Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Working Title - Hearts of Warriors

This story has no confirmed title as yet so I've given it a working title other than Lily's story LOL

NB: This following on from A Long Walk Home and is the prologue starting off the first chapter of the new story! If you don't want to be spoiled then finish ALWH first!

Oh and there is a certain amount of recapping in this opener for those who may come into this story at the start as was quite predominant in ALWH where people read that and then realised they had to go back and read all the others.



Chapter One


Romania – Twenty-five years ago
 The two dark haired males travelled fast, the scent of blood strong in the air as they ascended higher into the heavily wooded mountain range. It was well past dawn but the air was cold despite the sunshine piercing the wide canopy of the trees.

Not that either of the males felt the cold. They were vampires; one so Ancient he’d existed over two thousand years, the other an Elder who was barely a handful of years from reaching his thirteenth century. They’d known each other a long time and were comfortable travelling together in silence as they strove to reach their target.

Their passage was silent despite their incredible speed, their eyes completely black, long wicked looking black talons at the ready. Modern day humans had such a mythical view of what real vampires were. They would have been horrified to see them running in sunshine without burning to ash.

It was what the species had propagated over the years, lies and deception to hide their very existence. Humans had to believe vampires didn’t exist and if they did then humans had to feel safe, had to think vampires had Achilles heels like sunshine and holy water, garlic and crosses.

The truth was it was all ridiculous nonsense. Taking a vampire’s head could kill him, complete incineration could kill him but that was about the sum extent of what could endanger a vampire’s life. They could walk in the sun, their hearts beat just like anyone else’s, and they could even drink any beverage they wanted to if they enjoyed the flavour.

The one myth which was true was they required human blood to survive. Most existed by utilising the many private blood banks run by their kind. They did indulge on humans but it was for recreational purposes when they were involved in their second favourite pastime, having sex. Their human partners were never aware of the vampire taking a small sip of the precious life giving blood in the throes of passion.

They had managed to maintain their secret existence for millennia this way.

With long life came apathy though. The vampire species had become cold, devoid of emotions and incredibly arrogant. Their superiority had set them up as being the only species they cared about and that had led to unbalance and intolerance.

The two males were on their way to seek another of their kind. He was urgently required for a task that was so important it could stop a civil war and possibly the destruction of the vampire nation. If he didn’t agree to help, if harm came to those who were about to be placed under his protection, then the Ancient vampire with midnight black hair was positive the wrath of a reincarnated vampire queen would spill over.

And heaven help all who stood in her and her allies’ way when it did.

Demetri Bozic slowed when the scent of blood became overpowering signalling Pietro de la Rios to slow his run as they approached the area. The other male instantly obeyed, his dark brown hair swaying in the wind as the sound of fighting reached their ears.

They came across the first body of a slain vampire almost immediately. The head of the Youngling was detached and a few feet from the mangled corpse. There was still an expression of horror on the face of the male, as if he couldn’t quite believe what had been coming his way.

It shouldn’t have made Pietro smile but his lips quirked. If you were stupid enough to piss off an Elder then you paid the price. It was that simple for him. The law of the jungle was how he lived his life when he wasn’t tending bar for Andrei Romanov.

But even in supposed civilisation the rules were still the same. In a place like The Dive, a seedy club frequented by vampires, the law of the jungle still ruled only he was the king in that environment, taking care of the club while Andrei took care of his Council business.

The next body they came across was another Youngling just as dead and just as surprised that his happy existence had been cut short.

“I’m seriously starting to like this guy,” Pietro said with a laugh, his black eyes flashing with a hint of viciousness as the scent of blood became even stronger. He didn’t bother keeping his voice low. The other vampires in the area would have heard his quietest whisper.

Demetri allowed himself a smile as he turned to his friend. “Yes, Mac is pretty impressive when he gets pissed off about something,” he conceded.

His own feral nature was asking to be set free at the blood and death around him. It was always a tightrope he walked when the hunt was on. But Demetri was Ancient and he’d learned to master the need to kill, only doing so when it was required. He was sure what was going down at the moment, Mac had it all in hand and his help would not be required.

They moved forward past the dead and entered the wide clearing where two vampires danced around each. It wasn’t a natural clearing. It had been created as huge trees had been ruthlessly felled in the heat of battle. The once proud monoliths now littered the area at odd angles.

Demetri clacked his talons together as he watched another dark haired vampire spin high in the air, his left leg coming out to catch a blond male Youngling across the face sending him crashing into another tree which groaned and shook with the impact.

Mackenzie moved with a lethal grace which was almost hypnotic to watch. His hair as black as Demetri’s, his eyes even blacker, he flowed effortlessly towards the stunned vampire moving in for the kill. Hard muscles flexed under his black silk shirt, his talons ripping through flesh as if it was the most gossamer lace.

The Youngling shrieked in agony as his face disintegrated before he could defend himself. His shriek cut off as the merciless talons ripped through his throat. With almost no exertion required Mac severed the head from the body and watched dispassionately as it rolled to the forest floor.

“Sometimes it’s too easy, Demetri,” he said quietly his back still towards the new arrivals. His muscles were tense but there was no hint of fear in his voice.

“I know what you mean, Mackenzie,” Demetri replied, his lips quirking. His friend had felled half a forest taking out three Younglings and he called it easy. He knew he had chosen the right man for the task ahead.

Mackenzie turned then, his thick warrior’s plait swaying as he made a subtle shift inside himself and his fangs and talons disappeared. Returning from his feral state should have shifted his eye colour too but they stayed as black as night. He regarded Demetri intently for a long moment then switched his gaze to the other vampire.

“You’re not travelling with your usual cohort,” he remarked. Though he very seldom made it stateside he was well aware of what was going on over there. He didn’t know who Demetri’s travelling companion was but he didn’t view him as a threat. The Ancient was the only person that Mackenzie came even close enough to trusting. His friend wouldn’t bring anyone untrustworthy into his presence.

Mac strode over to Demetri and clasped arms in the traditional greeting of vampires who considered each other friends. “It’s been a long time. I take it you need me for something? I hardly think you’re here to enjoy the scenery.”

Demetri laughed quickly surveying the area again. “You don’t appear to be too enamoured with the scenery yourself, Mac.” It had been too long since they’d caught up with each other. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed Mac’s blunt way of speaking his mind.

“Pietro meet Mackenzie,” he continued getting the introductions out of the way. His gaze met Mac’s. “Pietro’s a friend, so please refrain from trying to detach his head from his body. I’d hate to have to kick your ass for you.”

A rare smile cracked Mac’s face, amusement dancing in his eyes. “You could try but I’ve just had a little warm up session so I fear you may be at a disadvantage.” He nodded at Pietro in acknowledgement and then turned to start building a funeral pyre for the dead.

“I am really starting to like this guy,” Pietro laughed as Demetri rolled his eyes but didn’t respond to the subtle jibe Mac had thrown his way.

The Ancient found a stable tree trunk and sat down as he watched Pietro vanish from the clearing only to return a moment later with one of the bodies they’d passed on their way there.

“So what did these three do to piss you off, Mac?” Demetri knew there had to have been a reason for his friend destroying their kind. The other vampire never did anything without a reason for it.

“It’s wild out here, Demetri,” Mac answered continuing to collect wood for the fire. “You’ve got it too cushy stateside. There is a lack of mentoring being done for new turnings. Some cross over like these three and need to be put down. Our kind on this continent has forgotten the old ways; some think they’re even superior to The Council. They’ve lost respect.”

Demetri nodded silently watching the others work. Secrecy was paramount and all remains where always burnt to ash to ensure no humans accidentally stumbled across proof of their existence. The likelihood of anyone coming across remains this high in the Romanian mountains was small but it was ingrained in all of them to cover their tracks.

“We are aware of the issues, Mac,” he finally said. “Alexei had to sort things out in Ecuador a number of years ago. But we’ve had our own issues to deal with too. We only just managed to stop a civil war not so long ago.”

Mac snorted tossing his blond victim onto the gathered wood as Pietro tossed the other two on top of him. “I love the way you prevent a civil war,” he laughed. “Dissolve a Council and set up one to your own liking. Isn’t there something a little autocratic about that, my friend?”

Demetri shrugged a smile lighting up his handsome face. “Times are changing, Mac. You know how resistant to change our people can be. Sometimes the ends justify the means. The last Council was corrupt, ready to start all out war with the Weres. That couldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Mac straightened and looked him in the eye. His expression was carefully neutral. “Why not? Isn’t natural selection the way of the world?”

Pietro barked out a loud laugh as he struck a match and lit the pyre. “Andrei Romanov naturally selected a she-wolf for his mate as did his twin Alexei. Add in the fact that Nors Eriksson did too and that should answer your question, Mackenzie.”

He watched the flames dance for a moment and then turned to look at the vampire at his side. “Or maybe I should say their wolves selected them,” he amended. “The night Loretta caught Andrei canoodling with Marcia was priceless. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Loretta calm as you like just upended a whole bucket of iced soda on the pair of them, right in front of everyone. I don’t think Andrei knew whether to kiss her or kill her.”

“Pietro,” Demetri sighed trying to stifle down his impatience. If he’d heard that story once since they’d been travelling together, he’d heard it a thousand times. While it had been amusing the first couple of times it was wearing old now.

“You had to be there, Demetri. It was funny as fuck.”

Mac watched them carefully his mind whirling as he tried to figure out what Demetri wanted from him. He knew three Ancients had mated with Weres. He could also tell that, despite his laughter, Pietro was tight with the Romanovs and would view anyone out to hurt them as a personal threat. His amusing anecdote was more than humour; it was a subtle warning to him to be careful what he said.

There was more to Pietro than the easy, relaxed persona he displayed. Stupidity not being one of his character traits, Mac tagged him as one to watch in the future.

“There’s more,” Demetri said ignoring Pietro and signalling for them to come and sit down. They both moved gracefully towards different fallen trees and sat facing him.

“What I tell you now is so secret that if either of you utter a word of it you will die instantly,” Demetri said calmly. There was no false bravado in his voice; it was a statement of fact. This secret would end a life in a blink of an eye and they had to be under no illusions about it.

Demetri’s matter of fact tone piqued Mac’s curiosity as well as Pietro’s. Both of them knew how to hold their tongue and they weren’t concerned with his statement.

“Go ahead,” Mac said quietly.

Demetri gauged their expressions for a moment and then let out a deep breath. Caleb had told him he could reveal this if he was certain it was safe to do so. He trusted Mac a lot and had known Pietro most of his life.

“The Queen of Vampires had been reincarnated.”

Silence greeted his words and then a slow smile crossed Pietro’s face. “That’s a neat trick, Demetri. I didn’t even know there was one let alone she’d died.”

“The Council destroyed all knowledge of the past countless millennia ago,” Demetri answered. “But they were unable to destroy the natural way of things. Over six thousand years ago our people lived in a matriarchal society, ruled by a vampire queen. Her name was Anakatrine and her king was Callain. She also had a Guardian in her brother and together they ruled in peace, a triumvirate of power, not just vampiric but also magical.”

Mac quirked an eyebrow in surprise, his thoughts racing at what was being revealed. “I’d heard rumours that the dark arts were once used by vampires. I’d always attributed it to be nonsense.”

“To a certain extent it was,” Demetri conceded. “Only the triumvirate had those powers, not the entire nation. And I wouldn’t refer to them as the dark arts either. They were only used for good, not evil.”

“If these three were all powerful as you say then how could they be destroyed?” Pietro asked. His mind was whirling too, trying to piece together who the players were in his world so he could work out what was going on.

“Anakatrine formed the first vampire council. She thought our people were ready to govern themselves. Instead they rose up against her when the very first Vampire/Were mating occurred three thousand years ago. She was destroyed along with Callain but their souls have been reborn.”

Mac took the news the way he did everything, in his stride. He knew it had to be true because it was Demetri who was regaling him with the knowledge. His faith in his friend was absolute. It was the only thing he could be totally sure of in his life. “Do they wish to reinstate this ancient royal hierarchy?” he asked curiously.

Demetri laughed. “Quite the opposite, my friend. They wish to live their lives on the sidelines, enjoying the peace they craved so badly long ago. But to do that they must nudge our people in the right direction. The first steps have been taken and change is coming, but they need good people to help create the world they envision.”

“Fuck me!” Pietro exclaimed loudly jumping up from his perch, his hazel eyes going wide with shock. “It’s Caleb and Annie, isn’t it?”

Demetri’s complete loyalty to the other Ancient and his mate was renowned. There was no one else in their world the Ancient respected more, no one else he would follow. Putting two and two together had turned out to be easier than he’d anticipated.

Demetri’s slow nod confirmed the identity of the royal couple. “The Guardian survived the cull at the time as did the first hybrid child,” he told them gravely. “They are now mated and live within the Armand-Hanlon pack, which brings us to the reason why I’ve sought you out, Mac.”

Mackenzie waited silently digesting the news, mulling it over slowly as he waited to hear what else was to come. He would have to be very careful with how he proceeded. He had no doubt Demetri would try to take his head if he made the wrong move. Pietro was an Elder too, a couple of hundred years younger than himself but he no doubt had strong skills to be travelling with his friend.

“There was an incursion recently against the Armand-Hanlon pack,” Demetri continued. “The consensus is it was instigated in Europe and has something to do with the recent birth of a number of hybrid children. This is unacceptable. No harm can be allowed to come to the children; they are our future, our most precious treasure. Pietro has been tasked to try and infiltrate this shadowy body who would try to hurt them. You, Mac, are being asked to protect them as they grow.”

It was the last thing Mac had expected and his surprise clearly showed on his face before he could mask his expression. “You want me to be a babysitter?”

Demetri laughed at his dry tone. “Not as such, Mac. They have an entire pack and half the stateside vampires to babysit them on a daily basis. No, the triumvirate wish you to head an elite team of guardians they intend to resurrect from the past.”

He rose and paced across the clearing, tensing slightly as he scented the night air before he relaxed and returned to his seat. “The Praetorians were once the queen’s elite guard. She disbanded them when she raised the first vampire council. If she hadn’t maybe she would have survived what was to come but the decision was made at the time and it proved fatal.

They were unknown to anyone who wasn’t in their ranks with the exception of the triumvirate. The same restrictions would be in place this time around. The pack would know about you but not who you are. The children would be unaware of your presence.”

Mac shot a pointed look in Pietro’s direction. “Is he supposed to be my first recruit?”

Pietro looked stunned at the prospect glancing from Demetri to Mac and back again. No one had said anything to him about being part of some secret organisation when he’d been asked to take on his current mission.

“Pietro will be loosely aligned with The Praetorians though not a full member as such. His own task is vital so we need him in place as soon as possible. He will report to you anything he discovers and you will then update the triumvirate. It’s an added cloak of secrecy to protect them should Pietro be discovered as well as protect the children.”

The clearing fell silent as both vampires mulled over Demetri’s words. Pietro had no issue with anything he’d heard. Caleb had come to him, placed his trust in him, and pissed Andrei off big time when he’d stolen him from tending bar. That alone had amused Pietro. He so enjoyed seeing Andrei having to back down when he didn’t want to. It was one of his favourite pastimes.

And he adored the wolves. He knew his views on Weres went against the grain for most of his kind but he couldn’t help it. When Loretta has come into Andrei’s life it had set the Ancient’s head spinning. She had saved Andrei’s life as surely as if she’d taken a sword aiming for his head. For that she would always have Pietro’s allegiance as would any child of hers.

Loretta had taught him that wolves had a fierce nature, steadfast loyalty and were sassy as hell. He loved all those character traits, hell he might even end up with a wolf bitch as his mate too one of these days. Stranger things had happened.

“I’m in,” he smiled at Demetri. “Just point me where you want me and I’ll get all the intelligence you need.”

Demetri nodded turning his gaze to meet Mac’s. He wondered if he would need to use his ace card to convince the other Elder to take up the reins of The Praetorians. He didn’t want to but the children were at risk. If he had to bring up the past to secure their future then he would.

“So you want me to run this elite guard, train up loyal vampires and protect a wolf pack without being seen by them or our charges?” Mac finally asked staring into the dying embers of the funeral pyre. “Just how is that supposed to work, Demetri, if we have to stay hidden from the very people we’re meant to protect?”

Demetri smiled, relaxing completely as he watched his friend. The tone of Mac’s voice told him everything, his request for more information a clear indicator that he would accept the task given to him.

“By scent,” he answered. “The children are extraordinarily talented, Mac. They can mask their true scent and are receiving instruction in how to do so as quickly as possible. The Praetorians will be given their true scent. Only when they leave the compound will you have to track them. They will release their scent for a fraction of a second before they mask it, allowing their guardians to follow their ‘new’ scent at a distance.

They will have no idea why they’re doing this but it will be ingrained on them to do so. It’s imperative they have a normal childhood, not just for their sake but for everyone who loves them. You know how volatile the Romanovs are. They’ve become worse since they’ve had children.”

Mac did know the Romanovs well though it had been many years since he’d been in their company. The fallout of anything happening to their offspring would be catastrophic.

He’d known instantly he was going to accept control of The Praetorians. Demetri had known it too, the moment the children were mentioned. Memories flashed unbidden, a babe in a bloody gown with her throat ripped out, a woman lying dead at her side.

Mackenzie pushed down the memories ruthlessly, his face a hard mask, no sign of the gut wrenching pain he was experiencing coming to light. He had failed a child once before, so very long ago when life had been much simpler. He would never fail a child again. He would die before another babe was destroyed because of his inaction.

“What else do I need to know?” His voice was as unemotional as his expression, acceptance in the words he spoke.

Demetri’s deep green eyes glowed with respect, his nod conveying his thanks. He knew what Mackenzie was thinking of, knew his hard mask hid an agony he would never personally understand.

He’d been there that day so very long ago, had seen the madness of grief in the human male’s eyes as he’d discovered his wife and child dead. It was one of the very few times Demetri Bozic had ever chosen to Sire another to the life of a vampire. He had stopped the man from taking his own life, had healed his wound and mentored him past the bloodlust.

Then he had taught him everything he knew about how to protect and how to kill. Mackenzie had been honed in a fire of fury and revenge. His entire life had been consumed with the need to fight for a cause, to right any wrong he came across.

Without realising it Demetri had carefully crafted the ultimate killing machine on the side of good. The children could have no better protector of that he was certain.

The sun slipped low over the horizon as three male vampires huddled together talking in low voices despite their secluded location. High in the mountains in the wilderness of Romania the Praetorians were once again born.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Long Walk Home Ch 18 - Teaser

Chapter Eighteen

Dayton stopped long enough to let Aaron know he was fine and then ushered Freya upstairs to his room. He took her straight into the bathroom and turned on the shower as she undressed silently. Now the adrenaline was leaving his body he was left with a pressing need to check every inch of her skin for marks.

Not that he expected to find anything on her but his wolf was going crazy inside him and he had to give in to his irrational need. He turned to find his mate naked and blood-streaked, her expression carefully guarded as if she was waiting for him to say something she wouldn’t like. She was clearly concerned and so was he.

Her standoff with Rafe in the forest showed that she was struggling with adapting to the pack. It wasn’t that she didn’t try to understand the group’s needs; it was as if she was incapable of doing so. That didn’t bode well for the future and they both knew it even if they hadn’t spoken of it yet.

Silently, Dayton tugged her into the shower with him and rinsed the blood from her body. His touch was gentle, his fingers examining every inch of her and finding her skin unmarred. Even though he’d expected it, he still couldn’t hold in the sigh of relief as he wrapped his arms around her from behind and held her close to his chest.

His own body carried faint bruising though the main injuries had healed quicker than he’d expected them to. He wondered if was because of a combination of her previous healing of him and her mating bite. He hadn’t completed the mating yet but maybe he was already feeling some of the benefits of the partial mating.

“I want you so much it terrifies me,” Freya whispered softly, breaking the oppressive silence. “I’m not terrified because of the need you inspire in me, but because I don’t think I can be what you need me to be, Dayton.”

She turned in his arms and her composed expression had melted away, concern on her face as she stared up at him. “What if I can’t accept the pack? What will that mean for us?”

He bit the inside of his lip, his expression tense as he pondered her question carefully, listening to his wolf as well as his own heart. He reached up and brushed her wet hair away from her face tenderly. “Then we will be a pack of two, Freya. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I don’t want to be part of this pack because I do. I never thought I’d ever feel this way again but being here has shown me that I need pack life to feel whole. But if push comes to shove, I need you more. There is no one more important than you, nothing I wouldn’t willingly give up to be with you.”

Her breath caught at the promise she read in his eyes, the sincerity in his quiet words. He would truly leave the pack if she couldn’t cope with it. He was willing to sacrifice everything for her if she allowed him to. Part of her was tempted to take the easy out he was giving her. But she knew that was wrong, what the old Freya would have done. She had come so far all because of the man who held her so tightly and swore he would never let her go.

For some strange reason Rayne’s words came back to her and she realised that if she couldn’t believe in herself then she would always be able to believe in Dayton. It was enough to make her want to try harder. Her mate thought she had it in her to be one with the pack. The Alpha also thought she did too, despite being angry with her. Maybe it was time to start listening to others rather than her doubts?

“I’ll try harder,” she promised fervently. “But I’ll need your help to stop me fucking up again.”

“Always,” he breathed against her lips, his arms tightening more around her. “I won’t let you drown, honey. I’ll always be here for you.”

His mouth took hers in a fierce, hot kiss that that promised her his words were true, that he would always stand by her. All she had to do was let him in, surrender to him and she could complete the journey she’d started the moment she’d laid eyes on a wounded wolf that had nothing left to live for.

Her kiss was desperate, the longing deep within her to have what everyone else appeared to take for granted, spiralling out of control as she clung to him. She’d never felt so vulnerable in her entire life and yet she’d never felt so secure either. Being wrapped in Dayton’s strong embrace gave her a feeling of belonging that was so poignant, so heartfelt that she didn’t stop the tears that slowly trickled down her cheeks.

Dayton could feel the tremors running through her body, knew she was overwhelmed by everything again. He gentled his kiss before slowly raising his head to stare down at her.

Seeing his vampire looking so vulnerable tore at his heart. He knew how strong she was having watched her take out the vampires earlier with a speed and grace that had taken his breath away. His mate was lethal, able to defend herself and the pack if only she could finally accept them as hers to protect.

He kissed her again softly, lightly teasing her lips with tiny rubs of his own as he soothed her distress as he would have soothed a wolf. The power of touch, the power of honest affection given freely was a great healer. He used his tenderness ruthlessly against her until she melted completely into his arms, then he raised his head again and smiled.

“As much as I’d love to take you here in this shower, I’ve a penchant for feeling a nice soft bed beneath us.” His tone was teasing but also full of the crippling need he didn’t try to hide from her.

“Rafe said he wanted us downstairs in an hour. We’ve already wasted most of that time.”

Her practical response made him laugh out loud as he hugged her closer. The fact that she was actually listening to what Rafe had said made his heart kick up a beat and hope flare deep inside him. “Rafe can wait, honey. I’m not done with my inspection of your luscious body for injuries.”

Freya pulled away from him, frowning as her movement caused water to cascade over her face. She moved closer to him again, slicking back her hair. “He gave us an order.”

His wolf growled loudly, wanting to be with their mate, irritated that she was choosing this moment to be the sensible one. Dayton agreed with his wolf and decided to forgo the intimacy of the bed he so desperately wanted to indulge in with her. She was right on that aspect; they didn’t have the time he’d need to satisfy himself between a pair of silk sheets.

His answering smile was nothing short of wicked as he wrapped an arm around her back and lifted her against the cold tiles. “I guess we’ll have to be quick about it then.” He thrust himself into her searing heat as her eyes widened in surprise and her breath sucked in sharply.

For a brief second her eyes turned black and then they reverted back to their deep shade of green as he held himself still inside her, luxuriating in the feel of being joined with her so intimately.

“And you said I was the one who neglected foreplay.” Freya didn’t know how she managed to sound so calm. The feel of him inside her body was sweet bliss, causing her heart to instantly begin to speed up as she welcomed him with a tight squeeze of her muscles.

“One day soon I’m going to get to indulge myself in the kind of foreplay I’ve been longing for, honey,” Dayton groaned out, his voice thick with need. “Right now I need to be with you so badly, I can’t wait.”

He was moving even as he finished speaking, slowly leaving her tight warmth to thrust deeply inside her once more. He wanted to take his time but the feel of her gripping him so tightly was quickly eroding his self-control. His next thrust was deep and hard, a muffled groan escaping him as she pressed back against him eagerly, her arms tight around his neck.

“Harder.” Her breathy demand turned his blood boiling hot and his hips rocked against her, taking her with ruthless intent, giving her what she wanted. Nails dug hard into his neck and he growled loudly, arching into her wild caress. His control snapped; his wolf close to the surface as he began to surge deep and fast into her body, his breath coming out raggedly.

She met him with equally demanding thrusts, her nails scoring him until she broke his skin and the iron scent of his blood filled the bathroom. “Taste me,” he ordered hoarsely, wanting to feel the ecstasy of her bite again. Her fangs sank into the side of his neck and for a moment he stilled completely, buried to the hilt inside her. His body shook wildly as he fought off his climax, not ready for their joining to be over.

His wolf howled loudly, a deep growl erupting from the very depths of him. It wanted to mate with her, wanted to claim her so she could never leave them. Dayton fought a mental battle with his animal, shuddering as he tried to contain it. She wasn’t ready yet for what was entailed in a male Were mating. They needed to discuss it first so she knew what to expect.

Freya raised her head, looking into his eyes and seeing his wolf looking back at her. The feral nature of his gaze made her heart turn over and she knew he wanted to mate with her. She wanted it too and didn’t understand why he wasn’t doing so. “Why do you hold back?” she whispered. “You want to take me and make me yours.”

“Freya!” It was a low, guttural cry, strain crossing his face. “You don’t know what you’re asking. Male Weres, they mate in wolf form.”

Her eyes widened, shock crossing her face for an instant as they stood locked together, their gazes searing into each other. She’d never dreamed she’d have to accept his wolf in that way. Nors hadn’t had to with Ashleigh. He’d told her some of what happened in mating with a Were.

The wolf had to make the bite. It was what Dayton was telling her and why he hadn’t done so already. He was afraid she wouldn’t be able to accept him because of her ambivalence towards other Weres. She didn’t know if she could accept him like that but if she didn’t…they could never be fully mated.

Freya swallowed hard, closing her eyes to hide from the naked appeal she saw in his. She would break his heart if she couldn’t mate with him. He was bearing his soul to her. If she couldn’t accept him she would be hurting him as he’d been hurt when Faith died. It would destroy him.

Swallowing again, she opened her eyes slowly, meeting his gaze once more, seeing sad acceptance on his face. He was waiting for her rejection, trying hard to hide his disappointment because he didn’t want her to feel bad about it. Her decision came easily as she gently cupped the side of his face.

“Mate with me, Dayton.”

Joy flared deep in his eyes to quickly be replaced with caution. “You’re sure, honey. You know what it means. You have to be totally certain you’re ready for it.”

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, to be with you. Your wolf is part of you, Dayton. He lives here in your heart and is what gives you your strength. I can accept that.” Her hand rested lightly on his chest, over his suddenly racing heart.

“I love you.” Dayton breathed the words against her lips even as he slid from her body, his gut clenching hard with the need to finally take her as his. His intent was to get them to the bedroom but his wolf was too impatient. They made it as far as out of the shower before they were kissing frantically and sinking down to the tiled floor.

His hands roamed her soft curves feverishly as he turned her onto her hands and knees. His wolf was beyond control, his touch harsher than he wanted it to be but his vampire was moaning loudly, arching into his caresses as he positioned himself to take her again.

Dayton covered her body, one hand on her hip, the other on the floor beside her. His heart was pounding furiously as he kissed the join of her shoulder and neck; marked out the spot where he would make her his. “It will just be for a moment, honey,” he breathed softly. “It will still be me.”

“I know,” she whispered pressing herself back against his thick length, urging him to slide back inside her welcoming body.

With a loud roar he thrust in hard and deep, feeling his knot starting to form almost instantly he was so close to the edge. He stroked into her hard until he had no choice but to press his knot into her slick heat. His next growl was one of appreciation as he seated himself firmly inside her. She fit him so perfectly.

Freya cried out, moving with him frantically as he started taking her with short, hard thrusts. Her pleasure was absolute, bliss crashing over her in waves as her lover rode her fiercely; determined to push her over the edge into her climax. She sensed the shift, felt the brush of silky fur against her back. Sharp teeth pierced her shoulder where it met her neck.

She screamed and her body convulsed. Dayton’s strong arms wrapped around her an instant later as lights began to dance in front of her eyes as she climaxed violently. Her wolf was roaring loudly, his body jerking deep within her as he bathed her with his hot seed, both of them joined completely in their passion.

Rational thought faded until all she could feel were the sensations running rampant through her. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, she could only feel her body go up in flames as it had never done before.

“Freya!” Her name was in her head, Dayton’s voice crying out mentally to her. He was slowly lowering them down to the floor, their bodies joined by his knot, his arms so tight that if she’d been a Were she was sure some bones would have snapped. “Are you okay, honey?”

The surprise of being able to speak mentally with him had her silent for a moment. She did wonder why he was doing so then she took in his harsh breathing and realised that he couldn’t speak at the moment. The fact his pleasure had been as mind-blowing as hers brought a satisfied smile to her face.

“That was intense,” she laughed softly, delighting in their new, close contact.

A low, deep chuckle escaped Dayton as his breathing finally started to regulate itself. Intense wasn’t the word for it. His wolf was content as was the man. They had finally claimed their mate when he’d least expected it. Now he just needed his knot to subside and quickly.

His lips brushed Freya’s neck and his hands cupped her breasts and stroked leisurely. “You know, if anyone had told me three months ago I’d be mating again I would have told them they were crazy. If they’d followed that up with I’d been doing it on the bathroom floor I would have died laughing.” He was slightly embarrassed about his shocking lack of restraint.

“Wolves are impulsive,” Freya sighed softly, leaning back to steal a quick kiss. “Thankfully, vampires can endure cold, hard floors while waiting for said wolves to remove themselves from their bodies.” Her tone was arrogant though laughter danced within it too. She liked the fact he’d wanted to mate with her so badly he couldn’t contain himself.

Dayton tweaked her nipple hard and bit the side of her neck. “Laugh all you want, vampire. We still need to get cleaned up and downstairs for the meeting. And our time is most definitely up.”

She groaned loudly rolling her eyes at the thought of the meeting. Not only would they be late but she was now fully mated with her wolf. Which meant the next time Rafe Hanlon yelled at her; she would be expected to take it. She had no doubt that there would be a next time; she just wasn’t sure how she was going to react to it.


Rayne sighed and cuddled deeper against Gard’s warm chest. His lips sleepily brushed the top of her head as his arms hugged her tightly for a moment and then relaxed as he drifted off again. She felt such a feeling of peace and contentment that she just lay basking in it, finally feeling at home. She belonged.

It was hard not to wonder if fate had planned her meeting with Dayton. If she hadn’t sensed him all those years ago, felt compelled to help him; then she’d never have found her way to the Armand-Hanlon pack and ultimately her mate. It was strange how life turned out sometimes.

Hands stroking down her back had her arching into the hardness of her vampire, a soft purr erupting from her throat spontaneously.

“Sexy.” Gard’s sleepy tone was full of warmth as he stroked her again and then suddenly moved, flipping her onto her stomach as he straddled her lower half and began to slowly massage her back.

A long, deep moan escaped her lips as she sighed in pleasure. “I could get used to this.”

He leaned down, soft laughter whispering across her ear as he licked slowly up her neck before nibbling at her earlobe. “I expect my fair share of stroking, Kitty, but for now I want to indulge myself.”

Rayne purred again, struggling to catch her breath as his large hands brushed every inch of her back before sliding down and playfully kneading her bottom. She couldn’t stop herself from rising up, hoping he’d go lower and use his wicked fingers on her again. It only served to make him laugh again.

“Does Kitty want to be played with again?” he chuckled lightly, the heavy heat of his erection pressed against her thigh. “Tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you.”

She growled softly though she was trying not to laugh. She loved the way he knew how to tempt and tease her, how to draw her cat out to play. “You know what I want. I suggest you quit teasing and pleasure me properly or I may have to return the favour at a later date.”

That earned her a playful spank on her left cheek before he leaned down and kissed it better. She growled louder, twisting onto her back so his next kiss landed on the delicate skin of her hip.

Eyes flashing at her challenge, Gard smiled slowly and lick across her hip, biting gently at the tender flesh of her stomach as he slid his arms beneath her thighs raising her up from the bed. He rose to his knees and thrust hard inside her, holding her still so he could sink deep within her.

Her head dropped back and a sweet moan of ecstasy slipped past her lips as he claimed her with little fanfare. He held still within her, staring down at the exotic creature that was his mate, marvelling at how precious she was to him and the need she instilled within him.

He was unable to sate himself with her body. A few moments sleep and he was desperate to join with her again, to love her until she screamed her release loudly and he followed her into his own climax. She was an addiction he couldn’t get enough of. “Mine,” he breathed softly, a wave of possessiveness overtaking him.

His whispered word had her eyes opening, the thin band of silver appearing more pronounced than before. His eyes widened slightly as the lighter colour appeared to eclipse the deep green of her iris before she gave him a lazy feline smile that took his breath away.

“Prove it.”

It was a challenge he had no intention of declining. He flexed his hips and stroked deeply back inside her, holding her captive as he used his body to stake his claim, proving that she belonged to him and no one else. He kept his movements slow but deep, growling softly as she began to writhe against his hold. Pleasure danced across her face with each thrust into her velvet heat.

She was beautiful in her passion. She surrendered to her sensuality with no inhibitions, making his heart soar that he was the one giving her this pleasure even as he took his own from her. She was his mate, his woman, his heart’s desire.

Her eyes fluttered open again and he couldn’t resist leaning down to kiss her. “Sarayne,” he whispered against her mouth before he plundered her lips in a hot kiss, wrapping his arms around her as she held on tightly and moved to the hard beat he set with his body.

Rayne was burning up inside, overcome with the sensations flooding her body as Gard took her hard and fast, then slowed down to tease her with gentle strokes of his thick length inside her. She didn’t know which she loved more, his tenderness or his unrelenting hunger. All she knew was he was hers forever, that she would love with him like this endlessly.

Her heart pounding loudly in her chest, she urged him on to move faster, to take her harder as she spiralled up towards the peak of her pleasure. “I love you.” The words ripped from her as she crested the peak and cried out her pleasure. She was falling, lost in a world of bright colours and endless sensations as he thrust hard into her and joined her in his own release.

He filled her with his seed, stroking into her to prolong her pleasure. As she slowly began to come down, her heart hammered loudly; heat rushing through her body in a short hard blast. She shuddered again at the unexpected sensation, her eyes flying open to see Gard’s glowing lavender eyes staring intently into hers as his chest heaved raggedly. He appeared as startled as she was.

“What was that? Did you use your magic?”

He shook his head and swallowed hard to regain his breath. “Not deliberately,” he finally answered rolling to his side and taking her with him. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It felt almost magical but it wasn’t anything I did.”

They lay staring at each other for a long moment, neither of them knowing just what had happened. Rayne didn’t think it was anything bad because the sensation had been pure ecstasy. She couldn’t believe that anything that felt that good could be evil in design.

Smiling she leaned forward and kissed her vampire, licking at his lips slowly to ease the concerned expression on his face. “Loving you certainly is interesting,” she laughed softly before she reluctantly extracted herself from his arms and slid off the bed.

“I need a bath.”

Gard let the tension ease from his body, admiring his woman as she headed towards the bathroom. He crawled from the bed after her, knowing she would be looking for him to supply the hot water. He was concerned about what had just happened but decided he would speak to his sister about it before he started getting too worried. Anakatrine’s magic was the strongest. Maybe she would be able to shed some light on the strange occurrence.

They had just finished a rather extended bath time when the first feelings of unease started to sink into Gard and his eyes flickered towards the cave opening. “Something’s wrong.” He was pulling on jeans and a T-shirt even as he spoke, pushing his feet into his boots as Rayne watched him carefully.

She dressed just as quickly, his unease transmitting down their mate bond. “What?”

“Vampires. Fuck! They passed through a while back. It must have been while we were otherwise engaged. They were heading towards the pack.” Gard was instantly furious with himself. He was supposed to be protecting the wolves and he’d dropped the ball.

“Gard.” Rayne’s tone was quite sharp though she was worried too. She stepped up to him and caught his gaze with hers. “I don’t like to see a look of regret on your face when it comes to our mating. If vampires passed through here then so be it. The pack is capable of taking care of themselves. They have four bloody Ancients in their number as well as the wolves own skills. You may have been The Guardian a long time ago but the world has moved on since then. You can’t be expected to protect everyone.”

He growled angrily, his eyes beginning to glow softly. “They’re her family, Sarayne. If anything happens to them she’ll be hurt.”

She didn’t need to ask who he meant. His connection with Rhianna was as strong as it was with her now they’d mated. It was going to be a challenge to deal with that closeness and not become resentful of it and she suddenly understood exactly how Freya must feel towards her. She turned and headed out the cave with her vampire close behind.

“I’m sure Annie doesn’t expect you to save the world either, Gard,” she remarked quietly, her tone still firm. “I swear if you even try to lessen our mating because of this you’re going to have one pissed off mate to deal with for the rest of your life. Get it in perspective.”

She shifted to her panther and streaked into the forest scenting the air as she did and smelling blood. She headed in that direction feeling a silent Gard coming to run beside her. She wouldn’t allow him to beat himself up about what may or may not have happened. He was entitled to have his own life and claim his mate. If she had to hold him down until he saw sense then she would.