonder Caleb’s just threatened to demolish the house using me as the wrecking ball.”

That brought a startled gasp from his sister and he squeezed her hand gently and gave her a smile. “It’s okay. I know when to back down.”

“Poor Caleb. He doesn’t deserve me.”

Gard agreed with her but not in the way she’d meant it. As far as he was concerned no one was good enough for his sister, not Callain or Caleb, but he was the best that walked the planet and he was her choice. He would concede to Caleb because that was what would make her happy.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Her name is Rayne,” he said quietly looking down at their joined hands. “You haven’t met her yet but I know you’ll like her. She’s feisty, independent, incredibly beautiful and as sexy as sin. When I’m with her, she is all that exists in my world. You told me to find love and I did. But she ran from me, discovered a way to hide so I can’t track her. Being apart from her is tearing me up inside.”

“The wildcat?” Rhianna gasped softly. She’d heard all about her, knew that there was some suspicion that she could be a hybrid child. She had kept her own counsel on that point, waiting to meet Rayne before she spoke her thoughts on it. Hearing that Gard had found his mate in her both filled her with elation and also dread.

If Rayne was who she suspected she was, then Gard’s pain would only increase rather than lessen when it was revealed. “Are you sure?”

Her brother met her gaze. “Completely. She’s mine, Annie. It doesn’t matter if she tries to deny it. We belong together. She’s aware of it too. When we made love she claimed me with a word. A Were can’t take back that word.”

She swallowed, dread washing over her at the total conviction in his voice. “Gard...I don’t know how to say this.” Rhianna couldn’t continue, swallowing again as she tried to make herself speak.

Her tension transmitted to him and unease flitted across his face. “Say it,” he demanded his fingers tightening around hers.

“You know who she is, don’t you? If she’s as old as she claims to be there can be no other explanation.” She watched the haunted expression in his eyes, saw denial clashing with the truth. “You can’t deny it, Gard. You must have known the moment her uniqueness became evident.”

Gard shook his head, releasing her hand and looking away as he fought her words. He couldn’t admit it to himself, couldn’t allow the truth to surface because if it did, if he let himself believe then he didn’t think he could live with the knowledge.

“You can’t hide from this, brother,” Rhianna whispered sadly.

“I know,” he groaned hoarsely, his expression so haunted it ripped at her heart. “I think I’ve always known but it was only after Rafe found out about me, when he was telling you about the children that everything finally clicked into place. If Rayne truly is a hybrid child then there is really only one child she could be.”

“Oh, Gard!” Rhianna moved around the table, wrapping her arms around him, understanding the extreme pain she’d been feeling for days now.

He had left Rayne in the forest to try and save his sister. He had abandoned an infant, believed he had been responsible for her death all these centuries. To find out the child had lived and he hadn’t protected her would be bad enough. To discover that child was his destined mate and he had betrayed her would be an agony beyond imagining for a man whose very core was to be a guardian.

“I left her,” Gard choked out staring down at the table. “All those centuries she’s been alone not knowing who or what she was. Three thousand years, Annie. She’s walked alone her entire life because I left her.” That knowledge would torture his soul for eternity.

She held him tightly, tears rolling down her face as he let go and clung to her. She was the only person he would allow himself to be vulnerable around. That was until he found Rayne. But his mate wasn’t there right now so he wept silently in his sister’s arms, releasing the overwhelming guilt he felt for his past actions.

“She will forgive you,” Rhianna whispered gently, tightening her hold on him. “She’s your mate. She has to forgive you because if she doesn’t it will rip her apart inside. We’ll find her somehow. We’ll make her understand.”

Gard wished he had her faith. He wanted to believe his sister but he couldn’t. How could Rayne ever forgive him when he couldn’t even begin to forgive himself?

Friday, 1 April 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 13 - Teaser

Okay...I officially DETEST Blogger and think it sucks eggs!!!!

But I equally LOVE you guys so I have just hammered frantically at my keyboard to format this bleeding teaser so you could read it. My hubby commented on the loud pounding going on at my keyboard and promptly received a long cursing rant about how people shouldn't "FIX" things when they ain't broke in the first place! LMAO!!!

Need to warn you...this is half of chapter 13 so if you do spoil yourself then there is less to read when it posts to Lit later on :-)



Chapter Thirteen

Dayton wandered through the retreat his strength almost fully restored. Freya was gone when he woke up and for a moment he had panicked, thinking she had left for good but then he’d spied her cell phone on the table, her papers still scattered over it. The feeling of relief that had swept over him had been so intense he’d almost sunk to his knees.

His emotions frightened him with their intensity. He’s gone from hating Freya to knowing she was becoming vitally important to him, a part of his soul just as surely as Faith had been. If anything happened to her, if she left him as Faith had, he didn’t think he would be able to stand that agony again. And it frightened him.

His wolf growled in irritation and he shook himself slightly, wandering towards the door to Freya’s room. Taking a deep breath he opened it and stepped fully into her personal, private showing of his artwork. She had opened up to him but he felt he still needed to learn about her, to understand what drove her. He could only capture her heart if he knew how to reach it. He knew instinctively it was something very hard to do. His mate had hidden inside herself for so long; it wouldn’t be an easy task to tempt her back out again.

He examined the art on the wall with an objective eye. He could remember painting every piece, the darkness inside him each time, driving him incessantly until he was exhausted and had nothing left to put into them. He’d used to paint the forest, draw charcoal portraits of his family and the Bryants. He’d stopped painting properly when all the joy had gone out of his life. It had all become about abstracts, fury and violent brush strokes, something that appealed to Freya.

He was sitting on the bed, staring at the paintings when Freya returned, walking silently down the hallway towards him. He’d left the door open so she would know he was in her room. He had no intention of sneaking around behind her back. He turned to watch her as she reached the doorway.

Her eyes were shuttered, her emotions hiding behind the serene mask she donned so easily. His breath caught as he looked at her exquisite face. She took his breath away with each glance in her direction. He knew he was totally lost to her. He didn’t fight it, didn’t want to. So many years of being alone was coming to an end. While he feared it on some levels, he welcomed it on others. He wanted to live again, to be free to laugh once more.

“You were in Japan,” he smiled softly, turning back to the paintings in front of him. “It was my best showing. I was surprised I sold so many paintings that week. I can see why now.”

She stepped into the room and moved silently to sit beside him. “I didn’t see you there. I had no idea I was buying wolf art.” The latter was said in a derisive tone.

“Would it have stopped you buying them if you’d known?” He was curious to know how deep her prejudice ran for his kind. He knew she was prejudiced; she’d done little to hide that fact from him when they’d first met.

She was silent for a long moment and then she turned to look at him. “No,” she whispered, her mask slipping ever so slightly. “Each one called to me. I looked at them and I thought the artist was painting my soul. It was as if you’d reached inside me and pulled away all my barriers.” Her voice faltered and she turned away again.

“My favourite one was Blood. That one represented me as none of the others did.”

Dayton watched a tear trail down her cheek and he couldn’t stop himself from reaching up and catching the teardrop on his finger. “Was your favourite?” He remembered painting it as if it were only yesterday. He had done so on the first anniversary of Faith’s death. It had taken him decades to finally bring himself to show it. A part of him had been relieved when it had sold.

“I destroyed it.” Another tear fell as she whispered her admission. “It hung above my fireplace at home for years. After that night in the gallery...I knew I’d crossed the line. Nors came to the house. He was furious with me. He had every right to be, just as you did. I destroyed the house. And then I destroyed me.”

His heart broke at the raw pain in her voice. He didn’t care about the painting, she could destroy every single painting in this room and he wouldn’t care. His arms went around her and he pulled her close to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. “It doesn’t matter. None of it matters any more, Freya. No one can change the past, we can only move on and create something better. I’m finally ready to do that. Are you?”

Freya leaned against Dayton, savouring the warmth of his arms around her, the gentleness in his voice. It felt like he was asking her something important, that it truly mattered to him that she was willing to take a chance at life. She had caused him so much pain, destroyed his work and he didn’t condemn her for it. It was wrong to let him ease her guilt but she couldn’t pull away from him.

“I’m scared,” she whispered, her voice breaking. “What if I fail, Dayton? I tried so hard for Nors and Ashleigh and I still failed them. What if I’m just incapable of being the kind of person you’re asking me to be?”

“What if you can be?” he countered; his voice hoarse as her pain almost drove him to his knees. “What if you can be better than you’ve ever dared to hope? You’re a fighter, Freya. You have to be or you’d never have survived as long as you have. You don’t have to try alone. I’ll be with you every step of the way if you let me.”

She stilled in his arms, a sharp intake of breath catching her off guard, almost making her choke with its suddenness. She raised her head to look at him, confusion on her face. “Why would you want to?”

His answer was to kiss her. He couldn’t stand seeing her pain, hearing it in her voice. He needed to make it go away so he parted her lips gently with his and tasted of her sweetness. His heart soared as she surrendered immediately, accepting his mouth against hers as if he had a right to touch her like this. He knew he did but he didn’t think she knew it yet.

Dayton finally pulled back, staring into her eyes. His hand touched the side of her neck lightly, gently brushing over the unblemished skin that had bled the day before. His gaze never wavered from hers. “Maybe it’s my way of asking your forgiveness?”

She knew what he was referring to and she was surprised at the regret she read in his eyes. He held himself accountable for that? “No forgiveness is required,” she answered quietly. “You did not hurt me and it healed instantly.”

“I wanted to kill you, Freya.” It was a tortured admission, full of self-loathing.

She shouldn’t laugh but she did; a soft tinkling sound that filled the depressing room with light. “Well, you make a terrible assassin then, Dayton. A good one doesn’t change his throw at the last moment; he goes right for the target. And he doesn’t forget that Ancients are not ordinary vampires. Even if you had gone for my throat that little knife wouldn’t have slowed me down any. I was perfectly capable of protecting myself the entire time had I so wished to.”

He was astounded that she laughed off his attempt to kill her. A very male part of him was even a little put out that she laughed at his attempt. Not that he wanted her harmed in any way but a wolf’s pride could still be dented at knowing his future mate was so much stronger than he was. Dayton wasn’t used to many people being stronger than him.

“Why do you keep kissing me?” she suddenly asked curiously, completely throwing him with the sudden change of topic.

He barked out a short laugh. “Your mouth tastes good,” he answered honestly. “And it’s been a very long time since I’ve tasted a woman’s lips. I’d forgotten how addictive they could be.” He wanted to tell her how much he loved kissing his mate, how it consumed him entirely but he didn’t think she was ready for that yet.

“How long?” It was a demand plain and simple, intent eyes searching his face for the answer. It made him want to laugh again at the sheer possessive in her tone. She probably had no idea just what she was giving away in those two terse words.

“No one since Faith,” he admitted, watching her just as carefully as she was watching him. He caught the flicker of surprise that crossed her face, waited for her to mask her emotions as she usually did. He was surprised when her expression stayed open.

“The cat?” This time her words held a trace of jealousy in them. His wolf preened even as the man groaned loudly and stood up.

“Fuck!” he cursed, remembering his last words with his friend. “I need to call Rayne. She’ll be wondering where I am, worrying about me.”

Freya froze inside at the tone of his voice. It was obvious he cared greatly about this other woman, the one he allowed to touch him when no one else was granted that privilege. She felt anger rear up inside her, followed closely by jealousy.

Dayton Alexander confused the hell out of her. One moment he hated her, the next he acted as if he cared in some way. He had broken through her barriers, reached inside and pulled her kicking and screaming back to life. He’d let her feed from him, held her and kissed her until she forgot everything but the feel of his mouth against hers. For a second she had believed that maybe he was her salvation, that when his healing was complete he would be able to heal her too.

One mention of the cat and she was forgotten completely. She hated the other woman with a vengeance. The urge to seek her out and rip her to pieces roared wildly inside her. It was instinctive, what the old Freya would do with anyone who threatened her in any way. Hurting the cat would hurt him though and he’d been through so much pain already.

“Freya? I asked if I could borrow your cell.” Dayton’s words broke her out of the cycle of misery and violence she was experiencing.

She rose gracefully, her expression closing off as she stepped around him. She caught a frown on his face but ignored it, heading back into the main room, silently castigating herself. She had been foolish to read something that wasn’t there into his behaviour. If his choice was the other woman then she would find a way to accept it.

The pain of thinking of him with anyone else was excruciating. It was worse than anything she could remember feeling before. It reinforced her thoughts about what love really was. She knew the emotion could be wonderful when two souls met that were meant to be together. She also knew that it was just a pipedream for herself. She wasn’t meant to have that kind of love in her life.

She was aware of Dayton following her silently, could feel he was tense and alert. Did he believe she was going to self-destruct again? She wasn’t sure if she would or not herself. The wolf had asked her to fight. She had given him her word. She just prayed she had the strength not to let him down. Because despite everything, despite him preferring the cat over herself, she knew he cared enough about her that it would pain him if she didn’t try. And she never wanted to cause him another moment’s pain if she could avoid it.

Freya waved at her cell, silently giving him permission as she headed into the kitchen to give him some privacy. They both knew it was being polite more than real privacy; she would be able to hear everything he said. He didn’t appear to mind though but she still created as much noise as she could while she made them both a coffee, as she listened intently to his every word.

Dayton picked up the phone and watched Freya retreat from him like a frightened cat. He knew he was going to have to try and get her to unbend where Rayne was concerned. His friend was important in his life and he wanted Freya to like her. At the moment he could sense that she viewed her as a threat. He had to ensure that the two women didn’t come to blows.

He dialled Rayne’s number and waited for her to pick up as he mentally considered his options. He needed a plan of action with his future mate and he wasn’t sure how to go about it. He was distracted when he heard Rayne’s tentative greeting.

“Rayne, it’s me. I misplaced my cell. I’m using a friend’s.” He knew she would be confused at the strange number on her display

“Dayton.” It was a sigh of relief more than a spoken word. “Where are you? Are you okay?”

His lips twitched in a smile and he felt relief wash over him. He’d been angry with her when they’d last spoken. He wasn’t sure if she would be glad to hear from him again. But she was the same old Rayne, his best friend who selflessly thought of others before herself. “I had a bit of an accident but I’m mending now. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get in touch.”

He heard a sharp intake of breath and then it was slowly released. She didn’t ask unnecessary questions, taking his word that he was okay. “You sound different, Day.”

It was his turn to take a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I’ve let her go,” he answered quietly.

He thought he heard a muffled sob on the other end of the phone but he must have misheard because Rayne didn’t cry, ever. “Oh, Day, I’m so pleased to hear that. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad I was still here when it finally happened. Welcome home, honey.”

Dayton sat up straight, every nerve in his body suddenly wired. Something was wrong in her voice. The words seemed fine but there was a hint of finality about her last statement that seeped into his brain and had him on alert status in the blink of an eye.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded, his heart kicking up a beat as worry started to flood him. “I’ve only been gone a few days. What kind of trouble could you get yourself into in that short a period?” It was a stupid question. It was Rayne he was talking to. She was unpredictable at the best of times.

“It’s time for me to move on,” she answered after a brief pause. “I don’t know when I’ll be back this way or even if I will be. I’m just glad I got to witness you moving on with your life, Day. I can’t tell you how much joy that brings me, knowing you will be fine without me hovering over you every five minutes.”

He uttered a choked cry, unable to help himself. She couldn’t be leaving for good. Not Rayne. She had always been there for him even if he hadn’t wanted her to be. Something really bad must have happened.

“You can’t!” He blurted the words out even as he knew there was nothing he could do to stop her. She came and went as she pleased, always had and always would.

He swallowed hard and tried to dampen down the pain he was feeling. “Rayne, listen to me. Please don’t leave until we’ve had the chance to have a proper talk. I don’t know what’s happened but I’m sure whatever it is we can work through it together. Let me help.”

"You can’t fix this, Day.” Rayne’s voice was so sad it almost brought a tear to his eye. “I appreciate you want to but it can’t be done.”

Anger replaced his pain, a fierce rush of fury so hot he thought he’d explode with it. “Coward!” He literally hissed the word at her. “Fifty fucking years you refused to let me drown and at the first hint of trouble you’re running away? What about the Alpha bond, Rayne? How far do you think you can run from that? You’re pack now. We need you. The children need you. Are you going to leave them to their fate? You know none of us can help them the way you can. I thought that was what you did, help people who need it?”

The connection went dead and he cursed loudly, struggling not to damage the phone. With exaggerated carefulness, he placed it on the table in front of him, his thoughts whirling madly. Rayne couldn’t run away. It was just wrong. She didn’t take the coward’s way out, she was stronger than that. He had no idea if his words had gotten through to her or not. No idea if he would ever see her again. That thought hurt him more than he thought possible.

“Do you love her?” Freya’s calm words broke through his whirling thoughts and he turned his head to see her standing looking down at him. He could hear a trace of fear in her voice even though her expression was blank. His wolf growled loudly and he ran a weary hand through his hair.

“Sit down, Freya.” There was a hint of command in his tone. He hadn’t meant it to be there but he was feeling so frazzled at the moment he couldn’t help it. He was surprised when she did as he asked, taking the chair next to him.

“Yes, I love her,” he admitted out loud for the first time ever. “But I’m not in love with her,” he clarified at the sudden intake of breath that told him this mattered greatly to his vampire. “Rayne is…hard to explain. I suppose she’s my best friend. I’ve known her for what feels like forever. She’s kept me sane when all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and never come out again. She’s important to me, Freya, but as a friend not as a woman. I’ve never kissed her or ever wanted to. I don’t think of her that way. You’re the only woman I’ve kissed since I lost Faith.”

Freya swallowed hard, her tumultuous emotions having her so off balance she didn’t know how to react to them. Hearing the anguish in Dayton’s voice as he spoke to the cat had ripped her apart inside. It was obvious he cared for her greatly. She’d had to ask the question because she needed to know the answer.

Now he was telling her that the cat was just a friend, someone he was close to and didn’t want to lose. He was a very caring man when he let himself feel. She also felt he was an honest man too. He’d certainly never hid any of his erratic emotions from her. She was the only woman he had kissed? Was he trying to tell her something she wasn’t fully hearing? Or was it just wishful thinking on her part?

“You need to go back,” she finally said. It was obvious he was concerned for this Rayne, that his need to protect his friend was very strong. She couldn’t stand in the way of that need. It was who he was as a person, the old Dayton coming to the fore as he shed the last of his grief.

“Come with me.” He didn’t deny that he needed to leave because he did. He had to find Rayne and help her through whatever was troubling her. But he couldn’t leave Freya either. He didn’t want to be without her and she wasn’t ready to be alone yet. She needed him whether she knew it or not.

Her long thick lashes covered her eyes for a brief moment, hiding whatever was lurking inside them before fluttering back up to meet his gaze. She nodded once, rising from her chair. “It will be quicker if we run. I can carry your clothes for you if you want.”

He rose too and reached for her, brushing her lips gently with his in a soothing kiss. He knew this was hard for her and he was proud of her strength. He was surprised she had agreed so easily but overjoyed that she had. He’d set himself a monumental task, trying to save the two women who meant the world to him. He only hoped he was up to the task after being so closed off for so long.

His hands went to his shirt and he started unbuttoning it as she turned away and quickly gathered her papers into a canvas pack she produced from the kitchen. The way she deliberately avoided looking at him as he stripped naked made his lips curl in a small smile.

“Promise you won’t try to ravish me,” he teased lightly, causing her to look at him with a startled expression on her face before the most adorable blush fanned across her cheeks as she took in his nudity.

“I think I can contain myself,” she remarked dryly, averting her gaze to take his clothes and put them in her pack.

“Bummer,” he muttered under his breath knowing full well she could hear him. Her reaction to his light teasing was delightful. It completely threw her and he realised this was the direction he needed to take with her. Freya didn’t know how to play. He was going to teach her just how much fun it was. Once he’d found Rayne and worked out just what the hell was going on.

He shifted to wolf form and waited for his mate to lock up the retreat. Then they took off into the trees, vampire and wolf flying through the forest at breakneck speed.

“I’ll point out the traps for you,” Freya remarked in a droll voice, just the smallest hint of teasing creeping into her tone. The wolf growled loudly in response, his distain clear to hear.

A wide smile crossed her lips as she ran beside him. This felt right, the feeling of peace within her almost perfect in its sweetness. She wanted to run with this wolf for eternity. She wanted the peace that only he could give her. As she ran she dared to dream that maybe one day she could have what she craved so badly.