Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tears of the Fallen Ch. 15

Chapter Fifteen


She knew it was too good to be true when she made it five steps away from the Jeep before Pietro called her name. For the fleetest of moments she thought she’d get away without having to talk to him until later, but he quickly put a dampener on that idea. Sighing, Cassia smiled at Trish and passed her bags to the girl.

“Take them over to the lab. Tell Mallen I’ll be there shortly.” She watched the younger woman walk away before turning to face her mate. His expression wasn’t very promising.

“Pietro, I need to report in to Rafe or Aaron and then I need to get back to the lab. Some of my experiments will be completing soon. Can our talk wait until later?”

His scowl deepened and she sucked in a deep breath. How was it possible a male could looks so sexy when he was in such a foul mood? Her wolf was practically prowling in anticipation watching the glorious vampire before them. It wanted to throw him down and bite him all over. It was also hoping he would do the same to them. It was downright criminal that her intelligence went flying out the window whenever Pietro was close.

“You want to leave me festering until later? That’s your call, Niña.”

The words were practically a growl and they sent a shiver down her spine. “Pietro, I’m not deliberately avoiding you. I have to report to my Alpha. Pack safety has to be the utmost priority to me. Surely you can understand that? I have to protect Trish and all the other vulnerable members of my pack.”

For a long moment he regarded her with an intent stare, and then there was a slight loosening of the tension in his shoulders and he gave the barest of nods. “How long do you need?”

“Two hours maximum. I’ll meet you at the lake.”

When he nodded once more, she took that as a sign to leave and turned to resume her way over to Rafe’s house. She really did have to report what she’d seen in town and pass on Jared’s message. She’d made a couple of attempts to tease some conversation out of Pietro on the way home but he wouldn’t be drawn. In the end she’d given up and decided to wait until they were alone. Trish was already shook up by the strange Weres in town as it was, and any sign of conflict in the Jeep would just have unsettled her more.

Heading inside the large house that was home to the Alpha and his family, as well as Aaron and his, she paused at Rafe’s study door. She could scent that he wasn’t alone and debated whether to interrupt. Her experiments were due to complete though, so she didn’t have time to hang around. Taking a deep breath she knocked on the door.

“Come in, Cassia,” her Alpha called out loud enough so she could hear.

Turning the doorknob she entered to find Gard and Rayne sitting on the large sofa beneath the window with Rafe standing at the fireplace.

“How was the trip into town?” Rafe asked, giving her a smile. “Aaron said you took Trish and Pietro with you. Did it go okay?” It was clear he had no objections to her discussing events in front of the other senior pack members.

“We encountered a group of five strange wolves,” she answered, moving to take a seat when her Alpha waved in the direction of one of the office chairs in front of his large desk. “They were clearly fighting men from the way they carried themselves. They spotted us practically straight away so I decided to approach them to try to find out why they hadn’t checked in with the local packs.”

“Was that wise?” Gard asked, a small frown crossing his face.

“I was stronger than any of them and I had Pietro with me to take care of Trish. They were highly unlikely to start anything with so many humans around.” The Ancient’s question gave her an inkling as to why Pietro was being so surly and she filed that away for later.

Turning her gaze to Rafe she saw some concern in his eyes too but he didn’t vocalise it. He wasn’t one to repeat a question that one of his senior pack members had already highlighted. “Did you find out anything?” he asked, his tone authoritative as it always was when dealing with pack matters.

Cassia shook her head. “Not really. The one who did the main talking is called Fox. They’re clearly European by their accents and the level of distrust they have towards vampires. He intimated that they hadn’t checked in with the packs because of who our friends are.”

“What are European wolves doing over here?” Rayne asked, her expression concerned. “Could this be something to do with the threat from the European vampires or are they checking us out to see if we can be of some assistance to them? From what we know, the animosity between the two groups over there is pretty extreme.”

“Extreme sounds such a tame word compared to what we’ve heard about the way the vampires react to all Weres over there,” her mate commented. “It’s downright genocide.”

“Whatever is going on, maybe you can gather some intelligence about it while you’re over there?” Rafe asked, his brow drawing down into a deep scowl. “I don’t like having so many strange wolves in our neck of the woods. Proper etiquette is they should check in with the local packs, regardless if they’re comfortable with our allies or not. Until I hear otherwise, I’m considering them potentially hostile.”

“They disappeared when Jared showed up with Brody and Willow,” Cassia informed the Alpha. “Jared said he’d be in contact with you later to share any intelligence he’s uncovered.”

Rafe nodded his thanks, turning his attention back to Gard and Rayne. “We can’t put off your trip to Europe any longer. How soon can you leave?”

“We’ll arrange a flight for later today, if possible,” Gard answered, glancing at Rayne to see if she was agreeable. His mate looked a tad hesitant.

“What about Kothi? He shouldn’t be left on his own for a prolonged period. Maybe we should take him with us?”

Rafe was shaking his head in the negative before Rayne had finished speaking. “Under no circumstances do I want any of the Vârcolac over in Europe until we know what’s going on. I appreciate your concern, Rayne, but the pack can look after your son until you return.”

She clearly didn’t like it but she didn’t argue with the exception of muttering under her breath, “I’m a Vârcolac…”

Gard laughed softly, gathering her against his side and dropping a light kiss on her lips. “We know you are, darling, but you’re aware of what Rafe meant. Kothari will be fine. He’s a grown man.”

“I’ll ask Dara to keep a close eye on him,” Cassia volunteered. “Of everyone, he has an affinity with her and is more likely to open up to her if he needs a bit of support.”

“Good, that’s settled then,” Rafe said, drawing the debate to an end. “Let Caleb have your travel plans,” he added to Gard and Rayne. “He should be able to set you up with some locals that can help.”

Cassia had given her report and knew she wasn’t required any further. Wishing Gard and Rayne a safe journey, she headed out of the study and made her way over to the lab. That was one task down and one to go before she had to meet Pietro. She fervently hoped she would be able to find the antidote to the poison soon so she could set her mate’s mind to rest. She longed to tell him that he would never have to worry about being subjected to the pain and suffering he’d already been through. Her incentive to find the cure had always been strong, but it was doubly so now her mate was involved.

Entering the lab, she was surprised to find Trish there on her own. The younger woman was sitting on a high stool at one of the benches, peering over a printed report. “Where is everyone?”

Trish looked up, giving a dramatic eye roll. “There was a minor skirmish on one of the pack borders. We were told there were some strange wolves in the area testing our alertness. It didn’t erupt into fighting but some of the younger males were patrolling the area and got a little exuberant, from what I understand. Two of them managed to fall into our own pit traps!” For a wolf still so young herself, Trish’s exasperated tone made Cassia smile.

“Aaron came over a little while ago and asked Mallen and the others to help out in the medical centre,” she added.

Cassia could only imagine the injuries her pack mates would have sustained. Whoever had been supervising them needed a kick up the ass for allowing the youngsters to get out of hand. There wasn’t much chance that Mallen or the others would be back soon so that meant she’d have to analyse all the test results herself. “Do they need me over there?”

“No, Mallen said to stay here and check on the experiments though he did want me to come over as soon as you arrived.” Trish gave her an apologetic smile as she slipped from the stool and handed Cassia the report she was reading. “It’s not looking too encouraging, Cass.”

Her words made Cassia’s heart sink but she tried to keep a neutral expression. “Maybe some of the others are more encouraging.” She gave Trish her most confident smile. “You’d better get over to the medical centre. I’ll finish up here and lock up.”

As the younger woman left, Cassia’s experienced eye ran over the report in her hand and her heart sank lower. Trish was right…the first report didn’t tell her anything she hadn’t already known.  Sighing with frustration, she headed over to the next experiment that was just concluding and tapped out the instruction to print the report.

There were two more scheduled experiments to finish in the next hour after this one. Perhaps there would be something concrete in one of them if this one didn’t bear any fruit either. Snatching up the sheets from the printer, Cassia sat down and began to read the test summation.

Nothing? Really? She skimmed the rest of the report, a feeling of dejection washing over her. How could there be no concise results? They had an active sample of the poison! Could it be because of the time it had taken to get the sample to the lab? Demetri had gotten it to them as swiftly as he could. She didn’t think it was that but they couldn’t rule it out.

What the hell was the last component of Amort? Thereasa had been high level in her coven and even she didn’t know what the plant extract was…or did she? Was the former vampire keeping it from them as a bargaining tool for later? Cassia didn’t think so but she had to consider all possibilities. It would be negligent of her not to.

Running a weary hand over her face, the Vârcolac checked her watch and noted she’d already used up an hour of her allotted time she’d given Pietro. At this rate, she was going to be late meeting him. She hoped he would understand and wait for her. Should she hurry over and let him know? The beeping on the next experiment put paid to that thought and she walked back to the printer to grab the report printing out.

Cassia couldn’t halt the small exclamation that escaped her as she read the summation. Again, there was nothing of worth in the results.  She wouldn’t have any positive news to tell Pietro when they met. She would have to admit to him that she’d failed and he was still at risk of being hurt again.  Swallowing back tears, she stared at the damning piece of paper in her hand, helplessness overwhelming her.

She had been so sure she’d find the cure this time. She had needed to find it, as she’d never needed anything before in her life. Why couldn’t she do it? Why couldn’t she protect her mate and the countless others at risk from this abhorrent weapon? If there was just one thing she had been born to do in this life, why couldn’t it be this one? Cassia lowered her head to the workbench and tried hard not to weep.


Pietro paced restlessly beside the lake, making a conscious effort not to look at his watch. He didn’t really need one, his innate ability to tell the time at any given moment was something he had always been able to do. He didn’t need to look to know that she was late. Cassia had said two hours maximum and it was already closer to two and a half since they’d last spoken.

His annoyance was barely contained. While a part of him knew there had been no real danger in the meeting in the city, the part of him that was so used to being the dominant male couldn’t reconcile the fact someone he cared about had deliberately put herself in danger…and he did care about Cassia…too much than was probably good for him. His heart had almost stopped when she’d walked over to the other males and calmly started telling them off without it appearing she was doing so.

He had been aware he still hadn’t recovered enough to be of any real help to her if she’d needed it. All he had been good for was babysitting the younger wolf. Not that he had any real objections to protecting Trish, he would have done that anyway but that wasn’t the point. Cassia ordering him to do it had rankled. She’d been letting him know that she considered him too weak to be of any real use and that sparked his temper like nothing else could. If he was so ineffective then why was she with him? Did she see him as some charity case…toss the poor wounded vampire a bone because he almost died?

That thought was the one that had his irritation at boiling point. He had no idea what was going on between them…but he did know he wasn’t the kind of man who could ever accept being helpless and inferior to the woman in his life. If that was what Cassia Romanov thought then it would be better to end their dalliance right here and now and he would tell her that when she eventually arrived.

He was so busy scowling and pacing she was almost upon him before he realised she was there. Whirling around furiously, whatever he was about to say fell silent on his lips as his eyes hungrily searched her tired face. Cassia’s curls had almost completely escaped the clip she’d tied them back with, and there were signs of fatigue in her pale blue eyes. There was apprehension in her gaze as she watched him warily and that just seemed wrong. He didn’t like seeing that expression on her beautiful face. Was he really the cause of it?

Fighting down some of his irritation, Pietro held out a hand, pulling Cassia into a tight embrace when she accepted it with no hesitation. For a long moment he just held her, delighting in how she came to him so easily as if he were the one person in the world she wanted to be with. “You’re late,” he finally said, his tone rough but not too irritated.

“The experiments took longer than anticipated and then I had to analyse the results. I’m sorry I made you wait.”

“Any luck?” He asked the question, hoping for some positive response. If they could find the antidote then the danger would be moot and no one else would have to endure what he had. He didn’t wish that on his worst enemy…or maybe he would on his very worst enemy. He wasn’t that good a man; the beast did live within him as it did all of his kind. Sometimes its need for justice would result in the cruellest of punishments. It was something he had lived with all his life and couldn’t be changed.

Cassia made a strange sound in the back of her throat, which had him leaning back so he could look down into her face. The misery he saw there was like a kick in his gut. Her eyes were moist and he could see she was close to crying.

“I’m so sorry, Pietro. I really thought having some of the poison in liquid form would make detecting the missing ingredient so much easier but every test we’ve run has come up negative. Until we know what the plant extract is, we can’t synthesise an antidote.”

A tear escaped, rolling down one perfect cheek and he growled deeply, crushing her against him so tightly he was afraid he might hurt her. She was crying because she couldn’t find a cure? When she looked so tired it was a wonder she could stand on her own two feet? It was criminal to hear the recriminations in her voice, as if she’d somehow let everyone down with her inability to make an antidote.

“Don’t you dare,” he hissed through clenched teeth, feeling her shake against him. His hand stroked down her back in long slow movements, soothing her as best he could. “Don’t you ever apologise for working yourself to the point of exhaustion trying to help everyone, Cassia Romanov. No one could work any harder, try any harder than you are. You have nothing to apologise for.”

“I want you to feel safe,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “Oh Pietro, I need you to feel safe! Every part of me is pushing relentlessly to find this antidote so you’ll never be hurt like that again. I forget to eat or sleep I’m trying so hard and nothing I do works. I keep failing!”

Despite the note of anguish in her voice, there was something about her words that tugged at his heart. He didn’t want her to feel a failure on his behalf, but hearing that he was the reason she tried so hard, made his heart kick up a beat and his stomach tighten in a hard knot. She was doing this for him, because she cared about him.  It was an exhilarating thought but also a concerning one. Only moments before he’d been wondering just what it was they had between them. The strength of her determination told him she felt as strongly about him as he was discovering he was feeling about her.

“You are not a failure, Niña,” he sighed against her neck, giving in to the temptation to brush his lips against her delicate skin. Having her so close made him hungry for her. Having her mould herself against him and hold onto to him for comfort brought out his protective instincts. “You are the strongest, most beautiful woman I know. You will succeed in all you do, Cass. It will just take a little longer than you would like.”

His words appeared to ground her or perhaps it was the way his lips were flowing against her skin or the way they were sliding sensually down to her collarbone nipping roughly at her fragile flesh. The urge to sink his fangs into her to taste her sweet essence was overpowering, but she was so tired he restrained himself. Pietro tried to remember what it was he’d felt the need to speak to her about earlier but whatever it was had flown right out of his head.

“That feels so good,” Cassia sighed, rubbing against his taut muscles. “It feels so good to have someone I can come to, to tell my fears to. I know you’re cross with me for earlier. I didn’t mean to make you feel concern over my safety. I didn’t mean to make you feel powerless, I swear I didn’t.”

He went to cut her off, realising he didn’t want to have this conversation any more but she took a step back, sliding out of his arms to stare at him intently.

“What you perceived as a slight was in fact me placing my trust in you, Pietro. I knew the wolves weren’t going to fight. You were aware of that deep in your own heart too. However, even though I knew it, I still erred on the side of caution. I don’t think you truly understand what a pack is, what my pack means to me. That’s through no fault of yours, this is your first time being closely associated with one. By giving Trish into your protection, that was me placing my trust in you to keep her safe. That was me acknowledging you as a protector of my pack.”

When she phrased it like that, it all made perfect sense to him. No, he didn’t fully understand the pack structure he was living in. He’d been so angry for so long that his friends, people he valued so highly, could harbour the woman who’d been one of the architects of his torture within the same pack. As he gazed into Cassia’s eyes, he could see the appeal there for him to understand just how important each and every pack member was to this beautiful woman; to all of the pack.

Reasa was Liam’s mate and therefore his very existence depended on the pack accepting her, protecting her. To do otherwise had the potential to devastate the pack as a whole. Now he could start to understand, maybe he would be able to resolve some of the fury that lived within his soul every time he thought of the former vampire. It wouldn’t be easy, but he could try, for Cassia.

Where he had seen a slight, she had been giving him the highest gift she could as a Were, the protection of one of her pack. Instead of being angry with her about it, he should have been thanking her for the honour. Living with the wolves, his attraction to the woman before him, it was all so new on top of everything he’d been through. He wasn’t sure if he could trust his own judgement any more. Perhaps it was time to accept what Cassia was offering him…someone to lean on and learn from, as he navigated his slow healing process.

“Thank you.” He said the words quietly, but the emotion in his voice was heartfelt. This exquisite woman before him accepted him despite his scars, despite his erratic moods. She looked at him as a man and saw something of worth in him. Yes, she was a Vârcolac and as such, so much stronger than he was. But she didn’t use that strength against him, as he’d imagined she was doing earlier.

Instead, she came to him, soft and vulnerable, leaning on him as she wept at her inability to find the solution to the danger that not only affected him, but every other vampire she cared for. She was strong and resilient and yet, with him, she was soft and passionate. She bared her soul to him and he couldn’t believe that barely moments before he was thinking of walking away from her. He had to be all kinds of a fool.

Pietro’s heart twisted inside him, stunned realisation roiling through him in a cascade of emotion. He was in love with Cassia Romanov! How it had happened…when it had happened…he didn’t know but it was there as he drew his thumbs tenderly against her cheekbones, wiping away the last stray remnants of her tears. He had fallen in love…with a wolf of all things.

He remembered back to first meeting Loretta, when she had entered the Dive all sass and swaying hips and demanded to see Andrei. The natural enmity between their races had reared its ugly head and yet, he’d found himself oddly impressed with Loretta’s bravery and the reaction she had on his volatile friend. He had wondered then if maybe one day he would find his own mate in a wolf but it had been a passing thought rather than any real expectation that he would.

Did Cassia see him as her mate? Her anguished words at failing to find the antidote to protect him did sound heartfelt. Should he ask her? What would he do if she said yes? Could he mate with her, join her pack, the one that Thereasa would join when she mated with Liam? He didn’t think he could right now. Perhaps one day he could find some resolution to his hatred of the former vampire but at this moment in time it was still too raw, a festering wound that threatened to erupt into violence at any given moment.

No, he wouldn’t ask the question of Cassia, not until he knew he could commit to her the way she needed him to. But he could still love her with all his heart. He could still be with her, holding her, stroking her soft skin with his hands and lips. He could be content with that for the moment.


Pietro had gone so still, a myriad of emotions crossing his face before he wiped his expression clear, his miss-matched eyes turning inscrutable. Cassia stared into those arresting eyes, wondering what it was that had caused him to shut away all evidence of what he was thinking. She found she couldn’t look away from him, her mouth turning dry as she drank in his beauty.

His eyes fascinated her, both on a professional level as well as personally. She knew the medical term for his different coloured pupils was heterochromia. The condition was often caused by an extreme injury. She supposed there wasn’t anything more extreme than having someone gouge an eye out. If the Amort hadn’t been in his system, his normal coloured iris would have grown back. Instead, he was left with one dark obsidian iris that appeared to suck the entire surrounding light deep within.

Was it wrong that she loved that uniqueness about him? While she ached for the pain he had endured getting the injury, she was enthralled by the dark intensity she saw every time their eyes met. She loved every chiselled bone that shaped his face into a work of art. While he used his hair to hide the worst of the scarring on his face, she wanted to tie it back so she could drink in each jagged line, so she could trace each wound with her eyes and her hands and marvel at the courage those marks reflected.

Pietro saw his scars as a sign of failure. She saw them as a sign of strength. He had endured so much and he was still standing. He continued to show how fiercely overprotective he was. He retained that arrogance that only came from a male who was used to being at the top of the heap, someone whom others feared to cross. Cassia lived for the day that he would finally come to understand that the marks he’d earned in battle were a badge of honour as opposed to a sign of weakness. She would do everything in her power to help him come to know that.

For now though, she was tired, both physically and emotionally. She hated crying. It was always such a wearying activity. She also hated showing that sign of weakness and yet, Pietro’s earlier annoyance had waned in the face of her needing him. It was easy to show her softer side to him because she respected him, as did her wolf. He was their mate, and it was part of his role to stand strong for them when they had a moment of weakness and needed that strength. It was what mates did.

And that was why she felt like crying again. He had shut her out. “What?” The word sounded accusing, and she didn’t mean it to. She just wasn’t able to add any more disappointment to the existing feelings of failure she had.

“Nothing.” He smiled and it was a soft smile, tenderness crossing his face as he reached up and unclasped her hair. “You look exhausted. I should let you go home and rest but I don’t want to be alone right now.

Cassia remained silent, lost in his eyes. His hands were gentle as they slowly pull her t-shirt over her head and unbuttoned her jeans. She placed a hand on his shoulder to brace herself, stepping out of the denim as he knelt before her. He rose silently, peeling his shirt off quickly, and then stripping his jeans from his body after kicking off his boots and socks.

Pietro stood before her in all his naked glory, his hungry eyes devouring her body. Her own gaze flickered over his beauty, her hands moving to unclip the front fastening of her bra.


It was one word but it was filled with so much dominance that she let her hands fall back to her sides and waited to see what he would do. The way his voice deepened to a raspy tone when he was aroused sent a shiver down her spine and she could feel a tightness begin in the pit of her stomach.

Pietro moved, so quickly she let out a startle squeak. He swooped her up in his arms and walked into the cooling lake while she was still in her lingerie.

“Pietro! I’ll get wet,” she protested as he removed one arm and lowered her into the water. The smoky look he gave her had her heart starting to thud in her chest.

“I know…”

Before she could say anything else, he was kissing her hard, crushing her body to his chest as the cool water lapped around them. It was a kiss full of lust, making her think of all the sinful things they could do together. Suddenly, she didn’t feel half as tired any more, as she stroked her tongue against his, loving the taste of him in her mouth.

The kiss seemed to last an eternity, until she felt lightheaded and had to pull back so she could suck in some much needed air. When she did, Pietro’s large hand travelled leisurely between her covered breasts until it gentle applied pressure, pushing her backwards. Cassia didn’t fight the pressure, allowing herself to be bowed over the arm still supporting her lower back. Her curls brushed the water, her wet lace bra leaving no secrets uncovered as she was arched up to his heated gaze.

“So beautiful,” he growled, one long finger teasing her hardened nipples through the lace, his touch so light it gave no surcease to the building tension in her body. He flicked gently, first one nipple and then the other, all the while keeping her bowed backwards and at his mercy. It was sweet torture but she didn’t want it to end. Opening her eyes and seeing the naked lust in his as he worshiped her body was enough to keep her in whatever position he so desired.

He was making a point, as he had when they had first made love. He was letting her know that no matter what, he was the one in control when they were like this. It was a novel experience, to trust a male so implicitly that she could allow that level of dominance over her. Oh, she had no doubt she would rebel against it sometimes, but for the most part, it was the most deliciously wicked feeling in the world.


“Yes, Niña?” His sexy rasp, the way he called her that pet name…it turned her blood to molten lava and filled her with a need that could never be quenched.

Cassia couldn’t complete whatever she’d been about to say. She was so caught up in his spell that she could only lay back and allow him whatever liberties he wanted to take.

“Do you trust me?”

He had to ask when she was baring everything to him, when she had wept in his arms not so long ago? She could only allow herself to be that vulnerable with someone she trusted implicitly.

“Do you?”

Lost in a haze of passion, she forced her eyes open as his maddening fingers continued to tease at her nipples, slowly rotating around the peaks before lightly grazing them. “Yes.” She almost sobbed the word out, trying to press her upper body more firmly into his grasp, but he withdrew his hand when she did, and she was forced to accede to his demands.

“Close your eyes, Niña. Lie back and relax.”

She did as he ordered, feeling him move until she was floating on the water with Pietro bracing her body with one hand on her lower back. Cassia let herself go limp, feeling the water caress her skin, feeling the stress of the day slowly ebbing away to be replaced by a quiet, languid feeling. The sun had set and only the moonlight and the odd stars pierced the darkness.  All around her was the gentle sound of the water lapping over her skin, the quiet exhalation of breath from Pietro, and the rustle of the nocturnal animals coming out to play. It was the most peaceful moment of her life.

This was what trusting her mate was all about. It was laying herself vulnerable to all external influences and knowing that he would always be there, guarding her back from any harm that may come her way. Cassia felt a lump in her throat, a feeling so intense that tears leaked from the corner of her eyes. This moment with him was the most beautiful moment she could ever remember experiencing. He had seen her fatigue, recognised her need for comfort, and he was soothing her soul in the most wonderful of ways.

“No tears,” he whispered, bending down so his breath brushed her cheek. “Just connect with everything around you. Forget about today or yesterday, don’t anticipate what tomorrow will bring. Simply live in this moment, feeling the textures, hearing the sounds. Feel your heart beat with each breath you take, Niña. Feel the life that flows all around you.”

His voice blended in with night, the cadence low and sultry, and his words so perfect she knew she would remember this night for the rest of her life. Whatever challenges life may throw at her, Cassia knew she would always find solace in this memory, that she would always find peace with her wonderful vampire. Surrendering completely, she drifted on the water, safe in the protection of her mate.

She didn’t know how much time passed before she felt Pietro move once more, gently rocking her through the water until they were close to the shore, the large overhanging rock they’d first made love on, balanced above their heads. Every bone in her body felt as if it were as soft as butter, every brush of his skin against hers lit a tiny spark of electricity within.

“Now we can begin,” Pietro growled, lifting her clear from the water and laying her back against a large boulder halfway out of the water.

Her lingerie clung to her body, transparent from the water. The air felt damp and humid, still warm from the day’s heat but beginning to cool as night took hold.

“Exquisite,” he breathed, bending down towards her body, raising her hips up so he could drag his tongue against her wet panties.

It was so erotic she moaned at the touch, raising her hands to his head to pull him closer.

“Hands on the rock, Niña.”

She didn’t want to, she wanted to touch him, to run her finger through his hair but one look at his face told her he wasn’t to be denied. “Don’t tease me, Pietro,” she countered, even as she did as he asked and placed both hands flat on either side of her.

“Behave…and you shall receive everything you dream of,” he laughed softly, clearly amused at her petulant tone. He didn’t wait for her answer, instead, he buried his head between her thighs once more and began to taste her through the lace barrier that separated him from her intoxicating sex.

Stroke after stroke, he licked against her, sending her into a frenzy of need, her hands remaining at her side. Desperation invaded her body, her sexual hunger rising so swiftly she was ready to scream at him to make love to her, to send them both into that wonderful sexual high that left them both breathless.

“Pietro, please,” she whimpered, needing so much more.

His response was a deep growl and then his teeth ripped at the lace obstructing him and the panties disintegrated.  Cassia cried out as his tongue finally connected with her flesh, stroking in rough, fast strokes all over her most intimate place. There was no more teasing, now he was a man possessed, demanding everything she had to give him, and then requesting more.

Pietro kissed and licked, teased and suckled, until she was a mass of raw nerves, her climax only a hairsbreadth away. And then he stopped and she cried out in disbelief, trying to urge him to continue but he moved away a fraction and just stared down at her.

“Patience is a virtue, sweet Cassia.” He laughed loudly, a deep laugh as she called him a rude name, then he flipped her over until she was on her stomach, and gave her backside a light swat. “Such language from a lady.”

“Bastard…” she muttered under her breath, flushing instantly as she realised what she’d said. She wasn’t usually one for swearing but then, she didn’t usually have idiotic males playing dominance games with her.

“I believe my parents were married when they had me,” Pietro chuckled, pressing her legs apart and sliding between them. “Such a naughty word to use…do you know any more?”

As she spluttered at his words, he thrust forward hard and fast, joining them together in the most intimate caress of all. Her breath whooshed out and she groaned her pleasure into the night air, clinging onto the rock as he withdrew and surged back in hard. This was what she wanted, what she needed. Pushing herself up, she ground back on his thick shaft, using her body to urge him on.

Pietro slipped a hand around her front, removing her bra and tweaking one nipple hard as he rocked into her again. Cassia’s wolf howled its glee, baring its teeth as their mate took them roughly. This was what it wanted, this was what she wanted, Pietro to be fierce and unrelenting, proving to them how much he desired them that he lost control.

A hand fisted her curls pulling her further up as he rocked into her, his mouth coming to kiss her neck…to lave his tongue against that special place she longed for him to claim her as his mate. He wasn’t ready yet…she had to wait to claim him, but she could live with him just feeding from her for now. When the time was ready…when she bit into the scar that marred the place all wolves mated, then his bite would seal them together forever.

The tension in her body was unbearable. Her breath was panting out, her stomach clenching with the deep need to come. Pietro was thrusting so hard, so fast it was difficult to catch her breath but she didn’t want him to stop. She wanted him to stop playing with her, to stop nibbling at her neck and to bite her. Why was he waiting so long?




Sharp fangs sank into her neck, his venom lighting up her soul from within. Growling, Pietro thrust hard and fast, pulling at her neck, drinking her life giving blood as they soared towards completion.

Cassia cried out, stiffening as colours exploded behind her eyes, wave after wave of pure bliss flooding her body. She heard her mate’s roar, felt him stiffen against her as he followed her into the abyss, his seed flooding her body as he shuddered against her.

When she opened her eyes, she was no longer in the water, instead she was lying on the overhanging rock, Pietro curled behind her. She couldn’t remember moving, didn’t know how they had gotten into this position but they were there and the night was cooling rapidly. Yawning loudly, she turned her mind inwards, searching for that magical place that set her, and the rest of the Vârcolac apart from normal wolves. She’d only ever conjured up personal clothes before but she didn’t think it would be much different creating the blanket she’d told Pietro she could do.

“Does that come with pillows?” Pietro’s sleepy question had her rolling over to face him. She cuddled into his embrace as he tucked the blanket around her, wrapping her securely in his arms.

“Too tired to try,” she yawned again. “You make an excellent pillow anyway.”

His light chuckle made her smile and she glanced up when he didn’t answer her. “Pietro?”

He was already asleep, his face peaceful in repose. Snuggling closer, Cassia closed her eyes and let sleep claim her.


Are you all set?” Dante ignored the glower in the eyes of the elder vampire, instead letting his gaze sweep over the assembled coven members in front of him. Michael had chosen well from first glance, the group were older than most and appeared up to the task.

“I don’t need you watching my every move,” the blond vampire growled, bristling at his question.

“Really? That wasn’t the impression Louis gave me,” Dante remarked, his tone dry. “Weren’t you fundamental in bringing an Ancient down on our heads not so very long ago?”

Michael ignored him, signalling to two of his men to start loading up the waiting cars with their packs. As they worked, he turned back to the interloper in his coven, suspicion blazing from the depths of his eyes. “I don’t know why Louis trusts you, Dante. My gut tells me you’re trouble and it’s never wrong. I always knew Louis was misplaced when he gave his trust to Thereasa, and look where we are now.”

“Yes, we have someone in the heart of a Were pack closely linked to the vampire Council. Imagine what kind of intel she could have that would aid us in remaining safe. It would be tragic if we lost that valuable information because you’re too caught up in your blood-lust.” Dante couched his words carefully, knowing what he said could be taken as treasonous.

Michael’s body stiffened, and his expression darkened, signalling that he wouldn’t be slow in taking the words just so. “Louis has marked her for death.”

Dante sighed, rolling his shoulders to release a little of the tension suffusing his body. He would have to play this one very carefully. Michael was not as stupid as he first looked. “Louis is reacting in anger and not thinking clearly at the moment. Wouldn’t it make more sense to find out what Thereasa knows? If she does have something that is a threat to all the European covens as she intimated, doesn’t it make more sense to find out what that is, instead of blithely wading in and assassinating her? Think, Michael. Use your head for once.”

Dante’s words continued to border on betrayal, but there was a certain ring of truth to them. Michael hesitated, mulling them over though his eyes still contained a healthy dose of suspicion. Thereasa had said she had important information. If he could get that information out of her before he killed her then perhaps Louis would reward him? He might even be elevated within the coven ranks.

Michael still didn’t trust Dante one iota, but the more he thought about it, the more the other vampire’s words sounded logical. Backing down a bit, he nodded his head acknowledging he would consider what he’d said.  “I’ll think about it,” he answered, the words coming out reluctantly.

“You do that,” Dante sighed, feeling fairly certain he’d bought a little time or at least put some doubt into the elder vampire’s mind. There was something about Michael that set warning bells ringing. He’d seen insanity many times over the long centuries he’d roamed the planet, and Michael was showing signs of being close to stepping over that edge.

If he returned from this mission, Dante would need to look a little closer at Michael and decide whether or not he needed to be removed permanently. Things were far too unstable already without insanity being thrown into the mix.

To be continued…

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Tears of the Fallen Ch. 14

Okay, as you will all be aware by now, I will not be posting any more chapters to Literotica for Tears. I will be posting them here on my Blog and also on WattPad, where I am in the process of putting Tears up from the beginning so ch 14 will be up there once I have got the rest of them posted. For now...



Chapter Fourteen

Demetri strode into the laboratory at the pack compound, easily carrying a small refrigerator in his hands. A young female wolf gaped at him with an open mouth, a flicker of fear on her face as he walked through the door. She was the only person in the lab and she looked like she was ready to run screaming out the room. He had to fight down the urge to growl in irritation.

“Where is Cassia or Mallen?”

The girl gaped at him, a shiver of fear running through her that was so strong, he could actually see her quake. Demetri took a deep breath and tried again. “This refrigerator has been without power for over an hour. The contents will spoil soon if they haven’t already. It’s imperative I get it to Cassia or Mallen as soon as possible.”

“Plug it in over there, Demetri,” Cassia said from behind him, and he turned his head to see her just arriving, pointing to a clear workspace at the back of the room. She gave his a wide smile, not the least intimidated by him, but then she was used to seeing him around her house when he visited with Alexei.

“Trish, why don’t you take a break for a little while, go and get yourself some lunch. I can help Demetri.” The young girl almost ran from the room, relief etched on her face as Cassia freed her from having to have any further dealings with the vampire.

The Vârcolac waited for her to leave before she quirked an eyebrow at her adopted uncle. “You could make a little more of an effort. You scared the poor girl witless and she’s one of Mallen’s more promising students. We really can’t afford to lose her skills if she becomes too afraid to come to the lab. She has a strong maternal streak and needs a lot of support right now.”

The vampire had deposited the refrigerator where he was told and looked back at her as he plugged it in. “What? All I did was ask where either you or Mallen where.”   

“Demetri, you know fine well you scare the crap out of most people just by walking into a room,” Cassia laughed, fondness in her tone. “What are you, six foot two? Factor in the whole big scary vampire thing you’ve got going on and you’re likely to have half the teenagers running scared with one glance in their direction. It doesn’t help that Pietro was here earlier looking like something out of a Dracula movie. He almost scared poor Trish to death.”

Her droll tone had Demetri smiling and he crossed the room to give her a quick hug. “Speaking of Pietro, I’d have another shower before you head home, Cass. Unless you actually want Alexei to go ballistic?”

She flushed a deep shade of red, hugging him back for a moment before stepping away. “Thanks for the heads up.” It was disconcerting to know the vampire was aware of her tryst with his friend so she quickly changed the subject before he could comment further. “Rafe said this is a viable sample of the toxin.”

“I checked and it appears to still be good but what would I know for sure, I’m not a scientist. The door hasn’t been opened since I unplugged it, so with luck, the temperature will have remained cold enough to keep it safe. I’d give it an hour or so to chill down again before having a look.”

 “I agree. Do you want to come over to the house for some lunch?” Cassia was taping a sign to the small unit warning against it being opened in case anyone came in while she was gone.

“Vampire here. I don’t eat.” The Ancient’s laugh was a warm rich sound that only a very few ever got to hear. “However, I do want to know how Pietro is getting on so I’ll accompany you while you eat. Will Cedar and Alexei be there?”

Cassia shook her head, preceding him out of the lab. “Mom’s over at the Hanlon pack today keeping Jared abreast of everything that’s been happening and taking a little time to catch up with family. Dad’s out on some Council business. I think he was supposed to be meeting with Andrei and Mara.” There was a questioning inflection in her voice as she spoke.

The vampire at her side smiled, and it was one of his more natural smiles, which usually graced his handsome face whenever his wife was around or mentioned. “Yeah, they’re meeting with Stefan to keep an eye on how things are with the Council. At the last meeting everything appeared to be moving in the direction we want, however, it’s not unknown for one or two of them to suddenly change their mind.”

He followed her into her kitchen and watched as she began making coffee for him as well as a sandwich and some tea for herself. “So, what’s going on with you and Pietro?”

“It’s private, Demetri,” Cassia choked out, startled by his bluntness.

“He’s been through a lot, Cass. Playing around with a wolf might not be the best thing for him right now. I know for a fact Alexei going ape-shit at him sure as hell isn’t a good thing.”

She turned around to regard him, her expression surprised for a moment before a wide smile crossed her face. “And here was me thinking you were lecturing me about it for my protection. It’s a pleasant surprise to find it the other way around.”

Demetri’s own serious expression lightened a bit, his lips twitching in a smile. “Yeah, it must be a bit of shock finding someone who has actually realised the Vârcolac are more than capable of taking care of themselves,” he conceded, taking the proffered cup of coffee she handed him.

Cassia sat down at the table with her lunch, chewing thoughtfully before she spoke. “I’m not playing, Demetri.  Pietro is safe with me. He may not know it yet, and apart from Dara, you’re the only other person who does know, but he’s mine.”

She didn’t know what she expected his reaction to be but the smile that crossed the Ancient vampire’s face made Cassia suck in a deep breath and feel slightly envious of Mara that she got to witness that expression all the time. Not that she would trade Pietro in for anyone else but she was woman enough to acknowledge a handsome male when she saw one.

“He’s your mate?” he asked, though they both knew it was a moot question so he didn’t wait for her to answer. “If anything can help Pietro heal, it will be finally finding his mate after all these centuries. I couldn’t have chosen a better match for him either.  You are perfect for him.”

For some reason Demetri’s warm approval brought a lump to Cassia’s throat and she had to swallow hard to clear it and return his smile with one that held a hint of sadness. “He’s so angry, Demetri.  Yes, he’s going through the motions of moving on but the rage he’s bottling up inside is destructive. I’m afraid of what he may do to Thereasa if he ever comes into contact with her.”

The vampire’s eyes darkened and a frown creased his forehead. “Do you think he’ll hurt her?” While he had no love for the former vampire, he was astute enough to know the potential damage it could cause to the pack, not to mention the personal harm it could cause to both Liam and now Cassia, if his friend was to act out any thoughts of vengeance. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

“I think there is a very strong probability that he may,” she whispered, fear in her eyes as she met his. “As long as he doesn’t actually see her, he’s able to keep in his mind that she’s Liam’s mate and as such, to protect Liam he has to leave her alone. If he were to see her though, I’m not so sure that he’d be able to hold onto that rationale.”

Demetri sat back in his chair, imagining the chaos that would ensue if Pietro lost it and hurt the woman. The chances of something similar to what happened up at the Praetorian compound occurring would be a high probability. Maybe it would be wiser to move Pietro from the Armand-Hanlon pack. He was sure Mara wouldn’t mind if he suggested the vampire move in with them for a while.

“Have you talked to Rafe about it?” he eventually asked, all the while thinking about possible solutions to the problem.

Cassia shook her head. “Not specifically, but I know he’s more than aware anyway. I’ve noticed Sam and Harlan are always around the compound since Pietro’s been here. They’re two of Rafe’s strongest Betas. Also, Aaron’s been close to home too. With all the work required to transfer ownership of the pack’s businesses and start up new ones, he should be coordinating that but he’s here most of the time. Rafe is keeping his best people close and it can only be for that reason.”

Demetri nodded his agreement. The Alpha was smarter than most wolves he knew which was expected of anyone he accepted into his family. Rafe had earned his respect years ago when they had fought with Richard Graves after his attack on the Hanlon pack. While their relationship wasn’t the standard kind of family one, he was Rhianna’s brother and that meant he was Demetri’s family by default and under his protection.

“I’ll speak to Mara and Caleb. It might be wise to remove Pietro from the pack and place him somewhere else.”

“He’s not ready for that,” Cassia disagreed, denial rippling through her at the thought of her mate going anywhere away from her. “He’s only just venturing out of the house and only in my company. Reasa and Liam will be heading up to the Praetorian compound soon anyway, from what I hear. Let me work with him, Demetri. As long as I stay close everything should be okay.”

He looked doubtful but he finally conceded, though he wasn’t entirely happy about it. “He can’t be allowed to do anything that may hurt the pack; no matter how justified some may feel he is. If he kills Thereasa and Liam goes rogue, hundreds of people could die.”

“It won’t come to that. I know it won’t. I won’t let it.”

The determination in Cassia’s voice matched her expression and it was enough to ease some of his concern. Demetri sipped at his coffee as she ate, wondering if perhaps it would be wise for him to pop in and have a word with Pietro before he headed home.


“I thought the purpose was for me to recuperate here undisturbed?” There was no mistaking the irritation on Pietro’s face as he opened the door.

Demetri merely gave him a level stare before brushing past him into the house. “Cassia reeks of you.”

His friend smiled, a genuine, warm smile that reached his miss-matched eyes. “She should,” was all the other vampire said turning to head into the empty living room.

“What are you doing, Pietro? You know Alexei will hand you your ass on a plate when he finds out your having sex with his daughter. Do you have a death wish? Wasn’t Europe a step too close for you?” Demetri watched his friend closely, seeing the slight stiffening of his shoulders that indicated his temper was on the rise. He didn’t care, he had to find out if Pietro had any concept of what was happening. Perhaps then, he’d be able to have a word with Alexei when the shit hit the fan.

“Remind me again what business my personal life is of yours, Demetri? Should I start commenting on your relationship with Mara and Alexei’s with Cedar?” There was more than a hint of coolness in Pietro’s voice as he sat down on the sofa and met his friend’s stare.

“Alexei and I are mated to our partners. What are you implying here? Is Cassia your mate?”

Pietro’s expression turned neutral, not a hint of what he was feeling crossing his face. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re just enjoying each other. The last time I looked Cassia was a grown woman who is more than capable of making her own decisions. I don’t see why this is anyone else’s business but our own.”

Demetri sat down on the sofa across from him, an eyebrow quirking at his choice of words. “Why ridiculous? Mac found his mate in Lily when he least expected it. Why is the possibility of Cassia being your mate ridiculous?”

“Look at me, Demetri. Look at the scars on my face. You’ve seen the ones on my body in Europe. What woman would want…this?” Pietro hissed out the words, waving a hand at the visible scars on his face and neck. His eyes blazed with repulsion, his one remaining hazel eye turning almost as black as the damaged one.

If he’d thought his outburst would garner some form of sympathy from his friend he was rudely mistaken. Demetri’s expression remained the same, thoughtful but unsympathetic. “Clearly Cassia doesn’t mind your imperfections.” He pointed out the obvious. His response only appeared to irritate his friend more.

“I’m an anomaly to her. I’m the first vampire to be scarred for life. Of course, she’s going to be interested in me. My body may hold the clue to an antidote for this poison. That calls to the scientist in her. As soon as she’s found a cure she’ll have no further need for me anymore. So I will enjoy the time I have with her for however long I have it, but that is all there is to this thing between us. It is all there can be. I’ve told her that so she’d aware.”

Demetri stared at him, using all of his self-control to stop his mouth from dropping open. It was obvious Pietro was clueless to what was happening. He truly believed what he was saying. Did his friend really know Cassia so little that he believed she was only interested in him for scientific reasons and would leave him when that was no longer the case?

He felt a pang of sympathy but it was for Cassia not Pietro. She was an amazing young woman with a bright future ahead of her. She was happy at finding her mate in Pietro however, she had no idea that her mate didn’t want her. Was she strong enough to ride out his friend’s demons with him? It could prove one hell of an upward battle to convince Pietro that he was worthy of her.

“I’m astounded to hear you think Cassia is that fickle,” he finally said, standing up to leave. Coming here hadn’t been a good idea after all because Demetri was sorely tempted to kick the shit out of his friend for being so narrow-minded. “It would serve you right if she did kick you into touch. While I’m here, there are also some concerns about your antipathy towards Reasa. I just wanted to remind you to stay away from the girl.”

“I don’t need you to tell me that,” Pietro snapped back, more than a little anger in his voice as he rose too. “I’ve stayed away from her for days now. You have no need to concern yourself over that. You really came here just to push my buttons, Demetri?”

The two vampires stared each other out and then Demetri’s lips quirked in a smile. “Actually I did want to see how you were doing too,” he grinned. “It’s good to see you with some fire in your belly, my friend. Hold onto that and you will heal just fine.” He turned and walked to the front door.

As he pulled it opened, Pietro followed him, a scowl on his face. “What did you mean about Cassia not being so fickle? Demetri! Demetri!”

Climbing into his car, Demetri’s grin widened at the sound of the front door slamming shut when he didn’t answer. He may suck at the more tender emotions but he sure as hell still had it in him to piss people off. Hopefully, Pietro would be so off-balance trying to figure out his relationship with Cassia that there wouldn’t be any chance for him to accidentally bump into Thereasa.

The Vârcolac had her work cut out with his friend, there was no doubt about that, but there was more than enough spark still within Pietro. He had faith that she would be able to make him see sense. The only question was…would she be able to do it before Alexei found out about them.


Reasa had just finished lunch when the knock came on the front door. Freya looked up from the pile of paperwork she was nose deep in and smiled. “I wonder if he was clock watching,” she commented before calling out, “Come in, Liam.”

Taking a deep breath, Reasa deposited her plate and cutlery into the dishwasher and then turned to greet the Vârcolac. “You had sufficient time to read the entire book?

“Eidetic memory,” he grinned, the book on dream walking tucked under his arm at his side. “I brought it back so you could read it later. It really is fascinating.”

There was a new confidence about him. It was subtle and not the least cocky, but she could see the slight change in him as he waited patiently for her to decide what they were going to do. She had to admit the confidence made him much more appealing and it was hard to keep her gaze fixed firmly on his face and not travelling down his body to admire the view.

Giving herself a mental shake, she turned to Freya who was openly watching them without the least attempt to conceal it. “May we use you for the next lesson, Freya?” She noted Liam frown at the words. He was clearly not happy at the prospect of his aunt being with them.

“What am I required to do?”

Reasa ignored Liam, keeping her gaze on the vampire. “If you could possibly choose an appropriate emotion and maintain it for a while? Liam and I will be in the other room. I want to show him how to seek out individual emotions. As he already had a strong connection with you, it should be easier for him to detect your emotions.”

Freya frowned, looking back at her paperwork. “Wouldn’t Elina be a better choice for this? Liam has the same affinity with her as he does with me. I am very busy right now.”

Reasa shook her head. “Elina is too used to using her abilities to shield Liam. That habit will most likely provide an obstacle to any progress.”

“Irritation is an emotion too, Freya,” Liam grinned at his aunt. “I’m used to sensing that in you so I should be able to find you easily.”

Giving her nephew a pointed look, the vampire finally sighed. “Very well, but try to make this quick. Learn fast, Liam, I have work to finish this afternoon.”

Laughing at the pique in Freya’s tone, Liam followed Reasa into the back of the house. He was excited to learn new tools that could help him control his empathy, but he was more excited about spending more time with his mate. The morning lesson had been challenging, especially when he’d had to confront his vampiric side, but having Reasa in his mind had been amazing. He couldn’t wait to experience it again and have their positions reversed so he could be in her mind this time. He wondered what he would learn about the exotic creature that was destined to be his mate.

He was also excited to tell her what he’d learned from Annie’s book. Since he’d discovered what he’d inadvertently done up at the Praetorian Compound, it had only been his stronger shields that had prevented his sorrow and guilt from being projected onto the pack. After reading the book, he now had some hope that they may be able to save the stricken vampires.

Reasa took her position on her bed as before and he took his at the bottom facing her, the book on dreaming walking once more placed between them. It appeared symbolic, as if it gave her some form of protection against him. It was enough to make Liam smile. If he were determined to have her no book would get in his way, however he knew she needed more time so he was content to wait until she came to him. She would come to him, of that he had no doubt. No one could withstand the mating instinct, not matter how hard they wished they could.

“Stop grinning. This is serious and you need to concentrate.” Reasa’s tone was waspish and it reminded him of his aunt and sometimes Elina too. It suddenly struck Liam how he automatically formed bonds with women who were usually cool and reserved. He was drawn to personalities that soothed his soul even as he strove to try to bring laughter into their lives because he wanted to see them happy.

Composing himself, he tried to look less pleased with being in Reasa’s company. He really did want to learn what she had to teach him and didn’t want to risk having her decide to withdraw her offer to help. Relaxing his arms on his crossed legs, he waited for her to begin.

“This time we’re going to be entering my mind so I can show you how to locate someone’s emotions. I am strong enough to make small enhancements to emotions without damaging the host mind, which is very easy to do. You MUST concentrate fully, Liam. You have the power to turn me into a drooling mess and I’m not so sure you wouldn’t be able to do the same to Freya despite her having one of the strongest minds I’ve come across. I cannot stress just how dangerous this is. One slipup and you could wipe both of our minds.”

Some of Liam’s eagerness waned as he saw the seriousness of her expression. Reasa wasn’t being overly-theatrical, she meant every word. If he deviated even the slightest from her commands, he could possibly harm two of the women he cared most for in the world. A tremor of fear gripped him and something must have shown in his eyes because Reasa’s expression softened slightly.

“I believe your natural protective instincts will not allow you to do any harm,” she said in a less acerbic tone. “I’m willing to take the risk so try not to be overly concerned about it. Be careful, yes, but have some faith in yourself.”

“What about my aunt? Is she aware of how dangerous this is?”

Reasa nodded. “Of course. All vampires are aware of the risks of another entering their minds. The fact Freya suggested Elina for the task proves her faith in you, Liam. She would not risk her daughter if she thought for one moment you may harm her.”

That settled him a little, and he loosened his shoulders to relax himself. “Okay, what do I do?”

“I’m lowering my mental shields a fraction to allow you to come in. Very gently reach out with your mind and try to find the way in. Most people imagine different things when it comes to their defences. They often don’t even realise they’re doing it. The first step is always to try to determine what they are. Try to work out what my defences are and then the path I’m allowing you to take to enter into my mind.”

Closing his eyes because it was better not to have the distraction of looking at his mate, Liam carefully pushed out his mental awareness towards Reasa until he came across a lattice of thick strands of rubber. He tested the thickest part of it, giving a weak mental push and watching the rubber give a little but rebound back into place the instant he stopped pushing. It was fascinating so he did it again and smiled.

Reasa’s shields were very strong and he couldn’t stop the swelling of pride that rushed through him. When they joined together they would be so strong. Her experience and his strength as a booster would make them a formidable team.


There was exasperation in her tone so he moved on, following the rubber strands as they began to taper down in thickness until he was at the barest of openings. It was so minute if he hadn’t been concentrating so hard he would have missed it. She was very skilled at this and he couldn’t stop another smile crossing his face as he accepted her invitation and entered her mind slowly.

It was strange to be within someone else’s most private place. It wasn’t the same as the mental communication they’d shared. He was more fully inside Reasa’s mind, sensing her emotions and being close to her thoughts too.  If he really wanted to he could push just a little and he would be able to read her thoughts but he chose not to do that. Instead he concentrated on an area in her mind that closely resembled an overgrown well and sent his physic persona to that place.

“Your touch is very light,” Reasa said out aloud, approval in her tone that widened his grin. “Continue with this level of touch and calmness and I may come out of this intact. You’ve found where my emotions are hidden. Can you determine the different ones?”

Liam didn’t speak, he used his mind to conjure the image of a feather which he dipped into the well carefully. She had said to keep his touch light and a feather was the lightest item he could think of. He didn’t want to inadvertently hurt her.

Reasa giggled as he stroked the feather over a moss-hewn brick and he laughed at the sound. “This is where your sense of humour lies,” he chuckled, dragging the feather over it again so he could hear the wonderful sound she emitted. He could have stayed there all day making her laugh but knew she would tell him off if he tried it.

Moving on, he brushed another brick and felt the first stirrings of irritation within his mate as her breath hissed out. Anger. He tried again and felt a hot blast of desire exude from the woman before him, and he quickly backed away before she could become angrier. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“It is fine, just move on,” Reasa answered, a breathless quality to her voice.

Liam didn’t brush anymore bricks with the feather; he let it melt away and just viewed the bricks. He was quickly recognising each emotion and he didn’t want to touch the ones that would cause her pain or induce her to cry. He spent a few more moments staring into the well before he backed away. “I feel confident I know what I’m looking for now, Reasa.”

His mate let out a slow breath and he opened his eyes to see her watching him intently. “You learn so fast.” There was an accusation to her tone.

He shot her a rueful smile. “The book has a section solely on this,” he admitted.

Her green eyes bore into him as her lips tighten a bit in disapproval, but she didn’t call him on the fact he’d kept that to himself. “Fine. Let us see if you can narrow in on individual emotions now you know what you’re looking for. Lower your defences until you can feel both Freya’s emotions and mine. Don’t open too wide to the entire pack or you may be overloaded. Start small.”

He did as she asked, keeping a light presence in her mind in the region where her emotions were and then reached out psychically to the other room to sense his aunt. Freya was concentrating on her paperwork task, irritation wafting from her in spades. He stayed still, sensing the difference in wavelengths and noting that each had a distinctive pattern, an individual signature.

It was something akin to what he did with the Vârcolac. Before today, he had only been able to do this with the Vârcolac because they were more prone to speak telepathically. In hindsight, he could see that he’d automatically learned their signatures at an early age. This was the first time he’d ever noticed it with anyone else in the pack and it was a heady feeling.

It was enough to make Liam smile again and he couldn’t resist testing his aunt’s mental defences to see if he could easily enter her mind. He was immediately brought up short by a hedge so dense it was a solid wall. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it appeared to be encased in a mesh of barbed wire. Stunned, he could only gape at it in stunned shock. Surely she had to have the most impressive defences of anyone he knew, and if she did, he could only imagine the depth of emotions she kept hidden from the world.

He began to test each section, keeping his touch light as he sought a way in. Liam knew he was probably powerful enough to force his way into Freya’s mind but that wasn’t the object of the lesson. He just wanted to test if he could slip inside. He didn’t want to do anything while he was there, he was just overcome with the need to know…

“Liam!” Reasa’s scolding tone startled him and he hastily backed away, his expression sheepish when he opened his eyes to look at her.

“Freya did not give you permission to trespass in her thoughts.”

“Sorry, I got a little carried away there.” His tone was meek and he gave a small smile that turned into a large grin when she rolled her eyes.

“Somebody save me from foolish males who think a cute smile will get them out of trouble,” she grumbled under her breath, but he could see a smile threatening to tilt her lips upward.

He beamed at her until she rose from the bed and began pacing the room. As the silence stretched, he watched her move with a rapt expression. She had no idea how graceful she was, how the sunlight shining in the window bathed her caramel skin with a soft glow that made his mouth go dry. He ached to brush his lips against that skin, to run his tongue over her softness to see if she tasted as good as she looked. He wondered what she’d do if he tried.

Liam knew she wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to mate with him, but she inspired such emotions within him, keeping his distance was difficult.  Would she let him have just one kiss? Having her in his mind and sharing hers was such an intimate thing. Surely that was more intimate than a simple kiss? If she trusted him enough on a psychic level then perhaps she would trust him a little further? Rising slowly from the bed, he moved into her path so when she next turned to resume her pacing he was blocking her way.

Reasa uttered a startled squeak as she unexpectedly came up against the brick wall of his chest. “What are you doing?” She stepped back quickly, scowling up at him.

“You are the most exquisite woman I have ever seen.” His words appeared to catch her even more off-guard and she stared at him mutely for a moment before she backed away further.

“We are here to work on a way to treat the injured vampires. If you are unable to maintain that task then you should leave.”

Her words were as frosty as the glare on her face but it didn’t faze him. Liam stepped closer, inhaling Reasa’s heavenly scent, his heart beginning to kick up a beat. She smelled so good, so tantalising that his mouth was starting to water at the thought of tasting her. Reasa’s tongue snaked out nervously, brushing her bottom lip as she came up against the immovable object of the wall and her fierceness turned to uncertainty.


Placing both hands on the wall either side of her head, he had the presence of mind not to press his body against hers even though he dearly wanted to. One kiss. That was all he wanted and all he would tease from his beautiful mate…this time.

“Liam…” This time his name sounded breathless, a slight tremor in her voice as Reasa’s hands came up and she mistakenly touch him on the chest.

Heat flared through him the instant she touched him. It wasn’t a slow burn but instead an inferno of need racing through his veins until he thought he would surely turn to ash from the intensity. Liam didn’t recognise the harsh growl that uttered from his lips as he swooped down and took her mouth in a blistering kiss, stroking her lips with his, running his tongue along her bottom lip as she had done only moments before.

Colours exploded behind his closed eyes, hot reds, flickering yellows and a blinding white so intense it threatened to consume him. She tasted divine, like hot caramel layering through molten chocolate with a hint of spicy cinnamon.  She was heat and passion, soft and yet strong, her lips moulding to his desperately as she kissed him back with a fervour that bordered on wildness.

Reasa’s fingers curled into his chest, resting against his racing heart as he fought to keep some distance between them when all he wanted to do was press his aching body against her softness. He had to maintain some control though, because she was so very fragile now and he could easily hurt her with his passion. He contented himself with the kiss, with stealing her breath away when he dipped his tongue inside her mouth to taste her more fully.

Liam couldn’t ever remember feeling this alive, this intensity of emotions without there being pain. Before Thereasa, he would have been projecting everything to the pack but not this…not these emotions. These were solely for him and for his mate. These were the most intimate and private of emotions that he would never share with anyone other than her. She was his, his exotic mate, his fierce little bundle of conflicted feelings and messed up thinking. Thereasa was his enigma to solve as she worked to save his soul without truly knowing that was what she was doing.

Liam finally dragged his mouth away, his breathing harsh as he stared down into dazed green eyes that for once weren’t flashing at him in irritation. He gave into temptation to run his fingers over her warm brown skin, trailing them across one cheek slowly until he rubbed a thumb against her swollen bottom lip. “I guess the lesson is over now,” he sighed softly, a rueful smile tugging at his lips as he watched awareness creep back into her gaze and her hands pushed at his chest.

“Get out!

He knew she needed time and space, so he backed away, moving to the closed bedroom door. “I’ll leave the book for you to read. I think tomorrow we can go up to the Praetorian Compound and see if there is anything we can do to help the injured. Rafe should have had enough time to arrange an escort by now.”

Reasa stared dumbly at him as he left the room, closing the door quietly behind him. The instant he did, she moved back to the bed, hugging her knees as her heart beat a wild tattoo in her chest. Dear God, the heat in his kiss had been electric. He had sucked her down and turned her inside out with that one meeting of lips. There was an ache in her stomach so intense it was almost physical. What the hell had he done to her?  He had to have projected his emotions onto her for her to respond the way she had. He had to!

Reasa stared at the door, her thoughts in chaos as she tried to convince herself of that and reluctantly had to be truthful with herself. Liam had maintained his shields during the kiss. Her reaction had purely been her own, she couldn’t deny that. She had wanted him, had needed him with a passion so intense she’d been disappointed when he’d stopped kissing her. She was attracted to Liam Eriksson despite of what he was. She had come here to kill him and his kind and now she wanted to lay with him, to feel his hands stroking her body, to feel his lips…

Burying her head against her knees, she fought not to think any further down those lines as the ache in the pit of her stomach grew worse. She had to stop thinking like that. She had to put Liam back in the box she’d constructed for him. He was an abomination. He shouldn’t have been born.

But she found the strength of her convictions was weaker than it had ever been before. The box wouldn’t close within her mind, instead it remained cracked open and twinkling brown eyes peeked out at her. Reasa swallowed back a strangled sob as wicked lips grinned at her…playful, teasing and so full of heat they were ready to burn her up. She was in trouble and she didn’t know how to get herself out of this one.


 “Cassia, I need to head into the city to pick up some supplies for the lab that Mallen’s ordered in. I’m supposed to have an escort.”

The Vârcolac halted in her tracks on her way over to see Pietro, mild annoyance overcoming her at the interruption. She turned around to look at Trish and the annoyance melted away in an instant. At seventeen, the youngster already looked older than she was, but lacked the usual confidence of most of her peers. It was why the tall dark-haired girl had been scheduled to help at the lab, to boost that confidence among some of the more empathic pack members.

Despite her desire to see her mate, Cassia wasn’t able to ignore the needs of one of her more vulnerable pack mates.  “You and me both,” she commented, giving her a reassuring smile.

“Really?” Trish’s eyes were huge, her surprise evident.

“Yes…unless Rafe has rescinded the order.” Cassia spotted Aaron leaving the Alpha’s house and waved to the pack’s second-in-command. “Aaron, we need to go into town to pick up some supplies. I was thinking about asking Pietro to accompany us. Will that be sufficient?”

Her uncle wandered over, a thoughtful expression on his face as he regarded them. “I don’t think that will be a problem, honey,” he said, giving his niece a hug before ruffling Trish’s hair. “It will do you all some good to get away from the pack for a bit. I’m sure you’ll be able to keep everyone in one piece, Cass.”

For a moment she blinked at him in surprise and then a wide smile crossed her face. Aaron was putting her in charge of the outing, not coddling her, as was the norm. Her expression must have been something to see because her uncle laughed loudly and shook his head.

“We learn from our mistakes,” he winked, his sunny smile automatically making them both smile back at him. Aaron’s easy-going personality hid a core of steel but it made him the first person most of the pack went to when they had a problem. “You will see more of our pack and the Hanlon pack in the city than normal but that’s only because we’re stepping up a presence there to see if we can locate any strangers to the area. If you see anything out of the ordinary let me know. Jared’s informed us he’s detected some unknown wolves in his neck of the woods recently. They’ve come close but so far haven’t trespassed on pack lands. It’s unusual behaviour though and with the current threat level from the European vampires we’d be foolish not to pay close attention to these random wolves.”

Cassia’s surprise instantly turned to wariness and she couldn’t help the feeling of pleasure that also washed over her. Her uncle was treating her like one of the pack soldiers, and that pleased her wolf no end.  This was the first she’d heard of these unknown wolves and she knew it was probably on a need to know basis. The fact she was entrusted with the knowledge was a huge source of pride for her but she tried not to show it too openly.

“If we see anything we’ll let you know,” she answered.

As Aaron nodded and walked away, she became aware of the scent of fear from Trish and turned her gaze back to the girl. “It will be okay. I’m sure we won’t see anything untoward while we’re picking up the supplies.”

Wary blue eyes met hers as Trish shifted nervously from one foot to the other. “It’s not that, Cassia,” she murmured, her gaze flitting towards Andrei’s home. “Do we really need to take the vampire along with us?”

It took a few seconds to realise that the younger woman truly was terrified of Pietro, not that he had done anything outwardly aggressive towards the girl. It would appear this trip to the city was going to be educational for all involved. Trish had to overcome her lack of confidence, and overcoming her fear of Pietro would be a good start in that direction. Pietro needed to interact with others more, and she hoped Trish’s vulnerability would spark his protective instincts. 

“Come on,” she smiled, linking her arm with Trish and marching her over to Andrei’s house. “Pietro isn’t half as scary as he looks and he’s really a very nice vampire. We’re also doing some healing here too, Trish. We’re helping him to become accustomed to being in the presence of others.”  Her final words appeared to encourage the healer inside Trish as the girl straightened a bit and her steps held a little more confidence. Smiling, Cassia knocked on the door.

“What?!” Pietro barked swinging open the door, his mood still black from Demetri’s visit. He hadn’t even paid any attention to who was calling, his mood was that bad. The young girl from the lab earlier uttered a frightened cry and stumbled backwards while Cassia’s expression turned from cheerful to scowling in less than a second.

“Who pissed on your parade?” Her tone was icy as it washed over him but that didn’t stop his hungry gaze roaming over her exquisite face as if he hadn’t seen her for days.

The blackness lifted in an instant and he felt his lips tugging up in a half smile. “Demetri.”

Cassia nodded, her own expression clearing a bit. “Ah yes…he can do that to most people.” She turned to her companion and held out a hand for the girl to come closer. “Trish, this is Pietro. You’ll have to excuse his lack of manners just now. He’s male,” she said the last in a stage whisper and winked at her.

Looking at the other woman, Pietro could see she was younger than he’d first thought and a bit on the nervous side. He felt old instincts starting to well up inside and was surprised to note that the protectiveness he’d previously felt mainly towards the Vârcolac was being extended to the girl he’d just scared the life out of. Perhaps it was because Cassia appeared to be taking the youngster under her wing. If she was important to the Vârcolac then maybe he should take more of an interest in her.

He found himself smiling and knew it must be tugging at the scar on his face. Trish looked at him hesitantly but he didn’t see any sign of repulsion in her expression. He dialled back his previous bad mood a bit more. “My apologies, Trish, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

His gaze turned back to Cassia. “You have a reason for being here?” He couldn’t think what they possibly wanted. The Vârcolac was hardly going to bring along a teenager if she wanted to spent intimate time with him. He had to admit that his interest was piqued.

“We need an escort into the city. Everyone else is busy so I thought you might like to accompany us.”

It took every ounce of his self-control not to let his mouth gape open in stunned surprise. She wanted him to leave the pack? His instinctive reaction was to refuse on the spot, an icy shiver running down his spine at the thought of leaving the sanctity of the pack. He was aware that was due to his feelings of failure for what had happened in Europe. He knew he had to begin the healing process and he was trying to do that with Cassia. If she was asking for this then she must feel that he was ready.

He liked Cassia. He liked her very much, almost to the point of craving her company and it wasn’t just about the sex. She was intelligent, and so interesting that simply being in her company was a soothing balm. If he refused, she wouldn’t like it, and he didn’t want to see disappointment in her eyes because he appeared weak. Swallowing, his brows drew down in a small scowl as he felt the acrid taste of fear in his mouth. He wasn’t sure if he was afraid she would be disappointed in him or afraid of leaving the confines of the pack.

“You know you don’t need me to accompany you. You’re more than capable of taking care of yourself and your little pup, Cassia.”

“Oh I know that,” she grinned at him. “Unfortunately, Rafe doesn’t appear to have fully rescinded the escort rules for us Vârcolac, though he has relaxed them considerably. Aaron is happy for us to go into town as long as we have an escort of some kind. I would prefer if it were you. We do need the supplies but we’re also to keep our eyes and ears open too. There are some strange wolves around, possibly from Europe. With you having been over there for so long, you may be the best person to be looking. There’s a possibility you may recognise some faces if you’ve come across them before.”

She was so plausible that he had to smile. How could he argue with her logic when it was so sound? She had wrapped him up neatly and tied the bow. He was unable to refuse now because his protective instincts were rearing up loud and clear. Strange wolves in the area meant potential risks for both the packs and also for his own kind.

“How’s the experiments coming along?” Of course, they had to factor in that the poison was still a huge risk to all vampires out there.

Cassia’s expression turned hopeful. “They’re ongoing and will take a few hours to complete. This is the perfect time for a little side trip because watching experiments is a very frustrating activity.”

Making up his mind, Pietro let out a long sigh. There really was no way out of it and if he was honest about it, he did want to test himself away from the pack. It would give him an indication on where he was at in the healing process. In addition…he wanted to spend time with Cassia, even if it meant they had an escort in the young wolf with them. “Fine, let me grab a jacket.”

The sunny smile he received was worth any trepidation he was feeling. As he grabbed his leather jacket and returned outside, he couldn’t help analyse his reactions to the exquisite golden-haired woman waiting for him. Everything about her called to him. When they were apart, she was all he could think about. Cassia appeared to feel the same because she was always seeking him out.

Demetri’s words came back to him and he felt a shiver of shock run through his body. Was Cassia his mate? Could that be possible or where they just two friends enjoying a mutual pleasure that was quite literally breath taking? Deciding it wasn’t something he wanted to examine too closely right now, Pietro climbed into the front passenger seat of the Jeep as Trish scurried into the back and Cassia started the engine. No, he’d think about it at another time.

Cassia tried to keep the wide grin from her face as they drove off pack lands and headed towards the city. She had expected Pietro to put up a fight about leaving the pack but he’d agreed with practically no real persuasion needed. That pleased her wolf immensely, and the female part of her. He was willing to try…that was all they could ask for at this point in his healing process. The fact he wasn’t decked out in his stupid hat was a good sign as well. True, he was still using his hair to try to hide the worst of his scars but it was a start.

It didn’t take them long to arrive into the city. Cassia parked the Jeep in a long stay car park close to area where they would be picking up their supplies. She decided to try to make a day of it, or at least a few hours, it would depend on how her companions coped being away from the pack.  Trish was probably more skittish than Pietro was so there was a good chance they would have to return early.

It appeared Pietro was aware of that too because his wary demeanour was loosening up a bit and he was engaging the younger wolf in conversation. Cassia used a hand to hide the smile that was lighting up her face as she kept to the background and just listened.

“So, are female wolves like all other females when it comes to shopping?” he asked Trish with a wry smile gracing his handsome face. “How many shops am I about to get dragged into?”

The younger wolf appeared startled for a moment and then she gave him a hesitant smile as he moved to place himself to her side, closest to the road, with Cassia on her other side. It appeared instinctive that he did that, automatically placing the girl between them so it would ease some of her anxiety levels.

“We have a list.” Trish pulled out the list from the back pocket of her jeans and shyly handed it to him.

Pietro accepted it and began reading, his eyes glazing slightly the more he read. He reached across and handed the piece of paper to Cassia. “Maybe you should have this, it’s way over my head. I don’t understand any of the items on it.”

Trish giggled at the bemusement in his tone. “We could go shopping for clothes instead,” she laughed, her expression turning surprised as she realised she’d just teased a vampire.

“Clothes I understand,” he smiled back at her, keeping his tone light and friendly. “However, I also know just how long women spend clothes shopping so maybe we should stick to the list for now?”

Cassia laughed too, rolling her eyes. “Let’s stick to what we’re here for and if we have time we can do some personal shopping later.” She perused the list and then pointed down the block. “We can get quite a few things down here.”

They managed to secure most of what they needed in a relatively short period of time. As the items weren’t perishable, Cassia steered them towards one of the many cafés in the area. “Why don’t we have a coffee before we head for the final few things?”

“Sounds good,” Pietro answered, and they chose a table outside in the warm afternoon sunshine.

Sipping at a cool drink, Cassia let her gaze wander over the people passing them by as she listened to Pietro chatting with Trish. He was asking her about her studies and pack schedule, subtly giving praise and reinforcing the younger woman’s self-esteem, as she recounted her daily schedule.  The more she listened, the more content Cassia felt. It was almost as if they were a family. She could just see Pietro being this patient as he taught a child of theirs how to grow into an amazing, confident adult. It set a deep yearning inside her soul to know this sense of family, to make a child with this wonderful vampire who was her soul mate.

A scent teased her nostrils and her head turned in the direction of a group of five males who had just turned into the street. Barely a second after she moved her head, Pietro and Trish both turned as well.

“Do you know them, Cass?” There was a tremor in Trish’s voice as she stared at the wolves walking towards them and the Vârcolac touched her hand lightly to soothe her. Pietro repositioned his chair at an angle to safely cover the girl as they drew nearer.

“No, but it’s okay, Trish. We’re in the centre of the city with thousands of humans surrounding us. Nothing’s going to happen.” Cassia spared a moment to glance at Pietro. “Do you recognise any of them?”

His expression was neutral, his eyes never leaving the wolves. “I’m sure I’ve seen one of them before,” he answered; quietly enough they could hear him but not loud enough any nearby humans could. His gaze was fixated on the tallest of the five males.

Close-cropped dark-blond hair left the male’s face wide open to perusal. It was a strong face, from the high sweep of his chiselled cheekbones to the hard line of his granite-like jaw. His skin was tanned a deep bronze, his aristocratic nose slightly crooked as if he’d been in a fight and the bone hadn’t set quite properly.  His jawline was peppered with a light stubble that, surprisingly, was a few shades darker than his natural hair colour.

Glacial pale green eyes swept over the milling people as he walked, intelligence blazing from deep within. As his gaze travelled over Cassia, the male paused for a moment, clearly recognising the group at the table for what they were. His companions appeared to sense his scrutiny and all eyes turned to the table. Their body language tensed as they recognised the vampire in the group, immediately turning defensive.

“Stay here,” Cassia said, rising slowly.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” The words hissed out of Pietro’s lips as he rose too and the strange wolves tense further.

“Sit down!” There was no mistaking the order in Cassia’s voice, though her gaze never left the men who were now only a few feet away. “Keep close to Trish and be prepared to get her out of here if needed.” Without waiting for his answer, she took the handful of steps to reach the strangers.

“Can we help you with anything?” Cassia addressed her question to the blond male. His bearing placed him as the leader of the group.

He regarded her silently for a long moment before shaking his head. “Not that I’m aware know of.”

His voice was deep and husky, and made her wolf sit up and pay attention. She was startled at the wolf’s response, confusion roiling through her in an instant. Yes, the male was most definitely a dominant, and sexy as sin, but she had chosen her mate in Pietro. She shouldn’t be having this kind of interested reaction to another male.

“You’re far from home,” she managed to respond coolly, acknowledging his clipped, British accent. “Are you visiting friends in the area?” Her words were couched in such a way that he would be aware she was letting him know that she knew they had no pack affiliations locally.

He acknowledged her point with a slight incrimination of his head, which showed off the tightly corded muscles in his neck. His T-shirt pulled at the movement, and she caught a glimpse of a tattoo that appeared to depict wolf fur flowing over his shoulders. His muscles and physique screamed soldier, and ratcheted up her defensive instincts.

“We’re just passing through,” he drawled, his gaze flickering to Pietro. “Is there a problem with that? I would have thought a city this size would be counted as neutral territory.

“Ordinarily it would be, however it is proper etiquette for visitors to check in with the locals,” Cassia countered, unconsciously moving to place herself between her mate and the wolves. The strangers weren’t immune to the vampire’s venom however Pietro was still recovering his strength from Europe, and she had no idea if these males carried the Amort poison on them.

“We don’t like the company the locals keep,” the soldier answered, his gaze narrowed on Pietro.

She bristled further at his tone. “Then you’d better get used to it or go home,” Cassia bit back, her blue eyes turning wintry as her stance turned more aggressive. “Things are done differently here. You know the old saying…when in Rome…”

“Cassia.” Pietro moved a step forward and she held up her hand as the men took fighting stances.

“I strongly suggest you speak to your friends before things get out of hand here,” she said in a low tone. She inclined her head in Pietro’s direction. “His friends have an elite agency to deal with anything that may threaten the status quo. If that isn’t concerning enough for you, I will add that my friends are just as capable of dealing with any exuberance too.”

There was no mistaking the implied threat. The five of them were there with no backup or pack support. If they were to do anything foolish, they would have not only the local packs but also the vampires to deal with.

“Fox?” For the first time one of the other wolves spoke, a shorter, squatter man with peppered brown hair. He was clearly older than the one named Fox and as much of a soldier, however his scent was less dominant. He was rewarded with a low growl and murderous stare from his leader.

Cassia quirked an eyebrow, a slow smile crossing her face. “Kind of makes my point for me, doesn’t it…Fox.”

“If you say so, Cassia.”

She laughed then, she couldn’t help it. There was just something about the wolf that made hers respond on a personal level. Yes, he was a stranger and as such, a potential threat to her pack, and yet, something told her that he wasn’t a genuine threat. She couldn’t say the same for the others with him, but as he was in charge, that nullified some of that concern.

“I’m not trying to hide who or what I am,” she smiled, raising a hand in greeting as she caught sight of Jared Hanlon heading in their direction with her uncle and aunt, Brody and Willow Alexander at his side.

Fox glanced in that direction before snapping his fingers and motioning for his men to move on. He nodded in Cassia’s direction. “Might see you around, Cassia.” There was a hint of a promise in his words, which caused Pietro to hiss out an angry breath. He ignored the vampire, a half smile quirking his lips as he walked away.

“If you’re going to stay in town, touch base with the locals, Fox, or they will come looking for you,” she called after his retreating back. Without a backward glance, he melted into the crowd with his men, before Jared reached them.

“Everything okay?” The Hanlon Alpha asked, staring into the crowd.

Cassia gave her aunt and uncle a hug, smiling. “I think so. The one leading them appears to have his head screwed on right,” she informed the Alpha. “They’re uncertain because of who we ally ourselves with. I have told them to check in with either you or Rafe if they intend to stay in town for any length of time.”

Whatever Jared was thinking, he didn’t appear to want to share it with them. His cobalt eyes scanned the crowd for a moment longer before he turned back to them. “If you’ve finished with your shopping, I’d suggest you head back to the pack, Cass. Can you let Rafe know I’ll be in touch a bit later?”

Frowning at the open concern she could see on her family’s faces, she nodded her agreement. The Hanlon pack had been around for more years than most people could remember, much longer than her own pack. For the three elder wolves to look so concerned made her feel suddenly antsy to get Trish and Pietro back to the safety of the pack.

“I can get someone else to pick up the last of our supplies. We’ll head back now.”

Saying their goodbyes, they grabbed their shopping bags and headed back towards the car park. Neither Trish nor Pietro spoke, and Cassia had to work to hold in a sigh. It was understandable for Trish, as the strange wolves would have frightened her. Pietro, on the other hand, was brimming with barely concealed rage that he was clearly trying to hide from the younger woman.

The incensed looks he kept shooting in Cassia’s direction let her know that he wasn’t pleased with her actions and would be having a word with her about it when they were alone. He was used to being the most dominant person and being the one to call all the shots. That hadn’t been the case today and that must have been hard for him to take. She could understand his position if his anger was because of that, but it appeared to be directed personally against her.

She had no what she’d done to make him so angry with her but she was sure she would find out soon enough. Sighing, she climbed into the Jeep after stowing their purchases on the back seat. Starting the engine, she began the journey back to pack. Was she about to have her first fight with her mate? Strangely enough, her wolf was quite looking forward to the impending confrontation. It was still energised from the meeting with Fox and was looking forward to whatever her vampire was about to rein down on them…

To be continued…